An Epistle On Failure

What follows is an essay written by a net friend of mine named Peter. He wrote it for a college admissions application, but it was so good, I thought it should be seen by more than just some anonymous admissions officer who may or may not have the intelligence to know just what they had in their hands.

My whole life has been driven by, and to, failure. I've failed in schools, in friendships, in family relationships. I've failed to reach goals, and I've failed to set them in the first place. I've even failed to vary sentence structure, and I imagine that I will continue failing, in these things and others, until I finally fail to draw breath.

I think that's true of all people. That we all fail, constantly. I suppose one could argue that it's failure that makes our accomplishments worthwhile, but that's an oversimplification, and one that's a bit too Western (that is, dualistic) for my tastes. But maybe that's not a bad thing, the failing. I've failed, for instance, to become a cracked out homeless black man (granted, this would have been difficult since I am white and chronically sober). I've failed to become a homophobe or a misogynist. I've failed to have the perfect body, the perfect saccharine smile, the perfect, vacant expression, plastered onto my face and my demeanor. I've failed to cash in because I've failed to sell out (or I had, until I said that). I've failed to turn my back on the truth, and I've failed to speak it behind others' backs.

It wouldn't be unfair to say that we all sometimes fail where we should succeed and succeed where it would be best to fail. Success is tricky that way – like wine and like failure, it should be used in moderation. That's where experience comes in. Not as a means by which to succeed, but as a means of knowing (or better guessing) when to succeed and when to fail.

My goal is neither some sum of money nor some standard or ideal of happiness. My experience is, unfortunately, not sufficient (if experience ever CAN be sufficient), and my intuition is like a compass held near a magnet, though I've always failed to entirely lose my balance. My passion is to fail, loudly and spectacularly.

Passion, too, is bound to failure. Passion demands action, and all actions lead to failure. But if one MUST fail, then why not fail passionately? People shouldn't do only those things that they find pleasurable, but they should find pleasure in all things that they do.

There are many tricks to life, though they're not really tricks at all – we merely call them that because they're so much simpler than we want the world to be. After all, when everything is complicated, it becomes okay to fail; most of us fail to see that trying to justify failure is like painting the sky blue – not only is it redundant, but the paint won't stick. Regardless, the trick is to have grace in the acceptance of failure, beauty in its doing, pragmatism in its placement, wisdom in its interpretation, and celebration in every moment.

Time goes on, and experience is gathered, like honey in a hive. But my failure is a contagious one, and the bees fail to sting me (or maybe I merely fail to notice), so my experience is extracted and relished (incidentally, I hate honey). It is not, then, success in the conventional sense that I am after. I fail, and I STRIVE to do so. I began by failing at all things, but I've plundered many hives since then, and so my failures have become more productive, more timely, more beneficial. No, it is not at all success that I am after, but rather a constant and eternal string of failures – but of the RIGHT ones. The trick to life is to fail at the right things. Once that is achieved, success is incidental, and passion is fulfilled.

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