Posts Tagged ‘Conditions and Diseases’

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 2, 2013

Editor’s Introduction:  Why are we all so ambitious, nowadays?  What is ambition, anyway?  It seems rather like the Chicken’s Need to Cross the Road.  Who knows why?   The best advice I’ve ever been offered about failure was what I was told about handling disappointment when trying out my act Amateur Night at a comedy club:  “It’s not you they don’t like.  It’s your performance.”  Somehow or other we’ve gotten it all twisted around and have been led to believe that we are our performance.  Perhaps it’s partly the godless times we live in.  God knows your importance, and demonstrates it every day by your presence.  So take a deep breath.  Everything’s fine.

FAILURE

 

A Clown is a Failure with Style

A Clown is a Failure with Style

 

And How to Be Mediocre Successfully

Thoughts About Failing and Locating the ‘Middle Way’: Part I

 

            Where I work it’s possible to work a forty hour week and make $125,00/year, if you are good at your job.  But you could also become demonically possessed, work an 80 to 100 hour week, and make over $250,000/year.  Unfortunately, there’s not a choice.  The company makes more money and grows when the employee makes $250,000/year.  The person who makes $125,000/year is under-utilizing their human capital and dampens the company’s prospects.  This is not so different from many other work situations.

More frequently these days it is possible to work crazy hours at a crazy job and make far more money than you need.  Or you can be fired, and find a much less remunerative, insecure, part-time job which pays less than you need and without retirement or health benefits.  Or, you can go to work in the services sector and work crazy hours, and still not make quite enough to get by.  Or you can live on the street or go to jail.  Have I left anything out?

We are an achievement oriented culture.  According to social theorist Judith Halberstam in our culture failure is subversive.  In her book, “The Queer Art of Failure”,  she notes though: “Under certain circumstances, failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world”.   These are some of the reasons failure has fascinated me.  Failure is relaxing.  Failure allows us time to think, to speculate, to ruminate, to sleep…  Failure will slow it all down and keep those damnable over-achievers at bay.  Failure allows nearly any sort of activity short of costing money to flourish – like chatting with your neighbor or chatting up a girl.  Unfortunately failure is also an impoverished, disreputable haven, an Elysian field without food nor drink nor shelter nor audience – a place only poets, hermits and religious seers might court.  But as Quentin Crisp, the famous British homosexual once noted, “If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.”

Failure has a style, yet is egalitarian.  You can labor away at being a failure without ever being hired or having to create a resume or write a job application or appear for an interview.  The hours are right.  And failure completely circumnavigates the personnel department.  Failures needn’t attend meetings.  And for those trapped in those long, tedious, tired workdays in the cubicle farms which cover more and more of the corporate world, failure can look pretty tempting.  Why, it’s not much more than just looking out the window, where you can often catch a glimpse of it, walking by freely having a smoke, or chatting up a girl.  Failure even has its achievements to tout.  When I quite medical school I defended my ‘achievement’ by noting that whereas only 20% of applicants at the time were admitted – only 2% of those admitted, got out.   And moreover, I pointed out that by quitting medicine, I had probably saved more lives than a lot of doctors had by continuing!  My life post-medical career had primacy, some style, and a lot of free time.

Unfortunately, it also paid poorly.  A pure failure is about as rare an animal as the dodo bird.  Most of us are forced to claw our way into some sort of mediocrity in order to survive.  Which, as it has in olden times, aptly describes the post-modern ‘middle way’.

So, though I still harbor a fascination for failure, the thread of this essay is about how to achieve mediocrity, which as I define it is, a more practical, palatable blend of achievement, success and failure, all stirred into a chaotic soup of slacker regimentation aptly anticipating the post-modern ‘middle way’.

Photo of model by Carl Nelson

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: