Thursday, February 11, 2010

Failure, or Why I Blog

My excitements about blogging are: immediacy, risk, invention and community. My worries are superficiality and failure. Especially failure, which I’m obsessed with and actually quite good at, especially on the internet.

Looking back, I find my success as a failure funny and even ironic – for like many great successes, I began my life hoping to pursue a completely different career than the one that has, apparently, become mine. The career I wanted to pursue was success; so, having heard that success is the opposite of failure, I set out to avoid failure at every turn. The resulting contortions – which cost me huge amounts of time and money, not to mention the respect of my peers and the love of those who had the gall to believe that really, failure was not such a terrible thing after all – were ridiculous and, I suspect, a little absurd: like trying to avoid the ground after you’ve jumped out of a plane. But when it comes to failure, I think I can say that I’ve succeeded, up to a point. Meaning of course that I’ve failed, at least at the success that I originally thought was my purpose and m├ętier.

This may sound depressing to you; but the interesting thing is that accepting my failure has opened up many avenues of experience for me – at least as many as my attempts at success have shut down. For example, there is the diary that I have begun keeping ever since I realized that the chances of successfully getting anyone to hear or read about anything I did were slim, at best. At first, of course, I felt a slight twinge at having given up so easily on my dreams – at settling (as it is impossible not to feel that I have) for a less demanding, and therefore less glorious, and interesting medium. But then the truth is that, by keeping this diary of mine, I have really been following in the footsteps of previous failures the world over.

I will make a digression here, if you don’t mind – since I am apparently failing, once again, to keep on track – on the nature of diaries. Diaries have dangled for centuries from the foreheads of certain intense and observant young persons, as they walked down their streets or through their woods. Many times, these persons were simply trying to make themselves feel like less of a failure – but many other times, this attempt to make themselves feel less like a failure went hand in hand with the intuition that, even if they themselves were a failure, the world was not. In this, I find my own attitude in line with the classic diarists – for to me, the world is a success, meaning, so far as I can see, that a walk through the world, on any given day, can yield the kind of great lines and slow bits and effects that make you suck in your breath or grab yourself inappropriately that a successful poem, or novel, or movie does. If the diarist experiences enough of these moments, he or she might, after a while, decide that they are worth holding under other people’s noses. So said diarist might attempt, not to succeed, necessarily, but to report the world’s successes – which effort (the diarist’s, I mean) would look a lot like success, so long as the observer was not standing more than a few feet away from it.

In closing, I will say that of course, in keeping this diary I have also been somewhat of a hypocrite, since I’ve been trying to make a success of it, and so escape my fate as a failure. Will I do it? I pretend despair, but no matter how thoroughly I pretend, there is always hope. I hope, meaning that I think that the world I live in would be interesting to other men. More importantly, I think that the world I live in would be interesting to me – or rather more interesting – if I looked at it, not just as a success, but as a success that requires my participation in order to succeed. This is my hope, anyway, and the reason why, at the end of the day, I have failed even at failure, which I have heard described as “that most exacting of arts”.

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