Friday, March 28, 2008

Falling farther falling further....

Yesterday, I wrote about the Earth Hour effort and how it changes one experience and awareness, there's another word for that and that's empathy. In this case, it's for the situation as opposed to empathy for an individual. The pity reflects onto us because over there is here. I put that post to bed in newspaper parlance not satisfied, but I also feel within myself a responsibility to post and push interesting articles and ideas in order to make myself think and hopefully others. However, looking over the post, a feeling of strong disappointment lingers. For it doesn't work informationally, nor does it work viscerally. It feels awkward and forced, which it was. The linkage of person experience to a change in my behavior was showy and a bit self conscious. I contemplated deleting the post, but recalled a celebration of failure.

I often link to articles from the San Francisco Chronicle, and one of their daily columnists is Jon Carroll, and I remember reading an essay of his on the NPR program "This I believe" and I hope he doesn't mind as I quote liberally:

I believe in the power of failure.

Success is boring. Success is proving that you can do something that you already know you can do, or doing something correctly the first time, which can often be a problematical victory. First-time success is usually a fluke. First-time failure, by contrast, is expected; it is the natural order of things.

Failure is how we learn. I have been told of an African phrase describing a good cook as "she who has broken many pots." If you've spent enough time in the kitchen to have broken a lot of pots, probably you know a fair amount about cooking. I once had a late dinner with a group of chefs, and they spent time comparing knife wounds and burn scars. They knew how much credibility their failures gave them.

I earn my living by writing a daily newspaper column. Each week I am aware that one column is going to be the worst column of the week. I don't set out to write it; I try my best every day. Still, every week, one column is inferior to the others, sometimes spectacularly so.

I have learned to cherish that column. A successful column usually means that I am treading on familiar ground, going with the tricks that work, preaching to the choir or dressing up popular sentiments in fancy words. Often in my inferior columns, I am trying to pull off something I've never done before, something I'm not even sure can be done.

Some of my posts will fail to resonate, some will fall short, some will simply fall down. And the whole endeavor of fighting climate change and preserving the environment feels no different. We're asking for something radical and that's to go against human nature. And we're going to try a lot of things, some are going to resonate, some will be done, and others will just fall down, but each time we'll learn. And why the hope?

We have a world designed to make us fat, lazy and stupid, but people still get fit, go the extra mile and create great work.

All because we're failing.


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