Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two Thoughts on Failure

"In fact you are incredibly similar to all the people sitting around you right now. The vast majority of them are doomed to a life of disappointing mediocrity just like yours. And everyone sees how you yearn fruitlessly for glory when it is clearly already too late, and they pity you. They pity you as a grasping failure who pants for degrading miserable straws that are out of your reach. And for those of you who achieved some measure of success, you look like fools! People laugh at you behind your back for the self-important way you speak, your pretensions, the way you ingratiate yourselves with the powerful. You are a buffoon who pretends that you don't care what anyone thinks of you, when in fact you writhe in ecstasy like a fondled dog each time a sycophantic halfwit praises your name... And let me not forget the most vainglorious among you: the quitters—who expected success without struggle and so quit to avoid disappointment."

—Young Jean Lee, Church

"When your brain loses its spare capacity, and along with it some agility, some joy in winging it, and the ambition to do things that don't suit it, then you finally have to settle down to do well the few things that your brain really can do well—the rest no longer seems pressing and distracting, because it is now permanently out of reach. The feeling that you are stupider than you were is what finally interests you in the really complex subjects of life: in change, in experience, in the ways other people have adjusted to disappointment and narrowed ability. You realize that you are no prodigy, your shoulders relax, and you begin to look around you, seeing local color unrivaled by blue glows of algebra and abstraction."

—Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine

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