Thursday, November 30, 2017

Eating One's Young

It is somewhat disconcerting when you try and try and nothing seems to work. People look at you and wonder what’s wrong with you: why can’t you be any less bloody-minded and stop pushing the same rock up the same hill every day? If you think you are right but nothing is working, then someone must be wrong. Is it you, then, or is it the rest of the universe? Or is it just bad luck? And does temporal, worldly success actually matter? After all, a failure is often far more illuminating and instructive than a success, and some people manage to play a perfectly productive role in society by serving as a failure unto others. And any experimentalist will tell you that an experiment that reliably ends in failure is in general far more repeatable than one that ends in success. And showing how something doesn’t work is often a good way of pointing toward something that might. And the process of failing can be perfectly enjoyable—provided you don’t aim to high—because how painful a failure happens to be is mostly a question of scale. Being a failure can even make you popular, because most people are more ready to gloat than to admire, admiration having limited potential if one’s goal is to feel smug, all-knowing and generally superior.

Take me as an example.