Failure – a Task for a Friend


Image is of fog rolling in over the beach. Came over like a wall. Incredible.

I’ve been tasked to write a short something for a friend who’s collecting stories of failure, and musing on ones failures is usually a bit of a dangerous thing! I’m actually finding the experience rather interesting, though, and have avoided dangerously ruminating – the kind that ultimately leads to a negativity. So I’ve been thinking about failure this morning – from the philosophical ‘what is failure?’ to the more specific, ‘what the fuck am I going to write about failure?’

I have many stories of failure (I think we all do, right?) – from the personal, to the social, the academic and the competitive – yet they’ve rarely amounted to anything other than the loss of some abstract entity, like personal integrity, injury, or pride. Thing is, I don’t really think these abstracts really exist – they’re created, we create them, and our own sense(s) of self are created through our interpretation and relationship with these other concepts.

Pride can only be damaged if you’re a proud person, personal integrity can only be damaged if you value integrity – your own, or others. What’s funny is, even when you give up these concepts and try to just ‘live’ you find yourself falling back into them on a regular basis. Everyone’s judging one another all the time, and they’re using you and their understanding of you as a sounding board with which they can further understand themselves.

Jeremy Kyle – I’ve spoken to so many people that watch it, and most of those who do watch it to feel good about themselves. They judge those on the show, and compare those on screen to themselves. What’s funny is that you can’t really escape being judged conceptually – it persists, exists in the background beyond you, and every time you meet someone they’re going to be throwing conceptual balls over the net to see how you bat them back. What’s funny is, if those balls don’t come back it really fucking confuses people.

So, coming back to failure I came to the conclusion that ‘true failure’ is the kind you internalise. True failure should have nothing to do with the external system of concepts and judgement; relations with others, or your view of how you want to be seen by others. True failure is invisible. You keep it stored so far down in you because it actually hurts when it surfaces. It’s like losing a loved one no-one ever knew about, but it’s also something as simple as falling off your bike on an empty street.

These are the failures we’d never admit to, nor think about admitting to, because they have no social effect. We have nothing to learn from them socially, nothing to gain or lose. Our greatest failures are silent, creeping creatures, things we cannot learn from and that always will be. When we think on them we hurt, but we also shudder as if walking through some cold uncertain land. The kind of failures in which it seemed we had no option, though we had plenty. As if our mind or body had deceived us.


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