“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” ~ Johnny Cash

“Nothing can stop me now, ’cause I don’t care anymore.” ~ Trent Reznor

One of the truly weak points of human culture in general is that it holds a virtually nonexistent tolerance for failure. This stems from a the horrible attitude towards failure that has infected our world. We view it as something shameful. We see it as confirmation of perceived inherent worthlessness. There is all kinds of stuff wrong with this worldview, but let me just address the problem solely from a perspective in which God is the focal point.

I was raised largely in an environment where the Judeo/Christian (dare I say /Islamic? Gasp.) God was viewed as an all-present cosmic justiciar with a terribly sour attitude, evaluating my every decision with cold, caluclating disapproval. Now, it is little wonder to me that I ceased absolutely to believe in the existence of this God by mid-adolescence, given the pure and simple fact that a world in which it would be the pinnical of understatement to declare that failure abounds on every side within is very unlikely to have been created by such an entity.

In fact, given the extent of our all-encompassing conundrum here as perpetually less-than-perfect citizens of this flying, organism-laden mass of dirt, it would be far more logical to surmise that, if God were to exist, (and if the 2015 version of humanity were to forgive my use of traditional pronouns) he would be possessed of an outlook rather diametrically opposed to the staunchly perfectionstic one usually assigned to him. Logically, he would in fact be altogether enamoured with the idea that failure is absolutely necessary.

Let me unpack this just a bit. Every creation myth I have ever read or heard told has included some form of explanation of what is wrong with the world. The fact that something is indeed fundamentally wrong has been virtually unanimously agreed upon throughout all of human history. Somehow, we have it actually built into us, this vision of the way things are supposed to be — and this way is entirely foreign to anything that we have ever seen or known in nature. In short, everything in the observable universe is fundamentally flawed, and the thing that we compare it to in order to define it as flawed is something that, for all intents and purposes, appears not to exist outside our own minds.

The illusion is that this flawless ideal is evidently manifest in the lives of those with whom we compare ourselves, the wildly successful people we see paraded before us in our popular media. A closer look at the lives of these people, though, seems to reveal that this high standard of performance is possble only by experiencing failure after failure during repeated attempts which, if properly responded to, provide the foundation of experience and character, which are prerequisites to the actual final product of realized potential.

The kind of success we crave does not come overnight, and it does not, for the most part, come without having tasted a great deal of disappointment beforehand. It is the way in which we respond to the disappointment — whether with resolute determinaton, or with disillusionment and resignation — that determines the type of foundation it will provide for the future.

I could follow this up with example after example of real-life testimony from others who have lived it out firsthand, but thanks to the cultural revolution of social media, chances are you’ve already seen many, many examples, neatly summarized and fitly encapsulated within well designed macro images.

So. That’s that. Happy Valentine’s Day, universe!

By Ben Wolf

It's a secret!

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