Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The Terrible Importance of Nearly Nothing
I could say right now that I feel small. Very, very small. I have gone back, far back in time to where I am a witless waif of a child with a bad taste in my mouth that won't go away no matter how hard I swallow or how many times I try to spit it out. The fact is I could coat my tongue with honey, rinse with Listerine, chew on cinnamon sticks all day, stuff my cheeks with Altoids and the bad taste would override them all.
The taste? Well, I know it all too well. It is the taste of failure. A shame taste in my mouth that burns worse than chilis and fills my nostrils with the reek of proven incompetence.
I am chewing on failure and growing smaller and smaller as I chew.
The cause? Well, really, it's nothing more serious than this: I thought I could do a bit of acting and it seemed I was succeeding for awhile. Then some adjudicators at a competition told me I sucked. Not really a big deal. I wasn't aiming for a late-start acting career.
...it is a taste so familiar that I'm unable to dismiss it as merely a gustatory hallucination. I'm aware that from some far-off philosophical distance, it is not important, not "The Truth," and in the Grand Scheme of Things so small as to be virtually sub-atomic.
I remember a Sixty Minutes interview with basketball star, LeBron James. "Are you ever nervous?" the interviewer asked. " Aw," said James dismissively, "you can't be afraid of failure."
He is right, of course. And he is tall, very tall, in more ways than one.
What makes some of us stride boldly forth while others of us creep fearfully in the sidelines? One's upbringing, no doubt, plays a part, as does one's genetic programming. It is in my nature to be both timid and tightly wound. In addition, I was bombarded with verbal abuse virtually from the time I could crawl. Occasionally, very occasionally, I have reached high and briefly held in my hand a small ripe fruit of success. Inevitably, though, the next attempt replaces sweetness with acidity and I give up, shrinking back into the shadows of anonymity.
Since human beings have been granted freedom of choice, it follows that any self-defeating pattern can be altered. The weak can become strong, the last become first and this does happen on occasion. Exactly how this transformation occurs seems to me though to have more correspondence with magic than behavioral science.
I know there are alchemists in this world who can turn failure into gold...
...and I know that, so far in my life, I am not one of them.