Monday, February 22, 2010

Act 2 Prologue: Success

I wonder if I fear success as much as failure...and I wonder if I'm maybe not alone in that.  Failure, after all, is familiar territory.  I know what it's like to get the lower miss out on the lose the guy.  Failure is a little part of everyone's life and it haunts us (or maybe just many of us) for long after the moment has passed.  I have successes too, of course, but they are somehow easier to dismiss:  Maybe it was just dumb luck...maybe I'm getting more than I deserve.

Even the metaphor suggests that failure is the natural state:  the inevitable outcome of gravity.  Success is attained, according to conventional wisdom, through "climbing" the making the long, hard journey...always upward...always defying the downward pull of the odds to the contrary.  Success is, by the description, a perilous that might yield at any moment,  giving way to the jagged rocks of failure always waiting below.

By the way we talk about success, and I think the metaphors are widely-accepted enough that I can use "we" here, the idea seems to be that success isn't meant to be a comfortable state.  We "earn" it...we "work" to maintain it...we strive to be ever-vigilant to hold on and not let it slip away...we have to always keep ahead so as to not let failure catch us.

That's an awful lot of work for something that, by its very nature, should be sweet and joyful.

My own views of success have historically been just these.  I've never felt like I "deserved" to succeed...but that by sheer force of will and perseverance and determination, I have on occasion been able to grasp and appreciate it for a moment before the next long climb upward begins.  Right now, the whole idea makes me tired.  I'm three scant months away from my 40th places for Act 2 of my life.  I need a new metaphor.

I had a weekend full of fabulous conversation with Reid last weekend.  He commented on the Buddhist idea that the suffering we experience is almost always the result of trying to hold on too long to happiness.  He followed that thought with a bit of scripture that said (and I may be heavily paraphrasing here -- he can quote it more accurately than I) "every moment comes to pass."

I sat there struck for a moment -- partly over the fact that any person other than me could so seamlessly interweave Buddhism and Christianity -- but struck more so at the simple truth of it.  These moments in our lives -- all of them -- will pass...and each moment shows up for the express purpose of happening...and then passing.  This moment is here to move that the next can come, full of promise and possibility and ripe with the certainty that it too shall pass...and so will the next and the next and the next.

So it seems to me that making the most of each moment...of doing what we must do....of appreciating the transience of time...should relieve the stress of success and failure.  Maybe we don't need to fear either...or, specifically, maybe *I* don't need to fear either.  

I've been back a week from a weekend that was, by my accounting, successful beyond measure and -- maybe for the first time -- I was neither sad for the end of the moment nor worried about what the next moment might bring.  The success of the weekend wasn't "fleeting" because it already happened.  It was, as Orson Scott Card's metaphor goes, a porcelain salamander -- perfectly still and content and unchanging in the beauty of its achievement.

And that feels like a much better metaphor -- one that fits  with the philosophies I've been trying to implement in my life -- one that allows me to let go of the "failures" I've held on to -- one that lets me dream of a future without forcing it to happen.  This metaphor allows me to live joyfully in the moment (and the next and the next and the next) for my next 40 (or 60 or 160) years without fear or regret.

That is the life I choose for my second Act.

1 comment:

reid said...

How my ramblings inspire such moving prose....I don't understand. I'm just happy, no, ecstatic that you choose me. This is me, wanting all the success for us we can handle.