Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Friday, July 7, 2006

In failure, we may find success

In reading Ramsey Dukes’ very enlightening (and occasionally exasperating) introduction to A.O. Spare’s Book of Pleasure, I was struck by the following passage

“We may not be liberated from failure and misery, but we may be in a position to use it. Knowing the law of duality brings the possibility of distinguishing ourselves from its working. No more the blind slide into despair but rather the studied descent, and the plan to use that unavoidable despair in order to plan the next high point.”

This seemed familiar to me. Anyone who has watched a space opera like Star Trek or the like will probably be familiar with the concept of the “slingshot” in which the gravity of a planet or star is used to increase velocity. As one approaches the influence of said star or planet, one’s speed increases as gravity begins to exert its inexorable influence. The extra speed is used to whip one around the planet and send one shooting off (presumably in the direction one wishes to go) at a greatly accelerated rate.

It seems that, theoretically anyway, one should be able to use ones decent towards failure in the same way. Calculating velocity and relative angles, one might even be able to increase speed as one rounds the corner toward “failure and misery”. It is not just the ability to “plan the high point” that we are gifted with in our failure. Used correctly, our next triumph is contained in our failure! “All” we need do is go with the motion, use the momentum to thrust us into our next venture.

“All,” indeed. Of course, this is very, very difficult to remember when one is in the midst of a failure or misery. Often the tendency is to get “stuck” in the moment of pain. Our relationship to pain is complex. Pain is our greatest friend, warning us of our vulnerability and attempting to protect us from the costs of our reckless wandering through the world. Since it is such a friend (though we don’t always think of it this way), we tend to hang on to our pain. In fact, we’re actually hardwired to remember our pain for a long time, and keep it close. It’s purpose, after all, is to keep us safe, and who are we to deny the accumulated wisdom of several million years of evolution?

Psychosynthesis posits that problems are often caused by a portion of our personality doing work that it wasn’t designed to do, or through certain aspects of ourselves becoming stuck in extreme positions. Consciousness allows us to look at these aspects of our personalities (for example, our memory and the personality that develops around a particularly painful memory or experience) and find other solutions than acting out unconsciously from a place that no longer functions as we’d like.

All of this rigamorale is to say that, for example, when my recent situation ended, I found myself presented with a unique opportunity, which I used for all I was worth. I ended up with a much better job (and hopefully, prospects for other jobs) which will be the beginning of a totally different direction for me.

I hope my friends in difficulties right now (and there are some – those recovering from a so-called “failure”, those who are still stuck in negative and difficult mind-sets due to traumatic experiences, those who are re-evaluating their self-image and attempting to reconstruct a working persona with which to deal with the world) can read this and find some comfort.

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