On weekends like this, as I watch snowdrifts form, my mind moodles about many things, but in particular, I've been thinking a lot about an excellent article from a Buddhist magazine that arrived in my mailbox on Friday courtesy of my friend Darcy. It's called Good Failure, and it's about how we tend to see failure as a negative all the time, forgetting that it can have some positive aspects. The thing the article underlined for me is that many of us grew up in a world that promoted positivity and self-esteem to the point that we naively began to believe in our invincibility, that everything would come up roses all the time, that we could fulfill all our dreams, save the planet, and live happily ever after just by being positive people who try hard.
Of course, life doesn't work like that. So when failure filters through, we feel annoyed, betrayed, cheated, depressed... and on down the alphabet all the way to zapped. But the thing is, no one is ever a total failure in the absolute sense of the word. Sure, maybe we didn't get things right all the time, or even half of the time... but there is some redemption to be found in most human activities if they are done with good intentions. There are many disappointments in our lives, but our efforts aren't necessarily wasted, even if they fail. I'm thinking of The Society of St. Vincent de Paul as I type. Volunteers spend many hours a week working to assist people in need, only to find the need is always more than they can handle. Sometimes it's downright disheartening that we can't actually fix things. But we are doing what we can, contributing our energies and abilities to make the world a little kinder or more beautiful one person at a time, and that's worth something, even if it's not resounding success!
I've had my own struggle with self-esteem and the specter of failure this week in relation to my writing. Basically, for a few minutes I was feeling like a failure when I realized that I will never be sophisticated enough to belong to the Writer's Guild of Alberta. A failure on my part... or is it? Not if I can find a way to share my writing with people who might enjoy it. Not if I can bring a little cheer to someone through a moodling posted here. Not if my words remind people, one person at a time, of the simplicity and beauty and goodness in their own lives.
I'd like to introduce you to the young woman who inspired today's moodling. When I looked her up after reading her Good Failure article, I found that she's also done an eleven minute TED talk that carries a lot of value -- don't let the length or title of this Sunday video scare you off. Her name is Courtney Martin, and I think she's got some really important things to say. Enjoy!