I’ve got a whole new kind of down-Low for you. Wednesday’s “Popular American Culture and Politics” (that will never cease to be a mouthful) is kind of a wide-reaching topic. I won’t always discuss a specific instance of culture, but maybe just an overarching theme. (This is how I reason myself out of feeling obligated to talk about Kardashians. I swear to you, that is the first and last time I’ll ever type that name.)
A few weeks ago, I talked a bit about TIME, and how we have so little of it. This week, I want to talk about failure. Why the hell do we live in a society that is so horrified of failure? Let’s think about it.
My first thought is: it’s all about the Benjamins. The mega-monetization of productivity has completely stripped us of being allowed to try-and-fail, which is usually a precursor to the triumphant try-and-succeed. How many didn’t-quite-cut-it projects have been burned because they didn’t make the grade the first time around? How many staid executives/editors/decision-makers have sent imaginative minions packing? Because nowadays, merit is determined by an algorithm composed of productivity and profit. There is no place for possibility.
Which is probably why so many corporations live and die, while the human beings that composed them move on.
But maybe it’s not just about the money. Maybe it goes deeper than that, right down to our forefathers. True, the magnificent melting pot of the United States has occluded most genetic ties to the Mayflower, but the fact is that our societal preconceived notions were initially established by WASPy or Puritan ideologies. We’re talking guilt, self-suppression, and shame. (Okay. Catholics and Jews probably can relate here, too.) Because nothing pleases an all-powerful God more than when His followers are as perfect as He is. Right? Right? Meanwhile, it’s completely reasonable to expect absolute perfection from ourselves and others at every waking moment. Completely. And if we’re not perfect, we’re not good enough. Please pass the Kool-Aid….
I CALL SHENANIGANS. HOGWASH. POPPYCOCK. I don’t speak Yiddish, but I’m sure they have a word for it, too.
Society is smothering its capacity for growth. It’s crushing fragile ideas that were never meant to be foundations, but rather architectural sketches. Failure is a constant in this world. You won’t escape it, and it’s really just about where you go from here. So where do you go from here? Well, as Nat King Cole would say: You pick yourself up. You brush yourself off. You take a deep breath and start all over again.
How’s this for a benefit of social media: when you screw up, you know you’re not alone. People out there understand. Other people screw up too. Forget the inhibitions wrought by the ambition to be flawless, and fling wide the doors of possibility. You shall not be ostracized for a false start, for a flubbed word, for a fashion mistake, for a lapse in judgment. You shall be deemed human. It’s really a magnificent thing to be.
In closing, I’d just like to say: Julie Taymor, I know the producers elbowed you out of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark because of “differences in opinion” and maybe I’m just imagining it but that’s probably because you were hired to think outside the box and they were shocked and couldn’t handle just how far outside the box you can go. But you didn’t want to have such a horribly named musical in your resume anyway. Not after Titus. Every genius has to fail once in awhile. Come back to us, Julie, and create again.