Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Successful Assholes: Make No Mistake About It

Many of the events in your life have been determined by events out of your direct sphere of interest or control.  You had no say, for instance, in which hospital you were born nor, indeed, did you have choice in the circumstance of being born.

True enough, on one occasion, when you were a few degrees into irritation at someones disclaimer, "I didn't ask to be born," your response, impulsive and immediate, impressed you.  "I sure as hell did,"  you said, then went on to describe how, while not overtly conscious of the intent, swam like hell to reach that egg.  In the immediate months after that declaration, while swimming your daily laps and recalling the conversation, often burst into giggles, which had adverse effects on your intake of air and water.

Events are often determined by intent, which in its way is determined by desires and other awareness of internal and external goals such as hunger, curiosity, tiredness, loneliness, and other subjective targets.

Events often produce outcomes.  These, in turn, can be ranked as successes or failures, accidents or mistakes.  Successes are often the result of mistakes or accidents.  You find yourself thrust into a curious speculation, wondering how many of your successes were accidental.

Often in this blog landscape, you've considered the accidents by which you became a teacher and an editor, each a bifurcation from your original and singular career goal, to say nothing of your goal for individual reach.  Yesterday's observations about mistakes has sent you careening along the path of considering such matters as goals, intent, execution, rates of success and accomplishment, and of course the matter of judgement.  

This day-old curiosity about successes and failures in general and yours in specific has reminded you of a novel you were fortunate enough to have read for the first time in your late twenties, The Posthumour Memoirs of Bras Cubas, by the Brazilian writer, Machado de Asisis.  You were drawn to the work by its subtitle, Epitaph of a Small Winner.  

At the time you first read the novel, you were intrigued by the effect the  reasoning and thought processes of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had on the author.  You, too, seemed drawn to the skeptical cynicism of the philosopher, liking the notion in the novel that the protagonist was summing his life's successes and failures from the point beyond the grave when the first worm had had a nibble of his--Bras Cubas'--flesh.  In fact, the dedication was to that very worm.  

You enjoyed the calculus by which Bras Cubas was able to say he'd achieved a worthwhile goal by having a life with a tad more successes than failures.

You are still drawn to the noir.  In fact, you were just told in an email from the dean that you will be giving a Spring course in noir fiction, which came about when, during a conversation with the dean, you expressed you noir theories and posited the potential for a book on noir studies.

This interest in and identification with noir landscape does not yet cause you to think dark, brooding thoughts.  You are, in fact, as often enthusiastic and ebullient as you are moody.  Thus your identification with Bras Cubas and your sense that all your mistakes have led you to a place where you have the means to devote some significant portion of your life to pursuits you care about and are drawn to. 

If mistakes were somehow obviated from these pursuits and if, worse of all, your successes were not tinged with the potential of being accidental, think how slight and shallow the results.

Referencing another somewhat surreal work to which you are drawn, popularly known as the eponymous Tristam Shandy, you recall a favored quote:  "When a man gives himself up to the government of a ruling passion,—or, in other words, when his hobby horse grows head-strong,—farewell cool reason and fair discretion!"

Your hope, particularly when you are in the full devotion of composition, is to give yourself up to the ruling passion and, thus, to shout a fervent "Adios!" to cool reason and fair discretion, both of which, true enough, are required in subsequent drafts.  But not at the outset.

Mistakes galore and occasional successes emerge like guests at a neighborhood block party, where you are a designated host.  Come eat, drink, and join the conversation.

In keeping with your observations about mistakes, there is at least an equal measure of possibility that success breeds as many assholes as does mistakes.  The mistake-ridden asshole attracts a certain dignity from his or her willingness to have and execute intentions.  The success-ridden asshole often pays the price of being seen as a more perfect asshole, a paradigm for whom, indeed, a school of proctology should be named.

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