Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Why Failures Are the Most Fruitful Characters

Some individuals are so invested in being right, whatever the matter at hand, that rightness dominates their entire reason for being. They are often thought of as being right at any cost.

On the other hand, you, although you enjoy authorship of the right answer, in particular if the right answer is recondite, are no stranger to being wrong, even when you were the stage manager and scene designer of the production. 

You are often thought of as being recondite at any cost. Although this is not your true purpose, you would rather be thought of as recondite than right; your true purpose being the ongoing attempt to report what you see with the flair of accuracy and resonance.

In a world where major league baseball players net salaries in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for their ability to hit a baseball once every three or four times at bat, averages become a metric of success or failure. You are more successful at being wrong than right. If there were a more positive metric than being thought of as a fuck-up, you would have more occasion to celebrate the irony of being successful for the things you did in a wrong fashion.

When, in your own eyes, you are at your best, rightness and wrongness, or its cousin, wrongheadedness, are not your pole stars; curiosity is. There are accommodations in judgment whereby, were you to be judged, the greater probability is that critics would say of you that you are curious rather than wrong. By the idiosyncrasy of your accounting system, you are slightly ahead of the game of judgment, notwithstanding the game is skewed in favor of the house.

To have been wrong about anything  indicates willingness to take risk. A long list of wrong decisions, calculations, and choices speaks to the sort of person who engages life, a mischievous twinkle in his eye and a what-the-hell bounce in his gait.

If you were to have a tombstone (which you are sincere in hoping you don't), an inscription on it might read: "Even in this venture, he was willing to be wrong." This is an epitaph you like well enough to make you work on a plan to be cremated, as planned, but to have, somewhere, a plaque or stone with those words. You name, dates, and the epigraph; these are not quite with the staying power of Yeats' "Horseman, pass by," but delightful in its wrongness.

Anything beyond occasional rightness becomes boring at first, then progresses to irritating. Individuals and characters who are always right have a particular observation in question form that infuriates you. "Why," they ask, "do people always--?" A variation on that theme is, "Can people not see how--?"

Characters who are always right make excellent comic foils in the same way individuals who are always right in real life often find themselves being made the butt of some comedic trope. On the other hand, characters who seem to engage in the research and development of being wrong make wonderful protagonists for stories, and in real life make remarkable friends.

In the same ways language and usage evolve over time, concepts of rightness seem more hidebound and conservative, allowing us to see how little the human condition has changed since Geoffrey Chaucer brought forth his remarkable spectrum of persons way back in the middle ages.  

Wrongness, on the other hand, has shown its ability to grow, affording you and others like you the opportunity to be failable in original ways.  Here lies SL, who brought new energy and dimension to being wrong.


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