The Success of Failure


Let me be like grass that had been eaten to the ground, but always grows again.
Let me be like a fountain that had been trodden into mudiness, but always becomes clear again.
Let me be like the morning red that always triumph over the darkness of the night…

Success and excellence are the shinning baubles dangled in front us as the ultimate of life’s experience. Even in most spiritual writing these days most is focused on excellence and success. “Ten steps to Success”, “Ten Steps to Lasting Happiness”, “How to get all you Desire” and so forth. If you look at the amount of literature available on those subjects and how many sales they have generated, then the world should currently be experiencing a boom time and the world should be filled with happy people. Yet, what we see in the world is just the opposite. How many people are experiencing an economic boom and how many people are happy? What is wrong with the picture that we see in relation to the theories? The empirical evidence seems to belie the theory.

The problem with most of these theories is that they depict only a partial truth. They show only a small fragment of the whole picture. Life is change; that which is without change, without growth is dead. To be alive means that we have to experience seasons of growth and seasons where everything seems to stagnate and even retrograde. We are also part of the whole and therefore part of the spirit of the times. No matter who or what we are, we will find ourselves influenced by a greater or lesser degree by the season that humanity find themselves in. No one is exempted from this, unless of course we have completely transcended our corporeal form. Furthermore if we are part of the whole we cannot be truly successful if a part of us is not successful, nor be truly happy if a part of us is not happy.

Contrary to what is often said success and excellence can only be measured in relation to something else. In other words, success is seen as relative to failure and excellence is relative to mediocrity. Even if you do not measure your moments of success or excellence against the excellence or successes of others, it still has to be compared against what you see as success or failure. Thus we are not practicing non-attachment. We will either be striving to achieve relative success or excellence and thus be attached to avoiding failure and be attached to striving for success. If we are attached to something we set ourselves up for disillusionment and no matter how successful we may appear in the eyes of the world, we will still experience failure in our own eyes. Success or excellence can only be experienced in a moment. Yesterday’s success is tomorrow’s failure, and yesterday’s excellence is tomorrow’s mediocrity.

I find it interesting that in tracing back the word failure it seems to root from the latin word “fallere”, which means to deceive. To be deceived is to given cause to believe what is not true and thus involves the belief of a misrepresentation of the truth. This is indeed what we perceive when we think we are a failure or when we belief that we are failing because we can only see the partial truth.

In the current spirit of our times failure and mediocrity is seen as the modern day leprosy. In the Western world we have little or no preparation, or guidance for the process of transformation. We enter our transitions from one phase of life to another with no real preparation. As a result we only learn through the school of hard knocks. Even in this we are told to avoid mistakes and failure at all costs. We are applauded for our successes, and punished for our mistakes.

Nicholas Molina, reflects about the irony of success in his article “The Failure of Success”

… Eighteen years of a lack of failure teaches Harvard students to avoid it at all costs; we become extremely risk-averse. Ironically, classes might teach about the risk-reward relationship, but students who are too afraid to fail can only understand the former part of that relationship after experiencing it … Even those golden children who sail through Harvard as they’ve sailed through high school fail, in a sense. They’ve failed to experience failure, and their education is impoverished as a result. I’ve learned, sometimes painfully, to accept that it’s not possible to achieve everything and that only when we risk failure, are great gains possible … In the end, I realized that the criteria I’d been using to judge my education at Harvard were all off the mark. Even if the lessons that will be most valuable in the next chapter of my life have been those I’ve learned outside the classroom, my time at Harvard has been well spent. My only regret is that I didn’t learn the importance of taking risks earlier. That’s probably the most important lesson of all.
http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=519162

We are not shown that our mistakes and failures can show us new opportunities, new undiscovered potentials, and we hide our failures in the recesses of our past. With the result, young people look at those who have succeeded and see only the success, and do not know what it took to get there. The pain of growth is seen in itself as a failure, a lack of strength, unworthiness. If a dark night comes upon anyone, we feel that either we are punished, or are just a failure, or that life is just cruel and unfair. We have no understanding of the process of growth. We do not know, or we have forgotten, that chaos is the very source of creation.

How we perceive success and failure is a dualistic view. In the holistic view of success itself, the view of failure plays an integral part. In our limited view, we do not see ourselves as part of a unified field and we do not see life as a constant process of creative evolution. Evolution is composed of two movements; progress and regress. Seen over a long period of time it is a wave-like motion which is like an incoming tide, every progress moving further forward and every regress receding less far backward. Actually each regress is making the foundation for the next progress. If we look at the each regression in the process of evolution in this light, we find that each regression is a secret operation of the next progression working itself out. In other words, each regression shows us which aspects within ourselves still need to be worked on. The same applies to success and failure, for it is through our failure that our ultimate success is worked out.

Failure is nothing more than the limit to which we can succeed in a given cycle of progress, and represents regress necessary before the next progress. Likewise, we may say that each success is the manifestation of the work accomplished during previous failures. Tau Malachi

When we therefore look at success and failure from a more panoramic view with a non-dual awareness there is no such a thing as failure, only a process of development through trail and error towards eventual success.

What we are experiencing in the world at present is a period of regress in our creative evolution. We are experiencing a period where we must look at our previous so-called period of success and see what within that period still needs to be worked on, and what within that period no longer serves or next step in our creative evolution.

I had a dream where I was talking to Wise man with a black Cobra on his lap. While we were talking he was stroking the Cobra and the Cobra had its mouth clasped on his hand. My attention was diverted from the conversation to this. He smiled at me and said, “It will not hurt you, when you approach it without fear, its mouth is just affectionately clasped on my hand, do you want to try it?” The Cobra looked so serene and affectionate that I thought it made perfect sense. In trust I held out my hand, but as I felt the hardness of its mouth enclose my hand, I felt fear in a fleeting instant. It coiled back and struck fangs into my outstretched hand. Suddenly I was alone and I looked at my hand, the two fang pricks clearly visible on my finger. It was already red and swelling.

I awoke with a gasp of breath, checking my fingers and I instantly remembered the ancient initiations where the initiate is given poison to drink, or indeed the lethal bite of a snake, to transmute or die. Illumination or death.

The apparent failure of our tests, our flaws, our weaknesses, is like the symbolic bite of the poisonous snake.

“The symbol (the serpent) serves to indicate the subtle nature of that illusory lower self which first ensnares the ego, but which ultimately proves the means of enlightening the evolving soul.”

Each stage of our growth contains the seeds of its own betrayal. Each one of us are born with a lethal wound, one that will either bring us illumination or will kill us. It is the way the Divine Trickster trick us into finding our own individual strengths, our unique voice in the Universe. Our wounds reveals themselves to us through our childhood environment, those limitations, those apparent shortcomings that we have to transmute, whether they be mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional. The form of our wounds is unique to each individual. We can ignore our talents and positive abilities but not our wounds, for if we do it will surely kill us.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”
Lao Tzu

We cannot operate in this world if do not have an identity – a beingness. From our beingness all our actions flow. Whether what we think we are is true or false we cannot function in this world without an identity. What we think our function is in this world, naturally also flows out of what we think we are. However, from time to time, through our living and experience, we discover that what we thought we were is not what we are. Even when we have Gnosis of what we are at a particular moment in time, the very Gnosis will result in changing what we discovered that we are at that particular moment in time. Discovering who we are is an ever evolving process.

When you understand all things
can you step back from your own understanding?
Lao Tzu

Our falling apart is an imaginal process, like the collapse of
cities and the fall of heroes in mythical tales – like the dismemberment
of Dionysian loosening which releases from overtight
constraint, like the dissolution and decay of alchemy…
Afflictions point to Gods, Gods reach us through afflictions.” –
James Hillman

(It is the process of our falling apart that I described in my series of the Dark Nights of the Soul)

It is human nature to reside in complacency unless something forces a change in us. In our urgency to find an antidote, a cure for our affliction, we are led deeper than we would have been if we just passed the test. Our very flaws can if we acknowledge it, be the cause of our evolvement. We are at a point of our evolution where we can become conscious creators and stop the mindless destruction we are currently engaged in, and live in synergy with our fellow men and all life forms on this planet.

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  1. #1 by anne nakis on August 12, 2010 - 4:48 pm

    Yet another profound photograph. Success and failure need, I agree, to be measured in relation to much deeper issues than just money and career. If I judge myself a failure on certain levels, and I do, it is because I failed to understand early enough in life that I needed to do and not do certain things in order to live the way I wanted to live. In order to be free.

  2. #2 by verewig on August 13, 2010 - 1:22 pm

    Anna, thank you for your comment. There will always be some area of our lives that need some work on. As I spent most of my life so far, working on the spiritual, I am now forced to look at the area in my my life that I have neglected – the financial side. With that I have to see where exactly do I fit into the society. To fit into society means restricting one’s freedom or to find a way that I can manage to maintain the integrity of my core beliefs, yet also fit in. When you live on the fringe it is not an easy task.

    I must confess that there have been many times that I wished that I wasn’t so unconventional, yet of course I knew at the same time that my particular challenge is to find a way to balance the unconventional with the conventional.

    I am still busy on that one …

    Sophia

  3. #3 by Christina Cronk on August 15, 2010 - 11:02 pm

    You’re right, living on the fringe is not an easy task. But I would rather live this way than completely wrapped up in society without any understanding of spiritual matters. This post is lovely. It’s nice to meet you.

    • #4 by verewig on August 17, 2010 - 12:17 pm

      Thank you Christina and pleased to meet you too. I agree; if I did not have any spiritual understanding the world would simply appear to be a chaotic place.

      Sophia

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