“In the real dark night of the soul it is always three o’ clock in the morning, day after day.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
In a month or so I’ll write to Arthur Bloch summarizing my own wise disclosures in the perversity of the universe, under the pseudonym of Vladina, requesting to be included under Murphy’s laws. What I write about today is the fruit of another kind of wisdom. And it’s this: To be successful in something, you have to love it enough, but not too much.
Here’s the formula:
[ Love ∝ Focus (≈ closeness to subject) ] ∴ Fear of failure
That’s one of my recent discoveries. Whenever I really love doing something, I can’t admit it – I tend to dissimulate. Like with junior-high-school crushes, when you haven’t yet learned how to show care and affection, and you usually smack the one you cherish in the face and fling things at him, if you’re extrovert, or shy away from him and restrain yourself from any display of feeling.
Basically, I still feel strangely ashamed to take pictures (excluding, obviously, all party and holiday pics – socially acceptable situations, when you feel more protected with a cam hanging from your neck). When there are other people around and I’m taking the pictures that fill my dreams and really matter to me — not the automatic, casual or predatory ones, but those I’ve planned carefully, sometimes for a whole fortnight — I… pretend. I pretend that I’m doing something else, I do everything in a haste, feeling completely and unexplainably guilty, as if I’ve been caught by my parents while doing unsuitable things. As if seen by strangers while picking my nose. If the result is not what I had expected, I can feel deeply frustrated, gloomy and resentful, and stop taking pictures for a week, or shake as if I had Parkinson’s and am unable to take a single pic. It’s like falling.
Which brings me straight to another part of my recent history: snowboarding. I can’t ski – for excess of good examples. Most members of my family are born skiers, but as I was extremely clumsy and overprotected when I was a kid, after the first couple of falls I wasn’t allowed even to try. Plus I’m naturally lazy. Anyway, two years ago I decided to give it a try and now, last weekend, I produced my first, graceful swinging sequence – a serpentine that felt like a giant slalom but probably looked more like a kids’ merry-go-round.
What a portent! That’s what D. calls the miracle of the learning body, a thing you rarely get the opportunity to experience when you’re past childhood, or when you stop being surprised by the physics of the natural world. It’s the capacity to feel the solution to a problem instinctively, at your fingertips – for example, how to keep your balance when you’re climbing a ski lift with your board sideways. And how can you reach this? Mainly, learning to fail (or, etymology at hand – to fall). Something really hard to grasp for a control maniac like myself: it would appear that it’s through falling that you learn how to stop falling.
I guess that I could add the following consequence to the formula above: the more you find pleasure in something, the more you feel guilty doing it. You typically steal time and do it at night, along with other kinds of pleasurable things. A fiasco wouldn’t be so hard if I didn’t care so much about this. It would be like with snowboarding – I’d get up again and go on, I’d contextualize my failure to carry out a task and would not look at it as an unlimited, final truth. But in the end, it’s just like with any other kind of love: rejection and neglect are excruciating things you wish to keep away from as much as possible.
So let’s file this under “mantra”, my girl.
* Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho (“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”)