Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Failure Not An Option: It’s A Necessity

exit here. “Failure is not an option,” Obama said regarding our educational system. Now, without getting mired too deeply in the Capitalism is Dead argument, or the angsty socialism-for-the-rich debate, let’s talk a little about failure. More specifcally, let’s talk about the efficacy of failure.

Michael Stipe had it dead to rights: “It’s the end of the world as we know it…” but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. The end of capitalism as we know it, the end of the 1950s education as we know it, even the end of supreme American dominance, are not reasons to throw up our political hands in despair. No need to drink the hemlock yet folks.

I don’t have all the solutions (if I did, I’d be holed up in my secret para-government base running the world, not blogging), but it strikes me that these consecutive waves of failure present us with the opportunity to build floating houses instead of running around trying to plug the dike. This kind of epic failure gives us the chance to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.

I’ve already suggested some ideas in my Emergent Socialism blog, but this time I want to hear from all of you. Instead of plugging holes in the great American sea wall, how can we embrace our failure and move forward? What new solutions can we provide for 21st century problems? Simply put, how do we encourage the superstructure of America to evolove?

If we can salvage just a little optimism, we can say with confidence: “Failure is not an option; it’s a necessity.”


  1. I really like this idea of failure as an integral part of moving forward. I just hope that we have the courage to really accept that we have failed, and to look for other ways into the future. Great post.

  2. I agree with willwindow, this is a great post.

    It is obvious to me that America is at the point of an unavoidable decision between evolution and extinction. The “climate” has changed in such a way that the things that worked in the past will work no more. However, as you’ve said rekonstruct, many of us view the required evolution as extinction. We view a changed America as no America at all, and perhaps we are right, but does that have to be a bad thing. It may be time for America to lose its gills, grow some legs and start walking on land, or perhaps it’s simply time to develop an extra dorsal fin, only time will tell. Either way, the change, no matter how drastic, does not have to be the end.

    I think our best hope for survival is simply to, as individuals, propagate optimism about the potential in the change. Governments can’t tell people to think positively and expect anybody to listen. There is a much better chance that I might inspire those who trust me to take a more positive and open-minded approach to what lies ahead. It sounds cheesy and lame even as I write it, but I really think that it is true. For the inevitable change to be a positive one, we need the creativity that can only come from people who are inspired by the potential in an uncertain future.

    (people that know me may think that this is a hypocritical comment because I am a pessimist, especially when it comes to big-picture issues such as this. however, i am changing, largely thanks to the inspiration of those i trust. thus, in actuality my experience as a pessimist inspired this comment.)

  3. I think you hit on something key in your comment. American optimism (in general) has been driven by a neurotic desire to secure an uncertain future. But I think we can express optimism in a dynamic relationship to the unknown.

    To put this all in an ambiguous nutshell, the move from Newtonian certainty to Schrodenger’s cat is not really progress. Both approaches are absolutely fixated upon a revealing of the what’s inside the box. Schrodenger understood that the act of revealing kept us from understanding what was revealed, but this represents only an accumulation of data, not a change in posture toward the world.

    What I hear in your comment, Levitation, is that it’s time to assume a new posture toward the world.

  4. you hear correctly.

    what makes this especially hard is the fact that when we are faced with change and uncertainty our natural instinct is to cling to what we know and look to the past to help us plan for the future. in this case, that won’t work. somehow we have to figure out how to optimistically embrace uncertainty and completely free ourselves from any set world view. i don’t know that this has ever been achieved on this scale, but i am optimistically believing that it is possible.