With just over two weeks to go, parents are concerned that the UK may not finish its homework on time for the March 29th due date. Squabbling driven by sibling rivalry has prevented Britain from doing any actual work on this important assignment which will go on the country’s permanent record.[Read more…] about Will the UK complete its homework?
Failing feels awful. It makes us think that we cannot do whatever it is that we have just failed at. It’s embarrassing. We feel like failure is something to be avoided but it’s inevitable and we should learn to be more accepting of it. We imagine that successful people never fail but nothing could be further from the truth. The path to success is to keep trying, especially when you fail because that’s an opportunity to learn and advance.
As I write, it’s grading season for the Victorian kendo community. The Victorian Kendo Renmei (VKR) avoid the word fail; they compassionately refer to people as being unsuccessful. A few people going for the lower grade exams will be unsuccessful. Considerably more in the higher dan grade exams. I have been ‘unsuccessful’ in a kendo grading exam. It’s unpleasant. But, sooner or later, it happens to almost every kendoka.
The interesting thing about failing that exam was what I learned from it; it was a lot more than I expected. I’m not going to go into a long list of personal observations. The point is that you learn more from failure than from success. This is not just some cliché to salve your wounds. It becomes real if you don’t give in to your misery and you pay attention in that painful moment.
Even if you can’t find lessons in that specific experience, there is always the example of the daruma doll: fall down seven times, get up eight. This Japanese saying refers to the fact that success comes after many failures and only requires that you try one more time. Picking yourself up and going again is a lesson in itself. It builds strength, resilience and courage.
We have so much difficulty with failure because of the way in which we think about binaries. By binaries I mean things that exist as pairs of opposites, such as: good/bad, happy/sad, success/failure. The mistake that we make is to place a value judgement on the binary where we desire one and reject the other. Some Eastern philosophies, most clearly expressed in the Taoist yin-yang, perceive these binaries quite differently. In the example of the yin-yang each side of the binary is recognised as mutually dependent on the other. You can’t have good without bad or success without failure. One can’t exist without the other and therefore you must accept them both of have neither. In this case, identifying one side of the binary as good or bad is less certain. Each side has both good and bad. This is illustrated in the tale of the farmer whose horse runs away. (I’ll add the story at the bottom of this post.) Failure is good and bad. Feeling bad when you fail perfectly understandable, just don’t let the good part of failing escape you.
Kendo continually teaches us this lesson. Whenever we train, we try hundreds of times to make a good cut, an ippon. If we’re paying attention, as we should always be, then most times we realise that that cut was not perfect: it was a fail. But for decades we keep trying. Slowly we improve and occasionally we make a good cut. Even then, we try again.
Never think that ‘failure is not an option’. Lying to yourself is rarely productive. Don’t even try to avoid the bad feelings that come with failure. They’re a part of the experience. Most importantly, don’t miss out on the good things that can come from failing and whatever you do, don’t let it make you stop trying.
The farmer whose horse ran away
There was a farmer who tilled the fields for many years. One day his horse ran away. Trying to sympathise with him, the villagers said, ‘that’s unlucky’. The farmer replied, ‘maybe.’ Sometime later, the horse returned bringing three wild horses along with it. Rejoicing, the villagers declared how lucky he was. The farmer said, ‘maybe.’ When the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the untamed animals, he was thrown and broke his leg. The villagers lamented his poor fortune. The farmer said, ‘maybe.’ While his son’s broken leg was still healing, the military came to the village to conscript men into the army. His son was left behind because of his disability. The villagers smiled happily at the farmer for this happy outcome. The farmer said, ‘maybe.’
There are many reasons some stories resonate across cultures and through time. This post focuses on the intricacies of one revealing aspect: relatability.[Read more…] about Faust’s relatable torment
The first time that I was told to my face that being a white male makes me privileged it took me back a bit. I didn’t feel privileged. Privileged people have fancy new cars and powerful careers. I’m relieved that I stifled my knee jerk denial before it got past my throat. Reflecting on my observations of the world coupled with my studies, I knew intellectually that it was true, but I just didn’t feel it. Judging from the array of comments I’ve seen on social media, I think it’s safe to say that many others with different kinds of privilege don’t feel it either.[Read more…] about What privilege?
I’m tough. I don’t shy away from a fight. So, when the feminazis bring it, I stand and face the full force of their ferocious anger. They don’t scare me. They belittle my gender and accuse us of millennia of terrible crimes against women and the rest of humanity. [Read more…] about I’m a cis-gender, heterosexual, middle-class, middle-aged, white male
Claims like Trump is evil or insane, or that his supporters are dumb and ignorant are divisive and designed to enable left-wing intellectuals like myself to ignore the real reasons why the likes of Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson have so many supporters. This kind of name calling deliberately mythologises real human beings who have real issues. In academic terms, this is called Othering, i.e. making them into the Others—not us. It is in part about defining who we are by pointing out who we are not, but it also makes the Others kind of unreal. Once we’ve achieved that, we don’t have to deal with them because we’ve moved them outside of our own sphere and for our own safety we keep them there. This is how patriarchy has worked for thousands of years—it Othered women.
A friend, for whom I have great respect, recently shared an article titled Are Trump Supporters Too Dumb To Know They’re Dumb? Science Says “Probably”. I respect her for her intelligence, diligence in research and her compassion. I say this in part because I’m about to attack the article that she shared but also because, like so many people, I consider myself intelligent, informed and compassionate and yet I have also engaged in the type marginalising found in this article. I could say that I have been racist and discriminatory towards these Trump supporters who we think of as racist and discriminatory. In other words, in spite of my self-presumption of intelligence, education and compassion, I have behaved like a Trump supporter. I have to consider the possibility that I am also subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect.
The quick version of that article by Rika Christensen is that Trump supporters suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is basically a scientific way of saying that there are some things that people don’t know that they don’t know. The article uses this to explain the ‘dumb’ of Trump supporters.