Success

Yesterday sweltered, but we beat the heat in our 8 am CoPhi class. Had a good walk and several great TIB-inspired talks including one older student’s hard-learned lesson, generously shared with her younger peers, about not being afraid in life to take risks and to fail. We all fail. We all make mistakes. We all commit errors. We all fall short of expectations. We all could then pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and reboot. We all don’t. But this student’s wise counsel is that it’s never too late to learn. The message was echoed in Happiness later, when our conversation hit on the subject of “learned helplessness.”

We sat in the morning shade of the library courtyard and discussed “success,” giving me an excuse to share again one of my favorite hard-edged William James lines. More than a century ago he wrote to H.G. Wells: “The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word ‘success’ – is our national disease.” That, along with the corollary that if at first you don’t squalidly succeed in this society, you’re off the island.

We’re still seeking a reliable cure for our national disease, but I think the kind of dialogue we’ve been enjoying this semester shows real promise.

Also showing promise this morning: our long-festering and possibly soon-flowering walkabout Study Abroad proposal. We have an itinerary, a syllabus, and after yesterday’s long afternoon session with the spreadsheet we now have a budget too. Watch this space for details.

Oh, and thanks to Colm Toibin’s The Master we now also have another promising angle on one of our course’s site visit subjects. Henry James, the “younger and shallower” brother of William (by the latter’s own admission), “walked the streets of Rye (Sussex) almost every day now…” I knew that had to be true. One day soon we will follow the Master’s footsteps.

5:30/6:23, 73/97

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