What happens if things don’t go as you wish? If efforts are in vain? Taking risks and losing, feeling that you have lost and, as Kipling said, having to “start again”. But too injured to want to understand what happened, exhausted and empty. Failure. A word full of enormous expectations, a scary word, for which you don’t want to start, you don’t want to change, you don’t want to believe, you don’t want to love any more. It is better to stay in your own corner and not to suffer. And yet…what really is failure?
Many reasons held me back before accepting and pursuing this change and, above all, the fear of making mistakes, of not understanding, of not succeeding, in practice of failing, suffering and making the consequences of my choice suffer. All my research had started from a fact that frightened me. Few make it, few communities resist over time. Diana Leafe Christian began her text Creating a life together with “Ten percent make it“. Then she listed all the favourable conditions for a solid birth: organising the group, choosing and buying the land or managing a property, what kind of person should be the founder(s), how to raise funds, what economic structure to give oneself, how to attract and integrate new members, how to create the bond between members, how to keep the community vision clear, how to structure community governance and….much, much more.
But what happened to the other ninety percent? What happens if you fail? After having risked so much?
Because that word, failure, hurts like hell. Since childhood we were taught to avoid it, as something that should not touch us, just do everything right, just try hard enough. Enough? No. In reality there are too many variables, they depend on us only in part and when an “I” fits into an “us” they are no longer controllable, not even with the best will.
I can't do it
Deciding to change is not just about finding the push and turning over a new leaf, supporting doubts with confidence. It is welcoming transformation. The “I can’t do it” often arrives at the very last turning point, like when you climb a staircase, and you have already taken many steps but turning around and looking down comes vertigo flooding with insecurity and anguish. “Is it right where I am going?” Here is the fear of failure, with its load of shame and bewilderment.
Once I told Mark, who was helping me with the translations, “If I don’t make it, I want to remember Pasolini’s words“. Pier Paolo Pasolini said “I think it is necessary to educate the new generations on the value of defeat. To its management. To the humanity that flows from it. One can fail and start again without the value and dignity being affected”.
My “I can’t do it” came suddenly. How many of us have experienced this feeling! And, as always, all my questions were answered by nature. Just when I thought I couldn’t understand anything anymore, in bewilderment. I walked along the path like a thirsty seeker in search of water. And when I found it, I looked at it without really observing.
Until I was surprised by a small drop, a particle of white water that moved quickly touching and detaching itself from other particles to get lost in the small waterfall, just below. I followed another one with the gaze and it too, with a different path, mixed with the others in the same whirlwind of splashes, now unrecognizable.
The game caught my curiosity and one after the other, as fast as I could, I tried to follow their path before it ended in the waterfall. Some drops were solitary for several stretches, then joined others forming a white spot. From that spot others came off, maybe there was the one I was following or maybe it was another one. Others detached from the group, joined another particle encountered by chance (by chance?!), together they travelled part of the journey and then I saw them divide and reunite with others or continue the same journey alone. They all “knew” where they were going, they could not oppose the current. Some of them were whizzing and I lost sight of them, they mixed with others and I didn’t recognize them anymore. No journey was linear. The drops moved without stopping, to the right, to the left, they stopped, they were pushed again, they detached, they started again, slowly, quickly and all of them, all of them found themselves there, mixed together, where my gaze could not go, down, beyond the waterfall. Together and indistinguishable.
Nina gave voice to my own question “Why all this expectation?“.
The answer might seem logical “But how? The commitment, the effort, the risk!” but I knew it was not an answer, it was a defence. One did it because one wanted to do it, one believed it and one did it.
What a relief to have been able to accept this! I wanted to, I tried, I did.
I didn’t care if that particle was detached from others, if it was joining others, if it proceeded quietly or in a zigzag movement…I enjoyed its journey, it was beautiful and unique.
I would have liked, after a year of life in the community, to be able to understand what one must and can do to avoid the sense of failure to be part of that ten percent that is successful, to understand how to make it twenty, fifty, even more! And I have understood that this is too great an expectation that risks paralysing us without allowing us to change. Or worse, if things don’t go the way we wanted them to, despite all the effort, to believe that we haven’t been able.
Success and Failure or success and failure
I understood that human nature is made to change and to fail. I also believe: to fail to change. So if we have to fail, make mistakes, think again or even feel like this to face change, why should we think of failure as a defeat? It is better to understand how to manage this all-human capacity to be made like this. And accept it.
Kipling in his beautiful poem “If” considered “triumph” and “disaster” of impostors.
It is we who make them impostors and then believe their words!
I am grateful to both of them and especially to the community life, which has taught me to know them for what they are.
Yes, a year of life in the community is over and – which is more – the journey continues!!
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream-and not make dreams your master;
If you can think-and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And-which is more-you’ll be a Man, my son!