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Claude Monet:
The Departure of the Boats, Étretat (1885)

" … my purpose must be clear,
for it is always and without exception,
what my actions manifest here."

I think of Success and failure as positive and negative arcs on the same old number line, with Successes progressing outward to the right of the midpoint and failures fading outward to the left. Both great Success and great failure can be represented there by their distance from the center. Some Successes don't really amount to much, less than ten on an infinite scale, while others loop off into the far, far distance. Same story with failures, though their emotional content leans toward the sorrowful rather than the joyful. Each point on both sides denotes some emotional range, from minor to great, and therefore might qualify for assessment as absolute values rather than as opposites. Yes, sadness differs in content while similar in strength. A ten on either pole might then be considered roughly equal in scope, though opposite in emotional texture.

I bring up this admittedly arcane point for a potentially practical reason.
Systems theory insists that the purpose of any system ends up being whatever it produces. The broken machine that produces chaos instead of widgets, say the systems theorists, carries the purpose of creating chaos until it's fixed. We set about fixing the damned machine because we'd prefer to maintain a machine that makes productive widgets rather than one just producing chaos, our intention being widget production. We act to align the device with our intentions. In this same way of thinking, every action can't help but prove successful. Sometimes successful in ways intended. We call these Successful. Sometimes in ways not intended. We call these failures. But aren't the failures also the result of our actions which, if engaged, were, indeed, successful, one way or another? We acted in both instances. We might say that we Successfully acted in both cases, though one yielded a positive correlation with intention while the other didn't.

Let's say, then, that we create notation to represent only these magnitudes and not their sign, such that we might gauge every action by the intensity of each result, by its Absolute Value. We could then speak of |Success| without bothering with the additional burden the term failure imparts. For example, yesterday, I failed to progress on the work I'd started the day before. Still, I didn't feel very motivated to succeed or fail, so I'd say that I successfully failed to make progress and awarded that success a whopping |3|, an absolute 3, on an infinite scale because I didn't really care one way or another. In the scope of everything, this event seemed relatively meaningless. I failed to make progress, but its absence didn't trouble me. I Successfully avoided progress, then, producing no more than relative insignificance.

This morning, I feel passionate about AbsoluteSuccess, |Success|. It holds promise to help me get in better touch with my Successes and to render my failures comparatively toothless. If I cannot help but Succeed when I engage, I imagine that I might cringe less in anticipation of potential failures. In an Absolute sense, I face only Success, measured in intensities which, quite frankly, tend to hug zero either way. I rarely experience genuine elation, and equally rarely I fall into abject depression. I rarely even wince when "failing" or cheer when "Succeeding." My Successes, and they're all simply Successes now, walk a straight and relatively narrow path, only rarely measuring more than a few dozen emotional magnitudes. I perform decidedly level-headedly.

I am toying with the idea of eradicating failure and renaming every result a Success, not to merely buoy my mood but to see my actions more clearly; Failure tends to erase experience. It seems as though what led to it didn't happen. I almost always learn little to nothing from my shortcomings as a result. But if I could only see my failures as the systems thinkers might, I might find some more significant level of acceptance and learning from those experiences. I have so often successfully failed that I otherwise might too quickly discount more than half of my life as somehow not representative of my true intentions, my truest purpose, and therefore not really counting. An additional reason for whole-hearted acceptance couldn't hurt and might prove a cure for one of my more pernicious practices. Whether I achieve my intention, my purpose must be clear, for it is always and without exception what my actions manifest here. How I feel about that result might measure great or small, but both measure AbsoluteSuccess, the magnitude of the resulting emotional content, joy or sadness, high or low, absolutely equivalent.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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