Did you ever notice how there are countless programs and classes focused on success, but very few dealing with failure? You hire a life- or career-coach to learn how to succeed…but ones who help you learn how to fail with some degree of grace and preserved sanity are harder to find.
This all comes to mind based on several current factors and observations, most of which surprisingly do not immediately involve myself (I added that last bit because in a Culture Of Success, failure has that potent tang of an encroaching and communicable disease).
In one, an online “Law Of Attraction” guru is asked what she would do if her adult children came to her with a problem or difficulty. She essentially said that she would not want them around her unless they had “good vibes.” This is a common theme in the Culture of Success: keeping the Bad Vibes away as to not, in the words of Barbara Bush, damage one’s “Beautiful Mind”:
But why should we hear about body bags and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or that or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it’s not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?
This must mean, according to the Law of Attraction (which I will henceforth refer to as LOA), that the underprivileged of the United States have, ultimately, Bad Vibes; which is to say, they are responsible for their own misery. That sounds ridiculous—and most LOA advocates would describe it as a straw man argument—but the truth is, the foundation of many of the Success/LOA books and philosophies popular today have their roots in earlier works written at a time were capitalism was glorified and the poor demonized.
In short, these early books presented a cosmology where the rich need not feel guilty for the sufferings of the poor, as they “proved” the poor brought on their own misery themselves. “Like attracts like,” says the wisdom of the Ancients. Thus, the rich are absolved and the need for various reforms diminished. To provide services for the poor would be to reinforce their “victim mentality.”
In many of these old “self-improvement” books you will also find references to the Bible that support this philosophy. One of the most popular, which is still used by some LOA advocates today, is from Matthew 13:12:
Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
As you can probably imagine, this way of thinking must be a real boon for psychopaths. And it is. I’ve witnessed more shitty people out-and-out justifying various misdeeds and cruelties by appealing to LOA/”Prosperity Gospel” principles than I care to remember.
The thing is…there is some good you can get from these books. Good books like Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, The Magic Of Believing by Claude Bristol, and Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins.
But, as Bristol took pains to point out: these concepts can, to be blunt, be used for evil.
And so a great corrective to all this, I feel, could be better understanding Failure. Teaching people not to be afraid of Failure, and not to be afraid of those who might spread Failure like leprosy. Not a rose-colored glasses version of Failure and related sufferings, but just giving people the space to fully immerse themselves in their own misfortune…to really feel it without self-judgment, just being alive and feeling crappy.