When I was a kid, I spent a hell of a lot of time falling over. It was important that I fall over well. If I fell over too quickly then the other kids playing with me - bigger kids, my brother's friends - would accuse me of cowardice; but if I didn't fall over quickly enough then I'd be tackled and that meant falling over in a whole other way. A way that hurt. I suppose I was practicing a form of surrender. I became quite good at it. I never wanted to win. It wasn't even a remote possibility. But I wanted to lose convincingly.
Now, I'm forty one years old and I haven't fallen over for a long while. Maybe five years. But I have been failing consistently for some time. So much so that, as with falling over, I've become to appreciate the tactics and subtle lines of failure. I am well acquainted with it beyond the preliminary sting of disappointment and the tedious histrionics of self-pity. I've come to value it.
First of all because I recognize that it is the shadow effect of ambition. Anyone with a genuine ambition comes ready armed with a precise definition of failure, a definition other people don't have. They might have a cloudy quiet desperation, but the ambitious know precisely what has gone wrong and mourn it like a dead loved one. Another reason (or rationalization if you prefer) is that failing is creative. Life has as a principle the creative force of failure. If the DNA code was flawlessly copied ever single time, no evolution would have been possible. It is a successful failure which will go on to thrive. That said most variations caused by this failure end in extinction, but hey ho.
In a way this blog post is a kind of falling over. An admission that not only am I not going to make it, I'm not sure if I ever believed I was. So I've lowered my sights. I once read a startling statistic that during battle most soldiers intentionally aim so as not to hit anybody. Casualties are hit by those who miss at missing.
Inside Llewyn Davis the latest Coen Brothers film is a masterpiece of failure, an accomplished near perfect testament to those who will always get tackled before they get their shot off. The deal won't be made, the big time won't arrive, they'll never make the break through. I luxuriated in the sadness of the film, the way Oscar Isaac luxuriates in his folk music, and the sound of his own voice. I'm glad it didn't get nominated for a best picture Oscar. It would have been an insult.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.