Now that I am just about grown up enough to really want to became a better person, I am surprised by my equally strong desire to fail in this pursuit. Willful failure, the bit where you know you shouldn’t but do anyway. We are all trillions of cells, adhering to one another in a teetering conspiracy between the driving force of evolution and our best attempts to willfully fail at it.
The will to live is said to be the strongest driving force of all forms of life, from the constantly mutating bugs that keep beating the drugs to the soldier running to safety on a broken leg. Sheer bloody determination can sustain our bodies in all sorts of endeavours that inspire us to say ‘truth is stranger than fiction’. If we could distill and bottle willpower surely all our energy problems would disappear overnight! When I was a child, I used to try and concentrate my attention enough on an object to see if I could get it to move. Just a little wobble would have confirmed the connection between the point below my navel, the base of my spine and the practically visible line of sight boring down on the chosen object. Shaking with concentration however, I never could make anything shift. Unless when I turned my back……..
But it didn’t stop me trying for other goals; a part in the school play, a particular boy, a place in the 1st XI. The things that we accumulate in our lives are often ours not because we are more talented, prettier or more skillful than the next person but because we wanted the thing more than the next person. Or perhaps we CAN become more talented, prettier etc by willing ourselves to transform that way. After all it takes willpower to up-skill, to learn, to train in a certain discipline.
So far, so obvious – what I want to understand is the will to fail. Why, when I’m driving behind somebody not making the speed limit, I can’t just bless them for being extra safe and use the extended period of time to enjoy the scenery, instead of imagining the tire marks of my car all over their bloodied and bruised dashboard. Why, when I eventually roar past as the first opportunity to overtake presents itself, do I feel the duplicitous sensation of over-indulging in too much good chocolate. So sated and so guilty.
I would let it go but like I say, I am old enough to want to be a better person. It’s funny how we tend to assume older people are ‘more together’, calmer, nicer. We don’t appear to learn from historical or present world politics. Hello! The older people we put in charge of our globe are not making great decisions most of the time! Which leads me to speculate that if we are all willfully failing to become the better person we know we truly should be, we are in trouble. So many bad decisions to overtake and intimidate the person ahead of us leading to, well, nowhere I want to go.
So I resolve to develop my willpower in the right direction. It’s got me to some great places and acquired me some pretty special people in my life. ‘Exert your better self’ – I shall tattoo it on my forehead and then drive with the sun visor mirror down.
Except that would be dangerous and as such, a willful failure.