Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Visit From a Sage


(image: W.C. Fields)
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Say You're a Failure
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Best just to blurt it out: "I'm a failure."
Other losing phrases will congregate
right away and get too close to you
as they announce themselves:
"I fell a bit short." "It just didn't
work out." "These things happen."
"It wasn't for want of trying." "If
that's what success is, I'd rather
fail." This last one engenders
many look-away glances and
urgent small-talk in the group.
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Now the place is empty again.
You invite a sage over. He takes
his bourbon neat. You ask,
"Is continuing to try and to fail
any better than giving up,
surrendering to failure?" "No,"
says the sage. "True, one gives
the impression of dignity or
perseverence by continuing
to try, but whom is one attempting
to impress, and why?"
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"I'm a failure. I failed," you say.
"Indeed," says the sage, now drunk.
He continues: "Saying so--the
proclamation, the confession--
that's what hurts. Otherwise,
failure is quite manageable.
You know, I really must bring
you a bottle sometime. I see
I've drunk up all your whiskey."
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Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom
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