2011 A Year of Yes
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Überfail, massive fail, epic fail—who’s to say?
By Gale LeGassick
At one time, fail was simply a verb that denoted being unsuccessful or falling short of expectations. Since then phrases like überfail, massive fail, or, most popular of all, epic fail have made occasional forays into nounhood.*
We take the notion of failure for granted. We don’t really even think about it. When we set out to handle something in a particular way, and don’t succeed, the notion of “failure” has a way of popping up. If we identify ourselves with achievement and accomplishment and success, it can be difficult to tolerate anything that’s inconsistent with that, leaving us no powerful way to be.
What happens then is our motivation comes from dealing with how we think (and think that others think) about failure. When we don’t separate out what we were out to accomplish from our attitudes and feelings about it not turning out, the disparity between what happened and what the possibility was is often interpreted as a “failure in being.” This adds even more mass to the experience and reduces being able “to be” at all (i.e., überfail, epic fail, etc).
If we can effectively be with “that it didn’t work,” there’s nothing but power there—instead of having it imply a failure in being (vs. it failed) what’s there to be addressed is the possibility of inventing being. The “being” part of being human is where the infinite possibility of living lies—where we are able to connect dots we never even knew were dots, go in directions that previously couldn’t have been considered, stand in a place from where we are able to see clearly for ourselves.
*[Adapted from Ben Zimmer, “How fail went from verb to interjection,” New York Times, 8-9-09]
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