Cultivating Failure

I have some splendid stories to tell but none of them really amount to very much these days. They are thin and insubstantial, like soup with no flavour. My stories have become quite tawdry and threadbare and when I try to relate them people walk away almost immediately. They don’t even try to pretend to be interested – some look frankly horrified. It’s not what they wanted to hear, obviously. My audience is dismayed, mortified even. Some wear expressions of unutterable sorrow. A mistake had been made, obviously. Perhaps it was me who had made the mistake? If it was then I apologise – it was never my intention to cause offence. I was giving a talk and many had turned up to hear it, my reputation had spread far and wide. Some turn up out of curiosity, others out of a sense of duty. They know it’s the right thing to do. They know it is important to be in the right place at the right time. They are drawn here by the rumours that they have heard, by the stories that circulate. Talk is cheap so it is said, but when people say this that too is only talk – that too is the cheapest currency in the land. Words mean nothing these days. I have some splendid stories to relate but none of them amount to very much now – poor tattered things they are now. They used to mean something, these stories of mine. People used to place great stock in them, you see. I was held in high regard by those with a nose for that sort of thing. The cognoscenti, I believe you would call them. I was held in high regard by the cognoscenti, but that was a long time ago now. Not content with my success, I sought to push the boundaries of common decency and good sense. I tried to push them further than they’re never been pushed before. I was filled with an urge to experiment, you see. I was not content to dabble in the shallow waters, even though that was plainly not what my audience wanted to hear. I wanted to shock, I want to break with convention, but culture is a funny thing, is it not? What does that word even mean? I confess to not knowing what culture actually means and this is the one thing one should never do confess to. In the world of culture, and those who count themselves aficionados of culture, it’s understood that one should not confess to having no understanding as to what ‘culture’ actually is. That is a sure-fire way of indicating one’s ignorance and no one in these exalted circles has a good word for ignorance! But nevertheless culture is a funny thing because whilst we know we are not ignorant, we still don’t know what it means to be cultured, or what it means to be enamoured of cultural things. It means something, obviously, but what? But at any rate it’s presumably better than to be ignorant; to be ignorant is to be enamoured of the cruder things in life, such as getting blind drunk and running around roaring like a fool for no reason at all before falling unconscious in the ditch. We can all plainly see the problem with this because we have given away our dignity, and the fact that we have no awareness of our most unfortunate loss of dignity does not exonerate us from the consequences. Anyway, as I’ve said, my interest is purely in the experimental these days and so – in order to do justice to this passion of mine – I have found it necessary to move beyond the conventional boundaries of what previously I might have found pertinent and meaningful. I have found it necessary to shock and be unpopular. I have found it necessary to cultivate failure. People walk away from me mid-sentence, they turn on their heels and leave the room. They regard me with expressions of unutterable disdain. You might think that this lack of appreciation dismays me but it doesn’t. On the contrary, I’m delighted because I can see that the experiment has been a success.












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