I am not someone who takes making mistakes lightly. I beat myself up badly. I used to chastise myself and berate myself for misdoings. I suffer greatly the weight of my mistakes. I should have done things differently. Why can’t I get it right? I’m frustrated by sluggish growth. I’m annoyed at myself for being a slow learner. Being a broken, imperfect human is a major bummer. I want to do good things. I want to be good.
I’ve discovered recently that I’ve been perpetuating this model of chastisement for mistakes with my children. I find I sometimes say, “You are so naughty.” I put an equal sign between my child and badness. I know this comes from the Christian concept of the world and of humanity that I was raised to believe. Man is born sinful. Man deserves to suffer for eternity because of his sin. I understand why that concept exists. We are struggling folks here on this planet. We are evolving at a very, very slow rate. It’s tiresome to read about all the horrific things that people do. It’s awful to know how many bad decisions I have made and continue to make every single day. I am far from perfect.
But I’ve discovered a new way to look at it.
Humans have been long in the design studio. We’ve been in the making for billions of years. Evolution happens through trial and error, many, many errors. It takes so long because the successes are few and far between. But evolution is hard for my pea brain to wrap my head around…billions of years, that’s just too much to think about. I think instead of Edison. Edison tried over 10,000 different filaments before discovering the right one for the electric light bulb.
He said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
He also said, “The electric light has caused me the greatest amount of study and has required the most elaborate experiments….Although I was never myself discouraged or hopeless of its success, I can not say the same for my associates.”
He was never discouraged. Perhaps Edison wasn’t entirely human. Because having faith in oneself, in the process of growth, in the future dream is really hard to maintain. I feel for Edison’s associates. They must have, at times, felt they’d hitched their wagon to a falling star.
I recently learned of a Japanese mathematician named Yutaka Taniyama who conjectured a mathematical theorem. In 1986 someone proved his theorem. Unfortunately, Taniyama had committed suicide in 1958. He had lost confidence in his future after working tirelessly and never being able to prove his theorem.
It’s hard out here for a human.
But I’ve decided to try to live like Edison. I’m not going to say that I won’t get discouraged because I make disastrous mistakes and hurt myself and others. But at least I’m learning thousands of ways not to be. I’m moving in the right direction. I have hope in my success. I have peace that passes understanding, right here in my good self. The guilt and the chastisement don’t really serve any purpose. The berating and the sadness only weaken my resolve to get back into my lab and try another way. It’s a lot of work this life. Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
But my favorite is “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
And I’m trying to change my language with my kids. They are not bad folks, these wee people. They make bad choices, mostly just uninformed (and frustrating) at this point. They don’t need to feel bad about their failures. They just need to know that there’s got to be a better way. I have faith in their success as well. And mankind. I don’t think we’re doomed. There’s a lot of suffering that will happen, from all the bad choices, I know. But not for eternity. Surely everyone gets a fresh start if there is a next life. Everyone.