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Lions Roar : November 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2011 39 late at night. The air in the house became fragrant with poplar shavings and nauseating with paint fumes. My husband veered toward carpenter- hood instead of paramedichood. From now on tai chi class would be held at our house instead of the small storefront that was too crowded any- way for his large male students to be “looking for a needle at the sea bottom” or grunting like “Bud- dha’s attendants pounding the mortar.” Another advantage was that vigorous twists of the spine to release bad energy could be explained in terms of the lawn mower’s engine starter much more ef- fectively because the lawn mower with its handle and pull string was right in view. Often my hus- band insisted that the students stay for supper, so they began to bring gifts like oven mitts, potted plants, and big round, flour-dusted loaves of Ital- ian bread. From the meat aisle of the grocery store we had been failured into our own home. I don’t know how all this will work out. Sometime soon, my husband will start back to school. A medical career is something he wants, a vision to fail into. I know he will do it well. IN CHINESE MYTH, Zhong-kui was a young scholar who, after failing an important examina- tion, committed suicide by dashing his own head against the stone steps of the examination hall. As a ghost, he devoted himself to killing demons and became responsible for ridding the world of the demons, including the horrible demon that made it his business to replace humanity’s joys with sor- rows. I believe it was failure and not death that transformed Zhong-kui, an ordinary person, into a first rate demon slayer. Creation stories, too, always start with serious failures. Creators had terrible trouble producing an acceptable human being. The first ones often came out either too angelic or too demonic. In addition, mythic creators produced beings miss- ing arms, legs, or even bodies, and beings with too many noses, huge flapping elephant ears, or boarish snouts. There were even bodiless flying heads and giant eyeballs rolling around, causing trouble. The first Inuit beings were bad-tempered and impatient. In Tibet, somewhere in the midst of endless cycles of creation and destruction, the first human beings were the hairy offspring of an ogress and a monkey. The Greek Titans turned out much too clumsy and emotional, as did the Germanic giants. Zeus created humans from the ashes of the Titans with a result that was neither too good nor too bad, just so-so. By trial and error, people were failed into being. To take on faith the theory that failure doesn’t exist is easy for a holy man or a poet, but what if the poet or holy man had to explain himself to a logically minded person on pain of death? What if it were imperative to answer the question, “In what sense does failure not exist?” He can’t just pull something out of the folds of his robe, like a loaf or an acorn and say, “In this sense!” And he can’t just blurt out semi-rationally, “To reject failure is to reject the self as it was created, limited like no other, and so creative like no other. Take failure in and give it shelter, give it your attention until it has become something else, something unfailing. In ➢ page 87 PHOTO©THEBRETTWESTONARCHIVE/CORBIS