Oursin asks, “Is it better to have massive ambitions, and fail, or to have modest aims, and succeed?”

My answer to that is enough of a “this, I believe” statement that I’m copying it here.

In my opinion, it is better to have massive ambitions, and to break down the steps to achieve them into small and realistic ones. That way even if you don’t get all the way to the Promised Land, you can at least tell if you’ve gotten 30% of the way through the desert.

1. I’ve climbed a lot of mountains. The most encouraging thing I know, when you’ve beein going for hours and you’re tired and you’ve just found that you’re coming up on a false peak and there’s still a lot farther to go, is to look back and see how far you’ve come.

2. I suppose it’s also worthwhile to look at the actual stories of the Hero’s Journey (Moses and the Israelites *didn’t* go straight through that not-very-big desert; neither did Odysseus go straight home) and realize how often there was a lot of wandering in circles going on, and how sometimes those circles gave you what you need to progress.

3. One of my most favorite quotes ever: “You are not expected to complete the work, but neither may you refrian from beginning it” attributed to Rabbi Tarfon, in the Pirkei Avot.

4. This has been coming up for me a lot lately in assorted discussions. Just because someone was flawed does not invalidate the work they did (even when the flaws are built into the work itself). On the other hand, just because the work they did is important (to you personally or to society as a whole) does not mean they are not flawed or that the flaws can’t be discussed. The flaws may mean, once you understand them, that the work is not as great as you once thought. Or not.

Concrete examples: I can’t read Heinlein or Sayers without being bothered a bit by the racism / sexism / antiSemitism in there, but I do still read them. On the other hand I think the Declaration of Independence is as brilliant as I ever thought it was, no matter flawed jefferson himself was.

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1 Response to manifesto

  1. LA says:

    Jefferson is my favorite ‘flawed’ hero to think about. Do we dismiss his grand ideals (and ideas) because he followed his dick to his wife’s half/quarter Black kin? Do we ignore his scientific achievements and theories because his personal morals were flawed by today’s reckoning?

    It’s a toughie. I WANT to believe someone’s grand works are worthier than their personal lives. Stephen King discusses this in ‘Dedication’- a story in one of his short story collections. Eventually it is a question that cannot be answered in one sentence. Or even one paragraph. ~LA

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