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@rixx@chaos.social · @rixxtr

Failure: tests and gifts


I wrote most this post on 2020-06-27, and then avoided reading it and thinking about it for the next ten days. Yes, it’s that bad.

[Cordelia said slowly] “But I’ve always thought--tests are a gift. And great tests are a great gift. To fail the test is a misfortune. But to refuse the test is to refuse the gift, and something worse, more irrevocable, than misfortune. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“No,” said Vortala.
“Yes,” said Vorkosigan. […]
“If you think it’s really wrong,” said Cordelia to Vorkosigan, “that’s one thing. Maybe that’s the test. But if it’s only fear of failure--you have not the right to refuse the gift for that.”
“It’s an impossible job.”
“That happens, sometimes.”

Lois McMaster Bujold, Shards of Honor

This is going to be more diary-style reflection and less finished thoughts.

This is true: Taking Cordelia’s view on challenging situations would help me a lot. It’s not a universally useful approach, but it resonates with me and my approach to life.

This is false: Failing a test is worse than refusing it. Failing a test is painful in a way that refusal is not.

This is true: Accepting the gift of a hard test is scary in a primal, painful way. I shy from it the way an animal shies from fire, the way a little kid starts panicking when it thinks it’s lost.

This is false: I cannot change how I react to such gifts.

This is true: Changing my reaction requires courage.

This is false: It won’t be that bad. Do it once, get it over with.

This is true: The great gift consists of innumerable smaller gifts. Accepting them requires persistent attention and courage.

This is false: Continuous attention and courage is impossible, imperfections are inevitable, therefore this approach is a dead end.

This is true: Persistent is not the same as continuous. Courage breeds courage¹. Life is best experienced as fluidly moving from one experience to the next.

All just because of a scifi novel that I had filed under “weak start to a brilliant series”. Of course, upon finding this quote, I re-read the whole book and found out that it’s actually a strong start into a brilliant series. Here’s to accepting gifts.

¹ Preconditions apply, please ask your deity or fates for their current asking rates.