Sitting with failure

July 17, 2007

One of my favorite Antonio Machado poems has a beautiful metaphor about old failures being converted to sweet honey:

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

This morning as I sit with the awful feeling of failure, I know that one day, the bees will come in and transform it, but in this moment it just hurts and there is a hollowness in my stomach. The trouble with my practice of transparency, is a willingness to take responsibility and examine my part, and assume my equal contribution. It feels however like I am bumping up against something designed to keep me in my place, to make me obedient and to make it easier for the institution.

I took a risk, chose to be vulnerable, made some mistakes and learned from them. My evaluation was the lowest. Others who played it safe, followed the rules, struggled hard to imitate the examples given received high praise. It isn’t about the “grade” it is about the idea that in this class playing it safe gets rewarded and taking risks gets punished. I am a risk taker and it is how I grow.

Salmon boy and I were reflecting on my last several years of inner work. I created my own experiential learning path filled with gifted guides, teachers, and mentors (my vision quest was an exception) and was able for the most part to avoid the mediocre. I am spoiled! As difficult as this inner work path is, the obstacles were for the most part of my own making. Stepping back into an institutional setting, I am having to face my independent streak and conform. It is uncomfortable and right now, I am not sure it is worth the sacrifice.


  1. An interesting point at [y]our stage of life’s spiral. I have always been gifted with exceptional experience and knowing TRULY exceptional people both in so-called real time and within this more disembodied form of planetary inter-change. I haven’t said much but I have been following this choice and its pathway quite closely. I think of you a few times each week and ask myself “would I have the courage for this?”

    At least part of my cowardice is tied up in FEAR of the mediocre and the inevitable skew that more advanced years/experience brings to grad school. But mid-life is also a time of what my friend & double gemini Jeannine Parvati liked to call “the fearful humbling’.

    Maybe you are *not* a ‘good student’ but what does that actually have to do with what you’ve learned? I often wonder why risk takers are ignored in favor of rough and finely hewn facsimiles. I think it’s a big part of why I continue to drift ever slowly but surely from both academia and healing spheres.

    Maybe it is time to create something in life that you have here online in terms of a salon-like group of risk takers … ?

  2. It just goes to show that no one can define your path for you. I know that you’ve learned a lot from these human guides and teachers, but you’ve also revealed in so many ways how unhelpful – even harmful – they have been to you on your journey. Maybe your “evaluation” is a signal from the multiverse that it’s time for you to graduate yourself from their tutelage.

    It doesn’t sound like they really understand your path.

    My 2 cents!

  3. your writing about the bees is so wonderful.

    I feel that the work I do that brings up stuff, tears, controversy, a way to reveal the hidden – is the most powerful. Every “failure”, hard spot, and unpleasant moment in life makes my work even better, the honey!

    If people do not get it, it may be because they do not have the eyes/heart to get it, to connect and let it do its work – my work cannot touch everyone. Yet it seems that the ones that do get it are so grateful for the door it opens. I think this is the same as your work.

    I also feel that the right school is important. The arts and consciousness dept at JFKU was where I needed to be to go deep with my work, not the Art Institute or the Art Academy. Not sure if this applies to the place you are taking your class.

    I send you energy to support your courageous work and effort!

  4. It sounds to me like the person doing the marking is being ruled by ego. If this is being done someplace that you feel it is important to remain a part of, I would just keep in mind that in a lot of ways, you are going to be teaching these people as much, if not more, than they will be teaching you.

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