Humans have always messed up their lives. Failure has an amazing history. Life is full of failures and people can connect to the stories of everyone else failing. Greek tragedy was designed to show that bad things happen to good people. We need to be kind in the face of danger. Money, fame and military glory were valued by the Romans and that made failure a large fear.


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[00:08] Humans have always seriously messed up their lives, but the way in which failure has been viewed as a loan and fascinating history, but it may help us to know about Athens four to nine BC. It’s the premiere of a tragedy called Oedipus, the king written by the great playwright, Sophocles. It’s the story of an honorable, capable and highly resourceful man who nevertheless messes up his life in a catastrophic way, but the audience doesn’t leave the theater. Thinking of either post as a loser Greek tragedy was designed to show audiences that terrible things can and very often do happen to good people, and therefore we must remain sympathetic and kind in the face of failure. The Greeks forced this message upon themselves again and again at prestigious annual festivals. The Greeks also loved the story of the Spartan army at Thermopylae, where a small contingent of warriors held out to the last man against a vastly larger Persian force.

[01:08] The Spartans were utterly defeated, but their failure was seen as profoundly noble. You can lose and be good. That was the moral Rome. Forty six 80 Julius Caesar celebrates yet another triumph over the enemies of Rome. The Romans worship success, they believe that success in the here and now is all that counts and that success means three things, money, fame, and military glory which creates a lot of anxiety around failure. Germany, nine add, the Roman general virus kills himself after losing a battle in the tutor Berg forest, not far from modern day Hanover in the north of Germany. He’s made some major strategic errors in deploying his troops is suicide is an expected consequence. Failure is so humiliating and shameful that it shows one doesn’t deserve to go on living. The Romans represent a society where failure is thought of as naturally accompanied by shame. When big things go wrong, you just kill yourself.

[02:12] There’s no excuse. A Small Hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Thirty had a former carpenter and intenerate preacher delivers a tender speech which has since become known as the sermon on the mount. Jesus Christ tells his followers, blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. In other words, the unsuccessful are in a way more successful than the successful in the eyes of God because they’re failures. Erode arrogance and invite dependence on the divine. For hundreds of years, Christianity lends glamor and prestige to failure and challenges the worldly values of Rome, privileging poverty, obscurity and weakness over wealth, fame and strength. Not simply a, you’re not meant to commit suicide when you fail. Failing is a sign of being blessed. Eastern India sometime in the fifth century BC, a wealthy young Indian Prince Siddhartha, Gautama, later known as the Buddha. The enlightened one comes to a key realization about human beings.

[03:20] All of us are deeply maladjusted, unhappy creatures, worldly success, power, riches, love can mean nothing and will never satisfy us. We must learn to pronounce our desires and escape from constant cycles of craving and wanting. In Buddhist it’s true success means utter failure in the eyes of a Roman soldier or a modern American. It means living under a fruit tree, earning nothing but a loin cloth and begging from passers by Paris. Seventeen 99, Napoleon Bonaparte, inaugurate a new social order which will begin to be known as a meritocracy. No longer will success go only to members of the old corrupt aristocracy. He wants to launch a meritocracy marked by what he terms a carrier or vet or careers open to the talented rather than just the privilege. France acquires a new honor system based on merit, the Liz, your donor, which is given to people of all classes who are judged not by ancestry or wealth, but by military, scientific or artistic prowess.

[04:25] Suddenly, success comes to seem a lot more fair and deserved, which is very advantageous in many ways, but it also means that failure starts to be re-categorized as not merely accidental or morally neutral as the Christian ideal had implied, but also in some ways deserved Paris. Eighteen, 63. The French government sponsors. It’s annual artistic sallow were the most successful painters are exhibited and celebrated. The jury headed by the court to know Vaca Keka, the head of the Academy of fine arts is that year, extremely conservative and rejects two thirds of the paintings presented, including those of Kobe Edwin. Many can be Pissaro and whistler, the rejected artists and their friends are outraged and protest the Emperor Napoleon, the third eventually relents and allows the rejected artists to set up their own rival exhibition. Gradually, the public and critics recognize that the officially successful artists, people like Alexander Carbonell and France vinta halter a terrible painters and that the unsuccessful ones are in fact the true geniuses.

[05:32] This will be a theme throughout the history of 19th and 20th century art and society more broadly. The genius is at first rejected by a stupid blinkered world, but eventually it comes to be accepted and celebrated. This is what happens to among others, John Keats, Vincent Van Gogh, Muscle Proust, Janis Joplin, and Steve Jobs. Real successes aren’t successes immediately goes the story. They might need to wait for a long perhaps until after they’re dead. A consoling story with echoes of the Christian idea of redemption, New York, October the fifth, 1987, the right wing economics magazine. Forbes publishes its first list of the richest people on the planet. The richest man is your hierarchy to Sumi who is at that point with $20,000,000,000. The tone of the magazine is celebrate theory and anew asked, reflecting an uncritical acceptance of the idea of the American dream. He who is richest finishes first. It’s a small irony.

[06:29] Therefore, the two weeks later on October the 19th, the world’s stock markets collapsed destroying wealth on an enormous scale and shaking everyone’s confidence in the merit and sanity of the economic system. New York, September 2011, following yet another global economic meltdown, a group of protestors occupy Zuccotti Park in the financial district of Manhattan. That protest is in a narrow sense about the corruption and blindness of America’s financial institutions, but more broadly, the protesters arguing that a narrow elite, the one percent, as they call them, have twisted our ideas of success and the good life. The so called heroes, people like Jamie diamond, the head of JP Morgan, who’s paid around $20,000,000 a year, are in fact the villains being a decent person doesn’t necessarily mean making a lot of money. It means acting wisely and kindly towards others and the planet. The protesters have a good few months in which to make their case, which sounds remarkably like that made by Jesus in the sermon on the mount before the forces of contemporary capitalism hose them down and shut them up.

[07:32] Slowly, the economy recovers, which also means that the battered American dream acquainting, the ability with financial success becomes dominant, wants more. Most of us are going to enjoy horrific failures in some area or other of our lives. We’re an extremely successful this world and defined success by some very narrow normally financial criteria. There’s endless talk about opportunity and well meaning efforts to make sure that everyone can have a chance, but there is a deep silence about what happens when you fail to weaken the power of the narratives of success. We used to have religion and we used to have art. We have less of that now. The very idea that failure could be noble has entirely disappeared. We need to go back in history and French some ideas that could stop us from being fatally hard on ourselves when we mess up in the eyes of Forbes magazine and the American dream in general.

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