My 89 year old father was getting a treatment at the hospital, and we were talking as the medication slowly dripped into his veins. The topic of conversation was poverty, selfishness, and “the human condition”. As we spoke, Dad said: “We always seem to keep coming back to the same subject.” How can we lift the lowly? How can we challenge the greedy? How can we inspire greater generosity among those who have been particularly blessed?
There is an article in the NY Times today about failure (In Praise of Failure). Given all the technological advances being made, the author wonders if “failure will become obsolete?” It’s a rather tongue-in-cheek question. But then, we are given three reasons why it is important to fail:
- Failure allows us to see our existence in its naked condition. “Failure,” writes Costica Bradatan, enables us “to start seeing the cracks in the fabric of being.” These “cracks”, he writes, should inspire in us greater appreciation for the fact of our existence at all.
- Our capacity to fail is essential to what we are. As we experience them, and are forced to acknowledge them, our failures can inspire us to move toward something better than what already exists.
- We are designed to fail. In the end, writes Badatan, death claims us. Biological failure wins the day. “What really matters is how we fail and what we gain in the process.“
Isaiah envisions healing, peace, justice. He speaks of these in ways that are inspirational for their grandeur, and discouraging for how out of reach they seem to be. By any human measure we might use, Jesus was a “failure”. But he as much as any, and Christians would say more than any other, has brought the ancient prophetic vision of Isaiah closer to fulfillment. Failure is not what we get when we don’t have the peace we strive for. Failure is what we get when we lose faith and stop striving at all.
Every time we talk about the needs of the poor and the plight of the powerless, something happens. As long as we keep talking about it and looking for new ways to do something about it, there is hope.