Celebrating risk and failure

Celebrating risk and failure | Robert Zarywacz | robertz @ robzlog.co.uk

On 1 January I stepped on and broke my glasses. What an idiot! Why did I put them on the floor? I’ll never know. They are new and very comfortable. I have to replace them.

Life is full of risk and failure.

Good job too.

My memorable failures include my revolutionary recipe for Pickled Onion en Croute: a soggy, vinegary pastry. Failure!

Then my experiment to see if I could extinguish a lit smoke bomb. I would find this handy if I wanted occasional smoke to billow from a pocket, which I could extinguish at will. Surely a highly desirable fashion accessory? My laboratory was the upstairs bathroom of my parents’ house. I learnt that smoke bombs get extremely hot and fill a confined space so fast that you can’t breathe or see to turn a tap on to extinguish them. I had to hurriedly open the window and hang out of it to gulp in fresh air. What a teenage idiot! Another failure.

One evening in my 20s, walking home after my Tube commute, I was accosted by two young women, who asked: “Do you think about God?” More interesting than deciding what to eat for dinner, I chatted for half an hour. They belonged to a church which seemed rather extreme. Now, I had watched documentaries on cults and had always wondered how people got drawn into them. How would I respond? When offered an invitation to go to a meeting, I accepted, purely because I wanted to see what it was really like. On the day, I went to the local school where they met. Everyone was hugging each other with armpits and I just thought: sweat. The atmosphere was like a weird science fiction film where everyone was artificially friendly. A visiting US speaker gave a talk about the importance of raising more money. I was offered the opportunity to study the bible with someone who could help me. When I seemed unresponsive, people kept asking who had invited me and gave the girls stern looks. When it became too uncomfortable, I thanked them and left. It was a relief to get out and be free. I later found out that this church was considered a cult and some people have written about their experiences and why they left. Perhaps I should not have taken the risk in going along, as the experience was unsettling. I phoned the future Mrs Z at her Dad’s – both concerned – to tell them I was all right. Not a failure for me, but perhaps for those who do succumb.

I am probably more risk averse these days, mainly due to experience and consciousness of not being so sprightly.

But life is full of risk and failure.

If we avoid too much risk, we stop learning.

I find it worrying that after the pandemic so many people are so frightened of life. It’s understandable, but life is to be lived, not avoided. We can always take precautions to minimise risk as we get on with life.

As to my glasses, I do have a spare pair, but I am taking no risks with them until my other pair are fixed.

Then I might risk a few experiments I have in mind . . . but without pickles or smoke . . .

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