GNL number 24


a report of doings at meeting #24, Sunday, July 12, 2009
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


Success is not the place at which one arrives, but rather the spirit with which one undertakes the journey.
—–Alex Noble


Returning to the SUCCESS/FAILURE theme, we found we had more to say about the subject as it related to our families of origin. Several people mentioned events that caused painful changes that later they came to see as part of a bigger picture of life, possible to accept without a sense of anger or failure, and even opening rich new chapters. There were several stories of loss, and of sibling relationships, that helped form our ideas of success and failure.

Sue opened the conversation with a collection of photos of her father and rest of the family, which with her commentary, gave us a strong sense of him as a “mensch” and his ideas of success and acceptableness that also made his relationship with his mentally ill son more difficult. She brought more quotes as well; for these , see AFTERWORDS.

Anna described herself as one who’d early taken a “success” route in contrast to her scholar-genius sister that has led her into many free-spirited creative endeavors—dancing, music, photography—as well as exciting cross-country adventures solo on her little vespa. (Yes, she still has the journals. Which we urged her to publish, at least for us.)

Adair also spoke of sibling differences, especially as they concerned who was accepted and who not. And her own basic values for success/failure, acceptability/unacceptability, compassion/rejection were clarified in contrast with a sibling’s.

Jack spoke of growing up self-confident and privileged, and starting an Ivy league college experience expected to lead to brilliant success in business, when he was stricken with an intense case of acne that prompted an inward turn to his life-shaping spirituality. His definition of success now: to grow spiritually.

Chris said she’d taken a turn in youth as well, assuming more responsibility with the loss of her older brother. We all knew well her ability to manage an organization and big projects, and she did admit she feels the library restoration is her biggest success. But that also, to remind herself of the other smaller good stuff, she does keep a WonderWoman notebook of successes.

Gail said she’d come to see through the pain of loss in her family that success and failure were ideas only; that life, more complicated always, is what it is. And again, that she continues to be grateful for a circle like CoS.

Ann noted that we all grow up with ideas of success/failure that are somebody else’s and we need to find out what our own are. She read a great list of answers to the question “what have you done?”, that surely must have reminded her what it means to be a success. Did, us. See AW for these and other notes and 6-wordies.

Cynthia told us a true story of success/failure: when a business owner was closing his shop during this economic downturn and feeling like a failure, the previous owner came by and lent help with the clean-up, and with a bigger view of success that included the sad fellow’s efforts to continue the business. And this seemingly small gesture made a difference to him.

Nancy said her own idea of success was similar to what Jack and others had said (including Eckhart Tolle: “We’re here to wake up”). She recalled three questions had come up for her: Where do we get our ideas of success, and failure? What really matters to us? and How can ideas of success and failure keep us in boxes? Some notes and quotes in AW.


Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.
—–William Saroyan


Sunday, August 9, 2009 (10:30), again at Jack’s. The topic: TEACHERS (doesn’t have to be from school, or even human). And we’ve agreed to close at 12:30 and remove to Vijaya’s Lunch in honor of her Mom and Dad, so don’t bring a potluck dish, unless it’s just a bit of fruit, V said.


from Sue:

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone.
—–Bill Cosby (from Herbert Bayard Swope)

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.
—-Maya Angelou

The only time you don’t fail is the last time you try anything – and it works.
—-William Strong

(this one I didn’t read:) Nothing fails like success because we don’t learn from it. We learn only from failure.
—-Kenneth Boulding

from Ann:

Viewed from within, by family, friends, society, fellow workers, bosses, etc., who gets to judge?

Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To thine own self be true….” And, for ourselves, we can fudge the record if we want, only we will know.

Our family is typically our model of what is good and bad, and therefore what to strive for/toward. We measure ourselves against that model and consider the success or failure relative to it. Subsequent families, relationships, and communities we belong to, either by choice or necessity, fill in gaps and add layers to the original model. Now our successes or failures take on facets and dimensions that do not easily fit into neat columns of winning or losing. And this moment of success can become a failure in the next moment; at what moment do we calculate the status. No one life is completely a success or failure, regardless of who is doing the tallying, even a god.

How would our parents see us? Saved lives, worked hard, always busy, cared, never stopped learning and teaching, dug in the earth, built buildings; drew, painted, sculpted; tried to heal bodies, minds, spirits; grew plants and/or animals; produced food, words, books, helped build networks of peace people and organizations, recycled, got the last bit of jam out of the jar, really listened – now it’s your turn, how would your parents see your life.

6 wordies

  • Disappointed, deflated, saddened, but not failed.
  • I win, you lose, not peace.
  • Peace gained through sharing, not bombing.
  • Hey, justice is just us, people.
  • Young old age spots are freckles.
  • Born too early, too small, lived!
  • (A stolen 6 wordie:) Lucky in love, unlucky in metabolism.

from Nancy:

I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
—Thomas Edison

For you to profit from your mistakes, you have to get out and make some.

It is on our failures that we base a new and different and better success.
—-Havelock Ellis

To fly, we have to have resistance.
—-Maya Lin

We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.
—-Samuel Smiles

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what are doing, you’ll be successful.
—-Albert Schweitzer

Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed.
—-Sr. Corita Kent

Success is somebody else’s failure. Success is the American Dream we keep dreaming because most people in most places, including 30 million of ourselves, live wide awake in the terrible reality of poverty.
—-Ursula LeGuin

but also can’t resist this anonymous oldie-goldie:


At age 4, success is not peeing in your pants.
At age 12, success is having friends.
At age 16, success is having a driver’s license.
At age 20, success is going all the way.
At age 35, success is having money.
At age 50, success is having money.
At age 70, success is having a driver’s license.
At age 75, success is having friends.
At age 80, success is not peeing in your pants.

and from Gail’s Dad:

Success and Failure

A father’s greatest success is to have children that are independent, self reliant members of society that he is proud of and that not just take from the world but give back and justify their existence.

A father’s biggest failure is to put himself before his family.

Some years ago I received the following; am not sure where it came from. It says what I had tried to live by for many years before I read it.

The Man in the Glass
Author Unknown

When you get what you want in your struggle for self

And the world makes you king for a day,

Just go to a mirror and look at yourself

And see what THAT man has to say.

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife

Whose judgment upon you must pass,

The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the one staring back from the glass.

Some people might think you’re a straight-shooting chum

And call you a wonderful guy.

But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum,

If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest

For he’s with you clear to the end

And you’ve passed your most dangerous test

If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years

And get pats on the back as you pass

But your final reward will be heartache and tears

If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

And please consider, more IDEAS:

  • Best and Worst Jobs you ever had.
  • Crutches, Cravings, Compulsions.
  • Wise Words, that have helped you most.

for FIELD TRIPS: Walker Evans photo show, Cooperstown, September 2.

Plus one last thing:
If any of you have more AFTERWORDS on Success/Failure you’d like to share, please do—forward to the CoSlist above or write a note in the Comment section at the end of this posting.


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