Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Wednesday, 22 April 2015



There is a fine line
(an almost imperceptible crack)
which Men waver precariously on
throughout their lives,
watched, from below,
by those who have fallen before them:
          trapeze artists,
          cripples and

23 November 1978

Success. I thought a lot about success back in 1978. Since I no longer had a religion I needed something else. And getting somewhere in life seemed to fit the bill. I wanted promotion. I didn’t mind working for it. I expected to work for it. I wanted to earn it and I wanted to deserve it. And a few years later—longer than it should’ve taken but there was an embargo on promotions at the time—I got my new post. And I was disappointed.

A man applies for a job. He gets it. He was the successful candidate. But that doesn’t make him a success. Successfulness clearly comes in different flavours and my life has not been without its little successes. On 23rd November 1978 I successfully wrote my 500th poem. A benchmark. Well done that man. But was I a ITsuccessful poet? I was getting stuff published—not this one as it happens—but enough and on a regular enough basis that I was feeling a bit cocky by this time. Not that any of the big journals had taken me but that was there loss, wasn’t it?

My friend Ken Armstrong wrote a blog this week, about, to use his expression, “cracking it”. He doesn’t think he has. Like me he’s had middling successes along the way, plays performed on stage and on the radio and not just one or two or once or twice, but I know he’s been trying to get a novel published for a while with no… what’s the word? Ah, yes… success. I wonder if he manages it he’ll feel successful? I hope so. I wonder, after some fifty novels, if Stephen King feels he’s a success. Probably, yes. King says, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” And hard work takes time, the kind of time blokes with kids and mortgages don’t usually have.

Maybe ‘success’ is the wrong word. Maybe it’s ‘satisfaction’ Ken and I should be measuring ourselves against. If I dropped dead tomorrow would I be satisfied with what I’d achieved given the obstacles that have been in my way? Maybe. Or maybe satisfaction’s the poor man’s success.


Kass said...

Love this idea of the fine line. Are those watching below hoping we'll fall?

Jim Murdoch said...

I’m not sure the watchers are hoping we’ll fall, Kass, but I think they expect us to and I don’t think they’d be too pleased if we didn’t. When we see someone fall it humanises them. No one’s perfect but a lot of people pretend to be. I really do hate the whole keeping-up-appearances mentality. Don’t they realise themselves when they use the word ‘appearances’ what they’re saying? This is not how it is; this is just how it appears and how things appear is more important than how things are. We Brits are very bad for that.

Kass said...

Sometimes artifice is all we have.

Ken Armstrong said...

Thanks for the inclusion, Jim. The answer is 'I won't'. I know I won't. But we have to strive for something, I reckon, or else we're just on the couch with the telly and the six pack like the bloke in the post above this one. I yearn a bit and, in truth, I would fear the day when the yearning might stop.

Jim Murdoch said...

I love synonyms, Ken. Could play all day long with sentences swapping one word for another. The interesting thing I find is that the word I end up with and the word that was there originally quite often are surprisingly not that synonymous. You say “yearn” and I hear “ache”. Yearning is not aching but I can’t imagine yearning and not aching. Aches are not pains. Well, of course, they are pains, a kind of pain, but with a pain you know where it is. It emanates. You get sharp pains. You never get sharp aches. And yearning is the same. Even when you think you’re yearning for something specific the feeling is all… splodgy. My arm aches just now and I could rub it but then I’d realise it was my shoulder that was really aching only it wouldn’t be my shoulder it’d be my neck only it’d really referred pain from my back. You get the idea. I guess it’s like that hungry feeling you get and you go to the cupboard and look at all the food and you don’t feel like any of it but that’s all there is to choose from.

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