A Parable of Failure

When one has failed
For so long—
Failed even to try at failure,
It seems as though you're learning
To walk.
But you're older, and you know
Everyone around you walks,
Takes walking for granted.
And you sense that you're expected to walk, too,
But you can't
Because you never even learned to crawl.

So you start crawling—
"I've got to learn some time, don't I?"
And people laugh or look askance
Or maybe offer some
Feelgood token of pity.
You crawl in the dust knowing
You're no less worthy of the open air,
No less worthy of the erect posture others display.
Plenty of men worse than you stride proudly:
Men who cheat on their wives,
Men who are cowards or slackers,
Men who know only how to strut and fight,
Men who are brazen liars.
If God or Nature would have them walk, why not you?
Why should you have to crawl?

And so you cry:
"How dare they expect me to walk!
Why should I bother with walking?
I've made it this far without it.
It's a feat morons and scoundrels do all the time.
Why should I bow to their standards?
I can do things most walking people can't do, anyway.
In fact,
Not walking has made me better in some ways:
     I'm a better listener.
     I'm good at math.
     I can write charming sonnets.
     I know a decent chair or bed better than most folks.

Other men have to deal with getting around:
     Tripping on things,
     Wearing themselves out.
And they get distracted by unimportant things
When they're out walking.
So why should I have to deal with crawling?
Why should I even have to learn to walk?"

But still,
You can see the world mistreats you
Because you can't walk,
And you know damn-well it's something you could learn.
You could learn to walk,
And the world would treat you with more respect,
And you'd feel better about yourself.
And all of the vilest, meanest people who share this skill
Wouldn't take any of that away from you.
There is a price to be exacted for this.
You have to crawl, first:
Shrug off the unkindness of the world to late beginners,
Commit yourself to hours of toil and failure.
Everyone had to learn the hard way,
The world is merely less permissive, now,
More discouraging.
Well then, damn it!
Do you always need encouragement to do what's right?
Besides, you have walking friends who are on your side.
Why not at least try to learn.
Even crawling can be useful in a pinch.
Go to it!
If you can walk proud in the end,
You will have earned it.

George Chadderdon © 1998