I was fortunate enough to attend a writing workshop of Judith Dancoff's recently. It was at that workshop that this pearl was given to us. Its shell is just as fascinating - Sidney Dancoff was a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project. Something which created perhaps the most elegantly terrifying mistake humanity has ever produced.
"The greatest growth occurs when the greatest number of mistakes are made consistent with survival."
Just as an accord is being reached with Iran, and with childhood nuclear fears pushed back, I wonder - is this greatest mistake, the ability to eradicate ourselves horribly, is it also a triumph? Did we not learn a tremendous amount - not only about how the universe works and is in motion - but also about our own limits as a species and as emotional beings? Pushed to the brink of accidental self-destruction, have we not collectively used the fear of this to get better and to value life more?
The concatenation of growth and mistakes feels perilous sometimes. No creation occurs without mistakes, and it seems we cannot evolve in anything without little and big failures. The happy accidents go hand in hand with the treacherous ones. It's the last part that's scary: "consistent with survival."
It doesn't seem like a coincidence that Catching Fire is earning buckets of money this weekend. It's about survival, the female as warrior, and adaptation. Like all of us, Katniss didn't choose when and where to be born (unless you believe we do that at some secret meeting before birth). She showed up in a time and place and had conditions foisted upon her like everyone else. She just rises to life's occasions, no matter how painful.
Looking back, are there choices you thought of as huge mistakes, which have amounted to great growth in your life? Take that as today's writing prompt.
(The above quote is a non-mathematical expression of the work Dancoff did in collaboration with Henry Quastler.)
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