The Success Of Failure

Ed regarded his father with affection. "He has one quality of genius", Ed would say. "He is always wrong. If a man makes a million decisions and judgments at random, it is perhaps mathematically tenable to suppose that he will be right half the time and wrong half the time. But you take my father—he is wrong all of the time about everything. That is a matter not of luck but of selection. That requires genius."

John Steinbeck
from About Ed Ricketts


Roadkill said...

Good golly, Ed, that was my father exactly when I was in my early teens. Dumber than a box of rocks, he was, I could hardly stand to be around him.
But I was lucky, because the old man's brain somehow started working better later on. In fact, by the time I finished college I found much if not most of what he said to be pretty much on target. And that was without any college. It still amazes me how much that old fart learned in less than 8 years.

Sunny B. said...


I know what you mean. You haven't noticed any of this syndrome happening in your own dwelling?

After learning of hail damage to my roof, I was explaining to my wife that my old man would never have hired anyone to re-shingle his house. He was the ultimate do-it-yourselfer. Fixed cars, washing machines, plumbing, roofing, installed showers, built scale model RC airplanes that flew and are now hanging in museums as far away as Maine.

I won't have a clue how to re-roof my house. If I had a clue, I won't have the confidence to do it. I was a helper with the old man on many projects but I didn't absorb the knowledge that goes along with the actual job.

Now with the slowdown in the housing industry, stores like Home Depot and Lowes expected the do-it-yourself market to pick up. That what it did 10 and 20 years ago when we had housing market slowdowns. I think we may be turning into a nation who doesn't have practical knowledge. However, Mexicans make up the one of the strongest ethnic groups for do-it-yourselfers. Meanwhile, we sit on the our asses behind a computer scene and pretend we know how to solve the world's problems.

I think my old man dropped out of college in 1942 to join the Navy and fly airplanes. The flying part didn't work out so he became crew chief fixing them. Two wars and seven kids later, any dreams of returning to college evaporated.

Five years ago today, he had 20 days to live and I spent pretty much every afternoon with him watching Happy Days and trying to get him to eat. We knew time was running out and we did what we had done for decades. We talked about stuff like politcs, history, airplanes, family, cats, computers, whatever crossed our minds. Sure do miss him...