I was wandering in and out of the shops on Fourth Street in Berkeley one July day when I saw a paperweight. It was silver-plated, heavy and etched with this question: What would you do if you knew you could not fail? I sucked in my breath.
“Me?” I thought. I read the question again. Then, I bought it (the question, not the paperweight) and made a mantra of those words on the walk back to my car. Later, I posted that potent question on the wall above my home altar. It’s the first thing I see most mornings. My answer is always the same, “Everything.”
When I offered you the opportunity to respond, you said:
As I sit here in my modular, color-coordinated cubicle I can come up with literally hundreds of selfish and vain ideas I’ve stored in the back of my mind for years. However, since this question seems to be geared toward one accomplishment, mine would undoubtedly be the unselfish quest to rescue the battered, hungry, sexually and mentally abused children of the world. Too often it’s a cruel world for little things. It seems things always roll down hill and at the bottom are usually the littlest of things. Our children.
If I knew I couldn’t fail, I would succeed in failing. There is no growth without failure. It is through failure that we grow and learn and become who we are. I thought my marriage was a failure because it ended in divorce. I don’t think that anymore because I would have failed so much more if I allowed it to go on. Each lesson in failure is a creative experience that takes me into the deep woods of my own voice. I come out anew each time. Failure: Bring it on! (Yikes!)
I would love myself without fail. That may seem simple or even selfish. I suppose I could say I would create world peace, but peace begins at home. After learning to love myself I would then try to help teach others to love themselves.
I would fly!
–Brianna Anglemoyer (age 10)
I am at a place in my life where I know we truly cannot fail. All is an opportunity, if we allow it.
–Rick Anglemoyer (Brianna’s dad)
I am the kind of person who is hard on myself, and expects every net to be perfectly set before I jump off any cliff. If I knew I couldn’t fail, there would be no need to worry about doing things perfectly. And that might be the biggest fear of them all—that I just might not fail.
I would be comfortable being happy.
That’s the easiest question I’ve heard in years! I would grant my heart freedom. Unconditional freedom to: Love and be loved, dance, sing, socialize, paint, cry, laugh, make music—to do all the fun things people can do together when one’s heart is not mortified by fears (real or imagined) that keep a good, loving heart locked behind the gate.
Thank you to everyone who responded (including those who said the question was too frightening to answer), to Claire Collingwood for selecting our winners (the first three people listed) and to Valeska Wise for donating a gift certificate for cranial sacral therapy.