Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

Author Costica Bradatan, a professor of humanities and philosophy, provides rich contemplative fodder in his recent book, “In Praise of Failure: Four Lessons in Humility” (Harvard University Press, $29.95).

The four subjects he selects are French intellectual Simone Weil, Mahatma Gandhi, Romanian philosopher E.M. Cioran, and Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. 

“Gleefully breaching the boundaries between argument and storytelling, scholarship and spiritual quest,” runs the jacket copy, “Bradatan concludes that while success can give us a shallow sense of satisfaction, our failures can lead us to humbler, more attentive, and more fulfilling lives. We can do without success, but we are much poorer without the gifts of failure.”

Maybe … but these are failures that are willed, to one degree or another; controlled; failures that were meant to sidestep real failure and thus have the last word.


10 Replies to “IN PRAISE OF FAILURE”

  1. I couldn’t help thinking of Mother Teresa and how she dealt with “failure.” She didn’t try to “heal the effects of the Fall.” She only tried to love and care for the poor.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Part of my point is that real failure isn’t planned out, orchestrated, controlled…real failure is, right, being a leper on the streets of Calcutta, or a hopeless drunk, anywhere…no possibility of parlaying the condition into a TED talk or an Instagrammable deathbed scene…

  2. Heather E. Crotty says: Reply

    Thanks for your second coverage of this book. I actually picked it up and did my best. It was pretty harrowing, but amazing to pick through Bradatan’s fodder and ruminate.
    I want you to know that I think you’re amazing and have been following you for years. Thank you for all your books. You are a light in the darkness.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Wow, and I love your name! 🙂 I actually loved the book; there was so much to chew on, and Bradatan is a wonderful writer. I felt like he was asking the questions we all have…Many thanks for your kind words. I am thrilled you’ve read all my books.

  3. I think some of the individuals mentioned may have had mental illness. We have to be careful not to lead people astray with these examples. Do no harm

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply


  4. Anonymous says: Reply

    Dear Heather, I have followed you for years- both in ” Magnificat ” and in the ” praying with ..” series . You always inspire me. Keep up the good work. I’m new to your blog site.❤️

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      well lots of material here, including an archive going back I think 14 years…welcome!!!

  5. Anonymous says: Reply

    This brought to mind a recent Los Angeles Times column on self immolation. The writer was prompted by the recent instance in New York City and by her own mother’s attempted suicide by the same means. In the column the writer thoughtfully touched on spiritual and political implications. One of her points described the Buddhist practices related to ritual self burning as a sacrifice. As a follower of Jesus I couldn’t help but think that those who self immolate do not realize that Jesus has already given us his all, once and for all.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Yes. Of course nothing but compassion for those who commit suicide for any reason…but for those who do so as a ritual sacrifice…right, I wonder if simply living out our lives, whatever that may bring or mean, isn’t the biggest sacrifice of all…


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