Failure is Essential on the Path to Knowledge / The Sacred Bond

“To give service
to a single heart
by a single act
is better than a thousand
heads bowing in prayer.”
–  Mahatma Gandhi

Dr. Alford Blalock

     Dr. Alford Blalock

Alfred Blalock earned his M.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1922. Three years later he left Baltimore, considering himself something of a failure at age 26, for he had not achieved a residency in surgery (you guessed it, subjective grades were responsible!)

Vivien Thomas

Vivien Thomas

He did pioneering work on the nature and treatment of hemorrhagic and traumatic shock. He demonstrated that surgical shock resulted primarily from the loss of blood, and he encouraged the use of plasma or whole-blood transfusions as treatment following the onset of shock. This early work on shock is credited with saving the lives of many casualties during World War II.

He developed the Blalock-Taussig Shunt, a surgical procedure he developed together with surgical technician Vivien Thomas and pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig to relieve the cyanosis from Tetralogy of Fallot. This operation ushered in the modern era of cardiac surgery.

Alfred blalock

Dr. Blalock, Vivien Thomas and Helen Taussig saved millions of lives.

Blalock and his team, who were working on shock at Vanderbilt, labored to create different physical conditions in dogs. In 1938, he conducted one experiment in which the left subclavian artery was joined (anastomosed) to the left pulmonary artery in an effort to produce pulmonary hypertension. The experiment failed and was put aside. Years later Blalock was to return to the idea.

In 1944 Blalock, with Vivien Thomas by his side, performed the first “blue baby” operation on Eileen Saxon, a 15-month-old baby. After the surgery, Blalock performed it on thousands of children, often with Thomas by his side. The new operation not only directly saved thousands of lives, it marked the start of the modern era of cardiac surgery, as it was the first successful surgery on the human heart of the modern medical era.

Something_the_Lord_MadeDuring his later years at Hopkins, Blalock continued his research on the heart and vascular surgery. With Edwards Park, he developed a bypass operation in 1944, and in 1948, with Rollins Hanlon, a cardiac surgeon, he created a technique for overcoming the transposition of the great blood vessels of the heart.

Helen Taussig

Helen Taussig founded the field of pediatric cardiology.

By the 1950’s, Blalock had performed over 1000 surgeries to correct congenital heart defects.

History is replete with what I see as beautiful examples of failure crafting, directing, enabling and molding the minds and attitudes of men, women and children into inspired and capable creators of life saving and labor saving and artistic manifestations.

Something the Lord Made is a 2004 film about Vivien Thomas and his complex partnership with Dr. Blalock. It was based on the award winning Washingtonian magazine article by Katie McCabe. I shared this beautiful film with my Philosophy students and I encourage you to view it.

“To be able
To look back on one’s life

In satisfaction,
Is to live twice.”
– Kahlil Gibran

Baby and

No. I know your hungry, but you must wait for the burger with fries!

My friends, we MUST fall down if we learn to walk, we must bump into things if we are to learn to pay attention, we must hit a sour note if we are to learn to sing. Failure is absolutely essential on the path to knowledge. But NOT in subjective, abstract, biased and artificially contrived ways. NOT in the ways our children are experiencing.

No record of failure need ever be kept except in the mind of the one who supposedly failed. And in that fragile vault, it will be held, naturally, only as long as it is necessary for survival, of an idea or an important lesson of life (without artificial contrivances and intolerable stress.) Anything beyond what is natural can become highly destructive, of intrinsic motivation, of the forward movement of society or of life itself.

IMG_1124 -b

Wyatt and Mary Alice in our production of  “Twelfth Night”.

But failure, in our society, is not a friend. It is not utilized as a NATURAL BY-PRODUCT of life and living. It is artificially contrived and employed in ridiculous and extremely harmful and deadly ways. And the school report card is a prime example.

“If you have ever rolled your eyes
when your child says
a teacher’s grade was unfair,
you might want to think again.
Your child might be right.”

Douglas Reeves, an expert on grading systems,
conducted an experiment with more than 10,000 educators
that he says proves just how subjective grades can be. read more

Here we have, in a report card, what can accurately be described as a weapon of war. And we hand it to educators who, “do not know what they do” to EXTRINSICALLY not intrinsically motivate fragile children. And the detrimental letters (grades) on these paper machine guns mow down the next generation with a lethality and accuracy of carpet bombs in war.

Receiving poor grades in school is associated with an increased risk of suicide at a young age, according to a new study from the medical university Karolinska Institutet and the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. And numerous other studies confirm this finding.

Marie Anderson

Marie Anderson

Researchers found that teens with the lowest final average grades after year nine at age 16 (in a Swedish school) were three times more likely to commit suicide than students who graduated with the best or, at least, very high grades.

The findings reveal that suicide risk descended as grades rose. read more

“We have met the enemy
and he is us.”
– Walt Kelly

Report card grades are very effectively utilized to demoralize, discredit and terrorize children of all ages. These subjective indicators of abstract accomplishment cut a huge swathe through the ranks of our young citizens and are primarily responsible for the unbelievable drop out rates. Folks, children will not leave an environment where they are happy and successful. It kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Come on. Wake up.

“The best way
To make your dreams

Come true
Is to
Wake up!”
– Paul Valery

Such a crude and technologically outdated system of feedback as a “report” card is also responsible for the total destruction of the self-esteem of many highly fragile children. So destructive as to cause the dissolution of the natural and beautiful bond between a child and its Mother.

Mary Alice shares with Gavin

Mary Alice shares with Gavin

This Sacred bond is the very breath of life God has given to every child. And it is essential to maintain this bond for human life to continue. How many soldiers have cried for their Mothers while dying on battlefields. Yes, it is Sacred and essential and very, very fragile.

There. I have pointed it out. Now we can all go back to ignoring the problem and patiently waiting for the next highly subjective and senseless paper meat cleaver of the human heart and spirit to be cleverly handed to our children. And then, do not wonder why your child resorts to drugs to dull the senses and alleviate the pain (it is called cause and effect). Our society is becoming disconnected from reality.  We are good at treating children by masking the symptoms and not finding out what the real causes of their problems are and addressing them.

“If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going,
You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else”
– Roger Taylor

I have such fond memories of my precious Mother, Marie, embracing me with such compassion, and such wisdom, when I shared with her my absolute disgust with old, worn-out, embittered coaches assigned to teach essential courses and abusing their power by assigning poor “grades” to such non-compliant rascals as me. I was unwilling to literally “Play Ball” and instead was passionate about music and being in the band.

He looks like a happy camper now.

He looks like a happy camper now.

I presented my so called “report card” decorated with numerous morally blood stained letters in the shape of an “F” to her (coach DNA). She laughed out loud (yes, she had a great sense of humor), tossed the ridiculous document into the trash can (where such destructive, ill-conceived and evil acts belong), hugged me, smiled and said in a loving and loud voice, “Well, It looks like your ready for College!” And was I ever! I was stunned. But, in retrospect, such failure really was a great preparation for success. I was highly motivated to prove my worth. But more importantly, I found the wind beneath my wings. It was warm, uplifting and wonderful and always smiling.

I went to see Dean Goleman at Ranger Jr. College the next day. It was exactly like I had died and gone to Heaven. I found real human beings with warm hearts that were actually beating. The teachers at Ranger, and the other universities I attended, were as compassionate and loving as I had ever imagined in my dreams. You see, God answers Prayer.

From the very depths of my heart and my Soul I say, “THANK YOU” to all the beautiful College and University teachers! We shall meet again in Heaven. And if I cannot find you there, I shall march into hell, report the mistake, and tightly embrace you, never letting go, as I escort you past the Gates of Heaven, so that you can be where you belong. Saviors deserve salvation.

I don't think he's awake yet. He looks like Dr. A before coffee!

I don’t think he’s awake yet. He looks like Dr. A before coffee!

So please. The next time your child does not succeed, stop long enough to congratulate them. They have again met the best teacher on the planet. Put your arm around him or her. Smile. Laugh about it (really loud). Tell a story about the funny things that happened to you on the way to failure which led you to success. Remind your child that no one, THANK GOD, is perfect. Perfection is found in fiction books and Sci Fi movies and Heaven. And in real life, perfectionism is a deadly and dangerous commodity.

It may surprise you, but my precious wife and I look for poor grades presented to us in applications we receive. We especially take note of poor citizenship grades. Ahhhh, Yes! Finally, at last, here is my kind of child, who combines high creativity with real, raw courage and true grit! Here is the kid with the strength of firm convictions and “the right stuff”.

“It’s the Soul
Afraid of dying
That never learns to live.”
– from The Rose

How to be happy, page one.

How to be happy, page one. A multitude of small delights constitutes happiness!

Sheltered under the wings of tolerance and understanding with a liberal dose of compassion, this child will grow up to save lives, spit into the eye of any obstacle and inspire his entire generation. This child will not allow his ambitions to be squelched and his self-esteem diminished. He, or she, needs to be more fully armed with self-confidence and ideas and then unleashed and guided, like a missile, in the direction of our overwhelming societal needs.

Yes, arm your children, guide them and then get out of the way. Do not stand between them and the target of their desire, which you have just introduced them to. We can only cure cancer with powerful minds deeply influenced by hearts overflowing with Love and the audacity to charge forward with a beautiful quality of courage. Defeating avaricious predators, like cancer, requires raw passion firmly coupled with compassion.

“World peace
can never be achieved
by those intimidated
out of inspiration.”

I don't think Japan will try to do anything else. The next generation is ready!

I don’t think Japan will try to do anything else. The next generation is ready!

By the way, there is new data showing consistent links between perfectionism and hopelessness. read more   Although perfectionism is recognized as a factor that is linked with suicide, the role of perfectionism as an amplifier of the risk of suicide has been underestimated (review by the American Psychological Association, – Flett, Hewitt, and Heisel.)

In fact, research confirms that the most successful people in any given field are less likely to be perfectionistic read more, because, “The anxiety about making mistakes gets in your way,” psychologist Thomas S. Greenspon told New York Magazine.

Cole and Jake

Cole and Jake in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at Stage West Theater (filled with talented and truly inspiring and loving people).

In a Biology class
A teacher explained an experiment
She had done
That had to do with plants.
Whenever she watered them,
She would take TWO bottles,
YELL mean things at one,
And speak POSITIVELY to the other.
It turns out that the one watered with
NEGATIVE water died.
Then she reminded the class
That humans are around
75% WATER. read more
If negativity KILLS plants
What is it doing to
PEOPLE?
(Thank you my friend, Cole Fisher, for this information!
I plan to vote for you one day.)

Love quote

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