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STOIC POETRY | Try more. Fail more.

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

October 21, 2019

Dear Eric,

The old adage of "better to burn out than to fade away" comes to mind when I think of your short life. You did burn. You burned bright and fast and were gone seemingly as quickly as you arrived. You tried life. You tried and you found. Only you didn't find what I found, damn you. You found something else. Something I didn't like or approve of. I thought you failed. I still think you failed. At first, I thought you failed to try hard enough. Though I expect you'd tell me that it was me who perhaps missed the mark - though you'd never say that, you'd just think it. You'd have some pity perhaps for my conventional views and more complacent ways. You'd offer a wry smile at my veiled proposal of long life ahead of principle. You might ask me after my own principles. I wish you had I'd have seen then I had no real principles at all to stand on at that young age. I do now. And that's why I still think you were wrong; because the principles I've acquired are not a perfect match with yours; they are close...but not a match. And though I still say damn you for what you did, I do respect that you made such a strong and early effort at life and discovery. You got a much earlier start than me - I didn't even have my sneakers laced up yet - and what you found out there sprinting ahead of me was pretty amazing, even if it led you to death. But is it so bad to die for one's principles even if few understand? I'm not ready to answer that just yet, though I suspect it's alright as long as you don't hurt anyone too much on the way out. You didn't. It simply hurt to watch you go.


It might be easier to pass a successful life when our expectations extend no further than our locked front door; or maybe the safe route we always take to work each day; or the place we like to park our car; or the familiar people with whom we spend time; or the one great God whom we worship from our own familiar pew by the back door of the church. Success is easy then. We've done so well it make it simpler, safe and easy, by keeping it all familiar and close. Familiar and close. What a way to live...

I knew someone once who tried life and died fast as a result of the things which he found. He failed at longevity. He failed to live many years. What a way to die...

Have you failed more, Or have I simply tried less?

But did my friend fail at trying? Is that even a measure, really? Sure, we encourage people to "make an effort." But, do we really want them to make effort at anything or in any direction other than what seems safe to us? Would we tell someone to "make an effort" at taking down our principles, or our system of belief, or the American Way or anything else we cherish as true? I don't think so... We want them instead to make an effort at understanding and abiding these things which we cherish; of coming around to our way of thinking; of installing a good lock on their own front door; of finding a safe route to their job; or a good place to always park their car; or some familiar people to spend time with; or coming to know the same great god we worship from their own hardwood pew near us at the back of the church. Success is easy. Just do things like us and think like we do. Try hard. Try to be one of us. Try less. Fail less.

Try it, perhaps. And then maybe try something else. Try more. Fail more.

What a way to live...


My name is Kurt Bell.

You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.

Be safe... But not too safe.

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