By Theory Possessed   /   Spring 2023   /    Book Reviews

Nothing Succeeds Like Failure

Weil, Gandhi, Cioran, and Mishima on humility.

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn

From left: Simone Weil, Ewa Klos, Agence Opale/Alamy; Mahatma Gandhi, imageBROKER/Alamy; Emil Cioran, Ewa Klos, Agence Opale/Alamy; Yukio Mishima, by Lautir.

There is a memorable scene in the miniseries based on Lonesome Dove, the Larry McMurtry novel about the exploits of two former Texas Rangers, life-loving Gus McCrae (Robert Duvall) and silent-type Woodrow F. Call (Tommy Lee Jones), on a cattle drive to Montana. After the burial of a young cowboy who drowned during a river crossing, “Captain” Call announces, “The best thing to do for death is to ride off from it.” Reeling with grief, the other men visibly want something more than this clipped advice, even as they resignedly turn their horses to ride after Call.

Whether in cataclysmic losses, trials and tribulations, or just everyday disappointments, life offers opportunities for it to fall short and for us to fall short. Isn’t it bad enough that we fail so often, and fall so hard, with such devastating consequences? When it comes to failure of whatever stripe, can’t we just follow in the footsteps of the stoic Captain Call and “ride off from it”?

To read the full article online, please login to your account or subscribe to our digital edition ($25 yearly). Prefer print? Order back issues or subscribe to our print edition ($30 yearly).