I’ve seen or heard it many times over the past few years. More times than I can count and in more places than I can remember. On the internet, on cups, on posters, on refrigerator magnets…the meme that says “What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
And every time I saw or heard it, and heard people’s responses to it, I felt that they didn’t have enough imagination. That they didn’t seriously consider the possibilities open to them with this question. That they limited what they could accomplish by considering only mundane things.
Me, on the other hand, the first time I saw that question, I realized its true potential, and ran with it.
So what would I attempt to do if I knew I couldn’t fail?
Well…let me tell you what I wouldn’t do.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love music. And anyone who’s known me for any length of time knows that I play piano…after a fashion…and wish that I could play a lot better than I do. So one might guess that I’d work on playing piano as well as Billy Joel or Elton John. Well…that would be nice, but that’s not it. Being able to play piano that well wouldn’t be using the possibilities of that opportunity to its true potential.
One person suggested that I’d buy an extra lottery ticket. This, of course, begs the question of why should I buy an extra one. Statistically, it wouldn’t get me any more money than simply knowing the right numbers to choose in the first place. But that ain’t it either.
These, and the things that I’ve heard most people talk about when they’re faced with the question, are small potatoes. They’re things that only benefit one person. But perhaps instead of dealing with potatoes, we need to think about rice.
You know…Uncle Ben’s rice.
Uncle Ben Parker, who told his nephew Peter that with great power comes great responsibility.
And now that you know that, I think you’ll have a better idea of what I would attempt to do if I knew I could not fail.
There is a big problem that needs to be solved, and it shows itself in many ways. It shows itself through our inhumanity to each other for personal gain. It shows itself through our inhumanity to each other for political or national gain. It shows itself through our inhumanity to each other because some of us somehow believe that it’s part of a religious obligation we have.
The big problem is that we just aren’t kind to each other. We don’t think about the needs of other people. We don’t think about people different from us as people, but as “those people”…as ciphers who merely stand for something that’s “not us”, that prevent us from having or doing something we want, and aren’t real living, breathing, people.
So what would I attempt to do if I knew I couldn’t fail? What rice would I buy?
I think it should be fairly obvious by now. If I knew I couldn’t fail, I’d talk to people…in person and on the internet; from the people in my neighborhood to world leaders; and get them to learn to play nice with each other. I’d convince everyone to convince everyone else to treat everyone fairly and ethically, and with an eye toward justice rather than mere legality.
If I knew I could not fail, that’s what I do.
And when that was done…I’d go practice piano.