All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.


I was so impressed with the quote that is the title of this blog that I interlibrary loaned its source: Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett.

I ran across an oblique reference to the quote in The Art of Listening by Les Back this morning. I have always admired Beckett’s work and didn’t recognize this book. It might be fun to look at.

I managed to stay in bed past 8 AM this morning, a small personal victory for myself. I’m trying to continue to have a Spring Break despite the fact that we are back in Holland and I spent a good deal of yesterday immersed in church stuff. This immersion should allow me to not think very much about church for the next three days.

Not an easy task. But studying Greek, reading Les Back, playing piano and spending time with my wife and my Mom should help. I am planning to go over to church today for my piano trio rehearsal and tomorrow morning to give an organ lesson but that’s it.

This morning I finished a very moving and fascinating chapter in Back’s book.

Ostensibly about tattoos and their implications for clear listening beyond verbal communications, Back turns to his own family to explore how our bodies are our loudest and clearest communication. Specifically his brother and her daughter.

This is especially effective as he began the book talking about having a small epiphany sitting at the death bed of his father. Back has taught me a great deal about middle class UK stuff. He connects the reticence of his father (and other males) to the possibility that there is strong meaning in their refusal to glibly express their emotions. This is a new take on this for me though the distance my own father maintained with me rarely struck me as rejection personally.

Instead I tended to see my Dad as someone who struggled to express his deeper feelings. I would sometimes feel that he had a deep shame of himself. It never made too much sense to me.

Back points to the tattoos and jewelry of his niece as emblems of meaning. One of her tattoos reads “Mum and Dad.” Back calls this “illocutionary love.” Wow. Had to look that up.



His niece wears many rings, most of which relate to her grandparents, either owned by them, given to her by one of them, or purchased for her by one of them. Of course, Back’s father is represented here.

I can’t say enough good about Back. He is amazing.

I’ll end with a quote from him. He says in an interview with a young sociologist:

I’ve started to be more strident about an argument for a critical sensibility. A critical sensibility which is kind of furnished by the books that we love, by the theorists we find captivating and help us think our relation to the world differently, but also a sensibility that is training attentiveness to the world.

Link to pdf of entire interview.

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