If I had my life to live over, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.” – If I Had My Life to Live Over” by Nadine Stair

Fond farewell to Rev. Patrick O’Neill, the minister at our Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel for the past several years who conducted his final service yesterday. He is considered one of the finest speakers in the denomination and has left a bounty of inspired insight. Fortunately, the chapel has shared many of his talks in both written and recorded formats.

Of course, my favourite are his own takes on embracing failure. I myself have spoken on the topic (twice when the chapel was waiting for Patrick to come in as the new minister) at Rosslyn Hill Chapel. He recently added a fine one titled “Coded for Error” (excerpts)…

  • “Marcus Tulius Cicero’s essays on old age. His 6 ‘Perennial Mistakes of Humanity’…Mistake #2 on Cicero’s list, ‘The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected.’…Thus it is to be human, we are mistake makers by nature and by stubborn habit of spirit.
  • The Bard had it right: ‘To err is human’. One way to describe our species is to say that we are the mistake makers of the universe…We learn by ‘trial and error’, not by ‘trial and rightness’ or ‘trial and triumph’…Progress requires error. Eventually, we put our hands on enough hot stoves until we figure it out.”
  • “Benjamin Hooks once put it, ‘The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching our goals. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled. It’s a calamity never to dream. It’s not a disaster to not capture your ideal. It’s a disaster to have no ideal to capture. It’s not a disgrace to reach for the stars and fail. It’s a disgrace never to try. Failure is no sin. Low aim is the sin.”
  • Aware as we are of our human imperfection. Understanding as we do the limitations of our fallible and all too mortal nature, we are all of us here trekking along the best we can seeking to fill in the holes in our lives with as much understanding and knowledge and love as we can accumulate, as we can share, as we can give back to each other.”
  • “In the high achiever society, where many of us spend our days, there is a kind of tyrannical if delusional self-imposed perfectionism that drives a lot of people. The price of super-achievement means for a lot of people that they neither tolerate nor make room for even the smallest mistakes in their lives or in the lives of those they claim to love. Such perfectionism would be laughable if it were not so deadly to one’s self-esteem, to one’s relationship to a partner, to one’s children, to one’s joy in living.”
  • Islam has a saying that ‘Perfection belongs only to God.’ In observance of that maxim, in ancient Persia, where rug weaving reached its highest art form weavers routinely wove a single, intentional flaw into every rug as a reminder that perfection is Allah’s alone. European sculptors of the Renaissance era often intentionally chiselled a tiny chip into beautiful works of art for the same reasons.”

Thank you Patrick for your legacy of blessed imperfection.