After you do hard tests and stuff
Moving towards the final balance from the moments of estimation and trial, the battle appears to surge and threaten. Each flitting moment of failure the penultimate, each soaring success the most powerful, we become slaves to wavering fortune. And fortune does waver: even the most menial analysis of a few scratches and scribbles on the terrible paper reveals a distribution random and normal and unspecial. Mathematics can expose the absence of the narrative just where the narrative impresses its emotion so powerfully. There was no arc, nor sequence, no battle cries and last stands. I fought my best and failed stochastically, won just the same, until the white flag was dropped under the auspices of one side or the other.
But no mathemanalysis can add meaning to our successes and defeats, or cull a success or defeat from the data at all. Should I study more scansion and poetics terms? Should I read more 16th century authors with egregious final “e”s in their names? Or, should I call myself satisfied, impute the losses to my balance sheet, accept the small defeat? I could spend a hundred hours studying and twice as many hours merely taking the tests again and again and again. Why not rest here? How does one decide when to leave off?
Now I do already know where I can work to achieve the greater spoils. I can see all the trite mistakes to abjure and easy victories still to seize, lying potential. But I do wonder where it might end, and how one finds the movement to keep fighting until the field has been truly won. Maybe it comes from many different places, from unique sources for each of us. I’m lazy, and easily satisfied, the inept commander of many hollow victories. But I also need, I’m desperate to be, “smart.” I need it and I hate needing it, I hate being it, I hate the concept itself which seems so vain and empty, but I pursue it anyway. And that one part of me would be almost willing to drive to perfection, to reach that perfect 880 (or whatever the hell a perfect score is, could they make these tests any more confusing?) Against the voices that say, “Once, twice more, and we can rest forever,” this one cries “Onward.”
It’s good, after the battle, to find those two heterogenous commanders within you. The one who says, “We have already succeeded, by both skill and grace,” and the other who says, “We must fight again, and fight ever harder, to call ourselves victorious.” No fight needs to last forever. But you also can’t fight by force, by rote, by habit, by convention: a wild fire lies within you that longs to burn away the opposition and clarify every obstacle to dust, you must find yours as well! We have all, I’m sure, entered our first battle and met only uncanny stalemate. Greet your losses and your victories individually, as causes for peace and rallies to further contest. Give into your inner narrator, who can spin a meaningful tale of the rises and falls in your fortune. And damn what the numbers say. This is no final estimation, but only a beginning to your story.