What if you can’t fail out?

“Please input fifteen kilograms of Iosis-bearing rock. ”
Genever stared at the ship computer’s exterior viewscreen. “Pardon me?”
“Please input fifteen kilograms of Iosis-bearing rock. ” said the computer, slightly louder.
“Haven’t you figured it out yet? I am never going to bring you your precious rocks!”
“Then this station will continue to be in carbofoam-only mode. ”
Genever groaned. Carbofoam was nutritionally complete… and completely flavorless. “I haven’t given you so much as a mote of dust in over three weeks. What makes you think I am going to change?”
“Question irrelevant. No prediction is being made. Please input fifteen kilograms of Iosis-bearing rock. ”
“Look, you have enough of all the chemicals you need to turn carbofoam into food to feed me for a thousand years. Why don’t you just do it?”
“Because you have not inputted fifteen kilograms of Iosis-bearing rock. ”
“So? What does that have to do with anything?”
“Because you have not met the terms of your contract. ”
“Look, you don’t have to… ”
“Contract playback initiated. ”
Genever sighed as the computer’s screen lit up with a slightly shaky video of himself saying “I, Genever Montrose, agree to be transported by the Veo corporation to the planetoid designated ‘552XN-Second Hammer-178236-OCK’ for the purpose of mining the fuel Iosis from the rocks there. I understand and fully agree that, while all my biological needs, including oxygen, nutrition, sleeping facilities, cleaning and elimination facilities, and clean water, will be taken care of by the Veo corporation regardless of performance, luxuries are dependent on the delivery of Iosis-bearing ore to your mining vessel. ”
“Well I didn’t know that included… ”
“I understand that these luxuries include but are not limited to the following, ” continued the Genever on the screen. “Room temperature adjustment, luxury mattress, entertainment playback, holographic exercise projection, and flavour reconstruction.”
“End of playback. ” said the computer.
“Well… that doesn’t count. I was hung over at the time. ” said Genever.
“Medical scans read normal. ”
“Well I felt hung over!” Genever shouted, then sank into sullen contemplation.
“Please input fifteen kilograms of Iosis-bearing rock. ”
“So what you are saying is…. no matter how long I go without delivering ore to you, you will not give me a single thing on the luxury list? For the next nine months?”
“Yes. Exactly as was agreed. ”
As the computer played the contract video yet again, Genever thought about his situation. Why was he so surprised that he was expected to do what he’d agreed to do? What had he expected? What was he thinking when he signed up for this job? Why did he expect to get what he did not earn? Did he really think that refusing to work would force a computer to give in and give him what he wanted anyway? Was he really that spoiled?
“Fine. Whatever. ” Genever told the computer half-heartedly, and walked off into the lifeless rock garden that was this planetoid, not quite admitting to himself that as he did so, he was looking for a particular kind of rock.

Been meaning to write that one for a while.

I have talked before about failure addiction. How people become addicted to the sudden release of tension that failing at something gives them because now they can escape the situation, and how like all addictions it hollows people out as the victim becomes increasingly willing to jettison absolutely anything, including all self-respect, dignity, and honor, in order to get that wonderful release of tension.

But now I think it goes deeper than that. This tendency to give up and run away is more than an addiction, it’s the result of holding on to a childhood emotional response pattern well into adulthood. It is, in that sense, a failure to mature. A developmental delay.

Sometimes a very long one.

And I wonder what causes it. Lack of a competent parental figure to teach risk-taking and limit-pushing comes to mind. Without that, only the “run to mama” safety-oriented side of the equation is taught, and leads to far more than simply losing at conflicts.

It teaches the child the rule “safety above all”, and that when in doubt, they should seek safety. Thus they never learned to persevere. They internalize a predilection towards giving up and retreating to a position where they feel safe, and this cannot possibly lead to positive outcomes for most cases.

One of the points I make in the short story above is that sometimes, inflexible rules without an escape clause can be the best thing for a person. Genever can’t fail out of his situation. There is no way for him to get what he wants without delivering the ore. There is no way out. If he wants to experience food with flavour, he has to deliver.

And to my mind, that’s life. You have to deliver. And the sooner people learn that, the better off they will be in the long run. I am not saying that to be mean, I am saying that in the hopes of helping others rid themselves of ideas and beliefs which are holding them back and making them unhappy.

The only way to stop being a loser is to stay in the fight. Don’t lunge for the tension release button that is so temptingly close at hand. Be in it to win it. Use the anxiety as fuel for the fight. Yes, giving up offers instant relief. But it is killing you in the long term.

This does not make the world a cruel and hostile place. It makes it a perfectly fair place. Everybody has to produce. Everyone has to give to society. You’re just mad because you’re not an exception.

There are a lot of highly intelligent people not making the transition to adulthood because they fail to understand this. For whatever reason, they feel like they should always be able to quit when things get rough, and if life demands more than that, well it’s cruel and unfair.

Cruel, maybe. But not unfair.

“Please input fifteen kilograms of Iosis-bearing rock. ”

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

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