TPAOL Question #26 ~

by James Meek

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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TPAOL Question #26 ~

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Feb 26, 2007 9:32 am

Both Samarin and Balashov took their beliefs to extreme lengths and both considered themselves to have failed. Did they? Can a person be held to such a high standard?
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Unread postby KYwoman » Mon Feb 26, 2007 3:12 pm

Okey dokey, I'll jump in here. I don't think either Balashov or Samarin had very realistic beliefs/goals and so therefore it would be easy for them to believe they had failed in their attempts. Did they fail? Well, I guess that depends on one's perspective.....is it the journey a person takes that you measure or the final results of that journey? We often tend to focus on the final achievements of a person's life, rather than examine the path that they chose to take and if they were successful in living a genuine life for themselves. Setting high standards are a goal to strive for, but not often acquired.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Feb 26, 2007 3:32 pm

Thanks for starting us off today, KY. I don't think either man was realistic in his goals either. In Samarin's case I think he was focusing on the future of society so his personal jouney wasn't important to him. Balashov was focused on the future as well but his own future so the journey was more important. I believe they both felt they had failed, although we don't know what became of Samarin in the end. I very much agree with what you said as far as looking at a person's life...the journey is much more interesting than the final outcome. :cool:
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Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 26, 2007 3:39 pm

I think one can set too high a standard for oneself—an unreasonably high one—non-reachable. If the standard is set to high, one is doomed to failure. That’s when one needs to take stock and re-assess one’s goals to see if they should be adjusted. And sometimes what you set out to do isn’t really what you were meant to do. It’s the journey that shows you the way.
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Unread postby Endora » Mon Feb 26, 2007 3:55 pm

Is it necessarily a good thing to be realistic in one's goals? Isn't that just a way of accepting moderation? It seems to me that some people that are almost universally admired would not have achieved what they did if they had set themselves achievable goals. So I'm with you, KYw.

And Liz, doomed to failure? There's something about that phrase. Sometimes failure actually represents an achievement or at least a step towards it don't you think? What about

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Unread postby fansmom » Mon Feb 26, 2007 4:20 pm

And isn't inspiring or motivating others a form of success? For example, if Mother Theresa didn't cure world poverty, was her life a failure?

I'm not suggesting that any of us should emulate Samarin or Balashov, or that either of them was Mother Theresa. I'm suggesting that we aren't the best judges of our own lives, and that our lives could be judged as much by their ripple effects as by what we feel we've done in retrospect.

Can a person be held to such a high standard?
"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp . . ." (Robert Browning)

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Feb 26, 2007 4:43 pm

I think it's a matter of being able to stop and reevaluate from time to time which Samarin and Balashov didn't seem to be willing to do. It was an all or nothing sort of proposition with them. We do learn from failure and we need to be able to change course when something isn't working.
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:07 pm

I think it’s a matter of how high is too high. I also think an individual’s personality comes in to play. Balashov and Samarin’s personalities were a touch extreme. And I think they were too hard on themselves. And I agree with DITHOT that it was all or nothing with them. If you can actually set high standards for yourself and not be effected by failing to meet them or by not meeting them quickly enough, then it can be a worthwhile experience where you are either contributing something or learning from it. I confess that my perspective is influenced by those kids who I’ve seen burn out or turn to drugs or worse because they couldn’t meet the high standards either they or their parents set for them.

I’m not saying one shouldn’t persevere. What I’m trying to say is that if one is willing to pursue a lofty goal but also accept failure or a change in the path along the way, then the standard or goal should be set very high.
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Unread postby Endora » Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:44 pm

Liz, I'm concerned that my comments seemed harsher than I intended earlier on, and perhaps a little agressive. Sorry, my own stupidity. I see what you mean about the question of degree.
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Unread postby Depputante » Mon Feb 26, 2007 6:31 pm

Endora wrote:Is it necessarily a good thing to be realistic in one's goals? Isn't that just a way of accepting moderation? It seems to me that some people that are almost universally admired would not have achieved what they did if they had set themselves achievable goals. So I'm with you, KYw.

And Liz, doomed to failure? There's something about that phrase. Sometimes failure actually represents an achievement or at least a step towards it don't you think? What about

Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.


Samuel Beckett


That's a very intriguing comment, Endora. :eyebrow: Well, I wouldn't take it as far as failing better, however, taking the two charachter's dedication to acheive what they desire, in itself, is commendable. They aspire to be something. Heck, even Johnny aspired to be someone, and look where he is now!

The true debate here, I think, is if the aspiration is a good one, then it's considered by society to be OK. If the aspiration is a bad one, then everyone sort of gets freaked out. It's like OK to think IN the box, but not OK to think OUTSIDE the box.

So I commend both Balashov and Samarin for doing their own right thing. I don't beleive Samarin did what he did out of spite, or for a wrong reason, but for survival,, which I explained in the Samarin thread, after re-reading his chapter several times. He definately has twisted logic, yes. But I won't judge either one of them negatively on their activities anymore. They are both simply needing to do what they need to do. Just because we dont' agree with it, doesn't necessarily make it wrong. I haven't walked a mile in either one of their shoes.

Last year, I never would have thought this, but after having read On the Road, things have changed. Then they changed more after reading Shantaram. Now I'm in that train of thought, that paradigm shift. Really seeing :-O , and thinking :eyebrow: what these books are talking about. My standpoint really changed. I'm much more thoughtful, and more outgoing, and more possitive and progressive than I was before reading those books. The key is to keep it on the right side of the law!

Both Samarin and Balashov took their beliefs to extreme lengths and both considered themselves to have failed. Did they? Can a person be held to such a high standard?

Sooo... :eyebrow: Yes, they were both extreme. No they didn't fail. I beleive they both continued on their paths. People hold themselves to high standards all the time. If they don't get sick and depressed about it, and cause others harm, then it ought to be OK. THeir goals are commendable. It's :mad: that Johnny pushes us over the contemplative edge, and the charachters kill others to get to their goals. Wrong thing for right reasons , again! :stretcher: It's exasperating!
Last edited by Depputante on Mon Feb 26, 2007 6:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 26, 2007 6:35 pm

Endora wrote:Liz, I'm concerned that my comments seemed harsher than I intended earlier on, and perhaps a little agressive. Sorry, my own stupidity. I see what you mean about the question of degree.


Not at all, Endora. I don’t think I explained myself very well in my first post.
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Unread postby gemini » Mon Feb 26, 2007 7:59 pm

Both Samarin and Balashov took their beliefs to extreme lengths and both considered themselves to have failed. Did they? Can a person be held to such a high standard?

Did they?

Looking at them both a little closer I am not so sure they did fail.

Balashov high standards were his religious beliefs. He was said by the castrates to have believed he was going to hell for killing Matula, which means he still believed in his religious views. He realized that the way the castrates communicated with God wasn't working for him but he was very religious as a young man before joining them. He changed his mind about what was most important to him , his life or his family. It doesn't mean he gave up his faith only that he decided to sacrifice himself in a different way to save his family.

Samarin standards were relentlessly pursuing his cause. He thought he had failed his cause letting his sexual feeling get in the way. Remember Balashov told him love came from the heart and was not necessarily a sexual thing. So really love got in the way and that was something he had thought he had put aside for the cause. Actually realizing that he could still love may not be a failure. Realizing he cant cut love away and that he was still capable of it despite his resistance, may force him to rethink his means of working for the cause. I dont know if that is failure or even changed his goal.


Can a person be held to such a high standard? Probably but not easily. As we see above, life can change how we attain our goals.
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 26, 2007 8:40 pm

gemini wrote: Samarin standards were relentlessly pursuing his cause. He thought he had failed his cause letting his sexual feeling get in the way. Remember Balashov told him love came from the heart and was not necessarily a sexual thing. So really love got in the way and that was something he had thought he had put aside for the cause. Actually realizing that he could still love may not be a failure. Realizing he cant cut love away and that he was still capable of it despite his resistance, may force him to rethink his means of working for the cause.


True, Gemini. We don’t really know what happened to Samarin. But I think Balashov helped him accept what Samarin thought were weaknesses. As far as Balashov, I think he believed he might have failed. And that is one of the reasons he sacrificed himself at the end. It was an atonement for what he felt was his failure; but also I think it was his feeling of failure that made him feel he had nothing to lose.

Depputante wrote:The true debate here, I think, is if the aspiration is a good one, then it's considered by society to be OK. If the aspiration is a bad one, then everyone sort of gets freaked out. It's like OK to think IN the box, but not OK to think OUTSIDE the box.

So I commend both Balashov and Samarin for doing their own right thing. I don't beleive Samarin did what he did out of spite, or for a wrong reason, but for survival,, which I explained in the Samarin thread, after re-reading his chapter several times. He definately has twisted logic, yes. But I won't judge either one of them negatively on their activities anymore. They are both simply needing to do what they need to do. Just because we dont' agree with it, doesn't necessarily make it wrong. I haven't walked a mile in either one of their shoes.


I couldn’t be in more agreement with that. I try all the time to think outside the box—so much so that it causes me to be ambivalent and inconsistent. I don’t fault Samarin and Balashov for their extreme goals/standards or their obsessive ways. How can I, considering my JDOCD.

Do I think they failed in the end?…..
Balashov, definitely not. He was quite a hero in the end. I’m not sure I can say whether Samarin failed or not. We don’t know what happened to him. I was never fond of his tactics or his dishonest ways. It is hard for me, then to judge. However, in terms of his destiny or purpose, I don’t think he ultimately failed in the book because he was a catalyst for Balashov’s heroic act. So indirectly, he did not fail.
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Unread postby Parlez » Mon Feb 26, 2007 8:57 pm

Samarin's goal/belief: Destruction of the Old Order. Outcome: success.
Balashov's goal/belief: Renunciation & Redemption. Outcome: success.
Standards too high? Apparently not.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Feb 26, 2007 9:57 pm

As I read everyone's responses it occurs to me that when I wrote the question I was thinking whether or not Samarin and Balashov considered themselves as failures as opposed to my own opinion. I think both men believed they failed, although as we say we don't know about Samarin after he leaves Yazyk. I suspect he went on to fight whatever group was in power until he believed the people truly won . My personal opinion is that they both did succeed but didn't realize it.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!


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