Failure was not an attractive child. When he was born, even his parents were disappointed. They had wanted a beautiful, bonny, dimpled child, like their firstborn, Achievement. Instead, Failure had come into the world a small, lethargic, grey-skinned baby who seldom smiled. Relatives who came to visit tried not to look at him too much. They huddled in corners, whispering and shaking their heads.
Failure had a lonely childhood. At school, Failure was a good student who learnt much and in fact had lots to share. He kept asking questions on subjects that were not in the textbook, and trying things that were not part of the lesson. His teachers thought he was a troublemaker. Most of the other students shunned him. He began to acquire a reputation for being odd, as well as ugly, and began keeping to himself.
Later on, at work, Failure tried to make himself useful. He involved himself in as many things as possible. He attempted to spearhead new projects, trying out new ideas that no one in the organisation had thought of before, but soon found that there were a few others who were willing to chip in. Before long, he was burnt out with running around. When things went wrong, fingers were pointed at him, even though he was often the first to discover the problem in the first place. Eventually, he lost his job.
It was while he was setting up his own business that he met Humility. She was a teacher in the school he once attended, helping students with difficulties, and wanted a non-conventional role model to inspire them. His name and student record had caught her eye, and she wrote him a beautiful letter inviting him to speak to some of her students. Failure was more than surprised, but quickly agreed. He spent many months with Humility and her students. With Humility’s help, he found at last a willing audience for the lessons his experiences had taught him. Within the year, they were married.
That was some years ago, before his business took off. He had many false starts, but Humility was always with him, and many of their former students became staunch supporters of his work, and themselves went on to break new ground in their fields. When asked, they always cited Failure’s lessons those many years ago as being the most important element behind their successes. I hear they’re now thinking of starting up a foundation in his name.
As for Failure and Humility, they had two children who look nothing like their parents, but who share their deep strength of spirit. Much sought after these days, they are known as Experience and Wisdom. Ask them and they will tell you the story of your life.
– an excerpt from What Gives Us Our Names by Alvin Pang
If you had asked me in 2011 what the impact of publishing this collection of prose poems by Alvin Pang would be, I would probably have given you my usual quip that publishing is like flipping a coin. There is a 50-50 chance of it being a bestseller or a dud. And of course, What Gives Us Our Names has far exceeded anyone’s expectations.
What Gives Us Our Names is a collection of ideas, aspirations, and reflections. Its stories are universal, and speak to everyone regardless of race, creed, gender or colour. Our eternal hope is for this book to reach as many people as possible, so we embarked on an ambitious translation project making it available in Chinese, Malay, and French, with translations to other languages in the works.
– Kenny Leck (Publisher, Math Paper Press)
All Rights Reserved: So. Yes. Except for quotation of short passages for the purpose of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior permission in writing from the author, through Math Paper Press. Because. Yes. Authors need to eat too, besides coming up for air from time to time. Plus, there is no such thing as a free meal in the world. Get with the program.