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The Fringe Benefits of Failure


The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination
失败的好处和想象的重要性------JK· 罗琳 2008 年哈佛大学毕业演讲 President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers,

members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates. 福斯特校长,哈佛集团的各位成员,监管理事会的各位理事,各位老师,各位自豪的家长, 以及最重要的各位毕业生同学, The first thing I would like to say is 'thank you.' Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I have endured at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and convince myself that I am at the world's largest Gryffindor reunion. 我想说的第一句话,就是"谢谢"。不仅因为哈佛给了我这样非同一般的荣誉,还因为为了构 思今天的演讲,我忍受了几个星期的担惊受怕、茶饭不思的生活,使得我体重减轻。这真可 谓"双赢"啊!现在,我唯一要做的就是深呼吸,偷偷看一眼四周飘扬的红色旗帜,让自己相 信真的来到了世界上最大的"格兰芬多"聚会。 Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can't remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, the law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard. 在毕业典礼上发表演讲,是一项巨大的责任,令我倍感压力。直到我回忆起了自己的毕业典 礼,才稍稍放松。那一次的演讲嘉宾是杰出的英国哲学家玛丽·沃诺克。回想她的演讲,极 大地帮助我写作自己的演讲稿, 因为我发现一点也不记得她的任何一句话了。 这个发现让我 如释重负,不再害怕自己在不经意间就对你们产生影响,让你们放弃在商业、法律、政治方 面的大好前途,去追求成为一个快乐巫师的那种令人眩晕的愉悦。 You see? If all you remember in years to come is the 'gay wizard' joke, I've come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step to self improvement. 你们明白吗?如果多年以后,你们只记得我讲的这个"快乐巫师"的笑话,我就已经超过玛 丽·沃诺克了。可以实现的目标,是自己改进的第一步。 Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that have expired between that day and this. 实际上, 我真的是绞尽脑汁, 思索今天自己到底应该讲什么。 我问自己, 当年我毕业的时候, 希望知道哪些事情;以及 21 年后的今天,我又从人生中得到哪些重要的经验教训。 I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as

you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called 'real life', I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination. 我得到了两个回答。这个美妙的日子,我们聚集一堂,庆祝你们在学业上的成功,但是我决 定跟你们说说失败的好处。以及当你们站在所谓"真实世界"的门槛之上的时候,我要颂扬想 象力的重要性。 These may seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me. 这样的主题可能看上去有点异想天开和自相矛盾,但是请听下去。 Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me. 对于一个 42 岁的妇女来说,回想自己 21 岁毕业时的情景,是一种稍稍令人不安的经历。回 到 21 年之前,我正遭受煎熬,不知道在自己内心的追求与父母对我的期望之间,应该如何 平衡。 I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that would never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension. I know that the irony strikes with the force of a cartoon anvil, now. 当时,我确信自己一生中唯一想做的事情,就是去写小说。但是,我的父母出身贫寒,没有 受过大学教育。他们认为,我那些不安分的想象力只是一种怪癖,根本不能用来还房贷,或 者挣来养老金。我现在知道,这种人生的反讽,有着卡通片里大铁砧般的巨大打击力。 So they hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents' car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor. 他们希望我再去读个职业学位,而我想去研究英国文学。最后,达成了一个双方都不甚满意 的妥协:我改学语言学。可是等到父母的车消失在公路的转角,我就立刻抛掉了德语,奔向 古典文学的道路。 I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all the subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom. 我不记得将这事告诉了父母。他们可能是在毕业典礼那一天才发现的。我想,在全世界的所 有专业中,他们也许认为,不会有比研究希腊神话更没用的专业了,根本无法换来一间独立 的宽敞卫生间。 I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot

criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools. 我要申明,我并不责怪父母有这种看法。父母只在一段时间内,对你的人生方向负责;当你 长大以后,你自己就控制了人生方向,必须自己承担责任。而且,他们只是希望我不要过穷 日子,我不能批评他们。他们自己很穷,我后来一度也很穷,所以我很理解他们,贫穷是一 种悲惨的经历。它带来恐惧、压力、有时还有抑郁。它意味着许许多多的羞辱和艰辛。靠自 己的努力摆脱贫穷,确实让人自豪,但是只有傻瓜才会将贫穷本身浪漫化。 A mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. 我毕业后只过了 7 年,就失败得一塌糊涂。 An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew. 短命的婚姻闪电般地破裂,我还失业了,成了一个艰难的单身母亲。除了流浪汉,我是当代 英国最穷的人之一,真的一无所有。我父母对我的担忧,我对自己的担忧,都变成了现实。 用平常人的标准,我是我所知道的最失败的人。 That period of my life was a dark one. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality. 那段日子是我生命中的黑暗岁月。我不知道还要在黑暗中走多久,很长一段时间中,我有的 只是希望,而不是现实。 So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. 为什么我说失败是有好处的?因为失败将那些非本质的东西都剥离了。 我不再伪装自己, 我 找到了真正的我,我将自己所有的精力,投入完成对我最重要的唯一一项工作。 Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. 要是我以前在其他地方成功了, 那么我也许永远不会有这样的决心, 投身于这个我自信真正 属于我的领域。 I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. 我自由了, 因为我最大的恐惧已经成为现实, 而我却还依然活着, 依然有一个深爱着的女儿, 我还有一台旧打字机和一个大大的梦想。 我生命中最低的低点, 成为我重建生活的坚实基础。

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies. 失败使我的内心产生一种安全感,以前通过考试也没有的安全感。失败让我看清自己,以前 我从没认识到自己是这样的。我发现,我比自己以为的,有更强的意志和决心。我还发现, 我有一些比宝石更珍贵的朋友。 You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned. 只有到逆境来临的那一天,你才会真正了解你自己,了解你结识的人。这种了解是真正的财 富,虽然是用痛苦换来的,但是它比我以前得到的任何证书都有用。 the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person's idea of success, so high have you already flown academically. 你们是哈佛毕业生的这个事实,说明你们并不很了解失败。你们也许极其渴望成功,所以非 常害怕失败。说实话,你们眼中的失败,很可能就是普通人眼中的成功,毕竟你们在学业上 已经很成功了。 But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people's lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities....... That is your privilege, and your burden. 但是,所有各位哈佛大学 2008 届毕业生,你们对其他人的生活了解多少?你们的智慧、你 们的能力、你们所受的教育,给了你们独一无二的优势,也给了你们独一无二的责任。...... 你们的优势就是你们的责任。 If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. 你们要用自己的地位和影响,为那些被忽略的人们说话;你们不仅要看到那些有权有势者, 也要看到那些无权无势者;你们要学会设想,那些条件不如你们的人们是如何生活的;那样 的话, 不仅你们的亲人们将为你们感到自豪, 而且千千万万的人们将因为你们的帮助而生活 得更好。 We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better. 我们不需要改变世界的魔法,我们自己的体内就有这样的力量:那就是我们一直在梦想,让 这个世界变得更美好。


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