Saturday, July 11, 2015

Three views of success -- from Dilbert's Wally, Tyrell Wellick (of "Mr. Robot"), and the great Robert Benchley


DILBERT by Scott Adams
July 9: "Hard Work Is Necessary For Success"

[Click to enlarge.]

"I take Life as it comes, and although I grouse a great deal and sometimes lie on the floor and kick and scream and refuse to eat my supper, I find that taking Life as it comes is the only way to meet it. It isn't a very satisfactory way, but it is the only way. (I should be very glad to try any other way that anyone can suggest. I certainly am sick of this one.)"
-- Robert Benchley, in "A Little Sermon on Success"

"Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. But give a man a bank and he can rob the world."
-- Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström), interim CTO of
E Corp., in last week's episode of USA's Mr. Robot

by Ken

As I think I've made abundantly clear, Dilbert's Wally is for me both a cultural hero and a role model. (See "Long-Run Planning Watch: Finally somebody asks, 'What is this "long run" people keep harping about?'," March 19, and "Dilberft Watch: The fall and rise of Wally -- When one door closes, maybe some crazy window opens?," March 28.) Now, suddenly, coming almost out of nowhere, we have Wally on Success.

As suggested, it didn't come quite out of nowhere. Thursday's strip came out of Wednesday's, with poor clueless Asok demonstrating his cluelessness by listening to Wally on . . . well, on pretty much anything.

July 8: "Attendance Strategy"

[Click to enlarge.]

If there's any consolation, it's that poor Asok would be paralyzingly unlikely to be able to take any real advantage of advice way better than this.


Our second authority on success is Tyrell Wellick (Swedish actor Martin Wallström) from USA Network's Mr. Robot, who as suspected (see my Tuesday "TV Watch" post, "Mr. Robot brings us yet another of those fiendishly world-conquering villains from Scandinavia") came into his own in Wednesday's Episode 3. Tyrell himself describes the mot I've quoted at the top of this post as "a bit of a sillly expression," a bit "reductive." Even so, he likes it.
To me it means that power belongs to the people that take it. Nothing to do with their hard work, strong ambitions, or rightful qualifications, no. The actual will to take is often the only thing that's necessary.
Noted, Tyrell, noted.


Some time ago I did a fairly long-running nightly series devoted to great American comic writing, which grew out of an extensive "Thurber Tonight" project. The "Thurber (et al.) Tonight" series eventually came to include Woody Allen, Robert Benchley, Bob and Ray, Will Cuppy, Wolcott Gibbs, Ring Lardner, S. J. Perelman, Jean Shepherd, and E. B. White, and I wish I had figured some way of enabling it to live, because a serious chunk of my soul went into those pieces (the index is here) -- and nothing in the series more than the pieces by the great Robert Benchley.

Among the more than a dozen Benchley pieces included, with all due respect to the sublime "My Five- (or Maybe Six-) Year Plan" and "How to Get Things Done" -- and, oh yes, "Why We Laugh -- or Do We?" -- there's no Benchley piece I treasure more than "A Little Sermon on Success."

In presenting it, I wrote:
Following our initial foray last night into the, shall we say, singularly dimensioned world of Robert Benchley, "The Five (or Maybe Six) Year Plan," we have now his -- and perhaps, I think, anyone's -- definitive statement on the subject of success, or rather Success, and even disposing (as you can see in the bit I've extracted above) of Life. This is another of those pieces I've spent ages trying to cherry-pick or synopsize or paraphrase. It just doesn't work, though. The piece really needs to be, as it were, swallowed whole.
Again, you can read the whole piece here. For our purposes, though, I can say that eventually our Bob spins one of literature's most peculiar fables, concerning "a very, very brave Knight who had a very, very definite yen for a beautiful Princess who lived in a far-away castle (very, very far away, i mean" and "a Magician who could do wonders with a rabbit" -- and also, eventually, the Princess's not-previously-mentioned husband ("who, it must be admitted, was a little disappointed at the way things had turned out").

Beyond that, you'll have to read the thing for yourself, and I can't encourage you heartily enoough to do so. The point is . . . well, let's let Master Robert explain it:
Now, this little fable shows us that Success may be one of two things: first, getting what we want; and, second, not getting what we want. [Emphasis added. -- Ed.]

It was Voltaire who is reported to have said: "Plus ça change -- plus ça reste," meaning, "There isn't much sense in doing anything these days." Perhaps it wasn't Voltaire, and perhaps that isn't what the French means; but the angle is right.

Can you say the same of yourself?
I don't know about you folks, but I sure can't, Bob (if I may).

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At 7:21 PM, OpenID arran said...

Anybody who can quote Benchley is OK in my book, assuming I ever have a book, which is by no means certain, and which if it ever exists will probably turn out not to be worth reading except for the parts where I quote Benchley. Which is Success of some sort, possibly.


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