Thursday, February 26, 2009

Do Over Day

Today is Do Over Day, when we're supposed to reminisce about past successes and failures. But instead of exploring any specific incident from the past, let's chat about the general nature of regret.

It's a cliche to posit that "I have no regrets. If I didn't make the mistakes I made, then I wouldn't be the person I am today."

You know what? Fuck that. Inherent in that cliche is the belief that the person who I am today is perfect. I'm sure we're all generally happy people, but there is always room for improvement. If we had done some things different in the past, maybe today we'd be even happier. Furthermore, regret serves a purpose. Regretting past failures ensures that we don't repeat them. So we're left with the somewhat paradoxical situation of having to appreciate the learning value of regrets, but not appreciating them so much that they cease being regrets.

Another cliche is that we regret things we didn't do more than the things we did do. We rarely regret having the guts to talk to the pretty girl across the room, even if it doesn't turn out well, but we know all too well the regret of failing to act when I want to. I think this cliche is generally true, and we should probably err on the side of going for it rather than being a pussy. However, this inequality in regrets might be a trivial observation; we can think of more non-action regrets because there are just a lot more things that we think of doing but don't than things that we actually do. Also, it's easy to say we regret thoughts; thoughts cost nothing to think and rarely have negative consequences. Actions have a larger cost and a greater risk of harm. If we actually carried out every desirous thought we had, maybe we'd regret a lot more of the times we took action rather than holding back.

But still...go talk to her.

Let's chat about partial regret. It's not an all-or-nothing thing. With any decision, one day you'll be curled up in a ball cursing the You of the Past for making the present so miserable. Other days, you'll realize you'd be curled up even tighter if you'd gone the other way, and the You of the Past really wasn't such a bad guy after all, may he rest in peace.

So let's respect our regrets, but never toss them away. Never love them. Regret inaction only when it's truly regret-worthy. And realize that regret and pride in our past decisions are part of life. Our doppelgangers in an alternate universe who made all the opposite choices from ours, they probably have as many or more regrets than we do.

Full disclosure notice: this is another sellout post. But seeing the web site made me think of stuff I'd write about anyway, so I don't feel too dirty.


rob said...

Phronk is that a flux capacitor pictured there in your blog? Did you get it working? weird science

Phronk said...

I'm sure it'll work but I've yet to procure the 1.2 gigawatts necessary to power it.