Define "a Life"...

... still searching for a clear definition of that thing people keep telling me I need to get...

Location: Springfield, PA

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Be Kind

nother great quote crossed my path last week. (Not, thankfully, Blake this time.) From Arthur "Attention must be paid" Miller:

Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.

I know that it appears rather pessimistic at first glance; Hell, anything with the word regret in it is likely to seem somehow pessimistic; read it again.

"The right regrets." That's what got me. Regrets, I believe, are inevitable. There's no way any sane self-aware person is going to get through this life without some regrets. I ought to have done this or I shouldn't have done that or I wish I had whatever. We make mistakes. We make poor choices. We have regrets. But what sort of regrets? That's what got me thinking.

And much of what I've thought about involved identifying the wrong regrets. I know that the choices I most regret are those that were, directly or indirectly, based in fears, or motivated by a desire to maintain comfort or some sense of security, or were, simply, taking the "safest" or easiest way out. That's the wrong sort of regret. If such a choice resulted in my not doing something I later wish I had done, then whatever regret I end up feeling over having chosen as I did is very much one of the wrong regrets.

More and more in the past few years I've found myself regretting an ever-increasing number of the choices I made since, well, somewhere around the end of high school. That feeling doesn't necessarily mean that they were the wrong choices, though. Regret isn't always a logical thing. We're talking about a Hell of a lot of choices here, and a lot of them may have been made for the right reasons. Almost consistently, the choices I regret most acutely are those that I now feel I made for the wrong reasons. Worse, I may have felt at the time that I was basing my choice on the wrong reasons, yet let those reasons be the priority in choosing. Those regrets are the wrong regrets.

And that, I think, is essentially the same thing that those William Blake quotes were saying to me. When you tally up all your regrets, those you'll most regret having will be from the things you never did. Maybe all one can do is hope -- try -- to end up with the right regrets. But, really, that's not so bad a goal to strive for.

p.s. -- The title for this post comes from a snatch of lyric I can't place: "be kind to my regrets." Anybody have any idea where that's from? I'm fairly sure it's a song lyric, but my brain won't recall where it's from. Anybody?


Blogger Rob S. said...

Man, that sounds familiar. But when I google "Be kind to my regrets," I just get this site. So congratulations on the googlewhack.

I think you're right about Miller's quote. Better to regret the things that turned out bad because you chose right, than those that turned out wrong with a wrong choice at the root of them.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Greg! said...

I'm thinking the lyric I was thinking of was actually "Be kind to my mistakes." It's a Kate Bush song.

But the "regrets" version does sound familiar...

3:26 PM  
Blogger Rob S. said...

Actually, you're thinking of Lady Ocelot's deathbed song in Heron! where she leaves the nature preserve to her conniving nephew Snaps. The line is actually "Be kind to my egrets."

Be kind to my egrets
I have three mated sets
I'll die with no regrets
If you're kind...
to my egrets!

8:43 PM  
Blogger Greg! said...

Uh... I'm really not sure what to make of that.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Sharon GR said...

I like egrets. They taste like chicken.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Rob S. said...

You should be kind to them, seasoning-wise. Egrets are delicate birds...

1:07 PM  
Blogger Greg! said...

Too true. Go easy with the spice weasel.

10:16 AM  

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