Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Monday, May 30, 2005

In Honor of Heroes

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. (John Stuart Mill)

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Not taking away any significance from Memorial Day, I have been wondering, "What is the value of regret?" As in, for what purpose does regret serve? Is it to punish us? To remind us to do better? Our conscience speaking? Jane Fonda has expressed her regrets for having her picture taken while sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun and for the pain that her action has caused many American Veterans (the link shows just one website / article. Many more can be found. Use Google). Does her sense of regret, expressed to the wounded party, help salve any of the slights?

And what about our personal lives? For what purpose does regret serve? I have regrets. I am sure most people do as well. (I used to think that everyone having a conscience is a given. That is, until I met a certain ex-housemate and his girlfriend. I have never met a more ghetto pair of people ever. Their entire purpose in life is to lie, cheat, steal, and basically screw over anyone kind or vulnerable enough to be exploited--in order to "get ahead" in their vision of what life is. But I digress...)

Regrets: what do you think you wish you will do differently again? Maybe that it is what it does.

Came across this anonymous post today:

Date: 2005-05-29, 1:10 AM PDT

You know that the worst thing about losing a girlfriend, even if it is the right thing to do, is the loneliness that follows. It's hard to think of ones self as an individual when you spend so long defining yourself as a piece of a puzzle with a matching counterpart. I don't really expect anything out of this posting; it's really just my way of feeling like I'm somewhat connected to other people rather that alone tonight.

And it made me think about someone in the past. Though I loved her with all my heart, I wish I treated her better. I wished I was more patient. And I wished I never started taking her for granted. So many wishes translating into a single word: regret. But as you can't step in the same river twice, time continually flows; you cannot recover the past (writing about it does attempt to preserve it, but that metafictional discussion is best reserved for another day). The present is a different reality. There are some things said--some things done--that can never be undone. Not because the wounded party refuses to accept the thousand apologies, prostrations, bouquets of roses, etc., but because the act has changed the individual. It is no longer the same person you get back--even if you convince him or her to come back to you. Pain and suffering have the effect of "hardening" the heart (in the biblical sense). It literally will never be the same again, ever.

So what does regret do? I think regret reminds us that we are human, that the rivers of time flow but one way; that we are to make the best of each day, each moment; that there is a higher rationale, a higher wisdom, than our petty wants, jealousies and concerns; that if we make a wrong decision, regret is there waiting for us at the end of the day. Regret is the judge that keeps us awake at night; that we try in vain to stone with pot; to drown with liquor; that sits beside our rocking chair in old age, reminding us of all the mistakes we made along the way, like a devil sitting on our shoulders, who never goes away. Regret is, I think, a close relation to conscience, as Jane Fonda discovered, many, many years later.


Of course, as a follow-up post evinces, this is not saying that regret or loneliness does not exist within relationships:

Date: 2005-05-29, 3:54 PM PDT

The sad news, in my opinion, is that one can too often feel alone, even when in relationships with others.

Don't make the mistake of leaping from the frying pan into the fire now...


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