No Regrets

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu  7/20/14
As people grow older, it is not uncommon to hear them reminisce about their lives. During such reflections, one of the most common remarks I have heard goes something like this, “I don’t regret anything. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Such remarks are often unsolicited and many times made immediately after another person has expressed regret for some past failure. Is this because the one without regrets wishes to show he is happier and smarter than the poor dolt who just admitted he was not perfect? I don’t know, but I have a suspicion there is something like this behind both the statement and its timing.

In any case, when I hear such a comment, if the person who made it is over forty, I have the strong urge to ask him whether he is dishonest or just a fool?

Most of the time, I can control my urge and let the conversation proceed on its uninterrupted course. But the thought stays with me. I ask myself, “What type of adult could go through life and truly believe such a thing?” And so I am left pondering on both the person’s intelligence and veracity. This makes for neither sparkling conversation nor serious discussion.[pullquote]…an adult who, if given the chance, would truly not change anything in his past has obviously learned little of life and must, perforce, be stunted and foolish.[/pullquote]

It is perhaps understandable for a person to play fast and loose with the truth about his past. Who among us has not done embarrassing, stupid, and even downright cruel things? That one would rather not bring such past actions to light is understandable. It is bad enough to be forced to dwell upon such failings in private, but to have them displayed before the world, particularly before our family and friends, would be too painful for many. But if this is the case, wouldn’t it be better to avoid such pronouncements in the first place? Why add further falsehoods to existing ones? I guess only the liar himself could answer this.

But as bad as dishonesty might be, in such a case, it is worse if the person truly means what he says.

What normal person would not, in retrospect, like to have saved that money, instead of spending it on the latest whim. Or would not like to have back some of the time which was spent at work instead of with the family? How many of us would say, “If I had only taken school more seriously!” The possibilities here are more numerous than can be counted.

More importantly, who among us would not rectify wrongs and avoid hurts which we have done others?

One of the great gifts of aging is that through it we gain experience. It is by experience that we learn our most important lessons and thus grow. Therefore, an adult who, if given the chance, would truly not change anything in his past has obviously learned little of life and must, perforce, be stunted and foolish. And in addition to these, he must be arrogant, as who but an arrogant fool could imagine himself to be so faultless? Foolish, stunted and arrogant — a potentially dangerous combination.

Of course, I could be seeing complexity where there is none. It might simply be that the speaker is someone for whom words have little meaning, who is simply talking for the sake of talking, giving his statement little or no thought. In such a case, one could do worse than to conclude the speaker is a nitwit similar to the multitude of nitwits the world over who have little to say, but say it a lot. • (1612 views)

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19 Responses to No Regrets

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    A certain amount of this simply represents statements that aren’t intended to be taken seriously. When people ask me how I am, I often answer, “Alive.” That has the merit of being clearly true. (And anyone familiar with Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter books will know that such an answer, in certain circumstances, can even be an act of determination or even defiance.) Saying one has no regrets whatsoever can’t be put in that category, I suppose, though I’ll bet Ayn Rand would’ve said it.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I often respond with “still alive” as well.

      I’ll bet Ayn Rand would’ve said it.

      In my opinion, that alone is enough to confirm I am correct. She was and her “philosophy” is somewhat monstrous, as far as I am concerned.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Excellent slice-of-life essay, Mr. Kung. I do admit, as important as this stuff is, my eyes tend to glaze over when talking about politics.

    I can’t say that the subject has come up in conversation for me. It seems like a line I’ve heard more often in the movies. And yet the idea is completely consistent with our self-esteem-based, “no fear” (thus no regret) narcissistic culture of consumption, not reflection.

    How big of a horse’s ass does one have to be in order to say “I have no regrets”? Okay, in some sense, we do understand that the journey of life — complete with its mistakes, cul-de-sacs, wrong turns, and retrograde affairs — can be all the sweeter (in our success or contentment later on) because we know that some of our mistakes (or just bad luck) helped to make us who we are. And we understand (quite unlike the expecations of the Left) that life is inevitably going to be filled with hardships and setbacks.

    If that’s what some mean by “I have no regrets,” then point taken. Indeed, the hallmark of conservatism is gratitude instead of grievance. To be forever aggrieved (even regretful) at our eff-ups or the transgressions of others upon us is to remain locked into such things. An attitude of “No regrets” might well mean “I’m not stuck in my grievances and failures.”

    And as you said, many people probably can’t or don’t find the words to express such things, so we tend to talk in cliches. And this “No regrets” cliche has, I suppose, a good side and a bad.

    But I’m going to take it as a given that some WWII fellow leaning over the fence with a piece of straw in his mouth and a leg missing from his body who says “I have no regrets” is of the type who is saying, “I thank God for the things that I do have.” But for the rest of our culture, there is ample reason to believe that “no regrets” means “no moral conscience.”

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I can’t say that the subject has come up in conversation for me. It seems like a line I’ve heard more often in the movies.

      It has definitely come up in conversations I have had. Although I believe I would edit the second sentence to read, “a common remark I have heard…”.

      It is something one hears not only in movies, but on both TV and radio talk shows. I guess that is to be expected given the types who inhabit such media.

      While I agree that one could plausibly say this while meaning that “the mistakes were what made what I am today” i.e. it has all been worth the result,
      I think a serious person would have to reflect on his relations with others and come to the conclusion they could have been better.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        It has definitely come up in conversations I have had.

        Obviously I hang out with a better class of people. 😀 Or maybe it’s that I don’t tend to hang out with many people at all.

        But certainly, with my main caveat aside, I do agree that if someone actually has no regrets, they’ve likely been smoking too much weed and don’t have enough remaining brain cells. Their “regret” center has been shriveled, starved of oxygen and nutrients.

        I like your main point which is that to have a regret is to have learned something. Only a child or an imbecile spills his milk and thinks, “Gee, I’m glad I did that.”

        I’ll chock up “No regret” as stemming from the same phenomenon as the morons who wear the “No fear” t-shirts. Geepers H. Christ, there are plenty of things to be afraid of in this world. The question isn’t “no fear” or “lots of fear” but appropriate fear.

        And our uber-can-do, Scientologist-like culture puts a lot of emphasis on overcoming fear. But I’d rather not overcome my fear of bungie jumping, for instance. Some things are just stupid. Some things deserve a healthy and long-lasting fear.

        Now, of course, a fighter pilot or policeman has a certain amount of fear to overcome in order to do his job. But his job is not the kind of mental masturbation as the dill-wads who (in my humble opinion) risk life and limb to bungie jump. Both jobs are necessary jobs, and jobs that require human beings to stretch themselves.

        But “No fear” is mere a stupid fad, a throw-away saying, a shirt worn by the girly-men and pussies who would shit their pants before standing up to some heckler on the Left who had called them a “racist” or “homophobe” or whatever. “No fear” would then go right out the window. Our society is full of bumper-sticker poseurs.

    • Stuart Whitman Stuart Whitman says:

      I like the way you put that … a culture of consumption versus one of reflection. We could use more of the latter.

      And I see the expression at hand like you do. Namely an expression of life with the warts and all.

      I suspect the consumption crowd is who Mr. Zu is observing while the reflective folks see the statement similar to you and I.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Even Mr. S, traveling down each and every byway, notes that some regrets, he has a few.

        Unless you come out of the womb non-motive and at room temperature, it’s hard imagining not having regrets. I think the phenomenon Mr. Kung has tapped into is the unwillingness of the “me” generations to admit mistakes and to be just a little humble.

        But I think it’s also true that there is no exact set path where the good choices are easy and are obviously the right ones. Many things that I regret, I’m not absolutely sure I had the power to change anyway. Some I probably did, and I regret them more. But life is not handed to us with the means to Utopia being the default. We suffer even when making good choices.

  3. William Manning says:

    One way of thinking about the issue which has always troubled me in the back of my head was when Charlie Brown or Peanuts lamented that, given the chance to go back and do it all over again, he would probably do the same things. Perhaps nations repeat the errors of history because their citizens do as well.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Willful blindness, stubbornness, stupidity, naivety? Who can say why an individual does what he does. But when taken as a group, ignorance and gullibility must certainly come into play.

    • Rosalys says:

      Yes, there are many things I would like to go back and change, but like Charlie Brown, I would probably make the same mistakes all over again – unless I could go back while retaining the many lessons I have learned during the intervening years.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        A very good point. I suspect that such memory is simply assumed as part of the speculative concept of a do-over. Of course, the idea of “make it didn’t happen” is a childish one, for all that it was popular among Star Trek scriptwriters (or perhaps they were merely giving Gene Wesley Roddenberry what he wanted).

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