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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

Q and R

Quixotism and Regret

Q was rather hard to find in the emotional register. Qualmish and quizzical? But the wonders of quixotism was the winner. It speaks to the loftiness of idealism and the desire for visionary action. The quixotic do not operate under the weight of reality. They strive for the stars in a somewhat charming and enviable manner. It is not the idealism of the ambitious but more the flights of fancy of the romantic.

Quixotic individuals can be quite annoying to practical beings who like to be grounded in reality. They bring out the worst in the nay-sayers who find implausibility annoying. The rest of us tend to find the chimerical nature of big dreams, however impossible, somewhat endearing. Particularly in children we find the hopefulness of big dreams a means to encourage self-belief, courage and confidence. There is less patience for the delusion of adult quixotism.

Is it wrong to pursue the impossible? To maintain the passionate chase for idealism? Or should we retire our dreams and simply get on with the business of life? Afterall our current reality requires considerable attention.

Quixotism is not all fanciful dreaming up of the implausible. It ensures that humans and current reality is challenged. That we don’t all sit back and accept that things can’t be better. It is the opposite of pragmatism. It is not the world where things get done but the space in which hope lives, idealism reigns and romanticism about the human condition gives us all just a tiny glimmer of what could be.

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will long to return. Leonardo da Vinci

I wish that hadn’t happened.

The catch cry of the regretful. Because that is the essence of regret. To feel sadness and disappointment for the things we have done, and the things we have failed to do. It can be an immediate response to something we know we shouldn’t have done or a feeling that comes upon us down the track when the consequences catch up with us.

Regret is full of sorrow and recrimination. It is remorseful and has a reasonable dose of shame and guilt thrown in. It is not a positive state but it is one that gives us an enormous opportunity from which to learn. I mean we might regret that extra couple of glasses of wine when the hangover of the next day kicks in and your head, both the thinking and feeling part is saying I wish that hadn’t happened. It is recoverable and one might eventually learn not to celebrate with such fervour. You might regret your words, particularly if they hurt someone. You regret it more those ill-chosen thoughtless words ruin a friendship. One certainly regrets actions that manifest big hurts, long-term injury or insurmountable emotional pain. We can regret relationships, entanglements, career choices and a million tiny decisions we make on a daily basis. As we age, if we are not careful, we can beat ourselves up about a lifetime of opportunities not taken or actions that did not reflect our best selves.

But all of that will only serve to make us miserable if we simply continue to punish ourselves for our disappointments. The human spirit is much better served if we make a lesson from the regrets and become determined to overcome them.

Non, je ne regrette rien. No, I don’t have regrets sang Edith Piaf. She set fire to her memories and swept them away forever. So very lucky is anyone who can be so definitive about their life’s experiences. I’m less in the Edith camp and more in the wishing it hadn’t happened one. I’m not sure I can so readily sweep my regrets and the past away but these days I’m a little more forgiving of myself. Perhaps that is the most important part of regret…self-knowledge, contrition, and the power of a little sorrow.

Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.

Leonardo da Vinci

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