Non, je ne regrette rien (2/3)

There are many things I ought not to have done in my life but, like Edith Piaf, I regret nothing. Those mistakes have made me the person I am today – more careful, more collected, more considerate than the callow and somewhat confused youth I once was.

Life, said the poet John Keats, is a process of soul-building – an extraordinary insight from one who had to cram a whole lifetime’s self-construction into 24 years. Terminal illness robbed Keats of his chance but sadly some young people with their lives ahead of them become so jaded that they toy with the idea of taking their own lives or even the lives of others.

My emergency message to them would be this Buddhist advice: don’t just do something, sit there. I’d follow that up with: hang on in there, my fellow-sufferers, give life a chance to work its slow magic and one day you too can reap the fruits that only time will bring.

To continue the metaphor: pick the blossom and the fruit won’t grow. Ripeness is all, as Keats’s adored Shakespeare once and forever put it. And as that famous modern philosopher Ian Anderson (aka Jethro Tull) once sang – and still sings – life’s a long song.

Ha, cue music!


I’ve said it before, but our certain knowledge that the tune comes to an end is what gives it sweetness. We share a common sense of its poignant, fragile beauty and if we have a purpose it is surely to cherish and nurture that sense in ourselves and in others. We cannot wish away pain but we can sometimes gain solace by subsuming it in the deeper communications of art. It won’t always be obvious what is meant because what is meant is sometimes too deep for laughter or tears:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Unsettling it may be but then so is existence. That’s probably the reason kids keep asking us all those crazy questions – who, what, where, when, why? I’m still a kid. What I want to know is, why do they keep asking me stuff I don’t know?

Talking of big questions, this astronaut comes back from the red planet and all these scientists cluster round asking, Is there life on Mars? The astronaut replies, Only on Saturday night …

Ah, punchlines … as Terry Jones of Monty Python realised, Spike Milligan showed that if the sketches are funny enough (funny haha or funny peculiar), you don’t need ’em! Spike who, you ask? All is explained in my previous post (and lovesick fan-letter)

Where was I? Oh yes … art … as opposed to kitsch, perhaps. The difference? Kitsch is considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but is sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way. Kitsch, in other words, is cliché. Whereas art seeks to give voice to what is yet unspoken – to discover the key to a once and future kingdom.


If anyone ever deserved to feel regret it was Pandora who turned a key in the forbidden lock and unleashed blind hate, conflict and ignorance upon the world. But without those awful furies how would we be able to picture the love, peace and understanding that underpins the still unwritten constitution of our new realm?

Do I regret embarking on this further raid on the inarticulate? In a word, non! Besides, there’s Part 3 to come, when all these disparate strands will miraculously weave themselves together into a set of new clothes fit for an emperor … whoops!



Image result for emperor's new clothes


Image: Totally Kathy 

15 thoughts on “Non, je ne regrette rien (2/3)

  1. I have great respect for those who can say they regret nothing, personally I’m with Frank Sinatra on this one, regrets, I’ve got a few, from early serious life decisions to spilling tomato sauce on my favourite shirt and further compounding the issue by leaving it to dry in the sun. Of well, I’ll just have to promote my second favourite shirt into the top spot. Regrets: deal with them and move on is my advice.

    1. Haha, Steve, now that’s the kind of thinking I like – creative with the truth in the best sense. It reminds me of that announcement which keeps appearing on the news – ‘Today, the world’s oldest man died’. My instant reaction – ‘Oh no he hasn’t!’ Reasons to be cheerful, I suppose, but then I’m a glass-half-full kinda guy! Hmm, reckon the seeds of Part 3 are in there somewhere … in fact, I’d put my shirt on it … so thanks for your cheerful contribution.

  2. I definitely have regrets, but as you say, some of those regrets resulted in things I don’t regret. So would I go back and change it? No.
    As to suicide, I just read an article about people who survived jumping off bridges, and most regretted it as soon as they jumped. Humanity needs to be better in confronting and diffusing despair. We too often look the other way because it makes us uncomfortable. (K)

    1. I think the key skill, too often neglected or even repressed, is the ability to improvise. Both you and Steve identify the importance of adapting to events and circumstances. The problem would seem to be one of fixed thinking – not being able to see the wood for the trees, perhaps? Thanks for that … Part 3 beckons!

  3. Regrets? Who, moi? I have regrets, Dave. Big ones. The secret for me is to live in the present with a slight nod toward the future and not wallow in the past. It’s the wallowing that will get you down. Speaking of regrets, there is a ground squirrel outside right now who has figured out it can climb the metal pole up to the bird feeder. No regrets there. But I suspect now that he is regretting that I saw him do it. I greased the pole. Up he climbs, down he slides, up he climbs, down he slides. On and on. Whatever irritation I felt at him has now been replaced by laughter. Not sure this fits in with your excellent essay, but I just thought I would share. –Curt

    1. I think it’s very sweet of you, Curt, to provide a fun slide for that cute lickle squirrel! He’ll thank you for providing him with a learning curve … well, straight line. And I certainly have no regrets that you posted the anecdote. If Aesop could find a moral in all his animal stories, I’m determined to find one in yours. How about … if at first you don’t succeed, give up? Or … leave it to the birds? Whatever, bet he’s not sitting in his nest beating himself up about it … onwards and upwards, eh?

      1. She (I know it was a she because of the attention the boys were paying to her) was certainly persistent. She had found the golden treasure that all squirrels seek, a way inside the bird feeder, and she wasn’t about to give up on it! “Leave it to the birds!” great advice but I doubt she will take it. I am looking forward to more of her ‘slipping and sliding’ today. 🙂 –Curt

        1. Fascinating, isn’t it, to find skills and qualities in animals that we admire in ourselves? Makes me feel a kinship that brings pride in a common heritage. All the film evidence of animal ingenuity is hard to ignore, even for dyed-in-the-wool anti-evolutionists! Despite what I said about photographs in 1/3 … of course they have their place, but placing them in context – as you do in your posts – makes all the difference. More on that, methinks, in 3/3

          1. Thanks for the reference to your last post, Dave. I missed a lot when I was out backpacking. When I was much younger, I occasionally went out for walks with my dad, and he always carried his camera, and he was always stopping to take photos. It drove me nuts. I refused to carry a camera for most of my years of backpacking on the basis that it detracted from my experience. I think differently now. It helps me look at things differently. I see things I never saw before. And yes, I take lots. But then I have to process them, to reduce them down to ones that I can use and then edit them. My memory of places I’ve been, seems much more powerful to me. –Curt

          2. I’m sure the act of choosing shots, both during and after, can intensify the experience and sharpen the reaction. I know you have revisited places and use photos to recreate those times – not so far from Wordsworth’s ’emotion reflected in tranquillity’, I’d say.

          3. There are many places that deserve to be revisited, Dave. Over and over. The Basin certainly fits the description, but it is only one of so many I enjoy. Photos both help me to remember and inspire me to go again! –Curt

  4. I think you are right Dave – there are many bad choices or embarrassing scenes – many times I could have done something that would have created a better outcome – like working harder at school – but I’ve arrived here – and here is good!!

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