I regret to inform you...

If you peruse MySpace pages these days, you will often see a person boastfully illustrate a litany of bad personal choices they have made, usually followed by the ubiquitous expression, “No regrets.” Sure. You had your first abortion at age thirteen, burned out your higher mental faculties from a crack addiction, have three children from three different incarcerated men and you are now work the late shift in a Waffle House serving German Pancakes to drunks. Oh, and you still have that dangerous tattoo of Roger Rabbit prominently displayed over your ever expanding posterior. But darn it, things could not have turned out any better. Remember.. no regrets.

It seems these days to be considered enlightened you can forget education, disregard philosophical contemplation and toss hard work and achievement into the trash bin. You don’t need much to reach the upper echelon of illumination. And it won’t take long to get there either. You can reach the new nirvana in about ten minutes. Forget Buddha, I’m talking gouda. As in cheese. As in a philosophy towards life that is less complex than a brick of brie. Here are the only two qualities you need to join the new aristocracy:

The first is: Do not be judgmental. The second: Have no regrets. I suppose you cannot have one without the other, since to have regrets is to be judgmental toward yourself. Hey, if you’re not going to call other people losers, you sure as hell are not going to call yourself one either. In fact, I posit that the art of having no regrets comes first, since very few people have the guts to admit things in their lives could have gone better had they not made some bad choices along the way. And since they are not going to hold themselves accountable, why not let the rest of mankind off the hook as well? After all, if you were to point out the other fellows failings, he just might point out yours. And we can’t have that can we?

And therein lies the rub for me. I don’t believe people are as tolerant as they make themselves out to be. Instead, the fear of their own shortcomings being exposed sets up a sort of Quid Pro Quo among the weak willed and gutless sycophants that permeate our society today. You know, I won’t trash your slack if you don’t trash mine. The easiest way to keep the microscope off yourself is to destroy it completely and then cover up the crime with the cloak of tolerance. The beauty of this system is that instead of lamenting your own poor decisions, you get to feel good about how forgiving you are of others boneheaded lifestyles. “I’ll applaud your desire to pierce your tongue with a yo-yo if you’ll support my right to marry a border collie.”

How did we get to be such wimps? The biggest faux pas you can make nowadays is to offend someone. And that includes yourself and your kids. God forbid you have a moment of self reflection that highlights an error in judgment that you made. People justify their inaction and fear of confrontation by claiming to be better than those who actually deal with problems head on. They don’t judge so they can avoid a conflict that may be uncomfortable and they pretend to have no regrets so they don’t have to admit mistakes. And if you call them on it, you are labeled intolerant.

No matter how goofy or stupid someone acts, we must respond like the proud parents of a two year old who scribbled his Crayolas on the wall. “It’s not bad, it’s good. Junior might be another Michelangelo. We’d best not punish him for fear of stifling his inner genius.” And so, the parents absolve themselves of the nasty responsibility of disciplining their child, and society gets one more self absorbed, easily offended albatross around its neck.

I often hear people say they have no regrets because they are happy where they ended up. But that is presuming that they would not be happy where they would have ended up had they done things differently. There are too many possible paths our lives can take to assume that only one, the one we are currently on, is the perfect one. It is hard to believe that of all the choices we’ve made in life, there are none that we would like to call a mulligan on.

If it is truly possible to live without regrets, then nothing matters. There are only two ways to have no regrets in life. The first is to never make a mistake. The second is to not care if you do. I’ve never met the first type of person, but I have met the second. The streets are full of them. We used to call them bums, but now we call them homeless. They don’t care about much. In fact, their whole lives are dedicated to the pursuit of what pleases them at the moment. They lament nothing, life is good. No work, no bills and no pesky responsibilities to drag them down. Would the world really be a better place if everyone lived like this? Someone has to earn their drug money for them.

Edmund Burke famously said that the only thing needed for evil to triumph was for good men to do nothing. Thanks to the predominance of people behaving like pre-teen girls, we can now do nothing, and do it guilt free. They will tolerate everyone but the intolerable, they will judge no one except the judgmental, and they will apologize for none of it. The irony is lost on such people. I suggest people drop this self-indulgent, hide from the realities of life attitude that is so prevalent, and start acting like adults. In other words...grow up. Look, if Frank Sinatra can have a few regrets, though they be too few to mention, we all can.

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