Thursday, February 18, 2010

Living in a Big Universe

I could get you the UNIVERSE.

It's the sense of irreversibility that brings despair. What has been said can't be taken back, what has been done can't be undone. There's no going back, only looking back as words and deeds, tossed like rocks into the stream running behind my house, ripple away with the current. Reason whispers, let them go, and we wish we could, but we can't. There's neither reason nor rhyme to regret.

I thought I was done with Lindsey Jacobellis yesterday but there's something about her experience that hangs on. It's the idea that she could have done things differently four years ago, and her spontaneous move to grab the board was to blame for her poor landing. Well, what if it wasn't? What if her landing would have gone awry no matter what she did? I don't recall anyone asking these questions.

Am I saying she was destined to slide out of bounds momentarily? Trust me, I'm not that foolish. But I am suggesting that sometimes we search for explanations when there are none to be found. What happens, happens, and there may not be any satisfying way of saying it doesn't have to. Among the billions of conceivably possible events, determining which will occur may truly be out of our hands.

We can take turns with our conscience, blaming and criticizing ourselves for failing to anticipate, failing to know. Yet there are only so many places we can be and it's not everywhere at the same time. Even when all the signs are in our favor, the universe is a pretty big place. Learning to live with a mistake entails accepting we can't control nearly as much as we like telling ourselves we can. We prepare to the best of our abilities and then take our chances.

It generates a feeling of vulnerability, knowing there is much that lies outside our influence, but if we allow it, it can create a feeling of serenity as well. We don't have to predict every outcome. I think regret gains much of its power when we forget we can only act within the boundaries of our knowledge and capability at any given point in time. If you think about it, it's probably good that we can't take back some things because many of us would get so caught up in trying to redo them perfectly, that we'd never move on to what's next. And then we'd really have something to regret.

(Creative Commons Image by Xanetia via Flickr)
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