Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Je Ne Regrette Rien et Je Me Souviens: Resolutions and Regrets

This time of year, I'll frequently hear "I don't do New Year's Resolutions".  That's fine, and that's your business, but I do.

These two attitudes might best be summed up by the two French phrases, which sounds so much more poetic in French than in English, from two different sources.

The first phrase if from Édith Piaf's classic, and defiant, song by that title, which freely translates as "I don't regret anything".  It starts out:
Non... rien de rien
Non je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien... qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m'est bien égale..
That translates as:
No, nothing at all,
No, I regret nothing
Not the good things. . . they did to me
Nor the bad. . .may it's all the same to me!
I can see why this defiant song was sung by defiant French Legionairres as they went into captivity following their failued uprising in Algiers.

In contrast, there's the defiant motto of Quebec.  "Je me souviens", or "I remember".

To remember, and to remember accurately, is to have regrets, at least some minor regrets. And to have regrets requires us to attempt to adjust to avoid creating new regrets if we can. As a learning intelligent being, we must face our regrets and act where we can. And those are resolutions.

Of course, some regrets are unaddressable.  Things we regret from eons ago, or regrets about situations which are permanent. Those kind of regrets, we're told, can be disabling.  There's no point in crying over spilled milk, we're told as children, and there certainly isn't any point in crying over milk that's spilled and then spoiled.  But, as a person with a long memory, I'm sometimes conscious of those old regrets.

But I don't view that as a bad thing.  We are a species which weighs and measures things, including mistakes, and mistakes that stick with us do so for a reason.  We've no doubt always been that way, as in "I regret whacking that bison on the head. . . I shall not do so again."

And I do make resolutions.  I'm a work in progress for sure, and I know that.  As we all have a backdoor view of ourselves, which nobody else does, I"m sure that most people acknowledge that.  Indeed, a person who thinks that they're near perfection is a pain, and laboring under an illusion. Few do that, however.

Which doesn't mean the content should not be. Some do better than others at their lives and some also are blessed with fortune, opportunity, or a personal makeup that allows for them to be contented.  Indeed, I suspect all are.

Which is why regrets well chosen, and resolutions well made, are useful.  And January 1 is as good of time to make those as any other, whether they be large, as some people's are, or small, as most of our resolutions really are.

So, Happy New Year!

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