Freedom and regret

“For we are free—free to suffer every anguish of deliberation, of decisions which must be made upon suspect information and half-knowledge, every anguish of hindsight and regret, of failure, shame and responsibility for all that we have brought upon ourselves and others: free to struggle, to starve, to demand from all one last, supreme effort to reach where we long to be and, once there, to conclude that it is not, after all, the right place.”

—Richard Adams, The Plague Dogs

What Adams is describing here is not just the agony of freedom, but the agony of freedom plus honesty. For most of us, making that “supreme effort to reach where we long to be” precludes any chance that we’ll ever conclude that it’s not the right place. In hindsight, the once-suspect information and half-knowledge will seem stronger and more complete. Commitment creates its own confidence.

In other words, if you’ve ever experienced the kind of dark freedom described above, take it as a positive sign. There’s moral courage in acknowledging what you don’t know.

But is it any wonder that so many of us seek out confident teachers who offer unambiguous answers, or who promise wisdom in seven simple steps?

8 thoughts on “Freedom and regret

  1. Pardon me sir, I offer wisdom in only 6 simple steps. In just 3 minutes per day for six days of the week you too can learn the wisdom of the ancients…..

    Oh wait….

    Good post. I rather like that this dark freedom fits well with my world view. Being wrong is not the end, simply a sign that the job is not complete yet.

      • Certainly my good sir. Will you be having the wisdom of the ancient Aztex of the wisdom of the Ancient Angolans? We’re having a special on wisdom beginning with an A this week.. If you prefer the wisdom of the Sodomites, I understand we’ll be running a special during the first weeks of the month of February if you are inclined to wait, sir.

        If you were to sign up for our wisdom of the month club, I’m most certain that we could forgo any waiting period for the sale price on the wisdom of the Sodomites.

        Is this perhaps a gift, sir? For just pennies more, if you’d like us to, we can wrap this up nice and pretty for the ‘little lady’?
        wink wink, nudge nudge

      • Am I to understand that I won’t pay $99.95 for this ancient wisdom? That I won’t pay $89.95 or even $79.95? That while this handy wisdom would be a bargain at $69.95 I won’t even pay $59.95? But if I act now, I’ll make only four easy payments of $29.95 and receive, as an added bonus, a slightly out-of-date Mayan calendar for NO EXTRA CHARGE?! What a bargain!

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