Living Without Regrets

Hi! I’m back after a long hiatus. My commitment to you is to blog once a week from here on out. Today is my 81st birthday and yesterday I wrote in my journal some reflections that I would like to share with all of you.

Here it is a new year, 2013, some 13 years after the turn of the century, and I can remember so well when I was in my teens calculating that I would be 68 when we started the 21st century, and wondering if I would still be alive, and what my life would be like. The way it has turned out is completely beyond my imaginings. In those years at NYU 49-54, and at the beach in the summer, looking back, I realize how young I was in terms of life experience, and yet in another way how old I was in relationship to dealing with my mother’s alcoholism from the time I was a little boy. A strange contrast in a way, both young and old.

And here I am now, one day away from my 81st birthday!! Amazing that I have lived so long, and am still in good health, and looking at some unknown number of years yet to come and to live through. Once you get past the statistical life expectancy, which is 78 or so for white American males, you are likely (again statistically) to live another 10 or 15 years, apparently having bypassed all the life threatening hazards both medical and accidental that snuff out our lives along the way of our time line.

So much water under the proverbial bridge as it were, and here I am still alive and well and functioning.

The army, the reserves, surfing, 2 marriages, two adopted children, a widower, a son’s death, the theatre, schooling, Teaching Philosophy, so many different sports, Yoga, and on and on I could go, but the point is I have lived a full, rich, exciting, somewhat adventurous, somewhat unconventional, always interesting life, and apparently, there is more to come.

So much living and so many different and varied experiences make it difficult to capsulize in a few sentences the warp and woof of my existence and life. From one perspective, I have some regrets, and yet from another viewpoint I have no regrets at all. Regrets are silly in a way when you look at what they are. Either you wish you hadn’t done something you did or you wish you had done something you hadn’t done. Either way, such thoughts are ridiculous. We live once through each flowing present moment, and within that “endless flow” we do some things and don’t do other things. We are constantly making endless choices, and those choices are based on whatever assessments we make about what is happening in our lives and whatever options and limitations we recognize and notice. Once we choose an action whatever it is, that is the end of that piece of flow. It sets off a string of consequences which we have to deal with, and we do so by making more ongoing assessments, noticing what we think is going on and choosing yet again as we move forward.

The absolutely critical piece is that once we choose, WHATEVER WE CHOOSE, there is no going back. That’s the bottom line. THERE IS NO GOING BACK!!. We reflect and choose or we react and choose or we choose haphazardly and without much thought, but whatever we do choose, once we act, however we got to that point of taking action, the action and its consequences unfold, and we go on endlessly continuing this once only process until we die. WE CAN NEVER GO BACK. Regrets are based on thinking that unfolds as if we can go back, but we can’t. Regretful thinking is ultimately crazy thinking, because it is crazy to think you can change something that can’t be changed. The past is beyond change. You can reflect on what went before as an ingredient in what you decide to do next, having learned something new from what went before, but you cannot change what went before.

We live once, always and without exception. We live once. Everything in our lives happens only once, and once it “happens,” we move on to the next happening, and that “happens” yet again only once.

What would my life look like if I never lost sight of that basic insight, that irrefutable insight, that recognition of the absoluteness of the present flow of things? How would I live differently? What would I do that I don’t do now?

What comes to mind is a basic reorientation of how I live. What I have written above means that it is only possible to live forward, so all our living has to be done in this context of unending forwardness. We live forward constantly no matter what we are thinking or wishing or hoping or believing, we still end up living forward all the time. There is no other option, no other choice. My life is ever unfolding. It never goes backwards, except in the vagaries of my reflections on the past, and even then I am simply spending my forward living time looking backwards. I cannot go backwards; I can think backwards, but I must ever live forwards for however long I live.

So, I say to you live forward and bask in the ever unfolding mystery and wonder of your living.





About The Practical Philosopher

I am a retired Philosophy professor. I taught philosophy for 43 years, and I would like to share some of what I have found pursuing the fascinating journey of philosophy.
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7 Responses to Living Without Regrets

  1. Donna says:

    You are a great example of living forward! Happy Birthday!!

  2. Maria Katonak says:

    Happy Birthday Bill!! Wonderful blog about no regrets and yes, you have led a very rich & interesting life. May the next unknown number of years be just as rich and rewarding.

    Big hug,

    Maria K.

  3. taj1008 says:

    Hi Bill,
    Wonderful blog! I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for all the wonderful insights and perspective.
    and Happy 81st Birthday. May you have many more.

    much love,


  4. john mcdevitt says:

    I look forward to living forward!! Thanks for sharing this Bill.

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