Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Mistakes are made.
I think Miles Davis was right when he said there's no such thing as a mistake. I mean really what is a mistake? It's regret with a punitive edge, the idea that events could have, should have unfolded in a different order. Right?
Most of the time I don't think in terms of mistakes except with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. But it's not always about the past. I've caught myself in the middle of something, thinking, "This is probably a mistake," like when I pour the third glass of wine, or get into bed with the "wrong" person. Later, when I have a headache or am suffering from inevitable pangs of remorse, it's clear I could have made a happier choice. That I go ahead anyway, with the third glass of wine or whatever, is interesting, isn't it? What am I trying to teach myself? Or am I just looking for an opportunity to self-punish? Or something else?
Do animals feel guilty when they make mistakes? We now know that some animals plan ahead. I wonder if they reflect like we do, try to make sense of what's already happened. I always wonder whether animals try to improve their characters. Do they blame themselves after they make a mistake? Do animals make mistakes?
My question this morning is, does the punitive thought form and subsequent self flagellation after the fact help anything? In other words, is suffering redemptive? I ask that question every year as we close in on the season of Easter and Passover. Both holidays center around ultra dramatic stories in which suffering is proved to be redemptive. Suffering can be redemptive, but so can bliss, mindfulness, compassion and many other states of being. Why is suffering so valuable to our species? Any thoughts?