Tag Archives: discussion

Regrets, Kierkegaard Had a Few

Do you regret reading this post, 3.5 readers?

That’s OK. I already regret writing it.

And there’s the rub, for the great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard warns us that it is inevitable for us to regret literally everything we do:

“If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not marry, you will also regret it; if you marry or do not marry, you will regret both; Laugh at the world’s follies, you will regret it, weep over them, you will also regret that; laugh at the world’s follies or weep over them, you will regret both; whether you laugh at the world’s follies or weep over them, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it, believe her not, you will also regret that; believe a woman or believe her not, you will regret both; whether you believe a woman or believe her not, you will regret both. Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will also regret that; hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the sum and substance of all philosophy.”

I have come to find that Soren and I are a couple of morose mother-effers who act like someone just pooped in our cereal (classic Jay and Silent Bob reference.)

But it’s true, isn’t it? Middle-aged, people, you know what I’m talking about.

If you get married, you will regret not staying single a year or two or three more and maybe you could have found that sex crazed nympho that was willing to cater to all your whims.

If you don’t get married, you will regret being alone and come to realize that the nice, normal person who wasn’t a sex nympho and was not going to cater to all your whims would have been at least good company who would have given you some nookie once in awhile.

If you are mean you will feel bad about the people you could have helped but didn’t. If you are nice, you will regret letting people walk all over you.

Soren loses me on the suicide part of the quote. That’s too far for me. If anything, my big regret is not doing everything possible to ensure that I’ll live to be over 100. Frankly, my big regret is that I did not become a health crazed, kale chomping, 5K running strong man at an early age…so I do regret that my blood type is rocky road now. I don’t think I would have regretted getting healthy and staying that way from the beginning.

The Sore-meister famously dumped the love of his life out of fear that he’d regret marrying her only to regret doing so. I hate to admit that in my youth I chased after dum dums and pushed away smart smarts (is that the opposite of dum dums?).  I guess you could call me a junior Soren in that regard.

Maybe I am Soren reincarnated.

Anyway, we only get one life and we must make choices. Unfortunately, many of those big choices are made when we are young and have heads full of mush. When we are older and get all the spoilers of how our choices worked out, I suppose it is only natural to regret mistakes made, now that we have more information.

Note though we can’t be sure that we made mistakes even if it feels like we did. We wish we had snagged that special someone but maybe that special someone would have turned out to be a jerkface. We wish we would have snagged that special job but maybe it would not have worked out. Maybe we would have made decisions that got us the perfect life only to be run over by a bus in a freak accident.

Let’s try to recognize that Soren is right in that regret is inevitable, but perhaps we do need to forgive ourselves lest we regret being consumed by our regrets.

Remember, Soren also said, “Don’t forget to love yourself” so he must have realized we need our own personal hugs in the midst of all this regret.

Soren actually invented the term “angst” and noted that “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” In other words, we have so many choices in front of us that it is normal to feel sick over the possibility that we might eff those choices up.

Finally, the Sore-a-nator said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Soren didn’t know the term “spoiler alert” but he was right. You don’t figure out what you did wrong until the wrong is already done. As you get older, you can’t help but do an autopsy of your life and analyze what you should and should not have done.

It’s too bad we don’t get to live to 200 so we could screw up the first 100 years then really knock the ball out of the park in the second hundred.

Thanks for the thoughts, Kierkegaard and cheer up, wherever you are.

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Daily Discussion with BQB – Judge Orders 30 Year Old Man to Move Out of Parents’ House

Hey 3.5 readers.

Have you heard about this one?  Do a web search for it and you should find an article about it.

Short version.  There was a 30 year old man living in his parents’ house.  Mom and Dad wanted him to move out.  They gave him five written notices to move out and when the son didn’t move out, they took him to court to evict him.

So, this has become a funny story like, “Oh my God.  Adults have become such losers that parents have to go to court to make them move out of the house now.”

I side with these parents.  I haven’t read anything to make me believe that they are bad people with bad intentions so as far as I can tell, they probably wanted their son to get out, get a job, live his life, become a productive member of society.  (In fairness, I don’t know if he is an unproductive slug or anything, though one of the notices from the parents tells him he needs to get a job.)

I think it’s good that the parents did this and in their defense, I wonder if they would have held off on court action if son had just taken some life improvement steps – i.e., helped around the house more, gotten rid of a broken down car the parents wanted off the property, gotten a job, etc.  The parents probably wanted some signs that son was working on improving and seeing none, they saw no need to continue letting him live with them.

Although the son does come off as a bit of a dingus, I do want to defend young adults, maybe not this guy, but in general.  I keep hearing commentators saying, ever so shocked, “Millennials have the highest rate of adults living at home, those lazy bums!”

And while this guy isn’t the best representative, there isn’t much recognition of why so many young adults are living at home.  The economy tanked in 2008, was a shit show for years and is only starting to show signs of getting better recently.  Maybe some are happy to live at home but I assume many are not.

House prices are higher than ever too so who can blame a young person for saving for a few years until they can make that down payment?

Keep in mind a college degree isn’t worth as much as it used to be.  It used to be that if you had a college degree, you had it made.  Now everyone and their uncle has one.

So…yes, this story is funny.  I think the parents did the right thing here and son might have been spared some embarrassment if he’d met his folks half-way and demonstrated some kind of intent to turn things around but overall, yeah, keep in mind that it isn’t as easy to get a good, life sustaining job as it used to be.


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Masque of the Red Death and Today’s Ebola Crisis

In case you missed it, check out my post (just one post above) of the Full Text of Edgar Allen Poe’s 1842 short story, The Masque of the Red Death.

Go on.  Read it.  It isn’t that long.  Seriously, what are you going to miss if you turn off the TV for a minute?  The Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo?


The population of a fictional country has been decimated by a plague called, “The Red Death,” so-named because it causes its victims to bleed out of their pores and all over their faces before they bite the big one.  The aptly named Prince Prospero (Poe’s subtle hint to let you know the dude is lousy with cash, i.e. he’s very “prosperous”) could use his resources to help his countrymen, but instead, decides to protect himself and his friends by walling off his castle so as to keep out the infected riff-raff.  Inside, the wealthy aristocrats spend half-a-year having fun and being entertained by various performers.

Prince Prospero throws a masquerade party.  He holds it in an area of his home that has a winding pathway that takes visitors through several rooms, each decorated in various shades of colors, starting with lighter tones until the end, which is all black with scarlet red windows.  Notice that like the passing of a day, lighter colors are found in the beginning, while the colors get darker as the end of the path through the rooms approaches, all the way till black at the end, and like the eternal night that comes with death, everyone is afraid of the black room.

During the festivities, a spooky clock in the black room is so loud every time it causes all of the guests to cease their amusement every time it chimes the hour.

All are having a grand ole time until an uninvited guest arrives.  This individual costume’s is that of a sufferer of the Red Death.  He wears a funeral shroud for his clothing and a mask that appears to be a dead man’s face covered with blood, similar to the deceased victims of the disease.

Prospero and guests are outraged that someone would ruin their good time by providing a ghastly reminder of the Red Death that they are trying to avoid thinking about.  In the black room, Prospero confronts the individual but dies from the disease.  The party goers, once too scared to go into the black room, become resolute upon the death of their leader and charge into the black room.  They unmask the party crasher only to find that there’s no one underneath the mask.  They then all contract the Red Death and die immediately.


So, in other words, a group of rich people have fun and are punished for their neglect of the disease ridden masses by contracting the disease they thought they could avoid by walling themselves off in a castle under the assumption that doing so would immunize them from harm.  Poe, the author, if you’ve read his other works, has a death fixation.  Whether it is this story or The Raven’s chirp to the narrator of “Nevermore!” his works serve as a reminder that try as they might, everyone sooner or later faces death.  Prospero and his band of aristocrats were foolish to think they could avoid a plague in their backyard.  At the end of the day, they’re still human and their money and power was not enough to save them.  Had they thought of their countrymen, perhaps they could have slowed the disease and perhaps saved the day.  Instead, they were selfish and died.

Well, given today’s news headlines, kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?  Ebola is tearing through West Africa with thousands of deaths already.  Occasionally, there is a case or two in America and it causes a mass panic and fear that a plague might be headed this way.

The average American is far removed from this mess – sitting in an easy chair and watching TV, enjoying all the comforts of life, taking for granted medical care and sanitation services (i.e. indoor plumbing, clean water and trash pickup – things that are lacking in third world countries that often lead to rampant disease).  I can’t really argue that Americans are as obtuse to the situation as Prospero’s compatriots were.  Like Cicero, who played his violin while Rome burned, Prospero’s aristocrats party hard while completely ignoring the situation.  Meanwhile, today Americans are constantly bombarded with reminders of the Ebola problem by the media.  Many of us feel bad for the people of West Africa though there is not a lot we can do as individuals.  And the occasional outbreak within America causes much panic, so it cannot be said that our society is completely oblivious to the situation.

That being said, I’ve always been a critic of the UN.  The UN is an organization that was built in the wake of World War II, founded on the principle that like minded countries were going to get together and say ‘Never Again!” in the face of atrocities such as those that occurred thanks to the Nazis.  Yet, the UN does nothing about ISIS, Boko Haram, they did nothing about Rwanda, etc.  Understandably, no one wants to go to war, especially a war weary America that has just spent the last ten years fighting, so the result is many world atrocities are ignored.

But here is a chance for the civilized world to help the third world that does not require involvement in a war.  America has sent troops to help West Africa contain the Ebola outbreak.  Other countries have pitched in.   World organizations like the UN need to help third world nations build up their health care and sanitation infrastructures.  A few people in America get Ebola and it is contained due to our modern hospitals.  A few people in the third world get Ebola and it spreads like wild fire because they lack the basic facilities required to combat the disease.

And the leaders of those countries are not completely blameless.  Schools, roads, hospitals, sanitation – these are the basic services that any government should provide and if they are not providing them then they aren’t doing their jobs.

We could throw up our hands, shrug our shoulders, and say “Not our problem” but then we’d be like Prospero because, sure, Ebola is one of those problems that is “over there” and we don’t need to worry about things that happen “over there” but left unchecked and allowed to spread throughout the third world, a virus like Ebola could eventually grow so out of control that it could make its way to the civilized world with a vengeance and be impossible to stop.

So let’s not be a bunch of Prosperos, locking ourselves up in our castle while fools entertain us while there is a problem “for those people” that could one day become a problem for us.

Thanks for stopping by, fellow book enthusiasts.  Remember bookshelfbattle.com ‘s celebration of Halloween Literature is a month long event, with daily posts, so check back tomorrow.  And I’m always tweeting away on Twitter, mostly about literature, but often about pop culture in general.  Follow me @bookshelfbattle and check out my hashtag – #tweettheraven where I prove my nerdyness to the world by tweeting Poe’s infamous poem throughout the month.

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Bookshelf Battle Quote of the Week – “Life is a Tale Told By an Idiot”

She would have died hereafter.
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

– William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Is life really a tale told by an idiot? That’s quite an indictment of the concept of life. Think about it. The Bard isn’t just saying that life is pointless. He’s saying that it is a tale told by an idiot. Imagine the most gaseous windbag at the end of the bar, three sheets to the wind, spewing out nonsense all night. His stories are about as coherent as life if you follow this point of view.

Sometimes it can feel that way. Days come, days go. There are good days and bad days. As Ferris Bueller would say, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you might miss it.” Today you’re having a blast. Tomorrow, you’re an old man in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank. Sometimes it feels like moves faster than a finger snap.

Obviously, the character of Macbeth engaged in some nasty business, so it is not surprising he felt low enough to become dissatisfied by life. But is it really full of sound and fury? Does it signify nothing?

Life can have its great moments, and those moments can vary from person to person. For some, it’s marriage or birth of a child. For others it may be the accomplishment of a long held dream. It’s better to concentrate on the good times, and forget the fact that, like a “brief candle,” life can be snuffed out at any time. That’s the sad irony of life – an alive person spends his life collecting one achievement after another and in the end, everyone, from the lowliest bus station bathroom janitor to the highest CEO ends up worm food.

Like a “player” with his “hour on the stage,” we all have those great moments. Life is meant to be lived. Enjoy your time on the stage, because a life spent worrying about the final curtain is a life wasted.

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