Monday, August 08, 2016


At the very end of Quantum of Solace as the snow falls over Kazan in Russia, M asks Bond if he has any regrets.

Bond: I don't. What about you?
M: Of course not. It would be unprofessional.

For all the episodes of Alias I watched a decade ago, I do not know much about life as an agent. However, for a university professor, admitting mistakes and learning from them is nothing short of imperative. Few things are as dangerous as to think that you have somehow “mastered the profession” and all that you have to do is to keep repeating your own “truths”. Both as a teacher and a researcher, one has to constantly be open for the possibility that one’s own views are in fact wrong or that one simply does not know. After all, on a more fundamental level, as Yuval Noah Harari so astutely reminds us in Sapiens, it was this “discovery of ignorance”, and the willingness to admit ignorance, that made the modern world of science possible in the first place.

Yet, at a personal level, regret is more difficult. As much as we may wish, we cannot go back in time and undo the past. Leaving quantum physics aside, there is a fundamental epistemological paradox in judging your younger self on the basis of what you know now. Even if you could, there is no guarantee that the added layers of reflexivity and better judgment would not kill the very spontaneity that made things worthwhile in the first place. Self-evident as all this may seem, it may be easier to forgive others than to forgive oneself. Innocent, understandable or even charming as the aesthetic or ethical shortcomings of others may seem in retrospect, it is much harder to make peace with one’s own failings.



Blogger Gabriel said...

True. Makes me think of another fictional story of regret.

11:41 am  

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