When I started this little exercise, I knew that there would be times (perhaps frequent) when I would be in the position of regretting a post. More than a little, I mean. I regret every post a little. But I knew there would be times when I would be a strange blend of stupefied and frustrated that I had published something.
Like yesterday’s post. (Why yes, I made it three whole days.) I wrote it and even I’m not always sure what I’m saying. A lot of it is awkward disorganized gibberish. Some of it is rudely oversimplified. And yet none of it is simple. My wife read it and said that perhaps she didn’t understand it because it was too complicated. In this way–as in so many others–my wife was being generous. She didn’t understand it because it was trash.
(Which is not to say that I recant the position I so awkwardly espoused, just to be clear about that.)
I find that my regret focuses on a few things. First and most prominently, it focuses on some of my former professors having been associated with my folly. When I posted the link to the post on facebook, as I am wont to do–here I could use the word vainglory again–I thanked a few of my former professors for their influence.
Whenever I try to think about… well, anything, I’m reminded of the many people who have helped me learn to think, and who, when my own ability failed me (as it frequently does), nudged me back onto better ground. The older I get, the more I’m reminded of the debt I owe to the many people who have come before me.
I’m ashamed because yesterday’s post does not seem to respect that debt, and certainly not to repay it. (If repayment is possible. The metaphor of debt is pretty stretched.) That I alerted the people to whom I had tried to express gratitude, and that at least one of them read yesterday’s minimum opus…. Well, it’s the sort of thing that I’ll remember until I die, the way that my brain remembers nearly every instance of shame in my life.
More on that in a moment.
I also regret being a publicly inarticulate Christian. This goes beyond the lesser but associated regret of not having espoused the Christian position effectively. Our society is awash with people who claim the label “Christian” and then do questionable things with it, like become terrorists. I have in mind people who blow up abortion clinics, but also people who do cooky things like belittle education, support oppression, and espouse gibberish. The sort of people who inspire other people to avoid the label “Christian” at all costs, because of what it connotes. (Granted, these avoiders are cowards who become part of the problem by not illustrating that Christians can be anywise other than cooky, but that’s a discussion for another time.)
I don’t want to be one of those people who bring shame on the label, and who thus indirectly bring shame on Christ.
And of course there’s the lesser but associated regret of having not espoused the Christian position effectively. I happen to think the Christian position is the most compelling option available, and I’ve explored other options so as to know of what I speak. Even more, I’m the sort of person who thinks that even nitpicking is nitpicking for joy, that all the details of Christianity are like the details of a lover–to be appreciated–rather than like the details of the tax code, to be followed grudgingly. And I would very much like to share that particular joy, because I think other people would also enjoy it.
I suspect that people enjoy less my unfriendly tirades.
Now as it happens, I don’t at the moment regret having been wrong. Perhaps someone wiser and more faithful than me will tell me that my position is wrong in addition to being badly conveyed, and then I’ll have that regret too.
All of these things I anticipated, in a sense, and I can tell you that I anticipated pretty accurately how much I would dislike them.
Which is why I usually don’t write things in half an hour, and why I usually spend so much time deleting what I’ve written, and why for the most part I don’t say anything, and then because saying is a large part of what I was created to do, I don’t do anything either.
I had a similar experience a while back, which followers of my erstwhile Usual Poll might remember. (My Usual Poll introductions were actually something of a prototype of this current exercise; I wrote them quickly and was deliberately careless.) I wrote a quick and angry dismissal of a particular piece of music, which prompted rebuke from nearly everyone, including subtle rebukes from people whose opinions matter to me tremendously.
I had one professor, who was always the scariest of my seminary days, reduce me almost to tears with a simple sentence about not wanting me to use her term. In my experience seminary professors are a gracious lot, and I suspect they could have leveled far more damaging criticism against me had they not been so steadily determined to build me up.
In fact, one of my other professors, who was always among the most gracious, in amidst arguing with me, comforted me with the suggestion that it’s very difficult to say anything right if one isn’t willing to risk saying something wrong.
Those are my words not his, a paraphrase of a more eloquent original. (A disclaimer I add because I’m afraid of being wrong. The irony is not lost on me.)
And I’m out of time again. I don’t like saying things badly anymore than I like being wrong. I suspect my dread of failing is one of the many reasons I have no success to speak of. Ergo, this bizarre exercise, which I will try to respect, though it make me end abruptly.