Regret

On 21 November 2012 Saxony celebrated a public holiday called Buß- und Bettag, which is not celebrated anywhere else in Germany. It is a Christian tradition where one spends the day reflecting on one’s regrets, pray about it and then orientate oneself to the future. I thought this was a good idea regardless of which religion one associates oneself with. For me praying takes the form of meditation in the realm of Buddhist philosophy. From my contemplation a little poem arose:

Regret

Regret takes the shape of little clouds
that move in front of the sun,
casting shadows,
giving us bearings in the landscape of time.
If we could place it on our tongues,
it would leave an aftertaste,
a bitter one that lingers.
Usually we are only able to find it with hindsight,
there where we always find certainty.
A life without it is perfect,
a life full of it is futile.
If regret could be put in a little vial,
a little pinch of it
should always be added to the broth of life.
Too little would be bland,
too much would be to spoil the broth,
and just the right amount
would be seasoned.

Copyright © Quirina Roode-Gutzmer 2012.

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14 thoughts on “Regret

  1. Thank you so much for sharing about the holiday and your words. Regret is something that often arises in my own practice (from the perspective of a Buddhist, husband, and father) and writing, and I appreciate your reflection.

  2. I think it is celebrated (in church or in spirit) in all Protestant Bundeslander, but for economic purposes it was discontinued as a national holiday in 1995, except in Saxony. It’s interesting that you have chosen the much gentler term ‘Regret’, because I would have said it is about ‘repenting’, which implies some guilt.
    Your poem, however, is perfectly balanced and guilt-free!

    • Thank you, Marina. As always your interaction and your response is wonderful. Guilt is a whole other beast. I try not to get too attached to guilt. I’ve never found it useful to engage with guilt too much, because it paralyses one, at least it does me (perhaps other people can work with it positively). 🙂

  3. I feel this poem has many dimensions. Regrets-a-plenty punctuate the lives of those, who wish to take stock from time to time. Those who fail to do so, will ultimately pay the price and lose their human insight. Yet, as the poem so ably points out, there is a balance to be struck between a life full of regrets and its opposite. Well pen’d, Q.

  4. I agree with you about the broth of life. If our regrets prevent us from doing the same mistakes again and to avoid to harm others and make us more mindful, then it’s indeed an essential spice in it. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be pressed down by too many feelings of guilt. Amen 😉 Loved to read your piece and ponder on it.

  5. ‘Regret takes the shape of little clouds
    that move in front of the sun,
    casting shadows,
    giving us bearings in the landscape of time.
    If we could place it on our tongues,
    it would leave an aftertaste,
    a bitter one that lingers.’

    Lovely opening to this poem ~ & I like the way you’ve tied the concept of regret in with seasoning, implying that it’s pretty common to feel some regret but to ‘taste’ it & then move onto the next spoonful of life. Neat & thought-provoking little poem, Quirina 🙂

    • Thank you, Peter, for your thoughtful engagement with my poem and your lovely comment. It is not only that we all experience regret and that we ‘eat’ our lives one spoon at a time, but what I hoped to express in my poem was also our ability to tune our response to life. Part of the subtext was also our acceptance of our fallibility, so we needn’t be weighed down by too much regret. 🙂 xx

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