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September 1st, 2018
While the original human super-power of language has an infinite capacity for growth by adding words and categories which may increase our agency and possibility as people, the resiliency of words and the categorical prisons they form can create prisons for the mind.
The word ‘mistake’ is a good example. While the word may be very useful while making a movie and a particular ‘take’ of a scene can be flawed by an unexpected interruption or other myriad mistakes, and therefore require a retake, life does not allow us the opportunity to stop, rewind and retake.
And yet we use the word where it is not perhaps helpful.
For a moment, think about a life where the word ‘mistake’ did not exist. Anything that we previously categorized as a mistake would have to be re-categorized as something else. Is it possible that we would find a healthier category for the events, decisions and actions that we had previously labelled as mistakes?
The word ‘Regret’ falls into the same category. What would happen if we simply did not have this category available when we think about how to interpret our life’s past?
Is it possible that the fear of regret holds us back from taking chances and undertaking endeavors where we might fail?
If the concept of regret was unavailable, would we have a greater sense of freedom?
Does an infant regret trying to stand up when it falls for the hundredth time?
No, and a big reason might be the unavailability of the concept.
Indeed, it may be a mistake that we created the category of ‘mistake’ and ‘regret’ in the first place.
While they might be useful for explaining some feelings that we experience as humans, their usefulness probably does not equal the damage done by such words when they hinder our agency.
Just as we have the CATEGORICAL AGENCY of creating new words and new categories that might expand our agency, we must remember that we have the ability to reject categories that have been handed to us from our ancestors.
It brings a whole new meaning to the cliché phrase of ‘living without regret’ if we think about our life without the concept of regret.
In this way we can actually fix a mistake in language
and move forward without any need for a retake.
This episode references Episode 139: Categorical Agency
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