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Photo courtesy: My globe-trotting yet regretful friend.




 

The things I don’t know would fill a building. They used to call it a library.

I’ve told that joke hundreds of times and got dozens of laughs from it.

But the truth is, the world is full of things I don’t know and places I will never visit. No matter how disciplined I am, regardless how hard I try, even if I not only prove that multi-tasking is possible but go on to introduce to the world the principles of multi-multi-tasking, I could never catch up.

And I’m cool with that. I guess.

Which is why it’s always fun to see a friend getting to enjoy their own bits of things. A pal of mine has kept a running Facebook diary of his summer trip discovering Europe. Not every day. But regular updates and pics, pics, pics. He seems to be having a great time; big smiles in most of the shots, except ones where cool rules the day. Which is perfect. It’s his trip, his fun, my vicarious enjoyment.

Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, Swiss Alps, Toronto International Airport – he’s been everywhere. I think he pee’d in the same German urinal as Sir Paul.

Yet his latest post features the upcoming concert of a popular band who will happen to be in Holland a month after he leaves!

Now, don’t get me wrong, my friend is a good guy and pretty level-headed and supports a lot of good causes and I once saw him nurse an injured fruit fly back to health. But it struck me as a little odd that among all the wonders of the world – literally – in which he had submersed himself, that there was still a bit of room for lamenting this close miss.

It makes me shake my head.

But the part that gives me wobbly-tete might not be what you’re thinking. I lay no claim to be able to decide whether my friend should consider himself fortunate or not to have x as opposed to x + 1 experiences. Not my call at all.

Why I give a to-and-fro to my afro, you know, is the logical misdirection of it. Had the band been playing in Vancouver a month from now, he wouldn’t have had the feeling of having just missed an opportunity. Or if they were playing Utrecht two years from now. But coming a month after his coincidentally having been near where they are playing feels almost like a loss. Even among the riches of his travels.

No matter what we have, the mere proximity of more spurs us on. Especially if we are always seeking or will only accept “the best” or need to experience “everything.” And the more we maximize in this way, the greater the range of proximity. Whereas once a day was a close call, then a week was a near-miss, now a month separation is proximate. Or, in this case, the fact that he will be back home thousands of klicks away on that date a month hence seems like a near-miss.

This is not meant as a lecture about the excesses of our society or the lack of appreciation for what we have. Far from it. My friend has shown nothing but appreciation for his experiences. In fact, it might be argued that without appreciation of the sort he shows, he could not appreciate what he misses. So, naw, that’s not it at all.

But what is it? Why, when we look at things we never expected to have and realize that we still can’t have them, do we experience it as a loss? A loss of ownership, of occasion or of experience.

Should an event not actually be proximate before the missing of it can cause regret?

Here’s my thinking on it: If an event were proximate, little effort should be needed to experience it: changing one’s travel plans slightly; dipping into the budget only a little; travelling only a short distance. Missed opportunities that require such small change to experience are proximate and one can understand regret at missing them.

By the other side of the same token, one can be next door to a private concert as it occurs and not feel as though they “just missed it” because no matter what they did, they couldn’t possibly attend the show. Because it takes more than a little effort, however, and such effort is inconceivable, there is not the same, if any, regret at all.

It’s the weirdness of us all. How we feel regrets for “near-misses” that were never in the neighbourhood at all. I have no idea what it means to us as individuals or as a society or in an Earth-is-better-than-your-undiscovered-yet-inhabited-with-intelligence-far-superior-to-our-planet sort of rivalry. I just get a kick out of witnessing our behaviours.

And I say “our” because I realize that I’ve fallen for the same logical trap as my buddy did. And as we all so often do.

Except now I’m not allowed to, since I’ve written this. But up til now, that was me, too.

But not no more.

Until the next time.