Friday, June 22, 2018

"I leave this life with no regrets"

It's been however many years since I used to watch Charles Krauthammer on Fox News. Nowadays I get my news from the Internet. Admittedly, I sometimes read his essays. 

1. In libertarian circles he will forever be remembered and reviled as a Neocon warmonger. I'm not saying that's fair. As I've remarked in the past, I think where the so-called Neocons went awry is because they were more rational than the enemy. It's like that old Star Trek episode ("The Galileo Seven") where Spock tries to use logic on the ogres. Rationality is wasted on an irrational adversary. It's not that Muslims are unintelligent. They range along the same Bell Curve as everyone else, but Islam is intellectually stultifying. 

2. Krauthammer brought cool detached rationality to news analysis. That's so lacking in today's knee-jerk, hysteria driven culture, with the social media lynch mobs, academentia, and crazed Democrats. The culture has become so reactionary and polarized. 

3. In a sense, the very best minds are wasted on news analysis because the news is so ephemeral. Krauthammer has affinities with other Jewish intellectuals who focus on politics, viz. Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Richard Posner, Milton Friedman, Paul Wolfowitz. Very cerebral, rather aloof pundits. 

4. Krauthammer was a conflicted agnostic. I don't know why he was agnostic. It may simply be that he saw no evidence of divine activity in human history. 

5. Because atheism/agnosticism are so unsatisfying, there are two opposite approaches one can take:

i) Because this life is all there is, you can't afford to fritter away your opportunities. Every battle is mortal combat. There are no second chances. So fight to the death. Make your mark. Make your life count. 

ii) Because this life is all there is, don't become too invested in anything. Don't take things too seriously. You and your ideological opponents are headed to a common oblivion. Nothing lasts. Nothing ultimately matters. 

Perhaps that accounts for the detachment of secular Jews like Krauthammer and David Berlinski. Rather like Buddhism. Avoid making enemies because, in the long run, nothing makes any difference. A certain kind of detachment may reflect a tragic outlook on life. A resignation to futility. 

Krauthammer was a very rational man. But high IQ is worthless on your deathbed. 

To my knowledge, his final public words were:

I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.

I can't relate to people who say they have no regrets. It's striking that someone so analytical, so reflective about human affairs and our place in the cosmos, was apparently so lacking in self-reflection, self-examination, that he had no regrets. And that from a psychiatrist! 

Perhaps, though, that was part of his agnosticism. Have low expectations. All is fleeting. There's not much to hope for, so why waste time on soul-searching?  


  1. How do you answer the objection that regret is a lack of faith in God’s all-encompassing, sovereign plan, a lack of faith in the wisdom of God?

    1. Yeah, that's a stock objection to Calvinism. I've addressed that before. A few quick observations:

      i) Since humans aren't divine, humans have a human viewpoint which isn't necessary the same as God's viewpoint. We experience things as creatures, as humans. So it's natural and proper for us to have a viewpoint that may differ from God. What makes us happy, mad, or sad may have no corollary in God's case.

      To have a different viewpoint from God isn't necessarily a value judgment. It doesn't mean I think God is wrong. It just means that I as a human being have a different relationship to things than God does. I have human psychological investments.

      For that matter, angels presumably have a different perspective than humans. That doesn't mean one is right and the other is wrong.

      ii) God, in his providence, can give us experiences to foster regret, because regret is a source of insight. There is, moreover, a difference between head knowledge and experience. That's a way to cultivate wisdom.

      It doesn't mean God's plan was mistaken. It doesn't mean God had no plan. Rather, God planned for things to turn out that way so that we'd learn from experience, since that has a particular poignancy and immediacy. It's personalized and individualized rather than abstract or generic. Nothing quite like anticipation or dread, living through it, then looking back on it.