From mistake, guilt, regret

From mistake, guilt, regret

Imagine, before the newspaper gives us our well-deserved vacation, we get a suggestion to write about what we did wrong. That’s what the New York Times asked some of its most famous authors, and they responded by exposing their mistakes, not of the last course, but in general: of those who admit to having celebrated the deregulation that has led us to this uncontrolled Capitalism has led those who regret calling for the resignation of a senator after he was accused of molesting a woman without waiting for the investigation into the case. Accepting mistakes is as complicated as asking for forgiveness. I’ll admit if I don’t get to the point, it’s because in hindsight I’m missing a nuance in everything I write, that I’ve generalized; in short, that I don’t agree with myself as much as I would like. Still, in this foreign country where it’s good to brag, I try not to be cruel and to be understanding with myself and think that I only have 750 words to express an idea, although I very much well know that the job is to make do with that borrowed space. As I was chatting with my venerable friend, the psychiatrist Luis Salvador Carulla, this week, he told me something that got me thinking: when, before doing investigations like he is doing now, he was practicing his profession in a hospital it is his rule to ask the patient in the hospital first interview to put in writing what he saw as his problem. The patient came back with six or seven confusing and long pages about the emotional conflict he was experiencing. dr Salvador (what a fitting surname!) dared to tell the patient that after a while his writing would be reduced to half a page. As I listened to him, I thought that this is precisely the key to our profession: use limitations and have enough mental clarity not to get bogged down in talk or complacency. The inevitable is that sometimes size prevents us from being as subtle as many of us would like to be.

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I saw actor Will Smith’s forgiveness this week, as I am sure you did. I can rest assured about this extraordinary event: I didn’t screw it up because I didn’t have an opinion. It happens that I tend to withdraw when there is an excessive ideological interpretation of a fact. I was also extremely annoyed that such a privileged person could not stem the violence. But now that I see him admit his folly, apologize without justifying himself or hide behind childhood trauma, I think his words carry the sincerity of a man crushed by a great mistake. There will be those who think forgiveness is part of the show, and sometimes it is, but through exposure to Anglo-Saxon culture I’ve observed that there’s a habit of saying mistakes out loud, something that does a lot requires courage and the little that has to do with the forgiveness that comes from confession. I don’t know if it’ll finally help him get his career back on track because the show was too unlucky, but regret, despite such bad press, is a heartache, that uneasiness brought on by the damage done. And sometimes it is necessary.

Words hurt too, and age teaches that one can be radical in some beliefs without bloodshed. Have I done damage with mine? Presumably in the past yes, although it wasn’t driven by the intent to hurt but to poke fun. Now I have limits to my humor. Of course, if I practice it in public. In private, I allow myself malice. I think of the mistakes that can be made from this room, in the quick judgment that the weekly opinion inevitably enforces, and I recognize that there are countries that are better off not entering. For example, in the case of Woody Allen, having successively and with equal honesty believed in both his innocence and guilt and having received angry attacks both when he revealed one thing and its opposite, I think it is better to yourself withdraw, to leave the doubts and suspicions, like malice, for the particular world. The networks have forced us to be reactive, leaving little room for the creation of ideas and a lot of room for immediate reactions. Readers need to rest from us and, more importantly, I need to get rid of myself too, of my public name, because it’s not going to be about taking a delusion either.

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