In yesterday’s Chatalogue, Alan and I pretty much decided to call it quits. However, we first agreed to each write one last post on our concluding thoughts, including our reflections on how things went and lessons learned.
This is not that post. Rather, it is simply a chance to grieve the loss of a deep intellectual partnership that spanned eighteen months.
I don’t like to quit — which, as my friend Seth Godin will tell you, is actually a vice, not a virtue. It is probably the sin of Pride — not wanting to admit there’s problems I can’t solve; or, worse, problems that I’m not supposed to solve.
Regret also plays a role, though; as long as things continue, there’s always the hope (vain though it may be) that past mistakes may yet be undone. That’s certainly one of the things I think most about. Is there anything I could’ve done differently? Anything I should have done differently?
Not that I regret the time. From my perspective, I gained enormously from the process. Most of the canon of Beliefs articulated on my website came in response to Alan’s provocative questions. It also deepened my appreciation of Alan himself: his patience, perseverance, and constant civility (especially in contrast to some of my other encounters with atheists). As painful and stressful as these conversations occasionally became, I will miss the special bond we developed over the last 18 months.
The first thing I do regret is that I did not love Alan as well as I ought. I fear I wasted much of the first six months on elaboration of my own theories with scant regard for Alan’s concerns and interests; and though I confessed that to him, I’m not sure if we truly recovered (or even if I fully repented). I can’t help but wonder that if I had been less full of my own musings I might have found a way to truly engage with him on issues of deeper mutual interest.
Which is my second regret. Despite everything, I feel like I never truly grasped Alan’s heart. Despite provocative hints, I’m not sure I ever touched the essence of his objection to Christianity. For that matter, I still have only the vaguest notion of what he truly believes about anything, and why. Is this because I didn’t pay enough attention? A communication breakdown? Or was it simply too obvious (or sublime) for me to grasp?
This ties into the third regret: the intriguing questions we briefly touched upon, but never really answered. Could the rational analysis of a Global Network of Desires provide a common deistic ground between theists and atheists? Does the success of Western Christendom allow us to identify ethical and ontological principles that usefully inform future inquiries? Was it ever even possible for us to find some neutral common ground that would’ve allowed us to converge?
Which leads to the final regret — a somewhat shallow, superficial one, I’m afraid. I regret that I never really got a thorough critique of any of my arguments. Every time I thought I’d provided a concrete justification to address one of Alan’s concerns, the conversation fizzled out. I still don’t know why. Was it just my own long-windedness? Did I totally misunderstand his question? Did he consider my logic so fallacious as to not even be worth critiquing?
Obviously I didn’t convince Alan to change his mind about his core beliefs; but then, I never expected to. However, I did hope to demonstrate that I have a rational justification for what I believe, of comparable strength to other beliefs we both take for granted. That is, I wanted to show that my beliefs are plausible, even if the evidence isn’t necessarily conclusive.
I’d like to think I did that, but I don’t really know. And now, it seems I never will (at least in this life).
But though I currently have many regrets, I don’t intend to carry them with me. I list them here not to immortalize them, but to exorcise them. The only cure to anger and bitterness (that I’m aware of) is to fully and thoroughly grieve the hurts and regrets of life — and then let them go.
Peace be with you all. And also with me.