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Freedom to be…stupid! In the eyes of those in search for a regret-free life, that’s what the world needs.

A regret-free life is something that many people will take pains to pursue, and “regret free living” is a philosophy of life that is common to many people.  However, the application of this philosophy may differ widely, depending on how the purpose and meaning of life are defined.

Each one of these philosophies is based on the presupposition that…this life is all that we have.

Take Patrick Mathieu as an example. He was born with congenital heart disease. When he was 18 he was told that he might only live to be 30 – if that.  He says that “he transformed this diagnosis from a death sentence to a call to action.” Through the process of realizing, accepting and embracing his mortality, he discovered what he calls “The Power of Mortality,” which advocates passionate living every moment of every day.  He has written a book, What’s Your Expiry Date? which has been endorsed by Dr. Mehmet Oz (the “health expert for The Oprah Winfrey Show”) and was featured on Oprah & Friends (a satellite radio channel). In this book he challenges readers to accept the fact that they will die, and encourages them to live each moment “as if they were dying,” to quote a popular country song. By using his “mortality manifesto” as a starting point, Patrick has inspired thousands of people to “choose the life they want to live.” According to Patrick, meaning and purpose in life are found by living every moment as if it were your last.

Roz Savage’s life is another example of an attempt at regret-free living. She was featured at the end of last year in the Globe and Mail. She had what seemed to be the perfect life – “husband, corporate career, big house, little red sports car.” But she was dissatisfied. She felt that she was “on a treadmill of having to earn enough money so that [she] could afford to buy the house that was near enough to [her] job.” She set out to write two obituaries for herself, one featuring her life as it was at the moment of her dissatisfaction, and then one reflecting her life as it would be if she followed her “dreams” and was “true to herself.” Empowered and excited by the obituary she wrote of her dream life, she left her “conventional” husband, career and materialistic lifestyle to row across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Why did she have to leave her husband? “I felt like I needed to be on my own path to have the freedom without compromise to follow my own path.” These days, she feels that she is well on her way to deserving the obituary of her dreams, and is thankful that she had the courage to live a life of “no regrets.”

The marketing experts for Diesel brand clothing have also come to realize that a regret-free life is something highly sought after, which has led to their recent “Be Stupid” marketing campaign. 

One of their many taglines states that “stupid….is the relentless pursuit of a regret-free life.” By depicting Diesel-clad youths doing a host of, well, stupid, things ranging from the inane to the irresponsible, they hope to tap into the search for meaning in this life, and to capitalize on it. According to them, smoking a cigarette (best case scenario) while wearing a closed-in helmet, confronting wild animals, and engaging in promiscuity are all valid ways of giving your life meaning. While Patrick searched for a life of passion, and Roz searched for a life that would lead to an obituary to be proud of, Diesel brand marketers are pushing the idea that having a story to tell is the definitive marker of a regret-free life. As they say, “Smart may have the plans, but stupid has the stories.”

Each one of these philosophies is based on the presupposition that we are mortal, and that this life is all that we have.  In spite of the fact that these attitudes are decidedly short-sighted, and self-centered, they remind us of some valid points life should be lived passionately, auto-pilot should be avoided, and this life is a gift that we have been given for a purpose.  Ecclesiastes is a book that is preoccupied with the question of how we should lead lives of purpose and meaning. In the final chapter, Solomon states that “conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Our purpose is not solely to live a life without regrets, or to leave this world with an obituary to be proud of, or to generate great stories to tell. In other words, “regret-free living” is not an end in itself. Having a God-centered worldview, and living with the prospect of eternity continually held before our eyes is the only way to lead a life that can truly result in “no regrets.”

Originally published in Christian Renewal, May 12, 2010.

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