“Biggest mistake of my life.”

“Worst mistake I ever made.”

I can’t speak for other cultures, but phrases such as the above and others akin to them are fairly commonplace in American conversation, particularly when the topic involves the foolish choices made when we were young. While often accompanied with an eye roll and a shake of the head in signs of regret, there is just as often a tinge of wistfulness as well, a longing for a return to that kind of vivid recklessness and the electrifying sense of being alive that was at its core.i There is certain legitimacy to that longing – even, and even especially, for the mistakes – at the metaphysical level. For every act of creation is, in an important sense, an error, a mistake, a “failure” to follow the “correct” path. So it is worth a moment to take a look at such things.

Before going any further, I want to dismiss one kind of mistake that is grotesque in its calculated refusal of any possibility of creativity. That is the kind of action “celebrated” by the despicable Jackass films and shows. These aren’t errors of any kind. They are acts of willful stupidity pandering to the lowest element of human character, “entertainment” predicated on laughing derisively at others for pulling absurdist stunts devoid of any talent or art. These programs are simply an extension of the “Good Ol’ Boy’s last words” jokes.ii There is nothing interesting or amusing about such behavior or the people who wallow in it.