Here’s a common scenario… there’s that cute girl in algebra class you’ve been dying to ask out, but you’re not sure. Like maybe she’s been giving you some looks… maybe. And finally one day, she’s alone at her locker and you somehow dig down for every milligram of self-confidence you have within you, convert it into courage, walk up to her, and babble something like, “Yeah so like… hey.. like you know, if you like… umm… you know, if you ever like maybe wanna study together or go out and I dunno, do something or whatever like maybe.. you know… I mean like you know, you don’t have to, but maybe you want to but like… ok.”
Or another scenario… you have a joke… you think it’s pretty funny, but it’s also sort of offensive… maybe. You think you know this crowd and setting… board room, end of meeting, end of day, everyone is in a good mood… and they’ll like it… you think. It should be ok. It’s funny. We’re all friends here, sort of, right? So, you serve up your joke…
In quest-based video games, you die a lot. And when you do, you’re magically reborn and you keep going. Early game developers were quick to address the concerns of annoyed players who had to keep going back to the beginning every time their character died. From there emerged the “Save Point”, where you could set a point (“Save Game”) from where you’d resume next time you died. If you were in a forest, approaching a castle and suddenly… the ground was littered with first-aid kits, fancy weapons and ammo… well, it’d be advisable to pick up all that stuff and then Save Game before you storm that castle, because you know what’s coming.
It’d be a different world if we could all periodically Save Game and then Restore when things didn’t go our way.
Like in my first example, you’d have done a “Save Game” before you went up to her, before she laughed in your face, and her nearby friends looked up and noticed what was going on and also laughed, and the last thing you heard from behind you as you ran away was “are you serious?”, your face burning hot and red like a tomato…
Or in the next example, you tell your joke, but instead of laughter, you’re met with stony silence and several “what an idiot” expressions…
So what do you do? Restore game, of course. In both those cases, a full rewind to before the micro-implosion in your life, like it never happened.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t offer that, so at any given point, we just make the best decision we can going forward and hope it works out, knowing full-well that in hindsight, it might have been a mistake. You have the rest of your life to process the regret you just managed to generate… because there’s no going back.
But let’s recognize that the vast majority of the time, we’re all making decisions based on what we hope is in our best interest. The thing is, defining that best interest has become more difficult these days, with the vastness of conflicting interests. Whether we’re talking about the planet… or the individual levels of governments that control certain parts of it… or the people below those governments, the individuals like you and me… there is a colossal, multi-dimensional tug-of-war going on. A lot of finger-pointing and blame. A lot of the three most famous words you hear at a racetrack or casino or poker table: woulda, coulda, shoulda. None of those particular venues would function at all if we could Save Game and Restore. Oh, well gee, I just lost all my money on a horrible decision — let’s just go back a few minutes.
The giant gamble some governments are taking with people, and that people are taking themselves, also doesn’t offer a Restore point. We’re stuck with what they tell us to do, and what we choose to do. And at the end of it, there’s one thing I can be sure of, as I’ve said before — nobody will have been right, and nobody will have been wrong. Part of the reason has to do with the unexpected direction things have taken in some places. Part of the reason is that we’re learning something new every day. Part of it is that there are people who march around with no masks, guns and signs that say things like “let the weak die”. I will never be able to relate to that person, and vice-versa.
And part of the reason is that it’s impossible to judge any of it until we can look back on all of it. That will be a big, thick book, with hundreds of chapters and an additional LXVIII appendixes.
Let’s just all remember — we have no ability to Save Game. We have no ability to Restore. None of us have a functional crystal ball. All we have is the ability to make what we think to be good decisions, and hopefully create a going-forward future with the least amount of regret.