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Jacques Louis David, The Death of Socrates, 1787
" … no identity changing required."

The GrandOtter said, "Sorry."

"Sorry about what?" The Muse replied. "Sorry about saying you were sorry?"

I imagined an infinite spiral starting with an innocent sorry then circling ever further downward, one sorry inexorably spawning another, ad infinitum. Of course, The GrandOtter meant that she was sorry, though she sometimes prefers a more present tense and says that she 'is' sorry, after which I imagine I'm witnessing sorry incarnate. I thought I was sorry, though I more probably never was anything of the kind. Perhaps I felt sorry, which might prove to be as far from being sorry as anything could possibly be. No feeling defines anyone, for feelings come as information, not definition. One most certainly feels sorry without actually embodying that sorry state. I think we mostly forget this fact and whack ourselves with an ill-advised identity, when we were simply feeling sorry.

Sorry seems a sorry excuse and a worse apology.
Apologies cannot be fruitfully coerced. One may not properly request an apology from anyone. They're heart-felt and volunteered or they're worthless, however necessary they might seem. If you have to ask, you're better off not asking, for an absent deference serves as perhaps the superior reference as to with whom you're engaging. Those who placidly explain that they had no underlying intention, that they might have misstated something, come across as sincerely penitent. Sometimes the sorry should properly come from the other side, where an innocent interpretation resulted in an unintended confrontation. One sometimes accidentally steps on another's toes, and one might well express their regrets without wallowing within a miscast identity, for even then, the violater has not come to embody sorry, but to no more than feel a disheartening sensation. I feel sorry then without assuming a whole new identity.

I once responded to a request for an apology by writing what I felt was a genuinely fine one. Imagine my surprise when I learned from the recipient that he did not consider my apology adequate. "That's not an apology," he insisted. I admit that it included some considerable explanation, too, since I thought it important to sort of set the stage by describing the context from my perspective, and that might have blunted my intended impact. I had not become sorry, though, in my apology. I admitted to feeling sorry, but I had quite deliberately refused to impose that new identity upon my self. I was, in fact, NOT SORRY as I tendered my apology, though I did admit to feeling both sorry and regretful over what had become of my innocent violation. I refuse to damn myself for any man or woman, for anyone.

My British friend Jonathon begins every sentence with a habitual "Sorry." I believe he intends to demonstrate deference, though his habit seems to most reliably undercut his veracity. I hear him verbally stepping backwards as we converse. Our conversations sometimes leave me feeling as if I'd been chasing him the whole time, with him in insistent retreat and me dogging along behind. I wonder when he'll hold his own ground without any prefacing apology. I neither expect nor deserve his deference. We're friends! We're supposed to demonstrate a decent indifference when we step on each other's toes.

When The GrandOtter says, "Sorry," I think it imperative that I interpret her statement as a little window into how she's feeling and not a portrait of what she's become. Because she's The GrandOtter, I can't help but always think the better of her, and strongly disagree whenever she seems to be chewing herself into anything like a Sorry identity. I write this story today mostly to remind myself that it might matter more how I interpret than what anyone else ever says. I catch myself sometimes feeling as though I really have somehow become sorry, even though I haven't and could not possibly. I remain steadfastly me however I'm feeling, immersed in a genuine panoply of emotional responses, none of them capable of redefining me, not even with my collusion. I might say you make me happy, but I know I'm also Sneezy, Dopey, and Doc, and simply feeling happy in that moment. Feeling's plenty good enough of a response for anybody, no identity changing required.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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