When this occurs, we may try to reenact these possible worlds so that we could somehow magically preempt and even avoid the breakdown of these worlds. More often than not, however, we are left helplessly watching the pieces of that world rain down around us. The resultant regret can generate pain so great that we often wonder if we can ever leave these regrets behind. We also thereby anxiously wonder how we can run the gauntlet of life living with such regrets and the remnants of that world in which we could have lived.
Regret is a part of the life we live. While a number of regrets concern things so banal and are easily forgotten, others that concern life choices can touch on the core of who we are as persons – jobs, relocations and relationships, just to name a few. In making these choices, we often build a world around the objects of these choices with our thoughts, our words and our actions. It is a possible world and life and a world not yet fully actualised or a life not fully lived out. When these choices come to nothing, these possible worlds shatter.
The problem of regret becomes compounded for the Christian, since this might not be just a piece of emotional baggage, but an occasion to question the workings of divine providence. How does this fit into the plan of the Divine Mind? Does God even have a plan that deserves the name “providential” if such an occasion of regret is allowed to occur and hang awkwardly on the edges of one’s story? Part of the frustration with these regrets, for Christian and non-Christian alike, would be that they risk becoming meaningless appendages to our lives (whether by choice or by forced reminder), making a mockery of the idea that God is somehow ordering all things towards an end that is good.
In the face of the seeming futility of that possible world we could have lived with someone or something, the idea of Christ as the Divine Word (Logos) can be a source of comfort for the Christian. The philosophy of the early Church Fathers took the notion of Christ as the Word incredibly seriously. For the Patristic writers, Christ was not just a person, but also a deposit of an endless multitude of ideas from the Father. Because the Father was good and creative, an infinity of ideas could be found within the Divine Word. This included not only every idea that is, but also every idea that could be. Everything that exists, and everything that could exist, find their home in the Divine Word.
The Christian can find comfort in this idea of Christ being the deposit of anything that could be, and the fact that one’s discipleship involves fundamentally a real substantial abiding in the Body of Christ, through baptism initially and renewed through the sacraments and prayer. In the Body of that infinite deposit of ideas and worlds, the world in which the Christian has lived, and the worlds that could have been lived, are left in the custody of He that brings all things to their Divinely ordained end. In Christ, the possible world one could have lived, and the lack of fulfillment of which has become a source of regret, need not be rendered a futile and meaningless fantasy. Instead, that seemingly futile dream could be given meaning and efficacy, even salvific efficacy, for the sake of another member of Christ who is suffering.
Moreover, while the possible world in which we could have lived was a world that we know only in part Christ – He who is whole (1 Cor 13:10) – will perfect and redeem those things which for now only exist in part, including the sources of our regret and the partial worlds that generated them.