A History of RegretThe case against what ifs and if onlys.

A History of RegretThe case against what ifs and if onlys.

Issue 28

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Arts & Culture

In a deep black pit lies a prone figure menaced by an enraged and partially disemboweled bison. Head back, eyes wide, arms and fingers outspread, the man in the cave at Lascaux, France, confronts the knowledge of death. This drawing, the world’s oldest narrative depiction of a human being, may convey one man’s mortal surprise and sorrow, but it also seems to say something momentous about humanity. French philosopher Georges Bataille proposed that it reveals the instant, some 17,000 years ago, when we separated from the animal world. He links the birth of art with the birth of human history. But if this picture recounts the beginning of history, it also tells of the beginning of regret. “If only I had thrown my spear a little straighter…,” the hunter might have been lamenting....

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