At the beginning of the week, I was listening to The Diane Rehm Show on NPR and heard an interview with Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life, in which he talked about his experience the summer after his senior year of high school, when he was driving and struck and killed a child on a bicycle. It was not his fault, but not surprisingly he felt a lot of emotions, guilt among them.
However, as he is looking back on it, he makes a striking comment, to the effect that of course if he could go back and stop this from happening, prevent this girl from dying, he would; however, if he could go back and change places with one of his friends who was also in the car--in other words, if he could make someone else responsible--he would not.
This was not so much a desire to spare anyone else what he went through so much as it was an acknowledgmenet of the fundamental ways that this awful experience had changed him for the better. One of the things he mentioned was that it made him more thoughtful (i.e. more of a thinker). Prior to that, he said, he didn't have much to think about, there wasn't much for him to reflect on. Besides this memoir, he's written a few novels, and he says that if this hadn't happened, he never would have been a writer.
Besides being changed for the better, though, it seems to me to represent the Nietzschean idea of living life such that you are so satisfied that you would want everything to repeat, because everything--the mistakes, the bad luck, the suffering--all went into being the person you are, the person you are glad to be.
I can relate to this. I'm thinking particularly of my father's death when I was 14. I had to grow up in some ways, and it certainly gave me food for thought. Looking back on it years later, it's not something I would want to go through, but looking at it in the rearview, it would be hard to change it, and it would profoundly change who I am today if it hadn't happened. Since I'm happy with who I am and where my life has come, how could I wish anything changed, even the tragedies, even the mistakes.