The Art of Forgiving

When I was expecting my third child, I wanted to name her Georgiana; George or Georgie for short… but my spouse didn’t care for the name. So she was named Kerry. But since she is transgender, he wants to be called Silis. What’s in a name?

Uranus wasn’t always Uranus. The astronomer William Herschel discovered the planet in 1781 during a telescopic survey of the zodiac. He promptly named it the Georgium Sidus (the Georgian Planet) in honor of his patron, King George III. Later, to the everlasting delight of schoolchildren, “George” was re-named Uranus, the Greek god of the sky. Personally, I’d have liked to call both the planet and my third child: George! I rather like the name. Alas, to my own everlasting delight, and sometimes dismay, I’ve discovered there’s always more to a person, a thing, a planet or a place, than its name or outward appearance. A story inside a story inside a complex conundrum. Whereas I find animals rewarding and loyal, and somewhat predictable, people remain a mystery to me, seeming one way but teeming with complexity no matter how well I try and know them, accept them, support them.

          But then, everything’s a mystery to me. Some mysteries are thought provoking. Take those infamous 75 ton statues on Easter Island, for example. It was recently discovered that these statues have full rock bodies beneath the soil! I don’t understand. Had no one bothered to look before now, at what was beneath the surface? Maybe it’s not so surprising that no one looked before now… We’re programmed to accept what we see without questioning it.

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I’m reading a book presently, called Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes.

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In it, I came across a line about “falling down the rabid hole.” Interesting choice of words, eh?

Someone let me down recently, in a big way.

Let’s say I’m severed from the person emotionally. Let’s say that severing feels like having fallen down a big black maw of a “rabid hole,” trying to understand why I deserve such mistreatment and disregard from someone who (although they were mysterious on the surface) had a whole lot of issues hidden from view. Like unwrapping your beloved grandmother’s Fine China, and seeing her cups and saucers, once loved, shattered and beyond repair. It’s not so much the loss of monetary value that hurts. It’s the loss of control. You didn’t keep them safe. Being betrayed by a trusted person feels like that. When trust lies in front of you in broken pieces, it shakes up the faith, especially when you realize it never should’ve been taken for granted.

          We tend to take people for granted and a lot of other things too.

Have you ever thought about the origins of surgery? Well aware of everything that can possibly go very wrong, I’m always nervous to go ‘under the knife,’ but in the end I turn myself over to the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and the hospital… and just TRUST.

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          A few weeks ago I read Dr. Mutter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keefe.

          In the early days of surgery, there was no anesthesia. If you were a veteran injured by war or a diabetic with gangrene in the leg- the doctor approached you and said,

“Will you be having your leg off today?”

If you said No, you were wheeled back to your bed but if you said Yes, there was no turning back! Six or more people held you down for the surgery; and even if you screamed that you’d changed your mind—– it was too late. The doctor kept sawing away, sometimes accidentally nicking off a testicle of the patient or a finger of an assistant! Like so many things in life, pain was a part of the process in early surgery.

When anesthesia was discovered, there were actually doctors who picketed against its use. They wanted no part of it, thinking pain was necessary and anesthesia was “not what God intended.”

Mean dogs, insane with hunger, feral and dangerous, were kept chained to trees in the “backyards” of the learning hospitals where new doctors practiced surgery on cadavers. The remains (bones, guts, sawed up limbs) were tossed to these dogs.

What’s all this got to do with forgiveness, you ask? That’s the title of this writing after all. Is pain really necessary? Maybe it’s a stage of forgiveness, and then progress ensues over time? I can forgive the people who chose to give the fetching planet George the silly name of Uranus. I can forgive that scientists never bothered to look below the surface of the great monoliths of Easter Island and as a consequence we never knew the whole story. I can forgive doctors who didn’t know any better and inflicted pain in the name of God, even after anesthetics came into the picture.

But how do I forgive a personal affront, I ask myself.

I’ve discovered there’s an actual art, a grace if you will, to forgiving. It’s a beautiful selfless generous gift for yourself. If someone changes their name, their character, their morals, that’s for them to sort out. If you are so hurt by their negativity that you feel like you’re at the bottom of a hole, then you take away their power over you and you find a way to climb out. If your blind faith and misguided trust is in shards, you slowly mosaic the mess back together into something new. There are no instructions for forgiveness. You kind of have to wing it.

Legos, always a popular gift (and even moreso now- thanks to the amazing Lego Movie), started humbly with no real instructions. Check out this insert from a 1973 Lego set:

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The urge to create really is equally strong in all peoples, isn’t it? We want to create trusting peaceful ideal environments and surround ourselves with “good” people. Often I have built the people in my life into what fits my ideal of them; subconsciously overlooking the bumps and signs that something deceitful lies beneath the exterior. The Lego insert says that with the ‘right materials’ in your hands you can create what appeals to you. I suppose the opposite is true: When everything gets broken into pieces, I can reshape them into something else.

There IS an art to that.

Forgiveness is not involuntary, it’s voluntary. It’s an option. It doesn’t mean forgetting, it just means letting go. Since I’m a visual person, I’ve intentionally decided to imagine myself on a cliff; dropping big rocks of hurt off the side. They hurtle through the air and crash below on jagged boulders. Waves crash in and carry the hurt out to sea.

Did you ever believe you could fly? I did when I was a kid. I would put paper bags over my arms and jump off the picnic table, thinking I would soar in an upbreeze- up, up, up into the sky, but landing on my knees instead- on pebbly gravel that would affix to the skin on my kneecaps. Stubbornly I would persist, for hours, flapping my arms, running all over the yard. Believing I’d take off any moment.

Believing.

Art is:

the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. 

People so often fall short of our expectations for them; they make big mistakes. They often are not what we imagined they were.

A sheath over a sharp knife.

Solid packing material for fine china.

Car seats for kids.

Seatbelts.

Safety glasses, suits of armor, knee pads.

Building invisible walls of protectiveness around our feelings.

Despite all these precautionary measures, people still get cut, get hurt in accidents, our valuables break, we get used by others as if we were meaningless. Letting the hurt fall over the cliff and away is not only healing but necessary to my well being. My son (seeing my sadness at the betrayal I hinted at throughout this writing) suggested that I paint out my feelings. If I was to paint forgiveness, what would it look like? I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. First I’ve got to drop anger off the cliff! Forgiveness is within my reach but

I’m not quite there yet.

 “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ― Mahatma GandhiAll Men are Brothers: Autobiographical Reflections

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easter island bodies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orSLgzX5BSA

Orange art. Because. http://gidder.com/funny-orange-art.html

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