It is the end of the year, and I have been musing on forgiveness. In general, I find it a totally bullshit concept–one that people widely tout but rarely practice. And that’s too bad. As I said to a friend today, when a person claims forgiveness that they do not really feel (as is so often the case), their declaration shuts a door with a finality that open resentment never could. I frankly do not see the point of extending forgiveness to a person who is not requesting it, anyway; such a pardon is a condescension, even a self-abnegation. True forgiveness is a contract between two beings who are spiritually progressing by mutually transcending their comfort zones: by courageously addressing their culpability; by honoring active vulnerability with grace. That said, in the absence of such hard-won peace, I see the point in releasing anger and acknowledging the beauty that lives in even the most harmful individuals. Such a fearless act, especially when unaccompanied by codependence, is one of the finest ways we can love people, including ourselves, at their most unlovable.
From David Brooks’ “The Subtle Sensations of Faith”:
Marx thought that religion was the opiate of the masses, but Soloveitchik argues that, on the contrary, this business of living out a faith is complex and arduous: “The pangs of searching and groping, the tortures of spiritual crises and exhausting treks of the soul purify and sanctify man, cleanse his thoughts, and purge them of the husks of superficiality and the dross of vulgarity. Out of these torments there emerges a new understanding of the world, a powerful spiritual enthusiasm that shakes the very foundations of man’s existence.”
Insecure believers sometimes cling to a rigid and simplistic faith. But confident believers are willing to face their dry spells, doubts, and evolution. Faith as practiced by such people is change. It is restless, growing. It’s not right and wrong that changes, but their spiritual state and their daily practice. As the longings grow richer, life does, too. As Wiman notes, “To be truly alive is to feel one’s ultimate existence within one’s daily existence.”
So often, possessing a strong faith and a strongly interrogative nature puts me in the middle of every maelstrom. I will never trust anything blindly; I will never rule out the possibility that something can be trusted. For I know the warmth that has been extended to me from grace in all its faces (including my permakitten’s), and I never cease to be grateful–just as I am always grateful for the power of discernment granted me from that very same source. Today–and all these precious celebrations of winter solstice, really–is an opportunity to sit in received grace as Mary did. It’s so potent, this sort of active receptivity, and in these festivals of light I can feel everyone channeling this gentle lioness, or at least acknowledging her purr. Marianne Williamson says, “Christmas isn’t one man’s birth 2,000 years ago; it’s anytime we allow the love inside us to be born into the world.”
Today, and every day, I wish for faith for the faithless, curiosity for the unquestioning, joy for the joyless, communion for the unaccompanied, and love for the unlovable–with great intellectual rigor for all, and, of course, even greater grace. Happy holidays, dear Sirenaders.