Monday, September 21, 2015

Learning Forgiveness


    A month without rain; fish and turtles
    retreat, swallowed by the wider mouth
    of the Charles where even the snowy
    egret is mired in mud. Still we gather
    here, pockets filled with week old bread
    and year old sins, eager for the current
    to scour the banks clean. There is more silt
    than flow. I hurl hunks of stale baguette
    and green-tinged sub rolls. This is impatience,
    this jealousy. I keep missing the narrow thread
    of moving water. The sky is relentless,
    unblinking blue. It would be sacrilege to pray
    for clouds, for the rush and spill of storm
    grates to empty into this tiny culvert
    just for the benefit of my failings.

                         - LJ Cohen, 2008

I've been thinking a lot on the nature of redemption and forgiveness. Certainly because this is the time of the year in the Jewish calendar when it's all about reflection. While I am not much in the way of a religiously observant person, it's hard to ignore the power and the pull of the liturgy for these "Days of Awe."

Tashlich is a ceremony, usually performed on the first day of Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, in which we gather by a moving body of water and cast bread into the flow as a way of making the naming and ownership of our failings tangible.

What I have begun to realize is how powerful a ritual of self-forgiveness it is.

Especially when it is done in the presence of others.

We are, all of us, flawed. We are, all of us, prone to human failings. We are, all of us, worthy of redemption and of forgiveness.

But it starts with a frank acknowledgment of our errors along with a sincere desire to be better.

I have made no secret of the fact that the past few years have been hard. Along with the joys that time has given me, it has also brought great sorrow: I have lost loved ones. I have had to make necessary choices that still fill me with regret. I have experienced disasters. I have witnessed the great pain and suffering of a child.

And through it all, I have striven to be a good person, to fulfill my promises and discharge my responsibilities. To be there for neighbors, friends, and family, both in times of need and in times of celebration. I have continued to create and write, pouring my emotions onto the page and struggling to be authentic.

I recently realized how much I feel like a failure.

That no matter what and how much I accomplish, there are projects I have neglected, interactions I have avoided, people I have disappointed and probably angered.

This, too, is the human condition. I have always been better at understanding that for others, yet holding myself to more impossible standards.

I am learning the power of forgiveness, of holding myself in the same lovingkindness I hold others.

It is hard. And so I remind myself:

We are, all of us, flawed. We are, all of us, prone to human failings. We are, all of us, worthy of redemption and of forgiveness.

To any I have harmed, either though words said or unsaid, through action or inaction, I ask for your forgiveness. I ask for a chance to be better and for your forbearance and patience when I stumble.

And if I have a prayer for the world and all its inhabitants, it is this - not a religious tract, or a faith-based message - just a simple hope from a meditation I have found powerful and comforting. One I am learning to direct to myself, as well. 

May you be held in lovingkindness.
May you experience a deep and abiding peace.
May you live free from suffering.


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  1. And for all of that, forgive yourself. Don't forget her, either.

    1. Thank you. I am working on it. We are all works in progress, I suppose. :)