Forgiveness. When you let the word come unglued, as all words do if you stare at them for a while, if becomes “for give-ness.” What a lovely concept, give-ness. In a Facebook correspondence with one of my favorite authors, Rene Denfeld, she asked what the term meant to me. This was my reply:
I think it’s totally a personal and individual question. When I say I forgave my abusive mom, I mean two things. One was that I was no longer eating myself up inside. The other is that I slowly learned how her own devastating childhood predisposed her to carrying an internal rage that could explode in a moment, and how her marriage at age 36 jerked her out of her former show-biz life and marooned her in a country farm while her husband commuted to Chicago, gone from dawn to nightfall. But no, what she did was still wrong, and as an adult I was never able to be comfortable in her presence. And I think it’s significant that my forgiveness came after she was no longer able to hurt me. It’s complicated, as they say . . .
So many people are being harmed these days, in ways that can only be seen as intentional. Our society’s karma must be building up a cry for forgiveness that rivals Mahler’s most intense symphonies, and we wonder when it will all fall in on our heads. I don’t think drugs are the answer.
Tomorrow evening we’re going to Sonoma to hear a concert by John McCutcheon. (His song you’re most likely you have heard is Christmas in the Trenches, a musical setting of an actual event that took place during World War I.) I have always loved his voice and his mind, and I look forward to seeing him in person.
But today, Sunday, we took our picnic to the ocean, and en route KPFA’s Beyond the Great Divide played a long McCutcheon cut. It was a live storytelling that set up his song Father Forgive, and it might be the best eighteen minutes you could spend. Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xq8gJzlDwvo
By the time he finished the song, tears were streaming down my face. It was a booster shot for me, a vivid heartful reminder of what we will all need to learn and do for what may be a very long time.