Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Clean Slates and the Cloud of Forgetting....

In my last post, I (re)quoted Henri Nouwen’s thoughts on a nonjudgmental presence. A flurry of similar thoughts by Nouwen and Richard Rohr hit EU right about the same time...all posted by annie....They were all interrelated.  They almost seemed to play off of each other!

In one of Richard Rohr's daily devotionals he said....

The sin in the beginning of the Bible is “to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). The moment I sit on my throne where I know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, then I’m capable of great evil—while not thinking of it as evil! I have eaten of the wrong tree, according to the Bible. Don’t judge, don’t label, don’t rush to judgment. You don’t usually know other people’s real motives or intentions. You hardly know your own.

Isn’t that the truth?

What the author of the classic Cloud of Unknowing says is that first you have to enter into “the cloud of forgetting.” Forget all your certitudes, all your labels, all your explanations, whereby you’ve put this person in this box; this group is going to heaven, this race is superior to that race. Just forget it. It’s largely a waste of time. It’s usually your ego projecting itself, announcing itself, and protecting itself. It has nothing to do with objective reality or real love of the truth.

I like that phrase…the cloud of forgetting.

And now to what Nouwen has to say...

One of the hardest things in life is to let go of old hurts.We often say, or at least think: "What you did to me and my family, my ancestors, or my friends I cannot forget or forgive. ... One day you will have to pay for it."

Sometimes our memories are decades, even centuries, old and keep asking for revenge. Holding people's faults against them often creates an impenetrable wall.

Perhaps, as well as with our preconceived notions about race, sex, age and socioeconomic position, we need to take a serious look at this cloud of forgetting stuff when it comes to old hurts and slights and estranged relationships. When we cling to the past, we sully the future. I know this is true…yet sometimes I hold on for dear life, even when I don’t want to. Forgiving is hard. Forgetting is even harder. And I'm not even sure forgetting is always the wise course of action. 

When Emily was small, she and I were like fire and water.  We butted heads all the time. Thankfully, she has grown into a perfectly delightful 16 year old.  She is one of my favorite people to spend time with.  Sometimes...back then when she was a total pain in the ass... when our dealings with each other had deteriorated to what seemed be a totally irreconcilable situation...and there was nowhere to go but up, one of us would suggest "starting again with a clean slate."  Perhaps that does not just work for headstrong, argumentative little girls and their exasperated mothers...but perhaps it can flow into other interpersonal relationships.  Starting each day with a clean slate?

                     Slate & Pen

Anne Lamott a snippet buried within an essay in one of her books I've been reading of late....

 if you want to change the way you feel about people, you have to change the way you treat them.

Which would obviously require at some point starting over with a clean slate.  Does that take agreement from both parties (like Em and I both agreed)?  If only one party starts anew, does that work?  And how many clean slates does one bestow on others?  In a recent e-mail from annie, she talked about the 7 times 70 thing in in forgiving an unlimited number of times.  This directive came from the lips of Jesus no less! 

This clean slate pondering leads to a lot more questions than it answers....

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