The other night I was reading an essay by a brilliant writer, my old friend Patrick Miller, in which he cited this quote from A Course in Miracles:
Forgiveness is the great need of this world, but that’s because it is a world of illusions. Those who forgive are thus releasing themselves from illusions, while those who withhold forgiveness are binding themselves to them. As you condemn only yourself, so you forgive only yourself.”A Course in Miracles
I watched a clip of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” on Youtube recently. The newscaster/comedian reported that Vladimir Putin was going in for cancer surgery (apparently true in real life). And he added, deadpan, “I never thought I’d say this but … go, cancer.”
I laughed out loud! It felt good to laugh like that, without even thinking. (I guess that’s a big reason why people seek out comedy.)
Since then, of course, I have thought about it. Part of what made it funny was that the guy totally nailed my sentiment, and probably the sentiment of millions of viewers, though some of us would have likely hesitated to say such a thing, even about Putin, because we believe it’s wrong to hate. (I know that some will say the sentiment has little to do with hatred of Putin, and more to do with the relief his death might bring to Ukrainians.)
Have you ever (as I have) really flat-out hated anyone?
I have hated people whom I have felt mistreated by. Yet I have also been able to see how these individuals were acting from ignorance and their own ancient wounds. And I can remember at least one or two things to be grateful for from each of them.
I also hate a lot of people I’ve never met – famous people, like Putin and Trump. It’s easy to hate public figures because they’re not close to us, and we can focus entirely on what we witness them doing in the public sphere. I made a list recently – just to get it out of my system – of modern-day American politicians whom I loathe and despise, and whom I wouldn’t mind seeing get cancer or worse.
One of the reasons I hate them is that they sow hatred. (Yes, I see the irony.)
As Pete Buttigieg recently pointed out, “When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a culture war.” He went on to observe that the primary strategy of today’s GOP is to “find somebody vulnerable and pick on them. Which at the moment is largely the trans community.”
But that’s so yesterday, Mr. Secretary. Lately, at least a couple of GOP luminaries have identified a new target – childless cat ladies.
I could not make this up.
JD Vance, Ohio Republican Senate candidate and Trump endorsee: “We’re effectively run in this country, via the Democrats, via our corporate oligarchs, by a bunch of childless cat ladies who are miserable at their own lives and the choices that they’ve made, and so they want to make the rest of the country miserable too.”
GOP Rep Matt Gaetz of Florida: “How many of the women rallying against overturning Roe are over-educated, under-loved millennials who sadly return from protests to a lonely microwave dinner with their cats, and no bumble matches?”
I mean, seriously, is it possible that some GOP think tank whiz kid decided it might be an effective political strategy to scapegoat cat ladies, specifically? Are Vance and Gaetz just testing the waters here or signaling the latest messaging trend?
Wow. It takes some seriously creative calculated cynicism to make childless women who own cats – as a demographic! – into objects of scorn and derision. (Do childless cat ladies need their own lobby now to protect themselves?)
You can’t tell me that guys like Vance and Gaetz don’t understand what they’re doing, and how filthy and cruel to the core it is. They are unforgivable in my book.
Then again, what is my book, and who wrote it? (I’ll circle back to this.)
I sometimes wonder if the reason we (or at least many of us) hate Putin is because his invasion of Ukraine impinges so mightily upon our own occasional feelings of contentment and satisfaction and peace.
That is, so long as we are cognizant that other people a lot like us are being brutally oppressed and have had their lives stolen – insofar as that reality inhabits our consciousness — it’s hard to take as much pleasure in simple things, especially because it forces us to realize that the “simple things” we enjoy are a product of luck and circumstance and privilege. The suffering we’re aware of – even if it’s happening far away – induces a sense of fragility and guilt. And we resent that! (At least I know I do.)
Of course, truthfully, we all know that there’s always some unspeakably horrifying shit happening somewhere which could undermine a good time at any moment if we think about it. Like an undertow of pain woven into life (to mix metaphors poetically).
Knowing what we know, does there ever come a moment when we can truly, freely enjoy ourselves without care or reservation?
Yes! When something makes us laugh!
It’s a tiny emotional orgasm. And I think it’s a good thing.
Strangely, allowing myself the “space” to laugh at “Go, cancer.” – accepting my darker side, as it were – renders me freer to ponder the miracle of forgiveness.
If you really apply hard, cold, rational logic, there are a whole lot of misdeeds out there can be deemed unforgivable. Millions, billions, trillions of them happening every second.
A gratuitous insult. A damaging lie. And those are just WORDS … but is there truly any excuse for them?
To be clear, I’m not saying that all misdeeds are equal. I think scale matters. I think that breaking someone’s head is far worse than stepping on their toe. It’s just that even stepping on someone’s toe maliciously, seen in a certain light, can never be justified and must therefore be unforgivable. Right?
So the ability to forgive … where does it come from? And might the impulse to forgive say, an insult, be related to – and not so different from – the impulse to forgive far more unspeakable things?
I wonder if the capacity to forgive any evil or any misdeed, or even any mistake, is all one thing, one movement, one momentum.
The Unforgiven Self
I look at all the things I’ve never really forgiven myself for. All the narrow-minded, egotistical, uncompassionate choices I’ve made over the course of my decades on Earth. (I’m tempted to detail one or two but … nah.) Every time one of them arises in memory – and they arise often – I flinch internally. Ouch.
That flinch I’m referring to is not the same feeling as the raging disgust and contempt I might feel toward, say, Jim Jordan or Ted Cruz. But I wonder if the two feelings are somehow linked. What they have in common is obvious.
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