Archive for the ‘memory’ Category

It’s hard to tell if you have done a thing.

Well, not always.

Yesterday, I trashed one of my Christmas angels. I knew I’d done it because I could see it. Unscrewing the motor that ran her wings,  pulling the bulbs off her trumpet,  stuffing her head first into a dumpster — it was fairly definitive.

I told her, “You’ve served well honey, but you’re done. Rest in peace — in the dump.”

Then I put the body parts I had harvested from her in a drawer in the garage — ready if needed — to patch up my other angel, the one lighting up my driveway these Christmas nights.

It’s done, the body’s gone.

Not every body is like that.

Forgiveness is not like that. You do it, you dismember the offender in your mind, you dump the body in the river Lithe, and then it floats to the surface again, bloated and horrible in the backwaters of your mind

“What? I just can’t get rid of this guy!”

That is because forgiveness can’t erase the past. It was what it was and forgiving someone doesn’t dispense with the memory or emotion of their offense — the attendant regret, the sadness, the anger.

Forgiveness is no eraser.

Then what is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is keyboard, a keyboard that can write the present and also write the future.

Forgiveness is the agency that allows us to positively address the issues of the present without being controlled by a residue of anger and resentment from the past.

Forgiveness is the ability to love again.

Sometimes we think we haven’t forgiven because we haven’t been able to dismember the bodies and tossed them in the River Lethe. But getting rid of the bodies is not forgiveness.  They won’t go. We will lug our heaviest offenders to our graves with us.

Forgiving is not forgetting; it is thriving, while not forgetting. We know we have forgiven when we find ourselves harvesting a special awareness and sensitivity from what we have learned from our past wounds and bringing that into the present to love and care for others again.

Forgiveness is the freedom to enter the present with fresh eyes and an open heart and ready hands.

Sometimes you can tell you are doing a thing when you are doing it without thinking of the things that could keep you from doing it.

With divine assistance, choosing to exist existentially and exponentially within the forgiveness available to you, forgive the dark angels and the even darker humans of the past; do this by taking loving care of the bright ones of your present.

“I process my pain alone; you process your pain with other people. We’re different,” he said. “I’m an introvert and you are an extrovert. You like to talk to other people. I don’t.”

He said it so plainly that I was a bit taken back. I had never distinguished our differences in precisely this way, but it was a fair point, and it got me thinking. It’s interesting, but many of us — even within the same family — have processing preferences.

Some of us process life within ourselves; some of us do so with others, out loud — mostly.

Is one way better?

I think not. We need both ways — musing and effusing — to see our lives clearly.

I’ve recently been thinking about the family I grew up in. On my own, I remember many defining moments, I have given them symbolic value, created a family narrative, told it to others. I have processed my life in public, and out loud. For me it is fun, helpful, meaningful.

When I tell about growing up I tell the chased-by-the-billy-goat story, the I-shot-my-brother story, the we-ate-Moosehead story, the very-tragic-baseball-game story, the newspaper-in-the-pants story, the my-brother-taught-me-to-hide-my-shirt-under-the-bed story, the we-were-so-poor-we-all-ate-one-Dilly-bar story.

I have written them, I have embellished them, they have become myth, they make people laugh. My mom has always said about me, “You were a funny boy.” I was. I have always survived, though story, and humor. I am a narrator.

In the mornings, I used to tell my family my dreams. They would laugh at me. “You can’t have dreamed all that.” The dreams were too elaborate, but the family was wrong. I did dream all that — and more. I held back, so as not to astonish them. I was Joseph — kind of, or not. Even my subconscious mind was in the business of embellishment. It still is. The truth is always better — out of the bag, and slightly expanded.

My brothers have different stories, different memories, they have crafted a different family narrative. Perhaps they are more private about it all. They are. It is almost as if we grew up in different families — and in a way we did. We matured in different seasons of family life. We had different experiences of our parents. We had different personalities. It helps me to hear their stories. They don’t subtract from my story; they add to it.

So when it comes to processing life, to processing our families I believe that we need both — privacy and publicity, our stories and theirs. It is very helpful to ask other family members what they remembered. It fills in some of the gaps. Memory is malleable. Memory is unreliable. We need the heuristic of the other. We keep rewriting the story. We all do, even if only in our own minds.

We need our own below-the-surface processing, our own underground burrowing, our own ratting and mousing about in our own shredded nests. We each need to validate our own hunt, chew on our own kill, commune at night with own tortured souls, craft our own family myths, elaborate our own familial veracities, embroider our own sun-and-moon-and-eleven-star dreams. This is how we discover who were really are and what we really feel.

But we also need the other’s stories, their perspectives, their memories. If we don’t get these we may remain stay stuck with an incomplete hagiography — or in iconoclasty.

I command thee, my gentle readers: Go process, alone, and together.

This creates agency.

This is how we thrive.

Randy Hasper

Randy Hasper

Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld, the other four being Styx (the river of hate), Akheron (the river of sorrow), Kokytos (the river of lamentation) and Phlegethon (the river of fire).That’s a nasty bunch of waters, and I’m not boating these if I can help it. Instead, I’m chosing to float another stream — mindfulness. These days, I’m remembering — good things.

Oscar Wilde wrote that “memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”

I’m carrying that diary these days — all the time, a diary of the good things that are happening to my new friends, and I’m liking it.

Yesterday Isabel who is six, and Dolores, who is seven, came to my house for lunch.

“What’s your favorite story,” I asked Dolores.

“The God story,” Dolores said.

Three years ago she wouldn’t have said that. Three years ago her father was rafting hard down that river of fire that is made up out of crystal meth — Phlegethon, flowing hard and fast. He’s not now. No smoking meth; just working in the ship yards, and going to church. Because of this things have changed for Dolores, as well as for her nine siblings, and for her mom too. I’m remembering, and smiling.

Sunday at church I shook Aaron’s hand. He’s a single dad. He introduced me to a friend who was with him.

“How do you know each other?” I asked.

“Recovery,” said Aaron and then he laughed, having outed his friend the first thing.

Aaron told me recently that he was able to buy a house for he and his two boys. He’s so happy. A few years ago, his life was impossible — Kokytos of devastating proportions. Not now. The hard crying is behind him.

I’m remembering. I’m smiling.

Jeanie and I sat down to catch up recently. Jeanie is one of my many new friends.

“I’m telling my daughter that I love her now, ” she told me, breaking a little as she says it. She continues emotionally, “I never used to be able to say that.” Her eyes are wet.

When I met Jeanie she was traversing Akheron. She’s not so much now. She’s expressing emotions. She’s feeling. She’s coming back from the dead.

“Why do you think you’ve changed?” I asked her.

“Love,” she said emotionally, “I’ve found unconditional love. Now I’m able to give it to others.”

But Styx — it’s pervasive.

“I want you to pray for me,” said Robert.

“Why?” I asked him.

“I don’t want to hurt people anymore,” he said. He told us about an incident. He said, “I don’t want to use violence anymore.” He’s done trafficking on the river of hating.

We prayed for him.

Robert lives in a group home. Apparently there is nobody to tell this kind of thing to there. It’s hard to find people to tell this kind of thing to anywhere.

I’m happy for Robert. I’m happy as this year closes. I’m happy because I’m remembering my friends who are abandoning the polluted rivers of the underworld.

I’m with them. I myself refuse to float Lethe anymore. Mnemosyne — I want her.

I have too many good things to remember to be spending time forgetting.

I have too many memory stones to pile up to be losing river rock these days.

I’m remembering my people. I’m remembering my people, my precious ones, the transforming ones who God has given to me, the ones who are floating new rivers with me.

I’m remembering them. I’m happy.

Randy Hasper