As donor extraordinaire, Nate requested a post about forgiving the unforgivable. And I had a really hard time with that one.
I started to think about why I have had a hard time forgiving people. And I thought about it for a week or so and came to this conclusion: I believe the grudge and anger behind "unforgivable" stems from the feeling that we were taught something we never asked to learn in the first place. We seethe so relentlessly because we have been changed against our will. And that knowledge cannot be unlearned.
There is a story about my great-grandma Rose. When I was four, we were taking a walk near her apartment and I saw a sign. I pointed to it and asked: "When you learn how to read, can you NOT read?" "Of course you can," she said.
Now why did she give me the wrong answer when she knew better? Because barring a tragic head injury, we all know that reading cannot be untaught.
The sign read "Parking is for tenants only." And (like a prisoner to its meaning) I read it hundreds - probably thousands - of times over the next 18 years.
I wish she had more carefully considered her answer. I think, had I known that reading is a point of no return, I would have appreciated my next year or so of illiteracy.
Could any of us have anticipated the compulsive nature of reading? That the squiggles and lines that suddenly form words, searing their uninvited meaning, vividly, subliminally, (and occasionally even loudly flouting meaning but entering your brain regardless )to resurface in dreams, writing, and shopping impulses.
When someone has inflicted substantial pain on me or someone I love, I am filled with anger. Not for the pain, which passes, but for the transformation which has taken place. This change has taken place against my will and I will never be able to unlearn its bitter little lesson.
Unforgivable. I have raged at people who brought about what I thought was a loss of an innocence. I have become nostalgic for the time when I imagined I had a purer heart, and more faith in people and myself. The careless gall of someone to unravel that!
But that indignation has been tempered (at least recently) with this one thought: While some things change me against my will, I also have the will to change things. Sometimes I forget.
It would be a tremendous luxury/burden it would be to be able to handpick the experiences that will catapult us into the next stage.
Not to sound all Pollyanna, but I always think that shitty events and betrayals have at least taught me about the nature of a feeling. And that is significant. From incoherent squiggles, that knowledge starts to order itself into meaning. You wonder how you could not have seen it before. But its meaning will sear its way, uninvited, into your brain. And you can't unlearn it.