Monday, March 24, 2014

we are shamefaced even to this day


"I do think, said Shasta, "that I must be the unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world. Everything goes right for everyone except me." And being very tired and having nothing inside of him, he felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks.
--The Horse and His Boy


Peter Weeping in Front of the Virgin
by Il Guernico

And I do feel that there must have been some of Shasta's tears mixed in with Peter's here.
Although self-pity is usually bogged down with all sorts of negatives contexts, sometimes we are selves that are very much in need and worthy of pity.
Not, of course, when we want to pity ourselves.
When we have stomach cramps that drive us to lie supine on the sofa while a marathon of Pixar movies distracts us from the basilisk in our gut, when we have a broken heart or a disappointed desire that leads us to eat a bucket-ful of macarons, when we, like Shasta, feel that everyone else's lives have gone quite right, and ours is being perpetually frustrated and thrown off-course, it is then when we look at ourselves and we pity ourselves very greatly.

But it is not usually then when our selves deserve our pity.
We deserve our pity when we, beings who possess a glory exalted above all creatures of the earth, deny the man who we love the most.
When we find ourselves trapped in a smallness not natural to our being, when we find ourselves bent, warped, then we certainly ought to pity ourselves.
Just as Peter, at that moment, as he weeps in front of the mother of the man on whom he just turned his back, surely deserves his pity.
And Mary's, as she watches him with a mixture of tender love, horror, and forgiveness.
There it is.
The most inexplicable word in the word is: forgiveness.
As in, I forgive you.
Or you are forgiven.

We don't help ourselves by calling very atrocious things "unforgivable,"
because then we've cut out from underneath us the very idea that makes up forgiveness.
Which is, that no matter what we do, the most horrible actions of ours are somehow not a part of our core self.
They are somehow able to be separated from us--we can cast them adrift from our true self, we can free ourselves of those actions.
The idea that our core self, even if hidden underneath years and years of malice and abuse of virtue and hatred, and all those warped, twisted things that humans do to one another, our self within ourself remains something beautiful and lovable.
And somehow, the beauty and splendor and the worthiness of that inner self outweighs the horrors that we can commit.
And, if we cannot chisel through the stone we've wrapped around our vulnerable hearts, but if we have the strength only to lift that hammer, just wishing we could chip away at the rock, then the stone can be cut through by a sharper force than any we could ever produce.
The slow, steady power of water as it erodes away the sharpness of the stony armor is very much like the force behind forgiveness.
Over years and years of steady work, the water erodes, smooths the rock face, conforms it to its gentle, sturdy will.
Shapes it into a new form, a more essential form, breaking away from the sharp promontories and unnecessary peaks on its jagged face.

And this is truly a mystery.
It is a mystery to us that the water will continue to bathe the face of the rock, as it mingles with the rock's own salty tears.
It is a mystery that there is no rocky cliff on the shoreline that the ocean will not seek to caress.

Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen


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