So as you may or may not be aware, it was recently Yom Kippur.
And I, like a good jew fasted. Well, like a half hearted but well intentioned jew, at any rate, since there are certainly many marks against me in the “good jew” department, to be sure.
Asides…aside, though, as one fasts ones mind is apt to wander to places it doesn’t always dwell. This is, in fact, part of the point of fasting: to stimulate contemplation, to ponder one’s mistakes and to explore what it is that might need forgiveness, what might need…forgiving.
As one embodies their own frame, feels pangs of hunger, the chill of exhaustion brought on from abstinence, a certain kind of spaciness tends to take over. Atleast in my case. Much like what great music will do to me. See, I’ve always thought, with music I love, that it hits me deeply, that it brings me to the now to focus, that it focuses me. But that is a presumption, and when I really think about it, when I really think about my favorite concerts, the times I felt truly within my favorite I album, I realized I was doing the opposite of …focus. I was, actually, quite outside of myself, wandering to new places. Freed, almost, from my usual patterns of thought. Transcendent of my old and unfortunate patterns.
So it should also be with fasting.
Now, to be fair, I think I did not transcend. Infact, I’m pretty sure I’d know something like that. So we’ll go with no transcendence.
That being said I certainly got to thinking..about forgiveness, repentance, about fairness, about justice and balance and humility.
See, when I was younger I was awfully forgiving. A certain non judgemental creed that became almost a mantra as the challenges of forgiveness were doled out was synonomous with fairness, in my mind. I forgave…well, I forgave quite a few things. To be more accurate I very much refused to process transgressions as such, preferring to see them in context, along a continuum, as a shade of grey. I looked for the understandable reason, I crawled inside that reason and found it comfortable, cozy, I gave empathy a whole new level of…rationalization.
And then…something in me broke. Maybe it was the realization that while one can and in fact, MUST step back at times to be understanding and forgiving, that forgiveness was not owed. More to the point, it is not my role to surround myself with people I constantly finding ways to forgive or understand. That is called stupidity, not understanding. And the fine balance between forgiveness and self preservation can become an awful sink hole if not examined and managed.
And I swung. Kind of hard in the opposite direction. I found anger. And I found blame. And I found, honestly, a lot of things I had been missing; trust, love, companionship, a freaking backbone. But I lost something as well, I lost…a certain peace. This anger, long repressed, because it’s own animal, and it demanded attention. It demanded …maintenance, and as obsessed as I once was with fairness through an open mind I now held life to a new standard: the scales of judgement, weighted heavily, with the pathway to absolution through complete repentance.
And if you think I was hard on others, I can assure you, that held nothing on myself. Oh, the years of turning a blind eye to my own transgressions, of wanting to be effortlessly perfect to such a level that I ignored boundaries clearly in my way….limitations I created for myself.
And so there I was thinking about forgiveness. Because though the fine balance between forgiveness and self preservation can become an awful sink hole if not examined and managed, it can also become a lofty pedastal, if not stepped off of.
Part of the point of Yom Kippur is that it is not only our place to forgive. In the days before Yom Kippur we are asked to forgive those around us and seek forgiveness. To make amends as much as humanly possible. To move along with an eye to future good, not past transgressions.
But on Yom Kippur we are asking the almighty for forgivness. And when I think about that, the name of the game humility.
It is not my place to be judge and jury to everyone elses actions. It is not even my place to be judge and jury to my own.
Sure, I have a brain and I have perspective, and I should use it to manage my actions, to strive to act in ways that make me proud, make me comfortable, make me whole. But this constant ranking, this constant assessing and judging and condemning …my actions and others, only puts me in the most stagnant place in life: outside the flow of progress. It sticks me in the past, weighing all my actions against the dead decisions of others. And while they can live on in our minds and hearts for guidance, to add dimension and direction to our own decisions, they should not become constant companion that haunt our ever triumph, our every failire.
To be mired in such a place to is to reside with the ghosts.
And this makes me think repentance is more about joining the land of the living. Learning to love life again as a participant, not as puppet master of our own endless and cyclical game.