Forgetting Forgiveness

You know that saying that goes around by email every once in a while, the one about how friends come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime? Well, regardless of how corny it might be, lately I’ve been thinking about that notion, what it really means and how various people have touched my life over the years. More specifically I’ve been thinking about how Facebook has thrown a wrench into the natural order of things and really stood the notion on its head.

In FB, we find a new force acting on the nature of relationships. All of a sudden we are in contact with people we’ve not seen nor heard from in years, decades, possibly a lifetime. People we would otherwise never get back in touch with.

On the phone to a reconnected FB friend recently, I wondered “Just how many marriages do you think are being destroyed by Facebook?” Relationships broken asunder by old flames reconnecting, for better or worse and more often than not due to boredom. [Not completely irrelevant is the fact that the friend in question happened to be someone I’d had a burning crush on for the majority of my adolescence and I was really wondering what his wife thought about us getting reacquainted on FB.]

Reconnecting with old friends inevitably leads us down the dusty, vine-ridden and hidden paths in the garden of memories. I happen to have a memory as long as a toothpick, but it’s a tragic flaw of the human psyche that even I can remember injustices or unkind words like it was yesterday. On the other hand, we must receive a compliment upwards of a dozen times before we actually believe and remember it.

And so the distant past comes into view through the foglight of a jogged memory. The depths of pain and sorrow felt at the hands of long-lost friends are remembered more easily than memories of sunny days building sand castles and swimming at the lake.

The question at hand is whether there is a point to bringing up a deep emotional wound to the person who so many years ago bore the blood-stained sword of friendship. In the current situation, there has never been an opportunity to address the issue head on. The wound was delivered and soon after our paths diverged.

Dredging up the past. Old wounds heel. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Can forgiveness can be granted in silence, without extension of the olive branch on the part of the other? Is the betrayal even remembered? “How could it not?” Was the depth of the wound perceived? “Callus bastards they would have to be and therefore not worthy of renewed friendship.”

An insightful friend of the present feels strongly that the issue cannot be ignored. “Trust,” he said, “must be the basis for all relationships. Without it, you cannot have a relationship. And this person broke your trust. To move forward, to renew your friendship you must address this issue and they must apologize.”

Dear reader, what do you think?

A Love Poem

Aimless Love
by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.