The Luck of Forgiving Trees

I wish I were a tree. Evergreens provide a healing tea; the ancient birch, Birkano, have a mother spirit encouraging everything around it to grow. The yew tree promotes visions to the mystics who sit beneath it. Red Cedars have unusually deep roots generating great endurance under sun and rain.

I wish I were a tree who could stay quiet when my limbs were lost, or go dormant in the chill of winter snow. Tree communities have roots entwined beneath the soil, relying on each other for support. Each separate tree pulls water, nutrients, and energy from the earth, but not one tree punishes its mates, nor holds a grudge, nor blames the other trees for falling.

Instead, I am a human. And we humans like to muck about in the dirt differently, churn in the chaos of our own pain, and unleash a suffering in the wake of our fury. We like to penalize each other for our pain.

When I am resentful, it is a festering wound, a slow drip of nitric acid, the shock of a paper cut, reminding me just how powerless I am. Blame and Ego, my self-righteous pets, slather salt into the wound, and voila, more pain.

The only thing worse than my resentments might be my guilt. And it is almost unbearable if I am not allowed to assuage it. If, for some reason, I cannot confess it, or someone refuses to hear it, I become obsessed with ridding myself of its barbs.

I recall carrying the guilt of a singular act for what felt like a lifetime. I would hold international peace conferences in my head, stare at the nighttime ceiling justifying my actions, cry in the shower over my loss, and consider ways to build a time machine.

Years later, I could see that no one was even thinking of me, or of my crime any longer. But I did. I still wanted to make it right. I was unable to find atonement for 30 years. When I finally sat in front of the woman I had wronged, she simply stated that I was then young and largely alone, that no one helped me to make the right choice because they would ultimately benefit from my fall. It was a profound thing for her to say that to me. I wondered if I had been meant to suffer all those years so that I would never again betray myself. My sin had harmed me the most.

There was a time after that when I felt forgiving others was an absurdity, meant for people who fancied themselves a god. I felt that forgiving someone would be an act of superiority, that forgiveness implied a pious condescension, an inherent power to bestow another’s freedom or hold them eternally imprisoned. I refused to forgive others because I did not believe I had the right to judge in the first place. It seemed distorted to be submissive, to beg another human to measure us. Detachment from the errors of those around me felt closer to the lens of a divine source.

This silly business of hate and judgment, this human condition of lording over another person’s injustice reeks of something rotten. I suppose I have grown quite calloused, almost numb in the face of everyone thinking they have the answers. I am tired. My mirror holds the vacant eyes of a refugee. I go numb in order to survive.

No one holds the corner market on pain. Some people hold their pain up like a thing of worship, but it is futile.

The only way out of the pain is to feel it. Go deep into a hermetic state and wail. Purge the venom and suspend time until your blood runs clean again. Raging is understandable, but it won’t make a lick of difference. Love is the only way out. Dignity, which is just self-love, and Brotherly Love reign supreme.

I suppose the lucky trees know a thing or two, and we would be wise to emulate.

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