Tuesday, January 24, 2017

This post is brought to me by the Number Six

+Time: 20110124, exactly six years ago at this early morning moment as family and friends look at each other in the outer waiting room, I am in a high wide corridor lying on a gurney under warm blankets watching hurried activity as my OR team prepares my space. Outside, the Cleveland winter is bitter cold, and this hallway quite chilly, but I am snug and warm, clutching my bottle of nitrostat. Not in the least nervous, perhaps because of pre-op sedative, I actually think I am alert. And I have my dreams ready. 

Placing my ThriftBooks order for two cheap books a friend recommended for my sabbatical reading, I saw the shipping charge was like five bucks, more than twice the price of either used book, but noticed a flag saying if I spent another three bucks, shipping was free. That must be the new math, so I browsed the religious section even though I’m neither spiritual nor, and came upon The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. A hero’s name, Simon Wiesenthal, on the cover was all it took. The books have been shipped and may arrive today or tomorrow, but in the meantime here’s an online synopsis that gives an idea why I thought The Sunflower might be healthy preLent discipline or prescription for a bitter mind and shattered soul: 

“While imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, Simon Wiesenthal was taken one day from his work detail to the bedside of a dying member of the SS. Haunted by the crimes in which he had participated, the soldier wanted to confess to--and obtain absolution from--a Jew. Faced with the choice between compassion and justice, silence and truth, Wiesenthal said nothing. But even years after the war had ended, he wondered: Had he done the right thing? What would you have done in his place? In this important book, fifty-three distinguished men and women respond to Wiesenthal's questions. They are theologians, political leaders, writers, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, Holocaust survivors, and victims of attempted genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, China and Tibet. Their responses, as varied as their experiences of the world, remind us that Wiesenthal’s questions are not limited to events of the past. Often surprising and always thought provoking, The Sunflower will challenge you to define your beliefs about justice, compassion, and human responsibility.”

Much has been stirring in me of late, including searching for distractions, things to do, places to go, people to see. Notions to contemplate. Movies to watch on my MacBook. Books to read I may’ve started decades ago, waded into and laid down in short order for whatever nonreason. War and Peace, for example, widely acclaimed as all time best fiction of the ages, hit me as an elaborate soap opera forty, fifty or sixty years ago, and still as a matter of fact, but which in this sabbatical I started and read more this time; downloaded and watched the first part of the Soviet film (1966) of it. Other Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, as a sabbatical exercise, and other stuff, again Kafka, MacDonald, Tolkien, near entire library of Die Deutsche Wochenschau with sound muted. As of this morning halfway into contemporary Russian Laurus. I don't read Russian, why those things? For the halibut. Why’m I repeating this? To bring myself up to date only. Up to date includes that recently while browsing Dostoevsky quotes online I also hit a list from Oscar Wilde, having to do with regret, regrets, obsessing over regrets, that tingled my cranium, why? Perhaps in part because regret can stir from guilt or shame that’s a root of the Lenten call to self-examination, penitence, penance, forgiveness. Who can forgive? None but the offended, only the offended, as the above synopsis suggests; which in our theology includes the Deity. I once heard an Episcopal priest scoff, when President Reagan was being heavily criticized for contemplating visiting the German cemetery at Bitburg, where several Nazi SS troops were buried, "It's time to forgive and move on," "Father" said, as if we could forgive ourselves for the Holocaust, and I realized that I was looking at an imbecile who had no concept of sin, offense, penitence and forgiveness. What is forgiveness? I’m not sure precisely except to put It in the same cubby with love which is not a feeling but how we treat other people.  

At any event, here in no order is a list from Oscar Wilde that started my motor ->  

  • One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead.

  • Never regret thy fall, O Icarus of the fearless flight, For the greatest tragedy of them all Is never to feel the burning light.

  • To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.

  • Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.

  • The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret.

  • But then one regrets the loss even of one's worst habits. Perhaps one regrets them the most. They are such an essential part of one's personality.

  • It is better to repent a sin than regret the loss of a pleasure. 

Where am I? With regret in my own history, this morning I'm remembering a job I once had, worked hard at for fourteen years, that I ended up resigning in regret unto despair. When my superior came to "collect my keys" I told him that nothing I had said or done or tried to teach had been heard, that I had wasted fourteen years of my life, wasted my life's Time. That he so strongly disagreed did little to ease my regret but did somehow stir my repentance that took years to work through. Regret and repentance are close but they are not one, in part because regret is not remorse and as opposed to remorse and penitence, one may regret not having sinned more, and more boldly, to the finish line. But there's still a connection, the relationship is there, and just the words get me off to a jump start. Somehow, if Regret and Forgiveness are trains at opposite ends of the same track, one headed south, the other headed north, somewhere they may meet.

What am I giving up for Lent? I'd thought of giving up writing the +Time blog, but it serves me the same mental exercise and benefit as Linda's crossword puzzles, so I continue for this Time of life; though because of great risk of offending anyone I love, permanently stopped and will not resume daily FaceBook link to the daily +Time blog post. (But then anyone with the least imagination who really wants to read it can easily find it). So then, +Time ain't nobody but us chickens. What am I giving up for Lent? Time, I reckon. Time being all I have, perhaps the Time to read another book. Or Time to walk the beach at StAndrewsStatePark. I'm 81: have not walked there since I was 18. And not in imagination since that pre-op time in the Cleveland adventure mentioned above. It's Time.

DThos+ in Stoppage Time

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