When Jorge Luis Borges was asked if he’d forgiven the Peronists of Argentina, he replied, “Forgetting is the only form of forgiveness; it’s the only vengeance and the only punishment too.” For Borges, forgiveness and vengeance were siblings because both make use of oblivion—as does the creation of art. “You should go in for a blending of the two elements, memory and oblivion,” he wrote of artistic creation, “and we call that imagination.” Kierkegaard agreed: “One who has perfected himself in the twin arts of remembering and forgetting is in a position to play at battledore and shuttlecock with the whole of existence.”
Sunday, March 19, 2023
#78 / Forget About It
You'll need a subscription, it appears, to read the entirety of Gavin Francis' article in The New York Review, "The Dream Of Forgetfulness." I don't have a subscription, so the paywall got me, but not before revealing the first few paragraphs of what Francis has to say. Among other things, in the very first paragraph of his article, Francis tells us this:
Being able both to remember and to forget things that have happened may well put a person into the best possible place to call upon "imagination" as part of the creative process. Loving and respecting both Borges and Kierkegaard, I am predisposed to believe what they report. However, I would like to put in an especial good word for "forgetting," as a primary talent.
I have to confess to being a person who "forgets," not as a matter of will, really, but as someone who is just being honest about my ability to remember. I find that I have forgotten a lot of the details of my life, consequential though I know they have been. Still, I do have a basic grip on the major contours of my past existence, extending up to the present, and I have found that instead of being frustrated by my memory loss, which seems to be a characteristic of my mind, I can embrace it.
As I have reflected on the way I experience the past (which, of course, I always do in the present, in the "here and now"), I am seeing my "forgetfulness" as mostly a friend, and not a foe.
"Trucker Time" is the title of one of my past blog posts, and the point it makes is that "time," as defined by the trucker quoted in that blog post, is "remembering what you did or looking forward to what you will do."
As I point out in that "Trucker Time" blog posting, it is my contention (citing to George Fox, the first Quaker) that we have "no time but this present." In other words, "time," defined by what we remember from the past, or by what we speculate about for the future (what that trucker says "time" really is), is a distraction from where we are right now. We are here, in the "here and now," and that is where we can "act." It is in the "here and now" that we can "do something" and change the future (and change the world).
I do think it's true that if we can't "forget," we can't "forgive," and it's my considered opinion that we do need both to forget and to forgive most of what has gone before. If we can't, we won't be able to do something new, right now.
The "Lord's Prayer," of course, tells us to "forgive those who have trespassed against us." Forgetting how horrible those offenses against us truly were has almost certainly got to be part of the process. If we can't forget (and then forgive), we will be "desperate for outrage," and future possibilities will be stymied by our remembrance of and fixation upon the past.
As I keep saying, George Fox got it right: We have "no time but this present," and that means that we need to "prize our time." It is this present moment we need to "prize," for this present moment is the "blessing" we receive, by being alive.
Our refusal, or our failure, to forgive and forget steals the blessing which is the greatest gift bestowed upon us - the ability to say, and do, something truly new, and to make a new world appear!