Monday, February 14, 2005

Freedom and Forgiveness

Freedom and forgiveness

“Bwakanang-ina.”
Ganyan ang lenguahe ng usapan nila in the years before Leo and Cristy got married.
I used to overhear Leo on the phone using such expletives in their dialogue.

I also learned that Cristy used similar language.

I thought that was no way to communicate to a loved one.
When I was growing up, my parents had endless discussions and debates about many things, money especially. But I never heard them cuss each other.

* * *

I’ve been thinking about what to say to you, and had prepared endless drafts for weeks.

Ours was a roller coaster relationship.

But tell me whose isn’t?

Despite their endless fights, Leo and Cristy willed to be together in a vow that has something to do with forever.

I do remember I have called you shit and all. I don’t remember what provoked me into using that . But I do apologise. And I never really meant it.

I’m never the type who would confront someone or fight on the level of cussing. I’m not the confrontational type. Before talking to someone in a debate, I’d like to carefully think my lines and choose my words.

That’s part of who I am, wired into my DNA. We live with the choices we make for the freedom to choose is the essence of man’s existence.

I need a lot of reflection before arriving at a decision ... I agonise over the thought of hurting or killing someone, and what value it would add to my life. This might make me look indecisive.

Life has taught me that freedom means choosing not to do just about anything but to do the right thing.

Freedom finds completion in the exercise of discretion (first posted on Oct. 15, 2004)

Discretion requires keen judgment. Good judgement calls for sacrifice, restraint and postponing gratification.

It means opting not to go for instant pay-offs by considering long-term gains.

It feels good to obtain immediate reprisal for something wrong done to you by another. Reprisals tend to hurt those who exact them, too. This is what America under George Bush has realised with its post-9/11 actions.

Pain, when countered in kind, only leads to an exponential multiplication of the same.

Does freedom mean not getting back in kind? Are those who have lived through cruel times more prone to exact more violent reprisals?

When we’re moping over the unfair state of things caused by a person or people who did us wrong, where does freedom lie?

Our freedom to extend a finger ends where somebody else’s nose begins.

We can ask the next person to move over to make room for our extended limb. But he also has the freedom to say ‘No’.

So how can you say you’re free when it has limits? Or is the idea of freedom just an illusion, a contradiction?

These are questions for which I have no ready answers.

But of all the creatures in the universe, only us human beings can know the consequences of our actions.

When told different versions of the same story, our hearts can know the bigger story — the truth.

While freedom does not allow us to do anything we like without disturbing the balance of nature, it gives us absolute license to express our truth.

And one plain truth, as Dr Martin Luther Jr. once said, is this: “An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.”

Getting back in kind is good. Instant revenge feels good. But to say your truth, in the exercise of self-restraint, is even better.

If the Blacks whose forefathers were forced into slavery would try to settle ancient scores, where would all the Whites be today?

The truth is such that when you try to inflict pain on another, you invariably hurt yourself back. And this is true whether you’re talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or a love affair.

And this is where Dr. Luther’s thinking could solve a lot of problems. First, it allows us to get out of the chicken-and-egg equation, endlessly trying to figure out who started to inflict pain on the other.

There is no substitute for dialogue among equals, not between a master and slave, to offer a solution.

More importantly, the truth about forgiveness based on justice is that it starts the process of healing. It puts an end to ancient hatreds.

As we’ve already seen, no man can claim he is absolutely free to do anything. Nature — and common sense — do impose some limits.

In my Dubai state of mind, freedom means having a heart big enough to forgive those who have wronged us.

Hope you have a great Valentine's Day.

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