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At first sight, joy seems to be connected with being different. When you receive a compliment or win an award, you experience the joy of not being the same as others. You are faster, smarter, more beautiful, and it is that difference that brings you joy. But such joy is very temporary. True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveler.
This is the joy of Jesus, who is Emmanuel: God-with-us.
Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.
What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.
Forgiving does not mean forgetting. When we forgive a person, the memory of the wound might stay with us for a long time, even throughout our lives. Sometimes we carry the memory in our bodies as a visible sign. But forgiveness changes the way we remember. It converts the curse into a blessing. When we forgive our parents for their divorce, our children for their lack of attention, our friends for their unfaithfulness in crisis, our doctors for their ill advice, we no longer have to experience ourselves as the victims of events we had no control over.
Forgiveness allows us to claim our own power and not let these events destroy us; it enables them to become events that deepen the wisdom of our hearts. Forgiveness indeed heals memories.
Sometimes we seem to think we should “forgive and forget” like God does. Well, God justifies; He doesn’t merely “forgive”; He sets His child back in a proper relationship with Him, due to Calvary. Justification – “just as if I never sinned” – is a long way from human forgiveness. Only God can justify. We must forgive as God forgives, but we do not forget.
If we did forget (which we don’t), as opposed to forgiving and knowing why (remembering), don’t you think we’d be confused as to where all our experiences came from?
I’ve been compiling a chapbook, thinking. It’s been over two years since I’ve had a new one come out. It’s about time.
So, what have I been doing lately? Aside from working on the Mule.
Before I was the Poetry Editor for the Dead Mule, I was a poet on the Dead Mule. Here’s the poem that started it all—one of my favorites, “Voices.”
I’m taking inventory. Okay.
In 2008, I had 28 poems published in 9 different Litmags or Journals.
“Deep Purple Shadow,” Right Hand Pointing, (January 2008).
“The Storm We Encountered,” Ghoti, (Winter 2008).
“Opening the Floodgates,” Blue Fifth Review, (Winter 2008).
“Autobiography,” Left Facing Bird, (April 2008).
“Concerning the Amputee,” Left Facing Bird, (April 2008). Blog May 2008.
“Freedom of Expression,” Left Facing Bird, (April 2008).
“Nightmare In Purple,” Left Facing Bird, (April 2008).
“Vicarious Living” Left Facing Bird, (April 2008). Blog May 2008.
“Waking Dream Right Hand Pointing, Very, Very Short Issue, (May 2008).
“Freedom,” Right Hand Pointing, Very, Very Short Issue, (May 2008). Blog June 2008.
“Highlights,” Muscadine Lines, (May/June 2008).
“Needed In Train, Song, and Light” The Centrifugal Eye, (May 2008).
“But Why Deer?” Blue Fifth Review, (Spring Supplement 2008).
“Thunder and Blue Socks,” Blue Fifth Review, (Spring Supplement 2008).
“Clarification,” Blue Fifth Review, (Spring Supplement 2008).
“Seriously Dangerous,” Poetry Friends , (June 30, 2008).
“Nothing, Without Memories,” The Cherry Blossom Review, (Summer 2008).
“Over the Atlantic,” The Wild Goose Poetry Review (summer 2008).
“But Not From the Dark Side,” Poetry Friends, (October 9, 2008).
“Dominance of Pink,” Right Hand Pointing, (November 2008).
“The Mirror’s Reply,” The Wild Goose Poetry Review, (Fall/Winter 2008).
“Sweet-Pea, Under the Stars,” The Wild Goose Poetry Review, (Fall/Winter 2008).
“Queen Anne’s Lace,” The Wild Goose Poetry Review, (Fall/Winter 2008).
and in 2009 in a 10th Journal.
Guess I don’t spend all my time doing Mule work.
But come February 1, the Dead Mule will be publishing 7 poets and in March, 6 more (so far). Then in April, we’ll publish our big poetry issue with 14 confirmed and the list is growing beyond Shelby Stephenson, Corey Mesler, Jessie Carty, and Marjory Wentworth, Poet Laureate of South Carolina.
Still I’m thinking chapbook, first book, Pushcart. Guess I still hear those voices, while Val MacEwan, the Mule editor, is with Spencer, rewriting Washington’s history at Mental Kudzu.
See the video at YouTube.
We are all wounded people. Who wounds us? Often those whom we love and those who love us. When we feel rejected, abandoned, abused, manipulated, or violated, it is mostly by people very close to us: our parents, our friends, our spouses, our lovers, our children, our neighbors, our teachers, our pastors. Those who love us wound us too. That’s the tragedy of our lives. This is what makes forgiveness from the heart so difficult. It is precisely our hearts that are wounded. We cry out, “You, who I expected to be there for me, you have abandoned me. How can I ever forgive you for that?”
Forgiveness often seems impossible, but nothing is impossible for God. The God who lives within us will give us the grace to go beyond our wounded selves and say, “In the Name of God you are forgiven.” Let’s pray for that grace.
How can we forgive those who do not want to be forgiven? Our deepest desire is that the forgiveness we offer will be received. This mutuality between giving and receiving is what creates peace and harmony. But if our condition for giving forgiveness is that it will be received, we seldom will forgive! Forgiving the other is first and foremost an inner movement. It is an act that removes anger, bitterness, and the desire for revenge from our hearts and helps us to reclaim our human dignity. We cannot force those we want to forgive into accepting our forgiveness. They might not be able or willing do so. They may not even know or feel that they have wounded us.
The only people we can really change are ourselves. Forgiving others is first and foremost healing our own hearts.
To me, this explains the whole rationale for becoming a “race traitor.” It means I must accept the forgiveness for all those who don’t even know they’ve done anything wrong – for those who don’t see any racism in their lives or the lives of others who are “like them,” who think that by ignoring “race as an issue” they have made it go away.