Forgiveness

1.  From the book Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  The character John Ames (a 77 year old pastor) reflects on his struggle to forgive his godson (the son of his pastor friend).  He has previously described his godson as mean.

…I spent the time thinking how it would be if Jack Boughton [his godson] were indeed my son, and had come home weary from whatever life he had, and was sitting there still and at seeming peace in that peaceful night.  There was a considerable satisfaction in that thought.  The idea of grace had been so much on my mind, grace as a sort of ecstatic fire that takes things down to essentials.  There in the dark and the quiet I felt I could forget all the tedious particulars and just feel the presence of his mortal and immortal being.  And a sensation came over me, a sort of lovely fear…

Now I may have been more than half asleep at that point, but a thought arose that abides with me.  I wished I could sit at the feet of that eternal soul and learn.  He did then seem to me the angel of himself, brooding over the mysteries his mortal life describes, the deep things of man.  And of course that is exactly what he is.  “For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him?”  In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence.  Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable—which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live.  We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity.  But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us.

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