On Forgiveness

27 March 2018 Comments Off on On Forgiveness


Note: The following piece of text was found etched onto a sturdy, paper-like sheet placed inside a scorched but otherwise undamaged metallic container in a corner of the world that few people visit. The writing suggests that the author is an alien life form who, for some reason, has chosen to describe their way of life. Through a stroke of luck, I got my hands on this fascinating document and must suspend my normal column to share it with you. Please note that no tests have been conducted yet to establish the authenticity of this document.
Dearest Friend-From-Outside-Spaceship,
To answer your question, we are souls drifting through time and space. Our bodies are our spacesuits. Space is dark and cold, and we cannot withstand its hunger, so we do not leave our spacesuits. Souls are alone. There are other souls around, but they might as well be impossibly far. We can see their spacesuits moving around, but the dark visor of their suit reflects back our own dark visor. We cannot touch or see another soul. Despite having many other souls around, we are alone; alone inside our spacesuits, with thoughts racing and hearts fluttering.
But if we spent our lives in this lonely state, we would go mad. Instead, we build bonds. Building bonds involves some magic. Sometimes all it takes is a smiling face pressed to the visor. But other times, it takes years of drifting and effort. Despite this variability, what all bonds entail is the building of a spaceship. We start a communication with another soul in a spacesuit. We explain our requests, and they explain theirs. We agree on some features. Then we start building a spaceship. It is not possible to build a spaceship alone. You need eight arms to mold the metal. So, then, while one holds the metal, the other can shape it. Ultimately, we have a spaceship that we built together. We both know the design of this spaceship, know where this or that corridor leads, know how to get the engine racing and zap through space to reach the grooves with the best views of the birth of stars.
But the best part is that the spaceships shelter us from the cold and dark of empty space. This gives us the chance to reach beyond our spacesuits and behold another soul. Words and glances are the instruments that allow us to reach beyond. Sometimes we can even touch them. We explain to them, through our words and glances, the shape of our thoughts and our histories. Doing this allows them to understand the shape of our souls. And if they strain their eyes a little, press their nose and forehead against the inside of their visor, and the light from a star being born is just right, they may see the shape we are. And we can do the same for them.
It is also possible for more than two souls to build the spaceship and journey together in a cocoon of light and warmth through the darkness of unforgiving space.
Not everything is peaceful all the time, though. Sometimes in our anger, pride or carelessness, we prick a hole in the walls of the spaceship we built with another person. Instantly, precious air starts leaking out. The spaceship veers off course. Alarms ring vehemently. Panic.
But an apology, a miracle of wisdom from our past, can save the spaceship, and our lives. Let me explain it this way: you did something wrong, accidently or otherwise. Let’s say you hit someone on the visor with your back foot. You apologize quickly. This apology places a lid on the anger of the recipient. Through watery eyes and a hand nursing their visor, your victim brushes off your clumsiness. Even if they do it reluctantly, even if some resentment lingers, and even though the pain has not completely faded, they forgive you.
Similarly, when you are angry, proud or careless, you can punch a small hole in the wall of your spaceship. This hole threatens to destroy your ship completely. You apologize. The apology covers the hole like a piece of duct tape. You stop losing air. The alarms stop ringing. Peace.
The spaceship survives. You lost some pressure, but you can still function.
However, the hole is still present, underneath the duct tape. You will have to be more careful in the future. You must handle the areas around the hole gingerly to make sure you do not rip it open again. This area of your spaceship becomes more fragile than the rest.
Sometimes your transgressions are bigger. The holes you blast in your shared spaceship are larger. You lose air faster. If you are quick enough, you can apologize, and together, you and your shipmate can start putting duct tape over this bigger hole. But sometimes it is a lost cause. The hole is too big and duct tape useless. By the time you even reach for the tape, something has been broken beyond repair.
You look at your companion in the spaceship. You both recede back into your spacesuits before hungry space sucks you out and you leave the ship. It becomes empty space, a continuation of the darkness of outer space. You can no longer be safe there. Something broke between you and your companion. You cannot build a new spaceship together. You must return to being alone in a spacesuit with nothing between you and space.