Wednesday 28 July 2010

Finding the turning point

My favourite play as an undergrad was Le Voyageur Sans Bagage.  It was about a man who lost his memory and grappled with who he was when he had no identity and no history on which to draw.

Our history makes us who we are.  The interweaving threads of our experiences create us.  Without our history, who do we become?  Who are we? 

But as with anything, history has its limits.  The experiences that make us who we are can either imprison us or set us free.  More than what happens to us, how we understand - or interpret - those experiences, shapes our character.  We can choose the story we tell about our lives, the lens through which we understand our experiences, the world, and who we are. 

It seems to me that so many of us are walking around with grievances - long held anger - about events in the past.  Anger is an emotion that hardens and constricts us.  Anger and resentment limit us, and close us down. 

I'm not saying that all events are good.  But when a past event is used to define who we are today, it seems as though we're living backwards - with our faces turned to the past, ignoring the present.  We are giving a person in our history, or an event in our past, more control over our daily thoughts and emotions than we allow ourselves.  We are holding ourselves to ransom.  And the only person who has the ability to change that is us.  Only we can release the past. 

I don't really know why I write about forgiveness so much.  Perhaps because it is one of the most complex human acts.  To forgive requires us to go beyond our Egos, to reach past our hurts and 'I'm right because...' 

But Forgiveness is not about the other person: it's about us.  It's about releasing ourselves to live in the present, rather than in the past.  For me, it's about finding a deeper perspective, an emerging potential that goes beyond the event or person, and using that wider perspective to redeem the event. 
Otherwise, we live with a victim mentality, and so we become victims. 

I believe that key events in our lives, whether they are positive or negative, hold immense potential to open us up to even better versions of who we are.  A great example of this was Christopher Reeve: the actor who was known for being Super Man had even the most basic of powers stripped out of his life.  He could have focused on the cruel irony that left 'Super Man' paralysed from the neck down.

Instead, he used what was undoubtedly a tragedy as a turning point, an opportunity to become bitter or to reach deep inside and find another, deeper dimension to himself.  In doing so, he provided us with an altogether more profound definition of a Super Man: a definition that goes beyond the stereotypical cliches of physical ability, and shows how inner qualities, such as courage, acceptance and determination are even more admirable than physical ability and beauty.  

Taking painful events and transforming them, using them as the fuel to move beyond who we think we are is, to me, the most inspirational of all human qualities.  It is what creates truly outstanding human beings.  Just as the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, so too can we take what we feel is ugly in our lives and synthesise it, to reveal our true splendour.

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