Autumn. Such a poetic season; sweet melancholy, golden leaves and a sense of transition. Times of passage require that we let go of the past and wonder what the future will bring. Rites of passage offer moments of discomfort and discontent intertwined with expectations and excitement of things to come.
Yom Kippur is an autumn High Holiday. It has nothing of the lightheartedness of summer. It is a time for contemplation and soul searching, asking for forgiveness and forgiving. It is an opportunity to let go and make new resolutions.
Asking for Forgiveness
Images of bodies of toddlers washed to the shore having drowned at sea in search of a sfae haven. Footage of a father holding his dead babies to his chest and refusing tp let them go. Images of terrible destruction, chaos and millions of refugees. Thousands of photos that show the naked horror. Good people providing aid and support to the lucky ones who found temporary shelter. Rare moments of human generosity.
But at the end of the day, no one has done anything to stop the carnage in Syria. Millions of words said and written in the news, in position papers and strategic plans and policy analysis on the “Syrian issue”.
But at the end of the day, no one has done anything to stop the carnage in Syria.
On good days, we do not look away from the photos; on bad days, we ignore them.
We must ask for forgiveness for our tolerance to human suffering.
New age doctrine tells us to let go; to loosen up our clenched fists that hold long time angers, insults and unfinished businesses. In return, there is a promise of tremendous relief and a sense of well-being to those who take the higher ground.
It is important to let go; to forgive and to dump the unnecessary load of tormenting memories that take up way too much storage space. Genuinely forgiving those who have wronged against us releases us from the burden of pain and anger. Otherwise, they continue to nibble on and rattle our soul.
It is easier for us to forgive those human weaknesses that we see in ourselves: blindness, narcissism, vanity and insensitivity.
Then there are things that are almost unforgivable.
It is so hard to forgive where there is no show of remorse.
It is so hard to reconcile when the truth is not spoken.
It is impossible to let go of what still torments and damages.
There are still unsettled scores, both personal and political. Forgiveness and reconciliation are still waiting for truths to reveal their faces. Only then can the healing begin.
Mad Cat Max was a simple little fabric doll, a sort of hybrid of a cat and a Panda bear. I won it at a street fair in a far and magical city in Brazil in the summer of 1986. I kept it for many years. It was a source of pride; the guy at the booth handed it to me while trying to hide his astonishment. I often wondered how I managed to bring down the pile of tin cans with shaky hands, eyes out of focus and a rag ball shot out of a toy cannon.
Mad Cat Max got his name and personality a few years later when I presented him to my first-born son, Daniel. He had a thick Argentinian accent, a quick temper, no manners whatsoever and a huge heart of gold. He knew how to make my son smile and laugh and they shared long intimate conversations. Mad Cat Max was what every child needs; a half-imaginary friend or simply a hilarious, crazy, footloose and more effective version of a mother.
I was reminded of Mad Cat Max this morning when my youngest daughter and I walked to school with our dogs, imagining a conversation between them about us. Then she went to class and I returned to my adult tasks, but I could not shake the notion of how important it is to imagine that dogs can talk and make fun of the funny human creatures they live with. I thought of Mad Cat Max who was really my alter ego.
I kept Mad Cat Max for almost 30 years and then I lost him. I still miss him sometimes.
May the year 5777 be good to you. May we create goodness in the world together, as much as we possibly can.
Illustration by Daniel Gouri De Lima