Yesterday the Dalai Lama spoke of forgiveness not meaning accepting a wrong action. Forgiveness is rather about compassion and communication.
This is always been a part of my life. I’m not perfect, but I’m like that. People hurt me or other people and I want to help them, tell them they’re loved, that I believe in them, and that I’m there for them (part of my ministry in the future I hope might be as a prison chaplain). I’m not saying that it’s easy or that results are immediately fantastic, but I believe in people’s goodness.
So this morning on Tumblr a story came up…
A 50- something year old white woman arrived at her seat on a crowded flight and immediately didn’t want the seat. The seat was next to a black man. Disgusted, the woman immediately summoned the flight attendant and demanded a new seat. The woman said “I cannot sit here next to this black man.” The fight attendant said “Let me see if I can find another seat.” After checking, the flight attendant returned and stated “Ma’am, there are no more seats in economy, but I will check with the captain and see if there is something in first class.” About 10 minutes went by and the flight attendant returned and stated “The captain has confirmed that there are no more seats in economy, but there is one in first class. It is our company policy to never move a person from economy to first class, but being that it would be some sort of scandal to force a person to sit next to an UNPLEASANT person, the captain agreed to make the switch to first class.” Before the woman could say anything, the attendant gestured to the black man and said, “Therefore sir, if you would so kindly retrieve your personal items, we would like to move you to the comfort of first class as the captain doesn’t want you to sit next to an unpleasant person.” Passengers in the seats nearby began to applause while some gave a standing ovation.
Rather than feeling victorious at the world which is now less racist I felt very sorry for the woman that was cut down by everyone else. NOT because I think her action was right, but because I don’t want to hurt people. I don’t think that Jesus would cheer, despite his outburst turning the tables of the money-changers over. Jesus was compassionate, as the Dalai Lama is. And I hope to live with that compassion in my heart. Making it clear that we think the woman with another view is an idiot that we severely dislike will not enable her to be better, or to feel that she has a home with people. We need to act to change people’s outlooks (or at least to make peace with difference), not simply battle against them…
It isn’t hard for me to feel that compassion, it comes to me instinctively (and I think to all people if they release themselves from pressures close to them), but it is often hard for me to deal with those feelings of compassion, with the desire to bring people together, when many around me feel otherwise.
For example: My English Literature A-Level exam is on Wednesday and then I will no longer need to study Hamlet. Reading some notes on dramatic context this morning after church I was presented with the concept that the majority of people that read Hamlet, despite being challenged by the ethics of revenge, side on the bloody, vengeful actions and cheer him on. Of course everybody dies in the end anyway (the women – arguably virtuous – by suicide). I don’t feel like so many apparently do, I feel sad and I feel almost sick after 4 hours stage time of “I want to kill myself but I need revenge first so I’m going to attack everyone that gets in my way and then I’ll feel better – or dead, whatever.” Argh!
To be or not to be? – asks Hamlet. Until yesterday I’d only ever read that line as him contemplating suicide. But I came up with another idea – faith as trust generates, as Paul Tillich puts it, ‘the courage to be’. So maybe he’s not contemplating suicide, but whether he should let go or pursue revenge.
Forgiveness. Hamlet’s story is a bit more complex (what with his uncle stealing the throne) but could he really not have arrested him instead and helped him to become a better man?
And so ‘Hamlet’ is an incredibly irritating play to me. But I don’t find the play all that difficult, so I suppose it’s a good thing I’ll have some original ideas for the examiner.
What would Jesus do? Cast out the demons Hamlet has made in his head. What would William Blake do? Help Jesus to remove Hamlet’s “mind-forged manacles” (London poem). What would the Dalai Lama do? Teach Hamlet about inner peace and how to let go of frustration and anger. What would I do? I hope the same, but after a year of him driving me round the bend I’m very ready to burn the book and tell him to leave me alone for the rest of time…