Time and Forgiveness

Contemplating the nature of time. As a science fiction and fantasy reader, I see time and time again the concept of time travel introduced, explored, and yearned after. But as an adult human being standing in the present, knowing that the next step, the next keystroke, the next heartbeat, all those lie in the future. There is only one way for me to reach the future, and there is no way for me to reach the past. The past is only clear by looking over my shoulder at the faulty images of memory and snapshots captured in photo and video, sometimes in written journals and lists of what happened then. I can’t go back and alter the past. I can alter the future.

The flow of time is a one-way river we’re drifting on, Oars can’t get us back upstream, but they can change our forward course. And there are currents in the river we can’t always see that dictate where we’re going. I’m not a fatalist. Fate, predestination, whatever you want to call it, I don’t believe in it. I think we do have control over what happens to us in life. I also believe that we can hand over that control, either overtly or covertly, to others. Some people like to control other people. I’ve known them, and have no desire to get into that current again. Other times it’s our own reactions that create that unseen current. If we cannot forgive, there’s a part of the stream into the future that is cut off to us.

There is, I believe, a misconception about forgiveness. For me, at least, I can forgive without forgetting the least thing. And I cannot give my trust back. Forgiveness is not about making up and making everything the way it was before. That’s not possible – or if it were, it’s a wrong and dangerous thing to do. But if we are so set against the associations we’ve made between that which (or who) hurt us, then we can close off part of our potential future to ourselves.

Which is where time machines come in. If we could go back into the past and right a wrong, would we? Should we? I have scars. Some of them are deep and painful. Would I go back and put my hand in between the child I was, and the one who was about to hurt her? Would I go back and grab my teenage self and shake her until she started thinking? I… might not. The scars are signs of how my path through what-was-future changed, and changed again. But where I am now might not have happened if I hadn’t been harmed in the first place. The resilience I learned in the past stands me in good stead here in the present. Am I saying that if I saw a child in the same place, a teen in the same place, where I was then, I wouldn’t step in and prevent them from being scarred? No. Actually, that’s part of why I write this blog. Because someone out there might be where I was in my early 20s and this might help them step away from a situation that could cripple them for years.

The thing the stream of time gives us is distance. It takes a while. A long while, in some cases. Years to gain the necessary perspective to look back at a point that left the scar, and be able to embrace the present, knowing that where we are might not have been possible if it were not for that pivotal point in the stream. We must forgive, though, or we get caught in an eddy and spin dizzy in a whirlpool, being sucked down by the very thing we can’t let go of. We’ve given that person, that event, so much weight that it’s become an anchor. Only when you let go and start looking into the future, rather than trying to invent the time machine to change the past, can you learn to navigate the stream of time and steer into the possibilities of tomorrow.

11 thoughts on “Time and Forgiveness

  1. The past has made me what I am and placed me where I am, today. I really don’t regret my past because I would not change where, and with whom, I am now.

  2. Hmm. Kris has married Valentina. They are talking about having children. He tells her that life is at times paddling along a placid lake, one with many exits, meandering streams. Sometimes, in life we have the ability to choose. Example: a kid graduates high school. The choice of which college to attend, or even to attend one , is completely up to him or her. Take the same kid four years later. He doesn’t have the ability to, say, take a “gap year” or whatever. She gotta pass those last classes to graduate. NOW. SOMETIMES our free and easy choices made in that placid lake become iron dictator white water rapids. He tells her that having kids is like choosing one of those rivers that will restrict her freedom for YEARS.

    The context is that he wants to take her on a cruise before she has a kid, because young children are gonna preclude such vacations for many years, and he doesn’t want her to resent her decision to become a mom at an early age, and miss all the things she could have done by not harnessing herself to that motherhood plow for a few decades.

    Cedar, I have mentioned a few times how much I admire and respect mothers, for hitching themselves up to that that task, and your allusion to the unseen currents that control our lives made me cloud up and rain all maudlin on this topic. 🙂

    1. Speaking as a relatively young mother – I was 22 when my eldest arrived in this world – I am rapidly reaching a point where I can do the things I couldn’t at that age with babies and toddlers. I have the wisdom to appreciate them more, too. As a 41 year old, I can look back as the Eldest is turning 19 and think that while some women wait until they’re my age to *start* a family, I’m so happy mine is all tall and mostly self-sufficient rather than toddling into trouble every two minutes. By getting started, and being done, I’m able to NOW take that cruise (only I think cruises are deadly boring and couldn’t be bothered) and relax knowing the kids are nearly grown and gone. Plus, my parents are still young enough to take a kid for the summer and have fun, rather than being too frail to handle them.

      1. You make me laugh, Cedar. “toddle into trouble?” LOL. So far as cruises being boring, your mileage may vary. K&V are both VERY young, with hormones to match, so they are perfectly content to spend time together in their cabin. 🙂

  3. I think the best time travel stories are the cautionary tales, the ones where time travel is shown to be a fool’s errand, making things worse by causing two new problems for every one it solves. Because even if you could go back and change this or that particular choice you made, you can’t escape the fact that choices must be made, and that every one involves reaching for something while letting something else go.

    1. I’ve always enjoyed the parallel universe stories that explore how many branches there are – that choice leads to one branch, and that to another, and so on and on. Like trying to draw a phylogenetic tree for species differentiation. Get back far enough and we can only manage best guess. No one knows what the trunk of the tree looks like.

  4. Again, you write beautifully about the things that matter.
    I found most of my healing from bad events in my past (I think), first by learning about the times when I had contributed to the wreckage, and taking the steps I needed to not to repeat the same behaviors and expect different results. The second part was learning how my experience others, how to comfort others with the same comfort I had received.

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