An Admirable Life (14)-Forgiveness: The Past as Invisible Character and Forgiveness as Lubricant for the Cultural Deux ex Machina

   Yesterday, I bothered cyberspace with this thought: that the Past (our shared experience) is the invisible character in our life-time play. The Past is de facto setting manager and dialog writer of the Play of Life. 

   I described the importance of forgiveness to the institutional leader, who must forgive without a trace of forgetfulness. He must inhabit our history. 

   This raised some significant questions among my thoughtful readers. Aintsobad seldom attracts any other kind of reader and none for long.

   Shall we forgive Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the innocents of his day? Does forgiveness for Saul portend a precedent we may not wish to set?

   In fact, forgiveness for Saul is implicit in God's call and Saul's change. If you read any canonical letter from Romans through Philemon, you demonstrate remarkable forgiveness.

   To dig a bit deeper, shall we not agree forgiveness is the spiritual lubricant of our social deux ex machina? You recall that much of English Common Law is unwritten and that most of it remained unwritten for centuries. The English Constitution is still remarkably uncodified. The extraordinary fact of the Magna Carta is this: they wrote it down. 

   This is to say, for everything in our Code of Law (Western) put in writing, there is some historical tradition providing continuity for the code. The historical tradition could (does) exist apart from the Written Code. No? Then, why the continued battle between progressives who insist on the Constitution of the USA as a living document and conservatives, who consider it a closed document, citing originalism? Both groups (and all their branches) speak from a shared history, and so a continuous tradition.

   How can a culture operate in such an environment? There is a lubricant for the historical machinery. We call it forgiveness: it comes in stages and degrees.

   Legality is constructed of tradition. Tradition, or custom, is legal because we accept it as so. Forgiveness to a personal slight may be momentarily significant. Historical continuity is important on a much larger scale. Traditional legality cannot function acceptably apart from justice, which implies the necessity of forgiveness. Where the law extracts its due, in particular when justice is served, forgiveness is required for rehabilitation.

Next time: How forgiveness works.

Opinions expressed here are mine alone.


1 thought on “An Admirable Life (14)-Forgiveness: The Past as Invisible Character and Forgiveness as Lubricant for the Cultural Deux ex Machina”

  1. Ah! I see now, it was the ‘others’ arguing ‘loss of right to forgive’ against Camus’ admonishment to not enact retribution, that confused me. Of a matter of course, forgiveness shall abound in an admirable society…

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