In the October 2nd episode of my program, The Anxious Voyage, I welcomed a guest named John Tejada. After being imprisoned on a sexual-assault charge, John wrote the manuscript for a book called, Searching for Redemption.
During our conversation, I told John I’m conflicted, torn between two points of view: On one hand, I believe Frankenstein should be required reading because its abiding lesson is that we have to live with the monsters we create. On the other hand, I don’t want to consider myself an absolutist; that is, I don’t want to believe all things are irretrievably right or irretrievably wrong, and never the twain shall meet. And I firmly believe if we’re not willing to grant forgiveness, we have no right to ask for it or to think we deserve it.
Black and White
My conversation with John put me in mind of my father. My father was very judgmental. I don’t know how he did it. But he managed to convince my siblings and me that he was perfect, and the world was perfectible. I remember believing growing up was a necessary struggle, after which life — or at least Midlife — played out on this long, smooth stretch of being that comprised … I didn’t know. I just believed it would be painless. Good would be good. Bad would be bad. Monsters would be easily identifiable, and rightly judged. Either or. No in-between. And whatever it was — good or bad, black or white, wrong or right — was that way forever. Immutable. Unchanging. No gray. No mitigation. No turning back. World without end. Amen.
My life would have been significantly different, and likely a damn sight easier, if Dad had sat me down as a wee lad and said, “Look. Here’s the deal. This whole thing stinks. Life is full of pain, misery, failure, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and loss. But once you accept it, every moment that is none of those things will be a source of joy to you. Live your life to the fullest. Don’t expect perfection from yourself, from others, or from the world. And don’t imagine you’re necessarily correct about anything.” At the very least, it would have caused me to judge less or at least to judge differently and to see fewer monsters.
I have this theory that all we deal with in life is loss. We lose the protective comfort of the womb. We lose our mother’s breast. We lose the right to mess in our pants. We lose friends, teachers, relatives. We lose our hair, our teeth, and our youth. We keep losing all these things and never get them back, but we never really learn how to deal with the loss. We never really say that it hurts, really hurts, and so we spend the rest of our lives trying to make up for it, holding on tightly to things that we really should let go of. (Louie Anderson, Dear Dad )
Judge Not, Lest …
In the manuscript for Searching for Redemption, John wrote:
We ask people not to judge us by our darkest day, or by our worst act, yet we are the ones judging ourselves on those very things.
Aye, there’s the rub.
Some monsters are easier to spot than others. And I wonder if others are always as monstrous as we judge them to be.
In judging ourselves — and in lacking the ability to recognize our wrongs, to admit them, and to forgive ourselves for them — judging others becomes our shield, our defense posture, our denial of the only reality that might bring us peace and comfort in our own skin. That becomes even more true when we realize electronic communication and social media are ubiquitous — and the internet is forever. And those realizations, of course, invite the questions:
- Who hunts us or haunts us?
- Who is the real monster?
A mirror may show us more than we might want to learn.