I’m a big believer in synchronicities. I don’t mean The Police album (although I like it). I’m referring to those funny coincidences that are just too weird to not notice. Like the whole universe is trying to tell us something. Or God. Which could be God speaking through the whole universe. My Dad was always talking about these things – in fact, they happened to him all the time. And he’d tell me about these big synchronicities in history – like about the submarine Squalus disaster. The Squalus – that’s a weird story – but that’s not really what I want to talk about. Really, it’s not synchronicity, either. It’s just my way of getting to this. Lately, I keep coming up against letting go.
When I started my internship at my teaching congregation, my supervisor informed me that he was going to be leading a class on the Bhagavad Gita, and SURPRISE! I’d be co-leading it with him. OK, well, then I had to read it. So I did. And we did this class – twice. I’m no expert on this text by any means – I’m just telling you that I’ve been deeply into it for the last two months. And there’s a lot in there about letting go. Letting go of attachments to outcomes. Letting go of attachments to all sorts of things.
I think there’s a lot of wisdom in this text. This is not my religion. But there is still much I can learn from it. And I can certainly point to times when I have been too attached to things, and I’ve seen how over-attachment has brought down or kept down others, as well. So it’s funny how that’s been coming up a lot in the last couple of weeks. Even in the last few days.
I was at a conference (yes, I know, last week I was at a ministers’ retreat, and this week I was at a conference. I really do go to work most of the time) for the last few days. It’s an enormous conference and I ran into several of my professors there. As I was walking through the exhibit hall (mostly books – and I could probably write a whole post just on my lifetime relationship with books) with my Hebrew professor, we ran into another professor from the seminary and we began talking about publishing and plagiarism. My professor told of an academic he knew who could never let go of a manuscript. He couldn’t get things published because he could never say it was finished. Eventually, others just stole his ideas without giving him credit. (Eventually, someone did publish attributing all the ideas to the original guy). The point is, though, this guy could never let go. He could never say, “this is good enough, it will stand or fall on its own merits, and I’m putting it out there.”
The story reminded me a bit of my step-brother, who had already had success with one tech company in Silicon Valley, but couldn’t do anything with his second company because he wouldn’t release the software. He had a program, and he wouldn’t release a beta test version. He wanted it to be perfect. It never was. He never released it. He couldn’t let go. Now, my step-brother was pathological. But you don’t have to be pathological to have a hard time with letting go. And it can eat at you.
Last night I sat down for dinner in the hotel restaurant, and since they wouldn’t seat me as a single, I sat at the bar. So I ended up sitting down next to an Israeli man whose grandparents were massacred in The Shoah (the Holocaust), and who likely escaped the Shoah himself as a young boy along with his parents (I can’t say this for certain, but I’m basing this on how old he appears to be). We talked mostly about conference things – the Bible and archeology in Israel. And then it got around to history – to travel – to Israel (I still haven’t been), and to Poland, and about forgiveness. This is when I learned that he cannot forgive. He’s so very angry. He doesn’t just hate Nazis. He hates their children. And their grandchildren.
He told me about how he hates Arabs. And Muslims. He assured me that there has never been a time in history when Muslims and Jews have lived peacefully together. I protested that Cordoba was exactly such a time, and he countered that Cordoba was a big lie. It doesn’t fit in his paradigm of hate and mistrust, so it has to be a lie for him. He dismisses academic opinion about Cordoba, insisting instead that there is one academic who has proved (in his words) that it is all a lie. Well, I guess we can proof-text the world as well as the Bible.
So this man has all this anger and hatred, and he can’t let go of it. Mind you, I am not suggesting in any way that people not have the feelings that they have. While I certainly lost distant relatives whom I never knew of in the Shoah, my parents, my grandparents, and even all of my great-grandparents were safe in the U.S. at the time. I’m not suggesting that he shouldn’t have been hurt by this. I am suggesting, however, that at this point his anger and hatred is serving to do more harm to himself than good.
Letting go of anger is so powerful. Forgiving isn’t for the people we forgive. It’s for ourselves. We have to be so vigilant when we’re angry and hateful all the time. We use so much energy making sure that nothing alters our world view. I think it’s sad. Further, in this instance, there are very real consequences.
In Israel, there are many folks who are holding on to this mindset. They hold to the idea that there can never be peace. They teach this to their children. They’re hard-liners. They use the Bible to justify their actions, but they don’t read all the Hebrew scriptures. They don’t read them critically. They proof-text to support their ends. All for fear, hate, and anger.
Letting go. It’s so important. Some things we should hold on to with all our might. Others we need to let go. The thing is to be able to understand when to do which.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.