Saturday, April 30, 2011

Try a Tattoo to Make a Confession of Guilt!

I left a Journal Gazette article parked on my desk, and then shuffled from there to here. An unsolved murder has been cleared up. What happened was a gangland murder. The head of one West Coast gang was gunned down outside a liquor store. Unsolvable. Into the “cold case” file. And then…This head of a rival gang go busted and photographed. Four year later – now – a policeman recognized it. Tattooed on the man’s chest was that crime scene in detail, inclusive of a headline for it.

Many persons have a horrendous remembrance. It usually ends, “It was either him or me.” There are a lot of variants. One was of a friend who stepped out into a room with leveled rifle at the same time a German soldier, of the same age, stepped out into the room with his leveled rifle. They stared into each other’s eyes and both stepped back out of the room…

Now I was looking into the picture of a man with staring eyes and a murder scene celebrated into his  flesh. The thought may come to you, “too sick for a prison and too dangerous for a mental hospital.” Actually, I have played bridge with a person somewhat like that; there was a bridge club in the California state prison at Vacaville! There is a lot of puzzle to such an experience when you reflect on it, especially when you later read up on it.

We are all weighted in the balances, this ‘self’ that is who we are. What we chose to remember is inevitably placed on the scale of things – and what we wish we could forget. What we are contemplating is the meaning of what it is to be human. Our personal cup of sorrows sometimes overflows; I know this, as doubtless you do, as a parade of shadowy stories passes by. My conclusion is that they are not best forgotten, nor best denied, but brought before a Higher Court. We can turn our personal thing this way or that a-ways, but the need is for resolution in our heart of hearts.

What we are weighing is religious, but beyond “religion.” Any religion applies to our upbringing, thoughts and emotions that are cultural expressions, historically conditioned, highly situational. This is not to rationalize away, but to recognize there is a region beyond this that is a part of our human inheritance. It has created expressions like remorse, guilt, confession, repentance, forgiveness, and grace. Every language may not have these exact words, but I think even the most primitive fumble towards them. We need the structure and history of religions, but even more we need to recognize how much there are thoughts and emotions that are both innately religious and authentically uplifting. We reach out, even as we look within. In moments like this, the words of the Gospel of John come to mind, “and the Word became flesh…” Let the process begin.

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