I’m Sorry

I just read another great post by fellow blogger and Transition worker Charlotte Du Cann (in UK) in which she writes about our need to listen to our ancestors. She writes:

Because you realise we have put the best of ourselves out with the trash, and what we have now is the life of a dog and a cockroach. A subservient and a scavenger existence in a technological cityworld.

This has come at a cost: it has cost us gratitude.

We haven’t paid for a long time and the debt is long, stretching back through history. Our dreams tell us this. What we have forgotten, what we have thrown away, what we have become. A pack of English hounds thirsting for the wild red fox, a thousand cockroaches ravening in a New York larder.

No one has said thank you for a very long time.

When I read that I immediately thought, “No one has said sorry either.”

And suddenly I got it.

I have been working on a short story, a letter from a healer and mother in the end days, when her community has failed to listen, failed to adapt and is, as a result, rapidly declining. Though it is often on my mind, I have never set down a word of this story because I could never grasp her voice. Imagining her, I knew she was trying to tell me something but I just wasn’t getting it. For instance, her central monologue goes like this:

Now that we’re here, people still don’t say “I’m sorry.” Instead they still say “I didn’t know.”

I always knew that this is the heart of the story, of the character, but I could never imagine what goes around it. It seemed too bitter, a dead end, a vacuum. It was not me – I admit it, who else could this woman in my story be?

But now I get it. And now here’s also a little test, a surprise for you, reader, as well.

By “I’m sorry” she doesn’t mean mea culpa, “I am to blame”. She means “I grieve with you.” By lamenting that others are still not saying “I’m sorry,” she is not accusing them of shirking blame. She is lamenting that they are still not grieving. By saying, basically, that they should be sorry, she is not putting blame on them. She is wishing on them a gift.

Do you see? How often have you said “I’m sorry” to someone and have that person respond with “oh, it wasn’t your fault”? How often have you said (or thought) that when someone said it to you? When you read her monologue – “they should be sorry” – did you too see only bitterness, hatred, revenge?

If so, it’s your culture, which acknowledges only blame and turns grief into guilt.

If so, I’m sorry.

I hear her now. She rings true.

 

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