On (not) Forgetting

We usually assume the verb “forget” is passive,
as if something slipped away, dissolved, naturally,
beyond our control.

But we should remember that to forget is to act.
To forget is to choose to not remember,
to no longer hold something consciously,
to release responsibility.

Sometimes to forget may be beneficial,
as when we choose to no longer remember
an injury or insult someone committed against us.

But too often choosing to not remember is deceptive
and deceit is inevitably dangerous,
especially when we fail to remember how we,
the perpetrators, perpetrated anguish against another –
another person, other groups of people,
especially against those with darker skin.

When we choose to forget we do so
out of convenience.
When we choose to forget we do so
desperately clinging to privilege.

When we choose to forget, our paltry attempts
at self-justification, at self-righteousness,
put us at odds with the blood in the soil of endurance.
The soil will betray us – remember, the very soil
over which we fight will remind us.

Forgetting, then, is always temporary, never eternal
as we suppose. Those presumptive moments,
those acts of dismissing the past, this self-serving pose
of failing to remember only leads us
to a futile state of false security.

We choose to not remember, and in so doing,
we choose to build our empire on shifting sand.

To remember is to seek justice.

To remember is to be fair to our enemies,
seeking to make friends of those we have harmed.

To remember is to allow gracious possibilities.

To remember is to be honest, and honesty
is our only chance of healthy survival.

To remember is to turn death into life.

To remember is to be a true partner with the only God
we will ever know. For God remembers,
and if we choose to forget
we choose to separate ourselves from God.

If we choose to forget, we choose to lie,
and lying to ourselves, about ourselves,
is the surest sign of evil.

To remember is not pleasant; it is painful.
To remember requires courage, but courage
brings satisfying reward.

To remember is a gift we cannot afford to ignore.

Choosing to forget is to contort the imagination:

mistaking a wall for a window
bending the sun into a cavern of darkness
bathing in spring water on Mars
pretending nothing matters except one’s own thirst,
that nothing exists except this moment,
believing the rainbow only wants to be white,
that the wick survives the burning,
that the flame is a friend only to us.

Isn’t it the memory of fear that makes the deer
clear the fence in an arc of beauty?
Doesn’t the brutal brumal wind grow
the luscious fur on the wolf?

So too, only remembering the sin makes the saint.

*Ken Hada