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Lucian and Mary Brown:
Untitled [little boy throwing baseball] (c. 1950)

"I do not believe in anything like learning to forget some things."

Premeditation aside, the worst crimes tend to be crimes of inadvertency. One backs into these infractions without malign intentions, often with innocent misconceptions. These crimes seem less committed than incurred. They're usually wrong-place-wrong-time shortfalls, actions that would have never happened save for convergent conditions. We walk on someone else's territory not to trespass but simply in passing. We might not even notice at first. Another might finally clue us in, or we clue ourselves in well after the fact. However we learn about our crime, we might well always remember it. Punishment might become a life-long haunting remembrance of the event, something no amount of penance or forgiveness will ever adequately compensate for committing or erase the accompanying sensations. We wound another by backing our bus over them without noticing.

These sins can never be undone.
Even should we be arrested, tried, and convicted, ninety-nine years would barely scratch the surface of repaying the debt incurred. There could never be any early release for good behavior because good behavior after the fact doesn't matter. What was done was done and cannot be undone by any measure. The mark of Cain, the influence of shame, will never be shaken. Confessing these sins cannot erase them. They own us. Recounting them only dredges them up again, refreshing their wound. I commit myself to somehow become more sensitive to avoid future similar infractions, but I will forever remain vulnerable to some accidental action backfiring all over my reputation.

When my son was small, before my daughter was born, my parents came to visit for a weekend. My first wife wanted to show them a good time and get out of the house for an evening, so she scheduled a babysitter and bought theater tickets, my folks being avid theater fans. It was a typically dreary October evening. The play was some experimental horror, terrible by every measure. Upon returning to the house, my dad wondered if we might check on the game. Oh, crap, it was World Series. I had not even thought! My dad, a fervent baseball fan, would neither be caught dead missing a game nor presumptuous enough to assert his preference as a guest in my home. He'd dutifully followed along as we attempted to entertain him without understanding that we were torturing him instead. A Sin of Self Absorption certainly contributed. Why could I not have remembered to ask before inflicting my notion of what might be entertaining?

These HighCrimes visit, I suspect, to amplify self-awareness, to hammer home some aspects I've neglected to attend to. I'm still learning to ask before inflicting my gifts. My purpose might always be better served if I attend to their quality of experience first and let mine follow. Of course, there are also HighCrimes inflicted upon one's self. An awful lot of awareness seems necessary to minimize the crimes we commit, and there couldn't be any way to avoid some of this. The challenge from now on involves the baggage brought along. I do not want to forget my infractions, for they inform me in critically important ways, but neither do I want to extend my stay in limbo. There’s never anything terribly useful to gain after inflicting a certain amount of self-punishment pain.

I am guilty as charged. I was never able to make up that lost game to my dad. Nor have I been able to completely forget my sin even though my father passed over a decade ago. October comes bearing a trigger inducing an overly familiar there-and-then scenario. It might just as well have happened last night for the emotional content involved. Forgiving us our trespasses absolves nothing. The wound remains fresh regardless. We live and learn, I guess, but some learning never ends; it keeps remembering. I do not believe in anything like learning to forget some things.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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