For my non-theological (not canon law) “enjoyment” reading, I’ve started a book entitled The Great Fire. It explores a time, place and incidents in history of which I am shamefully and abysmally ignorant. The book itself is a recreation from official documentation, reasoned speculation as well as excerpts from personal diaries about an American attempt to rescue folks from one of humanity’s first well planned and executed attempts at genocide: the atrocities against Armenian and Greek Christians who were caught up in the onslaught of Turkish nationalism during and at the end of World War I.
In one sense it is better explaining to me how none of the issues of hate that were at the cause of “the war to end all wars” were ever dealt with. So we ended up with a World War II. What a surprise!
It reminded me how perceived wrongs and injuries in the name of “religion” can metastasize into unending revenge – decades or even centuries later – as much of this story seems to me at least to be some kind of payback for religious wars that had occurred long beyond the memory of (but never with the hope of forgiveness from) any of the participants.
Of course, only “important” people leave their mark in history – right? I’ve read about one Greek national living near Smyrna – a teenage boy who will by sheer luck survive this massacre. His name was Aristotle Onassis, and years later he would become a wealthy man who married the widow Jaqueline Kennedy. I am reading about the exploits of journalists who saw a humanitarian slaughter unfold, but who could say or do little to help – including a very young “cub reporter” just beginning his writing career named Ernest Hemingway. But what of the “unimportant” millions who leave no mark? They just endure. Who speaks for them? Who cares about them?
This book is hardly “fun reading.” It is about pain and death and cowardice and religious hatred. And it is all true. Not a novel! Not the makings of a Tom Cruise Mission Impossible film. It is just another true story of how it is so easy to hold on to the pain: those injuries and hurts that others cause. We always remember them. The good that people may do for us is so easily forgotten. Too easily forgotten.
Taking this down to the micro level: why not spend this day remembering the “good” that someone may have done to or for you. Thank her or him (again, if you already did so – or for the first time, if you ignored their kindness). Appreciate the good of others. And if you can take any lesson from history, learn to let go of the hate filled memories. They always destroy! Even if you never act on them, they will destroy you – from within.
So if I am learning one thing (beyond this terrible story itself), it is how easy it is to forget the kindnesses, and how easy it is to recall the pains that people in our lives cause. And it is so not worth it to hold on to that pain!