The Blessing of Forgetting

010(Disclaimer: I started writing this on 9/11, but didn’t complete it until two weeks later)

There’s a blessing in forgetting. It’s a strange thought to express on this day of all days, when we change our Facebook profile images to ones of patriotism and use the hashtag NeverForget on Twitter, but bear with me.

This time of year has been an introspective one for me for at least 13 years, if not longer. For me, it’s the confluence of autumn–which has always brought with it a yearning in my heart–with the Jewish High Holy Days, the anniversary of Doug’s assault, and the anniversary of 9/11. Add into that mix the fact that the kids and Doug go back to school–essentially, the start of a new year–and it really becomes the Perfect Storm for both introspection and contemplation.

I was virtually raised on the sentiment of “never forgetting.” The Holocaust took its own personal toll. Yet, just as with 9/11, the Holocaust wasn’t the first time a people were chastised to always remember. Pearl Harbor. The Alamo. The Maine. The list is longer than you’d think. But at what price remembrance? And more importantly, what end?

Humans are nothing if not long-memoried but incredibly short-sighted. Is not forgetting something anywhere near enough to preventing it from ever happening again? The problem, of course, is that few things ever look the same way twice and recognition is often blinded by the memory we still keep preserved in our head. (One only needs to view the bedraggled exodus of refugees from Syria and then the screenshot of Hungary erecting barbed-wire fences, to know that “never again” all too often becomes “what, again?”.)

Never forgetting can also be a double-edged sword. Because never forgetting, while a safety precaution and preserver of precious memories, can also act as a basis for hateful thoughts and fearful reactions. Never forgetting might have kept me from visiting Germany and realizing that the people there today are humans and not monsters. It may have prevented me from meeting a little old lady who ran an antique shop in Munich who, though she spoke only German and we couldn’t communicate, reminded me strongly of my long-dead grandmother in ways I can’t even begin to explain in words. It may cause usually expansive and broad-minded Americans to detest or at least fear all Muslims, even those not born yet in 2001. Never forgetting is the problem in many places in the world where shaky peace is so often broken by one person or another who simply can’t let go of past or perceived wrongs.

When I speak of the blessing of forgetting, I don’t mean to forget the loved ones that were lost or the evil that was done. I think the blessing of forgetting is that we don’t live our lives in stasis, unable to move forward because we simply can’t move on.

Our lives are full of daily events that cause pain and daily events that cause happiness. We can’t possibly remember them all, and we shouldn’t try to. We can, however, choose to let one or the other direct our feelings. By forgetting the hurtful, stupid things, you give yourself the blessing of letting the happiness encompass you. After all, moving forward is so much harder with hate in your heart.

It is a blessing sometimes to forget the hate, and a blessing always to remember love.

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