Memories, Apologies and Veneration

Memories, Apologies and Veneration December 31, 2014

As the moon continues its waxing course, while the chronological year draws to a close, there is much in the air to remember. Today, on my way to my regular prison ministry visit, a local talk show aired a segment about the most memorable public apologies made during the year 2014. Often an apology can range from the “Don’t do as I did, learn from my mistakes” category to the “My bad” non-apology apology to a nagging silence that can a gaping wound in the psyche of the one who needs and deserves the apology.

Photo Dec 31, 6 24 13 PMThis is the time of year when many look for new paths, beginnings or a fresh start. Apologies can be brief, with the saying “off with the old, on with the new” being the catch phrase to absolve our own conscience or those of others who might not want to reflect upon the pain or unresolved issues of 2014.  Yet, this should be the very time that we consider apologies, those others gave to us, those we made to others, and most of all, those we wish we had made, but did not. Perhaps we ran out of time through the death of a loved one. Others could not turn back the clock due to a move to another locale, hundreds or even thousands of miles away.  Some chose the “let sleeping dogs lie” rationale to counter the voice of one’s own conscience that reminds the heart of a needed apology.

One lesson that I have learned through my visits to men, incarcerated for years, and sometimes decades, is that an apology is not just a saying or a brief “I’m sorry” hastily given.

Instead, these men have reminded me how in Paganism, in the Craft, or in any tradition, self-reflection and self-accountability are key to a strong religious practice.  Yes, many will say that they came to a particular aspect of Paganism because they hate organized religion; however, I have not yet found a Pagan path or tradition that does not emphasize some aspect of knowing the self and making amends, either through action, words or both, as a part of an ethical framework. There is something in the human condition, regardless of religious or spiritual path that cries out for fairness, balance and redress when a perceived slight has occurred. For most of us, that comes down to a sincere act of reflection and awareness of the impact of our words or actions on others. An apology can be the very act that demonstrates to the recipient the true nature of the giver.  When we apologize in sincerity, we are saying that we know and are aware of our flaw in a certain area, that we publicly declare our remorse for said action, and that we intend to change our future behavior to reflect this newfound recognition.  This is also a lesson that is given in many so-called “organized” religions.

Today, I saw men who were attempting to grapple with the depths of human emotion for actions committed years or decades earlier. Their reflections on 2014 were based in part on improvement in their relationships with each other and their families. Some placed their remorse on the page, while others recollected their successes trusting others to accept their verbal confessions. These mens’ lives are incredibly structured and at times, it is only the perceived sincerity of an apology by those around them that will help to move them a fraction of a step closer to eventual release. Some crave the freedom to do what many of us are able to do freely: demonstrate awareness of our remorse publicly with the knowledge that our apology is received and accepted in kind.   Others remain haunted by the first step towards a genuine apology: remembrance of the words or actions that require the apology.

It is in memory that we reflect and grow as humans.  For those who are on Facebook, there is a commonly seen item on news feeds of late:  X’s Year in Review. You are invited to see your particular friend’s year in pictures and quotes. In a way, Facebook is allowing its users to take a step to see the good and bad of a particular year. For those who live on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the like, technology provides the tools either to recall good times or to express a sigh of relief at the “oops” moments swiftly deleted from public memory – and ours.

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As the year closes, we can see our memories and make promises to do better. This brings to the surface the matter of veneration. We honor and revere our Gods and our ancestors through the acts of memory, acknowledgement and apology. Regardless of one’s path, the ethical and personal connection with the ancestors and Gods is strengthened by the choices made in these areas. This year’s Winter Solstice on December 21 (in the US, December 22 01:36am GMT) was also a Dark Moon at zero degrees Capricorn, an auspicious time to sweep the slate clean and to begin major undertakings for the year 2015.  Capricorn signifies, among other things, discipline and commitment.  We do both when we choose to remember and to apologize.  I am grateful to the men who shared freely of their own remembrances of 2014 with honesty and the understanding that trust and faith in the Gods means being ready to move forward in awareness and apology.  May we each have the same courage as we begin 2015.

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