The Wisdom of Jubilee, Forgiveness, and Forgetting

“And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you;”—Leviticus 25:10 (King James Version)

3090__the_war_of_the_roses_1989movie_The longer you’ve been with someone, the more times you’ve let them down, hurt them, said stupid shit, and, in a way, incurred debts to them. Perhaps that’s why people who’ve been together for a long time can fight so spectacularly: because they’re not just fighting about what happened yesterday, or last week; they’re fighting about what happened last year, or last decade. Indeed, I’ve heard some couples bring up shit that happened in the 1990s in fights! As you might expect, this makes their fights far more intense than they ought to be. When this dynamic is ramped up to the group level, you’ve got people screaming and yelling about stuff that happened 400 years ago as if it happened yesterday; you’ve got programs of ethnic cleansing predicated on wrongs that were supposedly perpetrated by the ancestors of your victims; and you’ve got young adults in developing countries crushed by national debts that were incurred by corrupt politicians decades before they were born. Alas, I propose that we forgive it all!

eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mindWhat could be more beautiful than a periodic forgetting of debts? It could renew our relationships, our economy, our international relations? How often do we see people split up and remarry simply because the weight of resentment on their shoulders proves too heavy to bear? They start off fresh with a new partner (also recently divorced) and proceed—slowly but surely—to build up a similarly substantial weight of resentment, which, in time, will necessitate another divorce, and another remarriage. But why not break this cycle? Why not forgive the debts, get over it, stop bringing up old shit, and move on?

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)

p.s. I’m not, I hasten to add, suggesting that we ignore the claims of justice. Central to the biblical notion of jubilee is, in fact, justice: because debts become too heavy to bear at a certain point, and rates of inequality become untenable. That’s what jubilee is all about! It’s not about people who got rich via slavery saying to their newly emancipated slaves: look, can we just let bygones be bygones. It’s about emancipated slaves and their onetime masters dividing up the resources equitably and then agreeing to let bygones be bygones.

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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