2/19/19

Keep the baby when you throw out the bath water


“What do you think, general?”
The general had his wide back turned towards me. He was looking out the window. Even though we were on the 8th floor, I understood he did not really see anything of the big, broken city under us.
“Can we ever get peace in this city?” I continued. “All we see is hate and revenge. Over and over again.”
Finally he turned around. The look in his eyes was as tired and grey as the sky outside.
“We can only get peace here if everyone gets amnesia.  So we can forget everything and start all over.”
With heavy steps he passed me and walked out of the room.
I went to the place at the window where he had stood before.  I saw kids playing in the debris after a building that had been blown up only last week. Once, maybe not even long ago, the ones who killed each other now, had played together just like these kids.
“No general, that would not work”, I mumbled. “We don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. “

I recently read Kazuo Ishiguro’s The buried giant, where Merlin tried to solve wars by making people forget. The only problem is that all memories go away. Also the great ones. The ones that make us happy, the ones that make us remember why we love someone.

Some want to leave all of their past behind, all of their memories.
Others want to avoid certain feelings. Anxiety, grief and loss… Today there are medicines available to numb these feelings. The only problem is; we can’t numb selected feelings.

When we numb feelings, we numb all of them. When we want to forget the past, we forget all of it. Like using pesticides in a garden to get rid of the weeds and killing all the roses too. 

Maybe, instead of forgetting everything, or numbing everything, we can all learn to live with both darkness and light. Appreciate what life brings, also when it is not what we want. Only then will we fully experience – rather than avoid – this amazing, difficult thing called life.