Amending the Past
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Aug. 9, 2009
Amending the Past
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From the Bible
Love for Enemies
 In fact, what else is faith but a partnership with God by means of
truths that shape our understanding and thought? What else is love but a
partnership with God through goodness that shapes our intentions and
desires? God’s connection to us is a spiritual connection that comes to an
earthly plane; our connection to God is an earthly connection that comes
from a spiritual plane.
The ultimate purpose in creating us citizens of heaven and also citizens
of the world was this partnership. As citizens of heaven we are spiritual
and as citizens of the world we are earthly. Therefore if we become
spiritual-and-rational and also spiritual-and-moral, we forge a partnership
with God. Through this partnership we have salvation and eternal life.
On the other hand, if we are only earthly-and-rational and earthlyand-
moral, God is indeed connected to us but we are not connected to
him. The result of this is spiritual death (which by definition is earthly
life without spiritual life), because spirituality, in which the life of God
exists, has been extinguished in us.
True Christianity, #369
AMENDING THE PAST
Have you ever had a period in your life where everything seemed to go wrong at once? A time when everything of importance to you disappeared?
I’m going to tell what happened to one man in the chaos of a life spinning out of control. His name is Quoyle. He is fictional, created from the fertile mind of Annie Proulx in her book, The Shipping News, published in 1993. It became a highly successful film in 2001.
If you enjoy watching trailers, here it is:
The Shipping News Trailer
Quoyle was a man in his 30’s who worked as an ink setter in New York. He tried to keep his life fairly routine. It was not easy with his wife, Petal, who was gone a lot – often spending time with other men. She left Quoyle to care for their two girls: Bunny, age 6 and Sunshine, age 4 and a half. [in the movie, they have only one child: Bunny.]
One night he hears his wife come home late with another man, and hears the squeaking of the guest bed for several hours. He is deeply hurt; he loves Petal yet she wants a divorce.
The next morning at breakfast, they glare at each other in silence. Petal’s only words to him: “grow up.”
Proulx writes about that morning:
Quoyle believed in silent suffering …He struggled to deaden his feelings; to behave well. A test of love. The sharper the pain, the greater the proof. If he could endure now, if he could take it, in the end it would be all right. It would certainly be all right. [p. 16-17]
However, life was to get so much worse, that he would no longer be able to bear it in silence.
A year came when this life was brought up sharply. … [p. 18]
It began with his parents. His father was diagnosed with liver cancer and his mother with a brain tumor. They stockpiled their painkillers. Then they tidied up everything in the house, took all the pills and then a left message on Quoyle’s phone machine at work telling him what they had just done.
So, Quoyle now had a funeral to prepare for. And the visit of Aunt Agnis Hamm, who writes a note that she’ll be coming to the funeral on her way to Newfoundland.
You might wonder how things could get even worse. But they do. He comes home one evening to find Petal and the girls gone. He learns that his wife has run off with another man, taking the girls with her.
He calls the police to bring back his girls, and ends up getting horrible news. Petal was just killed in an automobile crash. Fortunately, the girls were not in the car, having been sold on the black market. Fortunately, the police are able to find Bunny and Sunshine and bring them back; hopefully before they were abused.
So what is left for him to lose? Ah, yes. His job. Yep. He lost that next when some staff had to be laid off.
As he and the girls and Aunt Agnis return from the funeral of Quoyle’s parents, Agnis has a serious talk with him. She is re-locating to the ancestral home in Newfoundland, and invites him along. She says in the book:
[p. 29] “it makes sense for you to start a new job and a new life in a fresh place. For the children’s sake as well as your own. It will help you all get over what’s happened. You know it takes a year; a full turn of the calendar; to get over losing anybody…. And it helps if your in a different place. And what place would be more natural than where your family came from?
This makes some sense to Quoyle, since there is nothing to hold him to New York. He and the girls pack, and cash in the $30,000 life insurance policy from Petal, and head north to find a new life.
Quoyle is shocked when he sees the “ancestral home. It hadn’t been lived in for 44 years, and had an insecure foundation on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
It turns out that the “Quoyle” name is well-known in this area, and people want to get to know him. Quoyle applies for a job as an ink setter at the local newspaper. They do not need an ink setter. They do, however, need reporter to cover “the shipping new.” And, of course, car accidents; which are always big news. People like to read about what ships are in the harbor and what goods they are selling.
He starts to find his own sense of self when he veers away from car wreck coverage – or writing about the goods in the ships. He talks to people on the ships that come in, and learns that one ship had been owned by Hitler. He gets all of the fascinating details, and writes an article. This is big new! His rival on the paper is convinced that Quoyle will be fired for writing about ridiculous stuff instead of the important car accidents. However, the boss is receiving phone calls of appreciation, and encourages Quayle to continue with a regular column.
We see Quoyle’s veneer of ice starting to melt as he connects with his inner core. [We would probably call it “God.”] He meets a woman who loves children, and he falls in love again. He is starting to gain some self-esteem from his job. However, he is hearing about secrets of his ancestors – who were pirates who had to run out of town.
Does he carry the sins of his ancestors? Does he need to makes for them? He probably does not. However, his life experience leads him to start reversing his family’s reputation. He makes friends with the one surviving local member of the family and brings him into community life. He becomes an active participant in the community.
By the end, he comes to know himself, and to live his uses in the world. He experiences deep love, and marries again. His wisdom is expressed through the writing of his column. He performs many uses in the community and for his family.
So what if ask Quoyle early in the movie what amends he feels he needs to make? What people does he need to forgive? What would he say?
Early in the story, the list might be:
His father, who almost drowns him when he was a boy
Petal, who runs away with the girls and sells them on the black market
Bunny and Sunshine who suffer the most from his insecurities and fears
The relatives and ancestors he had avoided knowing
His amends are not as specific and direct as they often are in 12 step programs. But they flow naturally from his being. His very life becomes an on-going amend to himself and to the world.
How might Swedenborg look at this life of regeneration?
As Quoyle is living out step 8 [and 9], Swedenborg might find similarities in his Stage 4 of Regeneration.
(c) Our partnership with the Lord is reciprocal: the Lord is in us and we
are in the Lord. The partnership is reciprocal. Scripture teaches this and
reason sees it. The Lord teaches that his partnership with his Father is
reciprocal. … [TC, 371]
372 (d) This reciprocal partnership between the Lord and us comes about
through goodwill and faith. … It follows that the more involved we are in acts of goodwill and in
truths that relate to faith, the more we are in the Lord and the Lord is in us.
Our partnership with the Lord is a spiritual partnership, and spiritual partnerships
take place only through goodwill and faith.
What about Quoyle’s faith and acts of goodwill? Let’s consider these:
The goodwill of attending to the death of parents
The goodwill of being a single parent to his girls
Having the faith to move to Newfoundland
Having the faith to take a job as reporter
Having the faith to ignore the assignments, and instead to follow his heart
Having the faith to fall in love again
Leading a life of goodwill in his community and with his family
At the end … he no longer suffers in silence. When he suffers, it is with friends and family. But mostly, he is content in the living of a quiet life in community.
His amends were more than good works towards particular people; they came through forming a partnership with God in faith and acts of goodwill.
Have you ever been through a period when everything seemed to fall apart?
Are there ways you were able to form a “partnership with God” to move through the crisis?
How was faith important to you during the crisis?
Did acts of goodwill help you to form a partnership with God?
How were you different as a person after moving through the crisis? Did it seem that you had made another step in your regeneration?
Be Thou My Vision
Extinguish your candles
And close the Bible.
Go forth; knowing that you and God can amend the past.
Swedenborgian Community, 11 Highland Ave., Newtonville MA 02460, 207-985-8776