On Absolution

Absolution (noun)

Origin [Latin]: ab-solvere – to set free

1. The formal release from guilt, obligation, or punishment.

2. Ecclesiastical declaration that a person’s sins have been forgiven.

Similar: Forgiveness, pardoning, exoneration, remission

-Definitions from Oxford Languages, Google

All children come into this world innocent. They are the embodiment of a sense of wonder and joy that make them such a pleasure to be around. Pure in spirit, they are untainted by the prejudices and fallacies that come with the burdens of being an adult. Many a person knows this when they look back at their past and feel nothing but regret and shame for their current self. For some, the recognition will set them on a path to discover the reason for their existence. For others, it is a rallying cry to hunker down and try harder at what they were already doing. Whatever the path the individual may take, the ultimate goal is the same: happiness.

Before we dive into what absolution means, it is vital that we establish the core tenet of human nature. Unless you know that these are proven true in your own experience, I urge you to strongly question the validity of what it means for you:

  1. The only thing that humans seek is happiness. No matter what the outer form of the search may take, (be it a car, home, business, partner etc), the underlying reason for their search is always the same. While subjectivity may come into play, all actions that a person takes is based on this.
  2. The search for happiness manifests in the mind through desire. The only function of desire is to put an end to itself through the collapse of separation between the desired object/relationship/state of mind. The inevitable result when the search ends is happiness.

In our culture we are encouraged to not judge, and forgive others because it is the right thing to do. That itself is a step in the right direction, but allow me to dig deeper.

With absolution, there must be a subject that does the forgiving, and an recipient that is being forgiven. This implies that the object/person that is being forgiven must have committed some kind of wrong against us, else why would forgiveness even be needed in the first place? Implicitly, this is the logic that underlies many of our social interactions, from the politeness in which we approach our fellow peers to the rare dramatic examples of redemption and absolution for a wrong (that occurs too, in movies). Take the following example into consideration. Why is it appropriate/polite to apologize to somebody when you accidentally bump into them? Does the person that you bump into take any offense when you bump into them, and come back at you with a vengeance, pitchfork in hand? Would you do the same to them if they bumped into you?

Of course the answer is no, for we normally shrug it off and reply with something along the lines of “no problem”. Yet we know that it is appropriate to apologize, to give both ourselves AND the other the benefit of the doubt. A gesture from the depths of our nature, demonstrating that we care for their wellbeing in the event that they did indeed, have the worst of days and took offense to the matter. The acknowledgement of our shared being itself then becomes the foundation of the interaction, and more often than not it’s pretty chill/nonchalant and on the rare occasion blossoms into something beautiful.

However, there exists a far more pessimistic way in which the matter is understood, and it is one that people with low self-esteem view their world. It is a premise best explained through the lens of societal conditioning; that we are responsible for the happiness of our fellow peers, just as they are responsible for ours. Innate guilt is the only precursor for such a premise to even exist, for it places the individual in a position where love and camaraderie among fellow humans must be earned beforehand. This innate guilt in the form of a belief takes the following form: “I am not worthy of the love and camaraderie of my friends/peers and so I must do everything in my power to earn it.” This premise that they believe in is projected onto the people in their lives, and more often than not comes of as a constant need to prove themselves, hence the term ‘needy’.

On the opposite end of the scale, we have the extreme examples that deal with major grievances. The majority of these grievances can be seen throughout human history in the form of slavery, genocide, and wars. Here the aforementioned premise comes into play once more, that the other is always responsible for our happiness, just as we are responsible for theirs. Any individual knows that grievances only cause harm to the body, mind, and spirit, due to the constant anger/hate towards the other, so what other form of logic could possibly cause somebody to hold a grudge against their fellow humans? If their fellow humans are responsible for their happiness, then any violation of this unspoken covenant must surely impede their search for happiness and cause them suffering. This premise is reinforced by the use of narratives that band others together under a shared cause, that being the defeat of the other, for they have failed to upkeep the covenant that we projected unto them. It is through this machination that countries wage wars with one another, where religions commit crusades, and we hold grudges against our fellow man. But what about the other side? Surely they cannot be anything other that objects meant to fulfill our search for happiness at best, and at worst, enemies that must be destroyed if we are to be fulfilled. In the purest sense, we dehumanize our fellow humans in our own quest for happiness.

Antagonistically, it has been a trend that contemporary movie villains have rejected. In fact, the best villains are the ones that we empathize with. That the greatest villains are the ones whose anguish we can understand, even if we do not agree with the means that they go about their business. For in their own eyes, they are the heroes of their own story, bearing an impossibly heavy burden to right a wrong that no one can comprehend, and that any action that they take ultimately justified because they see no other way to resolve their conflict. In a contradictory way, these villains have much to teach us because they represent the other that we have so eagerly rejected, that our fellow human on the other side of a grievance is too, ultimately just seeking happiness and just as human as we are.

The premise of having others be responsible for our happiness is a flawed one, and is one that places an impossibly burden on both sides. It is a form of projection that externalizes our own search for happiness by making others pay for our happiness. If we had even the slightest bit of love for the other, that we recognize ourselves/our shared being in the other, this burden would be an abhorrent one for we would not want anybody to suffer it.

“Treat others with respect. How you treat others will be how they treat you.”

-Gautama Buddha

God is the traditional word for happiness that all religions use, for God is unbound happiness.

The premise of having others be responsible for our happiness stems from the belief in separation. It is a denial of the joy that is inherent in our nature, a denial of the wonder and happiness that all children bring into the world, for any belief that happiness is separate from who we are is a denial of our own nature. Though no fault of our own, through the process of growing up we are conditioned to believe in that our happiness must be acquired externally, and subconsciously we feel the pain of separation, manifesting itself through subconscious guilt because we have unknowingly denied ourselves of our true nature.

Undoubtedly, all humans know that happiness is their true nature, for even when we believe in separation, it call out to us, manifests in our thoughts as the urge for happiness. We who have denied ourselves through the belief in separation hear this pull from happiness but associate it with objects of desire, then more often than not end up pursuing them. This pursuit of happiness through objects of desire will be a constant for as long as we believe in separation, for objects of desire are subject to entropy/impermanence/change, as so too are our subjective perceptions that accompany these desires. The end result is a constant pursuit of desires in search of a fleeting happiness, haunted by subconscious guilt that all efforts made in this pursuit will always be doomed to failure.

The poetic part of the whole journey is that our true nature is that the call of happiness will never cease as long as we believe in separation, and for some, it can last for as long as they live. Happiness itself is unbound by the wisdom of the world and loves all, for all humans feel its pull no matter what form it takes. Every object/action taken is a means to answer the call, to collapse the separation between us and itself, for we love happiness just as much as it loves us (metaphorically speaking).

What then is absolution?

It begins when we recognize our belief in separation, that happiness is not our nature and must be derived externally. It hurts because we recognize our sins for what they are, for first denying ourselves of our nature and then projecting the search for it unto the outside world. The weight of our deeds leaves us recoiling in horror and fills our heart with guilt, and it is in this recognition that the process of healing truly occurs. It is is a pull of grace, an invitation from happiness to re-discover the depths of our true nature, for if without this recognition, we would carry on chasing illusions in our personal hell.

No longer do we demand that the world give us the happiness that we used to seek. No longer do we blame for anything that goes wrong, for we are re-learning how to be at peace with ourselves. It is a process in learning how to love and be happy, and through it we are finally at peace with ourselves. The path itself is a never ending lesson of learning and joy, for such is the nature of happiness.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

-Luke 23:34

Finally, we recognize the belief in separation as nothing more than a persistent illusion, and in it are all sins forgiven. Where there was once guilt now lies serenity, where there was once hatred now lies compassion, and where desires once represented a search they now represent hilarious ways in which happiness is expressed. That is true absolution, for it restores the innocence that we once enjoyed as children, but with the discernment of the ways of the world. And in some ways it invites others to discover atonement for themselves, for happiness itself does not discriminate but loves all.

The happiness that you seek is the very core of your being, and you are it.

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