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By: Rachelle Hamlin
Fort Fairfield Journal, August 6, 2014
Meditation, as taught by European Catholics, is a three step process in which you first spend a short amount of time taking a good look at something you see. This could be a sunset, a flower, a hand-- anything real. Next you try to see what similarity this might have spiritually. Sunset colors could represent the variety of G-d’s attributes, smelling a flower be like discovering truth or a hand can be soft or hard like a heart. The last step is to turn discovery into prayer. I learned to do this habitually.
I like to meditate on what I don’t understand and recently I tripped over a Pandora’s Box of stuff I truly didn’t understand when I heard a friend use the word revenge. No sooner had that word caught my attention than I heard the word used in another situation, much different from the first. I began to dig. I wanted to get a good look at what revenge is so I could meditate on it. Soon I realized that while revenge is invisible at all times, it is just as real as a rich man’s safe, and you don’t want to touch the stuff that is in it.
The Greek myth of Pandora says that evil got to us by way of a woman who had been given a locked box with a key and a warning: DO NOT OPEN. Now everyone knows Pandora would open that box, and she does. Out of it flies every evil this world can hold. It’s the end of her bliss. This was the most frightening story I read as a child. I feared myself then and now I was searching for one of those monsters, Revenge.
First thing I noticed was how hidden his presence is. He seems to be truly mythical. Our culture feels revenge is unbelievable and wants to keep it that way! No one likes him, so he is shunned in our literature, our conversations, and in our consciousness. The next thing I noticed is that Revenge likes being anonymous. It gives him more power. You notice that I am personifying Revenge as if it is a person. It is actually a personality trait, not a person. Revenge doesn’t become visible until it emerges out from someone’s body just as it emerged from Pandora’s Box. But then, we give it another name.
I asked myself, “Have I ever let revenge out from me?” As far as I can figure out, no; but I have heard his wings beating inside of me a few times. And maybe once, to be fully honest, I enjoyed a moment when I looked at something but it was his ugly eyes looking out at someone else’s misfortune with satisfaction. I had not let him out but I was not immune to enjoying a sick moment with him. Yes, there was good reason for me to be afraid when I heard Pandora’s story. I went to all the books I could find and there was no help there. So I turned to a very old book, compiled before 1904, of quotations from ancient sources. Pay dirt! Three pages of gold nuggets were listed under the heading: revenge.
While I began to study these quotations about revenge, I had a dream. In it a man was in a prison of his own making. He was being eaten alive by the desire of revenge against a woman who had scorned him for another man. She was happy and pregnant when she and her young daughter wandered into the path of the foul ex-lover who now hated her with a fury. The murders were pure evil. Thankfully, that was a dream. But I had gotten a good look at what revenge looks like when it is unleashed.
It was time to think about revenge’s spiritual significance. I had been tinkering with the word itself and noticed it was made of the prefix re along with venge. The re part meant that it was not the first venge; it followed something before it, as when historians reenact a battle. It looks like the battle, but it is not the battle, it merely imitates the battle which took place before it in time.
In Latin, the verb to come is venite. All the quotations I found on revenge have this double aspect. An offense came and because someone could not let go of it, another offense came as a direct result. “You did this to me, you’ll get it right back.” I’d found the essential element of revenge. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” But Jesus fulfilled that law on the cross. The new remedy for wrongs received is “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Revenge is a perverted sense of justice. It takes many forms, including the twisted pleasure of making film heroes out of people who take the law into their own hands and go on killing sprees because of a sense of prior injuries; of seeing whole segments of black society seeking payback on those with white skin because of revenge and a perverted sense of justice. It makes a TV watcher glad to see Lee Harvey Oswald shot after the loss of President Kennedy and others glad to see a Southerner kill President Lincoln. It perpetuates class warfare in the Middle East. This is all revenge let out of the box.
Since Christ, we are an inch away from Heaven. We just have to step inside our box to find Mercy. A coming judgment day will right all wrongs, real and imagined. You don’t want to rot in hell with Vengeance as your jailer.
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