Even when we have been hurt, even then we are to forgive the one who hurt us? We were gathered around him as a flock gathers around a post–hungry or pensive. The desert heat was mitigated slightly by a gracious cloud overhead which, instead of simply passing by and leaving us with unshielded fire, kept circling around the place of the sun, as though to form a canopy for our congregation. In the distance the camels were parked; we did not want camels’ speech, their way of muttering, to interrupt the speech of the one before us. There were several dogs near us and with the children in particular, but the dogs gave no attention to the focus of the community. An intermittent wind brought with it sand, from which we protected ourselves with our garments. The women, whose faces were already covered in the grey cloth of the rest of their dress, were especially prepared for the sudden waves of billowing sand that would, for the time of an inheld breath, cover us with the fine bright grains of the ground.
We must forgive especially then, he said. His voice was a melody for us, calling us to harmonize–at any cost harmonize; enthralling, magnificent instrument. His brown curls were layered in a golden helmet of sand; when he shook his head the sand would come from his locks as a miniature version of what we were experiencing with the wind. Every time he was careful not to shake so as to disturb his neighbor, the women and children gathered at his feet foremost. We are to forgive an absurd amount of times.
Why do you say An absurd amount of times, is that in order to insult us, grand one? The woman held a suckling child to her breast, turned from the sun which was for the moment escaping its shroud.
I say Absurd according to your preferences, as I know the human way. I admit I am saying something against the human way.
But you still say Be holy as your Father is holy, yes? So, are we or are we not capable of this inhuman forgiveness? Exasperated, the man’s voice shouted from the back of the gathering. The crowd hushed at his words, as the words seemed to express exactly what was on the hearts of the many.
The great one laughed, laughed at the question, at the many solemn faces, before continuing: Yes, yes, yes! His voice came to a crescendo but as though it were a healthy horn, not a squawk as so often happens to men’s voices when they are raised. As I stand before you now, each of you is capable of this forgiveness, and such forgiveness shall be the flavor, the one worthy thing, the meaning of the earth. To see even that one you cannot stand, the one who despises and curses you, the hateful or hated one, beside you as a fellow, this is the place to which, in glory, we shall go. Forgiveness gives us not only a power in our solitariness, an unrecognized power, but it also grants to the community a solidariness. We shall look at one another openly when all are forgiven.
But we do not believe you! The crowd became even more remarkably mute as this man took in his arms a child from the arms of a woman pressing near the holy one. He then pulled out a dagger from his purse and pressed it against the child’s neck. We do not believe you! Your forgiveness is absurd, through and through. Inhuman, and nothing beyond the human! What to do then but, but–anything! He let bleed the child, tossed the dagger into the desert, and stood, bloody with the lifeless child at his feet before the congregation.
At once he was rushed upon by a dozen men, and women besides, thrusting their bodies with might and outrage at the man. These others were without weapon and made a point to tear at the clothes of the one who brought death, tear his clothes and bruise and molest his face, bring him then to the ground with a communal leveling then smash and beat his squirming body with kicks and punches. Although the man still lived, it was not long before the group of fighters, near twenty in all, were coated in his blood, their grey gowns browning fast in the desert sun.
Stop! Stop! The voice was magnificent for its refined firmness yet lack of anger, the crowd was immediately entranced by its sound, its sound like the sound of one who has mastered wind, and they turned to face the great brown man, his sandy helmet atop his helmet of thick, dark curls. He shook his head, let fall the sand before he continued: Remember–
No! The mother of the child cried with a simple, honest, shrill cry. No! No! The others bustled among themselves, seemingly chatting, some tending to the dead child, closing his eyes and protecting him from the circling buzzards, no one tending to the battered man who killed the child; the consensus among them, even for the man writhing in pain of the others’ vengeance, seemed to be in agreement on one thing: No, no, no. This cannot be, in the absurd heat of the desert, the disproportionate challenges of life in the desert, we cannot simply lose one and ignore it; such slaughter must be avenged, seemed to be the consensus of the congregation.
We must forgive, as we said earlier, even those who hurt us, who hurt, who killed this child, this blessed being. The holy one came through the clamoring crowd to bend low to the child, touch his failed body with the tenderness with which he touched this same little one when the child waved before, alive and bright, rich golden-tanned skin, from his mother’s arms.
The crowd became charged with dismay and pain, formed themselves into a single body and converged upon the holy one, taking his limbs and, without further ado, tearing them from the trunk of his body. The great one, mutilated, only opened his mouth slightly at the pain, and soon died beneath the rising moon. The hurt and vengeful swarm tore his body into the finest pieces, pieces easily lost in the grains of sand that, with an intermittent wind, blew into the darkening desert.