Agés to Santo Domingo de Silos – excerpt 5
I was pleased to have made this detour: it was a retreat into another world – back to a more spiritual time. It showed that there are still places of reverence with sincere people and with traditions that compensate for the hectic life of the modern world.
The vibes I experienced as the brethren passed by made me ponder whether their mode of life gave them certain advantages. Maybe monks are able to better understand what is right and what is wrong. Instead of fighting for one’s position in society, being aggressive and dominating to achieve one’s goals, their sheltered life offers tranquillity, probably leading to awareness, forgiveness and reverence. Surely they have, for instance, the ability to apologize and be grateful.
However, they are human like we all are and, perhaps as a result of their sheltered conditions, they are less challenged by everyday existence with its emotional complexities. Does this mean that by being not, or less, challenged, they have fewer opportunities to advance and raise their level of mindfulness even further? Or is the mere fact that they are monks proof enough that they are at an advanced stage already?
Faith has been the backbone of cultures for millennia. Religion, the church and church practices, if we can embrace them, provide a powerful media through which our spirit can be raised. Faith probably gives a person profound advantages and, if based on integrity, love and tolerance, faith serves humanity. But maybe life with all its complexities is still the best teacher of mindfulness and awareness, certainly it is the only tool for the ordinary person if faith is absent.
Life outside monasteries is probably far more complex and gratitude and pardon, which I described after climbing Alto del Perdón, are most essential and helpful. Apology, which belongs to this group, is also vital. This seemingly innocent word is probably underrated and should by rights be written in CAPITAL letters.
APOLOGY – the need for an APOLOGY, to be able to APOLOGIZE, to hear an APOLOGY, to accept an APOLOGY – this is crucial in all spheres of life and once more I suggest that it would be good if it were part of a school curriculum.
The ability to apologize and make things right appears to be hard for us humans and if an apology is sought and necessary, we often feel vulnerable, maybe afraid of losing face in the process.
I have mentioned the benefit of relaxation and not being able to apologize always creates tension and anxiety. Our resistance to admitting that we are at fault when we have said or done something that warrants an apology, makes both parties feel tense. If no apology from the guilty party is forthcoming, the situation becomes worse and everyone involved is on edge. The effect is like a gray dome hanging over all present. The dome lacks ventilation and the air becomes stuffy – even toxic.
If an apology is appropriate, the ‘guilty’ party needs to accept that he or she is in the wrong. This might be more complicated than expected: often it is a question of when is a wrong so clear and unambiguous that we feel free to apologize. On closer scrutiny it could emerge that whatever is seen as ‘wrong’ could be only partially wrong or it could be a sentiment of the other that makes us appear to have transgressed boundaries, when in reality we have not.
How do we determine the severity of a ‘wrongdoing’? How do we know when a fine line might have been crossed and an apology is warranted? Serious and obvious wrongdoings, such as lying, stealing, deceiving and adultery are self-evident and the need for an apology is quite obvious. However, in more subtle matters the line is crossed when one person has the notion to feel violated, even if the other is unaware of having caused this and might wonder about the sudden palpable tension. Hyper-sensitivity plays a role here. If we do not tense up and insist on an apology when ‘wronged’, the incident probably does not affect us in any dramatic way. We do not expect an apology and stay emotionally detached – even if we disapprove of what was said or done. If the situation does not ruffle our feathers, make us tense, or raise negative emotions, it has done no harm. This illustrates that the necessity to demand an apology depends solely on the aggrieved party. It determines the threshold of when to expect an apology from the other. There is no yardstick or formula by which we can accurately identify the need: it will be based on our emotional state at the time.
Whatever satisfies the ‘aggrieved’ person is also a matter of conjecture: the saying, ‘how long is a piece of string’ applies. It is a question of satisfying emotions – and they may have no boundaries. To offer a general apology might not suffice and a verbal verification of one’s transgressions could be necessary. This may be quite complex, and an apology offered while being distracted or not sincere will fail to make the grade.Sentiments on these lines are again far more pronounced in a loving relationship where every word is weighed more carefully. Also, in this case we cannot walk away from events, tension needs to be dissolved and the longer the unpleasant state continues the more difficult the resolve. This may build up until it becomes imperative for both parties to end the impasse. A way of apologizing and a way of accepting an apology has to be found so that a peaceful state is re-established.
To calm sentiments, the alleged offender has to find a way to provide reassurance, even if he feels that he is only partially or not at all to blame. For the ‘guilty’ party, searching for an appropriate way to apologise may create further tension and stress. However, if we are honest and are able to clearly identify our negative involvement, we should offer an appropriate apology. If this is seen to be sufficient, all is well, if not, healing time might have to pass before frank and honest analysis is possible.