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Love is so short, forgetting is so long…

June 18, 2010

The title is taken from Pablo Neruda’s poem “Tonight I can Write the Saddest Lines.” Oh, I adore Pablo Neruda but this post is more about forgetting and how it relates to learning, integration, and the degree to which we maintain an open heart that has the capacity to contain our many experiences.

Culture shock, in my experience, is one of the most powerful teachers there is. And with the heart in mind already, it will do to conjure an image of one’s heart shaken by the shock of new rules, familiar rules made useless, new language, new environments, definitions of space and time pushed aside and replaced with new definitions of time and space. As the brain and the heart are shaken about there is a tendency to close in on oneself in an effort to protect one’s programming, one’s home culture’s preferences and modes of thinking. It is easy to miss that Golden Thread that runs through all cultures, all religions, all that is human when we hunker down into the familiar.

Many have held up forgetting as a necessary means for learning. Although I do understand the necessity of unlearning, I don’t know that forgetting–permanently forgetting–is ultimately beneficial. What the heck is inspiring this left-field musing, you might be asking yourself. Well, let me tell you.

This morning I was looking through a handful of photographs that I had taken in Cairo, while I was living there. As I looked through them I was shocked to realize that I had forgotten the poverty. So much of my thinking about Cairo and Egypt in general was related to the difficulty that I experienced while living there–that relentless feeling of being under siege….In the end, I walked away with an enormous bruise on my heart that arose not from the pummeling blows of culture shock but by the darkness cast by my own forgetting. So busy with my own experiences, I failed to contain the conditions, sufferings, and perspectives of others. So many others. It’s not just me and it’s not just you. There are billions of us, each with our own story.

Just as I practice imagining that the space in my mind is infinite as the universe, I endeavor to practice cultivating a heart that is just as vast. For in it, I hope to contain all of humanity and to never become so focused on my personal details so selfishly that I forget these:

What is the little practice? An effort to remember in order to lengthen and expand the love that is too often so brutally clipped by forgetting.

I’d love to hear from you! Please share your ideas in the comment box and talk back to the blog. ;-)


  1. ninakillham permalink

    What a beautiful posting. Your blog is very peaceful and thoughtful. What a nice addition to the world of blogs!

    • Thank you. I really appreciate your kind feedback. I look forward to checking out your blog. 🙂

  2. I can’t help but notice there’s only 1 girl in the photos, and no women. Not surprising, and I can understand how closed-in & protective you’d felt. It is so easy to ignore what’s going on outside, the suffering of others, when we’re in that state.

    I don’t think we should forget the past, but we need not let it rule us in the present. The most valuable thing we can do is learn from it and apply those lessons now! ❤

  3. Hi, Becky,

    I think this group of pictures gives a false impression that girls and women aren’t outside playing, working, and socializing in Egypt. They are. Generally speaking, girls–especially as they get older– have more rules to contend with but I have many other photos that show a more realistic representation of boys and girls, men and women out and about.

    You are so right about not letting the past rule our present. From my perspective, that is the best reason to NOT forget the past because those samskara that lurk beneath our consciousness to guide our behavior for better or worse.

    I hope you are well!

  4. Wonderful post. It made me think about my own experiences and the rich details lost in the forgetting.

    Thank you.

  5. vai1 permalink

    What is the little practice? An effort to remember in order to lengthen and expand the love that is too often so brutally clipped by forgetting.
    I feel one should have strong institution and sanguinity about
    what they are doing , be it for a good cause, or for helping poor people,or even for caring your dear ones(family and friends)
    As one is more attracted towards the things which are different ,similarly, one should always keep some basic points(qualities) about the people they don’t want to forget at any time.

    Sorry for the delay in responding. Typically I’m much quicker on the reply, and no longer than two weeks. The past one month I have been unkind to me, and I expect more of the same until finish my summer interns.


  6. Santhanam permalink

    Memory is very short for reacll. But the problem is it is always retained in the sub-conscious and at times carried over to next life.

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