One of the most profound and intimate experiences is to be wounded and unable to forgive. The inability to forgive may not be something that is simply chosen. Something very powerful continues to say ‘no’, even if one would like to say ‘yes’, to forgive the other, believing that it will make things easier, lighter and better from now on. In certain cases even after one has said ‘yes’ and meant ‘yes’, the ‘no’ insists.
To be refused forgiveness is also profound. Something in the other remains inaccessible, unattainable. And the past that one shares with the other—or with the other in oneself—is unclosed, like an incurable wound.
I have been thinking and reading about these aporias for the last few years, particularly with relation to the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. However, one can appreciate what I am talking about, without necessarily referring to the legacy of these crimes.
The impossibility to forgive—or to be forgiven—may be an elementary dimension of all our relations with others, and in particular, with the people who are most important to us. It is something that I encounter forcefully in my relationships with those I love the most.
Can there be a dance of the unforgivable? A dance of forgiveness?
Doctor Peter Banki is Research Associate in Philosophy at the University of Western Sydney. He holds a Ph.D from New York University. He wrote his Ph.D on the debate on forgiveness in the literature of Holocaust survivors. He has published a number of articles in peer review journals in the fields of continental philosophy and literature. He has recently spoken about his research on the Radio National Program “The Philosophers’ Zone” and has tutored and lectured in philosophy at the University of Western Sydney and also at the University of Sydney. His website is http://peterbanki.com
His book The Forgiveness To Come: the Holocaust and the Hyper-Ethical came out recently with Fordham University Press (2018)