A recently divorced friend told me how he and his ex-wife have different stories about how they met. His version is that he approached her at a party. Her version is that she introduced herself in a class. They fought about what actually happened not because they wanted to be right, but because of what the versions meant. Their unique stories portrayed each other in different lights and reflected what they believed about themselves and the other. A different story gave them a different interpretation about their past and that interpretation had influence on their future.
What if we used multiple interpretations of the same story to our advantage? Judaic literature and religion provide a long history of a hermeneutic approach. What if we applied the same hermeneutic approach to our own past? The Midrash, for example, is full of multiple interpretations of texts, each one providing a new perspective and light into the deepness of the text. The stories begin to have more power than they did before; as if a black and white television show suddenly displayed itself in full high-definition, three-dimension color. The psychologist Mordechai Rotenburg terms this a re-composition. It’s a re-reading of one’s past and history that allows a new future to form.
If I can re-read my past, then I can start to write a different future. Christ’s resurrection was a complete re-write of the world’s history. A re-interpretation of what God was perceived to be doing in the world. But where do I start? At the beginning? Somewhere in the middle like a deus ex machina? I have a personal stake in this concept. With my own recently divorced past, I have a story that tells me I’m a good-for-nothing failure. I’m tired of this interpretation and its powerlessness. I need a re-write, but — like sitting down at one’s desk to edit a long manuscript — the task feels overwhelming. The real work isn’t correcting the grammar or the misspellings; it’s finding the new story within the old, the one that gives new life. I need an expert editor to sift through the ashes and bring to life the small burning ember.
(Painting by Neil Simone)