Creating the future from the present

March 14, 2018

Bruno Wang Productions is proud to be the co-producer of Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman. The play reminded me of the importance of forgiveness.

In Sam Mendes’s production, former IRA commander Quinn Carney, played by Paddy Considine, appears to have found peace and new purpose as a farmer and paterfamilias of a large, extended Irish family. As the play opens, we see them cheerfully preparing to celebrate the harvest. But their harmony is shattered when the body of Quinn’s missing brother resurfaces in a bog, clearly the victim of a punishment killing a decade before.

Even as the family grieves, Quinn refuses to look back. But the play makes clear that Quinn’s past, echoing the history of Ireland, is not so easily laid to rest – not so long as there are still young men eager to fight and Republicans willing to recruit them. Forgiveness is hard, the drama suggests, when anger and hate can be passed down through the generations.

Yet we only have to look to recent Irish history to see that acceptance and absolution are possible, even when hate and division have been most fierce.

When Martin McGuinness passed away last year, we were reminded of his extraordinary trajectory from IRA commander to architect of the peace process, and the remarkable relationship he built with the Rev Ian Paisley, Northern Ireland’s first minister, to whom McGuinness was deputy. From sworn enemies, the pair put their countrymen’s right to live in peace before their past loyalties.

On hearing of McGuinness’s death, Paisley’s son Kyle tweeted that he looked back “with pleasure on the remarkable year he and my father spent in office together and the great good they did together. Will never forget his ongoing care for my father in his ill health.”

For many who remember the Troubles, such a genuine relationship seemed beyond belief. Yet there was no doubt that both men were brought together by their equal passion for the future of Northern Ireland.

Could this be where our best hope for forgiveness lies? In thinking of the future rather than harking back to the past?

This is something that spiritual author Eckhart Tolle suggested in The Power of Now, when he said: “The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: you create a good future by creating a good present.”

Unprocessed emotions such as hatred, anger and punishment can leave us stuck in the past, but forgiveness helps us to reclaim our life force. Forgiveness liberates us from our past and help us reconnect with the present.

Bruno Wang, founder of the Pureland Foundation