Saturday, 12 September 2009
It's been a good day - Major Purcell gave an entertaining explanation as to why why the Lt Cols in the cohort may refer to him by a call sign, I got commissioned to interview Professor Vali Nasr, who will be advising Obama's administration on Iran, and a Rebecca in class came up to me and asked if Razi Ahmed (who she knew from UChicago) and Bilal Siddiqi (who she knew from economic research in Liberia) were my cousins. Most memorable of all, a nice guy called Mark, who I met on the street and asked for directions to the hospital, dropped everything that he was doing, got in his car and took 25 minutes of his time, time away from his girlfriend, to get me there.
It's been a good evening. Met with Issam's friend Zahra, and as we got onto the topic of helping others, I suggested we join my friend Dave Madan up the road at the Baptist Church and help him celebrate his birthday by distributing healthy meals.
Three hours later, Dave, Zahra, Arjun (Dave's friend from Berkeley, and also a friend of my friends Rahul and Bhuvan from Berkeley) were at a Korean-take-out-cum-poetry cafe for a monthly 'East Meets Words' open mic in Harvard Square.
One of the performers, Pushkar Sharma, recited these timely words penned by Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Being Peace:
In Plum Village in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps [ . . . ] It is very painful to read them [ . . . ] We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged. It is said that half the boat people die in the ocean; only half arrive at the shores in Southeast Asia.
There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government continues to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate. She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.
When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In my meditation I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, I am now the pirate. There is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I cannot condemn myself so easily. In my meditation, I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in 25 years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we might become sea pirates in 25 years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, you shoot all of us, because all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.
[ . . . ] People completely identify with one side, one ideology. To understand the suffering and the fear of a citizen of the Soviet Union, we have to become one with him or her. To do so is dangerous - we will be suspected by both sides. But if we don't do it, if we align ourselves with one side or the other, we will lose our chance to work for peace. Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then to go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace.
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