Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Dilemma

I want a peaceful, tranquil life. Not a luxurious or wealthy life, just tranquil. The sound of the wind rustling through the banana leaves at night, a cat purring on my bed, scrambled eggs and cheese in the morning, warm people who smile and greet me by name, a place to pray, a place to practice Hapkido... never having to look over my shoulder, never fearing a knock on the door or a light flashing in the rain through the rear view mirror.

I also want to change the world, if even in a small way.

The two generally do not go together.

It's a dilemma.

To understand what I mean when I say they do not go together, it's easiest to look at extreme examples.

Aung San Suu Kyi was born in Burma in 1942, the daughter of the senior nurse of Rangoon General Hospital (her mother), and the commander of the Burma Independence Army (her father, a national hero). Her father was assassinated when she was two years old.

Suu Kyi studed in India, Oxford, and New York. She got married and had two sons. She began writing and publishing books about Burmese history, society and politics. Burma was firmly under the control of a non-democratic military government at this point.

Suu Kyi took her first political action in 1988, when she sent an open letter to the military government, asking for multi-party elections. She later addressed several hundred thousand people outside Shwedagon Pagoda, calling for a democratic government.

By 1989 she was under house arrest, without charge or trial. Still under arrest in 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1989 she has spent 10 of the last 17 years under detention, sometimes house arrest and sometimes prison, and is still under house arrest today. Much of this has been in solitary confinement, where she was not allowed to see even her husband and two sons. Her husband died of cancer in 1999, still separated from her.

Through it all, she has continued to write, to send out statements on cassettes, and to work for the cause of freedom in Burma. She remains Burma's best hope for freedom and democracy.

Consider also Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Jesus, and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), all refomers, all men who changed the world, and all persecuted.

On a less dramatic scale (only because they are not so well known) are the thousands of human rights workers in the world today. Many are imprisoned, some are tortured. Many are harrassed by their governments, exiled, or charged with false crimes. This happens all over the world, including in the USA. This sort of persecution goes hand and hand with human rights work.

So... back to the dilemma. Live a tranquil life, or change the world?

I suspect the answer is, try to live a tranquil life and try to change the world, and accept the possibility that your tranquil life may be disrupted, shattered or taken away at any time.

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