Boom!

I am just back from London and  Oxford and the huge and very happy event of my daughter Alexandra’s marriage.  As often with great things, it’s best to ease in by way of a few seemingly minor or even unrelated observations–and not just the expected ones, that at moments this Mother of the Bride (or M.O.B.) felt brashly, heart-on-my-sleeve American in the English setting.  As I rose to make several longish narrative toasts, I felt how true it is, that placing ourselves in new surroundings gives us fresh impressions of how we are–that what we take to be true is really just our small perspective. What rises to the top this morning is a detail heard and glimpsed the day before we went up to Oxford for the great event.  Alex and her now-husband Anthony took her parents for a bit of London sight-seeing, a walk over London Bridge, a trip to Borough Market (http://boroughmarket.org.uk) for some amazing food, the the most delectable grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had, and finally a tour of the Globe Theater on the south banks of the Thames (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globe_Theatre).  And here is the detail.  Gesturing around the open-air Globe as the sunset, commending the way the theater (theatre) was rebuilt to be as nearly like the original as possible, our actorly guide  explained that a real canon was fired in one of Shakespeare’s productions.  The playwright hoped for a grand effect but the blast caught the thatchy roof on fire and burned the Globe to the ground.  Shakespeare retired shortly after. Later, as we walked back across the Thames on the beautiful Millennium Bridge, watching the twinkling lights of London, Alex and I marveled to think of poor Shakespeare retiring, thinking that this unfortunate incident would shadow his legacy–that people would concede that he wrote some amazing plays but wasn’t he also the guy who burned down the Globe? What has this to do with marriage, or indeed with liberation and letting go, the theme of Parabola’s wonderful latest issue?  I come away from taking part in this wonderful trip more convinced than ever that our greatest deeds don’t consist in what we have done but in what we have consented to take part in.  Real liberation doesn’t come in kicking over the traces, breaking away from yoke of convention and doing something wild, like firing a canon in a theatre full of people.  It comes when we consent to take part in a greater truth.  In Shakespeare’s immortal words, “The readiness is all.”

Comments

  1. At the moment I was about to read this beautiful posting, I learned of Nelson Mandela’s passing. The passing of Mandela is a poignant moment for many individuals throughout the world. As a teenager, like many teenagers in the eighties, I had participated in the divestment movement and I had chanted, alongside my peers, “Free Nelson Mandela.” The passing of Mandela is the passing of a remarkable man; a man who embodied your wisdom today: “Real liberation doesn’t come in kicking over the traces, breaking away from yoke of convention and doing something wild, like firing a canon in a theatre full of people. It comes when we consent to take part in a greater truth. In Shakespeare’s immortal words, ‘The readiness is all.'”

    Prison did not have the power to break Mandela; rather in prison, Mandela became an even greater man. At the time of his imprisonment, it seemed unlikely that the apartheid system would ever collapse in South Africa. Apartheid ensured the wealth of the minority at the expense of the great majority. But “the readiness is all.” Even in the face of insurmountable odds, men like Nelson Mandela and Stephen Biko showed the world that liberation is possible; that regardless of the forces arrayed against the individual, might can never ultimately triumph over deceny, justice, and equality. Like Buddha defeating the armies of Mara, yes, liberation is possible.

    In thinking of the loss of this great man, there is a palpable sadness. It is true that so many of us, all over the world, have been touched in some way by this remarkable man. When he was finally released from prison, he stood at the helm of the South African government and transitioned the nation to a new era without violence or bloodshed. He even invited his former prison guards to his inauguration. He was unlike any man we had ever known; he was Mandela.

    Perhaps in a Shakespeare, like in a Mandela, there is something that speaks louder than what is – there is something that points to what can be, a compass that points to a new direction. Gurdjieff once wrote about remarkable men and indeed there are remarkable individuals all around us. But when we have the good fortune to even know of one, one as great as Mandela, we are transformed. Like a ruby that emerges in the midst of ordinary rocks and mud, we are forever blessed, forever changed.

    Yes, as you have written: “I [am] more convinced than ever that our greatest deeds don’t consist in what we have done but in what we have consented to take part in.”

    Mandela consented to take part in one of the greatest liberation stories of the twentieth century. He changed the lives of all South Africans and he changed the hearts of the world.

    In loving Buddhist Mettā to Mandela,
    May all beings be free from suffering.
    May all beings be liberated.
    And may Madiba be liberated from samsara;
    May he know complete freedom –
    As he gave;
    May it be so.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s