Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Fear and self sacrifice.

The battlefield is full of sandals, saffron robes, hope, rage and riot shields. Burma is teetering on the edge of change. Hopefully. The largest anti-junta movement since 3,000 protesters were gunned down in 1988. I can't stop thinking about this situation. I'm obsessing, so I suppose I might as well write about it.

The thing I can't stop thinking about--since I know little to nothing about Burma (the U.S. refuses to acknowledge the present terrorist government's name change so I'll follow suit) is--what are these people thinking? All of them...the monks, the controlling government, the men standing there ready to kill peaceful protesters? I mean, these are human beings and they could be any one of us, any one of our neighbors, or our children. So, what's the controlling thought process here? The only motivation I can come up with on the side of the SHADOW is: FEAR. And the only motivation I can come up with on the side of LIGHT is: SELF-SACRIFICE.

Now, we all know how easily fear controls people. It not only controls the masses, but it controls the people who are controlling the masses. It is the puppet-master. The guy standing there with a gun pointed at a chanting monk does not want to pull the trigger, but he will. Not out of loyalty, but out of fear for his own safety or maybe even that of his family's. No big mystery there.

But, self sacrifice. This has always been something confusing to me. So, this is the thing I'm trying to untangle in my head.

(If you haven't had your coffee yet, this would be a good time to pause and read later or grab a cup.)

As I hold the belief that we are all equal, it is hard for me to consider an act of self-sacrifice as noble or just. I believe you should not consider yourself greater than another person, but you should also not consider yourself less. Love is acceptance, not sacrifice; sharing, not giving away; helping to fulfill another’s needs as your own, not instead of your own.

That said, yes--I would jump in front of a moving truck if it meant saving my child. But, only because I know my emotional limits, and I would rather die than live without my child. So, this is actually self-serving.

I suppose there is a bigger issue here, a larger purpose. It is not one life sacrificed for another. It is a life sacrificed for a greater purpose. For all life in that region to have freedom.

Freedom to choose how they spend their time and energy in this lifetime.

I am coming to wrap my mind around the courage it takes for a woman like Aung San Suu Kyi to sacrifice everything--her personal freedom, ever seeing her children again, or getting to see her husband before he dies--for a cause larger than herself.

Of course, we can always hold out hope that no more lives are lost, no more sacrifices are needed.

And then there is reality.


Anonymous said...

Where in the world is Shannon? You are exploring some profound places these days, and yes, you can't untangle this thicket using thought or reason or belief. In Buddhism, the cause that is greater than self is no-self. Self is the construct of ego and ego's basic ground is fear (self-preservation). So selflessness is by its very nature fearless. You are by your very nature selfless and fearless. But in this world of ego, we see truth only rarely, like an exotic bloom.

Shannon said...

Actually, Karen, this is where I always am, struggling not to think about things like this and losing the battle. I just happen to be opening up more lately. Thanks for giving me these words to think about instead. Aren't these monks Buddhists, also? I wonder how they reconcile this belief system with the war they must now fight in the world?

bella said...

I truly love your thoughtfulness.
Keep sharing it here with us.