On Passions and Human Suffering: An Apology (March 27, 2005, Easter Sunday)

I woke up this Easter Sunday reminding myself to wish my family a ‘Happy Easter’ until it occurred to me how disturbing that phrase is in the context of what Easter represents in the Christian context. It reminds us of the last days of a young spiritual warrior who preached love, tolerance, compassion and the simple fact that God is everywhere, in everyone indiscriminately. It was for these teachings of universal love as well as political reasons he was brutally tortured and crucified, left to die so until he ‘rose again’ and his soul made The Journey to the Spirit Realm where he lives on with so many others. And we say ‘Happy Easter’ and look for chocolate eggs? It’s a quite sick isn’t it?

I am not a Christian in the current fundamentalist concept of the word, although I do believe in Jesus’ teachings, as well as the Buddha’s, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s, Black Elk’s, Don Miguel Ruiz, among so many others warriors of light who bring us similar messages of peace, love, and respect for our fellow human beings, that we are all related no matter who we are and what we have done, and we will always be children of The Creator, we are all related. But this morning, on Resurrection day, I was thinking about Jesus Christ and his particular story, which got me thinking about Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ which was released last year during the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Amidst all of the hubbub and controversy when it was released, I had been curious to see it because I have always been fascinated by the Aramaic language and was also curious to see how Gibson would present the last days of Jesus Christ. I was incredibly and surprisingly moved by this film. The thing that impressed me the most was the provocative implication that God and the Devil are the same ‘person,’ an idea that so many spiritual leaders of the world seem to agree with in their teachings. That the Devil is the other side of God, like good is the other side of evil, and without both neither would exist. But I was also overwhelmed by the corporal emotions the film’s images invoked in me, and in most who saw it. You could not escape feeling the suffering and torture of Jesus unless you decided (like many) to not watch the rest of the movie. The extreme physical torture documented in bright red detail forced us to think about the limits of physical pain and degradation, as well as the reality of what Jesus, and so many others, have gone through in the name of the spiritual freedom of others. What some called gratuitous violence, to me was a reminder of all of those in the world today who are subjected to these same, and many times worse, tortures and brutalities so often in the name of God or the defense of God. It put the pain and suffering of spiritual leaders, human rights defenders, freedom fighters and activists around the world into a historic context and urges all viewers alike to think about what our fellow human beings are put through for the spiritual advancement of all of us. After I saw this film and was sitting in the 60th Commission meetings, I had a very different perspective. I thought about the Buddhist monks and nuns being tortured and raped in Chinese prisons, struggling to not lose compassion for their tormentors. I thought about the millions of women and children in refugee camps in the world, starving, also being subjected to the most degrading of tortures without recourse. And it wasn’t just that I thought about them, I felt their pain on a profound level that forced me to withdraw from the Commission meetings from a week to put myself back together. I was, in a word, destroyed. And rightly so as we all should be when we hear about the horrors that we inflict on each other.

So I must very humbly apologize to all my readers as well as those suffering every day of unimaginable horrors for the glibness and lack of compassion in my recent spate of reports. I realized this morning that The Nothing, whose presence I have noted for days in this year’s Commission proceedings, had taken ahold of my heart and I had become numb. Attesting to its brutal power to suck the love out of human beings, I had not even realized until I woke up today how much I have been working in its icy grip, desensitized and anesthetized to the pain and suffering of others. The irony is that during the 59th session of the Commission, I was very much in the throes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) recovery, and still suffering from crippling panic attacks, flashbacks to traumas in my past, depression and everything that comes with it. At that time, I was so hypersensitive that the very mention of a violent word would cause my heart beat to quicken, my breathing to become ragged, ultimately to my rushing out of Room 17 to cry our litres in the UN bathrooms. It was, in those moments, not just the horrific stories I would hear whose pain would cut me to the quick, but it was also the blasé attitude of the governments who lied and pretended nothing was going on. I could never figure out which was worse and the pain, the waves of sadness that engulfed me during the six weeks that I was the primary reporter for the Conference of NGOs (CONGO) was a very hard time in my life, although in retrospect it was also very healing. This was the time I began working with Adelard Blackman and thus my involvement in the struggle with the world’s indigenous people for social justice began, giving me a new lease on life as well as something I could (and still do)dedicate myself to wholeheartedly.

The point I am trying to make, and am ashamed to admit, is that it would appear I have become deadened to the suffering of others. I used to feel too much to the point where the mere mention of violence would tear me apart and all the King’s horses and all the Kings men were needed to put me back together again. But now, it seems I have gone to the other extreme where the stories of horror, violence, complicity and brutality have become a cliché in my mind. This is wholly inappropriate and from my very deepest heart I apologize and humbly ask for forgiveness. I should never have presented the Commission discussions to be no big deal and comic in their inefficiency. This is not a joke. People’s lives are at stake. People come to the UN because they have no other recourse. I apologize to everyone whose stories were brought to the Commission whom I dismissed as voices stuck in a broken record. This is not the case, it never was the case, and how could I have forgotten? How could I have let The Nothing take hold of me without even noticing its empty chill around my heart? I want to be angry with me for allowing such cruelty to emerge from my pen, but I know that anger only feeds The Nothing and so won’t give him any more of me. Instead, I am asking for your forgiveness. I ask forgiveness from all those who are suffering in the world who should not be. I ask forgiveness from my ancestors, the Angels, Spirits and most importantly, from The Creator. I ask The Creator to take pity on me because I am only a little girl, and until this moment I did not realize what I was doing. I ask The Creator for help, to expel this numbness and to bring my feeling heart back. I leave my tears and my sorrow at the damage I have done as an offering. Creator, please hear my prayer. Readers, please forgive me. It will not happen again.

In honour of all the warriors of light who help us see the truth in the darkness,

Sezin

Thoughts?

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