When we accept it we are happy.
We have time in abundance, an eternity, to repeat our mistakes. But we need only once correct our mistake and at last hear the song of enlightenment, with which we can break the chain of vengeance forever. In your heart you can hear it now. It is the song your spirit has been singing since the moment of your birth.
If the monks are right, and nothing happens without cause, then the gift of suffering is to bring us closer to God, to teach us to be strong when we are weak, to be brave when we are afraid, to be wise in the midst of confusion and to let go of that which we can no longer hold.
Lasting victories are won in the heart, not on this land or that.
- Le Ly Hayslip
Le Ly Hayslip was born 'Phung Thi Le Ly' in a rural part of central Vietnam in 1949. Coincidentally, the wife of one of my nephews, born in Vietnam after the war, still has relatives living on a farm in that area. Needless to say, Le Ly grew up in turbulent times and suffered greatly, as did so many Vietnamese, alternately at the hands of the French, the Americans, the so-called Viet Cong, and the South Vietnamese (including torture by the South Vietnamese police and rape by the Viet Cong). Whichever power occupied the village punished the villagers for having followed the orders of the previous occupiers. Her life in her homeland was one that we who have lived in highly secure first world surroundings can scarcely imagine in our worst nightmares.
She eventually came to the United States. I will let you discover her full story on your own. She has written two autobiographical books and served as the chairperson of "East Meets West", a humanitarian organization dedicated to helping improve the lives of the Vietnamese people. Her life was the basis for the Oliver Stone movie, "Heaven and Earth", which, though not a documentary, very accurately (and graphically) reflects the origins and conditions of that war, in addition to being a work of the cinematic art at its best. The stark contrast between the pastoral beauty of the country and the horror of war is gripping.
But this post is not about Le Ly per se, the movie, or that particular war. It is simply about what she wrote in the quote above. I have carried this quote in my day planner for several years now and reflect on it from time to time. Depending on your background - cultural, religious, national, political - parts of it can be interpreted in very different ways. The words "fate" and "God" are two glaring examples of words which can have very different meanings depending on your frame of reference. I actually like that aspect of it. If we are to understand each other, we need to attempt to learn about each other - to walk in each other's shoes.
It seems there is always somewhere in the world with the kind of conditions that Le Ly grew up in. And regardless of outward conditions, everyone of us, everywhere, suffers in some way. So, as it speaks to these universal conditions, I also feel the quote offers a bridge upon which many people from many lands may find a meeting place in their hearts and minds for understanding and peace.
That is my perspective. What's yours?