Thursday, 21 March 2013

My Idol

There is a person who has profoundly disturbed my peace of mind for a long time. She didn’t even know me, but she continually went around minding my business. We had very little in common. She was an old woman, an Albanian who grew up in Yugoslavia; she was a Roman Catholic nun who lived in poverty in India. 

I disagreed with her on fundamental issues of population control and the place of women in the world and in the church, and I was turned off by her naive statements about "what God wants." She stood at the center of great contradictory notions and strong forces that shape human destiny. She drove me crazy. I get upset every time I hear her name or read her words or see her face. I don't even want to talk about her.

In the ladies room at an airport in India, there is a wash basin. Above the wash basin is a mirror. I stopped at this place one day to tidy up and look at myself in the mirror. Alongside the mirror is a photograph of the troublesome woman. Each time I looked in the mirror at myself, I also looked at her face.  In it I have seen more than I can tell; and from what I see, I understand more than I can say.

The photograph was taken in Oslo, Norway, on the tenth of December, in 1980. This is what happened there:

A small, stooped woman in a faded blue sari and worn sandals received an award. From the hand of a king. An award funded from the will of the inventor of dynamite. In a great glittering hall of velvet and gold and crystal. Surrounded by the noble and the famous in formal black and elegant gowns. The rich, the powerful, the brilliant, the talented of the world  in attendance. And there at the center of it all - a little old lady in sari and sandals. Mother Teresa, of India. Servant of the poor and sick and dying. To her, the Nobel Peace Prize.

No shah or president or king or general or scientist or pope; no banker or merchant or cartel holds the key to as much power as she had. None was as rich. For hers was the invincible weapon against the evils of this earth: the caring heart. And hers were the everlasting riches of this life: the wealth of the compassionate spirit.

To cut through the smog of helpless cynicism; to take only the tool of uncompromising love; to make manifest the capacity for healing humanity's wounds; to make the story of the Good Samaritan a living reality; and to live so true a life as to shine out from the back streets of Calcutta takes courage and faith we cannot admit in ourselves and cannot be without.

I do not speak her language. Yet the eloquence of her life speaks to me. And I am chastised and blessed at the same time. I did not believe one person could do much in this world. Yet there she stood, in Oslo, affecting the world around her. I did not believe in her version of God. But the power of her faith shames me. And I found myself believing in Mother Teresa.

December in Oslo. The message for the world at Christmastime is one of peace. Not the peace of a child asleep in the manger. Nor the peace of a full dinner and a nap by the fire on December 25. But a tough, vibrant, vital peace that comes from the extraordinary gesture one simple woman in a faded sari and worn sandals makes this night. A peace of mind that comes from a piece of work.

Some years later, at a grand conference of quantum physicists and religious mystics at the Oberoi Towers Hotel in Bombay, I saw that face on the news again.  She strode to the rostrum and changed the agenda of the conference from intellectual inquiry to moral activism. She said, in a firm voice to the awed assembly: "We can do no great things; only small things with great love. "

The contradictions of her life and faith were nothing compared to my own. And while I wrestle with frustration about the impotence of the individual, she went right on changing the world. While I wish for more power and resources, she used her power and resources to do what she could do at the moment.

She upset me, disturbed me, shamed me. What did she have that I do not?

If ever there is truly peace on earth, goodwill to men, it will be because of women like Mother Teresa. Peace is not something you wish for; it's something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away!

1 comment:

  1. Of every blog I’ve read, none has touched me as much as this, your Idol-Mother Theresa was an angel ever lived, her beauty not through her outward appearance but riches she had inside her spoke much of her beauty. Most man of today are asking, has the woman of today has those of Mother Theresa? If I stress on this question, I’ll be a hypocrite, an absolute idiot that needs growing up or simply, are my sentiments all too general across the womanhood that am leaving my mother and sisters out of it! Call me a feminist or a weaker thing for supporting the inferior sex or whatever, am not writing this to impress, am writing this because I still think and believe that woman were made out of man that needs caring, that needs support in any form, that needs shoulders to cry on, that needs consulting for any decision that has to be made, basically fairness as both strive towards a better life but lately I’ve realized that no matter how muscular I am, am still a weaker person in many ways. The great question that I’ve tried to answer but could not and will never be, despite my 20 years in classroom is, 'What is woman made of?' British actress and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn once said “the beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years”. I know, it does not answer the question and it will never be, believe me I don’t have an answer for it too. But your Idol Mother Theresa live her life, and thousands more books and articles have been written already about her, what more could be stressed here to define woman and its role in the society or PEACE for that matter? If America had a female president, if the world was run by woman, would the extraterrestrial bodies and beings attack our planet? Does it imply that a woman leader depicts an already lost battle or a weaker nation if decision making at national and international level are considered? If I may quote from another of India’s great – Mahatma Ghandi - “Woman is more fitted than man to make exploration and take bolder action in nonviolence…There is no occasion for women to consider themselves subordinate or inferior to men…Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity…If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior…If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with women…” With the current chaos the world is in now, I’d agree to your closing statement that this world needs more than what man are doing, it needs woman and in any torn up society its only woman who can keep it going because they know how to run a family, the greatest institution ever in which woman have graduated with their degrees, masters and PhDs…one does not need a college degree to fix a society but an already earned experience…