Life As A Hedgepig
Tuesday, 26. November 2002
Essay #2 for Leadership Class

This one got turned in a week late. I don't think it was the essay I really wanted to write, but it was the one that wanted to be written. I am not particularly happy with it and I doubt it is what the teacher was looking for. Glad I don't get dinged "points" for being late...but I suppose the teacher will remember come evaluation time!
I did not like the piece "Please Call Me By My True Names" by Thich Nhat Hahn when I first read it. How depressing! How dreary! Good grief, sea pirates and a twelve-year-old rape victim, and one who throws herself into the sea to boot. Suicide and drowning--one of my greatest fears, and something that I really go out of my way not to think about, all in one helping. I didn't finish the article.

Later, I came back to it, and tried again. That time, I got through it, and I have re-read it several times since. It resonates with me in so many ways, and on so many levels. Out of all the pieces we have read this term, this is the one that will stay with me.

There is no date on this article; it must have been written over 20 years ago. Yet so much of it is directly applicable to the situation in the U.S. and the world today. All of the references to the U. S. President had to be referring to Ford or Carter or Reagan, but I saw George W. Bush at every mention of the President, and the words held true. "He believes that the situation of the world is in the hands of the government, and if only the President would change his policies, we would have peace."

Peace and nonviolence are two of the main themes of this article. With our country balanced on the brink of war, they are as relevant today as they were when this piece was written. "To educate people for peace, we have two alternatives: to use words, or to be peaceful ourselves and to speak with our lives and our bodies. I think the second way is more effective."

Thich Nhat Hanh also speaks of the need to be aware, and of how easy it is to be distracted and unaware in today's world. Again, this is as true or more so now as it was when this article was written. VCRs, cable and satellite television, and especially the proliferation of personal computers and the explosion of the Internet have made unawareness easier today than ever before. "It is awareness in order to have an accurate vision of reality, and having an accurate vision of reality in order to be in the most lucid state possible. From that basis, you can act." One of the things we need to be aware of is the interconnectedness of everything. "If we look more deeply, we can see that our daily life has very much to do with the situation of the world."

Thich Nhat Hanh's most important point is the hope that he offers that every individual can make a difference. He describes the experiences of the boat people, and that when there were storms while they were in the boats, one person who could keep calm and not panic could make a difference. The others in the boat would follow the example of the one who stayed calm and it would give them a better chance to survive the storm. He then compares Earth to a small boat, in danger of sinking, and says: "We need such a person to inspire us with calm confidence, to tell us what to do. Who is that person?..If you are yourself, if you are your best, then you are that person. Only with such a person--calm, lucid, aware--will our situation improve. I wish you good luck. Please be yourself. Please be that person."

That quote struck me like a cry from Thich Nhat Hanh straight to my heart. It is a call to set the example, a call to leadership. I want to be that person, to be the one who helps to steady this small boat of ours.

Notes: From the author's reference to the Soviet Union, I know the article had to have been written before the end of 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated. From references to the boat people, it was obviously written after the fall of Saigon in 1975, when the exodus of the boat people began. My assumption is that it was written in the late 1970s.

All quotes from: Thich Nhat Hanh, "Please Call Me By My True Names," class reading packet
Here is feedback from a classmate on this essay. I really appreciated his comments; he is jumping into local politics and I admire him quite a bit. (He is also kinda cute, but unfortunately married.)

"Thank you. I went back and read the article again. You found the meaning from the article. WE must change how we view the world, everyday, one moment at a time.
I liked the way you describe your trouble with finishing the article, it was pretty graphic in the beginning. Tough to think about how that happens everyday on our planet.
You struck notes with me on the current administration and how we are searching for the new enemy to rally the people. It's wearing thin.
We are bombarded with TV and advertising constantly. The information generation is mind boggling. WE base many of our arguments and beliefs on what others tell us.
I loved the way you set up your conclusion with the plea to "be that person". One person at a time. The first step is to want to change and to be the one that steps forward taking a stand.
Thank you again.
Very well written."

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