“There are four things you must do in life:
Speak the truth.
Do what you do with intensity.
And do not get attached to the results.”
One night almost two years ago, probably right before I most needed the advice, my friend Sally shared this Buddhist philosophy with me over a good beer. All morning, I’ve been following the developments in the Middle East with a sort of rapidly worsening infection of interest. I heard a BBC correspondent on the ground in Cairo excitedly report that in two decades covering this region, this is the most noteworthy, remarkable development he has ever seen. Another reported that the protesters are ebullient. Ebullient. Think of the wonder of choosing such a deliberate, incongruous word to describe a demonstrating mass. On the radio, the journalists all testified to the surprising joyfulness of the crowd and even in the undeniable face of such uncertainty, this is something worth sitting down or rising up to consider.
So yes, who knows where it all goes from here. Who knows what becomes of their moment and government or whether their situation betters or not. But what is stunning me, in a sort of unexpectedly emotional way, is the incredible, wildly hopeful power of people who show up and speak their truth. What is remarkable is their power to ignite a revolution. To spark truth in the perceived dark that surrounds them, even across national borders.
I always struggle with that last line of this guidance. Frankly, I don’t always choose to respect that particular instruction and if I were a young activist in Egypt, I might happily eviscerate it from the rest of the instructions. I’ll be dammed if I will not be attached to my fate, I might think. But the rest, the rest I think is the marrow of the Egyptian story over the last week.
A few years back, I spent a couple of weeks in Egypt, amongst some of the most reasonable, intellectual and welcoming citizens I’ve ever met in any country. A Muslim driver helped me decorate his classic car with balloons and drove me to the airport to fetch my parents, who I had not seen for months and who were traveling to join me for an Easter holiday. He held the other half of my sign that greeted them in a crowded airport and later, when we spoke of politics and the temper of international relations, he said “Muslim or Christian, we all worship the same God. We are so much the same. And you are welcome here.” By which I suppose I mean to say they have earned an esteemed spot in my heart.
The sophistications of Egypt’s political and civil rights situation surely allude me, as they probably do most Westerners whether we realize it or not. I wouldn’t begin to assert a judgment on where they were or the rightness of where they are headed. All I mean to say is this: They know what they are ready for and they are showing up to ask for it. I will always believe that we are better for having more voices around the fire. And it was a strange mix of conviction and honor to watch The People of Egypt show up in a way we do not, maybe do not have to. It is an honor to watch your truth stand up.
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