Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thirty-Four Years Ago Today

"They say time changes all it pertains to, but your memory is stronger than time... "
--Merle Haggard

There is, in some ways, a lot I could say, but I don't know that it means very much anymore. 

That's "T.D. Latz," one of the Cherokee Channel crew, up there trying to make himself useful, but the fact is, nobody knew what to do.

I guess bodhisattvas come in many shapes and sizes, and the bodhisattva inside each one of us has his or her moments as necessity dictates. Maybe the moments make the bodhisattvas; maybe the bodhisattvas make the moments.

It is not always pretty. It is not always convenient. It is not always what we expect. It is not always what we think it should be.

Here is one of the most famous photographs ever taken: February 1, 1968. The man with the gun is Brigadier-General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, who at the time was Chief of the South Vietnamese National Police. 

This photograph horrified the world, back when the world could still be horrified. I once had a lama tell me that, because the photograph helped shorten the war, then all participants were bodhisattvas.

The man who took the picture, Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams, spoke out when General Loan died in July 1998, saying, " The guy was a hero. America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him." 

And indeed, very few people knew, and even fewer cared, and as cancer took him slowly away, there was only this forgiveness for the man who fired the shot seen 'round the world.

So, now... that war is over, thirty-four years ago today. 

Newer wars have come and gone, but these are all the same war, aren't they?

Today I send prayers to my readers in the Socialist Republic of Viet-Nam, and to my children, that you may always know how to be merciful -- even unto those who themselves do not know, and that if you are called upon by history -- whether as witness or author of a moment, you try to remember that things are not as they seem nor are they otherwise.

One merely tries to do what is right at the time.

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