Truth and Reconciliation.

December 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

mandela painting

“The wind is in from Africa,” wrote Joni Mitchell in her album “Blue”.

Tonight, that African wind blows all over the world.  It whispers the name, “Nelson Mandela.”  It shouts and sings, “Truth and Reconciliation.”

I was only dimly aware of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission meetings in post-apartheid South Africa.  Perhaps because of it’s subject matter there was, as I recall, not much of it in the news.  The 2004 film, “In My Country” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche, gave me a brief idea of what those meeting might have been like.  I know more of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s than I do of South Africa’s.

In the past few years a Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been recording and giving voice to First Nations, Inuit and Métis who suffered horrific abuse in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.  Those gatherings are still going on but they fail the test of the South African TRC in that the victims of IRS abuse do not get to tell their stories to their abusers.  The truth of their experience is being told, but where is the reconciliation?

Perhaps because my father was one of those children taken away from their family and who suffered the abuse of the Indian Residential Schools experience, that my reaction to inequality and ignorance is so strongly negative.  But Nelson Mandela’s passing has me questioning how my negativity embodies truth.  And how I can better reconcile my father’s experience, and the inter-generational consequences of that experience, with that truth.

It seems to me that truth and reconciliation is not just forgiveness, although that is an important element.  Nor is it just speaking our individual truths and then agreeing to disagree.  Truth and reconciliation must be more than that.  It must be a gathering of viewpoints that are then reconciled with a greater truth that encompasses and transcends the individual experience.

Nelson Mandela did this when he sought to create a new nation out of apartheid South Africa.  My question to myself is how I can transcend my own personal viewpoint without lessening myself or surrendering any of my humanity.

Humanity is a word that is rightly being bandied about the world today in connection with Nelson Mandela.  In the particular context that relates to this blog, I think it means our shared, common experience.  I think it refers to that one thing we all have in common but most have forgotten, that at our core there is a common element.

In Buddhism the common element is our true nature.  Our true nature is that I am you and you are me; and that everything in the universe is Me and that you and I are this Me.

Some say the Bible expresses this connection in the story of the resurrection where Jesus’ disciples at first do not recognize Christ.  In Mark, (16:12), the Christ manifests in “another form”.  In John, (20:15), Mary Magdalene thinks Christ is a gardener.  In these brief allusions the implication is that Christ is the “I” found at the core of each and every one of us.

In a previous blog I quoted Franklin Merrell-Wolff who said that the “I” in each of us is the same “I” in every self-conscious creature.  To this I add more of his words.

“There is a Greatness within every human soul,” writes Merrell-Wolff. “Something there is in everyone to which I offer the gesture of respect.”  Those who manifest this Greatness, “enrich Me by revealing Myself to Myself and myself.”

I took these thoughts into the world today where I sought to see this common Self in others.  In doing so I saw how my “small me” reacted with the same old patterns of negativity and how this prevented me from fully engaging with others.

Later, I watched the world celebrate and mourn Nelson Mandela’s life and death and thought, “Isn’t the I in them doing the same thing as the I in me?”

Then, at dinner, a voice on the TV said that the people of South Africa must find a new leader to fill the shoes of Nelson Mandela.  To me, that statement missed the mark.

Humanity does not need a leader to take Mandela’s place.  Each of us, rather, needs to see the world as Mandela did.  We must find that common thread of humanity peering outward in the eyes of everyone we meet.  Then, in finding that common truth, reconcile our individual truths with it.  That is the meaning of Truth and Reconciliation.

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