Cool Hero of the Day: Peace Pilgrim

For 28 years a silver haired woman calling herself only “Peace Pilgrim” walked more than 25,000 miles on a personal pilgrimage for peace. She vowed to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.” Born Mildred Lisette Norman, she walked from 1953 to 1981–spanning the Korean and Vietnam Wars–carrying only a message of peace.

The Path of the Cool Hero

“On the journey of the warrior-bodhisattva, the path goes down, not up, as if the mountain pointed toward the earth instead of the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward turbulence and doubt however we can. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is. At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, companions in awakening from fear.”

– Pema Chödrön, Comfortable with Uncertainty


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Cool Hero of the Day: Václav Havel

Former Czech Republic President Václav Havel passed away at the age of 75 after a long illness. Playwright, essayist and frequently jailed dissident under the Communist regime, he was a prominent figure in Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Havel’s artistic work and dissidence arose out of personal alienation. Privilege gave him a sense of inferiority and difference, not superiority, and he adopted the viewpoint of an outsider.

His 1978 Essay “The Power of the Powerless” greatly influenced the resistance to Communism in Eastern Europe and provided its theoretical underpinnings. The beginning echoes Marx: “A SPECTER is haunting Eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called ‘dissent.'” He describes ordinary acts of acquiescence as “living within the lie” of coercive regimes and calls on people to stop participating: “revolt is an attempt to live within the truth.”

By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such. He has exposed it as a mere game. He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth.

Havel here articulates the basic premise of Cool Revolution: cool heroes accessing their inner truth are the starting point for political action. The spheres of personal freedom they create radiate outward and coalesce into nonviolent social movements.


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The Lady: New film dramatizes life of Burma’s Daw Suu

I’m pleased to hear that The Lady, a new biopic by Luc Besson about cool hero Aung San Su Kyi, is making the rounds of film festivals and cities in limited release. Shambala Sun has a review here.

Burma may be among the world’s most repressive regimes, but it has almost always flown under the radar of American consciousness. The “Saffron Revolution” of 2007, when monks joined anti-government protests, is a notable exception. Southeast Asia isn’t the hotspot that the Mideast is, and drawing neighboring China into conflict over Burma’s natural resources isn’t a strategy that the US can afford. Besides, Western nations have generally “done the right thing” by isolating Burma for its leaders’ appalling treatment of its people.

Aung San Suu Kyi, often called The Lady, stands out among leaders of conscience for the extent of her personal sacrifice and practice of non-aggression. She isn’t the household name that some Nobel Peace Prize winners are, since she has been under house arrest for 15 of the last 22 years and is unable to leave the country to promote its cause. Although she was released from house arrest last year and just this month met with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, there’s no way of knowing if the party she presides over, the National League for Democracy, will ever take control.

A dramatization of ASSK’s inspiring life story is some ways overdue. Yet with some signs of change there, this film is very timely and build of foundation of familiarity with Burma’s situation that will prove beneficial, whenever a critical moment arises.

Update: The US release of the film is scheduled for February 17, 2012.


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Cool Hero of the Day: Aung San Suu Kyi – Cool Revolution

Cool Heroes of the Day: Buddhist Peace Fellowship

Washington Buddhist Peace Fellowship at Freedom Plaza

On Saturday, December 3, Buddhist Peace Fellowship invited its worldwide membership to partake in Nine Minutes of Silence at precisely 3pm at Occupy sites.

Washington Buddhist Peace Fellowship gathered at OccupyDC at Freedom Plaza for the meditation.

A Dedication set the intention:

Through [practicing, praying, meditating, resting in silence] together we offer our personal transformation as a means for social transformation, and through social engagement we offer our open hearts, and our energy, to others.

[Full Dedication here.]

Buddhist Peace Fellowship also released a statement explaining why it supports the Occupy Movement. “Occupying the Present Moment” cites interconnectedness, the suffering which inequality causes, nonviolent tactics, and solidarity with “the 100%.”

Cool Hero of the Day: Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition party in Burma, received U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her home in Rangoon on December 1 and 2. Some concessions by the brutal Burmese regime–a release of political prisoners and more tolerance for free speech and assembly–may have prompted Clinton’s visit, the first by a Secretary of State in 50 years. “The U.S. wants to a be a partner with Burma as we work with you toward democratization,” she said.

Suu Kyi was released from house arrest a year ago following elections widely regarded as rigged in favor of the ruling regime.

For years Suu Kyi has advocated the policy of isolation and sanctions against Burma which Western nations have adopted. With this new U.S. overture, she seems cautiously open to changing that stance. “If we move forward together I am confident there will be no turning back on the road to democracy,” she said. “We are not on that road yet, but we hope to get there as soon as possible with the help and understanding of our friends.”

Suu Kyi has every reason to be cautious when it comes to the ruling generals’ intentions. Raised mostly abroad after the assassination of her father, General Aung San, she returned to Burma to care for her ailing mother. The visit coincided with the student uprising referred to as 8-8-88 for its remarkable date. The brutal crackdown on the students moved her to stay in Burma and devote herself to the cause of Burma’s liberation from military dictatorship. Her political party, the National League for Democracy, won elections by a landslide in 1990, in spite of the regime’s interference. The generals have tried to mitigate her influence ever since.

She hasn’t been able to leave Burma for fear of not being able to return. She never saw her husband again; he died of cancer in 1999. She last saw her two children in 2000. She spent years under house arrest, with short releases, only to be confined again under trumped-up charges.

She has been inspired by the nonviolent campaigns of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to achieve democratic freedoms for the Burmese people. Like Gandhi, she has dampened conflict between feuding ethnic groups. Her Buddhist beliefs strongly influence her worldview:

I am a believing Buddhist, so I am sure the teachings of Buddhism do affect the way I think. But more than that, I would state that when I started out in politics, in this movement for democracy, I always started out with the idea that this should be a process that would bring greater happiness, greater harmony and greater peace to our nation. And this cannot be done if you are going to be bound by anger and by desire for revenge.

She began practicing meditation regularly under house arrest:

I don’t know if [meditation] has been a process of self-discovery as much as one of spiritual strengthening…. But meditation has helped to strengthen me spiritually in order to follow the right path. Also, for me, meditation is part of a way of life because what you do when you meditate is to learn to control your mind through developing awareness. This awareness carries on into everyday life. For me, that’s one of the most practical benefits of meditation—my sense of awareness has become heightened. I’m now much less inclined to do things carelessly and unconsciously.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


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Cool Heroes of the Day: Kunzang Palyul Choling

photo by @mmorri

Six members of the Vajrayana Buddhist community Kunzang Palyul Choling in Poolesville, MD arrived at McPherson Park during the confrontation between police and DC Occupiers. They chanted prayers to generate the Buddha of compassion.

Cool Heroes of the Day: Occupy Richmond

Occupy Richmond Stands Up For Local Tea Party Group

The Richmond Tea Party has been alleging that it is being singled out for unfair treatment from the city of Richmond, Virginia after officials have opened a tax audit of the group. These Tea Partiers complain that the city has been much more lenient on Occupy Richmond (which recently faced arrests after resisting an eviction) and that 99 Percenters are getting preferential treatment.

Yet the Richmond Tea Party just got an unexpected ally in its claim against the city — Occupy Richmond. The group put out a statement defending the Tea Party group and criticizing possible politically-motivated retaliation against it by the city:

Today the Occupy Richmond Santa handed out candy to nice children and coal to naughty Mayor Jones.

Cool heroes. Totally.