Words

 

Thich Nhat Hanh

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Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant selling deadly arms to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate,
by heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open ,
the door of compassion.


One day we received a letter about a young girl on a small boat [of Vietnamese boat people]who was raped by a Thai pirate. She was only twelve and she jumped into the sea and drowned herself.
When you first lean of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In my meditation I saw that if I had been born into the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions that he was then there is a great likelihood that I would have become a pirate. I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians and others do not do something about the situation, then in twenty-five years a number oft them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we may become pirates in twenty-five years. If you were to take a gun and shot the pirate, you shot all of us because all of us are, to some extent, responsible for this state of affairs.
After a long meditation I wrote this poem. In it there are three people: the twelve year old girl, the pirate and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The title of the poem is "Please Call Me by My True Names," because I have so many names. When I hear one of these names I have to say, "Yes."


 

 

 

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