Great men often live lives steeped in paradox. They proclaim and work for peace and unity but often are the cause of a lot of dissensions and divisions. They would operate out of love and goodness and yet they stir up a lot of anger, hatred and fear among many. They assert and abide by what is true and just but they are often the victims of lies and injustices themselves. But out of this paradox and the contradictions in their lives come the wisdom, integrity and strength of character that become the foundation for their greatness and their transformative leadership.
Jose Rizal spoke the truth about the colonial misrule in our country. And he did not spare the abuses and decadence he saw in the church and the friars. This earned him their undying hatred and enmity. They did not rest until he was shot dead in Luneta. But his sacrifice emboldened and united a people to declared and found the first independent republic in Asia.
Years later, Ninoy Aquino would speak out against the tyranny and dictatorship of Marcos, which led to his exile in an attempt to silence him. But like a moth attracted to the light, he decided to come back home to continue his struggle against the injustice and oppression being perpetrated against Filipinos – by their own kind. And he was assassinated as soon as he got off the plane that flew him home. But his martyrdom emboldened and united a people to throw off the yokes of their oppression with the first ever peaceful People Power revolution, an event to be replicated many times over in other countries.
Great men and great leaders cause the rise and fall of many. They are often a sign of contradiction. They talk of peace and yet they also cause the swords to be unsheathed. But in the process, they clarify what is true, good and beautiful and they galvanize people into action.
The image the comes to me is a bottle full of murky water. Great men and leaders stir up the water in the bottle and make it even murkier. Then they make a great sacrifice, often this would mean giving up their own lives. And as they are gone, the water they have stirred start settling down and the dirt slowly drifts at the bottom and the water becomes clear. And so do the thoughts and aspirations of people become clear when reflecting of the lives and actions of their great leaders. And then they are ready for action.
This is also the dynamics in the life of the spirit. I get engaged and things get murky. I then settle down in quiet prayer to allow the murkiness to settle down and I winnow chaff from grain. And then I am again ready for renewed action and engagement.