Nameless Island (Yangon, Myanmar). Island number 24 (out of 100), country number 21 (out of 25), month number 23 (out of 100.)
The tiny little island in the middle of the lake infront of my hotel in Yangon looks almost like one of those deserted islands in cartoons where a stranded person will sit under the palm tree and reflect on life.
So inspired by that image I am going to reflect on one thing that struck me during my visit to Myanmar this time: Humanity’s bad habit of not being able to get along with people who seem different.
I am not religious, I am agnostic (which means someone who believes ” the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown”.)
But i am going to take inspiration from the Bible where there is a passus that says:
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
This idea of loving – of showing respect, compassion and care – for someone who is not yourself is a core belief in many religions, and I think, is part of what makes us human.
Or more precisely is part of the things that is good in what it means to be human.
But then we also have that part of us which is bad about being human: our tendency to look at “others” as bad/evil/strange/different.
In Myanmar right now hundreds of thousands of people are on the run from their homes. Accusations, from both sides, about horrible things being done to the “other” side. Like in most human conflicts propaganda, misinformation and lies make it difficult to know what is true. But one thing seems certain: there has been a lot of human suffering in Myanmar lately and a lot of it stems from people looking at other people as “bad” just because they come from a different place, tribe, religion, ethnicity.
As a country Myanmar has so much going for it. A friendly people who just opened up their country to the world. A positive economic development and so much potential for the future. An yet this conflict continuous.
A change is needed.
A word that comes to mind when I stand here is “compassion”.
Compassion means “a sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.”
The key here is “others”.
To care about ourselves, be that our own person, our family, our tribe or our nation, is easy.
But to care about “others” demands compassion.
In the dictionary “others” is defines as: “refers to a person or thing that is different or distinct from one already mentioned or known about.”
This time the key is “different from known about”.
If we could help people see beyond their self-defined groups there would be less “them”. Less “others”.
There would be less unknown.
And if we did that we – as mankind – would feel less like stranded isolated people on a deserted island, and more as part of one humanity.
That is my thinking as I stand infront of this tiny little island in Yangon.
Fredrik Haren, aka “The Island Man”, plans to visit 100 islands, in at least 25 countries, on at least 6 continents – in less than 100 months. The purpose of this “World Tour of Islands” is to get a better understanding of the world, a deeper understanding of the people who live here and a broader understanding of life. The Nameless island was island number 24, country number 21 and month number 23. (Countries visited so far: China, Sweden, Maldives, Austria, Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Indonesia, USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Iceland, Canada, Mongolia and Myanmar.)