We’re all prisoners, who dream being free! Dedicated to Ray Wijewardene

Are they really free - or prisoners of elements like all of us?

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” – Robert Browning

Show me a ‘free man’
And I’ll show you a prisoner:
Of time and space,
Of elements and gravity,
Firmly and forever
In the grips of
Forces of Nature
And Laws of Physics,
With no prospect
Of any release,
Or any escape.

Gravity holds us captive,
Time holds us in its grip,
We are prisoners of oxygen,
And confined to bits of land
On this Blue Planet Ocean.

We may breathe the air
But can never fly through it
On our own power:
We’ve dreamed of it
Before and since Icarus
But we’re truly stuck
On the thin, crowded crust
Of our Home Planet
Between air and water.
Between past and future.

So who can still claim
To be a free man or woman?

We are prisoners
One and all,
Of time and space,
Of elements and gravity,
Firmly and forever
In the grips of
Forces of Nature
And Laws of Physics,
With no prospect
Of any release,
Or any escape.

Except, that is —
In our imagination:
May we forever
Dream of being free!

– Nalaka Gunawardene
Colombo, 25 August 2010

Dedicated to Ray Wijewardene: high flyer, dreamer and imagineer.
Ad astra per ardua!

Sri Lanka: Can our suspended dreams resume after the war?

Once thought extinct, this rare bird has reportedly been seen again in Sri Lanka...now we await confirmation!

Once thought extinct, this rare bird has reportedly been seen again in Sri Lanka...but we await confirmation!

22 May 2009: I remember Auden: We must love one another or die…
19 May 2009: Us and Them: Sri Lanka’s first landmine on the road to peace

They say the long and bloody Sri Lankan civil war is over, and I’d say not a moment too soon. I really want to believe it. I simply must: the alternative is too depressing to consider.

Sure, there is no independent verification – it has been a war without witnesses for the last few years. But I am willing to take an unusual leap of faith if that’s what it takes to usher in the long-elusive peace. I will go to the ends of the earth, and suspend disbelief if I have to, in return for lasting and meaningful peace.

As we stand on the threshold of change – with the promise of peace – I am overwhelmed with memories of a tragic past. And I hope we can once again start dreaming of a better future – and make it happen.

After a hiatus of three decades – three quarters of my own life – I dare to dream again. I hope other Lankans will soon revive and resume their suspended dreams.

So what kind of a future Sri Lanka can we, must we, should we now dare to dream about? Where do we look for the vision and inspiration?

One of the greatest poet philosophers of the East had articulated many decades ago the very essence of my dream for a post-war Sri Lanka. I once heard the late Lakshman Kadirgamar – another tragic casualty of our war – render these momentous words at a South Asian gathering in his impeccable English which brought out all its nuances.

Across the gulf of space and time, Rabindranath Tagore speaks for many of us:

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore

Posted on 19 May 2009: Us and Them: Sri Lanka’s first landmine on the road to peace

Op ed published on 19 May 2009: Memories of War, Dreams of Peace