Yesterday, I wrote about following your heart while overcoming physical problems. I have also been thinking about how one can be creative while grappling with externally imposed severe mental and physical restrictions such as imprisonment and torture. I have a book, Another Sky: voices of conscience from around the world, which contains accounts of activists, poets, scientists, teachers and writers who were imprisoned for their beliefs. Like the Jewish prisoners from German concentration camps, these men and women from all over the world produced great letters, memoirs, poetry and even paintings. Some like Ken Saro- Wiwa paid the ultimate price and some like Aung San Suu Kyi were eventually released.
Despite being physically separated, our spirit can still connect and intersect with everyone and this becomes our source of energy and creativity. Whether we are physically free or not, our true freedom and creativity comes from within. We could be living with liberty and wealth but not following our hearts. Nichiren writes- “…when a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge.”
Thich Tue Sy, a Vietnamese scholar and writer, was arrested in March 1984 and sentenced to death four years later on trumped up charges. The sentence was later commuted to 20 years imprisonment and he was finally released in 1998. In the poem below written in prison, he manages to convey his true and vast state of life despite the confinement-
Here in my narrow cell I am free.
I talk, laugh with myself,
casting a longing eye towards the Eternal sun.