Only when it is dark enough can you see the light. Creation is a play of shadow and light, life alternates between tragedy and triumph, and in the midst of darkness hope flickers like an evening star. Friends, with the onset of Coronavirus, my teenage daughter was almost pulled into a state of melancholy. She has been affected by the daily news about people dying and was deeply troubled when she read the news about a boy in San Antonio who had lost both his parents. The Coronavirus stole the lives of his young parents four months apart and this 4 year old boy had become an orphan. My daughter’s question was - why our creator, the ever merciful, would allow the horrible suffering of innocent children. Friends, the same question must be raging your mind as the virus continues to ravage our world. As you, I and millions of others in the midst of this pandemic grapple with this hopeless situation, a chance encounter I had with a Swami when I was a teenager comes to mind. He asked me a series of questions and illuminated my mind with an analogy of “light and shadow”.
We all may be familiar with the term “Swami”, a guru or master, a seeker of truth who follows a path of renunciation to serve humanity as a spiritual teacher. Although I grew up in India, I never met a Swami until I was fifteen years old. I was not even aware of Swamis and their purpose until I met one via an astoundingly unlikely event – a Bollywood movie!
A blockbuster movie had been released and I and a few of my friends sneaked out of school to go to the theater. During those days , a film was screened through a projector – the film’s reels rotated, light from the projector fell onto the movie screen, the images were created and we saw the hero and heroine dancing. That day, as we settled to watch the movie, there was a sudden power outage. The theater had a standby generator but that too failed. Thus, we had no option but to wait for the repairman to arrive to fix the situation.
There was not much to do, so I wandered and ten noticed the building adjacent to the theater. Although, I passed by it everyday, I never given it much thought. But that day, I looked closely and realized that it was a shrine. As I entered the imposing building through the main hall, I saw a figure in saffron robes – a Swami. I immediately felt a sense of calm , a deeply tranquil presence seemed to surround the master. He asked me – what brings you here? I was a bit embarrassed but told him the truth- that I had come to watch a movie. Breaking into a smile, he began a series of questions – “who is the creator of the movie you see on the screen”? I replied hesitantly, “The actor and the actress” .
To my surprise, he replied “No, they are mere projections. It is the stream of light which creates the animation, sound and the movement.” I was awestruck by the profound statement from the Swami, as if a divine voice has spoken to me. Continuing with the conversation, he reached out and lifted the window - the room was immediately filled with bright radiant sunlight. The master tapped me on the shoulder; pointing to the beam of light through the window, he said cheerfully, “creation is a motion picture; it’s all just a play of light and shadow – my son, when it is the darkest, you see the brightest”
The message of the Swami on that beautiful day still resonates with me today. In the midst of life’s tragedies, we can seek divine guidance peace and joy. One can always find hope within oneself and from others. I thought how beautiful life truly was when a community came together to celebrate the birthday of the Texas boy who lost his parents to COVID . Community members in San Antonio turned up to fill his day with a parade of drive through cars, birthday cake, Santa Clause and an outpouring of love and kindness . This little boy’s heart I am sure was filled with unlimited joy that day . He will no longer feel alone in spite of the void he will carry for the rest of his life.
On the day when my daughter was troubled , I consoled her but on the day of boy’s birthday , after watching the moving images of hundreds of people celebrating, I asked “what do u see happening in the news today” She replied – I see people being kind to this boy. Then I asked – who is the creator of this magical moment. She said – these people but my reply was – “ It is the play of shadow and light , on the darkest moment can you see the brightest star.”
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Toastmaster Speech evaluation
· I liked how you used gestures to emphasize certain points.
· Use of personal stories to make your point (Swami).
· Effective facial expressions and vocal variety.
I was distracted by how often you were looking down (toward notes?)
I would hope that your personal stories are entrenched in your memory, so you can speak more from the heart as you describe your experiences.
At times, the pace at which you were speaking got in the way for me. It seemed slow and halting, like you were unsure of the next part.
Video rehearsals are always helpful to practice and see where opportunities lie.
· You chose a topic that is current and present on my mind.
· Your intense eye contact with the camera at times.
· Profound closing with nice use of props (light beam on ceiling.)
Bob Turel, DTM