The Lady, a biopic on Aung San Suu Kyi starring Michelle Yeoh, is scheduled to be released in the U.S. on December 2. I haven’t read any reviews but I did read that the film has been banned in China. No surprise there, I suppose. And I also saw that the Lady herself told the Wall Street Journal on Monday, “I’m not really interested [in the film] and haven’t thought of looking it up on the Net or whatever.”
Now, I did see the trailer on TV a few weeks ago. I got the sense that they’re marketing the movie as a love story. It’s a shame that filmmakers still feel the need, or are forced, to go in that direction. Yet, Aung San Suu Kyi’s true story is a great love story, and tremendously romantic. After all, this is a woman from Burma who fell in love with British scholar (born in Havana), got married, and was starting a family and living a sort of idyllic life in England, all of which she ended up having to sacrifice in order to stand up for democracy in her native land.
I picked up Suu Kyi’s book Freedom from Fear, first published in 1991, today at my friendly neighborhood thrift shop. At a buck fifty, I couldn’t resist. The first thing I did of course was check out the photos in the middle of the book. Many of them of a very young Aung San Suu Kyi. Gazing at these pics, I could understand how Michael Aris could fall “instantly and madly in love with her” (according to a family friend). Not only did she posses a brilliant mind, she was cute as hell, too. Still is.
So far, I’ve just skimmed through the book, reading passages here and there. Like this from the essay ‘In Quest of Democracy”:
The Burmese people, who have had no access to sophisticated academic material, got the heart of the matter by turning to the words of the Buddha on the four causes of decline and decay: failure to recover that which had been lost, omission to repair that which had been damaged, disregard of the need for reasonable economy, and the elevation to leadership of men without morality or learning. “
That could be describing the situation here in the U.S. right now. We need to recover something that’s become lost in America. We need to go back to a time when business wasn’t only about greed, when companies would take their profits and reinvest in their businesses. We need to go back to when there were controls in place to check against rampant greed. It is obvious that some very powerful people are standing in the way of repairing the economy, and as well, opposing any attempt to make it reasonable and equitable. As far as our current crop of leaders go . . . well, less said about them the better.
Back to Freedom from Fear, this is from “Towards a True Refuge”, which according to the book “is the text of the Eighth Joyce Pearce Memorial Lecture, composed by Aung San Suu Kyi in the fourth year of her house arrest, and delivered on her behalf by her husband Dr. Michael Aris on 19 May 1993”:
Loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, Buddhists see as ‘divine’ states of mind which help to alleviate suffering and to spread happiness among all beings. The greatest obstacle to these noble emotions is not so much hatred, anger or ill will as the rigid mental state that comes from a prolonged and unwavering concentration on narrow self-interest. Hatred, anger or ill will that arises from wrongs suffered, from misunderstanding or from fear and envy may yet be appeased if there is sufficient generosity of spirit to permit forbearance, forgiveness and reconciliation, but it would be impossible to maintain or restore harmony when contention is rooted in the visceral inability of protagonists to concede that the other party has an equal claim to justice, sympathy and consideration. Hardness, selfishness and narrowness belong with greed, just as kindness, understanding and vision belong with true generosity.
Freedom from Fear, a collection of writings, speeches and interviews, is mostly about politics, with a few history lessons and some great little dharma talks here and there. So far, I’ve seen almost nothing of Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal story. I don’t know as much about it as I’d like, but as I indicated, I find it romantic, and tragic, and inspiring. I hope someday she can write the story herself.
But, I have a feeling that is an endeavor that doesn’t interest her much more than the biopic does. So I guess we’ll have to wait for the “definitive biography.” If I was writing it, or the author’s editor, I would tempted to called it Aung San Suu Kyi, A True Bodhisattva.