Suffering, Empowerment and Unity

Harry O’Brien is a truly pheonomenal young man I’ve written about before. Recently, he gave a speech at the United Nations DPI/NGO conference that inspires, causing you to think and feel. Watch, and as Harry says, “live for hope.” 🙂


Suffering is a natural state of mind, not a natural state of life. Why is it that we have collectively accepted it as a natural state of living?

My name is Harry O’Brien and I play professional football for the Collingwood Football club, however football does not define who I am. I prefer to define myself not by the superficial man-made labels such as my ethnicity, occupation or age, but by the fact that I am simply a member of humanity.

In my relatively short time on this earth I have had various experiences which have shaped my world view. Today I will share some specific observations in relation to those experiences.

These observations are not through the eyes of an expert in any particular field, as I have not acquired a degree from any educational institution.

I speak today as someone who has reached a self-awareness that does not allow me to remain silent or inactive when expressing my passion to contribute to the evolution of man-kind.

I will be touching on 3 topics; Suffering, empowerment, unity and how I have come to understand their relevance in relation to the current state of the world we live in.

I believe that the suffering we see today i.e.. poverty, disease, famine are a manifestation of the greater suffering experienced by the collective.

You see, we have and always will experience suffering as it is a natural state of mind. Being a natural state of mind means suffering is temporarily experienced and can always be overcome whether it be physical or emotional.

I personally have recently endured and overcame an experience which caused my family and I great sufferance. In March last year I received an unforgettable phone call from my mother. I could sense her devastation on the other end of the line as she managed to murmur out the words that would turn my world upside down. “The police have found Dad’s body.”

My father chose to end his life. My father was missing for a period of 6 days, this period of time and the moments to proceed were the cause of great suffering.

I had to catch a 4hr flight back to Perth immediately, I can confidently say that this was the longest flight I have ever taken. My emotions had taken over my body and as I sat trembling in my seat I became a shadow of myself, this was suffering. At some point in time during that flight I came to a realization;

Everyone at some stage in their lives will face tragedy and will subsequently suffer as a result.

This was the first time I began to contemplate the notion of suffering being a natural state of mind. I then cast my mind back to my experiences in Africa 6 months prior. Whilst visiting local NGO’s in Mozambique and the DRC I had experienced suffering as a state of life. Here in Australia the foundations of the country are built on opportunity, democracy and equality, In my travels I witnessed locations where the foundations lie on Disease, Dysfunction and destruction.

Orphaned children, infectious preventable diseases such as HIV, Malaria, TB & rising food prices were only a few of the issues I was confronted by on a daily basis. The prevalence and regularity of issues such as these were enough for me to understand that there is no escaping the suffering of the people.

It became evident to me that there was a particular desperation in the peoples eyes, which seemed to plead with me (a being with ‘opportunity’) to somehow someway alleviate their suffering. At times these pleas cam in in the form of words “please, Im hungry” at other moments a ‘look’ was just a effective.

Yet I saw a purity in the people. A purity that I rarely experience in ‘developed’ nations. Over time I continued to contemplate my direct experiences with this ‘Purity’. What was this purity? How did ‘they’ get it? Where did it come from?

The answer lies in this notion;

The suffering that I witnessed during my travels to Africa, are a manifestation of the greater suffering experienced in ‘developed’ countries.

I pose the questions, “What is dysfunctional? Where is the disease? What has destructed?

Is it in the societies debilitated by poverty, the mass bodies plagued by illness, perhaps its in the places where the harsh realities of the sex trade cannot be escaped.

These are the issues which lay on the surface.

To experience an ocean laying on the surface is not enough, you much dive deeper.

If we delve deeper we will see that the true dysfunction, disease and destruction exists in the minds of those that make up the collective of which are capable of significantly lessening the severity of these issues yet do not have the awareness to be able to act from the required level of consciousness.

I now see the irony in the label ‘developed’ countries. This is true suffering.

If we are ever going to move closer to the Millennium Development Goals derived from the Millennium Declaration we must be EMPOWERED by the knowledge of who we ‘really’ are.

Awareness fosters empathy.

Awareness not only of the issues at hand such as Poverty, Aids and the adverse effects of Globalization, for this alone is operating from a surface level.

I mean awareness of who we truly are. An awareness that I am no different to you. This particular awareness transcends the man-made superficial labels which are currently suspending us on the surface of life.

Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu once said, “What hurts one, whether or not we are aware of it immediately, hurts the other.”

When we are empowered by the knowledge of who we truly are; You and I becomes I and I. From this realization we shall experience the birth of true Empathy.

Humanity’s heros have all possessed this awareness thus empowering them to impact a critical mass in a positive and effective manner. Heroes like Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Teresa & Dalai Lama have all understood and shown us that ‘real’ change starts with the ‘man in the mirror’.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” urged Mahatma Ghandi.

For how can you possibly reflect love onto others if you do not love or even know who you truly are. Our children are educated on defining themselves through the very man-made superficial labels which separate us apart.

“You are black, you are smart, you are good-looking, you are rich, You are this, you are that…..” The list goes on, each definition divides us as we take on the identity of separation.

We must empower our youth with the knowledge that we are all connected, like branches of a tree. Branches of the same tree do not fight against one another. Instead they co-exist, each expressing it’s own individual uniqueness whilst remaining interconnected.

We must be taught to look into our brothers and sisters eyes and not see separation, rather see the divine expression of what we truly are; for there is more that binds us together than holds us apart.

As honest and as surprising as it may sound to some I felt more pain in Africa than the pain I experienced with the suicide of my own father.

For in Africa I was thrown into an environment where I experienced pain through my brothers and sisters, who were stuck suffering as their state of life.

With this level of awareness I carry I cannot remain inactive because this understanding empowers true empathy. A quality that renders ignorance impossible.

I am so grateful to be a part of this fantastic conference where many representatives from a multitude of NGO’s are present. NGO’s do fantastic and amazing work throughout the world, impacting and assisting an enormous amount to people.

My visit to the town of Chimoio located int he Manica Province of Mozambique showed me the significance of a united front.

We had just visited a centre for orphan services. We were greeted by 20 or so orphans who were malnourished, dirtied by mud and in desperate need of the love & affection all children on this earth should be entitled to as a birth right, but are not.

After playing and interacting with the children it was time to leave. As we hopped back into the car the children began to wave.

I immediately began to break down for I had arrived at the realization of the significance of unity.

You see all I wanted to do was to give all those children a shower, a hot meal and tell them that they were loved & could amount to anything they set their minds on. I was capable of doing this for a few children, but what about the 100’s in that area? What about the thousands in Chimio? What about the Millions in Africa? What about the 145 million Orphaned children around the world?

I immediately felt helpless. Not one person alone has the ability to alleviate their suffering. We must stand united. The same principal applies to the many NGO’s working around the world.

Unity is the key to effective and efficient change. A large number of NGO entities with differing intentions and differing agendas does not allow the potential of effective and efficient change to be fulfilled in relation to the amount of energy available. One concentrated intention must me established in order to remain on the same page, each separate entity can play out its function and act like organs of a body. Each organ fulfills its role in its own unique way, but operates to serve the one common intention and that is to keep the body alive and healthy.

We are at a critical moment in history. Science has proven to us that organisms either evolve to adapt or perish under changes in environment.

The human race faces this choice. Our evolution will not come in the form of physical adaptations, but from a realization that spawns a new found awareness. An awareness that makes it painstakingly obvious that the current way is the way of suffering. And the way of UNITY is the only way forward.

Let the glory of our shared essence shine through us all and illuminate this EARTH.

Live for hope

Heritier O’Brien

Source: Harry’s World

September 10, 2010 | filed under goodness in the blogosphere, inspiring, moment of truth, rewritable words, watch this 


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