“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.” – Noam Chomsky
By the function of “chance” my feet touch the red soils of the de-reddened Khmer, a stream of water calls my name and I soulfully trace it to its source. Seemingly hypnotized and unmistakably mesmerized I find a patch of comfortable land where I rest my already lazy eyes and breathe into meditation. Seconds turn into minutes and the minutes add up, time fades and so do I. I am brought back into the world by the sounds of laughter, cows and motorbikes. The locals are calling it a day and the sweet wind has dried the sweat off my brow, turning the hot day into a breezy late afternoon. It’s time to move again.
My steps come to a halt and I stand still staring at the red tinted soil ahead of me, with eyes welling up with tears for strangers that have suffered long before I stepped foot into this world; I bite on my bottom lip to cease the tears from running down my cheek, then I see it, I see how nature has and always will dominate and balance our world. Gusts of wind raise the dust from the fields, rains shed away the land’s epidermis and time slowly reveals the reality of the atrocities that have been committed and muffled by their perpetrators. The spirits of the dead are now free to rest, the unheard voices and untold stories penetrate ears and hearts from all over.
The living’s faces have been hardened by circumstance while their eyes project gratitude and sincerity, the men and women who have survived the ordeals inflicted by the Khmer Rouge are living testaments to the resilience of humanity and the importance of community, empathy, love and altruism. Analogous to the ancient ruins spread around the country that now only stand with the aid of the supportive roots of the surrounding flora, the people of this land still stand, smile and live on thanks to their ever lasting sense of community and hope, for it is only hope that brings new life.
“Oh how much more gorgeous is the smile of the elderly woman,” I think to myself, “now that I know what she must’ve seen, heard and experienced, what she’s been through.” This land has yet to tell her story and I’m trying to understand the meaning of life and living. Ooh! How can humanity stoop so low.