A thought that makes life the liveliest is the idea of ‘memento mori’ which means ‘Remember that you must die.’ The fact that mortality is the ultimate, inevitable truth of life that no circumstance can change. No matter the bags of riches, fame and charm that one may have on his side, he has to taste the same death as the one with none.
This may appear ludicrous, but ironically it is true. There has been an unbroken tradition from Socrates, Jesus to Lincoln, and Gandhi, who brought glory to mankind but had to sacrifice their lives at the altar of principles. They were great souls and propounded ideas that were much ahead of their times. As a consequence, they had to bear the bunt from their opponents, who oppressed them with brute force, who wanted to cling on to power and authority by pursuing outdated and worn-out ideas and practices. It was indeed ironic that the will of such tyrants prevailed, for the day belonged to them, but the future did reverence to the great martyrs, who lived and died for a just cause.
Thus we know of Socrates, who preferred to drink the cup of poison given to him by his prosecutors, rather than abandon the spirit of inquiry which was so dear to him. It was his martyrdom, that kept the spirit of intellectual freedom alive, and led many philosophers down the ages, to draw inspiration from his ideas and life. Similarly, we also know of Jesus Christ, who preached tolerance, love, and compassion, even towards his enemies, in the time of hate and violence. He was crucified by the Jews, for being a traitor. It was, however, another matter that after his death, they became dedicated disciples of his faith, and spread Christianity with his message of love and brotherhood, throughout the world.
In more recent times we had the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and John F Kennedy. They fought relentlessly for the abolition of slavery and equality for the blacks in America. They did succeed in their endeavor but had to pay the price by becoming a martyr for their conviction. All of them fell to assassin bullets. They indeed brought glory on themselves but had to pay its deadly price.
Nearer home in India, we had Mahatma Gandhi, who led the dumb millions of Indians to freedom. He transformed society by his strong beliefs of nonviolence, satyagraha, tolerance, and self-sacrifice. He was also instrumental in eradicating the age-old social evils of untouchability and Sati. He strived for unity and amity between the Hindus and the Muslims. Eventually his people betrayed him, and the country was partition which led to much bloodshed and riots, throughout the country. Finally, he had to pay for his lofty ideals with his life, when on the 30th of January 1950, a Hindu zealot gunned him down, while he was conducting the morning prayers. A grateful nation belatedly acknowledged his greatness and acclaimed him as the father of the nation. Half a century later, after having fought three wars and numerous skirmishes, we do grudgingly acknowledge his foresight, in striving for Hindu Muslim amity.
The single predominant factor in each of the above was their strong courage of conviction that made them fight for their cause, despite heavy odds. They thus lived and died for a cause that was dear to them. Their ideas brought them to glory, for they were great visionaries, capable of thinking much ahead of their time. The ignorant masses and the powers that be did not heed them. Only to later revere them, after they were no more. History is replete with many examples of great revolutionaries, who espoused noble ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity, sacrificing their very lives for it. Their ideas sowed the seeds for great revolutions, like the French and the Russian revolution that radically transformed society.
These great souls became martyrs for their noble ideals, that eventually led to the renaissance in the society, to transform it into the modern civilization that we see today. This does not in any way construe, that we must not follow the path of glory. For, who would not like to be immortalized and in the words of HW Longfellow
“And departing leave behind us,
Footprints in the sand of time.”
Richa Singh is a student pursuing Economics from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Malaika M Khan
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.