How many times have I sighed and thought 'Another one bites the dust' when great achievers sullied their own names and achievements with their actions. Think Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger and with the publication of his autobiography, Steve Jobs. He was undeniably a genius in his chosen field but as a man, well, eh....
As I look back over the ages, the casualty list is very long indeed. Albert Einstein (pix above) came up with the equation of all times E = mc2 but was instrumental in urging President Roosevelt in building the first atomic bomb which was subsequently dropped on Hiroshima. One can just imagine the self loathing he had to live with until the end of his days knowing that he was responsible for the destruction that followed. Oh, one might argue that he was just one cog in a big wheel but remember, it all started with his equation. No equation, no atomic bomb, period! With the proliferation of nuclear weapons, time will tell whether Einstein will be responsible for the end of mankind on earth.
Deng Xiaoping was lauded for his efforts in bringing about economic reforms and liberalization in China but his name will always be synonymous with the Tienanmen massacre on June 4 1989.
The world mourned the death of Princess Diana (pix above) when she died tragically in a car accident on 31 August 1997. She captured the imagination and adulation of the multitudes with her beauty, charitable works and fame but one cannot deny that her personal life and loves were less than savory at the best of times.
At home here in Malaysia, Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak is highly regarded as a royal and a legal practitioner. In 1965, at the age of thirty seven, he became the youngest judge to be appointed in the Commonwealth. However, he was heavily criticised for his involvement in the toppling of the Pakatan Rakyat state government in Perak in 2009.
What I am trying to say is that it takes just one heinous act to obliterate all the good that one has done in one's life. My short story 'Last stroke of the brush' http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/104043 is centred around this theme. Note how the main character Roxana was torn between the temptation to save herself or to save the street urchin called Jam just before the fire took her life. I sometimes feel that life is one minefield and if one miscalculates and takes one wrong step, one's life is going to blow up in smithereens. In the story, Roxana has the luxury of ending her life, albeit unintentionally. For most of us, once blown up, we find that we can never get the pieces of our lives back together again. Needless to say, one needs a set of values to live by and I think the most important one is respect for life, be it human or otherwise. The attitude that 'Oh, it's only a cat.' or 'It's only a tree' should be discarded for they are forms of life that bring joy when treated right and trouble should they be abused. All human beings should be respected, not lusted after or used to further one's cause. Education, be it at home or otherwise, plays a major role in inculcating this value and I take this opportunity to salute those parents, guardians and educators who have done so. Sigh, only time will tell whether I have done my bit in carrying out this most important role as a parent.
So Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey....the world is watching how you handle every stroke of your brush. As for us ordinary mortals, we have our own little audience as we paint and may God guide us all as we fill up our own canvases.