Heaven of Freedom
Growing up in boarding school in India, a poignant poem in one of my English textbooks caught my eye and has ever since remained etched in my mind. It is the poem “Where the Mind is Without Fear” by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. It goes:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.
This poem was a little too profound for me to really absorb at the time – I believe I was in the fifth grade. But when I heard my father reciting this to himself one morning while I was still at home, I was both stunned and intrigued. I wondered why this accomplished orthopedic surgeon had taken pains to memorize my fifth-grade poem – I hadn’t realized that he had learned it in school himself! I was still too young to recognize or appreciate these words. So, once again, I simply bushed them off.
Now years later, I find these same words pop into my head as I meander my way through trying to find and articulate the meaning, the real and raison d’ être behind the celebration behind Veterans Day. And I think the words in this poem have finally revealed the meaning it has hidden from me all these years. I realized one simply needs to ask – where is this place? Is this utopia, or is there really a place such as the poet describes? Where is the mind without fear and where can the head be held high? Where can knowledge be free? Where has the world not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls? Where do words come out from the depth of truth? Where does tireless striving reach inexorably towards perfection? Where has the clear stream of reason not been overcome by the deadness of habit and where is the mind led forward into ever widening thought and action? WHERE IS THIS HEAVEN OF FREEDOM?
I believe that every American veteran knows this place. I believe that in their mind’s eye every American veteran envisioned their America as the beacon of hope and truth and justice to the free world. I believe that every American veteran fought for; gave his life for; gave his soul; gave his limb; gave his peace; gave his EVERYTHING and his ALL for THIS America. An America where the mind really is without fear and the head is held high.
I believe that this is the America they fought for and now it’s our time to give back to them in care and support what they gave up in their own lives. It’s our duty now to show them that this America that they fought for really does exist. Happy Veterans Day – today and every day!
~ Ashwin Modayil, Owner of Right at Home Springfield