It is Not a Light Matter, to Set Yourself Alight!

To the right is a photograph of Vasilica Iulian Grosu, a Romanian father who has chosen self-immolation as a way of protesting the custody arrangements involving his son. This picture was taken at Victoria Square in Bucharest on 12 July, 2005, in front of the Romanian government building.

Mr. Grosu is protesting the fact that although a Romanian court had awarded him the custody of his son, the son remained with the mother in Spain where a Spanish court had taken the boy away from him. And it seems that the Romanian government had taken NO steps to expedite the boy back to Romania. Nor could Mr. Grosu get any satisfaction from the International Court in The Hague. Mr. Grosu had exhausted all conventional measures when he finally hit upon this incendiary method. In the end, the police stepped in and doused the flames, but Mr. Grosu’s body was burned over 55% of its surface. So he took an enormous risk of killing himself even though it isn’t clear if he actually intended to do so. But whatever his intentions, Vasilica Iulian Grosu died of his burn trauma 8 days later on 20 July, 2005. Read more about it here, and here.

In our next photo, we meet a very different man with a very different mission. This is the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc who, like Mr. Grosu, chose self-immolation as a form of protest. On 11 June, 1963, Quang Duc set himself ablaze while seated in the Buddhist posture of meditation. His aim was to protest the brutality of the Diem government which amongst other barbarities practiced genocidal repression against Buddhists and Buddhism – and concerning which, President Diem responded with the kind of pompous official stonewalling arrogance that we know too well. Quang Duc did not have the benefit of timely rescuers – no doubt he wanted it that way. So unlike Mr. Grosu, Quang Duc endured no 8-day lingering agonies in the hospital – the inferno did its work and toasted him to a crisp within a few short minutes! And according to witnesses, he sat through it with all the unflappable composure of a Sakyamunic sage. Afterwards, his friends reverently removed what was left of him.

What on earth could drive a man to set fire to himself? One thing is for certain: setting fire to yourself is no joke. I don’t intend to try it, and I would not encourage you to try it either! To do such an horrific thing, you must be feeling very, very strongly about something, and you must feel that nothing else any longer avails you. It is clear to me that both Vasilica Iulian Grosu and Thich Quang Duc had no further care for this life at all, and chose to express this in a way which they thought might make a difference.

Such is the power of martydom. And this (pointing to myself) is not the stuff of which martyrs are made!

So I shall have done with these morbid fooleries that weigh so heavily upon mine heart! It is time now to “lighten up”.

Perhaps I will go to amuse myself with a silly computer game about throwing rocks at boys. . . .

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