Here are words worth pondering from the recent funeral service for Czech president Václav Havel:
Václav Havel has departed this world or, as we Czechs say, “he now sees God’s truth.” What does this really mean? In old Czech language, “truth” was not just the way things stood, it was also justice and supreme law. That is the meaning of the Hussite motto “God’s truth will prevail.”
Václav Havel, of course, knew that the word “truth” can have a very narrow sense. He also knew that truth, seen in a narrow, self-centered way as the one and only truth, is the cause of discord and intolerance. That is why he took “Truth and Love” as his motto, as only love can make us listen to the truth of another person, to the truth of others. Such love teaches us to be humble, and Václav Havel had more humility than we all do. This is the deep meaning of the motto “Truth and Love,” a motto for which he was sometimes ridiculed and so much criticized. And yet, it expresses the very substance of human struggle. We all know that this struggle will go on as long as mankind exists. We know that we must never give up the fight for love and truth.
This is from an address by Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech Republic’s foreign minister and an old friend of Havel’s.
UPDATE, 1/12: Added photo of Havel and fixed formatting.
Victor Tan Chen is In The Fray‘s editor in chief and the coauthor of The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America.