The True, the Beautiful and the Good: these three, timeless ‘eternal verities’ have been acknowledged and extolled through humanity, in the East and West. In fact the Catholic Church teaches us that God Himself is Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Section 41 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “All living creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures – their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God.”
Few people I have encountered in my life reflected these three principles of Truth, Goodness and Beauty as radiantly as Fr. Bismarque Dias. I only got to know him in 2009, about a year after returning to Goa. From the very beginning I sensed that this was no ordinary priest, no ordinary man.
His love for nature, for the simple things in life, his appreciation of the fragility of our life-giving ecosystem, were quite transparent to anyone who met him even fleetingly.
My wife and I got involved in his election campaign for the Cumbarjua constituency in 2012, and will forever cherish being on his campaign trail, and contributing our tiny mite with poster design, social media blitzes, interviews and whatever press coverage we were able to garner. He may have lost the election, but he was up against the muscle and money power of his opponents (people we met in the constituency told us explicitly of being offered bribes and threats to vote against Fr. Bismarque), but even so, the result was a powerful message to the status quo: if an honest, upright independent candidate could get such popular support even though he had thrown his hat in the ring rather late, and with absolutely no strings attached in terms of financial patronage from any political party or corporate clout, then he could be a real force to reckon with the next time round.
It was Fr. Bismarque Dias who had given me hope that all was not lost for Goa; that we needn’t wring our hands at the seemingly downward spiral nosedive of corruption and greed and a total absence of moral values that our beloved land seems to be taking. This is something he always maintained: that we the people can turn things around. And this doesn’t have to be by antagonising anyone, be it a person, a group, a party, a consortium. We can engage even those who disagree with us, in dialogue. He really deeply believed this, and said this many times, in conversations, in speeches and in interviews. So despite the inept handling of the investigation into what seems increasingly to have been his gruesome murder, we should nevertheless not lose sight of his message.
He proved by living example that politics need not be a dirty game if you yourself are clean. And this alone is quite a radical thought that must have made, and still be making some “regular” politicians lose sleep at night. For if more people like Fr. Bismarque join the fray and by sheer weight of their numbers push the political debate towards honesty, transparency, accountability, and uprightness, towards never losing sight of the greater good, then it could be goodbye to the status quo and the lucre that comes from being the “usual” politician.
The other thing that moved me was Fr. Bismarque’s propagation of Kindness with a capital K, not only as a nice thing to do, but as his Election Manifesto, his election plank. Far from being an idealistic platitude, this is the very core of everything that he and every citizen with a conscience wants for Goa, for India, for our planet.
Fr. Bismarque’s Kindness Manifesto was a watershed in politics: instead of empty promises and tall claims, it begged forgiveness from the mother Earth for our transgressions against her and her children and living beings, and a pledge to protect both by “Being Kind, and Living Kind.”
Think about it: every social ill, from rampant mining to deforestation to sand mining, even to the garbage problem, the problem of speeding, drunk driving, the road traffic accident and death rate, the parking woes… all have at their root a basic lack of kindness, or courtesy, for one’s fellow human beings, for other living creatures, for the environment, for future generations of life on Earth.
So by reaching into our innate resources of kindness (for we all have this wondrous capacity within us), we will unerringly strive in the right direction, because our moral compass is pointing where it was meant to do. This makes sense at every level, from the microscopic to the cosmic.
Fr. Bismarque’s message presciently anticipated the core philosophy of our current Pope Francis’ revolutionary second encyclical “Laudato si” (subtitled ‘On Care for Our Common Home’), of 24 May 2015. In it, the Holy Father critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming and calls on all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action.”
Fr. Bismarque devoted and “gave” his life, in the most literal sense safeguarding our tiny state against precisely these: irresponsible development and environmental degradation.
It brings a tear to my eye to watch videos on Sudeep Dalvi’s page of Fr. Bismarque and the Musical Warriors, to “hear” as if he is still with us, sing and strum his guitar with such gusto, fervour and sincerity. One line in particular keeps ringing in my head: “Goenkara, sarke vaten choll”
Amen to that. Rest in eternal peace, dear Father. Your message is timeless, just like the Truth, Goodness and Beauty you radiated in our lives and consciousness. We will never forget you.
(An edited version of this article was published on 22 November 2015 in my weekend column ‘On the Upbeat’ in the Panorama section of the Navhind Times Goa India)