GIP Event Reflection: Ru Freeman and Manufactured Certainty
Ru Freeman is a Sri Lankan-born writer and activist whose work has appeared on international platforms, including The Guardian and The New York Times.
She writes in a diverse array of genres, and on many of the political and cultural issues afflicting the world today. She’s the author of the novels On Sal Mal Lane and A Disobedient Girl. Her other works include the short story collection Sleeping Alone, and Ms. Freeman is also the editor of the anthology Extraordinary Rendition: (American) Writers on Palestine. Perhaps most importantly, Barack Obama follows her on Twitter.
In preparation for the GIP event last Thursday, Poly’s Global Scholars read on Sal Mal Lane, which takes the perspective of a young group of children to explain the Sri Lankan Civil War. Family’s of different religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds make up the neighborhood where these children live, and the novel tells a capturing tale of how different groups reacted to the conflict.
Ms. Freeman’s central message is how this power of storytelling and diverse perspectives can overcome polarization of all kinds: cultural, ethnic, religious, political. She’s lived a life of interacting with different communities, and her activism focuses on bridging divides.
At Poly’s GIP event, Ms. Freeman told the story of her journey to America. She immigrated from Sri Lanka amidst the civil war there to attend college in the US. Ms. Freeman related how she had no ticket home, but she expected life would work out and eventually take her back.
She came here with an entirely different cultural background, and — as an immigrant myself — I thought it was interesting and impressive how she found a place in both America and Sri Lanka without having to give up either culture.
Ms. Freeman also spoke about the value of living with less manufactured certainty. I’ve thought about my own lifestyle in relation to that idea, and I think I’m tempted to create an artificial bubble — to assert that my perspective is all there is — because the world feels so huge and unpredictable. I often feel like I need to internally deny that enormity so that I can be confident of my own individuality and worth.
Ms. Freeman pointed out how embracing more risk and diversity will ultimately open more opportunities. If we’re always on the lookout to learn from different experiences and people, we widen our own perspective.
Her presentation was spontaneous, risky, and somewhat messy, but that’s exactly what made it so engaging. It was incredibly compelling how her message of open-mindedness matched her demeanor and speaking style.
Ms. Freeman’s whole aura is inspiring, and I’ve made a resolve to myself to seek out more opportunities to take risks and interact with other cultures.