Gandhi’s talisman
October 20, 2011, 10:18 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

In giving advice about how to make a decision, Gandhi recommends assessing first how it will affect the abjectly poor.  I’m confident this is no longer taught in business schools – and never was.

But look at the results of gauging the advisability of your great works by consideration for the poorest among us:  you and your doubts will melt away.  You will become nothing and concurrently very confident!

What a strange mix:  one wouldn’t normally associate self annihilation with confidence.   Self assurance makes sense, but today’s real men (and women) must, by their decisions, become grander not diminished.

This is Gandhi speaking, not some hack self help guru.  His life was a manifestation of this strange conflation of loss of doubt and self immolation.  His extraordinary power came through ideas, non violence, and ultimately self denial.   The proof, and the object, of course, is people being set free which happened on an unimaginable scale when the British quit India in 1947.

Gandhi’s talisman:

I will give you a talisman. Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? Will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away.

M. K. Gandhi

entirely foolish and entirely wise
September 8, 2011, 1:57 am
Filed under: brave new world, unseen world | Tags: , ,


I have an uncle who said, curiously, that he wanted to die poor.  Materially poor, which he did, but we suspect he died rich in other ways.

The Victorian writer John Ruskin set down some observations on the different characteristics of rich and poor below.  In his view, the rich have hedging characteristics:  they are sure and unthinking etc “generally speaking.”  The poor, on the other hand go headlong into their roles:  “entirely foolish … entirely wise.”

This is our accepted generalizing narrative about class in our time:  the hedging rich find it hard to fully live; and the committed poor are all in.

From Ruskin’s essay:

The persons who become rich are, generally speaking, industrious, resolute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, sensible, unimaginative, insensitive and ignorant.  The persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the entirely wise, the idle, the reckless, the humble, the thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, the well informed, the improvident, the irregularly and impulsively wicked, the clumsy knave, the open thief and the entirely merciful just and godly person.

Unto This Last (1862), John Ruskin