Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Pocket Watch, A Bowl...


... a pair of wire-rimmed eyeglasses, a pair of sandals...

How sadly ironic that these meager, humble possessions of one of the truly great men of the twentieth century, Mahatma Gandhi, should end up on a Madison Avenue auction block! How much more ironic that these unprepossessing items should fetch $1.8 million! You can read all about it in yesterday's New York Times.



Okay, so these infinitely precious, intrinsically worthless items will be returned to India, where they rightfully belong as a part of the national heritage; they will hopefully be available to the people from whom Gandhi emerged to show an example to the world of the power of non-violence and peace. And okay, so the man who collected them, the filmmaker and peace activist James Otis, intended only that the proceeds from the sale go to further his cause and his commitment to the betterment of the world; and, once the brouhaha broke out, once the media caught wind of the sale, attempted to withdraw the items in order to avoid the controversy that suddenly attached to them...

Still and all, surrounded by the spectacularly dismal news of the day, the four pictures of these minimal possessions on the front page of one of the world's leading newspapers are a poignant reminder of how little our species has managed to learn from one of its great teachers. We revere the memory of the man as we revere the memory of our prophets, with hypocritical admiration. In their lives, they did the work that we signally fail to do in our own: they loved, they sacrificed, they embodied wisdom and compassion. Perhaps we think, collectively, that it is enough for them to have done it for us, that having allowed them to make the sacrifice of need and greed, it is no longer necessary for us to do the same.


Enough, then, for one man: a pocket watch to remind him of the passage of time, a bowl for sustenance, a pair of eyeglasses through which to see everything in the world, and everything beyond, and a pair of sandals on which to walk through life. Enough.

4 comments:

mandt said...

Nobody has ever said that 'Mara' doesn't have a sense of humor. lol Peace and Sattyagrava! MandT

mandt said...

Oh and PS. Welcome back from the retreat---we're still catching up and in the middle of dissembling for the move to some where in North Bay---Sonoma County.

citizen of the world said...

It is ironic and a little sad, and yet so well intentioned for the most part that I'm glad the moeny went to a good cause and happier still the items will go back to India where they belong.

khengsiong said...

Gandhi was a great leader, not just to India, but to the world.

So it really doesn't matter where his belongings are, so long as they are valued.