“Words lead to wisdom and wisdom leads to wonder, give the gift of wonder…”–Julie Andrews
As an adult I love to give and receive books for Christmas. But as a child, even though I loved reading, I never enjoyed receiving books as gifts. Books rivaled the gift of apples, oranges and walnuts we found in our stockings on Christmas morning when it came to least desirable. That’s definitely one tradition I never understood.
Every Christmas I have a gift exchange with my family and a few close friends, and more often than not we give each other books. And we put much thought and care into the books we think the other person would appreciate. In the past I have ordered a book written in French for my friend who originally from France, an out of print fly fishing book for a friend who spends a few weeks every year attempting to “trick” the trout out of a Montana lake, and even bought the entire Judy Blume collection for one of my nieces, who has yet to read them. I always ask if she’s read them, she claims they’re boring.
This year I searched our local bookstore in Riverside for a few books for friends and family and ran across a book that I decided to buy for myself: The Essential Gandhi, a collection of the written work of Mohandes “Mahatma” Gandhi. After recently watching the 1982 film based on his life, I have a renewed interest in the political activist and pacifist who spent 20 years of his life securing Indian Rights in South Africa before assuming a key role in helping India gain its independence from Great Britain.
Philosophically, Gandhi is best known for his ideals of truth and peace. Truth, according to Gandhi, is not merely a mental correspondence with reality, but a mode of existence. The power of truth isn’t what one fights for, but what one is. This principle, coupled with one of pacifism, he found to be a formidable political weapon against intolerance, racism, and social violence.
Although his basic terminology and conceptual context were Hindu, Gandhi was impressed by the universal religious emphasis on the self-transformative power of love, drawing his inspiration from many sources: Christianity, Western philosophy, and Islam.
In this season of love, peace and joy, remembering his philosophies is a perfect gift we can give to ourselves or anyone on our holiday list. Like so many great writers, his words lead to wisdom, that wisdom leads us to wonder, and that wonder can be the most valuable gift of all.
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