20 January 2011

I read the autobiography of Gandhi, “The Story of My Experiments with the Truth” a couple of weeks ago. It’s not an entire retrospective, it only covers the story until 1920. But it’s written by him, and it’s a very interesting document that permits us to get into his mind, rather than to try and interpret him from his famous actions, and his portrayal in films.

At a certain point, Gandhi’s young son is sick to the point of being in mortal danger, and the doctor recommends the child eats beef broth to get up to strength. Since the whole family is vegetarian, it’s a heavy decision, and as head of the family the responsibility falls on Gandhi.’s shoulders. He realizes the child is too young to choose independently between his beliefs and survival, and proceeds to make the decision to not provide his son with the broth, figuring the benefit of standing by your beliefs is the highest someone can aspire to.

Luckily, the child recovers.

A couple of years later, our hero is faced with an extremely similar predicament. And he ends up taking the medicine, reasoning that dying would not permit him to continue exercising his beliefs anyway. So it would be better to compromise them, in able to continue them.

Or not, I’m quite hazy on the details. But I remember being distinctly shocked by the lack of empathy in the document. And even more by the lack of indication that he changed his mind, removing any interesting discourse on how to cope with mistakes in one’s lifetime. But read it, and make up your own mind.

Luckily, I do know someone who is an excellent speaker on this, and we will be talking about him in the near future.