online: 16 january 2004 birday!

15 january 2004 right means

11:08 Walking this morning while the sunshine lasts (rain is forecast for this afternoon) I stopped to listen to a small bird I could not see among the branches from which the sound came... After days indoors thinking of lesser things (negotiating purchase of remaining copies of a book, and suchlike actions that depress more than stimulate) I found my eyesight (or the neuro processes of seeing) was not operating properly - I could not direct my focussing onto particular leaves or branches... But then suddenly I could, and I spotted the bird, a robin, singing and puffing out its chest - for maximum loudness I suppose.

In the last few days I've been reading Gandhi's theory of right action* - if the means are right the right ends will be reached, he says (the reverse of industrialism). I wondered if the robin, or any of us as creatures of nature, are indeed using right means in our territorial songs, our buying and selling, our walks, our writings, or whatever?... Of these actions 'walks' seem to me the best.

When I reached higher ground I found ice on the puddles in the sunshine and I thought this must be midwinter. But then I remembered seeing some willow catkins already in bloom this morning and an early lamb on a walk in Belgium two weeks ago. The beginning of spring is already happening.

Then I paused to look at a solitary crow perched on a seat and excreting on it. As I stood looking at it, it turned towards me and gave 6 loud caws (rather hostile I felt) and then it jumped off the seat and hopped away. Hm.

And now, among people talking in the cafe, I'm thinking again of Gandhi. I see an enormous man walk by, his body much enlarged by overeating, and I think of Gandhi's abstemiousness and his many fasts to near death in political protest.

I am much attracted to Gandhi's advocacy of right means but I notice great differences between the rest of his thought and my own. As antidote to the brutality of powered machinery he proposes a hand wheel for the spinning of cotton (by everyone - as the right way to 'earn bread'). Whereas I see wheels as the source of self oppression... I look 'beyond wheels' to post-mechanical technology that can operate autonomously without wheels and without people... I feel that the right technology (for the oppressed villagers whom Gandhi was trying to help with the spinning wheel) was the film camera** (and nowadays the webcam, the mobile phone, and internet) - so as to permit self-awareness through seeing our outer selves and culture in motion - and such interactions.

But 'Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin...,***

In place of voluntary suffering I see the decentral bliss of John Cage and his intentionally purposeless music!

Yes, there is much to be rethought, and remade, in the light of such thinking as Gandhi's, John Ruskin's, Henry David Thoreau's, John Cage's, Jesus Christ's, and everyone's. We are all at the centre now.

*M K Gandhi, Sarvodaya (the welfare of all), Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, India, 1954, ISBN 81-7229-320-8.

Gandhi was much influenced by John Ruskin's essay Unto This Last (edited by Clive Wilmer, Penguin Books, London 1986 and several other editions) and Henry David Thoreau's essay Civil Disobedience. (The Portable Thoreau, edited by Carl Bode, The Viking Press, New York 1974, and other editions)

** see 'Beyond Wheels, and through the cinematograph' in the internet and everyone,originally published by ellipsis London in 2000 (and soon to be distributed via the internet and mail order - write to jcj at, pages 218-229.

***from Jesus Christ's sermon on the mount, The gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 6 verse 28.

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