02 October 2007

Happy Satyagraha to You!

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...Image via WikipediaI remember drifting in and out of sleep during the Phillip Glass opera Satyagraha. My eyes would creak open only to see the same people in the same places with the same music droning on around them. How long had I been out: seconds? minutes? an hour? Time seemed meaningless. My eyes fell shut again.

Glass's treatment* notwithstanding, Satyagraha is not a dull concept. It's the nonviolent peace force that Mohandas K. Gandhi honed to an art form, ultimately using it to help liberate India from British colonialism.

Gandhi's gone now, and it seems that violence currently has the upper hand over Satyagraha. But the thing about peace...you have to be in it for the long term. War is a temporary means that addresses only the symptoms of deep-rooted problems. Peace can fix the causes.

Maybe the opera's sense of time dilation was good training for those of us who feel the similarly about today's political leaders. They don't seem to change, or learn, no matter how much time passes, no matter how much we squeeze our eyes shut and hope. The lesson may be to stop waiting for them to lead, and start making peace ourselves, personally, locally, and globally. Here's my small peace offering on this, the day that Gandhi was born in 1869.

[mp3] Musaik: The Death of Gandhi / Salama
from the album In This World

* Opera critic Henry Heidt said: "This opera is well named as a deeply felt commitment to passive nonviolence on the part of the audience is required to sit through a full performance."
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