While imprisoned in the Aga Khan Palace with Gandhi and Kasturba (Gandhi’s wife) Sushila Nayar remembers a conversation that revealed to her an insight about the mind of the Mahatma. She and her brother, Pyarelal, were discussing for some reason how to define ‘genius.’ Nayar said that she heard her art teacher draw from folk wisdom that genius is “99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.” They did not realize that Gandhi had been standing behind them, hearing the whole conversation. He chimed in that genius lay in the “infinite capacity to go into details.” As usual, Gandhi wanted to reinforce that nothing is beyond us as “ordinary” human beings. We can cultivate the capacity of a genius by sticking with a question and exploring every single detail about it that we can find. Which is what he did, after all, with his relentless search for Truth as God. But it had another implication, as well. Gandhi did not think that any form of labor should be empty of knowledge about its task. Given our full attention, our tasks become arts. Moreover, the moment we all begin to explore and understand the infinite details of our craft–whatever it may be–we shift the dynamic of others having power over us. (Since I’ve just taken up weaving myself, you can see why this line of thought caught my attention; but it applies to all of us): our labor is an expression of our intellects as much as it may be a form of community service. Someone else can no longer define what our labor means for us, and that frees us from some of the potential for exploitation that so often plagues the relationship of capital and labor.
Dedicate yourself to increasing your capacity to harness the genius behind nonviolence.
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