It will be Christmas on Friday and by way of greetings to all, I would like to share some thoughts that sound very Christmassy to me in their spirit, taken from a friend’s private anthology that always reads like a gigantic Christmas card to me, with its emphasis on ‘core values’.
For instance, Pandit Nehru said in the Constituent Assembly debates, “Words are magic things often enough, but even the magic of words sometimes cannot convey the magic of the human spirit and of a nation’s passion. And so, I cannot say that this Resolution at all conveys the passion that lies in the hearts and minds of the Indian people today. It seeks very feebly to tell the world of what we have thought and dreamt of for so long, and what we now hope to achieve in the near future.”
As memorably, in a letter written in March 1921 to CF Andrews, the English Protestant missionary who became Gandhi’s close friend, Rabindranath Tagore said, “It is in the fitness of things that Mahatma Gandhi, frail in body and devoid of all material resources, should call up the immense power of the meek…the destiny of India has chosen for its ally the power of soul…our fight is a spiritual fight. We, the famished ragamuffins of the East, are to win freedom for all humanity. We have no word for ‘Nation’ in our language. When we borrow this word from other people, it never fits us” (he meant that India sought the more profound victory of a moral force, not a narrow political force).
As to which, these lines may have been written for us, from The Kingdom of God by Francis Thompson: “The angels keep their ancient places: / Turn but a stone, and start a wing! / Tis ye, ‘tis your estranged faces, / That miss the many-splendoured thing.”
Nowadays they say we must stay away from ‘foreign’ writers but perhaps this definition of what makes a gentleman is worth keeping. It’s by John Henry, Cardinal Newman, an important English Catholic in the 19th century, someone our freedom fighters would have read.
He said, defining a true gentleman, that “he is one who never inflicts pain…he has his eye on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd…he makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled…he is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best…he is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage…or insinuates evil which he dare not say aloud.”
Especially, as we look to stay centred amidst the chaos, we may like to think of this poem by Ernest Dowson, “They are not long, the weeping and the laughter / Love and desire and hate: / I think they have no portion in us after / We pass the gate. / They are not long, the days of wine and roses: / Out of a misty dream / Our path emerges for a while, then closes / Within a dream.”
The views expressed are personal.