Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Frederick Buechner on Gandhi’s Riches

I remember going to see the movie “Ghandhi” when it first came out.

We were the usual kind of noisy, restless Saturday night crowd as we sat there waiting for the lights to dim, with our popcorn and soda pop. Girl friends and boy friends — their legs draped over the backs of the empty seats.

But by the time the movie came to a close with the flames of Ghandhi’s funeral pyre filling the entire screen, there wasn’t a sound or a movement in that whole enormous theater.

We filed out of there, teenagers and senior citizens, blacks and whites, swingers and squares, in as deep and telling a silence as I’ve ever been part of or has ever been part of me.

[The apostle] Peter in his [biblical] letter wrote, “You have tasted of the kindness of the Lord.” And we tasted it in some fashion in that theater.

The life of that little bandy-legged, bespectacled man with his spinning wheel and his bare feet, and whatever he had in the way of selfless passion for peace and passionate opposition to every form of violence, we, all of us, tasted something that at least for a few moments that Saturday night made every other kind of life seem empty. Something that at least for the moment I think every last one of us longed for in a way that in a far country, you long for home.

That’s why everybody left that crowded shopping mall’s movie theater in such unearthly silence, I think. That’s why it’s hard not to be haunted by that famous photograph (which I hope you have seen) of the only things Ghandi owned at his death: his glasses, his watch, his sandals, a bowl and spoon, a book of songs. What does any of us own to match such riches as that?

Frederick Buechner, "What It Means to Grow Up", Program #2901, 30 Good Minutes, First air date September 29, 1985.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Gandhi’s riches.