It’s the beginning of the twentieth century, and M. Gandhi advocates for the rural villagers of his home country, India, to become self-reliant. He receives a nod from Mr. R. W. Emerson, showing by example the advantages of looking inward rather than outward. He campaigns that each individual produce their own cloth goods with the use of locally made khadi material, thus turning away from imported manufactured apparel. Its a transformative period in global industry and consumption- the tipping point right here in rural India.
Although an accomplished lawyer at the time, one of the first things Gandhi did was to learn the art of spinning thread. With industrialized life taking over almost everywhere, the spinning of raw fleece into thread was certainly a progressive political and social act. Gandhi himself referred to this as “enlightened anarchy”, He asserted that self-reliant individuals would be in an advantageous position to regulate their own lives without the presence of the state, an individual figure, or any other institutional authority. Positioning khadi cloth and its crafting processes as a national symbol, he tried to persuade an emerging nation in the value of spinning thread as a meaningful daily activity rooted in the world of making.
We now know what happened along the way: India celebrated its independence, Gandhi was assassinated soon thereafter, and most of his dreams went unrealized ever after. What is less known, however, is that alive on the day of his country’s independence, while his ideas and actions were being ridiculed and mocked, he sat contentedly spinning thread in contemplation. An idealist, sure, but if you think his mission and life not profound, then you’d have to explain that to just a few of those who consistently reference “Mahatma” (great soul) Gandhi in their work: Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, and the Dalai Lama.
khadi, the thread of inner silence.