A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 30 May 2016

Gandhi, Rumi And The EU

I recently came across this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

I do not want my home to be walled in on all sides and its windows blocked. I want cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.

A nice, succinct comment on cultures and countries, I thought: how we need a balance between self-determination and equable cooperation, how we should be rightly positive about our own culture but also welcome and celebrate others — all to our mutual benefit. Any lessons here for the EU debate, I wonder?

I also recalled this poem by Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival,

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honourably. 
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 
meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond.

RUMI (Translated by COLEMAN BARKS)


George said...

This is one of my favorite Rumi poems. I also like the Gandhi guote, which properly recognizes that we should aspire to policies that will welcome the stranger, yet simultaneously protect the legitimate interests of the hosts. Unfortunately, however, there remain many in both your country and mine who consider it unpatriotic, if not traitorous, to welcome those from other cultures, even when they are seeking sanctuary from war, famine, terrorism, or political repression.

Vagabonde said...

I have tried finding out about Brexit but here in the South we only hear about Donald Trump. Of course, the Donald says that if he was president hardly any foreigners would get into the US.
I just read that in the Dordogne area of France there are more than 30,000 permanent UK residents there, and in the French territory more than 170,000. In Spain there are about 320,000 UK nationals – what will happen to their properties? And their health care? Then in the reverse, I could not find what would happen to the EU nationals who work and live in the UK – will they become illegal immigrants? I wonder if the UK is thinking about building a wall all around their island to prevent foreigners from going into it, just like D. Trump wants to build one along the Mexican border? From what I read the UK people only want their chosen foreigners, maybe French, Belgian or Germans, but not Bulgarians, Slovaks, etc. But, I think, since the beginning of time there have been migrations – isn’t that the way the American Indians arrive in North America? And about North America, what would it be now if only the American Indians live here now and they had been able to throw out all the other foreign immigrants from Europe (may be would be better? -:) and the same with Australia? Such ideas to think about… what do you think?

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment, George. The refugee crisis here is heartbreaking, and no one seems to know how to deal with it.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, the history of the world is the story of migrations, Vagabonde. And an interesting reflection on the Native Americans and Australians.

If Brexit occurs, God forbid, it's all a little unclear what will happen to out own expats, but they won't be considered illegal immigrants! And, actually, our borders are pretty secure, Vagabonde — helped by the fact we are an island.

It's not surprising people want to come here to work, as the UK is the fifth richest country in the world (whatever that means, and it's probably a lot to do with City-generated wealth and foreign billionaire property investment, and little to do with the big majority of the population who just about manage to get by) with a population which, by and large, has always welcomed immigrants, at least until recently, and with a health service and social services structure that is generous and democratic. And we need a lot of foreign nationals to staff the hospitals, the bars, the restaurants, the hotels, the fruit and veg farms. London is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world.

The Solitary Walker said...

Well, how wrong can I be. The prime minister of Spain has just said said that Britons living there may not be safe following Brexit.

Anonymous said...


Now as a man is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;

And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.
— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 7th Century BCE

Imagine the UK in twenty years time - a struggling, poor economy off the coast of a thriving Europe. Why has it ended up that way? Oh, it voted to leave the EU because it was frightened it would be made to share what it has with refugees.

The Solitary Walker said...

'... whatever deed he does, that he will reap.'

dritanje said...

Like George, this is one of my favourite Rumi poems. Like Vagabonde and I'm sure many others, I too wonder what will happen re the British ex-pats. I've just come back from France, but my British friends there don't seem too worried, though they would rather we stayed in. I can remember when you had to have a carte de sejour to live in France (unless I presume, you had quite a bit of money). The local mayor wields great power and you would need to be on good terms with him or her to ensure that it was renewed.
I am hoping that, as with the Scottish referendum, the people who will vote to stay in are simply being a lot quieter about their voting intentions.
Not too many people are talking about the social and cultural benefits for all of us Europeans.

The Solitary Walker said...

I'm getting worried now the momentum seems to be going in the leave direction, but who can tell? The polls were notoriously wrong in the last election. Yes, I agree - politics, economics, filibustering and careerism seem to be taking precedence over social and cultural issues - as ever.

Susan Scheid said...

Gandhi and Rumi both offer such wisdom. Your choice of quotation and poem are powerful, and poignant, too, as I come to them well after the Brexit vote. On the issue of the social and cultural benefits, we have a friend who is the cultural attache for Britain to the EU. In the wake of the vote, he posted the performance of the European anthem that closed this year's Europe Day concert. It's here; simply beautiful and now heartbreaking.