I was in 8th grade, when I had first heard of Mahatma Gandhi. As the closing of the school year drew near our class was tasked, as all graduating 8th graders were, with the responsibility to choose an inspirational quote that we would adopt as our years slogan. Earlier that year we had studied India and its history. Of course, one can’t go living let alone reading a history book about India, without becoming familiar with Mahatma Gandhi. Though fascinating he was, I wonder if any of our class understood then just who this man was, and what he had accomplished. Nonetheless he became one of the more interesting subjects we had covered and his quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” became our slogan.
Quite the interesting message for a gang of 13 and 14 year-olds whose primary concerns are puberty and allowance money. However even at that age that quote sparked a plethora of questions and ideas that have lead me to where I am today; sitting in my office writing this Quotesense piece, learning and living.
Originally this segment was to be connected with Napoleon Hill’s next chapter, The Mystery of Sex Transmutation, which I know you all were excited to dive into, but something came up. October 6th commemorates the release of John C. Maxwell’s new book, Intentional Living, and fortunately I have been able to get a sneak peek into the books first three chapters. And that’s where I ran across Mr. Gandhi’s words, or so I thought.
While ginned up on the book, my dad and I began to discuss the content and the quote in particular. Such simple words for such a simple message that should be simply understood but is tremendously difficult for some to follow. After mentioning my difficulty finding a quote that would stick in correlation to Mr. Hill’s chapter, he suggested that I keep it simple and explore Gandhi’s words. Yet in doing so, I came across an interesting discovery that both pleased and disappointed me.
Now, let me say, my pleasure in writing these Quotesense pieces is the learning I get out of what lay behind the words that make the quote. What emotion, what circumstance prompted these words that so many look to for influence? And though in looking into the history of these words, sometimes I don’t find what I expect.
Anyone who tries to search for the history behind the words, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” might be in for a surprise when they discover that not only does anyone know when those words were spoken, there is no documentation that those words ever came from Gandhi himself. At least not like that. Instead, the closest attribution in relation to Gandhi is found in a segment of a chapter in volume 13 of Gandhi’s Complete Works. Chapter 153 – GENERAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT HEALTH [-XXXII]; 12. ACCIDENTS: SNAKE-BITE:
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”
So how did that other abridged, reworded phrase come from this? Well, the excerpt from the volume probably couldn’t fit on a bumper sticker as easily, which is where the only known origin of that shortened quote. Though it is still a good message, it is unfortunate that many, including myself, are unaware of the full message.
The chapter this passage is found in starts out with Gandhi breaking down the reasoning behind man’s fear of snakes and how some cultures value these creatures over others. In true Gandhi fashion the entry becomes very poignant as what starts as a brief history lesson turns to a teaching moment that will have the reader doing a double take at the true meaning of the instructions to avoiding poisonous bites from snakes.
“It has also been demonstrated through experiments that if any poison gets into the system of one who is nervous or in a rage, the effect is instantaneous and more potent. Everyone can discover for himself that, when frightened or angered, the pulse is faster and the heart-beats increase. Whenever the blood circulates at a greater speed, it becomes hot. Heat generated by anger, etc., is unnatural and, therefore, deleterious. There is no reason to doubt that rage is a kind of fever.”
With over 90 volumes of wisdom, anyone should check out a slice of the pie that is The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. I feel fortunate to have found this little treasure of information and plan to share it. However it was not the only valuable jewel I found this week.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been lucky enough to get a look inside John C. Maxwell’s new book, Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters, and am truly excited to explore the rest of the text! In just three chapters I have been enlightened to what John is calling a worldwide movement, involving those who live intentionally by adding value not to just everyone, but mostly to yourself by making a difference. Being a part of the difference not because you want to but because you have to. It’s amazing how common sense is so easily shadowed in the part of us that is afraid to not only find it but believe in it. But something we all need reminding of is, it can be easy to do something.
I encourage anyone to follow along with John while he shares stories of others who have started small but believed big. This book isn’t just another self-help text, or leadership guide. Though it is easily guised as such, this book is a call to action. A summoning of the common good we all have in us to think before we speak and avoid the poisonous snakes.
Though religion is a driving force and catalyst behind John’s message, he encourages those who do not share the same views to skip any sections he proceeds to speak on behalf of his beliefs because this isn’t about what religion you believe in. It doesn’t matter what your nationality, or sexuality or political stance is. It’s about the bigger picture. The one that includes everyone and doesn’t crop out anyone who wants to be part of it.
If you’re interested in how someone like Carrie Rich turned a $100 cash gift to $6000 and then to $2,000,000 in the blink of an eye, or how a teenager by the name of Celine is changing the lives of others her age by supplying them with education, then you need to read this book.
Begin creating your own story, and ensure you’re on the path to greatness. Make your life significant.
-David Joseph Leingang