Gandhi's symbolic acts (which were meaningful as symbols only because they marked his own flesh with the stamp of their acute reality) were aimed at three kinds of liberation.
- he wanted to to deliver Indian religious wisdom from the sclerosis and blindness into which it had sunk by reason of the gross injustices of a system which had become untrue to itself.
- he wanted to liberate the untouchable, the Harijan, not only from political and economic oppression, but from the incubus of their own self-hate and their despair.
- he wished to liberate the oppressors themselves from their blind and hopeless dependence on the system which kept things as they were, and which consequently enslaved everybody both spiritually and materially.
First, I must comment on Merton's words about symbolic acts (meaningful as symbols only because they marked his own flesh with the stamp of their acute reality). This was no mere protest with a sign out from of some event after which I can go home -unharmed and untouched- like going to a show. This symbolic act was one that placed life into a new situation...one that could have severe consequences - real consequences - unknown consequences....but he enter into it completely. I must be honest, I find in this action of Gandhi the reason why he find that in true non-violent resistance, there is no room for the coward. For it these actions, one must be brave and willing to encounter the suffering or pain or rejection or dismissal that will come when action is taken. In that way, symbolic means...very real action...full-of-life action...vulnerable action...action filled with purpose and peace and strength that no other power can simply overcome and defeat. For once the action is taken, others are empowered by its "symbolism"...which is really its life. Sometimes I wonder how people like this act as they do.
Connection: We need each other in order to begin to act like living symbols for one another and those who are looking on.
Help us, O God, to keep in mind those who are all around us and long for help and support and solidarity even when it means that when we keep them in mind, we keep them within the actions of our lives that bring us into solidarity with them and even our enemies. Amen.l