The Mercury News – USA – by Patrick May – April 23, 2006
The audience was invited to imagine: Your closed fist holds a precious gem. The person next to you wants to see it. Let’s begin.
A moment later, after much pulling and twisting of stubborn fingers, the speaker asked:
So, how many of you asked the other person to simply open his fist?
Few of the 650 people raised their hands.
So, said Arun Gandhi, grandson of legendary peace activist Mahatma Gandhi, "do you see how violent we are?"
As keynote speaker Saturday at a peacemaking conference in San Jose, Gandhi turned a 20-minute speech into a poignant exercise in unclenching fists. The world will follow, he said. But the beginning of peace is in our hands.
"Unless we become non-violent," said Gandhi, co-founder of an international grass-roots series called "A Season for Nonviolence," "we can’t create a culture of peace."
And so, "as Emeril would say, we need to kick it up another notch."
Before the audience broke up into workshops on building peace within ourselves and around the world, Gandhi strung together a simple chain of stories, inspired by his experiences with a man who, in the world’s eyes, has come to signify non-violence:
How his grandfather first learned to follow his own path in the world from his wife, who was following hers by bucking society’s patriarchal chauvinism. How Mahatma Gandhi refused to file charges against the white men who had beaten him up in South Africa and who later became his followers. And how the grandfather had taught the little boy life lessons of self-awareness and respect for the world’s natural resources, simply by making him search for the tiny stub of a pencil he had thrown away in haste, hoping to get another he didn’t really need.
"He taught me," Arun Gandhi said, "that so many of the little things we do in our everyday lives are really acts of violence that contribute to the violence in our society."
By the end of his talk, Gandhi had come full circle: As audience members joined in singing John Lennon’s "Imagine," one by one they joined hands, each open fist now holding something far more precious than any gem.