Volume XXVII, Issue 6, April-May 2010

Editorial: On Hobbies and Holidays

Savio Silveira

‘So, what are your hobbies?’ she asked me.

I was travelling with a visiting donor, and in between discussing Europe’s changing policies on development aid and India’s declining position on the human development index, she posed an occasional unrelated question.

Hobbies? Yes, I had almost forgotten that normal people dedicate some of their time to creative and relaxing activities that help maintain the serenity and sanity of their lives.

Realizing that she was expecting an answer, I hurriedly handed out a cliché response: ‘Reading’.

‘Oh, that’s nice’, she replied. ‘So, what are you reading at the moment?’

Luckily, ‘Three Cups of Tea’ has been lying on my table for the past few weeks and so I had an available answer to offer. But as I did a quick memory scan over the past several months, I regretfully realized that I had added no more that two or three titles to the repertoire of books that I had read. This was certainly a far cry from the days when I voraciously devoured at least one book a week.

‘And besides reading?’ she asked. Her questions were getting difficult; it would have been easier if she had stuck to interrogating me on the social cost benefit analysis of the projects we currently had in hand, or the sustainability measures we planned to weave into the new projects that we would be embarking on.

‘Gardening’, I mumbled, and immediately regretted having said that.

‘Gardening? Really? So do you take care of the gardens in the campus?’

It was the Easter season and I was not particularly in the mood of lying. But what could I possibly tell her? That the last time I had actually stuck my hands in the soil were some fifteen years back while at KJC in Bangalore?

‘And theatre?’ she asked. ‘I though you once told me that you liked watching plays.’

It has been such a long time since I watched a play, I can’t even remember the last one I saw. I muttered a few unintelligible sounds and then pretended to clear my throat, while desperately praying that she would end this agonizing conversation.

‘It’s wonderful that you manage to keep up with all your hobbies’ she complimented me. ‘You know, I firmly believe that hobbies not only work wonders on your personality, but they also improve your work productivity.’

I suddenly began to feel uncomfortable. What was she hinting at? Had the fraying ends of my persona begun showing, or had my work output declined drastically? Someone had once told me that not only was she an authority on project management; she was also an expert in human resource development. So was she gently prescribing a few therapeutic measures to mend the defects she had diagnosed in me?

Maybe she was, maybe she wasn’t. In any case, the holiday season is here and it affords me the much needed time to return to my long lost hobbies.

The Refined Art of Living

Ian Doulton sdb

‘Living in style’ is not the prerogative of the affluent. It is your interest in your own ‘personal development’ that will accrue from all the effort you make to contribute to your own refinement and will make of you a valuable asset to the community, the province, the congregation and society at large.

One of the greatest experiences any of us can hope to have, especially as priests and religious, is the effect our influence has on those around us. To persuade someone that we have a good idea, to persuade someone to listen to us, to offer some effective advice, to be able to influence someone to follow a way of life, is not just an awesome experience but also an opportunity to affect another life. Influence is one of the greatest of life’s experiences. At whatever stage we are in life, be we novice, cleric, student, priest or brother we have all, in some respects, the opportunity to influence someone else. The key is to develop the skills to do this. It is one thing to do it casually, to do it haphazardly and quite another is to do it on purpose, by learning the skills. This is only possible if we have some clear ideas - but how do we acquire these clear ideas? How do we develop a truly exceptional life that will influence others?


In order to influence someone, strive to live a truly exceptional life. It is when you cultivate acquired tastes in the arts, literature, history, music, culture and other such disciplines that you learn to live uniquely and so influence the lives of others. You may employ all the strategies of personal development and reach the top of your field but if you neglect refining yourself, you miss the opportunity to influence people by the person you are, and by what makes you ‘tick.’ Cultivating a uniquely refined life is not to be mistaken for living the rich and famous lifestyle. They throw a lot of money around and try to buy refinement and culture but the rough edges of that superficial sophistication soon begin to show. Culture, refinement and finesse are not bought they are acquired with industry and perseverance. In short, do not imagine that it is out of place for a religious to be refined and even cultured. In fact, if there is one category of people that needs to cultivate a unique culture of refinement, it is us religious. How are we to influence people unless we are refined, competent and cultured? If we are not so, we would at best be mediocre and we would possibly be pitied by those we serve because of our lack of refinement and culture. Actually we are blessed with an education, access to so much information and such tremendous opportunities but what do we have to show for it? We need to tap into this vast storehouse of resources to cultivate a refinement that is unique to each of us. Even a person of modest traits, talents and average intellectual acumen can design for himself a life that is uniquely refined. Were our counterparts in the world placed in our situation they would eagerly exploit the resources we possibly leave lying around for want of motivation or direction. Therefore, let us not fool ourselves into believing that we are ‘poor religious’ and so are dispensed from this quest when there is so much that we have been ‘given.’

One of the earliest lessons that I learned in this regard was from a wise old professor who told our class: Don’t just learn how to earn, learn how to live! And that’s what refinement is all about - learning how to live. It is one of the great challenges of life: being happy with what you have while in pursuit of what you want. I have found it a practice well worth exercising with skill, given the opportunities that are afforded us. Now consider this, some of us are blessed with several talents and qualifications and everything else but there is nothing that urges to use what we have learned or acquired in the service of those we work with or work for, thus leaving us disgruntled, dissatisfied and disillusioned instead of feeling satisfied, fulfilled and happy. Others have all the opportunities going for them but they have trouble finding joy in what they do. It is not what you have and how much – it is what you do with what you have and how you do it. Many of us can do much with the little we have while others practice the laid-back attitude of letting life slide while simply hanging on for the ride. That is why our ministry sometimes suffers for a lack of vision or we fail to have an impact on our people due to the paucity and the poverty of our ideas. Dare then, to think big and work towards grasping the opportunities that come your way everyday and in the process, experience the joy that comes from the awareness of the greater person that you are becoming.


If you want to effect some change you need some inspiring ideas – and these ideas are not that far away. Here’s a good catch phrase: everything you need is within reach. The famous Bible verse is useful even to approach this subject: “Seek and you will find” – meaning by that, if you seek, you will find. We don’t find what we need we find what we search for. Needing is not the prerequisite for getting value. In order to be someone who desperately needs you must be a person who desperately seeks. Only if you seek, if you try, if you take the trouble to go out and ask, if you listen, there are ideas within your reach, and these ideas are life-changing. There is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come; an idea for effective teaching, better organizational or managerial skills, an idea for your ministry, for a project or for your good health. All you need is the refinement of a single idea to impact your life. At this point, you probably have time to yourself, it’s the holidays and it’s time to go and gather treasure, resource and skills. Once done, it won’t take you long to notice a significant difference in the person you are becoming.

Quit complaining about the state of things in your community, your confreres, your education, your surroundings, your opportunities, they are all part of the fabric necessary to weave the tapestry of your life. Start making changes; process and evaluate whatever you imbibe during this time. You cannot imagine what can happen in the short span of a summer vacation. Do yourself a favour; develop yourself little by little, your style of perceiving, giving, sharing, enjoying and refining yourself. It’s not the amount that counts, but the refinement with which you choose to live your life. This quest will eventually lead you to influence those around you and it is reserved for those who are willing to study and practice the finer things of life. Mortimer Adler, the philosopher said: If we don’t go for the higher tastes we will settle for the lower ones. It is a worthy quest - to develop an appreciation for refined tastes; an appetite for the unique things of life. Study this art and reach for the best. All you are expected to do is to do the best you can in the time available to you.

About a decade ago we could have been excused for not finding enough opportunities to better our skills but today we have been blessed with several avenues and with the internet, that ‘worldwide’ gateway, we are presented with so much that is on offer. For us, in the city of Mumbai there are so many opportunities available and - as the saying goes - they are ‘only a click away.’ – With an eye to offering you something constructive this summer I thought I would offer some of my ‘web’ ramblings:

Music, Theatre and Drama
Staging plays is an integral part of Salesian pedagogy, our educational system and an effective means of conveying a message but sadly most of our skills have been handed down to us from a senior confrere to a junior…and with very little imagination or creativity. There is so much else available if we only look a little beyond our own surroundings. At www.ncpamumbai.com you will find the entire programme of performances available at one of the many theatres on that campus. Find out what suits your tastes and your timing and make a booking. Expose yourself to the arts and culture and see what it does to you. Some of the ideas you pick up at the performances or workshops could better the quality of the plays you stage and besides, you would meet interesting people who would probably be more than willing to lend you a hand.

To study drama and theatre techniques also visit: www.prithvitheatre.org and you will find their summer workshops and other training sessions that are organized at other venues in the city too. They also have a schedule of programmes throughout the year with titles that might suit you. Never think you are the last word on musicals or theatre or that what you have achieved so far is good enough. It’s a question of extending yourself and raising the bar for yourself and your institution’ but it’s all a question of taking that first step.

Teaching and Learning English and Library Facilities
The British Council (both in Mumbai and in Pune) offers courses in the teaching of English. Since most of our city schools have English as a medium of instruction and many of us teach English, it would be a good idea to acquire some new methods and skills. Visit www.britishcouncil.org and find out what’s on offer in a city near you. In this connection there are courses in personality development and public speaking or if you are interested in conducting language courses. You could visit www.indoamericansociety.org and see how they do it. Take part in one of their workshops or seminars and then try them out.

A Sense of, and a respect for, History and Culture
Wherever we find ourselves, it is always a sign of culture and refinement to have a sense of, and a respect for the history and the culture of the place. We would do well to find out details of the history of the place where our institution is located. For instance, in the city of Mumbai there are guided tours called ‘Fort Walks’ or ‘Heritage walks.’ If you care to take a walk that is guided by someone who knows the city and its history visit www.bombayheritagewalks.com. All you have to do is to book a Sunday morning ‘Fort Walk’ whenever it is available. There are certainly similar ventures in other cities where we work. It could be an opportunity to visit parts of the city that you may have never explored before.

Remember, it’s not the amount, it’s the imagination - it’s the style. Just be aware of how easy it is to put some refinement into your life. Make sure you don’t pass over these opportunities or you will miss out on something that could enhance your perception of the city in particular and life in general. It would certainly help you to live your life in a more refined manner. Again, I need to clarify that ‘living in style’ is not the prerogative of the affluent. It is your interest in your own ‘personal development’ that will accrue from all the effort you make to contribute to your own refinement and will make of you a valuable asset to the community, the province, the congregation and society at large.


One last point: a life of refinement is also life of balance. Make sure you give equal attention to all the dimensions of your life. The good life is an acquired discipline, a determined quest and a constant exercise. The good life comes from a sense of refinement and it is developed regardless of anything else. It provides you with a constant sense of joy in living which will fuel the fires of commitment towards all the disciplines that you embrace and all the fundamentals that make life fulfilling and worth living. What is wealth without character, industry without art, quantity without quality, enterprise without satisfaction, possessions without joy? Become a person of culture in order to be an asset to the community, the province, congregation and the world at large. Become a person of unusual substance who brings an added measure of genius to yourself, to the work you do, to the next generation and the generations that follow so that they will be the beneficiaries of the treasures you bequeath to them. That is ‘influence!’

The concluding story
In conclusion here is the story of a man who took a pile of rocks and in a couple of years turned it into a beautiful garden? A few years later a man toured the garden and he thought it was fabulous but he wanted to make sure that the gardener didn’t take all the credit so when he had an opportunity to meet the gardener after the tour, he shook his hand and said: “Mr. Gardener, you and the Good Lord have this beautiful garden here!” He said this to get his point across. The gardener said: “I understand your point, sir. If it wasn’t for the seed and the soil and the miracle of the seasons and the sunshine and the rain…,” he said, “certainly there wouldn’t be any garden here at all. But…” he added, “you should have seen this place a few years ago, when God had it all to himself!” I like the punch line, and the reason is that we do have a part to play to help work our own miracle. I hope that what I have said above has given you a little nudge to work some new miracles in your life - beginning this summer.

Understanding and Managing Stress

Ajoy Fernandes sdb

Having arrived a month earlier than the start of the academic year in the Philippines in 2001, I sought admission to a brief Pastoral Counseling program at a hospital. I read a chart in the director’s office, and told her that I manifested the symptoms displayed on it. She looked at me with deep compassion and said: “Then you must be highly stressed.” Come to think of it, I was entering a doctoral program in Psychology, and I did not know that I manifested symptoms of stress, burnout and depression! I gradually realized that in order to deal with stress, I needed to understand what it is, its symptoms, how it is generated and addressed. This article attempts to do just that in a brief and summary fashion. However, those interested in learning more about the intricacies of this topic would need to get in touch with more detailed literature.

Origin and Terminology
The term stress was first employed in a biological context by the endocrinologist Hans Selye in the 1930’s. According to him, stress is an inappropriate response to a real or imagined physical or emotional threat or stressor. Stress involves the interplay between the one’s mental state, nervous and immune systems. Thus acute stress affects an organism in the short term; chronic stress over the longer term.

Stages of Stress
Selye identified three stages of stress: alarm, resistance and exhaustion.
· At first, the body responds with alarm to a stressor. Adrenaline is released to bring about a fight-or-flight response together with some activation of the HPA axis, producing cortisol. This may result in sweating, raised heart rate, hyperventilation, tensing of muscles etc.
· If the stressor persists, the second stage of resistance begins. The body attempts to cope or endure the stress by releasing hormones from several glands adapting to the demands of the environment. In doing so, its resources are gradually depleted.
· When all of the body’s resources are eventually depleted, the body is unable to maintain normal function. This is the third stage of exhaustion. If stage three is extended, long term damage may result, as the capacity of glands, especially the adrenal gland, and the immune system is exhausted and functioning is impaired. This can result in illnesses such as ulcers, trouble with the digestive system, and cardiovascular problems, along with other mental consequences such as anxiety and depression.
· Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest. It seems in some ways to be the psychological correlate of Selye’s third stage of biological exhaustion. In the 1970’s Maslach and Jackson proposed that “burnout” involves three dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy. According to them, the antithesis of burnout is “engagement” which is characterized by energy, involvement and efficacy. Some researchers and practitioners have argued for an “exhaustion only” model that sees that symptom as the hallmark of burnout.

Common Stressors (sources of stress)
Negative stressors depress functioning especially when acute, or extended over a period of time. Some common stressors can be categorized as follows:
· Physical/ Environmental: sensory inputs such as pain, loud sounds, bright light; natural calamities etc.
· Psychosocial: conflict with persons; breaches or loss of relationship such as and deaths, expulsions, rejection, divorce; pressure to compete; failure etc.
· Life experiences such as insufficient sleep due to exams, project deadlines; lack of control over environmental circumstances such as food, housing, health, freedom, or mobility; conflicts of choice; daily irritations and hassles, etc.
· Adverse experiences during development such as prenatal exposure to maternal stress, childhood physical, emotional or sexual abuse etc.
· Life Transitions – (focus on Mid-life transition): sensing the passing of youth amidst societies that espouse a “culture of youth” (Elliott Jaques); confusion of life goals due to mid-life re-integration of previously unattended potentials and data of consciousness (Jungian-inspired); review of personal stagnation and lost opportunities to contribute to life vis-à-vis struggles to find meaning and purpose in life (Erik Erikson); ongoing/ past unresolved issues or losses coming to the fore.

Individual Differences in Response to Situations
Persons respond differently to their circumstances. What is stressful for one individual may be energizing for another. For instance, one person may be excited by the prospect of getting into an argument; another person could be totally paralyzed at the mere suggestion of doing so. Some may simultaneously handle several tasks with ease. Others may find handling even a single task stressful. Thus, personality or personal choices and preferences have a role to play in determining what one finds energizing or stressful. Personality-related stress has been extensively researched, but is beyond the scope of this article.

Indicators of Stress/ Burnout
Persons often continue to endure/ cope with stressors that persist in their lives unaware of the toll it takes on them. Thus, it is important to be aware of the indicators or symptoms of stress (which often overlap with symptoms of anxiety and depression). These symptoms may occur independently or in conjunction with other symptoms:
· Cognitive: - poor judgment, a general negative outlook on life
· Emotional - excessive worrying, moodiness, irritability, agitation, inability to relax, feeling lonely, isolated or depressed
· Physiological: aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat
· Behavioral – insufficient or excessive eating/ sleeping patterns; social withdrawal, procrastination or neglect of responsibilities; increased alcohol, nicotine or drug consumption; and nervous habits such as pacing about or nail-biting.
Many theories list negative outcomes related to burnout such as:
o Job function: reduced performance, output, etc.
o Health related outcomes: increases in stress hormones, coronary heart disease, circulatory issues
o Mental health issues: anxiety, depression, rumination, cognitive impairment, anger, psychosomatic illness etc.
Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North have theorized that the burnout process can be divided into 12 phases, which are not necessarily followed sequentially. However, this might be more characteristic of Type A persons or those with a Conscientious or Compulsive personality style.
· A compulsion to prove oneself; Working harder; Neglecting one's own needs; Displacement of conflicts (the person does not realize the root cause of the distress); Revision of values (friends or hobbies are completely dismissed); Denial of emerging problems (cynicism and aggression become apparent); Withdrawal (reducing social contacts to a minimum, becoming walled off; alcohol or other substance abuse may occur); Behavioral changes become obvious to others; Inner emptiness; Depression; and Burnout syndrome.

Measuring Stress/ Burnout
Personality is thought to play a role in one’s ability to deal with stressors. Thus, tests like the Trier Social Stress Test attempted to isolate the effects of personalities on ability to handle stress in a laboratory environment. Other psychologists, however, proposed measuring stress indirectly, through self-tests. Stress tests help determine the number of stressors in a person’s life. Burnout tests assess the degree to which the person is close to the state of burnout. Combining the results of stress and burnout tests helps researchers gauge the likelihood of a person experiencing mental exhaustion.

Stress management is the amelioration of stress and especially chronic stress, often for the purpose of improving everyday functioning. Stress management strategies are consonant with the models from which they are derived, as indicated below. Other strategies cut across, or are independent of theoretical models, and are mentioned in the last part of this section.

Transactional Model
Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman suggested in 1984 that stress can be thought of as resulting from an “imbalance between demands and resources” or as occurring when “pressure exceeds one's perceived ability to cope”. Thus, in this model, interventions include identifying stressors, enabling persons to perceive them as challenges rather than threats, and providing persons with strategies to help them cope with stressors or increasing their ability to do so.

Health Realization/Innate Health Model
The health realization model focuses on the nature of thought. In this model, stress is thought to result from appraising oneself and one's circumstances through a mental filter of insecurity and negativity. On the other hand, a feeling of well-being results from approaching the world with a "quiet mind," "inner wisdom," and "common sense". This model proposes that helping stressed individuals understand the nature of thought—especially providing them with the ability to recognize when they are in the grip of insecure thinking, disengage from it, and access natural positive feelings—will reduce their stress.

Organizational Model
Tracy in her study aboard cruise ships describes organizational burnout as "a general wearing out or alienation from the pressures of work". "Understanding burnout to be personal and private is problematic when it functions to disregard the ways burnout is largely an organizational issue caused by long hours, little down time, and continual peer, customer, and superior surveillance".

In sync with this model, Maslach and Leiter postulated that burnout occurs when there is a disconnect between the organization and the individual with regard to what they called the six areas of work life: Workload, Control, Reward, Community, Fairness, and Values. Resolving these discrepancies requires integrated action on the part of both the individual and the organization. A better connection on workload means assuring adequate resources to meet demands as well as work/life balances that encourage employees to revitalize their energy. A better connection on values means clear organizational values to which employees can feel committed. A better connection on community means supportive leadership and relationships with colleagues rather than discord.

Common Techniques of Stress Management
Stress derives from many areas of life, and stress relief comes in many forms. While some people like using one favorite tool for stress relief, many experts feel that the most efficient approach to stress relief is one that attacks stress from several different directions, utilizing an overall 'plan of attack' for stress relief. Techniques of stress management vary according to the theoretical paradigm adhered to, but may include some of the following:
· Understanding the source of stress and its manifestations; developing skills for coping; and putting them to use in daily life.
· Developing positive coping strategies like solution-focused coping; getting a positive perspective on one’s circumstances; accessing formal and informal social support networks; engaging in prayer and meditation, etc.
· Managing time effectively helps regulate stress by achieving greater control over one’s circumstances. Time management encompasses a wide range of activities towards accomplishing specific goals such as planning, allocating, setting goals, delegation, analysis of time spent, monitoring, organizing, scheduling, and prioritizing.
· Saying “No” to demands that exceed one’s ability to handle even within a well-managed time schedule helps prevent burnout.
· Engaging in de-stressing activities on a regular basis, such as:
o Fun activities or hobbies.
o Ingesting natural relaxants like herbal teas and aromas.
o Engaging in regular physical exercise boosts the immune system; helps prevent heart disease and depression, and maintain positive self-esteem.
o Deep abdominal breathing promotes a sense of relaxation and well-being. It is marked by expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest when breathing; and is considered a healthier and fuller way to ingest oxygen.
o Progressive Muscle Relaxation - tensing and releasing various muscle groups - helps release tension stored in the muscles. Post-tensing feelings of warmth and lightness in the muscles, gives way to a state of mental relaxation.
o Spending time in nature, or even looking at scenes of nature with "effortless attention", such as clouds moving across the sky, leaves rustling in a breeze, etc., helps promote inner quiet and attention.

Getting a perspective on one’s sources of stress; developing awareness of one’s physiological and mental reactions to stressors; identifying symptoms of acute/ chronic stress; adopting effective models/ strategies to de-stress; often go a long way in effectively managing stress. When unable to manage this process on one’s own especially when coping with chronic stress and burnout, accessing professional services may be a viable option.

Rediscovering Philosophy

Ivo Coelho sdb

Some years ago Savio Silveira and Anaclete D’Mello had casually said to me that Divyadaan should organise some sort of summer updating courses in philosophy, so that confreres could keep up with the latest happenings in philosophy. I had thought it a good idea at the time, but was sceptical whether there would be any takers. But Savio can be persistent, and has approached me once again with this idea, this time to write about it, so here I am.

The first area for updating would certainly be postmodernism, a word that has become quite fashionable already, like hermeneutics was a few years ago. We use it, we read it everywhere, but what exactly might it mean? It might be helpful to get a grip on this. We could begin by dropping names: Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jacques Derrida in France, Richard Rorty and John Caputo in North America, Gianni Vattimo in Italy – each of these worthies has left / is leaving a body of work that is making an impact not only in philosophical academia, but also in theology. But the roots of postmodernism go back at least to Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. One way of describing postmodernism is to say that it challenges the hidden assumptions of modernity. Modernity had exalted individual subjectivity; postmodernity is reminding us that the ‘I’ is not as independent and as primordial as Descartes had thought it to be. Remember Heidegger saying awful things like ‘The world worlds’ and ‘Language speaks’? If you still find that awful, perhaps you should attend an updating course on postmodernism. Language is, in many ways, prior to the individual who speaks a language. But postmodernism also challenges the powerful in favour of those on the margins; pokes fun at the idea of the supremacy and invincibility of pure reason (there is, in fact, no such thing!); exalts ‘superficiality’ over profundity; and has a profound mistrust of the ‘large stories’ (which it calls metanarratives), in favour of the little stories and the piecemeal picture. Among the leading experts in postmodernism here in India we have our very own Stanislaus Swamikannu, SDB, at present provincial of Chennai: Stanislaus has a doctorate on Derrida from Belgium, and he says he was attracted to postmodernism because he feels it is the (only) way to philosophize in favour of the marginalized, the Dalits, the subalterns. I am not quite sure myself of the ‘only’; but postmodernism as the contemporary effort to overcome the shortcomings of modernity is certainly something that needs paying attention to.

Then there is virtue ethics. This is an extremely interesting development in the field of ethics. The ethics that I learnt, that most of us have learnt, was largely a morality of individual actions. It centred on asking questions like, Is abortion wrong? Is contraception wrong? Is premarital sex wrong? Virtue ethics reinserts the human act within its context, and that context is the habits or virtues of the person, her character, her education, upbringing, friendships, social and cultural context, history, tradition, and, ultimately, religion. Such a way of reconceptualising ethics is quite the rage just now, and, interestingly, the movement seems to have begun outside Catholic circles. One of the great names associated with virtue ethics is Alasdair MacIntyre, who, though born Catholic, drifted into agnosticism, discovered Aristotle, and then Aquinas, and eventually the Catholic faith. MacIntyre is considered by some at least, interestingly, a postmodern, and people like Rorty have great respect for him. Several major Protestant thinkers have also espoused the cause of virtue ethics, people like Stanley Hauerwas, for example. The wave seems to have reached Catholic circles rather late, if I am not mistaken; but there is a major Catholic figure who also happens to be a Salesian, Giuseppe Abbà of the UPS, Rome. Here in India we have several experts on the matter, including our very own Fr Ashley Miranda, and perhaps two or three others. But by and large, virtue ethics has still to penetrate Indian ecclesiastical circles and seminaries, while the secular philosophers in India have probably not even heard of the term. But I think the movement is wonderful: a rediscovery of Aquinas, from outside traditional Catholic circles, as really having taught a virtue ethics, a holistic ethics rather than an ethics of the isolated act.

I would add also the whole topic of the revision of Indian Philosophy. Given the current climate in India, I think it is important to realize the cultural underpinnings of the type of Indian philosophy that has been taught in Catholic seminaries in India in the last 40 years or so. The curriculum of Indian Philosophy in Divyadaan, for example, is largely what we have inherited from Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune, which means that it is largely Brahminical, even though the nastika darsanas such as the Carvakas, Jainism and Buddhism are not absent. It is only in Contemporary Indian Philosophy that people like Kabir, Tukaram, Mahatma Phule and Ambedkar find a place. This state of affairs can and must be revised. The whole historical, cultural, social and economic context, for example, needs to be introduced. This will certainly bring in the question – now so controverted thanks to the efforts of revisionist historians – about the Aryans and the Dravidians, whether the Aryans were really invaders, or whether, as the Hindutvavadis are trying their best to show, they were as original to India as the Dravidians. It also means that the exclusive emphasis on Indian ‘philosophy’ will have to be balanced through an introduction of important elements in Indian culture such as Chanakya Kautilya's Arthasastra and his politics; the vastly influential Laws of Manu; the whole area of Indian aesthetics; the non-written subaltern elements; the contributions of the Muslims to Indian culture; the interesting dialectic between Muslim, Hindu and European elements that Dalrymple has just begun to unearth in his White Mughals and The Last Mughal; and of course the whole area of the strictly religious, which tends to be left out of Indian ‘philosophy.’ And by 'strictly religious' we should not assume 'Hindu' – keeping in mind the cauldron of religiosity that India used to be, with the Nandas and Guptas being Jains, Asoka clearly Buddhist, and so on. It is sufficient to remember that Jain and Buddhist monuments dot the length and breadth of the country – with the Pandavlene and Chambarlene in Nashik, Karla and Bhaja in Lonavla, the Kanheri caves in Borivli and the still visible stupas in the marshes off Nala Sopara, and of course Ajanta and Ellora, just to mention Maharahstra alone. The whole of South India was Buddhist at some point of time: Buddhism was exported into Burma from off what is now the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, and there is even a group of people in Burma called the Telangs.

As for Lonergan, he is not really popular, and seems to evoke extreme reactions – extreme admiration or extreme rejection. But there is a growing group of Lonergan scholars, both in North America and in Europe, especially now that some 15 volumes of the Collected Works have been published. Not many might know that Lonergan is philosopher, theologian and economist; two of the Collected Works volumes are, in fact, on economics. The theology is mostly Latin notes that he composed for students, in Christology and Trinity; these are being translated, and, despite the archaic pre-Vatican format, contain gems and promising developments for the future of Christian theology. But Lonergan’s most important contribution lies in the area of method. All his life he was trying to meet the challenge of incorporating history into Catholic theology, or, more familiarly, the problem of how to integrate the vast mass of exegetical and scholarly studies into traditional dogmatic and systematic theology. His answer was his theological method; but he himself realized that the method was relevant not only for theology but for the whole of knowledge. Basically Lonergan recognizes that no one can today pretend to completely master any single discipline, and that therefore teamwork is essential. His contribution lies in proposing that the collaboration be organized not by dividing the field of data, but by subdividing the process from data to results. The specializations of the future, he proposed, should be functional specializations rather than field specializations or subject specializations. But Lonergan scholars are still at the phase of coming to grips with the method; efforts to apply the method are still few and far between, though there is the redoubtable Philip McShane who is spearheading the application. The forthcoming issue of Divyadaan will feature one such effort: functionally specialized efforts in the field of economics. Hopefully, also, Divyadaan will be hosting a conference on economics in September 2010.

Speaking of economics, Amartya Sen would certainly be someone to be studied. Strangely, once again the name that comes to mind here is Fr John Alexander, SDB, of the province of Chennai, who has a doctorate on Sen and Martha Nussbaum.

But hermeneutics itself, with its vast impact on contemporary theology, would be an area to be explored, with its roots going back of course to classical Western antiquity, but with the peculiar turn given to it by Heidegger and Gadamer who made it a way of philosophizing rather than merely a method for the interpretation of texts.

Clothing For Liberation

A Communication Analysis of Gandhi’s Swadeshi Revolution

Peter Gonsalves sdb

We live in a ‘forest of symbols’. Our environment is suffused with meanings that crave our attention – some more powerfully than others, some more intelligently designed to achieve their ends. Some symbols inspire, others debase, most are mediocre.

There are a few rare symbols, however, which are imbued with the capacity to energise millions in the pursuit of sublime goals. They invite a commitment that draws their adherents to a calling far beyond themselves, to total dedication even to the point of giving their lives. My purpose is to explore one such symbol in a defining moment in history: clothing, as used by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869–1948) throughout his archetypical non-violent campaign to liberate India from British rule.

Through his Swadeshi Movement Gandhi chose to dress and clothe his fellow countrymen and women in a specific type of cloth called khadi. This choice was not fortuitous. Through it he wanted to eradicate unemployment, but also empower, unite, and liberate his people from centuries of foreign domination. The choice gave to clothing, a conventional form of nonverbal communication, a historical, political, economic, social, psychological, cultural, and moral significance that had no precedent and has no parallel. In terms of scale, context, method, and consequence, the dress revolution he initiated transformed a disunited and submissive mass of over 383 million people into one independent nation, free from imperial control – a phenomenon that heralded the beginning of the end of British imperialism across the world. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, was so moved by the impact khadi had on the masses that he extolled it as the “livery of India’s freedom”.

Yet, it must be admitted, Gandhi’s insistence on spinning and wearing khadi, was one of the most misunderstood initiatives he had undertaken. When he proposed the ‘spinning franchise’ at the All-India Congress Committee in 1924 – that Congress members spin yarn instead of paying their regular membership fee – Nehru, the then AICC secretary, was among those who was deeply angered to the point of submitting his resignation. Motilal Nehru, his father, marched out of the hall with a good number of followers just before the proposal was put to the vote.

There were discordant voices from articulate members of society as well. Aurobindo Ghose called the spinning franchise “a tremendous waste of energy.” Rabindranath Tagore thought that in deciding to use or refuse cloth of a particular manufacture, Gandhi was trespassing into economics, a field he was not competent to deal with. Nirad C. Chaudhuri considered the Mahatma’s demands “extreme…crude and irrational.” Even Samuel Evan Strokes, an American missionary, a good friend of Gandhi and an enthusiastic spinner himself publicly declared: “Not only my reason but all my instincts, […] rebel at the idea of a spinning franchise.”

In this book I argue that a nonverbal communication perspective on Gandhi’s sartorial choices may help us see what his contemporaries were, perhaps, unable or unwilling to recognize: the symbolic potential behind the home-manufacture and exclusive use of khadi for Indian unity, empowerment and independence. I therefore intend to analyse Gandhi’s use of cloth and clothing not merely as functions of bodily protection, adornment or identification, but also as symbols of liberation.

The chapters are horizontally, theoretically and vertically structured. The first presents Gandhi’s diverse communication skills in a broad sweep. It serves as a backdrop to the essays that follow, but it can also open up new possibilities for further research in Gandhian communication. Chapters two to four are detailed analyses of Gandhi’s evolution in the personal and social use of clothing from the perspective of Western communication theories. The theoretical frameworks underpinning these studies are the semiotics of Roland Barthes, the anthropology of performance of Victor Turner, and the dramaturgical analysis of Erving Goffman. These three chapters that form the bulk of the book are as demanding as they are rewarding: demanding in terms of technical language, rewarding for the new insights they offer on Gandhi and swadeshi. The book concludes with a brief in-depth presentation of what may be called a ‘Gandhian approach to symbolisation’ for socio-political change.

As to the reason for my research on Gandhi’s symbolic use of clothing: I have always been fascinated by the power of nonverbal communication to change the hearts and minds of audiences in ways that spoken and written words cannot. As an educator, I was amazed at the extremely sophisticated levels of audio-visual creativity that impact young minds; so I decided to promote mass media literacy among teaching staff in Indian schools. The manual, Exercises in Media Education was a practical response to this deeply felt need.

The more I was drawn into an all-India media education network, the more I felt the importance of emphasising quality over technique. It was not enough to appreciate mass media critically, or to learn the skills of employing them creatively and profitably. The multi-polarised Indian ethos needed principled communicators, ready to encourage a unity in diversity and the promotion of equal dignity for all citizens. The violent communal riots that accompanied the 1990s well into the new millennium only strengthened my resolve to redesign a media education for peaceful and responsible citizenship.

I did not have to look far for an appropriate model. I had always admired, although superficially, the courage of that one diminutive individual who brought down an Empire by the strength of his truth. As soon as the opportunity presented itself I plunged into a three-year historical and communication analysis on Gandhi’s atypical choice of a ‘clothing for liberation’.

It is my hope that this study, now graciously accepted by SAGE Publications, be a modest contribution to the growth of peace communication research throughout the world.