30 June 2010

A Light Puzzler

I am going to keep these blog entries more appropriately short for awhile. At least I am going to try.

This is the big Centennial and Bicentennial Year in Mexico. Big. It is the two hundredth anniversary of independence from Spain and the one hundredth anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, every bit as important an event for Mexicans.

I am not going to attempt to explain the connections between Francis I. Madero, the father of the Mexican Revolution; the novel A Suitable Boy set in India; and the Bhagavad Gita, one of the sacred Hindu scriptures. But there are coincidental connections among the three.

Let us simply set out this verse from the Bhagavad Gita:

More glory in doing your own duty badly
than in doing another man's duty well!
Better to die doing what is right for you!
Shun doing what is right for another man.

Setting aside for a moment the obvious objection that this is pulled out of context—or perhaps because it is pulled out of context—it is a fascinating statement to consider.

Just exactly what is intended with the use of the word “glory?”

Just exactly what is intended with the use of the word “duty?”

Just exactly what is intended with the use of the word “right?”

And assuming one can work through those questions to satisfactory conclusions, is this statement really true?

If it is true, is it inconsistent with the structure of our Western civilization as it exists today?

If it is nonetheless practicable, regardless of the answer to the last question, is there a price that must be paid for the practice of it?

Having posed these questions, I wonder whether any of them are the pertinent ones. It seems to me that the correct questions are out there somewhere even if the correct answers are not.

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