Ok, ok, I know what your burning question about Gandhi has been this entire time: Was Gandhi a “lefty” or a “righty”? In other words, which was his dominant hand? Amusing as it was for me to find the answer to this question in a book of his collected thoughts on education, or Nai Talim, Gandhi’s views on this apparently trivial question reveal something about the depth of his dedication to the principles of nonviolence and his willingness to experiment with anything and take nothing for granted. He grew up in an era of right-handed dominance, you know the kind: where even if you were a lefty, you were ‘re-schooled’ in how to make your right hand dominant. (And we know that there were other cultural reasons for not eating or saluting with a left hand…) But it was around the beginning of the 20th century that he learned that schools in Japan taught children to use both hands equally. He said that as soon as he learned of this fact, he began experimenting, giving a little time regularly to train himself in ambidexterity. It made good sense to him: why would one desire to cultivate a weak hand when our hands can do so much? Why not make both hands strong? This is a very nonviolent approach to…our hands! And it came in handy: with the volumes that he had to write by hand, he was hampered by the pain in his right hand after too many hours of work. But he would not be deterred from his work. The answer: use the left hand! And he did. In his words: “My right hand does not serve me as well as I would like it to. It aches if compelled to work beyond a certain point. And I desire as far as possible to retain the power of writing. Therefore I have started using my left hand. (…) It is standing me in good stead in a difficult time.”
Gandhi then puts it to his readers to do their best to train themselves to use both hands. He gives some pointers: do not give yourself the task of perfecting both hands to the same degree; train it in more than just writing, include other daily tasks in your training; do it regularly.
The result, he boasts, is that such a training can make us more efficient. And he adds, “It would be a good idea if teachers made use of this advice for the students under their charge.”
Train your non-dominant hand. Have fun with it.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org