What is the Midas touch?
Most of you will recall the story of the King Midas.
Here is an animated video (~12 minutes)on the story of King Midas : https://youtu.be/7IoF9IrZnXU
The desire to instantly transform stuff of low value to one of high value is a natural human desire. In fact, the alchemist’s life’s mission was to convert base metals into gold. And while this ambition was not really fulfilled, it gave birth to the Science of Chemistry and then to Pharmaceutical Science resulting in infinitely valuable life saving medicines.
In our tradition also पारसमणि ( Philosopher’s stone ) was a mythical object in Alchemy, purported to transmute base materials into gold.
For children, chocolate is perhaps more exciting than gold, and a story was created about a boy who turns everything his lips touch to chocolate (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chocolate_Touch).
As we understood Chemistry we learnt that the results of chemical bonds can also be very dramatic and magical. Hydrogen for example is a combustible gas that burns with a blue flame and Oxygen is a supporter of combustion but water ( which results from their combination) puts out fire. Similarly the poisonous sodium and chlorine combine to form common salt which is essential for life. That is why Gandhiji’s whose 151st birthday we are celebrating protested at Dandi to assert the right to make salt.
But gold is an element, which means you can’t make it through ordinary chemical reactions — though alchemists tried to do so for centuries. To make the sparkly metal, you have to bind 79 protons and 118 neutrons together to form a single atomic nucleus. That’s an intense nuclear fusion reaction.
Today is Gandhi Jayanti, and it is a good idea to reflect on what he thought of the significance of money. This is a story that I heard when I was a child, but I haven’t found any mention of this incident while searching the Internet. The story is that while addressing students at Allahabad University, Gandhiji was asked a question about what he thought of the role of money in a person’s life. He responded with a very simple demonstration. He asked someone in the audience to hand him a coin. Then he held the coin grasped by the thumb and the index finger (forming a circle) and fully stretched his arm. And he remarked that I can see this coin as well as the rest of the world. And then gradually he bent his arm and brought the coin very close to his eye eventually fully covering the eye. And remarked that now I cannot see the world. This story had a profound effect on me, on maintaining the balance between the pursuit of wealth and leading a life of service to fellow human beings. For me personally, it was a more powerful story than that of Midas. Later on I appreciated that it was also linked to the concept of “aparigraha”. Aparigraha is the Yogic concept in which possessions should include only what is necessary at a particular stage in one’s life.
Do you sometimes think that our obsession with turning everything into digital…. could lead us to a similar undesirable fate ?