Pearl City graduate and actor Jason Scott Lee pulled his car to the side of the road one May afternoon to talk to me about what he’s reading, Gandhi, and living “pono.” I’ve included the full text of our interview here. The short version can be accessed via the Honolulu Advertiser by clicking here.

What I’m Reading | Jason Scott Lee
(Short version published June 10, 2007 in the Honolulu Advertiser)

Q&A with Christine Thomas

-What are you reading?
I’m reading “Penguin Gandhi Reader” edited by Rudrangshu Mukherjee.

-How did you discover it?
It’s part of my library that I had. My teacher from Japan who I went to study natural farming with—he mentioned Gandhi was his mentor so I thought I’d brush up on the little I knew about this man.

-What do you like about it?
I think it helps I think me as a person grow into understanding the practical means to apply peace in my life and in my community, as well as a non-violent approach to peace. I guess it helps me understand the alternatives to where the world is now and how to attain that.

-How do individuals walk this alternate path?
I think one of the main things with Gandhi is he talked about self-government, and in order to be self-governed one has to be self-reliant, and in order to be self-reliant it really starts from the basic necessities of life. It means growing your own food, making our own clothes, and building our own shelters; and when you think of that you think of sustainability, you think of how a population can do that under limited resources. But I think in essence those principles that he brings to the table really bring community together for a common purpose.

-Do his teachings connect with your choice to live off the land in Volcano, and participate only film projects that inspire you?
I think it surpasses any career choice and any type of superficial desire for things in life. I think it really cuts to the core of the necessity right now for that. We kind of live in a world where many people are unsatisfied, mostly with themselves. Because the focus is not only the effort to be self-reliant, we lean toward relying on material things or technology to satisfy us. People are unsatisfied because it takes more and more to be satisfied. As soon as you get on that track, it means complication, so it gets kind of confusing for people what life is really about.

Gandhi says we must be the change we want to see in the world. When you look at some of the strategies toward the movement he tried to create as well as the desperate attempts at peace in a country with thousands of people. … I kind of like to view Hawai`i as not that much of a population boom but it can be handles with the principles of Gandhi. In order to save ourselves and what’s going to be happening, it’s through Gandhi’s like d and his principles.

Then this is your chosen approach to life?
Absolutely, it’s a definite learning curve and a stripping away in my own life of things that are unnecessary and getting to the core of that. I think the lifestyle itself, following Gandhi’s principles, benefits everybody and everything—not just humans but the nature that surrounds you, the micro-organisms in the ground and all the plants, as well as animals. I believe it’s a holistic perspective on living a life that’s pono.