Friday, October 23, 2009

Bring Thyself To Account...

"Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning."

When I first became a Baha'i, it was with the conscious intention that I would try to be obedient to every one of Baha'u'llah's commands that I could find. In fact, that was how I became a Baha'i. There were many things in the Writings that I had disagreed with when I was investigating, but over time Baha'u'llah had been proven right. Finally, one day I was reading something and thought, "I disagree. Oh, wait. Baha'u'llah said it. He must be right."

My next thought was a like a lightning bolt out of the blue: "Oh no. I've become a follower."

So there I was, a new Baha'i, trying to make the conscious choice to be obedient, and actually searching to see what Baha'u'llah said I should try to do when I ran across the above quote.

"Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning." (Hmm. It's here, too.)

You will note that this quote (which, for the record, is only part of it, but the part that seemed relevant to me at the time) is also found in Ruhi Book 1. It is that important a piece of the foundation of your Baha'i life. Right up there with reading the Writings every day, calculating your Right of God, praying, and so on and so forth.

There I was, on my own (with apologies to Lucki, who taught me the Faith, but it never occurred to me to ask anyone else), trying to figure out how to do this. You see, Baha'u'llah, as far as I could tell, said "Bring thyself". He didn't say, "You might want to bring yourself" or "It would be nice if you would bring yourself". He said, "Do it." Bring yourself to account every single day before you die. (That's my interpretation. Others can read it as they want and write their own article about it, but this is how I see it.)

I went home that evening, to my room in a large apartment that with lots of other people (it was a fun apartment) and thought, "Now what? How do I bring myself to account?"

Me being me, and having grown up in a Judeo-Christian culture (I just realized that the root of the word 'culture' seems to be 'cult'), I looked over my day and tried to look at all the bad things I did that day, hoping to do better the next. Every day for the next few weeks, I watched my list of not so good deeds growing and began to get really depressed, realizing what an awful person I was.

"This," thought I, "could not be what Baha'u'llah intended."

And so I thought about that quote again. How do you bring yourself to account?

The realization dawned that if you are an accountant, and only look at the expenditures of a company, never taking into account its income, you are a pretty poor accountant. OK. I know you knew this, but what can I say? I have a horizontal learning curve.

That very evening, I looked over my day and reviewed all the good things I did, and the not so good things I did. I looked at the very good things I did, and the very not so good things I did. Those next few months were spent ensuring that every time I did a not so good thing, I also did a good thing to make up for it.

Unfortunately, as you have no doubt foreseen, this had the sad consequence of implying that every time I did a good thing, I could also do a bad thing to balance it. (Bet you thought I wouldn't say 'bad thing'. Hah.)

Life is not about balance. It's about growth. We should not live our lives as if we are aiming to reach a zero-sum. We should, instead, strive for excellence.

Now, throughout the day, whenever I am about to take an action, I try to recall this command: Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning. As I don't like feeling guilty, any action that would make me feel bad I try not to do. This simple guidance has helped modify my actions. It is similar to the Right of God, in that I might be willing to pay $10 for a fun book, or $11 after taxes, but would I be willing to pay $12.99? This, after all, reflects the true cost after paying my Right of God on it.

The same principal also applies to the environment. When we learn to calculate the true cost of things, we begin to seriously modify our behaviour. You see, the faith is holistic: what applies in one area generally applies in others.

For me, I began to see the "true" cost of my actions by accounting for them every evening.

The next step, which I will not go into now, was to learn to look ahead and seize every opportunity before me, instead of just looking back at the actions already done. I had learned to account for those missed opportunities, and now I try not to miss as many.

That might be a good topic for another article.


  1. Your story reminds me so much of my own. And the thing that is so wonderful about this Writing is that it never "goes away". You are never finished with it because it needs to be done each day. It challenges us not just to live life, but to live life consciously.

  2. Great article and thanks for sharing.