Thursday, February 4, 2010

FMD, or Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Every now and then, my sense of humour, or perhaps it's my twisted ability to make odd connections, gets me in trouble.

I know, I know. It's hard to believe, but it's true.

When I was working at the US National Centre (lo, those many years ago), I used to have a bowl of candy on my desk.  Hard candies.  The ones that you're supposed to suck on, but always seem to get crunched and chewed.  Anyways, I always had a bowl of them and people would regularly come in and grab one as they walked past and said, "Hi".  This was  bit odd, as I think my desk was about as far off the beaten path as you could get and still be in the building.

One day in February I filled my bowl with extra special candies, super flavours and all that, and put a sign in front of it that said "Happy Ayyam-i-Ha!"  For some reason that made people smile even more than usual.  A few days later I emptied the bowl into a drawer and placed a new sign in front of the now-empty bowl.  "A Yummy?  Ha!  Happy Fast."

It was about two days later that I got a note asking me to go to Robert Henderson's office.

Robert was the Secretary-General of the National Spiritual Assembly at the time, and I felt like I had been called into the principal's office.  I sheepishly made my way down the hall trying to figure out how to explain that I really didn't think the note in front of my bowl was all that offensive, and attempting to figure out how to accept the thought that it might be.  I mean, really, I didn't think it was.

I walked down the hall, trying not to look at anyone, feeling like a cross between a convict going to the gallows and Arlo Guthrie going to sit on the Group W bench.  Needless to say, I was nervous, embarrassed and wondering what was going to happen.  Surely I wouldn't get fired over something as silly as this.

Well, I got to his office, and his assistant looked at me over a letter she was reading and, without the usual smile on her face, motioned me to go on in.  So I did.

Robert, uhm, excuse me, I mean Mr Henderson looked up from what he was doing and asked, no, told me to close the door.  He went back to finishing what he was doing while I turned and did as he bid.  The sound of a closing door never seemed so loud and echoey in all my life.

And then silence.

A few dispensations later, he looked up, stood up, and walked around his desk to me.  "I understand," he said in his rich voice, "that you can teach people to juggle."

And that, I believe, was the moment that I first experienced spiritual whiplash.

For years I had worked at Renaissance Faires in the States, and one of my pasttimes at them was to teach people to juggle. It seemed he had heard about this and had always wanted to learn, but never had the chance.

As you can imagine, he picked it up very quickly and even began to juggle a bit during some of his talks.  He is one of those people who never fails to impress me with his knowledge, wisdom and ability to convey a point to an audience.  His spiritual qualities go without saying.  And if there is anything that I will remember about my time at the National Center... well, that's not all that high on the list, but I won't forget it.

There was another time that I almost shudder when recalling. I had been asked to speak about the environment, and I was given absolutely no clue as to what the audience would be like.  All I knew was where to go and when. I couldn't even remember the name of the group that invited me. Nada. Nothing. Zip.

As per my usual madness, I mean method, I prepared five or six talks on the issue and wondered what the talk would eventually be about.

I was called up, got up, and spoke up.  First, though, I said a prayer.  In fact, I said my all time favorite prayer for that sort of a situation.  It's the one that goes, "Oh God!  Help!"  I'm not sure who wrote it, or where it is in the writings, but it is one of my favorites.  In fact, I even have it memorized.

Then I spoke up.

And what came out? A Hidden Word.

One of Baha'u'llah's.

"Yeah", I thought, "can't go wrong there."

I quoted an excerpt from the Persian Hidden Words, #20.  Remember it?  It says, "ye walk on My earth complacent and self-satisfied, heedless that My earth is weary of you and everything within it shunneth you."

OK, maybe not the best quote to open with, but it sure caught their attention.  I guess they were expecting something sweet and lovely, kind of "new age"-ish in feel (remember, the Simpson's referred to the Faith in that famous line "Oh no, it's a gentle Baha'i"), and they got me, instead.  From there, I was at least able to segue it into something about our role as custodians of the planet.

Sometimes I really have to wonder why I get called back to speak again at these sorts of gigs.

A sillier example is when my wife and I went shopping.  We got home, and I jumped around back to the trunk of the car and grabbed all dozen or so bags.  She looked amused and said, "You know, I can get some of those if you want."

"Oh no," I replied, "I'm following Baha'u'llah's command."

She knew I was setting her up, and still responded, "And which command is that?"

"All men were created to carry..."

When she finished laughing, she added, "...forward an ever-advancing civilization. You clown."

It might not have been "you clown" she said, but it was pretty close.

Yeah, sometimes my sense of humour gets me into trouble.  In fact, I'm still expecting a phone call from one of the Counsellors (or at least an Auxiliary Board member) about this blog.

Fortunately, the Concourse on High always seems to come to my aid.

I guess it just makes sense.  After all, they say that God looks after fools and small children.

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