Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I was listening to someone speak about the Faith the other day, and they used a quote that I had never heard before. Or at least, I don't recall ever having run across it. The reason that I noted it at the time, and am fairly sure that I've never seen it before, is because it has one of my favorite words: quixotic. (Of course, another one of my favorite words is category, but only because it sounds like a roadkilled feline, which is odd, since I love cats.)

Quixotic, in case you don't know, comes from the adjectival form of the name Quixote, as in Don Quixote, the character made famous by Miguel de Cervantes. The words itself is defined as "resembling or befitting Don Quixote; extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary, impractical, or impracticable; impulsive and often rashly unpredictable". Thank you dictionary.com.

Its pronunciation has always puzzled me, as it is listed as being pronounced "kwik-sot-ik". But if it is a direct linguistic descendant of the knight errant, with emphasis on the err, then shouldn't it be pronounced like his name? If you went to any university and asked to take a course in Spanish literature beginning with "don kwik-so-tee", I'm sure you would never be allowed back in. We all know that it is pronounced "kee-hoh-tee", or sometimes "kay-hoh-tee". Given that, wouldn't that make this word be pronounced "kay-hoh-tik"? Or chaotic, meaning "completely confused or disordered"?

Rashly unpredicatable? Completely confused? Sounds similar to me.

How could I not love this word, given the quixotic, or chaotic, way in which we have decided to pronounce it?

But back to the quote.

One of the members of the Continental Board of Counsellors for the Americas quoted the Universal House of Justice regarding the protests of various afflictions, or evils, or general yuckies facing humanity. They said, "To enter into the quixotic tournament of demolishing one by one the evils in the world is, to a Bahá'í a vain waste of time and effort."

"...a vain waste of time and effort"? Futile? A wasted effort?


Just in case we missed it the first time, they repeat this sentiment again in the letter addressed to the friends gathered for the opening of the Terraces: "Humanity's crying need will not be met by a struggle among competing ambitions or by protest against one or another of the countless wrongs afflicting a desperate age."

Given the proliferation of protestation in the world, this is a very interesting perspective, and one that I think we need to pay more attention to. (I can't believe I just wrote that.)

Why would they say that protests are not useful or effective?

You know, I've dedicated a lot of my time to talking about this, so it really is a rhetorical question.

Quite simply, 'Abdu'l-Baha says, "poverty is the lack of wealth. Where there is no knowledge, there is no ignorance. What is ignorance? It is the absence of knowledge."

Given that basic concept, the idea that negatives are merely an absence of a positive quality, it makes some sort of sense that fighting a negative would produce nothing. After all, you can't really fight poverty; you have to produce wealth. If you go outside on a cold winter's day (at least in Winnipeg), you can't fight the cold; you have to warm up. And we all know that you can't fight ignorance; you have to educate people.

I think, in the long run, we have to identify the positive values we are trying to build, and just go about it. Fighting the negatives just doesn't produce anything.

Really, we're not about fighting anything, as Baha'is. We are about building. We are helping build a new civilization.

I often think about that analogy in which we are told that the old civilization is like a burning building, and we are trying to help people move to a new building that is much safer. That's what we're doing: constructing this new building. The old one will burn down on its own, without our help.

Our job, and we really should not forget it, is to build something new, this new civilization.

Look around you. Read the news, or watch your television. You can see it. There really is chaos everywhere.

Or quixos, depending on your pronunciation.

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