Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Service, or Ridvan 2010 Message - Take 6

"Passivity is bred by the forces of society today. A desire to be entertained is nurtured from childhood, with increasing efficiency, cultivating generations willing to be led by whoever proves skillful at appealing to superficial emotions."

This quote, from paragraph 10 (see, I try to make it easier for you to find it), really hit me when I read it.

Although I keep trying to move further into this message, I always seem to end up getting stuck wanting to write more and more on these earlier passages, and this time, it was this passage that caught me.


Well, I'm not really sure. I mean, I know that it is a marvelous summary of a truth about society, but actually it is probably because I am writing this on a computer, instead of on paper.

"Wait a minute," I hear you cry, "what does that have to do with anything?"


My browser is opened to a couple of different tabs right now, as I type. One is this blog (obviously) and the other is a game site. But then, when I began thinking about this quote, I just flipped over to the other site and closed it out. Why? Because I realized that it was distracting me.

You see, I don't think there is anything wrong with games, and in fact I believe that they have an important place in life, but not to the extent that they have taken over in a large segment of our society. Games, as you know, teach children so many things, as outlined in Ruhi Book 3, like how to follow rules (which helps them follow laws later in life), how to play with others (a generally good thing), and develop coordination both physical and mental. But they are only a side, not a main, part of living.

For me, this really impacts how I raise my son.

In paragraph 6, they speak about lethargy, and how it is imposed on us by society.Very interesting choice of words, that. Lethargy is not something that we naturally have, but rather it is imposed upon us.

This past weekend, I went out for a bite with some friends and we ended up at this cafe. The waiter asked why we were in town, and I said something about helping contribute to a better society (I'm sure you noticed that this is a quote from paragraph 4). Basically, he said this was impossible, especially in the realm of religion. Bang! There is lethargy. Imposed upon us. Trying to settle upon our shoulders like a heavy blanket, weighting us down needlessly. Here we were, talking about movement, and this guy says it's impossible, might as well give up.

I had wondered, since first reading this message, how lethargy was imposed, and there it was. A minor example, to be sure, but an example, nonetheless.

If we are told over and over, by those who appear wise, that our highest aspirations are meaningless, it only makes sense that many would turn to those who can appeal to the "superficial emotions".

So the question, naturally, is what can we do about it. (At this point I am so tempted to say "nothing" and end this article, but really, I just can't do that. I do have limits on my humour.)

If we are wondering what to do, we only have to read the next few lines of paragraph 10. We need to promote "a way of thinking, studying, and acting, in which all consider themselves as treading a common path of service - supporting one another and advancing together, respectful of the knowledge that each one possesses at any given moment and avoiding the tendency to divide the believers into categories such as deepened and uninformed..." This, they say, is where we will find the "dynamics of an irrepressible movement".

Ok, ok. That was a lot of quote, but what does it mean? What does it look like in my daily life? As you know, dear Reader, this is only my own opinion, and not an official representation of what the Universal House of Justice means. I'm sure I'll look back on this in a year or two and shake my head at my own blindness.

First of all, there is my son, 5 years old. I could tell him over and over that he is too young to various things, or not experienced enough, but what will that do? It will only discourage him. No, I try to help him as much as I can, and I let him do a lot of things on his own. Just yesterday we had to go to the eyeglasses place and get his glasses fixed. I was talking to the saleslady when the man at the other end of the store said that he was ready to fit them to Shoghi. So what did I do? I asked Shoghi to go over there, while I finished my conversation. So he did. The woman was surprised, but happy that I trusted my son enough to let him go on his own. I mean, come on, it was a safe store, and at the far end from the exit. Shoghi came back beaming, not only with his new glasses, but at being able to get them fitted by himself. (Oops, I just realized that Marielle doesn't know that he got new glasses yesterday. Well, I guess she just found out.)

When Shoghi said he wanted to write an article, I made sure that he thought about it first, and knew what he wanted to write. When he still persisted in bugging me, I finally asked him what he wanted to say. The result was a remarkable short piece that still brings tears to my eyes.

Another wonderful example of this is the encouragement that Anisa Kintz received when she wanted to start the Calling All Colors conference.

When we trust in each other, allow every person to try and realize their dreams, their highest aspirations, that is when we facilitate miracles to occur.

In my own neighbourhood, this comes out when I ask the neighbours to help with the children, or host a devotional. It occurs when I talk with them about what difference they would like to see in the world, and encourage them to try to do it.

Aside, which I haven't done for way too long now: A few years ago, I asked a very dear friend what she wanted to do with her life. She looked shyly down, blushed and said, "You'd only laugh." After persisting in asking, she finally admitted that she wanted to go to school to learn to be a pyrotechnics engineer. This from a woman who didn't have her grade 12. Rather than laughing, or making a joke, or anything else so callous, I asked her where she could get such a degree. Without even thinking about it, she named the college, so I asked her what she needed to go. One by one, we spoke about how every obstacle could be overcome, from my helping her with her math  in order to get her high school diploma, to cleaning up her language so that she would sound more like someone they would want to take ino their program. A few minutes into this conversation, she stopped and stared. "You really believe I can this."

That simple realization gave her the confidence she needed.

A few years later, she gave me a gift that I will treasure to my dying day: her diploma. (I'm sorry, I now have tears in my eyes as I recall her handing me this priceless gift which she worked so hard to attain.)

I guess this is what is meant by taking joy in the accimplishments of others. I never quite realized how powerful it is until just this moment.

And now, all of a sudden, with that experience overpowering me, I guess I begin to catch a glimpse of how this can help move entire neighbourhoods as we all strive to feel this joy in other's accomplishments.

Hmm. I thought I would say a lot more here this morning, but what else can I say after that?

"Let no one fail to appreciate the possibilities thus created."

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mead,

    My wife just shared your blog with me as we prepared for our reflection meeting tomorrow. I really appreciate your insights. Keep them coming.

    Warm Caribbean Baha'i Greetings,