Sunday, May 16, 2010


Transformation - (noun) - a change in form, appearance, nature, or character.  (Once again, thank you

I've been thinking about this word a lot lately, and how it applies to us, both in general as a Baha'i community, and specifically as individuals. As you can imagine, a lot of different pieces have zipped in and out of my mind.

Aside - It is said that we process thousands of pieces of information every minute. This means that right now you are probably thinking something along the following: Why is he referencing what I'm thinking about? Where is he going with this article? Why am I reading it? Who won the hockey game last night? That sounds like a starling outside my window. Pretty early in the season for starlings. My feet are getting hot in these shoes. I wonder if my neighbour turned off her gas stove. And on and on.

This may, perhaps, give you an idea of some of the thoughts that are bouncing around. It also gives you a sense of the importance of being able to tune out all those thoughts and focussing on the here and now. How often have we read of the Master's absolute focus on the person speaking to Him? Most of us can only dream of such a concentrated sense of focus.

But let's get back to transformation.

Richard Bach once said, "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly."

This is how I think of where we are now. We are a community in the midst of transformation.

Just a few years ago, I remember a Counsellor coming through town and talking about this very subject. He spoke of the growth of the community and how he thought of the Baha'i Faith, at the time, as an acorn. He said that when he spoke of growth, many people just imagined a bigger acorn. "No," he would say, "we are becoming a tree. Today you may have one John, and a Mary, a Hossein and a Tahirih in your community. When we grow, you won't have three Johns, two Marys, four Hosseins and a couple of Tahirihs. There will still only be one of each of you, but instead of John being 25% of the community, he'll only be 1% of the community. The rest of the community will have changed so drastically that you won't recognize it."

His point really stuck with me. A seed, after all, is small, somewhat round-ish, and very hard. As it begins to grow it loses these qualities. It grows rapidly in one direction, the suddently it grows rapidly in a completely different direction. It shoots out over here, then over there, sometimes apparantly at random, other times with great deliberateness. As this is happening, it become completely unrecognizable from the seed it once was.

But what is happening to that seed? What is the purpose of all this seemingly random growth?

Well, as you know, those "random" growths that are in a downward direction are the roots. They are reaching out in search of water and various nutrients. I'm sure that if we watched them flailing around as they grew, and especially if we had no idea what the plant would look like, we would be concerned.

As for those other growths that grow upward, we know that they will become the visible plant, the part above the ground.

As all this is going on, I'm sure there could be parts of the seed that are resistent to this very natural phenomenon. They may like the qualities of being a seed. They may want to remain small and compact, and they will be very concerned over becoming soft and seeming to break up. They may not like the idea of stretching out and reaching beyond their own limits.

Another prime example of transformation is that of a caterpillar into a butterfly. We all know that it will eat and eat and eat until it decides to wrap itself in a cocoon. At some point later it will emerge, not as a larger caterpillar, but as a butterfly. Have we ever thought about what it is that happens within that cocoon? A friend of mine once said that the body of the caterpillar liquifies before it reconfigures itself as the butterfly.

"Ewww," was my first thought at that. Then I realized what a miracle that is. Then I further realized what a great metaphor that is.

Here we are, as members of the Baha'i community, undergoing this miracle of transformation. We know where we have been, and we are beginning to get glimpses of where we are going. What we don't know is how we will actually get there, or what we look like when we arrive.

Like the acorn or the butterfly, we are transforming. We are shedding a lot of the qualities that we had as a small community and are adopting new qualities that will only become clearer as we emerge. Right now some of this growth is messy, like the liquification of the caterpillar, and other times seemingly random, like the desperate search for nutrients and water by the roots of the plant.

What we do know is that there are no shortcuts.

We are fully aware of the dynamic of crisis and victory. We understand that every crisis has within it the seeds of its own victory, and that each victory contains within it the seeds of the next crisis.

The caterpillar achieves a marvelous victory when it spins its cocoon, but then suffers the crisis of becoming liquid. From there it achieves another signal victory when it emerges as a butterfly.

There, however, upon its arrival is another crisis.

Have you ever watched a butterfly emerge? You know what I am speaking of. It doesn't just pop out and fly off. No. It gets stuck.

Over the next few hours, as it is beginning to emerge, it has to strain and struggle, pulling and twisting as it tries to force its way out of the cocoon. We could try and help, as I explained to my son last year as we watched this phenomenon, but then we would only hurt it. It is this very struggle that allows it to shed the uneeded moisture that would otherwise prevent it from being able to fly. It is this very fight out of its confining silk prison that helps it build the strength it will need in its next phase of life.

And isn't that just like us?

We have been given a year of grace, a full year during which we have achieved our goals of this five year plan, but before the next plan is to begin. This is truly a victory.

Now I think we have to be ready for the crisis.

What will it be? Who knows? It may be that we have to maintain the victory achieved, or that we have to learn how to further develop these mighty achievements.

I know there have been lots of changes within the Baha'i community over the last few years, including the emergence of the Regional Baha'i Councils, and the growing recognition of the importance of the training institute. In some communities we are seeing the emergence of district, or area, Feasts, whereas previously we only had one Feast in the community. It takes time to get used to these new things, and sometimes it appears to be a struggle, but it's a good struggle. It is the struggle of growth.

Perhaps we have only seen the tiny wingtip emerge on the butterfly we are to become, and now need to struggle and strain to truly emerge in full.

What is it that will come out of this cocoon? I have no idea. But I do know that it will be beautiful.

And that it will fly.

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