Thursday, July 1, 2010

Likeminded Group

You would think that it would be fairly obvious what it means to be "likeminded". But have you ever really thought about it?

As I'm sure you know, dear Reader, there is a lot of talk in the community about working with "likeminded organizations", and it all seems to stem from the following quote by Shoghi Effendi in The Advent of Divine Justice: "Let him also attempt to devise such methods as association with clubs, exhibitions, and societies, lectures on subjects akin to the teachings and ideals of his Cause such as temperance, morality, social welfare, religious and racial tolerance, economic cooperation, Islam, and Comparative Religion, or participation in social, cultural, humanitarian, charitable, and educational organizations and enterprises which, while safeguarding the integrity of his Faith, will open up to him a multitude of ways and means whereby he can enlist successively the sympathy, the support, and ultimately the allegiance of those with whom he comes in contact."

But where is the word "like-minded"? As I was doing an Ocean search for it, in various spelling permutations, it didn't turn up. At least, not where I expected it. So that got me thinking about the word that we often use to talk about this concept: teaching among those that we think have similar interests as ourselves. I generally figure that if I am using a word to summarize a concept in the Writings, and that word is not there, then I have probably misunderstood it.

So I want to look at it again. Care to join me?

What is Shoghi Effendi saying here? As you know, it comes in the midst of this long description opening our eyes to the many ways that we can assist people to move closer to the teachings of the Faith. Some will join, some will become friends of the Faith, and others will be either indifferent or even antagonistic. At this particular step in the process, the Guardian is encouraging us to get out of our comfortable shell and seek others who have similar interests. If we do not do this, how will we ever get to meet new people? If we stick to our own small group, and keep to our same old routines, we'll just keep running into the same people over and over again. Not good if we want to meet new people.

But the Guardian is not just encouraging us to meet people randomly. He wants us to "devise such methods" that will bring us into contact with people who have similar interests to us. He gives us a few suggestions, but we are most certainly not limited to those. After all, suppose I said to "pick a letter of the alphabet, like a, b or c". Would you presume that you could only pick from those three letters? Of course not. And wouldn't it be silly of me to list all 26 letters? You would probably be insulted if I didn't give you the credit to know that other letters were available.

That's kind of how I feel with this list from the Guardian. He is offering us suggestions, and leaves it up to us to find other options that work with us.

For years, when I thought about this, I often presumed that it meant I had to find a group that was in line with some major principle of the Faith, like race unity or human rights. But I'm not sure that this is what it means. After all, in the recent Ridvan message, we read that "social action can range from fairly informal efforts of limited duration undertaken by individuals or small groups to programmes of social and economic development with a high level of complexity and sophistication..." There is a range to all of our activities, so why not here, too?

Take my friend Svetlana (but, please, don't tell her husband that I told you to take her. I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate it).

She was interested in ballroom dance, so she enrolled in a class. While there, she met a number of people, including someone else, whose name I won't mention, because I haven't asked Rudy if I could use his name yet. They became good friends, along with a number of other people.

When it came time for Naw Ruz, she invited them to join her. Well, you know, they all liked her, so they came. There, they met some others of us who live in the same area and share in children's classes. Then they began to come to her devotional gatherings. (Again, don't tell her husband I said that, because they are just as much his as hers, but I always refer to them as hers for some odd reason.) Now these wonderful friends help occasionally with the children's classes, usually by providing food (oh, and it is wonderful food) (you can tell them I said that). They always come to the devotionals, saying prayers and singing and dancing and cooking wonderful food (again).

Today they all came with us to the park for a long picnic, and tomorrow one of them will come by my place with a catfish so that I can show him how to make blackened catfish (mmmm).

In short, these are all dear friends and they join us for many activities.

Did Svetlana meet them through a "likeminded organization"? I would say that she did. They were interested in raising the spirit of joy in the community and promoting a cultural art form. Isn't that something that all Baha'is want to do? Well, maybe not, but I would like to think so.

Through this simple enrolment in a class teaching a form of dance, she met many people. She spoke with them as human beings, engaged them in uplifting conversations, invited these friends to join in activities both spiritual and social, and brought many people closer together. Oh, and she had fun while doing it.

I hadn't really thought about this as an example to share, except that today, while we were at the park, Svetlana began playing the music rather loudly. She and Rudy began to dance (quite well, I might add), and then the kids joined in. People in other cars who were waiting to go in also began to watch. Some of them joined in the dance. A few minutes later, the television camera showed up. When I asked the reporter why she chose to film this particular group, she said it was because of the diversity. You see, Svetlana is Russian, Rudy is Filipino, the children that were there were Afghani, Ethiopian and Canadian. We were a very diverse group. And we evidently photographed well.

While some of the people in other groups joined ours, I began talking with some of them and quickly struck up a friendship. Within moments I was telling a mother with her 4 year-old daughter about our children's class.

And thus it spreads.


And it all started because one person joined a likeminded organization that interested her.

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog. It's inspiring, insightful and, most importantly, helps me charge into ACTION :)

    Thank-you very, very much.
    Janna (New West, Canada)