Friday, December 3, 2010

Ridvan Message, Take 10

Oh, how to continue? That is the question, isn't it?

Yesterday I took a quick look at the first couple of pages of this past Ridvan message, in light of the experience gained in the past few months. I guess I might as well continue in that vein, and see what happens. The objective, of course, is to see how this can help us prepare for the upcoming plan. (I hesitate to call it another 5-year plan, because I don't remember seeing anything that says it will be 5 years in duration, only that we would have a series of plans carrying us to 2021.) (But I'd still lay odds on it being 5 years.)

Now where was I?

Oh yes. Paragraph 7. To meet the challenge of working with a receptive population, we need to strengthen the institute process. Why? Because it is the tutors who actually go out and assist the friends in doing the practices of the Ruhi books, and therefore raise the number of people capable of carrying on the work of the Faith. Simple, no?

Well, in theory, yes. But in practice, no.

Why? Because we have to overcome our own lethargy, and then assist others to overcome theirs. This is easy to talk about, but often difficult to do. It requires a lot of time and energy. It takes the raising of vision, helping people understand why they should engage in community building, and then assisting them in taking those steps they are not comfortable taking on their own.

But isn't this what friends do? When a friend of mine asked for help in dealing with a big corporation's customer service desk (now there was an oxymoron), I was happy to help him get his refund from them. When another friend needed someone to go to the doctor's office with him, my wife was right there by his side. Friends help each other, giving them support when they need it, and encouraging them to stand on their own two feet when they don't. "Nothing is too much trouble when one loves," 'Abdu'l-Baha was heard to say, "and there is always time."

This study of the Writings, the work of the Training Institute, is very different from the deepenings of old. There is no teacher in front of the group leading a discussion, or telling the friends what they have discovered. While we still have those types of deepenings (and even this blog could be seen in that light), it is true that they don't generally get people up and out of their seats (except when I say something really bozoid, but that gets you up and out of your seat for another reason). The training institute courses, on the other hand, get people moving in a direction that is conducive to the building of community (wow, lots of poly-syllabic words there) (and yet another one).

(Oh, and I'm now on paragraph 9, just in case you're trying to keep track. I'm not really referencing a lot here, but doing more stream-of-thought stuff.)

(Hey, this is the paragraph that talks about deepenings and stuff. Right on. My subconscious must be working overtime here. Might as well go on to paragraph 10.)

What have I learned up to this point? Aside from the obvious, that passivity really is "bred by the forces of society today", I have come to recognize that many people are already aware of this. The problem is that they don't know what to do about it. They want to act. They want to make a difference. But they need some guidance. And, sure, there are some who don't want to do anything but sit around and be entertained, but I'm not even dealing with them. My hands are full trying to help those who want to do something. In other words, "Work with the willing, but keep the doors open to all."

Right now, I am working in consultation with a few people who are trying to motivate their own neighbourhoods. They are making awesome strides in developing relationships. They have discovered that there are numerous people around them who want to transform their community in ways that align with the Baha'i teachings. By lovingly accepting any and all help, by introducing the idea of consultation and helping their friends focus on the spiritual issues, they are succeeding in developing this culture "in which all consider themselves as treading a common path of service". Their conversations are always spiritual in nature, and they are even keeping records of whom they are meeting, and what is being discussed.

One by one, I am watching as these friends move from a position of uncertainty and hesitation to one of confidence and action. Beyond this, they are also doing so with an air of humility.

There is one friend who is performing miracles in her neighbourhood by bringing so many people together from such diverse backgrounds. As she is doing so, she is conscious of the qualities and skills that each person brings. She is making a great effort at translating the words that they are all using into a common speech. When one speaks of karma, she understands that another would speak of soul. When one uses the term "prayer", this is no different from another using the term "chant", or "mantra". By looking at the gifts of each soul, she is able to help them do so much more. One of the mothers may have the great gift of being able to host a number of people, making them feel so welcome, while another, a Buddhist leader, can unite them by sharing with the group her chanting. "And therein lie the dynamics of an irrepressible movement."

You know, it's funny. As I was typing the above paragraph, I realized that there are three of you, dear Readers, out there, who would swear that I am writing about you. Especially when I mentioned "karma", "mantra" and "Buddhist". Well, you know, you're all correct. That is how united we are at this moment. So, please, change that first sentence in the previous paragraph from "one friend" to "a few friends". Thanks.

"What is imperative is that the quality of the educational process fostered at the level of the study circle rise markedly over the next year so that the potential of local populations to create such dynamics is realized."

And there we have it: the direct guidance that has proven so fruitful in recent months.

This particular nugget in the rich vein of this letter has many applications. First, it has changed the way that I tutor. I am now so much more conscious of the "spiritual empowerment of individuals" when tutoring, as well as being certain to point this out to those who are embarking on starting their own study circles. These study circles are not just about reading the texts. They are not merely for the purpose of learning a little bit more about the Faith. They are about motivating people to arise and serve both the Cause and humanity. They are about both giving the people the tools to transform civilization, beginning at the level of the neighbourhood, and also allowing them to use those tools. More than that, it is also about helping them put those tools to use, and recognize what it is they are doing.

And all of this works for the adults in these groups, as well as the junior youth and children in their own groups. (This brings me to the end of paragraph 18, even though I could write so much about the particulars of each of these study groups. To go on at this point would be to repeat what I have written before, in the earlier reflections on this message.)

Now I feel so energized. I'm just bursting to get up and run out and share this Message with others. I guess that's my sign to stop writing and do just that. I'll type at you tomorrow, dear Reader.

And thanks again, in case I haven't said it recently. Without you, I would not be writing all this.

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