Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Master's Travels

I've been thinking.

I realize that can be a dangerous thing, but it's what I've been doing today. After all, I had a root canal yesterday, and then went and accidentally bit down on that same tooth. Aside from sitting there in a bit of pain, there wasn't much else for me to do.

But today I've been thinking about some of those letters that we've received from the Universal House of Justice in the past couple of years. That, combined with the fact that I just finished reading 'Abdu'l-Baha in Their Midst (amazing book, and I highly recommend it), particularly got me thinking about a letter that came out on 29 August 2010. It's not particularly long, only 5 paragraphs, but I realized that I've never really looked at it here.

Why not?

Good question. I think it's because I didn't quite understand its importance. I'm sure that I still don't, but I'd like to. It's the letter that signaled the centenary of "the opening of a glorious new chapter in the annals of the Faith", namely the Master's departure from Haifa for Port Said. This was the beginning of His epic journey to the West. This was the journey that allowed the Faith to "burst its restraints", the first time that the "Head of the Faith enjoyed a freedom of action to pursue unencumbered its divinely prescribed mission." 16 pages in God Passes By, and 10 pages in Century of Light, deal with this historic journey, not to mention all the other countless pages that have been written about it. It's pretty important, a significant part of the history of our Faith, and the Universal House of Justice brought it to our attention, once again, with this letter.

They point out the He was in poor health, unfamiliar with the customs of the areas He visited, and generally would have been considered ill-suited to carry out such a task. Yet He arose.

But like usual, the Universal House of Justice does not merely call our attention to His sacrifice and the wonderful deeds He accomplished. No. They set this incredible example before our eyes to inspire us to "embrace receptive souls, to raise capacity for service, to build local communities, to strengthen institutions, or to exploit opportunities emerging to engage in social action and contribute to public discourse."

We are to use His example to arise whenever and wherever possible and meet with people of all walks of life with wisdom and love.

I find it quite intriguing that we have such a stage set, right now, in cities all over the world, with this "Occupy" movement. Can we not use such a forum, such a platform for discussion to uplift and inspire people with this divine Message? Can we not praise them for their efforts in drawing attention to such a crisis in our social institutions, while avoiding those forms of protest that the House of Justice implies will not meet the needs of today?

Let's remember that priceless quote from over 10 years ago: "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. It calls, rather, for a fundamental change of consciousness, for a wholehearted embrace of Bahá'u'lláh's teaching that the time has come when each human being on earth must learn to accept responsibility for the welfare of the entire human family."

Time and again the Master attended meetings and halls to praise the efforts of those who were striving to help change the world for a better place. Most of these groups were foredoomed to failure, but still He praised their efforts, while also helping them achieve a greater vision of their work.

Can we do any less?

Out of all the talks He gave, the one which He continually recommended people to study, one of those that He had translated and sent to the East, was the one He gave in a synagogue, Temple Emmanu-El in California, in which He spoke about Jesus and Muhammad. There is very little about Baha'u'llah, or the Baha'i Faith directly in that talk, except towards the very end in which there is a short mention, but He really spoke about what they needed to hear at that moment.

When reading about His travels in the West, the one thing that stands out the most to me is the time He dedicated to really listening to people's needs. To countless thousands He spoke about Baha'u'llah and the Baha'i Faith directly, but there are also countless times when He didn't. There were many times when He was indirect.

We need to look at His example, and not go to either extreme.

Admittedly, for years we, as a community, were at the extreme of not using the direct method often enough, and needed to balance that. But we should not go to the other extreme either. We should follow His example, and listen to the needs of those we would seek to teach, and then use the appropriate method, all the while showering them with love.

I'm sure I've said a lot of this before, but it seemed worth saying again.

Besides, it's a good time to look at His travels once more.

1 comment:

  1. I made a T-shirt for occupy wall street with the quote from the Hidden Word "Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor." Baha'u'llah - 1857. On the front it says... "Your people are your treasures. By their means ye survive"...from the letter to queen Victoria by Bahau'ullah - 1868.
    it has been effective.