Monday, November 21, 2011

That Fourth Valley

Wow. I had no idea what I was getting into when I stepped into this one. "I'm gonna take a break today." "I feel like a spiritual wimp today." I can just hear the peals of divine laughter rolling in the distance.

I think I finally have a glimmering of an idea as to why most women I know seem to prefer the Four Valleys to the Seven: it's because they're up to the task. Even 'Abdu'l-Baha talks about "mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong".

But what about me? Let's see. Mental alertness? Obviously not, for I'm actually trying to write about this without the loving guidance of my wife. Intuition? Again, obviously not, for if I was acting on my intuition right now, I'm sure they'd be going off like a three-alarmer at a local firehall. (As is "A one-l lama, he's a priest. A two-l llama, he's a beast. A three-l lllama, and we need to call the fire department.") Love? Hmm. That's debatable. I mean, I am subjecting you to my sense of humour and shallow insights on this incredible Work by the Blessed Beauty. (If it's shallow, what would you call it? "Outsight"?) Service? Again, I'm not sure. How am I being of service by contributing my own seemingly senseless thoughts this morning? Well, maybe I'm being of service by helping turn you away from drivel such as mine and to the profound wisdom found within the Writings of Baha'u'llah. (One can only hope.) (Hey, there's an idea. Can you let me know if these two articles have gotten you to read, or re-read, or re-re-read The Four Valleys? Thanks.)

Anyways, back to that Fourth Valley.

When I sit back and think about it, what really comes to mind is ultimate humility. It's not nihilistic in the least, as I mistakenly said in the last article, but profoundly deep. It is a beautiful reminder that whatever we imagine we know of God, God is far more than that. Even trying to write about it defies the reality, for whatever we say ends up becoming a limiting factor. It requires a look inside, a deep and long look within to truly try and get to know oneself, while at the same time looking outside and seeing how little we really are. Noble, yes, but at the same time insignificant in comparison. It truly brings to mind those passages quotes by Shoghi Effendi in The Dispensation of Baha'u'llah:

"How bewildering to me, insignificant as I am," Bahá'u'lláh in His communion with God affirms, "is the attempt to fathom the sacred depths of Thy knowledge! How futile my efforts to visualize the magnitude of the power inherent in Thine handiwork -- the revelation of Thy creative power!" "When I contemplate, O my God, the relationship that bindeth me to Thee," He, in yet another prayer revealed in His own handwriting, testifies, "I am moved to proclaim to all created things 'verily I am God!'; and when I consider my own self, lo, I find it coarser than clay!"
Reading these passages yet again, this time in conjunction with this Fourth Valley, it occurred to me that the personal pronoun, "me", is not capitalized here. I believe, and this is, of course, only my own interpretation, that Baha'u'llah is speaking for each and every one of us. When I, Mead, contemplate my relationship to God, and remember that His Light is within me (Hidden Words 11 and 12, to name but a couple instances), it would be easy to look at that light and say "I am God", as many are wont to do of themselves. How often, in religious discourse, do we here people saying we are all God? But when I consider my own self, I really do find me to be "coarser than clay". (There are other, more colourful, metaphors that I could use, but I think I'll stick with His.)

As I've said in the past, humility is one of the most important qualities we can possess. (I used to joke with the neighbourhood kids that I had perfected all the virtues except for humility. Or else I would tell them that I had more humility in my little finger than they did in their whole body. But I always made sure that they knew I was only joking.)

Humility is what distinguishes us. It has the same root as the word "human", coming from the word "humus", or "of the earth". Without it, we are not demonstrating our human nature. "Humility exalteth man to the heaven of glory and power," Baha'u'llah writes, "whilst pride abaseth him to the depths of wretchedness and degradation."

While I could go on, my soul is weary trying to further describe what I feel when reading this Valley. I feel as though I am nothing. I keep going back and reading more of it, trying to see what else I get, and keep coming back to the question of "Who am I?" Who am I to try to write about such things? I am only a speck of dust in comparison to the Sun of Baha'u'llah. I think I expressed it best in another article.

Perhaps I'll just leave it here, publish this, and let my wife enlighten me as to what it really means, later.

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