Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ridvan 2012, part 2

Ahhh, that's much better. A good night's sleep makes the world a much more pleasant place to see. Perspective. It's all about perspective.

Aside: I had a beautiful dream last night in which I was riding a bike. My wife was sitting on the seat, and I was standing while pedaling. She was holding me tight around the waist, and leaned her body against my back in a full body hug, with her head resting there on one of my shoulder blades. I fell in love with her all over again, and just smiled as I woke to see her lying there in the sunlight.

Yeah, perspective.

You may remember a recent posting I put up about how the Bab says "...utterance is a manifestation of the reality of the one who uttereth, and a mirror that reflecteth that which is in his heart." Well, at the risk of jumping ahead, let me just point out that the Universal House of Justice, in this letter, does not really offer us guidance, as I mentioned yesterday. They offer us perspective.

It has occurred to me that, in a sense, they seem to be saying that we already know what we need to do. We are, in fact, doing it. Our actions are exactly what they should be. We are, at this very moment, right on course for helping create this new world that is coming into being.

But, by this understanding given to us by the Bab, if we elevate our perspective, we will be even more effective in what we are doing, because it is the perspective, or understanding, of the protagonist the increases in the efficacy of their actions.

In that first paragraph of this Ridvan message, the importance of action is stressed. In the second paragraph, it seems to me that the importance of perspective is given importance. "(C)an anyone claim", they ask "to have glimpsed anything but an intimation, distant and indistinct, of the future society to which the Revelation of Baha'u'llah is destined to give rise?" Do any of us have a clear and precise vision of where this is all going? The answer, of course, is no. We don't. They point out that very few at the time, or probably even today, could have begun to understood the grandeur of the vision offered by the Master when He said "the human world will adapt itself to a new social form" or that "the justice of God will become manifest throughout human affairs". Today, it is possible that we have a better understanding of some of these structures that need to fall, and why it is so important that the justice of God prevail. When we see corporations destroying the environment, and then buying up those very companies and labs that are supposed to be monitoring them and researching the damage done, we can see that there are problems with the systems. We can see that justice is not being upheld.

Today, we are at the very beginning of seeing all this.

By the time we get to the third paragraph, they mention some of the "well-intentioned individuals working to improve circumstances in society", and that for many the obstacles we are facing seem insurmountable. To me, and again, this is just my own understanding, given my own deficient perspective, the great effort of these individuals is just not enough. They're like band-aid solutions. They may help a bit, but they don't get to the root issues. In fact, here in paragraph 3, they talk about those "erroneous assumptions about human nature that so permeate" the world and all its structures and traditions. It is this incorrect presumption about human nature that makes the various problems we are facing seem insurmountable. but as soon as we correct these assumptions, then we also see the solutions more clearly. not perfectly, of course, but more clearly.

One thing they don't do is tell us what some of these assumptions are. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that viewing humanity as inherently evil, born with "original sin" that requires divine intervention to overcome, may be one of them. Another one that seems to be prevalent today is the idea that we are somehow inherently perfect, in no need of divine guidance, that we can do it all on our own. Both of these extremes are incorrect, while they each have a grain of truth within them. To me, this is just another sign that we are living in an age of extremes. At either end of this one spectrum we see humanity as either inherently evil or at the other end just like God. The truth seems to be that we are somewhere in the middle. We are not perfect, but have phenomenal potential, which can best be released through the study of divine guidance, and the striving to put it into action.

Another false assumption is the idea that humanity is a political creature, that all our actions can somehow be reduced to politics. Again, this is just not correct. It skews our perspective of ourselves, the importance of politics, and the possible solutions we can find.

I'm sure there are many other false assumptions about us, but those seem to be enough for now. They just clearly underline the reality pointed out by the Universal House of Justice; namely that the "state of the world reflects a distortion of the human spirit, not its essential nature."

By changing our perspective of how we see humanity, we change what we see ourselves as being capable of doing. The question, though, is how can we help change this perspective so that we ourselves have hope, as well as being able to convey that hope to others? I think the first is to make a commitment to developing our spiritual capacities so as to better be able to contribute to the process of societal change. (Yes, that's a paraphrase of that sentence in the third paragraph.)

You see, when we make that commitment, and strive to achieve it by engaging in the institute process, we can see more clearly how it is that we can take steps to effect this change. The more we do it, the more we see how to do it. And as we help others begin in this process, they, too, will begin to see those small changes in their own life. That simple invitation to a core activity, to actively work towards contributing to that process of societal change, all the while relying on the power of prayer, is akin to the Master's striking the hard earth with that axe. Although it may seem hard at first, either the act of inviting or the other person's sense of despair, those divine waters found within the sacred Writings will slowly permeate their heart, and "the flowers of true understanding" will begin to grow.

(And we're only at paragraph 3.)


  1. I knew I would find this here! I came and checked as soon as I had studied it a bit myself and I'm very glad I did :) thanks Mead.


  2. Thanks for your thoughts! Can't wait to read more.

    Re: assumptions -- don't forget the middle part :) I'll venture a couple examples, but they're just some musings.

    "These assumptions appear to make no allowance for the extraordinary reservoir of spiritual potential available to any illumined soul who draws upon it..." (Paragraph 3)

    So I guess that could refer to any "bottom line" belief about man's nature or potential. This points us to assumptions such as "some humans are better than others," or "humans don't need an Educator," or basic ones like "man is... an animal/competitive/selfish/prone to steal if given the opportunity/earthly/political/evil (as you mentioned) etc etc etc" -- anything except a noble, spiritual being, whose purpose in life is to know and worship God.

    With your comment on perspective, it seems that whatever our perspective is (thought+words) about these assumptions, it will affect our actions. So I agree that key is to reflect on how we think and speak about these assumptions if we want the humanity to transform. I'm sure doing so will directly affect the quality of our "meaningful and distinctive conversations" (28 Dec. 2012 paragraph 4).

    Paragraph 3 continues: "And this transformation naturally occurs as a growing body of people, united by the divine precepts, collectively seeks to develop spiritual capacities to contribute to a process of societal change."