Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Tablet of Wisdom, part 6

Well, here we are. the last paragraph of what I would call the introduction. After this, Baha'u'llah moves into a discourse about creation, philosophers, and so on. But not yet. For now, He has one last thing to tell us before He goes into some scholarly-type stuff.
O thou who speakest in My Name! Consider the people and the things they have wrought in My days. We revealed unto one of the rulers that which overpowereth all the dwellers of the earth, and requested him to bring Us face to face with the learned men of this age, that We might set forth for him the testimony of God, His proofs, His glory and His majesty; and naught did We intend thereby but the highest good. However, he committed that which hath caused the inmates of the cities of justice and equity to lament. Thus hath judgement been given between Me and him. Verily thy Lord is the Ordainer, the All-Informed. In such circumstances as thou seest, how can the Celestial Bird soar into the atmosphere of divine mysteries when its wings have been battered with the stones of idle fancy and bitter hatred, and it is cast into a prison built of unyielding stone? By the righteousness of God! The people have perpetrated a grievous injustice.

Here He seems to be addressing those who speak as if they are Baha'i. That includes me, and a whole whack of others who say they are Baha'i, and begin to talk about it. This is one of the reasons why I often, almost continually, say that these thoughts are just my own opinion and nothing official. It is some sort of hope that you will understand that these are, well, just my own personal thoughts, and that I am not some sort of spokesperson for the Faith.

So just what is it that He is addressing to us? Well, as usual, I'm not really sure. I mean, I would have expected Him to talk about how we should be careful about what we say, and how we say it. I would have expected all sorts of things about listening to the person with whom you want to share the teachings. In fact, He almost got me there. When I read "Consider the people", it actually seemed as if He was going to go in that direction.

But does He ever go where you expect? Rarely. I mean, if He did, why would He have come in the first place? He came to take us places we never dreamed of going. He came to raise our vision so that we could see things we have never seen before.

Aside - I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but so what. I'm practicing to become a grandpa (and yes, I know Shoghi's only 7, well 8 in a few days, but you can never start practicing too early), and everyone knows that grandpas always repeat their stories over and over. This whole "What would Jesus do" really drives me nuts. I mean, come on. He's a Messenger of God, for His sake. How are we supposed to know what He would have done? As it is, we rarely see the profundity in those things that He really did do, so why would we presume to know what He would have done in our situation. Chances are He never would have found Himself in our situation anyways, given that we're such bozos half the time and we find ourselves in predicaments that anyone with half a brain would have avoided. No. I much prefer looking at what 'Abdu'l-Baha actually did in a similar situation. It's far more approachable than asking myself "What would a Messenger of God do if They were in this situation?" The answer to that is almost always a very humbling "I have no idea."

So, there I am, reading this paragraph, thinking, for only a few words, that I might actually know what's coming next, and what happens? Some sort of mental whiplash. He seems to take me quite around and toss me out somewhere I didn't expect to end up.

Here I am, suddenly thinking about teaching after that single line beginning, and then I'm told to consider the people of His day and what they have done. Uhm, ok. Bloodthirsty fanatical nutcases. Slaughter and mayhem. Bodies shot from cannons. Lit candles in gaping wounds. Sure makes me want to jump right in there and begin teaching. (Yeah, I can throw in a bit of sarcasm every now and then.)

But then what does He say? He jumped right in there and began teaching. He went straight to the top. He wrote the Shah (or was it the Sultan, I can't remember offhand) and asked him to call a meeting with all the religious leaders of the realm so that He could answer their questions.

And then? Well, to start, the meeting was never called. Baha'u'llah was tortured, imprisoned and exiled. He was shown such treatment that "the inmates of the cities of justice and equity" lamented.

Now, this is where it gets interesting for me. He dos not condemn all the people for this. He does not lash out and bewail His troubles. No. He says it is merely between Him and the ruler. The judgement, in this circumstance, was between the two of them, and no one else.

What follows appears to be a rhetorical question. He asks, "how can the Celestial Bird soar into the atmosphere of divine mysteries when its wings have been battered with the stones of idle fancy and bitter hatred, and it is cast into a prison built of unyielding stone?"

And while I would think He can't, I would be wrong. For isn't this just what Baha'u'llah was doing? Wasn't He raising the Call in that prison? And while He was severely burdened, and we know that His Pen was stilled for times, precious moments of Revelation lost to us for all history because of those unbearable burdens, He did still reveal some of those divine mysteries.

So I ask myself "How?" How was He able to do this? "Consider". Time and again in the Writings, He asks us to consider, to ponder, the reflect. While I can think of various virtues and attributes that would have allowed Him to continue, it is this process of considering that is most valuable. Pondering on His circumstances, and what He did under those conditions, changes something in me. It shifts my view. It swells my heart. It also makes me slow down my own pace as I consider His circumstances.

And then I ask myself how can this help me become a better teacher of the Faith in the face of those small and trivial problems that I face? Maybe, just maybe, that question wasn't actually rhetorical after all.

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