Friday, April 11, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Insights

This probably sounds a lot loftier than it is. The insights are not mine. It is actually a reference to a document put out by the Baha'i World Centre, Insights from the Frontiers of Learning. All I'm doing is getting ready to look at that document and study it with some friends in my community.

Oh, and I should mention that this document goes along with a video (at over an hour in length, I feel I should call it a movie), The Frontiers of Learning. And while I mentioned these both last year, I never really did look at them all that closely here. It was really just a bit overwhelming.

But now, a bit removed from it, looking back with experience on acting upon what is in there, I feel I can better get a handle on it. Or them, seeing as there are two things in question, text and video / movie.

And more importantly, since my community wants to study it (them), this gives me a really good opportunity to examine it (them) more closely, with a singular focus, as opposed to trying and taking it all in at once.

Like usual, the first thing that I would like to do, based on the ideas my friends gave me in the previous article on studying the Writings, is look at that opening paragraph:
When the Universal House of Justice at the start of this Five Year Plan called on the Bahá’í world to build on the extraordinary achievements of the previous five years, it described a community that had not only surpassed its numerical goals but had also achieved qualitative progress at the more profound level of culture. Since then, the friends have extended their efforts to an increasing number of clusters, embracing ever-larger contingents of participants in a process of community building. At the close of the Plan’s second year, there is already a rich experience that has significant implications for future action. The purpose of the present document is to review this experience and describe a number of approaches that, when applied by the friends in a manner suited to their circumstances, may enable them to accelerate the progress under way. For this review the clusters at the frontiers of learning worldwide will first be considered, then those where the friends are beginning to establish programmes of growth, and finally those where efforts are being made to increase intensity. A few words will also be said about administrative arrangements at the regional or national level that support the movement of clusters.

Here, it would be very easy to ask all sorts of simple questions like where this letter occurs in the context of Baha'i history, or where within the various Baha'i epochs. But really, I'm not all that interested in a general history of the Faith as part of this study. I mean it's interesting and all, but not particularly relevant here. Instead, I am more interested in that "qualitative progress at the more profound level of culture", the "number of approaches that" can be "applied by the friends in a manner suited to their circumstances", and where we are within the development of clusters described at the very end of that paragraph. (You'll notice that I don't even talk about questions like what two things we have achieved in the past few years.)

In terms of the first, that progress in culture, I'm very curious what that progress looks like. How can we recognize it? What sort of things have we achieved? For once we recognize what it is that we, collectively, are doing that constitutes this progress, we can more readily strive to work towards it in individual communities. The answer, or perhaps I should say clues, to this lies primarily in paragraph 2 of section 1. So there we have a cogent question and a place to search for an answer. More on that later.

In regards to the second, the various ways that people are working towards advancing the process of entry by troops around the world, we will see that more clearly in the video and spread throughout the document. It's just a matter of identifying what the friends in other areas are doing and seeing what might work closer to home.

As for the third, that will, of course, depend on the community in question. As I'm dealing with my own community, I'll look at that. The International Teaching Centre first describes those "clusters at the frontiers of learning": We're not there. Then they mention those clusters "where the friends are beginning to establish programmes of growth": That sounds like us. They then mention those other clusters where "efforts are being made to increase intensity": Hmmm. That also sounds like us. In our cluster we have a number of activities, but they don't feel like they are "intense". They feel more sporadic and disconnected. Based on that, I believe we are somewhere between those two stages.

Here, some of the friends in my community may disagree with me, and that's ok. I don't claim to be authoritative on this. I'm only stating my own opinion. It seems to me, based on what I have seen, and the numbers of activities reported at the reflection meetings over the past few years, that this is where we are. It is nothing to be disappointed about, or upset over. It is just an assessment of our strengths, for we do have regular activities happening, and the challenges we are facing, for the numbers show that we haven't established solid growth yet. We have a slow movement upwards.

Remember, the truth is our friend. If we study and plan our activities based on faulty information, our planning with also be flawed. So I am trying to be as honest as I can.

Now, after this initial look at the first paragraph, it seems that we have a bit tighter of a focus for the study of this whole document.

I leave this for now, and continue making some notes as I go through the rest of the document. I'd love to hear what you have found useful in your own teaching work, and in the work of your community.

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