Monday, May 5, 2014

Ridvan 2014, a few more thoughts

Here I am, back at the university again, wondering what my project for the day shall be. I was going to finish writing up my report about the Canadian National Convention, but then discovered that I left my laptop's power cord at home. Ah well. I guess this is God's way of saying, "Mead, you're a bozo."

Fair enough.

And so, rather than work on that report, transcribing all 30 pages and sorting out the various ideas, I've decided to write a bit more about this message from the Universal House of Justice. In the next few weeks, I am hoping to write a few thoughts about some other topics that arose from this letter, such as "veils", the phrase "safe and secure" (you'll have to read it to see the connection), "tabernacle", and "accompaniment".

Before that, though, I'm just going to share a few other thoughts that arose about this message.

In paragraph 2, they talk about spiritual education being enhanced through experience. This is a great reminder to me, and please remember that this is only my own opinion and nothing official, that we should listen to our youth. The Universal House of Justice, in paragraph 1, reminded us that the youth have just had this incredible experience of the youth conferences last year and are doing all these marvelous things. Now, "through experience", they can talk about what they have done. Their experience is real, and relevant. They are not limited to, nor bound by, experiences from the 70s, 80s, or 90s. Their experience is fresh. We, who are of a... finer vintage, need to learn from them.

In paragraph 3, there are many subtle gems hidden within. To start, they refer to the size of the island, Tanna, a mere 30,000. They may not mention the history of the place, but that is available in other places. For example, a number of years ago, when the Local Spiritual Assembly was offered a large sum of money to build I think it was fresh water wells, they consulted and built the wells in two other communities before building their own desperately needed one. This set up the example of looking to other people's needs before their own. Now they have engaged in an open dialogue with a third of the island's inhabitants. This leads me to ask if they can do it, what can we here in Canada do? But it is also worth noting the length of time this took. It was not done overnight with a single home visit. It took years and "a supreme effort". Note that phrase, "a supreme effort", and then compare it to the very last paragraph; "If only ye exert the effort..."

They also mention, in that same paragraph, "the bounty of being able to turn to a Local Spiritual Assembly for guidance and for the resolution of difficult situations..." This is a good reminder to me that I need to recognize the importance of this institution of the Faith in terms of the greater community, not just in relation to the Baha'is. It also gets me to ask what it means for a decision of this institution to be "characterized by wisdom and sensitivity"? How can I, as an individual, serve to assist my institutions to better increase this capacity?

I am reminded of a statement made recently by a Counsellor. He said that for any of the three protagonists of the Faith, the individual, the institution, and the community, to increase in capacity, they have to be primarily concerned about the development of the other two. In other words, if I want to develop as an individual, I have to really look at what I can do to help my community, as well as my institutions. That has led to some interesting soul searching on my part, and I can only presume that it is doing the same for these others.

Down in paragraph 5, they speak of this concept of "success" and "failure" breeding "freneticism" and paralysing volition. Interestingly enough, frenetic literally means an inflammation of the brain resulting in insanity, and is generally used to describe a fast and uncontrolled movement. Paralysis is, of course, another medical term describing an inability to move. Both are uncontrolled and related to movement, each one at an end of the spectrum. And this concept of success and failure also describes both ends of an unhealthy spectrum. Personally, I find that interesting. After all, Baha'u'llah is the Supreme Physician, with His finger on the pulse of humanity. And now it is the Universal House of Justice identifying the ailment and prescribing the remedy.

In the same paragraph, they speak of this "fruitless search for a rigid formula". I wonder: What does a rigid formula look like? If we can describe it, perhaps that will make it easier for us to avoid it, especially by accident. It seems to me that it is anything that insists on a particular manner of doing something, especially before examining the circumstances in which it is to be done. This also relates back to the earlier phrase in paragraph 2, "searching consultation". When consulting on the reasons for a lull, trying to find a way past an impasse, if we go in with "the answer", then it is not a "searching" consultation. We are likely to be an impediment to finding a solution.

This reminds me of the prayer that my son is now trying to memorize. It is from the Bab, and beings "I adjure Thee by Thy might..." It then says, " moments of heedlessness guide my steps aright through Thine inspiration." When we find ourselves at an impasse, it is a test. And if we are heedless, we may accidentally find ourselves moving towards establishing a rigid formula, mostly out of desperation. But we can also pray for assistance at this time. We can see that we are wandering in the woods, unaware of where we are going. And when we are heedless, especially in the woods, it is easy to step off the path. But with guidance, with that moment of inspiration, we may also just as accidentally place our foot on the path and stay safe. So here, I like to be aware of what this "rigid formula" can look like so that I can be careful not to step there.

Oh, and all this also reminds me of the importance of not only reflecting on what we have learned, but also on learning how to share it. (By the way, these are not necessarily my own ideas. A lot of this comes from talking with others and listening at the National Convention. I'm just thinking and seeing what comes up.) How often have people merely told a story without sharing what they learned from it? And how often have people said, "We learned a lot", without saying what it is that they learned. This is something else that we need to work on, in general. (Well, I know I need to work on it.)

Finally, for today at least, there is the overarching theme of accompaniment in this letter, and many other recent ones. This theme of helping others arise to serve is so important. As I said earlier I will be dedicating a whole article on it, and I am sure that it won't be enough. After all, providing service is easy, but helping others arise to provide service takes time and commitment. And you know what? We all need to be accompanied at some time. In one of His prayers, 'Abdu'l-Baha says, "...accompany in my exile."

Oh, and if you have noticed a drop in the number of articles I've been writing lately, it's because other bloggers have been asking for help in getting their own blogs started. Accompaniment is truly such an important topic. (As is detachment, and effort, and patience, and courage, and perseverance, and so on and so forth.) I feel I have grown so much as a writer in the past year because I have had the bounty of helping others begin their own blogs. Thanks to you all.

1 comment:

  1. Dear mead, thank you for these inspiring thoughts! This is such a wonderful form of accompaniment In my current situation! I can't wait for your article on aaccompaniment, it is a topic i would really like to read more about since it's so crucial to the development of our communities and the foundation of real friendships. Keep up the wonderful work, reading your blog feels like talking to a good friend and often makes my day!