Sunday, May 30, 2010


Due to a sinus infection, I have spent most of the past few days either lying down or asleep, and this state of consciousness, or unconsciousness depending on the moment, has made me think of dreams, illusions and reality quite a bit.

In the Buddhist tradition, one of the "fetters" holding us back in our life is the illusion of self. This can be seen in a number of different directions, from the illusions we have about what we think we may be, as in the case of the fool who thinks he is wise (which catgeory some may think I fall into, except that I don't think my sharings particularly wise, just shared), to the illusion that we think of ourselves as seperate from everyone else, when the reality is that we are, in fact, one (take that as you may).

Once I began to think about this, I decided to do a search for "illusions" in the Writings.

Baha'u'llah, in The Seven Valleys, speaks of illusion as darkness and knowledge as light. In this case, it would appear that illusion has no existence, in the same way that darkness has no existence. Knowledge would have some form of existence, just as light has a tangible existence and is made up of photons. Here I would venture to guess that this illusion is imposed upon reality by ourselves, just as we tend to try and find images within clouds, or patterns within chaos.

I find it no coincidence that, in the Valley of Unity, the pivotal valley in that Book and which is easily its longest chapter, He writes, "when thou strippest the wrappings of illusion from off thine heart, the lights of oneness will be made manifest." This line has often been the subject of meditation for me, and still I feel that I have no idea what it means. How can your heart be wrapped in illusion? But I know that it is the meditation on the verse that is important, not the knowledge of it in the head, sort of like when we contemplate God or death.

Time and again in Sacred Writings we find references to the illusions of the world and the need to be aware of them, to not fall prey to them.

In the Book of Certitude, Baha'u'llah writes about the various sciences that do not profit people and are, in the end, quite useless, those that "begin with words and end with words", as He says elsewhere. I won't try to say which those are, and leave those for you to fill in. He does, however, say, "How can the knowledge of these sciences, which are so contemptible in the eyes of the truly learned, be regarded as essential to the apprehension of the mysteries of the 'Mi'raj,' whilst the Lord of the 'Mi'raj' Himself was never burdened with a single letter of these limited and obscure learnings, and never defiled His radiant heart with any of these fanciful illusions? How truly hath he said: 'All human attainment moveth upon a lame ass, whilst Truth, riding upon the wind, darteth across space.'"

When I think about the advancement of science, and how it has plodded along for so long, creeping forward one slow step at a time, this statement rings even more true to me.

This, and again this is only my own opinion and nothing authoritative, speaks of our own view of the heightened station of the sciences. While Baha'u'llah is addressing particular sciences here, it seems to me that it can also be applied to our own mistaken notion that we understand more of the universe than we really do. One thing I really appreciated about my own university days was that the professors always spoke as if what they were telling us was only what we understood today, and not some absolute truth. As students, we were taught to explore, not just take what they said for granted.

Oh, and as an aside, I have always found it interesting that Baha'u'llah so praises Socrates, who was aware of what he did not know. Here, we seem to see, is a man who was truly aware of his limitations and did not live under an illusion.

This brings me back to the question, "What is illusion?"

In one sense, illusion is an erroneous perception of reality, whereas truth is that which conforms to reality. To me, this gives a broader base for the quote, "Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtue", for what else could our virtues be based upon?

If God is the ultimate reality, of which this physical world is but an emanation like the relationship of the rays to the sun, then it is sheer folly to think that we can know God in His entirety. We can, however, come closer and closer to an understanding of our Creator, but we should always keep in mind our limitations. As our understanding increases, though, we can become more aware of our place within creation.

I have written of this many times, and hope that I don't bore you with repetition, but even if I do, here goes.  Simply put, we are really miniscule things. Noble, and worthy of creation, but still quite small. After all, what will we do today that will be remembered in five years? How about in ten years? A hundred? A thousand? Let's up it a bit and say a few billion. The answer is, and I have no illusion about this, quite humbling.

In another direction, try and imagine yourself, from above, sitting in your room right now at your computer (if that's where you are). It's fairly easy to see yourself in the room. Now go a bit higher and visualize your town or city. Can you still see yourself, within the full city, sitting there reading this, while picturing the bustling activity all around you? It's difficult, because we're quite small. I really lose sight of myself when I try and imagine the continent upon which I live, and stil try to see myself there. I just can't do it. Now try zipping back and seeing the earth, or the solar system, or the Milky Way galaxy, or the cluster of galaxies in which we live. Yeah right, never mind.

We are truly small, and if we think anything else, that is nothing but illusion based upon our proximity to ourselves. Remember, even something as small as your hand can obscure the entire world when placed right up against your eye.

Now, within this context, I try and place my troubles. For example, I'm a bit stressed out these days trying to sell my house so that we can move. Really, though, how much does it matter? This week or next? Or even next month? What is more important? Selling the house quickly, or ensuring that I don't blow up at my family, that my son still feels loved?

"If we suffer", says 'Abdu'l-Baha, "it is the outcome of material things, and all the trials and troubles come from this world of illusion." Elsewhere He says, "let us not, with the dark clouds of our illusions, our selfish interests, blot out the glory that streameth from the Abha Realm".

While this train of thought, this meditation upon the nature of illusion, can lead to a calmer and more peaceful life, it should not lead us to a denial of this world. 'Abdu'l-Baha also says, "...though the existence of beings in relation to the existence of God is an illusion, nevertheless, in the condition of being it has a real and certain existence."

In other words, I believe that all of this should lead us to a healthier life, one in which our problems are placed into a proper context, allowing us to respond in a healthier manner. I'm sure my wife and son will be glad to read this, hoping that I won't be as stressed out in the next few weeks as I have been in the past few weeks. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for my poor health right now.

You know, dear Reader, I have often thought of The Hidden Words as a table of contents for religious thought. It has long been my belief that I can find a simple reference to all the various ideas in the sacred Writings there, in one way or another. It is, after all, "the inner essence" of that which was "revealed unto the Prophets of old" and "clothed... in the garment of brevity".

So what does Baha'u'llah have to say about illusion there? "Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more."

And that, my friend, calms my spirit and reminds me, once more, that there is more to this world than I can immediately see.

When I bounce around on the internet, for I cannot think of it as anything as graceful as surfing, there is so much that just seems mere reaction to the jostlings of the world. We generally seem to think ourselves, our thoughts and our views, so important, when in fact we are often more like mere grains of sand blown by the wind. When caught by the eye, these things are usually no more than an irritant.

For myself, I really don't think of these posts as much more than ideas that I scatter, letting them fall as they will. My intention is not to enlighten, as some have suggested, but instead to show how the Writings can enlighten. Many have asked me how I can write so much, so often, and such various things, when I wonder how one cannot be moved to thoughts when reading the Writings every day. These Writings are the Creative Word. How can we not use them to create?

No. My intention is not to be an irritant, claiming that I know so much more than I really do. Instead, my desire is to draw down a tiny bit of that life-giving energy of our Creator, as much as I am able. Like a tiny budding leaf on a tree.

Even now, I sit on my sofa typing, looking out the window at a tree, freshly green with its spring growth, blowing in the wind, its myriad leaves blowing in all directions as they are assailed by the rain. And I pray that I can be like even just the smallest of those leaves.

Now my addled brain is wondering what the tree is, if I am only the smallest of these leaves.

Hmm. Maybe I should leave off writing for now, and go back to sleep for a bit longer.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ridvan 2010 - Take 7

So here I am, at a coffee shop, having just studied the Ridvan Message a bit more with my friend, Samuel. This is the same guy that I study the Kitab-i-Iqan with on a regular basis. We just paused in our study of that Book to look at this message.

"Just paused... to look at".

Three times a week, a couple of hours each time, eight or nine sessions so far, and we're only on paragraph 22. It's been a lot of fun, and I feel like I've gotten so much more out of it by studying it with him.

This session we began by re-looking at paragrpahs 19 and 20, and then diving into 21 and 22. The real insight, for me at least, came right at the end, but I'll start by giving a synopsis of the earlier parts.

As you know, paragraph 19 sums up what came before and places the importance of the learning up to this point in the realm of accompaniment. As the members of institutions learn to accompany the friends in their work, the learning about what we are doing increases dramatically. Then, the last sentence in that paragraph offers a caution: we need to be careful not to use guilt or manipulation in our work (I don't think domination and greed even come into it). With our love and striving for obedience, it is very easy to inadvertantly use either of those, and we have to guard against it. If we ever use a phrase like, "Oh, well if you're not part of a study circle, you're just not with the Plan", or "But you have to be on a teaching team, because the Universal House of Justice said so", then that is guilt and manipulation.

Not that I think you would do that, dear Reader, but the caution seems to be there, so I put it here.

Then in paragraph 20, they remind of the importance of a posture of humility and even offer us a definition of what that means: "...a condition in which one becomes forgetful of self, placing complete trust in God, reliant on His all-sustaining power and confident in His unfailing assistance, knowing htat He, and He alone, can change the gnat into an eagle, the drop into the boundless sea." They also remind us that it means we will "delight... in the progress and services of others."

Wow. Now that we can imagine what this might look like, they then turn our attention to the very bottom, the grassroots, the teaching teams, the tutors, teachers and animators. This is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Each of these groups makes their own teaching plans, their own goals and their own strategies, for they are the ones that best know what is happening in their area of service. And are they alone in this? Of  course not. They come together in the reflection meeting and see what is happening in the cluster.

Now our attention is turned, in paragraph 22, to the Local Spiritual Assembly.

I just love this particular paragraph, for it really sheds light on the Assembly and their role. Now, don't get me wrong, I thought I had a fairly decent vision of what it is they do, having studied the various compilations on this institution, but this letter offers clarity. What is their job? " diffuse the Word of God, to mobilize the energies of the believers, and to forge an environment that is spiritually edifying."

What a choice of words: diffuse, mobilize and forge.

The first two are pretty straightforward, but "forge"? To forge means to use a lot of energy and concentration in building or constructing something. It is not easy. Just think of a sword being forged. It is thrust in the fire, and then, when it is still glowing from its immersion in the heat, it is subjected to the purifying and strengthening influence of the hammer. Ouch. A really fascinating process, but ouch, if you're the sword.

And then, once this point has been clarified, just a couple sentences later we read, "its strength must be measured, to a large extent, by the vitality of the spiritual and social life of the community it serves..." Am I correct in reading this as a measuring stick? A way by which we can tell how effective and successful an Assembly is? If so, then shouldn't we help the members of these institutions make sure that they are considering this when engaging in their deliberations?

If, for example, an Assembly in a larger community were deciding whether or not to move from one centralized Feast to a series of district Feasts, should they not ask themselves how it will affect "the spiritual and social life of the community"? If they have already done this and re-visiting their decision, shouldn't this be one of the questions they ask?

And please, don't get me wrong, this should never be asked, or even seen, as a criticism of any decision. No, it should be seen as a constructive contribution, ensuring that they don't accidentally overlook this important question in their consultation. After all, the second half of that sentence is "a growing community that welcomes the constructive contributions of both those who are formally enrolled and those who are not."

There is a very important word choice in that phrase: "constructive contribution". Note that they use "contribution" and not "criticism". It is not, and never should be, about criticising.

The last point that we noted was in the last sentence of that paragraph: "Indeed, the Assembly's proper involvement with the Plan becomes crucial to every attempt to embrace large numbers..."

We began by asking what was their "proper involvement"? Although we never really came up with a satisfactory answer, and actually recognized that a reponse to that question will grow with time and experience, we did notice something interesting when we placed nouns within the sentence.

You see, we were really trying to understand what that sentence was saying. Who, we wondered, was attempting to embrace large numbers? It seemed to us that the teaching teams was probably a reasonable place to start. And so we read it as, "the Assembly's proper involvement with the Plan becomes crucial to every (teaching team's) attempt to embrace large numbers..."

Suddenly it seemed to become a bit clearer.

A teaching team may be able to effectively reach dozens, but even dozens are not that many, at least not when considering the task before us. No, we really felt hundreds and thousands was more likely where we were heading. But this would not be possible without the full support of the Assembly, especially in terms of "assistance, resources, encouragement and guidance", which we will see in the very next paragraph (oops, I'm reading ahead).

Anyways, from here, it seemed that the pivotal role of the Assembly became a bit more evident to us. As well, our role as individual members of the community in helping the institution grow in strength and maturity also seemed a bit clearer to us.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend the reflection meeting tonight to share some of this, as I have to pick up my wife at her work. Hopefully Samuel will be able to share a bit of this.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Many thanks

Dearly loved Friends,

Before all else, let me thank you for taking the time to read this and offering your kind and thoughtful feedback. Thank you. (Have you ever noticed that many people say "I would like to thank you for..." but then never actually say "Thank you"?) It has all made me pause and think even more deeply about my life as a Baha'i and my role as a teacher of the Faith.

As I mentioned quite some time ago, my training as a journalist has left me feeling awkward about responding to comments, but I know that this is something I need to shed. The only trouble is, I am not sure of a reasonable way in which to respond to the numerous letters that have come in. Most of them do not have addresses to which I can respond, and I don't want to burden everyone else with "personal correspondence".

Please know that every comment is read, and they are all either published here with the click of a button, or copied here with the person's permission. If someone has sent me a letter to my inbox, instead of in the comment field, and I have no way of contacting them (with my very limited computer knowledge), then I will not post it here. That, to me, is just a respect of privacy.

To those of you who have complained that blogspot does not allow comments by people without a google id, I'm not sure what to say. If anyone has any solution to this probem, I would be very glad to post it.

Either way, please know that every letter is read and carefully considered. You may have noticed a few articles in response to questions posed, and may have noticed a few other articles that seem to move in an odd direction: yes, this is in response to letters.

Oh, the only comments that don't get posted are those many ones that have come in Chinese with a link to some obscure or very odd web-site. I can only presume they are spam, or virus laden.

Finally, I'd like to offer my apologies for the next few months. As you may know, my family and I are getting ready to move and, if you have ever moved across a continent, you know this takes some effort. I will not be as prolific in the coming weeks as I have been. Once we get settled in BC, I'll be back to writing at least 4 times a week again. Until then, I'll do the best I can with the time I have.

Oh, and a special apology to Samuel: As much as I love the idea of a handy tip at the end of each article, it just didn't work out for me. Perhaps I'll try again, but it just didn't fit the "voice" as I was writing. Thanks anyways.

With love and prayers,

Still in Winnipeg

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Transformation - (noun) - a change in form, appearance, nature, or character.  (Once again, thank you

I've been thinking about this word a lot lately, and how it applies to us, both in general as a Baha'i community, and specifically as individuals. As you can imagine, a lot of different pieces have zipped in and out of my mind.

Aside - It is said that we process thousands of pieces of information every minute. This means that right now you are probably thinking something along the following: Why is he referencing what I'm thinking about? Where is he going with this article? Why am I reading it? Who won the hockey game last night? That sounds like a starling outside my window. Pretty early in the season for starlings. My feet are getting hot in these shoes. I wonder if my neighbour turned off her gas stove. And on and on.

This may, perhaps, give you an idea of some of the thoughts that are bouncing around. It also gives you a sense of the importance of being able to tune out all those thoughts and focussing on the here and now. How often have we read of the Master's absolute focus on the person speaking to Him? Most of us can only dream of such a concentrated sense of focus.

But let's get back to transformation.

Richard Bach once said, "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly."

This is how I think of where we are now. We are a community in the midst of transformation.

Just a few years ago, I remember a Counsellor coming through town and talking about this very subject. He spoke of the growth of the community and how he thought of the Baha'i Faith, at the time, as an acorn. He said that when he spoke of growth, many people just imagined a bigger acorn. "No," he would say, "we are becoming a tree. Today you may have one John, and a Mary, a Hossein and a Tahirih in your community. When we grow, you won't have three Johns, two Marys, four Hosseins and a couple of Tahirihs. There will still only be one of each of you, but instead of John being 25% of the community, he'll only be 1% of the community. The rest of the community will have changed so drastically that you won't recognize it."

His point really stuck with me. A seed, after all, is small, somewhat round-ish, and very hard. As it begins to grow it loses these qualities. It grows rapidly in one direction, the suddently it grows rapidly in a completely different direction. It shoots out over here, then over there, sometimes apparantly at random, other times with great deliberateness. As this is happening, it become completely unrecognizable from the seed it once was.

But what is happening to that seed? What is the purpose of all this seemingly random growth?

Well, as you know, those "random" growths that are in a downward direction are the roots. They are reaching out in search of water and various nutrients. I'm sure that if we watched them flailing around as they grew, and especially if we had no idea what the plant would look like, we would be concerned.

As for those other growths that grow upward, we know that they will become the visible plant, the part above the ground.

As all this is going on, I'm sure there could be parts of the seed that are resistent to this very natural phenomenon. They may like the qualities of being a seed. They may want to remain small and compact, and they will be very concerned over becoming soft and seeming to break up. They may not like the idea of stretching out and reaching beyond their own limits.

Another prime example of transformation is that of a caterpillar into a butterfly. We all know that it will eat and eat and eat until it decides to wrap itself in a cocoon. At some point later it will emerge, not as a larger caterpillar, but as a butterfly. Have we ever thought about what it is that happens within that cocoon? A friend of mine once said that the body of the caterpillar liquifies before it reconfigures itself as the butterfly.

"Ewww," was my first thought at that. Then I realized what a miracle that is. Then I further realized what a great metaphor that is.

Here we are, as members of the Baha'i community, undergoing this miracle of transformation. We know where we have been, and we are beginning to get glimpses of where we are going. What we don't know is how we will actually get there, or what we look like when we arrive.

Like the acorn or the butterfly, we are transforming. We are shedding a lot of the qualities that we had as a small community and are adopting new qualities that will only become clearer as we emerge. Right now some of this growth is messy, like the liquification of the caterpillar, and other times seemingly random, like the desperate search for nutrients and water by the roots of the plant.

What we do know is that there are no shortcuts.

We are fully aware of the dynamic of crisis and victory. We understand that every crisis has within it the seeds of its own victory, and that each victory contains within it the seeds of the next crisis.

The caterpillar achieves a marvelous victory when it spins its cocoon, but then suffers the crisis of becoming liquid. From there it achieves another signal victory when it emerges as a butterfly.

There, however, upon its arrival is another crisis.

Have you ever watched a butterfly emerge? You know what I am speaking of. It doesn't just pop out and fly off. No. It gets stuck.

Over the next few hours, as it is beginning to emerge, it has to strain and struggle, pulling and twisting as it tries to force its way out of the cocoon. We could try and help, as I explained to my son last year as we watched this phenomenon, but then we would only hurt it. It is this very struggle that allows it to shed the uneeded moisture that would otherwise prevent it from being able to fly. It is this very fight out of its confining silk prison that helps it build the strength it will need in its next phase of life.

And isn't that just like us?

We have been given a year of grace, a full year during which we have achieved our goals of this five year plan, but before the next plan is to begin. This is truly a victory.

Now I think we have to be ready for the crisis.

What will it be? Who knows? It may be that we have to maintain the victory achieved, or that we have to learn how to further develop these mighty achievements.

I know there have been lots of changes within the Baha'i community over the last few years, including the emergence of the Regional Baha'i Councils, and the growing recognition of the importance of the training institute. In some communities we are seeing the emergence of district, or area, Feasts, whereas previously we only had one Feast in the community. It takes time to get used to these new things, and sometimes it appears to be a struggle, but it's a good struggle. It is the struggle of growth.

Perhaps we have only seen the tiny wingtip emerge on the butterfly we are to become, and now need to struggle and strain to truly emerge in full.

What is it that will come out of this cocoon? I have no idea. But I do know that it will be beautiful.

And that it will fly.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Subtle Prejudice

A friend of mine had a disturbing thing happen to her the other day. Oh, not the severe injury to her hand, complete with severed tendons and so on, but after that. She went to her doctor. For surgery.

Now you have to understand, this friend of mine is fairly well trained in anatomy. She knows the names of body parts I don't even know I have. (Come to think of it, there probably are a few that I don't have, and you can bet she knows the names of those, too.)

On her way to hospital the first time, she kept sneaking peaks at the damage and clearly saw the severed tendons. Me, I would have just seen blood and gore, but she was able to identify the little bits that were here and there.

She gets stitched up, goes home, and then later goes to see her doc. He is the one that is highly recommended, a veritable specialist in the field of reconstructive surgery. Unfortunately he leaves a lot to be desired in the interpersonal communication field.

She tells him that her tendons were severed, and proceeds to describe the wound in fairly good detail. He practically smiles and pats her on the head, telling her that all she needs is a bit of cosmetic clean-up and all will be fine.

"No," she says, "my tendons were severed and need to be reconnected."

He smiles condescendingly and tells her that if that were the case, she'd wake from her surgery with a cast on her hand.

Which she does.

Now, a few weeks later, the whole mess is growing together none to well and this doctor still doesn't want to even give her the time of day, much less acknowledge that she might actually have some idea as to what is happening in her own hand.

This is where I came in.

She phoned me up and gave me an earful of angst, venting as she needed, while I tried to sort out what I was hearing. Suddenly, as her high-pitched voice described her trauma with medical accuracy, it became clear. She was the victim of a prejudice most of us have never even considered.

If she had been of a racial minority, everyone would have screamed "racism", and in fact some may rightly scream  "sexism", but neither of those are accurate, as far as I can tell. No, I think she was the victim of a prejudice a little more subtle than either of those.

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine told me of a prejudice that she had noticed. She was blonde, and had a high-pitched voice. Whenever she offered a contribution in consultation, it seemed that nobody really paid much attention. This got to her when she would notice the same contribution made by another, and they would be listened to.

It was not an ego thing for her, but an obeservation that annoyed.

To test her theory, for it really was a theory in my own mind, I cautioned another friend of something I was going to try in consultation one evening. She was aware of my intention, and played right into it.

When she wanted to make a contribution, I took down, word for word, everything she said. As expected, her contribution was not even acknowledged. I then raised my hand, and when called upon to speak I repeated word for word exactly what she said.

My comments were well received, and people began to build upon what I had said.

That was when I held up my hand and said, "Wait a minute. Do you realize what you have just done?" I explained how I had merely repeated, verbatim, what my friend had said and tried to lovingly point out the discrimination that was inadvertantly shown.

As you can imagine, there was a bit of denial at the first, but then a quick acceptance to try and be very conscious of this dynamic in the future. Like I said in a previous posting, we need to be aware of these minor discrepencies and do what we can to correct them, all the while giving the friends the benefit of the doubt. Unlike the physician mentioned earlier, we, at least, are eager to overcome our prejudices.

I hadn't actually thought much of this particular story, but when I related it to my friend who had hurt her hand, it really disturbed her. She phoned me a few days later (a couple of days ago now) and asked me to post it here. So here it is.

I had originally toyed with the idea of opening up with a blonde joke, but decided that would be crossing a line I didn't want to push. See, I do actually have some boundaries, or perhaps, good taste.

As I have told this story to a few other people, they asked me if I would include something about age-ism here, too, but I don't feel up to it right now. I'll just mention that some feel that we don't pay enough attention to the youth as we ought to, or give them enough credence in consultation.

Maybe I'll address that tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ferr Enough

A number of years ago I read a short story called "God is an Iron". I have no idea what the story was about, but I remember loving it. And I still recall the title (author, too: Spider Robinson).

The obvious question is why he would consider God an iron. His reasoning? Glad you asked, dear Reader. He said that if someone who commits a felony is called a felon, and someone who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, then God must be an iron. As a Baha'i, I lovingly disagree. I would say that God is the Most Great Iron.

By the way, I stopped in a used bookstore on my way here to write this article, already knowing what my subject was. I had gone in to drop off a box of books. Part of my paring down as I get ready to move (hence, be forewarned that I won't be writing as much in the next few weeks as you have come to expect, sorry). On my way in to the store, there was a table of books on special, and the one on the top of the pile was called, and I kid you not, "The Magnetic Pope". I just about doubled over in laughter. (Oh, the store is called Globo Sapiens, which I think is one of the best names for a bookstore in a long time). I just sort of had this image of the person in question being stuck like a refrigerator magnet against a stainless steel God.

Anyways, a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of breakfast with a dear friend of mine (thanks Mark). We were talking about his pioneering experience in Dominca, and how he watched a typhoon grow into a hurricane, later to be named Katrina. As this was his first major storm down in that area, he naturally turned to the Writings for solace. What did he find? Guidance about what should happen if a pioneer were to die at their post.

A number of years ago, I was working on the restoration project and cleaning project at the Temple in Wilmette. It was so much fun. One of the main jobs that fell to me was to spray the acid that was to clean the building. It was very powerful stuff and quite dangerous, but we took many precautions and neutralized it before it went down the drains. Totally safe and environmentally nifty after that. Before that, however, not too nice.

It was the middle of the summer, blazingly hot, and I was stuck working in the direct sun. Oh, and it's not that my boss (whose initials were David Hadden) was mean to me or anything, it's just that I was the one with the highest resistence to heatstroke and acid. Ergo, I got the fun job.

I would get into a bathing suit, and the put on a goretex outfit, covered by an blue plastic acid-proof suit, with a respirator and a hard hat. They would put rubber gloves and rubber boots on me and duct tape the seams shut, so that nothing got through. Worked pretty well, but my field of vision was practically nothing, and I wobble walked like the Pillsbury doughboy. Oh, and then they put on my harness and I was expected to repel down the ropes on the side of the building while spraying this acid stuff everywhere from a high pressure sprayer. Tons of fun. No, really, it was.

Well, one afternoon, on a particularly hot day, my ropes jammed and I was hanging there at an alarming tilt, unable to move. I squeezed my arm to click on my radio and tried to shout loud enough to be heard, so that I could ask for help. Not too easy with the respirator covering my mouth.

And still I hung there. Dangling. With the pressure building up in the spray gun. I could feel the vibration of the motor as it continued to build pressure from far on the other side of the building. While dangling. And getting hotter and hotter in the sun. As I dangled. Unable to get to my caribiner and free myself. Did I mention that I was dangling?

While I was in that position, with little else to do, and little else to look at, I took a glance at the building.

Have you ever noticed that there are various quotes from the Writings written above the doorways at the Temple in Wilmette? Well there are. One above each of the doors on the outside, and one more above each of them on the inside. 18 quotes in total. Littloe gems from the Writings.

And which one did I get? "I have made death..."

In my limited field of vision, that was all that I could read.

Let's just say that I was not amused.

But it makes a great story now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I was listening to someone speak about the Faith the other day, and they used a quote that I had never heard before. Or at least, I don't recall ever having run across it. The reason that I noted it at the time, and am fairly sure that I've never seen it before, is because it has one of my favorite words: quixotic. (Of course, another one of my favorite words is category, but only because it sounds like a roadkilled feline, which is odd, since I love cats.)

Quixotic, in case you don't know, comes from the adjectival form of the name Quixote, as in Don Quixote, the character made famous by Miguel de Cervantes. The words itself is defined as "resembling or befitting Don Quixote; extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary, impractical, or impracticable; impulsive and often rashly unpredictable". Thank you

Its pronunciation has always puzzled me, as it is listed as being pronounced "kwik-sot-ik". But if it is a direct linguistic descendant of the knight errant, with emphasis on the err, then shouldn't it be pronounced like his name? If you went to any university and asked to take a course in Spanish literature beginning with "don kwik-so-tee", I'm sure you would never be allowed back in. We all know that it is pronounced "kee-hoh-tee", or sometimes "kay-hoh-tee". Given that, wouldn't that make this word be pronounced "kay-hoh-tik"? Or chaotic, meaning "completely confused or disordered"?

Rashly unpredicatable? Completely confused? Sounds similar to me.

How could I not love this word, given the quixotic, or chaotic, way in which we have decided to pronounce it?

But back to the quote.

One of the members of the Continental Board of Counsellors for the Americas quoted the Universal House of Justice regarding the protests of various afflictions, or evils, or general yuckies facing humanity. They said, "To enter into the quixotic tournament of demolishing one by one the evils in the world is, to a Bahá'í a vain waste of time and effort."

"...a vain waste of time and effort"? Futile? A wasted effort?


Just in case we missed it the first time, they repeat this sentiment again in the letter addressed to the friends gathered for the opening of the Terraces: "Humanity's crying need will not be met by a struggle among competing ambitions or by protest against one or another of the countless wrongs afflicting a desperate age."

Given the proliferation of protestation in the world, this is a very interesting perspective, and one that I think we need to pay more attention to. (I can't believe I just wrote that.)

Why would they say that protests are not useful or effective?

You know, I've dedicated a lot of my time to talking about this, so it really is a rhetorical question.

Quite simply, 'Abdu'l-Baha says, "poverty is the lack of wealth. Where there is no knowledge, there is no ignorance. What is ignorance? It is the absence of knowledge."

Given that basic concept, the idea that negatives are merely an absence of a positive quality, it makes some sort of sense that fighting a negative would produce nothing. After all, you can't really fight poverty; you have to produce wealth. If you go outside on a cold winter's day (at least in Winnipeg), you can't fight the cold; you have to warm up. And we all know that you can't fight ignorance; you have to educate people.

I think, in the long run, we have to identify the positive values we are trying to build, and just go about it. Fighting the negatives just doesn't produce anything.

Really, we're not about fighting anything, as Baha'is. We are about building. We are helping build a new civilization.

I often think about that analogy in which we are told that the old civilization is like a burning building, and we are trying to help people move to a new building that is much safer. That's what we're doing: constructing this new building. The old one will burn down on its own, without our help.

Our job, and we really should not forget it, is to build something new, this new civilization.

Look around you. Read the news, or watch your television. You can see it. There really is chaos everywhere.

Or quixos, depending on your pronunciation.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Piece of the Pi

I was doing a bit of early morning reading today (a fun work of fiction called "Cobweb", if you really must know), when I ran across the phrase, "the elegant perfection that mathematicians achieved in calculating the digits of pi". And it got me thinking.

Pi, I thought to myself, is an irrational number. It can never truly be calculated. It is infinite and non-repeating. That is the definition of an irrational number, which is just a bit different from an irrational neighbour, but still shares some similarities.

Rather than trying to capture the fullness and complexity of the number, we just refer to it simply as "pi". By reducing it to two letters, we feel that we have captured some of the elegence of it, and believe that we understand it. This is not the case. We know its effects, the ratio it maintains between a circle and its diameter, but we do not truly know it in its fullness. We can't. If those ancient Greeks who first noticed this ratio tried to write it down in its entirety, they'd still be writing. And they'd have a long way to go. It is infinite. Unending.

Douglas Adams once wrote that a significantly large room conveys infinity better than infinity itself, and you know, I think he was right. A few dozen digits of pi conveys its infinitude better than pages and pages of numbers that make no sense to most of us.

As this miniscule thought was going through my mind, another popped in, and I'm sure that some of you out there will correct me, but this is what I thought. I thought about Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.

"Godel's what?" I hear you. I had the same thought when I first heard about it way back in the days of university.

Kurt Godel was a mathematician who proved that all sets have inherent limitations imposed upon them by the nature of being sets. Or, as I summed it up in university, he proved that all infinite systems are either incomplete or inconsistent (they could also be both, but then they're really useless). For example, the set of positive numbers is incomplete, because it doesn't include those numbers that are the result of taking away a larger number from a smaller one, otherwise known as a negative number. If it wasn't incomplete, there would have to be something within it that would make it inconsistent, and then it wouldn't be much good as a system. If you really want to know more about it, just read the Wikipedia article. I'm not going to go into it more here.

Let me just say that I think this goes a long way to explaining some realities about religion. You see, quite often, we try to explain God, which is, fundamentally, an unknowable. In fact, He is THE Unknowable.

When I think about language, it is, in a sense, an infinite system. Some would say that it is not infinite, given that there are only so many words, but given the many combinations of words and sentences, I think it is infinite.

Aside - Some have postulated (boy, I must be thinking in math terms today) that an infinite number of monkeys typing at an infinite number of computers would eventually produce the works of Shakespeare. I lovingly disagree, and cite the internet as an example. Aside ended.

Where was I? Oh yes, language. I think we can fairly easily look at language as a math-type system, randomly assigning each word a number value. In fact, that seems to be what some Semitic languages have done, but I'm no expert there. If that is the case, then the singular word "God", or "Allah", would suffice to make the system incomplete, and therefore not necessarily inconsistent, by Godel's proof.

But this is often misleading, as we use a simple three-letter word, in English at least, to denote what is, in the end, the most complex concept we can try to imagine: God.

Some people would try to reduce this concept to something approachable, or attainable, but really, that just destroys the concept altogether. Any God that we can conceive of is, by definition not God.

In countless passages Baha'u'llah, Himself, testifies to His own ignorance concerning the true nature of God. One of my favorite passages, one that actually got me to take a second look at His claim when I was investigating, is found in Prayers and Meditations, number 75 (or LXXV, as they have it in Roman numerals for some reason).

"I know not how to sing Thy praise, how to describe Thy glory, how to call upon Thy Name. If I call upon Thee by Thy Name, the All-Possessing, I am compelled to recognize that He Who holdeth in His hand the immediate destinies of all created things is but a vassal dependent upon Thee, and is the creation of but a word proceeding from Thy mouth. And if I proclaim Thee by the name of Him Who is the All-Compelling, I readily discover that He is but a suppliant fallen upon the dust, awe-stricken by Thy dreadful might, Thy sovereignty and power. And if I attempt to describe Thee by glorifying the oneness of Thy Being, I soon realize that such a conception is but a notion which mine own fancy hath woven, and that Thou hast ever been immeasurably exalted above the vain imaginations which the hearts of men have devised."
He goes on to say , "Whoso claimeth to have known Thee hath, by virtue of such a claim, testified to his own ignorance..."

I truly love the reality of that statement, and the utter humility in His admission of it. But what else could He say? What else could He have done? And this from a culture in which many ask their teachers, if they admit to not knowing something, "Why should I study under you?"

No. I do not believe that Baha'u'llah could have ever claimed to have known God, for that would be obviously untrue. But He does know things about God which we do not, and He is also a clear channel for His guidance. That is why I believe He is a Messenger of God and follow Him. This example of His saying, effectively, "I don't know", also rings true with me. Perhaps that is why I feel so comfortable in admitting my ignorance (hmm, I sure have plenty to admit).

At the same time, He could not reduce the concept of God to a mere simplistic platitude.

Here I am reminded of those legislators in one particular state who decided to try and make pi equal to 3.2, or something very close to that, depending on the news report at the time. (It was Indiana in the late 19th century, but I don't want to mention it by name.) Today we laugh at the absurdity of it, but it was real. They really thought that they could do this in some silly attempt to either make math easier for the students, or to conform with some odd notion of what they thought the Bible said. Who knows why they tried, but try they did.

You see, in the end, I think it comes down to a simple concept: you cannot reduce the infinte and still be faithful to it.

Mathematics is a pure examination of reality, and we cannot mess around with it. One plus one will always equal two (please don't talk about mixing chemicals and having one litre plus one litre making only 1.8 liters in some reactions), and in geometry, the circumference of the circle is always 2 pi r.

But then again, I had a teacher who once told me, "Pi r squared". My response was, "No. Cake are square. Pi are round."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Other

I was listening to the radio earlier today, and there was an interview with a man who talked about "the other" and "anger". He made some very interesting points, which I wanted to comment on here.

To begin, he spoke about the idea of natural selection and how some traits are bred into us through their usefulness. Pretty obvious, if you think about it. We all agree that there are physical traits that carry through because they are conducive to our survival. Opposable thumbs are just a single example. (Then again, being all-thumbs is not.)

Many would also agree, when faced with the idea, that there are cognitive or emotional traits that may carry through, because they, too, helped us survive. I often think about the idea of a good business sense being passed on from parent to child, and how this can help us survive in the world today. I'm not saying whether or not this is a good thing, but just that I can see it happening.

This interviewee went on to point out that part of carrying on the healthy traits, or those that help us survive, are done so by us finding someone with them attractive. Ok, I guess I can buy that. (I'm just glad that my wife found a sense of humour to be one of those.)

One of these traits, he postulated, was the fear of those who are different. He put forth the idea that this was a natural trait that allowed the development of individual cultures, for people were more likely to marry into the same culture and therefore carry it on.

Again, he was not saying, nor am I endorsing, that this accurate, acceptable or preferable, but just that this might make some sort of sense.

The problem he pointed out, and which I completely agree with, is when this preference leads to anger or hatred of one who appears different. There are so many cases throughout history of people disliking, hating or even killing those who are different. They generally begin by making fun of them, labeling them, and move on to more forms of abuse and eventually rising up against them. Not a good scenario.

To be fair, though, at some distant point in the past, it may have appeared to be a good thing, with, as I just mentioned, propagating the culture. But now, when we look at the big picture, it is leading to the destruction of the individual and of the culture. The devastating results of prolonged inbreeding within a community are all too obvious, and not at all desirable.

The benefits of a wide gene-pool are, also, all too obvious for those who look. A striking example was a Time Magazine cover back in the early 90s, still one of my favorite faces to look at.

This was generated by a computer program that composited people of different racial backgrounds based on the population percentages of the US at the time.

To me, this was a striking example of the reality that Baha'u'llah spoke of when He talked of the oneness of humanity, and how diversity lends itself to strength.

It is also a striking example of how some of the traits that may have had some usefulness in the distant, or even recent, past are no longer useful for moving us into the future. If we are serious about developing a new civilization based upon spiritual teachings, then it means that we may need to question some basic assumptions we have been given by our society. This is only one of them.

I remember when I was a teenager, and just beginning to get involved with "women of the opposite sex", as one friend put it, there was a woman I was seriously thinking of marrying. My Mother, and how I love her, pulled me aside one evening and said, "You know, I really hoped you would marry someone Jewish." Now she may deny this, but I will maintain that she said it to my dying day. Her look of disappointment was just classic.

Not one to be daunted, I replied, "Mom, I would hope that you would want me to marry someone I love."

Her look went from one of disappointment to one of pride. I had, evidently, just passed some sort of test. She said something wonderful to me at that moment, but I don't recall what it was (or choose not to share it, I'll let you guess).

So even though there may be something "genetic" within us that makes us uneasy in the presence of those who appear different, we also need to remember that every single person on the planet is different from us. If we casually push away those who do things in another way than we do, then how much are we truly acting upon those divine attributes that are latent inside us?

We are living in a time where we can no longer fall back on "tradition" as a valid reason for doing something. We must re-examine every assumption and only continue those that are either conducive to a healthier civilization, or at least not impeding its development.

Aside - I remember being in one community where someone argued with a seeker during a fireside and told him that his beliefs were wrong. This poor man left in a state of anger, and his wife left crying. It was not a good scene. When I asked if this was the desired result, the Baha'i indignantly said that this was just the way things were done in her community. That was a bit too much for me and I replied with, "Drinking too much rum and beating your wife is also part of this community, so why aren't you doing that?"

On a nicer note, wearing green on St Patrick's Day is harmless, so why not continue it, if someone wants?

This radio interview this morning really made me stop and think about what I take for granted, and how I react to "the other". While I may not have necessarily agreed with his assumptions, or some of his conclusions, I am very grateful that he got me to stop and think.


Have you ever thought about death?

No, I mean really thought about it.

Have you contemplated the violent impact of a car crash and imagined your soul ripped apart from your body, or lying ill in a hospital bed as you felt the gentle numbing of your limbs as you slipped slowly away? Have you wondered what it would be like as the light faded to darkness and you knew your sight would never return to this world? Or imagined hearing the sound of the last beat of your heart?

Even if you have, take a moment. Close your eyes. Tune out the world.

OK, you can come back now. (I guess you have to open your eyes first.)

Why do I write about contemplating death? I was lying in the dentist's chair this morning (a good place to contemplate these sorts of ideas), talking with the dentist about death. Yes, I always talk about spiritual matters with people when I can. She asked me about my blog, and I had mentioned that it is both spiritual and humourous (at least, that's what you tell me). She wondered how I could talk about death is a humourous manner.

My first thought was to mention that it is said that the contemplation of death leads one to be more spiritual. (I thought it was 'Abdu'l-Baha who said this, but I can't find a quote to that effect. Whatever. It still seems to be true.) Over the last few days, I have asked a number of friends if they ever thought about their own death, and it was fairly consistent: those that I would call spiritual had, and those that I would not call spiritual had not.

Before I could say anything, though, she said that she didn't think I could do it.

"I don't know," I said, "I guess I can just find humour in anything. Can you imagine someone getting killed by being sat upon by an elephant?" And she laughed.

Of course, this is not to say that those left behind don't feel sadness or sorrow, but just that there can be humour in anything if you look hard enough.

We spoke, the dentist and I, for a little while about cultural boundaries and how this impacts how we can talk about spiritual ideas. And we spoke about death, namely our own.

Naturally, the following quote was mentioned: "I have made death a messenger of joy to thee."
"Joy?" She wondered how death coud be a bringer of a message of joy.
"I'm not sure," I honestly replied. "Let's think about it and figure it out." At least that's what I wanted to say, but I'm sure it came out as "Rye rot roar. Resh shrink rahrouw rih ahh siggeh ih owh." Fortunately, she was fluent in Dentist-ese.
And so we did look at it, while she continued to place all sorts of weird implements in my mouth.
We realized that the joy comes in two directions, both the leaving behind and the going towards. For the leaving behind, there must be a sense of joy at leaving behind you all the pain and misery that we can experience in our life, especially if our body is slowly failing. For the going towards, there must be another sense of joy, in terms of the excitement of a new adventure, and a moving closer to our Creator.
When asked about how we should approach death, the Master replied, "How does one look forward to the goal of any journey? With hope and with expectation. It is even so with the end of this earthly journey."
And that got me thinking about another journey: my impending move west. I will be leaving behind my home of 16 years and heading off into the relatively unknown, for I have never lived on the West Coast before. And even though I can still keep in touch with my dear friends through the wonders of technology, I am still leaving them behind. I know that when we drive past the Perimeter for the last time, I will pull over and shed a few tears by the side of the road. There is pain at the leaving.
But there is also joy: the joy of a journey, the joy of a new chapter in my life. There is the ever-present joy of moving forward.
Today, when going through all the accumulated material of the past couple of decades, I am finding myself tossing more and more aside, really questioning how much I want to keep. It is, after all, just dust. The memories are the important thing.
And this, again, is what makes me think about death.
What in my life is important? What do I really need to do? How do I want to spend my precious time here on this earth?
I am fortunate in that I know how much time I have left in Winnipeg, and can choose my activities accordingly. But we never know how much time we have on this planet.
My wife has just finished reading a book that was given to her by her mother about near-death experiences. In it, she found so much relating to the Faith. And one thing that really stood out was the number of people who said that they looked over their life and judged it by how much time was spent carrying forward civilization.
What do I own, in this house, that will help me in carrying forward civilization? What will be useful as I try my best to help better society? What, in my life, will be conducive to contributing to the construction of a better world and a healthy civilization?
For if something does not help me in those areas, why do I have it?
And this is what contemplating death helps me do.
Now just pretend that I've added a funny line here at the end, and go about your day with the smile that this joke would have provided. Thanks. Oh, and rinse and spit, please.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Service, or Ridvan 2010 Message - Take 6

"Passivity is bred by the forces of society today. A desire to be entertained is nurtured from childhood, with increasing efficiency, cultivating generations willing to be led by whoever proves skillful at appealing to superficial emotions."

This quote, from paragraph 10 (see, I try to make it easier for you to find it), really hit me when I read it.

Although I keep trying to move further into this message, I always seem to end up getting stuck wanting to write more and more on these earlier passages, and this time, it was this passage that caught me.


Well, I'm not really sure. I mean, I know that it is a marvelous summary of a truth about society, but actually it is probably because I am writing this on a computer, instead of on paper.

"Wait a minute," I hear you cry, "what does that have to do with anything?"


My browser is opened to a couple of different tabs right now, as I type. One is this blog (obviously) and the other is a game site. But then, when I began thinking about this quote, I just flipped over to the other site and closed it out. Why? Because I realized that it was distracting me.

You see, I don't think there is anything wrong with games, and in fact I believe that they have an important place in life, but not to the extent that they have taken over in a large segment of our society. Games, as you know, teach children so many things, as outlined in Ruhi Book 3, like how to follow rules (which helps them follow laws later in life), how to play with others (a generally good thing), and develop coordination both physical and mental. But they are only a side, not a main, part of living.

For me, this really impacts how I raise my son.

In paragraph 6, they speak about lethargy, and how it is imposed on us by society.Very interesting choice of words, that. Lethargy is not something that we naturally have, but rather it is imposed upon us.

This past weekend, I went out for a bite with some friends and we ended up at this cafe. The waiter asked why we were in town, and I said something about helping contribute to a better society (I'm sure you noticed that this is a quote from paragraph 4). Basically, he said this was impossible, especially in the realm of religion. Bang! There is lethargy. Imposed upon us. Trying to settle upon our shoulders like a heavy blanket, weighting us down needlessly. Here we were, talking about movement, and this guy says it's impossible, might as well give up.

I had wondered, since first reading this message, how lethargy was imposed, and there it was. A minor example, to be sure, but an example, nonetheless.

If we are told over and over, by those who appear wise, that our highest aspirations are meaningless, it only makes sense that many would turn to those who can appeal to the "superficial emotions".

So the question, naturally, is what can we do about it. (At this point I am so tempted to say "nothing" and end this article, but really, I just can't do that. I do have limits on my humour.)

If we are wondering what to do, we only have to read the next few lines of paragraph 10. We need to promote "a way of thinking, studying, and acting, in which all consider themselves as treading a common path of service - supporting one another and advancing together, respectful of the knowledge that each one possesses at any given moment and avoiding the tendency to divide the believers into categories such as deepened and uninformed..." This, they say, is where we will find the "dynamics of an irrepressible movement".

Ok, ok. That was a lot of quote, but what does it mean? What does it look like in my daily life? As you know, dear Reader, this is only my own opinion, and not an official representation of what the Universal House of Justice means. I'm sure I'll look back on this in a year or two and shake my head at my own blindness.

First of all, there is my son, 5 years old. I could tell him over and over that he is too young to various things, or not experienced enough, but what will that do? It will only discourage him. No, I try to help him as much as I can, and I let him do a lot of things on his own. Just yesterday we had to go to the eyeglasses place and get his glasses fixed. I was talking to the saleslady when the man at the other end of the store said that he was ready to fit them to Shoghi. So what did I do? I asked Shoghi to go over there, while I finished my conversation. So he did. The woman was surprised, but happy that I trusted my son enough to let him go on his own. I mean, come on, it was a safe store, and at the far end from the exit. Shoghi came back beaming, not only with his new glasses, but at being able to get them fitted by himself. (Oops, I just realized that Marielle doesn't know that he got new glasses yesterday. Well, I guess she just found out.)

When Shoghi said he wanted to write an article, I made sure that he thought about it first, and knew what he wanted to write. When he still persisted in bugging me, I finally asked him what he wanted to say. The result was a remarkable short piece that still brings tears to my eyes.

Another wonderful example of this is the encouragement that Anisa Kintz received when she wanted to start the Calling All Colors conference.

When we trust in each other, allow every person to try and realize their dreams, their highest aspirations, that is when we facilitate miracles to occur.

In my own neighbourhood, this comes out when I ask the neighbours to help with the children, or host a devotional. It occurs when I talk with them about what difference they would like to see in the world, and encourage them to try to do it.

Aside, which I haven't done for way too long now: A few years ago, I asked a very dear friend what she wanted to do with her life. She looked shyly down, blushed and said, "You'd only laugh." After persisting in asking, she finally admitted that she wanted to go to school to learn to be a pyrotechnics engineer. This from a woman who didn't have her grade 12. Rather than laughing, or making a joke, or anything else so callous, I asked her where she could get such a degree. Without even thinking about it, she named the college, so I asked her what she needed to go. One by one, we spoke about how every obstacle could be overcome, from my helping her with her math  in order to get her high school diploma, to cleaning up her language so that she would sound more like someone they would want to take ino their program. A few minutes into this conversation, she stopped and stared. "You really believe I can this."

That simple realization gave her the confidence she needed.

A few years later, she gave me a gift that I will treasure to my dying day: her diploma. (I'm sorry, I now have tears in my eyes as I recall her handing me this priceless gift which she worked so hard to attain.)

I guess this is what is meant by taking joy in the accimplishments of others. I never quite realized how powerful it is until just this moment.

And now, all of a sudden, with that experience overpowering me, I guess I begin to catch a glimpse of how this can help move entire neighbourhoods as we all strive to feel this joy in other's accomplishments.

Hmm. I thought I would say a lot more here this morning, but what else can I say after that?

"Let no one fail to appreciate the possibilities thus created."

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Well, there I was (or here I am, depending  on your point of view), sitting at the National Convention, listening (and contributing) to the consultation as we strive to "offer constructive suggestions" when someone offered the following contributatory analogy.

We were talking about the teaching work in neighbourhoods and the importance of friendships. Obviously, the discussion also revolved around the need for sincerity and not being overwhelmingly concerned about enrollments, amongst other issues.

But there we were, comfortable in our seats, when this delegate spoke up, humble and shy. He spoke from the position of experience, not theory, and shared some thoughts. His entire demeanour exemplified a humble posture of learning. He spoke of his time in a nieghbourhood, the difficulties and the victories, the tests and the joys.

Then he referred to the following quote: "The companions of God," Bahá'u'lláh Himself has declared, "are, in this day, the lump that must leaven the peoples of the world. They must show forth such trustworthiness, such truthfulness and perseverance, such deeds and character that all mankind may profit by their example."

He said that he wasn't a baker, and wasn't quite sure he really understood this reference, but that he thought that the lump was the lump of yeast or leaven that made the bread rise. Now, for the rest of this article, I will write as if it was from me, but know that it was all from him.

You can't transform the dough by occassionally touching it with the yeast, brushing it alongside of it. Similarly, we can't transform a community by popping in once a week and jumping out again. No. The yeast must be fully integrated, mixed in, spread so thoroughly throughout that it is indistinguishable form the dough itself. Only when that occurs can it begin to exert its influence and help the dough to rise.

We can either mix ourselves within a community, or we can just go and sit with the other lumps.

Well, for me, I think I'll go back to the convention and do my best to be a lump there. Maybe to other delegates can help me rise. Please know, dear Reader, that you are in my thoughts during the consultation, and your community, wherever you may reside, is in my heart. I have made many notes which I will share over the coming months.

And lots more thoughts about the Ridvan Message.