Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Tablet of Wisdom, part 2

The Lawh-i-Hikmat really is a fascinating piece. And I don't just say that because I'm a Baha'i. No, it's because of the content of it. The way it is organized and the various topics He addresses are unusual for a piece of religious and spiritual writing.

According to Adib Taherzadeh, Baha'u'llah says "in each verse of the Tablet of Hikmat an ocean is concealed". (This is evidently found in Athar-i-Qalam-A'la, volume 7, page 113, but as I can't find my copy in English, I'm taking his word on it.) (And my wife can't find her French copy either.)

So now that we have the introduction to this piece, and we have some vague idea of the overall purpose of this Tablet (namely that it is a "breath of life" for all of us "who dwell in the realm of creation"), let's take a look at the next paragraph, shall we? (Oh yeah. Disclaimer. This is nothing official. Only my own thoughts on it, so take it or leave it. But if you're interested, please share your thoughts, too.)
We exhort mankind in these days when the countenance of Justice is soiled with dust, when the flames of unbelief are burning high and the robe of wisdom rent asunder, when tranquillity and faithfulness have ebbed away and trials and tribulations have waxed severe, when covenants are broken and ties are severed, when no man knoweth how to discern light and darkness or to distinguish guidance from error.
This is pretty dismal, isn't it? And if we thought these 9 points were evident 100 years ago, we can easily see that they are only more evident today.

Oh, sorry. 9 points? Yes, well, let's take a look at them:
  1. the countenance of Justice is soiled with dust
  2. the flames of unbelief are burning high
  3. the robe of wisdom is rent asunder
  4. tranquillity and faithfulness have ebbed away
  5. trials and tribulations have waxed severe
  6. covenants are broken
  7. ties are severed
  8. nobody knows how to discern light and darkness
  9. nobody knows how to distinguish guidance from error
I think each of these are fairly easily discernible in our modern society. We only need to look around to see that justice is fairly difficult to come by if you are poor, or a minority, in many cultures.

Atheism is not only at an all-time high, but is considered fashionable, and even "intelligent". It has become standard to ridicule anyone of any faith, regardless of how sensible they may be. Religious fanaticism is so prevalent that it is difficult to fault this reaction, but it is still a sad prejudice that has overtaken many otherwise wonderful people.

And what passes for wisdom is not only ridiculous, but dangerously short-sighted. A singular example is the propensity to think that we can "manage" nature. With fish stocks collapsing all over the planet, we still don't generally recognize the need for no-fish zones. (Watch David Suzuki's One Ocean for a good summary of this, now available at most public libraries on DVD, or here on youtube.) We pump tons of fertilizers onto our farms, allowing the runoff to spill into the rivers, and into the oceans, causing dead zones in ever-increasing areas, while at the same time eliminating as much natural wetlands as possible in order to build more oceanfront property. These wetlands, by the way, are nature's filtration system, designed to absorb these same fertilizers to continue to grow these wetlands, and protect the ocean water from unchecked algae growth.

Number four, tranquility and faithfulness, is getting nearly impossible to find. We have managed to create so many time-saving devices that we can't begin to work hard enough to get them all. our communal stress levels are through the roof. And those areas in which we have traditionally shown faith, whether it be in our church-type setting, or to our family, or even to our employer, have all been eroded away. While there are still some noble and high-minded religious leaders, too many have violated the trust of their communities, often in ways that are shameful to mention. The time that parents spend with their children seems to be continually decreasing. And too many companies are far too interested in making a profit for their shareholders that they don't give their workers any chance of a stable future.

Trials and tribulations have, indeed, waxed severe. Whether this is due to increasing severity of weather due to global warming, or climate change, or the increased number of shootings in either the workplace or in public schools, there definitely seems to be a greater severity to the crises we are facing as a people. And while some may rightfully argue that there are less wars today on the planet than there were 20 years ago (true fact), hatred and violence are still on the rise. While there may be less nations at war with other nations, interpersonal violence is on the rise.

Covenants, those promises made between two parties, are increasingly being violated. Whether it is the covenant of marriage between two individuals, or something more complex, like an agreement between a bank and its depositors, the spirit of the contract is seen more and more as something ephemeral. This has gotten to such a bizarre stage that it is even common to have yet another agreement about how to divide the property in case of divorce even before the two individuals get married.

More and more often people are dissociating themselves from their traditional groups. There seems to be a greater sense of isolation amongst people. And even among those who do seem to be stable in their relationships with others, there are more and more stories of those who just get up and leave either out of a sense of dissatisfaction, or for the lure of money. The various ties that used to bind people together in some sort of social cohesion seem to be getting weaker and weaker.

As for discerning light and darkness, the most obvious examples are those religious groups that purport to follow such luminaries as Jesus or Muhammad, and yet preach hatred. The followers seem to think that the darkness of hatred and anger are somehow the light of God and love.

In regards to distinguishing guidance from error, we only need to watch the news, listen to the various political speeches and debates, or read the newspapers, whether on-line or hard copy. What often passes for guidance is nothing more than palpable error.

Overall, the prospect for the future sure seems dim.

But this is just the beginning of the Tablet. Baha'u'llah has some thoughts on how to address these issues which we may wish to consider.

1 comment:

  1. As a psychotherapist I'm in the business of change. My professional (and personal) experience is that real change is only motivated by pain & fear. (I've never had anyone walk into my office and say "my life is fine, here's money, I need to change"). Comfort and pleasure simply breed complacency.

    I do believe that all the turmoil our planet is undergoing at the present bodes well for deep, positive change. I may not live to see it in my human life-time but I have faith that it will happen.