Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Maps and Reality

A map cannot tell you where to go if you don't know where you are.

That was the realization I had the other day when driving around looking for something.

It seems to me that the same is true within the Baha'i community. The Universal House of Justice has given us so much guidance on where we are heading as both a community and as a planet, but unless we understand where we are, within our own community and within the world, we won't necessarily know how to get there.

In recent messages, the guidance from the World Centre seems to be more and more focused on helping us understand how to "read our own reality". But what does that mean?

Well, as I'm sure you know by now, whatever I say here is only my own personal opinion and nothing official. It's merely my own thoughts on these ideas based on the Writings and on my own personal experience. (Ok. Sometimes it's based on what I hear of other people's experience, but I experienced them talking about it, right?)

So, what does it mean to read our own reality?

I think it means having a clearer understanding of what is going on around you, why it is happening, and how it came about. It is almost like being a reporter. You ask who, what, where, when and why. The who is you. The what is whatever is happening. The where is where you happen to be. The when is now. And the why? Well, that can be a bit more difficult.

Time for an example.

I live just outside Victoria, BC, on beautiful Vancouver Island, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. It is quite the remarkable place, what with the weather and all. And yet something seems a bit different than when I was living on the prairies. Oh, not just weather-wise, but in terms of people. I mean, sure, in Winnipeg the weather was always + or - 40 Celsius, and here the range is 2 - 22 Celsius, but there is something very different about the community itself.

I've given lots of thought to this, and have talked to many people about it, and I have a few ideas, be they right or wrong. For now I'm going on the assumption that they are right, and will examine them again at a later date.

First of all, Winnipeg was generally settled by people who were into agriculture. Now I'm not just talking about the Aboriginal peoples, but really moreso about the later settlers. They often came because they were part of a community that was being persecuted and were looking for a new home. The traces of that mentality are still there. They worked together in order to survive. And not just for that historic reason, but for a very simple geological reason, too. You see, when I would walk outside my front door in the city, I could see my neighbours. I could see my neighbour's neighbours. I could literally see for miles down the street. I saw everyone, and I felt like I knew everyone. And people helped each other just as a matter of course. If I saw a car stopped on the side of the road in the wintertime, I had to see if they needed help, because if I didn't they would likely die. There is a sense of community on the prairies that is so deep and so natural that we never really think about it. It is as much a part of life and breathing.

Here, in BC, when I look out my window I see half a block. After that there are either trees or a hill. If I see someone pulled by the side of the road, I don't really need to stop, for the weather isn't all that severe. In the winter, they won't die, they'll get wet. And this area was settled by people who wanted to get away from it all. They were trying to get away from the sprawl of Vancouver or Seattle, or they came to do some mining on their own to see if they could strike it rich.

Even when I look at the Aboriginal population that was here, and compare it to the prairies, there is a world of difference. On the prairies the various nations have huge territories. They are truly ginormous. (Giant and enormous weren't big enough so I had to combine them.) But here, there is something like 6 distinct nations in a very small area.

It seems to me that the land itself moves people towards a sense of individuality in this area.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it does mean that I need to adapt how I teach the Faith. I don't begin by talking about community. That's not really a topic on most people's radar. They want things that are more conducive towards individual growth, such as meditation, or yoga, or health food. And you know what? Ruhi Book 1 is all about the individual. It isn't until we get to Book 2 that we really begin to shift our focus towards something external. And that's ok. I've learned to trust that process. And I've learned to look at what people are interested in around this area and work with that. It's sort of like that question I love to ask around Ruhi Book 6: What topic will you begin with? You need to know your audience to understand what topic is of the most interest to them.

Just this past weekend I was talking to someone about teaching and she was wondering how she could teach her daughter the Faith. I asked her what her daughter was interested in. She thought about it for a moment and said, "I don't know."

My advice? "Talk to her. Ask her what interests her and just listen. She will tell what concerns her and then you can help her find the answers in the Writings."

You see, this whole thing about maps and knowing our reality is no different from "the divine Physician" and His prescribing the remedy we need. Before a doctor can prescribe a remedy, they have to know what the illness is. And how do they find out? They take our pulse, read our blood pressure, talk to us, get to know our symptoms, and so on. They read our reality. And as they are aware of what a healthy should look like, they can help us find the path that will lead there.

So. Maps. Reality.

How do I try to discover the reality in my neighbourhood? I just talk to people. I ask them heartfelt questions, and listen carefully to their answers. After all, the Universal House of Justice has given us a vision of what a healthy community looks like and the path to achieve it, so we need to discover where we currently are on that path. If the House of Justice tell us to do a particular thing at a particular time, then it would be fairly silly for us to do it if we're not there yet. It would be like taking a left turn three streets before you should. I mean, you can, and you might get where you need to go, or you may have just ended up taking a much longer route.

I know what my interests are, but when I'm talking to others, I need to talk about their interests. If I don't, well, they won't be interested, will they? I mean, I might get lucky, but why not find out first?

How about you? What is the reality in your neighbourhood? What are the most pressing issues people have where you live? And if you don't really know, how will you go about finding out?