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“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”—Tom Paine(1737-1809), an author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States
A BURGEONING LITERATURE
I make no attempt to keep up with the burgeoning resources now available on the Babi(1844-1863) and Baha'i Faiths(1863- 2863-circa). If I include subjects related to this religion, a religion which claims to be the latest, the most recent, of the Abrahamic religions, related subjects in what has become in recent decades an interdisciplinary field of study, no scholar--to say nothing about the humble and ordinary individual--can claim to be the possessor of what used to be referred to as the qualification of comprehensive knowledge.
Arnold Toynbee(1889-1975) was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History, 1934–1961, written between 1921 and 1961, was a synthesis of world history. This metahistory was based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline. I mention Toynbee here because in this massive oeuvre, which examined history from a global perspective, Toynbee points out that to have read everything in any one major field of study became impossible by the beginning of the 20th century. This was even more true of each and every field of known knowledge on any subject within a field by the 21st century. If a person only wanted to know some simple fact, then Google could provide that fact with a few clicks of one's mouse.
Toynbee gives the example of Lord Acton(1834-1902), the English Catholic historian, politician and writer. Acton, writes Toynbee, was one of the last men who tried to read all there was on a subject before he started writing about it. In the end, he never began to write the book he intended to write. He got so caught-up in the endless reading on the subject that the book he had wanted to write never got written. Of course, there are many topics or subjects within a general field in which it is quite easy to read all the available literature. In some ways, this hardly needs saying, since it is so obvious. I leave each reader to wade in the waters of knowledge as suits their interests and taste, their time and circumstances, their preferences for print or for images, their proclivities for learning via the spoken and visual fields, on the basis of good old-fashioned reading, or on some personal mixture of both, as is the case with most people in the developed world.
In these years of the new Baha'i paradigm, the new culture of learning and growth: 1996 to 2016---there has been a burgeoning of resources with the internet providing a library of virtually infinite proportions to those with (i) access to the internet, and (ii) an interest in utilizing its increasingly vast online libraries. For more on Toynbee go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_J._Toynbee
THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE BAHA'I FAITH
The organisational aspects of any global religion must still be grounded in the spirituality of the individual. Here is a Baha'i view: "The Bahá'í Faith, like all other Divine religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man that has first to be fed; prayer can best provide this feeding, spiritual nourishment. Laws and institutions, as viewed by Bahá'u'lláh, can become really effective only when our inner spiritual life has been perfected and transformed. Otherwise religion will degenerate into a mere organization, and become a dead thing."
Ultimately, it is my opinion for what it is worth, that believers in one supreme transcendent Deity should also accept that there is only one true religion of that Deity, not in any exclusivist or fanatical manner by identification with one particular brand name and only that brand name for all time, but in a progressive, inclusive manner, unfolding over time past and future, consistently with the age, place, culture and capacity of the recipients. We need to accept the validity of all the great religions as originally revealed. Exclusivism, bigotry, sectarianism and religious prejudice and fanaticism are at the root of so much of the trouble caused or contributed to by so-called religions. They do not in my view represent the religion of the one Deity.
"God is nearer to man than his jugular vein." -The Holy Qur'an 50:16); and "This most great, this fathomless and surging Ocean is near, astonishingly near, unto you. Behold it is closer to you than your life-vein!"--Baha'u'llah
A SINGLE SOCIAL ORDER
Planetary unification and global social order: "The Bahá'í International Community regards the current world confusion and the calamitous condition of human affairs as a natural phase in an organic process leading ultimately and irresistibly to the unification of the human race in a single social order whose boundaries are those of the planet."--Baha'i International Community
Much of the problem with organised religion seems to stem from the tendency in time to divorce the pure administration of the religion from its fine ideals when first founded, to be replaced by the quest for power, the inflation of the ego & for material benefits for those in control. Shoghi Effendi has repeatedly and emphatically stated that the religion of our age, and the future, cannot be confined to a mere system of organization, however elaborate in its features and universal in its scope it may be. Organization is only a means to the realization of its aims and ideals, and not an end in itself. To divorce the two, however, would be to mutilate the religion, the great Cause itself, as they stand inseparably bound to each other, in very much the same relationship existing between the soul and body in the world of human existence."--Baha’i Writings
THE BAHA'I CALENDAR
The Bahá'í calendar, also called the Badí‘ calendar (badí‘ means wondrous or unique) used by Bábism and the Bahá'í Faith, is a solar calendar with regular years of 365 days, and leap years of 366 days. Years are composed of 19 months of 19 days each, totalling 361 days, plus an extra period of "Intercalary Days" (4 in regular and 5 in leap years). Years in the calendar begin at the vernal equinox, and are counted with the date notation of BE (Bahá'í Era), with 21 March 1844 CE being the first day of the first year. The period from 21 March 2013 to 20 March 2014 is the year 170 BE. At present, the Bahá'í calendar is synchronized to the Gregorian calendar, meaning that the extra day of a leap year occurs simultaneously in both calendars. Note: The Badi calendar was implemented during the Bábí faith and then adapted in the Bahá'í Faith. For more on this calendar go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bah%C3%A1'%C3%AD_calendar
BAHA'IS AND CHRISTMAS
Do Baha’is celebrate Christmas? This question is a bit of a tricky one to answer because Christmas means different things to different people. Based on the understanding of Christmas as a commemoration of the birth of Christ, the day is clearly of significance to Baha’is, who believe that Christ was a Manifestation of God. Baha’is do not, however, celebrate Christmas within their communities as one of the Baha’i Holy Days. For more go to:http://bahaiblog.net/site/2011/12/25/what-christmas-means-to-bahais-2/
A RECENT ITEM ON THIS NEW WORLD FAITH
The following is the latest item of personal interest to me on the Babi-Baha'i Faiths. This website, my website, is an expression of my interests and attitudes, aptitudes and qualifications; if others share them, they will find this site of use. If they do not share my relatively wide-ranging interests, they may find some corners of this website of interest to them. I post this latest item here for the possible interest of some readers. This item below concerns Robert Atkinson, a professor of human development and director of the Life Story Center at the University of Southern Maine. He is the author of seven books, as well as the forthcoming Humanity’s Evolving Story: Seven Principles Guiding Us Toward a Consciousness of Oneness. Go to: http://www.noetic.org/noetic/issue-nine-april/toward-oneness/ for an article by Professor Atkinson on this subject.
"We stand at a critical juncture in our collective evolution," writes Atkinson. He continues: "As our twenty-first century society undergoes rapid change, people seek more solid ground in ethical and moral values to serve as guideposts for navigating these uncertain times. We want answers to the deep questions, which continue to perplex us. questions such as: Is there an underlying purpose that drives evolution, or do change and transformation happen randomly? And if there is a purpose, what is evolution moving us toward?"
I mention Atkinson and his work here because of this website's general orientation to autobiography and biography, memoirs and life-narratives. My own life-narrative and the interdisciplnary field centred around these subjects is found all over my website. Mention is made of Atkinson's book in the latest volume of Bahá'í World(2) which features articles on global terrorism and the UN Millennium events. "Also included in Baha'i World are essays that give Bahá'í perspectives on contemporary topics and trends. An essay by Robert Atkinson entitled "Culture and the Evolution of Consciousness" discusses the relationship between the development of culture and humanity's growing awareness of its essential oneness. Go to the following link for more details: http://news.bahai.org/story/152
Symbols of Transformation is an essay also mentioned in the new list of books available at the USA Baha'i Distribution Service See also: Remembering 1969 by Robert Atkinson, Baha'i Publishing. Remembering 1969 is the story of one man's search for personal spiritual growth during the transitional times of the 1960s. Robert Atkinson offers a beautifully written portrait of a defining, transformative year in his young adult life and, in the process, tells the story of a generation in transition. Also mentioned as co-authors are: Anne Gordon Perry, Robert Atkinson, Rosanne Adams-Junkins, Richard Grover, Diane Iverson, Robert H. Stockman, Burton W.F. Trafton Jr. Some of these names are well-known in the Baha'i community. One or two are well-known outside the Baha'i community, but they all are relevant to my personal interest in biography and autobiography, creativity and the arts.
As I indicated at the beginning of this sub-section on the Babi-Baha'i Faiths, a sub-section of the general category of religion at my website, I make no attempt to provide a comprehensive discussion of the vast literature now available on this new world Faith that is the second-most widespread religion on Earth. I leave this task to readers to use their search engine techniques to locate topics of interest to them.
(1) Abdul-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, Baha'i Pub. Trust,, Wilmette, 1975(1957), p.36.
(2) Baha'i World is a series of annual volumes that survey activities of the Baha'i community during the previous year.
THE BAHA'I PARADIGM
Readers can find a 6000 word commentary and context for the annual message from the democratically elected global governing body of the Baha'i Faith, the Universal House of Justice, at the Scribd site. This essay has an autobiographical flavour. Readers only need to google the words: RonPrice at Scribd to access this essay among other pieces of my writing all of which have varying degrees of memoiristic and autobiographical flavours. Also available is my 650 page analysis of the new Baha'i paradigm, the new culture of learning and growth in the Baha'i community in the two decades, 1996 to 2016, at this link:http://bahai-library.com/price_culture_learning_paradigm
THE BAHA'I FAITH AND SOCIAL ACTIVISM
I have personally been accused sometimes of standing aloof from current controversial issues of concern, particularly of local concern. My responses have not always been understood. I searched for some quote from the Writings of my Faith that might explain this much better and found the following: "Bahá'ís are often accused of holding aloof from the 'real problems' of their fellow-men. But when we hear this accusation let us not forget that those who make it are usually idealistic materialists to whom material good is the only 'real' good, whereas we know that the working of the material world is merely a reflection of spiritual conditions and until the spiritual conditions can be changed there can be no lasting change for the better in material affairs."
"We should also remember that most people have no clear concept of the sort of world they wish to build, nor how to go about building it. Even those who are concerned to improve conditions are therefore reduced to combatting every apparent evil that takes their attention. Willingness to fight against evils, whether in the form of conditions or embodied in evil men, has thus become for most people the touchstone by which they judge a person's moral worth. Bahá'ís, on the other hand, know the goal they are working towards and know what they must do, step by step, to attain it. Their whole energy is directed towards the building of the good, a good which has such a positive strength that in the face of it the multitude of evils -- which are in essence negative -- will fade away and be no more. 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. His whole life is directed towards proclaiming the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, reviving the spiritual life of his fellow-men, uniting them in a Divinely-created World Order, and then, as that Order grows in strength and influence, he will see the power of that Message transforming the whole of human society and progressively solving the problems and removing the injustice which have so long bedeviled the world." (Baha'i Writings)
Some might see this as escapism. I see it as a plan to improve the whole planet and to create one harmonious human society, one in which war, violence, bigotry and prejudice are no longer acceptable. If I can make even a very small contribution to this I will be grateful
BAHA'I TEMPLE IN CHILE
For a video on the new Baha'i temple in Chile go to:http://templo.bahai.cl/
THE NEW BAHA'I PARADIGM: THE NEW CULTURE OF LEARNING AND GROWTH
This book of 650 pages(font 16) and 230 thousand words contains reflections and understandings regarding this new Baha'i culture of learning and growth, what amounts to a paradigmatic shift, in the Baha’i community which it has been going through since the mid-1990s. This newest, this latest, of the Abrahamic religions, has been developing a new culture in the last two decades(1996-2016). This new culture or paradigm will be developing in the decades ahead at least until 2044, the end of the second century of the Baha'i Era(1844 to 2044), and perhaps beyond into that third century, 2044 to 2144, of the Baha'i Era. Time will tell when the next paradigmatic shift will take place in the international Baha'i community.
Comparisons and contrasts are made to several previous paradigm shifts in the Baha'i community. Thoughts on future developments within this paradigm and future paradigms are suggested. In the first six years, 2007 to 2013, of the presence of this book, this commentary, on the world-wide-web, this work has contributed to an extensive dialogue on the issues regarding the many related and inter-related processes involved in the many ongoing changes in the international Bahai community, a community which exists in more than 200 countries and territories on the planet. Some 20,000 hits have been recorded at the several internet sites where this book is found.
This work is dedicated to the Universal House of Justice, trustee of the global undertaking which the events of more than a century ago set in motion. The fully institutionalized charismatic Force, a Force that historically found its expression in the Person of Baha'u'llah, has effloresced by a process of succession, of appointment and election, at the apex of Bahai administration for more than half a century since 21 April 1963. For that commentary, I repeat, on the new Baha'i paradigm, the new culture of learning and growth go to: http://bahai-library.com/price_culture_learning_paradigm
AN ESSAY ON BAHA'U'LLAH
The following essay appeared on Baha'i Blog on 11/11/'13 and I post it here since I found its tone and style appealing. It is written by Sam Karvonen. Sam Karvonen is a globe-trotter, a truth-seeker and an aid worker turned into a security analyst. He says that he is "a ridiculously fortunate husband and a thoroughly entertained father." Baha'i Blog is a website with many useful resource materials for both Baha'is and those interested in this religion which claims to be the newest of the Abrahamic religions. The essay begins with a question which the author then proceeds to answer: "What possible connection could a Persian prisoner in a culturally stunted corner of the 19th century mideast have with the progressive spirit of our age?" Well everything, says Karvonen. The story of modernity, writes this popular Baha'i author, is the story of the spirit of a beaten mankind arising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of pride and prejudice to the glory of unity & brotherhood.
Biased though I may be, as a Baha’i I also embrace wholeheartedly the inspiration of every visionary that has called for a wider appreciation of humanity. Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi and Dr. King come readily to mind. Today Baha’is everywhere gather to commemorate the 196th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u'llah. It would be only befitting to pause and glance at the quiet revolution of human consciousness brought about by this serene child prodigy born on 12 November, 1817 to one Khadijih Khanum and Mirza Buzurg.
A few years back I threw myself into an amateur historical research project. Mainly for my own sport. My ambitious purport was to scan through all the known historical figures preceding Baha’u'llah. Leastways those that have mentioned the unity of mankind or the brotherhood of man, even if only passingly. At the outset I summarily dismissed all hypocritical imperialist declarations and manifests for world peace. Such as the Roman Pax Romana or the Nazi German “one People, one Nation, one Leader.” The “world-embracing” aim of these campaigns was tainted from the start by their square rejection of equal humanity. My little research project yielded fruit. Out of the welter of dead men and women emerged some dozen more or less renowned historical figures worthy of serious consideration.
One of the most awe-inspiring verses on world unity preceding Baha’u'llah is from his medieval compatriot — Persian poet Sa’adi (1184-1283). The poem depicts the world as a body whose members feel one another’s hurt. This famous poem is also displayed on the wall of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Of One Essence is the Human Race,
Thusly has Creation put the Base.
One Limb impacted is sufficient,
For all Others to feel the Mace.
The Unconcern’d with Others’ Plight,
Are but Brutes with Human Face.
British poets Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) and William Blake (1757-1827), both slightly older contemporaries of Baha’u'llah, envisioned in a few isolated verses a unified future world. Particularly Tennyson’s famous words in his poem “Locksley Hall” (written in 1835) ring near-prophetic in their panoramic vision. But the poem is in fact more dystopian than utopian. It depicts a war-weary soldier deciding to interrupt his march to enter a house known as the Locksley Hall. Inside the house he drifts down the memory lane back to his childhood, allowing youthful dreams of a “Parliament of Man” and a “Federation of the world” where “the war-drum throbb’d no longer” to soothe him in his sorrows.
Ancient Hindu scripture, namely the Maha Upanishad, tells about the magnanimous man for whom there are no “strangers” – for whom “the entire world constitutes but a family.” (Chapter 6, Verse 72) The prophet Isaiah (circa 800-700 BC) as well as Jesus of Nazareth (circa. 2 BC – 30 AD) prophesied a future “Kingdom of God” to be established on “earth”. The vision of Isaiah paints perhaps the most well-known vista of the great peace: “…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (KJV, Isaiah 2:4) Socrates (circa 469-399 BC) is told to have declared: “I am not Athenian nor Greek, but a citizen of the world.” The very term ”cosmopolitan” (ie. ”world citizen”) appears to trace back to this statement. Needless to say, the term ”world” had a somewhat different connotation in the Hellenic Age than today.
Prophet Muhammad (570-632) reveals in the Qur’an how mankind was in the beginning a “single nation” (002.213) and that the diversity of sexes, tribes and nations were created for the sole purpose of us coming “to know one another.” (049.013) William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), the American abolitionist, declared after the manner of similar statements by Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and Thomas Paine (1737-1809), that “our country is the world — our countrymen are all mankind.” German philosopher and freemason Karl Krause (1781-1832) speculated, in his essay “The Archetype of Man” (1811), about the possibility of a world republic consisting of continental federations.
These few statements constitute the main findings of my little foray into history. Similar declarations from other figures cannot be ruled out. But I daresay they haven’t left much of a dent on mankind’s collective memory. A common denominator of most of these sages was that their vision for universal brotherhood was either a distant and dream-like longing or a political theory. Only the statements of Isaiah and Jesus constituted a confident prophecy, yet ones of a distant future. Only Karl Krause set forth the “unity” of mankind as an explicit notion. But for him “oneness” meant a literal esoteric union of earth, man and God.
The Prisoner had no interest in dreaming and speculation. Baha’u'llah championed the cause of unity. Even this is a gross understatement. He appears to be the sole historical figure to have personally taken upon the task of uniting all mankind. Not instantly, but as his words and ideas slowly permeate the world. The “perversity” of mankind, according to his own prophecy, “will long continue”. The diffusion of his ideas would not happen overnight. Yet he declared that the time for unification is now if mankind is to avoid further, and more violent, conflict and bloodshed.
The great Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948), some half a century later, chose to restrict his own noble mission to the attainment of India’s independence and unification. He succeeded in the former while he admitted, with regret, to failing at the latter. Far from limiting himself to mere national emancipation or poetic device, Baha’u'llah’s explicitly called for the ”unification” of all mankind. He gave lucid descriptions on the nature of such a unity, the stages, both destructive and collaborative, whereby mankind will attain it, the institutions needed for its maintenance, and prophecies as to its final achievement. Never did Baha’u'llah cherish mankind’s unification as a hopeful dream or a utopian vision. Not even as his personal belief. He regarded it a certain and inevitable fact. Baha’u'llah stressed that mankind is one and interdependent whether or not it will admit it. The well-being and security of mankind hinge on mankind’s acute awareness of its own interdependence. "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."
Lastly, Baha’u'llah seems to be the only figure in known history to declare the unification of mankind as the Will of God Himself. His personal commandment to all the world’s peoples. A commandment the observance of which will produce well-being and security, both personal and planetary, and whose disobedience will unavoidably result in worsening worldwide havoc. He declared the unity of mankind to be, in our day and age, “the monarch of all aspirations.” That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.
Yet one fact renders Baha’u'llah’s universalism truly extraordinary. Almost all of his high-minded contemporaries — poets, philosophers, political visionaries — who had in one way or another longed for common weal, were Western aristocrats inspired by the American and French revolutions. All of them were well-schooled and well-respected fixtures in the social elite, pampered with luxuries and ease. What was Baha’u'llah? An inmate, an outcast, a victim of unrelenting oppression. He had never had the time nor luxury to immerse into books, much less to attend colleges. He grew up in a culturally sunken corner of the world fanatically opposed to every social reform and innovation. He paid for his peaceful calling with the plundering of his wealth, a life of imprisonment, and the torture and mass-murder of his admirers. Meanwhile the enlightened minds of his Western contemporaries soared from their leather armchairs, teak wood desks and calabash pipes within the comfort of stately manors.
And yet it was this far-off Exile in Ottoman Palestine who remains the sole figure in history to make unity his life mission and to set it for all men and women of our time as “the monarch of all aspirations.” Ironically, my confidence in the eventual establishment of world unity rests on the utter failure of torture, defamation and two score years of incarceration to quench the undying fire for worldwide fellowship burning within the breast of but one Man. One whose pen refused to halt despite trembling from the effects of poison until the end of his days. Whose dignity could not be robbed by 100-pound iron chains that had cut into his flesh and hunched him for life. One whose crime was to claim to have brought a new commandment of oneness from God.
Baha’is are simply those that have taken Baha’u'llah’s mission to their heart. They have adopted it as a collective programme entrusted by God no less. Yet one does not, and need not, become a Baha’i to feel welcome to participate in Baha’i activities aimed at creating service-oriented communities unified in their diversity. For the ultimate aim of Baha’u'llah was not to gain converts, but to transform the world.
COMPLEXITY AND CHANGE
My Revelation is indeed far more bewildering than that of Muhammad...if thou dost but pause to reflect upon the days of God. -The Bab, Selections, Haifa, 1976, p.139.
“There are decades when nothing happens. And then there are weeks when decades happen.” Lenin
THE BAHA'IS, IRAN, AND ISLAMIC INTOLERANCE
"From Moorish Cordova To The Bahá'ís Of Iran: Islamic Tolerance And Intolerance" is an article by Boris Handal, 8 September 2007. The article is located in the online electronic journal IDEA. The author describes the current persecution of the Bahá'í community of Iran and how it contrasts with Muhammad’s original teachings in the Qur’an, a teaching prescribing understanding and respect towards religious minorities. Cordova, once the capital of Moorish Spain, known as al-Andalus, is set as an example of tolerance where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed harmoniously under Islamic rule. The paper also describes the persecution of the members of the Iranian Bahá'í community within a theological and historical context. Go to this link to read that article:http://www.ideajournal.com/articles.php?id=45
Since Shoghi Effendi’s writing has strongly influenced my life, and since his rhetoric was not used merely to embellish his epistolary style, but also to fulfill a practical purpose, I will comment briefly on his writing. I am drawing here on the writings of an old friend, Jack McLean. I used to go to Baha'i firesides, or discussion groups, in Toronto Canada in the early 1960s. Jack went on to study at the Sorbonne and I went to live in Australia. Our paths have not crossed since those early 1960s. Jack notes that rhetoric is still used in teaching, law, politics and religion to instruct, to move and to convince as a form of “suasive speech.”
Shoghi Effendi exercised his rhetorical art for similar purposes. During his administration from 1922-1957, writing qua head and Guardian of the Bahá’í community, his main tasks were, not only to interpret the Bahá’í writings, and to instruct in matters of faith. Just as importantly, he aimed to exhort the Bahá’ís “to arise” to execute the sequential Plans he had devised for developing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Divine Plan. I was one of those Baha'is, and that Plan was put into action just before my parents met in the late 1930s, and just before my maternal grandmother passed away in Hamilton Ontario where I was born.
In fulfilling this function, Shoghi Effendi demonstrated considerable rhetorical skill, a talent that was developed, not only by his divine charisma, from a Baha'i perspective, but also by formal study and practice. The Guardian was clearly cognizant of certain classical elements of rhetoric, but owing to its Bahá’í-specific, that is, religious content, and the originality of his magisterial style, his discourse also exhibits certain atypical features. In this paper, which readers can read in full at the link below, McLean's analyses Shoghi Effendi’s rhetoric by explicating the following five points: (1) the historical background to the teaching and function of rhetoric, (2) the Guardian’s interest in and formal study of rhetoric, (3) the connection between Shoghi Effendi’s moral authority and his credibility as a rhetorician, (4) the rhetorical effect of the Guardian’s epistolary, and (5) a paradigm of seven rhetorical modes used in his The Art of Rhetoric. In substantiating these points, McLean correlates selected material from the history of rhetoric and rhetorical theory to the writings of the Guardian. While some of the material on rhetorical theory is capable of standing on its own, it has been selected and analysed because of its relevance to the topic. This paper situates Shoghi Effendi's rhetoric within a long rhetorical tradition, which his writings perpetuate. McLean's essay also offers an understanding of the underpinnings of the Guardian's rhetorical technique. For more on this subject go to:http://irfancolloquia.org/pdf/lights8_mclean.pdf
J. Hillis Miller(1928- ) is an American literary critic who has been heavily influenced by—and who has heavily influenced—deconstruction. Since deconstruction usually requires some explanation to the vast majority of readers whose familiarity with philosophy in general and literary criticism in particular is minimal to non-existent, the following link will be of use: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstruction
In his analysis of the writings of the Polish novelist who wrote in English, Joseph Conrad(1857-1924), Miller informs us that Conrad saw the habit of profound reflection as, ultimately, pernicious in its effects. This was because such deep reflection led to passivity and death, to the dark side of a somber pessimism, and to the view of his own personality as ridiculous. The result, thought Conrad, was an aimless masquerade of something hopelessly unknowable.(1) Profound reflection, indeed, a general anti-intellectualism is common in today's world for many reasons not the least of which is (a) the world's profound complexity, and (b) many people's preferences for activities rather than thinking about life's complexities. Gardening and galivanting, cooking and cleaning, watching TV and listening to music are all pleasures which are relatively free of life's profound issues, puzzling paradoxes and immense complexities. Several of my wife's doctors over the years have told her: "you think too much". Such is yet another expression of this anti-intellectualism, the culture of fun-and-partying, and what has become a now cultivated need to be entertained. Much of the affuent west is immersed in this culture. Me too!
The search for simplicity has been one of the many threads of modern man's search, at least since the days of a man whom some say was the first environmentalist in North America, Henry David Thoreau(1817-1862). This search, it could be argued, is nothing new and has been going on for centuries, perhaps even millennia. It has been one, as I say above, of the central threads of the great searches of human beings in the west since the Greeks and the Hebrews. Thoreau's journal, kept from 1839 to 1861, is useful to those who would like to study autobiography and memoirs, journals and diaries. Here are two of my favorite quotations from Thoreau: "All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hour's toil. The fight to the finish requires a certain kind of spirit. It is that kind of spirit that is the one characteristic we must possess if we are to face the future as finishers." Here is a second quote from Thoreau: "All men are children, and of one family. The same tale sends them all to bed, and wakes them in the morning."(2) I'm not so sure about that same tale, but I like the spirit of Thoreau's words.-Ron Price with thanks to: (1) J. Hillis Miller, Poets of Reality, Belknap Press, 1965, pp.33-34, and (2) Brainy Quotes, an internet site.
The desire, as I see it, Mr. Miller,
is to obtain His bounty and tender,
so tender, mercy; to be a recipient
of a leaven that will leaven
the world of my being,
furnish it with writing power
and to be given the honour
of His nearness. The dark side
of existence, indeed, my corrupt
inclination is due to my failure
to achieve this communion.
It is a hopelessly appauling
process, Mr. Miller, quite
beyond the profoundest reflection,
but with plenty of room for any
reflection I might want to entertain.
1 This poem draws on a prayer of the Bab in Baha’i Prayers, p.151.
20 June 2000 to 11 July 2011
For aerial view of the Baha'i terraced gardens and the Shrine of the Bab go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxesOz6rRlw&feature=player_detailpage
The small nuclear family of my mother, father and myself, came in contact with the Baha'i Faith during the Baha'i Holy Year October 1952 to October 1953. That year saw the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the rise of the Orb of Baha'u'llah's most sublime Revelation. It marked the consummation of the six thousand year cycle ushered in by Adam, glorified by all past prophets and sealed with the blood of the Author of the Babi Dispensation.
As each national Baha'i community reached the point of readiness to implement a Plan for this Faith's extension, expansion, and consolidation, such a Plan was formulated. The North American Baha'i community in 1953 was about to begin a world-embracing spiritual crusade, a crusade which marked the third and last phase of the initial epoch of the evolution of 'Abdul-Baha's Divine Plan. These plans were mainly designed to increase the size of the community and the number of local spiritual assemblies, as well as to consolidate them as institutions and as communities. Part of these national plans were goals to multiply the number of Bahá'í centres within each national community's boundaries -- and beyond.
One of the first communities to launch such a Plan was the British Baha'i community. That community began its first Plan, a Six Year Plan, in 1944 about two months before I was born. Other plans followed within two to three years. Each Plan had a certain duration and ended either in 1950, the hundredth anniversary of the Martyrdom of the Báb, or in 1953, the Holy Year described above. That Holy Year was the commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation in the Siyah-Chal, the Black Pit, of Tihran. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 283) For an interesting event that coincided with the beginning of that Baha'i Holy Year go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jun/07/how-computers-exploded/
DIVINE AUTHORITY AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
The coexistence of divine authority and individual freedom of expression is a very important characteristic feature of the Baha'i Faith. Some believers take the view that, hypothetically speaking, if the Guardian was sitting in the meeting of the Universal House of Justice it would have been impossible for the members of the House of Justice to say frankly what they thought. Ian Semple, who gave the talk from which these two paragraphs and the following link are quoting, had the privilege of a few hours in the presence of the Guardian. He does not agree with that hypothetical point of view. Semple said he believed that in Shoghi Effendi's presence one would not have dared to do anything but say exactly what one thought. He says he was confirmed in this view by the actions of the Hands of the Cause of God since the coming into being of the Universal House of Justice.
These were Hands who had worked closely with the beloved Guardian. These Hands, Semple emphasized, always demonstrated absolute loyalty and also absolute frankness in all their consultations with the Universal House of Justice. This combination was, Semple went on, a tremendous source of strength and inspiration to the Universal House of Justice. For a letter on the subject of the infallibility of the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith written by the Universal House of Justice letter to one of the believers on 25 July, 1974 go to this link:http://irfancolloquia.org/pdf/lights6_infallibility.pdf For Ian Semple's talk on Interpretation and the Guardianship given at a seminar in Haifa on 18 February 1984, go to this link:http://irfancolloquia.org/u/semple_guardianship
THE EXISTENTIAL MOMENT
This poem was written while sitting on a couch along the edge of the window gazing out from the Pilgrim House at the Shrine of the Bab. The poem is a meditation on the Shrine and the self. It was the morning of the Fifth Day of my pilgrimage in the year 2000, just aftyer I had retired from a 40 year working life. This poem was written in the few minutes before going up the Hill of God as Mt Carmel is sometimes called, as a pilgrim group, to the Archives Building. It was a warm day, as all our days were in June, in the beginning of summer in Israel. I did not get to know the temperature because radio and TV were not part of my day-to-day experience; and when it was it was never in English. Our pilgrimage, as I wrote these words, would soon be half over.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 9 June 2000.
Oh apocalyptic one:
still a surprise,
place of sudden meeting
with the shadow self
which rejects divine law
in the interests of
his own imperious demands,
his alter ego,
a peeling away
of the old self.
His higher self
like this golden-tipped shrine
amidst the monster of selfishness,
quintessence of passion,
weed, stark and real,
angel of darkness
that is his destiny
and the reality of
9 June 2000
There are now many outstanding pieces of architecture at Baha’i centres around the world which have inspired my poetry. Perchance these words have come from a leaven that leavens the world of being and furnishes a certain power for this art to be made manifest. Thus and so, perchance, perforce, perhaps, this poetry grows in the flowers of the crannied walls of my own life, as the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote:
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower -but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
MY WRITING: Part 1
Most of my writing comes from the period of the fourth(1986-2001) and fifth(2001 to the present) epochs of a new formative age, a formative age quite unlike its Greek predecessor, in the paradigm used by historians to study Greek history more than 2500 years ago. The internet has a lengthy essay on the collection of my letters found in the Australian National Baha'i Archives, a collection from 1961 to 2011. This essay can be googled by using the words: Ron Price Letters. For a general time frame of a Baha'i view of history and its epochs go to the following link:http://bahai-library.com/bolhuis_chart_eras_epochs
My writing is part of a wider artistic experience of the time when what some now call the eighth wonder was designed and constructed. The precise location on Mount Carmel was designated by Bahá'u'lláh himself to his eldest son, `Abdu'l-Bahá, in 1891. `Abdu'l-Bahá planned the structure, which was designed and completed several decades later by his grandson, Shoghi Effendi. The major embellishment of the several that have taken-place---to the spiritual and administrative centre of this new Faith---was completed from the late 1980s to the first years of the 3rd millennium.
If my poetry comes to be seen in no other light than as basking in the reflected, refracted, light of the spiritual and administrative centre of that eighth wonder of the world on Mt. Carmel I will feel I have made a useful, albeit microcosmic, contribution to civilization as it was going through one of its greatest climacterics, perhaps the greatest and most awful in the history of humankind. -Ron Price, “ A Retirement-New Direction Prose-Poem,” Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 2005 to 2012.
Perhaps the reason this poetry
has taken on such importance,
such meaning, to me during the
construction of this tapestry of
monumental terraces is the fact
that I’ve spread myself out over
two dozen towns during a pioneer
life across two continents, nearly
five decades and over four epochs.
MY WRITING: Part 2
TRAVELLING AND AT REST
I was conceived in Hamilton Ontario,
in 1943 in a city they called the lunch-
pail city, and I lived there from 1944 to
1947; then I lived in Burlington from 6/
'47 to 9/'62. Now that I have been able
to give my spirit a rest....I am ready to
launch out into a different series of (1)
shorter teaching exercises-not like the
ones I’ve already had in places & towns
as listed in these 30+ localities below...
Dundas Ontario------September 1962 to May 1963
St. Thomas Ontario--May 1963 to June 1963
London Ontario------June 1963
Hamilton Ontario----June 1963 to December 1963
Dundas Ontario------January 1964 to May 1966
Windsor Ontario-----May to June 1966
Hamilton Ontario----June to September 1966
Windsor Ontario-----September 1966 to May 1967
Brantford Ontario----May to August 1967
Frobisher Bay---------August 1967 to June 1968
Whitby Ontario-------July to December 1968
Toronto Ontario------January to May 1969
King City Ontario----June to August 1969
Picton-------------------September 1969 to June 1971
Whyalla South Australia
--------July 1971 to December 1972
Gawler South Australia
---------January 1973 to December 1973
---------January 1974 to December 1974
Elwood Victoria------December 1975 to February 1976
Kew Victoria----------March 1975 to March 1976
Ballarat Victoria-----March 1976 to December 1978
---------December 1978 to February 1979
Smithton Tasmania--February 1979 to May 1979
----------May 1979 to January 1981
Zeehan Tasmania-----February 1981 to July 1982
Katherine Northern Territory
------July 1982 to March 1986
South Hedland WA---March 1986 to December 1987
Stirling Western Australia
------------December 1987 to July 1988
Belmont Western Australia
---------------July 1988 to July 1999
Wagga Wagga NSW--July 1995 to October 1995
-----August 1999 to September 1999
George Town -------September 1999 to the present
MY WRITING: PART 3
I am now living in George Town Tasmania which some call the oldest town in Australia due to the fact that Sydney and Hobart are now cities. I have lived in this little town with a population of 5000 from September 1999 to the present day. I have lived here longer than in any other town in my life. I have lived in or visited over 80 other towns on the planet and they are listed at the following link: http://www.itourist.com/members/tips/index.php?id=1051
I write all this down to tie-me-down
and so define my life and the who
and what I’ve been......so memory
will not scatter my psyche so thin
& lose a sense of who I am & was.
I write it down as I am now involved in
another launch in this 3rd millennium
pregnant with something new involving,
sitting in one place and scattering in
cyberspace the seeds of this new Day
of Revelation perhaps more effectively
than in those first 40 years: '59 to 1999.
(1) retirement from: (a) FT work in 1999, (b) PT work in 2001 and (c) volunteer or casual work in 2005. My main tasks now centre around:(i) writing and internet teaching, as well as (ii) domestic, family, and community tasks.
There have been what you might call 3 great Baha'i diasporas in its history: 1894 to 1921, 1922 to 1963 and 1963 to the present. These diasporas are of a particular type and quite unlike the Jewish diasporas. The word diaspora comes from the Greek and means: dispersion. It comes from the word diaspeirein to scatter, and from dia- + speirein to sow. It's first known use was in 1881. In the process of these 3 dispersions and sowings, if you like, the Baha'i Faith has become the second most widespread religion on Earth. Harold Bloom, the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University, counts at least seven great Jewish Diasporas: Babylon-Persia; Hellenistic Alexandria; Muslim and Christian Spain, including Provence-Catalonia; Renaissance Italy; Eastern Europe– Russia; Austria-Hungary together with Germany; the United States. For a context in relation to these diasporas go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/jun/28/the-lost-jewish-culture/
Below are several recent videos about the BAHA'IS IN IRAN:
MY WRITING: Part 4
I have written many poems, inspired as I was by many facets of the Bab’s and Baha'u'llah's lives. Some of them are found below; some are available at the Baha’i World Centre Library in Haifa and some at several libraries around the world. Some are found at my old website at:
http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/ Click on the words "Visit the Old Ron Price Website" at the top of that link. Some of my poetry is found on the internet at 1000s of websites or internet locations. The poems found on the internet are usually ones in which: (a) the lives of the Bab and Baha'u'llah are given some wider, some social and personal context; or (b) the Baha'i Faith and some aspect of the wider society is given some context. Here are some of the sites below:
Reviews of and bibliographies of AUTO/BIOGRAPHIES of Baha'is can be found by googling: Biographies of Baha'is and going to:
http://bahai-library.com/books/biblio/biography.autobio. and http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=8947
AN EMBRIONIC COMMUNITY
"People entering Gothic cathedrals left behind their life of material cares and seemed to pass into a different world," writes Kenneth Clark as he makes his feelings of the arts contagious in his book Civilization. In other ages buildings were constructed simply to give pleasure. Twentieth century wars have destroyed many of these buildings in a fit of modern barbarism. As this was taking place, as this barbarism was hacking into the evidences of civilization humans had erected over many centuries, a small and embryonic community that followed the teachings of its prophet-founders, the Bab and Baha'u'llah, began to erect new symbols of a new civilization.-Ron Price with thanks to Kenneth Clark, Civilization, Pelican Books, 1969, p. 167.
It was an age of minarettes
that staggered the imagination,
built high into the sky,
immense heaps of stone
and glass and aluminium.
It was also the end
of the Heroic Age
and the start
of the Formative Age
and they used this social art,
to help us lead fuller lives,
to touch life at many points,
to give us that douceur de vivre,
that sweetness of life
at places all over the world.
29 May 2003
A LETTER TO PHILIP ADAMS
86 Fitzroy Road
Western Australia 6103
20 September 1996
After listening to LNL, Late-Night-Live and reading your columns for over twenty-five years, since coming to Australia from Canada in 1971, I first want to thank you for giving me a great deal of pleasure. I have always been more comfortable in your brand of atheism with its great interest in ‘things religious’ than in a wide range of various theisms that have been unattractrive to me intellectually.
I would, though, like to share with you page 771 from Arnold Toynbee’s Study of History, Vol. 7B(Oxford University Press, NY, 1963). The two religions, according to Toynbee, that have emerged in Western civilization are: Baha’i and Ahmadiyah. Just what makes a religion separate from a sect, cult, denomination, indeed one of several other sociological terms that give what one might call a typology or classification framework for the study of religions and their many offshoots—is quite a complex question.
I particularly enjoyed your TV series with Paul Davies. I thought he opened the door to a view of religion that was acceptable to the skeptic, the rationalist, the so-called unbeliever. I look forward, as I’m sure millions of others in Australia, to your own continuing development as a person who has broadened the religious experience of the faithful from many religious persuasions and softened the anti-religious sentiments of the avowed atheists and agnostics.
I remember seeing you from a distance at a podium at the then Ballarat College of Advanced Education in, I think it was 1977 or 1978, when I was myself lecturing there in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. I am now working in the Tafe system in Western Australia as a lecturer. I am fifty-two and will retire in a few years.
As I have got older I am finding myself writing more letters. Perhaps I will write to you, I think to myself, more regularly than once in every quarter-century. We shall see. In the meantime thank you again for the very rich contribution you have made to my intellectual life Downunder. The God you don’t believe in I don’t believe in either. Einstein liked the term Mystery. Perhaps ‘Unknowable Essence which the wisdom of the wise and the learning of the learned have failed to comprehend’ gets a little warm.
I leave this large question for now and wish you well in your future professional and personal life. May you go on to have many years pondering both the imponderable and the ponderable. It makes great listening.
George Town Tasmania 7253
A LINK to a recent reports: (1) in Time magazine about the Baha'i Faith and (2) the Baha'is in Egypt:
A NEW CONSCIOUSNESS
The New Negro Movement, sometimes called the Harlem Renaissance, took place at the same time as the development of the Baha’i Administrative Order, 1921-1936. The Baha’i Faith in America evolved from a small local group to a national unit of a world society during these years.(1) Some writers take the boundaries of the evolution of each of these movements from the late teens to the late thirties. In 1937 the Baha’is launched their first teaching Plan and in Harlem at the Apollo Theatre, the epi-centre for the largest urban centre for Negroes--some 400,000—Negroes were allowed to sit in with the whites for the first time anywhere in the USA—in back rows in upper balconies.(2)-Ron Price with thanks to (1)Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development of Baha’i Administration,” Studies in Babi & Baha’i History, Vol.1, Moojan Momen, editor, Kalimat Press, 1982, p. 255. There has been a relative paucity of scholarship on both the Baha’i movement for this period and the Negro movement; and (2)ABC Radio National, “The Harlem Renaissance,” 2:00-2:30 pm, September 16th 2006.
Henry Gates said there were(1)
four cultural renaissances for
African Americans and I’d say
they mirror the years of the first
century of the Baha’i Faith
in America: 1894 to 1994.
The Baha’i renaissances are
of a different order & quality.
But there was an optimism in
unrealistically high expectations,
a blinkeredness, understandings
beyond the reach of those times,
those generations but growing
now and underpinning a new
determination to serve a purpose
unfolding within an old obscurity
and a vision of world-shaping trends.
1 Henry Gates, “Harlem on Our Minds,” Critical Inquiry, Autumn 1997.
September 16th 2006
BURSTING THE WALLS
In June 1852 Karl Marx obtained an admission card to the reading room of the British Museum. There he would sit from 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. every day, pouring over Blue Books of factory inspectors and perusing the immense documentation about the inequities of the operation of the capitalist system that was to become an important part of Das Kapital published in 1867. Here also, filling notebook after notebook, he deepened his knowledge of the British political economists whom he had begun to study during the Paris days. -Ron Price with thanks to Lewis A.. Coser, Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context, 2nd ed., Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., Fort Worth, 1977, pp. 63-65.
In that same June 1852 Baha’u’llah began His last two months before His imprisonment in the Siyah Chal on August 16th 1852. He stayed at the summer residence of the brother of the Grand Visier in Lavasan outside Tihran. During this summer He was kept informed of the rising and ultimately engulfing tide of anger and hatred against Him, especially from the Shah’s mother. We are informed by Balyuzi that “Baha’u’llah remained calm and composed.”1 Baha’u’llah’s enemies wanted to arrest Him and while they were looking for Him Baha’u’llah rode out toward them without fear or panic.-Ron Price with thanks to H. Balyuzi, Baha’u’llah The King of Glory, George Ronald, Oxford, 1980, p.77.
So much had got going back in ’44,
manuscripts produced in that spring
and summer, a fertile partnership,1
one in Paris and one in Shiraz,
would transform the world.
Much more got going in ’52
when a Revelation flowed out
from His travailing soul,
piercing the gloom of that
pestilential pit and bursting
its walls to propagate itself
to the far ends of the earth.
And from that museum, too,
something would infuse the
entire body of humankind
with its potentialities shaping
the course of human society.
1 Marx’s first writings The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts date from the summer of 1844; the Bab’s manuscript, the Qayyum’u’l-Asma, written in May of 1844 was read later in the summer by a scholar named Qujjat and 1000s of Qujjat’s fellow townspeople in Zanjan became Babis.
July 15th 2006
SOME OF MY WRITING ON BAHA'I HISTORY
I have written several pieces on Baha'i history and they are all available on the internet. Readers who would like to read my 10,000 word history of the Baha'i experience in the Northern Territory of Australia can do so at: http://bahai-library.co/articles_history_published_australia
Readers wanting to have an overview of my internet history writing on the Baha'i Faith can do so at this link:https://www.google.com.au/#hl=en&gs_nf=1&tok=G45w5pS0sNwomXM3xMmyAg&pq=ron%20price%20history&cp=17&gs_id=rv&xhr=t&q=Ron%20Price%20Baha%27i%20history&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&oq=Ron+Price+Baha%27i+history&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=22a3c0ce448c25ca&biw=1080&bih=537
......and on history in general at :https://www.google.com.au/#hl=en&biw=1080&bih=537&sclient=psy-ab&q=Ron+Price+history&oq=Ron+Price+history&gs_l=hp.12..0i8i30.1956.5695.0.9522.214.171.124.0.0.0.955.7547.2-7j2j2j1j4.16.0...0.0...1c.vSWi5Ri1pfg&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=22a3c0ce448c25ca
WRITING BIOGRAPHIES: SOME INITIAL COMMENTS
Readers will find below the exploratory beginnings of three biographies. Each of these biographies is an authorized biography. Each is written with the permission, cooperation and, at times, participation of the subject and the subject's heirs if that proves necessary. With the technological advances of the twenty-first century, multimedia biography has become more popular than traditional literary forms. Along with documentary biographical films, Hollywood has produced numerous commercial films based on the lives of famous people. The popularity of these forms of biography culminated in such cable and satellite television networks as A&E, The Biography Channel, The History Channel, and History International. My 3 biographies are written and produced and, hopefully, one day published in the traditional literary form.
More recently, CD-ROM and online biographies have appeared. Unlike books and films, they often do not tell a chronological narrative: instead, they are archives of many discrete media elements related to an individual person, including video clips, photographs, and text articles. Biography-Portraits were created in 2001 by the German artist Ralph Ueltzhoeffer. Media scholar Lev Manovich says that such archives exemplify the database form, allowing users to navigate the materials in many ways. (Manovich 220) General "life writing" techniques are a subject of scholarly study. While I would like to venture into such multi-media biographical forms, I have neither the plans, nor the skills, nor the finances to do so. For an excellent overview of the subject of biographies go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biography
BIOGRAPHIES OF HOWARD PERKINS, BILL WASHINGTON, AND ARINI BEAUMARIS
THREE OF MY LONG-TERM WRITING PROJECTS
During the four year between 21/9/'10 and 21/2/'14, I began work on three biographies. By 21/2/'14 I had initiated all 3 biographies; that initiation took the following form: (a) a decision to write the biographies, and (b) a literary outline, and a delineation of the concept, of a starting point for each biography. The process, the content and the style, for each of these 3 works is and has been different. I have described briefly in the paragraphs below the beginnings of each of these biographies. As the evening of my life stretched ahead into my 70s in 5 months time, into my 80s in 2024, and, perhaps, even into my 90s in 2034--into whatever years The Good Lord grants me, so to speak, I have taken-on the writing of these three biographies. In taking-on these very large tasks I was, and I am, quite aware that I may not, in all likelihood, finish all three. Indeed, I would be lucky to finish even one.
In the last twenty years, in the first of this 21st century and the last years of my FT paid employment as a teacher, tutor and lecturer in the 1990s, writing had come to occupy virtually all of my attention when I was not in bed and when I was not attending to domestic and marital life, social and employment obligations as well as personal hygiene. I have no idea, as I say above, whether any one of these three biographies will ever be completed. I took on the writing of these works, as I explain below, each for different reasons. The writing of these biographies represents one area of my literary interests, but only one. I now work on these 3 books when time and the inclination permit, and when I have received information in relation to any one of them, information which allows me to update the chapters, the text, the content of the work. When no other writing with more interest to me occupies my attention, I turn to these works. After four years, I find I am rarely turning to any one of these three works for several reasons which I describe below.
I have found in the years since I took an early retirement, a sea-change as it is sometimes called in Australia, at the age of 55 in 1999, that I like to have a variety of literary tasks to work on at any one time. This multi-literary-tasking helps to provide a rich and diverse base of activity, but it is all activity that involves writing in cyberspace: writing and editing, reading and researching, publishing and poetizing, online blogging and journalism, scholarship and study. Since I have spent so much of my time writing in the last 20 years, since I had my first website, and since I gradually removed myself from FT, PT and most volunteer work, it has become important to me to keep my work, my imaginative and intellectual life, as fertile as I can. This fertility and diversity of task helps to enhance my creativity, helps me to keep the pot boiling, the literary imagination burning, so to speak.
Some 25 years ago I tried to write a novel but, after several attempts, I concluded that novel-writing was not for me. It was during those years, a period of time during the late 1980s and early 1990s, that I turned to poetry and essays, to autobiography and to research and reading. After I left the world of paid employment: FT, PT and most volunteer work, in the years 1999 to 2005, I was able to devote myself, my time, entirely to these literary and academic interests. I have now enjoyed nine full years, 2006 to 2014, without any concern for paid employment, and little concern for the active social and community life that occupied me from the early 1950s to the early 2000s.
I mention hygiene in the above section because of its importance to the ongoing nature of my work. Hygiene is defined as the set of practices perceived by an individual or a community, or both, that is associated with the preservation of health and cleanliness, sleep and rest, as well as a sound mind in a sound body---healthy living generally. In the last two decades, as the internet has advanced into the wonderful source and resource that it has become, the years since I have had my own website, there is a plethora of aspects of this healthy mind and healthy body story that is now available to interested readers in cyberspace. I leave it to readers to flesh-out what has become a seemingly burgeoning and endless information base on this subject. As I head into my 70s in the next 5 months, on 23 July 2014, hygiene has come to occupy more time than it once did---probably because: (i) I am more interested in living as long as possible in a condition of good health, and (ii) the new medications for my bipolar 1 disorder have altered my emotional and intellectual capacity for sustained literary and academic work, social and community activity.
If any one, or all, of these three biographies are to be completed, I will need many more years of living and writing and, this will not eventuate, if I can not sustain the 6 to 8 hours a day in literary pursuits that is my current regime and habit. This literary lifestyle has occupied me in the last decade since taking an early retirement from the FT, PT and casual-job world in the years 1999 to 2005. Even with my several domestic and social concerns, responsibilities and inevitable life-duties, I am currently able to find from 6 to 8 hours each day to engage in activities of a literary nature, the activities listed above. But these hours are not at one stretch; I spread the hours over the time, the 12 hours, that I am awake and not in bed. I have to work in short bursts. I utilize what is sometimes called the Swiss-cheese method or, to draw on an expression in the language of Iran, once called Persia, the language of Farsi: "kam kam, ruz beh ruz," little by little and day by day. This is largely due to the medications I now take, as I say above, for my bipolar I disorder, medications which do not allow me to work for an extended period of time. I find that about two hours at any one time is the maximum that I can work at any of my several literary tasks.
In writing biography a man or woman often undergoes a certain type of hardening: their turmoil, their inconsistency, any of their groping confusion are by necessity smoothed into a narrative whole. Even the most sensitive of biographers sacrifice throb and raggedness in the name of storytelling; their work would be unreadable otherwise. In biography, too, a writer wants to bring himself nearer to the person about whom he is writing in a human way; he wants more of what Freud called "affective relations" with the person. These words of Freud's are found in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. XXI(1927-1931), The Hogarth Press Ltd., London, 1961, p.36.
I have spent the last two decades, 1994 to 2014, in autobiographical studies, and have written several thousand pages about my life, my society, and my values, beliefs and attitudes, in a word, my religion. But I am no Montaigne, Pepys or Rousseau, perhaps history's three greatest autobiographers. To tell the truth about oneself is no easy task. To tell the truth about someone else is, in some ways, a much more difficult task. My books, my poetry and my essays, are about my road in life but, writing about someone else, that is for me a more rugged road. For this reason, among several others, I have hardly made a beginning to any one of these 3 biographies, after the slow evolution of more than three years. Full retirement and contemplation, retirement from FT, PT and most vounteer work, has only come to me in recent years. The last decade(70 to 80) of my late adulthood, the years from 60 to 80, are mine to use now in any way I like. If I live into old-age, the years beyond 80, that will be a bonus. If my health allows, there will be much more writing to be done in that late evening of my life---in 2024 and beyond.
The story of who the following three people are, and how they came to be who they are, is to be found, writes that eminent sociologist Anthony Giddens, "in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going." That is my task in the years ahead. It is no easy task to keep any one of these three narratives going. If I did not have so many other literary activities to pleasantly occupy my time or, if I had the stamina of a Flaubert or a Herbert, two of history's most persistent and energetic, indeed, obsessed writers it might be an easier task.
My mind has been feeding on the printed-page for over 60 years and, with increasingly interest and enthusiasm, as the decades have advanced incrementally, annalistically, as the Romans used to say. In this 21st century the literary pastures on which I now feed have become immense, and those dealing with the biographies of the following three people, I must admit, have lost some of their attractiveness in the nearly four years I have been feeding on them. This is because, as I say and to emphasize a point, (i) there is so much else that I enjoy writing about in these years of the evening of my life, and (ii) I have lost the capacity, or perhaps it is the interest, for sustained work on any one topic or subject. These biographies require, if nothing else, sustained work.
The following paragraphs outline where I am at in relation to the first of these three biographies on: The Life of Howard Perkins.
The biography of Howard Perkins is in its embryonic phase. Howard is a veteran Baha'i, a Baha'i of long-standing who has lived in Melbourne Australia as long as I have known him. I first came to know of Howard back in the early 1970s, just after arriving in Australia as an overseas-pioneer from the Canadian Baha'i community. Howard and I decided, after a month or two of consultation, to go ahead with this project back in December 2012. This biography was the last one I decided to take on; it will be quite a different work than the other two which I have described below. Howard, like me, has his own health battles, to say nothing of the health battles of those around each of us. This project, for several reasons, is not yet off the ground. After first discussing this project back in November 2012, Howard has not been able to send me any material. I decided before beginning this work, this biography of Howard Perkins, that I would not be pestering Howard with emails asking for information. The writing of this biography would be organic, but it would depend for the most part on Howard and the interest and initiative he took in the process. He was and is happy with this arrangement.
Howard and I have agreed on the writing of the biography, but the general framework for this work, and my MO, my modus operandi, has yet to be decided. Perhaps the work will just be about his life as a Baha'i; perhaps this work will be concerned with his entire life-narrative; Howard and I are still at what you might call 'the consultative', the initial, stage after first broaching the subject 15 months ago: 21/11/'12 to 21/2/'14. With the other two biographies that I have begun to work on in the last three-and-a-half years, 21/9/'10 to 21/2/'14, and which are described below, this third biography will be, as I say, my final major biographical work in the evening of my life, as my 60s turn-into my 70s this year, and my 70s into my 80s in 2024, if I last that long. I will not be taking on any more lengthy biographies in addition to these three. In the last several years, 2006-2014, since retiring from FT, PT and most casual-volunteer employment, after a student-working life of some sixty years, 1949-2009, and since going on two old-age pensions: one from Canada where I worked in the 1950s and 1960s, and one from Australia whick I began to receive at the age of 65 in 2009, I have written on literally hundreds of subjects. In the fifteen year period, 2001-2014, I have joined over 8000 internet sites at which I post my writing and, often, interact with others. I now have millions of readers, something unbelieveable, hardly imaginable back in the far and distant 20th century.
I have had more contact with Howard's wife and his daughter-in-law, Helen and June Perkins, respectively, in the last several years. Both women have written a great deal themselves, and I may be able to draw on their work, especially Helen's autobiography, to some extent anyway, as I work on the biography of Howard in the years ahead. With the other two biographies and a host of other writing activities, this biographical work will fit comfortably into my writing life as I go through my 70s and beyond, as I say, should I last that long. As I write these words on 21 February 2014, with the aim of updating the account of my progress, I am waiting for Howard to flesh-out his initial proposal. Neither he nor I are in any rush; we have both had years, indeed, decades, of rushing, and we are now each in our golden-years, as they are sometimes called. I will keep readers informed of my progress on this biography of Howard Perkins at this sub-section of my website, as I keep others informed of the progress of the other two biographies in the paragraphs below.
Bill Washington is an old friend who joined the Baha'i Faith in Australia back in the early 1950s. My biography of Bill, if it ever sees the light of day, will amount to a history of the Baha'i Faith in Australia beginning in that country's first organized teaching Plan in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A biography of Bill will, in all likelihood, be a history of the Baha'i Faith in Australia, in miniature, at least after Australia's first 25 years of Baha'i history: 1923-1947. Such a book will, as I say, have a special biographical-historical focus on a man who has been a Baha'i for more than 60 years. Bill is one of the few Australian Baha'is who met the then appointed leader of the Baha'i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, in the 1950s. Shoghi Effendi was the appointed leader of this world Faith from 1921 to his unexpected death in London on 4 November 1957.
When I first asked Bill if he would allow me to write a biography of his life he asked: "why me?" I said that I did not know any Baha'i in Australia who had been in this Faith, a Faith I have myself been associated for more than 60 years(1953 to 2014), for as long as he has been. In addition, I said to Bill that, over the years, we had developed what I called "a working relationship" due to his editing role in relation to much of my writing. My own peripatetic life-style over the decades had resulted, I added in explaining to him "why him", in my losing touch with so many of the Baha'is I had known in the many towns in which I had lived since the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, my more reclusive life-style as I approached the age of 70, and as my medications altered several times since the age of 60, resulted in a limitation on my social, my former gregarious, nature. My interaction with others had become, by the age of 70, averaging about 1 hour/day. This does not count the life I have with my wife both in the 12 hours I am awake, and the 12 hours I am in bed, in the empty nest we have shared for the last decade.
Many former friendships, in towns across Australia and Canada, had become characterized by virtually no personal contact, except for email exchanges. Many people I had known for years, even decades, prefer telephone or texting. My preferred communication medium has become, by degrees, over the last 20 years from 1994 to 2014, the email. I now have an extensive email list of correspondents. For the most part, though, I do not initiate communication. If people do not write to me, the former relationship tends to wither. This is because, as I explain on my website, there are just too many people to write to in this new world of cyberspace, at Facebook, and at the 1000s of websites at which I post and interact with others. In the last several years I have virtually ceased initiating communication because: (i) I have my time full with responding to those who write to me first, and (ii) I have reinvented myself, my roles in life, since retiring from paid employment in the years 1999 to 2005. I am now a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, online blogger and journalist, scholar and reader, as well as my own office-assistant and cleaner, CEO and publicist-marketing manager. Anyone who writes to me, though, usually gets a responce out of courtesy and duty, if not interest and enthusiasm, within 24 hours.
By the time my biography of Bill Washington is published, or at least as I currently envisage this particular project, the history of the Baha'i Faith in Australia would have passed the 100 year mark: 1923-2023. If Bill is able to live until 2023, he will have lived through some three-quarters of the first century of the Baha'i Faith in Australia. He is a member of a religion which claims to be the newest, the latest, of the Abrahamic religions. At this point, as I write and update this section of my website, on 21 February 2014, Bill has given me the go-ahead to write his life-narrative, but only tentatively so. We have discussed the project by email, but Bill is disinclined at this point in time to have such a special literary focus on his life. Such a literary exercise about his life is not something he is entering lightly. He has sent me, though, several pages of his reflections on some of the central experiences in his 80+ years of living, and 60+ years as a member of the Baha'i Faith. His visit to Haifa Israel, and his meeting with Shoghi Effendi back in the 1950s is one such reflection of the several I have received from Bill.
Bill has edited much of my writing, as I say above. The two major tasks he accepted, and which became my published works, were: (i) a 300 page book on the poetry of Roger White and (ii) a booklet of my poetry which I presented to the Baha'is of Tasmania through Tasmania's then Regional Baha'i Council. Bill also edited some of my other prose and poetry which I requested of him over the years. Most of this editing was done in the early years of the 21st century. Bill is, or rather was before he retired, a professional editor with Hansaard first in the Northern Territory and then in Tasmania. It was during the time when he was my editor, as well as many other times going back to the 1970s, that I got to know Bill and his Japanese wife Hiroko.
I have known literally 1000s of Baha'is since my first contact with this new Faith in 1953 more than sixty years ago, but Bill is one of the few that I have taken an interest in writing their story, their life-narrative. I have written several dozen mini-biographies as part of some of the history of this Cause in Australia, but no major works of a biographical genre. My peripatetic life-style, as I say above, among other factors has militated against my writing about virtually anyone else whom I have come to know since my childhood. In this the evening of my life, as I head into my 70s in the next 5 months, I have lost contact with most of those I once knew. I have also become somewhat reclusive, as I indicate above, in these years of my retirement due to: my bipolar 1 disorder, my need for solitude to write, and my general disinclination to be as social, as gregarious, as I once was. I had a highly gregarious nature and lifestyle from my childhood in the late 1940s, through my adolescence in the 1950s and early 60s, and up to my late 50s when I went on a disability pension at the beginning of this 21st century, and then on an old-age pension in 2009 at the age of 65.
If Bill lives to the year 2023 he will be 91 and I will be nearly 80---if I am still alive in 2023. With all the advances in modern medicine both he and I stand a good chance, or so we both like to think. Of course, no man knoweth what his own end shall be, wrote some poet. If Bill decides that he is happy to have me to begin writing his biography, readers here will read of his acceptance. With the documents Bill has sent me I am in a position to begin writing the first chapter. This chapter will not appear here; indeed, it will not appear here until I have finished the book, until Bill has edited the entire work and approved its content.
Perhaps one day readers will find here at my website a link to whatever portion of this biography of Bill Washington that I have completed. But that link will only appear: (a) when Bill has read and edited what I've written, and (b) when he has given me permission to post it here by means of a link. Readers can just assume that Bill is, for the time being, just providing me with resources for "a possible biography." But, whatever resources Bill sends me for the writing of his life-narrative, none of them will be posted here. The only thing that will be posted here will be: (i) a portion of the book that he has agreed to have placed online, or (ii) an ebook which Bill will have already edited and given me full permission to place by a link on this website. But that eventuality is, it seems to me, a long way off, if such an ebook is ever completed. The next 10 years, as I head for 80, and as Bill heads into his early 90s, will serve for me as the initial working time-frame for the preparation of a rough draft, a first draft, of this biography of Bill Washington.
The work I have done, the process that has been involved with the biography of Arini Beaumaris, in the last four years, will not be the same as this biography of Bill Washington. The biography of Bill Washington will be a more sharply focussed work on Baha'i history, a historical biography to give it a term. That work will begin, as I indicated above, from the first Baha'i teaching Plan in Australia, 1947-1953. There will be no need for me to contact others for information and resources unless, of course, that should be Bill's desire---as this work evolves between now and 2023.
On Australia's spring equinox, 21 September 2010, some three-and-a-half years ago, I wrote to several members of the family and a few friends of Arini Beaumaris. I wrote in connection with a long-range project which, I indicated to everyone, would take me many years. Back then, on 21/9/'10, I was at the beginning stage of gathering as much information as I could on the life of Ms Beaumaris, sometime member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Australia Inc. I first came to know Arini back in 1971 when I arrived in Australia from Canada with my first wife. For a period of more than two months in late 1973, I lived with Arini and her first husband, Rob Jones. In December 1973 I moved to Tasmania, and my contact with Arini became mainly one by letter and, since the 1990s, by email. I have gradually got to know Arini reasonably well in the more than 40 years, 1971 to 2013, during which our relationship deepened.
Since those early 1970s, Arini has been accummulating many feathers in her cap, or arrows for her bow, so to speak. In those last 40+ years she has had an interesting career, and a rich and varied personal and Baha'i experience, an experience which, by the look of things, is one that is far from over. For several reasons I came to take an interest, by sensible and insensible degrees, in writing a biography of Arini's life with a special focus, of course, on her local and regional, national and international, Baha'i activity. Arini's Baha'i life began in South Australia. That is where I first came to know Arini during my years in that state of Australia from 1971 to 1973 as an international pioneer myself from Canada to Australia during the first teaching plan of the Universal House of Justice, the then Nine Year Plan: 1964-1973.
Arini is now an international consultant, educational leader and trainer who is highly experienced in facilitating the growth and development of human relationships and teams, organizations and leaders. In 2010 she got her PhD with a dissertation which focussed on moral development and ethical judgement---and so she became Dr Beaumaris. She has had a colourful life, a life not without its tests and difficulties. Her corporate consultancy work has embraced the hospitality, tourism, child care, health, communications & IT industries with: business leaders, government, community and educational institutions in several countries---Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Canada and the United States of America. Go to this link for more information: http://highcapacitycommunications.com/our-people
As I put it more than three years ago, in writing to Arini's several friends and relatives, using email addresses Arini had sent me on request in September 2010---the more information that these several family members, friends and associations of Arini could send to me in 2010, and in the following years, the better. It was my hope then, as it is now, that in the years ahead, especially as the international Baha'i community heads to 21 April 2021, and the end of the first century of what the Baha'is call the Formative Age--that I may gather an extensive base of information about Arini and her life. I concluded that email of 21/9/'10 with the words: "Looking forward to hearing from you when and if the spirit moves you."
I went on to say some two years later, in an email to those same people I had written to before: "You will be pleased to know that the project has been moving ahead well in these last two years: 2010 to 2012. I have received some useful data, stories and impressions, among other sorts and genres of information." After more than three years, I have become more and more aware, and I wanted others to also be aware that, if the book was ever to have any significant amount of meat on its bones, so to speak, meat I was aiming to place on the bones of the book by April 2021----I would need much more input, more testimonials than I already had, more accounts of peoples' personal experiences and impressions of Arini, as well as more background notes and data, facts and figures than I had currently received. Arini would herself be a crucial, a critical, perhaps my main source of information as the years went on.
I have pointed out to everyone: (i) to all the people on that email list which Arini gave me more than three years ago, as well as (ii) to other potential sources of assistance in the final delivery of this project----that it was not my intention to press people for information. I said I would be in touch with everyone occasionally, as the years went on, with my gentle and regular or irregular, as the case may be, reminders. In many ways I originally saw this book as a collaboration, a collective effort and I still do. If the book was ever to be published it would depend on everyone, or at least on as many people as possible from that original list of email addresses, as well as on Arini herself. I have since written to many other people informing them of this project.
Without more information from the several people on that original email list, people whom I had first contacted in September 2010, and some of the many others I have written to since then, the book will never see the light of day. That presents no problem to me, nor does it present a problem to Arini. She is not, and has not been, passionately pursuing this biography; she is a busy person with many other things on her personal and professional agenda; she also has no plans to exit this life in the short term! I, too, am a busy writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, online journalist and blogger, scholar and my own office-assistant. I am not looking for more work to do. In this the evening of my life, I write on many subjects of interest, subjects that have a personal fascination and engage my imaginative creativity. The biography of Arini Beaumaris is just one of these subjects.
Often, at least in the case of the writing of a biography, it is better to wait until the person in question is dead. Arini said this herself in writing to me in the early months of this biographical exercise back in 2010. It is better for many reasons, not the least of which are the conflicts and tensions that exist in the life of the person in question. There are also, and often, tensions and conflicts in the lives of the family members, as well as in the lives of the other people whom the biographer, the writer---namely me---has come to be familar with since beginning the biographical project. A person's life is not all a bowl of cherries, with everyone thinking everyone else is sugar-sweet, with no negative impressions and attitudes, beliefs and values existing in relation to the person concerned. Life is, in many ways a rag-and-bone shop, as the famous Irish poet W. B. Yeats(1865-1939) put it. Yeats was one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature, and a pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments.
To write a biography that is not a hagiography, that has some if not many of the warts and blemishes, faults and shortcomings of the person concerned requires a certain diplomacy on the part of the writer of the biography. If the person about whom the biography is written is to be happy with the product, the product in all its complexity, an ongoing dialogue between the writer and that person is essential if, of course, that person is still alive. That dialogue needs to be an intimate and open, honest and fruitful exchange. Often the line between honesty and tact is such a fine one that many people of some fame and renown simply prefer not to have their biography written. They never authorize anyone to write the story of their life, and they keep a strong hold, even after their death with written instructions to their executors, concerning any of their writings, their personal letters and files and assorted memorabilia. This is not the case with Arini, but writing her biography is and will be a challenge. It is one that will engage me for many years. In the last four years a start has been made and that is all---a start, an ingathering of resources---with nothing written as yet.
Arini is and was, and will be---a busy person--to put it mildly as, I say above, am I. She has always been an active person; some might say hyperactive; she might even call herself hyperactive. Time will tell what she calls herself as she also contributes to this biography, a biography she gave me permission to write back in the winter of 2010, nearly four years ago. After discussing the project with her over some months in that winter of 2010, and possibly over several previous years, if I go back to the first intimations of this biographical project, the decision to go ahead with the work was mutually agreed upon: signed and sealed by the spring equinox in Australia, 21/9/'10. The project, the book, would be delivered, as it were, at some unspecified time in the future. Of course, as Arini heads into her 70s, her 80s and then her 90s, should she last that long in the lifespan, I assume the pace of her life will slow down and she will have more time to reflect, gather her thoughts on life retrospectively, and contribute extensively to this work. If this biography is ever to assume the 200 to 400 pages that I hope it eventually will, there is much work to be done: on Arini's part, on the part of the many contacts I now have and, of course, on my part.
I have come to find, since I first wrote to everyone some 42 months ago, that nearly everyone on the list of recipients of my original email is a busy person in some way or another. Although there are only a few people who have actually sent me useful information for this biography, there are at least 2 or 3 people on the receiving end of my emails who have boxes of correspondence and information, as well as memorabilia of various kinds. I have encouraged those who do have such collections of resources, resources that could be of use in connection with this proposed biography, to: (i) send them to Arini in the first instance to her home in St Ives, a suburb on the Upper North Shore of Sydney in the state of New South Wales, Australia. She lives about 20 kilometres north of the Sydney CBD in the local government area of the Ku-ring-gai Council, or (ii) send them electronically to her email address at: "Arini Beaumaris" <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Arini has moved many times in her life and, at this point in time, I see no reason why her peripatetic life-style will change. Hopefully, her email address will remain the same. If you contact me in the first instance, though, about your intentions to contribute to this biographical project, I can then get back to you with some more specific advice regarding your box or boxes of resources.
With the internet and social networking sites, with emails and ipods, with iphones and ipads, with texting and faxes, with mobile and cell phones, as well as more communication devices which seem to come onto the market with increasing regularity; with 24/7 radio and TV news, to say nothing of the more traditional ways people get in contact like: telephone, snailmail, and personal visits, the pace of life for millions seems to have speeded-up, at least for those with access to the technology. Those who are the recipients of my emails in relation to this project all seem to be busy people in these first dozen or so years of this 3rd millennium, this 21st century.
Peoples' use of leisure time is also fracturing into a wide range of personal uses and activities. Most people on this list, but not all, are not inclined outside of their employment and personal email-load-----to write as a hobby, as part of their leisure-time and, in their emailing and texting, their writing is often and mostly short and sweet, or not-so-sweet as the case may be. Not everyone, though, on my list of contacts are essentially non-writers. Several people on this list are themselves authors with books and/or extensive posts and publications in cyberspace to their credit and under their name.
This biography of Arini Beaumaris is only one of my projects. I now have some 60 books: (a) in cyberspace at this website, a website now in its 17th year and in the 4th year of its 4th edition, with an average of 80,000 words per book, and (b) at other locations on the internet. Some 30 of those books, in round figures, are resources written by others, and they are found at my website. I also have my writing, several million words now, spread over more than 8000 internet sites in the years, the 15 year period, 1999-2014. This biography of Arini will fit into my general literary work, my publications in cyberpsace, at this section of my website as a link---as I head through these my middle years, 65 to 75, of late adulthood, the years from 60 to 80 according to one model of human development used by psychologists. I will be 77 years old in 2021 when the first century of the Formative Age of the Baha'i Faith is completed, and when I hope to have at least an initial draft of this book available. It will be available: (a) for those who have been involved in this project, (b) as well as for a broader public of those who may be interested across the vast tracts of cyberspace where the book will first appear. Such is my aim; the achievement of this aim will depend to a large extent on my receiving much more material, as I have emphasized above, from others.
If readers who come to this section of my website and find there is no link to the ebook, they will know that nothing resembling a book or an ebook has been thusfar achieved by me, the biographer. If this biography is to make it into some general shape in the next several years(2014-2018), the next decade(2014-2024), or even the next quarter-century(2014 to 2039), I will need much more material, many more notes. If the facts and figures, data and impressions come in well and good; if they do not---the book is not likely to ever make it to an initial draft stage by the early 2020s---to say nothing of a final product by, say, the late 2030s. My aim, as I update this part of my website, is to have a final draft reviewed and published in hard cover by 2044. If I last that long, if I last to the year 204, I will be 100!
I look forward to hearing from those to whom I first wrote nearly four years ago, from many of them again, and from those to whom I have written since that original email on the spring equinox of 2010 in Australia: 21/9/'10. When, and if, anyone feels or thinks they would like to put pen to paper, they will be able to add their contributions to those I have already received---and these contributions will be gratefully received at my email address: email@example.com. Readers who come to this section of my website can also contact me at my snailmail address: 6 Reece Street, George Town, Tasmania, 7253---if they want to send me any hard-copy material. You should also feel free to telephone me on 03-63824790. My wife answers the phone most of the time since that is one of her preferred mediums of communication, although not one of mine.
As I pointed out above, if anyone has boxes of letters and information, memorabilia, inter alia, send them to Arini after first writing to me. My study, and my house, is already busting-bursting-at-the-seams, and I do not want to add to my piles of paper in my world which is downsizing in more ways than one as I head through this evening of my life. A necessary downsizing has already begun to appear on the horizon in our lifespan, the lifespan of my wife Chris and I, as old-age makes its appearance in our lives, and as life's wear-and-tear takes its inevitable, or not-so-inevitable, course in the years ahead.
I will also be happy to hear from anyone else in cyberspace who comes across this section of my website and who would like to write about their experiences with Arini over the years, or about their experience in relation to biography in general. I also want to take this opportunity, in closing these comments, to thank all those who have already responded in the last four years, since 21/9/'10, to my initial request for information on the life of Arini Beaumaris.
Readers will find in what follows, in Part 4 of this section of my website devoted to the biography of Arini, the penultimate email I wrote to her in connection with this project. That relatively recent email to her was written 18 months ago, on 8 August 2012, and it is my intention to keep readers here informed of my ongoing dialogue with Arini. The following words are, and were, a summary for Arini about what was, then, the present state of this biographical project. This summary below will also serve to keep all those involved in this project up-to-date in this last month of summer Downunder. This summary in my email to Arini on 8/8/'12 read, in part, as follows:
Whenever you want to know the state of play on the biography of your life just go to this link at my website: http://http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/Babi.html Then scroll-down to the photo of the seat of the Universal House of Justice in the bottom half, the bottom section of this part of my website. The state of play in relation to the biography of your life is found in the several paragraphs above that photo. I have already said, and will often say, to anyone who writes to me in connection with this work in the months and years ahead: "go to this link at my website." This will save me reinventing the literary wheel, so to speak. I won't be pestering people to write and to send me their words and thoughts, their ideas and experiences, inter alia, in relation to your life-narrative. I'll just be taking-in-and-filing whatever people send me, and that includes, of course, whatever you send to me.
Over time, as more and more resources come in, of course, I will be trying to integrate what is sent to me into some coherent literay whole. But, for now and in the years ahead, all I am really doing is: (i) responding personally to whoever writes, and (ii) filing what is sent to me in my computer directory under several sub-headings: (a) individuals, (b) topics/subjects, (c) divisions by years and by activity in the lifespan, and (d) larger-thematic issues. As yet, with the first two years in this project nearly gone, and perhaps several years since the first intimations, my first intentions, began to form, I am not even in a position to begin writing.
As the years go on, as I say at this website and which you can easily and always access on your computer at the link I have provided, I may just end by giving everything I've collected beginning in 2010, and everything I've written by some future date---to someone else. All the bits-and-pieces that have been sent to me will, then, go into the hands of someone else. That person can write the biography or pass the resources on to someone who is interested in the project of this biography. I see this project as a lifelong exercise, that is, an exercise during the rest of my life, as long as I am a functioning adult and not laboured with some disability or incapacitating illness. Of course, should I pass on all that I have written and collected to someone else, I will first have had your permission.
The writing of your biography is, for me, an exercise of personal pleasure as well as an intellectual challenge. It is a pleasure in this life for me and, hopefully, it will be at least an equal pleasure in the next---my next---as I gaze-earthly at some other person who comes to be interested in completing this project. If I do not in fact complete your biography, I hope someone else will do so. I'm not that worried if I am not the final author of the work. This biography is worth doing as far as I am concerned. This hardly needs saying. I'm sure someone else will arise at some time in the 21st century, or even the 22nd, who will want to continue what you might call the Beaumaris industry, for want of a better term. I've just started the ball rolling and, after two years, the ball has only collected a relatively small amount of literary string.
We shall see what eventuates, Arini, in the years ahead and, by then, let's say by the 2050s at the latest if not well before, you and I will be in that Land of Light, I trust. I will be 106 in 2050, if I last that long---and, if you last that long--that is into the 2050s--you will already have received your letter from the then King or Queen, unless Australia becomes a republic. I won't hold my breath on that topic.
PS see the attached photo, Arini, taken in 2004 at the age of 60 in Hobart at the only photo-shoot I've ever been involved with. The year 2004 was the beginning of my late adultlhood, the years from 60 to 80 according to one model of human development used by psychologists. I like this particular model used by developmental psychologists for the lifespan because old age does not begin, in that model, until the age of 80. That gives me a little less than 12 full years before I am old. It also gives you a solid 15 years. The photo is also sent, it hardly needs saying, "with love."
THE ABOVE SECTION OF MY WEBSITE
I will use the above section of my website as a location to place what I hope will be, at first anyway, an ebook in cyberspace, an ebook that does not require the formal approval of any Baha'i reviewing committee. If any of the above 3 biographies is ever to become a published book in a hard cover---a fully published work and a work reviewed by some agency, a reviewing committee, of the NSA of the Baha'is of Australia Inc---there is much work to be done. The road ahead in the writing of these three books, at least for me the writer, is a long one. I have advised all the recipients of my first email nearly four years ago now, as well as many other possible sources, other people, since then, of the existence of this section of my website. Anyone who becomes in the slightest way involved in these projects, as they develop, will be given the link to this part of my website.
This sub-section of my website, a sub-section which deals with the Babi and Baha'i Faiths, will be updated from time to time as the project, the books, take on more and more form and content. I will not be sending-out emails and letters to everyone now that this website has become the central-processing-unit, as it were, the central communication point for everyone involved in putting this book together. I will now be communicating, as I have already been in the last four years, with individuals on a one-to-one basis. The next general email to everyone will be several years off and only when some literary, some biographical, necessity is called for.
MY BIOGRAPHIES AND MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY
I began writing biographical material as far back as the 1970s, just after I had arrived in Australia as an international pioneer from the Canadian Baha'i community. I was asked by a Canadian in Ontario, a man whose name escapes me now, to write my impressions and experiences with another Canadian Baha'i whose name was Miss Nancy Campbell. That man was gathering resources for a biography of Miss Campbell. I had lived in the same Baha'i community of this veteran Baha'i for at least one year and I was part of that Baha'i's world in southern Ontario from about 1953 to 1971 when I moved to Australia. At the time of my writing this first mini-biography, these impressions of a person I had come to know for more than a decade, I was in the second decade of my pioneering life: 1972-1982, and my first decade in the international field.
Since that first piece of biographical work, I have written many short pieces: some on request from Baha'i institutions, and some on my own initiative as part of my writing of history in the various Baha'i communities where I lived. I have also been working on my own autobiography for the last 30 years: 1984-2014. If you google the internet site Baha'i Library Online(BLO), you can find the document which gives an overview of the developing nature of my now extensive autobiographical work. This overview will also give readers an outline, a sense, an intimation, of how I would like to approach the writing of the biography of Arini Beaumaris over the next quarter century: 2013-2038.
If I last until the year 2044, the end of the 2nd century of the Baha'i Era, I will be 100 years old--and I will get a letter from that future King or Queen. This link at BLO should be of help to those readers who would like to get some perspective on my own autobiographical writing. If readers here go to the following link they will gain access to some 4 dozen documents relevant to my autobiography as well as the autobiography itself in six parts---at: http://bahai-library.com/users/Ron%20Price
Biography and autobiography share a great deal in common, at least in my mind. I'm sure my work on Howard's, Bill's and Arini's life will take me at least 25 years to put something together that will be of use to others. Who knows? My short-term time frame currently is: 2010-2021, the end of the first century of the Formative Age of the Baha'i Faith. Anyway, readers can access that series of documents at BLO, the key documents at BLO being my autobiography in six parts. These are the 6 major Parts of my 2600 page autobiography. This will give readers a picture of the evolving nature of my own work, the only work which has any resemblance to the work I want to achieve in relation to Howard's, Bill's and Arini's lives. My biography of each of these three Baha'is will be far shorter than 2600 pages. As I say above, I would think 400 pages is a maximum for each of these works. I am currently envisaging a final product of somewhere between 200 and 400 pages, inshalla, as they say.
After several years of thinking about writing a lengthy biography of someone, I finally made a decision to do the biography on the lives of these three people between the winter of 2010 and the summer of 2012, that is, between 9/'10 to 12/'12. By 2010, when I made the decision to write the biography of Arini, I had been writing short biographies, as I say above, for close to 40 years. The details of the overall framework of the book have been discussed with Arini, but they are not, as yet, finalized. Arini and I have a picture of the work, but it is just that--a picture without the fine details, the chapter outline. Readers can have a look at some of my general comments below on the subject of biography.
Readers can also go to this link for many reviews and biographies of Baha'is:http://bahai-library.com/biography/#M There is a link to the 77 biographies that Abdul-Baha wrote in His immortal work Memorials of the Faithful at:http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/MF/ My review of that book, containing as it does my discussion of biography, is found, in part, at:http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/Oldsite/05Society.html
I am off to a start, but the biographical road for me in relation to this biography of Arini Beaumaris, as well as the other two, will be a long one. That's okay by me and it's okay by Arini, Bill and Howard. We are all in the evening of our lives; whether it is early evening or late only time will tell and those mysterious dispensations of Providence. As one of those more popular Baha'i quotes goes: "where there is love there is always time." I have always found this a difficult aphorism to put into practice, having spent so much of my life in what is sometimes called the fast lane. Arini Beaumaris has certainly lived most of her life in another fast lane, a lane which this biography hopes to describe in some detail. I have the rest of my life to work on this project, and the rest of Arini's---whatever years God grants to us before the roll is called up yonder. Bill and Howard have also had their own particular lanes-in-life that they have travelled. I hope, one day, that I will have described all these lanes to the benefit of a reading public.
ONE VIEW OF BIOGRAPHY
Here is how the biographer of New Zealand writer Janet Frame(1904-2004) put the project of her biography to Janet before beginning his work: "If you are prepared to cooperate with me, to talk with me, to make your papers and your friends and family available to me, I would need something like two-and-a-half years for research, and a further two years to write a manuscript in close consultation with you, researching further gaps as they become apparent. There would then be something like a six-month period in which the book would be in production. That would add-up to at least five years." Janet brightened at once and said, "Of course I'll be dead by then." And that seemed to make the whole idea not just more tolerable, but more acceptable to her.
Five years, for me, will not be long enough, since I have too many other writing projects on the fire. If the first four years, 9/2010 to 2/2014, of biographical work are any indication, the incoming material is going to take much longer to gather than I had originally anticipated. But, again, as I have said above, this presents no problem. I am not in a race; I've run enough races in my life and, in these evening years, I'm walking slowly. Most of my life now is quite solitary, and it is given over to writing when and if I am inclined.
The purpose of auto/biography is the recreation, the nostalgic or not-so-nostalgic closure, the simple or not so simple delineation, of a life. This is one way of expressing the purpose of an autobiography or of a biography. But the writing of such a life is also much more. Many writers describe the purpose of these genres and their several country-cousins: memoir or monograph, diary or journal, life-narrative or commentary, or various forms of essay and poetry. A search for some clearer understanding of the auto/biographer’s identity is a commonly found aim in the now massive literature on the subject of why auto/biographers write.
For some auto/biographers of a scientific bent their work is animated by the purpose of proving that the lives of those in question are: (i) ultimately fulfilling some purpose, or (ii) ultimately purposeless. At the base of every literary work is some philosophy of life, of existence. The English mathematician and philosopher who wrote on algebra and logic, the foundations of mathematics and the philosophy of science, as well as on physics, metaphysics and education, Alfred North Whitehead(1861-1947) stated in his book The Function of Reason that: the examination of autobiographies and biographies would constitute an interesting subject for study in itself. My own 2600 page autobiography is written with these words of Whitehead in mind.
My autobiography is more about the field, the genre, of autobiography than it is about my life. I found, after writing the first edition of my autobiography, and after reading about the field, a field which had become massive by the 21st century, during the years 1984 to 2004, that I became more interested in integrating the intellectual, psychological and sociological issues of biography and autobiography into my work, than I was in writing my simple or not-so-simple life-narrative.
My autobiography, and the biographies of Howard, Bill and Arini that I am currently working on are each and all animated by a significant sense of purpose. It is also animated by a metanarrative, a cosmology, about which I do not possess any emotional incredulity, although I maintain an intellectual doubt about many of its aspects, partly, to protect me from any overweening and potential arrogance that I might entertain about its content.
My literary, my auto/biographical, exercises involve a significant psychological dimension with its interface between the active, public self and the more contemplative private underside--side by side. There is the via activa and the via contemplativa, as they say in Latin, in everyone's life. Auto/biography constitutes a process of investigation, at least thusfar and at least for me, rather than a finished product. It is inevitably open-ended, and the key word, a key word, in this description, this concept, is process.
Until my early retirement at the age of 55 in 1999, and my retirement from PT and most casual and volunteer work in the years 2001 to 2005, my identity was tied-up with my career in the teaching profession and my employment-student-family-life over more than sixty years: 1943 to 2005. My identity was also tied up with, involved intimately, my community life, a life in a multitude of communities. Far, far back was my writing-life, the part that writing played in my sense of identity. That writing life always had to fit itself into the corners of the other aspects of my daily life. My writing life saw the light of day, the light of publication by the 1970s and moreso, by the 1980s. Most of my writing was part and parcel of my paid employment. Occasionally my writing burst the walls of my job and got into a newspaper or a magazine, a journal or a book. When some literary duty and, sometimes, pleasure called---my writing occurred outside my 60 hour working week. This happened for many, many reasons.
I have had no trouble agreeing with Herbert Marcuse(1898-1979), the German Jewish philosopher, sociologist and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory in politics and sociology, when he wrote that: “people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment,"(1)---and I might add: their music, their love-affairs, what they eat, and their many and several interests from sport and scuba-diving, to gardening and galivanting. One’s appearance, clothes, hair-style, and deportment became entwined with identity, historically, particularly in the nineteenth century, if not before, so argues one analyst. Clothing and the body, the body's allurements and its images have become, for millions, a significant part of their identity. The “idea of the Self as a Work of Art,” also came to be seen as a false self, as I write about below.
This falseness was expressed by a French existentialist philosopher, public intellectual, political activist, feminist theorist & social theorist, Simone de Beauvoir(1908-1986) in her book The Second Sex as follows: “The least sophisticated of women, once she is “dressed,” does not present herself to observation; she is, like the picture or statue, or the actor on the stage, an agent through which is suggested someone not there, that is, the character she represents, but not the character she actually is. Often, she really has little idea of who she is and she does not want to think too much about 'the real-her' because the subject is far too complex---if indeed there is a real-her.
It is this identification with something unreal, fixed and perfect that gratifies her.”(2) In my case I have a different set of commodities which play a role in the formation of my identity: books and essays, ideas and concepts as well as, and especially as I got into my sixties, the metaphorical nature of the flora, fauna and material phenomena of existence, the close connections between physical and spiritual reality. My wife takes a serious and active role in the beautification of our home and garden and I am a beneficiary of her domestic enthusiasms. I am sure my identity is also formed in ways that are subtle and complex by my domestic surroundings. This is a complex subject, the metaphorical nature of physical reality. It is difficult to deal with here, although John Hatcher, the now emeritus professor of English Literature at the University of South Florida, deals with it well in his book Close Connections(3), and I have dealt with it in my autobiography in a chapter entitled ‘memorabilia’ but not in the kind of detail and depth that Hatcher has done.
In the last 15 years, 1999 to 2014, my life as a writer and poet, an editor and publisher, an online journalist and blogger, scholar and reader, editor and researcher, has shaped my life and my identity in different forms and directions than that identity had been shaped in the previous six decades from 1943 to 1999. As the American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright, whose body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings---e.e. cummings(1894-1962) once wrote, "if the artist does not shape his or her identity to their work, their life will crack open."
My life had already cracked open several times before my early retirement in 1999 at the age of 55. It cracked-open, so to speak, in the form of burn-out, a psychological term for a syndrome, a syndrome characterized by exhaustion and diminished interest, especially in one's career. Occupational burnout is characterized by exhaustion, and reduced professional efficacy within the workplace. In the last few months of my employment as a FT teacher in 1999 I was taking shots of testosterone to get though the day and not feel the need to go to sleep at work in the afternoon. All my burn-outs, going back to the first ones in my late teens and early twenties, though, were also part and parcel of my bipolar 1 disorder which I have written about at this website in the mental health sub-section, and which you can read about at this link:http://bahai-library.com/price_mental-health_history_autobiography-memoir
With the medication package I acquired for my bipolar I disorder during this last ten years, these years of extensive writing--and as I entered my 60s--I think I have seen the end of those cracking-open, those burn-out, experiences. This new-found tranquillity is not in the main because I am free at last to write; nor is it because I no longer have to spend 60 hours a week in a job and another 20 engaged in various social, community and family responsibilities---although all these are contributing factors to my present tranquillity---it is due to the new medications for my bipolar I disorder. These medication packages, or cocktails as they are sometimes called, have got better with each shift in their names and quantities since the early years of this 21st century. If readers are interested in this aspect of my life they can go to the bipolar sub-section of mental illness at this website or click on the above link.
I acknowledge my religious identity as a Baha’i and, as I do, I am aware of the place of history, language and culture in the construction of my particular subjectivity, my particular sense of who I am. I also acknowledge that all discourse, all writing, is placed, positioned and situated on all sorts of criteria which I write about a great deal in my now extensive literary corpus. All of my knowledge, all of my writing, to put this another way, is contextual. I find it helpful and fertile, useful and engaging, if the way of looking at my Baha’i identity is contested by others, subjected to a dialectic and praxis, dialogue and discussion, apologetics and rhetoric. The assertion of differences, a clash of opinions, is a helpful way of establishing identity. In this way my identity develops from, is clarified by and is based on, a process of engaging and asserting difference rather than suppressing it.
The spark of truth comes from the clash of differing opinions: Baha'is refer to this theme time and time again throughout their lives. A tolerant assertion of preferences, not an intolerant insistence on agreement; upholding one's absolutes and categorical imperatives without calling down fire from heaven on those who do not agree with us; seeing reality as a white light, so to speak, broken down into a prism, a spectrum of different colours or values. Many people, though, are not able to discuss serious issues of meaning and purpose, philosophy and religion, without arguement. In my years of retirement from being "jobbed"--and with several changes in my drug regime, my meds, I have tended not to engage with others intellectually, at least others who have difficulty discussing things outside of the quotidian. In cyberspace, though, my pen has been very busy in the last decade or so. For decades I was, for the most part, able to maintain my cool in talking about controversial issues in politics and religion.
Anger and bipolar disorder have, for many of its sufferers, a strong corelation. Anger, of course, has a strong corelation in people with many temperaments and disorders, personalities and styles of life. In the last dozen years, though, and on my new medications, my experience of anger has become a rarer event. Indeed, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have got angry, controlled or uncontrolled, in the last dozen years. Resilience and composure, even a touch of radiant acquiescence, are qualities I have learned over the decades. But all of this is due, for the most part at least, to the adjustments to my body chemistry that have come from the field of pharmacology or drug therapy---and especially in the last dozen years, in this 21st century.
After a lifetime of discussing serious issues in philosophy and religion, the social sciences and humanities, I now engage in most of my dialogue, my interchange, with others in cyberspace. For this reason I have found the internet to be a wonderful place to discuss issues close to my heart, issues that I have thought about for years, and issues that still engage me in the evening of my life. The whole question of dialogue and discussion, though, on or off the internet is quite a complex question which I won't go into here in any more detail.
This identity, which I have been discussing in various ways in the above paragraphs, acknowledges the reality of and the need for decentralised and centralized, diffuse and specific, as well as systematized and fractured knowledge. This sense of identity acknowledges a sense of power which also has a diffuse set of sources. At the same time this inner and outer sense of identity accepts the useful concepts of periphery and centre, margins and depths, surfaces and heights in the expression of that power. Once I clarify the notion of identity, once it is redefined in a universal and non-derogatory way, once it engages difference without implying superiority and hierarchy, I hope that this expression, this set of views, will help those who read these paragraphs, those who are both part of the Baha’i community and those in other interest groups, help them express their own group consciousness, help it to develop in a manner which is unfettered by the accrued and often inaccurate associations of history and culture, tradition and ignorance.(4)
All this, at least what I have written in the above paragraph, is quite complicated and I do not expect readers to take a great interest in these complexities. My identity and my autobiography is wrapped up in, is part and parcel of, my search for and experience in a collective solution to the problems of our age. This collective solution is presented to me as both a moral imperative and the logical consequence of reason applied to my intelligible, and I trust intelligent, rendering of history and the nature of my society. The measures needed to cure the ills of civilization are identical with those needed to cure the individual but these measures must be practiced in a social milieux. Indeed the social milieux, the social interaction within the social order revealed in the Bahá'í scriptures, is the workshop for both my individual fulfilment and for any collective solution. I see myself as part of a functioning unit by my free choice. Individual identity and a more inclusive identity as part of a social structure and as a world citizen are inextricably conjoined for me—and they are examined in my lengthy memoir, as well as in my more than 7000 poems.
For additional perspectives on my autobiography readers can go to several sub-sections of this website and to this link at google, at Baha'i Library Online: http://bahai-library.com/users/Ron%20Price
There are so many ways of looking at identity. One popular view is expressed as follows: What really shapes and conditions and makes us is somebody only a few of us ever have the courage to face: and that is the child you once were, long before formal education ever got its claws into you--that impatient, all-demanding child who wants love and power and can't get enough of either. It is those pent-up, craving children who make all the wars and all the horrors and all the art and all the beauty and discovery in life, because they are trying to achieve what lay beyond their grasp before they were five years old."(5)
My autobiography, which in many ways is a series of depictions of my identity, is presented as a pastiche of many types of writing: first, second and third-person point of view narration, the use of the past as well as the present tense, letters, newspaper articles, speeches, lists, historical accounts, scientific jargon, definitions, photographs, recipes, conversations, obituaries, wedding announcements, telephone conversations and assorted memorabilia. The inclusion of all these kinds of writing both loosens and strengthens the genre boundaries within which I work and points to blurring and cross-pollinating between genres as being more useful.(6) This work is no mere imparting of information. Alfred North Whitehead once wrote: “no university has had any justification for existence since the popularization of printing in the fifteenth century.”(7) I would not go that far with Whitehead but the point he makes about information certainly applies to my auto/biography. It is not essentially an information base, a data base, for my life.
Anthony Giddens(1938- ), the British sociologist who is known for his theory of structuration and his holistic view of modern societies, who is considered to be one of the most prominent modern sociologists, and who is the author of at least 34 books, as well as being published in at least 29 languages, has much to say of relevance to the auto/biographer and the literary expression of human identity. “Each of us not only 'has', but lives a biography,” writes Giddens, “it is reflexively organised in terms of flows of social and psychological information about possible ways of life. Modernity is a post-traditional order, in which the question, 'How shall I live?' has to be answered in day-to-day decisions about how to behave, what to wear and what to eat - and many other things - as well as interpreted within the temporal unfolding of self-identity.”(8)
In writing my memoirs, my auto/biography, I am defining myself because I am putting my consciousness and my conscience into text, into words. In some ways I'm exploring personality, trying to understand myself better and at the same time I'm opening-up personality. I'm writing out of personality and it's my canvas for a portrait in a sense. I could never have written my memoirs, or got a handle on my identity without postmodernism, without the licence to collapse generic conventions and see myself as many selves. I like the idea of calling my work a novel and then to define it further as creative non-fiction.(9) But, again, I must emphasize, the overview of all of this life-narrative, the general context, the total orientation, the moulding and remoulding of my world, is in the form of a conscious participation, often on a very small scale, in the forming of a new society. The context is one of commitment, of solitude and solidarity.(10)
The Bahá'í community which I have been a part of for more than 60 years gives to me a happy mix of creative expression and group solidarity. “Originality,” writes the English psychiatrist and author Anthony Storr(1920-2001), “implies being bold enough to go beyond accepted norms. Sometimes it involves being misunderstood or rejected by one's peers.” In these last six decades I have often been misunderstood by my fellow Baha’is, by my students, by my friends, by my family and by my wife---the person in life with whom I have spent the most time. Such an experience is an inevitable part of virtually any intense group experience. “Those who are not too dependent upon, or too closely involved with, others,” continues Storr, “find it easier to ignore convention. Primitive societies find it difficult to allow for individual decisions or varieties of opinion. When the maintenance of group solidarity is a prime consideration, originality may be stifled.”(11)
I have not found a stifling of my creativity to be the case in this new faith, this new international community. This is not to say that I have not experienced tension in the many Bahá'í groups of which I have been a part. As Alfred Adler(1870-1937), medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology, writes: we make our own choices on how we are to belong. I have done this all my Bahá'í life. Decisions on how best to make my contribution to the whole, to the local and to the national and international Bahá'í community have not always been easy. I have done this by means of my efforts in my career, my intimate relationships, my friendships and, as I say, the larger Bahá'í community. But in these areas of my existence there has been frustration and tragedy. Fulfilment, the release of psychic energy, has been an emergence, at least as I look back over my life, from the tragedy among other sources. Perhaps this is, in part, due to my view of religion as world loyalty, of unity as the first and last word and of tolerance as the requisite of high civilization.
The ultimate ends of my lifelong education process are a living religion, a living aesthetic enjoyment and a living courage which has urged me toward a creative adventure. I play my part in the maintenance of the language, the history, the symbolic code, of my Bahá'í society and in the relevant application of its teachings to the society I live in. My identity is, therefore, bound up with an appreciation of the past, with history and with tradition. All of these things are necessary to a full life, a life which develops organically rather than one which is radically cut off from its roots. The roots of my society are Judaeo-Christian and Greco-Roman and the new Faith that has inspired my life, and which is at the centre of my identity, has a rich appreciation of these two roots. These words of Virginia Woolf are an expression of the centrality of identity and autobiography in this writer's life: "I sometimes think only autobiography is literature--novels are what we peel off, and come at last to the core, which is only you or me."(12)
Since moving to Australia in my mid-twenties, in 1971, humour has become an important part of my identity. The nearly total absence of humour from the Bible, the Bahá'í writings and, indeed, from most of religious and philosophical literature, a literature in which I have immersed myself for several decades, has made of me a highly serious person.(13) Of course, other factors led to the seriousness of my temperament and personality. Living in Australia has brought-out in me an appreciation of the funny side of life. I became conscious of this slow development when, in 1980, I got a job as a probation and parole officer in Tasmania and it was largely due to my sense of humour, or so I was told by the interviewing panel. More than thirty-five years later, in 2014, humour is part of my soul’s salvation, my modus operandi, Downunder, one of the main gainers from living in the Antipodes for more than 40 years: 1971 to 2014.
Joan Didion(1934- ), an American author best known for her novels, her essays, and her literary journalism has influenced my sense of identity, but so, too, have literally 100s of other writers. Didion, though, explores the disintegration of American morals and the cultural chaos; she explores the overriding theme of individual and social fragmentation, and she emphasizes again and again, the sense of anxiety and dread which permeates much of western society. It also permeates her work, I conclude this brief essay with a paraphrase of her words, words which she acknowledged from the English novelist and journalist, George Orwell(1903-1950). His work is marked by clarity, intelligence and wit, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and belief in democratic socialism.
In many ways writing. Orwell, says, is the act of saying “I” and of imposing oneself upon other people. It’s a way of saying: “listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.” Writing can also be seen as an aggressive, even a hostile, act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating. But there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the readers most private space. I have never thought of myself as a bully; but my wife, who knows me better than anyone, might beg to differ. She says I am many things and bully is a word she uses from time to time, even if I do not acknowledge its veracity. What each of us acknowledges and what we are, goodness, there is the rub, as Shakespeare wrote in another context.
Didion says that she stole the title “Why I Write?” not only because the words sounded right but because they seemed to sum up, in a no-nonsense way, all that she has to tell us her readers. Like many writers, she says, she has only this one "subject," this one "area": the act of writing. She can bring readers no reports from any other front. She acknowledges other interests, as I do, but—like Didion—in these my latter years—writing is my game. Like Didion, too, I needed a degree by the end of one summer, for me it was the summer of 1966, so that I could enter teachers’ college. Like Didion, my attention was always on the periphery, on what I could see and taste and touch. But, unlike Didion, it was also on ideas, hundreds of them. Like Didion, though, I knew only too well what I couldn’t do. I knew what I wasn’t and it took me some years to discover what I was. By the age of 55 and even more by 60, and even more by 65 in 2009, I knew I was a writer and a poet.
Didion goes on to say that when she said that she knew she was a writer--she meant not a "good" writer or a "bad" writer but simply a writer. To her this meant a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are/were spent arranging words on pieces of paper. In Didion’s case she emphasizes that had her credentials in her early life in her post-secondary education been in order---she would never have become a writer. Had she been blessed with even limited access to her own mind there would have been no reason to write. She wrote entirely to find out what she was thinking, what she was looking at and what it meant---as well as what she wanted and what she feared. I had a different set of reasons, a different raison d’etre. I explore this raison d’etre in a series of essays on auto/biography, on identity, as well as many other subjects. I will explore it to some extent, among many explorations, in that biography of Arini Beaumaris.
29 December 2009 to 8 August 2012
--------------------SOME FOOTNOTES ON THE ABOVE ESSAY ON IDENTITY--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society, 1964.
 Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, Vintage, NY, 1952, p. 125.
 John Hatcher, Close Connections: The Bridge Between Physical and Spiritual Reality, Bahá'í Publishing, Wilmette, 2009.
 Emma Heggarty, “Native Peoples of Canada: Rewriting the Imaginary,” 14th April 2003, Internet, 2004.
 Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels, MacMillan, Toronto, 1981, p.33.
 For this concept I want to thank Winifred M. Mellor’s Review "THE SIMPLE CONTAINER OF OUR EXISTENCE": NARRATIVE AMBIGUITY IN CAROL SHIELDS'S THE STONE DIARIES,” in Studies in Canadian Literature, Vol. 20 No.2, 1995.
 Alfred North Whitehead, The Aims of Education and Other Essays, MacMillan Company, 1929; reprinted in Education in the Age of Science, edited by Brand Blanshard, New York, Basic Books, 1959.
 Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity, Polity Press, 1991.
 An interview by Christine Hamelin, “JOHN MOSS: CONSCIOUSNESS AS CONTEXT,” in Studies in Canadian Literature, Volume 20, No. 1, 1995.
 Rollo May, The Courage To Create, W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1975, p. 11.
 Anthony Storr, Solitude, Ballantine Books, 1989.
 Virginia Woolf, “Letter to Hugh Walpole (1932),” The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol. V: 1932-1935, ed. Nigel Nicholson and Joanne Trautmann, Harcourt Brace, NY, 1979, p. 142.
 Quoted in Price's Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead
 Joan Didion, “Excerpts From Why I Write,” The New York Times Magazine, December 5, 1976.
SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT: A GROUP PROCESS
The social dynamics of the Bahá’í community and the resultant development of spiritual qualities has been discussed by Daniel C. Jordan. For some background on Dr Jordan go to:http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/anisa/jordan_bio.html I have been influenced by Jordan as far back as the late 1960s in relation to education and spirituality. When one joins a Bahá’í Community, says Jordan, he joins a family of extremely diverse human beings with whom he will have to work and establish meaningful relationships. The first thing he finds out is that his old repertoire of responses is no longer adequate. So many different human beings represent a great many unknowns, and trying to relate to those unknowns creates energy and anxiety which sets that reciprocal process of knowing and loving though faith and courage in motion.
Defining a legitimate goal which will constructively utilize the energy from that anxiety will call forth a new repertoire of responses. Each new response is a bit of one’s latent capacity made manifest—a release of human potential. Another way of saying it is that the Bahá’í Community offers more opportunities for knowing and loving under growth-fostering circumstances than can be found anywhere else. Thus the Bahá’í community, because of its diversity, provides many of those tests which are essential for our development.At the same time, guidance from Bahá’í institutions and the commitment of members of the community to accept each other for what they can become provides the courage to turn those test into vehicles for spiritual development—for the release of human potential (n.d., 13-14).
The processes of consultation and community interactions provide the corrective mechanism for delusions and self-deceptions in the Bahá’í community. It is very easy to think that one has achieved such qualities as patience and love if one is in an isolated cocoon in a monastic setting. It is much more difficult to be self-deluded when one is interacting in a diverse community and trying to consult with individuals of a widely differing social, cultural and educational background to oneself. Lastly, in the processes of the Bahá’í community that lead to spiritual development and progress, great emphasis is given to the concept of service. Thus for example, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is enumerating what will
lead to the mystic’s goal of nearness to the Divine, He includes service to humanity and service in the cause. To conclude this part of this webpage on spirituality, and spiritual development I offer to readers this link:http://bahai-library.com/hatcher_bw18_spirituality
A PROLIFIC BAHA'I WRITER
There are many Baha'i sites in cyberspace you can google yourself.The first is a series of articles by one of the most prolific, indeed, I would add one of the most erudite Baha'is, Udo Schaefer:
For an excellent list of books and articles on the Babi and Baha'i Faiths as well as a substantial part or the entire book itself go to:
There have emerged on the internet a number of staunch defenders of the Cause against critics who have only emerged in the years of the great extension of the internet in the first two decades of the 21st century. This period has coincided with the new Baha'i paradigm: 1996 to 2016. One of these erudite writers is Susan Stiles Maneck. For some context on the life and work of Susan Stiles Maneck, Associate Professor of History at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi go to her website at the first link below. For her article entitled: A Review of Sen McGlinn's Article on Theocracy go to the 2nd link. Maneck is one of the many supporters and defenders of the Cause against critics, especially on the internet, who have arisen during the years of the new Baha'i paradigm, the new culture of learning and growth: 1996 to 2016.
Another suporter and defender of the Cause is Dr. Mark Foster, a Profesor of Sociology at Johnson County Community College Overland Park, Kansas U.S.A. His internet site is, arguably, the most extensive and creative of all the sites I have seen thusfar. It is also found below. I could list other impressive writers and their sites, writers and Baha'is in good standing like: Jack McLean, William Hatcher, John Hatcher. It has become the responsibility of Baha'is during this new Baha'i culture to seek out sources of interest to them. Not everyone has academic interests; some are happy with general reading; some are happy with the Ruhi books. Many people don't like reading much at all, and prefer audio-visual materials. To each their own in this new age, this new Baha'i culture and paradigm.