"Know thyself"-From the Temple of Apollo at Delphi
"The unexamined life is not worth living."-Socrates
"I am, myself, the matter of my book."-Michael Montaigne, The Essays, 1588.
"I should not talk about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well."-Henry David Thoreau, 1844(ca)
"Turn thy sight unto thyself that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting."-Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words.
"Not by the force of numbers, not by the mere exposition of a set of new and noble principles, not by an organised campaign of teaching -- no matter how worldwide and elaborate in its character -- not even by the staunchness of our faith or the exaltation of our enthusiasm, can we ultimately hope to vindicate in the eyes of a critical and sceptical age the supreme claim of the Abha Revelation. One thing and only one thing will unfailingly and alone secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause, namely, the extent to which our own inner life and private character mirror forth in their manifold aspects the splendour of those eternal principles proclaimed by Baha'u'llah." -Shoghi Effendi, 1924: quoted in Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha'i Community, p. 28.
AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION
Although this autobiographical statement is about my life, its primary intention is to be of service in assisting others to make greater sense of their own lives. I suppose, in some ways, such an exercise could be seen as somewhat pretentious or presumptuous or both. To be "the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage" to one’s fellow man contains "no greater bliss, no more complete delight."1 Such are my lofty aims. The world of entertainment: film, TV, radio, a vast cornucopia of print and electronic media are accomplishing this aim in some ways, indeed, in many ways now for billions of people on the planet. Mine is but a small contribution to this total picture as nearly everyone’s is who contributes to this well-being and happiness, this delight and pleasure of others. Time will tell how successful I am in this connection through the written word.-Ron Price drawing on the words of 1’Abdu’l-Baha in The Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1975(1928), p.3.
In tracing the history of my affinal and consanguineal families from Australia, Canada, England and France as I began doing in 1984, the same year I read the autobiography of my grandfather, I found I could go back no further than to Croyden in the U.K. in 1872 on my mother's side; and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales in 1890 on my father's side. The period of time from the beginning of this new Age in 1844 until these earliest evidences on my family tree was occupied by my great-grandparents and, perhaps, great-great-grandparents.1 About these parts of my family tree before the last quarter of the nineteenth century I know nothing, at least not yet. Perhaps during these middle years, 65-75, of late adulthood, a period some human development psychologists call the years from 60 to 80 in the lifespan, I will search into the genealogies of my family and learn about the first years of this new age, this new calendar BE, Baha’i Era as it applies to my family.
It is not my purpose here in this section of this my old website, a website I first put together as I approached the age of 60, to outline my family history; I have done this in other places in my autobiographical narrative Pioneering Over Four Epochs. Some of my autobiography or memoirs, to use another word with similar connotations and meaning, can be found on this website in some 42 chapters, or hyperlinks as they are now called on occasion. These sections can be found at the end/bottom of the 'index' or access page by clicking at the place indicated. As far as the history of my affinal family, that is my two families by marriage, that also is not found here. Indeed, it is not the focus of this work or my other works. I deal with my two affinal families in a tangential, casual and incidental fashion throughout my writings.
This website is not an exercise in self-publicity in the tradition of artists like Salvadore Dali and the massive autobiography industry of the last 150 years inspite of appearances, perhaps, to the contrary. I'm sure some readers will find what self-portraiture there is here to be too revealing; for others it will not be revealing enough. What is intended in this autobiographical excursion is an integration of a life, a religion and a society into some kind of meaningful whole, a whole that is meaningful to me and hopefully to readers who cross this path, readers who aim to create a meaningful whole out of their own lives. “Create” is the operative word here. The achievement of a sense of wholeness even if created is no guarantee of its reality 24/7 as they say these days, its reality to oneself to say nothing of others. The process, the issues at stake, are far from simple.
1 For a brief statement on the history of my family during the years of the 'Heroic Age'(1844-1921) of the Baha'i Faith, see section 24 part (ii) of this website. For a standard resume of my own professional career see section 24 part (v)(a) below and of my Baha'i experience see section 24 part (v)(b) below.
I use the year 1844 as a symbolic figure for the beginning of this New Age, this Baha’i Era. Indeed, the Baha’i Era actually begins in 1844. Other years could be selected. But 1844 is heuristic in its implications: the first writings of Karl Marx, 'The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,' were published in the summer of that year; on 22 May the first message was sent on a telegraphic wire in the USA: 'what hath God wrought?' and the Bab made the first public declaration of His new Faith on 23 May 1844. Indeed, one could add many more items of significance by means of a simple search on the internet.
This autobiographical study has other central purposes than examining my family history as far back as it is possible. What autobiography there is here does not assume much significance for the purposes of this web site and its contents until at least the first phase of the implementation of 'Abdu'l-Baha's Divine Plan in the years 1937 to 1944, when the pieces were coming together for the matrix that formed the setting for my birth during WW2. At the beginning of the Baha’i Seven Year Plan in 1937 my grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side, Emma and Alfred Cornfield, lived in Hamilton Ontario Canada. Alfred had just retired at age 65, after a chequered and difficult employment history in Canada going back to his arrival from England in 1900. Emma, his wife, would be dead by the end of 1939 from cancer in the year that WW2 broke out. As far as I know, my mother and father had not yet met in 1939. This meeting would take place by 1942. It is in this milieux, just before and during WW2, that the main currents of my autobiography begin and its connection with a new religion and a society in a perilous, complex and tragic state of its existence.
The poetry which deals with this milieux, this embryo, this first part of my life and the years of early childhood, say, my birth to age five, 1944 to 1949, what are clearly autobiographical concerns, deal with aspects of my family life. They also deal with the synchronicity between the events in Baha’i and secular history as well as my life. This first phase of my autobiographical poetry, then, comes from the years after 1936 when 'Abdu'l-Baha's Divine Plan, as outlined in his immortal Tablets, was finally implemented in an organized campaign of teaching. The earliest phase of the implementation of His Plan, 1937-1944, synchronized and I might add somewhat parenthetically, serendipitously, with the first meeting, the engagement and the marriage of my mother and father in 1942-1943. Three months after this Plan ended I was born, the day, 23 July 1944.
Father and son(1945), at the end of the first epoch(1921-1945) of the Formative Age(1921 to an unknown distant future date). The year 1944 also marked the end of the first stage(a seven year plan from 1937 to 1944) of the first epoch(1937-1963) of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Divine Plan. This was the first plan in which the term 'pioneer' gained wide usage. There were about 200 Baha'is in Canada in 1944 and about 100 in Australia as far as I can guesstimate. The general population of Canada and Australia did not indulge in religious experimentation especially in the first half century of the history of the Baha’i Faith in these two countries. The Baha’i Faith was largely invisible in the West at least until the early 1950s and its defining feature was what van den Hoonaard called "religious singleness,"1 a community of members who expressed their faith mainly in individual and much less in community terms with most of their ties to a wider society, to their family, their work and various other civil and leisure interest groups.(The Origins of the Baha’i Community in Canada: 1898-1948, p.277.) There were always members of the Baha’i community who expressed their faith this way as long as I have been a Baha’i. Not everyone is a meeting-goer, is group-oriented outside their family, job and leisure interests. Wherever I have lived in some two dozen towns there have been people in the Baha’i community whom one never or very rarely saw. Indeed, this aspect of the Baha’i Faith has always seemed to me part of its very inclusiveness. The solitary types and the groupies, so to speak, can feel at home in this global community. In the first six decades of the implementation of the Plan(1936/7 to 1996/7) were decades of institution building. The Baha’i community was small during these years and the need on the part of each Baha’i to support activities and, in the process, extend the base and consolidate the community was great. With the new culture of learning and growth that emerged after 1996, individuals could express their faith in many ways in addition to attending every meeting on the calendar of events.
My poetry takes in a much wider ambit than the personal and inner life. It also takes in aspects of all of phenomenal existence, insofar as that existence is a part of my imagination, my memory and my intellect. Memory is, as existential psychologist Rollo May once put it,"the keeper of all that is meaningful." (Man's Search For Himself, 1953, p.220) Features of history, the present and the future, and much that is meaningful across a wide cross-section of subject matter--as is evident from even a short perusal of the contents of my poetry and its 43 categories as listed in the index--come into my poetry. To the extent that I can find synthesis and unity in multiplicity, is the extent to which there has been some coming together around a centre, a centre which has held and which came into my life and the life of my family beginning back in 1953. That centre was the Baha'i Faith. I see all of this poetry as autobiographical in the wider sense that all writing can be seen as autobiographical, although I'm sure many readers will be hard-put to apply that adjective to much of my material. Readers may prefer the term personal, narcissistic, self-centred, egocentric, memoiristic, inter alia. I find that my own identity over a lifetime is so changeable and fragmented, so fluid and so much a process in addition to being a mysterious entity that I prefer to see the Baha'i Faith, its literature and its community as the centre, the synthesizing, unifying agent, in this poetic statement. This is the raison d'etre for this website. To put this concept of centre and periphery another way, there is a continuous rendezvous between myself and this faith, each moving in relation to the other, sometimes feeling static or in a fixed position, sometimes feeling in flux.
Virtually everything is up-for-grabs, fodder, for my poetic mill, so to speak. Although all of life is up-for-grabs, as I say, up for analysis and discussion. There is a great deal that does not come into the narrow compass of my life. For one must be selective out of necessity, out of interest and out of life’s pragmatics. There is, too, the wider ambit of life, of existence, that I try to take in, that I want to take in and make part of some intelligible whole, some integrated and complete picture—and if not complete at least partially so—as complete as I can make it given the enigmatic, paradoxical and complex nature of existence. For each of us, though, only part of that whole 'grabs-us.' This website tells of some of the stuff that has grabbed me, that became part of my memory, my imagination and intellect and which is found here as a sort of reminiscence, as Plato once described the process of discovering truth. I do not see this website as part of some memorial to myself. As the Australian poet, critic and essayist Clive James once said: "a memorial to oneself is not a very charming idea even when the pharaohs did it." To try to make his memorial charming, though, James soon realised that his project might be more useful if he included the work of other people since some of his own work included other people anyway. His site had a video section with little no-budget television interviews that he made in his living room. My attitude to my website is somewhat like the way W.H. Auden viewed his poetry and the writing of many a successful author. "Literary success," wrote Auden, "can give but small satisfaction to an author, even to his vanity." Auden saw only two kinds of literary success worth winning and even if won, he emphasized, he or she would never know. I will give Auden a whole paragraph to outline his view. It is certainly a literary success worth winning and I paraphrase:
One achieves literary success when one is the writer in whose work some great master generations later on the world’s stage of history finds an essential clue for solving some problem. A writer can also achieve literary success by becoming for someone an example of the dedicated life. When a writer is placed by a stranger in the inner sanctum of their thoughts, indeed, when he or she becomes a hallowed mentor—that is literary success.(W.H. Auden, Forewords and Afterwords, Vintage, 1990(1979), p.366)
There are now hundreds of millions of websites in the world, 90 million blogs and 1 and ˝ billion internet users. I have lots of time to go to other sites since, after more than a decade of having my own site, I spend little time up-dating it. This is because I don’t have the skills. And so I post at some 4000 other sites and gain millions of readers in the process. Many lone bloggers have already found that their regular audience is only a handful of people like them. Some of the handful are in Iceland or Venezuela, which can be a thrill, but on the whole, no matter how well the bloggers write, if they haven't got a selling point beyond their own opinions they are digging their own graves under the impression that they are putting up a building. These are the words of Clive James and he is partly right and that is why I have created many a blog at many a site—too many to count now.
I don’t wake up sweating in the night wondering if I am going broke to no purpose with my site since it costs me nothing. I can check the viewing figures and remind myself that in the last three years I get two visitors/day at this site. I’ll never be famous or rich on this clicking-rate. Clive goes on to say that "the most glittering prize the web offers is that it gives a person a chance to put their life on the line in a constructive way." Perhaps, too, as he says, "the brightest young people, wherever they come from, are more likely to find an older voice worth listening to if it is talking about something beyond wealth and power." At two clicks a day, though, I’m not holding my breath waiting for this glittering prize, if it is that, to receive the recognition it deserves, if it in fact does. But prize or no prize, there is no doubt that this site is autobiographical.
Autobiography's traditional search, by way of writing, is for a significant personal past, a self as life-story, as personal narrative-among other purposes for the search, for the writing task. Essays and poems, interviews and books have immersed this writer in the pleasures and doubts of the writing process. These genres of writing also possess a fragmentariness and a provisionality that scale down the amplitude of autobiography by narrowing the retrospective gaze to single experiences and certain life-themes. One can not take everything in in one poem, one piece of writing or, indeed, in one’s entire corpus of writing any more than one can take all of life into one’s own life, one’s own living. This seems only obvious, hardly in need of saying. One touches the surface of existence and takes away an infinitesimal portion of the whole. One of my small portions is found here.
The study of a life, any life, is in some ways a religious act, a devotional exercise. "Look within thee", as Baha'u'llah says, "and thou wilt find Me standing within Thee mighty, powerful and self-subsistent." Many things are involved in this process of recreation, partly an invention and a defining of the self, partly a moulding and remoulding of myself and my world, partly a moving back and forth between the interiority of the self and the exteriority of the world. Had it not been for my life commitment for the last 49 years to the teachings, the philosophy, the spiritual principles, of this emerging world religion, I am inclined to think that this autobiographical poetry in all its forms would not have come into existence. This global Faith is the catalyst, the leaven, the enzyme, that has given rise to all that is found here. For me, as it was for the psychologist Alfred Adler, a sense of community is a primary index of mental health and the term 'community' for me has a host of meanings, as does the term mental health. Readers, it is hoped, will feel that my struggles, my triumphs, my failures and glories are, at least in part, their own. As the American poet Kenneth Koch said in a recent interview: when you read a poem, the poet's experience becomes, in a way, your own. I would hope that readers here might experience what Richard Hutch calls "inner empathetic rehearsals"1, experiments in imagining similarities and contrasts with their own lives when they read the poetry of others. The comparisons and contrasts with the lives of others provide a potentially fertile field for understanding one’s own life. Even comparisons and contrasts with those who have passed away can provide heuristic insights in this imaginative, subjective sense. I write occasionally about those who have passed on and inevitably, of course, I and my readers will also pass on. In mysterious and enigmatic ways we are all one, all one community: past, present and future.
We come to understand ourselves in many ways. Autobiography and biography, examining the lives of others, is but one way. Hopefully, some of the readers who seriously examine this material will find clarifications and understandings of their own lives spinning off, sometimes serendipitously, sometimes easily, freely and quite consciously. This, of course, was what the sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote about in his now-famous The Sociological Imagination.2
Mother and son(1945)...Hamilton Ontario Canada...We come into this world and assume a form that befits our mortal life...and we go on to another world and assume a form that befits our immortality. Eight years after this picture was taken my mother attended a Baha'i fireside and became one of the then 400(circa) Baha'is in Canada....and at the end of that second epoch of the Formative Age, in September 1962, my parents and I pioneered to the next town. This was some eight months before what the Baha’i community called the tenth and final stage of history which would begin in April 1963 with the election of the apex of the Baha'’i administrative Order and the institutionalization and routinization of the charismatic Force that gave birth to this new Faith. I was then 19 years of age.
Autobiography has the potential to provide, for those reading it, well-researched historical comparisons and contrasts with their own lives, with the view to assisting in the moral and psychological empowerment of readers. Surely this is part, an aspect, of the metaphorical nature of Baha'i history and the empowering potential of Baha'i saints, heroes and prominent figures down through the epochs and ages of its history. In this way autobiography, even of the ordinary person, becomes part of a process that helps to create human solidarity. I see my autobiographical poetry and prose, indeed all that I write: essays, interviews, reviews, narrative, inter alia, in this wider context, as but one more contribution to human solidarity on this earth. For the very definition of a person, as I see it, includes the wider world in which we move and have our being, in which we participate, which we construct. Some sociologists call this wider view and its affect on us as 'the social construction of reality.' Some psychologists call it an existential view of the person. Whatever you call it, I draw on a very wide view of the person, of society and of religion, in my poetry.3
For those not having any particular interest in the Baha'i Faith you may find something useful here at this site contrary to a previous comment I made on the access page at this site. My more optimistic muse says readers can find useful insights here whatever their background. My more pessimistic muse, as it advised readers earlier in this extended essay on autobiography, does not think there is something here for everyone. There is obviously a very special relationship in my poetry with Baha'i history and teachings, but it is not essential for the reader to be familiar with the Baha'i story. Many of the writers, the authors, from the first century and a half of Baha'i experience have become my 'friends' due to what is now a long acquaintance with them through books and I draw on them somewhat spontaneously in my poetry. I draw on this literature because I think this literature matters and because it offers an enormous wealth of insight into the whole range of human experience. But I also draw on what might be called 'secular literature' in my poetry and, in the process, I like to think I make both that literature and the Baha’i Faith more relevant to a wider audience.
My autobiography, poetry, history and a wide range of my essays I hope, then, will appeal to readers who has ventured this far into a labyrinth of another life than your own particular labyrinthine experience. If what you read has not turned you on by now or in a short span of time, just click me off and my special labyrinth can be placed into non-existence as quick as the twinkling of an eye. There is so much print available in today's world that you can go where your heart fancies. If what I write here does not catch your fancy--such is life.
As the famous poet W.H. Auden once wrote: 'poetry makes nothing happen.' While I think this is true for the most part in the big, wide, macro world for most other people, in my personal, my interior, my hidden world of affective and intellectual life, poetry has a curiously deep and renewing function. So, if a particular reader finds my writing irrelevant, if what I write has no affect on international relations, that will not affect the personal, private value this poetry has for me and-hopefully-some of my readers.
Studying lives, writing them, biography and autobiography, is one of many possible guides for living together, for understanding your life and society. It fortifies the sense of the unique and irreplaceable worth of the individual. People can be united in solidarity, in the immediacy of empathy, by studying something that outlasts life. A text, a written record, a life-a writer's, an autobiographer's, can be useful for generations. I think many get their sense of beauty, meaning, purpose, whatever, from the big-screen, from musical expression, from one of a multitude of creative forms, from gardening to cooking stuff and eating it, from sexual expression, et cetera, et cetera. We all try to put it all together in our own unique ways.
What Heinz Kohut calls "vicarious introspection", the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person and, at the same time, remain an objective observer, is essential for the autobiographical poet like myself and for readers if they are to genuinely experience the print with which they are trying to engage. This autobiography is inevitably about ‘the other’: the significant other, as psychologists call the special people in our lives; reader and self blend and fold together, as does self and world.
In some ways I see myself as someone who puts the facts of my own life and the lives of others into different contexts, structures and shapes while maintaining my basic integrity and honesty--and others. At least I try. The writer Gail Mandell says that for some writers their writing is like surfing: "you get on a wave and you say 'Hey, this really feels good. This is terrific.'" Some writers tell it as they see it and it is usually so much more than they can ever say to people. I feel the need to say, to write, what I have seen, felt and thought over these several epochs, the epochs since 1944. I was right there on the spot for the evening news of my generation, so to speak. As the reader, you may get news flashes from this newsreader, this reporter, that will be useful to you. I hope so. And if you do not, perhaps generations to come may find news reports from this news reader of this generation, of these four epochs, of some use, some value. Perhaps.
My Baha'i experience over half a century, forty-six years of which involve pioneering, I like to think has some relevance to those who will follow me in the generations to come. This website is part of my effort to provide some of that relevance. At the very least the exercise of putting this site together has given me pleasure. I hope the site provides, as I say above, some pleasure for you.
I often put the story, the event, the inner reaction, the core of a poem in a framework of ideology, convictions, beliefs, attitudes and values. That is part of the pleasure, the depth, the inner, the introspective side of things. I experience a deep sense of entering into another's life, my own and society's as well. This is part of the pleasure of autobiographical and biographical writing. The observer, though, should keep in mind that the act of writing for me takes place in a room by myself hour after hour. The excitement that is this writer's is an inner thing not an adventure in the normal sense of the word, out there, doing things that you talk about on Monday morning. Most of our lives we spend with ourselves, in our own head, in a private world. This is especially true of someone who writes and writes a great deal. This document, this website, translates some of this inner experience, this inner solitude, into form.
Writing a life is about a need, a search, for wholeness amidst fragmentation, division, tension and troubles and the polarities of these tests and difficulties in life. Only parts of one's life at best ever seem to be whole, unified, one, joyous. Fragmentation, conflict, disorder, incompleteness and failure all exist amidst whatever spiritual and material successes, whatever sense of unity, one achieves in one's inner or outer worlds. One’s writing also exists, in a very important sense, in the mind of each reader in his or her own way. Some see Frederick Nietzsche's autobiography of 1888, for example, as serene and triumphant; others see it as confused and mendacious. It was completed only weeks away from his own breakdown. As I say, there are many ways to view a body of writing. This will be no less true of what is here. There is no right way to write a diary, a journal, an autobiography, poetic or otherwise; there is no one right way to read it—and most importantly no one right way to live.
Some will find what they see here useless to them; others will find it of value. The great majority of humanity will never read it or even know of its existence, but that is probably true to virtually all that has ever been written in the past or in the present. The exception, perhaps, are some of what have come to be called Holy Books, but even then much that was once considered Holy has lost credence, credibility, meaning in the modern world. That is the way it is with the writing of all authors and I do not hold out high hopes for what I write here. I write here largely out of some mysterious inner need, drive, desire. If it is of somevale well and good and if it is not, such is life, as the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly said in 1880 on the way to the gallows.
Whatever sense of fancifulness, what some call conceit, whatever empathetic responsiveness and emotional relatedness I exhibit or achieve, and I did in my relationships as a teacher, a parent, a member of a community, et cetera over many a year, decades, I do not find I do so to anything like the same extent all the time. This is, of course, true of all of us. For there is, as I have already said, fragmentation, diversity and conflict, incompleteness and dissatisfaction in all our walks of life. I have had a sense of wholeness in much of life's personal journey, but this is not always the case in relationships, in all the journey.
This, too, is part of Baha'i experience not only for me but for virtually everyone. It is part of the inevitable ups-and-downs of life that we all have in and out of community. Here lies the story of one person's understandings, activities and patterns, one person's world and his ups-and-downs. It is a story which mirrors its time, its age. It is a story that arises out of the ineluctable interconnectedness of self and world. It's all part of that Oneness of life, of humanity, of religion, of reality, at the core of the Baha'i teachings.
This photo of my first wife, Judy, and I was taken on January 1st 1968, five years after the apex of the Baha'i Administrative model was put in place, six months before the institution of the Continental Board of Counsellors was established, five years after the third epoch of the Formative Age had begun and five years after the second epoch of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s divine plan had begun. January 1968 was also at the outset of the 'dark heart of the age of transition' as the Universal House of Justice characterized the period of pioneering I had just entered, in August 1967, on Baffin Island in the District of Franklin among the Inuit or the Eskimo people as they used to be called. The Formative Age of the dispensation of Baha’u’llah was in its 47th year. The Baha’i Era and the Baha’i Cycle were in their 119th year. I had, by that date, been associated with the Baha’i Faith due to the independent investigation of my mother in 1953, for 15 years.
The shared vision and the common good, seems to be something I have talked about within the Baha'i community and out for many, many years. I feel as if I have talked about these and other concepts so many times that I am repeating a language, sentences, words, that have been worked to death. This experience of seemingly endless repetition was part of what led to my writing poetry. During the writing of this river of poetry I have discovered a rebirth of language, a recrudescence which has led to a new lease on life. My spiritual quest has gone on; my trajectory of personal realisation, my efforts at self-forgetfulness, have continued on their arc of ascent. And I have often felt the sense of descent, decline, loss and failure.
In the process, as some coherent character continued to evolve during my years of pioneering, I began to record the living fabric of my life partly in a conscious way in the form of letters which I began to collect as early as the decade 1957 to 1967, at the end of the 9th and early in the tenth stage of history, to use one of the many Baha’i paradigms of historical time. Readers wanting to pursue some of my thoughts on letter writing and an analysis of my archive, my collection, can do so in section 6 below, in the link on 'Abdu'l-Baha to whom that archive is dedicated or they can go to the website: "Bahá’í Library Online>Secondary Source Material>Personal Letters>Ron Price: 1957-2007.
The first letter that I have, then, comes from the very outset of the 'dark heart of the age of transition' in 1967 as the House of Justice described the nature of the period we are still traversing. The first letter I wrote was in 1957 to a Japanese Baha’i youth, but the letter is lost. I trust there evolves, in the midst of the poems, essays and interviews which followed in the next four decades of this 'dark heart' some insights into how best to live, to survive, to cope, to endure, to love and to experience joy. The insights come from one who is still working it out, still plodding along on the slow and stony path with its pleasures and joys, for all is not tortuous and difficult. I can not tell you how to work it out. We all work it out in our own way, hopefully with a little help from others, from those we call friends, companions and loved ones. That is part of what community is all about among community’s many parts and purposes.
If readers see that I found my journey to the goal difficult it is, I think, more likely to help them with theirs. My recipe, my system of understanding, whatever I have achieved, has been through the matrix and the organizational form of the Baha'i Faith and its teachings. Is there something useful to others in my interpretation, my hermeneutics; in the nature of my understanding of the future changes; in how I experience the present and my view of the past? I do not have to wait until that future comes. The change seems to happen even while I anticipate that future.
But this website is no self-help guide. There are plenty of these guides on the book shelves and have been for decades, books that approach the personal, the interpersonal, the spiritual, in a more organized, a more sequential way. The self-help industry is massive both within and without the Baha’i Faith. There are study guides, resources enough to fill a library, to assist people in their understanding of this Cause, of psychology, of sociology and of virtually any subject you care to mention. I do not see my website as part of this industry, although others may assign this site to a place in all sorts of intellectual homes for believers in this Cause as well as those in other interest groups.
Many readers who come to this web site will not be joiners; they will not be affiliated to any religion or political party. And they will stay that way for their entire lives. They may have joined the tennis club or contribute to Amnesty International or the Lions Club. They may not even see themselves as necessarily spiritual or interested in spiritual questions. These people work their paths out essentially as individuals without joining in some cause for the common good. For the thrust, the accent, the philosophy of individualism, born as it has been from the forces of Protestantism and democracy among other sources in previous centuries, has continued into our time, into these epochs of the growth of this emerging world religion. Alternatively, people who have affiliated with other religions may find something useful here. And then, inevitably, there will be the Baha'is. What a wonderful mix they are, too: enough to test the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon. I should think, hope, that some of these millions of souls who form the international community I have been associated with for well-nigh half a century will find something of value here.
For Baha'is, though, this website is no self-help manual as I have indicated above. There have appeared in the years since the teaching Plan was initiated in 1937 a wide range of self-help books that cater to many individual and community needs, both within the body of Baha’i literature and in the vast secular presses that have churned out hundreds of such books. There seems to be something for everyone now. Why then do I bother putting pen to paper to create yet another literary mix? This website is, I like to think, unique. It occupies a space by itself. It is still, for me, at an early stage of its development. It is an experiment now more than ten years in the making. There is honesty here but, as that perceptive twentieth century thinker A. Mencken once wrote, no man can bring himself to reveal his true character in all its darknesses; therefore "honest autobiography is a contradiction in terms."4
I feel strongly that these times are times for beginnings, small and faint of outline, but matters of great moment will come from them. This thought motivates much of my writing. These are days at the beginning of community in our age, community which will become a source of strength and delight as the decades and centuries go on. This website is a sort of microscopic literary form, with some 30,000 words at latest count, which highlights a unity of my recollected past, my unfolding present and my anticipated future. It also highlights a struggle, a struggle that is both mine and my community's. It reconstructs both my own life and that of my community, my religious community, through the process of an ongoing self-interpretation and self-understanding. For without such reconstruction, reevaluation, we all become trapped in "the already given."5
In this struggle of individual interpretation, we reinvent, transform, our lives. For the realities we are examining: our lives, our societies and our religion, must be seen metaphorically, in terms of psychological, inner, processes, not something external to ourselves. This is the key to our understanding, certainly a critical key obviously not the only one which will unlock so much for we who journey on the path of life. I try to unlock, unfold, untie, what often seems embedded in the geology and archeology of our minds in this collection of writings I have called: 'Pioneering Over Four Epochs.'
There is something addictive about the process of writing. I started this poetry on a small scale twenty eight years ago just after my mother died and just after my bipolar disorder was stabilized on lithium and then, bingo, here I sit with over six thousand five hundred poems, four hundred essays, five thousand letters, emails and internet posts as well as some 30,000 words of interviews. From the millions of words in my files I have put down some 400,000(circa) on this site, 4000(circa) pages of A-4 paper, the equivalent of perhaps ten substantial books. I have also written an autobiography in five volumes and 2600 pages. It is a beginning, part of that "befitting crescendo to the achievements of a century...a period that will have left traces which shall last forever."6
I’d like to summarize here my writing to date since what one writes is, in many ways, what is at the core of one’s autobiography:
SUMMARY OF RON PRICE’S INTERNET PUBLISHING
HIS CUP OF PUBLISHING TEA
Most of the following went onto the internet in the seven year period: 2001-2008. Most of it is free of any cost, although some self-publishing, ebook material costs from $3 to $20 per book. I have published at lulu.com and/or eBookMall among other self-publishing locations on the internet. But I do not post these internet sites here for the sake of making money. I have never had a great deal of interest in making money; perhaps that is one reason at the age when men retire in the west, 65, I have just enough to survive on. In the first six years in which my published works have been on the internet I have received an average of 25 cents per annum. Fame and wealth I have little doubt will elude me before I step into the place there men speak no more and which we call death.
There are three general categories of printed matter I have placed on the world wide web since 2001. These categories indicate what this sub-section of this site requires.
1. Books and Self-Publishing:
1.1. The Emergence of a Baha’i Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White. This 300 page ebook is available at Juxta Media or Baha’i Library Online and can be downloaded free of charge.
1.2. A paperback edition of the above book is available at Lulu.com for $11.48 plus shipping costs from the USA. This self-publishing site also has a four volume work, a study in autobiography, entitled Pioneering Over Four Epochs which is 2500 pages long. I will be making it available as an ebook and in paperback for $10 to $20 per volume very soon after it is reviewed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia, Inc. The charges are set by Lulu.com. Self-publishing, then, is one thing I do.
2. Internet Site Postings:
Many of my essays, poems and a myriad of different kinds of postings and writings in smaller, more manageable, chunks of an A-4 page or less in size--or a little more--are all free and can be accessed by simply: (a) going to any one of approximately 4000 sites on the WWW or (b) typing some specific words into the goggle or one of many other search engines as follows:
2.1 At Approximately 4000 Sites:
I post at a wide range of poetry, literature, social science and humanities sites across a wide range of subjects, topics and intellectual disciplines in both popular and academic culture. The list of these sites, some 100 pages of them @40 sites per page on average is available to anyone interested by writing to me at: email@example.com. But a simpler method of accessing my postings is to:
2.2 Type Various Sets of Words At Google:
There are literally hundreds of sets of words now that will access my writing and a host of internet sites where my writing and my interaction with others can be located. If you type, for example, Ron Price by itself or my name followed by any one of the following words or word sequences: (i) poetry, (ii) literature, (iii) religion, (iv) Baha’i, (v) history, (vi) Shakespeare, (vii) ancient history, (viii) philosophy, (ix) Islam and (x) Australia Baha’i, et cetera, et cetera--you will get anywhere from a few sub-sites to over 300 sub-sites arranged in blocks of ten. The main problem with this way of accessing what I have written is that my work is side by side with dozens of items from other writers and posters who have the same name as mine, the same topic or some other key word that is the same. I have counted some 50 other Ron Prices. There are some wife bashers, car salesmen, evangelists, media celebrities, a pornographer or two, a fascinating array of chaps who have different things to flog, so to speak, than my offerings.
3. Specific Sites With Much Material:
Some sites have hundreds of pages of my writing and these sites are a sort of middle ground, a different ground, between the above two major categories. The Baha’i Academics Resource Library(BARL), for example, has more of my material than at any other site. My writings can be simply located at BARL by typing the word "Price" into the author box at the top of the access page. My writings are also are listed at BARL under: (a) books, (b) personal letters, (c) poetry, (d) biographies and (e) essays, among other categories/listings. The Roger White book is here under "Secondary Resource Material>Books, as is a lengthy slice of my autobiography Parts 1 and 2.
I find the BARL site useful personally, but some of the poetry is not arranged in as visually a pleasing form as it is an many other internet sites. There are some sites at which my writing is found in a very pleasing form with photos and pictures and general settings to catch the eye. Some site organizers have their location beautifully arranged. I leave it to readers to read what pleases them and leave what doesn’t and go to sites to interact on the basis of their own interests and talents.
I had no idea when I retired from full-time employment in 1999, from part-time work in 2003 and from most volunteer work in 2005, to devote my time as much as possible to writing and promoting various causes, especially the Baha’i Cause, that the internet would be as fertile a base for my offerings as it has become. There are literally millions of words that I have written and posted on this international web of words in the last seven years---since I stopped teaching in post-secondary education in Western Australia in the first week of April 1999. And there are 1000s of people with whom I interact in one way or another in connection with the Baha’i Faith, its history and teachings.
I have had to deal with illness in my household and it has kept my internet work in small time-frames of 2 hours or less, but I can usually fit in at least 8 hours out of every 16 doing "the work." From the early eighties to the early years of this new millennium I tried to get published in a hard cover or in a multitude of magazines and journals in the periodical press. I also tried to teach the Faith during these years and decades before, but always with little overt success. Publishers had no interest in my writing and people to whom I tried to teach the Cause were for the most part: (a) indifferent, (b) very cautious and (c) rarely, if ever, sufficiently interested to actually join the Faith.
My guess is that in the years ahead the world will be awash with books and postings from thousands/millions of people like me. The world is already awash with internet sites and interact in the content areas that those sites are concerned with. What I write may not be your cup-of-tea. In that case drink someone else’s tea from someone else’s cup. But for those who may enjoy my writings and for others who just want to get their works read--I hope the above is a useful outline.
This posting certainly indicates what I do and gives you some idea of the teaching potential on the internet. I leave this information with you for whatever purpose it serves, for anyone who is interested. -Ron Price, Tasmania
This photo of my second wife, Chris, and I was taken in 1992 some thirty years after the beginning of my pioneering days. The year 1992 was also designated a Holy Year, a commemoration of Baha'u'llah's passing in 1892. This was also the year that I began to write poetry more seriously than I had in the previous dozen years. 1992 also marked the end of a forty year period, between Holy Years: 1952-1992, during which I had been associated in different ways with the Baha'i Faith. I now see this writing of poetry, beginning in 1992, as a spin-off of a forty year journey, a forty year period between the Holy Years, when I was associated with a religion that was claiming to be the emerging world religion on the planet, when it continued its rise, in some ways meteor-like, from obscurity.
My life possesses, as any reading of it can easily reveal, what Erik Erikson calls 'a synthesising trend.'7 There is a line of continuity between events, what Henry Murray calls 'unity-themes' which go right back to 1952-53 when my mother first heard of the Baha'i Faith. After 109 years in this New Era(1844-1953), my family finally came into contact with this emerging world religion, this new global force. It is this thread that gives the fullest possible meaning to the eventfulness of the life I have lived in all its massive, chaotic and sometimes, I feel in my saddest moments of depression, meaningless and tragic detail. To interpret my life is to address its meaning in the present. This is precisely what each poem does in a multitude of different ways. For joy and sorrow make up the texture of life, feelings of failure and feelings of success. Life is made up of so much that can not be stated in a sentence.
My meaning is found in (i) recurring themes, (ii) continuities and (iii) one grand unitary theme. The entire corpus could be called what some refer to as a meganarrative. Others might call it simply the life of the mind or 'thinking out loud' as one correspondent of mine who teaches culture and the arts at an American university describes my poetry. Whatever you call it, essays like this one on this website provide a context for the poetry which follows. I have always felt the need for background material when I read the poetry of various artists. And so I provide it here for others should they find it useful. If they don’t, of course, they can simply ignore it.
Erikson says that the autobiographer should deal with what is unique in his or her own individual life. I certainly do that. The widest and deepest river of inquiry into my life, within which the narrower and shallower streams of character portrayal and drama take place, can also be described drawing on several models of human development in psychology. I find Erik Erikson's model the most heuristic to analyse, to see, my life. His model uses an eight stage process of psychosocial development. I have always found this model a helpful and explanatory pattern within which to examine my own development as a person.
These eight stages help to flesh out the portrait of my life within a framework, to provide a circumscribed picture, with a basis for essential traits that suggests a life behind, beneath and far below, the surface of the everyday. In the end a pattern unfolds behind all the apparent chaos of seemingly unrelated events in life. We all must work out our own patterns and psychology provides a plethora of material, of theory, of ideas, for the questing seeker to help him work out that pattern.
Without going into great detail here, my life within the Baha'i community could be seen as occupying four stages: identity, intimacy, generativity and integrity. Anyone familiar with Erik Erikson's model of psychosocial development will be able to identify these stages easily and, if not easily, at least with a little effort and study. Generally they are associated with the years from puberty to old age. Between the time I first contacted this Cause and the time I joined it, 1953 to 1959, I went through puberty and its immediate aftermath. Old age, or at least late adulthood, 60 to 80 years of age as one model of human development outlines the process, has begun and will occupy my immediate future for the next 16 years(2008 to 2024). Old age, according to the major stage model of human development, begins at 80. It will begin for me in 2024, if I last that long. I may edit this site many more times all being well.
It took me some time before both the intimacy stage and the generativity stage could be said to have worked themselves out in any kind of satisfactory way in my life. Inevitably, though, as Erikson argues, the crises of life, the stages, are present throughout life and development throughout life becomes more and more complex. Some battles we fight over and over again. There were certainly crises associated with both of these stages. But I won't go into them here. That is the purpose of my autobiographical narrative which, as I have indicated, can be accessed at the end of my index page on this website and all its 750 pages or at other locations on the internet as I have indicated above.
All I wanted to do here was to suggest a framework for describing my life, my experience in or out of the Baha'i community and make some general autobiographical comments to give a context, a texture, for this website. Human development theorists have developed increasingly refined models for the study of one’s lifespan. During the last half century, my years of association with the Baha'i Faith and my pioneering years, psychology has been a booming business in more ways than one. These theorists place individual lives, any life, into some kind of helpful framework, some pattern of development, to help people understand their lives. In my experience, though, it seems to take some time, some study, to really put these models to some kind of personal use.
I pursue the application of the insights that relate to my development and, by implication, the development of the lives of my readers, in my autobiographical narrative which I advise readers to examine.8 Frameworks to understand the life journey can also be found in the Baha'i writings. The one I find most attractive is in the introduction to Shoghi Effendi's God Passes by. In addition, Baha'u'llah's Seven Valleys and Four Valleys provides another framework for the individual soul. An understanding of this framework is essential since it is the major schema Baha'u'llah has left us. The best analysis I know of this model is that of Nader Saiedi in Logos and Civilization where he devotes over thirty pages to its analysis. An interesting analysis of the Seven Valleys can also be found at the website, Planet Baha'i. Some of my poetry on mysticism is also found there. I may pursue these models, secular and sacred, in more detail at a later date for the literature on these models is becoming extensive.
Intimacy was eventually established, to use the label from Erikson’s model, and I was married at 23 after a complex and somewhat stormy adolescence; the years from 24 to 64, my present age, have been characterized by generativity. This would be true, of course, of any person who joined this Cause in his teens, eventually married successfully or even unsuccessfully and pursued a career, or a creative path of some kind. Generativity can be so variously and subjectively defined. My poetry has been written in this generativity stage, over 6500 poems from 1980 to 2008, from my mid-thirties to my mid-sixties. Raising a family and following a career were two other aspects of this generativity, again described in general terms in my narrative.
There is an implicit panegyric of self in my writing and there is what could be seen as a portrait painting that shows a life that is far, far, from perfect. Life's actualities and lived experience determine, help to construct, life's major configurations that define the texture and content of the painting that is one's life. They help me to describe the forces inherent in my existence, to establish what might be called a horizon of realisation and a horizon of failure. One can not win them all. One fails some tests and one passes others. The notion that God does not test us beyond our capacities is an assumption I make. It is not one I can prove, but it is one I believe.
The everyday is far from trivial, although in a lifetime much of our doings often seem so. The horizon of my life, its deeds and thoughts, I see now as my text. Some of the text is here. Anyone reading this poetry contacts this text, this life, in a way that seems to me quite different than contacting me in person. Readers will also contact this text in the same way as they contact me, should we ever meet. What they see, what they experience on meeting me, will also be different than what they read. There is, paradoxically, sameness and difference. The sheer quantity of words here I'm sure will put some people off. Others will be put off by the content. Others will be enthusiastic.8
My writing defines my life in quite a different way than the external self in conversation. Indeed, conversation defines the self in a multitude of ways, depending on who one talks to as well as when and how one is feeling on the day, among other factors. In some ways there are a multitude of selves. There is an inevitability in this. In a very real sense, of course, my life is much more, something else, mysterious, indescribable. So is this true of everyone. Each of us is more than one simple self. Writing puts one, perhaps many, of these selves on paper.
My wife had two daughters from her first marriage: Vivienne above at the age of 30(1996) and Angela below also at the age of 30(1990). These are photographs of my two step-daughters: Vivienne Wells(ne Armstrong) and Angela Armstrong. Vivienne has with her her son Tobias; Angela has both Tobias(7) and Kelsey(4) Wells, my two step-grandchildren. These photos capture, as all photos do, a moment in time, in the long story that is my life and the lives of these two step-children and two step-grandchildren. I have written many essays and poems on photographs and their role in autobiography. I try to place the many volumes of my photos in a general context and I invite readers who seriously want to examine my poetry and writing to search out these essays and poems.
I have not included photos of many others, both inside and outside my family, who have been critical influences in my life. Perhaps a future edition of this poetic autobiography will see some additional photographs included. My autobiography has, in its chapter six, a section about photographs going back to the last dozen years(1908-1921) of the Heroic Age(1844-1921). But I have included only a very small handful of actual photos on this site. There is in that chapter six an extensive analysis of photography and photographs and their contribution to an autobiography.
Life is in part a point of convergence of larger historical vectors or themes. The historian Dilthey expressed it this way. My life converged with the following vectors: what Shoghi Effendi, the then leader of the Baha'i community, called the beginning of 'the Kingdom of God on Earth'(1953); the beginning of 'Abdu'l-Baha's divine plan(1937); the close of the eighth(1921-1953) and ninth(1953-1963) stages of history; the first half century of the tenth (1963-2013) stage of history, to use one of Shoghi Effendi's historical paradigms; and the time when the trustees of the global undertaking set in motion by Baha'u'llah more than one hundred years ago were elected, established and put in place at the apex of the Baha'i administrative Order(1963) in what one writer called "a unique victory" hardly yet understood by my generation of the half light.
Other vectors and processes of some significance that played their part in the backdrop tp my life included the following: the population of the world tripled—2.4 billion in 1944 to 6.4 billion in 2008; the size of the Baha'i community went from 150,000(ca) to six million (1944-2003) and the West's attitude to indigenous peoples, women and children was transformed, among a host of other historical shifts like the several waves of developments in science, technology and the social sciences. A good history book of the years since WW2 will tell more of the tale and it is not my purpose here to do so in any detail. These vectors and processes dance around the pages of my poetry in a host of different ways.
There is a fit and often a misfit between individual development and historical tides, processes, waves, the stage on which we enact our lives. The Baha'i community has multiplied forty times globally in my lifetime, thus far, but in most of the places I have lived the growth has been slow, indeed infinitessimal, some might say 'discouragingly meagre.' For the most part the generations that have grown up in the West after WW2 have only shown a mild interest in this Movement which captured my interest in the late 1950s and early 1960s after six years of informal contact in the years of my late childhood and early adolescence, 1953-1959.
I am confident the time will come when the formal contribution that the Baha'i Faith will make to the unifying tendencies of the planet will be significant, at least significantly more than they do at present, although that story had changed markedly, out of sight as they say, in my lifetime. Indeed I hope I live to see this Cause, just now in the last two decades emerging from an obscurity which had enshrouded its history for a century and a half, become a force of more than a little magnitude before I pass from this mortal coil. In some ways I see this website as a historical document for use in that time, a time that has not yet arrived.
This poetry and this document on the WWW contain a story of beginnings. The process of entry-by-troops began in my part of the world, in Canada, just after I joined the Cause in October of 1959. Entry-by-troops is a process which had its beginnings in my experience in western Canada among the Indian peoples and has been observed in its complex and subtle patterns for nearly fifty years, although one could argue it is a process built into the very history of the Babi-Baha’i Faith right back to 1844. The future influence of this Cause is as great, Baha'is believe, as it is inevitable and the vision of its future greatness motivates this writing.
The pattern in which a life can be seen comes from within and without. Experience only becomes insight into a life if understanding leads us from narrowness and subjectivity to the whole and the general or vice versa. A unique self is found and it is found when the inner and the outer find relationship, meaning, balance. Autobiography is the literary expression of the individual's reflection on life, so Wilhelm Dilthey put it.9 The identity one creates or builds is hard work; it takes more than a little reflection and analysis. But it is also pleasurable. It is also rewarding and far removed from the trivial and the mundane, although the trivial and the mundane are part of the process, for they are an essential part of life.
There are times when I find the task of defining self and identity and life itself a source of sorrow and despondency. These more negative emotions enter during the inevitable periods of gloom and anxiety that life brings to all of us, except perhaps those rare souls whom William James describes in his Varieties of Religious Experience as having temperaments consistently and persistently 'weighted on the side of cheer.' Everything worthwhile involves struggle. I have had to deal with ill-health, periods associated with mood swings and a bi-polar tendency all my life. I have written a separate narrative, what I call my chaos narrative, about this bipolar disorder in a separate document of some 25,000 words and posted parts of it as nearly 100 websites dealing with mental illness, depression and bipolar disorder. I have suffered these swings since the earliest years of my Baha'i experience, in late adolescence, although they are largely contained now and despondency, an emotion that plagued me during the years 1962 to 2002, has been at last significantly contained. I have also had my share of marital, financial and interpersonal difficulties. These lows are part of the polarity of life. Polarity is one of life's major mysteries, as Guy Murchie informs us in his book 'The Seven Mysteries of Life.' And this polarity, like the other six mysteries he discusses, and like the historical vectors mentioned above, are part of the content of my poetic voice, poetic narrative.
Part of my task as both poet and autobiographer, indeed as a person and as a Baha'i living in the last half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first, it would appear, is to historicize therapeutically. Historicism is an historical view that sees the essence of society and culture as dynamic and developmental. This involves watching the times closely, interpreting events and finding new resolve from the analysis of the historical process so as to make as much sense of the picture of life as possible. One must be vigilant in and sensitive to the spiritual quest, a quest that has many facets of which historical analysis is only one. At the core of this multifaceted challenge and enigma, problem and perplexity is the multiplicity of views, the articulate nature and apparently contradictory nature of these views and the relative—and it seems to me especially as I have grown into the evening of my life—understandable indifference of the great majority of humanity to the resolution of the paradoxes and complexities involved in examining these views. Bewildered, agonized and often helpless, millions, nay billions now, watch the world, as the Guardian says, as they would watch a great and mighty wind deranging the world’s foundations but they can not perceive its origins or plumb its significance. Ill-equipped to interpret the social commotion at play throughout the planet, they listen to the pundits of error and sink deeper into a slough of despond doing battle in the process with the phantoms of a wrongly informed imagination.10
In examining, recapitulating, the past, I render, surrender, the past and my views of it to the judgement of the future. For one day I shall be gone and these works, these poems and essays, these interviews and reviews, among other genres here, will be all there is left of me and my story. The process of examining and surrendering is one of adaptation. Nothing in life is meaningless, suffering least of all. And vision is essential in the process of adaptation. Vision has been a major spin-off, for me, from nearly fifty years of work as a pioneer within the Baha'i community. A sense of vision inspires this poetry.
The developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, gives names to this process of adapting and adjusting to life as he outlines his model of learning. Indeed psychology, as a field, applies a whole language and literature to the articulation of this process. But it is not my purpose here to apply and elaborate these languages. I like to think, with Erikson and Piaget, that I create vistas of imagination in the service of adaptation. I try to resolve ambiguity and create deeper bases for peace both now and in the future for myself and the society in which I live and move. This is part of the function of my poetry.
But we are, to some extent at least, subject to existential forces often beyond our control. We can only do so much with our lives. There are inevitable constraints, things we can not change, the struggles of our generation, our time, our age. In the past and even today, these constraints are sometimes called: fate, predestination, the limits imposed by the socializing process on our lives and, indeed, our own needs and wants. Writing becomes a way of lending our lives and ourselves coherence and identity, of defining ourselves, of accepting, of defining these constraints, these beginning-and-end-games and the socio-historical process in which our lives are embedded. Writing is not the only way, but it is my major, my main, way.
The basis of autobiography in all of this is the human heart, the emotions and the mind. Ideally, they work as one, although this is not always, perhaps rarely, the case. Since so much of the really interesting battles of life are inner ones, autobiographies that are based on a discussion of what is often an intensely guarded privacy, are the richer ones, in my view, with conclusions left to the reader to draw. Sometimes answers are better left out or provided only obliquely.
My autobiographical journey, though, is not strongly confessional. Although it will be characterized by the frequent spontaneous acknowledgment of error or weakness, I do not put all my dirty laundry on the line. Some of my warts are here but not all. Indeed I have too many warts and to include them all would be an act of confession that would embarrass me and not be particularly edifying to readers even if their more prurient interests might be titillated. A preoccupation with one’s hind-quarters, one’s nether regions and an intimate revelation of all one’s sins of commission and omission does not necessarily make for a good autobiography, edifying or even interesting writing. It seems to me that a moderate confessionalism is wisest and this is the part I have taken. For some readers, of course, I will have gone too far in my confessionalism; for others, I will not have gone far enough in this mode of self-revelation.
Shakespeare captures some of the lower-end of my confessional tone in his words about prayer in the Tempest: "my ending is despair/Unless I be relieved by prayer/Which pierces so that it assaults/Mercy itself and frees from faults." And at the upper-end from King Henry the Eighth: "I feel within me a peace above all/earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience." And I hope, with the long passage of time and life, that "Hereafter and in a better world than this/I shall desire more love and knowledge of you."(Henry VI, Part 3) Shakespeare has built, as John Milton notes, "a long-lived monument." His honoured bones, his words of astonishment and wonder, capture the confessional tone at least for me and in some basic ways. Shakespeare’s language has become, sadly, archaic and irrelevant for most of the new generations of our time. But for me, his words and the words of many other writers and thinkers express a confessional tone and an approach to the failings in one’s life that I have found useful. And so it is that I borrow often and from many a writer here at this site and elsewhere in my writings.
I trust in the process of writing this diffuse array of material that I can integrate its apparently unrelated features into some perceptible whole. Essays such as this, the introductions to my poems, my narrative, letters and diary, interviews and topical articles should all provide, each in their individual and idiosyncratic ways, a basis for some future biographer to bring it all together into some continuing form, should that ever be desired. Although this future possible role my writing might play interests me more than a little, it is only one of a galaxy of motivations, some of which I am hardly aware of as I write. For now, I trust that the dynamic interaction between my personal experiences and the historical milieux I live in and have lived in will be made alive, given a living presence, through this writing, this poetry. Hopefully this life, set out here and in other places, will be of use to my fellow human beings, my successors, my epigone, as the historian Arnold Toynbee often calls the generations to come in his A Study of History, an eleven volume work that has inspired me since beginning this pioneering venture in the early sixties. If the function of inspiration which gives rise to this great outpouring of words does not come to inspire others who read my work: 'c'est la vie,' as the French say or "such is life," as the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly said on his way to the gallows in 1880 about the same time that Bahá’u’lláh was being released from confinement in the prison of Akka.
For many, I'm sure, most of this will be seen as a simple and extended exercise in navel gazing. A writer can not win them all. I seem to have a strong desire to tell a story; I'm sure many people will not feel any need to read or to hear my story, at least not at the present time. Again, 'c'est la vie.' Perhaps as history takes its course and those mysterious dispensations of Providence play their often insinuating and seductive tunes, the need will arise for the kind of material found on this website. I have had a third edition of this website for five years and been sending out my poetry to friends and groups for twenty five. I am confident that more and more people will draw on the material here, even if it is not in my lifetime. The basis of my confidence lies in the belief, that all Baha'is have, in the inevitability of the ultimate triumph of their Faith. I tend to think that over time I will capture what you might call a niche market. It may always be a very small niche! And, of course, as T.S.Eliot emphasizes, one must live with the possibility that one will capture no niche at all.
Here is a life lived at perhaps the beginning of the darkest period of recorded history from a Baha'i perspective: the ninth and the first five decades of the tenth stage of history, to use a Baha'i paradigm. What I write here at the very least is something, perhaps, for the burgeoning archives of the Baha'i community around the world. I'm impressed with how little we seem to know about each other and even ourselves; perhaps that is partly a function of the very difficult times we live in; perhaps, too, this reality is for me a function, a result, of my moving around so much. But I am impressed, too, by the deepening channels of investigation and perception, the explosion of knowledge, as it is taking place around the world. In so many ways we are at the beginning of both community building, depth in interpersonal relationships and coming into a true understanding of our history as a species.
I became very conscious of people's disinclination to write about their lives or the lives of others when I wrote two to three dozen short biographies of Baha'is in Australia back in the years 1982-1992, the decade preceding my serious entry into poetry. There was even a strong inclination among many people I interviewed to remain totally unknown. I can understand this sentiment. Having taught interpersonal skills, human relations, history and autobiography off-and-on for more than thirty years in post-secondary educational institutions(1974-2005) I am more than a little aware of many people's desire that their lives remain a closed shop, at least in print. The leave me alone attitude, the drop out, the withdrawal from society is, as Douglas Martin, the former director-general of public information, often said, is deafening—if one could hear its trenchant, subtle and obscure sound.
This autobiography will provide enough details for my life in some kind of depth, some traces for a future age. It might contribute toward the growth of a cultivated readership for both autobiography and biography. There is little doubt that the field of autobiography and biography is opening up a fascinating world for students of these disciplines and passers-by who just want to dabble. You have here, dear reader, an amateur archivist, essayist, poet, biographer, and autobiographer, sociologist, psychologist, among many academic labels I could add, combining and providing an integrated perspective, at least as integrated as I can make it, to say something that is I hope of some use and value, especially to people working in the administration of the Baha'i community, the embryo, the nucleus and pattern of a future world Order, but also to others with other commitments in other walks of life. Time will tell how much use what I write here is, in the end. I will address these issues, come back to these themes, much like Wordsworth did who came back to his poetry, especially to his poem 'The Prelude' in the years 1805-1850, revising and altering after its initial draft in the years 1798 to 1805.11 For this website is, in many ways, a first statement, an initial plunge even after the passing of more than a decade of its existence on the WWW. If those mysterious dispensations of Providence allow me many more years of living, I may write forth and fifth editions of this website which I have entitled: 'Pioneering Over Four Epochs.'
1 Richard Hutch, The Meaning of Lives: Biography, Autobiography and the Spiritual Quest, Cassell, London, 1997, p. 95.
2 C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959.
3 For a more detailed description of an existential view of the person see the writings of Rollo May, The Courage to Create, Bantam Books, 1975 and Love and Will; for an excellent sociological analysis of the person see Thomas and Luckman, The Social Construction of Reality, 1966; for a wide, inclusive, view of religion see R. May, op.cit. and William Hatcher, "The Science of Religion," Baha'i Studies, Vol.2, 1977.
4 H. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomaphy, A.A. Knopf, NY, 1974(1916), pp.325-26.
5 A. Nelson, "Imagining and Critical Reflection in Autobiography," Internet, 1997.
6 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, BE 152.
7 ibid., p.76.
8 I began writing autobiographical material in 1983/4, twenty-one years into the pioneering process, and now, a quarter of a century later, I have written five editions of my autobiography, the latest edition being 2600 pages in five volumes. The first several hundred pages can be found at this website--see the bottom of my index, my access page. I also have a collection of 12 volumes of photos to embellish these memoirs. These I will leave behind on my passing to my family, my executor and the Baha’i community to do as they wish and as my executor determines as a result of reading my will which I drew up at the beginning of this intense poetic experience in 1992.
9 William Dilthey(1833-1911), German philosopher.
10 The Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message, April 1999.
11 William Wordsworth wrote his great autobiographical poem "The Prelude" between 1798 and 1805 and revised it for the next forty-five years, until his death in 1850.
......................some autobiographical poems below.....................................................
SAMPLE POEMS....from the prose-poem factory............
One's life, my life as I near sixty-five and go on the Old Age Pension, is part of a general inheritance, perhaps my chief inheritance as I spend my days now and in the years ahead. All or, more accurately, some of my memories are written full of annals wherein joy and mourning, conquest and loss manifoldly alternate. All my philosophy, my religion, my non-partisan politics, at least that part I have written about, are ineffaceably recorded in this autobiography, although history may, in the end, totally ignore what I have written. What I write in these annals is not like how the Romans wrote their history, annalisitically, that is, year by year, only I don’t write my story quite as systematically, incrementally one step at a time. Life does lend itself to such a record when one writes one’s memoirs or autobiography. "Our very speech," wrote the historian Thomas Carlyle, "is curiously historical."1 For narrative is the very stuff of our life; without it conversation would, for the most part, utterly evaporate. "Our whole spiritual life," continues Carlyle in his discussion of the sources of our being, "is built on history." For history is essentially "recorded experience." Reasoning, belief, action and passion are its essential materials. -Ron Price with thanks to Thomas Carlyle, Selected Writings, Penguin, Ringwood, 1971, p.51.
These years guided forward
by an unseen mysterious Wisdom,
with periodic blind mazes
and unintelligible paths;
however we study and recapitulate
the journey, so much is lost without
recovery, our chief benefactors lie
entombed in some formless oblivion
with their weights and causes so often
silent and completely unknown.
Our faculty of insight into passing things
is but impressions in an everliving,
everworking chaos of being, unfathomable
as our soul and destiny, a complex manuscript
covered with formless inextricably-entangled
and unknown characters, partially deciphered.
But only in the whole is the partial to be truly seen,
only in the Divine ordering of history and its
providential control can bafflement be dealt with
and a revitalizing elan be found.
25 November 2002
ALL IN ONE GO
Picasso, or perhaps it was one of his close friends, once said that his energy, the energy he puts into a painting, is all transferred into it "in one go." Much of painting, to Picasso, was a breaking down and a remaking of something as he attempted to transform it. What was true of Picasso and his painting, as I have expressed it here, is also true of the construction of my poetry, except for the long epic poem I am working on where the energy is spread out over many years. The tradition of self-portraiture in painting is also mirrored in my writing as a part of the tradition of autobiography. Self-portraiture begins, or so it is often argued, with Albrecht Durer in 1493 and autobiography, arguably, one thousand years before, in 426 AD with St. Augustine. Self-portraiture is very difficult to avoid when you write, indeed when you live and breath and have your being. As soon as readers accept that a literary text expresses, or makes exterior, something within its author, then it becomes inevitable that they will use that text as a key to that interior, that biography, that autobiography. As a man is, so he sees and so he writes.-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, "Magic, Sex and Death: Part One on Picasso," 9 June 2002, 3:35-4:30 pm..
You can't put it all down.
The essence is never conveyable
and the corpus of self-portraits
always rests uncomfortably
on the inner land of unreality.1
I construct my self-portraits
somewhat like an artist
with the real me somewhere
behind the words, behind that
likeness which tells only some
of the psyche and the self-worth.
The calculation, choices
and manipulations are all
part of construction and
it is far beyond this my
scrutinized self, some
fashioned being with its
infinite variety of meanings,
its statement of self-analysis.
There is richness and ambiguity here
amidst the fluctuating fortunes of life,
the complexities and the multitudinous
renditions of these my days designed
as a token of some glorious handiwork.2
1 A Sufi idea of 'the inner land of unreality' compared to 'Revealed Truth' referred to by Baha'u'llah in Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.28.
2 With thanks to Steven Platzman in his introduction to Cezanne: The Self-Portraits.
10 June 2002
THE NOVEL OF MYSELF
Some writers, generally novelists, academics and certainly many journalists, avoid the autobiographical.1 They work, they write, in worlds parallel to their own, their own lives. They create a fiction or a non-fiction, as the case may be, on which the autobiographical inevitably intrudes, but indirectly. Generally non-fiction writers and journalists are constrained by the facts in the field or the situation they are writing about. Other writers, and I am one, write deeply of the autobiographical. Their lives are at the core of their writing, in my case, their poetry. Like the novelist, I write of ambiguity, of doubt, of not-knowing, of inner disturbance. My words are not those of journalists and their short, snappy sentences describing who did what and when and where. My words are not those of the fictional novelist as he creates worlds of action, of romance, of pleasure, to keep the reader on side and involved. My words are often like the academic and often like those of the ordinarily ordinary, the humanly human, a partly robust, partly fragile set of feelings of self-identity, a partly conscious, partly unconscious selection and discarding of memories.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1"Margaret Throsby Interview: Jim Craise," ABC Radio National, 11 March 2002; and 2Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1991, p.55.
I'm trying to be done with the past,
trying to nourish it, anticipate the future,
write about myself and you in the midst
of complex interrelationship and enigma.
Unified vision is slowly coming, partly attained,
no whole connectedness, only massive
complexity quite beyond any total comprehension.
It returns to me, those days, from the very dawn
of my life. I would approach them, but they close
and I see only a few scenes enshrining, what is it,
the spirit of the past, of a former self, that boy?
Memory opens the door and someone's story,
some ordinary someone is partially restored,
like a room with new wall-paper or an old chair
refinished for future use. And....that little green
lounge we had for so many years ‘til it got burnt.
Language, that peculiar creature, writes the novel
of myself, poem by poem, word by word, a little.
11 March 2002
Robert Bly writes about the condition, the sense, of lowliness which happens to men after an initial "high" in their lives. After having been a special person: to his parents, his teachers, to his superiors in his newly acquired profession, perhaps to the small community of Baha'is where he became a member in his recent past, to his wife, his girlfriend, his friends, he sinks, he drops, he takes a big status kick. He loses his: job, marriage or health, self-respect, every shred of his former self or at least many of the main shreds, pillars of his life. Bly calls it "the rat's hole," "the dark way." Somehow life does not prepare the person for this falling, fallen, experience. The upwardly mobile person has a down-and-out experience: he has to take a lower-class job in the kitchen or as a cleaner; indeed, there are many, many forms of this loss, status plumeting, realization that he is never going to attain his former dreams; sometimes he becomes homeless, walks the streets looking for a bed and a meal; his head is down, the descent, the exit, from ordinary life has begun. The Greeks called this process katabasis. -Ron Price with thanks to Robert Bly, Iron John, Element Books, Brisbane, 1990, p.72.
There was an ashy, sooty, out-of-it, time.
It got heavier, darker, then, as black as
rat's hole, dream's exploded, dried out,
sizzled on the electrodes back in '68.
Will never know if it was a mistake:
and then the long healing, the deep
emotional self and the repentance
and the freeing of myself from
endlessly returning to that time
and those days and that corpse
of myself with those former dreams.
Slowly, slowly, I found again
something to want, to go for,
for the rest of my life, for this
year, this month, today, tomorrow.
None of that frenetic passivity:
"I wonder what we shall do today?"
Go for a little fishing? A BBQ?
The fire of centrality had returned
but then, again, the blackness,
the fear, the disorientation,
the hospital beds and the burning.
Then the prayers and more healing,
the fatigue and the dryness and finally
the garden: private enigmatic, mysterious,
a heaven-haven, where moments are holy
and I move toward action in this silence
when something is coming near, a wealth,
cultivation, boundaries, a controlled sociability
where poems arise almost effortlessly.
27 January 2002
THE GOLDEN BALL
That brief span of time, some nine years, so greatly enriched as they were by the moving narrative, the immortal chronicle, of the lives of the twin-prophets of the nineteenth century, the Bab and Baha'u'llah; that episode of one of the first acts, stages, periods, of the often awkward but precious drama that has been my life, can now be surveyed with some understanding and equanimity. Those years from the age of fifteen to twenty-four can now be seen as something more than an endless succession of engagements with the society and life around me in which I could not fully fathom, control and command events; in which I was the victim, apparently, of body chemistry and socialization influences; in which the light of a new religion became a flame, at times a flickering flame that nearly went out, but which burned with enough heat to keep me in the warm shelter of belief and, in time, sent me across a vast and cold Canadian sky from Windsor in the south to Frobisher Bay in the north before I perished, or so it seemed at the time and as any critical observer might have hypothesized, in a mental hospital on the shores of Lake Ontario not far from my home town. As a historian, the historian, of my life I can now give these years their meaning, perhaps not their final meaning, but certainly a meaning they did not possess back in those years 1959 to 1968. -Ron Price with thanks to Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, Wilmette, 1957, p.3.
I was a nice boy,
one of the nicest
you could imagine.
I pleased everyone I knew,
for it seemed to me that life
was one long indulgence.
And then the first pains came
and the winter of life set in
faster than those cold winds
bringing the first snows
and blanketing everything
with a white disguise and,
at times, with freezing ice.
I'd had a golden ball,
or so I thought, for years,
made of sensitivity, receptivity,
nonaggression, but I lost it
in those cold winter winds.
Perhaps it froze under the snow.
Perhaps those winds blew it away.
Then, unobtrusively, on the way to
or far up in the Canadian north country,
where the world freezes permanently,
well, for months on end, I glimpsed that ball--
again and kept it within reach in my new-dark
world of aloneness and fear. I would not lose it
this time I said to myself. That golden thread
I would entwine around me tight and secure.
I could always see it in the distance, too,
when I went for walks: just, out there,
sometimes far across Lake Ontario and up,
far up in the Canadian Shield.
I kept it in my sights and held it tight
with dear life, intense, when I could
I was becoming one of that new race of men,
little did I know it then that i would pay for that
gold thread with my life. But after many payments,
even now it often eludes me and I feel as if I have
no ball at all, as if I have lost the capacity to play.
26 January 2002
In discussing the character of a man, there is no course of error so fertile as the drawing of a hard and fast line. We are attracted by the salient points, what seems to stand out in his life and, seeing them clearly and repeatedly, we jump to conclusions. That is natural. These conclusions may even have some validity. These qualities that stand out may be likened to a lighthouse guiding our way in the night or, in the day, serving as a landmark in our travels. But they are only a guide. They tell us little of the surrounding landscape, none of the geology, the history, the botany, the geography of the nearby terrain. This is even more true of a man's life, so far removed in its detail, in many of its essentials and basic truths from the general sketch, the highlights we come to know in our mind’s eye, in our general portrait that we paint of him or her, which at best is all that is usually passed down to succeeding generations before that portrait, that sketch, disappears in the great abyss that is at the centre of history.
The man of letters on the other hand is, in truth, ever writing his own biography or autobiography. What is in his mind he declares to the world, to whoever reads his works and, if noone reads any of his work, he may be fortunate to have it preserved archivally. If he finds a readership, if his work is well written, this memoir, this autobiography, perhaps even a biography will be all that is necessary. It will take us far beyond that lighthouse into the terrain of geology, history, botany, geography—the beginnings at least of a total view. And, finally, as T.S. Eliot put it squarely while the 20th century experienced the beginnings of a magnitude of ruin it brought upon itself, a writer must live with the possibility that his writing is no good, of no value, will never be read---or as Leonardo put it at the end of his life in an even bleaker context---that he has done nothing at all. -Ron Price with thanks to Anthony Trollope, The Life of Cicero, quoted in Trollope, Victoria Glendinning, Pimlico, London, 1993, p.v.
There are some lighthouses here.
I 've set them out along the coast
to guide your way through the night
of my life and there has been much
night, black clouds and darknesses.
I've also provided rich and varied
collections of flora and fauna to tell
you something of the living tissue of
my days, some of its green shoots,
its flowers, its bright colours and
some of its exotic-passion texture.
I've even left you a map to help
you connect with nearby towns
and villages; for I have belonged
to a community where people knew
me and would tell you something of me.
But, again, do not jump to conclusions
about the nature of my person and self.
What I have left behind, like the lighthouse,
can only guide your travels, point the way.
I have tried to be faithful to the Covenant of God,
to fulfil in my life His trust and in the realm of spirit
obtain the gem of divine virtue.1 But how successful
I have been that is a mystery to me, as much as thee.
1 Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, Introductory passage.
17 January 2002
REPORTING WHAT WE SEE
In my poetic work I feel a strong identification with the poet Horace(65-8 BC). The twin platforms of his writing were simplicity and unity. He also argued that poets should know themselves and their capacities as they attempt to inform and delight. The best poets are the wisest ones. Just as there are many Horaces, so there are many Prices. Whatever self is fashioned in my poetry and in Horace's is provisional; it is a self in the process of becoming; it is a poetry of self-portraiture.1 Both he and I look out on the world and report what we see "with all the imagination, artistry and honesty"2 that we can command. -Ron Price with thanks to C. Martindale and D. Hopkins, editors, Horace Made New: Horatian Influences on British Writing From the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century, Cambridge UP, 1993; and W. R. Johnson, "Foreword," in an Unknown Source, p.viii.
There is still that counterpoint
between despair and rejuvenation
in what I write, this music of the
wasteland and the new land.
I, too, see the death of an old world,
the shredding of the social fabric,
but I see the birth of the new which
you missed out on by a hair. Both born
into a world of tempest: give me your
versatility, your stamina, your adaptability,
your civility and your autobiographical mode,
your poetry of presence, Horace, Horace??
19 September 2001
POEMS ON AUTOBIOGRAPHY
A POETIC NOVEL/A NOVEL IN POETRY
Roland Barthes argues that autobiography should be considered as something spoken by a character in a novel or, rather, by several characters. In a novel the image-repertoire, the fatal substance and the labyrinth of levels in which anyone who speaks about himself is entirely fictive. The image-repertoire is expressed by several masks or personae which are distributed according to the depth, the extent, of the stage. The novel does not choose, it functions by alteration; it proceeds by impulses. So is this true of the essay or autobiographical poetry, although there is a strong element of choice in the writing--I would argue. The approaches to novel writing are never anything but approaches to resonance. The substance of the novel, ultimately, is totally fictive. Intrusions into the discourse of the essay or the discourse of poetry refer to a fictive creature. All these genres require remodelling in light of this perspective. Let the essay or the poem see themselves as 'almost a novel:' a novel without proper names. -Ron Price with thanks to Roland Barthes, Writings on the Internet, 21 March 2002.
The whole thing is defined by some big picture,
some made self and a quite precise facticity
where the meaning changes, restoring the experience,
beyond any meaning I ever assigned back then,
in some combination of the eventful and uneventful.
As the novel ends, the last chapter begins to unfold
and I tell of a joy in being thoroughly worn out,1
before being thrown on the heap ready for that
proverbial and mysterious endgame. And that tree
which is my life, arrayed with these fresh leaves,
blossoms and fruits of consecrated joy, also has
a terminal blight, complex twists and turns, and
will one day denude the tree of all of its verdure.
1 George Bernard Shaw in A Fortunate Life: A.B. Facey, Jan Carter, Penguin, 1981, p.325.
22 March 2002
During the first five years of my pioneering life, 1962 to 1967, Andy Warhol, one of America's famous artists, tagged 'saint Andy' in 1964, painted his two memento mori(remember that you must die) series Death and Disaster and the Skull. He painted suicides, car crashes, the atomic bomb, the electric chair, race riots, as well as death by poisoning and by earthquake.1 The reason for his continued fame is without question and among other reasons, his subject matter. These were difficult years for America: assassinations, race riots, a near miss with nuclear war. They were difficult years at the global level: the Egypt-Israeli war, the early stages of the Viet Nam war. They were difficult years in my personal life: depression, my first sexual misadventures, experiencing what was called a 'mild schizo-affective state,' the first episodes of a bi-polar disorder, loneliness and the light, the flame of my belief flickered and nearly went out. -Ron Price with thanks to Benjamin Bennett-Carpenter, a review of The Religious Art of Andy Warhol, Jane Daggett Dillenberger, Continuum, NY, 1998.
When I look back at those years,
I remember feeling all-over-the-place,
disorientation was the mother of the day.
It was a miracle that I pulled through it all,
that we pulled through it all, another one
of those skin-of-our-teeth survival packages,
just making it along history’s stony road.
That first sexual heat for me, overwhelming,
intoxicating, grabbed me by the throat,
took my breath away, I was lucky to pull
through it all with my psycho-emotions
in one piece after so many fractures, faintings--
those furies.......I hardly knew Andy was into
painting suicides, electric chairs, atomic bombs
and poisonings or that the world was on the
edge of nuclear destruction, total annihilation.
Seduced by ephemeral allurements
and short-lived enthusiasms, having
entered the dark heart of an age
as adolescence swung me from
pillar to post---I nearly missed
the vision of a new longing which
I had just begun to see as the possible
fruit of my labours—I nearly missed it!1
1 The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p.21, 18 December 1963.
-Ron Price 25 November 2001
Only by reading R.F. Price's poetry, on one level, as a prolonged and fragmented autobiography, conceived, for the most part, after bearing the weight of a new Faith as one of its pioneers for some forty years and after striving to carry its message to his contemporaries in some of the remotest regions of Canada and Australia, can the elusive unity of this vast bulk--bulk of poetry--be glimpsed.1 It is an autobiography that attempts not to confine its wisdom and virtue within the small circle of his experiences, his friends and his religion, in short, everything already intimately related to him. He tries to counter the tendency to overvalue these natural and personal enthusiasms and interests. He widens his field, his scope, his frame of influence to take in the richest and most varied "cultural attainments of the mind,"2 attainments within the range of the social sciences and humanities and largely acquired by reading, a continuous curiosity and a persistent energy to make the transit from stimuli to recording, to correlation.3 -Ron Price, with thanks to 1Justin Wintle, Furious Interiors: Wales, R.S. Thomas and God, Flamingo, London, 1996, p.xviii; 2 'Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970, p.35; and 3Ezra Pound in The Paris Review Interviews, Issue 22, Summer-Fall 1962.
I do not humbly shun epiphanies
if they come my way like the diamond,
produced from many years of weight,
sometimes, and even if, quite insufferable,
wet with tears from those Eskimo kids,
in the corridors and toilets of Whitby
Psychiatric Hospital and those desiccated
bone-dry loos in northern Australia and again
and again and again until finally released on a
new cocktail with its soothing chemistry making
the tears and the abuse in the hot and cold north
a new and consecrated joy....far, far from that
miasmal ooze which had wrung me completely
dry and from which I finally inched myself by my
consequential but necessary way to this fragile
resolution wherein I sing with gratitude and ease.
I have come to see both that weight and that ooze
like a vapour in the desert. I had dreamed, had
hoped for fresh water but knew it, in the end, to be
mirage, illusion. Still, it was no mere nothing, though;
it was not some quintessential nothingness; these were
but my first steps to the table where I could and did
taste of fruits of holiness on that tree of wondrous glory
beside(2) those sweet-scented streams I had been reading
about since hearing them on my mother’s lap as far back at
’55 in those halcyon, simple years when rock-‘n-roll,
dreams of Mr. Clean and the crumbling pyramids of
Hollywood were just beginning to be built for millions
and billions to gaze at and wonder with eyes that were
far, far busier than their minds would ever be.(3)
1 Roger White, The Language of There, p.34.
2 Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, No.68.
3 D.T.Miller and M. Nowak, The Fifties: The Way We Really Were, Doubleday & Co., Inc., NY,1977, p.314.
2 December 2001
AND THE BUSH WAS NOT CONSUMED
Howard Gruber has been studying creativity and creative people for years, decades. This poem attempts to place in overview, using perspectives expressed by Gruber, my own work over the years. Gruber writes about the creative person having "a network of enterprizes, simultaneous and parallel, but intimately related activities...a bewildering miscellany." He calls this "the evolving systems approach" to creativity. "Every idea seems to be implicated," writes Gruber, "with innumerable other ideas in an intricate network...a tangled bank." The creative work is often "spread out over months and years" with "consequences for the organization of purpose." Such a network possesses a scheme for replenishing itself with new tasks. These enterprizes show an astonishing longevity and they also pass through long periods "of dormancy." In my life, an overriding project emerged insensibly, unobtrusively, by 1962 at the age of 18, although I was hardly conscious of the process, the long range implications, even where I was in this lifelong exercise. But I had begun uniting what was then that embryonic network of enterprizes that Gruber mentions. A great amount of time has been required for this creative work, nearly forty years now. Interruptions, dead-ends, transient and awkward thoughts, even loneliness and fear at least for me, for my lifeline, for my lifestory, seem in retrospect to have been a natural, a necessary, part of the process. -Ron Price with thanks to Howard E. Gruber in "On the Method of Howard Gruber," Internet, 12 November 2001. The article I read on the internet today draws on over twenty of Gruber's books and articles on creativity over twenty-five years of his research and study.
My project had begun quite unobtrusively
by the time I'd moved to Dundas back in '62.
The stage was set, even then, for this protracted,
life-long goal with its tangents, delays, starts
and stops, inevitably inconclusive, but potentially
enriching moves and that sense of direction which
often felt completely stuffed. By '72 it was defining
itself more sharply up there in Whyalla: education
and career under my belt, unstuffed for a time, could
see the light at the end of the tunnel at last more clearly.
By '74 the project got a new lease on life, blasts of fresh
air went on and on before another complete stuff-up,
dead-end at both ends of the earth.1 Images of a wide
scope, supple schematization, methodical, underlying this
creative work, a seemingly random juxtaposition of ideas
began serendipitously producing discovery: after what
had become a long, lifelong apprenticeship--not knowing
it. Drawn insensibly at times by visions, hopes and dreams,
gradually by the sensuous pleasure of creative activity
itself, its new and fruitful problems always at the centre
of the project, a feeling of 'what's next?' and, and... the bush
never being consumed, never at rest, always blowing in the
wind, always burning, burning, but now with a low flame,
warm & easy from day to day—thanks to some new meds.
1 Frobisher Bay in 1967-8 and Zeehan in 1980-2.
13 November 2001
Updated for Dan:
The autobiographical process, when expressed in poetic narrative style and covering as it does now some 6500 prose-poems or, indeed, in my analytical narrative with its several appendices, or elaborated upon in my essays, letters, book reviews and assorted pieces of writing now occupying the dozens of files in this study: comes close to transforming the raw material of daily existence, past and present, into a life. One of the compensations for the effort, for this endeavour, lies in those serendipitous discoveries1 that arise out of the process of examining my life, my society and my religion in frequent and varied juxtapositions. In the end, though, I can not tell it all, can not get at it all. There is something, something mysterious, that remains elusive, aloof and inaccessible. Inner vulnerabilities are uncovered in a more precise phraseology, unhappinesses is explored and defined even if hardly needed, the frequent desire for self-annihilation over many a year, what Freud called Thanatos, is described, but the territory of the mind and heart can only be partly mapped. There seem to be places where no pen can go even if it wants---and even if it did there would be "no ear to hear nor heart to understand."2-Ron Price with thanks to Norman Sherry, The Life of Graham Greene, Vol.2: 1939-1955, Jonathan Cape, London, 1994, p.xiii; and Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words.
There's one story, dominant, I tell
about myself, one context which
suppresses and marginalizes other
stories, truths, does not evoke or
allow for them. I say: who is served
by my story? Who is empowered by
this construction of a personal reality?
There are countless ways I can story
and restore my experience as it shapes
me and my life. Is there anyone to hear?
As we tell our stories,the ability to do so
is renewed in us all and our stories will
not be erased from history.1 Will they?
1 Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Deception: Pretending and Truth-Telling in Women's Lives, Harper Collins,NY, 1993.
9 December 2001
POETRY'S CIRCUITOUS GAZE
John Ruskin describes his autobiography as "an old man's recreation in gathering visionary flowers in fields of youth."1 Mine is a middle-aged and late adulthood man's autobiography, at least, thusfar, one that will continue into old age if the years are granted to me. Mine has been an ingathering of visionary flowers, too, in the fields of my life. I like to see my autobiography, as Ruskin did his, as "a dutiful offering at the grave of my parents, by one who could have been more dutiful." For it is my life which, as Ruskin writes, consists of interconnected, intertwined, relationships, in my case, especially with my religion but, more generally, with 'every atom in existence and the essence of all created things.' I do not see this account, as Roussseau conceived his autobiography, as a complete self-revelation or confession. I do discuss my two marriages and my career though, unlike Ruskin, who left most of these aspects of his life right out. -Ron Price with thanks to George P. Landow, John Ruskin, Oxford UP, 1985, Chapter Four.
My adolescent religious belief
was born amidst the simplicity
of that small town on the edge
of a great blue-grey-green Lake
near a baseball field and a hockey arena,
just after MacDonalds opened their first
fast-food outlet quite unbeknownst to me.1
It has given me interpretations of life, society
and history, (no not MacDonalds!)occasionally
threatened by a type of Higher Criticism,2
doubts and by a great weariness, but never led
to disbelief, at least not quite.3 I never found a
better way to serve God or man. My thirst along
this stoney and often tortured path was eager and
methodical, at least within my limits. This has been
a life of the mind, at times standing apart with a
regular and sweetly selfish manner of living4 and
at times with both feet right in there with enough
words and people to drown in bubbled wonder.
Along the way, what was it that greatly influenced
my life? Let me list their names:
Fred and Lilian Price,
Alfred Cornfield, the Bab,
the Universal House of Justice....
......more names too numerous
and places whose affect was subtle
as I learned to see things with my
own eyes and not the eyes of others,
along a complex path that I could not
trace steadily through successive years
and needed poetry's circuitous gaze.
1 1949; in 1953 my religious belief was in its embryonic, preconceptual stage; it was being born in the mind and heart of my mother.
2 In 1964 I had a philosophy professor who could raise some very difficult questions to test my religious belief, then, of some five years.
3 came close in 1974, difficult to know exactly how close.
4 John Ruskin describes his life and its emphasis on privacy this way.
6 November 2001
A UNIFIED VISION
Price felt compelled in his quest for personal wholeness and a unified artistic vision to come to terms with those crises and calamities which, from a Baha'i perspective, were inevitable parts of his life and with the struggles and strains which both he and his community experienced and which, from time to time, threatened to arrest their unfoldment and blast all the hopes which their progress had engendered.1 Given that a social and psychological tempest had been blowing for more than a century and a half; and given that that tempest was both unprecedented in its violence and unpredictable in its effects on the one hand and was gripping all of humanity in the clutches of its devastating power on the other, Price's quest was one all Baha'is were engaged in during these epochs that were the backdrop to his life. This quest for wholeness or integration was both a goal and a battle, a balancing act, a perpetually unstable reconciliation of forces. Ultimately all the battles of life were within and, perhaps, this tension, this conflict, was the first law of human intrapsychic life.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, Wilmette, 1957, p.111; and 2Charles Fair, The New Nonsense: The End of the Rational Consensus, Harper and Row, 1974, p.45.
In spite of all this autobiographical
belly-aching, naval-gazing and apparent
self-assertion, which might be irrelevant,
downright embarrassing and ultimately
alien to what I have sought to achieve,
these1many years of trying to build these
rooms and so to feel pleased were not--
definitely not--a complete waste of time.2
I seek to manifest a truth, provide insight
into reality, find a pearl from the ocean
of a new Revelation and explore a common
life, a harmonizing in contrariety, a unity in
divergence-----self, yes, the one turned,
mirror-like, to that rare Presence--and so
vibrate in resonance with a divine stillness,
a still centre which I always and still seek.
'Oft-timed rehearsed petitioner, sometimes
joyful, sometimes joyless, often empty-handed,
I tell of us all, all of us deft practitioners2 who
strive with our protocols of piety, yet stranded
as we are, on uncertainty's shore--closer to an
ocean of certitude than our life's vein and closer
to unifying incompatible fragments than than we
ever could imagine in this often incoherent world.
1 Ludwig Tuman, Mirror of the Divine, GR, 1993, p.116.
2 Roger White, The Witness of Pebbles, GR, 1981, p.81.--Ron Price 4/2/02.
TO A DEGREE
For millions of people, interaction with others provides most of what they require to find meaning and significance in life.1 For others, meaning and significance are obtained from other sources. Creative activity is a particularly apt way to express oneself; this activity is often solitary and sometimes the productions which result are regarded as possessing value to society. For Price, solitariness had been essential and so had human interaction. After forty, perhaps fifty, years of extensive interaction(1949-1999), he felt he was moving into a period in his life characterized by a dominance of the solitary; after all those years of immense quantities of talking and listening and of pioneering from place to place(1959-1999), the time to stay in one place and reduce the verbal in-and-output may have arrived. He was not sure. Like Robert Redford, he wanted "to be a private man doing his own thing in a remote"2 place. But like Robert Redford too, at least thusfar, he had had trouble attaining this dominance of the solitary. Occasionally, like his life, he created a poem that was 'all over the place.' -Ron Price with thanks to: 1Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Nash, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1998, p.15; 2 Minty Clinch, Robert Redford, New English Library, London, 1989, p.3.
There were always skads of people around
back then in '59 or '62. They were unavoidable,
essential to your1 way of life. You accepted them
like the air; as if they'd always been there.
And it stayed that way, in one way or another,
until just the other day when it became just you
and your wife,2 a couple of shopkeepers,
your son and step-daughter dropping in,
the good-byes to the Baha'is, afternoon tea
with friends. Getting closer to solitude,
but never really there, probably never really
attainable, for this commitment, this vision,
is all part of what Holley called: ‘the social
religion' and social it is, with solitariness only
really desireable to a degree, to a degree,
to a degree....and even solitariness is, as
Shakespeare said, "must be peopled in
some way or other if it is to be rich."
26 June 1999
1 In this poem I address 'you' and the 'you' is, in fact, myself.
2 My son moved out of home in 1999 and then in 2005 and my wife and I were alone for the first time in our marriage, in our relationship which began back in about April 1974.
The May-June period 1968 was a turning point in my own life, in the life of western society and in the historical experience of the Baha'i Faith. The following poem looks at this 'turning point' and how it was experienced quite differently at the personal and the international levels. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 26 October 2001.
We saw a tremendous impetus
to the diffusion of spiritual inspiration
in the majestic unfoldment of this new
System, back then1 when Bobby Kennedy
was assassinated,2 when Paris witnessed
a celebration of the imagination, a rejection
of Marxism and archaic structures of authority
in those riots of students and workers.3
While these great affairs of the day,
these events of history were changing
the direction of the lives of humanity,
for the most part unbeknownst,
I taught grade three Eskimos
at a priority pioneering post
on Baffin Island for the last time
and began a hospitalization in the
major episode in my life of what
is now known as a bi-polar disorder.4
1 21 June 1968, the Appointment of the Continental Board of Counsellors
2 Bobby Kennedy was assassinated on June 8th 1968
3 The Paris riots of May 1968
4 I was hospitalized on the first Monday in June 1968
26 October 2001.
A QUIET WORD
This poem attempts to convey some of my experience of retiring from teaching at the age of 55. I was helped to start the poem by reading Emily Dickinson's poem number 1123 in her collected poetry. Emily's poems are succinct, pithy pieces on very short lines; this poem is 'spread out.' It lacks her pithy presence. Like my life, spread out from the Canadian Arctic to the southwest corner of Tasmania, this poem has been physically diffused. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.
The pleasure ceased,
ambition fell, but little
noise was made. Some
fatigue had entered in;
it spoke no tale worth telling,
though several times I tried
to tell the story of my days.
I had developed quite a knack
of conveying all my ways.
But it was more a quiet exit,
a simple coming to an end,
a little bit of talking
as the spirit began to mend.
Slowly I moved to a new routine,
away from endless words
talking and more talking
where I'd sought to sing
like the birds.
I found myself with quiet days
with books and lots of writing.
I found myself walking down roads
an end to employment fighting.
My moral and political object as a poet and as a Baha'i is to create and recreate myself, in the words of the opening inscriptive poem of Whitman's Leaves of Grass, "as a simple separate person" but also as part of that "Oneness of Humankind" that has become an increasing part of our consciousness as people during these three epochs.(i.e. 1944-2000) In this world, this emerging World Order, lies my chief source of creative forms and the range of experiences which will let me complete the cycle of self-recognition, identification with others and self-definition. In my poetry, my emerging corpus of poetic understandings, is the story of my struggle, my Faith, my time, my three epochs and what I would will myself and my world to become. This exercise has taken place in over three dozen houses and two dozen towns and I have, therefore, scattered the words of this poem to convey this reality of movement. -Ron Price with thanks to Roy Pearce, The Continuity of American Poetry, Princeton UP, Princeton, 1961, pp.73-74.
We, I, have been putting it back together:
humankind and its history, its geography,
its community, marrying it again. This is
the heroism; we are remaking the world,
with word after word, after word, meeting
after meeting. Gradually the brain and the
heart dried out and their thin soil became
the ground where love rapaciously made
its season in my fevered dreams from
which I woke aghast--the wet taste of
leaves on the tongue, astute voracious
tendrils at the throat, my trembling palms
gummy with mould and knowledge.1
But, as the poet says, neglect does foster,
and dismay but fertilize love's thrusting growth.
And I return, again, to the battle, having dried
out on the land and renewed myself under cool,
metallic stars as if I had sucked their bright and
detached immensity into my soul from some quite
distant fragrance of sweet-scented mercy.
1 Roger White, The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, pp.71-2.
24 December 1999
SEED-PLANTING FOR THE HARVEST
Many, if not most, of us in the late twentieth century, who might read Price, would not take much interest in his world, the world he lives in and which for various reasons we cannot join, at least not in recent decades. We just cannot go along with him. It is not so much that he does not speak our language, the idiom of a mass culture, or one of the majority of its main sub-cultural tributaries, but that this mass cannot speak his language. He would very much like that mass to join him, but he knows it denies, is disinterested, in his world. Of necessity, he has been forced to live in the world of the mass for his entire life; he had had no choice; indeed much of it was pleasurable, stimulating, educative. Although that mass, for its part, could not speak his language, it knew very generally what he meant. For his words were, for the most part, clear and easy to understand. It was not his complexity that was the problem; it was the world's complexity and the tempest which is, and has been, blowing with unprecedented magnitude, unpredictable in its course: fragmenting, disintegrating, anarchic, morally chaotic. An immense explosion of knowledge and forms of knowing in the print and electronic media made his poetry to occupy a small corner—nearly non-existent, the eye of a dead ant. surely it was not that bad? So it is that I have left the design of this poem in its unconventional shape, that is, with this long prose introduction. -Ron Price with thanks to Roy Harvey Pearce, The Continuity of American Poetry, Princeton UP, Princeton, 1961, p.274.
When I look back over forty years,
beginning with my acceptance of this
breathtakingly wondrous Gift, it is so
obvious that so few came to share the
language with me, though I was not
short on talk. Alan Coupe, who lived
around the corner, came in six or seven
years after I had signed the proverbial card.
Then, there were all those kids back in '70
in Picton, a pile more in Whyalla in '72 whom
I have never ever seen in my travels since;
Chris Price in '74; Ludwig Vinckier in '81;
Larry Ahlin in, what, '84, and perhaps
one or two others on the whole road:
they learned to speak the language.
All that talking, guitar playing, listening,
travelling, for the sake of a small handful?
Obviously it's seed-planting for the harvest.
22 December 1999
Price was attempting, over nearly two decades now, through his thousands of poems, to define his sense of identity and to express, as best he could, his understandings of many of life's features and especially those associated with his religion. He relied heavily on his autobiographical self, on the trivial and quotidian and on the aspiration, the vision, the hope expressed in the Writings of his Faith. He played with the concept of the self, his self, and was engaged with a constant, a normal, reality monitoring in virtually all of his poetry. He saw the process as one of an on-going self-creation, self-definition and self-description. He sought refuge in a vision of suffering and redemption at the root of his religion and its history and in a philosophical and psychological framework that his religion also provided for his day-to-day life and his poetry. -Ron Price with thanks to Frances F. Steen, "The Time of Unremembered Being: Wordsworth's Autobiography of the Imagination," A.B.: Autobiography Studies, Spring 1998, pp.7-38.
I should put your words1 back in the story
as they deserve to be since they describe
my days: now I speak of things that have
been and that are2....and, in my case, seem
like gentle dreams, far from fashioned, but they
do adorn the time of my remembered being
when they did adorn the Hill of God and made
a beauty on that holy sod in these my epochs
when for some reason I had been given the nod.3
1 William Wordsworth's
2 These words were originally at the beginning of Wordsworth's 'The Prelude.' But he later took them out.(see ibid.,p.7)
3 an expression used in Australia and perhaps other countries, usually in sport, to mean "you will be playing on the team."
THE CURRENT OF LIFE
The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson called for a literature of "diaries and autobiographies"1 instead of novels. The twentieth century American writer, Henry Miller, endorsed this idea in an effort to open himself to the "whole dammed current of life". Miller was trying to make of the chaos about him "an order which (was) his own." He was also trying to affirm the inner light of selfhood against the darkness, the slaughterhouse, the cancer of the world, the collapse of traditions, the breakdown of connection between the self and an engageable social milieux and the disappearance of modes of authority outside the self. This "inner light" and "order" which Miller affirms is also at the centre of my work, but the light and order that I seek and manifest are derived from "the verses of God that have been received"2 by me over more than fifty years. Emerson's call for 'diaries and autobiographies' at the dawn of the Baha'i Era has not gone unheeded. The last 150 years has seen a plethora of these genres. My literary effort is part of the response, in my case quite unconscious, to Emerson's call, my desire to open myself to the whole "damned current of life." -Ron Price with thanks to 1Christopher Lasch, The Minimal Self:" Psychic Survival in Troubled Times, WW Norton, NY, 1984, p.134; and 2 Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Prayers, USA, 1985, frontispiece.
Inventorying and stylizing myself,
daily events, life's events, the dizzy
world going by, a manipulation of
details with the status of facts, no bare
chronicle of fact, creating, defining, self,
world and my religion and, in the end,
producing my life by an infinite chain
of signifiers and constructs, therapeutic
self-discovery, spinning a yarn,1 as it were,
in the current of life, of society and this great,
this emerging world religion in these epochs.
1 Lynda Scott, "Similarities Between Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing," Deep South, Vol.3 No.2, Winter 1997
13 May 2001
I’d like to close this section of my website with an introduction to "VOLUME 5 OF MY JOURNAL" or diary as journals are often called. I wrote this introduction less than 14 months before the age of 65(July 2009) when I will go on the Old Age Pension in Australia, after being on the Canadian Old Age Pension since 2004. This introduction will provide a useful concluding note to this autobiographical, memoirist, section of this website.
As winter opens unobtrusively in
Australia(1/6/’08), and as the winter solstice approaches in the southern
hemisphere even more unobtrusively(21/6/’08), I will post another piece,
another summary of my journals and diaries, not one of an artist with paint,
clay, but one of an artist in the medium of words. Those who work in the more
familiar art mediums of painting and sculpture, pottery or one of the various
forms of design, may find my post useful, such is my hope. As I have said
before in other contexts than this, keeping a journal/diary I have found
difficult. I know many others do as well, artists and people in all sorts of walks
of life. The Australian artist Donald Friend's work with his art journal has
been helpful to me in this vein, in the vein of helping me persist in the
keeping and maintaining of a diary. Anyway, here is a somewhat lengthy
introduction to this Volume 5 of my journal. If what follows is
too long for any individual reader just stop reading when your eyes tire or
your mind finds what you read here irrelevant. Reading in the form of skimming
and scanning is essential now with the burgeoning of print; just edit it to
your taste or simply delete it from your reading repertoire/agenda.
INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME 5 OF MY DIARY
After more than twenty-four years of haphazard diary keeping(1984-2008) and an equally haphazard twenty-two years of dream recording(1986-2008), there looms ahead of me the shadow of a type of diary that my work may attain to: part of the shadow is prospective and the other retrospective. What, indeed, will I make of this loose, drifting material of my life, as Virginia Woolf calls the material in her diary and which very accurately describes mine, however incomplete, however irregular are my entries, however superficial the content often is. Do I want this diary to be so elastic as to embrace anything solemn, slight, beautiful or ugly that comes to mind, sort of a capacious hold-all? Will this diary, this journal, this particular way of conveying my memoir, when all is said and done and the roll is called up yonder(assuming there is a roll and there is an up-yonder), resemble a place where I have flung a mass of odds and ends, some with reflective ardour and great meaning, some with fatigue and sadness, some with guilt and shame, some with a sense of their utter triviality, their tedium and life's.
The purpose of this overview of my diary, written after more than twenty-four years of making episodic entries and introducing, as it does, the 5th volume of this diary, is to analyse, give definition and pattern to the autobiographical memory that I have put on paper across my lifespan in the form of diary. I use other genres of writing to record memory, but I deal here with the genre of journal or diary. Autobiographical memory, in so far as it relates to my journal, can be broadly defined as a type of episodic memory for information related to the self, both in the form of retrospective and prospective memories, as well as aims, goals and expectations. If this retrospective, episodic account relates to the retrieval in the present of memories, experiences or past events, then prospective autobiographical memory is concerned with the retrieval of expectations, anticipations or future events which likewise are connected in some way with the present or even future.
On the basis of what I have written here in these 24 years, it would appear that a collection of flotsam and jetsam, as Woolf says, has been put on record. This material has been born from a vaster collection of life's flotsam and jetsam, some of which is meaningful to me in the moment or at least hopefully so but, ultimately and possibly, about as useful and valuable to others as the eye of a dead ant. I hope this is not the case but, as T.S. Eliot once wrote, one has to be prepared that all which one has written may become a dead letter. I get a sense of order in putting all this on paper. That is its own intrinsic reward. I am sure this is the case for many, artists and others. Suzette Henke describes how many diarists come to their diaries out of shattered lives, out of a need to relive their lives in terms of some dream, some myth, some endless story which they compose. This is not the case with me but, as my fifties wore on and turned into my sixties, I seemed to wear on if not out. I seemed to lose some of life’s heat and there was some shattering. It was a shattering of the social nature I had manifested for several decades, indeed as far back as I could remember, perhaps as far back as my first memories 60 years ago. It is difficult to define just what it is that lies under this diary, that is its raison d’etre or raisons d’etre, the source of the several leitmotifs which bind the diary together into a coherent whole, if indeed it has coherence and wholeness. What motivates me to want to add an extra level to an already present story, autobiography or memoir was conveyed by Shakespeare in sonnet 94: "For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds."
By the age of fifty I had certainly collected lots of deeds whose memories were not endearing. Perhaps by means of memoir, autobiography, poetry and diary I was trying to work some magic to reflect the self I wanted to be. Such was the case with that famous diarist Anais Nin. I don’t think it was the case with me, though there was some of Anais Nin’s aim in my own. My diary or journal tended to be the place of my most confessional writing and, for that reason alone if for no other, it deserved to exist on its own. It was and is a genre of particular use to me as a writer for its several purposes which this brief essay attempts to outline.
As this diary has developed over nearly a quarter of a century now, it has served simply to help me to describe my life, not especially to deal with accounts of personal complexities like the desire to fight or flight, nor to battle on, nor adopt some defensive escape, nor as a strategy to cope with traumatic personal history, although I have often experienced all of these inner wantings to escape, to battle on or deal with trauma of different kinds. To want to cut and run and great inner fear or anxiety of some kind were common enough occurrences in the more than six decades of living thusfar. It was Baha’u’llah, not Shakespeare, I think who put his finger on the reason for the shift in my life activity as my fifties wore on and became incrementally my sixties. Excess of speech is a deadly poison and its affects last a lifetime, this founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote in the 19th century, and I had had an excess of life’s verbal art and its twistings and turnings in the 60 years of my memoried life: 1947/8-2007/8. Of course, there is much more in the motivational matrix of this diary and I deal with it as far as I am able and as much as I desire in this introduction to Volume 5 of this diary.
I did not desire to take part in that conversational/verbal part of life as my sixties grew insensibly into their middle years, 65 to 75. As the year 1984-1985 opened and I began this diary at the age of forty I found myself in possession of a talent, a gift, perhaps an unmerited grace. I had been conscious of its developing nature since, perhaps 1972 in my first year as a high school teacher. In 1984 I was writing a column in the local newspaper of 800 words every week. I won’t deal with the origins of this writing activity in the local paper nor the development by sensible and insensible degrees in the dozen years before 1984 going back to Whyalla in South Australia. I had always liked the idea of seeing the base, the origin, of art, in unmerited grace. Annie Dillard used this uplifting phrase or idea, although the question it deals with is far from simple. Writing had been a talent which had grown slowly with the years, first as a student, then as a teacher, then as a writer in publications of various kinds. It was in the sheer exercise of this gift and harnessing it to life's service and the causes that concerned me that was part of the motivating base for producing a diary, although much more could be said here and interested readers can find more of my comments on this theme in my other writings.
My diary became, in part, a textual testimony, a form of scriptotherapy, a testimonial, an episodic narrative, a form of defence and assertion, albeit partial and temporary. It became, along with the other genres of my writing, a form of living, a way of spending my time, my life, the way I wanted to. I could make some comparisons and contrasts of my work with the work of others. I found the diaries of others provided helpful perspectives on my own writing, but I will not deal with this subject here for the literature on diaries and journals is now burgeoning. And all of this dairy writing was not therapy.
These five volumes of my journal are found in eight two-ring binders and two arch-lever files. Three of these binders contain photographs with some commentary and one of the files contains comments on some of my dreams. I have made a periodic attempt to write a retrospective diary for the years 1844 to 1984, but thus far the attempt has had limited success. I don’t want to leave the impression that diary writing is a fertile field. Far from it—for me. Much of my efforts at a diary are now and have been for many years dry, uninspiring, far from encouraging.
Henry David Thoreau's fine Journal kept from 1839 to 1861 gave expression to Thoreau’s view, his vision of the destiny of America in terms of life in death. That became a dominant feature of my writing as far back as the 1980s, the feature of life in death. I am confident that will be a strong part of the experience of many generations of the American pioneer-the Baha’i pioneer. There are times in this account when I focus on the inner self, my experiences, my community; there are other times when I focus on my society, the land, a more open perspective. I seem to be a more tolerant person than Thoreau, although I confess that by the time I retired at 55 I had begun to tire of people and conversations about the ordinarily ordinary or even the more intellectual and esoteric. Like Thoreau, I rarely have the public in mind when I write, although I do have a future public in mind as the Australian artist Donald Friend did in his diary. In the last century over one billion deaths have occurred from trauma of different kinds and so it is not surprising that an individual diary should be seen in terms of life in death. But readers will have to wait for my demise to read more on this theme. I only want to allude to it here.
Henry Miller arguably the first writer to use the "F" word long before it broke out in the media in the 1960s and became a more extensive presence as the decades rolled on during my life, was one of the few post-WW2 American writers of note who wrote praiseworthy things about many of the things I hold dear. He also wrote, somewhat prophetically:
"When the destruction brought about by the Second World War is complete," wrote Miller, "another set of destruction will set in. And it will be far more drastic, far more terrible than the destruction which we are now witnessing. The whole planet will be in the throes of revolution. And the fires will rage until the very foundations of the present world crumble." Not a happy note to include in the introduction to a volume of my journal, but certainly interesting and written back in the early 1940s! Decades ago people would have trouble comprehending Miller's idea here, but not any more.
In the case of some of my retrospective diary work making entries is difficult. For, when I write about events taking place forty years ago, I cannot rely on closeness to the event. I must rely on what Peter Braustein calls possessive memory. "Possessive memory," writes Braustein in his history of the counter-culture, "leaves the person and his memories in a lover’s embrace. The person is in possession of his memories, and no one else can touch them; at the same time, his memories are in possession of him." Braustein applies this idea to those activists in the sixties who experienced "a sense of self-generation so powerful that it became a constitutive part of their later identity." Without going into the many contradictory views that have emerged in sixties studies, there is little doubt that I experienced several early stages of my own variety of activism in in the sixties. I was 15 when the sixties started and 25 when they finished. My adult life began during those years and that "sense of self-generation" is still a part of my identity even now. If it wasn't I don't think I could keep writing. Like many of the sixties generation, I felt as if I was an agent of history and I still do.
In writing my life story in the last years of my fifties and now early sixties, I came to realize more than I ever had before, perhaps for the first time in any full sense, that the success I had achieved in life grew not only from my own hard work and certain favourable circumstances of my environment, but from the foundation provided by my parents and my grandparents on my mother’s side. The journey of understanding, like the journey of life itself, is an emotional one that I have tried to write about with honesty and with a fresh eye for those primary relationships in my life: father-son, mother-son and grandfather-grandson, wife-husband, among several others I could possibly include. Of course, not all is emotion, again thank goodness. There is intellect, reason, the cultural attainments of the mind and a host of other qualities that psychologists enumerate in their studies of personality and that historians describe in their study of the past.
I still do not feel I have found the flow, the filling up of the springs, the raising of the streams of this journal, as Thoreau put it. The accumulating grists are really yet to be ground in the first 24 years of writing this journal. They may, in fact, never get ground, if poetry and narrative, essays and notes steal the material, take the stage and leave this diary-prose always waiting in the wings.
This Journal does have less concern for form than my poetry and for that reason there is potentially an easier flow, once the flow begins, at least a flow in a different direction to other genres I use. I have mentioned before that Thoreau has been invaluable in helping my diary writing, but I still await the flow in this diary, a flow that has come to my 6000 poems upstream somewhere. This diary seems to meander downstream in one of those u-shaped bows one reads about in geography books. The flow so often stops as if one of the Australian droughts finally took away all its water, all the water of life. In Thoreau's last years, from the late 1850s to his death in 1862, he wrote with energy and control, but with little interest in getting into print. I hope this becomes true for my Journal, a repository of lots of energy and creativity, but I must confess to having an eye on posterity, to the potential all these words might have on assisting in the unification of the planet in the decades and centuries to come through the catalysis of the Baha’i community and its administrative order.
There is a type of unity in death, thought Thoreau. We need to learn how to die in order to learn how to live was his view. Part of this process, as far as the Journal is concerned, is the pleasure of serendipity. The only thing we leave behind, Thoreau thought, was ourselves. This Journal is just that: myself. It is as if one wants one’s leaves to survive, one’s autumnal hints and the reds, browns and golds of autumn. In my case I often feel as if winter has come to my Journal and no leaves can be found on its branches. Life is sometimes cold and dry. This is certainly the case if I measure my life by my only by my Journal. But there are other indices of measurement, thank goodness.
Thoreau said that Emerson was more familiar with his work than he was. I’m sure, should this material ever be published, that there will be those who become more familiar with it--and perhaps with me--than I. I lose touch with this Journal as one often does with aspects of one’s life: with those one loves, with one's feelings which also seem to dry up especially in areas which were once rich, wet and alive. Perhaps this is a way to develop friends in the next life and be ready to meet them when they, or rather I, arrive. I’ll follow this theme later. Thoreau said that the best growth in trees is in their old age, with harmony and regularity. He also said good deeds act as an encouragement to yourself, to your artistic pursuits, your writing. May I build up a niche of good deeds and may my tree grow best in the years ahead.
Diaries can track the contemporaneous flow of public and private events. They are not given all of a piece, all at once as in a book, such as a life history might be. But rather, they are written discontinuously, either daily or over longer intervals of time and as such provide a record of an ever-changing present. Other types of autobiographical texts or life documents such as letters, rather than documenting the present, tend towards making retrospective sense of a whole life or towards retelling significant moments, epiphanies or crystallizations of experience. This proximity to the present, the closeness between the experience and the record of experience means that there is the perception at least that diaries are less subject to the vagaries of memory, to retrospective censorship or reframing than other autobiographical accounts. Still, there are in my letters much that others might place in a diary and so it is that my letters and diary might be seen as all of one piece; and of course my desire to write a retrospective diary would result in qui9te a different memoir.
I certainly think there is potential in these folders that contain my Journals or Diaries and the unfolding aspects of my life. It is a potential I have hardly begun to realize as yet in these first five diary-volumes. There is, I like to think, something unique, some unique contribution to my overall autobiographical opus: Pioneering Over Four Epochs, that has begun to reveal itself after more than two decades of making entries. A description of "a life without secrets and without privacy is simply inconceivable," wrote Boris Pasternak describing as he did the life that was his and on display in society in its different forms as if in some "show window." For me, this privacy is essentially the life of the mind and many things I have not revealed in the other forms of autobiography. But the revelation comes in my journal. They include aspects of personal life that one might term revelations and include those elements of human experience that seem most private, most hidden, most personal, most shameful, most embarrassing, a source of most guilt and those things that do not tend to be divulged in the normal course of interpersonal life. They are revealed episodically in these journals when time and the inclination have combined to allow me to insert them into the narrative. They are often that sort of entry that has concerned many a writer and artist and which these artists and writers have wanted to burn either before or after their demise from this mortal coil.
I have tried, too, to eliminate the trivial from what I write, but this is difficult for so much of life seems to amount to trivial’s many particularities and their ephemerality. When one tries to put one's experience on paper the trivial seems to abound in detail and this is the reason why many never keep a journal. The mere contemplation of the exercise of writing down what one does on a daily basis is more than the average person can bear; indeed, the activity amounts to an inner revulsion, for many reasons. It is just too tedious for words, both the process and the content. And this is not just due to the average person’s distaste for writing. But enough on this sad but complex theme for now.
I have no intention of writing in public places like this about all the boredom and the chowder, as Paul Simon call some of the aspects of life; nor do I intend to write about all of my sins of omission and commission, all the points of shame and guilt that rise up from my life like a forest of trees. But many of them I write about in my Diary. Whether I deserve to have had these experiences, whether they came to me as a result of destiny, circumstance, capricious passion, whether I can even grasp the causative factors that gave rise to them at all or whether I can’t, I am not a believer in the virtues of public confession, beyond a certain point. There are times for public confession, public to some degree, for the spontaneous acknowledgment of wrongs I have committed or faults in my character. There are times when I would like someone, usually a close companion of some sort, to forgive me or accept me even with my faults. That point or points tends to be, for me at least, when I admit to personal struggle and battle in the hope that my admission may help others with their battle and struggle. Those who are keen to read the more confessional intimacies of my life and in more detail than they will find in my published accounts, in these introductions and in other places, can read about them in the posthumous collection of my Journals, should my executors decide they are relevant and helpful to a public audience.
Readers who have followed this series of introductions to my several volumes of journals will by now realise that much of what is written here in this introduction is virtually the same as the introduction to volume 4 of my journal. I have also written many of these words some six months before officially opening this volume 5 of my journal on January 20th 2006. It seemed useful to begin the contemplation of the 5th volume of this diary before that opening date of January 20th 2006. Volume 4 was becoming too full to continue using that 2-ring binder. The size of my volumes, the extent of the entries, is based on the room in each arch-lever file or two-ring binder for the entries I place. In addition, it was nearly 37 years ago that I arrived in Australia as an international pioneer(12/7/71) and so, perhaps, writing many of these introductory words to this 5th volume of my journal today(1/6/’08) is timely and appropriate.
After 29 months(20/1/06 to 1/6/’08) now of making entries in this volume five, I conclude this introduction and leave the processes of making entries and writing introductions to those mysterious dispensations of a Watchful Providence. If Providence is not that watchful in my personal direction and if He/She/It has other things to do than to be concerned with the intimacies of my life on a daily basis, I can at least recount the tokens that tell of the glorious handiwork of the universe in which I am an infinitesimal part and some of the fiery, painful aspects of its immensity. Finally, I leave to reason and virtue their steady and not so uniform course while the extravagant wanderings of my vice and folly continue their path down destiny’s corridors with my free will giving me opportunities and closing doors as I travel. As this awful, awkward and tangled scene in what is perhaps history's greatest climacteric plays itself out before my eyes, I conclude this introduction to my Diary Volume 5.—Ron Price,1 June 2008
a final autobiographical word:
Anyone who has got this far, has persisted through the above labyrinth, deserves to be reminded of my autobiographical study 'Pioneering Over Four Epochs' found at this website. Readers must go back to the Index page(the access page that you came to when you arrived at this site); then scroll down to the Book. What follows for the reader at that point, after he or she has downloaded my autobiography, are many chapters of the narrative and the autobiographical study, about 750 A-4 pages from a total opus of 2600pages in five volumes. This Book is found at the bottom of the index page. You click on the word 'HERE' in the sentence: 'My autobiography is HERE.' Downloading takes from 5 to 10 minutes depending on your downloading system.