19. BAHA棚 WRITINGS and

COMMENTARY

The writings of the Báb, Bahá置値láh and 羨bdu値-Baha, often referred to as the Central Figures of the Baha段 Faith and the writings of Their successors, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice make up what I refer to as "the Baha段 writings." The Baha段 writings and now a burgeoning commentary on them provide an inspiration, a quintessential inspiration, for the poetic writing and commentary in this section of my website. The interview below places this inspirational material, this body of spiritual writing, in what I hope is a relevant context for readers. But first some poetry that places the Baha段 writings in a personal, a contemporary and, clearly, a varied perspective.

BEYOND

Lara, in the film Dr. Zhivago, says that you and I are "like the first two people, Adam and Eve, just as unclothed and homeless." It seems to me that, since 1844 or thereabouts, perhaps since Shaykh Ahmad came out of Bahrain in about 1793 or, as the modern historian might argue, since the French Revolution in 1789, humanity has slowly been acquiring clothes and homes. There is a sense of new beginnings for people everywhere, of the immeasureable distance we have travelled as a species, of new frameworks of time and space, once quite contained, now are infinite. There is a sense, too, that we may finally be coming of age in a period of late adolescence, part of the planetization of humankind. At the same time, Lara is right. There are millions who are homeless and unclothed, although not in the sense that Lara intended. We are all faced with these two paradoxical realities among a host of others: enigmatic, puzzling, troubling.-Ron Price with thanks to Richard Freeborn, The Rise of the Russian Novel, Cambridge UP, 1973, pp.278-9.

There's been a rise to greatness

in our age: a pleasure, for some,

in a cunning tenacity of mind

even while suffering from life.

Of course, it's not new,

this resilence, this animal toughness,

this persistence, this endurance

of men like Dostoevsky, of Badi,

TO MENTION ONLY TWO.

This over-flowing vitality,

this explosion and excess of health,

this intensified reality, sensibility,

temperament, faculty, capacity,

something titanic, some wholeness

of conception, this outpouring effect

is discussed and analysed....and, then,

 

beyond:

 

some power, some influence

which shatters the cup of speech,

as engineers fail to dam the sea,

creates new categories,

new faculties for the mind,

but somehow, strangely, I find

after all these years of holding

this power in my hands,

my critical faculties prevent me

from even approaching

its outpouring effect:1

greater and beyond.

1 Horace Holley in The Ocean of His Words, John Hatcher, p.3.

Ron Price 27 March 2002

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MY POETIC STARTING POINT

I see the poetry written by Baha'is in my time, say the forty years after 1962, very much like the Russian novel in the nineteenth century, at least the years 1840s to 1880s: a mirror of life and a means of self-discovery rather than entertainment or a form of distraction, a means of educating the mind, moving the heart, accessing the very breath of life and presuming to convey the privacy of the heartache, identifiable as it inevitably is with lived experience. Whether this great body of poetry that has emerged in the last four decades, some published, but for the most part unpublished, has that maturity of form, that organic individuality; whether it possess the deeply-felt concern for the human dilemma in our age of violent polemic, socio-economic reform and incipient revolutionary change, that the Russian novel surely did in its time, only a future age will tell. -Ron Price with thanks to Richard Freeborn, The Rise of the Russian Novel, CambridgeUP,1973, p.3.

This poetic achievement, if it is that,

dominates by sheer volume and size.

I like to think it possesses the power

and formlessness of a whirlwind

in which much:

both trivial and tragic,

serious and profound,

simple and quotidian,

is swept up.

 

I like to think there is at work here

an abnormal intensity

of sensibility and temperament

that enables me to enter

sympathetically into the feelings

of every kind of person.

That is what I'd like to think.

 

For here is a poet

whose starting point is:1

holy dust at the centre

of nine concentric circles

and a retreat of deathless splendour

where the souls of two

manifestations of God reside,

where a tranquil calm

and revivifying breath

inspire volumes with

unnumbered exhortations2

and revolutionizing principles.

 1 The poetic starting point for Tolstoy was "the peasant." (See Ernest J. Simmons, Introduction to Tolstoy's Writings, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1968, p.7.)

2The Universal House of Justice, "Tribute to Baha'u'llah," May 29th 1992.

Ron Price

27 March 2002.

INTERVIEW NUMBER FIVE WITH RON PRICE

This is the fifth interview in fifteen months. It was begun in 1997 and completed in 2001. Like all the interviews I have recorded, they were simulated, choreographed, produced, directed and written by this writer. This particular interview, the fifth in the series, resulted from reading a series of interviews with Edward Albee over the twenty-five year period 1961 to 1987 and published in Conversations With Edward Albee, Philip C. Kolin, University of Mississippi Press, London,1988. My knowing that these were historic days, days of infinite preciousness in the brief span of time before the end of the century, days of urgent and inescapable responsibility as I strove toward my God-promised destiny in the midst of a spiritual drama,1 provided a motivational matrix for the comments that follow. The part of the interview that took place in 2001 drew on an interview with V.S. Naipaul on "Books and Writing," ABC Radio National, 16 September 2001. 1Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message, 1997.

_______________________________________________

Questionner(Q):Are you conscious of influences on your poetry?

Price(P): Yes and no. My religion, my reading, 礎ig events in my life, people(family, friends, associations) are each and all immense influences on what I write. Given the time and the inclination I知 sure I could point to literally hundreds of poems that have direct links to one of these four influences. That痴 the 惣es part. The 創o part would go something like this: often I begin a poem and I have no idea how it will end and I have no idea just where it came from, the germ of the idea. It痴 like the birth of a baby and you did not know you were even pregnant. Keats put it well in a letter he wrote in 1820 and which I often quote, or paraphrase. Once a poet gets to a certain intellectual maturity etherial finger-paintings can be engendered, voyages of conception he calls them, which arise out of the most mundane experiences.

Q: Are there any serious problems with the interview method?

P: The viewer or the reader who comes across a transcript must keep in mind that answers change. Truth is relative. Individuals change. Ways of thinking about things go through processes of complete overhauling. As Edward Albee put it in an interview in 1980 with Peter Adam, an interviewee finds as he is giving an answer, one he has given many a time, and in mid-stream he realizes he does not believe that answer any longer, or it is just not true. The interviewer also has to keep in mind that we all have many selves, many 叢ositions, we are many things to many different people. I find a position, a point of view, evolves with each poem; it痴 an organic process.

Also, the concept that the spark of truth comes from the clash of differing opinions means that the interviewee often will play the devil痴 advocate just to generate that truth spoken of above. A sociologist with an interaction perspective might say something like "a sense of self results from the process of interaction". Putting this a little differently, he might say the interviewer strongly influences the way the interviewee comes across. There are many things that affect an apparently neutral or objective interview. There痴 a whole literature available now on the subject of interviewing. I often play the devil痴 advocate game when my wife and I are in company. My wife used to find it quite annoying, but she痴 used to it now. We致e been married for 22 years now.

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Q: Do you prefer the ambiguities of life or the factual in your poetry?

P: You really need both in poetry. They compliment each other over and over again. As Carl Jung says most of the really important things in life don稚 admit to answers. It痴 better that way, he argues, they give us something to work on right to the end of it all. They help us grow. The endless analysis of issues helps to fill life痴 spaces in with challenges, enigmas, paradoxes that the mind can play with forever; for so much of the everyday is factual and beyond analysis, the routine, the sensory, better just enjoyed without too much thought.

Q: Do you take any particular "position" on any particular philosophy or troublesome social issue like starvation, asylum seekers, or the situation in Ireland?

P: Generally I have a strong disinclination to take up specific positions on a multitude of social issues. I find social issues generally are quite complex and the 'yes-no' or the 'this-or-that-side,' the quixotic tourament of emotional enthusiasms, is generally too simplistic to take a side. My poetry has a great deal to say about various philosophies and some broad social issues of gender, race and justice and I discuss them in several of these interviews. There are a multitude of questions and issues in the world, some of which my religion has quite strong or specific teachings on and, as part of my repertoire of beliefs, I support the official view held as part of my religion. But insofar as the multitude of concerns in that quixotic journament of events that come before us daily I often have not the least idea what 'the answer' is. I often have 'views' or 'thoughts' but not 'answers' like some kind of instant coffee; and my poetry does not attempt to deal with most of these 'news items' that flash before us and are gone. Poetry is a very intimate touch, a sensitive expression, of a language. It offers quite intimate keynotes and perspectives but it does not attempt to offer systematic answers to endless complex questions.

Q: The Trinidadian born writer of great success, V.S. Naipaul, once said in an interview that when he started out to write he had a blank piece of paper in front of him and a blank in his mind. He knew he wanted to write but he did not know what to write. He said writing had always been difficult for him and it was just a matter of time before he burnt out. How would you describe your experience with writing and your attitude to some of what Naipaul says here?

P: The first time I remember wanting to write something outside the necessary requirements of school, I was in my early twenties. And yes, I found it difficult. But it got easier after four years of university study and several years of teaching; the process got much easier. I always knew that I wanted to write about the Baha'i Faith. I think it took about twenty years, though, say, 1964 to 1984, before I was able to write about the Baha'i Faith, about issues in society in relation to it or, indeed, about my own experience with anything I would now describe as success.

Naipaul also defines civilization in terms of the capacity of individuals to stand outside themselves and evaluate their lives and to do this on a daily basis. By the 1990s this became the core of my poetry, this introspective quality, this examining of life. The business of burning out was something that worried Emerson. I burnt out several times before writing came to dominate my life. This was due to my bi-polar illness. I came back from the abyss each time. I tend to think the same will be true of writing. Fatigue, immense fatigue sets in when I write, just about daily, but rejuvenation occurs and I can start again. Inevitably, of course, the whole thing, the writing, will end. As the Bab says, "we go into a hole for those who speak no more."

Q: To stay with Naipaul for a moment: he says in that same interview, that writing is partly a matter of gathering the strands of life experiences, the details that form those strands, into some statement of truth. This is what it means to transform our experience, to create our world. There is nobility in this process, he says, and writing is a talent, a divine fire. What do you think of these themes, these ideas of Naipaul?

P: Naipaul puts the nature of writing very well. It dertainly is an accurate statement of what I am doing and trying to do in my efforts to write. And yes, it does transform my experience; it does create my world; it recreates my world. Everything Naipaul says here I experience in my writing and is part of my philosophy of writing. Naipaul also said he had always been gripped by what people said. It was the basis of his intimacy with people. I, too, for many years felt this 'conversational grip,' but after thirty years of a great deal of talking and listening, the grip was loosened. And now as I approach the age of sixty I'm not interested in loging forty hours a week of this interactive process, a little here and there and that's all, thank you. I have not got burnt out, just singed at the edges. Now I pour my fires in writing instead of endless chatting.

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Q: Some literary critics say that what characterizes American literature is a preoccupation with Americanness; whereas the preoccupation of European literature is 'man's life in society.' What do you think is the chief preoccupation of your poetry?

P: I'd say it is a combination of the above two positions, only I'd put it a little differently. I am unquestionably preoccupied with the Baha'i Faith and what it means to be a Baha'i. I am also concerned about man in society and so much of my poetry deals with content that comes from science, sociology, psychology, philosophy, religion, history, literature, the act of writing, biography, autobiography, non-partisan politics, landscape, community...goodness where do I stop?

Q: What do you like to do when you池e not writing?

P: I don稚 consider writing as work. I like to read, eat, drink, sleep, walk; I actually like my job as a teacher; I enjoy relationships, some of the time; I enjoy shopping, although my wife would never believe that; I enjoy driving in air-conditioning on a hot day; I like swimming, sauna-bathing, good grief, I could go on and on. "The usual stuff," as the American playwright Edward Albee put it when he was asked the same question.

Q: Why did you stop sending your poetry to the Baha段 World Centre Library?

P: After sending nearly 3000 poems in less than five years--1992-1997--I felt a little pretentious that so much of my work was being stored there and me not being either famous or rich. I felt I had expressed my enthusiasm to a sufficient degree for the marvellous developments on the Arc and it was time to leave it off, so to speak. I got the idea of sending my poetry to other places and this is what I plan to do since it is really impossible to get my poetry published at the various publishing houses around the Baha段 world. Then, I returned to sending poetry to the BWCL from 1998 to 2000 inclusive and, after sending some 5000 poems in total, I ended the process.

Q: Do you think much of your audience as you write?

P: They drift somewhere out on the perifery. Our society is largely a film and television culture with poetry just about irrelevant, 祖auterized, coterized. Millions write the stuff, on the net, in little magazines, probably more poetry is being written than in all history. But, like the theatre, it痴 not mainstream, although when I read Pamela Brown痴 description of poetry as 祖lose to popular culture, I understand what she痴 driving at.1 My concern is with the reality, the honesty, the poem I知 writing. It痴 quite an introspective process. It痴 not about popularity. I知 in there but the audience hardly exists, except in a posthumous sense. I like to think what I write may be valued, as W.H. Auden put it once, by some future generation. Time will tell.

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Q: The Polish poet Cszeslaw Milosz said that poetry should be written rarely and reluctantly under unbearable duress and only in the hope that good spirits choose us for their instruments. Your poetry would seem to testify to the opposite of this philosophy?

P: I like the last part of the idea. I like the concept of being a channel for good spirits beyond the grave, although it is always difficult to know for sure when you are serving in such a capacity. As far as the frequency of writing is concerned, I think that is quite an ideosyncratic issue. The opus of each poet is different; the published portion varies from virtually nothing to many volumes; for still others, like Emily Dickinson, it all gets published after their death. For still others it happens, like Keats, when they are young, like a flood; or like me, in middle age, another flood. In some ways I think poetry chooses you; it is not forced. I think the confluence of the death of Roger White and the anchorage I found here in Perth after years, two decades, of moving from town to town and job to job allowed my poetry to find a home in this world.

I must say, though, that Milosz has put his finger on part of the essence of poetry-the pain of life, the suffering in human existence. But this is only part of the story. There is also the public pain in this dark heart of an age of transition, as the Guardian calls our times. There is also the joy, the adventure, the knowledge and understanding and so much, much more.

Q: Do you plan any of your poetry? Do you worry about where the next one will come from?

P: Ralph Waldo Emerson used to worry about the ending of his creativity. I come across this idea from time to time in reading about other poets, not frequently, but occasionally. The only time I worried significantly about creativity was when I used in argue with myself about taking lithium which seemed to have an effect on my creative edge. That was in the 1980s, by the 90s I did not concern myself at all. If I lose interest in writing poetry, I will probably miss it because it has been such a source of pleasure, for at least five years now. One can稚 predict this sort of thing in life any more than one can plan the next poem. Poems seem to pop out of some intuitive, cognitive-emotional zone. The only planning that takes place is while I write but, even then, the whole thing usually comes pretty fast, like the rushing current of a river. It is very cathartic.

I don稚 have time to worry about the process, although occasionally I agonize over a phrase, an ending, a word. I致e been averaging a little under two poems a day for five years. I知 awake for about 16 hours a day and two poems does not sound like much: a poem every eight hours. But given the fact that I知 a teacher, a parent, a husband and am involved in the local Baha段 community, I would not want the process to be any faster. When I retire in a few years perhaps the production rate will increase. I知 not sure who controls the assembly line. I have a central role and certainly push alot of buttons. Perhaps, if the stuff is not very good I can blame Ford!

Q: Gwen Harwood the Australian poet who died two years ago in Hobart said she did not think about her position in the literary field; she did not intellectualize about her writing. What sort of attitude do you have to your writing?

P: I don稚 really have a position in the literary field, not yet anyway. I am a solitary person after I leave my various professional and public responsibilities. I am not against the idea of a public definition, fame or wealth and if it comes my way that will be fine, but I don稚 seek it out. One of the reasons I have put these interviews together, though, is that I think about what I write. I seek out a sense of definition; I want to be able to put into words what I知 trying to do. It is part of being articulate, part of the autobiographical process. But it is not just an autobiographical surge of the spirit. I think my writing is partly what one analyst of narrative defined as narratives purposes: self-assertion, self-transcendence, to exercise my skills and to give meaning to the moment.

Gwen calls herself a Romantic. She said she thought it was "a nice thing to be called."2 I致e always thought of W.B. Yeats as the last of the Romantics, although certain Romantic tendencies linger: the desire to reform humanity, messianic interests. I have such interests. It would be difficult for a Baha段 not to have them. These interviews express a certain intellectualization of what I do, where I知 at. My writing is also a bi-product of tranquillity, emotions recollected in tranquillity as Wordsworth put in 200 years ago. After three decades of the hectic, the problems of maturity, marriage and career I feel a certain peace, what one poet called the golden years.

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Q: Why do you write poetry when you are obviously an effective communicator in your profession as a teacher? I would have thought you壇 had enough 祖ommunicating at the end of the day.

P: Yes, for twenty years, beginning in 1973, I致e seen myself as an effective communicator in the classroom. Student evaluations of my work also support my own view and I enjoy the teaching process immensely. But I have found communication in my two marriages has not been easy. Also the general difficulty I have had, and the rest of the Baha段 community in the West, in communicating the Baha段 teachings to the people we contact each day預nd the importance given by the Baha段 community to this teaching process幼reates a pressure that the Baha段 lives with year after year. I think writing poetry has partly been a response to this pressure and the tensions in my two marraiges over more than twenty-five years. I also read an average of a book a day and have for years and my mind just gets so full of stuff-in addition to the endless output of the media and what one gets from the seemingly endless conversations with people-that I need some outlet. Ideas build up, float around, scratch about. I should say something, too, about Rilke in closing because so many things he said in his 疎dvice to poets explain the reasons I write; perhaps another time.

Q: Why the sudden outburst in poetry in your late 40s and early 50s?

P: I壇 written 150,000 words of published essays in Katherine when I wrote for newspapers in the Territory. I壇 written enough academic essays to sink a ship, although I still did not have a Master痴 Degree. I壇 tried writing sci-fi, but ran out of ideas and found it too demanding. I think I got to 40,000 words one summer holiday; I even went off my lithium in the hope that the creative edge would be sharper. But I found the exercise too onerous. A lady in California, Betty Conow, who had edited some of my essays on the request of Roger White, suggested I write poetry. I had been doing a little poetry writing, perhaps two dozen poems a year from mid-1981 to early 1992. Then the surge started. In the last four months of 1992 I wrote 75 poems; in 1993, 700 poems; in 1994, 708 poems; from 1995 to April 1997 another 1500 poems. I have tried to answer this question in other interviews in other ways. This is yet another stab at it.

 

Q: Would you say your poetry is strongly 僧essage oriented?

P: It痴 mostly didactic, directly or indirectly. I致e got something to say about a thousand-and-one things. There are probably several major themes which I致e commented on before in other interviews(Volumes 17, 20, 21 and 24) I try to be humorous when it comes naturally; I try to contextualize the message in history, in my own life and ideas. But I don稚 worry too much about how people are going to react. I did in the early years of my writing and I think the worry was useful because I wound up simplifying my poetry so people could understand it and, in the main, I achieved this. I致e had several public readings of my poetry in Fremantle and I was well received. I felt like I was in a classroom. Of course, not everyone is going to understand what you write and there will often be interpretations of your words that you had no intention of putting in. But I think you have to let it go, let it travel on its own, wild and free so to speak.

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Q: How would you label yourself as a poet?

P: I don稚 like labels. I知 a Baha段 who writes poetry, or should I say I知 trying to be a Baha段 and I try to write poetry. I find the term 叢oet a little pretentious. Even with the terms 蘇usband and 素ather I sense a gap. They are roles you only partially fill. Being a poet is not a career position, a career move, part of a trajectory. It痴 an occasional experience. It is not loaded with expectations; you don稚 have to prove anything. Occasionally when I read in public I feel like a performer, an entertainer. The label 叢oet is not one I wear comfortably. In some ways writing is more what you hear than what you write. Labels tie things down too much; I want to savour the experience in all its complexity and expansiveness in a living world. A poem can not be summed up in a glance, any more than a painting. It needs time and patience. The more time and patience, the more labels disappear. I don稚 like to see a break between the aesthetic, the poetic, the sociological, the historical, the psychological. The whole of existence is multi-dimensional, interdisciplinary, incredibly complex and utterly simple all at once. It can稚 be reduced to some label, although I like Judith Rodriguez痴 definition of poetry as "the habit of squeezing for the essence."3 If other people call me a poet I'm happy to accept the term.

Poetry has a long history now of movements, positions, ideas, approaches, styles. It痴 like many other disciplines there is alot going on in them when you start to go below the surface, when you dig a little deeper. I知 teaching a course now in sociological theory; I used to teach philosophy. I took an eclectic apporach to these subjects and I do the same with poetry. 

Q: You have been asked many times abouth the influence of the Baha段 Faith on your poetry. Could you answer this question again?

P: Some poets are ambivalent about the influence of religion. Australian poet, Fay Zwicky, thinks of religion as one great confidence trick, for example. Other poets are clearly Christian in some way or other; sometimes the infleunce is obvious; sometimes it痴 indirect. Sometimes poets talk about how Taoism or Buddhism influences their perspectives. Anyone who reads my poetry to any extent will know that the Baha段 teachings, its history, its organization, its philosophy, et cetera are manifest again and again in my poetry. In fact, I would say if you are not interested in the Baha段 Faith you would have to cut away, what, fifty to ninety per cent of my poetry? So much of what I write is inspired by, a comment on, a wrestle with, some aspect of this Cause that I have belonged to for nearly forty years.

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Q: How do you cope with all the personalities that come into your life?

P: I try to cut off when I知 finished with the 租uty side of my life. I知 a little like Keats in the sense that I absorb alot of my environment when I知 out in it. It痴 like being fully turned on, ultra-receptive; things impinge, sometimes quite acutely. So I try to turn that whole world off and read and write. This way I can control the input totally. I like to think this will be a permanent diet when I retire. For now I can only get a few weeks, a few days, a few hours, of solitude. I desire invisibility for the next dip into the jungle of life and all its complexity and stimulation. When I have had humanity in and out of every corner of my being, then I seek silence, solitude. It痴 then that I read about poetry, but I rarely read poetry itself. I want to listen, or perhaps find, my own voice; the voice of others gets in the road, or it痴 just plain uninteresting. But some poetry you want in your head so you read and reread it: Shakespeare, Dickinson, Keats, Dawe, et cetera.

Q: You read your poetry at the July 1997 Conference on Global Governance in Perth; it was also read in New Zeland at a Baha'i Studies Conference in 1998 and again at the conference on Creative Inspiration in Melbourne in 1999. You have also been published in a dozen magazines. Could you say something about this public face?

P: I致e given many Baha段s a poem or two, or more. I致e read a poem several times at a Feast or a deepening. I致e written many essays about poetry, especially Roger White痴. I致e got nearly 3000 of my poems at the Baha段 World Centre Library. I致e read publicly, as I致e said before, at a cafe in Fremantle. After perhaps as many as five or six years of reading poetry(1994-1999), I retired to a less public profile, or should I say I read my poetry less often in public, but I still write it and I try to get it published as often as I can. I rarely read because I find it limits the text of my poetry; it feels too oriented to display, to entertainment. It must be if it will be heard and enjoyed. It limits the reader痴 reaction by imposing the author痴 view, although being a teacher I知 used to doing that. You have to when you池e on the stage with an audience. I知 not a performance poet, although on those occasions when I have been 叢erforming, it has been quite successful. I enjoy pleasing people but, after nearly thirty years of teaching on a thousand platforms, it does not have the turn-on it used to do. I prefer the page, the book, kept, preserved. I feel a little like the great educator Carl Rogers who said after he had taught for several years that he thought teaching got in the road of learning.

I think my general lack of interest in self-promotion, voyeurism as some call it, begins in the desire for solitude. I'm not interested in being a personality. I've done this for nearly thirty years as a teacher and lecturer. Public reading tends to put a portrait around the personality. Tagore or White would have preferred a focus on the poetry not the personality. Some publishers prefer it that way too. They don稚 even put photographs in with the poetry. Maybe in the next five years of writing poetry I may find myself with a more public profile. We shall see.

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Q: Thank you again for your time. I wish you well in the years ahead and to many more years of writing poetry.

P: Thank you; I hope the buzz continues to enrich my middle years.

 Ron Price

September 2001

1 Pamela Brown in A Woman痴 Voice: Conversations with Australian Poets, Jenny Digby, University of Queensland Press, 1996, p.183.

2Gwen Harwood in A Woman痴 Voice: Conversations With Australian Poets, Jenny Digby, University of Queensland Press, 1996, p. 45.

3Judith Roriguez, ibid., p.164.

 

 INUNDATION

This poem exists as part of my need, the need, to assert the poetic enterprise against the cinematic one, the entire electric aesthetic of the electronic media, the entertainment industry and its staggering proportions with an attached fantasy life ranging from the sublime to the grotesque and a consumer's paradise of legitimate and forbidden pleasures. Poetry must clear the ground for its particular pleasures and not attempt to compete with the eternal beings on the screen who are like the Greek gods of old and are like us, but so much larger than life, filling in a meaning where often little exists in empty lives. Our culture is dominantly visual and the ground for poetry is, it would seem, a small patch. -Ron Price with thanks to Laurence Goldstein, The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1995, p.173.

 

Film took off1 after the Sun set

and TV2 with the beginning of

our International Teaching Plan

leaving poetry with the small place

in the sun which it had long enjoyed,

a bright spot right here: like a garden

of roses, pearls in an ocean,

leaves on a tree, rays of one sun,

endless bounties of inner significance

and delicate wines of the spirit.3

In this snow-white spot

where poetry is read, in silence,

where eternity sweeps around me

like a sea lapping me with sounds,

I am left with an inundation.

It came from The Sea.

1 film began as a genre in 1895, three years after the passing of Baha'u'llah.

2 many dates are found for the beginning of TV but 1939 is suggested as the "takeoff point." (ibid.,p.251)

3 Baha'u'llah, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.30.

Ron Price

4 November 1998

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ADJUSTING THE VISION

One of the most striking features of sixteenth century intellectual history is the apparent slowness of Europe in making the mental adjustments required to incorporate America within its field of vision. -J.H. Elliott in An Empire Nowhere: England, America and Literature from Utopia to the Tempest, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1992, p.18.

One of the most tragic features of the first one hundred and fifty years of Baha段 history is the obvious slowness of most of mankind to make the adjustment required to incorporate the Baha段 Faith within their own field of vision.-Ron Price, Baha段 Administration: An Instrument Waiting for A Sick Body Politic, Unpublished Essay, 1996.

They致e been busy years:

a dieing age that could not hear

the Voice in this manifest Temple,

so fast asleep in dust and loss,

seemingly beyond this special reflection,

immersed in revolutions of all kinds,

millions dead, hollow men, stuffed men,

dried voices, whispering together,

quiet, often noisy, meaningless,

as wind in dry grass,

garbage and broken glass,

the homeless and starving.

 

So much death on the land and affluence,

stone images, the twinkle only of fading states.

There was tenderness and love,

kindness and prayers to broken stones

in a multitude of hollow valleys

with dying stars and Kingdoms

without eyes falling into the shadow

at this end of the world,

this dark heart of an age,

this dark heart before the dawn

Ron Price

16 August 1996

________________________ 

WE CANNOT CATCH THE FALCON

Like many other poets I had studied, she avoided writing in verse; for her, as for others with whom she shared a kinship, poetry was something more than musical language and verbal eloquence. It was a subterranean search for the essence of the human psyche; a drama of the coordination of religious and secular sensibilities and their crystallization in imagery; a self-probing, self-projection of her inner being; a reaching out beyond the surface, the warp-ridden surface of life, the darkness of her tangled self into a post-deluvian world of illumination, of the other. In the process she, the poet, is involved in a search for a knowledge of her total self. The poetic issue is not versification, as it seems to be for many, but process, inspection, understanding, cultivation. So it was for me and my poetry. -Ron Price with thanks to Anna Balakian, "Anais Nin, the Poet", Anais Nin: Literary Perspectives, editor: Suzanne Nalbantian, MacMillan, 1997, pp.63-68.

To merit the madness of love man must abound in sanity; he must not be kept back by the bludgeon of words; he must get to the splendour of the light hidden under the veilings of sense and forsake the inner land of unreality. Then he can eat of the endless bounties of inner significance and the delicate wines of the spirit. -Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, pp.1-30.

 

We must transform these elementals,

so that they might burst forth

from their shells, we might see significance

everywhere in the orchestra of creation

and see our separate complicated selves

as one single identity, as infinite complexity,

as a rich and dense mosaic, a catalyst to stir

the people's imagination. Then they may,

in their own way, learn from the Master of Love

in the schoolhouse of oneness.1

For sighing burns away the veils

and creates new ones,

exhausting me in wonderment.

For me, a humble spider,

cannot catch the falcon in my web

nor encompass all that is laid out for me

in this place of mystery.

1 Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.28.

Ron Price

13 November 1998

_________________________ 

 THE IMPULSE TO GLORY

A poem is a marriage of those means of pleasing which depend upon known causes with nameless and inexplicable elegancies which appeal wholly to the fancy, that enchantress of the soul. -Samuel Johnson

The impulse to glory for some

needs a social and political context

and in so doing allows the extremes

of this mysterious world

to melt into each other

and the haunting totality of human suffering

to lead the heart into a quality of wisdom

with a tincture of eternity.

This light dancing, subtle support for action,

grapples with noble themes,

enlarges our sympathies

and diffuses our preternatural

animal sensibilities and passions.

 

This impulse to glory for some

needs to find a holy ground, a spot,

a place, anywhere, where death itself

can find resolution and composure,

some quintessential meaning at the core of life,

some cultivated permanence where love itself

is home, the past is restored,

framed and structured, whole,

and the future oriented like the evening star,

consistency, bright, quietly there forever,

contemplation, in interaction

between ourselves and this holy landscape,

created around everlasting, pleasant lovely shadow,

where no dispute can come,

some world of innocence,

deep-rooted, quasi-pastoral scene,

truest country of our hearts.

 

The impulse to glory for some

is found here where great spirits

now on earth are sojourning.

They have given the world another heart

and other pulses. They are so bright,

holy and true and, it seems, they draw

sad opposites out of our inward hearts,

as we strive to express that impulse to glory.

Ron Price

13 July 1996

A TRAGIC CONFINEMENT

The ruin of a great soul is tragic. This is the theme of Hamlet. If life's learning does not serve as the means to access the Beloved, the Most Merciful, this is the ruin of many great souls; this too is tragic. This is one of a multitude of themes in the Baha'i writings.-Ron Price with appreciation to Claude Williamson, Readings on the Character of Hamlet, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1950; and 'Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, Haifa, 1978, p.110.

 

Some wondrous minds and

high and mighty spirits with

large usefulness die far, far

from the immortal nest, the

bonds of the Friend, the dust

of His path, the home in the nest

of heaven. The sweetness of the

venom from His lips is never tasted,

nor is converse with the Beloved

or the people of the eternal realm.

Never do they pierce the veils of

plurality but, instead, confined are

they, far, far, far from the jewelled

wisdom of this lucid faith.

 

Ron Price

21 November 1997

_______________________ 

ODYSSEUS GONE INWARD

The corpus of Baha'i writings from the Central Figures of the Faith could be seen as a 'genre of genres', a 'style of styles', a 'beginning of beginnings'. This corpus could be seen as a matrix rich with metaphorical possibilities, meanings, mappings of sacred experience, our experience, founding relationships answering to an existential need to order, evaluate, manage and explain our world and its otherness. Out of this effusion of Revelation will grow a rule by one, not many. As it says in the Iliad(2.204): 'The rule of many is not good; let there be one ruler.' This oneness, this authority, will be seen in a many forms, indwelling and outdwelling, but unified by the Covenant.

 

Self and destiny constructed in supratemporal

places, events in time taken into a timeless

world, an eternal present, an ethical whole,

human experience in unity and totality: for

this is the foundation of the realm of beauty.

Empowering us to measure the mirror of our

inner life, its self-reflective capacities, our

passions, fears, longings, obsessions and

dilemmas-touching chords of our lives that

tell us about ourselves, a culture that makes

us what we are, portals to the Friend, highly

crafted tools of reflection for the new man,

in a new age, a new war in which thought

is action and the meaning in a man: Odysseus

gone on a journey to find an unseen reality,

seeing things with his own eyes and ears and

discovering his own degree of saintship, mission.

 

Ron Price

13 December 1997

 _________________________

LATENT AND OBSCURE ATTRACTION

It is towards the creaton and consolidation of a class of common readers, towards the conscious stimulation of a poetry-reading elite, who can be the missionaries of poetry in a world of prose, that the energies of the friends of English poetry should be directed. The reading of poetry is something that matters enormously. It can inform one's life as a philosophy or a religion might do.-Ron Price with appreciation to F.W. Bateson, English Poetry: A Critical Introduction, 2nd edition, Longmans, 1966(1950), p.201.

Such a group is already in the making in this global community whose population has doubled since Bateson wrote the above. Although the class of common readers has been moving away from an orientation to classical poetry, there has been an increasing coterie of specialists in classical literature. There are more poets now and more readers of poetry than ever before in history, although the great mass of people never get anywhere near it. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, November 25, 1998.

 

There is something latent and obscure in us

that responds to this dialogue with God,1

this subtle sound and sense of words,

with its texture of intensities

and complexities of meaning,

of unsuspected and surprising filaments

of fine allusion and suggestion,

gossamers that capture and convey,

fleeting, gleaming gems:

some invisible world viewing

all of history and all of us

from its omniscience.

 

But this latent and obscure attraction

must be fostered patiently, painstakingly,

conscientiously, with purity of heart,

chastity of soul and freedom of spirit, forever.

Ron Price

25 November 1998

1 Many of the Baha'i Writings have a narrative point of view in which Baha'u'llah writes in dialogue with God.

___________________________

THE BASIS OF POETICS

It was sympathy he wanted, to be assured of his genius...to be taken within the circle of life, warmed and soothed, to have his senses restored to him, his barrenness made fertile, and all the rooms of his house made full of life. -Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, 1927.

It would be difficult to summarize what Price wanted over the many years both before and after he began writing poetry: a satisfying job, a happy marriage, solitude, lots of stimulating books, mental tranquillity, good food and drink, harmonious relationships with a circle of acquaintances, a normal range of wants really. After 1992, though, writing poetry came to occupy a good deal of his time. New wants emerged: to detect and watch the gleam of light which flashed across the mind from within, the thoughts of his life, spiritual moods, imaginative passions of the mind; to clarify life; to give expression to the soul. The rooms of his life were full of four-and-twenty pallaces of ideas; they were warm and inviting, part of a late flowering, for Price was nearly fifty before he wrote poetry seriously. Sometimes a great fatigue, an exhaustion, set in: partly from overwork, partly from a residual mood-swing, the price he paid for the long periods of intense pleasure he derived from writing and reading. At these times his rooms became empty and grey. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript.

You1 built your poetics on the idea

that the true pleasures of poetry

were akin to those of legitimate

and well-regulated sexual passion,

of passions pleasureably experienced

at home, a place of refuge to work

not from work, nurtured, formed

and fostered by women.

 

My poetics are built on pleasure, too,

but it has to do with defining myself

and my world in relation to

an emerging Order

which I have thought long and deeply about,

a community just begun,

sticking its head above the ground

in gardens of ever varying splendour.2

 

1 William Wordsworth in Wordsworth and the Cultivation of Women, Judith Page, University of California Press, London, 1994, p. 36. Page quotes Wordsworth on page 11 to the effect that a healthy poetic mind must be "frequently and strongly moved by sublimity and beauty." I find the contemplation of Mt. Carmel particularly and the Baha'i writings in general to be a frequent source of such sublimity and beauty.

Wordsworth goes on in the same passage to say that a "placid and gentle nature" is even more important for the poet's daily well-being and tranquillity.

2 A tribute to the Hanging Gardens on Mt. Carmel.

------Ron Price 14 August 1998

__________________________

THE WHO I AM

Carl Jung postulates that most human beings are not as virtuous as they appear, either to themselves or others.1 We all manifest the seven deadly sins much more than we like to think What the Baha'i writings call the lower self, Jung calls the shadow 'Abdu'l-Baha says, in a similar vein, "the souls of men are ravening wolves and animals with blinded eyes; they are either deadly poison or useless weeds."2 And Baha'u'llah writes in the Long Obligatory Prayer that "my back is bowed by the burden of my sins and my heedlessness hath destroyed me."3 Given some of these perspectives on the nature of man as a starting point, I have composed the following poem. -Ron Price with thanks to Anthony Storr, Jung, Fontana Press, 1995, p.58; 'Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings, Haifa, 1978, p.72; and Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Prayers.

 

And so it is and so we are,

as I must admit

in this generally therapeutic

more than confessional work

which recreates my silent past,

as I springboard, dive,

into the rest of my life

in a quite intricate way,

mediated, as the process is,

by meaning, by my feelings.

 

My moral intentions have been,

so often, the germ of life

from which I have grown.

Some inner biography,

some idiosyncrasy,

explains so much

and it is I who must explain it,

if it is to be explained at all,

even if so much of it I do not choose.

Personality, constitution, temperament,

predispositions, the who I am,

determines my philosophy,

myself, my all.

Ron Price

10 March 2001

_______________________

OF PLATO AND LUCRETIUS

Plato argued in his Republic that 'there is no hope of a cessation of evils.except through a personal union between political power and philosophy.the philosophers must become kings.'1 While it is obvious that those elected to administrative positions in the Baha'i polity are neither philosophers nor kings by study or inheritance, their decisions are informed by the Baha'i Writings, their actions aim at living the Baha'i life and they exercise varying measures of authority. In theory at least, it seems to me that the Baha'i world Order brings political power and philosophy together.

There exists in the Baha'i theophany that "hymn of praise to a saviour who has braved the direst terrors and dared the farthest flights in order to liberate his fellow man from the prison-house of superstition." This saviour's writings Lucretius compares to "the flowery pastures of the honey-bees" and "golden sayings" which "dissipate the terrors of the mind and push back the walls of the World."1 -Ron Price with thanks to Plato quoted in A Study of History, Vol.6, Toynbee, p.242; and Lucretius, De Rerum Natura in Toynbee, p.244.

These are golden sayings,

found in flowering places

where honey-bees humm,

where sweet-scented streams

flow gently toward eternity,

where the fruits of life's tree

can be tasted and life leavened,

bringing that imperturability

where no love or hate may linger

and where my saviour, so precious,

did brave the direst terrors

to liberate me from prisons

of my own making, from when

young until years of old age,

so that I may enter that

Most Great Prison where mind,

the greatest pleasure,

can play its part in that new Republic

where philosophy and power

are united at last

and will slowly exercise

their unific influence.

Ron Price

2 May 2001

______________________

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

From time to time during each and every day of my life, at least that part of my life since I went pioneering in 1962, pieces, scraps, phrases, of the Baha'i writings come into my head; or some aspect of the Baha'i teachings, history and philosophy. Persistently, irrepressibly, the opening lines of a prayer, some aspect of the life of Baha'u'llah or the Guardian, random bytes of recollection from this wondrous System come into my mind. A core of them had become part of myself as early as the age of eighteen, in 1962, after nine years of increasing familiarity with this Cause. Now, nearly forty years from those earliest experiences, that first contact with the Baha'i Faith in 1953, they are part of a world of repetition and familiarity, a place of sharper recollections and comprehensions; they keep me company. My feeble intelligence or memory, often forgets a familiar prayer. My copy of Gleanings which old Helen McQuarrie gave our family on some unknown date in the 1950s, even the prayer-book I gave away to the first Eskimo to become a Baha'i in the Eastern Arctic in 1968--these are part of a field of embedded data that compose my most intimate self-the bedrock, as it were, beneath my more or less acceptable social, sexual and everyday self that I have been socialized into during my life. -Ron Price with thanks to John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, Andre Deutsch, London, 1989, p.203.

Those impressions

before the age of three,

back in that first epoch,

play their part all my days,

flavouring my life forever.

 

That old man

in the evening of his life,

white hair, pipe, brandy

and books, endless books.

 

That beautiful woman

at the start of middle age,

playing the piano,

as religious as her mother.

 

That ball of energy,

hair receding, slender,

muscular, able to keep

his wife satisfied in bed.

 

Such was my world,

at least some of it

back at the start

of the second century:

100, 101 and 102 BE.

Ron Price

14 July 2001

___________________________

HIGHER ORDER OF CREATION

There are very different views of life which cohabit in my mind and affect each other. My own personality asserts itself and gives each idea a place in some arrangement of subtle, indefinable and quite individual peculiarity. Writing gives that peculiarity specific colouration. Reading affects this colouration, affects what cohabits my mind. It clearly affects my moral and religious experience as a whole. This is especially true of the Baha'i writings.

What I am trying to do in my writing, my poetry, is, among other things, to evolve a new form, to spread over what often feels like a barren landscape of merely social and physical life, the mantle of a rich and varied vegetation and to transform the world by filling it with a higher order of creation, a creation of the mind. In the end this poetry aims to perform a social and cultural function as it did for the Greeks and the Romans in classical times. -Ron Price with thanks to Patrick Deane, "A.D. Hope, T.S. Eliot and the 'Counter-Revolution' in Modern Poetry," Australia and New Zealand Studies in Canada 5(1991).

 

They've been writing about destinations

since Homer and that wisdom literature,1

trying to locate a safe, a golden, harbour,

in those seas of death

and sunless gulfs of doubt,

trying to find someone

to show them the way

to that perfect, glorious pilgrimage

and celestial Jerusalem.

 

To find that compass, level and true,

to find the rudder and reef the sail,

to find the port past waves and cruise,

for the toil and task they had to do,

to sail securely and safely reach

the fortunate isles and the beach.....

 

became for millions disillusion,

dissatisfaction not endangered,

just a goal, an empty zero,

the journey irksome, groteque,

just some pleasure amidst the quest

and my ending is despair,

unless I be relieved by prayer.2

 

2 Shakespeare, The Tempest, Epilogue.

1 term for certain books of the Old Testament: Proverbs, Ecclesiastices, Psalms, Book of Wisdom, etc.

Ron Price

22 September 2001

________________________

THE PRELUDE

According to the Baha'i Writings, 1953 marked the beginning of a most wonderful and thrilling motion in the world of existence. The spirit of teaching, spreading the Cause of God and promoting the teaching of God, 'Abdu'l-Baha wrote, would permeate to all parts of the world. 1953 marked, in fact, the inception of the Kingdom of God on earth.1 1953 will also be remembered as the year 20th Century-Fox introduced Cinema-Scope, the widescreen process. Another technical innovation reached its peak in 1953,3-D. Another kind of movie emerged in 1953, the lunatic, goof-ball movie categorized as "psychotronic."2-Ron Price with thanks to 1Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p.351; and 2 "The Club Havana Secret History of Cinema, 1953," Media Zone, Tripod Website, 14 october 2001.

 

While people were getting transported

in the new wide-screens,

taken off to a world of fantasy

their forefathers, their ancestors,

would never have dreamed of,

I was turning nine, in grade four,

and starting my long baseball career

at third base in a hot Canadian summer.

 

The Guardian was telling

the American Baha'is

they were at a turning point,

trying to finish the superstructure

of the Bab's Seculcher on Mt. Carmel.

 

They were also at the beginning

of what he called the prelude,

a process which would

precede mass conversion

and would revolutionize

the fortunes, the material power

and the spiritual authority

of the Faith of Baha'u'llah.1 1 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p.117. 15/10/01.

_______________________ 

THE FIRST RAINS

In 1841, British historian Thomas Carlyle described "a man's religion" in terms that best illustrate the base from which I have approached my fellow-man since beginning my pioneer life in 1962. One needs a framework of understanding when one is involved in teaching this Cause. The Baha'i writings, of course, have a great deal of helpful insights and one can usually find quotations there to help define the kind of perspective with which to approach one's fellow human beings. Carlyle writes that:

A man's religion is the chief fact with regard to him.....I do not mean the church-creed which he professes....This is not what I call religion, this profession and assertion....But the thing a man does practically believe...and this is often enough without asserting it even to himself, much less to others; the thing a man does practically lay to heart and know for certain concerning his vital relations to this mysterious universe and his duty and destiny there....This is his religion...his mere skepticism and no-religion....That is in all cases the primary thing for him and creatively determines all the rest. That is what a man is. -Ron Price with thanks to Thomas Carlyle in The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement, Richard Noll, Fontana Press, London, 1996, pp.3-4.

 

This is, I think, the inner man

that Holley talked about

and meeting it is no mean trick.

 

I knew I did not have the trick

back at the start, a young bloke

out on the weekend trying to

make it pay, as the song says.

I was trying to get my own

emotional life sorted out, then.

 

By the age of thirty I got

a handle on it, though,

and they made me a tutor

in human relations:

I was looking good.

 

I don't think I ever lost it

after that, by the end of

the Nine Year Plan,

but in some ways

that was just a start.

It helped to plant seeds,

but the soil was black

and dried and these

were only the first rains,

the quickening.1

1 'Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p.5.

-------------------Ron Price 29 December 2001

_______________________________

A POETIC ONTOLOGY

The ontology underpinning this poetry is partly the postmodern view that space, time, and most forms of social reality are human concepts and human constructions. The central mission of this poetry, based as it is on postmodern analysis, is to show the human hand that shapes thinking in the humanities and the physical and social sciences. All theories, all principles for judgment, all standards of excellence are set by humans and benefit those who define and enforce them.1 No one escapes the intellectual and emotional field of their own culture to find and describe truth. Truth or reality is a relative thing. There is an additional aspect of this poetic ontology, though, that is what philosophers call teleological. It involves a divine ordering and a belief in progress through providential control of the historical process. This aspect of the ontology of my poetry is not postmodern, for postmodernism is a type of thinking which tends to exclude Providence in the direct sense that is part of my poetic ontology. My poetry is free of the historical pessimism, the contemptus mundi, that is part of much postmodern thinking. The ontological base of my poetry is rooted in a revitalizing elan that finds its expression, its psychology, its cosmogony in the Baha'i writings, and that restores, I believe, both the heavenly and the intellectual nature of the human being.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1R.T. Young, "The Archeology of Social Knowledge and the Drama of Human Understanding," T. R. Young, Internet, 12 November 2002; and 2Geoffrey Nash, The Phoenix and the Ashes, GR, Oxford, 1984, p.98.

 

No arbitrary and mythic eschatology

in abstruse language with sheep

and goats and cattle at Jericho;

no materialist axioms with some

economic man enshrined centre-stage;

rather a whole world-view framed

in broadly Aristotelian terms

with the image of a prophet

not unlike the philosopher-king

of Plato and Plotinus' theology.

 

This supreme theophany

centred on the term

manifestation of God,

a new vision, a fresh

prophetology,

theophanology,

that is not Christology,

Buddhology.

God-coeternal with the universe

and His Word the metaphysical link.1

1 See Juan Ricardo Cole, "The Concept of Manifestation in the Baha'i Writings," Baha'i Studies, Vol.9, p.8.

Ron Price

14 November 2000

___________________________

KILLING THE WEEDS

One of the reasons, perhaps the main one, that in the Baha'i writings our lower nature is often personalified as the Evil One or Satin is that it is such a powerful force. As Peter Khan pointed out in a recent talk this force appears to us in a form that is most attractive to us.1 This is our test. When I saw a program on Landline about a weed known as 'branched broomrape' I could not help but see a comparison between this weed and our lower nature. This weed, this broomrape, functions parasitically drawing nutrients and water from host plants and seriously reduces the yield of susceptible crops like canola, carrots, long-fruited turnip and various native daisies.2 --Ron Price with thanks to 1Peter Khan, "Talk in Adelaide, August 2002," Transcript, Internet; and 2 ABC TV, "Landline," 9 November 2002, 6:00-6:30 pm.

 

So many things begin

in the Middle East:

take this forinstance--

branched broomrape.

 

Or, take this new Faith

which defines Evil as

our lower nature,

drawing the goodness

out of our lives

by some subtle

and not-so-subtle

susceptibility,

sucking our nutrients,

teaching us our unfitness

through regret and remorse.1

 

Unprepared are we:

this weed can destroy us,

this thin-veiled ego,

these 0.2 mm pitted seeds,

growing underground

they attack our roots

and over time--our life--

some chemical triggers

this susceptibility

and we are gone again.

 

Butthese weeds

can be killedthis veil,

this spotting of the heart,

and solid gold will

wondrously gleam

in the assayer's fire.2

1'Abdu'l-Baha, Star of the West, Vol.4, June 1915, pp.43-45.

2 'Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, 1978, p.182 Ron Price 11 November 2002

___________________________

SUMMUM BONUM

There are very few of humankind, wrote the philosopher Matthew Arnold, for whom the summum bonum of life is an eternal series of intellectual acts, for whom this life is seen essentially as subject-matter for thought, for whom thought is a series of elements in a vast movement of speculation. The few who do live this sort of life stand apart, and have an existence separate, a distinctiveness, from that of the mass of mankind. The region which such individuals inhabit is a laboratory wherein are fashioned new intellectual ideas, syntheses of old ideas and serendipitous connections between ideas which would not otherwise have occurred had not such an intense amount of intellection taken place. There are few individuals who live the "purely intellectual life, whose life, whose ideal, whose demand, is thought, and thought only."1 As I approach the age of sixty I found this emphasis on thought, which Arnold apotheosized and which the Central Figures of the Baha'i Faith place in an important position,2 very much to my liking. It fitted in with the significant diminution that had taken place in my late fifties of the social dimension of my life's journey and my strong disinclination to spend great quantities of time, as so many in my society and at my age did, in gardening, watching TV, playing some sport or game or being engaged in one or several of a host of manual or artistic activities. -Ron Price with thanks to 1David J. DeLaura, Hebrew and Hellene in Victorian England: Newman, Arnold and Pater, University of Texas Press, 1969; and 2'Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, p.1, among a host of other locations in the Baha'i Writings.

I could not, of course,

pursue this path

to the utter exclusion

of everything else.

About eight hours a day

of writing, reading

and focused thinking

was all I could manage

given the limitations

of my concentration,

the realities of my life

which dictated social intercourse,

some relaxation and exercise

and the general necessities of existence.

Ron Price

11 March 2002

____________________

THE LAST SHAPING

Emily Dickinson's formulations in her many death poems tend to be generally grim, even nihilistic due to the fact that she has no concrete evidence of the precise effect of death upon perception. Her death poems enjoy an immense variety, inventiveness and dramatic force but they are all, in the end, as she admitted, just 'speculations.' Inspite of their grim quality, her death poems generate a confidence and hope of further insight. They represent her attempts to cope with the reality of death in her daily life and place death within the larger perspective of her efforts to live a meaningful life.

Since death has been especially interesting to me for some forty years now, having had to live with a bi-polar disorder and its accompanying death wish, since the Baha'i writings have a great deal to say about death that is instructive, positive and very encouraging, I take many of Dickinson's death poems as starting points and turn the grim side to something much brighter and far less nihilistic. -Ron Price with thanks to Greg Johnson, Emily Dickinson: Perception and the Poet's Quest, University of Alabama Press, 1985, pp.166-167.

 

Who would want to see and see

in endless circuit links?

Ceaseless drifting here and there

would give the eyes sharp kinks.

 

From one perception to the next

down an endless track

would be exhausting to the mind

and would clearly break one's back.

 

Knowing that an end's in store

heightens all we've got,

sharpens, enhances, tinctures,

mountain, river, dot.

 

Belief goes on to regulate

all that's in our sails,

regulates this aweful leisure

as death weighs us in its scales.

 

There'll be a finished feeling

just as sharp as knife

when death's bold exhibition

shapes at last my life.

Ron Price

19 February 2002

End of Story, for now!