20. COMMUNITY

A crucial tension line for the creative person in a Baha段 community is that line which always exists in one form or another between the individual and the community; indeed this tension line is a fundamental tension for all human beings on the Earth. The following essay explores this dichotomy, this fundamental feature of the life of a Baha段 artist. But, before this essay appears, I would like to share with you several poems: one about 'stories we tell' that enrich community life, one about the transforming power of small groups, two about 'the beginnings of community' and others about community in general. Baha段s believe that they and society in general are only at the beginning of the community building process. Certainly the study of community and community development, centered as it is in the discipline of sociology in particular and the social sciences in general, only began in the modern age, in the lifetime of Baha置値lah and, arguably, His two precursors going back to their birth in 1793(Siyyid Kazim) and 1753(Shaykh Ahmad) in the 18th century.

PROJECT OF THE SELF

According to Ulrich Beck, the most dominant and widespread desire in Western societies today is the desire to live a 'life of one's own'. More and more people aspire to actively create an individual identity, to be the author of their own life. The ethic of individual self-fulfilment and achievement can be seen as the "most powerful current in modern societies." The concept of individualisation does not mean isolation, unconnectedness, loneliness or the end of engagement in society. Individuals are now trying to 'produce' their own biographies. This is partly done by consulting 'role models' in the media. Through these role models individuals explore personal possibilities for themselves and imagine alternatives of how they can go about creating their own lives. They are, in effect, experimenting with the project of the self, with strategies for self. -Ron Price with thanks to Judith Schroeter, "The Importance of Role Models in Identity Formation: The Ally McBeal In Us," Internet, 11 October 2002.

 

I define myself in community

which is not the same as being

surrounded by people ad nauseam,

nor does it mean doing what I want

as much of the time as I can

or being free of difficulties,

stresses and strains--

which seem unavoidable.

 

I've been creating my own biography--

my autobiography--for years

and getting very little sense of

who I am from the media

and their endless kinds of role models.

 

I've been in a community

with two hundred years of

historical models and literally

hundreds, over the years,

of people I have known

who have shown me qualities

worth emulating, helping

to make me some enigmatic

and composite creature.

 

Ron Price

11 October 2002

MORE THAN A TRACE

Zygmunt Bauman, one of the leading sociologists at the turn of the millennium, wrote in his book In Search of Politics(Polity Press 1999(1988), p.54) that "sufferings which we tend to experience most of the time do not unite their victims. Our sufferings divide and isolate: our miseries set us apart, tearing up the delicate tissue of human solidarities." In the Baha'i community, as a pioneer in isolated localities, small Groups and larger Assembly areas I have found this to be only partly true during these forty years 'on the road,' so to speak. "Belief in the collective destiny and purpose of the social whole," Bauman continues, gives meaning to our "life-pursuits." Being part of a global collectivity with highly specific goals, purposes and a sense of destiny has not only given meaning to my life-pursuits but it has tended to unite me with my fellows even when isolated from them. It also gives me a special sense of consecrated joy; the consecration comes from the difficulties endured. Although these difficulties seem to tear that "delicate tissue" that Bauman refers to, they also provide some of that cord which binds. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 29 July 2002.

Often it was largely in my head,

that tissue of solidarity,

especially in Frobisher Bay,

Whyalla or Zeehan,

on the edge of a universe.

 

But always, they visited me

when I was sick, somehow

they were always there,

but they left me alone, too.

 

For this is a polity which

gives you lots of space

when you need it and,

if not, you can go and get it

because there's so much

out there in these vast

and spacious lands.

 

Life is no mere sequence

of instantaneous experiences

without a trace left behind.

Here is a trace with my inscription

of lived time on astronomical time.

This is no singular, self-same identify,

no shared and common ancestral,

historical, self. A fractured

and fragmented being

spread across two continents and four epochs,

cutting events out of flow

turning grief into lamentation

and lamentation into praiseRon Price 29 July 2002 See ibid., p.165.

 

AS NATURAL AS BREATHING

It may not be too much to say that social and cultural evolution itself is, at least in part, if not significantly, dependent on the very existence and extension of Baha'i communities and Baha'i institutions across the planet. Although it is difficult to measure, to quantify, the importance of the Baha'i "teaching" drive epoch after epoch, especially since the process often seems to be so very slow and apparently irrelevant in the great scheme of things, yet there can be no doubt that this effort to expand the base should be the dominating passion of the Baha'i life. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 24 March 2002.

In the day to day

round of affairs

the whole thing seems

to be as natural as breathing,

as the growth of a tree

or the slow maturation

of civilization itself.

 

And, like life, one waits

and waits and waits and acts,

for always there is action

in the spaces of our days:

meaningful, rich, deeply

important, significant

and yet, so often, ordinarily

ordinary, humanly human.

Ron Price

24 March 2002

TOKENS

Romantic poets like Wordsworth and Keats felt 'the burden of the mystery' that was part of 'this unintelligible world.'1 This orientation of these romantic poets fits into what Horace Holley calls "the principle of struggle" which is our reality, which is deeply rooted in the very being of man. "The first sign," writes Holley "of the purification of the human spirit is anguish."2 There is, too, a great mystery in all of life: no man can sing that which he understandeth not, nor recount that unto which he cannot attain.3 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Stephen Coote, John Keats: A Life, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1995, p. 151; 2Horace Holley, Religion for Mankind, GR, London, 1956, p.217; and 3Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Prayers, USA, 1985, p.121.

 

I can, I can, recount His tokens,

tokens that tell of His handiwork.

I see them in the community,

in the proximity and otherness

which stirs me: a beautiful face,

an exquisite mouth, such kindness,

a gentle voice, a garden of beauty

and, yet, it wore me out to the bone.

 

Pleasures they know nothing of,

worlds I can not enter: community

we are just beginning to learn to build.

 

Emblems of a mind that feeds on infinity,

sustained by transcendence,

attempting converse with a spiritual world

and the generations of humankind

spread over past, present and to come.1

 

1 Wordsworth, "The Prelude," Book Fourteenth.

Ron Price

23 January 2002

 

STILL AT THE BEGINNING

It is not the function of this poetry to document the styles, the changes, the alternating myths and rituals, the increasing knowledge and theorizing about human development, role behaviour and patterns of living in family life in the last half of the twentieth century within or without the Baha'i community or indeed in the longer history of suburban life as it has existed since suburban life as we know it began in the 1840s.1 This task is done elsewhere, particularly insofar as the general society is concerned, by an increasingly large number of social historians and students of culture and society. -Ron Price with thanks to 1John R. Gillis, A World of Their Own: A History of Myth and Ritual in Family Life, Oxford UP, 1997, p.115.

There is no way I'd want to tell

of the changes and chances,

the patterns and styles

of people in these ninth

and tenth stages of history.1

 

Why would I want to tell

of their homes, their food,

their gardens, their families,

their media programs

on and on in endless minutiae?

 

Rather, my aim here is to tell

of the home I have constructed,

not the one I can't go back to

and which I left back in 1962--

not the dozens with four walls

occupied since this journey began.

 

Rather, my aim is to tell

of the home of the mind,

a community I've been building,

forging over the face of this earth,

my small piece in a beginning

that seems to have been always

beginning,2 a small piece that no one

else can create, for it is my part.3

1 1953-2003.

2 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 1996, ""Baha'is are at the very beginning of the process of community building."

3 Susan Groag Bell, Between Worlds: Czechoslovakia, England, America, NY, Dutton, 1991, p.226.

Ron Price

6 January 2002

 

ME OH MY AND MY OH ME

Telling stories about people's experience in Australia has just begun in film and television, said Graham Thorburn who teaches drama and directing at the Australian Film and Television School. His remarks were about the history of Australian drama. He could very well have been talking about the stories of western Baha'is in recent decades. Of course, the Baha'is have lots of stories from their fascinating history and they talk to each other about their private, their individual, stories. In the last ten and, perhaps, twenty years Baha'is have also begun to tell their own stories in a more public, a more publicized, way, their stories over the last four epochs going back to the 1950s. What I try to do in my poetry is to write about 'the group story.' I also tell my own, my personal, story. There is, I think, a powerful narrative at the base of what has now become an extensive poetic of nearly 6000 poems and some two million words. There is, too, a nice balance in my poetry and essays between the group, the Baha'i community in history and the individual, my own, life and the lives of various individuals I have known over four epochs. -Ron Price with thanks to Graham Thorburn on "Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 22 October 2001.

 

The first stories I heard

were about birds flying over Akka,

candles stuck in a martyr's flesh

and always there was a prison somewhere.

 

Then, I got older, and heard

different stories. There was:

Bill Carr up in Greenland,

a new crop of stories about

'Abdu'l-Baha and Shofhi Effendi.

There always seemed to be

new stories about the Central

Figures of this Faith of mine.

 

And I got even older

and heard stories about:

some ordinary people

and not-so-ordinary ones,

like Mirza Haydar Ali,

who travelled here and there,

for there always seemed to be

travelling in there somewhere.

 

They all kept you going, though,

through thick and thin,

the ups-and-downs of life.

And then a new crop began,

I don't know, perhaps about 1980.

Pretty good stuff, really inspirational.

Do you remember the one about

Muriel Sweetbun Udder?

 

And I got older still,

passed the magic fifty

and well-nigh unto sixty

and decided it was time

to tell my own story

and the story of how I saw it.

 

I wonder if anyone will read

this story from, let's see,

1953 to 2003?

Me oh my and my oh me!

 

Ron Price

22 October 2001

TRANSFORMING PEOPLE'S LIVES

Novelist Pat Barker, in an interview at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2001, said that "one of the few ways of transforming people's lives" was "to bring them up as part of a small group" whose aim is to go off into the world and slowly try to change it, save it or improve it. I was reminded of the words of Douglas Martin in a talk given as far back as 1976 when he referred to the Baha'i community as having "embarked on an infinite series of experiments at the local, national and global levels in an effort to realize a vision of mankind's oneness." Yes, I was brought up and have lived my adult life in the context of a series of small groups in which there was concerted action toward a single goal, with a map of the journey that had to be made, more than vague sentiments of good will and an explicit agreement on principles for co-ordinated progress. -Ron Price with thanks to Pat Barker on "Books and Writing," ABC Radio National, 11 November 2001.

 

You take it as natural,

part of the given,

the way things are,

can't quite articulate

the transforming reality

that you are part of

with the cups of tea,

the hospitality and

endless conversations.

 

You realize that real life

exists in this waiting

to become something

other than what you are

and in having become

something which you feel

is partly right and partly wrong,

as everything is bound

to a definite moment

and proceeds contemporaneously.

 

And you always seem to be

a spectator looking at everything,

always a stranger to things,

bees to the invisible

set down in this difficult plan

with a driving energy and now

the substance of this poetry.

 

And always the breath of time

which you enter every moment

closes behind you, touches your cheeks,

quivers behind you and is gone

into memory and imagination.

---------Ron Price 13 November 2001

 

INTRODUCTION TO one of my 52 BOOKLETS OF POETRY

"IN LOVING MEMORY"

This collection of poetry, part of a larger autobiographical work, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, a period which began for me in 1962, has as its backdrop a time frame now of nearly thirty-four years. The changes in this period have been momentous, impossible to grasp, too close for me, or us, to really understand them. The phrase 租ark heart of an age of transition, first used by the Universal House of Justice in October 1967, has been an appropriate one for we who have lived through these years. They have been years which have witnessed a paradigm shift, an endless series of disasters and drastic happenings, yet another part of a tumultuous transition, what the Guardian referred to as a critical stage in the long and checkered history of mankind. It has also been a period, bright with promise.

This poetry has as its backdrop, then, this tumultuous, auspicious, period. These years have been exciting, adventurous ones filled with opportunities, challenges and a sense of meaning and fulfillment that is immeasureable, only partly accountable, comprehensible. They have also been years in which my soul has seen a dark heart several times on its long, sometimes thrilling and sometimes tortuous journey to its Maker.

 

I have now been in Perth for eight years and served on the LSAs of Belmont and Stirling nearly all of this time, after serving the Cause in every state and territory in Australia, except Queensland. During the last four years, since the beginning of that propitious Holy Year, I have written over twenty-six hundred poems as well as carried out my normal duties as a lecturer at a post-secondary college. The role of father and husband also continues and contributes its normal responsibilities. I often feel a little, and sometimes a lot, like the burnt-out case that Elizabeth Rochester describes in her letter of January 1981 to overseas pioneers from Canada. For years, until 1980, I suffered from episodes of manic-depression, or a bi-polar tendency as it is now called. Since that year I have been taking lithium carbonate and this condition has been fully treated, although I think there is still a residual element still present.

 

About the same time that this healing occurred I began praying for assistance from holy souls who had gone on to the world beyond. I also started writing poetry at about this time. Now, some fifteen years after initiating and fertilizing this process, I send this poetry1 in loving memory of the many Baha段s who have served during the several epochs of this Formative, this Iron, Age. I dedicate my poetry to these souls who have gone on to that Kingdom of Light and I pray for their assistance as well as the assistance of those departed Hands of the Cause listed on these pages.

 

I am currently serving on the Belmont LSA. I carry on my role of chairman dutifully, but often wearily. I frequently wonder how many servants of the Cause have continued serving year after year at endless meetings when they feel 租ried out. One of the kinds of contribution I have made over the years has involved periods of extensive attendance at meetings. These periods have usually been less than five years running. Eventually, I have been freed from endless attendance at meetings by a process known as pioneering which took me to remote areas where no Assemblies existed. Now that I am in a large urban centre I am often asked to attend meetings and it has taken me many years to work out an activity level in harmony with my predispositions. I do not seem to have the capacity of the long distance runner whom Townshend refers to.2

 

While my enthusiasm for meetings and organized activity declined in the mid-1990s, my desire to write poetry has waxed full on. Perhaps it was an excess of speech that lowered the temperature of my enthusiasms for the endless listening and talking in which I had been engaged for years. It gives me great joy, though, to write poetry, given this remarkably dynamic period in the history of our Faith, these auspicious years on Mount Carmel. The poetry is like a gift of God. Since Baha段 publishing houses are disinclined to try poetry, they rarely attempt to publish the work of a Baha段. Kalimat Press tells me poetry does not move from shelves. I think some of my poetry is excellent, or at least of use to the Cause, and so I send it to the Baha段 World Centre Library. There it is kept and there is serves as the record of an overseas pioneer, a role I have come to identify with increasingly as the years have gone on.

 

I write the above in presenting this gift of my most recent poems. I wish everyone serving at the Baha段 World Centre well in their own labors of love. I致e always liked George Townshend痴 line: "The movement is like long-distance running: you may lose your first wind, but if you get your second it is permanent though you run all day long."3 For those of us who are not long-distance runners, the movement involves running out of breath frequently, getting it back after a rest and running again; or as that now proverbial blacksmith said to his assistant: 租ie and blow; die and blow.

Canadian Overseas Pioneer in Australia

 

1 This booklet of poetry was sent to the Baha'i World Centre Library. It was one of 43 sent until 31 December 2000.

2 David Hofman, George Townshend, George Ronald, Oxford, 1983, p.323.

3 idem

Ron Price

2 July 1996

 _______________________________________________________________________

A PERIPHERAL FLUCTUATION

If a group of people in possession of the ideas and the faith of the Baha'i act in concert and with conscious knowledge of the dynamics of the historical juncture in which humanity now finds itself, they can decisively influence and change the present course of history....They can be the small, initially periferal fluctuation which can be suddenly amplified in a complex, dynamical system when that system becomes critically unstable....Acting with sound knowledge, solid faith and firm determination, men and women of good will can load the dice of social change....-Ervin Laszlo in To the Peoples of the World: A Baha'i Statement on Peace, The Universal House of Justice, 1985, p.xviii.

 

Ampified and spreading as we are,

we will help determine

the course of the coming bifurcation,

bias the evolutionary transformation

and achieve a humanistic end

consistent with the great patterns

and modalities of a future age

here on earth and in the vast reaches

of the cosmos. A new dynamic stability

on a plane of organization

will not be acheived

without critical instability:

a common insight will one day crystallize.

 

Ron Price

1 October 2001

 

CELEBRATION

This poem was inspired by Walt Whitman's poem Leaves of Grass and its introduction written in 1855. Whitman writes that the United States was, for him, the greatest poem. I would express a like sentiment only I would transfer it to the Baha'i Faith--for me the greatest poem. My spirit responds to the spirit of this new Faith and has for more than forty years. This poetry of mine stretches in its outreach across the globe as these new teachings have also come to spread across the earth. This poem, even in its great length, hardly knows triviality or pettiness. There is an underlying consciousness in this poem that "not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, not everything that can be disclosed is timely and not every timely utterance is suited to the ears of the hearer." There is so much that can not come under its embrace from the burgeoning fields of knowledge. One can only take in so much, do so much in life. Limitation faces us everywhere. "It is necessary to focus one's thinking," writes 'Abdu'l-Baha.1

I have found much of inspiration in the more than two centuries of history associated with this Faith, much inspiration in the world's history and in the whole metaphorical nature of physical reality. The proof of this poet is not that his religion has absorbed him but, rather, that he has absorbed his religion with the greatest of affection.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 2Walt Whitman, "Introduction," Leaves of Grass, 1855; and 1'Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, Haifa, 1978, p.111.

 

I celebrate this Cause1

and what I assume the world

will one day assume

for every atom in existence

belongs to all.

 

I walk and invite my soul

in the spirit of this easeful breath

observing the wet green outside my window,

the tall trees and the river down to the sea.

 

And my shelves are crowded, too, with perfumes.

There is a fragrance there, for years

they've occupied my room.

They are also for my mouth forever,

for I am in love with them.

 

They are part of my inspiration,

perspiration and respiration,

the beating of my heart,

words loosed to the eddies of the wind,

even yesterday along the paths in the bush

where I will also walk today,

where the words will play in shine and shade

on the trees as the supple boughs bend and sway

and I will remain unaware of their affect,

yet they will, I know, sooner or later,

come to influence my own soul.

 

There is a new delight in the streets,

a new intensity, not in my childhood,

as it was for Wordsworth,

overwhelmingly in his five senses,

but in a new fragrance wafted

over all created things

which past ages cannot rival.2

 

1 This poem draws extensively from the first two dozen lines of Whitman's poem.

2 Baha'u'llah, Tablet of Carmel.

Ron Price

9 August 2001

COMMUNITY BUILDING AND FECES

The Guardian uses metaphors from science, from biology especially, in his expatiation of the history and development of the Cause. I have used some terms from 奏he reproductive processes in plants to apply to the 祖ommunity building work I was involved with for forty years before the Universal House of Justice announced that we were "at the very beginning of the process of community building."1 Perhaps the first several decades of the tenth stage of history constitutes this 'beginning'; perhaps the first several Plans beginning in 1937 is where the 'beginnings' of community building are to be found. . -Ron Price; 1 Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message, BE 153.

 

I would have thought that

that was community building.

Perhaps it was just the beginning

of the beginning, all those years,

just a beginning. So now,

we池e at the end of the beginning,

or as Churchill put it a lifetime ago:

the beginning of the end

or, as we might put it,

the beginning of a process

that will suddenly revolutionize

the fortunes of the Faith1.

 

But those years in so many lounge rooms,

drinking so much tea, going to places

as inhospitable as an iceberg

or as hot as hell

which one learned to make as home

-they were community building ,

embryonic stages, seedbed,

fertilization, embryogenesis,

sperm nuclei, double fertilization

and self-fertilization essential for continuity2.

 

Some seed plants have attractive fruits

that are eaten by certain animals.

They also have seeds that resist digestion

and are excreted in animal feces,

then subsequently germinate.2

 

Some of the work in this beginning

of the beginning of community building

involved a seed planting not unlike the above:

fertilization and, now, some germination

in this beginning of community building

with plenty of feces to be cleared

from the dark heart of this age of transition,

destruction & creation.

 

1 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, USA, 1965, p.117.

2 Claude Villee, Biology, 6th edition, Toronto, 1972, p.242.

"Self-fertilization may be regarded as a safety device to provide for the fertilization of the egg by sperm from the same plant, if no other sperm are available", idem.

Ron Price

6 February 1999

 ____________________

COMMUNITY BUILDING BEGINS

Of course, not everyone experiences the Baha段 Faith or the life they live, the way I do. Although there are commonalities: beliefs, values, attitudes, rituals, dogmas and structures, the individual experience is quite unique. In fact, it is important that the experience of individuals is unique, idiosyncratic, different. This poetry expresses one specific life story, one interpretive schema, one specific blend of individual and community with enough links to the experience of others that it can be read with meaning and their relationship of individual and community can be contrasted and compared. I trust one day others will tell their story. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 5 February 1999.

 Some sing fine songs,

or write them, or dance,

or write, or enjoy

committee work(fairly rare),

or LSA activity

(pretty testy for many),

or have some specialist interest

or function that allows for

a unique contribution,

or travel far and wide

with adventure in their blood,

or stay at home

to care for their parents or themselves,

alone or gregariously

in the endless warp and weft

that is this global community

whose twentieth century traces

shall last forever...as the process

of community building makes its start

after a decade in the forth epoch

of this Formative Age.1

 Ron Price

5 February 1999

 1 Universal House of Justice, BE 153 Ridvan Message. The decade:1986-1996.

 ___________________

COMMUNITY FEELING

Alfred Adler, the famous psychologist, died five weeks after the beginning of the first Seven Year Plan which began in April 1937. Many of his ideas would be particularly useful to Baha段s in the prosecution of the various teaching plans that have succeeded that first one from 1937 to 1944. Adler emphasized, among other things, the power of understanding in coping with and enjoying a rich life. What some psychologists called the unconscious he called 'an area we don稚 understand.' His focus, again and again, was on understanding. 羨bdu値-Baha placed great emphasis on this same quality many times in His writings. The meaning of life, to Adler, was what we give it. The source of our striving lies in our sense of inferiority. If, in fact, we must, as Baha段s, prefer our fellow man to ourselves, perhaps Adler痴 psychology of inferiority might serve as some of the basis for this Baha'i ethic and attitude to others. -Ron Price, "Notes on Alfred Adler," Internet, 28 January, 2001.

 

It痴 a vast and puzzling matter,

our own inner chatter

keeping us busy

奏il the end of our days

teasing, teasing, over and out.

Slowly being awakened

to our sense of moral destiny,

to community feeling,

just now taking form

over these Plans--

this gift of evolution--

to the inevitability of social harmony,

to an elan vital

and therapeutic meaning

based on orientation towards

a community goal, feeling,

an inner thing which will triumph

over everything that opposes it.1

1 See Paul E. Stepansky, In Freud痴 Shadow: Adler in Context, The Analytic Press, Hillside, N.J., 1983, pp.248-274 for these ideas about community building.

Ron Price

29 January 2001

____________________ 

MY ELSEWHERE COMMUNITY

The essential ideas in this poem come from Hugh Kenner痴 1997 Massey Lecture in Canada and William Wordsworth痴 poem "A Poet痴 Epitaph." The greatest shift in the last thousand years has been from a Eurocentric, Christocentric, tradition centered, civilization to a gradually evolving global civilization with no special political and moral centre in a universe of infinite space and time. It is this phenemenon that this poem tries to speak to, of, about. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1998.

 

I have my own Grand Tour1 now,

my 粗lsewhere community,2

my journey through what I know

to what I have yet to learn;

and when the war is over

I will go home.

 

There are no more Colosseums

or Roman Forums

and my education takes me

down different paths past other Alps,

another Paris, some other Channel

en route to finding out who I am,

absorbing life to make me someone else,

to discover impulses of deeper birth

which come to me in solitude.

The harvest of a quiet eye,

random truths around me lie.

In these verses I impart what broods and sleeps

what in my own heart and in my mind keeps.

In the meadows of His nearness

I try to roam to get some clearness.

For the Grand Tour is my own creation

and can稚 be found on any tourist guide,

only in my own world where I now abide.

Ron Price

27 December 1998

1 In the eighteenth century the Grand Tour was the trip from some place in western civilization through Europe to Rome. This is no longer the Grand Tour. We all make our own now.

2 We all have what Hugh Kenner calls 粗lsewhere communities, places we travel to and things we do and think to find out who we are. The traveller absorbs this 粗lsewhere community into himself to become what defines him throughout life.

TRIUMPH

...it is the nature of sociability to free concrete interactions...and to erect its airy realm...the deep spring which feeds this realm and its play does not lie in...forms, but exclusively in the vitality of concrete individuals, with all their feelings and attractions, convictions and impulses. -Geoege Simmel, The Sociology of George Simmel, Kurt Wolff(ed.), Collier-Macmillan, NY, 1964.

 

This is unquestionably the community,

an instrument of mega-proportions

with a community feeling that will

triumph over everything and become

as natural as breathing, necessity itself..

So: what is crucial is our subjective

orientation toward the community

in all its manifold aspects. This is our

elan vital; this is our therapy, our centre,

our norm, our basis of judgement,

our overcoming of antisocial dispositions,

our indestructible destiny.

 

Here is creative tension: the individual

and community, that much talked about

dichotomy that stifles our capacity for joy;

where we are learning new bases, new

instrumentalities for happiness after

centuries of darkness; where guilt and

innocence play in a drama whose roots

are largely unseen; where the alone and

the lonely are found in a complex web

of social intersticies; where the greatest

theatre of all plays life on the stage

and we play with a required courtesy,

hopefully genuine, a certain reservedness,

but not as stiff and ceremonial as the past.

 

It seems purely fortuitous: the harmony,

contact and dissonance, the easy replaceability

of everyone we meet, the democracy we play at.

And we must play on the stage as players with

our parts-not indifferent-interesting, fascinating,

important, even serious, with results: after the

action, the play of several acts with many scenes

and exchangeability. Ourselves, our self, our

personality may just vanish or become coated

with the many colours of 双therness.

 

Enter thou among My servants,

And enter thou My paradise.*

For here you must lose your self

to find community and we have

much to learn about loss of self.

It is here we shall find the

community feeling that will triumph

over everything, as naturally as breathing.

 

Ron Price

1 December 1995

* Seven Vallies, (US, 1952), p.47.

THE WOOING OF BEING

In the older years, this shift from outer-world to inner-world orientation takes the form of progressive disengagement, a withdrawal involving self and society. -Herant Katchadourian, Fifty: Midlife in Perspective, W.H. Freeman and Co., NY, 1987, p.93.

Sometimes he talks about himself-never about what he does or what happens to him, but about what is deep down inside him, the impulses of his mind or...his soul. -Maurice Blanchot, "Jean Jubert痴 Private Diaries," in The Siren痴 Song: Essays, Harvester Press, Brighton, 1982, p.55.

 

I致e started this process in my middle years

with a wooing of being, an exploration of its depths

by continuity of attention and meditation,

by saturation, by battle with reflection,

with the process of self-historiography:

workshop, chronicle and reservoire of images.

Here we have 疎 man talking to himself,

such a jumble, for that is the inner world,

of jottings, ideas, observations, on-and-on.

A juxtaposition of the trivial and serious,

the exuberant and despairing, the energetic

and the weary, the fertile, the uneven: provide

an unusual acquaintance with an inner life

that transform my experience into

an autobiographical account of unusual detail

for these epochs of an Age that itself

transformed my community and stimulated

me to draw out the energy and power of my

own life into the substance of this art.

 

It is difficult, though, to go deep down;

the tendency is to report the superficial

which is usually of little value to a process

that, ultimately, belongs to the world,

will remain alive forever and awakens me

to my own self and what and who I am.

Ron Price

25 September 1995

THE FABULOUS TRANSACTION

To really do something great you have to pull yourself away from the mainstream of the population. I don稚 go to parties, I don稚 go to bars, I don稚 know a lot of people and I don稚 pay any attention to the major media. I don稚 watch TV and I don稚 read magazines...I don稚 want to know. I don稚 need it. I don稚 want the information that millions of people have....I....search out nutrition in strange places. -Henry Rollins, writer and singer, 15 April 1995 in The West Magazine, 23 December 1995, p.10.

You want to get the right word;

there痴 a right vocabulary, a language,

a set of appropriate expressions,

an in-language-for-an-in-crowd,

the right book, the right clothes,

the latest thing, real groovy-mate.

I壇 love to be seen with her or him,

or them. Have you seen that movie?

Did you watch it on TV, that program

at 7:30 on Tuesday, channel 8?

 

I know too many people to suit me,

but then I知 a teacher of 150 students

every six months and live in a big

metropolitan community with hundreds

of names where I try to limit my involvement

because after twenty-five years of talking

and listening--endlessly it seems--I feel

burnt out, dried out

and now I need some replenishing fruit

to resuscitate my withered tongue,

some healing water

to cleanse my charred self.

 

I致e long ago dispensed

with fashionable concerns

culled from the best magazines;

I tire of the issues; there are so many

and necessarily subject to up-dating.

I don稚 even remember yesterday痴 news;

do you?

One day, death will short

irreversibly my circuitry

and until then I, too, shall carry on

this fabulous transaction

with my branches upturned

rapturously to the light.

 

Ron Price

27 December 1995

TO ALAN: SOME REFLECTIONS

The characteristics of Ron Price痴 poetry are varied. He seeks to define and possess the experience that took him across two continents as a pioneer in the Baha段 communities of Australia and Canada. It was a formative experience as a homefront and as an international pioneer which he attempts to describe, analyse and understand. In clarifying and defining what shaped his imagination and his thinking he comes across certain nurturing elements in his past, certain joys in the present and certain directions into the future. A darkness, a sadness, a seriousness echoes through his words as well as light, humour and a golden seam of joy. In the process he defines himself in the context of a larger autobiographical form in which he has set his poetry: Pioneering Over Three Epochs. Although these are the poems of one international pioneer, they are a reflection on behalf of a generation of pioneers who arose during the second and third epochs(1944-1986) of the Formative Age to lay the foundations for a global community within an emerging world religion, the Baha段 Faith. -Ron Price, 2:20 pm, 20 May 1995, Rivervale, Western Australia.

You致e sat in so many lounge rooms

they all seem the same, even the

toilets have a sad familiarity.

You say a similar line, like

some kind of vaccuum cleaner salesman

who痴 got all his lines off pat,

even the heavy philosophical ones.

Heading off to the fireside you felt

like some veteran, mandarin

of Jesuitical pose, but only at the edge

as you put your hands in your pockets

with an 選致e been here before feeling

of deep and quiet sadness: noone hears.

Going through the motions is easy

and you think, well, this is one type of maturity.

Ron Price

May 20 1995

THIS IS NO PICNIC

There is a new song.

Up from the Siyah-Chal it rose, breaking the Shah痴 dream.

-Roger White, "New Song", Another Song Another Season, p.118.

When children are born in a Baha段 community

they are wrapped in Allah置但bhas, LSA meetings,

deepenings, Feasts and the Writings.

 

They are slowly introduced to a variety of people

whose heterogeneity is more educative than

they or the rest of the community can imagine.

 

There痴 a life-line for these unsuspecting neophytes:

children痴 classes, pre-youth, youth programs,

young adult, adult activities-taking the votarie

from cradle to grave in a crucible of care,

stimulation and challenge that he learns to

call his Baha段 life.

 

The supplies of food, music and entertainment

can be staggering in their quantity as the

adolescent leans toward the rigours of pioneering

where he must supply it all and the foundation

stone of prayer which he has been acquiring.

 

This is no picnic, although it often looks that way

amidst rice, kebabs and dishes of desert beyond

your imagining. Don稚 be fooled by this smorgasbord

and the endless lines of awefully nice people.

 

This is serious and potentially tragic;

deep lines of sorrow lurk behind those

treacherous smiles. You can稚 have all of this

for nothing. The greatest adventure in the world

has its price: nothing less than your soul,

but you may, just may, find it.

 

There痴 plenty of opportunity here to escape

that insolent litany of insularity that often

afflicts the young and the sheer boredom

that deepens as it grows into the corners

of their lives with its deadening stamp.

 

They need you in Mongolia and Manchuria,

Morrocco and Medina and just about anywhere

you care to mention and you may just find

that flooding rain which will water the soil

of a Life you have grown to know which has

become part of your life and which began,

perhaps, in Tabriz or Shiraz,or maybe in

the mountains of Sulaymaniyyah or the Siyah-Chal.

 

For that new song you致e been learning

with your mother痴 milk has been growing

in sweetness; its music can be heard

triumphantly gaining in range and momentum.

The accents of its Words are capivating

millions, rejoicing the trees of places

you致e never heard of and flooding with felicity

everywhere on earth. Yet, I falter too, Lord.

I quaver as I try to sing. And I cry.

Ron Price

16 December 1995

THE INWARD PIONEER

The serenity of the comic spirit informs the closing scenes of Byron痴 later life. -Jacques Barzun, The Energies of Art: Studies of Author痴 Classic and Modern, Harper and Bros., NY, 1956, p.68.

For the inward pioneer...must accompany the outward pioneer if this endurance and faithfulness are to convey life and joy to the community in which he serves.....For it was with his wit and his subtle mockery and the endearing manner in which he was able to see himself and others as caricatures, that he maintained a sense of balance....He maintained a sense of perspective as his tone of self-mockery implies, and was able to remain detached from his surroundings. -Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, Four on an Island, George Ronald, Oxford, 1983, pp.87-88.

Here, it痴 a style of life,

part of the interaction ritual,

part of growing up,

with mother痴 milk.

A laugh here is the great bond,

the healer: transforms strain

and momentary expectation

into nothingness, well, a light

residue of air spreads across your

forehead for an instant,

for that instant the world is trivialized,

and a bloody good thing too:

the vanitas vanitatum, vanity of vanities,

the show, the emptiness, the semblance

of reality is shown for what it is.

Keep it lively, baby; keep it all at ease--

the mind that is, the mind, 奏is a gift

of fortune, perhaps the sign of an

imperturbable serenity: at least for awhile,

but then they tell me

funny guys get depressed.

No hunting about for immortality,

just temporary pleasure, mate, just

take it easy, nothing tragic here man.

Always being right, never doubting

and you池e half way to dullardland.

Play with it, dance with it, stuff and

nonsense, let it pierce you with its

strange relations, let it dice your

personality, toy your inner fantasy

and teach you of your limitations.

 

Ron Price

22 September 1995

MAJOR POET?

What is a major poet? The two criteria most often invoked are range and development: a major poet is one whose work encompasses a variety of different kinds, covers broad bands of the emotional and formal spectra, and has also a shape in time, forming a pattern into which the individual poems can be seen to fit. -Monroe K. Spears, American Ambitions: Selected Essays on Literary and Cultural Themes, Johns Hopkins UP, London, 1987, p.57.

Now who would claim to be a major poet

after only three years of significant writing

and only a small handful of poems published,

especially after White and Toynbee

only claimed to be minor poets?

 

About all I can say, at this stage,

is that I write a lot of poetry,

that I like writing it,

that much of it does not seem like poetry,

that it occupies a shape, a pattern,

covers broad bands of emotional life

and that it covers a range and development.

 

I enjoy a certain serenity of view and

a settled temper of mind in the realm

of contemplation as one world breaks up

and another is born, keeping alive my

sense of self, community and soul:

antidote to passivity, reconciler of

self-divisive internecine malices,

being happy most of the time.

Ron Price

22 June 1995

THE LONER

I used to visit people in the evenings and at the weekend to cultivate their friendship, sew seeds or just seek out simple companionship. By the time I was in my forties this habit became less conspicuous. By my fifties it was nearly absent from my lifestyle. Occasionally, though, someone called me on the phone wanting to get together. I was usually quite responsive, for I sensed that they both wanted and needed my company. This happened about once a month. In addition to this personal social life there is the social life of my family with other families, my job and Baha段 community life. These aspects of the social are separate. In my private time, freed from my family, professional and social responsibilities, I have become a loner. -Ron Price, 11:55 pm, 30 December, 1995, Rivervale WA.

Poetry and religion each have their own purpose and value. But if we could search for the experiences which produced them...we might find ourselves exploring, if not the same ground, at least territories very close together. -Clive Sansom, Poetry and Religious Experience, 1948.

They have a nice garden here,

could be one of the better hotels,

but seeing everyone spaced out,

just a little over-ripe, over-done,

or so underdone they could be

sleep-walkers still in their dreams,

reminds me this is a place for the

burnt-out cases. I壇 been one myself

several times and one gets to know

the signs: the reasons are usually

complicated. Here I just say hello

and give people a lot of space.

 

The traffic humms not far off

just to remind me that normality

is not far away even if one is

burnt-out. The tidy BBQ, benches

and tables tell me this is one of the

smaller, human spots for the mentally

ill, none of that institutional alienation

and paranoia of the big places. We talk

about: religion, the USA, TV, sex, my poem,

his piano playing, the routines here.

We: have tea and donuts, sit on the swings,

go to his room, walk on the porch.

 

They give me stellazine. It痴 pretty good,

but I go way down after lunch. It痴 like

going to hell and back everyday. He looks

a little tired; try twenty years of manic-depression

and schizophrenia off-and-on, to strain the

facial muscles. Been up now for 13 hours.

 

Have they tryed lithium? I suppose your case

is so much more complicated. I suppose they

know what they池e doing.

 

The willow trees blow gently in the light breeze.

It痴 a balmy evening in summer, late December.

The leaves caress the air. An air-conditioner

comes on reminding me this is summer in Australia.

 

The nurse prepares Matthew痴 small cocktail. She has

a warm vitality, a pepsodent tooth-paste smile and she

plays the flute. You have only 700,000 hours to make the

most of it, Ron. And mine is 70% over, if you池e figuring

on an eighty year lifetime, Matthew. I give him a big hug

at my car door and think about the greatest journey in life

being one to relieve the sorrow-laden heart. I don稚 make

many of this sort of journey these days, except when invited

and only when it痴 convenient. I致e become a loner.

 

Ron Price

30 December 1995

ELOQUENCE

Indifference to response of the immediate audience is a necessary trait of all artists that have something new to say. They say what they have to say...Communicability has nothing to do with popularity...no man is eloquent save when someone is moved as he listens....Those who are moved feel, as Tolstoi says, that what the work expresses is as if it were something one had oneself been longing to express...the artist works to create an audience to which he does communicate.-John Dewey, Art as Experience, Capricorn Books, NY, 1958(1934), p.105.

 

Complete and unhindered communication,

in a world of gulfs and walls

that limit our experience of community,

can be found in some works of art.

Was that why I cried in looking

at your paintings on the wall

when normally art galleries

make me sleepy?

Was that why I wrote so many essays

about Roger White痴 poetry,

though noone would publish them?

Is that why I write all this poetry,

to serve the unifying forces of life

breaking out all over this planet?

 

Ron Price

23 December 1995

That痴 all folks!