34. TEACHING THE CAUSE

THE KEY

Many cultural traditions in the West often define personality, achievement and the purpose of human life in ways that leave the individual in isolation. Values and priorities are not justified by any wider framework of purpose or belief; what is good is what one finds rewarding. Ethical values are justified as part of a value system of personal preference. People pursue their own interests as long as it doesn't interfere with others. Solving conflicts is treated as a technical, rather than a moral, problem. Emphasis is placed on honesty and communication. There is a vague idea of what makes up a set of values, but it always seems to return to a matter of personal preference. This is one way of expressing the individualism at the heart of much of Western culture. Some see a return to older, traditional, small town values of the past as the way to deal with this fundamental human problem of community. This is, however, an unrealistic objective since it consists of a subjective and false view of the past. A true analysis and reflection of the small town values of the past reveals their narrow and prejudiced notions of social justice and a great deal of human suffering.

Many express the idea that the most important thing in life is doing what you chose to do as well as you can living up to a set of personal values. The happiness of a fulfilling life cannot be won without the willingness to make the effort and pay the costs that such effort brings. Each person is ultimately responsible for her/his own life and must accept responsibility for themselves. Some seem to have a much clearer idea of what they are against than what they are for. In the end, it is values such as these that have militated against a more widespread acceptance of the Baha'i Faith in the first half-century since the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth in 1953.1--Ron Price with thanks to Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, Internet, 12 November 2002; and 1Shoghi Effendi, God passes by, p.351.

The big picture is inspiring,

but the day-to-day level

of teaching this Cause

can be downright discouraging

and much of this meagre response

is due to a socio-historical reality

over which the individual has

little to no control.

 

A cultural, an ethical, tradition

that is in many ways antithetical

to everything that this Faith

stands for: it's like pushing

a rock uphill and having it

roll back down, again and again.

The key, of course, is that

in this process we must be happy!

Ron Price

14 November 2002.

TWISTING TO AND FRO

Like Henry James, a century before me, the subject of my written work, my poem, is the fundamental, the vital matter, which most concerns me. Like James, too, "a particular detachment" must operate or what I would prefer to call an alternation of passion and dispassionateness. James wrote of "the great stewpot of the imagination, of the observant, the recording and the interpreting mind" which must intervene and play its part. Finally, James exhibited "the eargerest interest" in the activities of "his contemporaries." They flickered over the surface of his mind, twisted to and fro in his brain and revealed his own inwardness as they played with his impulses and the reactions of his mood. -Ron Price with thanks to Percy Lubbock, "The Point of View" and Edith Warton, "the Man of Letters" in Henry James: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall, 1963, Leon Edel, editor, pp.31-38.

Nose-dives into your history

brought treasure after treasure,

the story of those 'classic years'

and of 'the American-European legend.'

 

And here, at the end of the Antipodes,

I write of the ninth and tenth stages

of history as he outlined them in Chicago

in '53 and as I've lived them since

that wonderful and thrilling motion

appeared in the world and they discovered

the great building-blocks of life: DNA,

twisting to and fro.

Pioneers we were,

you in the rediscovery of Europe

and the spiritualization of America

and me, thousands of us,

streaming out of America:

the first stirrings of

a spiritual revolution,

twisting to and fro.

Ron Price

6 October 2002

THE EMERALD CITY

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz movie(1939) starring Judy Garland has become a classic. A book by the same name was written in 1898 by one L. Frank Baum and published in 1899, when the first pilgrims from the West arrived in Akka. The Wizard of Oz has been given many different interpretations since then by religiously and not-so-religiously inclined people.1 The movie came out two years after the start of the first teaching Plan in April 1937 and it seemed to me that, since there have been so many interpretations of the film and its story, one more won't hurt. This interpretation draws in the great Baha'i epic of the last two centuries. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Dennis L. Cuddy, Now Is the Dawning of the New Age New World Order, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Website," 29 September 2002.

We all needed something, then,

at the start of this great enterprize:

tin men--hearts,

scarecrows--minds

and lions--strength and courage,

for the action

in The Emerald City

in the Land of Oz

where prophecy would

be fulfilled

and people would find

the God within,

the Kingdom of Light

and a New Order

which had just taken

its first form

and was spreading

its yellow-brick road

around the planet.

 

Little did they know, then,

little did you know, Judy,

the awe…some nature

of what was just beginning

to begem and brighten

the immensity of life.

Ron Price

29 September 2002

RECOVERY

In February-March 1937, the months immediately preceding the beginning of the first teaching Plan, there were 170 sit-down strikes in the United States and three GM plants were shut down. The workers simply seized the factories and ransomed them back to their owners. There were signs on the horizon of great changes in America as 'Abdu'l-Baha's teaching Plan was finally launched after a hiatus of nearly twenty years. As these were years of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal aimed at aiding and hastening the recovery of the USA from the depths of depression, so was it the time when the Baha'i Seven Year Plan, aimed at a spiritual recovery within the context of a world-redeeming order, was initiated. -Ron Price with thanks to James Davidson and William Rees-Mogg, The Sovereign Individual: The Coming Economic Revolution--How to Survive and Prosper in It, MacMillan, NY, 1997, p.147.

 

Was it the exploitation of the capitalists

by the workers

or some new form of solidarity

in embryo,

some new spirit

about to unleash itself

on the American world and beyond?

 

Was it the onset

of the spiritual conquest of the planet

under that Divine Commander?

Was it the beginning

of that heavenly illumination1

streaming around the world?

 

Was it the evolution

of Baha'i Administration

as the nucleus and pattern

of a future world order

sufficient to embark on

the first international

missionary campaign?2

 

1 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p.121,

2 Loni Bramson-Lerche, "Development of Baha'i Administratrion," Studies in Babi & Baha'i History, Vol.1, Kalimat Press, 1982, p.295.

Ron Price

4 August 2002

 

TWISTING TO AND FRO

Like Henry James, a century before me, the subject of my written work, my poem, is the fundamental, the vital matter, which most concerns me. Like James, too, "a particular detachment" must operate or what I would prefer to call an alternation of passion and dispassionateness. James wrote of "the great stewpot of the imagination, of the observant, the recording and the interpreting mind" which must intervene and play its part. Finally, James exhibited "the eargerest interest" in the activities of "his contemporaries." They flickered over the surface of his mind, twisted to and fro in his brain and revealed his own inwardness as they played with his impulses and the reactions of his mood. -Ron Price with thanks to Percy Lubbock, "The Point of View" and Edith Warton, "the Man of Letters" in Henry James: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall, 1963, Leon Edel, editor, pp.31-38.

 

Nose-dives into your history

brought treasure after treasure,

the story of those 'classic years'

and of 'the American-European legend.'

 

And here, at the end of the Antipodes,

I write of the ninth and tenth stages

of history as he outlined them in Chicago

in '53 and as I've lived them since

that wonderful and thrilling motion

appeared in the world and they discovered

the great building-blocks of life: DNA,

twisting to and fro.

 

Pioneers we were,

you in the rediscovery of Europe

and the spiritualization of America

and me, thousands of us,

streaming out of America:

the first stirrings of

a spiritual revolution,

twisting to and fro.

 

Ron Price

6 October 2002

 

GUERNICA: A WINDOW OF HOPE AND A WORLD OF CHAOS

Guernica may just be the most important single painting in the twentieth century. It was painted by Picasso in the first two months of the international teaching campaign in April-June of 1937. Guernica, a town in Spain, was bombed in April 1937, the very month that the first Seven Year Plan began. After more than forty years trying to take this message to my contemporaries I find this apocalyptic painting curiously relevant in its symbolism. The painting graphically portrays the world I have been trying to teach all these years. -Ron Price with thanks to Encarta(R) Encyclopedia, Microsoft Corporation, 27 June 1997 with a slight revision on 10 February 2002.

 

Complex symbolism here,

no definitive interpretation,

a world falling apart back then:

a dying horse, a dying age,

system, time; a fallen warrior,

traditional systems of political

and religious orthodoxy falling

from their heights of power;

a mother and dead child,

twentieth century science

whose child is anarchy;

a woman trapped

in a burning building,

civilization in a firey tempest;

a woman rushing into the scene,

a new revelation just begun

spreading its healing message.

A figure leaning from a window

and holding out a lamp,

truth and understanding held out

that all those who look might see.

 

And so, one view of Picasso’s work,

as an international Plan

makes its appearance

after a hiatus of twenty years,

after a new administration

had been created to canalize the forces

unleashed by those immortal Tablets.1

Guernica, the picture of a world in chaos

as the lamp of unity hangs out its shingle

in the obscurest corner, the only sign

of power and life as the old is destroyed.2

 

1Tablets of the Divine Plan, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, 1916-17.

2 There are many interpretations of this painting. This last line comes from Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology, Viking Press, 1968, p.211.

 

Ron Price

27 June 1997/10 February 2002

TAILORING

After forty years as a pioneer and travel-teacher I have developed what I call "an idiosyncratic teaching style." It is a style that is tailored to each situation, is based on years of experience in bringing this Cause to my contemporaries and on how I perceive the general response of the culture I am living in to the efforts of Baha'is in that culture to teach this new and emerging world religion. This poem is about my efforts to teach two ladies who live around the corner from my home here in George Town Tasmania. The ladies are in their sixties and seventies; one is single and the other married. They both know I am a Baha'i because I have mentioned it on several occasions in our conversations in the first two years of our contact, 2000-01. - Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 2 January 2002.

 

There is no direct hit here,

a multi-faceted knowledge process

with no grand unified theory,

rather a myriad eyes, voices,

bodies with no one monopoly.

and certainties kept out-of-play,

lots of experiential enthusiasms,

with frequent spot-checks,

answers to big questions played with,

toyed, subtle-ins-and-outs

in a dynamic cluster

of interacting perceptions

being constructed and transformed

by real people and an immense

multiplicity of forces and elements,

viewpoints and heterogeneous reality.

 

Getting to the point perpetually deferred,

beating around the proverbial bush

but always aiming to connect,

always trying to get right in there

with the light touch and enough

seriousness to keep the fish on the line,

with so many random, tenuously

connected signifiers, with the past

and the future conflated into

a perpetual present and a utopian

longing always somewhere,

indispensable to my thought.1

Two fish, one beyond catching,

playing them off each other

always to my advantage

for my aim is to catch a fish.

1 William McPheron, "Frederick Jameson: Introduction," Internet, 23/10/01...(2/1/02)

IT'S UNREAL, BILL

Back somewhere near the start of my pioneering life in 1962 I heard Hand of the Cause William Sears give several talks. He was the fastest talking man I heard then as a teenager. Even now, forty years later, no one has come close to his speed of delivery. In recent years I have come to hear several other very fast talkers on the radio. I have always found fast talkers impressive. There is less chance to get bored. The brain has a capacity to take in many more words per minute than it usually hears from the average speaker. Perhaps that is why fast talkers give me more pleasure; they come closer to meeting the brain capacity. Of course, they must have something interesting to say. This poem is dedicated to Bill Sears, not so much for his speed of talking, but for what he said. For some of the content of his talks has come back to me many times in my pioneering life. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 1/1/02

The other day I was standing

in a queue in a grocery store.

My mind, my memory, flashed

back to Bill Sears forty years ago

telling us to be ready, aware,

in attention so that the world

did not pass us by

and we not conscious

of opportunities to contact

the human souls who crossed

our path walking through life.

 

Well, Bill, I think I've had

my eyes open walking now

across two continents,

but the air is electric, Bill,

with impossible charges

so filling the spaces that

choice seems meaningless,

meaning itself is drained,

fermenting instability,

fragmentation, ephemerality,

vacuous intellectualism,

Disneyland culture,

a frenzy of information,

masses not community,

the line between the serious

and the absurd, real and unreal,

so thin that narcissus can play

an endless game going everywhere

and nowhere forever in a multi-

dimensional, polycentric, unstable

complex of shifting realities.

 

Ron Price

1&2 January 2002

 

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

_________________________________ 

PROPAGANDISTIC INTENTIONS

"A pure poet," wrote R.S. Thomas, "is one who, presumably, lives for his art, interested in the interior world of words and thought, rather than in the everyday world of noise and evil. I think, when I examine my own position, that I have never been a pure poet in that way. To make a poetic artifact out of words has never been, or rarely been, my first aim. There is always lurking in the back of my poetry a kind of moralistic or propagandistic intention."1 These could be my own words as my imagination is moved by what I see as profound and lasting values in my Faith and my thought, manifesting themselves as the background to my way of life. This literary niche that I have carved out for myself, from these values and this thought, is something infinitely more than something I write poetry about in the tranquillity of my study. This poetry is an integral aspect of my world, the world, my feelings for man, society, my religion and my role in it. -Ron Price with thanks to 1R.S. Thomas in Furious Interiors: Wales, R.S. Thomas and God, Justin Wintle, Flamingo, London, 1997, pp.309-311.

 

Sometimes it lurks.

Sometimes it speaks

its mind loud and clear;

for there's no reason

to beat around the bush

when the creation of

civilization itself is at stake

and the gloomy and sterile

philosophy of materialism

is dominating men's minds

everywhere on earth.

 

When a promising operating

model for a spiritually based

world society already exists,

when that model is a global

community embarking on

an infinite series of experiments

in its efforts to realize a vision

of humankind's oneness,

it is only natural to want to

invIte all people of goodwill

to participate at this critical

stage in the planet's history.1

 

1 Douglas Martin, "Baha'u'llah's Model for Universal Fellowship," World Order, Fall 1976, p.19.

Ron Price

4 December 2001

_______________________ 

A VACUOUS WASTELAND

The year I went pioneering, 1962, Manning Clark published the first volume of his A History of Australia. The last volume, number six, was published twenty-five years later in 1987. Clark hoped through his history to take his readers up into the high mountains so that they might catch a glimpse of the great river of life. Clark believed that the twentieth century had become a wasteland, a kingdom of nothingness, where spiritual struggle had been abandoned for the vacuity of modern popular culture. Price had similar hopes and aspirations to Clark and it was his experience, in those first twenty-five years of pioneering, that it was virtually impossible, except for a precious few, to interest his fellow human beings in the spiritual truths of a Revelation that he believed embodied the soul which modern soceity needed for its salvation. -Ron Price with thanks to Manning Clark in Manning Clark's History of Australia: An Abridgement, Michael Cathcart, Penguin Books, 1995(1993), pp.x-xii.

 

I, too, have some beautiful books

for this kingdom of nothingness,

this vacuous wasteland,

but during these years

and your years, too, Manning,

they will sit unread

except by the few

who embraced the Cause.

Aiming to stimulate, to enrich

the cultural attainments of the mind

in a particular direction

we try to bring new readers

to a frontier where music

takes over from words

as they rise above

phrases and letters

and transcend the murmur

of syllables and sounds.

But how few, thusfar,

how lamentably few.

______________ 

Ron Price

29 August 2001

_____________ 

A SCARECROW

Price identified himself as completely as possible with as many people as possible in his efforts to plant the seeds of this new world Faith. For some thirty-nine years, often for only a few minutes, often for much longer periods of time, Price tried to enter the skins and the lives of his contemporaries. He did this in as unobtrusive, as gentle or as forceful, as humorous, as light or as serious, as genuinely friendly a manner as he was able to demonstrate. In his role of classroom teacher he tried to: penetrate and envelope, encourage and stimulate, inspire and inform. Over and above all this was one dominant passion: to spread the seeds of a new Faith which claimed to be the newest of the world’s great religions.-Ron Price, a contrast with the aims and goals of D.H. Lawrence as described in D.H. Lawrence: A Biography, Jeffery Meyers, A.A. Knopf, NY, 1990, p.161.

 

A task like this when seriously undertaken

over a lifetime has a certain ware and tare.

.......Shall we call it a spiritual fatigue?.....

It results from trying to implement a religious vision

with and among just humble mortals:

enough to test the patience of Job

and the wisdom of Solomon,

when one is neither a Job nor a Solomon,

but only humble mortal.

 

It has worn out men of more apparent weight

and measure than I, and sent them packing

into some religious and spiritual oblivion;

and it may send me packing, yet:

one can never be too sure.

 

In the meantime I stand like a soldier in the field,

or, now, like a scarecrow protecting the crops.

 

 Ron Price

19 June 1999

 

CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE

This new global civilization and the slowly emerging System that the Baha'is are building is taking place in an environment which is unusually difficult. But, as Toynbee argues, the greater the challenge, the greater the stimulus. That challenge should not be too excessive nor too deficient in intensity. The challenge from the environment is twofold--physical and human. If the challenge is severe from one area this severity is tempered and attenuated by some compensation from the other. -Ron Price with thanks to Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. 2, 1963(1954).

It has been virtually impossible

to interest nearly all

of that great mass

of my generation,

my fellow beings,

over the last forty years.

 

The human challenge

has not been too excessive;

it has been tempered,

attenuated by the comforts

of a material civilization,

by the magnificent buildings

constructed around the world

and the steady growth

of this prophetic and messianic message. June 17 2001

Goethe: created one of the first major autobiographies in poetry in the modern age.

REAL DANGER

The strong driving force behind Henry Handel Richardson’s writing was something quite distinct from her artistic purpose. It is difficult to define this composite force: a fear of breakdown, of insanity, a fear of being a misfit, the fear of an invasion of the self, uncertainty in her relationships with her parents, the warring impulses to fight or flight. All of these increased her tendency to withdraw from life and to devote herself with monastic intensity to her ordained work. -Ron Price with thanks to Dorothy Green, Henry Handel Richardson and Her Fiction, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1986, pp. 34-5.

The strong driving force behind Ronald Frederick Price’s writing was something inextricably inseparable from his artistic purpose. It was, nevertheless, difficult to precisely define this force, this driving energy, behind what made him sit day after day tapping away at his writing keyboard. He had learned to fit in, to say all of the right things, to be the raconteur, the engaging lecturer; he had no fear of a breakdown, of insanity. He had been that way several times and knew that he was quite beyond such experience now. He had no major or strain-filled ambivalences within his family relationships or in the wider community. He knew what he wanted. In the months, perhaps years, immediately ahead he wanted to withdraw from the intense interaction patterns he had experienced as far back as, perhaps, 1959.

 

A belief system had captured his heart and mind for over forty years now. It was a system with a strong outreach, an outreach which the word ‘teaching’ encapsulated in its many forms and meanings. But during virtually all of that time, all of those forty years, the response to his efforts and those of most of his coreligionists in the west, had been discouragingly meagre. And he was tired of the exercise, the effort, the game, the war, what the Guardian called 'precious opportunities.' They had slipped from his grasp, although he had taken advantage of many of them to the full and he had taught the Cause with vigour in many towns and cities to literally thousands of souls. Forty years of different kinds of efforts, efforts he had described in vivid and not-so-vivid ways in some two million words of poetry and, perhaps, as many words of prose, had worn him down and, for a time, he was leaving the race, or at least he would be taking it up in a new form that was quieter, less frenetic, in a small Baha'i community.1 -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 18 May 2001.

1 At the time of writing or, should I say, reviewing this essay, I have moved to a part of the Australian Baha'i community, namely, northern Tasmania, where less than 100 Baha'is occupy the entire northern half of this state. Instead of living in a city of 1.3 million people with over 1000 Baha'is, I live in a small town of 6,000 and two other Baha'is.

There is a force which has moved me

all my life, a compulsion, an energy

which is my sine qua non,

which defines my very being,

my everything and, now,

wants me to go in another direction,

new, unknown, with a tincture of fear

and anxiety, but with an inner sense

that there is something very very right

going on both in me and out of me

which I am a part of, but which is, ultimately,

quite undefinable, mysterious and quietly,

subtlely enthralling,

with real danger to my soul—

and hope.

Ron Price

23 February 1999

THE YEARS BEFORE THE LESSER PEACE

My pioneering days began the year Marshall McLuhan pegged the phrase ‘global village’ in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy. This was 1962, the year before the Kennedy assassination and Viet-Nam, the living-room war. This pioneering venture began about ten months before the first election of the Universal House of Justice. The Lesser Peace seemed to loom on the horizon, on the horizon of our days, then and now. -Ron Price, "A Reflection on the Years Before the Lesser Peace", Unpubished Essay.

From 1988 to 1993 I taught a course in ancient history: Greece in the fifth century BC and Rome from 133 BC to 14 AD. I was enthralled by the many parallels between our own age and these two ancient societies. This poem is a reflection on one of the many points of comparison. -Ron Price, 4 October, 12:10 pm, Rivervale, WA.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the days

before a latter-day Pentecontaetia1,

a modern half-century: on the gentle side,

crazy days, decades of slow building,

burning, some staggering burgeoning,

hot tears of light amidst a sea of darkness

in this Formative Age,

an age amusing itself to death

on rehearsed spontaneity

and immense triviality,

some long night before the dawn,

on the brink, years of the tempest

with bleeding humanity brought to its knees

in a common remedial effort,

a new spiritual and moral attitude,

some collective identification

with catastrophe, shock and trauma

contained in obsessions:

Liz, Marilyn and Elvis

and anchor men

with Oprah, ET, Shwarznegger,

monopoly, scrabble and Sylvia Plath

blowing it all away2

just before the House was elected,

an apex crowning a new Order

growing slowly, unobtrusively

amidst the detritus

and exploding knowledge

of this latter age:

years before the Lesser Peace.

2 Arguably, the most famous female poet of the half century 1950-2000, committed suicide about a dozen weeks before the election of the Universal House of Justice.

1The term given to the period 479 to 435 BC. During these years Athens laid the foundation for her superior strength in Greece. (Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, Penguin, 1972, p.87.) The days before this Pentecontaetia, it could be argued, was the century or more after 594 BC when Solon was appointed mediator in Athens.

This modern period, this modern century or so, preceding the Pentecontaetia could be seen as a hundred year period, or more, beginning in, say, 1937 when the international teaching campaign was launched, 1921 when the Guardian began to create the instrument of the Administrative Order, 1912 when ‘Abdu’l-Baha came West or, indeed, 1892 when Baha’u’llah passed away. I’m going to choose 1944 to 2044, the second century of Baha’i experience when the first stirrings of a World Order, which this Baha’i Administration is but the precursor, crystallize and radiate over the planet.

These were the years before the Lesser Peace and the years, arguably, when a modern Pentecontaetia began. To appreciate this analogy to Greek history is really helps to know something about that history.

Ron Price

October 4 1996

 

  THE TWANG, THE HUM, THE SILENCE

The practice of poetry is therapeutic through rhythmic cadence and recurrent rhyme. The poet is able to subdue hurtful experiences and transform even the most painful of subjects into a soothing nostrum for the human mind. Although I find what Gurney says is partly true, some pains of life can not be sorted out by writing poetry.-Stephen Gurney, British Poetry in the Nineteenth Century, Twayne Publications, NY, 1993, p.303.

Be not afraid: this place is full

of strange sounds and sweet fragrances

that delight and are kind.

Sometimes there is the twang of noise

on the edge of a new insanity

that hums in my ears

and is gone into the night.

It was crazy and at 3 am

drove me to bed to sleep again.

Often the clouds would open

and show riches to my eyes

clear across to heaven

as if I was dreaming.

 

Still, this show will end,

yielding its partially destined fruit;

I will be heard no more

standing at the gates that open on the placeless,

standing wide in dusty death.

 

Ron Price

10 October 1996

 

 THE SHARPENING

How do poets respond to violent social convulsions and great public events? Since the French revolution, since the romantic movement, the effect of these outward events on the poet is internalization, synthesis and transformation. The outer events concentrate the poet’s awareness on his inner resources. The poet also tries to do this for the reader: to strengthen, to sharpen the reader’s individuality in the face of crisis, to help readers define themselves in relation to the whole, to solidarity, the necessary group ethos. -Ron Price with thanks to John Bayley, Selected Essays, Cambridge UP, NY, 1984, p. 116.

 

There’s a sense here, a perspective,

on the great convulsions of our times,

something familiar, everyday-like,

an understanding enlarged, clarified;

I’d like to think tears to the eyes,

prickles to the skin, fire on the edge of language,

bringing back the details, the leaves, the cracks

and all the beauty of His new age,

the new poetry for this time aimed at:

that which they have concealed

in the inmost of their hearts,

raising a cry....that all the inmates

of the chambers of Paradise

may understand and hearken.1

For here, in these chambers of Paradise,

we sharpen ourselves.

 

Ron Price

8 October 1996

1 Baha’u’llah, Fire Tablet.

A SHINING TORCH

..........The days gone by

Return upon me almost from the dawn

Of life: the hiding places of man’s power

Open a... -English Poetry of the Romantic Period: 1789-1830, J. R. Watson, Longman, NY, 1992(2nd ed’n).

This poem was written on the eve of a ten week teaching trip to Wagga Wagga, a town of some 55,000 people, three hours south of Canberra. It represents a reflection on teaching trips going back to 1962 and offers a promise, a hope, of things to come. -Ron Price, 9 July 1995, 11:00 am, Rivervale WA, Australia.

I see by glimpses into a mystery,

some hiding places of a power

that mostly is closed to me in meaning,

some evanescent stream of life

which I have rarely reached.

It mostly seems inaccessible like closing time

when I try to gain admission to its life.

Now I remember youth’s golden gleam

and a host of remembrances

bound to each other by piestistic effort

like some immortal spirit growing

amidst a so often visionary dreariness:

travel teaching’s spirit

must be restored for future understanding, here.

As I paint this memorial, enshrine in words and feelings

a certain power rusted in the towns of time,

in indisputable shapes of streets, hills

and endless, endless, words, spots of time,

making my spirit more efficacious now

and providing you a glimpse into

that still undiscovered country--

my travel teaching past.

 

What does it all mean, those forays

into indifference, apathy and immense

urban and rural agglomerations?

Like rolling a mountain away with a feather...

Why do I bother venturing into a cold town

in an Australian mid-winter?

To hoist the flag? Put up some posters?

Help a Group struggle to their nine?

Have a change of scenery from the current

excess of familiarity, worn thin?

Bidyadanga, Kununurra, Darwin, Bendigo,

Warrnambool, Queenstown, Amherstburg:

places where I have left some seeds

impure, though, no doubt, with independence

hardly begun and only on my way to peace:

 

The intention of the teacher must be

pure, his heart independent, his spirit

attracted, his thought at peace...

 

A little more practice coming at me

on the way to an exalted magnanimity

looking for that shining torch.(*)

 

* Tablets of the Divine Plan, 1977, p.51.

Ron Price

9 July 1995

________________________

THE PORTRAIT AND THE MAN

After a lifetime of reading about the Bab, hearing stories about him and believing Him and His teachings to be at the core of my life, what could I say that would attempt to encapsulate this my experience of the Bab? -Ron Price, 2:15 PM, 27 December 1995, Rivervale, Western Australia.

Protect us from what lieth in front of us and behind us, above our heads, on the right, on the left, below our feet and every other side to which we are exposed. -The Bab in Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p.172.

 

Thank you Aqa-Bala Big,* or

should I say Prince Malik Qasim

for the only portrait of the Bab

we have. Done just before His

public declaration in Tabriz

and His:

I am, I am the Promised One!

This soul of the great ether

Who could do anything He wanted,

this Mihdi, this Master Hero,

this Primal Point, this spellbinder,

this Mystery, Morn of Truth,

Harbinger of the Most Great Light,

the Mystic Fane, the Source of light

that shone on Mount Sinai,

Whose fire glowed in the Burning Bush,

the Forerunner of the Ancient Beauty.

The portrait of this mild and delicate

looking man, small in stature and fair,

can be seen in the Archives Building.

I am longing to draw near to Your

glorious spirit and Your bewildering

and wondrous revelation, to be admitted

to the gardens of Your Paradise

and that fitting silence You request.

Ron Price

27 December 1995

* He was the chief painter of the governor and was asked by the governor to paint the Bab’s portrait.

ULTIMATELY RIGHT

To be a poet is to have a soul....in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge. -George Eliot, Middlemarsh, 1872.

Thank you, Roger, for trying to depict

your experience at the graveside of

the child Husayn, ambushed as you were

by that liquid rushing world, overwhelmed.

 

Yes, the heart’s frail craft coasts comfortably

unperturbed in a place like this Mountain,

as it must, braced to deflect those dips and swings

which always threaten to capsize it in those unforseen

eddies and perilous brinks, uncontrolled.

 

No, you would not have chosen any of it;

it was like some kind of divine seduction:

the most unobtrusive of the unobtrusive,

insinuating itself into the centre of your life,

wringing your spirit, the source of unquestionable

remorse, regret: too simple here, too ornate there.

It is all too humanly human, too divinely divine

and, as you say, ultimately right.*

 

Thank you, Roger, for teaching me in time for

some future call, how to avoid, or at least arrest,

inundation by focussing on some birdcall, or

some dustmote, or perhaps the traffic in town.

For I, too, can be just a sightseer, safely distanced

from those tumultuous rapids which in a potentially

frequent invasion, frequent storm of tenderness,

could sweep me, too, out to those lashing seas

where I would gladly drown, gladly.

 

Ron Price

28 December 1995

* Roger White, "Sightseeing", The Witness of Pebbles, p.75.

A CATALYST

The woman portrayed below I have never met. She is a composite of several I, of necessity, endured while serving on Local Spiritual Assemblies. It could very well have been a man, although I must confess to never having been burned alive as I was by the several women whose composite picture is portrayed below. Often enthusiastic, often devout believers, they had qualities which brought out the worst in me. Their passionate attachment to the Cause I admired. I thank them for teaching me the limits of my patience and love and taking me off my own pedestal. -Ron Price, 4:25 pm, Saturday, 30 December 1995, Rivervale, Western Australia.

 

She was one of those people you run into

from time to time, her life all over the place,

up-and-down, topsy-turvy, a character out

of a Fitzgerald novel: her life all anguish,

fuss and a thread of torture down the centre.

 

At first you thought it was because of

all those kids: someone always in a tantrum;

endless infidelities, enough to mount

her own scandal sheet. Then, you theorized

a too rigid puritanism in conflict with

a permissive society producing

over-heated emotions, always on fire,

boiling away. She was like judge and jury

and the court was always in session.

 

She gnawed away as if at a bone,

if I stayed around too long, I bled.

I walked away with my brain as addled

as a spagetti dish

with names jumping out of my ears

feeling free at last, free at last,

thank God, I’m free at last.

 

She was a big girl, as big as her heart

which was always full to overflowing,

a certain buxom beauty which I did

not find unattractive. She could have been

a wonder, if tamed. She would never

discard mortality lightly: a lifetime of

utterance enough to fill several ocean liners.

 

I watched her in those precariously balanced,

ragged circles, in lounge rooms,

plunge assembled members into a chasm

from which even the delicate calm of the Book

passed from hand to hand could not reweave

the disciplining cord that bound us together.

We would again assault the humbling summit,

past fault and fissure, so painful it was, yet again,

to be in a chasm of such utter confusion. Deeper

and deeper we would descend until someone cracked

on the rock’s edge and, in tears or anger, drop their bundle.

A catalyst of terror, she always held her place.

I tell you, this girl is dangerous.

Ron Price

30 December 1995

______________________

WHYALLA SOUTH AUSTRALIA

All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players: which is not to deny that sincerity, earnestness, honesty are important parts of our social life and that there tends to be a certain consistency, predictability in social interaction. The masquerade derives from the selection of options, some having more than others, which we toy with in deciding what to say, where to go, what to do and even, why to do it. Here is found the stage, the act, the genuine self.-Ron Price, Comment on the term 'masquerade' in the following quotation.

Once one grasps that one's personality is essentially unknowable and that it is a masquerade in a stage play possessing a wonderful chameleon-like quality, where a reshaping of personality takes place for each setting, each social interaction; where we hear many voices held together by a certain ceremonious politeness, the attainment of serenity is not far off. -Ron Price, Comment on the manifestation of the inner life in personality from a skeptical perspective.

Enjoying your work; doing your job well;

receiving recognition from someone, from

many; teaching the Cause and having people

enrol, lots of people: are two sources of joy to

take the heart over the top. We had to come

half way 'round the world into semi-desert

country, from the top-of-the-world to the

bottom, to get both. Having tasted this nectar

I never looked back, although there were often

some dark nights behind me, dark nights that

seemed to drown my soul nearly to death. Whyalla:

the place of intense prayer, where hope was revived,

where I discovered what it was like to be a hero

and where my marriage entered its last year.

Ron Price

28 April 1996

UNIVERSAL PARTICIPATION

It is too early to say who is good. -Patrick White, The Mystery of Unity, P. Morley, University of Queensland Press, 1972, p. 105.

Universal participation does not mean:

everyone coming to the meeting;

everyone agreeing to a point of view;

agreeing with a dominant chairman;

everyone singing the same song at

the same time in the same way;

everyone being made to see and

understand and do;

everyone being emotionally excited;

reducing the teachings to a list of do’s

and don’ts;

aiming low, striving half-heartedly with

the nerves and arteries only half alive and

the will to struggle only partly turned on.

 

Ron Price

2 November 1996

THAT WONDROUS SCORE

Poets, as few others, must live close to the world that primitive men are in: the world, in its nakedness-birth, love, death, the sheer fact of being alive. -Under Discussion: On the Poetry of Galway Kennell, The Wages of Dying, editor, Howard Nelson, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1987, p. 170.

There’s a beauty and form here, an

order, harmony and direction, as if

a great conductor begeming and

brightening the notes to a pace, a

precision, an incision, a sweetness, a

lushness, arranging a dance like the

infinitude of immensity with the stars

as they shine from their vast emperean.

 

As Toscanini was bringing his wondrous

virtuosity and grand music to the masses

in 1937,1 another music was crossing the

world, bringing heavenly outpourings and

radiant effulgences to the hearts, resuscitating,

making flowers of divine mysteries grow

luxuriantly and illuminating the world.

 

As Fritz Reiner, the great stick technician,

was enthralling the lovers of music in Chicago

in 1953,2 the Kingdom of God on Earth was

making its entry and I was learning to become

a heavenly farmer, to scatter pure seeds and to

conduct my own life with the aid of a great

musical Score written by that wondrous Composer.

1In 1937 the international teaching plan was launched and classical music was brought to the mass of citizens over radio on a regular basis in the USA.

2In 1953 Fritz Reiner took over the Chicago symphony orchestra. The temple in Chicago was completed that year and, the Guardian informed us, the Kingdom of God on Earth began.

Ron Price

3 November 1996

PROTECTION

An ordinary life is obscure in the sense that among the billions who now inhabit the globe everyone is obscure, unless they have been popularised in the media. Even then, such a popularity is transient and confined to those who watch, read or listen to that media. Some ordinary lives are now less obscure than they once may have been. The circle of those whom they come to know in a lifetime may include literally thousands. This is definitely true of many teachers. In over twenty-five years of teaching my contact has been with many thousands. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, April 28 1996.

Gladstone said there were three ways to keep a diary: keep none, keep a full-blooded one, or keep a mere skeleton of one. If you include all the genres in which this autobiography is kept, you get a full-blooded autobiography. The diary, I must confess, is something of a skeleton, although this retrospective work may just make the diary full-blooded one day. -Ron Price with thanks to The Gladstone Diaries(1825-1832), p.xix of the introduction.

With spiritual credentials scarred on

I moved to the end of the Earth and

experienced such a deep wound I

nearly died: death warmed me over

before throwing me up onto the shore

with my life barely intact. In December

I got back on a jet and ran for cover,

surviving it in the great Melbourne jungle.

 

I'd never had a year so torrid, so hot, so

sensually satisfying, but spiritually so

terrifying; so successful in my career, but

ultimately so debilitating, so weakening

spiritually that I will probably never quite

recover, although the lesson was so sharp I got a

protection I could never have acquired otherwise.

Ron Price

28 April 1996

WE OPEN THIS MEETING......

What is most familiar is most difficult to know. -Nietzsche

The union of skepticism and yearning begets mysticism. -Nietzsche

At the beginning of meetings we like to pray:

 

in appreciation that we are one of the organisms

which are selected to engage in sex

since the ones that find it uninteresting

quickly become extinct;

 

in thanksgiving for the Cambrian explosion

which broke the monopolizing grip

of the blue-green algae and led to

evolution’s proliferation of life forms;

 

in appreciation for the year 1962 when

the first semiconductor laser was produced

and my pioneer-travel-teaching life was

given its kick-start by a move to another town;

 

and for all the broken, bent, battling beings

and the unbroken, yet vulnerable ones

like you and I who are getting tired,

still getting angry and are still

largely a mystery to each other.

Ron Price

3 January 1996

PIONEERING TO SPITZBERGEN

Price’s poetic mission was to assist in the emergence of a Baha’i consciousness in world literature: its history, its being, its truth, its community, its beauty. He wanted to write both powerfully and simply; he wanted to be understood by Everyman, to feed Everyman. After four years of writing poetry he knew only that he was feeding himself with the rarest of morsels, but whether his poetry would ever be read by the great mass of the faithful or even a small minority of the faithful, he had no idea. Perhaps his poetry would be read after this prelude, now long in the making, long in the experiencing, of entry-by-troops. Perhaps it would not. Perhaps it was little more than self-indulgence, a marginal activity where some new life was found. Perhaps it was as much a form of activism as going to a meeting or being part of a teaching program.

The hero of his poetry was himself in the act of thinking things out, feeling and finding a way, giving expression to that inner life and private character. The marvels and the miseries of his mind’s and his life’s makings he had laid out in his poetry, over three thousand poems now. It was not all smooth conclusion and marble floor. As he looked at his creation, on the shelf now, he felt he had captured the drenching of the years through his skin, the rusting of his bones like pipes and the epoch-making transformation of the Cause which he had for nearly forty years been identified with, from that obscurity which it had long endured. -Ron Price with thanks to various writers in Text and Sex, Don Anderson, Vintage, 1995.

 

This is my skin, man, my soul;

I could not have given more

if I had pioneered to Spitzbergen

or the great back-o’-beyond,

or endured the miasmal ooze

of those fragile and tense

lounge-room meetings

that dried out your mouth

with their good terror.

 

This here is my blood and sweat, man;

I could not have told it more straight

than if I’d walked a tightrope.

Yes, there was some necessary slack;

you can’t tell it all, all that dirty laudry

for all to see; you need a certain tact,

you know. Not everything is timely

and suited to the ears, as Ali once said.

 

After you’ve been to a million meetings

and redoubled your efforts too many times,

you are travelling at the speed of light and

burning out before coming back as a shooting-star.

After you’ve heard about 1844 so many times

that you begin to wonder if anyone knows anything

about some of the crucial events of 1843 or 1845;

after all this necessary repetition, you go inward.

 

You go in search of the real you,

you put it in poetry and you go

outward with some new gift

from the Giver of gifts,

with some new eye and new ear,

some resplendent tokens

from planes of glory,

some court of holiness,

solemn consciousness

and a celebratory joy

so exquisite

that the pivotal centre

around which the realities converge

is acclaimed and proclaimed

as the Covenant and its dynamic effect

on your struggle and redemption.

Ron Price

29 November 1996