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To put it as briefly as possible, thirty five years ago I was deeply involved in saving the world... That really translates to "create a new civilization", if you think about it for a while. And civilizations, at their core, are in fact nothing more than shared agreements about what's right, what's wrong, what's valuable and so on.
So I could see that we, humanity, needs new agreements before we can give birth to a new civilization.
The problem as I saw it, however, was the problem of freedom. Simply because I have a good idea, does that mean that you will agree with me, or if you have one, I will agree with you? Experience suggests not. How can all the you and I's of the world come to agree, then?
What I decided was that the best anyone could do is to take, as our basis for agreement, the science of ecology, which is really the study of the way energy flows in the natural world. And after all, economics, political processes-- nearly all the physical systems of man-- are about the transfer and use of energy.
I developed several core principles extracted from ecology, such as unity in diversity, balance, circles, and so on (I won't take you time in explaining these just now), and I got myself hired to give lectures. (It was a great gig. $50 an hour to talk! And people would listen!)
Eventually, however, what I found out was that I was either preaching to the converted or speaking to the deaf. In other words, the folks that agreed with me came into the room already agreeing with me, and almost all the rest were in the spectrum from interested-and-engaged to skeptical (as well as either bored or angry), but the fact of the matter, if I was to be honest with myself, was that I was not engaging in change. I can't recall anyone who was changed by my brilliant discourse, in fact.
At one of the talks I was giving, to schoolteachers, offering them ideas about how to teach ecology to their kids, a woman came up to me afterward and said "You sound like a Baha'i". I didn't know what that was.
But the truth is the truth, and surely it's true that if we do not continue, throughout our life, to walk towards and build our lives on whatever truth we encounter, then we are living by a feat of memory, and we have forgotten what it's all about.
So we find something new, and it rings the bell in our heart. Still, how do we know it's really true? My answer has been to live it, build on it, be sincere, and what always happens is that it will hold me up if it is true, and it will not if it is false. Truth works; that's part of why it's true.
The woman sent me some books about the Baha'i Faith, and I read them. I remember taking one on a trip to Wyoming, and sitting in the doorway of my VW van, reading, I came to a part in one of the books where all of sudden it was as if someone had reached down and taken a hold of me and shook me, saying "This is important! Pay attention!"
When I got back to my home in California, where I was living then, I found out that there were what are called "firesides" near my home, meetings where one can ask questions and discuss things vis-a-vis the Faith. At the first one, I knocked on the door and found only one guy home, alone with his young kids. We sat in the kitchen with me asking the hardest questions I could, hoping that none of it was true, because I had a good life that satisfied me. I really did not want to change anything. The man kept having to go and take care of the kids, then come back and stammer answers to my questions, none of which satisfied me. But really I was, in a way, satisfied. There was clearly nothing there. I was getting ready to write it off, but there were two firesides in this community, and before I let it go completely, I went to the second one.
There I met a woman and her son, and we talked in a way that surprised me. Sometimes when we know someone very well, a good and deep friend, we are given the grace to have a real conversation, one which is, for all who participate, a life-altering experience, a tool for self-discovery. That was what this was, for me.
I went home, and I can remember all these questions buzzing around my head. Is it true? If I become a Baha'i, what will I have to change? I will have to associate with the guy who stammered the unsatisfying answers. I'll have to stop doing X and start doing Y. It's a huge step to come to believe, to accept a new vision of the world.
But even while all these questions were buzzing and dive-bombing, in my heart there was calm and peace. I knew. Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i Faith, was indeed the One he said he was. I could hear it in his words. I had felt it in the conversation. As little as I wanted it, I could see it in my own heart and soul.
So I did as you would expect. I became a believer, a follower of Baha'u'llah. And for the subsequent decades, I have continued to try to penetrate closer to the heart of the truth, to find more of what it is that I was brought into being to do. I live an ordinary life, and I'm trying to do an extraordinary thing: become fully human, keep the promise that my breath and spirit imply.
Baha'u'llah says that he will give us a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind. And, at least for me, while it has only rarely felt like that was happening in the very moment, as I watched, nevertheless as I look back at who I was and what I knew, I can see, across the years, how very transformative it has been for me. Praise God.
And as for changing the world? I can see it happening, I feel I have found what is, for me, and perhaps for all mankind, a solid path to the future, where mankind will finally become mature, find unity, and build that new civilization. My job is to continue to change this one human, me, to become fit to assist my brothers and sisters in their journey.
Thanks for listening.
posted 4 years, 7 months ago
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