Saturday, January 1, 2011

A milestone

This was an exceptionally significant week for many of us. Typical messages on social networks read things like "It has been released!", "We are reading it now," and "Never felt so much joy!" And a few others asked "What?" "What has been released?" So it was a great deal of fun to watch this unfold. Now  what is exactly in this letter of 28 December, 2010, that creates such feelings of expectation and elation?

I was recently visiting southern Africa, and had the opportunity to once again see many of our  friends living in this gorgeous part of the world. It is so uplifting to renew old friendships, particularly those formed based on shared understanding. I was reminded of a feature along the roads. Sometimes you are completely in what looks like the middle of nowhere, a complete wilderness. The only sign that exists of where you are and where you are heading are those white stones along the road, with a number on each. If you know absolutely nothing about where you are going, or if you do not care if you are going anywhere at all, then these stones do not mean very much. But if you have a sense of purpose, and you consider yourself as being on a journey, then these stones give you assurance and comfort that you are making progress. On one particular road traveling north towards Harare these stones are placed about every half a kilometer, but they are still called milestones. Occasionally one is missing, and in the growing disarray of the affairs some are hid behind the tall weeds, lost in the confusion that reigns in the world. All of this has an analogy in the world of thought.

Along the path of transformation, and in the deliberate and conscious act of building a new civilization there are also these milestones. The new chapter of the Divine Plan, as explained in this extensive document is one such milestone.  Increasingly, people of good will everywhere recognize that the Universal House of Justice is not only the formal Head of the Baha'i World Faith, but also a guide for all people who want to transform a broken world. From the concepts elaborated in this document you can derive a set of guidelines for action that apply to most organizations in civil society.

Yes, to be sure, there is much here that applies specifically to the inner workings of a community that stands identified with the revelation of Baha'u'llah. But the principles that it elaborates are of universal value. Any sociologist, any social worker, any community organizer, any teacher, any advocate of human rights, and hundreds of other Non-Governmental Organizations can benefit from studying it, engaging with the Baha'i community, and the way it goes about building spiritual neighborhoods. This is not a conversation about personal salvation - even if some people may find solace in that - but in reality it is a most significant contribution to the conversation about development. In so far as it provides an analysis of the recent experience of the Baha'i community worldwide, and then turns this analysis around to synthesize principles and direction for further action, it is about wholesome development of people.

Many of the readers of this blog have access, either directly or through their friends, to the full text of the message of the House of Justice. In it you will find reference to milestones. Milestones that are along the path of the progress for a cluster of communities to realize their own high destiny. To find these references, to arrange them in some sort of order, and then to be able to recognize, even measure, the progress that each of our clusters make along the road is enough food for thought, enough joy for the spirit, and enough guidance for action.

Here is a prayer. Is it about religion and salvation, or about worldly subjects of prosperity, and what goes on in the city? The answer to both may be yes. So are these two that different?

In the words of Baha'u'llah: "O my God! I ask Thee, by Thy most glorious Name, to aid me in that which will cause the affairs of Thy servants to prosper, and Thy cities to flourish. Thou, indeed, hast power over all things!"

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