Monday, September 19, 2011

In the Context of an Organic Process

Bahá’í institutions operate at many levels. These include local, cluster, regional, national, continental and global. The development of these institutions takes place within the broader context of the process of growth. It is only natural that some of these institutions are more directly concerned with the elements of growth than others. For instance institutions operating at the level of the cluster are almost entirely concerned with processes of growth. While local or national Assemblies will naturally also have duties related to properties, funds, or protection concerns. But while the Assemblies certainly will need to acquire greater capacity to address a multitude of questions, it is equally important that they understand and relate to the processes of growth. We have previously observed that such familiarity cannot be merely at the theoretical level, but must include personal involvement of the Assembly members in the activities, reflections on activities and consultation and planning for cycles of development in neighborhoods.

Maybe we can use an example to illustrate the point. At this time I can only think of a somewhat artificial example, but I hope that my intention becomes clear.

Imagine that we have a few people who are trying to work together and grow some tomato plants. Let us imagine that tomatoes were highly valuable and their society would attach a great deal of importance, honor and respect for any one who could successfully grow tomatoes. Maybe this task was so important that the people in this village had conducted an election, and had elected these few people to be responsible for planting and growing these tomatoes. Now also imagine that these folks know nothing about seeds, nutrients, soil composition, watering, pruning or any other aspect of gardening. Such a lack of practical knowledge, or an absence of a conceptual framework, does not by itself inhibit these people, and they will proceed to formulate their ideas. Each one of these appointed or elected officials begins to make certain proposals and develops plans and schemes for doing their work. They also consult about their work to make collective decisions. But since they do not know very much about the principles of gardening, other factors begin to influence their thinking. Perhaps the social dynamics including competition, popularity, the distinctions among the members, the consideration of whose ideas should be followed, and a host of other questions related to the Old World Order concepts of power and influence become the dominant issues among them.

We can easily see that in the above scenario lack of knowledge about the dynamics of gardening has been combined with secondary and irrelevant considerations related to seeking ascendency over one another, and has completely obscured the real issues. Knowledge has been set aside, and completely overshadowed by biases, prejudices, and narrow-mindedness of the participants in the decision making process.

This condition can be resolved if one person arrives, who is familiar with the chemistry and organic nature of gardening, who has some skills of dealing with tomato plants, and who in a complete posture of humble service sets about to learn about the present conditions of the soil and the climate, and in a modest way begins to try to carry out the necessary tasks. Now knowledge about the natural forces which govern the organic growth of this little garden take precedence over all the interactions among the workers. The nature of the questions change from who should make decisions. The focus becomes the task at hand, and not the personalities involved. It is a high mark of the maturity of the institutions that they have now come to this level of understanding.

Paragraph 29 of the message of 28 December 2010 from the Universal House of Justice expresses the hope that the friends who serve on various institutions carry out their tasks in the context of the organic process of growth. This then represents a new stage in the development of these institutions. The focus moves away from the personalities and is focused on the process of growth.

The study of this paragraph suggests the following questions:

1.     What is the context within which institutions of community administration should develop?

2.     Why is growth referred to as an organic process?

3.     What are some of the privileges of those who serve in various institutional capacity?

4.     What are some of the boundaries implied by these privileges?
Abdu’l-Baha wrote “O ye loved ones of God! In this, the Bahá’í dispensation, God’s Cause is spirit unalloyed. His Cause belongeth not to the material world. It cometh neither for strife nor war, nor for acts of mischief or of shame; it is neither for quarrelling with other Faiths, nor for conflicts with the nations. Its only army is the love of God, its only joy the clear wine of His knowledge, its only battle the expounding of the Truth; its one crusade is against the insistent self, the evil promptings of the human heart. Its victory is to submit and yield, and to be selfless is its everlasting glory. In brief, it is spirit upon spirit.” [Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 257]

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