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Notes:
'Abdu'l-Baha wrote that "a most wonderful and thrilling motion" would appear with the completion of the temple in Chicago and the Kingdom of God on Earth would begin. That year was 1953 and the start of the 3rd teaching Plan, the Ten Year Crusade.


In 1953 Baha'i Administration throughout the world was occupied with its third major teaching Plan. This Administration, the nucleus and pattern of a new world Order, has been part of my experience in a myriad ways for over 50 years, 1953 to 2007. The poetry in this BARL document is about my experience and my reflections on this newly formed system, arguably still in its first century, 1917-2017 and the social context for this Administration. This Administration was established by the Will and Testament of Abdul-Baha and can be regarded as the offspring of that mystic intercourse between Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha.


Bahá'í Administration: 1953-2003:
Pioneering Over Four Epochs, Section VIII Poetry

by Ron Price

published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and A Stidy in Autobiography, Poetry: Section VIII
2006
WAFTING, AT LAST, OVER ALL CREATED THINGS

The transition from a loosely connected movement to a fully organized one can be said to have ended in 1925....But by 1936 the National Assembly...the national committees and Local Spiritual Asemblies were sufficiently strong to come together for the prosecution of an international missionary program.-Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development of Baha’i Administration”, Studies In Babi and Baha’i History, Vol.1, Moojan Momen, editor, Kalimat Press, 1982, pp.258-275.

About 5 in 1000 went to university that year
and most people in the UK ate bread, margarine,
dripping, tea and a little condensed milk
if they were lucky, with tragedy
staring many of the working class in the face,
as conditions slowly rose for most.
The form and pattern slowly set
for a new World Order;
a massive turbulence rose over Europe;
a sense of crisis became endemic
and a reactionary conservatism
gripped people everywhere:
the roaring twenties gave way
to a mythologized hungry thirties
and its equally mythologized Auden generation.

We went to two billion during that decade
as an Administrative Order
served to unify and propagate
the fragrances of mercy wafting,
at last, over all created things.

Ron Price
11 October 1995

PERCEPTUAL CREATION

The question is not what you look at, but how you look and whether you look. -Henry David Thoreau in`The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing and the Formation of American Culture, Lawrence Buell, Harvard UP, London, 1995, p.115.

The year I went pioneering
Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring
was published and the Wilderness Act
was passed.1 Environmentalism had emerged
full-fledged as a topic of public concern
and in its burgeoning poetry.

This was, too, the eve of the tenth
and final stage of history
and the election of the apex
of Baha’i Administration,
the nucleus and pattern
of a future world Order,
where meaning and value,
consciousness and the mythopoetic
power of the human mind,
filled the intellectual gap between my role,
my place and the pervasive placelessness,
the vast absense which filled my head
when I theorized and watched
a 400,000 strong community
unfold the grand design,
keep the ship2 on its course
through yet another epoch.

A structure of meaning and freedom
is found in this Order
and a standard of public discussion
has been slowly emerging,
as this Order has been taking
fuller shape these last several decades
in a new etiquette of expression.
The poet can appreciate the great expansion
which has occurred since the apex was put in place.
It is an Order as much aesthetic as practical,
subjective as objectively realizable,
spiritual as an exercise in number crunching:
there is a religio-aestheticism here
in which we must practice
some kind of institutional therapy
to keep the boring, routine and familiar,
fresh, spontaneous and timeless.

So, I’ve known where I’ve been working
and on what these forty-odd years,
although it has often not been easy.
The places are all on the map,
perhaps two dozen of them,
but the what is based on an evolving understanding.
I might say that my where is as follows:

Near the outer rim
of the first concentric circle
of a vast system whose centre point
is the Bab’s holy dust,
Australasia, the south-west corner
of the spiritual axis in Australia,
Western Australia, Belmont
community of metropolitan Perth
on a flat plain beside the Indian Ocean,
about fifteen minutes by car from an escarpment,
from the city-centre and
from two universities.

and my what is:

a Baha’i and member of a Local Spiritual Assembly
serving as chairman, an international pioneer,
travel-teacher, husband, father, step-father,
lecturer at a TAFE college, poet, middle-aged man,
citizen of the world, student, friend, lover, income-earner.

I have described myself in terms of
this new organic form emerging on this planet.
I am partly one of its products;
I am defined by being confined.
This form acts like some ground conductor
of emotion, belief and conviction
that will take me a lifetime to articulate,
apprehend, describe. And even when I do
99.999% of what takes place within this form
will remain outside my oral or archival history.

My home is here within this vast design
which he unfolded and which I carry ‘round
in my head, in my bones, even if they fade
beyond thought into last traces of dust,
remembered by some cold stone
on a sunlit day and star-lit night.
I carry it ‘round in the silence
of the tongues of the departed
buried all ‘round this home whose design
is carried in their heads too: for there is now
only one home, one place, one humanity.

This vast design, my home, is not without
its complacency, smugness, simplicity,
obviousness. I reach out for an exhuberance,
wonder, freshness to recalibrate the familiar.
to perceptually recreate the universe
in a grain of sand with thoughts too deep for tears.

Ron Price
16 June 1995

1 1962
2 Universal House of Justice, first statement, 30 April 1963.

INVISIBLE REALITY

The only method to knowledge is the method of the artist, for there is no absolute knowledge. All knowledge is stamped with our imperfection, or its, or both. For the world is not a fixed, solid array of objects. It shifts under our gaze and must be interpreted by us, by an act of judgement. The entire experience of life is more delicate, more fragile, more fugitive and startling than we can ever catch in the butterfly net of our senses. -Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, Science Horizons Inc., 1973, pp.353-364.

While this wondrous Administration, the precursor
of a new Order, has been taking form this century,
our very notion of space and time was being redefined
by Albert Einstein. The world we are all in,
we can notexperience with our senses;
invisible to our eyes beyond our touch:
protons, neutrons, leptons, DNA, RNA,

not just meaningless dancing atoms.
Even matter itself we created for the first time
in these days when this Administration
was first taking form. So many immortal creations
in this century: mapping the universe, the mind.
We've seen the universe in a grain of sand

and made our heaven of a flower; infinity and eternity
we now hold in our hand and we can trace all of existence

in less than an hour.

Ron Price
23 March 1996

UNSUSPECTED BENEFITS

It is a stupendous paradox that a god does not only fail to protect his chosen people against its enemies but allows them to fail....yet is worshipped only the more ardently. This is unexampled in history and is only to be explained by the powerful prestige of a prophetic message.. -Max Weber, Ancient Judaism, The Free Press, Glencoe, 1952, p. 364.

It was the very instability and incoherence of Greek political institutions during the Mycenean and Dark Ages, 1600 to 800 BC, that led to a political evolution which was denied to other cultures. Formative ages can be long and tortuous. -Ron Price with thanks to Anthony Andrewes, Greek Society, Penguin, Melbourne, 1987, p.xxiii.

The process whereby its unsuspected benefits were to be manifested to the eyes of men was slow, painfully slow, and was characterized, as indeed the history of His Faith from its inception to the present day demonstrates, by a number of crises which at times threatened to arrest its unfoldment and blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered. -Shoghi Effendi, God Pases By, USA, 1957, p.111.

You came from the plains and the mountains
with nearby river civilizations to fertilise your soil.
Perhaps you went into Egypt back when
horse and chariot were first used in warfare1
and lived for half a millennium there.
Then your lands slipped out of Egyptian rule,
you left for Canaan and fought as an armed group
with the Philistines, Midianites,Moabites,
Ammonites, Aramaeans. And you fought
among yourselves in your tribal and family groups
until the United Monarchy under Saul, David
and Solomon(ca 1030-930 BC).
It had been a long journey.

Things fell apart again and tensions
with the nomadic Bedouins continued
a political and economic warfare.
Extended kinship groups and warriors
quibbled and quarrelled for land,
land has always been a problem.
Rural herdsmen and the settled,
urban population had sharp clashes
as did stock-breeders and peasants
in those lasting antagonisms.

Gradually agriculture replaced
peasantry, herdsmen and artisans.
Town life took the place of the country
and with the towns the urban landlords
and Kings replaced the power of chieftans.
It was not without a long struggle.

Under Solomon(971-932) this ancient
Jewish state began to take its part
on the world political stage
as a kind of oriental despotism
like Egypt with a central administration
and an all-powerful king.
For the next four hundred years(922-538)
Israel took part in a series
of political and military catastrophes
ending in the Babylonian captivity
and a diaspora--you’d get used to them.

During these long years
oracles of a classical prophecy
told of the terror of the Assyrians,
the time honoured ‘law’
of the confederate tribes,
the voice of doom, righteousness
and that distant utopian vision.

They made the moral precepts
of everyday life a duty
and the direction of society
intimately connected with a way of life
in a spirit on constant expectation
and the powerful prestige of a prophetic message.
And so it was that prophets, psalmists,
sages and priests inculcated the Torah
for generations, mostly without success
until the Judean theocratic state
in the fifth century BC
gave a definite direction to Jewish history
through that Torah.

A common, universal way of life emerged
in this Hebrew Commonwealth
as Greece emerged into its golden age
after its long and formative age,
for formative ages are long & tortuous.

Ron Price
26 July 1996

YOU WERE THE BEST OF THEM

Walter Lippman, arguably the greatest journalist of the 20th century, retreated to his pool of silence to speculate on a longer past and a longer future....he refused to sink either into placcid acceptance of the world or into self-satisfaction with his vision.-Ronald Steel, Walter Lippman and the American Century, Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 1980, p.xvii.


When this Order was in its most formative
early years you* were the best of them as you
retreated to your pool of silence to speculate
on our long past and our longer future
and to help your fellow-men adjust to the reality
all around them and their world managed, so you said,
from behind the scenes. Actors in a drama
we did not understand, you said, as we searched
necessarily for some moral perspective that fitted
our experience. You challenged without impertinence
the disorderliness of our democratic society. For
this was your job; you knew it and stuck to it.

You caught the poingancy of a world moving
too fast for ordinary men and knew the asphyxia
of political language-even back then. You knew
that what could not be described and communicated
in words could not be vividly remembered for long;
words and ideas without precise context
make for indistinguishable mumbo-jumbo
missing your flashes of insight, your finesse,

your passionate search for moral order.

Failing to find that needle in a haystack,
that light under a bushel, that earliest flowering of form,
that delicate and lace-like pattern that was then
just emerging, chrysalis-like under some guiding
Hand Whose inscrutable wisdom continued to shape
and direct its course you probably did not even give
it a look. Perhaps your flash-light mind would have
recognized the perfection in that Parthenon-like
structure forty years later and, attracted
by the wondrous beauty of its mountain splendour,
you would have found, at last, that moral order
at the heart and centre of your search

beyond drift and mastery.

Ron Price
10 March 1996

* 1919-1939 were the years between the wars when the first shaping of Bahá'í Administration took place
Walter Lippman was the leading American journalist of the time.

STILL UNOBTRUSIVE

Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies-Nietzsche.

Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
-Santayana, 1905.

It’s all happening pretty fast
in this incredible mix
of time-and-space,
some kind of speed warp
as the century goes down to the wire.

Why, we may have HAL ready.
You remember his calm, eerily
human voice from the film
2001: A Space Odyssey.*

Why, we’re mapping the brain
and the universe and a thousand**
other things as we welcome
the first stirrings of an Order***
that will slowly crystallize and
radiate throughout the planet.

Why, we’re building
the most beautiful world centre
of any of the world religions,

a centre which houses a handful of Dust
whose potency is world-shaking
world-reverberating, but whose exquisite power
remains, still,unobtrusive

Ron Price
3 January 1996

* Charles Arthur, New Scientist, 4 March 1995, p.26.
** Since the 1953, when according to Shoghi Effendi the Kingdom of God on Earth began, there has
been a staggering explosion in knowledge.
*** The first stirrings of this new World Order will occur in the years 1944-2044. Current Baha’i Administration is but the instrument that is the precursor of that Order.

THE YEARS OF 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, it could be argued, had been playing on history’s horizon for some 45 years by 1962, on the horizon of my days as it would for probably my entire life. -Ron Price, “A Reflection on the Years Of 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.

W.G. Runciman discusses the emergence of protostates in post-Mycenean Greece, especially Sparta and Athens. It seems to me that what we are witnessing in our time is the emergence of a global state coextensive with the Revelations of the Bab and Baha’u’llah. -W.G. Runciman,” Origins of States: The Case of Archaic Greece,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol.24, pp. 364-377.
_________________________________________________________

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the days
before a latter-day Pentecontaetia1,
a modern half-century: on the gentle side,
crazy days they’ll be, decades of slow building,
burning, some absolutely staggering burgeoning,
hot tears of light amidst a sea of darkness
in the second century of this Formative Age,
an age amusing itself to death
on an unconsciously rehearsed spontaneity
with an immense, a profound, triviality,
some long night before the dawn
or even in the early hours of morning,
on the brink, years of the tempest
with bleeding humanity behind them
brought to its knees--at last--
in a common remedial effort,
a new spiritual and moral attitude,
some collective identification
with catastrophe, shock and trauma.

Years of obsessions: Liz, Marilyn
and Elvis; anchor men, Oprah Winfrey,
ET, Shwarznegger, monopoly, scrabble
and Sylvia Plath blowing it all away
just before the House was elected,
an apex crowning the new Order
growing slowly, unobtrusively
amidst the detritus, the exploding
knowledge of this latter age:
years of the Lesser Peace.

Ron Price
4/10/96
Revised: 17/1/05.

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.

The modern period preceding a modern Pentecontaetia could be seen as a ‘prelude,’ a hundred-or-more year period beginning in, say, phase one:1917-1937 with Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points at the start of the League of Nations; then phase two: 1937-1963 when the international teaching campaign was launched; and phase three: 1963-2021 when the process of ‘entry-by-troops’ proceded apace in the 1st century of the Formative Age. In 1921 the Guardian began to create the instrument of the Administrative Order; in 1912 ‘Abdu’l-Baha came West and in 1892 Baha’u’llah passed away--these events could mark the years before the ‘prelude.’

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 as the years of my part in this ‘prelude’ to Thucydides’ Pentecontaetia which he describes at the beginning of his ‘History of The Peloponnesian War.’ These were the years when the process of the Lesser Peace was engaging the energies of history. Arguably, this was the period before a modern Pentecontaetia.

THE BABE

The history of the career of George Herman(“Babe”) Ruth can be divided into two basic stages: 1920 to 1927 and 1928 to 1935.....by 1935 Ruth had left the Yankees and his youthful vitality, energy and hitting prowess never returned. He died in 1948.
-Ron Price, from a summary of Ruth’s life in Collier’s Encyclopedia, Vol.20, p.306.

The development of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the USA can be divided into two basic stages: 1922 to 1926 and 1927 to 1936....by 1936 the National Assembly...and the national committees and Local Spiritual Assemblies were sufficiently strong to come together for the execution of an international missionary program.
-Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development of Baha’i Administration”, Studies in Babi and Baha’i History, Vol.1, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1982, pp.260-275.

The year after He came west the Babe’s
career began and as that Order began to
take its first shaping in the late teens and
during that haitus, before the international
teaching campaign began, the Babe’s career
came to its maturity and end. His batting
average was .378 the year of the beginning
of a conscientious and active following of
Baha’i laws and teachings in 1924, just about
fully organized beyond a loose movement; and
as the “World Order Letters” came out year after
year his career slowly came to an end. As he came
to his retirement, the Cause emerged from dealing
with its endless minor problems to propagation and
unifying its own community in its Formative Age while
a beauty not matched by any domical structure since
Michelangelo’s dome on the Basilica of St. Peter emerged
as each of the 735 home runs were hit by the Babe.

Ron Price
23 December 1996

HISTORY IN THE SHADOWS

As the world’s great Depression was beginning to let up and as that apocalyptic second war was becoming a tangible reality in the late 1930s, in those few years between two kinds of hell, with humanity entering the outer fringes of the most perilous stage of its history, a stage we have not yet left, the Baha’i community turned its energies toward worldwide expansion, its first organized international missionary campaign. -Ron Price with appreciation to Loni Bransom-Lerche, “Development of Baha’i Administration”, Studies in Babi and Baha’i History, Vol.1, editor Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, p. 295; and Shoghi Effendi, “Message to 1936 Convention”, Messages to America 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, p.6.


We had the pattern for our Order, our instrument ,
for Administration, in place, we in North America;
we had the fear of God stirring in our soul due to
that devastating crash and wondering when the next
great shake-up was coming---when this vast Plan was
sprung on us from his teeming brain from which sprang
just about our whole conception of what it was all about,
for so little was the little that we knew in that first century.

This wondrous pearl, born from Twin resplendent seas,
having swum in His ocean1 of vision, of mystic intercourse,
our brother who comforted us, though we did not comfort you,
through your books, letters and translations we gained deeper
understandings of the spiritual base of our embryonic order, while
history’s hunkered spectre brooded watchfully in shadows as
millions died chrysalis-birth to an order the world still scarcely knows.2

Ron Price
5 June 1996

1’Abdu’l-Baha was like an ocean in the sense that he could receive and give without any sign of disturbance, Priceless Pearl, 1969, p.21.
2 In the dozen years 1933 to 1945 millions perished in Stalin’s purges and in the battles of WWII: the greatest bloodletting in all of history.

1963 WAS A COMPLEX YEAR

The Baha’i community in 1963, when the apex of its administration was elected, had about half a million adherents. The deep conservatism of society just about everywhere was beginning to undergo a tremendous shift. The question and the issues in relation to this shift are immensely complex. The last several decades are, among other things, the story of this shift. This poem is written from a perspective looking back thirty-four years to London in 1963. -Ron Price with thanks to Spencer Pearce and Don Piper, editors, Literature of Europe and America in the 1960s, Cambridge UP, NY, 1989.

The Beatles, the government and
the flower children got it wrong
back then in ’631: it was a thousand
times more complex than they ever
imagined and right outside everyone’s
perspective—except for a few—as the
tenth stage of history opened as if in
some second generation Garden of Eden.

This grand design2, a million miles from
the Profumo affair, obscenity issues3 and
confessional poetry, 4 was so much more
than Adam and Eve could ever be, a new
beginning with new forces to deploy as
history pursued its predestined course.

Ron Price
26 July 1997

1 The Beatles released their first LP in 1963: Please Please Me.
2 The Universal House of Justice refers to Shoghi Effendi’s vision as ‘the grand design’ in its first letter 30 April 1963, in Wellspring of Guidance, Universal House of Justice, USA, 1969, p.1.
3 In the summer of 1963 a sex scandal dominated English news, the Profumo affair. In 1960 Lady Chatterley’s Lover was established as ‘not obscene’; in 1962 the Vassall case, involving obscenity and homosexuality, titillated English sensibilities.
4 The New Poetry was published in 1962 by Al Alvarez. It contained a strong confessional element.

SECRET

Price developed a poetic mode that was clearly autobiographical, did not try to suppress personality and was unquestionably a voice from three epochs, especially the fourth epoch, of the Formative Age. For this reason he entitled his magnum opus, spread over more than two dozen booklets and three thousand poems now, “Pioneering Over Three Epochs”. His was a voice whose source was personal experience, emotion and intellect, perhaps thirty years of extensive reading and analysis, as well as a community life within the framework of an embryonic World Order that was known as Baha’i Administration.

Price had no special aversion to confession, but he preferred the term autobiographical to describe his poetry. He did not dwell on the darker side of life except on occasions to place that darkness in some balanced perspective, some context of a life process, a certain rhythm of life. His approach was a response to his own inner drives and opinions, his experiences and the profound changes taking place in the three epochs of his pioneering life. The context for his autobiographical witnessing was often just a simple information dispensing with a twist of insight, entertainment, surprise, a kind of subdued emotionalism, a making others feel comfortable, mildly stimulated--by providing some fresh concept or unusual juxtaposition of ideas, with the serious and the light combining in a happy marriage, as it so often was in Australian society. There was rarely any overdone morbidity or raising of any particular emotional stress or intensity, accept on certain occasions.

Unquestionably, Price was present in his poems; they happened to him; words flowed out from a centre that was sometimes himself and mostly “the other”. He used the sonnet form frequently but often the poem felt like a slice of conversation, monologue-soliliquy, confession, letter, a bit-of-self-disclosing, a window to an inner life. Telling the truth, as he was trying to do, seemed natural, inevitable, in poetry. There was a reticence to his confessionalism, a quietness, a privacy, an introspection, but just a touch, just enough to allow his thinking with his feelings to be a judicious blend, through vision and revision, looking out and in. At least that was Price’s goal.
-Ron Price with thanks to Elizabeth Dodd, The Veiled Mirror and the Women Poet: H.D., Louise Bogan, Elizabeth Bishop and Louise Gluck, University of Missouri Press, London, 1992.



Confession led to creation in the right
place and the right time-for a person of
his temperament-anyway much of confession
bubbles into creation; truth itself seems a little
of a lot of things: a recipe of the personal and
the wider world, a few tablespoons of philosophy,
several spices from the cabinet marked: “the search”
and “secret” surrounded everywhere by silence and
expression, isolation and community. The year I became
a Baha’i confessional poetry made its entry in Robert
Lowell’s Life Studies1 and it has not yet run its course
making its necessary deep connection between the
personal and the social as I have tried to do in the
twisting interplay of an intrapsychic globalism and
the metaphorical nature of this spiritual reality in
which I have been immersed, unbeknownst much
of the time, but still enriching my quotidian world
with His brilliant gems of holiness, laid down early
in my days and scattered across my path so that I
may one day repair unto His mystic Paradise forevermore
and discover more of those spaces marked:.....“secret”......

Ron Price
10 July 1997

1 this book of poetry was published in 1959, the year I became a Baha’i, during a period in the life of the Baha’i community sometimes called “the interregnum.”

FAMINE

I’ve been waiting now for over thirty-five years for the world to seek us out and our arrows of truth. I know, deep in my bones, the world desperately needs the massive dose of truth that I have come to be associated with all these years in this new Faith. But, along the way, in these early years of the application of this new InstrumentA, this world-embracing Administrative system, the whole thing has often tasted of famine, of loneliness, of absurdity, of the kind of experience we read about in the character of Yossarian in Catch-22.
-Ron Price with thanks to David Seed, The Fiction of Joseph Heller: Against the Grain, St. Martin’s Press, NY, 1989, pp. 23-33.
-A The Guardian referred to Baha’i Administration as an Instrument, peerless and potent, created by Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha and incapable of being fully understood by the generation of the 1940s. Fifty years later we are starting to understand.

While you were getting your big one1
together in those years I was getting
my big one together, unbeknownst,
in those first years of His Kingdom
on Earth, making my debut in the
quiestest of pioneering forms where
noone makes a big thing of it and one
just slips down the road to the next town.1
Americans were going through crisis at the
edge of oblivion and we were getting ready
to put the apex on this new Instrument he had
forged from that mystic mix: a global system.
You had your war novel, then, and I had His
military metaphor for the famine in our souls.

Ron Price
19 April 1997


1 I pioneered from Burlington to Dundas in August 1962 at the age of 18.
2 Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 was begun in 1953 and published in 1961.

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 my particular 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, of 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 and technology
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

MOULDERING AND MORIBUND BONES

Price was more than a little conscious of his lower nature. He was far, far from conquering it at mid-life. Any spiritual pretensions were kept from getting unrealistic, kept within well-defined bounds; disguised behind an ocean of inadequacy, instinctual urges and natural inclinations, immersed in the allurements and the trivialities of the world and the endless pitfalls of the self. For years it had been a concern of his life to moderate the passions and intensities of his heart, to cool the anger. Since going onto lithium that had at least become a possibility. Indeed, now, the flame burned quietly and tendencies to dominance seemed firmly held in check. His endless poetic discharge was not volcanic, as in the case of artists like Delacroix and others, but more like an old river dropping its silt after carrying it downstream for so long, or a tree dropping its leaves in autumn, buckets of them, up to everyone’s knees.
-Ron Price with thanks to Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, p. 140 and The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, Charles Baudelaire, Jonathan Mayne, trans. And ed., Da Capo Paperback, London, 1964, p.57.

It was an endless pursuit of communion
with God in a sea of instinct and passion,
with the profound and the insignificant all
intertwined, learning from the Master of
Love in the schoolhouse of oneness, on a
line, a road, a journey, forever, forward,
through the jungles, the forests, the tortuous
and stoney paths of human intelligence within
a social edifice, translating the unseen into a
visible, a divine, an organic, artifice, and we,
as artisans, labourers in the Vineyard of the Lord
producing ever more refined versions of all that
He had intended during His brief span on earth
so long ago when He bestowed the Holy Spirit
upon existence’s mouldering and moribund bones.

Ron Price
15 July 1997

1926: ROCKETS TAKING OFF!

In 1926 Robert Goddard achieved the first flight of a liquid-fuel rocket.
-Collier’s Encyclopedia

Here is the foundation of the whole
rocket industry and space travel, just
as the foundation was laid by 1926 of:
the following of Baha’i laws and teachings,
unity in doctrinal affairs, the Administrative
Order from a loosely connected movement,
the national, regional and local institutions
and committees by Shoghi Effendi1—a job
which consumed him and eliminated the joy
and freedom from his human side, this tuning
fork of the Word, this moon, this universal
precipitant, this crystallization of a supersaturated
solution of theory, this expeditious agent, this man
who was not interested in gardening but in gardens,
the garden of the Cause, its master of detail and vision.

It will take a hundred years before this rocket of a Cause
takes off into the stratosphere, propelling this wondrous
creation into the Centre of world affairs when the Tongue
of Grandeur will proclaim: ‘The Kingdom is God’s, the
Almighty, the all-Praised!’ It will take many with that
infinite capacity for work, along that long and stoney road.

Ron Price
29 June 1997

1 Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development of Baha’i Administration”, Studies in Babi and Baha’i History, Vol.1, editor, Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, pp. 255-300.

SCATTERED LIKE STAR-DUST

As Sir Ernest Barker has so illuminatingly emphasized, the whole secular theory of natural law from 1500 to 1800 was engaged in working out little else but a theory of society....Man was primary and relationships secondary. In this new Order, rising out of the ashes of shattered loyalties and the multiplicity of saviours-in-a-hurry, with their inorganic and fixed frameworks, an organically conceived Administration would serve as the nucleus and pattern for a future World Order. Relationships, groups, what came to be called Assemblies were primary and individuals secondary.-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, Heinemann, London, 1970(1966), p. 48.

The old order had ended long before
this new one was born, back then.1
Brilliant sprays of diamonds and gold
‘rose out of the depths of His mysterious
purpose with enough wealth to save the
world, at least by the skin of its teeth, and
other sprays of ideas so fine, scattered like
star-dust from those magnetic poles to tropic
lands, that would save the world: more than
enough divine Tablets, Kitabi this’s and that’s
and the zeal of the Lord, now fully institution-
alized in a new Order spraying us with Its breath-
taking emerald energy and its brilliant inventiveness.

Ron Price
8 January 1997

1 Many theorists, including Nisbet, refer to the old order as the one which fell with the French revolution in 1789.

THIS WONDROUS SYSTEM

You came to see sociology the way I see religion: as the study of integrative institutions and relationships. Of course, there's more we both share in common and points of difference. The comparison and contrast is heuristic.-Ron Price with thanks to Victor Lidz, "The American Value System", Talcott Parsons: Theorist of Modernity, editors Roland Robertson and Bryan Turner, Sage Publications, London, 1991, pp. 22-36.

You were onto something
in that first big book
The Structure of Social Action
published the same year we
promulgated that Plan1,
attending as you did
the non-rational, the normative side
of action systems,
beginning with purpose and meaning
and a general basis for an integrated,
voluntaristic theory of action
to counteract atomism and Marxism
in the thirties, or so they say.

We were developing
our Administration at the time
and, like you, seeing difficulties
as part of an evolutionary process
leading to a greater integration,
what we called victory.
We share a great deal in common:
our theoretical position seems
just about beyond the capacity
of the ordinary person most of the time.
but that will change in time.
We both try to bring together the great traditions-
sociological or religious as the case may be-
in one unifed whole...

By the time I had joined
the great global undertaking in 1959
you were writing about American Values2
but never published-
and now you're gone and
I'll probably never read it all.
We've grown together you and I
and this wondrous System
which you tried to define and
which we will slowly bring into form
in this century and the next
and the next and the next.

1 1937 2 Parsons wrote 300 pages on American Values in 1958/59.

Ron Price
1 November 1997

1926

A decision of the Supreme Religious Court of Egypt, announced on 10 January 1926 in a letter of Shoghi Effendi, may be regarded as an initial step taken by the very opponents in the path of the universal acceptance of the Bahá'í Faith as one of the independent recognised religious systems of the world. Clearly, the Baha’i Faith is not a part of Islam any more than Christianity is a part of Judiasm, although they all could be said to be Abrahamic religions. -Ron Price drawing on Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration, Wilmette, 1968(1928), pp.100-101.

In 1926 Uum Kulthum began to sing with professional instrumentalists to back her up. Up until this time, from 1919 to 1926, she had male family members on the stage behind her when she sang. Initially, she sang disguised as a boy. -Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times, 17 October 1997; and ABC Radio, 15 October 1998, 11:05-12:00 noon.

Unobtrusive events in Muslim lands,
freeing from the bonds of tradition,
these new stars of the east.

At variance with the accepted doctrines
of Islam; the implications of these events
were unknown, then.

Pure, clear voices, as if from on high,
singing during these embryonic days
of a new Order.1

You have both become models now
for an old world in disarray and your
voices will sing out:

your clarion calls, like sweet, sensitive
birds, traces of gold in centuries to come.

Ron Price
16 October 1998

1 Uum Kulthum sang from 1926 to 1975
2 Bahá'u'lláh's voice and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's sang out through the translations of Shoghi Effendi within the nucleus of a future world Order known as Bahá'í administration.

BACKGROUND MUSIC FOR THOSE HIATUS YEARS

George Gershwin composed popular songs from 1919 to 1938, from the time the Tablets of the Divine Plan were made public to the beginning of the International Teaching Plan, the Seven Year Plan, of 1937 to 1944. His music was made for the multicultural world of the 1920s, the 1930s and our world today. His compositions combined: blues, Afro-American, jazz, broadway, classical, gospel, opera, among other musical forms. It manifested so beautifully the philosophy of one-world.
-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, Gershwin: They Can't Take That Away From Me, 17 October, 10:30-11:25 pm.

You gave us a background music
for those hiatus years1
when an Order was being born
and taking its first form.

You gave us sounds we'd never heard
while he2 gave us that leviathan
with beautiful curves so that we
could swim forever in the sea.

Your song form was a serious craft
as the Cause was for him a place to
define those interpositions of Providence.

You gave us songs, eternal, sweet as
Summertime, telling us of our lives
and their transcendental oneness amidst
the trivial and the everyday; while he
defined that global form in a language:
composer, director, producer, inheritor
of an Epic Script for all humankind.

Ron Price
17 October 1998

1 these were the years of waiting before the Tablets of the Divine Plan could be promulgated in the first organized international missionary campaign in 1937. During this period the national Bahá'í administrative system was defined and developed. See Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol.1, "Development of Bahá'í Administration", pp. 255-300.(Kalimat Press, 1982)
2 Shoghi Effendi gave the Bahá'í community a wonderful exegisis of 'Abdul-Baha's, Bahá'u'lláh's and the Bab's writings.

THOSE DAYS

The years just before and after 460 BC saw a revolution in Athenian politics. Democratizing influences, the ballot box, the trial and the law court, a new order enters Athenian life with two men Ephialtes and Pericles. Aeschylus, the major dramatist of the time, wrote The Orestia and won the prize in the drama festival in 458 BC, in the midst of this political reordering. This tragedy contains three plays within it, plays which deal with the sense of right or justice in heroic times, the times of the tyrants and the new time of the polis. One involves the divine, one the human; one involves chaos, one involves order; one vengeance, the other justice. But in the end Aeschylus tries to accommodate the traditional order and the new. There is, too, in this play a clear sense of the absurd. -Ron Price with thanks to Aeschylus: The Orestian Trilogy, Penguin, ed. E.V. Rieu, trans., PhilipVellacott, 1956, p.19.

In the evolving Order that constitutes Baha’i administration, the precursor, the nucleus and pattern of a future World Order, there may come a time when there is a major shift, as there was in Athens, in the nature of the political order of an individual society. I do not know. But there will undoubtedly be a shift from the present politico-legal system to the Baha’i system of law and politics. The nature of that shift is impossible for this generation to determine.
-Ron Price

To live at such a transition
and tell of the old and the new,
at such a turning point, tell of
these days, a taste, a hint, traces,
foundation days, when the Kingdom
of God on earth was just born,
grew in my heart, in dark heart days
of paradigm shifts, dazzling prospects,
a rampant force, bewildering, agonizing
times, sacred remembrances and a holy
seat hastening on Mt. Carmel when God
sailed His Arc and manifested the Men of Baha.

Ron Price
9 December 1998

MY PRIVACY INTACT

An aristocratic culture, the historian J.M. Huizinga has observed, is one in which people imitate some idea of aristocracy, an illusion of heroic being, full of dignity and honour, of wisdom and, at all events, of courtesy. The Baha’i community slowly but increasingly, after the republication of Memorials of the Faithful in 1970, became conscious of an aristocracy embedded in its history and reinvented among its contemporaries. This aristocracy invited admiring attention, wonder and as time went on, a spiritual intimacy. Those that enjoyed aristocratic status historically, had it bestowed on them by Baha’u’llah’s or ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s pen portrait; moderns in the Formative Age acquired the stutus by having it bestowed on them by the Baha’i community in some elected or appointed position of their Administration, or simply by virtue of their distinctiveness as individuals.
-Ron Price with thanks to Richard Gray, The Life of William Faulkner, Blackwell, Oxford, 1994, p.1.

Privacy transmutes personality
into performance; protects one
from the inquisitive, insensitive:
individuality, life itself, rests on
this privacy. In this persona,
this performance, this poetry,
I both reveal and conceal—for
one can not tell all, the sensitive,
bare, vulnerableness. I keep them
away from the forbidden fruit that
has kept me far from the court of
His holiness. I have my wall of
politesse, my shyness, my defense,
my fortress and abode, my preference
for silence, my endless patter for I have
lived for years in a community with words
as its heritage, its universe, its weltanshauung,
my deadpan humour, set-piece answers and
formulaic phrases, surrenduring and retreating
with dignity, with my privacy intact.

Ron Price
28 March 1998

LIFE’S BRUTAL ADVANCE

It was the discovery of poetry more than the circumstances of her birth and upbringing that marked the true beginning of her life. Poetry for her was a self-perpetuating language, recited to still the anger of injustice, to gain an immunity from the strange, to charm and protect her from being the victim that was her mother’s lot, to release her into an unlimited freedom of mind, thought and utterance, to help her cope with the horrors of life. Poetry, for her, was not a drug, a tonic, a soothing syrup, a heady wine, a profound emetic, a strong cathartic, a pretty pastoral constitutional. Poetry was more a result of being blinded by life. The poet in cowardice and in compulsion turned her senses inward against life’s brutal advance.” She sought “the birth of a new poetic bravery that would exchange insight for outsight and be enlightened by grand vistas.”
-Ron Price with thanks to Deborah Baker, In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding, Grove Press, NY, 1993, pp. 3-63.

What an asset you1 would have been
in those years when he, enlightened
by grand vistas and at the beginning
of life’s brutal advance, was giving
this administration its ‘first shaping’,
trying to stimulate that courage amidst
severe challenges, multiple tasks,
a shortage of time, a sombre world
outlook, limited material resources,
untapped and measureless sources of
celestial strength, willing to unhesitatingly
pour forth their energizing influences when
the daily sacrifices and efforts were made.2
Alas, he worked largely alone, then, and you
remained bereft of the call of that Nightingale.

Ron Price
26 May 1999

1 Laura Riding in the 1920s when she expressed these sentiments about poetry.
2 Shoghi Effendi in The Priceless Pearl, Ruhiyyih Rabbani, London, 1969, p.193.

YOU WERE THE BEST OF THEM


Walter Lippman retreated to his pool of silence to speculate on a longer past and a longer future....he refused to sink either into placcid acceptance of the world or into self-satisfaction with his vision. -Ronald Steel, Walter Lippman and the American Century, Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 1980, p.xvii.

When this Order was in its most formative
early years you* were the best of them as you
retreated to your pool of silence to speculate
on our long past and our longer future and to
help your fellow-men adjust to the reality all
around them and their world managed, so you said,
from behind the scenes. Actors in a drama we
did not understand, you said, as we searched
necessarily for some moral persepctive that fitted
our experience. You challenged without impertinence
the disorderliness of our democratic society. For
this was your job; you knew it and stuck to it.

You caught the poingancy of a world moving
too fast for ordinary men and knew the asphyxia
of political language-even back then. You knew
that what could not be described and communicated
in words could not be vividly remembered for long;
words and ideas without precise context make for
indistinguishable mumbo-jumbo missing your flashes
of insight, your finesse, your passionate search for moral order.

Failing to find that needle in a haystack, that light
under a bushel, that earliest flowering of form,
that delicate and lace-like pattern that was then
just emerging, chrysalis-like under some guiding
Hand Whose inscrutable wisdom continued to shape
and direct its course you probably did not even give
it a look. Perhaps your flash-light mind would have
recognized the perfection in that Parthenon-like
structure forty years later and, attracted by the
wondrous beauty of its mountain splendour, you
would have found, at last, that moral order at the
heart and centre of your search beyond drift and mastery.


Ron Price
10 March 1996

* 1919-1939 were the years between the wars when the first shaping of Bahá'í Administration
took place. Walter Lippman was the leading American journalist of the time.

THOSE DAYS


The years just before and after 460 BC saw a revolution in Athenian politics. Democratizing influences, the ballot box, the trial and the law court, a new order enters Athenian life with two men Ephialtes and Pericles. Aeschylus, the major dramatist of the time, wrote The Orestia and won the prize in the drama festival in 458 BC, in the midst of this political reordering. This tragedy contains three plays within it, plays which deal with the sense of right or justice in heroic times, the times of the tyrants and the new time of the polis. One involves the divine, one the human; one involves chaos, one involves order; one vengeance, the other justice. But in the end Aeschylus tries to accommodate the traditional order and the new. There is, too, in this play a clear sense of the absurd. -Ron Price with thanks to Aeschylus: The Orestian Trilogy, Penguin, ed. E.V. Rieu, trans., PhilipVellacott, 1956, p.19.

In the evolving Order that constitutes Baha’i administration, the precursor, the nucleus and pattern of a future World Order, there may come a time when there is a major shift, as there was in Athens, in the nature of the political order of an individual society. I do not know. But there will undoubtedly be a shift from the present politico-legal system to the Baha’i system of law and politics. The nature of that shift is impossible for this generation to determine.
-Ron Price

To live at such a transition
and tell of the old and the new,
at such a turning point, tell of
these days, a taste, a hint, traces,
foundation days, when the Kingdom
of God on earth was just born,
grew in my heart, in dark heart days
of paradigm shifts, dazzling prospects,
a rampant force, bewildering, agonizing
times, sacred remembrances and a holy
seat hastening on Mt. Carmel when God
sailed His Arc and manifested the Men of Baha.

Ron Price
9 December 1998

NO MORE

When I first read Roger White's poem Nine Ascending in The Language of There in late 1992 I felt it was the most apt description of work on the Local Spiritual Assembly. I have since then written several poems that try to capture this experience of working in Bahá'í Administration. I think it is another type of martyrdom. -Ron Price.

Who would want to be a chairman
or a secretary for that matter?
How do some of them keep it up
decade after decade when I've been
ground down to a pulp from an on-
again-off-again for thirty-five years.1
Letter after letter. Meeting after meeting.
Personality after personality. Rub after rub.
Some people actually like it, look forward
to meetings like relish on a twelve inch dog.
It's sure not my favorite form of service!

Tests the patience of Job and the wisdom
of Solomon, guys in another league from me.
You run out of gas if you're a normal sort of bloke:
tiring, uninspiring, like a vertical assent to a mountain
in the sky, often on some craggy, desolate slope,
far, far from green, flowery pastures.

It helps to know the Greeks evolved the polis
during hundreds of years of a Formative Age
of endless troubles. So you turn to humor's saving grace;
you learn to laugh, to oil your way to death
with God's gift of lightness, perhaps acquired no other way.
But you keep moving on, meeting after meeting,
tension as low as you can get it, keep things light,
anything for peace. Post-traumatic syndrome—
but very quiet; noone would know.
You don't talk about it to anyone,
except your wife and your old friend, Joe.
He's been there; he knows the precarious balance.

And you get closer to the Guardian
thinking it was the same for him,
was what drove him to Switzerland,
half-crazy, half despondent, half worn-out,
half reaching for his God on the peaks,
walking, walking, walking, falling exhausted
onto his bed as you, too, are drawn into a
vortex of quietness which speaks only two words:
"no more."
Ron Price1 August 1998
1 my first LSA service was 1966/7, vice-chairman; I am currently serving as chairman.

THE DECAYED CORPSE AND THE PHOENIX


Verdun and the Somme, the two major battles of 1916, were hell on earth. America entered the war in January 1917. In March 1917 Russia withdrew from the war and the Tzar abdicated. The period during which the Tablets of the Divine Plan were revealed, March 1916 to March 1917, could be seen in retrospect as the nadir of western civilization and the birth point of a new age, a new civilization, a new Order.
-Ron Price, a reflection on the period of WWI in 1916-1917.


A million men were mowed down
that year1 as we were given a
glimpse, a wide angle lens, on
hell. There was no gain that year,
no winner. Twenty million saw it
on celluloid. Was this the start of
tempest, armaggedon, the final
anguish of a moribund order?
Was this the birth of a chrysalis,
beginning to take shape as the
spiritual conquest of the world
began its subtle and silent insinuation
into society's heart, arising pheonix-like
from western civilization's decaying corpse?

Ron Price
26 November 1998

1 March 1916 to March 1917: the Tablets of the Divine Plan were revealed that year.
The institutions of a new Order, the nucleus and pattern of a new world Order, which is known as Bahá'í administration, began to form, arguably, in 1917.

THE END OF ONE TYRANNY

The last two centuries are littered with historical events that played, each in their own way, a part in the gradual unification of the planet into one homeland, one country, a oneness that Teihard de Chardin called the planetization of humanity.
-Ron Price


While the Guardian was defining
the nature of those administrative
institutions which were the precursors
of a future world Order, the complex
relationship between national and local
assemblies and the community in general
and pushing Bahá'í groups everywhere
in the direction of better organization
and more unity in doctrinal matters,1
Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic
Ocean2 establishing one more link in a
chain that would end the tyranny of distance
and establish the increasing reality of global
unity, the oneness of the world of humanity.

1 Loni Bramson-Lerche, "Development of Bahá'í Administration", Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol.1, editor, Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, Loss Angeles, 1982, p. 265.
2 20 May 1927 in 33 ½ hours

Ron Price
25 October 1998

A BACKGROUND TO FIND OURSELVES

The poet Muriel Rukeyser said “we need a background that will let us find ourselves and our poems, let us move in discovery.”1 This state of affairs will arrive when we go beyond the present political forms and set up an organic political structure which we in conscience claim as our own and use it in our moral and ethical lives. This “background” that will let us “find ourselves” will arrive, in this age of disbelief, when the poet can supply the satisfaction of belief and of experience without being held back by the structure of taboos generated by public opinion and the fear of displeasing. When people can find, through the poet among other artists and art forms, a new eye, a new ear and more life, they will find themselves. But, as Rukeyser says, “we need a background.” I think that background is the Baha’i Faith, its teachings and its administration. For without this background, I’m somewhat suspicious about our capacity to find our true selves.
-Ron Price with thanks to 1The American Poetry Review, Special Supplement, September/October 1999, “How Poetry Helps People To Live Their Lives.”

You can find your place here
in the flow of time and society,
your completeness
in being at one with humanity,
in the vibrancy of this Revelation,
your judicious etiquette of expression,
your words that bring new fresh, green, life,
your right to self-expression,
the social utility of your thought
and nobler, ampler, signs
of achievement—your own
transformation—your place
in that structure of freedom-
the Administrative Order.1

Ron Price
7 December 1999

1 See the Universal House of Justice, 29 December 1988 Letter.

A TANGENTIAL CONNECTION

Those involved in organizing political, religious and, indeed, any activity at a high level in large organizations must often devote virtually all of their time to the pursuit of their tasks, their responsibilities, their duties. Privations and sacrifice are usually involved in the choice of this type of arduous and devoted work. Only a few can keep up the level of total commitment of time and energy year after year, decade after decade. Some work out a balanced program; some derive a particular pleasure from their work, but eventually all must stop, retire from their world of constant organizational demand and get into a lower gear. Some call this retirement.

“The dynamic forces latent in the Faith,” writes Shoghi Effendi in Baha’i Administration,1 unfold, crystallize and shape the lives and conduct of men.” Service takes a myriad forms as our lives, indeed, unfold and are shaped by the catalytic forces contained within this Cause. There are many conspicuous and inconspicuous manifestations of the revealing power of sincere and honest devotion.2 There are many arduous and not-so-arduous forms of service. Courage is as often private as it is public. There is, too, often a “fuller unfolding in the realms beyond,” as Shoghi Effendi pointed out in writing about the passing of John E. Esslemont.3 We each must work out how the crystallizing effects of the Cause will give shape and direction to our lives and unfold in their manifold aspects the eternal truths of the Abha Revelation.
-Ron Price with appreciation to Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, Wilmette, 1968, 1p.109, 2p. 79 and 3p.98.

Our lives are the children
of our choices. They grow,
too, in certain soils, washed
by spring rains, without which
no growth would be seen.

What is truely conspicuous
in my story? What stands
out after a lifetime of living?
All I can think of is the story
itself, writ down now, and its
tangential connection with this
Cause. For without this Cause
there would be no story at all,
no chronicle of elapsed events worth telling,
no coherent sense of life history,
no dialogue with time,
no desire to scratch the surface
of a lifespan, or attempt
to exhaust its contemplation.

Ron Price
14 November 1999

CONNECTED NOT SEVERED

Storytelling or recounting, which is one of the functions of this poetic autobiography, is one of the two basic operations of intelligence and emerges as one of the concrete acts or practices that verifies equality: not equality of ability, but equality of opportunity through individualisation of learning which honours differences and equality of the sexes. My work is not meant to simply glorify narration or be a form of narcissism, nor is it an exercise in finding my voice, although I suppose my poetry is an expression of all of these processes. My work is meant to be analysed, critically and theoretically, so that it can be connected rather than severed from broader notions of solidarity, struggle and the whole conception of politics found in the Baha’i cause, its history, its administration, its community life and its external affairs.
-Ron Price with thanks to Henry Giroux, “Toward a Postmodern Pedagogy”, From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology, editor, Lawrence Cahoone, Cambridge Mass., Blackwell, 1996, p. 696.

This poetry is tied to
tragic, spectacular and
eventful days..............1
going back to 1844
and beyond, perhaps to
those embryonic years
in the life of Shaykh Ahmad
when the French, the American
and the Industrial Revolutions
were transforming western society...

and going forward to my own times
when the events of several epochs
in a Formative Age were changing
the face of the world, while a tempest
continued to blow, perhaps with a
strength unprecedented in the history
of humankind and unpredictable.

Ron Price
9 November 1999

1 Shoghi Effendi uses these adjectives to describe the events of the nine year period 1844-1853 in his opening lines to God Passes By.

EXHIBITIONISM

Writers often tend to be exhibitionists, if only because they are self-consciously posing for posterity. This exhibitionism is manifested variously by various writers who presume, or assume, that what they write will be carefully preserved for future generations. This writer is more than a little conscious of the historical significance of the times he is living through, as the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice point out to the believers again and again. Whether his Pioneering Over Three Epochs, and especially the poetry section of that work, will be carefully preserved and of use to future generations I can not help but have my doubts. This doubt takes some of the force , the keen edge, the enthusiasm, out of any exhibitionism that might tend to creep into my activity. It removes some of the self-conscious posing for posterity that I might be inclined to manifest in various ways in my writing. But it does not remove it all. I am acutely aware of the Force that underpins this new Revelation and the need, even after the revolution of seventy years, to exercise “the utmost caution....in revealing the true nature of the” institutions of the Cause.1 What I am involved with here is of the utmost seriousness and gravity. This entire writing exercise is part of my tie “to a great action of some kind”, as Andre Malraux put it, part of my being “haunted and intoxicated by it.”2
-Ron Price with thanks to 1Shoghi Effendi in a letter(1929) in Baha’i Administration, Wilmette, 1968(1928), p.184; and 2 Andre Malraux in Curtis Cate, Andre Malraux, Hutchinson, London, 1995, p.xiii.

You can’t eliminate the theatre
in everyday life, the manipulation
of impressions in our moment to
moment, public and private, front-
stage and backstage life. For, in
the end, we create our social self,
our inner world, frame by frame;
we build and rebuild our identity
even as we speak or write or act
and a systematic autobiography1,
life history, detailed personal
narrative, exhaustive case study,
a technique, a method can document
this introspection, as our world
recedes with age, symbols of reality
take on more importance and past,
present and future become one grand
continuum.

Ron Price
11 May 1999

1 Charles Horton Cooley(1864-1929) proposed this as the fundamental method of sociology. It is all part of the ‘social interactionist’ school of sociology that this poem draws on.

IDEOLOGY DEFINED

The best writing on the Baha’i Faith today is less ecstatic and more exacting, less impressionistic and more insightful than in the first epoch of the Formative Age, that is, between 1921 to 1944. There is much commentary in the third and fourth epochs, that is, after 1963, which is informed by disciplinary knowledge of history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, religion, as well as the sine qua non literature. The Baha’i Faith, its history, its administration and teachings, especially since about 1980, has seen a burgeoning of commentary. A great deal of it is by specialists of one kind and another, but they are specialists who are giving back to a Baha’i public and a more general readership a discriminating and enhanced, a sensitive and illuminated understanding of a Movement that is claiming to be the emerging world religion.
-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.

We’re talking independent investigation here,
independent interpretation,
belief in a conscious self
that generates meaning,
texts and a substantial identity,
fashioning oneself and
being fashioned by
family, religion and
all that is one’s culture.

And so I, like my art, my poetry,
am imbedded in communities,
life-situations, a whole panoply
and pageantry of life
over which I have only some control.

And so:

I create this world of words,
a language for my need for belonging
which is not just a way of expressing
nostalgia, fear and estrangement
from modernity, but language adequate
to these times, to the way I live,
have lived and will live,
to the joy I find and
its fleeting and transient solidarity
in an ideology,1 opinion.2
For belief can regulate action,
can be thought worth dieing for
and is clearly imbedded in historical circumstances.

1 the view that knowledge is bound to be historically situated, positioned in a particular set of social interests and therefore contextable from different positions or even within the framework of one’s own position, by others holding that posiiton.
Edward Pechter, What Was Shakespeare?, Cornell UP, London, 1995, p.156.
2 Plato wrote about ‘opinion’ and ‘knowledge’ which could be seen as the embryo of the concept of ideology.

Ron Price
28 October 1999

PLANS

As the Seven Year Plan unfolded in April 1937, after a hiatus of sixteen years; after the gradual articulation of Baha’i administration during the years 1921 to 1937, the Baha’i community was ready with the first stage of its international teaching plan, based as it was on the Tablets of the Divine Plan, written by ‘Abdu’l-Baha during WWI and made public in New York in 1919. While the Baha’is were working toward the fulfillment of the goals of this Plan, the world experienced the worst war it had ever seen. When the Plan ended in 1944, the first century of Baha’i history ended. I was born two months later, during the two year interval between this first stage of the Plan and the second stage, 1946-1953. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.


As the Baha’is were preparing the way
for the first stage, the first phase, of their Plan,1
Hitler was preparing his plan
with nothing less than the spiritual conquest of the planet
at stake—for a thousand years.
Guns and swords and uniforms
would not be the winning combination,
but, rather,
the guns and swords of a virtuous character,
sharper than blades of steel
and sharper than summer heat,
with quiet, unobtrusive methods,
military only in metaphor,
defeating the right and left wings
and driving to the very centre
of the powers of earth.
This was a war worth fighting,
worth living for and dieing for:
the great dramaturgical battle of life.

Ron Price
27 June 1999

1 First Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944; Hitler presented his first military plans in 1937 as outlined on ABC TV, June 26th, 1999, 10:25 pm: Secrets of War: The Ultra Enigma.

THE BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING
OF COMMUNITY BUILDING

The psychologist Alfred Adler argued that the force of anti-social dispositions, preponderant or at least playing a strong role in the social landscape of human nature’s expression in our day, could only be overcome by community feeling. The day for such a community feeling to be created had arrived, Adler argued. The power of community feeling, he thought, would triumph over everything that opposes it. It will become as natural as breathing. The problem for the psychologist is to discover the norms for commuity life, for a unified public morality, so that the individual could integrate his behaviour into the group. -Ron Price, from In Freud’s Shadow: Adler in context, Paul E. Stepansky, The Analytic Press, Hillside, NJ, 1983.

But it has to be the right community feeling,
Alfred, the right set of community norms.

Hitler thought he lived at the turning point.
The millennium had arrived;
the apocalypse was here.
The time for a new community,
a new race of men,
a great cleansing process,
order out of chaos,
the messianic time,
had arrived: meaning, purpose,
direction, enthusiasm, passion,
recruitment, all one-with some
exceptions-spiritually pure.
He had it all, Alfred.
But he had it all wrong.1

Ron Price
2 May 1999

1 While Hitler was promulgating his ‘messianic apocalypticism’ in the period 1933-1945, the Baha’i community was establishing its model of Administration in the USA so that it could launch its international teaching campaign in 1937. By 1945 the Baha’i community had entered the second century of its history and had completed the first stage of the first epoch of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Divine Plan. The whole question of community development, community feeling, was in its very embryonic stages.

A LOST GENERATION

F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American writer, was forty in 1937. He said his face was “aging from within with a drawn asceticism as if from a silent self-set struggle.” He had invented the Jazz Age. Everything had gone wrong for him. His beautiful wife Zelda was mentally ill; he was an alcoholic and in debt. The long madcap party of the twenties was over for he and Zelda, living symbols of the Roaring Twenties, had long ceased to be ‘an item.’ In July 1937 he headed for Hollywood for one last chance to put his life together. In 1945 he was dead.

These were the years, 1937-1944, of the first Seven Year Plan, the first stage of the first epoch of the Divine Plan of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, an international teaching campaign that was the unfoldment of His vision of American’s spiritual destiny. In 1937 the American Baha’i community commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s trip to America. -Ron Price with appreciation to Robert Westbrook, Intimate Lies: F. Scott Fitzgerlad and Sheilah Graham, Harper Collins,NY, 1995, pp.1-15; and Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, pp. 8-13.

You1 saw millions slaughtered
in the trenches, all Gods were dead,
all wars had been fought back then,
or so we hoped and thought,
all faiths had been shaken,
the final nail in the coffin,
no grog, the elixir of revolt,2
you led the way, gorgeous brats
of those Roaring Twenties that
you were, the flawless ones,
slowly becoming doomed youth:
your magic, your bright hope gone—
but jazz, man, was going from strength
to strength across a globalized world.

You were a generation lost
in the tragedy of the depression,
a lost world, an age, as he4 worked
on a new age3, as unobtrusively as
can be, on the organization, the Order,
the practice with the theory in place.
Those World Order letters kept coming,
as Baha’i administration evolved slowly
during that hiatus-time, so that when you
went West to Hollywood in 1937,
the framework was strong enough
to launch that international missionary
program which will keep us all busy
for generations to come.

1 Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, symbols of a generation.
2 The Volstead Act(1919), banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in the USA.
3 The Formative Age began in 1921. 4 Shoghi Effendi R Price 19 May 1999

ARTISTICALLY FRAMING REALITY

It is the business of this writer, and the essence of poetry as I see it, to discover and frame artistically a vision of reality. I try to show, through my poetry, how the Baha’i System, its effect, its study, its depths and heights, can enrich a sensibility, can mature and educate a writer, a poet. My entire life, as revealed through this body of poetry, shows the unifying thread of this wondrous System and my participation in It over three epochs. But one of a mere handful amidst the seething masses of humankind, who took part in the process of the slow crystallization of a Movement, an embryonic world religion, a chrysalis-Faith, I am confident that after a toilsome life of service I shall “be gathered”, as Shoghi Effendi put it,1 “to the glory of Baha.” Conscious though I am of a lifetime of ‘mighty sins and grievous trespasses’2 of omission and commission and my consequent need for those instruments of redemption into which Baha’u’llah transmuted His tribulations, I possess great confidence in His bounty and my hope is revived.2 My heart has been prone to evil. The work has not been easy and I have been much in need of His care and protection.
-Ron Price with thanks to Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, Wilmette, 1968(1928), p.34; and Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations, Wilmette, 1969(1938), p.210.

An essential part of my art, my poetry,
is what you might call social involvement.
Struggle here is directed both to an inner
world and an outer one. And it is in this
battle, this contention, that much of its
meaning is found. My poems are, indeed,
structures which imply and reveal directly:
moral, social and non-partisan poltical concerns.
Language is a means by which this System
defines, influences and introduces patterns
of thought as part of a new vision of society.
And, in the process, I preserve, construct,
my own self—my public and private worlds—
in the face of an immense global complexity,
from moment to moment, rebuilding as I go.

Ron Price
2 May 2000

LOVE GODDESSES AND A NEW ORDER

Since the first motion picture in 1895, the cinema has provided a succession of generations with models of behaviour, with conventions that help instil ideology, that help legitimate dominant institutions as well as traditional values.1 About the same time as the film industry began, the process of the institutionalization of charisma began in the Baha’i Faith. The year was 1892. By the 1930s this process evolved into an institutional form known as Baha’i administration. While millions of people in western society were soaking up a new generation of images of the female in the 1930s, an embryonic world Order, an Order that would evolve out of the instrument that was Baha’i administration, completed its first form. The organizational form that was the Baha’i community completed its first significant shaping by 1936 and launched its first Plan in 1937, under the guiding hand of Shoghi Effendi.2
-Ron Price with thanks to 1 M. Rijon and D. Kellner, Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film, Indiana UP, Bloomington, 1990, p.1; and Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development of Baha’i Administration,” Studies in Babi-Baha’i History, editor, Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, p.295.


When a new generation
of love goddesses were
turning on a whole world;
when Marlene Deitrich,
Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo
and Mae West were warming
the hearts and providing new
models of womenhood on the
screen, back in the thirties.......

Shoghi Effendi was writing
his World Order Letters,
defining the first model
of Baha’i administration
and giving a kick-start to
the Plan of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

Alfred Lunt tested the American
NSA to its limits and Martha Root
was elevated to a galaxy of immortals
as shades of night descending on
an imperilled humanity deepened.1

1 Shoghi Effendi, Cablegram, 30 August 1939.

Ron Price
14 August 2000

POETIC UNDERPINNINGS

The Australian poet A.D. Hope passed away on 13 July 2000, thirty-two years after he retired from teaching and one year after I did. A panel discussion took place on ABC Radio National on 19 July on the program “Arts Today:” two professors of English Literature and a biographer of Hope’s life examined his poetry and his life. Several aspects of the discussion stood out to me. Hope saw the poet as a conduit for the myths and forces of history; he saw the poet as a transformer of being into song and a deepener of human consciousness. Hope found in the writings of Thomas Aquinas an expounder of the role of the poet, if he replaced Aquinas’ orientation to God with his own orientation to the poet.
-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 19 July 2000.

I certainly see myself as a conduit for the great myth that is Baha’i history and Baha’i administration, that is, their metaphorical nature, their inner significance, their dramatizing of the spiritual path, their translation of the spiritual kingdom into physical form. Hope’s view of the poet as transformer of being and deepener of human consciousness is also a view I share. Emily Dickinson occupies the role for me that Thomas Aquinas did for A.D. Hope. The following poem is a good example of my slight rearrangement of Dickinson’s poem Number 42. Her sentiments in this poem are quintessentially those of a Baha’i.
ibid.

Another day! Help!
Your prayers, oh departed souls!
And mine from such an ordinary place
as this--might date a victory!
On such a simple marshalling of time
my life, and soul, does swing,
Dear soul of mine,
what issues on thee ring!

Ron Price
19 July 2000


ROUTINIZATION OF CHARISMA IN A POLAR NIGHT OF ICY DARKNESS

In Max Weber’s view, the mindless momentum of bureaucratic structures and cultural traditions, which are themselves governed by pragmatic adaptation to reality and the systematic calculation of consequences, leading to routine regulations and deadening routinization, could be broken by the appearance of ‘charismatic authority.’ The charismatic leader, on the basis of extraordinary gifts, was able to introduce into history emotions that endow life with meaning and arrest the technical forces of disenchantment and bureaucracy. -Ron Price with thanks to John Patrick Diggins, The Promise of Pragmatism: Modernism and the Crisis of Knowledge and Authority, University of Chicago Presss, Chicago, 1994, p.31.

When you1 arrived at the head of this Cause
a whole philosophy of charisma was ready,2
as an intellectual support of your position,
but alas, you could not read German
and had too much to do anyway,
in your new role as Guardian.

Charisma was, he said, arguably
a way out of our disencantment,
an annunciation and promise3
becoming articulated
in a religious tradition
right under your nose and ours
by means of what he called
routinization:4
conceived against custom
and vested interest
in mysticism,
what he would have called
the irrational
and which you had to face
in a polar night of icy darkness.5

1 Shoghi Effendi
2 Written by max Weber and published in the early 1920s.
3 K. Miyahara, “Charisma: From Weber to Contemporary Sociology,” Sociological Inquiry, Vol. 53, p.377.
4 Weber’s term
5 Weber’s description of post-war Europe.
---Ron Price 12 April 2000
RESHAPED BY FIRE

It took me virtually forty years to distill within the vessel of my mind and heart what had been the prima materia for my lifetime's work.1 This prima materia had been acquired insensibly in my years nine to fifteen and it was supplemented and clarified over and over again with the years. What had slowly insinuated itself into the bosom of my convictions by 15 and which was to burst forth again and again in the following years in different forms: prayer, pioneering, service in the administration, writing, work and meditation, had become a stream of lava forty years later by the age of 55. It was a stream that had just begun to flow in my forty-ninth year in 1992. The heat of its fire has reshaped my life.

My initial impulse to believe in those years of late childhood and early adolescence; and in later adolescence the desire to accomplish something in life with my mind and heart fully, passionately, engaged, found a home and a goal for those aspirations in the stories I heard of Tabriz and Akka and in an enchantment by some mysterious Fragrance I do not understand even to this day. My need then, as quiet, unhurried and insidious as a seed, had indeed found a home by 1959. It had been met in ways I could scarely appreciate or value by the time I began my pioneering adventure in 1962 at the age of eighteen.

My mid-life transition of 39-42 has been, long ago now, negotiated2 and in my forties my life was restabilized for middle adulthood and what might well be the long road of late adulthood and old age. The task of the second half of my life to bring about a greater wholeness, roundedness and groundedness, what I had begun but only superficially in the first half of my life for I had so much to do and learn and had to scatter my net wide, had now begun in earnest, in a more concentrated form. I appear to have found that second wind which will now allow me to go on forever, even unto eternity. -Ron Price with thanks to John Raphael-Staude, The Adult Development of C.G. Jung, Routledge and Kegan Paul, Boston, 1981, 1p.45 and 2p.15.

If I live to be 90 I will enjoy
some forty years
of this concentration
and attain that greater wholeness,
roundedness and groundedness
that I could never achieve
when life was raining down
on me in earnest: raising kids,
going to work, earning a living,
always there was earning a living.
And sex was always wished for
with its sharp frustrations.

The heat was always on
as I searched, endlessly searched
among the spiritually hungry
to erect the fabric of this new Order.

I am finding in these latter years,
that the heat of this fire
is reshaping my life, yet again,
in new and quieter ways,
emotions recollected in tranquillity,
still launched as I have been
already for forty years
on this my main business,
the single enterprize of my life,
this one idea, this one goal,
to penetrate my society
with the teachings
of this new Faith:
everything in my life
can be explained
from this central point,
this one theme.1

1 Jung expressed the same idea, only for him the one idea and theme was 'the secret of personality.' Jung was, among other things, a personality theorist. Staude, op.cit.,p.66.

Ron Price
9 January 2002
THE LABYRINTH

The poet's weapons against life's humiliations, disappointments and failures consist of imagination, memory, comprehension, understanding, thought, analysis and a common faculty which communicates between these inner powers and the outward senses. Suffering cannot be prevented, eliminated, but the Bahá'í teachings suggest many ways, techniques and philosophies to help one cope. Focusing one's thinking on a single point; 1 making one's learning a means of access to the Most manifest;2 seeking the confirmations of Bahá'u'lláh;3 seeing the good;4 developing courage by teaching the Cause,5 among many others. In addition, the poet's inner faculties deal with the world's complexities, analyse the problems, focus on interrelated fragments of reality, counter discouraging tendencies and the abyss of the sense of failure; develop several projects, themes and tasks so that one area is always rich in promise, there is always one element to nourish the waiting and the hope.
-Ron Price with thanks to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, Haifa, 1978, 1-5.

Fear comes insidiously like a seed,
but there is much ease in my world
of dream and doubt,
where I surrender to my manias,
cultivate my idee fixe,
wallow in it at leisure,
keep the stimulant coming on,
get winded and renewed,
for always there must be renewal.

Always, too, there are the goals:
the big ones that retreat
and the near ones I bite off.
Living in the future is a motor
where something keeps brewing.
Always the battle,
always on my own ground,
at the place of my choosing,
probing thrusts in many directions,
where even my defects
have an important function.

And so, my mind frets
in this labyrinth,
deluged with messages,
in quest of a sign, a wink,
an unforeseen connection,
pacing about, looking for a way,
a glimmer of light, ceaselessly,
from exaltation to melanchology,
fatigue and disappointment
and back again.

Ron Price
28 July 2001

Whyalla had four Bahá'ís in July 1971 when we arrived from Canada. The world had some 40,000 localities in the early 1970s and, by the beginning of the Seven Year Plan in 1979, that number had doubled. The future, as the House had predicted, had been "bright with intimations of thrilling developments." When I baorded that jet in Chicago on July 9th 1971, I had no idea I would be spending the next thirty years in Australia--and quite possibly the rest of my life. We touched down in Sydney at 7:12 am on July 12th, took a plane to Adelaide, visited hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone and his wife Madge and drove up to Whyalla.

The teaching work in Whyalla is a story in itself. Wife swappers, a mountain of youth who had nothing to do on a Friday night and found us 'attracitve' 'curious' 'interesting.' I search for the words that led to this inundation of people to our house on Friday evenings. Often as many as forty or fifty would arrive. We'd have a room for the serious chatters, a room for the musical types, a room to eat, drink and chat, the cool backyard if you wanted some air. We had something for everyone and everyone came. At this state of my writing the story, my intent is to just get a borad outline on paper. At a future time I may write in more detail about this absolutely incredible experience of humanity in this semi-desert country of South Australia.

On December 12th 1972 Judy and I headed for Gawler in South Australia. I had got a new job teaching in South Australia's first open plan secondary school. Gawler had perhaps ten Bahá'ís at the time. I don't think the LSA of Whyalla ever met again, but that is another story. This second summer in South Australia I remember reading books to get away from the heat. Mainland Australia in the summer can be quite ferocious with high temperatures. In early February I began my work at Para Hills High School teaching the humanities and social sciences to grade nine and ten. Judy had a job teaching and slowly, insensibly, over the next eight months our marriage completely disintegrated. In the winter I appled for a job in Tasmania and in ealry September 1973 I was offered a job as Senior Tutor in Human Relations at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. My human relations on the home front were not too impressive but I was able to comvince the interviewers in Tasmania that I could do the job of training primary and secondary teachers in the arts of human relations and interpersonal skills.

60
Coming across Samuel Johnson’s essay on Conversation has stimulated this comment on the same subject after the experience of nearly forty years of pioneering over three epochs. I insert this comment here because in February 1972 a paradigm shift occurred in my professional life as a teacher. It was a paradigm shift involving the power of the word, of conversation, a power in the art of human interaction.

“The faculty of giving pleasure is of continual use” says Johnson. Those who are able to give pleasure in this way are frequently envied and when they leave they are missed, he goes on in closing the first paragraph of his useful and pithy analysis. In my early years of teaching the Cause, of employment, of moving from place to place, I was not able, on entering a room, to bring a sense of felicity; when I left my departure was not lamented. My presence did not inspire gaiety nor enliven people’s fancy. At least that is how I recall most of the first ten years of pioneering.

This inability was not due to lack of knowledge or a proportional lack of virtue; for in the first years of my service to the Cause as a pioneer I completed my high school, my university and my vocational training. I prayed frequently, read the Writings and, indeed, as I often point out to my son, my friends and associates, when the opportunity arises, I felt more virtuous than after these many years of life’s practice. Insensibly, after a decade as first a homefront and then an overseas pioneer, I found myself able to entertain, to give that pleasure which Johnson speaks of and which is, indeed, essential if one is going to be an effective teacher, either in classrooms or in a wide variety of other places promoting the teachings of Baha’u’llah. A forgiving eye, a sin-covering eye, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha calls it, is essential; for noone wants to be under the watchful eye of someone who feels some uncontestable sense of superiority. And I did feel that sense of superiority in those early years in the field. I felt a sense of moral superiority: clear, graphic, open, subtle, insinuating.

I did not possess a “wit whose vivacity”, as Johnson puts it, condemned “slower tongues to silence.” I was alternativley silent and uncommunicative and at other times a ready word was on my lips. Gradually, I was able to hold my tongue and let others say their piece. My knowledge was not dominant, domineering; my critical eye was not pervasive; my reasoning did not condemn those whose minds were more idle. For to do so, as I was only too well aware, would be to obtain praise and even reverence from my fellows, but I would have been avoided and even feared. My words would not have attracted the hearts which was the essential prerequisite of the teaching process, in or out of classrooms. My aim was to please. And please I did. From February 1972, after ten years in the field, to April 1999 there was a reciprocality in the conversational process, mutual entertainment, but nothing too quick, too sprightly, too imaginative, nothing to distort the face without a deeper gladness of the heart underneath, as Johnson emphasizes in his criticism of the overly bright and enthusiastic.

Of course, there are usually many views of just how one is doing in life. My wife offers a more moderate, a more moderating tone and perspective on just how successful I am and have been, than my own more enthusiastic view. Many of my students found me a gentleman who approached saintliness, extreme knowledgeability and a delightful sense of humour. Other students would have gladly confined me to oblivion as a useless weed. One can not win the day in every way with everyone. We are all many things to many people. At the very least the pioneer must learn the art of loving, of pleasing, of bringing pleasure, reach as many hearts as he can. This was my own aim, my own particular approach. This is a long and extensive subject but, to start, he at least must have gladness in his heart and it is this gladness that is infectious, that attracts by example. But, again, this must not be carried too far, with too much intensity, too much brightness. A certain moderation of tone and demeanor is helpful.

Indeed, as Johnson goes on, a good-natured personality is important to bring to the conversational milieux. To take on board criticism, to be unmoved by whatever confusion and folly surrounds him and to be willing to listen; these are all essential and useful traints. All of this brings, promotes, induces, a certain cheerfulness, and sometimes friendship.

Of course, conversation is not all. Some of the ablest conversationalists I knew over those years, for the most part in the tenth and final stage of history, were people who suffered a great deal and found human interaction very frustrating. Although I was able to connect with hundreds of people in the small country town of Katherine from 1982 to 1986, I was not able to connect with my boss and I suffered a great deal from my inability to deal with him effectively. My talents in Perth did not enable me to work happily with the LSA in Belmont. After a dozen years in Perth I was worn out in spite of any verbal talents I had acquired.

There is a rhythm in life, in both conversations and in the flow of pleasure and pain to our sensory receptors; and our happiness in life depends to a very large extent on the depth of our understanding of this life process and our capacity to regulate our own life to its rhythm. Opportunity without capacity produces stress. The pioneer is given many opportunities to find out the limits of his or her capacity. Stress is just part of the ride.

In 1972 and 1973 I had two years of very successful teaching experience. I was well liked by my students and highly regarded by my peers. After many years of low degrees of success and high degrees of failure the feeling of success in my professional work was intoxicating. It seemed to have no effect on the proces of teaching the Cause in 1973. There was no entry-by-troops that year and when I arrived in Tasmania on January 1st 1974 I had lost whatever expectations I had had of finding a high rate of enrolments here at the ends of the earth.

I was on the even of my thirtieth birthday and back in a Bahá'í community of about half a dozen. I missed my wife, Judy, terribly, but this was soon remedied with a series of three girl friends which culminated in a de facto relationship by April with a woman who is now my wife, Christine Sheldrick or Christine Armstrong, for that was her married name. And here is a poem about that relationship which was just beginning here.

MARRIAGE

Frieda loved D.H. Lawrence, even if he drained her emotional reserves or failed to fulfil her needs. The marriage had become her life’s work and it’s disappointments were inevitable. Frieda believed she had what few women ever have: “a real destiny.” The marriage was also Lawrence’s life work, although he acted under a different set of assumptions: a belief in the sanctity, worth and permanence of the institution. He also had a belief in the rescuer’s responsibility for the rescued(Frieda). Divorce was putrid and out of the question. Separations, though, were frequent. -Ron Price with thanks to Janet Byrne, A Genius for Living:The Life of Frieda Lawrence, Harper Collins, NY, 1995, p. 316.

Love was not a word that either Price or his wife liked to use to characterise their emotional attachment to each other. They both found it too abstract. They both had had their disappointments, disappointments largely ironed out in the first two decades of their marriage. Price believed he had what few people ever have: “a sense of destiny.” Price believed he had done a rescue job on his wife, on Chris, the rescued. They both acted under the assumption that marriage was a challenge, something worth working at and, hopefully, permanent, although divorce was an option which, by the beginning of the third decade of their relationship, was rarely contemplated. A sharing of solitude, “an exchange of two solitudes”, as the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset put it, was certainly a philosophical view that underpinned his marriage, as Price saw it. -Ron Price with thanks to Ortega y Gasset, Man and People, p.50.

Marriage in the third and forth epochs
of the Formative Age was an unstable
affair in and out of the Baha’i community,
but, however unstable, I found it
that fortress-for-well-being especially
when pioneering and travelling
from pillar to post, producing
he who will remember His Lord
and thus acquiring the means
of attracting perpetual grace.

And that barrier, there was always
that barrier, a solitude
in the heart and soul of man
and woman, a mystery
that is the Source of their light and life.

Ron Price
24 May 1999

VICISSITUDES

In Price’s generation(1944-2000), the generation of his parents(1895-1944), grandparents(1870-1895) and great-grandparents(1844-1870) a titanic new force emerged under the frame of Baha’i Administration, a force which would in time evolve into a World Order and which would be in the ascendent for many generations in future centuries. This tremendous movement did not erupt from the mouth of a single crater but, rather, evolved unobtrusively at hundreds, nay thousands, of locations around the globe. By the year two thousand it had established its embryonic form and pattern in one hundred and eighty one countries and over a hundred thousand localities. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 19 May 2000.

In Price’s generation this nucleus
of a future world organization
spread across the surface of the
earth and his inward response
to massive external vicissitudes
over thirty years of difficult working
within this nucleus was to reflect on
his life in endless poetic form and to
acquiesce, as best he could,
to the internal vicissitudes
that seemed to inevitably dog his path,
over which he had little to no control and
from which he could only ask for foregiveness.

Ron Price
19 May 2000.

A DANCE TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER

By the mid and late 1930s jazz had become the defining music of the generation, the generation that was then coming into its teens. Jazz seemed to unleash forces and energies like rock 'n roll did twenty years later. Like rock 'n roll, too, it seemed to possess a physicality; it released pent-up emotions; it was pure pleasure; it was a form of escape and it was entertainment. As jazz emerged so, too, did Bahá'í Administration. In 1937 Bahá'í Administration had developed sufficiently to take on a teaching Seven Year Plan. Between Benny Goodman becoming the generation's icon of popular music by playing at Times Square to a packed house of teenagers in the Paramount Theatre in March of 1937 and his band's contest with Chick Webb's band at the Savoy Ballroom in May of 1937, this Seven Year Plan began. -Ron Price with thanks to "Episode Five: Jazz: Pure Pleasure," ABC TV, 9:30-10:30 pm, 27/10/2001.

It exploded, completely unknown,
overnight, or so it seemed,
to the generation who began
that Plan in '37. In reality,
it had been slowly developing
in theory and form for nearly
a century, well, if you go back
to that magic year of 1844.

Jazz was becoming popular
the way we would have liked
to be popular, but our Plan
was a slow release model,
an experimental disposition,
a dance to a different drummer,
with the light and lyrical,
exquisite touch of an Eddy Wilson,
the often sad, slow pace
of a Billy Holliday or a Glen Miller
popular romantic-swing.

Men and women working
together, composing on-the-spot,
everyone in harmony,
moving toward elegance and joy:
that was one way of defining
what our aim was too
in those early Bahá'í Groups
and Assemblies beginning
in those first-days-of-form,
days of Administrative vision,
when we started our dreaming.1

1 When Duke Ellington was asked what he was doing when he was playing jazz on the piano, he said "I'm dreaming."
-----------Ron Price 27 December 2001

A NEW VITALITY

There was a new energy and vitality that came from the American theatre and its stage in the first two epochs of the Formative Age(1921-1963). Playrights like Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neil and musical like Showboat, Oklahoma and West Side Story
brought a new spirit to the American public and its theatre audiences. It was this same vitality, this same energy, this same spirit that helped the Guardian lay the foundation for Bahá'í Administration in the U.S.A. by 1936 and that led to the successful completion of the two Seven Year Plans and the Ten Year Crusade in the U.S.A. by 1963.
-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, 18 May 2001, "Changing Stages: Part 3-America," 9:30-10:20 pm.

You gave new life to the old,
spread it around the world,1
ignited the sixties in your way,
set me alight, sent me north
and as far from home as I could go.2

It had been there in the beginning
in the Tablets
and in Bound East for Cardiff
in 1916.3

1 American theatre gave new life to British theatre in the 1950s and 1960s; American Bahá'ís pioneered all around the world during the Ten Year Crusade, bringing new life.
2 Australia was as far away as one could go from Canada.
3 The 'Tablets of the Divine Plan' were begun in 1916 and Eugene O'Neil's first one act play, 'Bound East for Cardiff,' was produced in that same year.

Ron Price
18 May 2001

COUNTRY MUSIC AND THE BAHA’I FAITH: 1920-1970

According to one history of Country Music1 this popular form of modern music had its official beginning on August 1st 1927. On that day in Bristol Tennessee Ralph Peer signed Jimmy Rogers and the Carter Family to recording contracts with Victor Records. At the same time, in 1927, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States was developing greater stability and greater respect for its authority so that nine years later, in 1936, it was ready to implement a global teaching program.2 1Roughstock Productions, “History of Country Music,” Internet Site, September 11th, 2005; and 2Loni Bramson-Lerche, Development of Baha’i Administration,” Studies in Babi-Baha’i History, Vol.1, editor, M. Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, pp. 255-300.

They moved beyond just fiddle tunes
in those entre des guerres years-----
a thing called Country Music was born;
and they moved beyond small pockets
of ingrown and amorphous groups
into a well-organized religion.
Gradually a subtle thing was born---
so slowly, so unobtrusively,
hard to define---national consciousness:
in Country Music and the Baha’i Faith.

The first singer to have a nation-wide
country hit in May 1924 was Vernon
Dalhart’s The Wreck of Old ’97.
And the first use of the term Assembly
for an elected body was in 1925
as he instructed: exegisis evolving
with community serving the future
as well as the present oriented to action.

Then that band ‘The Sons of the Pioneers’1
got going in the Seven Year Plan where
another set of pioneers got going too
and Nashville became one permanent home
and an administrative order the other.

In the 1960s Country Music became
a multi-million dollar industry
and the Baha’i Faith won a unique,
quite incomprehensible victory,
institutionalized the charisma
of Its remarkable Founder while
the trustees of the global undertaking
set in motion a century before
set about the NineYear Plan.

1“CountryMusic,”Wikipedia, Internet Site, 2005.

Ron Price
12 September 2005.

BOOGIE-WOOGIE

Popular jazz history usually places boogie-woogie in the 1930s just at the time when the Baha’i administrative apparatus had developed to the point when the teaching program enunciated in some detail in the Tablets of the Divine Plan could finally in 1937 be put in action. The origins of boogie-woogie are as obscure as those of any basic jazz form,1 but this is not the case with the origins of Baha’i administration. The processes which animated the early forms of Baha’i administration could be said to be often “complex and elusive.” Its central concerns sometimes “cannot be easily identified;” the sources for a future account are still largely untapped and described in detail; Baha’i Administration was in the years 1887 to 1937 only slowly crystallizing in the eyes of the world, its implications and significance only imperfectly understood.2 The preliminary steps aimed at “the disclosure of the scope and working of this Administrative Order” had first been taken more than fifty years before3 but, with ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s western tour in 1912 it began to take on more definite form. So, too, did boogie-woogie acquire more definite form when it reached Chicago in the years of WW1 just after the visit of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and before the formal revelation of the Tablets. –Ron Price with thanks to: 1Nat Hentoff and Albert J.McCarthy, Jazz, Cassell, London, 1959, pp.107-109; 2Peter Smith, “The American Baha’i Community: 1894-1917,” Studies in Babi and Baha’i History,Vol.1, ed. Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, p.85 and 3 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Wilmette, 1957(1944), p.329.

Both were products of a definite,
a limited set of circumstances
and had, therefore, a range of
expression that was not wide.
Yet they both derived their strength
from their confinement, like a river
that flows quickly in a channel
that is narrow but deep. They drew
their power from being closely
related to the life of their audience,1
the participants in this new form.

And so the first stirrings of this
new Order, the mighty processes
set in motion half a century before,
were irresistibly unobtrusively
unfolding; then, as boogie-woogie
was at its height in 1937 a new Plan
was conceived and gradually
a most wonderful and thrilling motion
appeared: the Kingdom of God began.2

1 See Max Harrison, “Boogie-Woogie,” in Jazz, N. Hentoff, Cassell, London, 1959, p. 109.
2 1953 in Chicago.

Ron Price
August 21st 2005

DECEPTIVELY CASUAL

When Baha’i administration had developed sufficiently in North America, a teaching Plan was discussed and launched in 1936-37. Frank Sinatra began by promoting American popular song as it was written in the 1920s. His career began just as the Baha’i teaching Plan was starting in the mid-1930s. He was still promoting his songs sixty years later in the mid-1990s. He died in May 1998. Some say he was the most popular musical figure of the 20th century with his only rivals being Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and the Beatles. He sang in the background more than any other singer for the first sixty years of the Divine Plan(1936-1996).-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, June 13th 2005.

You helped give the Formative Age
its kick-start with a persistence,
a persona, we could have emulated,
with your deceptively casual style.

You helped give my life its kick-start
but, I must confess, I hardly knew you
back then: even in the summer of ’59,
when you released that ballad collection
No One Cares2 just months before I
joined that new religion in Canada.1

I was busy playing baseball, hiting
home runs and mowing them down
on the mound…..learning French,
still in love with Susan Gregory
and half a dozen other girls…..
who were always out-of-reach…
listening to a new rock-‘n’-roll
and watching my dad go through
his final phase of life on its sad
and slippery road of retirement
and a slow death….sorry Frank,
I hardly ever knew you.

2 The Baha’i Faith had been in Canada for just on 61 years in October 1959 when I joined the Baha’i Faith. Until 1948 this Faith had 555 members in total: 1898-1948(Will C. van den Honoured, 1996). From 1949 to 1959 the number of Baha’is in Canada went from about 200 to 800.
1 Slimeboy, "The Nights Are Endless Things: Sinatra's Disque Noir,”
Rate Your Music: Internet Site, 2005(PTO for Review of the album No One Cares).
Sinatra used to refer, only half-jokingly, to No One Cares as the suicide album, adding that it should have been sold along with a .22 calibre revolver. No other album of his or any other pop singer's, (though Judy Garland's Alone perhaps comes close) is as relentlessly, as obdurately gloomy as this one. Recorded at his commercial and artistic peak but pervaded by an awareness of loss and failure, No One Cares is not only a cry from the heart of one suffering the 'pangs of dispriz'd love' but a downbeat hymn to American urban despair.

It finds a man dwelling in his own measure of that despair, 'alone and parted far from joy and gladness' - but a man nevertheless intent on relating his tales of romantic anguish before he says his farewell to life. The album is less an invitation to share in his misery than a warning to the rest of us that we have yet a chance and hope of escaping his fate.
Sinatra renders the album's eleven songs with the utmost sensitivity and technical refinement, intoning their lyrics so as to convince us he's lived every moment of them, and that every moment continues to be all but unbearable. If his interpretive genius consists above all in his way with a ballad - and I believe it does - then No One Cares qualifies as one of the surest masterpieces in the Sinatra catalogue. It went underappreciated for more than 40 years(1959-2002), but the tide has begun to turn at last.

"When No One Cares" The title track was composed for the album by Van Heusen and Cahn. It sets the album's tone and is a pretty good song in its own right, though I'm not sure it's ever been recorded by another vocalist. No need for it to have been; Sinatra renders it definitively.

The album contains twelve of the most emotionally draining, technically accomplished performances ever committed to wax by our finest interpreter of popular music. I rank No One Cares with a mere handful of other Sinatra albums, including Songs for Swingin' Lovers, Where Are You, Only the Lonely and September of My Years at the summit of the singer's art. To be sure, it isn't an album for everyone; indeed, it may be less purely enjoyable than any of those with which it shares that summit. But for those prepared and willing to immerse themselves in its darkly romantic pessimism, No One Cares can be an experience at once devastating and transfiguring. Just don't blame me if you blow your brains out afterwards. You can't say I didn't warn you.

Ron Price June 13th 2005

PORTRAITS

In the 1930s, when the Baha’i community was developing the initial form of its national and local institutions; and the first years of the initial stage of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s vision of America’s spiritual destiny was unfolding in the Seven Year Plan(1937-1944) a sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, carved the faces of four American presidents into the granite surface of Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. They were the largest works of a sculptor on earth. The work, begun on August 10th 1927, memorializes the birth, growth and development of the United States, a country that has a special connection with the development of Bahá'í administration.

That same year, 1927, the National Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States began to develop a greater stability,1 a greater measure or degree of authority as part of the Baha’i system of orientation. Authority is, in the end, an act of the intellect, of understanding and the imagination; it is a solidity and security in the binding strength, the bond, the capacity of others to judge and reassure. The institutional evolution of the Baha’i community, of its administration, had attained a new level of development and during those same years, 1927 to 1941, it developed well enough to embark on its first international teaching Plan or, if you prefer, missionary program.

When Gutzon Borglum died in 1941 the work, the carving, the portraitures, although not complete, had advanced sufficiently to evoke a sense of awe in those who viewed them. No new carving has been done on the portraits since his death. For some seven decades now viewers, mostly tourists by the millions, have been able to see themselves in the faces of these presidents. The four presidents carved in stone represent all Americans, their courage, dreams, freedom and greatness. The Baha’is, for seven decades, have gazed at a different set of portraits, a different design, a different set of artistic forms, the critical one, the unique aspect of their religion, being their Administrative Order which they see as representing the very “structure of freedom for our Age.”2 It is an Instrument, a portrait, not sculpted in stone but painted by the Hand of Mystery on a canvas with the paint and colour of heroic self-sacrifice. -Ron Price with thanks to “Internet Sites on Mt. Rushmore,” SBS TV, 28 February 28th 2005, 5:00-6:00 p.m.; 1Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development Of Baha’i Administration,” Studies In Babi & Baha’i History, Kalimat Press, 1984, p.260; and 2The Universal House of Justice, “Letter to the Baha’is of the United States: December 29th 1988.”

Sacrifice is not a word we use
much downunder, not a word
we like to use, a little too top-heavy,
over the top, too evangelical
for most you might say, eh?

Still, determination and the will
to struggle are as the soul---
needed then, back then, always
in those years entre des guerres,
with that stone, with steel-edged
pneumatic hammers, drills, bits,
grits, dynamite blasting, tons of stone.
Persistence, still needed, then and now,
for so much of the battle is always lost,
then and now: in our strenuous warfare
with instincts, our appetitive nature:
concupiscible, irascible, the allurements,
trivialities that rain upon us daily
in our quotidian worlds
of endless, necessary minutiae,
as we humbly assault our summits,
make our vertical ascents past fault
and fissure and the immense stone
bulwarks of life, the miasmal ooze
that drifts daily from the public realm
into our private space with its
intoxicating and noxious glues.

And we who would build this institution,
Instrument, administration, based as it is
on images, ideas, carved in a different stone
where our minds play, pray, slowly learn
to counter the fleeting, fragile, fragmentary,
fortuitous reality and the blaze indifference
which is everywhere and nowhere,
hidden, obscure, so very undefineable,
like air and water in some synthetic social glue,
which is one with the end of effort
and the triumph of sensation
divorced from any necessary action.

Yes, sir, the barbarians have arrived
and are in our midst with their traces
of strangeness. They enter our most
intimate relationships unbeknownst,
especially with those we love
and our inner being, own dear souls.
Sometimes they are a mirage.
We see, dream, them as refreshment,
but find, in the end, nothing there.
Sometimes they offer us rewards,
but bring us only toil and trouble.

These barbarians sometimes
take the form of a thin veil
through which we look at our lives
thinking we see reality, but no--
illusion is all we are seeing.

For, let there be no mistake,
this is the darkest hour
in human history, the slough
of despond and ill-equipped
are billions to interpret the play
using the phantoms of their
imaginations simply on the
wrong track, at the wrong site,
bewildered by the burgeoning
hieroglyphics carved in pain
across our planet gravitated,
recently, into a neighbourhood.

But the dawn is breaking,
it’s early morn, the taxi’s
waiting, he’s blowing his
horn. The call all-aboard
has been raised. There’s
a train at the station ready
to take us close to that
immense Carving of Life
but, alas, we move away;
we always move away.

Most of us, it would seem,
can only stand so much reality
in our face. Like those presidential
portraits, life’s awesome size,
its enormity overwhelms us.
But with its freedom and its dream
we carve our own stone,
the granite that is our lives,
grown from conception
in our dear mother’s womb,
nurtured, if all goes well,
by those founts of gleaming milk
eyes and hearts to watch over us
and to love us. And so the granite
grows and we think it just fleshy
tissue, organs and sundry stuff.
But we take into eternity,
that undiscovered country
where we will live forever,
our portrait, our image engraved,
designed by the Hand of Mystery,
painted with the essence of light,
moulded with a love which, however
much we strive on this earthly path,
we will never understand, but it is
a portait imprinted on tablets of chrysolite
high on the mountain in open characters.

1. Martin Pawley, The Private Future, Thomas and Hudson, London, 1973.
2. My use the term ‘barbarians’ draws on Edward Gibbon’s study of them in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Ron Price
March 2 2005

THE RIDDLES AND THE DECAPITATIONS

On April 25th 1926 Puccini’s final opera Turandot was performed for the first time. In a curious way the timing was a fitting, a surprisingly coincidental one although, or perhaps because, Puccini had been dead for 18 months, but more importantly because it was in 1926 that the first stage in the development of the institution of the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly had been completed. The functions of the Baha’i institutions of the National Spiritual Assembly as well as local and regional institutions and committees developed in the period 1922-1926. Puccini himself died in 1924 and Franco Alfano, a man familiar with Puccini’s musical idiom, completed the composiiton of the final two scenes in May to June 1925.

The opera has running through its narrative an exotic world of riddles with suitors decapitated because they failed to solve riddles. The heroine and the opera itself are powerful, mysterious, enigmatic. Love is suggested as the answer to the riddles. The orchestration for the first act was completed the very month ‘Abdu’l-Baha died in 1921. The full orchestration of the final two acts was being completed just as the Baha’is dealt with the riddles of theit time and completed “the transition from a loosely connected movement to a fully organized one.”1-Ron Price with thanks to Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development of Baha’i Administration,” Studies in Babi & Baha’i History, Vol.1, editor, Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, p.258.

Another orchestration of a powerful,
mysterious and enigmatic system,
order, institution, nucleus and pattern--
was completed miles, a world, away
by Him Who had enjoyed a mystic
intercourse with the most precious
Being to have walked on the earth.

But it was an orchestration needing
the fair fruits of the Formative Age
grown by the zeal of the Lord,
by Shoghi, by ‘the one who longs,’1
by the eldest grandchild, first grandson,
always with the ‘Effendi’ added,
that primal branch of the Divine
and Sacred Lote-Tree: blest and tender.

People lost more than their heads
in this whirlwind of wonderment
which snatches trees by their roots
and exhausts many a soul
as they try to catch a fragrance
from its everlasting garden,
try to drink from its undying chalice.
Slowly but surely the system evolved
to a point where it could spread
around the world by pioneers2
who would try, too, to unravel
the riddle of the Essence.

Sometimes they’d get decapitated
and lost their lives as they often
tried to win the hand of the maiden
with the hand they were dealt with.

1 Shoghi means ‘the one who longs.’
2 By 1936 a teaching Plan was initiated.

Ron Price
December 15 2004

POISON

The Tablets of the Divine Plan were written in the midst of WW1 and revealed to western Bahá'ís in 1919. For the next 25 years, 1920 to 1945, the tempest, arguably begun in 1914, continued without abatement. The instrument for the extension and consolidation of the Bahá'í Faith was given its first shaping during these years. It was called Bahá'í administration and that administration launched its first formal teaching Plan in 1937. My mother, father and I were part of the initial success in that extension program, members of the first generation(1937-1962) to respond to the teaching initiatives of the Bahá'í community in the West. As the Bahá'í community battled to take the message of Bahá'u'lláh to the peoples of the world, the world battled in one war after another. Even now, 67 years after the onset of that first teaching Plan, the war in its many manifestations continues apace.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 22 February 2004.

We've watched the battle on TV
year after year,
ferocious, appalling,
blood, sweat and tears,
unending, unpredictable,
unprecedented, catastrophic,
unimaginably glorious:
dulce et decorum
est pro humanitate mori,1
devastating, bewildering,
agonizing, disrupting,
sundering, wasting,
uprooting all that exists.2

The photographic record
is immense with millions
of pictures and hundreds
of thousands of feet of film.3
But this war, our war,
however sweet and glorious,
forces us to deal with
a black darkness
whose poison one would
not want to drink a second time.4

1 I have borrowed, and slightly changed, this Latin expression, from the great poet of WW1, Robert Owen who got the phrase from the Roman poet Horace.
2 The core of the vocabulary of this first stanza comes from Shoghi Effendi. The Promised Day Is Come, page 1.
3 This poem was written after watching the TV documentary "Robert Capra: In Love and War," ABC TV: 2:00-3:25 pm., 22 February 2004. Capra was one of the 20th century's most famous photographers, perhaps the most famous.
4 I am referring here, of course, to life's poison. See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, p. 184.

Ron Price 22 February 2004


NARRATIVE LOCATION OF MEANING

Deconstruction with its roots perhaps as far back as the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenidies is, among other things, a return to the idea that in language we find the unity of all things. This unity, deconstructionists argue, has an institutional base, an origin in convention. Deconstructionism places emphasis on “texts as narratives of experience” and the location of meaning in their person-centred bias which is instilled in us by our culture.1 Hence, as a writer of autobiographical prose and poetry, an understsnding of the literary theory of deconstructionism is useful. Deconstructionism arose, as my own writing did, in the 1960s centred on the works of Jacques Derrida and is part of a movement called poststructuralism. The crucial part of any structure is the centre and the crucial aspect of any text is its function within a system. The core of meaning for deconstructionists derives from a system and the breakdown of traditional systems. There is playfulness and obscurity here and an important place for the structure of the Baha’i system and its several Centres. -Ron Price with thanks to Norman K. Denzin, “Postmodernism and Deconstructionism,” The Coming Fin De Siecle: An Application of Durkheim’s Sociology to Modernity and Post Modernism, Routledge, NY, 1991.

It’s logical that all of this should
have critical bearing on the underpinnings
of what I write: for the focus is on
the centre, the institution, the convention,
the way things are in this new instrument,
this new administration, this new Order
with its nucleus and pattern for a new age.

I started to deconstruct, too, back then,
completely fell into pieces several times
in those troubled sixties when the world
nearly came to an end as the last stage
of history began in the Baha’i paradigm.

Things did indeed fall apart,
the centre did not hold,
our modality of being shifted,
meaning became slippery
and authorship became a way
of finding oneself, a process
of mapping one’s way,
a conversation with self
in a symbolic, uneasy, world.

Ron Price
November 17 2004

WELCOME

When the Seven Year Plan started in April of 1937 jazz music and American popular music were one and the same. Swing music had 'taken off' in 1935. It had been slowly popularized. after the years of early jazz, by influential artists like Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington and their big-bands. It was part of a new music that by the mid-1930s had erased the line between jazz and classical music, between ethnic-negroid music and a new universal type of sound and gave young people energetic new dances to engage in: the Jitterbug and the Shim Sham, among others. Music writer Louis Crouch said in an interview,1 speaking of swing music, that the word "welcome" is synonymous with the word "civilization" and swing personified this sense of welcome, of friendliness, of community, of life. But by the end of the Plan in 1944, the swing era was in its demise.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC TV, Jazz, 5:00-6:00 pm, August 31st, 2003 and 2Marshall Bowden, "Big Band Music and the Swing Era," Jazzitude, 2001, Internet.

Perhaps it was Ellington's
Reminiscing in Tempo in '36
that voiced a certain melancholy
for what had been and would be1
and the Big bands and all that swing
which seemed to bring in a new era.
A new era did begin, then, with
the start of that teaching Plan
when all that jazz and a Bahá'í
administration finally took form.

Such a holy enterprise
with its unimaginable blessings2
while millions of men
were killed, maimed, wounded,
as an unprecedented tempest
swept the face of the earth
swinging into its remotest regions.

A greater forward momentum
blown in with Big Bands
swing and this new Plan,
more refined and polished,
lighter, smoother, brighter
and more brilliant tones
in a higher register3
after a long incubation
and with instrumentalities
erected in and after those
darkest days of a war
that marked the start
of a Lesser Peace.

1 Ellington wrote this 13 minute piece for his band in memory of his mother who died in 1935.
2 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America:1932-1946,Wilmette,1947,p.8.
3 Jazz Site, "Biographies," www.pbs.org/jazz/, Chapter 5: Swing.

Ron Price
1 September 2003.

THE FOOD'S ALL GONE

Last night Chris and I had three guests for dinner, colleagues from my work in Perth at a Tafe college. I got to thinking of the various people we have had for dinner, people whom we wanted to introduce to the Cause or extend their relationship with it as contacts, to use Bahá'í parlance, and just enjoy each other's company. If I go back to 1962, some forty-one years as a pioneer, there are a multitude, not as many as others I have known who like to cook and enjoy entertaining more than I or my wife, Judy or Chris, have done over the years. Then there are the homes I have eaten in for similar reasons of conviviality and contact. There are, of course, the inevitable family members whom I won't list here and just too many others to list. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 11 July 2003.

Whatever happened to all those people
whom we supped with since the days
of the Cuban Missile crisis
and the installation of the House
at the apex of Bahá'í Administration
when I was 18 and this story
was just beginning its journey?

Their names have slipped
into hazy anonymity in Dundas,
Hamilton, Windsor, Frobisher Bay--
the towns seem easy enough to remember.
All that coffee and tea, juice,
enough hot meals to feed an army,
well a small army, a potential army.

Not many joined the forces, though,
all those meals did not result
in many, if any, recruits for
the armies of God
and the conquerors
of the East and the West....
to attack the armies of the world,
defeat the right and left wings
of the hosts of all the countries,
break through the lines of the legions
and carry their attack to the very centre
of the powers of earth.1

But we supped together,
enjoyed the food of life,
passed the evening pleasantly
at the Crasswellers, the Nihills,
what were their names
in Launceston, Zeehan,
Katherine and Belmont?
Where are they now
and the food all gone?

1'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, 1977, pp.47-8.

Ron Price
11 July 2003

A LOST GENERATION

The first talking picture premiered on Broadway in 1926, at the end of the first stage(1922-1926)1 of the evolution of American National Spiritual Assembly and in the middle of the first phase of Bahá'í Administration.(1922-1929)2 Broadway reached an all-time peak in these years. In 1927 there were 268 plays in New York. In the 1970s there were only 50 to 60 plays in any year. During this phase the American Bahá'ís adopted the basic principles of Bahá'í Administration which are still utilized today. F. Scott Fitzgerald, who dramatized the exuberance and many of the excesses of these years in his novels and his short stories, observed of this period that "it was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess and it was an age of satire."2-Ron Price with thanks to 1Loni Bramson-Lerche, "Development of Bahá'í Administration," Studies in Babi & Bahá'í History, Vol.1, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1982, p.260 and 2p.256; and 3F. Scott Fitzgerald in "The Literature of the Jazz Age," Larry Carlson, Internet, September 21st, 2003.

These were the first years of
a conscious following of
Bahá'í laws and teachings,
a national consciousness,
organized connections between
National and Local Assemblies,
sharpening as it does now
our perception of his1 unequaled
significance and accomplishments.

And during these years
they fixed their gaze upon
the Order of Bahá'u'lláh.2
part of a grand design
that prevented a pandemonium
of factions and allowed
Bahá'í experience to fuse
in that new and unknown
institution of the Guardian,3
offspring of His interpretive mind
and co-sharer in a unique genius
of that divine interpretation.

And all this in an age of miracles
with its new liberation,
its exceptional literary creativity
by a 'Lost Generation.'4

1 Shoghi Effendi described by Glenford Mitchell in "The Literature of Interpretation," World Order, Winter 1972-3, p.13.
2 The Bab quoted in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, Shoghi Effendi, Wilmette, 1955, pp.146-7. 3 G. Mitchell, op.cit., p.15. 4Term coined by Gertrude Stein.

-Ron Price,21 Sept. 2003.

WHY THE AMERICANS?

The year that the Kingdom of God on earth had its beginnings, 1953, Daniel J. Boorstin published his The Genius of American Politics. A perusal of the contents of this book by this archtypal consensus historian reveals, to a certain extent anyway, why the USA serves as the model on which Baha’i Administration is based around the world. Boorstin sees Americans has having fundamentally the same political beliefs inspite of an apparent polarized party politics. There is a sense of givenness, of automatically defined beliefs, an identification of the “is” with the “ought.” Values and a theory of society are implicit in the facts about society according to Boorstin. Americans do not brood over historical alternatives to the given; they pursue both realizable and unrealizable dreams. There is an in-built utopianism in the USA. What can be built, ought to be built. Boorstin reveals the uniqueness and virtues of America just at the time when the Baha’i vision was being extended around the world.
-Ron Price with thanks to Richard Reinitz,”Niebuhrian Irony and Historical Interpretation,” The Writing of History: Literary Form and Historical Understanding, editors, R. Canary and Henry Kozicki, the University of Wisconson Press, Madison, 1989, pp.103-110.

They’d been going at it for 16 years,
by then, by that auspicious year
when I was only nine
and they finished the Chicago temple.

That built-in utopianism,
that uniqueness would be
essential ingredients down
the long, tortuous and stoney road
toward realizable and unrealizable
dreams with only one result
in a golden age: the Most Great Peace
and its child—a world civilization.

Ron Price
28 August 2002

THIS WILDERNESS

After nearly four years of 'retired' life away from the classroom, I have developed a system of classifying information for use in any 'serious' writing that I want to do. It is a system that can be changed, altered and expanded. Increasingly, in the last decade and especially since I ceased employment in 1999, a vast amount of material to read has appeared on the Internet. So much is this true that it provides a more relevant library for me than the public or academic libraries I used to use. In the last two days I have organized and filed many new articles on religion and the Bahá'í Faith. One of the articles was a piece on Horace Holley and the following poem is based on that piece.

As I near the age of sixty I am increasingly in a well-organized position to write for the print and electronic media to obtain exposure for the Bahá'í Cause as it comes out, more and more, of obscurity. I can draw on: history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, media studies, philosophy, writing, literature, religion, the Bahá'í Faith, biography, autobiography, among other disciplines. Let us see what writing unfolds in the years ahead. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 6 December 2002.

I saw today that Horace Holley
resigned from the NSA in '59
and he died a year later
just when my own story
was beginning its long haul.

He certainly went the distance:
1919 to 1959
which is as long as anyone
is expected to go:
forty years in this wilderness1
as the foundation was laid
for an Administration
that is the nucleus
of a new World Order.

I've had my forty years:
1962 to 2002
on the pioneering front
and if those mysterious
Dispensations of Providence
allow I may get another forty:
2002 to 2042. We shall see.

1 Bahá'u'lláh, "Long Obligatory Prayer," Bahá'í Prayers, USA, 1985, p. 13.

Ron Price
6 December 2002


THE NATURAL1

Yesterday my son, Daniel, applied his computing and writing skills to helping our Bahá'í Group on the north coast of Tasmania, in this town of about 5000 people, to prepare for the Unit Convention in northern Tasmania for BE 159. My son joined the Cause at 15, some ten years ago. But, from my perspective, his work yesterday was a landmark, an evidentiary testimony, a clear indication of his enthusiasm for the Cause. I had had evidence before but, somehow, this was the confirmation I needed. I felt that, if I left this mortal coil, Daniel would be a servant of this Faith and perform especially the Administrative work that inevitably arose in the course of one's years of engagement with its activities. For in many ways what was unique about this Faith was its Administration, its organizational framework. A critical variable in all of this, it seems to me, a crucial factor in the evolution of a person's belief, is their ability to apply their skills and talents to the work of the Cause and having that talent appreciated. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 29 December 2002; 1 The name of this poem is taken from the film by son and I watched three times, the only film that we watched three times together.

To grow up--and into--
this universal Faith
is not to outgrow either
childhood or adolescence
but to make use of them
in a new, an adult way.1

Also, it is not to say
all that is in your heart,
for the waters are always
too deep between us,
but one can burn with
a hard gem-like flame,1
sometimes quietly,
flickering, sometimes,
even having it go out,
but always being able
to rekindle, to find again
the ecstasy, the still-small voice,
this is a type of success,
one that has interested me,
this quickened sense of life
which seems to have come
naturally once quickened,
but so often is never lit.

1 Walter Pater in A Choice of Inheritance: Self and Community from Edmund Burke to Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, David Bromwich, Harvard UP, London, 1989, p. 120.

Ron Price
29 December 2002.

1 W.H. Auden

THE END OF ONE TYRANNY

The last two centuries are littered with historical events that played, each in their own way, a part in the gradual unification of the planet into one homeland, one country, a oneness that Teihard de Chardin called the planetization of humanity.
-Ron Price

While the Guardian was defining
the nature of those administrative
institutions which were the precursors
of a future world Order, the complex
relationship between national and local
assemblies and the community in general
and pushing Bahá'í groups everywhere
in the direction of better organization
and more unity in doctrinal matters,1
Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic
Ocean2 establishing one more link in a
chain that would end the tyranny of distance
and establish the increasing reality of global
unity, the oneness of the world of humanity.

1 Loni Bramson-Lerche, "Development of Bahá'í Administration", Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol.1, editor, Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, Loss Angeles, 1982, p. 265.
2 20 May 1927 in 33 ½ hours

Ron Price
25 October 1998

EXHAUSTED

In the first forty years of the response to the Tablets of the Divine Plan, 1919 to 1959, Alexander Solzhenitysn estimated that 66 million people were killed in the Soviet Union. During this time the Bahá'í Faith expanded from about 100,000 to nearly 400,000. Many intellectuals in the West were seduced by the apparent attractions of the Soviet system during these years. They were years of the slow growth of a prophetic message and the laying of the foundation of a system of Bahá'í Administration. By the time I became a Bahá'í, by that year 1959, forty years after those Tablets were unveiled in New York, the Bahá'í system had spread around the world: quietly, unobtrusively, hardly attracting the attention of humankind much at all. -Ron Price with thanks to Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 2 August 2001.

It seems to take the death of millions
to exhaust the ideological upheavals
that have convulsed our world
and still the show goes on
as the people and their institutions
respectfully and not-so-respectfully
sink into utter oblivion.
It's the story of the last century or two.

Our needs have been deep
and our global society
has slowly emerged
before our waking eyes,
amidst a magnitude of ruin
that is incalculable
and a catalogue of horrors
darker and more turbulent
than at any time in history,
but still humans think
they can bend their days
into conformity with their desires.

Slowly, oh so slowly, too slowly,
the entire panorama
of humanity's spiritual development
is coming to be seen
as a single process.1

1 This poem has drawn on The Universal House of Justice's book The Century of Light and Office of Public Information's book Bahá'u'lláh for some of its material.

Ron Price
2 August 2001

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-Bahá'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 Bahá'í 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 Bahá'í 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 Bahá'í Administratrion," Studies in Babi & Bahá'í History, Vol.1, Kalimat Press, 1982, p.295.

Ron Price
4 August 2002

ONE'S FORTY YEARS

After nearly four years of 'retired' life away from the classroom, I have developed a system of classifying information for use in any 'serious' writing that I want to do. It is a system that can be changed, altered and expanded. Increasingly, in the last decade and especially since I ceased employment in 1999, a vast amount of material to read has appeared on the Internet. So much is this true that it provides a more relevant library for me than the public or academic libraries I used to use. In the last two days I have organized and filed many new articles on religion and the Bahá'í Faith. One of the articles was a piece on Horace Holley and the following poem is based on that piece.

As I near the age of sixty I am increasingly in a well-organized position to write for the print and electronic media to obtain exposure for the Bahá'í Cause as it comes out, more and more, of obscurity. I can draw on: history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, media studies, philosophy, writing, literature, religion, the Bahá'í Faith, biography, autobiography, among other disciplines. Let us see what writing unfolds in the years ahead. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 6 December 2002.

I saw today that Horace Holley
resigned from the NSA in '59.
And he died a year later
just when my own story
was beginning its long haul.

He certainly went the distance:
1919 to 1959
which is as long as anyone
is expected to go:
forty years in the wilderness
as the foundation was laid
for an Administration
that is the nucleus
of a new World Order.

I've had my forty years:
1959 to 1999
and then some.
If those mysterious
Dispensations of Providence
Allow I may get another forty:
1999 to 2039. We shall see.

Ron Price
6 December 2002

UNLEASHING THE INFINITE

Price's poetry, indeed all that he had written, was a testament to the enduring presence of the past, of its power to create and shape the future through a marriage of imagination and memory. For words had driven him, at least since August of 1962 the late summer when he had given up playing sport. Words had defined him. He was undoubtedly drawn by his passions as well.. But all of this, all that had driven him, was subsumed under the rubric of his religion.

Like the famous Australian poet, John Shaw Neilson, Price was sensitive to what people thought of him but, even after the passing of ten, and perhaps as many as twenty, years of writing poetry so few seemed to have any opinion of his work and fewer still expressed it. Poetry was largely a personal and private utterance for Price as it had been for Neilson in those days when Shoghi Effendi was laying down the basis for Bahá'í Administration in the 1920s. Neilson had a strong urge to write in his early thirties after overcoming his nervous troubles. I had that same urge in my late forties after getting out of mine.
-Ron Price with thanks to Cliff Hanna, Jock: A Life Story of John Shaw Neilson, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, 1999, p.129.

Once our reasoning minds
try to judge works of art
one can prove anything one wishes.

And what we say is bounded
by a frontier of ineffability,
by that which absolutely
can not be said by anyone.

But still, I try to catch
the world's mystery and surprise,
to identify it is my duty,
if I would unleash the infinite.

Ron Price
4 October 2001

SHAPING INNER LIFE

The act of intuition is...an act of perception whereby the content is formed....turned into form.....a work of art is essentially in the artist’s mind...there is an intuited Gestalt...there is contemplation of the complexities, simplicities, import....meaning is synthetically construed...there is candid envisagement....there is clarification and organization of the intuition.....In the process the reader’s imagination of external reality can, in fact, be shaped...a revelation can occur to the reader’s inner life....because of some fresh formulation of their felt life, life which is at the heart of their own culture. -Susanne K. Langer, Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art Developed from Philosophy in a New Key, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1953, Chapters 20 and 21.

Thank you, Susanne, for helping me define
just what I am doing, trying to do,
as I write all these poems,
trying to express all this trying,
this doing, this feeling, this thinking,
this imagining, this memory, this intuiting,
this defining, this clarifying, this organizing,
this shaping, this formulating:
to see with my own eyes
hear with my own ears
know of my own knowledge1,
so that others may do the same.

1 Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words.

Ron Price
November 2001

A MILLION BALLS OF WOOL

...The effects which Baha’u’llah’s life and writings have already had should command the earnest attention of anyone who believes that human nature is fundamentally spiritual and that the coming organization of our planet must be informed by this aspect of reality. -Baha’i International Community, Office of Public Information, New York, 1991, p.1.

Here is the symbol of the tireless
quest for unity in multiplicity, an
overflowing universe, abundance,
pedestal for holiness, remote from the
arena of reality, inspirer of the ideal,
home of Beauty, accessible but unattainable,,
defined and refined by suffering, place
of the Great Garden, where space and time
are powerfully affected, purity enough for man,
ideal precisely formulated-as far as He wanted-
exaltation of love, reality stained with mystery,
sin and innocence, echoes of luxuriance, niche
of sublime sentences, adoration, enchantment,
epic story of humanity, where emotion is marked
with the seal of authenticity, where history looks
forward with a science of the future and the deepest
essence of men come face to face with ideas, with
order amidst disorder, profound order and quintessential
disorder, everywhere; with guiding threads for behaviour
in a world of a million balls of wool.

Ron Price
17 April 1996

AN EMERGING ORTHODOXY

'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit seemed to have been the period during which the stress was on liberalism and lack of structure was greatest....From 1917 onward, the early American Bahá'í community began to lose those features....a loosley knit, inclusive, spiritual philosophy...a structure of organization and belief can be dated from around 1917.
-Peter Smith, "American Bahá'í Community", Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol.1, editor, Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1982, pp.199-201.

While Lenin was leading his Bolsheviks
in the October Revolution,
with his 'ten days that shook the world'
the American Bahá'í community
was finally losing a loosely knit,
inclusive, often vague, spiritual philosophy
and moving toward a structure
of organization and belief
a process whose momentum
was greatly accelerated
under the Guardian.

The great revolutions in the west
have been marked by an evolution
in the growth and development
of Bahá'í history and community life.
A doctrinal orthodoxy was clearly emerging
amidst the fear of war, that Red Scare
and an increasing concern for teaching.

The greatest revolution in this century,
or so it seemed for years,
saw a significant shift from a broad
liberalism to an exclusiveness,
a definition of terms, of detail
that would remain throughout the history
of this emerging world religion.

We, too, have visited His tomb
in a safe place off the central square.
Ours has been a silent, unobtrusive growth,
a force as revolutionary as that October
Bolshevik battle, and now we face
the world with our ideology articulate,
our organizational units fleshed out
with guidelines to change the world--
not in ten days, but in the decades ahead.

For this revolution has all the seeds
of reality and the language for the real thing.
This time he's not coming
from the Finland Station; this time
it's a whole world of thousands
whose seeds are growing
into a global garden.

Ron Price
16 March 1996

REAL TOUCH

This organization of formed words, this noble energy, which comes to rest in this apparently natural, but partly artificial and mysterious place, which attempts to know the meaning of humankind and the world with clarity, form and beauty and with choice, uses the most succinct, memorable and affective speech---the poem. The engine of this process is the imagination and it tends toward greatness when it is inspired by a systematic vision of civilization, global civilization, what Jung called the big vision. Strangely, we know the real poem when we touch it. But, like sexual intercourse, explaining and doing it are only remotely connected. The poet writes poetry for the experience, the reality, the joy. -Ron Price with appreciation to Dave Smith, Local Assays: On Contemporary American Poetry, University of Illinois Press, 1985, chapter one.

There’s not the tactility,
hunger not as pitched,
taken up and up,
always more to touch,
to excite, but the feelings
play with the brain,
the brain massages,
moves out, over, over
and up into unpredictable spaces,
places, surprise by joy,
don’t know what’s coming,
feels like it was done by someone else
when you look at it and you can look at it,
can leave something behind
beside some wet excrescence
and rumpled sheets.
There’s a fullness, a detumesence,
a relaxed ease, a feeling of coming close,
of arriving, if only for a minute, a second,
at a place of satisfaction, at a real point-like touch.

Ron Price
7 June 1996

THE GREATEST DRAMA IN THE WORLD

The National Spiritual Assembly recently advised the Australian Baha’i community that Unit Conventions for BE 152 are to be held in February 1996.
-NSA of the Baha’is of Australia to all Unit Convention Organizers.


Another gum tree sways and looks mystic in the breeze
outside a top window and the heat drys all of nature in
an annual fry. Like some dessicated dog biscuit, as if
tragedy has been sucked out, life goes on persistently
even here at Unit Convention Area Number 56.

A small roll-up, modest at best is all you can say, but
we don’t worry about numbers here. Part of us doesn’t
worry. We’ve got the nucleus and pattern, a little ragged
at the edges, but what do you expect from a band of men
women and children as diverse as this at a 100 in the shade.

I think of a poem in the baseball world about mighty Casey
who struck out against all the odds: he was expected to win.
Here’s a group, an organization, that will make it against all
the odds: their expectations emboldened of a mighty thrust*,
as the fans blow hot air; we strain to hear things we’ve heard before.

But this is a community aiming for great expansion,
for more visible, vibrant and cohesive unity even if
the afternoon tea is late, noone can hear the pretty
chairperson and their’s the usual noise from the kitchen.
People in community: the greatest drama in the world.

Ron Price
10 February 1996

*Universal House of Justice, 31 December 1995.

WRITING ABOUT WRITING POETRY II

There’s alot of people doing it: teaching poetry, reading poetry, editing poetry journals, mailing poems to poetry journals, keeping track of poetry grants and contests like inveterate race buffs for track tips, networking poetry, organizing poetry lobbying and poetry-for-social change, promoting poetry therapies, reviewing poetry. There is a new breed of organization poets, with their workshops for poetry, identity poetry, language poetry: and there is a great mass with no interest in poetry whatsoever. -Ron Price with thanks to Jed Rasula, The American Poetry Wax Museum: Reality Effects, 1940-1990, Urbana Illinois, 1996.

Some organize aviaries, some bake,
some cook, some don’t, some are into elephants,
rhinos, flowers, growth, hats, shoes or image.
There seems to be someone
into just about everything imaginable.
Now poetry is one of these things
and I’m into it in a big way.
It all happened only recently
and quite without my planning it:
seductively, unobtrusively.
And here I am writing about writing poetry!
I’m not doing this for a degree, for publication,
but for the love of poetry, of devotion to a Faith,
to express my beliefs, my acts, my past, these days,
as accurately as I can, a means to an end--
to advance civilization in a miniscule way,
a part played in a whole,
because we can all count,
can all affect the totality,
both now and in the future.

Ron Price
11 May 1996

RING LARDNER AND THE EVOLUTION OF A NEW ORDER

Ring Lardner* was a popular humorist, the funny-man of the 1920s, an authentic commentator on American society in its frantic flowering. He was the chronicler of a moribund social order, of the diversions of a period bent grimly on pleasure. While he was chronicling the material successes of the wealthiest nation on earth, the Baha’i Cause evolved into a distinctive and exclusive religion under the guidance of Shoghi Effendi. -Ron Price with thanks to Maxwell Geismar, Writers in Crisis: The American Novel 1925-1940, E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1971, pp.3-36; and Peter Smith, “Reality Magazine: Editorship and Ownership of an American Baha’i Periodical”, From Iran East and West: Vol.2, Kalimat Press, 1984, pp. 135-155.

You told of the complacency, Ring*,
that kept a generation, an age,
from getting even close to the new light
that had cast its first rays of Order
over a western sky.

You told of a vanity, of an incapacity
to learn, even survive, as people jumped
into chasms that over-confidence had hidden,
into a narcissism that closed down
the bigger picture, hid the light of that Order.

You told us of the Jazz Age, its myths
and beliefs, your anger and disillusionment,
your hatred of aggressive American capitalism,
its final covered wagon, camping ground
and an outrageous individualism
always covering the light.

Such an emptiness in your portraits;
no deeper answers found here,
no historical perspective, spiritual stability.
The whole scene was all too fast, too new,
fleeing the Calvanist fires, on a merry-go-round.

A cultic milieux of religious esotericism
and inclusivism had given us a sense of being part
of a forceful current of social change
not some small religious collectivity, but slowly
organizational exclusivity changed that ethos.

You could say we became a religion back then,
Ring, not just a spiritual attitude;
we acquired a communal cohesion
and distinctiveness, throwing off
an extreme epistomological individualism
and any cult of personality
as an undesirable heterodoxy.

Ron Price
4 March 1996

A VESTED INTEREST

This writing, like my self, alongside the self, is intensely personal, highly particular. This writing of my multiple self constitutes a part of the Baha’i community; it consists of giving voice to that which has been silenced, in discovering subjectivities as complex as the communities that they live in. Only a system, an organization, a religion of extraordinary flexibility, with transformation at its heart, can provide the ground for this autobiographical poetic. There is possibility for change here, change in my community and change in me, but the process, the community-self nexus, is often neither safe nor easy.
-Ron Price with thanks to Writing Selves:Contemporary Feminist Autography, University of Minnesota Press, London, 1995.

We’ve1 gone so far together,
all these years, through thick
and thin; I’ve got a vested
interest here, now, such a long
and tortuous road, gone down
to so many towns and it is here
that the sense of selflessness is
most fulfilling and affirmative
to my expansive identity and the
sanctification of materiality: and
always the threat—my spiritual
capacity’s underdevelopment;
always the goal—growing
spiritually, communing with God.

Ron Price
16 August 1997

1 the Baha’i community and I

COCA-COLA AND CHIP INTERFACE

Increasingly, the interaction of three levels of law and custom, of cultural interpretation and convention, are producing an enormous complexity. Our attempts to get resolution between global consumerist, commodity culture and local, indigenous, often tourist driven culture are sometimes, fortuitously, successful but more often impossible; and a labyrinth imposes excessive demands on the institutions and the individuals attempting to resolve the problems. -Ron Price with thanks to The Science Show, ABC Radio, 12:40-1:30 pm, Saturday, 25 January 1997.

Whatever model we have of social organization for the planet, a model that is eventually adopted to take us into the future for perhaps a thousand years, must have some essential and necessary interface with the three levels of society around the globe. -Ron Price, Comment on the Baha’i Model for Universal Fellowship, a talk given by Douglas Martin and published in World Order, Fall, 1976.

It has become a central issue
in anthropology
and in management science:
the interaction of three levels
of social organization----
local, national and international.

Some integration of all these levels
is crucial, as our society becomes
more and more global and at the same time
enjoys a recrudescence of local culture,
a local culture that appeals to tourism,
to some native tradition and all
that a local region stands for.
And is sending its Coca-Cola,
its hamburgers and its chips
to the furthest corners of the planet.

Ron Price
25 January 1997

KEEPING SISYPHUS HAPPY

Camus believes that, for the artist, remaining aloof has always been possible in history until the present moment. Now, the uncommitted artist is unthinkable. Everyone must now be pressed into service and must bend to the oars; for we are on the high seas and the artist must come off the sidelines into the amphitheatre with the lions and the martyrs to relieve humankind of oppression. The question is who are the slavedrivers and who is steering the boat? -Ron Price with thanks to Patrick Brantlinger, Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture and Social Decay, Cornell UP, London, 1983, pp.217-218.

Whatever form the world commonwealth takes, its creation will represent a new stage in an evolutionary process that began over 100 years ago or with the League of Nations. The process is evolutionary rather than some miraculous, new creation descending from the sky, ex cathedra. It will not be totally detached from the past and the present of international organizational forms and processes. -Brian D. Lepard, “From League of Nations To World Commonwealth”, Emergence: Dimensions of a New World Order, editor Charles Lerche, Baha’i Pub. Trust, London, 1991, p.96.

A treacherous superficiality
do I see in this lighted box,
false community, McLuhan’s
cool medium, indefinable shaper,
alterer of my world, no necessary
barbarism, decadence in some
electronic theodicy, psychic distance
created or eclipsed, producing anomie
bewilderment, without a centre,
just more and more and more,
never ending until my last hour,
in these antideluvian days
that are fast becoming the deluge,
the new Dark Age and it is getting
harder to imagine Sisyphus as happy.1

1 Reference to the Greek myth of Sisyphus, a man who spent his life rolling a rock up a hill and having it always roll down again—and again and again. The key, Camus said, is that one must imagine Sisyphus as happy.

Ron Price
16 March 1997

1 Albert Camus said we must imagine Sisyphus as happy as he rolls a rock continuously up hill until it falls down again and he must repeat the process.

FIREBALLS OF FIRE AND LIGHT

There were three major meteoric devastations in this century, enormous fireballs, asteroids from distant space that burnt large holes in the earth in Siberia, Brazil/Peru and Australia in 1908, 1930 and 1947, respectively.
-Ron Price after watching ABC TV in May 1998.

Immense blasts of fire and light:
1908, 1930, 1947!
Each announcing breathtaking
beginnings in another world,
a world embryonic, in its infancy:

1908

the freeing of that Mystic Interlocutor,
for the most heroic deed of the first
century, free to define and tell of
the spirit of the age amidst an
impending conflagration.

1930

the foundation for that instrument
of World Order laid in those 1920s
and 1930s, the end, at last, of the
heroic age; the translation of that
unsurpassed Iqan, our certitude;1

1947

the final construction of the home
for that holy of holies, that holy
dust enshrined in the shrine of the
Bab, end of the first epoch of an Age.

Great cosmic debris, fire-balls,
great destructive and constructive
forces let loose on this cool-blue ball.

Ron Price
15 May 1998

Notes:

1 -The Book of Certitude was translated into English in 1930.
-When the Greatest Holy Leaf died in 1932, the Guardian referred to her as the last
remnant of the heroic age, 'Remnant of Bahá'u'lláh'.
The foundations of the world-embracing Administrative system laid by 'Abdu'l
Baha, were given organizational form in the 1920s and 1930s by Shoghi Effendi.(See
'Development of Bahá'í Administraton', Loni Bramson-Lerche in Studies in Babi &
Bahá'í History: Vol.1, editor, M. Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, pp. 255-300)

NEW MYTH METAPHOR AND CONFIRMATION

I am constantly remaking my private, sometimes obscure and difficult, world by relating into an organic whole the amorphous and heterogeneous and contradictory. I see my poetry as Platonic, a basis for action and to a degree didactic. I also see it as imaginative, a basis for contemplation. But either way is serves as a process for the organization of experience, the simplification of the complexity of life, the conveyance of life's subtleties. If I lose or limit my audience it is due to the nature of my poetry not some personal snobbery. -Ron Price with thanks to Cleanth Brooks, Modern Poetry and the Tradition, Galaxy Books, 1965(1939), pp.1-59.

W.H. Auden's poetry weakened as he tried to rely upon an external framework-a doctrine or idelogy but, still, his best work revolved around one rather narrow theme and structure. R.F. Price's poetry is built on a spiritual framework, a set of spiritual themes. That is both its strength and its weakness. -Ron Price and Cleanth Brooks, ibid., p. 126 and 135.

Privacy and obscurityare inevitable
adjuncts to one's life, one's thought,
one's social being: elusiveness,
intricacy, incongruity of connection
as we walk around in the essential
isolation of our chambers, reaching
out with words to bind and hold, as
best we can, the moment in all its
delight and tension. But now, for us,
this new myth, not merely private fiction,
not just conviction immediate, direct,
overwhelming, but energetic metaphor,
artist working in the service of a cause,
a sensibility fortified with principles,
at the mercy of certain spiritual axioms,
sustains my days with a focus and affirmation
that brightens my expectations of a rich
confirmation of my actions in these fate-laden
days of history and their recurrent turbulence.1

Ron Price
9 May 1998

1 This 19 line poetic form I have in the last year termed a vahid.

That's all for now!
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