The poetry here deals with the print and electronic media since 1844: the internet, cinema and video, television and radio, newspapers and magazines, journals and diaries, telephone and telegraph, the DVD and the cassette tape, the CD and inter alia. This poetry tries to connect my own experience to that of the media in my life and in the life of my society since 1844. The relationship of the Bahai Faith to these media is also explored in what might be called prose-poetry, the most common form of poetry in the last 200 years.
Comments On The Print and Electronic Media: 1844-2044:
Pioneering Over Four Epochs, Section VIII Poetry
published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and A Study in Autobiography
The poetry here deals with the print and electronic media since 1844: books and the internet, cinema and video, television and radio, newspapers and magazines, journals and diaries, telephone and telegraph, the DVD and the cassette tape, the CD and the technology of music, inter alia. This poetry tries to connect my own experience to that of the media in my life and in the life of my society since 1844. The relationship of the Bahai Faith to these media is also explored in what might be called prose-poetry, the most common form of poetry in the last 200 years.
These items of prose-poetry are often not about the media themselves in a direct sense, but about aspects of the products of the media and the connections between these products of the print and electronic media, this new world Faith and my own life in a very general sense.
The city is the embodiment of nightmare, of terrible visions, of some blank and dead spirit. Dostoevsky describes this urban jungle in a style full of life’s immediacy and authenticity, with a sense of the vastness and indeterminacy of human motivation. His writing career began after he gave up his ‘dull as potatoes’ military career in 1844.-Malcohm Bradbury on ‘Dostoevsky’, The Modern World: Ten Great Writers, Penguin, Ringwood, Victoria, 1989, pp.27-52.
Attainment unto this City quencheth thirst without water, and kindleth the love of God without fire.-Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, USA, 1952, p.269.
It was a year when careers took epochal shifts:
exploring darkness and light,
old crimes and new punishments,
books, so many new books, that would
change the face of fiction and the world’s
spiritual sensibility forever.
Tragic figures, so very tragic, but
ultimately an exploration of the inner man
that the world had never seen:
Worship thou God in such wise that
if thy worship lead thee to the fire,
no alteration in thine adoration would
Different cities found expression under
your pens: heavenly and earthly,
earthly and earthly where, at last,
the Mystic Herald, bearing the joyful
tidings of the Spirit, shine(s) forth from
the City of God,** from Your book, like
some trumpet-blast of knowledge,
resplendent as the morn, awakening
hearts from the slumber of frenetic passivity.
And this city of multiforms is taking shape
up there, over there, like a pregnant mountain
and in a thousand other places, slowly,
gradually, confering new life on seekers
as they penetrate the hidden mysteries
of the soul and inhale the fragrances
of a new morning in some wondrous
utterances in which the channels of
their souls are cleansed by new perfumes.***
27 October 1995
* The Bab in Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p.77.
** Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p.267.
***Dostoevsky wrote many books before he died in 1881.
The Bab and Baha’u’llah wrote a massive number of books before Baha’u’llah’s death in 1892.
ASPIRATION AND OCCUPATION
“Poet” names an aspiration not an occupation...Once a poem is resolved, I lose the sense of having written it. I can remember circumstances, but not sensations, not what it felt like to be writing. This amnesia is almost immediate and most complete when poems are written quickly, but in all cases it occurs. Between poems I am not a poet, only someone with a yearning to achieve-what? That concentration again. -Louise Gluck, Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry, Ecco Press, NY, 1994, p.125.
I lose the sense of
even having written it.
It’s like someone else’s.
It surprises me;
I may remember some trace element,
some vague origin, circumstance.
Yes, being a poet, like being a Baha’i,
is an aspiration.
It often feels like an occupation
because of the intensity, energy,
time, thought, devoted to the process,
especially when the flow comes
as fast as it has in recent years.
I must stop now: it makes me tired
even thinking of it.
15 October 1995
Indifference to the response of the immediate audience is a necessary trait of all artists that have something new to say. They say what they have to say...Communicability has nothing to do with popularity...no man is eloquent save when someone is moved as he listens....Those who are moved feel, as Tolstoi says, that what the work expresses is as if it were something one had oneself been longing to express...the artist works to create an audience to which he does communicate.-John Dewey, Art as Experience, Capricorn Books, NY, 1958(1934), p.105.
Complete and unhindered communication,
in a world of gulfs and walls
that limit our experience of community,
can be found in some works of art.
Was that why I cried in looking
at your paintings on the wall
when normally art galleries
make me sleepy?
Was that why I wrote so many essays
about Roger’s poetry,
though noone would publish them?
Is that why I write all this poetry,
to serve the unifying forces of life
breaking out all over this planet?
23 December 1995
CRYSTAL COOL WATER
The poet is a hunter consciously and aggressively active in the hunting process of composition. The poetry is what’s hunted down and transformed by that process in a wilderness of language...The poet is an intermediary hunting form beyond form, truth beyond theme through woods of words tangled and tremendous....through a forest of mystic meaning. -John Taggart, Songs of Degrees, Essays on Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, University of Alabama Press, London, 1994, p.174.
Myriads of mystic tongues find utterance
in one speech and myriads of hidden mysteries
are revealed in a single melody*
and the poet hunts in forests of mystic meaning,
searching for the tongues of utterance,
pursued by hounds,
clawed by talons,
with pitiless ravens lieing in wait on the mountain side.
And while he hunts other hunters stalk
and assault him in the bright meadows of his search.
His head falls to the earth, even brims with blood,
but Peace comes at last and the dark night of tangled
trees is no more, only the tall independent pines,
so straight and tall and spacious, with the sun
falling though their intersticies on the book
of his own self, dead at last in a summit of glory,
left behind on the earth beside the crystal cool water
that the Cup-Bearer bringeth! In the journey unto
the Crimson Pillar on the snow-white path.
11 October 1995
*Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Arabic, 16.
** Baha’u’llah, Seven Valleys, pp.55-59.
STILL ONE OF THE DANGEROUS
I tell you she is dangerous!-Roger White, “The Pioneer”, Another Song Another Season, George ronald, 1979, p.40.
Happy birthday to Hand of the Cause Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum! In celebration of her 85th birthday.-Ron Price, Rivervale, Western Australia.
You are a symbol, a treasure, entrusted
to our still frail and unworthy hands,
part of that legacy that time will never dim.
We who have been impregnated by
your energizing love can not describe
your life, can not recount a worthy tribute
to all you have done in these still tumultuous
stages of our history where your life is so
inextricably interwoven in the fabric of it all.
Yes, your were his helpmate, his shield,
his tireless collaborator and, yes,
you knew much more than we our loss, then,
and the little that was the little that we knew.
You have shared the story of his victories
as your vital, slender hands touched his tragedy
and sorrow like torn wings, memory’s etchings.
And always you keep calling us, for him and Him,
to untried heights: living symbol of the traveller,
continual reminder of movement, incarnation
of the pioneer, of frankness, of the courteous smile.
May we grow close to thee in the innermost recesses
of our hearts, amidst these shining mansions that
the hand of time has given to the world, near these shrines
where you now walk and the very weight of history
rushes to your support as you gather breath.
It seems you are still one of the dangerous.
27 June 1995
JAMES DICKEY: SOMETHING THAT MATTERS
Dickey wants to change the reader; he wants to use the poem as a medium through which the reader is raised or torn out of himself into a larger, more energized state of being...This is a poetry that forces the reader to know he is in the presence of a kind of truth at which (he) could not have arrived at by himself. -Bruce Weigl and T.R. Hummer,”Introduction”, The Imagination as Glory: The Poetry of James Dickey, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1984, p.2.
...a curious tension exists between poetry and belief, idea, principle, or reason. That is, while we hear a good deal about poetry’s need to be based upon an explicit view of the meaning of existence, we are often very bored and exasperated by the poetry which testifies to such a view. -Howard Nemerov, William Blake in Poetry and Fiction: Essays, Rutgers UP, New Brunswick, 1963, p.vii.
You want to get the reader in,
move him about emotionally,
intuitively, physically even,
out of complacency, drift, help
them find their real lives, combat
the malaise, do some purging,
undistorting, unblunting: your poem
is something that matters--a two hundred
year old romantic dream--and we’ve been moved.
Some transforming, healing,
pretty ambitious stuff, eh?
From an initial repulsion
through acceptance to a full embrance--
sounds like something
I’d like to pull off, too!
Can we call you a poet
of the second and third epochs?
A foundation poet for the Kingdom
of God on earth? I don’t know, James,
but I like what you’re into, so much of it:
the dramatic confrontation of self and guilt,
the presence of such joy as to remove self-pity--
good gear, James, good gear!
The search for the energizing Truth:
now there’s a goal worth pursuing.
How are you coming now, James,
in your redeeming search of the depths?
That divine intermediary? Is it more than
the poem? More than imagination?
Is there something beyond these
sacred and resplenent tokens
from the planes of glory?
Is there something beyond
the green garden of these blossoms
in the lands of knowledge, beside
the orient lights of the Essence
in the mirrors of names and attributes?*
2 October 1995
*Baha’u’llah, Seven Valleys, pp.3-4.
I suspect that the greatest poetry is, as a rule...a concise and simple way of saying great things...this does not necessarily mean ‘un-complex’ or ‘easy to understand’. Not everything or everyone is always concise and simple; even the simplest souls have complex moments. -With appreciation to John Livingston Lowes and C.Day Lewis in The World of Poetry, Phoenix House, London, 1959, pp.133-134.
You’re not looking for some top-40 tune here,
or a delightful ditty like:
What shall we do with a drunken sailor?
Some easy style, light reading,
a little amusement, to be taken over breakfast
with your morning paper, come on mate!
What do you take me for? I’m not a comedian
with a quick fix, instant laugh, insight guaranteed.
I bring you a certain darkness in which I labour
to enshroud you, certain fluctuations and associations
which I melt down for your purpose and make distant
for you to reach for: buy those spectacles,
for this is no dead vacuum, floundering place, dimness.
You must cultivate your poetic receptivity,
accept unknowingness when it comes, as you would
in those mysterious places, the faces of friends,
those you love and associates you hardly know.
20 September 1995
THE ABODE OF DUST TO THE HEAVENLY HOMELAND
Dickey’s sense of personality (is)....a series of imagined dramas, sometimes no more than flashes of rapport, kinships with....the apocalyptic...in which personality is gained only when reason is rejected...The process of increasing self-consciousness...as every existential role in the universe must...be abandoned...reverence for life...his own personal history as an analogue to...an exploration of twentieth-century....a fundamental helplessness of man....the poet a shaman, a specialist in ecstacy, a participant in the divine... -Joyce Carol Oates, “The Imagination of James Dickey”, The Imagination as Glory: The Poetry of James Dickey, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1984, p.68, p.72
The main thing in poetry is the discovery of an idiom and the exploitation of it over an area of thought for a long time. -James Dickey in Jane Bowers-Martin’s, “Jericho and God’s Images”, The Imagination as Glory: The Poetry of James Dickey, Bruce Weigl and T. Hummer, editors, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1984, p.150.
Poetry is a happening in depth...at that level of the personality where things really matter...it is as divine intermediary between you and the world that poetry functions, bringing with it an enormous increase in perceptiveness, an increased ability to understand and interpret the order of one’s experience....the pleasure...the gift of being able to...get as far into a great good place-the poem itself-as one can... -James Dickey, “The Energized Man”, ibid., pp.164-165.
The terror that many feel
in the silence of infinite spaces
when the wind blows whistling
through the edges of the doors
and windows on a cold rainy night
at the edge of a great sandy desert
in a new suburban house
with the garden not-yet-planted,
or in a thousand other infinite spaces
on this whirling ball,
I have not often felt.
I have for many a long year,
since somewhere in my teens,
seen the universe as a benign place
and a meaningful one, purposeful,
a direction to an evolutionary process
and poetry, imagination, aliveness
fill the space, give me a feeling
I have lived and defined that order,
meaning, purpose, reality.
I have sensed I am nothing.
And out of this nothingness
I attempt to become.
In this attempt I begin to live,
to write and to use my imagination
to enrich all that I live for and believe,
all that I see in this dizzying universe
of suns, moons, space--
this abode of dust
on my way
to the heavenly homeland.
2 October 1995
*Baha’u’llah, Seven Valleys, (US, 1952), p.4.
QUITE AT HOME
By the time Price was in his fifties, he was quite at home just about anywhere he went as long as certain preconditions were present: he could speak the language of the people; he had enough money for food and lodging; he was able to write and read books or material on the internet. When he was younger, before he was married and in his early twenties, he liked to have the companionship of a girfriend and of friends. After he was married he came to enjoy his wife's and son's company. He also liked to have gainful and pleasureable employment and the company of friends. By his fifties, though, he found he could live on his own, but still he preferred the domestic comforts and familiarity of his marital home and hearth. By the age of fifty, too, and even more-so by sixty, writing came to occupy the centre of his life and at the core of his writing was a complex of themes involving self, society, religion and the creative and living nature of the writing itself. He was happy to leave his corporeal self and others behind and with the self that was thought he could live and try to resolve what was incomplete. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 31 March 2002.
There is no reason why
this interesting subject,
abundant with life,
should be made boring,
although I only cover
such a small portion
of the greatest drama
in religious history.
I try to fuse many
into a complex,
the poetry of places,
the love and tension,
the nature of the time,
the historical process
and the meaning,
the mystery of my life.
For there's an art here
the finer meanings
of what exists
with this new centre,
far away, but connected
everywhere and here
with all that I am and see
and have been and will be.
And so I map my world
through words and a feeling,
a stretch of the big story
with lines of light radiating
everywhere, a cord,
a special line to the Quiblih,
and myself unfolding
in a process of immense
1 April 2002
servants, gentlemen, ladies,
every conceiveable type,
they're all here behind stone.
Words carved by unknown hands:
Pioneer Canada Nine Year Plan.
He’d planned his. Knew who he was.
Identity grew into stone
that would last a thousand years.
He was going to end this one befittingly;
I mean it was his life, himself,
his mirror of some eternal hyacinth
growing forever in a garden
of eternal splendour, forged,
cut diamond-edged, glittering whiteness
on that snow-white path so close,
touching that Crimson Pillar
and trustworthiness’s pillar of light.
He would, at least, feel it.
28 October 1995
AND THEN THERE WAS LIGHT
Photography did not happen all at once, as some miraculous by-product of the industrial era. It is instead an assemblage, a weave, of elements that came together gradually over millennia, beginning when humans first began to explore and quantify the nature of visible space. Under an optical definition and description of photography, it takes no leap to trace this burgeoning modern art form back to classical Greece and earlier. Convention says that photography in its modern form emerged in the nineteenth century, specifically in the 1820s, when Joseph Nicephore discovered light-sensitive chemicals that would capture the image projected within a camera obscura, a dark box. Photography comes from a Greek word meaning 'to draw with light.'-Ron Price with thanks to Ali Hossaini, Archaeology of the Photograph, Internet, 8 January 2003.
He1 was drawing with light,
too, in those years of
the Triple, Holy Alliance
of international stability,2
of two men-of-God
walking on the earth
drawing Their light
onto all men,
that they could not see.
But, of course, they did see.
All sorts of new things
came tumbling into
their existence that
Metternich and Goethe favoured
and that artists and poets
ate their hearts out
to envisage in life.3
Light was pouring into
this new global society
and human beings
would be drawing with it
endlessly in the years to come.
2 union of three continental autocracies in 1820, the so-called 'Holy Alliance.' H.A.L. Fisher, A History of Europe, Vol2, p.962.
3 ibid., p. 963.
8 January 2003
Emerging Europe never lost its ancient heritage, for as Europe emerged, so did Christianity; indeed, the idea and reality of Europe was as much a Christian undertaking as a sociopolitical one. As the ancient world collapsed, faith rather than imperial rule became the feature that identified the universe.
-Orlando Patterson, Freedom in the Making of Western Culture, I.B. Tauris and Co.Ltd., London, 1991, p.376.
As the Bahá'í Faith emerged from obscurity in the latter part of the twentieth and the early part of the twentiy-first centuries; indeed from the very birth of this new world religion in the middle of the nineteenth century, the planet was slowly developing an international, a global, perspective. The ancient heritage of civilization was preserved and, perhaps for the first time, understood in a global context as well as in its particularist roots. Slowly, too, the roots of faith, which had been laid down from, say, the arrival of Shaykh Ahmad in Najaf and Karbila to the early years of the twenty-first century, grew into the tree of a democratic theocracy, the feature that came to identify the universe of the third millennium. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 5 February 2002.
The cultural chrysalides of this Faith
grew into a civilizational unity
that covered the entire planet,
giving shape, meaning and hope
to a society that hovered on the brink,
caught as it was in the vise
of external and internal assaults,
it came to offer a model,
especially after its first two centuries,
of a unified planetary organization,
a global community
with the future in its bones.
Not a competing force,
but one with a unique contribution
to make, action toward a single goal,
Not just good will here
as the old world was busting apart
Sensibility is the disciplining, the discipline of the emotional life, the defining as precisely as one can of the chaos, the mess, the mass, of feelings. Put another way, sensibility is the reservoire, the collection, the stock of a poet’s feelings and perceptions, memories and imaginations in their various stages of organization. It is the skill of responding with sense, with sanity, with an articulate wealth as a result of reflection. Again, sensibility is the process of being carried forward by curiosity and the pleasureable activity of the mind excited by the attraction of our infinite journey. -Ron Price with appreciation to S.T.Coleridge, R. P. Blackmur and Emerson in several sources.
You get some better feeling for reality,
for the personality of the past, the now,
the when, the then, for living, through
a unifying myth, through making the
unknown shine, through pollination and
cross-pollination, through organizing
what touches us deeply, recovering
underlying meaning, the moment’s scent,
the pulsations of the world, the poetry of
the universe. Perhaps, this poetic novitiate
will move insensibly to consummate artistry*
as the evening of life becomes more solemn
and serene and laughter touches the chaos with
an enchanting lightness, a token of virtue.
13 April 1996
*With the completion of Endymion on 28 November 1817 Keats, with a little more than three years to live, completes his poetic novitiate and begins to compose works of such authoritative power and consummate artistry that critics have had to go back to Shakespeare to find comparisons worthy of their company.
-Stephen Gurney, British Poetry of the Nineteenth Century, 1993, p.111.
* It would be presumptuous to compare myself with the greatest poets of the English speaking world but, as Bahiyyih Nakhjavani puts it, "greatness rests not in ourselves as much as in our ability and desire to circle around the great"(1) or, as Baha’u’llah puts it, "the greatness of those who while living or after death have circled round them."(2) Baha’u’llah is here referring to a blessed company of souls around which we can circle. One’s ability to circle around such souls is difficult to define but the desire to do so can be cultivated.
(1) Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, "Artist, Seeker and Seer", Baha’i Studies, Vol.10, p.19.
(2) Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations, p.84.
SUZUKI BEGINS TO TRAVEL BY BROADCASTING IN 1962
I BEGIN TO TRAVEL TOO
In the late 1950s and early 1960s the Canadian Broadcasting Company, CBC, was finally linked from coast to coast and the first science programs were televised. My parents had sold our TV by the mid-fifties when I was still in primary school to help keep my mind focussed on my studies and not on the box. When David Susuki made his broadcasting debut in 1962, therefore, I knew nothing about him. He was not a part of my world back then in 1962/3.
I was working on my grade-13, and obsessed by my matriculation studies, in Ontario. Nine matriculation subjects consumed my mind and emotions from September 1962 to June 1963. When I began my travelling-pioneering life for and in the Canadian Baha’i community that same year the future celebrity-environmentalist was nowhere to be seen: environmentalism was not on my agenda. My small town perspective in southern Ontario was filled to overflowing with school, a repressed-suppressed libido, and an embryonic, a developing enthusiasm for a new world religion .-Ron Price with thanks to cbc.ca internet site, “CBC TV History,” 23 October 2010.
I enjoyed listening to you today, David,1
talking about that most quintessential
interdependence and interrelationship
between all forms of life on our planet.
They will one day realize these relationships to the full extent of their capabilities; all of the species are subservient to the requirements of
all the natural processes that sustain all of life.
the world requires a federal system ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources blending and embodying the ideals of both the East and the West, liberated from the curse of war and its miseries, and bent on the exploitation of all the available sources of energy on the surface of the planet, a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is sustained by its universal recognition of the one source of Life and by its allegiance to our common humanity. Such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the unifying forces of life, is moving.
Who can doubt that such a consummation, the coming of age of the human race, must signalize, in its turn, the inauguration of a world civilization such as no mortal eye hath ever beheld or human mind conceived? Who is it that can imagine the lofty standard which such a civilization, as it unfolds itself, is destined to attain? Who can measure the heights to which human intelligence, liberated from its shackles, will soar?
Science and religion, the two most potent forces in human life, will be reconciled, will cooperate, and will harmoniously develop. The press will, under such a system, while giving full scope to the expression of the diversified views and convictions of mankind, cease to be mischievously manipulated by vested interests, whether private or public, and will be liberated from the influence of contending governments and peoples. The economic resources of the world will be organized, its sources of raw materials will be tapped and fully utilized, its markets will be coordinated and developed, and the distribution of its products will be equitably regulated.
National rivalries, hatreds, and intrigues will cease, and racial animosity and prejudice will be replaced by racial amity, understanding and cooperation.
The causes of religious strife will be permanently removed, economic barriers and restrictions will be completely abolished, and the inordinate distinction between classes will be obliterated. Destitution on the one hand, and gross accumulation of ownership on the other, will disappear. The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1David Suzuki on “The Science Show,” ABC Radio National, 23 October 2010; and 2Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, Wilmette, p. 204.
A WAY OF TRAVELLING: A MODUS OPERANDI/VIVENDI
2 JOB APPLICATIONS A WEEK FOR 40 YEARS
JOB HUNTING 1961-2001
The information and details in my resume, a resume I no longer use in the job-hunting world, should help anyone wanting to know something about my professional background, my writing and my life. This resume might be useful for the few who want to assess my suitability for some advertised/unadvertised employment position which, I must emphasize, I never apply for any more. I stopped applying for full-time jobs five years ago in 2001, part-time ones in 2003 and general volunteer activity in 2005. I left the world of volunteer activity, except for work in one international organization, so that I could travel in my mind. And so it is, that after travelling in the world of the great new technological birds of the sky, which began to their extensive movements to and from city and after in the 1950s, after my own years of buying tickets to travel by air(1967-2002)-some 35 years, I never get into the sky any more.
The years 55 to 60 marked a turning point for me into a much more extensive involvement in writing. Writing is for most of its votaries a solitary and hopefully stimulating leisure-time-part-time-full-time pursuit. Travel takes place but it is, for the most part, in one's mind, one's imagination and memory. In my case in these first years of late adulthood(60-62) writing is full-time, about 60 hours a week.1 The times I travelled by air: to Baffin Island, to several cities in Canada, to Europe, to North America, to Australia, to Hong Kong, to Israel over those 35 years are now memories, happy ones that dotted my life with their landmarks of change and transition.
Inevitably the style of one's writing is a reflection of the person, their experience and their philosophy. I could set out my experience in an attachment and I did so for some 40 years in a logical fashion in the form of a resume.2 If, as Carl Jung writes, we are what we do, then some of what I am could be found in that attachment. This document would seem over-the-top as they say these days since it goes on for 12-15 pages, but forty years in the professional and non-professional job world produces a great pile of stuff/things. This document is the last resume I used when I was in the job hunting game back in 2001-3. I have updated it, of course, to include many of the writing projects I have taken on during these first years of my retirement from full-time, casual and volunteer employment.
The resume has always been the piece of writing, the statement, the document, the entry ticket which, over the years, has opened up the possibilities of another adventure, another pioneering move to another town, another state or country, another location, work in another organization, another portion of my life. I'm sure that will also be the case in the years of my late adulthood(60-80) and old age(80++) should, for some reason, movement from place to place be necessary or desired. But this seems unlikely as I head into the last stages of my life. The first step was the job application and the second step, if the first was successful, was to get on a plane and go to a part of the world where you had never been and at the end of the journey would be a job interview.
People who come across this statement might like to see it as "what happens when you can travel and not have to go to work any more." In the last eight years which have been the first years of an early retirement(1999 to 2007), I have been able to write to a much greater extent than I had been able in my early and middle adulthood(1965 to 2005) when job, family and the demands and interests of various community projects kept my nose to the grindstone as they say colloquially. And now, with the unloading of much of the volunteer work I took on from 1999-2005, with my last child having left home in 2005 and a more settled home environment on the domestic front than I've ever had, the years of late adulthood(age 60 to 80) beckon. My resume reflects this shift in my activity-base and travel is what it's all about now. But, as I say, it is travel in my head, on TV and DVDs, on video, in paintings, photos, pictures but never in those jets and their streams of energy, their booming and buzzing through the sky with their silence and their noise.
This process of frequent moves and frequent jobs is not everyone's style or pattern of living. I have lived in 37 houses and 22 towns since I was born: 1944-2004. That was a good deal of travelling, let me tell you. Many millions of people live and die in the same town, city or state and their life's adventure takes place within that physical region, the confines of a relatively small place and, perhaps, a very few jobs in their lifetime. Physical movement is not essential to psychological and spiritual growth, nor is a long list of jobs, although some degree of inner change, some inner shifting is just about inevitable, or so it seems to me, especially as we have moved toward and entered this new millennium. Most of the people on Earth never get on a plane.
For many millions of people during the years 1961-2001, my years of being jobbed, the world was my oyster and the oyster of many a million in the West. It was an oyster, not so much in the manner of a tourist-oyster, although there was plenty of that, but rather in terms of working lives which came to be seen increasingly in a global context, a global oyster. This was true for me during those years in which I was looking for amusement, education and experience, some stimulating vocation and avocation, some employment security and comfort. These were my adventurous years of pioneering, my applying-for-job days, a particular form of travel, the forty year period 1961-2001.
The following resume(not included here) altered many times, of course, during those forty years is now for the most part, as I indicated above, not used in these years of my retirement, except as an information, bio-data, vehicle for interested readers. This document is a useful backdrop for those examining my writing, especially my poetry, although some poets regard their CV, resume, bio-data, lifeline, life-story, personal background as irrelevant to their writing-work. I frequently use this resume at various website locations now on the Internet when I want to provide some introductory background on myself, indeed, I could list many new uses after forty years of only one use--to help me get a job, make more money, experience some enrichment to my life, etcetera. The use of the resume saves one from having to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.
I don't have to say it all again in resume after resume to the point of utter tedium as I did so frequently when applying for jobs, especially in the days before the email and the internet. A few clicks of one's personal electronic-computer system and some aspect of life's game goes on or comes to a quick end—and another jet appears like magic on one’s personal horizon.
During those job-hunting years 1961-2001 I applied for some four thousand jobs, an average of two a week for each of those forty years! Well, its not the best base for travel, but it is very common. This is a guesstimation, as accurate a guesstimation as I can calculate for this forty year period. The great bulk of the thousands of letters involved in this vast, detailed and, from time to time, exhausting and frustrating process, I did not keep. I did keep a small handful of perhaps half a dozen of those letters in a file in the Letters: Section VII, Sub-Section X of my autobiographical work, Pioneering Over Four Epochs. Given the thousands of hours over forty years devoted to the job-hunting process; given the importance of this key to the pioneering venture that is my life; given the amount of paper produced and energy expended in the process; given the amount of writing done in the context of these various jobs,3 some of the correspondence seemed to warrant a corner in the written story of my life, my autobiography.4
It seemed appropriate, at least it was my desire, to write this short statement fitting all those thousands of resumes into a larger context. I like to see it as 'a perspective on travel.' The things we do when we retire!5 Reflections on one’s experience of the age of popular jet travel, the opportunity to travel in a sort of fantasy land that really took off in the 1950s when I was a child and adolescent.
1. This involves reading, posting on the internet, developing my own website and writing in several genres.
2. My resume is only included with this statement when it seems appropriate or on request.
3. Beginning with the summer job I had in the Canadian Peace Research Institute in 1964, I wrote an unnumbered quantity of: summaries, reports, essays, evaluations, inter alia, in my many jobs. None of that material has been kept in any of my files.
4. The Letters section of my autobiography now occupies some 25 arch-lever files and two-ring binders and covers the period 1960 to 2005. I guesstimate the collection contains about 3000 letters. This does not include these thousands of job applications and their replies. I have kept, as I say above, about half a dozen of these letters.
Note: Since about 1990 thousands of emails have been sent to me and replies have been written but, like the job application, most have been deleted from any potential archive. For the most part these deleted emails seem to have no long term value in an archive of letters. They were deleted as quickly as they came in. Of course there are other emails, nearly all of the correspondence I have sent and received since about 1990 which would once have been in the form of letters, is now in the form of emails. They are kept in my files. A brief perusal of my files will indicate a great deal of the form of travel I am emphasizing here. ____________________
That's all folks!
DID YOU SEE THE BAHA'I IN MDA?
DO YOU REMEMBER MDA?
SOME MEDIA REFLECTIONS
I remember back in 1962, when I was eighteen, I went to hear Vic Damone sing at a theatre in Toronto Canada. Vic was a Bahá'í and a popular singer. I was a Bahá'í youth. Canada had about a thousand Bahá'ís at the time, perhaps a few hundred more. Two or three years later I heard Seals and Crofts on one of their first albums. Dizzy Gillespie followed in the seventies and eighties with his trumpet and his jazz. By the nineties several dozen Bahá'í artists from all around the world had produced CDs that I enjoyed. As the millennium turned its corner Bahá'ís were entering the world of popular culture through the window of sport and the creative and performing arts: choreography, composing, play writing, comedy, writing, dancing, concertizing, acting. Some were heard to say: The Bahá'í Faith is entering the cultural mainstream at last!
I'm sure a study of the presence of the Bahá'í Faith in popular, mass, culture would
reveal more than this brief sketch of my own experience. But the recent presence of Layla Young, a Bahá'í character in the Australian drama MDA, made me reflect on the many manifestations of the Cause in what you might call the culture industry in the half century I have been associated with the Faith:1953-2003. I can not deal with all of the major and minor art forms in which the Bahá'í Faith has been expressed in one way or another. For that would make this short article too lengthy. But I can focus on this recent characterization of a Bahá'í in MDA and attempt to evaluate its existence to the Bahá'í community in Australia. It’s a bit passe now, but this short essay will serve as a sort of retrospective.
The part played by Layla, an energetic and carefree receptionist in MDA was so minimal that whatever Bahá'í content there is one could only define as subliminal, although the character is clearly likeable, intelligent, articulate and altogether charming. Of course, there may be more to come. The series was popular and you may find a new series or reuns one day again. Perhaps there will be more explicit Baha’i content, more that will have something to say about the Bahá'í Faith. Perhaps it does not matter, Layla is good advertising all on her own with the religious key kept low.
The portrayal of the actions of fictional characters in dramatic situations has been a mainstay of entertainment worldwide for thousands of years. It remains today a major part of most people's lives in our industrialized world supporting an immense industry in the print and electronic media. There was one drama in the top ten TV programs in the USA in 1952, three in 1972 and seven in 1992.1 Courses in media and popular culture provide interesting analyses of why this art form of popular culture has endured and how it influences our attitudes, dispositions and behaviours. It is not my purpose to delve into what has become a 'literature on popular culture'2 of seemingly unlimited proportions. But I may make several observations on the character and role of Layla that draws on some of the analysis of drama and popular culture.
Australian popular culture is the culture of the masses. Unlike what some call "the high arts" which only a relative few take part in, popular culture comprises the amusements that occupy the nation's leisure time. They are widely diffused and approved of by the majority. They include: movies, the stage, televison, the radio, journalism, fictional writings and many other forms of expression that appeal to the majority. Recent studies, in the 1990s in Australia, indicate more people take part in 'arts activities' of all sorts than 'sport.' It seems hard to believe.
Television broadcasts a number of fundamentally different programme types, styles and genres. Media programs and cultural studies are awash with explanations and commentary on human nature, political systems, social experience and on western and global society. I do not want to enter into the endless material on these pathways, but rather to focus on drama.
Drama programmes, excluding movies, took up 27 per cent of all televison time in 1987 and 40 per cent of the peak period 6 to 10 pm and throughout the 1990s and into the new milennium these percentages increased. In the mid-1980s, for example, the Seven Network held the lead in most ratings thanks to Sons and Daughters at 7 pm four days a week and Country Practice at 7:30 twice a week. The Sullivans had once done the same for the Nine Network, as did Number 96 for Channel Ten and its affiliates in the mid-1970s.3 Some see drama in a position of primacy in television.
Drama has been around since the 1930s in radio first, aimed at housewives and sponsored by soap manufacturers. Hence the term soap-operas. Drama deals with issues that confront audiences in real life. It functions, so one writer says, to provide moral support and confirmation of community values. It trys to show us, among other things, that the problems we face are faced by others. If producers are remote from or irrelevant to the genuine affairs of their audience they lose them.
The case that the best Australian drama has been an agent for reinforcing important social values and for fostering social change in civilized directions is overwhelming.4 Of course there are glaring omissions and silences within the tradition of drama: Australian Aborigines, for example, until the 1990s, hardly got a look in. Now, like the Baha’i Faith, indigenous cultures, their personalities and problems are on their way to mainstream or so one could argue.
Obviously Australian sport, comedy and drama offer diversion, distraction, escape and entertainment, vicarious experience in peoples' lives, fictionalized and otherwise. Large numbers of Australians prefer to watch Australian made top rating drama, among other shows, than to do anything else in the evenings. Commercial stations still pull in bigger audiences than the generally up-market ABC offerings. There's a big audience out there watching some sterotypical Bahá'í behaving in a way Bahá'ís are supposed to behave or not supposed to behave as the case may be. What little there is of Layla is, from my point of view, good advertising. Even if one were critical, I'd say she's better there than not there.
Tad Friend calls drama "the most pervasive, powerful and cherished form of media output."5 Amusement, distraction and the satisfaction of curiosity are legitimate functions of culture. Various features of our lives lead us to seek out vicarious experience in the lives of glamorized fictional characters. Watching drama has both functional and dysfunctional qualities which we won't go into here. The products of media, of popular culture, are often inconsistent, contradictory and shifting. So if drama gives form to an aspect of culture, like the Bahá'í Faith, by means of some role in a series of TV productions, it is just about inevitable that many aspects of the full meaning of that item of culture will not be represented.6 In fact, so much of TV programming, rather than informing people about something, drains out, foreshortens, neglects or hides the real. The essential meaning is not there and the total meaning often becomes impossible. So…don't be too disappointed if the Bahá'í Faith didn’t quite get the coverage you were hoping for.
The goal of entertainment and amusement often makes the task of deciphering information very difficult. After watching the events in the 'real' world in the evening news we identify more with the fictional stories which follow. Although we all can separate the two forms they blend in various subtle and not-so-subtle ways.7 Drama becomes news and news drama; dramatic items are integrated with news commentary in TV news; news reporters become detectives and moral guardians. Fictionalized characters like Layla become commentators on our real world from a Bahá'í perspective. Layla becomes a national Bahá'í icon whether we want her or not. Even if her role is minimal, this icon will be simply one of lesser intensity. This MDA icon will be a lesser luminary in the heavens of media personalities.
The news never solves the crimes of society and so it never quite makes it as drama. Drama often 'solves problems,' but never quite makes it as news. So the icon becomes part fantasy, part reality, part fact and part fiction. To have arrived in the popular media is better than not to have arrived at all. But you pay a price. The Bahá'í Faith becomes not only a legitimate part of Australian society; it becomes legitimate. For the media's role is, in some ways, to grand legitimacy, to determine the agenda.
If we feel a distance from the news reporters and readers, as people often do with a set of complex news items, evening drama brings us closer. We can solve problems vicariously and then we can sleep in peace. So goes one of the theories of the role of the evening drama. I'm not sure how accurate that view is any more, but it has been a common one in media literature in the last several decades.
If the role of commercial TV is to serve as our society's god or should I say Mammon, its principal virtue is to maintain and foster material prosperity. So another common argument goes. This entertainment we all enjoy is paid for by business and industry and, in the case of the ABC, the government. Ian Mills argues that altars, pulpits, pews and halls have been the four principal physical features of Western churches for more than a 1000 years.8 These features have now been transferred largely to the home. The TV box takes up all of these functions with drama having a special place as part of what might be called 'the expressive arts.' Many theorists argue that these expressive arts deal with some of the functions that religion used to deal with for millions in our secular society today.
It is not the content or substance, some emphasize, but the form that is the essence of TV drama. Just as there is an apparent neutrality and detachment in the evening news, or in drama, in reality there is an advocacy of a dominant ethos and social structure, an ideologically predetermined mode of presentation. The evening drama reinforces and validates the TV news and makes its problems seem more solveable. Both news and drama are essentially extended advertisements for the very society we all live in, or vehicles for questioning that society. So goes yet another common argument from the literature on popular culture or media studies.
About 1970 I was in a movie theatre with my first wife and suddenly, out of the blue, some character in the movie turns to another and says: have you ever heard of the Bahá'í Faith? There was no answer. The scene cut to another set. The effect, I thought at the time, was almost subliminal. Thirty years later the presence of the Cause in the electronic media has become significantly more than this blip. The exposure, the presence, of the Cause in the wider society is more extensive now due to its continuing rise from obscurity.
With the exhaustion of what some call modernity, with the demise of Soviet Communism, with the tedium of the unrestrained self, with the meaninglessness of much of the political chant, there are strong indications that we are at the end of an era. The world is groping for a new vocabulary. The Bahá'í Faith can be found at the edge of the clearing with its new vision, with its sense of the sacred, with its immense capacity to deal with the existential questions of our time and respond to the deepest feelings of people everywhere, with its new institutions. In the centre of this clearing is Layla, holding up a flag, or is it a Bahá'í book, or is it the role of receptionist in MDA?
If, in watching TV, we are Amusing Ourselves to Death, as Neil Postman at New York University argued in 1985; if our cultural life has become a perpetual round of entertainment, enough to bring us close to 'culture-death;' if we have become addicted to our technologies; if the future belongs to the new round of drama in the 1990s and at the turn of the millennium like: The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Roseanne, Something In the Air, Sex and the City and Friends, etc., these are other issues not to be examined here. For the media confronts us with many issues not the least of which is what is the value of Layla in this second year of the fifth epoch?
1 Tad Friend, "Sitcoms Seriously," Esquire, March 1993, pp.112-24.
2 Popular Culture became a subject for the first time at Bowling Green State University in 1977 David Jacobson informs us in "Pop Culture Studies Turns 25," Internet, 3 July 2002.
3 Keith Windshuttle, The Media, Penguin Australia Ltd., 1989.
5 Friend, op.cit.,p.114.
6 Roland Barthes, Mythologies,Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1957.
7 Ian Mills, "Pulpit Drama: The Mythic Forms of TV News Programmes,"
The News in Focus, Patricia Edgar, editor, MacMillan, 1980, p.56.
This article is an update on the accounts I gave(10/04 and 9/06) for the Australian Baha’i summarizing my experience on the internet. It is experience on the internet aimed at teaching and consolidation activities. I write this article due to the richness and the extent of this teaching activity, activity far beyond my expectations when I began 10 years ago. These have been ten years since I took an early retirement from full-time work as a teacher in a Tafe college in Perth. After fifty years of high sociability, of what in retrospect felt like half a century(1949-1999) of endless talking and listening, I had a personal need for solitude. I also had a need to write. One could not engage in the extent of internet writing and interaction with others that I do without a desire to write. It also helps to have teaching the Cause as the dominating passion of one’s life. Discouragement can easily set in, when writing on the internet as it does in teaching activities off the internet. One always needs to keep searching for a niche to focus one’s teaching initiatives. This is true both on and off the internet.
Many retirees play golf or take-up lawn-bowling; some pursue an active interest in a hobby; others do more gardening than ever before, become involved in one or more of the multitude of volunteer organizations, watch more TV or get depressed from lack of meaningful activity. Some Baha’is I have known do travel teaching, pioneer to some far-off place or just go down the road to a new locality. Indeed, there is now emerging what might be seen as a second life, a retirement profile, since life expectancy is increasing every year. The forty years of a working life(20-60) can now be followed by forty years of retirement, if one lasts that long(60-100). If one wants to focus on something beside a job, family life and hobbies in which to centre one’s daily timeframe, there is a world of options.
So it was at the age of 55, when I took an early retirement, I had a strong need to both write and free myself from that extensive talking and listening scene that had characterized my life for decades. Playing with words had been a lifetime activity. It was how I got my qualifications, spent my career, paid the bills and provided the life-blood, the bed-rock of my family’s material needs and my financial contributions to the Cause. After nearly five decades of trying to teach the Cause to those among my contemporaries with little overt success, I thought I might have more success with the written word as well as the spoken word. My wife and I took a sea-change, a term that early retirement in a quiet place has come to be called in recent years. Tasmania seemed to be a good place since it was also where my wife grew up.
I now have several hundred thousand readers engaged in parts of my internet tapestry, my literary product, my creation, my immense pile of words across this world wide web. This amazing technical facility, this interlocking network across the planet, has made this literary success possible. If my writing had been left in the hands of the traditional hard and soft cover publishers, where it had been without success when I was employed full time as a teacher, lecturer, adult educator and casual/volunteer teacher from 1981 to 2001, these results would never have been achieved. And the teaching value to a Baha’i who had been engaged for decades in this often, if not always, difficult art of conveying the message to others, was immense and rewarding.
I have been asked how I have come to have so many readers at my website and on this tapestry of writing I have created across the internet. My tapestry of writing is just another form of published writing in addition to the traditional forms in the hands of publishers that had been my aim for decades. This tapestry might more accurately be described as a jig-saw puzzle of writing that would take publishers some months to locate, if they wanted to collate all the pieces of this literary effort into one epic work, one large jig-saw puzzle for sale in book shops. The literally hundreds of thousands of readers I have at locations on this tapestry of prose and poetry, a tapestry I have sewn in a loose-fitting warp and weft across the internet, are found at over 4000 websites where I have registered: forums, message boards, discussion sites, blogs, locations for debate and the exchange of views. They are sites to place essays, articles, books, ebooks, poems and other genres of writing. I have registered at this multitude of sites, placed my literary products there and engaged in discussions with literally thousands of people, little by little and day by day. I enjoy these results without ever having to deal with publishers as I did for two decades without any success.
When one talks one likes to be listened to and when one writes one likes to have readers. It is almost impossible, though, to carry literary torches, indeed, literary tools of any kind, as I do through internet crowds or in the traditional hard and soft-cover forms, without running into some difficulties. My postings singe the beards of some readers and my own occasionally. Such are the perils of dialogue, of apologetics, of writing, of posting, indeed, I might add, of living. Much of writing and dialogue in any field of thought derives from the experience each of us has of: (a) an intimate or not-so-intimate sharing of views in some serendipitous fashion and (b) what seems like a fundamental harmony or dissonance between what each of us thinks and what some other person thinks.
The bridge of dialogue can take one into rich rivers of discourse or into gulfs over the valleys of life that are unbridgeable. When the latter is the case and when a site is troubled by my posts, I usually bow out for I have not come to a site to engage in conflict, to espouse an aggressive proselytism but, rather, to stimulate thought and, as I say, share views. Sometimes I am banned from a site before I have a chance to bow out for I have flouted the conventions of that site in some way or another. As in daily life one can say too much or too little; one can be too abrasive or too evasive; too judgemental or too non-committal.
Internet communities are like micronations. Some are not governed at all; a sort of literary chaos reigns. The posts and images at these sites represent the worst features of contemporary literary society: loud, crass, illiterate and completely devoid of what you might call an etiquette of expression. Others are governed by tyrannical rule. This tyranny often leads to a whimsical enforcement of arbitrary rules and law. Personally and emotionally induced muscle flexing operates at such sites in the hands of moderators, administrators and site entrepreneurs. Still other site organizers try to hit a middle ground between these two extremes.
Readers will find at my internet site(http://www.users.on.net/~ronprice/) a large body of poetry and prose spread over some 1800 pages and 450,000 words. One of the definitions of a book is: 300 pages and 75,000 words. This gives readers at my site the equivalent of six books. This material was written either from my home in George Town in northeast Tasmania from 1999 to 2008 or while living in Belmont, a suburb of metropolitan Perth in Western Australia from 1995 to 1999 in my final years as a full-time teacher, lecturer and member of a large Baha’i community. For many this is far too much print and on seeing it, intellectual indigestion sets in and readers run for cover. At Baha’i Library Online some 100,000 clicks have been registered at my writing.
After trying to write novels, science-fiction and books unsuccessfully for another twenty years for a popular as well as an academic market from 1983 to 2002, I published a book on the poetry of a Canadian, Roger White. A little of that book is found at my website. Anyone wanting to read that book can download its entire 300 pages at: http://bahai-library.com/books/white. After working on my memoirs or autobiography from 1984 to 2003, yet another twenty year block of time, I finally came up with an autobiographical context and style I was happy with and readers can access some of this 2600 page, 5 volume work, at the bottom of my webpage or go to eBookMall or Lulu.com and download various parts of that work. Also included at the 3rd edition of my web site are several essays, interviews, book reviews and an assortment of autobiographical and analytical material which I have included as introductions or embellishments to the forty-three categories of poetry and commentary listed below. The list of these categories, as I say, can be seen at the end of my website access page or introduction.
The cornucopia of places on the world-wide-web where I post contains sites to place: essays and articles, books and ebooks, poems, pieces of autobiography, items of a diary and journal, genres of work with new names for a new age. The topics I write on and about range from: sport to entertainment, gardening to domestic and family life, poetry to literature, sociology to psychology, history to philosophy, society to culture, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I have registered at this multitude of sites, placed my literary products there and engaged in discussions with thousands of people, little by little and day by day, one by one, a few at a time and often hundreds or even thousands. This new medium has provided a milieux for teaching undreamt of in my first fifty years of association with the Cause, 1953-2003.
DREAMS TV AND FILM
"Screen" is one of the many terms which cinema, TV and psychoanalysis share. Leaving aside the most common meaning of "screen" in psychoanalysis as a type of childhood memory, I would like to refer to another use of the term ‘screen’ that presents a strong connection between dream, the cinematic and television experiences.
Ernst Aeppli pointed out in 1944 that the events in a dream take place in a luminous field which is surrounded and framed by a large, dark space. In Aeppli's description of dreams there is a clear analogy to the cinema theatre and the television viewing room. This analogy soon found confirmation in American psychoanalyst Bertand D. Lewin's work. In 1948 Lewin reported the existence of a special structure, the dream screen, distinguished from the rest of the dream and defined as the blank background upon which the dream picture appears to be projected.
According to Lewin, the dream screen represents the idea of sleep itself. But what is of particular interest to me in this poem which follows is the analogy between the dream or oneiric screen and the cinematic or TV screen. The analogy is that both dreamer and spectator who focus mainly on the images, are largely unaware of the screen's presence; at times, of course, the spectator becomes conscious of the screen, the frame. The dark exterior becomes perceptible both in dreams, in films and with TV. In the cinematic experience, during the projection of a film, the spectator may suddenly remember that she or he is at the cinema and thus return to perceiving the screen. The process is similar with television, although obviously there are many variations. The analogy is only partial. -Laura Rascaroli, “Strange Visions: Kathryn Bigelow's Metafiction,”Enculturation, Vol. 2, No. 1, Fall 1998.
Awareness and unawareness oscillates
in front of those everpresent screens,
expansive in evening’s wellbeing
with the enriching lighted box,
its celluloid safety, its toothpaste
smiles, none of the predictable
wonder of my ordinary life.
Conscious of being at the cinema,
of watching the projection on screen,
of watching the TV or even being in
a dream, there’s an indistinguishability
of activity and passivity. Vision--mirror
of the world--now a new type of mirror,
reflecting everything but one’s own body,
reflection of a world, looking glass,
simultaneously a viewed object and a
viewing subject. And the dream: unscripted,
flawed, plausible, burrowing like a mole,
playing with my conscience in the sealed
and hushed casket of my soul, turning
the key deftly and then it is gone.
July 7th 2006.
THE KING OF COOL
Steve McQueen became one of the greatest celebrity actors while I was in my teens and twenties. At the start of the 9th stage of history, at the start of what the Baha’is call the Kingdom of God on Earth in 1953, McQueen appeared in his first film Girl On The Run; he had been studying acting in New York in 1952 at the age of 22. He starred in many famous films. The year I became a Baha’i, 1959, he was in Never So Few); the year of the election of the apex of the Baha’i administrative order in 1963 he was in The Great Escape and the year I pioneered to Australia, 1971, Le Mons. He died six months after I finally was treated for bi-polar disorder in 1980. McQueen was then aged 50 and I was 36. His films continued to be popular and reruns are often seen to this day on television. In the 9th and 10th stages of history, the half century from 1953 to 2003, McQueen has been a significant presence in the film industry, an anti-hero and “The King of Cool.” -Ron Price with thanks to SBS TV, “Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool,” 7:30-9:05 p.m., 25 February 2007.
Did we enjoy you because of
some repressed or unconscious
desires? Or were our reasons
more complex and contradictory?
Was it some visceral combination
of looking and hearing, enticements
of voyeuristic sexual pleasure, or a
spectator’s orienting and discovery,
intriguing setting, narrative suspense,
some structure of sympathy, empathy,
a form of play & inevitable distraction?1
You’ve been around right from my
late childhood and even now I see
you on TV in reruns. Have you
helped me organize my world
through those creatures, those
plays of invention, unconstrained
imagination and fantasy that made
you rich, then tragic and then dead?
Do you flash upon my inward eye
when in my bliss of solitude? Do
you have any place at all in the
recesses of my mind and heart?
When I wander lonely as a cloud
through life do you give me any
shape, coherence or vividness?
Sadly, as the Kingdom of God
on Earth wound its way through
the first half century of its life,
you excited with a flutter and
dance for a time and then were
gone. But, for a time, you
cherished your daily life with2
a certain truth and gave it to us
moment by moment on the screen.
1 Carl Plantinga, “Movie Pleasures and the Spectator’s Experience: toward A Cognitive Approach,” Film and Philosophy, Volume II, 1994.
2 The aim of William Wordsworth’s The Prelude was also expressed in these same words and more: “meditations passionate from deep recesses in man’s heart.”
26 February 2007
When I retired by stages from FT, PT and casual/volunteer work as a teacher, during the years 1999 to 2005, I found that I was able to watch a marvellous range of educational and visual material on TV. I had drawn on TV, video and film resources as stimulus in my work as a community and classroom teacher, adult educator, tutor and lecturer in the years 1967 to 2005; I had watched my share of TV and cinema in the years 1948 to 1967 as a child, adolescent and young adult in that first generation, 1950 to 1970, to be able to enjoy both mediums.
German television director Heinrich Breloer made a docudrama for TV The Manns: Novel of a Century. It was aired on German television in 2001. It is the saga of an extraordinary family that stamped Germany, its culture and its era like no other. Six hours of viewing, it examines the history of Germany’s most celebrated literary family: the Manns. This program made its TV debut in Australia in 2006 in the early years(60-64) of my late adulthood as human development theorists define the years 60 to 80.
Thomas Mann, his writing and his career have interested me since I first come across his diaries in the 1990s while still a teacher in Western Australia. Like many subjects that came across my desk and my reading as a student, as a teacher and as a member of society living through the tempestuous decades from the 1960s through the 1990s, my study of the life and writing of Thomas Man had to go on hold. This man had to be put in the pending, impending, in the “to be examined later in life” category.
This TV mini-series-docudrama, renewed, awakened and enhanced my interest, precipitated and refreshed my curiosity, in a life that the great philosopher Goethe said was “a striking example of the repeated puberty characteristic of genius.”1 In literary technique as well as in the work of the rational faculty, Mann experienced a richness, a daring and a purely intellectual excitement to a greater depth and with much more significance than has been generally realized.—Ron Price with appreciation to 1Henry Hatfield in Thomas Mann, New Directions, 1962(1951).
Even with my well-developed,
highly enhanced skepticism
which sixty-years of television1
watching has produced in the
application of a rational faculty
to this highly believable medium;
Even though I am more than a little
aware of the fundamental difference
between: stage, printed page and TV,
all of which have some unmistakable
politico-social and potentially distorting
point of view arranged for an audience;
Even though I knew little about this figure:
his diaries, his novels, his letters, his life,
his eloquent, outstanding humanism, his
courageous espousal of democracy, his
transcription of the raw materials of his
experience, personal history, into form:
his literary and autobiographical writings
as novels, his utter-productive absorption
in self and society, his observational skills
and relentless reporting anchoring his
imaginations and inventions in the soil
of facticity and his will to live to write--1
in spite of all of this—my interest was piqued
in a man who wrote three pages every day,
who read ravenously, who sought harmony
among the peoples of the world, who tried
to express the tenderness, beauty and pro-
fundity of life and who strove to create an
inner unity out of all his creative powers in
the great experiment that is existence itself.2
1 Peter Gay, “A Life of Thomas Mann,” The New York Times, 19 August 2008.
2 Associated Press, “Thomas Mann Dies At 80,” 13 August 1956 in The New York Times On The Web.
19 August 2008
EVEN COUCH POTATOES
The concerns of religion are of only marginal significance in TV content compared to secular messages about consumption. Which is of greater value, smelling good or cleansing the soul? Dressing in style or going to heaven? Fear of sexual rejection or fear of God? Television and the cultural order it advertises simply has more appeal than the messages of traditional religion. This emphatically secular vision offers and delivers immediate tangible results; the sacred order’s offer of intangibles, like eternity, comes off a poor second best; its delivery system is far more complex. -Ron Price with thanks to David Marc, Bonfire of the Humanities: Television, Subliteracy and Long-Term Memory Loss, Syracase UP, 1995, p.58.
Is it a question of narrow is the path
and few be the way that find it?
One of those ‘none but a few and even
of these few only the smallest handful’1
issues? A thing one can’t democratize?
For an elite? Those with the fragrance
of the love of the exalted and glorious Being2,
only those can ascend to the highest heaven?
No couch potatoes here, please;
noone untouched by the grave wonders
of His holy revelation.
TV is what we find at the heart of this
darkness, where millions do not read and
are not moved by holy writ of any kind,
have no epic sense of history and care little
about spiritual and aesthetic experience.
Surely, the situation is not that bad?
Worse, no breeze of Faithfulness3 here
from these idle claimants. Even the universe
is darkened with the dust of sin.4
But we can all read the book of our own selves,
make out the account and see ourselves as nothing,5
even couch potatoes, vegetables, the great passive
and banal mass with their bread and circuses:
the game is never up, even after the late-show.
Hope springs up anew tomorrow under the metallic stars,
intractably like a pesky weed that yields its head
but not its root which feeds insatiably on our heart’s thin soil
and insinuates itself through the socket of despair.
1-5 Reference to concepts in various ‘Holy Books’
THE GLUE, THE BOND, OF AUTHORITY
Science is the search for unity in nature.
Religion is the search for unity in culture.
-Fritzoff Capra, “Criteria of Systems Thinking”, Futures, Vol.17, No.5, October 1985, pp.475-478.
Fear-reducing institutions must grow and, as the bipolar balance of terror is transformed into a more creative mode of dynamic equilibrium, they must become global. They must become socio-political and psychocultural.
-Daniel Lerner, Revolutionary Elites and World Symbolism, p.392.
Polycentrism is providing, thusfar,
a confused mix of alternatives to
bipolarity. As we try to diffuse a
pervasive universal symbolism in
the political arena, what you might
call one world imagery, a world
audience is being formed around
the sharing of global and vicarious
experience like Olympics, space
shots and TV specials, by global
symbol managers whose aim is
a mental and emotional resonance
in billions. But what will be the
glue that holds it all together?
TV and entertainment? What
will be the bond of authority?
An act of belief? An act of the
imagination? Images of strength?
Of beauty? A process? A making,
a breaking and a remaking of meanings?
3 January 1997
AND THAT’S THE WAY IT IS
And that’s the way it is.
-Walter Cronkite, CBS News, 19 Years
The religion here is slick and fast
and so polished as to have no name,
soaked-up, subliminal and not-so-
subliminal, night after night, a ritual
aesthetic, fills the spaces, tele-grazing
vidiots, coccooning, periscopes up,
retreating, hermetically sealed in
sensual immediacy and intensity,
perceptions rendered into many
languages, structured, amusing
ourselves to death in an endless
round of entertainment and
disturbing shallowness, glamour,
exoticism and chicness with our
perceptions structured, in an eider-
down of unreality and a smorgasbord
of ephemeral, light-weight, engineered
appearances with revolution coming to
be closer to sheer impulse and a narcotizing
dysfunction and truth running along behind
an implosion of playful trivia and knowledge’s
vast explosion everywhere in evidence.
29 December 1996
I enjoy music immensely, although my tastes have become quieter and dominantly classical as I've grown into late middle age. Music functions as background mostly to my reading and writing. My first memories of music are on the radio in my small bedroom some time between the Guardian's famous letter to the 'American Bahá'ís in Time of World Peril' on 28 July 1954 just after my tenth birthday and the 'mysterious dispensations of Providence' blessing the Cause in the summer and autumn of 1955 during the Iranian persecutions--in my first months of grade six. -Ron Price with thanks to Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith: Messages to America 1947-1957, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, 1965, p.122 and p.139.
My family acquired a TV in about 1951, as TVs were spreading through North America, and we sold it in about 1957/8 because my mother thought it was affecting my studies. I did not acquire a TV again until my second marriage about the time my son was born in 1977. I've had one ever since. I enjoy it now more than I ever have before. It is a source of much pleasure. It is part of the feeling I get that I live in a space capsule, that I am connected intimately with the universe, that my vision is universal. It is part of the flood of my senses that I get in my home from: TV, radio, books and to a lesser extent magazines, newspapers and my garden, my kitchen, my loungeroom and my bedroom. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript.
Since the time of Bahá'u'lláh,
some time around His passing,
we've been connecting people
visually, auditorily and in print,
more and more with the universe,
a sensory flood of images and sound,
part of the brain electrified,
since about the time
of the ninth stage of history
when the Cause went around the planet
and rock-and-roll began its half-century history:
music and sound, endlessly if you want it.
That's why I go for so much silence
down in my submarine
with its pinging: periscopes up.
14 June 1998
In Paganini’s Daemon, ABC TV, 3:35-5pm 6 December 1998, we learn that playing the violin did Paganini harm. The experience of this musical virtuoso reminded me of a contemporary spiritual virtuoso whose prayers were so intense and extensive in the hot sun that some said they did him harm.
The greatest musical wonder,
worthy of sweet and ineffable
praise, produced an electricity
that did him harm as he played
his violin and dreamed his dreams
of a new era. He cherished his gift
while everything in his life was a
battle as he served and fought his
daemon and its endless productions.
And while this great romantic virtuoso
was impressing his audiences everywhere,
another virtuoso led two men to an upper
chamber bedecked with flowers and redolent
of the loveliest perfume. They were overcome
with a sense of delight and the words: A drink
of pure beverage shall their Lord give them.1
Perhaps Paganini felt the same reverent joy
that Siyyid Kazim experienced as he quaffed
from the silver cup and felt the cordiality, the
dignity and the charm of the occasion. This
virtuoso’s modesty contrasted with Paganini’s
pride; his Truth was more obvious than the sun.
6 December 1998
1 this story is recounted in Nabil’s Narrative, p.27.
TV AND THE TEMPEST
During the decade of the Ten Year Crusade, which Baha’is see as the ninth stage of history, television swept into the homes of hundreds of millions of people. This poem describes what was in many ways a wonderful invention, an invention that brought the possibilities and pleasures of culture, education and entertainment to people everywhere in the West. By the time the tenth stage of history began in 1963, people everywhere could also watch the social breakdown of society which this poem describes by means of contrasting images of darkness and tempest. These contrasting images of social upheaval that beset these same people during this ninth stage of history were graphically analysed by the Guardian outlined in his letters in the several years before he died.
-Ron Price with appreciation to Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965.
A whole world opened
before the eyes of millions
in that ninth stage of history,
with the technology set up
during that eighth stage.
Becoming one psychologically
has been taking place slowly,
with His sweet-scented streams
of eternity giving humans so
much more pleasure, culture,
entertainment than they had
ever drunk before; with the
fruits of the tree of His being
given them to taste; and with
His other hand, He sucked
the spirit unobtrusively,
and not so unobtrusively,
out of all traditional orthodoxies,
so seductively that the world
moved into a dark heart; and
the tempest, that had been
sweeping across the surface
of the earth for some time---
perhaps more than a hundred
years---was gradually leaving
bewildered, agonized and helpless,1
as he said it was, as he said it would be,
as we see it now, as we saw it then.
13 December 1999
1 Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p.1.
Jazz in the 1980s and 1990s has become highly individualistic, autobiographical, with many jazz musicians producing quite distinctive, idiosyncratic sounds.1 This kind of specifically personal stylistic development has also taken place in the creative arts: composing, play writing and choreography; and the performing arts: dancing, concertizing and acting.2 In some ways this is not surprising because the artist's social context is now global. The immense variety of styles, although at times perplexing and bizarre, is part of the delight of diversity. It is part, too, of a slowly emerging world culture of the arts. I find it useful to see my poetry in this individualistic and this planetary context. -Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC TV, 10:30-11:30 pm, "Jazz: Final Episode," 7 February 2002; and 2 Tudwig Tuman, "Toward Critical Foundations For A World Culture of the Arts," World Order, Summer 1975, p.8.
I feel I got in at the beginning
just as this vast, global, culture
was taking its first steps.1
You can go way back, say,
to the 1840s when global's
feet were in embryo.
Perhaps it really all began
with the Primal Point,
the years of that great Precursor.
And you will find in this poetic,
which underlie what I write
and the way it mediates
between man and man.
As I draw ideas from
the immense diversity
of phenomenal existence,
synthesis goes hand in hand
with the ongoing process
that is at this poetry's heart.
And I define
with increasing specificity,
my cosmology, my mythology.2
1 This global culture, like the Bahai Faith, really began to take off: 1950-2000.
2 "Creative mythology springs...from the insights, sentiments, thought, and vision of an adequate individual, loyal to his own experience of value." Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology: The Masks of God, Viking Press, 1968, pp.6-7.
8 February 2002
THE TABLES KEEP TURNING
At Ridvan 1964 I was just finishing my final exams at McMaster University in a first year BA(Arts) course. That month, in April 1964, a civil rights project was announced for Mississippi, sponsored by a number of organizations concerned with racial issues. The aim was to get Negroes on the voting lists. On June 21st 1964 three civil rights workers were killed by the Klu Klux Klan and an FBI investigation began to bring Klan members to justice, an investigation which only ended last month on June 23rd 2005. Several Klan members were imprisoned; many Negroes were killed and it took more than 40 years to bring one of the killers to justice.
A heavily fictionalized melodrama about the 1964 murder of these civil rights workers was screened in 1988. By that time I was 43 and living in Perth Western Australia. The film was called Mississippi Burning.
At the beginning of the Baha’i teaching Plan in 1937, in the years just before my parents first met, Erskine Caldwell’s You Have Seen Their Faces offered one of the best explanations of southern prejudice and the injustices the film Mississippi Burning was concerned with. In that book Caldwell explains the origins of despair in the white community of the southern USA and how the whites directed their resentment and despair on the Negro as scapegoat. Whites coped with their own suffering by watching the suffering of the Negro. Shoghi Effendi commented on this attitude to the Negro and its potentially tragic consequences ten years before in 1954.1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Shoghi Effendi, “To The American Baha’is…,” Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965, p.126 and Southern Cross TV, “Mississippi Burning,” 11:30 p.m.-2:00 a.m., July 17/18, 2005.
The tenth stage of history had just dawned
and what was called, then, a Nine Year Plan.1
I was just finishing 1st year uni exams at the time
as we entered another battle, one I hardly knew,
fighting my own, slightly below hypomanic,
on my way to depression, to history and philosophy
by summer’s end; living outside London and then
in Hamilton as the Freedom Summer hotted up
in Mississippi grabbing the headlines as I was trying
to grab an attractive country girl but with no luck.
The jobs that summer brought work about half the time.
The Beatles went from strength to strength
and the most indulged generation1 in history
kept turning the tables on an orthodoxy
that was in its last years in this first century
of the tenth and last stage of history.
1 Doris Lessing said(SBS TV, 18/9/’00) “the sixties generation, those who came of age in the sixties, were the most indulged generation in history.”
1 April 21st 1964.
July 18th 2005
PROUST: PERISCOPES UP
In order for the French novelist Marcel Proust to seriously begin writing his famous novel In Search of Lost Time he had to create an imaginary deadline.1 So writes Christine M. Cano an associate professor of French and comparative literature at Case Western Reserve University. Proust found this seriousness, created this sense of urgency, Cano argues, by coming to see and understand his writing in the context of a race against and a defiance of time. In this way he confronted the temporality of his life, his writing, his publishing and whatever he read by producing this 3200 page novel, a novel which resists simplification and cursory analysis. In this confrontation with time Proust found the sense of urgency that he needed; he found an intensity and a build-up of meaning in relation to what he was writing. It was an urgency which lasted until the end of his life in 1922.
Proust gave a sense of fixity to the facticity of his life by the process of writing. His writing provided a context for his many selves and the precariousness he felt in living. This precariousness of life and its endless processes of change and duration was dealt with by means of the written word, Proust’s novel. Writing helped him to deal with the strong sense he had of his existence as an entity which was soon to run out. By slowly coming to perceive his life in terms of its transformation into a work of art, by recapturing it, his past moment by moment, he aimed to bring the myriad of those moments in that past life under a microscope.
He felt that he was halting time and wrestling it from the flux of change and duration. By fixing the events of his life forever in a semblance of eternity, sub specie aeternitatis, much like the work of a photographer, he created what for some readers was a romantic reminiscence in a plotless labyrinth, in a vast ediface of a life and autobiography. For other readers, Proust’s literary creation felt like a conspiracy against them, a conspiracy of words with their “clumsy centipedalian crawling of interminable sentences.”2
I, too, had had a sense of urgency from my childhood. I always seemed to be in a rush as my father pointed out to me frequently especially at dinner-time when I was gobbling-up yet another evening meal. By my mid-thirties this sense of urgency was supplemented by a death-wish, due mainly to the affects of bipolar disorder. This death-wish was especially strong just before going to bed. The effect of this combination, death-wish and sense of urgency, was to create in my mind by the early 1980s at about the age of 40, these same imaginary deadlines, this race against time, this sense of the precariousness of my present state and so propel me into thinking that these words, the ones I had written that day or any day--might just be my last. This death wish was delimited when, in 2001, I went on a new mood stabilizer in combination with an anti-depressant medication. At about this time a new energy was unleashed into my literary life, an energy that was arguably a bi-product of this new medication.
Proust warmed-up to write his great opus of some 3200 pages by nineteen years(1890-1909 circa) of writing reviews, fiction and doing translations. Having been thus prepared, he worked on his seven volume work of novelistic-nostalgia, a work acknowledged by some as the greatest piece of fiction by the greatest novelist of the 20th century. The work took him from 1909 to his death in 1922. I, too, warmed-up to the writing of my autobiography with at least nineteen years of literary plodding(1983-2002 circa). By the literary recreation of my life, by the transformation of the transformation that had been my life, by the immersion of myself in memories of what was lost and what was gained in the process of living my life over more than six decades, I slowly came to see my lifetime as the only adequate unit in which to express in writing my succession of selves. I slowly acquired an irresistible autobiographical impulse; it took possession of me by degrees throughout the 1980s and 1990s and, by 2002, this impulse showed no sign of diminishing. Seven years later in 2009 at the age of 65 it had captured my life. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 4 January 2009 with thanks to 1Christine Cano, Proust’s Deadline, University of Illinios Press, 2006 and 2Roger Shattuck, Marcel Proust: Chapter 1, Penguin.
I can hear them say: life is too short
and Price is too long. And who can
blame them? Millions of words and
more pages than I would even want
to try and count any more. There are
two kinds of writer-poets which I try,
quite unconsciously, to combine---or
so it seems to me, thanks to Aciman’s
review of Proust in that fine journal:
The New York Review of Books....1
The swallow’s quick, agile, speedy
travel across long, tireless stretches
of the world, taking that world in in
the ways whales gulp down plankton;
with mistakes easily corrected, bad
times put to good use, judgements
which are unwise just tweaked here
and there in some implacable line of
words where the only pieces that are
thrown away are printer-problems or
are items lost in cyberspace due to a
pressing of those little wrong keys.....
The snail’s slow, deliberate and fussy,
cramped and burrowing self, ingesting
choice bits down some multichambered
spiral and with an appetite for a whorled,
eternally whorled, vision. This snail, too,
was my second writer-poet-persona-anima.
I took this swallow and this snail into my
bunker, announced to the world my with-
drawal and retreat, sealed myself as far as
it was possible in my study and periscopes
up proceeded to yield again and again to my
demon, to my thought and to write on every
thing that struck my fancy to the point of an
exhaustion, producing as I went, carnivorous
vines that devoured its owner and led out to all
the corners of the earth’s world-wide cyberweb.
I yielded to a dense tropical growth within me;
I had a chart and a course; there was nothing in
it—tragic or reluctant—this quasi-abdication—
this focus on a single point’s--effective force;
for my work embodied a vision of a persona
which was not the same as the one I displayed
in quotidian reality. Writing was the product
of a work in progress, a discovery-creation,
where multiple desires-motivations converged
on my actions and inactions, impeding or, yes,
stimulating their execution, lending some type
of overdetermined quality to highly descriptive
and overwhelming attribution. But, still, this
work was not some excrescence of some sort
of psychological case-history, at least not yet.2
1 Andre Aciman, “Proust’s Way?” The New York Review of Books, Vol.52, No. 19, 1 December, 2005.
2 Roger Shattuck, Marcel Proust: Chapter 1, Penguin.
5 January 2009
INVENTING AND REINVENTING
The world’s most famous war photographer, Robert Capa, began taking pictures of war in 1936 just as the North American Baha’is began planning their first teaching Plan. He continued taking pictures of war until 1954 when he stepped on a land mine in Indochina in the last of the five wars he covered. His photos provided a visual documentation of a significant part of the military and secular backdrop to the first two teaching campaigns of the Baha’i community: 1937-1944 and 1946-1953. His biographical and photographic story over the two decades, 1933/4-1953/4, had some striking parallels to my biographic story with poems over the last 20 years, 1985/6-2005/6. I write of these parallels and contrasts in the following prose-poem. –Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, November 28th 2005.
How many times did you invent yourself?
Twice? Or was your daily rising from
the ashes of a frail vulnerability and fear
a type of reinvention we all must do when
we struggle with the war in our own lives?
I covered a war, too, Robert,
not as well as you in those magazines
for your information-hungry world.
My poems only covered a corner,
just a corner of this dozing world
where my brothers lie innocently
curled and where the flames leap
lush and the rank winds yammer.
I was just coming online as your line
ended at the start of that Kingdom
(little did you know) of God on earth
with its wonderful and thrilling motion.
Now that would have been something
to capture, Robert! That World Crusade
and those volunteers arising to reinforce
the historic work of the first century
of Baha’i history and, in the process,
reinvent themselves as I have done
in this first half of the second century.
November 28th 2005
VISUAL AND NON-VISUAL DIARIES
During the second stage(1927-1936) in the development of Baha’i Administration in North America, a stage which enabled that Baha’i community to launch a series of teaching Plans(1937-1963) an American photographer, Ansel Adams became one of the most beloved figures in American photography. He began to slow down in his late fifties,1 but continued to work for another quarter century. When he died in 1984 he had become the first mass-marketed fine arts photographer in the world. He was obsessed by photography and worked everyday, all day, unless he was sick. -Ron Price with thanks to “Ansel Adams: Part 2,” ABC TV, 10:50-11:45 p.m. 11 December 2005.
I, too, slowed down about the same age
as you, lost the big urge, the endless drive,
the sine qua non that had kept my nose
to the proverbial grindstone as long as
your nose was down and at ‘em, I suppose
about 30 to 40 years depending on how
you define and describe the time, the years.
I, too, had a wife like yours, well two,
both good women they were and are,
but it took me--as it took you--years
to work out a modus operandi in Latin
or modus vivendi. In the long run
it was a rock of stability, steadiness,
practicality so I could pursue,
in the caverns of my creativity
and its tracery, its skimming
flickerings of light, the several
imperative interests, the types of
revelation that became part of
my very creative structure.
And so it was that in our late fifties
we moved the goal posts and went
on with our obsessions, but in a form
more suited to our needs, aspirations
and capacities-with an aesthetic
imbued with emotion, to create
works that went beyond their subjects
and captured an inspired moment,
as a reminder of experience, in a diary
of sorts, yours visual and mine of words.
December 12th 2005
TWO MEN BEYOND THE KEN
In June 1826 Shaykh Ahmad, the leader of the Shaykhis, passed away at the age of about 75 near Medina. Leadership of this community passed to Siyyid Kazim. At the same time, in the same year, the "first successful recording of nature"1 took place in France using a modified lithographic technique. Was this just a coincidence? -Ron Price with thanks to Gisele Freund, Photography and Society, David Godine, Boston, 1980, p. 22.
I see them through the eye of time
So distant is their story;
Yet in memory's warming lens
They're cherished for their glory.
Viewed through yet another glass
The focus is quite clouded;
For these men of so long ago
On history's line they're shrouded.
Bathed in the few details we've got
Attraction and repulsion,
The image is not distortion-free
But eternal is the emulsion.
The first glimmerings
Of the dawn of a new day,
In their midst were born Two Men
Who would say and write
Words beyond the ken
Of men and of angels.
29 October 2003
The two essays which follow are exploratory pieces of writing and not final drafts in any way; in some ways they are just thoughts made somewhat sequential or orderly in a personal way. I send these two essays to friends and associations from time to time when it seems appropriate. Hopefully that assessment of appropriateness is correct, at least for the most part—for one can not get one’s hunches, one’s intuitions, always accurately drawn. The topics of these essays are: my use of the telephone and the letter/email over the last half century: 1958-2008. Both the telephone and the letter/email are art forms in their own way, although the former is rarely considered in the wide classification of art forms. In 2008 I celebrate half a century of utilizing these forms to communicate, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so, after 10 years of getting warmed-up in childhood and my early teens, 1948 to 1958. In the years 1944 to 1948, early childhood, I have no memories of the telephone or the letter or much else for that matter.
-Ron Price, George Town, Tasmania
THE TELEPHONE: SOME THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES
(first written in June 2005 for the internet & revised many times)
One of the most famous poets in western civilization, W.H. Auden, worked behind doors marked Private far past, as he writes in one of his poems, "pine-rooms" where "telephones ring/Inviting trouble." He was, while writing, he said, in a room where his "double sits." In the end he became one of the literary dramatis personae of the twentieth century in spite of his conscious efforts not to become so. I like what Auden tries to do. I feel he is a kindred poet whose aims and sense of craft are similar in many ways to my own as they have developed with the years. We certainly share similar attitudes to telephones.
I have become as you might imagine, then, disinclined to use the telephone and most of the people whom I write to now are people I never see, never talk to on the telephone and, in fact, have little desire to visit. The reasons I am disinclined to use the telephone, I think, are many. Human motivation, our reasons for doing things, although often simple enough, are also and often, as the great historian Edward Gibbon once noted, hidden in “the awkward and tangled reality of the past below the surface of things.” So it was, he suggested, that we gaze at history and not try to scrutinize it too much to unveil the hidden or even the not-so-hidden springs of action.
Some of the jobs I have had since the first one in 1961, if I discount a range of common but still somewhat idiosyncratic ways of making money in my childhood and teens, I was on the phone for hours in a day. That was not true in most of my jobs, not true in: the tin mine, the classrooms, the editor role, the research work, the tin mine, the steel mill, the clerical and bureaucratic factories and offices that churned out paper and people at desks and filing cabinets where the phone virtually did not exist significantly in my day-to-day routine. But it was true of many of the other jobs I have had as: a youth worker, a journalist, a public relations officer, an adult educator, among others. I have been a bit peripatetic, a wanderer in the paths of employment, always seeking something better: more money, different people, new or better relationships with women, with community and/or with myself in la longue duree, as some French historians call the journey of life. Jobs were for many years a key index to my personal sense of worth.
Due to my having used the telephone so much at work and in my personal life in the evenings and at the weekend over so many years I felt by 1999, when I retired from full-time employment, like retiring from the telephone. The telephone had been central to my life, as I look back over it, in retrospective contemplation, in the half century 1949 to 1999. Then in the years 1999 to 2005 I pulled the plug from my relationships by sensible and insensible degrees: from full-time, part-time, casual and even most volunteer employment. In the years 1999 to 2001, for it took two years, I stopped applying for full-time jobs as required of people on the dole by Centrelink. By 2003 I had finished my last part-time job as a teacher in a private, religious school. I also left the world of volunteer activity in May of 2005 cutting my links with radio work, a small choir and volunteer teaching in a School for Seniors. It has now been nearly three years where and when, except for work in one international organization the Baha’i Faith, I am free at last. As Martin Luther King once said: “Free at last, free at last, thank God-Almighty, I’m free at last.”
At the age of 64 I am self-employed, an independent scholar, a writer-poet, a retired teacher-lecturer and on a disability pension due to my bipolar disorder. At the moment, after expenses, my wife and I are not in the red, not quite. We still have a very small part of our super-package left to insulate us from the cold world of no money in the bank after the fortnightly pension cheque is spent. One of our children has offered to loan us a few thousand dollars should we run out and my wife’s mother will soon be a nonagenarian with one third of her estate coming our way on her demise. So “not to worry,” I say to my wife quite often. Our house is paid for; the bills come in and get paid as has been our custom for decades. Late-adulthood and old age beckon with their joys and sorrows, their slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
I can survey all those years and in this essay the survey covers my use of the telephone and the letter. The survey is not comprehensive but, rather, it unfolds as I write and, as D.H. Lawrence once put it, “the end cracks open with the beginning and it all comes somewhere from within.” This survey is circuitous. It celebrates and commemorates occasions and periods in life, activities that are ancillary but often central to the day-to-day operation of existence, my existence from adolescence to late adulthood. This essay is an oblique exercise in story-telling, an exercise in altering and realtering some of life’s superfluities and existential concerns.
I remember at the end of my first year of university, in early May of 1964, I had a peculiar relationship with the telephone and its booming industry. I worked with the Bell Telephone Company of Canada at a job checking telephone poles for internal decay. That was but one of my many relationships with the telephone. At the time I was suffering from the beginnings of what was diagnosed four years later as a mild schizo-affective disorder. I had no idea what the cause of my emotional swings at the time and the Bell Telephone Company of Canada who employed me did not know either and they let me go after six or seven weeks. They were not impressed with my emotional instability which they felt was a safety hazard vis-à-vis those telephone poles.
I have had a range of jobs, as I have indicated above, which brought me into contact with this now pervasive modern tool of our world, sometimes extensively and sometimes as a peripheral part of my daily work. But I will not dwell on these jobs or my activity with telephones in detail here or this brief essay would lead to prolixity. I like to think this essay has some of that robust and exhuberant, balanced and integrated style possessed by H.L. Mencken one of the great essayists of the last century. As I discuss these two art forms in this particular essay on the telephone and the letter, alas and alack, I don’t think my writing possesses any of these qualities; it is far behind the standard and the quality of Mencken. Rather there is here, it seems to me, a more serendipitous, more pot-pourri sort of approach in which I sort of drop into little places in my life, spill some of the beans and gather them together in a type of literary soup. So readers, expecting more of an orderly approach which I promised at the outset in tis essay, will simply have to bear with me. If they find this stuff too quotidian, too all-over-the-place for their liking, they can just stop reading. I have always found this a useful approach to print when no one was watching and it really did not matter much. Just stop and wash the dishes, cook a meal, do some gardening, whatever.....
In the introduction to a collection of The Letters of Lewis Carroll:Volume 1: 1837-1885 the editor M.N. Cohen gave a definition of man: "a person who writes letters." While that may have been true of Carroll, who has 98,721 letters in his letter registry, the definition would not be very useful today, or even in the nineteenth century for that matter, for the millions of men and women for whom letter writing is and/or was a non-event. With the recent addition of mobile phones, faxes and tools whose whose names I can hardly keep up with as means of sending messages in this wide, wide world, the letter for millions is becoming an anachronism, to put it mildly.
There is an element of restlessness in the human psyche that will not leave us in peace and incessantly asks for more, to see and have and understand, more and more and yet more. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá stresses not the unease or frustration of this restlessness. These bases of restlessness, He says, so often are basically unhealthy. But a sense of urgency and eagerness in alliance with the inner life, the soul, is restlessness of a different order. It is a spiritual restlessness that urges us toward transcendence, toward a desire for and an appreciation of that ‘undiscovered country'. Táhirih was "restless and could not be still"(See: ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, Wilmette, 1975(1928), pp.190-203). There are a host of others in this same book with the same quality. We meet such souls all over the Baha’i world as we travel from place to place: always on the go, can’t sit still. When you recognize them, at first, on the telephone, you often think ‘not them again!’ Then there are the quiet ones, another sector of that slowly evolving revolutionary force that has been moving out of obscurity in recent decades. It takes all kinds, all types, to build a new world. For that is what people in community is about, among other things, at this climacteric of history. Some people are social, love telephones and love talking. Some don’t. To each their own and to each, too, at different times in their lives, different needs and wants.
My wife has always been the type of person who has had, as they say, too many irons in the fire to write often—at least that is how I might put it and do put it quite often over the years. She has preferred the telephone as a means of communication to letters. But, she has always had more of a respect for punctuation and spelling than I have had, even though she is essentially a non-letter writer. Indeed, she has more of a respect for many things in life than I, for I was always a “this will do” person in so many areas. Almost always, even in difficult times, she was able to rise to the occasion, to find the energy and enthusiasm to converse and get on with life. This was a quality I did not possess; I was much more of a fair-weather creature and difficult times wore me down quickly. I am frequently amazed at peoples’ stamina and stick-to-it-iveness. This attitude is also part of the Baha’i teachings, part of that “preferring the other chap to yourself.” It is not always manifest, of course, but it comes into play for each of us in different ways.
Henry Miller, the first writer to use the “F” word in the 20th century in his novels and get away with it, said that in his old age the telephone and the doorbell were his phobias. D.H. Lawrence, another successful 20th century novelist, used to hide in the kitchen when the doorbell rang. Miller used to say “Tell them I’m not home.” I don’t feel quite as strongly as that but, then, I am far from the celebrity world they came to inhabit. ‘Phobia’ is a bit strong a term for my attitude to telephones, but certainly the tendency is there to avoid social contact through these means. The need for strong friendships and a high need for interpersonal interaction which I once had, even into my forties, has gone. I need some social contact, but not much. My big desire is to be at it constantly, at writing that is, every day. The thinking process is a drawing together, a drawing out, but on paper not in the oral-verbal sense. The world of importance for me now is there at my finger tips in the world of paper and words, enmeshed in the print I am reading and writing, the experiences I am having and the imagination that comes my way. It comes tingling off my fingers, at least much of the time, onto the page.
My attitude to my poetry is not unlike that of that famous poet Sylvia Plath. She saw herself as an artisan. She was an artisan with an idea. All of her poems began with an idea, a concept. Her ending was bleak back when I was completing high school in 1963. Writing, like most things and however successful one may be from time to time, is no guarantee of anything, nor are many other things in life. Heraclitus built a whole philosophy on this view back in pre-Socratic days. At worst the beginning of a poem has been for me, what Roger White called a poor connection on a telephone line. I often have the feeling, now, in the first seconds when I talk to someone on the phone, even someone I know well, that I have no idea who it is, so immersed am I often in the writing. I remember reading an account by one of the children of Charles Dickens and how they would often go into Dickens’ study. Dickens would look at them. The child would say something and Dickens would look right at and through the child as if he did not even see them at all. This is how I recall reading this account of his life over a decade ago now. I’m not in his league, but there is definitely an immersion process I find when writing. I please myself mostly in my writing; I publish literally millions of words on the internet. Fame and wealth will elude me and, for the most part, the problems and successes, the words of encomium and opprobrium that are the experience of the famous and rich writers like Dickens, among many others, remain far distant from my experience.
After a weekend recently involving 20 hours of socializing, I was engaged in a 90 minute telephone call on Sunday evening and then, on Monday, in a 90 minute conversation with a friend. Although neither of these experiences were unpleasant, I felt as if they were part of the slow sucking of my life forces. I handle as much as three or four hours of the social, but 20++ in a two or three days period is something I now avoid if at all possible. The psyche has lost its social flavour and the pleasures that used to come from hour after hour of listening and talking.
I do not have to face the various degrees of trauma, the varying severity of calamities and the diverse social entanglements that have been part of the long march in my life from six to fifty six: ill-health, student pressures, marital tensions, employment problems, perplexities in my sex life, frustrations in Baha’i community life, worries in my affinal and consanguineal families, worries in raising children and in financial matters, among a list as long as your proverbial arm. Most of these problematic aspects of life have now been removed from my shoulders by the mysterious dispensations of fate and time, circumstance, planning and, I like to think, a Watchful Providence. In their place of these complexities of life I have been given the joys of creative writing. There is still a creative tension that comes from living, from the inevitable conversations and social activity, from what seems unavoidable anxieties of daily life and a residue of bi-polar problems. But, I really feel I have no reason to complain. Of course, like others, I do complain on occasion as does my wife. One of the many reasons for being married which I have always liked—a sharing of solitude—also allows for a sharing of the complaints against, and along the final turns in the road of, life.
LETTER WRITING: 2 JOB APPLICATIONS A WEEK FOR 40 YEARS
JOB HUNTING 1961-2003
The information and details in my resume, a resume I no longer use in the job-hunting world, should help anyone wanting to know something about my professional background, my writing and my life. This resume might be useful for the few who want to assess my suitability for some advertised/unadvertised employment position which, I must emphasize again, I never apply for anymore. I stopped applying for full-time jobs six years ago in 2001 and part-time ones four years ago in 2003. I also left the world of volunteer activity, except for work in one international organization, a world religion, the Baha’i Faith, two years ago in May 2005. Pension age of 65, which I will be in eighteen months time, sees me self-employed as a writer-poet. I gradually came to this role in the years by degrees after I left full-time employment in 1999, nearly nine years ago this month.
Not being occupied with earning a living and giving myself to 50, 60 or sometimes 70 and 80 hours a week in a job---and many other hours devoted to community activity in many of its forms marked a turning point for me. I could devote my time, at last, to a much more extensive involvement in writing. Writing is for most of its votaries a solitary and hopefully stimulating leisure-time-parttime-fulltime pursuit. In my case in these early years of my late adulthood, writing is full-time about 60 hours a week.1 I have replaced paid employment and activity with people in community with a form of work which is also a form of leisure, namely, writing and reading.
Inevitably the style of one's writing and what one reads is a reflection of the person, their experience and their philosophy. For many years I set out this experience in an attachment which followed this introduction.2 If, as Carl Jung writes, we are what we do; and if, as Abdu’l-Baha writes, we are what we think, then some of what I was and am can be found in that attachment. That document may seem over-the-top as they say these days since it goes on for nearly 30 pages, but more than forty years in the professional and non-professional job-world produces a great pile of stuff. This attachment was the last resume I used when I was in the job hunting game in 2003. I sometimes make it available, when appropriate; I occasionally update it, of course, to include many of the writing projects I have taken on during these first years of my retirement from full-time, part-time, casual and volunteer activity. I up-date it for the internet which is virtually the only place it as a purpose any more. I place segments of it, as suited to the situation, to the site, to the person, and hope it ultimately attracts—along with other writings—the recipient to a Cause that has dominated my life since at least the early 1960s.
The resume has always been the piece of writing, the statement, the document, the entry ticket which, over the years, has opened up the possibilities of another adventure, another pioneering move to another town, another state or country, another location, work in another organization, another portion of my life. I'm sure that will also be the case in the years of my late adulthood(60-80) and old age(80++) should, for some reason, movement from place to place be necessary or desired again. For one never knows in this world of change, just ask Heraclitus. Look him and his ideas up in the Wikipedia if you don’t believe me. But, at the moment, such movement seems unlikely as I go through these early years of late adulthood and head into the last stages of my life. In the quiet comfort of my study, with my wife’s lovely garden at my window and the most fruitful lemon tree at centre-stage to remind me of the bitter-sweet aspects of life, moving, indeed going, anywhere is the last thing on my mind.
In the last four years, age 60 to 64, then, which are the first of my late adulthood as developmental psychologists call the years from 60 to 80, and in what are these years of early retirement(1999 to 2008), I have been able to write to a much greater extent than I had been able in my early and middle adulthood(1964 to 2004) when student, job, family and the demands of various aspects of community life kept my nose to the grindstone as they say colloquially. And now, with the unloading of much of the volunteer work I had had for years and which I also took on from 1999-2005, with my last child having left home in 2005 and a more settled home environment than I’ve ever had, the years of late adulthood(age 60 to 80) beckon bright with promise. My resume reflects this shift in my activity-base and it is available on request should this brief essay tempt you.
The process of frequent moves and frequent jobs which was my pattern for forty years is not everyone's style, modus operandi or modus vivendi. Many millions of people live and die in the same town, city or state and their life's adventure takes place within that physical region, the confines of a relatively small place and, perhaps, a very few jobs in their lifetime. Physical movement is not essential to psychological and spiritual growth, nor is a long list of jobs, although some degree of inner change, some inner shifting is just about inevitable, or so it seems to me, especially in these recent decades. For many millions of people during the years 1961-2001, my years of being jobbed and applying for same, the world was my and their oyster, not so much in the manner of a tourist, although there was plenty of that, but rather in terms of working lives which came to be seen increasingly in a global context. But, in the only French quotation you will find in this essay: Plus c’est change, plus ca la meme chose. This is the balance to old Heraclitus’ philosophy. For it is based on a polar-opposite view to his. Stasis, it seems, is as much a part of life as change—probably more so.
During those years when I was looking for amusement, education and experience, some stimulating vocation and avocation, some employment security and comfort, my adventurous years of pioneering, my applying-for-job days, the forty year period 1961-2001, so much happened. I will not even attempt a cursory summary here. My resume was altered many times, of course, during the more than forty years that I used such a document. It is now, for the most part, as I indicated above, not used in these years of my retirement, except as an information, bio-data base, a vehicle for interested readers.
This document is a useful backdrop for those examining my writing, especially my poetry, although some poets regard their CV, resume, bio-data, lifeline, life-story, personal background as irrelevant to their work. I frequently use this resume at various website locations on the internet when I want to provide some introductory background on myself or engage in a dialogue for some purpose or other. I could list many new uses after forty years of only one use--to help me get a job, make more money, experience some enrichment to my life, etcetera. The use of the resume saves one from having to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. I don't have to tell the story again and again in resume after resume to the point of utter tedium as I did so frequently when applying for jobs, especially in the days before the email and the internet in the late 1980s and early 1990s when my job application process was beginning to fade anyway. A few clicks of one’s personal electronic-computer system and some aspect of life’s game goes on or comes to a quick end at the other end of the electronic set of wires.
During those job-hunting years 1961-2003 I applied for some four thousand jobs, an average of two a week for each of those forty years! This is a guesstimation, of course, as accurate a guesstimation as I can calculate for this forty++ year period. The great bulk of the thousands of letters involved in this vast, detailed and, from time to time, quite exhausting and frustrating process, I did not keep. I did keep a small handful of perhaps half a dozen of those letters in a file in the Letters: Section VII, Sub-Section X of my autobiographical/memoir work, I have entitled Pioneering Over Four Epochs. Given the thousands of hours over those forty years devoted to the job-hunting process; given the importance of this key to the pioneering venture that is my life; given the amount of paper produced and energy expended in the process; given the amount of writing done in the context of these various jobs and roles,3 some of the correspondence seemed to warrant a corner in the written story of my life.4
It seemed appropriate, at least it was my desire, to write this short statement fitting all those thousands of resumes, all those job applications, into a larger context: the things we do when we retire!5
1 This 60 hours involves reading, posting on the internet, developing my own website and writing in several genres. With 56 hours devoted to sleep, the other 50 hours are filled with ‘other stuff.’
2 I sometimes include my resume with this general statement of employment and its focus on the application process. But I only include the resume, as I say, with this statement when it seems appropriate, on request, or in my memoirs. I have not included it here in this posting.
3 Beginning with the summer job I had in the Canadian Peace Research Institute in 1964(or perhaps and arguably with that essay in grade eight in 1957 that won me a public speaking contest in the town of Burlington and its primary schools) I wrote an unnumbered quantity of: summaries, reports, essays, evaluations, subject notes, inter alia, in my many jobs. None of that material has been kept in any of my files and, over 40 years, it amounted to literally millions, an uncountable, number of words and a guesstimated 10,000 documents of writing.
4 The Letters section of my autobiography now occupies some 25 arch-lever files and two-ring binders and covers the period 1957 to 2007; and another 25 volumes of internet postings at: discussion sites, message boards, forums and special topic locations. I guesstimate the collection contains about 5000 letters, emails and assorted documents. This does not include, of course, those thousands of job applications and their replies, the thousands of emails and an unnumbered quantity of in-house letters of a basically trivial/non-archival nature at places where I was employed. I have kept, as I say above, about half a dozen to a dozen of the job applications and their replies, and several hundred emails.
5 Since the late 1980s, say 1988-2008, thousands of emails have been sent to me and replies have been written but, like the job application, most have been deleted from any potential archive. For the most part these deleted emails seem to have no long term value in an archive of letters. They were deleted as quickly as they came in. Of course there are other emails, nearly all of the correspondence I have sent and received since about 1990 to 1995 which would once have been in the form of letters, is now in the form of emails. They are kept in my letter-files. In August 2007 I began to keep such item only in electronic form.
That’s all folks!
Film director Alfred Hitchcock produced his film The Birds in 1963.1 The essential element in Hitchcock's films is suspense and it operates on deeper psychological and moral levels than it does in simple 'who-dun-its.' This suspense was, it seems to me, an appropriate emotion for the year 1963. The hundred year period, 1913-2013, and particularly the 1960s, was and would be a traumatic one for humanity. 1963 was the mid-point of this period filled with convulsions precipitated in the world by "the waywardness of a godless and materialistic age."2 One of Hitchcock's most important contributions to cinema was his recognition of the spectator's tendency to identify with the characters on the screen. When The Birds was first screened in 1963, I was just starting out on my pioneering life and I was being asked to "gird (myself) for heroism."3 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Tippy Hedren on "Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 8 January 2002 and 2The Universal House of Justice,Wellspring of Guidance, Wilmette, 1969, p.27 and 3p.60.
Little did I know, then,
and little did his audiences see
the metaphorical significance
of all those birds
attacking and screeching
just after the House was elected,
trustee of that global undertaking
set in motion a century before.
In the intimate and private parts
of our lives, on that long, stony,
tortuous road he'd told us about,
that path of the dawnbreakers
of a previous age,
of undreamed of dimensions,
that fire, that consternation,
that terror which would come
to exist in the hearts of men
had indeed come.
And still we wondered why
the darkness, the world confusion.
In our own lives the birds of our hearts
too often did not sing,
caught-up in the dust-heap
of this mortal world:
many a talon claweth
at this thrush of the eternal garden.
Pitiless ravens do lie in wait
for this bird of the heavens of God....1
1 Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.41.
-------Ron Price 8 January 2002
Yesterday, January 13th, I listened to an interview with Norman Mailer. The interview was done at the Edinburgh Writers’ Festival in 2005. Mailer made a number of comments that were relevant to my life as a writer. I summarize those comments here before writing a prose-poem. Mailer said he thought truth was like a space station. It was a place from which to launch out into the world of greater truth. One is always approaching truth but never arriving. It was essentially a journey. Mailer went on to say he was a Jew, but in blood only, not a practicing Jew, not a believing Jew. I, on the other hand, am a believing Baha’i in mind and heart, but not in blood. Although my parents were Baha’is, the first generation in my family to identify with this new movement/religion, I do not see my belief as a question of blood, genetics, race, et cetera. Mailer was asked if he considered himself wise. He said yes. Any wisdom I have acquired I see in terms of this belief system, Baha’i, that is the primary source of my wisdom, my meaning, my very survival as a human being.-Ron Price with thanks to “Interview With Norman Mailer,” ABC Radio, 11:05-12:00, January 13th 2006.
My first memory was making
mud pieces in about 1947/8
when your life was transformed
with The Naked and Dead,
your therapy, your self-indulgence,
your self-absorption, preoccupation.
This was the beginning, you said, of
the punishing monotony of writing.
You kept bringing yourself back in
book after book, getting yourself in
shape day after day—not in a fitness
studio but at your desk—3 or 4 hours
of putting words down—6 or 7 hours
reading and pondering, working out
the cerebration, the capacity to take
chances, occupying thematic places,
territories, for the most part familiar,
implementing old thoughts in new
contexts—and then the brain is tired
and contemplates nothing happily.
I did not have the early success
you had, but I still perceived it all
through the mirror of my soul;
I punished myself differently than
you, Norman, discarding roles,
calcifying selves, inventing new
personas with self-dramatizating
talent in the theatre of life, for it is
indeed a performance enacted before
an audience with a plot and script
composed of details from history.
With the power of the director,
with some fidelity to the script,
I have set this actor in motion
Resolutely and unreservedly,
to play my part, however small,
in the greatest drama in the world’s
spiritual history, widening my vision
and deepening my comprehension.
January 14th 2006
THE MANUFACTURE OF WANTING
The Bahá'í Faith in North America expanded and consolidated in an advertising age. By the 1890s when the first Bahá'ís taught in Illinois, advertising had been part of the American way of life for thirty years, since at least the Civil War: 1861-1865. The approach of Christian evangelists, with their emphasis on redemption and the experience of grace, was transferred subtly and not-so-subtlety to the advertising world and its method of sale of patent medicines in the 1870s and 1880s. In the first three decades that the Bahá'í Faith expanded in the USA, 1894 to 1924, the population of the USA expanded by twenty-five percent each year. This population was exposed to the magical promises and the philosophy of modern advertising.
By the time the first teaching Plan began in 1937 the golden age of radio had arrived and advertising found a new home in this medium. The same was true of TV where, after WW2, television brought advertising's pictures right into people's homes. In the late 1950s and 1960s advertising moved away from a conformist, sclerotic, mode, some would say military style and tone, to a reliance on the techniques of surprise, cleverness and creativity. The year I became a Bahá'í, for example, in 1959, the Volkswagon Company developed an advertising campaign based around 'The Bug.' -Ron Price with thanks to ABC Radio National, "A History of Advertising," 1:00-2:00 pm, 2 August 2001.
Was He trying to block the air-waves,
trying to fog-up their oral/visual worlds,
trying to make it as difficult as possible
for them to get at all near, even close to,
this Most Great Ocean?
An increasingly dark incoherence
spoke across the American landscape,
advertising's endless jingle-jangle
told them again and again
the source of their current disturbances
could be found in the lack
of an equal distribution of wealth
and of indoor plumbing.
Was He simply giving them
ways of learning about
this Great River of Life:
millions of papers,
sounds floating through the air,
pictures right in their noses?
Yes, yes, but what a jungle
of sensation and triviality,
evanescence and idiocy:
the manufacture of wanting
everything but the Voice of Him
Who is the most manifest of the manifest
and the most hidden of the hidden.1
1 Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í Prayers, USA, 1985, p.143.
Ron Price 2 August 2001
(updated for: The Beacon