The poetry in this section has a wide range of relationships with the first Baha'i teaching Plan launched in 1937. I was born in the summer of 1944,when Shoghi Effendi celebrated the completion of that Plan with the publication in August of God Passes By.
My poetry here is based on: Baha'i history, secular history and my own life. I try to draw various strands of experience together into a reflective, a reflexive, oeuvre in relation to this first Plan, a Plan Shoghi Effendi called our "preliminary task." The accomplishment of this task, wrote Shoghi Effendi, would enable my generation to fulfil its destiny in the century, 1944-2044.
Poetry on the Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944:
Pioneering Over Four Epochs Section VIII: Poetry
published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and a Study in Autobiography
, Section VIII: Poetry
GUERNICA: A WINDOW OF HOPE AND A WORLD OF CHAOS
Guernica may just be the most important single painting in the twentieth century. It was painted by Picasso in the first two months of the international teaching campaign in April-June of 1937. Guernica, a town in Spain, was bombed in April 1937, the very month that the first Seven Year Plan began. After more than forty years trying to take my particular view of the message of Bahá'u'lláh to my contemporaries I find this apocalyptic painting curiously relevant in its symbolism to my experience and the experience of these epochs. The painting graphically portrays the world I have been trying to teach all these years. -Ron Price with thanks to Encarta(R) Encyclopedia, Microsoft Corporation, 27 June 1997 with a slight revision on 10 Feb 2002.
Complex symbolism here, no
definitive interpretation, of a
world falling apart back then:
a dying horse, a dying age,
system, time; a fallen warrior,
traditional systems of political
and religious orthodoxy falling
from their heights of power; a
mother and dead child, twentieth
century science and technology
whose child is anarchy; a woman
trapped in a burning building,
civilization in a firey tempest;
a woman rushing into the scene,
a new revelation just begun
spreading its healing message.
A figure leaning from a window
and holding out a lamp,
truth and understanding held out
that all those who look might see.
And so, one view of Picasso’s work,
as an international Plan
makes its appearance
after a hiatus of twenty years,
after a new administration
had been created to canalize the forces
unleashed by those immortal Tablets.1
Guernica, the picture of a world in chaos
as the lamp of unity hangs out its shingle
in the obscurest corner, the only sign
of power and life as the old is destroyed.2
1Tablets of the Divine Plan, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, 1916-17.
2 There are many interpretations of this painting. This last line comes from Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology, Viking Press, 1968, p.211.
27 June 1997/10 February 2002
Rilke...so consistently willed and made himself into the kind of poet he wanted to be....he insisted on writing only that kind of poetry which he felt it was his mission in life to write. -Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to Merline: 1919-1922, trans. V.M. MacDonald, Methuen and Co. Ltd., London, 1951, p. 10.
Price felt an inner drive to write poetry but, in the first half a dozen years(1992-1997) of extensive writing over three thousand poems, he was never sure that he was writing the kind of poetry it was his mission to write. Indeed the idea of a mission, although attractive with its implications of certitude and achievement, did not underpin his efforts. Rather, it was a pleasure that seemed to drain out of other facets of life and into a great sea of a most abiding pleasure where the whole self seemed to gather together around a single point. -Ron Price, Comment on writing poetry compared to the above statement about R.M. Rilke.
Leroy1, I read your Seven Year Plan study
which was completed just before I was born,
ending the first fifty years of Baha’i history
in North America and completing the first
century since the birth of this new Revelation.
You refer to the Guardian’s call for “settlers”
in 1935 and the first of the roll of pioneers
in 1932 in Latin America. It would be some time,
1962, before I was a settler and even longer before
I found what you could call my niche with its
confirmations and blessings and the means
for my own spiritual growth, as one of the many
custodians of those positive forces, as a soldier
in these years of war, under attack, darkness.
28 January 1997
1 Leroy Ioas, “Teaching in North America: 1937-1944”, Compendium of Volumes of the Baha’i World: I-XII, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, pp. 391-392.
BACKGROUND MUSIC FOR THOSE HIATUS YEARS
George Gershwin composed popular songs from 1919 to 1938, from the time the Tablets of the Divine Plan were made public to the beginning of the International Teaching Plan, the Seven Year Plan, of 1937 to 1944. His music was made for the multicultural world of the 1920s, the 1930s and our world today. His compositions combined: blues, Afro-American, jazz, broadway, classical, gospel, opera, among other musical forms. It manifested so beautifully the philosophy of one-world.-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, Gershwin: They Can't Take That Away From Me, 17 October, 10:30-11:25 pm.
You gave us a background music
for those hiatus years1
when an Order was being born
and taking its first form.
You gave us sounds we'd never heard
while he2 gave us that leviathan
with beautiful curves so that we
could swim forever in the sea.
Your song form was a serious craft
as the Cause was for him a place to
define those interpositions of Providence.
You gave us songs, eternal, sweet as
Summertime, telling us of our lives
and their transcendental oneness amidst
the trivial and the everyday; while he
defined that global form in a language:
composer, director, producer, inheritor
of an Epic Script for all humankind.
17 October 1998
1 these were the years of waiting before the Tablets of the Divine Plan could be promulgated in the first organized international missionary campaign in 1937. During this period the national Bahá'í administrative system was defined and developed. See Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol.1, "Development of Bahá'í Administration", pp. 255-300.(Kalimat Press, 1982)
2 Shoghi Effendi gave the Bahá'í community a wonderful exegisis of 'Abdul-Baha's, Bahá'u'lláh's and the Bab's writings.
TRACES OF '37
I have tried in this poem to present the picture, succinctly and in some detail, of where my family was in 1937 on the eve of the first international teaching Plan, a few years before I was born, two years before WW2. In 1937 it was, perhaps, four years before my parents met and on the eve of the inception of the second-fastest growing Bahá'í community in Canada in the 1940s, Hamilton. It was two years before Hamilton had its first Baha’i Lulu Barr.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, September 21st, 1998.
Young,1 attractive, still in the bosom
of her family, very eligible, artistic,
a pianist, looking for a husband while
the Guardian was taking their Plan
international2 and Lulu Barr3
was about to convert and set
up that Light, a point, a candle,
in her steel city, her home on the lake.
Emma4 died the year the war arrived
and soon my father blew into her life5
and brought her new life, a son. And
they all found those sweet-scented
streams, those crystal springs, those
fragrant breezes, although it was never
one of those they lived happily ever after
stories, never one of those, even now
as this century is coming to its close
with traces that will endure forever.
21 September 1998
1 my mother in 1937
2 the Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944
3 Lulu Barr moved to Hamilton in 1939. She was the first Bahá'í in that city.
4 Emma Cornfield, my grandmother, died in 1939.
5 Fred Price met my mother in 'about 1942'.
A SENSE OF SPIRITUALITY COMING THROUGH
During the years of the first Baha’i teaching Plans, 1937 to 1953, George VI was King of England. He was crowned three weeks after the beginning of the teaching plans on 21 April 1937. The next monarch, Elizabeth I, was crowned about six weeks after the beginning of the Ten Year Crusade. George VI said he felt a sense of spirituality coming through when he was crowned in 1937. This poem was inspired by a TV program entitled George VI from which I gleaned some of this poem’s main theme.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.
The Seven Year Plan
had just been formulated
when you were crowned
in Westminster Abbey.1
Taking England through
its worst crisis of the
monarchy since 1688,2
you took on a job you did
not want and it killed you
in the end, after sixteen years.
Not unlike the job he3 took
on and we take on which
killed him and will kill some
of us and many more after us
in a new form of martrydom4
that will pave the way to a
new world, a new society,
a new System which is filled
with men and women who
feel Someone Else is with them.5
1 12 May 1937. A few days before, the American Convention delegates completed their formulation of the Seven Year Plan.
2 George VI’s brother abdicated the throne and married an American woman. The throne fell to George VI a man who felt totally inadequate to do the job.
3 Shoghi Effendi’s thirty-six years at the helm killed him.
4 Many Baha’is around the world I have often felt are worthy of this term; not everyone is called or required to this level of service. It is partly a choice and partly a gift.
5 George VI said he felt the presence of Someone Else with him when he was being crowned.
3 December 1999
21 September 1998
1 my mother in 1937
2 the Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944
3 Lulu Barr moved to Hamilton in 1939. She was the first Bahá'í in that city.
4 Emma Cornfield, my grandmother, died in 1939.
5 Fred Price met my mother in 'about 1942'.
HER PLAN AND THE PLAN
I have found it curious, sometimes surprising, often simply interesting, at times a fascinating juxtaposition and sometimes just two events, ideas, or things to play with: to match an event in the Baha’i calendar, in Baha’i history with an event occuring simultaneously in the history of secular, popular, scientitic or, indeed, any aspect of the wider culture. In the process of examining the contrasting activities something new emerges. Just what it is that emerges depends on the beholder. Here I take the 34 year old Clare Booth Luce, just married to Henry Luce, on the eve of the Seven Year Plan in 1937. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, June 2, 1999.
The glamorous and beautiful Clare Booth Luce
lived like a movie-star on the thirty-sixth floor
suite of the Waldorf Towers in New York when
the Seven Year Plan opened on 21 April 1937.
She was enamored of luxury as she had fantasized
all her life, or at least since she was twelve. She had
an acute need to be seen as stylish and she got her
husband Henry1 into stylish line as well. About the
first thing she did during this new Plan was to go
to California and take a screen test for a Hollywood
movie while Henry was putting her at the very centre
of his world and setting himself up for disaster with
a tough willed, nimble-minded, charming woman who
Irwin Shaw said was as “feminine as a meat axe.”2
2 June 1999
1 The youthful publisher of Time and Fortune magazines.
2 Sylvia Jukes Morris, Rage for Fame: The Ascent of Clare Boothe Luce, Random House NY, 1997, Back Dust Jacket.
MY STORY AND HER STORY
Our whole lives are lived in a tangle of telling, not telling, leading, misleading, allowing others to know, concealing things from others, eavesdropping, collusion, being frank and honest, telling lies, half-truths, white lies, letting out some of our life story now, some of it later, some of it never. What we say is inevitably a tangle of odds and ends. Autobiography in its several genres does not untangle all of this. This verbal output, this oral meandering of endless bits and pieces, here and there, all over the place, a quotient that often feels like verbal diahorreah can not be tidied-up. But narrative autobiography does leave behind, at the end of the day, your story in some orderly fashion. Your behaviour gets lost in the fog somewhere, eventually. The reactions of others gets lost in the same fog. But your ongoing story remains for all to read. It is your dialogue with time, with yourself, with others. Others can listen in especially if you have something worth saying. -Ron Price with thanks to Germaine Greer, Daddy, We Hardly Knew You, Penguin, London, 1990, p.172.
I wasn’t around when Germaine Greer’s
parents got married, a month before the
first Seven Year Plan was launched and
the International Teaching Plan moved
into its first phase in April of 1937.
My parents had yet to meet back then,
although my grandfather had just retired
and lived in the same house as my mother
in Canada, a country which so fortuitously
combines1 American progressiveness and
initiative and British stability and tenacity.
Things were hotting up in the war game
when Germaine Greer came along in 1939.
Her daddy went off to war and her main
memory is his absense from the family home.
The next year, in another campaign, far away
from both worlds, May Maxwell was gathered
to the glory of the Abha Kingdom2 and her grave
has become a poignant reminder of the resistless
march of the triumphant army of Baha’u’llah.3
1 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to Canada, p.9.
2 Shoghi Effendi, Cablegram March 3, 1940.
3 November 1999
BY THE SKIN OF ITS TEETH, AGAIN
When the Seven Year Plan began in 1937, the Irish writer-poet W.B. Yeats was less than two years from his death. He seemed to be on “what he imagined was the hormonal floodtide of his second puberty”, a late-flowering passion, at the age of 72. So insistent were his sexual desires that he believed he “would break down under the strain.”1 He was still trying to forge the three interests of his poetry into an organic unity. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Stephen Coote, W.B. Yeats: A Life, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1997, p.553.
While you were telling us in your
colourful, clever way that we might:
think it horrible that lust and rage
Should dance in attendance upon (your) old age;
They were not such a plague when (you were) young;
What else have (you) to spur (you) into song?1
we were hurtling towards our destruction,
unsavable by any modern creed,
with nothing to make the truth known.
Your task was to rage, be defiant, to assert
a moral force and in the process hammer
the occult, politics and poetry
into one harmonious tour de force,2
in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart,3
.....we were laying a firm anchorage
for the Administrative Order
in that initial stage in the unfoldment
of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s vision,4 so quietly,
so gently, so very unobtrusively
for the spiritual conquest of the planet:
as the night descended deeper and deeper
and you died and civilization was again
getting through by the skin of its teeth.5
1 W.B. Yeats, quoted in W.B. Yeats: A Life, Stephen Coote, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1997, p.553.
2 ibid., p.571.
4 The Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944.
5 Kenneth Clark, Civilization, Pelican, NY, 1969, p.28.
24 May 1999
As the Seven Year Plan unfolded in April 1937, after a hiatus of sixteen years; after the gradual articulation of Baha’i administration during the years 1921 to 1937, the Baha’i community was ready with the first stage of its international teaching plan, based as it was on the Tablets of the Divine Plan, written by ‘Abdu’l-Baha during WWI and made public in New York in 1919. While the Baha’is were working toward the fulfillment of the goals of this Plan, the world experienced the worst war it had ever seen. When the Plan ended in 1944, the first century of Baha’i history ended. I was born two months later, during the two year interval between this first stage of the Plan and the second stage, 1946-1953. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.
As the Baha’is were preparing the way
for the first stage, the first phase, of their Plan,1
Hitler was preparing his plan
with nothing less than the spiritual conquest of the planet
at stake—for a thousand years.
Guns and swords and uniforms
would not be the winning combination,
the guns and swords of a virtuous character,
sharper than blades of steel
and sharper than summer heat,
with quiet, unobtrusive methods,
military only in metaphor,
defeating the right and left wings
and driving to the very centre
of the powers of earth.
This was a war worth fighting,
worth living for and dieing for:
the great dramaturgical battle of life.
27 June 1999
1 First Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944; Hitler presented his first military plans in 1937 as outlined on ABC TV, June 26th, 1999, 10:25 pm: Secrets of War: The Ultra Enigma.
DRIVEN BY FORCES WE COULD NOT PROPERLY ASSESS
In 1937 Virginia Woolf found herself, for the first time, really wealthy. She had the materials for happiness, she observed at the time, “but no happiness.”1 As the Seven Year Plan opened in April of that year, a Plan “driven by forces which its prosecutors (could) not hope to properly assess,”2 one of England’s greatest twentieth century writers opened on a period that turned out to be the last four years of her life, driven by forces she could not properly assess.
Ron Price with thanks to 1 Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf: A Biography, Pimlico, London, 1996(1972), p.203; 2 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p.7.
Her new book, The Years1,
was just coming onto the market
and Leonard2 had just thrown out
that New York Times journalist.3
And now, at last,
the Seven Year Plan had begun.
She made her first radio broadcast
which did not even come close
to capturing her clear, beautiful,
deep, resonant, voice.4
She took a holiday,
with sadness always lurking on the sidelines
and war, war always ready to add to the
war in her own heart,
which took her away slowly,
driven by forces she could not properly assess,
toward that rock which she put in her pocket
before she crossed those water-meadows and
drowned herself in a river
about noon on Friday 28 March 1941
after hearing those interminable
voices of madness,
yet again, again.
11 June 1999
1 It came onto the market in early 1937; see Quentin Bell, p.198.
2 Virginia Woolf’s husband
3 28 March 1937; see Bell, p.253.
4 29 April 1937, see Bell, p.200.
THE FAIR INCARNATION
Max Ernst, handsome, brilliant, a famous artist of the Parisian avant-garde and renouned ladies’ man, arrived in London for an exhibition of his paintings. It was June 1937. He met Leonora Carrington, 20, a dark-eyed beauty with flowing black hair, rich and an aspiring artist. It was love at first sight, tempestuous, irresistible, a sweeping of all obstacles aside, a melding of souls and minds as well as bodies. The first Seven Year Plan, the international teaching program of the Baha’i community, was two months old.-Ron Price with thanks to Susan Suleiman, “Leonora Carrington & Max Ernst”, Significant Others: Creativity and Intimate Partnership, Thames and Hudson, London, 1996, p.97.
After five years of squabbles,
romantic idyll and heat, art and
war, they never saw each other
again; and a spiritual World Order,
stirring in the womb of a travailing age,
only just beginning, a tender plant,
growing amidst universal paralysis
at that supremely challenging hour,
as the end of the First Century of the
Baha’i Era approached, after a twenty
year incubation, efflorescing at long last,
propelled by agencies released by those
immortal Tablets. As these broad outlines
of His matchless design celebrated their
twenty-fifth anniversary,1 your relationship
was virtually ended after all its storm and stress.
Was it really love? Or was it just fascination?
There was a promise enshrined in that Plan
too dazzling to contemplate. And now, more
than half a century later, the fair incarnation
of the soul of this unconquerable Faith,
the latest fruit of the latest Plan,
stands in its silent beauty,
its grandeur and its resplendent majesty,
ready to reinforce our recent strenuous endeavours,
calling aloud incessantly,
for a greater and greater number of teachers
to sow the Divine seeds.
Is it really love we have? Or is it just fascination?
1 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan: completed in 1917, the Plan putting them into action did not begin for twenty years. During those twenty years ‘the machinery of a divinely appointed Administrative Order was being laboriously devised and its processes set in motion.(Shoghi Effendi, Letter to the American Baha’is, 26 May 1942.)
22 November 1999
A LOST GENERATION
F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American writer, was forty in 1937. He said his face was “aging from within with a drawn asceticism as if from a silent self-set struggle.” He had invented the Jazz Age. Everything had gone wrong for him. His beautiful wife Zelda was mentally ill; he was an alcoholic and in debt. The long madcap party of the twenties was over for he and Zelda, living symbols of the Roaring Twenties, had long ceased to be ‘an item.’ In July 1937 he headed for Hollywood for one last chance to put his life together. In 1945 he was dead.
These were the years, 1937-1944, of the first Seven Year Plan, the first stage of the first epoch of the Divine Plan of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, an international teaching campaign that was the unfoldment of His vision of American’s spiritual destiny. In 1937 the American Baha’i community commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s trip to America. -Ron Price with appreciation to Robert Westbrook, Intimate Lies: F. Scott Fitzgerlad and Sheilah Graham, Harper Collins,NY, 1995, pp.1-15; and Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, pp. 8-13.
You1 saw millions slaughtered
in the trenches, all Gods were dead,
all wars had been fought back then,
or so we hoped and thought,
all faiths had been shaken,
the final nail in the coffin,
no grog, the elixir of revolt,2
you led the way, gorgeous brats
of those Roaring Twenties that
you were, the flawless ones,
slowly becoming doomed youth:
your magic, your bright hope gone—
but jazz, man, was going from strength
to strength across a globalized world.
You were a generation lost
in the tragedy of the depression,
a lost world, an age, as he4 worked
on a new age3, as unobtrusively as
can be, on the organization, the Order,
the practice with the theory in place.
Those World Order letters kept coming,
as Baha’i administration evolved slowly
during that hiatus-time, so that when you
went West to Hollywood in 1937,
the framework was strong enough
to launch that international missionary
program which will keep us all busy
for generations to come.
1 Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, symbols of a generation.
2 The Volstead Act(1919), banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in the USA.
3 The Formative Age began in 1921.
4 Shoghi Effendi
19 May 1999
One thing I try to do in many of my poems is to bring together in one clump, one patch, one poem of words: something from society, something from my own personal life and something from my religion. A tripartite division of material coming together under one roof, one system of flowing meaning, one synchronized set of terms gives me a sense of completeness, fulfullment, synthesis. The following poem is an example of such a triangle of poetic content. When I do this in a sonnet pattern it is the closest I get to form, to structure, to any remote resemblance to rigidity of framework, with the sole exception of strongly rhyming poems. -Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, Baseball, 16 July 2000; and Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, pp.8-13.
When Joe Dimaggio, Bob Feller
and Lou Gehrig were turning them
on in the Majors and the Yankees
seemed unbeatable, the Baha’is
launched their first teaching plan,
the Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944,
on April 21st 1937. The initial stage
in the unfoldment of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s
vision of America’s spiritual destiny
began and humanity entered the outer
fringes of the most perilous stage
of its existence. My grandfather
had just retired and my mother
and father were about to meet.
16 July 2000
A DATA BASE
Beginning in 1937 in the U.K. a project known as Mass Observation has continued to provide a data base, an archive, information about the opinions and experiences of the average Briton. Hundreds of people, mostly women, kept diaries of their observations on subjects initially required by the government for the war effort. The project was discontinued in the early 1950s and started again in 1981 at the University of Sussex. There now exists at this university an archive of hundreds, thousands, of pages of detailed observations by alert, intelligent people telling some of the story of the daily experiences of ordinary people in Britain in the twentieth century.-Ron Price with thanks to LNL Radio, 10:40-11:00 pm, 21 September 2000.
Beginning in 1937 in the Baha’i community a project known as the Seven Year Plan, based on the initial outline in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, has continued under many different names. Hundreds of people, many thousands now, moved to different parts of the world to establish, to extend, to teach, the Baha’i Faith. Many hundreds of these people kept diaries and collections of letters, wrote autobiographies and poetry to convey the stories, the experiences of their lives. An archive now exists, spread out over dozens of places around the globe, which will one day provide a useful base, resource, for future historians wanting to write a history of the first four epochs of the Formative Age.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 21 September 2000.
In the evolution of modern jazz we find the name of Dizzy Gillespie in the early 1940s associated with the beginnings of the bebop era. Dizzy was one of the kings of bebop. The blueprint for this new music was created in the clubs and bars of New York in the late thirties and 1940s, just after my mother and father met, eventually married and I was born. Of course, there were other names found in this era of jazz, names like Charlie Parker and Roy Eldridge. There was a “fast, complex and asymmetrical melody, coupled with offbeat rhythms”1 in the bebop sound. This new music was born and given expression during the first Seven Year Plan(1937-1944). It was consolidated just before and during the second Seven Year Plan(1946-1953). Gillespie gave to jazz an “articulated set of harmonic and rhythmic precepts” and a “dramatic set of recorded examples.”1 He gave to the Baha’i Faith from his mid-life onward, from the late 1960s to his death in 1993, his musical talents as an international ambassador for the Cause he had espoused with such enthusiasm. -Ron Price with thanks to “Dizzy Gillespie,” ABC TV, 3:10 pm, 17 December 2000; and Alyn Shipton in One Country, The Newsletter of the Baha’i International Community, Vol.11, No.2, 1999.
You’ve been around all my life,
well at least until I started going
seriously with my poetry, Dizzy.
In fact, I remember giving you
a poem at the beginning of my
poetic journey in Perth WA.1
You were only twenty when
that first Plan began in ’37.
It would be over thirty years
before you found the Cause
that gave your mid and late
life that depth and maturity.
You joined amidst catastrophic
events and the pain of war.2
I was recovering from my own war
at the time and settling back into
the teaching profession with Judy3
and serving the Cause in Ontario.4
1 Dizzy played in Perth in 1990 and I gave him a poem in his hotel, a poem I wrote that same day.
2 The Universal House of Justice, Letter, 16 November 1969.
3 Judy Price, now Judy Noack, my first wife.
4 I worked in Picton, Prince Edward County, in southern Ontario.
17 December 2000
ANIMATION AND THE PLAN
The first cinematic environmental hero may have been in Walt Disney’s nine minute animated film Little Hiawatha released on 15 May 1937. This was at the very start of the first Bahá'í teaching plan; in fact, the film went into theatres as the delegates left the national convention in Chicago and arrived back in their homes. In the film an Indian boy is on a journey to become a hunter and he befriends the animals he had intended to kill. This film was released seven months before a second animated film Snow White. The Disney studio had begun its full artistic bloom. The extravagant artistry developed for Disney's first features was very evident in these debut films.
Hiawatha ventures forth with his little bow and arrow intent on emulating the mighty hunters of his village. It turned out that he was too soft-hearted to kill a rabbit. Later, when he was endangered by a ferocious bear, the rabbit rounded up an animal posse and saved him. Hiawatha rowed off in his canoe into the sunset safely back to his home, but empty-handed.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in the week before Christmas in 1937, eight months to the day after the inception of the Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944. This animated film was based on Snow White, a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. It was the first full-length animated feature in motion picture history as well as the first animated feature film produced in America. It was the first animation produced in full colour by the Walt Disney team. It was the first to become part of the Walt Disney Animated Classics canon.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre on December 21, 1937, and the film was released to theaters by RKO Radio Pictures on February 4, 1938. The noted filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein went so far as to call this animated film “the greatest film ever made.” -Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia, 8 April 2010.
The mission they inaugurated
animated the world little-by-
little and day-by-day.....little
did that world know......This
new life, this animation, had
begun releasing the greatest
potentialities of the community
of the Greatest Name & lending
a lustre no-less-brilliant than the
immortal deeds that signalized
the birth of this emerging world
religion for humankind. Indeed
the animation was far, far, more
than Hiawatha & Snow White ever
produced & would be part of the
greatest story ever to be told....!!!!
8 April 2010
HOME AND AWAY
“The time came, in the 1930s, when the kind of life Fitzgerald had been writing about,” says W.M. Frohock, “ceased to be exotic and became familiar Elsewhere, everywhere.”1 This was but one more example of what the historian Toynbee refereed to as a westernizing and industrializing world in which “Western Civilization expanded over the whole face of the planet in the course of the Modern Age of Western history”2 with an increasing standardization. -Ron Price with thanks to W. Frohock, Strangers to this Ground: Cultural Diversity in Contemporary American Writing, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1961, p.38; and Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol.5.
The timing was perfect,
after that hiatus of, what
was it, sixteen years?1
You could move around
the continent and the world
and have your perspectives,
the back home and away,
kept in one piece. Mobility,
motion, was no longer about:
an unpleasant fix,
being seriously ill at ease,
a bombarding, a fragmentation
of experience, yet more running,
the cry and moan of
wounded personal sensibility,
lostness, discomfort, misfortune,
These were just part of your fate
in the many homes
you created around the planet,
for they were part of your fate
whereever you were: home or away.
24 February 2000
1 One could argue the ‘waiting period’ before the unveiling of the Tablets of the Divine Plan and their implementation in the first Seven Year Plan was eighteen years: 1919-1937.
About two months after the start of the first Seven Year Plan in 1937 Ezra Pound published The Fifth Decad of Cantos XLII-LI. By 1937 Pound had been working on his Cantos for over two decades. In this set of cantos Pound recorded “his private vision of the ideal public order.” Pound saw himself as the shaper and guiding spirit, the poet, of the emerging order. The exiled wanderer of the earlier cantos, Odysseus, has found his home, in Pound’s case, in the Fascist state of Italy. He has become Confucius. So often in the twentieth century, the poet, the artist, turns to secular politics and some messiah within the political realm, as the hope for the complex dilemmas of society. In this set of Pound’s Cantos he himself emerges as the hero of the poem, the maker of the tradition that will guide the modern hero. -Ron Price with thanks to Stephen Sicari, Pound’s Epic Ambition: Dante and the Modern World, State University of New York Press, NY, 1991, p. 97.
A vision of an ideal order
had been emerging for
a century or more
when this set of cantos
was given to the world.
A shaper and guiding spirit,
a great Poet had come
and gone and His ideas
were just now, in 1937,
being taken to humanity
in the first stage of a Plan
of teaching, extending
well into the future
and requiring heroes
different from the one
you had envisaged:
people who would struggle
against their ordinary selves,
the pain at the heart of life
and the loneliness and isolation
that heroism seems to bring.1
1 Geoffrey Nash, “The Heroic Self and the Ordinary Self,” Baha’i Studies, Vol.10.
29 September 2000
The key developments in the science of radio and television occurred, in the case of radio in the decade after ‘Abdul-Baha visited America(or the decade after He was released from prison); and in the case of television in the first decade of the promulgation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan.(1919 to 1929) The critical instuments of mass communication were ready and operating by 1937, by the beginning of the first Seven Year Plan. By the beginning of the first global teaching operation in 1953, the Ten Year Crusade, mass communication was well entrenched and ready for the Baha’i community to use in its teaching programs. My family had had a TV for two years and a radio for about thirty years by that time. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 24 September 2000.
The year ‘Abdu’l-Baha
was released from prison,
music was broadcast
from the Eiffel Tower
and the biggest advance
in radio technology--
the amplication of sound--
the year He came to the West.
The soul of the manifestation of God,
released from its worldly restrictions,
was energizing the world
to a degree unapproached at any stage
in its existence on this planet.1
1 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, p.244.
24 September 2000
ROUTINIZATION OF CHARISMA
IN A POLAR NIGHT OF ICY DARKNESS
In Max Weber’s view, the mindless momentum of bureaucratic structures and cultural traditions, which are themselves governed by pragmatic adaptation to reality and the systematic calculation of consequences, leading to routine regulations and deadening routinization, could be broken by the appearance of ‘charismatic authority.’ The charismatic leader, on the basis of extraordinary gifts, was able to introduce into history emotions that endow life with meaning and arrest the technical forces of disenchantment and bureaucracy. -Ron Price with thanks to John Patrick Diggins, The Promise of Pragmatism: Modernism and the Crisis of Knowledge and Authority, University of Chicago Presss, Chicago, 1994, p.31.
When you1 arrived at the head of this Cause
a whole philosophy of charisma was ready,2
as an intellectual support of your position,
but alas, you could not read German
and had too much to do anyway,
in your new role as Guardian.
Charisma was, he said, arguably
a way out of our disencantment,
an annunciation and promise3
in a religious tradition
right under your nose and ours
by means of what he called
conceived against custom
and vested interest
what he would have called
and which you had to face
in a polar night of icy darkness.5
1 Shoghi Effendi
2 Written by max Weber and published in the early 1920s.
3 K. Miyahara, “Charisma: From Weber to Contemporary Sociology,” Sociological Inquiry, Vol. 53, p.377.
4 Weber’s term
5 Weber’s description of post-war Europe.
12 April 2000
RESHAPED BY FIRE
It took me virtually forty years to distill within the vessel of my mind and heart what had been the prima materia for my lifetime's work.1 This prima materia had been acquired insensibly in my years nine to fifteen and it was supplemented and clarified over and over again with the years. What had slowly insinuated itself into the bosom of my convictions by 15 and which was to burst forth again and again in the following years in different forms: prayer, pioneering, service in the administration, writing, work and meditation, had become a stream of lava forty years later by the age of 55. It was a stream that had just begun to flow in my forty-ninth year in 1992. The heat of its fire has reshaped my life.
My initial impulse to believe in those years of late childhood and early adolescence; and in later adolescence the desire to accomplish something in life with my mind and heart fully, passionately, engaged, found a home and a goal for those aspirations in the stories I heard of Tabriz and Akka and in an enchantment by some mysterious Fragrance I do not understand even to this day. My need then, as quiet, unhurried and insidious as a seed, had indeed found a home by 1959. It had been met in ways I could scarely appreciate or value by the time I began my pioneering adventure in 1962 at the age of eighteen.
My mid-life transition of 39-42 has been, long ago now, negotiated2 and in my forties my life was restabilized for middle adulthood and what might well be the long road of late adulthood and old age. The task of the second half of my life to bring about a greater wholeness, roundedness and groundedness, what I had begun but only superficially in the first half of my life for I had so much to do and learn and had to scatter my net wide, had now begun in earnest, in a more concentrated form. I appear to have found that second wind which will now allow me to go on forever, even unto eternity. -Ron Price with thanks to John Raphael-Staude, The Adult Development of C.G. Jung, Routledge and Kegan Paul, Boston, 1981, 1p.45 and 2p.15.
If I live to be 90 I will enjoy
some forty years
of this concentration
and attain that greater wholeness,
roundedness and groundedness
that I could never achieve
when life was raining down
on me in earnest: raising kids,
going to work, earning a living,
always there was earning a living.
And sex was always wished for
with its sharp frustrations.
The heat was always on
as I searched, endlessly searched
among the spiritually hungry
to erect the fabric of this new Order.
I am finding in these latter years,
that the heat of this fire
is reshaping my life, yet again,
in new and quieter ways,
emotions recollected in tranquillity,
still launched as I have been
already for forty years
on this my main business,
the single enterprize of my life,
this one idea, this one goal,
to penetrate my society
with the teachings
of this new Faith:
everything in my life
can be explained
from this central point,
this one theme.1
1 Jung expressed the same idea, only for him the one idea and theme was 'the secret of personality.' Jung was, among other things, a personality theorist. Staude, op.cit.,p.66.
9 January 2002
The poet's weapons against life's humiliations, disappointments and failures consist of imagination, memory, comprehension, understanding, thought, analysis and a common faculty which communicates between these inner powers and the outward senses. Suffering cannot be prevented, eliminated, but the Bahá'í teachings suggest many ways, techniques and philosophies to help one cope. Focusing one's thinking on a single point; 1 making one's learning a means of access to the Most manifest;2 seeking the confirmations of Bahá'u'lláh;3 seeing the good;4 developing courage by teaching the Cause,5 among many others. In addition, the poet's inner faculties deal with the world's complexities, analyse the problems, focus on interrelated fragments of reality, counter discouraging tendencies and the abyss of the sense of failure; develop several projects, themes and tasks so that one area is always rich in promise, there is always one element to nourish the waiting and the hope.-Ron Price with thanks to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, Haifa, 1978, 1-5.
Fear comes insidiously like a seed,
but there is much ease in my world
of dream and doubt,
where I surrender to my manias,
cultivate my idee fixe,
wallow in it at leisure,
keep the stimulant coming on,
get winded and renewed,
for always there must be renewal.
Always, too, there are the goals:
the big ones that retreat
and the near ones I bite off.
Living in the future is a motor
where something keeps brewing.
Always the battle,
always on my own ground,
at the place of my choosing,
probing thrusts in many directions,
where even my defects
have an important function.
And so, my mind frets
in this labyrinth,
deluged with messages,
in quest of a sign, a wink,
an unforeseen connection,
pacing about, looking for a way,
a glimmer of light, ceaselessly,
from exaltation to melanchology,
fatigue and disappointment
and back again.
28 July 2001
Whyalla had four Bahá'ís in July 1971 when we arrived from Canada. The world had some 40,000 localities in the early 1970s and, by the beginning of the Seven Year Plan in 1979, that number had doubled. The future, as the House had predicted, had been "bright with intimations of thrilling developments." When I baorded that jet in Chicago on July 9th 1971, I had no idea I would be spending the next thirty years in Australia--and quite possibly the rest of my life. We touched down in Sydney at 7:12 am on July 12th, took a plane to Adelaide, visited hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone and his wife Madge and drove up to Whyalla.
The teaching work in Whyalla is a story in itself. Wife swappers, a mountain of youth who had nothing to do on a Friday night and found us 'attracitve' 'curious' 'interesting.' I search for the words that led to this inundation of people to our house on Friday evenings. Often as many as forty or fifty would arrive. We'd have a room for the serious chatters, a room for the musical types, a room to eat, drink and chat, the cool backyard if you wanted some air. We had something for everyone and everyone came. At this state of my writing the story, my intent is to just get a borad outline on paper. At a future time I may write in more detail about this absolutely incredible experience of humanity in this semi-desert country of South Australia.
On December 12th 1972 Judy and I headed for Gawler in South Australia. I had got a new job teaching in South Australia's first open plan secondary school. Gawler had perhaps ten Bahá'ís at the time. I don't think the LSA of Whyalla ever met again, but that is another story. This second summer in South Australia I remember reading books to get away from the heat. Mainland Australia in the summer can be quite ferocious with high temperatures. In early February I began my work at Para Hills High School teaching the humanities and social sciences to grade nine and ten. Judy had a job teaching and slowly, insensibly, over the next eight months our marriage completely disintegrated. In the winter I appled for a job in Tasmania and in ealry September 1973 I was offered a job as Senior Tutor in Human Relations at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. My human relations on the home front were not too impressive but I was able to comvince the interviewers in Tasmania that I could do the job of training primary and secondary teachers in the arts of human relations and interpersonal skills.
Coming across Samuel Johnson’s essay on Conversation has stimulated this comment on the same subject after the experience of nearly forty years of pioneering over three epochs. I insert this comment here because in February 1972 a paradigm shift occurred in my professional life as a teacher. It was a paradigm shift involving the power of the word, of conversation, a power in the art of human interaction.
“The faculty of giving pleasure is of continual use” says Johnson. Those who are able to give pleasure in this way are frequently envied and when they leave they are missed, he goes on in closing the first paragraph of his useful and pithy analysis. In my early years of teaching the Cause, of employment, of moving from place to place, I was not able, on entering a room, to bring a sense of felicity; when I left my departure was not lamented. My presence did not inspire gaiety nor enliven people’s fancy. At least that is how I recall most of the first ten years of pioneering.
This inability was not due to lack of knowledge or a proportional lack of virtue; for in the first years of my service to the Cause as a pioneer I completed my high school, my university and my vocational training. I prayed frequently, read the Writings and, indeed, as I often point out to my son, my friends and associates, when the opportunity arises, I felt more virtuous than after these many years of life’s practice. Insensibly, after a decade as first a homefront and then an overseas pioneer, I found myself able to entertain, to give that pleasure which Johnson speaks of and which is, indeed, essential if one is going to be an effective teacher, either in classrooms or in a wide variety of other places promoting the teachings of Baha’u’llah. A forgiving eye, a sin-covering eye, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha calls it, is essential; for noone wants to be under the watchful eye of someone who feels some uncontestable sense of superiority. And I did feel that sense of superiority in those early years in the field. I felt a sense of moral superiority: clear, graphic, open, subtle, insinuating.
I did not possess a “wit whose vivacity”, as Johnson puts it, condemned “slower tongues to silence.” I was alternativley silent and uncommunicative and at other times a ready word was on my lips. Gradually, I was able to hold my tongue and let others say their piece. My knowledge was not dominant, domineering; my critical eye was not pervasive; my reasoning did not condemn those whose minds were more idle. For to do so, as I was only too well aware, would be to obtain praise and even reverence from my fellows, but I would have been avoided and even feared. My words would not have attracted the hearts which was the essential prerequisite of the teaching process, in or out of classrooms. My aim was to please. And please I did. From February 1972, after ten years in the field, to April 1999 there was a reciprocality in the conversational process, mutual entertainment, but nothing too quick, too sprightly, too imaginative, nothing to distort the face without a deeper gladness of the heart underneath, as Johnson emphasizes in his criticism of the overly bright and enthusiastic.
Of course, there are usually many views of just how one is doing in life. My wife offers a more moderate, a more moderating tone and perspective on just how successful I am and have been, than my own more enthusiastic view. Many of my students found me a gentleman who approached saintliness, extreme knowledgeability and a delightful sense of humour. Other students would have gladly confined me to oblivion as a useless weed. One can not win the day in every way with everyone. We are all many things to many people. At the very least the pioneer must learn the art of loving, of pleasing, of bringing pleasure, reach as many hearts as he can. This was my own aim, my own particular approach. This is a long and extensive subject but, to start, he at least must have gladness in his heart and it is this gladness that is infectious, that attracts by example. But, again, this must not be carried too far, with too much intensity, too much brightness. A certain moderation of tone and demeanor is helpful.
Indeed, as Johnson goes on, a good-natured personality is important to bring to the conversational milieux. To take on board criticism, to be unmoved by whatever confusion and folly surrounds him and to be willing to listen; these are all essential and useful traints. All of this brings, promotes, induces, a certain cheerfulness, and sometimes friendship.
Of course, conversation is not all. Some of the ablest conversationalists I knew over those years, for the most part in the tenth and final stage of history, were people who suffered a great deal and found human interaction very frustrating. Although I was able to connect with hundreds of people in the small country town of Katherine from 1982 to 1986, I was not able to connect with my boss and I suffered a great deal from my inability to deal with him effectively. My talents in Perth did not enable me to work happily with the LSA in Belmont. After a dozen years in Perth I was worn out in spite of any verbal talents I had acquired.
There is a rhythm in life, in both conversations and in the flow of pleasure and pain to our sensory receptors; and our happiness in life depends to a very large extent on the depth of our understanding of this life process and our capacity to regulate our own life to its rhythm. Opportunity without capacity produces stress. The pioneer is given many opportunities to find out the limits of his or her capacity. Stress is just part of the ride.
In 1972 and 1973 I had two years of very successful teaching experience. I was well liked by my students and highly regarded by my peers. After many years of low degrees of success and high degrees of failure the feeling of success in my professional work was intoxicating. It seemed to have no effect on the proces of teaching the Cause in 1973. There was no entry-by-troops that year and when I arrived in Tasmania on January 1st 1974 I had lost whatever expectations I had had of finding a high rate of enrolments here at the ends of the earth.
I was on the even of my thirtieth birthday and back in a Bahá'í community of about half a dozen. I missed my wife, Judy, terribly, but this was soon remedied with a series of three girl friends which culminated in a de facto relationship by April with a woman who is now my wife, Christine Sheldrick or Christine Armstrong, for that was her married name. And here is a poem about that relationship which was just beginning here.
Frieda loved D.H. Lawrence, even if he drained her emotional reserves or failed to fulfil her needs. The marriage had become her life’s work and it’s disappointments were inevitable. Frieda believed she had what few women ever have: “a real destiny.” The marriage was also Lawrence’s life work, although he acted under a different set of assumptions: a belief in the sanctity, worth and permanence of the institution. He also had a belief in the rescuer’s responsibility for the rescued(Frieda). Divorce was putrid and out of the question. Separations, though, were frequent. -Ron Price with thanks to Janet Byrne, A Genius for Living:The Life of Frieda Lawrence, Harper Collins, NY, 1995, p. 316.
Love was not a word that either Price or his wife liked to use to characterise their emotional attachment to each other. They both found it too abstract. They both had had their disappointments, disappointments largely ironed out in the first two decades of their marriage. Price believed he had what few people ever have: “a sense of destiny.” Price believed he had done a rescue job on his wife, on Chris, the rescued. They both acted under the assumption that marriage was a challenge, something worth working at and, hopefully, permanent, although divorce was an option which, by the beginning of the third decade of their relationship, was rarely contemplated. A sharing of solitude, “an exchange of two solitudes”, as the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset put it, was certainly a philosophical view that underpinned his marriage, as Price saw it. -Ron Price with thanks to Ortega y Gasset, Man and People, p.50.
Marriage in the third and forth epochs
of the Formative Age was an unstable
affair in and out of the Baha’i community,
but, however unstable, I found it
that fortress-for-well-being especially
when pioneering and travelling
from pillar to post, producing
he who will remember His Lord
and thus acquiring the means
of attracting perpetual grace.
And that barrier, there was always
that barrier, a solitude
in the heart and soul of man
and woman, a mystery
that is the Source of their light and life.
24 May 1999
SWEET NEW LIFE
Beginning in 1937 in the U.K. a project known as Mass Observation has continued to provide a data base, an archive, information about the opinions and experiences of the average Briton. Hundreds of people, mostly women, kept diaries of their observations on subjects initially required by the government for the war effort. The project was discontinued in the early 1950s and started again in 1981 at the University of Sussex. There now exists at this university an archive of hundreds, thousands, of pages of detailed observations by alert, intelligent, but ordinary, average people, without any special expertise in social analysis, telling some of the story of the daily experiences of ordinary people in Britain in the twentieth century.-Ron Price with thanks to LNL Radio, 10:40-11:00 pm, 21 September 2000.
Beginning in 1937 in the Baha’i community a project known as the Seven Year Plan, based on the initial outline in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, has continued down the decades of the twentieth century under many different names. Hundreds of people, many thousands now, moved to different parts of the world to establish, to extend, to teach, the Baha’i Faith. Many hundreds of these people kept diaries and collections of letters, wrote reports and recorded minutes of meetings, wrote down their autobiographies and their poetry to convey the stories, the experiences of their lives. An archive now exists, spread out over dozens of places around the globe, which will one day provide a useful base, resource, for future historians wanting to write a history of the first four epochs of the Formative Age.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 21 September 2000.
There’s an eruption of meaning
here among these fragile lives.1
More than just a lot of paper
kept in old boxes in a back room;
more than meaningless circularized
correspondence that came on the table
to be dismissed, even then, to a file
or the waste paper basket.
There are connections with reality
here among these people’s stories,
rare gems for future historians,
among the rich, the tragic,
the often lackluster ordinariness,
the seemingly absurd, the dry bones
of papered lives amidst a mass of
seemingly useless, valueless memorabilia.
There’s a great weight of irrelevance
here, like the archive of ancient Rome
in the midst of our anarchic confusion
in the attitude to history that has grown
up around us in these tempestuous days.
But there is an overwhelming beauty
here which, like the Parthenon of old,
stifles damaging criticism at its source,2
enriches the realm of aesthetics and
emotion and gives to this paper, now
mounting to the skies, a sweet new life
and arrays those lives, those stories,
with the fresh leaves of consecrated joy.3
1 Arlette Farge, Fragile Lives: Violence, Power and Solidarity in Eighteenth Century Paris, Marvard UP, Cambridge, Mass., 1993, Introduction.
2 Peter Green, The Shadow of the Parthenon, Maurice Temple Smith, London, 1972.
3 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970, p.116.
21 September 2000
Between the first regular television programming in England, in 1936, and the first in the USA in 1939, the first Seven Year Plan began in North America in 1937. Radio programs had begun at about the time the Tablets of the Divine Plan had been unveiled in America, in 1919. The promotion, the teaching, the proclamation of the Baha’i Cause was able to be done through radio and television broadcasting when this Cause had developed, had spread, had evolved, to the point that it was able to use them. The timetable of the Cause of God and developments on the planet seemed to be remarkably well-synchronized.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 1 October 2000.
They1 were ready to take it global
from 1919 when along came
radio and television
for the two billion people
who had come to inhabit
the first threads of the web
of embryonic planetary civilization
that Arnold Toynbee
was describing in his
Study of History
which he took forty years
to write in eleven volumes.2
Why, I even went pioneering
when the National Space Agency
launched the Telstar 1 satellite;
and the first live global
communications were channeled
through outer space3 while
the Universal House of Justice
was elected for the first time.
1 The Baha’is
2 Arnold Toynbee began writing his Study of History in 1921 and completed his
eleventh voilume in 1961.
3 July 10th 1962 lauching of satellite; first commercial programming over satellite in 1965 after the apex of the Baha’i administrative system, the Universal House of Justice was eleected in 1963.
1 October 2000
One thing I try to do in many of my poems is to bring together in one clump, one patch, one poem of words: something from society, something from my own personal life and something from my religion. A tripartite division of material coming together under one roof, one system of flowing meaning, one synchronized set of terms gives me a sense of completeness, fulfullment, synthesis. The following poem is an example of such a triangle of poetic content. When I do this in a sonnet pattern it is the closest I get to form, to structure, to any remote resemblance to rigidity of framework, with the sole exception of strongly rhyming poems.-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, Baseball, 16 July 2000; and Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, pp.8-13.
When Joe Dimaggio, Bob Feller
and Lou Gehrig were turning them
on in the Majors and the Yankees
seemed unbeatable, the Baha’is
launched their first teaching plan,
the Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944,
on April 21st 1937. The initial stage
in the unfoldment of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s
vision of America’s spiritual destiny
began and humanity entered the outer
fringes of the most perilous stage
of its existence. My grandfather
had just retired and my mother
and father were about to meet.
16 July 2000
“The Notebooks of Thomas Wolfe show us the difficulties that the autobiographical method created for him due to an ever-expanding, ever-detailed proliferation of material,” writes R.S. Kennedy in The Notebooks of Thomas Wolfe(U. of N. Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1970). Rather than small pocket notebooks, the informal records of a literary career, a mixture of day-to-day jottings of a most miscellaneous kind, a jumble of literary ideas, readers of my autobiographical pot-pourri get a mixture of poetry, essays, letters, narrative, journal, history, biography, criticism, notes from reading, newspaper and magazine articles and incompleted novels, mostly from the fourth epoch but some from the third, of the Formative Age. This mixture of genres provides readers with an unusual, a rare, acquaintance with the inner life of a Baha’i who is an aspiring writer, a fascinating glimpse of a poet at work and a close look at the creative process which transformed his experience into writing. -Ron Price with thanks to R.S. Kennedy, The Notebooks of Thomas Wolfe, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1970, p. xvii.
I, too, Thomas, have a hope,
a conviction, of a high,
a glorious fulfillment.
No abortion here, Thomas,
no infection of disease
will dull the vision,
the golden dome,
the silver thread,
the amethyst, the diamond:
they will shine
however bleak the scene,
however much the revulsion
that is felt from time to time.1
Yes, there will be shame, anguish,
loathing, follies, stupidities,
crises that threaten to arrest
its unfoldment and
blast all the hopes
which its progress has engendered.2
And there will be a taste
of bitterness with the years,
made sweet by death’s final call
and that Wondrous Vision
that is the brightest emanation
of His Mind.3
1 When the Seven Year Plan began in 1937, Thomas Wolfe was in the last year of his life and the vision, the dream, he had had of America seemed mortally wounded.
2 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, p.111.
3 Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p.48. //Ron Price 25 Aug 2000
A DANCE TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER
By the mid and late 1930s jazz had become the defining music of the generation, the generation that was then coming into its teens. Jazz seemed to unleash forces and energies like rock 'n roll did twenty years later. Like rock 'n roll, too, it seemed to possess a physicality; it released pent-up emotions; it was pure pleasure; it was a form of escape and it was entertainment. As jazz emerged so, too, did Bahá'í Administration. In 1937 Bahá'í Administration had developed sufficiently to take on a teaching Seven Year Plan. Between Benny Goodman becoming the generation's icon of popular music by playing at Times Square to a packed house of teenagers in the Paramount Theatre in March of 1937 and his band's contest with Chick Webb's band at the Savoy Ballroom in May of 1937, this Seven Year Plan began. -Ron Price with thanks to "Episode Five: Jazz: Pure Pleasure," ABC TV, 9:30-10:30 pm, 27/10/2001.
It exploded, completely unknown,
overnight, or so it seemed,
to the generation who began
that Plan in '37. In reality,
it had been slowly developing
in theory and form for nearly
a century, well, if you go back
to that magic year of 1844.
Jazz was becoming popular
the way we would have liked
to be popular, but our Plan
was a slow release model,
an experimental disposition,
a dance to a different drummer,
with the light and lyrical,
exquisite touch of an Eddy Wilson,
the often sad, slow pace
of a Billy Holliday or a Glen Miller
Men and women working
together, composing on-the-spot,
everyone in harmony,
moving toward elegance and joy:
that was one way of defining
what our aim was too
in those early Bahá'í Groups
and Assemblies beginning
in those first-days-of-form,
days of Administrative vision,
when we started our dreaming.1
1 When Duke Ellington was asked what he was doing when he was playing jazz on the piano, he said "I'm dreaming."
-----------Ron Price 27 December 2001
A GREAT DESTINY
John Wayne was a leading actor of the first, second and third epochs of the Formative Age. After nearly ten years in B grade movies, he began to come into prominence at the outset of the teaching Plans. In 1938 he appeared in the film Stage Coach. In the first year I was a Bahá'í, Wayne appeared in a film called The Alamo. He died seven weeks into the Seven Year Plan, on June 11th 1979. He symbolized the conservative virtues of America and made a virtue of being sober, industrious and responsible. In some ways he symbolized America itself and what it meant to be a man in all its macho, rugged masculinity, at least up until the 1960s when he began to be out of touch with society and its values. Wayne had a strong sense of his destiny and the destiny of Amerca; so, too, did the Guardian. 'Destiny' is a word used frequently by Shoghi Effendi.
-Ron Price with thanks to "John Wayne: The Unique American," ABC TV, 3:00-4:00 pm, 30 September 2001.
You were there for fifty years,
the first fifty of those Plans,
riding a horse, shooting a gun,
drinking your grog, womanizing.
You lived in a world of sterotypes,
reinvented yourself as you went along,
as quickly as drawing your gun.
You were a paradigm of patriotism
for all those long years
when we were taking this Cause
to the uttermost ends of the earth.
We needed your touchness, then,
your sober, industrious sense
of responsibility, your blunt honesty,
your easy sociability,
your grace and your charm.
We needed it then and now.
We, too, need to be students
of ourselves and battle on
despite our insecurities.
For we, like you,
have a role to play
in the great American destiny.
30 September 2001.
A NEW VITALITY
There was a new energy and vitality that came from the American theatre and its stage in the first two epochs of the Formative Age(1921-1963). Playrights like Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neil and musical like Showboat, Oklahoma and West Side Story
brought a new spirit to the American public and its theatre audiences. It was this same vitality, this same energy, this same spirit that helped the Guardian lay the foundation for Bahá'í Administration in the U.S.A. by 1936 and that led to the successful completion of the two Seven Year Plans and the Ten Year Crusade in the U.S.A. by 1963.
-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, 18 May 2001, "Changing Stages: Part 3-America," 9:30-10:20 pm.
You gave new life to the old,
spread it around the world,1
ignited the sixties in your way,
set me alight, sent me north
and as far from home as I could go.2
It had been there in the beginning
in the Tablets
and in Bound East for Cardiff
1 American theatre gave new life to British theatre in the 1950s and 1960s; American Bahá'ís pioneered all around the world during the Ten Year Crusade, bringing new life.
2 Australia was as far away as one could go from Canada.
3 The 'Tablets of the Divine Plan' were begun in 1916 and Eugene O'Neil's first one act play, 'Bound East for Cardiff,' was produced in that same year.
18 May 2001
A TURNING POINT IN HISTORY
I was born three months after the end of the first Seven Year Plan(1937-1944), the beginning of the last two years(1944-1946) of the first epoch of the Formative Age(1921-1946). This first epoch could be said to have been a turning point in history. For the most part Western civilization was not yet aware, in 1944, of the horrifying detail of the war crimes committed by both Stalin and Hitler during that epoch. The birth and the primary stages of the erection of the framework of the Administrative Order took place in that first epoch. As I matured from adolescence to late adulthood I came to witness in the second(1946-1963), third(1963-1986) and forth(1986-2001) epochs the emergence of increasing details, statistics and photographs, of that turning point in history. The massive killing-fields of both Stalin and Hitler on the one hand and the laying of the foundation of the Administrative Order on the other. The first was a noisey and very public outcry. The second was a quiet and unobtrusive exercise. -Ron Price with thanks to Christopher Lasch, The Minimal Self: Psychic Survival in Troubled Times, WW Norton, NY, 1984, p. 106.
It was a turning point in history
little did we know it, then, or now.
We have no satisfactory explanation
of the totalitarian shift,
the epochal moral break
that became the burden of our time,
to affect a total social revolution.1
Mass society can and does and did
extinguish the individual identity.
When the world goes to pieces
you can't go on with business as usual.
And this was no business as usual,
the effort to unite mankind
in a fellowship
based on the teachings
of a Prisoner in Akka.
Emotional death results
when there is no ultimate goal in life,
when the grotesque and outlandish,
stupefying media outdo anything
human beings can imagine.
These electronic wizards doing their best
to define who and what we are.
in the sheer complexity of our world,
difficult to formulate a response to it,
given the continuous global extremities
we have endured since at least the 1930s
if not since the years after He left us.2
1 The aim of these totalitarian systems was 'total social revolution'.
2 'Abdu'l-Bahá left the West in 1913 and He died in 1921. Since 1914 there has been an almost unbroken history of crisis in the West with the arguable exception of the 1920s and the 1950s in some places.
13 May 2001
Alfred Adler, the famous psychologist, died five weeks after the beginning of the first Seven Year Plan which began in April 1937. Many of his ideas would be particularly useful to Baha’is in the prosecution of the various teaching plans that have succeeded that first one from 1937 to 1944. Adler emphasized, among other things, the power of understanding in coping with and enjoying a rich life. What some psychologists called the unconscious he called an area we don’t understand. His focus, again and again, was on understanding. ‘Abdu’l-Baha placed great emphasis on this same quality many times in His writings. The meaning of life, to Adler, was what we give it. The source of our striving lies in our sense of inferiority. If, in fact, we must, as Baha’is, prefer our fellow man to ourselves, perhaps Adler’s psychology of inferiority might serve as some of the basis for this Bahá'í ethic and attitude to others.
-Ron Price, “Notes on Alfred Adler,” Internet, 28 January, 2001.
It’s a vast and puzzling matter,
our own inner chatter
keeping us busy ‘til the end
of our days teasing, teasing, over and out.
Slowly being awakened
to our sense of moral destiny,
to community feeling,
just now taking form
over these Plans--
this gift of evolution--
to the inevitability of social harmony,
to an elan vital
and therapeutic meaning
based on orientation towards
a community goal, feeling,
an inner thing which will triumph
over everything that opposes it.1
1 See Paul E. Stepansky, In Freud’s Shadow: Adler in Context, The Analytic Press, Hillside, N.J., 1983, pp.248-274 for these ideas about community building.
29 January 2001
FULL SPEED AHEAD
The first Seven Year Plan opened in April of 1937, the same year that the development of jet propulsion, the design for the first jet engine and the aircraft gas turbine began at Power Jets Ltd in the U.K. Like so many of the inventions, processes and advancements in science and technology in the years of the nineteenth and twentieth century there seemed to be a strong correlation between developments in the Baha’i Faith and its expansion and consolidation and developments in the wider world of knowledge and its expansion. The following poem deals with this surprising, amazing, juxtaposition insofar as travel by jet is concerned.
-Ron Price with thanks to Collier’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 23, p. 478.
We were ready at last1
to take off,
so He decided
the unifying forces of life
needed a bit of a kick-start.
He gave us the jet
by the end of that first Plan.2
And by the ninth stage of history,
that Ten Year Crusade,
jets were flying us around
to pioneer posts,
and to that funeral
when the King of the world
died in England in November.3
1 there was a hiatus of 20 years before the Tablets of the Divine Plan were formally implemented in a Plan.
2 the first Plan for the North American Baha’is took place from 1937 to 1944; the first flight of a jet took place in May 1941; this program led to the first commercial flights.
3 Shoghi Effendi died in 1957, twenty years after the work on the first jet engine began.
12 January 2001
The eighties began, for me, on 21 April 1979, while I was living in the small town of Smithton in the northwest corner of Tasmania. That date marked the beginning of the Seven Year Plan. It was a difficult period of my life, beset as I was by a mild but troubling episode, one of a series of episodes lasting through 1978 to 1980, of my bi-polar disorder. I was also unemployed with a son nearly two and two step-daughters, aged nine and twelve. We stayed in Smithton for three to four months. The "fury of chaos and confusion....the signs of universal anarchy"1 which The Universal House of Justice wrote of in their Ridvan 1979 letter was certainly a part of my personal life at that time. I was so troubled that I wrote to The Universal House of Justice and asked for their prayers. I received their reply and their prayers that 'serene happiness'2 would be mine a few days before Naw Ruz. As it turned out, these months in Smithton were part of a dark night, one of the darkest in my life, out of which a future life of poetry and of light, would slowly arise beginning a little more than a year later.
-Ron Price with apprecation to 1The Universal House of Justice, Naw Ruz Letter 1979, opening lines; and 2 The Universal House of Justice, Letter to an Individual Believer, 3 April 1979.
Engulfed in a maelstrom
was I, pursuing as I was,
that redemptive mission.
And I, too, had my
my critical challenge
to my life and work,
immersed yet again
in fear and depression,
unable to lift up my heart
or redouble my energy.
The response had been
for many a long year.
But new opportunities1
beckoned as the eighties
began their course.
That serene happiness
began its tortured course.
I held to a precious trust,
the Message of God:2
and poetry began to stir.3
1 "At the heart of all activities, the spiritual, intellectual....life of the believers must be developed and fostered," The Universal House of Justice, Naw Ruz, 1979, p.4.
2 the words and ideas of this prose-poem come from that 1979 message.
3 I wrote my first poem at the end of that maelstrom, in August 1980, the first of what would be, by the end of the century, over 5000 poems.
Ron Price 27 May 2001
PAINTING THE BRIDGE
This afternoon a short radio program called Poetica took the listener through the poetry of San Francisco from the beginning of the second Seven Year Plan(1946-1953) through to the end of Ten Year Crusade in 1963. It was a very quick flick from the Berkeley Renaissance to Allen Ginsberg's and Gary Snyder's poetry into the early 1960s. These were the years of my childhood, early contact with the Bahá'í Faith and eventual pioneering in 1962. One can not summarize this entire period in one poem, but certain items of information from the program stand out; for example, they started to paint the Golden Gate bridge in 1937 and they are still painting it sixty-four years later. In the same way, the teaching Plans began to be put into place in 1937 and are still running strong. This poem is about 'painting the bridge' to a new age.
-Ron Price with thanks to Make Ladd, "Poetica," ABC Radio National, 2:05-2:45 pm, 16 June 2001.
They started to paint
the Golden Gate bridge
in the same year
the Plan got launched;
a new poetry
started to flow
when the second Plan
was inaugurated in '46;1
and Kenneth Rexroth wrote
his Thou Shalt Not Kill in '53
before Ginsberg's Howl in '55
and Gary Snyder,
all performance poets
at the heart of that Crusade;
and book shops, like 'City Lights,'
at 261 Columbus Avenue,
getting its start in 1953
when the Kingdom of God
also got its kick start in Chicago.
But I was into baseball at the time
and my mother was writing
a different poetry
in southern Ontario,
inspired as she was
by a new spirit
just then spreading
its wings across the globe.2
1 The Berkley Renaissance in poetry beginning in 1946.
2 the collection I have of my mother's poetry seems to begin about 1950, after twenty years of gathering the poetry of others. She joined the Cause in 1953, the year after it had just spread to over 100 new countries.
Ron Price 16 June 2001
RESCUING HUMAN LIFE
My prose-poems are about uncovering the truth. They are in part a continuous inner monologue, telling the story of my inner being; in part a universal and utopian vision; in part the meaning of being; in part they are argument, assertion and explanation; in part they tell the story of self, although not a simple and sequential documentation of actual experience; in part a detailed description of an external Authority and Arbiter; in part the search for and articulation of a unified sensibility and identity; in part an obsession with death and a transcendence through art; and in part a voice in the present that speaks of the past and the future. -Ron Price with thanks to "On Jackson's(i.e.Riding's) Poetry and Criticism," Internet, 11 July 2001.
You practiced your poetic trade
during that hiatus1 and gave it up
as that Seven Year Plan started:
when this new, fledgling religion,
baptized in a sea of blood,
had come West
just forty-four years before
and finally developed
an organizational form
sufficiently to launch
its first teaching Plan
to rescue human life
from the indignities
it was capable of
visiting upon itself.2
The poetic voice went on, Laura.
His sweet-scented words
went on to the far corners
of the globe, Laura.
The rescue job went on.
Can you see it Laura?
Can you see it?
2 Laura Riding, 'Introduction,' to The Poems of Laura Riding: A New Edition of the 1938 Collection, Persea Books Inc., NY, 1980.
22 July 2001
SWINGING IT IN
As 'swing'1 was beginning its life in the world of jazz, the foundation, the first form, the first shaping of Bahá'í Administration was being completed.2 By 1936 Bahá'í Administration was sufficiently well-established for the Bahá'í community to set out on its first international teaching Plan. The Plan was in the hands of the North American Bahá'ís. Some saw jazz as the first new universal style of music contributed by American culture; jazz also provided the first settings in New York, in the USA, where some public places were integrated. However one characterizes the early history of jazz, jazz was there in the culture when Bahá'í Administration became a well-organized national unit in the years 1922 to 1936. -Ron Price with thanks to 1"Jazz: The True Welcome," ABC TV: 9:45-10:45 pm, 20 December 2001; and 2 Loni Bramson-Lerche, "Some Aspects of the Development of the Bahá'í Administrative Order in America, 1922-1936," Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol.1, Kalimat Press, 1982,pp.255-300.
Some said it was a new way
to experience life, the world,
a new energy, an American invention,
helped people survive the depression.
And it did. And it was.
It was more than a New Deal.
As the planet approached
the outer fringes
of the most perilous stage
in its existence
with a Divine Plan in its mouth:
the initial stage in America's
FDR was there
with his fireside chats;
Benny Goodman was there
with his swing.
The classy Duke Ellington
was there with his jungle music.
Louis Armstrong was improvising
in a way no one had ever heard before.
And the American Bahá'í community
was getting ready to accomplish
its preliminary task
so that a rising generation,
would rise and labour
to fulfill that destiny
in the next century.2
1 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, p.6.
2 ibid.,p.13. That 'preliminary task' was the first Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944.
20 December 2001
THE ENDLESS, BREATHTAKING, JOURNEY
The year I went pioneering, 1962, American writer John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature. When the Seven Year Plan opened in 1937 he published Of Mice and Men and began working on his landmark in American literature The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck had, at the heart of his writing, a philosophy which contained many similarities with the Bahá'í message that was just then being promulgated in the first organized teaching campaign. It was an Emersonian philosophy of 'all that lives is holy' and 'everyone working for the whole, for one world.' His The Grapes of Wrath was about the endless, breathtaking journey we are all on to find our home. On one level, it was about one family's journey but, on another level, it was about all families. It was about concern for everyone not just the narrow field of one's own family. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 26 July 2001.
We have a proven capacity
for greatness--and we can
be even as one soul,
walk with the same feet,
eat with the same hand,
dwell in the same land.1
Indeed, we can be perfect;
yes, John, such a belief,
our ticket to membership
in literature's hallowed circle,2
as we travel the endless,
from our home to our home
is part of realizing,
more and more, along the way,
that it's only one world.
1 Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words
2 sentiment expressed in Steinbeck's 1962 Nobel prize acceptance speech
26 July 2001
In 1937 a collection of D.H. Lawrence's journalism and miscellaneous writing called Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers of D.H. Lawrence1 was published. The book was published at the very start of the first Seven Year Plan. This Plan was, indeed, the beginning of the rise, yet again, of the phoenix from the ashes. In the ninety-three years since the Declaration of the Bab in 1844, this new Faith, this powerful Cause, had already arisen from its proverbial ashes several times. This time, through a series of Plans in fulfillment of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, this new world religion would continue on from strength to strength, although various crises would, at times, "threaten to arrest its unfoldment and blast all the hopes which its progress (might) engender."2 -Ron Price with thanks to Ian MacKenzie, F.R. Leavis: A Life in Criticism, Allen Lane, 1995, p.184; and Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, 1957, p.111.
A man's most vivid
emotional and sensuous
experience is inevitably
bound up with the language
that he actually speaks
and I strive, as far as possible,
to ensconse my poetry
in this language
so that people can feel,
become, the complex life
behind the words.
17 July 2001
THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS AS THEY SEEM
During the first forty years of the initiation and implementation of the teaching Plans, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan, 1937-1977, the most popular entertainer on earth was Bing Crosby(1904-1977). When the second Seven Year Plan began in 1946, Bing was voted the most popular person alive. The irony of his life was that, although he was so popular and radiated a warmth and a smooth and mellow voice, that won the hearts of people everywhere, no one really knew him. At least until his second marriage in 1957 his private life was sad and troubled. One of the great truths of the entire entertainment industry may just be that: how an actor/a person appears and how they are in reality is very often, if not always, a very different story. -Ron Price with thanks to "Bing Crosby: Voice of the Century," SBS TV, 8:30-9:30 pm, 26 December 2001.
We were just starting the game,
the great teaching Plan of 1937,
when you sponsored your first
golf tournament, opened your
first race course, worked with
Bob Hope in a series of films
and saw your wife pregnant
with your fourth child.
We were just starting out
to shed a luster no less brilliant
than the immortal deeds
which signalized the birth
of our Faith in its heroic age.
Our mission, then, was
with our destiny and we
were called to persevere
while you were
the most popular singer
in jute-box land
and beginning to churn out
what would be 2000 songs.
My mother was just about
to meet my father in Hamilton
Ontario Canada at the Otis
Elevator Company and that
tempest was about to explode
all over the earth for the second time.
26 December 2001
UNFOLDING AS IT WAS
In the spring of 1937, when the first Seven Year Plan began for the Bahá'ís in North America, many considered Ernest Hemingway the witness of the time, the finest writer of the hour. He was certainly the most famous writer of the 1930s. He was an icon in the United States. His action stories and his accounts of the news brought readers close to the events he was describing. In March, about six weeks before the beginning of the Plan, Donald Adams wrote a review of Hemingway's latest book To Have or Not To Have. Adams said the book was empty. Adams was not impressed with the cold reportorial aloofness with which Hemingway wrote about everything. Like any author or artist, not everyone liked him or his work. From the first review of his work in 1925 in the New York Times until his death in 1961, Hemingway stands out as a major writer of the first and second epoch of Formative Age: 1921-1963.
-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, July 27 2001.
Like Gibbon's cool observations
on the extinction
of the Empire in the West,
your reportorial aloofness
told of some other disintegration
during the first epoch of His Plan
when they laboriously constructed
the framework of that Order
in a series of spontaneous
and simultaneous plans.
In the spring of '37
you were in love with
a beautiful blond,
and you flew to Madrid.
Witness of the time,
peerless war correspondent
that you were,
you who helped shape the age,
its unsurpassed artistic achievements
and its untoward violence,
you never saw any
of His panoramic vision
unfolding as it was that spring
in the inauguration
of the initial stage of His Plan.
27 July 2001
WITH THANKS TO ERIC AND JOE
Joseph Sherlock at the outset of his article on the history of the fifties says "the Fifties spanned the period from October 14th 1947 to November 22, 1963."1 Eric Hobsbawm, in his history of the twentieth century, writes that it began in 1914 and ended in 1991.2 More recently I've tended to associate the decades of the twentieth century with the various stages in the unfoldment of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan. There is often an overlap from one decade to another, but I find the characterization, the association, of Plans to decades a convenient sketch. The hiatus period, then, before the Plan assumed a specific form and character, I associate with the twenties; the Seven Year Plan with the thirties; the second Seven Year Plan with the forties; the Ten Year Crusade with the fifties; the Nine Year Plan with the sixties; the Five Year Plan with the seventies; the Seven and the Six Year Plans with the eighties and the Three and the Four Year Plans with the nineties.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Joseph M. Sherlock, Website: www.joesherlock. com/fifties.html; and 2Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century,1995.
Thank you, Eric, for the idea
of the 'long nineteenth century;1
I've always thought that hiatus
was somewhat long2 as well
chewing up the years which
more properly belonged to
the first Seven Year Plan
he knew what he was doing,
unequalled exegete of the time,
definer of the sequence, the order,
the form of the century, back then.
Thank you, Joe,
for taking the fifties to
that memorable date:
22 November 1963.3
I think I'd take them
and that Ten Year Plan4
to 21 April 1963
when the apex of that Order
was finally put in place.
I say, it's a handy arrangement
for ordering that turbulent century.
1 ibid.,p.584; the 19th century ending in 1914.
2 the hiatus, lasting until 1937.
3 The assassination of President Kennedy
4 the Ten Year Crusade: 1953-1963.
27 May 2001
A PRELIMINARY TASK
1937 was a year of more than a little significance. Ronald Reagan, who forty years later was to become President of the United States, went to Hollywood to begin his acting career. The famous writers: Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell and Anais Nin met for the first time in Paris. The list of events could go on, events that would synchronize with the opening of what the Guardian referred to as 'a preliminary task' which would enable 'the rising generation to fulfil America's spiritual destiny' in the century ahead. My parents met and married in this Seven Year Teaching Plan in Hamilton Ontario, a Plan that began twenty-five years after 'Abdul-Baha had come to the USA on His famous western tour. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 12 June 2002.
They were ready, then,
or just about,
at the Otis-Fencin1
where he'd met
that rare beauty
who became my mother.
Little did they know, then,
how fast their city was to grow
in that decade2 on that plain
between the escarpment
and the bay, in that steel city
where they packed them in.
Little did they know
that a preliminary task3
had begun, a task
to be fulfilled
in the century ahead,
the century of their baby boy.4
1 an elevator company in Hamilton where my parents met
2 In the decade 1937-1947 Hamilton was the second fastest growing Bahá'í community in Canada.
3 the Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944
4 myself, born in 1944
12 June 2002
APPROPRIATING THE LITERARY
From the mid-1930s, at the start of the Seven Year Plan, the Shell Oil Co published a series of Country Guides written by authors and poets with an interest in topography. They were aimed at promoting the touring car on the open road, at encouraging motorists to explore the countryside and historic towns. Car ownership, of course, had begun in the years before WW1 but, when the Tablets of the Divine Plan were unveiled in 1919 in New York, the car was ready to take Bahá'ís to many places and it did. Car ownership became available to a much wider public in the first plans: 1937-1944 and 1946-1953 as well as during the Ten Year Crusade and the Nine Year Plan, 1953-1963 and 1964-1973 respectively. Citizen motorists could take the Cause to places it had never gone before on national motorway networks constructed from the 1950s to the 1970s, the years of the ninth and early tenth and final stage of history.
-Ron Price with thanks to C. Aitchison, N. MacLeod and S. Shaw, Leisure and Tourism Landscapes: Social and Cultural Geographies, Routledge, London, 2000, pp. 45-46.
An essential restlessness,
a lack of anchorage
novelty, change, adventure,
experience--this first generation
of the tenth stage of history,
that was I, me and mine.
Then came the writing it down,
creating some of the first images
of pioneering, strong links
between pioneering and the poetic,
artistic, reciprocal relations.
the literary to give shape,
form, direction, meaning,
excitement to this cultural
aspiration, this religious ethos.
One poet for information,
another for sentiment,
as this predilection
for literary pioneering,
a literary way of seeing
has defined this pioneering,
given it a particular potency
in the collective imagination,
finally taking off
in that fin de siecle
and new millennium.
1 November 2002
EDITING OUR LIVES
When the Seven Year Plan began in 1937 there was a bumper crop of stars in Hollywood's galaxy. A quick stroll through the movie screens of that auspicious year 1937 gives us: Bette Davis, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, W.C. Fields, the Marx Bros., Spencer Tracey, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and many others.1 "Humanity," Shoghi Effendi wrote in a cable in 1936, "entering outer fringes most perilous stage its existence."2 The poem below tries to capture this world of contrasting and mutually exclusive images at the outset of the greatest drama in the world's spiritual history, the implementation of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's great Plan. The poem also takes the story into this new millennium. -Ron Price with thanks to "Images in Focus," The Early Thirties in Cinema, Internet, 16 January 2002; and Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, p.6.
Little did we know, most of us,
that the most perilous years,
decades, were just about to start.
Most of us hoped, then,
they were just about over.1
Little did we know, most of us,
that we would attract
unimaginable blessings through
our efforts in that holy enterprize
just then beginning.2
Little did we know, then,
in the predictable wonder
of our ordinary lives,
unscripted, flawed and plausible
that there would be few
who would speak about commitment,3
as we journeyed through our Plans.
And we who battled on
could not edit our lives,
as these cinematic heroes
did year after year,
emerging in celluloid safety
up on the big screen.
We were being called, then, and now
to something far beyond the dream machine,
far beyond these visual images,
representations for constructing our world,
imaginative shapings of the everyday,
Hollywood's definition of reality,
or a corporate world's packaging of space.
We were being called, then, and now
to something we could not see
in technicolour profusion,
to something we had to create
in our imaginations
if we were to be
those spiritual descendants
of the Dawnbreakers
And we are being called now
to something we can see
in this new measure of time,
in all its brilliance,
crystallised on Mt. Carmel.
But, alas, we stand too close
to the moment
of what has been
so amazingly accomplished.
Ours, rather, is the task
to ponder this our seminal history
that we may understand,
feel a new confidence and power
in our hearts, indeed, a gratitude,
for this our spiritual adventure.
1 WW1 followed by the depression beginning in 1929.
2 Seven Year Plan
3 The process of teaching and confirming new believers in this Cause was discouragingly meagre in the years 1937 to 2002.
4 Universal House of Justice, Letter, 14 January 2001.
17 January 2002
At the beginning of the first Seven Year Plan in 1937 John Birks(Dizzy) Gillespie went to New York to play his trumpet in the experimental, unpredictable way that he had begun in South Carolina. Charlie Parker came to New York from Kansas City that same year to play the saxophone with his hard, brittle, new and complex sound. In 1942 they came together to play in a new melodic style with a fresh harmonic content which came to be known as Bebop. America in these war years defined itself in some important ways through its music. Gillespie, in many ways, came to personify the modern jazz musician. -Ron Price with thanks to "Jazz: Episode 7: Swinging With Change," ABC TV, 9:30-10:30 pm, 10 January 2002; and Brad Pokornoy, "From Hothead to World Citizen," One Country, Vol.11, No.2, Sept. 1999.
These were early years for you
and for us1
as we too were putting together
for the first time
our sound which we were just then
starting to take around the world.
They were years of a glorious
emergence from a severe crisis2
in that same city3 where bebop
was then revolutionizing
the whole sound of jazz.
The American Bahá'í community
was then assuming its rightful place
at the forefront of a spiritual army
where you would one day be
an ambassador,a world citizen,
transformed from that roughneck,
knife-carrying youth of yesteryear,
into that easy-going, hip, black beret,
horn-rimmed glasses and goatee,
personification of a jazz musician.
1 1937-1944 and particularly 1942.
2 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, p.58.
3 New York
11 January 2002
BRINGING IT IN WITH PICTURES
From May 1936 to April 1937, while the American Baha’i community was making its initial organizational arrangements to open the Seven Year Plan in April 1937, the first issue of Life magazine appeared. It was in the middle of this year-long planning process that the magazine appeared on the news stands, in November 1936. The 1930s to the 1950s, the period the first three collective teaching enterprises, was the “golden age” of photojournalism. The Farm Security Administration Photographic Project (1935-1942), photography historian Alan Trachtenberg has noted, “was perhaps the greatest collective effort in the history of photography to mobilize resources to create a cumulative picture of a place and time.” Twenty men and women worked under the supervision of Roy E. Stryker to create a pictorial record of the impact of the Great Depression on the nation, primarily on rural Americans.
As the Farm Security Administration, FSA:1937-1942, photographer Arthur Rothstein later recalled, “It was our job to document the problems of the Depression so that we could justify the New Deal legislation that was designed to alleviate them.” FSA photographers criss-crossed the country during most of the years of the Seven Year Plan documenting the plight of Dust Bowl refugees, southern sharecroppers, migrant agricultural workers, and finally Japanese Americans bound for internment camps in the aftermath of Pearl Harbour. Their photographs, now on line and housed in the Library of Congress, offer an unparalleled opportunity to use photographs as primary historical evidence. –Ron Price, “American Photography: A Century of Images,” ABC TV, 30 October 2005, 10:55-11:50 p.m.
As the American Baha’is began conceiving their teaching Plan in May of 1936 photojournalism was ready to take pictures of the background of events in the wider society. Just as the technology had come on-line, so to speak, in 1826 to visually document the accession of Siyyid Kazim, should humankind have been prepared at the time, so, too, did humankind possess the technology to document the immense field, the gigantic task, the mustering of the forces and resources of the historic mission of a stupendous, a holy enterprize of the American Baha’i community in 1936. Sadly, the documentation of the Baha’i experience would have to wait. –Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, October 31st, 2005.
These unobtrusive events
while humanity was entering
the outer fringes of the most
perilous stage of its existence
and as the Americans were
pulling themselves up by their
bootstraps with the help of
photojournalism and the
policies of their leaders,
these pressing, heavy,
attracted, little did we know,
unimaginable blessings with
far-reaching consequences and
possessed a lustre no less brilliant
than the immortal deeds of those
spiritual descendents of a previous age
when photography had just stuck its
head above humanity’s ground.
October 31st 2005
A BIG FIGHT
At the start of the Baha’i community’s Seven Year Plan(1937-1944) three of the most famous boxing matches in history took place. One was on June 19th 1936, just three weeks after Shoghi Effendi had asked the American believers to design a “systematic, carefully conceived plan” in the year ahead. A second fight was on June 22nd 1938. Each of these two fights was between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, the first an American and the second a German. Louis lost the first fight and won the second. A third fight, on June 22nd 1937, was between Joe Louis and James Braddock and Louis, a negro, won the heavyweight championship on that occasion. This third fight took place nine weeks after the start of the Seven Year Plan on April 21st 1937. –Ron Price with thanks to Joyce Carol Oates, “Beyond Glory: The Good Fight,” The New York Times, October 2nd 2005.
There were 100 million1
listeners to that epic fight
while the smallest handful
mustered all its force,
concentrated all its resources,
for the greatest drama
in the world’s spiritual history--
as humanity entered outer fringes
of the most perilous stage of its existence.
The largest audience ever seen,
70 thousand at Yankee Stadium,
saw this dazzlingly theatrical event
of undreamed of proportions;
while a little further West in Chicago
a manifest Standard was being readied
to wave, a most wonderful and thrilling
motion had begun to appear in the world.
It would permeate all of existence
and we would see the inception
of the Kingdom of God on earth.2
That would indeed be a fight
with powerful and insidious enemies,
the cruellest of torture-mongers3
and the most fanatical clerics
in the convulsions of a dieing age.
1 This information is obtained from The New York Times, October 2nd 2005. The fight mentioned here with 100,000 listeners by radio was in 1938.
2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha in God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi, p.351.
3 Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha’u’llah, 1974(1938), p.17.
October 2nd 2005
COUNTRY MUSIC AND THE BAHA’I FAITH: 1920-1970
According to one history of Country Music1 this popular form of modern music had its official beginning on August 1st 1927. On that day in Bristol Tennessee Ralph Peer signed Jimmy Rogers and the Carter Family to recording contracts with Victor Records. At the same time, in 1927, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States was developing greater stability and greater respect for its authority so that nine years later, in 1936, it was ready to implement a global teaching program.2 1Roughstock Productions, “History of Country Music,” Internet Site, September 11th, 2005; and 2Loni Bramson-Lerche, Development of Baha’i Administration,” Studies in Babi-Baha’i History, Vol.1, editor, M. Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, pp. 255-300.
They moved beyond just fiddle tunes
in those entre des guerres years-----
a thing called Country Music was born;
and they moved beyond small pockets
of ingrown and amorphous groups
into a well-organized religion.
Gradually a subtle thing was born---
so slowly, so unobtrusively,
hard to define---national consciousness:
in Country Music and the Baha’i Faith.
The first singer to have a nation-wide
country hit in May 1924 was Vernon
Dalhart’s The Wreck of Old ’97.
And the first use of the term Assembly
for an elected body was in 1925
as he instructed: exegisis evolving
with community serving the future
as well as the present oriented to action.
Then that band ‘The Sons of the Pioneers’1
got going in the Seven Year Plan where
another set of pioneers got going too
and Nashville became one permanent home
and an administrative order the other.
In the 1960s Country Music became
a multi-million dollar industry
and the Baha’i Faith won a unique,
quite incomprehensible victory,
institutionalized the charisma
of Its remarkable Founder while
the trustees of the global undertaking
set in motion a century before
set about the NineYear Plan.
1“CountryMusic,”Wikipedia, Internet Site, 2005.
12 September 2005.
AN OBSCURE AND COMPLEX WAR
On April 21st 1937 the Seven Year Plan began in the North American Baha’i community, although it had been mentioned for nearly a year by then in the letters of Shoghi Effendi.1 One week later, on April 28th 1937, Saddam Hussein was born. He became President of Iraq from 1979 to 2003. In 2003 Saddam was deposed by the US and its allies. On December 13th 2003 he was captured and, as I write this prose-poem, he is about to stand trial before the Iraq Special Tribunal later this year. In the last ten days of April 2006 the formal Baha’i teaching Plans begun in 1937 will enter their 70th year as will “the world’s best known and most hated Arab leader.”2 -Ron Price with appreciation to 1Shoghi Effendi, Messages To America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, p.7 and to 2Gerald Butt, Middle East Analyst, BBC News, 4 January 2001.
The charismatics have a triumphalism;
Saddam Hussein fed triumphalist slogans
as he was fattened by fawning praise.
Triumphalism is as common as the air.
His life has been one long war while
we engaged in a different war
supported and reinforced by ideals:
ideals forces and lordly confirmations,
attacking as we did fortifications, castles,
right and left wings, lines of the legions,
right to the centre of the powers of earth,1
such was our vision, our goal and our acts.
Our war, though, was unobtrusive, unreported,
unbeknownst to those masses of humankind.
Confrontation2 was and is not the game
of our vanguard, our standard-bearers
this radiant army of the Lord of Hosts
in this gigantic task, on this immense field,
where the privilege is immeasurable,
infinitely precious and the concentration
of energies and resources involves no guns,
no swords, no uniforms as our spiritual
destiny unfolds in a manner that is as
glorious as it is obscure, as transformative
as it is beyond our capacity to understand.
1 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, USA, 1977, pp. 47-48.
2 Saddam means “one who confronts” in Arabic.
August 2nd 2005.
FACADES AND TREACLE(font on “auto”)
Percy Grainger, Australian pianist and composer(1882-1961), “consistently presented a façade of childlike lightheartedness and jollity.” So writes John Bird in his preface to a biography of Grainger. Bird goes on to say that this façade was Grainger’s “natural defence against what he felt was a hostile world.”1 Grainger rarely let others perceive his social sense of tragedy and his personal self-torture, although more than a little of it is in his music. –Ron Price with thanks to John Bird, Percy Grainger, Faber and Faber, London, 1982(1976), p.xii.
Grainger composed Lincolnshire Posy in 1937. It was considered his masterpiece and was based on some of the 500 folk songs collected. He was completing this work when the Baha’i Seven Year Plan began in April 1937. Grainger saw art and music in his time as a form of protest against the inhumanity of man, an expression of woe and doom. His personal qualities of immense personal kindness, striking curiosity and exuberant energy were remembered by friends and strangers alike. He could not hide these from the world. Grainger died 18 months before I pioneered. One of the century’s most interesting musicians, one of its most candid about his domestic life, one of its most prolific composers(1200 pieces), I hardly knew in 1961 when I was 18. I am making up for it now.-Ron Price with thanks to Thomas P. Lewis, A Source Guide to the Music of Percy Grainger, Internet Site, 2005.
Percy, you heard the music
of your age and ours--and--
put it down in all its tragedy
and sorrow as our teaching
plan began and your musical
our efforts, little did we know.
Particularly fitting were those
lines: “I never lost any battle
but won great victory.”2
You opened a vast musical
world suffused with energy,
but how little was the little
that we knew of you then—
even now and how little
was the little that we knew
of that other world opened
to our minds and hearts
as we travelled through
that tempest with all its pain
and woe smeared like some
poisonous treacle across
the face of our earth.
1 Country Gardens was written in 1919 when the Tablets of the Divine Plan, the foundation document for the teaching Plan, was first unveiled in New York.
2 Lincolnshire Posy, from which these lines were taken, was conceived and scored in 1937 for wind bands. This work was an offering of “musical windflowers,” as the literature on Grainger describes this work. It has become his best known composition for a band. It used six folksongs from the county of Lincolnshire as its thematic material. As early as 1937, too, Grainger completed his first “free music.”
July 27th 2005
On this Valentine’s Day it is appropriate that I write of Charlie Chaplin one of the most loved figures of the twentieth century. Chaplin began to fit comfortably into Baha’i history in the last decade of the Heroic Age, 1911-1921. Chaplin was making them laugh back then and after sixty years of the Formative Age, 1921-1981, a statue of him was erected near that of Shakespeare in London. In 1936, as the American Baha’is began conceiving and devising their first Seven Year Plan(1937-1944), Chaplin produced one of his more famous films Modern Times. It was a comment on the machine age and the limitations of technology. Over more than half a century, 1914 to 1966, the years of his first and last films, Chaplin became an icon. It was an icon that was constructed down to the finest detail. This icon was constructed in a process that expanded and penetrated more and more with the years. At the core of this Chaplinesque iconography was an anti-establishment little fellow who was always in trouble: The Tramp. -Ron Price with thanks to Internet Sites on Charlie Chaplin, February 14th 2005.
There’s icons and icons, eh Charlie?
I’ve been helping construct one
for over half a century, too, Charlie.
No technicolour manipulation,
cinematography, no digital, DVD,
four-speaker, blow them out of the
ball-park stuff here, Charlie,
although I guess I must confess
in recent years, Charlie, say
since about ’63 when the apex
was finally placed on this new
Order, this nucleus and pattern
of a new System, that technology
has been coming on-line, well---
its everywhere, eh Charlie, at least
in the rich part of the world.
Yes, icons are everywhere now
and we’ve got ours all over the world,
too. But still Charlie, we can’t edit
our lives so as to emerge in celluloid
safety with that toothpaste-ad smile finish.
You can only take an icon so far, Charlie:
mothers still go crazy, husbands and wives
they still split-up, millions still die in wars
no matter how smooth the image,
eh Charlie, eh?1
1 Chaplin became a very rich man, but there was much sadness in his private life. A recent series on ABC TV( February 6th & 13th, 5:00-5:50 pm, 2005) touched lightly upon the private aspects of Chaplin’s life.
Ron Price February 14th 2005
TWO KINDS OF WAR
Eleven weeks after the start of the Seven Year Plan(April 21st 1937-April 21st 1944), the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out. Chinese historians estimate that 300,000 people died in the Nanjing Massacre(11/37-12/37) which followed the high casualties in the Battle of Shanghai, 8/37-11/37. The entire Seven Year Plan was filled with this second world war in its Asian and Western theatres. The foundations of flourishing Baha’i communities were laid at this time by a small band of pioneers who were dispatched to the teaching goals of the Plan in North and South America. Building on the work of more than four decades of teaching efforts(1894-1937), these believers, with their lives in their hands and as the shades of night descended on humanity, fulfilled the objectives of the Plan set out by Shoghi Effendi.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, May 7th 2005.
As the blood of millions
was splattered across the east
and the west in one of humanity’s
darkest hours, a holy enterprise,
a historic mission of such sublimity
with a lustre-like the heroic age,
facing formidable obstacles,
attracting unimaginable blessings
and visible symbols of sovereignty,
drove roots deeper into the soil,
roots of a faith and a destiny.
Inheritors of a shining grace,
girding up their loins, forging
undeflected from their course,
with increasing consecration
as a new Kingdom unfolded
on this earth, on a throne
of everlasting dominion,
with a vision & a sense of destiny
in which this Plan was but
a preliminary task for a rising
generation to fulfil in the
succeeding century which
would be my lifetime.1
1 1944-2044, if I lived to be a hundred. ---Ron Price May 7th 2005
THE THRILLING MOTION
At the beginning of the Seven Year Plan in 1937 the term symbolic interactionism was coined by Herbert Blumer. Symbolic Interactionism is based on the premises that (i) human beings act on the basis of meaning; (ii) meaning arises out of interaction with others and (iii) an interpretive process, an imaginative reheasal, is used by individuals to deal with their environment. Some call this process the social construction of reality, the social definition of situations. The world we live in has an obdurate quality and the truth we derive is essentially subjective. The roots of this sociological perspective go back to sociologists like Max Weber and George Herbert Mead and pragmatist philosophers like Pierce and Dewey in the nineteenth century. -Ron Price, “Notes on Symbolic Interactionism,” Ron Price’s Notebooks, 2005.
While the Kingdom of God on Earth
was getting its kick-start in Chicago
with a wonderful and thrilling motion
from a point of light and a spirit slowly
or quickly permeating to the entire world,
you1 were pointing your finger at meaning,
interpretation, the power of understanding,
the advent of entirely new prophets: only
these would bring the promised hope of escape
from icy darkness, hardness, self-extinction,
inner-deadness at the core of the life of culture.2
For the motion was thrilling, the faintest trace,
hardly observed, then, even now, but the clamour,
He knew, was coming, the cry, the groaning,
would be heard far and near in intimately
where we sat quietly with our steak and pie.
Then, then, the knights would come, knights
assisted, strengthened, reinforced in the midst
of confusion, noise, tumult, stupendous struggle.3
1 Max Weber and Herbert Blumer, major 20th century sociologists of symbolic interactionism. 2 Max Weber, “Weber and The Search for ‘Interpretation’ and ‘Understanding,’” Ron Price’s Sociology Notes, 1998; and Max Weber, Methodology of the Social Sciences, Free Press, Glencoe, Illinois, 1949, pp.72-176. 3‘Abdu’l-Baha in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, Shoghi Effendi, 1974(1938), p. 17.
-Ron Price March 22nd, 2005
Martha Gellhorn arrived in Spain in late March 1937 a month before the start of the Seven Year Plan, the first organized teaching campaign in fullfilment of ‘Abdul-Baha’s vision as defined in His Tablets of the Divine Plan. By Ridvan, April 21st 1937, Martha was well on her way to making a start to her incredible 60 year career as a war correspondent. Travel writer, journalist and novelist, Gellhorn was an eloquent witness, a cateloguer, of the wars of the twentieth century. She regarded her writing, as she put it back in 1959, “a form of honourable behaviour” involving readers and herself.1-Ron Price with thanks to Martha Gellhorn, 1959, Internet Sites, 2005.
When and where was your anger born, Martha:
with that Great--and useless--War to end wars?
in a complex nexus with your reformer mother?
with that gynaecologist father in St. Louis
Missouri in those entre des guerres years?
And your honesty, Martha, refreshing now,
refreshing then, sure stirred the old pots:
you say you got nothing out of sex----
in an age when few women admitted it,
then or now, little delight in marriage’s
fleeting terms, restive were your amorous
worms. Wed or celebate, a hellish torment
soon or late--but love, Martha, love won
by courage shall endure; love, methinks,
is love’s own cure. So it was in your last
years--as you still felt the question gnaw:
“What chain hath love that rubs me raw?”
While the Baha’is went from Plan to Plan
for those 62 years--1936 to 1998--you went
from war to war: glamorous, a looker,
a brave adventurer, an incredible journey---
and so it was for the rest of humankind
in those 90 years1 during a catelogue
of horrors unknown in the darkest of ages
past, a magnitude of ruin beyond belief,
but you catelogued it as well as anyone:
1 Martha Gellhorn was born in 1908 and died in 1998.
March 21st, 2005.
In the 1930s, when the Baha’i community was developing the initial form of its national and local institutions; and the first years of the initial stage of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s vision of America’s spiritual destiny was unfolding in the Seven Year Plan(1937-1944) a sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, carved the faces of four American presidents into the granite surface of Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. They were the largest works of a sculptor on earth. The work, begun on August 10th 1927, memorializes the birth, growth and development of the United States, a country that has a special connection with the development of Bahá'í administration.
That same year, 1927, the National Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States began to develop a greater stability,1 a greater measure or degree of authority as part of the Baha’i system of orientation. Authority is, in the end, an act of the intellect, of understanding and the imagination; it is a solidity and security in the binding strength, the bond, the capacity of others to judge and reassure. The institutional evolution of the Baha’i community, of its administration, had attained a new level of development and during those same years, 1927 to 1941, it developed well enough to embark on its first international teaching Plan or, if you prefer, missionary program.
When Gutzon Borglum died in 1941 the work, the carving, the portraitures, although not complete, had advanced sufficiently to evoke a sense of awe in those who viewed them. No new carving has been done on the portraits since his death. For some seven decades now viewers, mostly tourists by the millions, have been able to see themselves in the faces of these presidents. The four presidents carved in stone represent all Americans, their courage, dreams, freedom and greatness. The Baha’is, for seven decades, have gazed at a different set of portraits, a different design, a different set of artistic forms, the critical one, the unique aspect of their religion, being their Administrative Order which they see as representing the very “structure of freedom for our Age.”2 It is an Instrument, a portrait, not sculpted in stone but painted by the Hand of Mystery on a canvas with the paint and colour of heroic self-sacrifice. -Ron Price with thanks to “Internet Sites on Mt. Rushmore,” SBS TV, 28 February 28th 2005, 5:00-6:00 p.m.; 1Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development Of Baha’i Administration,” Studies In Babi & Baha’i History, Kalimat Press, 1984, p.260; and 2The Universal House of Justice, “Letter to the Baha’is of the United States: December 29th 1988.”
Sacrifice is not a word we use
much downunder, not a word
we like to use, a little too top-heavy,
over the top, too evangelical
for most you might say, eh?
Still, determination and the will
to struggle are as the soul---
needed then, back then, always
in those years entre des guerres,
with that stone, with steel-edged
pneumatic hammers, drills, bits,
grits, dynamite blasting, tons of stone.
Persistence, still needed, then and now,
for so much of the battle is always lost,
then and now: in our strenuous warfare
with instincts, our appetitive nature:
concupiscible, irascible, the allurements,
trivialities that rain upon us daily
in our quotidian worlds
of endless, necessary minutiae,
as we humbly assault our summits,
make our vertical ascents past fault
and fissure and the immense stone
bulwarks of life, the miasmal ooze
that drifts daily from the public realm
into our private space with its
intoxicating and noxious glues.
And we who would build this institution,
Instrument, administration, based as it is
on images, ideas, carved in a different stone
where our minds play, pray, slowly learn
to counter the fleeting, fragile, fragmentary,
fortuitous reality and the blaze indifference
which is everywhere and nowhere,
hidden, obscure, so very undefineable,
like air and water in some synthetic social glue,
which is one with the end of effort
and the triumph of sensation
divorced from any necessary action.
Yes, sir, the barbarians have arrived
and are in our midst with their traces
of strangeness. They enter our most
intimate relationships unbeknownst,
especially with those we love
and our inner being, own dear souls.
Sometimes they are a mirage.
We see, dream, them as refreshment,
but find, in the end, nothing there.
Sometimes they offer us rewards,
but bring us only toil and trouble.
These barbarians sometimes
take the form of a thin veil
through which we look at our lives
thinking we see reality, but no--
illusion is all we are seeing.
For, let there be no mistake,
this is the darkest hour
in human history, the slough
of despond and ill-equipped
are billions to interpret the play
using the phantoms of their
imaginations simply on the
wrong track, at the wrong site,
bewildered by the burgeoning
hieroglyphics carved in pain
across our planet gravitated,
recently, into a neighbourhood.
But the dawn is breaking,
it’s early morn, the taxi’s
waiting, he’s blowing his
horn. The call all-aboard
has been raised. There’s
a train at the station ready
to take us close to that
immense Carving of Life
but, alas, we move away;
we always move away.
Most of us, it would seem,
can only stand so much reality
in our face. Like those presidential
portraits, life’s awesome size,
its enormity overwhelms us.
But with its freedom and its dream
we carve our own stone,
the granite that is our lives,
grown from conception
in our dear mother’s womb,
nurtured, if all goes well,
by those founts of gleaming milk
eyes and hearts to watch over us
and to love us. And so the granite
grows and we think it just fleshy
tissue, organs and sundry stuff.
But we take into eternity,
that undiscovered country
where we will live forever,
our portrait, our image engraved,
designed by the Hand of Mystery,
painted with the essence of light,
moulded with a love which, however
much we strive on this earthly path,
we will never understand, but it is
a portait imprinted on tablets of chrysolite
high on the mountain in open characters.
1. Martin Pawley, The Private Future, Thomas and Hudson, London, 1973.
2. My use the term ‘barbarians’ draws on Edward Gibbon’s study of them in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
March 2 2005
As I went through my teens and became an adult in 1965, there were many stunningly beautiful women who came across my television and cinema screens: Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Deborah Kerr, Jane Russell and Farrah Fawcette to name a few. This was the ninth and the first years of the tenth stage of history from a Baha’i perspective. In my 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, from the 1960s through the 1990s, many more beautiful women continued to flow into and out of the mass media. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, February 27th 2005.
Symbol of an entire sexual revolution
they were, each of them in their way--
and I was only twelve, thirteen, fourteen
and I kept getting older and they kept coming.
Embodiments of steamy sexual desire,
smouldering sensuous beauty, lusty busty,
leggy, curves everywhere, cleavages deep
as the dark oceans, full-figured gals they were,
one and all, alluring angels, always seductive,
physical powerhouses, big-chested cutiepies,
attracted men, photographers and headlines--
didn’t they all? Princesses of pout, icons,
countesses of come hither--35-23-35 stats
and more, everywhere more, glamour galore,
tending to many marriages and troubles,
temptresses: who could resist the pulchritude?
All my life they’ve been coming,
always coming, up and out there,
flaunting themselves before my eyes--
incredible things I can only look at,
from a great distance, get turned on by,
but never, absolutely never, get near, touch.
Part of the whirlwind of the senses they were
at the other end of dull-everydayness,
its continuum of quotidian time meeting
as it did like out of some blue the psychedelic,
where tension was increased always without
resolution, catharsis or any genuine epiphany.
Sex: the last frontier, extraordinary incident,
outrageous stimulation, instinctual sources
of erotic heat, part of some basic permissiveness
where one looks longingly in this inchoate world,
diffuse, so diffuse, where a truly powerful ideology
was just opening up a new vision of life,
part of a moral repertoire to be drawn on by all
and helping me cope with these awesome sexual,
stunning beauties, traces of sand to be washed away
eventually by waves, not part of the decline
of the West but the end of civilization
and a hubris rearing its head
with its refusal to accept limits,
its sympathy for the abyss,
its rage against order,
its awareness of apocalypse.
And, for me, a substitution of instinct,
impulse and pleasure by those
essentials of restraint in my years,
my life in this post-industrial society1
looked like it was going
to take the whole of my life.
1 Daniel Bell, The Coming Of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Future Forecasting, Basic Books, NY, 1973. The birth of this society took place in the years after WW2, the second Seven Year Plan(1946-1953) just after I was born.
February 28th 2005
DANCING ON THE TABLES
In 1937 the second Five Year Plan(1933-37) in the Soviet Union ended and the first Seven Year Plan(1937-1944) opened in the Baha’i community. Ernest Hemmingway had moved to the centre of the cadre of writers for and in the Communist party. His was the favourite literary name at the Second Writers Congress held in May, just weeks after the opening of the Seven Year Plan in North America. The years 1937-38 were dark. The Terror had moved to a climax. An estimated one to two million people were executed or died in prison or exile in those two years. Of these, 1500 were writers. By the opening of the Seven Year Plan in the spring of 1937 the Moscow “show” trials had been held and the tables were beginning to turn again Russian communism as the holy of holies.
-Ron Price with thanks to Daniel Aaron,Writers On The Left, Avon Books, 1969(1961), pp.363-381.
Those hiatus years(1917-1937) proved
to be the beginning of the end
for that leftward turning
and the end of the beginning
for that institutionalized charisma
with its nucleus and pattern for
a new Order just emerging out of
the greatest conflict in history.
The spring and summer of that
annus mirabilis had seen such
writings that would change history.1
The dance with one was about to turn
tables as the other was getting its kick
start by spiritual descendants
of dawnbreakers a century before
in a mission of sublimity which would
release potentialities mysteriously
and generously endowed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha.
1 Karl Marx’s first writings, his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, were written in the summer of 1844; and the Bab’s first writings were made in May and June of 1844.
Ron Price March 11th 2005
As the first Seven Year Plan was opening in 1937, The College of Sociology(Le College de Sociolgie) also opened in Paris. Its founding members included Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois and Michel Leiris. The College dedicated itself to the study of power, the sacred and myth. They took a special interest in the practice of sacred sociology: "not only the study of religious institutions but of the entire communifying movement within society."1 The communifying movement of society: its festivals, carnivals, monastic and military orders, secret societies, brotherhoods and, implicitly, the sense of community throughout The College of Sociology itself were all included in the ambit of this sacred sociology. There was, too, a certain fascination, ambiguous connection with the ideas of fascism in the thought of some of its founders.
The founding members of the College were charged with the urgent task of preserving and regenerating the communal and the sacred element within modernity, an element threatened with extinction by the dissection of society into autonomous, separate spheres of science, politics and the arts. When the contractual logic which governs liberal democratic societies separates people, the sacred survives as an incommensurable, an inadequate, remainder.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Denis Bataille in Hollier, The College of Sociology: 1937-1939, Trans. Betsy Wing, Univ. of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1988, p.74.
I’ll bet they did not even look at
the embryonic Baha’i world
which was moving toward
the end of its first century,
defining its structure, creating
its ethos, its community,
beginning to conscientiously
following the laws and teachings
of its Great Founders within
a global administrative Order,
constructing its temples,
more than just a loosely
in doctrinal matters,
propagating its system,
launching itself on an
program that would last
for many generations.
March 24 2005
1953 AND 1957: TWO VERY BIG YEARS
The famous playwright, Arthur Miller(1915-2005), said in an interview on ABC Radio National just a few months before his death that he ‘barely had room in his head for a thought’1 in the years before university which he began at the age of 19 in 1934. He began to see himself as a writer from about the age of twenty. This statement of Miller’s made me reflect on the origins of the conception of myself as a writer and more especially as a poet. In 1984, at the age of 40, the idea had some reality after perhaps two decades of a slow awakening, an insensible embryogenesis. By the age of 50 in 1994 I had written more than a thousand poems. I had begun to see myself as a poet. -Ron Price with thanks to Arthur Miller on ‘LNL,’ ABC Radio National, 10:20-11:00 p.m., February 14th 2005.
Surely that puts it too strongly
and not that accurately, Arthur?
Surely your brain was as busy
as a beaver in those entre des
guerres years? But there was
no fertilization, crystallization,
at least not yet.
Perhaps it came unobtrusively,
slowly in all those part-time jobs,
with your school-teacher mother,
your dad’s failed business in ladies’
coats and in Public School #24
in that poor part of New York--Harlem.
Perhaps you really took off in ’36-’37
right at the start of that Seven Year Plan
when a painfully small band of pioneers
was dispatched through the Americas
and became a foundation for flourishing
communities all over the world--so slowly--
or so it always seemed to us in these epochs.
And you kept going and we kept going
right into the new millennium with
some crucial points along the way:
like The Crucible in ’53 right at the start
of the Kingdom of God on earth--
little did you know; or in ’57
when Death of a Salesman went
to a mass audience on ITA
and that hard-working little man
who had worn himself out under
a mountain of work--died in London.
February 15th 2005
Australia’s greatest cricketer, perhaps the world’s, Don Bradman became the captain of the Australian team in 1937, right at the start of the Seven Year Plan. -Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, “Bradman: Reflection on the Legend,” 7:30-8:30 p.m., 12 September 2004.
The captain of another team,
prosecuting his historic mission
for the triumph, the victory, of
the first century of our Era.1
This offspring of ‘Abdu’l-
Baha’s interpretive mind,
this co-sharer in the genius
of divine interpretation,
led his team into the world
in that year, mirabile dictu.
He, too, was obsessively concerned
with action, with demonstrating,
with doing, in a way that
had never been done before
in the field where it happened,
in actions that were truly heroic.
He captivates and impels
the viewer or the reader
with a drama that is
also a tool of instruction.
It heightens our horizon,
intensifies our vision,
gives meaning to the past
and prospect to our future.2
Noone had ever seen the like,
something awesome, wondrous,
in a grand, a mysterious, design.
2 Thanks to Glenford Mitchell, “The Literature of Interpretation,” World Order, Winter 1972-3, pp.12-37.
17 September 2004
WO WARS: TWO HEROISMS
On June 15th 1944 the Japanese were defeated on the island of Saipon and their main islands, their sacred homeland, was threatened: 15000 US dead and 25000 Japanese dead was the price paid for this critical US victory in the eventual downfall of Japan. Fourteen months later the atomic bomb was released over Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Five weeks after the fall of Saipon I was born in Hamilton Ontario Canada; eight weeks before the first Seven Year Plan ended. Nine days before the fall of Saipon the allied invasion of France, D-Day June 6th 1944, began to turn the tables in WW2 in the European theatre of the war.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, July 9th, 2004.
We had our own war
establishing those LSAs
in Latin America
before that second Plan1
after that second war2
And three days before
the fall of Berlin3
he4 referred to that
the fifty year record
of heroic services,4
precursor to future stages
in that world teaching mission,
the rising tide of spiritual victories
in a war-ravaged, bankrupt world
by communities providentially
spared to hold aloft the banner
of this divinely-ordained System.
3 August 21st, 1944. Shoghi Effendi, “Letter to America,” Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, p.75.
July 9th 2004
THE SUMMER OF '44
In July 1944 the Japanese advance in Burma was halted. In Europe the allied advance begun in June had turned the war, at last, toward an allied victory. The first Seven Year Plan, 1937 to 1944, had ended, although the celebration of that end did not take place until August. To mark that celebration Shoghi Effendi gave the Bahá'ís of the world his great historical work, God Passes By, one of the greatest achievements of his life. This book helped the Bahá'ís make sense of their world, of their experience. It was, arguably, the greatest work of his mind and it came to the Bahá'í community just as they were celebrating the success of the first collective effort they had undertaken, an effort that had coincided with the "firey ordeal" that was WW2.-Ron Price with thanks to The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, Bahá'í World Centre, 2001, p.70.
Those first three decades--
1914 to 1944--after
He1 had left the West
saw a greater bloodbath
than the world had ever seen:
a direct continuation
of the conflagration ignited
in that fateful year,2
part of those essential prerequisites
to world unification and,
laying down the foundations
of this immortal System3
and the birth of a new hope.
3 Century of Light, pp. 70-1.
May 9, 2004
THE SCENT OF MAGNOLIA
In 1936 the Guardian wrote to the American Baha’i community about devising a teaching plan which would be inaugurated in April/May 1937. During that year, in January 1937, Abel Meeropol’s poem “Bitter Fruit” was published in The New York Teacher, a union publication. It was one of the first of the Negro protest songs going back to 1927. On April 20th 1939 Billy Holiday recorded Bitter Fruit, on the eve of the opening of the second year of the Seven Year Plan. The record sold 10,000 copies in the first week. Holiday sang the song until her death twenty years later in 1959, the year I became a Baha’i. -Ron Price with thanks to David Margolik, “Strange Fruit,” Vanity Fair, September 1998.
There’s a bitter vein through which
flows a blood-strange-fruit juiced
on leaves and root, too strong to taste
as it insinuates itself into despair’s
bleached skull, some last drop,
some life, some blighted hope,
some frail harvest of desire
fails before the mind’s accusing
noon-bright stare, withers under
reason’s chastening ice and I find
my own words chill and burn me
chafing my brain raw and her’s.
She sang of this pastoral scene1
as humanity entered the most
perilous stage of its existence
where the scent of that magnolia
was nowhere to be seen, when
unimaginably precious hours
presented themselves in a holy
enterprise with unimaginable
blessings, but few saw the lustre,
the high mission to which they
were called in those dark times
when a titanic upheaval was
about to burst upon the world.
1 The scene of Negoes being lynched, the scne that gave rise to the poem and the song.
December 17th 2004
THE REAL ACHIEVMENT
Even after a horse-riding accident in 1937 shattered both his legs, crippling him and leaving him in pain for the rest of his life, Col Porter kept on taking the revenge of living well. He always knew how and where to have the best possible time. Porter's real achievement was his songs. They possessed for millions a delicious, fine, light, poetic quality with some of the cleverest and most affecting lyrics of the century in American popular song. He composed in the first four decades of the Formative Age, the 1920s to the 1950s.-Ron Price with thanks to William McBrien, Col Porter: A Biography, A.A. Knopf, 2004.
The beginning of the Seven Year Plan,
with humanity entering the outer fringes
of the most perilous stage of its existence,
was, for you, the beginnings of a new peril.1
That holy enterprise, little did you know,
attracting as it did unimaginable blessings,
was just taking off while you were learning
how to beat the wrap that life had dealt you.
We had our historic mission and you had yours
for the next quarter-century or more.2
There was a sublimity in both lives,
although the world hardly knew.
The potentialities with which we and you
were endowed were released in those years
and a lustre was lent to life by the unrelaxing
resolve, the high mission and the destiny
carried out in spite of heavy and pressing,
formidable and manifold obstacles.3
1 Shoghi Effendi writes about entering 'the outer fringes' of the most perilous stage in humanity's existence. See: Messages to America: 1932-`1946, p.6.
2 Col Porter died in 1964 just as the ship of the Cause was safely into harbour with the full institutionalization of charisma in the Universal House of Justice.
3 Shoghi Effendi, opacite. pp.9-10.
May 18 2004
IMAGES OF INDIFFERENCE
1953 was a big year for the international Baha’i community. The superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab was completed and the Mother Temple of the West in Chicago was also finished or inaugurated as Shoghi Effendi termed its completion. One of the key works, arguably, in the history of the cinema, at least according to the authors of a slim volume in the BFI Film Classics Series was also released that year, Shane. In the movie Shane the great enemy is indifference and, certainly, over a lifetime of pioneering this is also the case. -Ron Price with thanks to Edward Countryman and Evonne von Heussen-Countryman, Shane, London, British Film Institute, 1999. Reviewed in Film-Philosophy, Vol.4 No.24, October 2000.
It was a year for totemic images,
for simplicity and power.
What did these images mean?
What was their deeply resonant
message and simple narrative?
I really had no idea back then
when I was in grade four
at East Burlington Public School
and westerns came on TV
in the evening and at the movies
on Saturday matinees amidst
the popcorn and older kids
necking in the back rows.
So when Alan Ladd rode out
of the mountains in Wyoming
to that valley farmstead
I did not see individuals
buffeted by historic forces,
the scramble for land and
a massive indifference.1
So when the Baha’is built
their temples and shrines
in Israel and America
I did not see a community,
a most wonderful and thrilling
motion appearing in the world.2
If there was a Christ-figure
in any of this, just about
everyone missed Him/It.
But noone could miss the beauty
in the frontier austerity of Wyoming,
in the golden-tipped pinnacles on Mt. Carmel
or the temple of light down by Lake Michigan.
Their architects knew exactly
what they wanted to do
and were dedicated
with a thoroughness
bordering on the obsessive.
They all believed, too,
in the need for communal
belief and action
in the face of evil.
1 Bob Sitton sees indifference as the greatest enemy or ‘heavy’ in the film.
2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha in God Passes by, p. 351.
16 January 2004
Walter Cronkite began his journalist work in the American midwest in 1937. This was right at the start of the Baha’i teaching Plan, the Seven Year Plan of 1937-1944. His soothing voice became one of the most familiar sounds on television, first in the 1950s and then beginning in April 1962 when he became the anchorman for the CBS Evening News until 1981, the year of his retirement. Fortunately for readers, since his retirement he has been able to extend his career in journalism and combine it with a lifetime of sailing adventures. The result is his new book which he so generously shares with us two decades after that retirement: Around America: A Tour of Our Magnificent Coastline, Author Norton, 2001. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 2004.
You’d just become the CBS anchorman
when I took another anchor to the next town
in my first pioneering move in what seem now
like the halcyon years of the Ten Year Crusade.
My anchor, lifted from time to time, and I was off
on a great sailing adventure, on an unknown sea
in a tempest difficult to define and understand,
of unprecedented, unpredictable magnitude.
We pressed on, you and I,
you in the public eye.
Life, reported on or lived,
is a dangerous bridegroom
and to survive we need to see
each day as if going out to war
and, at the same time, give ourselves
up to intense enjoyment.
We must travel light,
keep our spirit up,
find some philosophy, some method,
some attitude of humorous kindness
and affection, feel some reverence,
some resolute persistence
with a chart to sail through the stormy seas.
June 25, 2004.
PATHS OF GLORY
Stanley Kubrick's fourth film Paths of Glory was released in the months before the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957. The name of the film was suggested by a line in Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard:" The paths of glory lead but to the grave. While that may be true in a sense of all of us, the glorified and the not-so-glorified, in the case of Shoghi Effendi his path led to an underpinning of that Wondrous Vision which was "the brightest emanation of the Mind of Bahá'u'lláh and the fairest fruit of the fairest civilization the world has yet seen."1 This Kubrick classic was an anti-war film about World War I; Shoghi Effendi's life in some ways was concerned with the first stage of the spiritual war involved in implementing 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets of the Divine Plan. The film was based on a novel published in 1935 and was set in France in 1916, the year 'Abdul-Baha began writing those immortal Tablets. The novel by the same name, Paths of Glory, was published in 1935 just before the Plan outlined in those Tablets was first formally implemented in the Seven Year Plan of 1937-1944. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, 1974(1938), Wilmette, p.48.
They've been getting better
year after year-war movies
that is-since 'Abdu'-Baha
defined the ultimate war
as millions died in trenches
in that war to end all wars,
a war which was not the end,
not the beginning of the end,
but the end of the beginning,
of that heroic age with its
brilliant jewels which will
irradiate upon future centuries.
New jewels in the shining
diadem of the Kingdom,
created in this new war
would one day be portrayed
with a brilliance that would
far outshine the war movies
of this first century of film
and would move generations
yet unborn who would come
to see these old-born wars
as something lower in their
estimation than the play things
of children and adolescents.
June 11 2004
When Elvis and the Beatles were beginning to take off in their fame and glory along came Nureyev. It was June 17th 1961 when he defected at the Paris airport. Nureyev was a Tatar born on a train near Irkutsk and conceived in the second month of the Seven Year Plan(21/5/’37-21/6/’37). Dance was the only way he wanted to spend his time. He could not stop; his desire to dance was obsessive. Dance was more real to him than life. Dance and the theatre became for him his real home, especially after he left Russia in 1961. Work kept him alive. He lived to dance. He was self-contained, although he had a need for activity, for people, for life. Nureyev was, arguably, the greatest ballet dancer ever. These are some of the notes I kept as I watched this repeat of a BBC production made several years after Nureyev died in 1993. -Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, “Rudolph Nureyev: Dancing Through Darkness,” 12:10-1:05 a.m., September 13th, 2004.
1961 was a very big year.
They elected that year a new
International Baha’i Council,
a preparatory step to the formation
of the Universal House of Justice.
But hardly anyone knew except
a few hundred thousand Baha’is.(1)
1961 was a very big year
in the world of ballet,
especially in London
when Nureyev electrified
the ballet world with his
talent and good looks.
1961 was a very big year
for me in baseball,
hitting home runs as I did
getting an 87% average
in grade eleven and enjoying
my second year as a member
of the Baha’i Faith in that
little town of Burlington.
(1) there were, perhaps, 300 to 350 thousand Baha’is at the time.
17 September 2004
novus ordo seclorum.1
By the start of the Baha’is Seven Year Plan in April 1937, an ambitious exercise involving a relative handful of people and hardly significant enough to make the news, Hitler and his embryonic war-machine were well on their way to unifying the German people, to harnessing human personality to the State, to crushing individualism and to killing millions of Jews in ‘The Final Solution. Stalin, too, had advanced a process that ended in the deaths of a reputed forty million people. The Nazi and Communist experiences in the 1930s and 1940s illustrates J.L. Salmon’s words:
“The death of God in the eighteenth century sent many people in search of focuses for collective identity....a substitute for church was the nation.”-J.L. Salmon, The Myth of the Nation and the Vision of Revolution: The Origins of Ideological Polarisation in the Twentieth Century, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1980.
“A profound hankering after the One is common to both the Left and the Right.” -J.L. Salmon, Political Messianism: The Romantic Phase-The History of Totalitarian Democracy, Vol.1, Secker and Warburg, London, 1960, p.510.
This psychological and quite profound hankering after the One, lived over a lifetime within my intellectual soul and expressed through the ideological framework of the Baha’i teachings(1953/4-2003/4) has been a slow daily articulation of a process, an unbelievably slow implementation of a new system, a new religion, a new ideology, a nucleus and pattern of a whole new way of life. It is philosophically far-removed from Nazi, communist, democratic, socialist and aristocratic political conceptions. It is expressed in many ways and in over thousands of pages of print resources of which the following, directed toward each individual, is but one: “Singly and alone he will attack the armies of the world, defeat the right and left wings of the hosts of all the countries, break through the lines of the legions of all the nations and carry his attack to the very centre of the powers of the earth.”-‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, USA, 1977, p.48.
They moved too fast with their
tanks, guns and great machines
and their philosophies
wherein some rushed
to find at last their home
and others ran
No transcendental tie
or obligation is found here,
no basis for moral cohesion--
the thinker’s role is instrumental,
antinomian and no vision
is possible here-just dystopia.
But, off-in-the-distance, a coterie,
a loose and diffuse clique
crystallizes and coalesces
around a nucleus, a pattern
with the future in its bones.
For the religions of history
underlie political messianism
and the oneness of life wages
battle with an original sin
which is part of man’s nature.
And as a spectre haunts our world,
the tribes of confusion noise
their bewildering, disrupting news,
a rallying point, an attachment,
a new energy, a central impulse:
non-denominational, both secular
and sacred, assumes the character
of an ecumenical church
and rises from history’s ashes
phoenix-like, slowly, unobtrusively,
this novus ordo sectorum.1
1 new order of the ages.
December 21, 2004.
GOING MY WAY OR HIS WAY
Bing Crosby was singing when the institution of the National Spiritual Assembly was taking its first shape in the years 1922 to 1926. His career went from riches to rags and back to riches in the next 18 years. The biggest box-office attraction in America at the end of the Seven Year Plan in 1944 was Bing Crosby and it stayed that way until well into the next plan, 1946-1953. The year the National Spiritual Assembly was formed in Canada, 1948, Bing won an oscar for his role in the movie Going My Way. His most popular, best-selling, song was White Christmas which Bing first sang in 1941 and the song was in the top-30 for 16 years. It remained the best selling song until 1998. Crosby is considered the most successful musical artist of the twentieth century. In the first months of my life, in the fall of 1944, Bing entertained the troops in Europe. Crosby made this tour in the months just after God Passes By was published.-Ron Price with thanks to “Bing Crosby Internet Sites,” Pioneering Over Four Epochs, December 17th 2004.
While Bing was getting them to relax
in the midst of the darkest hours of history,
getting them to play it cool, take it easy,
reminisce on the sweet tastes of nostalgia
the champion warriors, thusfar undefeated,
in the army of Baha’u’llah, were arising
resolutely, voluneering to fill the defenses
and register total victory in another war,
dealing as it did with the stupendous forces
of a divinely impelled Plan, the weightiest
spiritual enterprise in recorded history and
yielding the fairest fruits, glittering prizes
for its votaries, the vanguard of its pioneers,
to garner on a long, thorny and tortuous path.
December 17th 2004
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
As best I can calculate nearly 65 years after the event and with little historical information to go on, it was in the third, fourth or fifth year of the first Seven Year Plan, that is 1940 to 1942, that my mother and father met for the first time. My grandmother had died in 1939 and my grandfather had retired in 1937. The work of the North American Baha’i community was at that time: “only beginning.”1 The last phase of the Seven Year Plan opened in April 1942. The war, WW2, “a turmoil of world disaster,” had been at its low point, although in 1942 it began to look a little brighter for the allies with the Americans engaged at last. I was conceived in the last half of October 1943. Sixteen years later I was to join the Baha’i Faith, in October 1959. My mother was in her late thirties when she first met my father and he in his late forties, in the midst of this “most great convulsion envisaged by the Prophets from Isaiah to Baha’u’llah.”2 -Ron Price with thanks to Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, 1p.44(3/12/40) and 2p.53(13/12/41)
She was getting on in years.
It was her last chance, really;
if she didn’t move then,
she’d never have a baby.
And for him, too, nearly 50,
the years were getting on;
he’d just lost two sons
and it was his last chance.
They’d better get a move on
as that titanic upheaval
foreshadowed by Baha’u’llah
was shaking the world to its roots.
A spiritual World Order
was stirring in the womb
of a travailing age. I, too,
was stirring in the womb.
A world-circling conflagration
was distressingly intensifying
while a surging spirit,
a startling expansion,
a sweeping conquest
was helping the torchbearer
of a World Civilization
carry the sacred Fire.1
1 ibid. p.44.
June 19th, 2004.
GEORGE GERSHWIN AND THE HIATUS YEARS
The last twenty years of George Gershwin’s life(1917-1937) coincided with what are often called the hiatus years by Baha’is. These hiatus years were the years from the completion of the Tablets of the Divine Plan to their formal implementation in 1937 in the Seven Year Plan(1937-1944). The first jazz record was released in 1917 by Victor. On March 8th 1917, the date when the last Tablet was completed, the February Revolution, the first stage of the Russian Revolution, broke out in Petrograd. In 1937 Gershwin went to Hollywood and when the Seven Year Plan opened in April 1937 he was experiencing the first severe headaches that would lead to his death in July 1937. They were a busy two decades.
Gershwin defined a new musical idiom and is now considered one of America’s great composers. One of the music critics interviewed in the program referred to Gershwin as a true artist because he “stole material from others fearlessly” and integrated it into his repertoire. This same critic called Gershwin a genius because he drew on his ethnic and musical tradition but rose above it. -Ron Price with thanks to “Walk On By: The Story of Pop Song,” ABC TV, 9:30-10:30 pm, December 9th 2004.
That’s what makes a great poet, too:
the tradition and something new.
The stuff creeps out of my head
and I try to catch it, torture it
into some kind of shape, a music
for an age or just some ideas
as I play my part in the greatest
drama in the world’s history,
lost in wonder as I am
and interminably doing1
with the coinage of words
lifting the common world
into a river where it flows2
to the sea and becomes one
with all that is, was and will be.
1 G.H. Mead in The Trial of Curiosity: Henry James, William James and the Challenge of Modernity, Oxford UP, Oxford, 1991, p.35.
2 William Carlos Williams in William Carlos Williams On Younger Poets, editor J.E. Breslin, New Directions Books, 198591934), p.22.
December 11th 2004
That's all for now!