The poetry here is related to the 10 Year Crusade: 1953-1963. I began my pioneering life during this period and this poetry brings together secular, Baha'i and personal history.
Shoghi Effendi said, in one of his last letters during this Crusade, written in April 1957, that global society was "hovering on the brink of self-destruction." There was a certain urgency in this time period; there was Ike Eisenhower, rock and roll, Mr. Clean, Doris Day and luxury without stress. One of the greatest periods in the expansion of the Baha'i Faith occurred at this time. The Kingdom of God on Earth began in this period--in 1953. These poems were written about themes and events, ideas and activities in the years of this Plan and the 2nd epoch(1944-1963) of the Formative Age.
Poetry on the Ten Year Crusade: 1953-1963:
Pioneering Over Four Epochs: Section VIII Poetry
published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and A Study in Autobiography
, Section VIII: Poetry
My association with the Bahá'í Faith began at the very start of this period: 1953 to 1963. This poetry is about the themes, the content, the history, the sociology of this ten year period and the 2nd epoch of the Formative Age.
If poetry is an intellectual/intuitive act it is not a random indeterminate process, but is governed by a previsional end....there must be a ruling conception by which it knows its quarry: some foresight of the work to be done, some seminal idea.-James McAuley in Meanjin, Summer 1953, vol.xii, p.433.
The conception here’s been getting more detailed,
massive, as the decades have come on since 1953.
The conception was extraordinary, then,
with the ten stages of history and the ten year crusade
just having begun the Kingdom of God with a bang,
a quiet one, not much of a bone crusher,
pretty unobtrusive then, even now,
with that conception described in a thousand books,
too much for most.
And the LSA Handbook getting so big
you needed a degree in law
or big biceps just to carry it to the meeting.
By God, the quarry! Nothing less than
the spiritual conquest of the planet,
the conquest of self and the attainment
of a tranqill heart:
and a thousand other mysteries
waiting to find form..
16 December 1995
In April 1959 the first space astronauts were selected for the NASA space program.-SBS TV, Women Space Pioneers, 7 June 1996, 4:30 pm.
While the USA was laying the foundation,
preparing for the selection of its first astronauts,
the Baha’i community was completing the first
quarter-century of its international teaching program
and I was preparing to be a youthful recruit to what
were, then, the first thousand Baha’is in Canada. I was
beginning a life in space, a spiritual space, in the last
years of a Ten Year Crusade, while these astronauts
were beginning their program aimed at putting a man
on the moon. These were early days for NASA and early
days for me: an adventure we could not imagine, then,
that would take us in a journey through our solar system
and me in a connection with a different solar system whose
Sun was energizing the whole world to a degree unapproached
at any stage in the course of its existence on this planet.1
7 June 1996
1. Shoghi Efendi, God Passes By, USA, 1957, p.244.
With William Carlos Williams I think you can make a poem out of anything that is felt. I strive to achieve a certain naturalness of style, as if I was talking to you. At one level I feel that what I write is not poetry at all but, on another level, it feels right and it is just what I want to say. I aim at the kind of magnificent rhythms of solitude and togetherness, of contemplation and action, that characterize Mother Tessa Bielecki’s poetry. -Ron Price, a comment on my own poetry.
What a writer has to say about his “poems” and their subterranean waters is often dangerous. It may even be scientifically inaccurate. -Walter de la Mare in Forewords and Afterwords, W.H. Auden, Faber and Faber, London, 1973, p.390.
By nine you knew how it was, but
had no idea of how it might be,
for you had seen only your home,
your mother’s brother’s and sister’s
and I Love Lucy: it was 1953, then.
All ordinary enough, then, even now,
looking back over forty years ago.
Somehow, inexplicably, it was all
transformed, viewed a certain way.
For 1953 was quite a big year,*
not only for us, but for the whole world,
unbeknownst, except for a few, even now.
Yes, viewed a certain way, a vision
transforms the view, the room, their
faces, their workaday, unfrivolous
faces, their astigmatic, dense virtue
blunted from years of trying, trying.
I see, not the prosaic linoleum and
that homely knot, but some lustrous,
unbearable, burnished beauty set in
far down distant tracks on days of
blissful joy, of heavenly delight.**
His hopes, and hers, had dried up
with the vegetables in the cellar
and by the time death came they
were sealed in jars, but you could
have seen them through the windows
to their soul and their last words:
it’s his turn now to hold the torch
and I will give you everything I have.**
* 1953: beginning of the Kingdom of God on Earth, ten year crusade, ninth stage of history,
completion of Mother Temple of the West.
** Baha’u’llah’s words on the afterlife.
*** My father’s last words, followed by my mother’s.
3 January 1996
PIONEERS COMING OUT
1 September 1962
This was the first day of my pioneering life, although I could take it back to about August 20th when I left Burlington to go to a Bahá'í camp at Kashabog in northern Ontario. I was eighteen and I was about to start my matriculation year at high school. The world was warming up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 1 September 1992.
When I started pioneering,
wandering as I was
between two worlds:
one dead, the other
having just been born,
seeking my own identity,
trying to give birth to myself,
so tentative, so new, so fragile,
so alone and by myself
in a vast and spacious land:
marginal, inferior, inadequate, mute,
dissolving, a nobody. That’s how
it was back then at the end
of the Ten Year Crusade
when I was 18.
I felt like some quintessence of nothingness,
some empty shell, cavity, social vacuity,
humanly crippled, passive,
like a water colour
which does not exist,
at the end of a conversation,
with a tongue half in shadow
and half like a frozen bone.
I passed through groups
like a breeze at room temperature,
could be a missing person
noone missed, modest,
in the picture somewhere,
difficult to say where precisely,
but you can find me if you look
long enough. I'm that fellow
you can hardly see, right there--see?
PS Thirty years after pioneering, at the age of 48, my world had been transformed so many times. I was a different man, different person.
So many had come out in these years:
women, blacks, ethnics, lesbians, gays
and another generation of pioneers.
I’d been crushed and blown
to the ends of the earth,
but a new man had been born,
a new gold of some worth,
a chalice of pure light
had made me drunk
from far up in the north
way down to places that stunk.
Part of a new race of men
slowly coming to birth;
it’s gone on to great progress
in these first decades
at the end of this tenth stage of history.
We’re mapping the cosmos
and the human brain
as knowledge expands
beyond what anyone can attain:
the fruit of these years
with the rain coming down,
in a dark heart of transition
with a whole world of new sound.
The journey’s been swift;
the journey’s been long,
on a tortuous road
with my paths yet to lift me
up and away to a world quite beyond,
to that sweet undiscovered country,
far away from this abyss.
1 September 1992/
16 June 1996
ALWAYS HE WAS THERE
The opening chapter of Canada’s glorious Mission overseas began, it would appear, in 1953 and coincided with the years of the Ten Year Crusade. The years 1917 to 1953, thirty six years, could be seen as a prelude, or hiatus, to that opening chapter. This poem comments in a slightly obscure and indirect way on a facet of those years of prelude.
The overseas pioneer seems to rely more than most on some form of contact with his or her home country. Over the years that contact often becomes a tenuous one as the pioneer remains in the field decade after decade. Ali-Aghsar symbolizes, it seems to me, the faithful soul who makes sure the mail gets through to its destination. But more than that, he symbolizes trustworthiness of response at the other end, part of that umbilical cord of survival for the pioneer.
It’s not everyman who has his own
postman. Two men, stunned by life’s
blows, brought together by those
mysterious dispensations of Providence,
friends, a servant and a master, in those
prelude years before the opening of that
glorious Mission overseas. Always he was
there, that lion-hearted soul in the forest of
the love of God; always he was there to bring
those few letters, cables, reports to that
humble King of the world in those years
before that Mission began, those prefatory
years, prelude, precursor, vanguard times,
preparatory to the great exodus that would
slowly build Plan by Plan, chapter by chapter.
This Ali-Asghar: vigilant, distinguished, old
and bent, almost blind, always he was there
as was his king, his earthly lord and master,
burdened with the work, always the work,
and an infinite capacity to take on more and
more, becoming aged before his time with an
endless exegesis and that endless pile of paper.
30 January 1997
THE APPROACHING INTERREGNUM1
As these forty years of the glorious Mission overseas opened Shoghi Effendi wrote a seven-and-a-half page letter to the American Baha’is, in many ways a report on the progress of the Ten Year Crusade and an announcement of goals, aims and objectives, as this Crusade approached the half-way point.
-Ron Price. See Citadel of Faith, pp. 151-158.
We knew you2 had the lion’s share as
our own glorious overseas Mission
had just begun and that inexorable
march of events was hastening us all
to our destiny, half way through that
ninth stage of history and that great
list of enduring achievements in that
embryonic World Order which was
skirting around the edges of my life,
in those early years of my adolescence.
He wanted that spirit recaptured to
ensure the continual flow of pioneers,
to speed up the day of the impending
contest between the Cause and the
exponents of obsolescent doctrines.
And so this was the scene at the opening
of the fourth phase of the Ten-Year Plan
and the convocation of the intercontinental
conferences, after six decades of American
Baha’i history, aimed at reconsecration and
wiping out the inevitable deficiencies which
bogged down the operation of the Crusade,
as the initial epoch of the Divine Plan closed,
an interregnum of bewilderment and despair
opened and the long second epoch yawned
before me with no idea of what was in store.
22 January 1997
1 Peter Smith, The Babi and Baha’i Religions: From Messianic Shi’ism to a World Religion, George Ronald,, Cambridge, 1987, p.132.
2 The Canadian Baha’is were aware that the American Baha’is had the dominant share of the tasks.
A NEW RELIGION BREAKS OVER THE ARBITRARY “I”
The central question “Why am I me?” comes after Rabbit awakes with the excited conviction that he must found a new religion. Updike was puzzled by the arbitrariness of the omnivorous and somehow preexistent “I” specifically situated as it was amidst the billions of other specks in the universe.
-John Updike, Rabbit, Run, 1960, discussed in Desperate Faith, Howard Harper, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1967, p. 168.
You were a clever dude, John,
looking as you were for the
thing behind everything and
seeing, as you did, the death
of God again in your generation
--and this, all this in your smooth
poetic statement1 describing the
suburban wasteland, as a new
religion was breaking on the scene,
just seen, as unobtrusive as a summer
breeze, while you watched the English
muddle through, patching things up
with responsibility rippling out over
the water and slowly, slowly, vanishing.
12 April 1998
1 John Updike broke out into the literary world in the middle years of the Ten Year Crusade, while I was investigating the Baha’i Faith. His first works The Poorhouse Fair(1958), The Same Door(1959), Rabbit, Run(1960) and The Centaur(1963), among others, were written while the Baha’i community was still significantly less than half a million in number globally, but thinly and widely spread.
THE STAGES and THE TRANSFORMATION
There’s a huge absense at the centre of the world.
-A remark overheard in a discussion of post-modernism on ABC Radio National, 24 December 1998.
There are many ways to look at modernism and its sequel post-modernism. I would rather like to lay the Guardian’s ten stage historical paradigm onto this dichotomy. I would argue that stages two to six of the Guardian’s ‘ten stages of history model’(Chicago, 1953) could be seen as part of the ‘modernist period’, the Bab’s declaration to the passing of Baha’u’llah. Stages seven to ten, the ministries of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi and the leadership of the Baha’i community by the Universal House of Justice could be seen as part of the ‘post-modernist’ period.
Modernism could be said to have arrived at
11 minutes after sunset on the 23rd of May
and been succeeded, on the 12th of November
by post-modernism. I would go on to divide
these two periods into stages for description:
May 23rd 1844 at 11 minutes after sunset:
the seed of the tree of divine revelation;
1844-1852: the crushing of the seed;
1852 October and November: the igniting
of the oil from the seed;
1852-1863: the gradual unfoldment of light;
1863-1892: the further spread of the light;
1892-1921: the ministry of that ‘indissoluble link’
1921-1953: the ministry of the bough that hath
branched from the Twin Holy Trees.
1953-1963: the ten year crusade, the ninth stage of history
1963-1998: the tenth stage of history
And while these stages were running their course
an unyielding rage against the official order raged;
the certitudes of religion died;
we learned to transcend ourselves through art;
an ordered world disappeared;
the spectator was overwhelmed;
time and space touched infinity;
an anti-bourgeois, anti-order and
purpose, anti-morality and rationality
ethic spread like fire; tradition became
moribund and a radical disjunction
between social structure and culture
foreshadowed the end of patriarchy,
Eurocentrism and ethnocentrism.
The reality of surface, style, pastiche
and wordplay made politics a media
spectacle while private withdrawal
screamed its obscure psychology and
the public realm was less and less
experienced and more and more
reported on while the demands of
a sexual morality were utterly at
variance with the massive propaganda
of eroticism everywhere apparent.
The queen of the consumer durables,
TV, the princip assassin of public life,
made community as historically understood
but one of many communities with different
sets of obligations which reached everywhere
and nowhere, here and there, with public apathy
and private desire in a dance of death and social
issues never understood. While social
fragmentation and atomization ran
hand in hand with terror and chaos.1
24 December 1998
1 some of this poem was influenced by the ideas in Martin Pawley, The Private Future,Thomas and Hudson, London, 1973.
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
A MYSTERIOUS DISPENSATION OF PROVIDENCE?
Events in world history can often be directly corelated with developments in the history of the Baha’i community. Although any direct influence would not be accepted as valid in any court of historians, the parallels between Baha’i history and events in the world are interesting to observe for those who are Baha’is. This poem attempts to draw a parallel between the discovery and implementation of the polio vaccine from 1953 to 1955 on the one hand, and some of the messages of Shoghi Effendi and events in the Baha’i community he was outlining in those same messages between 1953 and 1955, on the other.
-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.
That year the whole earth resounded
with the praises of the majesty and glory
of this Divine Message1 and a most wonderful
and thrilling motion2 appeared in the world—
at the same time as Salk was finalizing a vaccine
that would lead to the cure for polio.
This was part of that
turning point in American Baha’i history,
American Baha’is in time of world peril.3
Was this discovery one of those
mysterious dispensations of Providence:
water for that which has been planted
in the hearts of men.4
What took away that paralysing fear
at the outset of what he then called
the Kingdom of God on Earth?5
Was it, I hasten to suggest, the
propelling forces guiding the operations
of this newly-launched, unspeakably
potent, world-encompassing crusade? 6
1 the Baha’i Holy Year: 1952-1953 saw the Cause taken to over 100 new countries.
2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha in God Passes By, p.351: the completion of the Temple in Chicago.
3 messages given by Shoghi Effendi in 1953 and 1954. The year 1953 was the last one with high number of deaths from polio. In 1954 vaccinations began in earnest.
4 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965, p.139. This passage was quoted by Shoghi Effendi in July 1955, three months after the public announcement of the ‘cure for polio.’
5 Shoghi Effendi said 1953 was the year of the inception of the Kingdom.
6 1953-1963: the Ten Year Crusade: also the ninth stage of history from a Baha’i perspective.
28 October 1999
MY POETIC ORIGINS: 1953
In the nature of your poetry’s origins lies the judgement of the poetry, so argues Rilke. The origins of this poetry lies in one of the critical turning points in history when a form of life and its institutions have been increasingly felt to cramp and obstruct the most vigorous productive forces alive in a society: economic, social, artistic and intellectual. This form of life was, and is, unable to resist these forces. The year 1953 symbolizes for me the year my poetry finds its origins; the year my mother found the Baha’i Faith. -Ron Price with thanks to Isaiah Berlin in Turgenev: Fathers and Sons, Penguin, 1983(1065), p.49.
One of the artistic, turning points of history:
when the political and religious orthodoxies
of my age
were cramping and obstructing
the new forces of life
emerging all over the planet.
This turning point
involved as it did:
the completion of the mother-temple of the West,
the completion of the foundation form
for the Shrine of the Bab,
the extension of the Cause to over one hundred
the beginning of the Ten Year Crusade
and the Ninth Stage of History….
when the emergence of the:
and a host of others
tearing the fabric
of an old world,
an old society,
4 September 1999
Price’s poetic contribution is significant because it is so richly autobiographical and tells one story, one individual story, from the thousands of possible pioneering stories which began during that important period of the Ten Year Crusade, an account of one of the multitude of threads in the warp and weft of a slowly evolving community, a poetic narrative of one of the builders and defenders of an embryonic world Order, one of the many champions of a precious but infant Faith, one of the multitude of relatively unknown but sustained responses to a decades-long and strenuous enterprise, a small part, a trace, of that ‘heavenly illumination’ streaming to all the people of the world to establish the throne of the Kingdom of God, one of the potential crusaders who rushed into the arena of service, one of the individual participants in an incomparably glorious, mysteriously guided, teaching campaign that would continue over several epochs.-Ron Price drawing on Citadel of Faith: Messages to America: 1947-1957, Shoghi Effendi, Wilmette, 1965, pp.120-121.
In those earliest years(1953-1962)
of late childhood and adolescence
my world in Canada
passed through grave peril,
crises of extreme seriousness,
but inevitable and God-sent.1
And here was I
part of a new leaven,
while I watched
rock ‘n roll get born
and my mother and father
go through some very
painful times together.
And slowly, unobtrusively,
I saw unseen legions,
rank upon rank
pouring forth from their
Kingdom on high
the full measure of their
15 April 1999
1 Some of the phrases in this first stanza come from Shoghi Effendi’s message to the “American Baha’is in Time of World Peril”(July 1954), Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965, pp.122-127. During the years 1953-1962 I was nine to eighteen years old.
2 I did not actually see these ‘unseen legions’ but, when I look back over nearly fifty years, I can think of many ‘metaphorical angels’ who poured out their strength on me.
THE TRAGIC MOMENT
For baseball fans in Brooklyn New York the moving of their team the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles in the winter of 1957/8 was ‘the most tragic moment’ in their baseball lives. That same winter, in November 1957, Shoghi Effendi died unexpectedly in London. This was for the Baha’i community ‘the most tragic moment’ in its collective community life.-Ron Price.
Mickie Mantle hit a ball 565 feet
four days before
the Ten Year Crusade began1
and Shoghi Effendi died
as the Dodgers were getting ready
to move to LA
half way through that crusade.
They were big years for baseball,
big years for the Baha’is
as they took their religion
to more than 100 countries,
well on the way to being
the second most widespread religion
on the face of the earth.
Willy Mays, Jackie Robinson, Yogi Berra,
Casie Stengel, Mickie Mantle, Pee Wee Reese,
Whitey Ford...the galaxy of names goes on and on
.....toward another Roll of Honour:
Gail and Jameson Bond,
Mr. and Mrs. Jenabi Caldwell,
the galaxy of names goes on.
No home runs, no big catches,
no fame, no big money,
but a perpetuation of
the memory of the exploits
of the spiritual conquerors
of territories on the planet.1
.......Ron Price 18 March 1999
1 17 April 1953; the Ten Year Crusade began on 21 April 1953
2 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Baha’i World: 1950-1957, Wilmette, 1958, pp. 50-51. Note: these years,’53-’58, were the first contact my family had with the Cause. I was in love with baseball at the time and played pee-wee and bantam baseball.
TV AND THE TEMPEST
During the decade of the Ten Year Crusade, which Baha’is see as the ninth stage of history, television swept into the homes of hundreds of millions of people. This poem describes what was in many ways a wonderful invention, an invention that brought the possibilities and pleasures of culture, education and entertainment to people everywhere in the West. By the time the tenth stage of history began in 1963, people everywhere could also watch the social breakdown of society which this poem describes by means of contrasting images of darkness and tempest. These contrasting images of social upheaval that beset these same people during this ninth stage of history were graphically analysed by the Guardian outlined in his letters in the several years before he died.-Ron Price with appreciation to Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965.
A whole world opened
before the eyes of millions
in that ninth stage of history,
with the technology set up
during that eighth stage.
Becoming one psychologically
has been taking place slowly,
with His sweet-scented streams
of eternity giving humans so
much more pleasure, culture,
entertainment than they had
ever drunk before; with the
fruits of the tree of His being
given them to taste; and with
His other hand, He sucked
the spirit unobtrusively,
and not so unobtrusively,
out of all traditional orthodoxies,
so seductively that the world
moved into a dark heart; and
the tempest, that had been
sweeping across the surface
of the earth for some time---
perhaps more than a hundred
years---was gradually leaving
bewildered, agonized and helpless,1
as he said it was, as he said it would be,
as we see it now, as we saw it then.
13 December 1999
1 Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p.1.
ONE ACT IN THE DRAMA
My wife and I stayed in Cottesloe, a suburb of Perth, for a week with my son and step-daughter, leaving 28 years(just about to the hour) after my arrival in Australia on 12 July 1971. This week allowed us to finish off loose ends from twelve years in Perth and to get ready for our drive to the east. I enjoyed several delightful walks along Forrest Street down to the Indian Ocean. This poem was written while sitting on a park bench looking out at the ocean. Like many of my poems written out of doors, this one was changed significantly when I got back to the flat and typed it out.
-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.
I sat listening to the ocean waves
lap the shore, watched bathers
and surfers in the winter waters,
big ships out at sea,
a vollyball game in progress,
people strolling in the sand
and on paths along the ocean front.
I felt like I was on holiday at the
end of seventeen years of seed planting
in the north and west of Australia,
an exercise impossible to measure,
to evaluate, to judge and yet we try
to gauge its meaning with impossible
yard sticks, inadequate measuring rods,
searching for ways to quantify our lives
to our satisfaction.
I walked along the ocean front and
bought a sausage roll and Solo Lemon
and wondered if: La Tropicana Cafe,
Mandarin Restaurant, Cottelsoe Beach
Hotel, Blue Waters Cafe and the Essentials
Deli/Newsagent would still be there in half
a century. I said the Greatest Name, perhaps
two dozen times and asked myself a question:
was all this effort in the Path of God worth it?
Did all that dry dock have some value?
For in many ways it seemed so useless..
There came back a resounding answer from the waves
rolling in, as if from eternity:
Yes, by the Lord God! Yes!
It was but one Act in the drama
that is my life,
a small part,
this one about waiting1
in the greatest drama
in the world's spiritual history.
1Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, which was being played for the first time at the outset of the Ten Year Crusade, is strangely symbolic for much of what many people had to learn how to do-and productively-in the last half of the 20th century:wait and fill in their time in a meaningful way. Poetry became for me a type of acting or, some might say, a meaningful form of waiting.
10 July 1999
In October 1956 Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitched the only perfect game in post-season baseball. Yogi Berra was the catcher.1 That same month and year R. Rabbani advised Mariette Bolton of Orange Australia, in the extended PS of her letter, that it was “much better for the friends to give up saying “Amen.”2 I was just settling into grade seven at the time and, even at this early age, was in love with at least three girls in my class: Carol Ingam, Judy somebody and a dark-haired, physically well-developed beauty whose name I have completely forgotten.3 -Ron Price with appreciation to 1The Opening of the World Series: 2000; for 2Messages to the Antipodes, Shoghi Effendi, editor, Graham Hassell, Baha’i Publications Australia, 1997, p.419; and 3Ron Price, Journal: Canada: To 1971: 1.1, Photograph Number 102.
I was just starting grade seven
and still saying amen
when I went to
that Anglican Church
on the Guelph Line
in Burlington Ontario
with my mother and father
and saying grace
just as occasionally.
I watched the World Series,
a highlight of autumn
for a twelve year old
baseball-crazy kid, back then.
And I passed the half-way point
of my pre-youth days1
when I was the only kid
with any connection
with this new world Faith
in these, the very early days
of the growth of the Cause
in the Dominion of Canada.2
It was a new form of politics,
none of that partisan stuff
and it would have an important
part in the poltiical future of
the Dominion of Canada.
1 1953 to 1959: my pre-youth days.
2 In 1956 there were only about 600 Baha’is in Canada. The 400 Baha’is that started the Ten Year Crusade in Canada became 800 by the time I became a Baha’i in 1959. In southern Ontario, from, say, Oakville to Niagara Falls and Windsor, to several points north of Lakes Ontario and Erie in 1956 I was the only pre-youth whom I then knew, or later came to know. There may have been other pre-youth but at this early stage of the growth of the Cause in Canada, year fifty-eight, I was not aware of them.*
*--Canada’s Six Year Plan: 1986-1992, NSA of the Baha’is of Canada, 1987, p.46.
23 October 2000
Virginia Woolf, in an essay on reading a book, gave some useful advice which applies equally to reading poetry. Firstly, reading for the pure love of reading is its own reward and should be done without advice, following our own instincts, reason and conclusions. Secondly, due to the complexity of the art of reading, it requires the rarest imagination, finesse of perception and judgement. Thirdly, our taste, our sympathy, our nerve of sensation, our idiosyncrasy, our sense of intimacy with the poet, these are our illuminants. Fourthly, we should compare what we read with the best that is available in the field. Fifthly, the poet usually makes no claim to be ‘great,’ nor does he see his poetry as a work of art, only the record of a fleeting, a vanished, a forgotten moment in a life, in a faltering and feeble accent, the relic of someone’s days cast out to moulder.
-Ron Price with thanks to Virginia Woolf, “How Should One Read A Book?” Gateway to the Great Books, William Benton, toronto, 1963, pp. 5-14.
These fleeting, soon-to-be-forgotten days,
recorded here in diverse ways,
are set out to convey a tone, a mood,
not just bare facts or some common good.
From the years when I was first made,
during that momentous Ten Year Crusade,
to that dark heart of an age of transition
when I felt an overwhelming sense of mission.
And ever onward through a paradigmatic shift
when I began to enjoy through His grace that gift:
to interpret, to console, to sustain, to kindle my soul,
to delight, to help me define and understand my goal.
I laid it all beside His word and forms,
brought it all together fresh as early morns.
Through the darkest hours before the dawn,
I had a light to guide me until the storm had gone.
15 November 2000
REWRITING THE NARRATIVE OF THE SELF
Before the first years of my pioneering in the early sixties, in my late teens, it was broadly expected that a man would get married and support a wife; anyone who did not do so was regarded as in some way suspect. During these past four decades many men, millions of them in the West, became wary of being drawn into marriage and meeting its economic demands.1 Beginning, perhaps, with the beatniks and hippies, who seemed to scorn the work-ethic and conventional domestic relationships, a formerly patrilineal, nuclear, family slowly developed matrilineal tendencies with the children possessing the major tie to the mother and her family. The father’s role became more periferal, indifferent. The loser, so often in these new arrangements, was the exploited single mother and her children. Sexual experimentation, since these early sixties, led to matrilineal family structures and a high degree of sexual freedom for the male. There was for millions of these people, necessarily, a cognitive and emotional coming to terms with their psychological past, a rewriting of the narrative of self.2
-Ron Price with thanks to 1Linda and John Walbridge, “Baha’i Laws on the Status of Men,” World Order, Fall 1984, pp. 34-35; 2Anthony Giddens, The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies, Polity Press, 1992, p. 103 and p.151.
There have been millions
rewriting their self,
their who and what
they are and were,
then and now,
their story. For the story
must go on and only they
could write it; only they
could keep it going
in the face of biological,
social, economic, spiritual
constraints, the sine qua non,
of their lives. And so does my
story go on from those years....
Those inter regnum years1
when we went off to Dundas
and began to create and
all across the land
and then another land,
in diverse theaters,
winning fresh recruits,
slowly yet steadily
during that elongated
prelude—for it has all
been part of that prelude--
before that revolutionizing
and enigmatic mass conversion.3
1 term given to the years November 1957 to April 1963 in the history of the Baha’i Faith.
2 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p.115.
3 ibid., p.117. This ‘prelude’ has witnessed ‘entry-by-troops’, a process which began, as far as I know in the decade before I went pioneering, that is, in the Ten Year Crusade: 1953-1963. The first entry-by-troops I know of occurred in Canada among Indian tribes in the prairie provinces. in the mid-1950s.
16 January 2000
THE PRELUDE, THEN THE MASSES
The world empire of Rome was a negative phenomenon. It would be quite untrue to say that the Romans conquered the world. They merely took possession of something that was lying about for anyone to pick up. There have been, of course, petrified remains of empire the world over for hundreds and thousands of years. There have been shapeless masses from which the soul has departed, the used-up material of a great historical past.
-Ron Price with thanks to Oswald Spengler, 1922, in Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, 7A, 1954, p.56.
Unity of mankind was not the first craving and anguish of human beings that emerged
inb the last half of this century, during the three epochs it was my priviledge to serve this new Cause, although it may have had its sharpest manifestation after WWII, just before and after the beginning of the Ten Year Crusade. As Huxley argued in his Brave New World, people wanted the quiet life, the easy life, the happy life, not beauty or truth.
-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 6 August 2000.
I want to say a few things here about the prose-poem because the form which my following pieces takes is more prose than poetic. I could insert the following pieces in a more traditional poetic form, but I choose not to here. The prose-poem is a form I like to use a lot, because it blends poetry and prose, without being purist about either. The prose-poem is still a somewhat controversial form that some poets will even deny exists. It had its origins, arguably, 150 years after it's origin in the prose-poems of Bertrand and Lautremont and Baudelaire. It can do things with words that more boxed-in forms cannot. One can move between poetic syntax and tone, into more prose-like sections, and back again, at will. I use it in several ways, the one here being dense poetic prose.
One of the 20th century's exponents of the prose-poetic form is Antoni Artaud, a revolutionary figure in the literary avant-garde of his time(1896-1948). He created a new, multigenre, form in which essay, dictation, poem, letter, dream, and glossolalia, in varying combinations, are present in a single work. I draw on his examplefor several reasons one of which is that Artaud symbolizes for all the generations of our time an exceptional fidelity to a very great belief, a life devoted to a cause and an unflinching persistence in extolling the cause.-Ron Price with thanks to:(1) Clayton Eshleman, The American Poetry Review, Jan/Feb 2005.
Let me add a little history of this form before I include some examples from my own work. The earliest writer credited with writing prose-poems, as a distinct genre, is Aloysius Bertrand, whose collection of prose poetry, Gaspard de la Nuit, was published in 1842. The prose-poem emerged in part as a reaction against the strict rules and conventions, and definitions, of French Neoclassicism. Originally the idea was to write in a poetic prose using elements of language considered more typical of pure poetry: rhythm, metaphor, surprising imagery, rhyme, musical form. But it was Charles Baudelaire who gave the form its characteristic shape and definition, when he introduced his collection of prose-poems, Paris Spleen, by asking: Which one of us, in his moments of ambition, has not dreamed of the miracle of poetic prose, musical, without rhythm and without rhyme, supple enough to adapt itself to the impulses of the soul, the undulations of reverie, the jibes of conscience?
Paris Spleen was published in 1869, two years after Baudelaire died. Only two years later, Artur Rimbaud, then 17, was trying his hand at the form. His seminal book of prose-poems, Illuminations, was published in 1886, by which time Rimbaud had long since given up poetry. We have a clue to what Rimbaud was thinking from letters he wrote in may of 1871. Rimbaud wrote: "To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, that is the point. The sufferings will be tremendous, but one must be strong, to be born a poet: it is no way my fault. It is wrong to say: I think. One should say: I am thought..." I found these words heuristic, seminal,stimulating because of my own bipolar disorder which certainlydisordered my senses. I wont go in to detail here. Suffice it to say that Rimbauds words struck a chord. He went on to add: "The poet searches his soul, he inspects it, he tests it, he learns it. As soon as he knows it, he cultivates it: it seems simple: in every brain a natural development is accomplished. . . . The poet makes himself a visionary through a long, a prodigious and rational disordering of all the senses."
After these beginnings, the prose-poem explodes. It seems to be a form many poets find congenial precisely because it allows them to say things not possible in the more constricted conventions of traditional verse. It expands both mind and perception, as Rimbaud intimated, and allows one to view life from new and different angles. Under Modernism, the prose-poem becomes more explicitly anti-authoritarian again, because it is flexible enough to transcend convention. Even a partial list of poets who have tried their hands at the prose-poem can make up a list of some of the greatest writers of the past 150 years: Stephane Mallarme, Guillaume Apollinaire, Antonin Artaud, Andre Breton, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rene Char, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Lawrene Durrell, Oscar Wilde, Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, Italo Calvino, James Wright, Robert Bly—to name only a few.
Anthologies of prose-poems sometimes attempt to trace its history as well as provide a sample of more contemporary pieces. Such anthologies highlight the prose-poems variety and history, so rather than getting many pieces by the most important prose-poem writers, we get a few by very many writers. One anthology along this line is: Models of the Universe: An anthology of the Prose-Poem. It is edited by Stuart Friebert and David Young, Oberlin College Press, Oberlin, Ohio, Field Editions, 1995.
Here is an excerpt from the editors introduction:
The prose poem is a very special invention, like a chair that flies or a small dish that produces food for forty people. In turning to it the poet seems to put aside the discreet or flamboyant costume of poetic identity and, in a swift and unpredictable gesture, raids the other world, the world of prose, subverting categories and definitions, defying the drag of the prosaic, turning everything inside out for a moment. It shouldn't happen, this gesture; it upsets the makers of categories and the givers and second-guessers of prizes. If poets don't even stay where we put them, among their lines, then there is no way to account for and contain their doubtful magic, their darting forays into the language whose meanings and habits we work so hard to categorize and make stable.
Poetic innovators and explorers write prose-poems because adventurers and innovators also tend to ignore the rigid boundaries of categories and rules. Innovation almost always comes from the margins, the yawping barbarians at the gates, not from the center of the mainstream. Indeed, these works "upset the makers of categories." But if there is an upset here, the problem is not with the prose-poem as a form, but rather with too-rigid definitions of what poetry is or isn't.
When I encounter a category that is too rigid, a boundary that is too fixed, I feel the grip of death around my throat, around the singer's throat, the lark's throat. I want to ask, what is the maker of such a rigid boundary afraid of? For fear is at the root of such rigidity, always. The usual dictatorial regime that would try to dismiss, diminish or deride the makers of prose-poems is a regime based on fear of change, fear of difference, fear of---ultimately---wildness. In the end, "In wildness is the preservation of the world." That means inner wildness, too, not only the national parks. Real poetry is not tame, polite, mannered, or snivellized. That's a battle we still fight against the forces of entropy. Prose-poetry is a tactic of real poetry, then.
This wildness is aptly summarized by the editors of Models of the Universe: They conclude with the following comment: "That prose poems still provoke snarls and yelps is an excellent sign of their fundamental health and success. We are identifying a tradition that is not only fun to review as history but alive and well and trying on disguises at Woolworth's at this very moment.
And so here are some of my prose-poems in my own particular rendition-application of this poetic form:
In the fifties, the decade my family contacted and joined the Bahai; Faith in Canada, this new Faith grew slowly from under three hundred to nearly a thousand. In the United States, in the same period, the various forms of Christianity grew from strength to strength according to Robert Elwood in his book The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace. The fifties were, he wrote, the decade of Catholic triumphalism, of mass evangelism within Protestantism and of the rise of the Black Church as a platform for the nascent Civil Rights movement. -Ron Price with thanks to Robert Elwood, The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace, reviewed on "The Religion Report," ABC Radio National, 18 April 2001, 8:30-9:00 am.
It was a booming business
below the border
when my family contacted
a new world religion
with a temple in Chicago
in the fifties in this
most conservative culture.1
Ours was a much quieter world
back then, little of that
Billy Graham never came near us,
not as far as I remember.
There was none of that
from New York to L.A.,
at least none that I could see,
not that I was looking that hard
back then when life was simple
and safe and sweet-at-home,
at least most of the time.
All I wanted to know in those days
of Ike Eisenhower and Doris Day
was who was playing on Saturday,
whether the Maple Leafs were still
at the top of the National League
and whether the Tiger Cats game
was being televised this week.
Slowly a new wind blew,
I guess from about '53.
It was nothing flash,
natural, organic, as everyday
as the hot soup the Dixons
brought over when we were sick.
And slowly I began thinking
about those birds flying over Akka,
about history since the Enlightenment,
early Christianity especially around Nicea
and the future of mankind.
And I tasted from sweet-scented streams,
always wondering just what they were
And my little blue prayer book
seemed to get thinner and thinner
before I gave it away to an Eskimo,
Josephee Teemotee in, what was it, '67?
1 Canada is well-known for its conservatism in the first half of the twentieth century.
18 April 2001
BASEBALL AND THE BAHA’I FAITH
When a series of programs about baseball, a series called The Big Picture, began to unfold on television, I quickly came to realize the remarkable similarity between the story of baseball and the story of the Baha’i Faith, both of which grew up in the modern age. Indeed, there are many organizations, activities, interests which were born and developed in this modern age, say, since the French and the American revolutions. The points of comparison and contrast between the great charismatic Force which gave birth to the Baha’i Faith and its progressive institutionalization on the one hand, and the origin and development of other movements and organizations on the other, is interesting to observe. -Ron Price with thanks to Ken Burns, “Baseball: Part Two,” ABC TV, 18 February 1999.
They both grew through
forces and processes,
events and realities
in the late eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries:
baseball and the Baha’i Faith
grew along their stoney and tortuous paths,
the latter out of the Shaykhi School
of the Ithna’Ashariyyih Sect of Shi’ah Islam.
And it would be many years
before the Baha’i Faith would climb
to the heights of popularity
that baseball had achieved
quite early in its history.
Baseball was a game whose time had come,
a hybrid invention,
a growth out of diverse roots,
the fields and sandlots of America,
as American as apple pie.
And the Baha’i Faith was an idea
whose time had come, would come,
slowly, it would seem, quite slowly
in the fields, the lounge rooms,
the minds and hearts
of a burgeoning humanity
caught, as it was,
in the tentacles of a tempest
that threatened to blow it apart.
17 February 1999
THE KING OF COOL
Steve McQueen became one of the greatest celebrity actors while I was in my teens and twenties. At the start of the 9th stage of history, at the start of what the Baha’is call the Kingdom of God on Earth in 1953, McQueen appeared in his first film Girl On The Run; he had been studying acting in New York in 1952 at the age of 22. He starred in many famous films. The year I became a Baha’i, 1959, he was in Never So Few); the year of the election of the apex of the Baha’i administrative order in 1963 he was in The Great Escape and the year I pioneered to Australia, 1971, Le Mons. He died six months after I finally was treated for bi-polar disorder in 1980. McQueen was then aged 50 and I was 36. His films continued to be popular and reruns are often seen to this day on television. In the 9th and 10th stages of history, the half century from 1953 to 2003, McQueen has been a significant presence in the film industry, an anti-hero and “The King of Cool.” -Ron Price with thanks to SBS TV, “Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool,” 7:30-9:05 p.m., 25 February 2007.
Did we enjoy you because of
some repressed or unconscious
desires? Or were our reasons
more complex and contradictory?
Was it some visceral combination
of looking and hearing, enticements
of voyeuristic sexual pleasure, or a
spectator’s orienting and discovery,
intriguing setting, narrative suspense,
some structure of sympathy, empathy,
a form of play & inevitable distraction?1
You’ve been around right from my
late childhood and even now I see
you on TV in reruns. Have you
helped me organize my world
through those creatures, those
plays of invention, unconstrained
imagination and fantasy that made
you rich, then tragic and then dead?
Do you flash upon my inward eye
when in my bliss of solitude? Do
you have any place at all in the
recesses of my mind and heart?
When I wander lonely as a cloud
through life do you give me any
shape, coherence or vividness?
Sadly, as the Kingdom of God
on Earth wound its way through
the first half century of its life,
you excited with a flutter and
dance for a time and then were
gone. But, for a time, you
cherished your daily life with2
a certain truth and gave it to us
moment by moment on the screen.
1 Carl Plantinga, “Movie Pleasures and the Spectator’s Experience: toward A Cognitive Approach,” Film and Philosophy, Volume II, 1994.
2 The aim of William Wordsworth’s The Prelude was also expressed in these same words and more: “meditations passionate from deep recesses in man’s heart.”
26 February 2007
CALMING LIFE'S WHIRLPOOL
I came across Doris Lessing in an interview on “Books and Writing,” an ABC Radio National program, on 16 January 2000, then again on SBS TV on 18 September 2000. On that latter date she referred to my generation as self-indulgent and unself-critical. With the years, Lessing went on to say, this self-indulgent generation of mine had many casualties as former personal certainties that it had held died and systems, empires and parties lost their credibility, their meaning and even their existence.
Lessing also informed her listeners that she thought most writers were mildly depressed. When asked what her most joyous moments were she said they were “at the beginning of each book.” I agree that a certain melancholia, a certain pensiveness, a certain level of emotion recollected in tranquillity, are present during the writing process. In November 2000 I came across a statement by Lessing in an article entitled: “Writing the Self: Selected Works of Doris Lessing,” Deep South, Vol.2, No.2, Winter 1996, p.12. She had just completed, but not yet published, the second volume of her autobiography Walking in the Shade. Of autobiography, she said: "it helps calm life’s whirlpool." In the next several years I found Lessing's words accurate. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 4 February 2007.
You were just finishing your story,
your two volumes in '94 and '97
while I was just starting to put my
story down. Of course, you'd done
those semi-autobiographical novels,
indeed, you've been writing since I
was a child and recording my first
memories back in '47 and '48 & '49.
Producing our lives we were, Doris,
by an infinite chain of signifiers and
constructs. Some therapeutic self-
discovery as we were spinning our
yarn, as it were, in the current of life.1
You ended your story in '62, just as
I was beginning mine, my pioneering
over four epochs. Finishing your story
at 43 you were and me--starting mine
at 43 and taking it back to the age of 18.
1 Lynda Scott, "Similarities Between Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing," Deep South, Vol.3 No.2, Winter 1997.
4 February 2007
SINGING OF 'THE JUDGEMENT DAY'
After a long siege from various physical and emotional ailments, Judy Garland was hospitalised in 1959. I became a Bahai that year. Garland was the most famous female entertainer during the years of the second epoch of the Formative Age, 1944-1963. She had been the image of the "typical American teenager"1 when my mother became a Bahai in 1953. Garland died in 1969 from an overdose of sleeping pills, six years after the democratic theocracy at the base of the Bahai system had been established, that 'blissful consummation' referred to by Daniel.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Stephen Harvey in Colliers Encyclopedia, Vol 10, pp.579-80; 2 See Shoghi Effendi, God passes by, 1957, p.151.
I was growing up, Judy,
when you were winning
all those accolades.
And when I became a Bahai
you were at the bottom
of the barrel
and you rolled in and out
of that barrel until you died
ten years later,
alone and desolate,
a world away from your kids
and a million miles away
from your inner self
which you never found
in your roller-coaster ride
through fame and glory.
But along the way
you tried to teach us
how to be happy,
to put on our best show
as we all got ready
for that judgement day1
which was spreading
around the world
during your life2 and ours
in those years at the start
of this Formative Age.
1 Judy sang about this 'judgement day' but she, like the wider society in which she sang and performed, had no idea of its relation to this new religion, the Bahaullah Faith.
2 Judy Garland's life, 1922-1969, occupied the years of the first half century of the Formative Age(1921-1971), especially during her years of success after 1935 when the teaching Plans began to unfold and extend the nucleus and pattern of a new World Order which had just been given its 'first architectural shaping' by Shoghi Effendi based on principles laid down by his Grandfather, Bahaullah.
18 June 2001
THE DRAMA OF INVISIBILITY
In 1959, Alfred Ayer, the foremost advocate of logical positivism, published an anthology of essays written by bright men earlier in the century who had committed themselves to reconstructing philosophy uncontaminated by metaphysics. The book was called Logical Positivism. In the next three years several books were published demolishing the pretensions of positivism. Karl Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions were two of these books. Philosophy swims in metaphysics like a fish swims in water. At the time, the years 1959 to 1962 being my first three as a Bahai, I was beginning to swim in new metaphysical waters. I knew nothing of logical positivism or metaphysics, but I was clearly attracted to the poetry and the narrative I found in the Bahai Faith. It was poetry and narrative that invited reflection on the nature of my culture and humanity itself. -Ron Price with thanks to Evan Cameron, "Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies," Philosophy and Literature, Vol. 21, No.2, pp.492-494; and Hayden White, "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality," Critical Inquiry, Summer 1981.
The story was simply there,
like life itself:
not really a problem,
Helped me translate
knowing into telling,
took my life, what I'd done
and fashioned a form,
structures of meaning,
but slowly, faintly, like a star.
The story was translated
into my world in southern Ontario
by the lake on Seneca Street
where I played baseball
without fundamental damage
to me or the story.
And so it was that I began that drama,
only possible with those whom
you share a common history,
a drama of the invisibility
of interior experience,
the place where feelings lie hidden
and we have few words, if any,
for what happens inside us,
where we feel defeat
at the problem's enormity,
where we have trouble naming what we see.
Ron Price 7 September 2001
DRIVING ON OUTSIDE THE MARKET
On "Arts Today" the work of Australian sculptor Robert Clipel was discussed. Clipel died in 2001 at the age of 81 and a retrospective exhibition was arranged to commemorate, to celebrate, to inform the community of his work. There are some similarities between his work, what drove him and his philosophy and my own. For this reason I write the poem below. He was a most inventive and self-directed individual, highly cerebral, highly intellectual. His creative drive sought expression in his work and was the most important aspect of his life over several decades. He was strongly drawn by the multitude of possibilities around him to give them expression in art, his art. His central aim was to build up a language of forms, a language that was diverse, individualistic, new, self-critical, coherent and combined the technological with nature. His interest was in producing art not marketing it. He was unquestionably a man obsessed with his vision and his art. -Ron Price with thanks to "Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 14 January 2002.
I came to my work much later, Robert.
I'll have to live to be a hundred
to get in my several decades of art.
So, I'll just have to take it a step-at-a-time.
Everything I heard today about you
animates me and my work, except
perhaps that aim to synthesize
the technological and nature.
I'm into one big meta-synthesis, Robert.
and the possibilities around me
just go on and on and on as I link
them to this thrusting creative drive.
Perhaps when I'm gone there will be
one great retrospective and someone
can market all of this, these thousands
of poems, this obsession, this vision, this art.
14 January 2002
THE LAST MONTHS OF THE TEN YEAR CRUSADE: A COMMENT
Until the summer of 1962 I had found much happiness and pleasure in the company of my high school friends, soul-mates is too strong a term; in the pursuit of sport, baseball, hockey and football; in my efforts to secure high grades at school and in the tranquillity and security of my parental home. With that move in August of 1962 to Dundas, the diaspora of my old friends and the loss of all that was familiar, I was jettisoned into a new world in which I had to find new oars. In some ways my new oars were the problems associated with just getting through my final year of high school. This occupied my time and left me with little else to worry about; even the occasional party, dance, or association with girls was so periferal and short-lived that these events were just a bubble in an otherwise hermetic existence with books, classes and the struggle to pass nine subjects and nine three hour examinations. In June 1963 I did pass and with a great sigh of relief.
A new pattern and architecture had begun to emerge in my mind by the end of 1962, if not before, what G.K. Chesterton called 'the landscape of our dreams.' This landscape, he went on, was covered with the flora and fauna of our own secret planet. I had certainly begun to build, to design, to occupy this place in my mind with the vision, the words, the books, of this new religion I had been increasingly involved with since 1953. I had no conscious sense of direction for my life when the Universal House of Justice was elected in April 1963 but I had, by the simple process of elimination, confined my career direction to some aspects of the arts and not the sciences.
One of English dramatist Harold Pinter's biographers, Michael Billington, says that "you don't live at home till your early twenties without developing an awareness of private space or a fear of unwanted invasion."1 When my father died in May of 1965, I moved out of this private space for ever. I don't recall ever fearing 'unwanted invasion.' But that 'awareness of private space' has been a strong one all my life, if I think of it. When I read David Malouf's description of his early life in his autobiographical 12 Edmonstone Street I am very conscious of this space and its affect on my life.
Billington goes on to write about Pinter's "rage against the world." It was also a rage for life, a rage to do something, to achieve something. With the onslaught of the manic phase of my manic-depression, as early as December 1963, my life was inhabited by a certain rage as well. But by July-August 1964 the rage had died and I was plunged into the depressive side of my bi-polar tendency. Whatever rage, whatever manic, proclivities I exhibited in these early years of pioneering, 1962 to 1967, they were channelled into getting through my academic studies in history, philosophy and sociology, into one of four serious relationships and of four minor flirtations, with young women at university, the changing situation in the lives of my parents where I lived for most of that time and the early years of my interest in the Bahai; Faith. Beer drinking, pub crawling, nights out with the boys, types of partying were not part of the rage. The whole trip and whatever rage it contained was pretty serious.
There was for me, during these years of the early to mid-sixties, a developing awe and determination to study the Bahai writings. A reverence for them coupled with an increasing enthusiasm for their content, a systematic examination of their art and a desire to understand what they meant. These writings required an effort to understand what they had to say to me and my world. I was certainly "painstaking" and "conscientious." This study went on during these five years of difficult personal transition, problems and personal maturation.
1Michael Billington, The Life and Work of Hrold Pinter, Faber and Faber, London, 1996, p.27.
One critical experience that defined the direction I was to go in as I entered university was my effort to grasp matriculation physics. From early September to some time in November 1962 I tried to disentangle the mysteries of physics and the difficulties associated with 32 feet per second per second, et cetera. I must have spent an average of an hour each night in my homework sessions for nearly three months doing physics 'problems.' But it was to no avail; I knew I was not going to pass physics if I stayed in that course, so I switched to history several weeks before the Christmas exam. I got the highest mark in the class, an 80, and I never attended one class. This seemed to confirm to me that the arts and not the sciences was the direction of my career as I entered university in September of 1963. How accurate that confirmation was hardly mattered because without physics in my grade 13 marks the entire world of the sciences was just not available for me to pursue.
If there was a golden period in my young life, it was the period up to my eighteenth birthday in July 1962. In retrospect it seems to me like some kind of lost paradise of simplicity, of wall-to-wall sport, school and endless indulgence, punctuated with the occasional family crisis, the frustrations and attractions associated with the presence of beautiful young girls and the need for money, mine and my parents. I had been a somewhat solitary and introverted child of parents who could well have been my grandparents due to their late marriage, but during my late primary and high school years I blossomed. I was the apple of my parents' eye and was their lovingly indulged only son. Although my father would fly into a rage during a chat with my mother about some issue, usually a financial one, it was all in the context of his love and interest in our welfare. My home was always open to my friends and, after 1953, to the Burlington Bahai community. Books, music, gardens and writing were things treated with respect in these now seemingly remote but halcyon days.
In August 1962 I left Burlington, its paradisiacal simplicity and its familiarity. Those golden years were replaced by the academic demands of matriculation, by the absence of the old friends I had cultivated for a dozen years, by the confusions and depressions of my university years in a new town and by a cold wind which set in. These were the years, too, of my first entanglements with those beautiful girls. However one describes the contrast, those simple days of youth had gone. I had indeed pioneered. The process, though, was as insidious as a seed. I was not conscious, in any way, that these were my years of preparation for the road ahead. I had begun to sing a new song and it had become more intense, more important, in this new town. But it was so clouded in difficulties that I found it difficult to sing.1
-Ron Price with thanks to Roger White, "New Song," Another Song Another Season, George Ronald, Oxford, 1979, pp.117-118.