BOOKS BY PATRICIA WILCOX

* 'BAHA'I FAMILIES; Perspectives, Principles, Practice', GEORGE RONALD publishers

*'CHANGE YOUR LIFE, one Thought at a Time' GEORGE RONALD publishers

* 'AT THE THRESHOLD - a Guide to the Baha'i Marriage Ceremony'

 


CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

45: The Importance of Children's Kindness to Animals

44: Peace

43: A Series of Embarrassing Episodes

42: Our Friend Col And The Hooters

41. A Kiwi Knight In Shining Armour

36. First Grow, Then Become and Then Contribute.

35. Welcome To My World

34. Fixing A Broken Family ??

33. Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People

32. Peace, More Than Just An End To War

31. The Doomsday Clock Is Ticking LOUDER

30. UNITY: AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME.

29. The Power of Change

28. DIZZYING POLITICAL CHANGE

27. WOMEN: THE ONLY 51% MINORITY

26. WE ARE THE WORLD, WE ARE THE CHILDREN

25. NATIONS ARE AN AGGREGATE OF FAMILIES

24. WOMEN AS MOTHERS?

23. 'UN'RECLAIMING OUR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

22. ONE COMMON FAITH

21. THE GOD IN ALL THINGS

20. KINDNESS TO EVERY LIVING THING

19. WOMEN IN POWER

18. The Dancing Grannies

17. THE POWER OF UNITY

16. The Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Baha

15. The Day of The Covenant

14. Black Friday For The Baha'is In Iran

13. Unity In Diversity

12. Religion In Harmony With Science

11. One School, Many Teachers

10. My Journey From Atheism To Belief

9. Prescription For Living

8. Three Sons of Abraham

7. Peace, More Than Just An End To War

6. Fixing A Broken Family

5. Some Family Secrets

4. Women Waging Peace

3. One Family

2. Melting Pot

1. One School, Many teachers

 

CHAPTER TWO

POST 166 The Future has Never Looked so Bright

POST 165 Apologising; The Use and Abuse of "Sorry"

POST 164 There is no Cause for Despair

POST 163 Erratic Movements Towards an age of Peace

POST 162 ONE FAMILY

POST 161 UN Report; Really A Spiritual and Moral Crisis

POST 160 Criticism; What Makes it Hurtful or Helpful?

POST 159. YOU are an Idea Whose Time has Come

POST 158 Dreaming About the World as One, Creating the World Anew.

POST 157 Our True Enemy is Ignorance

POST 156

POST 155 RESPONDING TO TERRORISM ---VIGILANCE, EDUCATION AND UNITY

POST 154 A Christchurch Massacre; WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

POST 153 Sifting Reality from Imagination

POST 152 A Second Strange but True Story

POST 151 Disadvantaged Minorities & Indigenous People

POST 150 All Creation is Designed Around Gradualism

POST 149 This World is YOUR Personal School Room.

POST 148 POST 147 This world is a school room.

POST 146. HELP ON THE WAY FOR 'MEAN GIRLS' IN OUR KINDNESS DESERT.

POST 145. The Future of Humanity Depends on Science

POST 144 'Here we are, one month into the New Year.

POST 143 ? POST 142 Were you on the planet during the '60's?

POST 141. 'FAITH' AND 'SPIRIT'; MYTH OR REALITY?

POST 140. Warning to Westerners; THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS THE 'D' WORD

POST 139; DEATH BY PUBLIC EXECUTION

POST 138 TACKLING THAT PESKY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION

POST 137 A Christmas Song for Peace on Earth

POST 136; CHRISTMAS; A TIME OF PEACE AND GOOD WILL TO ALL MEN...

POST 135 THE BRIGHT DAY IS COMING!

POST 134 Final Tribute to a Bank Robber

POST 133 DESPAIR AND HOPELESSNESS - A GROWING GLOBAL PHENOMENON

POST 132 WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?

POST 131 Fulfilling our responsibilities

POST 130 Longing for Peace and Unity The Last Post

POST 129. The Power of Change

POST 128. THE #MeToo MOVEMENT- RIGHT INTENTION, WRONG METHOD

POST 126. WE ARE THE WORLD, WE ARE THE CHILDREN

POST 125. NATIONS ARE AN AGGREGATE OF FAMILIES

POST 124. WOMEN - AS MOTHERS?

POST 123. UN-RECLAIMING OUR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT.

POST 122. ONE COMMON FAITH

POST 121 Our World's Indigenous People

POST 121 Loving-kindness to Every Living Creature

POST 120. One School, Many Teachers

POST 119. MY MEMORIES OF CAROL O'SULLIVAN

POST 119. WOMEN IN POWER

POST 118

POST 117

POST 116

POST 115; A GROWING GLOBAL YEARNING FOR UNITY

POST 114; Human History; a Race Between Education and Catastrophe?

POST 113; The Situation of Bahai's in Iran

POST 112. RELIGION IN HARMONY WITH SCIENCE

POST 106 Fixing A Broken Family

POST 166 The Future has Never Looked so Bright

Many of us share the dream of our worldly family living together as one. We share a recognition that our birthplace is Earth, our race is Human, our politics are freedom and our religion: LOVE.

We write about this oneness. Some of our most beautiful poems celebrate it. Many of our most moving songs sing about it. And some of our most stirring speeches (like Martin Luther King's famous 'I Have a Dream' speech) describe it. But not our national anthems.

Most national anthems remain celebrations of uniqueness and - dare I say it - superiority. So the dreaming of unity and the singing and talking about it were the easy parts. Now we've moved beyond the pleasant stage of 'dreaming'.

Now we're at the pointy edge; the 'doing' stage. How do we go about keeping our diversity whilst achieving unity, because it's the doing of it and living it - day by day- that brings the real challenges.

Many of our differences are readily apparent; our skin colour, our language, our dress. Less apparent are our unique beliefs, our traditions and social behaviours; the practices of generations. Yet often we cling to practices that are not suited to today's world and actually constitute a barrier to development and unity.

To what extent do we need to agree on these important subjects, or is there some way to live together that accepts differences without disharmony?

Often it is those very differences that become reinforced in the political vying of the electoral process, which is of its nature divisive. Bahais avoid this division by remaining apart from politics. "Speak thou no word of politics; thy task concerneth the life of the soul, for this verily leadeth to man’s joy in the world of God. Except to speak well of them, make thou no mention of the earth’s kings, and the worldly governments thereof.'---'Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, 53

The Bahai Writings proclaim that "the most important condition that can bring about peace is unity—the unity of families, of nations, and of the great currents of thought and inquiry that we denote science and religion". ---Universal House of Justice, 19 Oct 93 to an indidual.

For Bahai's '...the principle of the Oneness of Mankind, the cornerstone of Bahá’u’lláh’s world-embracing dominion, implies nothing more nor less than the enforcement of His scheme for the unification of the world—the scheme to which we have already referred. “In every Dispensation,” writes ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, “the light of Divine Guidance has been focussed upon one central theme.… In this wondrous Revelation, this glorious century, the foundation of the Faith of God and the distinguishing feature of His Law is the consciousness of the Oneness of Mankind.”---Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh

"How pathetic indeed are the efforts of those leaders of human institutions who, in utter disregard of the spirit of the age, are striving to adjust national processes, suited to the ancient days of self-contained nations, to an age which must either achieve the unity of the world, as adumbrated by Bahá’u’lláh, or perish. At so critical an hour in the history of civilization it behooves the leaders of all the nations of the world, great and small, whether in the East or in the West, whether victors or vanquished, to give heed to the clarion call of Bahá’u’lláh and, thoroughly imbued with a sense of world solidarity, the sine quâ non of loyalty to His Cause, arise manfully to carry out in its entirety the one remedial scheme He, the Divine Physician, has prescribed for an ailing humanity'. ------Shoghi Effendi, The Guiding Principles of World Order, The World Order of Baha'u'llah

Yet in achieving this, we do not overlook those structures necessary to a politically united world, or lack a sustainable growth strategy. In 2001 as our world emerged from the strife and challenges of the 20th Century, The Universal House of Justice thrillingly declared that "the future has never looked so bright". "A long and arduous process of struggle, experimentation and construction has led to the victories that lift our hearts as a new century opens. Through the rapidly proliferating system of institutes and the energy being invested everywhere in area growth strategies, the Bahá’í community has moved swiftly to capitalize on what has been achieved. However deep may be the gloom enveloping the world, the future has never looked so bright for the prosecution of Bahá’u’lláh’s mission." ---UHJ 24 May 2001 To the Believers Gathered for the Events Marking the Completion of the Projects on Mount Carmel.

"Every nation and every group—indeed, every individual—will, to a greater or lesser degree, contribute to the emergence of the world civilization towards which humanity is irresistibly moving. Unity will progressively be achieved, as foreshadowed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in different realms of social existence, for instance, “unity in the political realm”, “unity of thought in world undertakings”, “unity of races” and the “unity of nations”. As these come to be realized, the structures of a politically united world, which respects the full diversity of culture and provides channels for the expression of dignity and honour, will gradually take shape"---2 Mar 2013 UHJ to Bahais of Iran


POST 165 Apologising; The Use and Abuse of "Sorry"

 We live in a time of unprecedented change, affecting our values, our culture, and even our terminology. Even our most personal exchanges, such as saying 'sorry'.

For example, the earliest account of the term 'apology' is found in 4th century B.C. Plato's Apology, a philosophical dialogue dealing with the trial of Socrates in which he answered the charges of his accusers by giving a brief history of his life and moral commitment, intending to convey an understanding of his circumstances.

Today's use of the apology often overlooks this important aspect of mutual understanding. Instead it is a self-justification, or admission of some degree of responsibility for a situation.

Saying “sorry' is a quick way to achieve smooth, harmonious interactions, but meaningless if it is insincere and fails to understand the real needs and feelings of the offended party.

The broader definition of the term 'sorry' in Dictionary.com is less judgemental and more compassionate. It includes expressing regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.: to be sorry to leave one's friends; to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble, for a regrettable or deplorable action. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/sorry

Apologies are culturally and even legally defined. One cynic observed re the use of 'sorry' that 'Americans do not say it, the British do not mean it and Canadians overdo it'...

In Canada the term "I'm sorry" does not assume guilt – to the extent that the country even created an Apology Act to protect individuals from legal suit!

Apologizing is seen as a virtue in Japan and is often coupled with a bow. The more sorry you feel, the deeper you bow. In Brazil, the best way to apologize is by giving a small gift accompanied by a note of apology. Depending on the type of apology you want to convey, there are multiple ways to say sorry in China. The phrase "yi han" is used to express regret or pity. An example is if you have to turn down an invitation or deliver bad news. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/12004-apologies-around-the-world.html

It is also influenced by gender. American Karina Schumann, a psychologist and expert in the use and abuse of “sorry', discovered that men have a higher moral threshold for offensive behaviour than women, and so they apologize less frequently, and rarely for the little things.

Nearly 20 centuries after Plato, the few references to 'sorry' and 'apology' in the Bahai Writings attribute to it only a minor value. One rare reference to apology can be seen for example when the erudite Mírzá Aḥmad-i-Azghandí arose to defend the newborn Faith, refuting the arguments of His opponents, and exposing their odious deeds. Otherwise it is occasionally used as in 'He was sorry to learn of..' or 'In a sorry plight', 'a sorry spectacle'.

The Baha'i practice is quite different from current usage. Whilst the principle of justice is supreme in Bahai Teachings, it is achieved through the 'art' of consultation and requires us to avoid criticism of others, abstaining from the tendency to blame or take offence. Of course we are always free to express our own disappointment or remorse for our actions but this expression comes freely and sincerely, is not a response to social expectation, and is intended to foster mutual understanding.

All our actions must reflect the keynote of the Faith which is Unity. Bahá’u’lláh has established consultation as one of the fundamental principles of His Faith, exhorting us to “take counsel together in all matters”, describing it as “the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way” and “the bestower of understanding.”---Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas 52.

Whenever we as parent, teacher, friend or partner experience a situation in which we feel blaming or critical of another, an ideal response is to prayerfully call ourselves to account, to review our own response and if still necessary, to seek an opportunity for loving consultation.

"You must consider your enemies as your friends, look upon your evil-wishers as your well-wishers and treat them accordingly. Act in such a way that your heart may be free from hatred. Let not your heart be offended with anyone. If someone commits an error and wrong toward you, you must instantly forgive him. Do not complain of others." ---Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace – 134 – 2 December 1912 Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. Kinney 780 West End Avenue, New York Notes by Edna McKinney


POST 164 ; There is no Cause for Despair

Our earliest forebears and all those generations who, over time, have shared this beautiful planet, have been collective participants in an amazing series of events.

Humanity has been travelling from the earliest days of family life to the level of tribal solidarity, to city-state and currently to our present stage of independent, sovereign nations.

Now, genetic science has established that we are one family.

With this new awareness of our oneness, the human race stands on the threshold of its maturity. Our collective task is to confront the destabilizing forces that now threaten this world and prevent attainment of the next phase of our development.

Although the dream of world unity is possible it cannot be achieved without full and unreserved acceptance of the cardinal principle of the oneness of humankind which is described by the Guardian as “the pivot round which all the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh revolve”.

The reality that humanity is one people must be the starting point for a new order; all relations among nations need to be re-envisaged in this light.

Such a radical re-conception of our origins requires a huge shift in understanding. Presently, the will to achieve this transformation is still wanting. Sooner or later, it will require an historic feat of statesmanship from the leaders of the world.

The progressive recognition of our diversity, and the turbulence created as a result, has all humanity - both nations and individuals - gripped in a crisis of identity, as various peoples and groups struggle to define themselves, their place in the world, and how they should act.

Without a vision of shared identity and common purpose, they fall into competing ideologies and power struggles. Recognition of our diversity has produced countless permutations of “us” and “them”, defining group identities ever more narrowly and in contrast to one another.

This has resulted in a splintering into divergent interest groups, weakening the very cohesion of society itself. Beliefs about the primacy of any particular group obscure the reality that all humanity is on a common journey, in which we are mutual companions.

Our earlier perceptions of human identity differ radically from what is emerging with this new perspective of our human oneness. The value inherent in our diversity actually endows us with new richness and the promise of exciting potential and possibilities.

Unity, in its Bahá’í expression, embraces the essential concept of diversity, whilst clearly distinguishing it from uniformity.

It is through love for all people, and by subordinating our lesser loyalties to the best interests of all humankind, that the unity of the world can be realized and our infinite expressions of human diversity may find their highest fulfilment.

It calls for unity and a selfless love for humankind. This is the task of religion. At this momentous time in our history, religious leaders have the opportunity to recognise the great possibilities before them to cultivate fellowship and concord. Or they can incite violence by using their influence to stoke the fires of fanaticism and prejudice.

Writing of religion, Bahá’u’lláh’s words are emphatic: “… make it not”, He warns, “the cause of dissension and strife.” Peace, for “all who dwell on earth”, is one of “the principles and ordinances of God”.

We are regularly confronted by the suffering endured by so many because of disunity. We cannot shut ourselves off from the increasing turmoil of the society that surrounds us, yet must be on guard, too, from becoming enmeshed in its conflicts or falling into its adversarial methods. No matter how bleak conditions may appear at any given time, no matter how dismal the immediate prospects for bringing about unity, there is no cause for despair. The distressing state of the world only spurs us to redouble a commitment to constructive action.

“These are not days of prosperity and triumph” cautions Bahá’u’lláh. “The whole of mankind is in the grip of manifold ills. Strive, therefore, to save its life through the wholesome medicine which the almighty hand of the unerring Physician hath prepared.” ---The Universal House of Justice 18 January 2019 To the Bahá’ís of the World


POST 163 Erratic Movements Towards an age of Peace

There is seldom just one cause of international disputes. However, many scientists anticipate that as the world's population increases and our basic resources become scarce, wars are more likely to be over material essentials, such as water and food.

My grandparents lived through that conflict that would come to be known as the first “World War”. Today, greater knowledge makes us feel appalled by its horrific severity, its unprecedented scale and ferocity. Yet despite this horror it gave birth to new possibilities for stability—notably at the Paris Peace Conference, which opened exactly one century ago, in this very year.

Reassuringly, Shoghi Effendi described these tumultuous events as fitful forces "working in harmony with the spirit of the age”, moving humanity towards an age of peace—a peace not merely a condition without armed conflict, but "a collective state of being", manifesting unity.

Over the last century, three historical moments seemed to foretell real, lasting peace. First was the establishment of the League of Nations, picturing for the first time in history, that system of collective security first enjoined upon the world’s rulers by Bahá’u’lláh.

Yet these premature hopes led only to a second World War, judged by historians as the deadliest conflict in human history.

However out of the ashes of the League a second hope emerged, as a system of international economic institutions came into being, forming a United Nations Organization. From here historic advances would be made in human rights and international law.

But as these encouraging plans for regional cooperation developed, so too did distrust between the world’s two major power blocs, producing the Cold War and bringing the use of nuclear weapons ever closer.

The close of the twentieth century--within our lifetime--produced explicit calls for the establishment of a new global order, creating a third moment when universal peace seemed to be within grasp.

Consequently a series of world conferences on humanity’s future was convened by the United Nations. Titled 'The Millennium Forum', it was a meeting of representatives of over a thousand civil society organizations, from more than a hundred countries, and was followed by the 'Millennium Summit', an unparalleled gathering of world leaders which led to agreement on a set of objectives representing a shared ambition of humanity.

These 'Millennium Development Goals' signalled a widespread, gradual but unstoppable rise in global consciousness on the part of the earth’s peoples and expressed our attraction to universal justice, to solidarity, collaboration, compassion, and to equality. But times change quickly.

Today, many of the dominant currents in society are pushing people apart, not drawing them together.

Cliques with grossly exorbitant wealth continue to grow. Rising religious fundamentalism has warped communities, and even whole nations. The failings of so many organizations and institutions within society have led to a decline in public trust.

That earlier promise of shared ethical principles is eroding, and the will to engage in international collective action is sapped through a revival of racism, nationalism, and factionalism.

The Universal House of Justice warned in its latest message to the world that the course humanity takes to achieve its future destiny may very well be tortuous.

The tumult raised by the contending peoples of the earth threatens to drown out the voices of those noble-minded souls in every society who call for an end to conflict and struggle. As long as that call goes unheeded, there is no reason to doubt that the world’s current state of disorder and confusion will worsen—possibly with catastrophic consequences—until a chastened humanity sees fit to take another significant step, perhaps this time decisive, towards enduring peace. ---The Universal House of Justice 18 January 2019 To the Bahá’ís of the World

We can't predict the future solely by the present. Yet despite the direness of the time, we take comfort in this assurance of Abdu'l-Baha;

Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain! Nothing is impossible to the Divine Benevolence of God. If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men. Do not despair! Work steadily. Sincerity and love will conquer hate.---Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, – 6 – The Pitiful Causes of War, and the Duty of Everyone to Strive for Peace October 21st


The Oneness of the Entire Human Race.

POST 162. ONE FAMILY

Who are we, and where did we come from?

Usually we will know our ancestral family names and birthplaces, but what of our nationality? And is our nationality the same thing as our race?

Until recently the answers seemed fairly simple and well known. People didn't move around much. However, as processes of migration occurred with more frequency over greater areas, information on our origins became more clouded.

Today we know that we come from 'all over'. Today we can prove that all modern humans have a common ancestry. The truth is clear that together we possess a bit of everything; we are all one single human species.

According to a study published in the journal 'Science', all humans are 99.9 per cent identical with only a tiny 0.1 per cent difference.

We are 'walking history books' who carry the traces of all our ancestors in our cells. The advent of cheap genetic sequencing enables the history of modern-day humans to be clearly revealed for the first time, confirming the theory of one single, common origin for everyone. https://www.theguardian.com/science/commentisfree/2015/may/24/business-genetic-ancestry-charlemagne-adam-rutherford

Recent DNA evidence confirms the “Out Of Africa” hypothesis that all modern humans stem from a single group of Homo sapiens who emigrated from Africa 2,000 generations ago and spread throughout Eurasia over thousands of years. These settlers replaced, rather than interbred with, other early humans (such as Neanderthals).

Until now, one of the main reasons for doubting this “Out Of Africa” theory for the recent African origin of modern humans - a doubt of special relevance to my own Pacific corner of the world - was due to inconsistent evidence from Australia. Skeletal and tool remains found there are strikingly different from those elsewhere on the “coastal expressway” – the route through South Asia taken by the earliest settlers.

However, a genetic survey, produced by a collaborative team led by scholars at Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin Universities, shows that Australia's aboriginal population did in fact spring from the same tiny group of colonists as their New Guinean neighbours. This showed that both Aborigines and Melanesians share genetic features linked to the exodus of modern humans from Africa 50,000 years ago.

Just how far back can we trace our DNA? The answer is; about 700 years. The Mitochondrial DNA Full Genomic Sequence test shows that you and I have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last 5 generations (about 125 years). So you and I are just distant cousins!

Today as we roam with increasing ease across the entire planet, we recognise the absolute validity of the words of Bahá’u’lláh spoken nearly 2 centuries ago: "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”“It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world.” And again, “That one indeed is a man who today dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.”“Through the power released by these exalted words,” He explains, “He hath lent a fresh impulse, and set a new direction, to the birds of men’s hearts, and hath obliterated every trace of restriction and limitation from God’s Holy Book.” --The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, A World Religion 15.

The core focus of the Baha'i Faith is the establishment of precise principles and laws that will prove capable of addressing the needs of a timeless, ever-growing global community.

 

 


POST 161  UN Report; Really A Spiritual and Moral Crisis

"About 70,000 years ago Homo Sapiens was still an insignificant animal who made his own business in a corner of Africa ... Today he is on the verge of becoming a god, ready to acquire not only eternal youth, but also the divine abilities to create and to destroy ... Can there be something more dangerous than a mass of dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who do not even know what they want?" ---Yuval Noah Harari, "From Animals into Gods - A brief History of Humankind"

The dubious advice -"If it feels good, do it" - recently inspired a therapist writing for 'Psychology Today' to comment; "Maybe, like me, you're just barely old enough to remember this expression. To my father, a minister, this dictum summed up everything that was wrong with the emerging values of the 1960s and 1970s. Can you imagine? If everyone just did what felt good? Anarchy! Ribaldry!"

Fortunately we've matured a bit since then. But collectively we are still being guided by such self-focussed factors as the search for pleasure, fame, wealth and eternal youth. Unlike many other cultures, maturity of years in the western world is considered a social negative. Without any collective charter of spiritual or moral limits, we are continuing to produce that "mass of dissatisfied and irresponsible gods..."

The closest thing we have to any collective social responsibility can be found in standards set by United Nations agencies.

Lacking universally ethical and enforcable standards of behaviour, we have used scientific capacity to create without limit, to consume without restraint and to vastly increase our ability to destroy.

A recent report notes a mass exodus out of organized religion in the United States, stating that the number of Americans with "No Religion" has soared 266% over the last 3 decades. https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-04-06/

The most comprehensive study of life on Earth ever undertaken was leaked this week.

This global assessment report, compiled over three years by the UN’s leading research body on nature, warns that the planet’s life-support systems are approaching a danger zone. All future generations and wildlife are at risk unless urgent action is taken to reverse the loss of plants, insects and other creatures on which humanity depends for food, pollination, clean water and a stable climate.

The present 'immoral, overconsumption, extinction crisis' is an aggregate of ignorance, greed, inequity and other self-serving 'if it feels good' values-deficiencies. As such, it is essentially a Spiritual crisis.

It happened despite the passage of centuries since Homo Sapiens first set about 'his own business in Africa', during which humanity continued to be guided by a series of Divine Messengers addressing the specific needs of their places and times.

The values of those past civilisations may still be found today in such sources as the four Noble Truths of Buddhism, the Jewish Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule of Jesus and The Five Pillars of Islam.

Every culture had mutually agreed charters of collective social and spiritual responsibility. Today, many of those  who still adhere to religion are either in conflict or diminishing in influence.

From a Bahai perspective these charters of collective social and spiritual responsiblity were not merely the result of random development, but a divinely inspired cycle reflecting humanity's growing material and spiritual capacity, emanating from a progressive revelation of divine principles.

This is why the Bahai message is uniquely relevant to the needs of our time.

Our increasingly global and interconnected world demands collective values and principles that support and sustain the harmonious development of one unified world.

Belief in the essential oneness of science, religion and the essential oneness of God is the central focus of the religion for our time; the Bahai Faith.

Exert yourselves with heart and soul so that, perchance, through your efforts the light of universal peace may shine and this darkness of estrangement and enmity may be dispelled from amongst men, that all men may become as one family and consort together in love and kindness, that the East may assist the West and the West give help to the East, for all are the inhabitants of one planet, the people of one original native land and the flocks of one Shepherd.       --Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 469.


POST 160 Criticism; What Makes it Hurtful or Helpful?

Studies show the early childhood years are the most crucial in our lives.

A focus on limitations at that time reinforces a child's feelings of inadequacy, stunting the confidence that is so necessary for their future growth. Wise parents and teachers need to identify shortcomings, but only in order to highlight areas in need of future development, for which they can plan accordingly.

Often children need their behaviour to be corrected. But more than anything, they need patience, understanding and gentle loving encouragement. The same applies to adults.

Abdul-Baha enjoins us to 'exercise mildness and forbearance and calm, to be sincere, amenable, clement and compassionate'.

It takes a very wise and constructive parent, teacher or instructor to get the timing and balance of correction just right. Otherwise, there are very few occasions when any criticism of others is warranted. No matter how well meaning, it is likely to offend.

The Bahai Writings make little reference to criticism, strongly emphasising the need for forgiveness and overlooking of faults.

The negative effects of criticism are many, yet they seldom receive due recognition.

Whether in an occupational or personal situation, studies show that it decreases enjoyment and confidence levels,  affecting the development of a person's self-concept. In an educational situation, criticism has broad consequences. People find it more difficult to communicate with an instructor following criticism, thus reducing motivation and affecting performance. On a personal level, people report feeling that they improve less in response to criticism.

The receipt of negative verbal feedback corresponds with adverse behavioral, mental health and emotional consequences. These negative effects, especially among youth, need wider recognition.

Popular social media even encourages such behaviour, feeding a desire for attention through the expression of opinions on everything; the more negative the opinion, the more attention is received.

Some people seek to elevate themselves by 'downing' others. We are developing a very negatively based culture where criticism often receives huge unmoderated attention. It has been expressed as the "I know but you know not" posture.

Well deserved praise is important. My own rule of thumb as a parent and educator is that to whatever extent correction is needed, I look for 9 times more reasons to praise. As the old saying goes; You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

The Universal House of Justice discourages criticism, describing its negative effects in religion and politics thus; "...criticism is a two-edged sword: it is all too often the harbinger of conflict and contention." Instead, we are enjoined to "...refrain from such a pattern of criticism, which stunts the growth and development of the community." --UHJ9 December 1988, To the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh in the United States of America.

Shoghi Effendi encouraged us to recall Abdu’l-Bahá's words and to "...remember His contempt for and impatience of criticism."-- Advent of Divine Justice, To the beloved of God and the handmaids of the Merciful throughout the United States and Canada. "He feels that you should do your utmost to call the attention of the friends to these large things and real triumphs, and away from their personal differences and petty pre-occupations. Now is certainly not the time for any man to think of himself, or busy himself with the weaknesses of his brother; but, rather ...concentrate in the tasks ahead and be reborn in the service of Bahá’u’lláh." ---Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92

Sadly, criticism often achieves a result directly opposite to what was intended, when it is motivated by a deep love for the individual, friend or family, and a desire to see them free of any flaw. Human beings are not perfect. Others must be helped through our example and loving encouragement to refrain from that criticism which actually stunts further growth and development.

When conflict is mismanaged, it can cause great and ongoing harm to a relationship. When handled in a respectful, positive way, it provides an opportunity to strengthen the bond between people. It is better to strive and thereby make mistakes to learn from, than not to try at all.

Some degree of conflict is an integral part of any healthy relationship. After all, two people can’t be expected to agree on everything, all of the time. The key is not to avoid conflict but to learn how to resolve it in a healthy way.

This is why Bahá’u’lláh has established consultation as one of the fundamental principles of His Faith, exhorting us to “take counsel together in all matters.”, describing it as “the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way” and “the bestower of understanding.” ---Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas 52.

Whenever we as parent, teacher or friend, experience a situation in which we feel critical of another, the response should always be to prayerfully call ourselves to account, to review our own behaviour and if still necessary, to seek an opportunity for loving consultation.

 


POST 159. YOU are an Idea Whose Time has Come

This world is a school room. It is exists solely for our personal training.

O SON OF BOUNTY! Out of the wastes of nothingness, with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things. --Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words 29

What a remarkable statement. Imagine; every single atom has been created for our training! Every thing you can see, or hear or smell or touch. Both the known and even the unknown. Even all that is out there in space...

There is no randomness.

Everyone here has been created for a purpose and is a participant in the very purpose of all existence. And that means YOU.

You have been created for a purpose. You are a participant in the very purpose of all existence.

Clearly we could all have been programmed in advance with all knowledge of all things. Then, like clones, we would all know the same things without the least effort. And there would be no losers... But there would also be no winners, no diversity in our expression of that knowledge, no pleasure in our accomplishment, no need for effort.

Earthly existence provides all the tools required for our learning. However, what we do about these tools is the result of our individual choice - our personal actions; the outcome is ours to decide.

It requires acquiring knowledge, displaying volition, and then acting upon those;

The attainment of any object is conditioned upon knowledge, volition and action. Unless these three conditions are forthcoming, there is no execution or accomplishment. In the erection of a house it is first necessary to know the ground, and design the house suitable for it; second, to obtain the means or funds necessary for the construction; third, actually to build it. Therefore, a power is needed to carry out and execute what is known and admitted to be the remedy for human conditions—namely, the unification of mankind. --Abdu'l-Baha. The Promulgation of Universal Peace 58

The growth and progress of all humanity is derived from the education and teachings of the holy teachings. We are here for a reason. We must not only derive our personal growth from the Teachings, but to be most effective we must share them with others. In the process of sharing our understanding, it becomes reinforced and strengthened in ourselves.The teacher learns 9 times as much as the student.

In 'Paris Talks' Abdu'l-Baha explains that, unlike plant and animals who develop though various phases - inevitably ending in death and a return to the mineral form - the potential of our human growth is unlimited:

All creation, whether of the mineral, vegetable or animal kingdom, is compelled to obey the law of motion; it must either ascend or descend. But with the human soul, there is no decline. Its only movement is towards perfection; growth and progress alone constitute the motion of the soul. Divine perfection is infinite, therefore the progress of the soul is also infinite. From the very birth of a human being the soul progresses, the intellect grows and knowledge increases. Bahá’u’lláh has announced that the foundation of all the religions of God is one, that oneness is truth and truth is oneness which does not admit of plurality. --Abdu'l-Baha Promulgation of Universal Peace, 110 –8 October 1912 Talk at Leland Stanford Junior University, Palo Alto, California

Once the physical development is completed our continuance is as a spiritual being.

And that point of physical completion takes place at the moment of death. Whatever we have learned of this physical world ends, and our spiritual development continues. We take with us whatever we have acquired of our spiritual being. --Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks.

The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High.---Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1984), Sec.81, pp.156-7

Victor Hugo, French poet, novelist, and dramatist, observed; "Armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come. No army can stop an idea whose time has come. Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come".

The one thing that is stronger than all the armies in the world and is capable of transforming human existence, is the power of unity; a principle and idea whose time has now come.         ---more on this topic to follow.