Tuesday, 10 April 2007

The view around another corner

It's my birthday today; I'm 48. What has Baha'u'llah given me for my birthday? The view around another corner.

I've been grappling with the issue of appropriate speech for a few years now. But today I felt I had the issue reconciled within me. I've done alot of changing over the past few years and this has caused me to look at the way I've spoken about issues concerning the Faith and the community. With my new view on things, I came to feel that I needed to moderate my speech when I spoke on these issues. In addition, I came to feel that the issues that used to consume me, such as infallibility and women on the House, didn't matter as much as I thought they did. And so I stopped talking about these issues for two to three years. But things have changed again - hence the new view.

One principle that is fundamental to speech is this one: to speak with words that are like milk. Baha'u'llah says this in a couple of places; for example:

"Among the helpers of God is discourse. In this greatest of dispensations, deeds and ethics are the armies of God and are busy aiding him. If discourse is delivered in a measured fashion, it is a divine mercy. If it goes to excess, it becomes destructive. In the tablets, we have advised all to employ a sort of discourse that has the characteristics of milk hidden within it, and to nurture the children of the world with it so that they might be brought to the age of maturity. In every station, discourse becomes apparent by virtue of some quality and shines because of some impact. The scent of good or bad wafts from it." Baha'u'llah, Tablet of Unity

After meditating on this principle over the last few years, I decided that I needed to pull my head in as regards my speech. As a result, I have toned myself right down and tried to avoid exchanges that I know will get me going and cause me to say something I'll regret. I've also stopped feeling compelled to engage with people who disagree with me. I just can't be bothered anymore. If a person has another view than me, then that's fine by me. I notice that others can't stop attacking or engaging those who disagree with them. Being able to leave people alone is a detachment state that takes some working on.

But Baha'u'llah also says in the quote above that discourse is a thing that aids God. So, it isn't necessary to fall completely silent about things. We each have a unique perspective and it's right for us to share that, so long as it is done appropriately. I often think about the way Baha'u'llah did things. In the Iqan, you hear the way he used to talk to those who'd come to visit and share their interpretations on the Qur'an. More often than not, their understandings were very sad indeed. But Baha'u'llah would patiently say something like: "Have you considered looking at it this way?" But in his writings, sometimes Baha'u'llah didn't speak with works like milk! In any case, I feel that so long as one's view is delivered in a measured and rational way and backed up with the writings, then there can be no harm in it, even if others disagree with it and think you have no right to say it.