Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A note on perfection

Blessings and greetings to all on this splendid anniversary of the birth of the Bab. I thought it was fitting on this glorious day to make a note on something I have been reading by the Bab.

Yesterday, I read Sen's article "Perfection and conservation in Gate of the Heart". I recommend it. It has the clearest statement I've seen about what the Bab would say about humanity's abuse of nature's waterways.

"In the Persian Bayan He writes: 'Nothing is more beloved before God than to keep water in a state of the utmost purity, to such an extent that if a believer should become aware that the glass of water he holdeth in his hand hath passed through any impure parts of the earth, he would be grieved.' In other words, it is implicitly necessary that all streams, lakes, and seas through which the water passes be clean."

But I wanted here to note a few thoughts on perfection. Sen summarises the spiritual principle in the Persian Bayan that underpins whether an action is acceptable:

"if it is performed for God and to attain God’s good pleasure, then every single action must be a means of realizing the potentialities of things and the beautification and refinement of the world."

The implication for action of this principle is that:

"in whatever activity the Babis are engaged, whether in the realm of industry or art, they must perform that work in the best possible manner and realize the utmost perfection in all things."

This principle reminds me of the pilgrim's note that reports Baha'u'llah as saying that we should finish what we begin. There is always something to learn from finishing a project because there is a different set of lessons at the beginning of a project to at the end. But the discipline of finishing projects also forces us to think hard about what projects we start in the first place. For, if we have to finish what we start, we will confine ourselves to a few projects and be forced to think about what our priorities are. (I said to Steve the other day that I think the fundamental principle of conservation should be 'stay at home'. If everyone lived at home and didn't use their home simply as a hotel, I think this would force us to reduce the number of projects we involved ourselves in.)

But the main comment about perfection I want to make is how the Bab's principle relates to the negative messages I tell myself. For example, I now recognise the following statement as being at the root of my anxiety- and depression-inducing thoughts: 'things as they stand are wrong and should be different to what they are'. Based on this, I am culpable: for I am responsible for things being wrong, but am pretty much powerless over how things work out in the world. My response was to constantly run around trying to fix things.

Recent reading in theology has helped me through this trap. I understand now that the world is always in a state of perfection. So it isn't true that things are wrong as they stand; things are perfect as they stand. But, at the same time, things are always changing, moving toward a higher degree of perfection. And that is where I come in with my work - it is an effort in the advancement of perfection. Each day, I work to realise "the potentialities of things and the beautification and refinement of the world".

I use this new understanding to counter negative messages that come in. I feel way better now that I can focus on a small number of projects and getting them right. People around me are busy, busy, busy! But I am determined to swim against the tide, for I believe this is the straight path.

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