Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Titanic and the Telesurgeon


Here is SilvieÂ’s play that she wrote this morning, plus yet another
article about Mehran Anvari, chair of the Spiritual Assembly of the
BahaÂ’is of Hamilton.

Titanic, Almost Unsinkable, A Play

By Silvie Taylor (9 years old)

Dramatis Personae (Cast)

The Narrator - Silvie Taylor
Titanic - big box
The Master - Ling Ling Doll and small ball
Iceberg - Owowow, the wolf
Titanic passengers - a few masks, held by Thomas
Cedric - a small green canoe
Water - Blankey

Narrator: The Master is looking for a ship to take Him across the ocean.

Titanic passengers: You should go on this "unsinkable" one. BOOM BOOM

The Master: I choose to go on the Cedric.

Narrator: He goes on the Cedric.

Passengers: Suit yourself, we will go on this "safer" one.

Narrator: Two hours later they saw a huge iceberg. But they turned too
late. It scraped the ship and it sank.

Passengers: Help, help!

Narrator: Just as the Titanic sank, the Cedric came along. The
passengers jumped onto the Cedric.

Passengers: Thank you!

Narrator: Five days later the Cedric reached the other side of the
ocean. The end!

Telesurgeons would stitch astronauts in space

Pioneering Hamilton doctor will lead remote NASA team testing robotic

The Hamilton Spectator, Monday, August 9, 2004, A5

By Jacquie de Almeida

A Hamilton surgeon who performed the world's first remote surgery using
robots is pushing the technology's boundaries.

Today at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope, Dr. Mehran
Anvari will announce the crew of Neemo 7, an international underwater
10-day mission to take place in October on a station off the coast of
Key Largo, Florida.

Its goal is to test telesurgical developments that would allow a
non-surgeon to perform assisted tele-surgery in a contained and extreme

The crew is made up of two American astronauts, Canadian astronaut Dave
Williams, and a surgeon from McMaster University's Centre for Minimal
Access Surgery (CMAS).

Neemo 7 (NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations 7), is a joint
project of the CMAS, the Canadian Space Agency, and NASA.

The astronauts will perform selected surgeries for the kinds of
emergencies that could arise on an extended space mission like acute
appendicitis, gall bladder, kidney stones, suturing severed arteries or
nerves and draining an abscess.

Hamilton based surgeons will telerobotically guide the astronauts in
testing new medical applications for the technology in an underwater
station called Aquarius. They will also look at behavioural and
physiological changes astronauts may have when performing surgery.

Last year, Anvari performed the world's first telerobotic assisted
surgery from St. Joseph's Healthcare, on a patient 400 kilometres away
in North Bay. While Anvari moved the robotic arms in Hamilton, another
set in North Bay responded within 140 miliseconds, less time than it
takes to blink an eye.

Anvari said the biggest obstacle to advancing telerobotic-assisted
surgery is the ability to imagine its benefits.

"It's important for policy-makers and funding agencies to be able to
say, `This is something for the future,'" he said.

"When we did our first telesurgery, many people said this is never going
to be possible. We've proven that it can make a big difference to
patients in rural Canada. To some extent the biggest issue is attracting
people's imagination to this technology and where this work can go."

Anvari said he could not release many details about the robot itself
prior to today's announcement but said it would eventually have up to
six arms set up on an operating bed platform, each one of them able to
move independently. It also has multiple joints that allows (sic) it to
move freely and with a surgeon's dexterity, he said.

The current robot design has surgical instruments affixed to the arms
but Anvari said the next generation will be able to pick up instruments.
He said one of the more exiting prospects of telesurgery is its
extra-terrestrial applications.

The technology has attracted interest for use in extended missions,
particularly if humans set up a station on Mars. But with a delay of up
to 30 minutes for a signal to travel back, the project will be looking
at developing preprogrammed robots.

"The robotics of today and the robotics of 15 or 20 years from now are
going to be very different and much more sophisticated," he said.

He added a robotic surgeon may be preferable to a human because it is
not affected by zero gravity. A human surgeon would have to be anchored
down in zero gravity, causing muscles to tense and exert more force on
surgical instruments.

Anvari said project co-ordinators aim to put telesurgery to use on the
International Space Station, with a time delay of about 200 to 300
milliseconds if the signal is direct and up to 800 milliseconds if the
signal has to travel via satellite.

More Neemo missions will help refine and improve telesurgical robotic

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Trip to Remember

A Trip To Remember, Questions to Remember

By John Taylor; 11 August, 2004

I was pleased to read in a recent email that the National Spiritual
Assembly of the Baha'is of Canada is encouraging local groups to start
commemorating the Master's visit to this land, which took place in
September. They are hoping that these meetings will lead up to a major
celebration at the centenary of His visit in 2012. If I had the means,
this is what I'd like to do, go to Alexandria and then follow through to
every place in the West that He visited, reading the speeches that He
gave at the exact hundredth anniversary from when they were originally
given. I'd even dress up in an `aba, fez and long fake white beard as I
read them -- I know, I know, the dignity of the Faith would be affronted
by that. But I would not do it as a publicity stunt; I would do it just
for myself, to walk in His steps and get a feeling for what it must have
been like to be the Exemplary Baha'i in those early days.

Mostly, to say the words He said, I love doing that -- who needs a
costume when you can parrot the words of the Man? As the Master Himself
said, the reality of man is his thought. Maybe as a compromise I will
read the speeches aloud into a recorder and make them available on the
net in MP3 format. Even that would be tough to do, since many of the
speeches remain uncollected and are very hard to attain even today.

Silvie came to me as I was writing the above with a play she has in mind
about the voyage of the Master across the Atlantic. She held a green toy
boat in hand which will play the role of the boat He took, the Cedric,
which she wants to contrast with the sad fate of the Titanic. I had told
her the story long ago, how the Master had a bad feeling about it when
they asked Him to cross on that "safer" boat.

She wants to entitle the play, "Titanic, Almost Unsinkable." What made
this impression on her was an episode of the animated series,
"Futurama," called "A Flight to Remember," which satirically places the
Titanic's story far into the future and making the ill-fated vessel a
space ship. I taped (or rather tested out our equipment by putting it
into VCD format on a CD-ROM) the episode just before cutting off our
satellite television feed last spring. Silvie and Thomas watch the
CD-ROM over and over, the way that kids do. The film "Titanic," even the
animated version, did not make nearly the impression that this comic
travesty does.

At the start of the "Flight to Remember" episode their boss announces to
the characters that he has bought them tickets for a trip on the maiden
cruise of an uncrashable spaceship, "The Titanic," and whenever the word
"Titanic" is voiced it is followed by a loud, ominous, metallic clanking
sound effect, a sound of finality based no doubt on the sound of a
barred jail door closing. By a strange coincidence, Thomas had taken "A
Night To Remember," with its cover illustration of a sinking Titanic out
of my bookshelves and the book was kicking around, getting in our way.
As they watched once, I pointed out to them that this famous non-fiction
book, which I was required to read in High School, was the reason the
episode was called "A Flight to Remember." They were more interested in
how the spaceship's captain was promising to "fly her brains out," which
he subsequently does by ordering the crew to steer her over by "this
here blackish holish thing." Rather than an iceberg this Titanic ended
up sucked into a black hole.

In retelling the story of the Master's crossing to her last night I took
advantage of the familiar clanking sound effect, telling her that
probably the sound was only audible in the world of spirit. When people
suggested continuing on the Cedric the Master heard lovely music, but
when they held up a ticket for the Titanic and said its name, He heard
that deafening, "CLANK, CLANK." Hmm, He thought, the Cedric or the
Titanic CLANK CLANK? Which shall it be? "I don't know, maybe we had
better stick with the Cedric," He announced. Then I tried to show her
why the Titanic sank, how if they had crashed directly into the iceberg
they would have been safe, or if they had been cautious and turned
earlier, they would have been safe. But in their arrogance they waited
to turn and just scraped the side of the iceberg. I demonstrated with my
hand how it scraped the side of her stuffed wolf, whose paw was hidden
underwater, then the slow sinking of the Titanic. Silvie, with her hand
demonstrated how the little Cedric passed on by, safely crossing to the
other side of the Atlantic in a couple of hours. I explained that it was
days, not hours in a ship. And then this morning she awakes, inspired to
turn it into a play.

I have been somewhat distracted here, haven't I? What I wanted to come
to next was a challenge that the Master threw out to us all during His
travels. Here is what He said at Albert Hall's digs in Minneapolis,

"Material virtues have attained great development, but ideal virtues
have been left far behind. If you should ask a thousand persons, What
are the proofs of the reality of Divinity? perhaps not one would be able
to answer. If you should ask further, What proofs have you regarding the
essence of God? How do you explain inspiration and revelation? What are
the evidences of conscious intelligence beyond the material universe?
Can you suggest a plan and method for the betterment of human
moralities? Can you clearly define and differentiate the world of nature
and the world of Divinity? you would receive very little real knowledge
and enlightenment upon these questions.
"This is due to the fact that development of the ideal virtues has been
neglected. People speak of Divinity, but the ideas and beliefs they have
of Divinity are, in reality, superstition. Divinity is the effulgence of
the Sun of Reality, the manifestation of spiritual virtues and ideal
powers. The intellectual proofs of Divinity are based upon observation
and evidence which constitute decisive argument, logically proving the
reality of Divinity, the effulgence of mercy, the certainty of
inspiration and immortality of the spirit. This is, in reality, the
science of Divinity. Divinity is not what is set forth in dogmas and
sermons of the church. Ordinarily when the word Divinity is mentioned,
it is associated in the minds of the hearers with certain formulas and
doctrines, whereas it essentially means the wisdom and knowledge of God,
the effulgence of the Sun of Truth, the revelation of reality and divine
philosophy." (Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation, 326)

What I'd like to do is set up a website with a survey to see if this
speculation is true, could one in a thousand answer these questions?
Could I, putative student of the Master, answer them adequately? Could
one in a million lay out the fundamentals of this philosophy without
reverting to "dogmas" or "formulas"? How many of us really understand
this "science of divinity" that he talks about?

On a site I'd also like to work out His suggested "plan and method for
the betterment of human moralities (sic)" What is He talking about? What
sort of plan might that be, a plan that everyone should have on the tip
of their tongue? Could it the "open system" ideas for rewarding success
in personal goals that I have been speculating about sporadically over
the last year?

I included a "sic" (evidently "morals" or "ethics" is meant) in the
above quote to demonstrate another problem I'd have reading aloud the
talks of the Master. Albert Windust and Howard McNutt, who compiled
Promulgation seem to have been better translators than grammarians. Some
but not all of the plethora of errors were cleared away in the revised
1982 edition of Promulgation. Even so, some talks are virtually
unreadable, especially those in Montreal.

In any case, though I may never be able to answer these questions myself
at the drop of a hat, it does seem to me to be the case that these are
questions that `Abdu'l-Baha Himself set out to answer for us during the
course of his Western teaching trips. In my imagined website I'd love to
compile those selections from where the Master does answer them. It
would be an important thing to do, since these questions He clearly
believed should become common knowledge one day. These truly, are points
to remember.

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Open Summation, II

Open Year Summation

Part II, The Bab

By John Taylor, 10 August, 2004

Ruhiyyih Khanum was outspoken in her dislike of the common expression,
"He signed his card," meaning that someone converted to the Baha'i
Faith. She often pointed out that the Guardian used dozens of synonyms
for the conversion experience but never this one. For one thing, there
is no particular necessity ever to sign a declaration card, either from
a spiritual or an administrative perspective. Signing my card for me was
a momentous experience, the result of a long argument that I lost
miserably, and I recall that my hand shook as I performed the act. But I
recognize that this is not a rite of passage that everybody must
undergo, if only because that would be opening the Faith up to ritual.

Yesterday I discovered while going over the Bab's use of the word "open"
that, if we relied upon His Writings alone this would probably be our
usual expression for conversion: "He opened his heart to the Faith."
Take this passage, for example, from the Kitab-i-Asma,

"Consider how at the time of the appearance of every Revelation, those
who open their hearts to the Author of that Revelation recognize the
Truth, while the hearts of those who fail to apprehend the Truth are
straitened by reason of their shutting themselves out from Him. However,
openness of heart is bestowed by God upon both parties alike. God
desireth not to straiten the heart of anyone, be it even an ant, how
much less the heart of a superior creature, except when he suffereth
himself to be wrapt in veils, for God is the Creator of all things."
(The Bab, Selections, 132)

As far as I can see, part of what the Bab is after here is correcting a
false impression from a literal reading the Qu'ran, which in several
places states that God "narrowed" the heart of Pharaoh -- Abdu'l-Baha
goes into detail on this misunderstood expression in "Some Answered
Questions." If God chained the heart unmediated by free will we would
not be responsible for any good or ill deeds. Hence what the Bab says,
that God makes all hearts open but we by sinning shut ourselves down. In
any case, the Bab clearly favors this expression and uses it in the next
paragraph in the conversion sense that Baha'is involved in teaching the
Faith find so useful. He says,

"... if thou dost open the heart of a person for His sake, better will
it be for thee than every virtuous deed; since deeds are secondary to
faith in Him and certitude in His reality." (Ib. 133)

There would be several advantages to saying that someone opened his
heart to the Faith rather than that he just "signed his card." For one
thing it seems to be the case -- spiritually if not literally -- that a
heart really is open or narrow insofar as it accepts the Manifestation
for one's age. Many hearts had to be narrowed and desensitized from love
and human feeling in order for outward events of mass carnage to take
place, for example the apocalyptic Great War. But the trail from
narrowed hearts to bloodshed in the trenches is easily discernable for
the spiritual eye.

Another advantage is that the expression has an opposite, you can close
your heart off from the Faith -- the other expression leaves no way to
"unsign your card" when goodwill and faith start to sour. Plus, it
implies a serious condition that is very hard to reverse. We may be able
to shut or open our eyes with no harmful effect, but a heart closure is
extremely serious and harmful, just as is a spiritual heart condition. A
cardiac infarction, what we call a "heart attack," is really a massive
failure where the vascular system cannot deliver blood to the heart;
deprived of nourishment, the muscle starves and shuts down. If the
failure continues even a short time massive tissue damage results and
the organism expires.

The material is the reflection of the spiritual. It is no coincidence
that cardio-vascular disease is the most common cause of premature death
in our time. But the Bab's assures us that God has no desire for this,
that He would not "straiten the heart of an ant" if it were up to Him.

In the following passage the Bab, addressing Baha'u'llah, seems to use
openness in the sense of accessibility or ease of entry into the Cause.

"O Qurratu'l-'Ayn! Stretch not Thy hands wide open in the Cause,
inasmuch as the people would find themselves in a state of stupor by
reason of the Mystery, and I swear by the true, Almighty God that there
is yet for Thee another turn after this Dispensation." (The Bab,
Selections, 53)

This seems to be the same Qu'ranic expression, stretching open one's
hands in a wide embrace, that we saw yesterday in the passage of the
Qu'ran advocating measured, moderate progress that was cited by the
Master in "Secret of Divine Civilization." The Bab is counseling
Baha'u'llah *not* to be too open, in view of the Mystery. Is the
"Mystery" that the Bab mentions here the high station of Baha'u'llah? Is
it the same "Secret" to be found in "Secret of Divine Civilization?" I
am not certain. It is certain, though, that spiritually the event of
revelation is exactly like the flinging open of the "gates of Paradise."

"They performed their acts of devotion for the sake of God, hoping that
He might enable them to join the righteous in Paradise. However, when
the gates of Paradise were flung open to their faces, they declined to
enter. They suffered themselves to enter into the fire, though they had
been seeking refuge therefrom in God." (The Báb, Selections, 143)

In other words, when the gates opened they were not quite pure enough.
They wanted paradise for their own good, not that of God and His
creation. When God opened up, they narrowed themselves down. Ironic,
isn't it? In spite of their selfish desire to avoid the fires of hell,
they narrowed their hearts and walked straight through its infernal
gates. This is why purity is so important. Pure deeds are like positive
health measures are to the body; if you don't make positive lifestyle
changes like eating heart-healthy foods, you put yourself in danger of a
heart condition. In another place the Bab repeats this image of His
opening up in the world of spirit the gates to heaven.

"Verily, on the First Day We flung open the gates of Paradise unto all
the peoples of the world, and exclaimed: 'O all ye created things!
Strive to gain admittance into Paradise, since ye have, during all your
lives, held fast unto virtuous deeds in order to attain unto it.' Surely
all men yearn to enter therein, but alas, they are unable to do so by
reason of that which their hands have wrought. Shouldst thou, however,
gain a true understanding of God in thine heart of hearts, ere He hath
manifested Himself, thou wouldst be able to recognize Him, visible and
resplendent, when He unveileth Himself before the eyes of all men." (The
Bab, Selections, 144, Kitab-i-Asma, XVII, 11)

As He says, if we "gain a true understanding of God in our hearts," then
we will open up the heart when we meet the Manifestation. But the
understanding has to be firmed up beforehand, in private moments of
meditation. The principle of search precedes the action principle of
oneness of humanity.

A major consequence of true understanding of God's oneness is a
willingness to give up what is ours for what is God's. This applies to
money and worldly goods, but also to the products of thought, what Plato
called our "mind children." This is why the principle of consultation
makes it a sacrament voluntarily to give up possession of one's ideas to
the group. We see this attitude of sharing in the open software
movement, where programmers offer the products of their labor for free
to the world. In view of that, consider the following assertion of the
Bab that the oneness of God is the only real possession.

"I seek no earthly goods from thee, be it as much as a mustard seed.
Indeed, to possess anything of this world or of the next would, in My
estimation, be tantamount to open blasphemy. For it ill beseemeth the
believer in the unity of God to turn his gaze to aught else, much less
to hold it in his possession. I know of a certainty that since I have
God, the Ever-Living, the Adored One, I am the possessor of all things,
visible and invisible..." (The Bab, Selections, 15)

The Bab seems to me to imply here that the reverse of spiritual openness
is open blasphemy, an affront, blatant or inferred, to the integrity of
God. Let us close with two prayers of the Bab that we will avoid the
wrong kind and attain to the good sort of openness.

"Bestow on me, O my Lord, Thy gracious bounty and benevolent gifts and
grant me that which beseemeth the sublimity of Thy glory. Aid me, O my
Lord, to achieve a singular victory. Open Thou the door of unfailing
success before me and grant that the things Thou hast promised may be
close at hand. Thou art in truth potent over all things." (The Bab,
Selections, 208)

"Grant that I may reap the benefit of my life in this world and in the
next. Open to my face the portals of Thy grace and graciously confer
upon me Thy tender mercy and bestowals." (The Bab, Selections, 213)

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Monday, August 09, 2004

Open Year Closed

At the Closure of My Open Year

By John Taylor; 9 August, 2004

It is almost exactly a year since I returned home after a week-long
summer vacation with an idea that had burst upon me with the force of a
revelation. I have spent a year working through this simple proposal to
apply more broadly the practical lessons of open systems in computer

Speaking generally, openness is at the heart of everything good about
enlightenment and civilized life. A century ago progress towards
openness was halting because of a series of revolutions, titanic
struggles between authoritarian, totalitarian rulers and open,
democratic governance. The intellectual roots of the conflict then were
laid out and encapsulated in Karl Popper's great work, "The Open Society
and Its Enemies."

Since "Fahrenheit 9-11" this debate has shifted and clarified. The real
clash now is no longer a simple struggle of good versus evil, of
knowledge versus ignorance. Rather now it revolves around a single
heated question: "To what extent can we have an open society and still
remain secure?"

The longer prejudice and structural injustices are allowed to persist,
the more contention and unrest there will be and the more difficult it
will be to find this balance. In the Baha'i Administrative Order the
members of the institution of the learned who specialize in protection
work harmoniously alongside their counterparts devoted to propagation.
Both aim at the same goal, the progress of the Cause of God. In the Old
Order, however, these two essential elements are engaged in a death
struggle that threatens to split democracy from within.

After working through many of the implications of universal open
systems, I realized a few months ago how close the central concepts of
openness are to the heart of the Master's own proposal for development,
the "Secret of Divine Civilization." For example, at one point
`Abdu'l-Baha cites the Qu'ran's graphic image that we will all confront,
the moment at death when our whole life, inner and outer, is laid out
before us as an open book.

"And every man's fate have We fastened about his neck: and on the Day of
Resurrection will We bring it forth to him a book which shall be
proffered to him wide open." (Qur'an 17:14) (Abdu'l-Baha, Secret, 102)

The Master understood as few in history have that progress depends upon
balancing privacy with openness, individualism with social
responsibility. Out of His Mind later evolved the twin pivotal Baha'i
principles: confidential, individual investigation of reality balanced
by an open, reciprocal, compassionate principle that He called oneness
of humanity. In Secret of Divine Civilization He states that this
dynamic balance comes of determined, selfless service by many
enlightened individuals, again citing the Qu'ran as His authority.

"If haste is harmful, inertness and indolence are a thousand times
worse. A middle course is best, as it is written: `It is incumbent upon
you to do good between the two evils,' this referring to the mean
between the two extremes. `And let not thy hand be tied up to thy neck;
nor yet open it with all openness ... but between these follow a middle
way.'" (Qur'an 17:31; 110) (Abdu'l-Baha, Secret, 108)

It is ironic and a little frightening to think that this was addressed
to correct a misconception about how to get ahead that had been insisted
upon in Persia by its Shi'ih Mullahs. This clerical cabal not only are
to this day the main persecutors of Baha'is, they are also now known to
be the perpetrators of most terrorism in the Middle East, including the
9-11 attacks, as the recent investigative commission discovered. Iran is
the axle of the axis of evil, the commission disclosed. For example,
most of the suicide attackers escaped out of Afghanistan through Iran,
and Iran's clerical government not only harbored them but helped train
and finance the project. Its symbolic act of terror on 9-11 was nothing
less than fanaticism reaching out its hand to the throat of moderate,
open government. And, as the passage above implies, such violent
extremism really attacks the heart of the Qu'ran itself.

The middle path that the Qu'ran points to is the real secret to
openness. Openness to God upholds all the visible, outer openness that
manifests itself in the social fact. Tomorrow I will explore how the
Bab, whose very title "gate" implies openness, that is, being opened in
order to go through, in His Writings laid a bridge between the Qu'ran's
idea of moderate openness and the Order of Baha'u'llah. In the meantime,
let us pray for the victory of moderate openness over its many insidious
enemies. Let us supplicate an end to the looming divorce between
progress and security. Such was the prayer of Baha'u'llah Himself.

"I beseech Thee, by Thy most excellent titles and Thy most exalted
attributes, to open to my face the portals of Thy bestowals. Aid me,
then, to do that which is good, O Thou Who art the Possessor of all
names and attributes!" (Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations, 215)

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Wubs Again

Wubs, Again

By John Taylor; 7 August, 2004 Revised 2007 Aug 23

Science fiction author Phillip K. Dick suffered the fate that over half of North Americans can expect, death by heart disease. He was well aware of his high blood pressure and mentioned this parlous health problem at least once in the tiny amount of his writing that I have read. To me, his imagination of the wub, an intelligent race of pigs, is a perfect metaphor for our present human condition. We are all wubs, fat, lazy, afraid of pain and depression, loading ourselves with fatty food and other pleasures while others prepare to feast upon us. What we call corruption, be it political pork barreling or the more subtle, insidious form of religious power-mongering, is just another kind of "wub-ship," another symptom of self induced slavery to our own passions and desires. Lacking an overall plan, we leave ourselves utterly helpless before the assault of our own indulgence.
I viewed yesterday a DVD called "Overcoming Cardiovascular Disease Naturally," and I recommend it to everybody, whether you have heart problems or not. Not that it is compelling visually, little else but talking medical heads. But what they say is all the more impressive for being a dry report of what mainstream science has discovered about the body in the past couple of decades. This is not fringe stuff it is commonly agreed scientific medical knowledge that should be common knowledge and unfortunately is not. It makes liberal use of big medical buzzwords, and even acronyms like LDL's and HDL's. Why cannot we make this material more visually appealing?
We are all bombarded by headlines and get pretty jaded by constant health claims. However that does not mean that there have not been real advances and major cumulative discoveries about the body over the past two decades. And almost every one confirms what Baha'u'llah says in the Lawh-i-Tibb. This video presentation makes no attempt to be newsy but I found what these doctors say revolutionary and startlingly new. It is especially good because it suggests specific, common foods that have been found to fight cardio-vascular problems better and safer than drugs or aspirin, foods like onions, garlic, cayenne and ginger. Inspired by this list, I have in mind cooking up a batch of my own invention, a dish I will call "Jet's Heart Charger Chile."
Actually, in view of my family history, I do not have much to fear from heart disease; cancer is our killer of choice -- cancer is the other major cause of death, by the way, second only to heart disease. Statistically, one or the other will almost certainly be our demise, especially if we are obese. The most important thing I learned is that cancer and heart disease are in direct balance. The fulcrum is the amount of cholesterol in the blood. If you blood gets too greasy the body will become overly primed to defend itself. It then goes overboard with inflammation.
Inflammation is a result of animal fats in the system. An imbalance towards inflammation allows for protection against bacterial attack. But it also puts strain on the heart and veins. This puts you in imminent danger of heart, stroke or other vascular problems. But if you go too far the other way and get too little fat from your diet, especially if the fat is of the "bad cholesterol" type, then your body loses its ability to defend itself. In that case, your blood becomes like that of a wub, passive, lackadaisical; the motto is, "What, me worry? Why bother about infections? You are going to die anyway." That is when the long-term danger becomes cancer, depression, or both.
The depression part struck a chord with me. When I think back upon when I had a normal weight and the best diet I knew how to cook for myself -- that was in the late 70's and early 80's, when I was in my twenties -- I recall that I was depressed most of the time. Not just minor depression, I was in absolute agony all day every day. I swung from migraine to the dumps and back again; unbeknownst to me, each was feeding upon the other. Sure, I had other reasons to be depressed. But now that I know this I think a big factor was a lack of fat in my diet. I tried to follow the general consensus on nutrition but it was not generally known even among professionals then that there are good and bad fats, that there is cholesterol that helps (HDL's) and cholesterol that hinders (LDL's).
In other words, I did not eat enough nuts.
In response to a recent study in the news I have gone over to nuts. It reported findings that there are not nearly enough nuts in our diet, and that though nuts are fatty that is a good thing; they are full of good fats. They are a form of concentrated nutrition that protects more efficiently and balances out the bad effects of an otherwise relatively low-fat diet.
So, I am loading up on nuts. Along with dates and figs they have become my main snack food. I am finding so far that though my main meals have no meat, few milk products and are mostly low fat veggies and grains, I have yet to feel even a twinge of the sadness and discouragement that used to plague me. And of course, saying the Tablet of Ahmad first thing in the morning helps too.
I am writing about this today because ... well this topic is so important but we have so few resources defending the essentials. These are basic needs for everybody's body yet at best we see only dull talking heads spouting obscure terms and acronyms. That is our main defense when it comes to diet. How could that win out over multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns coaxing joe in the street to gobble down sugar and fat, which being cheaper is most profitable? There has got to be a way to save us helpless wubs.
That is why I was inspired by one speaker, a patient rather than a doctor, who at one point in the video talks about the progress of his heart problems. He recounts how he kept on going back to his doctors with worsening symptoms and they just kept saying, "Double the dose of your heart drug." At last he said to himself, "I have to take my health care into my own hands." That is the crucial turning point we all have to come to sooner or later.
As individuals we need a determined decision followed by organized, common development of everything essential and universal. If it is a health problem you do what this fellow did, you start improving diet, getting more exercise, etc. If it is a spiritual problem, you come to that point of taking control too, you gain your own life and truth through prayer, reflection, study, the search for truth. The program you come up with is the Baha'i principles, the Badi' Calendar, gates of entry into the Plan of God. Right now that Plan is the UHJ's 5 Year Plan.
If it is a problem with your car it is the same, you put it on a maintenance program similar to what manufacturers demand in a new car warrantee. Education is the same; all advanced countries long ago instituted compulsory public education for young children. Yet so important is education to a child's whole future that the wealthy are still willing to shell out for private schooling for their children. The essence cries out for system, for order.
Systematic planning and programming in every area solves the same basic problem, permitting growth and progress through freedom, allowing for creativity and individual initiative while assuring that essentials are kept up, that basic protection is established as far as necessary, but not too far. This fulcrum or point of balance mediates extremes of freedom and over-regulation, just like the fat levels in the blood.
All this brings me back to the wisdom of the Guardian that I cited yesterday. Here he offers what I'd call a "principle explanation" as to why we are not only allowed to vote for ourselves, we are positively obligated to do so, when conscience dictates. He says at one point,
"It is for every believer to carefully weigh his own merits and powers, and after a thorough examination of his self decide whether he is fit for such a position or not."
This calls for a superhuman level of detachment not only from one's own assessment of actual abilities but also potential powers, combined with a burning desire for sacrifice. Then Shoghi Effendi through his secretary offers a startling generalization.
"There is nothing more harmful to the individual - and also to society than false humility -- which is hypocritical, and hence unworthy of a true Baha'i."
In the case of our heart patient, false humility was when he turned over too much power to his cardiologist, the expert on heart problems. But the cure was not in the heart alone, it was in the whole of his life. Before, the patient was embroiled in hypocrisy because a responsible human being takes full control over body, mind and soul, all being aspects of one human spirit. Experts are consultants only, the ultimate holistic power over lifestyle is ours and ours alone. Shoghi Effendi rightly called this the "Age of Responsibility." The reason we bounce politically between license and dictatorship is that too many of us are resigned to being slobbish wubs of one sort or another. The Guardian continues,
"The true believer is one who is conscious of his strength as well as of his weakness, and who, fully availing himself of the manifold opportunities and blessings which God gives him, strives to overcome his defects and weaknesses..."
This is amazing. I'd like to meet a believer like that. I'd like to be a believer like that. But how does he or she do all that? He goes on,
"... and this by means of a scrupulous adherence to all the laws and commandments revealed by God through His Manifestation." (Shoghi Effendi, Light of Divine Guidance v I, p. 69)
Let us all pray to overcome the wub within and become true Baha'is.

John Taylor

Saturday, August 07, 2004


Beyond "Beyond Lies the Wub"

By John Taylor; 07 August, 2004

Like most of his work "Beyond Lies the Wub," a short story by Phillip K.
Dick, should be a movie. I am convinced that it already would be if it
were not for the far reaching tentacles of the meat industry and cattle
breeders' lobby. The story is about the wubs, a race of intelligent,
highly sophisticated creatures on a not too distant planet that look and
move just like hogs. Wubs are an "old race," indolent, pleasure loving
and sympathetic. In fact they are telepaths, able to read and write
directly into other minds. Many other intelligent races come and go on
their planet and their meat tasted very good. Being in no position to
hide, fight or flee, the wubs came up with a different strategy, one not
unlike that of fruit-bearing plants in spreading their seeds.

Dick's story of the wub has a bit of a twist to its tail. I didn't quite
understand what happens in the end and that confused my retelling to
Silvie. I had to draw out a long explanation of what a telepath is.
Fortunately she has a taste for homemade stories by now, in spite of the
large number of high quality, high budget movies she has seen (I was
probably thirty of forty years old before I had viewed as much of the
cinematic art as these kids have seen already). Still, I thought she
would like the story since she has lately firmed her resolution to
become a vegetarian. She didn't mind that my story about the wub was
fuzzy and confused, she liked the happy, ugly, fun loving slob that is a
wub, and as someone trying to lose weight, I had sympathy as well for
the creature.

Before too long Gabby and Bea had befriended the wub they had met and
were having all their adventures together. The strength of Gabby the
wolf and the smarts of Bea the fox was now allied with a wub's
telepathic, sympathetic abilities. My wub became a sort of consultative
super-creature, it could negotiate its way through the trickiest crises.
Like the writers of Star Trek TNG, I found it useful in the extempore
plotting of my Gabby and Bea stories to have a telepath on hand; it
saves a great deal of explanation and dialog to just be able to turn to
your resident telepath and find out exactly what the Others are
thinking. And when you can't be bothered coming up with a complicated
exchange of dialog, you just use the wub to distribute ideas directly
into various characters' heads.

Gabby and Bea's wub friend thus becomes a sort of intellectual card
dealer. No, our wub is more, he also deals out feelings and virtues of
God. Example? A toddler on a pirate ship wanders out onto the plank and
looks down; it begins to panic. The wub calms it by turning its fear
into fear of God, which chases out all other fears; meanwhile, the fox
holds the babe while the wolf carries them both back along the plank and
home to safety. That sort of thing.

My first major wub story came on demand last week when we visited the
last, dying hours of Port Colbourne's "Canal Days" festival. The sun
beat down on our heads, burning my naked shoulders which even now still
are hurting. Silvie and Thomas played in the wading pool and then in the
play structures, and I told the story intermittently between their play.

My constant thoughts about obesity affected my story of Bea, Gabby and
the wub. I told Silvie about how the wub could barely follow the fox and
wolf on their adventures, and how sad he felt about this. His stumbling
became worse, for Gabby and Bea traveled the world to find people in
danger to save.

In idle moments I have become rather like a medical student, constantly
assessing people according to their level of health. For years now I
habitually count up the number of obese versus non-obese in every group
of adults I enter into. Our Spiritual Assembly, for example, is about a
six three ratio of overweight to thins. Among the adult caregivers in
this wading pool it was about fifty percent, but among older caregivers
it was much worse, maybe three quarters obese. I use my own body as a
marker since I am into the borderline of the red part of the BMI chart.
If someone is fatter than me they are some variation of huge, gross,
obscene, or gargantuan obese. Sad to say, I am actually a thin obese,
fat by all standards except that of this Age of Obesity. I think of it
like this: I am carrying around more than the equivalent in fat of my
son Thomas, my almost five year old son, who weighs almost fifty pounds.
Better to have another child in the world than my sixty or seventy pound
burden of fat.

Finally Gabby and Bea decided to help the wub lose weight. They tried
and failed many times. Dieting did not work -- just like in the real
world. Finally they all decided to regulate their lifestyles together.
They all ate the same healthy meals, they covered themselves with
monitors, set up alarms for telling them when a health rule had been
broken, established a system of rewards for exercise, focused upon the
long term, and on and on.

I spewed out all sorts of ideas I have been thinking about for shedding
pounds myself. It was a sort of mental exercise, treating this fat and
lazy wub in the story. The three friends, Gabby, Bea and the wub, all
helped each other in their objective. I listed their gradual
improvements. The first year it lost a hundred pounds, the second,
eighty, the third, two hundred pounds. It was all pure, unadulterated
propaganda, mostly for myself but good things for a ten year old to
hear. There is too little health awareness in children's educations.

Fortunately, Silvie ate it all up, as it were. She did not care how
baldly tendentious my health tips disguised as a story were. With every
year that the wub improved his weight permanently she was suitably
impressed, letting out her characteristic "Wwooww!" of shock and awe. I
found her exclamations strangely encouraging, and still do. When I eat
something good rather than something bad, her cheer seems to ring in my

This morning I came across the Guardain's answer to a question you hear
a lot from new believers around Baha'i election time, one that does not
come up in a nomination system, "Should I vote for myself?" I must have
read this before but I don't remember it. I bring it up now rather than
saving it for next Ridvan because what Shoghi Effendi, or rather what
his secretary says in his behalf, goes way beyond the immediate topic.
He or she says,

"As to your last question whether the individual voter can
conscientiously vote for himself. The Guardian believes that not only
the Baha'i voter has the right, but is under the moral obligation to do
so, in case he finds himself worthy and capable of assuming the
responsibilities and duties imposed upon the members of every duly
elected Baha'i assembly. It is for every believer to carefully weigh his
own merits and powers, and after a thorough examination of his self
decide whether he is fit for such a position or not. There is nothing
more harmful to the individual - and also to society than false humility
which is hypocritical, and hence unworthy of a true Baha'i. The true
believer is one who is conscious of his strength as well as of his
weakness, and who, fully availing himself of the manifold opportunities
and blessings which God gives him, strives to overcome his defects and
weaknesses and this by means of a scrupulous adherence to all the laws
and commandments revealed by God through His Manifestation." (Shoghi
Effendi, Light of Divine Guidance v I, p. 69)

The Guardian's secretary probably should have rewritten this passage;
beyond the muddled diction there seems to be an important set of ideas.
In fact, this paragraph is a mini-course in self-assertiveness. I had
not thought of false humility as harmful. I had not even considered
voting for myself, assuming that the beam in my eye is bound to be worse
than any slivers in other people's eyes. And again, the idea of being
conscious of my strengths as well as my weaknesses, and that this is
part of the qualifications that make us believers, well that is new,
shocking, awesome.


John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, August 05, 2004 6:20 PM
Subject: Google News Alert - Baha'i

HAPPY to be home - Vacaville,CA,United States
... El Alba, a Baha'i school, regularly recruits Baha'i youth from the
United States to assist the regular teachers. The Baha'i faith ...

SOCIAL services fair, service part of Mecca Celebration
Miami Herald (subscription) - Miami,FL,USA
... The free event is being conducted by the Baha'i Assembly of Pembroke
Pines and the Magdalene Carney Institute, a nonprofit community
based in West ...

CHINESE lions set to make festival a roaring success
Belfast Telegraph (subscription) - Belfast,Nothern Ireland,UK
... A Baha'i celebration will be held during the festival, featuring
songs from the Iranian-founded multi-cultural faith. ...

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Friday, August 06, 2004


Oneness of Humanity (4)

Aphrodite, Rising

By John Taylor; 6 August, 2004

A Hadith says, "Whoever has no kindness has no faith." That sums up the
principle of oneness of humanity. Our oneness is in our humane qualities
and being kind makes us one. The principle could not be simpler, just be
kind to all, disregard all but loving thoughts, think only of our end,
God. God loved us and created us and that example is all that counts.
All else is piffle.

Let me say this. If there is anything I have learned on this trip
through the principles it is that even justice is a subcategory of
kindness. Not the other way around as the West tends to think. Kindness
is no extraneous appendage, it is the life force. Without it faith dies.
The first Arabic Hidden Word says to be kind and pure, only the second
sets up justice as God's favorite thing.

And before and above both, as the Hadith says, stands faith. These are
only the first two of a thousand things whose lack shows lack of faith.
But what shows faith? Virtues, I guess. I have been working on several
virtues, chastity, temperance, moderation, determination.

I wake each morning and see the obstacles before me and am daunted every
time. Obesity, enervation, migraine, faults of others, the list goes on
as long as the brain putt-putts along. I know, have faith. Each day is a
story of reaching for faith.

One thing that helps is to start the day reciting the Tablet of Ahmad.
I've been doing it the past few weeks and am amazed at my stupidity for
getting away from it so long. Trying to get by without it I was like
some dude pumping away to get electricity from a small bicycle generator
while a huge hydro-electric dam looms overhead. Saying this powerful
prayer has not dissipated my afflictions like a mirage, but the extra
oomph I get from it seems to allow for, condition my effort, to give
permission to strive. That has started to tilt the balance from a
downward slide to obese, indolent oblivion.

If it keeps swinging towards gradual self-improvement surely this will
be a greater bounty than just casting some quick and easy spell that
cannot be repeated. Every little step I make helps further steps. The
secret is to set up a new habit and then sit with my back against it and
push with my legs in order to break more bad habits. What helped is
partly what I have been reading.

I'm reading "The Wisdom of the Body," by Sherman B. Nuland. This is a
thoughtful account of his life's work by a surgeon. When I picked it up
I wondered why I had never read a surgeon's memoirs before. Chapter two
gave me the answer. Reading it in the bathtub, I was so disgusted and
weakened -- my usual reaction to kind of thing -- that I almost dropped
the volume into the bathwater. Allow me to parody this fellow's world

"I cut out her spleen and held it up to the light. Blood was spurting
out into our eyes and we had to keep scooping out gobs of gore from our
ears, noses and hair. Blood in the operating room is like sand in the
desert, it gets into everything. Long ago we had stopped noticing it. It
gushed out of her stomach in such a torrent that the doors of the
operating theatre burst open and we were floating slowly down the
hallway. Someone said something about the elevator in the horror film,
"The Shining," and the general hilarity among the support workers
started to get out of hand. I wanted to keep their attention on the work
at hand. "Look here," I pointed to a part of the spleen that was
shimmering redder than the rest of the human offal that is the stock in
trade of a surgeon. You can see that this is a multiple (our term for a
mother who has given birth several times) and that the strain has caused
occlusions here and here and here. Everyone tried hard to keep a
straight face. That was when a diplomat burst in reporting that Red
China was lodging an official protest. It seems that so much blood had
rushed out of her belly that satellites were showing the United States
as red. Red China was definitely not amused at having another red one in
the community of nations. That was when I lost control of the levity and
even I had to smile at the naivety of the non-medicals and their silly
reaction to a little blood."

Anyway, this doctor's theory is that the only real healer is the will to
survive. He and his knife only help the body's will along in its desire
to continue existing. At one point he cites atheist philosopher Arthur
Schopenhauer, who held that the only God discernable in nature is the
will to live. Actually, I don't think this is too far off the mark, even
from my perspective as a Baha'i. Will, Mashiyyat, is an attribute of God
that has its own day and month in the Badi' calendar. If you want
examples of superhuman will, you just have to read the stories of the
Baha'i martyrs. How they got that tremendous will to go on in the Faith
when its victory was so far off into the future is beyond the mind's
ability to comprehend.

SchopenhauerÂ’s "will to live" was only the ghost of a god. But Albert
Schweitzer, coming from the opposite direction as a Christian
theologian, also based his philosophy upon what he called, "reverence
for life." Also a doctor, Schweitzer adds kindness and worship to will,
but it is basically the same idea. Schweitzer further held that modern
civilization is in decline because we lack not so much the will to live
as the will to love.

As a race we have renounced love, and that doomed us. Why? Because the
will to love and the need to survive collectively amount to the same
thing. The will to live is the driving physical force that keeps
organisms going physically; the will to be kind is that same desire in
the higher reason. And out of all this doctoring by reasoning beings
emerges the Baha'i principle of oneness of humanity, Aphrodite emerging
from a sea of blood.

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Oneness of Humanity 3

Oneness of Humanity (3)

More On Christianity, and the Qu'ranic Corrective

By John Taylor; 4 August, 2004

Paul's Points on the Areopagus

Last time I gave short shrift to the contribution that Christianity made
to the principle of oneness of humanity. I will try to rectify that
before continuing on to Islam.

St. Paul gave an important talk that nicely outlines the all-important
spiritual principle of the oneness of God, and how the social principle
of oneness of humanity is inherent to it. This address, as summarized in
the 17th book of the Acts of the Apostles, in my opinion is identical
with the Baha'i understanding in every important respect.

Some curious Athenians had asked Paul to speak before the Athenian high
court, called the Areopagus. He started by recalling his tour of the
idols in Athens where he had noticed a shrine dedicated "To an unknown
God." His remarks then set out to explain an apparent paradox, how an
unknowable God can be known. In effect Paul draws a distinction between
an agnostic, one who embraces his own ignorance or makes ignorance his
operating principle, and a believer in a God Who, though strictly
unknown in the absolute sense, created everything and is the highest
essence of knowledge and wisdom. This God unknowable because He is the
universal giver of life and works life and is life; the ignorance is
ours, not His.

Paul starts off by saying that God is not restricted to time and place.
The maker does not dwell in any particular shrine made by men. He makes;
He is not made. He does not need us, our service, or our worship. His
Life stands behind life, as it were. He is knowable from His Merit not
ours. His unlimited abilities make Him more than capable of instructing
our minds using the same consummate mastery that He created the stars
and our bodies. God, Paul says, has,

"... made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face
of the earth... that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel
after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. For
in him we live and move, and have our being." (Acts 17:26-8)

The oneness of God is reflected in our oneness. All humans are one
flesh. The fact that we are all so similar in body and thought allows us
to understand His oneness. Paul cites the Greek poet Aratus, who had
written, "We are also His offspring." As a son or daughter of this
Highest Being, it would be absurd to think that we make Him "in gold or
silver or stone." Not even the most ignorant fool imagines that he
created his father and mother, yet this is the common religious belief
in these times of ignorance.

No, Paul says, God chooses the highest shrine as the focal point of
faith, not one of base materials like stone or minerals but the human
body. This Individual judges the world. We are all sons of God, and only
a meta-Son is worthy "material" in which to send down the teachings of
our Father. Paul then goes on to the proof of this. How do we know that
this Person is of God? We know because God raises him from the dead.
Here the Athenians balk at this and end the discussion, assuming what
Paul was denying, that he meant a physical rather than a spiritual
resurrection. A few, however, were attracted and later become

What I want to dwell upon here is the close link that Paul draws between
human and divine oneness. We are created in God's image and our oneness
is a reflection of, a direct offspring of His Oneness. Without oneness
in mankind there would be no one God, and without one God there could be
no one humanity. If we do not accept or are unaware of how close we are
to one another and that there are important universals in the human
condition, we cannot understand the first thing about religion, for this
is the first and last thing about the nature of God. The first and last
dwell in an Oversoul, an operating Spirit, who mediates the oneness in
both God and man; He cleaves the worldly and the other worldly.

"So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul"; the
last Adam became a life-giving Spirit ... The first man is out of the
earth, earthy; the second man is out of heaven." (1 Cor 15:45, 47)

Only the spiritual Adam, whose mind is enlightened by the sun of
Oneness, can perceive all this. Idolatry, be it atheist or agnostic in
origin, begins and ends with materialist assumptions that rob faith of
its purifying benefit, its call to repentance. Such was Paul's teaching
on the Areopagus.

The Corrective of the Qu'ran

The Qu'ran offers several corrections to Paul's teachings. For example,
it objects to the idea that God can have a Son, an idea that it rightly
calls blasphemous. Yet it does not deny the assertions on the Areopagus
that humanity is in a sense an "offspring" of God, and that we will be
judged by a high Being, chosen from among us. Indeed I think that it is
extremely important to bear in mind that the Qu'ran confirms every
central idea that Paul set forth here. Both framed their entire teaching
as an outcome of the oneness of God.

"This is a clear message for mankind in order that they may be warned
thereby, and that they may know that He is only One God, and that men of
understanding may take heed." (Quran 14:52, Pickthall, tr.)

The most notable consequence of this One above all is that the many
respond to the one. This is Paul's belief, universally emphasized in the
early Church, that Christ would come in the end to judge the world.

"The earth will shine with the light of her Lord, and the Book will be
laid open. The prophets and witnesses shall be brought in and all shall
be judged with fairness: none shall be wronged. Every soul shall be paid
back according to its deeds, for Allah knows of all their actions."

In both we find the similarity of men and women as the base assumption.
One God, one humanity. The Qu'ran goes further though, explaining
exactly why the fundamental similarities among us do not have greater

"Mankind were but one community; then they differed; and had it not been
for a word that had already gone forth from thy Lord it had been judged
between them in respect of that wherein they differ." (Quran 10:19,
Pickthall tr.)

These other considerations, the Qu'ran says, are the result of a
suspension of judgment. In Jesus's terms, the darnell is not being
sifted from the wheat. It is our own fault that humanity cannot yet
follow through on the full implications of our unity.

"And if thy Lord had willed, He verily would have made mankind one
nation, yet they cease not differing, save him on whom thy Lord hath
mercy; and for that He did create them. And the Word of thy Lord hath
been fulfilled: Verily I shall fill hell with the jinn and mankind
together." (Qur'an 11:118-9, Pickthall, tr.)

The diagnosis of the conflict is the same for both: idolatry. While Paul
admired the Athenians' assiduous attention to religion and the serious
discussions that they willingly entered into with him, he saw that the
benefits of these virtues were ruined by the idolatry. This, he
perceived, is self-contradictory belief system, for it tantamount to
denial of religious truth. How can religion be a creative force for good
if it does not look higher than our products and technologies? No, God
creates; idols are made. So to be judged by something or someone
inferior would be an absurd injustice, which Paul and the Qu'ran deny
could ever be.

"Lo! Allah wrongeth not mankind in aught; but mankind wrong themselves."
(Quran 10:44, Pickthall tr)

On the Areopagus, Paul singled out idolatry alone to confront though
obviously there was a very diverse spectrum of beliefs in that center
and birthplace of philosophy. Paul contrasted his Christian,
monotheistic convictions with the idols that he found in the shrines of
Athens. Ditto the Qu'ran,

"Say: O mankind! If ye are in doubt of my religion, then (know that) I
worship not those whom ye worship instead of Allah, but I worship Allah
Who causeth you to die, and I have been commanded to be of the
believers." (Quran 104:10, Pickthall tr)

The universal accountability of all men as one species to One God is the
most important but not the only commonality Paul had with Qu'ranic
teaching. Even some their terminology is similar. At one point in his
talk Paul says, "As for the times of ignorance, God has overlooked
them..." (Acts 17:30) This same term, Jahiliyyih, time of ignorance,
Islamic scholars later used to refer to Araby in its pre-Islamic idol

The closest thing to a good insight that Paul found in the religions of
Athens was a rare admission that God is an unknown quantity. But unknown
does not necessarily mean unknowing, and one must know to judge. That
hints at why repentance and judgment are so important for both Paul and
the Qu'ran. If humans are not judged together based upon right criteria
we will not have common values upon which to unify ourselves. That
judgment is the real basis of both investigation of truth and the
oneness of humanity.

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Monday, August 02, 2004

Second OH Essay

Oneness of Humanity (2)

Precursors in Early Scripture

By John Taylor; 2 August 2004

As an essayist I often find myself dredging up the same ideas and
material over and over again. I am sure that even I would soon tire of
this repetition were it not for the gems that I am privileged to handle.
Every time I pick up these brilliant truths they shed new light on me
and my world. I find that I can read a holy saying, shut my eyes, then
read it again, and often its glistering will illuminate a new corner of
my being.

This we can call the "classicism" of the Word; a classic is a work that
you can read with profit through every stage of life, youth, maturity
and old age. What is true of a work of art has to be supremely so of the
Word of God. The Word is Ancient, yet it is newer than new, cooler than
way cool. It shines its light on then, now and the future. Indeed, the
Kitab-i-Iqan goes further, it stipulates in effect that unless we learn
the difference between what is new and what is old about the Word in
history, we cannot understand the first thing about anything.

What I'm trying to get at with all this circumlocution is that this
time-transcending quality also applies for the Baha'i principles. In a
sense, the oneness of humanity has been the object and central theme of
every teacher since Adam. `Abdu'l-Baha stated several times that this
was so, that all former Manifestations of God taught the oneness of the
human race. (Promulgation, 10, 148) In another sense, the oneness of the
human race is unique to this age, to the Writings of the Bab and
Baha'u'llah. In both of the Master's New York talks defending the
uniqueness of the Baha'i teachings, He listed the oneness of humanity.
(Promulgation, 433, 454) If I succeed in what I am setting out to do
here, these differences and similarities will be a bit clearer at the

The great Chinese moral philosopher, Confucius, is reported as stating
this principle succinctly, "Within the four seas, all men are brothers."
(Confucius, Confucius and the Chinese Way, p. 128) In Taoism, Lao-Tzu
traced a series of concentric, broadening levels of unity in a way very
similar to "circles of unity" of Abdu'l-Baha. Lao Tzu wrote,

"If he applies the Eternal to himself his virtue will be genuine; If he
applies it to his family his virtue will be abundant; If he applies it
to his village his virtue will be lasting; If he applies it to his
country his virtue will be full; If he applies it to the world his
virtue will be universal."

The Bhagavad-Gita dwells upon the root of oneness in a common vision of
self, principle, the universe and Spirit.

"He sees himself in the heart of all beings and he sees all beings in
his heart. This is the vision of the Yogi in harmony, a vision which is
ever one." (Gita 6:29)

The prophets of Israel early on had a sense that God's revelation was
intended for all who dwell on earth. A Psalm declares, "Hear this, all
ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world..." (49:1) Like
virtually all philosophies and religions, including some African tribal
systems, Judaism works from the Golden Rule as its ethical foundation.
"Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you" is in fact the
twin principles of search and oneness in proto-form. You seek out truth
looking through the prism of self and applying the lessons, by offering
the same consideration to others. The difference is that Judaism carries
the Golden Rule to an extremely sophisticated level. For example, the
law of Moses works out what has been called the "Rule of Love," or
"Platinum Rule," where one's own likes and interests are voluntarily
subjugated. Self is changed utterly, what you would have done unto
yourself *is* the good of others. In effect the gold of the Golden Rule
is sacrificed for what is beyond price, love.

The Christian Revelation continues from there; believers are "members
one of another." (Eph 4:25) It even defines God as love, and love as the
Sine Qua Non of belief in Him.

"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one
that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth
not God; for God is love." (1 John 4:7-8)

Another of many contributions by Christianity is the teaching that once
we place God and love for humanity first our problems will rise above
technique, systems and structures. The confirmations of spirit will run
things automatically, naturally. This is evident in the example of Jesus
Christ accepting to sacrifice all on the cross. Paul articulated the
insight thus,

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love
God, to them who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Next time we will go over the roots of oneness of humanity in Islam and
secular thinking.

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA

Sunday, August 01, 2004


Entering the Singularity

By John Taylor; 1 August, 2004

For those who did not look it up when I mentioned the word the other
day, a katzenjammer is extreme confusion caused by a hangover. Hangovers
are binge backwashes, the body's wake for brain cells smashed in a crash
from a high. Collectively our age is marked by katzenjammers of massive
proportions. At the same time, Science fiction writers are starting to
speculate that a time will come, it may already be upon us, when
scientific advances, each with its own katzenjammer, will come so fast
and furious that it will be beyond coping. This event, where the rules
change so fast the world becomes beyond comprehension, they call the
Singularity. This term describes the extreme twisting and compression of
space and time that happens on the event horizon of a black hole. In any
case, whether you call it a katzenjammer, the Singularity, or use the
conventional Baha'i phrases like "crisis" or the "birth pangs of a new
world order," the danger is the same.

Yesterday my father's buddy dropped by in his car at who knows how early
an hour to pick him up for a golf tournament. In order to rouse him, the
fellow started to lean on the horn. Since my father is almost completely
deaf, his friend would literally wake everybody in the neighborhood
before he accomplished what he hoped to do with that all-fired honking.
Yet it worked. The blasts woke me up and I stumbled over to Father
working in the kitchen, cupped my hands to my mouth and shouted that his
friend was honking away for him. This kind of stupid action is so stupid
it should be proverbial, "He's honking for a deaf guy."

Yet, thinking about what I have been thinking about lately, honking for
a deaf guy is telling. It is a perfect analogy for any breach of
spiritual law, especially violence and backbiting. Isaac Asimov's famous
saying, "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent," would be
improved if you could say, "Violence is an incompetent honking for a
deaf guy." I picture the transgression of spiritual laws, so-called
"victimless crimes," in this image: a small child is trying to sink a
leaf floating on a puddle. Small stones do not upend the leaf; so he
tries ever larger rocks until finally he swamps it in the waves. But the
effect of the waves goes far beyond the leaf, they set the whole body of
water into rocking agitation. For one good, intended effect a thousand
wrongs and disturbances are set in motion.

The parable of the puddle describes how it reverberates back upon
itself, this crisis, Singularity, katzenjammer, or whatever you want to
call it. If the outside world is rocked by rollicking undulations, what
difference does it make if I ignore the rules of justice and principles
of peace in my own life?

Yet faith is the kind of knowledge that can ignore the hugest waves and
set its own harmony in motion. The Writings call it a pure deed, this
kind of act. A pure deed has tremendous power. It somehow sets forth
powerful waves of harmony. The Writings assure us that pure deeds have
more than enough power to cancel out all the wrong kind of waves, the
negativity that swamps our world. Somehow purity reestablishes the
hidden harmony that is already in the world. Indeed, it is some
unremembered, pure deed that attracted the gift of faith in the first
place. Baha'u'llah is reported as saying,

"Be thankful to God for having enabled you to recognize His Cause.
Whoever has received this blessing must, prior to his acceptance, have
performed some deed which, though he himself was unaware of its
character, was ordained by God as a means whereby he has been guided to
find and embrace the Truth. As to those who have remained deprived of
such a blessing, their acts alone have hindered them from recognizing
the truth of this Revelation. We cherish the hope that you, who have
attained to this light, will exert your utmost to banish the darkness of
superstition and unbelief from the midst of the people. May your deeds
proclaim your faith and enable you to lead the erring into the paths of
eternal salvation." (Baha'u'llah, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, The
Dawn-Breakers, p. 586)

As my regular readers are aware, I have been reading Phillip K. Dick's
short science fiction stories. What attracted me to him, by the way, was
a terrible memory. Every few days the two kids and I go to the local
three for three for three (three videos for three days for three bucks)
video store where each of the three of us picks out a film for himself.
Repeatedly I found myself in the science fiction section and picking the
same few films, over and over, each time forgetting that I had already
seen it. And the inadvertent films that caught me in my loss of memory
loop always seemed to be based upon a story written by Dick. I took this
as more than mere stupidity, it was a sign. So I started reading Dick's

The first in the collected stories is called "Beyond Lies the Wub." This
wierd tale so intrigued me that I changed it into a Gabby and Bea story
and told it to Silvie last night before bed. I was interested to see her
reaction since she has of late strengthened her longstanding resolve to
become a vegetarian. I will tell the Gabby and Bea story here when it
has matured.

Another story in Dick's short story collection is "Paycheck," recently
made into a film of that name starring Ben Afflick, as I recall. As
always, the book is better than the film. Dick obvious did a lot of
reading from the wisdom of the East since this is a perfect metaphor for
faith, for pure deeds setting great things in motion that Baha'u'llah
set for believers who wish to "render God victorious on earth."

In the story a hot shot technician stumbles upon a "time scoop," a
device to see the future and change it by grabbing out a few small
objects and taking them back to the present. He works at a huge
corporation for two years on the top secret project, working to perfect
this "time scoop." He is paid a large sum but must agree to have his
memory of the two years surgically cut out of his brain. The story
begins with him finding that he agreed in that forgotten period to
relinquish his huge payoff in exchange for a few trinkets in a manila
folder. The corporation is used to that, for workers who have access to
the future tend to think: "Why not bring back a winning lottery ticket,
or information that might lead to greater things than that?" When they
have that kind of knowledge they do not need the pay, a few baubles can
have unlimited value.

The plot has several more twists, but this suffices to show an amazing
similarity to the sacrifice of material good of faith's pure deed. Even
the loss of memory seems to be a necessary concomitant of the pure deed
that Baha'u'llah mentions above. The pure act that makes one worthy of
the gift of faith is done "though he himself may be unaware of its
character." Pure means untainted by worldly stains, so there may be a
sort of spiritual brain surgery that takes away conscious memory of the
event. Some say that you cannot be aware a pure act by its very nature,
and I think Plato was among them with his theory of knowledge as
remembrance of something that we always knew but forgot when we were
born into ethereality.

Jennings, the protagonist in the story, finds that one of the small
items in his envelope gets him out of every scrape he enters into. He is
arrested but a little wire in it allows him to escape. It all was
anticipated by his forgotten self. After a while he refers every problem
he encounters to one of these apparently useless objects. The slightest
token from a self that has seen the future has boundless value for him,
just as the tokens we call "holy," thoughts and insights born of
entering into communion with the Holy Spirit.

"Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought
this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of
all mankind." (Job 12:9-10, KJV)

Spirit, like time travel, breaks all former limits. At the end of
prayer, what do you have? Just some increased awareness, maybe a feeling
of upliftment. But wait, that paltry thing can harmonize you with the
spirit that moves the universe! The possibilities are endless, any
sacrifice afterwards is real. You renounce your "fee" for doing good
just for the sake of getting rid of it, not for any benefit, real or

But the objects never tell him what he is seeking, Jennings intuits the
correct course of action on his own. He second guesses himself and does
very well. Self knowledge, the only real knowledge there is. Unlike the
other employees who leave the Company's employ, Jennings has a hidden
agenda. He redirect his steps back into the Company and tries to take it
over. This they do not expect. Like a pure deed, purity compounds and
reflects back into the world of Spirit. The bold strategy of reversal
awards victory to Jennings. His actions resemble a pure deed, for a pure
deed is self-referential, God for God abiding in a temporal being. Just
like much of Baha'u'llah's Writings is self-referential, a pure deed has
need of no authority beyond itself. In a word, a singularity.

John Taylor
Badi Web Site: TBA