Sunday, August 28, 2005

More Gazpacho Recipes

More Gazpacho Recipes

By John Taylor; 28 August, 2005

Friends, I am forwarding these Gazpacho recipes at the request of Linda of Hamilton, an on again off again reader of the Badi' list. The only one of these that I have tried and tested out—insofar as it is possible for me ever to follow a recipe—is the first recipe, which I have had taped to our refrigerator door for the past few weeks. Most of the time I am not wearing my glasses anyway when I am cooking (they tend to drop off into the food) and so I can barely make out the tiny text of a recipe, so I just used this one as a reminder of what to put in, never how much; the amounts I use rough and ready guestimates. And no, we do not have any horseradish, so I have not tried that yet. I do put several extras into the blend, including lots of parsley, scads of garlic, and handfuls of fresh, sweet basil and watercress.

As for the wine in the other recipes, I do not recommend it to Baha'is; studies in recent years have found just what the Guardian said, that it does not matter if you boil, broil, bake or nuke the food, if alcohol goes in it stays in. The idea that it somehow boils away is an old wives tale. One old friend, Isabella, who is a Catholic, once offered to take the sin upon her head for the wine she had put into a meal she served me. I ate it out of politeness and hunger, but I have often wondered at that; is it possible to take someone's sin on your head just by saying it? If so, there are some prize looking characters slouching around the streets of Dunnville that I would love to dump some sin on their heads, and believe me, I have more than enough to go around, including what my sinful mind just came up with.

As for the wine vinegar, I honestly have no idea if that counts as booze or not. Maybe a reader can enlighten us. This latest batch has been zested up by a half a hot pepper that I purchased for a quarter at the Dunnville market.

This time I will try an experiment and include a photo with this mail out. It is a shot of the chunky Gazpacho from the second recipe, which I found in July's Reader's Digest. Please let me know if the extra graphical data chokes your mailbox or causes any other problems. If I hear nothing from you, I will assume that I can safely include pictures in future mail outs.

Gazpacho; From Don't Eat Your Heart Out, p. 307 (taped to refrigerator)

1 fresh ripe tomato
1 green pepper
3 stalks celery
1 cucumber
1 small onion
3 tablespoons parsley flakes
4 green onions
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons safflower oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

6 cups canned tomatoes, chopped 1/4 teaspoon horseradish
Combine all ingredients except horseradish; puree in blender. Chill at least 3 hours. Just before serving, stir in horseradish.

Thick and Zesty Gazpacho, serves 6; from Low Fat Living, by R.K. Cooper, p. 268

This meal has lots of flavor. You can make the soup ahead of time and keep it refrigerated, and the biscuits are quick and easy to make. Serve two biscuits with a bowl of soup. Take to a picnic by chilling and pouring into a wide mouthed thermos. Serves six. Garnish with croutons and chopped chives. Preparation time 15 to 20 minutes.
4 cups tomato juice or vegetable juice cocktail
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
2  tomatoes, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked chick peas or 1 + cups canned chick-peas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers or pimentos
2 large cloves garlic, minced parsley
1/3 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey or sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
Hot pepper sauce
6 tablespoons non-fat sour cream or yogurt
Preparation time 15-20 Minutes, chilling time: 1-2 hours or more
In a large bowl, mix the tomato juice or vegetable juice cocktail, onions, green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, chick-peas and red peppers or pimentos.
Add the garlic, vinegar, parsley, cilantro, oil, honey or sugar, basil, dill, tarragon, thyme, cumin, and black pepper and hot pepper sauce to taste.
Mix well.
Chill for 1 to 2 hours or more.

Serve in 6 individual bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of the sour cream or yogurt.

Chunky Gazpacho, with Garlicky Croutons; from an advertising supplement to Readers Digest, July 2005

2 garlic cloves, peeled
4 slices French bread (1 in / 2.5 cm thick) 1 tsp (5 ml) pepper
1/2 tsp(2 ml) salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) coarsely chopped red onion
1 can (28 oz / 875 g) no-salt-added tomatoes
1/4 cup (60 ml) seasoned dry bread crumbs 1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped parsley
3 tbsp (45 ml) red wine vinegar
1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2 medium green bell peppers, chopped
2 medium red bell peppers, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees F (180C). Cut one garlic clove in half and rub cut sides on inside of large bowl and on both sides of bread slices. Tear bread into inch (2.5 cm) pieces. Put in the large bowl and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp (2 ml) pepper and 1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt. Toss to coat and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake croutons until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.
Pulse onion and remaining garlic in food processor or blender until finely chopped. Add half of tomatoes and all their juice; puree. Add bread crumbs, parsley, vinegar, oil, and remaining pepper and salt. Process just until blended and pour into large non-reactive bowl.
Chop remaining tomatoes. Stir into tomato mixture with half of chopped cucumbers and half of green and red peppers. Refrigerate until chilled, 1 hour. Ladle into bowls and top with remaining cucumber, green and red peppers, and croutons. Makes 4 servings.

Gazpacho from Bee Nilson, Bee's Blender Book, p. 38; Quantities for 8

A Spanish cold soup of which there are many different regional recipes

1 1/2 pint canned tomato juice (750 ml)
1 lb cucumber (1/2 kg or 1 large)
Sugar, salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs olive oil
Pinch dried garlic
4 Tbs wine vinegar
2 Tbs red wine

Peel the cucumber and cut it in small pieces. Blend it smooth with a little of the tomato juice. Pour in a bowl and add the other ingredients. Cover and chill.
Blend dry and use to garnish the soup.

Gazpacho; From Soups and Starters by Rosemary Wadey, p. 2; serves four

Preparation time 15 minutes, plus cooling


1/2 cucumber, coarsely grated
1/2 small green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
450 g or 1 pound tomatoes, skinned
1/2 onion, peeled
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tomato puree
450 ml or 3/4 pint tomato juice
freshly ground black pepper


Thinly sliced onion rings
Chopped green pepper
Fried croutons

Place the cucumber in a bowl with the green pepper.

Liquidize or puree in a food processor the tomatoes, onion and garlic together with the oil, vinegar, lemon juice and tomato puree.
Pour the tomato mixture over the cucumber and green pepper, add the tomato juice and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover and chill thoroughly.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Place the onion, pepper and crouton garnishes in individual bowls and hand separately.
Garlic bread or crusty bread and butter make a good accompaniment.

Gazpacho, Source unknown, serves 6


1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and diced
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into pieces
6 fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut up
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons tarragon wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups stock (canned, if necessary)
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients in a blender jar. Whirl till ingredients are smooth. It will probably be necessary to do this in 2 or 3 operations. Taste for seasoning and correct. Place in refrigerator and chill very well. Serve as cold as possible and pass small dishes of the following garnitures to be added to the soup by each individual.
Peeled, seeded, diced cucumber
Finely chopped onion
Seeded, diced green pepper
Garlic seasoned croutons

John Taylor

science and brain snatching

Science and Religion; Brain snatching

By John Taylor; 28 August, 2005

Toward a Return to Harmony Between Science and Religion

Looking over what I have written about harmony between science and
religion, I find this principle neglected more than almost any other.
With the exception of a spate of essays around May of 2003, I seem
hardly to have touched it. Not surprising, then, that going through
the lighter side of the Baha'i principles earlier this spring, that
exactly here is where I got stuck and could not continue. My joking
around stopped dead. Although my research has a large enough
collection of raw material for humor, I could not find a spark to
catch my imagination and burn out a living essay. What is it, I asked
over and over, about harmony between science and religion could
possibly make me laugh?

Now that I have this Dragon dictation program going and to some extent
have trained myself in its operation and it has adapted to the
peculiarities of my voice, I hope quickly to read in enough new, dry
kindling from my intimidatingly large pile of printed, non-digital,
hard copy odds and ends on science and religion to get the flame
going. Of course, it would be nice to do actual writing with Dragon
Naturally Speaking instead of just typing; but I did not purchase it
with that in mind. I bought it to fill a cavernous input gap between
laboriously typing material in manually and laying it up against the
glass of my scanner. The latter is a laborious process good only for
inputting longer printed articles. However, it is useless for
handwritten notes and other short, printed snippets. These, the
scanner's OCR software either fails to recognize at all or takes so
long to process and is so replete with errors that it is quicker and
easier just to type it all in directly. This Dragon Naturally Speaking
dictation program looks like it can neatly fill this niche between the
long and the short of it. In the meantime, I am forcing myself into
thinking about science and religion by going over past work and
working out at least one, perhaps a series of new, non-funny -- not to
say serious -- essays on science and religion.

Invasion of the Brain Snatchers, I; An Idle Brain Repents

A great deal has been said against laziness. Witness the familiar
condemnation: "The devil makes work for idle hands." Wits make their
own twists on this familiar stance, like Oscar Wilde, who said that
action is the "last resource of those who do not know how to dream."
But what moralist in his most priggish imagination could imagine what
scientists just discovered about the ravages of idle daydreaming on
the brain? Brain researchers have made great strides over the past
decade and a half by giving test subjects puzzles and mental exercises
and literally looking inside their heads with electromagnetic brain
scanners to see what is going on.

Lately in a new study reported in, among others, a 28 August Newsday
article by Jamie Talan, it seems that one at last came up with the
idea of looking at brains when they are not problem solving, when they
are idling.

Like an internal combustion engine, the brain does have a default.
Keeping it too long in the state described by the expression "my mind
wandered," is definitely not a good thing. Like muscles or any other
tool, the brain's rule is "use it or lose it;" actually, what they
found is worse than that. Like motorists who cloud up all of our air
when they sit and idle their engines, idling the brain, sitting and
uselessly cogitating destroys grey material in the long term.

Daydreaming wears down -- to use the researcher's own expression --the
very regions under the skull that later are marked by the malfunctions
of dementia and the more severe form of the same condition,
Alzheimer's disease; the origins of both are now thought to be decades
in the making, the result of habits of long years and entire
lifestyles. The article, called, "Idle brain invites dementia;
Researchers say daydreaming may cause changes that lead to the onset
of Alzheimer's disease,"
reports findings from the most recent edition of "Journal of
Neuroscience." The head researcher reports surprise at this discovery,
saying that he,

"suspects these activity patterns may, over decades of daily use, wear
down the brain, sparking a chemical cascade that results in the
disease's classic deposits and tangles that damage the brain. The
regions identified are active when people daydream or think to
themselves ... When these regions are damaged, an older person may not
be able to access the thoughts to follow through on an action, or even
make sense of a string of thoughts. `It may be the normal cognitive
function of the brain that leads to Alzheimer's later in life,'
Buckner said. He suspects the brain's metabolic activity slows over
time in this region, making it vulnerable to mind-robbing symptoms.
The scientists say this finding could prove useful diagnostically - a
way to identify the disease early, even before symptoms appear."

When I think about the time I have wasted daydreaming in my life, I
repent, I repent, I repent. All the dreams I had of finding lost
caches of money in the street ... my long, detailed reveries about
what I would do if I won the lottery or if Sophia or Raquel turned up
on my doorstep declaring eternal love, for all that I repent! If only
I had known that I was wearing out my brain, I would have spent that
time solving math problems, crossword puzzles, or memorizing tables of
Arabic conjugations. If only, if only! Since Alzheimer's runs in our
family I now know that my private mental sin is dissolving me into a
fate that for me is far worse than death, dementia at best, a brain so
worn away that it cannot remember or connect one thought with the

On a more general social level, this is why I worry about the effects
of television. Over the past century Alzheimer's and dementia in old
folks have exploded from negligible almost to the norm. Scientists are
not sure about the reason for this; most people I talk to immediately
conclude, "It must be the explosion of chemicals being introduced by
pollution." This is an explanation that is impossible to disprove, but
I have my doubts. I do not have a brain scanner so I cannot confirm
this, but it seems clear that the mental state we are in when watching
television is very like daydreaming. Television has got to be a large
part of the cause, whatever the effect of chemicals. Most oldsters
that I know live by the television.

At least young people have reduced the amount of TV they watch, not
for virtuous reasons but in order to play video games, whose effects
are very different and for all we know insidious in different ways. I
used to look at my father zonked out in front of the TV and think,
what a great anodyne that is for a sick or old person. It passes the
time for them. Then I happened to walk by and glance at him, and his
mouth was gaping open, his eyes unnaturally wide, and he looked for
all the world like one of the pod people victims of the invasion of
the body snatchers. Only it is worse, it is the invasion of the brain

Worse, while they wear out what is left of their faculties idling,
daydreaming, sponsors pay billions of dollars for a place in those
damaging, idling thoughts. Mind pollution breeds mind pollution. The
job of the old is to connect the lessons of the past to the very
young. Forget that, they are told, television and other media will do
that for us, automatically, with no effort. Just sit back, codger, in
front of that glowing screen and relax. The image here is brighter,
more colorful, more real than the reality you think you have lived.

The long term effects only now are becoming evident. Adolescents are
growing up solidly convinced by advertising – un-tempered for the
first time in history by the opinions and experience of older
relations -- that fast food restaurants provide the ideal human diet.
Forget the fact that this is the reverse of what the tiny voice of
dieticians, doctors and teachers try to convey. What chance do experts
have in countering obesity and other ills when false notions jump the
line, short circuit the brain? Idle minds with daydreams bought and
paid for. Now even video games and feature films revolve around
"product placement," a euphemism for unavoidable advertisements. Thus
things fall apart from the center to the periphery, and nothing holds.

What should be at the center? What center will hold? That is the
sticky, gluey job of faith and philosophy, both of which are more
relevant to the policies that make science, health and diet than is
generally realized. I will get into that next time.

John Taylor

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Virtues, Happiness and Faith

Virtues, Happiness and Faith

By John Taylor; 25 August, 2005

Books come and go from my library for reasons good and bad, frivolous
and serious, enduring and forgotten. This book, for instance, the
autobiography of Charles Francis Adams, came in here from the crassest
of motives. It looked antique enough to be worth some money if someday
I summon up the persistence to join EBay and sell some of my
acquisitions. The material in the book itself is void of interest for
me, looking to be nothing more than a pompous, self inflated pat on
his own back from a long forgotten American politician; still, one
passage almost at the end drew my interest, since it mentions my hero
and literary model, Gibbon.

"As long ago as my college days I came across the closet memorandum of
the Khalifa Abdalrahman in Gibbons Decline and Fall and it made an
impression upon me, an impression so deep that since I have not
wearied of referring to it. It is in Gibbons 52nd chapter ..."
(Charles Francis Adams, An autobiography, 1835 -- 1915, Houghton
Mifflin Co., New York, 1916, p. 211)

Adams cites a small part of this third part of the 52nd Chapter, to do
with the Arab conquests and their consequences, but unlike him I will
not stint and will treat you the context of the Khalif's thought, as
Gibbon introduces it. Gibbon's prose is so addictively beautiful that
I cannot resist.

"In a private condition, our desires are perpetually repressed by
poverty and subordination; but the lives and labors of millions are
devoted to the service of a despotic prince, whose laws are blindly
obeyed, and whose wishes are instantly gratified. Our imagination is
dazzled by the splendid picture; and whatever may be the cool dictates
of reason, there are few among us who would obstinately refuse a trial
of the comforts and the cares of royalty. It may therefore be of some
use to borrow the experience of the same Abdalrahman, whose
magnificence has perhaps excited our admiration and envy, and to
transcribe an authentic memorial which was found in the closet of the
deceased caliph."

"I have now reigned above fifty years in victory or peace; beloved by
my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches
and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any
earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this
situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine
happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount to Fourteen: - O
man! place not thy confidence in this present world!"

Now of course we have developed pharmacological industries to see to
it that even those of limited means will routinely break the Khalif's
record of two weeks of "pure and genuine happiness" over a lifetime.
The problem is that happiness, as opposed to pleasure, must be
intimately linked to past and future. Pleasures coming out of a pill
or bottle tend to block memory and fog our faculties of contemplating
the prospect of future prosperity. The right time to judge my
happiness is in old age, thinking back upon what is remembered as most
significant, as the Khalif did. The only way that others can judge a
life is, as the Greeks held, after death; hence the importance of
avoiding gossip and backbiting, for any assessment of the happiness of
others, true or false, happy or unhappy, is bound to be premature and

In a similar vein, I came across something that the author of Alice in
Wonderland wrote toward the end of his life, in a letter he wrote in
July 1885 to the mother of one of his child friends. Lewis Carroll,
then 53 years old, said,

"My dear father had been a High Church man and I have seen little
cause to modify the views I learned from him, though perhaps I regard
the holding of a different views as a less important matter than he
did. As life draws nearer to its end, I feel more and more clearly
that it will not matter in the least at the last day what form of
religion a man has professed." (cited in Leonard Marcus's introduction
to The Complete Works of Lewis Carrol, Lewis Carroll, Barnes and
Noble, New York, 1994, pp. 7-8)

I have always believed this. There is a big difference between
religion and the form of religion, as big a difference as there is
between the light and the lamp that holds it. It is a false, sick kind
of faith to imagine that God has a big chalkboard standing by Him and
as we enter the next world He marks off our beliefs as true or false,
adds up merit points and assesses our value as human beings according
to what we held in our head. That would be a very stupid hedonic
calculus. There is no merit in believing right or wrong, except
insofar as it helps our happiness and that of others. I do not say
anymore that "it is deeds, not beliefs that matter," for that is too
simplistic. I now tend to think that what matters is your focus, the
object upon with both belief and action center upon. God is a word for
our focus, and the Manifestation of God is the Personification of
personal and social focus combined for this time.

I will close with a proposal by Pat Kvaarsgaard, chair of our
Haldimand Assembly, who has made up an interesting application of the
Virtues Program for the children's classes she will be giving this
fall at her office in Caledonia. It is based upon the merit badges of
the Guides and Scouting movements, except that the reward will be for
one of the virtues. It would be interesting, in view of the later
assessment of our life's happiness in old age, to tie such educational
programs in youth to the rest of life, middle age and dotage, perhaps
by means of video and photographic records. A child who won a badge
for humility, for instance, might pick out how they applied that
virtue in later life, and then in old age think about whether and how
it contributed to their overall happiness.

GLOBAL PEACE CADETS, by Pat Kvaarsgaard

Helping Humankind Bloom

This is a universal program for all nationalities, religions, races,
and genders.

GOALS: To develop strong character by practicing the virtues.
Encourage the development and maintenance of unity in self,
relationships, families, and communities. To learn to Think Globally,
Feel Individually and Act Locally. INCREASE PEACE!

MOTTO: Develop Courage, Acquire Knowledge, Love ourselves as well as
others, and Act Virtuously to Create Unity and Peace.

RESOURCES: Virtues Guide -Books, Music, Cards, as well as the
enlistment of Community members who have a particular expertise.
(Humanitarian Organizations, Service Clubs, Religious leaders such as
clergy, Teachers, etc ... ) - Anyone who considers peace, unity, and
service their mandate.

SESSIONS: These can be weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly. They will begin
with a greeting and handshake. Group will assemble in a circle and
recite the motto then proceed to consult on the virtue of the month
(as determined by the group leader in consultation with members). This
will include an educational portion, where the leader puts forth the
virtue, e.g. Respect then discusses what it is (knowledge), why
practice it (unity and love), and how (action) it can be practiced.

ACTIVITY: This will be related to the virtue and may include art,
writing, acting, speaking, music or a service. Example- helping an
individual or group who need assistance, encouragement or support.
(Doing a Good Deed)

VIRTUE LOGS: These will be pocket books that will include how the
participant plans and actually practices a particular virtue.
(Approximately 4"x 4") The peace cadet will have the book signed after
completion of a task. The leader will review the log and sign after
the last entry. 1 Badge = approximately 9 signatures. Leader's = 10th


These represent application of the virtues by the GPC and completion
of 9 badges entitles the participant to a Level 1 Peace Badge. Only
the first three badges are predetermined and they must include 1.
Courage, 2. Respect, and 3. Unity

Level 2 = 18 virtue badges, Level 3 = 27 Virtue badges, Level 4 = 36
Virtue badges, Level 5 = 45 virtue badges and Level 6 = completion of
all 52 virtues along with one community service project.

The badges will be sewn on a SASH and may be draped over the shoulder of Cadets.

Fees: will include the cost of badges, journals, and donation for
community projects.

John Taylor

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Naturally Burnt

Naturally Burnt By the Dragon

By John Taylor; 24 August, 2005

This morning's reading from the Holy Writings happens to be LXVII from
Baha'u'llah's Prayers and Meditations, page 110 for those with
troubles reading Roman Numerals. I read it through aloud this morning
using the dictation software, Dragon Naturally Speaking, which I
bought in Windsor during a side trip on our Leamington summer
vacation. Here is how this prayer of gratitude for the bounty of
belief and faith looked to my eyes in the original, in the lucid and
eloquent translation of the Guardian. This is what I thought I was
reading, anyway:

"Glorified art Thou, O Lord my God! I yield Thee thanks for having
enabled me to recognize the Manifestation of Thyself, and for having
severed me from Thine enemies, and laid bare before mine eyes their
misdeeds and wicked works in Thy days, and for having rid me of all
attachment to them, and caused me to turn wholly towards Thy grace and
bountiful favors. I give Thee thanks, also, for having sent down upon
me from the clouds of Thy will that which hath so sanctified me from
the hints of the infidels and the allusions of the misbelievers that I
have fixed my heart firmly on Thee, and fled from such as have denied
the light of Thy countenance. Again I thank Thee for having empowered
me to be steadfast in Thy love, and to speak forth Thy praise and to
extol Thy virtues, and for having given me to drink of the cup of Thy
mercy that hath surpassed all things visible and invisible. Thou art
the Almighty, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, the All-Loving."

The transcription made by Dragon Naturally Speaking differed somewhat
from what I thought I had said. The following is what the program
wrote down. I know, what comes through looks blasphemous and twisted,
but think: artificial intelligence cannot be held to blame for this
kind of error. It knoweth not what it doeth. The only thing I changed
here is the last mistake at the very end, "Yolanda" instead of
"All-Loving" -- to make a correction you say, "Scratch that," and it
deletes the text and lets you try to say it more clearly. In this case
the correction was worse than the original mistake, God becomes not
all-loving but the "All Laughing," which is what He no doubt is doing
even at our most eloquent and sincere prayers, even our prayers
without any outer errors at all but leaving the glaring impurities
that no doubt exist within, that is, our prayers to remove splinters
in the eyes of others while beams stick into our own blinded eye.

"Glorified art though old Lord my God I yield V. thanks for having
enabled me to recognize the manifestation of thyself and for having
severed me from thine enemies that laid bare before mine eyes that
missed deeds and wicked works in my days and for having rid me of all
attachment to them cause me to turn wholly towards thy grace and
bountiful vagrants IQ V. thanks also for having sent down upon me from
the crowds of thy will that which has so sanctified me from the hands
of the infidels in the illusions of the believe is that I fix my heart
firmly on the lead from such as have denied the light of thy
countenance again I think we've were having empowered me to be
steadfast and I love to speak forth thy praise and took still live
virtues and for having giving me to drink of the cup of thy mercy that
has surpassed all things visible and invisible God the Almighty the
most exalted thee all glorious Yolanda (scratch that) the all

And besides -- I say switching over to my "sin covering eye"
personality -- I have heard prayers garbled and botched worse than
that by intelligent humans in many a devotional section of the Feast.
But really, do I sound like that when I read? I begin to have self
doubts. Anyway, my reading for this morning was from the Writings of
the Bab. Here is what I thought I was reading:

"SAY, God is the Lord and all are worshippers unto Him. Say, God is
the True One and all pay homage unto Him. This is God, your Lord, and
unto Him shall ye return. Is there any doubt concerning God? He hath
created you and all things. The Lord of all worlds is He."
(Selections, 151)

And here is what the fiery dragon heard me saying:

"Say God is lowered and all are worshipers under him say God is the
true one and all play pay a comment under him this is God your load
and enter him shell you turn is there any doubt concerning God yet
created you and all things that Lord of all worlds as he."

I suppose it is a miracle that anybody ever understands anyone, what
with all the slips and confusion that comes out of our mouths, even
when we are reading well-composed text. As the program's documentation
recommends, though not in so many words, if you have not composed your
thoughts and laid them out clearly in your mind before you open your
mouth then just forget about this program ever deciphering what you
think you are trying to say. And if you try saying a sentence as
complex as the one just before this sentence? Forget about it; just
type it in or better still, do not express it at all.

Still, I have invested a great deal of money in this program and I
cannot just leave it aside without giving it a fair chance. So every
morning I have been starting the day with what it calls a "training
session" where I read a long passage that it already has written down
and it listens to how I pronounce and enounce it; it then starts into
a processing session that it says will take five or six hours and
always takes about three minutes. Maybe my computer is faster than the
computer it expects, I do not know. Supposedly, Dragon learns from
this cogitation session about the peculiarities of my voice and its
transcription errors will eventually fade away.

A side benefit of reading aloud I have found is that I can pick out
kid-friendly texts. Then Silvie, languishing in bed late these summer
holiday mornings starts listening to my dictation and inevitably
sneaks quietly out of her upper bunk and into my study and listens on
the sly to the story behind my back. Then I can add to the performance
by theatrically reacting to events. When the dictation arrow fails to
catch my meaning and stays at a word it is no matter how often I try
to say it CLEARLY and NATURALLY, I can extemporize. For example, this
morning I read the first chapter of "Alice in Wonderland," and some of
the English words vary from how we pronounce them on the other side of
the pond. Over and over I would say an interjection in the text but it
would not to recognize what I was saying. I reacted by breaking down
in mock tears, or sometimes I would become furious and take hold of
the monitor and try to strangle it, rewarded by stifled laughter
behind me. At the end of the training session I must pretend to be
surprised that Silvie was there behind me listening all along.

The first morning Silvie could not stand it when I messed up and the
arrow stayed at the same word for multiple attempts. She tried to
intervene and say it herself. This happened often, for I would
repeatedly be tempted to dramatize the dialog in the given young
person's novel by saying a little girl's words in a high voice or a
bear's voice in a gruff tone. This is a definite no-no for Dragon, it
must hear everything in a normal speaking voice, no matter what. It
refused to recognize anything I said in any but my most completely
natural tone, and often not even then (which I guess is why they call
it "Dragon Naturally Speaking;" it seemed like a good thing when I
first read it on the box). Silvie would cry out in frustration every
time I messed up, even after I explained that it was learning my voice
and would only be confused more if it heard her say it, or if it heard
any background noise butting in. All my funny voices, my wonderful
squeaky voice, my growly voice, my nasal drawl, all wasted and

This dictation session from Alice in Wonderland, whose alternate title
is "Down the Rabbit Hole," lingers in my mind, as do all first
thoughts from the morning. Now I seem to be falling down not a rabbit
hole but a dragon's hole, a lair with walls littered with bones -- my
oral black hole, a DNS dictation training session every day,
everything coming out normal but ending garbled on the page of memory.
My dream is Alice's plunge into Wonderland, the event that starts her

"The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then
dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think
about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very
deep well."

How like my ideal structure this rabbit hole is, the round tower of a
farmer's silo. If I built a silo office, Lewis Carroll describes just
how I would furnish the inside walls; a visitor would climb the silo
on outside stairs, visit my eagle's nest writer's office with a view
at the top, then leave by plunging down the middle of the silo,
suspended by invisible wires, as in a Chinese martial arts film,
looking all around at the walls just as Alice did at the walls of the
rabbit hole in her slow descent.

"Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had
plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what
was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out
what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she
looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled
with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and
pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves
as she passed; it was labelled 'ORANGE MARMALADE', but to her great
disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear
of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as
she fell past it."

John Taylor

Monday, August 22, 2005


What I did on my summer holidays, Part One

By John Taylor; 22 August, 2005

"I propose we leave math to the machines and go play outside." -Calvin
and Hobbes

This summer we retraced vacation ground covered two years ago, same
season, same place, point of destination Leamington, town of a million
tomatoes, with its Heinz ketchup factory smack dab in the middle of
its downtown. If the town fathers here thought as they did in
Petrolia, the Ontario town where oil was discovered and drilled for
the first time in North America, they would have called it not
Leamington but "ketchupia" or "Heinzia" or "Tomatolia." You drive by
the factory and watch as one tractor trailer after the next wheels
into the yard, piled high with red and orangey tomatoes in open
containers. Some are literally tractors dragging behind two trailer
loads of tomatoes, others are the bigger 18 wheeler type of tractor
trailer. Now I understand why they bred those indestructible cardboard
tomatoes now called "hothouse tomatoes."

I had heard that hard tomatoes made shipping them cheaper and I
pictured in my mind neatly packed crates, piled one on the next, not
these huge loads dumped loose into open containers. If you happened to
be standing in one of those bins and they dumped the load of tomatoes
on top of you it would be you who turned to ketchup while the modern
super tomatoes, it seems, retain their shape under tons and tons of
pressure. And man, you could throw any object, no matter what, onto
those wagon loads and it would end up in our ketchup, no matter how
repulsive or contaminated that projectile might be. Not that I tried
that; I just blanched at the thought.

There were differences from two years ago. This time we camped in
tents, we did not rent a trailer. Thomas is older now, and we were
able to swim almost every morning in the artificial lake at "Leisure
Lake Camp," ideally situated a few country blocks away from Jitka's
place of residence, known as "Polish House," where non-Hispanic
foreign laborers anonymously maintain residence. In the swimming area,
I always played the heavy chasing after strange Pokeman creatures that
Silvie and Thomas take on in their role playing adventures. I shot my
hypno-rays and my flamethrower attacks at them while they valiantly
defended the stones and shoes that I was intent on kidnapping. Schools
of famished sunfish literally nipped at our heels when we stayed still
too long.

My new gazpacho dietary regime had barely begun and I had to stop it
for the week away, not having brought our blender along, but my
strength increased nonetheless. It rained the first few days, and we
were wet and miserable in our damp tents on the cold ground. I was
still drinking gallons of water a day, and had hardly a trace of
migraine the whole time. One pain became pleasure as I woke in the wee
hours to relieve myself at the shower and bathroom building about a
hundred meters away; as soon as the weather cleared about the third
day I saw every night the orange planet Mars, brightest object in a
clear, moonless sky splayed with stars.

The first five days I slowly and leisurely read through, "Brainmakers,
How Scientists are Moving Beyond Computers to Create a Rival to the
Human Brain," by Discover Magazine writer David Freedman. It was
glorious to read and think about what may one day be called "applied
epistemology," as I looked out of the open rec centre room at the kids
playing spontaneously in the playground. I had an idea as I watched,
nothing grand like the "open systems" revelation I had there two years
ago, but an interesting extension.

I thought: why cannot adults do what these kids do so easily and
naturally? They just go out to these play structures and make up ad
hoc amusements to suit their temper; if they feel energetic, they run
about furiously; if they are in a tranquil mood they sit and dabble in
the sand. They play until they are tired or tired of it, and then they
simply go home, content. And what do adults do? We have an insane need
to specialize, to excel, to go it alone; we buy exercise machines to
work our bodies into what we want them to be. We forget how to play,
to exercise while we play, and how to make both into a social,
pleasurable experience; we want to do everything alone, without
reference to other people. We obsess, we work narrow goals and hope
somehow out of that to gain broad objectives. And inevitably, the
elaborate exercise equipment ends up in a corner or in a garage sale,
still unused and in new condition, and our bodies balloon into
grotesque caricatures of the human body. Just take a look at any crowd
of over forties, three quarters are fat. They streamed into that rec
center as I read my book intent on their bingo and poker games, games
void of variety or intellectual stimulus, gambling, mathematical
whoring, all the while smoking, boozing and slowly dying before my
very eyes. Before death, ugliness comes as herald.

When I got back home I came across the apothegm to this essay, from
the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, "I propose we leave math to the
machines and go play outside," which expresses best what I had been
thinking, that machine intelligence is good at calculations while
humans do play best. When we truly master computers, we will teach
them to act as aids in doing just that, playing, that is, they will
work our hedonic calculations as we balance work, play, exercise and
socializing. If our body is in need of more exercise, we will go to
the park and play pickup sports with others who, their physiology
monitored by sensors, are told that they are falling behind on the
optimum amount of exercise.

Some studies are finding that it is not the activity itself that
staves off brain declining diseases like Alzheimer's, it is the
variety of activity. Those who play different card and board games,
for instance, may not get aerobic points but their brains are better
protected by the variety than are, say, marathon runners pushing their
limits in only one direction. So, if we need more variety, our
personal mind and body monitoring computers will surely one day match
make us with other game players, and then nudge us when to start to
play, when to stop, and when to try something new. Avid, expert
players can act as neighborhood hosts to a certain game or activity,
and be invisibly paid nominal amounts for the service by the
participants' computers. Most neighbors would act as guests and play
until their interest flags, then move on. Much more could be done to
make us "different flowers in the garden" than mixing races and
cultures, games and sports and play will all come into service in the
name of change and variety.

John Taylor

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Abolish Kitchens

On Mitra; Why We Should Abolish Kitchens; Warning Label for Chips

By John Taylor; 20 August, 2005

Friends, we are back from our vacation in Leamington. I put off
contributing to this mailing list until I had switched computers, a
process that took longer than expected, three days. I have three
things for you today.

First, on returning home I came across on the Net the following
article about a Toronto Baha'i, Mitra Gopaul, who happened to be in
the Air France crash at Pearson International earlier this month. Ever
on his toes, he got a mention of the Faith into the article, that was
mostly concerned about victims suing for compensation.

I met Mitra on a French teaching program in Quebec City; I mostly
remember the mock resentment of a beautiful Persian chick from
Montreal, Mitra Javanmardi, that this guy of East Indian background
had "stolen" her name, which in her culture is restricted to girls'
names. Since that time in the 1970's Mitra Gopaul has written several
books, including one on how to raise spiritual kids and a couple on
how to computerize Local Assembly work. Google his name if you are
interested in them.

If anybody receiving this knows about how Mitra Gopaul is getting
along, please let me know and I will share it on the Badi' list.

Aug 12, "Air France Crash Victims Seek Compensation," By BETH DUFF-BROWN,
TORONTO (AP) -- Mitra Gopaul has trouble sleeping. Eddie Ho has
repeated flashbacks. And some children are still clinging to their
parents more than a week after surviving the Air France crash on the
runway of Canada's busiest airport.
…The spokesman said more compensation would be coming and declined to
comment on the allegations of negligence on the part of the French
airliner. Gopaul was returning from Israel, where he was volunteering
for the Baha'i World Center as a database administrator. "I'm still
wondering why I had to go through this, if there is a godly reason,"
said Gopaul, who said his 20-year-old daughter was riding a bus along
nearby Highway 401 and witnessed the crash. "I have to figure out in
my personal life why I had to go through that.

The following article from Science News on how comparatively "green"
factory and home cooking are, I consider of the utmost importance and
am including it in its entirety. It backs me up in my growing
conviction that kitchens are dangerous, polluting, wasteful and that
home cooking is a total waste of time and thought, especially for
women, whose lives are being wasted doing something better automated.

How 'Green' Is Home Cooking?


by Janet Raloff

Which is better for the environment: a meal cooked from scratch at
home or a packaged frozen or freeze-dried meal cooked up in distant
industrial kitchens and trucked to supermarkets? Most consumers would
guess the former, notes environmental engineer Ulf Sonesson. Even many
food scientists would vote for home cooking as the greener option, he
However, those guesses probably wouldn't be taking into account
economies of scale in food companies' mass preparation of meals, says

How this meal was prepared—at home versus in a factory—makes little
difference, in terms of energy use and environmental impact, a new
study finds. Indeed, when he and his team at the Swedish Institute for
Food and Biotechnology made calculations including such efficiencies,
they found no big difference between the environmental footprints of
home-cooked versus ready-to-eat fare. Each means of putting food on
the table has environmental advantages and disadvantages that, in the
end, "even each other out," the researchers concluded.
A major reason the resource costs of the two different types of meals
are so similar, overall, is that cooking itself contributes
comparatively little to environmental costs of a meal. Most impacts
instead occur around the farm or in the marketplace—upstream of food
preparation—and contribute comparably to meals, regardless of where
they're cooked.

That's potentially good news for the environment, Sonesson says, since
in Sweden, as in the United States, there is growing reliance on meals
that are partially cooked or ready-to-eat, needing little more than
last-minute heating.

Cooking's hidden costs

The Swedish scientists focused their analyses on the farm-to-fork, or
life-cycle, costs of preparing a meal of meatballs, potatoes, bread,
carrots, and milk. They chose this combo because it's popular in their
country and because it can be purchased as a frozen, ready-to-eat meal
(minus the bread and milk) or as separate, semi-prepared foods (such
as dried mashed potatoes and refrigerated meatballs). The former meal
needs only to be microwaved prior to eating. The latter requires
frying the meatballs on a stovetop and adding water to reconstitute
the potatoes before heating. To complete both of these meals,
store-bought milk and bread were added.

The researchers compared the life-cycle costs of the prepared and
semi-prepared meals with the cost of a homemade alternative. For this
version of the meal, all foods—including the bread—were made from
scratch. Carrots were peeled and eaten raw, meatballs were rolled from
ground meat, and the milk came from the supermarket. In each
food-preparation scenario, the researchers assumed that all portions
or ingredients of the meal would be purchased on the day it would be

Roughly half of the energy consumption and environmental impact
associated with any food occurs on the farm, say researchers in
Sweden. In the June Ambio, Sonesson's group reports that agriculture
accounted for roughly half of the resource costs associated with any
of the meals, owing mostly to the energy associated with producing and
applying fertilizer and with the use of diesel-powered gear, such as
tractors. For the two meals produced commercially, packaging made up
another 10 percent of the environmental costs. Energy costs at food
retailers—refrigeration of individual ingredients, for instance—proved
highest for the home-cooked meal, accounting for about 20 percent of
the energy associated with it. The retailer-energy cost of
semi-prepared and ready-to-eat meals was slightly smaller—although the
amounts of energy used outside the home to prepare these meals were
slightly higher—than that for the homemade meal.
That said, the energy expended to bring each meal to the table varied
only slightly—from about 9 megajoules per meal for the home-cooked
food, to a little over 10 Mj for the full complement of foods served
in the largely ready-to-eat meal. Each megajoule is equivalent to
about the energy needed to keep three 100-watt light bulbs burning for
1 hour.

Emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide or methane, were
somewhat higher for the home-cooked meal. One reason, Sonesson
explains, is because much potentially wasted energy in commercial
preparation of foods was recaptured—such as by the incineration of
food scraps. Production of smog-inducing gases proved highest for the
semi-prepared meal, largely because it required the most plastic for
packaging the various components.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides, a component of smog and acid rain, were
highest overall for home-cooked meals, Sonesson's group found. One
major reason: potato peels. Industrial processing discards about
one-third less potato as scrap during peeling. Not only does this mean
that fewer spuds need to be grown to supply an equivalent amount of
potato for an industrially produced meal, but also that less peel will
be discarded in a landfill, where it decomposes into the polluting
gases. The extra spuds needed to make up for higher peeling losses in
home kitchens also led to proportionately more fertilizer use and thus
farm runoff of fertilizers into waterways.

The cost of waste

In a second paper published in Ambio, Sonesson's team investigated
additional environmental costs associated with food production.
Through surveys of some 270 households, the researchers learned that
most grocery shopping is done by car. Only one-quarter of household
trips to stores were on foot, usually to a local or convenience store,
not the supermarket. Most of the Swedes surveyed said that they shop
for food every 1 to 3 days, typically coming home with only a bag or
two of groceries.

Frequent shopping by car aggravates air pollution and elevates
fossil-fuel consumption. On the other hand, it suggests that people
are buying only as much food as they need. Buying in bulk, in
contrast, could cause people to waste food. To probe that idea, the
researchers scoured data from 35 households to evaluate how much of a
family's food typically went to waste.
The families reported discarding roughly twice as much dairy food as
they ate. Of that wastage, about 80 percent was never used in a meal
and 20 percent was prepared but eventually discarded as leftovers.
Produce losses also proved high. An amount equivalent to nearly 50
percent of the fruits and vegetables eaten was thrown away, apparently
because it went bad prior to being incorporated into a meal. On the
other extreme, pasta, rice, potatoes, and other staples with a long
shelf life were seldom pitched out uneaten, according to food diaries
kept by the participating families.

Sonesson and his colleagues observe that few studies have addressed
why people discard food. Is it spoiled? Has it merely exceeded its
"sell by" date? Or do people get bored with certain items?
Understanding the factors prompting food waste is important, Sonesson
argues, because substantial energy and environmental resources go into
food production. In Sweden, for instance, agriculture consumes some 20
percent of the nation's energy. With on-farm costs of this industry so
large, Sonesson says, finding ways to limit demand for excess
production—food that will never be consumed—could provide substantial
benefits for both the nation's economy and environment.

In the warning label department, here is an article on the latest
potential target, chips.

Warning label on French fries? By Capital News 9 web staff

You know they're full of fat, carbohydrates and sodium. But three
years ago a shocking study came out of Europe claiming foods like
french fries could cause cancer -- because the cooking process
produces a carcinogen called Acrylamide. Frank Muir of the Idaho
Potato Commission said, "There is no research that confirms this Swiss
study. In fact, since that time, that study came out other studies
have come out disputing those findings." But so far that hasn't
convinced the state of California. Allan Hirsch of the California EPA
said, "The last thing we want to do is scare people or to alarm them."

But they are considering warning labels for French fries! According to
the California Environmental Protection Agency, it falls under the
state's so-called right-to-know law -- a law designed to protect
people against chemicals known to cause cancer. It's a battle between
cancer concerns and potato profits. The state of California wants to
put warning labels on french fries - but according to the state of
Idaho -- the reason is ridiculous.

Muir said, "We've been eating acrylamide since man invented fire. Ever
since we started cooking foods, there's been acrylamides that we've
been consuming." He went on to say, "If you put a warning label on
french fries or potato chips because of acrylamides, then to be fair,
you're going to have to put it on bread, you're going to have to put
it on all the ready to eat cereals. Those high bran cereals have

But California hasn't decided what is the best way to educate the
public about perceived cancer concerns. And warning labels are still
under consideration. Something Idaho leaders are strongly
discouraging. "Our governor, Governor Kempthorne went down there and
met with Governor Schwartznegger personally. We have laid out the
issue, and we hope that it will be resolved," said Muir.

John Taylor

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

thoughts and labels

Personal Thoughts; More on Warning labels

By John Taylor; 9 August, 2005

We are leaving for a week on vacation at Leamington, (on the other end
of Lake Erie), so some general musings today, followed by more
follow-up on the warning labels dot com idea.

Gazpacho guy is going in full force; I feel an unaccustomed sense of
health and well-being, though my underlying lack of vigor is still
worrying. Now that I know I can stave off migraines by never allowing
myself to dehydrate in the slightest, it is a tremendous psychological
lift. You never see me without my water bottle, but you also never see
the circles under my eyes either. When the weather shifts I still see
stars but so far no more being agonizingly dragged over the coals of a
migraine attack. I have always pictured migraine as a firestorm in the
brain, and if the land and trees are soaked with water it is
impossible to have forest fires. A simple solution that I should have
thought of years before. Words cannot express my gratitude to God for
helping me discover that.

But sadly, water is only part of the battle. I have been taking
advantage of the blender operation of preparing gazpacho soup every
few days (for the time being I have it with every meal, in order to be
sure of getting more than the minimum daily veggies) that I am already
doing to throw various extra herbs into the mix, notably garlic and
parsley (anti-inflammatories, good against migraine) and basil
(according to my healing herb book, an all around tonic). A while back
I read that Roman soldiers ate watercress for energy and vitality but
I had to give up on that because I could not find it in any grocery
stores. Then suddenly last week it appeared, right next to the
parsley. It must be watercress season or something, though from what I
read it is normally available whenever streams are not frozen. I mixed
it into my gazpacho, though it is much too early yet to tell if it
helps. As it is I am dead tired all the time; this always happens when
I become a vegetarian. But when I have no meat my migraines are fewer
and my joints do not hurt, so I am determined to find a way of
becoming an energetic vegetarian.

Having the kids around this summer is a joy but is cutting back on
productivity. What with all this activity going on around I now can
only hope for an essay every other day, if I am lucky.

Thomas (6 years old tomorrow) is what his grandfather calls a "go-go,"
never stopping, insect collecting, tree climbing dynamo, and very
sociable, to boot; his best friend of late is Travis, son of Korean
storekeepers downtown, in spite of the fact that he is at least two
years older than Thomas. Every day Thomas has three or four or more
boys out back in the tent trailer playhouse tearing the place apart,
playing and trading Pokeman and Yugi-oh cards, and when they are not
doing the card thing they are role playing. It is not "cowboys and
Indians" or "cops and robbers" now but complex, strange interactions
between imaginary creatures with strange names (and not always
grammatical names, having been sloppily translated from the Japanese;
for example, instead of "blue eyed dragon," it is "blue eyes dragon")
and even stranger powers. My theory is that little boys get sick of
having to ask adults, "What animal is this?" "What is that thing?"
With this strange cornucopia of imaginary Pokeman creatures, each with
special powers that evolve them into completely new creatures, back
and forth, this is their chance to be the experts. Talking about
nothing but these strange beasts with one another, they soon find that
they can patronize adults and say, "You don't even know what this or
that is?"

Silvie (eleven years old on the 27th) loves to read and play alone,
and was busy with drama camp and last week a horse riding day camp.
She is continuing with her penchant for making up skits, puzzles and
games; when I was a kid I was a passive consumer of these amusements
but with her to read a puzzle is inspiration to adapt it, change it
and come up with her own personalized versions. Every couple of days
she comes up with a new version of the "cooty-catcher" divining device
made out of folded paper, each with its own prophesies for your
imminent fate. Even those "scratch and win" promos that you get in
your junk mail are inspirational; she makes up her own unique "scratch
and win" with her own hidden surprise messages to be uncovered. Ditto
with surprises in our cereal boxes; as a kid I just hoped for a prize.
Silvie adds her own prizes, and even mixes in candies and other kid
friendly additives. I must say, when you are not expecting it and are
still groggy in the morning, these not always soft surprises test your
teeth and gums.

Warning Labels Dot Com, Again

The inspiration for my proposed warning label website was the
suggestion by dieticians that soda pop, what they are calling "liquid
candy," be required to carry warning labels. Our first article,
"Calorie Warning Labels," is about that development. The next article,
"Funny Labels," is from a website that protests against there being
too many silly warning labels, which are the result of companies fears
of being sued for negligence. Our third and last snippet is from a
financial analyst, whose product is investment advice, a thing that
itself must come with a strong warning label, as he himself is well
aware. His point here is that even warning labels should come with
warning labels, which is true enough. I would only add that the
chances of the Master's advice about diet being debunked are somewhat
lower than your average study.

Calorie Warning Labels
"Obviously, that hasn't had much of an effect," he says of the calorie
information on labels. "And we should be doing more. Nobody's talking
about a ban on soda pop. But just put a little health information on
there, a little reminder. We're suggesting a range of reminders, some
would say it contributes to obesity and tooth decay; others would say
consider switching to diet soda, water or skim milk. Obesity is an
epidemic. One-third of youths already are overweight or obese. Are we
just going to sit around and do nothing? Or should we do something - a
modest, sensible step of putting a health message on cans and

Because the long-term consequences are very serious, the American
Beverage Association has posted the following statement on its Web
site as a response to Jacobson's idea:

"To ask the FDA for warning labels on soft drinks, or any food
products that contain caloric sweeteners, patronizes consumers and
lacks common sense. Where should such a food hit list stop? Even skim
milk and thousands of other food products could potentially fit into a
CSPI labeling scheme because of the sugars contained in these

"That's the industry," Jacobson says. "I don't know where it stops,
but it starts with them. Studies have now been done over the last few
years demonstrating that soft drinks are a contributor to obesity, not
the only cause, but a significant cause. Teenagers are drinking more
than ever - even while adults are drinking less." And even though he
says parents have control to some extent, he says, "Kids know about
vending machines; they go to 7-eleven and get a big gulp, 1,000
calories of soda pop in a single serving. We've come a long way from
the 6 1/2-ounce coke bottles of 50 years ago."

Funny labels

A flushable toilet brush that warns users, "Do not use for personal
hygiene," has been identified as the nation's wackiest warning label
in an annual contest sponsored by a consumer watchdog group. The $250
second place award went to ... for a label on a popular scooter for
children that warns: "This product moves when used."

Third place and $100 went to ... who found the following warning on a
digital thermometer that can be used to take a persons temperature
several different ways: "Once used rectally, the thermometer should
not be used orally." Fourth place was a label on an electric hand
blender promoted for use in blending, whipping, chopping and dicing,
that warns: "Never remove food or other items from the blades while
the product is operating." In fifth place was a label on a nine- by
three-inch bag of air used as packing material. It carries this
warning: "Do not use this product as a toy, pillow, or flotation

"This Warning Label Has a One-in-Three Chance of Being Debunked"
"According to the latest health study" That phrase can still make lots
of folks pay attention, notwithstanding cynics like me who long ago
concluded that before long the "experts" will condemn as unhealthy
virtually all food & beverages that human beings consume. Yet, at long
last, I've got some science behind my sarcasm.

"A new study confirms" -- and I am not making this up -- "that what
doctors once said was good for you often turns out to be bad -- or at
least not as great as initially thought."

So claims the Journal of the American Medical Association, as reported
this week by the Associated Press: "The sobering conclusion came in a
review of major studies published in three influential medical
journals between 1990 and 2003, including 45 highly publicized studies
that initially claimed a drug or other treatment worked."

Okay, I'll cut to the chase: "That means nearly one-third of the
original results did not hold up."

So feel free to laugh along with me at the story that led TODAY'S
health news, namely the demand by a self-appointed "public interest"
group that soda cans come with warning labels. Hmmm I'll actually go
along with the idea, on one condition. The language must also say,
"This warning label is the result of a health study which has a
one-in-three chance of being debunked."

Reading and thinking about so-called health risks ended me up at the
Center for Disease Control's Internet site, specifically its "National
Vital Statistics Report." It's hardly news that life expectancy inches
up each year, but I was astonished to learn what has happened as the
inches accumulated for an entire century.

Covering the period from 1900 to 2002, the CDC data shows the number
of survivors out of 100,000 annual births in the United States, at age
levels from one to 100 years old. In other words, if you were 65 years
old in 2002, you were one of the 82.6% of your age peers who also
survived. But in 1902, a person alive at age 65 was one of only 40.9%
whose age peers survived, which obviously means a decided majority --
59.1% -- had died.

Thus the percentage of surviving 65-year olds more than doubled in a
century's time, and the multiple greatly increases at older ages. In
2002, 36.3% of 85-year olds had survived; in 1902, only 6% of 85-year
olds had survived. There's more, but you get the idea.

This is health "news" worth shouting from the rooftops, based not on
research that might not hold up, but on hard facts (death
certificates). I didn't know the full story about greater life
expectancy -- did you? Next time I start to hear about the "latest
health study," pardon me if I chuckle and change the channel. The
question is, if a third of the claims about health risks don't hold
up, what do we make of "expert" claims in other realms of life? What
is -- and is not -- a genuine risk to your portfolio, for example?

John Taylor

Monday, August 08, 2005

Purity and Happiness

Purity and Happiness

By John Taylor; 4 August, 2005

The wisest philosophers have always recognized that happiness in this
world is impossible because nobody can agree upon what it is.
Happiness for one can be punishment for another. All we can hope is to
do our best to be worthy of happiness, as Hamlet said, "The readiness
is all," and then hope that Life's Summum Bonum will result, either
here or in the next life. Although we cannot be certain of happiness
we do tend to have firm idea of what it is not. That is, we can reject
and expunge all things that are abhorrent and that act as blocks to
human happiness. `Abdu'l-Baha gave this advice:

"You must cling to those things which prove to be the cause of
happiness for the world of man. You must show kindness to the orphans,
give food to the hungry, clothe the naked and offer help to the poor
so that you may be accepted in the Court of God." (quoted in,
Mahmoud's Diary, 247)

In light of this, let us sum up our thesis on work and wealth as
pillars of happiness so far:

Freedom from property pollution is essential to well-being and
happiness. The Bab's teaching in the Persian Bayan on purity is
fulfilled in the Baha'i laws of work as worship and of Huqquq. This
new foundation of financial relationships will remove the corruption
that ends in degradation of the planet's natural environment, along
with all other outer signs of violence, ugliness and impurity.

Today let us look at what the Bab has to say about purity in the last
section of the Persian Bayan translated into English. The Bab begins
by underlining the central importance of this process,

"Know thou that in the Bayan purification is regarded as the most
acceptable means for attaining nearness unto God and as the most
meritorious of all deeds." (Bab, Selections, 98)

In terms of this world, purification tends to be seen as a negative,
but the reality is quite the reverse. In religion the story is
prototypical, always the same. The Manifestation is reviled and
persecuted viciously in His lifetime but after generations His Truth
wins out.

Even the eyes and nerves of the body depend upon purification. I read
recently that most of the substantial amount of energy the body
invests in perception and reflex reactions is used up in cleaning and
resetting the tubes and synapses of nerves and neurons. Without
continual chemical purging of the synapses we would never feel more
than one sensation or see more than one image. Thus our very mind and
perception depend from one moment to the next upon assiduous
biochemical purification.

In every area of human endeavor the toughest jobs are always the real
cleanup jobs. Try to clean up language and you make yourself into
either a prude or a tyrannical censor. Try to keep a clean household
and you are an anal, unimaginative drudge. Try to keep your thoughts
free from commercials and bought thoughts and you are out of touch,
yesterday's child. Try cleaning up governance and you make a thousand
well placed enemies.

Yet purification must be done, in politics most urgently of all.
Reformers in Finland, Europe's most spectacular high-tech success
story in the past decade or two, were reviled for distributing money
to the most effective high technology ventures based solely upon
anticipated need, rather than patronage or influence. But because they
stood fast and ignored the pressure to butter the palms of well placed
persons and did only what had to be done, that nation has shot ahead
of its neighbors and is now ranked as the most productive economy in
the world.

The Bab continues, touching upon every area that has to be cleaned,
starting from perception of externals, proceeding inward and ending in
daily deeds,

"Thus purge thou thine ear that thou mayest hear no mention besides
God, and purge thine eye that it behold naught except God, and thy
conscience that it perceive naught other than God, and thy tongue that
it proclaim nothing but God, and thy hand to write naught but the
words of God, and thy knowledge that it comprehend naught except God,
and thy heart that it entertain no wish save God, and in like manner
purge all thine acts and thy pursuits that thou mayest be nurtured in
the paradise of pure love, and perchance mayest attain the presence of
Him Whom God shall make manifest, adorned with a purity which He
highly cherisheth, and be sanctified from whosoever hath turned away
from Him and doth not support Him. Thus shalt thou manifest a purity
that shall profit thee." (Ib.)

So the Bab is saying that what is past is prologue; our lives and
struggles in life are nothing but washing up in order to enter clean
and clear into the presence of the Manifest One, where we hope to be
"nurtured in the paradise of pure love." We will never be worthy to be
in that Presence, but to be pure is to be as He created us, and that
has to be acceptable, we hope.

This paragraph of the Bab summons up in my mind a wonderful, panoramic
vision of the media soon to be invented. Only in the past year or so
is this a possibility, with the development of the Internet's new
"blogosphere" and audio-on-demand and video-on-demand capabilities.
Thus, the Bab asserts that the only profitable purity is: purged
hearing (audio), a purged eye (video), purged speech (universal
participation in personal blogging), purged conscience (the
self-censor of daily personal assessment), purged writing (open,
dynamic, hypertext "Wiki" texts), and purged knowledge (college papers
are already being reliably marked by intelligent computer programs),
as well as purged wishes and purged acts, all of which will be
conditioned by purification of minds running, rather than being
exploited by, the electronic media. If we put purification first, the
new media-on-demand holds wonderful promise.

But before this great purging of the human mind, individually and
together, can come to full fruition we must pay attention to the
Master's advice at the beginning of this essay, that we have a moral
duty to purge the grossest blocks to the totality of human happiness
first. Otherwise our cleaning efforts will be as futile as dusting the
knickknacks in a house being overwhelmed by a flood. The remaining
essays in this series will be concerned with how we might go about
this Most Great Purification of the gross obstacles to human

John Taylor

Friday, August 05, 2005

God's Rights, II

Standing Up for God's Rights, II (Part of Series on Happiness)

By John Taylor; 4 August, 2005

Yesterday we brushed on the teaching of the Bab that joy and purity
are allied and inextricable. The law of Huqquq, God's right, is
designed to turn wealth into a means for unalloyed joy by acting as
machinery for squeaky clean money. We noted Paul's caution that wealth
is dirty, infectious, and any love in the heart for it he calls the
"root of all evil." Like any filthy object, money must be clean and
antiseptic in order to be safely handled. The Bab makes it clear that
it is not money itself that we launder but the heart of its owner,

"Nor is there any wealth save in poverty in all save God and sanctity
from aught else but Him -- a state that can be realized only when
demonstrated towards Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation." (The
Bab, Selections, 89)

Once this huge caveat is behind us, there is no need to dichotomize
worldly riches and spiritual wealth. To a pure heart money and means
are light upon light and only good can come of their increase. In
evidence of this we concluded yesterday with this important citation
from the Qu'ran,

"And seek by means of what Allah has given you the future abode, and
do not neglect your portion of this world, and do good (to others) as
Allah has done good to you, and do not seek to make mischief in the
land, surely Allah does not love the mischief-makers." (28:77, Shakir)

The Qu'ran keynotes here several important aspects of God's right.
First, when it says, "do not neglect your portion of this world..." it
seems to imply a new moral obligation not only to run your household
well but to see that personal fortunes increase. Closely allied is the
use of the surplus for charitable ends, as a way to seek the "future
abode" after death. At the same time, such charity is not to be done
out of goody-goody hoity-toity motives but of run of the mill
reciprocity; God did good to us by providing the means and we pay back
the favor by performing good acts to our fellow man. Baha'i law
prescribes doing this specifically (among other things) by paying
Huqquq, 19 percent of capital worth, in regular payments. This money
is then dispersed by the trustee for general charitable ends.

Also notable from this verse of the Qu'ran is a warning not to use
money to work "mischief in the land," which seems equivalent to what
Paul called the "root of all evil." Clearly, there could be no social
ills and vices if funding for "mischief," everything from organized
crime to terrorism to gambling, were ever to dry up completely. But
that kind of a voluntary shift in spending would require purification
of hearts on a massive scale.

This is why I think that it is highly significant that the Huqquq is
structured as it is; this is surely the first tax in history not to be
imposed by a government or other higher authority but one completely
self-supervised by the payee. As the Kitab-i-Aqdas says, the payment
is to be made as a purely reciprocal leap of faith, an act of complete
trust for one's Creator:

"O people! Deal not faithlessly with the Right of God, nor, without
His leave, make free with its disposal. ... He who dealeth faithlessly
with God shall in justice meet with faithlessness himself; he,
however, who acteth in accordance with God's bidding shall receive a
blessing from the heaven of the bounty of his Lord, the Gracious, the
Bestower, the Generous, the Ancient of Days." (Kitab-i-Aqdas, para 97,
p. 55)

This makes the earlier Qu'ranic admonition into a concrete law, a
responsibility to pay out a percentage of the worth of a household as
a trustee of God's civil rights. As one Huqquq trustee, Dr. Iraj
Ayman, emphasizes in the title of his article, "Every Baha'i is a
trustee of the Right of God," (Baha'i Canada, Asma 161, p. 14), this
passage of the Aqdas in effect makes every Baha'i a trustee of the
Huqquq. To act as divine trustee is a very heavy demand on every
individual, one with utterly no precedent in history. Think of what it
involves, going over every possession and putting fair value on it,
not just once but at regular intervals. This is a difficult accounting
task that is normally only done by institutions. And consider when the
law was instituted, in an age when double entry bookkeeping had barely
been invented. Only now with computers and the internet can an
individual hope to keep a running tally of net worth and make anything
like reliably accurate payments.

John Taylor

Thursday, August 04, 2005

God's Right

Standing Up for God's Right (Sweet Spot of Happiness Series)

By John Taylor; 4 August, 2005

In this series we have been exploring the bases of happiness, one of
the most important of which is some sense of sound financial security.
Baha'u'llah in the Most Holy Book addresses this aspect of life when
He institutes the Huqququ'llah, a nineteen percent levy on the growth
of one's net worth. The wisdom of this law is writ so large, He says,
that it can never fully unfold in this world. Its mystery will be
clear only in a future life. He says,

"He, verily, hath willed for you that which is yet beyond your
knowledge, but which shall be known to you when, after this fleeting
life, your souls soar heavenwards and the trappings of your earthly
joys are folded up. Thus admonisheth you He in Whose possession is the
Guarded Tablet." (Kitab-i-Aqdas, para 97, p. 55)

Note that He does not say "trappings of your earthly effects,"
tallying up of mere goods and chattels. He talks instead about the
trappings of "earthly joys." These trappings include more than mere
physical possessions. Earthly joys are your jollies, what thrilled
you, the myriad little pleasures that you not only felt but felt and
then sought after more of them. Earthly joys include not only actual
pleasures of this fleeting life but also potential ones, the many more
happy-happy-joy-joys that we missed, that we sacrificed in order to
grow and increase our net worth. These joys are all those lovely sunny
days at the beach that we miss as we slave away in the office or
factory. These joys are the motivators that will never carry a price
tag and therefore that nobody can estimate, much less tax. No, not
even God can tax them, at least not in this life. Instead, there is
the Huqquq.

For interestingly, the Huqquq is built upon one big assumption, that
we actually increase our wealth. It is quite possible to gain bigger
joys, greater pleasures by avoiding Huqquq completely and coasting
through. One can always put one's career on hold, struggle for just
enough wealth to survive and then quit, sit back and relax. I think is
safe to say that everything being equal most people, even those who
live outside tropical climes, would gladly enjoy a life of leisure
without a worry for tomorrow, given that choice. This is why, I think,
Baha'u'llah talks about the purification of money. Earlier in the same
paragraph of the Aqdas He says,

"Say: By this means [Huqquq] He hath desired to purify what ye possess
and to enable you to draw nigh unto such stations as none can
comprehend save those whom God hath willed. He, in truth, is the
Beneficent, the Gracious, the Bountiful."

Purity of ownership, then, is the goal of the Right of God. This goal
has a further purpose, to allow the proprietor to attain to a series
of mystic stations that only a blessed few can grasp. For want of a
better term, we can call them "super-proprietary stations." So again,
He makes it very clear that the Huqquq is a money purifier, and that
purity is only way to attain to super-proprietorship. Only by shucking
off, by cleaning and purification of money, possessions and joys can
we enter into these ineffable conditions. The Bab, in the Persian
Bayan (V, 14) defines purity as something intimately linked to "joy
and radiance,"

"God loveth those who are pure. Naught in the Bayan and in the sight
of God is more loved than purity and immaculate cleanliness.... God
desireth not to see, in the Dispensation of the Bayan, any soul
deprived of joy and radiance. He indeed desireth that under all
conditions, all may be adorned with such purity, both inwardly and
outwardly, that no repugnance may be caused even to themselves, how
much less unto others." (The Bab, Selections, 80)

Purity, they say, is part of godliness, but here we learn that
godliness is whatever is loved of God, whatever He finds desirable. In
human terms, it is a special purity defined by whatever we deem to be
clean and attractive, as that which leads to "joy and radiance" in our
heart. Conversely, impurity is what causes repugnance in oneself and
in others. A recent study sheds light on this definition of purity.
Researchers showed various close-up photos of different ugly and
repulsive objects to representative viewers. Invariably the most
disgusting were deemed to be the images of infections and sepsis, that
is, dangerously contagious substances.

In this sense, money too can be deemed infectious and dangerous to
happiness and joy, if it is not handled with proper precautions. Most
famously, long before the Huqquq was instituted, Paul warned,

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some
coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves
through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things;
and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience,
meekness." (1 Timothy 6:10-11, KJV)

In the course of history we know that this warning was a blank cheque,
as it were, against money. It led to ascetic and monastic movements
designed to remove completely from the economic equation all who
aspired after spirituality. Nonetheless, Paul was substantially
correct, immoderate love of money is the root of the insatiable evil
in the world today. To it traces the repulsive infection of industrial
pollution, our senseless struggle for blind progress and endless
growth at the cost of the natural environment. Instead of an
instrument of purity, commercial endeavor is an instrument of
destruction. A vision of spirituality mixed into commercial endeavor
aiming at moderate growth is inculcated in the Qu'ran,

"And seek by means of what Allah has given you the future abode, and
do not neglect your portion of this world, and do good (to others) as
Allah has done good to you, and do not seek to make mischief in the
land, surely Allah does not love the mischief-makers." (Q28:77,

Our theme is not ended; we shall continue it presently.

John Taylor

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Gazpacho Boy Earns His Moniker

By John Taylor; 2 August, 2005

This week is hectic. I have to drive Silvie in the morning to and at 4
PM back home from her day camp at a horse farm, which cuts a swath
through my writing time. The first day, Monday, Marie, Thomas and I
had to drive to Hamilton help my Aunt Marguerite in her move from an
apartment to a retirement home. Then yesterday during my writing time
I finished off a surprisingly time consuming operation with my bike,
replacing the straight set of mountain bike handlebars with a curved
beach bike set. But at least I can ride my bike again now, and get my
favorite exercise going again.

Last week I crossed over a thousand mental barriers and made up a
batch of gazpacho soup. Last year I wrote about this soup, which a
researcher used to find out what would happen if somebody actually
followed the advice of dieticians to have 10 to 12 portions of veggies
each day. In order to work it into anybody and everybody's lifestyle,
no matter how busy, this researcher saw to it that they took a one
glass of this cold soup each day. The results were predictable, after
two weeks of a glass of gazpacho every day, much better blood
pressure, cholesterol, etc. Best of all, using a blender, this soup is
very quick and easy to make. I was so enthralled by this idea that I
wrote an essay called "Gazpacho Guy," but for some reason could not
get myself to follow Bill Sears' advice and get a "round toit."
Meanwhile, this summer I have virtually eliminated migraine attacks
simply by never letting myself get even slightly dehydrated. But I am
still annoyingly listless and tired all the time.

So I thought, I must start this two week gazpacho plan, no matter
what. It is simple, easy, what more could I want? I had some kind of a
mental block and never actually did it. Instead, I collected gazpacho
recipes. I now have a pile of them, all stuck into a "light and
healthy recipes" book. Marie found one that had fallen out onto the
ground and stuck it on the fridge; that is what saved me. I could not
file this one away, and every time I entered the kitchen, there it
was. But still, for a long time nothing was enough.

Then I was surfing the net using the keywords "Baha'i" and
"powerpoint" and I stumbled over this powerpoint presentation by a
doctor who back in 2000 presented to the Baha'i Medical Association a
talk about the Baha'i concept of a healthy diet. He combines the
latest findings about diet and compares them to citations from the
Master writings. There is something compelling about seeing a quote
isolated, as in such a presentation. Over and over the Master was, as
it were, shouting at me: if something tastes good, it has got to be
good for you. If a food tastes bad, how can it be good for you? That
got me wondering, how does this gazpacho actually taste? If it is so
good for you, you would think that it would taste particularly good,
according to what `Abdu'l-Baha is reported as telling us.

My curiosity tweaked, I finally buckled down and plunked the
ingredients in the blender, chilled the unappetizing looking mix in
the fridge for an hour or so. No wonder so many of these recipes
insist on surrounding it with garnishes like croutons or parsley! When
the mix was finally cold, I summoned up my courage and actually,
finally, courageously, tasted the storied gazpacho soup. It was like a
religious experience. It was unbelievably tasty. I could not believe
anything could taste that good. When I heard first what the master
said about good food tasting good, I thought of donuts, the perfect
mix of fat and sugar, very tasty to one and all, but a nutritionist's
nightmare. This taste, though, was more than good, it was naturally
good. I will have to try it, taste a bite of donut, artificially good
taste, and a mouthful of gazpacho, naturally good tasting.

Okay, I was primed for this taste, psychologically. But hey, I
thought, why should it not be a religious experience? I have prayed
for something to cure my chronic health problems for so many years
that I must be completely spiritually primed as well for something,
anything that might help. Suffice to say, gazpacho tastes good enough.
I resolved to take a glass of this stuff with every meal for two
weeks, then I will back it off to once a day, forever. I need it,
believe me, in this summer heat.

John Taylor

Monday, August 01, 2005


Learning to be Learned; Protection and Propagation of the Kingdom

By John Taylor; 31 July, 2005

Our world is bogged down in power struggles. What should be exalted as
sacred is politicized instead. As Jesus warned, one should not cast
pearls before swine, that is, fight over what we do not and often
never will understand completely. Baha'u'llah's Order offers hope to
the pearl merchant, for it frees the learned from contending for
wealth and power, and humankind from the tyranny of struggle for mere
survival. The learned in His Commonweal are angels of the mind,
answerers of this prayer in the "Great Announcement" to Humanity:

"God grant that the light of unity may envelope the whole earth and
that the seal `the kingdom is God's' may be stamped on the brow of all
its peoples." (Gleanings, 11; Proclamation, 112)

This I call the "first principle prayer," for it contains within it
each and all of the Baha'i principles. Every social principle starts
and ends here, for ultimately both personal and social are not our
attributes but God's. The growing, propagational role of knowledge is
here, the "light of unity," and the protective principle too, the
realization that all things are property of God, and of God alone.
When that is stamped on our brow, there will be no question of staking
a claim on anything.

If we had nothing else but this prayer and if mind and heart were
absolutely pure, I am certain that we could deduce from it all of the
Baha'i principles on our own; however, since minds and personalities
vary and hearts are not totally pristine we must depend upon the
entire body of the Writings. The more we learn from them the more
intimately we realize our dependence upon God and how sacred all real
things really are. Here is an example, from Baha'u'llah's monumental
"Prayers and Meditations,"

"How bewildering to me, insignificant as I am, is the attempt to
fathom the sacred depths of Thy knowledge! How futile my efforts to
visualize the magnitude of the power inherent in Thine handiwork --
the revelation of Thy creative power! How can mine eye, which hath no
faculty to perceive itself, claim to have discerned Thine Essence, and
how can mine heart, already powerless to apprehend the significance of
its own potentialities, pretend to have comprehended Thy nature? How
can I claim to have known Thee, when the entire creation is bewildered
by Thy mystery, and how can I confess not to have known Thee, when,
lo, the whole universe proclaimeth Thy Presence and testifieth to Thy
truth?" (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, 63)

This stance on the part of the first teacher of philosophy was called
Socratic Ignorance, but humility is equally characteristic of the
guardians and protectors of knowledge, for that is the difference
between the concern for one another of brotherhood and Big Brother.
There are no exceptions. The spiritually learned are those who best
realize that they are most helpless of all,

"The learned have, without exception, admitted their ignorance when
confronted with the radiance of the Luminary of Thy knowledge..."
(Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations, 281)

Lest this ever be forgotten, we have the precedent of all history to
look back on, for it was the officially learned in every age who
rejected true authority and caused the suffering of the Manifestation.
The story of their folly and cruelty is, as we learned here from the
Writings of the Bab lately, the most shameful story ever told. But
even in the delusion of most learned doctors of the past, there is a
hidden wisdom.

"What unspeakable cruelties they that have occupied the seats of
authority and learning have inflicted upon the true Monarchs of the
world, those Gems of divine virtue! Content with a transitory
dominion, they have deprived themselves of an everlasting sovereignty
... By their sanction and authority, every Prophet of God hath drunk
from the chalice of sacrifice, and winged His flight unto the heights
of glory." (Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Iqan, 15)

The learned in this Cause no longer have unfettered authority to
interpret or to make independent rulings; only the Guardianship can
authoritatively do the former and the House of Justice the latter. But
Baha'u'llah has not ejected the learned completely. Out of His bounty,
God has removed all that shame from their shoulders for the past
transgression of denial. A great bounty, not to be forgotten. But now
the learned must act only through loving influence rather than
compulsion and power; they are brothers and sisters, temporary guides
pointing to clear guideposts unto the Kingdom.

I think of their new form of service as not unlike what in earlier
religious systems was called guardian angels. What a guardian angel
tells you may not come straight from God. It is flawed, but only a
fool would lightly ignore it. Indeed, let us never forget that despite
all this, Baha'u'llah has not distained to confer upon what He calls
His servants a sure authority. This authority is not exclusive to the
learned but applies to anyone acting in the capacity of servant of
God, the highest human station attainable.

"Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is
My face; be then abashed before Me." (AHW 30)

Abashed means embarrassed, shamed, being aware that one is acting
beneath what one could and should be. Thus if one of His servants as a
teacher, or a parent, or a police officer, or in any other capacity
sincerely asks me to do something, I am going to obey, for Baha'u'llah
is closely identified with that authority. For Baha'u'llah has removed
the shame from the learned and from those with authority, but not from
those who fail duly to respect authority. In conformity with search
for truth, we obey the true servant not abjectly but out of a sense of
our own dignity, never because we are forced or obligated to do so.
For the truth makes us ever aware that the learned servant is there to
lead us down His garden path. She keeps us from wandering off the path
and harming the flowers of His garden.

The learned are now servants like you and me, only more so. They know
the most important thing knowable, their own ignorance. That awareness
is the essence of philosophy. Their mandate and ours is to come to
understand the underlying purpose of all Holy Writ and all religious
traditions, to establish that we are all one in the One. All is His
property, comes of Him, and returns to Him. This is why I think that
the first principle prayer and its seal, "the kingdom is God's" prayer
is so wonderful. For here Baha'u'llah gives us and the learned an
understanding of what is the goal of learning in all times and ages:

"If any man were to meditate on that which the Scriptures, sent down
from the heaven of God's holy Will, have revealed, he would readily
recognize that their purpose is that all men shall be regarded as one
soul, so that the seal bearing the words 'The Kingdom shall be God's'
may be stamped on every heart, and the light of Divine bounty, of
grace, and mercy may envelop all mankind." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets, 162,

This awareness is precisely what the Lord's prayer both begs and
predicts, "Thy kingdom come on earth as in heaven," "Thine is the
kingdom, the power and the glory..." This is the pearl of knowledge,
the consummation of the Long Obligatory Prayer, testifying to what all
real things agree upon and assert: "The kingdoms of earth and heaven
are Thine, O Lord of the Worlds!"

John Taylor