At the Plaza
Abdu'l-Baha at the Plaza
By John Taylor; 2010 March 28, Ala' 08, 166 BE
A week or so ago I was watching a new DVD called "Bride Wars," about two girlfriends who grow up dreaming of a wedding at the Plaza Hotel in New York. They end up fighting over the coveted reservation at the Plaza of their respective weddings. In the end they reconcile in the middle of a fistfight in the Plaza ballroom. A sort of chick buddy flick, starring the decorative Anne Hathaway. I found out from the Plaza Hotel website that it is the same Plaza Hotel where dozens of other films have been set, including Disney's Eloise series, which is about a little girl who lives in the hotel permanently.
As I was watching Bride Wars, I began to wonder if this is the same Plaza Hotel where 'Abdu'l-Baha stayed. If so, it would certainly change the flavour of this and several other movies for me. As far as I have been able to determine, it is not the same one. There is evidently another Plaza Hotel in Chicago, and that is where 'Abdu'l-Baha definitely stayed. Promulgation calls it the "Hotel Plaza" whether the two Plazas are affiliated, and whether the Master stayed in the New York Plaza Hotel and just did not give any talks there, I have no idea. Maybe some resident New Yorkers can enlighten us about that. Maybe some resident Chicagoans can enlighten us about any movies that are set in the Chicago Plaza, assuming that it is still standing.
Anyway, I did uncover some information about the Master's stay in the Chicago Plaza.
We know that, because of the presence and activity of the covenant breakers, the Master was not at His happiest in Chicago. This seems to have been behind the following reaction to the luxury of the Plaza, one which He does not seem to have had in the other major Western capitals.
"One day 'Abdu'l-Baha was invited to the Hotel Plaza. He chose to sit in one of the smallest rooms and declined to inspect the palatial rooms of the hotel. He told the members of His retinue that whenever He encountered magnificent buildings and enchanting scenery He was immediately reminded of the dark pit of Tihran and the desolate barracks of 'Akka, of the sufferings of Baha'u'llah. He was then overcome by sorrow and had no heart for sightseeing." (H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu'l-Baha - The Centre of the Covenant, p. 226)
It was at the Chicago Plaza that the Master gave one of His most oft-cited talks about consultation. Here He said, in part,
"In this Cause consultation is of vital importance, but spiritual conference and not the mere voicing of personal views is intended." (2 May 1912, Promulgation, 72-74)
I look at that sentence and wonder about our democracies. How often we spew our opinions at one another like upchuck and think that we have accomplished something! No, that only spreads revulsion and disease. What makes the democratic process holy and good is not the mere fact that the people express themselves but their ability, given of God, to go beyond, to open up in love, to melt hearts into one and become of one opinion, e pluribus unum.
That is spiritual conference.
Here is some more interesting information that turned up about the visit to the Plaza.
Honore J. Jaxon wrote a report that started off:
"During 'Abdu'l-Baha's stay in Chicago at the Plaza Hotel, it became a matter of frequent occurrence for him to take a morning or evening stroll in Lincoln Park that magnificent pleasance where lawns and woods extend northward from the hotel for several miles along the shore of Lake Michigan..."
-from Star of the West, Vol. 3, No. 4, p. 27
Marzieh Gail writes:
"Just before leaving for the West Coast -- John [Bosch] did not give me the date; I assume it was May 2, a day when the Master had delivered five public addresses -- he was paying his hotel bill at the Plaza when 'Abdu'l-Baha came in.
'One of the Persians in His party called to me. The man at the desk said, "Those people want you." I stepped over to the elevator, and 'Abdu'l-Baha seized my hand and wouldn't let go, and pulled me into the elevator and up to His room on the fifth floor.'
Nobody was there except Dr. Baghdadi. 'Abdu'l-Baha did not speak until they were in the room. Then he went to His bed, lay down, and began talking with Baghdadi; He told how He had addressed four hundred women, and described how the ladies looked. The Master had found them terribly funny; with keen enjoyment, He described them to John and the Doctor.
Anyone who remembers the ladies of 1912, not as Hollywood films them but as they were, mostly plain and dumpy, with stiff skirts, jutting bosoms, 'rats,' (these were hair pads with tapering ends) and to crown all, hats that were wedding cakes and nesting birds, knows. Then He said, 'Now it's time for you to go.' Somebody had given Him a big cake. He put that in John's arms, with apples and bananas, so many that John had to get somebody else to push the elevator button, and John left."
(Marzieh Gail, Dawn Over Mount Hira, p. 210)