PIONEERING OVER 4 EPOCHS

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INTRODUCTION

 

A leopard adorns the opening of this last, this old, edition, of my website.  It is not the same leopard as the one at my new website, a website created in 2011.  Still,  the leopard, old or new, is an opportunistic, single and versatile hunter and often used in heraldry and on coats of arms. My use of it here is largely accidental. When my son, Daniel,  and I were creating this second edition of my website in 2001 this photo was available and we stuck it in to provide a visual stimulus.  I have kept it here a decade later as part of the introduction to this old website. 

What follows is a collection of writings from a quite solitary person or, should I say, a person who has become more solitary with age, in his late adulthood, the years from 60 to 80 as some human development psychologists call these years in the lifespan.  I have  developed what I like to think is at least partly a versatile and opportunistic writing style and content.  Like the leopard, too, I eat meat but, unlike the leopard, I do not climb trees, at least not any more. The leopard and I also part company in that I write poetry and prose. The leopard, then, at the top lefthand corner of this access page to my old website has proved, in a somewhat serendipitous fashion, to be an appropriate opening image.

I feel I must apologize at the outset for the lack of a friendly website layout. User-friendliness is crucial on the internet as it is in many other of life’s mise en scenes, to use a French expression that is often seen in English.  This site lacks the cyberspace friendliness required for readers, or so I have been informed by some.  There is no navigation-chart on the top of this home page, this access page, to tell readers what can be found at this site.  In addition this home/access page is very wordy for many a modern reader who prefers pictures, photos, visual inserts of various kinds some of which move and some of which are accompanied by sound-sequences, short spurts of print or even no print at all. The colours of the many fonts at this site also need to be toned-down a bit to prevent readers from the occasional semi-blinding colour. So I have been told. It is for these reasons, among others that in 2011 a new personal website came online for readers with an interest in my site contents.

It would also be useful, or so I have been informed on more than one occasion, if this home page contained an outline of what is on my site--and it does--but only after many pages of reading, of scrolling down—near the very bottom of this access page.  I have been advised to condense the content of this home page and add that navigation chart right at the top, as I have mentioned.  Others who have come to my site and left have later advised me, in an email or in a response at some internet site, to place my introduction on a separate page linked to this home page. The links at the very bottom of this home page need fixing, adjusting and having their colours altered among other changes. And so it is that....

I have received much advice in relation to making improvements to this site.  Of course receiving advice is nothing new. I have been receiving advice for nearly seventy years as I go about editing this introduction with my new website about to go online.  Receiving advice is part of living like air, water, food and a wide range of essentials that come one’s way out of necessity, sometimes asked and sometimes unasked.  I have also given much advice; life consists of giving and receiving of advice much of which acts as a weight for the recipients, especially if they are unable or don’t want to implement it.  Sadly, I have no web design skills and, after trying to get help from other sources and being a bit slow on the technical-mechanical side of life or, perhaps, just lacking in persistence--or both--I have left this site as it is—with this opening apology to cover all these idiosyncrasies, site weaknesses and personal deficiencies.  My new website should, I hope, overcome all of these deficiencies to aid readers as they chart their way through whatever labyrinths they find at my site.

Readers will find here a large body of poetry and prose spread over some 1800 pages and 450,000 words. At 300 pages and 75,000 words as one of the definitions of a book, this gives readers here the equivalent of six books.  This material was written either from my home in George Town in northeast Tasmania from 1999 to 2008 or while living in Belmont, a suburb of metropolitan Perth in Western Australia from 1995 to 1999 in my final years as a full-time teacher, lecturer and member of a large Baha’i community.  What I have written in and after 2009 will be found, at least some of it, at my new website. 

After being exposed to poetry from my conception in October 1943 by a mother imbued with poetry’s influences; after writing only occasional poems for thirty years, 1961 to 1991; after teaching in primary, secondary and post-secondary schools during the twenty-five year period, 1967 to 1992; after thirty years of periodic episodes of bipolar disorder, 1963 to 1993; after receiving various treatments for that disorder and achieving total compliance with my 1980 treatment by 1991; after going as far as I could go and wanted to go in my professional work as a teacher and my academic study as a student by 1993; after 40 years of association(1953-1993) with a Movement which claimed to be the emerging world religion on the planet; indeed, after a range of other experiences that readers can find described in my 2600 page memoirs(1)---I began to write poetry more seriously and extensively in that Holy Year of May 1992 to May 1993, the year that commemorated the centenary of the ascension of Baha’u’llah. That year was "an auspicious juncture" in the history of this Faith as the Universal House of Justice described that twelve month period in its annual Ridvan message in April 1992.  And auspicious it was in a very personal sense; for in that year a poetic, a literary, efflorescence began, an efflorescence which has not ceased nearly twenty years later as I revise this introductory statement.

Largely through the assistance of my son Daniel who was then in the middle of his four year mechanical engineering degree at Curtin University, I acquired my first website in 1997.  I began to put my poetry on the site--poetry written, as I say above, in and after 1995.  I had been writing poetry for thirty-five years by 1997.  I also placed essays on my website.  I had been writing essays for academic institutions by then for thirty-five years: 1957 to 1992; I had been writing essays of varying lengths for publication in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and journals as early as 1964 in Ontario, 1972 in South Australia, 1976 in Victoria, 1979 in Tasmania, 1983 in the Northern Territory; and in 1988 while living in Western Australia.

After trying to write novels, science-fiction and books unsuccessfully for another twenty years for a popular as well as an academic market from 1983 to 2002, I published a book on the poetry of a Canadian, Roger White(2). A little of that book is found here as well.  Anyone wanting to read that book can download its entire 300 pages at: http://bahai-library.org/books/white.  After working on my memoirs or autobiography from 1984 to 2003, yet another twenty year block of time, I finally came up with an autobiographical context and style that I was happy with and readers can access some of this 2600 page, five volume work, at the bottom of this page.  They can also go to eBookMall or Lulu.com and download various parts of that work.  Also included in this 3rd edition of my web site are several essays, interviews, book reviews and an assortment of autobiographical and analytical material which I have included as introductions or embellishments to the forty-three categories of poetry and commentary listed below.  The list of these categories, as I say, can be seen below at the end of this access page or introduction.  There is an extended analysis of my poetry, my autobiography and my religion in many places on this website and at many others places on the internet which I will not list here for fear of prolixity.(3)

The overall intent in all of this writing is to provide a framework of understanding for a life, our lives, a religion and a society under the title: Pioneering Over Four Epochs.  This framework is not one that attempts to be sequential, comprehensive, set in some theoretical and intellectual setting for an academic world; nor is the framework I provide one that attempts to appeal to a popular, mass audience with light and humorous asides, with many a reference to the content of a populist print and electronic media which tends to occupy the agenda of millions throughout the planet.  In the world of publishing I am a small player in a burgeoning world of print, a small player in an immense ballpark. Fame, rank and name has not been my goal, although after writing something one likes to see it being read. Writing for me is the exercise of a talent that I enjoy within the context of a complex range of motivations that is part of my raison d’etre for writing. By the time I wrote this revised edition of this introduction in 2011, I had come to have literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of readers.   It had become impossible to count or even to estimate the number of readers after a decade(2001 to 2011) of extensive internet posting.  Such had come to be the reach, the outreach, of the internet if one was, like me, a person who posted a total of millions of words at over 6000 internet sites. Still, my fame and popularity was measured in nanoseconds and wealth in pennies. After a decade I had earned exactly $1.49 barely enough to buy a small chocolat-bar and far from enough to cover my costs of operating a computer and a website.

My poetry and prose is read, as I say, by many thousands of readers on the internet but, as yet, none of my prose-poetry is published in a hard cover. Also, in spite of having more readers than I ever could have imagined even as late as 2001 when the second edition of this website went online, any degree of wealth that I have accumulated is, as I also say, meagre in the extreme.   With fame diffused over literally thousands of websites in time frames measured in nanoseconds, my concerns for and interest in fame and wealth as well as their associated encomium and opprobrium remain moderate.  I am not troubled as so many are by fame’s mixed blessings.  Before I continue with this introduction on this access page let me cut-and-paste a summary of my internet work, a summary which conveys some of the context for how my extensive readership on the internet has come about since 2001.

MY TAPESTRY OF PROSE AND POETRY ON THE INTERNET

There are now, as this old website becomes an archive at my new website(in March 2011), at least several hundred thousand readers engaged in parts of my internet tapestry, my literary product, my creation, my immense pile of words across cyberspace--and hundreds of people with whom I correspond on occasion as a result. This amazing technical facility, the world wide web, has made this literary activity, reality, possible.  If my writing had been left in the hands of the traditional hard and soft cover publishers, where it had been without success when I was employed full time as a teacher, lecturer, adult educator and casual/volunteer teacher from 1981 to 2001, these results would never have been achieved.  Just as talkers like to have listeners, writers like to have readers and artists like to have geezers or, should I say, gazers.

I have been asked how this readership has come about, how I have come to have so many readers at my website and among the threads in the tapestry of writing I created across the world wide web.  Let me describe this tapestry of writing briefly, a tapestry which for millions of internet users is just another form of published writing in addition to the traditional forms.  This tapestry is one I have sewn in a loose-fitting warp and weft to put my product in as honorific and as succinct, a way as possible.   I could also describe this garment of words as a tapestry that I have thrown together into a chaotic jig-saw puzzle of writing that would take a publisher some months to locate all the pieces should that publisher want to collate my literary efforts into one epic work, one large jig-saw puzzle for sale in book shops.  This latter description of my literary opus, of course, is to put my wordsmith job, my wordy product, in a slightly pejorative way.  But, however I express the process and the product, the resulting content across the internet is now found at thousands of websites.  I have registered at: forums, message boards, discussion sites, blogs, locations for debate and the exchange of views. Some of the interchange at these sites is extensive; some is virtually non-existent and some is between these extremes.

This cornucopia of places on the world-wide-web contains sites to place: essays and articles, books and ebooks, poems and prose-poems, pieces of memoir and autobiography, items of a diary and journal, genres of work with new names for a new age.  The topics I write on and about range from: sport to entertainment, gardening to domestic and family life, poetry and literature to sociology and psychology, history and philosophy to society and culture, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  I have registered at this multitude of sites, placed my literary products there and engaged in discussions with thousands of people, little by little and day by day, one by one, a few at a time and often hundreds or even thousands at once.  Given the flexibility of the internet so much has become possible in the last dozen years or so, just as I began my own internet site in the late 1990s and just as I was finding the time to write due to becoming freed from the demands of a job and raising a family, of community responsibilities and the associated social activity.   Not having some 80 hours on average a week with these several responsibilities, I became by late 1999 and 2000 free at last to pleasantly occupy myself with writing and editing, poetizing and publishing, journalistic work and independent scholarship.  Thank God, Almighty, I was free at last.  I have come to enjoy the literary results of this internet work bit by bit, little by little, over the last decade, 2001 to 2011, without ever having to deal with publishers as I did for two decades without any success and, more importantly, without uttering or writing a word, without opening my mouth or sending out overtures to publishers. 

Indeed, after half a century(1951-2001) of an extensive verbal patter, from the deep and the meaningful to the practical and the essential, from the humorous and the serious to the trivial and the profound, from my middle childhood years to late middle age, I have been able to enjoy in these early years(60-66) of late adulthood(60 to 80) a more solitary style of life with much solitude, a style suited to my needs, wants and literary proclivities.  The last ten years of internet posting have been immensely rewarding. As I indicated above, when one talks one likes to be listened to and when one writes one likes to have readers.  Talking has moved to the periphery of my life and writing has come centre-stage.  It is almost impossible, though, to carry literary torches, literary flames, fires, sparks or burnt-out candles, tapers, embers or unlit lamps, lamps that went out long ago--as I do through internet crowds or in the traditional hard and soft-cover forms, without running into some difficulties.  My postings at some sites on the web singe the beards of readers and my own are burned, metaphorically, occasionally.  Such are the perils of dialogue, of apologetics, of writing, of posting, indeed, I might add, of living.  Much of writing, and dialogue in any field of thought,  derives from the experience each of us has of: (a) an intimate or not-so-intimate sharing of views in some serendipitous fashion or (b) what seems like a fundamental harmony or dissonance between what each of us thinks and what some other person thinks.

In some ways, the bridge of dialogue is immensely satisfying; in other ways the gulfs over the valleys of life are unbridgeable and not satisfying at all.  One often wishes after having engaged one’s mouth or one’s pen, that it would have been wiser not to be so engaged.  When this is the case at internet sites and when the site members or some of them are troubled by my posts, I usually bow out for I have not come to a site to engage in conflict, to espouse an aggressive proselytism but, rather, to stimulate thought and, as I say, share views.  For me, dissension and dissidence, is a moral and intellectual contradiction of the main object animating my writing, namely, the establishment of and the contribution to the unity of humankind.  The internet is an excellent place to have one’s writing soundly criticized or praised whether that writing is just a sentence or two, a casual remark or a paragraph, a page, a chapter or a book.   I always feel somewhat insulated from the feedback, however positive or negative it may be; I am able to be more detached from the views of others, as I go about the ongoing process of writing, since I never meet the person who espouses whatever views he or she may have of my work.  Unlike verbal interchange which is a very different medium of communication, written material on the internet can be chewed over, reflected upon, often altered and, when others respond, one can think for a few minutes, hours or days—or, indeed, never respond at all.  This not to say, of course, that dealing with criticism is always easy on the net.  I would like now to make some comments about incoming criticism after a decade of dealing with it in cyberspace and as I go about preparing the way for my new website.

THOUGHTS ON THE CRITICISM

OF MY WRITING

 

Preamble:

 

The first criticism of my writing, at least the criticism that I remember, was in 1950 when I was in grade one in the then small southern Ontario town of Burlington, a part of what is still called the Golden Triangle.  The town is and was jammed right at the left-hand end of Lake Ontario.  I’m sure I received criticism of my scribblings in the three years before 1950 in what was then my early childhood, criticism from my family members and playmates.  Perhaps criticism came my way as early as 1947 when I was three or four years old and showing colouring and printing to others, what were my first words and markings on paper.   But I have no memories of that incoming criticism, no memories until, as I say, 1950 or even 1951. That was 60 years ago: 1950/1 to 2010/11.

 

Early in this new, this third, millennium, in 2004 to be precise, I began to receive written criticism of my prose and poetry on the internet.  I had received criticism, mostly verbal, of my published writing from 1974 to 2004 during which time I was able to publish some 150 essays in newspapers and magazines, newsletters and in-house publications where I worked in several towns and cities in Australia.  Writing had become, by the 1970s, a more central focus to my life, much more central than it had ever been, although it had always been central in one way or another at least, as I say above, since about 1950.   When one is a student, as I had been from 1949 to 1970 in Canada, receiving criticism of what one writes is part of the core of the educational process.  Sometimes that criticism was fair and helpful; sometimes it was unkind and destructive.

 

Being on the receiving end of criticism in cyberspace has been, in some ways, just a continuation of that first half-century, 1950-2000, of comments by teachers and students, supervisors and the general public, on what I wrote.  The internet is full of lumpen bully-boys who prowl the blogosphere. There are the hysterical secularists who proliferate among that immense commentariat.  There are the dogmatic Islamists and Christian fundamentalists, among others, who want to impose their absolutes on others.   They try to inflict, or perhaps promote, their interpretation of the Quran or the Bible on the rest of the Muslim or Christian communities, respectively, and any other individuals and communities they come across. 

 

My experience on the internet, as I say, has just been a continuation of those decades of criticism, and of course praise, that I had already received.  “Writers,” as the famous American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald said so succinctly over dinner in the film entitled Last Call, “must get used to criticism.”  After decades of extensive writing in many places in the public domain, I must agree with this entre deux guerres[1] writer; indeed, criticism is part of the air that writers breath and especially, as I have come to find on the internet, writers who have lots of readers.  The praise, the encouragement, the very existence of readers keeps one going; the criticism helps to keep the ego manageable.

 

Literary tyrants, people who are going to tell you where and when, why and how you have gone wrong in no uncertain terms, without mincing their words or pulling any punches, without what you might call an etiquette of expression and tact, have always come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  One must learn to deal with them in one way or another as their criticisms come your way in the daily round.  There are many MOs, modus operandi, to use a term from the who-dun-its, for dealing with the harsh and not so harsh words of others.  Of course, it is not only writers who have to deal with critical tongues and words in many forms.  A vast literature now abounds on how to deal with this more difficult aspect of daily life.  Courses are mounted in educational and other service institutions to help us deal with this pervasive reality of everyday life in the micro and macro worlds which we all inhabit.

 

I discuss below in this nearly 5000 word essay, the reactions to criticism of two famous writers.  Their reactions throw light onto my own way of dealing with this inevitable reality of existence if one is, as I am, a writer and editor, a poet and publisher, a journalist and independent scholar, a man of words, a writer of belles-lettres, a person with belletrist concerns.  For many writers the term belles-lettres is used in the sense to identify literary works that do not fall easily into the major categories such as fiction, poetry or drama, but have a more aesthetic function or purpose.  Much of my writing has become, in the last twenty-five years, 1986 to 2011, a hybrid that does not easily and comfortably fit into the major categories of writing.  The essay and the book, the ebook and the poem, though, occupy central places, clear categories, in my literary life.

 

And so it is that, after sixty years of having to deal with the phenomenon of critical feedback of my written work, I pause here to reflect on the incoming criticism of what I have written and what I now write.  I pause and reflect on the experience of two other writers in the last century, writers of fame and much success at least in some quarters---if not in the popular and pervasive culture that surrounds the billions of inhabitants on this planet.  Writing, whether on the internet or elsewhere, is--like identity itself—always to some extent a performance and the product of a highly mediated set of cultural, material and institutional forces. There is a complex interplay in both writing and in life itself between the material environment, culture and genetics, between fantasy, wishes and goals as well as so much else.  This is not the place to pursue the origins of such literary complexity, mine or that of others.  What you might call the socio-historical and psycho-social forces behind the act of writing, though, need to be acknowledged, if not discussed in detail, when one deals with a subject like criticism.

 

LAURA RIDING

 

In 1936, right at the start of the Baha’i teaching Plan, a Plan in which I have been myself engaged in a host of ways for nearly sixty years, 1953 to 2011, the American poet Laura Riding(1901-1991) wrote to a correspondent: "I believe that misconceptions about oneself which one does not correct, but where it is possible to correct, act as a bad magic.” That bad magic has been at work on the reputation of Laura Riding for many years, for well over 70 years.

 

One of the criticisms levelled at Riding in her later life, or more accurately, simply a comment about Riding--and repeated recently by the renowned literary critic Dr. Helen Vendler--was that Riding "spent a great deal of time writing tenacious and extensive letters to anyone who, in her view, had misrepresented some aspect, no matter how minute, of her life or writing."[2]  Vendler, a leading American critic of poetry, found Riding "more than a little monomaniacal,” in relation to criticism of her work.  Despite advanced age and failing health, Riding continued her vigorous and valiant, one might even say, fanatical attempt to halt the spread of misconceptions about herself and her writing to the very end of her life. But the "bad magic" was too powerful to be overcome.  Incidentally, this view of criticism that Riding held, the view that it was “bad magic," was held by a woman who was also accused of being a witch and of exercising a literary witchcraft by some of her more zealous critics.

 

Why was Riding so scrupulous in her attempts to correct misconceptions of her life and writing no matter how minute?  It was, partly at least, because she recognized the importance of details to the understanding of human character. "The details of human nature are never a matter of infinitesimals," she wrote in an essay published in 1974.  "Every last component of the human course of things is a true fraction of the personal world, reflecting a little its general character."  She, like many other writers and non-writers it should be added, never welcome criticism. Some react to the slightest criticism like a cornered wildcat and others like a barking dog.

 

My approach to incoming criticism is more diverse than Riding’s, not as consistently intense and defensive, not as sensitive to infinitesimals, not like that wildcat or that barking dog.  Sometimes I ignore the comment; sometimes I am tenacious and write an extensive response; sometimes I write something brief and to the point. Sometimes I deal with the comment with some attempt at humour, sarcasm and wit, if I can locate these clever sorts of written repartee in my intellectual and sensory emporium. 

 

Punitive rebuttals abound on the internet, often laced with the F, the C, or the S words, invectives from the younger generations who have grown up with these words of abuse.  A much larger vocabulary of blasphemy and blame can now be found in the print and electronic media, more than in any previous generation of shall we say, the middle class at least in the modern history after the Great War ‘to end-all-wars.’   Sometimes taking umbrage at the use of these forms of vilification and vituperation in cyberspace is appropriate and sometimes it is not.  I certainly agree with Riding that one’s writing should not be judged by some infinitesimals, but it is difficult when one writes extensively in the public domain not to be judged by all sorts of things of which infinitesimals are but one of the many.  The only way to avoid criticism and to be totally safe is not to stick one’s head above the ground of cyberspace’s highly varied terrain and not to write as extensively as I do at sites all over the world-wide-web from history to hip-forums, and from science to psychology.

 

Riding, of course, did not have to deal with the world-wide-web.  Her’s was a more refined and elitist, academic and journalistic,  literary and scholarly world.  Her’s was a world I inhabited for many a year as both a student and teacher, as a lecturer and tutor.  I wrote more essays than I care now to count and I marked so many that, by the time I took an early retirement at the age of 55 in 1999, I can honestly say that I suffered from what I came to call print-glut. When one has to read more than 200 pages of student work every week and do this for years, mark it for spelling and grammar errors, for content and quality, one needs an energy and enthusiasm which tends, in the case of most teachers, to ware-them-down at the edges.  And this is to put the problem mildly.  I found I was just about ill with mental fatigue when I faced a large pile of papers or scripts as they are variously called and which required marking.  By the time I came to pull-the-plug and take a sea-change as it is called Downunder in the Antipodes my role as critic of the writing of students had lost all its oils and juices.  I was ready to be farmed-out, ready to go out to pasture, where marking was to be seen no more.

 

FEEDBACK FROM OTHERS ON THE INTERNET

 

After seven years from 2004 to 2011 of receiving, keeping and filing some of the written and critical feedback sent to me by readers on the internet, I must conclude that, thusfar, the negative feedback I have received has been useful in adjusting the nature of my posts.  The criticism I have received at a multitude of sites at which I post helps me to adjust my contributions to suit the administrators and moderators, the participants and interlocutors who fill the cyberspace places at these world-wide-web locations.  But this is not the case all the time. I have often been banned from sites, perhaps 1 per cent of the 6000+ sites at which I have registered.

 

Most of the feedback in these seven years that has been viewed in a negative light tends to see my posts as: too long, not appropriate, raising the hackles of some readers because they were seen as irrelevant, boring, inter alia.  I thought this personal statement here, this brief   overview, analysis and comment, would be a useful summary of both the incoming criticism I have received in the last six years and my views on that criticism.  The negative feedback was in the 10% range and 90% of my literary contributions, or posts as they are usually called in cyberspace, received various forms of appreciation.

 

Some people on the internet let you know, as I have already indicated above, and in no uncertain terms, what they think of your posts. Frankness, candour, invective, harsh criticism, indeed, criticism in virtually every conceivable form, can be found in the interstices of cyberspace, if one writes as much as I do at more than 6000 locations among the 260 million sites and 4.6 billion subjects, topics or items of information at last count, that are now in existence in that world of cyberspace.  In the last six years I have been on the receiving end of everything imaginable that someone can say negatively about someone’s writing and someone. 

 

This negative feedback has been, as I say, useful and I have tried to respond in ways that improve readers’ opinions of my work and, sometimes, of me.  Sometimes I am successful in these efforts of explanation and of self-justification, of defence and argument, of apologetics and apology, and sometimes I am not.  Such are the perils of extensive writing and human interaction; indeed, such are the perils of living unless one is a hermit and does one’s own plumbing and electrical work, never goes shopping and relies only on the products of one’s garden for food.

 

ISAIAH BERLIN AND IVAN TURGENEV

 

To draw now on a second writer and how he dealt with criticism, I introduce Sir Isaiah Berlin(1909-1997).  He was a leading  political philosopher and historian of ideas.  In a lecture he gave in 1970 on the Russian poet Ivan Turgenev, Berlin pointed out that this famous Russian writer altered, modified and tried to please everyone in some of his works.  As a result of this desire to please his critics, one of the characters in his books “suffered several transformations in successive drafts, up and down the moral scale, as this or that friend or consultant reported their impressions.”  Berlin went on to say, in that same lecture, that Turgenev was inflicted by intellectual wounds as a result of the criticism of his works by others, wounds that festered in varying degrees of intensity, depending of course on the nature of the criticism, for the rest of Turgenev’s life. 

 

Turgenev was attacked by writers and critics of many persuasions on the Left and the Right of the political spectrum in those days when these political demarcations had more clear and understandable characterizations.  This Russian novelist(1818-1883) possessed, Berlin noted, a capacity for depicting “the multiplicity of interpenetrating human perspectives that shade imperceptibly into each other, nuances of character and behaviour, motives and attitudes.”[3]  Turgenev, like Riding, could never bear the wounds he received from incoming criticism of his writing in silence.  He shook and shivered under the ceaseless criticisms to which he exposed himself, so Berlin informs us.

 

Pleasing others, of course, is important for any writer if he or she is to win a place of success among teachers, supervisors or those in the general public.  This is just as true on the world-wide-web.   But there is also, and without doubt for millions of internet participants, a new found freedom of expression that cyberspace provides.  Part of this freedom, at least for me, is due to the advantages and pleasures of age, of having survived into my late adulthood and am able to receive an old-age pension.   Now in the early evening of my life, these middle years(65 to 75) of late adulthood as some human development theorists refer to the period in the lifespan from 60 to 80, with jobs and employment positions far behind me, no one checks what I write before my offerings go into the bright lights and pixelated pages of cyberspace.  Perhaps having an editor to check what I write before it hits these bright lights would be an asset but, alas, no one is available so I must take my chances.

 

My own editing pen is kept busy, of course, and I can edit as much or as little as I desire.  Editing has never been one of my favorite activities and I tend to rush this part of the writing job, at least initially.  I then revise or alter, subtract or add, delete and generally edit in a multitude of ways as a result of incoming comments, both encomium and opprobrium.  Sometimes I make no changes at all to my initial internet post.  Sometimes, as is the case at some internet sites, I can keep making changes to the text of my writing month in and month out, year in and year out.

 

After my writing gets onto the world-wide-web: it is ignored, criticized, diagnosed, interpreted, subjected to hair-splittings and logic-choppings by readers and posters, moderators and administrators who inhabit the internet sites.  I am on the receiving end of invective and ignominy, negative appraisals and accusations of nefariousness. I am assailed with acrimony, berating and blame, blasphemy and bickering, castigation and censure, condemnation and contumely, denunciation and diatribe, epithet and obloquy, philippic and reproach, revilement and sarcasm, scurrility and tirade, tongue-lashing and vilification.  I am given more advice than I have received at home from those I love and who love me over a lifetime of seven decades. 

 

The criticism I received as a student and teacher in the last half of the twentieth century goes on in pithy paragraphs and sentences, phrases and single words at the several thousand internet sites where my millions of words are now published---to chose what seems to me to be an apt word for the nature and extent of my internet contributions, the places that my words occupy, in the many coloured and black-and-white pixelated pages, the public spaces in cyberspace.  I am viewed as tactless, insensitive, awfully boring and told where to get off, where to go, where to go for further writing courses to help me in my literary vocation and avocation. Sometimes I am told why I should discontinue the practice of writing entirely. 

 

I am also told what a wonderful inspiration my writing is.  Compliments and acclaim, flattery and praise, abound.  These words of encomium and opprobrium that I receive, as I say, are really not much different than; indeed, are much the same as, the words many other writers get when their words are found between hard and soft covers.  Even the writings of Shakespeare, the Bible and other major works in the western tradition get great buckets of criticism poured on them from the generations which have come on the scene since the post-world-war-2 years, those now 65 and under, to chose a convenient timeframe for most of those who offer to me their criticisms of my literary efforts and my opinions, my responses to what others write and the inevitable and myriad contentious issues that abound in cyberspace. 

 

Most of those, though, who have come to inhabit the parts of the WWW where I post are the Y-generation.  They were born between the mid-1970s to the first years of the 2000s.  These generation-Y people are today's teens, 20s and 30s, the millennial generation, the net generation.  Some say that the generation-X are those born between 1974 and 1980. The fine-tuning of these generational labels gets a bit complex.  The first generation who have grown-up with internet access, the years 1990 to 2010, have a wide range of personality constructs.   These people are sometimes called the Z-generation and I would require a separate statement to discuss in sufficient detail their internet, their personality, typologies.    There are, though, some generalities about the generations I deal with which are helpful in an analysis and description. These generalities may help a person deal with the individuals one comes across at internet sites as I do, but my comments on them will be brief. 

 

I could benefit, as I go along here, from the assistance of one, Rob Cowley, affectionately known in publishing circles back in the seventies and early eighties as “the Boston slasher.”  His editing was regarded in some circles as constructive and deeply sensitive.  If he could amputate several dozen pages, several thousand words, of my explorations on the net with minimal agony to my emotional equipment I’m sure readers would be the beneficiaries.  But, alas, I think Bob is dead.   I did find an editor, a copy-proofreader and friend who does not slash and burn but leaves one's soul quite intact as he wades through my labyrinthine passages, smooths them all out and excises undesirable elements.  But this editor is in the late evening of his life and, after editing several hundred pages of my writing, he has tired of the exercise and so I am left on my own.  Perhaps one day I may assume the role that Cowley exercised so well in his life in Boston as The Slasher.  But, in the meantime and without my editor friend, I advise readers not to hold their breath waiting for me to do what is a necessary edit.  I often edit the writing of others, but it is not an exercise I enjoy after having edited student work for more than three decades and my own writing for more than five.

 

My writing, my posting, on the net is not one based on what some critics call fluid identities.  I do not write in character or adopt different personas.  The person who writes and the person who eats breakfast is one and the same.  But, as many writers point out, their writing selves and their everyday selves are not the same in every sense.  There is a single personality in all of my internet, all of my writing and posting.  But there is also the social, the constructed, self, which sociologists sometimes call the socially constructed self.  People, both on and off the internet, assume a range of identities that are reasonably consistent with each other.  There are limits, though, to whatever flexibility, whatever multiple and decentered subjectivities we assume either the internet or in real life.  One can shape a self on the net as one can shape it in real life, but some do more shaping than others.[4]

 

THE PROCESS OF BAHÁ'Í REVIEW

and REVIEW BY OTHERS

 

After more than sixty years(1950-2011), then, of having my writing poured over by others; after more than forty-five years(1964-2011) of having my writing reviewed before its publication by Baha’i reviewing committees at national and local levels of Baha’i administration and its institutions and even by some individuals and groups at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa Israel; after trying to write in a way that would please various groups of people both within the Baha’i community and without by committees, colleagues, professors, tutors, students and teachers at a multitude of educational institutions---before my writing saw the light of day in some in-house publication or public newsletter, some magazine or journal, some newspaper or periodical, I have come to especially enjoy writing on the internet.

 

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Australia Inc, the nationally elected body by the Bahá'í community in Australia does not require writers like myself to have their writing reviewed before it goes onto the internet.  The Review Office of the NSA of the Baha’is of the USA has given me permission to post my works on the internet, although they have advised that review is necessary if I want to place any of my writings in book form, in a hard or soft cover, for general and public consumption. My five volume, 2600 page autobiography, has found many a place in whole or in part on the world-wide-web.  That same Review Office has reviewed this work, given me permission to place it on the internet but not between the covers of a book. There is much more I could add about the process of Baha’i review, but this short comment is sufficient for this discussion of the process of dealing with criticism.

 

DEALING WITH CRITICISM:

AN ANSWERING THEOLOGY

 

Critical scholarly comments on my work as well as criticism raised in public or private discussions of less scholarly material, should not necessarily be equated with hostility.  Questions and judgments, evaluations and critiques, are perfectly legitimate, indeed, necessary aspects of a person's search for an answer to an intellectual conundrum.  Paul Tillich, that great Protestant theologian of the 20th century, once expressed the view that dealing with criticism, a process sometimes called apologetics, was an "answering theology.”[5]  I have always been attracted to the founder of the Baha'i Faith's exhortations in discussion to "speak with words as mild as milk," with "the utmost leniency and forbearance."[6]  This form of dialogue, its obvious etiquette of expression and the acute exercise of judgment involved, is difficult for most people when their position is under attack from people who are more articulate, better read and better at arguing both their own position and the position of those with whom they are in dialogue in some critical exchange at some thread at a site on the internet. 

 

I am also aware that, in cases of rude or hostile attack, rebuttal with a harsher tone, that punitive rebuttal, may well be justified, although I prefer humour, irony and even gentle sarcasm rather than hostile written attack in any form.  Still, it does not help an apologist to belong to those "watchmen" whom the prophet Isaiah calls "dumb dogs that cannot bark."[7]  In its essence criticism is often just another form of confrontation, an act of revealing one's true colours, of hoisting the flag, of demonstrating the essential characteristics of one's faith, of one's thought, of one's emotional and intellectual stance in life.  “Dialogue should not mean self-denial,” wrote Hans Kung, arguably the greatest of contemporary Catholic apologists.[8] 

 

The standard of public discussion on controversial topics should be sensitive to what is said and how; it should be sensitive to manner, mode, style, tone and volume.  Tact is also essential.  Not everything that we know should always be disclosed; not everything that can be disclosed is timely or suited to the ears of the hearer to paraphrase closely one of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith’s more quoted passages. To putis His some of this question of tact, and this topic of personal revelations another way, we don't want all our dirty laundry out on our front lawn for all to see or our secrets blasted over the radio and TV.  Perhaps a moderate confessionalism is best here, if confession is required at all.  In today’s print and electronic media it seems unavoidable even if only modestly.  Much of internet dialogue, though, is far, far, below standards of even a reasonable modesty or literacy as posters “f,” “c” and “s” words abounding and making their way through discussions. 

 

Often the briefest of phraseology, a succinctness that approaches sheer nothingness, and an inarticulateness that has more in common with grunts and sighs as well as whimpers and whims is found at internet sites.  So often the language betrays a knowledge of basics deriving from the visual media and little reading.  The eye, as one writer put it recently in what I thought was a clever turn of phrase, is so often quicker than the mind.   Well, yes and no, I hasten to add on the complex subject of the print and electronic media. Perception and understanding based on the use of the print and electronic media is yet another too complex a subject to deal with here in even the briefest of ways.

 

Anyway, that's all for now. It's back to the seasonal winds of Tasmania, about 5 kms from the Bass Straight on the Tamar River.  The geography of place is so much simpler than that of the literary, intellectual, philosophical and religious geography that some readers on the internet who engage in complex and not-so-complex discussions are concerned with.  Even physical geography, though, has its complexities as those who take a serious interest in the topic of climate change and the worlds of biodiversity and related sciences are fast finding out.  Whom the gods would destroy they first make simple and simpler and simpler.  I look forward to a dialogue with someone, anyone who is inclined to respond to what I’m sure for some is this overly long post.  Here in far-off Tasmania--the last stop before Antarctica, if one wants to get there by some other route than by air or off the end of South America--your response will be gratefully received.-Ron Price, George Town, Tasmania, Australia.

 

Ron Price

Updated On:

27 February 2011

----------------------FOOTNOTES--------------------------------------

[1] The interwar years: 1919 to 1939

2 See Elizabeth Friedman’s response to: The White Goddess! from the November 18, 1993 issue of The New York Review of Books and Helen Vendler, “Laura (Riding) Jackson,” February 3, 1994.
3 Isaiah Berlin, (1) “Romanes Lecture 1970 on Turgenev: Fathers and Sons.;” and (2) “The Gentle Genius: Turgenev’s Letters selected, translated, and edited by A.V. Knowles
Scribner’s” in
The New York Review of Books, 2010. 
4 For an interesting examination of this theme readers are advised to google a developing literature on the subject. One good article by Esther Milne, “Dragging Her Dirt All Over the Net: Presence, Intimacy, Materiality,” in Transforming Cultures eJournal, Vol.2, No.2, December 2007.007,

5   Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, U. of Chicago, 1967, Vol.1, p. 6.

6   Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Haifa, 1978,  pp. 172-173.

7  The Bible, Isaiah, 56:10.

8 Quoted in Udo Schaefer’s, "Baha'i Apologetics," Baha'i Studies Review, Vol.10, 2001/2.

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Each writer, each poet, has their field of exploration in the world of the personal, the social, the intellectual or, indeed, any one or more of the myriad aspects of life. My gaze and exploration has a breadth, an ambit, a very wide range of topics and subjects that have become part of my study, my purview. The poet and the poem, the essay and the individual, the book and the society in which it exists are, from my point of view, inseparable, interdependent, interconnected in a host of logical as well as somewhat chaotic ways, many quite unknown to the writer. Each of these several dichotomies throws light on the other in a combination, a complex interaction pattern, that readers I hope will find a pleasurable juxtaposition if not frequently, at least occasionally. Such is my hope as I go about my writing and putting ideas onto my computer monitor and sometimes on paper.

Much of my poetry and prose can be found in the Baha'i World Centre Library in Haifa Israel several flights below the ground, below the International Teaching Centre in arguably the largest library in Israel. Some of this oeuvre, my literary opus of writing as it is sometimes called, can also be found in several Baha’i libraries in towns in Canada, Australia and England. To date I have written over six thousand five hundred poems and several million words. I have taken less and less interest in recent years in counting words or the number of poems, a necessary habit I got into as a student, then later as a teacher in the more than half a century I was in classrooms from 1949 to 2005 as well as a person in a society that measures so much of what one does in life by quantities, by statistics, my numerical entities. There are, perhaps, a hundred or so poems on this website but, again, who’s counting? Most of my poems have prose introductions. My poetry, it seems to me, is a sort of thinking out loud; it may be better to call my pieces prose-poems, what one writer-critic said was the most common form of poetry in the last 200 years.

I began writing for teachers and academics in the 1950s and 1960s to get my primary and secondary education and from 1963 to 1967 my university degree and teaching qualification. In 1967 I began, as a teacher, writing for my students and to pay my bills. In 1967 I began to teach Inuit children on Baffin Island. Writing and talking was how I had made my way in the world as a first as a child and adolescent and then in a long series of jobs and relationships. It was the way I made my way in life with time out for eating, sleeping, engaging in a variety of leisure activities, marriage and the family and a host of involvements in community and volunteer organizations. Writing and talking was the critical form of my modus operandi, my MO, as they say in the who-dun-its. It became the core of my survival package in this complex world. I came to realize this by degrees from my teens through my twenties, my years as a pre-youth and a youth, the years from, say, 15 to 30, 1959 to 1974.

As I indicated above, these skills have not made me either famous or rich, but they have helped me put a roof over my head and the heads of my wife and children. They have helped me pay the bills and get on to the next day. Such, in summary, appears to be at least part of the case, my case, my story, my life-narrative, after the passing of more than six decades writing for various publics.

This third edition(2003) of my website, the second(2001) and the first(1997)--all benefited from the help of my son, Daniel Price. This site, too, is part of a wider exercise of writing for a richly diverse public, a public I rarely if ever meet. After fifty years of a high sociability profile I do not mind leaving my writing for a public I do not meet. I meet the written word every day and that is my chief engagement. I have come to experience writing as a river, an ocean, a sea, of words and ideas from which I can dip into with relish as often as my body and brain keep me awake and with sufficient energy. Editing is an endless job and after a decade of making many additions, deletions and alterations to this website, I feel that in this third edition I have finally achieved a solid and consistent base of content which I can refine as the years go on. This is all I intend to do with this site in the years ahead: make the occasional alteration, deletion or addition. Any significant change will involve making a new website which, I trust, one day I will acquire. Some of the internet sites at which I have posted my writing and some of the blogs, diaries and journals, I have created at some of these sites amount, in various ways, to a series of my own websites, but this is a technical and tangential matter, indeed, partly a matter of definition as to what actually constitutes a personal website—and it is of little concern to me or readers here. The acquisition of a new website, a fourth edition, is not as pressing an issue as it once was on my personal writing and publishing-promotion agenda. With more people than I want to count with whom I correspond on occasion as a result--with literally millions of words now on the internet, quantities I have placed there since 2001--a concern for a personal, a revised, a more user-friendly website for a popular, populist, market has become a largely peripheral concern.

People who come to this site and find themselves attracted to the style and content of the writing may learn a great deal about society from my particular perspective. They may also learn little; they may not agree with what they read; they may not even be interested in the least degree; they may not find my particular perspectives, my cosmology, my worldview, to their taste. Every writer, indeed all human beings, must live with this possibility, with this potential reality. Readers may also learn about the nature and process of autobiography, about poetry, about the Baha'i Faith and about the individual in society. I would like to think that readers will gain some understanding of the chaotic panorama that is the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—and the anarchy, complexity and immensely fascinating story that is history. This story, history that is, is, though, quite obscure, impossible to really take in due to its now massively documented narrative and, for many, just one great big mud-puddle. Some readers and writers now just ignore history in their effort to understand our times. For many it is as if anything before, say, WW2 just did not exist. To describe, then, the long stretch that is the history of humankind as I often do in my poetry, leaves many readers wishing they were watching a movie or working in the garden.

 

I think the angle, the perspective, I take is often a refreshing one. It is refreshing for me and if, some readers find my way of seeing things and writing about them refreshing, that is a bonus. For it is the approach, the mix, the take, I bring to the issues that makes this site relevant and attractive to readers, if it is attractive at all. At least that is one way of putting the stress, expressing the meaning and significance of what is found here at this site—among the many ways I might put my case before the unseen court of public opinion. After being a students from 1949 to 1967 and after teaching in classrooms across two continents from 1967 to 2005 I have no illusions about my readership. People learn in a variety of ways and not everyone is as enthusiastic about print as I was and am. "Those who can’t do, teach." This saying has some application to me for I was never a person with mechanical aptitudes or interests. Many of life’s activities, popular among the millions and billions, never turned me on. Sport after the age of 18; gardening from the word go; cars, cooking, clothes, shopping, even most of the books ever written have not been and will never be on my reading list—I could make a long list of other turn offs. "Those who can’t teach," it is also said, "they do research and write books." That seems to be where I am now at the age of 64.

I have no pretensions about my skills; living in Australia and teaching people with abilities far in excess of mine: people who could talk faster, knew more, were funnier, more handsome and personally attractive in a host of ways helped me keep a handle on my ego—at least some of the time—for that is a handle that keeps most of us busy most of the time if we are honest. Others have a problem with self-esteem, never think they are worthwhile and never seem to develop their capacities. In some ways this applies to all of us for our capacities, I think, are like rich mines, deep endowments and, this side of the grave, we all only develop so much, have many sins of omission and commission and destroy so much of what we could become in all sorts of ways. But I don’t want to be too didactic, too serious or solemn here for I am very aware of the perils of didacticism, solemnity and the serious in our modern world which is strongly imbued with the importance of having fun.

Readers can gain a knowledge of the various topics I deal with in many other places, by many other authors, in books and articles by literally thousands of writers. I recognize that what I write here is but a drop in the bucket of the burgeoning knowledge and literary explosion we are all living through in our age. This reality is true for all writers and all readers. Only a drop of our lives is ever conveyed in one go: in conversation, in personal contact, in a book, indeed, in any form of communication. As I say, there is, for me if not for others, a certain kind of inventiveness, a certain juxtaposition of themes, my own recipes, that makes what is here unique. Readers will simply have to try my writing on for size and see if it works for them, as it is said these days. If I do not meet, do not connect with the personal meaning threshold of a reader after he or she reads a few lines or paragraphs, they can easily click me off their radar. Clicking requires no effort. I take much pleasure from the act of writing and I hope, dear readers, you take something away from your time on this site that is of personal value.

The Irish writer, Frank McCourt, says that the best storyteller is one who can so beguile his readers that he leaves them wanting more when he's done. I'm not sure how much beguiling I've done or, indeed, if beguiling is one of my talents. The pleasure a reader gets at this site certainly depends on my talents, but much also depends on the reader at least now that I have placed my work in cyberspace. I am aware, though, as one writer put it rather humorously, that publishing poetry is like dropping a feather in the Grand Canyon and waiting for the sound of the feather hitting the rocks or the river below. I don't expect to shake the world with what I've written here. Perhaps, though, with that feather I may gently stroke the world. With hundreds of thousands of words one can do a lot of stroking.

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Since the Baha'i Faith has a range of websites and an increasingly large literature, too much for the average person to ever read it all, no attempt is made here to provide material that can be obtained elsewhere in many places on the internet, in books and journals, inter alia. I have given this website the title Pioneering Over Four Epochs because this title captures for me the general framework within which I have come to view my life. It is my pioneering life and the Baha'i Faith that is at the centre of this website. Readers are advised to go directly to section 16 below for my 'pioneering' link, if that is their primary interest. But I would think this will rarely be the case and each reader who seriously examines this site will browse about in their own individual way. My poetry and prose, my commentary and analysis, in its various forms here is what makes this website different than any of the poetry sites--and there are hundreds of them--I have surveyed on the net and unique among the published books and articles currently available in Baha'i bookshops or on the internet. I like to think, then, that there is something fresh, something original, something that is different from other learning places, something that will stimulate readers who come to this site. There is certainly a lot of writing or words here at this site, far too many I imagine for a good deal of the reading audience in cyberspace. But readers can switch me off, as I say, at any time even before they have begun. Such are the perils of too many words!

I should say, be up-front, as they say colloquially these days: if you have little to no interest in the Baha’i Faith, if your curiosity was not whetted before you got to this site and if it is not whetted by now, I strongly advise you click off and go elsewhere. There is no need for you to wade through 400,000(circa) words however well stitched together and ingenious they may be. This new Faith which claims to be the emerging world religion on the planet is a pervasive theme at this website. It has been a pervasive theme of my life since the early 1960s. It is the key sifting mechanism, the paradigmatic framework, the chiaroscuro, the major mise en scene, the core cosmology that underpins and inspires this website of 43 parts.

When I want to engage a group of people at an internet site that is concerned with debate, dialogue, apologetics, discussion on some serious matter where an initial Baha’i statement seems appropriate, I often post the following opening note. I like to see this note, this set of linguistic tones, more like an exercise in fishing. However, like fishing, one often does not catch anything on the line or in the net. My opening note often goes like this:

Since you have raised questions about religious beliefs and philosophical concerns; since you have invited people at this site to engage in debate and dialogue, discussion and discourse, I felt it useful for me and hopefully for you to say a few things about: "My Beliefs and My Religion." I hope this opening post provides a general, a useful, a helpful context for any continuing discussion, comment and developing threads we may have at this site.--Ron Price, Tasmania, Australia.

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Apologetics is a branch of systematic theology, although some experience it’s thrust in religious studies or philosophy of religion courses. Some encounter it on the internet for the first time in a more populist and usually much less academic form. As I see it, apologetics is primarily concerned with the protection of a position, the refutation of that position's assailants and, in the larger sense, the exploration of that position in the context of prevailing philosophies and standards in a secular society or, indeed, a religious society. Apologetics, to put it slightly differently, is concerned with answering critical inquiries, criticism of a position, in a rational manner. Apologetics is not possible, it seems to me anyway, without a commitment to and a desire to defend a position. Naturally in life, one takes a position on all sorts of topics, subjects, religions and philosophies.

With that said, though, the activity I engage in, namely, apologetics, is a never ending exercise. The apologetics that concerns me is not so much Christian apologetics or one of a variety of what might be called secular apologetics, but Baha'i apologetics. There are many points of comparison and contrast, though, which I won't go into here. Christians will have the opportunity to defend Christianity by the use of apologetics; secular humanists can argue their cases if they so desire here. And I will in turn defend the Baha'i Faith by the use of apologetics. In the process we will both, hopefully, learn something about our respective Faiths, our religions, our various and our multitudinous positions, some of which we hold to our hearts dearly and some of which are of little interest.

At the outset, then, in this my first posting, my intention is simply to make this start, to state what you might call "my apologetics position." This brief statement indicates, in broad outline, where I am coming from in the weeks and months ahead. -Ron Price with thanks to Udo Schaefer, "Baha'i Apologetics?" Baha'i Studies Review, Vol. 10,2001/2002.

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I want in this second part of my first posting to finish, as best I can, outlining a basic orientation to Baha’i apologetics. Critical scholarly contributions or criticism raised in public or private discussions, an obvious part of apologetics, should not necessarily be equated with hostility. Often questions are perfectly legitimate aspects of a person's search for an answer to an intellectual conundrum. Paul Tillich once expressed the view that apologetics was an "answering theology."(Systematic Theology, U. of Chicago, 1967, Vol.1, p6.)

I have always been attracted to the founder of the Baha'i Faith's exhortations in discussion to "speak with words as mild as milk," with "the utmost lenience and forbearance." I am also aware that, in cases of rude or hostile attack, rebuttal with a harsher tone may well be justified. It does not help an apologist to belong to those "watchmen" the prophet Isaiah calls "dumb dogs that cannot bark."(Isaiah, 56:10)

In its essence apologetics is a kind of confrontation, an act of revealing one's true colours, of hoisting the flag, of demonstrating essential characteristics of one's faith, of one's thought, of one's emotional and intellectual stance in life. Dialogue, as Hans Kung puts it, "does not mean self-denial;" but the standard of public discussion of controversial topics should be sensitive to what is said and how. Not everything that we know should always be disclosed; to put this another way, we don't want all our dirty laundry out on our front lawn for all to see or our secrets blasted over the radio and TV.

I want to thank Udo Schaefer, "Baha'i Apologetics," Baha'i Studies Review, Vol.10, 2001/2) for some of what I write here. Schaefer goes on discussing one's views one's faith which he says "should not be opportunistically streamlined, adapting to current trends, thus concealing their real features, features that could provoke rejection in order to be acceptable for dialogue." To do this puts one in the danger of losing one's identity.

It is almost impossible to carry the torch of truth through a crowd without getting someone's beard singed. In the weeks and months that follow, my postings will probably wind up singing the beards of some readers and, perhaps, my own in the process. Such are the perils of dialogue, of apologetics. Much of Baha'i apologetics derives from the experience Baha'is have of a fundamental discrepancy between secular thought and the Baha'i teachings on the other. In some ways, the gulf is unbridgeable but, so too, is this the case between the secular and much thought in the Christian or Islamic religion or, for that matter, between variants of Christianity or secular thought itself. That is why, or at least one of the reasons, I have chosen to make postings at this forum-this forum invites dialogue.

Anyway, that's all for now. It's back to the winter winds of Tasmania, about 3 kms from the Bass Straight on the Tamar River. The geography of place is so much simpler than that of the spiritual geography readers at this site are concerned with, although even physical geography has its complexities. Whom the gods would destroy they first make simple and simpler and simpler. I look forward to a dialogue with someone. Here in far-off Tasmania--the last stop before Antarctica, if one wants to get there through some other route than off the end of South America--your response will be gratefully received. -Ron Price, Tasmania, Australia.

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The American historian, Frederick Jackson Turner, published his famous 'frontier thesis of American history' in 1893. Turned placed the pioneer at the centre of the American historical experience. In 1890 the US Census Bureau declared the frontier closed. From a Baha’i perspective a new pioneer began to merge in 1894 and this spiritual adventurer has now been part of the Baha’i landscape of experience for twelve decades and will be for many generations to come. Of course, in a new somewhat obscure and complex sense all human beings are pioneers now; we are all working out a survival modality in what seems like a new world, a new age, a new historical zone. But my concern here is with the pioneer in the Baha’i community and not so much the pioneer who can be found among the many diverse publics who inhabit our global community of six point three billion people.

 

In 1894 a Baha'i from Egypt arrived in the USA and began to actively teach in the Chicago area. He could be said to be the first Baha'i pioneer in the West, although the term 'pioneer' was not used until 1924 and not used widely by the Baha'i community until 1936. So Will C. van den Hoonaard informs us in his The Origins of the Baha'i Community of Canada: 1898-1948 on page 181. The Baha'i pioneer is certainly central to the first two centuries of Baha'i history. The pioneer is also central, as I say above, to what is at the heart of the concept and pattern of this webpage.

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The term 'pioneer' is used by the Baha'i community to describe those who travel to another town or another country to serve that community and the wider communities they work in and for. Indeed, the term can apply to any Baha'i who advances the teaching and consolidation process of this new Faith. I have laid out below forty-two divisions of poetry, one division for each of the forty-six years of my own pioneering. There are four additional literary efforts, products and categories of publication, not found on this site, for each of the other four years and for the three warm-up years, my preparation period for pioneering, my period of Baha’i youth in the years 1959 to 1962:

1. A book on the poetry of Roger White

2. An autobiography in five volumes;

3. A host of prose posts on some 23000 sites on the internet; and

4. A host of poetry posts on some 2000 sites on the internet.

All of my poetry here and elsewhere is not about the pioneering process. The more than 6500 poems and several million words range over much that is modern life, much that is the Baha'i Faith, its history and its teachings and much that is my own life. A list of the topics is, as I indicated above, found at the end of this essay, this access page—below. I see the total body of writing as an integrated whole. I have no trouble seeing that sense of integration, partial though it be, and I leave it to readers to experience that wholeness, that oneness, that integration, if they can, like my sense, a partial one.

I left the home in which I grew up with my parents on or about August 20th 1962. My mother and father helped form a local administrative body for the Baha'i community we moved to in Dundas Ontario about a dozen miles away. I studied matric that year in that new town and then went on to university and got a B.A. and a B. Ed in the next four years. I was twenty-two on graduation. I am now sixty-four. In retrospect, I have come to see the beginning of my pioneering venture as taking place on those hot nights and days in late August of 1962 when I left Burlington in southern Ontario to live in another town. Many of my poems have been written with this beginning date in mind.

I would like to think that (a) at this early stage of the development of the Baha'i Administrative Order, an organic Order which in its current form took its first significant shaping by 1936, not so coincidentally when that term pioneer began to be used extensively in the international Baha’i community, over seventy years ago, and (b) with the completion of this Faith’s spiritual and administrative centre in Haifa in 2001, this prose-poetic statement will serve to be yet one of the multitude of expressions that will enrich the first century of what Baha’is call the Formative Age and the first century of the evolution of that Order which, arguably, began its first shaping, in the last years of the ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Baha less than a century ago.(4)

The presence of the Baha'i Faith on a medium, the internet, is coming to have more and more importance for the global Baha'i community. This site, Pioneering Over Four Epochs and sections of it are now found at several dozen search engines and hundreds of websites and sub-sites. Individual pieces of my writing can also be found at a host of forums, discussion sites, message boards and topic sites like history, psychology, sociology, sport, popular culture, et cetera, et cetera--far too many to list here. I trust that what is found here will give some pleasure to readers both now and in the future as this Faith comes to inspire generations yet unborn, as it has inspired me in the last half century, 1958-2008.

I like to think that this website will be of primary interest to those wanting to gain some insight into the Baha'i Faith from the experience and understanding of someone who identifies himself with its belief system and who provides, what you might call, a poetic perspective. I like to think, too, that there will be some people who might find the content of this site intellectually stimulating enough to be attractive in its own right. To the many who do not find poetry their 'cup of tea,' the essays, interviews and prose sections may be preferable. They can just leave the poetry out. There is something here, some print, for anyone who has a general interest in the topics I have mentioned above and which are listed in order at the end of this introductory essay. But, as I say above, there is a strong Baha’i bias. I write, not from any official Baha’i perspective, simply as one of the members of the community of Baha’is in the world from an individual point of view. And, as should be obvious to readers already, I write a great deal here. This is not a light-on site, with little boxes of print, with lots of photos and illustrations creatively arranged to suit an audio-visual age. If by now you find this access page a little too 'wordy’ for your taste, I’d click off and go to a site more suited to your visual, intellectual, auditory, or whatever—bias. I won’t mind; I won’t know and you are free.

The content of this webpage are the traces I have left behind from my experience in the twentieth century with a few additions, new traces, in the twenty-first. I completed the second edition of this web site, three days before the official Opening of the Terraces, the beautification and extension of the administrative and spiritual centre of the Baha'i Faith, in Haifa on 23 May 2001. Two years later a third edition of this website went onto the Net. A book, an autobiographical study and an autobiography, was added as were several hundred thousand more words. This book, now an integral part of this website, is currently in its fifth edition. There is clearly too much for anyone to take in at one setting. This material needs to be approached in manageable chunks or portions, just like any good book and, for this reason, I have placed little chunks all over the internet with one big chunk at the bottom of this page.

I see the 2nd edition of this webpage, as I say, completed two days before the official opening of ‘The Terraces,’ as part of the celebration associated with the project that has been completed in recent years at the Baha'i World Centre. I see it as part of the 'befitting crescendo to the achievements of a century.......a period that will leave traces which shall last forever.' (5) This 3rd edition is, I trust, a refinement of previous editions. I hope readers will not have to wait too long for a bright, new, more user-friendly, edition. But don’t hold your breath. This edition, without doubt a little too wordy for many an internet user, may be as good as it gets. Time will tell.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES

1.    An abridged edition of my memoirs entitled "Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and a Study in Autobiography," can be found at Baha’i Library Online>Books.

2.    The Emergence of a Baha’i Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White, Juxta Publications, Hong Kong, 2003. Can be downloaded at that site and at Baha’i Library Online.

3.    I have posted prose and poetry at some 4000 internet sites in the years 2001 to 2007.

4.    The Baha’i Administrative Order, its origins and development, is a subject unto itself. See: Loni Bramson-Lerche, "Some Aspects of the Development of the Baha'i Administrative Order in America: 1922-1936," Studies in Babi & Baha'i History, Vol.1, editor, Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, p.255.

5.    The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message, BE 152.

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CATEGORIES FOR MY POETRY

ON THIS WEB SITE

These categories are somewhat arbitrary. The poetry in each section, while being generally relevant to the topic in question, could easily be placed in one or more of the other sections. Poetry being the essentially interdisciplinary, intersubjective, field that it is, it is difficult to tie down individual poems to one specific category as I have done somewhat arbitrarily in the following sections. Just click on any one of the following and you will be taken to a section of prose and poetry that belongs in a very rough sort of way under that label/title/subject/topic:

1. Autobiography
2.
Poetry
3.
History
4.
Philosophy
5.
Society
6.
Baha'u'llah
7.
Shaykh Ahmad
8.
The Bab
9.
'Abdu'l-Baha
10.
Shoghi Effendi
11.
Baha'i Administration/World Order
12.
Poets/Writers
13.
Future
14.
War
15.
Today
16.
Pioneering
17.
Mt. Carmel
18.
Contemporary History
19.
Baha'i Writings
20.
Community
21.
Myth
22.
Baha'i History
23.
Price's Poetry
24.
Family and Self
25.
Afterlife
26.
Writing Process
27.
Place
28.
Poetry in Public
30.
Contemporary Literature
31.
Inner Life
32.
Creative and Performing Arts
33.
Teaching Profession
34. Teaching the Cause
35. Dreams/Visions
36. Nature
37. Individuals
38. Baha'i Philosophy
39. Epic Poem
40. Popular Culture
41. Dickinson
End Game

 

The first two chapters of my autobiography are HERE.

 


My email address is: ronprice9@gmail.com if you would like to contact me.

 

Here are some other sites:

The Baha'i World

United Communities of Spirit

Baha'i Index

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[1]  the interwar years: 1919 to 1939

[2]   See Elizabeth Friedman’s response to: The White Goddess! from the November 18, 1993 issue of The New York Review of Books and Helen Vendler, “Laura (Riding) Jackson,” February 3, 1994.

 

 

[3] Isaiah Berlin, (1) “Romanes Lecture 1970 on Turgenev: Fathers and Sons.;” and (2) “The Gentle Genius: Turgenev’s Letters
selected, translated, and edited by A.V. Knowles
Scribner’s” in The New York Review of Books, 2010. 

[4] For an interesting examination of this theme readers are advised to google a developing literature on the subject. One good article by Esther Milne, “Dragging Her Dirt All Over the Net: Presence, Intimacy, Materiality,” in Transforming Cultures eJournal, Vol.2, No.2, December 2007.007,

[5] Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, U. of Chicago, 1967, Vol.1, p. 6.

 

[6] Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Haifa, 1978,  pp. 172-173.

[7] The Bible, Isaiah, 56:10.

[8] Quoted in Udo Schaefer’s, "Baha'i Apologetics," Baha'i Studies Review, Vol.10, 2001/2