My Letters in Australia's Baha'i Archives

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This is a statement, a 55,000 word introduction, to my collection of letters in the archives of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Australia Inc. They are my personal letters from 1962 to 2013. This document attempts to place the 10,000 letters, emails and internet posts I wrote from 1962 to 2013 in a general perspective. As far as I know none of the collected letters of any Bahais in the 1st or 2nd century of the Bahai Era have been published.

This collection of letters, what has become by degrees a voluminous epistolarium, comes from my Bahai life, 1962 to 2013, that part of my Baha'i life when I was a pioneer-traveller in and for the Canadian Baha'i community. In 1962 I was 18 and in 2013 I was 68, a 50 year time-span. The letters come from my late adolescence, and then at the early, middle and late adulthood stages of human development as the psychologists call these phases of the lifespan.

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My Letters in Australia's Baha'i Archives

  1. 1. THE BASIS FOR AND THE CONTENT OF MY OFFER OF DOCUMENTS TO THE NATIONAL BAHA’I ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA Preamble: This statement of some 125 pages and 55,000 words is a description of the documents I sent to the National Australian Baha’i Archives belonging, as they do, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia. My decision as to which documents I have decided to send to these archives and which ones, therefore, were eventually accepted by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia, is based on the description and definition of the nature of these archives as outlined in the Australian Baha’i Archives Acquisition Policy.1 I want to thank the Archives Department of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Australia for sending me on 28 November 2008 some guidelines concerning individuals making donations to the archives.1 I see all of the documents I sent to the Australian National Baha’i Archives as part of the fulfillment of my role in Canada’s international pioneering experience, its national diaspora or exodus of Baha’is in its “glorious mission overseas.”2 I also see these documents as part of a record of my contribution to the spread of the Baha’i Faith in southern Ontario in Canada’s most southerly towns as far south as Windsor and Essex county Ontario--through a series of homefront pioneering moves before and after participating in the opening chapters of the push of the Baha’i Faith to “the Northernmost Territories of the Western Hemisphere.”3 It is in this context, the context in which I see these documents, that this offering is made to both the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada. Such are the most general perspectives on the place of my pioneering experience and my role in the Cause as both a homefront pioneer and an 1 See the email to Ron Price(28/11/08) from the Archives Department of the NSA of the Baha’is of Australia Inc. containing as it did guidelines for individuals making donations of these national archives. This email of 28/11/08 was sent to me in response to my emails of 22/11/08 and 27/11/08 to the Archives Department in connection with what documents I might send to the national Baha’i archives of Australia. 2 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to Canada, p.69. 2 3 ibid., p.37. 1
  2. 2. international pioneer. I am now living: (a) at the southern end of the spiritual axis mentioned by Shoghi Effendi in his 1957 letter4 and (b) in the outer perimeter of a series of concentric circles, circles which define the spacial parameters of my life, in several interlocking and important ways. The southern pole of this axis where I now live, where I have lived and where in all likelihood my body will one day be buried is "endowed with exceptional spiritual potency."5 Many years of my life have been lived at several points along the southern extremity of this pole, this spiritual axis: in Perth and South Hedland Western Australia, in Gawler and Whyalla South Australia, in Ballarat and Melbourne Victoria and in several towns of Tasmania as far south as Zeehan. All of these points lie, too, at the outer perimeter of the ninth concentric circle whose center is the "Bab’s holy dust."6 The following is a brief statement, a brief outline, of the documents that seem to me to be of relevance to a national archive. It goes without saying, of course, that the decision to house this material in the Canadian Baha’i archive, in the end, is to be left with the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada. I look forward to hearing from the Archives Department in Canada where I have decided to make this donation of documents. And finally it also goes without saying that I will be happy when whatever eventuates from this offer of a gift to the national archives. Although it was accepted and then housed in the NBAA by the end of 2010, time will tell what happens to all this “paper.” If the decision is that my material is not deemed relevant, in the long term, that is fine with me. I look forward to further communication in relation to this statement in the years ahead when I will have ceased to inhabit this earthly life. A. Archives Defined as National In Significance: Further to my emails of 27 and 28 November 2008 that I received from the National Baha’i Archives(NBA) Coordinator in Australia, Margaret Anderson, in response to my own emails of 27 and 22 November 2008, I sent to her three categories of material for the NBA of Australia to consider as gifts to the NBA of Australia. They were categories defined as of national significance in their email to me of 28 November 2008, quoting as they did from the National Baha’i Archives Policy: Acquisitions Guidelines. I outline those same three categories here and 4 Shoghi Effendi, Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, NSA of the Baha'is of Australia, 1970, p.138. 5 idem 6 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1965, p.96. 2
  3. 3. eventually heard from Margaret in the weeks and months ahead in connection with this donation, this gift to the NBAA. 1. Journals and diaries of pioneering activities; 2. Correspondence with Baha’i friends which is about Baha’i subjects, events and activities; and 3. Published and unpublished works. B. More Detailed Delineation of the Content of My Contributions, My Gifts, In The Above Three Categories of Material to the National Baha’i Archive: The first category of “individual papers” that I discuss below is “journals.” Whether my journals show the development of the Baha’i community in Canada or Australia as mentioned as the defining feature for what the Archives Department look for in Journals I leave, of course, to that department and the NSA. The letter of 14 January 2008 from the Archives Department of the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada stipulated three general categories of material. In the statement “Managing Archives,” in its first paragraph it was emphasized that: “archives are natural bi-products of action not self-conscious documents put together for the purpose of transmitting information to posterity.” The Archives Department may see my journals in this latter context and, if so, I will understand their decision to regard these journals as not purely archival material. Given that this statement is written for LSAs, it may be that my journals are, therefore, more relevant for a national archive. I left this decision to the NBAA. B.1 Journals or Diaries: Preamble: What follows is a summary of my journals or diaries, for I use the terms interchangeably even though I am aware that fine distinctions are made by specialists in the field of diary and journal-making, themselves sub- sections of life-writing, life-narrative, autobiography and memoir writing. These journals are not those of an artist with paint, a sculptor with clay, but one of an artist in the medium of words. This summary is made after 25 years of diary/journal keeping, January 1984 to January 2009. Those who work in the more familiar art mediums of painting and sculpture, pottery or one of the various forms of design, may find my post useful, 3
  4. 4. such is my hope. As I have said before in other contexts than this, keeping a journal/diary I have found difficult. I know many others do as well, artists and people in all sorts of walks of life. The Australian artist Donald Friend's work with his art journal has been helpful to me in this vein, in the vein of keeping and maintaining a diary. Also of value to me have been the diaries of Juliet Thompson, Agnes Parsons and a range of other diaries and quasi-memoiristic resources that have appeared online in recent years.7 INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME 5 OF MY DIARY After twenty-five years of haphazard diary keeping(1984-2009)8 and an equally haphazard twenty-three years of dream recording(1986-2009)9 , there looms ahead of me the shadow of a type of diary that my work may attain to: part of the shadow is prospective and the other retrospective. What, indeed, will I make of this loose, drifting material of my life, as Virginia Woolf calls the material in her diary and which very accurately describes mine, however incomplete, however irregular are my entries, however superficial the content often is. Do I want this diary to be so elastic as to embrace anything solemn, slight, beautiful or ugly that comes to mind, sort of a capacious hold-all? Will this diary, this journal, this particular way of conveying my memoir, when all is said and done and the roll is called up yonder, assuming there is a roll and there is an up- yonder where diaries play any part at all—will this diaristic memoir resemble a place where I have flung a mass of odds and ends, some with reflective ardour and great meaning, some with fatigue and sadness, some with guilt and shame, some with a sense of their utter triviality, their tedium and life's? The purpose of this overview of my diary, updated exactly twenty-five years after making episodic entries and introducing, as it does, the 5th volume of this diary, is to analyse, give definition and pattern to the autobiographical memory that I have put on paper across my lifespan in the form of diary.10 I use other genres of writing to record memory, but I 7 The Barber’s Diaries, Irene Lancaster's Diary, The Story of My Heart by Ali Furutan among other diaristic, memoiristic and autobiographical resources. 8 19 January 1984 to 19 January 2009 2 See my Journal, Volume 3.1. 9 10 Johannes J.F. Schroots and Cor van Dijkum, “Autobiographical Memory Bump: A Dynamic Lifespan Model,” Dynamic Psychology: An International, Interdisciplinary Journal of Complex Mental 4
  5. 5. deal here with the genre of journal or diary. Autobiographical memory, in so far as it relates to my journal, can be broadly defined as a type of episodic memory for information related to the self, both in the form of retrospective and prospective memories, as well as aims, goals and expectations. If this retrospective, episodic account relates to the retrieval in the present of memories, experiences or past events, then prospective autobiographical memory is concerned with the retrieval of expectations, anticipations or future events which likewise are connected in some way with the present. On the basis of what I have written here in these 25 years, it would appear that a collection of flotsam and jetsam, as Woolf says, has been put on record. This material has been born from a vaster collection of life's flotsam and jetsam, some of which is meaningful to me in the moment or at least hopefully so but, ultimately and possibly, about as useful and valuable to others as the eye of a dead ant. I hope this is not the case but, as T.S. Eliot once wrote, one has to be prepared that all which one has written may become a dead letter. I get a sense of order in putting all this on paper. That is its own intrinsic reward. I am sure this is the case for many, artists and others. Suzette Henke describes how many diarists come to their diaries out of shattered lives, out of a need to relive their lives in terms of some dream, some myth, some endless story which they compose.11 This is not the case with me but, as my fifties wore on and turned into my sixties, I seemed to wear on if not out. I did not burn-out but my wings had been clipped and my edges were frayed. I seemed to lose some of life’s heat and there was some shattering. It was a shattering of the social nature I had manifested for several decades, indeed as far back as I could remember, perhaps as far back as my first memories 60 years ago. It is difficult to define just what it is that lies under this diary, what is its raison d’etre or what are its raisons d’etres. One of the leitmotifs which binds the diary together into a coherent whole, if indeed it has coherence and wholeness, is my life as a pioneer and travel teacher. There are many things that motivate me to want to add an extra level to an already present story, my autobiography or memoir,12 was conveyed Processes, 2004. 11 Suzette Henke, Shattered Subjects: Trauma and Testimony in Women’s Life Writing, St. Martin’s, NY, 1999, pp.56-7. 12 My autobiography entitled Pioneering Over Four Epochs is 2600 pages and in 5 volumes. These five volumes are currently being 5
  6. 6. by Shakespeare in sonnet 94: “For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds.”13 My diary or journal is much more confessional than my autobiography or memoir. My pioneering story needed to be written, or such was my own felt need. It has now been written; it is now complete as far as the 6th edition and a truncated version of it can be found at Baha’i Library Online. Baha’is are advised, though, not be confess their sins unless, of course, they spontaneously desire to do so and in this regard they are quite free. My journal is much more confessional. By the age of fifty I had certainly collected lots of deeds whose memories were not endearing. Perhaps by means of memoir, autobiography, poetry and diary I was trying to work some magic to reflect the self I wanted to be. Such was the case with that famous diarist Anais Nin. I don’t think it was the case with me, though there was some of Anais Nin’s aim in my own. My diary or journal tended to be the place of my most confessional writing and, for that reason alone if for no other, it deserved to exist on its own. It was and is a genre of particular use to me as a writer for its several purposes which this brief essay attempts to outline. As this diary has developed over a quarter of a century, it has served simply to help me to describe my life, not especially to deal with accounts of personal complexities like the desire to fight or flight, nor to battle on, nor adopt some defensive escape, nor as a strategy to cope with traumatic personal history, although I have often experienced all of these inner wantings to escape, to battle on or deal with trauma of different kinds. To want to cut and run and great inner fear or anxiety of some kind were common enough occurrences in my more than six decades of living thusfar. For I was, in part at least, the traumatized soul that Phyllis K. Peterson describes in her book Assisting the Traumatized Soul.14 It was Baha’u’llah though, not Shakespeare, who I think put his finger on the reason for the shift in my life activity as my fifties wore on and became incrementally my sixties. Excess of speech is a deadly poison and its affects last a lifetime, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote in the 19th century. I had had an excess of life’s verbal art and its twistings and turnings in the 60 years of my memoried life: 1947/8-2007/8. Of course, there is much more in the motivational matrix that led to the writing of this diary and I deal with this complex matrix as far as I am able and as reviewed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the Untied States of America. 13 Shakespeare, Sonnets, No.94. 14 Phyllis K.Peterson, Assisting the Traumatized Soul, BPT, Wilmette, 1999. 6
  7. 7. much as I desire in this introduction to Volume 5 of this diary and at other places in my writings for those who are interested in following-up on this theme, the raison d’etre for this diary. I did not desire to take part in that conversational/verbal part of life as my late adulthood(60-80), grew insensibly and incrementally, annalistically as the Romans would have written it, into their middle years, 65 to 75. As the year 1984-1985 opened and I began this diary at the age of forty, more than 30 years after my association with the Baha’i Faith began and more than 20 years after my pioneering life had begun in Canada. I found myself in possession of a talent, a gift, perhaps an unmerited grace. I had been conscious of its developing nature since, perhaps 1972, my first year as a high school teacher. In 1984 I was writing a column in the Katherine’s local newspaper15 of 800 words every week. I won’t deal with the origins of this writing activity in the local paper nor the development by sensible and insensible degrees in the dozen years before 1984 going back to 1971 when I arrived as an international pioneer from Canada to Whyalla in South Australia. I had always liked the base, the origin, of art, in unmerited grace, as the unofficial poet laureate of the Baha’i Faith back in the 1980s, sometimes emphasized. Annie Dollard used this uplifting phrase or idea, although the question it deals with is far from simple. Writing had been a talent which had grown slowly with the years, first as a student, then as a teacher, then as a writer in publications of various kinds. It was in the sheer exercise of this gift and harnessing it to life's service and the causes that concerned me that was part of the motivating base for producing a diary, although much more could be said here and interested readers can find more of my comments on this theme in my other writings. My diary became, in part, a textual testimony, a form of scriptotherapy, a testimonial, an episodic narrative, a form of defence and assertion, albeit partial and temporary. It became, along with the other genres of my writing, a form of living, a way of spending my time, my life, the way I wanted to. I could make some comparisons and contrasts of my work with the work of others. I found the diaries of others provided helpful perspectives on my own writing, but I will not deal with this subject here for the literature on diaries and journals is now burgeoning. And all of this dairy writing was not therapy. 15 The Katherine Advertiser, Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia. 7
  8. 8. These five volumes of my journal are found in eight two-ring binders and two arch-lever files. Three of these binders contain photographs with some commentary and one of the files contains comments on some of my dreams. I have made a periodic attempt to write a retrospective diary for the years 1844 to 1984, but thus far the attempt has had limited success. I don’t want to leave the impression that diary writing is a fertile field. Far from it—for me. Much of my efforts at a diary are now and have been for many years dry, uninspiring, far from encouraging. Henry David Thoreau's fine Journal, kept from 1839 to 1861, gave expression to Thoreau’s view, his vision of the destiny of America in terms of life in death. That became a dominant feature of my writing as far back as the 1980s, the feature of life in death. I am confident that will be a strong part of the experience of many generations of the North American pioneer-the Baha’i pioneer that is. There are times in this account when I focus on the inner self, my experiences, my community; there are other times when I focus on my society, the land, a more open perspective. I seem to be a more tolerant person than Thoreau, although I confess that by the time I retired at 55 I had begun to tire of people and conversations about the ordinarily ordinary. Like Thoreau, I rarely have the public in mind when I write, although I do have a future public in mind as the Australian artist Donald Friend did in his diary. In the last century over one billion deaths have occurred from trauma of different kinds or so some historians claim, and so it is not surprising that an individual diary should be seen in terms of life in death. But readers will have to wait for my demise to read more on this theme. I only want to allude to it here. Henry Miller arguably the first writer to use the “F” word long before it broke out in the media in the 1960s, was one of the few post-WW2 American writers of note who wrote praiseworthy things about many of the things I hold dear, especially the Baha’i Faith. He also wrote, somewhat prophetically: "When the destruction brought about by the Second World War is complete," wrote Miller, "another set of destruction will set in. And it will be far more drastic, far more terrible than the destruction which we are now witnessing. The whole planet will be in the throes of revolution. And the fires will rage until the very foundations of the present world crumble."16 Not a happy note to include in the introduction to a volume of my journal, but certainly interesting and written back in the early 1940s! 16 Geoffrey Nash, The Pheonix and the Ashes, George Ronald, Oxford, 1984, p.55. 8
  9. 9. Decades ago people would have trouble comprehending Miller's idea here, but not anymore. In the case of some of my retrospective diary work making entries is difficult. For, when I write about events taking place forty years ago, I cannot rely on closeness to the event. I must rely on what Peter Braustein calls possessive memory. “Possessive memory,” writes Braustein in his history of the counter-culture, “leaves the person and his memories in a lover’s embrace. The person is in possession of his memories, and no one else can touch them; at the same time, his memories are in possession of him.” Braustein applies this idea to those activists in the sixties who experienced “a sense of self-generation so powerful that it became a constitutive part of their later identity.” Without going into the many contradictory views that have emerged in sixties studies, there is little doubt that I experienced several early stages of my own variety of activism in the sixties. I was 15 when the sixties started and 25 when they finished. My adult life began during those years and that “sense of self-generation” is still a part of my identity even now. If it wasn't I don't think I could keep writing. Like many of the sixties generation, I felt as if I was an agent of history and I still do.17 In writing my life story in the last years of my fifties and now early sixties, I came to realize more than I ever had before, perhaps for the first time in any full sense, that the success I had achieved in life grew not only from my own hard work and certain favourable circumstances of my environment, but from the foundation provided by my parents and my grandparents on my mother’s side. The journey of understanding, like the journey of life itself, is an emotional one that I have tried to write about with honesty and with a fresh eye for those primary relationships in my life: father-son, mother-son and grandfather-grandson, wife-husband, among several others I could possibly include.18 Of course, not all is emotion, again thank goodness. There is intellect, reason, the cultural attainments of the mind and a host of other qualities that psychologists enumerate in their studies of personality and that historians describe in their study of the past. 17 Rick Perlstein, “Who Owns the Sixties?” Lingua Franca, Vol.6, No.4, 1996. 18 With thanks to Jim Huber, A Thousand Goodbyes: A Son’s Reflection on Living, Dying and the Things That Matter Most, Thomas Nelson, 2001. 9
  10. 10. I still do not feel I have found the flow, the filling up of the springs, the raising to higher levels of the streams of thought that could make of this journal a document worth preserving for future generations. Perhaps I will find that flow in the second 25 years of my journal writing. The accumulating grist of my life has really yet to be ground and made into a fertile soil for literary productivity in the first 25 years of writing this journal. They may, in fact, never get ground properly. Thusfar, poetry and narrative, essays and notes have stolen most of the material. They have taken the literary stage of my life and left this diary-prose always waiting in the wings. But, as I said above, the confessional element here may attract a future reader whose interest is, not so much prurient, as passionate and in possession of a solemn consciousness, a wellspring of celebratory joy. There is some material here to satisfy to some extent those prurient interests, but the wellspring of my celebratory joy, rooted as it has become in my solemn consciousness, offers to future readers a type of confessionalism that is moderate and intoxicated by the wine of another cup. These intoxications I leave to readers of this diary should it ever be published. This Journal does have less concern for form than my poetry and for that reason there is potentially an easier flow, once the flow begins, at least a flow in a different direction to other genres I use for my writing. I have mentioned before that Henry David Thoreau has been invaluable in helping my diary writing, but I still await that flow in this diary, a flow that has come to my 6500 poems upstream somewhere, but not here downstream in this diary. This diary seems to meander downstream in one of those u-shaped bows one reads about in geography books. The flow so often stops as if one of the Australian droughts finally took away all its water, all the water of life. In Thoreau's last years, from the late 1850s to his death in 1862, he wrote with energy and control, but with little interest in getting into print. I hope this becomes true for my Journal, a repository of lots of energy and creativity with no eye on posterity, in my own latter years, ones that I cannot yet anticipate caught up as I am in getting through today. There is a type of unity in death, thought Thoreau. We need to learn how to die in order to learn how to live was his view. Part of this process, as far as my Journal is concerned, is the pleasure of serendipity. The only thing we leave behind, Thoreau thought, was ourselves. This Journal is just that: myself. It is as if one wants one’s leaves to survive, one’s autumnal hints and the reds, browns and golds of autumn before winter comes and takes it all away. In my case I often feel as if winter has come to my Journal and no leaves can be found on its branches. Life is 10
  11. 11. sometimes cold and dry. This is certainly the case if I measure my life by my Journal. Although there is an intoxication of joy in these journals there is also the dry wretch, despair, disappointment and a personal sense of loss. But there are other indices of measurement that readers may use for these journals, if these journals ever see the light of day after my passing—and thank goodness for these more moderate measurements of journalistic-diaristic value. Thoreau said that Emerson was more familiar with his work than he was. I’m sure that, should this material ever be published, there will be those who become more familiar with it--and perhaps with me--than I. I lose touch with this Journal as one often does with aspects of one’s life: with those one loves, with one's feelings which also seem to dry up especially in areas which were once rich, wet and alive. Perhaps this is a way to develop friends in the next life and be ready to meet them when they, or rather I, arrive. I follow this theme too in my journals. Thoreau said that the best growth in trees is in their old age, with harmony and regularity. He also said good deeds act as an encouragement to yourself, to your artistic pursuits, your writing. May I build up a niche of good deeds and may my tree grow best in the years ahead. Diaries can track the contemporaneous flow of public and private events. They are not given all of a piece, all at once as in a book, such as a life history might be. But rather, they are written discontinuously, either daily or over longer intervals of time and as such provide a record of an ever-changing present. Other types of autobiographical texts or life documents such as letters, rather than documenting the present, tend towards making retrospective sense of a whole life or towards retelling significant moments, epiphanies or crystallizations of experience. This proximity to the present, the closeness between the experience and the record of experience means that there is the perception at least that diaries are less subject to the vagaries of memory, to retrospective censorship or reframing than other autobiographical accounts.19 Still, there are in my letters much that others might place in a diary and so it is that my letters and diary might be seen as all of one piece. I certainly think there is a variety of potential historical value in these folders that contain my Journals or Diaries and the unfolding aspects of my life. It is a potential I have hardly begun to realize as yet in these first five diary-volumes. There is, I like to think, something unique, some 19 H. Elliott, “The Use of Diaries in Sociological Research on Health Experience,” Sociological Research Online, V.2, No.2, 1997. 11
  12. 12. unique contribution to my overall autobiographical opus: Pioneering Over Four Epochs, that has begun to reveal itself after twenty-five years of making entries. A description of "a life without secrets and without privacy" wrote the great Russian poet Boris Pasternak, describing as he did the life that was his and on display in society in its different forms like some "show window" is simply "inconceivable," he concluded. For me, this privacy is essentially the life of the mind and many things I have not revealed in the other forms of autobiography. But the revelation, this inner life, comes in my journal. This inner life includes aspects of personal life that one might term revelations: those elements of human experience that seem most private, most hidden, most personal, most shameful, most embarrassing, a source of most guilt and those things that do not tend to be divulged in the normal course of interpersonal life. They are revealed episodically in these journals when time and the inclination have combined to allow me to record them in written form. They are often that sort of entry that has concerned many a writer and artist and which these artists and writers have wanted to burn either before or after their demise from this mortal coil. But, as I said above, there is in my journal what might be called an affective spectrum of experience with emotions and activity at the other end of the continuum: joy, ecstasy, fervid love, rapture, intense desire, inter alia. I have tried to eliminate the trivial from what I write, but this is difficult for so much of life necessarily deals with triviality’s many particularities and their ephemerality. When one tries to put one's experience on paper the trivial seems to abound in detail and this is one reason among many why most people never keep a journal. The mere contemplation of the exercise of writing down what one does is more than the average person can bear; indeed, the activity amounts to an inner revulsion, for many reasons. It is just too tedious for words, both the process and the content. And this is not just due to the average person’s distaste for writing. But enough on this sad but complex theme in this introductory statement. I have no intention of writing in public places like this about all the boredom and the chowder, as the famous singer and songwriter Paul Simon calls some of the aspects of life; nor do I intend to write about all of my sins of omission and commission, all the points of shame and guilt that rise up from my life like a forest of trees. But many of them I do write about in my Diary. Whether I deserve to have had these experiences, whether they came to me as a result of destiny, circumstance, capricious passion, whether I can even grasp the causative 12
  13. 13. factors that gave rise to them at all or whether I can’t, I am not a believer in the virtues of public confession, beyond a certain point. There are times for public confession, public to some degree, for the spontaneous acknowledgment of wrongs I have committed or faults in my character. There are times when I would like someone, usually a close companion of some sort, to forgive me or accept me even with my faults. That point or points tends to be, for me at least, when I admit to personal struggle and battle in the hope that my admission may help others with their battle and struggle. Those who are keen to read the more confessional intimacies of my life and in more detail than they will find in my other published writings, introductions to various genres and in many other places in my oeuvre, can read about them in the posthumous collection of my Journals, should my executors decide they are relevant and helpful to a public audience. Readers who have followed the series of introductions to my several volumes of journals will by now realise that much of what is written here in this introduction is virtually the same as the introduction to volume 4 of my journal. I have also written many of these words both before and after officially opening this volume 5 of my journal three years ago on January 20th 2006. It seemed useful to begin the contemplation of the 5th volume of this diary before that opening date of January 20th 2006. Volume 4 was becoming too full to continue using that 2-ring binder. The size of my volumes, the extent of the entries, is based on the room in each arch-lever file or two-ring binder for the entries I place. It is now nearly 37 years ago that I arrived in Australia as an international pioneer(12/7/71) from Canada. After 36 months(20/1/06 to 1/6/09) now of making entries in this Volume 5 of my Journal, I conclude this introduction and leave the processes of making further entries and writing more complete introductions to those mysterious dispensations of a Watchful Providence. If Providence is not that watchful in my personal direction and if that Providence has other things to do than to be concerned with the intimacies of my life on a daily basis, I can at least recount the tokens that tell of the glorious handiwork of the universe in which I am an infinitesimal part and some of the fiery, painful aspects of its immensity. Finally, I leave to reason and virtue their steady and not so uniform course while the extravagant wanderings of my vice and folly continue their path down destiny’s corridors with my free will giving me opportunities of wonder and delight and closing other doors of possibility as I travel. As this awful, awkward and tangled scene in what is perhaps history's greatest climacteric plays itself out before my eyes in these epochs of my pioneering life, I conclude this introduction to my Diary 13
  14. 14. Volume 5. And I leave it to the Archives Department and the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada to decide whether this diary that is discussed here would be a useful addition to the National Baha’i Archive of Canada. -Ron Price, 20 January 2009. ------------------------ And now to the second category of “individual papers”--“original correspondence,” as mentioned in the letter of 14 January 2008 from the Archives Department of the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada. The first category of “individual papers” that I discussed above was “journals.” I turn now to letters. Whether my letters show the development of the Baha’i community in Canada or Australia as mentioned as the defining feature for what the Archives Department look for in Journals I leave, of course, to that department and the NSA. The letter of 14 January 2008 from the Archives Department of the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada stipulated three general categories of material. In the statement “Managing Archives,” in its first paragraph it was emphasized that: “archives are natural bi-products of action not self-conscious documents put together for the purpose of transmitting information to posterity.” The Archives Department may see my letters in this latter context and, if so, I will understand their decision to regard these journals as not purely archival material. Given that this statement is written for LSAs, it may be that my letters are, therefore, more relevant for a national archive. I leave this decision, of course, as I mentioned above, to you. B.2 Letters: MASTER FILE TO MY COLLECTION OF LETTERS Preamble: The outline of the categories of my letters below is the one that presently exists, that is, in January 2009. This outline tends to get altered from time to time due to the changing nature of what is still a live collection of letters. Very few of these letters are on the world wide web, perhaps as many as six to a dozen--I’ve never counted--because these letters are either personal, administrative or professional in some way or another. I prefer to keep the great body of this material confidential until at least my passing. At the present time there are 50 years of letters(1959-2009) in the collection, the 50 years that I have been a member of the Baha’i community. But very few of these letters come from the years before 1979; far less before 40 years ago in 1969 and none before 1959. These letters are found in some 25 volumes under eleven major sections or 14
  15. 15. categoies with the headings as indicated. Since 2001 I have added another section of letters, a 12th --the email. That catefory is divided into many sub-section in my computer directory. The email is a hybrid form of letter or, perhaps, a replacement since the email has come to take the place of letters in the last decade or so. This 12th section now exists in an additional 25 volumes and is not categorized below as is the first 25 volumes of letters in this master file. Outline: I. Personal Correspondence 1. Volume 1: 1967-1984 2. Volume 2: 1985-1988 3. Volume 3: 1989-1994 4. Volume 4: 1995-1996 5. Volume 5: 1997-1999 6. Volume 6: 1999-2001 7. Volume 7: 2002-2003 8. Volume 8: 2003-2004 9. Volume 9: 2004-2005 10. Volume 10: 2005-2006 11. Volume 11: 2006-2007 12. Volume 12: 2008-2009 II. Writing to/from Baha’i Institutions, Magazines/Journals, Individuals II.1 Baha'i World Centre, Universal House of Justice II.2 National, Regional and Local Institutions 2.2.1 NSA of the Baha’is of Australia 2.2.2 Hands of the Cause 2.2.3 Continental Board of Counsellors/Auxiliary Boards 2.2.4 BROs, RTCs and Regional Councils 2.2.5 LSAs and Groups(Reg and Unreg) 2.2.6 National Committees of the NSA of Australia 2.2.7 Other NSAs 2.2.7.1 NSA of USA and Its Comittees 2.2.8 The George Town Baha’i Group III.1 Contacts with Publishers, Magazines, Journals and Online Sites Volumes 3.1 to 3.17 (over 4000) 15
  16. 16. III.2 International Institutions: II.3.1 Office of Public Information II.3.2 International Teaching Centre II.3.3 Baha’i World Centre Library II.3.4 Office of Economic and Social Development II.3.5 Baha’i World Centre IV Communications with Canada: Volumes 4.1 to 4.3 V. Communications With Roger White: 1981-1992 VI. 1. Association for Baha’i Studies: Australia 2. Association for Baha’i Studies: Canada 3. Bill Washington 4. Judy Hassall 5. Writing Articles for Magazines:1980s. 6. Dialogue Magazine: Role as Arts and Culture Editor VII.1 Baha'i History in WA and the NT Vol.1-3 Letters, Essays and Notes: Vols. 1-4 (sent to the Regional Council of the NT) VIII Additional/Particular Individuals 1. Antoinette Edmonds 2. Graham Hassall 3. Gary Olson IX. Correspondence In Relation to Writing Novels/Essays 1. From 1987 to 1991(see Unpublished Writings Vol.3 File No1) X. Correspondence in Relation to Job Hunting 1. Some letters and material for the Years 1961 to 2001 XI. Some Special Correspondence: 1. annual emails/letters 16
  17. 17. I have written introductions to all of these volumes and some of them are at Baha’i Library-Online in the Personal Letters Section. The first edition/draft of the above outline was made at about the time of the opening of the Terraces in the autumn or winter of 2001 as I was about to enter the 40th year of my pioneering life. That draft has been revised several times since. -20/1/09 This collection of letters, what has become by degrees a voluminous epistolarium, comes from my Bahai life, 1959 to 2009, from my years as an adolescent and then as an adult at the early, middle and late stages of that part of human development as the psychologists call them. Now, into the early years of the evening of my life, the early years(60-65) of late adulthood(60-80), I post this reflection on a lifetime of writing letters within the context of my society, my Bahai life and especially my pioneering life. Although I have not been able to locate any letters before 1962, before my pioneering life began, the first letter I recall writing was in 1959, some 50 years ago, to a fellow Bahai in Japan. In addition to the 5000 letters, there are 5000 emails and internet posts. I have not kept the internet posts. They are scattered throughout the world- wide-web and, in many cases, will be untraceable. Virtually this entire body of epistolary material was written during the dark heart of an age of transition, an age which was my life, perhaps the darkest in history. This collection of 10,000 items including those hybrid forms of letter--the email and internet post--which emerged as a new millennium was opening are written by and to a homefront(1962-1971) and then an international pioneer(1971-2009). They are communications written to: a friend, a colleague, a fellow Bahai, a person or persons at one of 1000s of sites on the internet, a Bahai institution at the local, national or global level, one of a multitude of other organizations, a family member and some association or other. Readers will find here in this outline mainly general commentaries on my letters and letters as a genre, prose-poems on letters, mine and those of others in history and literature. Except for the occasional letter the body of my correspondence is not included here. Another 10,000 letters and assorted items of correspondence were written in connection with my employment from the early 1960s to the early years of the new millennium, but virtually none of them were kept. The number of emails received in the first two decades of email correspondence(1989-2009) was beyond counting, but 99% of it was deleted. The small number of emails that required a response in some detail were kept as were the responses. On my demise some or all of this collected correspondence that can be accessed may be published. We 17
  18. 18. shall see. I shall not see for I shall have gone to the land of those who speak no more, as The Bab put it so succinctly. He might have added to the land of those who write no more. Those mysterious dispensations of Providence and my executors will determine what happens to this lifelong collection of attempts to connect with the minds and hearts of others by means of the traditional letter and its modern variants. Note: beginning in August 2007 all correspondence of significance was kept in my computer directory/files; the only hard copies kept were an assortment of quasi-epistolary and literary material that did not seem to have a logical place in my computer directory. The thousands of letters and thousands of hours that this homefront and international pioneer for the Canadian Bahai community has spent writing letters, emails and internet posts in the last fifty years, 1959-2009, I dedicate to the great letter writers in Bahai history. I dedicate these hours and these communications to the Central Figures of this Faith, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice--individuals and institutions that have produced a treasure house of correspondence. Then there are the many whose names are on Bahai lists but who have played little to no part in the Bahai community in their years of membership; as well as the not-so nameless and traceless, each of whom has their story and their varying degrees of writing and who, collectively, have written what I have little doubt are literally billions of letters, emails and written communications of an epistolary nature. To these I also dedicate my collection of letters. If I also include in my dedication, the massive quantities of correspondence that has been written by the institutions of this Cause on the appointed and elected side of its administrative structure; and the epistolary work of the two chief precursors of this Faith, those two chief luminaries in the earliest history of this emerging world religion, and those who also wrote letters in responding to the seeds these precursors sowed and were involved in different ways in the earliest days of the history of this new Faith as far back as the time that Shaykh Ahmad left his home in N.E. Arabia in 1782 to 1792(circa)---the letters of this multitude to whom I dedicate my own epistolary efforts might just reach to a distant star if they were laid side by side! Many, if not most, of the epistolary communications of more than two centuries of Babi-Bahai history are now lost to historians and archivists. Saving letters is not a popular sport and, some would argue, neither is writing them. But, still, the epistolary paper trails of this newest of the 18
  19. 19. world’s great religious systems spread back, as is obvious, to well before the French revolution in 1789 and these trails are significantly more than just a trace. No other religion has placed so subtle and significant a value on this method of exchange, writes Bahiyyih Nakhjvani in her book Asking Questions.(George Ronald, Oxford, 1990, p.6. At some future time, when the tempests we are living through in these early decades and, perhaps, centuries of the Formative Age of this Faith, an Age which began in Bahai history in 1921, are over and a relative calm has been produced in the affairs of men, historians, archivists, biographers and analysts of many a kind will possess a literary and epistolary base of a magnitude undreamt of in any previous age for an analysis of the times, the epochs of the first two centuries of this Bahai Era(B.E. beginning in 1844) and the century of its precursors, 1744-1844. My focus here is not on this wide and many-genred literary base, however, it is on the letter and, more recently, the email and internet postings of many kinds, kinds resembling the letter in many basic ways. Letters give us a direct and spontaneous portrait of the individual and they are also useful in providing an analytical resource for social and institutional analysis. I could include here, diaries and journals since they are letters, of a sort, letters to oneself, a book of thoughts to and by oneself. But these genres, too, are not my focus in this review of my letters and this form of communication that are part of the history of this Cause. As the poet and philosopher Emerson once said: My tongue is prone to lose the way; not so my pen, for in a letter we surely put them better. (Emerson, Manuscripts and Poems: 1860-1869) This pioneer, in a period going back now fifty years, has often found that one way of doing something for another was: to write a letter, since the mid-1990s send an email and, since the late 1990s, post on the internet. Not endowed with mechanical skills and proficencies with wood and metal; not particularly interested in so many things in the popular culture like sport, gardening, cooking, heavy doses of much of the content in the print and electronic media; indeed, I could list many personal deficiencies and areas of disinterest, I found the letter was one thing I could do and write and in the process, perhaps, document some of my sensory perceptions of the present age, perceptions that were relevant to the future of a religion whose very bones spoke of a golden age for humankind which was scarcely believable, but was worth working for and was at the basis of my own philosophy of action in this earthly life. Hopefully my letters would evince some precision and, perhaps, for a future age they would be of value. I often wondered, though, how useful this interest, this skill, was in 19
  20. 20. its apparent single-mindedness for it was not, as a I say, a popular sport! The exercise resulted, too, in a collection of many a dusty volume of paper which, as T.S. Eliot once put it with some emphasis, may in the end amount to an immense pile of stuff with absolutely no value or purpose. There is, too, some doubt, some questionableness, as to whether anyone’s letters should be taken as a reliable guide to biography and still less to history. Letters often tell us more about postures that replace relationships than about the relationships themselves. Sharon Cameron points this out in her analysis of Emily Dickinson’s letters in her book: Lyric Time: Dickinson and the Limits of Genre(Johns Hopkins UP, Baltimore, 1979, p.p.11-12). Some writers of letters spring to an intimacy in their correspondence that they do not possess in reality, in their day-to-day life. I am one of those now in my sixties, for I am not particularly keen on intimacy any more, at least outside of cyberspace. Life has given me decades of it and I have grown tired after the many years of conversation and the many degrees of intimacy that went with it. In letters I can spring to an intimacy and then forget it in a moment. Such was the experience and view of George Bernard Shaw, as voluminous a letter-writer as there ever was. Shaw once said: a full life has to be cleared out every day by the housemaid of forgetfulness or the air would become unbreathable. Shaw went on to add that an empty life is peopled with the absent and the imagined and the full life--well, I'll let you examine the life of Shaw and draw your own conclusions to this somewhat complex question of what constitutes a full life.(Frank Kermode, The Uses of Error, Collins, London, 1990, p.253. I'm sure this quite provocative thought of Shaws is partly true, especially in our age of radio, television and assorted media that did not exist in Shaws time when the letter was, arguably, one of the chief means of civilized discourse. No matter how carefully crafted and arranged a letter is, of course, it is harmless and valueless until it is activated by the decoding reader. This was a remark by one Robert McClure in another analysis of Emily Dickinsons letters(The Seductions of Emily Dickinson, p.61). I leave this introduction at BARL, the following commentary and whatever letters I have written that may be bequeathed to posterity to these future decoding readers. I wish them well and I wish them a perceptiveness in order to win, to attain, from the often grey, familiar and accustomed elements of the quotidian in these letters, any glow, flare and light in these 5000 pieces of writing, written at a time which may well prove to be the darkest hours in the history of civilization when a new Faith expanded slowly, imperceptibly in some ways and emerged from an obscurity in which it had long languished since its inception in the 19th century and 20
  21. 21. its earliest historical precedents in the mid-to-late 18th century. Over these four epochs in which my own life and letters found their place in history(1944-2021), as the first streaks of a Promised Dawn gradually were chasing away that darkness; and as this Cause slowly became a more familiar and respected feature on the international landscape, these letters became, for me, an example of my attempt, however inadequate, to proclaim the name and the message of Bahaullah. These letters illustrate, and are part of, the struggle, the setbacks, the discouragements over these same epochs and especially the years after the unique victory that the Cause won in 1963 which has consolidated itself(Century of Light, p.92) in further victories over more than four decades(1963-2007), the period when virtually all these letters were written. These various communications are also, from my point of view anyway, part of the succession of triumphs that the Cause has witnessed from its very inception. However exhausting and discouraging the process has often been--and it has often been--I cannot fail to take deep satisfaction on a number of fronts: one of these fronts is these letters and the mysterious dispensations of a watchful Providence that, for me if not for others, are revealed therein. My letters surprise me. If earnestness and sincerity could give them immortality they would be immortal; sadly in letter-writing as in life earnestness and sincerity, however dogged and plodding, are rarely enough. If thirst for contact and intimacy could give them immortality they would be immortal. Sadly, again, thirst is not always present and intimacy is not always desired and even when they are present in letters, these qualities are never enough as a basis for the longevity or the popularity of a corpus of letters mixed as letters always are with a quotidian reality that is enough to bore most human beings to death. The boredom is sufficient to prevent nearly all readers from ever getting past a brief examination of the cover of a book of such letters on library shelves. If immortal they be, it will be due to their association with a Cause that is, I believe, immortal. These letters will possess a conferred immortality, conferred by association, as the Hebraic and the Greek traditions would have expressed it each in their own historic and cultural contexts. The American poet, Theodore Roethke, once said that an incoherent yet sincere piece of writing often outlives the polished product. I'm not sure how much this truth, if truth it be, applies to letters. Letters have enough of a problem surviving and even more of a problem ever being read in some fine collection usually made after a writer's death and, if one adds inarticulateness to the recipe, the salt may just lose all of its savour. 21
  22. 22. The letters will float unread on some literary bath-water, back-water. Letters, in some ways, possess the shapeless urges of the unconscious and try to catch the movement of the mind of the writer amidst a practically practical and a humanly human everydayness. They often remain, for most readers, just that: shapeless and beyond the mind and the interest of the general, the ordinary, reader. Often neither the recipient nor posterity take any interest in the individual product or the entire epistolary collection, as the case may be. Even when given a fine shape, as the letters of Queen Victoria have been given, they come over time to catch fewer and fewer people’s eyes. Still, her letters give ample testimony to her character, her everyday life and the times. One does not write a letter to increase ones popularity and if, as Eliot implies, one writes with one eye on the future, when that future arrives one will be pulling up the proverbial daisies. Inventiveness and humour are two wonderful assets and, if they are possessed by a letter writer, the letter can come alive. The letters of the poet Roger White possessed these qualities and they had a narrative momentum without which his letters would have grown static and repetitive. Sadly, I have often felt that my letters expose the limits of my literary, my epistolary and certainly my humorous sensibility. My letters often grow limp, or so it seems to me, perhaps because I have often felt limp; or they become crowded with quasi-mystical, quasi-intellectual, abstractions as I have tried to deal with concepts that I only half understand and ideas far beyond my philosophical and literary capacity to put into words. In some of my earliest letters, letters to my first wife which we used to call my love-letters, written in the early months of 1967, I fell back into an emulation of the Guardian's writings, hardly appropriate Judy and I often felt later, when we read them on a quiet Sunday afternoon, to express my feelings for her. Of course, the feelings they expressed were ideological and intellectual and not aesthetic and romantic. These letters were, in the end, thrown away. Sometimes, especially in the first three decades of my letter writing, say, 1958 to 1988, a letter will contain a certain inwardness and at other times I gamble with an intensity of emotional expression. And so, by the 1990s and the turn of the millennium, I had gradually, insensibly, found a voice, a balance, to put my emotions and thoughts into a form I was comfortable with. Although I had been socialized in a literary milieux in my childhood and adolescence(1944-1963) and emerged from that milieux in the first years of my young adulthood(1965-1974), confidence in my literary ability was slow in developing and did not really take on any 22
  23. 23. solid form and shape until I was 28(1972) and living in Whyalla South Australia as an international pioneer for the Canadian Bahai community. Confidence, though, is no guarantee of the ability to connect with a reader or readers. I am sure some found my emails and letters far too long for their tastes and interests. One advantage of a long letter I found was that I was able to express an idea, even mention the Cause in some tangential fashion. In a shorter letter this would not have been possible given the social and cultural climate in which I was writing. Occasionally, someone shocked me with their feedback, especially on the internet and I slowly learned to package my words in small doses on most of the sites on the WWW. Shock is often a useful antidote for some policy one is pursuing or some behaviour one is exhibiting in letter writing or in other areas of life. Letter writing is a little like gambling; you have to stake a great deal, everything it often seems, on one throw. Unlike gambling you often have no idea whether you won or lost. But this is often the case in relationships and in life: one cannot possibly evaluate what happens to our letters, to our acts, to our lives--or anyone else’s--in terms of whether they will result in justice, harm or benefit--since their fruition, ultimately, is destined for another plane of existence. But, still, we do judge and we do evaluate, as I do here in this lengthy analysis at the Bahai Academic Resources Library Site. Some 10,000(circa)letters were written in connection with job applications, job inquiries and on the job responsibilities: 1960-2008. An uncountable number of emails were received and sent in the years 1988- 2008 but, as I say above, 99% of them were deleted. Virtually none of the communications from the job world were kept, except for a few in two two-ring binders. Very few letters or items of literary memorabilia remain from the years 1953 to 1967. Even if ninety-nine-hundredths of the emails I received were sent to oblivion since 1988, a small but significant body of this hybrid type of letter was kept in the two decades, 1988-2008. One day all of the introductions I wrote to each of the many volumes of my letters and emails, internet posts and replies and the several general statements concerning my letters may be included in a collected letters since half a century has been spent in my Bahai life and in the pioneering process writing letters. For this first edition of The Letters of Ron Price: 1957/8-2007/8 on BARL the above outline and comment on the overall layout and organization of my letters and emails that I have written and received and thrown away and deleted will suffice. 23
  24. 24. There are three categories of my letters that one day may be found in the event of my demise and in the event that such a search is desired: 1. extant letters or fragments of letters that I have written or received, in public repositories or private collections including my own collection, that have been examined in the original manuscript or typescript, in photocopy or email; 2. published letters written or received for which no extant originals have yet been located; and 3. unlocated letters for which varying types of evidence--photocopies, emails and complete or partial typed transcriptions have been located. The database of information for these three categories of letters, at this stage far from complete, aims to contain the following fields or information bases for each written and received item:(a ) year and date, (b) addressee, (c)place and (d) original. It is hoped that the terms: manuscript, typescript, postcard, photocopy, typed copy, handwritten script, email or some combination of these terms (for instance typed copy of handwritten script) will accompany each item. Minimal descriptive information—fragment or mutilated—is provided parenthetically where relevant. The technicalities of presentation when complete are those of convention; namely, (a) intrusions into the text are marked by square brackets; (b) spelling and punctuation is to be silently corrected; (c) some mannerisms are to be maintained; (d) dates are to be made uniform and (e) et cetera. I have provided below some analysis and some illustration, some context for whatever creativity is to be found by readers when and if this collection is ever published. Letters are always, it seems to me, exemplary illustrations of a writers creative capacity and the significance of his epistolary skills. I do not claim that my letters are masterpieces of the letter-writing art. If they disclose a personality that is well and good, but the world has millions of personalities now disclosed for the public eye, stories of individuals overcoming tribulation and achieving success. Another such story is not required. And I have no intention nor do I wish to make any claim to my life being a representative of that of an ideal Baha’i or a Baha’i pioneer. This is not an account of an exemplum. Claims to representativeness, it seems to me, are at best partial and at worst highly misleading to those who might glean some context for 24
  25. 25. mentorship. I find there is something basically unstable or slippery about experience or, to put it in even stronger terms, in the words of Baha’u’llah, there is something about experience that bears only “the mere semblance of reality.” There is something about it that is elusive, even vain and empty, like “a vapour in the desert.” There are so many exegetical and interpretive problems that accompany efforts to tie down the meaning of a life, of an experience, of a relationship. There is something divided, duplicitous, something that has happened but has yet to be defined and described or, as is usually the case, never described, at least not in writing, depending of course on the experience of the person and their literary skills. There are innumerable and indispensable points of reference in a life and yet so many of them take on the feeling of a mirage, as if they are not really there, like a dream, particularly as the years lengthen into later adulthood and old age. Some of the disclosure that takes place in a selection of letters can make the world better off, but this is not always the case and I certainly could not guarantee a positive result for my disclosures here. For most people, of course, the exercise, my disclosures, are totally irrelevant. If these letters disclose something of the Bahai Faith, some new perspective over these four epochs, I will feel that this amassing of correspondence has been worthwhile. These letters of mine are not so much examples of carefully crafted writing as they are of unstudied informality, spontaneous indiscretions and a certain cultivated civility. I like to think these letters possess a wonderful chameleon-like quality for it is necessary that I reshape myself for each correspondent. Each letter is a performance and an impersonation. These letters contain many voices. On the occasions when I send out form letters, at Christmas and Ayyam-i-Ha, this diversity and variety is not achieved. For some respondents to my letters my reshaping is not appreciated or enjoyed, indeed, no response was forthcoming at all to many of my letters. As in the world of interpersonal interaction, of verbal exchange, so in the world of letters: not every communication is meaningful to both parties and, as in the world of the teacher that I was for years, not every comment of mine was returned. The next section of this somewhat long posting here at BARL comes from chapter 3 of my memoirs. Not all of chapter 3 is included here, but enough to give a taste and a critique of the letter-writing process from the point of view of this Bahai who began his pioneering life 46 years ago in 1962 and who wrote his first letter to a Japanese Bahai youth in 1959--or so I recall with some doubt as I write these words more than 50 years 25
  26. 26. later. It seems to me that those who read these letters one day, if they ever do, will have difficulty grasping the nature of my personality inspite of, or perhaps because of, the extensive literary base I have provided. The only impeccable writers and the only personalities we feel we understand, William Hazlitt noted nearly two centuries ago, are those who never write and people we have only briefly met. I would add to Hazlitt's analysis here that we often feel we understand a personality, but it is always in part. Getting to know people is a bit of a mystery at the best of times whether they are beside you on a bus, a train, a kitchen table or a bed. One is always adjusting ones mask for correspondents and, in the process, one creates a series of self-portraits, a mosaic of true and false, real and unreal. The quality and maturity of my relationship with others is, as William Hatcher pointed out 25 years ago, the best measure of spiritual progress and growth, acquiring the capacity for such mature relationships depends essentially on an intense inner life and self-development. And the measure of ones spirituality depends on much else, too much else to venture an analysis of in this brief statement. The letter is a reflection of this inner life but, in the end, it is but a reflection of a spirituality which lies at the centre of ones heart and soul.(William Hatcher, The Concept of Spirituality, Bahai Studies, Vol.11, 1982, p.25.) I assume that human personality is essentially unknowable, that it is the revelation of a masquerade in a stage play--for all the worlds a stage. This is not to say that there are not some aspects of life that are revealed through letters, but readers must keep in mind that they are dealing with fragmentary, often ambiguous and decidedly opaque material over which they will be unable to wield any kind of imperial authority and comprehension. Whatever insights they gain in readings, they will be inevitably partial and will have a distinct tendency to crumble in a epistolary world that is often obtuse, dull and vulnerable from or within the onslaught of the quotidian. Collections of letters are not the most favourite fare in the popular periodical press, journalistic studies and at book launches except perhaps in the form of letters to the editor. They exist, letters that is, in a somewhat secret, fenced off area of privacy, an island of subjectivity, where even the external world is experienced as an inner world. This, the sociologist George Simile once said, is the essence of modernity. Readers will find, too, that however much a letter reveals the springs of action, there exists a nice and secret world to which he or she is never privy. Oftentimes neither is the writer aware of his motivational matrix, for mystery abounds in our worlds. The writer, namely myself in this case, turns his letter like a historical microscope with some sensitivity 26
  27. 27. and with some attention to minute causality, but it is a causality he never fully grasps and a sensitivity he only attains to partially. The road these letters describe I'm not sure I would ever have entered (either the road of the letters or the road of the analysis) if I had known of its length when I wrote that first letter fifty years ago. Performance struggles with ideal when one writes and when one lives. That is the name of the game. My choice and my command of language, to whatever degree of imperfection and perfection I attained, were the fruit of exercise and with the arrival of more leisure in my mid-fifties that exercise was able to find much fuller expression. Some of the facts of my past, my religion and my society are presented in these letters in a language that is rich in a type of coherence and a type of embedded comment. I like to think that the cumulative effect of this comment is to predispose readers in favour of a particular interpretation of reality and the world. But my more sceptical self is more inclined to the view that a collection of letters is not likely to change the world view of readers no matter how open and receptive they may be. The stubborn testimony of unexceptionable facts, the facts of my life, gradually bring me to the bar of history and the sober discretion that I trust these same facts embody are a statement about my present age and hour. At the bar there is no final verdict only a series of temporary assessments and at the bar where individuals read these letters there will be combinations of the non-event, the boring, the occasional bright spark or low flame, perhaps a burning sensation or two, a little indigestion, a wishing and a willing that is beyond my pen to even attempt a description or a discretionary comment. But no final judgement. These letters present a divergent and unfussed, an unconnected and bewildering mass of material. The collection is just too immense, the expression too forcible, the factual matter too inescapable for my intellect or the readers to close down any questions with definitiveness, decisiveness and precision--with answers. Rather, it seems to me, these letters open questions up and enlarge what is and was a narrow circle in which nature has confined me. If complete answers are found they simply carry the seeds of more questions. As the years went on, too, my thoughts became more complicated and, although my perspective could be said to remain the same, it was within such a different context that my letters came to be written. From the late fifties and early 1960s, to the years as they passed over the decades, my letters might as well have been written by a different person. The questions I dealt with changed from decade to decade, person to person and my inclusion of the responses to my letters provides a thorough contextualization not so much to my influence, an 27
  28. 28. entity which is difficult to measure at best and at worst quite irrelevant to my reasons for including them, but to the letters themselves and the backdrop they provide to a period over several epochs of various urgent and interlocking challenges, painstaking and frustrating individual and community work when the Bahá'í Faith increased by 30 times, from 200 thousand in 1953 to six million in 2009. Writing often draws attention to itself. This is especially true of letters where attention often does not pass through to the subject but gets stuck on the personality of the writer. For ours is an age, par excellence, of the celebrity. The awkward and tangled reality of the past, though, is displayed for all to see from my perspective in these letters. The surface of my past gazes out upon history, from my letters with all their quotidian dryness, everydayness, tedium and boredom. The past seems to elude the net of language as that language gets caught up in minutiae, in the tedious and the toilsome. And anything called certainty is endlessly deferred, although there are pockets of certainty enough to go on and give us a feeling that the sky will not fall down. At least not in my time. I think there is little doubt that these four epochs are the scene for the greatest and most aweful period in the history of humankind. Gibbon once said this of Rome in the 2nd century AD. My account here of the immensity and wonder of this period is an account from a quite personal and limited perspective. It is an account, too, which renders my version of a vision and my interpretation of a plot and script that derives from two god-men in the 19th century. My letters are pregnant with delightful observations that are as deep and as shallow as the person I am and they are pregnant as well with the most trivial images and thoughts as watery and limpid as amniotic fluid. For my letters, like the letters of most others, contain what is often called telephone talk, talk which nullifies serious artistic or psychological exchange, talk about lifes simplicities, talk about lifes conventionalities like the weather and the events of daily life. Readers may find my letters something like the way that Carlyle found Scotts letters. They are never without interest, he pointed out, yet they are seldom or never very interesting. Id like to think that my letters might impart something of my soul, my joys and anxieties, and something that may engage the sympathies and pleasures of those who happen upon them in their journey. In an age in which communication has become more audible, with animated and electronic emails and sound systems improving in quality decade by decade, it seems that communication has also become more, or at least often, ephemeral; with billions of emails 28
  29. 29. biting the electronic dust each week, if not each day, I offer this collection of letters as one mans record of his age. I should say something about self-deception, since there is in letter- writing an inherent straying away from what actually happens, however slightly or innocently, a quiet but discernible progression from fact to fiction. Self-deception, lying, secrecy, forgetfulness, confusion, gaps: they are all part of the story and our processing of the story. Everything we communicate, some analysts argue, is an orientation towards what is secret without ever telling the secret. As Henry Miller puts it: “I am I and I have thought unspeakable thoughts and done unthinkable things.” One aim in writing letters is to aim for artistic coherence and ethical satisfaction as we attempt to integrate, analyse and identify one of the countless versions, todays, this moments and hours part of our story and its inevitable secrets. This is unending work-poetic work-and it is central to self-creation. In other ways the self-deception is accidental, incidental. As Yeats put it: “I have changed nothing to my knowledge; and yet it must be that I have changed many things without my knowledge; for I am writing after many years and have consulted neither friend, nor letter, nor old newspaper.” There were three men went down the road As down the road went he: The man he was, The man folks saw, The man he wished to be. -Source Unknown Our ultimate aloneness in the universe is a truth which some find frightening. This aloneness is a part of the core experience in writing letters, autobiography or anything else. It is part of our very raison d’etre. It may just be that one of the best routes to self-forgetfulness, which ‘Abdu’l-Baha says is at the heart of self-realization, is through self- understanding on the road travelled by means of writing letters among other forms of activity. I have drawn on the following three sources for some of the above. (1) Henry Miller in “Confessions and Autobiography” Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, editor, James Olney, Princeton, 1980, p.122. 29
  30. 30. (2) James Olney, “Some Versions of Memory/Some Versions of Bios: The Ontology of Autobiography”, Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, editor, James Olney, Princeton UP, 1980, p.262. (3) Quoted in The Stories We are: An Essay on Self-Creation, William Lowell Randall, University of Toronto, 1995, p.345. _____________ SERENDIPITOUS LETTER WRITING AND AUTOBIOGRAPHY We all grow old and live in a matrix of groups, networks, institutions and communities. These are part of the core substance of the letter, although even the student of the epistolary genre can be guilty of serious omissions and patterned distortions when he or she writes his or her letter. The introspector and retrospector in letter writing can give us rare access to inner experience from their position of aloof detachment and passionate engagement. Monopolistic access to my own inner life has found many grooves and at least one or two of those patterned distortions away from letter writing and toward religion. I hope the time has not yet come, as Virginia Woolf said can come, when I may have forgotten far more of significance than I can remember. Certainly I am far from the position Heinrich Boll was in when he wrote that “not one title, not one author, not one book that I held in my hand has remained in my memory.” The letter is both the ultimate Insider and the ultimate Outsider in applying scientific understanding and insight to the self, the interplay of sequences of status-sets, roll-sets and intellectual development. What results is not so much a condensed description than a step toward elucidation.1 I feel as if I have just made a start in the first two decades of my attempt at an analytical discussion of the letter and my letters in particular. After five decades of dipping in and out of letter writing I don’t think I was at all conscious of letter writings hermeneutic influence until at least the late 1980s when the Arc Project had been officially announced. If the letter appeared in my life it was accidentally, serendipitously and hardly worth any analysis, but that began to change as this Cause I have now been associated with for more than half a century was finally emerging from the obscurity in which it had languished for a century and a half.--Ron Price with thanks to 1Sociological Lives: Social Change and the Life Course, Vol.2, editor, Matilda White Riley, Sage Publications, London, 1988. AUTOBIOGRAPHY: ANALYSIS YET AGAIN 30
  31. 31. I have provided a succinct narrative account of my life.1 It is chronological; the factual material is ordered, sequential. But, clearly, sharpness of detail, revealing anecdote, even suspense and analysis of motivation are given with insight and style much more effectively in my poetry. There is so much poetry now, some 6500 poems spread over at least 2000 pages. This collected and compendious mass of material, if it is ever to provide a basis for biography in the future, must be shaped, interpreted, given perspective, dimension, a point of view. The narrative that any biography possesses must be given life. It is like so many PhD theses which transfer dry bones from one graveyard to another but lack individuality and vitality. Such a biographer, if he or she is ever to exist, must provide the creative, the fertile, the suggestive and engendering fact, an imaginative, a referential dimension. Such an analyst must enact a character, a place, a time in history. He will do this through language, through imposing a formal coherency on my material, although inevitably there will be present the incurable illogicalities of life, as Robert Louis Stevenson called the inconsistent, the unresolved paradoxes of life. He will give the reader a portrait not an inventory. This is what any biographer must do. I do this in my autobiographical poetry. I provide many pictures, many moods, many sides. Details balloon; they repeat; they illuminate. I discover things about my life, but I do not invent them. I have done little discovery in writing this autobiography thusfar. As Plutarch and Boswell, two of history's most famous biographers, demonstrated: "anecdote rather than history teaches us more about the subject."2 I see my narrative as the home of history and my poetry as a source of rich anecdote. It was for this reason I turned to poetry as a reservoir of autobiography; it seemed to teach, to convey, much more than narrative. Claude Levi-Strauss helps us to understand why several poems about one object, or person, provide more significance or meaning than a narrative when he writes: To understand a real object in its totality we always tend to work from its parts. The resistance it offers us is overcome by dividing it...Being smaller, the object as a whole seems less formidable....it seems to us qualitatively simplified.3 One can not know everything about anyone, even oneself. The mountain of detail that one does know would sink a ship and would not enlighten anyone. The task of achieving comprehensiveness not only is impossible, it is irrelevant. But there are intelligible dimensions of one's life and it is 31
  32. 32. these dimensions that my poetry deals with best. Imagination is critical in writing biography. Some writers see invention more important than knowledge. Inevitably, there is an element of invention, of moving beyond the factual, but my own preference is to use imagination in a framework of factual experience, as far as possible. To read my poetry should be to immerse oneself in the first several decades of Bahá'í experience in what the Bahá'ís see as 'the tenth stage of history' and, especially, that time when the spiritual and administrative centre on Mt. Carmel received its richest, its definitive, elaboration and definition. There are several unifying nodes of experience for my poetry, in addition to the above. I have drawn them to the reader's attention from time to time in the introductions to some of my poems. From a Bahá'í perspective my poetry will undoubtedly possess a moral appeal associated with overcoming hardship, a quality that characterized most nineteenth century biography. But the moral framework, while retaining a certain simplicity, is expressed in a portrait of complexity, refinement, mystery, a slumbering world, my own idle fancies and vain imaginings and the streaming utterance of a new Revelation. Freud commented that biographers choose their subjects 'for personal reasons of their own emotional life.' 3 I'm sure this is equally, if not more, true of autobiographers. After criss-crossing Australia as an international pioneer and teaching in the northernmost and southernmost places in Canada-all of this over thirty-seven years, I have watched this emerging world religion grow perhaps fifteen times. I have taught in schools for over thirty years and feel a certain fatigue. I must write this poetry for the same reason a foetus must gestate for nine months. I feel, with Rilke, a great inner solitude and that my life and history is itself a beginning, for me, for my religion and for the world. I want to suck the sweetness out of everything and tell the story. I sigh a deep-dark melancholy along with this sweetness, but keep it in as far as I am able. I am lonely and attentive in this sadness. My poetry gives expression to this process and to my destiny which comes from within. My poetry is the story of what happens to me. For the most part "life happens" and one must respond to the seemingly inevitability of it all, although the question of freedom and determinism is really quite complex. Reality, I record in my poetry, comes to me slowly, infinitely slowly. My poetry records this process. My poetry is an expression of a fruit that has been ripening within me: obscure, deep, mysterious. After years it now comes out in a continuous preoccupation as if I have, at last, found some hidden springs. It is as if I have been playing around the 32
  33. 33. edges, with trivia, with surface. Finally something real, true, is around me. I stick to my work. I have a quiet confidence, a patience, a distance from a work that always occupies me. And so I can record a deep record of my time. I am preparing something both visible and invisible, something fundamental. This part of it is called autobiography. -------------------FOOTNOTES---------------------------------------------------- 1 When this essay was written, the 2nd edition of my autobiography was floundering in such a state that I was just about to give up writing it. An 80 page first edition was completed five years before this essay was written and it felt highly unsatisfactory. 2 Ira Nadel, Biography: Fiction, Fact and Form, St. Martin's Press, NY, 1984, p.60. 3 idem 4 ibid., p.122. ------------------------------------- AUTOETHNOGRAPHY The discourse, the impulse, of autobiography and that of ethnography is combined in autoethnography. Autoethnography is an alternative to a tendentiously-characterized and conventional autobiography, on the one hand, and to a exoticizing, native-silencing brand of anthropology, on the other. Autoethnography is simply a form of self-narrative that places the self within a social context. As an autobiographical revision of ethnography it may aim at giving a personal accounting of the location of the self by making the ethnographer the subject-object of observation. It involves the ethnographic presentation of oneself as the subject which is usually considered the ‘object’ of the ethnographer’s interview. The standard model of the personal memoir, the autobiography, supports an liberal-individualist ideology and tends to isolate the author-subject from community. Works by women and/or members of historically marginal or oppressed groups often resist the hegemony of the individualist account and give more weight to the social formation or inscription of selfhood and to the ways in which the author-subject negotiates the terms of his or her insertion into the identity-categories their culture imposes on them. Where the representation of cultures is concerned, critics commend autoethnography’s intricate interplay of the introspective personal engagement expected of an autobiography and the self-effacement expected of ethnography’s cultural descriptions. The impulse for self- documentation and the reproduction of images of the self pervade our everyday practice. The common business of social existence is the 33
  34. 34. occasion for endlessly resourceful and enlightened dramatizations of self. We are each in our own way articulate exegetes of the politics of selfhood.-Ron Price with thanks to James Buzard, “On Auto- Ethnographic Authority,” The Yale Journal of Criticism,Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2003. The above essays contain just some of the ideas that I came across in the literature on autobiography. I have drawn on just some of the array of writing which has appeared in autobiographical literature especially since the decade 1950 to 1960. This literature has transformed our understanding of autobiography. --5/5/05. ---------------------------------------------- PIONEERING OVER FOUR EPOCHS: MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY VOLUME ONE: CHAPTER THREE: LETTERS (Part of this Chapter) The very texture of history..... Perception, reflection and social interaction are at least three of the many psychologically diverse contexts in which the word self appears in our everyday discourse. Autobiography is an important part of the narration of this self and this autobiography, like all autobiographies, finds its home in all of these contexts.1 But since the reality of man is his thought and what endures, after life has completed its course, is the soul, it is hardly surprising that there is a curious intangibility,2 an inherently spiritual abstraction, associated with defining, with expressing, who we are. And it is hardly surprising that this work of mine, this autobiography, contains a great deal that is better described as thought and not so much that one could describe as action. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Jens Brockmeier and Donald Carbaugh, editors, Narrative and Identity: Studies in Autobiography: Self and Culture, John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2001; and 2Hannah Arendt in Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood, Adriana Cavarero, Routledge, NY,2000, p.ix. Although there is this curious intangibility that makes up any attempt to describe who we are, men’s beliefs in the sphere of human conduct are part of their conception of themselves and are intrinsic to their picture of the world. Both these beliefs and this conduct can be found expressed again and again in my letters.-Ron Price with thanks to Isaiah Berlin 34
  35. 35. quoted by Robert Matuozzi, “When Bad Things Happen to Other People,” Philosophy & Literature, Vol.25,No.1, 2001, pp. 173-177. On the dust jacket of The Selected Letters of Marcel Proust: 1880 to 1903 the publishers, Doubleday and Company, have written “letters are the strongest indicators of personality, perhaps the purest form of autobiography. We look at them as a means of knowing the author as a human being, of gaining perspectives on his life and work and, perhaps, divining the secret foundation of his creativity.” I think there is some truth in this remark. There is also, from my own experience, some truth in the sentiments of Thomas Wolfe who is quoted by Elizabeth Nowell in her introduction to the Selected Letters of Thomas Wolfe “a writer writes a letter in order to forget it.” Once down on paper, I find, the emotion or experience loses its compulsive force and can be stored away and forgotten. I have stored away some 5000 letters in over fifty volumes. Since beginning to collect these letters in 1967(with some retrospective findings and recollections going back to 1957) I have come to see them as an autobiographical tool. I leave it to readers to assess just where this autobiography is strongest and where it is weakest, where it is useful and where it is irrelevant. This is difficult for me to assess. If this autobiography works for readers, it will not be because I have filled it with facts, with details, with the minutiae of life documented with great enthusiasm and eagerness in letters to friends and a variety of institutions. Success in this life narrative that has been going down on paper over many a year will be due to its basis, its centeredness, in ideas, the quality of the writing and this narratives connection with an emerging world Faith. If it becomes a success, at least in the short terms, at least in the next, say, several decades, as I have indicated before, in all likelihood that success will still be one that resonates with only a few people. But whether it resonates with many or a few, I believe, as Gilroy and Verhoeven argue, these letters are marked by and sent to the world. They counter, too, tendencies to flatten out the uniqueness of the individual in some falsely understood egalitarianism or sense of human equality. The Bahai teachings make clear that equality is a chimera. Our uniqueness as individuals derives from our constitutive relation with others, from our living in community, indeed, a number of factors. The epistolary form was long associated in the western tradition with the feminine and the history of female subjection. As far back as Cicero in the first century BC, it was associated with everyday speech. Here in this autobiography my letters function as a crucial form of communication in the teaching and consolidation work of a pioneer. Indeed, one could say 35
  36. 36. that my story, the narratability of my life, my very uniqueness, arises within the context of an interaction process that the letter goes along way to illustrate. The following Latin expression contains some truth: vox audita perit littera scripta manet--The voice heard vanishes, the letter written remains. The dynamics of epistolary writing have been much studied in recent years. Analysts who read and study letters see them as something more than simple documents of a particular time and place. They, or at least some, see the letters as text that are only partly susceptible to explication or decipherability. Such documents bear a different relation to the world for a future reader than for the writer at the point when the letter was originally written. In some ways this is only stating the obvious. The act of reading a collection of published letters is inevitably shaped by a series of decisions made by both the letter-writers themselves and the readers. Letters are often exchanged, perhaps for years, usually without either participant considering them as an exercise leading to publication. There are at least two people I wrote to over more than ten years and a sub- collection of these letters would fill a sizeable book but, when they were written it was for the immediate purpose at hand not with the view to being read at some future time. T.S. Eliot puts this process well: The desire to write a letter, to put down what you dont want anybody else to see but the person you are writing to, but which you do not want to be destroyed, but perhaps hope may be preserved for complete strangers to read, is ineradicable. (T.S. Eliot, English Poets As Letters Writers, From a lecture given in 1933 at Yale University) Certainly the extensive collection of my letters sent and received to these two individuals might take a future reader into the hearts and minds of three people at a unique, a significant, time in history and shed light on the period in question in ways that other genres of writing cannot and will not do. This sub- collection could be said to be (a) a dramatization of the appreciation of one man for the poetry of the most significant poet of the epochs under review and (b) the effort of one Bahai to explore his Faith en passant, indirectly, to a friend, colleague and fellow retiree. These two interlocutors are not so much possessed of a literary calibre superior to others I wrote to, although in most cases that was true, but the correspondence went on for many years, more years than that of others. Eliot goes on:We want to confess ourselves in writing to a few friends, and we do not always want to feel that no one but those friends will ever read what we have written. There are several components in what we could call this selective and personal epistolary machine: the act of 36
  37. 37. writing, the act of reading and the world of interpretation. To focus on reading is to bring to light the complexity of the communication process, to recall that not all of a readers questions are going to be answered by reading the said letters. Readers may only have partially formulated questions in their minds or, perhaps, they may not even understand their own questions. Any message, including a letter, encounters a scrambling process upon entering the readers zone of associations and responses. I wish readers well dealing with the inevitabilities of scrambling which they will have to deal with in my letters. There is a conceptual intersection in each letter between reader, writer and world. And it is a busy intersection. And the discourse that takes place at these intersections possesses a paradoxical entwinement of minds and words. This is true of snail-mail or fiber-optic-borne email. Like the view at a busy intersection, much of what is seen is predictable while at the same time the specific details are to a large extent unknown or seen so differently by each spectator. A recent essay that I wrote introducing a volume of letters gathered in the first years of my retirement will serve to illustrate many of the things Id like to say about this overall collection of letters. They were letters written just before and just after the completion of the Arc Project in 2001. I think, as Emerson wrote, that letters often put things better than verbal communication and provide perspectives that are timely here in this ongoing autobiographical statement. The letters of James Boswell, to chose for comparison one historical example from collections of letters, open a window onto the real man, a man hidden behind his great biography, his biography of Samuel Johnson. Of course, one must be sensitive, too, to epistolary disguise, posing, theatrical attentiveness to the social presentation of self, concern for appearances, standardization of responses and what might be called mannerisms in letter writing. As in life, there are many selves which write letters, many social conventions, courtesies, honesties, et cetera. and there are many worlds about which a writer writes. It is the fate of those who toil at many of lifes employments, particularly the more introspective arts of which letter writing is one, to be driven more by the fear of evil, sin, personal inadequacy, regret and remorse, the sense of disappointment and the many discouraging aspects of life, than they are attracted by the prospect of good, of virtue, of praise or of victory, of giving pleasure and peace to readers. Many of the scribblers on the journey of life, ones I have met and ones I have not, are often exposed more to censure, with little hope of praise. They feel the disgrace of their miscarriages, the insufficiency of their language and the 37
  38. 38. punishments they might receive or have received for their neglect of duty, principle or person. Their success, if any, has often been, if not usually, without applause and their diligence has reaped no external reward. Also, as Susan Sontag noted parenthetically in her preface to Letters: Summer 1926, the greatest writers invariably demand too much of, and are failed by, readers. It would be pretentious for me to claim to be a great writer, but I have been aware of the implicit and explicit demands I may make on readers and of the importance of keeping my expectations low. I have tried for many a year to put these principles into practice for Sontag is right. Among these unhappy mortals are the writers of letters. Humankind seems to consider them like pioneers of literature doomed to work in societys private spaces with their home in little mailboxes and, more recently, in optic space. Every other author aspires to publication and praise. Letter writers, while they may enjoy a certain wild exuberance, must resign themselves to the tyranny of time and fashion--and the mind of one or, at the most, several readers. Each letter has no hope of a mass audience. There on the page they must disentangle perplexity and regulate lifes confusion for themselves and their lone readers. They must make choice out of boundless variety and do it without any established principle of selection. They must detect adulterations without a settled test for purity. It happens, and especially in letter writing, that in things difficult there is danger from ignorance and there are so many difficult and complex things in life. In things easy there is danger from confidence and there are many an aspect of life that is easy and hardly requires any thought. The mind, afraid of greatness, and disdainful of littleness, hastily brushes over the more important aspects of life and/or dwells far too little on the everyday. It withdraws itself from painful epistolary dialogue and from the search required and so passes with scornful rapidity over tasks not adequate to its powers. Sometimes it feels too secure to exercise caution or too anxious for vigorous effort. It is afflicted by a literary idleness on plain and simple paths; and is often distracted in the labyrinths of life and interpersonal exchange. Dissipation stalks his literary intentions as words roll off his pallet onto the page. Readers may wonder what these phrases I have just written have to do with the art of writing letters. I leave you to ponder. In an age when little letter writing goes on, I'm not sure how much meaning readers need to find here in these complex epistolary ideas. 38

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