Autobiography: Part 4

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The title of this autobiography is: PIONEERING OVER FOUR EPOCHS. This Part 4 begins with an INTRODUCTION TO BOOK TWO
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Book One of this autobiography has taken you, dear reader, to the start of the tenth and final stage of history, as Shoghi Effendi called the years, the time, after April 21st 1963. It has also provided a brief survey of the years up to the first year of the Nine Year Plan in 1964-1965, to the beginning of anything that could be called my sex life in 1965 and to the death of my father that same year as I turned 21.

Book Two will take the story and the analysis up to the time of writing this work, a writing that took place in stages, over many years of a long process from 1984 to now—2011. I will then give you a final Book Three of interviews, poetry, essays and a discussion of history.

This Book Two begins, then, with volume 3 chapter 2 of my autobiography.

VOLUME 3: CHAPTER TWO

HOMEFRONT PIONEERING 2--1965 to 1967:

"To capture one's life textually is a doomed struggle....."
Western autobiography has a strong emphasis on the individual and tends to be linear and chronological; autobiography among many non-western cultures has a strong focus on community. These tend to be non-linear, circular, include flashbacks and a range of techniques involving the perspectives of others in addition to the narrative position of the main storyteller. -Ron Price with thanks to Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior, Random House, NY, 1976.


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Autobiography: Part 4

  1. 1. PIONEERING OVER FOUR EPOCHS INTRODUCTION TO BOOK TWO Book One of this autobiography has taken you, dear reader, to the start of the tenth and final stage of history, as Shoghi Effendi called the years, the time, after April 21st 1963. It has also provided a brief survey of the years up to the first year of the Nine Year Plan in 1964-1965, to the beginning of anything that could be called my sex life in 1965 and to the death of my father that same year as I turned 21. Book Two will take the story and the analysis up to the time of writing this work, a writing that took place in stages, over many years of a long process from 1984 to now—2011. I will then give you a final Book Three of interviews, poetry, essays and a discussion of history. This Book Two begins, then, with volume 3 chapter 2 of my autobiography. 1
  2. 2. VOLUME 3: CHAPTER TWO HOMEFRONT PIONEERING 2--1965 to 1967: "To capture one's life textually is a doomed struggle....." Western autobiography has a strong emphasis on the individual and tends to be linear and chronological; autobiography among many non-western cultures has a strong focus on community. These tend to be non-linear, circular, include flashbacks and a range of techniques involving the perspectives of others in addition to the narrative position of the main storyteller. -Ron Price with thanks to Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior, Random House, NY, 1976. ______________________________________________________ By the time my father died in May of 1965, several weeks before his seventy-fifth birthday and three months after the death of the famous British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, that relationship with the lovely 27 year old Kit Orlick was cooling off. It was the most serious of the unserious relationships I had in the sixties 2
  3. 3. before my first marriage in 1967. Kit seemed totally unmoved by the Baha'i Faith and its teachings, as I have already pointed out, even if we had each been mutually moved in other ways by our relationship, however brief that movement had been. In June 1965 I saw Kit for the last time. It was the start of a Canadian summer as we walked a block away from my mother's new flat near the centre of the CBD of Hamilton, a city of 300,000 where I was born twenty-one years before. Downtown Hamilton, like lots of downtowns, was becoming a shadow of its former self by 1965. Urban centres, romanticized in the Petula Clark song, were losing their vibrancy just as I was about to make my first plans to live in a remote backwater of Canada that had no downtown. By 2011, nearly fifty years later, Hamilton was changing for the better, but it is not my intention to discuss the changes in urban life in any detail. These details can be found elsewhere, especially on the internet. 3
  4. 4. Another aspect of my life had also cooled off in the months just before my father's death in May 1965 and I describe it in the following prose-poem which I wrote over forty years later: A DIFFERENT PENETRATION Shortly after I retired from full-time work in 1999 and part-time work in 2003 as well as much of the voluntary work in 2005, work I had done for decades, I saw a documentary film1 entitled The Weather Underground. I felt a certain nostalgia as I watched this television documentary since the complex and historical origins of the group at the centre of this TV doco, the Weathermen and later the Weather Underground Organization, could be traced back to the 1960s and particularly my second year at university, 1964-5, when I was a history and philosophy student at McMaster University in Canada. The Students for a Democratic Society(SDS) was first formed in 4
  5. 5. 1960 and the Weathermen was a split-off from the SDS in 1969. The academic year, 1964-5, was the year of the free speech movement centered at the University of California, Berkeley under the informal leadership of students. It was also the year of SNCC: the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee and other groups concerned with civil rights and anti-Viet Nam protests. Although I never joined any of these groups, I did take part in two demonstrations in Hamilton and Toronto in the spring of 1965. I attended one conference in Ottawa concerned with civil rights, 5
  6. 6. voter registration and specifically the treatment of Negroes in Selma Alabama, among other concerns. I was, for a few months anyway, caught up on the fringe of a complex series of socio- political movements and their milieux on my university campus. As a result of an all-night vigil I took part in on the steps of the American embassy in Toronto I got my picture on the front page of the Hamilton Spectator. I think it was about April of 1965, although the exact month is vague now. It was the only time in my life I made the front page of any paper. The confrontation was a display of masculinity on both sides, a declaration of toughness, which sidelined women physically and morally,2 even though women made up a proportion of the protestors--one of whom slept right under my nose and my lips that night.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 “Hot docs: The Weather Underground,” SBS TV, 10:00-11:35 6
  7. 7. p.m., August 15th 2006; Pioneering Over Four Epochs, August 16th 2006; and 2 R.W. Connell, "Politics of Changing Men," Australian Humanities Review, December 1996. By the time you1 got going in that summer of ’69 I was just heading for Cherry Valley to teach kids from the farms of southern Ontario in grade 6 and play soccer at recess…. and the world was on its way to the moon and outer space. You were right, the revolution was on its way and you played your part by blowing things up and I played mine by working within the nucleus and pattern 7
  8. 8. of a new world order born in the Siyah Chal in 1853, ground in the mill of adversity, such a different scene than yours was back then. And, yes, the revolution goes on, quietly in some places, noisy in others, largely unnoticed, in the hearts of millions who have no commitment except, perhaps, their families, girlfriends and some leisure-time activity like sport, gardening and watching TV and who spiritually dropped out with a withdrawal that is almost deafening from a world they have long found to be quite meaningless at the socio-historico-politico level. 8
  9. 9. The revolution goes on just about entirely out of our control as we work to produce a new pattern of human life, little by little, day by day with a social model and a vision that penetrates to the very purpose of life: mine and yours, history’s, the future’s.2 1 The group known as the Weathermen. 2 Douglas Martin, “The Spiritual Revolution,” World Order, Winter 1973-4, pp. 14-21. August 16th 2006 In April 1965 The House of Justice had referred to a sense of an impending breakthrough in large-scale conversion. What I was experiencing at the time was a different breakthrough, one of a different order, distracted as I was by the power of sensory and sensual stimulation, during the greatest drama in the world's spiritual history. It appeared that I was not girding myself for 9
  10. 10. heroism but, rather, reaching out for a palliative when fear and depression had overwhelmed me. The world's confusion, which was increasing with every passing day, had invaded the centre of my life as it often would down life's track. Leon Trotsky was right when he wrote that "a man must live in the service of a great idea."1 But I was finding it very difficult in these first months and years of pioneering. In some ways the main difficulty was working out just what to do in the midst of a torrent of rain and storms, a tempest of private troubles. Some troubles, both my own and the world's, were insoluble by action. One's only recourse was acceptance and a patience that soothed resignation's quagmire. It is my hope as an autobiographer, looking back over so many years of my life, that I might exhibit a literary versatility and what might be called a sophisticated amateurism, part of the English temperament2 that I inherited as a Canadian, to deal with 1 Leon Trotsky in Intellectuals, Paul Johnson, Harper and Rowe, NY, 1993, p.177. 2 See James Atlas, “My Subject Myself,” The New York Times, October 9th 2005. 10
  11. 11. the complexities of the life I had lived. It was a job I aspired to do well. If I had the skill that Churchill had in writing his four volume History of the English Speaking Peoples, a history he wrote from 1937 to 1957, I might do justice to my life and times. Lacking that skill, I shall have to settle for a certain literary amateurism in dealing with the complexities of my life, my society and my religion. Half of my four year post-secondary training had been completed and nearly all of my Baha'i enthusiasms had been given such a shaking that they nearly dropped right out of my life. In some ways I was lucky to get off so lightly from my sexual romp. Sexual expression had become a pervasive feature of western society in the sixties; it was difficult to escape its push and pull. There is no question that had Kit been interested in the Baha'i Faith I would probably have married her, for in many ways she was all I wanted in a woman and, knowing no others, women that is, in the not- quite-biblical-sense, I could hardly compare or contrast. The older 11
  12. 12. I have become the more I have come to think of this as an advantage. Find the woman you want when you are young and keep her for the distance, as she keeps you and you can grow together. My son Daniel has done this and I anticipate him going the distance as they say. Serial monogamy, although superficially attractive to me in the 1960s, held less and less attraction with the years. As this serious pre-marital relationship waned my religious proclivities waxed. I blushed "to lift up my face" to my Lord so often then and now, indeed all my life "my longing hands" have so often been "ashamed to stretch forth toward the heaven"3 of His bounty. This sense of shame certainly kept me on track but it did not prevent me from doing all wrongs. Slowly, it would seem, Baha'u'llah pulled me back from the prison of delight in which I was caught and the phoenix of splendor that was His Cause rose 3 These are passages from the Long Obligatory Prayer, a prayer that had much meaning to me in my pre-pioneering days and in the first years of pioneering as well. 12
  13. 13. again in my life. I put it in these lofty tones, these superlatives, because I have found over forty years, indeed half a century now, that there is something otherworldly, something that is a source of immense tranquility, something that is, paradoxically, "the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden"4 in my experience of this Cause founded by the Ruler of the kingdom of names and the most precious being ever to walk the face of this earth. I’ll cut-and-paste here a prose-poem I wrote on the subject of shame since it appears relevant to the context of this chapter: A DISQUISITION ON SHAME Prelude The Piano Teacher was on SBSTWO last night.1 I had seen part of this 2001 film before and I saw part of it again. It won many awards and was based on the 1983 novel Die Klavierspielerin by Elfriede Jelinek who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004. The film is a realistic representation of a disturbed 4 Baha'u'llah in Baha'i Prayers, Wilmette, USA, 1985, p.143. 13
  14. 14. personality, of fanaticism, of sadomasochism, of the deepest feelings, where eros and murderous rages can easily mingle with transcendent exultation. The movie raised issues for me about the concepts of shame and guilt, both in society and in my own life, as well as about sociological theories of deviance and abnormal psychology. I was moved, therefore, to write this prose-poem, a poem that may well turn out to be more prose than poem. I have been a student of abnormal psychology and deviance since my university days in the mid-1960s. But, being a generalist academically and teaching many subjects in the humanities and social sciences, I have only had a casual acquaintance with these sub-disciplines, sub-sections, of psychology and sociology. This piece of writing will not dwell on these sections of the social sciences but, rather and entirely, about shame. PART 1: I remember first experiencing shame in about 1949. The fear of shame and ridicule was so strong that the flight mechanism prompted me, at the age of 4 or 5, to run several miles away from 14
  15. 15. the situation. I am told that people will risk serious physical injury or even death to avoid shame. I can understand this. This is because shame can result in serious damage to one’s social acceptance and a breakdown in one’s social relationships. In that situation in 1949 this was true—potentially. The evolutionary root of shame is in a self-focused, social threat system related to social acceptance and competitive behavior. These factors were certainly present for me in that 1949 family experience which, thankfully, did not become serious or explosive in any way. There is now evidence, in studies that readers can examine for themselves, that shame can act as an inner warning signal of threats and challenges to the self. Automatic defences are triggered: the desire to escape from the situation or submissive behavior. Shame has functioned for me since 1949 as a warning signal that: (a) I need to avoid doing something,(b) I need to increase my positive affect on others, or (c) I need to avoid having negative effects on others like anger, disgust, or contempt. Due to this feeling of shame there have been times when I did not reveal things about 15
  16. 16. myself to others in case they would then define me negatively and I would, as a result, feel bad in their eyes. In my several decades of living I have preferred a moderate confessionalism. PART 2: I can also capture this experience of shame very closely when I see my inner experience of self is as an unattractive social agent. What matters here is the sense of personal unattractiveness, my being in the social world as an undesired self, a self that one does not wish to be. Shame is an involuntary response to an awareness that one might lose status and be devalued as a result of one’s behaviour. My sense of shame has led to my dissociation, my asocial tendency, and a turning away from were formally social responsibilities. This has happened on my new medications in recent years. Shame is ultimately about punishment, is self- focused and "wired into" one’s defence system. I am conscious that due to my sense of shame I can potentially behave immorally, but not reveal my immortality, in order to court favour with my superiors or significant others and, in the process, 16
  17. 17. avoid being rejected for not complying with requests or orders. Prestige seeking, seeking the good name of others, and shame avoidance can also lead to destructive behaviours. PART 3: The opposite of shame is self-revelation, warts and all. Self- exposure melts shame away. In order to keep shame at bay using the technique of self-exposure, we need to constantly expose more. Madonna was one of the first performers to discover this. By openly declaring in 1983, “I have no shame,” she made a career out of pushing the envelope. “Where there is an unrestrained exposure of one’s emotions and of one’s body, a parading of secrets, a wanton intrusion of curiosity, it has become hard to express tender feelings, feelings of respect, of awe, of idealization, of reverence. The culture of shamelessness is also the culture of irreverence, of debunking and devaluing ideals.” If we run from shame, one analyst put it, we may successfully avoid humiliation but, instead, become dogged by a deep sense of anxiety instead. Shamelessness creates excitement and captures our interest, particularly when we 17
  18. 18. experience it on TV. But it has a down-side which often eludes our consciousness and results, as I say, in anxieties. PART 4: There are many positive aspects of shame. The fact is that most of us do not have the psychic makeup of Madonna, Paris Hilton, Howard Stern or any other celebrity who thrives on self-promotion. Self-promotion is not everyone’s cup-of-tea. Many prefer a quiet humility in life. Most of us are not like the people on reality shows who are carefully selected for their lack of inhibition. The only shame is to have none,” wrote the philosopher Blaise Pascal centuries ago. We ought to keep his words in mind.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 SBSTWO, 10:15 p.m. 9/11/’11, and Wikipedia and internet sites on The Piano Teacher. Yes, without doubt, I was protected or, rather, ran from the threat to my self-image and I was only five then!! At the age of 12 that protector kept my libido in control throughout my 18
  19. 19. teens and again, on reflection, at the age of 50 it deterred me and guarded me against what was unworthy and unseemly. Shame was part of some hidden social threat system related to my need to prove myself to myself as well as be acceptable to my life’s significant-and-insignificant others.1 1 Baha'u'llah, in His The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, says, "...there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame." He also says that “The fear of God hath ever been a sure defence and a safe stronghold for all the peoples of the world. It is the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation. Indeed, there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame. This, however, is confined 19
  20. 20. to but a few; all have not possessed and do not possess it.-Ron Price with thanks to SBSTWO, 8 November at 10:15 pm. In Kalímát-i-Firdawsíyyih(Words of Paradise), Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, 1978 ed., p. 63. "That which is of paramount importance for the children, that which must precede all else, is to teach them the oneness of God and the Laws of God. For lacking this the fear of God cannot be inculcated, and lacking the fear of God an infinity of odious and abominable actions will spring up, and sentiments will be uttered that transgress all bounds…."-Bahá’u’lláh: Bahá’í Education: A Compilation, p. 6, compiled by the Universal House of Justice. Ron Price 9 November 2011 The fact that this autobiography is lacking in many details I do not see as a problem. The insistence on entering every fact, however insignificant, into the autobiographical ledger merely because it is there, results in a pedantry, a dry and tedious literary landscape that 20
  21. 21. turns most readers off. The biographer Lytton Strachey once suggested to biographers to “row out over the great ocean of material and lower down into it a little bucket”5 and I have tried to follow his advice. It is not girth that dooms our contemporary autobiographies. If it was, mine at some 2500 pages now, would be doomed to extinction. My aim is to produce a book, not a literary monument. I do not believe biggest is best and if my book possesses an elephantine quality it is because, like those biographies of the Age of Empire,6 its author has come to possess what he likes to think is a deep familiarity with the world he has come to inhabit and an even deeper familiarity with his own self.7 The moth-like spirit, the gentle life of the heart, of belief, within me had nearly died. Perhaps it was the paradox of choice that I was being tossed about with, that was part of a life of living and burning. The first three years of pioneering certainly provided a 5 James Atlas, op.cit. 6 J.A. Froude’s biography of Thomas Carlyle and J.G. Lockhart’s biography of Sir Walter Scott each in several volumes. 7 Of course, one can never be too sure—especially here. 21
  22. 22. burn. Many people lack persistence and staying power in the face of difficulty. Paul Johnson says this was true of the great writer Tolstoi except in his true trade, his writing.8 When I compare myself to my wife, perhaps the only other human being I have come to know to any depth, I don't seem to have that staying power. I think the fact that my wife and I are still together is due to her persistence. I have often felt like leaving but, when the point came to pack the bag, I don't think I had the courage and, in later years, the adventurousness. The relationship had become, by my early 60s, too comfortable even if it had had its tensions and dissatisfactions. The Baha'i writings say that God does not test a soul beyond its capacity. If that is true, I have often felt that the measure of my capacity to withstand hardship could be contained in a thimble. Perhaps one measures one's thimble in retrospect. So it was that I entered the third year of university still without any clear direction as far as job, career and future employment. All my 8 Paul Johnson, op.cit., p.128. 22
  23. 23. subjects in this third year were units of sociology, thanks to Kit Orlick and her intoxications in what had become the dry and depressed life of a young man being thrown around by manic- depression. I had certainly found a new lease on life but I think it had more to do with those complex and elusive elements of body chemistry and several injections of erotic stimulation, not any spiritual and idealistic behavioral pattern in my everyday life. Of course, I knew nothing of this back then. On the first day of autumn in 1965 I was on my way to my first classes in: sociological theory, the sociology of the family, social control, comparative social systems, the sociology of work and research techniques. I was comfortable and I would sail through the rest of the year, my final year of university, on a slightly manic hit of that body chemistry and much milder injections of the erotic. I could certainly provide more detail here, the kind of detail that evokes many a scene with visual precision, as many a biographer has done back to Boswell and Johnson. Being there helps, although 23
  24. 24. not always. The compact biographies and autobiographies that come out of the English tradition are, on the whole, absent in the United States. Australia, Canada and the USA are all amorphous, diverse and far too sprawling in their sheer immensity to produce compact life-stories. I’m not blaming geography for this sprawling autobiographical product of mine, just using landscape as a partial explanation for this burgeoning book in its now several volumes. But, however long it may be, I trust readers will find here an imaginative reconstruction, a reconstruction which extends an emotional sympathy to myself, my religion and my society-I hope not too much. I’ll add here some comments about my four years of post-secondary education before continuing with the beginnings of my pioneering story in the years 1962 to 1965. The cohort of men and women who entered university in Ontario, or ‘came-up’ to university---to use an expression used in the UK for those who came-up to one of the Oxbridge universities in the 24
  25. 25. 1960s---do not stand out in their choice of careers as their brothers and sisters across the Atlantic did. More than any group before or since, according to British historian, essayist, and university professor Tony Judt(1948-2010), students who entered universities in the UK in 19661 opted for careers in education, the public service, the higher reaches of journalism, the arts, and the unprofitable end of the liberal professions. I don’t know what happened to those cohorts who entered university, with me, in Ontario in 1963. I left university in 1967, taught school on Baffin Island and then in rural Ontario before moving to the ends of the earth in Australia. And so it was that I did not follow my fellow students through their careers. I suppose I could google the subject if I was really keen but, after nearly half a century, now retired and approaching my dotage or my twilight years if you prefer a more elegant term, I have little interest in what happened to those cohorts who rambled through the corridors of higher education in Ontario in the mid- 25
  26. 26. sixties half a world away from where I now live and where I will likely, in due course, lay my bones. Perhaps I am ill-placed to assess the 1960s in Ontario’s universities. I went on to do graduate work but it was in far-off Australia. My memories of those four years are clouded with all sorts of emotional upheavals. I often feel I was lucky to graduate at all. I had no financial support from my parents, but a generous student-assistance scheme introduced in the early 1960s just before I entered university, as well as that era’s lower tuition- fees meant that I could graduate with less than half the debt carried by the average student today. So I am informed by a recent report I came across today on the internet. I can’t remember how much money I had to pay back but, after several years of employment, and by the time I left Canada for Australia in 1971, I was debt-free. 26
  27. 27. In Ontario, in the Golden Horseshoe where I had been born and raised, publicly supported universities had complete autonomy in deciding on their purpose, mission, and objectives. The universities were primarily teaching institutions until the 1960s and while I was getting my credentials for the world of jobs to come. Since then, since the 1960s, a single idea of the mission of the university—the research university—has been adopted by all. A key element of the research university model to which the university community in Ontario has subscribed is that of the teacher-researcher ideal. Undergraduate students should be taught only by professors who were also active researchers. When I enrolled in university in 1963 I entered a world very different from that of students half a century later. Kennedy was assassinated some two months after my studies began. I won’t give you chapter and verse of the history of the last half century or of all the changes to the higher education experience. Suffice it to say that tuition was $2,500 a year in current dollars 27
  28. 28. which was less than half of tuition fees today. I was one of the few students back then who worked during the school year to pay for, or at least allay, the costs of my education. I was still able to devote much time to my studies when I could get my emotions, my often debilitating affective disorder, into the right gear and framework. Students in the years 1963 to 1967, while I was at McMaster and then Windsor University, saw their professors and lecturers, their tutors and teachers, frequently, including outside class hours if they wanted. My professors were either tenured or tenure-track, and they worked full-time, if I recall correctly and, after all these years my memory is not that reliable. Many of my classes were small but, by 1963 when I left high-school for university, a lecture-hall could also be filled with hundreds. As a result, students had to show up prepared for tutorials and or those small classes and they received the close attention that 28
  29. 29. a solid education demands in those tutorials. Writing lengthy and not-so-lengthy term papers and essays for each course was standard, and professors as well as graduate students marked them. Multiple-choice exams were introduced while I was at university. My greatest debts from contact with all those academic people are very difficult to measure. There was an intellectual seriousness and stimulation that came from perhaps half a dozen professors and lecturers over those four year. It was the kind of stimulation that engaged my mind across a broad spectrum. Such tolerant intellectual breadth I’m sure was not confined to the two universities I attended in southern Ontario. After so many years of living and now nearly 70, I look back over those four years and they are awash with a flood of memories which I have written about elsewhere in my 2500 page autobiography. Since I took that first job in the Motor Vehicle Licence Branch of the Department of Transport in Ontario for 29
  30. 30. the summer months after graduation, and before starting to teach primary school among the Inuit on Baffin Island in September 1967, I have lived in so many towns and had so many jobs, lived in so many houses and read so many books that what happened to me from 1963 to 1967 seems in many ways like a dream, an illusion, bearing the mere semblance of reality, like a vapour in the desert which the thirsty dreams be to water but when he comes upon it he finds it a mere chimera.- Ron Price with thanks to 1 Tony Judt, “Meritocrats,” New York Review of Books, 19 August 2010. By December 1965, though, when the Universal House of Justice raised its call for two hundred more pioneers, I had begun to acquire that sense of mission and purpose which had slipped to the periphery during the sensual assaults provided by Kit Orlick. I had left behind me, at least eight months before, that socio-political involvement that I mentioned above in that prose-poem. The key that began to unlock my sense of purpose was a deepening 30
  31. 31. institute, a weekend series of talks in Chatham Ontario, a town that had been in the nineteenth century the end of the underground railway. It was the place where former slaves arrived in the freedom of a new country. I have often thought I was one of those modern slaves to my senses and, more recently, to my intellect, and here in Chatham I had found the beginnings of a freedom from myself that would take a lifetime to really attain. In October I heard the talks of two men: Jameson Bond and Douglas Martin. What they had to say and how they said it galvanized my being. Just about overnight I decided to pioneer among the Eskimo, to go to teachers' college after finishing university and to serve the Cause in a remote outpost of Canadian society. It would take nearly two years to achieve that goal and that story follows in the pages ahead. Most books, writes William Allingham, are records less of fullness than of emptiness.9 I had certainly felt a profound emptiness in the first years of my pioneer 9 William Allingham in Paul Johnson, op.cit.p.266. 31
  32. 32. experience. It was an emptiness that I did not seem able to fill and the years of employment ahead, at least the years before leaving Canada in 1971, did not fill that need to belong. The major collective centres: family, job, the opposite sex and marriage, material comforts and success, although each partially successful in their own way, seemed to require some larger, wider commitment. That commitment, for me, took a big step in that weekend in Chatham in October of 1965. It became, as Victoria Glendinning called it, my elsewhere community.10 And as I look back on these seminal events in the trajectory of my lifeline from a distance of nearly forty years; as I touch down on these highlights, these crucial decision-points, the memorable experiences, I can see the truth that Allingham expresses here. There was for me, as there has been for millions, a kind of hell of frenetic passivity in life in these four epochs, especially in the first and second epoch. Working out how to live, what to do, where to 10 In a series of talks on ABC Radio National, 2000. 32
  33. 33. find meaning, what to avoid, whom to marry, when to marry, what career to follow, whether to go fishing this afternoon or to watch the movie. This hell could just as easily be called a hell of frenetic activity. It seems to me that millions become so adjusted to this hell that it became a normal behaviour pattern.11 Of course, it is not always experienced as a hell; sometimes the spaces seem to be filled to overflowing with life's rewards, life's juices. Virginia Woolf put it this way: "We are porous vessels afloat on sensation, sensitive plates exposed to visible rays. We take the breath of voices in our sails and tacking this way and that through daily life we yield to them."12 Some live their lives from one great individual moment to the next, tumultuous thoughts and feelings transform chaos into meaning as they struggle to understand the violent moods of their soul. They learn to absorb what the fiery, the violent and the desolate moods might teach and to express 11 Samuel Beckett, Waiting For Godot, 1953(1948). This theme of meaningless passivity is portrayed with some profundity. 12 Virginia Woolf in The Flight of the Mind, T.C. Caramagno, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1992. 33
  34. 34. heightened moments of remembered intensity, partly due to a sensitivity to the shudderings and inconsistencies of life, partly due to a gradual awareness that this is their road to survival, partly due to incapacities in other domains of life and partly, perhaps, to those mysterious dispensations of a watchful Providence and His many earthly gifts. In the 1960s and 1970s I learned these things largely unobtrusively, largely indirectly, for the most part quite unconsciously. In the 1980s and 1990s the whole thing slowed down. I could tack through daily life without the frenetic passivity. The desolate moods eventually disappeared; the shudderings of life softened and a watchful Providence gave me new tests to occupy my soul. I found, quite insensibly and without realizing the significance of the process until at least my fifties, that the Baha'i Faith had provided a new kind of civic life, a new kind of civility, which I scarcely appreciated for it was so unobtrusive in its acquisition and expression in my daily life. I had been given a master plan back in 34
  35. 35. the late fifties and early 1960s and an interpretive and emotional complexity emerged as an overlay on this plan, this metanarrative, this explanatory pattern. The application of this plan to the complexity of my life seemed to take forever. The journey was slow and arduous--and still is as I near sixty. But along the way, over those several decades, there were many signposts, many defined forms, many decisions that helped me orient myself, enrich and evaluate my day to day life. I was not destined, as so many are in our western capitalist, consumerist, society, to experience an impoverishment of quality in my activity as more material goods were acquired. Indeed, by 1973, even amidst a heart-rendering divorce, I had begun to acquire that first attribute of perfection that 'Abdu'l-Baha stresses in His Secret of Divine Civilization, namely, "learning and the cultural attainments of the mind."13 As I try to translate this experience, indeed all my experience, into an autobiographical form I am reminded of the words of 13 'Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970, p.35. 35
  36. 36. philosopher Maurice Blanchot who sees in literature its fundamental mystery. The basis of this mystery is partly due to the written word having such power over us and yet, at the same time, being so completely estranged from the world it supposedly refers to? In this paradox, this dichotomy, lies its mystery. I am more than a little conscious of this reality as I write my narrative. When we say that literature takes us to "another world", we overstate the case, at least for millions. For all of us this escape only applies to some of the literature. There is an asymmetry of experience in literature that Blanchot focuses our attention on relentlessly. This asymmetry is partly due to literature's mystery, partly due to its potential power, partly due to its very estranging form the world. There is an a-cultural aspect, too, to art and literature which is hard to accept wholeheartedly, he says. Literature seems in a curious way divorced from life. In this age of shortcuts, in which the value of literature is judged by how well it effaces itself, we are hardly aware of this asymmetry. It is denied, avoided and even denounced. 36
  37. 37. Blanchot's consciousness of these aspects of literature makes him a most important writer.14 For he describes the experience of the writer, certainly this one as I write this work. Before continuing this autobiographical study, I'd like to insert two short poems here, poems which speak in an interesting way to my themes. I was, in the mid-sixties, a young adult, a third generation Canadian of English stock. Some eighty per cent of the 220 million people in North America lived within 1000 miles of the Hamilton complex of towns where I grew up. I was, among other things: A man is a teller of tales; he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others that happen to him through them, and he tries to live as if he were recounting it. 14 Stephen Mitchelmore, "The Absent Voice: On the Writing of Maurice Blanchot," Spike Magazine, September 2003, Internet. 37
  38. 38. -Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea All men are invisible to one another. Experience is man’s invisibility to man. Experience used to be called the Soul. -R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience This whole autobiographical exercise is like being an artist or poet- in-residence. The finest work you produce is yourself. The life you live and the life you tell are inseparable: in some respects they are twins, in other ways they are like friends, members of the same family or, indeed, hardly comparable. As we live, we organize and reorganize our story; we create ourselves as we go along. Charles Hartshorne, the major process philosopher in the last half of the twentieth century,15 says this is the ultimate reality: self-creation, making ourself, self-construction, self-fabrication. Your life-story 15 Following in the philosophical tradition of Alfred North Whitehead. 38
  39. 39. happens on several levels: the outside story, the story at the level of existing, the events; the inside story, is your interpretation of these events, your meaning, your creation; it is what you do with what happens to you. The third level is the level you project to the world. Somewhere here is my everyday self that is seen and has been seen in a multitude of ways by those who have known me. This level for me is also my autobiography. The fourth and final level is the impression my story creates on others. It is their reading of my story, my life as I write or tell it and their reading has a thousand meanings from something profound to something quite meaningless. Beyond these four levels, as Gregory Bateson argues, life for most of us is an improvisatory art; we make it up as we go along. Although it may be that the world is in-between stories, the Baha’i feels he is part of the new story, part of mankind’s one great story, the grand symphony that this world is, as Joseph Campbell calls it. My own story, told in many forms in this autobiography Pioneering 39
  40. 40. Over Four Epochs, is an attempt to relate my small micro-world to the grand opus, as it is enviseaged in the Baha’i literature. It is also a linking of past, present and future in some story-form, some alluring sequence. Hopefully the sequence is helpful or pleasureable to others. As Montaigne once wrote, the process is not easy because ideas are fleeting, difficult to define and often vague.16 Often it seems like a storm of thoughts blowing in my head, a storm that is quite impossible to order.17 “All serious work must be at bottom autobiographical” says Thomas Wolfe: novel, poetry, autobiography, essay, etcetera. And we continually edit this story, we continually confer meaning and purpose, thus rescuing our story from randomness through some simple narrative lust. But, as I said above, for the Baha’i there is still a master plot, a master theory, within which our life is but a 16 John O'Neill, Essaying Montaigne: A Study of the Renaissance Institution of Writing and Reading, routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1982. 17 Such is the way Robert Lee puts it in: 1St Person singular: Studies in American Autobiography, Vision Press, London, 1988, p.93. 40
  41. 41. sub-plot. However tedious, mundane, routine, repetitive, boring, uninspiring, smoothly ticking over our life may appear there are tensions and conflicts which never go away and which, unresolved or resolved, are one of the major sources of our meaning and purpose. The reader of autobiography, of my story, gets a neat package, gets some equilibrium, with passions spent, even though life is not so neat. The equilibrium is dynamic and passions are far from spent. Life often appears in the end like a daydream, “bearing the mere semblance of reality.” Carl Jung says that we "can not know what we are really like. We can only experience ourselves as a scientific problem." Autobiography is an attempt to unravel this problem, to face the reality of life that we are often reluctant to face. Part of the problem is not that the autobiographer faces a blank page but, rather that he faces a mind over- filled vastly overfilled with mountains of experience higher than Mt. Everest and deeper than the deepest ocean abysses. 41
  42. 42. There is a pattern of build-up, climax and relief, a sense of what’s next. These are found in the world I create as much as the plot that is developed. This is especially true due to the multiple-genre format to my autobiography. No matter how meaningful, how accidental, how significant or insignificant my story is, I can not help but be concerned with the literary. In fact, my guess is that most people never write their story because they are beaten by the literary. The literary dimension is simply too much for them. They really prefer gardening, or reading, or sewing or one of a thousand things. They are beaten, too, by the idiosyncratic, by the endless sense of life being in transition. Life, too, as we get older, gets longer, bigger, deeper, thicker and, thus, harder to put down. It seems to elude logical meaning, directionality, obvious and unquestioned improvement. It’s all too complex, too beyond definition and the simple story. I used to think, for example, that I was a pretty good guy, one of the better human beings around the place. I was much more blinded 42
  43. 43. to my sins. When I said the Long Obligatory Prayer and I came to the part toward the end where it says "my back is bowed by the burden of my sins" I had trouble thinking what my sins were. Now, though, that I have lived forty more years and collected so many sins of mission and commission I have no trouble saying this prayer and finding in myself a host of sins in all categories. “This world is not conclusion”, says Emily Dickinson, “a sequel stands beyond”. Perhaps those who have no sense of sequence or a sequel beyond find the whole idea of writing their story depressing. For me, Emily’s words are so appropriate to my own story and I weave that “sequel which stands beyond” as best I can into the texture of this life. It is not conclusion; it is continuity. The neat chapters in my life, even my view of the afterlife, are culture-bound and held together by a sub-culture, the sub-culture of my religious beliefs, attitudes and values.` Whatever the chapters, whatever the sequel, the origin and end of autobiography converges in the very act of writing. Everything collapses into the act of producing the 43
  44. 44. text. That which does not collapse, does not find a place and is left in the home of the nameless and traceless, an oblivion which the world will never locate. One of the main features of this autobiography, indeed most autobiographies if not all, is narrative and identity. Both narrative and identity are at the core of any coherence that this writing possesses. Peter Brooks, a psychoanalytically oriented literary theorist, puts this concept, this idea, as follows: Mens sana in fabula sana: mental health is a coherent life story, neurosis is faulty narrative. Continuity, in my opinion, is at the centre of coherence. It is one form of coherence and the one that is specifically related to my narrative since it operates in time. Time is unquestionably a basic constituent of narrative. Continuity is a chronological linkage between the main three temporal dimensions in which we all operate: past, present, and future. In some ways this is only stating the obvious. But it is this linkage, characteristic of both stories and narrative identity, that is destabilized by 44
  45. 45. illnesses. And it is the implicit or explicit assumption of continuity that underlies the experience of disruption as one of the traumatic aspects of illness.18 In this autobiography, in my own life story, disruption by illness certainly destabilized my life on several major and a multitude of minor occasions. Other major and minor disruptions also occur in this story. They represent a critical core of this narrative. They are part of many of my life’s splits into the “befores” and “afters.” They permeate not only my life story shadowed as it is by varying degrees of personal tragedy and catastrophe, but also all life-narratives characterized by turning points such as migration stories, conversion stories, etcetera and or any one of the multitude of traumas people experience in life. Readers will find these tragedies and these turning points occuring here as they do in different ways in all our lives. These disruptions often make one feel a little like those Heraclitans of old who believed one could never step into the same river twice, so 18 Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, “The Story of “I”: Illness and Narrative Identity,” Narrative, Vol. 10, No.1, January 2002. 45
  46. 46. profound were the changes that take place in our lives. In the several periods I have had of lived chaos my reflections have also been chaotic and consequently any story-telling I might engage in confused, if not impossible. Telling this story and even more so writing it, as I am now doing, is a way of taking control, creating order, thus keeping chaos at bay. Perhaps disruption, then , is more the rule than the exception. Sometimes narrative can present the burning process of life in too clean a fashion and the transformation that has taken place as too complete. Such an approach to narrative can implicitly deprecate those who fail to rise out of their own ashes. Often, too, we rise out of our own ashes, but descend in some of the quieter, silent moments of despair and anguish and that sense of transformation which we went through evaporates. The phoenix has risen but just as quickly it descends and wonders if it has ever enjoyed any fight at all. Fragmentation settles in for a moment, a few minutes, an hour, a day. My defense of, my brief reference to, fragmentation is 46
  47. 47. at least partly motivated by the desire to legitimate and respect its reality in my life. Whether my construction of continuity or transformation is an attempt to control the anxiety of disruption, indeed, the several questions bound up with this discussion, I leave these provocative notes with readers to chew over. One thing that I have found difficult to insert, include, add to this narrative is the whole conception of place. It is important to me in my understanding of the culture, the many cultures I have been a part of. Place is intensely personal but it is also a neutral category that helps in a curious way to define who I am. The link between place and myself, though, is complex. The houses I have lived in and the places I have worked in, the houses, halls and dozens and dozens of spots I have visited, drunk tea in, chatted to people in are all part of the landscape of my life, making my consciousness strangely horizontal. 47
  48. 48. Little did I know, indeed it was impossible for me to imagine, when my homefront pioneering life was in its early stages in the mid-1960s, that I would come to live in 37 houses in the years 1962 to 2002. Many of these houses, homes, are virtually meaningless to me now or, to put it more accurately, my memory can hardly bring some of them back into focus. In other ways, some of these houses seem to serve as starting points, as mnemonic devices, from which I aimed to get somewhere, to travel somewhere, do something. For movement has always provided for me a sense of difference between the past and the present. Really, it is impossible for me to even imagine this story without a base, a foundation, in place, in location, in landscape, in land, in the world and its several continents.19 Much of this experience, indeed most of it in more than forty years of pioneering, was not unlike that which characterized the experience of those in small settlements in 19 The role of landscape in autobiography is described and defined by many writers: Australian Autobiography: The Personal Quest, John Colmer, 1989, Oxford, p.144; and David McCovey, Artful Histories: Modern Australian Autobiography, Cambridge UP, 1996, p.1. 48
  49. 49. North America or Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were morally demanding; there were constraints on individualism. There was always the capacity to move elsewhere. This latter fact promoted the extension of the Cause even further. Mark Twain has sometimes been considered the first great American traveller.20 As far back as 1853, at the age of 18, his travelling began. His was not the ‘grand tour’ of those enamoured of classical civilization. His was not the safe and secure, the comfortable and easy; he seemed hell-bent on seeking out the dangerous and the difficult. This is what makes a journey; this is what a journey means. So it was to Twain and so it has been to millions of travellers. In our age of the fast track and the fast lane often the traveler is suspended in an airplane as in a space capsule; he or she neither ages nor remembers. Life starts again on arrival. Torpor, stupor, listlessness, lethargy is often associated with travel- 20 Frederick J. Ruf, “The Ride of Passage: The Pursuit of Danger, Trance, and Failure in Mark Twain, Paul Bowles, and Us,” Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory, Vol.1, No.2, 2000. 49
  50. 50. the long trip in the car, the train, the plane. Then there are the forms of disequilibrium: seasickness, nausea, bad headaches, temporal dislocation and spacial disorientation, lost time, other time. Twain seeks out the dislocations and tells readers about them in fine detail. Space and time are liquid, sometimes blurred or warped or distended. For when we travel we are experiencing a ride of passage. I’ve often wondered why Twain seemed to focus on failure even what he calls the “systematic monotony” of failure. Perhaps, like Twain, that is what we want when we travel. There is nothing surprising about humans seeking encounters with what seems threatening to their comfort, pleasure, and safety. What might be slightly more strange is our refusal to acknowledge that odd--but important--behavior. Paul Bowles, an American novelist after WW2, selected the wonderful title Without Stopping for his autobiography. It’s a title that indicates that he never arrived and never returned, that he engaged in a continuous passage. That continuous passage, a 50
  51. 51. characteristic he largely shared with Henry Miller, allowed readers to see the three characteristics of passage: danger, trance, and failure, in all of his travels. Incessant movement through incessant dangers, in a dream-like trance and lost to the activities of home are the themes of much of Bowles’ writing. And all of this is a means to an end writes Bowles. It's going "there" and being "there" for which we quite strongly show our need, our craving. It’s a craving for the new, for fresh experiences that break or extend our notions of ourselves and our fellow humans as well as our world. It is a notion that begins while we are at home and functions to take us into some other space or place. More of us than we might suspect would agree with Paul Bowles when he declared “Each time I go to a place I have not seen before, I hope it will be as different as possible from the places I already know.” We love the surfaces of the familiar but we love our ruptures, too, and need them. We all do. I think that is true of some of us, but not all—and it depends on what time in our lifespan. It 51
  52. 52. was true of my desires for adventure and change back in the early decades of my life, early in my pioneering life. But after 40 years of it, say, 1959 to 1999, I yearned for the familiar and the same, the routine and the comfortable. Adventure was something I came to prefer in my mind, as long as my body did not have to go anywhere. Even here, though, the course of true love, of one’s true desires and wants for physical movement and adventure of stasis, never do run totally smooth, as Lysander is want to say in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There are, of course, aspects of life in which, as Shakespeare says, “the wheel is come full circle,”21 by which we mean that someone's actions have passed through phases only to return to their starting point, a starting point to which we might ascribe to the inevitable workings of Fate--but not necessarily so. The only child that I was back in the 1950s, that child of middle aged parents who amused himself by himself, that learned to be alone so much 21 Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 5, Scene 3, line 175. 52
  53. 53. of the time without anxiety and with only his mother around the house is now, half a century later, doing the same thing, amusing himself by himself. “Men and women of little interest and no distinction,” writes Anthony Storr, “feel impelled to record their life-stories.”22 Storr goes on to say that such people are often less imbedded in a social nexus, feel impelled to make their mark in some individual fashion, are less dependent on others and ignore convention. All these factors I could apply to my life, especially as I have approached the middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80). Writers, generally, come from the middle class, where privacy is more easily obtainable and where solidarity with friends and neighbours is not so stringently demanded or desired. In addition, and finally on this note of the solitary, one’s relationship with the divine and happiness itself is often easier to achieve outside of human relationships.23 This has certainly been true of my life now that I 22 Anthony Storr, Solitude, Harper-Collins, 1989, London, p.81. 23 ibid., pp. 82-3. 53
  54. 54. am in my sixties, but I dwell on this topic in many places in this length y work. Whatever degree of that tendency noted by Tocqueville in relation to American life in the 1830s, that same tendency of Bahá’ís, indeed, of all peoples in the West where I had lived and had my being more than a century and later, to isolate themselves and “withdraw into the circle of family and friends”24 leaving the greater society to look after itself was to some extent unavoidable. The withdrawal into a small-town, small community, family, some localized, collectivized and communal orientation was always there, but the outreach was impossible to totally stifle even when few responded to the reach as was often the case with the Baha’is whose outreach during these epochs was irrepressible. Individualism, too, in its diverse forms, was never overcome by the inevitabilities of conformism in the Baha’i groups I was associated 24 A. de Tocqueville in “The Origins of American Individualism: Reconsidering the Historical Evidence,” Edward Grabb, et al., Canadian Journal of Sociology, V.24, N.4, 1999, pp.511-533. 54
  55. 55. with over the decades. The comparison between Baha’i communities during these epochs and the communities of early American and Australian history is an interesting one but not my purpose here. There are myths surrounding both and I’m sure future historians will excavate the current historical sites and reveal any inaccurate and distorted representations of the actual situation. The various people mentioned in my text are infinitely more complex than those who appear in novels. If I had the skill I might create these complexities for people to enjoy in fiction form. I could define them, analyse them and give them depth and texture. But I will leave this to others and to future generations. What makes them more complex than those characters in novels, at least for me, is that I became accutely aware of these complexities as a result of getting to know them in their daily lives, in their homes, around kitchen tables, in various microcosms. As I say, if I had the skill, I might create their lives on paper, on the basis of the reality of their lives. Sadly, I can not develop their personalities in a world 55
  56. 56. of fiction. I have found this too difficult to do and, for the most part, I have left this in a separate file as a separate subject. Although these people are known to me more intimately than the myriad strangers in my life, the host of associations who just crossed my path in the work place, in other interest groups that I joined, in the media, in neighbourhoods and in the towns and cities I lived, I never entered 99.9% of their homes. Even the ‘best known’ remained, as I moved into my sixties, enigmatic, elusive, shadowy, incoherent, contradictory—strangers in a strange land. None of those whose lives I came to know more intimately occupy a central place in this story, though, and for the most part their place could best be described as peripheral. Partly, of course, this is because I have moved around so much and most of the people that have been in my life have disappeared from my radar screen. There are a few in my address book in towns I shall never see again, in a country I shall never see again, or they have passed 56
  57. 57. away or are part of that great jungle of humanity that is filled with literally hundreds of people I have known but for many strange and elusive reasons it is not likely that, in this earthly life, I shall come to know them in any intimate sense. I noticed, just the other day, that the address books I had until my late thirties, have virtually no one in them who continued on into my fifties and sixties, except a small handful of family members. This should not be a concern especially in the light of the following vivid comments of R. D. Laing: “your experience of me is invisible to me and my experience of you is invisible to you. I cannot experience your experience. You cannot experience my experience. We are both invisible men. All men are invisible to one another. Experience is man’s invisibility to man.” But in another sense, the workings of our minds are perfectly visible to others in our actions and the workings of autobiographical minds like mine or fictional minds in novels are perfectly visible to readers from characters’ actions. The conjectures, the hypotheses and the opinions of 57
  58. 58. readers can make all sorts of constructions about who I am. I’m not sure I’d go all the way with Laing, but there is enough truth here to make a useful point. The Baha’i Faith, of course, occupies the pivotal position in the landscape of my mind. Jerome Bruner, famous educator in the last half of the twentieth century, once wrote that "perceiving and remembering are themselves constructions and reconstructions. What is laid down is not some aboriginal encounter with the real world, but is already highly schematized. There is no mental reference shelf of our aboriginal real world encounters."25 That is why, as Porter Abbott argues, "to recapture one's life textually is a doomed struggle with inherited literary forms." Many theorists of autobiography these days say that there is little to distinguish autobiography from the novel. Both are acts of intentionality; both are corrupted by the present; both are stories 25 ibid., p.8. 58
  59. 59. more told than lived; both aim to make connections between a disparate, heterogeneous experience and some unified totality; both are narrative: dreaming, remembering, hoping, despairing; both surrender to the randomness of of life and action; both have to deal with what often seems like life's messy, irrelevant, redundant and contradictory clutter; both deal with the ordinariness and triviality of people's lives and their efforts to find significance. And so it is that many writers flee from autobiography because they want to flee from their personal narrative and its conception of sequence, from the riddle of self, from what they see as a factitious and fictitious coherence consciously or unconsciously introduced into their path, their life, from the telling of their secrets, from what they see as the impossibility of the very existence of autobiography. Like the poet Sigfried Sassoon who had become alientated from himself due to WW1,26 many writers in the last half of the twentieth century became alienated from themselves and 26 David Aaron, Franklin: The Autobiography, Vintage Books, 1986, NY, p.113. 59
  60. 60. their societies by a different set of contemporary horrors. During the years 1980 to 2000 there was, therefore, a shift from fact to fiction in the writing of autobiography. But this was not true in the case of every writer of autobiographer. It was not the case in my own writing. I wanted my work "to be good medicine for distempered times" the way Benjamin Franklin's was for ours.27 As central person, my role, my circumstances, my character changes again and again in this narrative. I am especially conscious of this for I am storyteller, character, audience, narrator and reader all at once. Like Sassoon, I too felt conscious of a war that had changed me, but it was a war of a quite different kind. Like Franklin, I felt in many ways my auto- biography was a rambling series of digressions. I felt, also, again like Franklin, it was a form of action. Part of the key was to "harness aspiration to possibility by small, gradual and unmomentous remedial acts and by self- discipline and self-trust."28 In these early years of my pioneering 27 ibid., p.xi. 28 idem 60
  61. 61. venture I had not yet learned the wisdom that Franklin advised, namely, to keep one's own counsel, to guard one's tongue and to proceed cautiously "given the unreliable mix of humanity."29 I'm not sure I ever fully learned this wisdom. But I was aware of the aphorism of 'Abdu'l-Baha that "stories told about others are seldom good. A silent tongue is safest."30 It was one of His many many wisdoms I never quite fully learned to implement. From time to time I refer to one of the primary or secondary relationships in my life. They are unavoidable. They are necessary. They have contributed so much to the pleasures and pains, the richnesses and routines, the day-to-day activities and meanings of life. This third edition explores these relationships in far more depth than the first two edition, but the potential for exploration is really quite infinite, certainly more than they have enjoyed thusfar. Perhaps in future editions these relationships will acquire the 29 idem 30 'Abdu'l-Baha in The Pattern of Baha'i Life, Rutland Gate, 1970(1948), p.31. 61
  62. 62. exposure they deserve. The relationships with the three central women in my life: my mother and my first and second wife, for example, all deserve much more attention than I have given them thusfar. In both my marriages sexual ardor, or at least activity, was considerably reduced within a year or two of the wedding ceremony. That ultimate of heterosexual rituals, the honeymoon, was a period that promised much and delivered much but so much that I never anticipated—both good and bad. This is a common, a universal phenomenon. My sexual appetites did not diminish but my opportunities for their satisfaction clearly did. The pleasure in marital sexuality was mixed liberally with frustration over the years. And it was not until my fifties that these frustrations took a back seat, a more moderate place of acceptance, found a more relaxed setting in the spaces of my life. But before this cooling of the heat there were several consequential and inconsequential doses of female devotion that combined with my own narcissistic hunger, 62
  63. 63. for the most part during the interval between marriages. Thankfully they were short-lived affairs without the persistent strain and intermittent depression that often characterizes these sorts of physical intimacies, relationships, when they do not end in fulfilling and lasting union. They were, too, essentially an expression of loneliness and strain; they were not about self- dramatization or an example of a taste for emotional effusion. But they were about the erotic. By March 1974 a series of intense erotic flings, begun in October 1973, were over and I was settled into a monogamous relationship once again. I have described this period elsewhere in more detail and, perhaps in a future edition I will return to the themes that are explicit and implicit here. In October 1973, on the last night I co-habited with my first wife, I began a sexual relationship with one of my students, a fifteen year old grade ten student, Anne Mooney who lived in Para Hills where the school I taught in was located. By the end of December the relationship was over. Our relationship was not unlike that of the Canadian poet Charles G.D. Roberts in 1927 with a Constance 63
  64. 64. Davies Woodrow who had shamelessly led him on from the moment she met him. Miss Woodrow also had a quixotic and unpredictable temperament and the inconstant Constance inevitably turned her attentions elsewhere after a few months.31 Roberts then turned his attention to a married woman Kathleen Strathearn, a Canadian west coast school teacher. Outwardly she possessed all of the physical characteristics that this 67 year old father of Canadian poetry, admired most. Roberts has been variously described as a womanizer, an adulterer, a rake or just a lonely man with some very human weaknesses. Of course in my case, Mooney did not shamelessly lead me on, but I was a troubled, sexually-frustrated married bipolar man. A person who is under 16 is deemed as being incapable of giving consent32 and, therefore, a critical observer might use these same 31 John Coldwell Adams , “MORE LETTERS FOR THE ROBERTS COLLECTION, Studies in Canadian Literature, Volume, 16, No. 1, 1991. 32 The age of consent is important legally because it is the age below which “statutory rape” is committed if sexual intercourse has occurred whether or not it is mutually agreed upon. It is 64
  65. 65. terms for me as the ones used for Roberts especially after and in relation to another three months of “womanizing” in Tasmania. In December 1973 while in Sydney at Anne’s brother’s home, my young lover turned her attentions elsewhere and I split, as they say colloquially these days. I split to Tasmania. In many autobiographies romantic entanglements appear tantalizingly opaque. Sometimes there is a deafening silence on the subject and at other times sexual proclivities are given excessive attention. Biographers often face the difficulty of separating a labyrinthine unrealistic to expect that, by reason of legislation, adolescents will defer sexual activity until some arbitrary age of consent, and similarly unrealistic to ignore the circumstance that very many, if not most adolescents, in contemporary society, are sexually active by the age of 16 years, whether they are male or female. There is no objective way to determine at what age a child no longer needs the protection of those laws and the age of consent is 15 or below in some countries. Technically in South Australia the offence is known as 'unlawful sexual intercourse', not statutory rape. The age of consent in SA is 18 if a relationship of care exists between the parties, a teacher and student, for example. The penalty is up to 10 years imprisonment. someone under 17 regardless of your own age. s 49 Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) 65
  66. 66. sex life from the rest of their subject or, alternatively, trying to merge the two and make sense of the whole. We often know a great deal about someone’s sex life because they wrote it down in diaries, in their fiction and their letters. It is often the case that we know far too much. Do we need to know, for example, the fine detail: the number of times, the length of the episodes, the eccentricities, the SM, the hunt for the g-spot, if any of these potentially rich and sensitive aspects of a person’s sexual life? Did the sensual intimacy bind the partners together? Whole chapters of some biographies and autobiographies concern the subjects and their wives, their girlfriends and their lovers. Readers here will not be given such a joyful, such an intimate romp, although I do not leave the subject totally out of the picture. My ill-regulated passions, as I look back more than 35 years later, took control of my life from October 1973 to March 1974 or December 1974 if I include the period up to the time I lost my voting-rights. 66
  67. 67. In this work there is the occasional hot scene but the liberal effusion of sexual activity is as rare here as it was in my life. I’m not complaining now, although in my thirties and forties I had my share of frustration and did my share of belly-aching overtly or covertly. How much of this frustration was due to my being an only child cosseted by my mother, growing up helplessly self- centered, seeing life as one long indulgence as is so often the case with children, possessing a seemingly unshakeable egotism— and/or rather coming to maturity slowly or never growing up, period,33 is impossible to say. The analysis, after all these years, is at worst a source of embarrassment and at best a useful anecdote for readers who have had or will have such a test in life. My identity, then, is quintessentially biographical not biological. It is the answer to the question: what is your real, inmost story? What took place in those half a million hours, twenty-four thousand days 33 Owen Mackenzie, an amiable solipsist, is a character in John Updike’s, Villages, A.A. Knopf, 2004 who seems to serve as an autobiographical account of Updike himself. 67
  68. 68. and sixty-five years of real autobiographical data? According to Lewis Thomas this is all we have and, after the trivia are eliminated, he says that all we get in the first 60 years of life is eleven years, 4000 days or 64,000 hours, three time frames to define your period of meaningful activity in life even. If we live beyond sixty, of course, those time frames increase. The past develops like a plot; it thickens. That is why I can write a poem about an early childhood experience and then write it differently next year. Raccontio ergo sum. I want things to come out right, I suppose; I’d like to be saved, especially from myself, my lower nature. Thus, I am religious in my persistence to tell my story, to create and define my world, to write a Grand Unified Story. I am also trying to get back time but, alas, it is unredeemable. The memories I draw on connect what happened once upon a time with what is happening now in a process of synthesis which is quite mysterious, quite delightful and often immensely frustrating. At the core of the frustration for me is what I feel is an inability to make 68
  69. 69. my story live as much as it lived in the act of living it. I read the words and they often seem flat, beyond reification. I am also conscious of just how brief the first edition of this narrative was: some eighty pages. The poetry is one simple, yet effective, way to overcome these frustrations. It conveys in quite apt, quite fitting, quite emotionally satisfying ways both my person- al experiences in pioneering and the heady days in these earliest years of the Universal House of Justice’s assumption at the apex of the Baha’i administrative system. “Without forgetting” says Nietzsche, “it is quite impossible to live at all.” The autobiographer must forget a great deal and use it, perhaps, as Graham Greene says “as compost for the imagination.” We define our world very much by what we forget, by the nature or type of personality we have: gloomy, poetic, sentimental, joyful, melancholy, etcetera.34 Mine I might call Priceland. I’m not conscious of the type of land it is, not yet; I’m too immersed in 34 The literature of psychology and especially personality theory had a host of labels and terms for different personality types. 69
  70. 70. creating this land at the moment, in defining it and describing it. We also define our world against what we might call a gestalt of pastness which is partly a prelinguistic darkness. Writing explodes this darkness and creates a new gestalt. What goes on the page flows mysteriously out of the incomprehensible moods of the present and what is forgotten in the competition among available memories. Whatever anecdotal brilliance is created is derived from these moods, from simple literary skill, from the richly informative retrieval cues and from a host of other factors. It is these moods, this multi-factorial writing situation, as much as anything, which creates whatever wholeness comes into existence in the text. This wholeness draws more on the present, then, than it does the past. In other ways, the past is quintessential, the sine qua non of the entire exercise. 70
  71. 71. I do think my life has a certain direction, integration sub specie Baha’i Faith. Obviously, too, there are contradictions between my personal goals, aims, purposes and what I actually do to achieve these. Until I die, though, I will try to make a comprehensible story of my life. I will try and tell if faithfully, fully and make it into one piece, a single journey. For I am conscious that the extraordinary lingers just behind the ordinary and I want to bring it out in my life and in the lives of others when it can serve as some form of meaning therapy, what Victor Frankl calls logotherapy. My imagination has been feasting for years on a diet of rich and diverse experience and rich and diverse ideas. This richness is in a narrow range of activity involving: people, places and books. “Rich”, “diverse”, “narrow”, I could add other adjectives, adjectives which suggest a certain epistemological ambivalence. I am aware, though, of the anecdote about how Ezra Pound taught the young Ernest Hemingway to guard against over-populating his work with adjectives. I do some guarding in this text, but probably not enough to please a man like Pound. 71
  72. 72. The autobiographical act, like life itself, generates this ambivalence. It also generates lived facts, lived events, as artefacts. My poetry is part of, an expression of, these lived facts in these darkest hours before the dawn, before, while and after, the Arc on Mount Carmel was completed, for much of this autobiographical work took place in the years when the Shrine of the Bab was embellished with beauty and form on the side of Mt. Carmel. But, strangely, surprisingly, unbelieveably, "there is nothing in this world as invisible as a monument," as Robert Musil argues.35 There is something Musil emhasizes, which a monument is impregnated with that repels attention. Roger White makes the same point in his poem The Artefact. White says in that poem that the monument is "coffined in glass--a pity that such beauty not be seen."36 We "set it in a place of honour in the central square," but 35 Robert Musil, Posthumous Pagers of a Living Author, p.61 quoted in Miranda J. Banks,"Monumental Fictions:National Monument as a Science Fiction Space," Journal of Popular Film and Television, Fall, 2002. 36 Roger White, "The Artefact," The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, p.96. 72
  73. 73. were not conscious of the "exquisite power" there. I trust this autobiography, while emphasizing and symbolizing larger themes, is in part a tribute to the permanence of the commitment enshrined both there and in my heart. It is difficult to convey the power the Baha'i edifaces and terraces on Mt. Carmel possess to evoke the sublime. These monumental creations have created a space for themselves in the visual vocabulary of Baha'i experience. For millions of Baha'is it is the experience of the visual that contributes to making their faith unique. This is also true for me. I should say something about self-deception, since there is in narration an inherent straying away from what actually happens, however slightly or innocently, a quiet but discernable progression from fact to fiction. Self-deception, lieing, secrecy, forgetfulness, confusion, gaps: they are all part of the story and our processing of the story, we who would venture into autobiography. Everything we communicate, some analysts argue, is an orientation towards what is secret without ever telling the secret. As Henry Miller puts 73
  74. 74. it: “I am I and I have thought unspeakable thoughts and done unthinkable things.”37 We aim in our autobiography to monitor our hearts for self-deception. We aim for artistic coherence and ethical satisfaction as we attempt to integrate, analyse and identify the countless versions of our story and their inevitable secrets. This is unending work-poetic work-and it is central to self-creation. In other ways the self-deception is accidental, incidental. Margaret Atwood, in a lecture on poetry given in Wales in 1995 said: "About no subject are poets tempted to lie so much as about their own lives."38 We need to be aware of our own deceptiveness and our tendency to avoid discrepant and uncomfortable information, to block it out. Embracing this knowledge is part of the construction of our self-concept. As Yeats put it: “I have changed nothing to my knowledge; and yet it must be that I have 37 Henry Miller in “Confessions and Autobiography” Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, editor, James Olney, Princeton, 1980, p.122. 38 Margaret Atwood, "Writing Philosophy," Canadian Poetry Website, University of Toronto, 2004. 74
  75. 75. changed many things without my knowledge; for I am writing after many years and have consulted neither friend, nor letter, nor old newspaper.”39 Well, this is mostly true for me, except that I have consulted a small handful of letters.40 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 41 Our ultimate aloneness in the universe is a truth which some find frightening. This aloneness is a part of the core experience in 39 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. 40 I have, though, only referred to two or three letters in the entire text of this autobiography. 41 Quoted in The Stories We are: An Essay on Self-Creation, William Lowell Randall, University of Toronto, 1995, p.345. 75
  76. 76. writing autobiography, part of its 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 autobiography. The road, thusfar in this narrative, has taken me to December 1965 where, in Davison Michigan, I attended a pioneer training institute. The decision I had already made to pioneer among the Eskimo was consolidated. I had only to complete my several courses in sociology by the end of April 1966, enrol at Windsor teachers' college in the summer, complete the course by May of 1967 and then it would be off to pioneer among the Eskimo in August of 1967. It looked easy. It proved to be far from easy. The hurdles came both before and after pioneering. Before pioneering to Baffin Island in August of 1967, some nineteen months away, I had three girlfriends that kept my emotional life on the boil: Heather Penrice from October 1965 to 76
  77. 77. April 1966; Dorothy Weaver from May 1966 to March 1967 and Judy Gower, April 1967 to August 1967. Rather than describe the fine points of these three relationships, I'll include three poems here to suggest some of the flavour of the physical side of these relationships and at the same time not saying much that is specific to these relationships. Each girl brought much that was a source of pleasure and delight into my life and I remember much from our time together; even after nearly forty years I remember them all as if it was yesterday. SEX The sexual impulse is the most vehement of cravings, the desire of desires, the concentration of our willing. -Arthur Shopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, 1844. That’s certainly true for some, Arthur, but others are endowed 77
  78. 78. with desires of a different willing, cravings with different filling, appetites aimed at a different tilling on the adventure of the road to death. Personally, I’ve found it an annoying itch, certainly has absorbed my concentration far more than I have liked, wished, desired, caused me a lot more trouble than I ever imagined and I will be glad to rid myself, eventually, of the concupiscible appetite’s never ending pull, its insistent urge. I often wondered why Baha’u’llah spoke so little about this thing which has plagued me and stopped me often from being able to sing. 78
  79. 79. 1 November 1999 CONTINUITIES AND DISCONTINUITIES Poetry is like trying to remember a tune you've forgotten... A poem is written because the poet gets a sudden vision.....he juggles with sounds and associations which will best express the original vision. It is done quite intuitively and esoterically. That is why the poet never thinks of the reader. The vision has something to do with sex. I don't know what it is; it's subtle, elusive, indefineable. It's not surprising, obviously two creative forces in alliance, closely connected. The result is a poetry of self-indulgence, the patter of the entertainer, fodder for future social historians from a poet who needs emotional isolation, from a poet who touches our hearts by showing his own, who reveals the paradoxes and enigmas of our lives by putting his own on the table, who provides, for me, 79
  80. 80. perspectives on unity that emerge out of aloneness and solitude. -Ron Price with thanks to Andrew Swarbrick, Out of Reach: The Poetry of Philip Larkin, St. Martin 's Press, NY, 1995, p. 21. He pursues self-definition, the nature of identity, through separateness, exclusion and difference, negative self-definition, a voice of Englishness back in that ninth and early tenth stage of history1 , after the loss of imperial power, diminished influence, a new value to English experience. A remorseful tone, secular but communal and telling, 80
  81. 81. not untrue, not unkind, on the margins, exposed to the beyond, imprisoned in a personality, something hidden, something he has been given, reticence, the English privacy ethic: where difference merges into absolute unity; where uniqueness and loneliness are clarified as oneness, endless continuities and discontinuities. Ron Price 29 June 1998 81
  82. 82. 1 1953-1963-ninth stage of history; 1963-1973-first ten years of the tenth stage of history. Larkin did not write "many poems after 1973."(ibid., p.164) REAL TOUCH This organization of formed words, this noble energy, which comes to rest in this apparently natural, but partly artificial and mysterious place, which attempts to know the meaning of humankind and the world with clarity, form and beauty and with choice, uses the most succinct, memorable and affective speech---the poem. The engine of this process is the imagination and it tends toward greatness when it is inspired by a systematic vision of civilization, global civilization, what Jung called the big vision. Strangely, we know the real poem when we touch it. But, like sexual intercourse, explaining and doing it are only remotely connected. The poet writes poetry for the experience, the reality, the joy. -Ron Price 82
  83. 83. with appreciation to Dave Smith, Local Assays: On Contemporary American Poetry, University of Illinois Press, 1985, chapter one. There’s not the tactility, hunger not as pitched, taken up and up, always more to touch, to excite, but the feelings play with the brain, the brain massages, moves out, over, over and up into unpredictable spaces, places, surprise by joy, don’t know what’s coming, feels like it was done by someone else when you look at it and you can look at it, can leave something behind 83
  84. 84. beside some wet excrescence and rumpled sheets. There’s a fullness, a detumesence, a relaxed ease, a feeling of coming close, of arriving, if only for a minute, a second, at a place of satisfaction, at a real point-like touch. Ron Price 7 June 1996 There was not much detumescence involved with each of these three women, the last of whom I married. With each of course there is a story. The major woman in my life until then had moved down the street when my father died and occasionally we had dinner together in her little flat until early September 1966 when I left for Windsor and teachers' college. In April 1966 the second phase of 84
  85. 85. the Nine Year Plan was announced and at the same time I was writing my final exams in sociology. When the House of Justice called for heroic deeds "such as are performed only by divinely sustained and detached souls,"42 I was only beginning to be conscious of just what that heroism was in my own life, my own pioneering trajectory. From May to September 1966 I experienced a more penetrating notion of just what heroism meant in my inner life and private character, for I had become conscious that I would have to leave my mother only a year after my father had died. In her 1963 consciousness-raising classic, The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan called the plight of the suburban housewife the "problem that has no name." These women were cooks, cleaners, diaper changers, and lovers, but they lacked identity as individuals. Their hopes and dreams remained secondary, blending with the needs of the families they nurtured. In a figurative sense, they were invisible, even to themselves. Friedan’s description partly describes my mother and her description helps to explain why my leaving 42 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, 1966. 85
  86. 86. home in 1966 was so difficult for my mother. She had, it seems to me in retrospect, more of that umbilical cord to me than I had to her. May 1966 also witnessed the fiftieth anniversary of the writing of the Tablets of the Divine Plan. I had only just heard of them some seven months before in October 1965 in Chatham, in that southern corner of Ontario. It was a document that came to have more than a little significance to my life, especially thanks to Jameson Bond who had spent the 1950s in the District of Franklin and seemed to treasure the Tablets of the Divine Plan like these were a document for war, or what I'm sure he would have called 'the war metaphor.' So much was happening in the wider political and social world in the sixties. It was being documented in books, newspapers, magazines and journals, on the radio, television and in the movies and has been since then as well. There is little need for me to tell any of the story here or, indeed, any of the multitude of versions of that history or the social analysis that might go with it. Matthew 86
  87. 87. Hart, though, in his review of Christopher Hitchens book Why Orwell Matters, wrote that George Orwell illustrates, by his commitment to language as the partner of truth, that it is much more crucial how you think and how you express what you think. Orwell, Hart goes on, thought that "politics are relatively unimportant........principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.43 Orwell, Hart writes, was a man who struggled to master strongly- felt prejudices and emerge on the right side of history. The absorbing thing about his independence was that it had to be learned; acquired; won. The evidence of his upbringing and instincts is that he was a natural Tory and even something of a misanthrope. He had to suppress his distrust and dislike of the poor, his revulsion from the "coloured" masses who teemed throughout the empire, his suspicion of Jews, his awkwardness 43 Matthew Hart, "The Measure of All That Has Been Lost: Hitchens, Orwell, and the Price of Political Relevance," Post Modern Culture, 2003. ( Hart is reviewing a book by Christopher Hitchens, Why Orwell Matters, New York: Basic, 2002.) 87
  88. 88. with women and his anti-intellectualism. By teaching himself in theory and practice, some of the teaching being rather pedantic, he became a great humanist.44 There is no doubt that we all have to master many strongly-felt prejudices. If we are to see with our own eyes "and not through the eyes of others" and know of our "own knowledge and not through the knowledge of"45 our neighbour, we will have to learn this, acquire this capacity, win this victory over intellectual and social conformity. My own upbringing and my own instincts provide a base for a battle I have been fighting and will fight all my life. Some writers, like Barthes and Foucault, see the text as something quite different from the writer who writes. The text, they argue, exists quite separately from the author. As Barthes once put it: "I am my own symbol, I am the story which happens to me."46 They 44 idem 45 Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, Arabic #2. 46 Shlomit C. Schuster, “Review of Threads of Life: Autobiography and the Will,” Richard Freadman, Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 88
  89. 89. both see the text as something which consumes the writer. It consumes him to such an extent that both author and world become lost in the text; both endlessly disappear. Barthes claims that authors are the only persons, by definition, "to lose their own structure and that of the world in the structure of language." This gives writing a kinship, they continue, with death itself. In the process the self is obliterated. Both Barthes and Foucault agree, though, that writers must take responsibility for their work and must work with and through their institutions with the ideas in their written works. And so it is that this autobiography seeks the imprimatur of Baha'i institutional review and support, seeks a place in the Baha'i community and in a strange way, seeks to become something quite separate from the one who wrote it. I feel it is both me and not me in a curious sort of way.47 2001, in a/b Autobiographies. 47 Courtney Kaohinani Rowe, "Barthes and Foucault on Authorship," 1999, Internet Article. 89
  90. 90. I shall list here a few of the events of the sixties just to capture some of the flavour of the times. They are events that had a tangential relationship with my life and, in a strange way, were both part of me and separate from me. The war on poverty began in January 1964; the Civil Rights Bill was signed in July of 1964;48 LBJ, Lyndon Baines Johnson was President from 1963 to 1968; Marilyn Monroe was assassinated in August of 1962; Jackie Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963; Bobby in June of 1968 and Richard Nixon began his Presidency in January 1969. We took our first pictures from the Moon in 1969 and saw the blue oasis of our earth out in the middle of nowhere. These events all took place in the USA, but they seemed part of an emerging global community. In the midst of all this, in 1967, the rock era peaked or so Simon Frith states with conviction,49 with the release of the 48 The civil rights revolution of the 1960s was launched, some argue, on February 27, 1960. It was called Big Saturday. I had been a Baha'i for four months. See: Eve Zibart, "David Halberstam Rediscovers Our Nation's Peaceful Warriors," BookPage, March, 1998. 49 Simon Frith, Music For Pleasure: Essays in the Sociology of Pop, Routledge, NY, 1988, p.1. 90
  91. 91. Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album. The 150th anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s birth in November of that year was largely incidental, certainly no more significant than that Beatles’ album. At the time I had my hands full with teachers’ college, my last year of school, with my impending marriage and with fifteen Eskimo kids aged 8 to 10 on Baffin Island. In Australia the long run of the Liberals in government, begun in 1949 was nearing its end as the 1970s began; the Aboriginals got the vote in Australia in 1969. Canada had its own story, as did Europe and the U.K., Russia and China, Africa and Asia: the list is endless and it is not the purpose of this autobiography to tell this secular story in any detail. Readers can go elsewhere to many places for the story in its many forms. There are literally mountains of material and the principal concern of this autobiography is not to tell that story. Occasionally I will refer to it, like the background colour of a painting, to widen the text and the texture of my story. Global civilization emerged in my lifetime, with a 500 year warm- 91
  92. 92. up begining with Columbus, with those pictures from the Moon. A true paradigm shift certainly occurred in the sixties; perhaps it was part of that tenth and final stage of history that Shoghi Effendi referred to in 1953. While I was going to university, teaching Eskimos and recuperating in a psychiatric hospital, the world began to be All Connected Now.50 A generation of hippies and student activists made what is often called the modern counter culture between 1964 and 1968, the years of my early twenties, according to one writer.51 It was their attack on technology, work, pollution, boundaries, authority, the inauthentic, rationality and the family that was the centre of their ethos. The essence of a generation, according to the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset, is a particular type of sensibility. One study of the sensibility of the generation that came of age between 1964 and 1968 was done by Richard Flacks at the 50 All Connected Now: Life in the First Global Civilization, 2002. 51 Frank Musgrove, Ecstasy and Holiness: Counterculture and the Open Society, Methuen and Co.Ltd., London, 1974, pp.19 and 65. 92
  93. 93. University of Chicago in 1965/6. He studied activists, non- activisits and parents. In some ways, I feel, his study was a study of me, my generation and my parents. Since my picture had been on the front page of the Hamilton Spectator, the major daily paper in the Hamilton area, for protesting the treatment of negroes in the USA some time in 1965; since I was the only student in Hamilton in the years 1963 through 1967 to achieve that distinction, if that is what it was, I could be seen as an activist, although somewhat further west than my confreres in Chicago. My involvement in the Baha'i Faith was also a type of activism. I was the only Baha'i student on campus during those years at McMaster University. I have documented my Baha'i activities during these days in a letter to 'The Campus Association of Baha'i Studies' dated July 15th 1992.52 McMaster was founded in 1957 and my activities came in its first decade of its existence. Before that time the university had been a Baptist 52 Ron Price, Letters Section 4.2, Unpublished. 93
  94. 94. college/university. By the 1950s that religious affiliation had ended, but the religious and philosophical influence of McMaster filtered into my life through some of the lecturers and professors I had in the years 1963 to 1966.53 Flacks' study revealed that parents of activists placed more stress on intellectual and artistic pursuits, humanitarian concerns and self- expression than issues like career, material success and winning. That certainly described my mother in the 1960s. Flacks argued further that my mother's generation exhibited four value-patterns: aesthetic and emotional sensitivity, romanticism and 53 Sadly, I can not remember the names of all the teachers at McMaster who had an influence on my thinking. George Grant, who published Philosophy in the Mass Age(1959) and Lament for a Nation(1965) and who was a Christian; another professor of philosophy who had doctorates in science and philosophy and whose wife was a Baha'i and several others. The influences of particular teachers, professors, lecturers and tutors during my formal education(1949-1967) and afterwards, in my post-graduate study(1970-1988), have for the most part not been discussed in this autobiography. Not to evaluate the influences of the individuals during these two 18 year periods, individuals in the formal educational process who had seminal influences on my life, is clearly a glaring omission, one of many, from this autobiography. 94
  95. 95. intellectualism, humanitarianism, moralism and self-control. I think my father was more interested in winning and working to win but, by 1960, he'd given up with winning in the material world and retired to work in the Baha'i community, for a time, and then to read his detective novels before happily and not-so-happily passing away in 1965. I'm sure there were many exceptions but, insofar as my mother was concerned, these value-patterns could be said to describe her to a tea, at least in the years of my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Inevitably, the questions and issues are much more complex and can not be properly dealt with in a short space and in the brief analysis that I have provided here. My father, for example, may have had much more idealism than I have given him credit for but, in retrospect, I don't think I ever got to know him very well. I was just coming of age when he was on his last legs. He died when I was 21. At 21 I was just beginning my 'spiritual affliction,' as my mother might have termed it, with a grand vision, an urgent 95
  96. 96. purpose and the need to fast in March to 6:45 pm. Forty years later it appeared that this affliction was showing no signs of losing its bite and this vision was more firmly entrenched than ever. In some ways everything I have written here is woven, as deftly as I can, around this vision. I’ll add a few words here about my father. By the age of 21 when he died, I had established a distance from my father, or we had established this distance. There was no sharp grief when he died and no loneliness as a result. In retrospect I had begun to invent the voice I am now using. I had been trained, in the main, by this man to be the figure I became. But I had not known my father very well. We got on well, partly because we shared, in our different fashions, a capacity to be our own person, to live alone. I left him alone and he left me alone. When he was dead I realized that I had hardly ever spoken to him. At the time of his death, my father remained a myth to me, both more and less than a man. He had left Wales 96

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