This is a rare but unquestionable "5 star" rating for me. The graphic novel format takes the achingly-spare text into deep layers of social and self cThis is a rare but unquestionable "5 star" rating for me. The graphic novel format takes the achingly-spare text into deep layers of social and self criticism. Having read this after Reading Lolita In Tehran, the two together paint a world-tragic picture of human triumph, suffering, and mistakes....more
It was about three years ago, while attending a conference at Green Acre Bahá'í School in Eliot, Maine, that I had the bounty of making a sunrise pilgIt was about three years ago, while attending a conference at Green Acre Bahá'í School in Eliot, Maine, that I had the bounty of making a sunrise pilgrimage to the burial site of Louis Gregory, Hand of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. At the time I knew little about him – that he was an early African-American adherent of the Bahá'í Faith, a fantastic and tireless teacher, well-loved by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and thanks to the Master’s encouragement, one-half of perhaps the first black/white Bahá'í marriage in the U.S.
I paid my respects as the sun rose on a chilly November morning, illuminating the lovely gravestone even as the Bahá'í teachings illuminated Gregory’s visage. The skeptic in me knows not whether my prayers and reflections that morning had any effect beyond providing a reference point for a lasting sense of serenity – and yet my spirit cares not. Moved as I was, it makes no difference whether the invocation of divine grace dissipated in synapses or radiated into the Eternal.
Soon after returning I knew that I must learn more about this lion of racial reconciliation. At last, this past Autumn I began reading To Move the World: Louis G. Gregory and the Advancement of Racial Unity in America. Though interrupted by my first true Pilgrimage, I returned from time to time to finish. Being both a biography and a history, this book presents remarkable insights on the man and the mission, shedding light on the racial challenges, the many crises faced, and victories won by the American Bahá'ís between the period of around 1909 to 1951. The author’s research was meticulous, with copious citations to published works and to letters housed in private collections.
While ferrying other youth from the Kingdom Conference in Milwaukee to a teaching project in Austin (2001), we stayed for a night in northwestern Arkansas. The late night venture from southern Missouri into the Ozarks was extremely taxing and, on the twisting two-lane highways, rather harrowing. Despite the road weariness, a morning conversation with a local has stuck with me ever since. He, who is white, remarked how the American Bahá'ís in the 20s and 30s had blown it with respect to racial reconciliation. 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi both had challenged the American believers to overcome their prejudices, welcoming and inviting all. But, in this man’s opinion, the Bahá'ís had failed, and the whole world was facing the consequences.
To Move the World does not take such a harsh tone and dim outlook – but it does make plain the real struggles to embrace the concept of "oneness of humanity" and realize its deep implications. Although some steps were taken in the Bahá'í communities, nationally and locally, the setbacks and slow progress are so evident that it would be easy, and perhaps appropriate, to interpret this as a history of failure. Nevertheless, the book makes clear that Gregory persevered, and that the Advent of Divine Justice, among other letters from the Guardian, did prompt real changes. The guidance from Haifa provided the impetus and sustenance for the work of Gregory, and others on the various "race unity" and teaching committees, to operate on those around them, driving feedback cycles that led to more and more integrated communities and real love and respect between black and white Bahá'ís.
Nearly sixty years have passed since Gregory’s death. The anecdotal evidence suggests that substantial work remains to be done in the quest for spiritual and material equality. I have been in gatherings dominated by whites and a few dominated by blacks, but beyond large-scale meetings, I can think of none in my own experience that were representative of a diverse and well-integrated community. Indeed, the Universal House of Justice in its recent guidance to the Bahá'ís of the World reminds us of the imperative of moving beyond good intentions, actively striving to create true unity in our midst. We would do well to study from the history of race unity efforts in America, learning from the mistakes but also standing on the shoulder of its giants – of whom none can raise us higher than Louis G. Gregory. ...more
Gratifying as it was to find the origins of so many monster-story cilches, the writing alone makes this a worthy read. Do not let the pop culture surrGratifying as it was to find the origins of so many monster-story cilches, the writing alone makes this a worthy read. Do not let the pop culture surrounding this work dissuade you from approaching it.
Stoker beautifully employs the epistolary writing style; admittedly it gets a little strained at times, but it was enjoyable to read first person from so many different people. More than most writers, he manged to achieve a true separation in his characters: each has distinct idioms, voice, concerns. They are individuals....more
E.O. Wilson, one of America's foremost scientists and secular humanists, has penned a moving appeal for religionist and scientist alike to set aside t
E.O. Wilson, one of America's foremost scientists and secular humanists, has penned a moving appeal for religionist and scientist alike to set aside their differences and focus together on preserving Earth's biological diversity for the benefit of today's and future generations (which, in the case of many bacteria and insects, will also begin and end today). In a beautiful prose reminiscent – no doubt intentionally – of Aldo Leopold, Wilson moves directly to share his sense of awe in the face of nature, and the plain facts about what science has discovered about the state of our planet's biodiversity. He also writes of what we do not yet know: of the countless species yet identified, the relationships amongst them yet unrecognized, and the increasing need for citizen and scientist alike to pursue this knowledge.
As one long convinced of the scientific facts of humanity's destructiveness, and of the terrible tragedy this represents, I did not need Wilson's persuading. But I am convinced that he has taken the right approach, the right tone. He proceeds with respect. He does not water down, but does write in a language far simpler than many intellectual popular science books (such as his own difficult-to-read Consilience). He mixes fact with anecdote to keep the reader engaged.
If this formula does not succeed in engaging the drive to dialogue for both parties, then the biophillic may have lost one of their last hopes for a grand compromise. Of course they can always take the inside route – go religious, work that angle as apparently Bishop Spong does.
One of the unstated currents of The Creation is the sense of nearly-mystical ecstasy that can be found in the presence of nature. This is also a hallmark of Leopold's writing, and of the aforementioned Bishop Spong's. Set aside the "rational" arguments for cooperation between science and religion, and think on this description of the "charismatic experience" of religion, from Moojan Momen's The Phenomenon of Religion (p94):
"This experience makes those involved feel that a gift has been bestowed upon them. This gift may include a feeling of being in a 'wider life than that of this world's selfish interests,' a sense of being in continuity with the powers of the universe, and a sense of elation and joy as the sense of self and attachment to this world is abandoned. There is an inner equilibrium and calm. It has been described as the experience of saintliness."
This is the ecstasy, or going out of self, that so many religious writers emphasize. Working in a garden, hiking through the less-tamed natural areas, or gazing into a microscope at the diverse fauna of our own saliva, we can step out of our human shell, detached from our human games and "worldly" desires for a moment, feeling a sense of reverence, awe, and oneness in the presence of such diverse forms of life. Anecdote shows this; research proves it: people experiencing greater biodiversity are happier, are better able to overcome life's vicissitudes.
Wilson's common ground is thus not built solely on the unifying element of respect for and stewardship of the natural environment. There is also the commonality, at least in their morally highest representations, of religion and science both working to improve the livelihoods and the satisfaction of living beings, both working to ease our suffering and uplift our joy. Yes, much of "religion" is about the ease of suffering via a satisfying after-life, but every world religion also contains the strong call to compassion and charity in the here-and-know.
Science, as reviewed by Wilson, increasingly is showing a link between achievement of these aims and human exposure to diverse elements and forms of life. Thus if we wish to improve the common weal, we must preserve the biodiversity remaining on Earth, and even work to reverse the destruction we have already caused. And the time is now – we cannot afford to wait while we solve one or many of the Earth's and humanity's many challenges. This too Wilson makes abundantly clear. We are on the edge of a precipice, and it will take our combined efforts to push us back into stability.
This is one of the most profound secular works I have ever read, and I cannot recommend it more highly. Some critics have labeled it condescending; I saw it as frank and straight-forward. If you have the means, please read The Creation, and then find ways to strengthen your commitment to the well-being of your fellow creatures on this God-given Earth.
Fitzgerald is an incredibly writer; I love his similitudes and rich evocations of his adjectives. But on this, my third time through, it felt as if thFitzgerald is an incredibly writer; I love his similitudes and rich evocations of his adjectives. But on this, my third time through, it felt as if there were a rich and annoying uncle in the room. He might speak well, and have insight on the deepest topics of life, but sooner or later he becomes simply too obnoxious to bear. So you just leave the room.
Those who see through the magical veil of Ivy do not have much tolerance for relating everything to golf and tailored suits, to highballs and ne'er-do-wells. Back on the shelf it went; a star has fallen (from 4 to 3)....more