One of the popular cutesy phrases these days—and it also happens to describe a philosophy of life—is “random acts of kindness“. Practice random kindness during your day. Hold the door for someone. Be nice to someone who’s in a grumpy mood. Pay for someone’s drink when you’re in line for your morning coffee. Kindness is all well and good—in fact, it’s marvelous—but does it have to be random? Do random acts have the potential to increase one’s own spiritual capacity?
“Capacity-building” has been a watchword within the Baha’i community for the past decade or so. Faced with the inevitable prospect of their Faith’s emergence from obscurity and its large-scale expansion, members of the worldwide Baha’i community have embraced a grass-roots model of capacity-building allowing them to raise up from among themselves and those close to them trusted servants capable of not only teaching others about the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh, but also training them how to offer valuable acts of service ranging from children’s classes and junior youth groups to home visits with those needing comfort, solace or fellowship. “The days when idle worship was deemed sufficient are ended,” said the Báb. Nowadays, the Baha’is have come to realize, everyone has to pitch in and do their part to raise up a new civilization—one based on enduring, divine principles, and one that will rise up out of the ashes of the old world and stand the test of time. To avoid going crazy, we do it systematically.
Through trial and error, and through the guidance of its institutions, the worldwide Baha’i community has pieced together a system—a set of plans and lines of action that it’s able to follow in order to manage its own growth. They take it one step at a time, starting with learning simple spiritual habits such as reading the Baha’i Writings morning and evening, moving through to more complicated acts of service such as studying prayers with friends, home visits, teaching children’s classes, all the way up through to acting as a tutor for institute training courses—thus continuing the cycle of skills development. This is a marked departure from the community life we used to know as Baha’is—we used to chuckle when we heard people railing against organized religion because for us, the Baha’i Faith was just about the most disorganized religion there could be. [note: for a laugh, read this interview with Rainn Wilson on the US Baha’i website… and scroll to the bottom—only found that after posting this entry.]
So why the sudden inspiration to write about systematic action? Well, it’s twofold: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, planning, and taking stock of my personal life since Catherine moved out; as well, Ottawa’s Baha’i community just entered its 9th intensive growth cycle this month, ushering in a flurry of activity as the Baha’is struggle, from the ground up, to coordinate their activities in a way that will be able to respond to humanity’s crying need for moral and spiritual sustenance. I’ll try to blog more about the Ottawa Baha’i community‘s pattern of growth in future posts; in the meantime, gimme a shout and leave some encouraging words to help give me the strength to stay focused on the task at hand 😛 🙂