overcoming lethargy and apathy

Shoghi Effendi, in a passage written not long before his passing, referred to the future of the American nation. And one of the things he mentioned as being within the future of the American nation has arrested my attention in recent years. He said, at that time, that the Bahá’ís of America faced a future challenge. And what was that challenge? In the message published in the book Citadel of Faith, Shoghi Effendi refers to a number of challenges before the American friends, one of which was that “apathy and lethargy [would] paralyze their spiritual faculties in the future.”

We, today, face that test—the test of overcoming apathy and lethargy. The test that those around us increasingly lack zeal and idealism and a passion for changing the world. Society around us has lost its vision. It lacks heroes and heroines. They have become discredited. Exposes have been written about them. They have been found to have feet of clay. There are no heroes. There are no heroines. There is no vision.

It is a matter of making it through day by day, being concerned only for one’s self because no one else is interested in us. You survive or not. It is a hard, cruel world out there.

That is not the Bahá’í way. We are people committed to the creation of a new society. We are summoned to heroism. We are summoned to sacrifice. We are summoned to idealism and to altruism. We are people creating a new society, a new civilization. We are people who love and are concerned about generations yet unborn and we are prepared to dedicate our lives that those generations to come, in decades and centuries into the future, may have a better life; may have a life of peace and unity and harmony and the possibility for the full development of their potential.

This is the idealism to which we are summoned as Bahá’ís. We need to overcome the apathy and lethargy of society and stand apart as people dedicated to the creation of a new world.

From a talk given by Peter Khan,
former member of the Universal House of Justice

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2 thoughts on “overcoming lethargy and apathy

  1. Ah, Peter, we hardly knew ye! If you believe in coincidences, I *just* ran across this tribute to Dr. Khan after his passing in 2011: http://bahaiblog.net/site/2011/08/29/what-makes-a-person-great-a-tribute-to-dr-khan/ . I’ll also go to the talk that Dan has linked to above. “Spiritual torpor” is a phrase that the House of Justice also used in a recent message. I love the quote above from Dr. Khan’s talk, and it resonates with me from my perch in China, watching this amazing country grow in material abundance, and its people (the swelling middle class, at least) racing to get on the gravy train towards the “comfortable life” that is so often the heart and soul of their ambitions. Given the recent history of poverty and turmoil, this is not surprising, but it can be disheartening. Lethargy, in this feverishly competitive place, is not so easy to see as the growing, perhaps enforced apathy toward even the traditional wisdom of the place: balance, harmony, the art of the long view. But here, as everywhere, there are those who see that atomization and the love of comfort are not quite enough…

  2. Indeed Mr. Howdy, indeed. Thanks for sharing the Baha’i Blog link. Kudos on your recent post there, too—I found it encouraging and honest. As you say, there are those who see beyond the unthinking rush to board that train to nowhere, and these are they who are called to be the leaven the lump of their nations and of the world. Searching out and connecting with these souls is the work of the hour.

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