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Ronald Frederick Price

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Pioneering Over Four Epochs(Website)
by Ronald Frederick Price  Ron Price only 

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Books by Ronald Frederick Price
· Pioneering Over Four Epochs
· The Emergence of a Baha'i Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White
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Category: 

Spirituality

Publisher:  Bahai Academic Resource Library
Pages: 

500

Copyright:  2001(1997)

Pioneering Over Four Epochs

Pioneering Over Five Epochs
The 4th edition of my website has the equivalent of 60 books at 80,000 words/book.
The 3rd edition is a tapestry of 42 links which endows a host of themes, and a wide range of social science and humanities subjects with many layers of meaning. It evokes a complex range of responses. The author has evolved a style which is highly individual yet, by fusing together so much from the humanities and the social and physical sciences, from his own life and his religion, appeals to both the novitiate, the veteran, people on a multitude of spiritual and secular paths. There are some 1500-2000 pages of autobiographical narrative, poetry, essays and interviews which can be seen as one long diary, journal and commentary on life.



1. AUTOBIOGRAPHY

"Know thyself"-From the Temple of Apollo at Delphi

"The unexamined life is not worth living."-Socrates
-------------------------------------
"I am, myself, the matter of my book." -Michael Montaigne, The Essays, 1588.

"I should not talk about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well."-Henry David Thoreau, 1844(ca)

"Turn thy sight unto thyself that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting."-Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words.

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION

Although this autobiographical statement is about my life, its primary intention is to be of service in assisting others to make greater sense of their own lives.

In tracing the history of my family from Australia and Canada as I began doing in the 1980s, I found I could go back to Croyden in the U.K. in 1872 on my mother's side; and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales in 1895 on my father's side. The period of time from the beginning of this new age in 1844 until these earliest evidences on my family tree was occupied by my great-grandparents and, perhaps, great-great-grandparents.1 About these parts of my family tree I know nothing. It is not my purpose here to outline my family history; I have done this in other places in my autobiographical narrative Pioneering Over Four Epochs which can be found on this website in some 30 chapters found at the end of the 'index' page.

This website is not an exercise in self-publicity in the tradition of artists like Salvadore Dali and the massive autobiography industry of the last 150 years. I'm sure some readers will find what self-portraiture there is here to be too revealing; for others it will not be revealing enough. What is intended in this autobiographical excursion is an integration of a life, a religion and a society into some kind of meaningful whole, a whole that is meaningful to me and hopefully to readers who cross this path.

1 For a brief statement on the history of my family during the years of the 'heroic age'(1844-1921) of the Baha'i Faith, see section 24 part (ii) below. For a standard resume of my own professional career see section 24 part (v)(a) below and of my Baha'i experience see section 24 part (v)(b) below.

I use the year 1844 as a symbolic figure for the beginning of this new age. Other years could be selected. But 1844 is heuristic in its implications: the first writings of Karl Marx, 'The Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts,' were published in the summer of that year; on 22 May the first message was sent on a telegraphic wire in the USA: 'what hath God wrought?' and the Bab made the first public declaration of His new Faith on 23 May 1844.

This autobiographical study has other central purposes than examining my family history as far back as it is possible. What autobiography there is does not assume much significance for the purposes of this web site and its contents until at least the first phase of the implementation of 'Abdu'l-Baha's divine plan in the years 1937 to 1944, when the pieces were coming together for the matrix that formed the setting for my birth. At the beginning of that Seven Year Plan, in 1937, my grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side, Emma and Alfred Cornfield, lived in Hamilton Ontario. Alfred had just retired at age 65, after a chequered and difficult employment history in Canada going back to his arrival from England in 1900. Emma,his wife,would be dead by the end of 1939 from cancer. As far as I know, my mother and father had not yet met. This meeting would take place some time in the next five years. It is in this milieu, just before and during the early part of WW2, that my autobiography begins. Any of my poetry that is clearly autobiographical and not essentially historical concerning aspects of my family tree, comes from the years after 1937 when 'Abdu'l-Baha's Divine Plan, as outlined in his immortal Tablets, was finally implemented.

Father and son(1945), at the end of the first epoch of the Formative Age, after the completion of the first Seven Year Plan(1937-1944), the first Plan in which the term 'pioneer' gained wide usage. There were about 100 Baha'is in Canada at the time.

My poetry takes in a much wider ambit than the personal, the inner, life. It also takes in aspects of all of phenomenal existence, aspects that relate to memory. For memory is, as existential psychologist Rollo May once put it,"the keeper of all that is meaningful."(Man's Search For Himself, 1953, p.220) Features of history, the present and the future, as is evident from even a short perusal of the contents of my poetry and its 43 categories as listed in the index, come into my poetry. And it all synthesizes, unifies, comes together, around a centre which came into my life and the life of my family back in 1953. That centre was the Baha'i Faith. I see all of this poetry as autobiographical in the wider sense that all writing can be seen as autobiographical, although I'm sure many readers will be hard put to call much of my material autobiographical. They may prefer the term 'personal.' I find my own identity over a lifetime is so changeable and fragmented that I prefer to see the Baha'i Faith and its community as the centre, the synthesizing, unifying agent, in this poetic statement. This is the raison d'etre of this website.

Everything is up-for-grabs, fodder, for my poetic mill, so to speak. We all have the narrow compass of our own lives; but we also have the wider ambit of life, of existence, that we try to take in and make part of some intelligible whole. For each of us, though, only part of that whole 'grabs-us.' This web page tells of some of 'the stuff' that grabbed me, that became part of my memory and which became part of my 'reminiscence,' as Plato once described the process of discovering the truth.

Autobiography's traditional search, by way of writing, is for a significant personal past, a self as life-story. Essays and poems immerse this writer in the pleasures and doubts of the writing process. These genres also possess a fragmentariness and a provisionality that scale down the amplitude of autobiography by narrowing the retrospective gaze to single experiences and certain life-themes.

Autobiography is a useful study if the reader wants to understand change in human beings in spiritual terms or, indeed, in any terms. It involves for readers empathetic introspection and, as such, it makes the study of a life, any life, a religious act, a devotional exercise. "Look within thee", as Baha'u'llah says, "and thou wilt find Me standing within Thee mighty, powerful and self-subsistent." For this autobiographical poetry is partly a looking within, partly a search for self through the great adventure that is life, partly a creation and recreation, partly an invention and a defining of the self, partly a molding and remolding of myself and my world, partly a moving back and forth between the interiority of the self and the exteriority of the world.

Had it not been for my life commitment, now for some 44 years, to the teachings, the philosophy, the spiritual principles, of this emerging world religion, this autobiographical poetry in all its forms would not have come into existence. This universal Faith is the catalyst, the leaven, the enzyme, that has given rise to all that is found here. For me, as it was for the psychologist Alfred Adler, a sense of community is a primary index of mental health and the term 'community' for me has a host of meanings.

Readers, it is hoped, will feel that my struggles, my triumphs, my failures and glories are, at least in part, their own. As the American poet Kenneth Koch said in a recent interview: when you read a poem, the poet's experience becomes, in a way, your own. People can experience what Richard Hutch calls "inner empathetic rehearsals"1, experiments in imagining similarities and contrasts with their own lives when they read the poetry of others. The comparisons and contrasts with the lives of others provide a potentially fertile field for understanding our own lives. Even comparisons and contrasts with those who have passed away can provide heuristic insights in this imaginative, subjective sense. I write occasionally about those who have passed on and inevitably, of course, I and my readers will also pass on. In mysterious and enigmatic ways we all all one, all one community: past, present and future.

We come to understand ourselves in many ways. Autobiography and biography, examining the lives of others, is but one way. Hopefully, some of the readers who seriously examine this material will find clarifications and understandings of their own lives spinning off, somewhat serendipitously. This, of course, was what the sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote about in his now-famous The Sociological Imagination.2



Mother and son(1945)...Hamilton Ontario Canada...We come into this world and assume a form that befits our mortal life...and we go on to another world and assume a form that befits our immortality. Eight years after this picture was taken my mother attended a Baha'i fireside and became one of the first few hundred Baha'is in Canada....and at the end of that second epoch of the Formative Age, in September 1962, my parents and I pioneered to the next town.

Autobiography, then, has the potential to provide, for those reading it, well-researched historical comparisons and contrasts with their own lives, with the view to assisting in the moral and psychological empowerment of readers. Surely this is part, an aspect, of the metaphorical nature of Baha'i history and the empowering potential of Baha'i saints, heroes and prominent figures down through the epochs and ages. In this way autobiography, even of the ordinary person, becomes part of a process that helps to create human solidarity. I see my autobiographical poetry, indeed all that I write: essays, interviews, reviews, narrative, inter alia, in this wider context, as but one more contribution to human solidarity on this earth. For the very definition of a person, as I see it, includes the wider world in which we move and have our being, in which we participate, which we construct. Some sociologists call this wider view and its affect on us as 'the social construction of reality.' Some psychologists call it an existential view of the person. Whatever you call it, I draw on a very wide view of the person, of society and of religion, in my poetry.3

For those not having any particular interest in the Baha'i Faith you may find something useful here at this site. There is obviously a very special relationship in my poetry with Baha'i history and teachings, but it is not essential for the reader to be familiar with the Baha'i story. Many of the writers, the authors, from the first century and a half of Baha'i experience have become my 'friends' due to what is now a long acquaintance with them through books and I draw on them somewhat spontaneously in my poetry. I draw on this literature because I think this literature matters and because it offers an enormous wealth of insight into the whole range of human experience. But I also draw on what might be called 'the secular literature' in my poetry, in the process making it relevant, I like to think, to a wider audience.

My autobiography, poetry, history and a wide range of my essays I hope, then, will appeal to your interests, read reader who has ventured this far into a labyrinth of another life than your own particular labyrinthine experience. If what you read has not turned you on by now or in a short span of time, just click me off and my special labyrinth can be placed into non-existence as quick as the twinkling of an eye. There is so much print available in today's world that you can go where your heart fancies. If what I write here does not catch your fancy--such is life.

As the famous poet W.H. Auden once wrote: 'poetry makes nothing happen.' While I think this is true for the most part in the big, wide, macro world, in the personal, the interior, the hidden world of my affective life, poetry has a curiously deep and renewing function. So, if a particular reader finds my writing irrelevant, if what I write has no affect on international relations, that will not affect the personal, private value this poetry has for me and-hopefully-some of my readers.



Studying lives, writing them, biography and autobiography, is one of many possible guides for living together, for understanding your life and society. It fortifies the sense of the unique and irreplaceable worth of the individual. People can be united in solidarity, in the immediacy of empathy, by studying something that outlasts life. A text, a written record, a life-a writer's, an autobiographer's, can be useful for generations. I think many get their sense of beauty, meaning, purpose, whatever, from the big-screen, from musical expression, from one of a multitude of creative forms, from gardeing to cooking stuff and eating it, from sexual expression, et cetera, et cetera.

What Heinz Kohut calls "vicarious introspection", the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person and, at the same time, remain an objective observer, is essential for the autobiographical poet like myself and for readers. This autobiography is inevitably about the other, others, as much as myself; reader and self blend and fold together, as does self and world.

In some ways I see myself as someone who puts the facts of my own life and the lives of others into different contexts, structures and shapes while maintaining my basic integrity and honesty--and others. At least I try. The writer Gail Mandell says that writing is like surfing: "you get on a wave and you say 'Hey, this really feels good. This is terrific.'" Writers tell it as they see it and it is usually so much more than they can ever say to people. I feel the need to say, to write, what I have seen, felt and thought over these several epochs. I was right there on the spot for the evening news of my generation, so to speak. As the reader, you may get news flashes from this newsreader, this reporter, that will be useful to you. I hope so. And if you do not, perhaps generations to come may find news reports from this news reader of this generation, of these four epochs, of some use, some value. Perhaps.

My Baha'i experience over half a century, forty years of which involve pioneering, I like to think has some relevance to those who will follow me in the generations to come. This web page is part of my effort to provide some of that relevance. At the very least the exercise of putting this site together has given me pleasure. I hope the site provides some pleasure for you.

I often put the story, the event, the inner reaction, the core of a poem in a framework of ideology, convictions, beliefs, attitudes and values. That is part of the pleasure, the depth, the inner, the introspective, side of things. I experience a deep sense of entering into another's life, my own and society's as well. This is part of the pleasure of autobiographical and biographical writing. The observer, though, should keep in mind that the act of writing takes place in a room, one person by himself hour after hour. The excitement that is the writer's is an inner thing not an adventure in the normal sense of the word, out there, doing things that you talk about on Monday morning. Most of our lives we spend with ourselves, in our own head, in a private world. This is especially true of someone who writes and writes a great deal. This document, this web page, translates some of this inner experience, this inner solitude, into form.

Writing a life is about a need, a search, for wholeness amidst fragmentation. Only parts of one's life at best ever seem to be whole, unified, one. Fragmentation, conflict, disorder, incompleteness and failure all exist amidst whatever spiritual and material successes, whatever sense of unity, one achieves in one's inner or outer worlds. Some see Frederick Nietzsche's autobiography of 1888 as serene and triumphant; others see it as confused and mendacious. It was completed only weeks away from his own breakdown. There are many ways to view a body of writing. This will be no less true of what is here. There is no right way to write a diary, a journal, an autobiography, poetic or otherwise. Some will find what they see here useless to them; others will find it of value. That is the way it is with the writing of all authors.

Whatever sense of fancifulness, what some call conceit, whatever empathetic responsiveness and emotional relatedness I exhibit or achieve, and I do in my relationships as a teacher, a parent, a member of a community, et cetera, I do not find I do so to anything like the same extent all the time. This is, of course, true of all of us. For there is, as I have already said, fragmentation, diversity and conflict, incompleteness and dissatisfaction in all our walks of life. I have had a sense of wholeness in much of life's personal journey, but this is not always the case in relationships, in all the journey.

This, too, is part of Baha'i experience not only for me but for virtually everyone. It is part of the inevitable ups-and-downs of life that we all have in and out of community. Here lies the story of one person's understandings, activities and patterns, one person's world. It is a story which mirrors its time, its age. It is a story that arises out of the ineluctable interconnectedness of self and world. It's all part of that Oneness of life, of humanity, of religion, of reality, at the core of the Baha'i teachings.



This photo of my first wife, Judy, and I was taken on January 1st 1968, five years after the apex of the Baha'i Administrative model was put in place, six months before the institution of the Continental Board of Counsellors was established and five years after the third epoch had begun. It was also at the outset of the 'dark heart of the age of transition' as the Universal House of Justice characterized the period of pioneering I had just entered, in August 1967, among the Eskimo.



The shared vision and the common good, seems to be something I have talked about within the Baha'i community and out for many, many years. I feel as if I have talked about these and other concepts so many times that I am repeating a language, sentences, words, that have been worked to death. This experience of seemingly endless repetition was part of what led to my writing poetry. During the writing of this river of poetry I have discovered a rebirth of language, a recrudescence which has led to a new lease on life. My spiritual quest has gone on; my trajectory of personal realisation, my efforts at self-forgetfulness, have continued on their arc of ascent. And I have often felt the sense of descent, decline, loss and failure.

In the process, as some coherent character continued to evolve during my years of pioneering, I began to record the living fabric of my life somewhat serendipitously in the form of letters which I began to collect in 1967, four years into the tenth stage of history, to use the Guardian's paradigm. Readers wanting to pursue some of my thoughts on letter writing and an analysis of my archive, my collection, can do so in section 6 below, in the link on 'Abdu'l-Baha to whom that archive is dedicated.

The first letter that I have, then, comes from the very outset of the 'dark heart of the age of transition' in 1967 as the House of Justice described the nature of the period we are still traversing. I trust there evolves, in the midst of the poems, essays and interviews which followed in the next three and a half decades of this 'dark heart' some insights into how best to live, to survive, to cope, to endure, to love and to experience joy. The insights come from one who is still working it out, still plodding along on the slow path. I can not tell you how to work it out. We all work it out in our own way, hopefully with a little help from others, from those we call friends, companions and loved ones. Surely that is part of what community is all about.

If readers see that I found my journey to the goal difficult it is, I think, more likely to help them with theirs. My recipe, my system of understanding, whatever I have achieved, has been through the matrix and the organizational form of the Baha'i Faith and its teachings. Is there something useful to others in my interpretation, my hermeneutics? My nature of my understanding of the future changes how I experience the present and my view of the past? I do not have to wait until that future comes. The change happens even while I anticipate that future.

But this website is no self-help guide. There are plenty of these on the book shelves and have been for decades, books that approach the personal, the interpersonal, the spiritual, in a more organized, a more sequential way. The self-help industry is massive. I do not see my website as part of this industry, altough others may assign me a place therein.

Many readers who come to this web page will not be joiners; they will not be affiliated to any religion or politcal party. They may have joined the tennis club or contribute to Amnesty International or the Lions Club. They may not even see themselves as necessarily spiritual or interested in spiritual questions. These poeple work their paths out essentially as individuals without joining in some cause for the common good. For the thrust, the accent, the philosophy of individualism, born as it has been from the forces of Protestantism and democracy in previous centuries, has continued into our time, into these epochs of the growth of this emerging world religion.

Alternatively, people who have affiliated with other religions may find something useful here. And then, inevitably, there will be the Baha'is. What a wonderful mix they are, too: enough to test the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon. I should think, hope, that some of these millions of souls will find something of value here.

For Baha'is, though, this web page is no self-help manual; there have appeared in the years since the teaching Plan was initiated in 1937 a wide range of self-help books that cater to many individual and community needs. There seems to be something for everyone now. Why then do I bother putting pen to paper to create yet another literary mix? This web site is, I like to think, unique. It occupies a space by itself. It is still, for me, at an early stage of its development. It is an experiment. There is honesty here but, as that perceptive twentieth century thinker A. Mencken once wrote, no man can bring himself to reveal his true character in all its darknesses; therefore "honest autobiography is a contradiction in terms."4

I feel strongly that these times are times for beginnings, small and faint of outline, but matters of great moment will come from them. This thought motivates much of my writing. These are days at the beginning of community in our age, community which will become a source of strength and delight as the decades and centuries go on.

This website is a sort of microscopic writing which highlights a unity of my recollected past, my unfolding present and my anticipated future. It also highlights a struggle, a struggle that is both mine and my community's. It reconstructs both my own life and that of my community, my religious community, through the process of an ongoing self-interpretation and self-understanding. For without such reconstruction, reevaluation, we all become trapped in "the already given."5 With it, we reinvent, transform, our lives. For the realities we are examining: our lives, our societies and our religion, must be seen metaphorically, in terms of psychological, inner, processes, not something external to ourselves. This is the key to our understanding. This is what I try and unfold in this collection of writings I have called: 'Pioneering Over Four Epochs.'

There is something addictive about the process of writing. I started this poetry on a small scale twenty five years ago and then, bingo, here I sit with thousands of poems, dozens of essays, several thousand letters and some 30,000 words of interviews. From the millions of words in my files I have put down, perhaps, a million on this site, 2000 pages of A-4 paper, the equivalent of perhaps five substantial books. It is a beginning, part of that "befitting cresendo to the achievements of a century...a period that will have left traces which shall last forever."6



This photo of my second wife, Chris, and I was taken in 1992 some thirty years after the beginning of my pioneering days. The year 1992 was also designated a Holy Year, a commemoration of Baha'u'llah's passing in 1892. This was also the year that I began to write poetry more seriously than I had in the previous dozen years. 1992 also marked the end of a forty year period, between Holy Years: 1952-1992, during which I had been associated in different ways with the Baha'i Faith. I now see this writing of poetry, beginning in 1992, as a spin-off of a forty year journey, a forty year period between the holy years, when I was associated with a religion that was claiming to be the emerging world religion on the planet, when it continued its rise, in some ways meteor-like, from obscurity.

My life possesses, as any reading of it can easily reveal, what Erik Erikson calls 'a synthesising trend.'7 There is a line of continuity between events, what Henry Murray calls 'unity-themes' which go right back to 1953 when my mother first heard of the Baha'i Faith. After 109 years in this New Era(1844-1953), my family finally came into contact with this emerging world religion, this new global force. It is this thread that gives the fullest possible meaning to the eventfulness of the life I have lived in all its massive, chaotic and sometimes, I feel in my sadder moments, meaningless and tragic detail. To interpret my life is to address its meaning in the present. This is precisely what each poem does in a multitude of different ways. For joy and sorrow make up the texture of life, feelings of failure and feelings of success.

My meaning is found in (i) recurring themes, (ii) continuities and (iii) one grand unitary theme. The entire corpus could be called what some refer to as a meganarrative. Others might call it simply the life of the mind or 'thinking out loud' as one correspondent of mine who teaches culture and the arts at an American university describes my poetry. Whatever you call it, essays like this one on this website provide a context for the poetry. I have always felt the need for background material when I read the poetry of various artists. And so I provide it here.

Erikson says that the autobiographer should deal with what is unique in his or her own individual life. I certainly do that. The widest and deepest river of inquiry into my life, within which the narrower and shallower streams of character portrayal and drama take place, can also be described drawing on several models of human development in psychology. I find Erik Erikson's model the most heuristic to analyse, to see, my life. His model uses an eight stage process of psychosocial development. I have always found this model a helpful and explanatory pattern within which to examine my own development as a person.

These eight stages help to flesh out the portrait of my life within a framework, to provide a circumscribed picture, with a basis for essential traits that suggests a life behind, beneath and far below, the surface of the everyday. In the end a pattern unfolds behind all the apparent chaos of seemingly unrelated events in life. We all must work out our own patterns and psychology provides a plethora of material, of theory, of ideas, for the questing seeker to help him work out that pattern.

Without going into great detail here, my life within the Baha'i community could be seen as occupying four stages: identity, intimacy, generativity and integrity. Anyone familiar with Erik Erikson's model of psychosocial development will be able to identify these stages easily. Generally they are associated with the years from puberty to old age. Between the time I first contacted this Cause and the time I joined it, 1953 to 1959, I went through puberty and its immediate aftermath. Old age, or at least late adulthood, 60 to 80 years of age as one model of human development outlines the process, is in the not-too-distant future for me. I will be 60 in four months, in July 2004.

It took me some time before both the intimacy stage and the generativity stage could be said to have worked themselves out in any kind of satisfactory way. Inevitably, though, as Erikson argues, the crises of life, the stages, are present throughout life and development throughout life becomes more and more complex. Some battles we fight over and over again. There were certainly crises associated with both of these stages. But I won't go into them here. That is the purpose of my autobiographical narrative which, as I have indicated, can be accessed at the end of my index page on this website and all its 750 pages.

All I wanted to do here is suggest a framework for describing my life, my experience in or out of the Baha'i community and make some general autobiographical comments to give a context, a texture, for this website. Human development theorists have developed increasingly refined models during the last half century, my years of association with the Baha'i Faith and my pioneering years. These theorists place individual lives, any life, into some kind of helpful framework, some pattern of development, to help people understand their lives. In my experience, though, it seems to take some time, some study, to really put these models to some kind of personal use.

I pursue the application of the insights that relate to my development and, by implication, the development of my readers, in my autobiographical narrative which I advise readers to examine.8 Frameworks to understand the life journey can also be found in the Baha'i writings. The one I find most attractive is in the introduction to Shoghi Effendi's God Passes by. In addition, Baha'u'llah's Seven Valleys and Four Valleys provides another framework for the individual soul. An understanding of this framework is essential since it is the major schema Baha'u'llah has left us. The best analysis I know of this model is that of Nader Saiedi in Logos and Civilization where he devotes over thirty pages to its analysis. An interesting analysis of the Seven Valleys can also be found at the website, Planet Baha'i. Some of my poetry on mysticism is also found there. I may pursue these models, secular and sacred, in more detail at a later date.



This photo of my son Daniel(then age 18), my wife, Chris(age 48) and I(age 51) in 1995, was taken four years before leaving Perth and moving into the forty-third house and twenty-seventh town since the start of this pioneering venture in 1962. If pioneering has been about nothing else, for me, it has been about moving, movement, from place to place. Movement now, though, has become an inner thing and moving to other towns, indeed even travelling to them from my home in this small town in northern Tasmania, does not attract me any more. Perhaps this feeling, this inclination, may change in the late adulthood of my life, the years between 60 and 80, or even in my old age--after 80--after 2024. We shall see.

Intimacy was eventually established and I was married at 23 after a complex and somewhat stormy adolescence; the years from 23 to now, just a few months short of 60, thirty-seven years, have been characterized by generativity. This would be true, of course, of any person who joined this Cause in his teens, eventually married successfully or even unsuccessfully and pursued a career, or a creative path of some kind. Generativity is, of course, variously and subjectively defined. My poetry has been written in this 'generativity stage', nearly 6000 poems from 1980 to 2004, from my mid-thirties to my late-fifties. Raising a family and following a career were two other aspects of this generativity, again to be described in detail in my narrative.

There is an implicit panegyric of self in my writing and there is what could be seen as a painting that shows a life that is far, far, from perfect. Life's actualities and lived experience determine, help to construct, life's major configurations that define the texture and content of the painting that is one's life. They help me to describe the forces inherent in my existence, to establish what might be called a horizon of realisation.

The everyday is far from trivial, although in a lifetime much of our doings often seem so. The horizon of my life, its deeds and thoughts, I see now as my text. Some of the text is here. Anyone reading this poetry contacts this text, this life, in a way that seems to me quite different than contacting me in person. Readers will also contact this text in the same way as they contact me, should we ever meet. What they see, what they experience on meeting me, will also be different than what they read. There is, paradoxically, sameness and difference. The sheer quantity of words here I'm sure will put some people off. Others will be put off by the content. Others will be enthusiastic.8

My writing defines my life in quite a different way than the external self does. In some ways there are two selves. There is an inevitability in this. In a very real sense, of course, my life is much more, something else, mysterious, indescribable. So is this true of everyone. Each of us is more than one simple self.





My wife had two daughters, Vivienne(above:30) and Angela(below:30), from her previous marriage. These are photographs of my step-daughters Vivienne Wells and Angela Armstrong. Vivienne has with her her son Tobias; Angela has both Tobias(7) and Kelsey(4) Wells, my two step-grandchildren.(ages indicated are in the year 2000). These photos capture, as all photos do, a moment in time, in the long story.

I have not included photos of many others, both inside and outside my family, who have been critical influences in my life. Perhaps a future edition of this poetic autobiography will see some additional photographs included. My autobiography has, in its chapter six, a section about photographs going back to the last decade of the heroic age, but no actual photos. There is in that chapter six an extensive analysis of photography and photographs and their contribution to an autobiography.

Life is in part a point of convergence of larger historical vectors or themes. The historian Dilthey expressed it this way. My life converged with the following vectors: what Shoghi Effendi, the then leader of the Baha'i community, called the beginning of 'the Kingdom of God on Earth'(1953); the beginning of 'Abdu'l-Baha's divine plan(1937); the close of the eighth(1921-1953) and ninth(1953-1963) stages of history; the opening decades of the tenth (1963-2003) stage of history, to use Shoghi Effendi's historical paradigm; and the time when the trustees of the global undertaking set in motion by Baha'u'llah more than one hundred years ago were established, put in place, at the apex of the Baha'i administrative Order(1963).

Other vectors and processes of some significance include the following: the population of the world doubled--three billion to six billion from 1953 to 2003 AD in my life; the size of the Baha'i community went from 150,000(ca) to six million (1944-2003) and the West's attitude to indigenous peoples, women and children were transformed, among a host of other historical shifts like the several waves of developments in science, technology and the social sciences. A good history book of the years since WW2 will tell more of the tale and it is not my purpose here to do so in any detail. These vectors and processes dance around the pages of my poetry in a host of different ways.

There is a fit between individual development and historical tides, processes, waves, the stage on which we enact our lives. The Baha'i community has multiplied forty times globally in my lifetime, thus far, but in most of the places I have lived the growth has been slow, indeed infinitessimal, some might say 'discouragingly meagre.' For the most part the generations that have grown up in the West after WW2 have only showed a mild interest in this Movement which captured my interest forty five years ago after six years of informal contact(1953-1959).

I am confident the time will come when the formal contribution that the Baha'i Faith will make to the unifying tendencies of the planet will be significant, at least significantly more than they do at present. Indeed I hope I live to see this Cause, just now in the last two decades emerging from an obscurity which has enshrouded its history for a century and a half, become a force of more than a little magnitude before I pass from this mortal coil. In some ways I see this web page as a historical document for use in that time, a time that has not yet arrived.



This poetry and this web page contain a story of beginnings. The process of entry-by-troops began in my part of the world, in Canada, just after I joined the Cause in October of 1959. Entry-by-troops is a process which had its beginnings in my experience in western Canada among the Indian peoples and has been observed in its complex and subtle patterns for the forty-five years I have been a Baha'i, although one could argue it is a process built into our very history right back to 1844. The future influence of this Cause is as great, Baha'is believe, as it is inevitable and the vision of its future greatness motivates this writing.

The pattern in which a life can be seen comes from within. Experience only becomes insight into a life if understanding leads us from narrowness and subjectivity to the whole and the general. Then a unique self is found and it is found when the inner and the outer find relationship, meaning, balance. Autobiography is the literary expression of the individual's reflection on life, so Wilhelm Dilthey put it.9 The identity one creates or builds is hard work; it takes more than a little reflection and analysis. But it is also pleasureable. It is also rewarding and far removed from the trivial and the mundane, although the trivial and the mundane are part of the process, for they are an essential part of life.

There are times when I find the task of defining self and identity and life itself a source of sorrow and despondency. These more negative emotions enter during the inevitable periods of gloom and anxiety that life brings to all of us, except perhaps those rare souls whom William James describes in his Varieties of Religious Experience as having temperaments consistently and persistently 'weighted on the side of cheer.'



Everything worthwhile involves struggle. I have had to deal with ill-health, periods associated with mood swings and the residue of a bi-polar tendency in these years of middle adulthood. I have suffered these swings since the earliest years of my Baha'i experience, in late adolescence, although they are largely contained now and despondency, an emotion that plagued me during the years 1962 to 2002, has been at last significantly contained. I have also had my share of marital, financial and interpersonal difficulties. These lows are part of the polarity of life. Polarity is one of life's major mysteries, as Guy Murchie informs us in his book 'The Seven Mysteries of Life.' And this polarity, like the other six mysteries, and like the historical vectors mentioned above, part of my poetic voice, poetic narrative.

Part of my task as both poet and autobiographer, indeed as a person and a Baha'i living in the last half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first, it would appear, is to historicize therapeutically. Historicism is an historical view that sees the essence of society and culture as dynamic and developmental.This involves watching the times closely, interpreting events and finding new resolve from the analysis of the historical process so as to make as much sense of the picture of life as possible. One must be vigilant in and sensitive to the spiritual quest, a quest that has many facets of which historical analysis is only one.

In examining, recapitulating, the past, I render, surrender, it to the judgement of the future. For one day I shall be gone and these works, these poems and essays, these interviews and reviews, among other genres here, will be all there is left of me and my story. The process of examining and surrendering is one of adaptation. Nothing in life is meaningless, suffering least of all. And vision is essential in the process of adaptation. Vision has been a major spin-off, for me, from over forty years of work as a pioneer within the Baha'i community. A sense of vision inspires this poetry.

The developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, gives names to this process of adapting and adjusting to life as he outlines his model of learning. Indeed psychology, as a field, applies a whole language and literature to the articulation of this process. But it is not my purpose here to apply and elaborate these languages. I like to think, with Erikson and Piaget, that I create vistas of imagination in the service of adaptation. I try to resolve ambiguity and create deeper bases for peace both now and in the future for myself and the society in which I live and move. This is part of the function of my poetry.

But we are, to some extent at least, subject to existential forces often beyond our control. We can only do so much with our lives. There are inevitable constraints, things we can not change, the struggles of our generation, our time, our age. Writing becomes a way of lending our lives and ourselves coherence and identity, of defining ourselves, of accepting, of defining these constraints, these end-games, the socio-historical process in which our lives are embedded.

The basis of autobiography in all of this is the human heart and the emotions. Ideally, they work as one, although this is not always the case. Since so much of the really interesting battles of life are inner ones, autobiographies that are based on a discussion of what is often an intensely guarded privacy, are the richer ones, in my view, with conclusions left to the reader to draw. Sometimes answers are better left out or provided only obliquely.

My autobiographical journey, though, will not be strongly confessional. Although it will be characterized by the frequent spontaneous acknowledgement of error or weakness, I do not put all my dirty laundry on the line. Some of my warts are here but not all. There are too many. And it seems to me that a moderate confessional is wisest. For some readers, of course, I will have gone too far; for others, I will not have gone far enough in this confessional mode.

Shakespeare captures some of the lower-end of my confessional tone in his words about prayer in the Tempest: "my ending is despair/Unless I be relieved by prayer/Which pierces so that it assaults/Mercy itself and frees from faults." And at the upper-end from King Henry the Eighth: "I feel within me a peace above all/earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience." And I hope, with the long passage of time and life, that "Hereafter and in a better world than this/I shall desire more love and knowledge of you."(Henry VI, Part 3) Shakespeare has built, as John Milton notes, "a long-lived monument." His honoured bones, his words of astonishment and wonder, capture the confessional tone in most of our lives, if we can find it there amidst a language which has, sadly, become archaic for most of the new generations of our time.

I trust in the process of writing this diffuse array of material, that I can integrate its apparently unrelated features into some perceptible whole. Essays such as this, the introductions to my poems, my narrative, letters and diary should all provide a basis for some future biographer to bring it all together into some continuing form, should that ever be desired. For now, I trust that the dynamic interaction between my personal experiences and the historical milieux I live in and have lived in will be made alive, given a living presence, through this writing, this poetry. Hopefully this life, set out here and in other places, will be of use to my fellow human beings and my successors in future generations. If this does not occur, 'c'est la vie,' as the French say.

For many, I'm sure, most of this will be seen as a simple and extended exercise in navel gazing. A writer can not win them all. I seem to have a strong desire to tell a story; I'm sure many people will not feel any need to read, to hear, it, at least not at the present time. Again, 'c'est la vie.'

Perhaps as history takes its course and those mysterious dispensations of Providence play their often insinuating and seductive tunes, the need will arise for the kind of material found on this web page. I have had a web page for six years and been sending out my poetry to friends and groups for ten. I am confident that more and more people will draw on the material here, even if it is not in my lifetime. The basis of my confidence lies in the belief, that all Baha'is have, in the inevitability of the ultimate triumph of their Faith. I will, over time, capture what you might call a niche market. It may always be a very small niche!

Here is a life lived at perhaps the darkest period of recorded history from a Baha'i perspective: the ninth and the first four decades of the tenth stage of history, to use a Baha'i paradigm. What I write here at the very least is something, perhaps, for the burgeoning archives of the Baha'i community around the world. I'm impressed with how little we seem to know about each other and even ourselves; perhaps that is partly a function of the very difficult times we live in; perhaps, too, this is for me a function of my moving around so much. But I am impressed, too, by the deepening channels of investigation and perception, the explosion of knowledge, as it is taking place around the world. In so many ways we are at the beginning of both community building and depth in interpersonal relationships.

I became very conscious of people's disinclination to write about their lives or the lives of others when I wrote two to three dozen short biographies of Baha'is in Australia back in the decade preceding my entry into poetry: 1982-1992. There was even a strong inclination among many people I interviewed to remain totally unknown. I can understand this sentiment. Having taught interpersonal skills and human relations off-and-on for twenty-five years in post-secondary educational institutions(1974-1999) I am more than a little aware of many people's desire that their lives remain a closed shop, at least in print.

This autobiography will provide enough details for my life in some kind of depth, some traces for a future age. It might contribute toward the growth of a cultivated readership for both autobiography and biography. There is little doubt that the field of autobiography and biography is opening up a fascinating world for students of these disciplines and passers-by who just want to dabble.

You have here, dear reader, an amateur archivist, essayist, poet, biographer, and autobiographer, sociologist, psychologist, among many academic disciplines, combining and providing an integrated perspective, to say something that is I hope of some use and value, especially to people working in the administration of the Baha'i community, but also to others with other commitments in other walks of life. Time will tell how much use what I write here is, in the end. I will address these issues, come back to these themes, much like Wordsworth did who came back to his poetry, especially to his poem 'The Prelude' in the years 1805-1850, revising and altering.10 For this Web Page is, in many ways, a first statement, an initial plunge. If those mysterious dispensations of Providence allow me many more years of living, I may write forth and fifth editions of this webpage which I have entitled: 'Pioneering Over Four Epochs.'



FOOTNOTES

1 Richard Hutch, The Meaning of Lives: Biography, Autobiography and the Spiritual Quest, Cassell, London, 1997, p. 95.

2 C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959.

3 For a more detailed description of an existential view of the person see the writings of Rollo May, The Courage to Create, Bantam Books, 1975 and Love and Will; for an excellent sociological analysis of the person see Thomas and Luckman, The Social Construction of Reality, 1966; for a wide, inclusive, view of religion see R. May, op.cit. and William Hatcher, "The Science of Religion," Baha'i Studies, Vol.2, 1977.

4 H. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomaphy, A.A. Knopf, NY, 1974(1916), pp.325-26.

5 A. Nelson, "Imagining and Critical Reflection in Autobiography," Internet, 1997.

6 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, BE 152.


7 ibid., p.76.

8 I began writing autobiographical material in 1983, twenty-one years into the pioneering process, and now, two decades later, I have written four editions of my autobiography, the last edition being 660 pages. It, too, is at this website.(see the bottom of the 'index' page)


9 William Dilthey(1833-1911), German philosopher.


10 William Wordsworth wrote his great autobiographical poem "The Prelude" between 1798 and 1805 and revised it for the next forty-five years, until his death in 1850.

....some poems below.......



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SAMPLE POEMS

EVAPORATION

One's life, my life as I near sixty, is part of a general inheritance, perhaps my chief inheritance as I spend my days now and in the years ahead. All or, more accurately, some of my memories are written full of annals wherein joy and mourning, conquest and loss manifoldly alternate. All my philosophy, my religion, my non-partisan politics, at least that part I have written about, are ineffaceably recorded in this autobiography, although history may, in the end, totally ignore what I have written. "Our very speech," wrote the historian Thomas Carlyle, "is curiously historical."1 For narrative is the very stuff of our life; without it conversation would, for the most part, utterly evaporate. "Our whole spiritual life," continues Carlyle in his discussion of the sources of our being, "is built on history." For history is essentially "recorded experience." Reasoning, belief, action and passion are its essential materials. -Ron Price with thanks to Thomas Carlyle, Selected Writings, Penguin, Ringwood, 1971, p.51.



These years guided forward

by an unseen mysterious Wisdom,

with periodic blind mazes

and unintelligible paths;

however we study

and recapitulate the journey,

so much is lost without recovery,

our chief benefactors lie entombed

in some formless oblivion

and the weighiest causes

are so often silent.



Our faculty of insight

into passing things

is but impressions

in an everliving, everworking

chaos of being, unfathomable

as our soul and destiny,

a complex manuscript covered

with formless inextricably-entangled

and unknown characters,

partially deciphered.



But only in the whole

is the partial to be truly seen,

only in the Divine ordering of history

and its providential control

can bafflement be dealt with

and a revitalizing elan be found.

Ron Price

25 November 2002

ALL IN ONE GO

Picasso, or perhaps it was one of his close friends, once said that his energy, the energy he puts into a painting, is all transferred into it "in one go." Much of painting, to Picasso, was a breaking down and a remaking of something as he attempted to transform it. What was true of Picasso and his painting, as expressed here, is also true of the construction of my poetry, except for the long epic poem I am working on where the energy is spread out over many years. The tradition of self-portraiture in painting is also mirrored in my writing as a part of the tradition of autobiography. Self-portraiture begins, or so it is often argued, with Albrecht Durer in 1493 and autobiography in 426 AD with St. Augustine. -Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, "Magic, Sex and Death: Part One on Picasso," 9 June 2002, 3:35-4:30 pm.

You can't put it all down.

The essence is never conveyable

and the corpus of self-portraits

always rests uncomfortably

on the inner land of unreality.1



I construct my self-portraits

somewhat like an artist

with the real me somewhere

behind the words,

behind that likeness

which tells only some

of the psyche

and the self-worth.



The calculation, choices

and manipulation

are all part of construction

and it is far beyond

my corporeal vessel,

some scrutinized self,

some fashioned being

its infinite variety of meanings,

its statement of self-analysis.



There is richness and ambiguity here

amidst the fluctuating fortunes of life,

the complexities and the multitudinous

renditions of my days.2



1 A Sufi idea of 'the inner land of unreality' compared to 'Revealed Truth' referred to by Baha'u'llah in Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.28.

2 With thanks to Steven Platzman in his introduction to Cezanne: The Self-Portraits.

Ron Price

10 June 2002



THE NOVEL OF MYSELF

Some writers, generally novelists, academics and certainly many journalists, avoid the autobiographical.1 They work, they write, in worlds parallel to their own, their own lives. They create a fiction or a non-fiction, as the case may be, on which the autobiographical inevitably intrudes, but indirectly. Generally non-fiction writers and journalists are constrained by the facts in the field or the situation they are writing about. Other writers, and I am one, write deeply of the autobiographical. Their lives are at the core of their writing, in my case, their poetry. Like the novelist, I write of ambiguity, of doubt, of not-knowing, of inner disturbance. My words are not those of journalists and their short, snappy sentences describing who did what and when and where. My words are not those of the fictional novelist as he creates worlds of action, of romance, of pleasure, to keep the reader on side and involved. My words are often like the academic and often like those of the ordinarily ordinary, the humanly human, a partly robust, partly fragile set of feelings of self-identity, a partly conscious, partly unconscious selection and discarding of memories.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1"Margaret Throsby Interview: Jim Craise," ABC Radio National, 11 March 2002; and 2Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1991, p.55.



I'm trying to be done with the past,

trying to nourish it,

anticipate the future,

write about myself and you

in a complex interrelationship,

for there is no unified version,

no whole connectedness,

only massive complexity.



It returns to me, those days,

from the very dawn of my life.

I would approach them,

but they close and I see

only a few scenes

enshrining, what is it,

the spirit of the past?



Memory opens the door

and someone's story,

some ordinary someone

is partially restored,

like a room with new wall-paper

or an old chair refinished

for future use. And........



Language, that peculiar creature,

writes the novel of myself,

poem by poem.



Ron Price

11 March 2002

CRISIS

Robert Bly writes about the condition, the sense, of lowliness which happens to men after an initial "high" in their lives. After having been a special person: to his parents, his teachers, to his superiors in his newly acquired profession, perhaps to the small community of Baha'is where he became a member in his recent past, to his wife, his girlfriend, his friends, he sinks, he drops, he takes a big status kick. He loses his: job, marriage or health, self-respect, every shred of his former self. Bly calls it "the rat's hole," "the dark way." Somehow life does not prepare the person for this falling, fallen, experience. The upwardly mobile person has a down-and-out experience: he has to take a lower-class job in the kitchen or as a cleaner; he becomes homeless, walks the streets looking for a bed and a meal; his head is down, the descent, the exit, from ordinary life has begun. The Greeks called this process katabasis.-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Bly, Iron John, Element Books, Brisbane, 1990, p.72.



There was an ashy, sooty, out-of-it, time.

It got heavier, darker, then, as black as

rat's hole, dream's exploded, dried out,

sizzled on the electrodes back in '68.



Will never know if it was a mistake:

and then the long healing,

the deep emotional self

and the difficult repentance

and the freeing of myself

from endlessly returning

to that time and those days,

and that corpse of myself.



Slowly, slowly, I found again

something to want, to go for,

for the rest of my life,

for this year, this month, today.

None of this:

"I wonder what we shall do today?"

Go for a little fishing? A BBQ?

The fire of centrality had returned

but then, again, the blackness,

the fear, the disorientation,

the hospital beds and the burning.



Then the prayers and more healing,

the fatigue and the dryness and finally

the garden: private enigmatic, mysterious,

a heaven-haven, where moments are holy

and I move toward action in this silence

when something is coming near, a wealth,

cultivation, boundaries, a controlled sociability

where poems arise almost effortlessly.



Ron Price

27 January 2002



A GOLDEN BALL

During a brief span of time, some nine years, so greatly enriched as they were by the moving narrative, the immortal chronicle, of the lives of the twin-prophets of the nineteenth century, the Bab and Baha'u'llah, the episodes of the first act of the often awkward but precious drama that has been my life, can now be surveyed with some understanding and equanimity. These years from the age of fifteen to twenty-four can now be seen as something more than an endless succession of engagements with the society and life around me in which I could not fully fathom, control and command events; in which I was the victim, apparently, of body chemistry and socialization influences; in which the light of a new religion became a flame and sent me across a vast and cold Canadian sky from Windsor in the south to Frobisher Bay in the north before I perished, as any critical observer may have hypothesized at the time, in a mental hospital on the shores of Lake Ontario not far from my home town. As a historian, the historian, of my life I can now give these years their meaning, perhaps not their final meaning, but certainly a meaning they did not possess back in those years 1959 to 1968. -Ron Price with thanks to Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, Wilmette, 1957, p.3.



I was a nice boy,

one of the nicest

you could imagine.

I pleased everyone I knew,

especially myself,

for it seemed to me

life was one long indulgence.



And then the first pains came

and the winter of life set in

faster than a cold wind

bringing the first snows

and blanketing everything

with a white disguise,

with freezing ice.



I'd had a golden ball,

or so I thought, for years,

made of sensitivity, receptivity,

responsiveness, cooperation,

nonaggression, but I lost it

in those winter winds.

Perhaps it froze under the snow.

Perhaps those winds blew it away.



Then, unobtrusively,

on the way to or far up in

the Canadian north country,

where the world freezes

just about permanently,

I glimpsed that ball,

kept it within reach

in my new-dark world

of aloneness and fear.

It had golden thread.

I could see it in the distance

when I went for walks:

just, out there, sometimes

across Lake Ontario.

I held it in my sights

with dear life, intense.

I was becoming one of

that new race of men,

little did I know it.

Ron Price

26 January 2002

THE LIGHTHOUSE

In discussing the character of a man, there is no course of error so fertile as the drawing of a hard and fast line. We are attracted by the salient points, what seems to stand out in his life, and seeing them clearly and repeatedly we jump to conclusions. That is natural. These conclusions may even have some validity. These qualities that stand out may be likened to a lighthouse guiding our way in the night or, in the day, serving as a landmark in our travels. But they are only a guide. They tell us little of the surrounding landscape, none of the geology, the history, the botany, the geography of the nearby terrain. This is even more true of a man's life, so far removed from the general sketch, the highlights, which at best are all that is usually passed down to succeeding generations.

The man of letters on the other hand is, in truth, ever writing his own biography or autobiography. What is in his mind he declares to the world, to whoever reads his works. If he finds a readership, if his work is well written, this memoir, this biography, this autobiography will be all that is necessary. It will take us far beyond that lighthouse into geology, history, botany, geography--a total view. -Ron Price with thanks to Anthony Trollope, The Life of Cicero, quoted in Trollope, Victoria Glendinning, Pimlico, London, 1993, p.v.



There are some lighthouses here.

I've set them out along the coast

to guide your way through the night

of my life and there has been much

night, black clouds and darknesses.



I've also provided rich and varied

collections of flora and fauna

to tell you something

of the living tissue of my days,

some of its green shoots,

its flowers, its bright colours

and some of its exotic texture.



I've even left you a map

to help you connect

with nearby towns and villages;

for I have belonged to a community

where people knew me

and would tell you something of me.



But, again, do not jump to conclusions

about the nature of my person and self.

What I have left behind can only,

like the lighthouse, guide your travels.



I have tried to be faithful

to the Covenant of God,

to fulfill in my life His trust

and in the realm of spirit

obtain the gem of divine virtue.1

But how successful I have been

that is a mystery to me, as much as thee.

1 Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, Introductory passage.

Ron Price

17 January 2002

POEMS ON AUTOBIOGRAPHY



A POETIC NOVEL/A NOVEL IN POETRY

Roland Barthes argues that autobiography should be considered as something spoken by a character in a novel or, rather, by several characters. In a novel the image-repertoire, the fatal substance and the labyrinth of levels in which anyone who speaks about himself is entirely fictive. The image-repertoire is expressed by several masks or personae which are distributed according to the depth, the extent, of the stage. The novel does not choose, it functions by alteration; it proceeds by impulses. So is this true of the essay or autobiographical poetry, although there is a strong element of choice in the writing--I would argue. The approaches to novel writing are never anything but approaches to resonance. The substance of the novel, ultimately, is totally fictive. Intrusions into the discourse of the essay or the discourse of poetry refer to a fictive creature. All these genres require remodeling in light of this perspective. Let the essay or the poem see themselves as 'almost a novel:' a novel without proper names. -Ron Price with thanks to Roland Barthes, Writings on the Internet, 21 March 2002.

The whole thing is defined

by some big picture,

some made self

and a quite precise facticity

where the meaning changes,

restoring the experience,

beyond any meaning

I ever assigned back then,

in some complex combination

of the eventful and uneventful.



As the novel ends,

the last chapter begins to unfold

and I tell of a joy

in being thoroughly worn out,1

before being thrown on the heap,

ready for the proverbial endgame.



And that tree which is my life,

arrayed with these fresh leaves,

blossoms and fruits

of consecrated joy

also has some blight,

complex twists and turns

and will one day

be denuded of all verdure.



1 George Bernard Shaw in A Fortunate Life: A.B. Facey, Jan Carter, Pengui, 1981, p.325.

Ron Price

22 March 2002

PULLING THROUGH IT ALL

During the first five years of my pioneering life, 1962 to 1967, Andy Warhol, one of America's famous artists, tagged 'saint Andy' in 1964, painted his two memento mori(remember that you must die) series Death and Disaster and the Skull. He painted suicides, car crashes, the atomic bomb, the electric chair, race riots, and death by poisoning and by earthquake.1 The reason for his continued fame is without question his subject matter. These were difficult years for America: assassinations, race riots, a near miss with nuclear war. They were difficult years at the global level: the Egypt-Israeli war, the early stages of the Viet Nam war. They were difficult years in my personal life: depression, my first sexual misadventures, experiencing what was called a 'mild schizo-affective state,' the first episodes of a bi-polar disorder, loneliness. -Ron Price with thanks to Benjamin Bennett-Carpenter, a review of The Religious Art of Andy Warhol, Jane Daggett Dillenberger, Continuum, NY, 1998.

When I look back at those years,

I remember feeling all-over-the-place,

disorientation was the mother of the day.

It was a miracle that I pulled through it all,

that we pulled through it all,

another one of those skin-of-our-teeth

survival packages, just making it.



The first sexual heat for me,

overwhelming, intoxicating,

grabbed me by the throat,

took my breath away,

I was lucky to pull through it all

with my psycho-emotions

in one piece after so many

fractures, faintings, furies.



I hardly knew Andy was into

painting suicides, electric chairs,

atomic bombs and poisonings

or that the world was on the

edge of nuclear destruction.



Seduced by ephemeral allurements

and short-lived enthusiasms,

having entered the dark heart

of an age as adolescence swung me

from pillar to post---

I nearly missed

the vision of a new longing

which I had just begun to see

as the possible fruit of my labours.1



1 The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p.21, 18 December 1963.

-Ron Price 25 November 2001



THE WEIGHT

Only by reading R.F. Price's poetry, on one level, as a prolonged and fragmented autobiography, conceived, for the most part, after bearing the weight of a new Faith as one of its pioneers for some fourty years and after striving to carry its message to his contemporaries in some of the remotest regions of Canada and Australia, can the elusive unity of this vast bulk-bulk of poetry--be glimpsed.1 It is an autobiography that attempts not to confine its wisdom and virtue within the small circle of his experiences, his friends and his religion, in short, everything already intimately related to him. He tries to counter the tendency to overvalue these natural and personal enthusiasms and interests. He widens his field, his scope, his frame of influence to take in the richest and most varied "cultural attainments of the mind,"2 attainments within the range of the social sciences and humanities and largely acquired by reading. -Ron Price, with thanks to 1Justin Wintle, Furious Interiors: Wales, R.S. Thomas and God, Flamingo, London, 1996, p.xviii; and 2 'Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970, p.35.



I do not humbly shun epiphanies

if they come my way like the diamond,

produced from many years of weight,

sometimes quite insufferable,

wet with tears from those Eskimo kids,

in the corridors and toilets

of Whitby Psychiatric Hospital

and again and again and again

until finally released

on lithium's soothing chemistry,

before getting abused in the hot north

and then wrung completely dry

in a miasmal ooze from which I tried

to inch my consequential necessary way.1



I came to see it all as vapour in the desert.

I had dreamed, hoped, for fresh water

but knew it to be mirage, illusion.

It was no mere nothing, though,

no quintessential nothingness;

these were but my first steps

to the taste of fruits of holiness

and that tree of wondrous glory.2

1 Roger White, The Language of There, p.34.

2 Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, No.68.

Ron Price

2 December 2001

AND THE BUSH WAS NOT CONSUMED

-Exodus

Howard Gruber has been studying creativity and creative people for years, decades. This poem attempts to place in overview, using perspectives expressed by Gruber, my own work over the years. Gruber writes about the creative person having "a network of enterprizes, simultaneous and parallel, but intimately related activities...a bewildering miscellany." He calls this "the evolving systems approach" to creativity. "Every idea seems to be implicated," writes Gruber, "with innumerable other ideas in an intricate network...a tangled bank." The creative work is often "spread out over months and years" with "consequences for the organization of purpose." Such a network possesses a scheme for replenishing itself with new tasks. These enterprizes show an astonishing longevity and they also pass through long periods "of dormancy." In my life, an overriding project emerged insensibly, unobtrusively, by 1962 at the age of 18, uniting what was then that embryonic network of enterprizes that Gruber mentions. A great amount of time has been required for this creative work, nearly forty years now. Interruptions, dead-ends, transient and awkward thoughts seem, in retrospect, a natural part of the process. -Ron Price with thanks to Howard E. Gruber in "On the Method of Howard Gruber," Internet, 12 November 2001. The article draws on over twenty of his books and articles on creativity over twenty-five years.



The project had begun

quite unobtrusively

by the time I'd moved

to Dundas back in '62.



The stage was set, even then,

for this protracted, life-long goal

with its tangents, delays, false starts,

inevitably inconclusive,

but potentially enriching moves

and that sense of direction

which often felt completely stuffed.



By '72 it was defining itself

more sharply up there in Whyalla:

education and career under my belt,

unstuffed for a time, could see the light

at the end of the tunnel more clearly.



By '74 the project got a new lease on life,

blasts of fresh air went on and on

before another complete stuff-up,

dead-end at both ends of the earth.1



Images of a wide scope,

supple schematization

underlying this creative work,

a seemingly random juxtaposition of ideas

began producing serendipitous discovery:

in what had become a long,

lifelong apprenticeship.



Drawn insensibly at times by visions,

hopes and dreams, gradually

by the sensuous pleasure

of creative activity itself,

its new and fruitful problems

always at the centre of the project,

a feeling of 'what's next?'

and the bush never being consumed,

never at rest, always blowing in the wind,

always burning, burning.



1 Frobisher Bay in 1967-8 and Zeehan in 1980-2.



Ron Price

13 November 2001



SERENDIPITOUS DISCOVERIES

The autobiographical process, when expressed in poetic narrative style and covering as it does now some 6000 prose-poems or, indeed, in my analytical narrative with its several appendices, or elaborated upon in my essays, letters, book reviews and assorted pieces of writing now occupying the dozens of files in this study: comes close to transforming the raw material of daily existence, past and present, into a life. One of the compensations for the effort, for this endeavour, lies in those serendipitous discoveries1 that arise out of the process of examining my life, my society and my religion in frequent and varied juxtapositions. In the end, though, I can not tell it all, can not get at it all. There is something, something mysterious, that remains elusive, aloof and inaccessible. Inner vulnerabilities are uncovered, unhappinesses explored, even the desire for self-annihilation is described, but the territory of the mind and heart can only be partly mapped. There seem to be places where no pen can go even if it wants---and even if it did there would be "no ear to hear nor heart to understand."2-Ron Price with thanks to Norman Sherry, The Life of Graham Greene, Vol.2: 1939-1955, Jonathan Cape, London, 1994, p.xiii; and Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words.



There's one story, dominant,

I tell about myself, one context

which suppresses and marginalizes

other stories, truths, does not evoke

or allow for them.



I say: who is served by my story?

Who is empowered by this

construction of reality?

There are countless ways

I can story and restory

my experience as it shapes me.

But is there an ear to hear it?



As we tell our stories,

the ability to do so

is renewed in us all

and our stories will not be

erased from history.1

1 Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Deception: Pretending and Truth-Telling in Women's Lives, Harper Collins,NY, 1993.

Ron Price

9 December 2001

POETRY'S CIRCUITOUS GAZE

John Ruskin describes his autobiography as "an old man's recreation in gathering visionary flowers in fields of youth."1 Mine is a middle-aged man's autobiography, at least, thusfar. Mine has been an ingathering of visionary flowers, too, in the fields of my life. I like to see my autobiography, as Ruskin did his, as "a dutiful offering at the grave of my parents, by one who could have been more dutiful." For it is my life which, as Ruskin writes, consists of interconnected, intertwined, relationships, in my case, especially with my religion but, more generally, with 'every atom in existence and the essence of all created things.' I do not see this account, as Roussseau conceived his autobiography, as a complete self-revelation or confession. I do discuss my two marriages and my career though, unlike Ruskin, who left most of these aspects of his life right out. -Ron Price with thanks to George P. Landow, John Ruskin, Oxford UP, 1985, Chapter Four.



My adolescent religious belief

was born amidst the simplicity

of that small town on the edge

of great blue Lake Ontario

near a baseball field

and a hockey arena,

just after MacDonalds opened

their first fast-food outlet.1



It has given me interpretations

of life, society and history,

occasionally threatened

by a type of Higher Criticism,2

doubts and by a great weariness,

but never led to disbelief,

at least not quite.3



I never found a better way

to serve God or man.

My thirst along this stoney

and often tortured path

was eager and methodical,

at least within my limits.



This has been a life of the mind,

at times standing apart

with a regular and sweetly selfish

manner of living4 and at times

with both feet right in there

with enough words and people

to drown in.



Along the way, what was it

that greatly influenced my life?

Let me list their names:



Fred and Lilian Price,

Alfred Cornfield, the Bab,

Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha,

Shoghi Effendi,

the Universal House of Justice....



......more names too numerous

and places whose affect was subtle

as I learned to see things

with my own eyes

and not the eyes of others,

along a complex path

that I could not trace steadily

through successive years

and needed poetry's

circuitous gaze.



1 1949; in 1953 my religious belief was in its embryonic, preconceptual stage, but it was being born in the mind and heart of my mother.

2 In 1964 I had a philosophy professor who could raise some very difficult questions to test my religious belief, then, of some five years.

3 came close in 1974, difficult to know exactly how close.

4 John Ruskin describes his life and its emphasis on privacy this way.



Ron Price

6 November 2001



A UNIFIED VISION

Price felt compelled in his quest for personal wholeness and a unified artistic vision to come to terms with those crises and calamities which, from a Baha'i perspective, were inevitable parts of his life and with the struggles and strains which both he and his community experienced and which, from time to time, 'threatened to arrest its unfoldment' and 'blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered.'1 Given that a social and psychological tempest had been blowing for more than a century and a half; and given that that tempest was both unprecedented in its violence and unpredictable in its effects on the one hand and was gripping all of humanity in the clutches of its devastating power on the other, Price's quest was one all Baha'is were engaged in during these epochs. This quest for wholeness or integration was as much a goal as a battle, a balancing act, a perpetually unstable reconciliation of forces. Ultimately all the battles of life were within and, perhaps, this tension, this conflict, was the first law of human psychic life.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, Wilmette, 1957, p.111; and 2Charles Fair, The New Nonsense: The End of the Rational Consensus, Harper and Row, 1974, p.45.



In spite of all this autobiographical

belly-aching, naval-gazing

and apparent self-assertion

which might ultimately

be not only irrelevant

and downright embarrassing,

but ultimately alien

to what I seek to achieve-----1



I seek to manifest a truth,

provide insight into reality,

find a pearl from the ocean

of a new Revelation

and explore a common life,

a harmonizing in contrariety,

a unity in divergence-----

self, yes, the one turned,

mirror-like, to that rare Presence.



'Oft-timed rehearsed petitioner,

sometimes joyful,

sometimes joyless,

often empty-handed,

I tell of us all,

all of us deft practitioners2

who strive with our

protocols of piety

stranded, as we are,

on uncertainty's shore.

closer to an ocean of certitude

than our life's vein.

1 Ludwig Tuman, Mirror of the Divine, GR, 1993, p.116.

2 Roger White, The Witness of Pebbles, GR, 1981, p.81.--Ron Price 4/2/02.



TO A DEGREE

For most people, interaction with others provides most of what they require to find meaning and significance in life.1 For others, meaning and significance are obtained from other sources. Creative activity is a particularly apt way to express oneself; this activity is often solitary and sometimes the productions which result are regarded as possessing value to society. For Price, solitariness had been essential and so had human interaction. After forty years of extensive interaction(1959-1999), he felt he was moving into a period in his life characterized by a dominance of the solitary; after forty years of immense quantities of talking and listening and of pioneering from place to place(1959-1999), the time to stay in one place and reduce the verbal in-and-output may have arrived. He was not sure. Like Robert Redford, he wanted "to be a private man doing his own thing in a remote"2 place. But like Robert Redford too, at least thusfar, he had had trouble attaining this dominance of the solitary. Occasionally, like his life, he created a poem that was 'all over the place.' -Ron Price with thanks to: 1Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Nash, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1998, p.15; 2 Minty Clinch, Robert Redford, New English Library, London, 1989, p.3.



There were always skads of people around
back then in '59 or '62.

They were unavoidable,
essential to your1 way of life.


You accepted them like the air;
as if they'd always been there.

And it stayed that way,

in one way or another,
until just the other day
when it became

just you and your wife,2
a couple of shopkeepers,
your son and step-daughter dropping in,
the good-byes to the Baha'is,
afternoon tea with friends.

Getting closer to solitude,
but never really there,
probably never really attainable,
for this commitment, this vision,
is all part of what Holley called:
'the social religion' and social it is,
with solitariness only really desireable
to a degree, to a degree, to a degree.

Ron Price
26 June 1999

1 In this poem I address 'you' and the 'you' is, in fact, myself.
2 My son moved out of home and my wife and I were alone for the first time in our marriage, in our relationship which began back in about April 1974.



SYNCRONIZATION

The May-June period 1968 was a turning point in my own life, in the life of western society and in the historical experience of the Baha'i Faith. The following poem looks at this 'turning point' and how it was experienced quite differently at the personal and the international levels. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 26 October 2001.

We saw a tremendous impetus

to the diffusion of spiritual inspiration

in the majestic unfoldment

of this new System, back then1

when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated,2

when Paris witnessed a celebration

of the imagination,

a rejection of Marxism

and archaic structures of authority

in those riots of students and workers.3



While these great affairs of the day,

these events of history

were changing the direction

of the lives of humanity,

for the most part unbeknownst,

I taught grade three Eskimos

at a priority pioneering post

on Baffin Island for the last time

and began a hospitalization

in the major episode in my life

of what is now known as

a bi-polar disorder.4



1 21 June 1968, the Appointment of the Continental Board of Counsellors

2 Bobby Kennedy was assassinated on June 8th 1968

3 The Paris riots of May 1968

4 I was hospitalized on the first Monday in June 1968



Ron Price

26 October 2001



A QUIET WORD

This poem attempts to convey some of my experience of retiring from teaching at the age of 55. I was helped to start the poem by reading Emily Dickinson's poem number 1123. Emily's poems are succinct, pithy pieces on very short lines; this poem is 'spread out.' It lacks her pithy presence. Like my life, spread out from the Canadian Arctic to the southwest corner of Tasmania, this poem has been physically diffused. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.

The pleasure ceased,
ambition fell,
but little noise was made.
Some fatigue had entered in;
it spoke no tale worth telling,
though several times I tried

to tell the story of my days.


I had developed quite a knack
of conveying all my ways.

But it was more a quiet exit,
a simple coming to an end,
a little bit of talking
as the spirit began to mend.


Slowly I moved to a new routine,
away from endless words,
talking and more talking
where I'd sought to sing
like the birds.

I found myself with quiet days,
with books and lots of writing.
I found myself walking down roads
an end to employment fighting.

Ron Price
4 August 1999

SUCKED

My moral and political object as a poet and as a Baha'i is to create and recreate myself, in the words of the opening inscriptive poem of Whitman's Leaves of Grass, "as a simple separate person;" and part of that "Oneness of Humankind" that has become an increasing part of our consciousness as people during these three epochs.(i.e. 1944-2000) In this world, this emerging World Order, lies my chief source of creative forms and the range of experiences which will let me complete the cycle of self-recognition, identification with others and self-definition. In my poetry, my emerging corpus of poetic understandings, is the story of my struggle, my Faith, my time, my three epochs and what I would will myself and my world to become. This exercise has taken place in over three dozen houses and two dozen towns and I have, therefore, scattered the words of this poem to convey this reality of movement. -Ron Price with thanks to Roy Pearce, The Continuity of American Poetry, Princeton UP, Princeton, 1961, pp.73-74.

We, I, have been putting it back together:
humankind and its history,
its geography, its community,
marrying it again.
This is the heroism;
we are remaking the world,
with word after word, after word,
meeting after meeting.

Gradually the brain and the heart dried out
and their thin soil became the ground
where love rapaciously made its season
in my fevered dreams
from which I woke aghast
the wet taste of leaves on the tongue,
astute voracious tendrils at the throat,
my trembling palms gummy
with mould and knowledge.1

But, as the poet says,
neglect does foster,
and dismay but fertilize
love's thrusting growth.
And I return, again,
to the battle,

having dried out on the land
and renewed myself
under cool, metallic stars
as if I had sucked

their bright and detached immensity

into my soul
from some quite distant
fragrance of sweet mercy.

1 Roger White, The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, pp.71-2.

Ron Price
24 December 1999

SEED-PLANTING FOR THE HARVEST

Many, if not most, of us in the late twentieth century, who might read Price, would not take much interest in his world, the world he lives in and which for various reasons we cannot join, at least not in recent decades. We just cannot go along with him. It is not so much that he does not speak our language, the idiom of a mass culture, or one of the majority of its sub-cultural tributaries, but that this mass cannot speak his language. He would very much like that mass to join him, but he knows it denies, is disinterested, in his world. Of necessity, he has been forced to live in the world of the mass for his entire life; he had had no choice; indeed much of it was pleasureable, stimulating, educative. Although that mass, for its part, could not speak his language, it knew what he meant. For his words were, for the most part, clear and easy to understand. It is not his complexity that was the problem; it was the world's complexity and the tempest which is, and has been, blowing with unprecedented magnitude, unpredictable in its course: fragmenting, disintegrating, anarchic, morally chaotic. So it is that I have left the design of this poem in its unconventional shape. -Ron Price with thanks to Roy Harvey Pearce, The Continuity of American Poetry, Princeton UP, Princeton, 1961, p.274.



When I look back over forty years,
beginning with my acceptance

of this breathtakingly wondrous Gift,
it is so obvious that so few came to share
the language with me,

though I was not short on talk.

Alan Coupe, who lived around the corner,

came in six or seven years

after I had signed the proverbial card.

Then, there were all those kids
back in '70 in Picton,

a pile more in Whyalla in '72

whom I have never ever seen in my travels.
Chris Price in '74; Ludwig Vinckier in '81;
Larry Ahlin in, what, '84, and perhaps
one or two others on the whole road:
they learned to speak the language.

All that talking, guitar playing,
listening, travelling,

for the sake of a small handful?

Obviously it's seed-planting for the harvest.

Ron Price
22 December 1999



REMEMBERED BEING

Price was attempting, over nearly two decades now, through his thousands of poems, to define his sense of identity and to express, as best he could, his understandings of many of life's features and especially those associated with his religion. He relied heavily on his autobiographical self, on the trivial and quotidian and on the aspiration, the vision, the hope expressed in the Writings of his Faith. He played with the concept of the self, his self, and was engaged with a constant, a normal, reality monitoring in virtually all of his poetry. He saw the process as one of an on-going self-creation, self-definition and self-description. He sought refuge in a vision of suffering and redemption at the root of his religion and its history and in a philosophical and psychological framework that his religion also provided for his day-to-day life and his poetry. -Ron Price with thanks to Frances F. Steen, "The Time of Unremembered Being: Wordsworth's Autobiography of the Imagination," A.B.: Autobiography Studies, Spring 1998, pp.7-38.



I should put your words1

back in the story

as they deserve to be

since they describe my days:



now I speak of things

that have been and that are2



....and, in my case, seem like gentle dreams,

far from fashioned, but they do adorn

the time of my remembered being

when they did adorn the Hill of God

and made a beauty on that holy sod.



1 William Wordsworth's

2 These words were originally at the beginning of Wordsworth's 'The Prelude.' But he later took them out.(see ibid.,p.7)

Ron Price

THE CURRENT OF LIFE

The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson called for a literature of "diaries and autobiographies"1 instead of novels. The twentieth century American writer, Henry Miller, endorsed this idea in an effort to open himself to the "whole dammed current of life". Miller was trying to make of the chaos about him "an order which (was) his own." He was also trying to affirm the inner light of selfhood against the darkness, the slaughterhouse, the cancer of the world, the collapse of traditions, the breakdown of connection between the self and an engageable social milieux and the disappearance of modes of authority outside the self. This "inner light" and "order" which Miller affirms is also at the centre of my work, but the light and order that I seek and manifest are derived from "the verses of God that have been received"2 by me over more than forty years. Emerson's call for 'diaries and autobiographies' at the dawn of the Baha'i Era has not gone unheeded. The last 150 years has seen a plethora of these genres. My literary effort is part of the response to Emerson's call, my desire to open myself to the whole "damned current of life." -Ron Price with thanks to 1Christopher Lasch, The Minimal Self:" Psychic Survival in Troubled Times, WW Norton, NY, 1984, p.134; and 2 Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Prayers, USA, 1985, frontispiece.

Inventorying and stylizing myself,

daily events, life's events,

the dizzy world going by,

a manipulation of details

with the status of facts,

no bare chronicle of fact,

creating, defining, self,

world and my religion

and, in the end, producing

my life by an infinite chain

of signifiers and constructs.

therapeutic self-discovery,

spinning a yarn,1 as it were,

in the current of life.



1 Lynda Scott, "Similarities Between Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing," Deep South, Vol.3 No.2, Winter 1997.



Ron Price

13 May 2001

a final autobiographical word:

Anyone who has got this far, has peristed through the above labyrinth, deserves to be reminded of my autobiographical study 'Pioneering Over Four Epochs' found at this website. Readers must go back to the Index page(the access page that you came to when you arrived at this site); then scroll down to the Book. What follows for the reader at that point, after he or she has downloaded my autobiography, are many chapters of the narrative and the autobiograpical study, about 750 A-4 pages. This Book is found at the bottom of the index page. You click on the word 'HERE' in the sentence: 'My autobiography is HERE.' Downloading takes from 5 to 10 minutes depending on your downloading system.
 
Excerpt
1. AUTOBIOGRAPHY



"Know thyself"

-From the Temple of Apollo at Delphi



"The unexamined life is not worth living."

-Socrates



"I am, myself, the matter of my book."

-Michael Montaigne, The Essays, 1588.



"I should not talk about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well."

-Henry David Thoreau, 1844(ca)



"Turn thy sight unto thyself that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting."

-Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words.



AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION

Although this autobiographical statement is about my life, its primary intention is to be of service in assisting others to make greater sense of their own lives.



In tracing the history of my family from Australia and Canada as I began doing in the 1980s, I found I could go back to Croyden in the U.K. in 1872 on my mother's side; and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales in 1895 on my father's side. The period of time from the beginning of this new age in 1844 until these earliest evidences on my family tree was occupied by my great-grandparents and, perhaps, great-great-grandparents.1 About these parts of my family tree I know nothing. It is not my purpose here to outline my family history; I have done this in other places in my autobiographical narrative Pioneering Over Four Epochs which can be found on this website in some 30 chapters found at the end of the 'index' page.

This website is not an exercise in self-publicity in the tradition of artists like Salvadore Dali and the massive autobiography industry of the last 150 years. I'm sure some readers will find what self-portraiture there is here to be too revealing; for others it will not be revealing enough. What is intended in this autobiographical excursion is an integration of a life, a religion and a society into some kind of meaningful whole, a whole that is meaningful to me and hopefully to readers who cross this path.

1 For a brief statement on the history of my family during the years of the 'heroic age'(1844-1921) of the Baha'i Faith, see section 24 part (ii) below. For a standard resume of my own professional career see section 24 part (v)(a) below and of my Baha'i experience see section 24 part (v)(b) below.



I use the year 1844 as a symbolic figure for the beginning of this new age. Other years could be selected. But 1844 is heuristic in its implications: the first writings of Karl Marx, 'The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,' were published in the summer of that year; on 22 May the first message was sent on a telegraphic wire in the USA: 'what hath God wrought?' and the Bab made the first public declaration of His new Faith on 23 May 1844.



This autobiographical study has other central purposes than examining my family history as far back as it is possible. What autobiography there is does not assume much significance for the purposes of this web site and its contents until at least the first phase of the implementation of 'Abdu'l-Baha's divine plan in the years 1937 to 1944, when the pieces were coming together for the matrix that formed the setting for my birth. At the beginning of that Seven Year Plan, in 1937, my grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side, Emma and Alfred Cornfield, lived in Hamilton Ontario. Alfred had just retired at age 65, after a chequered and difficult employment history in Canada going back to his arrival from England in 1900. Emma,his wife,would be dead by the end of 1939 from cancer. As far as I know, my mother and father had not yet met. This meeting would take place some time in the next five years. It is in this milieu, just before and during the early part of WW2, that my autobiography begins. Any of my poetry that is clearly autobiographical and not essentially historical concerning aspects of my family tree, comes from the years after 1937 when 'Abdu'l-Baha's Divine Plan, as outlined in his immortal Tablets, was finally implemented.



Father and son(1945), at the end of the first epoch of the Formative Age, after the completion of the first Seven Year Plan(1937-1944), the first Plan in which the term 'pioneer' gained wide usage. There were about 100 Baha'is in Canada at the time.

My poetry takes in a much wider ambit than the personal, the inner, life. It also takes in aspects of all of phenomenal existence, aspects that relate to memory. For memory is, as existential psychologist Rollo May once put it,"the keeper of all that is meaningful."(Man's Search For Himself, 1953, p.220) Features of history, the present and the future, as is evident from even a short perusal of the contents of my poetry and its 43 categories as listed in the index, come into my poetry. And it all synthesizes, unifies, comes together, around a centre which came into my life and the life of my family back in 1953. That centre was the Baha'i Faith. I see all of this poetry as autobiographical in the wider sense that all writing can be seen as autobiographical, although I'm sure many readers will be hard put to call much of my material autobiographical. They may prefer the term 'personal.' I find my own identity over a lifetime is so changeable and fragmented that I prefer to see the Baha'i Faith and its community as the centre, the synthesizing, unifying agent, in this poetic statement. This is the raison d'etre of this website.

Everything is up-for-grabs, fodder, for my poetic mill, so to speak. We all have the narrow compass of our own lives; but we also have the wider ambit of life, of existence, that we try to take in and make part of some intelligible whole. For each of us, though, only part of that whole 'grabs-us.' This web page tells of some of 'the stuff' that grabbed me, that became part of my memory and which became part of my 'reminiscence,' as Plato once described the process of discovering the truth.

Autobiography's traditional search, by way of writing, is for a significant personal past, a self as life-story. Essays and poems immerse this writer in the pleasures and doubts of the writing process. These genres also possess a fragmentariness and a provisionality that scale down the amplitude of autobiography by narrowing the retrospective gaze to single experiences and certain life-themes.

Autobiography is a useful study if the reader wants to understand change in human beings in spiritual terms or, indeed, in any terms. It involves for readers empathetic introspection and, as such, it makes the study of a life, any life, a religious act, a devotional exercise. "Look within thee", as Baha'u'llah says, "and thou wilt find Me standing within Thee mighty, powerful and self-subsistent." For this autobiographical poetry is partly a looking within, partly a search for self through the great adventure that is life, partly a creation and recreation, partly an invention and a defining of the self, partly a molding and remolding of myself and my world, partly a moving back and forth between the interiority of the self and the exteriority of the world.

Had it not been for my life commitment, now for some 44 years, to the teachings, the philosophy, the spiritual principles, of this emerging world religion, this autobiographical poetry in all its forms would not have come into existence. This universal Faith is the catalyst, the leaven, the enzyme, that has given rise to all that is found here. For me, as it was for the psychologist Alfred Adler, a sense of community is a primary index of mental health and the term 'community' for me has a host of meanings.

Readers, it is hoped, will feel that my struggles, my triumphs, my failures and glories are, at least in part, their own. As the American poet Kenneth Koch said in a recent interview: when you read a poem, the poet's experience becomes, in a way, your own. People can experience what Richard Hutch calls "inner empathetic rehearsals"1, experiments in imagining similarities and contrasts with their own lives when they read the poetry of others. The comparisons and contrasts with the lives of others provide a potentially fertile field for understanding our own lives. Even comparisons and contrasts with those who have passed away can provide heuristic insights in this imaginative, subjective sense. I write occasionally about those who have passed on and inevitably, of course, I and my readers will also pass on. In mysterious and enigmatic ways we all all one, all one community: past, present and future.

We come to understand ourselves in many ways. Autobiography and biography, examining the lives of others, is but one way. Hopefully, some of the readers who seriously examine this material will find clarifications and understandings of their own lives spinning off, somewhat serendipitously. This, of course, was what the sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote about in his now-famous The Sociological Imagination.2



Mother and son(1945)...Hamilton Ontario Canada...We come into this world and assume a form that befits our mortal life...and we go on to another world and assume a form that befits our immortality. Eight years after this picture was taken my mother attended a Baha'i fireside and became one of the first few hundred Baha'is in Canada....and at the end of that second epoch of the Formative Age, in September 1962, my parents and I pioneered to the next town.

Autobiography, then, has the potential to provide, for those reading it, well-researched historical comparisons and contrasts with their own lives, with the view to assisting in the moral and psychological empowerment of readers. Surely this is part, an aspect, of the metaphorical nature of Baha'i history and the empowering potential of Baha'i saints, heroes and prominent figures down through the epochs and ages. In this way autobiography, even of the ordinary person, becomes part of a process that helps to create human solidarity. I see my autobiographical poetry, indeed all that I write: essays, interviews, reviews, narrative, inter alia, in this wider context, as but one more contribution to human solidarity on this earth. For the very definition of a person, as I see it, includes the wider world in which we move and have our being, in which we participate, which we construct. Some sociologists call this wider view and its affect on us as 'the social construction of reality.' Some psychologists call it an existential view of the person. Whatever you call it, I draw on a very wide view of the person, of society and of religion, in my poetry.3

For those not having any particular interest in the Baha'i Faith you may find something useful here at this site. There is obviously a very special relationship in my poetry with Baha'i history and teachings, but it is not essential for the reader to be familiar with the Baha'i story. Many of the writers, the authors, from the first century and a half of Baha'i experience have become my 'friends' due to what is now a long acquaintance with them through books and I draw on them somewhat spontaneously in my poetry. I draw on this literature because I think this literature matters and because it offers an enormous wealth of insight into the whole range of human experience. But I also draw on what might be called 'the secular literature' in my poetry, in the process making it relevant, I like to think, to a wider audience.

My autobiography, poetry, history and a wide range of my essays I hope, then, will appeal to your interests, read reader who has ventured this far into a labyrinth of another life than your own particular labyrinthine experience. If what you read has not turned you on by now or in a short span of time, just click me off and my special labyrinth can be placed into non-existence as quick as the twinkling of an eye. There is so much print available in today's world that you can go where your heart fancies. If what I write here does not catch your fancy--such is life.

As the famous poet W.H. Auden once wrote: 'poetry makes nothing happen.' While I think this is true for the most part in the big, wide, macro world, in the personal, the interior, the hidden world of my affective life, poetry has a curiously deep and renewing function. So, if a particular reader finds my writing irrelevant, if what I write has no affect on international relations, that will not affect the personal, private value this poetry has for me and-hopefully-some of my readers.



Studying lives, writing them, biography and autobiography, is one of many possible guides for living together, for understanding your life and society. It fortifies the sense of the unique and irreplaceable worth of the individual. People can be united in solidarity, in the immediacy of empathy, by studying something that outlasts life. A text, a written record, a life-a writer's, an autobiographer's, can be useful for generations. I think many get their sense of beauty, meaning, purpose, whatever, from the big-screen, from musical expression, from one of a multitude of creative forms, from gardeing to cooking stuff and eating it, from sexual expression, et cetera, et cetera.

What Heinz Kohut calls "vicarious introspection", the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person and, at the same time, remain an objective observer, is essential for the autobiographical poet like myself and for readers. This autobiography is inevitably about the other, others, as much as myself; reader and self blend and fold together, as does self and world.

In some ways I see myself as someone who puts the facts of my own life and the lives of others into different contexts, structures and shapes while maintaining my basic integrity and honesty--and others. At least I try. The writer Gail Mandell says that writing is like surfing: "you get on a wave and you say 'Hey, this really feels good. This is terrific.'" Writers tell it as they see it and it is usually so much more than they can ever say to people. I feel the need to say, to write, what I have seen, felt and thought over these several epochs. I was right there on the spot for the evening news of my generation, so to speak. As the reader, you may get news flashes from this newsreader, this reporter, that will be useful to you. I hope so. And if you do not, perhaps generations to come may find news reports from this news reader of this generation, of these four epochs, of some use, some value. Perhaps.

My Baha'i experience over half a century, forty years of which involve pioneering, I like to think has some relevance to those who will follow me in the generations to come. This web page is part of my effort to provide some of that relevance. At the very least the exercise of putting this site together has given me pleasure. I hope the site provides some pleasure for you.

I often put the story, the event, the inner reaction, the core of a poem in a framework of ideology, convictions, beliefs, attitudes and values. That is part of the pleasure, the depth, the inner, the introspective, side of things. I experience a deep sense of entering into another's life, my own and society's as well. This is part of the pleasure of autobiographical and biographical writing. The observer, though, should keep in mind that the act of writing takes place in a room, one person by himself hour after hour. The excitement that is the writer's is an inner thing not an adventure in the normal sense of the word, out there, doing things that you talk about on Monday morning. Most of our lives we spend with ourselves, in our own head, in a private world. This is especially true of someone who writes and writes a great deal. This document, this web page, translates some of this inner experience, this inner solitude, into form.

Writing a life is about a need, a search, for wholeness amidst fragmentation. Only parts of one's life at best ever seem to be whole, unified, one. Fragmentation, conflict, disorder, incompleteness and failure all exist amidst whatever spiritual and material successes, whatever sense of unity, one achieves in one's inner or outer worlds. Some see Frederick Nietzsche's autobiography of 1888 as serene and triumphant; others see it as confused and mendacious. It was completed only weeks away from his own breakdown. There are many ways to view a body of writing. This will be no less true of what is here. There is no right way to write a diary, a journal, an autobiography, poetic or otherwise. Some will find what they see here useless to them; others will find it of value. That is the way it is with the writing of all authors.

Whatever sense of fancifulness, what some call conceit, whatever empathetic responsiveness and emotional relatedness I exhibit or achieve, and I do in my relationships as a teacher, a parent, a member of a community, et cetera, I do not find I do so to anything like the same extent all the time. This is, of course, true of all of us. For there is, as I have already said, fragmentation, diversity and conflict, incompleteness and dissatisfaction in all our walks of life. I have had a sense of wholeness in much of life's personal journey, but this is not always the case in relationships, in all the journey.

This, too, is part of Baha'i experience not only for me but for virtually everyone. It is part of the inevitable ups-and-downs of life that we all have in and out of community. Here lies the story of one person's understandings, activities and patterns, one person's world. It is a story which mirrors its time, its age. It is a story that arises out of the ineluctable interconnectedness of self and world. It's all part of that Oneness of life, of humanity, of religion, of reality, at the core of the Baha'i teachings.



This photo of my first wife, Judy, and I was taken on January 1st 1968, five years after the apex of the Baha'i Administrative model was put in place, six months before the institution of the Continental Board of Counsellors was established and five years after the third epoch had begun. It was also at the outset of the 'dark heart of the age of transition' as the Universal House of Justice characterized the period of pioneering I had just entered, in August 1967, among the Eskimo.



The shared vision and the common good, seems to be something I have talked about within the Baha'i community and out for many, many years. I feel as if I have talked about these and other concepts so many times that I am repeating a language, sentences, words, that have been worked to death. This experience of seemingly endless repetition was part of what led to my writing poetry. During the writing of this river of poetry I have discovered a rebirth of language, a recrudescence which has led to a new lease on life. My spiritual quest has gone on; my trajectory of personal realisation, my efforts at self-forgetfulness, have continued on their arc of ascent. And I have often felt the sense of descent, decline, loss and failure.

In the process, as some coherent character continued to evolve during my years of pioneering, I began to record the living fabric of my life somewhat serendipitously in the form of letters which I began to collect in 1967, four years into the tenth stage of history, to use the Guardian's paradigm. Readers wanting to pursue some of my thoughts on letter writing and an analysis of my archive, my collection, can do so in section 6 below, in the link on 'Abdu'l-Baha to whom that archive is dedicated.

The first letter that I have, then, comes from the very outset of the 'dark heart of the age of transition' in 1967 as the House of Justice described the nature of the period we are still traversing. I trust there evolves, in the midst of the poems, essays and interviews which followed in the next three and a half decades of this 'dark heart' some insights into how best to live, to survive, to cope, to endure, to love and to experience joy. The insights come from one who is still working it out, still plodding along on the slow path. I can not tell you how to work it out. We all work it out in our own way, hopefully with a little help from others, from those we call friends, companions and loved ones. Surely that is part of what community is all about.

If readers see that I found my journey to the goal difficult it is, I think, more likely to help them with theirs. My recipe, my system of understanding, whatever I have achieved, has been through the matrix and the organizational form of the Baha'i Faith and its teachings. Is there something useful to others in my interpretation, my hermeneutics? My nature of my understanding of the future changes how I experience the present and my view of the past? I do not have to wait until that future comes. The change happens even while I anticipate that future.

But this website is no self-help guide. There are plenty of these on the book shelves and have been for decades, books that approach the personal, the interpersonal, the spiritual, in a more organized, a more sequential way. The self-help industry is massive. I do not see my website as part of this industry, altough others may assign me a place therein.

Many readers who come to this web page will not be joiners; they will not be affiliated to any religion or politcal party. They may have joined the tennis club or contribute to Amnesty International or the Lions Club. They may not even see themselves as necessarily spiritual or interested in spiritual questions. These poeple work their paths out essentially as individuals without joining in some cause for the common good. For the thrust, the accent, the philosophy of individualism, born as it has been from the forces of Protestantism and democracy in previous centuries, has continued into our time, into these epochs of the growth of this emerging world religion.

Alternatively, people who have affiliated with other religions may find something useful here. And then, inevitably, there will be the Baha'is. What a wonderful mix they are, too: enough to test the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon. I should think, hope, that some of these millions of souls will find something of value here.

For Baha'is, though, this web page is no self-help manual; there have appeared in the years since the teaching Plan was initiated in 1937 a wide range of self-help books that cater to many individual and community needs. There seems to be something for everyone now. Why then do I bother putting pen to paper to create yet another literary mix? This web site is, I like to think, unique. It occupies a space by itself. It is still, for me, at an early stage of its development. It is an experiment. There is honesty here but, as that perceptive twentieth century thinker A. Mencken once wrote, no man can bring himself to reveal his true character in all its darknesses; therefore "honest autobiography is a contradiction in terms."4

I feel strongly that these times are times for beginnings, small and faint of outline, but matters of great moment will come from them. This thought motivates much of my writing. These are days at the beginning of community in our age, community which will become a source of strength and delight as the decades and centuries go on.

This website is a sort of microscopic writing which highlights a unity of my recollected past, my unfolding present and my anticipated future. It also highlights a struggle, a struggle that is both mine and my community's. It reconstructs both my own life and that of my community, my religious community, through the process of an ongoing self-interpretation and self-understanding. For without such reconstruction, reevaluation, we all become trapped in "the already given."5 With it, we reinvent, transform, our lives. For the realities we are examining: our lives, our societies and our religion, must be seen metaphorically, in terms of psychological, inner, processes, not something external to ourselves. This is the key to our understanding. This is what I try and unfold in this collection of writings I have called: 'Pioneering Over Four Epochs.'

There is something addictive about the process of writing. I started this poetry on a small scale twenty five years ago and then, bingo, here I sit with thousands of poems, dozens of essays, several thousand letters and some 30,000 words of interviews. From the millions of words in my files I have put down, perhaps, a million on this site, 2000 pages of A-4 paper, the equivalent of perhaps five substantial books. It is a beginning, part of that "befitting cresendo to the achievements of a century...a period that will have left traces which shall last forever."6



This photo of my second wife, Chris, and I was taken in 1992 some thirty years after the beginning of my pioneering days. The year 1992 was also designated a Holy Year, a commemoration of Baha'u'llah's passing in 1892. This was also the year that I began to write poetry more seriously than I had in the previous dozen years. 1992 also marked the end of a forty year period, between Holy Years: 1952-1992, during which I had been associated in different ways with the Baha'i Faith. I now see this writing of poetry, beginning in 1992, as a spin-off of a forty year journey, a forty year period between the holy years, when I was associated with a religion that was claiming to be the emerging world religion on the planet, when it continued its rise, in some ways meteor-like, from obscurity.

My life possesses, as any reading of it can easily reveal, what Erik Erikson calls 'a synthesising trend.'7 There is a line of continuity between events, what Henry Murray calls 'unity-themes' which go right back to 1953 when my mother first heard of the Baha'i Faith. After 109 years in this New Era(1844-1953), my family finally came into contact with this emerging world religion, this new global force. It is this thread that gives the fullest possible meaning to the eventfulness of the life I have lived in all its massive, chaotic and sometimes, I feel in my sadder moments, meaningless and tragic detail. To interpret my life is to address its meaning in the present. This is precisely what each poem does in a multitude of different ways. For joy and sorrow make up the texture of life, feelings of failure and feelings of success.

My meaning is found in (i) recurring themes, (ii) continuities and (iii) one grand unitary theme. The entire corpus could be called what some refer to as a meganarrative. Others might call it simply the life of the mind or 'thinking out loud' as one correspondent of mine who teaches culture and the arts at an American university describes my poetry. Whatever you call it, essays like this one on this website provide a context for the poetry. I have always felt the need for background material when I read the poetry of various artists. And so I provide it here.

Erikson says that the autobiographer should deal with what is unique in his or her own individual life. I certainly do that. The widest and deepest river of inquiry into my life, within which the narrower and shallower streams of character portrayal and drama take place, can also be described drawing on several models of human development in psychology. I find Erik Erikson's model the most heuristic to analyse, to see, my life. His model uses an eight stage process of psychosocial development. I have always found this model a helpful and explanatory pattern within which to examine my own development as a person.

These eight stages help to flesh out the portrait of my life within a framework, to provide a circumscribed picture, with a basis for essential traits that suggests a life behind, beneath and far below, the surface of the everyday. In the end a pattern unfolds behind all the apparent chaos of seemingly unrelated events in life. We all must work out our own patterns and psychology provides a plethora of material, of theory, of ideas, for the questing seeker to help him work out that pattern.

Without going into great detail here, my life within the Baha'i community could be seen as occupying four stages: identity, intimacy, generativity and integrity. Anyone familiar with Erik Erikson's model of psychosocial development will be able to identify these stages easily. Generally they are associated with the years from puberty to old age. Between the time I first contacted this Cause and the time I joined it, 1953 to 1959, I went through puberty and its immediate aftermath. Old age, or at least late adulthood, 60 to 80 years of age as one model of human development outlines the process, is in the not-too-distant future for me. I will be 60 in four months, in July 2004.

It took me some time before both the intimacy stage and the generativity stage could be said to have worked themselves out in any kind of satisfactory way. Inevitably, though, as Erikson argues, the crises of life, the stages, are present throughout life and development throughout life becomes more and more complex. Some battles we fight over and over again. There were certainly crises associated with both of these stages. But I won't go into them here. That is the purpose of my autobiographical narrative which, as I have indicated, can be accessed at the end of my index page on this website and all its 750 pages.

All I wanted to do here is suggest a framework for describing my life, my experience in or out of the Baha'i community and make some general autobiographical comments to give a context, a texture, for this website. Human development theorists have developed increasingly refined models during the last half century, my years of association with the Baha'i Faith and my pioneering years. These theorists place individual lives, any life, into some kind of helpful framework, some pattern of development, to help people understand their lives. In my experience, though, it seems to take some time, some study, to really put these models to some kind of personal use.

I pursue the application of the insights that relate to my development and, by implication, the development of my readers, in my autobiographical narrative which I advise readers to examine.8 Frameworks to understand the life journey can also be found in the Baha'i writings. The one I find most attractive is in the introduction to Shoghi Effendi's God Passes by. In addition, Baha'u'llah's Seven Valleys and Four Valleys provides another framework for the individual soul. An understanding of this framework is essential since it is the major schema Baha'u'llah has left us. The best analysis I know of this model is that of Nader Saiedi in Logos and Civilization where he devotes over thirty pages to its analysis. An interesting analysis of the Seven Valleys can also be found at the website, Planet Baha'i. Some of my poetry on mysticism is also found there. I may pursue these models, secular and sacred, in more detail at a later date.



This photo of my son Daniel(then age 18), my wife, Chris(age 48) and I(age 51) in 1995, was taken four years before leaving Perth and moving into the forty-third house and twenty-seventh town since the start of this pioneering venture in 1962. If pioneering has been about nothing else, for me, it has been about moving, movement, from place to place. Movement now, though, has become an inner thing and moving to other towns, indeed even travelling to them from my home in this small town in northern Tasmania, does not attract me any more. Perhaps this feeling, this inclination, may change in the late adulthood of my life, the years between 60 and 80, or even in my old age--after 80--after 2024. We shall see.

Intimacy was eventually established and I was married at 23 after a complex and somewhat stormy adolescence; the years from 23 to now, just a few months short of 60, thirty-seven years, have been characterized by generativity. This would be true, of course, of any person who joined this Cause in his teens, eventually married successfully or even unsuccessfully and pursued a career, or a creative path of some kind. Generativity is, of course, variously and subjectively defined. My poetry has been written in this 'generativity stage', nearly 6000 poems from 1980 to 2004, from my mid-thirties to my late-fifties. Raising a family and following a career were two other aspects of this generativity, again to be described in detail in my narrative.

There is an implicit panegyric of self in my writing and there is what could be seen as a painting that shows a life that is far, far, from perfect. Life's actualities and lived experience determine, help to construct, life's major configurations that define the texture and content of the painting that is one's life. They help me to describe the forces inherent in my existence, to establish what might be called a horizon of realisation.

The everyday is far from trivial, although in a lifetime much of our doings often seem so. The horizon of my life, its deeds and thoughts, I see now as my text. Some of the text is here. Anyone reading this poetry contacts this text, this life, in a way that seems to me quite different than contacting me in person. Readers will also contact this text in the same way as they contact me, should we ever meet. What they see, what they experience on meeting me, will also be different than what they read. There is, paradoxically, sameness and difference. The sheer quantity of words here I'm sure will put some people off. Others will be put off by the content. Others will be enthusiastic.8

My writing defines my life in quite a different way than the external self does. In some ways there are two selves. There is an inevitability in this. In a very real sense, of course, my life is much more, something else, mysterious, indescribable. So is this true of everyone. Each of us is more than one simple self.





My wife had two daughters, Vivienne(above:30) and Angela(below:30), from her previous marriage. These are photographs of my step-daughters Vivienne Wells and Angela Armstrong. Vivienne has with her her son Tobias; Angela has both Tobias(7) and Kelsey(4) Wells, my two step-grandchildren.(ages indicated are in the year 2000). These photos capture, as all photos do, a moment in time, in the long story.

I have not included photos of many others, both inside and outside my family, who have been critical influences in my life. Perhaps a future edition of this poetic autobiography will see some additional photographs included. My autobiography has, in its chapter six, a section about photographs going back to the last decade of the heroic age, but no actual photos. There is in that chapter six an extensive analysis of photography and photographs and their contribution to an autobiography.

Life is in part a point of convergence of larger historical vectors or themes. The historian Dilthey expressed it this way. My life converged with the following vectors: what Shoghi Effendi, the then leader of the Baha'i community, called the beginning of 'the Kingdom of God on Earth'(1953); the beginning of 'Abdu'l-Baha's divine plan(1937); the close of the eighth(1921-1953) and ninth(1953-1963) stages of history; the opening decades of the tenth (1963-2003) stage of history, to use Shoghi Effendi's historical paradigm; and the time when the trustees of the global undertaking set in motion by Baha'u'llah more than one hundred years ago were established, put in place, at the apex of the Baha'i administrative Order(1963).

Other vectors and processes of some significance include the following: the population of the world doubled--three billion to six billion from 1953 to 2003 AD in my life; the size of the Baha'i community went from 150,000(ca) to six million (1944-2003) and the West's attitude to indigenous peoples, women and children were transformed, among a host of other historical shifts like the several waves of developments in science, technology and the social sciences. A good history book of the years since WW2 will tell more of the tale and it is not my purpose here to do so in any detail. These vectors and processes dance around the pages of my poetry in a host of different ways.

There is a fit between individual development and historical tides, processes, waves, the stage on which we enact our lives. The Baha'i community has multiplied forty times globally in my lifetime, thus far, but in most of the places I have lived the growth has been slow, indeed infinitessimal, some might say 'discouragingly meagre.' For the most part the generations that have grown up in the West after WW2 have only showed a mild interest in this Movement which captured my interest forty five years ago after six years of informal contact(1953-1959).

I am confident the time will come when the formal contribution that the Baha'i Faith will make to the unifying tendencies of the planet will be significant, at least significantly more than they do at present. Indeed I hope I live to see this Cause, just now in the last two decades emerging from an obscurity which has enshrouded its history for a century and a half, become a force of more than a little magnitude before I pass from this mortal coil. In some ways I see this web page as a historical document for use in that time, a time that has not yet arrived.



This poetry and this web page contain a story of beginnings. The process of entry-by-troops began in my part of the world, in Canada, just after I joined the Cause in October of 1959. Entry-by-troops is a process which had its beginnings in my experience in western Canada among the Indian peoples and has been observed in its complex and subtle patterns for the forty-five years I have been a Baha'i, although one could argue it is a process built into our very history right back to 1844. The future influence of this Cause is as great, Baha'is believe, as it is inevitable and the vision of its future greatness motivates this writing.

The pattern in which a life can be seen comes from within. Experience only becomes insight into a life if understanding leads us from narrowness and subjectivity to the whole and the general. Then a unique self is found and it is found when the inner and the outer find relationship, meaning, balance. Autobiography is the literary expression of the individual's reflection on life, so Wilhelm Dilthey put it.9 The identity one creates or builds is hard work; it takes more than a little reflection and analysis. But it is also pleasureable. It is also rewarding and far removed from the trivial and the mundane, although the trivial and the mundane are part of the process, for they are an essential part of life.

There are times when I find the task of defining self and identity and life itself a source of sorrow and despondency. These more negative emotions enter during the inevitable periods of gloom and anxiety that life brings to all of us, except perhaps those rare souls whom William James describes in his Varieties of Religious Experience as having temperaments consistently and persistently 'weighted on the side of cheer.'



Everything worthwhile involves struggle. I have had to deal with ill-health, periods associated with mood swings and the residue of a bi-polar tendency in these years of middle adulthood. I have suffered these swings since the earliest years of my Baha'i experience, in late adolescence, although they are largely contained now and despondency, an emotion that plagued me during the years 1962 to 2002, has been at last significantly contained. I have also had my share of marital, financial and interpersonal difficulties. These lows are part of the polarity of life. Polarity is one of life's major mysteries, as Guy Murchie informs us in his book 'The Seven Mysteries of Life.' And this polarity, like the other six mysteries, and like the historical vectors mentioned above, part of my poetic voice, poetic narrative.

Part of my task as both poet and autobiographer, indeed as a person and a Baha'i living in the last half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first, it would appear, is to historicize therapeutically. Historicism is an historical view that sees the essence of society and culture as dynamic and developmental.This involves watching the times closely, interpreting events and finding new resolve from the analysis of the historical process so as to make as much sense of the picture of life as possible. One must be vigilant in and sensitive to the spiritual quest, a quest that has many facets of which historical analysis is only one.

In examining, recapitulating, the past, I render, surrender, it to the judgement of the future. For one day I shall be gone and these works, these poems and essays, these interviews and reviews, among other genres here, will be all there is left of me and my story. The process of examining and surrendering is one of adaptation. Nothing in life is meaningless, suffering least of all. And vision is essential in the process of adaptation. Vision has been a major spin-off, for me, from over forty years of work as a pioneer within the Baha'i community. A sense of vision inspires this poetry.

The developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, gives names to this process of adapting and adjusting to life as he outlines his model of learning. Indeed psychology, as a field, applies a whole language and literature to the articulation of this process. But it is not my purpose here to apply and elaborate these languages. I like to think, with Erikson and Piaget, that I create vistas of imagination in the service of adaptation. I try to resolve ambiguity and create deeper bases for peace both now and in the future for myself and the society in which I live and move. This is part of the function of my poetry.

But we are, to some extent at least, subject to existential forces often beyond our control. We can only do so much with our lives. There are inevitable constraints, things we can not change, the struggles of our generation, our time, our age. Writing becomes a way of lending our lives and ourselves coherence and identity, of defining ourselves, of accepting, of defining these constraints, these end-games, the socio-historical process in which our lives are embedded.

The basis of autobiography in all of this is the human heart and the emotions. Ideally, they work as one, although this is not always the case. Since so much of the really interesting battles of life are inner ones, autobiographies that are based on a discussion of what is often an intensely guarded privacy, are the richer ones, in my view, with conclusions left to the reader to draw. Sometimes answers are better left out or provided only obliquely.

My autobiographical journey, though, will not be strongly confessional. Although it will be characterized by the frequent spontaneous acknowledgement of error or weakness, I do not put all my dirty laundry on the line. Some of my warts are here but not all. There are too many. And it seems to me that a moderate confessional is wisest. For some readers, of course, I will have gone too far; for others, I will not have gone far enough in this confessional mode.

Shakespeare captures some of the lower-end of my confessional tone in his words about prayer in the Tempest: "my ending is despair/Unless I be relieved by prayer/Which pierces so that it assaults/Mercy itself and frees from faults." And at the upper-end from King Henry the Eighth: "I feel within me a peace above all/earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience." And I hope, with the long passage of time and life, that "Hereafter and in a better world than this/I shall desire more love and knowledge of you."(Henry VI, Part 3) Shakespeare has built, as John Milton notes, "a long-lived monument." His honoured bones, his words of astonishment and wonder, capture the confessional tone in most of our lives, if we can find it there amidst a language which has, sadly, become archaic for most of the new generations of our time.

I trust in the process of writing this diffuse array of material, that I can integrate its apparently unrelated features into some perceptible whole. Essays such as this, the introductions to my poems, my narrative, letters and diary should all provide a basis for some future biographer to bring it all together into some continuing form, should that ever be desired. For now, I trust that the dynamic interaction between my personal experiences and the historical milieux I live in and have lived in will be made alive, given a living presence, through this writing, this poetry. Hopefully this life, set out here and in other places, will be of use to my fellow human beings and my successors in future generations. If this does not occur, 'c'est la vie,' as the French say.

For many, I'm sure, most of this will be seen as a simple and extended exercise in navel gazing. A writer can not win them all. I seem to have a strong desire to tell a story; I'm sure many people will not feel any need to read, to hear, it, at least not at the present time. Again, 'c'est la vie.'

Perhaps as history takes its course and those mysterious dispensations of Providence play their often insinuating and seductive tunes, the need will arise for the kind of material found on this web page. I have had a web page for six years and been sending out my poetry to friends and groups for ten. I am confident that more and more people will draw on the material here, even if it is not in my lifetime. The basis of my confidence lies in the belief, that all Baha'is have, in the inevitability of the ultimate triumph of their Faith. I will, over time, capture what you might call a niche market. It may always be a very small niche!

Here is a life lived at perhaps the darkest period of recorded history from a Baha'i perspective: the ninth and the first four decades of the tenth stage of history, to use a Baha'i paradigm. What I write here at the very least is something, perhaps, for the burgeoning archives of the Baha'i community around the world. I'm impressed with how little we seem to know about each other and even ourselves; perhaps that is partly a function of the very difficult times we live in; perhaps, too, this is for me a function of my moving around so much. But I am impressed, too, by the deepening channels of investigation and perception, the explosion of knowledge, as it is taking place around the world. In so many ways we are at the beginning of both community building and depth in interpersonal relationships.

I became very conscious of people's disinclination to write about their lives or the lives of others when I wrote two to three dozen short biographies of Baha'is in Australia back in the decade preceding my entry into poetry: 1982-1992. There was even a strong inclination among many people I interviewed to remain totally unknown. I can understand this sentiment. Having taught interpersonal skills and human relations off-and-on for twenty-five years in post-secondary educational institutions(1974-1999) I am more than a little aware of many people's desire that their lives remain a closed shop, at least in print.

This autobiography will provide enough details for my life in some kind of depth, some traces for a future age. It might contribute toward the growth of a cultivated readership for both autobiography and biography. There is little doubt that the field of autobiography and biography is opening up a fascinating world for students of these disciplines and passers-by who just want to dabble.

You have here, dear reader, an amateur archivist, essayist, poet, biographer, and autobiographer, sociologist, psychologist, among many academic disciplines, combining and providing an integrated perspective, to say something that is I hope of some use and value, especially to people working in the administration of the Baha'i community, but also to others with other commitments in other walks of life. Time will tell how much use what I write here is, in the end. I will address these issues, come back to these themes, much like Wordsworth did who came back to his poetry, especially to his poem 'The Prelude' in the years 1805-1850, revising and altering.10 For this Web Page is, in many ways, a first statement, an initial plunge. If those mysterious dispensations of Providence allow me many more years of living, I may write forth and fifth editions of this webpage which I have entitled: 'Pioneering Over Four Epochs.'



FOOTNOTES

1 Richard Hutch, The Meaning of Lives: Biography, Autobiography and the Spiritual Quest, Cassell, London, 1997, p. 95.

2 C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959.

3 For a more detailed description of an existential view of the person see the writings of Rollo May, The Courage to Create, Bantam Books, 1975 and Love and Will; for an excellent sociological analysis of the person see Thomas and Luckman, The Social Construction of Reality, 1966; for a wide, inclusive, view of religion see R. May, op.cit. and William Hatcher, "The Science of Religion," Baha'i Studies, Vol.2, 1977.

4 H. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomaphy, A.A. Knopf, NY, 1974(1916), pp.325-26.

5 A. Nelson, "Imagining and Critical Reflection in Autobiography," Internet, 1997.

6 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, BE 152.


7 ibid., p.76.

8 I began writing autobiographical material in 1983, twenty-one years into the pioneering process, and now, two decades later, I have written four editions of my autobiography, the last edition being 660 pages. It, too, is at this website.(see the bottom of the 'index' page)


9 William Dilthey(1833-1911), German philosopher.


10 William Wordsworth wrote his great autobiographical poem "The Prelude" between 1798 and 1805 and revised it for the next forty-five years, until his death in 1850.

....some poems below.......



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SAMPLE POEMS

EVAPORATION

One's life, my life as I near sixty, is part of a general inheritance, perhaps my chief inheritance as I spend my days now and in the years ahead. All or, more accurately, some of my memories are written full of annals wherein joy and mourning, conquest and loss manifoldly alternate. All my philosophy, my religion, my non-partisan politics, at least that part I have written about, are ineffaceably recorded in this autobiography, although history may, in the end, totally ignore what I have written. "Our very speech," wrote the historian Thomas Carlyle, "is curiously historical."1 For narrative is the very stuff of our life; without it conversation would, for the most part, utterly evaporate. "Our whole spiritual life," continues Carlyle in his discussion of the sources of our being, "is built on history." For history is essentially "recorded experience." Reasoning, belief, action and passion are its essential materials. -Ron Price with thanks to Thomas Carlyle, Selected Writings, Penguin, Ringwood, 1971, p.51.



These years guided forward

by an unseen mysterious Wisdom,

with periodic blind mazes

and unintelligible paths;

however we study

and recapitulate the journey,

so much is lost without recovery,

our chief benefactors lie entombed

in some formless oblivion

and the weighiest causes

are so often silent.



Our faculty of insight

into passing things

is but impressions

in an everliving, everworking

chaos of being, unfathomable

as our soul and destiny,

a complex manuscript covered

with formless inextricably-entangled

and unknown characters,

partially deciphered.



But only in the whole

is the partial to be truly seen,

only in the Divine ordering of history

and its providential control

can bafflement be dealt with

and a revitalizing elan be found.

Ron Price

25 November 2002

ALL IN ONE GO

Picasso, or perhaps it was one of his close friends, once said that his energy, the energy he puts into a painting, is all transferred into it "in one go." Much of painting, to Picasso, was a breaking down and a remaking of something as he attempted to transform it. What was true of Picasso and his painting, as expressed here, is also true of the construction of my poetry, except for the long epic poem I am working on where the energy is spread out over many years. The tradition of self-portraiture in painting is also mirrored in my writing as a part of the tradition of autobiography. Self-portraiture begins, or so it is often argued, with Albrecht Durer in 1493 and autobiography in 426 AD with St. Augustine. -Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, "Magic, Sex and Death: Part One on Picasso," 9 June 2002, 3:35-4:30 pm.

You can't put it all down.

The essence is never conveyable

and the corpus of self-portraits

always rests uncomfortably

on the inner land of unreality.1



I construct my self-portraits

somewhat like an artist

with the real me somewhere

behind the words,

behind that likeness

which tells only some

of the psyche

and the self-worth.



The calculation, choices

and manipulation

are all part of construction

and it is far beyond

my corporeal vessel,

some scrutinized self,

some fashioned being

its infinite variety of meanings,

its statement of self-analysis.



There is richness and ambiguity here

amidst the fluctuating fortunes of life,

the complexities and the multitudinous

renditions of my days.2



1 A Sufi idea of 'the inner land of unreality' compared to 'Revealed Truth' referred to by Baha'u'llah in Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.28.

2 With thanks to Steven Platzman in his introduction to Cezanne: The Self-Portraits.

Ron Price

10 June 2002



THE NOVEL OF MYSELF

Some writers, generally novelists, academics and certainly many journalists, avoid the autobiographical.1 They work, they write, in worlds parallel to their own, their own lives. They create a fiction or a non-fiction, as the case may be, on which the autobiographical inevitably intrudes, but indirectly. Generally non-fiction writers and journalists are constrained by the facts in the field or the situation they are writing about. Other writers, and I am one, write deeply of the autobiographical. Their lives are at the core of their writing, in my case, their poetry. Like the novelist, I write of ambiguity, of doubt, of not-knowing, of inner disturbance. My words are not those of journalists and their short, snappy sentences describing who did what and when and where. My words are not those of the fictional novelist as he creates worlds of action, of romance, of pleasure, to keep the reader on side and involved. My words are often like the academic and often like those of the ordinarily ordinary, the humanly human, a partly robust, partly fragile set of feelings of self-identity, a partly conscious, partly unconscious selection and discarding of memories.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1"Margaret Throsby Interview: Jim Craise," ABC Radio National, 11 March 2002; and 2Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1991, p.55.



I'm trying to be done with the past,

trying to nourish it,

anticipate the future,

write about myself and you

in a complex interrelationship,

for there is no unified version,

no whole connectedness,

only massive complexity.



It returns to me, those days,

from the very dawn of my life.

I would approach them,

but they close and I see

only a few scenes

enshrining, what is it,

the spirit of the past?



Memory opens the door

and someone's story,

some ordinary someone

is partially restored,

like a room with new wall-paper

or an old chair refinished

for future use. And........



Language, that peculiar creature,

writes the novel of myself,

poem by poem.



Ron Price

11 March 2002

CRISIS

Robert Bly writes about the condition, the sense, of lowliness which happens to men after an initial "high" in their lives. After having been a special person: to his parents, his teachers, to his superiors in his newly acquired profession, perhaps to the small community of Baha'is where he became a member in his recent past, to his wife, his girlfriend, his friends, he sinks, he drops, he takes a big status kick. He loses his: job, marriage or health, self-respect, every shred of his former self. Bly calls it "the rat's hole," "the dark way." Somehow life does not prepare the person for this falling, fallen, experience. The upwardly mobile person has a down-and-out experience: he has to take a lower-class job in the kitchen or as a cleaner; he becomes homeless, walks the streets looking for a bed and a meal; his head is down, the descent, the exit, from ordinary life has begun. The Greeks called this process katabasis.-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Bly, Iron John, Element Books, Brisbane, 1990, p.72.



There was an ashy, sooty, out-of-it, time.

It got heavier, darker, then, as black as

rat's hole, dream's exploded, dried out,

sizzled on the electrodes back in '68.



Will never know if it was a mistake:

and then the long healing,

the deep emotional self

and the difficult repentance

and the freeing of myself

from endlessly returning

to that time and those days,

and that corpse of myself.



Slowly, slowly, I found again

something to want, to go for,

for the rest of my life,

for this year, this month, today.

None of this:

"I wonder what we shall do today?"

Go for a little fishing? A BBQ?

The fire of centrality had returned

but then, again, the blackness,

the fear, the disorientation,

the hospital beds and the burning.



Then the prayers and more healing,

the fatigue and the dryness and finally

the garden: private enigmatic, mysterious,

a heaven-haven, where moments are holy

and I move toward action in this silence

when something is coming near, a wealth,

cultivation, boundaries, a controlled sociability

where poems arise almost effortlessly.



Ron Price

27 January 2002



A GOLDEN BALL

During a brief span of time, some nine years, so greatly enriched as they were by the moving narrative, the immortal chronicle, of the lives of the twin-prophets of the nineteenth century, the Bab and Baha'u'llah, the episodes of the first act of the often awkward but precious drama that has been my life, can now be surveyed with some understanding and equanimity. These years from the age of fifteen to twenty-four can now be seen as something more than an endless succession of engagements with the society and life around me in which I could not fully fathom, control and command events; in which I was the victim, apparently, of body chemistry and socialization influences; in which the light of a new religion became a flame and sent me across a vast and cold Canadian sky from Windsor in the south to Frobisher Bay in the north before I perished, as any critical observer may have hypothesized at the time, in a mental hospital on the shores of Lake Ontario not far from my home town. As a historian, the historian, of my life I can now give these years their meaning, perhaps not their final meaning, but certainly a meaning they did not possess back in those years 1959 to 1968. -Ron Price with thanks to Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, Wilmette, 1957, p.3.



I was a nice boy,

one of the nicest

you could imagine.

I pleased everyone I knew,

especially myself,

for it seemed to me

life was one long indulgence.



And then the first pains came

and the winter of life set in

faster than a cold wind

bringing the first snows

and blanketing everything

with a white disguise,

with freezing ice.



I'd had a golden ball,

or so I thought, for years,

made of sensitivity, receptivity,

responsiveness, cooperation,

nonaggression, but I lost it

in those winter winds.

Perhaps it froze under the snow.

Perhaps those winds blew it away.



Then, unobtrusively,

on the way to or far up in

the Canadian north country,

where the world freezes

just about permanently,

I glimpsed that ball,

kept it within reach

in my new-dark world

of aloneness and fear.

It had golden thread.

I could see it in the distance

when I went for walks:

just, out there, sometimes

across Lake Ontario.

I held it in my sights

with dear life, intense.

I was becoming one of

that new race of men,

little did I know it.

Ron Price

26 January 2002

THE LIGHTHOUSE

In discussing the character of a man, there is no course of error so fertile as the drawing of a hard and fast line. We are attracted by the salient points, what seems to stand out in his life, and seeing them clearly and repeatedly we jump to conclusions. That is natural. These conclusions may even have some validity. These qualities that stand out may be likened to a lighthouse guiding our way in the night or, in the day, serving as a landmark in our travels. But they are only a guide. They tell us little of the surrounding landscape, none of the geology, the history, the botany, the geography of the nearby terrain. This is even more true of a man's life, so far removed from the general sketch, the highlights, which at best are all that is usually passed down to succeeding generations.

The man of letters on the other hand is, in truth, ever writing his own biography or autobiography. What is in his mind he declares to the world, to whoever reads his works. If he finds a readership, if his work is well written, this memoir, this biography, this autobiography will be all that is necessary. It will take us far beyond that lighthouse into geology, history, botany, geography--a total view. -Ron Price with thanks to Anthony Trollope, The Life of Cicero, quoted in Trollope, Victoria Glendinning, Pimlico, London, 1993, p.v.



There are some lighthouses here.

I've set them out along the coast

to guide your way through the night

of my life and there has been much

night, black clouds and darknesses.



I've also provided rich and varied

collections of flora and fauna

to tell you something

of the living tissue of my days,

some of its green shoots,

its flowers, its bright colours

and some of its exotic texture.



I've even left you a map

to help you connect

with nearby towns and villages;

for I have belonged to a community

where people knew me

and would tell you something of me.



But, again, do not jump to conclusions

about the nature of my person and self.

What I have left behind can only,

like the lighthouse, guide your travels.



I have tried to be faithful

to the Covenant of God,

to fulfill in my life His trust

and in the realm of spirit

obtain the gem of divine virtue.1

But how successful I have been

that is a mystery to me, as much as thee.

1 Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, Introductory passage.

Ron Price

17 January 2002

POEMS ON AUTOBIOGRAPHY



A POETIC NOVEL/A NOVEL IN POETRY

Roland Barthes argues that autobiography should be considered as something spoken by a character in a novel or, rather, by several characters. In a novel the image-repertoire, the fatal substance and the labyrinth of levels in which anyone who speaks about himself is entirely fictive. The image-repertoire is expressed by several masks or personae which are distributed according to the depth, the extent, of the stage. The novel does not choose, it functions by alteration; it proceeds by impulses. So is this true of the essay or autobiographical poetry, although there is a strong element of choice in the writing--I would argue. The approaches to novel writing are never anything but approaches to resonance. The substance of the novel, ultimately, is totally fictive. Intrusions into the discourse of the essay or the discourse of poetry refer to a fictive creature. All these genres require remodeling in light of this perspective. Let the essay or the poem see themselves as 'almost a novel:' a novel without proper names. -Ron Price with thanks to Roland Barthes, Writings on the Internet, 21 March 2002.

The whole thing is defined

by some big picture,

some made self

and a quite precise facticity

where the meaning changes,

restoring the experience,

beyond any meaning

I ever assigned back then,

in some complex combination

of the eventful and uneventful.



As the novel ends,

the last chapter begins to unfold

and I tell of a joy

in being thoroughly worn out,1

before being thrown on the heap,

ready for the proverbial endgame.



And that tree which is my life,

arrayed with these fresh leaves,

blossoms and fruits

of consecrated joy

also has some blight,

complex twists and turns

and will one day

be denuded of all verdure.



1 George Bernard Shaw in A Fortunate Life: A.B. Facey, Jan Carter, Pengui, 1981, p.325.

Ron Price

22 March 2002

PULLING THROUGH IT ALL

During the first five years of my pioneering life, 1962 to 1967, Andy Warhol, one of America's famous artists, tagged 'saint Andy' in 1964, painted his two memento mori(remember that you must die) series Death and Disaster and the Skull. He painted suicides, car crashes, the atomic bomb, the electric chair, race riots, and death by poisoning and by earthquake.1 The reason for his continued fame is without question his subject matter. These were difficult years for America: assassinations, race riots, a near miss with nuclear war. They were difficult years at the global level: the Egypt-Israeli war, the early stages of the Viet Nam war. They were difficult years in my personal life: depression, my first sexual misadventures, experiencing what was called a 'mild schizo-affective state,' the first episodes of a bi-polar disorder, loneliness. -Ron Price with thanks to Benjamin Bennett-Carpenter, a review of The Religious Art of Andy Warhol, Jane Daggett Dillenberger, Continuum, NY, 1998.

When I look back at those years,

I remember feeling all-over-the-place,

disorientation was the mother of the day.

It was a miracle that I pulled through it all,

that we pulled through it all,

another one of those skin-of-our-teeth

survival packages, just making it.



The first sexual heat for me,

overwhelming, intoxicating,

grabbed me by the throat,

took my breath away,

I was lucky to pull through it all

with my psycho-emotions

in one piece after so many

fractures, faintings, furies.



I hardly knew Andy was into

painting suicides, electric chairs,

atomic bombs and poisonings

or that the world was on the

edge of nuclear destruction.



Seduced by ephemeral allurements

and short-lived enthusiasms,

having entered the dark heart

of an age as adolescence swung me

from pillar to post---

I nearly missed

the vision of a new longing

which I had just begun to see

as the possible fruit of my labours.1



1 The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p.21, 18 December 1963.

-Ron Price 25 November 2001



THE WEIGHT

Only by reading R.F. Price's poetry, on one level, as a prolonged and fragmented autobiography, conceived, for the most part, after bearing the weight of a new Faith as one of its pioneers for some fourty years and after striving to carry its message to his contemporaries in some of the remotest regions of Canada and Australia, can the elusive unity of this vast bulk-bulk of poetry--be glimpsed.1 It is an autobiography that attempts not to confine its wisdom and virtue within the small circle of his experiences, his friends and his religion, in short, everything already intimately related to him. He tries to counter the tendency to overvalue these natural and personal enthusiasms and interests. He widens his field, his scope, his frame of influence to take in the richest and most varied "cultural attainments of the mind,"2 attainments within the range of the social sciences and humanities and largely acquired by reading. -Ron Price, with thanks to 1Justin Wintle, Furious Interiors: Wales, R.S. Thomas and God, Flamingo, London, 1996, p.xviii; and 2 'Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970, p.35.



I do not humbly shun epiphanies

if they come my way like the diamond,

produced from many years of weight,

sometimes quite insufferable,

wet with tears from those Eskimo kids,

in the corridors and toilets

of Whitby Psychiatric Hospital

and again and again and again

until finally released

on lithium's soothing chemistry,

before getting abused in the hot north

and then wrung completely dry

in a miasmal ooze from which I tried

to inch my consequential necessary way.1



I came to see it all as vapour in the desert.

I had dreamed, hoped, for fresh water

but knew it to be mirage, illusion.

It was no mere nothing, though,

no quintessential nothingness;

these were but my first steps

to the taste of fruits of holiness

and that tree of wondrous glory.2

1 Roger White, The Language of There, p.34.

2 Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words, No.68.

Ron Price

2 December 2001

AND THE BUSH WAS NOT CONSUMED

-Exodus

Howard Gruber has been studying creativity and creative people for years, decades. This poem attempts to place in overview, using perspectives expressed by Gruber, my own work over the years. Gruber writes about the creative person having "a network of enterprizes, simultaneous and parallel, but intimately related activities...a bewildering miscellany." He calls this "the evolving systems approach" to creativity. "Every idea seems to be implicated," writes Gruber, "with innumerable other ideas in an intricate network...a tangled bank." The creative work is often "spread out over months and years" with "consequences for the organization of purpose." Such a network possesses a scheme for replenishing itself with new tasks. These enterprizes show an astonishing longevity and they also pass through long periods "of dormancy." In my life, an overriding project emerged insensibly, unobtrusively, by 1962 at the age of 18, uniting what was then that embryonic network of enterprizes that Gruber mentions. A great amount of time has been required for this creative work, nearly forty years now. Interruptions, dead-ends, transient and awkward thoughts seem, in retrospect, a natural part of the process. -Ron Price with thanks to Howard E. Gruber in "On the Method of Howard Gruber," Internet, 12 November 2001. The article draws on over twenty of his books and articles on creativity over twenty-five years.



The project had begun

quite unobtrusively

by the time I'd moved

to Dundas back in '62.



The stage was set, even then,

for this protracted, life-long goal

with its tangents, delays, false starts,

inevitably inconclusive,

but potentially enriching moves

and that sense of direction

which often felt completely stuffed.



By '72 it was defining itself

more sharply up there in Whyalla:

education and career under my belt,

unstuffed for a time, could see the light

at the end of the tunnel more clearly.



By '74 the project got a new lease on life,

blasts of fresh air went on and on

before another complete stuff-up,

dead-end at both ends of the earth.1



Images of a wide scope,

supple schematization

underlying this creative work,

a seemingly random juxtaposition of ideas

began producing serendipitous discovery:

in what had become a long,

lifelong apprenticeship.



Drawn insensibly at times by visions,

hopes and dreams, gradually

by the sensuous pleasure

of creative activity itself,

its new and fruitful problems

always at the centre of the project,

a feeling of 'what's next?'

and the bush never being consumed,

never at rest, always blowing in the wind,

always burning, burning.



1 Frobisher Bay in 1967-8 and Zeehan in 1980-2.



Ron Price

13 November 2001



SERENDIPITOUS DISCOVERIES

The autobiographical process, when expressed in poetic narrative style and covering as it does now some 6000 prose-poems or, indeed, in my analytical narrative with its several appendices, or elaborated upon in my essays, letters, book reviews and assorted pieces of writing now occupying the dozens of files in this study: comes close to transforming the raw material of daily existence, past and present, into a life. One of the compensations for the effort, for this endeavour, lies in those serendipitous discoveries1 that arise out of the process of examining my life, my society and my religion in frequent and varied juxtapositions. In the end, though, I can not tell it all, can not get at it all. There is something, something mysterious, that remains elusive, aloof and inaccessible. Inner vulnerabilities are uncovered, unhappinesses explored, even the desire for self-annihilation is described, but the territory of the mind and heart can only be partly mapped. There seem to be places where no pen can go even if it wants---and even if it did there would be "no ear to hear nor heart to understand."2-Ron Price with thanks to Norman Sherry, The Life of Graham Greene, Vol.2: 1939-1955, Jonathan Cape, London, 1994, p.xiii; and Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words.



There's one story, dominant,

I tell about myself, one context

which suppresses and marginalizes

other stories, truths, does not evoke

or allow for them.



I say: who is served by my story?

Who is empowered by this

construction of reality?

There are countless ways

I can story and restory

my experience as it shapes me.

But is there an ear to hear it?



As we tell our stories,

the ability to do so

is renewed in us all

and our stories will not be

erased from history.1

1 Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Deception: Pretending and Truth-Telling in Women's Lives, Harper Collins,NY, 1993.

Ron Price

9 December 2001

POETRY'S CIRCUITOUS GAZE

John Ruskin describes his autobiography as "an old man's recreation in gathering visionary flowers in fields of youth."1 Mine is a middle-aged man's autobiography, at least, thusfar. Mine has been an ingathering of visionary flowers, too, in the fields of my life. I like to see my autobiography, as Ruskin did his, as "a dutiful offering at the grave of my parents, by one who could have been more dutiful." For it is my life which, as Ruskin writes, consists of interconnected, intertwined, relationships, in my case, especially with my religion but, more generally, with 'every atom in existence and the essence of all created things.' I do not see this account, as Roussseau conceived his autobiography, as a complete self-revelation or confession. I do discuss my two marriages and my career though, unlike Ruskin, who left most of these aspects of his life right out. -Ron Price with thanks to George P. Landow, John Ruskin, Oxford UP, 1985, Chapter Four.



My adolescent religious belief

was born amidst the simplicity

of that small town on the edge

of great blue Lake Ontario

near a baseball field

and a hockey arena,

just after MacDonalds opened

their first fast-food outlet.1



It has given me interpretations

of life, society and history,

occasionally threatened

by a type of Higher Criticism,2

doubts and by a great weariness,

but never led to disbelief,

at least not quite.3



I never found a better way

to serve God or man.

My thirst along this stoney

and often tortured path

was eager and methodical,

at least within my limits.



This has been a life of the mind,

at times standing apart

with a regular and sweetly selfish

manner of living4 and at times

with both feet right in there

with enough words and people

to drown in.



Along the way, what was it

that greatly influenced my life?

Let me list their names:



Fred and Lilian Price,

Alfred Cornfield, the Bab,

Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha,

Shoghi Effendi,

the Universal House of Justice....



......more names too numerous

and places whose affect was subtle

as I learned to see things

with my own eyes

and not the eyes of others,

along a complex path

that I could not trace steadily

through successive years

and needed poetry's

circuitous gaze.



1 1949; in 1953 my religious belief was in its embryonic, preconceptual stage, but it was being born in the mind and heart of my mother.

2 In 1964 I had a philosophy professor who could raise some very difficult questions to test my religious belief, then, of some five years.

3 came close in 1974, difficult to know exactly how close.

4 John Ruskin describes his life and its emphasis on privacy this way.



Ron Price

6 November 2001



A UNIFIED VISION

Price felt compelled in his quest for personal wholeness and a unified artistic vision to come to terms with those crises and calamities which, from a Baha'i perspective, were inevitable parts of his life and with the struggles and strains which both he and his community experienced and which, from time to time, 'threatened to arrest its unfoldment' and 'blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered.'1 Given that a social and psychological tempest had been blowing for more than a century and a half; and given that that tempest was both unprecedented in its violence and unpredictable in its effects on the one hand and was gripping all of humanity in the clutches of its devastating power on the other, Price's quest was one all Baha'is were engaged in during these epochs. This quest for wholeness or integration was as much a goal as a battle, a balancing act, a perpetually unstable reconciliation of forces. Ultimately all the battles of life were within and, perhaps, this tension, this conflict, was the first law of human psychic life.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Shoghi Effendi, God Passes by, Wilmette, 1957, p.111; and 2Charles Fair, The New Nonsense: The End of the Rational Consensus, Harper and Row, 1974, p.45.



In spite of all this autobiographical

belly-aching, naval-gazing

and apparent self-assertion

which might ultimately

be not only irrelevant

and downright embarrassing,

but ultimately alien

to what I seek to achieve-----1



I seek to manifest a truth,

provide insight into reality,

find a pearl from the ocean

of a new Revelation

and explore a common life,

a harmonizing in contrariety,

a unity in divergence-----

self, yes, the one turned,

mirror-like, to that rare Presence.



'Oft-timed rehearsed petitioner,

sometimes joyful,

sometimes joyless,

often empty-handed,

I tell of us all,

all of us deft practitioners2

who strive with our

protocols of piety

stranded, as we are,

on uncertainty's shore.

closer to an ocean of certitude

than our life's vein.

1 Ludwig Tuman, Mirror of the Divine, GR, 1993, p.116.

2 Roger White, The Witness of Pebbles, GR, 1981, p.81.--Ron Price 4/2/02.



TO A DEGREE

For most people, interaction with others provides most of what they require to find meaning and significance in life.1 For others, meaning and significance are obtained from other sources. Creative activity is a particularly apt way to express oneself; this activity is often solitary and sometimes the productions which result are regarded as possessing value to society. For Price, solitariness had been essential and so had human interaction. After forty years of extensive interaction(1959-1999), he felt he was moving into a period in his life characterized by a dominance of the solitary; after forty years of immense quantities of talking and listening and of pioneering from place to place(1959-1999), the time to stay in one place and reduce the verbal in-and-output may have arrived. He was not sure. Like Robert Redford, he wanted "to be a private man doing his own thing in a remote"2 place. But like Robert Redford too, at least thusfar, he had had trouble attaining this dominance of the solitary. Occasionally, like his life, he created a poem that was 'all over the place.' -Ron Price with thanks to: 1Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Nash, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1998, p.15; 2 Minty Clinch, Robert Redford, New English Library, London, 1989, p.3.



There were always skads of people around
back then in '59 or '62.

They were unavoidable,
essential to your1 way of life.


You accepted them like the air;
as if they'd always been there.

And it stayed that way,

in one way or another,
until just the other day
when it became

just you and your wife,2
a couple of shopkeepers,
your son and step-daughter dropping in,
the good-byes to the Baha'is,
afternoon tea with friends.

Getting closer to solitude,
but never really there,
probably never really attainable,
for this commitment, this vision,
is all part of what Holley called:
'the social religion' and social it is,
with solitariness only really desireable
to a degree, to a degree, to a degree.

Ron Price
26 June 1999

1 In this poem I address 'you' and the 'you' is, in fact, myself.
2 My son moved out of home and my wife and I were alone for the first time in our marriage, in our relationship which began back in about April 1974.



SYNCRONIZATION

The May-June period 1968 was a turning point in my own life, in the life of western society and in the historical experience of the Baha'i Faith. The following poem looks at this 'turning point' and how it was experienced quite differently at the personal and the international levels. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 26 October 2001.

We saw a tremendous impetus

to the diffusion of spiritual inspiration

in the majestic unfoldment

of this new System, back then1

when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated,2

when Paris witnessed a celebration

of the imagination,

a rejection of Marxism

and archaic structures of authority

in those riots of students and workers.3



While these great affairs of the day,

these events of history

were changing the direction

of the lives of humanity,

for the most part unbeknownst,

I taught grade three Eskimos

at a priority pioneering post

on Baffin Island for the last time

and began a hospitalization

in the major episode in my life

of what is now known as

a bi-polar disorder.4



1 21 June 1968, the Appointment of the Continental Board of Counsellors

2 Bobby Kennedy was assassinated on June 8th 1968

3 The Paris riots of May 1968

4 I was hospitalized on the first Monday in June 1968



Ron Price

26 October 2001



A QUIET WORD

This poem attempts to convey some of my experience of retiring from teaching at the age of 55. I was helped to start the poem by reading Emily Dickinson's poem number 1123. Emily's poems are succinct, pithy pieces on very short lines; this poem is 'spread out.' It lacks her pithy presence. Like my life, spread out from the Canadian Arctic to the southwest corner of Tasmania, this poem has been physically diffused. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.

The pleasure ceased,
ambition fell,
but little noise was made.
Some fatigue had entered in;
it spoke no tale worth telling,
though several times I tried

to tell the story of my days.


I had developed quite a knack
of conveying all my ways.

But it was more a quiet exit,
a simple coming to an end,
a little bit of talking
as the spirit began to mend.


Slowly I moved to a new routine,
away from endless words,
talking and more talking
where I'd sought to sing
like the birds.

I found myself with quiet days,
with books and lots of writing.
I found myself walking down roads
an end to employment fighting.

Ron Price
4 August 1999

SUCKED

My moral and political object as a poet and as a Baha'i is to create and recreate myself, in the words of the opening inscriptive poem of Whitman's Leaves of Grass, "as a simple separate person;" and part of that "Oneness of Humankind" that has become an increasing part of our consciousness as people during these three epochs.(i.e. 1944-2000) In this world, this emerging World Order, lies my chief source of creative forms and the range of experiences which will let me complete the cycle of self-recognition, identification with others and self-definition. In my poetry, my emerging corpus of poetic understandings, is the story of my struggle, my Faith, my time, my three epochs and what I would will myself and my world to become. This exercise has taken place in over three dozen houses and two dozen towns and I have, therefore, scattered the words of this poem to convey this reality of movement. -Ron Price with thanks to Roy Pearce, The Continuity of American Poetry, Princeton UP, Princeton, 1961, pp.73-74.

We, I, have been putting it back together:
humankind and its history,
its geography, its community,
marrying it again.
This is the heroism;
we are remaking the world,
with word after word, after word,
meeting after meeting.

Gradually the brain and the heart dried out
and their thin soil became the ground
where love rapaciously made its season
in my fevered dreams
from which I woke aghast
the wet taste of leaves on the tongue,
astute voracious tendrils at the throat,
my trembling palms gummy
with mould and knowledge.1

But, as the poet says,
neglect does foster,
and dismay but fertilize
love's thrusting growth.
And I return, again,
to the battle,

having dried out on the land
and renewed myself
under cool, metallic stars
as if I had sucked

their bright and detached immensity

into my soul
from some quite distant
fragrance of sweet mercy.

1 Roger White, The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, pp.71-2.

Ron Price
24 December 1999

SEED-PLANTING FOR THE HARVEST

Many, if not most, of us in the late twentieth century, who might read Price, would not take much interest in his world, the world he lives in and which for various reasons we cannot join, at least not in recent decades. We just cannot go along with him. It is not so much that he does not speak our language, the idiom of a mass culture, or one of the majority of its sub-cultural tributaries, but that this mass cannot speak his language. He would very much like that mass to join him, but he knows it denies, is disinterested, in his world. Of necessity, he has been forced to live in the world of the mass for his entire life; he had had no choice; indeed much of it was pleasureable, stimulating, educative. Although that mass, for its part, could not speak his language, it knew what he meant. For his words were, for the most part, clear and easy to understand. It is not his complexity that was the problem; it was the world's complexity and the tempest which is, and has been, blowing with unprecedented magnitude, unpredictable in its course: fragmenting, disintegrating, anarchic, morally chaotic. So it is that I have left the design of this poem in its unconventional shape. -Ron Price with thanks to Roy Harvey Pearce, The Continuity of American Poetry, Princeton UP, Princeton, 1961, p.274.



When I look back over forty years,
beginning with my acceptance

of this breathtakingly wondrous Gift,
it is so obvious that so few came to share
the language with me,

though I was not short on talk.

Alan Coupe, who lived around the corner,

came in six or seven years

after I had signed the proverbial card.

Then, there were all those kids
back in '70 in Picton,

a pile more in Whyalla in '72

whom I have never ever seen in my travels.
Chris Price in '74; Ludwig Vinckier in '81;
Larry Ahlin in, what, '84, and perhaps
one or two others on the whole road:
they learned to speak the language.

All that talking, guitar playing,
listening, travelling,

for the sake of a small handful?

Obviously it's seed-planting for the harvest.

Ron Price
22 December 1999



REMEMBERED BEING

Price was attempting, over nearly two decades now, through his thousands of poems, to define his sense of identity and to express, as best he could, his understandings of many of life's features and especially those associated with his religion. He relied heavily on his autobiographical self, on the trivial and quotidian and on the aspiration, the vision, the hope expressed in the Writings of his Faith. He played with the concept of the self, his self, and was engaged with a constant, a normal, reality monitoring in virtually all of his poetry. He saw the process as one of an on-going self-creation, self-definition and self-description. He sought refuge in a vision of suffering and redemption at the root of his religion and its history and in a philosophical and psychological framework that his religion also provided for his day-to-day life and his poetry. -Ron Price with thanks to Frances F. Steen, "The Time of Unremembered Being: Wordsworth's Autobiography of the Imagination," A.B.: Autobiography Studies, Spring 1998, pp.7-38.



I should put your words1

back in the story

as they deserve to be

since they describe my days:



now I speak of things

that have been and that are2



....and, in my case, seem like gentle dreams,

far from fashioned, but they do adorn

the time of my remembered being

when they did adorn the Hill of God

and made a beauty on that holy sod.



1 William Wordsworth's

2 These words were originally at the beginning of Wordsworth's 'The Prelude.' But he later took them out.(see ibid.,p.7)

Ron Price

THE CURRENT OF LIFE

The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson called for a literature of "diaries and autobiographies"1 instead of novels. The twentieth century American writer, Henry Miller, endorsed this idea in an effort to open himself to the "whole dammed current of life". Miller was trying to make of the chaos about him "an order which (was) his own." He was also trying to affirm the inner light of selfhood against the darkness, the slaughterhouse, the cancer of the world, the collapse of traditions, the breakdown of connection between the self and an engageable social milieux and the disappearance of modes of authority outside the self. This "inner light" and "order" which Miller affirms is also at the centre of my work, but the light and order that I seek and manifest are derived from "the verses of God that have been received"2 by me over more than forty years. Emerson's call for 'diaries and autobiographies' at the dawn of the Baha'i Era has not gone unheeded. The last 150 years has seen a plethora of these genres. My literary effort is part of the response to Emerson's call, my desire to open myself to the whole "damned current of life." -Ron Price with thanks to 1Christopher Lasch, The Minimal Self:" Psychic Survival in Troubled Times, WW Norton, NY, 1984, p.134; and 2 Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Prayers, USA, 1985, frontispiece.

Inventorying and stylizing myself,

daily events, life's events,

the dizzy world going by,

a manipulation of details

with the status of facts,

no bare chronicle of fact,

creating, defining, self,

world and my religion

and, in the end, producing

my life by an infinite chain

of signifiers and constructs.

therapeutic self-discovery,

spinning a yarn,1 as it were,

in the current of life.



1 Lynda Scott, "Similarities Between Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing," Deep South, Vol.3 No.2, Winter 1997.



Ron Price

13 May 2001

a final autobiographical word:

Anyone who has got this far, has peristed through the above labyrinth, deserves to be reminded of my autobiographical study 'Pioneering Over Four Epochs' found at this website. Readers must go back to the Index page(the access page that you came to when you arrived at this site); then scroll down to the Book. What follows for the reader at that point, after he or she has downloaded my autobiography, are many chapters of the narrative and the autobiograpical study, about 750 A-4 pages. This Book is found at the bottom of the index page. You click on the word 'HERE' in the sentence: 'My autobiography is HERE.' Downloading takes from 5 to 10 minutes depending on your downloading system.


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Reader Reviews for "Pioneering Over Four Epochs(Website)"

Reviewed by Ronald Price 10/25/2004
This part of my website, section two, is only one of the 42 sections. Go to: http://bahaipioneering.bahaisite.com/ if you want to read/review/examine any of the other sections. They cover a range of topics both secular and sacred, both popular and esoteric, both material and spiritual, both autobiographical and global in their implications.

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