Who do you care about? Normally, we human beings care about the people closest to us physically and emotionally—but is that enough?
The Baha’i teachings urge each person to grow and extend his or her circle of caring and empathy further than it has ever gone before—to actively begin caring for and about a vastly-enlarged group of human beings.
Simply caring about ourselves, our families or our communities, as most of us have done in the past, will no longer suffice. The nationalistic patriotism of caring for our respective countries doesn’t extend far enough, either. Caring for only those of our own race or religion definitely won’t have sufficient impact. Baha’is believe that these narrow former definitions of empathy and caring must grow and expand to encircle and embrace every member of our species—and the planet we all live on:
Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth … It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 249.
If the learned and wise men of goodwill were to impart guidance unto the people, the whole earth would be regarded as one country. Verily this is the undoubted truth. This servant appealeth to every diligent and enterprising soul to exert his utmost endeavour and arise to rehabilitate the conditions in all regions … – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 172.
The Baha’i teachings say that our empathy and concern for others, and for the entire human race, has to grow wider, more inclusive and more universal than ever before. We need to find a way, each of us, to love the whole world and all of its people.
This new imperative has acquired fresh urgency as we’ve come to more fully understand the climate change crisis we all face.
Because we share our one planet, and because all people come from the same race—the human race—the realization has begun to dawn that we will need to unite to effectively address our first truly global crisis. That means caring for the entire planet and everyone on it, becoming aware of the needs of the globe and all its inhabitants, rehabilitating the conditions in all regions and not just our own, with universal loyalty as our highest aim and desire:
… if a family lives in unison, great results are obtained. Widen the circle; when a city lives in intimate accord greater results will follow, and a continent that is fully united will likewise unite all other continents. Then will be the time of the greatest results, for all the inhabitants of the earth belong to one native land. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 106.
As a species, we stand now at a definitive moment, a time historians will undoubtedly look back on and characterize as one of the major pivotal points of history. We face a stark, basic choice—stay at the current adolescent stage of our collective human spiritual development, and allow its fragmented, violent and materialistic cultural forces to create enormous, permanent damage and injustice; or consciously decide to leave our adolescence behind and grow into a truly global civilization, assuming the kind, loving and peaceful responsibilities of our shared spiritual adulthood and our essential oneness.
Clearly, we must enlarge our circle of caring if we want the human species to survive:
Every imperfect soul is self-centred and thinketh only of his own good. But as his thoughts expand a little he will begin to think of the welfare and comfort of his family. If his ideas still more widen, his concern will be the felicity of his fellow citizens; and if still they widen, he will be thinking of the glory of his land and of his race. But when ideas and views reach the utmost degree of expansion and attain the stage of perfection, then will he be interested in the exaltation of humankind. He will then be the well-wisher of all men and the seeker of the weal and prosperity of all lands. This is indicative of perfection.
Thus, the divine Manifestations of God had a universal and all-inclusive conception. They endeavoured for the sake of everyone’s life and engaged in the service of universal education. The area of their aims was not limited—nay, rather, it was wide and all-inclusive.
Therefore, ye must also be thinking of everyone, so that mankind may be educated, character moderated and this world may turn into a Garden of Eden. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 69.