This 2020 pandemic is a test of our ability to be self-disciplined, sensible, and compassionate all at the same time. To me, that implies a spiritual challenge. This health crisis is, therefore, not just physical, but spiritual. It concerns following the rules, learning from other countries that have learned lessons the hard way, and staying on course. In His prayer, the Fire Tablet, Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote: “When the swords flash, go forward! When the shafts fly, press onward!” These words test our battle-readiness
“any movement which brings about peace and agreement in human society is truly a divine movement”
In the last century, the Sioux shaman Black Elk had learned many lessons the hard way and said: “The good road and the road of difficulties are made to cross, and where they cross the place is holy.” This is a moment when what it means to be holy is gaining spiritual control of a new way of life emerging among humanity, moving in a new direction-toward unity. Our unity in this (and other) battles is sacred, the only good road. Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son and designated successor of Baha’u’llah, explained in a talk in Chicago in 1912 that “any movement which brings about peace and agreement in human society is truly a divine movement.”
Many of us around the world now know people who have been defeated by COVID-19. Their passing, young and old alike, reminds us of the fragility of life, of the dangers of ignoring something we cannot see with the human eye. In many cases, we have behaved badly, from dismissing the early warning signs to embracing an eat, drink, and be merry attitude that defies the rule of self-isolation. We have a problem with rules.
Then there’s the blame game. We promote a demagoguery that either God is punishing us for our sins or it’s the fault of a handy enemy, the people we hold in contempt, or government leaders without vision. If I were God, I’d be pretty tired of being blamed for everything! Surely there is enough blame to go around amidst a climate threat, global racism, immigration challenges, failing schools, and the structural inequalities of economy and class that provoke and sustain disunity. We are out of balance. Our sense of social equilibrium and our ethic of caring is shattered. Our world, our lives, as we knew them, is upset. In His prescient words, Baha’u’llah said:
Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System — the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed. -Baha’u’llah, The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah
Why not let it go and build a new way of life, a new “System”? What better time to get ready for battle? Because that is where we are today in spring 2020 — in battle. The enemy is not the virus. Our behavior needs to change. Overcoming the way capitalism devours equality, the ancient gender rifts that deprive us of humanity’s full voice and power, the religious and ethnic differences that we see as a curse rather than a blessing.
“We are one people. We have always been one people. We will remain one people”
Those are the enemies that this viral threat presents. We cannot fight them unless we are unified. Baha’u’llah wrote in the Fire Tablet, “Thou wert created to endure, O Patience of the worlds.”
We are one people. We have always been one people. We will remain one people. For Baha’is, the oneness of humanity extends beyond principle to practice. That is the battle. Over the last few days, I’ve been in video-conferencing, talking on phones, and texting nearly 24/7 like the rest of you. The narratives associated with this crisis are not new. Many people have in their war chest critical stories of how to survive and thrive in any holocaust that we might face.
Today is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to think, reflect, and be silent. In a speech in London in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha told the audience that “The sign of the intellect is contemplation and the sign of contemplation is silence.” In your silence, get ready for battle! I am ready. How about you?
A version of this post was originally published on LinkedIn.