A few years ago, I lost my gold wedding ring under odd circumstances—in a friend’s car, a sudden movement of my hand resulted in it flying off my finger.
We both saw it happen, and we both leaned forward to retrieve it from the floor. But it wasn’t there. It had vanished!
Weird as that was, here’s something almost as odd: my friend contacted me this morning to tell me that she found it. It had somehow lodged itself in a previously undetected pocket under the seat. After such a long time without it, when I put in on again I had an emotional reaction, akin to a sense of reunion.
I’ve heard stories from other people who have sentimental ties to gold jewelry received as gifts from their spouses, parents, or grandparents. What is it about gold as a symbol as well as a substance that evokes such reactions?
It’s not that gold is rare, though mining requires a lot of work. Nor is it innately beautiful, as anyone who has seen it in its natural state knows; intense heat is required to bring out its beauty. From a practical standpoint, it is desirable for jewelry, sculpture, and even dentistry due to its malleability. But more than a raw material for crafts, gold figures prominently within other arenas—both concrete and abstract.
For many years, the financial world measured currencies against it, hence the term “gold standard.” And though this is no longer common practice, the phrase persists as an idiom for a widely-accepted measure of value and quality.
In mathematics, architecture, and the arts the term “golden ratio” refers to proportions generally considered aesthetically pleasing.
In philosophy, notably the work of Aristotle, we read about the “golden mean” as a desirable midpoint between extremes. Similar to “the middle way,” this idea is especially associated with Confucius.
Researching how gold is mentioned within religious traditions, I found this quotation from Abdu’l-Baha. It touches on the metaphor of our being tested and improved through the heat of tests:
So too will solid gold wondrously gleam and shine out in the assayer’s fire. It is clear, then, that tests and trials are, for sanctified souls, but God’s bounty and grace … – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 182.
We all know about the “golden rule” and its counterpart in most (if not all) religious traditions. Though the label itself is usually associated with the Christian version, its origins go to the earliest known religions and continue in the Baha’i teachings. As such it is a spiritual truth, unchangeable throughout time, universal in its application.
With gold already meaning so much to us, I am thinking about yet another phrase that mentions it: the “Golden Age.”
The Golden Age, as promised by the Baha’i teachings, will be a time when humanity will realize its potential, people will live in love and harmony, and the planet itself will be cherished and healthy:
… we are at the beginning of the golden age that prophets and poets have depicted in song and fable. The people who have come in contact with this spirit of the age hold that the time has come when the highest concepts of man are to be realized and become part and parcel of every nation’s fabric. With glowing faces these people tell of future ideals based on justice. They speak of international laws as yet untranslated into our language which are to govern the world after wars have ceased.
A new chapter in the life of the planet has been opened. Humanity has attained its maturity … This is a new cycle of human power. All the horizons of the world are luminous and the world will become indeed as a garden and a paradise. It is the hour of unity of the sons of men and of the drawing together of all races and all classes. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 12-13.
Although this age may seem far off in the future, Baha’u’llah wrote that we all have a part to play in bringing it to reality. Furthermore, he linked our individual efforts to create that peaceful, harmonious future world with the very purpose of our existence when he said: “All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.” – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 214.
This motivates me to ensure that my own actions are guided by spiritual principles such as love for humanity and for our planet. It inspires me to know that if my actions are loving, my character improved through tests, my actions responsible, my vision turned toward unity, then that’s good as—even better than—gold.