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If “big hard things can only be done together,” how do we create unity? In this divided and disunified world, what truly unifies people?
Well, think back to the last time you felt unified with others—what were you doing?
Chances are you took part in something that A. gave you some new knowledge by getting you involved with like-minded people, B. generated some real resolve to do something positive, and C. took action, by working toward a goal and a definitive outcome.
That’s the best recipe for building unity, and it seems to work pretty consistently. Whether you’re building a barn or working with a group of activists on an important social issue or volunteering to help out at a local after-school program, unity usually comes about when people learn and then do something purposeful together in a spirit of kindness and selflessness:
Knowledge is the first step; resolve, the second step; action, its fulfillment, is the third step. To construct a building one must first of all make a plan, then one must have the power (money), then one can build. A society of Unity is formed, that is good—but meetings and discussions are not enough. In Egypt these meetings take place but there is only talk and no result. These meetings here in London are good, the knowledge and the intention are good, but how can there be a result without action? – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, pp. 54-55.
Let’s look at those three steps to unity in a little more detail:
1. Gain new knowledge by getting involved with like-minded people
Have you ever moved to a new place, where you didn’t know anyone? When you moved, how did you meet new friends—did it happen randomly, or did you proactively seek people out?
Now, no matter where you live, you can find like-minded people—others like you who want to create unity, too. Actually, finding them is much easier now that it has ever been. Proactively seeking like-minded people can happen through social media, through a simple web search for groups you’d like to be involved in, even by reading a local website or newspaper. All of these avenues can guide you to groups with people like you. When you meet those people, you’ll get a new infusion of knowledge—eventually, you’ll know and understand what they know.
The Baha’i teachings recommend finding groups that get together for a spiritual purpose:
Reflect on the divine forces. What has assembled us together? It is not a material but a spiritual force which has created this bond between our hearts, this attraction and affection for one another—a power stronger than reason, a power which founds nations, creates human unity and makes us renounce the world to discover sciences and organize laws which work through all creatures. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 96.
2. Generate some real resolve.
When you meet new people and your knowledge of an issue or a problem expands, that new knowledge can convince you, and the group, to resolve to do something. Your new knowledge brings about a sense of resolute conviction and volition, the second necessary step in any undertaking. This second step means that you make a decision and resolve, no matter what the obstacles, to carry it out. According to the Baha’i teachings, the noble purposes and high resolve you and the group commit to can generate honor and happiness:
… man’s supreme honor and real happiness lie in self-respect, in high resolves and noble purposes, in integrity and moral quality, in immaculacy of mind. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 18.
Nothing happens without action—and people who take action fulfill their knowledge and their resolve, completing the circle of life.
“Meetings and discussion are not enough,” Abdu’l-Baha said, and that’s certainly true for any human endeavor. To move forward on the path requires one step, and then the next, and then the next. That’s what defines an activist—someone who takes action:
Some men and women glory in their exalted thoughts, but if these thoughts never reach the plane of action they remain useless: the power of thought is dependent on its manifestation in deeds. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 18.
Of course, the actions you take are up to you. Whatever you decide to do to make this world a better place, take those actions in a spirit of love, kindness and unity:
O ye lovers of God! Be kind to all peoples; care for every person; do all ye can to purify the hearts and minds of men; strive ye to gladden every soul. To every meadow be a shower of grace, to every tree the water of life; be as sweet musk to the sense of humankind, and to the ailing be a fresh, restoring breeze. Be pleasing waters to all those who thirst, a careful guide to all who have lost their way; be father and mother to the orphan, be loving sons and daughters to the old, be an abundant treasure to the poor. Think ye of love and good fellowship as the delights of heaven, think ye of hostility and hatred as the torments of hell. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 244-245.