Strive ye with all your hearts, raise up your voices and shout, until this dark world be filled with light, and this narrow place of shadows be widened out, and this dust heap of a fleeting moment be changed into a mirror for the eternal gardens of heaven, and this globe of earth receive its portion of celestial grace. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 36.
Animal Rights. Civil Rights. Human Rights. Black Lives Matter. Brexit. Save the Whales. Climate Change. The list goes on and on. In today’s world, a huge host of causes clamors for our membership, urges our commitment and participation, and generally duns us for donations.
These three elements exist in most movements where larger and larger numbers of members and supporters act on the part of leaders and those in power to effect the “demands, desires or wishes” of the stated goals of the movement.
Let’s take a simple, noncommittal example: Facebook. Maybe it’s called Facebook because it faces all of us with multiple levels of appeals, from a simple “Like,” to “Type Yes” to “Share,” to even “Type Amen.” Millions of people of all ages do at least one of these every hour. They call for very little commitment from the responder, other than a click or a few words or emojis to show their approval (or disapproval). Soon we may even have an “Unlike” button.
The committed Facebook response on the other hand usually means clicking a button that says “Join,” or “Subscribe,” or even “Donate.” However, the full implications of such clicks are usually not described in detail, unless a “Learn More” button happens to be included.
As a matter of due diligence, I rarely would join, subscribe or donate unless I understood much more about the cause, group or organization. After all, the obvious Facebook goal is to get a spur of the moment reaction on the part of the viewer to click, and therefore build up the momentum of their “Cause” rapidly. During this election cycle, almost every political pushout has a “Donate” button.
What’s so remarkable about Facebook is its diversity, which leads to its addictiveness. It really has something for everyone, from statements and pictures of injustice, to new scientific developments, to the beauty of nature, to sickness, healthy foods, wounded warriors, newlyweds, birthdays and old age. I especially like the jokes and funny memes.
The overall goal of all of these great and interesting and sometimes astounding pictures, statements and videos still remains the number of Likes or Shares garnered, yet the sentiments they express mostly go unharnessed. There’s the rub. Running through my allotted time scanning FB every morning has shown me how similar we all feel and think: sad at sickness and hoping for health, mad at injustice and wanting things fixed, pleased with tips on loving and living better, and amazed at what others can do and speak and demonstrate, inspiring us.
So, with all of the Facebook invitations flying at us, how do we choose from among millions of causes worth joining, sharing, and donating either our time, energy or money to?
No question—we have thousands of worthy causes. The number of individual charities, and churches that do likewise, number in the hundreds of thousands. Causes such as nuclear disarmament, equal treatment by police, feeding the poor and hungry, fairness in elections, curbing pollution, reasonable gun control and on and on, all vie for our attention. The vast array of these causes presents us with a host of problems to be solved, diseases eradicated, behaviors changed and resources used most effectively.
So where should I put my limited time and efforts? How can I be most effective improving my life and the lives of others? Is there a sure way of curing humanity of the ills that beset us?
For Baha’is, the answer begins inside our minds, hearts and souls:
Thou hast inquired regarding the teachings and instructions of Baha’u’llah! Thou must instruct the people of the world in the Love of God, that they may eradicate the foundation of warfare and strife, be attracted by the Glad- tidings of the kingdom…, lay the basis of love and amity, raise the melody of affinity, and the oneness of the Kingdom of humanity; transmute tyranny and persecution into love and faithfulness, efface the traces of bloodshed and carnage; construct the edifice of reconciliation, dispel the darkness of estrangement, diffuse the light of unity; change the poison of animosity into the honey of sympathetic affection; destroy the religious, national and social prejudices from the individuals of humanity; live and act, with and toward each other as though they were from one race, one country, one religion, and one kind. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 2, p. 5.
Every cause starts within. Our commitment to love and justice begins with the acquisition and refinement of our human virtues—developing behaviors such as equity and fairness, honesty and trustworthiness, kindness and generosity, sacrifice and sharing, love and caring, responsibility and citizenship, education and universal suffrage and many more.
These human qualities only need a pure heart and active goodwill to effectuate change—perhaps the cheapest yet most effective means of changing the world.