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Everyone has to meet a myriad number of needs to survive, and even more to thrive. But one thing we all seem to need holds us back from reaching our full potential.
We each need food, water, clothing, and shelter. We need rest and sleep. As babies, we need a mother, and hopefully a father’s presence, to nurse, nurture, and train us until we can strike out on our own. Just to get that far we need a safe and secure environment. We all need an education.
Many care about money and having enough of it, and just about everybody cares about their health and having some quality of life at any age. We care about mates, children, family, and friends, and are concerned about their health and welfare. We care about our jobs, and need to earn enough to sustain us in life. All of us also need to feel secure and safe, and to live in a peaceful place, free of oppression and tyranny. We all need a measure of freedom.
Most people, whether through upbringing or choice, care about God enough to believe there is one, and we may follow the teachings of those who have spoken in His name.
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What Does the Human Race Need to Survive?
So we all have our individual needs, the things we must have to survive. We can agree that the basics: food, water, shelter, clothing are universal, since we can’t survive without them. The need for them is a part of our human nature and a basis for our physical survival in a physical world, a world that may be hostile. All other human needs rest upon these four.
Or do they?
Few would disagree that human beings are unique in all creations on Earth. We have hands with opposable thumbs, for one, meaning that we can fashion tools and machines. We have intelligent brains, perceptive senses, and emotions that can feel pride, hurt, love, hate, and dozens more. We can imagine, think, comprehend, and memorize amazing amounts of data and feelings. We can communicate with others through writing, language and speech, and by our actions. Inwardly we have the powers of meditation and reflection, the ability to change our minds, hearts, and beliefs.
Assuming our basic needs are met, and we are gifted with so many powers, we then face a choice – whether to care about anything else, especially about someone other than ourselves. We must decide whether to go beyond our own individual needs to help others meet theirs. Once our own needs are met, we must decide how we can each do our best to meet the needs of humanity itself.
This call toward other-directedness, this encouragement in caring and love for others, this drive for human unity, infuses the deep spiritual teachings of the Baha’i Faith, as in this quote from a speech Abdu’l-Baha gave in London:
My hope is that through the zeal and ardour of the pure of heart, the darkness of hatred and difference will be entirely abolished, and the light of love and unity shall shine; this world shall become a new world; things material shall become the mirror of the divine; human hearts shall meet and embrace each other; the whole world become as a man’s native country and the different races be counted as one race.
We will never solve our collective societal problems as long as we humans care only about this group over that, or this nation over that nation. We will never reach self-actualization, or achieve our full potential as human beings, as long as we are only concerned with our personal, physical, or parochial needs. Our greatest need as a human race – oneness – can only be met when we each transcend our individual wants, needs, and desires.
Eliminating Unbridled Nationalism
We hamper humanity’s full development and potential when we practice unbridled nationalism.
When the label we give ourselves says where we are from, when we define our entire selves as Americans or Ethiopians or Israelis or Bolivians, this form of self-identity can lead to claims of allegiance to country “right or wrong.”
When we think that way, and fail to question or oppose the unjust actions our nation may take against others, young men and women are conscripted in armies to preserve or expand territories. Corruption goes unchecked. Open, free, and fair elections happen in appearance only. We look the other way when our leaders’ personal conduct differs from acceptable moral and honorable behavior.
The Baha’i Faith stands for the entire world, not just one nation; for the entirety of humanity, not just one race, class, or country. The Baha’i teachings ask us all to go beyond our national identities and develop the consciousness of world citizens. The Universal House of Justice, the democratically-elected leadership body of the world’s Baha’is, wrote in 1985:
Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole. Baha’u’llah’s statement is: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” The concept of world citizenship is a direct result of the contraction of the world into a single neighbourhood through scientific advances and of the indisputable interdependence of nations. Love of all the world’s peoples does not exclude love of one’s country. The advantage of the part in a world society is best served by promoting the advantage of the whole.
Baha’is believe that the time has come to care about the unity, wholeness, and oneness of humanity as the paramount goal of human action – which means we all need to see the Earth as one country.