Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Words and Learning: They do not matter a hang unless they bring about results

John, that inveterate Baha'i essayist and blogger, is not afraid of plumbing the depths of dense text. But he maintains a standard: the words have to lead to something. -gw
I once had a Tahirih moment. I was on the bus going from the mountain to downtown Hamilton. I had been sitting alone in my seat for the whole bus trip wading through several pages of dense text from Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Suddenly I grasped what he had been saying, but at the same time I realized that what he had said in ten pages of close reasoning could have been said in a musical phrase, a stanza of poetry, or in a flash of meditative reflection. It was interesting that it is possible to express this in words, but why? Why bother with this? If the shortest distance from point A to point B is a straight line, why go through C to Z before you reach B? Is it not a waste of time? Is it not better to do what science did with alchemy, that is, leave it aside as a wrong answer? There are an infinite number of wrong answers; and in life as in mathematics, we only have time to study the right ones.

I call this a Tahirih moment, but maybe I am being arrogant. A true Tahirih moment is the time when one decides to shut up and teach or pioneer, or to give to the fund until it hurts. Or, in the case of Tahirih and Quddus, to leave off all the garbage and palaver and start down the path to martyrdom. I call my moment that only because it helped me understand what a Tahirih moment is.

Certainly Baha'u'llah was of the opinion that words and learning do not matter a hang unless they bring about results. You should not call a skilled or learned person wise from the mere fact that they have learned a great deal. You should only call wise those who have brought their learning to a good, happy end, and who have followed the Law of God.

Posted via email from Baha'i Views

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