20 January 2011

Roots and Seeds

Most places I go, I am asked to speak on the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment program, due to my (relatively) extensive experience with it. I have been an animator since the spring of 2007. And I have never had a successful junior youth group.

This is not to say that I have not had success with the program. I have assisted in its implementation in at least five clusters. But I have never animated a group in the way it was intended, beginning with a group of 11-12 year olds and growing together through the program for three years.

Why? In my adult life, I have never lived in a single place for three years. 

As soon as I move to a new place, I am in the process of saying goodbye. My current city became home to me when my Auxiliary Board Member called me during breakfast on a Sunday morning and asked me to move here. I was meant to stay through the first cycle of our intensive program of growth. I've remained an extra year to complete some schooling and establish the foundation of a strong junior youth program. 

But I have not established the truly strong bonds necessary for its continuation and propagation. This relationship-building is fundamentally the work of those who are arising, even now, to carry on the program in my absence.

And I will be absent. I will take my licensure examinations one month after the launch of the next global Plan, and I am waiting for the call; where will my home be next? What will I do when I arrive?

Say goodbye?

It seems that the process of community building, since the earliest days of the Divine Plan, has needed two very important populations: those who travel light, bringing broad experience, fresh eyes, and new energy into the community, and those who become the community, growing the relationships, intimate knowledge, and sense of identity needed to help a Plan become a reality, and flourish. 

These two are as necessary to the growth of a community as the growth of a forest is dependent on roots and seeds.

These trends are not limited to the Baha'i community, although we seem to be rather unusual in seeing both as a part of a coherent whole.

On one hand are the "technomads" (I like the term) like Everett Bogue of Far Beyond the Stars, self-described as "a cybernetic yogi supporting the future of human/technological evolution." They see a minimalist, location-independent lifestyle supported by the internet as ideal for those who view their lifework in terms of spreading information and ideas.

On the other are people like Sharon Astyk of Casaubon's Book. Astyk, a writer and subsistence farmer, is primarily concerned with "adapting in place," creating permanently sustainable communities on an extremely local level, whatever that locality happens to be.  She and her compatriots view information primarily as a tool for providing more basic needs: food, shelter, and family.

It's interesting to note that both groups are immensely focused on overcoming the materialist culture that is so epidemic today. As such, both deserve our attention.

Is age the primary difference between the two trends? The Universal House of Justice has made mention of "the native urge of youth to move from place to place, combined with their abounding zeal," making them ideally suited to the work of travel-teaching and short-term pioneering. And part of becoming a long-term pioneer or community member that roots a community firmly into place involves having been on the planet for an extended period of time. It's obvious that a twenty-year-old cannot have seen a community grow and develop over a thirty-year period, as her elders may have.

And yet, the Baha'i Faith is littered with examples of selfless travelers of all ages who scattered seeds abroad without thought to creating a permanent home for themselves, and of young people who settled into a place and lived out their lives there in service. Perhaps this is primarily a matter of one's capacities and strengths?

As of this writing, I am twenty-seven years old, recently married, and childless. The day may come when it is more important to me to tend my garden and live within it, than it is to keep my attachments few in order to be able to answer the call to service wherever it may arise.

I have loved so many people and places that I can no longer simply go "home" to the ones I love. I have been so long running towards the frontiers of service that to remain in place feels like being left behind. But it is equally agonizing to know that the youngest children here will not remember me in ten years, or even two.

I have no idea where, or if, I will ever find a place to call home for the rest of my life, or even long enough to accompany a group of junior youth through the years leading up to their blossoming into maturity. The idea frightens me, knowing that the skills and attitudes that have served me so well thus far will need to be adapted, perhaps even abandoned, for a new kind of endeavor.

But that constant state of learning, of trying again, of learning more and trying anew, this is what has brought the Baha'i community to the place we stand today. And if I can withstand the heartache of the travel teacher, I can withstand that of the pioneer.

Someday. In the meantime, I'm keeping things light, waiting for the call. A new "home" is becoming ready for me. It's almost time to say goodbye.

1 comment:

  1. This post answers so many of the questions i've had for a while. I guess when the Blessed Beauty says that "Earth is but one Country" , we are still trying to make that a reality. Also specific skill sets are required for specific activities just as the Eye sees and the ear hears..