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2013-01-27 22:55:49 (UTC)

A Gift to the National Bahai Archives of Australia

THE BASIS FOR AND THE CONTENT OF MY OFFER OF DOCUMENTS
TO THE NATIONAL BAHA’I ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA

Preamble:

This statement of some 125 pages and 55,000 words is a description of the documents I sent to the National Australian Baha’i Archives belonging, as they do, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia. My decision as to which documents I have decided to send to these archives and which ones, therefore, were eventually accepted by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia, is based on the description and definition of the nature of these archives as outlined in the Australian Baha’i Archives Acquisition Policy.1 I want to thank the Archives Department of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Australia for sending me on 28 November 2008 some guidelines concerning individuals making donations to the archives.

I see all of the documents I sent to the Australian National Baha’i Archives as part of the fulfillment of my role in Canada’s international pioneering experience, its national diaspora or exodus of Baha’is in its “glorious mission overseas.” I also see these documents as part of a record of my contribution to the spread of the Baha’i Faith in southern Ontario in Canada’s most southerly towns as far south as Windsor and Essex county Ontario--through a series of homefront pioneering moves before and after participating in the opening chapters of the push of the Baha’i Faith to “the Northernmost Territories of the Western Hemisphere.” It is in this context, the context in which I see these documents, that this offering is made to both the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada.

Such are the most general perspectives on the place of my pioneering experience and my role in the Cause as both a homefront pioneer and an international pioneer. I am now living: (a) at the southern end of the spiritual axis mentioned by Shoghi Effendi in his 1957 letter and (b) in the outer perimeter of a series of concentric circles, circles which define the spacial parameters of my life, in several interlocking and important ways. The southern pole of this axis where I now live, where I have lived and where in all likelihood my body will one day be buried is "endowed with exceptional spiritual potency." Many years of my life have been lived at several points along the southern extremity of this pole, this spiritual axis: in Perth and South Hedland Western Australia, in Gawler and Whyalla South Australia, in Ballarat and Melbourne Victoria and in several towns of Tasmania as far south as Zeehan. All of these points lie, too, at the outer perimeter of the ninth concentric circle whose center is the "Bab’s holy dust."

The following is a brief statement, a brief outline, of the documents that seem to me to be of relevance to a national archive. It goes without saying, of course, that the decision to house this material in the Canadian Baha’i archive, in the end, is to be left with the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada. I look forward to hearing from the Archives Department in Canada where I have decided to make this donation of documents. And finally it also goes without saying that I will be happy when whatever eventuates from this offer of a gift to the national archives. Although it was accepted and then housed in the NBAA by the end of 2010, time will tell what happens to all this “paper.” If the decision is that my material is not deemed relevant, in the long term, that is fine with me. I look forward to further communication in relation to this statement in the years ahead when I will have ceased to inhabit this earthly life.

A. Archives Defined as National In Significance:

Further to my emails of 27 and 28 November 2008 that I received from the National Baha’i Archives(NBA) Coordinator in Australia, Margaret Anderson, in response to my own emails of 27 and 22 November 2008, I sent to her three categories of material for the NBA of Australia to consider as gifts to the NBA of Australia. They were categories defined as of national significance in their email to me of 28 November 2008, quoting as they did from the National Baha’i Archives Policy: Acquisitions Guidelines. I outline those same three categories here and eventually heard from Margaret in the weeks and months ahead in connection with this donation, this gift to the NBAA.

1. Journals and diaries of pioneering activities;
2. Correspondence with Baha’i friends which is about Baha’i subjects, events and activities; and
3. Published and unpublished works.

B. More Detailed Delineation of the Content of My Contributions,
My Gifts, In The Above Three Categories of Material to the National Baha’i Archive:

The first category of “individual papers” that I discuss below is “journals.” Whether my journals show the development of the Baha’i community in Canada or Australia as mentioned as the defining feature for what the Archives Department look for in Journals I leave, of course, to that department and the NSA. The letter of 14 January 2008 from the Archives Department of the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada stipulated three general categories of material. In the statement “Managing Archives,” in its first paragraph it was emphasized that: “archives are natural bi-products of action not self-conscious documents put together for the purpose of transmitting information to posterity.” The Archives Department may see my journals in this latter context and, if so, I will understand their decision to regard these journals as not purely archival material. Given that this statement is written for LSAs, it may be that my journals are, therefore, more relevant for a national archive. I left this decision to the NBAA.


B.1 Journals or Diaries:

Preamble:

What follows is a summary of my journals or diaries, for I use the terms interchangeably even though I am aware that fine distinctions are made by specialists in the field of diary and journal-making, themselves sub-sections of life-writing, life-narrative, autobiography and memoir writing. These journals are not those of an artist with paint, a sculptor with clay, but one of an artist in the medium of words. This summary is made after 25 years of diary/journal keeping, January 1984 to January 2009. Those who work in the more familiar art mediums of painting and sculpture, pottery or one of the various forms of design, may find my post useful, such is my hope. As I have said before in other contexts than this, keeping a journal/diary I have found difficult. I know many others do as well, artists and people in all sorts of walks of life. The Australian artist Donald Friend's work with his art journal has been helpful to me in this vein, in the vein of keeping and maintaining a diary. Also of value to me have been the diaries of Juliet Thompson, Agnes Parsons and a range of other diaries and quasi-memoiristic resources that have appeared online in recent years.

INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME 5 OF MY DIARY

After twenty-five years of haphazard diary keeping(1984-2009) and an equally haphazard twenty-three years of dream recording(1986-2009) , there looms ahead of me the shadow of a type of diary that my work may attain to: part of the shadow is prospective and the other retrospective. What, indeed, will I make of this loose, drifting material of my life, as Virginia Woolf calls the material in her diary and which very accurately describes mine, however incomplete, however irregular are my entries, however superficial the content often is. Do I want this diary to be so elastic as to embrace anything solemn, slight, beautiful or ugly that comes to mind, sort of a capacious hold-all? Will this diary, this journal, this particular way of conveying my memoir, when all is said and done and the roll is called up yonder, assuming there is a roll and there is an up-yonder where diaries play any part at all—will this diaristic memoir resemble a place where I have flung a mass of odds and ends, some with reflective ardour and great meaning, some with fatigue and sadness, some with guilt and shame, some with a sense of their utter triviality, their tedium and life's?

The purpose of this overview of my diary, updated exactly twenty-five years after making episodic entries and introducing, as it does, the 5th volume of this diary, is to analyse, give definition and pattern to the autobiographical memory that I have put on paper across my lifespan in the form of diary. I use other genres of writing to record memory, but I deal here with the genre of journal or diary. Autobiographical memory, in so far as it relates to my journal, can be broadly defined as a type of episodic memory for information related to the self, both in the form of retrospective and prospective memories, as well as aims, goals and expectations. If this retrospective, episodic account relates to the retrieval in the present of memories, experiences or past events, then prospective autobiographical memory is concerned with the retrieval of expectations, anticipations or future events which likewise are connected in some way with the present.

On the basis of what I have written here in these 25 years, it would appear that a collection of flotsam and jetsam, as Woolf says, has been put on record. This material has been born from a vaster collection of life's flotsam and jetsam, some of which is meaningful to me in the moment or at least hopefully so but, ultimately and possibly, about as useful and valuable to others as the eye of a dead ant. I hope this is not the case but, as T.S. Eliot once wrote, one has to be prepared that all which one has written may become a dead letter. I get a sense of order in putting all this on paper. That is its own intrinsic reward. I am sure this is the case for many, artists and others.

Suzette Henke describes how many diarists come to their diaries out of shattered lives, out of a need to relive their lives in terms of some dream, some myth, some endless story which they compose. This is not the case with me but, as my fifties wore on and turned into my sixties, I seemed to wear on if not out. I did not burn-out but my wings had been clipped and my edges were frayed. I seemed to lose some of life’s heat and there was some shattering. It was a shattering of the social nature I had manifested for several decades, indeed as far back as I could remember, perhaps as far back as my first memories 60 years ago. It is difficult to define just what it is that lies under this diary, what is its raison d’etre or what are its raisons d’etres. One of the leitmotifs which binds the diary together into a coherent whole, if indeed it has coherence and wholeness, is my life as a pioneer and travel teacher.

There are many things that motivate me to want to add an extra level to an already present story, my autobiography or memoir, was conveyed by Shakespeare in sonnet 94: “For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds.” My diary or journal is much more confessional than my autobiography or memoir. My pioneering story needed to be written, or such was my own felt need. It has now been written; it is now complete as far as the 6th edition and a truncated version of it can be found at Baha’i Library Online. Baha’is are advised, though, not be confess their sins unless, of course, they spontaneously desire to do so and in this regard they are quite free. My journal is much more confessional.

By the age of fifty I had certainly collected lots of deeds whose memories were not endearing. Perhaps by means of memoir, autobiography, poetry and diary I was trying to work some magic to reflect the self I wanted to be. Such was the case with that famous diarist Anais Nin. I don’t think it was the case with me, though there was some of Anais Nin’s aim in my own. My diary or journal tended to be the place of my most confessional writing and, for that reason alone if for no other, it deserved to exist on its own. It was and is a genre of particular use to me as a writer for its several purposes which this brief essay attempts to outline.

As this diary has developed over a quarter of a century, it has served simply to help me to describe my life, not especially to deal with accounts of personal complexities like the desire to fight or flight, nor to battle on, nor adopt some defensive escape, nor as a strategy to cope with traumatic personal history, although I have often experienced all of these inner wantings to escape, to battle on or deal with trauma of different kinds. To want to cut and run and great inner fear or anxiety of some kind were common enough occurrences in my more than six decades of living thusfar. For I was, in part at least, the traumatized soul that Phyllis K. Peterson describes in her book Assisting the Traumatized Soul. It was Baha’u’llah though, not Shakespeare, who I think put his finger on the reason for the shift in my life activity as my fifties wore on and became incrementally my sixties. Excess of speech is a deadly poison and its affects last a lifetime, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote in the 19th century. I had had an excess of life’s verbal art and its twistings and turnings in the 60 years of my memoried life: 1947/8-2007/8. Of course, there is much more in the motivational matrix that led to the writing of this diary and I deal with this complex matrix as far as I am able and as much as I desire in this introduction to Volume 5 of this diary and at other places in my writings for those who are interested in following-up on this theme, the raison d’etre for this diary.

I did not desire to take part in that conversational/verbal part of life as my late adulthood(60-80), grew insensibly and incrementally, annalistically as the Romans would have written it, into their middle years, 65 to 75.

As the year 1984-1985 opened and I began this diary at the age of forty, more than 30 years after my association with the Baha’i Faith began and more than 20 years after my pioneering life had begun in Canada. I found myself in possession of a talent, a gift, perhaps an unmerited grace. I had been conscious of its developing nature since, perhaps 1972, my first year as a high school teacher. In 1984 I was writing a column in the Katherine’s local newspaper of 800 words every week. I won’t deal with the origins of this writing activity in the local paper nor the development by sensible and insensible degrees in the dozen years before 1984 going back to 1971 when I arrived as an international pioneer from Canada to Whyalla in South Australia. I had always liked the base, the origin, of art, in unmerited grace, as the unofficial poet laureate of the Baha’i Faith back in the 1980s, sometimes emphasized. Annie Dollard used this uplifting phrase or idea, although the question it deals with is far from simple. Writing had been a talent which had grown slowly with the years, first as a student, then as a teacher, then as a writer in publications of various kinds. It was in the sheer exercise of this gift and harnessing it to life's service and the causes that concerned me that was part of the motivating base for producing a diary, although much more could be said here and interested readers can find more of my comments on this theme in my other writings.

My diary became, in part, a textual testimony, a form of scriptotherapy, a testimonial, an episodic narrative, a form of defence and assertion, albeit partial and temporary. It became, along with the other genres of my writing, a form of living, a way of spending my time, my life, the way I wanted to. I could make some comparisons and contrasts of my work with the work of others. I found the diaries of others provided helpful perspectives on my own writing, but I will not deal with this subject here for the literature on diaries and journals is now burgeoning. And all of this dairy writing was not therapy.

These five volumes of my journal are found in eight two-ring binders and two arch-lever files. Three of these binders contain photographs with some commentary and one of the files contains comments on some of my dreams. I have made a periodic attempt to write a retrospective diary for the years 1844 to 1984, but thus far the attempt has had limited success. I don’t want to leave the impression that diary writing is a fertile field. Far from it—for me. Much of my efforts at a diary are now and have been for many years dry, uninspiring, far from encouraging.

Henry David Thoreau's fine Journal, kept from 1839 to 1861, gave expression to Thoreau’s view, his vision of the destiny of America in terms of life in death. That became a dominant feature of my writing as far back as the 1980s, the feature of life in death. I am confident that will be a strong part of the experience of many generations of the North American pioneer-the Baha’i pioneer that is. There are times in this account when I focus on the inner self, my experiences, my community; there are other times when I focus on my society, the land, a more open perspective. I seem to be a more tolerant person than Thoreau, although I confess that by the time I retired at 55 I had begun to tire of people and conversations about the ordinarily ordinary. Like Thoreau, I rarely have the public in mind when I write, although I do have a future public in mind as the Australian artist Donald Friend did in his diary.

In the last century over one billion deaths have occurred from trauma of different kinds or so some historians claim, and so it is not surprising that an individual diary should be seen in terms of life in death. But readers will have to wait for my demise to read more on this theme. I only want to allude to it here. Henry Miller arguably the first writer to use the “F” word long before it broke out in the media in the 1960s, was one of the few post-WW2 American writers of note who wrote praiseworthy things about many of the things I hold dear, especially the Baha’i Faith. He also wrote, somewhat prophetically:

"When the destruction brought about by the Second World War is complete," wrote Miller, "another set of destruction will set in. And it will be far more drastic, far more terrible than the destruction which we are now witnessing. The whole planet will be in the throes of revolution. And the fires will rage until the very foundations of the present world crumble." Not a happy note to include in the introduction to a volume of my journal, but certainly interesting and written back in the early 1940s! Decades ago people would have trouble comprehending Miller's idea here, but not anymore.

In the case of some of my retrospective diary work making entries is difficult. For, when I write about events taking place forty years ago, I cannot rely on closeness to the event. I must rely on what Peter Braustein calls possessive memory. “Possessive memory,” writes Braustein in his history of the counter-culture, “leaves the person and his memories in a lover’s embrace. The person is in possession of his memories, and no one else can touch them; at the same time, his memories are in possession of him.” Braustein applies this idea to those activists in the sixties who experienced “a sense of self-generation so powerful that it became a constitutive part of their later identity.” Without going into the many contradictory views that have emerged in sixties studies, there is little doubt that I experienced several early stages of my own variety of activism in the sixties. I was 15 when the sixties started and 25 when they finished. My adult life began during those years and that “sense of self-generation” is still a part of my identity even now. If it wasn't I don't think I could keep writing. Like many of the sixties generation, I felt as if I was an agent of history and I still do.

In writing my life story in the last years of my fifties and now early sixties, I came to realize more than I ever had before, perhaps for the first time in any full sense, that the success I had achieved in life grew not only from my own hard work and certain favourable circumstances of my environment, but from the foundation provided by my parents and my grandparents on my mother’s side. The journey of understanding, like the journey of life itself, is an emotional one that I have tried to write about with honesty and with a fresh eye for those primary relationships in my life: father-son, mother-son and grandfather-grandson, wife-husband, among several others I could possibly include. Of course, not all is emotion, again thank goodness. There is intellect, reason, the cultural attainments of the mind and a host of other qualities that psychologists enumerate in their studies of personality and that historians describe in their study of the past.

I still do not feel I have found the flow, the filling up of the springs, the raising to higher levels of the streams of thought that could make of this journal a document worth preserving for future generations. Perhaps I will find that flow in the second 25 years of my journal writing. The accumulating grist of my life has really yet to be ground and made into a fertile soil for literary productivity in the first 25 years of writing this journal. They may, in fact, never get ground properly. Thusfar, poetry and narrative, essays and notes have stolen most of the material. They have taken the literary stage of my life and left this diary-prose always waiting in the wings. But, as I said above, the confessional element here may attract a future reader whose interest is, not so much prurient, as passionate and in possession of a solemn consciousness, a wellspring of celebratory joy. There is some material here to satisfy to some extent those prurient interests, but the wellspring of my celebratory joy, rooted as it has become in my solemn consciousness, offers to future readers a type of confessionalism that is moderate and intoxicated by the wine of another cup. These intoxications I leave to readers of this diary should it ever be published.

This Journal does have less concern for form than my poetry and for that reason there is potentially an easier flow, once the flow begins, at least a flow in a different direction to other genres I use for my writing. I have mentioned before that Henry David Thoreau has been invaluable in helping my diary writing, but I still await that flow in this diary, a flow that has come to my 6500 poems upstream somewhere, but not here downstream in this diary. This diary seems to meander downstream in one of those u-shaped bows one reads about in geography books. The flow so often stops as if one of the Australian droughts finally took away all its water, all the water of life. In Thoreau's last years, from the late 1850s to his death in 1862, he wrote with energy and control, but with little interest in getting into print. I hope this becomes true for my Journal, a repository of lots of energy and creativity with no eye on posterity, in my own latter years, ones that I cannot yet anticipate caught up as I am in getting through today.

There is a type of unity in death, thought Thoreau. We need to learn how to die in order to learn how to live was his view. Part of this process, as far as my Journal is concerned, is the pleasure of serendipity. The only thing we leave behind, Thoreau thought, was ourselves. This Journal is just that: myself. It is as if one wants one’s leaves to survive, one’s autumnal hints and the reds, browns and golds of autumn before winter comes and takes it all away. In my case I often feel as if winter has come to my Journal and no leaves can be found on its branches. Life is sometimes cold and dry. This is certainly the case if I measure my life by my Journal. Although there is an intoxication of joy in these journals there is also the dry wretch, despair, disappointment and a personal sense of loss. But there are other indices of measurement that readers may use for these journals, if these journals ever see the light of day after my passing—and thank goodness for these more moderate measurements of journalistic-diaristic value.

Thoreau said that Emerson was more familiar with his work than he was. I’m sure that, should this material ever be published, there will be those who become more familiar with it--and perhaps with me--than I. I lose touch with this Journal as one often does with aspects of one’s life: with those one loves, with one's feelings which also seem to dry up especially in areas which were once rich, wet and alive. Perhaps this is a way to develop friends in the next life and be ready to meet them when they, or rather I, arrive. I follow this theme too in my journals. Thoreau said that the best growth in trees is in their old age, with harmony and regularity. He also said good deeds act as an encouragement to yourself, to your artistic pursuits, your writing. May I build up a niche of good deeds and may my tree grow best in the years ahead.

Diaries can track the contemporaneous flow of public and private events. They are not given all of a piece, all at once as in a book, such as a life history might be. But rather, they are written discontinuously, either daily or over longer intervals of time and as such provide a record of an ever-changing present. Other types of autobiographical texts or life documents such as letters, rather than documenting the present, tend towards making retrospective sense of a whole life or towards retelling significant moments, epiphanies or crystallizations of experience. This proximity to the present, the closeness between the experience and the record of experience means that there is the perception at least that diaries are less subject to the vagaries of memory, to retrospective censorship or reframing than other autobiographical accounts. Still, there are in my letters much that others might place in a diary and so it is that my letters and diary might be seen as all of one piece.

I certainly think there is a variety of potential historical value in these folders that contain my Journals or Diaries and the unfolding aspects of my life. It is a potential I have hardly begun to realize as yet in these first five diary-volumes. There is, I like to think, something unique, some unique contribution to my overall autobiographical opus: Pioneering Over Four Epochs, that has begun to reveal itself after twenty-five years of making entries.

A description of "a life without secrets and without privacy" wrote the great Russian poet Boris Pasternak, describing as he did the life that was his and on display in society in its different forms like some "show window" is simply "inconceivable," he concluded. For me, this privacy is essentially the life of the mind and many things I have not revealed in the other forms of autobiography. But the revelation, this inner life, comes in my journal. This inner life includes aspects of personal life that one might term revelations: those elements of human experience that seem most private, most hidden, most personal, most shameful, most embarrassing, a source of most guilt and those things that do not tend to be divulged in the normal course of interpersonal life. They are revealed episodically in these journals when time and the inclination have combined to allow me to record them in written form. They are often that sort of entry that has concerned many a writer and artist and which these artists and writers have wanted to burn either before or after their demise from this mortal coil. But, as I said above, there is in my journal what might be called an affective spectrum of experience with emotions and activity at the other end of the continuum: joy, ecstasy, fervid love, rapture, intense desire, inter alia.

I have tried to eliminate the trivial from what I write, but this is difficult for so much of life necessarily deals with triviality’s many particularities and their ephemerality. When one tries to put one's experience on paper the trivial seems to abound in detail and this is one reason among many why most people never keep a journal. The mere contemplation of the exercise of writing down what one does is more than the average person can bear; indeed, the activity amounts to an inner revulsion, for many reasons. It is just too tedious for words, both the process and the content. And this is not just due to the average person’s distaste for writing. But enough on this sad but complex theme in this introductory statement.

I have no intention of writing in public places like this about all the boredom and the chowder, as the famous singer and songwriter Paul Simon calls some of the aspects of life; nor do I intend to write about all of my sins of omission and commission, all the points of shame and guilt that rise up from my life like a forest of trees. But many of them I do write about in my Diary. Whether I deserve to have had these experiences, whether they came to me as a result of destiny, circumstance, capricious passion, whether I can even grasp the causative factors that gave rise to them at all or whether I can’t, I am not a believer in the virtues of public confession, beyond a certain point. There are times for public confession, public to some degree, for the spontaneous acknowledgment of wrongs I have committed or faults in my character. There are times when I would like someone, usually a close companion of some sort, to forgive me or accept me even with my faults. That point or points tends to be, for me at least, when I admit to personal struggle and battle in the hope that my admission may help others with their battle and struggle. Those who are keen to read the more confessional intimacies of my life and in more detail than they will find in my other published writings, introductions to various genres and in many other places in my oeuvre, can read about them in the posthumous collection of my Journals, should my executors decide they are relevant and helpful to a public audience.

Readers who have followed the series of introductions to my several volumes of journals will by now realise that much of what is written here in this introduction is virtually the same as the introduction to volume 4 of my journal. I have also written many of these words both before and after officially opening this volume 5 of my journal three years ago on January 20th 2006. It seemed useful to begin the contemplation of the 5th volume of this diary before that opening date of January 20th 2006. Volume 4 was becoming too full to continue using that 2-ring binder. The size of my volumes, the extent of the entries, is based on the room in each arch-lever file or two-ring binder for the entries I place.

It is now nearly 37 years ago that I arrived in Australia as an international pioneer(12/7/71) from Canada. After 36 months(20/1/06 to 1/6/09) now of making entries in this Volume 5 of my Journal, I conclude this introduction and leave the processes of making further entries and writing more complete introductions to those mysterious dispensations of a Watchful Providence. If Providence is not that watchful in my personal direction and if that Providence has other things to do than to be concerned with the intimacies of my life on a daily basis, I can at least recount the tokens that tell of the glorious handiwork of the universe in which I am an infinitesimal part and some of the fiery, painful aspects of its immensity. Finally, I leave to reason and virtue their steady and not so uniform course while the extravagant wanderings of my vice and folly continue their path down destiny’s corridors with my free will giving me opportunities of wonder and delight and closing other doors of possibility as I travel. As this awful, awkward and tangled scene in what is perhaps history's greatest climacteric plays itself out before my eyes in these epochs of my pioneering life, I conclude this introduction to my Diary Volume 5. And I leave it to the Archives Department and the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada to decide whether this diary that is discussed here would be a useful addition to the National Baha’i Archive of Canada.
-Ron Price, 20 January 2009.
------------------------
And now to the second category of “individual papers”--“original correspondence,” as mentioned in the letter of 14 January 2008 from the Archives Department of the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada. The first category of “individual papers” that I discussed above was “journals.” I turn now to letters. Whether my letters show the development of the Baha’i community in Canada or Australia as mentioned as the defining feature for what the Archives Department look for in Journals I leave, of course, to that department and the NSA. The letter of 14 January 2008 from the Archives Department of the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada stipulated three general categories of material. In the statement “Managing Archives,” in its first paragraph it was emphasized that: “archives are natural bi-products of action not self-conscious documents put together for the purpose of transmitting information to posterity.” The Archives Department may see my letters in this latter context and, if so, I will understand their decision to regard these journals as not purely archival material. Given that this statement is written for LSAs, it may be that my letters are, therefore, more relevant for a national archive. I leave this decision, of course, as I mentioned above, to you.

B.2 Letters:

MASTER FILE TO MY COLLECTION OF LETTERS

Preamble:

The outline of the categories of my letters below is the one that presently exists, that is, in January 2009. This outline tends to get altered from time to time due to the changing nature of what is still a live collection of letters. Very few of these letters are on the world wide web, perhaps as many as six to a dozen--I’ve never counted--because these letters are either personal, administrative or professional in some way or another. I prefer to keep the great body of this material confidential until at least my passing. At the present time there are 50 years of letters(1959-2009) in the collection, the 50 years that I have been a member of the Baha’i community. But very few of these letters come from the years before 1979; far less before 40 years ago in 1969 and none before 1959. These letters are found in some 25 volumes under eleven major sections or categoies with the headings as indicated. Since 2001 I have added another section of letters, a 12th--the email. That catefory is divided into many sub-section in my computer directory. The email is a hybrid form of letter or, perhaps, a replacement since the email has come to take the place of letters in the last decade or so. This 12th section now exists in an additional 25 volumes and is not categorized below as is the first 25 volumes of letters in this master file.

Outline:

I. Personal Correspondence
1. Volume 1: 1967-1984
2. Volume 2: 1985-1988
3. Volume 3: 1989-1994
4. Volume 4: 1995-1996
5. Volume 5: 1997-1999
6. Volume 6: 1999-2001
7. Volume 7: 2002-2003
8. Volume 8: 2003-2004
9. Volume 9: 2004-2005
10. Volume 10: 2005-2006
11. Volume 11: 2006-2007
12. Volume 12: 2008-2009

II. Writing to/from Baha’i Institutions, Magazines/Journals, Individuals
II.1 Baha'i World Centre, Universal House of Justice
II.2 National, Regional and Local Institutions

2.2.1 NSA of the Baha’is of Australia
2.2.2 Hands of the Cause
2.2.3 Continental Board of Counsellors/Auxiliary Boards
2.2.4 BROs, RTCs and Regional Councils
2.2.5 LSAs and Groups(Reg and Unreg)
2.2.6 National Committees of the NSA of Australia
2.2.7 Other NSAs
2.2.7.1 NSA of USA and Its Comittees
2.2.8 The George Town Baha’i Group

III.1 Contacts with Publishers, Magazines, Journals and Online Sites

Volumes 3.1 to 3.17
(over 4000)

III.2 International Institutions:
2.3.1 Office of Public Information
2.3.2 International Teaching Centre
2.3.3 Baha’i World Centre Library
2.3.4 Office of Economic and Social Development
2.3.5 Baha’i World Centre

IV Communications with Canada:

Volumes 4.1 to 4.3

V. Communications With Roger White: 1981-1992

VI. 1. Association for Baha’i Studies: Australia
2. Association for Baha’i Studies: Canada
3. Bill Washington
4. Judy Hassall
5. Writing Articles for Magazines:1980s.
6. Dialogue Magazine: Role as Arts and Culture Editor

VII.1 Baha'i History in WA and the NT

Vol.1-3 Letters, Essays and Notes: Vols. 1-4
(sent to the Regional Council of the NT)

VIII Additional/Particular Individuals
1. Antoinette Edmonds
2. Graham Hassall
3. Gary Olson

IX. Correspondence In Relation to Writing Novels/Essays

1. From 1987 to 1991(see Unpublished Writings Vol.3 File No1)

X. Correspondence in Relation to Job Hunting

1. Some letters and material for the Years 1961 to 2001

XI. Some Special Correspondence:

1. annual emails/letters

I have written introductions to all of these volumes and some of them are at Baha’i Library-Online in the Personal Letters Section. The first edition/draft of the above outline was made at about the time of the opening of the Terraces in the autumn or winter of 2001 as I was about to enter the 40th year of my pioneering life. That draft has been revised several times since. -20/1/09
This collection of letters, what has become by degrees a voluminous epistolarium, comes from my Bahai life, 1959 to 2009, from my years as an adolescent and then as an adult at the early, middle and late stages of that part of human development as the psychologists call them. Now, into the early years of the evening of my life, the early years(60-65) of late adulthood(60-80), I post this reflection on a lifetime of writing letters within the context of my society, my Bahai life and especially my pioneering life. Although I have not been able to locate any letters before 1962, before my pioneering life began, the first letter I recall writing was in 1959, some 50 years ago, to a fellow Bahai in Japan.

In addition to the 5000 letters, there are 5000 emails and internet posts. I have not kept the internet posts. They are scattered throughout the world-wide-web and, in many cases, will be untraceable. Virtually this entire body of epistolary material was written during the dark heart of an age of transition, an age which was my life, perhaps the darkest in history.

This collection of 10,000 items including those hybrid forms of letter--the email and internet post--which emerged as a new millennium was opening are written by and to a homefront(1962-1971) and then an international pioneer(1971-2009). They are communications written to: a friend, a colleague, a fellow Bahai, a person or persons at one of 1000s of sites on the internet, a Bahai institution at the local, national or global level, one of a multitude of other organizations, a family member and some association or other. Readers will find here in this outline mainly general commentaries on my letters and letters as a genre, prose-poems on letters, mine and those of others in history and literature. Except for the occasional letter the body of my correspondence is not included here.

Another 10,000 letters and assorted items of correspondence were written in connection with my employment from the early 1960s to the early years of the new millennium, but virtually none of them were kept. The number of emails received in the first two decades of email correspondence(1989-2009) was beyond counting, but 99% of it was deleted. The small number of emails that required a response in some detail were kept as were the responses. On my demise some or all of this collected correspondence that can be accessed may be published. We shall see. I shall not see for I shall have gone to the land of those who speak no more, as The Bab put it so succinctly. He might have added to the land of those who write no more. Those mysterious dispensations of Providence and my executors will determine what happens to this lifelong collection of attempts to connect with the minds and hearts of others by means of the traditional letter and its modern variants.

Note: beginning in August 2007 all correspondence of significance was kept in my computer directory/files; the only hard copies kept were an assortment of quasi-epistolary and literary material that did not seem to have a logical place in my computer directory.

The thousands of letters and thousands of hours that this homefront and international pioneer for the Canadian Bahai community has spent writing letters, emails and internet posts in the last fifty years, 1959-2009, I dedicate to the great letter writers in Bahai history. I dedicate these hours and these communications to the Central Figures of this Faith, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice--individuals and institutions that have produced a treasure house of correspondence.

Then there are the many whose names are on Bahai lists but who have played little to no part in the Bahai community in their years of membership; as well as the not-so nameless and traceless, each of whom has their story and their varying degrees of writing and who, collectively, have written what I have little doubt are literally billions of letters, emails and written communications of an epistolary nature. To these I also dedicate my collection of letters. If I also include in my dedication, the massive quantities of correspondence that has been written by the institutions of this Cause on the appointed and elected side of its administrative structure; and the epistolary work of the two chief precursors of this Faith, those two chief luminaries in the earliest history of this emerging world religion, and those who also wrote letters in responding to the seeds these precursors sowed and were involved in different ways in the earliest days of the history of this new Faith as far back as the time that Shaykh Ahmad left his home in N.E. Arabia in 1782 to 1792(circa)---the letters of this multitude to whom I dedicate my own epistolary efforts might just reach to a distant star if they were laid side by side!

Many, if not most, of the epistolary communications of more than two centuries of Babi-Bahai history are now lost to historians and archivists. Saving letters is not a popular sport and, some would argue, neither is writing them. But, still, the epistolary paper trails of this newest of the world’s great religious systems spread back, as is obvious, to well before the French revolution in 1789 and these trails are significantly more than just a trace. No other religion has placed so subtle and significant a value on this method of exchange, writes Bahiyyih Nakhjvani in her book Asking Questions.(George Ronald, Oxford, 1990, p.6.

At some future time, when the tempests we are living through in these early decades and, perhaps, centuries of the Formative Age of this Faith, an Age which began in Bahai history in 1921, are over and a relative calm has been produced in the affairs of men, historians, archivists, biographers and analysts of many a kind will possess a literary and epistolary base of a magnitude undreamt of in any previous age for an analysis of the times, the epochs of the first two centuries of this Bahai Era(B.E. beginning in 1844) and the century of its precursors, 1744-1844. My focus here is not on this wide and many-genred literary base, however, it is on the letter and, more recently, the email and internet postings of many kinds, kinds resembling the letter in many basic ways. Letters give us a direct and spontaneous portrait of the individual and they are also useful in providing an analytical resource for social and institutional analysis. I could include here, diaries and journals since they are letters, of a sort, letters to oneself, a book of thoughts to and by oneself. But these genres, too, are not my focus in this review of my letters and this form of communication that are part of the history of this Cause.

As the poet and philosopher Emerson once said: My tongue is prone to lose the way; not so my pen, for in a letter we surely put them better.(Emerson, Manuscripts and Poems: 1860-1869) This pioneer, in a period going back now fifty years, has often found that one way of doing something for another was: to write a letter, since the mid-1990s send an email and, since the late 1990s, post on the internet. Not endowed with mechanical skills and proficencies with wood and metal; not particularly interested in so many things in the popular culture like sport, gardening, cooking, heavy doses of much of the content in the print and electronic media; indeed, I could list many personal deficiencies and areas of disinterest, I found the letter was one thing I could do and write and in the process, perhaps, document some of my sensory perceptions of the present age, perceptions that were relevant to the future of a religion whose very bones spoke of a golden age for humankind which was scarcely believable, but was worth working for and was at the basis of my own philosophy of action in this earthly life. Hopefully my letters would evince some precision and, perhaps, for a future age they would be of value. I often wondered, though, how useful this interest, this skill, was in its apparent single-mindedness for it was not, as a I say, a popular sport! The exercise resulted, too, in a collection of many a dusty volume of paper which, as T.S. Eliot once put it with some emphasis, may in the end amount to an immense pile of stuff with absolutely no value or purpose.

There is, too, some doubt, some questionableness, as to whether anyone’s letters should be taken as a reliable guide to biography and still less to history. Letters often tell us more about postures that replace relationships than about the relationships themselves. Sharon Cameron points this out in her analysis of Emily Dickinson’s letters in her book: Lyric Time: Dickinson and the Limits of Genre(Johns Hopkins UP, Baltimore, 1979, p.p.11-12). Some writers of letters spring to an intimacy in their correspondence that they do not possess in reality, in their day-to-day life. I am one of those now in my sixties, for I am not particularly keen on intimacy any more, at least outside of cyberspace. Life has given me decades of it and I have grown tired after the many years of conversation and the many degrees of intimacy that went with it. In letters I can spring to an intimacy and then forget it in a moment. Such was the experience and view of George Bernard Shaw, as voluminous a letter-writer as there ever was. Shaw once said: a full life has to be cleared out every day by the housemaid of forgetfulness or the air would become unbreathable. Shaw went on to add that an empty life is peopled with the absent and the imagined and the full life--well, I'll let you examine the life of Shaw and draw your own conclusions to this somewhat complex question of what constitutes a full life.(Frank Kermode, The Uses of Error, Collins, London, 1990, p.253. I'm sure this quite provocative thought of Shaws is partly true, especially in our age of radio, television and assorted media that did not exist in Shaws time when the letter was, arguably, one of the chief means of civilized discourse.

No matter how carefully crafted and arranged a letter is, of course, it is harmless and valueless until it is activated by the decoding reader. This was a remark by one Robert McClure in another analysis of Emily Dickinsons letters(The Seductions of Emily Dickinson, p.61). I leave this introduction at BARL, the following commentary and whatever letters I have written that may be bequeathed to posterity to these future decoding readers. I wish them well and I wish them a perceptiveness in order to win, to attain, from the often grey, familiar and accustomed elements of the quotidian in these letters, any glow, flare and light in these 5000 pieces of writing, written at a time which may well prove to be the darkest hours in the history of civilization when a new Faith expanded slowly, imperceptibly in some ways and emerged from an obscurity in which it had long languished since its inception in the 19th century and its earliest historical precedents in the mid-to-late 18th century. Over these four epochs in which my own life and letters found their place in history(1944-2021), as the first streaks of a Promised Dawn gradually were chasing away that darkness; and as this Cause slowly became a more familiar and respected feature on the international landscape, these letters became, for me, an example of my attempt, however inadequate, to proclaim the name and the message of Bahaullah.

These letters illustrate, and are part of, the struggle, the setbacks, the discouragements over these same epochs and especially the years after the unique victory that the Cause won in 1963 which has consolidated itself(Century of Light, p.92) in further victories over more than four decades(1963-2007), the period when virtually all these letters were written. These various communications are also, from my point of view anyway, part of the succession of triumphs that the Cause has witnessed from its very inception. However exhausting and discouraging the process has often been--and it has often been--I cannot fail to take deep satisfaction on a number of fronts: one of these fronts is these letters and the mysterious dispensations of a watchful Providence that, for me if not for others, are revealed therein.

My letters surprise me. If earnestness and sincerity could give them immortality they would be immortal; sadly in letter-writing as in life earnestness and sincerity, however dogged and plodding, are rarely enough. If thirst for contact and intimacy could give them immortality they would be immortal. Sadly, again, thirst is not always present and intimacy is not always desired and even when they are present in letters, these qualities are never enough as a basis for the longevity or the popularity of a corpus of letters mixed as letters always are with a quotidian reality that is enough to bore most human beings to death. The boredom is sufficient to prevent nearly all readers from ever getting past a brief examination of the cover of a book of such letters on library shelves. If immortal they be, it will be due to their association with a Cause that is, I believe, immortal. These letters will possess a conferred immortality, conferred by association, as the Hebraic and the Greek traditions would have expressed it each in their own historic and cultural contexts.

The American poet, Theodore Roethke, once said that an incoherent yet sincere piece of writing often outlives the polished product. I'm not sure how much this truth, if truth it be, applies to letters. Letters have enough of a problem surviving and even more of a problem ever being read in some fine collection usually made after a writer's death and, if one adds inarticulateness to the recipe, the salt may just lose all of its savour.

The letters will float unread on some literary bath-water, back-water. Letters, in some ways, possess the shapeless urges of the unconscious and try to catch the movement of the mind of the writer amidst a practically practical and a humanly human everydayness. They often remain, for most readers, just that: shapeless and beyond the mind and the interest of the general, the ordinary, reader. Often neither the recipient nor posterity take any interest in the individual product or the entire epistolary collection, as the case may be. Even when given a fine shape, as the letters of Queen Victoria have been given, they come over time to catch fewer and fewer people’s eyes. Still, her letters give ample testimony to her character, her everyday life and the times. One does not write a letter to increase ones popularity and if, as Eliot implies, one writes with one eye on the future, when that future arrives one will be pulling up the proverbial daisies.

Inventiveness and humour are two wonderful assets and, if they are possessed by a letter writer, the letter can come alive. The letters of the poet Roger White possessed these qualities and they had a narrative momentum without which his letters would have grown static and repetitive. Sadly, I have often felt that my letters expose the limits of my literary, my epistolary and certainly my humorous sensibility. My letters often grow limp, or so it seems to me, perhaps because I have often felt limp; or they become crowded with quasi-mystical, quasi-intellectual, abstractions as I have tried to deal with concepts that I only half understand and ideas far beyond my philosophical and literary capacity to put into words. In some of my earliest letters, letters to my first wife which we used to call my love-letters, written in the early months of 1967, I fell back into an emulation of the Guardian's writings, hardly appropriate Judy and I often felt later, when we read them on a quiet Sunday afternoon, to express my feelings for her. Of course, the feelings they expressed were ideological and intellectual and not aesthetic and romantic. These letters were, in the end, thrown away.

Sometimes, especially in the first three decades of my letter writing, say, 1958 to 1988, a letter will contain a certain inwardness and at other times I gamble with an intensity of emotional expression. And so, by the 1990s and the turn of the millennium, I had gradually, insensibly, found a voice, a balance, to put my emotions and thoughts into a form I was comfortable with. Although I had been socialized in a literary milieux in my childhood and adolescence(1944-1963) and emerged from that milieux in the first years of my young adulthood(1965-1974), confidence in my literary ability was slow in developing and did not really take on any solid form and shape until I was 28(1972) and living in Whyalla South Australia as an international pioneer for the Canadian Bahai community. Confidence, though, is no guarantee of the ability to connect with a reader or readers. I am sure some found my emails and letters far too long for their tastes and interests. One advantage of a long letter I found was that I was able to express an idea, even mention the Cause in some tangential fashion. In a shorter letter this would not have been possible given the social and cultural climate in which I was writing. Occasionally, someone shocked me with their feedback, especially on the internet and I slowly learned to package my words in small doses on most of the sites on the WWW. Shock is often a useful antidote for some policy one is pursuing or some behaviour one is exhibiting in letter writing or in other areas of life.

Letter writing is a little like gambling; you have to stake a great deal, everything it often seems, on one throw. Unlike gambling you often have no idea whether you won or lost. But this is often the case in relationships and in life: one cannot possibly evaluate what happens to our letters, to our acts, to our lives--or anyone else’s--in terms of whether they will result in justice, harm or benefit--since their fruition, ultimately, is destined for another plane of existence. But, still, we do judge and we do evaluate, as I do here in this lengthy analysis at the Bahai Academic Resources Library Site.

Some 10,000(circa)letters were written in connection with job applications, job inquiries and on the job responsibilities: 1960-2008. An uncountable number of emails were received and sent in the years 1988-2008 but, as I say above, 99% of them were deleted. Virtually none of the communications from the job world were kept, except for a few in two two-ring binders. Very few letters or items of literary memorabilia remain from the years 1953 to 1967. Even if ninety-nine-hundredths of the emails I received were sent to oblivion since 1988, a small but significant body of this hybrid type of letter was kept in the two decades, 1988-2008. One day all of the introductions I wrote to each of the many volumes of my letters and emails, internet posts and replies and the several general statements concerning my letters may be included in a collected letters since half a century has been spent in my Bahai life and in the pioneering process writing letters. For this first edition of The Letters of Ron Price: 1957/8-2007/8 on BARL the above outline and comment on the overall layout and organization of my letters and emails that I have written and received and thrown away and deleted will suffice.

There are three categories of my letters that one day may be found in the event of my demise and in the event that such a search is desired:

1. extant letters or fragments of letters that I have written or received, in public repositories or private collections including my own collection, that have been examined in the original manuscript or typescript, in photocopy or email;

2. published letters written or received for which no extant originals have yet been located; and

3. unlocated letters for which varying types of evidence--photocopies, emails and complete or partial typed transcriptions have been located.

The database of information for these three categories of letters, at this stage far from complete, aims to contain the following fields or information bases for each written and received item:(a ) year and date, (b) addressee, (c)place and (d) original.

It is hoped that the terms: manuscript, typescript, postcard, photocopy, typed copy, handwritten script, email or some combination of these terms (for instance typed copy of handwritten script) will accompany each item. Minimal descriptive information—fragment or mutilated—is provided parenthetically where relevant.

The technicalities of presentation when complete are those of convention; namely, (a) intrusions into the text are marked by square brackets; (b) spelling and punctuation is to be silently corrected; (c) some mannerisms are to be maintained; (d) dates are to be made uniform and (e) et cetera.

I have provided below some analysis and some illustration, some context for whatever creativity is to be found by readers when and if this collection is ever published. Letters are always, it seems to me, exemplary illustrations of a writers creative capacity and the significance of his epistolary skills. I do not claim that my letters are masterpieces of the letter-writing art. If they disclose a personality that is well and good, but the world has millions of personalities now disclosed for the public eye, stories of individuals overcoming tribulation and achieving success. Another such story is not required. And I have no intention nor do I wish to make any claim to my life being a representative of that of an ideal Baha’i or a Baha’i pioneer. This is not an account of an exemplum. Claims to representativeness, it seems to me, are at best partial and at worst highly misleading to those who might glean some context for mentorship. I find there is something basically unstable or slippery about experience or, to put it in even stronger terms, in the words of Baha’u’llah, there is something about experience that bears only “the mere semblance of reality.” There is something about it that is elusive, even vain and empty, like “a vapour in the desert.”

There are so many exegetical and interpretive problems that accompany efforts to tie down the meaning of a life, of an experience, of a relationship. There is something divided, duplicitous, something that has happened but has yet to be defined and described or, as is usually the case, never described, at least not in writing, depending of course on the experience of the person and their literary skills. There are innumerable and indispensable points of reference in a life and yet so many of them take on the feeling of a mirage, as if they are not really there, like a dream, particularly as the years lengthen into later adulthood and old age. Some of the disclosure that takes place in a selection of letters can make the world better off, but this is not always the case and I certainly could not guarantee a positive result for my disclosures here. For most people, of course, the exercise, my disclosures, are totally irrelevant. If these letters disclose something of the Bahai Faith, some new perspective over these four epochs, I will feel that this amassing of correspondence has been worthwhile.

These letters of mine are not so much examples of carefully crafted writing as they are of unstudied informality, spontaneous indiscretions and a certain cultivated civility. I like to think these letters possess a wonderful chameleon-like quality for it is necessary that I reshape myself for each correspondent. Each letter is a performance and an impersonation. These letters contain many voices. On the occasions when I send out form letters, at Christmas and Ayyam-i-Ha, this diversity and variety is not achieved. For some respondents to my letters my reshaping is not appreciated or enjoyed, indeed, no response was forthcoming at all to many of my letters. As in the world of interpersonal interaction, of verbal exchange, so in the world of letters: not every communication is meaningful to both parties and, as in the world of the teacher that I was for years, not every comment of mine was returned.

The next section of this somewhat long posting here at BARL comes from chapter 3 of my memoirs. Not all of chapter 3 is included here, but enough to give a taste and a critique of the letter-writing process from the point of view of this Bahai who began his pioneering life 46 years ago in 1962 and who wrote his first letter to a Japanese Bahai youth in 1959--or so I recall with some doubt as I write these words more than 50 years later. It seems to me that those who read these letters one day, if they ever do, will have difficulty grasping the nature of my personality inspite of, or perhaps because of, the extensive literary base I have provided. The only impeccable writers and the only personalities we feel we understand, William Hazlitt noted nearly two centuries ago, are those who never write and people we have only briefly met. I would add to Hazlitt's analysis here that we often feel we understand a personality, but it is always in part. Getting to know people is a bit of a mystery at the best of times whether they are beside you on a bus, a train, a kitchen table or a bed. One is always adjusting ones mask for correspondents and, in the process, one creates a series of self-portraits, a mosaic of true and false, real and unreal. The quality and maturity of my relationship with others is, as William Hatcher pointed out 25 years ago, the best measure of spiritual progress and growth, acquiring the capacity for such mature relationships depends essentially on an intense inner life and self-development. And the measure of ones spirituality depends on much else, too much else to venture an analysis of in this brief statement. The letter is a reflection of this inner life but, in the end, it is but a reflection of a spirituality which lies at the centre of ones heart and soul.(William Hatcher, The Concept of Spirituality, Bahai Studies, Vol.11, 1982, p.25.)

I assume that human personality is essentially unknowable, that it is the revelation of a masquerade in a stage play--for all the worlds a stage. This is not to say that there are not some aspects of life that are revealed through letters, but readers must keep in mind that they are dealing with fragmentary, often ambiguous and decidedly opaque material over which they will be unable to wield any kind of imperial authority and comprehension. Whatever insights they gain in readings, they will be inevitably partial and will have a distinct tendency to crumble in a epistolary world that is often obtuse, dull and vulnerable from or within the onslaught of the quotidian. Collections of letters are not the most favourite fare in the popular periodical press, journalistic studies and at book launches except perhaps in the form of letters to the editor. They exist, letters that is, in a somewhat secret, fenced off area of privacy, an island of s

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