Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Swirled World

This is officially my favorite photo of my son Douglass Ali ( at least today anyway). When I took the photo he was walking towards me laughing with his cute "I'm swirled." T-shirt on. A friend of ours who is a white Southerner married to a Ghanaian, gave him the shirt right after he was born. It is a little tribute to his multiracial parentage.

I was thinking this morning about how much I like the "swirled" concept. I've never liked hearing people referred to as "half-this" or "half-that". I look at my son and see 100% Douglass Ali. Referring to people as "mixed" is slightly better though I've never really liked that either. "Multiracial" is the most accurate given that his mother is also "swirled" with a Russian-Jewish American father and a German American mother, while his father is a swirl of African, European, and Cherokee ancestry. It's nice to now have "swirled" as an option because it is a more fun way of describing him and may prove useful once he's old enough to start wondering about race.

I was also thinking that my son's T-shirt is an apt metaphor for the kind of world that Baha'is are striving to build. This is a world that is united in its diversity, where human differences come together in ways that make things better.

"This diversity, this difference is like the naturally created dissimilarity and variety of the limbs and organs of the human body, for each one contributeth to the beauty, efficiency and perfection of the whole. When these different limbs and organs come under the influence of man's sovereign soul, and the soul's power pervadeth the limbs and members, veins and arteries of the body, then difference reinforceth harmony, diversity strengtheneth love, and multiplicity is the greatest factor for co-ordination"(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 291).

In order for a swirl to work it requires that the different flavors can be both seen and tasted. Otherwise it is simply a big, sweet, mixed-up blob. Creating a global blob is not what Baha'is are trying to do. We are trying to swirl the world.

"Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Bahá'u'lláh. Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks to broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an ever-changing world. It can conflict with no legitimate allegiances, nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is neither to stifle the flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men's hearts, nor to abolish the system of national autonomy so essential if the evils of excessive centralization are to be avoided. It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human race. It insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world. It repudiates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other. Its watchword is unity in diversity"(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 41).