Thursday, October 14, 2010

Living Waters

This servant appealeth to every diligent and enterprising soul to exert his utmost endeavour and arise to rehabilitate the conditions in all regions and to quicken the dead with the living waters of wisdom and utterance, by virtue of the love he cherisheth for God, the One, the Peerless, the Almighty, the Beneficent. (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 172)

As I mentioned in a previous post, October 15th is Blog Action Day and the focus this year is on the importance of clean water. You may already be familiar with many of the outrageous statistics related yet another crisis of a world that seems to have lost its mind. If not, here are a few:
884 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world's population. (WHO/UNICEF)

2.6 billion people
in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, this is almost two fifths of the world's population. (WHO/UNICEF)

1.4 million children
die every year from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation - 4,000 child deaths a day or one child every 20 seconds. This equates to 160 infant school classrooms lost every single day to an entirely preventable public health crisis. (WHO/WaterAid)

Thinking about this issue of clean water, I can't help but consider it a kind of metaphor for a collapsing civilization panting after the living waters of the spirit, choking on the dust of materialism's undelivered promises of universal prosperity and progress. This crisis, like so many others, reflects the inevitable consequences of a human race divided against itself, as yet only dimly conscious of its oneness and failing to come to grips with the fundamental transformation of the social order that such consciousness ultimately demands.

Let there be no mistake. The principle of the Oneness of Mankind -- the pivot round which all the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh revolve-- is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope. Its appeal is not to be merely identified with a reawakening of the spirit of brotherhood and good-will among men, nor does it aim solely at the fostering of harmonious cooperation among individual peoples and nations. Its implications are deeper, its claims greater than any which the Prophets of old were allowed to advance. Its message is applicable not only to the individual, but concerns itself primarily with the nature of those essential relationships that must bind all the states and nations as members of one human family...It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced...It calls for no less than the reconstruction and the demilitarization of the whole civilized world -- a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, its script and language, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units. (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 42)

Achieving access to clean water for all, like virtually every other challenge facing humanity today, will require more than the mechanics of international development, the advocacy and generosity of well-meaning people, or even that rarely discovered gem of heavenly statesmanship. It will require that very phenomenon whose necessity is so frequently acknowledged and yet is so quickly sacrificed when it conflicts with the dictates of personal ambition, partisanship, or prejudice: unity. Baha'u'llah put it this way:

"My object is none other than the betterment of the world and the tranquillity of its peoples. The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 286)