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On Divorce, Relationships, Society, and Human Progress

Iris & Jarome Bali wedding photo
My blog has been quite vacant for many years.
How to write about the challenges of moving to a culture completely opposite to your own, and the process of your life falling apart, your failure after a decade of trying, in denial, to fix problems that were unfixable and loss of the chance to be with your son you had waited so long for and to suffer the same fate as my divorced parents?

In 2013 I finally accepted defeat, I had waited over 10 years to have a family, and spent 6 gruelling years and every penny I had trying to adopt a child only to have him taken away by my ex when she decided to move back to Canada in response to my ‘year of patience’. I won’t go into the complicated and confusing details. The most painful and difficult time in my life, yes, but I don’t blame her for what happened, or myself, this was a failure of society.

Shoghi Effendi said, “A tempest, unprecedented in its violence, unpredictable in its course, catastrophic in its immediate effects is at present sweeping the face of the earth. Its driving power is remorselessly gaining in range and momentum. Its cleansing force, however much undetected, is increasing with every passing day. Humanity, gripped in the clutches of its devastating power, is smitten by the evidences of its resistless fury. It can neither perceive its origin, nor probe its significance, nor discern its outcome…”

There are dark forces at work in our society, suffering is far too common as a result of ambitions for profit and this has become a distraction to solving common health problems that are destroying families and taking lives.
We are witnessing the collapse of its social structure and the functional, healthy family. Proof of this is in the fact that even amongst the Baha’i community, one that is the utmost authority on unity and healthy community building, over 50% of marriages are failing, This is by no means because the Baha’i system doesn’t work, it is working to unite vastly different cultures in over 200 countries, but it is not immune to the deeply rooted problems in our society that eat away like a cancer at our communities, families, relationships, our lives, our human progress. Their source is al the things our culture prides itself on most: individualism, materialism, self glorification, apathy, and mediocrity. These poisons are alone enough to destroy any marriage and relationship never mind hope for a healthy society that is progressing forward. That is not to say progress is not being made, it is just being greatly hindered.

There is a major and essential component of our education missing that is required to heal this cancer, that is the ability to have healthy and effective relationships with other human beings. Simple right? Absolutely essential for our lives, correct? And yet, where did you have a chance to learn this properly? Did your parents teach you this essential skill? Were they successful in exemplifying this? It should have been taught in middle school, but did you even have a chance to learn it in university? We are not taught the most essential skills required for a healthy and effective life. The only place my ex and I probably ever had a chance to learn this was in a Baha’i study that was a few paragraphs long, the topic of effective consultation that is free of ego. A longer course on the topic is coming, but this is not a task for the Baha’i community alone, it is something that should be taught as early and as often as possible. ‘Effective Relationships’ is an essential skill every human needs to be a master at to have a healthy life and be a community building member of society! But most of us never have a chance to learn this.

I could go on, but a similar disturbing example of our delusions about education in essential skills is the fact that we think that as human beings, because we have the ability to procreate, that we know how to parent a child. Parenting is not something we innately know how to do effectively it is something we need to learn through research and insight from those parents who have raised children that are well balanced, successful, helpful members of society.

These two points about being educated to relate well with others are interlinked, how can we effectively raise children if we cannot relate to each other and pursue healthy relationships? We cannot be naive and think that because we live on a planet with millions of other humans we are innately great at having healthy relationships with each other! We’ve well proven that not to be true. Without these dark forces influencing every aspect of our lives, and a spiritual education at a young age, maybe, but right now that is not the case for most of us.
Without a daily spiritual practice that reminds us that we are created by something greater, spirits in a material world, a world designed to help us grow and develop, our egos WILL take control of our lives, which means we will NOT be in control any longer. Human society cannot progress in this animal state. As long as our egos are in control, there is no hope for happy marriage, well raised children, and healthy society! When our ego is in control, it’s hard to learn or even accept we need to educate ourselves or improve.

Abdu’l-Baha said…“we must be willing to clear away all that we have previously learned, all that would clog our steps on the way to truth…The principal reason for the decline and fall of peoples is ignorance. Today the mass of the people are uninformed even as to ordinary affairs, how much less do they grasp the core of the important problems and complex needs of the time”

Now don’t get me wrong, hope is not lost. My life itself has been rejuvenated, I have a wonderful Chinese wife and we have started a new family together. Every day in the world, there are undeniable signs of human progress and advancement the likes of which we have not seen in a thousand years.

The Baha’i Universal House of Justice said:

“Yet there is reassurance in the knowledge that, amidst the disintegration, a new kind of collective life is taking shape which gives practical expression to all that is heavenly in human beings. Have hope. It will not always be so.”

Maybe your reading this and thinking, “What’s he going on about? My life is pretty good and everything is great!” Well I’m not talking about how to keep things going the way they are, this is about advancing civilization, probably a few hundred years process in my opinion.
I could go on, but I think I’ve said more than enough to get the thoughts that have burdened my mind for years out in the open to hopefully benefit someone like myself.
So in conclusion, If your reading this and have children and don’t want them to end up in unhappy, broken, divorce affected lives, you have an obligation to educate them to relate effectively with others of all races, classes and personalities. This may mean transforming yourself as a parent first. This starts but should not end with virtues:

“Give them (the children) the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.” – Abdu’l-Baha

(accustoming children to hardship is so key, my spoiled western upbringing has given me unrealistic expectations that are way too high, a problem most pre 2000 Chinese don’t have)

This is one of the most important principles of the Baha’i faith that attracted me: The principle of universal and compulsory education.
Bahá’u’lláh compared the world of humanity to the human body. Within this organism, millions of cells, diverse in form and function, play their part in maintaining a healthy system. Similarly, harmonious relationships among individuals, communities, and institutions serve to sustain society and allow for the advancement of civilization.

As long as 2 people are willing, There are more and more resources out there to help us reduce the number of relationship casualties. I assisted Baha’i artist Elika Mahony who has been married over 20 years  put together a page dedicated to relationships and marriage here.
http://www.elikamahony.com/home/love-marriage/
John Gottman has also done amazing research to help people with all types of relationships
https://www.gottman.com/about/the-gottman-method/
He says, to make a relationship last, we need to learn how to manage conflict and ‘keep it calm’, generate greater understanding. Baha’is are often too idealistic, thinking they can accomplish today what may take many years to master in eliminating conflict’. Sometimes we need the practical, scientific approach of research to make realistic progress.

I only wish I new as a child or even 20 years ago what I know now. Everyone should have that chance before they embark on their life journey!

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