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Roger White, Roger White,  

poet / writer / reviewer (poetry),  Canada / Israel.

Advice From a Poet - "Bring Chocolate"

Art has a message for us. It says: ´Care, grow, develop, adapt, overcome, nurture, protect, foster, cherish.´ It says: ´Your reality is spiritual.´ It says: ´Achieve your full humanness.´ It invites us to laugh, cry, reflect, strive, persevere. It says: ´Rejoice!´ Above all, it says to us to be! We cannot turn our backs on art.

I am of the conviction that, in the future, increasingly, one important measure of the spiritual maturity and health of the Bahá´í world community will be its capacity to attract and win the allegiance of artists of all kinds, and its sensitivity and imaginativeness in making creative use of them.

Artists -- not tricksters and conjurers, but committed artists -- will be a vital force in preventing inflexibility in our community. They will be a source of rejuvenation. They will serve as a bulwark against fundamentalism, stagnation and administrative sterility. Artists call us away from formulas, caution us against the fake, and accustom us to unpredictability -- that trait which so characterizes life. The validate our senses. They link us to our own history. They clothe and give expression to our dreams and aspirations. They teach us impatience with stasis. They aid us to befriend our private experiences and heed our inner voices. They reveal how we may subvert our unexamined mechanistic responses to the world. They sabotage our smugness. They alert us to divine intimations. Art conveys information about ourselves and our universe which can be found nowhere else. Our artists are our benefactors.

To the degree the Bahá´í community views its artists as a gift rather than a problem will it witness the spread of the Faith "like wildfire" as promised by Shoghi Effendi, through their talents being harnessed to the dissemination of the spirit of the Cause.

In general society, artists are often at war with their world and live on its fringes. Their lack of discretion in expressing their criticism -- which may be hostile, vituperative, negative, and offer no solutions -- may lead to their rejection and dismissal by the very society they long to influence. Artists are frequently seen as troublemakers, menaces, destroyers of order, or a frivolous clowns. Sometimes the kindest thing said of them is that are neurotic or mad. In the Bahá´í community it must be different. Baha'u'llah said so. Consider that the Bahá´í Writings state that ´All art is a gift of the Holy Spirit´ and exhorts us to respect those engaged in sciences, arts and crafts.

The artist has among other responsibilities that of questioning our values, of leading us to new insights that release our potential for growth, of illuminating our humanity, or renewing our authenticity by putting us in touch with our inner selves and of creating works of art that challenge us -- as Rilke says -- to change our lives. They are a stimulus to transformation.

In the Bahá´í Order the artists will find their home at the center of their community, free to interact constructively with the people who are served by their art; free to give and to receive strength and inspiration. It is my hope that you will be in the vanguard of this reconciliation between artists and their world. As Baha'u'llah foretells, the artists are coming home to claim their place. I urge you: Be there! Welcome them! Bring chocolate!

Roger White

Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands