July 2011

My Heart Is My Compass


A few weeks ago my husband and I were barely 2 hours into a 9-day car trip when our GPS unit broke down. We considered our options, which included more reliance on printed maps, getting advice from other travellers, stopping at Internet Cafes along the way, telephoning ahead for directions, stopping at tourist information booths, and other such ideas. As it turned out, the GPS had an overheating problem, and by the next day it worked again, though only for a few minutes. And so on for the rest of the trip, i.e. occasional use with long black-outs in-between.

Disappointing and frustrating though it was, we had an excellent trip overall. And as it so often the case in life, the situation got me thinking about its parallels in other realms of being. At an admittedly superficial level, our dilemma required us to use our wits and not just our modern gizmos, and that itself is an opportunity for growth. But more importantly, since ultimately life is more about the journey than the destination, the metaphor is obvious and almost begs for exploration.

Now taking a deeper look at the situation, I might ask myself where I go for guidance and direction. To what extent do I plan ahead, improvise, depend on myself, or trust others? How do I decide where to go, what to do, and how do I determine and evaluate my options?

As a Baha’i, my own moral compass — the source of guidance when I may otherwise be uncertain about what to do – are, the Teachings of Baha’u’llah and His appointed successors. These Teachings range from the profound principle of unity to practical, world embracing matters of governance.

In personal situations, I can get directions by asking the question “What will promote unity?” At a social or collective level, a concern for justice is the compass in decision-making, because it is the means by which unity of thought and action can be achieved. Within the realm of governance, it is therefore proper and compassionate to make decisions not only on financial or political grounds but also on moral and spiritual grounds, following the insights of the human heart as if they are themselves a compass.

 Abdul-Baha wrote, “If the moral precepts and foundations of divine civilization become united with the material advancement of man, there is no doubt that the happiness of the human world will be attained and that from every direction the glad tidings of peace upon earth will be announced.”

GPS units work or not; roadside signs are helpful, misleading or even absent; maps are up-to-date or obsolete; Internet cafes are available or not; and so on, through the range of human choices. On the other hand, religious (spiritual and moral) principles do not overheat, never require batteries, and are unfailing.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2011