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Spitting the dummy

Discussion in 'Are you pissed off?' started by RonPrice, Jan 23, 2010.

  1. RonPrice

    RonPrice New Member

    In Australia there is a most colourful and appropriate expression for a phenomenon that is universal. It is a phenomenon one sees in all sectors of social life. In this short essay I would like to deal with its manifestation at the Local Spiritual Assembly level. I want to confine my description of its manifestation to the several instances in which I have actually observed it since beginning my pioneering life in 1962, thirty-six years ago. I would also like to make some general statements of analysis.

    My first experience of it was indirect, some time in the early months of 1963, probably about the time of the election of the first Universal House of Justice in April.
    It was a week night and I was in matriculation, my university entrance year. My mother was attending an LSA meeting, one of perhaps the first dozen as a new member of the Dundas LSA. As the evening was getting late, my guess it was some time approaching 11 pm, my mother ordered all the LSA members out of the house. She said she had to get up early in the morning and go to work. In all likelihood she was at her wits-end from some aspect of the consultation. I am not going to theorize as to what exactly it was about the consultation that took her to the edge and over it. But whatever it was it was my first experience of 'spitting the dummy', as it is called in Australia. I had only been a Baha'i for a few months. I like to think of it, now, as part of an 'initiation ceremony', a rite de passage into full frontal Baha'i experience.

    This wondrous Cause offers many sweet-scented streams, but it also offers the initiate "rusted nails that wound"(Roger White, The Witness of Pebbles, p.49). And not only the initiate: "sparse nourishment the slow years give"(ibid.,p.120). Any person who is more than a little familiar with the writings is aware of the difficulties that are virtually inevitable in life. I have heard of more than a few 'spittings of the dummy' in other Baha'i communities, on other LSAs but I will con fine my remarks to those I saw or experienced very closely and indirectly like the one above.

    It would be four years before another dummy got 'spat' in my presence on an LSA. I will not deal in personalities here, however juicy that might be to the reader. In many ways it does not matter who the person is. I am more concerned with the dynamics involved. One of the LSA members got so angry at another member that the meeting had to adjourn and a reconciliation occured outside the house before the meeting could continue. The Cause of the problem, looking back from a perspective of over thirty years, was the intensity of the person who got angry. The person was so intense that anger was in some ways a predictable behaviour given the appropriate quanity of frustration.

    It would be five years before the next dummy spitting occurred. This time it was in Australia in a newly formed LSA in Whyalla. The year was 1972. The event did not take place in the lounge-room where the LSA met, rather it took place in the home of two of the members when they were confronted with a behaviour pattern inimical to the standards of the Cause. Wife-swapping is not an acceptable part of Baha'i behaviour patterns and when efforts were made to counsel the new believers in question, they got angry and upset and left the Faith. The details involved here are a little rusty after all these years, but I think this is the general thrust of the situation. There were other problems in this new community at the time, some involving covenant breaking. Dummies were clearly spat and the Baha'i pioneering-initiation ceremony continued into its second decade.

    Three years later I was living in Kew, a suburb of Melbourne, when I saw one of the funniest dummy spitting exercises. Since it involved me I am happy to relate the event without implicating any other member. My own personal frustrations were already running high from events I won't go into here, but after nearly two hours of consultation one of the members took me over the edge. We were brought close after the meeting adjourned and I apologized, but it was only after I had thrown a carton of milk over one of my dear fellow believers. It was like a baptism, not of fire or water, but of milk. The whole experience was quite cathartic for the assembled members and a great laugh was had by all. The event was unific. Of all the dummy spittings this was the most delightful.

    Ballarat in the years 1976-78 offered at least two, and perhaps as many as four, dummy spitting scenes: people walking out of the room; one swearing event with the standard four letter invective saved for those occasions when the person is at the edge and can not take any more and has not developed any conflict resolution techniques for that particular situation; people leaving the Cause and a general level of emotional intensity that would engrave the events of these years on one's memory. One could sculpt a statue, or paint a portrait. The details have got lost in time, but the general image and its impact on my emotions will never be forgotten.

    It would be a dozen years before the final dummy spitting scenes would take place. They all involved me and the LSA of Belmont. I was often taken to the edge in the years 1991 to 1998. But I only spat the dummy on two occasions, one in the early 1990s at the end of several meetings I just had to go outside any relieve myself, metaphorically speaking, from the tension of the group. The last time, the last occasion when the dummy got ejected was tonight. One member so insensed me that I left the meeting, about half way through. I think this time I behaved in the right way, perhaps like 'Abdu'l-Baha in Chicago when he left the meeting saying they didn't 'execute'. I like to thin I behaved in the right manner, but one often does not know. One often can not evoke some simple Baha'i principle to justify behaviour.

    LSA work is involved, demanding and requires all the human virtues you can muster. I still am far short, but the trip has been an event; it was been real and a spiritual exercise far exceeding the many old ones involving meditation, yoga, breathing. The baha'i Cause offers you the stuff of life. You may be found wanting, but the theatre is a drama of the greatest significance in the history of humankind.

    Ron Price
    16 August 1998

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