A man was asked, “What is the difference between ignorance and apathy?” He responded “I don’t know and I don’t care.” A common obstacle that prevents people of different persuasions from expanding their spiritual horizons is apathy, an epidemic disease described as “the chronic fatigue syndrome of the soul:”
…the love of many [people] will grow cold. _Christ (Matt. 24:12)
At their initial exposure to the Bahá’í message, many people entertain thoughts of this kind: “One more religion. Why should I care? I am too busy. Why should I waste my time studying someone else’s theology?” They see the Bahá’í Faith as another division within the vast domain of religion, as another set of arbitrary beliefs based on someone’s interpretation.
But once these skeptics overcome their initial apathy and distrust and investigate the Bahá’í Faith, they are astonished by its logic, relevance, and inspirational powers. At that point they say “Why did it take me so long to regain my trust, to look into this faith, to discover its value and relevance to my life? This is so obvious! Why can’t others see? The Bahá’í Faith is so logical, so sensible! Why did I not hear about it sooner? Why didn’t someone tell me about it when I was younger?”
There is nothing so powerful as truth; and often nothing as strange. _Daniel Webster
Many of these seekers indicate that they found the Bahá’í Faith at a time when they had lost their faith and hope, or were on the verge of losing them. Going to a church or synagogue did not satisfy their spiritual hunger; for they could not relate to what was being taught or done in the name of religion. After years of searching and wandering, they found that the Bahá’í Faith presented them with a new alternative—one in harmony with their hopes and dreams. At a critical juncture in their lives—a point of doubt and skepticism—the new faith offered them a glimmer of optimism, one that gradually developed into a new zest for life and a new hope for the world.
Hope is like the sun which, as we journey towards it, it casts the shadow of our burden behind us. _Samuel Smiles
Some people feel comfortable in their small cubicles, and avoid any encounter that may disturb the panorama of their sweet illusions:
We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
and let our illusions die. _W. H. Auden
Some people lack confidence both in themselves and their Creator. They think they are too small for God’s grace and boundless blessings. They cannot believe that the Creator of the universe knows them and remembers them, and wants to give them His immortal bounties. They too are afraid of extending their hands or opening their hearts.
Once there was a kind seller of cookies. A little girl was watching him. She loved cookies, but had no money to buy them. The seller saw the longing in the little girl’s eyes and asked her, “Do you want some cookies?” The girl nodded her head. “Hold out your hands,” he said. But the little girl would not. “Hold out your hands,” he repeated. Still she did not move. When she got home, her mother asked, “Why didn’t you hold out your hands for the cookies?” “Because,” the little girl said, “his hands were bigger than mine.”
Dr. Dyer discusses the principle of “abundance and scarcity:”
Abundance is not something that we manufacture, but something that we accept and tune in to. If our mind believes in scarcity, expecting only a small portion of life’s abundance, then that is what our life experience will be. We receive that which we are willing to let in, and what we block is not from unavailability but from scarcity beliefs. When we conceptualize abundance and prosperity as something we are deserving of, we notice a significant shift occurring. First the thoughts about what we deserve change and then slowly our behavior changes…we expand what we focus upon.149
O Moving Form Of Dust!
I desire communion with thee, but thou wouldst put no trust in Me…At all times I am near unto thee, but thou art ever far from Me. Imperishable glory I have chosen for thee, yet boundless shame thou hast chosen for thyself. While there is yet time, return, and lose not thy chance.150 _Bahá’u’lláh
For the Lord, high as is he, cares for the lowly… _Psalms 138:6
Still others hunger for truth, contentment, and fellowship with God, yet do not hear the invitation call to the banquet. The loud and varied voices of our time muffle their ears and prevent them from hearing and heeding the Voice of the divine:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes [his fear or resistance to knock], I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. _Christ (Rev. 3:20-21)
The invitation is extended once again to all those who wish to enter and see the banquet of the Kingdom:
Open the doors of your hearts…We, in truth, have opened unto you the gates of the Kingdom.151 _Bahá’u’lláh
Many are so preoccupied with making a living that they forget about living. They do not hear a call as urgent, a warning as forceful and impassioned, an invitation as magnificent and rewarding as this:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!…You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are poor…I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich…and [buy] salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see…To him who overcomes [his apathy…] I will give right to sit with me on my throne… _Christ (Rev. 3:15-21)
The essence of understanding is to testify to one’s poverty, and submit to the Will of the Lord…152 _Bahá’u’lláh
Tear asunder…the veils that have grievously blinded your vision, and, through the power born of your belief in the unity of God, scatter the idols of vain imitation. Enter, then, the holy paradise of the good-pleasure of the All-Merciful.153 _Bahá’u’lláh
How can apathy be overcome?
Apathy can only be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal which takes the imagination by storm; secondly a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice. _Arnold Toynbee
Bahá’ís have already shown that the plan they pursue is not an unreachable dream, that with the divine Hand at work the real and ideal merge in a heavenly and magnificent pattern.
The power of ideals is incalculable. We see no power in a drop of water. But let it get into a crack in the rock and be turned to ice, and it splits the rock; turned into steam, it drives the pistons of the most powerful engines. Something has happened to it which makes active and effective the power that is latent in it. _Albert Schweitzer
To live in the presence of great truths, to be dealing with eternal laws, to be led by permanent ideals—that is what keeps a man patient when the world ignores him, and calm and unspoiled when the world praises him. _Francis Peabody