"Not beginning at the Beginning...."
My individual journey from the promised land, from my home in Canada, my home town in Burlington Ontario, from one promised land to another and then another I have written in the form of a 800 page autobiography. It took me twenty years to write this piece and in the pages which follow I have included some of chapter one, the introduction. I hope readers find some pleasure here and there:
Dispositions are plausible responses1 to the circumstances individual Baha'is found themselves in and they led, in toto and inter alia, to the gradual emergence from obscurity of their religion over these four epochs. The story here is partly of this emergence and partly it is myself telling my own life-story, as Nietzsche writes in his life story, in his famous autobiographical pages of Ecce Homo.2 For I have gone on writing for years, perhaps as much as two decades now, in relative obscurity doing what I think is right. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Joseph Kling, "Narratives of Possibility: Social Movements, Collective Stories and Dilemmas of Practice," 1995, Internet; and F. Nietzsche in Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood, Adriana Cavarero, Routledge, NY, 2000, p.85.
I am intentionally not going to begin at the beginning. Most autobiographies that I have examined thus far seem to be sequential exercises beginning with the author's first memories and proceeding logically until the last syllable of their recorded time, their allotment on earth, at least up to the time of the writing of their said autobiography. This is not my intention here. Anyway, when does one really begin a journey, a friendship, a love affair? Beginnings are fascinating, misunderstood, enigmatic. I’ve written many poems about various beginnings and the more I write the more elusive they become. But there comes a moment, a point, when we realize that we are already well on the way; we know the journey has definitely started. And as we travel along we mark historical moments which we weave into our narrative. They often change, our view of them that is, as we grow older: these rites de passage, these coming of age moments, these transition periods, these passages, these crises, calamities and victories. Unlike the Roman historians of the republican days who wrote their histories annalistically, that is year by year in sequence, this work is much more varied and informal with a slight tendency to write by plans and epochs.
I frankly do not know how I am going to approach this story, though I have no trouble finding such historical moments and there is always in the background to my life ever-present plans, new beginnings, fresh initiatives, systematic advances, "leaps and thrusts," triumphs and losses, vistas of new horizons and dark clouds. Thinking seriously about autobiography or, indeed, any intellectual discipline, requires us to acknowledge our ignorance of the subject. This is a prerequisite. Our past, any past, is another country, a place that exists in our imaginations and in those uncertain and often unreliable echoes of our lives that we trace in words, in places and in things. There is, then, an inscrutability which paradoxically lies at the heart of this work. I return again and again, taking the reader with me, to absences, spaces in my knowledge, my memory, my construction. I recognize that the act of making this my life, into a whole, from the pieces I have left from my past is necessarily a creative one, an act of imagination, what one writer calls "the dialectic between discovery and invention." In the process I transform my history and the history of my times, from something static into something lived. I am not imprisoned in some imagined objectivity; rather, I reenter the moment, the hour, the days and the years and imagine it as something experienced from multiple perspectives, simultaneously acknowledging its erasures and silences. This book compels me to think again about my life and readers to think about theirs.