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Baha’i Faith & Homosexuality: It’s Getting Better

On January 3rd, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States sent out a letter to the American Baha’i community, quoting parts of a letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual:

…With respect to your question concerning the position Baha’is are to take regarding homosexuality and civil rights, we have been asked to convey the following.

The purpose of the Faith of Baha’u’llah is the realization of the organic unity of the entire human race, and Baha’is are enjoined to eliminate from their lives all forms of prejudice and to manifest respect towards all. Therefore, to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith. Furthermore, a Baha’i is exhorted to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression”, and it would be entirely appropriate for a believer to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.
(Letter from the UHJ to an individual, 27 October 2010)

And further in the same letter:

[The Bahai Faith] does not see itself as one among competing social groups and organizations, each vying to establish its particular social agenda. In working for social justice, Baha’is must inevitably distinguish between those dimensions of public issues that are in keeping with the Baha’i Teachings, which they can actively support, and those that are not, which they would neither promote nor necessarily oppose. In connection with issues of concern to homosexuals, the former would be freedom from discrimination and the latter the opportunity for civil marriage.

It seems to me that this letter would indicate that the Baha’i community should now not be publicly supporting or opposing actions such as the anti-gay activities in Uganda in 2007.

Detail of a screenshot from The Guardian with mention of the Baha'is involved in the 2007 rally in Uganda.
Above is a screenshot accessed 6 January 2011.

The article in the Guardian shown in the screenshot above continues, lower on the page:

The rally was organised by the interfaith coalition against homosexuality, an alliance of Christian, Muslim and Bahai organisations.

Continue reading

Freedom for Art is Unity in Diversity

Last Friday, I went to listen to Salman Rushdie present the “Leiden Freedom Lecture.”

Salman Rushdie delivers the "Leiden Freedom Lecture" in the St. Pieters church, Leiden, The Netherlands 18 June 2010

Salman Rushdie delivers the Leiden Freedom Lecture in the St. Pieters church, Leiden, The Netherlands 18 June 2010

Freedom, he argued is the essence of life and the essence of creativity. So many Baha’is have told me that to be a Bahai and an artist means that you need to be ‘moderate’. Some, artists themselves, have presented all sorts of theories about art being at the service of something else, ranging from the idea of self-censorship in order not to offend to art as a framework for the lowest common denominator: the ubiquitous portrait paintings of ‘Abdul-Baha.

Screenshot of the Art Directory of Baha'i Inspired Artists Facebook Group - 18 June 2010

Not all pages include as many portraits as this page happens to, but this is a good representation of much of what is labeled as art in a Baha’i context. I am not criticizing any of this art nor this forum. Mark Granfar, has created an open forum for artworks to be placed and artists could place other forms of art if they wished. My point is that this forum reflects what you see in the Baha’i community in general.

I’m not knocking portrait painting nor those who choose to paint these types of images of ‘Abdul-Baha, but am asking where is the diversity, a tell-tale sign of freedom. Celebrations of ‘oneness’ wear a little thin, when that’s the only story on offer by a community.

When freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech prevail — that is to say, when every man according to his own idealization may give expression to his beliefs — development and growth are inevitable.
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 197)

(E)ach elemental atom of the universe has the opportunity of expressing an infinite variety of those individual virtues. No atom is bereft or deprived of this opportunity or right of expression.
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 285)

When I was fresh out of art school, I happily made artworks on themes of peace, diversity, portrait-like pieces, and so on, and felt completely free to do so. It was encouraging that various Baha’is in my community appreciated what I was doing and some even bought my work.

Myriam Bargetze performing in Atras de um arbusto um papa - formigas esverdeia de vergonha (An ant eater hiding behind a bush -turns green out of embarrassment), in the Lisbon Botanical gardens, Portugal, 1990

Myriam Bargetze performing in Atras de um arbusto um papa - formigas esverdeia de vergonha (An ant eater hiding behind a bush - turns green out of embarrassment), in the Lisbon Botanical gardens, Portugal, 1990

I was aware of work such as Joseph Beuys’ social sculpture projects and liked it, but it wasn’t my world. If a Baha’i had been making such work, I wouldn’t have thought this was ‘immoderate’, but because of the way I was living or perhaps because my Baha’i community was so open, whether art was ‘moderate’ or not, wasn’t a question I had.

That was a few decades ago and in the years I’ve been making art, I’ve never felt I needed to censor what I make. In fact I don’t think I could, and because I don’t show my art in Baha’i contexts I don’t have to think about this either. All good and fine.

However the ‘stale air’ is what I often encounter as art made, shown or discussed in Baha’i contexts. Perhaps this is the only possibility, that religious contexts cannot allow for too much artistic diversity? I’ve been told this and it sounds reasonable, however, how can art function if is not free? Other Baha’is have stated that the time for Baha’i art has not started yet, and I think to myself, ‘oh so we sit around and wait, and like magic, something called Baha’i art will appear out of nothing?’

My view is that it started the second the Baha’i Revelation started and art was free.

In this new century the attainment of science, arts and belles lettres, whether divine or worldly, material or spiritual, is a matter which is acceptable before God and a duty which is incumbent upon us all to accomplish…
(my own emphasis added – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 448)

When I look at what is written about the arts and creativity, it seems to me that Baha’i art is not about having the same material form, but about diversity, about difference and freedom of expression. Many artists do as I do, operate outside of Baha’i contexts, partly because there is space outside of the Baha’i community to develop, and there’s nothing wrong with this, and partly because there’s no space for art in the Baha’i community. It is not censored (at least in my case), but it is not made welcome. How can art touch a religious context if it is never shown in one. As much as I love classical music, my heart sinks when I hear it as ‘the music’ at a feast, because there’s no diversity.

In 2006, I called a workshop I gave at an Irish Baha’i summer school, “shocking art” where individuals could bring up the art that shocks them as a starting point for discussion. As it turned out, the individuals were all touched by contemporary art in some way and because of this had already developed their own dialogue. There was no need for me to show that ‘shocking art’ has a place in the world, and so in that context of freedom, I moved the workshop to exercises in expressing the new instead. We had clean air and so didn’t need to protest.

Rushdie’s metaphor got me thinking about how often Baha’is tell me off (usually online) for expressing what in their view is whining, when in my view it is critique. From their perspective I’m polluting their clean air (of no dissent) while for me the air is stuffy because my critique is seen as not being acceptable for a Baha’i to make. I promise, I really would complain less if there was more dialogue. :-) Seriously though, when individuals have differences of opinion and it is assumed that each party is sincere, then the differing opinions can be worked on. If one or another writes something like “well you can leave”, what that person is really saying is, your viewpoint does not belong here and mine does.

The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 87)

I also think that if we don’t have the freedom to express things that bother us, we can’t process them, learn from them, learn from the differing ideas. I think the fact that one of the Baha’i months is called ‘questions’ indicates that this is part of human nature, part of the development of the spirit and something that is an ongoing aspect of Baha’i community life.

For me making a work of art is more about asking questions, wrestling with some experience, than presenting answers – although art is wonderfully slippery and so is about both and neither.

I do think any artist should have complete freedom of expression. As Rushdie stated, you have to make the effort to open a book to read it, have to walk into a bookshop or a library. No one is forced to encounter art. Likewise with art in a gallery. There’s a lot of art I dislike, but some of it has inspired me to make art in response, and some of it I forget about. I’d be a poorer person if I hadn’t experienced it and yet this is not the same as someone who willingly places themselves or another into a life-threatening situation.

In 2004, at a talk I gave for the Baha’is, I was asked how I would treat Mapplethorpe’s photography in the context of Baha’i art. My answer was that it shouldn’t be censored and that it was focused on the material, and art focused on materiality can be as effective as art focused on spirituality. From another perspective, a detailed realistic painting is as much about materiality as a work by Mapplethorpe.

On the topic of censorship, Salman Rushdie told the story of a Pakistani film (“International Gorillay” (International Guerillas) in which Rushdie, depicted as a Rambo-like figure, is portrayed as plotting to cause the downfall of Pakistan by opening a chain of casinos and discos, tortures with audio recordings of his book, and was finally killed by a bolt of lighting sent from God!

The British Board of Film Classification refused to give it a certificate, meaning it would be banned in the U.K., because they feared they might be sued for the 25 or more instances of libel in the film. Rushdie said he didn’t want to be part to something being censored and so wrote a statement to the board saying he would not sue for libel if the film was released. And so they then released it. A large theater was hired for its first showing in Muslim-dominated Bradford — and no one turned up. However if the movie had been banned, the fact of censorship would have made it popular. As it was, the work was judged according to its quality: a badly made movie not worth the cost of entry.

I’d argue that even if the unbanned film had become popular in the U.K., it would have served as a form of discourse. Having the freedom to express also means having the freedom to judge the work, and learn from it or its mistakes or misrepresentations. If a community doesn’t have freedom, it doesn’t have the mechanisms for diversity.

How do we know if a community has freedom: we look at the diversity of its artforms. There are two responses to this in relation to the Baha’i community. Lots of Baha’is are doing diverse highly creative work and Baha’is are part of the world. Second: if Baha’i communities wish to take advantage of this air of liberty, they have to create a opportunities for it.

A starting point would be to remove ‘review’, so there’s no idea of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of expression. Of course I’m grateful to Baquia for allowing a freedom of expression on this blog. If Baquia hadn’t, I wouldn’t have made the effort to write this to start with.

This is what I mean by creating opportunities. If artists know that their art is welcome -however materialistic or issue-based- then they will start making an artwork in relation to the Baha’i community and when they do, we’ll have the diversity needed for discourse to develop. As it stands at the moment, artists who are Baha’is such as myself, certainly make art inspired by the Baha’i writings and teachings, but what is missing is art and art discourse in relation to the Baha’i community. Perhaps this is a freedom only possible as a form of diaspora -from the point of view of an outsider. At least at the moment with the dominance of the Ruhi culture, this seems to be the case.

Change is a Law of Nature

Sarah Brown, wife of the British Prime Minister took part in the London Pride march. Photograph copyrighted 2009, Marco SecchiLondon July 4th 2009: Sarah Brown, wife of the British Prime Minister took part the London Pride March. This photo is used with permission by photographer, © Marco Secchi 2008.

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Baha’i Writings in my view is that religious law can be flexible and adapt.

“The second classification or division comprises social laws and regulations applicable to human conduct. This is not the essential spiritual quality of religion. It is subject to change and transformation according to the exigencies and requirements of time and place.”

(Address by Abdu’l Baha Abbas before Congregation Emmanu-El, San Francisco, Cal.
(Martin A. Meyer, Rabbi) Saturday, October 12, 1912.
– Star of the West, Vol. 3, No. 13, p. 3)

Abdu’l-Baha places principles such as justice and equality into the first classification, as part of what all religion is concerned with and which does not change. By “second classificiation” Abdu’l-Baha is referring to daily practices that are to some degree related to social conditions while being based on principles in the first classification such as justice and equality.

Times are changed, and the need and fashion of the world are changed. Interference with creed and faith in every country causes manifest detriment, while justice and equal dealing towards all peoples on the face of the earth are the means whereby progress is effected.

(Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 87)

While in London last month, I was reminded of the nature of change when I saw this photograph on the front pages of a newspaper and then read the accompanying article, about a public apology by the leader of the Tory party for past support for Section 28.

Section 28 (a ban on councils and schools promoting homosexuality as a valid lifestyle) was axed in 2003, but it was introduced in the 1980s under a Tory government which is why this apology is so significant. The words quoted in various newspapers were: “I’m sorry for Section 28. We got it wrong. It was an emotional issue. We have got to move on and we have moved on,”

Laws and statutes of governments civil and federal are in process of change and transformation. Sciences and arts are being moulded anew. Thoughts are metamorphosed. The foundations of human society are changing and strengthening.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 228)

Seeing this image of the Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown and another photograph of the Prime Minister meeting with Stonewall (they work to reduce homophobic bullying in schools), also part of the UK Gay Pride celebrations, gave me hope to think one day the Baha’i community could change too. Change enough so that gay Bahais wouldn’t lose their voting rights for doing what heterosexuals do: marry. We have a long way to go but that doesn’t mean that I have to give up.

The morals of humanity must undergo change. New remedies and solutions for human problems must be adopted. Human intellects themselves must change and be subject to the universal reformation. Just as the thoughts and hypotheses of past ages are fruitless today, likewise dogmas and codes of human invention are obsolete and barren of product in religion. Nay, it is true that they are the cause of enmity and conducive to strife in the world of humanity; war and bloodshed proceed from them, and the oneness of mankind finds no recognition in their observance. Therefore, it is our duty in this radiant century to investigate the essentials of divine religion, seek the realities underlying the oneness of the world of humanity and discover the source of fellowship and agreement which will unite mankind in the heavenly bond of love. This unity is the radiance of eternity, the divine spirituality, the effulgence of God and the bounty of the Kingdom. We must investigate the divine source of these heavenly bestowals and adhere unto them steadfastly. For if we remain fettered and restricted by human inventions and dogmas, day by day the world of mankind will be degraded, day by day warfare and strife will increase and satanic forces converge toward the destruction of the human race.

(Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 144)

A few months ago my gay Baha’i brother Daniel Orey received a letter from his NSA which began with “It is with deep sadness that the National Spiritual Assembly has learned that you openly married your male companion in a same sex marriage ceremony…” further on the letter states that the National Spiritual Assembly has no choice but to remove his Baha’i membership rights because of his marriage and of his “support of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle for Baha’is”.

All are one people, one nation, one species, one kind. The common interest is complete equality; justice and equality amongst mankind are amongst the chief promoters of empire and the principal means to the extension of the skirt of conquest. …Times are changed, and the need and fashion of the world are changed… …justice and equal dealing towards all peoples on the face of the earth are the means whereby progress is effected.

(Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 87)

So how can I respond to this as a Baha’i myself who believes that homosexuals are as equal as heterosexuals with the same rights and responsibilities? Daniel is one of the few gay Baha’is who has not been afraid to be honest and open. I don’t blame gay Baha’is who have partners in secret and admittedly if a heterosexual couple married as Daniel did, they might lose their voting rights as well, because he didn’t get his parents’ permission and hence couldn’t have a Baha’i ceremony. But I’ll stick to two points made in the NSA’s letter, because they seem to be the reason for his loss of his voting rights: “same sex ceremony” and “support of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle for Baha’is.”

It should also be borne in mind that the machinery of the Cause has been so fashioned, that whatever is deemed necessary to incorporate into it in order to keep it in the forefront of all progressive movements, can, according to the provisions made by Bah??’u’ll??h, be safely embodied therein.

(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 22-23)

The topic of equality for homosexuals in the Bahai community often ends up with individuals getting emotional on one side or the other and there ends the dialogue. My attempt here is to see what we can do to move forward on this discussion because I do believe that the Bahai Teachings are for all of humanity and so far haven’t found anything in the Bahai Writings to contradict this. So as a Bahai I continue. This is an important issue for Baha’is to discuss, because, for example, in my own country, the Netherlands, it would be breaking the law to discriminate against homosexuals. I’m not suggesting for one minute that Dutch Law supercedes Baha’i Law, but we need to think about the issues involved in applying Baha’i principles in a changing world.

There’s obedience to one’s country on one hand. There’s the principle of equality. There’s the discussion about just what is the nature of marriage in the Bahai Writings? I would like to base this discussion on what is in the Writings, rather than what we have been told or heard is a Bahai Teaching. My attempt is not a protest nor any attempt to change any Baha’i Adiministration’s policy. My goal here is for a debate on this based on the Baha’i Writings because, I argue, if the Baha’i Teachings are so great, then we will find the answer by applying the Baha’i principles of justice and equality. We don’t need to pretend nor see it as a mystery, we can use science as our aid.

In various places Abdul-Baha states science is a way of keeping religion in balance as much as science needs ethics. And so back to my original thoughts on this topic: the theme of change as a principle of nature.

Science is the discoverer of the past. From its premises of past and present we deduce conclusions as to the future. Science is the governor of nature and its mysteries, the one agency by which man explores the institutions of material creation. All created things are captives of nature and subject to its laws. They cannot transgress the control of these laws in one detail or particular. The infinite starry worlds and heavenly bodies are nature’s obedient subjects. The earth and its myriad organisms, all minerals, plants and animals are thralls of its dominion. But man through the exercise of his scientific, intellectual power can rise out of this condition, can modify, change and control nature according to his own wishes and uses. Science, so to speak, is the breaker of the laws of nature.

(Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 29)

Here is my suggestion for a debate on this topic in the hope of creating an atmosphere of consultative dialogue from various viewponts. To break up the discussion on the topic of homosexuality into several topics so we could see what we can learn from each other. Topics I thought I should try for in later blogs are “the nature of marriage” and “science and religion.” Suggestions for other topics are welcome.

This topic is on the theme of “change”, what is the role of this in the Baha’i Teachings and practice? How does this relate to the Baha’i Writings which don’t change (the fact that they are authenticated and written and seen as Scripture)? And other Writings that are important such as Letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi? What Baha’i principles favour the acceptance of same-sex marriage today, and which Bahai principles restrict this?

A Balancing Act

Baggage, drawing by SonjaI’ve never studied economics and so the following is how I understand the recent financial crisis after asking around and using google.

In the last 5 years or so property prices particularly in the US started going up; this was stimulated by clever people creating new types of financial institutes that got around government rules about financial institutes needing a certain reserve ratio (amount to be kept in cash). This happened in various countries but more so in the U.S. because there the regulations were less stringent. Since the economy was flourishing, and even though experts in the field could see where this would lead, in such a climate no government would want to insist on tighter regulations – this would be very unpopular.

So we have this bubble of buying and selling – even ordinary people, re-mortgaging their houses for that extra cash to spend on something. It makes sense. You see an opportunity and you take it.

What makes this unstable is when what is borrowed is close to what is the value of a property, because property prices always fluctuate. At some point, sooner or later, experts involved in this buying and selling are going to realise that this bubble will break and so they stop buying and selling. When they do, other experts recognize what is coming and do the same. Now the time for a property to sell takes longer and so there is less cash in movement. It hits institutions (banks / financial institutions) first because they can’t move their money to repay loans.

There was also a stock market bubble, stimulated by interest rates being low. Governments kept interest rates low because this stimulates economic rate. This is a good thing but usually inflation starts to happen (a chain reaction of wages going up, things costing more to buy and so money having less buying power) and this is a warning governments usually see in time and then solve, by raising interest rates. This time inflation was well under control (so interests rates remained low); perhaps the efficiency of new technologies and globalisation (imported cheap products) masked or compensated for the inflation that usually goes with strong growth, but this is a guess.

What is of interest is how governments have responded to this.

The U.S. response was to give credit and to buy mortgages, instead of buying bank shares. Buying mortgages involves more administration and doesn’t punish the shareholders who are mainly to blame for the problem in the financial institutions to start with. Shareholders control how financial institutions work. Where the government buys newly issued bank shares, it means that shareholders lose part of their stake (influence on how the company works and the profits). The U.S. response, -buying mortgages- means that there is no future restriction nor punishment for the irresponsible fat cats (the majority shareholders). They have no interest in being prudent since they didn’t suffer, and are likely to repeat this in the future. Government-owned shares promote more prudent actions, but, yes, in terms of politicking, this is called socialism and that’s most likely the reason that the U.S. didn’t take the approach the U.K. government took. Today on the BBC radio (October 14th) it was announced that the U.S. is considering buying shares in the nine largest banks, whether they need it or not. If this goes through now shareholders of banks who were responsible will be punished along with the irresponsible ones.

A friend posed these questions:

?What would be a “Baha’i” solution to the problem, and here I mean more than the very general ideal of the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty and more to the point of how is this ideal to be accomplished?

Is a form of “world socialism” the answer?

Does free market capitalism as we know it have to be fundamentally changed, and if so, will the wealthy of the world ever agree to such?

To my way of thinking the failure of Marxist ideology was more than just the misuse of its ideals by tyrants such as Stalin and Mao. It was also the fact that individuals are more concerned with their own well-being (family and close relatives etc.) than with the well-being of the people they do not know or have contact with. How much are people willing to sacrifice individually for the good of the group, especially when the group is the size of humanity??

What do you think?

Going for More Than an End to a Beginning

Baquia has invited me to write some columns here and in way of introducing myself, I’ve chosen this YouTube clip as inspiration for my beginning:

I chose this also in way of response as a non-American living in Europe, to the current presidental run-up. I am not belitteling this, just noting how these candidates are dominating the airways and news in a small distant European country.

Note the ?tongue-in-cheek? reference in the few first minutes, the video artist is also reminding us, he intends this as a light-hearted commentary on recent world events and perhaps on politics itself. My take on this video is that it is reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in fear or feel confused by things that seem black or white, right or wrong or whatever. So I wish the American voters who read this, greyness and nuance :)

It must be tough to maintain a sense of involvement when politics, in this case, is just a choice between two (one or the other), when it would be easier to switch off completely, however as Bahais we are obliged not to switch off.

Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.

Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 212

…as the government of America is a republican form of government, it is necessary that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic.

Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 342

The tone of this video is a bit like Baha’u’llah’s where the first part is a quotation from the Qur’an:

“Pharaoh said: ‘Let me alone, that I may kill Moses; and let him call upon his Lord: I fear lest he change your religion, or cause disorder to show itself in the land.’ And Moses said: ‘I take refuge with my Lord, and your Lord from every proud one who believeth not in the Day of Reckoning.'”

Men have, at all times, considered every World Reformer a fomenter of discord, and have referred unto Him in terms with which all are familiar.

Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 63

You could see the Pharaoh as Bush and Moses as a symbol for change – for a new voice. Baha’u’llah turns the day of reckoning into world reform. It is a positive spin on the apocalyptic approach.

The dominant text in the video ?this is the end of the world (as we know it)?, as I see it, is about a fear of change.

Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

Note thou carefully that in this world of being, all things must ever be made new. Look at the material world about thee, see how it hath now been renewed. The thoughts have changed, the ways of life have been revised, the sciences and arts show a new vigour, discoveries and inventions are new, perceptions are new. How then could such a vital power as religion — the guarantor of mankind’s great advances, the very means of attaining everlasting life, the fosterer of infinite excellence, the light of both worlds — not be made new?

Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 52

And just to hammer this idea of ‘change’, here’s Baha’u’llah:

In this journey the seeker becometh witness to a myriad changes and transformations, confluences and divergences. He beholdeth the wonders of Divinity in the mysteries of creation and discovereth the paths of guidance and the ways of his Lord. …
When once the seeker hath ascended unto this station, he will enter the City of Love and Rapture,

Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 27

…the seeker, at the outset of his journey, witnesseth change and transformation, as hath already been mentioned. This is undoubtedly the truth, as hath been revealed concerning those days: “On the day when the earth shall be changed into another earth.” These are indeed days the like of which no mortal eye hath ever seen.

Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 61

If you make it to the end of the video you’ll see Churchill say: ?this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end (as we know it) but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.?

This is my end. Till next time and all comments however grey (and even white or black) are most welcome.