Things are moving quickly in Bishkek. In a single day, I already have several potential living spaces, including one for a measly approximately $37 per month (a fantastic place; the only problem is it’s practically in the foothills of the Ala-Too, far from the downtown where most of my daily work will be). The long-term visa is a situation that still needs some ironing out. Yet, although some anxiety simmers down in the depths, for the most part the foundations are calm. Something inside of me is saying, This should work, and even if it doesn’t, results per se were never the real point.
The city is even more energetic than what I remember from when I was last here, two years ago. A vortex of car traffic punctuated by pedestrian kamikazes; cracked pavement, or just no pavement at all, surging with plant life and petulant stone; orange and brown dust kicked up in the air; violet and turquoise neon lights bedecking chaikhana after chaikhana; sleek grey social-realist buildings, slowly crumbling or freshly renovated; the ubiquitous scent of burning metal, mountain, and chai — I feel as though I’ve found myself a character in what should prove to be a very interesting, and hopefully meaningful, science fiction film.
And speaking of science fiction, a strange time traveler-like feeling began to creep up on me in recent months about my and my friends’ various vocations as Bahá’ís, journalists, human rights activists, teachers, hacktivists, rogues, and the like. Somehow, being in this young, boisterous Asian republic, surrounded by all the hyper-ideological Soviet-era architecture — the living ruins of one of the great, failed grand discourses — have given me the words to describe it.
How often have we felt that we are fighting, even resisting, as though we were some lunatic minority bestriding the fringe of history, struggling to make a better world? How often have we felt that the horizon is dim, and our lot is merely to be stoic the face of human self-defeat? In fact, it’s totally the wrong way of viewing things.
The future civilization, a world of true spiritual and material peace, prosperity, and justice, has already arisen; we are its agents here in the past. Yes, I do indeed mean that in a subversive sense, as well as in a mystical sense: that we have been called, selected, tasked with a secret mission, so to speak — secret because the future knows what we’re up to, it understands the results of our actions, and it’s the present which is ignorant. Indeed, it only seems subversive from the standpoint of the present, because it’s the present who’s the target, who’ll be either transformed or overthrown.
It’s a kind of, well, Soviet-esque way of thinking about spirituality and history, I suppose (and to wit, I’ve been guilty of thinking in terms of a “divine communism” in the past). It’s certainly a roguish way to think about Bahá’u’lláh’s many prophecies that the “present order shall be rolled up”. After all, in the Bahá’í view, the establishment of spiritual civilization is a matter of divine prerogative. In other words, we’re dealing with something that is per definition outside the experience of linearity. A way to make cognitive sense of it may indeed be to think of the future civilization as already having happened.
The anti-deterministic finesse, then, would be: perhaps the many confirmations — those providential communiqués from the spiritual world — we in the Bahá’í Faith are primed to detect are in some sense the encrypted messages from Inevitability. On a side note, this idea also opens a lot of conceptual space for fellow-travelers (a good old-fashioned Bolshevik term right there!), whatever their ideological persuasion: the future civilization has many agents; some are just more conscious of their status than others, and/or they are receiving different communiqués.
But I digress. The point is: yes, there are many problems and privations, but there is absolutely no reason to despair. We may suffer in obscurity, we may even perish, physically or in the eyes of others, disdained as fools or weirdos or worse. But the future knows what really happened, and the future knows what’s really happening. The horizon is bright; the dawn is rising; the sun has already risen.
[Photographs found on the Internet.]