I am conscious of what the writer and philosopher H.L. Mencken wrote about autobiography, namely, that no man can “bring himself to reveal his true character, and, above all, his true limitations as a citizen and as a believer, his true meannesses, his true imbecilities, to his friends or even to his wife.” She, like servants of old, though, are most likely to see the true colours of a man or a woman. Honest autobiography, Mencken wrote, is a contradiction in terms. All writers try to guild and fresco themselves. There may be some guilding here, but I think I make an improvement on most biographies which A.J. P. Taylor said were mostly guesswork. There is a tone of tentative enquiry in this work; there is inevitably some guesswork; there is a recognition that truth is often elusive and subtle. I have chosen the title and the theme 'pioneering over four epochs' advisedly. There is some fundamental connection with my life's journey, my soul, that is contained in these words which now roll off my tongue with deceptive but now familiar ease. "By words the mind is winged,” as the classical Greek poet of the late 5th century BC once wrote.
I have taken, too, Taylor's advice on politics. Taylor wrote that "the only sane course is never, never, to have any opinions about the Middle East." If anything, I point toward a way; I urge and encourage, but I do not offer answers to complex political questions by taking sides, criticizing governments or taking positions on various crises and issues. If anything, my book is a timely, timely for me if not for many others, anecdotal and impressionistic examination of the historical origins of the Baha'i alternative in my time, an alternative embedded in my life and my four epochs. Life's sense and nonsense have pierced me with a feeling, a view, that much of existence is strange and absurd; that there is much which is vain and empty in those impressions which pass through our sensory emporiums; and that there is much that is wonderfully awesome and staggeringly mysterious. History for millions is more nightmare and panorama of futility and anarchy. For millions of others, fundamentalist, liberal, inter alia, history takes on all sorts of colourations and meanings. So many millions of human beings seem ill-equipped to deal with the forces of modernity whatever their views of history. The resulting social commotion, the resulting disarray is evident all around us.
Perhaps the first quality of my memoirs that deserves to be emphasized is the sense of liberation, happiness, delight and joy. I like to think this is true. There is a light vein of comic faith which runs like a golden seam of intensity suffusing the body of my poetry and prose. Perhaps I do not belong to the tradition which began, perhaps as far back as Aristophanes in the fifth century BC--for his humour was far too intense in his time.