I have been thinking a lot about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s trip to Brooklands airfield on September 29th in 1911. It strikes me that it was an accumulation of relatively unlikely, but wonderful occurrences. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was a visitor from the East, was sighted by a Hindu who had wanted to meet Him very much. Upon meeting they conversed in Arabic, at once uniting in their delight upon meeting each other and being able to converse in a language that had up to that point fueled much of the recent discovery of every aspect of modern scientific knowledge in Western civilization. It had also effectively united myriad nomadic tribes under a great Islamic empire, drawing from the ocean of knowledge all over the world and sowing the seeds for our modern university system. And all the while human beings were engaged in flight above their heads, a marvelous union of man and machine. This indeed is several dreams compounded into one glorious happening.
The preceding decades had been marked by huge leaps in transportation technology, and the advances made sometimes came from improbable sources. Although unlikely pioneers in manned flight, the Wright brothers had achieved, after consistent efforts, a world-changing event on the 17th December 1903. They successfully initiated a manned flight with an aircraft heavier than air. Even though they were impoverished compared to many of their competitors in the race to master the skies, with something as simple as a toy helicopter powered by a rubber band, their childhood imaginations were uplifted and they had set off on a quest to change the world forever. And so it was fitting that this fine accomplishment, set to transform society, was complimented by the arrival of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who had come to herald great change for the peoples of the West. During the 20th century transportation and communication technology was gaining incredible momentum. Before long countless written messages, packages and passengers would be traversing the globe. However, despite all of this exciting machinery on display, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá never forgot to take joy in the essentials of life:
‘Abdu’l-Bahá noticed two of the airmen who were wrestling on the grounds, and when they stopped, he went to them clapping his hands and crying in English, “Bravo! Bravo! that is good exercise.”
(Abdu’l-Bahá, Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 99)