The Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson

Hello and welcome to the Baha’i Blogcast with me your host, Rainn Wilson.

In this series of podcasts I interview members of the Baha’i Faith and other friends from all over the world about their hearts and minds and souls, their spiritual journeys, what they’re interested in, and what makes them tick. Enjoy!

 


Episode 1: Rainn and Naysan

In our very first episode, we kick things off with the founder of Baha’i Blog Naysan Naraqi and I interviewing each other. We talk about Baha’i Blog, education for young girls in Haiti, world citizenship, books we’re reading, being a Baha’i in Hollywood, and some of the things we’re working on within our personal lives. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 2: Tierney Sutton

In this episode, I interview multi-award winning Jazz singer and legend, Tierney Sutton. Tierney has won and been nominated for countless awards, including six consecutive Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Tierney and I talk about how she first got into music, became a Baha’i, why she studied Russian, the power of music and the Holy Word, how Jazz and consultation relate, her favourite Baha’i quote, and what she’s working on in her personal life. She even sings a beautiful prayer for us all as well, so I hope you enjoy this one! Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 3: Justin Baldoni

In this episode, I interview my good friend, Baha’i actor and filmmaker Justin Baldoni. Among many other things, Justin is currently starring in the hit TV show “Jane the Virgin”, and in this podcast, we talk about being a new dad, personal hardships and putting your trust in God, making videos about death and creating content to be a source of healing, the Shout! app and social media, redefining masculinity, and celebrating birthdays for the homeless. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 4: Layli Miller-Muro

In this episode I interview Layli Miller-Muro, founder and Executive Director of the Tahirih Justice Centre, a non-profit which provides free legal services to women and girls who are fleeing human rights abuses. The organization which was founded in 1997 and serves nearly 19,000 women aims to promote a world where women and girls enjoy equality and live in safety and dignity. In this interview Layli and I talk about her aspirations for service as a youth, her early experience as a lawyer, how the Tahirih Justice Centre came about, keeping the Faith at the center of what you do, personal detachment and welcoming tests, engaging with the wider community in your own field, plus a lot more. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 5: Payam Zamani

In this episode I interview Payam Zamani, Iranian-born entrepreneur and philanthropist living in San Francisco. He tells me about his escape from Iran to the United States, his early religious experiences as a Baha’i, including the discrimination he experienced in Iran, his family’s pioneering journeys in different countries, his humble beginnings, switching careers, becoming a business owner and his desire to find the spirit of service in his work, plus a lot more. Payam is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of One Planet Ops and the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of www.bahaiteachings.org. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 6: Andy Grammer & Aijia

In this episode I interview Andy Grammer and his wife Aijia. We talk about how they met and what married life is like, the evolution of their careers, having a baby in the kitchen, trying to ‘keep it real’ in all that you do, tests and perseverance, songwriting, death and loss, becoming a Baha’i, their favourite Baha’i quotes, plus they even sing Aija’s favourite quote for us at the end of the podcast. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 7: Steven Phelps

In this episode I interview Dr. Steven Phelps, physicist, philosopher and translator who currently lives Oregon, USA. We talk about his experience growing up as a Baha’i, his studies in physics and philosophy, when his deepest beliefs were challenged, his move to the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa and his experience as a Hebrew, Arabic and Persian translator. We also look into some of the deepest philosophical questions and share thoughts about how the world works, the relativity of religious truth, science and religion, consciousness, and the progress of civilization. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 8: Leyla & Ryan Haidarian

In this episode, I interview my friends Leyla and Ryan Haidarian who live in Johannesburg, South Africa with their son. We talk about the unexpected way in which they moved to South Africa from Los Angeles, their media company which produces, distributes and develops financing for movies, television shows and creative projects. We talk about the special story of how they met on pilgrimage, about their professional path, their experience in the film industry, and their passion for doing work that has an impact and affects lives. We also look at topics like surrendering to the will of God, the struggle of fame and status, the concept of self, tests and accepting them with radiant acquiescence, and their experience with marriage as a fortress of wellbeing. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 9: Tom Price

In this episode I interview Tom Price, a Baha’i music composer, director and well-known public speaker currently living in Adelaide, Australia. We talk about his background, his travels, his experience doing music projects for global Baha’i events, and the fascinating story of how he became a Baha’i. We look at topics like the harmony between science and religion, walking and its meditative benefits, spiritual principles and how they apply to the physical world. We also talk about his experience as a public speaker whose talks have become widely shared and listened to around the world, his creative process with music, his daughter’s band Lake Street Dive, upcoming projects, some of the research he’s doing, and some of his current spiritual goals. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 10: Joy DeGruy

In this episode I interview Dr. Joy DeGruy, an internationally renowned researcher, educator, author and presenter living in the United States. We talk about how she became a Baha’i and her research and work creating and developing the concept of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. We also talk about how we can affect change in society, especially when it comes to dismantling racism, and we end our discussion speaking about Joy’s love of fishing. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 11: Luke Slott

In this episode I interview the wonderful Luke Slott, a Baha’i singer and songwriter from Dublin, Ireland who has an equally wonderful head of hair. We talk about his musical background and how he became a Baha’i; how he first started composing music based on the Baha’i Writings and the new album he’s just released during the month of the Baha’i Fast called Year of the Nightingale, which is dedicated to the bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah taking place this year. He tells us all about the fascinating book he’s currently reading; what personal struggle he’s currently trying to overcome, and what advice he would give to other artists and musicians. He also sings one of the songs from his new album live for us, and shares another one of them at the end of our beautiful conversation. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 12: Michael Penn

In this episode I interview my Baha’i friend Michael Penn, a Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the US. We talk about how he became a Baha’i and the cool story of how he and his wife met; we discuss beauty and being our authentic self; hope and hopelessness; racism and how each one of us can overcome it; how the human being is the most sensitive signal detection system in the known universe – yep that’s right! and we talk about the book he’s working on, and how philosophy is the bridge between science and spirituality. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 13: Erika Batdorf

In this episode I interview Canadian multidisciplinary artist, performer and creator, Erika Batdorf. Erika’s work has received numerous awards and been featured around the world. She was in California attending an SBCAST retreat, so I sat with her and had an amazing conversation about how science and art intersect; her show ‘Burnish’ and how like all of her work, it’s inspired by the Baha’i Writings. We discuss how our physical body and the ability to “feel” our body – like the beating of our heart, or even the power of walking – has an effect on our soul. She shares the fascinating story of how she was first introduced to the Baha’i Faith at the age of nine, and how as a teen, she would hitchhike dressed as a clown to get herself to Green Acre. She shares one of her personal struggles, her favorite Baha’i quote, and she also offers some wonderful advice to young Baha’i artists. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 14: Holiday & Kathryn

In this episode I sit down with my wife Holiday Reinhorn and dear friend Kathryn Adams to talk about LIDÈ, a not-for-profit educational initiative the three of us started. LIDÈ, which means both “Leader” and “Idea” in Haitian Kreyol, uses the arts and literacy to build resilience and empower at-risk adolescent girls in rural Haiti, helping them to transition into academic or vocational education.

The three of us share our experiences and talk about how the devastating effects of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti not only decimated the nation, but also uncovered the need for educating and empowering adolescent girls. We discuss the need and importance of hope; the importance of not only education, but why specifically the education of women is paramount. We also talk about the idea of adopting a “grassroots-up” approach to development work rather than a “top-down” approach, and we touch on ‘accompaniment’ and how each one of us has a gem within us which needs to be mined. We discuss the importance of trust and having faith; what a “tap-tap” is, and how LIDÈ’s program for kids with disabilities came to life. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 15: Susan Gammage

In this episode I interview professional life coach Susan Gammage from Canada. We talk about how she became a Baha’i, why she became a life coach, and how she uses the Baha’i Writings in her work and everything she does. We delve deep into the idea of ‘sin’ and ‘shame’ and she explains why she believes “it’s the stories that separate us and the reactions that unite u”s. We talk about her very popular blog SusanGammage.com and all of the books she’s written and working on. We discuss the spiritualization of money; workaholism and other addictions; what she’s currently reading, and how forgiveness is the key to solving so many things within us. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 16: Maziar Bahari

In this episode I interview Maziar Bahari, an Iranian Canadian journalist, filmmaker and human rights activist who was imprisoned and tortured by the Iranian government for five months in 2009. After he was released, he wrote his memoir called Then They Came for Me, which became a New York Times bestseller and is the basis for Jon Stewart’s 2014 film Rosewater. In the conversation I ask him why, even though he is not a Baha’i, he has been actively campaigning for the rights of the Baha’is in Iran. We talk about his religious background; his thoughts on tyranny; why the situation for Baha’is in Iran is so important for the Iranian people as a whole, and how he went from being a journalist to being an activist. He shares what he learned from his experience in prison, and he also offers some personal advice to the Baha’i community, and a message to the people of Iran and the world. Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 17: Mary & Clark

In this episode I’m in Toronto, Canada interviewing husband and wife Mary Darling and Clark Donnelly. Besides having more kids than I can ever keep track of, they have their own media company called WestWind Pictures, which aims to promote themes of beauty and unity. Among many other things, they are known for their popular TV comedy series called Little Mosque on the Prairie, and I ask them how the series started and what sort of impact the show has had. They share the challenges of working on a comedy that deals with things that are sacred, and how they bring Baha’i principles into the creative process. We discuss the importance of consultation, what it’s like working as a husband and wife team, the role of a producer, and how they each became Baha’is. They also share what books they’re reading, what they personally strive to be better at, and their favorite Baha’i Writings.

Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 18: Khalil Fong 方大同

In this episode I speak with Hong Kong based Chinese soul-pop superstar Khalil Fong, otherwise known in Chinese as 方大同, which is “Fang Da Tong”. Khalil has been very instrumental in bringing an eclectic mix of international styles of music to Chinese audiences, but especially Soul music and R’n’B. Besides creating hit songs, Khalil has been recognized as a positive role model for his upright character. In this interview we talk about his musical influences and what inspired him to pursue a career in music. He tells me what his songs are about and how his faith inspires his music and everything he does. We discuss spirituality in China, being a vegetarian, having his own record label, what really draws him to the Faith, the exciting new project for children that he’s working on with his mother, and the advice he would give to other aspiring artists.

Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 19: Kevin Locke

In this episode I interview Kevin Locke, which in Lakota is “Tokaheya Inajin” meaning “First to Rise”. Both Lakota and Anishnabe, Kevin is a Native American Baha’i who is a world famous visionary Hoop Dancer, preeminent player of the Indigenous Northern Plains flute, traditional storyteller, cultural ambassador, recording artist and educator with nearly 40 years of performing to over hundreds of thousands of people in over 90 countries. Living in Standing Rock, USA, Kevin talks to me about Lakota culture, some of their traditional prophecies and the power of women in their society. He tells me how he became a Baha’i, explains the power of engaging in the arts and connecting to the creator, and how the revelation of Baha’u’llah touches all the peoples of the earth, no matter what cultural background they come from, and how important it is for us learn from each other and about our collective heritage and so many other fascinating things. At the end of the conversation, Kevin shares a beautiful song on the flute called ‘The Eagle’s Flight’.

Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 20: Nader Saiedi

In this episode I speak with Nader Saiedi, Taslimi Foundation Professor of Baha’i Studies in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at University of California. Born in Tehran, Iran, and having lived in the US since 1978, professor Saiedi tells me about his personal journey from being a staunch Marxist to becoming a Baha’i, and how he was humbled by the sacred Baha’i Writings and moved by the steadfastness of the Baha’is being persecuted in Iran. Among other things, we talk about slavery, historical consciousness, and the thousands of untranslated and unpublished tablets by the Bab and Baha’u’llah he’s been studying recently. Hope you enjoy the conversation!

Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 21: Sara & John Barton

In this episode I have an awesome conversation with my wonderful Christian neighbors Sara and John Barton. Sara is an author and likes writing poetry and hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, usually at the same time, and she serves as the University Chaplain at Pepperdine University in California, where she oversees worship services and pastoral care in the community. John is Director of the Center for Faith and Learning at Pepperdine University where he also serves on the faculties of the Religion and Philosophy Division and the graduate program in Social Entrepreneurship and Change. John also speaks and conducts research in the areas of African philosophy, ethics and philanthropy, Christian studies, interfaith dialogue, and Christian/Muslim interactions. The three of us talk about the station of Christ, the importance of service to others, and why interfaith dialogue and learning about religions is important in society today. They share the importance of being an active part of wider communities while maintaining their Christian convictions and commitments. They also tell me about the nonprofit they helped start and what their eight years in Uganda taught them. We discuss the importance of the community over the individual, prayer and meditation, why they love working with college students and have hope for the future. Sara even shares a wonderful poem she wrote just for the Baha’i Blogcast as well, so I hope you enjoy the conversation.

Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 22: Ruha Benjamin

In this episode I sit down with Dr. Ruha Benjamin, a mother, a scholar, an author and associate professor in African American Studies at Princeton University, who writes and speaks about science and technology, race and inequality. Ruha and I talk about racist robots and the use of technology, the relationship between unity and justice, the Marshall Island’s and the example of her parents, Star Trek, marriage as a soul growing machine, and how bringing about social change also needs to consider the spiritual reality of things. We also look at the importance of independent investigation of truth and the need to challenge our own assumptions, plus the wonderful example of Abdu’l-Baha and how He challenged the status quo. I hope you enjoy the conversation!

Click here to find out more about this podcast.


Episode 23: Siamak Hariri

In this episode I’m in Toronto, Canada at the lovely home of award-winning architect Siamak Hariri. Siamak is the architect of the Baha’i House of Worship for South America, located in Santiago, Chile, and he talks to me about his family and how he was first drawn to architecture, some of his thoughts and inspirations behind the design of the temple and its relationship with the community, and how architecture can touch the heart. We discuss the interplay between material and nonmaterial, where things like proportion and composition are enveloped in mysticism, ideas relating to prayer, and how things like composition and refinement are important and how they’re connected to our higher aspirations. He also shares some of his understandings of the Baha’i Faith, some of his favorite Baha’i Writings, and the importance of shaping our thinking in a way that looks to the future and affects generations to come. I hope you enjoy this conversation.

Click here to find out more about this podcast.

Stay tuned for more episodes!

Episode 24: My essay ‘Me and The Prophet’

In this particular episode I wanted to do something a little different, as right now, millions across the globe are celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, and I wanted to honor this very special occasion.
Above our front doorway is a handwritten “Greatest Name”, drawn by the son of Hand of the Cause Mr. Samandari as a gift to my grandparents. As I walk into my house I think about the fact that as a baby (albeit a giant, pale one), I met Mr. Samandari who traveled to Seattle in 1967, and he was the last living person who had spent time with Baha’u’llah. I wanted to write about this remarkable connection: I was once cradled as an infant by the guy who met THE GUY! That’s how young our Faith is. How connected we all are.
As Baha’is we strive to be in discussion and dialogue on shared topics of interest with like-minded folks, so I really wanted to write a warm, funny essay that every person could connect to. It was imperative that it be published on a site where there was a good deal of interfaith dialogue and I was drawn to Patheos.com for this reason, and you can find this essay here.
I’ve decided to record the essay for this episode, and I just wanted to add that I think it’s crucial that Baha’is seek to share our history, views, humor and stories with as many different communities as possible, in as many different ways as we can. Engage in deep dialogues with open-hearted souls with the goal being the dialogue itself, not “conversion”.

I hope you enjoy “Me and the Prophet.”

Click here to find out more about this podcast.

Stay tuned for more episodes!

Bahai Arts, Stories, Media & Bahai Religion