“Going anywhere special for The Festival this year?”
“Usually we spend Paradise at home, but this year we’re going on a 12-day luxury cruise to Baghdad.”
“Really? Oh, I’m jealous. My husband just can’t miss the Ridvan golf junket in Las Vegas, so it’s going to be more reading and pomegranate tea by the pool for me…”
No, I haven’t heard many conversations like this at devotionals or reflection meetings, either! (And aren’t we lucky? Our Holy Days still focus on the holy part.) Still, it is the Most Great Festival, and who knows what it will be in futures that more or less distantly shine in our imaginations? As with the 19 Day Feast, so with Ridvan: we have only the barest notion of how to celebrate them. As with everything, we’re learning, and nothing stops our education more quickly than the thought that we know how to celebrate our festivals and nineteen-day spiritual gatherings. They will be “unimaginably glorious”, as the Guardian might have said, but for now we do the best we can. Continue reading
A profound mystery lies deep inside all of us. Buddhists call it “Enlightenment”; Christians call it “Grace”; and Baha’is call it “Divine Bounty”.
But any mere words we try to use to describe it will always fall short. It is imperative, however, that we find a way to tune into that mystery because this is what makes our lives meaningful, happy and enriched. And getting there is not nearly as hard or as painful or as elusive as we might think. Continue reading
One important component of building an ever-advancing civilization that merits careful reflection is the role of language in this process.
There are certain words one hears repeatedly—in the messages of the Universal House of Justice, in reflection gatherings, in conversations among friends, and in society at large. Some examples are ‘organic’, ‘empowerment’ and ‘coherence’. Perhaps at times, it would be fitting to pause and ask “Do I know what these concepts mean?” “Am I using these words carefully or am I treating them like jargon-du-jour?”
‘Organic’ and ‘empowerment’, notably, appear to have been appropriated by wider society, and are used so frequently and thoughtlessly as to render them virtually meaningless. For instance, a well-known singer recently described her new album as an exercise in “female empowerment”. Almost every track on that album was about sex and the objectification of one or both genders. How empowering?
Is this just a matter of semantics, or is there something more important at stake here? Continue reading
As I take part in this special period of the Bahá’í year, and join fellow Bahá’ís around the world in The Fast, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned from fasting over the years. Probably the main thing which comes to mind is that even now, although I’ve been doing it every year for the last 20 years - I’m not getting any better at it.
But perhaps that’s the point. To get better at it would mean that we would potentially miss out on a significant opportunity to put ourselves to the test in order to help ourselves grow and develop into better human beings, which is what we’re encouraged to do as Bahá’ís everyday. Baha’u'llah wrote:
We have enjoined upon you fasting during a brief period… beware lest desire deprive you of this grace that is appointed in the Book.
So, maybe it doesn’t need to get easier, as I don’t want to be deprived of “this grace”. Continue reading
Like many others, when I heard the news about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I wept. This was not the first massacre in the United States in recent years, but it was perhaps the most shocking.
When something like this happens, it raises a lot of questions. People begin to wonder how many more episodes of human cruelty will transpire in their lifetime, in their children’s lifetime. They wonder if humanity is, in fact, hopeless, and whether it’s even worth it to have children anymore. Just last night, one of my best friends from college told me he and many other couples he knows have decided not to bring kids into this crazy world. Continue reading
Over the past few decades, The Universal House of Justice (the elected international body which guides the work of the global Bahá’í community) has outlined a vision of action for Bahá’ís that includes a number of separate but interrelated “core” activities: the gathering together of friends for the purpose of sharing prayers and reading writings of various religious traditions, the intentional study of the sacred writings of the Bahá’í Faith, programs for the spiritual education of children, and groups designed to allow pre-youth to explore themes of spiritual import and engage in service activities together.
Given the importance of these core activities to the overall efforts of the Bahá’í community, it seems prudent to discuss a concept that The Universal House of Justice describes as one of the primary impetuses behind all of these activities: engaging in “meaningful and distinctive conversations” with our friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and co-workers.
So what exactly does it mean to engage in “meaningful and distinctive conversations”? Why is it so important to do so? And what are some ways we can become more mindful of our everyday speech? Continue reading
Photo by hodag
In the days before the internet, being a Bahai and trying to help the poor could be a little bit more challenging than it is today. If you want to help struggling families on the other side of the world, but don’t know where to start or how to go about it, then consider the web-based microloan service Kiva.
Kiva is a non-profit organization that helps the less fortunate via loans given by people such as yourself to help them purchase whatever they need to maintain their livelihood. You can loan as little as $25 to make a big difference in someones life. Loans eventually get paid back, and then you can re-loan the money again. Kiva has a How it Works page which explains more about the mechanics of loaning via the service.
Photo courtesy Baha’i Views/Flitzy Phoebie via Flickr.
When I recall first being told as a child that we were going to “feast” in the evening, I think of how my imagination kicked into overdrive. I envisaged long medieval-style banquet tables overflowing with roast chicken, legs of lamb, mashed potatoes, rice and a slew of decadent desserts as far as my chubby little eyes could see. Much to my confusion however, we ate dinner at home as usual (not a goblet of orange juice in sight) before arriving at a fellow Bahá’í family’s home: “but I’m so full,” I thought to myself, “How am I expected to eat again?” As the evening progressed, I came to understand the term “feast” was actually referring to the “Nineteen Day Feast” and it took on a meaning not quite what I was expecting. Continue reading
Photo courtesy wakingphotolife via Flickr.
If ever there were a concept alien to modern Western life, it is sacrifice. Compared to all former times, we scarcely know what it is. Today’s middle class lives in more comfort than the royalty of old. In a few more decades, explaining sacrifice to the modern human may be akin to explaining snow to a 16th century Indonesian, or palm trees to an 17th century Eskimo. At this rate, we might not even have a word for it.
While our men and women in uniform are still all too familiar with the concept, even they are fewer in number than the millions who sacrificed their lives, willingly or unwillingly, in the warfare of yesteryear.
We typically sacrifice little in daily life. When we have a tight financial month, credit card companies are only too happy to facilitate a creature comfort rather than having us sacrifice it.
Of course, the Founders of faith — both ours and every other authentic faith — were intimately familiar with the concept, so much so that they longed for the opportunity to sacrifice in the path of God and Their enemies were all too eager to provide the opportunity. Continue reading