Language: The Brick and Mortar of an Ever-advancing Civilization

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

Verdant Isle: An Interview with Shadi Toloui-Wallace

Australian singer and songwriter Shadi Toloui-Wallace was raised in a musical family, but her own musical journey with the Faith really came to fruition when she recognised the need within the Baha’i community for more contemporary forms of music that are inspired by the teachings of the Baha’u'llah. With the support and encouragement of her family, and the legendary Louie Shelton coming on board to produce the album, Shadi launched her debut album called Leather Bound Book, which quickly took the Baha’i world by storm.

I first met Shadi about four years ago when I had just moved to Melbourne, Australia, and Shadi had just released her debut album. She had come to Melbourne to perform at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and her captivating music swept the audience right off their feet! Continue reading

4 Things The Fast Helps Us Strengthen

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

Baha`i Blog’s Trivia Quiz: Ayyám-i-Há

As Baha’is around the world gather together to celebrate Ayyám-i-Há, the team at Baha’i Blog would like to wish all of our readers a very happy Ayyám-i-Há!

There are a whole bunch of different ways to celebrate Ayyám-i-Há, and one fun activity which the team at Baha’i Blog really enjoys is Baha’i trivia!

Trivia’s a great activity to do with your friends and your community, so we’ve prepared a simple trivia quiz about Ayyám-i-Há for you all to enjoy!

Go ahead, take the Ayyám-i-Há quiz and see how you do!
Continue reading

Nature as a Spiritual Metaphor: Wind and the Will of God

If God is All-Loving and All-Merciful, why would He allow so much pain and suffering in the world and cause such severe difficulties to befall us?

I am unspeakably fortunate to have never endured extreme poverty, been diagnosed with a debilitating or life-threatening illness, suffered the sudden loss of a family member, or experienced any other type of severe calamity that so many unfortunately have. But tragedy in some shape or form appears to afflict all of us at some point in our lives: it was Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith and the great-grandson of Bahá’u'lláh, who described this life as the “home of suffering we call our earth” (Lights of Guidance, p. 207). When such suffering occurs, many of us will inevitably wonder the age-old question of why a beneficent God would ordain for our lives to be afflicted with such difficulties. Continue reading

At First Light: An Interview with Chelsea Lee Smith

Chelsea Lee Smith has been busy! Not only has she been busy working as a full-time mom, but among other things, she’s one of the main driving forces behind the wonderful blog for parenting called Enable Me To Grow, and also the Radiant Hearts educational resource which is aimed at assisting in the spiritual education of children.

And now Chelsea, along with the help of her husband Zafar and two children, has just released yet another resource called At First Light, Volume 1, which is a musical album based on 20 short quotations from the Baha’i Writings.

This wonderful album is a great way for kids and adults alike to memorise the Baha’i Writings, and the album also comes with 20 instrumental tracks of each song as well, so everyone can sing along!

With Ayyam-i-Ha coming up soon, I’m going to be buying a few copies for some of my family and friends, and I thought this would also be good opportunity to let others know about this wonderful album, so I decided to catch up with Chelsea to hear more about the initiative.  Continue reading

A Vision of the Future: Playing Our Part

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

95 Youth Conferences Around the World!

I’m sure many of you have heard the recent and exciting news announced in a letter dated February 8th, 2013, by The Universal House of Justice of  “the convocation of 95 youth conferences, between July and October, planned for locations that span the globe”.

Details about the conferences are still unfolding, as the letter was released just a week ago, but the international Bahá’í community is already buzzing about the upcoming events!

Below are a few questions and answers that I have gleaned thus far about the conferences, and I thought you may find them useful. Continue reading

10 Instrumental Tracks for Your Next Devotional Gathering

In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u'llah has said ”We have made music a ladder by which souls may ascend to the realm on high” and  I’m sure you have all experienced this to be true at times while listening to certain music. The emotions and thoughts that music can engender in heart, mind and soul can at times be truly sublime. Now combine this with the blessed words of the Holy Messengers in a reflective atmosphere and its effects can become soul-stirring.

Over the last 8 years that we’ve been holding a monthly public devotional event called Soul Food, we have learnt how the accompaniment of music to the Holy Writings can truly uplift the atmosphere.

There is a vast ocean of beautiful music that can be used to assist. In selecting the right background music it needs to fulfil its purpose of uplifting the writings rather than overpowering it. Also the appropriate feel of music to match the tone of the quotes being read is also important. I have found that often movie sound tracks are ideal, as they tell a story and are often longer in length .

Below I have compiled a list of 10 tracks we have used in Soul Food that I would recommend as a good start for your next series of devotionals. The first five are taken from motion pictures, all of which I would also recommend to watch, and the last five are a range of music by different composers. The links for where you can purchase these tracks are also attached. Continue reading

A Baha’i Perspective Podcast: An interview with Warren Odess-Gillett

Over the last several years, American Baha’i Warren Odess-Gillet has been hosting and broadcasting a weekly Baha’i radio program over the airwaves called A Baha’i Perspective.

The program is fascinating, as it’s based on interviews with individual Baha’is who share the personal stories of their lives and how they found the Baha’i Faith.

You dont have to tune into the radio to have a listen though, as the program is also available as a podcast on iTunes as well, and it’s a podcast I often listen to on my headphones while taking the train to work.

I thought it was time someone put Warren on the receiving end of being asked questions, so I decided to catch up with him and find out more about A Baha’i Perspective.  Continue reading