Sunday, May 19, 2019

The War

Yesterday afternoon, while selling my work at a festival, an old friend came into my booth. I hadn't seen her in quite a few months. After a brief conversation about what she's been doing, and where she's moving, she asked me about my writing. Naturally, I told her about my latest project with this blog, showing the relevance of the stories about the early Babis, and began to tell her a little bit about Zaynab.

I could see that my friend had never heard of her, and so I began to tell the story, in brief.

I told her about the attacks on the Babis in Zanjan, and how they retreated to a fort in the middle of the city when they began getting persecuted. As you can imagine, being at a show, selling my wares, I didn't share too many details, but gave just the barest outline.

I told her about the military surrounding them, and how they were overwhelmed by something like 10 to 1 odds. They had swords, while the military had muskets and cannon. Naturally, all seemed hopeless. But as the army attacked, the valiant defenders would rush forth and repulse the attack. Time and again they drove the ruthless army back. And Zaynab, a young woman, wanted to lend her share of assistance.

This maiden cut off her long locks and disguised herself as a man. She picked up a sword and rushed to help defend the fort. Hurling herself at her enemies, shouting out the cry "Ya Sahibu'z-Zaman!", "O Thou Lord of the age", she fought with such valiant bravery that all were amazed.

Hujjat, the leader of this band, recognized her and called her to him to talk. This was when he recognized the Hand of God at play. And so he allowed her to continue to fight, encouraging her for over five months to help out the sore-tried defenders. He never assigned her to a particular post, but encouraged her to fight wherever she was needed. And so history finds her always in the thick of it, at the forefront of the turmoil that raged around her.

At this point, my friend's friend joined her and heard the end of this story, and I could see that her interest wasn't quite as strong. And so I said that I bet they wondered why this story might be relevant today.

Simple, really.

Women, and women in particular, are in a state of war. Amidst the old and decaying structures of our society, a new community of forward thinking individuals are coming together. They are the ones that recognize the importance of human rights, of women's rights, and they are building a new and better society for themselves. And now the attacks are coming.

All over the world these rights, which have been so hard won, are coming under assault.

And this is not just a metaphor. It really is a war. People are suffering. Many are being arrested. And even more are dying.

In recent days, down in the US, we have seen laws being passed that make women's rights a criminal activity. If a woman has an abortion, they say, they will be convicted of a felony. If someone helps them get that abortion, by either driving them or supporting them in any way, they, too, will be tried for a felony.

And you know what? A convicted felon is denied the right to vote.

This is not about the rights of the fetus. It is about denying women the right to have a safe place in their society. It is about stripping anyone who is forward thinking, and concerned about the rights of the human being, of their right to vote. You can easily see where this will lead, if it goes through, over the next few voting cycles.

This, by the way, is but a single example of the recent attacks on human rights, and especially women's rights, around the globe. It is not confined to a handful of States south of the border. It is a global resurgence of the forces of evil that are striving to maintain the old order of dominance.

And at that point, it seemed as if my friends were stunned.

Now is the time, I told them, that we all must arise and defend those people in that fort, no matter where the attacks arise. For it is a concentrated attack, and those inside are vastly outnumbered.

People are suffering.

People are dying.

And it is, quite simply, a war.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Small Gathering

"Would you be able to come and talk at my devotional gathering for, say, ten minutes?"

The request was not all that unusual, but still took me by surprise. After all, I tend to think of devotional gatherings as being for, well, prayer, not talks. And this is not a devotional gathering that I tend to go to often, mostly due to the timing, as opposed to anything else.

But the timing was good, and I am not one to say 'no' to some form of service if I am able to do it. So last night found my wife and I at a dear friend's home saying prayers with nearly a dozen people. It was truly joyous.

Before we left home, I went upstairs and said some prayers, desperately beseeching God for guidance. You may recall that one of my favorite prayers, which I have memorized, is "Oh God, HELP!" Last night, as per normal, help was given.

On the way there, Marielle asked me if I was ready, and I said that of course I was. It didn't mean that I knew what I would say, but just that the homework was done. I did, however, ask her to make sure that I asked a question at the end.

So there we were, at our friend's home, with guests arriving. And when the appointed hour struck, as they say, we were all warmly welcomed. We began with some prayers, going around in a circle, each either reading a prayer or saying one from our heart, or passing in silence, as we preferred.

Then it came my turn.

I briefly mentioned how Dorothy Baker trained herself to be a public speaker, how this sort of thing does not come naturally. I mentioned George Townshend and how in a prayer he wrote, he talked of preparing himself for when God called upon him. And I mentioned how 'Abdu'l-Baha would look at His audience and see what they needed to hear.

I then talked a bit about prayer and reflection, looking at the attributes of God mentioned within the prayer to see what it was we needed to work on to find the answer to our prayer. It was fascinating watching as different people visibly reacted with interest to each part of this 6 minute talk.

And then someone read the Tablet of Ahmad for the Baha'is of Iran, and we were asked to get some food.

This was when I reminded them that I had a question I wanted to ask.

"Marielle and I like to be in the habit of regularly reflecting on our actions. So how was tonight? How did you feel? How can we improve what we have done?"

And from there followed an absolutely beautiful 20 minute discussion.

The friends, not all of whom were Baha'i, talked about how they really love being immersed in the prayers. This, they said, is what they desperately need. Some said that they really appreciated the comments on the application of the attributes of God, and that this changed how they heard the Tablet of Ahmad. One person commented how they had never noticed that this Tablet, which was a command to Ahmad to go teach the Faith, ended with mercy and compassion, two attributes we need to develop not only towards others, but towards ourselves, too.

This seemingly simple question, posed to help us all learn to reflect on a regular basis, not only revealed some beautiful insights about the importance of these gatherings, but also carried us into the social portion of this gathering, continuing to talk deeply about spiritual issues.

Dear Reader, this, to me, turned out to be the pivotal moment of the entire evening.

Before this, it was a beautiful time of sharing prayers with like-minded souls. But by asking the friends to reflect and share how they felt, it became a meeting of greater unity. It became a conscious-raising moment when we all saw the importance of coming together to do this again. It moved it, for me at least, from a one-time event to a hopefully regular part of my life.

When you come together, whether it is for prayer or a study circle, a fireside or a cup of coffee with a friend, I would encourage you to reflect on it at the end. How was it? Should we do it again? How can we make it better? Was there something you would like to see changed? Take a moment and check in with all present.

Reflection does not have to be something that we only do once every three months as part of our cluster community life. It can be a part of every activity. It doesn't have to be long, but when we include it, we can learn so much that we may otherwise miss.

And I, for one, am really looking forward to praying with these friends again.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Crossroads

September 1848.

Mulla Husayn has agreed to leave Mashhad to go on a pilgrimage to Karbila. He had been detained by the Prince in Mashhad, and it was clear that to remain would have caused untold hardships for the friends. And so, he decided to quit the city and carry on his teaching elsewhere.

Due to the reverence that the Shi'ite Muslims hold for Karbila, it was only natural that he offer to make this pilgrimage, which was another way of politely saying that he would leave the country. But this pilgrimage was not to be. Destiny had in mind another Karbila for him.

After leaving the Prince, Mulla Husayn returned to his friends and informed them of the courtesy the Prince had extended him, as well as his own decision to make his way to Karbila.

While he was making his preparations to leave, a messenger arrived from the Bab, bearing a message that was to change the course of Babi history. The Bab bestowed His own green turban, the sign of His lineage as a descendant of Muhammad, upon Mulla Husayn, and told him to raise the Black Standard and lend his assistance to His beloved Quddus. The implications and nuances of this message are numerous, and would require a far longer story than this to explain even a small portion of them.

Suffice to say, Mulla Husayn went on his way, with the Black Standard before him, calling those who believed in the new Day to join him.

Before he left, the Prince offered him a sum of money to help pay for his pilgrimage, but Mulla Husayn asked that this money instead be given to the poor.

The captain of the artillery, 'Abdu-l-'Ali Khan, himself a believer, also offered to give whatever was needed for the journey. Mulla Husayn only accepted a horse and a sword, both of which he would carry into history with him.

They left Mashhad, riding through numerous towns, slowly increasing their numbers into the hundreds.

As they arrived at the village of Chashmih-'Ali, they came to a crossroads, one way leading to the capitol, Tehran, the other to Mazandaran. "We stand at the parting of the ways," Mulla Husayn proclaimed, "we shall await God's decree as to which direction we should take."

While many historic events were taking place elsewhere in the country, Mulla Husayn was camped under the shade of a tree. They camped for a while, with a guard continually on watch, and then, on a fateful day, a great wind arose. It was September of 1848, and that mighty wind snapped off a large branch of the tree under which he was camped.

"The tree of the sovereignty of Muhammad Shah has," Mulla Husayn remarked, "by the Will of God, been uprooted and hurled to the ground."

Three days later a messenger arrived on his way to Mashhad and gave them the news that the Shah had died.

The next morning, Mulla Husayn and his companions started out for Mazandaran, and their own Karbila.

* * * * *

I have always loved this tiny little detail of Mulla Husayn's story.

Karbila, as you likely know, is where Imam Huasyn, that great hero of the Islamic world, was martyred. It is so important in their history that the name "Karbila" has become a metaphor for the place where one is led by God to achieve a great destiny.

Here, we see a great trait of Mulla Husayn's as he awaits his sign from God, a sign that would eventually lead him to the site of his own martyrdom, his own Karbila.

There are many times in life when we have a decision to make. Like Mulla Husayn and his companions, we come to a crossroads. We can turn left, or we can turn right. Turning back is not an option.

Perhaps we have a choice between two job offers. One is higher paying, with better benefits, in a field we are passionate about. Obviously, we would choose this one.

Other times, the choice is not so clear.

It is at such times that we should pray, turning our whole attention towards God, seeking His guidance. And when we pray, after we have supplicated His direction, we should be sure to open our eyes and look for that sign. Sometimes it is clear, other times not so.

Sometimes that sign will lead us to great suffering, but perhaps that is what is needed for us to learn what we need.

Just this morning I was talking with my wife, and she mentioned how it was only when she suffered in a particular situation that she learned the importance of service to others. She was stuck in an awkward situation, being trapped in an airport for a few days, unable to enter the country, and unable to get a flight out. She could have panicked. She could have been angry. She easily could have broken down and begged others to help her. Instead, she looked around to see who she could offer assistance to while she waited for her plane.

Now, we're not just talking a few hours here. She knew that the next plane out was a few days away, and she had no access to money. Eating was going to be an issue. Finding a place to sleep was going to be a trial. She had a lot to worry about.

But she turned her attention to her fellow travelers and sought ways to help them, while waiting for a sign showing her what to do about her own situation.

At one point, she saw an old woman who was uncomfortable, and offered her sleeping bag as a cushion for her feet. Over and over she found ways to help others. They, in their turn, were able to help her get food and beverages, until she received her sign and was able to return home.

Mulla Husayn's patience is a great example to us all. His awareness of stopping to wait for that sign is an object lesson for all of us. And his insight into recognizing that sign when it occurred is also a lesson for us.

As I sat down to write this morning at the computer, I still had no idea what to say. I said a prayer in my heart for guidance, and my eyes fell on the book "Mulla Husayn" by Mehrabkhani. And it was as I saw this book that I remembered this little detail of his journey. That, to me, was my sign of what to tell today.

Over and over throughout life, when we look for them, we will see small signs such as this, helping us on our way, guiding us through our journey of life, sometimes leading us through trials and tribulations, but always on to our own high destiny.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

From a Humble Student

I want to go back to the story of Mulla Husayn.

We all know him as the first Letter of the Living, the first of those stalwart souls who recognized the Bab before He had even announced His station. We all remember his heroic deeds in the tragic battle at the Shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi. And some of us even recall those powerful words, penned by Baha'u'llah Himself in the Kitab-i-Iqan, referring to this great soul: "But for him, God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory." I've written a few stories about him already, but I want to share one more thought.

You may recall that Mulla Husayn was not in Karbila when his master, Siyyid Kazim passed away. He was in Persia. He had been sent there by Siyyid Kazim to win over the support of some of the most formidable mujtahids of the day, in particular Siyyid Muhammad-Baqir of Isfahan. This was no minor task, for this Siyyid was very learned, and extremely well-respected. To even get an audience with him would be a difficult task. Another disciple of Siyyid Kazim had volunteered to try to perform this task, but Siyyid Kazim had warned him, "Beware of touching the lion's tail. Belittle not the delicacy and difficulty of such a mission." He then turned to Mulla Husayn and pronounced him equal to this task.

Although accounts differ, we know that he spent between two and four years in Persia at this time, both in Isfahan and Masshad at the behest of his teacher, and also in various other cities as needed. We know, for example, that he spent some time in Shiraz, but no information about that time has come to light.

When he was in Isfahan, he was able to catch the eminent Siyyid's attention one afternoon, and in a series of debates in which the Siyyid questioned him about the more difficult aspects of Siyyid Kazim's and Shaykh Ahmad's teachings, he was able to win his complete allegiance. Of this meeting, that great teacher said, "I, who fondly imagined myself capable of confounding and silencing Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti, realized, when I first met and conversed with him who claims to be only his humble disciple, how grievously I had erred in my judgment." The written testimony of this famous scholar likely opened many other doors for the young Mulla Husayn, who was only in his mid-twenties at the time.

So let's recap.

Mulla Husayn is in his mid-twenties, and he has just convinced some of the greatest religious scholars of Persia of the truth of these unusual teachings. He has spent more than half his life studying the teachings of Islam, and risen about as high as he can get, and he is still only a young man. There is a reason that many people thronged to the mosque in Shiraz when Mulla Husayn was giving his sermons during that time between when he first recognized the Bab and the arrival of the next Letters of the Living.

This was no ordinary scholar.

Now let's fast forward a short bit.

He has already proven himself to be the most learned of the Shaykhi school of thought. He has defeated the leading mujtahid's of Persia. And in the course of a single evening, really in just a few hours, he is completely won over to the cause of the Bab. In so short a time he has become totally subservient to an unschooled merchant six years his junior.

Jesus chose an uneducated fisherman to be His chief disciple, and used the illiterate to illumine the world. The Bab chose the most learned, the best educated, the recognizable leaders of His day to demonstrate His overwhelming majesty.

To me, there are many lessons in this story that are relevant to us today.

First is the extreme humility that Mulla Husayn showed. Although I didn't mention it above, when he first went to that Mujtahid in Isfahan, he was dressed simply, even covered in the dirt of the road. This was a far cry from the other students who were there, all dressed in their finery, showing off their wealth and station to each other. It was this simple demonstration of sincerity that first caught Muhammad-Baqir's attention. This humility is further demonstrated when he meets the Bab. Although he shows reluctance to accept Him at first, causing him regret for the rest of his life, he quickly submits to the greater wisdom of the Bab, a submission that is to last to his dying day.

We, too, should strive to demonstrate such humility.

Secondly, he showed sincerity, perseverance, commitment, and many other virtues. He strove to learn all he could about Islam, and put it into practice to the best of his ability.

We, too, should do all we can to better understand these great teachings. We should strive to put all these aspects of the teachings into practice in our daily life. Mulla Husayn did not know that it was his simple austerity that would first open the door, but he still lived it according to his understanding. We, too, do not know which aspect of the faith will open the hearts of those who are watching us.

Third, he showed great courage. When we consider his life, we often think of the courage he showed during that last great battle in Mazindaran, at the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi, but really, that courage is demonstrated here much earlier. He was fearless, yet courteous, in his presentation of what he felt to be the truth.

There is a lot more to this story, and much more that we can learn from it, but this is a good beginning.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Beautiful Conversation

One of my favorite things about this time of year is that I begin my summer season at the market again. I have the joy of being outdoors, of seeing old friends, and meeting hundreds of tourists every day from all parts of this beautiful planet of ours.

Of course, seeing old friends that I have not seen since last September generally means that they ask me what I've been doing. Yesterday, one friend of mine asked me what I'd been writing. Well, as you can imagine, that led to a conversation about this blog and the various stories I've been writing about the early Babis. It was at this point that she said, "Oh yeah, I remember you telling me a story last year like that."

The story I had told her was that of Anis and the execution of the Bab. The version I shared with her can be found here, and that blue text means that it's a link to the article on which you can click. While telling her this story last year, I talked about how it was relevant to her, even though she is not a Baha'i. And that, dear Reader, is what made it stick out in her memory.

"I remember it", she said, "because you made it relevant to my life." See? I told you.

Ok, now I have pause for a long-overdue aside here. A number of years ago I was reading the Dawn-Breakers to another friend of mine in a coffee shop. For the story of that time, you can click on this link here. Now one thing that I didn't mention in that article was that while reading it we talked a lot about how it was relevant to our lives. And that, dear Reader, is what made that story stand out to my other friend who repeated it practically verbatim. Oh, the story of the martyrdom of the Bab, not the whole of the Dawn-Breakers. (See what you miss when you don't click on the link? Now go back and read it.) (You did? Oh. Ok. Never mind.)

Back to the market and yesterday.

My friend came by, and I happen to know that she is very interested in history from non-Euro-centric perspectives. This is great. She's actually loaning me a book on history from a Middle Eastern perspective, and I can't wait to read it.

I told her a bit about Tahirih, Tahirih's poetry, how much she taught us, and how her conception of Adam's wish has really changed how I perceive Jewish and Christian history.

We spoke about books, various interests, and story-telling. We talked about our lives, and the various influences different things have on us. And we talked about going out for coffee, when I would not be distracted by my work at the market and other customers. And through it all, I touched on all sorts of other stories that I have shared here over the past six months.

Now this article is not exactly about one particular story of the early Babis, but as you can see, brings together a number of stories. And the over-arching theme of it all is how people actually remember these stories even more when we help show them how they are relevant.

You see, my friend that stopped by yesterday is interested in history, poetry, world issues, and women's issues. It was only natural that we talk about Tahirih. Now she wants to read Tahirih's poetry, so I have to remember to bring one her books with me some day.

All this, dear Reader, is just to say that this is the real reason why I am doing this. This blog, for me, is practice for when I meet real people in real life. The fact that I get to share it with you is just a bonus. Now I would really love to hear from you. How have these stories helped you talk about the Faith?

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Correct Definition

"That which we call a rose", Shakespeare famously wrote, "by any other word would smell as sweet".

I love this line, not only because of its reference to those striving to overcome prejudice, but also because it speaks of the importance of understanding the meaning of words and their definitions.

This may seem like a strange introduction to this idea, but I believe it is very important to be aware of definitions, especially if we are looking to the words to have particular effects.

You see, dear Reader, not only would a rose by any other name still smell sweet, but conversely any other flower that you may call a rose would not smell as sweet.

Someone else once famously asked, "If you call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs would it have?" And the answer, of course, is still four. Just calling the tail a leg does not make it a leg.

So what, you may wonder, does this have to do with the Baha'i Faith? Great question. Thanks for asking.

For years I have heard various friends talk about having "firesides" on buses, or in coffee shops. And even way back when I was first learning about the Faith, I was brought to the Baha'i Centre in my home town for "fireside" talks. But let's be clear: those first ones are not "firesides", they are teaching opportunities. And they are wonderful! Lots of us have been introduced to the Faith through just such wonderful conversations.

Those presentations I attended at the Baha'i Centre? Those were not firesides, either. They were public presentations. And just to be clear, I became Baha'i through those very presentations. So please don't misunderstand me. I am not putting them down. I am just clarifying what they are.


Well, in a letter written on behalf of the Guardian we read that "it has been found over the entire world that the most effective method of teaching the Faith is the fireside meeting in the home." And it is those last three words that, to me, are crucial: "in the home". If we wish to have the bounty accrued by the "most effective method of teaching the Faith", then we have to use that definition. If we don't, but still call it a "fireside", then we may experience disappointment when we do not see the expected results. After all, calling that dog's tail a leg does not mean that he can walk on it, nor does it mean that the tail is not a useful part of the animal.

Another aspect of this is that of expectation.

I have to been many gatherings that are billed as "devotional gatherings", and I go to them expecting to enjoy the great bounty of worship with others. It is something I look forward to, and eagerly anticipate. But most of the time, what I actually end up experiencing is a public talk, or a small study on some aspect of the Faith.

Again, please don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of public talks and studies. I love them. But when I am expecting to immerse myself in prayer, I feel let down, and mis-led.

While there are many examples of gatherings that are often mis-labeled, I think there are a few we should consider more carefully, with the ardent hope that we will be more effective in our collective work:

  • firesides and public talks
  • reflection gatherings and community gatherings
  • devotional gatherings that segue into a public talk

Once more, let me re-iterate that these are all good, but serve different purposes. And of course, this is all just my own opinion, but I truly feel it is good to be aware of what we are doing so that we can be more effective in our work.

A fireside is an opportunity for someone to ask their most heartfelt questions, while a public talk is an opportunity for someone to hear a presentation on a particular subject that may be of interest to them.

A reflection gathering is where the cluster reflects on its recently-completed cycle of activity, and considers plans for its next cycle. It requires the presentation and study of the statistics over the past few cycles, so that the movement of the cluster can be understood by the attendees.  They can then engage in careful reflection over the implication of those statistics. This results in plans for the upcoming cycle that are a natural extension of its current activities and growth, and consistent with the movement of the cluster over recent cycles. Of course, this is often filled with stories of recent activities, artistic presentations by different groups in the community, and joy. Lots of joy.

A community gathering is less formal. It can be pretty much anything at which the community comes together and enhances its own sense of being a community of loving and united people.

Finally, devotional gatherings are an opportunity for the friends to get together to worship their common creator in an atmosphere of loving unity. This is a great opportunity for galvanizing the service of the community into a more coherent whole. Of course, as the friends come together to pray, they also have the wonderful opportunity for studying together. Their hearts and minds are more open to receive the guidance that comes from a study of the creative Word. And so many communities take advantage of this opportunity. That's wonderful! But, as with most things, it comes with a caveat. Don't leave out the time for immersion in prayer. Without that, it is just not a devotional gathering, even if you do say a couple of prayers at the beginning. If it were, then our every Feast or Assembly meeting would be a devotional gathering. So remember, prayer is good, and we should use it to begin every meeting, but in a devotional gathering, we are more fully immersed in that wonderful ocean of prayer.

Remember, in the end, if we understand the use of a tool such as a fireside or a reflection meeting, we are in a far better position to use that tool to its best and desired effect.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

360 Degrees

When Abdu'l-Baha was about four years old, Tahirih was a guest in Baha'u'llah's home. At that time, a number of people visited the home to hear her and others speak.

"One day the great Siyyid Yaḥyá, surnamed Vaḥíd," wrote 'Abdu'l-Baha, "was present there. As he sat without, Ṭáhirih listened to him from behind the veil. I was then a child, and was sitting on her lap. With eloquence and fervor, Vaḥíd was discoursing on the signs and verses that bore witness to the advent of the new Manifestation. She suddenly interrupted him and, raising her voice, vehemently declared: 'O Yaḥyá! Let deeds, not words, testify to thy faith, if thou art a man of true learning. Cease idly repeating the traditions of the past, for the day of service, of steadfast action, is come. Now is the time to show forth the true signs of God, to rend asunder the veils of idle fancy, to promote the Word of God, and to sacrifice ourselves in His path. Let deeds, not words, be our adorning!'"

This simple story, of a young child sitting on her lap, while she re-directed the great Vahid's focus, has long captured my attention. Vahid, you may recall, was the distinguished scholar who was sent by the Shah himself to ascertain the truth of the Bab's cause. Needless to say, Vahid became a Babi, and was renowned for his great learning.

But here, Tahirih shines even brighter.

Why? What is it about this story that calls to me so strongly?

I think it is because she rightly turns his, and by extension our, attention from the past to the future. Vahid is looking backwards. She is looking forwards.

This thought comes further into focus when we consider the conference at Badasht.

It was at this historic gathering that the Babi community was showing its division most clearly. Those who saw it as a reformation of Islam were fronted by Quddus, while those who saw it as a complete break were spearheaded by Tahirih. And the whole conference was managed and reconciled by Baha'u'llah, probably with the knowledge and active participation by Quddus and Tahirih.

Without going into too much detail, Quddus and his group were looking backwards, while Tahirih and her group were looking forwards. But in the end, neither were what we would call accurate. Both had their valid points, and both were missing something important.

This issue, and the solution, are both apparent in the Kitab-i-Iqan. We need to be grounded in the past, with a firm understanding of where our roots lie in history, while constantly looking towards our movement into the future.

This is what we need to learn even more today.

We need to be fully aware of our history, no matter we live in the world. We need to understand the effects of colonization, how our various governments have come about, what our traditional values are, how our religious traditions have arisen, and so on. But we always need to keep in mind where we are heading.

When looking at our traditional values, we need to see if they bring us towards greater unity. When looking at the history of our country, we need to see if we are encouraging all those various members of that community, or are some being excluded based on race?

When examining the religious traditions of the past, we need to see what effect they were trying to achieve, and ask if they are still working towards that end. If so, great. If not, how can we change them to better achieve the spiritual effect desired?

This, to me, is one of the greatest teachings of the Baha'i Faith, and the underlying importance of the story of Tahirih: Instead of only looking backwards, or only looking forwards, we need to learn to get a full 360 degree view of the world around us.