Saturday, January 9, 2010


I sell used Baha'i books.  It's not really a business for me, just something that I sort of fell into and enjoy.  Besides, it's been a great way to augment my own book collection.

Have you ever noticed the relationship that Baha'is seem to have with their books?  We love them.

And as part of that love, we want to share them with so many people.

But then we never seem to get them back.

Oh, it's not that our friends steal them from us, nor that they don't intend to return them, just that they fall in love with them, too.  They read them, and re-read them, and then re-re-read them, and so on, and the next thing you know they have forgotten who lent them the book, and by now it feels as if it's theirs and the original owner has to buy a new one.  Or a used one.

I get around that now by having a sign-out sheet.

But as part of selling some used books, I have also begun ordering books for my community and am now, de facto, the local bookseller with the permission of my Assembly.

Well, that was a long way around to telling you, dear Reader, that I have noticed a rise in sales of Some Answered Questions.  I just can't keep it in stock.

"Would you like a nice copy of The World Order of Baha'u'llah?"  "No thanks, I'd like a copy of Some Answered Questions."  "I have a great edition of Tablets of the Divine Plan."  "No thanks, I'd like a copy of Some Answered Questions."  "An old translation of The Hidden Words?"  "No thanks, I'd like a copy of Some Answered Questions."  "How about One Common Faith?  It's a must read for every Baha'i right now."  "No thanks, I'd like a copy of Some Answered Questions."

All right, all right.  I get the idea.  Some Answered Questions.

It's not that I have anything against this book, just that I don't have in stock.  It always sells out.

Well, this has gotten me to look at it again, to try and figure out why so many of the friends are suddenly buying it.  And, you know, I had forgotten that it has one of my all-time favorite passages in all of the Writings tucked nicely away within it.  (There are so many favorite passages, but this is an especially favorite favorite passage.)

Now you may think that my favorite passages would the ones adorning the Temple in Wilmette, those small but priceless gems that the Guardian selected for that honour, and yes, they are amongst my favorites, but those of you who are quick on the uptake (as most of you are) will realize that none of those immortal quotes are from the Master.  They are all from Baha'u'llah, Himself.

So which is my favorite quote in Some Answered Questions?  Thank you, dear Reader, I'm glad you asked.

The object of what we are about to say is to explain the reality -- not to deride the beliefs of other people; it is only to explain the facts; that is all. We do not oppose anyone's ideas, nor do we approve of criticism.

Isn't it wonderful?  I mean, look at it, doesn't it just say so much in such a short space?

OK, it doesn't appear to say all that much, but I think it does, in many other ways.

Long overdue aside: I remember going to a fireside once, and there was a speaker there who gave a marvelous talk about life after death.  The room was packed, and his talk was very well received.  Now, I have to admit that I only have it on hearsay that the talk was wonderful, as I didn't speak the language.  I was watching the audience, and they seemed to respond very well to what he was saying.

Two people in the audience caught my attention, however, from their reactions.  Their eyes were squinting in consideration, and they seemed on the verge of tears.  They were rapt in their attention.  I later learned that their son had recently been killed in a car accident.

At the end of the talk, the speaker asked the inevitable question, "Are there any questions?"

The husband of this couple, who had lost their son, stood up.  He proceeded to explain his view of the afterlife as a prelude to his question (I learned this later), when a Baha'i in the audience said, "No, you're wrong."  This patient gentleman went on to explain that this was his perspective, and he needed to explain it as a prelude to his question.  This poor Baha'i woman interrupted him again, saying, "No, you're wrong.  This is how it is."

In the end, this couple left; the wife in tears, and the husband angry.

It was a sad experience.

I talked with some of the Baha'is afterwards and asked them what had happened.  When they explained it to me, I asked what we could learn from it and how to make the next fireside better.  They weren't sure what I meant, so I asked if this result was what we desired.  Obviously it wasn't, so we spoke about how to approach people whose opinions or ideas were different from our own.

And that leads me back to this quote: We do not oppose anyone's ideas, nor do we approve of criticism.

There are so many instances in the Writings in which we are told how to teach.  Baha'u'llah, when asked about this, told us to look to the Master.  He said that 'Abdu'l-Baha listened carefully to what the speaker was saying, and He listened so carefully that the speaker felt as if he were actually teaching the Master something.  Then, after this was done, with infinite patience and an eye towards the positive 'Abdu'l-Baha would agree that whatever they said may, in fact, be the case, especially focussing on what was correct, and then ask if it could be seen from this other perspective.  I'm paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea.

I won't even talk about the inappropriateness of interrupting someone at a fireside.
Another fine example of this methodology of teaching can be found in Tabernacle of Unity, in which Baha'u'llah appears to evade some questions, but really answers them within the context of what is important.  I've mentioned this before, so I won't go into it here.

Besides, this is long enough as it is, and I have a book that I want to read.

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