Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Butterfly

I am in awe of the wisdom of the elders.  Truly I am.

I may not always agree with them, or like their perspective, but I am in awe of their wisdom.

Yet another aside from yours truly: I only put this disclaimer there as I recall a talk that it was my misfortune to hear. In it, an "elder" was telling us in the audience how we would be better off taking our children out back and shooting them instead of letting them grow up in the world.  Shoghi, my son, was only a year old at the time, and he was sitting in my lap as this speaker glared at us.  I am unable to call this speaker an elder, even though he was old.  I think he had a lot to learn about hope and life, but to each their own path.  He was one of the very few exceptions to my love for the elders, and I understand his point was to say how much we needed to work to improve the planet, but he sure didn't do it with wisdom.  Then again, I really need to remember (and apply) Baha'u'llah's words: Every time the sin committed by any one amongst them was breathed in the Court of His Presence, the Ancient Beauty would be so filled with shame as to wish He could hide the glory of His countenance from the eyes of all men, for He hath, at all times, fixed His gaze on their fidelity, and observed its essential requisites.  I have such a long way to go.  End of aside.

It was a tremendous bounty to be able to sit in a study of Ruhi Book 4, The Twin Manifestations, with a group of Aboriginal American Grandmothers.  Actually, that entire week (or two) was a bounty, for while one group was studying Book 4, another group was studying Book 7, and I could wander and sit in with any group I wished.  I believe there was also a group looking at Book 2 and a Book 6 study circle at the same time, but I may be getting my meetings confused.  What I do recall is the studies of Books 4 and 7.

It would actually be impossible for me to forget that Book 7 group as one of the Grandmothers took my Book 7 one night and gave it back to me the next morning adorned with stickers.  It is beautifully decorated with stickers that make up a medicine wheel on the cover, and each sticker has a story that she told me, from the mouse in the middle (which reminded her of me) to the Cookie Monster sticker (as she noticed that I really like cookies) to the sticker of a chicken (whose hair reminded her of mine), and on and on.  Every time I look at the cover of that book, I am reminded of that wonderful gathering, and the many stories she shared.

No, today it was while studying Book 4 with another group that I was reminded of those dear souls once again.

We were studying the following quote, when something that one of those ladies said came back to me:
During the days I lay in the prison of Tihran, though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear.

She noticed that this "something" began at His head and then "flowed... over (His) breast". I was unable to fathom why this seemed important to her, so I waited for her to explain. She just sat there for about five minutes, letting this observation hang in the air, her lips pursed as she gently rocked back and forth. Her eyes were slightly squinted as she stared somewhere between this world and the next.

No one said a word.  This was fairly normal in their culture, and I just needed to get used to it.  In fact, that was just the way each section worked in this study circle. Someone would read a quote and everyone would sit there in absolute silence, thinking, meditating.  A few minutes later, someone would repeat a single sentence or phrase from the quote, just an observation really, and that would hang in the air for up to ten minutes, followed by the most profound and simple explanation I have ever heard in my life about the application of it.  Everyone would just nod in agreement, and then we would go on to the next section.

For this quote, all this sagacious woman said was that "this something flowed from His head down over His breast".

While this seeped into everyone's conciousness, a yellow butterfly was flitting around outside as an oriole performed an aerial dance back and forth between a few trees.  I'm not sure why I remember that detail, but the two yellows struck me as quite beautiful against the shimmering green grass and the dots of purple flowers on the hills.  Perhaps it was the hills that fixed it in my memory, for hills are a rare thing in my part of the globe. (They often say that Manitoba is so flat that you can watch your dog run away for a week.)

As I lost myself watching this beautiful dance of colour, she spoke again, this time with a story, one I had heard many times, but never connected with this quote.

"When Baha'u'llah was in Karbila, a year before His imprisonment in the Black Pit, He met an old man, Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi.  This man had been told by the Bab to go to Karbila and await the Promised One.  He was to give 'He Whom God Shall Make Manifest' the loving greetings of the Bab, a mission the Bab described as very important.  The Shaykh went there and waited, working to earn his keep. One day, in October of 1851, while praying in the Shrine of the Imam Husayn, he laid eyes upon the blessed countenance of Baha'u'llah. This, he knew, was the Promised One. Baha'u'llah confirmed His station, took this old man by the hand and said, 'This very day I have purposed to make thee known throughout Karbila as a Babi.'" The grandmother paused at this point and looked each of us in the eyes. "How did He know?  This was a full year before He received His revelation in the prison."

I had never considered this before that moment.

"I believe," she said slowly, taking her time to ensure her words were carefully weighed, "that Baha'u'llah always knew.  In His head. But when He was in the prison, this knowledge flowed from His head and washed over His heart, where the Revelation belongs."

Not a word was uttered, not a sound was made, aside from the birdsongs outside, as she stood up and walked to get a cup of coffee.

For myself, I stepped outside and sat as I watched the yellow butterfly move from flower to flower.

This afternoon, as this new study circle read this quote, the whole story came back full force.  As it does every time I read it. And I felt, dear Reader, that it was so beautiful a story that I just had to share it with you.

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