Sunday, April 3, 2011



I just love words. Have I mentioned that before?

Immerse, as I'm sure you know, means to either plunge into, or dive deeply, or completely involve. It is not merely staying at the surface level of something, but going full force into it.

"Immerse yourselves"

When you immerse yourself into something, you are in over your head.

Hmm. Isn't that interesting? "In over your head"? That phrase usually refers to being involved in something beyond your capacity. It comes from the idea of swimming in water too deep for you, when you run the serious risk of drowning.

If Baha'u'llah tells us to immerse ourselves, are we at risk of being in over our head? If so, what are we at risk of? While I don't really know, I think it may be that we are at risk of losing ourselves, which may not be such a bad thing.

"Immerse yourselves in the ocean"

Ah, so we are to immerse ourselves in the water. But not just any water: the ocean.

I have had the incredible bounty of being able to swim in many different bodies of water in my life: streams, rivers, pools, fresh water lakes, salt water lakes, a couple of seas, and the ocean. And let me tell you, there is nothing like the ocean.

I grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes, so called because you cannot see across it. It goes past the horizon. I have body-surfed on this lake when the waves were over 10 feet high, and that was amazing. (It may not seem like much to an ocean surfer, but to a prairie kid, it was unbelievable.) But never did I get the sense of awe that I got when I first saw the ocean. That ocean was the water from which all life sprung on this planet. There was no doubt of it. Although to outward seeming, they both looked the same, going all the way to the horizon, with waves moving across them, there was a visceral awareness from the scent to the sound, and even the actual way in which the waves moved, that told me this ocean was much more.

And diving in them? Again there is no comparison.

Have you ever been snorkeling? Remember how I just said that I loved words? This is one word that I really love. It's so onomatopoetic (I love having a poet's license to make up words as I will). I think snorkeling is called that because it is the sound you make if your tube slips while you're under the water. "Snork".

Sorry about that. I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. Snorkeling. (I really do love the sound of that word. "Snorkel". It sounds like something Dr Seuss made up.) (Sorry again.)

When you snorkel (I can't stop giggling at the sound of that word) (which is really bad because I'm drinking tea right now) (you know, you also make that sound, "snork", when you are giggling with a mouthful of tea at the sound of the word snorkel), you dive under the water and get to witness such beauty as you never see above the waves. It is as if you are floating in a brand new world.

Oh, and you have to imagine this from the perspective of never having seen any photos or films of the underwater realms. It would have been completely new to anyone of Baha'u'llah's day. (Except the pearl divers, but I digress again.)

You feel as if you are floating over the world, watching everything play out underneath you. You try to interact with the fish, but the naturally swim away, going on with their day as if unconscious that you are there.

It must be something like being in the next world, trying to interact with people here.

And all the time, while you are floating, you are buoyed up by the water, surrounded by the all-embracing love of the Mother of Life.

Oh, and what's more is that the trials, troubles and turmoils that abound on the surface never reach underneath. To one with depth, the tossing waves and tempestuous storms never bother.

"Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words"

But as you know, dear Reader, Baha'u'llah is not talking about something so shallow as the ocean. He is talking about His words, which have a depth far greater than a mere ocean.

When you immerse yourself in the ocean of His words, then you truly feel buoyed up in the very core of your being. You feel surrounded by His love. You know, beyond all doubt, that you are in the very grip of the source of all life.

And at times you may feel as if you are drowning.

When I first went snorkeling (and yes, I've still got the giggles over this word), the hardest part was to allow myself to breathe through the tube. I naturally clenched up and occasionally choked ("snork") before I learned to relax and breathe. It took time. It took practice. It took patience.

But most of all, it took trust.

 "Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets"

Once I achieved that trust, then I could begin to explore. And oh, did I explore. I saw the schools of fish that were right there, under my feet the whole time. I never knew they were so close. I saw small plants, corals, shells, all sorts of wonders. I had seen the remains of these types of things on the beach earlier, and thought those discards were beautiful, but I never suspected how much more incredible they were when alive. Even today, when I go down to the ocean, I am in awe of the beauty of a crab claw washed ashore, or the opalescence of an oyster shell broken by the gulls. But all this fades to dust when I witness them alive in the ocean.

I love the Writings of Baha'u'llah. And when I dive deep within them, it is truly awe-inspiring to see some of what is contained there.

But I know that I am only at the merest shallows of the waters. I don't have the skills or the capacity yet to dive much deeper. I am not yet a trained scuba diver, with the luxury of an oxygen tank to allow me to stay under as I would like.

Perhaps some day.

"Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths."


  1. This expression you cite from the Kitab al-aqdas no 182, comes from the Bab:

    Immerse yourself in the ocean
    of my explanations, as deeply
    as you can, and then come
    back to the surface, with
    the pearls the Creator
    has inserted in
    .these verses.
    [Persian Bayan 5:8]

    For the expression bayan-y, instead of
    my explanations, the British translators of the Aqdas insert: my words. Anyone who knows Arabic sees the distortion.

    1. Thank you, Paul. I never knew that this was in the Bayan, too. I will have to look it up.