Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Chance Encounter

Yesterday, Shoghi, Marielle and I were walking along downtown, heading to a store to get Shoghi's new glasses. We walked through a parking lot and there, in the corner, was a Dodge Ram truck with some really interesting tail lights. He pointed to them and said, "Wow! They're so beautiful." "Yeah," I replied, "they're so cool." To which Shoghi replied, "No, it's beautiful."

This led to an interesting little discussion in which he asked what the difference was between beautiful and cool.

Have you ever tried to explain the difference to a 6 year-old? It's not easy. But I gave it my best shot. What I came up with in the end was that cool is unusual and interesting, but not necessarily pleasing to look at, while beautiful is very pleasing to all the senses and the soul.

I talked a little bit about the importance of beauty, and then felt that I needed to conclude with the statement "Beauty is very important in our life because it is an attribute of the divine."

And a man who had just passed us on the sidewalk stopped, turned around, and said, "Excuse me, but did I just hear you say that beauty is an aspect of God?" It was obvious from his countenance that he knew this was true, but was trying to understand it. "I've never heard it put that way before."

I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but it was a fascinating conversation on the sidewalk. He knew that he agreed with the idea that beauty is an aspect of God, and that what passes for "beauty" in society is not the same. (I forgot to add that he said "True beauty uplifts the spirit while false beauty tries to control it." Isn't that a great distinction?)

This singular statement of mine, along with Marielle's loving kindness towards him, and our encouragement of him to share his own personal wisdom learned throughout his life, opened him up to ask if there were any Baha'i activities that he could attend. Naturally we spoke about a prayer gathering, "in which people can share whatever prayers they feel like sharing, or just listen if that's what makes them more comfortable". You see, in the conversation, he mentioned that his wife had passed away a couple years ago, and his daughter four years before that. He also mentioned that he was having some health issues, so a prayer gathering seemed most appropriate to his needs.

We also mentioned the idea of a study circle, and he said that would be good, too. When he asked what the study was like, I mentioned that there was no pre-supposition that the tutor knew more than the participants. It was recognized that we all had an understanding of spiritual issues, and that the tutor was there to help us see implications of things that we may have missed. He appreciated that, especially when Marielle said that it was a lot like our conversation that we had just had.

With a hearty round of handshakes and smiles, we all went on our way. He went to buy his tea in Chinatown and we went to get Shoghi's new glasses.

As we continued walking, I asked Marielle how it was that I happened to mention that beauty is an aspect of God, for I couldn't recall after all the tangents the conversation had. She was the one who recalled the Dodge truck and the question of beauty versus cool. When we got to the eyeglasses place, I sat down and wrote up my notes of this conversation with Louis in order to share it here. I think it is a nice little example of following the instincts and sharing something that may seem odd at first, but then allowing it to go where it will. By being open with my own spiritual understanding, and being neither shy nor forceful, asking the other person questions, it all led to a very natural invitation to both a study circle and a devotional gathering.

Yeah, I think it was a good lesson for me.

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