Monday, May 28, 2012

The "R" Word

"Look at librarians", I said. "They're all stuffy, old ladies, with pinched noses, dark-rimmed glasses, no fashion sense, and they glare at anyone who dares to make a sound in the library." I said it with a smile, but I think they understood the problem with stereotypes: they are just not true.

This was in conversation with someone, a librarian, who was saying that religion is a bad thing, and that what we really need is spirituality.

My response? Well, you can see above.

Religion is one of those words that has been co-opted by some people, both religious fanatics and fanatical atheists, and made into one of those words that we only refer to by a single letter. Kind of like "The F-bomb", or "the S-word". It has become a word that is not generally used in polite company and is, therefore, frowned upon when actually used correctly.

Although religion has come to mean "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs", this is not its actual definition. It is merely its current definition. Oh, and if you note the first part of this definition, that set of beliefs regarding the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, then atheism is also a religion, especially as the second part does not say that it is "only" when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency.

But getting back to my point, the word religion comes from the root word religare, meaning to bind together. It is the same root as the word ligament. Religion, in the strict sense, is a power that binds things together, not a force that divides.

Religion, as it has come to be used, is, I agree, not a good thing, for it is often devoid of the spirit that prompted the religion in the first place.

Story - In the early days of the Faith in the West, there was a man named Rev. Peter Z. Easton, who published an article slamming the Faith. In particular, he was chastising Archdeacon Wilberforce for welcoming 'Abdu'l-Baha into his church and offering Him to sit in the Bishop's chair, a high honour, indeed. In this article, Mr. Easton refers to "the much vaunted unity, from which God preserve us", and says that "there is no need of wasting any sympathy on the sufferings of the Babis". This is a fine example of religion devoid of spirituality. In his book, The Brilliant Proof, that eminent Baha'i scholar, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, points out to us, "His Holiness 'Abdu'l-Baha summons the dwellers in the world to unity and harmony, but Peter Z. Easton invites men to division and disharmony!" Mirza Abu'l-Fadl asks the simple question which should be asked of all such religionists, "Should one accounting himself a teacher of good morals and a spreader of superior virtues... characterize himself with a quality which is the most specific sign and attribute of Anti-Christ? No! by the life of God!"

This argument, valid then, is still valid today.

If people claiming to be religious should attire themselves with the vestment of hatred and anger, slander and abuse, vilification and condemnation,then they are not, by definition, religious. "An ugly man may call himself handsome," says 'Abdu'l-Baha, "but he deceives no one... not even himself!"

So does this mean that we should get rid of religion and only have spirituality? Not at all. I think it is time that we take the word back and re-infuse it with its proper meaning, spirituality and all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ridvan 2012, part 6

I love looking at these Ridvan messages. They are like a breath of fresh air at the beginning of each year. It is a moment when we have reflected back to us just what it is that we have been doing for the past 19 months (or 12, if you want to use the Gregorian calendar). It is also a moment when we get a glimpse of just where it is that we are going for the next 19.

Aside - There is an old parable of how what we are doing, helping build this new civilization, is like walking through the woods at night, in the dark, with only a lantern shining down at our feet. We can see the next few steps clearly, but we have to take those steps to see what comes after that. These Ridvan messages are like that lantern,

These messages also give us clear reminders of, or pointers to, passages in the Writings we may wish to look at again.

For example, in paragraph 2 of this year's message, we see a line that asks us if "anyone can claim to have glimpsed anything but an intimation, distant and indistinct, of the future society" that is coming. It's a beautiful line that I'm sure we all loved to read.

It is also a clear reminder of that other memorable line from the Guardian, "All we can reasonably venture to attempt is to strive to obtain a glimpse of the first streaks of the promised Dawn that must, in the fullness of time, chase away the gloom that has encircled humanity."

When we go back to that passage from Shoghi Effendi, which is found in the World Order of Baha'u'llah, page 35, we see that it is the beginning of a section about the guiding principles of world order, and follows hot on the heels of a section discussing the impotence of statesmanship. It was also written late in November 1931, and is placed in the socio-historical context of the time, coming between two world wars and in the midst of the Great Depression, which began 2 years earlier.

When we take the time to re-read these passages, in fact this entire letter, we can see just how relevant this letter of his still is, a fact the Universal House of Justice makes abundantly clear by referring, or alluding, to it here.

In the third paragraph they do something similar to this again, when they say, "The purpose of every Manifestation of God is to effect a transformation in both the inner life and external conditions of humanity." This is a near direct quote from the Kitab-i-Iqan: "And yet, is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?"

This is in the midst of a passage in which Baha'u'llah is talking about how people deny the Messengers, claiming eternal primacy of their preferred Messenger, even though their own Sacred Books testify to the coming of a new Message. This is another passage that it would do us well to re-read, especially given the religious temperature of our day.

Well, it's late, and that is really all I wanted to share, this idea of using these paraphrased passages from this Ridvan Message as a guide to go back to particular passages in the Writings. It's quite amazing, that, how the Universal House of Justice can bring to mind a whole passage, and load an entire section of their messages with the context of the original quote. I truly love it. It gives even more depth to an already fathomless ocean.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Wool Scarf

It was a cold and blustery British day as I was walking home, way back in the mid-80s. (I was, as you may have guessed, living in England at the time.) It was probably winter, but I don't really remember. All I know is that it was grey outside and I was shivering. The day had started off fairly nice and I just wasn't dressed for the sudden drop in the temperature.

"Please, God," I asked in a very heartfelt prayer, "if there is any way you can just warm it up a bit?" It wasn't the most selfless prayer I had ever uttered, but it was sincere. I mean, come on, I was cold. And I'll tell you, that British cold really does chill you to the bone.

There I was, walking on the sidewalk, with an old wall on my right running the length of the street.

Aside: This was an old wall that ran the entire length of at least one block, but by any other standard, it was more like two or three blocks. And you know what was on the other side of that wall? Another sidewalk. Then, to top it all off, there was a door halfway down the length of it. As far as I could tell, the only thing this wall did was divide the sidewalk in half. And that door? It was locked. Why? What purpose did it serve, aside from giving you a bit of exercise by making you walk an extra couple of blocks to get around it? It was crazy. If you took that wall away, all you would have is a double-wide sidewalk. Absurd.

So, where was I? Oh yes, walking down that street, facing the wind. Actually, it didn't seem to matter which way I facing, it was into the wind. (This would make a great story for me to tell Shoghi some day.)

Moments after I uttered that extremely non-detached prayer, I turned the corner and was face to face with a rosebush. It looked for all the world like two outstretched arms holding, I kid you not, a double thick, extra long, grey wool scarf.

After taking a well deserved moment to overcome my disbelief, I looked up and said, "Thanks", as I placed that most-beautiful of garments around my neck.

I had that scarf for all of two weeks, and wore it almost every day.

Why, you may ask, did I get rid of it? Simple. One afternoon, as I was walking through the downtown area, I saw an old man sitting by the side of a building, begging for money. He was dressed in ragged clothing and shivering. As I was a poor student at the time, I had no money to offer him, but I did have a wonderfully warm scarf.

As I walked away, smiling at having been given the bounty of being able to offer him something that he could use, I said a prayer of gratitude to God for that gift I had received just a couple weeks earlier. I felt the warm sense of "You're welcome" fill my soul, and as I turned the corner there was hanging from a branch of a tree a double thick, extra long, grey wool scarf.

I stopped in my tracks. Staring. In disbelief.

And then I shrugged and said, "Thanks", as I wrapped this new gift around my neck and shoulders.

A week later it was passed on to an elderly woman, and I found another double thick, extra long, grey wool scarf the following afternoon.

Over the next seven years a total of 38 double thick, extra long, grey wool scarves passed through my hands. Why they were all double thick, extra long, grey wool scarves, I don't know, but aside from the actual knitting pattern, they were all almost identical. Every single one of them was passed on to someone who was shivering on a particularly cold winter's day, and I never had to wait more than a single day to get the next one.

While I never told anyone about this at the time, I did have to wonder at it. I still do. It was a truly magical series of moments in my life that I just appreciated. It always seemed to me that it was just natural, and that I should do nothing more than sit back and enjoy the ride.

One evening, while I was living in Winnipeg, I found myself on the bus home. The day had started off fairly warm, but a winter storm had moved in. The temperature plummeted and it had started snowing. But I was ready, having heard the forecast.

The young woman sitting across from me, however, was not. She was wearing high heels, a short skirt, a light top, and that was about it. Her arms were crossed over herself and she was, as you would expect, shivering and looking generally miserable.

But something about her struck me. She didn't seem upset about it. She seemed resigned to her current fate and just accepted having to walk home in the cold. As I unwound my scarf from my neck, I knew that this was the last time I would do this. It felt as if I was somehow passing a mantle on to her.

I handed it to her without a word, and she just looked at me, somehow seeming to know that this was more than just a simple scarf, that there was some sort of responsibility with it. She stared at me and said, "Thanks", but it seemed more ritual than anything else. What she really wanted was to ask me the story behind it, but I just sensed that this was all I could give her.

I felt her eyes on me as I stood up and got off the bus. The shiver that I felt on the back of my neck was due more to that than the cold wind that could now reach there.

To this day I still wonder who she gave that scarf to, and what her experience has been. I mean, what I felt about her could have been just my imagination, but it still feels like such a surreal moment to me, and it still feels in my soul as if that is what happened between us.

As for me, a couple days later another woman who had been admiring my work for a few years asked me if I would accept a double thick, extra long, wool scarf in exchange for a bracelet. "Sure", I said, wondering if it would be grey.

It wasn't.

It was a beautiful natural beige colour, and it is still hanging on a hanger with my winter coat.

So what does all this have to do with how I live my Baha'i life? Not much, since it began before I became Baha'i, except that 'Abdu'l-Baha does say "Be ye daysprings of generosity..."

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Long Healing Prayer

On Monday, when I was at the University, I was wondering what style of meditation to introduce to the group that afternoon. There were going to be a few relatively new faces, and it was the beginning of a new term, so I had thought about going back to some of the easier ones, such as just listening to the world around you, or watching a flame of a candle.

It was, however, a very beautiful day, and I knew the group would love to be outside in the gardens, so I wanted to factor that into it.

Much to my surprise, I found myself thinking of some friends who are ill as I walked over the the Chapel, where I conduct this workshop. As I got there, I knew what I wanted to do: use the Long Healing Prayer.

I told the group that I was hoping to do a reading meditation, using a beautiful prayer that had a very strong rhythm to it. We had already done a chant, as well as meditating on a single verse, so this was a bit different, but not too far out there.

They readily agreed, saying that they trusted me. It's nice to have earned that trust.

Aside: In case you don't know, I have had some stage and radio experience, so I have a bit of training in reading aloud. This tends to make the reading of a prayer such as this a lot easier for the listener. I would highly encourage anyone who wants to read aloud to get a bit of training. A local theater group, or even Toast Masters can help a lot in this regard.

As I read the prayer, keeping to the rhythm of it, rocking back and forth as I did, the friends there all closed their eyes, enjoyed the cool spring sun as they sat on the grass, or the blanket I had brought, and listened to the prayer. When I finished reading it 10 minutes later, I asked them how they felt.

The general consensus was that it was very difficult to stay focused. Most didn't really care for this style of meditation, but agreed that as it was the first time with this, they were willing to try it again.

This we did yesterday.

Before we began, my friend Corey (I hope I spelled that correctly) asked to look at it. He then asked me why the word "abiding" was used so much in a healing prayer.

"Why", I repeated back to him, "did Baha'u'llah use the word abiding?" He nodded yes, saying that this was, in fact, his question. "I don't know", I said. (See? I really can answer any question.)

And that is the truth. I don't really know why Baha'u'llah did anything that He did.

But, as usual, I can make a guess, and while I am probably only giving a very shallow answer, that's ok. My answers work for me, even if everyone else laughs at them. (At least I'm helping bring joy to the world through my answers.)

I suggested that perhaps it was His way of drawing our attention to something within us. Remember, as I have put forth many times, I believe that we are all created in God's image. As God is not 6 feet tall with black curly hair, I can only presume that this refers to the virtues. If God is the All-Knowing, then we have some knowledge. If He is the All-Powerful, we have a bit of power. Whatever God is in the capital, we are in the lower case. Given this, it is my contention that every time we see an attribute of God in the Writings, it is because that is the virtue we need to draw upon within ourselves to fulfill the intention of that part of the Writings or prayer.

So, when it comes to healing, in terms of the Long Healing Prayer, it seems to me that we need to be sufficing, or meet the present needs. In other words, we need to treat the current illness, not the illness from last month. We need to allow the healing to occur, for we can often work against this in ourselves. And we need to be abiding. We need to remain fast and firm through the most difficult of times. Sometimes when we just accept the fact that we are ill, or that someone we love is ill, the lack of stress about it actually helps us heal.

People seemed to like that idea, and I asked them to meditate on the attributes of God mentioned in this prayer. Thus we began.

After it was read, lo those 10 minutes later (11, but who's counting), I asked them how they felt this time.

Their answers could not have surprised me more.

First of all, they loved it. A few of them said that they could truly feel the power of the prayer this time, some of whom said that this was indicative of their state of mind that day, more than anything.

One woman said that she could feel her soul "breathe" with the rhythm of the prayer.

Inhale, "I call on Thee O Exalted One, O Faithful One, O Glorious One!" Exhale, "Thou the Sufficing, Thou the Healing, Thou the Abiding, O Thou Abiding One!"

Another said that she could feel herself lifting up with each stanza, and grounded with each refrain.

In short, it was beautiful, and I learned so much about that prayer from them.

They did have two requests, though. First, could I please print off the definitions of some of the more obscure words, as they found it distracting wondering what "succoring" meant, to give but one example.

Second, could we please do it again next week.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Teaching, Time and Effectiveness

I'm sorry, dear Reader, for not writing as much in recent days, or months, as I have in the past. There have been some other things on my plate, such as writing a book and making my art, working at the University, not to mention time with my family, service to the community, participating in Baha'i activities, just to name a few. Oh yeah, and reading, playing some computer games, enjoying walks in nature: the list just goes on. The more I think about it, the more I realize just how little time we really have in our life.

It also makes me realize just how precious my time is, and how important it is to me to share the Faith as often and as effectively as possible.

And, as usual, I've thinking about this subject of teaching a lot lately, trying to figure out how to be more effective.

Aside: My son, Shoghi, is in first grade, and he has an agenda that he is supposed to bring to school every day. This is the main form of communication with his teacher, a simple note written each day in his agenda. A couple of nights ago my wife, Marielle, was putting everything in Shoghi's backpack for the next morning, and I told her to make sure that the agenda is clearly visible in his bag. "After all," I said, "we don't want him to have a hidden agenda."

Isn't that the truth, though? We have to be sure, when we are teaching, that we don't have a hidden agenda.

I have heard some Baha'is say that the real reason, our main goal, when inviting someone to a study circle, is to help them become Baha'i. Personally, I disagree. That may be their main purpose, but it is surely not mine, and I don't appreciate being lumped into that particular "our".

Why? Am I against people becoming Baha'i? Of course not. It is because that would be a hidden agenda, to me.

And this would make my ability to share the teachings that Baha'u'llah has given to the world far less effective.

So what, then, is my goal? To share these beautiful teachings. Plain and simple. I believe that these teachings, this view of the world, will make the world a far better place. And while I believe that it is imperative that the Baha'i community grow, in order to be able to exert a far more positive influence upon the world, I do not believe that we have the right to take away people's choice of their own path, which I feel we try to do when we have that hidden agenda.

I also believe that as we learn to more effectively share the message of Baha'u'llah with people, a certain percentage of them will naturally arise to embrace the Faith. Statistics seem to indicate this. And the more effective we are, the greater the percentage. but I don't believe it will ever be 100%, for everyone is at a different point in their journey in life.

Teaching, as I have alluded to many times in the past, is fairly straightforward, but very complex. There are not all that many steps involved, but knowing which particular step to take at any given moment is very difficult to ascertain. It is a subtle blending of both science and art, intellect and intuition, and we are all learning to be more and more effective at this.

Let me try and give and example: When I first began working at the university in the multifaith services office, some friends told me that I had to begin a study circle, a children's class, hold a devotional gathering, and so on. The problem was that there were no children that I encountered on campus, so a children's class was out. There was no one I had met who was even remotely interested in anything that smacked of yet another course or class. And there was very little interest amongst the students for anything like prayer, unless it was from their own particular tradition, such as Catholic mass at noon.

What to do? That was my question.

I talked with the students and they said that what they wanted was to learn meditation.Thus Meditation 101 was born, a drop-in session twice a week in which we explore some different styles of meditation, with the goal of helping them learn techniques that they can use at a moments notice. This was my goal, and this has been, according to the testimony of many participants, achieved. Not every technique works for everyone, but they are all willing to experiment, to test a method to see if it works, for if they don't try, they'll never know.

See the need, identify a remedy and offer it with love and sincerity. That is what works for me.

Now, that being said, I don't think it needs to stop there. While these friends have said that meditation is what they want, and it is what I am offering, I always explain how meditation is only half the equation to me. I often talk about the link between prayer and meditation, for that is my perspective and my understanding. After 9 months of mentioning this, a few of them are now beginning to ask about a devotional gathering. Also, to my shock and surprise, some of them have also now told me that their children are in neighbourhood Baha'i children's classes. Some have asked for personal advice, drawing on my services as an adviser on campus, and others have asked for more direct information about the Faith.

To each and every one of them I strive to meet their particular needs.

For some, all they need is someone to listen to them. They don't want to hear anything yet, but just want the opportunity to open up.

Some others just need someone to say a prayer with them. They may not want to study it, or discuss it, or even feel comfortable reading it themselves. They just want the comfort of someone praying for them, with no other intention brought into it.

A few may be interested in a particular subject, and we may have the opportunity to offer them some insights on that subject, say through a talk Ruhi Book 2, or some such. They might not be interested in religion, or anything else, and we have to meet them at the level of their interest.

Some may be very interested in discussing religion, both sharing their view and listening to ours. We have to be sure to give them a respectful amount of time for this. I don't say equal, for we shouldn't be concerned about the number of milliseconds. They may need to go on and on at great length before they are ready to listen, or they may be far more interested in hearing what we want to say (note that I don't say "have to say", for we don't HAVE to say anything), and want us to speak far longer than they do.

And then there are those few who are ready and want to hear about Baha'u'llah in a far more direct manner. We have to be ready to respond to those precious souls, for they may be the ones most likely to throw in their lot with the Faith, embrace it wholeheartedly, and arise to serve with all their heart and soul. We must, as the Universal House of Justice says so well, be ready to offer the teachings in a far more direct manner than we may have been comfortable in the past.

As our consciousness of this process increases, as we try, stumble, try again, succeed, fall, and try again, we will learn more and more about how to be more effective, especially if we reflect after every step. We will learn to teach more directly when appropriate, and we will better learn to perceive receptivity.

This is complex. It will take a lifetime as we become better and better at it. But as this all unfolds before us, it is truly beautiful to behold.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Purpose of Purpose

For years now, doctors and scientists have thought that Alzheimer's was a disease that was caused by plaque and tangles within the brain. They supposed that there was some sort of illness that caused the plaque to grow, somehow resulting in, or concurrent with, some tangles in the protein strands (I think) that killed off those cells, resulting in the dementia-like behaviour that we call Alzheimer's.

Now they are beginning to think differently.

Some scientists were trying to understand why they couldn't figure out what was causing this stuff to grow, tangle and kill, and then asked themselves if they had it all backwards. Was there some sort of problem with the cells themselves? Were they somehow weakened, unable to function quite properly? Did this cause them to become tangled, and somehow result in the growth of the plaque that they saw? While they are not quite sure about this yet, it is proving to be a more viable explanation for many reasons which I didn't understand from the interview I just heard on the radio.

So just what is it that these people are suggesting?

In a nutshell, they are repeating one thing that we already know, and then they are adding a new bit of information that may have very confirming consequences for many of us. First, they are reminding us of that old truth, "Use it or lose it." If we don't use our brain, or even small sections of it, we run the very real risk of it giving out on us. This is why they suggest doing "mental exercise", such as crossword puzzles or other mental puzzles, to help keep our brains engaged. The problem is, if you haven't done them for your whole life, and have little interest in them, why should you bother? Sudoku is a great puzzle, but if you've never seen it before, as most people over 75 haven't, then it seems kind of silly to say "do them".

They have recognized that our "mental exercise" needs to be relevant. One example they gave was of an elderly man who been a doctor his whole life, who was now suffering from dementia. He was an awful patient, and gave everyone a very hard time. Then one day someone realized that what this man wanted, more than anything, was to be a doctor again. They gave him the suit he used to wear when he was making his rounds, and allowed him to join the other doctors on their rounds of the nursing home. Not only did he prove to be a great patient after that, but he was also able to give the doctors some very real and practical advice.

These scientists who are studying this new theory of Alzheimer's are putting together a few very simple ideas in a new way, and I am certain that we will hear great things from them in the near future. They have realized, for example, that there are parts of the brain that become active when we do good works, either by finishing a difficult project or engaging in service to others. These are the parts that give off those chemicals that make us feel good. If these parts of the brain are not active, they, too, will have less blood flowing to them and can become weakened.

In other words, it is not enough to merely keep your brain active, you have to keep it active in ways that help you feel good, in ways that are relevant to you. Your work has to have meaning.

Years ago, grandparents naturally did this through their involvement with their grandchildren. They were the ones who helped in the raising and training of the young. They shared their stories, offered their advice, and still partook in the functioning of both the community and the household. They were an active participant in the life of the community, and their input was valued. (For the most part, he says, thinking of that ubiquitous  uncle who always asks the nephews and nieces to pull his finger.)

Once again, we are seeing the wisdom of helping people engage in relevant service to the community and to humanity. Not only does this help make our world a better place, but it also seems to have very positive benefits on our personal health, which also helps cut the overall price of healthcare, which, in turn, frees up more money to help in other social and community projects. Oh, this just goes on and on, light upon light.

Now, there was something else I wanted to say about Alzheimer's, but I can't remember what it was.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ridvan 2012, Part 5

There is a word in paragraph 6 that caught my attention:  "matrix". They say that the relationship between the individual, the institutions and the community is changing, "being endowed with new warmth, new life; in aggregate, they constitute a matrix within which a world spiritual civilization, bearing the imprint of divine inspiration, gradually matures."

You may recall this word, "matrix", not from the movie of the same name, but from another quote from 'Abdu'l-Baha. "In the matrix of the mother", He says, "we were the recipients of endowments and blessings of God, yet these were as nothing compared to the powers and graces bestowed upon us after birth into this human world." "In the matrix of the mother", He says in yet another  passage, "the unborn child was deprived and unconscious of the world of material existence but after its birth it beheld the wonders and beauties of a new realm of life and being."

In other words, He uses the word matrix to denote the womb during pregnancy.

Now, let's imagine this analogy in the world around us. Right now, this very moment, the relationships between the individuals within the Baha'i community, its institutions, and the over all community as a body are serving as a matrix for this new world spiritual civilization.  We are living in a world in which the relations between these three entities are at an all-time low, as they point out in this letter. Yet, within the Baha'i community, we are finding the strength of character and integrity of spirit to foster a new relation between them. The institutions thoroughly encourage the individuals in their actions, while providing guidance to help make those actions both more coherent and more effective. The individuals, in their turn, are looking to the guidance from these same institutions with a sense of trust and admiration. We all look to the guidance from the World Centre without a second thought. And it's not that we're blind about it, but just that they have earned our trust, and have proven worthy of it. Through all of this the community is emerging even stronger than before, more focused on its work, and more effective in achieving its goals.

This is in obvious counterpoint to the society at large, in which all of these relationships have broken down to a greater and greater degree. We have never seen such global strife and conflict over these relationships as we have in the past few years.


Well, let me ask you a question that was posed to me this past weekend.

How would you feel if you were pregnant and didn't know it? (Ignoring either the fact the you may be male, or the idea of extreme obesity masking the pregnancy.) Suppose you were a normal, healthy woman, and you suddenly began the weight gain, the massive shift in hormones, and all the other things that come with it. Now imagine you began going into labour, with the blinding pain of contractions and so on and so forth.

This is where we are today.

The world is giving birth to a new civilization and everything that comes with it, and it isn't even aware that it is pregnant.

For me, as one who held my wife while she gave birth to our son, this thought is both overwhelming, and very confirming. It sure seems to explain a lot about the confusion and violence that we see today.

And all I can do is offer the divine teachings of Baha'u'llah, best expressed through the core activities, to try and help ease the process on.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ridvan 2012, Part 4

What a weekend.

I had the incredible bounty of being able to go to the Canadian National Convention and hear the marvelous consultation going on. What an experience.

Throughout the weekend, a few points kept coming up, a few themes, as it were. The first, as you can imagine, was the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, the Temple. Another theme that kept coming up was roses, but more on that in a later post, I'm sure. The third theme was the inter-connectedness of worship and service, which is exemplified by the Temple, so we're back at the Temple again.

But, for right now, given that I'm still fairly wiped out after the weekend, there's a cat on my lap, and she's biting my wrist, I might as well get straight to the point I wanted to touch on today, a single word in this year's Ridvan message: "weds".

Way down in paragraph 8, we find the line, "The Mashriqu'l-Adhkar... weds two essential, inseparable aspects of Baha'i life: worship and service."

I find this a very interesting verb choice. It's so intimate, so close. They are so intertwined, and they bring me back to the heart. Remember all those posts I did a while ago about the heart, and how it all begins with it. "Unite the hearts of the servants..." "Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart..." Even Sadr'-Sudr, the first teacher, so named by 'Abdul-Baha; his very name means "heart of hearts". It all goes back to the heart.

And here, in this description of the Temple it seems that we are reminded of that, yet again.

It is very interesting to go through this message and look for words that are tied to the heart, or relationships. The whole message is just chock-full for them. I'm not going to go into it here, due to this cat really wanting my attention, and my brain becoming fuzzier every passing minute, but I just wanted to bring that to mind, this whole idea of relationships and our close relationship with the greater community, being so important a theme in this message.

Happy Ridvan, all.