Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Why do I write this blog?

I recently received this comment on one of my articles:
"...Some of my other favorite blogs have disappeared. What keeps you going? What makes you want to keep doing this? What does it mean to you, in itself, and in relation to Baha’u’llah’s purposes?"
What great questions.

Thank you for asking this. It has gotten me thinking for a number of days now about why I do this, and how I continue to do it after so long.

Well, the short answer is that I love to blather on, and what better thing to blab on about? My question is, why are you reading this?

But no, the longer answer is, I think, a bit better.

As you may know, it all began with a story, about how I began my first children's class lo those many years ago. The question was asked at a conference, and when I recalled how I started my first one, I actually laughed out loud. This inspired me to write the story down, and that led to another story, and another, and so on. But then, as I was writing these down, it occurred to me that I could also write a bit about the Writings, and some of the precious gems I saw within them. Of course, as I was writing all this, it also occurred to me that I could write a little bit about my own experience both as a tutor and serving in various capacities in the Faith.

Well, one thing led to another, one idea to another, and here we are today.

But even this doesn't really describe it all that well to me.

What is it that actually keeps me going, and wanting to do this? I think it's the Writings themselves.

I remember years ago sitting with a group and we had decided to study something from the World Centre before beginning our meeting. Probably a Ridvan message, or somesuch. Anyways, as many are wont to do, we went around in a circle and read a paragraph at a time, and when we got to the end, the chairperson said, "Okay, we've done our study." And I was sitting there thinking, "No, we read it. Now we need to study what we read."

I've seen the same thing time and again with the practice in Ruhi Book 1, Unit 2: Study a prayer with a friend. So often, upon questioning people about their study, I learn that what they did was pray with a friend. I mean, this is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but it's not a study. Both have their purpose, and they are very different purposes.

Of course, when talking about this with people, it turns out that a lot of us have no idea what it means to actually study something. To me, the most important definition in the dictionary in this context is to "investigate and analyse (a subject or situation) in detail". It is so strikingly similar to when Baha'u'llah tells us to peruse the Writings. This doesn't mean to glance over; it means to study in depth, with careful attention to detail.

Ok. So what better way to help show others what this means than to do it oneself? And this, dear Reader, is why I love to write about my small analyses of the Writings. These blog entries are just a few samplings of some of the many gems I have found. And of course, when you find a gem, you want to share it with the world. Here, I have that opportunity.

I also have the experience of studying literature, among other things, at university. So it was just natural for me to look at, say, the Tablet of Ahmad and ask how the first few sentences foreshadow the rest of the Tablet. This led me to notice that the verbs in the beginning, "proclaiming", "calling", "informing", and "guiding", lead us ever closer to that Source of sources. A proclamation is done over a great distance. You call to someone down the road. You inform someone standing next to you. And guidance is from within. Then I noticed that the Tablet can be divided into four sections by using Ahmad's name as a dividing line, and that the four sections mirror these four verbs.

How could I not be excited by noticing such things? And how could I not want to share such a finding?

Of course, the overarching thing in all of this for me is not such pedantic findings, but their application in our daily life.

Using the above example, it just makes sense that we would proclaim to the world all that we discover in the Writings. The call then goes out to those whose attention is captured by such things. This leads us to informing them of the source of our findings, which can lead to them taking in the guidance found in the Writings.

No matter where we look in the Writings, we will see patterns similar to this, whether in the way in which 'Abdu'l-Baha draws our attention to spreading the teachings in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, or the highly systematic manner in which Baha'u'llah unfolds the truth of the Bab's Cause to His uncle in the Kitab-i-Iqan. Paths upon paths. And if this path works on the micro-level, we can be guaranteed that it will also work on the macro-level.

I find it all so exciting, and so applicable, that I cannot just sit back and hope that others discover these things, too. No. I have to share it. I have actually learned to presume that others will not see the Writings in the same way that I do, and that my small contribution will actually help others. I mean, the same is most definitely true in the reverse. I treasure all the conversations I have with others in which they explain to me what they have found in the Writings. Remember, what is obvious to you is a shocking discovery to others.

So, yes. I write this blog in the hopes of sharing a bit of my enthusiasm for the Writings, and helping others see a little bit of what I have discovered in them, and pray that it inspires them to share their own discoveries, too.

Remember, none of us are experts on the Writings. We are all studying them together. I mean, I'm a fashion designer and jeweler by trade, so if I can find some of these gems, surely you can, too.

Saturday, June 2, 2018


Hi Mom. Not mother. Not maman. Not even Sandee.

In my heart, you will always be "Mom".

When Marielle first suggested that I write this, and read this, for you, for your birthday, I had tears in my eyes. Tears at the thought of trying to capture my feelings in so few words, and tears at the thought of all you mean to me.

When I think of you, my very first thought, one of my earliest memories is when I was a very young child, probably no more than 3 years old. I remember that I was sick, and you lay me on your bed, that bed that was so huge in my eyes, and you lay me there on your pillows. I remember feeling so safe, secure, there, feeling that all would be all right, that the pain would go away. That feeling, that safety, is what always comes to mind first, when I think of you.

I remember walking, a few years later, into that clothing store on the corner, back in Highland Park, where you worked, and hiding in the clothes racks. And then a few years after that, admiring the clothing in the Yves St Laurent department, where you worked for so long, in Northbrook Court.

And even now, I can still see your jewelry kit in the basement, on the floor, open, as you searched for a pair of pliers to fix something that had broken. All the half-finished pieces that you had made, sitting there, waiting, but you had already moved on to other art forms.

It is no wonder to me that I became a fashion designer, working in metal. It feels like it's in my blood.

But then, Marielle asked me to try and find one story that I can tell, about you, that brings the listener, or the reader, into my state of being, conveys the child, or son, that I was when it occurred.

It's hard to do that, for you were always there. Like the air I breathe. How can you tell a single story about the air?

In fact, there are too many stories to tell

I could talk about being stranded on the rock in the front yard, I mean, you never let me forget it. Or I could talk about the Passover dinners at your in-laws, which probably cultivated my love for religion. I could even talk about the community plays you used to take part in back in Kennedy School.

But really, what stands out, beyond all other stories, is how you took care of your own mother, Grandma Elsie. In fact, that has been an identifying feature of you all your life, or at least as long as I've known you. You always look to the well-being of others, whether it's your children, your parents, Harold, or even Henry today. You have always been a caregiver, ever giving.

But back to Grandma Elsie. Nothing epitomizes your care-giving nature more than your care of your own mother, and how you brought in Maria, our dearly loved family member from Poland. And nothing shows you or your heart, more than this.

You see, I remember so well coming downstairs on St Patrick's Day, when the milk would somehow be green. This was pretty much normal. Or Easter, when the milk was purple. We took it for granted, just as we take so much for granted.

But that one evening, shortly after Maria joined our little family, when she was still struggling with English, having just arrived from Poland, we were all sitting around as you served us dinner. And there, on each plate, was a single hard-boiled egg in the middle of the rest of the food. But Maria, well, Maria's egg was a cube. I remember noticing it but just continuing on with my meal. Maria? She just sat there, fork in hand, staring at her... egg?  I don't remember what she said. Something like, "What kind of chicken laid this?" But her expression, well that I will never forget.

For really, Mom, it's an expression I've seen around so many in your presence.

For eighty years you've been guilty of inflicting this expression on others. May you continue to do so for many more years to come.

There is so much more I want to say, but in the end, it all comes down to "Happy birthday, Mom. I miss you, and I love you."