Again and again…

My heart has been so heavy these last few days. These last few months and years. I don’t have words. But I am watching, and reading everything that I can, praying, and standing witness. I can’t pretend to know, but I can be aware, I can educate, I can listen, I can disagree with those who say things that are not ok…

It’s not just Baltimore. Or Ferguson. Or any one place anymore. Chicago has these problems, everywhere does. We are all…struggling. Regarding the problem of racial prejudice in the United States, Shoghi Effendi wrote in 1938:

“Let neither think that such a problem can either easily or immediately be resolved. Let neither think that they can wait confidently for the solution of this problem until the initiative has been taken, and the favorable circumstances created, by agencies that stand outside the orbit of their Faith. Let neither think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort, can succeed in blotting out the stain which this patent evil has left on the fair name of their common country. Let them rather believe, and be firmly convinced, that on their mutual understanding, their amity, and sustained cooperation, must depend, more than on any other force or organization operating outside the circle of their Faith, the deflection of that dangerous course so greatly feared by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and the materialization of the hopes He cherished for their joint contribution to the fulfillment of that country’s glorious destiny.”
-Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice

There is no safety.

grassesI’ve been thinking a lot about safety recently. About insurance, vaccines, outbreaks, and all of these scary things in the world. In my line of work, I have to. I spend my time planning giant meetings where hundreds of people are interacting with each other, and it is basically a germ factory. I have to purchase insurance in case there is an outbreak or an emergency at one of my conferences. I have to plan for what we would do if there was a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. We have to submit floor plans for fire marshal approval. This is what I think about.

I was raised by a scientist and a math teacher. I live firmly in the world of logistics and planning. God and faith are a part of my belief in science. I know too many scientists, doctors, and people who are trying to fix the world to think that they are hiding the truth about vaccines. Or whatever is the current conspiracy theory. This does not make me naive. There are a lot of bad things in the world. There is a lot of negligence, and death, and lack of planning for the future of our planet. We do not need to invent more bad things because some already exist.

On the topic of vaccines I will be clear: they save lives. The world is a better place because of their existence. I have studied history enough to know the alternative is truly terrifying. The world before vaccines was a place where babies dying was just accepted because there was nothing to be done. I thought this battle was fought long ago, and it saddens me deeply that our privilege in this country is causing a situation that could bring unnecessary death and suffering to thousands of people.

We have to be able to talk about controversial topics without hating each other. We have to be able to acknowledge that there is something that we may not know about the world. There needs to be a place where we can learn from each other. I promise to try to understand, to listen. And I ask that you do the same.

How grievous it is…

Plane sunset earlier this evening.“God’s greatest gift to man is that of intellect, or understanding…

…How grievous it is to see how man has used his God-given gift to frame instruments of war, for breaking the Commandment of God “Thou shalt not kill,” and for defying Christ’s injunction to “Love one another.”

God gave this power to man that it might be used for the advancement of civilization, for the good of humanity, to increase love and concord and peace. But man prefers to use this gift to destroy instead of to build, for injustice and oppression, for hatred and discord and devastation, for the destruction of his fellow-creatures, whom Christ has commanded that he should love as himself!

I hope that you will use your understanding to promote the unity and tranquillity of mankind, to give enlightenment and civilization to the people, to produce love in all around you, and to bring about the universal peace.”

-Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks

What are you doing these days?

My friends have been busy. I’m sure I have forgotten someone, but y’all gotta let me know when you’re starting things. 😉

My supremely talented friend Andrew Johnson has come out with some gorgeous, limited edition prints of a few airport layouts. Buy one. Or two. You won’t regret it.

Dan Jones, over at Doberman Pizza, has relaunched his blog. He has been blogging for nearly two decades and has always been a great resource and friend in the Baha’i blogging world. After over a decade of internet interaction, I finally met him and his lovely wife Quynh in Montreal this summer.

Speaking of great blogs, a fantastic sisterly duo consisting of Bre Vader and Jaleh Darling recently launched a blog called The Superettes. It is fun, creative, and accessible, and I enjoy it thoroughly.

 

I am not going to even go into all of the engagements, pregnancies, graduations, and life changes of everyone…but congratulations if you have something going on that merits celebration!

Oh, American elections.

The Baha'i House of Worship this morningI’ve made my opinion on partisan politics known. I spent the evening last night doing errands (best night to do them, no one was out!), and tried to stay away from the pundits & coverage (though I DID vote). Many of my friends have commented on the madness that has overcome this country in the election…$2 billion dollars spent, not to mention all of the other baggage than comes with the way politics works in the US. I was sick of it before this year, and it is obviously a broken system. So we’ll leave it at that.

Yet all I can think about this this:

If love and agreement are manifest in a single family, that family will advance, become illumined and spiritual; but if enmity and hatred exist within it destruction and dispersion are inevitable. This is likewise true of a city. If those who dwell within it manifest a spirit of accord and fellowship it will progress steadily and human conditions become brighter whereas through enmity and strife it will be degraded and its inhabitants scattered. In the same way the people of a nation develop and advance toward civilization and enlightenment through love and accord, and are disintegrated by war and strife. Finally, this is true of humanity itself in the aggregate. When love is realized and the ideal spiritual bonds unite the hearts of men, the whole human race will be uplifted, the world will continually grow more spiritual and radiant and the happiness and tranquillity of mankind be immeasurably increased. Warfare and strife will be uprooted, disagreement and dissension pass away and Universal Peace unite the nations and peoples of the world. All mankind will dwell together as one family, blend as the waves of one sea, shine as stars of one firmament and appear as fruits of the same tree. This is the happiness and felicity of humankind. This is the illumination of man, the glory eternal and life everlasting; this is the divine bestowal. I desire this station for you and I pray God that the people of America may achieve this great end in order that the virtue of this democracy may be insured and their names be glorified eternally. May the confirmations of God uphold them in all things and their memories become revered throughout the east and the west. May they become the servants of the Most High God, near and dear to Him in the oneness of the heavenly Kingdom.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith)

 

A few of my favorite things

I share links here and there of things I like (mostly on Twitter), but I rarely put them in one place. I’ve collected a few favorite places on the internet recently, so I thought I would share them with you.

Things Could Be Worse – I love the sheer ridiculousness of this series of tragedies, mostly because they make me smile every time I see a new one. Also, it reminds me not to be boring or feel sorry for myself. Things could always be worse.

Colossal – This is an art and design blog that I enjoy because there is always stuff there that I haven’t seen elsewhere online. I’m trying to hone my artistic sensibilities, so I follow several different blogs that talk about these subjects.

F*** Yeah The Universe – Ok so the title is a bit off-putting for some, but the reason I love this blog is because seeing photos of the amazing universe that we live in (at least, our tiny corner of it) makes me really happy. It makes the existence of God more real, somehow.

Dear Photograph – This site can sometimes be a bit depressing, but it is also a good reminder to enjoy the moments that I live in.

The Monkeys You Ordered – Literal New Yorker captions. That is all you need to know.

Finally, I gave in to peer pressure and joined Pinterest. You can find me there, collecting the things that intrigue me.

My response to Ahmadinejad

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times interviewed the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and one of the questions he asked was about the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran (which I haven’t seen much from other recent interviews, so thank you, Nicholas). Ahmadinejad’s answer, as with most of his interviews, was to slide around the question by asking more questions and being very vague.

Ahmadinejad implied that Baha’is are possibly a political or intelligence security group, that they break the law, and then brought the American hikers into it at the end. The entire answer was ridiculous, and shows how little logic enters the equation when it comes to human rights in Iran.

Ahmadinejad: Do you even know the group that you name? Do you know their makeup? Are they a religious group? A truly faithful group? Or a political group? Or an intelligence security group? Let’s make sure they are all named? Let’s make sure they all come forward. Let’s see their true makeup.

Sir, the Baha’is of the world have never tried to hide. We have always been exactly what we claim to be: followers of a peaceful religion that abide by the laws of the countries in which we live, who are endeavoring to foster community life and bring about peace. In every part of the world, you will find Baha’is doing all of these things openly, with love for their fellow human beings.

Since the very beginning of our Faith, the Baha’is have been persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, killed, banned from education, removed from their homes, and had property confiscated and destroyed. Our holy places in Iran have been razed to the ground, and our graves desecrated.

My great-uncle and his son were put to death because of their faith. I have never been to the country of my mother’s birth, it is my lost home. I love Iran, and I have never been there. Think of how great Iran could be if you let all of these innocents live freely, if you let children be educated whose only aim in life is to serve humankind.

There are Baha’is in prison at this moment whose only transgression is to try to help their fellow human beings, for believing in the same God that you believe in. There are many minorities in Iran who suffer, for no purpose except fanatical hatred and fear on the part of the government and clerics.

This is the true crime.

Nineteen Months – the online magazine

The international photoblog that I’ve been working on for the past year has evolved. We have turned it into an international collaborative online magazine. It still has the photos, but we have added articles, features, and reviews.

Ronnie and I asked photographers and writers to join our team over the course of several weeks, reaching out to a diverse group of friends around the world. It has required conference calls across two time zones, many emails and gchat conversations, and a great deal of consultation. Oh, and we did most of it during the Baha’i Fast. That may have been a little crazy.

To answer a common question I’ve gotten over the last few days: no, we do not have any funding. None of us get paid to do this, it is an individual initiative. The response has been overwhelming and inspiring. We’ve had 2,100 hits in three days. People have been emailing us from around the world, commenting, and promoting it. (Please keep it up, folks! We love our readers!)

If you’re interested in participating (or know someone that you want to recommend to us) you can check out the FAQs. Our contributors are so amazing and I can’t wait to see how Nineteen Months progresses. Thanks for all of the support!

Follow us on Facebook or add us on Twitter.

Venturing out!

I “suited up” and braved the snow and cold (it is 23 F outside right now) to take photos. Obviously it isn’t a good idea to drive yet, so I stayed local. Everyone that I saw was smiling & friendly. Most businesses were closed, but the grocery store was open.

The roads near me have mostly been plowed:
Roads have been mostly plowed.

But there were places where the snow was nearly up to my waist.
Buried in the snow!

My car is trapped, we’ll see how much I’ll have to shovel in the morning.
My car is stuck.

See more photos on my Flickr page.

11 am Wednesday – blizzard is mostly over!

And now the cleanup begins. This is what I woke up to today at 9 am:

9 am Wednesday

By 11 am, I ventured downstairs to do laundry, opened the back door to see this snowpile AS TALL AS ME. Our snow removal service was working in the middle of the night and is still out front trying to get us out.

Piled up snow by the back door.

The front door is completely blocked, there is a snowdrift at least 3 ft tall. Had to take this through a window, you can’t really open the doors. The mailbox across the street is nearly buried.

3 1/2 ft snowdrift by front doors

I’ll venture out later when the wind dies down and I can actually take my DSLR out. These were all taken with my cameraphone, and I’d like to give you some perspective on what it really looks like. Some places are reporting 17-20 in of snow, the airports are pretty much shut down, and 1,000 cars were stranded on Lake Shore Drive last night. So glad I had no reason to be out last night and today. Hoping everyone stays warm and safe!

As of 11 pm

I have been home since 3 pm today. You may have heard that Chicago was anticipating a blizzard. Well, the wind is the strangest part for me right now. Everything is white outside my window at the moment, and snowdrifts are starting to build:

11 pm snowdrift

I took this video at 9 pm. It is much louder and more windy now, a solid wall of white, no visibility. I am wondering how crazy the world will be when I wake up. I’ll definitely take my DSLR out to take photos.

Something about storms like this, the hibernation, the silence, how everything shuts down…it is surreal. I haven’t had any power outages (thank God), and I have a ton of food, so I am just cozy in my little cave here. Obviously I won’t be at work tomorrow, so I put everything on a USB drive to work on from home. Will try to keep you updated!

keeping busy

I’ve been trapped at home for the last week and a half with a nasty cold that is now subsiding after powerful antibiotics and enforced rest. As a result, my couch has a Sholeh-sized indentation in the middle, my back is killing me from lack of exercise, I ran out of Internet, and I started talking to the walls. I really have to thank the wonderful people in my life who have done such an amazing job taking care of me, making sure I eat, and making me laugh even when I’m coughing my lungs out. Thank you. Really.

For those of you who are curious, I spent New Years Eve watching all three Back to the Future movies and eating terrible Thai food. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Here are some things that are not insanity-inducing that I thought you might like.

-Free download of some awesome music from Made in Heights (my friends Kelsey and Saba). Go. Now.

-Photos for the month of Speech, Questions, and Honor are up on Nineteen Months, in case you missed them.

-New photos up on Flickr from the last month or so.

-Thanks to Lacey for the heads up about this awesome story from WTTW about a Chicago street photographer, Vivian Maier. A free exhibition of her work is at the Chicago Cultural Center until April 3.

-Sometimes, when I get caught up in my own problems, I look at a picture of the Milky Way, and I chill out.

Do Aliens exist?

“Know thou that every fixed star hath its own planets, and every planet its own creatures, whose number no man can compute.”
-Baha’u’llah

NASA announced a discovery today regarding a “microorganism (that) substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.” It evolved on earth, but it can adapt to things that we consider toxic!

“The definition of life has just expanded,” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”

I have been wondering for a number of years why the search for life always seemed to discuss certain elements as being the only building blocks for life. As we look for life on other planets, it seems logical that not everything will be carbon-based, or even resemble what we understand life to be.

Mono Lake HDR

“The earth has its inhabitants, the water and the air contain many living beings and all the elements have their nature spirits, then how is it possible to conceive that these stupendous stellar bodies are not inhabited? Verily, they are peopled, but let it be known that the dwellers accord with the elements of their respective spheres. These living beings do not have states of consciousness like unto those who live on the surface of this globe: the power of adaptation and environment moulds their bodies and states of consciousness, just as our bodies and minds are suited to our planet.

…Beings who inhabit those distant luminous bodies are attuned to the elements that have gone into the composition of their respective spheres.”
-‘Abdu’l-Baha

(by the way, Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha wrote these passages over 100 years ago)

Edit: for a little humor – Arsenic-Based Life from xkcd.

Water – Blog Action Day 2010

O ye friends of God! Be kind to all peoples and nations, have love for all of them, exert yourselves to purify the hearts as much as you can, and bestow abundant effort in rejoicing the souls. Be ye a sprinkling of rain to every meadow and a water of life to every tree. Be ye as fragrant musk to every nostril and a soul-refreshing breeze to every invalid. Be ye salutary water to every thirsty one… (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 356)

The UN General Assembly recently declared access to clean water and sanitation as a human right. Those of us who live in areas of the world that have access to water may find it hard to comprehend the lack of access, the disease and struggle that come from such a simple need not being met.

fountain tiles beneath water

Facts about water you might not know (from the Blog Action Day 2010 site):

1. Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
2. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet.
3. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water.
4. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger.
5. The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world.

invocation

Here is an update about the first day of the trial of the Baha’is in Iran. International pressure is increasing, but things are still very perilous for the believers there.

In light of the situation in Iran and last night’s horrific earthquake in Haiti, it is fitting to offer a prayer for assistance with tests and difficulties. Regardless of your faith tradition, prayer is a universal force.

Glorified art Thou, O Lord my God! Every man of insight confesseth Thy sovereignty and Thy dominion, and every discerning eye perceiveth the greatness of Thy majesty and the compelling power of Thy might. The winds of tests are powerless to hold back them that enjoy near access to Thee from setting their faces towards the horizon of Thy glory, and the tempests of trials must fail to draw away and hinder such as are wholly devoted to Thy will from approaching Thy court.

Methinks, the lamp of Thy love is burning in their hearts, and the light of Thy tenderness is lit within their breasts. Adversities are incapable of estranging them from Thy Cause, and the vicissitudes of fortune can never cause them to stray from Thy pleasure.

I beseech Thee, O my God, by them and by the sighs which their hearts utter in their separation from Thee, to keep them safe from the mischief of  Thine adversaries, and to nourish their souls with what Thou hast ordained for Thy loved ones on whom shall come no fear and who shall not be put to grief.

– Bahá’u’lláh

A trial that should not be happening

What if all you wanted to do was improve the lives of the people around you,  assist with education of all people and obtain an education, and be able to worship without fear of persecution?  We know these things to be basic human rights, yet the Baha’is in Iran are suffering because they believe in a religion that that the government of Iran does not agree with.

The government is putting on trial seven people tomorrow.  Seven people who are upstanding citizens who have never done anything to oppose the government.  They stand accused of espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic republic, none of which are true.

Now the government has accused the Baha’is recently arrested of having weapons in their homes, a baseless and ridiculous accusation, as it is against the principles of our Faith.

“Furthermore each and every one is required to show obedience, submission and loyalty towards his own government. Today no state in the world is in a condition of peace or tranquillity, for security and trust have vanished from among the people. Both the governed and the governors are alike in danger. The only group of people which today submitteth peacefully and loyally to the laws and ordinances of government and dealeth honestly and frankly with the people, is none other than this wronged community.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 293)

If you want to know more about the situation facing the Baha’is in Iran, go to iran.bahai.us to read the articles there, which include links to CNN and other news sources that are reporting on this matter.  Please say prayers for all of the people of Iran, that this turmoil comes to a peaceful conclusion, and especially for those in prison for no other reason than for being Baha’is.

News, updates, photos…

The trial of the seven Baha’i leaders in Iran has been postponed.  As this New York Times article so aptly put it: “The Bahais have long served as the proverbial canaries in the coal mine of Iran’s theocracy.” Injustice against one minority group does not bode well for the rest, which is why it is so important to fight against injustice of this nature.  Individuals should not be jailed because of their religious beliefs.  You would think that this is common sense, but unfortunately humanity still has a lot to learn.

My new camera is wonderful.  I’m still learning to use it, and am looking forward to investing in more lenses.  That will have to wait, however, as I’m considering the purchase of a laptop (I’ve not bought a new computer since 2001!).

I’ve been traveling for work, moving to a new apartment (my sublease is up at the end of the month, so I found another sublease until mid-October), trying to keep up with emails, photos, and other web-related things.  I have not had a chance to write much for Soulpancake, or for myself for that matter.  And, of course, spending time with my family and friends, who tend to get neglected when life gets busy.

If I haven’t told you lately that I love you, please know that I do!

The trial of the 7 Baha’is in Iran

O army of God! Beware lest ye harm any soul, or make any heart to sorrow; lest ye wound any man with your words, be he known to you or a stranger, be he friend or foe. Pray ye for all; ask ye that all be blessed, all be forgiven. Beware, beware, lest any of you seek vengeance, even against one who is thirsting for your blood. Beware, beware, lest ye offend the feelings of another, even though he be an evil-doer, and he wish you ill. Look ye not upon the creatures, turn ye to their Creator. See ye not the never-yielding people, see but the Lord of Hosts. Gaze ye not down upon the dust, gaze upward at the shining sun, which hath caused every patch of darksome earth to glow with light.

O army of God! When calamity striketh, be ye patient and composed. However afflictive your sufferings may be, stay ye undisturbed, and with perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God, brave ye the tempest of tribulations and fiery ordeals.

– Abdu’l-Baha


The seven Baha’is that have been in prison for over a year are supposed to go on trial in Iran in a few short hours.  Pray for their safe return to their families and a stop to the persecution of Baha’is in Iran.

A few recent articles on the subject:

Reports of a trial date for Baha’i leaders falsely accused of espionage

Roxana Saberi and USCIRF Call for Release of Iranian Baha’is

CNN: U.S. panel demands release of Baha’is facing trial in Iran

Times Online: It is not just democracy that is illegal in Iran-Cherie Blair

waiting

“With aching hearts, Baha’is of the world focus on the events unfolding in Iran, the birthplace of their religion.” -Baha’i World News Service

Every day I read the news.  Whatever tragedy has happened in the world, the media is covering it (I use that term loosely, as I’m rather cynical about the way news is reported).

For the first time in 30 years, the American media is again focused on Iran.  They’re dusting off the talking heads, pundits, and anyone they can find with a connection to the events happening there.

Baha’is have a connection with Iran because it is where the Baha’i Faith began in 1844.  And since its inception, Baha’is in Iran have been persecuted, blatantly or subtly.  The situation is volatile, complicated, and very sad.  And today we hear that the trial date has been set for July 11 for the seven Baha’i leaders who have been in jail for a year without formal charges.  It is possible that they could be executed, simply for being Baha’is.

I have been watching, and waiting, as the situation in Iran has turned chaotic over the election results.  Things are summarized into sound bites, and everyone loves a story about the people fighting against tyranny.  However, it seems rather irresponsible to just throw my opinion out there.  It is so easy to forward an email, post a news story, or blog about a hot news topic.

“The Great Being saith: Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation. As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets.” –Baha’u’llah

We don’t know what is really happening there, and perhaps it is not our place to interfere.  Yesterday I said the following on Twitter:

“Wisdom in speech, writing, & web postings. Perhaps we should have that as our mantra. We don’t know how our actions affect others.”

“If we are true Bahá’ís speech is not needed. Our actions will help on the world, will spread civilization, will help the progress of science, and cause the arts to develop. Without action nothing in the material world can be accomplished, neither can words unaided advance a man in the spiritual Kingdom. It is not through lip-service only that the elect of God have attained to holiness, but by patient lives of active service they have brought light into the world.

Therefore strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute!” -Abdu’l-Baha

More arrests in Iran

After my last post yesterday regarding the situation of the members of the Baha’i Faith in Iran, six more Baha’is were arrested yesterday. One of them is a former employee of Nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who is a defender of human rights. It is interesting that CNN picked up the story about the employee being arrested, but did not mention that she is a member of the Baha’i Faith. The New York Times mentions that confidential client records were taken and that the reason given was possible tax evasion.

This statement by the Baha’i International Community points out that “…any individuals or groups who speak out on behalf of the Bahá’ís inevitably find themselves subjected to public vilification or other forms of intimidation.”

Tonight our family watched the airing of Rick Steve’s travels in Iran on PBS. It was interesting to see Iran from a Western perspective, although sometimes humorously painful to watch, as he very earnestly attempts to understand Persian culture. The Baha’i Faith was mentioned very briefly, in the context of religious freedom, but very little was said. Most of the show was devoted to showing the positive aspects of modern-day Iran.

In addition to your prayers for those suffering injustice, maybe you can think about doing an act of service or kindness in their name in the coming days and weeks. Those of us who live in countries who have more freedom are reminded of the blessings and responsibilities that come with that freedom.

The Baha’is in Iran

It has been 9 months since leaders of the Baha’i Faith in Iran were arrested on 14 May 2008. They are still in prison, along with other Baha’is who have been arrested merely because of their beliefs.

From a Baha’i World News Service story: “We deny in the strongest possible terms the suggestion that Baha’is in Iran have engaged in any subversive activity,” said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “The Baha’i community is not involved in political affairs. Their only ‘crime’ is the practice of their religion.”

“The seriousness of the allegations makes us fear for the lives of these seven individuals,” she said.

The Baha’is in Iran, in addition to being imprisoned, are also harassed, denied the right to education, dismissed from jobs or refused hire, cemeteries destroyed…the list goes on. They are not the only minority in Iran to suffer, but are certainly targeted heavily.

Although I am half Persian, I was born in the USA and have never been able to visit Iran. I would love to go there someday, but the situation is not to be taken lightly, especially being a Baha’i. It is sad to me, because my entire life I have been exposed to aspects of the culture, heard stories, and seen pictures of Iran. It is a strange feeling having such a strong connection to a place that I have never been. As a Baha’i, I know that the entire world is my home, and every country and person united (even thought it is sometimes difficult to see with the situation of the world being what it is).

Perhaps today you can say a prayer for them, and for the sufferers of injustice anywhere in the world.

He is the Compassionate, the All-Bountiful! O God, my God! Thou seest me, Thou knowest me; Thou art my Haven and my Refuge.  None have I sought nor any will I seek save Thee; no path have I trodden nor any will I tread but the path of Thy love. In the darksome night of despair, my eye turneth expectant and full of hope to the morn of Thy boundless favor and at the hour of dawn my drooping soul is refreshed and strengthened in remembrance of Thy beauty and perfection. He whom the grace of Thy mercy aideth, though he be but a drop, shall become the boundless ocean, and the merest atom which the outpouring of Thy loving-kindness assisteth, shall shine even as the radiant star.

Shelter under Thy protection, O Thou Spirit of purity, Thou Whom art the All-Bountiful Provider, this enthralled, enkindled servant of Thine. Aid him in this world of being to remain steadfast and firm in Thy love and grant that this broken-winged bird attain a refuge and shelter in Thy divine nest that abideth upon the celestial tree.

– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Politics

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the current election in the USA, but I feel that it is important to be very clear about how I, as a Baha’i, discuss these matters. I decided to write this post after several conversations with friends, reading the news, and observations about the confusion that seems to exist among some Baha’is regarding this issue. These are obviously my personal opinions, and if you want more background I would recommend doing your own research (try downloading Ocean). If you are not a Baha’i, I hope this clarifies some points about how I, personally, respond to political discussions, as well as the nature of Baha’i elections.

I try to apply the principles of a Baha’i election (for which we have very clear guidance) to my attitude toward civil politics.

Bahá’í community life thus makes it a duty for every loyal land faithful believer to become an intelligent, well-informed and responsible elector, and also gives him the opportunity of raising himself to such a station. And since the practice of nomination hinders the development of such qualities in the believers, and in addition leads to corruption and partisanship, it has to be entirely discarded in a Bahá’í elections.”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 4, 1935)

Baha’i elections are carried out by secret ballot and votes are confidential. Therefore, if I would not say something in reference to a Baha’i election, then I would not say it in reference to a civil election. For example, I would NOT say, “I think one of the members of the Local Spiritual Assembly should be re-elected.”, or “I think so-and-so’s policies are really great, people should vote for them.”

“As regards the non-political character of the Faith,… The friends may vote, if they can do it without identifying themselves with one party or another. To enter the arena of party politics is surely detrimental to the best interests of the Faith and will harm the Cause. It remains for the individuals to so use their right to vote as to keep aloof from party politics, and always bear in mind that they are voting on the merits of the individual, rather than because he belongs to one party or another. The matter must be made perfectly clear to the individuals who will be left free to exercise their discretion and judgement.

 (From a letter written on the behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, March 16, 1933)

The focal point of the Baha’i Faith is the unification of mankind, and unfortunately the majority of society’s political processes are fundamentally divisive.

The central importance of the principle of avoidance of politics and controversial matters is that Bahá’ís should not allow themselves to be involved in the disputes of the many conflicting elements of the society around them. The aim of the Bahá’ís is to reconcile viewpoints, to heal divisions, and to bring about tolerance and mutual respect among men, and this aim is undermined if we allow ourselves to be swept along by the ephemeral passions of others. This does not mean that Bahá’ís cannot collaborate with any non-Bahá’í movement; it does mean that good judgment is required to distinguish those activities and associations which are beneficial and constructive from those which are divisive.

 (The Universal House of Justice, 2003 Jan 12, Taking Positions on Political Decisions of Governments)

There are, of course, a lot of issues facing the world, and as Baha’is we are asked to be an active part of the world around us. We are also exhorted to uphold a high standard, and that includes our speech and how we express our personal opinions. I do think that it is my duty to exercise my right to vote (as long as I don’t have to state party affiliation), and I plan on doing so.

Recent news

I read an article today alerting me to a slightly disturbing facet of Facebook’s new marketing campaign: your online purchases at external sites are being shared with your friends on Facebook.  Not only would you possibly be endorsing products (and not getting paid for it), but your privacy would be invaded.  There is an opt-out option, but from what I understand it is not very clear.

I rarely make online purchases, especially since I am in Israel, but there are many people who use the internet for much of their shopping.  How many consumers are aware of how much tracking goes on?  According to this study, many Americans are not very aware of how their habits are tracked and used to market to them.  “People think privacy notices mean certain default protections. Consumers don’t understand that privacy policies are just notices. They don’t guarantee any rights.”

The other article I read today was called “Taking Science on Faith”, and it mirrored very closely a chapter in my father’s new book.  The following paragraph from the article sums it up nicely, I think.

“Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.”

Science and religion do not need to be in conflict!  They have a lot more in common than parties in both camps like to admit.  😉

It seemed obvious to me…

So apparently using your television as a babysitter/parental replacement is not actually a good idea! Shocking, I know, but it appears as though those popular “Baby Einstein” videos and other similar educational shows actually do more harm than good.  When I was working as an intern at Target in 2004, those videos were flying off the shelves. 

“…the only thing that baby videos are doing is producing a generation of overstimulated kids.”  I can see the drug companies doing little dances in their chairs as they count the profits from Ritalin.

Also, “The gene most closely linked to left-handedness has been found…”  In even better news, this gene “is also associated with a slight increase in developing certain mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.”

I’m left handed.  🙂

And finally, I was born on the Mississippi River, just a few blocks from where the 35W bridge collapsed in Minnesota.

Chicken or egg?

I was browsing articles on msnbc.com when I saw this article about chickens increasingly being raised as pets (and for their eggs). It seemed like a fairly normal story…and then I started laughing out loud when I saw the following paragraph.

“Backyard Poultry magazine was resurrected about a year and a half ago after being halted in the 1980s. Readership in the Medford, Wis.-based publication has skyrocketed compared with its publisher’s other two animal magazines — sheep! Magazine and Dairy Goat Journal.”


toothpastefordinner.com

Education

The first news is that my father’s newest book, Blueprint for a New World, has just been published from George Ronald, and I am reading it right now.  I helped type and proofread, but in random chapters, so it is nice to read all the way through.  His first book, On the Shoulders of Giants, is about the harmony of science and religion, and his second book, Thinking Strategically is about…well, the title is pretty self evident.

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The European Baha’i Business Forum (EBBF) has an excellent blog.  Resources, news, and networking, covering a wide range of subjects and fields.  Check it out!  Also, their annual conference is coming up at the end of September in the Netherlands.

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This article from the Jerusalem Post caught my eye:

“The site is part of diplomatic efforts to educate the Iranian people about the Jewish state, “who have been purposely distanced from information about Israel, and fed lies and hatred by the Iranian regime.” The site, called Hamdami (“clarity” in Persian), can be found at https://hamdami.com. “

Is this still happening?

I saw this article on CNN the other day, and wondered if I had gone back in time to the time of the Civil Rights movement.

“Black and white students attended the prom together for the first time on Saturday. In previous years, parents had organized private, segregated dances for students of the school in rural Ashburn, Georgia, 160 miles south of Atlanta.”‘” ‘There was not anybody that I can remember that was black,” she said. “The white people have theirs, and the black people have theirs. It’s nothing racial at all.’ “

The first thing I thought was, “Aren’t there any students who come from mixed ethnicities? Do they have to ‘identify’ as a particular race to attend the white or black dances?” I was happy to see that the initiative was finally taken to have one prom, but the fact that it has taken so long (and that there is still resistance to it) is so sad.

There is no reason that I can possibly fathom to separate based on skin color. I was lucky enough to be raised in a Baha’i family, and the Baha’i Writings are very clear on the subject of racial harmony:

“It is racial, patriotic, religious and class prejudice, that has been the cause of the destruction of Humanity.”“One of the great reasons of separation is colour. Look how this prejudice has power in America, for instance. See how they hate one another! Animals do not quarrel because of their colour! Surely man who is so much higher in creation, should not be lower than the animals. Think over this. What ignorance exists! White doves do not quarrel with blue doves because of their colour, but white men fight with dark-coloured men. This racial prejudice is the worst of all.”

-Abdu’l-Baha, 1911

Our children deserve better than to be taught to hate each other, for any reason.