a few thoughts

– There needs to be a good balance between spending time with people and being alone. Too much of either and it is possible to go a little bit crazy.

– Walking through ivy league campuses makes me feel smarter. Also, it makes me miss school…even though I couldn’t wait to be done with school when I was in it!

– The colors of the leaves changing is one of my favorite things about autumn…that, and the clothes. The imminent onset of winter, however, is something I dread.

– Connecting with family members around the world…the last few months have been amazing, as I meet cousins, share stories, and hear anecdotes from relatives about the history of the Persian side of our family.

– I’ve been listening to some great music recently. Bell X1, Stars, Gotye, and my forever favorite, Zero 7.

– The election is finally over, and gosh am I happy. Not that I have much hope that most mainstream media will find something worth obsessing over, but I try to be optimistic. Of course, it is a historic thing and all that, but everyone else has said enough about that already, no need for me to expound on the subject. I’ve made my opinions on partisan politics quite clear.

I love my family and friends. A lot a lot. Especially those who keep me company when I feel lonely, and make me laugh (you know who you are). A quote from the Baha’i Writings:

“O friends, consort with all the people of the world with joy and fragrance. If there be to you a word or essence whereof others than you are devoid, communicate it and show it forth in the language of affection and kindness: if it be received and be effective the object is attained, and if not leave it to him, and with regard to him deal not harshly but pray. The language of kindness is the lodestone of hearts and the food of the soul; it stands in the relation of ideas to words, and is as an horizon for the shining of the Sun of Wisdom and Knowledge.”

Abdu’l-Baha

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Rumor and Gossip

“Why this great unrest — wars and the rumors of wars, changing of dynasties, earthquakes, cataclysms? The people cry “Peace, peace; when there is no peace!” Are not these the outer sign that man has lost the inner truth?” -Abdu’l-Baha

I found this article from the American Psychological Association about research regarding rumors and gossip. I found it interesting that the authors differentiated between rumors and gossip:

“Rumors have been described as public communications that are infused with private hypotheses about how the world works (Rosnow, 1991), or more specifically, ways of making sense to help us cope with our anxieties and uncertainties (Rosnow, 1988, 2001). On the other hand, as Wert and Salovey (2004b) noted, “almost as many functions of gossip have been argued as writers to write about gossip” (p. 77). More than rumor, gossip tends to have an “inner-circleness” about it, in that it is customarily passed between people who have a common history or shared interests.” -Foster & Rosnow

So the idea is basically that rumors have served some kind of social purpose as the human race has evolved, as a way to pass on information when the written word was not utilized, and for people to establish social hierarchies. The Baha’i Writings tell us the following about the negative effects of gossip:

“If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose?” -Abdu’l-Baha

I am interested in seeing the results of the next chapter, which discusses the effects of gossip on social networks and the links within them:

“We found that denser networks are less vulnerable to social fragmentation from gossip. However, this effect is moderated by “gatekeepers” who tend to position themselves along unique social bridges between other network members. Disintermediating, that is, increasing the density of social connections around gatekeepers, is expected to decrease negative effects of gossiping and to assist in improving norm coherence.” -Foster & Rosnow

Any thoughts?

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The Baha’i Faith: Poverty and the Law of Huququ’llah

(This post is not meant to educate on the Law of Huququ’llah, but instead is meant to create interest in the subject. To read more, go here.)

For Blog Action Day, we are asked to write about poverty.  I decided that I wanted to write about this beautiful part of the Baha’i Faith called Huququ’llah (Right of God).  I have found a few quotations from the Baha’i writings on the subject.  If you have additional input, please comment…I am by no means an expert on the subject.

“Know ye that the poor are the trust of God in your midst. Watch that ye betray not His trust, that ye deal not unjustly with them and that ye walk not in the ways of the treacherous. Ye will most certainly be called upon to answer for His trust on the day when the Balance of Justice shall be set, the day when unto every one shall be rendered his due, when the doings of all men, be they rich or poor, shall be weighed.”

(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 251)

In the Baha’i writings we are told of our duty towards the poor, of the importance of ensuring that they are taken care of.  We know that thousands die every day from hunger, even though there is enough food in the world to feed them.

“lt is incumbent upon everyone to discharge the obligation of Huquq. The advantages gained from this deed revert to the persons themselves. However, the acceptance of the offerings dependeth on the spirit of joy, fellowship and contentment that the righteous souls who fulfil this injunction will manifest. If such is the attitude acceptance is permissible, and not otherwise. Verily thy Lord is the All-Sufficing, the All-Praised…

…Should a person acquire one hundred mithqals of gold, nineteen mithqals thereof belong unto God, the Creator of earth and heaven. Take heed, O people, lest ye deprive yourselves of this great bounty. We have prescribed this law unto you while We are wholly independent of you and of all that are in the heavens and on the earth. Indeed there lie concealed in this command, mysteries and benefits which are beyond the comprehension of anyone save God, the All- Knowing, the All-Informed.”

(Baha’u’llah, Compilations, Huququ’llah)

Here we are given the guidelines for the giving of this money.  It has been clarified at a deeper level, but this is sufficient for our purposes.  We are told that we should not give unless we are happy to do so, and that we are rewarded for such an act.  Note that giving to the Fund is different than paying Huququ’llah.  Baha’u’llah also points out that He prescribed this law even when He did not need any money.  Adib Taherzadeh points out, in The Child of the Covenant:

“It must be made clear that under Bahá’u’lláh’s supervision the funds were spent for the promotion of the Cause and very little, if any, for His own expenses or those of His companions.”

So what is the purpose of Huququ’llah?

“Know thou, moreover, that those who faithfully serve the All-Merciful will be enriched by Him out of His heavenly treasury and that the Huquq offering is but a test applied by Him unto His servants and maidservants. Thus every true and sincere believer will offer Huquq to be expended for the relief of the poor, the disabled, the needy, and the orphans, and for other vital needs of the Cause of God, even as Christ did establish a Fund for benevolent purposes….

…One of the tokens of His consummate wisdom is that the payment of the Huquq will enable the donors to become firm and steadfast and will exert a great influence on their hearts and souls. Furthermore the Huquq will be used for charitable purposes.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Compilations, Huququ’llah)

So the distribution of funds goes through a central channel, the Universal House of Justice, which, as the Baha’u’llah assures us, is divinely guided:

“It is incumbent upon the Trustees of the House of Justice to take counsel together regarding those things which have not outwardly been revealed in the Book, and to enforce that which is agreeable to them. God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth, and He, verily, is the Provider, the Omniscient.”

(Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 68)

The Universal House of Justice then distributes the funds where they are needed…and there are a whole range of ways in which this happens.

“In brief, payment of Huququ’lláh is one of the binding spiritual responsibilities of the followers of Bahá’u’lláh and the proceeds thereof revert to the Authority in the Cause to whom all must turn. Moreover, the Ancient Beauty — magnified be His praise — has affirmed that after the establishment of the Universal House of Justice necessary rulings would be enacted in this connection in conformity with that which God has purposed, and that no one, except the Authority to which all must turn, has the right to dispose of this Fund. In other words, whatever portion of one’s wealth is due to the Huququ’lláh belongs to the World Centre of the Cause of God, not to the individuals concerned.’

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, October 25, 1970)

Okay so you might ask…what does this have to do with poverty?  People are starving!  Well, here is my humble opinion (and please do your own research, my words mean nothing).  There are charity groups, organizations that are completely devoted to the eradication of hunger and poverty…and yet, the human race keeps coming up against this wall when it trys to take care of its own kind.  Change does not happen through the passing of resolutions or trade embargoes.  It does not happen when a country is threatened with war or cajoled with the promise of peace.  Change happens when hearts are changed, when the heart accepts the Word of God and acts on it.  It does not happen overnight.  There is no magical cure, and the road ahead is going to be difficult.

We will not take care of our fellow human beings until we recognize God in them, until we deal with racism, prejudice, and all of those ills that afflict mankind.  Being able to detach from our possessions in a spirit of joy in order to help those less fortunate is a pretty good start.

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the present and future

I never have more than five minutes to write. If there were more minutes there would be more pages. Forgetting more than remembering.

My feet ache with two miles walked under heavy bags, with the feeling of concrete next to damp grass. I pulled out my old t-shirt from university, spread it out carefully, and sat on it with my new jeans on. No point in grass stains. The sun stained my skin and warmed my cold toes and reminded me of sitting in the sun with you (in the stars with you), across the world.

Three children ran in the water, with shrieks and splashing. Parents were only slightly dismayed, and mostly amused.

I don’t know where these words are going anymore.

We will tell stories, someday, about how each cup of coffee turned into long evenings with cookies and smiles. Our little words will grow into bigger words, and every person will have a place in my home. We will travel across the world to spend precious days and sing into the sky. All of us will have memories and whispers and real things like libraries, ballet lessons, family dinners, scuba diving, prayer, song, building forts out of sheets, working on a masterpiece, ice cream, exploring the world, warm blankets and hot chocolate.

Our little victories will be celebrated, and our tragedies wrapped in soft white paper and gently laid to rest. Letters and post cards will trot happily to their new owners. There is maybe an infinite number of these hearts that I am holding, and you have pieces of mine nestled softly in the corners of yours. All of you.

(by Jon)

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I still have blisters on my feet.

There was this man that we saw every day.  He was neither young nor old, tall or short.  Slightly balding, with a mustache, the kind of man that would blend into the background.

He walked up the four steps to his elderly mother’s house, sometimes with bags of groceries, unfailingly polite and slightly shy.  The five women of our house knew who he was, but only one or two of us ever found out his name.  He brought his mother outside, gently unfolding her wheelchair on the sidewalk and guiding her into it.

The old Italian neighborhood still looks the same.  There is fresh paint on some of the houses, including ours (it is still “our” house, even though none of the original roommates are there).  The prices have gone up at the old hot dog stand and there are new buildings over by the hospital, but the streets end in the same places and the sidewalk still leads to the train.

Wandering with a purpose.  Even when I have nowhere in particular to go, I have a hard time sitting still.  The idea of park benches and peaceful afternoons is appealing in theory, but in the five years of residence there seemed to be little opportunity.

Going back to the old haunts is too painful, still.  There is too much attached to those places, little moments that eat away at me if I let them stay too long.  Unwelcome guests, they settle in the corners of my brain.

I remember the clack clack of boots on city sidewalks, it is comforting to hear when there are hundreds of people swarming to get home or drown their sorrows or listen to the latest podcast or watch the football game or eat dinner or hug their three children.

Chicago in the rain and fog is a heartbreaking place, the buildings are stark and bright against the glow of sky.  Invest in a warm coat and a strong heart, and a comfortable pair of shoes.

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incomplete: evening thoughts

It makes me less lonely when my friends are writers: I feel their souls next to me when I read their words.

There are a few things that make me smile, no matter what. At the moment all I can remember is that babies are at the top of that list, but also somewhere in there are the moments in between our words when we can smile in silence.

Speaking of which, silence is only good to me when it is in comfort. At most other times, words or music fill the spaces, and that makes me happy. I love the quickness of words between friends, the back and forth movements, like watching a tennis match between two or four or ten people. The chaos is beautiful.

When the chocolate chip cookies were in the oven tonight, I wanted to keep baking, to hold onto the memories of 11 year old me in the kitchen, and the additional countless past and future times I have been or will be in the kitchen, washing the butter from my hands and waiting impatiently for the end.

Going to the beach makes me revert to a child-like state. I will run into a flock of seagulls, play in the water, and act in a rather frivolous manner. Pray that this never changes.

I have grown quiet in the sense that my words are struggling to fit the things I know and see, the little pieces of the world around me and the things that we cannot see with our physical eyes. Sensing the small changes and the shards of glass and the bottle caps and perfectly cut grass and the sirens and the sun coming in through the window to light up your hair and a giant bowl of ice cream and

wait for it

shaking my head (I’ve lost it).

But there is time for endless lists. Emotions are stored in neat little labeled boxes on a rickety shelf somewhere in the back of my head. The most fiery one is the sense of justice, the most meek the feeling of accomplishment. Somewhere in between and all expansive is love.

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Turning point

There are things to do. Decisions to be made. I’ve been home for nearly 2 months, and it has been a much needed break from the last few years of work (and before that, school). So…I’m working on that. Being an adult is so strange. 🙂


(at the House of Worship)

I had the opportunity to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on Friday night, but have not really watched much else since then. As a child, I remember sitting in front of the television for hours, fascinated by both the summer and winter Olympics.

There are the little everyday things, but I will share those in other ways, in pictures and poetry.

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Streams of light

“In this wondrous age, however, praised be God, the commandments of God are not delimited, not restricted to any one group of people, rather have all the friends been commanded to show forth fellowship and love, consideration and generosity and loving-kindness to every community on earth. Now must the lovers of God arise to carry out these instructions of His: let them be kindly fathers to the children of the human race, and compassionate brothers to the youth, and self-denying offspring to those bent with years. The meaning of this is that ye must show forth tenderness and love to every human being, even to your enemies, and welcome them all with unalloyed friendship, good cheer, and loving-kindness. When ye meet with cruelty and persecution at another’s hands, keep faith with him; when malevolence is directed your way, respond with a friendly heart. To the spears and arrows rained upon you, expose your breasts for a target mirror-bright; and in return for curses, taunts and wounding words, show forth abounding love. Thus will all peoples witness the power of the Most Great Name, and every nation acknowledge the might of the Ancient Beauty, and see how He hath toppled down the walls of discord, and how surely He hath guided all the peoples of the earth to oneness; how He hath lit man’s world, and made this earth of dust to send forth streams of light.”

 (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 20)

To carry out these instructions in practice is our struggle, our daily test.  And it is so easy to fall into the traps of our lower nature, which urge us to fight, to treat others with disrespect, cruelty, and even hatred.  It is an active process, something we must pay attention to and guard our behavior.

I have been so blessed in my life to be surrounded by individuals who manifest the positive qualities listed above.  It saddens me to leave the ones that I have served with at the Baha’i World Centre, but I am so, so happy that I have had the opportunity to meet them, if only for a fleeting moment in eternity.

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month 18

The eyes of strangers touch, leap across crowded spaces, and safe smiles reach the lips, are traded, and fade.  The touching of eyes crosses space, marble floors, dirt paths, and place settings with coffee stains and the remnants of sugar packets.

Eyelashes are beautiful things, wet with the tears that never fall from my eyes, or shining to frame your (their) face(s) as we (they) talk earnestly, in a thousand places and combinations.

I will hear my alarm in four hours.  In the darkness we fumble for our keys, and I will circle the stone paths in whispers for the first and last time.   Dawn prayers.

It all becomes more real, and in one month my world shifts again.

I was holding a brown child in my arms last night (in my dreams).  He had soft, curly hair and he was not necessarily my child, but I was caring for him.  I carried him through ballrooms, as technical crews set up the rooms and we wandered the back hallways.

We looked at each other, looked in each other’s eyes, and laughed, inches away from each others faces.  He grew up, in an instant, and asked why I carried him…he was old enough now.  So we walked past the zoo, and he talked to the animals, and we walked down the shore of Lake Michigan.

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Golden

My mother makes a fresh pot of Persian tea every morning.  Glass cups only, steam rising and at least 3 sugar cubes for me.

The house is always surrounded by the sun, and around our kitchen table there are shafts of light that warm our feet.  Well, not in winter, but Chicago is not known for its mildness…both in weather and personality.

—-

Every morning I walk up a mountain, every night I walk down.  I know the dips and turns of the path, the gardeners are working and the rocks slip away under the heels of my shoes.  There are spiderweb cracks in the stairwell of my apartment building, and six different kinds of flowers blooming in my doorway.  (I counted one day.)

—-

I love black and white family photos from the 1940s: flaws are hidden, and lips, eyes, and hair are defined and perfect.  I wish that I could discover their stories just by flipping through the photo album.  The stories need to be gathered, collected, treasured.  We have lost so many stories…

—-

I want to read, have conversations, and see things that make my mind go in strange tangents and causes spontaneous laughter.  There are a million ways to reach that point, but sometimes it takes concious effort.

—-

I have had two desserts today.  They were healthy because I put fruit in them.  🙂

—-

The advent of the prophets and the revelation of the Holy Books is intended to create love between souls and friendship between the inhabitants of the earth. Real love is impossible unless one turn his face towards God and be attracted to His Beauty.

 (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 363)

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Tonight, at Bahji…

I walked around the gardens, and picked up a fallen flower to hold close to my heart.

I ran down a path in darkness and silently shouted to the palm trees and sky, a promise and a blessing.

 

 

Tonight, at Bahji, I continued the process of letting go. Of people, of places, of expectations, of the labels and insecurities and confusing thoughts. And I reconstructed, strengthening ties and bonds and the pieces of spirit between all of us that hold us together. Letting go and holding on are not all that different, after all.

Be a true friend. Be loving and mindful of the tests that we are all going through. Be compassionate, firm, and joyful. Seek out justice. Continue to learn patience. Continue to learn everything.

This is a reminder to me, but also to you.

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I like…#7

Sleeping/reading in the sun

homemade flan

old stones and large spaces

balconies

the mix of roses and jasmine at night

doorways

silence at the right moments

orange blossoms

conversations with people at least twice my age

details

 

Naw-Rúz (the Baha’i New Year)


          

(I Like: #1,#2,#3, #4, #5, #6)

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A day between

…dawn prayers, with the sun warming me as I looked out over the city, this drowsy and noisy place that is home.  4 hours sleep, but my soul was so alive that it was worth it.

I’ve learned a lot about silence in the last week or two…learning to appreciate it.

Wednesday was my first vacation day since October, and consisted of prayer, movies, talking to friends on the phone, spending time with Mojan and her beautiful baby, sleeping, and finally a talk about departing the World Center.  Afterward I went with a friend for McFlurries (it has become a craving recently).

Made the mistake of drinking Persian tea with dinner tonight…was so exhausted.  And then…watched “Houseboat” with a few girlfriends, which was perfect for tonight.

Goodnight.

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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.

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The nature of the internet

March 31 of this year will be 7 years that I have been blogging.  Actually, a little longer, because for a while I had the rudimentary beginnings of a blog on my personal web site in 2000.

I’ve seen some crazy things…people pretending to be someone they’re not, online drama translated into real life drama, breakups, marriages, deaths, birth announcements, and relationships beginning entirely through an online interaction.  There was a time when saying that you “met on the internet” was kind of…weird.  Several people I know have been introduced to the Baha’i Faith through the internet…whether it be through blogs, forums, etc.   Some of the biggest events in the world that have happened in the last few years I have learned first through blogs.

I love the path that I have been able to tread.  It is a privilege and a blessing to be able to write, express my views, and connect with other human beings in this way.  Friends have scattered across the globe, and yet I feel like they still live next door.

With all of that said, it is important to endeavor to use wisdom in one’s speech, to keep an open mind, and most of all rein in that mouse button…I’ve seen some really damaging things happen when people (including myself) have not thought before pushing the “post” button.  I say this in particular to Baha’is who have blogs, but it is applicable to everyone.  Also, I refer to blogs because that is my main focus, but it applies to all social networking interaction, really.

“Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech.”

(Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 93)

This also pertains to our reactions when someone does something that we don’t like.  Whether we know them or not, it is so easy to react negatively when we perceive that we have been wronged, or that someone is attacking us.

“One word is like unto springtime causing the tender saplings of the rose-garden of knowledge to become verdant and flourishing, while another word is even as a deadly poison. It behoveth a prudent man of wisdom to speak with utmost leniency and forbearance so that the sweetness of his words may induce everyone to attain that which befitteth man’s station.”

(Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 173)

That being said, it is also important to speak up when there is an injustice occurring, to defend those who are helpless, and to stand up for justice.

We exhort mankind in these days when the countenance of Justice is soiled with dust, when the flames of unbelief are burning high and the robe of wisdom rent asunder, when tranquillity and faithfulness have ebbed away and trials and tribulations have waxed severe, when covenants are broken and ties are severed, when no man knoweth how to discern light and darkness or to distinguish guidance from error.

O peoples of the world! Forsake all evil, hold fast that which is good. Strive to be shining examples unto all mankind, and true reminders of the virtues of God amidst men. He that riseth to serve My Cause should manifest My wisdom, and bend every effort to banish ignorance from the earth. Be united in counsel, be one in thought. Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday. Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches. Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest. Be generous in your days of plenty, and be patient in the hour of loss. Adversity is followed by success and rejoicings follow woe. Guard against idleness and sloth, and cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low. Beware lest ye sow tares of dissension among men or plant thorns of doubt in pure and radiant hearts.”

(Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 137)


It isn’t always easy to do these things, and as human beings we are still learning to conquer the world of the written word.  Keep trying, keep writing, keep learning.   I’m cheering you on, and I’m right here beside you.

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a letter to the future

sometimes I wish you could see me
my subtle moments, my tired eyes, my smiles and my gestures.
my million ways of laughing and the way I wash dishes,
the way I stare up at the stars and off into the distance,
or how I get totally immersed in a book or chopping vegetables.
you don’t know how I act when I am taking charge of a room,
how my tone of voice changes when I call home,
how my mother and I spent evenings in front of the fireplace
with chocolate and tea and laughter.
do you know that I love cobblestone streets, grand old homes,
and perfect climbing trees?
or that my little sister means everything to me,
and my Faith encompasses my life?

sometimes I wish you could see me dancing, I am joyful,
the whole room disappears and I am complete.
my fascination with little details and museums,
my love of road trips and forests and conversations over coffee.
I still love to play dress-up…just a more grown-up version…
did you know that my kitchen is my sanctuary?

sometimes I wish that you could know me, that you continue trying,
and that the things that I want you to know about me…
someday I will know about you.

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storyteller

Sweet little lady, bare feet in the summer grass. Her eyes closed, face up to the sky, there is forever stretched around her.

Perfect, perfect, and her heart just stops just one moment as she breathes in the universe…as the years followed behind her, never quite catching up. She smiled at those who least expected it. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault (although it could be someone’s fault), there was no one to blame, but those poor pretty hearts were left in the dust by the side of country roads.

Fierce little lady, with dark bright eyes and sorrow slightly tinged, her bare feet shift as she slowly pulls one piece of grass, then two, and makes a bridge for insects to cross.

Memories have a tendency to pile up, to push the stories out of the way, to allow us to forget more than we remember, to only remember the strangest things. Her stories never had the right audience, her hands weaving in the air, but she only had one or three really good stories. The trick was to stay quiet, to stretch ears beyond the confines of the room, and while she had forgotten to do this for a few years, it came back to her eventually.

Would it actually work to roll down the hill? It was soft and green, but the end of the hills disappoint exponentially as our expectations are raised. God knew that our eyes wanted blue skies, green grass, pieces of paper covered in squiggly lines, hands grasped in hands, pots of stew simmering, bird feathers, rows of trees, and bare feet in hot sand.

Quiet little lady, she gathers up her garlands of wilted flowers and pieces of stories, and walks down the hill toward home.

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Science and Religion

My last post regarding science and religion was touched on very lightly, so I thought I’d explain a bit of where I am coming from.  The following excerpts explain much better than I ever could.

“Among the ancient philosophers the infallible way to knowledge was through logic. The different schools of logic weighed everything in the scales of cold scholasticism. As to religious people their criterion has ever been the sacred text which must be accepted as final. One is not allowed the slightest reflection. “The word of God,” they say, “is truth.” Inspiration is the fourth criterion. Occultists say, “I have had a revelation. This truth has been revealed to me.”   For them everything outside direct revelation is viewed with doubt. So we have indicated the four criterions: the senses, reason, the sacred text, inspirations. There is no fifth.

Let us speak of the first criterion — that of the senses. Contemporary philosophers say, “We have spent our time in universities and laboratories analyzing composition. We have not encountered the spirituality of God, or any sign of the soul’s existence. We are people of truth, intelligent, learned men, but we can find no proof of the existence of a divine being.”

The senses mistake a mirage for water; the eyes see the sun move; your train or boat seems immobile and the landscape seems to pass by, planets look like fixed points of light; but they have measurable dimensions. A lighted point set in rotation appears like a circle. These examples show the senses subject to error. How can we put our trust in them?

The test of logic is just as imperfect, for were this criterion perfect there would never have been the continual clash of opinion as to the sacred texts. How can they be interpreted by logic if the means be at fault?

Inspiration, what is it? Whence comes it? Is that which reaches our heart divine or satanic? How can we judge?

It is no proof of intelligence to reject everything which does not strike the senses. Nay, rather, such a one is brother to the animal. The cow has no idea of God; she does not know the soul. So the only difference between her highness the cow and a materialistic philosopher is that the latter takes a great deal of trouble! It is not a special or exclusive privilege to be the prisoner of one’s senses; the cow is the example of this theory.”

 (Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 94)

“Until now it has been said that all religions were composed of tenets that had to be accepted, even if they seems contrary to science. Thanks be to God, that in this new cycle the admonition of [Baha’u’llah] is that in the search for truth man must weigh religious questions in the balance of science and reason. God has given us rational minds for this purpose, to penetrate all things, to find truth. If one renounce reason, what remains? The sacred texts? How can we understand God’s commands and to what use can we put them without the balance of reason?

The priests are attached to ancient superstitions and when these are not in keeping with science, the priests denounce science. When religion is upheld by science and reason we can believe with assurance and act with conviction, for this rational faculty is the greatest power in the world. Through it industries are established, the past and present are laid bare and the underlying realities are brought to light. Let us make nature our captive, break through all laws of limitation and with deep penetration bring to light that which is hidden. The power to do this  is the greatest of divine benefits. Why treat with indifference such a divine spark? Why ignore a faculty so beneficial, a sun so powerful?”

 (Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 100)

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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.  😉

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Reading into things

Hands can tell you so much about a person. The way they look when dishes are being washed, or gently brushing the curls on a child’s head.  The way a hand is gently surrounded, or holds.

Eyes communicate first, and our hands do the rest.

Someone told me that my words are learning to take turns, to sit and wait by the sidelines.

Someone once said that my hands did more talking than my eyes did, there were veils in front of my eyes that let nothing out, and everything in.

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A few nights ago I decided to spend my evening moving furniture around my house.  I wrestled with a bookcase, side tables, a giant futon mattress, and suitcases.  It was late, and my flatmates were sleeping, so I was trying to be as quiet as possible.  In the end everything was arranged satisfactorily, but imagine tiny little me dragging a bookcase 3 times my size down the hallway.  😛

There are several wonderful friends on pilgrimage right now, which makes me incredibly happy but very busy.

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I Like…#5

quick glances on trains
new haircuts
violins in rock music
fat little babies in winter hats
balconies and cloud-watching at night
crumbling stone walls with tiny green fingers of ivy
funny book titles:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(I Like: #1,#2,#3, #4)

I will write about my trip soon, but I don’t really have the time to sit down and write a whole entry about it at the moment.

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Reflections

“Love is the means of the most great happiness in both the material and spiritual worlds!” -Abdu’l-Baha

Sometimes I don’t know how I got here (physically, spiritually, emotionally). Most days everything feels normal…and then there are the times I find myself in a room with a group of completely amazing people that I really admire, or walking in the gardens at night with the Shrine of the Báb glowing in front of me. More and more the concept of detachment comes to the front of my mind as the one thing that keeps me level, allows me to fulfill my capacity, and focuses me on the important things. When I forget to say my prayers for detachment, everything just seems to slide out of reach.

“Love is the universal magnetic power between the planets and stars shining in the lofty firmament!” -Abdu’l-Baha

I found this quote while looking for something else…wow:

“Universal beings resemble and can be compared to particular beings, for both are subjected to one natural system, one universal law and divine organization. So you will find the smallest atoms in the universal system are similar to the greatest beings of the universe.” -Abdu’l-Baha

It makes me think about scientists spending so much time looking for carbon-based life forms, about the search for habitable planets and our definition of the physical universe. We are so limited as human beings, in this form, and we struggle to understand our surroundings. I don’t have any answers, but it sure is fun to think about!

“Love is the breath of the Holy Spirit inspired into the human spirit!” -Abdu’l-Baha

There is this concept that the mind is not connected to the body…the mind exists in the soul. This is so beautiful! Our brain is the conduit through which our mind operates our body. So…the mind/spirit is what makes us human, which allows us to operate with free will (which in my mind is one of the distinguishing characteristics of being human).

“Love is the greatest law in this vast universe of God!” -Abdu’l-Baha

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Over halfway

September 8th marked the halfway point in my service in Haifa.  9 months left.

I know that I’ve changed, that I’ve stayed the same.   There are so many beautiful moments, and I wish I could gather every beautiful soul into my hands and carry them with me anywhere I go in the world.  I wish I could explain everything here, or write it down, but recently words have been failing me.  Perhaps pictures would suffice.

I am so, so happy here.  Autumn is slowly creeping around the corner, the pilgrim season starts in a few weeks, the magic of the smell of cold evenings still exists in the world.  

The passing of the last Hand of the Cause of God is still too recent to even understand.  As far as I can remember, I had the bounty of meeting four of them (at least the ones I remember meeting).   `Alí-Muhammad Varqá, `Alí-Akbar Furútan, Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, and William Sears…and now they’re all gone.

“The greatest attainment in the world of humanity is nearness to God. Every lasting glory, honor, grace and beauty which comes to man comes through nearness to God.”

 (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 147)

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The end of summer

Night skies are less heavy with your feet off the ground, sitting three steps up. But still somehow weigh on me with the flower scents from gardens across the street, with the emotions of evening rain hanging over my head.

The end of summer was always a beginning, except here it is more of a feeling than a time.

I haven’t taken any pictures yet. I hope I can, I hope it will never be too late.

Endless, endless sun and the days are filled.

 These days, I am always looking up.

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10 Things I like about myself (to be thankful for!)

Abi tagged me nearly a month ago to do this meme, and in between the chaos of birthdays (I think I’ve counted about 6 that I’ve celebrated in the last few weeks!) and other things (like, you know, life), I have not had a chance to do it.

I am not going to tag people, because most of my friends have done this one already, or…they may not want to do it. At first when I was writing this list, I felt rather self-centered and narcissistic. But then I started thinking about it as a way to count my blessings and remind myself of how lucky I am.

1. I am a Baha’i. This is the reason I am who I am.

2. My genetic material. It is pretty darn good (thanks Mom & Dad!).

3. I surprise people, especially when they make assumptions about my character/intellectual abilities based on superficial qualities such as my physical appearance.

4. I am generally an optimist, but have a nice dose of cynicism to keep my feet on the ground.

5. I used to be a shy person, and sometimes that is still there, but I made a conscious effort to overcome it over the last 8 years.

6. I read a lot of books.

7. I don’t hold grudges and it is very difficult for me to lie.

8. I take care of people.

9. I laugh easily.

10. I know how to cook, and I love doing it.

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Today

I was born on a Sunday.

One of my favorite stories is about when my parents brought me home from the hospital. My parents put me in my crib, and they say (here my dad always jumps in and states that I was very aware of my surroundings, even though I was only a few days old) that I stared at them with my “big brown eyes” and looked so sad that they couldn’t bear to leave me by myself that night.

Mom & Dad, thank you for not leaving me alone that night and every night after, thank you for being the most amazing parents in the world. I miss you guys so much, especially today. To my sister Niki…you are wonderful, and I am so proud of you. To my sister Gloria…I miss our shared birthdays when we were little, and having a “partner in crime”. 🙂

My coordinator suggested that I eat Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate ice cream with raspberry sauce for breakfast today…so I did. It was delicious. I enjoyed a wonderful (slightly off-key) rendition of “Happy Birthday” in the sherut this morning on the way to work. I will spend the evening at my flat with friends, it will be a “quieter” birthday than usual, and I am so very, very happy.

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Things I like… (#4)


(Credit to Vahid for this picture)

cobblestone streets

really great handwriting

tea at Bahji in the afternoon

spanish moss on willow trees

vegetable stands on the side of the road

broken pieces of colored glass in the sun

old cemetaries (calculating ages of the dead)

children calling me “auntie”

cooking for a lot of people

close friends getting married (congrats to two couples here especially! Love you!)

(I Like: #1, #2, #3)

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wait.

I am strangled by time zone differences and my inability to communicate. I spent the day doing nothing except watching documentaries and baking gluten-free cookies. I didn’t even clean, respond to emails, make phone calls…not one useful thing.

Oh, well I did paint my nails.

Meals have been haphazard today. I am finding myself in strange places in my head. I slept only as much as the sun allowed me, woke up with my arm so asleep that it was no longer my own.

I drank too much weak coffee last night, I talked too much and now everything is fuzzy because I no longer remember what stories I tell. There is no need to talk this much. I want to start over, start my stories over. I don’t want to be the same person any more. I want to be me again.

Yesterday was a morning in the Hadar, entering stores, the feeling of fabric between my fingers and street vendors. I love the crowded vegetable stands with mangoes twice the size as usual, the butcher that says “Welcome to Israel!” (that beef was amazing in the stew, by the way). Roya, maybe I should have bought that magnet. 🙂

I wish I could find one thing that consumes me…too much ambivalence is making me a very boring person. I wish I could gather stories to re-tell that make people hold their breath. I wish I could walk in the streets with nothing but time and photographs of the future and restless feet…

and you.

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In summary

“…as long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters.”

-Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

I don’t have a lot to say right now, really. I had a fantastic day yesterday…we went hiking in a forest preserve, and I am really just happy that I survived since it was so hot and we were out there for 6 hours (pictures here).  Also, I read the latest Harry Potter book in a 24 hr span.  I am crazy.

I am quiet these days, happier to sit back and listen, or read, or be inside my head. I need social interaction, as I always have, but there is something wonderful in learning what it is to be on my own.  If it makes me more serious than usual, so be it.

It is interesting to step outside yourself, to analyze your actions and see where things are taking you.  It is also good to have friends/family that are honest with you, and who say what needs to be said, even though it isn’t always what you want to hear.

The reason I say all of these things is because there are a lot of people who read this blog, and I am pretty sure that I don’t know most of you very well.  There are parts of me that want to learn about everyone around me, to be a friend, to cherish them.  I also know that I don’t always have time for that, but if someone makes an effort, I am likely to do the same.  The way the world is these days, with people being “friends” at the drop of a hat (whatever happened to the word ‘acquaintance’?), it is hard for me to say that I need more “friends”.

But I really love knowing people’s stories and trying to understand who they are, and that will always be something I cherish.  So no matter how many lovely people are in my life, I will always welcome more.

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