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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

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The Station of Christ

As a Baha’i, I do not celebrate Christmas as Christians do, but as I live in a country that celebrates Christian holidays, I have been surrounded by Christmas…and instead of the usual materialistic images that are evoked by the holiday, I wish to instead focus on who Jesus Christ was: a Manifestation of God. Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah was the return of Christ in the glory of the Father, and that all Manifestations came from God at different times to teach humanity about what God wants us to do.

The position of Christ was that of absolute perfection; He made His divine perfections shine like the sun upon all believing souls, and the bounties of the light shone and radiated in the reality of men. This is why He says: “I am the bread which descended from heaven; whosoever shall eat of this bread will not die”- that is to say, that whosoever shall partake of this divine food will attain unto eternal life: that is, every one who partakes of this bounty and receives these perfections will find eternal life, will obtain preexistent favors, will be freed from the darkness of error, and will be illuminated by the light of His guidance.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 120)

When the sanctified breezes of Christ and the holy light of the Greatest Luminary [1] were spread abroad, the human realities — that is to say, those who turned toward the Word of God and received the profusion of His bounties — were saved from this attachment and sin, obtained everlasting life, were delivered from the chains of bondage, and attained to the world of liberty. They were freed from the vices of the human world, and were blessed by the virtues of the Kingdom. This is the meaning of the words of Christ, “I gave My blood for the life of the world”[2] — that is to say, I have chosen all these troubles, these sufferings, calamities, and even the greatest martyrdom, to attain this object, the remission of sins (that is, the detachment of spirits from the human world, and their attraction to the divine world) in order that souls may arise who will be the very essence of the guidance of mankind, and the manifestations of the perfections of the Supreme Kingdom.
[1 Bahá’u’lláh.]
[2 Cf. John 6:51.]

(Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 124)

The Cause of Bahá’u’lláh is the same as the Cause of Christ. It is the same Temple and the same Foundation. Both of these are spiritual springtimes and seasons of the soul-refreshing awakening and the cause of the renovation of the life of mankind. The spring of this year is the same as the spring of last year. The origins and ends are the same. The sun of today is the sun of yesterday. In the coming of Christ, the divine teachings were given in accordance with the infancy of the human race. The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh have the same basic principles, but are according to the stage of the maturity of the world and the requirements of this illumined age.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 400)

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41 Conferences

“The Universal House of Justice, in a letter dated 20 October 2008, announced the convocation of a series of 41 regional conferences over a four-month period. The letter – which marked the midway point of a five-year effort to expand activities at the grassroots level – indicated that the purpose of the conferences is to celebrate achievements during the first half of the Five Year Plan and to deliberate on the next phase.”Regional Conferences of the Five Year Plan

I highly recommend going to the website linked above and reading the stories there about each of the conferences. Regardless of whether you are a Baha’i or you don’t believe in God, it is truly inspiring to see people from around the world gathering on such short notice to have these remarkable gatherings.

Chicago’s turn is this weekend, and I will be at the conference center starting tomorrow, Friday, through Sunday…which also means I will not be checking my email very much. I am not staying at the hotel, since I live nearby. I am very excited.

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Some thoughts on tests in the community

I’ve noticed some comments over the years from various people on their tests as Bahá’ís…that sometimes they feel like they are too different than other members of the community, that they are frustrated with fellow believers, that they believe in the Bahá’í Faith but disagree with elements of the administration. These, and many other reasons, create a distance between them and the community.

“Perhaps the greatest test Bahá’ís are ever subjected to is from each other; but for the sake of the Master they should be ever ready to overlook each other’s mistakes, apologize for harsh words they have uttered, forgive and forget. He strongly recommends to you this course of action.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, February 18, 1945; Living the Life, p. 12)

The Bahá’í Faith is in a process of learning and growing. As we grow, there are individual and community struggles. This is part of the process.

“Thus you might look upon your own difficulties in the path of service. they are the means of your spirit growing and developing. You will suddenly find that you have conquered many of the problems which upset you, and then you will wonder why the should have troubled you at all. An individual must centre his whole heart and mind on service to the Cause, in accordance with the high standards set by Bahá’u’lláh. When this is done, the Hosts of Supreme Concourse will come to the assistance of the individual, and every difficulty and trial will gradually be overcome.”

(Written by the Guardian’s Secretary on his behalf to an individual believer, October 6, 1954: Living the Life, p. 19)

“He was very sorry to hear that you have had so many tests in your Bahá’í life. There is no doubt that many of them are due to our own nature. In other words, if we are very sensitive, or if we are in some way brought up in a different environment from the Bahá’ís amongst whom we live, we naturally see things differently and may feel them more acutely; and the other side of it is that the imperfections of our fellow-Bahá’ís can be a great trial to us”.

“We must always remember that in the cesspool of materialism, which is what modern civilization has to a certain extent become, Bahá’ís — that is some of them — are still to a certain extent affected by the society from which they have sprung. In other words, they have recognized the Manifestation of God, but they have not been believers long enough, or perhaps not tried hard enough, to become ‘a new Creation’. He feels that, if you close your eyes to the failings of others, and fix your love and prayers upon Bahá’u’lláh, you will have the strength to weather this storm, and will be much better for it in the end, spiritually. Although you suffer, you will gain a maturity that will enable you to be of greater help to both your fellow-Bahá’ís and your children”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 5, 1956)

No matter how difficult the circumstances, we should not separate ourselves from the community as a whole. The Bahá’í community is an inseparable part of being a Bahá’í.

“For the Bahá’í Faith is above all a way of life. It is not a mere philosophical or social doctrine. It is a closely-knit and harmoniously functioning community, a world-wide spiritual fraternity which seeks to reform the world first and foremost by bringing about a deep inner spiritual change in the heart of individuals. To live the teachings of the Cause should be the paramount concern of every true believer, and the only way to do so is to commune both in spirit and through actual concrete means with the entire community of the faithful. The Bahá’í Cause encourages community life and makes it a duty for every one of its followers to become a living, a fully active and responsible member of the world-wide Bahá’í fellowship.”

(From letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, August 13, 1936)

“Regarding the matter … and the inharmony that seems to exist among certain of the friends … When Bahá’ís permit the dark forces of the world to enter into their own relationships within the Faith they gravely jeopardize its progress; it is the paramount duty of the believers, the Local Assemblies, and particularly the N.S.A. to foster harmony, understanding and love amongst the friends. All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance — justified or unjustified — for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its Community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world; love and unity.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Bolivia, August 19, 1985)

Obviously there are individual circumstances. The reason I wrote this post was to be encouraging to those who are having a difficult time, not to berate those who are not able to be more active members of community life. None of us are perfect, all of us are striving. The beauty of this is that we can learn from each other.

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The purpose of religion

O ye that dwell on earth! The religion of God is for love and unity; make it not the cause of enmity or dissension. In the eyes of men of insight and the beholders of the Most Sublime Vision, whatsoever are the effective means for safeguarding and promoting the happiness and welfare of the children of men have already been revealed by the Pen of Glory. But the foolish ones of the earth, being nurtured in evil passions and desires, have remained heedless of the consummate wisdom of Him Who is, in truth, the All-Wise, while their words and deeds are prompted by idle fancies and vain imaginings.

-Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Ahd (Book of the Covenant)

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Internet Life After Death

In conversations with a number of friends, I have realized that while nearly all of us have multiple accounts on the internet for various reasons, very few of us have provided a way for these accounts to be accessed, maintained, or shut down in the event of our demise.

Some might say this is a morbid subject.  However, we leave wills for our physical assets, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t provide account information to our loved ones.  (If you don’t have a will…go write one!)

There are a number of types of sites that your loved ones may have to access: bank accounts, online bill-pay, utilities, email, social networking sites, your blog, photo management sites, forums, and instant messaging platforms.

This article mentions that unlocking an account after someone has died can mean having to get a court order, which can be a lengthy process.  Different companies have different ways of dealing with the death of a customer, and sometimes the family or executor of the estate will not be able to access their account.

You can handle this dilemma in a few different ways. Start by compiling all of the information you have.  Try using a spreadsheet if you are overwhelmed…but remember that digital information is easily shared, so be sure that it is secure.  Your column headings can be: website, login name, password (remember case-sensitive ones!), and “comments” (this area can be used to explain how you want this account handled after you pass away).

In the course of this process, you might discover a few websites where you have an account, but you really don’t need it…go ahead and get rid of those accounts.

One way is to have the information included with your will, and the executor will take care of these things.  Another option is to entrust your spouse, family member, or close friend to have access to those accounts.  For example…you might not want your grieving parents to have to go onto Facebook and tell your 830 “friends” that you have passed away, and so you might give that task over to a friend who would be able to take care of it.  But again, be careful who you give that information to…if you feel that they might betray your trust…perhaps you are better off leaving that information with a lawyer.

Any other ideas on other ways to solve this problem of account management?  I’m hoping that someday that the proliferation of usernames and passwords will be reduced, but for now we just have to manage with what we’ve got.

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memory boxes: 3

Georgia in the springtime
Magnolia trees
Bell the hound dog
Southern charm and art galleries
Tennis and the swimming pool

Bell was a bad-tempered dog.  I mean, we grew up together, in some ways, so she wasn’t too mean to me, or maybe she sensed that in my innocence, I would pamper her.  She always ran ahead when Granddaddy took us for walks, and would loops back around, nearly knocking me over and scaring me half to death in the dark woods.

My southern accent disappeared, but it struggles to come out from hiding when I am with these relatives.  Natives of Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia, half of the family still has the Southern roots strongly grounded in the soil…atheistic roots, for the most part, which made things interesting at times.

Granddaddy and Grandmommy met in art school after World War II, and they made a living on their art throughout their lives.  Granddaddy did illustrations and portraits, Grandmommy painted landscapes.  Our home is filled with their paintings and drawings.

The creek and trees behind their house used to be a dark, cool place full of mystery, but housing developers turned that magical place into a sad stand of pine trees as I grew older.  We caught crawfish and threw them back, and I will never forget my awe at a tire wrapped around a big old tree.

Everything in their house has been in the same place for the last 40 years.  I can still remember where the phone books are, the cereal, the board games, and the cookie drawer.  The furniture is in mostly the same configuration in their ranch home on the top of the hill.

We would play with the neighbor’s kids, and in the summers go to the neighborhood pool, where Grandmommy swam and Granddaddy played tennis.  They did this into their 80s.  They had their 50th Anniversary in the clubhouse there.

Dinner table discussions could almost be guaranteed to turn into a minor debate or intellectual discussion of some kind.  I mostly learned to hold my own, but have never gotten over my dislike of contention, and so did not enjoy them as much as others may have.

I can’t draw.  A cousin recently told me, “This monkey does NOT look like a monkey.”  Hey, best I could do, kid.  I didn’t inherit the ability to capture life on canvas.  My uncle taught me to whistle through my teeth and quack like a duck…thanks for passing on those skills, they’ve been quite handy.

Great-uncle and great-aunt had a wonderful house near a swamp, with a small barn and horses.  Great-aunt would let us ride the horses around the field, and I always felt so loved in their home.  When they passed away, I mourned them in quiet silence.

Grandmommy painted in the basement, and sometimes I would sneak down the long stairs to sneak looks at unfinished paintings, the bright oil paints smeared on painting boards and brushes, and the pile of animal skulls in the corner that my uncle collected in college.

We always came into the house through the kitchen door.  The front door hadn’t been used in so long that there were giant cobwebs around it.  Everything was always casual…I don’t remember any sort of formality in all the years we visited.

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memory boxes: 2

Minnesota

I was born in a hospital on the Mississippi River…but I don’t remember that part of my Minnesota story.  When I was one year old, we left this state, but it has always been a second home, on account of my Persian family members living here.

There was a thunderstorm one night that shook the walls of my grandparent’s apartment.  We all gathered in the hallway, and I remember being scared but strangely exhilarated.

Persian food.  Always a table nearly bending under the weight of platters of rice, khoresht (stew), and the dozen or so side items that go along with such a feast.  The women of my family really know how to cook.  Food is the central activity that makes a family go round.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all in a friendly chaotic shuffle around the extended tables, taking turns in different homes.

We are a mixed family…at least 4 different countries are represented in the 24 individuals that comprise this group.  I love it.  The half-English, half-Persian language that is created in the stories and translations is so normal and comforting.   The generations of the Baha’i Faith within our family go back to the mid-1800s, and also began in the present day.  The extended family has more than 200 members.

Babajoon has a lot of random sayings and advice, and most of my enduring memories of him are of him sitting in a corner with a thick book and his glasses low on his nose.  He would make up songs about putting our seatbelts on in the car, and he is the person from whom I have inherited my social personality.  He knows everyone.

We picked fresh grape leaves in the park, and Mamanjoon taught us to make dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves), her hands deftly wrapping the edges around and neatly placing them in the pot.  Mine still don’t look like hers.  Maybe I will be able to do it in 50 years…I just need practice.  She taught us how to sew, starting with sewing buttons on pieces of scrap cloth.

I learned how to dance (Persian style) in the living rooms of my aunts’ homes.  I learned how to cook in my mother’s kitchen, and how to make kabob koobideh (ground meat on a skewer) from a few different relatives over the years.

My cousins and I were bundled into coats so thick that we could barely move, and told to play in the snow by the swing set.  The swing set is gone now…it was a hazard even when I was young.  In the summers we would be pushed around in the go-cart my cousins built, or take walks around the neighborhood.

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memory boxes: 1

my childhood is split into memories of many places

early: South Carolina
wrapped in memories of the ocean
trees and hills
playing in the red clay with lizards and toads
Baha’i Feast with just two families (homefront pioneers)
wrapped in Persian rugs
“Mommy, look, we did our makeup!”
Black and white and color was not something I knew

Billy Joe fell in love with me in kindergarten. He was a small, skinny boy with a mullet, and I was a fastiduous little girl with dark brown hair and big eyes. He said that he and his brother lived in a tree house. He always had fantastic stories, but I did not like him back. He insisted that we should get married. I told him that we should bury the symbol of his love at the base of the pine tree on the playground so that no one would know. (I still feel a little bad about that.)

There was a girl in my class with long nails, painted red. I did not know of any other first-grader who had such long nails. And she chewed on them ferociously, the paint flaking off and so the nail color was never unbroken and complete.

Theresa had a wonderful back yard. There was a seesaw, a forest, and best of all, a rope swing hidden in the trees. We spent hours balanced on the board, pushing each other, telling stories and whispering of the future.

My sister and I had our own language. We made up names for the parts of the “forest” (our back yard). There was the “Haunted” section, which is where squirrels went to die. We found out later that the neighbor was poisoning them. There was the Toad Cemetery, where toads were buried in the jewelry boxes that my mother donated to our cause. And then we had our House, which was only created when we took sheets or pieces of cloth to the saplings there and draped them, making a secret fort in the leaves.

When I would get angry, my small legs would carry me to my swingset, where I would fly in the air until slowed by gravity, and incrementally come to a stop. I needed to be alone for a few moments.

My sister and I caught toads for our birthday party. Ten little girls in party dresses ran screaming when we proudly pulled them out for display. I remember my father and uncle bent over double, laughing uncontrollably. That may have been when I decided that boys were more fun to play with than girls.

Fire ants. As a barefoot child, fire ants are the bane of any intrepid little explorer, and I don’t remember how many times I ran screaming to my parents. They had an impressive collection of first aid gear, with good reason.

I stepped on nails, fell from trees, fell everywhere, bruises and cuts a constant companion. Sliced open my forehead on a kitchen cabinet. I can’t forget the terror in my mother’s eyes as she placed me on the bathroom counter and held a towel to my head while she called my father.

More pages will be devoted to other places, soon.

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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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Recent events

The weekend before last I drove to Kansas City with some friends for the wedding that we now call “Lovefest 2008”, otherwise known as Andrew & Erin’s wedding.  Here are some things that I learned:

– You can’t rent a car without a credit card, and the person with the credit card has to be the main driver.  This was discovered on the morning that we were to leave.  Luckily we were saved by a friend and made it to the wedding.

– It was confirmed that Iowa is still full of corn.  Hasn’t changed since the last time I drove through it.

– We got a lot of attention at a gas station in Missouri.  Apparently the attendents were extremely bored.  We also bought Amish-made goods from a very sweet Amish family.

– Cracker Barrel has nearly nothing for gluten-intolerant or vegetarian individuals.  You should have seen our faces when we looked at the menu.

– My friends are amazing, rare individuals and it is very sad that we all live so far away from each other. 🙁

– Even though I am allergic to cats, and don’t like them very much anyway (more of a dog person), cats LOVE me.  I’m like the cat whisperer.  It is really weird.

– I love, love, love weddings. Having the opportunity to read at this wedding was such a blessing, and I was honored to be a small part of it. They are such a beautiful couple and I’m so happy for them!

This past weekend I had a lot of family in town from my mother’s side, and it was also the Conference of the Association of Friends of Persian Culture. Here are a few tidbits from that time:

– My family is great, and every time I hang out with them I see more of where I come from. It is so strange and wonderful to find out things about myself and my history, and I know these opportunities are rare.

– I actually enjoyed going to most of the sessions, there were some highly academic talks and I really missed being in that atmosphere.

– I got very little sleep, as is normal for a conference, and stayed up late with friends, talking about the good old days and laughing. Much needed.

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From Kansas, with love.

There are so many faces
In each room, I turn and my heart fills
with a million histories
(I remember it all)
There are two ways that I see:
I see your smile
and I feel your soul
there is that.

I felt myself laughing and I could not restrain myself from jumping up and down. In the darkness I saw at least 25 faces that I love, 25 souls that I could not believe I missed so much.

Joy, joy!

They are, dears, they are. They are laughing and crying and I can’t explain why my lips quiver and my heart aches and it is all because I am surrounded by such beautiful everyones.

(I make the English language mine.)

Write a few moments of every day on clean paper, or on the back of your hand. Make notes in the margins, and scratch out anything that makes you sad. Sadness has its place but you all have my heart.

I love you, I love you.

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Looking for a job

So if you know of anyone that is hiring, do let me know.  🙂  I’ve got a nice little resume and work experience.  Project/Event management type jobs, preferably, but I really don’t know where I’m going to end up.  Quite fun.

That is all I’ve got for today!  Hope everyone is enjoying the last days of summer (well, in the northern Hemisphere, anyway.  Trying to remember my global readership.).

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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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2 weeks

A brunch, as I usually do, with several dozen pancakes, bacon, eggs, potatoes, and the like.

A quick run up the mountain to take a picture.

An afternoon of discussion, ordering dinner to be eaten with chopsticks.

An evening with candles and the laughter between friends.

The sun ever-present and healing, and my memories are formed of these never-ending days. This is what I will remember.

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The perfect recipe

Much like the accidental discoveries of Post-It notes or Superglue, I found that I have the recipe for a perfect evening. Forgive me if the measurements are not exact.

4 lovely women

1 baby

gluten-free pasta salad/Persian rice/vegetable soup

homemade hot chocolate

laughter

I do not, however, recommend putting any of the above ingredients in the oven. 🙂 hmm…I wonder what is the taste of laughter baked on 375 F…I have a feeling it is slightly chewy.

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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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A little bit of silence

For the next week, I’ll be a little busy.  Please forgive me if I don’t answer emails/messages/notes/phone calls/carrier pigeons/smoke signals.   🙂

“The light that is shed from the heaven of bounty, and the benediction that shineth from the dawning-place of the will of God, the Lord of the Kingdom of Names, rest upon Him Who is the Supreme Mediator, the Most Exalted Pen, Him Whom God hath made the Dawning-Place of His most excellent names and the Dayspring of His most exalted attributes. Through Him the light of unity hath shone forth above the horizon of the world, and the law of oneness hath been revealed amidst the nations, who, with radiant faces, have turned towards the Supreme Horizon, and acknowledged that which the Tongue of Utterance hath spoken in the kingdom of His knowledge: “Earth and heaven, glory and dominion, are God’s, the Omnipotent, the Almighty, the Lord of grace abounding!””

  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 1)

“He has ordained and established the House of Justice which is endowed with a political as well as a religious function, the consummate union and blending of church and state. This institution is under the protecting power of Bahá’u’lláh Himself.”

    (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 247)

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Jumping around (literal, figurative)

2 months.  62 days.  1,488 hours.  89,280 minutes.  <– My time remaining in the Holy Land.  That is all there is to say about that, for the moment anyway.  I’m busy working, over 60 hours a week now as things ramp up around here.  I love it. 

For starters, it has been a bit of a crazy week.  I heard about 11 engagements in the course of 1 week…11 couples getting married.  It has been pointed out to me that this is probably because I know a lot of people.  This is true.  However, it is also because it is spring, people are planning summer weddings, and I am 24 years old…all logically leading to a certain percentage of my friends getting married.  I am very excited, although I’m only going to a couple of these weddings.

On to the next thing.  There are a few blogs/sites that I want to bring to your attention.  All of these are on my links page, of course. 

Elemental Change – a collaborative blog by some Baha’i friends of mine on a wide variety of topics: entrepreneurship & finance, design & music, technology & social enterprise, politicking & think tanking.   I am really enjoying it so far, and can’t wait to see more.

2inspire.us – “What the news ought to be.”  I really love the idea behind this.  Why is the majority of our news so negative?  Well, we know why…people are attracted to tragedy.  But our spirits need upliftment too.  Check it out.

Baha’i Perspectives – many of you have heard about this site.  Articles on subjects that affect all of us, written by Baha’i friends around the world.

Artificial Sound & Light – my friend Vahid changed it up a little bit with his new blog.  Totally different from many of the blogs I read.

The Candy Coating – Dangerboy and Orion, two guys with a blog.  Thoughtful, often funny essays on various topics.  They are both Baha’is, but it is really a place for people to share their thoughts and talk to each other. 

Finally, I had a wonderful evening last night.  Taco dinner, Persepolis, and an impromptu Sufjan Stevens dance party in my friend’s living room (yes, it is possible to dance to this kind of music).   I love that my friends and I can still dance around like when we were little kids…with no judgement or shame.  🙂

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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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To help me…

I remember I listened to this song when he died,
about a car flipping on the turn,
and about God and death and birth.

and I remember I listened to live music through a CD,
cleaning my house to the cheering crowds
of music everyone loves.

and I remember the song with slow sadness
in the heat of summer
with sun-baked skin and sun-bright smiles.

I remember the powerful taste of the violins
as voices cut through phone lines
and history was remade.

and I remember how the music drifted in
at the beginning of spring
as we looked and never spoke.

and I remember the color of eyes
as the softness of “the past and pending”
floated through the hall.

Last night I dreamed

the wind nearly knocked us off of our feet
as the world ended…
my dress swirled in disturbed waves
and arms wrapped around me.

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3 months left

I stood on a tower with darkness and lights below
and in our eyes I saw the doorways to the world

To dwell on memories is the fastest way to go
but our hearts will linger here, and in time I’ll let you know

The light will shine down on us in soundless moments
forever to remember the timeless silence.

The rain that refused to fall from the sky
came from my eyes instead
to wash away the dust that our tired feet raised.

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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 usual pattern

you let silence take us
you, with your wildly inaccurate dreams, me alone in a busy room…
out we went, our years between somehow left on a dusty shelf in your old apartment
the one that was never, ever clean.
I was your muse and sometimes you were mine, but mostly we were.

We are now.
for the first time in what was forever, I left and you left, in different ways.
I am. Always will be, have never changed, and was honest about that.
You will continue to be one of the most creative people I know.
But I no longer know you.

Gone we are down paths I said we would take, over and over,
“this is where you will go, and this is where I will go.”
and you just shook your head.
(remember, I said “I am always right.”)

Somehow, it just keeps happening.

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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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Looking at home

everything changed and is the same
we left behind our shattered selves and started fresh
but the stains and stars are trailing after.

we can’t remember everyone that we know
and I’ll come back to the same place where everything is new,
you’ll be there and gone and here and leaving
and scattering to begin again and again.

it is no longer mine or ours or anything we knew
I’ve written words and you stepped in new places
and over the silence our whispers were heard.

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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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Dusty old books

There were boxes of old books in the parking garage today, marked “FREE!”, with that musty smell and slick dust feeling. We dug through them, hugging the discoveries to our chests. The tip of my nose starting twitching, the usual reaction to things that have been sitting forgotten on a shelf for too long.

One of my most treasured memories is standing in Uncle C.E.’s office about 2 months before he passed away in 2005. He had a fantastic library of books, especially first editions of Baha’i books that I’d never seen before. He showed me pictures of his family from 50 years ago, told me about his childhood, and watched me as I carefully pulled one book off a shelf, then another.

I just remember looking around at him, sitting in his leather chair, smiling at me. His health at that point was not good, but we did not know that he would die of cancer so soon after. No one did. As Carmen and I drove away from the house, we started crying…something told me I would not see him in this world again.

We were family, even though there was no blood relation. He took a few pictures of Carmen and I in the garden: “Stand there…smile!” I got those pictures later from Aunt G., and cried when I saw them. He loved us so much…asking questions: “What are you doing next? Are you looking for jobs? Ten years from now?”; and telling us that he was proud of us. Telling us kids to take care of each other…sometimes I feel like I’ve failed at that one. The 5 of us are scattered across the globe.

Every time I stopped by his office while I was in school, he would ask me how my schooling was going, if I was studying enough (probably not!), and he would just look at me and I would want to try harder, do better.

I miss him. If this was a piece of paper, the ink would be running off the page right now.

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