Optimism

 

I read a criticism of the Bahá’í Faith yesterday  a rabbit hole I fell into online while looking up something else. What really struck me was the author’s idea that the Bahá’ís are comfortable with the target date for world peace being “indefinitely postponed.”  This is in contrast with the general Bahá’í belief that mankind has been created to carry forward and ever-advancing civilization, and that as the human race marches on, we are slowly but inevitably becoming more connected and that it is our mandate to become a friend to the human race – to see each other as beloved family, to consider no one a stranger. World peace is inevitable. I want peace now. Now and now-er and now-est. But I don’t think it’s a magic trick. Bahá’u’lláh has given us the prescription for our sickness of prejudice, the madness of our tendency to feel superior to others. The prescription is to love each other. But! Yes, people complain. They already know that. They already heard that. They already believe that we are equal. That men and women are equal. That the amazing colors and cultures of the human race are equal. Who needs a new Prophet with a capital P to tell us what we already know?

Do we really know this? Isn’t the proof of knowledge the ability to demonstrate it and teach it to someone else? Since we long for peace and we don’t actually, currently seem to have peace, it’s my belief that we don’t really know this – we are not able to perfectly execute a single day without thinking that another driver was wrong, that our spouse was wrong, that our teacher was wrong that our political leaders are wrong and that we are right. We are right. We are right and they are wrong. 

Last summer my sister, mother and I were going on vacation with our various nieces and nephews. We were packing the car. There were arguments about which car to bring, who was going to drive, what food to bring, where to stop for food,  who was riding in which car, people cried and swore. And we were going on VACATION to an ISLAND surrounded by a gorgeous lake, in a beautiful setting on the shore with a primeval forest and a meadow. I said to my mother’s husband, who was wisely staying home, “How are we going to create world peace if we can’t even get out of the kitchen to go on vacation without fighting?” 

I am optimistic about the future and I am also realistic about where we are right now. Right now, surrounded by an ocean of God’s mercy, love, grace and gifts, we are children fighting about who gets to drive when we go on vacation. And we did go on vacation, and saw the boats in the locks at Sault Sainte Marie, and saw the sun set over the lake, and walked on the carpeted cathedral of pine needles under ancient moss covered trees and walked on the sandy beach. And slept and cried and argued and ate and loved each other anyway. 

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The World Holds its Breath

To a waltz rhythm

We are just children –

but our ancestors were younger than we (rest rest) are (rest rest) now (rest rest rest rest)

And the world holds its breath (rest rest pause)

as we take our first steps.

What will this new world look like? What will it look like a month, a year, ten, one hundred, one thousand years from now? Because this is the time. This is it. Whatever we are going to call it then, we are living in it now. And we are history’s ancestors.  I believe we have to stop thinking of our ancestors as wiser than we were. Yes they were amazing, filled with common sense and ground wisdom, fire wisdom, water wisdom, survival wisdom, the song of creation. Yes. But now we need living wisdom. “What you needed to do to survive may not be what you need to do to live” says Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen in her book Kitchen Table Wisdom. The human race has survived – kicking and screaming and loving and fighting and singing and sighing. Corruption has plagued us. Greed has wounded us. War has been our answer for too long.

God has sent us Messengers, Prophets, Holy Ones, Teachers, and they have all, every single one of them, explained something about human nature and the soul – our connection to the cosmic creation. They have urged us to turn away from greed, to be humble, to be loving, to be just and to remember the Creator, to recognize that we have been given this awesome and terrible power to choose between right and wrong, good and evil. We still have that choice.

God has sent us new teachers that the world has yet to recognize. The Báb was martyred and Bahá’u’lláh was tortured and imprisoned for their teachings that called humanity to recognize that there is one God, that we are one human family and that is time and past time to rise to a higher level of justice, mercy, equality, honesty, – to seek truth, to avoid blindly following rituals of the past. They acknowledged and honored the perfect, beautiful truths proclaimed by all of God’s Messengers.  They looked at the condition people were in and gave them remedies to address and improve their condition. I believe that if any group of us had actually followed the teachings of any one of these Prophets, our collective Sacred Teachers – if any group of people had actually been obedient to the laws ordained by these Holy Ones – we would not be in the mess we are in today.

I believe in God, even though I am unable to define or explain God – I just have this sense of the Great, the Holy, the Ocean of eternity, of sacred, wide open space.  I believe in Jesus. I believe in Moses. I believe in Buddha. I believe in the White Buffalo Calf Maiden. I believe that every group of people has been given a message from God about how to organize their society. I wasn’t there, I can’t prove they existed – but I recognize the message of love combined with instruction that seems to me to come from a Holy Place, a place of this mysterious realm of the Creator, a message that calls and speaks to my heart.

Now we can see each other, all over the world, we can see each other’s eyes, we can hear each other’s voices. We can see oceans, mountains, rivers, meadows, we can see that my blue sky looks like your blue sky, that my stars in Minnesota look like your stars in Australia. We can see mothers and fathers, babies, grandparents, youth – in an instant we can see it. But seeing each other isn’t enough. It seems to me that as people we still have this  incredible need to exclude someone or something. You can’t be here because of your gender, your color, your family, your religion, your money, your address, your history, your opinions, your difference. We are scared of each other. We are jealous of each other. We steal from each other. And we love each other. Don’t forget.

I believe it is time to actually try to follow the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, who saw that “the people are wandering in the paths of delusion, bereft of discernment to see God with their own eyes, or hear His Melody with their own ears.  Thus have We found them, as thou also dost witness. Thus have their superstitions become veils between them and their own hearts and kept them from the path of God, the Exalted, the Great.” It is time to recognize that “The earth is one country and mankind its citizens.”  It is time to stop and listen to a new voice reminding us of the Ancient Voice. “This is the Voice of God, if ye do but hearken. This is the Day Spring of the Revelation of God, did ye but know it. This is the Dawning-Place of the Cause of God, were ye to recognize it. This is the Source of the commandment of God, did ye but judge it fairly. This is the manifest and hidden Secret; would that ye might perceive it. O peoples of the world! Cast away, in My name that transcendeth all other names, the things ye possess, and immerse yourselves in this Ocean in whose depths lay hidden the pearls of wisdom and of utterance, an ocean that surgeth in My name, the All-Merciful.”

What will it look like when the world is one country? When we see that we are living together in one home? That we are one human family? What is stopping us? What are we afraid of? What will we lose by recognizing our common humanity? Is each perfect and lovely flower diminished by the other perfect and lovely flowers? We fear losing our story. That my family history won’t matter. That by recognizing and honoring the other I lose myself. We fear being hungry, thirsty, ignored. We fear being taken advantage of, because historically, people have taken advantage of others. But what if  we could expand our vision and take a deep breath? And feel good, and safe, and filled with delight? What if our beautiful uniqueness was part of an incredible world symphony?

We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem Us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment…. That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened… Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come…. Yet do We see your kings and rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of the human race than on that which would conduce to the happiness of mankind…. These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family…. Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind….

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Stillness and Silence

Being Still

Being still long enough to take the time to write – I create this bubble around me because our house is never quiet and I am rarely alone. Stillness sounds noisy. It’s my dog panting on the floor with his terrible breath, the squeak and buzz in the dishwasher that needs to be replaced, the sound of clothes in the dryer, the television in the living room where my husband watches shows from the 50s and 60s on ME-TV. It’s the sound of the clinic, where I sit in semi-private yet open space to write. The sound of walking, canes tapping on the floor, snippets of conversations.

Stillness is grey and misty. It smells like the ground after a rain. Stillness is that breath before I sing, that pause before I start, the hush of my mind, the slowing of my breath when I pray and meditate. Stillness feels like waiting and listening, noticing and not reacting. Stillness feels calm. Stillness is watching the little waves come to the shore on the edge of lake Hiawatha where I would walk after Doug’s heart attack, and the water bubbling up and over in the meditation garden beside his hospital where I would sit and have nothing to write, nothing to say. Stillness is round, it’s a fog that hugs me and hides me. Stillness is rain on a window pane.

Silent meditation

What I know is that I have never, not for one second, been silent. My mind, my heart, my hands are busy, busy, busy. I am practicing silent group meditation, which probably seems quiet to an onlooker, who would see a room of quiet people, breathing deeply, sitting still. But if there was in internal recording, I think it would be filled with running dialogue:

Be still. Shhh. Hush. Breathe deeply. Let the thoughts go. Don’t follow them down a rabbit hole. Look at that, look at that, what about that? Let it go. Breathe. Focus. Shh. Try again. Relax. Let it go.”

The most I can hope for is a silent, tender noticing of my stream of thoughts and awareness. I am determined to learn how to sink into silence. It’s good for me.

Silent things

The sunrise

The sky

The clouds

The statue of the veiled lady at the Art Institute

Silent prayer at the end of my day, my hands relaxed, listening.

You know who is silent?

GOD

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Max

Max

Something about this dog of ours – his smashed up bully of a face – a combination of bat and fly, a terrible underbite, missing teeth, his chubby, hotdog body, his tiny paws. His snores. His terrible odor. Barking at the cats. Demanding treats in the middle of the night. Relentless in his quest to be comfortable, on top of a blanket, on top of the couch, sleeping on my pillow. Biting our neighbors, threatening old ladies and babies. A terrible dog. And yet – Continue reading

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When the Golden Rule is Not Enough

There are times when the golden rule is not enough: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What if you want to be a martyr? What if you think blowing yourself up as a suicide bomber is the best way to go? What if you strap bombs to a ten year old girl and send her out into a crowd? Oddly enough, if you are a fan of martyrdom via suicide bombs, you are still following the golden rule and you can feel good about giving that gift of martyrdom to someone else. Maybe you think this is the way to heaven and salvation. Maybe you think God wants you to do this. Maybe you think you are cleansing the world of evil. Maybe you think you are some sort of super hero. So clearly we need a new rule. Because I don’t think it is okay to blow people up as a way to express your true passion for God. Continue reading

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Hair

I don’t know if I am brave enough to color or not color my hair. I don’t know why it feels so significant. You could say that my white hair is a decision I made. It feels more like it just happened. White hair happened on my head and I was surprised and scared because it was also falling out in clumps after being so sick and I didn’t know what to do, so I froze. I remain thankful that I still have hair. So I guess, 5 years later, I am starting to unfreeze and make a few decisions. One of them is asking if I want white hair.

Continue reading

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Fixing things

Fixing things

David came to fix things. I have been saying, “My brother is here.” Actually I have been saying, in a boastful way, with capital letters and italics, “My BROTHER is here to help fix things at the house.” I am cool and luckier than you because my brother is here to help. My big brother, who had this great idea one time that I should sit on his bicycle handlebars, at the top of our very steep hill in front of our house and balance there as the bike flew down the street with me on the handlebars. My big brother who had an idea about me riding next to the brick wall beside the school with him beside me to see how close we could get to the wall. My big brother who drove me to my old school when we moved to a new town and I was too scared to go to a new school. My big brother who sat on my bed as I packed my bags, preparing to run away to live with our dad, and said to me, “You don’t leave mom. You just don’t do that.” My big brother who came after I had to make the phone call from the hospital saying “Davey, dad died.” My big brother who carried my couch up the stairs when I got married and moved into the second floor of an old duplex. That brother. That one, who sliced and diced the meat and cheese for our wedding and put it on platters and laughed and joked the entire time. That brother who nearly killed me and saved me over and over again. My brother is here. Fixing things.

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