as i strive to live the life of a spiritual and moral human being, i continue to realize that the moment i unpeel a layer of self to reveal who i really am as a soul, i am faced with yet another layer to work on removing. this is the endless process of spiritual growth, if we choose to work on perfecting ourselves to overcome our material nature from which we are molded..
thinking about this endless process of growth makes me ask:
- how do i identify myself to others?
- what is my full identity?
- how do i describe others?
- is it merely in terms of nationality, religious affiliation, racial heritage, skin color, profession and gender?
- or is it interwoven with character, virtues, ways of serving others and sacrificial endeavors?
intrinsically, i know that i am more than my skin color, my age, my name, my hair, my weight, my style, my abilities, my profession, my status or my achievements (or lack thereof)..
i know wholeheartedly that i am more than my title, or the amount of wealth i have, or what my cultural background is, or how much education i have acquired..
so, the answers to these questions involve a dialogue that is exalted beyond and above the material and physical attributes of who we are.
i am not dismissing or discounting the beauty and richness of culture and all that pertains to the material aspects of who we are. certainly our heritage and ancestry and cultural expressions all contribute to who we are at a certain level.
i am referring to what lies beyond that -- knowing someone as a soul -- a unique soul with its own particular capacity, experience of suffering, difficulties and challenges. i desire to identify and see someone in terms of their God-given strengths and weaknesses, their talents and abilities, their heartfelt convictions and innermost thoughts, their spiritual accomplishments and failures, and how they see themselves as a unique individual..
if i see myself as a person who is involved in a lifelong journey of spiritual growth, i want to describe myself as a soul in a way that encompasses yet transcends my identity as a Baha'i. this is the one word which identifies who i am as a soul in terms of how i strive to live this life, yet it is not particular to the uniqueness of who i am. there are Baha'is all around the world who are as diverse as a botanical garden, but we each have an identity that is unique in the garden of humanity.
as i return my thoughts to how i strive to live each day, i begin to discern a sense of identity in terms of actions and intentions, one that involves the spirit of servitude, applying the skills, knowledge and abilities i have acquired toward the betterment of the world in whatever way i can.
i am a soul who cares deeply about others' well-being, who puts into practice each day Baha'u'llah's admonitions to 'do good to every person whose path he crosseth and be of some benefit to him' and 'be unjust to no man; show all meekness to all men'.
i am a soul who is loyal to my husband and dedicated to spiritually educating our children; who finds it easy to see the light of God in others without prejudice or estrangement; who is quiet in big groups and loves being surrounded by the African spirit; who derives a lot of joy from dancing, playing soccer and baking; whose heart is easily moved by the hardships of poverty and injustice that exist throughout the world..
i am spiritually rooted in my identity as a soul..
i am uplifted by how Abdu'l-Baha described His station:
"My name is Abdu'l-Baha, my identity is Abdu'l-Baha, my qualification is Abdu'l-Baha, my reality is Abdu'l-Baha, my praise is Abdu'l-Baha, Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection is my glorious refulgent diadem; and servitude to all the human race is my perpetual religion."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v2, p. 429)
"'Abdu'l-Bahá is himself a servant at the Threshold of the Blessed Beauty and a manifestation of pure and utter servitude at the Threshold of the Almighty. He hath no other station or title, no other rank or power."
perhaps all of this comes to my mind in part because of the deep divisions that exist amongst people in the name of religion, race, class, etc. it is also due to the fact that i am not good at the superficial chit-chat and connections that most people make with each other. when i see materialism encroaching on and encompassing the minds, bodies and pursuits of peoples' lives, i pause and wonder who someone really is beneath and beyond everything that creates one's identity..
"...the happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace, of an individual have never consisted in his personal wealth, but rather in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 23)