August 29, 2013

Javon Johnson - "cuz he's black" (NPS 2013)

"In the Bahá'í view, racism will be eliminated only when the peoples of the world are convinced of the oneness of humankind and proceed to reconstruct their lives and their societies on that basis."

 ~ Baha'i International Community, 1989 Feb 08, Eliminating Racism 

being a black man in America.  this speech conveys the reality.  no rhetoric.  just a gem of oneness that connects us with the unjust reality of what it is like to grow up as a black boy in America.

August 23, 2013

'Africa to America' - Walter Heath

i came across this song/slideshow presentation today.  it depicts the agonizing story of slavery and ends with the birth of emancipation through the healing Message of Baha'u'llah.

"To know this is not enough. All knowledge is good, but it can bear no fruit except by action. It is well to know that riches are good, but that knowledge will not make a man rich; he must work, he must put his knowledge into practice. We hope the people realize and know that unity is good, and we also hope that they will not be content to stand still in that knowledge. Do not only say that Unity, Love and Brotherhood are good; you must work for their realization."

~ Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 59

August 22, 2013

the spirit of subduing self-love

"..self-love is kneaded into the very clay of man, and it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward, he should neglect his own present material good. That individual, however, who puts his faith in God and believes in the words of God -- because he is promised and certain of a plentiful reward in the next life, and because worldly benefits as compared to the abiding joy and glory of future planes of existence are nothing to him -- will for the sake of God abandon his own peace and profit and will freely consecrate his heart and soul to the common good."

 ~ Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 96
we are all gems, unique and precious.  we are all full of spiritual, gem-like qualities.  we are all born with the potential to shine with the light of godly qualities and make this world a better place. if this potential is not continually cultivated and enabled to flourish, we easily succumb to the gravity of self which pulls us down into the darkness of material traits, extinguishing that light and bringing harm to ourselves and the human race.  the Teachings from God provide the spiritual energy to ultimately overcome our selves, to subdue that lower nature molded within us..

as much as each of us is on a never-ending, ever-evolving, inter-generational progression of spiritual progress -- not merely material progress -- it is made inexplicably difficult to transform our lives unless we exert conscious, tireless effort toward overcoming our ego.
"..the spirit is the bounty of God, the water is knowledge and life, and the fire is the love of God. For material water does not purify the heart of man; no, it cleanses his body. But the heavenly water and spirit, which are knowledge and life, make the human heart good and pure; the heart which receives a portion of the bounty of the Spirit becomes sanctified, good and pure -- that is to say, the reality of man becomes purified and sanctified from the impurities of the world of nature. These natural impurities are evil qualities: anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.

Man cannot free himself from the rage of the carnal passions except by the help of the Holy Spirit.

~ Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 92
our ego is that self-love which can overtake our sense of humility before God as His servant.  we begin to glorify ourselves and basically fall in love with ourselves.  our talents, achievements, opinions, physical beauty, wealth, class, status, etc. all become aspects of our ego that we worship.  we neglect to be truly humble and carry ourselves in a dignified, selfless manner before God.

if we are not making a conscious effort toward subduing our ego, we adorn ourselves with layers and layers of self-conceit, pride, and vanity.  godliness and purity are soiled or nowhere to be seen or felt.  daily life becomes all about one's image or attention received from others.

it is in this place of self-love that a soul never finds inner peace -- there is always a desire for more from the material world, more things, more attention, more physical adornments, more degrees, more money..  at its worst, self-love is a place where addiction, obsession and suicide reside.

this very materialistic world feeds the ego instead of nourishing the soul.  as we strive to raise our children to be spiritual human beings, we are bombarded by the excesses of self-love that pervade most areas of life.  this is especially true in the world of music and entertainment to which children are much attracted.  these industries bombard us with vulgarity and indiscretions of all kinds. it is a very difficult task to help them find anything worthy of their spirit.  they are easily enticed, also, by what they see people wearing, saying and doing in public, on advertisements and at school, most of which, even in sheltered environments, give them messages of loving themselves.

parenting plays a crucial role in influencing how their children develop and strengthen their spiritual capacity while learning how to subdue their material nature:

"The forces at work on the hearts and minds of the young...are pernicious indeed. Exhortations to remain pure and chaste will only succeed to a limited degree in helping them to resist these forces. What needs to be appreciated in this respect is the extent to which young minds are affected by the choices parents make for their own lives, when, no matter how unintentionally, no matter how innocently, such choices condone the passions of the world—its admiration for power, its adoration of status, its love of luxuries, its attachment to frivolous pursuits, its glorification of violence, and its obsession with self-gratification."   (December 28, 2010 Universal House of Justice)

we are constantly striving, through our own example, to bring out the light of a good character in our children.  through counsel, we are helping them develop their capacity to attain moral and spiritual excellence which subdues this self-love.  as they make progress in their efforts, we remind them that their abilities and talents are gifts from God, not from themselves; they are to be developed and used to serve humanity in ways that are conducive to the spiritual advancement of civilization.

we encourage them to utilize all of their God-given potential and capacity with humility before God to protect their egos from swelling with pride and vanity.  we also encourage them to discern the destructive nature and emptiness of how self-love affects people in this life.  educating a soul to know itself as a noble human being is the most significant job we have in this life if we care to bring about a spiritual civilization.

"O God! Enable us to conquer self and overcome desire. O Lord! Deliver us from the bondage of the material world. O Lord! Quicken us through the breath of the Holy Spirit in order that we may arise to serve Thee, engage in worshiping Thee and exert ourselves in Thy Kingdom with the utmost sincerity. O Lord, Thou art powerful. O God, Thou art forgiving. O Lord, Thou art compassionate."

 ~ Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 458

August 18, 2013

the magic of love

"Happiness consists of two kinds; physical and spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its utmost duration is one day, one month, one year. It hath no result. Spiritual happiness is eternal and unfathomable. This kind of happiness appeareth in one's soul with the love of God and suffereth one to attain to the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. Therefore, endeavor as much as thou art able in order to illuminate the lamp of thy heart by the light of love."
~ Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v3, p. 673 

each day we have the capacity to be a channel of divine spirit in this life.  it depends on seeing everything that is happening with a spiritual eye, and looking at all people with the beauty of God in them.

as i settle into Nairobi i find myself having a unique experience already.  despite the diversity and long associations of different peoples living here, there is still surprise amongst the people here who are not white that i am being genuinely friendly and caring toward them.   i am able to love people simply for the sake of them being loved by God.  this love is expressed through smiling, thumbs up in appreciation for someone's deed, sharing chocolates and other things we have as a way of thanks, and a lighthearted, genuine exchange of joyful greetings (mostly in Swahili).  the world is longing for the love of God to be exchanged and received without any conditional self-interest involved.  to me, this is the magic of love..

while being stuck in traffic, or rolling up my car window to block out the black fumes coming out of tailpipes, i have been smiling at people when i connect with them in their car or on the side of the road.  as i meet guards and house cleaners, i treat them with dignity and high regard as i appreciate the work they do.  i am looking for the beauty of God in all things and creating my own reality of beauty and joy throughout the day.  it is truly like a magnet which attracts the heart of another human being.

here in Nairobi there is an overall sense of fear and lack of trust, which of course go hand in hand with one another.  i practice wisdom by keeping my purse close at all times and locking everything; i don't walk around at night or keep my car window open in the evenings as a protection from criminal attempts on my life.  but aside from being wise in my affairs, and staying out of areas that are known for crime, i feel that most people are hard-working and goodhearted, just like in South Africa, and there is no reason to hold fear so present in one's heart on a daily basis -- unless you break a traffic law and a police officer with a big gun comes up to your window and starts telling you how high the fees are for obstructing the law.. yes, that happened to us, but we didn't give in to his insinuating bribery.  we remained calm and prayerful and called a Baha'i lawyer friend (who we just met!) -- by the grace of God her son is a police officer who is a friend of this officer so he pardoned us!

love is the simple answer to the world's problems.  its replenishing fountain is the Word of God which is endowed with the creative spirit to transform our hearts, subdue our egos, and ennoble our lives.  for me it is the pulse of oneness which magically connects me to God in all circumstances, with all people, all of the time.

"When love is realized and the ideal spiritual bonds unite the hearts of men, the whole human race will be uplifted, the world will continually grow more spiritual and radiant and the happiness and tranquility of mankind be immeasurably increased. Warfare and strife will be uprooted, disagreement and dissension pass away and Universal Peace unite the nations and peoples of the world. All mankind will dwell together as one family, blend as the waves of one sea, shine as stars of one firmament and appear as fruits of the same tree. This is the happiness and felicity of humankind. This is the illumination of man, the glory eternal and life everlasting; this is the divine bestowal."

~ Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 229

August 08, 2013

the art of African words

i like this impressive demonstration of how the art of words communicated throughout the African continent for hundreds of years is significant today for the progress of art and design technology. 

August 04, 2013

arriving in Nairobi

"Striving means this: Ye must live and move according to the divine commands and behests, be united in loving with ecstasy and joy; do not take any rest but engage continually in the service of the Cause of God."
~ Abdu'l-Baha

we have arrived in Nairobi, Kenya!  the air is cool and fresh.  the greenery is lush and beautiful.  the landscape is full of rolling hills, tile roofs, old vans that serve as transport for most people, and roadside markets.  we haven't driven around too much but what we saw was a mixture of South Africa and Ghana -- a mixture of material development and underdevelopment combined with layers of African culture.  i love it!

i have already begun to connect with the people we are meeting -- it's as if the invisible magnetic force of love is operating between our souls through the warm and friendly greetings, smiles and helpfulness being shared.

it feels great to be back in Africa again after a wonderful holiday with family in America.  holiday is always the best time to enjoy family and rejuvenate myself with rest and recreation, but when it ends i become eager again to serve humanity in as many ways as i can each day, striving to put myself aside and be concerned with the needs of others.

like most places in this beautiful world, Kenya has its extremes of wealth and poverty, its prejudices of religion, class and race, and its battle against crime, injustice and terrorism.  i can feel the presence of security (where our car was examined with a machine that looked underneath for a bomb before entering the parking lot to a mall) which is both comforting and disconcerting.  i have seen the density of slums that sprawl far too long into the distance while driving to the kids' new school.  most houses and flats have bars on the windows, high walls along the perimeter and electric wires secured on top of the walls.  trucks and vans pollute the air with noxious fumes.  trees and flowering plants decorate most areas of the city with natural beauty and color, and serious facial expressions beam with radiance whenever i direct my genuine smile at them..

i can feel my heart being drawn to all of the possibilities that are to come in time as i begin arising to make new friendships and serve the community here.  good relationships and deeds that benefit other people are the gems that permeate the spirit of oneness in this world.  the joy and beauty of life is derived from this aspect of our oneness.  it is in this way that i feel most happy and grateful to be here..

"Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements."