I live in a culture very much steeped in alcohol where my choice to not drink or do drugs isn’t the norm and invites a lot of questions. We have a two articles on Baha’i Blog that talk about alcohol (this article explores a social perspective behind why Baha’is don’t drink, and this article explores a health perspective). George Ronald has published a new book that covers this topic more broadly and in more depth: it’s called Eagles in the Dust: Alcohol and Other Chemical Pastimes and it’s by Robert (Rob) Cacchioni. In this interview he tells us a little about his book:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I encountered the Baha’i Faith 20 years ago. As a student of comparative religion, I found its claims bold and intriguing – though questionable. After in-depth study and much debate, I was honored to join the Baha’i community in carrying out Baha’u’llah’s Vision for humanity.
Since embracing Baha’u’llah’s Claim, I’ve striven to understand His Faith and aid others to do likewise. For nearly two decades, I’ve held Baha’i study classes (also known as “deepenings”) and currently run a YouTube channel: Bridging Beliefs. There and in writing projects, I share my personal understandings of Baha’u’llah’s Vision, attempt to resolve purported divides separating the world religions, examine atheist and secular thought and to show the (at times) hidden brilliance of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings.
I currently live in Vancouver, Canada with my wife Jenny and two children, Eli and Layli. I am a lover of learning and the arts – martial and musical. My life’s goal is to (one day) become worthy of the title: Baha’i.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write this book?
Up until my twenties, I drank (a lot) and used drugs – many kinds. At times, I had pondered how our culture never questioned the practice, which – even as a user – I could see it was far from ideal.
Despite this, upon becoming a Baha’i, I struggled with Baha’u’llah’s Teachings surrounding what I call “chemical pastimes.” Eventually, I overcame this and soon realized many Baha’is struggled to defend – because they have to – their choice to “abstain” (a word I hate, as you may see in my book). Many times, I heard attempts to do so, but found them wanting. To confidently stand for a way of life often relies on your ability to offer good reason for doing so. To support others, therefore, I chose to offer a rationale that honored humanity’s potential – both intellectual and moral.
Further, in my youth, I encouraged drug and alcohol use. So, I wanted to counteract the negative effect I’d had on others. In some sense, this book was a self-exorcism of my own past metaphorical demons.
Baha’i Blog: What was the process like to put this book together?
It was both exciting and painful; exciting, because I could craft my thoughts in a way that might resonate with a critical mind. It was painful, because I had to face my own past and the ridiculous arguments I once foisted on others when attempting to defend my own chemical pastimes.
Baha’i Blog: What’s something that you learned while writing this book?
I wrote a section in Eagles in the Dust called “Second-Hand Booze” – detailing the social impact of alcohol and drug use. From this, I learned how profoundly detrimental they are to humankind – far worse than I’d imagined. Researching this information, I also had to face how un-empathic we can be when faced with immense suffering; I obviously include myself in this. Numbers and statistics – no matter how factual and clear – become little more than mental static. I will leave the reader to discover what I mean within the pages of Eagles in the Dust.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope readers will take away with them, long after they’ve read the last page?
First, I hope readers understand that all vices (chemical pastimes being only one example) are not bad or somehow naughty. To frame them as such makes them enticing – a forbidden fruit. Rather, they are lowly, unbecoming and sad – a diminishing or dimming of our innate beauty, strength and nobility. Second, I hope their definitions of freedom and rebellion transform into what – I obviously believe – are more accurate understandings, ones that accord with the Teachings of these Great Beings: the Manifestations of God. As well, I hope readers realize the deep beauty and logic of Baha’u’llah’s Laws, to delve into His Teachings and uncover the sublime rationality lying below the surface. Finally, I hope my readers can resurrect a noble, peaceful and rational image of the Spiritual Warrior.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Rob, for sharing this with us.
You can purchase a copy of Eagles in the Dust here on Amazon.