Once, as a child, I attended a Baha’i winter school and made the most amazing friend: she was creative, fun and had a smile that lit up the room. She let me read part of a story she was writing and I was so impressed and in awe of her talent with words and her ability to weave a compelling and absorbing story. Fast forward a couple of decades and I am so excited and proud to interview her about her latest project, a book for children about the nature of the soul and life after death. Esther Maloney has a special gift for creating enchanting narratives and I’m delighted to hear all about The Lovebird’s Freedom and how it all came together.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up just outside of Montreal with my family. I’ve realized that moments from my early years with my grandmother Lucille were very formative. She was immensely creative, fun and spiritual. We used paint and glue, we named paths in the forest, we wrote books together, wore costumes, sang songs and used these as ways to think about the big questions of life. Since that time, I have essentially kept doing those exact same things, but as a grown-up. I studied acting at Concordia University and worked as a theatre and film actor for almost a decade in Montreal and Toronto. I produced my own work, acted at the Shaw Festival, was a cartoon voice on CBC, did a bunch of commercials, acted in a film at the Toronto International Film Festival and learned a lot about my craft and process.
Throughout this, I had a nagging curiosity, which was related to how the arts, or making things, could be at the core of all our lives, both individually and in community. I worked with some inspiring community arts organizations through grants and eventually was able to serve with some other Baha’i friends in creating a project with youth who wanted to write their own scripts that extended the reach of some of the spiritual concepts in the junior youth program. Since that time, Illumine Media Project has created a number of short films and episodes which have been shared with thousands of young people and their families in Toronto neighbourhoods and schools. This work has led me to more questions about the role of stories, creative process and media in our lives and I’ve recently finished my MA in Education at the University of Toronto in that area.
Courage is a word that could be used on a daily basis, frivolously, out of habit, without really thinking about it. Recently, in thinking about the stories found in The Dawn-Breakers, I’ve been reflecting on how what was very courageous ages ago, seems even more impossible to believe in nowadays and how courage can differ from person to person. I’ve been asking myself, has bravery and courage changed throughout history? What does courage look like in my life? Is it standing up for my rights at work, sharing my thoughts and opinions in discussions and being brave enough to swim against the current? Continue reading
A youth studying the spiritual empowerment of junior youth in Montero, Bolivia. (Photo: Baha'i Media Bank)
Oftentimes, I find myself reading chronicles from early Baha’is, immersing myself in their stories of complete selflessness, utter sacrifice, and staunch devotion to the Cause of God.
I find myself thinking that my humble undertakings serving the Baha’i Faith pale in comparison to what they endured in a bid to spread the Message of Baha’u’llah.
…ye must in this matter—that is, the serving of humankind—lay down your very lives, and as ye yield yourselves, rejoice.
But what does it mean to lay down our lives? I think that this is one of many metaphorical references found in the Baha’i Writings to giving up one’s life and it makes me ask myself, what does it symbolically look like for me to give up my life to the beliefs I hold dear? And how can I do so rejoicingly?
Hope from Iran 3 is the final film of the Hope from Iran trilogy, and this time, filmmaker Flavio Azm Rassekh focuses on the unique story of two Iranian Baha’is who left Iran right after the Islamic Revolution to start a new life abroad. Their stories have a deep connection with the current situation in Iran today, and in the end, it all comes back together in a full circle.
I got in touch with filmmaker Flavio Azm Rassekh to find out more about Hope from Iran 3, and here’s what he shared: Continue reading
I’m excited to share a short film called ‘Hope From Iran 2’ by my dear friend Flavio Azm Rassekh in collaboration with Persian BMS.
‘Hope From Iran 2‘ is a follow-up film to its predecessor ‘Hope From Iran‘, but this film takes on a slightly different angle by exploring the lives of four very talented women who have been touched, not only by the Baha’i Faith, but in particular by the life and example of a famous Persian poetess and Baha’i heroine known as Tahirih.
Flavio is a filmmaker from Brazil, and besides truly being like a brother to me, we’ve collaborated on numerous projects together over the years, and his unwavering dedication, hard work, and passion for serving the Baha’i Faith through various avenues of media and the arts is always an inspiration.
I decided to touch base with Flavio about ‘Hope From Iran 2’, and share what he had to say with our readers: Continue reading
My first role model as a child was Annie—the red-haired, precocious orphan who sings her way through some tough times before she manages to build the life she has always dreamt of. I loved her so much that a family friend made me a life-sized Annie doll, complete with the black patent leather shoes, frilly ankle socks and white-collared tomato red dress. My envy of her outfit was very quickly followed by the realization that she and I were the same size. I don’t know what happened to the doll, but I wore her clothes everywhere until they were splitting at the seams, triumphantly belting out “it’s a hard knock life” and (unsuccessfully) lobbying for a four-legged sidekick called Sandy. Continue reading
Some of the 'Cozy Corner' friends. From left to right: Mrs. Flutterby, Squirrel, Trudy, Rory and Max. (Photo: Sarah Nolen)
I’m very excited to introduce everyone to Cozy Corner, a new online video series aimed at helping children, and their adults, explore the qualities and skills needed to cultivate loving relationships, welcoming communities, and a healthy planet.
Cozy Corner originally started as an interactive puppet show a couple of years ago, but in response to the global pandemic the Cozy Corner team quickly brought the show online.
I caught up with the creator and producer of Cozy Corner, Faye Dupras, to find out more about this wonderful initiative, but before we get to the interview, check out the Cozy Corner Trailer below: Continue reading
It’s exciting to see more and more Baha’i-inspired podcasts being produced by writers, musicians, thinkers and artists. I’m particularly delighted that Jacqueline Claire (you may know her from her art or her interactive art talks) has created a podcast series called Spiritual Conversation. She’s an engaging story teller who tackles elevated topics thoughtfully, honestly and joyfully — you can even hear her mega-watt smile streaming through your headphones!
Jacqueline reached out to tell us about her podcast and about the work, the ideas, the hopes and the dreams that go on behind-the-scenes. Here’s what she shared with us:
We’d like to share with you a little about a book titled Mirza Mihdi: The Purest Branch in honor of the 150th anniversary of his passing. Written by Boris Handal, this biography tells the dramatic story of Mirza Mihdi, the beloved son of Baha’u’llah, who fell from a skylight in the roof of the prison where he, his family and many other Baha’is were imprisoned. He was severely and mortally injured. When Baha’u’llah offered to save his life, Mirza Mihdi chose instead to sacrifice it so that the doors of the prison might open and those who longed to see Baha’u’llah could attain their hearts’ desire.
During their imprisonment in Akka (in present-day Israel), Mirza Mihdi often spent his evenings on the roof top, immersed in prayer and meditation, where one could breathe cleaner air, as well as watch and listen to the sound of the waves crashing in the bay. After twilight, Mirza Mihdi would count his steps in order to avoid the open skylight but one evening he was so enraptured by his prayers that he stumbled, lost his balance and fell onto a wooden crate on the floor below.
In the last hours of his life, Mirza Mihdi spoke with Baha’u’llah in private. And while we do not know everything that was said, we do know that Baha’u’llah offered to save him. However Mirza Mihdi wished that pilgrims might be able to attain Baha’u’llah’s presence. At that time, many of the Baha’i pilgrims who travelled on foot to see Baha’u’llah had to content themselves with the sight of His hand waving a handkerchief from the prison’s window.
At the tender age of 22, Mirza Mihdi passed away on 23 June, 1870 — 150 years ago to this day. Continue reading
In This Day is a poignant and visually stunning short film put together by a team of young adults in New York City (USA). It was made in honour of the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab but its subject and its themes of serving others, the importance of prayer, and of facing tests and difficulties are applicable anytime.
Nava Kavelin is one of the film’s team members and she shared a little with us about the film and what she learned in the process of making it: Continue reading