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Illumined Youth: Inspiring Stories of Spiritual Transformation

July 28, 2013, in Articles > Audio, by

Shoghi Effendi encouraged many of the Baha’is to use the art of storytelling to convey the history and teachings of the Baha’i Faith, and storytelling is also encouraged in the Ruhi sequence of courses as well, so I’m excited to share with everyone a brand new album full of inspiring stories entitled Illumined Youth.

Illumined Youth is a collection of stories and accompanying music about inspiring Baha’is who faced great difficulties in their youth, and how the Faith helped them to grow spiritually. The album includes stories of Shoghi Effendi, Hands of the Cause May Maxwell and Enoch Olinga as well as Ali-Kuli Khan, Zaynab from the Dawn Breakers, and Fred Mortensen.

The stories on this album were written and told by Sarah Perceval, and the accompanying music was written by Rosanna Lea and Caeli Lohr. In light of the 114 Youth Conferences currently taking place around the world, the timing of this album couldn’t be better!

I managed to catch up with storyteller Sarah Perceval to find out more about this wonderful new album. 

Baha’i Blog: Hi Sarah, can you tell me a little bit about this initiative and how it started?

Sure. I was planning to bring out a new storytelling CD this year, and had four or five ideas I was considering developing when an American distributor asked if I had anything specifically for youth. I asked her what stories she thought youth would respond to and she suggested stories about extraordinary young Baha’is. I had always really loved the story of Fred Mortensen, the gang member and criminal who takes a hair raising ride across America on top and underneath trains to find Abdu’l-Baha. He becomes a staunch Baha’i and the Faith totally changes his life. I got so excited by the idea of youth who had become dramatically transformed by the Baha’i Faith that I put all the other ideas aside and started to research and develop this one.

Baha’i Blog: What’s the aim of this initiative and why do you think an initiative like this is important?

The aim is to show the power, energy and extraordinary potential of youth. The stories witness youth making important decisions for themselves, wrestling with difficulties, taking risks and changing their lives. Ordinary people become spiritual heroes. I think these stories are important because through them you feel the thrilling potential of the Faith to transform lives. You hear the stories and think “That could be me”, or you think “I know someone like that person”, and you ask yourself what is their potential to be transformed by the Faith, and who is going to invite them?

Baha’i Blog: How did you choose who to use as your examples?

Most of the characters in the stories are such unlikely heroes! A gang member, an invalid, a party boy, an alcoholic… and they are facing issues many of our youth face in society today: peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse, disillusionment, lack of purpose, hardships, tests and trials. I was looking for young people facing very real issues, for a robust storyline and great characters youth could relate to. Many of the characters are well known, such as Shoghi Effendi, Enoch Olinga and May Maxwell, but it is less well known what great trials they faced as youth.

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell me a little about the music and the musicians on the album?

The musicians were Rosanna Lea and Caeli Lohr – they were fabulous musicians to work with. We recorded the album with Kelly Snook at It’s Not rocket Science Studios and she ended up writing a track too. It was very important to me to have a youth working on the music, so Rosanna Lea was a great gift to the project – almost every youth I spoke to said how much they loved her music. Rosanna does the instrumental guitar music bridges between each story.  Caeli Lohr writes electronic dance music, he’s scored some of the scenes in the stories – sometimes sampling Rosanna’s guitar themes. I think he’s done a stunning job and the music is very dynamic and evocative and really helps the stories come alive. The idea is that the music has a flavour youth relate to, but that it would also appeal to anyone, I didn’t want grannies to be put off listening!

Baha’i Blog: What sort of effect do you hope this has on listeners and what are you hoping they walk away with?

Connection – inspiration – fortification.

Baha’i Blog: What’s the response been like so far and are you all hoping to do more of these?

The response has been fantastic. People of all ages have said how they can’t stop thinking about the stories, they get really emotionally involved! There is so much I would like to do with Baha’i and Baha’i inspired stories. The sales of the CD and downloading revenue goes into funding the next collection of stories, and I need to raise a few thousand pounds before starting the next production.

Baha’i Blog: This album has come about at a very special and exciting time with all the Youth Conferences happening around the world! What are your thoughts about this and do you have anything you’d like to share with all of the youth participating at the conferences?

Yes, wow! It is a very special and amazingly exciting time! The energy that’s going to be generated by the Youth Conferences is going to be stupendous and unlike anything ever witnessed before. We aught to get ready for a hugely powerful spiritual energy injection into the world. I feel so proud of our youth and really want to cheer them all on. I so wish that I had been a Baha’i youth. A friend invited me to investigate the Faith in my late twenties, and it certainly changed my life dramatically. Most of the characters in the Illumined Youth stories were introduced to the Faith through a friend, and their lives were totally transformed for the better.  We all have the opportunity to be that friend.

Baha’i Blog: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview Sarah, and congratulations to you and everyone involved in releasing this important album!

Illumined Youth and other albums are available from: www.sarahperceval.bandcamp.com or from the shop on Sarah’s website: www.sarahperceval.com

You can also keep up to date with album releases and announcements at: www.facebook.com/sarahpercevalstorytelling

Posted by

Naysan Naraqi

Naysan is passionate about using the arts and media to explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Back in 2011, Naysan started up the Baha’i Blog project, channeling his experiences in both media and technology companies to help create a hub for Baha’i-inspired content online.

Discussion 8 Comments

The first letter from the Universal House of Justice to youth, a letter dated 10 June 1966, was written a little more than 3 years after that institution had been at the apex of Baha’i administration. I thought it might be useful to some readers here to offer a brief historical and personal perspective on the subject of spiritual transformation. The term “youth” was defined then as “those who now are in their teens and twenties.” In the nearly 50 years since 1966, all those who were youth in the fifties and sixties, have had lives which have been transformed. From a person’s teens and the first years of their young adulthood, to their late adulthood and old-age, everyone is transformed: physically and psychologically, historically and sociologically. Spiritual transformation is another matter, and that transformation is, in many ways, highly complex, as many spiritual matters are.

I have attempted to deal with the complexities of this transformation in a 2600 page, five volume, highly introspective work. It is a work that deals with the subject, the field, what is now part of several academic disciplines: life-narrative, memoirs, fictional and spiritual autobiographies. This extensive work, written over some 30 years, integrates these newly emerging academic fields of study into my own life and the life of the international Baha’i community. These 5 volumes are about the subject of telling one’s story, the academic study of the field now devoted to this study, as much as, if not more than, the events in my own personal narrative.

My narrative, my analysis, goes back to the beginning of the teaching Plans in 1937, in the years just before my parents who joined a religion which claimed to be the newest, the latest, of the Abrahamic religions. They joined in Canada in the 1950s after they first met and married in the late 1930s and early 1940s. These five volumes are a long read; skimming and scanning are advised for those who venture into this personal and somewhat academic study of autobiography. Go to this link where several hundred pages are found, as a taster, in 3 Parts at: http://bahai-library.com/author …to access this work you have to type the word ‘Price’ into the search box.

Ron Price (July 7, 2013 at 4:37 AM)

I absolutely love your site.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you create this site yourself?
Please reply back as I’m hoping to create my own site and want to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Cheers!

copper cookware reviews (July 7, 2013 at 7:24 AM)

If your question, copper cookware reviews, is to me as the author of the first post on this thread-commentary, the answer is that: “I had the help of a website design company in Mosman NSW.” The company is called Design Studio. We consulted together on the design of the site over a six month period in 2010-2011. I gave the title ‘Pioneering Over Five Epochs’ to my website since that was the name of my autobiography or memoir, a life-narrative I’d been working on for more than 25 years by 2010. The content of my site has burgeoned to a total of some 60 books at 80,000 words per book, a content spread over some 90 sub-sections or categories. You can access my site at: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/ and, if you want more information, feel free to write to me at my email address: [email protected]

RonPrice (July 7, 2013 at 10:35 AM)

You can write to me at my email address for more information: [email protected]

Ron Price (July 7, 2013 at 11:51 AM)

I just want to amplify the point that story-telling is a neglected art form, both in the wider culture and within the Baha’i community. When a great story is told with real skill and feeling, we remember how much we love a lively tale — and it doesn’t only have to happen at the Cineplex.

James Howden (July 7, 2013 at 7:38 PM)

let’s keep the comments relevant to the article! I’m talking to you, Ron, this isn’t a page where it’s appropriate to advertise your life’s work, however spiritually illuminating that may be. have you even listened to these stories? you might be surprised at how simple spiritual transformation can be. <3

caeli lohr (August 8, 2013 at 9:55 PM)

Hi Ron,

Just wanted to say please do your best to completely disregard my previous comment – it wasn’t made in the spirit that I meant it to be… Reading it again, it sounds very aggressive and thoughtless! I’m very sorry, i didn’t mean to actually say what I said… I hadn’t fully taken in precisely what you had written before i made my hasty and grumpy response… So, my response was not only in the wrong spirit, but born of ignorance too.
I meant no disrespect to you or your work. I am in fact happy and very encouraged that you have taken what must have been an awful lot of your precious time on this earth to document such things as spiritual transformation in such a comprehensive manner. Sounds like your books are very inspirational and extremely useful and illuminating to read!

60 books at 80,000 words a book, that is just stunning! I’m definitely going to look into what you’ve done.

I hope that you enjoy hearing “Illumined Youth”. it’s certainly inspiring and reminds me that the art of storytelling is an old and very powerful one, and that it has shaped so much of our lives throughout history, whether we are consciously aware of it or not…

I look forward to checking out your site, thank you for providing us with a link. And congratulations (in advance) to you for all your hard work, deep thought, and love for the spiritual that I am sure went into every one of your books!

Much love

C

caeli lohr (August 8, 2013 at 9:29 PM)

Hi Ron,

It’s me again!

I’ve bookmarked your site – it is fascinating!

and I recognize your face from somewhere – I’m fairly certain we have met before. Not sure when, or where… Hmmmm…

Looking forward to spending more time on your wonderful website. Perhaps I will remember where we’ve met, if something you’ve written clues me in…

hope you’re well and happy, and still writing!

C

caeli lohr (August 8, 2013 at 9:40 PM)

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