June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Although it is not an authorized quote of His teachings, Juliet Thompson recounts in her diary how Abdu’l-Baha said:
Man must always associate with those from whom he can get light, or be with those to whom he can give light. He must either receive or give instructions. 1
This idea of always giving or receiving light makes me think of the design of the House of Worship in Chile. Sunlight enters the building through its stone petal-shaped walls, and at night, the House of Worship glows. It is either receiving or giving light.
With the inauguration of the final continental temple about to be celebrated in a few days, I thought I’d reflect on ways we can diffuse light.
Developing the capacity to elevate conversation has been a struggle for me. I am a mother of young children, and many of the conversations between the mothers I meet are somewhat scientific as we discuss our children’s ages, weights, hours of sleep (or lack thereof!), and their developmental milestones. Having discussed those details, opportunities can arise to talk about cultivating morals in children, spiritual coping mechanisms for stressful moments, and the sacred role of mothers, among other topics. Sometimes it takes courage and wisdom to elevate our chatting. Without upliftment however, we are only describing the beauties of our lives without making much of an attempt to comprehend them.
Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
There are two kinds of light. There is the visible light of the sun, by whose aid we can discern the beauties of the world around us—without this we could see nothing.
Nevertheless, though it is the function of this light to make things visible to us, it cannot give us the power to see them or to understand what their various charms may be, for this light has no intelligence, no consciousness. It is the light of the intellect which gives us knowledge and understanding, and without this light the physical eyes would be useless. 2
Acts of Love
I think that selfless acts of love diffuse light. Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
The first sign of faith is love. The message of the holy, divine Manifestations is love; the phenomena of creation are based upon love; the radiance of the world is due to love; the well-being and happiness of the world depend upon it. Therefore, I admonish you that you must strive throughout the human world to diffuse the light of love. 3
I’m sure that what constitutes a selfless act of love differs from person to person and from culture to culture. Where I live, love often comes in the form of food. Sometimes it is left with a note in a mailbox during a difficult time, sometimes it is a token of thanks, and sometimes it is a way of welcoming someone into a new neighbourhood. Regardless of its ingredients, you know it was made with love and it brightens and strengthens relationships.
Being a Source of Unity
I strive to be a source of unity in my family. I think it is natural for conflicts to arise in families as we grow and develop, when we’re faced with challenges, or even when we’re simply tired and hungry. But I think that unity begins at home, with oneself, and with those we love. Abdu’l-Baha says:
How good it is if the friends be as close as sheaves of light, if they stand together side by side in a firm unbroken line. For now have the rays of reality from the Sun of the world of existence, united in adoration all the worshippers of this light; and these rays have, through infinite grace, gathered all peoples together within this wide-spreading shelter; therefore must all souls become as one soul, and all hearts as one heart. 4
Those are a few of my thoughts on how we can diffuse light. What are some ways in which we can receive it?
Accepting Offers of Help
Although everyone’s path of service differs and although everyone is accompanied or accompanies others in different ways, I have found myself trying hard not to repeat the same mistakes. When I invite parents and their little ones to our pre-school children’s class, they’ll often ask if they can bring anything. On one hand, I don’t want to burden the parents and add a task to their already busy hands. But on the other hand, graciously and gratefully accepting their contributions, be it a snack or the desire to lead us in song, makes the children’s class our class, not just my class. It is a difficult decision as sometimes the offer is made out of politeness and sometimes it’s an earnest desire to be a part of the class — and that’s an opportunity to receive light that I shouldn’t pass up on!
The creative process, whether it’s composing a song or writing a poem, can be a process of receiving light. Although this is also not an authoritative writing, Lady Blomfield has quoted Abdu’l-Baha as saying:
All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When this light shines through the mind of a musician, it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. When the light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, he produces marvellous pictures. These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose when showing forth the praise of God. 5
The arts is a tricky subject because we can both receive light during the artistic process and we can also spread light when sharing our art with others. Have you ever watched a dancer whose grace and perfect timing gave you the shivers? Or stood before a painting that moved you deeply? Perhaps that was receiving light.
Lastly, I think that for the most part I can choose to be happy. If I wait for happiness to find me, I will be subject to the whim of my emotions, or the workings of my body, or my material circumstances. If I choose happiness, I will not only be joyful, but I will also spread happiness and see someone else’s smile light up the room. One our favourite quotes of Abdu’l-Baha to sing is:
I want you to be happy […], to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you. 6
These are a few of my humble thoughts about giving and receiving light. What do you think? How are you recipients or givers of light in your communities?
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.
Wonderful post on giving and receiving light! Artists in this day have a special opportunity that may not be repeated in the future: We can use our art to help others perceive light where there was none before. A song can lift one up to spiritual heights never before achieved. The same can happen with an inspired story or poem or a particular painting particularly if it is symbolic. Art can redefine a subject and make it accessible to those whose eyes were covered with darkness. Art can help illuminate the whole world. God bless the artists!
Rich Young (October 10, 2016 at 11:10 PM)
I ask God to forgive me. Sometimes I’m not a giver of light.
Criselda R. Figuerres (October 10, 2016 at 12:01 PM)
Sadly, Criselda, sometimes I’m not one either! But with each interaction with another soul, we are given a fresh opportunity to give or receive light!
Sonjel Vreeland (October 10, 2016 at 10:19 PM)
I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! And thank you very much for sharing your thoughts on the role of the arts – they are so integral to our existence!
Sonjel Vreeland (October 10, 2016 at 10:21 PM)
Plenty of light shining out from here
Guardian Angel (October 10, 2016 at 6:58 AM)
That’s wonderful! Thank you for commenting!
Sonjel Vreeland (October 10, 2016 at 4:28 PM)