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Off-Center: An Interview with Aaron Kreader and Dave Rouleau

I’ve always loved the book by Hand of the Cause, William Sears, called “God Loves Laughter“. Something about the statement has just always seemed so right to me. So, I was delighted to stumble on the work of two talented American Baha’is working together at the Baha’i National Center in the US. Dave Rouleau and Aaron Kreader are – respectively – the creator and artist behind a long-running comic strip called Off-Center.

I caught up with Dave and Aaron to learn a bit more about the comic strip, their inspiration and what advice they have for other aspiring Baha’i artists. And for those of you (like me) who aren’t in the US and don’t receive The American Baha’i magazine, we’ve got a few editions of Off-Center to view embedded here in the post. Continue reading

Contemplating Death

Image by birdeye (Flickr)

On one occasion the Buddha asked several of the monks, “How often do you contemplate death?”One of them replied, “Lord, I contemplate death every day.””Not good enough,” the Buddha said, and asked another monk, who replied,”Lord, I contemplate death with each mouthful that I eat during the meal.””Better, but not good enough,” said the Buddha, “What about you?”The third monk said, “Lord, I contemplate death with each inhalation and each exhalation.” Mahaparinibbana Sutta

Last Saturday night, I was out for dinner with an old friend who was visiting from out of town. It was a typical Saturday night at the end of an even more typical week. I’d gone from one weekend to the next without even realising that a whole week had gone by – going from one thing to the next; trying to cross as many tasks off a to-do list as possible; scheduling in new appointments while waiting for Melbourne’s notoriously unreliable trains. Even dinner at a new restaurant seemed old and familiar – I’ve come to know this city like the back of my hand.

But then, I received a call from home that violently pulled me out of my comfortably predictable, routine-filled world in a second – a family member had passed away. In the hours and days that followed, I found myself in unfamiliar territory.

Death isn’t generally something we – as humans – tend to think very much about until life forces us to by confronting us with the reality and inevitability of death. Following that phone call, I rushed to cancel all my appointments and to catch the earliest flight back home. Much of the next 84 hours was spent shuttling to and from airports, waiting to board flights and trying (unsuccessfully) to get some sleep in between the turbulence and captain’s announcements. These long, empty hours and my need to make sense of a very emotional situation forced me to do something that I’ve realised we – as a society – simply don’t do enough: contemplate death.

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Representing the Baha’i Faith in Style

As a designer, I strongly believe that visual aesthetics go a long way to creating an impression. There’s a reason companies and brands go to such lengths to control the visual elements of how they are represented, in television, advertising, products and materials. The effect can be huge.

As Baha’is wanting our Faith to have its broadest impact and reach, I think it’s important we try to make sure everything we do looks its best. While not every invitation for a devotional meeting or flyer for an event is going to warrant or afford a professional designer, it’s always worth putting some effort in to making things look attractive. And in the cases where we can get a professional in, whether paid or volunteer, it’s important to do so.

DesignTheFaith is an online showcase of great design in Baha’i projects from around the world. Featuring not just graphic design, but photography, film, fashion, web design and more, the site is a fantastic resource for inspiration.

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The Baha’i Diet


Image by pedestrianrex (Flickr)

Healing the body with food

There is nothing in the Baha’i Writings to specify whether Baha’is should eat their food cooked or raw; exercise or not exercise; use specific therapies or not; nor is it forbidden to eat meat.But that’s not to say there is nothing about health or nutrition in the Writings. On the contrary, there’s actually a lot said – so much so that when I decided to write this post I was overwhelmed by its vastness. Having always been interested in nutrition, I decided that would be a good place to start.

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5 Unique Baha’i Apps for the iPhone

With Apple dominating the phone market with their massively successful iPhone, it’s no surprise that there are hundreds of thousands of apps. And they do just about every conceivable thing. Amongst this horde of applications there are a few Baha’i ones. For the most part these tend to be of the prayer and Baha’i writings variety. While those are certainly useful, today I’d like to show you five iPhone apps that are a little more unusual. If you’re an iPhone user, be sure to grab a copy of them and support our fledgling community of Baha’i app developers! Continue reading

What is a Five Year Plan?

Image by bassibaba (Flickr)

Ever so often, we’ll be putting up posts for our ‘Common Questions Series’. As the name suggests, these are questions about the Faith that we often get. You know those ones – where you kinda, sorta, maybe know the answer but aren’t sure if you know enough to give the asker a full response? Yeah, those ones. Baha’i Blog has decided to make a collection of those questions, which will hopefully be as helpful to you, our readers, as it is to us!

Every Ridvan, the Universal House of Justice addresses a message to Baha’is around the world looking at where we – as an international community – are in our attempts to execute the latest Plan. This Ridvan, the international Baha’i community entered the second of four consecutive Five Year Plans. Having watched the first Five Year Plan unfold from 2006 to 2011, we stand at an important point in history as we enter the next phase of this exciting journey towards a New World Order, in which we see Baha’u’llah’s vision for the unification of mankind realised.

The Five Year Plan highlights one of the most crucial principles underlying the life of a Baha’i – that of a twofold moral purpose. As a Baha’i, it is crucial to focus on spiritual growth and the acquisition of virtues. However, we are also cautioned not to focus solely on our own spiritual development in a manner that is removed from a consideration of the context in which we live. That is to say that our efforts to acquire spiritual perfections must go hand in hand with our efforts to serve humanity and contribute to the advancement of civilization.

As spiritual beings, we all have this twofold moral purpose. To focus on one aspect while neglecting the other leads to imbalance and prevents us from realising our true life’s purpose. Efforts to acquire spiritual perfection in a vacuum, without engaging in the affairs of society around us, leave us prone to acts of ego. Conversely, efforts to transform society without any regard to our individual spiritual growth will always be misguided and ineffective. The Five Year Plan encapsulates the principle of the twofold moral purpose perfectly by representing a united effort by individuals who recognise the importance of constantly developing their own spiritual qualities by combining their efforts to serve humanity together.

We asked some of our readers to share their reflections on being a part of the next Five Year Plan. One of our readers has shared the following reflections in response to reading the 28 December 2010 message from the House, highlighting the momentous historical significance of this period in time. Continue reading

Taking the Politics Out of Politics

(Photo courtesy: planolight via Flickr)

pol·i·tics

n.
1. The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs.
2. Intrigue or manoeuvring within a political unit or group in order to gain control or power

The fact that the word “politics” – once used simply to refer to the act of governing – has come to acquire the additional meaning listed above says a lot about the world we live in. This definition reflects the assumption that the act of governance in a country or organisation is inseparable from divisiveness, conflict and the struggle for power and status.

But is that necessarily the case?

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Blair and Nadim: Baha’i YouTube Sensations

It’s a wonderful, wild, world-wide web out there and nowhere is this more the case than with the social video site YouTube. It was here that – to my delight – I stumbled upon the work of two talented Canadian youth hidden amongst talking cats, dramatic hamsters and a baby monkey riding on a pig. Using YouTube, rap and a music video, these two youth from Ontario, Blair Cameron and Nadim Merrikh, have managed to come up with a quirky and wonderfully catchy way of telling the world about John Esslemont, one of the Baha’i Faith’s most respected scholars.

They decided to put the video together for a Ruhi study circle, but after posting it on YouTube the video has already racked up over six hundred views and counting. I caught up with Nadim to find out more about this bizarrely awesome project that he and Blair have put together. But before we get to the Q&A, here’s their YouTube video. Hit play and find out a little more about Baha’i Hand of the Cause, John Esslemont.

John E. Esslemont Music Video By Blair Cameron and Nadim Merrikh HD

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Changeless Faith: Ridvan and Easter

Image by Molly Stevens (Flickr)

As Baha’is, we believe that the foundation of all the divine religions is one. Ever so often, we’ll be putting up posts for our ‘Changeless Faith Series’, in which we look closer at some of the similarities between the divine religions, in an attempt to more fully understand what Baha’u’llah meant when he said “This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future”.

This year, the Christian celebration of Easter coincides with Ridvan. What does Easter have to do with Ridvan, you might ask. Well, not very much, it would seem, and at first glance the two seem fairly unrelated. But over the past few days, I’ve found myself reading up about the Baha’i understanding of the events which Christians celebrate at Easter and I realised that once you remove the customs and traditions which have come to become synonymous with Easter, the real significance of Easter is very closely linked to the significance of Ridvan. Continue reading

What is Ridvan and Why Does it Have 12 Days?

Ridvan is a twelve-day festival, spanning the 13th day of Jalal to the 5th of Jamal of the Baha’i calendar, signifying the 12 days Baha’u’llah spent in the Garden of Ridvan meeting with visitors before His exile to Constantinople. Ridvan (which means “paradise” in Arabic) commemorates Baha’u’llah’s declaration in 1863 as the Promised One of all religions.

To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the ‘Everlasting Father,’ the ‘Lord of Hosts’ come down ‘with ten thousands of saints’; to Christendom Christ returned ‘in the glory of the Father,’ to Shi’ih Islam the return of the Imam Husayn; to Sunni Islam the descent of the ‘Spirit of God’; to the Zoroastrians the promised Shah-Bahram; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By

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