Tag Archives Art

Unravelling Beauty

Night view of lit windows on the octagon of the Shrine of the Bab. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.

It is the time of year when physical beauty is in abundance. Along the waterfront across from my house the lilacs, honeysuckle and wild roses are all in full bloom. Every evening I walk over and sit among the flowers, the air redolent with sweetness, and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to have such ready access to beauty that I can immerse myself in. When I walk through the flowers and along the harbour watching sail boats fly gracefully past on the deep blue water of the bay the sense of calm and peace that descends on me is similar to sensations I experience when in a state of prayer.

The Baha’i Writings describe music as a ladder for the soul—I have always assumed this is because of its beauty. Years ago I attended a talk given by the architect Fariborz Sahba in which he described the beautiful details that William Sutherland Maxwell included in the design of the cupola at the top of the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel. This tiny space is only actually ever seen by the individuals who go up into the dome to clean and do maintenance on the structure, so I was surprised by the attention and energy given to creating beauty that would never be seen.

His talk raised a number of questions for me: When we create with beauty in mind, who are we creating it for, and what purpose is it intended to serve? Clearly beauty is supremely important to our spiritual growth—an entire month in our calendar is named Jamal, which is “beauty” in Arabic. But what is beauty, really? Are there different kinds of beauty, or is all beauty simply an expression of one essential truth? And what is it about beauty that draws us to it? Continue reading

Integrating Arts into Community Life: The Experience of the Baha’is of Ballarat

I’m really excited to share a special arts initiative by the Ballarat Baha’i Community. In honour of the centenary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia, we have invited renowned Ballarat musicians Geoffrey and George Williams to create a virtual choir using a choral piece based on the Writings of Baha’u’llah. It is a song that they composed for the bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah in 2017 and now, as a virtual collaboration, my Baha’i community is really hoping the song can foster connection, bind hearts, and induce joy and happiness during a time when feelings of isolation and sadness are rife around the world.

The choral piece is taken from Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah:

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face…Be an ornament to the countenance of truth…a breath of life to the body of mankind.

The end result is bound to be spine-tingling, and my community and my friends are so excited to see the final production. Submissions are encouraged from everyone. Whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant. Whether you have a lot of experience singing or not is irrelevant. Whether you are Baha’i or not is not the point. One thing is for certain – knowing that people will be coming together to sing words centred around generosity, gratitude, compassion and joy is sure to bring about some much-needed relief amidst a global crisis, not to mention the inspiration we are all bound to gain. For as Baha’u’llah says:

We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may he lifted up unto the realm on high.

I’ve included some details on how to participate in the virtual choir below but before I get to that, I wanted to share how this project came about and what I’ve been reflecting on in the process. Continue reading

Cloud9: A New Podcast Exploring the Baha’i Faith Through the Eyes of Artists

Our friends at Bahaiteachings.org have recently started a podcast called “Cloud9”, which shines a light on the artistry and creative process of artists around the world.

The host of the series is Shadi Toloui-Wallace, the Arts Editor of BahaiTeachings.org and an incredible artist in her own right. We’ve interviewed Shadi before about her music (such as her most recent album, Daughters of the Kingdom), and she was also a guest on the Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson. This time we wanted to hear more about Cloud9 and Shadi graciously obliged, so here’s what she shared with us:  Continue reading

How Bullet Journalling Helps Me Be a More Consistent & Systematic Baha’i

Baha’is all over the world are striving to systematize their efforts and to be methodical about their endeavours to “effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly”. We are given Plans by the Universal House of Justice and are encouraged to think in quarterly cycles of action, reflection, and planning. On the personal level, Baha’u’llah tells us to “bring [ourselves] to account each day”, to strive to “let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday”, and Abdu’l-Baha encourages us to “be constant in offering [daily] obligatory prayer”. The theme of systematic action has also been further explored here on Baha’i Blog.

Bullet journaling has helped me to be reliable, methodical and systematic both in my personal devotions, as well as in my service to the world at large; it has helped me create my personal plans and be organized in my efforts and participation in community building initiatives. Of course, bullet journaling isn’t the only way to be systematic on a personal level, but I’d like to share my personal experience here in the hope that others might find something useful in it.  Continue reading

“Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith from Around the World”, a New Baha’i Blog Initiative

The Baha’i Blog team is excited to launch a new initiative called “Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith from Around the World”, in honour of the bicentenary anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, Prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith.

In this initiative, we share portraits of Baha’is and their friends from different countries and territories all over the planet. Accompanying their photographs are a few of their words about what the Baha’i Faith means to them or how it has touched their lives.  Continue reading

My 9 Tips for Creating Imaginative Spaces for Elevated Conversation

Shoghi Effendi tells us “everyone is a potential teacher. He has only to use what God has given him” and when the Universal House of Justice speaks of “people hailing from every human group, inspired by the Revelation of Baha’u’llah” that will “give expression to patterns of thought and action engendered by His teachings” and evolve “new elements of culture,” it is talking about you!

A few months ago I hosted an art show birthday party to usher in my 29th year. I wanted to accomplish many things, mostly to unite my spiritual and artistic communities in an uplifting atmosphere of elevated conversation. I really wanted my guests to be encouraged to have meaningful conversations from the get-go.  Continue reading

Illustrated Reflections on Organic Growth

Untitled, watercolour & ink, December 2016

A few years ago, in late February, I laid out a bunch of tiny Starbucks cups with a handful of dirt and little seeds in each of them under a desk lamp in my apartment.

I didn’t undertake this on my own; I was part of a group of friends who wanted to learn more about the idea of organic growth. We had been saying these words, “organic”, “process” and “growth”, a lot in the Baha’i community but we wanted to go a little deeper into their meaning and define their characteristics. The following are my own reflections on that experience, as well as my current experience watching the growth of my son.  Continue reading

Transformation: An Illustrated Nine-Month Reflection

The day I found out you were here too. Gorgeous day. Red dress. I sat on a tree stump. Dec. 2015, ink pencil on paper.

Before finding out I was pregnant, I had been speaking with friends a lot about the idea of transformation. Baha’u’llah writes:

…is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?

Pregnancy, the most literal human example of transformation I could experience, inspired a kind of search. By engaging meaningfully with the ever-changing circumstances of our lives, we give ourselves the opportunity to transform. As I clocked the seemingly endless google searches of pregnancy and thought of my own rite of passage into motherhood, I yearned to read about the spiritual dynamics of this transformation. The following drawings and musings are my reflections about my spiritual transformation.  Continue reading

Vahid: A New Baha’i-inspired Creative Journal

Baha’i inspired literary journals are rare but the creative people behind the fantastic website Nineteenmonths have recently launched Vahid.

Vahid showcases fiction, photography, poetry, creative non-fiction, and other visual pieces: it is both beautiful to look at and wondrous to read. Two issues have already been published (available in print or electronically through Amazon) and a third issue is currently accepting submissions.

I was thrilled when Caitlin Castelaz, the founding editor of Vahid and the writing editor for the website, agreed to tell us about this exciting new publication. Continue reading