With Oars and Compass is a book I wish I had read many years ago. Written by Hamed Javaheri, it frames an exploration of the meaning and purpose of life in a narrative that is philosophical, romantic, and mysterious. We meet Jane Luwi Flynn and get to eavesdrop on the meaningful conversations she has with her friends, her growing friendship and attraction to Xavier, and her recurring dreams. The story pulls the reader along and the conversations among its characters make you pause and think. Compelling, informative, engaging, light-hearted, humorous and thought-provoking, With Oars and Compass would have been a book that I read cover to cover as a teenager and young adult when I was asking myself the same questions Jane asks. But really, it’s a novel for anyone and anytime.
Hamed graciously agreed to share what inspired him to write the novel. Here is our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Zambia, Southern Africa, and have lived here for most of my life, with the exception of a brief period in Montreal, Canada, where I pursued my university education. My wife and I married when we were young, and we have three children—the first of which is about to venture off for his year of service before he enters university.
As a Baha’i, I am privileged to witness the impact of the Teachings on the human mind—and on youth in particular—as they come to recognize the potential they have to contribute to the wellbeing of their communities, and to the betterment of the world.
Tom Lysaght is an accomplished playwright with some 30 plays in both English and Spanish to his name. He also founded “El Teatro de Pan y Paz” in rural Peru, where he wrote circus drama plays about economic and health challenges, utilizing masks, stilts, and 15-foot high puppets for open-air performances, and he’s travelled extensively to help launch similar community development theatre projects.
While his latest project is not a play, it is nevertheless dramatic. 35 years in the making, his novel, Persian Passion: Of Gods and Gargoyles, is a work of creative non-fiction set in Persia during the time of the Bab. Actor Rainn Wilson said it’s “… an expertly written look into the parallel histories of the founders of the Baha’i Faith, the Bab and Baha’u’llah. It evokes the spiritual passion and political complexity of mid-nineteenth century Persia in beautiful prose…”, and Dr. Nader Saiedi calls it “A captivating account of a dramatic summer that questioned traditionalism and patriarchy, and celebrated the resurrection of the human spirit”. This new book holds particular interest this year as Baha’is around the world celebrate the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab, Prophet-Herald of the Baha’i Faith, so I was excited to hear from Tom about his new novel, and here’s what he had to say: Continue reading
While reading Remembrance Suite by the poet Shirin Sabri, I found myself getting caught up in emotion.
Thinking about my tearful reaction to these stunning poems, I traced them back to an unusual mixture of feelings of outrage and inspiration.
The poet tells of the wrongs done to some of the women in history but gowns the exposure with descriptions of their achievements, and their eternal glory. The vocabulary is rich, the images suffused with colour and beauty, the message as clear as a bell.
Most of the subjects of the poems are women unknown to most people in the world but they clearly made significant contributions to the great ongoing spiritual journey of humanity. We learn of Hajar and Hatshepsut, of Zenobia and Hypatia. For Baha’is we are treated to new perspectives on Khadijih Bagum, on Navaab, and on Ruhiyyih Khanum. Other subjects are Aseyeh, Maria the Jewess, The Magdalene, Tahirih and Bahiyyih Khanum.
In her poem “Grandmothers”, Shirin Sabri lives up to her own injunction in the final verse:
So, tell their stories, breathe upon history’s blood red ember
and light their lovely faces with that flame. We will remember.
I relished the opportunity to ask the poet some questions. Continue reading
Lisa Blecker is a bit of a celebrity in our household. My three young children have, at various times, all held our board book copy of Blessed is the Spot during prayers and we have read, and sung, The Good in Me from A to Z by Dottie as a family and in our children’s class more times than I can count! When I saw that Lisa had put out a new book called Sweet Neighbors Come in All Colors, I knew it was going to be a hit with our family — and I wasn’t disappointed! It is cheerful, vibrant, sweet, fun and a book the kids ask for over and over and over again!
Because of how much her books have meant to us, I was a little star struck when I approached Lisa to find out more about her book and when I told my six year old that Lisa and I were in touch, she was floored! It was a pleasure to find out more about the book and I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did: Continue reading
Abdu’l-Missagh Ghadirian’s book, Materialism: Moral and Spiritual Consequences, is now in its second edition! Examining psychological, sociological and spiritual perspectives and substantiated by extensive scientific research, this book focuses on the moral and social consequences of materialistic mindsets. It advocates for a sensible balance between the spiritual and material aspects of life as two pillars of an equitable civilization.
The book is thorough and beautifully marries empirical scientific and economic concepts with spiritual principles and ideas. It is both an ethical guidebook and a thoughtful analysis. The first edition of this book received the Distinguished Scholarship award of the Association for Baha’i Studies in 2011 and I’m really thrilled that it is now in its second edition.
Dr Ghadirian kindly agreed to share a little about his book. I hope you enjoy our conversation: Continue reading
Hand of the Cause of God Hasan Muvaqqar Balyuzi (7 September 1908-12 February 1980) Photo: Courtesy of the Baha'i International Community
When I was a graduate student completing an internship in London, I visited the resting place of Shoghi Effendi to offer some prayers. It was a beautiful summer’s day and I had the luxury of time so I walked around New Southgate Cemetery and prayed at the graves of other Baha’is whose names I recognized, such as Hasan Balyuzi. I knew little of the spiritual giant he was and now, having caught a glimpse by reading about him in The Baha’i World, I feel in awe of his literary and scholarly greatness, of his ceaseless efforts to promote the teachings of the Baha’i Faith, and of his undying love for Baha’u’llah’s Revelation. On 12 February, 1980 the Universal House of Justice cabled the Baha’is of the world the following:
With broken hearts announce passing dearly loved Hand Cause Hasan Balyuzi. Entire Baha’i world robbed one of its most powerful defenders most resourceful historians. His illustrious lineage his devoted labours divine vineyard his outstanding literary works combine in immortalizing his honoured name in annals beloved Faith. Call on friends everywhere hold memorial gatherings. Praying Shrines his exemplary achievements his steadfastness patience humility his outstanding scholarly pursuits will inspire many devoted workers among rising generations follow his glorious footsteps.
I wanted to share a few details of his life, and if you’d like to read more I’d definitely recommend you find Volume XVIII of The Baha’i World. Continue reading
Interviewing Earl Redman about his two volume series Shoghi Effendi: Through the Pilgrim’s Eye was highly memorable. Have you read the interview? You can tell he’s a master story teller because he introduced himself with these words “In 1977, I fell off a mountain.” I was immediately riveted! His books are similarly captivating. I cherished every page of Abdu’l-Baha in Their Midst and I was really excited when I learned he has published a new book called The Knights of Baha’u’llah.
If you’d like to know more about who the Knights of Baha’u’llah are and their role in the development of the Faith, I wrote a short article about them which you can read here. In this book, Earl tells fascinating stories about the sacrifices, the dedication and the devotion of these selfless souls. Here’s my conversation with Earl about his newest book, I hope you enjoy it!
Baha’i Blog: What was the inspiration for putting this book together?
The book is actually the conclusion to the two volumes of Shoghi Effendi: Through the Pilgrim’s Eye. Volume 2 is all about the Ten-Year Crusade. After initially attempting to include a few illustrative stories about of the Knights in that volume, it became obvious that there were too many good stories and that a separate book would be much better. That began a 4-year search for stories of the Knights. At first, it was just going to be a book of the most interesting stories, but that idea kept expanding until we were trying to find the stories of all 255 Knights. That became a huge challenge, because there were a large number of Knights for whom there were no published accounts; no books, internet stories or anything else that I could find. Continue reading
George Ronald has recently released the first in a fascinating historical two-volume set by Amin Egea. It’s called The Apostle of Peace: A Survey of References to Abdu’l-Baha in the Western Press, 1871-1921 and it offers a comprehensive look at the news headlines and press articles featuring Abdu’l-Baha. The first volume, which has been printed and is now available for purchase here on Amazon, covers the years 1871-1912 and ends with Abdu’l-Baha’s return to Europe after His travels in North America.
It is difficult to imagine what it would have been like to see Abdu’l-Baha’s name appearing in all the major Western papers but thankfully Amin Egea dove into that time period in order to put together these books for us. Here is a little bit of the story behind how The Apostle of Peace came to be: Continue reading
I can’t tell you how excited I was when my dear friend Michael V. Day first told me about the book he was writing! I had the pleasure of serving at the Baha’i World Centre with Michael and have long admired and respected Michael’s writing abilities and the eloquence of his pen, so when he told me what the book was about, I knew it was going to be great!
Journey to a Mountain: The Story of the Shrine of the Bab is a stunning book that provides the exciting historical background to the Shrine of the Bab like no other publication. It is the first in a trilogy and covers the years 1850-1921. Although part of a series, this George Ronald publication can stand alone and is captivating all on its own. The book has just been released and Michael agreed to tell us all about it. Continue reading