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
Like all animals, we are naturally pleasure-seeking creatures. The desire for pleasure drives, and has driven, many of our endeavours. And we might even say that in the technological age we live in, it drives us even more. But what if we realised that our task in life is not to pursue our own pleasure, but instead to pursue God’s? Baha’u’llah counsels us:
O SON OF MAN! If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself; and if thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own; that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee.
O SON OF HIM THAT STOOD BY HIS OWN ENTITY IN THE KINGDOM OF HIS SELF! Know thou, that I have wafted unto thee all the fragrances of holiness, have fully revealed to thee My word, have perfected through thee My bounty and have desired for thee that which I have desired for My Self. Be then content with My pleasure and thankful unto Me.
These are beautiful words. But they can be hard to follow. In today’s world, for many people, desires can be quickly met. We want a coffee; we buy one on the go. We want to be entertained; we find something interesting to watch on YouTube. I think that we have become accustomed to having our desires instantly satiated, so the notion of pleasing God, instead of ourselves, can be a completely foreign concept. Continue reading
A little over a year ago I had the bounty of visiting the Holy Land for a few days, and while there, I had the privilege of meeting a young man named Nima Majzoubi, who was on Baha’i Pilgrimage at the time. Nima and I spoke about music and his desire to produce an album, and now friends, here it is!
Nima’s debut album is titled Promised Land, and I’m happy to share my interview with him about the music and inspiration behind the album: Continue reading
If the soul comes from God, as the world’s religions agree, why wouldn’t it have some memories of this remarkable origin? If it did, this remembrance surely wouldn’t come easy. It would require hard work to retrieve such deeply embedded memories. Remembrance of our divine origin may be deeply hidden but it is also the most rewarding of all memories to attempt to recover.
That’s why there is a great power in remembrance. Enough hard work, and remembrance can awaken us to an everlasting, changeless reality. God continues to send us his Messengers to help us remember who we are and where we came from. The world’s sacred traditions acknowledge the importance of seeking answers to the mysteries of life. This quest for spiritual understanding raises two essential questions: “Where have we come from?” and “Where are we going?” The mystery of our origin and our destiny is intricately tied to the nature of the soul. Continue reading