Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Gate to the Glory of God

 

His life is one of the most magnificent examples of courage which it has been the privilege of mankind to behold.”

 ~19th century writer A.L.M. Nicolas, writing about The Bab

 

Photo courtesy D. Kirkup Designs

This week members of the Baha’i Faith worldwide celebrate the Bicentenary of a holy day known as the Birth of the Bab, a key figure in our faith described as “matchless in His meekness” and “imperturbable in His serenity.”

The Bab, whose name means “Gate”, also started a spiritual revolution in the mid-1800s that resulted in the creation of the Baha’i Faith.

Many of us became Baha’is because we couldn’t help but feel that divine messengers, including Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha, weren’t intended to be competing factions, but rather part of a single, harmonizing, progressive process through which the Creator is guiding humanity forward. The teachings of the Baha’i Faith describe how the world’s major religions are related and united.

Image courtesy Judy Wright.

And it all began with the Bab, whose story is like a brief, intense storm that reshapes a landscape overnight, or what some have likened to a “thief in the night.”

Born Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad 200 years ago in 1819 in what was then called Persia, the Bab lived in a time of millennial zeal in which many Christians and Muslims held an expectation that scriptural prophecies were about to be fulfilled. Orphaned early in life, The Bab was raised by his maternal uncle, who was one day told by his nephew’s teacher, an esteemed cleric, that there was nothing more he could teach his prodigious and unfailingly courteous pupil.

Shrine of the Bab, Mount Carmel, Israel.

Later, in extending guidance to humanity, The Bab reminded that in order for a soul to recognize and receive divine inspiration, “eyes of the spirit” are necessary — a vision unclouded by personal attachments or preconceived notions. The promised Day of God, He declared, required new standards of conduct and a nobility of character that the Creator had destined for humanity, but which it had yet to achieve. “Purge your hearts of worldly desires,” the Bab told his earliest followers, “and let angelic virtues be your adorning.”

In a society in which moral breakdown was rampant, the Bab’s assertion that the spiritual renewal of society depended on “love and compassion” rather than “force and coercion” stirred enormous hope among all classes of people in Persia. His call for spiritual reformation — in particular, the uplifting of women and the poor, and the promotion of education for all — provoked an angry, fearful response from those who held religious and secular power in an oppressive society that had changed little since medieval times.

Persecution of the Bab’s followers rapidly ensued, and thousands were killed in brutal massacres. The remarkable courage — even joy — that many of His followers exhibited in the face of such carnage was documented by such Western observers as Leo Tolstoy. Eventually, the Bab was imprisoned and publicly executed before a crowd of 10,000 in 1850.

A century and a half later, the spirit of the Bab informs the lives of Baha’is, more than 5 million of us, who see ourselves as citizens of one world and friends of all faiths.

Adapted from: Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details: 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B5MR9B0


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To forgive the very world

Photo courtesy of N. Augusta Vincent.

 

After both of my parents had died, I put off sorting through the boxes of their belongings that had accumulated like small mountains in our house.

Then I woke one day with the urge to explore them.

I was plunged into stirred-up memories and stored-up feelings.

As if whispered into my thoughts, an idea I’d encountered years ago in the work of psychologist Erik Blumenthal reminded:

“The person who comes to understand his parents can forgive the world.”

Photo courtesy D. Kirkup Designs / https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns.

The writer, who grew up Jewish in Nazi Germany, knew firsthand how painful experience often makes forgiveness seem impossible.

Yet he emphasized two needs that he believed eventually call to each of us: to become more understanding, beyond our rigid “certainties”, and to accept the freedom that forgiveness bestows.

As I unpacked my parents’ things, I gained a deeper view of what they had faced and the weight of the efforts and decisions they made. When they met, they were two people in their 20s entering a cross-cultural marriage at a time when no one knew what the next day would bring, who would live or die, or even what language everyone would be speaking, depending on the outcome of the biggest war the world had known.

A bird’s-eye view of the German town where I lived with my military family.

I can now see, and appreciate even more fully, that whatever their circumstances, troubles, and significant mistakes or missteps, they made a place for me in this world, and stuck with that commitment.

I’m reminded of words of Rumi’s:

“When you eventually see through the veils to how things really are, you will keep saying again and again, this is certainly not like we thought it was.”

As I uncovered a broader view of my parents’ lives, I could see that most of my own resistance to forgiveness was forged at a stage when the imprint of my parents’ perceived omnipotence led me to believe that they were always in charge, in the know, in control of all situations.

I now share with them the certainty that that was never true, and the humbling realization that, whatever the hurts, it is not, indeed, as I thought it was.

It’s been observed that many people hold back from forgiveness because they believe it might go against the grain of justice, might excuse a wrong or deny its occurrence.

But when we find a willingness to see beyond our own view about any situation, especially the actions and choices of others, it disarms that tendency our perception has to keep us wedded to beliefs that not only make us feel bad, but impede our healing and progress, too.

Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details.


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Love’s lonely offices

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Photo courtesy Eric Olson

 

My thanks to lover of art and beauty Inger Gregory for reconnecting me with the following gem of poet Robert Hayden’s.

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Photo courtesy David Campbell / http://gbctours.com

 

When I was much younger, those words, “What did I know, what did I know …” stopped me in my tracks; humbled me, the first time I heard them. Today, they become a question to take into each day, and even make present-tense.

 

Those Winter Sundays

by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early 
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, 
then with cracked hands that ached 
from labor in the weekday weather made 
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. 

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. 
When the rooms were warm, he’d call, 
and slowly I would rise and dress, 
fearing the chronic angers of that house, 

Speaking indifferently to him, 
who had driven out the cold 
and polished my good shoes as well. 
What did I know, what did I know 
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Poem courtesy of http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/those-winter-sundays


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The journey from mind to heart

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“Colorado Moon” by Judy Hughey Wright

 

Perhaps the most subtle and most difficult transition for us to make is to move from the use and understanding of human traits by the human nature to the employing of divine qualities by our spiritual nature. This has been described as the longest journey — from the mind to the heart.

The human nature, using the limited vision of the rational mind, doesn’t have the capacity to perceive divinity and easily makes the mistake of believing that we, ourselves, are the source of such spiritually motivated actions as generosity, mercy and justice. This misconception leads inevitably to arrogance, the hallmark of the ego, and we cannot approach God with what is essentially the exact opposite of the attribute that is required for this — humility.

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“Bright Spot” by Judy Hughey Wright

In his book Love, Power and Justice author William Hatcher notes that “we are the only creatures of God who have the capacity to be aware of our dependency on God”.

It is the spiritual nature that possesses the capacity to recognize that the amazing virtues of love, mercy, kindness originate with God and that we are privileged to use these infinite attributes that God has placed within us in infinite combinations to enhance our lives. We can remember now, when someone thanks us for being kind or merciful, to acknowledge in our heart the divine source of kindness or mercy. In this way we can grow in humility,  and carry in our awareness the source of these qualities and thus draw closer to that source.

The animal and human nature each ask the same question in all our interactions with the world: “Do I eat it or does it eat me?” The human nature wears better clothes and couches the same question in more sophisticated language, such as, “Do I win or do you win?” or “Who controls who in this relationship?”

WTOEimage.phpThe spiritual nature always asks the same question, no matter in what world it happens to reside: “What do I need to do to ‘approach the Divine’?” Or perhaps more specifically: “What act of service do I need to give or receive in order to ‘approach the Divine’?”

 

Excerpted from With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality?

http://www.amazon.com/Thine-Own-Eyes-Imitate-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I/ref=la_B00IS9LEZA_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404764134&sr=1-4

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Every true gift has eternity in it

churchnight

United Baptist Church, Lakeport, NH

My friend, Carol, gave me a wonderful surprise at about the last place I’d have expected it — her funeral.

She received the devastating news about her cancer the same day her employer told her that she would soon be out of a job.

Things happened even faster for Carol, after that – fast especially for someone who, like most of us at this stage of life, was never looking to include life-threatening illness in her life experience. By early September, she’d been given three months to live. Her goal was to make it through all three of them, which, God willing, would be just enough time to see her first grandchild.

I made a trip to see Carol that week and brought a small CD player I’d picked up. She’d been feeling so terrible that even reading and watching TV were impossible, but she could still enjoy listening to music. However, her own CD player had broken.

CD playerThere was so much I couldn’t do for her. This, at least, seemed like one small thing I could offer. Knowing how weak she was, I searched for a little machine that was lightweight and, hopefully, something she’d be able to move herself.

The day I saw her, despite the fact that she was essentially drifting between worlds, she, as always, received my gift graciously.

But my heart was saddened by two things that were clear from the moment I watched the home-health nurse call for an ambulance to take her to the hospital: Carol was never going to use that CD player, and she wasn’t going to live to see her grandchild born.

A week later, I sat in a small Victorian church whose beautiful stained-glass windows flooded its pews with rosy light. Waiting for Carol’s funeral service to begin, I was thinking about her life, and all of the things that would never be, when I noticed that among the vases of cut flowers and the pretty candles that had been set out on a small table up front, there was something familiar.

Read the rest at BoomerCafe, kind enough to include my thoughts about Carol this week:

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Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details:

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=