Exuberant Emancipation !!!

finding_bibiWe often feel paralyzed when it comes to taking action on social issues, even when we feel passionate about them.

Common excuses are:

~ I’m only one person…

~ I don’t have enough information…

~ I don’t know the right people…

~ What would my friends/family think of me…?

Filmmaker, Bita Haidarian, probably felt all these excuses raise their heads but she stood up, faced them, and found solutions. That’s her in the picture but, from what I’ve found out, I feel it’s a parody of her—who she may have been before she found her Mission.

Her film, Finding Bibi, is best introduced by the words from the site that’s forming a full-blown Movement around the experience:

“Bita Haidarian, an award-winning Iranian American filmmaker fresh out of film school, sets off on a journey around the world to answer the big questions—who am I, where do I come from, and where can a girl find a good laser hair removalist?

“Born in America to Bahá’í refugee parents from Iran, Bita tells the tragic-comic story of her family coming to America, her childhood in Texas, trying to fit in, and competitive cheerleading—all part of the quest of a girl who knows more about MTV than Al Jazeera.”

The movie’s name comes from part of Bita’s search for identity—finding Mukhtaran Bibi, a Pakistani woman who suffered a gang rape as a form of “honour revenge”, a custom of local tribesmen. Also by custom, she was expected to commit suicide. “Instead, she spoke up, and using word of mouth, took her case to court where her rapists were arrested and charged.”

The introductory trailer for the upcoming movie is both educative and hilarious. Bita’s interviews with intoxicated fans at a football game, first in her American clothes, then in robe and veil, are at once humorous and chilling. When she goes to Pakistan and introduces her “Lower Your Gaze” glasses so men won’t be tempted to look at a woman’s face, she instructs while instilling trans-cultural good-will.

It’s all about spirited empowerment—irreverent respectfulness. In a word, Amazing!

Spiritual Quote:

“Through your letter to the Universal House of Justice of 14 January you requested a copy of a purported Tablet of Bahá’u’lláh on the subject of humour, and we are instructed to inform you that no Tablet by the Blessed Beauty on this subject is known. However, in a Tablet Bahá’u’lláh states that one of the Names of God is the ‘Humourist’.

“The Tablet mentioned above is revealed in the Arabic language. It has not to date been translated into English. Though it begins with the words, ‘In My Name, the Humourist’….it is a serious mystical poem, revealed in the form of a prayer. The text does not illuminate the reference to the ‘Humourist’. It is, however, interesting to note that, while dealing with an exalted theme, the language of expression is, unexpectedly, that of the common people —light, simple, and even colloquial.
The Universal House of Justice, 1997 Jan 12, The Humourist, p. 1

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Is World Peace Actually Possible?

 warMy posts usually end with a spiritual quote. This time, the quote will dominate the post…

The words are from a man who spent 40 years as a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire. He was considered one of the most spiritual men of his time. He devoted his freedom, when once he gained it, to traveling Europe and America, carrying a Message charged with the power of the inevitable peace that humanity would win…

Inevitable?

“A few, unaware of the power latent in human endeavor, consider this matter as highly impracticable, nay even beyond the scope of man’s utmost efforts.”

Many, if not most, of humanity seem to think that people have an innate, in-born tendency toward fighting. Peace, in part of the world, for part of the time, then a reversion to war…

“Such is not the case, however. On the contrary, thanks to the unfailing grace of God, the loving-kindness of His favored ones, the unrivaled endeavors of wise and capable souls, and the thoughts and ideas of the peerless leaders of this age, nothing whatsoever can be regarded as unattainable.”

This man’s spirituality was very great and he proved it in action. It was said of him, “…he treads the mystic way with practical feet”. He was also known for his extreme rationality as well as his unending positive vision.

“Endeavor, ceaseless endeavor, is required. Nothing short of an indomitable determination can possibly achieve it. Many a cause which past ages have regarded as purely visionary, yet in this day has become most easy and practicable.”

Easy and practicable with ceaseless endeavor  and indomitable determination.

“Why should this most great and lofty Cause—the daystar of the firmament of true civilization and the cause of the glory, the advancement, the well-being and the success of all humanity—be regarded as impossible of achievement?”

Why should it be regarded as impossible? If a person lacks faith in humanity; if a person is buried in materialism and can’t lift their vision higher than what’s happening in front of them; if a person is filled with hate and intolerance; if a person is beaten by circumstances and hollowed-out by compromise; if attitudes like this hold sway in a person’s life, of course world peace would seem impossible…

“Surely the day will come when its beauteous light shall shed illumination upon the assemblage of man.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 66
~~~~~~~~~

He passed away on November 28, 1921, in what is now called Israel.

“In the land that we know as the Holy Land, in all its turbulent history of the last two thousand years, there had never been an event which could unite all its inhabitants of diverse faiths and origins and purposes, in a single expression of thought and feeling, as did the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Jews and Christians and Muslims and Druzes, of all persuasions and denominations; Arabs and Turks and Kurds and Armenians and other ethnic groups were united in mourning His passing, in being aware of a great loss they had suffered.
H.M. Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—The Centre of the Covenant, p. 453

For a detailed analysis of why our age holds the hope that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá believed in, consult The Promise of World Peace

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Obsession with Material Things?

materialismIt can seem, in the affluent parts of our globe, that to buy is our fortune. It could also be said that, if buying is good, more buying is better.

Of course, we’re in the middle of an economic crisis and some folks might think we need moderation in interaction with the human-created marketplace—that we not treat it as some magically powerful entity that must be worshiped with human sacrifice.

“Huh?”

I’ll get back to that human sacrifice idea in a bit…

Today on SoulPancake a discussion was started called, Are we completely obsessed with material possessions? Do they mean anything?. Here’s a representative sample of the comments:

“An iPhone to match your sneakers? Sneakers to match your vest?”

“I love clothes and dinners out with friends, and new shiny things but understand the completely vapid nature of these things.”

“They only mean something if you let it mean something. If it makes you happy then buy it.”

“Honestly, if you have the CASH to buy this stuff up front, go right ahead.”

“Few people lie on their death bed and talk about that car they should have bought or that purse that they were so close to buying”

“As someone below pointed out it does have a huge impact on making the world as we know it go round”

“…yes we are obsessed, and its not a good thing. And yes, these things are important but shouldn’t be occupying our thoughts and efforts to the extent at which it is.”

” Its all one big contest and a race to the finish line. Its a shame most people don’t stop and look around them more often.”

I was happy to see, at least, a range of responses in the normally affluent participants on the site.

I was very sad about a few of them: “If it makes you happy then buy it.”, “Honestly, if you have the CASH to buy this stuff up front, go right ahead.”

Here’s where the idea of materialism brings up the idea of human sacrifice.

Who suffers for the extraction of the raw materials needed to make all the fanciful things people buy?

Who receives no help in their daily lives because they happen to live where the marketeers won’t put their markets?

Who sweats away their days making the toys of the affluent?

Who can any longer ignore that We are One Human Family and what hurts one hurts all ?

Spiritual Quote:

“Whether as world-view or simple appetite, materialism’s effect is to leach out of human motivation—and even interest—the spiritual impulses that distinguish the rational soul. ‘For self-love,’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said, ‘is kneaded into the very clay of man, and it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward, he should neglect his own present material good.’ In the absence of conviction about the spiritual nature of reality and the fulfilment it alone offers, it is not surprising to find at the very heart of the current crisis of civilization a cult of individualism that increasingly admits of no restraint and that elevates acquisition and personal advancement to the status of major cultural values. The resulting atomization of society has marked a new stage in the process of disintegration about which the writings of Shoghí Effendí speak so urgently.

“To accept willingly the rupture of one after another strand of the moral fabric that guides and disciplines individual life in any social system, is a self-defeating approach to reality. If leaders of thought were to be candid in their assessment of the evidence readily available, it is here that one would find the root cause of such apparently unrelated problems as the pollution of the environment, economic dislocation, ethnic violence, spreading public apathy, the massive increase in crime, and epidemics that ravage whole populations. However important the application of legal, sociological or technological expertise to such issues undoubtedly is, it would be unrealistic to imagine that efforts of this kind will produce any significant recovery without a fundamental change of moral consciousness and behaviour.”
Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 90

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God ?

god

Jim & Denise at the Café

Jim: “So I hear you found God…”

Denise: “More like God found me.”

Jim: “…”

Denise: “Kind of like when the student is ready, the Teacher appears…”

Jim: “God, huh?”

Denise: “Yep.”

Jim: “Did He speak to you?”

Denise: “No, She  didn’t. Actually, I don’t think God is sexed—beyond all that…”

Jim: “So how do you know God found you?”

Denise: “I feel ‘Blessed ‘, I feel I’m worthy of working toward my best potential…”

Jim: “Quite a change from last month with all that talk about dying…”

Denise: “Yeah, I want to live now and I’m not afraid of dying either, whenever…”

Jim: “Wild! ”

Denise: “Yeah, wild… Wonderful… Weird…

Jim: “Yeah…”

~~~~~~~~~

If you’d been in attendance at this imaginary scene, you’d have seen the body language and felt the emotion—you’d have believed that Denise really did feel that God had found her.

Who or What is God?

Big Question…

This post was stimulated by a post on BloggersBase called, Perspectives on the Nature of God – Which of these Five Views Matches Yours? The author lists five very common conceptions of God with descriptions:

God the Wrathful…

God the Judgmental…

God Who?…

God the Compassionate…

God the Universal Spirit…

Then, comes a fascinating piece of contemplation:

“You have probably rejected four of these five views of God as being absolutely wrong, and even been uncomfortable with the wording of the view with which you most closely align. In doing so, you have rejected the sincere beliefs of the vast majority of humanity. Is promoting your preferred characterization of God more important than compassion and acceptance of diversity?”

I have my conception of God and it embraces a few of the five mentioned but goes well beyond any of them…

To me, God is First and Foremost, the Unknowable—no conception from us—the creations of God—can attain to the True Nature of our Creator…

This belief doesn’t relieve me of the necessity for compassion and empathy and tolerance of other’s beliefs…

There is, however, a concept in religion that indicates the existence of Messengers  from God, Prophets  of God, Manifestations  of God, Who have acted as intermediaries between God the Creator and we the created. Some of their names have been Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, the Báb, and Bahá’u’lláh.

There’s also a concept called Progressive Revelation  that says that all those Manifestations are One in Spirit and the religions They each founded were but Chapters in a continuing revelation of One Faith of God. This principle holds that all the religions are stages of one religion—the outer social laws changing with the constant evolution of humanity but the core spiritual Truths remaining—immutable…

One God…

One Faith…

One Human Family…

Hmmm . . .

Spiritual Quote:

“The holy Manifestations of God come into the world to dispel the darkness of the animal, or physical, nature of man, to purify him from his imperfections in order that his heavenly and spiritual nature may become quickened, his divine qualities awakened, his perfections visible, his potential powers revealed and all the virtues of the world of humanity latent within him may come to life. These holy Manifestations of God are the Educators and Trainers of the world of existence, the Teachers of the world of humanity. They liberate man from the darkness of the world of nature, deliver him from despair, error, ignorance, imperfections and all evil qualities. They clothe him in the garment of perfections and exalted virtues. Men are ignorant; the Manifestations of God make them wise. They are animalistic; the Manifestations make them human. They are savage and cruel; the Manifestations lead them into kingdoms of light and love. They are unjust; the Manifestations cause them to become just. Man is selfish; They sever him from self and desire. Man is haughty; They make him meek, humble and friendly. He is earthly; They make him heavenly. Men are material; the Manifestations transform them into divine semblance. They are immature children; the Manifestations develop them into maturity. Man is poor; They endow him with wealth. Man is base, treacherous and mean; the Manifestations of God uplift him into dignity, nobility and loftiness.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 465

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Bugs In Our Moral Code

cheating

Cheating At Life

Many could care less about moral codes as long as they feel they’re getting ahead in life. Thing is, getting ahead means nothing if you then fall far behind.

The current economic crisis is a good example—many people cheating and others looking the other way—all to get ahead—an example of institutionalized cheating that blossoms into international crime.

It’s easy to find studies and articles about cheating, from ways to stop it to ways to regulate it to the whys of its happening.

What’s very hard is finding ways to implement possible solutions to the obvious fact of wide-spread cheating…

An important consideration in any exploration of cheating or moral action is to be clear about why we even have such codes or laws in society.

Consider:

The word cheat comes from roots that mean to “fall away” and moral comes from “character” and “good”.

There’s a strong emphasis in those words on the group or social unit. There’s also an interesting perspective from which to discuss the social value of unbridled independent action. But that’s a subject for a future post…

The following video is a fascinating exploration of cheating, morals, and economic crime by a behavioral economist. Quite informative and also entertaining:

Spiritual Quote:

“The endowments which distinguish the human race from all other forms of life are summed up in what is known as the human spirit; the mind is its essential quality. These endowments have enabled humanity to build civilizations and to prosper materially. But such accomplishments alone have never satisfied the human spirit, whose mysterious nature inclines it towards transcendence, a reaching towards an invisible realm, towards the ultimate reality, that unknowable essence of essences called God….No doubt some observers would disagree, observing that religion has sometimes retarded, instead of advanced, social progress. In our view, such cases represent a distortion of religion.

“We would strongly suggest that this and any discussion of social policy give recognition to the role of spiritual principle in the functioning of society and indeed of government. Neither in theory nor in practice, should we separate material and moral affairs in a dichotomous way. The moral capacities and strengths of a nation — and of the global community — may be regarded as its ultimate form of wealth. Deficiencies in this form or wealth too easily lead to material effects as, for example, an unfair distribution of resources or, in the case of war, the near or total destruction of the physical infrastructure.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1987 Sept 09, Social Progress

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Bubbles, Bailouts, and Stimulus Plans

global_economic_bubblesSo much of the shouting about this economic “downturn” centers on the United States of America. I’m no economist (thank, God!), but it seems to make sense that the epicenter of the econoquake is the USA.

Still . . .

What about other countries? Like:

China, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Taiwan (ROC), Philippines, Romania, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Brazil, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Iceland, and Australia.

One of my constant companions on the Internet Journey is Global Voices. In a recent article, they rely on their global network of bloggers to identify these issues:

“…Jamaica’s dollar-earning bauxite industry has shed hundreds of jobs already because of the downturn in US car production.”

In Bangladesh, the housing bubble is tied to remittances sent by Bangladeshis working in other countries; but, mass layoffs in the US and Europe is ending their property boom.

“Cambodia is also experiencing a property bubble. South Koreans are Cambodia’s biggest investors. Since South Korean businesses have been badly hit by the financial crisis, many of them have already pulled off their real estate investments in Cambodia.”

The Caribbean financial crisis originated, partly, from drops in methanol and real estate prices.

The Brazilian government was claiming the global crisis was having a minimal impact on their economy. But, recent reports show Brazil as the second “most affected” country.

“Bank nationalization schemes have been enforced in some countries like Iceland and Kazakhstan. Trinidad and Tobago banks were rescued not just by their government but also by governments from neighboring countries.”

Hungary is going to implement a tax reform.

“Hiring street sweepers is part of the Philippine stimulus plan.”

There are many more details on the Global Voices site…

Spiritual Quote:

“Central to the task of reconceptualizing the organization of human affairs is arriving at a proper understanding of the role of economics. The failure to place economics into the broader context of humanity’s social and spiritual existence has led to a corrosive materialism in the world’s more economically advantaged regions, and persistent conditions of deprivation among the masses of the world’s peoples. Economics should serve people’s needs; societies should not be expected to reformulate themselves to fit economic models. The ultimate function of economic systems should be to equip the peoples and institutions of the world with the means to achieve the real purpose of development: that is, the cultivation of the limitless potentialities latent in human consciousness.

“Society must develop new economic models shaped by insights that arise from a sympathetic understanding of shared experience, from viewing human beings in relation one to another, and from a recognition of the central role that family and community play in social and spiritual well-being. Within institutions and organizations, priorities must be reassessed. Resources must be directed away from those agencies and programs that are damaging to the individual, societies and the environment, and directed toward those most germane to furthering a dynamic, just and thriving social order. Such economic systems will be strongly altruistic and cooperative in nature; they will provide meaningful employment and will help to eradicate poverty in the world.”
Bahá’í International Community: 1998 Feb 18, Valuing Spirituality in Development

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Cafe owner thrives with no-pricing policy

no_price_cafeI hang out at a local café (you may have noticed I use many imaginative dialogues at the beginning of posts and they’re almost always in a café). I also do some of my own work at the café plus volunteering a little marketing and promotion—basically, I like the place.

However, this creeping, crawling economic downturn (aka recession or crunch) hit the owner of Java Street Café  pretty hard. I’ve spent hours talking business with him and watched as a bright and friendly man became progressively morose and extremely exhausted (when a business has hard times, paying employees becomes a problem and the owner has to not only run the business but literally Work  it).

Months went by, things getting worse, while the owner, Sam, in spite of the grueling conditions, continued  to try various ideas to attract customers…

Finally, last week, an idea he’d been experimenting with became a what-the-hell—”I can’t lose more than I already have”—Decision:

Take All The Prices Off The Menu—let people pay whatever they  feel is a Fair Price!

Sam had his back against the wall, he was willing to try just about anything, and he “happened” to choose and made a commitment to act  on what could seem like a very crazy idea…

That was last week…

Since then, he’s been interviewed on CNN twice, phone interviewed on MSNBC and Fox, appeared on all four of the local channels, been on three out-of-state radio talk shows, will be appearing in a morning cooking segment on the local Fox affiliate, and received calls of thanks from three other states and Canada…

As if that weren’t enough, the blogosphere is starting to warm up to the story and it’s on the edge of tipping into the viral realm.

Why?

Because it’s “crazy” and unusual?

Nope.

That may have been the initial and conscious decision of the media but, after watching it happen and, especially, watching his customers react, the real and deeper reason for all the interest certainly seems to be related to a nearly archaic principle—Business Ethics…

Sam’s customer’s have a variety of reactions when he takes their order then says, “O.K., what do you think is a fair price for what you just ordered ?”:

“Huh?”

“Me?”

“What’s your usual price?”

“Oh, my! I have to think  about it?”

“You’re kidding, right?

Sam’s not kidding, they do have to think about it, his “usual” price is now “your price”, and, when the day is done, the under-payers and the over-payers even out and he’s collecting what he used to get when he had prices…

Of all the various reactions, my personal favorite, and the one that sings  of ethics in business during hard times, is what the woman from Missouri said, when she called to thank Sam for his decision:

“After I saw the story on CNN, I cried…”

Spiritual Quote:

“As a practical step in contributing to a dialogue about development and social transformation that explicitly takes account of spiritual values and perspectives, some 100 influential development organizations, international and government agencies, religious representatives, and academics recently gathered in New Delhi to participate in a colloquium on the theme of Science, Religion and Development. The primary goal of the event was to explore how a unified interaction between scientific methods and religious insights can promote the building of human capacity, particularly in the areas of governance, education, technology and economic activity.”
2001 Jun 11, Universal House of Justice, Overcoming Corruption

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