Jon Bon Jovi Sings for Iran

In our previous post titled, Playing for Change, there was a wonderful rendition of the song Stand By Me. With the recent violent actions against human rights in Iran, it only seemed appropriate to give you
Jon Bon Jovi and Andy Madadian’s recent version:

Spiritual Quote:

“O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.

“O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself.
I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord.”

— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá               
~~~~~~~~~

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Fighting With Myself

fightingFor twenty years I’ve been a member of a Faith that I deeply love. For twenty years I’ve had to fight with myself to live up to the precepts and principles of that Faith…

Why would a person who feels their Faith is powerful enough to help them with the bad side of life have to struggle so hard? Could it be that the 42 years I’d lived before I found my Faith have such a backlog of ingrained habits that it will take a supreme effort to live up to my Faith?

I’ve thought, for many years, that I needed to make a supreme effort and sometimes felt I was making that effort. I’m still  needing a Supreme Effort…

At least I’m a better man than when I began this Faithful Journey. Still, my conscience doesn’t stop stalking me…

Some may say I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Some may say that feeling bad about trying to be good is insane. Some may think I should just stop trying to live up to a Code that interferes with living in this world.

That last idea hits at the core of why I keep battling with myself—is this world the end of existence for human beings? My mind says, if it is the end, I’ve got no business worrying about my behavior—in the long run it doesn’t matter at all.

If it isn’t the end of my existence and if there is another world after this, then I need to make a Supreme Effort to get this life Right so I can Soar in the next life!

I don’t believe there are a heaven and hell after this life—places of infinite joy and infinite punishment—those states exist right here on this earth. To me, the next life is a continuation of this one, both being an infinite Journey back to our Creator…

And, as far as reincarnation goes, seems to me the ultimate excuse to do whatever the hell I want since I can make it up “next time”…

So, as I continue working to live up to my principles, I’ll leave you with some quotes to think about. My Faith says we all have the responsibility to investigate Truth for ourselves—see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears…

The first three quotes are not from the free Ocean software I usually use; I found them on the ‘Net.

Spiritual Quotes :

“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
— Helen Keller (both blind and deaf from infancy)

“The primary question about life after death is not whether it is a fact, but even if it is, what problems that really solves.”
— Ludwig Wittgenstein (Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic)

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
— Mark Twain (American Writer/Humorist)

“As to the soul of man after death, it remains in the degree of purity to which it has evolved during life in the physical body, and after it is freed from the body it remains plunged in the ocean of God’s Mercy.”
— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 66

“What death is more wretched than to flee from the Source of everlasting life?”
— Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 38

“You are now like a withered leaf;
the messengers of death have come near you.
You stand at the threshold of your departure.
Have you made provision for your journey?”
— Buddhist, Dhammapada – Sayings of the Buddha 2 (translator, J. Richards)

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
King James Bible, John 5:24

“In the way of righteousness is life: and in the pathway thereof there is no death.”
King James Bible, Proverbs 12:28

“But whereso any doeth all his deeds
Renouncing self for Me, full of Me, fixed
To serve only the Highest, night and day
Musing on Me- him will I swiftly lift
Forth from life’s ocean of distress and death,
Whose soul clings fast to Me.”
— Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold, translator)

“Giver of vital breath, of power and vigour, he whose commandments all the Gods acknowledge -.
The Lord of death, whose shade is life immortal. What God shall we adore with our oblation?”
— Vedas, Rig Veda – Book 10, 2

“One said, ‘The world would be a pleasant place
If death never set foot within it’.
Another answered, ‘If there were no death,
The complicated world would be worth not a jot.
It would be a crop raised in a desert,
Left neglected and never threshed out.
Thou fanciest that to be death, which is life,
Thou sowest thy seed in salt ground.
Carnal reason deceives us; do thou contradict it,
For that fool takes what is really death to be life.
O God, show us all things in this house of deception,
Show them all as they really are’!”
— Mathnavi of Rumi (E.H. Whinfield translator), The Masnavi, Vol 5

“Then contemplate (O man!) the memorials of Allah’s Mercy! — how He gives life to the earth after its death: verily the Same will give life to the men who are dead: for He has power over all things.”
The Qur’an (Yusuf Ali, translator), Surah 30 verse 50

“‘Life and Death are indeed changes of great moment’, answered Confucius, ‘but they cannot affect his mind. Heaven and earth may collapse, but his mind will remain. Being indeed without flaw, it will not share the fate of all things. It can control the transformation of things, while preserving its source intact’.”
Tao, Chuangtse (Lin Yutang, translator)

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One Common Faith ~ The Story – Part Six

devilnegative

The Story Continues…

{the beginning is here}

More About My
Dark Night of the Soul

Last post, I’d said my search for spiritual answers in secular haunts led me to a lot of devilish activity. I’m not knocking all secular (non-religious) knowledge—we’d still be in the Stone Age without it.

What I’m getting at is acquiring only  secular knowledge—keeping your knowledge grounded in materialistic concerns, not hitching it to a spiritual star…

“If the material details blind us to the spiritual meaning, then we should be better without them…”
Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 204

Our ancestors struggled with the material world one hell of a lot more than people now living in affluent countries. Of course, there are still millions forced, through a lack of spiritual will and conviction on the part of affluent governments, to live at a level of struggle much like our distant ancestors. Humanity has gained much material knowledge but the sharing of that knowledge leaves much to be desired…

Our ancestors also struggled with the religious knowledge they acquired. Most of it was so perverted by overly materialistic priests and clergy that it was only of benefit to the money bags of the spiritual leaders. It appears that, apart from the material advancements made over the centuries, the spiritual advancement of civilization was aided by a mere handful of devoted, truly “religious” individuals.

For most of my life I was a greedy gatherer of materialistic knowledge—eager for whatever would put me ahead of the pack, secure my earthly position, and bring me the adulation of others. Having come from a serious religious background, I plunged into what the world had to offer and continually failed to attain happiness. Oh, sure, I’ve had my moments of joy but they were always followed by depression and dejection.

Our human family’s been through the same thing—pulling themselves up to new heights of achievement only to plunge into hellacious backwaters of degraded existence. Certain countries have attained super heights of glorious prestige then sunk into forgotten holes of history.

The best way I can relate the continuing, overpowering feeling that haunted me in my misguided, ego-controlled secular exploits is to share a poem I wrote in the midst of one of the darkest times:

Again?

Creeping up a
Hill of life from a
Valley too well-known;
This time, this
Time reach some
Height not leading
Back to have-to;
This time, this
Time free enough to
See beyond these
Patterns locked in
Self so locked in
Dust.

Next post, I’ll share what I discovered that definitely has the potential power to keep me facing the Light so the swirling greys of earthly existence don’t pull me back down into the Dark as

the story continues…

Spiritual Quote :

“Man is not a pre-existent being, but a newly produced and created being, consisting of two aspects or portions, the spiritual and material, which may be likened to hell and paradise; and he does not know whether he will be in hell or paradise. For instance, man is composed of evil as well as good, of darkness as well as light, of guidance as well as misleading; the most evil character is to be found in man, while the greatest and most excellent character is also found in him. We must see that the good qualities gain victory over the bad. If so, the man will become an ‘angel’, but if the bad qualities conquer the good ones, then he will become a ‘devil’. If the light conquers the darkness in man, of course he will be true light, and if the darkness conquers the light, he will be of the material.”
Compilations, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 499

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One Common Faith ~ The Story – Part One

children_praying
In the last post I said, “I want to tell a story”.  I also said certain people wouldn’t like it…

I’m not sure right now how many posts it will take to tell the story. It starts in the dim past and soars into the unseeable future.

The story won’t have a lot of detail but it will have a lot of emotion. The beginning is my early time on our earth as well as the early time of our human family. It’s very easy to see the stages of an individual’s life mirroring the infancy, youth, adolescence, and maturity of humanity.

Before I launch into the beginnings, I want to give the links to a document and a site that explores the document—they’re the immediate stimulus to my needing to tell this story.

The document is One Common Faith—a deep and scholarly exploration of religion (that’s the reason some folks won’t like this story…).

The web site is Changeless Faith—dedicated to a multimedia learning process that dives into One Common Faith  and helps you connect with it in a personal way. {if you’re not the type of person who regularly reads deep scholarly documents, I’d recommend starting with the “Companion” part of the site rather than the “Document” part—you’ll get a simpler introduction to the concepts and appreciate the full document much more}

The Story

I was born in 1946 to two Christian ministers—mom and dad. I feel lucky to have had such an early introduction to serious religious life. I’ve felt conflicted about the deep problems I’ve had to struggle with to unravel the mystery of Who God really Is—mom and dad or the Ineffable, Unknowable Creator.

I think our earliest ancestors had a somewhat similar problem. The members of our human family who lived during our infancy had to struggle to co-exist with the powers they encountered and they developed various theories about a Power that ruled over those powers. Lightning or earthquakes are powers (so are mom and dad); why do they happen and what causes them? Later in the story, we’ll look at the scientific understanding of this issue but it won’t be easy to leave behind the ultimate Mystery about the Origin of our life and struggles in this earthly home…

I went to church four or five times a week. Our early ancestors worshiped in the constant cathedral of nature.

I trembled and uttered inner prayers that my soul wouldn’t be damned by my parents. Our earliest ancestors shouted and danced to appease the gods—inner and outer.

I asked my Sunday School teacher questions she couldn’t answer. They went to the medicine woman and were instructed to perform rites they weren’t expected to understand.

I mostly behaved but grew up to be quite impulsive and rebellious. They did what they had to do to survive and sometimes killed the members of other tribes.

To be continued…

Spiritual Quote :

“It is a great mistake to believe that because people are illiterate or live primitive lives, they are lacking in either intelligence or sensibility. On the contrary, they may well look on us with the evils of our civilization, with its moral corruption, its ruinous wars, its hypocrisy and conceit, as people who merit watching with both suspicion and contempt. We should meet them as equals, well-wishers, people who admire and respect their ancient descent, and who feel that they will be interested as we are in a living religion and not in the dead forms of [many] present-day churches.”
From letter written on behalf of Shoghí Effendí to the Comite Nacional de Ensenanza Bahá’í para los Indigenas de Sur America, September 21, 1951

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Game of Life – The Rewards

game rewards
What are  the Rewards for Playing the Game of Life successfully?

In the preceding posts on the Rules and Play of the Game of Life, I explored how the rules of any game shape the playing of that game. Also, the play of a game determines the rewards possible. Seemingly simplistic, eh?

Actually the formula is Rules > Play > Reward , and changing any  of those three factors affects the others.

A fairly cool little game to play is to reverse the formula: Reward > Play > Rules . It runs something like this: “If I want reward X, I need to play Y, and that means Z is in effect…” A quick practical example: If I want ice cream, I need to pay some money, and that means I have to work. Simplistic, again, but I think you can see a few applications…

While I was researching ideas for this series of posts, I was playing the game Civilization IV. It’s an awesome simulation of the conditions and processes of civilization-building. It endeavors to model history, so, most of the normal play of the game involves politics, subjugation, and war.

I luckily discovered an option the designers provided called Always Peace.

Change the rules and you change the way you play the game and the rewards you can expect…

So, what rewards did I reap by playing Civilization in the mode that eliminated war and all its nasty offspring?

The first reward was realizing things I’d already learned intellectually in a hands-on, emotional way.

Next would be the awareness that building a prosperous civilization is very hard work even when war isn’t in the equation.

Then, the painful awareness of my citizens’ suffering from my mismanagement of the factors of growth.

And also the joy, even though it’s only  a game, when I’d managed things well and my people were fed and happy and productive.

There are many other rewards I gained but those four stand out like blazing stars in the dark of life’s struggles.

I need to mention another simulation game that has a multitude of practical applications—it was created as a training tool for nonviolent response to oppressive situations–A Force More Powerful.

So, here ends the tale of my playing life-imitating games. What about the Rewards gained from Playing the Real Game of Life?

Spiritual Quotes:

“The rewards of this life are the virtues and perfections which adorn the reality of man. For example, he was dark and becomes luminous, he was ignorant and becomes wise, he was neglectful and becomes vigilant, he was asleep and becomes awakened, he was dead and becomes living, he was blind and becomes a seer, he was deaf and becomes a hearer, he was earthly and becomes heavenly, he was material and becomes spiritual. Through these rewards he gains spiritual birth, and becomes a new creature.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 323

“As the usefulness and powers of the life (of a child) were not seen in that dark and narrow world (of the womb), but when it is brought into this vast world, all the use of its growth and development becometh manifest and obvious in it, so likewise, reward and punishment, paradise and hell, and the requital of deeds and actions done by it in the present life become manifest and evident when it is transferred to the world to come—which is far from this world! Had the life and growth of the child in the womb been confined to that condition, then the existence of the child in the womb would have proved utterly abortive and unintelligible; as would the life of this world, were its deeds, actions and their results not to appear in the world to come.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 644

“The sacrifices involved, the courage, faith, and perseverance…[a pioneering spiritual life] demands, are no doubt very great. Their value, however, can never be properly assessed at the present time, and the limitless reward which they who demonstrate them will receive can never be adequately depicted…. Such a reward, it should be noted, is not to be regarded as purely an abstract blessing confined to the future life, but also as a tangible benefit which such courage, faith and perseverance can alone confer in this material world.”
Shoghí Effendí Rabbání, The Advent of Divine Justice, pp. 67-68

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Game of Life – The Rules

rules Let’s accept for the moment that Life can be viewed as a Game.

The rules of any game define its play and determine the rewards possible. Kids are real good at trying to change the rules mid-game to adjust the play and, hopefully, make the rewards favor their position (and, sometimes, they’ll want to change the rules just to see what happens—flexing their creativity).

Before I present some of Life’s Rules, I want to mention just a bit of game history:

There are two games that could claim the oldest tag: The Royal Game of Ur and Senet. Both were found in tombs since the respect afforded games back in the 2000-3000 B.C. era was so high—spiritually powerful in some estimations—the rulers were given a game to play while they roamed the realms of the afterlife, helping them cope with the dangers of the Journey.

Some links on game history:

Astral Castle

Royal Game of Ur

Senet

So, if Life can be viewed as a Game, what are the Rules?

It used to be said that Life doesn’t come with Instructions. Some rely on the old (and generally true) adage, “Mom knows best.”

It can be difficult to discern the Rules of the Game of Life. There are so many Players, each hoping the Rules they’ve been using will help them reach the Rewards they seek—so many different sets of Rules, so much disunity—that we witness in our Family’s history conflict after conflict, all based on particular rulers’ sets of Rules, all played to secure material rewards (even those that claim a spiritual purpose).

If you believe there’s a spiritual foundation to Life—if you think there are Principles that can help the Rider of Soul control the Horse of Body—you will eventually discover that Life is a Game that demands Sacrifice, Compassion, Courage, Honesty, and many other virtuous Rules.

We struggle to stay in the Game, we change the Rules when we feel we’re losing, we play with fervor when the Reward is within reach. Let’s hope we all can learn the Spiritual Rules of Life—learn them so well we don’t make others run from our Game, know the Rules so well we don’t abandon them when the Rewards seem far away and our poor physical Horse gets frustrated and tries to throw off the Soul-Rider…

Spiritual Quotes:

“O ye beloved ones! It is the moment of the ecstasy of the soul and consciousness and the season of running in the arena of sacrifice! Show ye kindness to all; be ye engaged in the refinement of the souls. Become ye as ignited lamps and adorn ye the orchard of being! These days are swiftly passing and this mortal life will remain fruitless and without result. Therefore, while there is yet time and the arrow is in the bow, enter ye the chase and strike ye the game. This game is the good-pleasure of God, and this chase is the merciful Providence; that is, living in accord with the divine instructions.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 573

“The young prophet from Nazareth was indeed asking of His auditors a great deal. He was asking them to give up usages and customs, ways of thought and habits of belief which had been honoured among them for centuries and which had become firmly entrenched in the hearts and the lives of all. He called upon them to trust themselves, soul, spirit, and body too, to the new teaching of one who offered them no recognised human credentials whatever. The crisis was indeed a test of spiritual faith and of moral courage. It was meant to be so. It was designed to separate the true-hearted from the insincere, those who genuinely believed in God from those who played a game of make-believe.
George Townshend, The Heart of the Gospel, p. 118

The next post will explore how we actually play the Game of Life

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The Game of Life – Introduction

game of life intro

Is life a game?

From Wikipedia: “A game is a structured activity, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes also used as an educational tool. Games are generally distinct from work…and from art…However, the distinction is not clear-cut, and many games are also considered to be work or art….”

I’ll be posting three more articles in this series:

Part One—the Rules of the Game of Life

Part Two—the Playing of the Game of Life

Part Three—the Rewards of the Game of Life

Should take me about two days per article since I’ll be playing doing research with a simulation game called Civilization IV as I write the series.

The connections among Life, Games, and Spirituality will unfold as we go along………

Spiritual Quotes:

“You are the game that death stalketh; stand and he seizeth you, fly and he followeth.”

“The stalwart is he who overcometh himself.”
Marzieh Gail, From the Sayings of ‘Ali, Dawn Over Mount Hira, p. 14

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