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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Gaza and Its Civilians

Read All Our Gaza Posts Here
discussion_gaza_civilians

Miriam, Hamid, and Rebecca at the Park

Rebecca: O.K., we all have our quotes, let’s sit down and see if we have enough for the report.

They walk to the pavilion and get out their papers and books.

Rebecca: You start, Hamid.

Hamid: Well, I chose an article from the New York Times called, Many Civilian Targets, but One Core Question Among Gazans: Why?. Here are the three I ended up with:

“They hit my future with a rocket,” said Muhammad Baroud, one of the students at the Islamic University in Gaza City. “This is a university. What does it have to do with war?”

For Mr. Baroud and his friends, the bombing of the science lab building, which happened in the early days of the Israeli offensive, was a frontal attack on their future. The university is prestigious, and they said they worked hard to get there. It is one of the best medical schools in the region, and Israel recognizes its degrees.

“Are we going to study in a tent?” asked Mr. Baroud’s friend, Ahmed.

And,

The issue, in part, is about the very nature of Hamas. Gazans say that there is a range of relationships people have with the group, starting with sympathizer and ending with rocket launcher or suicide bomber. Just because someone likes Hamas does not mean that that person is necessarily working for the group, Gazans say.

Rebecca: Are there quotes in the article from the Israelis?

Hamid: Yes, do you think we need some of those?

Miriam: I  think so…

Rebecca: Yes.

Hamid: Will do.

Rebecca: Miriam, what do you have?

Miriam: I chose an article from the BBC News called, Gazans confront shattered lives, and I chose different segments from the article woven into one quote:

…for some Gazans even attempting to return home is virtually unimaginable. Amira al-Girim, 15, lies in a hospital bed with her leg in traction. She was found alone, bleeding in a house, about four days after she saw her father killed by an Israeli tank shell in front of her. Her brother and sister died – she thinks in an air strike – as they ran to get help….By the time she was found – she is not sure if it was three or four days later – she hardly knew her own name. But she remembers details…. She says she slept in the street for two days, but then found her way into another house. She had struggled some 500m with a badly broken, bleeding leg, in search of shelter as fighting raged nearby. ABC producer Sami Ziyara, who found Amira with his colleague Imad, said doctors told him she had only a few hours left to live at the point they found her in Imad’s house.

Miriam: That’s it…

Hamid: Powerful…

Rebecca: I think you found something we really need in the report. Is there a picture of her?

Miriam: Yes, here…

gaza_girl_suffering

Hamid: Poor, poor girl………

Miriam: Rebecca, what do you have?

Rebecca: Well… You guys may think I’ve flipped but I chose a quote of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from page 19 in a book called ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London. It was written in 1911. It’s a spiritual quotation but I think we can use it at the end of the report to drive our points home:

The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers.

In the days of old an instinct for warfare was developed in the struggle with wild animals; this is no longer necessary; nay, rather, co-operation and mutual understanding are seen to produce the greatest welfare of mankind. Enmity is now the result of prejudice only.

They went to Miriam’s home, finished the report, and sent an email copy to their teacher…

They got an A…

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Greed, Violence, and Truth

dead_child_gaza

I’m going to do something that some may find insensitive or in poor taste.

As the Gaza conflict may, or may not, be winding down and as the American presidency transitions office-holders, I want to bring to sharp clarity that there are numerous political entities involved in a many wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians—possibly more than any time in human history.

As I see it, we are headed for an international transition from totally sovereign nations who can decide to initiate war to a global form of governance in which nations willingly agree to leave each other alone so their citizens can live fruitful lives. Naturally, this will only come after the violence against civilians reaches a possibly much higher level—severe pain teaching the rule of love…

Also, it’s fairly obvious that the world financial crisis came from materialistic agendas which have proven their falsity and that the greed behind such agendas is a strong inducer of violence.

Following are two videos. One being crushingly sad, the other seeming to be light comedy. I see the sad one as an unyielding Teacher and the comedy as a wise Professor—hot tears and stinging laughter being natural human responses to global disaster.

I don’t want to offend, I want to uncover the Truth…

Spiritual Quote:

“[This]…issue concerns the nature of the catastrophic events associated with this period in history. The general messages of the Guardian to the world-wide Bahá’í community make clear reference in several places to a ‘retributive calamity’ which will purify the human race and knit its components into a unified whole. One of the most detailed passages from the writings of the Guardian is the following:

‘The violent derangement of the world’s equilibrium; the trembling that will seize the limbs of mankind; the radical transformation of human society; the rolling up of the present-day Order; the fundamental changes affecting the structure of government; the weakening of the pillars of religion; the rise of dictatorships; the spread of tyranny; the fall of monarchies; the decline of ecclesiastical institutions; the increase of anarchy and chaos; the extension and consolidation of the Movement of the Left; the fanning into flame of the smouldering fire of racial strife; the development of infernal engines of war; the burning of cities; the contamination of the atmosphere of the earth—these stand out as the signs and portents that must either herald or accompany the retributive calamity which, as decreed by Him Who is the Judge and Redeemer of mankind, must, sooner or later, afflict a society which, for the most part, and for over a century, has turned a deaf ear to the Voice of God’s Messenger in this day—a calamity which must purge the human race of the dross of its age-long corruptions, and weld its component parts into a firmly-knit world-embracing Fellowship…’ (Taken from “Messages to the Bahá’í World 1950-1957″ by Shoghi Effendi, page 103)”
International Teaching Centre, 1984 Jul 01, Concerns about Retributive Calamity

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Who Is Writing The Future ? – Part Three

writing_the_future-who_is
Parts One and Two of this series introduced a major Figure in world history, Bahá’u’lláh. They indicated His major conceptions of human nature as well as the idea of progressive spiritual evolution—not just of individuals but of the entire human family—stages of infancy, youth, adolescence, and adulthood—showing that humanity is now leaving its turbulent adolescence and entering the inevitable stage of maturity.

As hard as it may be to grasp the idea that humanity is approaching a sane, mature, rational, and peaceful consummation of its often tragic and certainly painful growing-up, the document that spawned these posts, Who Is Writing the Future? Reflections on the Twentieth Century,  gives compelling evidence of a new direction, a new mandate in human affairs. The fact that most of the evidence of this growth into human maturity occurred in the twentieth century—an evolutionarily short time—is as significant as each of the signs of impending global sanity and the much prophesied peace and tranquillity of all peoples.

I think it’s extremely important to focus on what has  been accomplished by humanity in its suffering struggle to establish a mature, peaceful world. Certainly, this attitude of positivity will do far more to help the process than the quite common attempt to belittle efforts that haven’t yet blossomed into efficient operation—like slapping a child who’s learning to walk when it falls down because it isn’t doing it right yet . . .

The major learning of humanity in this phase of its growth is Unity.

Some say that we won’t have unity till we have peace. Bahá’u’lláh makes it indelibly clear that peace will not be possible until unity is established. Here are two quotes from the document:

“The central spiritual issue facing all people, Bahá’u’lláh says, whatever their nation, religion, or ethnic origin, is that of laying the foundations of a global society that can reflect the oneness of human nature.”

“The unification of the earth’s inhabitants is neither a remote utopian vision nor, ultimately, a matter of choice. It constitutes the next, inescapable stage in the process of social evolution, a stage toward which all the experience of past and present is impelling us.”

This is an extremely important document so I’ve also provided a Word .doc and Adobe .pdf file for download.

Here’s a list of some of the most important changes in humanity’s focus, begun in the twentieth century and, sad to say,  too often slapped down in people’s discussions, well before humanity has had a chance to learn to walk confidently down their pathways:

* The United Nations as a global peace-building organization

* The wide-spread shame at the perversities of the second world war which led to a multitude of non-governmental, humanitarian organizations which consult with the U.N.

* The systems of financial control, reserve funds, and trade regulations instituted after the Great Depression which may  instruct current leaders in the proper steps to avoid having it happen again

* Global programs aiming to establish universal education and the Internet—a tool which can accomplish that goal

* Technological and scientific inventions reaching heights that have made any insane acts by people or nations instantly visible to the rest of humanity (before 1900, it was relatively easy to commit atrocious acts then argue them out of existence)

* The universal awareness of the equality of women as well as the racial components of our human family, though yet to be implemented universally

* The growing awareness that poverty is not a necessary feature of human life

* The wide-spread, though inadequately enforced, conception of the unity of the world’s religions

And, summing-up these never-before-seen phenomena  of collective human action, the document quotes Bahá’u’lláh’s prophetic utterance:

“A new life is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth; and yet none hath discovered its cause or perceived its motive.”

That statement was written over 140 years ago. There are a growing body of people discovering its cause and learning how to perceive its motive . . .

Spiritual Quote :

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth. The One true God, He Who knoweth all things, Himself testifieth to the truth of these words.”
Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 14

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Who Is Writing The Future ? – Part Two

writing_the_future_who
Part One of this series talked about two governments and their differing responses to the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh.

The Chamber of Deputies of the Brazilian government held a special session honoring Him and His Writings. The Iranian government has been trying to eliminate every trace of His existence…

I’m being guided in my writing of this series of posts by a document from the Bahá’í International Community: Who Is Writing the Future?.

If you’d like to have the document available while reading these posts, here are a Word .doc and Adobe .pdf file for download.

This post will focus on the ideas of part one of the document where the main thrust of Bahá’u’lláh’s Message is introduced. One of His principles, honored or despised depending on your world-view, is that humans and humanity are primarily spiritual in nature and the evolution of civilization is predominantly a spiritual, not  material, process.

So, what about the common view that we evolved from apes who, somehow, became smart enough to start using tools and ended up building malls and spaceships?

Even for someone like me, drawn to study the sciences deeply, the idea of a blind progression from apes to spaceships doesn’t cut it—can’t even begin to account for things like the sacrifice a mother will make for her child or the otherworldly strength of religious martyrs.

There is a Pattern and Progression in an individual life and the life of our human family that can evoke a search for Meaning that transcends what the materialists and skeptics would have you believe.

In fact, Bahá’u’lláh claims that the progressive pattern of infancy, youth, adolescence, and maturity that individuals live through is meaningfully similar to what our human family has been experiencing. He claims that the stages up to maturity have already been experienced by humanity and we are embarking on our long-envisioned maturity—the merging of humanity into a truly global and adult entity—a state of earthly being prophesied by all the major world religions.

Sure doesn’t seem like humanity is growing into adulthood, eh? What about all the wars, greed, and other nastiness? Well, in this view of humanity’s growth, we’re in the last stages of adolescence, facing our traumatic entrance into the realm of adult responsibilities. Remember when all you wanted to do was break the rules, set your own agenda, get what You  wanted and to hell with all those other people who didn’t really understand you? I know some of you may not have faced adulthood with urgent rebelliousness but many can identify with such a phase…

How much pain and suffering does it take for an adolescent to submit to the Truth and moderate their behavior—begin to see other people as more like oneself than different, reach a consciousness of unity with others? How long will it take humanity to learn these lessons and stride into its inevitable adulthood…?

Spiritual Quote :

“A new chapter in the life of the planet has been opened. Humanity has attained its maturity, and the race consciousness has awakened to the fact that it must put away the childish things which seemed necessary in the day of the ‘survival of the fittest’. This day ‘wherein the feet of the people deviate’ is to be followed by a glorious to-morrow; for—’This is a new cycle of human power’. All the horizons of the world are luminous and the world will become indeed as a garden and a paradise. It is the hour of unity of the sons of men and of the drawing together of all races and all classes.

“The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between the nations and by the will of God the most great peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world and all men will live as brothers.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 12

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The World-Wide Gender Gap

gender_gapIn a previous post, Path Toward Peace – Step Seven, the concept of eliminating the denial of the equality of women and men  was explored. I thought it was time to take another look at the critical need for complete equality between women and men, world-wide. It’s fulfillment is crucial to global peace…

I consulted a document entitled, Global Gender Gap Report. It was published by The World Economic Forum with the aid of Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.

It goes into extreme detail about many interactive factors measured for 130 countries to assess their accomplishments toward closing the gender gap.

Here are the top ten countries, those doing the best job of facilitating gender equality:

Norway
Finland
Sweden
Iceland
New Zealand
Philippines
Denmark
Ireland
Netherlands
Latvia

Here are the bottom ten countries, those doing the least to close the gap:

Bahrain
Ethiopia
Turkey
Egypt
Morocco
Benin
Pakistan
Saudi Arabia
Chad
Yemen

And, here’s part of the conclusion from the Report:

“The third edition of The Global Gender Gap Report calls attention to four essential facts. First, the Index provides a valuable snapshot of the current performance of 130 countries, representing over 90% of the world’s population. On average, over 97% of the gap on health outcomes, 95% of the gap on educational attainment, 62% of the gap on economic participation and 16% of the gap on political empowerment has been closed. No country in the world has achieved gender equality. The four highest ranking countries—Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland—have closed a little over 80% of their gender gaps, while the lowest ranking country—Yemen—has closed only around 47% of its gender gap.”

Much work to be done, eh?

Spiritual Quote :

“So it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, quoted in a document from the Bahá’í International Community, 1995 Aug 26, Creating Legal Institutional Structures for Gender Equality

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One Common Faith ~ The Story – Part Seven

peace

The End {?} of the Story…

Here’s the beginning…


The last two posts, about my Dark Night of the Soul, didn’t have much detail. I tried to convey the essence of my journey through the halls of worldly learning and my lack of well-being during the trek. What I didn’t relate was the gritty, dirty, degrading, disheartening details. I’m sure some of you can fill in those details…

Our human family’s trek through the ages has much more depravity and wrenching sorrow than I ever  could have lived. There have also, thank God, been eras of soaring success and glorious progress. We—all humans—have been on a Trek of Cosmic proportion!

And, most important, for the story of humanity, all the sacred Scriptures talk about a Promised Time when the Kingdom of God will be established on this earth. Most people are unaware of this historic record and, even if educated about its existence, would not believe it possible.

In the depths of my own disbelief, I still caught glimpses of a Light—an ineffable, indescribable Hope—a Way Out of the nauseating cycle of strive-fail-strive-fail-Wail …

I found my Answer, my Faith, when I was 42. Yes, it was a religion. But… If you’ve been following this story from the beginning, you realize that, when I use the word “religion”, I don’t mean the deplorable examples that are scattered over the earth—the shams and shells of religion that are so perverted with human failings and fantasies that God, in His Love and Wisdom, is buried under impenetrable mountains of falsehood.

Yet, God is said to be All-Powerful…

So, where is a religion that permits God to enter our lives without the impossible barriers of conventional religions?

1844

That year is very  important. That year was the latest rebirth of religion—a rebirth that has happened many times in human history.

Just like Spring overcomes the death and decay of Winter, there have been Springtimes of religious rebirth—every Prophet-Founder of the world’s major religions bringing a Fresh Spirit of Pure Spiritual Knowledge—Each, insanely rejected by the followers of the incumbent form of religion—Each, made to suffer incredibly from the spiritual blindness of humanity.

But, God is Love, right? So, God has continued to send His Messengers, no matter how many times we’ve rejected Them…

I accepted my Faith when I was 42 and I’m now 62. I certainly didn’t turn into an angel just because I saw the Light. These last 20 years have been an incredible uphill struggle for me but, of course, I had 42 years to practice being an egotistic, materialistic human…

I have more hope than I ever did but my journey now has an importance that requires more deep soul-effort than I’d ever expended—more listening to my heart, more discipline, more prayer…

The way I see it, I have one basic choice, go with the worldly flow and continue to be miserably disappointed or oppose the flow and learn to soar in the heavens of pure spiritual life.

Our human family has the same choice and also has the capability and power to make the right decision—person by person—to turn this hellacious mess into the Promised Heavenly Earth. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t been hanging out in the right spaces, you haven’t been exposed to the Truth, you’ve been stuck for too long, just like me, in the rut of what’s been,  unable to see what can be …

I’m not trying to convert you to my religion, I’m just trying to let you know there is  hope, there is  a way to make our earth a respectable Palace that caters to the well-being and tranquillity of All Peoples …

Here’s a video about the world-wide Bahá’í Community:

Here is the Statement, The Promise of World Peace

Spiritual Quote :

“Your efforts must be lofty. Exert yourselves with heart and soul so that, perchance, through your efforts the light of universal peace may shine and this darkness of estrangement and enmity may be dispelled from amongst men, that all men may become as one family and consort together in love and kindness, that the East may assist the West and the West give help to the East, for all are the inhabitants of one planet, the people of one original native land and the flocks of one Shepherd.

“Consider how the Prophets Who have been sent, the great souls who have appeared and the sages who have arisen in the world have exhorted mankind to unity and love. This has been the essence of their mission and teaching. This has been the goal of their guidance and message. The Prophets, saints, seers and philosophers have sacrificed their lives in order to establish these principles and teachings amongst men. Consider the heedlessness of the world, for notwithstanding the efforts and sufferings of the Prophets of God, the nations and peoples are still engaged in hostility and fighting. Notwithstanding the heavenly commandments to love one another, they are still shedding each other’s blood. How heedless and ignorant are the people of the world! How gross the darkness which envelops them! Although they are the children of a compassionate God, they continue to live and act in opposition to His will and good pleasure. God is loving and kind to all men, and yet they show the utmost enmity and hatred toward each other. God is the Giver of life to them, and yet they constantly seek to destroy life. God blesses and protects their homes; they rage, sack and destroy each other’s homes. Consider their ignorance and heedlessness!

“Your duty is of another kind, for you are informed of the mysteries of God. Your eyes are illumined; your ears are quickened with hearing. You must, therefore, look toward each other and then toward mankind with the utmost love and kindness.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 470

For an in-depth and rigorous discussion of the principles explored in this story, reference One Common Faith and Changeless Faith.

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