Wednesday, July 09, 2014

"The path to guidance is one of love and compassion, not of force and coercion." - the Bab

Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel. Baha'is from around the world walk up the central staircase of the Terraces on Mount Carmel as part of inaugural ceremonies 23 May, 2001 - permission Baha'i International Community

An Astonishing Turn of Events

Today is July 9, the date each year when I join my Baha'i community to commemorate the martyrdom of the BabThe original setting was Tabriz, Persia 1850. The players in the real life-and-death drama were Muslim, Christian, Babi - each faced with making a personal choice, none knowing what consequences might be visited on them. Not knowing that their individual decisions would be woven into the fabric of collective remembrance. What were the choices they made? Read my short essay: An Astonishing Turn of Events

. . . not the miracle but the mind-set . . .

What I find most compelling about this episode is not the "miracle" but the mind-set of those like the grand vizier, who presumed that killing the Bab would destroy His message; that those in positions of power had power over minds and hearts; that Truth could be so easily extinguished.  What is compelling is what happened in the years following the martyrdom of the Bab - the unforeseen that continued to be An Astonishing Turn of Events

"private possessions of the heart and soul"

'Abdu'l-Baha would later write that "a just government can [find] no excuse" to interfere with "thought and conscience, which are the private possessions of the heart and soul." Today in Iran Baha'is continue to suffer imprisonment and persecution for nothing more than conscience - their religious belief. And on every side each human player must make a choice.

For more . . .  

*See Related blog post for What is a martyr, really? and Muslims for Baha'i Rights
*Read all about the life of Bab in The Story of Baha'u'llah. *See Who is the Bab? for a descriptive Chapter listing of Where to find the Bab in The Story of Baha'u'llah.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ask great questions. Share great stories. National Day of Listening

Want a meaningful alternative to holiday shopping frenzy? How about this: Interview a loved one and record their story – and possibly post it at the StoryCorps Wall of Listening on this National Day of Listening, the day after Thanksgiving.

"It's the least expensive but most meaningful gift you can give this holiday season." 

“Listening to people reminds them that their lives matter,” says Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, which launched National Day of Listening five years ago. And the stories people tell, when given the opportunity, can be surprisingly interesting, funny, moving.

A recording means that you, your children, your great-grandchildren, will be able to listen to a family member’s voice telling their story even after they are no longer with you. Or perhaps you want to interview another person – a teacher, a friend, a person who made a difference to you, or someone you simply want to know better. My husband and I plan to interview his 95 year-old mother.

Simple How-To Guide

Whoever you choose to interview, StoryCorps has put together an elegantly simple How-To Guide to make the process easy, including this StoryCorps video of tips. Need help with questions to get your interview going? Check out the Great Questions list. Here is a sample that should prompt some good story-telling:

StoryCorps’ Favorite Questions

* What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
* Who was the most important person in your life? Can you tell me about him or her?
* Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
* Who has been the kindest to you in your life?
* What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
* What are you proudest of in your life?
* Are there any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to me?
* How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
* How would you like to be remembered?
* Is there anything that you’ve never told me but want to tell me now?
* Is there something about me that you’ve always wanted to know but have never asked?

(I love these Questions for anytime! Think of the conversations you could have instead of talk about celebrities, politicians . . !)

For inspiration tune in to Listening is an Act of Love – the first StoryCorp animated feature, which airs Thanksgiving night on as a POV on PBS stations. These animations are visuals given to real interviews, and the stories are well worth hearing. (See the “Eyes on the Stars” in my last post for a sample.)

Of course you can choose to do an interview any day of the year. Over 90,000 people have interviewed one another in StoryCorps booths over the last ten years. It is a rich experience to listen to any of the 500 NPR broadcast interviews, podcasts, and animated shorts. For more tips see How to Get Someone's Story.

 StoryCorps, which celebrated its Tenth Anniversary this October. See my “Eyes on the Stars” post for the story behind StoryCorps.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Eyes on the Stars" - and a Visit from StoryCorps' Dave Isay

Carl remembers his brother, Ronald McNair, a physicist and crew member of the 1986 Challenger shuttle that exploded seconds after takeoff. They grew up in Lake City, South Carolina.

This animation of a real-life remembrance – a favorite of mine – was also one shared by Dave Isay at BookPeople here in Austin. Dave was on tour for Ties that Bind, the fourth book of selected interviews from StoryCorps. StoryCorps, founded by Dave Isay, is celebrating its ten-year anniversary, and Dave Isay’s October 23rd appearance at BookPeople marked the very day it all started in 2003.

“The largest single collection of human voices

ever gathered”

“StoryCorps grew out of a very simple idea,” said Isay in an interview. “We wanted to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record their life stories. We built a soundproof booth in Grand Central Terminal and invited people to come in pairs and interview each other about their lives.” (+video)

A copy of each forty-minute interview is deposited in the American Folklore Center of the Library of Congress, and participants take home their own copy.

StoryCorps statistics tell one side of this story of success:
   *50,000 interviews   *90,000 participants    *54 languages
   *in all 50 states       *500 NPR broadcasts
Over time different locations were opened, and various initiatives developed to capture distinctive threads of stories. But at the heart of it all is the experience.

"poetry, wisdom and magic"

“The StoryCorps experience reminds us,” said Isay, “that if we take the time to listen, we’ll find poetry, wisdom and magic in the stories of the people we find all around us.”

StoryCorps interviews are the opposite of reality tv, said Isay at BookPeople. You’ll know what he means if you listen to any of the short interviews, animations, and podcasts from the NPR (National Public Radio) broadcast each week.

A lesser-known fact that Dave Isay shared at BookPeople was that his inspiration for StoryCorps came from the WPA (Works Project Administration) interviews of the Federal Writers’ Project 1936 to 1940. All proceeds from Ties That Bind and other StoryCorps books go to fund StoryCorps.

What about you? Don’t think that you have to go to a StoryCorps booth to participate. See my next post about the National Day of Listening.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Birth of Baha'u'llah: "The people must be set completely free"

Photo from Baha'i Words
This week, on November 12, Baha'is celebrated the Birth of Baha'u'llah. The story of Baha'u'llah comes alive in this two-part video Baha'u'llah and the Baha'i Faith, which you can find on my Luminous Realities website. For insight in to why Baha'is celebrate, and how it all relates to the world at large, here is a passage from the writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha:

"Holding on to husks"

"O ye respected souls! From the continual imitation of ancient and worn-out ways, the world had grown dark as darksome night. The fundamentals of the divine Teachings had passed from memory; their pith and heart had been totally forgotten, and the people were holding on to husks. The nations had, like tattered garments long outworn, fallen into a pitiful condition.

"Out of this pitch blackness there dawned the morning splendor of the Teachings of Baha’u’llah. He hath dressed the world with a garment new and fair, and that garment is the principles which have come down from God.

Arts Reborn

"Now the new age is here and creations reborn. Humanity hath taken on new life. The autumn hath gone by, and the reviving spring is here. All things are now made new. Arts and industries have been reborn, there are new discoveries in science, and there are new inventions; even the details of human affairs, such as dress and personal effects – even weapons – all these have like-wise been renewed. The laws and procedures of every government have been revised. Renewal is the order of the day.

"People must be set completely free"

"And all this newness hath is source in the fresh outpourings of wondrous grace and favor from the Lord of the Kingdom, which have renewed the world. The people therefore, must be set completely free from their old patterns of thought, that all their attention may be focused upon these new principles, for these are the light of this time and the very spirit of this age.

"Unless these Teachings are effectively spread among the people, until the old ways, the old concepts, are gone and forgotten, this world of being will find no peace, nor will it reflect the perfections of the Heavenly Kingdom.”   - ‘Abdu’l-Baha


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Record a Poem - yes you! or just listen in

Listen to "Invitation" written and read by Druzelle Cederquist
More by author at Luminous Realities website
 I hope you enjoyed the poet videos in my last post: Invite a Party of Poets - and they will come! But don't let name-brand poets have all the fun. The Poetry Foundation has set up a Record-a-Poem site on SoundCloud and invited everyone to post recordings of their favorite poems.

What a gift, to record a poem that spoke especially to you, that inspired you or tickled your funny bone, that brought "a sliver of insight a fresh perspective.”

How-to steps are listed here on Harriet: poetry blog, along with a few already recorded poems. I took time to record a short poem of my own: "Invitation." The tech stuff is do-able - the best news being that you can erase and record again, so mistakes can be made! Since SoundCloud is a social site, Record-a-Poem members can also follow fellow poet-readers as they choose.

And really, if the first-graders of St. Giles School can record and post “The Crocodile” (by Lewis Carroll), you can do this, right? Let me know when I can look for your recording on Record-a-Poem.


Invite a Party of Poets - and they will come!

 On this last day of April – poetry month – a reminder that throughout the year “the poets are at their windows . . . in every section of the tangerine of earth.”
Thankfully,  poets, being people like the rest of us,  are as different from one another as we all are – and their poetic renderings of our world, both without and within, come as varied as their own individual lives. No need to take my word for it. These days via internet you can invite a poet, or a party of poets, into your own home at any hour – and they will come!

 A few of my favorite videos are found in the video archives of the GeraldineR. Dodge Poetry site and on PBS Poetry Everywhere with Garrison Keillor. Below is a sampling – the first three poems are humorous – with an invitation to explore more on your own:

            Naomi Shihab Nye    One boy told me
              Tony Hoagland          Romantic Moment
Billy Collins                The Lanyard
Kurtis Lamkin            ‘jump mama’  (with music)
Lucille Clifton             won’t you celebrate with me
Taha Muhammad Ali   Revenge  (in Arabic and English)
Coleman Barks         poem by Rumi  (with music)
*Note: The Dodge Foundation, based in New Jersey, is using poetry as a tool for healing in its Hurricane Sandy Poetry Initiative.

"Let the Beauty We Love be what We Do" - Rumi 
"walk inside the poem's room" - "Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins


Monday, April 15, 2013

Ridvan: 150th Anniversary! A few small Gifts for the Occasion

“It was an April afternoon in Baghdad, 1863, when Baha’u’llah left His home and made His way through the press of people gathered to see Him one last time. . . .” 

So begins the story of Ridvan – when Baha’u’llah transformed an occasion of intended disgrace into one of abiding joy. When, on an island garden in the River Tigris, the air rich with the scent of roses, Baha’u’llah announced that He was the Promised One whose advent the faithful of every Faith had prayed to witness. (Read On the Banks of the Tigris.)

The Story of Baha'u'llah - Anniversary Discount

This April (April 21- May 2) marks the 150th anniversary of that historic occasion. In celebration, Baha'i Distribution Service is offering The Story of Baha’u’llah: Promised One of All Religions at the discounted price of $9.99 through April. Visit my website to find out what readers say and this page for links to ebook platforms, your favorite booksellers and book-sharing sites.


Ridvan Gifts from Luminous Realities


This Ridvan I am also delighted to offer a few small gifts at my new Luminous Realities website. Visit these pages:

Ø  Who is Baha’u’llah? - Features two-part Video about the life of Baha’u’llah. Part One ends with Ridvan. Also view A Photographic Narrative.
 Ø  Bookpage – View / Print a unique Timeline for the life of Baha’u’llah and the Bab.  See more Reader Resources.
 Ø  Maps & More – View / Print maps for the time and life of Baha’u’llah and the Bab
 Ø  Essays – Read / Print short essay for Ridvan: On the Banks of the Tigris .


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Courageous, Creative Response to Education Under Fire


Rainn Wilson BIHE Video Appeal from Education Under Fire on Vimeo.

Maybe you saw Argo - the gripping escape story that had us sitting on the edge of our seats – a true story set in Iran in the early days of its 1979 Revolution. Last night, at a living-room gathering in a friend’s home, I watched another compelling film set in Iran: Education Under Fire (see trailer) – also a true story – about another group of people in Iran, the Baha’is.

For Baha’is the 1979 Revolution brought the beginning of anightmare: from acts of arson and vandalism to kidnappings, imprisonments, torture, and execution – and the ongoing, systematic strangulation of human rights spanning all stages of life. Still, Baha’is in Iran do not want to run away – Iran is their home.

An Underground College

Education Under Fire shows the courageous, creative response to the denial of one right that Baha’is hold dear – the right to higher education. Since Baha’is are barred from all universities in Iran, they created their own underground college, the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education -- BIHE – which began “in kitchens and living rooms and basements across the country,” now expanded to include online distance-learning.

In May 2011 a series of raids and arrests, confiscation of computers and other materials – which Rainn Wilson talks about in the video clip above – was intended to close it down. But BIHE returned, stronger than ever.

 A Dangerous Venture

It is still a dangerous venture. Niknaz Aftahi describes what it's like to be a BIHE student. Volunteer professors and students alike are always at risk of imprisonment (see trailer). But BIHE has “uplifted the lives of thousands of Baha’is of all ages,” reports Rainn Wilson.

In our own gathering last night a current teacher and a past student of BIHE shared their experience in answer to our questions, and told us that BIHE standards qualify its graduates for acceptance at high-ranking universities in the U.S. and elsewhere, if they choose. Several have pursued advanced degrees and returned to Iran to teach others at BIHE. Iranian Baha’is want to contribute to the betterment of their homeland.

Speaking Up

On 4 April the complete 30-minute Education Under Fire documentary will be released online in English, French, and Persian. You too can view the video, share with others, perhaps write a letter or find another way to lend support.

Unlike Argo, where secrecy was the name of the game, public knowledge is critical to keep the pressure on Iran for human rights. Amnesty International, the United Nations, the U.S. Congress, and people and nations around the world are speaking up on behalf of Baha’is, as well as others who suffer in Iran.  See the latest updates here.

For videos with personal stories from Baha’is and others – including journalist Roxanna Saberi, once imprisoned with Baha’is in Tehran – visit the Education Under Fire website (and scroll down).


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Happy Naw-Ruz! from Around the World

Naw Ruz English version from Nadine Reyhani on Vimeo.

In my last post I shared a Naw-Ruz episode from The Story of Baha'u'llah. (Naw-Ruz is the Baha'i New Year) Today I want to share this lovely collection of global Naw-Ruz greetings - along with my heartfelt wishes to each and every blog reader for a year filled with abundant creative hours.

A Blessing to Bring into a New Year

This passage* from a talk by 'Abdu'l-Baha in another spring, during His visit to America, carries a blessing for us to bring into the New Year:

"...the spiritual bounty and springtime of God quicken the world of humanity with a new animus and vivification. All the virtues which have been deposited and potential in human hearts are being revealed from that Reality as flowers and blossoms from divine gardens. It is a day of joy, a time of happiness, a period of spiritual growth.

I beg of God that this divine spiritual civilization may have the fullest impression and effect upon you. May you become as growing plants. May the trees of your hearts bring forth new leaves and variegated blossoms. May ideal fruits appear from them in order that the world of humanity, which has grown and developed in material civilization, may be quickened in the bringing forth of spiritual ideals."

* Quoted by author Homa Sabet Tavangar in the Huffington Post Blog

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Naw-Ruz & the End of a Terrible Journey

Zagros Mountains, along borders of Iran and Iraq - Wikimedia

Today I felt especially grateful to be where I am, to celebrate Naw-Ruz – the Baha'i New Year – at a park in Austin, to greet friends I have made in the past year, meet at least one someone new – and get jazzed by a conversation with other writers eager to meet up to support one another. What a great way to begin a New Year! Sweetest of all was the presence of our one-month old grandson, who seemed quite content to accompany his dear mom and dad to their  first Naw-Ruz together.

Cold "so intense that one cannot even speak"  

In 1853 Baha’u’llah celebrated Naw-Ruz with His family outside of Baghdad. They were a small band of exiles who had survived a Terrible Journey of exile across the towering Zagros Mountains – a journey made in the harshest of winters, with cold “’so intense that one cannot even speak,’” Baha’u’llah would later write, the “’ice and snow so abundant’” that it was “’impossible to move.’” They had been expected to die.

But spring found them camped next to an orange grove, the scent of orange blossoms wafting over them. Date palms grew all around. The green of winter wheat and barley stretched over the fields beyond. Here, although they would never see their homeland again, Baha’u’llah and His family celebrated the New Year with gratitude. Everything had been taken from them, yet ultimate power, Baha’u’llah assured them, did not belong to their enemies.

Go to Excerpt 2: Terrible Journey and Excerpt 1: Banished
for more of this episode from The Story of Baha’u’llah – and more on the traditional Persian Naw-Ruz