Day to day happenings from one end of my life to the other. Snowstorms, regional conferences, and flat tires are all fair game, as are holidays, bouts of bronchitis and hang-outs with friends. Maybe even pictures of my breakfast.
Here’s an excerpt from a post that I started writing a while back in Da Nang, in October 2010, and never finished—probably because it was time to take out the garbage.
it’s flower arrangement day at hotel Hai Lam (aka, Quynh’s family home). apparently, prevailing conditions allowed for the buildup of flower purchases in our vicinity, which favoured the formation of an active flower system leading straight to our door. Government florists describe the system as cyclical, although this particular system is considered to be stronger than usual for this time of year.
So anyway yeah. Lots of flowers in the house, for Quynh who just came home from a Baha’i Institute training in Malaysia, and for the family shrine too. Pink, red, white, yellow flowers, roses, lilies and (??). I met Quynh at the airport with red roses—and a bouquet of nine roses when she got home. We even got a new set of bed sheets with roses on them!
walked–yes, walked–to Da Nang airport with red roses for my wife, who’s returning from Malaysia. ’cause that’s just how I roll.
Still reeling from the shock of hearing of the tragedy in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, Bahá’í artist Munirih Sparrow was inspired to share a video of herself performing “I am not of the lost”, an original song based on words written by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to a mother whose son had passed onwards into the spiritual worlds.
The song was originally written for her new album Nightsong, which was released in November 2012. I had the chance to catch up with her recently during a break from touring the USA and asked her about the song and its significance.
Originally I went searching for a prayer for mothers, in my search I came upon this prayer. It was beautiful and comforting and had a feeling of “otherworldliness”.
A few years ago a close family member of mine lost her baby girl Ocean and around the time of writing that song it would have been Ocean’s 12th birthday. As I tried to put the writing to music, I literally asked Ocean to help me. Now, I know that sounds pretty “fuu-fuu” but spirits in the next world are always inspiring us and few artists create by themselves. My family continues to grieve Ocean’s death and I just had this feeling that she was there with a message of love and comfort for her parents.
On Friday, she dedicated the song as a prayer for the mothers and fathers of Newtown who lost their children, describing the importance of prayers and music in bringing about healing and peace in the face of grief and loss.
In the wake of such sad events as we saw in Newtown I feel confirmed in my belief in the power of prayer and music. Not only is that prayer important to the families who are personally devastated by these events but also for people like you and me who do not know these families but are still so saddened and upset.
It is prayers like these that assist us all in grieving and processing our anger and sadness about this event and others going on around the world. Through prayer we make peace in our hearts and our communities.
Munirih’s words largely reflect my experience helping Quynh’s family to grieve after her father’s sudden passing in August 2010. As many have said before, there are no words for the pain felt when a loved one passes away; particularly the pain of losing a child, which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá calls “heart-breaking and beyond the limits of human endurance”. Two things helped us recover from our grief: the power of prayer—of spiritual conversation with God and intercession on behalf of those who have passed onwards—and the power of community. I suppose these are common to all humanity; we all tend to lean on each other, and on a Higher Power, when we feel overwhelmed by suffering.
On the same day, December 14, 2012, two attacks on schools happened on opposite sides of the globe: a stabbing spree in Chenpeng village, Henan, China, in which 22 children and an elderly woman were injured; and a mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, USA, in which 27 were killed, including 20 children. I jotted down these thoughts soon after I heard the news.
I remember recently watching a mini-documentary about World War I that explained how the horrors of trench warfare led to cynicism becoming “normal”, first among the soldiers who had witnessed them, and then among the society they returned to. Man’s inhumanity to man had turned him sour, leaving him to despair. This sense of despair was reinforced by World War II and the conflicts that followed, and although economies recovered and material wealth grew, a crisis of spirit persisted. A new, idealistic generation rebelled against war in all its forms in the 1960s and 70s, showing a true and profound craving for justice, peace, brotherhood and spiritual renewal in what they called the “Age of Aquarius“. For the most part, though, this craving was denied, and mankind sunk deeper into despair and cynicism.
How much longer will this craving go unsatisfied, and how many more bodies will have to pile up, not only in our schools but throughout our bruised, battered and shell-shocked world? What will it take for things to change? I don’t really know the first answer, but for the second, I’ll tell you.
In the junior youth group that my wife is running in our neighbourhood, she and the girls—aged 11 to 13—are reading about the story of Kibomi, a young boy who believes he can make a difference. Kibomi lives in a country full of strife, and his parents are killed in front of his eyes one day. He runs for his life, and along the way, as he struggles to come to terms with the horrors he has just seen, he meets people who help him see that he has a choice: either to sink into despair, rage, violence and revenge; or to turn his suffering into fuel that will help him change the lives of those around him for the better. Doing the latter takes strength of character that he’s not sure he has, but as he meets more and more people who are working hard to build bonds of loving-kindness and unity between the warring tribes, he realizes that he can draw on their strength to build up his own. Eventually his feelings of fear and despair fade away, and he makes his choice—to work actively towards the betterment of the world.
Now ask yourself again: How much longer will man’s craving for justice, peace, brotherhood and spiritual renewal go unsatisfied? As long as we choose to let it.
So yeah. How are you, O dearly beloved reader of doberman pizza? As I noted earlier, you shall be seeing much more than scattered Facebook reposts from now on. For various reasons, blog posts have been scarce over the past few years—mainly because of the workload involved in preparing for our wedding, recovering from a loved one’s passing, and filling out the paperwork required for Quynh’s immigration to Canada. As well, since the recent social media boom and the rise of Facebook, Twitter and similar networks, random status updates have just been easier to post elsewhere than here. But fear not! There’s no reason to unsubscribe. Starting this week, doberman pizza gets a much-needed overhaul and relaunch. See you here on Thursday evening, December 6th, around 5 PM Eastern Time and onwards (see World Times) for the big switch, and, who knows, maybe a little real-time chat like the old days. I’ve been working at getting things ready for the past month now, and I really hope you’ll like it.
We awoke after only a brief rest, and slipped downstairs quietly. lighting candles and gathering around the fireplace, we placed His portrait before us and began to call to mind His life, His sufferings, His legacy. It was 91 years ago tonight that He, the Master, the Mystery of God, had passed onwards into the spiritual worlds, a most unique and blessed soul returning to His place of origin, having done as much as He could with the time allotted to Him in the limited, physical worlds.
O MY LORD, my heart’s Desire, Thou Whom I ever invoke, Thou Who art my Aider and my Shelter, my Helper and my Refuge! Thou seest me submerged in an ocean of calamities that overwhelm the soul, of afflictions that oppress the heart, of woes that disperse Thy gathering, of ills and pains that scatter Thy flock. Sore trials have compassed me round and perils have from all sides beset me. Thou seest me immersed in a sea of unsurpassed tribulation, sunk into a fathomless abyss, afflicted by mine enemies and consumed with the flame of their hate, enkindled by my kinsmen with whom Thou didst make Thy strong Covenant and Thy firm Testament, wherein Thou biddest them turn their hearts to this wronged one, to keep away from me the foolish, the unjust, and refer unto this lonely one all that about which they differ in Thy Holy Book, so that the Truth may be revealed unto them, their doubts may be dispelled and Thy manifest Signs be spread abroad.
Yet now Thou seest them, O Lord, my God! with Thine eye that sleepeth not, how that they have broken Thy Covenant and turned their backs thereon, how with hate and rebelliousness they have erred from Thy Testament and have arisen intent upon malice.
As a testament to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life, upon His passing, the entire city of Haifa was swept by “an unprecedented stir and tumult, and filling all hearts with unutterable grief”. This grief transcended all boundaries of race, nation and creed, uniting “Jews and Christians and Muslims and Druzes, of all persuasions and denominations; Arabs and Turks and Kurds and Armenians and other ethnic groups… in mourning His passing, in being aware of a great loss they had suffered.” (H.M. Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Baha – The Centre of the Covenant, p. 452.)
This year, which marks the 100th anniversary of His visit to North America, the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada has asked each of us to consider how each of us might carry on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s legacy through our own actions, becoming involved, as He did, with the people around Him, striving to improve their situations and contribute to their well-being, and to be to each one of them a channel of God’s grace. Six years ago on this day, I wrote down my own personal list of “to-do” items, many of which still stand: increasing my involvement with children’s classes; encouraging others to serve in whatever capacity they are able; making effort to turn towards God each day, imploring His assistance; teaching and serving with selflessness and humility. On this day, then, I concentrate my thoughts on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and ask God to help me follow His example more closely, little by little, day by day, and to “strengthen me in my servitude“.