Amazing Quote from Abdu’l-Baha – Education and Human Accomplishment

“O true companions! All humankind are as children in a school, and the Dawning-Points of Light, the Sources of divine revelation, are the teachers, wondrous and without peer. In the school of realities they educate these sons and daughters, according to teachings from God, and foster them in the bosom of grace, so that they may develop along every line, show forth the excellent gifts and blessings of the Lord, and combine human perfections; that they may advance in all aspects of human endeavour, whether outward or inward, hidden or visible, material or spiritual, until they make of this mortal world a widespread mirror, to reflect that other world which dieth not.  

O ye friends of God! Because, in this most momentous of ages, the Sun of Truth hath risen at the highest point of the spring equinox, and cast its rays on every clime, it shall kindle such tremulous excitement, it shall release such vibrations in the world of being, it shall stimulate such growth and development, it shall stream out with such a glory of light, and clouds of grace shall pour down such plentiful waters, and fields and plains shall teem with such a galaxy of sweet-smelling plants and blooms, that this lowly earth will become the Abhá Kingdom, and this nether world the world above. Then will this fleck of dust be as the vast circle of the skies, this human place the palace-court of God, this spot of clay the dayspring of the endless favours of the Lord of Lords.  

Wherefore, O loved ones of God! Make ye a mighty effort till you yourselves betoken this advancement and all these confirmations, and become focal centres of God’s blessings, daysprings of the light of His unity, promoters of the gifts and graces of civilized life. Be ye in that land vanguards of the perfections of humankind; carry forward the various branches of knowledge, be active and progressive in the field of inventions and the arts. Endeavour to rectify the conduct of men, and seek to excel the whole world in moral character. While the children are yet in their infancy feed them from the breast of heavenly grace, foster them in the cradle of all excellence, rear them in the embrace of bounty. Give them the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

https://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SAB/sab-103.html

My Favourite Quote

Whatsoever occurreth in the world of being is light for His loved ones and fire for the people of sedition and strife. Even if all the losses of the world were to be sustained by one of the friends of God, he would still profit thereby, whereas true loss would be borne by such as are wayward, ignorant and contemptuous. Although the author of the following saying had intended it otherwise, yet We find it pertinent to the operation of God’s immutable Will:

Even or odd, thou shalt win the wager.” The friends of God shall win and profit under all conditions, and shall attain true wealth. In fire they remain cold, and from water they emerge dry. Their affairs are at variance with the affairs of men. Gain is their lot, whatever the deal. To this testifieth every wise one with a discerning eye, and every fair-minded one with a hearing ear.

– Baha’u’llah

There are many reasons this quote is my favourite. Primarily, however, it is a quote of optimism; I am an optimist. I read this quote many years ago… possibly as a child or in my early teens. It has guided my outlook on life ever since.

I love the metaphors “In fire they remain cold, and from water they emerge dry.” These are so vivid to me. I imagine them literally and they remind me of magical stories I read as a kid.

I also love the implicit reminder: to remain a “friend of God”. To me this means always believing in God, always serving God, and by direct extension, always serving humanity. I’m not perfect at it, and I definitely have my selfish, venal moments… but I always am trying to improve and serve more.

I also love this quote also because I have experienced loss. Everything from true poverty in my young adulthood to loss of love and even loss in my business dealings. “Even if all the losses of the world were to be sustained by one of the friends of God, he would still profit thereby.” To me this is about learning and building spiritual capabilities. Loss only is harmful to those who reject spiritual reality.

Unfortunately, our society is built on the idea that we must ignore spiritual reality in making political, economic, health, social, and personal decisions. Secular society has killed death as a step in our development. This “death of death” means that all we can do is argue about surface traits. Secularism means that being white, male, cis, etc. are important… not my spiritual reality. This is a tragedy for our civilization; it also means that ultimately strength, wealth, position and other material-isms are the totality by which we can measure our worth.

I grieve for the gradual de-spiritualization of our society. I am certain it will change in the future; the logical inconsistencies of Secularism will become too hard to ignore, eventually. But what suffering will happen in the meantime? What conflict must we experience before we realize how important it is to bring spiritual reality back into our discourses across society?

Recent Reading – Psychology, Politics, Religion

The best non-fiction book I have read in the last ten years, easily, is “The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt. I won’t spoil it for you by trying to summarize… instead, you should click that link and buy it right away and read it as soon as it gets into your hands. I finished reading it a few weeks ago now, and I can’t stop thinking about it, applying it, seeing it play out in real life, and wishing more of my friends and family and colleagues would also read it.

I also have some in-progress reading.

I’m making my way through “Cynical Theories” – very interesting analysis of Post-Modernism (philosophy).

And I’m re-reading, and studying carefully, “The Prosperity of Humankind” a short document released in 1995 by the Baha’i International Community. Again, even though it is short, a summary is difficult. I am (re-)learning a great deal about the spiritual principles behind creating a prosperous global civilization. My favourite point in the document is the importance of justice (the spiritual principle) in the creation of prosperity.

FB: Understanding Conflict

The events in the United States over the past several years are legitimately upsetting to many people. It is hard to understand how other humans, with hearts and minds like our own, can do things that seem so harmful, ignorant or subversive.

I hope that most of my friends want to see peace in the world, both globally and locally, that most of my friends want to see our environment treated responsibly, that most of my friends want to see society advance with harmony instead of conflict.

But, many of my friends do not know how to make this possible when there seem to be some many on the “other side”.

Friends, there are two things that I want to recommend to your attention to help you resolve this conundrum:

  1. For the secular-minded among you, I strongly recommend the book “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt. It is easily the best non-fiction I have read in 10 years (and I read a lot of non-fiction). It provides research-based explanations for the seemingly growing conflict between “left” and “right”, in a way that allows us to build some bridges.
  2. For the spiritually-minded among you, I strongly recommend the publication “The Prosperity of Humankind” from 1995. It is the most concise and insightful statement on the connection between justice and social progress I have read.
    A quick online search will reliably find you either of the above.
    Of course, I recommend all my friends read both!

(originally posted on Facebook here)

FB: Ruhi Book 2 Discussion

Study from my Ruhi Book 2 this evening. We had some really great discussions. The concept of “fixed” vs. “growth” mindset came up along with some discussion of current events in the US.

“The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”

– Baha’u’llah

I know this is difficult to do. Another idea that came up in our discussion is that science and religion must both rest upon reason. One of the unique gifts of humans over other animals is the ability to search for, perceive and reason about the truth. We apply this standard to science “easily” in the sense that we expect it. Why don’t we expect this about religion too?

Both science and religion without reason are nothing but pointless fantasies. Science without religion is materialism that leads to depression and despair (as we can see so prevalently in our society). Religion without science is superstition and leads to fanaticism and conflict (which we can also see prevalently in our society).

I’ve been learning about post-modernism (philosophy, not art) lately and it seems that it attacks reason and truth-finding. If there are any of my friends who are experts on post-modernist thought or theory, I would be interested in talking and learning more.

(originally posted on Facebook here)

FB: Addiction to Food

Just finished my second indoor cycling session of the new year. I really need to realize that the high I get from exercise needs to replace the high I get from food… not supplement it!

20 virtual km, set a couple personal records, and loving my new setup.

Anyone else on Zwift? That’s the software I’m using to connect to my smart trainer and track all my activity.

(originally posted on Facebook here)

Love Thy Enemy

What have I learned from the people who hurt me and why do I still hold love in my heart for them?

  • I have developed a stronger and deeper faith in Baha’u’llah as the Great Teacher for our age.
  • I have gained more empathy and compassion for others (including myself).
  • I’m become more humble (although there’s definitely room for improvement here).
  • I have learned more patience.

Each time I have been hurt, I have learned something about myself and about humanity. I choose to view those experiences as an opportunity to grow. I am more an optimist about the future of humanity than I ever have been before. Our struggles have an ultimate purpose: the development of an ever-advancing global civilization. I am but a very small part of that, as we all are.

I don’t want to say too much about how I have been hurt, but some might wonder if those hurts were really so bad if I can be so positive about them. The answer will always be relative; what hurts me may not hurt you and what hurts you may not hurt me. Nevertheless, some of those hurts are objectively severe by any standards. I struggle every day with traumas from those hurts.

I sometimes wonder why I was able to withstand and then grow from those hurts. I want to credit that resilience mostly to how I was raised by my incredible parents, Valerie Senyk and Garry Berteig. There are probably other factors, but they both demonstrated in words and actions a standard that I have always admired and tried to live up to myself. They introduced me to the Baha’i Faith and the incredible principles and guidance that gave me a growth mindset. They supported me through many of the hardships that I have experienced. Thanks!

As a result, I don’t have enemies. There is no one that I hate. There is no one that I wish vengeance upon. There is no one that I will not try to empathize with. Even those who gave me some of my worst hurts, with the deepest, most permanent damage… I wish them well, and I hope their life is full of love, healing and progress.

What is Identity

(First posted on Facebook 5years ago.)

If we have an eternal soul that transcends death, then the soul is what matters and it is the soul that defines our identity. On the other hand, if all we have is our material existence, then the form of our material existence matters.

It matters if you are fat or thin. It matters if you are black or white. It matters if you are strong or weak. It matters if you are wealthy or not. These are all material attributes.

If we are purely material, then there is no basis to believe in human dignity. Materialism is nihilism and anti-identity: we are merely atoms and molecules and cellular processes and heat. Which is why so much discussion around identity in our society concerns the trivial made large. Skin color. Sexual preferences. Gender. Nationhood. Class. Membership. Job title.

We desperately grasp at these insignificances because we are afraid of the significant: the existence of the soul. Yet we also ignore the void that such denial leaves. We do so by shouting ever louder that our self-determined identity matters.

It does not.

The only identity that matters is our spiritual identity: our virtues developed by sacrificing all those trivial aspects of identity that our materialistic society is so keen on using to segment us into sliver-sized markets while selling stuff to stuff the unstuffable void. The driving force of this segmentation is the death of death.

Death used to be a passage to a greater stage. Now death is the end of our existence. Death, too, is sold. Avoid death at all costs or embrace it early – the choice is yours. This trivialization of death supports the narrative of material identity.

Seeing Bias in News

I’ve just subscribed to an app called Ground.News which is a fabulous way of looking at news stories from the perspective of various news publishers. Not only that, but you can see it from multiple geographical regions and even see which publishers have picked up a story (and therefore which have not).

Since I signed up with the professional subscription, I have a referral code to give out. Go to https://ground.news/referral-code and enter 022212.

Open Source: White-Spaces

A couple months ago I started contributing to an open source tool called “Spacedeck Open”. I was very excited about it, and had some early success with getting pull requests accepted. Lately, however, the maintainer has gone mostly silent and I’ve had a PR pending for over 6 weeks. So I decided to fork the tool and create my own version of it in collaboration with another person also frustrated with the slow pace of work. The new repository is called White-Spaces and it is a live virtual white board tool.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, check out white-spaces on GitHub.