Tag Archives: Baha’i

alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic Beverages and Behaviour

I grew up as a follower of the Baha’i Faith. Part of that faith is that I believe that consuming alcohol is bad for the world, so I don’t do it. Not only that, when I can, I also encourage others to not drink alcohol if the situation is appropriate.

What if your livelihood depends on alcohol? I have family members who are / have been servers in licensed restaurants. Their ability to earn a decent living depends on the high cost of alcoholic beverages and the tips that go along with consumption thereof. I wish that someday they would not have to depend on that means of earning a living. But I don’t feel any need to berate them for the circumstances and choices that led them to choosing that work.

There are many people who feel that it is just fine for them to personally consume alcohol. They handle it well. Possibly – I honestly don’t know.

Here’s the interesting thing. I’ve never unfriended someone because they consume alcohol (although I did once break up with a girlfriend where excess consumption was a factor in the breakup). But I’ve had people unfriend me because I don’t consume alcohol. Not many people… but enough to know that it happens. Not only that, but I’ve lost business deals because I don’t consume alcohol. Again, not many that I can guarantee were for that reason, but some.

When is it okay for me to talk about my belief in the harmfulness of alcohol? Well, there are certainly some situations where I think it is okay:

  • when I’m asked about my behaviour or beliefs,
  • when I’m speaking with a peer or someone with more power / influence than I,
  • when in my own judgement, sharing my beliefs would not come across as insulting or patronizing,
  • when someone is asking about the expectations for the personal conduct of Baha’is in general, and
  • when my listener has a choice about stopping listening (e.g. here, where you can just click away or close the tab).

So, am I judgemental when I see or hear other people drinking alcohol? I suppose it depends on what it means to be “judgemental”. Here are some situations and my mental responses:

  • Stranger ordering drinks in a restaurant: I don’t notice it.
  • Stranger ordering drinks in bar: I don’t go to bars.
  • Business or personal acquaintance making a joke about alcohol or talking about going for a beer or the great wine they bought on the weekend: I have a tiny twinge of discomfort… like “too bad I can’t do that”. FOMO.
  • Close friends or business partners who are not alcoholics (to my knowledge) talking about or drinking alcohol: I often ponder why it is a part of their lives and if there is some way I might help them eventually give it up.
  • Other Baha’is talking about drinking before they became Baha’is: I’m intensely curious to learn what it is all about.
  • Other Baha’is talking about drinking while they are Baha’is: this is the only situation in which I feel a moment of judgement – but I quickly suppress those thoughts and tell myself that I don’t know their situation… and that I aught not judge.

Alcohol is one of the scourges of the earth, similar to slavery/racism, materialism, promiscuity, inequality between men and women, individualism, and religious fanaticism (I might be missing some others as I write this). I can’t claim to be free from all of these perfectly myself…. but I’m self-aware enough to continue to work on improving.

Many of my Facebook friends have not hesitated to say things like “I would punch a Nazi”, about themselves. The Nazis killed approximately 6 million people in the Holocaust! Alcohol kills that many people every two years. Should I punch people who drink? Or go out and accost the purveyors of alcoholic beverages? Of course not…. But really, why not?

Because punching people doesn’t solve societal problems. Racism (and the Holocaust) are societal problems. Alcohol is a societal problem. Religious fanaticism is a societal problem. I can blame society and judge the ills of society without being judgemental about any individual’s behaviour. Not only that, I can be loving, patient and have a “sin-covering eye” for the individuals I interact with. In fact, I can choose to focus on people’s good qualities and actions. All this while still asserting that alcohol is one of the worst things for the world… on the same level as slavery.

So what does solve these kinds of problems? It starts by individuals recognizing our spiritual oneness with all the members of humanity around the globe.

3485/500000 and 10th Day of the Baha’i Fast

My day of rest was good and I’m taking another ont tomorrow (one a week). This past week I set two new records: 100 reps of sit-ups in a single set (!!!) and 800 reps total for the week. The 100 reps was really hard and I felt awful afterwards. I also did another 150 reps day. However, I’ve added crunches to the traditional sit-ups, and I’m just calling them all “sit-ups”. So now, I will do 100 proper sit-ups per day and start working on increasing my crunches. I’ve also lost a bit of weight, about 7 lbs, mostly due to eating only one meal per day due to…

The Baha’i Fast has been great this year. It’s a little harder than last year, truth be told, probably because of my week off of work. I find it hard to ignore hunger and tiredness when I don’t actually have to do anything during the day. The part I’m having a hard time with is really getting some good prayer time in. There are distractions, but also I’m just having a hard time remembering. I have, however, been trying to spend time with each member of my family during this week. I have to do something with Ocean and Justice still. I went for dinner with Melanie, dinner with Haifa, and a movie with Verity (Captain America – good, but not great, btw).

I’ve tried doing a bit of pottery/ceramic art, but I feel like I haven’t got the hang of it right now. I tried an experiment for making tentacle sculptures, but it didn’t work out so well. And this evening I started a new “vase”, but it’s too early to say if it will work out.

I finished reading “Great North Road” by Peter F Hamilton. Fantastic sci-fi/detective/creature novel. Some really touching moments. Nice long read too, and completely self-contained. No sequel to wait for. No really unique ideas, but extremely well-written and enjoyable. I highly recommend it!

6th Day of the Baha’i Fast

Today I was sick. I woke up with a bad sore throat. Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, has provided a number of exemptions to fasting. Specifically, if one is sick, one is exempt. So today, I decided that I would drink water, but I would continue to avoid food between sunrise and sunset.

I broke the fast in the evening with a nice meal out with my daughter Haifa. We went to an Ethiopian restaurant here in London called Addis Ababa. The food was great! It was also plentiful… when I’m fasting, my stomach seems to shrink very quickly and I’m not able to eat meals nearly as large as before. Which is good. Haifa and I had a very short visit, we didn’t linger, but it was still really nice to go out with her.

Melanie and I had a good discussion about addiction and other aspects of mental health. I realized very young that I had a strong tendency to addictive behaviour… I can certainly place that realization back to at least age 12. I also realize that a huge part of avoiding major problems with addiction is my inspiration from the Baha’i Faith: both the community and the writings. I recently went out with some friends for dinner and one of them asked me if I had ever had alcohol… nope. I’ve also never tried smoking, or any other substances… wait for it… except for food. That’s the one addiction I struggle with. Like most people, I’m not completely emotionally healthy so, for example, when I’m travelling for work, and lonely, I eat. A lot. Anyway, Melanie shared the idea from Gabor Mate that we can sometimes consciously replace addictions with more healthy ones. I hope my sit-ups goals can become a more healthy addiction than food and eventually replace it.

In other news, I finished building the second set of book shelves for our mini pottery studio. Just some cheap Ikea Billy shelves to put all our forthcoming pottery on! I’m super happy about my upcoming week off. I’m hoping to make two or three new pieces by the end of the week.

Sabbatical Day 26 – Missed Class, Homework

Today was the first day I missed a class.  Honestly, it’s because I was unwise with my sleep schedule.  I bought a couple books yesterday and read one of them cover-to-cover and read about half the other.  Both are fiction.  And I stayed up until after 3am doing so.  I got up in the morning anyway, and when I discovered that Justice had already left for class by bus, and didn’t need a ride from me, I decided to go back to bed.  I didn’t really consciously think about it but I didn’t set another alarm so I slept in until 11am – and missed my class from 10:30 to 11:20.  Honestly, it’s not a hard class, but I really can’t miss them regularly because I need to keep up with the concepts and terminology.  I’m still a bit ahead of the class in reading the textbook so there’s that.

So given how late I woke up, I decided to ask Melanie to go to lunch with me.  We had a very nice date.  We talked a bit about work (almost inevitable), but mostly just enjoyed our food and company at a great little place called “Which is Wich” downtown London.  The “Wahn Mi” is an excellent choice if you find yourself there.  After lunch, I came home and spent a bit of time on the phone with a colleague.  There are some “adjustment pains” that are partly related to me being on sabbatical.  I’m not going to go into any detail here, but suffice it to say that I believe it is part of the maturation of BERTEIG that various large and small crises will be dealt with.  One of the things about BERTEIG is that there is no individual positional authority in the organization.  The “management” structure is that the three Partners, myself, Melanie and Travis, must make significant decisions as a group (usually unanimously) in order for them to be valid.  This includes hiring, firing, major changes to people’s roles or other structural aspects of the business, strategy, business goals, large spending decisions, etc.  It’s an experiment in governance that is based in part on the Baha’i principle of consultation.  The key concepts include that consultation is about searching for truth, that consultation results in united action,, ideas are not owned by individuals, and that conflicting ideas (not conflicting people) leads to truth.

After my colleague’s phone call, I basically just continued to read my new novel for much of the day until dinner time.  After dinner, Verity, Haifa and I went to the Baha’i community gathering in our neighbourhood.  Haifa brought along her dog Katara who is being trained to be a service dog.  She (Katara) did very well in her first social setting.  She was mostly calm, obedient, and quiet.  It wasn’t perfect – she’s a puppy and she had a small pee accident – but everyone at the gathering enjoyed her presence.

After the gathering, Verity started to feel quite anxious about her homework project.  She and I spent about two hours working on it together.  She made some good progress and I think she feels much better about it.  She and three others have to create a public service announcement for the London Arts Council.  Verity is tasked with writing the script for the PSA.  So we talked about slogans and other ideas that she could take back to her group tomorrow.  I love being home to help the kids out.

At 11pm I sent Verity to bed and I got on the elliptical.  I’m trying to get significant (30+ min) of exercise every day.  I miss a day here and there, but with biking to school, walking the dog, swimming or the elliptical, I’m doing a pretty good job of getting the activity in.  Yesterday, I took my racing bicycle in to get it tuned up.  I hope to use it a bit before the fall weather gets too cold.  It’s much easier to ride on than my mountain bike, and I can go waaaay faster!  The only problem is that the handlebars are really low so I’m bent over quite far… and my big stomach gets in the way!!!  It’s very uncomfortable and provides some motivation to lose some weight.  So that’s something that I’m officially working on.  The exercise is part of it.  The next part of it is to restrict the hours when I eat to a 8 hour range (e.g. noon to 8pm) to do a mild form of intermittent fasting.  After a week of that, I plan to start adding more vegetables and fruit to my diet.  Currently, I eat very little greens.  It’s probably not healthy.  I eat a bit more fruit, but still it’s only a few times a week, not every day.  Eventually, I’ll try putting limits on some of the more unhealthy things I eat (sugar mostly).  I don’t expect to make rapid changes, but I want to get from my current weight (about 233lbs) down to under 190lbs, and then keep it there.  I also have an intermediate goal.  I hope to be about 215 by mid-December when we go on our family vacation to Panama.

Archive Journal Entry: 20030331

Today I did some work from home and caught up on my timesheets and invoices. Not a very interesting day in some ways. But…

I did go out this afternoon with Justice and Haifa. Haifa slept the whole three and a half hours we were out, but Justice and I had a lot of fun. The outting actually started very nicely: Justice and Haifa were arguing in the car about where they wanted to go. Justice wanted to go to the toy store (Mastermind), and Haifa wanted to go to the mall. I told them that we should consult about it. So we each said a prayer: Justice and Haifa said “O God! Guide me…” (actually, that link goes to an updated translation – Justice and Haifa say the older version). Then we each said what we wanted to do. I said I wanted to have fun. Then we decided that we could all do what we wanted by going to the toy store first and then to the mall. Then Haifa fell asleep… We hung out at Mastermind for a while, then we went to a park. Justice and I played on the jungle gym which include an underground tube for speaking through. We ran back and forth once between some football/soccer goal posts. After a while, we went to the mall. At the mall, I got a hot almond milk bubble tea, then we went to ToysRUs. Justice played an XBox game there which has a little cat and has something to do with time sweeping. One other interesting thing was that Justice really wanted me to buy him something. I told him about detachment: being happy even if you don’t get what you want. He didn’t want to do that so he cried a little when we left the mall with no new toys.

Archive Journal Entry: 20030311 Continued

This morning was painful. I went to return my rental to Budget. On the way to the airport, there was an accident which slowed traffic to a crawl. And I forgot to fill up the gas which cost $25. Then on the way back, there was another accident which fully stopped traffic for about 40 minutes!!! Suffice it to say I didn’t get in to work as early as I would have liked.

This evening was great tho. I had my second Ruhi study circle session. Afterwards, the facilitator and I had a great conversation about “Breath not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner.” (Baha’u’llah). We discussed how this doesn’t mean that one cannot talk about other people, only that one cannot discuss a person’s faults. As well, this quote doesn’t give any sort of exceptions regarding children, spouses, siblings, or even when you are telling a person directly about their faults. All of it is prohibited! Perhaps there are exceptions specifically made elsewhere in the Baha’i writings… if anyone knows of them, please let me know!

Now I’m back home building more of my Ikea furniture 🙂

By the way, anyone have experience with any of these Arabic-language products? Yet again, let me know!

Archive Journal Entry: 20030308

There is an extremely interesting article up on kuro5hin called Temporal Symbolism in Human Communication. I recommend it particularly to any writers and to those interested in the Baha’i principle of an international auxiliary language.

Thanks to those who emailed me about language learning materials (namely, Ross… do you have a homepage I can link to?)!!!

This past Christmas/New Year’s break, while visiting my family in Fort McMurray, my dad had an insight about my character. He noticed how much I enjoy food. He noted that, in essense, this pleasure is a very sensual delight. Finally, he suggested that if I was concerned about how much I was eating, I might try including more of the arts in my life. So. I have made a small effort in that regard. Particularly with music. I have started to listen to music a little more, I have set up my piano and I regularly sit down at it, and I have started composing with buzz. In the meantime, I have continued to think on this insight. It turns out that it is a little more dark an issue than just a natural inclination to the sensual… I believe I use food as psychological respite, similar in perhaps a small way to the drinking of an alcoholic. Now due to my fantastic metabolism, I am not having a serious weight problem. Nevertheless, I realized that I “use” food when I am lonely or otherwise feeling down. It is something that I turn to instead of to a real solution. At the very least, I should seriously consider saying more prayers. And writing here helps too 🙂

My mom got me a great present for my birthday. I forgot to mention it because it was sent by mail and arrived quite late. She got me “The Idiot” (US$, CA$) by Dostoevsky (google search). I’m now serveral chapters into it and enjoying it very much. The main significance of this work to me is that it is the source of my name. The main character, Prince Mishkin, is the one after whom I am named.

Last Tuesday night I started with a Ruhi book 1 study circle in Jersey City. I am quite happy about it. I last did book 1 back in 1993 or so in a retreat with four other young guys. We became known as the Five Boy Institute. Alexei, Sky Glabush, Dean Kalyan and Cory April were the other attendees. There were three notable aspects of that winter weekend retreat at a cabin. The first, that the water, or some food was bad and we all ended up with multiple trips to the outhouse the one night we stayed over. The second, we didn’t really know how to use the enormous wood-burning stove and we ended up with an indoor temperature of somewhere around 45C (113F). And finally, we had one seriously spiritual weekend with many rounds of the “Fire Tablet” and serious study of the writings.

Archive Journal Entry: 20030226

Today was a pretty good day. The second day of Ayyam-i-Ha, we had Melanie’s sister, Kristine, their dad, Benny, and his girlfriend, Linda, over for dinner. Melanie made an absolutely fantastic dinner including home-made bread, a great salad, her amazing squash and apple soup, and bruschetta (sp?). The meal was vegitarian, partly for Linda’s benefit. We opened some gifts. Melanie got me the Strictly Ballroom DVD (US$, CA$), one of my all-time favorites. I first watched it at Cory April’s mom’s house in Saskatoon. I’ll have to watch it again very soon 🙂

The other cool thing today was getting together with a bunch of friends from InSystems. I worked there back a little over a year ago from Oct. 2001 to Feb. 2002. Primarily I was working as the software architect for what became their eXterity products. In particular, I worked on their “Magic” authoring product (due to be released at the end of this month). Aparently it has continued to do very well as a project. Anyway, today a bunch of InSystems people came to have lunch with me at an Indian restaurant called Motimahal. The food was good and the company was excellent. It was so heartwarming to see my friends again. A big “THANKS!” to all of you!

Melanie has been reading “The Absorbent Mind” (US$, CA$) by Maria Montessori. She is incredibly inspired by it. I haven’t read it myself, but I certainly hope to!

I have been researching teaching the kids foreign languages. Two nights ago I did a big search for Arabic and Chinese online tutorials. I didn’t find anything amazing, but I did find some beginner material and some source material that I can use to make better stuff. As well, I’ve got to research some language learning methods. In particular, I want to find out more about “The Silent Method” and the “Power-Glide” materials – anyone have any experience with these, please email me. We are planning on teaching French (because Melanie and I know it fairly well), Chinese (because it is part of Melanie’s heritage and we expect our kids will go to China), and Arabic (so that they can read a substantial portion of the Baha’i writings in their original language, e.g. The Hidden Words). As well, the diversity in these languages we hope will improve their thinking skills.

Archive Journal Entry: 20030210

I’m going to try having firesides every Wednesday night at my place in Jersey City. I have to buy furniture first 🙂 Maybe I’ll try Ikea. At the least, I should probably get four chairs and a dinner table. I’d also like a futon bed/couch and a bunch of cushions. A little office furniture would be nice too.

Melanie and I talked this weekend about plans for the 5-year plan. Melanie is going to try to start child friendly devotional gatherings and study circles. I’m going to go to a Ruhi Book One study circle here in Jersey City starting in early March.

This week I’m going to get myself set up so that I have a serious high speed internet connection at home. I will move my servers from Barrie (they are currently with Apexia Voice and Data – excellent people and service, just located inconveniently for me now). I will be getting a 3mbps/640kbps ADSL service from Bell using my current class C IP set. To do this, I need to get a business telephone line, get the ADSL service, cancel my Apexia account, get rid of my current Roger cable (also good but doesn’t allow static IP), and get rid of our residential phone line. All told, doing this will save about $100/month. I’m probably going to have to figure out the transition stuff which could be complicated. I rely on the server for my email so it can’t be down for much more than a day.

Archive Journal Entry: 20030203

I had a great weekend. Christian and I went on Saturday to get a bunch of stuff out of our storage unit in Elmvale. On the way there and back, Chris and I worked on developing an NSpace class in Java. It will allow for data to be organized along an arbitrary (and dynamic) number of dimensions. It will be a sparse data structure so that not all locations in the space must have data. We’ll probably put it up on SourceForge in a week or two. I’ll let you, dear reader, know when that happens 🙂

As for the stuff in storage, we listened to the XXX (US$) (CA$) soundtrack while we were loading the van. Christian acknowledged my superlative skill at packing (due to my extensive experience with moving) :-/ Lots of good exercise lifting those heavy boxes! We also stopped for lunch and did some development work during our meal.

Sunday was packed with Baha’i activities. In the morning we went to Baha’i children’s classes. I watched Haifa in her preschool “class” while Melanie and Justice went to the senior kindergarten class. We met a few people too. We went home then. Melanie’s mom and grandmother stopped by for tea. Melanie was a bit upset about the condition of the house, what with a bunch of boxes and pieces of furniture all over the place from our storage run. We tidied up a bit and things were presentable. Then in the afternoon we went to the Markham Unit Convention. It was very well run, but not as nice as the unit convention in the SF Bay area last October. I asked a question about the process of reflection on the Ruhi training materials and the methods of facilitation to emphasize the need for putting the training into action. I also privately talked with the delegate about the fact that the world is awash in the excesses of materialism, and that future unit conventions might be better should they include the arts to a substantial degree.

After the unit convention we went on a bit of a drive and looked at some mansions
that are near where we live. The rest of the evening was mostly me getting ready
for being back in Jersey City.