About Me

My photo
Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reverb10, Day 2.5: Moment of Feeling Alive

Prompt: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

 So I blew it. Today was only my second day of this challenge, and it is now midnight. Interestingly, I did not read the question earlier today because I was out all day long, but the reason I did not manage to write before my deadline was that I was, in fact, having an "alive" moment.

I have had many, many moments of feeling alive this year. In comparison to many of the ones in the past, the one I experienced tonight seems rather inconsequential in many ways. It is not exotic. It is not in a foreign location. It was right here in suburban Sacramento at the home of two people who are quickly becoming very close friends.

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Azadeh Fares suggested that we get together to study the Baha'i holy writings together. This is something that is a vitally important part of being a Baha'i, and although I do sit and read and reflect on the holy writings by myself on a regular basis, studying with friends helps me to see things in a different light. To gain new perspective, and to consider a phrase from a different angle.

I accepted Azadeh's invitation with enthusiasm for many reasons. Firstly because Azadeh is one of the sweetest, kindest and wisest people I know. Second, because she has spent years and years of her life studying these holy writings to a depth I will never reach. Third, because having been born and raised in Iran, she has been able to study all of these writings in the original language in which they were written and therefore can offer insight that I will probably never have because I do not speak either Arabic or Persian. And lastly, because Azadeh has a way to studying and sharing that makes me feel I have something of great value to contribute to our study, despite the fact that we both know that I have not seen most of these Tablets before, and she has been studying them for many, many years. In other words, she is very kind to me when I attempt to add something to the conversation. There is one other reason that I am excited to be studying with Azadeh, and it is because the man who married her also happens to be quite brilliant in his own right, and has been joining us in our study. Nabil Fares is from Egypt, and I love to study with him for all the same reasons I love to study with Azadeh, and also because he has a wicked, wicked sense of humour that makes me roll with laughter.

I drove to the Fares' home in a downpour. The streets were flooded, and with my lightweight California tires, I kept worrying I would hydroplane off of the road. There is nothing better that I can think of doing on a rainy December night than study the writings with Azadeh and Nabil. They bundled me into their home, lit a fire, and made me a hot cup of Persian tea sweetened with what Nabil assures me is high quality Egyptian honey. It tasted good, but it was green, and I have never before seen green honey! (he did ask me, with a straight face, if I would be willing to help him market his green Egyptian honey in California if he were to import it in bulk. The idea of trying to market Green Egyptian honey amuses me to no end!)

Nabil and Azadeh and I huddled in a circle by the fire, golden light flickering across our faces as we read and discussed the book we are studying. The book is called "The Summons of the Lord of Hosts", which is a compilation of Tablets written by Baha'u'llah, which is English means "The Glory of God,"  who Baha'is believe is the Manifestation of God for today. The Tablets in this book are addressed to some of the most powerful leaders of the eastern and western world at the time, including Pope Pius IX, Napoleon III, Czar Alexander II, Queen Victoria, and Nasiri'd-Din Shah. Their subject is to announce Himself and His Revelation to them. These Tablets are very beautiful, albeit complex, so I am grateful to be studying them with two people who have a strong grasp of the meaning of what we are reading, and can refer back to the original version in Arabic when I do not understand why a certain word or phrase was used instead of another.

Tonight the atmosphere was magical. It was enhanced by the fire cracking and the warm light rising and falling across our the pages of our books -- across the English letters and the Arabic script. We took turns reading, pausing to discuss lines that perplexed us, or excited us, or that made reference to other Tablets or books. The warmth from the fire flushed our cheeks, and I do not know about my eyes, but Azadeh and Nabil's deep brown eyes sparkled with excitement. We were like little children who had just discovered the most exciting thing we could ever imagine existing.

At one point I explained to them that I did not understand a phrase in the Tablet, in which it said that when God says "Be," the entire creation came into existence. I understand the idea in theory, but I wanted to discuss it further. By bringing out a number of other references, they explained a concept to me that felt surreal, and yet more real than anything I had ever heard before. They explained the idea that at one time, God existed only as a point, or a dot. He existed of and within Himself, fully independent of everything outside of Himself. But He had a thought, and that thought or dream was creation, but it was a thought that could not exist unless many other things happened to enable that reality to come into existence. In other words, that reality was dependent upon many other things that would lead up to it.

It made me think of writing a novel. If, on page 350, the main character is going to find the love of his life, the writer must introduce a number of elements throughout the story leading up to this meeting, that enables the main character and his love to be in exactly the right place both internally and externally to be able to meet precisely on page 350. Now the key part of this idea, is that although for the reader the meeting was the result of many other elements leading up to it, for the author of the book, the meeting was the place where the story began. So in reality the present moment for the writer was the place of meeting, and she or he worked back from this point to introduce all the elements that would make the events that take place on page 350 possible.

Of course in the world, the time line is not linear. I picture the point at which God had the thought of creation as being the centre of a vast constellation that circles around it. But the idea that the moment of God having this thought is actually the present, and the history of humanity -- all our battles and strife and suffering and joys; all the lives lived and lost; all the stories told -- are prior to God's thought, and leading up to it, is what struck me so profoundly, because it reorganizes time. It makes me rethink how I perceive reality. Time continuum becomes more fluid and less easily defined.

It is, according to the references we were studying, in this moment of thinking of creation that God permanently ceases to exist of and within Himself, and begins to exist in relationship to creation. The idea that this leads to, is that the part of us that brings us, as human beings, into relationship to God, is our soul, and that by ignoring this reality, we are denying the very fact that brought us into existence to begin with.

I may have lost you. The conclusion that all of this stream of thought led to was that there is not a progression of things happening in this world through history, but only a progression of understanding happening in our minds and hearts as we get closer to the reason for our existence.

You may find this all a little far out, but I find it very exciting, and in what seemed like a few minutes of study and reflection, but what actually amounted to four hours of intense reading and discussion, I felt more alive than I have felt in a very long time. So much so that when Azadeh ended our study session by chanting the Tablet of Ahmad, one of my favourite Tablets, in Arabic, I felt such a depth of emotion that tears welled up in my eyes. I felt an energy, which at the time felt like I was connecting to a current that is both outside my body and within me. It was electric and deeply moving.

I cannot be certain, but I feel as though the reason this experience was so profound was because myself and Nabil and Azadeh were connecting to the reason for our existence -- the reason that we are alive. The moment was so profound and alive because as we studied, we were consciously existing in relationship to our Creator. It was overpowering, and deeply humbling.

I left their home and drove home on wet, empty streets streaming with the reflection of streetlamps. The drive, which took at least twenty minutes, felt like it was over in a few seconds time passed so quickly. I am still reflecting on the nature of time, and my place within its viscous matrix. It is a mystery, but one that I am thoroughly enjoying exploring with all of my senses.

It is very late now. I am still feeling alive, but am ready to wade into the world of dreams. I am looking forward to next Thursday evening, and another journey into the study of these holy writings with my friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment