The Shrine of the Bab, Haifa, Israel
Ten years ago today, I declared my belief that, incredible as it seems, one man fulfilled all of God’s promises to people around the world in every age. And that the teachings of that man, Baha’u’llah, were actually God’s way of giving us the solutions to the unique problems of our age. In other words, I became a Baha’i.
To mark these 10 years, I thought it would be interesting to compile 10 ways the Baha’i Faith has changed my life. Some have to do with starting habits, others, stopping habits, while still others represented intellectual shifts in how I look at the world. But there’s no denying that I’m different in important ways for the life that chose me a decade ago.
1. More friends. I figure I have about 300 amazing friends that I wouldn’t if I hadn’t discovered this Faith. They are an inestimable blessing to my life and my family’s life, and they live both here and around the world. I can’t imagine life without the love of the Baha’i community, and I feel I could travel anywhere in the world and find a friendly face and a kindred spirit in a Baha’i.
2. No hangovers. I’ve been sick in the last decade, but at least it wasn’t self-inflicted.
3. No arguments over politics or feeling as if I have to defend a political point of view. I still follow the news, but the ups and downs of daily politics hold little interest for me compared to what they once did. Perhaps this is also just a function of being older and feeling like “I’ve seen this movie before.” But compared to the scale of change Baha’is are working toward, everything discussed in typical political discourse seems unbearably trivial.
4. I have a bold, new, and coherent framework for understanding world history.
5. I have deeper understanding of current events and feel I better understand the world and its changes for what they are — the playing out of twin processes of growth and decay.
6. And I have a much clearer vision for where the world is heading and can see that despite our seeming efforts to the contrary, we are not in the end times of our species but only in its turbulent adolescence.
7. Perhaps ironically, I have a much deeper understanding of and closer relationship with that figure at the center of my spiritual life during youth, Jesus Christ. This is a correllary of having a better understanding of and relationship to all of the authentic Messengers of God, from Abraham and Krishna to Moses and Buddha to Muhammad to Baha’u’llah, because to better know one of Them is to better know all of Them.
8. I know more about Persian food than I ever would have predicted. Ditto about Persians in general. Until I reached the age of 35, my dominant image of Iranians was of them shoving blindfolded American diplomats through the streets of Tehran and burning American flags. To study Baha’i history is to gain a deep knowledge of Persian history and a respect for aspects of an ancient culture I knew little of before. That I would count so many Persians and indeed people from so many other cultures among my dear friends has been a happy surprise and a blessing all its own.
9. My calendar is a lot fuller than it was 10 years ago. The Baha’i calendar of Feasts, Holy Days, committee meetings, and speaking opportunities keeps me on my toes. Balancing it all with work and family life is an art we all must strive to perfect for ourselves. It’s busy, but it’s a profoundly good kind of busy.
10. However woefully delinquent I am in the daily observances of prayer and meditation that Baha’is are called to cultivate, I can say without reservation that my devotional life and the mystical life — the aha moments and the suspicious coincidences that accompany the devotional life — are far greater than they once were. It’s a work in progress.
To all my Baha’i family, thank you for sharing, for your compassion, wisdom, forbearance. For the pilau and Persian tea, the music and the prayers and the smiles and friendship. Here’s to the next 10!