Archives for posts with tag: religion

Yestderday I was dealing with a family crisis and didn’t get the chance to write a new blog post, so instead of my regular reflections you get a poem I wrote a month ago. Sorry for the abrupt change of pace, but the blog must go on! #bahaiblogging

Two Reflections on Breath


I hadn’t been to the ocean
in years, didn’t have a reference
to say this is calm or this is wild, I only knew
that it pushed me back to shore
like an angry teenager, I told you get OUT,
and I laughed and punched back
again and again,
because there is such a fierce human pleasure
in fighting without anger, just because
it is difficult, and just because.


Not for nothing you fought,
and not only for your own personhood
—a woman lecturing from behind a curtain—
but because you had seen the ocean of His mercy,
run to the shore, and jumped in.


When my feet danced out from beneath me
and something pulled, I was unafraid,
I knew
I simply had to breathe
out but not in
until my feet were mine again,
until I was cradled again by air and sun and sky.
But my feet were somewhere
just too many inches out to sea
and salt water forced itself into my throat,
and I thought I can’t believe
I am going to be the idiot
who drowns in three feet of water.
This is my unbelieving mind.


And you walked willingly
to the theft that awaited you—
air from your lungs, years from your life,
words of poems you would never speak
and that the world would never hear;
there was silk around your neck
and songs in your soul,
until the animal part of you ceased
to twitch and think and beat in salty streams.

They threw your body down a well.


Until there was my body and there was the sky
and there was the fierce pain in my chest
and ashamed, I said Oh, there’s the family,
let’s go back and see what they need,
pretending to laugh
while the ocean ran from my nose
and I breathed—knives and needles and joy.


Then there was no more body
and no more sky,
only the ocean, closer than your life-vein.

You immersed yourself
and swam free.


Context. While Tahirih’s birthday is not known for certain, she was approximately my age on her death.

I do know folks who consider themselves spiritual, but are averse to the idea of “organized religion.” I joke that if they only knew our communities from the inside, they’d often discover “disorganized religion” to be a more accurate descriptor. What can I say? We’re learning.

And on one level, I get it. I don’t want gatekeepers interceding between me and my Creator. But I also feel like it’s a misunderstanding of the purpose of individual faith.

What is the purpose of faith? Is it to feel good? Or is it a response to one’s own purpose, leading to a specific kind of life lived? No doubt it’s a complex topic, but I think most people can agree that one of the purposes of spiritual or religious belief is to impact our behavior. Hypocrisy may be rampant, but that doesn’t mean it’s the intended effect.

And behavior of course matters because it in turn affects others. All religions and philosophies have guidelines for how we interact with others, from “Thou shalt not kill” all the way on down the line.

You can not belong to any faith community and serve others as a pure, individual soul. But it’s such a small thing.

Two friends with unity of vision can accomplish so much more, through mutual encouragement and support. Four friends. Six friends. Eight.

Now think about fifty friends. Three hundred. Twenty thousand. Five million. A billion people. If you could somehow find a way to build unity without enforcing uniformity, to create a space for different skills and abilities, to work towards a common goal, what would that look like?

I’m in this photo, along with a few hundred friends.

Now add to this the joy and confirmation of serving your purpose as a human being on this earth. The way a pencil is meant to draw or a candle is to give light.

I wouldn’t want to be one isolated soul making my way alone in service to my Creator when there is the chance of truly coming together and creating a better world. Is it messy? Yes. Is it sometimes frustrating? Absolutely, a hundred times over.

But I wouldn’t want it any other way.