Us and them:
A thousand different ways
To hack and slice
At this singular body,
How good it feels
To vilify the other,
To ascend that gilded throne:
Visions of oneness are cast aside,
Exchanged for warring ideologies.
So the cuts run deeper;
The fissures wider.
This body lies weak
In a pool of its own blood.
We know we can destroy ourselves,
And we do it just the same.
Gracelessly he trundles around
That poor ukulele,
Claws at the strings,
And sings “raaaa raaaa…”
It sits in his lap so awkwardly,
In the stuttering resonance
Of these chopped, splintered notes
Plays a divine song:
Creation. Expression. Potential.
Annoyance has passed.
The toilets must be fixed,
That is all.
Engrossed in simple,
Immediate fruits of labor.
The toilet flushes,
No leak in the valve.
Small, concrete success
Brings a quiet satisfaction.
An embrace quickly becomes
Love and struggle,
Brother and sister,
Thus the universe
Keeps twisting, twirling;
The arms of two nutty children
At the center
Of countless galaxies.
Towering tidal waves
churn, burn, and roar
as they swallow
the hapless masses.
Another innocent family
destroyed by a bomb
dropped at the behest
of ignorant, blind hate.
For there to be light,
there must also be darkness,
but why so much?
The black sky above:
a vast, empty abyss
tiny points of light.
This world here below:
much the same.
The real fight,
the only fight that matters,
goes mostly unseen, unmentioned.
To keep this malnourished soul alive
amidst the endless monotony
of dishes, traffic, bills, dirty floors.
To see grit and grime all around,
the blackness of hearts and minds
and not grow cynical.
To sift out and hold sacred
the grain of insight
from the endless confused thoughts
of that stupid, yet inspired kid
I once was.
To grow wise and not bitter,
younger in heart while older in body.
To purify the soul
despite clouds of black ash
falling all around.
How many times has the light threatened
to fade into nothingness?
Somehow a flicker always remains.
On those nights I am sustained
by the hope that one day,
I will once again walk
instead of crawling the way I do.
It’s just me and
dinner with the ghosts tonight.
Sahil’s asleep, Sapana and Layli out
getting a milkshake.
The demons and I sit,
watching flowers rock in the breeze
outside the kitchen window.
We’ve been together for so many years.
It’s nice to have
this quiet moment together.
It’s funny how pain is a gift.
Funny in a cruel, divine way
that, in the end, opens up the heart.
Soon it will be time to wash the dishes.
So we take these last few quiet moments
to say a prayer of thanksgiving.
The sunlight in the trees above
is especially beautiful.
I am the stranger
walking through the out door
the moment you walk in;
a pigeon fluttering about
in the corner of your eye;
that lone cloud above
you never notice.
I am a piece from another puzzle
dropped into this box,
familiar yet strange,
not a part of the picture.
I am an overgrown side path,
leading from nowhere to nowhere;
tire marks on the beach
half washed away by the tide;
a rusty sign cursed with amnesia.
Moments try hopelessly
to string themselves together
like shuffled words that almost make a sentence.
Some profound truth perpetually rests
on the tip of my tongue,
never quite revealing itself.
Over and over, I cling tightly to the mirage
until it vanishes with the shifting light.
I want to see what is real,
but then again, sometimes
I want to be fooled.
Whatever you do, there is always something you could be doing better. This is my problem. I graduated PT school, but I am not in an advanced fellowship. I am a Bahá’í, and strive to do some good in the world. I do manage to teach a children’s class on most weekends, but I have resigned from two different institutions I was a part of. This was in part due to other life challenges I am facing and possibly in part to my own weakness and inability to manage all of the affairs of my life in an efficient enough manner. At times, part unconsciously, I have criticized myself for not being able to do a PT fellowship and serve on the LSA and ATC (the Bahá’í institutions) while also doing my full part as a husband and father. I can see people who have families while managing multiple other major responsibilities and of course I compare my weaknesses to their strengths.
At least that’s what I have done. I’m working on letting go of all that pressure, self-criticism and guilt. For some reason this is very difficult for me. There’s always the nagging feeling of, “you know you really could do those things if you worked harder and didn’t waste so much time.” There’s also the fact that 1) in the world of PT there is a tremendous amount of stuff to learn and I want to learn as much as I can and 2) the world has incomprehensible amounts of human suffering and I want to make some meaningful contribution to help that situation. But I can’t do everything, and heaping guilt and pressure on myself isn’t constructive.
There’s a great expression one of my patients told me a few weeks ago. “Don’t ‘should’ all over yourself.” (Say it out loud if you don’t get the pun.) I love that. It’s so true. You can fill your life with countless “shoulds”, feeling worse with each one you dump on yourself. And it doesn’t do any good. It doesn’t make you a better person. On the contrary, it robs you of willpower and kills motivation.
In the time when I was new to the Bahá’í Faith, I had so much inspiration. Reading, meditation, prayer and service just came naturally. I didn’t question or rate myself as a Bahá’í because I was new and had no expectations for myself. But as time when on, I gradually adopted the mindset of, “okay now you’ve been a Bahá’í for a while, you should be more effective in your service and more knowledgeable about the Faith”. Over time, the expectations rose along with the pressure and guilt. I was no longer an idealistic kid who was enamored with these teachings about the oneness of mankind and the search for truth. Maybe it was a necessary transition to get out of my “honeymoon phase” and become more mature as a Bahá’í and as a person. But the pressure and guilt didn’t need to become part of the mix.
So I’m working on letting them go. Just accepting the fact that right now I am not a perfect Bahá’í. I can find plenty of examples of other Bahá’ís who are doing more service than me, who are more knowledgeable than me, are more kind and less judgmental, and so on. But that’s okay. I’m glad the world has those people. I will just do my best and trust the God is merciful. I will do what I can to be propelled by inspiration and love rather than guilt and pressure.
The Tablet of the True Seeker is a passage from the Bahá’í Writings that provides a list of qualities one may strive to embody in order to be a true seeker of spiritual truth. Since I find it easier to digest concepts in the form of lists, I have paraphrased a list of the qualities detailed in that tablet and put them in the categories below. I would encourage anyone who is interested in this to first read the original passage, which I have posted here.
Please keep in mind that the categories below are my own ideas and the list items are my own paraphrasing. Another thing to keep in mind is that many of the concepts outlined in this tablet are to be taken within the greater context of the Bahá’í Writings as a whole and should be interpreted in conjunction with all other Bahá’í principles. When looked at in isolation, some aspects of this tablet may appear extreme. As with any religious or spiritual text, all passages must be looked at in a broader context in order to be properly balanced.
Without further ado, here is my list of spiritual attributes based upon the Tablet of the True Seeker.
- Cleanse and purify your heart of all acquired knowledge
- Sanctify your soul from all ephemeral attachments
- Cleanse your heart so that no remnant of love or hate lingers within
- Renounce the peoples of the earth
- Detach yourself from the world of dust
- Be content with little
- Pass by all save God with the swiftness of lightning
- Do not allow censure of the people to turn you away from the Truth
- Regard all else beside God as transient and count all things save Him as utter nothingness
- Put your trust in God
- Cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords
- Cling unto patience and resignation
- Purge your breast from every defilement
- Be freed from all inordinate desire
- Never seek to exalt yourself above anyone
- Wash away from your heart every trace of pride and vainglory
- Observe silence
- Refrain from idle talk
- Avoid backbiting; regard it as grievous error
Be Mindful of Who You Associate With
- Treasure the companionship of those that have renounced the world
- Regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit
- With all your heart, avoid fellowship with evil doers
Don’t Look Down on Others
- Pray for the remission of the evil doer’s sins
- Forgive the sinful and never despise his low estate (nobody, including you, knows how they will end up)
Cultivate Spiritual Practice
- Commune with God at the dawn of every day
- Persevere with all your soul in the quest of the Beloved (God)
- Consume every wayward thought with the loving mention of God
Be Kind and Generous
- Succor the dispossessed
- Never withhold your favor from the destitute
- Show kindness to animals, how much more to your fellow man
- Never wish for others that which you do not wish for yourself
- Offer up your life for the Beloved (God) without hesitation
- Never promise that which you do not fulfill
This list is certainly a lofty set of attributes. I personally can’t say I am anywhere near living up to this standard, but I feel it does give me a set of ideals for which to strive. I am hoping to write a series of posts taking a closer look at some of these concepts. If you have any thoughts or insights you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them.