Finally I am thankful to Iranians for stirring my soul with their green human rights movement. I grew up apologizing for being Iranian. Now I am proud to say that I am. The other day I was sick, so I went to see a doctor who was wearing a yamurka. He read my name and asked me where I was from. I said “IRAN!” We both looked at each other and then cracked up. He said, “I like Iranians” – and it made me smile. I know that in the future the Middle East will be a place of light, beauty and unity. And I know that the conflict in the Holy Land will not be solved by tolerance. It can only be solved through love. No matter how long it takes, it is the only way forward. But it will happen sooner than we all think, for the world is darkest just before dawn.
Tonight I celebrated Naw Ruz with my African friends. We had Iranian and Italian food, enjoyed my "haft-seen" and sang and danced to Congolese tunes! What a world.
“The Earth is but One Country and Mankind its Citizens.”
HAPPY NEW YEAR! HAPPY NEW DAY!
As the countdown to Naw Ruz continues, I'm counting my blessings. Number 4 on my list (which is in no particular order) is my son's happy disposition. I am thankful that he is filled with so much light and so many smiles. He gives me strength. Having a kid was a difficult decision for me. I have always felt that I don’t want to be vulnerable and love something so much over which I have no control. And in this day and age it seems that you have control over nothing except your own choices and thoughts. He has given me faith, where I thought I had to give him faith. I am learning that he is my trust, not my possession. It can be super hard, but it’s also rewarding. In his face I see my Creator and in everyone I meet I see my son. So this Hidden Word by Baha'u'llah has found new meaning for me:
O Son of Man! Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me.
In the spirit of Naw Ruz, I'm counting my blessings this year. Another thing I'm thankful for is being alive in this day and age. A dear friend of mine says that we live in the best times. It’s just that news travels so fast and has become so immediate that it seems that things have never been worse! I think he’s right. I think that our hearts have never been more filled with love and light and that is precisely why we cringe and hurt when we hear of the darkness that still exists. It’s almost as if that darkness seems more dark, because we have come to appreciate the light so much. We are so interconnected that the life stories of others impact us deeply. On my phone I am connected to the world via telephony, text messages, instant messages, the internet, Twitter and Facebook. In an instant I may hear of a young girl getting crushed underneath a building or of a young man being tortured to death in an Iranian prison. I hear of him before I hear my own child waking up in the room next door! That is the level of connectivity we have in this day and age. And that is the level of connectivity we must arise to achieve spiritually. And it doesn’t take power or money to do this important task. We each have a great contribution to make in bringing together this human family. I truly believe that if we each explore the light within us and learn to develop the senses that guide us to the best life that we can live, we can find that happy place where nothing intimidates us, where there is no failure and where nobody is more or less beautiful than we are.
In the spirit of the Persian and Baha'i New Year, I'm counting my blessings this year. The second thing I'm thankful for, is that I have been able to reconnect with a lot of long lost family members this year. One of them is the award-winning actress Shabnam Tolouie. We go back to one great-grandmother. In this age of Facebook I have been lucky to be able to reach out to a lot of family members who have been separated through the Iranian diaspora and this connection gives me a sense of unity and a foundation for my son, who is the youngest generation of us all. I have traced us back about 7 or 8 generations and have drawn a family tree for my son on his wall with colorful chalk. It’s there to remind him how we are all connected. If the wall were large enough, it would surely encompass every individual in this world. In fact, our helper is on his wall too. She’s Zimbabwean and not directly "blood related", but she impacts him more than many of our blood relatives do and this just goes to show you that we are first and foremost spiritual beings and our true connections and identity are not of the flesh.
March 21 marks the Persian New Year, Naw Ruz. You can Google or Wikipedia it and read up about the history of this festival. But what’s more significant is that the Baha’i Faith (www.bahai.org), which is like quantum physics of religions, has really rendered this Persian festival global. Members of the Baha'i Faith live in more than 100,000 localities and come from nearly every nation, ethnic group, culture, profession, and social or economic background and they all celebrate Naw Ruz. It marks the end of the Baha’i fast - the spiritual and physical detox period - and the beginning of the new calendar year.
This year I’ve set up a traditional “haft seen” table. This has nothing to do with the Baha’i faith, but it’s a Persian tradition and lots of fun. On the table you’ll find things like lentil sprouts, dried oleaster, garlic, apples, sumac, vinegar, hyacinths, coins, candles, a mirror, some decorated (easter-like) eggs, a goldfish, some rosewater, a Holy Book relevant to the household religion and some Iranian colors – this year I’ve focused on “green”. They all have meanings, but for me it’s a way of remembering how the message of universal love came from Iran and has spread to the rest of the world.
There are many things I’m thankful for this year. I've chosen six to to focus on in the countdown till Naw Ruz. One of these is the fact that the United Nations has recognized Naw Ruz as an international holiday. The UN is far from being the institution it could be. It favors some countries over others and has a long way to go in realizing the value of the human family, but I think we must be grateful that we live in an age that has given birth to this institution and its underlying idea. Up until 160 years ago, we lived in world that was relatively isolated. Populations did not think in terms of being citizens of one world. Nationalism was our grandest sense of identy/unity. But suddenly, with the birth of the industrial revolution our world rapidly came together and we created global institutions to try and manage the challenges of a world that was becoming interdependent in terms of its social, economic and environmental realities. The United Nations is one child of that era. The Baha’i faith was born in that same era and offers the spiritual guidance and teachings for a world that is effectively one. The nexus at which Naw Ruz becomes global is an exciting one, because for me it signifies that spiritual fertility for the idea that we are the fruits of one tree and the waves of one sea.
PS 22 Choir
Watch as this inner city school is transformed when music is taught by a teacher who really cares.
August 12 marks International Youth Day and I have a great little story to inspire us. It's the story of my friend's son. My friend and her husband were called to their son's school one day. They were both a little worried and surprised. After all, their kid is the quintessence of gentle. What kind of trouble could he possibly be in? They arrived in school and the teacher began explaining what had happened in gym.
The kids were told to line up in the yard. Each was given a ball and they were then asked to run to the other side of the yard and drop their ball on the line. Ready, steady, GO! The kids began running as fast as their little feet could carry them, but this little boy was faster than the rest.
At this point in the story my friends exchanged a confused looked and wondered where the problem was? He's gifted! God bless! But the teacher continued.
Even though this little boy was faster than the rest, he would slow down, look back and deliberately delay his arrival at the line, so that he could reach it along with everyone else. He would literally sabotage his own advantage in order to make his friends not feel so bad. The teacher then took a deep breath and begged my friends to please teach their son to harness his gift and to use it to his best ability! The others were holding him back!
And now I ask you, dear readers. Which was this youth's gift? Was it his talent for running? Or did this teacher, with all his good will, miss the boy's real gift? The gift of putting others before himself?
If humanity has both the capacity for selfishness and selflessness, if we have both natures in us – which do we nurture and develop? What aspects of our character are drawn out in our current societal institutions and is it doing us any good? Is the world becoming a better place? What could it look like if we harnessed our ability to cooperate?
If Youth Day is about drawing inspiration and vision from our youth – then please, let's draw what we can from the story of this little boy (who's name will probably not remain in history) and his awesome parents, who – thank God – know to celebrate their son's gift for cooperation.
There are days when I feel like I'm not being productive because showering, getting dressed, putting on my make-up, cooking something, emailing and doing a few phone calls is the most I can say I've achieved that day - if that. When my husband asks, "what did you do today?" I scramble to count the things I actually did. It's all very bad for my self-esteem! Now that I'm a mom, life is dictated by a little Napoleon in a onesie.
To make matters worse I was in the mall yesterday, hoping to tick at least a few things off my to do list, when I ran into a man who was verbally abusing his wife in the elevator. Granted, I didn't have all the facts, nor do I know for sure what the commotion was about. But nothing short of murder on her part, in my eyes, could have warranted such a display of abusive language.
The scene perturbed me and set off a whole series of angry thoughts that made me bark at the innocent teller in the bank. On my way back to the car, which was parked on the rooftop of the mall, I came across another fine specimen of the male gender. A smartly dressed young gentleman was standing next to my car, relieving himself. The audacity!
I got in the car and drove home. Traffic was thick, the sun was setting and I had achieved very little all day, except for sing songs of the gentle ant who helped a butterfly in distress to my son who was moaning in the child seat. If only the bus in front of me would go a little faster. It was a school bus. I could see four boys in the back of the bus, playing around. But at second glance, they weren't playing. One boy grabbed another by the back of his hair and violently shook his head. It looked like he was threatening the other boy, who, from his body language, was visibly intimidated. A bully obviously. How angry it made me, as I got to my street and turned left, leaving the bus to the thick of rush hour traffic – and the boy to God.
Who was raising these kids? Who had raised the young man who peed against my tire? Who had raised the man in the elevator who was yelling at his wife? And then it dawned on me. A mother. A mother who was doing nothing of value all day except showering and getting dressed – and perhaps raising a young child who would later become a man.
I know it takes mothers and fathers to raise children, but I can speak only for mothers. We are the primary educators of our children. We have a massive responsibility, one that is not to be taken lightly. And what is most baffling is that behind every abusive or dominating man is a mother who raised him. Sure, and a father, but it's us women who complain of abusive husbands and dominating men, so doesn't the change have to start with us? What are we doing wrong? Maybe we need to start by valuing and focusing on our job and praying each day that we may fulfil our duty to the very best of our ability. This is a tremendously weighty task.
Next time your husband asks what you did today, you say "I'm trying to raise a son who will later come home to his wife and ask her, 'What can I do to support you today, oh primary educator of the next generation?'"
There's a really touching ad on TV right now. It features real mothers receiving their babies after birth. There are real tears of joy, real emotions and they sure evoke real reactions from most viewers. I couldn't help but shed a tear of joy myself. It made you smile.
Now the ad is for a famous diaper company and the company's message is that they 'care' for babies and mothers. Wow. I almost ran out and bought a packet of diapers myself. It seemed like the world was a better place because of them.
Then I thought of the future for a second and somehow that future didn't look so bright. I saw kids with asthma, kids with cancer, kids with all sorts of ailments and challenges, mountains of non-decomposing diapers, a strained environment and our babies, now parents themselves, in a world without air to breathe.
So do they really care? If they cared about babies, would they not develop diapers that decomposed, diapers that did not stress the environment? The sad part is, of course, that we all know the answer to these questions and yet we choose to ignore them.
And then in our usual schizophrenia we watch the news at night and shake our heads: Rome is covered in bird poop! The birds are supposed to fly south in the winter, but none of them are doing so because global warming has screwed with their natural sense of timing. Venice is drowning in water because rising temperatures are distorting its climate. Our eco-systems everywhere are collapsing, species are dying and life is ending. And we shake our heads. How awful. But do we really think we have nothing to do with the fact that Romans are leaving their houses with umbrellas every morning to dodge the onslaught of diarrhoea?
The diaper company and its consultants, the ad company that creates the ads we watch, the casting agents who hire the actors to move us to tears, the production companies that shoot the ads, the consumers who buy the diapers, the government that does nothing to regulate the excesses of our societies... and somewhere in there we - are all doing our bit to contribute to the bird poop in Rome, to the disappearance of Venice, to the disappearance of species, of life and of a world that our kids might never see.
So if any of us really care, then let's start thinking about not only our own role in the 'diaper conspiracy', but our role in the bigger picture, our role in shaping new ways of thinking, interacting and governing our collective affairs.
You Can't Stop My Love
They lived in the poorest neighborhood of their city. It was the kind of place you'd avoid if you could. But these children had no choice. They were born into misery and would probably die there. Then, one day, things changed. A group of people seemed to care. They came out of nowhere and they showed up every weekend. Unfailingly, their cars would appear on the horizon by 8:30 am. They'd park on the dirt road, next to the cadavers and burned tires. They'd come and spend a few hours with the children. They'd play games with them, exercise them, sing songs, read stories and help with school work, arts and crafts. Nobody really knew why they did what they did. But it didn't matter, because life was never the same again. It was colorful, happy and hopeful. For those few hours, every weekend, the children felt loved and not forgotten. They dared to articulate dreams and they began to take care of themselves and their desolate environment. Things were good. But then again, maybe things were too good. Because one fateful day, those people didn't show up again. Had they stopped caring? Had they found other children? No. They had been arrested. They had been imprisoned for coming to see these very children every week. For this, the court had said, constituted "an offense relating to state security"...