The wheel has turned once more; the fasting is done, the samovars are heated, the tea is served. Naw-Rúz has quietly returned. Today is a holiday older than memory, signifying the cosmic cycle of seasons; the eternal struggle of light and dark; the lesson that must always be re-learned at ever-subtler hermeneutical depths, as we sift through the alluvium of meaning upon the banks of an enigmatic river.
This was the first cycle since becoming a Bahá’í that I performed the full fast: that is, getting up before sunrise to eat, abstaining from food and drink, etc. In previous cycles, I ate bread and water at set times; insomnia made arising so early an impossible challenge; and solitude, wrought by a lack of like-minded colleagues, was disheartening company for the journey. Understandably, I dreaded the coming of the fast this year — but this cycle around proved different. This cycle, I had company, as well as a determination, spurred on by close friends, to step beyond doubt and foreboding to try.
I was always perplexed by my fellow Bahá’ís, who every February would anticipate the fast with excitement, and then seemed so happy to be starving themselves. Now I see why. The air has been thick with providence, and every other day the earth shook with unforeseen encounters and conversations. New insights seemed to creep around every corner. A few of the things I’ve learned, some quotidian, some esoteric, some harsh, some I needed to be reminded about, some that should not have been so surprising:
Never take very seriously a philosophy professor who wears a tailored, three-piece suit. Europe is a continent of disappointment, the people here like so many peafowl strutting around with self-importance. More broadly-speaking, humanity has still not learned to just be genuine and cease with pretense; we have not yet put the ethics of the jungle behind us, and we still behave like lophorina superba. In my own way, though, I am as subject to puffing out my plumage as those who, for so long, convinced me that they really had standards, that they even knew what measures they were holding me or others against. Perhaps I am even more guilty, in my desperation to prove myself, and in my inability to simply be.
“The world is but a show, vain and empty, a mere nothing, bearing the semblance of reality. Set not your affections upon it. Break not the bond that uniteth you with your Creator, and be not of those that have erred and strayed from His ways. Verily I say, the world is like the vapor in a desert, which the thirsty dreameth to be water and striveth after it with all his might, until when he cometh unto it, he findeth it to be mere illusion.” — Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings
Amor fati. The vast castle is empty, and at its center, there is a mirror, and in that mirror, only you, only you. Vulnerability and intuition connect us to what is greater than ourselves. Be as nothing; let everything else be everything. Renounce, detach, listen, and act. And when in doubt, wait for the wheel. Wait for the wheel.
“O Fleeting Shadow! Pass beyond the baser stages of doubt and rise to the exalted heights of certainty. Open the eye of truth, that thou mayest behold the veilless Beauty and exclaim: Hallowed be the Lord, the most excellent of all creators!” — Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian #9
“O My servant! Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world.” — Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian #72
Belgium, perhaps befitting its glum character, welcomes the Spring with wintry mists and an overcast sky. And, although somber, I am feeling a bit more grounded. I am looking in the mirror and trying to see what I am; I am trying to see what really is.
[Note: The image above is by the artist Alphadesigner. It concerns the myth of Ganymede, but I'm more interested in its imagery than its symbolism...]