This is going to be a mad summer for me, full of grant applications for neweurasia, doctorate discussions with professors here at Leuven, writing articles for academic journals, and beginning next week, starting a temporary job scrubbing toilets and mowing lawns from the break of morning into the afternoon. Yes, the man who just appeared on al-Jazeera last night will be a full-time groundskeeper and janitor for a month to help pay his bills.
Does it bother me? At the level of ego, of course it does: survival may dictate that I do this, but yes, it feels very much like abasement. At the level of the spirit, however, it doesn’t: because perhaps in some way I need to do be brought to my knees at this moment — quite literally, considering the number of toilets I’ll be scrubbing.
In practical terms, however, it may very well mean that this blog is going to be somewhat silent for the next month. Short though the job may be, it shall be time consuming. Although the previous times I’ve made such a prediction I always ended up blogging more, nevertheless, circumstances have put me in a reflective mood about this blog, and blogging in general. Why am I doing this?
Immediately, one answer comes to mind: therapy. Fellow Baha’i blogger Ben Schewel wrote a post a few weeks ago discussing the varieties of philosophical actions, but which can also be used as a taxonomy of philosophical motivations. An addition he could could make is Wittgenstein’s use of philosophy as therapy. Wittgenstein is famous for his Philosophical Investigations, which were essentially a journal, but not in the traditional, entirely private sense; rather, they were dually intended for personal exorcism and public reflection and conversation. In other words, it was a blog.
Yet, there is another aspect, something closely related to therapy but deeper. Strangely, when I think over my question, what comes to mind isn’t this blog at all, but Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, and the Baha’i House of Worship that was built there in the early twentieth century. That remarkable building, the first of its kind and a legend among the Baha’is alive today, and the Baha’is who struggled to raise it as the center of the first community ever to be organized according to the Teachings of the Faith, only to witness their work destroyed by earthquakes ideological and geological, somehow feels connected to my writings here and my work on neweurasia.
A year ago today I joined the Baha’i Faith. To commemorate the occasion, what follows is an account of the night when I made the big decision; some of you may recognize the story from an e-mail I wrote the next day. I’ll write about the journey leading up to this fateful night, and where I am a year later, in a (near-)future post.
On 23 February, 2009, I was visiting Princeton University to discuss my Master’s thesis from the summer and, more generally, my future, with Professor Michael Cook. I had a few hours before our meeting, during which I spent time in the famed Firestone Library.
By then I had already been investigating the Baha’i Faith for several months, having completed The Hidden Words, the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and now nearing the end of the Kitab-i-Iqan. So, my curiosity was piqued when I encountered a book entitled, Revisioning the Sacred: New Perspectives on Baha’i Theology. One entry in particular moved me, “The Possibilities of Existential Theism on a Baha’i Theology” by Jack McLean. Something about McLean’s essay snared me.
Wow. Well, I’ve got to hand it to the writers. I heard rumors swirling for a while, but didn’t believe them. Her? Nah, get real; what a lame choice. But after watching the episode I now agree with the blogger at Galactica Variants: not only does the choice work, but it’s powerful. And I think it’s only the beginning, since the LA Times reports that we should expect to see this character, somehow, some way, over the course of the final story arc.
In light of the revelation, I am further awe-filled by the sheer time scale in which Galactica as a story operates, especially the way in which it is conveyed so intimately, personalizing the effect. There is truly something mysterious, terrifying, and enticing about the concept of eternal return, and the show manages to connect it to identity, history, and mortality in ways that never cease to evoke wonder and reflection. Truly, this is more than masterful television: it’s nigh philosophy.
(If you feareth not the spectre of spoilers, click on the image above to see the big revelation, and “read more” for some more thoughts.)