Thursday, February 01, 2007

When I'm 64

Me in Akka, Israel near the prison where Baha'u'llah was held by the Ottomans, December 2006

O SON OF BOUNTY!
Out of the wastes of nothingness, with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things. Thus, ere thou didst issue from thy mother's womb, I destined for thee two founts of gleaming milk, eyes to watch over thee, and hearts to love thee. Out of My loving-kindness, 'neath the shade of My mercy I nurtured thee, and guarded thee by the essence of My grace and favor. And My purpose in all this was that thou mightest attain My everlasting dominion and become worthy of My invisible bestowals.
(Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words)

Today I am 32 years olds. I achieved this milestone with little effort on my part, my biology did most of it. Since I've become a Baha'i, birthdays have become a time of spiritual reflection (in addition to a nice excuse to have people give me cool things), which is why I included my favorite "birthday" Hidden Word from the Writings of Baha'u'llah in this post. To think that I was created in love and given Creation as a classroom for the progress of my soul and guided all my life (though until I became a Baha'i I was not aware of this) by the One Who made me, gives me the warm-fuzzies. So here are a few of my Baha'i thoughts on this 32nd year since I landed on Earth:

I'm getting sentimental in my old age. This past summer I spontaneously played a game of Wiffle Ball with some of the black boys who live in the neighborhood around our Baha'i Center. I had this moment where I felt like I was in the movie "Back To the Future" and all of a sudden it was 1984 and I was tossing a baseball with my dad in Halls, Tennessee. For no apparent reason I got emotional about this Wiffle Ball game. I had this sensation of seeing myself in these boys and this weird kind of paternal love filled me from head to toe and I had to remind myself that these were not my sons and that I had better behave myself and resist the urge to give them all a big hug and kiss (it might have caused some confusion, especially these days). This going back in time sensation has been growing stronger and stronger this year and can come out of nowhere. I can't even type right now without getting teary-eyed. Any older people out there who can tell me what the "BLEEP" is happening to me, please do so because I have no idea. I figured this wouldn't happen until I was well into my sixth decade.

Another equally strange experience is that I seem to be turning into my dad. Perhaps some latent James Copeland genes have been activated since I got married, or maybe I was exposed to radiation and didn't know it (I've heard some weird theories about eating micro-waved food). I find myself talking like my dad and event acting like him sometimes. It's an odd sensation. Of course now that I'm not a teenager any more, I can recognize that most of these emerging qualities are some of his best and it kind of nice to be more like him, especially now as my appreciation for his experiences as an African American male (a really BIG African American male) living in America have deepened. I'll think of something he did or said when I was a kid that made no sense then, but makes sense now (whether it was right or wrong is no longer the point). This reminds me of something from the Writings of Baha'u'llah that He said about fathers and sons:
..."thou art first in relation to thy son, last in relation to thy father. In thine outward appearance, thou tellest of the appearance of power in the realms of divine creation; in thine inward being thou revealest the hidden mysteries which are the divine trust deposited within thee."
(Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 26)

It also reminds me of the way that 'Abdu'l-Baha described one of my spiritual ancestors from the early days of the Baha'i Faith in the Middle East:
He had inherited the nature of his father, and he exemplified the saying that the child is the secret essence of its sire.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 139)

When I'm not being transported mentally back to being an 8 year old, I find myself fascinated by men who are in their 60's and 70's, particularly African American men. I imagined all the amazing things they have lived through and I wonder (if I reach such a ripe old age) what things I will witness. This past year was already filled with historical significance for our people (first African American governor of Massachusetts and I lived to see it!). I think about that Beatles song, "will you still need me/will you still feed me/when I'm 64". What will I be like when I'm 64 (exactly double my age today)? Where will I live (maybe a new condo on Mars)? Will my country be at war or at peace? Will I still be working or retired? Among the people I know today, who will be alive, who will be dead? Will they have discovered a cure for diabetes (my wife has diabetes so that would be great)? What will I be doing to serve my Faith? Will my kids being really cool or total jerks? Will anybody I know now be on our National Spiritual Assembly or (gulp) a member of the Universal House of Justice?! Will there be a great big Baha'i Temple in every town in America? Will I still have teeth and hair?

Anyway, those are my Baha'i thoughts on this, my B-Day. We'll see what I'm thinking about this time next year.