Saturday, October 03, 2009

Unloose Your Keyboards Heroes of God


If you are a Baha'i who has considered starting a blog of your own, this post is for you. If you're a Baha'i who has considered commenting on this blog but didn't, I've got something to say to you as well.

First things first. I want to say thank you. Baha'i Thought crossed the four year mark this past month and its success is due to those who read it. While Baha'i Thought has not quite made it from the margins to the mainstream of on-line discourse about religion, society and culture, the possibility of doing so inspires me to keep giving this my all. This blog is based on a simple premise; Baha'is have something to say about what's happening in the world that can change it for the better.

The need to speak up about what Baha'is believe is a point made over and over in our Writings.

"Bestir thyself, and magnify, before the entire creation, the name of God, and celebrate His praise, in such wise that all created things may be regenerated and made new. Speak, and hold not thy peace." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 27)

"This is the day in which to speak. It is incumbent upon the people of Baha to strive, with the utmost patience and forbearance, to guide the peoples of the world to the Most Great Horizon. Every body calleth aloud for a soul. Heavenly souls must needs quicken, with the breath of the Word of God, the dead bodies with a fresh spirit. Within every word a new spirit is hidden." (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 82)

"Lift up your voices and sing out the song of the Kingdom. Spread far and wide the precepts and counsels of the loving Lord, so that this world will change into another world, and this darksome earth will be flooded with light, and the dead body of mankind will arise and live; so that every soul will ask for immortality, through the holy breaths of God." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 1)

I know it may be hard to believe that an activity with as silly-sounding a name as "blogging" could serve as a vehicle for the spiritual transformation of the planet, but it can. Blogging can be an on-line embodiment of this powerful statement by 'Abdu'l-Baha:

"It is therefore urgent that beneficial articles and books be written, clearly and definitely establishing what the present-day requirements of the people are, and what will conduce to the happiness and advancement of society. These should be published and spread throughout the nation, so that at least the leaders among the people should become, to some degree, awakened, and arise to exert themselves along those lines which will lead to their abiding honor. The publication of high thoughts is the dynamic power in the arteries of life; it is the very soul of the world." (Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 109)

I am personally inviting every Baha'i reading this post who has not yet done so to move from reader to writer, to share your thoughts with a waiting world. Start blogging today. Unloose your keyboards heroes of God! If you're not sure how to get started you can learn here.
You can also learn from the example of others such as Agency and Change, Baha'i Coherence, Baha'i Perspectives, and Jeune Street. The important thing is to get going.

"There is no time to lose. There is no room left for vacillation. Multitudes hunger for the Bread of Life. The stage is set. The firm and irrevocable Promise is given. God's own Plan has been set in motion. It is gathering momentum with every passing day. The powers of heaven and earth mysteriously assist in its execution. Such an opportunity is irreplaceable. Let the doubter arise and himself verify the truth of such assertions. To try, to persevere, is to insure ultimate and complete victory." (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, p. 17)

Now I understand that not all of you will have the time, energy or inclination to start a blog of your own. People regularly ask me, "Phillipe! How do you find time to do this?" The answer is I don't find time to do it, I just do it. However, there is a less time consuming way to share your Baha'i thoughts with the world; leaving comments on this and other Baha'i blogs. Comments are just as important a contribution as blogging itself because they turn a monologue into a dialogue. It's the dialogue that makes a blog truly successful in my opinion. Over the years there have been some brilliant comments left on this blog, some of which put the original post to shame. There have also been some lively exchanges among those leaving comments. For all those who have thought about leaving a comment but didn't, all the quotes I've included above apply equally to you. Unloose your keyboard! Share your view, share your voice.

I understand if you may be nervous about leaving comments. I can't promise you that your ideas won't invite criticism. You may even get bruised a bit (I know I have!). What I can say is that thoughtful, well-articulated comments can have as much impact as the original blog post. For example, I have sometimes personally invited people to comment because their knowledge or expertise in an area exceeded my own or because I knew they would have something interesting to say. I also want to be clear that agreement with me is not a condition of leaving comments on Baha'i Thought. As 'Abdu'l-Baha has told us, "The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions".(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 87)

In summary, if you aren't blogging yet, get going. If you aren't leaving comments, start doing so. You may be surprised by the impact you make. I know I was.

24 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:30 AM

    Phillipe, for every one of us that comments there must be a whole load of people who read your blog and just think about the ideas. I think that you have done a great job and find this blog informative (I have learned so much about race issues in the USA and worldwide), inspiring and mind expanding. It is usually accessible too but I am no great academic so I have to admit that there are bits that are outside my understanding. I also like your links.

    When you live in a small and relitively isolated community it is a breath of fresh air to have instant access to different perspectives and discussions and, as peoples perspectives evolve to become more world embracing, issues within one community seem to be more relevant to other communities.

    May God rain his blessing down on you and your family and may you continue your blogging for many years to come.

    Pauline

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  2. Thanks Pauline, you are a long time reader and contributor to the comment section of the blog. I'd like to believe you're right that a "whole load of people", "think about the ideas" on this blog. Only God knows for sure! Thanks for the blessings as well and keep leaving comments!

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  3. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. I can't say it enough. I started a blog last November about the spiritual, moral, and religious themes in film since I think the arts often address these issues in subtle yet powerful ways. But lately I've been discouraged and my posts haven't been as frequent. This post has inspired me to get back into it, because you are right. If we want to change the world, to influence the conversation we have to first join it! Thank you once again. I subscribe to your blog and read every post and you really are a wonderful and committed blogger.

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  4. Another world citizen, when I heard about your idea I thought it was awesome. I still do. Don't give up, trust me I've had times when I wanted to do that and I'm glad I didn't. I've also seen good blogs start strong and fizzle out before they really gained momentum or a readership. Consider yourself a pioneer of the blogosphere and stay at your post no matter what. I look forward to reading your work.

    And thank YOU for being a wonderful and committed reader.

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  5. Great post Phillipe! I've made a promise to get in two blog posts a week, and thankfully have a friend who's holding me to it. I like it for the story-telling practice, since we learn so much through stories.

    I find myself spending a lot of time reading blogs, and I gave myself a rule a while back that if I was going to read a post, I had to comment on it, even if just an encouraging word. It is great to be part of the conversation.

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  6. Blogs, youtubes, social network sites, wikipedias - there are many venues Baha'is can contribute to the world dialogue desperately needed. We need more voices to bring the teachings to light and learn the means and methods of the world for the constructive engagement we both need - teachings need application, and the world needs teachings.

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  7. Allison Sara, rock on with your blogging and I suggest that you also make a habit of including your blogs web address in your comments. That way is someone wants to hear more of what you have to say they can visit your blog.

    SMK, it's true there are lots of ways for people to get into the game, blogs are just one. Thanks for reminding me/us of that point.

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  8. Phillipe, Your blog has just gotten better and better. It is one of only 2 blogs I always read. I often forward them on to friends and family, and even when I've had a thought, I'm ashamed to say I haven't taken the time to go to the blog itself (I love that the whole thing comes in my e-mail) to leave a comment. Your quotes from the Writings always inspire me and I promise this will be the first of many comments!
    I also LOVE your sharing of your thoughts on parenting as Douglass Ali grows!

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  9. Rebecca Mesbah12:44 PM

    Well... I subscribe to your blog and comment about it though you don't get to hear about it since I do it with my friends. I find myself many times inspired by one of your posts and use your ideas as starter for conversation and it is great material for ˝meaningful˝ conversation!

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  10. Sharon, thanks for the compliment I'd like to believe that I'm getting better at this. It is true that subscribers have less incentive to leave comments but I hope you're example will start a trend.

    Rebecca, nice to know my humble musings have been valuable to you. It's true that commenting on the blog is not the only way to keep the conversation going, thanks for reminding me/us of that. I hope you will also make a habit of including your thoughts in the comment section and invite your friends to do the same.

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  11. The blog world has changed over the past four years, certainly. If you go down the Baha’iThoughts blogroll, you will discover that many of those blogs currently listed are inactive or almost so. There are those who started blogs who have given them up, for various reasons, personal and otherwise.

    Social networking has become dominant. Facebook is king. And there are so many new ways by which people can participate online, so many more than there were just a year or two ago. (Look at Twitter.) Baha’is are online in many ways at once. There are so many more refined ways to be able to search for Baha'i content and keep up with it besides Google Blog Search, my longtime favorite. Baha’is now are able to keep in touch with theBaha’i blogsphere without ever doing a blog search.

    But I agree with you. There will always be a need for more new Baha'i content. However, the Friends want to do it, whether with "traditional" blogging, or other formats.

    The online gurus tell us that the future of blogging is in collaborative blogs, of which you have mentioned some of the best Baha'i ones. But there will still be individual blogs that are highly influential and much read. Yours is one of them, my friend.

    I prefer the traditional blogging format, because it is both personal and public. I love being able to look in on the personal lives of individual Baha'is, hear their thoughts, celebrate their victories, follow their participation in the Instite Process. But I recognize that individual Baha'is as a whole are actually far more involved online now than they were at the height of the popularity of blogging. Their efforts are simply scattered over many more vehicles for communicating online besides a personal blog.

    I just have to look at my own Baha'i cluster. There were hardly any Baha'is on Facebook two years ago, now there are more than 100 among the 450 Baha'is total in Cluster 19 on it. And they are active and in close communication with each other, making online discoveries and sharing them.

    For some YouTube is their primary vehicle. For others, Blip.fm. For others it is FriendFeed. For others it is still LiveJournal or MySpace. Or participating on one of the enumerable forums. And they are creating valuable content. All is well with the Baha'i world.

    If you are not already online in some way, now is the time. If you want a super-simple blogging platform, may I recommend posterous.com. You can post via email. It's dirt-simple to get started. Simpler than when it was when got started. Far simpler than it was when I got my own domain name and switched over to my blog on WordPress. Everybody can play. Come on in. The water's fine.

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  12. Dear Phillipe,

    thanks for this post. Have started a blog on Baha'í life in Poland some time ago (commercial:P --> www.buildingmomentuminpoland.blogspot.com).

    I enjoy reading your blog and hope you will keep the good work up :-)

    Nadine

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  13. George, it's true about the social networking thing, I haven't really caught up with that phenomenon though I have on Facebook. I still don't get the popularity of tweeting but I was slow to get into CD's or cell phone either so..
    Thanks for weighing in and encouraging others to get in the game.

    Nadine, nice to hear from Poland! There's a part of the world I know nothing about so knowing I can learn from visiting your blog is great. Thanks for letting me/us know about it.

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  14. Thanks for this, Phillipe. Your call to action resulted in a new post at Anonymous Cowgirl, and a renewed commitment to commenting when I visit other people's blogs.

    And I'll see you (virtually) on Blog Action Day.

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  15. Phillipe,

    I've been wanting to comment on your blog so many times, but time seems mercurial to me these days. A lot has changed in my life, and I credit that directly to the Baha'i Faith and a workshop I took over two years ago at Bosch Baha'i School. I had a blog back then, and I wrote a lot of stuff in it, some about the Baha'i Faith, a lot more of it personal. That's all changed.

    I still have my blog "Yeah...and so, anyway...", but I don't have much time to devote to it anymore. God had other plans for me, which scared me beyond words when those plans became apparent to me. I submitted an application to be a writer for Examiner.com (an online news source), and I was hired. But I thought they wanted me to write about the local theater community or parenting. They said no. They were more intrigued by the fact that I wrote that I am a Baha'i on my application, and they hired me to be the Sacramento Baha'i Examiner.

    Apparently, I'm the only Baha'i who writes about the Faith through Examiner.com, although I hope that will change soon. (Please email me at angelfly72@gmail.com if you would like to become Baha'i Examiner. I'll explain what that means according to what I have experienced so far, which has been good.)

    Phillipe, I would like to ask you to be my guest commentator on the site. I still read your blogs and enjoy them immensely. The URL is:Sacramento Baha'i Examiner

    The topic? Anything you like, especially in light of the quote by the Guardian: "There is no time to lose. There is no room left for vacillation. Multitudes hunger for the Bread of Life."

    I make the same offer to any of your readers to become guest commentators, especially those who might be gun shy about blogging. I must say that any guest commentator must be a Baha'i. I'm not allowed to write outside of my designated subject area (although I have to resort to my blog to vent at times), so a guest commentator would have to be a Baha'i who knowledgeable of the Faith.

    Monetary compensation? Nope. I wish I could, but I can't. But there's a great opportunity to teach the Faith in a forum that now has national exposure and gaining more respect each month. So, come on in, folks! The water isn't anywhere as cold as you might have feared! Besides, the Sacramento Baha'i Examiner is supposed to handle any heat that comes up from a post, and she makes editorial decisions about the comments that appear on the site! :-)

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  16. Lev, nice to hear that I inspired such an inspired blog as Anonymous Cowgirl to kick it up a notch.

    Angela, always a pleasure. Thanks for the invite to get involved with the Examiner. Unfortunately my answer to all such requests these days is no. I'm trying to get my husband-father-Ph.d student on over here so I have to stay focused at least until I finish school.

    I hope other readers will accept your invitation though!

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  17. Anonymous9:36 AM

    Thanks Phillipe. You are inspiring ! :) but also a hard act to follow. Your Blog is very nice. I appreciate finding the information I was looking for ( on google ! ).
    And Yes, speaking up is important for Baha'is, not only to share the 'Glad Tidings', but also to develop our own understandings of the various deep and vital concepts enshrined in the Writings.
    So thank you for keeping this torch alive ...

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  18. As one of the collaborators over on Baha'i Coherence, I can honestly say that, for people who are unable to take on a regular blogging gig on their own, but still have something they would like to contribute, we are always looking for fresh voices to add to our mix! We're a friendly bunch, and while there's a very small core of more prolific posters, we have many folks who've contributed only one or two pieces that were more in-depth. Anyone who would like to join in should feel free to drop us a line!

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  19. Anonymous8:50 AM

    Phillipe,

    Great blog! This is Derik's dad writing from the Virgin Islands. Your son is so precious! I hope to see you again in the not too distant future. Warm regard to you and your wife.

    Alan

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  20. anotherworldcitizen, allison sara, I love your ideas for blogs! It thrills me to see them!

    Rebecca Mesbah, good idea to use the ideas here for elevating conversations!

    George, I like the points you make about different ways of being on line, and your suggestions about how to do it

    Nadine, Lev, Angela, way to go!

    I know, I know, Phillipe, this post is two years old and no one will see this comment, except, hopefully, you. I'm just practicing.

    Phillipe, you talked me into it. You've set my spirit free. I've lingered in the margins of the blogosphere for years, vacillating, but now I want to join the dance, and this comment will be my first step. I'll just put down some thoughts that come to mind as I read your post.

    People need to learn to do things in the right spirit. Abdu'l-Baha said:

    "O thou son of the Kingdom! All things are beneficial if joined with the love of God; and without His love all things are harmful, and act as a veil between man and the Lord of the Kingdom. When His love is there, every bitterness turneth sweet, and every bounty rendereth a wholesome pleasure. For example, a melody, sweet to the ear, bringeth the very spirit of life to a heart in love with God, yet staineth with lust a soul engrossed in sensual desires. And every branch of learning, conjoined with the love of God, is approved and worthy of praise; but bereft of His love, learning is barren -- indeed, it bringeth on madness. Every kind of knowledge, every science, is as a tree: if the fruit of it be the love of God, then is it a blessed tree, but if not, that tree is but dried-up wood, and shall only feed the fire."

    (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 180)

    I imagine that applies to Baha'i teachings and the activities of Baha'is, including everything we do on the Internet, just as much as it applies to anything else. Part of that for me is learning to love and trust Baha'u'llah more and more, and systematic and sustained efforts to improve my character and conduct. I imagine that the fruits of our blogging depend far more on that, than on what we say.

    What's missing in the world now is the conviction, strength and courage to do what needs to be done, much more than knowing what to do and why. Again, the only thing that can fill that gap is the knowledge and love of Baha'u'llah, and it has to be growing in us all the time, in order for it to be spread to others.

    "God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of teaching His Cause. Whoever ariseth to discharge this duty, must needs, ere he proclaimeth His Message, adorn himself with the ornament of an upright and praiseworthy character, so that his words may attract the hearts of such as are receptive to his call. Without it, he can never hope to influence his hearers."

    (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 334)

    I know, everyone has seen this dozens of times. I don't think we can ever see it too many times. I think we need to be putting at least as much effort, all the time, into improving our own character and conduct, as we put into writing for our blogs.

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