An Interview With Brian Taraz – Part I

brian taraz bahai.pngI’m very happy to bring to you the first interview on Baha’i Rants and it is with none other than Brian Taraz.

Brian is an actor, musician, singer, father, husband, Baha’i and much more (though not necessarily in that order everyday). You can listen to some of his music at purevolume. My favourite is ‘the prayer for the dead’. Brian has also launched an impressive personal initiative project online which he calls Kitab-i-Kuchik. For those who don’t know Persian, it means The Little Book.

So without further ado, let’s get to part I of the interview:

Hi Brian, how are you? Ready for the interview?

Hi Baquia, Thanks for the questions. Kind of weird for me to think about ?myself? so to speak.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you learn of the Baha’i Faith? when did you declare and why?

Born in NYC, 1962. Parents were both Baha’is. In fact they were both on the LSA up until my 15th birthday. That’s when I declared. The why is because I believed in Baha’u’llah and the Faith and declaring at 15 was just the thing to do.

Had the blessings of seeing and meeting folks like Mr. Furutan and Mr. Khadem, Rhuyiyiih Khanum, members of the House of Justice, Seals and Crofts, etc.

I don’t remember how old I was when we bought the current Baha’i Center, but I was part of the first crew to clean it out. It had been a porn movie theatre. I remember we found a 35 mm copy of ?The Devil in Miss Jones?.

Not to be confused with the 1941 classic: “The Devil and Miss Jones” (laugh)

Right. Went to Green Acre all the time and a Baha’i school up in Poughkeepsie, New York. Had the blessing of visiting Iran as a kid and going to the house of the Bab. Went with my parents to Haifa when I was 9 on their pilgrimage.

So – Baha’i, Baha’i, Baha’i.

Wow, that is such a blessing.

Luckily though, I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood and went to A YMHA camp. I went to two different Catholic High Schools (one Jesuit and one Franciscan). Before I was ?old enough to know better?, because New York is what New York is, I experienced ?sex? stuff and drugs and – on account of being a kid and not knowing that I should have felt differently – I really, really liked that stuff.

Simultaneously, and probably the thing which provoked the ?worm? within my being, was the traditional Baha’i divorce thing. That cognitive dissonance that many people born ?into? the Faith have to deal with. I’m also half-Iranian and half-Argentinian. So New York was the perfect place for me to grow up.

Went to many conferences. Saw the shiny happy people during the plenary sessions, like in St. Louis and Champaign-Urbana, but I was restless and prone to trouble making and enjoying seeing the Baha’i ne’er do wells who were hanging out at the pinball machines in the bottom of the conference hall.

I’m just throwing out a pastiche because I think each of us as individuals is such a universe unto ourselves which, if we meditate on it, could never be exhausted if we tried to understand ourselves in that way.

After the parents split up I moved to Southern California and went to UCSD and that’s when my brain ?exploded? so to speak. Also my libido and my social desires. It was a blast and I was on the verge of being kicked out but they gave me a second chance at the school. (I had discovered radio and acting and decided that Physics and Chemistry wasn’t for me).

I attribute most of my explosion to Fredriech Nietzsche which was mandatory reading in the Humanities section of things. He was, on the surface, the complete antithesis of all things Baha’i. But everything I read was as if it was a divinely ordained mirror image dealing with the philosophical development of Western Man.

Thing is, I’m kind of smart, but not overly. I’m lazy I think. But I like reading and I love thinking and I’m addicted to pursuing the mystical experience through prayer, and by the same token I’m very much a captive of my ID (though with age and abuse it seems to be tempering itself – kind of – I guess). But no matter what wrong paths I walked, etc. I could never let go of Baha’u’llah.

But don’t get me wrong. I did much much mucking around in all kinds of wrong places. And, as I began to understand that even all the ?bad crap? was part of me, and that God is actually the ?Ever-Forgiving?, I began to frame my life of sin and reckless abandon more as a form of amusement for the ?inmates of the all highest paradise? and company.

Anyway. Dad died about 10 years ago. Mom’s still alive. I feel very blessed to have the parents I have. Even their own relationship dysfunction was a gift that allowed me, like a decadent Buddha, to visit all the worlds of God – even the so-called yucky ones.

I’m currently married. My wife is Baha’i. I’ve got two beautiful kids . . . and this brings me to ?The Little Book?.

Yes, let’s talk about your individual initiative project Kitab-i-Kuchik. What motivated you to write it and share it with the world on the web? what is your number one goal or intention?

To be continued in part II of the Interview With Brian Taraz

(don’t worry, it is coming very soon)

Universal House of Justice Letter on Baha’i Elections

25 March 2007

To the Baha’is of the World

Dear Baha’i Friends,

One of the signs of the breakdown of society in all parts of the world is the erosion of trust and collaboration between the individual and the institutions of governance. In many nations the electoral process has become discredited because of endemic corruption. Contributing to the widening distrust of so vital a process are the influence on the outcome from vested interests having access to lavish funds, the restrictions on freedom of choice inherent in the party system, and the distortion in public perception of the candidates by the bias expressed in the media. Apathy, alienation, and disillusionment are a consequence, too, as is a growing sense of despair of the unlikelihood that the most capable citizens will emerge to deal with the manifold problems of a defective social order. Evident everywhere is a yearning for institutions which will dispense justice, dispel oppression, and foster an enduring unity between the disparate elements of society.

The World Order of Baha’u’llah is the divinely ordained system for which nations and peoples so desperately search. Hailed by the Bab in the Persian Bayan, its foundational features prescribed by Baha’u’llah Himself, this Order is without precedent in human history for its standard of justice and its commitment to the practical realization of the oneness of mankind, as well as for its capacity to promote change and the advancement of world civilization. It provides the means by which the Divine Will illumines the path of human progress and guides the eventual establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.

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Throughout the entire planet the devoted followers of Baha’u’llah are labouring to develop further the Baha’i Administrative Order described by the Guardian “not only as the nucleus but the very pattern of the New World Order”, thus setting the foundation for a world civilization destined to yield its dazzling splendour in the centuries to come. They do so notwithstanding the conditions of turmoil and disorder alluded to by Baha’u’llah in affirming that “the world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System–the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.”

With the concerted worldwide endeavour to advance the process of entry by troops gathering momentum through implementation of the provisions of the Five Year Plan, it is now opportune that the believers everywhere give greater attention to strengthening the process by which Assemblies, national and local, are elected. The manner of participation by all adult members of the community in these elections is a distinguishing feature of the System of Baha’u’llah; for it is a bounden duty that confers a high privilege upon every Baha’i to select, as a responsible citizen of the new world being brought into existence, the composition of the institutions having authority over the functioning of the Baha’i community. In this regard, indifference and neglect on the part of any believer are alien to the spirit of the Cause. The friends must strive ceaselessly to avoid being contaminated with these destructive attitudes, which have inflicted such damage on the integrity and authority of the institutions of a declining world order.

In describing Baha’i elections, Shoghi Effendi, through a letter written on his behalf, conveyed that “Baha’i electoral procedures and methods have, indeed, for one of their essential purposes the development in every believer of the spirit of responsibility. By emphasizing the necessity of maintaining his full freedom in the elections, they make it incumbent upon him to become an active and well-informed member of the Baha’i community in which he lives.”

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The manner in which the elector exercises the right and privilege to cast his vote is therefore of great significance. Shoghi Effendi’s instruction in this passage further explains that “to be able to make a wise choice at the election time, it is necessary for him to be in close and continued contact with all local activities, be they teaching, administrative or otherwise, and to fully and whole-heartedly participate in the affairs of the local as well as national committees and assemblies in his country. It is only in this way that a believer can develop a true social consciousness and acquire a true sense of responsibility in matters affecting the interests of the Cause. Baha’I community life thus makes it a duty for every loyal and faithful believer to become an intelligent, well-informed and responsible elector, and also gives him the opportunity of raising himself to such a station.”

While there should be no mention of personalities in connection with Baha’I elections, it is quite appropriate for believers to discuss the requirements and qualifications for membership in the institution to be elected. Shoghi Effendi offers clear guidance on this point: “I feel that reference to personalities before the election would give rise to misunderstanding and differences. What the friends should do is to get thoroughly acquainted with one another, to exchange views, to mix freely and discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership without reference or application, however indirect, to particular individuals.” Among the “necessary qualities” specified by the Guardian are those “of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience”. With a heightened awareness of the functions to be performed by the elected body, the believer can properly assess those for whom a vote should be cast. From among the pool of those whom the elector believes to be qualified to serve, selection should be made with due consideration given to such other factors as age distribution, diversity, and gender. The elector should make his choice after careful thought over an extended period before the actual election.

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When called upon to vote in a Baha’i election, believers should be aware that they are carrying out a sacred task unique to this Dispensation. They should approach this duty in a prayerful attitude, seeking divine guidance and confirmation. As Shoghi Effendi has advised, “they must turn completely to God, and with a purity of motive, a freedom of spirit and a sanctity of heart, participate in the elections.”

Through their wholehearted embrace of the Baha’i electoral process, the believers will witness, day by day, a greater contrast between the emerging institutions of the Baha’i Administrative Order and the decaying social order around them. In this increasing distinction will be seen the promise of the glory of the World Order of Baha’u’llah–the System destined to fulfil the highest expectations of humanity.

The Universal House of Justice

Baha’i Faith Recognized In Vietnam

March 21st, 2007 was a historic day for the Baha’is of Vietnam. Not only did they celebrate the Holy Day of Naw Ruz but they also celebrated the recognition of their faith community by their government.

At a stately event held in Ho Chi Min City, the Government Religious Committee officially handed over the certificate of registration of religious activities to the Baha’i Community of Vietnam. Among the almost 300 participants were several high ranking federal, provincial and municipal government officials.

The ceremony also included prayers, a statement of congratulations from the House of Justice, a presentation of the significance of Naw Ruz and a video of the Shrine of the Bab in the Holy Land. This was an especially sweet experience for the veteran Vietnamese Baha’is who have endured 32 years under the shadow of the ‘socialist revolution’. The event was covered by Vietnamese media with the news appearing in newspapers and radio broadcasts.

I’m sure that the Baha’i News Service will pick up on this eventually. But as of now, they have nothing over there.

UPDATE: BahaisOnline.net has posted ‘proof’ of the news I broke here so we can avoid the insults and vitriol of ‘prove it’ that accompanied the breaking of the Italian NSA scandal. I suppose since this involved government officials (as opposed to the Italy travesty which was 100% an internal mess) the media covered it. I just share things as they come to me. You decide what you do with them: believe them, ignore them, read them, etc.

Now go get some pho to celebrate this!

Happy Naw Ruz Everyone!

naw ruz bahai new year.pngTo one and all… Happy Naw Ruz !

May the coming year bring a bountiful harvest of blessings to you and your family.

Don’t forget to set out your ‘7 S’ table!

Haft S?n (??? ???) or the seven ‘S’s is a major tradition of Norouz. The haft sin table includes seven items specific starting with the letter S or S?n (?) in Persian alphabet). The items symbolically correspond to seven creations and holy immortals protecting them. Originally called Haft Chin (??? ???), the Haft Sin has evolved over time, but has kept its symbolism. Traditionally, families attempt to set as beautiful a Haft S?n table as they can, as it is not only of traditional and spiritual value, but also noticed by visitors during Norouzi visitations and is a reflection of their good taste.

The Haft Sin items are:

* sabzeh – wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish – symbolizing rebirth
* samanu – a sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
* senjed – the dried fruit of the oleaster tree – symbolizing love
* s?r – garlic – symbolizing medicine
* s?b – apples, – symbolizing beauty and health
* somaq – sumac berries – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
* serkeh – vinegar – symbolizing age and patience

To learn all you ever wanted to know about Naw Ruz or Nou Ruz:

Nou Ruz – from a cultural and historic point of view
Naw Ruz – from a religious (Babi and Baha’i Faith) point of view