Showing posts with label Love and tragedy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Love and tragedy. Show all posts

Sunday, March 06, 2011


What is the essence of love? It must be attraction, a desire to mingle and share with another. If that does not exist, then love does not. In the human realm, there are famous romantic love stories of intense attraction, e.g. Romeo and Juliet, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Orpheus and Eurydice, Layla and Majnun. In all these tales, one lover is willing to offer everything for the other.

Love can also be for truth, or for an ideal. It can be so strong as to cause great sacrifice. A scientist on the trail of discovery can face scathing ridicule, a solider on the battlefield will give his life, and an innocent bystander will jump in front of an onrushing train to save a stranger. We know love when it inspires sacrifice.

Sacrifice is the vital expression of love. If there is a relationship without sacrifice, it is shallow. We know parental love because the mother and father offer themselves in sacrifice to their children until the child can stand on his own.

The Taj Mahal is a love monument, built by Shah Jahan in India in honor of his deceased wife Mumtaz. It took great effort over twenty years to complete. Using white marble and precious inlay, 20,000 workers and 1000 elephants labored twenty years to bring the architecture to fruition. It is among the wonders of the world, and shares with them a foundation in love.

Everyone enjoys being loved. Especially since we know we are valued when we receive a sacrificial offering. For a lover to receive flowers, or a child to receive the gift of time and wisdom from a volunteer tutor; the essence is attraction, thoughtfulness and offering. When I travel in Asia, small shrines laden with gifts are a ubiquitous sight in homes and businesses. Usually, a small Buddha sculpture or Hindu deity is surrounded by flowers, incense, and fruit, and sometimes even soda pop and cigarettes . . . all tokens of sacrifice.

At present, many Baha’i’s, myself included, are fasting, and this is a show of love. From sunrise to sunset we abstain from food or water for nineteen days, between March 2-20 annually. It is difficult and painful to go without sustenance, but sacrifice is easy when one is in love. For true lovers, pain is sweet. And really, God cares not for material things, but He wants what our hearts can give and blesses us in the giving.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

God Within It

 My mother, who lives in Santa Barbara, California, called and left a message on my phone the other day. Her voice was emotional as she spoke slowly and deliberately. “Hi Steven, it’s your mother. Our dog, Sarah, died December 1st. I put a sign out front for the neighbors—to tell them she had died . . . because everyone loved her. And I put on the sign a writing from Baha’u’llah that said, ‘Nothing do I perceive but I perceive God within it, God before it, and God after it.'  I wrote the name of Baha’u’llah on it, along with a picture of Sarah. Then everyone knew she had left us.” Her voice trembled and she cried a little as she spoke. I noticed the crying because my mother never cries.

They had brought Sarah home after a previous dog died. Sarah was already three or four years old. A German Shepherd, she had been abused by someone and was not trusting. Once she became a part of my parent’s household, she barked at anyone else who entered the house. I went to visit them a couple months ago and Sarah always barked at me when I came inside, even though she was deaf and too tired to stand. I noticed that she did the same with my brother who lives near my parents and has visited thousands of times. I had to laugh about that.

Sarah was treated with great kindness and even reverence. When she slowed down and could barely walk, my father cordially walked slowly by her side as she went out to do her duty every day. Both my parents, who are infirm themselves, would help her when she could only climb halfway into the car, and had to have her back legs lifted and then be scooted in. They said kind things to her every day, even after she had gone deaf. When my father noticed she was not eating, he'd get on his hands and knees and feed her. She ate the same food as my parents. I once joked with my mother that I was eating dog food when I noticed she had the same food in the dog dish as on my plate. She said resolutely, “Sarah gets the same food as we do.”

The dog lived much longer than perhaps possible, due to the love she received. My mother liked to say she was “the oldest German Shepherd in Santa Barbara.”

I spoke with mother after she left her message for me. She said many neighbors had seen the sign and come with flowers, or gifts, and to pay their sympathies. Surely, they had noticed a great love and now part of it had gone away.

"The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens” ..... Unknown  (Possibly from an early American trial re: the killing of a neighbor's dog)

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Sometimes the cruelty of this world is dumbfounding and so insulting to our senses that we recoil immediately and simply withdraw. I remember as a child when I saw someone with a mutilated face from burning, or another with missing or deformed limbs, how I felt afraid, as if beholding a monster I had only met in dreams, but now, here it was in real life. My mother would calm me and say, “Do not stare.” But the unfortunate person would ultimately be shunned because of fear.

Now that I am grown, I have no fear of people who are “different”, but rather, compassion for the great burden that they must carry all their lives. Recently, I came across a story on the Internet about victims, mostly female, of acid attacks. These young women usually were attacked because they simply asserted themselves as independent. Then, a spurned suitor or inflamed man attacked with acid, directing it at the victim’s face. It is terrible the damage that is done. See the article: Terrorism that’s personal.

In August of last year, while I was in Saigon, Vietnam, I met a young man begging on the street who was the victim of an acid attack. That week, I wrote my blog and reflected on the term “monster” and what it really means. See my blog, Monsters.

Misfortunes such as starvation, stillbirths, illnesses, have always afflicted humanity but what is truly mystifying and pointlessly tragic is the suffering humanity inflicts upon itself.

When will the human family rejoice in unity and fellowship and end the suffering it has long inflicted upon itself? Only when we see each other as precious . . . not as the “other” but as beloved.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I Love My Body, It Has Been So Good To Me

Written Saturday, July 5th, posted Sunday
Several years ago, after a dental checkup, my dentist, an excellent physician, told me he discovered two teeth that had slight cracks. They were next to each other in my upper right molars. He told me I should have crowns placed on both of them, and then gave me a price that I knew was high, and I backed away from the procedure. He said “it is better to have it done now than have them fracture and have to make a more expensive bridge later.” I went to another dentist who told me the teeth did not seem in danger.
Yesterday, I drove with Carol down from the mountains to have my tooth pulled out because the fracture had spread to the root and the area had become infected. As I lay in the chair and the dentist was pulling my molar out, I felt a passing sadness to lose a part of myself, even if a tooth.
Today, I have dull pain, and my tongue often goes to feel the hole left in my gum where my tooth was. I realize something else about this day. It is the anniversary of Naomi’s death, nine years ago (See the website for my book, A Heart Traced in Sand.) Whenever I have pain or discomfort, I remember her, and think that whatever happens to me is not as bad as what happened to her, and she never complained. As I pondered about her last moments, I thought about how she died. Cancer had spread over most of her body, one leg was swollen almost twice as big as the other, and she could not walk. She had lost so much weight as to be almost a skeleton, with eyes like gleaming orbs in hollow sockets. Overwhelming pain had plagued her for over a year, robbing her of rest. Her lungs slowly weakened from disease until she suffocated. Incredibly, some of her last words before she died at the age of nineteen, were, “I love my body, it has been so good to me.” Naomi practiced loving with such conviction and ardor that she overcame all negativity, and this is a lesson that I will always carry inside my heart.
I go to Florence, Italy on Wednesday, 9 July to meet Sarah. I will need to get a temporary tooth put in, so the way things are playing out, a Spanish doctor pulls my tooth out, an Italian puts a temporary in, and one from India implants a permanent false tooth. How is that for international cooperation?