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On Divorce, Relationships, Society, and Human Progress

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Iris & Jarome Bali wedding photo
My blog has been quite vacant for many years.
How to write about the challenges of moving to a culture completely opposite to your own, and the process of your life falling apart, your failure after a decade of trying, in denial, to fix problems that were unfixable and loss of the chance to be with your son you had waited so long for and to suffer the same fate as my divorced parents?

In 2013 I finally accepted defeat, I had waited over 10 years to have a family, and spent 6 gruelling years and every penny I had trying to adopt a child only to have him taken away by my ex when she decided to move back to Canada in response to my ‘year of patience’. I won’t go into the complicated and confusing details. The most painful and difficult time in my life, yes, but I don’t blame her for what happened, or myself, this was a failure of society.

Shoghi Effendi said, “A tempest, unprecedented in its violence, unpredictable in its course, catastrophic in its immediate effects is at present sweeping the face of the earth. Its driving power is remorselessly gaining in range and momentum. Its cleansing force, however much undetected, is increasing with every passing day. Humanity, gripped in the clutches of its devastating power, is smitten by the evidences of its resistless fury. It can neither perceive its origin, nor probe its significance, nor discern its outcome…”

There are dark forces at work in our society, suffering is far too common as a result of ambitions for profit and this has become a distraction to solving common health problems that are destroying families and taking lives.
We are witnessing the collapse of its social structure and the functional, healthy family. Proof of this is in the fact that even amongst the Baha’i community, one that is the utmost authority on unity and healthy community building, over 50% of marriages are failing, This is by no means because the Baha’i system doesn’t work, it is working to unite vastly different cultures in over 200 countries, but it is not immune to the deeply rooted problems in our society that eat away like a cancer at our communities, families, relationships, our lives, our human progress. Their source is al the things our culture prides itself on most: individualism, materialism, self glorification, apathy, and mediocrity. These poisons are alone enough to destroy any marriage and relationship never mind hope for a healthy society that is progressing forward. That is not to say progress is not being made, it is just being greatly hindered.

There is a major and essential component of our education missing that is required to heal this cancer, that is the ability to have healthy and effective relationships with other human beings. Simple right? Absolutely essential for our lives, correct? And yet, where did you have a chance to learn this properly? Did your parents teach you this essential skill? Were they successful in exemplifying this? It should have been taught in middle school, but did you even have a chance to learn it in university? We are not taught the most essential skills required for a healthy and effective life. The only place my ex and I probably ever had a chance to learn this was in a Baha’i study that was a few paragraphs long, the topic of effective consultation that is free of ego. A longer course on the topic is coming, but this is not a task for the Baha’i community alone, it is something that should be taught as early and as often as possible. ‘Effective Relationships’ is an essential skill every human needs to be a master at to have a healthy life and be a community building member of society! But most of us never have a chance to learn this.

I could go on, but a similar disturbing example of our delusions about education in essential skills is the fact that we think that as human beings, because we have the ability to procreate, that we know how to parent a child. Parenting is not something we innately know how to do effectively it is something we need to learn through research and insight from those parents who have raised children that are well balanced, successful, helpful members of society.

These two points about being educated to relate well with others are interlinked, how can we effectively raise children if we cannot relate to each other and pursue healthy relationships? We cannot be naive and think that because we live on a planet with millions of other humans we are innately great at having healthy relationships with each other! We’ve well proven that not to be true. Without these dark forces influencing every aspect of our lives, and a spiritual education at a young age, maybe, but right now that is not the case for most of us.
Without a daily spiritual practice that reminds us that we are created by something greater, spirits in a material world, a world designed to help us grow and develop, our egos WILL take control of our lives, which means we will NOT be in control any longer. Human society cannot progress in this animal state. As long as our egos are in control, there is no hope for happy marriage, well raised children, and healthy society! When our ego is in control, it’s hard to learn or even accept we need to educate ourselves or improve.

Abdu’l-Baha said…“we must be willing to clear away all that we have previously learned, all that would clog our steps on the way to truth…The principal reason for the decline and fall of peoples is ignorance. Today the mass of the people are uninformed even as to ordinary affairs, how much less do they grasp the core of the important problems and complex needs of the time”

Now don’t get me wrong, hope is not lost. My life itself has been rejuvenated, I have a wonderful Chinese wife and we have started a new family together. Every day in the world, there are undeniable signs of human progress and advancement the likes of which we have not seen in a thousand years.

The Baha’i Universal House of Justice said:

“Yet there is reassurance in the knowledge that, amidst the disintegration, a new kind of collective life is taking shape which gives practical expression to all that is heavenly in human beings. Have hope. It will not always be so.”

Maybe your reading this and thinking, “What’s he going on about? My life is pretty good and everything is great!” Well I’m not talking about how to keep things going the way they are, this is about advancing civilization, probably a few hundred years process in my opinion.
I could go on, but I think I’ve said more than enough to get the thoughts that have burdened my mind for years out in the open to hopefully benefit someone like myself.
So in conclusion, If your reading this and have children and don’t want them to end up in unhappy, broken, divorce affected lives, you have an obligation to educate them to relate effectively with others of all races, classes and personalities. This may mean transforming yourself as a parent first. This starts but should not end with virtues:

“Give them (the children) the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.” – Abdu’l-Baha

(accustoming children to hardship is so key, my spoiled western upbringing has given me unrealistic expectations that are way too high, a problem most pre 2000 Chinese don’t have)

This is one of the most important principles of the Baha’i faith that attracted me: The principle of universal and compulsory education.
Bahá’u’lláh compared the world of humanity to the human body. Within this organism, millions of cells, diverse in form and function, play their part in maintaining a healthy system. Similarly, harmonious relationships among individuals, communities, and institutions serve to sustain society and allow for the advancement of civilization.

As long as 2 people are willing, There are more and more resources out there to help us reduce the number of relationship casualties. I assisted Baha’i artist Elika Mahony who has been married over 20 years  put together a page dedicated to relationships and marriage here.
http://www.elikamahony.com/home/love-marriage/
John Gottman has also done amazing research to help people with all types of relationships
https://www.gottman.com/about/the-gottman-method/
He says, to make a relationship last, we need to learn how to manage conflict and ‘keep it calm’, generate greater understanding. Baha’is are often too idealistic, thinking they can accomplish today what may take many years to master in eliminating conflict’. Sometimes we need the practical, scientific approach of research to make realistic progress.

I only wish I new as a child or even 20 years ago what I know now. Everyone should have that chance before they embark on their life journey!

Caring for others can increase life expectancy & decrease stress

Monday, September 9th, 2013

I haven’t been blogging much lately, not for lack to write about, but too much.
I’ve had so many massive changes in my life, some giving me the worst pain and stress I’ve ever experienced.
Guess that’s what happens when you give up a comfortable, western life to serve others and accomplish your dreams…
Naturally I was interested in a Ted.com video called “How to make stress your friend”.
I was expecting some helpful tips, but the research revealed in this video is incredible.

Did you know there’s a neuro-hormone, oxytocin, with its own cute nickname, the cuddle hormone, because it’s released when you hug someone. Oxytocin makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family. It enhances your empathy. It even makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about. When oxytocin is released in the stress response, it is motivating you to seek support. Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell someone how you feel instead of bottling it up. Your stress response wants to make sure you notice when someone else in your life is struggling so that you can support each other. When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you. All of these physical benefits of oxytocin are enhanced by social contact and social support, so when you reach out to others under stress, either to seek support or to help someone else, you release more of this hormone, your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster from stress. I find this amazing, that your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection. Human connection reduces stress.

And that’s not all.  Every major stressful life experience increases the risk of dying by 30 percent. BUT, People who spent time caring for others showed absolutely no stress-related increase in dying. Zero. Caring created resilience. When you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience. Now I wouldn’t necessarily ask for more stressful experiences in my life, but this science has given me a whole new appreciation for stress!

Science has proven doing things for other people is the most effective way to be happy. And now, they’ve proven caring for others increases life expectancy by decreasing stress! Watch for yourself here:

Ted.com:Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend

More and more, research and developments worldwide are showing the futility of the individualistic, selfish lifestyle common in collapsing western countries.
One of the key principles of my belief which I believe comes from God is service to others and humanity. Another is the harmony of science and religion. It’s so confirming to see these things come together, and common sense and spiritual ideals prevailing…

 

The Collapse of Our Civilization

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

The Collapse of Civilization

It’s been some time now, and the verdict is clear… things are getting worse in the world not better:

  • Disparity between rich and poor
  • Too few jobs
  • Games and spectacles “to keep idle citizens entertained”
  • Rule by decree
  • Irresponsible behaviour of public officials

What does this remind you of? Sounds a lot like our civilization, right?

Actually, it is a description of Ancient Rome before it’s collapse!

Many argue, ” things will improve and this is just a temporary situation”, other extremists claim “the end of the world is near”
I don’t buy it. Historian Arnold Toynbee researched the rise and fall of civilization more than anyone, and according to his findings, right now is pretty much exactly when our civilization is due for collapse.

Of course, civilizations don’t just come and go, retired member of the Baha’i Universal House of Justice, the late Dr. Peter Khan describes how they exhibit cracks over time, often hundreds of years in the making, until eventually they crumble and collapse. Much has been written by various authors in an attempt to identify the fissures in the Roman Empire, some of which are very prevalent in much of world society now…

So how do we deal with this? Pure capitalism, like socialism and other man-made systems preceding it, is a flawed system based on certain false assumptions about human nature and well-being (nevermind total disregard of the environment based on an antiquated assumption of inexhaustible natural resources), and it is slowly unravelling before our eyes.
Individuals too, while affected by the system in place, are certainly culpable for the unwise and harmful actions carried out under the pretext of personal rights and “getting ahead of the pack”.
Ultimately, the relationship between society and the individual is so intertwined and mutually affective that ignoring one at the expense of the other has to be viewed as simplistic.
The effect of individualistic, materialistic attitudes so prevalent worldwide have never been so clear – They not only lead to unhappiness, they’re totally destructive.

I’ve been pondering for a long time on how our society is far beyond any kind of band aid solutions, well proven not to be effective. Even more so, I’ve been thinking about how our educational institutions are giving degrees and releasing supposed ‘experts’ into the world with ‘solutions’ for social development that are based in failed approaches. (I posted a great video about this recently that explains why & how the whole foundation of the education system is broken)

So, I’ve been looking into how we create a new civilization, how is it going to happen?

According to Dr. Peter Khan, a healthy civilization involves a foundation of behavioral change through spiritual transformation. A civilization depends upon certain moral and ethical, spiritual characteristics.

Assuming we need to start from scratch to see real improvements to the worlds major problems, we would want to have certain things to create a framework and guideline for a new civilization:

– We would want individuals comprising that civilization to engage in an exploration and application of divine teachings to daily life, so that we can build up a civilization in a reasonable and productive manner

– We would want civilized society to be imbued with a sense of altruism to the service of humanity. We don’t want selfish greedy people, but people who are altruistic, who think of the larger good.

– And essentially we would want them to transmit civilized values to the new generation of children and youth.

There are many who claim to be implementing these practices but the one organization that has really seemed to have grasped these principles and put them into action are the Baha’is.

They are implementing growth of a new type of civilization slowly but surely, in over 220 countries and territories in one collective, unified effort through their devotional meetings, the institute process, and study of the Ruhi Books, a focus on service to humanity, children’s classes, youth classes, and junior youth activities.
But most importantly, they are assisting in a transformation of the human heart and priorities of the individual, the only way true change and lasting solutions have ever occurred in the world.

Don’t want to waste your time contributing to humanity with failed solutions that band aid serious problems? Get involved in one of these activities!

Logic, reason, and common sense dictate that if what we’re doing isn’t working, doing the opposite may be a good place to start.

Our work featured in Dawn Breakers film festival

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

The music video I shot and produced for Elika Mahony’s song ‘Where There Is Love’ was chosen as official selection for the Dawn Breakers International film festival happening this weekend in San Diego California.

You can read more about the video and song I produced and mixed on Elika’s blog.

You can watch it on Youtube here, or on Youku.com in China below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN6dal3mwK8

For viewers in China:

New Production: Bahiyyih – Take Me Home

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

In the howling wind, sleet and cold, Bahiyyih and I braved the elements to work in a very cold studio during a relentless winter in 2008 and 2009 to record her album ‘Take Me Home’.

Take Me Home is a spiritually inspired collection of songs to sooth and uplift the soul, taking us back to our true home. Although she wanted a very simple production, there are some diverse instruments such as Celtic harp and Oud.
Bahiyyih has composed some lovely melodies, and her angelic voice lifts the compositions to a truly heavenly place.

She talks more about her album on her blog posts here and here.

You can listen and find out more about the album on her website, and get it on iTunes or your favorite online music store.

Bahiyyih - Take Me Home CD Cover

Bahiyyih - Take Me Home CD Cover

New Release: Meditations of the Spirit in Chinese

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

A Chinese CD, ‘Meditations of the Spirit’, which I collaborated on with Elika Mahony, and produced and engineered has just been released and sold out in less than a month!

All the songs are in Chinese with a few bilingual songs.  The lyrics are from the profound and highly spiritual Baha’i writings, and some compositions are translated versions of songs from Elika’s Fire and Gold album.
The project involved highly talented musicians and artists – the very talented Cheng Lin graciously agreed to sing on the CD and Jin R plays her original beautiful Yang Qin compositions.  Phil Morrison and Keith Williams generously added their gift of talent to the CD too and Siria Rutstein, the youngest of the group, contributes her magical voice to the mix.  Jimmy adds a few of his compositions and Flamenco guitar player, Eric Harper, adds to one of  the tracks.  We also have 2 talented ladies singing in Chinese – Zhao Li and Lily, with Elika Mahony singing one of the songs in Chinese and a part in Arabic on another.

You can find more information about the songs here and can order them on that website.
To make orders in North America and other parts of the world, click here.

Chinese CD cover

We’ve been in discussion with the publisher to do another album like this due to the great response, but that is probably a few years off as this was an exhaustive project.

1912 Prediction of the decline of the news media

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

“There are good and bad newspapers…Those who play for their own little selfish ends give no true light to the world and perish of their own futility”
Abdu’l-Bahá
, New York, 1912

Abdul Baha in North America
Abdu’l-Bahá in America

A new life is stirring within all the peoples of the earth

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

A new life is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth; and yet none hath discovered its cause or perceived its motive. Consider the peoples of the West. Witness how, in their pursuit of that which is vain and trivial, they have sacrificed, and are still sacrificing, countless lives for the sake of its establishment and promotion. The peoples of Persia, on the other hand, though the repository of a perspicuous and luminous Revelation, the glory of whose loftiness and renown hath encompassed the whole earth, are dispirited and sunk in deep lethargy.

O friends! Be not careless of the virtues with which ye have been endowed, neither be neglectful of your high destiny. Suffer not your labors to be wasted through the vain imaginations which certain hearts have devised. Ye are the stars of the heaven of understanding, the breeze that stirreth at the break of day, the soft-flowing waters upon which must depend the very life of all men, the letters inscribed upon His sacred scroll. With the utmost unity, and in a spirit of perfect fellowship, exert yourselves, that ye may be enabled to achieve that which beseemeth this Day of God. Verily I say, strife and dissension, and whatsoever the mind of man abhorreth are entirely unworthy of his station.

– Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Pages 195-197

Adoption denied due to membership in Baha’i faith

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Today, on the inauguration of Baha’i Rights Day, most people are posting about the persecution of Baha’is in Iran. But persecution of Baha’is is certainly not limited to Iran.

Over a month ago, I posted about how we were facing discrimination in adopting a Korean baby due to our being members of the Baha’i faith.

Despite a personal visit to the Government run agency in Korea by the top administration of the Baha’i faith in Korea, which revealed significant ignorance of the faith, the agency returned our dossier (all our application papers and funds) last week and sent our local agency a letter claiming the refusal of the adoption.
The fact that they have returned all our application papers last week and have made a final decision so quickly shows they are no longer willing to discuss this case, and it is now officially closed, as nothing can be done without those papers.

This not only affects our adoption, and any Korean Baha’is that may want to adopt in that country, but people of many other faiths adopting from other countries as well. The fact that the limited resources of the international Baha’i community are focused on the possible execution of 7 Baha’is arrested in Iran for their beliefs makes our case insignificant at the moment.

All I want to see is some justice in this case, especially considering that the agency could have informed us 6 months before, and not proposed a child to us if they had issues with our beleifs. The failure on their part to do this would no doubt guarantee successful results if pursued legally.

However we live in a world where injustice prevails and is the standard. Here we are, trying to adopt a baby from 4 different countries for over 5 years now, and despite being ideal candidates and fulfilling all legal, health, psychological, financial, and social requirements one needs to adopt, nationalism of countries and the lack of value for children in our society has left us unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Mothers abort babies every day, have children that they don’t want, and abuse them at will with little consequences.

If anything, our world has little respect for children, and is becoming more complacent and less tolerant of others beliefs than ever. The only recourse is to spread information of this case, and others far and wide so that people of faith are aware and can show the world that this is actually NOT acceptable, and we won’t be complacent when discriminated against.

Update on Korea adoption case

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

I wanted to express my appreciation and gratitude for all the messages and support we have received since announcing the challenges as Baha’is we’ve been facing in adopting a baby.

Your prayers and positive energy have been effective though!

2 Baha’is on the National Spiritual Assembly of Korea visited the agency we’re dealing with there soon after hearing about our case without an appointment.

The person who is in charge of our case was not in the office because of her business travel overseas for the two weeks.
Instead they met staff and asked the reason why they decided to deny our adoption based on our beliefs.
As we expected the main reason was incorrect information they had obtained from the internet and their friends.

The Baha’is explained them about the Faith and emphasized that it was quite different than what they are thinking of, and they politely requested that they reconsider the decision again.

She said that she would read the materials about the Faith in Korean they brought, and take the proper measure once the person handling our case returns.

They will be following up soon, So keep those prayers and positive energy coming!

It’s impressive and moving how quickly and sincerely Baha’is come together to assist others when needed.

Note: Please do not post any information about this elsewhere for the next few weeks, we don’t want to jeapordize this delicate situation until it is resolved. Thank you for understanding.