My friend texted me to meet up at a nearby café in town. When we met and got our first morning’s café latte, I couldn’t help but notice that his face was brimming with sadness.
Immediately I asked him:
“Hey, what’s going on, is everything okay?”
“My dream, as far I can remember, was to grow up to become a lawyer and open up my own law firm, which I have now done.”
“Yes, you also have a wonderful wife and 2 children that all love you very much. So, what seems to be troubling you?”
“That’s correct I do acknowledge that and I do feel blessed for those things. And not to mention, I have you as a true friend who’s always available to meet and talk every-now-and-then, but I still feel like there’s still something missing in my life.”
He later asked me:
“How do you keep being happy, and do you ever get sad about anything?”
To which I responded:
“Of course I get sad but they are not about trivial things because I have gone through life experiences that have no doubt made me stronger.”
So the point I tried to get across to my friend was that:
As humans, we are never going to be completely happy or satisfied. But we can change how we respond to those emotions in order to increase the frequency of being happier.
It all depends on what kind of goals we set or what vision we have for our life and the life of humanity as a whole. It depends on the extent to which we are independent of material things and more focused on spiritual things to bring us happiness. Or maybe we dichotomize the material and the spiritual whereas we should balance the two for a better outcome.
What has given my life meaning is Baha’u’llah’s vision of a world where all people will be united as one race and who follow one Cause. Baha’u’llah is the Founder of the Baha’i Faith and His fundamental premise is the oneness of humanity. His vision is not simply about building a peaceful world but it is a productive process and it takes all of us to build it. The implications of such a vision are very great and they touch on many aspects of the individual and collective life of humanity. There needs to be a complete reconstruction and reconceptualization of the structures of society.
He then asked me:
“So, what are you saying here exactly?”
“My point is that since people are intimately affected by their environment and at the same time they too affect the environment, there’s a lot of negative or destructive forces that threaten society and which also engender in us all the feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, and confusion.”
A helpful example here in illustrating my point about the effects of the environment on the individuals is a sick human body. Although the viruses that cause the flu are significantly small, they affect the whole body and mind of a person. This can be translated into society. Imagine the earth as a human body where the people are the cells. There is a lot of corruption, inequality between wealth and poverty, and an imbalance in the allocation of resources throughout the world. Therefore, the world of humanity is sick and we who live in such a time in human history, are affected negatively.
But we have a choice as people in the world. We can be active agents of change to this ailing world, and to remedy the symptoms of corruption, inequality, materialism and of others.
My friend became curious and asked:
“How are you practically changing the world? How are you bringing to life the vision of Baha’u’llah? And is this what keeps you happy?”
“Practically, the Baha’is all over the world are involved in a community building process that is taking sure steps forward in constructing the kind of world as envisaged by Baha’u’llah. They are involved in activities where people come together to study Baha’u’llah’s Creative Word and apply them to their individual and collective lives. They also get together to pray regularly. And finally, they do activities for the younger generations and children to not only think about themselves but how they can contribute to a better world. Yes, this is precisely what is keeping me happy.”
Then my friend got really curious and wanted to learn more about the program for the younger generations, to which I said:
“The program for the younger generation is called the Spiritual Empowerment of Junior Youth who are between the ages of 11 to 14. Contrary to how society portrays this particular age group, the program sees in each of them as having the curiosity to understand the world around them, that they have a keen sense of justice, and they know the difference between right and wrong. If this age group is properly educated by their parents and teachers, then they will shine out with their innate qualities and constructive capacities that befits their engagement in making a better world. The program has many component parts, but the central and most important one is the concept of service. In this program, they are being taught that if they altruistically serve their community, then not only will they develop the virtuous qualities, but that the betterment of the world is intimately linked to that. This age group is also developing the capacity to articulate through speech and writing, how to express themselves fully. And finally, they are building the capacity to use their spiritual perception, which is like the eyes of the soul and this is important for people to understand others not just on the surface but from deep within.”
My friend was truly intrigued and wanted to learn more about the program in practice so I will take him next week to my group meeting. And if it’s something that he actually likes, then I will encourage him to help me out in the future.
He was very thankful and began telling me that intuitively felt the need to do something beyond just the material necessities of life. He always felt there is something more to life and that that path I shared with him is, in fact, something he is missing as a vital part of his life and the world.
He ended by saying:
“I knew there was something about you that was always very different from who I meet day-to-day. I knew I could trust you and come to you whenever I had doubts and anxieties in my life. I am so happy you shared with me what you do for changing the world and although I will continue following my Christian faith, I would love to learn about the program for the younger generation and how the Baha’is are working with people to make the world a better place.”