Baha'i News -- The Story of Our Life

Newsletter of the Bahá'í Community in Northern Ireland
Issue 70 - 4 Jamál 159 BE - 1 June 2002 CE

The Story of Our Life

by Mr Ali Nakhjaváni

Think of yourself as a river, one which flows not through a desert where the water might gather a little dust, detracting from its purity, and not through flat and where the banks are beautiful meadows filled with wild flowers, but rather this river, which is you, flows through a dense and overgrown forest, where the trees grow thick. Dead leaves in large quantities, and all kinds of dirt and debris, fall into the river of your life and are carried along by the flowing water. The dead leaves symbolize the difficulties that life presents us with the need to discipline our emotions, to develop loving and creative relationships, our social interaction, relations with other people, the various physical and psychological handicaps and obstacles and tests and difficulties that we are confronted with and which, if we overcome them, strengthen and purify us.

Where there are trees, where there is life, there are dead leaves. There are many things which, like the dead leaves, "fall into" our lives without our doing anything to attract them or draw them to us. So it might be said, the dead leaves are utterly innocent. It is in the nature of life that leaves should fall into the river and be carried away by the flowing water. The leaves also represent negative thoughts. They come to us, but we are capable of letting them flow away with the water of life. They cannot hurt us, and we are blameless unless we cling to the evil thoughts, nourish them, and then act upon them. When bad or destructive thoughts come, simply let go of them, let them be carried away by the running water. If the bad thought lingers, grows strong and thick as a dead branch, it becomes a problem and is potentially harmful to you and to society.

God is responsible for our lives being like a river and having to flow through the tangled forest, and we have to accept it and realize that this is an example of His loving providence. If He had wanted, He could have arranged that the lives of human beings flow through flat land where no leaves would fall into the water, or He could have arranged for us to be protected from failing leaves, and if He had there would be no growth or challenge or realization of spiritual potential. As the river flows more deeply into the forest, dead branches now fall into the water, and being twisted and gnarled, they get stuck in the river bed. And as they accumulate, the progress of the water is impeded. The leaves collect in masses, sticking to the branches. More and more accumulate until a barrier results, a dam is built, and the riverbed is clogged.

After a time, the water cannot reach its destination, flowing swiftly and clearly, but instead divides itself into two channels, left and right, which trickle and sputter, with only a very little water arriving at its destination. The destination of the water, our lives, is the realization of our full human and spiritual potential, the development of those gifts and attributes which God has deposited in us, and ultimately the attainment of eternal life. Where does the river of life flow but into the Most Great Ocean?

The trickling water depicts the depletion of our mental and spiritual powers, our increasing weakness to assume responsibility for our own development, our inability to flow freely in the riverbed of life. The branches, it could be said, are prejudice, selfishness, shortcomings of all kinds, pride, arrogance, neglect of responsibility, forgetfulness of spiritual duty, suspicion and mistrust, to mention but a few. It is our punishment that the water flows, but loses sight of its destination, and is incapable of reaching it. What can be done about the dam? Expressed briefly, "We can give it a good kick." In other words, we can dismantle the obstacles that is interfering with the flowing of our river by administering the "kick" of firm resolution, determination, prayer, meditation, obedience to the laws, service, and teaching.

We know how vital teaching is for spiritual health. By bringing our lives into alignment with the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, the river of our life flows swiftly and smoothly, the water clear and sparkling and pure, and capable of carrying away all the leaves and debris that are encountered in the normal course of living. When we destroy the dam, the water flows again. Our troubles begin if we do not tear down the dam, for the accumulation of the negative elements that comprise it will find expression in destructive deeds harmful to ourselves and others. It is the purity of the water of our lives that attracts others to us, and which enables us to spiritually nourish them.

Life will be a process of building up and tearing down dams. This is the story of our lives.

©Copyright 2002, CommuNique

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