Stephen A. Fuqua (saf)

a Bahá'í, software engineer, and nature lover in Austin, Texas, USA

Instant Coffee Takes Me Back to Pilgrimage

We ran out of regular coffee, hence drinking instant this morning (Pampa brand from Mexico). The smell of this brand takes me back to Haifa, where I went on Pilgrimage a year ago. The B&B we stayed in had an electric kettle and kept us well-stocked with packages of instant coffee. On mornings where we had to get moving before the cafe downstairs opened, that was my wake-up.

Templar's Boutique Balcony
View of the cafe from our balcony, November 22, 2010.

One year later… and how has that trip affected my life? There, I encountered a beauty and serenity unlike anything I’ve ever seen or felt before. On many occasions since, I have let that sense be an anchor, bringing calm to my mind and helping me withstand tests and challenges.

Gardens at Bahji
Cactus and rose in the gardens at Bahji.

The Bahá‘í Holy Places are of historic significance to the Bahá‘ís, linking us to the pivotal moments that shaped the unfolding of the religion we profess. Their upkeep is not a matter of tourism (in fact, no contributions, fees, or payments to the Bahá‘í World Center are asked of the pilgrim). It is on the one hand the ultimate sign of respect for the founders of our Faith, and on the other it is a form of prayer and worship to the Divine. It is also a symbol of the harmony and order-from-chaos that the religion is intended to establish amongst humanity.

“Consider the flowers of a garden. Though differing in kind, color, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto their beauty. How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruit, the branches and the trees of that garden were all of the same shape and color! Diversity of hues, form and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest. Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas and convictions of the children of men.”

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p103)

There is no getting around it; Israel is a conflict-laden land. It is also a bustling, thriving, highly urbanized nation. To experience Pilgrimage is to get a glimpse into the local political and religious challenges faced by the Bahá‘ís as they emerged from imprisonment and onto the world stage (though the Central Figures disdained politics, it constantly tried to follow Them). Gaining a greater understanding and appreciation of this context was another take-way. And, it offered a glimpse into how we can, even in an over-crowded world, both restore and create anew a sense of place that nourishes our body, mind, and soul.

Terraces on Mt. Carmel
View of the “German colony” and the Port of Haifa, from one of the Terraces below the Shrine of the Báb.

I believe that the reverence, awe, serenity, and wonder of Pilgrimage will hold throughout my life, and though the motivating spirit be unknown, in the small works that one day I will have left behind.

Cypress in Mazra'ih
Ancient cypresses in Mazra’ih, enjoyed by Bahá‘u’lláh in the 1870s, delighting many generations since and those to come.</small>

Posted with : Life Lived Living, On the Subject of Religion