Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Beam Me Up! My Experience With the Baha'i Faith



Perhaps it was a mixed blessing. After almost merging into a Semi on the Sawgrass Express way, nearly hitting a motorcyclist while turning into the development, and getting my back wheel stuck in the gutter after parking on the lawn, I felt that prayer might actually just be what I needed.

When this assignment was pitched to us in class, I had all the intention of visiting a Dharma-based religious site; rather, I found myself more particularly interested in a Baha’i website I had stumbled upon while searching for religious institutions. The woman on the phone, who only introduced herself as Ruth, informed me that I would be more than welcome to a Baha’i devotional on the upcoming Friday. She described it as quiet, initiate, open and particularly spiritual. Although I cannot say that Ms. Ruth’s description was false, I would say it was romanticized.

I had decided to bring a friend me to the devotional, Corey, a likeminded atheist who was inquiring about the origin of what he had read to be such a young and obscure faith. I figured that if I ran out of good questions to ask these folk, he could jump in with ones that had yet to cross my mind. And so, upon arrival, we soon came to the conclusion that this was not the type of religious event we had expected. We were greeted with smiling faces and screaming children in the background (Baha’i Devotionals apparently double as day-care centers) as well as the smells of religious food offerings such as Papa John’s and an array of diet soft drinks. Ruth had early told me that casual attire would be fine, though I had no idea the ritual would be quite this laidback. Even the prayer area was nothing more than an art-deco coffee table with couches and spare dining room chairs circled around it. No religious iconography, symbols of any kind, significant attire; simply a setting similar to my parent’s weekly game of Pictionary. The absolutely casual setting made me strangely uneasy. In every other spiritual setting, I had always been told to cover my shoulders, sit with my hands in my lap, and make sure I had spit out my gum. This was something completely unexpected. Corey and I took the two spare dining chairs that were cramped between the sofa and dining area, perhaps to give myself a sense of enclosure. And as we sat, we began to inquire. Here’s what we learned.

Baha’i is the youngest of all the major world religions. Founded by a man named Bahau’llah in late 19th-century Iran, the religion’s spread and interpretation is mostly credited to the founder’s son, Abdul’Baha, through speeches given in the United States and western Europe. Nowadays, the religious policies and interpretations are guided by a Universal House of Justices, made up of 9 elected devouts, who are believed to channel the thoughts of God. The religion itself teaches a unity of spirituality through all mankind. It is believed by Baha’is that the Abrahamic God sent to earth the first prophets (Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, and Mohammad) to spread the message of faith and love, and although man twisted the message of these prophets, Bahau’llah is the last prophet to spread the word. Most of all, the slogan for the religion is the “Independent Search of Truth”, or finding Baha’i and Gob by one’s own discovery and inquiry, importantly uniting the worlds of science and religion harmoniously. This and only this will bring universal peace.

The religion automatically sparked my attention, as it genuinely presses for the development of hard sciences, gender equality, and racial blindness. As a Sociology Major, these are all fundamental humanistic ideals of mine, so why wouldn’t Baha’i be the perfect religious fit for me? The people were friendly enough, and obviously ate well at every devotional. We began to ask more and more, trying to find where the weakness in these philosophies were, as the religion just seemed too lenient to have any standing against the other dogmatic theologies in today’s society. We soon discovered that lenience was the weakness of the religion.

Upon speaking of the “independent search for truth”, I asked the room at what age did they come into Baha’i openly. Most everyone claimed that as an older teenager or young adult, they found Baha’i to satisfy their spiritual needs. On the flipside, I then the room what religion they were raised as. All but one woman in the room reluctantly admitted that their parents were Baha’i and that they were raised in the religion. This puzzled Corey and I, as we were just told that these people found Baha’i on their own only after searching for spirituality. We then asked what happens to the soul after one dies, and only one woman was able to speak up about it. Paige, an animated and charismatic woman, took it upon herself to clear up these difficult questions. Without giving me so much as a solid answer, she immediately put the terms in metaphor.

“The body is like a cage and our souls are the bird inside. We must be close to god when we are inside the cage so that we can fly out one day, rather than flop out onto the ground.” I asked her to explain it in another sense, and she seemed stuck on the birdcage analogy. It was then we began to notice a strange pattern in the way these people spoke of their beliefs; they didn’t seem to care to. Every answer of every difficult question was open-ended. Every philosophy they laid out on the table was ambiguous to an excruciatingly frustrating extent. Even after speaking about it for 15 minutes, I’m still not sure what happens to people who are not Baha’i after death.

After taking up an entire hour of the Devotional time with questions, we sat back and decided to listen and watch the actual acts of the ritual itself. Books were first passed out in the way a Christian prayer group may pass out bibles, though none of these books were alike. Each one contained different prayers concerning different topics in completely different orders. One man, who only spoke English, settled with a Spanish prayer book and read from there, regardless of his lack of comprehension of the language. The ritual began only once everyone had a book in hand. Everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes with the exception of the two of us. It began with one man bringing out a large bongo and beginning to drum an obscure beat that neither seemed rehearsed nor improvised. Soon, Paige began by saying a prayer about devotion and trust. As she ended her prayer, a woman behind us began to recite her own. In a breathy, seemingly sexual experience, she read from her book, her tone resembling what I associated with the ecstasy of the saints; a divine orgasm, in some ways. No one reacted to this, though I personally turned red in the face. The gentleman sitting beside Corey and I soon began to read aloud from his Spanish book of prayers, fumbling with the phonetics of a language he didn’t understand and emphasizing awkward parts of statements. Another woman behind us began to sing, though we couldn’t understand a word she was saying. It occurred to me that these people were not so much affected by what they were saying, but rather, simply satisfied that they had said anything at all. When the prayer circle was done, we said our “thank you”s and “god bye”s and walked out of the house in silence. We waited until we were in the car to reflect on what we had just witnessed, in one sense humored and in another deeply confused.

Now that I sit down to reflect and analyze, I find myself completely at a loss as far as how to tie this all back to what we have learned this semester. These people were completely unlike anything we had read about. These were not a sub-Saharan Muslim sect that worshipped river gods. These were not Christian Scientists attempting to pray the pain away. These people were not offering anything to a deity, like a puja to Shiva. They did not claim to witness the virgin mother’s image in their grilled cheese or profess that statues can cry tears of blood. These were progressive, forward-thinking people who simply lacked a sense of organization to their religion; no doctrine to document its philosophies, and no clergy to direct questions towards. These were people living in modern western society worshipping a god that was “both omnipresent and intrapersonal”. These are people who believe in civil rights and stem cell research and yet find religion in the ambiguity of the Baha’i faith. I still do not know what it means to be Baha’i, nor do I think I could have ever really known through the resource of the devotional alone. I cannot seem to relate my experience to Bowen, either. What I witnessed was not magic, it was not organized prayer, it was not euphorically spiritual. I grasp for anything to cite in Bowen, but I think the most useful tie-in would be it’s very definitions of religion. A “set of shared beliefs in spirits of gods” is one of Bowen’s descriptions, but then goes on to state it can also be “sentiment of awe and wonder toward the unknown”. If this is the case, perhaps those Baha’i that I was fortunate to meet met the criteria of shared belief. I, on the other hand, am struck with awe and wonder by this strange experience.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Taste in Men: An Evolutionary Guide

This post is more from a personal perspective, and I'm not sure anyone will find any help in it. But I've been thinking about my taste in men throughout the years and I laugh at the strange trends (or lack there of) my heart has pandered over. Let's start young.


Year: 1996
Age: 9
Dream Man: Leonardo DiCaprio

After watching Romeo and Juliet, I found myself pining for a knight in shining armor. It was strange how huge my crush for Leo was, given my age. I had dozens of pictures of him on the walls of my room and I wrote "Gabrielle DiCaprio" on some of my notebooks. Funny, seeing as most of my friends weren't thinking about boys in that way quite yet. I didn't really tell anyone, it wasn't an open crush. I felt weird, I felt wrong for the way I felt, simply because no one related to me.


Year: 1998
Age: 11
Dream Man: Tuxedo Mask

And who wouldn't love the guy? Tall, dark and handsome, throws roses and recites poetry in the middle of battle? The man is a romantic to the core. What a dream to be the damsel in distress to this sort of gentleman? To be whisked away to the stars, wrapped up in a long black cape and supercute pop songs playing in the background. Of course, if he was my Tuxedo Mask, that would make me Sailor Moon. Even better!

Year: 1999
Age: 12
Dream Man: Zechs Marquise
My first run in with a "Bad Boy", and what a bad boy he is. Completely opposite of Romeo or Tuxedo Mask, Zechs Marquise is one of the main "villains" in the anime Gundam Wing. He's somewhat of the sympathetic antagonist. He does what he does with good intentions, it just means the demise of the planet Earth in the process. He's not truly the bad guy... he just really believes in things like Chaos Theory. That didn't make Steven Hawking evil, did it? And why should Zechs any different? Bottom line is, he's not. He's just misunderstood, and he might have a drinking problem...

Year: 2001
Age: 13
Dream Man: Davey Havok
And I think this is when I figured out that there was a place in my heart for girls. And by girls, I mean androgynous men. And my androgynous mean, I mean Davey Havok from AFI. The man (err... arguably man) was sensitive, romantic, a great singer, and covered in tattoos. What a dream boat! How could you not love a guy who wears makeup sexier than you do? At 14 years old, this was my heart-throb and I think everyone knew it. I went to every concert, owned a bunch of shirts, even drew pictures of the band. I was, by all means, obsessed with Davey Havok of AFI.

Year: 2005
Age: 17
Dream Man: Mido Hamada

To be honest, I fell in love with this guy because he played a personal hero of mine, the Lion of Panshir, in a movie. After thinking and thinking of what I wanted my children to look like, I figured that few men could help me achieve the genetics I wanted. I needed a handsome Mediterranean man to loan me 23 chromosomes and this was the one I picked. Sophisticated, sexy, mature, and he can speak English, Arabic, French, and German! What's not to love? Shut up... I know what you're thinking. I hate all of you. :P

Year: 2007
Age: 19
Dream Man: The Guy I Was Dating

Back in my freshman year of High School, I met a boy who honestly probably didn't know I existed. But he was in my math class and said some nice things to me, and was very handsome. It was my first tangible crush in my entire life. He was sweet, fun-loving, handsome, popular, but he wouldn't take notice of me until my senior year. We became good friends right after I graduated high school and started dating in 2006. By mid 2007, he had proposed to me (twice, since the first time I was reluctant) and this was the man I thought I was going to marry. I was wrong. He broke my heart. And my heart is still broken. And I still worry about him every day because he's also my best friend. Do I still wish to marry him? I don't know. He's not the person he was. He's not respectful of others nor himself, and he seems to have regressed in maturity. But I miss the man he was and I still love him.

Year: 2008
Age: 20
Dream Man: No Idea
Where do I go from here? I have a heart in need of mending, I'm not sure who can do that for me. I don't have a "dream man" anymore, mostly because I'm afraid that if I'm too choosy, I'll miss out on someone amazing. But my heart has been played with a few times lately and each time hurts. You'd think by now my heart would be numb, but it's not. I still long for affection and interaction. I long to be loved again.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Updated Blog: Due To Stupidity


It seems that this year's April Fools Day prank I played on myself. You may prefer to call it carelessness, though. Apparently, my blog url was spelled completely wrong. No wonder no one could find it. I suppose I slipped an extra "i" into infidel or something. Anyway, I just have to start over again. Sucks majorly. So here's the Miss Infidel Blog, spelled correctly and open for business. I reentered the old blogs in my previous post, though they don't have the pizazz they did before this mishap. I have to live with it, though, if I want my URL to match my Pen Name. And I do.

So let's try this again, shall we?

The Last Few Blogs



Would Cadbury Cream Eggs taste as good if you could eat them all year round?

Ah, the Cadbury Cream Egg, a classic. Standing at about 3 inches tall and two inches around, this delectable faux-egg has become almost as popular an Easter Symbol as the walking dead Jesus himself. Who could forget the perturbing clucking-bunny commercials (especially the Cadbury Bunny Tryouts)? Forever, Cadbury has become the most quintessential easter treat (or at least running a close second to the hollow chocolate bunny).

But what's so good about it? All in all, it doesn't taste all that great. The quality of the chocolate is nice, it's silky and rich, but perhaps too rich. Before even getting to the creamy egg center, your mouth is filled with chocolate shell that leaves a sugary coating on the inside of your mouth. Maybe some people like this aspect of the candy. I, on the other hand, do not. And once you finally do make it to the center, you find yourself with more of a paste than a cream. The taste and texture aren't bad, in fact I think an oozing center may be completely unappetizing. Regardless, it's not what Cadbury advertises, though, and one can't help but feel slighted.

If these sub par candies were offered at Halloween, chances are your kids would trade them away to the slow kid next door in exchange for a damn M&Ms funpack. Bottom line is, Cadbury Eggs only taste good because they're offered for one month out of the year and offering them regularly would ruin the sales completely. Enjoy while you can, if you really want to put yourself through that.

And what's with Peeps?!


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Ah, the female breast. The universal symbol of maternity. Round, supple, soft, perky, bouncy... for the lucky. I, on the other hand, have been cursed from a young age to have issues with joybags 1 and 2.

I was 14 years old when I discovered a lump in my breast. I was on the heftier side, about 160 lbs and only 5'3, sporting a size 14 waist. The good news was the C-cups, nearing D's. Overall, the only part of me that I was happy with where my boobs. But after the boob-bomb was dropped, I knew my breasts would never be the same.

Wasn't too bad, though. The tumor was removed and the recovery was quick. And the size difference wasn't all too noticeable, and neither was the surgical scar. Problem was, my weight was starting to drop, my dress size was getting smaller, and my waist was shrinking. Before I knew it, I was nearing 16 years old and 115 lbs. My beloved nearly D's were now hardly B's. My breasts had lost their bounce, their mass, all the pep they once had. My bust was a bust. Now that I felt good about my weight, I felt horrible about what was underneath the underwire.

Between 16 and 19, my weight continued to fluctuate, ranging from 150 lbs back to 120 lbs. With the rapid weight gain and weight loss, my breast sizes jumped around as well, and with every fluctuation, the size difference between joybag 1 and 2 grew. My weight finally stabilized after going on Yaz birth control at 19. My breast(s) grew back to a size C, but my waist finally settled at a size 6. Problem was, only one breast, the one unscathed by surgery, comfortably fit the C cup. The other was now a B. An entire cup size difference between breasts is a difficult thing to live with, even though the bras that I had been purchasing hid the issue rather well.

Now, I'm 20 years old and preparing to go under the knife again. In 3-4 months, reconstructive surgery will done to level out the difference between the girls next door, and I'm milking it (haha! Lactating joke...) for all it's worth. This is my chance to get the perk, the fullness, the bounce I always wanted! And now I find myself boob shopping. I want even, but still natural. I want firmness, but still fleshy. I want lift, but with bounce. I want these. Look at the perfection! Doctor, sign me up for what this girl has, because lord knows tits that nice aren't natural.

Ah, I can't wait to wear a bikini again.


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Finally.

I've been promising myself to create a blog for several months now, if not nearing a year. I've had things like livejournals, deadjournals, blurtys, even myspace blogs in the past, but those all felt more like a diary than a blog to me. This time, I'm making a concerted effort to keep my posts less personal and more open for conversation. I want feed back. I thrive from it.

I'm not the strongest of writers out there. I'm much better at editing and fact-checking than sitting down and being motivated to pump out pages. When I do find myself motivated to write, it's usually more of a rant rather than an intelligent summery of what's on my mind. I can't promise that I won't rant here, although I'll attempt to keep those sort of entries for my personal journal.

I suppose a brief summery of myself is in order, though I don't usually like to try to sum up things like attributes. I'm a student currently at Florida Atlantic University and I'm studying Sociology and Psychology. Currently, I'm enjoying both equally and I'm not sure which will be my major, my minor, or if I'll go for a duel in both. I work at a learning center as an instructor for children K-8, and I adore it. I might talk about the kids I teach often, just because their so fascinating. Other than work and school, I'm pretty social and I have many hobbies. Coffee and wine, the arts, music, even video games every once and a while. I do kundalini on a weekly basis, although my yoga partner and I have been slacking these past couple Tuesdays.

I don't really want to say more. Not just yet. I suppose you'll learn as we go along, if you stick around, that is.

-- ONWARD! --