Monthly Archives: November 2006

murder for hire

As usual, the credits sequence is the most visually exciting part of the film, but it may be the first such sequence since 1962’s Dr. No not to feature nude or semi-nude women writhing in semi-silhouette. (And, indeed, even Dr. No features litho’ed female samba dancers, albeit disappointingly clothed.) The Bond credit sequences have always been a neat summary of what people like in the films — the seamless, almost pornographic mix of violent spycraft and guilt-free sexual encounters. But in this clever, boldly graphical piece, the credits fly by over cartoon acts of violence, almost all of which are perpetrated using card suit symbols, or pieces of them. The sexual element has been completely removed, which at first suggests an interesting new direction for the series — a chaster, more focused Bond, albeit one who may be a bit of a letdown to ten-year-olds for whom seeing an almost-naked woman is far more exciting than watching for obscure British brands of car and gun. (Allowing that such ten-year-olds still exist, some twenty-odd years after I saw my first Bond film.)

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The Aftermath

I don’t know yet, can’t possibly tease out at this point, what will be the full impact of pilgrimage on my life in the years to come. Confidence certainly comes to mind; praying at the Shrines, even when it was difficult, seems to have imbued me with a greater certainty of the power of my prayer and to have dissolved much of my anxiety about the future. But I’m sure there is more to come. Nearly every Bahá’í knows these words of Bahá’u’lláh, which appear in the front leaf of most prayer books:

Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul.

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Day 9

The girls, with some justification, begin to doubt my land nav skills and want to take a cab. But I’ve got the bit in my teeth and my head down at this point, and I don’t want to stop. I ask an elderly man where Hatzionut St. is — he eyes me warily to see if I’m putting him on. “This is Hazionut St.”

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Day 8

There is a definite, deliberate tapering off of the historical significance and mystical splendor of the sites we visit toward the end of the pilgrimage; I think perhaps this is the House of Justice’s way of gradually weaning us off the intensity of the experience. Of course, it is also because the program moves in roughly chronological order, and however much we may love and adore and desire to emulate ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, drawing near to the places He has been doesn’t carry quite the same potency as entering the rooms of Bahá’u’lláh.

Still, there is a great deal here to be touched by, and a great deal of historical interest. This is the house where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote the first two parts of His Will and Testament, which, along with the Kitáb-i-Aqdas comprises the charter of Bahá’í civilization. It is also the place where He, pacing and meditating in His tiny rooftop apartment, awaited the ship coming to take Him to prison. (While the ship was en route, however, the Young Turks’ rebellion deposed the Ottoman government; things were thrown in chaos, those on the ship were now fugitives, and He was never arrested.)

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Day 7

Fortunately, after the spiritual storms of the previous night, we have a light day. We gather at the gate closest to the Arc to begin our tour of the administrative centres of the Faith. I have a friend at home, not a Baha’i, who likes to refer to the House of Justice as the “Hall of Justice” — “Did you meet Aqua-Man?” he asks on hearing from me — and there is something heroic about this architecture, but mostly it’s dignified and stately and something else. Ready, perhaps — this is an architecture that seems entirely equal to the challenges of providing spiritual leadership to an emerging global civilization, greeting the leaders of nations, developing the institutions which can guide and channel the powers of millions for the benefit of all of humanity.

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Day 6

This time, although the Spirit is there, I find the flesh flagging; after perhaps ten minutes I can barely keep my eyes open during a recitation of the Tablet of Ahmad, and I decide that not praying would be preferable to falling asleep in the Most Sacred Precincts, so I quietly back out of the Shrine and decide to spend the rest of the time — it is already after 7 — walking the gardens and circumambulating the Shrine: good, wakeful, vigorous activities which are also spiritual and contemplative.

After walking once around the Shrine, I sit for a moment on the steps behind the Shrine (where, surprisingly but thoughtfully, there are bathrooms) and try to take a long-exposure picture of one of my beloved path-breaking trees. The photo never really comes off, but while I’m taking it, tiny drops of rain land on the screen. Thinking about the theological implications of a tree in one’s path, it pleases me to seek shelter under the tree. But as soon as I do, the gentle mist of rain immediately erupts into an unrestrained downpour. I stand there for a moment in the rain, already drenched, wondering where I can possibly go that is dry and warm. The Pilgrim House is too far, I can’t possibly… and, of course, it’s right in front of me. I run to the front door of the Shrine.

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Day 5

This is a powerful thing — that God will “forgive” and “have mercy” on those who “draw nigh” and “remember” her, and “grant their desires,” and “bestow… whatever be their wish.” Because it has become quite clear, both in my prayers at the Sacred Thresholds and in my conversations with Nina and Farideh during the past day, that my wish is to serve at the World Centre. It started as a sort of declaration of our love for this place — “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to serve here?” But I quickly realize that for me, perhaps a little more than for them, the desire to work here is an unacknowledged longing, who knows of what duration, which has only now, in response to the physical reality of the place, begun to sing out in a pure and insistent voice.

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