Finally released from my prison sentence for smuggling marijuana, my parole officer let me move back to the Northwest. I started my free life in Oregon as sawmill worker, pulling on the green chain. No more drugs, no drinking, no chasing around, no boxing. Coming to terms with my intuition, I started to trust my inner voice more.
One day, I decided to explore some classes at the local junior college. Drawn to the notion of taking singing lessons, I uncovered a hidden desire. My family were truck driving folk, not cultured at all. But I went to the department of performing arts to ask. Never academic, I felt like a phony in that institution — but once the staff chatted with me I found myself taking classes in philosophy, acting, singing and writing. When I discovered Stanislavsky I instantly got him. I had read many philosophers’ tales of their spiritual searching and Stanislavsky reminded me of them.
My strong attraction to acting and singing meant that soon the ugly sensation of attachment came again. Just like with the false sense of self-importance boxing gave me, I could not stand it. I felt lost again.
Walking down the street one day after getting off work from the local pizza parlor a well-dressed man stopped me. I thought he might ask for the time. But he casually asked if I had heard of Baha’u’llah.
I said, “No, I’ve heard of Mayer Baba”. We chatted. Although he looked like an insurance salesman, this obviously nice guy had my attention and respect. I asked him if it was possible to pursue the arts without being involved for selfish reasons because my chase after importance or purpose as a boxer had driven me almost crazy — and I didn’t want to be driven crazy chasing after the arts. I was as honest as I could be, trying to describe what one of my prison authors called the inner “battle between the spirit and the brute”.
He said, “I don’t know. But just up the street there is an artist with his paintings on display in the front yard. You can ask him.”
So I went to the artist and asked him the same question. He opened a Baha’i book and pointed to the following quote:
In this great dispensation, art (or a profession) is identical with an act of worship…. Therefore, extreme effort should be made in art…. Nay, rather, each should assist the other in art and guidance. For instance, when the studying of art is with the intention of obeying the command of God this study will certainly be done easily and great progress will soon be made therein; and when others discover this fragrance of spirituality in the action itself, this same will cause their awakening. – Abdul-Baha,
I borrowed the book and took it home. A week later I knew the truth of the Writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdul-Baha, even though I didn’t understand much of it intellectually. My intuition told me it was true, even when my brain could not convince me. But my intuition was my guide now, so I took the leap of Faith and decided my brain would catch up in time.
It wasn’t so much those words that made me declare my new faith. It was the deep impression of Truth that I sensed from everything I read in that book. I didn’t care about what I heard from the Baha’is I met about the return of Christ or a Manifestation of God for this age, and I had never heard of those famous Baha’i artists Seals and Crofts, either. I only cared that my intuition had never detected such a deep feeling of truth as it did in those Writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha. My feeling of tranquility returned, and I wanted it to stay.
Had I become a Baha’i because the Baha’i Writings all completely agreed with me, I would not have lasted long. Eventually I found, in the incomprehensible vastness of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings for all of humanity, so much I could not immediately fathom and accept into my individualized, limited mental world. But faith is the common denominator for seekers of truth. Faith does not only come to intellectual or academic champions. For me, it is a gift given by God for some unknown reason. In time I knew I could agree with all the Writings of Baha’u’llah without necessarily understanding why. That is enough for me.
Read the previous article in the series: Boxing with God