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Spring tends to come early for those of us who observe the Baha’i fast in March, and after numerous generous Thanksgiving and holiday meals have stretched our stomachs to record sizes, many of us somehow feel ill-prepared for the arrival of the nineteen days of prayerful fasting that awaits us. But it comes nonetheless.
The first day often seems the easiest, I think perhaps because we have enough nutritional goodness stockpiled throughout our bodies to get us through a good couple of weeks on a desert island. (While fasting, Baha’is abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours for 19 days.) But as the days go by, the hunger becomes more challenging, and hopefully creates an opportunity for us to reflect on the real reason why we fast in the first place — for detachment from material things, to clear away the clutter of our busy lives, and to build a renewed focus on our souls.
I have been fasting since I became a Baha’i in the late seventies and remember being the only kid in my high school cafeteria without a lunch box, constantly getting offers from caring classmates to feed me. I would respectfully pass and let them know that my health was in no sort of real danger, and then explain why exactly I fasted.
Having made it through decades of fasting, we now, “fast” forward a few decades to mid-March 2012, when I find myself sitting in front of a piano, around my usual lunch time. I’m hungry, but inspired, feeling like the spiritual purpose of the fast should have some kind of creative outcome if anything. So I pause for a moment, place my fingers on the keys they choose, and they begin to remember three notes in succession, notes that I had just that morning played on a ukelele for some reason. Simply put in musical terms, the notes formed an implied A major chord because instead of playing the major third, the top note plays a major 2nd note leaving the “major” quality to our imagination, however the chord would then drop down to an A# minor, a half step away, creating an emotional harmonic change from hope to sadness in just four beats (sorry – I’ll stop with the intellectual music analysis now).
The chord progression struck me as simple, yet powerful. And as the notes resounded throughout my being I felt compelled to find their lyrical counterparts. The question I always ask myself: how can I write lyrics befitting enough when there are divine words in our midst? For that reason, I try to have resources handy that may bring inspiration at times like these. And sure enough, sitting next to me on the piano bench was a copy of one of my favorite books. Paris Talks contains a series of various talks given by Abdu’l-Baha in Paris in the early 1900’s. I opened the book to this:
We must find a way of spreading love among the sons of humanity. Love is unlimited, boundless, infinite! Material things are limited, circumscribed, finite. You cannot adequately express infinite love by limited means. The perfect love needs an unselfish instrument, absolutely freed from fetters of every kind. – p. 36.
I understood Abdu’l-Baha’s simple, yet compelling message, and I could deeply feel Abdu’l-Baha’s spirit in sharing the urgency of spreading love to the people of the world. This, it seemed so clear to me, represented the ultimate solution to the conflict and pain afflicting and dividing the world. If, in fact, love holds the world together, if the earth’s creation came about because of the Creator’s love for us, and if that love is infinite, unlimited or boundless, shouldn’t it exist everywhere? And if it’s free and there’s plenty of it, why wouldn’t we share it?
So the three words describing love on the page inspired me — unlimited, boundless, infinite. I already had three notes on the piano, just waiting to be teamed up with their new friends, and they seemed to work well together, so the song came to life.
Did love bring those words and notes together? Or did the fast just inspire my humble soul with a burst of creative energy?
Please listen to the song, and let me know.
You can know more about KC Porter on KCPorter.com.