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In his song Ballad in Plain D, Bob Dylan famously asked “Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?”
Half a century before, in a talk he gave in London, Abdu’l-Baha said: “The bird is a captive in the air and the fish a captive in the sea. Man alone stands apart … for he only is free who is not a captive to his desires.”
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Every creature on Earth, except we human beings, exists as a slave to nature, completely restricted by its limitations. Natural laws direct everything a bird does, everything an amoeba does, everything an ostrich does. But men and women can fly across the oceans, descend to the depths of any sea, contemplate the mysteries of the universe and transcend natural laws by understanding them and unlocking their secrets.
If a man looks at the world around him, he will see how all created things are dependent and are captive to the laws of Nature.
Man alone, by his spiritual power, has been able to free himself, to soar above the world of matter and to make it his servant.
Without the help of God man is even as the beasts that perish, but God has bestowed such wonderful power upon him that he might ever look upward, and receive, among other gifts, healing from His divine Bounty.
So during this time of year, just before the 19-day Baha’i month that precedes the coming of spring in the Northern Hemisphere with the vernal equinox, Baha’is observe four or five special days to recognize and commemorate the gladness, serenity, and joy that God’s gift of true freedom can produce. Called the Intercalary Days (Ayyam-i-Ha, in Persian), Baha’is utilize this short period every year to celebrate, socialize, give gifts, provide charity to the poor and needy, and joyously revel in the beauty and wonder of life.
These passages from Abdu’l-Baha’s talks and writings ask us to:
Break all fetters and seek for spiritual joy and enlightenment; then, though you walk on this earth, you will perceive yourselves to be within the divine horizon.
The constellation of love and wisdom and power is once more shining from the Divine Horizon to give joy to all who turn their faces to the Light of God.
… thy task concerneth the life of the soul, for this verily leadeth to man’s joy in the world of God. … Tell thou of abiding joy and spiritual delights, and godlike qualities, and of how the Sun of Truth hath risen above the earth’s horizons: tell of the blowing of the spirit of life into the body of the world.
This great gift of joy, love, and happiness, the message of the Intercalary Days says, comes to us directly from the Creator. Baha’is celebrate the joyful Creator during the annual Intercalary Days, the holy days set aside in the Baha’i calendar for hospitality, rejoicing, and charity. Abdu’l-Baha said if we can begin to understand the Supreme Being as exemplifying joy and happiness, we can each begin to reflect those attributes, too:
Believers … must show their belief in their daily lives, so that the world might see the light shining in their faces. A bright and happy face cheers people on their way. If you are sad, and pass a child who is laughing, the child, seeing your sad face, will cease to laugh, not knowing why. If the day be dark, how much a gleam of sunshine is prized; so let believers wear smiling happy faces, gleaming like sunshine in the darkness.
The Baha’i teachings promise that every divine messenger comes to bring happiness to humanity, to infuse life with infinite joy: “… the spiritual perfections,” Abdu’l-Baha said in 1911, “are man’s birthright and belong to him alone of all creation. Man is, in reality, a spiritual being, and only when he lives in the spirit is he truly happy.”
Baha’is everywhere encourage this joyful approach to life, this spiritual happiness, especially during the celebratory Intercalary days — and we invite everyone to join us.