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You know the moment in life when you start to come out of a very difficult spiritual test, and begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even though you’re still struggling with the test?
That’s exactly why I initially wrote this song, “Across the Sky”. It’s strange, though — even though I wrote it and sang it, I didn’t fully understand its meaning until a tragedy occurred.
Here’s what happened: When I finished writing and singing “Across the Sky” I felt it needed a video. As I thought about it, I could only visualize people running freely because of the lyric in the song “Now I’m running across the sky.”
Then I saw the news about an unarmed black man killed while jogging, and I suddenly felt compelled to make my new song’s video and dedicate it to him. In one moment the song went from an abstract idea about spiritual growth to a very specific homage to Ahmaud Arbery, the jogger who was unjustly murdered in Georgia.
In the video, I decided, I wanted to see African Americans jogging. Simple. But I also wanted to show the kind of freedom all human beings should enjoy, which so many white folks take for granted in North America. Freedom from lynching. Freedom from being profiled and followed by the police. Freedom from rubber bullets and tear gas and a crushing knee on their necks. Free.
As a Baha’i and as a white man, I felt this video was the least I could do.
No sooner did I finish the video than the horrible death of George Floyd occurred in Minneapolis, sparking an onrush of daily demonstrations across the world. People are angry, and rightfully so. That anger and pain have multiplied as the coronavirus has added stress to the lives of so many of us, especially people of color disproportionately affected by the disease. On top of all that, we’ve witnessed the swift decline in the economy, with 40 million Americans losing their jobs.
As a Baha’i, I don’t believe all of this is in vain and without purpose. I believe that the most beautiful blossoms and the most abundant fruit will inevitably proceed out of this chaos. Baha’is have worked toward this kind of harmony and unity between the races since the Baha’i Faith began, and although it may seem hard to grasp in this moment, and it may feel impossible to envision, the Baha’i teachings say that what the United States and the entire world need right now is unity. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
The basis of the teaching of Baha’u’llah is as follows: “Bear in your heart great love to all races on earth, to the ends that unity may be established between them. Take an interest in everyone and find out how you can help them, so that all may see that your love is truly universal.”
If we can’t achieve this loving unity in a cooperative way, then perhaps we’ll get there through the pruning of the Most Great Gardener.
For now, let us each resolve to make our own supreme effort in the healing of the relationship between the black and white communities.