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Warner Brothers Records should have released Van Halen’s Mine All Mine as a single. This driving hard rock anthem viscerally addresses a search for spiritual and religious truth.
Yeah, the search goes on
The more I look
My world keeps getting smaller
Staring at the sun
Searchin’ for the light
Almost ended up blinded…
Some only see
What they want to see
Oh, but that’s not me
Give me truth
Give me something real
I just want to feel
Like it’s Mine, all mine
Stop lookin’ out
Start lookin’ in
Be your own best friend
Stand up and say
Hey! This is mine
All mine, all mine. – Van Halen, from the album OU812, 1988.
God works in mysterious ways. For example: how could a 1980s rock song share so much with emergent Baha’i teachings, which sprouted in a completely different part of the world and cultural context a century before? It’s mind blowing to fathom that the Baha’i Faith not only encourages but mandates being “your own best friend” in this regard. In fact, Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, said:
… every man hath been, and will continue to be, able of himself to appreciate the Beauty of God, the Glorified … For the faith of no man can be conditioned by anyone except himself. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 143.
Indeed, Baha’u’llah takes this notion of individual spiritual search a step further, to highlight tolerance and unity:
If religion and faith are the causes of enmity and sedition, it is far better to be nonreligious, and the absence of religion would be preferable; for we desire religion to be the cause of amity and fellowship. If enmity and hatred exist, irreligion is preferable. – Baha’u’llah, quoted by Abdu’l-Baha in The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 232.
These two ideas—independent search and irreligion preferable to hatred—undergirded and propelled my own investigation of the Baha’i Faith.
I live in a country with freedom of religion as one of its founding principles. Nobody has denied me an education (#notacrime) or thrown me in jail because of my religion, as happens to my co-religionists in Iran and other places. However, some brushes with closed-mindedness marked my path.
During my freshman year of college, I attended a pleasant, insightful, and exploratory Bible study. Matters changed in my sophomore year, however, when a new minister arrived. In response to my question about other religions, he told me that he believed that all non-Christians were doomed to hell. I walked out and never returned. The strange thing was, the lyrics to “Mine All Mine” were a spiritual reference point to me, as I was unaware of the majesty of the Baha’i teachings about the unity of religion.
About eight years later in graduate school, I was at a point where I genuinely considered myself a seeker of the Baha’i Faith. A copy of the pocket-sized light blue softcover “Baha’i Prayers and Holy Writings” rested on my bookshelf, alongside the Bible and the Qur’an.
“Baha’i!,” a friend said, “Stay away from that [stuff]!” A few years later, abuzz with questions, he visited the Baha’i House of Worship of North America with me–twice.
… and Accepting
As a teenager of about 13, I was fond of a computer game featuring Conan the Barbarian, called “Conan: Hall of Volta.” In the game, Conan performed dazzling aerial somersaults and threw boomerang swords at foes, including bats, scorpions, giant ants, fire-breathing dragons, and a floating eyeball. The game had seven levels. Even after you “won” and triumphed on the last level, however, you continued playing.
To me, that feature of the game reflects our personal and spiritual progress after one embraces the Baha’i Faith–in the words of the song, the “Give me truth, give me something real” stage. Undoubtedly, recognizing the station of Baha’u’llah is a big “win,” but by no means is it the end of a journey replete with unlimited opportunities for spiritual growth and confirmations. In that regard, two experiences since I became a Baha’i in 2001 stand out for me.
Visiting the Baha’i House of Worship in India in February 2002 was an acute lesson in humility. My heart swelled with admiration for the Baha’is there who tended to that breathtaking building. Tall plants with massive green leaves decorate the interior. I’ll never forget seeing an old woman spraying the leaves and washing them–just as someone might do with glass cleaner on a window in an urban apartment. Later, I worked alongside the friends in the visitors center whose job it was to collect, place in cubbyholes, and later retrieve, the shoes of those who visited the temple. Just that day, we collected and later returned to their owners about 25,000 pairs of shoes.
The experience of my Baha’i ring was a lesson in detachment–in learning to truly leave matters in God’s hands. In January 2004, my wife, my sister-in-law, her husband and I had the bounty of visiting Edirne, Turkey, where Baha’u’llah was exiled between 1863 and 1868. As a souvenir, I purchased a Baha’i ring there, with a beautiful symbol on the stone that stands for God, His prophets and humanity.
Shortly afterwards, back home in Chicago’s north suburbs at Oakton Market, I was crestfallen to realize that I lost my new ring. We looked everywhere–on the cold ground next to the car, in the trash can, in places where we’d walked in the store. I resigned myself to its disappearance. Days later, my wife reached into a bag of broccoli we bought that day at the supermarket–and found the ring, which had slipped off my finger in the produce section.
“Mine all Mine” was written and re-written seven times. Lead vocalist Sammy Hagar explained:” … it was the first time in my life I ever beat myself up, hurt myself, punished myself, practically threw things through windows, trying to write the lyrics.” To me, this shows that grappling with our spirituality can be excruciating (but please don’t hurt yourself!). Yet that struggle reflects the beauty of the experience.
A Rolling Stone Review at the time called Mine All Mine “… a good teaser for the future.” I like to think of exploring the Baha’i Faith in the same light.