In the Baha’i Faith, an introductory discussion about the Faith, its teachings, concepts, truths and mysteries, is called a “fireside.”
I’ve attended hundreds of Baha’i firesides in my day. I’ve personally spoken at or presented dozens and dozens as well – in people’s homes, at churches, in community halls, as well as in larger venues. In truth, a fireside does not need to be any kind of formal conversation. It can be two friends or acquaintances having a chat about spiritual topics in a park, coffee shop or bus stop, as long as it includes the important parts of a Baha’i fireside: love, heart-felt connection and some sharing of concepts about the divine reality:
May you become thirsty for the water of reality. May you become hungry for the bread of the kingdom; for as His Holiness the Christ said, “He that drinketh the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” This means the apprehension of the ideals of the human world and of the heavenly realm. Day by day may you receive these concepts; day by day may you inherit this new state of consciousness till you become immersed in the sea of divine light. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 99-100.
Over the years, after creating the digital media company SoulPancake and after speaking across the country to young people at universities about all manner of topics, including the Baha’i Faith, I started to think about what an online Baha’i fireside might look like.
How, I wondered, can one have an intimate conversation about the spiritual concepts and framework of the Baha’i Faith with viewers or friends on the internet? After all, isn’t that where most of the conversations, hang-outs, and sharing of information now happens? At the same time I started thinking about what might be the best way for me to present the key beliefs of my Faith, a Faith that many Americans know little to nothing about. How do I formulate a heart-felt summary of an extraordinarily complex world religion, that has in its library hundreds of books, tablets and prayers, sophisticated social teachings and a rich, complicated history that could (and does) fill volumes?
As I became better and better known as an actor (particularly as that eccentric beet farmer/paper salesman) I started zeroing in on a key idea in the talks I gave. I realized that if I didn’t provide context about the beliefs of a follower of the Baha’i Faith, that listeners would often become quite lost and confused. That’s when I stumbled upon the idea of setting up, for the purposes of comparison, the over-arching beliefs of some other systems that the attendee might be more familiar with – such as atheism and Christianity, perhaps the two most popular world views that exist in the United States today.
By comparing the Baha’i “cosmology” or grand, sweeping belief system, to the cosmologies of these other ways of seeing the world, I found that folks at some of these fireside gatherings were much more able to digest and process the information. In other words, I saw light bulbs go on. That led me to distill the conversation and write it up as something to share online.
This realization formed the genesis of a short 14-minute animated presentation about the Baha’i Faith – a fun, low-key, intimate talk that people can share and discuss. Ok, so maybe it’s not really a conversation, or even really a fireside, (I mean it is a bit one-sided, what with me yappin’ the whole time) but hopefully it’s a conversation and even a fireside starter.
I hope you enjoy this little labor of love, coming out during the sacred bicentenary celebration of the birth of one of the founders of the Baha’i movement, The Bab. Pass it around! Thanks for watching! Special thanks to my collaborators, BahaiTeachings.org, Baha’i Blog and Swiss VBS!