October 2015

A View of Two Worlds – in Reality Just One


During a recent camping trip on Manitoulin Island, John and I attended an astronomy evening in a specially-designated “Dark Sky Reserve.” Even without a perfectly clear evening, we saw stars and constellations and other, more exotically-named, structures of the physical universe. The usual adjectives came to mind: dazzling, awe-inspiring, spectacular, and so on. As I looked upward, I imagined an unknown lifeform on another planet, looking at earth and wondering if anyone were returning their gaze. Surely there is life out there, and surely we ponder each other.

I often had a similar experience in the resort town of Eilat in Southern Israel, during my 8 years living in Haifa. I would look across the Red Sea to the shores of Jordan and wonder if anyone in Aqaba were sitting at a café, wondering about people on my side of the Sea. Due to then-current politics, we weren’t allowed to cross into Jordan, and the reverse was generally true. Nevertheless, it seemed likely that people there would go to cafés and share with friends what they had just seen on their scuba diving trip. After all, sea life is without borders, and enthusiasm for diving knows no boundaries either.

A few years ago I experienced an odds-defying coincidence. Chatting with the owner of a newly-opened bagel shop, I learned he was originally from Jordan. Out of curiosity I asked him if he had ever gone diving in Aqaba, and yes he had. Venturing further, I told him my ideas about people there wondering about people in Eilat, each of us having just finished a similar dive. And guess what? It turned out he had thought the very same thing. At that moment, we were silently, truly one.

Well, it doesn’t take much imagination to connect these stories. Indeed they speak, in a small yet powerful way, of the essential oneness of humanity. Our borders can’t be seen from space, and nature disregards them here on earth. We humans yearn for harmony within our families, our communities, and ultimately the entire world. For that to happen, the politics, prejudices and social conventions that separate us must – and someday will – be transformed to bring us together rather than tear us apart.

Baha’u’llah wrote: “The Earth is one country and mankind its citizens.” As a Baha’i I recognize the inevitability of our moving toward this consciousness. And yet, living in the midst of our troubled times, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by how far we need to go to realize this great truth. On my office wall I have this quotation from the Writings: “Rest Assured and Persevere.” It reminds me that our goal will be realized if we keep a steady vision, are confident in our efforts, and take firm steps to bring it about. Sometimes the steps are small; yet sometimes they are longer and stronger.

I invite us all to look at the sky this evening and think about what beings from other planets would notice if they could see us here on earth. And then from that galactic scale to an earthly-scale, what do we see when we look across the continent, the country, and even our own neighborhoods? If we truly desire peace and unity, we know it can and must start here and now.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2015