Friday, January 6, 2012

The Grand Canyon Conference

December 23-26

Not much rivals the sight of hundreds of Baha’is. People rush up to greet friends they haven’t seen in years. Strangers meet up and learn about each other’s communities, and find out they live in very different places, and yet are also very similar. The energy radiates out into the atmosphere when so many who share their deepest beliefs, and love for Baha’u’llah, convene. One realizes the scope of the word “world citizen” after seeing and hearing from so many Baha’is, all working to build a New World Order based on spiritual principles.

My experience at The Grand Canyon Conference in Phoenix, Arizona was multi-faceted. From one angle, I assisted a children’s class for a day and gained capacity learning from other teachers. I saw what deep thinkers children can be, and also experienced their radiant joy as dozens of children participated in a sing-along led by musical artists Erik Dozier and JB Eckl.

From another angle, I experienced firsthand the development of the arts in the Baha’i Faith in its most nascent stages. NABI set up an art vendor with artwork from various Navajo Baha’is, mostly jewelry but also pottery and nine-pointed star wall-hangings. Beside us sat Nikki Kinne, a watercolor artist displaying her paintings of the Holy Land. I found her perspective on the development of Baha’i art interesting: the art of the believers now in this early stage of the Faith will be so valuable in the future, when mankind is looking back upon the work of the earliest Baha’is and the subjects they chose to paint. The conference was especially rich in the field of music, with performances from an African drumming group, vocalists from a range of styles, and traditional Persian music. There is not “Baha’i art” yet necessarily, but it certainly can be seen in the making as Baha’i artists arise in various arenas: music, jewelry, visual arts….

From yet another angle, I was able to participate in several sessions. One session in particular has stood out in my thoughts. It was called “Living the Encouraged Life” and touched upon the subject of encouraging those around us. The speaker observed that inspiration is not a sustainable motivation. Inspiration reaches a climax and wanes with time. True motivation can come from encouragement, and true encouragement is similar to a fire. The spark already exists within the individual; it needs only to be fueled. We can be each other’s fuel. True encouragement is not telling people what to do. It is finding the strengths in others and “uplifting them to their rightful station”. And sometimes, encouragement is silence.

Here are a few links you might explore:

Baha’i Music from Shadi Toloui-Wallace:

Artwork from Baha’i watercolor artist Nikki Kinne:

Some Artwork from our Table:
Pottery by Anna M. Feria

Ceramic Nine-pointed Star wall hangings by Anna M. Feria

Jewelry from various Navajo Baha'is, including beaded nine-pointed star necklaces by Charlotte Kahn (right)