By: Laili Irani
Recently, I was asked what the present crisis due to the novel corona virus pandemic is teaching us about our interdependence on nature. It reminded me of a recent incident where I was preparing dinner early last week, and my family came into the room and excitedly bade me to come out, “Come with us! You have to see this!” Seeing me perplexed, they said, “We can see the crescent moon and stars. Never before in Delhi, have we seen such clear skies.” As I came out to the verandah, I couldn’t hold my excitement either and squealed, “I can see the three stars that form the belt of the constellation, Orion. This reminds me of my childhood growing up in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, watching the stars with my father.” I was nostalgic and was moved to remember my childhood. Had I not seen the stars in all these years? Was the environment we had been living in been so polluted that the stars were not visible through a perpetual haze that hung in the air? Or, were we so engrossed in our lives that we had forgotten to stop and gaze at the stars? As we and many around the world experience some form of self-imposed or mandated lockdown, was this a thin silver lining to the suffering mankind is facing with the COVID-19 pandemic? I wondered that night and have thought about it many a time as I ponder on how the world around us has changed, and when and how it would return to any normalcy in the future.
Thinking about nature in my vicinity and far away has been a source of great solace for me during this time. In my own backyard, I have heard and seen birds that I had not seen before, and squirrels and mongooses running around carelessly. From farther away, there is news constantly pouring in of the ozone starting to heal itself, the canal waters in Venice clearing out, and air pollution levels declining across several metropolitan and industrial hotspots globally. How quickly had mother earth begun to heal herself? Was she trying to tell us something?
As a Bahá’í, the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, are a constant source of guidance, direction and comfort in my life. Among the multitude of His Writings, He tells us of our interdependence with the earth and other created beings, and the need to preserve and respect that balance at all times. He says, “Were one to observe with an eye that discovereth the realities of all created things, it would become clear that the greatest relationship that bindeth the world of being together lieth in the range of created things themselves, and that cooperation, mutual aid and reciprocity are essential characteristics in the unified body of the world of being, inasmuch as all created things are closely related together and each is influenced by the other or deriveth benefit therefrom, either directly or indirectly…. co-operation and reciprocity are essential properties which are inherent in the unified system of the world of existence, and without which the entire creation would be reduced to nothingness.”1
Building upon Bahá’u’lláh’s counsel, the Bahá’í International Community encourages us to have “a deep respect for nature as a reflection of the majesty of the Divine.”2 With man being the highest form of creation on earth, we are endowed with great responsibility to care for our environment, make advances in the sciences and arts while preserving the world around us, and leave a healthy planet for the next generation to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.
This time of lockdown has also allowed me to self-reflect on the Bahá’í principle of moderation which should inform all aspects of our life. In this regard, Bahá’u’lláh says, “In all matters moderation is desirable.”3 He further describes the importance of clinging to this virtue and the implications of not doing so. “The civilization, so often vaunted by the learned exponents of arts and sciences, will, if allowed to overleap the bounds of moderation, bring great evil upon men. Thus warneth you He Who is the All-Knowing. If carried to excess, civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation.”4
The Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing body of the Bahá’í worldwide community, talks about moderation as a spiritual expression of our lives in the following words, “Yet another sacred duty is that of clinging to the cord of moderation in all things, lest they who are to be the essence of detachment and moderation be deluded by the trappings of this nether world or set their hearts on its adornments and waste their lives.”5
The next time I am caught up in the bustle of life or am jetting off to another part on the globe, I will pause to consider if I really need to rush through this task or get to that place promptly. As life will return to some form of routine in the coming months, I will take moments to be mindful of the world around me, to stop and ponder on how closely we are connected to nature, how self-healing and self-giving the earth is, what the planet we live in is trying to teach us about the essence of our Creator and our purpose in this life, and the need for moderation in all things. I know I will contemplate on this more often. I hope you will too.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this note are those solely of the author and not those of any entity they may be associated with.
1.Bahá’u’lláh, Huqúqu’lláh, p. 21
2.The Bahá’í International Community, 1995 Apr 06, Conservation and Sustainable Development in the Bahá’í Faith
3.Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p.70
4.Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 342
5.The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 437