I consider it an honor and a privilege to write about my faith in this space. I am thankful to the Juneau Empire for the opportunity. As many long time Juneau residents are aware, Kevin Araki recently passed away. His passing was a shock to our community. Kevin served on both the local and the national elected bodies that administrate our faith. Although I am fairly new to Juneau, I had the bounty of serving with him on the Local Spiritual Assembly, and for a time we worked in the same office.
When I discuss my faith I am inclined to focus on the powerful vision of a united world, and talk about the work that can be done to create a bright and wonderful future. The sudden passing of Kevin has me thinking about how religion addresses death and the afterlife. Within the scope of my understanding all religions have some idea of an afterlife. It is a key distinction of religion; it is what separates religion from ideologies.
In the sacred writings of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh states, the world beyond “is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother.” In the womb the new life develops eyes and ears and a host of attributes that are of no use in the womb, but the purpose if its existence is not to live in the womb. It is there only to develop the attributes and qualities it needs to flourish in this world.
So too, do we develop here in this world the attributes of God, kindness, justice, forgiveness, truthfulness — those intangible qualities of the heart that we know exist but cannot scientifically isolate. Those godly virtues acquired in the path of service to others, are what we will take with us into the next world.
Just as an infant born into this world without fully functioning arms and legs will be handicapped in this life, Bahá’ís believe that a person who does not develop those attributes of God that make us human, will too, be handicapped in the next life. That does not mean the soul will not progress in the next realm, through the bounties and grace of God, as well as the prayers to those on earth, and the discoveries by the soul itself, progress in the spiritual realm will continue for all eternity.
We cannot and should not attempt to describe the afterlife within the bounds of our human mind, it is neither important nor proper for us to attempt to conceptualize what the next life is all about. Our religions give us clues, and guidance on how to conduct ourselves here in this life to prepare us. That is what is most important, how do we conduct ourselves here today.
“O SON OF THE SUPREME! I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendor. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?
Hidden Words,” said Bahá’u’lláh.
I was shocked to learn of Kevin’s death, I know that his friends and family are heartbroken and without a doubt Juneau has lost an exemplary member of the community, but still in my heart I know that Kevin is dancing in the world beyond, waiting for us.
God Bless you all.
• Adam Bauer is a a member of the Baha’i community. Bauer resides in Juneau. ”Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.