As a writer and blogger, I have always been told to write about my passions and what I know. What I am at my core is a Bahá’í who believes that this world is transitory, a preparatory phase for the next world, much like our mother’s womb was transitory and meant to prepare us for this world.
One of the things we need to learn about in this world is how to balance out material and spiritual progress. There is no such thing as depriving yourself of the benefits the material world has to offer. Quite the contrary: all that surrounds us has been created for us to enjoy. One very visible and obvious testament to the concept of entwined material and spiritual progress is the development in Haifa (Israel) of the administrative centre of the Bahá’í world over the last hundred years. Our “Vatican” of sorts is both practical in that it administers our affairs and inspiring in its simple, striking beauty.
So What Does This Look Like in Our Day-to-Day Lives?
Confession: my understanding of tis concept is quite superficial at this point in time! I struggle, just like so many others, to trace the line between materialism and enjoying the benefits of the material world. I find that this line is all the tougher to trace when living in a society that equates happiness with having more and more stuff. Sometimes I tend to veer on the completely opposite side by not shopping for long stretches of time, which of course is an over-reaction. At other times, I find myself buying way, way too much, so much so that I run out of space. However, I found out that if I keep the following two principles in mind, I tend to avoid these two extremes.
Pursing Material Progress Can Enhance Spiritual Progress
By pursuing material progress, we learn about spirituality. So for example, the more we have, the more we can share and learn about generosity and detachment. Or the more financial leeway we have, the more we can pour into creating beautiful physical spaces that inspire us to beautify our spiritual life. These beautiful spaces can also help us learn about hospitality and detachment from, say, a child’s sticky, jam-laden fingers meeting the pale upholstery. Similarly, the more material means we have—a car, books, agendas, notebooks—the more we can learn to use it to contribute to our community’s development.
Pursing Material Progress Teaches Us Lessons We Can Apply to Spiritual Progress
It takes certain character traits to progress materially. For example, to have a good career, you have to work for it, which requires discipline, focus, and detachment from the things that would distract you otherwise. These are all character traits that are very much needed to progress spiritually. Similarly, all the energy and discipline that goes into taking care of our bodies—from beauty regimens to diets, from workouts to fashion choices—can be poured into taking care of our souls.
What Does This Have to Do with Product Reviews?
I’ve been mulling over the idea of product reviews for quite some time now. But I was concerned about being swept up by the powerful materialistic influences that surround us. I mean come on, let’s be honest: it’s MUCH easier to take care of one’s body than one’s soul, and the results are so much more immediate and obvious! You can spend an hour at a hair salon and come out transformed, while you can pray and meditate for months trying to change an aspect of your character and not see a blip on the radar.
Unsure about how strong I would be, I have been somewhat hesitant to start reviewing things. But avoiding something potentially dangerous just punishes me from enjoying its benefits. I’m hoping to have balanced and fair conversations on the use of material things within the context of a life dedicated to the spiritual and material development of our own selves and of the community. Because although the large lines of this kind of life are obvious, the finer the lines get, the more difficult they are to draw.
An Emerging Framework for Reviewing Products
In the coming weeks and months, I will post reviews to various products on this blog on Wednesdays. The framework that I will use will be posted for now on this blog’s “About” page. I’m very excited to see where this experience is going to take my readers and I, and to witness how it will change the nature of our conversations on material wealth and progress.
Header image courtesy of Death to Stock.