As friends in Ontario continue to serve in their communities, they engage in the profound connection between being and doing, essentially working towards a dynamic coherence between who we are and what we do in the world. This creative piece was written by Kiana Rezvani Baghae, who was inspired by the example of a fellow youth and her attitude of service and interest in cosmology.
Do you ever wonder why we are so attracted to outer space? Do you ever imagine hopping into a spaceship and travelling millions of light-years away from planet earth to an unknown galaxy, full of the possibilities of new life? Despite the depth and infinite nature of the skies above, the tools that can take us there are in our own backyards!
Amelia Hutchcraft, a youth living on the outskirts of Etobicoke, is in the Arts and Science program at Seneca College. As part of her program, she challenges herself regularly to write articles about the outer universe, different kinds of binary systems, the quantum realm of particles, special telescopes that capture these galaxies, and the fascinating process of stars absorbing other stars. She says: “The more you lean into any form of science, you see how the world was created, how everything works, it is all a sign of God, and it makes you love God so much more.” Studying cosmology involves an investigation into how the universe was created. Amelia describes how “the more you study the quantum world, the more you wonder why it is different from our world.” As she thought about these worlds and how they connect, mirror and inform one another, she also glimpsed a service opportunity through her own telescope. And so, even without access to a spaceship, she was able to lift off from the busy city atmosphere and travel to the whimsical countryside of the Bethany Bahá’í Centre of Learning in rural Ontario. She dedicated two weeks in the fall of 2021 to serve in the maintenance team. Something about the element of daily action, of being and doing, came through for her right away. She describes how “the first time I came to serve here, I really enjoyed the backbreaking work. You wake up, you serve, and go back to sleep. That’s why I committed to coming here this week.”
Serving alongside a number of selfless, humble volunteers and cohorts of families who have been assisting with the physical rejuvenation and refurbishment of the facility, Amelia was drawn further into her inquiry about inner and outer worlds. Like an intergalactic traveller, she says, “everything was new to me.” Her very first day involved having to clean and scrape dirty windows, which meant facing her greatest fear: “Bugs! There must have been thousands of them there! I was wondering…Are they going to touch my hand?!” But as she started scraping away the flies, she wondered: “How are these flies and dirt also part of the galaxy?” But as she worked, she saw that with each scrape, each stroke, more light entered the room, and from inside, she could see the youth who had gathered outside in a circle to consult.
Amelia describes the way that the quantum realm of particles, or in her case, her inner world and the immense galactic or world of action came together through her experience of service: “Being and doing should be together. You want to be something, and the way you come to be something is to do something. You cannot separate worship and service. Service without prayer, or worship without service, it isn’t as effective. You need to understand why you are up until midnight cleaning toilets. You need to recognize that the whole community will be happy to see them sparkling in the morning! And this worship you have will drive your service, and in turn, the service helps you worship. They are intertwined in a way, you pray and serve, and consequently you want to pray to serve more.”
In the universe, the elliptical trajectory of the earth rotating the sun is never quite the same, it is always evolving and progressing. Amelia reflects on her experience with the bugs joyfully, saying: “Looking back at that day, I am still in awe! How did I do that? I continually told myself: it isn’t for me, it is for the Faith, it is for Baha’u’lláh.” And yet, when she lifted off and zoomed away from planet earth, or in her case, daily life in Etobicoke, she was able to engage with the dynamics of service, and the way it influenced her inner life. Amelia, our selfless traveller, reports that indeed, the Bethany Galaxy had much to offer by way of insights and experiences, concluding: “Bethany? The Galaxies? I think I can do both!”