Mark's call from Head Office

Those who know me well will know that one of my very dear friends is a Baha'i named Mark Choveaux. For over a decade now, he has been coping with poor health. In particular, his heart isn't good and he's had many operations for that. The doctors thought he was out for the count years ago, but he's defied them. In fact, as Mark and I worked to understand what Baha'u'llah meant by 'detaching from the world', Mark's health improved significantly. But it couldn't last. For several months this year, Mark was having trouble with his stomach. Eventually, the pain got so bad that he took himself off to hospital. After a couple of days of tests, the doctors told him that he had stomach cancer and that it was aggressive and already in his liver. They can do nothing for him.

Once the doctors sorted out the medication Mark was to take for his cancer, Mark came home from hospital. He is in good spirits. He struggles each day with the difficulties of eating and of feeling overall really lousy, but he knows he's off to Head Office and, as he puts it, he's heeding the call of She Who Must Be Obeyed.

{josquote}Naturally, this has got me thinking a lot about death and the nature of it.{/josquote}

Naturally, this has got me thinking a lot about death and the nature of it. It has confirmed for me the definition Baha'u'llah gives to the terms 'life' and 'death'. He discusses this at length in the Gems (see below), but the heart of the matter is that 'life' is nearness to God and 'death' is distance from God. When I look at Mark and what's happening to him, I can see that his body is dying, but I don't have a sense that he is dying so much as moving on. I feel that he is about to be born, rather than about to die. I can see clearly now that a person who is spiritually alive does not die when their body dies. They are simply taking a journey to another place. On the other hand, a person who is spiritually dead is already dead before their body dies. The only difference between the two worlds for them is that, in the next world, they have lost their chance to wake up of their own volition.

Baha'u'llah often refers to the mass of people as being 'dead'; for example:

What advantage is there in the earthly things which men possess? That which shall profit them, they have utterly neglected. Erelong, they will awake from their slumber, and find themselves unable to obtain that which hath escaped them in the days of their Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised. Did they but know it, they would renounce their all, that their names may be mentioned before His throne. They, verily, are accounted among the dead.

Baha'u'llah: Gleanings, LXXI

I know this must be shocking language for most. They would take exception to being described as 'dead'. But we each make our own choices, and I've found that by listening to Baha'u'llah, as he asks us to do, it's possible to see the life he holds out to us. A peek at that is enough to entice us to renounce all else, including the 'life' we cling to.

Know then that 'life' hath a twofold meaning. The first pertaineth to the appearance of man in an elemental body, and is as manifest to thine eminence and to others as the midday sun. This life cometh to an end with physical death, which is a God-ordained and inescapable reality. That life, however, which is mentioned in the Books of the Prophets and the Chosen Ones of God is the life of knowledge; that is to say, the servant's recognition of the sign of the splendours wherewith He Who is the Source of all 48 splendour hath Himself invested him, and his certitude of attaining unto the presence of God through the Manifestations of His Cause. This is that blessed and everlasting life that perisheth not: whosoever is quickened thereby shall never die, but will endure as long as His Lord and Creator will endure.

Baha'u'llah: Gems of Divine Mysteries, paragraph 64

Anyone who would like to send Mark an email can contact him at the following address: choveaux [at] Mark says that he can't guarantee that he'll respond.

One of Mark's enduring legacies will be the audios of the writings he so kindly did for my website.

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