The Clouds That Obscure Our Inner Vision

As I looked out through the airplane window, all I could see were white clouds. It seemed strangely beautiful, because it surrounded us so completely. 

With no landmarks below and no horizon beyond the white, nothing visually connected me to the land or sea below. Back on the ground an hour later, I wondered what else I can’t see, even when firmly on Earth. 

For starters, I can’t see other people’s thoughts. I can hear their words if they speak, read them if they write, and observe their actions if I’m with them. But their inner state, their motives, their wishes and desires — all are invisible to me. 

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Nevertheless, people can and do influence each other, whether directly or indirectly. Recognizing this as a reciprocal relationship, I care about others and consider them in my decisions and actions. Since I’m responsible for my own thoughts and deeds, I must not think or speak unkindly about others. Even in my private thoughts, I should not judge them. As Abdu’l-Baha wrote: “Let your thoughts dwell on your own spiritual development, and close your eyes to the deficiencies of other souls.

I can’t see beyond the physical world of the present time. I can remember and learn from the past, and I can try to envision the future. But I can only directly know and sense the present. Not being able to see the future does not mean that I am wary of it. Quite the contrary, as a Baha’i I am optimistic and believe that humanity’s vast present difficulties will ultimately take us to unimaginably better times. I can prepare myself to play my part, regardless of how minor that might be, through self-improvement, lifelong learning, honest communications, service to others, and meaningful work. 

I can show gratitude for the goodness in my life by following the example of God’s messengers—an example of love, kindness, and respect for all. This holds true for the followers of all Faiths. 

I can keep in mind these hopeful words of Abdu’l-Baha, which tell us to exercise faith in considering the future: “Lift up your hearts above the present and look with eyes of faith into the future!

I can’t see or know directly the nature of God, but I can study the words and the lives of His prophets and messengers. Since I believe that Baha’u’llah is the most recent of those divine messengers, I see his message as relevant for our times and applicable on a practical level. 

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On a sunny day, I can go to a hilltop or the seashore; the experience of seeing far into the distance exhilarates my eyes and my mind. In contrast, looking through clouds or even just heavy fog, I can’t see much. Yet I have faith that the world is still there, even if I can’t see it, as Abdu’l-Baha said:

May the world be for you no obstacle hiding the truth from your sight … May you receive the clear vision of the Holy Spirit, so that your hearts may be illumined and able to recognize the Sun of Truth shining through all material clouds, His splendour flooding the universe.

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