Idea for a website to prescribe quotes and prayers

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timfree
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Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 12:30 pm

Idea for a website to prescribe quotes and prayers

Postby timfree » Tue Dec 16, 2008 1:53 pm

Hey there all,
I just had an (admittedly very far-fetched) idea for a website which I think would be extremely useful for Baha'is, and wanted to share it, both to ask what other people think of it, and in case anyone has any ideas of how it, or anything similar, could be implemented.

You know how when you are encountering a certain test, and you have to look through quite a lot of different Writings before one particular quote or prayer, or maybe several, jump out at you, and you realise that they provide the solution to your problem?

Well I was thinking, it would be great to have a computer program or website which asks you various questions about the test you are facing, and then could find you a selection of quotes which it thinks would be the solution to your problems. It could be a bit like going to the doctor: the doctor asks you various questions about how you're feeling, and based on your answers, prescribes a particular remedy. Except these would be spiritual remedies, in the form of quotes and prayers from the Baha'i writings.

Obviously this is far easier said than done, and it would have to be a very intelligent computer program to prescribe spiritual remedies! But I think it wouldn't need to be 'programmed' as such (after it had been set up in the first place), it could learn over time from the input of large numbers of people, and gradually get better and better. For example, someone might be feeling lonely and bored, and find out that certain quotes/prayers are useful in inspiring them to go out and get active, e.g. "my calamity is my providence...", "be forebearing one with another...", etc... They could then feed these quotes and prayers into the program as solutions for boredom and loneliness, and then the next time someone says they are bored and lonely, the computer has already 'learnt' some quotes which are solutions for this, and could provide them easily. Then over time with more suggestions, and with feedback from its users, it would get more and more refined, and more and more useful.

It seems that each time we encounter tests, we always have to spend quite a while searching through the writings for solutions, and any way of cutting down this time, enabling us to find solutions more easily, would surely increase our productivity a lot.

It's a pretty far fetched idea, would need a lot of time and resources, and probably been thought of before, but I think it has a lot of potential? What do other people think? I wouldn't want to take any ownership of it, won't be offended if you tell me what a rubbish idea it is :¬)

Tim

brettz9
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Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
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Re: Idea for a website to prescribe quotes and prayers

Postby brettz9 » Tue Dec 16, 2008 6:40 pm

Sounds like a very good idea to me...

For a low-tech (but very effective) way to do this, I'd suggest maybe using a wiki like http://bahaikipedia.org/ , and starting a special category page just for such questions.

For example, you could create a Self-help main category page, and then when you add pages that are subcategories, you assign them to the self-help category. These subcategory pages can then link to the already-existing pages of quotations. For example, you could add a question "Are you having trouble communicating with people?" and then link to the already existing page: http://bahaikipedia.org/Consultation (possibly going through subcategory pages to narrow down the question or answer to this).

I think the wiki approach is good because it doesn't necessitate complicated software, yet it also improves over time based on contributions made by visitors. You will also no doubt be helping the existing wiki site, and not duplicating efforts (e.g., you can enhance the existing Consultation page instead of needing to make your own).

Although sometimes one must start an entirely new project (and maybe you will decide you need to do so), often I think we can really waste a lot of time and energy (and end up abandoning our projects even) because we find starting something "new" and our "own" as more exciting, but once we subdue our egos a little, we find that we find much great expressive capacity working with others, especially helping out or finding a niche within existing projects (especially if these projects are under open source licenses which allows others to freely change and redistribute the content, so the work can be adapted elsewhere or resurrected elsewhere if the original project dies). As 'Abdu'l-Baha said:

"Help along one another's projects and plans."

('Abdu'l-Bahá, Consultation (compilation), no. 19; see also these other potentially wiki-related quotes in the Writings)


And although it is a different, you might also consider how this might integrate with navigation by other types of questions not related to tests. (I set up a wiki page for this earlier at our now offline-to-editing wiki, http://bahai9.com/Questions , but the approach could still work at bahaikipedia or elsewhere if bahaikipedia is not keen to accommodate--you can find out just by trying out your page and seeing what kind of reaction you get--that's the wiki way).

best wishes,
Brett

emifinan
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Re: Idea for a website to prescribe quotes and prayers

Postby emifinan » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:07 pm

I might be alone in this sentiment, but I quite enjoy my explorations of the Baha'i writings.
And though some searches take a long time, I almost always find something that comforts me or addresses what I am feeling!

I think we ultimately have to remember though that the authoritative writings are not a self help book :)

However, one excellent Baha'i book is Why Me? A Spiritual Guide to Growing Through Tests by Justice St. Rain. Truly an AMAZING book, I hope it is still available for purchase. It addresses the different kind of tests and helps you identify what virtues need to be developed.

It also goes through the 5 steps of prayer attributed to Shoghi Effendi. (1. pray and meditate 2. arrive at a decision 3. have determination to take the next step 4. have faith and confidence 5. act as if the prayer has already been answered) Of course it explains it in much more detail. And I have to say, I have started doing this and it WORKS.

It also highlights some of the Baha'i writings pertaining to tests and difficulties and some prayers for aid and assistance.

I have also found it helpful to make and keep my own compilations in microsoft word. It helps to have Ocean or Archive so you can copy and paste the writings into a new document for quick reference.


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