Nobility is showing kindness and courtesy when times are tough
by Ted Slavinpublished in St. Catharines Standard
St. Catharines, Ontario: 2009-09-19
Defining nobility can conjure images of heroines and heroes of past ages, champions of justice and integrity. Others may choose more common, everyday figures, like the mechanic who brings your car engine back to life with a small, magical tweak and doesn't charge a dime for the 15 minutes it took.
Words may come to mind, such as self-sacrifice and generosity, or, when words fail, it comes down to simply recognizing nobility when we see it. The writings of the Bahá'í Faith state that God even hard-wired us for it: "I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself?"
With the gift of being created noble comes a catch. Choosing to express our inherent nobility to others, showing kindness and courtesy, tends to come easily when everything's hunky-dory. When the world is treating us well, why wouldn't we treat others in kind?
But when life throws us that curve ball, like a car accident, or a job lost when money is short, we're reminded that the world is full of hardship. How we choose to respond to those hardships is personal, though we've all seen cases of how the stresses of difficulties can flare tempers, cause depression, and affect relationships, both personal and public.
Without exception, I am humbled when I see nobility sustained through troubles that I cannot imagine. I recently experienced this when corresponding with a friend, Naeim Tavakkoli.
Naeim's father, Behrouz Tavakkoli, has been in Iran's notorious Evin prison since May 2008 with no formal charges laid against him. Behrouz Tavakkoli is one of seven Bahá'í leaders imprisoned who co-ordinated national matters for the Iran Bahá'í community of about 300,000 people. The Iranian news has reported that, when they are finally charged, they will be accused of "espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic," which is absurd to say the least, though extremely dangerous should the Iranian courts convict them.
With religious minorities there facing increasing discrimination, the Bahá'í leaders only "crime" is, evidently, their beliefs. The best proof of this has been the fact that, for many years, arrested Bahá'ís have been offered their freedom if they recant their beliefs.
When news of their arrests was first reported last year, the worldwide Bahá'í community couldn't help but recognize the disturbing resemblance to the pattern of religious persecution that took place less than 30 years before. In August 1980, the nine members that formed the Iranian Bahá'í community's national governing council were abducted and disappeared, most certainly killed. New members of the national council were elected but eight of them were executed in December 1981. Arrests and executions cross the country, ultimately resulting in the killing or execution of more than 200 Bahá'ís between 1979 and 1998.
Ignored due process and violations of legal rights have, again, marked the latest episode. Having read the news this summer that Naeim's father had a trial date moved from July 11 to Aug. 18, and then Oct. 18 (still no formal charges), I contacted Naeim to reassure him of prayers for his father and colleagues.
With a warmth that, in my experience, has proven to be the hallmark of Persian culture, he responded by asking about the well-being of my own family and remarked on how surprised he was by how much my daughter had grown since we last met. He congratulated me on my writing work and shared some news about himself.
I was not only moved by the care expressed, but also by what was missing. Not one word expressed hostility or hatred against those causing the suffering of his beloved father. Naeim's words, despite the injustices and heartache affecting his family, showed what I could only call nobility, which has defined his character since I first met him.
In light of his father's steadfastness, he comes by it honestly.