Meaningful Conversations about the Concept of Perfection and the Nature of Art

The Writings of the Báb (2019)
Moojan Momen, Armin Eschraghi

Virginia HoeflerVirginia Hoefler of Spokane, Washington, discusses ways to present writings of the Báb to the “Women’s Tea” she attends, and the artistic inspiration the writings have given her.

“I said in my PLP [Personal Learning Plan] that “My goal for this course is to learn about the life and teachings of the Báb. I intend to read and respond to each assignment. I hope to be able to present in various situations to friends and others some things I will have learned about the Báb, His mission, and its significance.”

It was hard to keep up; there is so much to read and digest in such a short amount of time! However, I feel that I’ve learned quite a lot about the Writings of the Báb, their significance. and their place in history.

Throughout the course I have shared with friends and family each bit of knowledge and understanding that I’ve gained. I’ve been inspired to read and re-read further the related texts, The Báb by H.M. Balyuzi and Gate of the Heart by Nader Saiedi. Both have more meaning to me now that I have more understanding of the style and history of the writings of the Báb.

I intend to continue re-reading these texts and sharing with others the insights to gain from them, mostly in informal conversations and study circles. I am especially inspired by Moojan Momen’s article, Towards an Aesthetics of the Báb.

Several ideas he presents will be good topics for conversation:

  • the literary qualities of the Writings,
  • the performative aspects of them,
  • the initial reaction to the Báb’s literary style (similar to the initial reaction to the Impressionist painters of the 1880’s),
  • perfection, and
  • the responsibility of the artist.

We have, in our community, a venue we call “the Women’s Tea” (of course men are invited too!) which meets every month. In it a topic is chosen and related quotes are shared (from Bahá’í sources, and other faiths as well as other literature, contributed by the people who attend).

I think the topic, “perfection,” will be interesting for the attendees, some of whom are from Jewish, Buddhist, or Native American backgrounds, and some of whom are artists, actors, musicians, and/or art teachers. One of the quotes from the Báb, and a list of the points made by Momen, should be a good for conversation.

As for submitting an art piece for this course, that could take a while as “art is long and their time is short,” to paraphrase John Dewey. The Báb’s Writings certainly provide inspiration for some visual images, but it’s likely that development of an image and creation of an appropriate rendition in painting could take a long time. So no promises there. Instead, I will focus on trying to live up to these two quotes:

 . . . Thou hast commanded Thy servants, from the beginning that hath no beginning, till the end that hath no end, to produce handiwork with the utmost perfection, for this is verily the reflection of the perfection of Thy handiwork. (The Báb, quoted in Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb by Nader Saiedi)

Educate then, O my God, the people of the Bayan in such wise that no product may be found amongst them but that the very utmost perfection of industry shall be manifest therein. . . . For verily Thou hast desired, by this law, to build the earth anew by virtue of Thy glorious handiwork through the hands of Thy servants. (The Báb, quoted in Perfection and Refinement: Towards an Aesthetics of the Báb by Moojan Momen)”

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