When the choir sings in the Baha’i Temple just outside Chicago, you can’t see them. A couple hundred of us were gathered there at noon, swathed together in the white lace of the structure, quietly waiting for the devotional program to begin, when the building began to sing. Ya Baha’ul’Abha, it said, softly at first, in a hushed melody, and then louder, and then in harmony, progressively more complicated, with the men bringing in the lower thirds and octaves and offering a depth and richness to the air that resonated with me in almost unsettling ways. It shook out a memory that stunned me with its age; I could almost smell the mildew on the forgotten scene. I was in that very same temple years ago, in the visitor’s center, and a recording of the very same song was playing on a video introducing the faith to an almost empty room. I turned to someone who hardly knew me at the time, and said, wide eyed and enraptured, “They are playing this song for visitors!?” As if to say, who would not be moved by this? Who would not be changed by this? Transformed by this? He smiled back at me.
The voices in my head grew louder. The temple seemed to be shouting at me. And amongst all the beautiful noise, there was something else the temple had to say, something tender but stern. It said: this will all make sense someday. There was a reason for all of this mess.