Loving, In The Face of Hatred

8

January 18, 2020-

Much of the past two decades has seen me fairly being fairly comforted by those around me.  Even two rather difficult people, with whom I had to interact for a time, in the mid-2010’s, were at least offering constructive criticism, rather than trying to see me on a path of destruction.

So, it was rather jarring, last night, to open a message feed and hear a slew of expletives, directed towards both me and my late wife (who has been gone for nearly nine years).  It thus became only the third time I have felt it necessary to block someone from access to my social media. While I can blow off people cussing at me, to a fair extent, I draw the line at my nearest and dearest-especially the departed.

I know that modern-day America behaves as if there are no sacred cows, or anything else that is sacrosanct.  This is the Age of Comedy Central, Cartoon Network and all manner of bottom feeders.

We Baha’is are taught that no one should be considered as a  desolate soul or beyond salvation.  It’s certainly reasonable to recognize that the Supreme Being has it in His power, to make gold out of mud, and thus we mortals are in no position to judge anyone, in perpetuity.  We are also taught, however, to guard ourselves from those who mean us harm.  A soul lasts for eternity and enabling someone, in his/her bad behaviour, is doing no one any favours.

It is entirely possible to love a person and take the steps needed to safeguard everyone involved.  I did so last night, and this morning.  The hate-filled individual cannot harm me, nor can he denigrate Penny, at any time in the foreseeable future.

Anarchy

0

January 17, 2020-

This weekend is a respite from the urgent task I’ve accepted, albeit for probably not much more than the coming week, after all.  I spent the morning catching up on what’s happened here and further afield, over the past  several days.  I also spent an hour at Prescott College, reflecting the engaging presence of people who are on the cusp of adulthood.  I was there to offer a view of ordered life, that departs from the draconian and the decrepit.

When the small group of young women had left, I perused some of the literature which they had brought to the table.  Among the tracts was one on anarchy.  I was raised to think of anarchy as synonymous with chaos, and it can indeed be accompanied by such a state of affairs. Then again, chaos can also accompany too strict a social order, much as over-tightening the threads on a screw, or a fitted pipe, can strip the equipment.

Anarchy, as defined in this tract, eschews chaos.  It is, instead, defined as a state of complete internalization of responsibility for one’s actions. The advocates of such a community, while seemingly naive and idealistic, see a place where there is a total absence of egoism.  This is, of course, straight out of Thomas More’s “Utopia”, and would presage a complete transformation of the human spirit.

Baha’u’llah points out that there is no system, in the phenomenal world, where a need for order is obviated.  Order may be internally imposed, or be the result of external codes.  The goal, in any case, must be justice.

The anarchist will, of course, retort that externally-imposed codes fail to secure justice because, in the end, they serve one group of people over others.  Initially, that is difficult to avoid, with a truly equitable society coming only after a process of inclusivity, that requires a level of fairness to self and others, not seen on a wide social basis, as yet.

I’ve seen a few families, where child-rearing practices and relationships between adults are based on the true equitability and high level of personal responsibility advocated by the authors of this tract on anarchy.  These qualities are goals on which, I believe, anarchists of this school of thought and Baha’is can agree.  It will be a process that will take far longer to establish, however, than the time any of us now alive have left.  The initial steps, though, are well worth taking.  Internal codes of fairness, also known as conscientious mindsets, can be established.

“Be fair to yourself, and others”-Baha’u’llah

Different Home Fronts

0

January 16, 2020-

It was a productive day, for me and my charges, at Peach Springs School.  I will go back, on Tuesday, for at least next week’s instructional days.  Whatever happens, I feel a strong bond with a few students, right out the gate.  The Hualapai remind me, strongly, of the Hopi and Dineh- and there are people in Peach Springs who have, and always will have, my heart.

This Home Base of mine is similar, in that I have bonds with people here, too.  Like me, though, most of them come from somewhere else.  That is the difference between Native American communities and larger, more recently-settled towns and cities.  The friends here are no less precious, but they know the reality of  moving.

I have been scolded, in the past, for being too often on the move.  None of that irritability, strangely, has come from my Native American friends.  They sense that what occurs naturally, organically, is for the best.  Indeed, several of the students spoke fondly, of their own family trips- to Las Vegas, primarily.  It’s the nearest large city, so they do their Mall visits in the area south of the Strip.

This weekend, prior to  my landing the present assignment, I had planned on going up to Valley of Fire, east of the entertainment mecca.  I have an inclination to put that excursion on hold, and head over to a closer hiking destination, on Sunday and Monday.  Some home fires just tend to burn more evenly, when left smoldering for a few days.

Selling Oneself Short

8

January 15, 2020, Peach Springs-

This day’s assignment is one which is not uncommon, in an understaffed, rural school:  I covered for a teacher who fell ill, of a sudden.  The class has bonded with this person, who is their second teacher in this academic year.  I was able to get the key activities of the day accomplished, and forged a fairly strong bond of my own with the kids, by day’s end.

What concerns me about this group of children is what has concerned me about so many similar groups, both urban and rural, over the years.  So many young people cast aspersions on themselves,  by extension,  on their peers-and to some extent, on older family and community members.

A few of the more aware students, who are also the most meticulous and engaging members of the class, had mainly negative things to say about themselves.  I only saw quality work coming from those students-and I saw a very thick coating of self-doubt: The imposter syndrome, writ large.  Ten years of age is way too soon for such a mindset, so I see these, the best hope of the Hualapai Nation, being dragged down by the deep malaise-that infests Peach Springs- along with so many parts of Indian Country-and so much of the American Fabric.

I was told, later this afternoon, that it is likely that I will only actually be needed here for another week, that another round of permanent hires is expected, by the last week in January.  Permanent is better, so I can only feel more confident in the short term future at this school.  In any case, here is another group of children, another community, that has deeply embedded itself in my heart.

Fleeting Power

6

January 14, 2020, Peach Springs-

The Colorado River flows, past a point about ten miles from where I sit.  If I were to follow Diamond Springs Road to its terminus, I would be able to stand and witness the power of this still mighty flow.  The Colorado’s power helped to carve out the massive series of gorges that envelop it.  The Grand Canyon itself has an intense set of powers, all its own.

So, it is ironic, to the nth degree, that the people living in its midst have come to feel powerless, for much of their existence within the framework of the most powerful country of the past 1 1/4 centuries.  The Hualapai and their near neighbours, the Havasupai, know the Canyon more intimately than anyone, with the possible exception of the Dineh (Navajo).  Until about ten years ago, though, the Hualapai enjoyed very little of the economic benefits of the Grand Canyon’s drawing power.  The tribe has established a set of West Rim attractions-a Sky Walk, Eagle Point, and a rafting enterprise, as the Colorado can be accessed from a point on the Reservation.  There is also the comfortable Hualapai Lodge and a fairly well-stocked, if somewhat pricey Walapai Market.

I can tell people who feel powerless, from their language- an inordinate reliance on profanity and pejoratives as their means of projecting force.  The louder and more frequently a person curses; the more often someone is dismissive of people who are different from self, the more there is compensation for one’s own perceived irrelevance.

I’ve seen that, in many places-and I see it with several of the children with whom I’m working here.   That, alone, makes the 1 1/2 months I am likely to spend here, extremely urgent.  Not only building them up, but helping to establish a framework for long-term success, have to be primary goals.

Power derived from deception and intimidation is fleeting.  The Hualapai can no longer afford to rely on this means to power.

Changes of Scene

10

January 13, 2020, Peach Springs, AZ-

As I contemplated the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year, over Christmas-New Year’s Break, two things became evident:  1.  I wanted as many work days as I could arrange and 2.  It would no longer be advisable to turn down work that required a 7 a.m. start.

There are two semesters remaining, before I find my way in the retirement arena.  This one has no outstanding interruptions.  The next one won’t start for me, until September, as August will still find me on the road.

So, it was quite a welcome message that came, towards the end of Break, that the little school here, in  this Seat of the Hualapai Indian Community, some 120 miles west northwest of Prescott, needed a substitute- for an unspecified, but fairly lengthy, period of time.

The deal is, 7 a.m. is the start time.  5 p.m. is the end time, but kids leave at 3. So, all the grading and planning can, conceivably be accomplished during work hours-at least it worth a shot.  The work week is Monday-Thursday, which explains the long day.  Thursdays, substitutes get to leave at 3, so some of my Prescott business can still be done on Thursday, before 6.

Okay, that’s enough stream of consciousness.  My focus, on any day that I am here, will be on the well-being and advancement of people who will be the Guardians of the western reach of the Grand Canyon.  The Hualapai Nation has made some strides, in that regard, including the Sky Walk, from which one can gaze down into the Canyon’s west rim and a road to the Colorado River, on which Hualapai guides bring people to the bottom, without hiking or riding mules.  Although I prefer hiking, the opening of the Canyon, to those unable to walk far, is a plus.

Thus has 2020 already brought a change of scene.

Coercion

6

January 12, 2020-

It’s easy to imagine

that one is on the right track,

and that everyone ought

follow suit.

The Jesuits and Dominicans

thought the use of force

would make the world Catholic.

The Umayyads felt the same

would work for Islam.

Conquerors of legend,

and of infamy,

swore they would

either rule the Earth

or scorch it.

Where are they now?

Remember,

when an idea of yours,

of ours,

sounds like an absolute must,

for all to follow:

What if it strikes some as

inappropriate,

irrelevant,

or just beyond their understanding?

Coercion,

pressure,

shaming

belong in the past.

 

 

Open Letter

6

January 11, 2020-

Dear Son,

I have watched you struggle with so much of life,

including matters which you should not have had to face,

at least not at the age at which life brought them to your doorstep.

I’ve done my level best, most of the time, to help you along.

There were times when that best was not sufficient.

There were the times when we both flailed,

and others, fortunately, came to our aid.

You made a wise choice,

as I did before you,

to seek the structure of the military,

in establishing a sense of priority,

and beginning to sort out a life plan.

That plan led you through the vagaries,

and sometimes disordered process,

of service to our country.

It also led you back to the land of your birth.

You found a home for your heart,

and brought your true love back,

to unite two families.

Now, you are back with our families,

and I trust you are being received well.

I also trust that,

whoever joins our family,

in the years ahead,

will also find a warm welcome,

with no conditions attached.

You have a bright future ahead,

my most precious son.

Choose carefully, and wisely,

never acting out of spite,

malice, or hurt feelings.

It is a tall order,

and you were raised

to stand tall.

I look forward

to many years

of standing wherever

you need me to stand.

You will always be treasured.

Salubrity

2

January 11, 2020-

There was snow on the ground, yesterday.

Now, it is only in the shadows,

with next Friday bringing a chance of more.

The air is fresh today.

Shortly,

free, fair and healthy

will be on the agenda,

as several of us consider

ways to better grow one’s own.

Soup is in the crockpot,

and will be ready

by this evening.

Yesterday evening,

two wildly divergent

forms of music

brought solace to our ears.

This evening,

we may  hear

even more sweet sounds.

There is salubrity,

in the air,

and in my heart.

A Gallery of Slivers

6

January 10, 2020- 

It is more common than some like to admit, to regard oneself as “well-rounded”, worldly, “Renaissance person”, or some other descriptor that accents a wide variety of experiences.
I’ve had many of those types of moments. Yet, in thinking about any given experience, how deep was any of it?  How broad?  Let me consider one example.

About five years ago, I visited Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  The size of that fine institution necessitated choosing one or two galleries.  I selected a Frida Kahlo exhibit, learning a fair amount about that astonishing artist and taking in a few of the adjoining works by Mexican and Central American painters, as well.  The other exhibit I chose featured Japanese and Korean silk calligraphy.  This was a refresher on what I had learned of the medium, whilst visiting Seoul, twenty years earlier.

Neither of these visits was in any way encyclopedic or exhaustive.  Indeed, in a two-hour stay, one is getting only a sliver of knowledge, about any given subject. That’s not a bad thing, in the least.  I would rather have a preliminary experience with a particular subject, or place, than none at all.

The fact, though, that there is vastly more to any particular person, place or thing, than we can fully appreciate, leaves me in awe.  That’s not even getting close to the topic of The Universe, which will always escape our attempts to contain it, in the realm of human consciousness.  Just considering one painting, by any given artist, can take several hours of focused contemplation.  The writer William Least Heat Moon, in “Prairy Erth” (Houghton Mifflin,Boston, 1991), took the sparsely-populated Chase County, Kansas, and delved into every aspect of the modest section of Flint Hills, until it “looms as large as the Universe”.

This is one of the true wonders of this life: No matter how many times one experiences even the most ordinary of things, it is, as another astute observer recently remarked, proof that you can’t have the same experience twice.  Life is a gallery of slivers.