Schisms and -isms

2

December 12, 2019-

A participant in a recent Baha’i Studies Conference, in Ottawa, Ontario, made the case for a movement she called “womanism”.  The gist of this movement’s philosophy is similar to to the campaign message of the American politician, Tulsi Gabbard:  Bring forward a true ethic of inclusion; the practice of not shutting anyone out, on the basis of their stated beliefs.  The premise here is inclusion, not opposition.

I favour such a movement, as I believe that everyone has a grain of truth to bring to the table.  That does not mean that someone who regards others as inferior should remain unchallenged in her/his pronouncements and certainly, actions that take away someone else’s rights or extinguish viewpoints, contrary to what one believes, are to be seen as counterproductive.  Repressed thoughts and opinions will never disappear.  They may even return, with a vengeance, in the form of counter-revolution.

It also does not sanction violence against one’s philosophical opponents, if for no other reason than to preclude their being seen as martyrs.   I much prefer to maintain appropriate dialogue, with its inherent boundaries, than to shut a person out in perpetuity.  Again, I draw the line at those who threaten violence or demand that I “toe the line.”

Many movements end their names with the suffix, “-ism”.  To wit, besides the above-mentioned womanism, we have “feminism”, “Islamism”, “supremacism” and the more conventional nationalism and sectarianism.  Such -isms, especially the last four mentioned, seem to lead to schism.  The founders of such movements may, or may not, have envisioned such divides, and thus incorporated them in their planning.    Nonetheless, any time one sets out to make a difference, if there is a pre-conceived Other, there is a potential schism.  Even a term as seemingly benign as non- (insert your identity group), is inherently creating a division in society.

It’s time to seriously work on abandoning the concept of “Other.”  Our self-concepts do not need it, in order to appreciate our uniqueness.

 

We, the People

4

December 11, 2019-

In the film, “King of the Gypsies”,  the late Sterling Hayden plays the titular role, and remarks, upon encountering a different group of Roma:  “Whose Gypsies are these?”  It struck me as a curious thing for anyone to say-as I never have taken to the idea of one human being owning another-or others.  Indeed, it was a few years ago that I relinquished use of the possessive pronoun “my”, when referencing any person by name, saving its use solely for clarifying a specific relationship.

I guess this is part of a larger movement in my mind- to get past thoughts of “Us and Them”.  Growing up in a small town north of Boston, I was first aware of belonging to two large families, then to the Roman Catholic church, then to a town named Saugus, whose residents, for the most part, were of families whose forebears came from Europe.  My education, as to how to regard people who looked different from us, was simple:  We were to address them as “Sir”, “Ma’am”  or by honorific (Mr._____, Mrs._____).  Other kids were always called by their first names.  The pejorative for African-Americans (My folks called them coloured people, in the 1950’s) was forbidden in our house.  Needless to say, nobody with half a brain would ever have called Mrs. Robinson, who ran the junior high cafeteria,  anything other than ” Miss Matron, Ma’am”.  Mr. and Mrs. Woo, who had a laundry in Cliftondale Square, on the southeast side of town, were likewise accorded full respect, and the Chang family were pillars of the community.

So there was an early perception, in my head, that anyone who used racial or ethnic slurs was just plain ignorant.  To be sure, lots of people moved into Saugus from other places, and brought their less than enlightened ideas about race and ethnicity into the social fabric.  I never bought into any of it, and remember feeling sad when four little girls were blown to bits, in Birmingham, and when Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, were gunned down.  It was as hard for me, as losing the Kennedy brothers.

Nonetheless, there was work for me to do on myself, as so many “harmless” stereotypes and inflections had made their way into my consciousness.  My Black fellow soldiers, being as diverse a group as any similar collection of Whites, disabused me of a lot of preconceived notions that growing up in a mostly white community had imparted.  To be sure, I have never been physically assaulted by anyone of African ancestry.   I can’t  say the same about my fellow Euro-Americans.

Gradually,  I outgrew stereotypes about other  groups of people, all residual from what I had observed in others, over the period of my childhood and adolescence.  My inclusive views finally came full circle, when the humanity of those who spouted unfortunate views of exclusion and bigotry became apparent, without my having to adopt their way of thinking.  Some people just need more patience than others.

So, it is with a fair degree of incredulity, that I hear one group or another say:  “The People won’t stand for this!”   To paraphrase Mr. Hayden’s character, ” To which people do   you refer?”  All humans are people-and while appealing to their humanity is hard, sometimes exasperating, work, I feel I can do no less.

 

The Fire and The Rose

4

December 10, 2019-

The full of night can suffuse one’s mind with a darkness that is equal to, or surpassing of, the dearth of sunlight outside.  The mind, unlike the body, does not cease to move, at a time of physical rest.  For many of us, far more than should be the case, the movement is in a downward location.  Especially, but not exclusively, for those who live alone, the mind is more susceptible to the depredations of inner demons- at least until prayer, meditation and a few drops of therapeutic grade lavender bring on a healing slumber.

I live a fairly comfortable life, with no ailments at present, and a caring, if arm’s-length, circle of family and friends.  I was told, long ago, that a little of me goes a very long way. So be it.  As long as I’m doing right by those around me, that’s hardly the worst of circumstances.  When inner demons, stoked at times by fatigue, hit me in the darkness, my mantra of late has been to self-talk into sleep, sometimes aided by the lavender oil I mentioned above.

I look, though, at those whose demons lead them to continuing depredations of their own. The oppressed who, as I remarked to a reader of my previous  post, learn to become oppressors.  Here, I think, the scene arises from a failure to take self to account, to learn to place all blame for one’s lot externally, and to thus become a violator of others’ rights, property and persons.

We did not learn the right lessons, it seems, from the French Revolution, and thus came the Maoist Cultural Revolution.  The Holocaust of 1915 was, as Hitler predicted, a flickering ember of the mid-Twentieth Century imagination and the Fuehrer’s minions accomplished a genocide that would have made Ataturk blanche.  The Turks felt wronged, hemmed in, and so they lashed out, their targets lashed back and there was a bloodbath.  Post- World War I Germany, and several other Central European nations, were given short shrift by the Treaty of Versailles, clever demagogues found their Others to use as scapegoats, and the horror played out, on the grandest scale since, arguably, the Hundred Years’ War.

Today, there are all manner of others.  Demagogues, having tasted power and wanting it all the more, find target Others, across the world.  Stories of rape and pillaging give rise to hyper-generalization, far beyond the punishment of those actually responsible. One size must fit all.  Thus, we have Twitter storms, back and forth, attacking anyone suspected of taking a pin to one’s balloon. We have the macabre spectacle of a Nobel Peace Laureate, justifying her government’s deadly attacks on people whose primary offense is to adhere to a Faith that is different from her own.  She is, she says, acting on the advice of a “man of peace”, who is after all a Buddhist monk.  Thoughts of Nicholas II and Rasputin come to mind, but  I digress.  We have coteries of sectarian radicals,from India and Iran, to Yemen and Nigeria, stoking their own acts of opprobrium, against those of other Faiths.

T.S. Eliot’s scenario of the fire and the rose becoming one, in his Four Quartets,  is practiced over and over in our world, though not in the way he envisioned.  The Hollow Men, of one of his other great verses, will not endure a world ending with a whimper, but the series of bangs that have been our lot, since at least 1912, could bring it to an alarming precipice.

Bringing oneself to account each day would seem to be advisable, for high and low, alike.

The Wayward Jacuzzi Jet and Other Joys in Life

12

December 9, 2019-

Sometimes, the unexpected can seem to hit at a time that might ordinarily be unnerving.  Sometimes, the expected does not happen, and the choice as to whether it IS unnerving is strictly up to the one doing the expecting.

It was quite unexpected, last night, when I turned on an in-room Jacuzzi, that one of the water jets came flying out of its anchor, and water was sent clear across the room-to the bathroom mirror.  I turned off the motor and cleaned up the water mess.  Needless to say, I’ve had better whirlpool baths.

After many years of knowing people, I expected, at an event I attended prior to greeting Yunhee at the airport, to be more warmly welcomed by the hosts.  It was, however, a social justice event and those who rate highly in the Social Justice hierarchy are given top priority.  Those of us who are lower on that particular totem pole were not introduced to the higher echelon, even when we were sitting right in front of the hosts and their Higher Ups.  This says a lot about the Social Justice movement-and about why it will fail, unless the same old pecking order mentality finds its way to the dust heap.  I can do hierarchies well, (wealthy benefactors are just people, at their core), but I can’t do apartheid thinking.

Family matters most to me, though, so I accomplished my main objective, and this morning and afternoon were spent taking breakfast at an American chain restaurant (IHOP), tending to two personal business matters for Yunhee, visiting Penny’s grave site, taking in a bit of  Cave Creek and Carefree, having lunch at Rock Springs Cafe, and getting DIL settled in at a friend’s house, two blocks from Home Base.  We had a lovely dinner, prepared by said friend, and discussed our “rough plan” for the rest of the week.

It’s  comforting having family around.

Staying On Track

4

December 8, 2019, Scottsdale-

There was a lot on my plate today.

One item was taken off, temporarily,

as a gift expo was postponed,

due to illness.

It was,  mercifully, a short-lived

emergency for a family of friends.

I headed down to Scottsdale, and

attended a Human Rights Day gathering.

This event commemorates the signing

of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, in 1948.

My daughter-in-law arrived, on schedule,

at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Amazed at the size of the place, she nonetheless had

little trouble finding her way to Baggage Claim,

and we were at the hotel,

in short order.

Staying on track

never used to be my strong suit.

Now, however, I feel that

my guides are with me,

and the inner calendar

is well-oiled.

It also helps

to be responsible for family.

 

 

Indelible

8

December 7, 2019-

Three men remain alive, of the Americans who fought at Pearl Harbor.  It’s been 78 years, since that day that brought the United States into de jure  conflict with Imperial Japan. The de facto war had been going on for some time, with Lend Lease and with Americans enlisting in other nations’ military forces.

The conflict was both the second-worst war of the Twentieth Century, after its predecessor, and the scenario for the hardest choices this country’s leadership has ever had to make.  The contributions of our best service people, the sacrifices of our civilian populace and the courage of underground fighters, across the globe- and on every inhabited continent, all are part of what makes World War II indelible in the memory of a conscious citizen.

Earlier today, one of the last Pearl Harbor veterans was laid to rest, on the sunken remains of the USS Arizona, the prime memorial site of that horrific attack.  Next weekend, our memorials to fallen veterans continues, with the laying of wreaths in each National Cemetery, across the country.   We will maintain our tributes to those who fell, and to those who came back, continued to serve those they loved and, in many cases, struggled with their demons.

Their fight for the common good, however ongoing and difficult, is indelible.

No Quarter

7

December 6, 2019-

When one has an adult child serving in the military, there is a particular degree of attention paid to the circumstances surrounding that child’s safety and well-being, day to day.  My son entered the United States Navy in July, 2011.  He will finish his regular active duty, in January, 2020.  Then he will serve in the Naval Reserves, for several more years.  I will keep watch on his environment, throughout.

As his final weeks on active duty ensue, three attacks have been committed, on U.S. military property, within days of each other.  One, at Fort Story, VA, was an act of vehicular homicide.  The second, at Pearl Harbor, only days before the 78th Anniversary of the infamous attacks there, by the forces of Imperial Japan, was committed by someone who apparently snapped, after a disciplinary notice was issued him.  The third, which may also have been committed by someone who snapped, happened today, at Naval Air Station, Pensacola.  ended with four dead.

There is some speculation of terror ties, in the first and third incidents, but not-as yet- in the second.  There can be, simply put, no quarter given to any terrorist, regardless of ideology.  The whole subject of the origins of terrorism can fill several volumes.  It basically boils down to sustained inhumanity of one group against another, leading to ongoing acts of retaliation and revenge.

Yet, revenge just leads to more chaos, and the cycle goes on.  I read this morning of the summary executions of four men suspected of raping a female veterinarian and burning her corpse, near Hyderabad, India.  There is no less sympathetic criminal than a rapist.  I can understand the rage of the men who captured these four.  If anyone ever sexually assaulted, much less killed, any of the many women who are close to my heart, my emotions would boil over, privately.  I would then have to  leave the punishment to the authorities, expecting them to fulfill their duties.  In the event they didn’t, I would, following the law, be a broken record, until justice was served.

Vengeance, though, is not my way.  On the rare occasions when the woman I met 39 years ago today, later married,  and then laid to rest, after nearly 29 years of wedlock, was taunted or sexually harassed, I stood up to those who exhibited their animal instincts but never once did I feel the need to beat someone down.   This was fortunate, as I am perfectly capable of flying into a rage.  It just has become less of a potentially useful method of dealing with such matters.  Our society, many parts of which dabble in false equivalency, might too easily fall for sad origin stories of  rapists or other sexual predators.  In the ensuing judicial chaos, no justice is served.

I maintain that, in each case of assault on peaceful, law-abiding citizens, regardless of the assailant’s motive, there needs to be a doubling-down on adherence to the sanctity of human life and safety.  Those who commit acts of terrorism, including sexual terrorism, must face justice, in its fullness- without mindless vengeance.

 

 

Love’s Many Labours

2

December 5, 2019-

The Shepherd mix, with tan spots on a white coat, sauntered into the room where I was preparing for my biweekly chiropractic appointment.  He’s done this, the past few times I have been there, settling down in front of me, for a few minutes of petting and scratching.  He’s a rescue dog, so I don’t roughhouse with him, the way I did with my Rottweilers, back in the ’90’s.  It’s all very gentle and reassuring.  His labour, as it were, is to let those he trusts know that all is well with the world.

His master, the chiropractor, came in and did a quick, but thorough, adjustment, remarked on the nicety of my newly-purchased pair of Puma Soft Foams and dashed off to his next patient.  His quick and efficient session never gives the impression of being slip-shod.  Chiropractic, from a strong pair of hands, takes little time.

One of the late Bill Tracey’s namesake restaurants had a fund-raising event, this evening.  I went over, and found it was a packed house, despite the persistent rain.  Due to the dearth of  restaurant parking spaces and the vigilance of the landlord, in the adjoining office building (NO restaurant parking, even when the office tenants are not present), I parked across the street, in the lot of an empty building.  A two-seater table, which I often use, when dining there alone, was available.  I was pleasantly greeted by server “#88” (Bill never liked to name his servers, especially the young ladies, on a receipt. The family continues this practice.), and enjoyed the fare of the evening, knowing that a fair portion of the proceeds was going to a good cause.  With no dining companion, I observe how the workers are going about their efforts, as well as the camaraderie of surrounding parties.  Bill’s Grill is a cozy place, and comfortable, despite the enclosed porch structure of the main dining area.  “# 88”, as it happens is a cheerful, endearing young woman, with loving greetings and attention to every one of her guests.  I could see, though, that the heavy workload was starting to wear on her, just a bit.  I had no need of  dessert  and was just as glad when she  brought the bill, without the customary offer.  This woman, and the entire, all-female team, were working with intense, caring efficiency.  I tipped highly.

These are examples of love at work, the result of which keeps the world on an even keel, despite all that we see going on to the contrary.  Outside of the world of remunerated labour, there is what we do for one another, just because it’s right.  In a devotional meeting at a nearby college, after dinner, I consulted the two other participants, regarding a task that has landed on my lap, and which I sometimes find onerous.  They expressed the opinion that careful examination of the actual elements of the task would lend it less burdensome.  So it was, when I found the actual evening’s “workload” was a large amount, but one which could be skimmed, rather than considered line by line, I was able to remark on the most salient points being expressed.

Approaching any task with love makes its completion much easier.

A Bit About Happiness

4

December 4, 2019-

Yesterday, whilst enjoying a bowl of soup and slice of avocado toast, I was amused by a little girl running gingerly back and forth, from her father’s table to a small shelf that had toys and books.  Her happiness flowed outward-and was contagious.

There is some “back and forth”, on sites like Quora and other online places, as to the part that happiness plays in one’s life.  There are those who maintain that happiness is a goal, or rather, THE goal, of a person’s life.  Others say “No, it is triumph over suffering, that is THE goal of this life.”

I maintain that happiness is a baseline, not a goal, of life.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha would ask people “Are you happy?  If you are not happy today, for what day do you wait?”  Think of the dreariest of mornings-perhaps in the dark of winter, or on an early spring day, with cold drizzle and snow remnants, blackened by soot.  Chances are, you won’t know of this state of affairs until you get out of bed.   So, it is the mood that accompanies a person, when she or he awakes and gets up, which sets the tone.  The outward dreariness does not have to define one’s life.

Of course, physical ailments have much to do with the mood of the day, as well.  So do social circumstances.  These, however, do not have to circumvent basic happiness.  I think of my late wife, bedridden for most of her final year in this life.  Even when she was conveying her thoughts about her condition, her decline, there was an air of  contentment, that she felt caring and love coming her way-this, from a base of happiness.

There is a common theme, in many of the world’s Constitutions, that the pursuit of happiness is an inherent right of  every human being.  Happiness, though, is already latent within us.  It is obvious, in the eyes of an infant, or the joyful run of a toddler, that the state of being happy exists from the inside out.  It is much like love-and actually flows out from the love that also is basic to our existence.

Love brought us into being, sustains us through ordeals and is with us, in the end.  Happiness, whether from quotidian events or from grand experiences, is also enduringly present, if one chooses to recognize its presence.

The goal of life?  To me, that is developing one’s strengths, positive attributes, to the greatest of  one’s ability.

Knowing, and Doing

8

December 3, 2019-

I learned, at four, how to tie my shoes.

I learned, at eight, how to size my shoes.

I learned, at 66, that I’d been wearing shoes

two sizes too small,

for nearly two years.

My feet grew, when the rest of me

didn’t.

I learned, at five, how to read.

I learned, at ten, how to read

between the lines.

I learned, at thirty,

how to spot weasel words

in print.

People say what is not meant,

to avoid responsibility.

I learned, at age six,

how to add.

I learned, at age seven,

how to subtract, and

at eight,

how to multiply

and short-form divide.

I learned, at age nine,

how to do long division.

I learned, at age 20,

how to put two and two together.

Most people are more

than the sum of their parts.