Entitled?

6

January 31, 2020-

While covering a class yesterday, I showed the film, “Avatar”.  The point was made that, in the far future, a certain segment of Earth’s populace was bent on colonizing a planet similar to our own.  It involved a colonialist mentality, based on perceived economic benefit.

I read a report, yesterday, about an American woman, missing in the Central American country of Belize.  The report said she was last seen on a beach, late at night.  Several commentators cast aspersions on the safety conditions in that country, as well as those in the Dominican Republic.  The comments included the opinion that Americans are routinely seen as projecting a “rich and entitled” persona, by residents of those countries.

I have never been to either nation.  I have been to the South American nation of Guyana, where similar charges were leveled against the local populace.  I was there, with Penny, for three weeks.  We walked about with humility, and did not find ourselves being menaced or accosted by anyone.  We had escorts and host families, the entire time we were there.  That was 1984, and yet I am certain that similar precautions would bear similar results now.

I have been a number of places, since that year.  I can say that I made some boneheaded judgments, when in Europe, in 2014, but none based on hubris or egoism.  I learned what not to do again.  It is simply best to walk in humility and fair-mindedness, albeit while maintaining a smart sense of safety.  I have plans that will take me far afield, over the next five years-and I don’t rule out any given country.  Most will involve making suitable security arrangements beforehand, in any case-but not because I am “rich and entitled”.  There will be many conversations on the subject, I’m certain-just as I spoke with a few disaffected people in Guyana, 36 years ago, and in Paris, six years ago.

This is perhaps as big a reason for my reaching out, as any.

Sustainable

3

January 30, 2020-

I have long felt a connection with nature, in its deepest and purest forms.  This may be a matter of genetic memory.  The forest and the ocean have been places of comfort and affirmation, since I was a very young child.  That this connection should have been gradually extended to desert, prairie and alpine mountain is only a logical progression.

With such a tie to the natural world, connection with those who embrace an ethic of sustainable cultures, of various forms, also comes naturally.  I have been gradually moving away from “throwaway” living, since 1981. It has been a process fraught with fits and starts, but recycling-at least-has been ingrained in my life, for nearly that long.

This evening, I made good on a promise to myself and some members of the Baha’i community, and joined a small group at Prescott College:  The Sustainability Club.  I was the only person over 25, in that gathering-but found a genuine welcome. The group is finding its way, and plans a clean-up on Sunday, which I’ll join.  Other plans include improving the composting arrangement on the small campus, a clothing recycling effort and the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, in mid-April.

My plan is to join the Sustainability Club’s efforts as often as possible, and to help them network with like-minded groups in the area, particularly Slow Food-Prescott and other environmental organizations.  There is much I can share with the youths and much that they have to impart to me, as well.  This semester, and next, will be a fine time for building a solid sustainable community.

Before

10

January 29, 2020-

There is always a prerequisite.

Before the day gets going,

there is grooming.

Before there is a conversation,

there is greeting.

Before there is a journey,

there is time and money set aside.

Before there is a relationship,

there is mutual knowledge,

trust and commitment.

Before there is a life well-lived,

there is a moral compass.

Before a door can be closed,

it must first be opened,

and passed.

 

#Us,Too

2

January 28, 2020-

The OTHER #MeToo surfaced, quite vociferously, in the aftermath of Sunday’s tragic helicopter crash.  Many were asking, “What about the others in the crash?”  The answer came in a suitable time frame, as it was explained that the families of the other members of the group had to be notified, before their identities could be made public.

That there was a pushback against any implication, that the lives of those who weren’t public figures were of somewhat lesser importance than those of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, was gratifying.  These people were friends and collaborators of the Bryants, and even if they weren’t, their passings were tragic, in their own right.

Back when Bill Cosby was a more highly-regarded personage, and his only son was killed on a California freeway, another young person was murdered, the same night. Mr. Cosby went to the home of the young lady’s mother and quietly offered his condolences- thus acknowledging that her grief equaled his.

Each of us ought to be thus treated, when the circumstances of life bring pain to our doorsteps.  Fame can be a burden, as well as a boon.  It can generate sycophancy, and overcharged protestations of grief, from people who don’t personally know the famed individuals.  It can, more decently, bring genuine condolences from high and low alike.  The proof is in the condolences that are offered families whose departed loved ones are NOT well-known.

Let us, too, be each other’s genuine source of strength and solace.

Mamba

8

January 27, 2020-

The fog that can roll in, off any given coastline, shoreline or river bank, as air temperature changes, can render even the best of navigators helpless.  There have been several times, over the years, when I have arrived safely at a destination only because the car was in good shape and there were no impediments, other than the lack of visibility.

I leave it to the experts, to figure out what went horribly wrong, yesterday, when nine people, including former National Basketball Association player, Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, were killed in a helicopter crash, near Calabasas, CA, outside Los Angeles.  Of course, conspiracy theories have already surfaced, but no matter. The bottom line is, a highly-talented and accomplished basketball player and teacher who, like the rest of us, had his flaws, is dead.

His legacy:  Both good-the Mamba Basketball Academy, philanthropy for women’s sports-especially for basketball, and a graceful reconciliation with his beautiful and intelligent wife; and bad- at least one badgered and dishonoured victim of a serious misstep, 17 years ago, is all too common among those who have either worked diligently (as Kobe Bryant certainly did) or have inherited good fortune, in reaching the upper echelons of society.  “Rank has its privileges” has been, thankfully, countered by the #MeToo movement.  Let’s leave that aspect of Mr. Bryant’s life, for a later date. To the degree we come back to it all, it should only be for whatever healing society is willing to afford the savaged victim, especially as he was not the only one who hurt her. Victim blamers have their own burden of guilt.

The improvement, in the conduct of professional basketball, had much to do with Kobe Bryant’s example, on the court-and, in his later years, off court as well.  His “Mamba” ethic, relentless in pursuit of a goal, in a sport at which he excelled, has proven to be well-emulated   He saw competitors as comrades- a fact well-borne out by the torrent of tribute, all quite heart-felt, from NBA players, past and present.  He saw his duty, as a citizen and social icon, as far outweighing any hubris and egoism that may have gotten in his way.  Thus, he made raising strong daughters his mission.  Thus, he maintained a wide variety of friendships, across social strata.  Thus, his last public act was congratulating the man who surpassed him in total league scoring:  LeBron James.

We are, each of us, such works in progress.  I only wish for that progress to continue in the spirit world, for Kobe Bryant, and for all who made great work of their physical lives, even if they stumbled, and fell hard.  Rest in Peace, Mamba.

 

Knife’s Edge

6

January 26, 2020-

I don’t have to live for adventure.  It finds me, in large and small ways-both close by and farther afield, nearly every day.  It’s likely that this happens because of my tendency, albeit fairly recent, to focus on what’s around me with intensity and alacrity.  The spiritual discussion we had this morning, for example, opened my mind to a much wider view of what constitutes meditation.  As many messages from my spirit guides come during intense meditation, it’ll be interesting to see which messages arise from some of the avenues that were suggested by participants in the group.

Jordan Peterson, in discussing the presence of hierarchy and of laws, in human society, points out that, with all the potential perils and thousands of stimuli that we face each day, multiplied over the lifespan of the human race, it would have been well nigh impossible for humanity to have achieved anything close to what we see in our historical-and “pre-historical” record, let alone what exists today, through human ingenuity, without some sort of organization.  It’s worth noting that most species of animals have some sort of hierarchy.

Life has, indeed, many aspects that play out on a knife’s edge, so to speak.  Just in my small sphere of existence- there is a 69-year-old body, that has remained quite healthy, give or take a few dental issues, some staph infections on my skin and a couple of joint inflammations, which have gone away, with treatment; there is my well-maintained car, which is likely to see me through local driving-and a long journey around North America, this summer-and more local driving next autumn, through winter.  My cars, when not the object of tampering, or abuse prior to my ownership, have lasted a very long time.  My work history has certainly played out, on a knife’s edge.  Each experience, though, has taught me a myriad life lessons-ditto, for my friendships, and other encounters.

So, the large and the small of it will likely long continue-relatively speaking.  20-30 years, if I have left what some have told me I have, is relatively short, but a lot can be packed into it.

 

 

Gratings, and Sour-utations

8

January 25, 2020-

The comment was unmistakable- I had crossed a line of political correctness, by stating that my colleagues at the school where I worked, the past two weeks, were going to wipe the school’s laptops clean, with a view towards safety.  This struck the commenter as borderline illegal.  Such is not the case:  Those computers are the property of the school district, and by extension, the State of Arizona.  No one advocates state control of personal computers.  It is the duty of educators to safeguard students from identity thieves and predators-period.

This has been the mood today- both online and here in town-sour, formal and hypercritical.  I was raised to walk through such environments and look to a brighter day.  So, here I am, having focused on positive aspects of life.

While it’s true that I am not returning to Peach Springs, next week, that does not mean, as some seem to think, that I dropped the ball, yet again.  My view is always to look for the most competent instructor for a group of children, and she will take the reins on Monday.

While it’s true that I spent two weeks helping that school, it doesn’t mean, as others have suggested, that I ignored the needs of Yavapai County, just to bring in more money. If that were true, I would not have come back here, signed on for more hours and added more schools in the county to my availability list.

While it’s true that I reserve the right to block people who make derogatory remarks about my late wife, and family, on social media, it does not-as one person is telling anyone who will listen, that I care nothing for the welfare of the mentally ill.  It is simply a matter of common decency-and pandering to a person’s baser instincts is doing nothing to help improve their state of being.

So, I hope people in Prescott and vicinity, and readers of this blog, feel better as the days in the northern hemisphere get longer, and as conditions in Australia and elsewhere improve.   May we not grate on one another, or give in to sour moods.

Growing (Beyond) Pains

9

January 24, 2020-

Every community has its pain.  I saw lots in Peach Springs, just as I did so many years ago, in various communities of the Navajo (Dineh) and Hopi Nations-and I know the pain continues, even though life is better, in some parts of the old Home Base.  So, too, there was, and is, pain in Phoenix, in La Paz County and here in Prescott.  I heard of suffering in Seligman, which is en route to any point northwest of here, yesterday, when I stopped for an early dinner.

People have their concerns, their agonies and their setbacks.  What makes the difference in much of this, is the extent to which the suffering souls lay their woes at the feet of others.  I’ve done some of that, and have thankfully learned to put that mindset behind me.  Whine and cheese are not the stuff of social progress.

I have said a bit about what I’d like to see in Peach Springs, though my own skill sets may not do much, immediately, to help that community, on the ground.  Prescott does have a few programs in place, which can help those who are knocked down, in getting themselves upright.  Essentially, though, it falls to each person to determine his/her own course of action.  The Blame Game may be mildly salving, for a day or so, then the confusion sets in, as one sees no progress.

When I last found myself really foundering, I had to set concrete steps for my own recovery.  They involved a mix of travel, social media-journaling, exercise, photography and involvement in the community that I chose as Home Base.  That mix still suits me, and it will long continue.

My hopes for each community that matters in my heart is that strong and good-hearted people will take the lead and show their family, friends and neighbours the way forward.  I want to be there when these communities arise.

Circle of Gold

9

January 23, 2020-

The small circle of  staff members gathered on the lawn of Peach Springs School, after the students had left for the weekend.  We did a postmortem on the day, and the short week.  A decision was made, to gather student laptops, and wipe them clean of inappropriate websites.  When the students do get to use the devices again, they will be free of the sites that only reinforce the baser instincts that hobble so many youth.  There will be a more concerted effort to monitor these sites.  This is something that is de rigeur to me, in over twenty-seven years of dealing with youth and technology.  For others, not familiar with the technological prowess of youth, it is easy to lapse into a LaLa Land of denial. That denial could have proven deadly.

My time at Peach Springs ended, for now,with today’s lessons.  I am always welcome back there, but leave knowing that the person taking over the second grade class knows them well, and has a good command of elementary education.  My work there, for the time being, is done.  I will maintain contact with the staff and students with whom I have bonded, much as contact with lifelong friends elsewhere has been maintained.  Much more  will be said, over the coming months, about underachieving  communities.  The bottom line for Peach Springs and places like it, is that the community must recognize that their only hope comes from realizing that they, the people, are just as worthy and capable as anyone in this nation, or on this planet.  I will never stop encouraging others, whether up close or from a distance.

I have obligations, both here in Prescott, and by way of keeping vigilant, with a situation involving a dear friend of many years.   The days and months ahead will not lack for activity, involvement in community life or efforts at building.

As for Peach Springs School, over the coming months, may the parents and community start to clear away the dust from their collective ennui, and rebuild what can be a powerful, achieving community.  Then will the little circle of gold, that is the staff of that school, begin to be seen for who they are, and the children will be able to focus on what matters in their lives.

Turnarounds and Conundrums

9

January 22, 2020, Peach Springs-

A talk with my son, last night, underscored the perception, even sometimes in my own mind,  that my shelf life is getting limited.  When the changes in the social wind blow ill, as they did yesterday, I look towards a place of refuge.  Sometimes, it’s just as well that there is no refuge available, immediately.  Sometimes, the only way out is through.

Things went far better today, with my class. I took the step of streamlining the rules, which had been overly drawn up by one of the previous teachers.  I took the step of not tolerating foul language or harassment. I took the step of countering the inchoate misogyny that some of the boys have shown, already, in their very young lives.

We got quite a bit accomplished.  It is not a traditional classroom.  Many students don’t get to school until two hours after the opening bell.  I am not here to judge them, or their families, for that.  Everyone, eventually, makes it to school. Everyone does some work, and learns something.  That is part of the reality in a rural community, where many live far afield, and no buses serve the area.

I am still not sure what will happen with me, after tomorrow.  There is more of a bond with the people here-and there is a bond, and a need, with people back in Yavapai County.  It will end up being one of those measured, eleventh-hour decisions, and I have a sense that the right thing will happen, by all concerned.