Seventy-One Years Down

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November 28, 2021, Grapevine- It was the best Korean lunch I’ve had, and I am not just speaking out of prejudice. My daughter-in-law prepared a soup of seaweed, braised beef and garlic, accompanied by several side dishes (kimchi, small grilled and shredded mushrooms, grilled tofu and pressed, layered vegetable roll) and steamed rice. Yunhee has learned a highly-developed cuisine form, very well. This was my birthday meal, though we would have a late supper at a nearby burger joint, this evening.

The early evening saw us take in the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die”, the apparent swan song for actor Daniel Craig, in the role of the legendary secret agent. No spoilers here, but it was faithful to the Bond narrative of fantasy car chases, explosions and mass disruptions of fancy, gala events.

It has been a most eventful seventy-first year of earthly life. My childhood home was sold, as Mother moved, of her own volition, into an Assisted Living residence. One of my closest cousins lost a battle with cancer. Two trips eastward, in May and in July, were both generated and affected by these events. Concern with justice, both deferred and realized, led to visits to the Greenwood community, in Tulsa and to George Floyd Square, in Minneapolis. I was able to reconnect with two cousins and their wives after many years. Strong new friendships were made at my Home Base of Prescott. COVID19, while still influential in my public and private activities, ceased to be an overwhelmingly restrictive force, especially after my receipt of two Moderna vaccines (with the understanding that these are strictly season to season in effectiveness), which combined with a proactive immunity regimen and being blessed with O+ blood, have allowed me to move along with a moderate level of caution. Three minor, but nettlesome, skin tumors were removed. Visits to Carson City, in the spring and to northern New Mexico and the San Diego area, this Autumn, were thus able to take place without any negative results.

As Year 72 begins, I join my fellow Baha’is in entering the second century of what is called the Formative Age of our Faith, a time in which its affairs are managed by ordinary people, acting in elected assemblies, following the guidance of its Founder’s Teachings, as explained further by ‘Abdu’l-Baha and His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, who served as Guardian of the Faith from 1921 until his passing, in 1957. We are all charged to advance spiritually, both individually and in groups.

My work with children and teens continues, though not on a full-time basis, given official retirement last November. So, too, does work with non-profit agencies, including the Red Cross. Hikes and travel will continue, of course, though the latter will see more use of trains and buses, with my Saturn Vue staying within the areas of California and the five southwestern states.

I look ever forward to what further challenges and blessings may arise.

Father and Son

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November 27. 2021, Grapevine- In a nutshell, I have been treated like royalty by my son, since he was in the Navy, and continuing to the present time. Truth be known, I would do the same, were he ever again in need. That has, to our minds, been the bedrock of a parent/child relationship for all time. I would do the same if I had a daughter.

Today marked the Centenary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son and Successor to Baha’u’llah, as Head of the Baha’i Faith. He took the leadership role upon His Father’s Ascension, on May 29, 1892, serving in that capacity for over 29 years, until November 28, 1921. The fluctuations in the actual day when His passing is honoured stem from the use of the Lunar Calendar for this day, as well some other commemorations.

What is most important for the generality of mankind is the tenor of the relationship between the two Great Teachers. Baha’u’llah, like Christ, Gautama Siddhartha, Muhammed and Others before Him, brought a set of Spiritual Teachings, geared towards the people of His time and for many centuries thereafter. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s major tasks were to interpret His Father’s Teachings to the world and to serve as an Exemplar, with regard to how these Divine Principles may best be manifested in everyday life. He was the first to recognize His Father as a Divine Messenger, even while still a child.

So were Their interwoven lives the stuff of both celestial spiritual provenance and of how parents and children can most optimally work in concert. ‘Abdu’l-Baha was a devoted Son to His mother as well, and a steadfast Brother to His two siblings: Bahiyyih, entitled Khanum (“Lady”, in Persian) and Mihdi, His younger brother, who died accidentally, while still young. He was a chaste and loving Husband to Munirih Khanum.

Even with the constant upheavals in the family’s lives, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the Perfect Son in every way imaginable, walked among people of all strata of society, seeing none as an inherent enemy and giving even His detractors their due. He served the people of British-ruled Palestine tirelessly, helping feed thousands of people during the privations during and after World War I. He visited rich and poor alike, during travels in Egypt, Europe and North America, from 1910-1913.

When Baha’u’llah transcended in 1892, and His eldest Son, in 1921, hundreds of people, from the political leaders of Palestine to farmers, fishermen and labourers in the streets, gathered to pay their respects. Their Family had come as prisoners of the Sultan, but focused Their energies solely on bettering the lives of those among whom They lived. That effort was not lost on the people, and remains to this day as a prime example for all who call themselves members of the human family.

The Essentials

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November 26, 2021, Grapevine- Writing about little stuff, whilst in Texas, is not as much of an oxymoron as one might think. The Lone Star Empire is made up of a mass of minutiae-all of which lend their parts to the legend.

This leads me to the logical codicil to yesterday’s gratitude post: The basic things that warm my heart and keep me going. Here are a dozen such, written Letterman-style:

12. The Cosmos. Any night that at least features the Moon, Jupiter and Venus (at least until February) is a fine one. How much more pleasant is the early morning, with a mass of heavenly orbs! Even the coldest of nights is more comforting, when there are gleaming stars all around.

11. Friends randomly made. The saving grace of seeming inconveniences, like lines, traffic snarls, postponements, crowded conveyances is that they often introduce me to people with whom I may not have anything else, inherently, in common. I recall times, like the three hours spent in the corridor connection of a train going between St. Lo and Paris, in 2014. The families who were huddled there will always be among cherished friends.

10. Friends digitally made. There is a lot of which to be wary, when it comes to social media. One must always be on guard, against the forces of manipulation and invasion of privacy. The upside, though, is the number of potentially close friends who might not have been made, otherwise. I think, especially of five of my closest friends-three women and two men, who were met online.

9. Cozy establishments. Living alone means that gathering spots are important. This is true in my Home Base, and it’s true everywhere I go. A comfortable couch or easy chair, or a well-placed high top table, make for an enjoyable meal, or evening of music.

8. Variety of scenes. The immense number of different landscapes, and seascapes, across the planet, has contributed to my learning and sense of well-being. The same is true of the human landscapes, from crowded cities to isolated farms, ranches and mining sites.

7. Variety of viewpoints. No matter how much I think I know, there is always something to be gained, from encountering a different perspective. Even something that is odious or toxic can, if regarded from a safe distance, show me what NOT to adopt as my own.

6. Health practices. Keeping an open mind about different methods of maintaining stamina and avoiding addiction has led me to a relatively robust autumn of my years. I am ever grateful for those who led me to essential oils and natural supplements.

5. Imagination. My vivid mindset has led me down some crazy rabbit holes, but with the understanding that the way in is also the way out. Imagination leads to creativity, which is often the only key to problem-solving-and God knows, we need that ability, almost on a daily basis.

4. Presence of children and youth. The value of spirited energy to a full life cannot be minimized. Kids have been urgent to my well-being, since I was one, myself. I have never been particularly athletic, but being around team sports and activities has been a tonic. It took me a long time to relax enough, within myself, to take part in group dances, yet when I am among a group of young people who are reveling in their musical surroundings ( except for thing like mosh pits or crowd surges), my body and soul are soaring. The delightful energy and perspectives of children are ever a treasure, even to just watch.

3. Family. From the time I was small, I have liked, as well as loved my parents, grandparents, and siblings. It has not always crystal clear to some, that this is the case, but in my core I stay true to my roots. From family, I have learned that there is always a solution to what life throws at me. Dad, with his emphasis on making responsible choices, and owning them and Mom, with her admonitions about keeping an eye out for opportunity and for loving who I am, are largely responsible for my even being here to this day and time.

2. Spirit guides- Those who have gone on, even those who I never met in the flesh, have looked out for me and constantly send messages. They have prompted me to act, in matters profound and mundane-and have consistently helped me set my path.

1. Faith- This is what ties everything together. All the foregoing items emanate from my faith in a Higher Power, Who I believe has shown us the way to building a unified planet and has been ever guiding Creation in that direction, from the very point in which it was renewed-so many eons ago. All the Spiritual Teachers the human race has ever known emanate from this One Source.

Ten Gratitudes

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November 25, 2021- One of the inherent goodnesses of this day, that is so strangely placed one month after the last harvests have been completed in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere, is that so many people nonetheless stop to count their blessings. There will always be those who say they have none, but that is a topic for another time. The Universe will see such people along, in its way.

I spoke with my mother and each of my siblings, earlier today, and being comforted by the overall spirit of optimism that was conveyed. My little family and I had a lovely Thanksgiving Dinner, which they put together nicely, within the framework of the usual lunch hour. The meal set me to thinking of those aspects of my life that generate gratefulness. These are what come to mind, in this time of ongoing crisis and victory, and in no particular order of importance:

  1. I am more accepted and honoured, by more people, than at any time in my life. Those who once found me strange have expanded their own viewpoints, either by dint of enlightenment or by virtue of going through life’s inevitable grind. I also find it easier to understand their pain.
  2. My judgment is clearer, more focused than it has been in times past. A good part of that comes from moving away from overthinking.
  3. Every person dear to me is in generally good health. Some are getting over mild cases of COVID, but that is more incidental than chronic. They are recovering and will be back in good stead, very shortly.
  4. Humanity is moving in an essentially positive direction. Problems of living will always be with us, and there will ever be the challenges posed by the wayward, the disgruntled and the egocentric. By and large, though, we have as a species made great strides in facing the gauntlet of a harsh world.
  5. I find much to admire, in a broad cross-section of humanity. The groundedness and tradition of conservatives meshes far more easily, in my mind, with the inclusiveness and innovation of progressives than either group sometimes can countenance.
  6. The youngest generations, even in the one-step forward, two-steps back matter of overcoming prejudice, are showing more maturity, at a younger age, by and large.
  7. It is easier to ignore the wirepullers and shrill voices of negativism than it once was for me. Keeping eyes on the prize of a better world is the only true path.
  8. People at the grassroots are taking back their communities, and not in an exclusionary or hierarchical manner. The elites will find that they must meld with the vast majority of humanity, not the other way around-despite the temporary trends in some areas towards control by artificial intelligence and autocratic structures. As people get over their collective fears, they are banding together in a united front.
  9. The growing awareness that the human body has what it needs to heal itself, and that all that is supplemental to this healing may be found in nature, is a corollary to this grassroots renaissance.
  10. The great Spiritual Teachers, speaking with one Voice, are showing us the way towards an even brighter future for this abundant planet.

Justice Is A Long Haul

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November 24, 2021, Grapevine, TX- “The best beloved of all things in my sight is justice.”-Baha’u’llah.

Tonight, after sundown and all day tomorrow marks the 109th observance of the Day of the Covenant, a day set aside by Baha’is to honour the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. This happened because He was born on May 23, 1844, which was the very day that al-Bab, Herald of the coming of Baha’u’llah, declared His own Mission to the world. ‘Abdu’l-Baha would never have countenanced anything on His behalf which would have taken even a smidgen of attention away from honouring al-Bab, on that day. He acquiesced to letting the Faithful devote one day a year in honour of His life: November 26, by solar reckoning. When we switched to observing several Holy Days by lunar reckoning, there came about circumstances when the Holy Day falls a day or two before 11/26.

The Covenant between Baha’u’llah and His followers, of which ‘Abdu’l-Baha was the chief Exemplar, is an agreement rooted in justice. Divinely inspired justice is hardly a matter of an imagined deity tossing lightning bolts at miscreants or any kind of deus ex maxina, for that matter. Like its more human derivative, true justice is a process. and a therefore a long haul.

I mention all this because there are times when a person who commits a moral failing, but not a criminal act, may be found innocent of criminal wrongdoing, by a jury of peers and continue to suffer within self and within the wider society. History is replete with such cases, and no names need be mentioned here.

There are also cases where a person, or people, are found guilty of criminal wrongdoing, by a similar jury and the wider society finds agreement-with a minority of people begging to differ. We saw such a verdict rendered today. The matter in question took a long time to resolve, as several commentators have observed, with some further allusions to the ongoing investigations into the affairs of January 6.

Justice is a long haul. The perpetrators of the murders of Emmett Till and of Medgar Evers, as well as the killers of the little girls in the Birmingham bombing of 1963, were brought to justice with all deliberate speed-but the convictions held. The alleged assassins of John F. and Robert Kennedy and of Martin Luther King, Jr. were brought to swift justice-either judicial or vigilante, but were they the sole killers-or even the actual ones, or were they just convenient scapegoats? I have my doubts, especially following the recent revelations regarding the assassination of Malcolm X.

The justice which meshes with that described by Baha’u’llah is potentially an arduous process, one that merits careful contemplation, on this Day of the Covenant, which leads us into the American Thanksgiving. That it is so, does not diminish its importance in our lives.

When On-time Is Late

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November 23, 2021, Phoenix- Once upon a time, Penny and I arrived at Kwangju Airport, in South Korea, a half hour before our flight was due to take-off. The attendant, in a very officious manner, informed us that we were too late for boarding and therefore would be placed on the very next flight-in five hours’ time. We had been in Korea long enough to know that protest, like resistance, was futile.

I have had similar experiences a couple of times since, all here in the U.S. and essentially because of the short time between connecting flights and serious distance between the terminals. LAX, in particular, offers one way to get from domestic to international-one’s own two feet.

Nowadays, if I have a flight to catch, as I do today, the solution is to catch an early airport shuttle from Prescott, grab a hearty lunch, then check in and go through TSA at a time when there is relatively scant traffic, then have plenty of time to ease into the afternoon and set my thoughts on things that either matter, or should.

The fallout over the Kenosha verdict has been underscored by the events in Waukesha, although the two are entirely separate issues. KR has made a statement, that he supports the Black Lives Matter movement. He has also made White Power gestures. These tell me that, like many young adults, he is in a state of flux. In my own teen years, I veered from Civil Rights advocate to taking a hawkish position on the Viet Nam War, then briefly considered conscientious objector status, went back to wanting to look into the conflict firsthand and having to confront my own subconscious, ingrained biases-with regard to People of Colour.

Where someone ends up, in a place of maturity, largely depends on the intersection between heart and mind. Both Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, at one point in their public lives, were liberal Democrats. I have a childhood friend who is in the same position- the fiery leftist of the ’70s is now a business Republican. (I saw that one coming, way back in the late 1960s, but no matter).

My passion, which has itself ebbed and flowed, over the years, is still there-at the intersection between heart and mind. It’s one area where lateness is not an option.

Waukesha

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November 22, 2021- The small children, ages 7 and 9, told their mother they never want to go to a parade ever again. There is no more heartbreaking statement that can ever be heard.

A celebration of community, of diversity, of life should never become the stage for the passions of the disaffected, the disgruntled, the deranged. This is true whether one is talking about the United States Capitol, on the day of a Constitutional procedure, or the downtown of a vibrant little city like Waukesha, Wisconsin, on a day of wholesome togetherness. It was true in Las Vegas, on the day of Route 91 Harvest, in 2017, and at houses of worship in North Charleston, Pittsburgh and Sutherland, TX. It was true during the Boston Marathon, in 2013 and in the halls of learning in places like Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. It has been true, every single time a disaffected, disgruntled, deranged person has taken out a twisted sense of entitlement and revenge against the broader public. It is true, whether the individual, or group of same, is a State Actor or just a private person wanting the world to know that he feels wronged, that his rights are above everyone else’s.

Four of the people slain yesterday were grandmothers. They were seemingly targeted by their assassin, for reasons presently known only to him. They were, in my humble estimation, innocent of any wrongdoing. They were there solely to bring “Comfort and Joy”, the theme as it were of the parade itself. There were small children, 18 at last count, injured. There were high school bandmates and cheerleaders, the very epitome of everything that is positive about life. There was a little girl, dancing in a pink suit, narrowly missed by the perpetrator’s vehicle.

I have a family member, five hours from Waukesha, who is a cheerleader. Here in Prescott, the youngest child of two dear friends is in his last year of playing in a high school band. If either of them were to be the least bit injured in an incident such as happened yesterday, I would be apoplectic-even more than I am right now.

Human life is given by the Creator, by God-if you will. Human life is not given, just so that it may be randomly taken, or even threatened, by individuals-no matter how righteously they present themselves or their cause. Human life is given, that its holders may pursue their positive, life-affirming, socially-advancing talents and faculties to their utmost.

Waukesha, may you heal-as the communities afflicted before you have healed; nay, are still healing. America, may we regain our sanity, little by little, until this sort of horror becomes a bad memory.

Once Forward, Twice Back, Thrice Forward

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November 21, 2021-

The horse took a tentative step forward, the wolves gathered in front, the steed took two steps back, the canines stiffened, ready to charge, but the equine charged first, taking three bold steps forward, then broke into a canter, then a gallop, and leapt over the startled predators.

His hind hooves smacked the alpha male, as his rear legs rose, and the pack slowly retreated, relying on instinct, trying to figure their collective next move.

The horse’s next move was to continue towards the water trough, which he had as his goal, before being so rudely interrupted.

Many times in life, one has a worthy goal that doesn’t fit the agenda of others. Some may put up roadblocks and force a retreat. A worthwhile plan may be to try and negotiate a peaceful solution, meeting the needs of those who seem to represent an obstacle. There are times, however, when the only agenda of those who are obstructing is to obstruct. It is then, that one who strives must leap over the barrier.

Masked Dancers

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November 20,2021- The four ladies were alternately jumping, twirling and swaying, with the energy of twenty-year-olds, though they were closer in age to yours truly. All the while, they kept their COVID masks securely on their faces. This was for the duration of a 40-minute set by local artist Jonathan Best, and his troupe of blues and funk musicians. Half of it was a funk rendition of “Blowin’ In The Wind”, which I think Bob Dylan would thoroughly enjoy. The other 20 minutes was devoted to Sly Stone’s “Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself”.

I was given an egg castanet, which is about what you would expect-a mini-Easter egg shaped rattle, for the purpose of joining in the festivities. Jonathan goes full-on, bringing his audience into the fray. Whilst dutifully shaking the instrument, I felt as if I was watching a band of dervishes, even when three of the women took off their masks. The fourth, in addition to wanting to guard against COVID, also didn’t want men to see her face, and so kept tugging her mask against her nose. To me, it is six or a half dozen, whether I see a person’s visage or not. The show was the thing. It was all just a great way to spend a couple of hours on a mild Saturday night.

The Raven is the sort of place where patrons, and the bartenders, help the lone server clear tables, when she is overloaded with delivering food. This discomfits the standard dining patron, but for me, and several others, it is second nature. We are more like family, than “us and them”. I kind of like it that way.

That is part and parcel of living in a fairly mellow town. There are those who see everything through an ideological lens, but their influence here is diluted by the culture of broad acceptance. A patron who tried to push the envelope with “Let’s Go, Brandon” ,(poor Mr. Brown, he just wants to race his stock car), was brought into the festivities by being given a larger castanet. Jonathan is a progressive, but ideology is left at the cafe door, when he is set to perform. He knows that conservatives and reactionaries love a good, lively performance as much as anyone else-and so we all rock out together.

The days before Thanksgiving are a great time for such in-gathering.

A Child Is A Child

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November 19, 2021- I have friends and family, on both sides of the Chasm, when it comes to discussions of race. Just so we’re clear, I am dead set against ANY policy or action that limits or prevents a person from following his/her life plan-so long as that plan does not itself involve limiting or preventing another person from following theirs.

It started, in a sense, with Emmett Till. When he was killed, I was four. An older cousin saw the news on TV and commented: “That is just plain SICK!” I asked what was sick and he told me that a kid, not much older than he, was killed by some crazy people in a place called Mississippi. I knew that name, because the older girls in the neighbourhood spelled it out while jumping rope. It bothered me, from that time on, that adults would kill a child.

As time went on, I witnessed and experienced all types of adult behaviour towards children-mostly good, but some very wicked things as well. I was, thankfully, never beaten or abused-but I knew plenty of boys and girls who were.

Growing up in a mostly White town, I saw and heard people of all ages-including some of my mates, express hostility towards people of other racial groups. In fairness, they were just as caustic towards people of other European ethnicities. I never felt such animosity towards anyone, but as the saying goes, “You stand in chalk, you inhale the dust.” It took time in the Army and frank discussions with people of other backgrounds, in which I chose to listen more than talk, for me to truly understand their experiences.

It is the duty of adults to teach teens in the ways of maturity. Maturity, as my father explained to me, means not rushing furiously into a situation, unprepared and likely overmatched. Now, we see what happens when the reverse is true. Kyle Rittenhouse went into battle, in his own mind, against an imagined foe that he barely understood, and of whose diversity he was completely ignorant. Someone in his life owed him a hand of restraint- not a violent hand, but a firm one.

Like many people in adolescence, he seemed to think he was capable of rising to the occasion and fending off those who had trouble in mind. Ironically, it was not the thugs on the periphery of the social justice movement whom he faced down, that awful night. It was three grown men, who likely fancied themselves allies of that movement, coming at him, a boy of 17.

I question how he was able to bring an AR15 with him, when the minimum age for BUYING such a weapon is 18. Yet, there it was, in his hands, after who knows how much training and practice he had been given in its use. Even people in the military, who are, with rare exceptions, 18 and over, have to have a minimum of eight weeks of training in the handling, use and maintenance of firearms, especially automatic weapons. Kyle should not have been there alone. Adults should have been with him, and then as a force of restraint.

There is, additionally, the research into the maturation of the human brain. The brain is not completely formed until the age of 25, if then. I look back on myself, in my teens and twenties, and sometimes shudder that I am still alive- my parents’ best efforts to raise me aside.

We are, however, in a crisis of adulthood when, once again, people at the street level are left trying to explain to the wider society why People of Colour are frustrated and angry-while not exactly hearing the voices of reason from those above them, in the halls of power. We are in a crisis of adulthood when a child is castigated in the court of public opinion, publicly coddled by a sitting judge and probably just as confused as he was on that awful night. We are in a crisis of adulthood when the voices of the nation’s leadership use vitriol, rather than step back, breathe deeply and foster healing. We are in a crisis of adulthood, when we just go back to the same sides, across the Chasm, that led us here in the first place.

A good-hearted, gentle family member remarked this evening that she just wants to see love for everyone. She is a conservative Christian. I am a gadfly, who leans progressive, in most matters. My sentiments, though, are the same.

A child is a child; raise him (her)!