Coming From Behind

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January 25, 2022- The tortoise, enjoying the scents of the flowers and the brightness of the Spring scenery, kept his steady pace. The hare, intent on reaching the destination, was overcome with the limits of his own body and, bored with the route he had covered countless times, decided he’d take a brief rest. Thus, did the lumbering reptile note his snoring rival, as he passed by, a short while later. So, the steady, appreciative creature was awarded the garland of flowers, to the abiding chagrin of the pompous lagomorph.

Aesop told the tale a bit differently, but the end is much the same-as is the moral. So often, people take current circumstances, or long-standing trends, and base their plans for the future on those. I noted how that did not work out, in this past weekend’s plethora of football games. I am also noting how self-assured politicians and political commentators are running into the buzz saw of uncertainty, as the people at large work the malleable clay of the country’s, and mankind’s, future. Few really saw the three-week-long financial correction coming, and neither do that many see the resilience that will happen, once the driftwood of ill-performing stocks is carted away.

We tend to see the present, no matter how well, or how poorly, things are going, as the wave of the future. Of course, some patterns endure for quite a while. Others, though, get swept away, almost instantaneously. Few people saw the election of 2016 turning out as it did. Equally few saw the subsequent presidential contest ending as it did. My guess is that this year’s contests, and those two years hence, will result in much the same.

There are many areas of life where fear rules-from the erratic weather patterns to the future of the world economy, but fear never takes human ingenuity, or the Hand of the Divine, into consideration. Our ability to handle, and transcend, the caprice of nature-and our own species’ flights of whimsy is almost unlimited.

Mankind is destined for a far brighter future than it often appears. We will, collectively, overcome our challenges, even coming from behind.

The Wolf Bunny

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January 24, 2022-

The short, slightly-built young girl came into class and sat down, sporting a costume of her own design. Here was a presence covered in a rabbit’s fur, with padded foot wear, and with huge, lagomorphic ears, that had the hair of a wolf. Her face was covered in a yellow print face mask, leaving only her eyes, and the trademark surly “Present”, as her name was called at roll, to remind me of who was underneath the disguise. This was the Wolf Bunny, and anyone who didn’t like it could simply “monitor and adjust”. That point made, she set herself to work, and accomplished a lot more than most of her classmates.

Right Up To The End

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January 23, 2022- Each of the semifinal games in the National Football League were decided at the tail end of the contest. Three of them had photo finish field goal-based victories. The last, a see-saw of a touchdown festival, went into overtime and one last touchdown decided the match.

It is taught to us Baha’is that staying true to one’s soul is vital-right up through the last breath a person takes. A person could very well live a life distinguished by meritorious deeds, only to collapse into moral turpitude in the last days of earthly life. Another, who has lived a degenerate existence, could conversely rise above past actions and finish mortal life in a flurry of penitential acts.

Having been told by some in our generation that this is the “fourth quarter” of life, I choose to examine my actions, day to day-and even hour to hour, with a view towards simply doing my level best, for self and others. This is not an end-game on my part, but is an acknowledgement that there remains much to be done-whether I have thirty years, or thirty days, left in this mortal frame. It actually behooves each person to proceed thusly, which would undoubtedly up the individual’s productivity and quality of life.

I also find that this makes getting up each morning, at a regular hour, much more satisfying-whether I have plans for the day, or not.

Sorry, Not Sorry

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January 22, 2022- In the latest episode of the TV series, “Blue Bloods”, the great Stacy Keach’s character, Archbishop Kevin Kearns, is conflicted between his duty as a citizen and his role in enforcing the confidentiality of canon law. Civil authorities opt to breach the latter, so that a killer may be brought to justice. This sets up a short-lived spate of anger and complaint from the archbishop, who ends up feeling mollified when the Commissioner of Police, who is also his friend, basically offers an apology-with the caveat that he’d do the same thing again, if criminal law requires it.

Mature adults can handle “Sorry, not sorry”, if it is clear that the offending person’s dignity is more important than a temporary “sock in a knot”. A key example is that of a woman made to feel like she should apologize for being assertive. I was raised by a woman who never backed down, when she felt the need to speak up, so the idea of a “demure damsel” never came to mind. Society, however, provided plenty of examples of such people, as I grew up and moved about on my own. My reaction has been to make every effort to build up the woman’s or girl’s sense of self- even at the risk of looking like an archaic knight errant, and, yes, even when my own sock ended up in knot.

I know that gender equity has made great strides, over the past five decades, but there remain those men who seek to dominate, and not be questioned. There are still those women who deem it their duty to submit to the patriarch. In my humble opinion, either we are partners across the gap, or we are going to gaze across that chasm, in bewilderment.

No girl should grow up thinking that it’s her duty to apologize for speaking out, when her God-given mind and heart tell her that it’s her right. That goes double for grown women, not to mention men.

Let us all speak our truth, as lovingly as possible-but not retreating into demurral.

Filling The Cup

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January 21, 2022- Everyone who seeks prolonged sustenance from the hands of other people is likely viewing life through a most simplistic lens.

Anyone older than ten has encountered at least one person whose demeanour is one of want and request. Most such people offer tokens to to others, in repayment, yet that reciprocation is quickly followed by even more requests-often higher in quantity and frequency.

Nothing arises from a vacuum. People who are constantly begging for money have either been individually deprived, and not really taught the skills needed for sustainability and self-reliance-or have grown up in a country that has been systematically robbed of its wealth, by other countries or by an elite within its boundaries, which has not seen fit to share.

I have been approached, a fair number of times, over the years, by those who have been debilitated by both sets of circumstances. My response has evolved into the slower, but ultimately more fruitful path of steering the seeker after alms to sources that can help build their self-reliance.

This was the path on which I myself was set, after a mercifully brief spate of flailing about and blaming others for my, and my family’s plight-in the mid-2000s. Now, even in the current period of setback and loss, it is clear to me what path must be followed-and what skills are needed to see the period through and to recover.

There is no call for anyone to accept a permanent state of the empty cup.

Scripted

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January 20, 2022- The spirited young woman minced few words in reacting to the make-work assignment which her class had been given. The classroom was replete with posters that tout “getting your hands dirty” and “outdoor experience”. Yet, on this day of sunshine and 50 degree weather, in the sixth month of the academic year-there was a class of a dozen people working on packets.

The biggest generational struggle is ever between those who are tired and want to promote passive learning, and those for whom the world is new; thus things to be experienced. I remember being part of the “Sit with your hands folded and listen” cadre of instructors-and when it was a drag on all concerned, I did make a concerted effort to change things up and craft a fair amount of hands-on activities. Then, being a caretaker happened, the Housing Bubble burst, and I came of age, alone.

Millennials, Generation Z and the Alphas have been my guardian angels, in more ways they can imagine-because of the much-needed propensity for flipping the script. As with any new way of seeing things, there is some overkill-mostly with regard to trying out “replacement phrases” for long-accepted words. (“Pregnant people”, instead of mothers, comes to mind. I do see mothers as people, first, because that is how I was raised. There is no reason to introduce opacity into the mix.) Overall, though, the forthrightness of these generations, and their willingness to stand up and speak eloquently, without looking down their noses at their elders, just for our being older, is a facet of generational personae that I find most gratifying.

In the debate about how students best acquire knowledge, let me take the side of those who eschew patronizing, or infantilizing, our charges. It is nothing new, this notion of seeing children and teenagers as people, first and foremost. The best teachers I had were those who looked me at eye level and spoke as if they expected me to carry myself with dignity. Following a script, or toeing a line, was the stuff of the insecure. I am grateful for every young person who says “I know what I’m doing” and goes on to prove it by their actions.

Let the circle be even more unbroken.

The Tides That Bind

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January 19, 2022- The United States Senate today deferred action on curbing the excesses of those who wish to roll back the clock, and it did so, primarily because not enough of its members could agree on what those excesses are.

The United States Supreme Court today took action on curbing the excesses of those who wish to roll back the clock, and it did so, precisely because all but one of its members saw very clearly what those excesses are.

There was, a few days ago, a volcanic eruption, of the sort that only occurs once in a thousand years. It was heard in the outer islands of southeast Alaska, and close to Anchorage. It sent tsunamic waves clear to the coast of Peru. It covered several islands of Tonga in ash. It bound the people of the South Pacific region, in a united effort to find anyone missing as a result of the event.

We the people, across the United States of America, and across the planet, are learning, in fits and starts, just how closely tied we are. What we can’t get through our stubborn heads on our own, the forces of nature will bring to our attention. Those whose answer to our current problems is even tighter adherence to the shopworn, and the discredited, tenets of patriarchy and of elitism, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, risk being left behind, washed away. This applies as much to the eugenicists on the Left as it does to the oligarchs and white supremacists on the Right. The answers to our present problems will never come from zero population growth, especially with regard to people of colour. Nor will they come from the top down ethos of the kleptocrat or the tyrant.

Our progress depends on finding the answers that seem so elusive to the “greatest deliberative body on the planet”. They can only come from people who actually know how to listen to one another. They can only come from people who don’t care what age, what gender or what ethnic background gives rise to those answers. That ability comes first from the heart, then from the mind.

Getting Past Exhaustion

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January 18, 2022- A good deal of energy has seen its way to the Universal Pool, over the past two days. That’s okay, as I have tomorrow essentially off-and others can step up and handle any school emergencies. Today was altogether full: High School Agricultural Studies, followed by two Baha’i Zoom calls. Fortunately, the last one was spent with people whose own day was rather exhausting-so when they asked to stop early, I was more than delighted.

I am a very intense sleeper, so the seven hours or so, once I finish this post, will be heaven sent. Then, I will wake very briefly-and after seeing 5 a.m., and darkness still lingering, an hour or so more of sleep will ensue. The big thing is getting rest and rejuvenation. Dick Van Dyke’s admonition to “Keep Moving” is important, but so is not getting run down.

The last thing I want to mention about today is with regard to giving a listen to a gentleman who says he fears too much centralization. He was speaking about the Voting Rights legislation-and he was cherry picking. Some of his points can be incorporated into a Voting Rights Act, without taking away the rights of ANY group of citizens. The greater point I wish to make is-It’s past time to acknowledge all those who are……sick and tired of being sick and tired.

That Freedom We All Want, and Deserve

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January 17, 2022- About a hundred people marched from Prescott College, to and around Yavapai County Courthouse and back to Prescott United Methodist Church, as the first part of a celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , in mid-morning today. There were both impromptu, and well-known, songs being offered by local musician-activists. and people of all ages gladly joined in, as best we could.

Each year, as this observance approaches, I think about the way Dr. King was regarded by many in my once-ultraconservative childhood hometown. Many adults, including some in my extended family, swallowed the fiction that he was a card-carrying member of the United States Communist Party. When he was murdered, there were some in my high school class who joked and cheered. I personally was disconsolate. It was clear, even then, that he was working for the good of everyone.

Time and more information have combined to moderate the notions that many have about Martin Luther King, Jr., his life and his work. Revelations of his less than chaste activities have long since come to light, but without having the effect-on most people of negating the larger body of his work. It has never been shown that he was anything less than loyal to this country and to its government, despite the best efforts of those opposed to full citizenship for people of colour to discredit him. It has never been shown that he was anything less than committed to the rights of all, even those who opposed him.

There are still people who promote the notion that freedom is a finite thing. Those who crave power, above all else, variously spread the word that, if Black and Brown people are given a full seat at the table, freedom will be taken from those of European and West Asian descent. Others appeal to conservatives of all racial groups, saying that mandated collective action is inherently evil, when it bumps up against individuals creating and pursuing their own destiny. Conversely, there are those who do seek to exclude even those conservatives who are merely seeking to forge a life for themselves, without government largesse. I believe Dr. King would want us to work to overcome our self-imposed limitations, much as he did in his own life.

We all want and deserve Divinely-endowed freedoms and rights. These come with responsibilities-among them the duty to care for one’s children and family members, the trust to take part in the affairs of community, to exhibit a sane and intelligent patriotism towards the country in which one has taken citizenship and beyond that, the care and protection of our planet.

As I later walked with my hiking buddy, in her first foray into nature in several months, the notion that there should be no barriers to a full life, for every human being, other than those they impose on themselves, came to my heart. That there need be no exclusionary elite, but that each should be able to choose working with others or forging on alone, but without throwing up barriers to others who wish to achieve their goals in a different, and ethical, manner, remains my paramount wish.

Freedom is never a zero sum game.

Approaching

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January 16, 2022- I had a satisfying breakfast at Zeke’s, yesterday. I always have a satisfying breakfast at Zeke’s, once a week, when I’m at Home Base. I had a satisfying breakfast at American Legion Post 6, this morning. I most often have a satisfying breakfast at Post 6, each Sunday morning, when I’m here.

I had civil and mutually informative conversations, both days, with people who think differently from me, on a good many topics. We learned from one another, because we are not engaged in World War Ten against each other.

Years ago, I recall telling a pacifist friend that I was going to VietNam, to see for myself, what was going on there. It was the last conversation I ever had with him. Whilst protesting our involvement there, he adopted an authoritarian mindset. No other point of view could thus be entertained-or even approached.

All these years later, we as a society are headed in the same direction. On one side, we see a clamour for restriction on those who seek a more inclusive society. On the other side, we see a clamour for restriction, on those who seek a more restrictive society. In the end, each will get a leadership which will restrict everyone not in agreement with its agenda- unless we, the people wake up, become awakened– not “woke”, which is a verb tense, not an adjective.

Psychologists speak of approach/avoidance- a dichotomy in dealing with those people who, and situations which, are at variance with our own mindsets. Some people, such as a conman or grifter, are best set straight and then avoided, henceforth. Some situations, such as a riot, are best not joined-and are a good bet to be avoided. Then, there are those occasions, when a true lover of the human race moves towards the crisis, approaches those suffering or in need-and gives of self-especially of one’s strengths and capabilities. These could be natural disasters, acts of terror or a vulnerable person in need of protection.

When I contemplate how to respond to such events and situations, in the days, months and years ahead, I only ask the Creator, the Higher Power, to grant continuing strength-to approach all with a clear sense of love, fairness and justice-but above all, with the strength of discernment, to not fall victim to any preconceived notions, arising from the person’s stated beliefs or political leanings.