Knife’s Edge

4

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.

When Sex Kills

4

January 21, 2020, Peach Springs-

There is no mincing words about this: In the name of freedom of speech, three generations of adults are poisoning the well of our children’s spirits-particularly in impoverished communities.  Nowhere is this more apparent, than in communities with a narrow economic base.

The phenomenon of children as young as seven, trading sexual epithets, the coarsest of profanity and actually mentioning pornographic websites, by name, is, to put it mildly, jarring to the spirit.  That they actually understand  what they are saying is even more disquieting.

This is a train of abuses, long in the running, and it is by no means limited to Native American communities.  Sexual deviance was graphically described to me by a very young neighbour, in 2002, in a Phoenix apartment complex. As far back as June, 1980, when I lived in a Flagstaff apartment complex, a band that had been hired to play at a birthday party, in a place where children were out and about, loudly screamed profanity in the course of their “presentation”.  It was viewed, by many of  those present, as “harmless”; “only words”.

I am no prude,  though I have long ago exiled the vernacular word for fornication to its proper place in the graveyard of misbegotten phrases.  I note that even the late, great George Carlin, a champion of adults’ free speech, when among other adults, drew the line at cursing in the presence of children.

Language, though, is not the most harmful aspect of the ongoing tailspin.  Sex education, still properly the purview of  parents, is increasingly becoming the province of the skeevy.  Applications like TikTok are being used by those who wish to prey upon young children.  Other social media sites, not well-monitored by responsible adults, are offering curious and precociously feisty youngsters a diet of unseemly fare that is well beyond their level of true understanding.  As one boy told me today, “it’s more exciting than what’s around here. ”  This is what we face, as communities and as a wider society.

So, the concerns that we educational professionals once had, with regard to teenagers, are now  applicable to kids in primary school.  This is one of America’s wake-up calls.

They Also Dream

12

January 20, 2020-

In marking the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Prescott-an essentially conservative and largely White community, has permitted and conducted a march for social justice, from Prescott College, on the Near West Side, to and around Yavapai County Courthouse and  thence to Prescott United Methodist Church, about midway between the two sites.

Today was the fifth time I participated in this march, and attended its subsequent non-denominational service, hosted jointly by the Methodists, the Unitarian-Universalist congregation, the Ebony Christian Church and Prescott Peace-builders.  The message is that of building harmony and co-operation, among the people of Prescott and Yavapai County.

There is also grave concern, especially among the young people present, for seeing that justice is served to those who are apprehended, whilst crossing our nation’s southern border.  There is a sense among many of the college-, and high school, age people, as well as the more actively liberal senior citizens, around the county, that there needs to be a greater effort towards humanitarian treatment of the undocumented.

I have a lot of empathy for anyone who is suffering.  Some, I can help; others, I defer to those who are better-suited for doing what is needed.  There is also the need, as I see it, to NOT HATE those whose viewpoints on this, and other subjects, is different.  Some people who were present today did not seem to hear the words  spoken by a reader of Dr. King’s words:  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness.  Only light can  do that.  Hatred cannot drive out hatred.  Only love can do that.”

I have spoken with several people who fear the young, the liberals, and above all, those who hail from Mexico and points further south.  Theirs, whether the plaints of long-term residents, who see their way of life eroding, or those of  first-generation immigrants, who came here for the benefits of an orderly society-or to escape authoritarian regimes, is the cry for moving cautiously.  I know of only a few, among them, whose underpinning is that of White Supremacy.

That last is something I vehemently oppose.  There is no such thing as a superior race, or any race at all, for that matter, save the Human Race.  There is a key place in the world, for a sane and intelligent patriotism-which will acknowledge the legitimate rights of people in other nations to love their countries, without pitching for a jingoistic worldview, or for any nation’s hegemony over others.

With all that, I recognize that the vast majority of the world’s people have dreams-of a meaningful life, of being loved and appreciated and of finding a path to peace.  There are serious breakdowns in communication, in the distribution of resources and, for far too many-from the mentally ill to the chronically destitute- in the attainment of self-esteem. These issues will prove to have a variety of solutions, for which the prerequisite is the taking down of the walls of ideology-both on the Right and on the Left.

Those one fears, also have their legitimate dreams.

Self-Belief

7

January 19, 2020-

I set out for a trailhead,

this noon,

and didn’t find it.

I will, though,

having come back here,

and used my ruler,

to apply the scale of miles.

I was asked to return

to the school where I worked

last week.

I will be back there,

to offer at least some

continuity.

Belief in myself

has come late,

and come hard.

There are still critics,

but they barely know me.

They only know

their own frustration,

and own pain.

There are boosters,

who do know me,

and for whose

presence

I am supremely

grateful.

I think of this,

after a day

of floundering,

and of considering

the words of friend,

foe, and in-between,

alike.

I am not floundering,

now,

and look to tomorrow,

and the week ahead,

as acts of service await.

Loving, In The Face of Hatred

10

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