Uncrossing Wires

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January 13, 2022- I found myself carrying two rectangular baskets of groceries a short distance, to a friend who was down with a cold and thus away from her work. This small act, at the behest of her mother, who is also a good friend, took less than five minutes-but made her week food secure.

Earlier, the focus was different. Three missed phone calls had to be resolved. One was easy-corrected by an e-mail thread. A second, which took a bit longer, was necessitated by someone, in the phone queue ahead of me, dealing with the passing of a loved one. That is not at all hard for me to comprehend. Anyone dealing with grief needs wide latitude and a ton of compassion. The third, variously involving a robot greeter; two answering services-one Indian, the other Australian; and the actual scheduler, took five tries-before we managed to connect and get the task accomplished.

That brings me to the substance of the task. I had cleared my calendar for the month of March, and was in the planning stages of a trip to the Deep South. The schedule will be adjusted: Mid-March to mid-April, in order to tend to three very small procedures, each taking less than an hour, but spaced over a three-week period, by insurance regulations. Those three dates are a week apart, in the first half of March.

It is my one duty to self and family to tend to any health hiccups, early and systematically. The wires need to remain uncrossed.

Six Identities

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January 9, 2022- No, I am not confused as to who I am. There are, however, six elements to a person’s identity-as I learned in a most instructive session, this afternoon. Each person has genetic, socioeconomic, training, gender, spiritual and cultural identities, which make up the whole self.

My genetic identity confers German, French, English, Irish, and Penobscot (Penawapskewi) ancestry. I may have residual Sorb, Polish, Roma and Jewish elements in my lineage, as well. Much remains to be learned about this aspect of my identity.

My socioeconomic heritage is lower middle class, conferring a strong work ethic and sense of integrity. My father had worked his way up to middle management, by the time of his death. Both sides of my family had agricultural roots, with both of my grandfathers maintaining small farm holdings, whilst still working in factory jobs. My mother had cosmetology training and cut women’s hair, in our home, when we were young. I am now in the middle ranks of the middle class, as it were, through a combination of earnings and investment income.

My training identity is as an educator, counselor, and school administrator. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a Master of Arts in Education, with an emphasis in Counseling, and additional credentials in School Administration and Community College Instruction. It’s ironic that the last two have been Achilles heels, in my professional life.

In terms of gender, I am unreservedly, comfortably male. I feel passionately loving towards girls and women, with a parental and brotherly orientation, these days. I have no antipathy towards anyone of other orientations or gender identities.

My spiritual background was Roman Catholic, and I was raised to have an ecumenical view of other Christian denominations and the Jewish Faith. I have long felt that there is no true separation between people, based on religious or philosophical practices. This last made my acceptance and practice of the Baha’i Faith a very easy step, when I reached the age of thirty. I maintain that there is but one Human Race and that all religions are part of the same spiritual flow, from the dawn of humanity.

My cultural identity is varied. I could say that I practice “Baha’i culture”, yet that is something that will be long evolving. I could say I adhere to “American” culture, yet there is scant agreement on what that even is. My cultural influences have been cards dealt me, where I have lived. Coastal New England has a distinct culture. So do the interior of Maine, the Navajo (Dineh) Nation, the Hopi lands, Jeju Island (Korea), the western Arizona desert, and the central Arizona Highlands. I have learned important lessons in each of these locales-and in places I have merely visited for a short time, from southeast Alaska, to Israel and Guyana-and so many places in between.

The last two elements, of who Gary is, are works in progress. I can only say that the goal of the end product is for a soul who is worthy of his Creator’s mercy and love, at the end of this earthly trail.

Just Cause

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January 7, 2022- An infringement on the right of a child to a safe learning environment led me to try and summon an administrator, with the response that someone would be right along. Several minutes went by, and I was perfectly content to wait-knowing full well that dozens of other matters could interfere with anyone getting to our room. Another student began to complain, after a half hour of inaction, so I made a second call-again knowing that we would make sure the matter was resolved by day’s end, yet wanting all concerned to know that the administration wasn’t just bluffing. The matter was resolved in due course and the guilty party called to account.

Life brings both small and great challenges to peace and order, oftentimes because one group or another feels rightfully aggrieved, without knowing the best way to get resolution. Litigation can bring monetary compensation for wrongs done, but there is likely to be a goodly amount of resentment left over. Legislation can bring changes to social systems and practices, often merely tipping the balance of power from one group to another-leaving those who are in neither group feeling, again, left in the cold.

True jurisprudence puts an equal emphasis on both parts of the word- “juris”- legal structure and “prudentia”-practical knowledge”. Any decision that is not based on current information is bound to boomerang. In the above incident, the administrator focused on the wrongdoer-and left several cases of side drama that emerged to the discretion of the classroom teacher. This is as it should be. Too often, legislators or public safety officers set out to resolve one issue, only to be sidetracked or stampeded into covering a host of other matters-often in the same piece of legislation or investigation, in the name of equanimity. Thence, comes the social phenomenon of “whataboutism”, or false equivalancy.

Everything deserves consideration-in its time.

One Year Later

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January 6, 2022- Epiphany, the recognition of Christ by the Three Magi-or kings from the East, if you wish, either is commemorated today only-or is a season of commemoration unto itself-lasting from today until Ash Wednesday. I stick with the former.

I wonder what we recognize, about our country today- a full year after what, to me, was a reckless, misguided attempt to begin solving deep-seated problems in our society by unilaterally installing-not electing- a claque of self-appointed experts who are used to making executive decisions on important matters. Sometimes, they get it right. Other times, the results, from unintended consequences, are catastrophic.

The delusion is the same, whether the oligarchs rule from the right-or from the left. The nomenclature itself, taken from the French Parlements’ practice of conservatives sitting on the right hand side of the chamber, with liberals sitting on the left hand side, is tellingly simplistic. The very idea, of people who posit opposing ideas being one’s mortal enemies, is so ludicrous as to give ridiculous a good name-but here we are.

A conservative friend did ridicule the comparison of 1-6-21 to the Holocaust, the Pearl Harbor attack and 9-11-01. He’s right, in terms solely of human casualties. He’s wrong, in terms of long-term effect on the democratic process. In each case, authoritarian forces tried to undermine American participatory democracy. Each attack is one in a string of a thousand cuts-regardless of the surface ideology of the assailants. In real terms, authoritarianism is a complete circle; there is no difference between Right and Left, if in each case the boss is always correct. In each case, the attackers draw-and are buttressed by, those on the ground whose grievances are given surface recognition by the wirepullers of the attacks.

The sole antidote to such attacks is for those on the ground to recognize that both sides of the continuum offer solutions to some problems and exacerbate others. This is why we need both sides to hear one another out and think their respective opinions over.

The main entrance to a building is most often in the center of the frame-not tucked away in a corner.

The Pain at the Edge of Town

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January 4, 2021-

The phone call detailed things that I can only imagine: A roof leak, which nearly eight attempts to fix have failed, and made worse by the landlord “testing” sealant, by hosing it to see whether it leaked. (Voila! La deluge!!); damage to at least half of everything the tenants own, because of the ongoing roof leaks; water seeping into the electric grid of the house-thus putting the tenants (trailer-bound, outside the house, for now)- at risk of being burned to death, from having to run extension cords from the house.

All this, with a rental market that is non-existent for anyone in their situation, at least in this area. No one wants to let out a house, or even apartment, without a year’s lease, least of all to a dog owner. Yet, the bottom line is, it is the dead of winter, and only by Divine Grace is the weather moderating to dry, mild conditions, at least for the next two weeks. That could turn on a dime.

If I thought anyone reading this would know the people of whom I speak, I would never have written of the situation here. I will do what I can to help, though, through contacting friends of other friends-and being a constant listening ear, praying voice, until this whole thing is resolved. Somehow, the pain on the edge of town can be relieved.

Ringing In The New

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January 2, 2022- Like 5 p.m., it’s always New Year somewhere. Once the Gregorian New Year is dusty and worn out, it’s time for Lunar New Year-the start of a new calendar year for many people in eastern Asia-particularly China, Korea and VietNam. We Baha’is start our year with Naw-Ruz, which emanates from the ancient Zoroastrian Era festival in Iran, that coincides with the March Equinox, and is thus celebrated on March 21. Thais observe New Years Day (Songkran) in mid-April. People in India observe the day in either April or May, depending on the year. Similarly, Muslims begin their year in either July or August, with the first day of Muharram, the first month on the Islamic calendar. Many of us are familiar with the Jewish New Year, which comes in September or October, and lasts for ten days.

With that, it’s time to focus on what a new year really means for the individual. Each of us has a life plan, largely something we devise ourselves, with help from our personal inclinations, social circumstances and immune systems. Each of us has challenges to overcome and other people to consider, but in the end, it is what one really wants out of life that has to be the prime impetus for the changes made and practices continued, from year to year.

It was quite heartening to listen to two young ladies talk of their plans for the future, in a couple of situations today. A teenaged girl explained, to a much younger child, why she wanted to be a dental hygienist-and was giving the little one instructions on proper teeth-brushing and flossing. A server in a local restaurant, this evening, was expressing her pondering of careers in holistic health. Her co-worker, in turn, has landed a job in resort management.

No one need stand still, without reason. What are your plans for the future-especially if you are just starting out?

So Onward It Is

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January 1, 2022- We received our first, and possibly only snow of this new month, right about the time that the Boot dropped and the fireworks went off. It was also the time that I called it a night, as well as a year.

People have been wishing for 2022 to arrive since a) the inauguration of President Biden; b) the Delta variant started worming its way around; c) New Year’s Day of 2020. I personally adopted the time-honoured practice of taking one day at a time-back in 2002, when Penny first began showing real signs of decline. I have seen no reason to change that practice, since. Still, life does require some sort of planning.

So, today prompted me to think, first, about this day-which has ended up being largely a restful Saturday, aside from going to Farmers’ Market and helping scrape some of the ice off the asphalt in front of a good friend’s stall, and picking up a few items-including a beeswax candle. Then came a stop at Peregrine Books, for a journal, wall calendar and a copy of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s “The City of Mist”. The laundromat was closed, so that’s put off until tomorrow, as is the carwash.

Then, I thought about this month. Visiting with Baha’i friends in western and southern Arizona will take up the second and fifth weekends. There are commitments here at Home Base, the third and fourth weekends. Work? I will choose my assignments carefully. After this past week’s fires in Colorado, I am also leaving myself open to Red Cross activity.

February looks quiet, right now. March will find me hopping on a train, a bus or some combination of the two-plus spot car rentals, and visiting family and friends in the Southeast, particularly Georgia and Florida. April and May will be a bit less frenetic, though visits to southern California Nevada are likely during that time. June and the first part of July will see a train trip up the West Coast, to several places in Canada and back across the U.S. The rest of July, August and September are open, and will be quiet, unless duty calls. October hopefully means Europe (Iceland, Sweden, Poland, Croatia, Bosnia, Germany and France-with a bit of Scotland possible). November and December will also be open. All of this depends on God being willing and the creek staying in its bed. After all, the last two journeys have been postponed twice. The postponements are probably a good thing. We Baha’is have received important guidance on the nine year spiritual plan that will certainly determine the basis for many, if not most, of my activities going forward. A spiritual element is present, whether I am at Home Base or going about the wider world. It is not, as someone once remarked, a simple matter of “going about here and there, taking photographs”. God knows, I could rent a drone to do that.

Having covered the “What” and “Where”, it’s time for the “Why”. Basically, I thrive on both connections with people-and on those connections being both virtual and real time. Rudimentary networks were established in 2014 and 2015, which I want to strengthen-along with making new connections, this year and in the four years to follow. This is how, to my mind and heart, the planet may be unified- with my doing a small but worthwhile part.

Happy 2022, and as another friend said yesterday, it’ll be a year-no promises, either way. We just set our courses and do our level best.

Fragile Trust

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December 26, 2021, Holbrook- The words came, swiftly, and with the harshness of those who have seemingly felt misunderstood and unappreciated, for a good many years. In each case, they were heard by people of good heart, and we at least know how to respond in a fairly positive manner.

The days after Christmas are frequently a time for harshness between intimates, or even between long-time friends. It is best to not put too much stock in them, if it is just a natural reaction to having felt forced to be on one’s best behaviour for the previous few days. Such lashing out is also a result of having been under the stress of staging holiday gatherings, trying to please everyone and perhaps not getting enough rest. Then, there is the Omicron factor and all the back and forth between those who favour public restrictions and those who want to tough it out on their own-or for it just to go away (which will happen, but in Mother Nature’s time.)

It’s generally been a good day, though, with another well-prepared and well-attended breakfast at the Prescott American Legion Post, a pleasant and re-assuring phone chat with Mom and my brother, Dave, seeing pictures of the remodeled house of my youth and enjoying a smooth drive from Prescott to this high desert town, in northeastern Arizona. 66 Motel is a clean and comfortable place for the night and Mesa Italian Restaurant compares well with ristorantes in Phoenix and Prescott.

Tomorrow, I will make a brief visit to Petrified Forest National Park, then head east to Albuquerque-and Old Town, before spending a couple of days in Santa Fe and vicinity. A ticket to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is the impetus for this trip. There are, of course, other places that will emerge on the itinerary- weather-permitting.

To those who are keeping track, today is the first day of Kwanzaa, and celebrates umoja, or unity. It is also Boxing Day, a British holiday that traditionally entailed giving Christmas boxes to servants, postmen and errand runners.

20/20 Hindsight

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December 23, 2021- There is much hand-waving and fake cringing going on tonight, about the remarks being made about COVID home tests and the sudden emergence of Omicron. The comments coming out of the White House are, truth be known, no different from any number of hindsight-based remarks that any one of us have made, at various points in our lives.

Not every awkward remark, made in response to an unforeseen event, is evidence of dementia, or even of fatigue. We all wish things had happened differently, at various times in our lives, and say so after the fact. I can look back on whole chapters of my life and see how I might have made different choices, and experienced different outcomes, than what I actually did.

What I do know, as well, is that it is far better and more reassuring over time, for a person to be upfront about their thinking and their concerns, especially about public health, than to pretend there is no issue or that the concerns raised by others are much ado about nothing.

We will always have one public challenge or another. How we deal with them as a society, and as a species, will have lots to do with our trust of one another-or even of ourselves. Feigning shock, or pretending to be unnerved, by another person’s forthrightness, does no public good.

“We are the messengers now.”

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December 12, 2021- Those words were spoken by actor Jonathan Roumie, who plays the role of Jesus the Christ, in the ongoing series “The Chosen”, in his commentary on the series’ Christmas special. He spoke, of course, as to the responsibility of Christians to bear witness to their Faith, in word and deed.

I extend that further, to all people of Faith. We Baha’is recently commemorated the Centenary of the Passing of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the only perfect exemplar we had, other than Baha’u’llah Himself-in terms of living our Faith, day to day. Every other person, in living memory, has their own struggles and challenges. That, however, can never be an excuse for lack of striving.

Like it or not, everything one does reflects on her/his professed creed. Even atheists, relying on Ethics as their credo, have a standard to uphold. I think of this each day, bringing myself to account-as to who I have helped and from whom I have turned aside. No one person can meet the needs of every outstretched hand, but there is the matter of at least showing them the Light.

If I am not growing, day by day, then what?