Studying Gnosis

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February 8, 2023- This week, my main thrust is aiding three groups of students in their study of the culture and legacy of ancient Greece. Gnosis is a generic Greek word, meaning “knowledge”, though it has come to connote knowledge of a spiritual nature. “Know thyself” is the first of three admonitions, inscribed at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. There is no time in life when self-awareness is more crucial than during the period of life known as early adolescence. So, study of the great figures of historical Greek culture-and reading some of the knowledge they imparted can provide a good measure of assurance to a struggling 11-or 12-year-old.

The teacher whose class I am covering is taking her students through several multimodal activities, in each of the cultures they are studying. Each student had to research a key figure in Classical Greek culture-from Draco to Sappho, and including Archimedes, Solon, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle and Euclid, among others. The material, of course, is age-appropriate, so there is no graphic detail provided about certain elements of that ancient realm.The lessons are of the enduring gifts sent us by the Classicists: Plane geometry, architecture, romantic poetry, the the of law, existential philosophy, dramatic plays, competitive sports, clinical medicine and basic democracy. The students also learned to write the ancient Greek alphabet, itself the precursor of both the Roman and Cyrillic scripts, and to fashion the design of the period.

Most essential, though, is that each person knows that what they carry within is a treasure to be nurtured and shared. He or she also will see that people persevered through some tough times, and that they, too, can devise creative ways to do so-with some of these perhaps becoming part of a future great legacy. If this lesson is enshrined in the child’s psyche, then this teacher, and I, will have performed a service.

Weighing Options

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February 7, 2023- The tiny lunch actually went a long way-with the prescribed food groups in their right proportions. This will be the way of the main solid meal, each day, accompanying two full-bodied shakes and two well-scheduled snacks. It will be so, until I hit my targeted weights, both corporal and visceral.

Of course, this affects some parts of my lifestyle that have been almost second nature, since I have been on my own: Dairy products are out, until the targets are met-and even then will be severely limited. Restaurant meals will be dine-in on special occasions only, and take-out orders, so that I can apportion the meal to fit my plan, will be more likely than they have been. That said, I am also not falling for the “safe baked goods” pitch of the meal plan’s sponsor- sugar is sugar. I may well get take-out pizzas or other meals-to bring to homeless shelters or other safe havens, thus still supporting our local businesses. The same can still be done at the bakery stalls in the Farmers’ Market.

It will also affect my actions on the road, as well-but with a digital scale and small blender on hand, there shouldn’t be much trouble. Living healthier, longer, is worth the small cost right now.

The Numbers Game

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February 6, 2023- Two things happened today. I went back to True North Nutrition, where the owner was working alone. I listened to his explanation of the Herbalife-based program, and recognized an oft-repeated statement: The aging body does not digest dairy products all that well. Baked goods are also not all that easily digested. I accepted his daily meal plan, which looks filling and nutritious enough, and doesn’t call for giving up my Lifelong Vitality supplements. There are shakes, which I like, and I don’t have to add sugary drizzle to the top. The shakes are preceded by drinking tea, which I have aplenty. I will give this regimen a good three-six months, and see how much it helps my metabolism. Being told my metabolic age is 73, when I feel like a 50-year-old, could be smoke and mirrors-or it could be a sign of something that needs addressing. By the time my annual medical check-up rolls around, on the 1st of June, I will have a better handle on the whole thing.

This evening, as a show of sincerity, I gave away all my baked goods, save a few English muffins, which I can eat a half-muffin at a time, I’m sure, with no harsh effects. True North’s program is rooted in Food Combining, which is a valid nutrition program. Carbohydrates should not be mixed with Healthy Fats, during the mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. The three food groups-those two plus Protein- are to be taken together at the main meal-be it lunch or dinner.

So, with the giveaway, and my cheeses in the freezer, for a good several months, I am taking on this metabolism upgrade in earnest. We’ll see how the numbers game plays out, week by week.

e

Apollo Slew The Serpent

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February 4, 2023- The legend has it that the Greek god Apollo, following orders from Zeus and his paramour, Leto (who was Apollo’s mother), pursued the serpent, Pytho, from Mount Parnassus to the temple at Delphi, and slew the beast, because of a rivalry. Apollo then built his own temple, over the original oracular sacred spot.

Those who presently honour the oracle as a place of sacred femininity interpret the legend as one powerful entity controlling the flow of information from one source, and replacing it with their own. The serpent, here, as in the Book of Genesis, is a conduit to knowledge, the use of which was to enable humans to solve problems. So it has gone. The problems arising from facing life on Earth, which an innocent person cannot necessarily fathom, require the knowledge that only a mature soul can put to use. Thus, we have the concept of Progressive Revelation of Divine Truth, given mankind as we are able to comprehend it and put it to use.

Those gathered this evening, via Zoom, for a Full Moon ceremony, come from a variety of faith traditions, from Wiccan to Baha’i. The common thread is a recognition of the spiritual forces that exist, and emanate from, the Enuarth itself. The planet is known to many as Gaia, its original Greek name, recognizing pure maternal energy. Such a philosophy is known in indigenous societiesm the world over-for example the Incan PachaMama. It essentially speaks to the nurturing force that is present in all life, and even in the “pre-life” chemicals and basic elements (Fire, Water, Mineral and Air). Nurturance, the feminine force, is present in even the most “macho” of men, even if it is deeply buried in their psyche.

Personally, I find this to be an affirmation of my own tendency to favour nurturance over force and understanding over assumption. Granted, it’s been a long haul, in some ways, but I find life is better when the feminine energy is allowed to be in balance with its masculine counterpart.

Who, The People?

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February 2, 2023- Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning. Legend has it that this means six more weeks of winter. Other animals did not see their shadows, thus there will be an early spring. People, like prognosticating animals, are of different minds about the same thing.

A heartfelt message appeared recently, asking me to re-consider support for the “Wokies”, who were “brainwashed”. The message cited “We, The People”, as its source. This group wants to “take the country back”.

Another group, also “We, The People”, notes that a good part of the nation has been disenfranchised in the past, and some are at risk of being disenfranchised again. They strive to “take the country forward”. So, who are ‘The People”?

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a wise woman said “All means all”, whether some are heroic and well-grounded or cowardly and self-centered. She has a keener sense of an answer to the above question. The Eternal brought all human beings into existence. Some, adopting a belief in self-reliance, grow into a conservative, business-oriented philosophy or go even further, eschewing virtually all dealings with government, above the local level. Others, adopting a communalist stance, grow into a progressive, social-justice oriented stance or go even further, eschewing any dealings with “the elite”.

We are ALL “The People”. There are countless examples of people in public life savaging each other one minute, and being compelled to seek each other out, the next. The recent exchanges during the selection of a Speaker of the U.S.House of Representatives are a mild example. A few years ago, a member of one faction of the House encountered a fellow passenger in medical distress, on a flight from Washington to Phoenix. He summoned a member of the opposite faction, with whom he had been arguing almost incessantly in the course of House business, and the two managed to save the suffering man’s life.

The best thing that can happen to any soul is to be put in a situation where interaction with someone who has an opposite, or challenging, take on how society ought be organized, is in the best interests of both. There are no “POSes” or “wastes of DNA”.

We are ALL “The People”.

The Rocks Are The Ones Who Endure

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February 1, 2023- The young man privately explained his actions, wanting to make sure that I understood and was not swayed by the chatter of others. I determined that it would be best for me to mainly observe what everyone was doing, and pay close attention to his teaching style. All in all, he led well, and engaged the students, through some rather tough subject matter. The other staff followed his lead and maintained a unified front. it was a good day.

In times past, I have been inclined to take the side of a woman, in disputes, especially if the man comes across as bombastic and patriarchal. Time has shown that this is not always fair-and that women (and girls) can certainly be devious and less than truthful as well. It is the subsequent behaviour that often gives the culpable party away-and I am not surprised if both are at fault.

Yet, it is the person who is direct in communication, sure of self and able to cut through the fog of others’ machinations and misinformation who gets my support and confidence. Often, that has been a woman, but it is MOST often the person who is being shut out by a small coterie. I have been in that situation, countless times, and so am more inclined to offer the outlier the benefit of the doubt. That happened in this case, and I am confident that the students are in good hands, all around. It’s been a good three days, even if I was mainly a fly on the wall.

Those who are towers of strength, who withstand buffeting winds, who are rocks, are the ones who will endure. Those who yammer and undermine would do well to stop, look and listen.

Two Boys and A Spider

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January 31, 2023- The small wolf spider had found its way onto a school gym floor and was inching its way across. A curious little boy, who loves insects and arachnids, spotted the black beast and stood watching it, for several seconds. He got down on his knees and bent down to look closer. A teacher standing with him said not to get in the spider’s face, as the animal would get scared and bite him, in self-defense. The boy listened and continued to watch from a distance.

Shortly afterward, they were joined by a more rambunctious boy, a year older than the first, who had a different view of small invertebrates. He wanted to step on the poor crawler, or throw a small ball at it. The teacher prevented this from happening, knowing how, at very least, it would upset the younger child, besides affirming to the older child that killing animals was inherently okay. In the end, the spider continued on its long journey across the floor and the boys went back to their classroom.

At the same school, before Christmas, a group of girls had adopted a small bat, which had been separated from its colony. They protected and nurtured the animal, until another student hit it with a rock, killing the bat, and causing a fair amount of turmoil at the school. The community has long been divided between those who wish to cultivate vegetables in a school garden and co-exist with nature, versus those who regard everything natural as getting in the way of progress. Right now, the garden group has the support of the school administrators, and the fate of the bat has not reverberated well for the anti-nature group.

If one were to leap ahead in time, and look at a community where “progress” has been untrammeled, and the situation described in Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” actually come to reality, the imbalance would be seen as untenable-and small, but significant, moves towards a re-introduction of natural habitat would be seen taking place. This has been happening in large cities, across the world, as well as in phased out industrial sites. These have become a focus of environmental education activities in schools just like the one referenced above.

Balance always finds its way to the fore.

The Vagaries of Snow

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January 30, 2023- I recall a time, Thanksgiving Day of 1983, when the National Weather Service forecast a 100% chance of snow, for our community. The sun shined brightly, all day. There haven’t been many days since, that the NWS has been that far off base. We did learn, though, never to base either hopes or fears on anyone’s weather predictions. Penny even had had her own system- Open the curtain and look outside.

Teachers in our part of Arizona have come to like the “two-hour delay” that accompanies snow and ice on our roads, early in a given morning. It is a safety feature, of course, and allows all concerned to not have to rush out the door. Parents and guardians may feel differently, if their work or other schedules are disrupted, but such are the vagaries of weather.

The forecast, for today and tomorrow, called for snow. There was little, if any, and today was business as usual. At this age, I take things as they are and work accordingly-and so it went, nodding sympathetically at the grumbling and just doing what was needed, so that the students had a productive day. Of course, it is nicer when one can report to work at 10, instead of 8, but we signed up for a job that includes an early morning start.

January is about done, and February is expected to be dry, so whether I am working in a school, or off somewhere with the Red Cross, the days look to be fairly routine, at least as far as the skies above are concerned.

Purity

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January 29, 2023- In today’s Sunday morning meeting, the focus was on purity of spirit. It was stated, in the spiritual writings we studied, that purity of motive and of conduct has primacy over material progress. This is sometimes seen as chasing a chimera, but if we look closely at the effect of putting profit over character, it may be seen that problems invariably arise-either immediately or down the road.

Personally, I have found that only by taming my past demons have I been able to enhance both my relationships with others and achievement of material stability. Others in today’s group echoed that sentiment. Basically, learning to handle disagreements and misunderstandings with mild reason, rather than with bombast and recrimination, is what has promoted a much more balanced and productive social regimen.

It was further stated, in the passages we studied, that there is a difference between the purity of spirit shown by children and that exhibited by mature adults. The case was made that children’s purity comes from weakness and inexperience, whilst the purity of adults can only derive from the burnishing that results from tests and trials. This is a variation on the verse in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, in which he wrote: “ When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

I understand the reasoning behind these statements. A child can only understand what is experienced. New events in a child’s life will either confirm previously held notions or upend them. An adult who has suffered, and yet still loves with a pure heart, has had the experience of going through tests and trials, and seeing what value can be taken from them.

Purification, moreover, is an ongoing process, in a world where the dross of bad experiences-and of egotism, can stain even the most loving of hearts.

Monstrous

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January 27, 2023- Frankenstein has never been alone- at least in the minds of onlookers.

The characters in a recent historical fiction series about World War I traded the insult “Monster!”, with some regularity, as the decidedly monstrous acts, which some of them indeed committed, came to light. “Women at War” pulls few punches, in delineating both patriotic acts and inglorious schemes-among both French and German adversaries, in the early days of the “Great War”. Few of the principals are spared the consequences of their flaws, sometimes almost immediately following their acts of honour and heroism. Only two-a priest and a brothel owner, consistently behave in a truly wretched manner.

“Monster” is a seldom used word, these days, as we focus on origin stories whenever encountering despicable acts. In my life, I have encountered few hideous souls-and even they were made, not born, into monsters. I learned the details of the last one’s life, even as she was doing her utmost to freeze my soul.

I have only been so characterized once, by someone who had scant room to talk, though his life experience should never have happened, especially to one so young. When children seem monstrous, almost invariably, they have had diabolical role models, whose actions should not be witnessed by anyone. The only question is, “How far back does the monstrous lineage go?” Hitler, after all, was raised by a hideous father, whose own story foreshadows his child’s descent into demonism.

I ponder this tonight, in thinking about the most recent spates of massacre by firearm. I know many people who believe, honestly, that firearms are necessary for self-defense. None of them would think, for a moment, of using a gun on a child, or other innocent person. In each of the recent cases, someone who is either filled with self-loathing, or has been indoctrinated in the ideology of fear, has carried out an assault on innocents. Time, and juries of their peers, may well cast the perpetrators of these crimes as monsters.

For now, each of us has to weigh our own actions, daily, and rise above our own basest instincts. Let us defend innocents from those who would harm them for their own gain, and not harm anyone in our own right.