The Summer of the Rising Tides,Day 27: Grass Stains

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June 27, 2020-

Today was largely spent in a Zoom conference, concluding Unity Week, an 8-day conference, in which I only obliquely participated, largely through addressing topics that need to be faced, if true unity is to be achieved. The closing sessions, therefore, caught my undivided attention, addressing the Four Roads one must traverse, in reaching a point where contributions to society will be meaningful.

More about these Four Roads (or Vias), in the next several days. This evening, my mind went back to simpler times. I walked downtown, after the conference had reached its closing remarks and extended farewells. The aim was to sit up on the roof of Raven Cafe, and catch the salsa and funk that was emanating from the rooftop’s makeshift stage.

Wouldn’t you know it? There was an hour’s wait, for any spot on the roof. I’d already eaten dinner at home, anyway, and so went up the street to Frozen Frannie’s, and grabbed a refreshing cup of goodness, then headed further, over to the Courthouse steps, enjoying pina colada and berry frozen yogurt. A group of children buzzed around me, alternately sliding down the short incline, tussling, and engaging in a game of hide and seek. It’s always reassuring to see that, COVID or no COVID, life is going on, and parents are taking their families to places where fresh air and exercise are not monitored by draconian elements.

After enjoying my frozen treat, a seat in front of a tree beckoned, closer to the Bluegrass band that was occupying a festival stage. Sitting on the lawn, taking in a bona fide North American art form, was a perfect ending to the evening. Another group of kids was dancing up a storm, twirling around, as the band played the songs of Bill Monroe and John Prine, among others. When it was time to get up off my haunches, I noticed something was missing from my childhood: Grass stains. Lawns sure have changed, in 60 years.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 23: Calming the Conniptions

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June 23, 2020-

Taking part in a lively debate, in the Age of Hypersensitivity, is no small thing. Most of those who operate from a place of political correctness have at least recognized that I operate from a humble posture of learning, and if I can be proven wrong, by facts rather than well-presented emotion-based opinions, I will actually be grateful.

Any man who voices opposition to abortion is going to get pushback, unless that opposition acknowledges that the mother of the fetus and has the final say. Making that acknowledgement, and prefacing my own qualms about the matter with the sacredness of being, from the moment of conception, has been, for all but the most fervent abortion advocate, enough room to set common ground.

The same may be said about the dispostion of controversial historical monuments. I have reservations about the wisdom of wholesale destruction of statuary. Certainly, those figures whose presence causes extreme anxiety for African-Americans , First Nations people or anyone else who has faced systemic persecution, need to be removed from public view-not because there is a need to comfort the overly sensitive, but because there is a deeper genetic memory than is commonly accepted.

I will discuss this last, in another post, insofar as it pertains to my own being. For now, note that the practices adopted by enslaved people, over the period of chattelhood and right up to the end of the Jim Crow Era, in order to ensure the safety of both their children and of themselves, have found continuity, in the seemingly draconian disciplinary practices of a good many African-American families. Keeping the child safe, by limiting his/her freedom to explore, is one feature of this. It goes back to keeping the child safe from exploitation.

Thus, the strength of an emotional trigger is far different for a person whose forebears faced oppression, than it is for one whose hardships have been more in line with the struggles inherent in earthly life, in its generality. Life is complicated like that, and we do best to grow a thick hide of patience, along with a strong spine of fortitude.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 22: Analogies and Other Tough Calls

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June 22, 2020-;Dad transitioned, 34 years ago, today, All of us, except Brian, who was 22, and in hospital at the time, were on our own and looked to our father mainly for guidance with adult issues. This memory enveloped my day.

I took part in an online discussion, of sorts, in which the moderator tried to conflate the deaths of African-American adults and teens with what he sees as an excessive number of Black fetuses being aborted. It was too large and broad a conflation, for most people, and seemed to have upset many.

One person analogized the abortions, though, with a person picking up coins from the street, which he characterized as a minor theft. (I’ve happened upon both coins and bills on pavement, and have either given them to destitute folks or used them for charitable causes.) I see it as more than a bit sad, though, that intellectuals, mostly men past the optimum age of child-rearing, view the life of an unborn child as no more than small change. It’s as if anyone with whom one can’t have a deep discussion is not worth one’s consideration.

The same blind spots occur in many situations- almost always among people who have a very narrow view of who is and isn’t as human as they are. Isn’t this the whole reason we are going through what we are enduring now? I’ve always been viewed as strange, for being holistic in my view of humanity. Somehow, though, we will need to broaden our collective view on this matter, if we are to know peace as a species.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 19: Juneteenth

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June 19, 2020-

I relaxed, this evening, with a group of African-American entertainers and public figures, presenting a Facebook Live performance called Black Wave 2020. There were a wide variety of musical styles and civil presentations by competing office seekers. There was no vitriol, no cussing, and no displays of rage.

There was a very up front, definite commitment to acting towards justice, towards the systemic changes that need to be brought to bear. There was also the understanding that there will be resistance to such changes, and a few racists did show up in the comments section, to spew their nonsense. All in all, though, we who were watching were genuinely interested and appreciative of the show.

Change has to be made, and it has to be deliberate and transparent. We cannot have the history of THIS day and age presented to the people of the Twenty-second Century, in a sanitized form. That will take fortitude, and commitment. There are those who don’t understand the Oneness of the Human Race. I heard from one such individual today-with regard to the rights of unborn children, in his view, not mattering to anyone other than religious zealots. There are others who, don’t understand that People of Colour don’t want to be regarded with special treatment-just regarded with dignity and respect.

Growing up in a lily-white town, albeit in suburban Boston, I had to learn the reality of People of Colour, piecemeal: The African-Americans in my childhood and adolescence were authority figures: The cafeteria monitors in our Junior High and the first police officer to give me a speeding ticket. I’d have been punished, very swiftly, once I got home, if I ever gave them any lip. That told me that real African-Americans were not any different, to my parents, than anyone else.

Indeed, watching Saturday morning cartoons, one day, when I was about eight, a character who was supposed to be Stepin Fetchit came out with “Everything I do is always wrong.” That cut through me like a switchblade. I asked my father why anyone would say such a thing. He told me that Black folks were conditioned to act that way, having been enslaved for over 200 years. He also told me to show all people kindness and treat them fairly. I often thought that if I ever met the actor who played Stepin Fetchit, that I would shake his hand and tell him he was a wonderful person.

There were, though, some tough conversations, awkwardness and hard lessons, that came my way, in young adulthood particularly, in learning the nuances and basic decencies of overcoming some very deep-seated social beliefs. I am glad for all of them.

The Baha’i Faith lends spiritual weight to the notion that all people are created equal-All ethnicities, male & female, all age groups, both neurotypical and disabled, all points of view-so long as they don’t preach exclusion of others. We view all life as sacred,from conception to death. Independent investigation of truth is the bottom line.

Juneteenth, with all this being considered, merits being made a National Holiday- a paid National Holiday. Let it continue to spark thoughts, words and action, to advance the cause of justice- and the increased equality of all people.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 15: By Definition, Part 2-Does Behaviour Define Us?

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June 15, 2020-

I referenced traits,yesterday, in considering how people sometimes define who they are, by their external qualities or, unfortunately, how OTHERS see them.

We have also reached the point where many are judged, defined, by something they did, or said, years or even decades ago. There will always be those who look under rocks, to find fault with others. There will always be those who jump out from behind a bush, and scream: “I remember when YOU did this to ME!”

I am not referring to heinous crimes, like rape, molestation, gross physical assault, calumny or theft. Those need to be brought to justice, and there should be no statutes of limitation. I am referring to personal slights that are stored away and used like traps-often by mentally ill people, for whom treatment is a far better option than revenge.

Essentially, what I want to say here is: For those personal slights, those shortcomings that were not heinous, I will apologize, and I claim the right to live the changes I have made in my life. Everyone else who is in similar straits deserves the same right.

These are what define me: Unconditional love; commitment to the health and safety of children, adolescents, women and the elderly; commitment to equality and dignity for all, regardless of physical traits, level of development; sexuality or philosophical stances; the prevalence of humaneness over profit-motive or doctrine.

Each can find redemption. Each can make the change.

Knowing Places

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May 30, 2020

Today was the traditional Memorial Day, observed each year, until President Nixon set up a “streamlined” observance, for the fourth Monday in May, each year-beginning with 1971’s commemoration.

It struck me, today, that each of us conducts our affairs, our personal business, our honouring of others and even our leisure activities, largely based on what we perceive as our place in the world. That place, in times past, was determined, not so much by oneself, but by whosoever was deemed “in charge” of us- as in the Victorian Era and Twentieth Century dictum: “Children shall be seen and not heard.” or, even more rudely put-“A woman’s place is in the kitchen.”

I’ve been told, at least once, during this pandemic, “STAY HOME!”. The person making that demand has no say in my life, whatsoever, so I take the demand with several grains of salt. As long as I maintain distance from those who I know are at risk of infection, and practice recommended hygiene and PHYSICAL distancing, it’s no one’s business how much time I spend between these four walls.

My place is this world has always been fluid, and remains so. There is also a truism: “Those who stand for nothing, will fall for anything.” I will keep on with a full regimen of activities, both within my Home Base, in the community and, as life inches forward, go with the utmost safety to certain places which have re-opened, provided there is not an air of recklessness in said locales.

Anymore, children should be taught to speak thoughtfully and a woman’s place, a swell as a man’s, is wherever s(he) deems fit.

Unsticking from the Hustle

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May 14, 2020-

One of the issues that some who are not seeing their business at death’s door, during the current pandemic, is that they miss their prior routine, so much.  They are going stir crazy, from being “stuck in the hustle”, working ten-twelve hours, daily, even from home.  The presence of their children, pets, even of their spouse, does not deter them.

Long ago, I was there, to the point that I would come back from my office, a forty-five minute drive from our house, spend five minutes getting a recap of my wife’s and son’s days, and get ready for bed.  The zombie act did not faze either of them- and to their credit, they spoke up.  Son was in seventh grade at the time and wasn’t buying the fatigue excuse-being quite outspoken, about being entitled to some of my time.  He was right, and my long-suffering wife, knowing just how hard it was to do a good job, by a less-than-appreciative boss, would have been within her rights to insist on much the same.

In the end, the fatigue induced by an impossible set of expectations, from a man who lived ten minutes away from the worksite, led to my resignation, in md-year.  That I was also framed by an underling, mattered little.  It was my choice to opt for leaving the cauldron and going into a less-stressful line of work, thus saving my place in the hearts of those who mattered most.

We are all left with the fact that, no matter how complex a situation is, the choice as to the direction of one’s life, belongs to that individual.  It may take longer for a person, whose presence is more crucial than mine was, to process the  pros and cons of one action, over another, but we are each given a Rubicon, or two, to cross in our lives.

Setting the Bar

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May 12, 2020-

My conversations with various people, last night and throughout today, have invariably featured goals they want to achieve, over the next several weeks and months.  One of my best friends here has set the goal of building a raised planter bed and showed me the frame she has made by herself- a very sturdy oblong planter, which should hold two or three crops, once filled.

This morning, around 11, I visited a small barbecue restaurant, on the second day of the re-opening of food establishments.  Tables are set six feet, or more, apart, with the goal being to not have to close up again, anytime soon.  Those who came in, while I was having lunch, were very respectful of the few requests the owners made.

My next order of business was to deliver a bottle of essential oil capsules to someone who is suffering a debilitating disease.  While at his wife’s establishment, she and a relative were discussing a goal relative to their own overall health- and devising a team plan to meet this objective.

I met my own goal of getting my hair cut, this afternoon.  The conversation, with the woman who was cutting my hair, centered on keeping children happy during the ongoing shutdown, which of course will continue into summer-a time that children normally are off, anyway.  In some circumstances, no one course of action can resolve an issue.  There will be some boredom and some grousing-but I have learned that, when I’ve been bored or listless, things come to me, as to what I might do and inventiveness is always a good skill to hone, in any mind.

I continue to set the bar high for myself, at least, and feel confident that this entire exercise in patience and perseverance will not be as wasteful as one individual, with whom I spoke early this morning , seems to believe.

In Whose Name?

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April 28, 2020-

The current pandemic, like any previous crisis, has brought out the best and the worst of human nature.  There are those in this country who are convinced the ONLY reason that there is a big deal being made about COVID-19 is to keep their favoured candidate(s) for political office from winning.  Their opposites are saying pretty much the same thing about the handling of emergency funds. The bottom line: It’s about ME!

Yes, and no.  Every human being has to take stock of a situation, no matter how widespread or dire, with regard to his/her personal circumstances.  That’s fine, but then. the considerations must become more community-focused, then nation-focused, and, finally, globally-focused.  To their credit, there are people at all points along the political spectrum, and in all Faiths, who see the big picture.  Christians recognize that God is calling us all to the Altar.  Buddhists are having global chants via digital platforms. Muslims have, by and large, not insisted on in-house gatherings, during this season of Ramadan.  We Baha’is, likewise, are thriving with digital meetings, of various kinds, as well.  There are those, in both the conservative camp and the liberal camp, who resist the loud voices calling for “liberation” and defiance of any regulation, on the one hand, and for open-ended quarantine and forced digital identification, on the other.

The future course of action will be decided, in my humble opinion, by conditions that exist at the ground level.  I also feel, very strongly, that the length of the pandemic will be determined, to a huge extent, by how much of a community dedication there is to revamping the way we go about our community life.  Do we respect those who have no choice but to go to work?  Do we respect our children enough to find ways to honour their needs for exploration and activity-indeed, do we respect those needs in EVERYONE? Are we willing to stop the daily dogpiles on those who see things differently than we do, and just listen for once? Do we want to honour the health of our elders and those whose immune systems are compromised?

One of my advisers says that we are rapidly approaching a fork in the road, as to how our society, how all societies on Earth, will go forward.  There will be a choice between communal thinking, based on “the hurt of one is the hurt of all”, and a positive view of the future AND a greed-based, control-oriented mindset (seen on both right and left), with a cynical, negative view of this life.  I, for one, think the choice is quite clear.

The hurt of one IS the hurt of all.

In Leaving, Before Her Time

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April 14, 2020-

I did not know her,

only seeing her winsome,

joyful countenance

in a photo.

There was actually a mixture 

of joy and sorrow in her eyes.

I saw joy, at being with her father.

Her sorrow may have come

from knowing that not all

have such a loving family.

Now, the world has one less

loving soul.

Now, the being who was once

a treasured daughter and sister

can only look lovingly

at those on this side of the veil

and guide those who are open

to her spirit.

The above is in remembrance of a young adult in our community, who left this world, suddenly, last week.

There are so many upon whom I look as if they were my own children.  Their numbers just keep growing, with the passage of each year. They come from solid, loving homes or from broken, struggling households. They come from families of faith or from those for whom God is a scapegoat, if He is recognized at all. Yet, the feeling I have is the same,and as with my biological child, their suffering is my sorrow and their joys are my treasure.