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.

Selling Oneself Short

8

January 15, 2020, Peach Springs-

This day’s assignment is one which is not uncommon, in an understaffed, rural school:  I covered for a teacher who fell ill, of a sudden.  The class has bonded with this person, who is their second teacher in this academic year.  I was able to get the key activities of the day accomplished, and forged a fairly strong bond of my own with the kids, by day’s end.

What concerns me about this group of children is what has concerned me about so many similar groups, both urban and rural, over the years.  So many young people cast aspersions on themselves,  by extension,  on their peers-and to some extent, on older family and community members.

A few of the more aware students, who are also the most meticulous and engaging members of the class, had mainly negative things to say about themselves.  I only saw quality work coming from those students-and I saw a very thick coating of self-doubt: The imposter syndrome, writ large.  Ten years of age is way too soon for such a mindset, so I see these, the best hope of the Hualapai Nation, being dragged down by the deep malaise-that infests Peach Springs- along with so many parts of Indian Country-and so much of the American Fabric.

I was told, later this afternoon, that it is likely that I will only actually be needed here for another week, that another round of permanent hires is expected, by the last week in January.  Permanent is better, so I can only feel more confident in the short term future at this school.  In any case, here is another group of children, another community, that has deeply embedded itself in my heart.

Changes of Scene

10

January 13, 2020, Peach Springs, AZ-

As I contemplated the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year, over Christmas-New Year’s Break, two things became evident:  1.  I wanted as many work days as I could arrange and 2.  It would no longer be advisable to turn down work that required a 7 a.m. start.

There are two semesters remaining, before I find my way in the retirement arena.  This one has no outstanding interruptions.  The next one won’t start for me, until September, as August will still find me on the road.

So, it was quite a welcome message that came, towards the end of Break, that the little school here, in  this Seat of the Hualapai Indian Community, some 120 miles west northwest of Prescott, needed a substitute- for an unspecified, but fairly lengthy, period of time.

The deal is, 7 a.m. is the start time.  5 p.m. is the end time, but kids leave at 3. So, all the grading and planning can, conceivably be accomplished during work hours-at least it worth a shot.  The work week is Monday-Thursday, which explains the long day.  Thursdays, substitutes get to leave at 3, so some of my Prescott business can still be done on Thursday, before 6.

Okay, that’s enough stream of consciousness.  My focus, on any day that I am here, will be on the well-being and advancement of people who will be the Guardians of the western reach of the Grand Canyon.  The Hualapai Nation has made some strides, in that regard, including the Sky Walk, from which one can gaze down into the Canyon’s west rim and a road to the Colorado River, on which Hualapai guides bring people to the bottom, without hiking or riding mules.  Although I prefer hiking, the opening of the Canyon, to those unable to walk far, is a plus.

Thus has 2020 already brought a change of scene.

Open Letter

6

January 11, 2020-

Dear Son,

I have watched you struggle with so much of life,

including matters which you should not have had to face,

at least not at the age at which life brought them to your doorstep.

I’ve done my level best, most of the time, to help you along.

There were times when that best was not sufficient.

There were the times when we both flailed,

and others, fortunately, came to our aid.

You made a wise choice,

as I did before you,

to seek the structure of the military,

in establishing a sense of priority,

and beginning to sort out a life plan.

That plan led you through the vagaries,

and sometimes disordered process,

of service to our country.

It also led you back to the land of your birth.

You found a home for your heart,

and brought your true love back,

to unite two families.

Now, you are back with our families,

and I trust you are being received well.

I also trust that,

whoever joins our family,

in the years ahead,

will also find a warm welcome,

with no conditions attached.

You have a bright future ahead,

my most precious son.

Choose carefully, and wisely,

never acting out of spite,

malice, or hurt feelings.

It is a tall order,

and you were raised

to stand tall.

I look forward

to many years

of standing wherever

you need me to stand.

You will always be treasured.

And It Was….

4

December 31, 2019-

It was a time of loss.

The decade took Penny, my wife of twenty-eight years and nine months, both her parents Norm and Ruth (“Bunny”), two of her aunts Averala and Helen (“Honey”), two of  her cousins, Tom and Jean, and a cousin-in-law, Richard.

It took my maternal uncles, Carl and James,  Carl’s two children-Keith and Carla, and our cousin Ronnie.

It did not spare my father’s side of the family, either, taking Uncle George, Aunt Adeline (“Sissy”) and her son Bob.

It brought several others to the Life Beyond, friends all:  Christie Serino, Drew Crotty, Larry Silipigni, Alan and Rick Belyea, from my hometown of Saugus, MA;  Alison Sipes, from Indiana; Mildred “Mildoo” Forney, who, along with her daughter, made my visits to Oley, PA an annual pleasure; my American Legion comrades Bob Wittmann, Dennis Young, John Mortimer, Sue Chambers, Al Tercero-among several;  a host of Baha’i  fellows- Ali and Violette Nakhjavani, Nancy Coker, John Cook, Firuz Khazemzadeh, Avid Navidi, Dick Sloman, Moses Nakai, Russ Garcia, Chester Kahn, Roy Dewa, Tom Smith, Keith John Manybeads.

 It was a time of change.

It saw me get out of town, leaving Phoenix, after ten years.  Prescott, once more, became Home Base.

It saw our son, Aram, follow in the footsteps of many of his forebears, on both sides of the family and enter the service of his country, serving in the United States Navy, for nine years.

It saw him enter into matrimony.  Having returned to Korea, the land of his birth, as part of his service, Aram met and married Yunhee, a superlative addition to our family.

It saw us honour two of my nieces, who preceded him down the aisle, also bringing spouses who add luster to the Boivin brood.

It was a time of growth.

It brought in fourteen new members of my Grandniece/nephew Club and some new additions to my Greater Tribe.

There were a couple of good years, working full time, at Prescott High School, and several others spent substitute teaching.

The decade brought me the joy of giving back- with the American Red Cross, Slow Food, school garden projects, and the Farmers’ Market, as well as American Legion Post 6 and the Baha’i community.  It has brought me many new friends, members of my Tribe, who consistently make this life a thing of beauty.

Then, there were those journeys- annually to see family, on the East Coast, in the South and in the Midwest, which is never “Flyover Country” to me; my first solo visit to Europe, partly on my father-in-law’s behalf and partly because  I wanted to connect with the lands of my ancestors;  I returned to Korea, to  fully embrace my son’s wedding and to recap our life in Jeju; Hawaii welcomed me, in advance of the Tiger Cruise from Honolulu to San Diego, as Aram & crew returned from a Pacific Rim deployment; I fulfilled some of the dreams I shared with Penny, and explored the Pacific Northwest, a bit of British Columbia; southeast Alaska and eastern Canada; California, Nevada, Texas and Colorado were constantly seeing my face-largely to spend time with far-flung members of my Tribe.  Shorter, but no less meaningful, jaunts around Arizona, Utah and New Mexico filled in the blanks.

Now, the sun has risen on a new decade, for much of the world and the year, which once loomed as a pinnacle in my life, has a remaining shelf life of nine hours, here in the Mountain Standard Time Zone.

This decade of joy, sorrow, gain, loss, advances and setbacks will soon give way to another, likely much more of each.  Happy 2020, one and all!

Family

6

December 25, 2019-

There is no group of people in all the world,

who matter more, than those called family.

As far back as I can remember,

there were four of us,

my sister always being in my memory bank.

One grandfather existed only in my subconscious,

as a spirit guide, who never left me,

even though I was willful,

and selective about hearing

what he was telling me.

My paternal grandfather was

all too fleeting a presence,

but his lesson was

to enjoy life to the fullest,

even as he had to leave

too soon.

Nana and Gramma though,

were solid presences,

both farm women,

who had to settle

for a more citified life,

in their later years.

My birth family

peaked at seven.

David’s first steps

on his own,

greeted me one day,

when I came home from school.

I’ve been proud of him

ever since.

Glenn has led a masterful,

ever forward-looking life.

He will always be

the sailor, the golfer,

the Man of the Year.

Cheryl has survived

so much of life’s challenges,

raised the strongest of families,

and is the most beloved of Nanas.

Brian taught us, me most of all,

to have patience and to see

the world through eternally

innocent eyes.

He left us, too soon,

but much the better

for having lived in his midst.

Dad also left, way too soon.

I like to think,

that in the end,

I have made him proud.

Through all life’s struggles,

I have always followed

his admonition:

“Land on your feet!

That’s why the Good Lord

gave them to you.”

Mom is still here,

the beloved matriarch,

having proven.

time and again,

that there is nothing

a man can do,

that a determined woman

cannot equal.

Time  passed,

and each of us raised

families of our own.

Penny was by my side,

teaching me that there were,

and will ever be,

people who love me

for myself.

She also passed beyond

a lifetime of suffering,

and is foremost in the firmament

of those who urge me forward.

Now, it’s my turn,

to be something of  a mentor,

as my son and his beloved

begin their life,

in the private sector.

I would enjoy being

a grandfather, but

that’s not my decision to make.

I love those whom God has

brought into my life,

always on their own merits.

I can hear the voice of my youngest brother,

telling me: “Leave them alone,

and it’ll be alright.”

Finally, there is the family of choice:

My indomitable sisters-in-law,

whose parents gave from the very core of their being;

The many friends and extended family,

many of whom are still in this world,

and whose sometimes daily messages

and acts of kindness,

remind me that God never has,

and never will, leave Man alone.

On this 2019th commemoration

of the Birth of Christ,

no more powerful message can be shared.

Those Who Never Leave

6

December 19, 2019-

After a delicious and congenial dinner, this evening, three of us watched a heartwarming Korean film:  “Little Forest”.  It concerns a year in the life of a young woman, returning to her childhood home, from a less than successful foray into the capital city, Seoul.

The seasons play out, beginning with winter, as she regains a sense of who she is, with random help from a couple of childhood friends.  Her thoughts often go back to her absent mother, who is revealed to have left, in search of her own identity.

Essentially, the film shows that one’s parents, especially one’s mother, never really leave.  All the life lessons are ever present, as a grown child employs skills both consciously adopted and subliminally imparted.  This is the true meaning of the common saw: “I’ve become my mother (or father).

I see a little of both my parents in myself.  From my Dad, came an easy grace around people, a love of family gatherings, and a desire to learn from my mistakes. From my Mom came a love of knowledge, a basic regard for all people, irrespective of their station in life, a sane and intelligent patriotism, the ability to look beyond my own interests and yet, to put family first.

Mother is still very much alive, yet even when the time comes for her soul to take its flight, she will remain, just as my father has.  No parent, no ancestor, ever really leaves a child, a descendant, behind.

Connections and Commitments

4

December 18, 2019-

A long absent friend re-connected with me, recently.  He told me of his  present life, as his wife’s full-time caretaker.  This, of course, brought back memories of my own situation, 9-10 years ago.  Had I to do it over again, I would, in a heartbeat.

More cogent, though, is  the question of what connections in one’s life bring about commitments.  Spouses, children and parents are obvious urgent commitments. Siblings and close friends are up there, also.  There is, though, the caveat that  people to whom your ties include respect for their individuality and privacy may not WANT anyone’s involvement in their lives.  I face this, presently, with one whom I love dearly-knowing that love is something that requires me to leave her alone, at least as long as there is not threat to her life and limb.  Even then, any involvement on my part would be in concert with her closest family members.

There is also, in a world that is, simultaneously, digitally connected and riven with anonymity and division, a tendency for the disconnected to demand attention, at least in social media and chat, for their most quotidian concerns.  I can hear people saying, “Well, aren’t 90 % or more of our day-to-day lives made up of quotidian events?”  Yes, they are, at least that much.  I belong to a social media group that is called “I Did A Thing.”  It is intended for people who have suffered from social anxiety and low self-concept, to gives themselves a boost, by sharing their everyday achievements with like-minded people.  I don’t go on there as much, as I did in the beginning of the group, nor do I see that many people using the site, anymore.  I do support those who post, some of whom I’ve met face-to-face.

The other group who post, largely in online chat forums, such as Facebook Messenger, are mentally ill adults, many of whom seem to have no other avenue to express their concerns.  Most of these posts are about issues that those of us lucky enough to have had patient, loving parents and friends are able to resolve on our own.  I have learned to schedule time, in early morning and late evening, to hear out such people and offer simple solutions, as best I can.  The issues are often repeated, day to day, but that is what any one of us may called upon to address.

Our connections do not always require commitment, especially if, as sometimes happens to me, there are more pressing matters, closer to home.  We do our best , though, as we just may be all one another have.

Losing Love

6

December 15, 2019-

A couple of things reminded me of the line in Paul Simon’s song, “Graceland”:                    “My traveling companion is nine years old. She said she’s losing love.”

I received several frantic messages, this morning, from someone who feared a family member was messing with him.  The more direct thing, that reminded me of the song, was a paraphrase of that line, in another friend’s online post.

In the first case above, it’s unlikely that the person is living without love.  It’s more a difference in communication styles.  In the second case, the child is very much loved, by two generations of family.

It is terrifying to lose love, especially for a child.  I know people who have themselves never known at least one of their parents.  Some have gone on and made great examples of themselves, with or without the love of the remaining parent.  Others have not thrived, and have grown, physically, while remaining emotionally stunted and listless.

In my case, I was never without love, from the time I was born until the day I left home to make my way in life.  The times since, that I felt I’d lost love, were figments of my imagination and were more a deficit, on my part , of reflecting love.  I’ve since learned how to be consistent, in that regard.  God’s grace  always mirrors itself in those who love us.

These thoughts just came into my mind, as I get ready for the last big event before Christmas.

 

 

Both Halves of the Whole Are Necessary

6

November 23, 2019-

The practice of chivalry has long taken a bad rap.  For this, I blame the degeneration of the once noble art into infantilization, then misogyny.  What was a system for honouring all that women did for the good of the world, became a means to dominance.

As the old saw goes, “When the worm turns, we all turn.”  It’s been masculinity’s time to take some hits, in the name of a level playing field.  The point of overkill appears to have been reached, about ten years ago.

Both genders can claim a plethora of contributions to the well-being and advancement of society, and of civilization.   There are men and women of distinction, in just about every field of endeavour that comes to mind.  Due to a long-standing system of such things as the disparity in salary between men and women, for the same work and the false equivalence, “whataboutism”, that gets raised, every time lingering issues of misogyny are raised, the temptation to take even more away from men is understandable.

Gender, itself, owing to both the frequent imbalance of gender-determining hormones, in all too many people, has been under a degree of attack.  This is not the fault of anyone who has a greater degree of testosterone compared to estrogen, or vice versa.  There are likely a good many causes of the imbalance, from genetic modification of food and drink to pollutants in the air and water.

However, I digress.  The fact that I was born male, am very happy to remain male and am physically attracted only to women does not need to be renegotiated.  I can be, and am, friends with a fair number of gay men and transgender people.   That, and the fact that I once cried easily, has never had anything to do with my gender identity.

Jordan Peterson’s eleventh rule for life is, essentially, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”    The legitimate achievements of men, those on which a man did NOT piggy-back on the work of a woman, need not be minimized. (There are certainly plenty of the piggy-backed cases.)

Indeed, there is often a tendency for people to not know where to stop, when correcting a past wrong.  The misunderstood term, microaggression,, has been offered as a reason for excess revisionism in history and for an overage of caution in determining a proper course of action.  Microaggression is essentially between  individuals, and is best sorted out, at that level.

Dr. Peterson carries this to the achievements of Western European/North American society.  Certainly, there is much about the “Western civilization” to admire, which is a large part of why it has been so universally emulated.  There is also much that needs correction, and some of the answers to our issues may be found in examining other societies.

In essence, then, no community can long exist, successfully, without equal contributions by BOTH women and men.  In addition, no society can thrive on one set of social practices alone.