These Happened

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September 24, 2022- The little girl, no more than two, came up to me while I was sitting in my “director’s chair”, at the large music festival. She tried to climb on my lap, which, as I knew neither her nor her mother, I gently declined. Her mother came over and led her back to the spot where she was preparing the child’s stroller. With mother so occupied, the girl came right back, and tried again. This time, both mother and I explained that this was not something she should be doing. There was no yelling or finger-wagging, just gentle dissuasion. Conversely, while the mother said I should have ignored her daughter, that, too, is something one doesn’t do to a person who is experiencing so much, for the first time in her life. I feel that I have a duty before the Creator to lovingly assist other people, especially children, to the best of my ability.

Earlier today, a small group of us honoured a revered community leader and beekeeper, on the first anniversary of his passing. There was a man who embodied loving assistance to all he met. Even the bank manager, who oversaw his mortgage, was given instructions on what to do with his house-upon the occasion of said passage. Hopefully, those instructions were followed and the home sold to the certain type of family who would honour its feng shui. The bees themselves were carefully dispersed to various other apiaries, prior to GK’s passing.

I went from the memorial service to VortiFest, in Sedona, particularly to meet up with a friend I had not seen in 2 1/2 years and to possibly see other friends from the Synergy/Apotheca complex. The centerpiece, for me, of the music festival, was an appearance by Camille Sledge, the scion of Sister Sledge, and her band, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra. Camille, as it turned out, was off, touring with her mother and aunts, so PAO’s superbly talented instrumentalists managed a delightful and rousing 45 minutes of non-vocal ear candy, and got many of us, up and jumping around, much as they and Camille did, when I first heard them, four years ago.

That set was what brought about a brief encounter with a Sedona friend, that puzzles me, even as I write this. She greeted me, danced around for a bit, then spent the rest of the set alternately acting like she was scared to death of me and that I no longer existed. I will refrain from trying to explain that, other than I am aware of certain threats to her safety, from someone other than myself. He could have been around and have made his presence known to her. For a good part of the rest of the Festival, she was escorted by other men, including one of the security detail members, so who knows? For my part, I would not harm a hair of anyone’s head, much less a dearly loved friend of three years.

My newly re-connected friend served as a reality check on the whole matter, cautioning against personalizing the incident, in any way, shape or form. I followed her advice, knowing that forming a narrative, based on incomplete information, is worse than a fool’s errand. So, I headed homeward, ahead of the mass exodus that was sure to happen after the last set of the festival. Even having parked in a smaller lot, across the highway, I would have been stuck in the scrum of traffic, had I stayed to hear the last, excellent band.

Besides Afrobeat, there were two other fabulous bands that I did encounter: One was the festival founder’s group, simply named “Decker”. The other was a group called “G-Love”, which offered several peace-themed tunes, that were nonetheless rousing, and which had what seemed to be 2/3 of the audience standing and bouncing, in front of the stage. I chose to sit for most of that set, getting up mainly to take video of three friends who were wearing lighted costumes and were engaged in performance art. There was a third band, which performed well, but their vibe was a bit on the angry side. Turns out, they had a shortened set, due to some misunderstanding with the festival organizers. The final band, Arrested Development, a hip-hop group, also performed well, though I heard their offerings only as I walked back towards my vehicle.

So, that was Vorti-Fest, and my Saturday. This is also my 3000th post, on this platform. Goodness and ill abound in this life, and I do not hesitate to bring you both, in the right measure. My feelings right now are well-covered, if obliquely so, by Paul Simon’s “America”.

Looking Past the Shrillness

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September 21, 2022- The call came, with about fifteen minutes left in the class. The tone was furious, and decidedly personal. It was clear that the caller felt let down and that in her mind, the rest of the day was about damage control. The students carried on, and did a fairly good job at completing the assigned task.

It was actually all about process, procedure-and will have scant effect on the learning of those particular students. I know little about the caller, so maybe other parts of her life were not going well today. It doesn’t take much to trigger a tirade, these days.

It was, all in all, a nice day. I was working with a group of children who I particularly treasure. The classes accomplished a lot, with the second and third groups following the procedure that was reiterated to me, albeit in angry tones. I choose to look past a person’s rage, because when it’s all over, we will both be standing in the same spot. So long as there is no harm to children, or other innocents, I walk away.

There will, I know, come a time, maybe as early as next Thursday, when I will face that person again. I will not be swayed, one way or the other, by anything she has to say. At this stage of my life, it’s all about the children and teens, and their progress, their well-being.

Ambiguities

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September 20, 2022- The young man remembered me, from seven years ago, and launched into the playful antics for which I remember his eight-year-old self. He livened up the web-based class, for which I was the in-person monitor, maybe a little too much-but we got through the material offered by the online teacher. He showed up twice afterward, during the day, once to hang out during lunch and correct a prank he and his buddies had played on me and once, hoping to hear that his class was my favourite of the day. It wasn’t, and the shoulders slumped-but he’ll get over it. He did allow as to having been furious, when I was abruptly dismissed from that Third Grade teaching position, in favour of a dour local resident, who needed a job. Many of the students in that class felt the same way, and I’ve encountered three of them, elsewhere, since then.

I created a mild set of problems for myself, this morning, by overlooking the time for the onset of class, arriving a bit late and thus having to navigate the ambiguities and idiosyncrasies of the online Spanish class, on the fly. Things were a bit hectic, for the first two hours, but the learning curve was mastered by the start of Third Hour. The rest of the day went smoothly.

Ambiguities have never been my strong suit, yet I am having to master them more often, these days. Thus I will arrive early for tomorrow’s assignment, so as to read the instructional fine print more carefully. Even then, there are no guarantees of immediate success, as the connotations of words are different sometimes. Sometimes, sparks have to fly, in order for the communication to be made clear. Today, the teachers and admin were patient; not all teams are.

I also sense that there is a bit of tension in the air, as the seasons change. This evening, while at the gym, I found a bottle of energy milk on the floor, and asked a woman who was nearby, working out with her ten-year-old son, if it were hers. She said it was his, so I gave it to him and advised as to a safer place to put it, which he did-and then got self-conscious. The two left the area shortly afterward, so I wondered about the ambiguous situation again being an issue. In any case, I can’t ignore anything that compromises the safety and well-being of a child.

As I headed over to the massage chairs, a man was loudly complaining about what he regarded as an affront to his dignity and threat to his personal safety. He was gently guided outside by a gym employee, who continued to hear him out. I heard the same mother who had been in the whole body exercise area, telling the front desk clerk that if the man had gotten any closer to her son, she’d have called the police. Ambiguities, again, were exacerbated by the assumptions made by two different personalities.

It was, in the end, fitting that my own horoscope told me to not make assumptions about people. So I have learned, time and again.

Homage and Outrage

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September 19, 2022- The world’s longest serving Head of State received a well-deserved send-off, this morning, with all but the most pompous of politicians taking their prescribed places, either in an assigned seat at the funeral service or in the background at home, patiently waiting for their own countries’ memorial services.

That is how homage is done. There is no braying, “Hey, what about me?” It is the life of the deceased that gets honour and attention. In recent days, a paternal aunt, a second cousin and a revered Baha’i elder in Phoenix have gone on to their own places in the spiritual world. Each had people, myself included, who treasured them and focused on their positive attributes. Each had lessons they imparted to anyone who was willing to listen and pay attention.

There are, however, those who subsist on outrage. Their whole being reflects back on all the mistreatment, real and imagined, that occurred in their lives-sometimes clear back in childhood. Life is not guaranteed paradise for anyone. I’ve had my share of misfortune, some of it self-imposed, but in each case, I have been able to listen to voices of reason and overcome any lapse into self-pity. Outrage at my lot is no longer an option. It is a different matter when the well-being of children is at risk.

I spent the day, as it happened, making sure that Special Needs children, in a small class, were maintaining safe practices around self and others. These students, more than others, are also inclined to live in the moment and resist correction. Only a strong dose of encouragement and patience gradually makes a difference in their demeanour. There is the occasional need to stand up for them, against adults who persist in trying to knock down their sense of worth. Thankfully, the team with whom I worked today are just as vigilant in that regard.

I continue to work for the best of the community.

Empowering

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September 17, 2022- O checked out every empty chair in the laundromat lounge, and decided to sit in the seat next to me. From that point, he spoke of a variety of things, from the viewpoint of a 5-year-old. He began to examine my ragged laundry basket, and was not satisfied until the torn plastic was at least tentatively reconnected. He then looked at the small flyer for Kids’ National Geographic, commenting on the snow leopards whose photo was on the front of the flyer. He proudly told me that he was now in Kindergarten.

As I was reading my National Geographic, in between his making comments and my asking him guiding questions, O went to the laundromat’s book shelf and brought a Sesame Street book, which he thumbed through and made comments. He returned the book and brought back a story about a girl and her boots, again thumbing through and making comments about the expression on the girl’s face (“She sure looks mad!”) and remarking that her pulling her socks on from the top was a good way to tear them. I agreed, saying that socks have to be put on from the bottom up, gradually and making sure that the fabric was smooth, as one went along.

He watched how I was folding some items that had finished drying, until his mother said she was ready to leave. He bid me goodbye, and while she apologized for his chattiness, I said it was okay. Children’s curiosity and observations are most often priceless, and each of us who encounters them has a chance to be encouraging. Besides, I invariably find the observations of children delightful.

Somewhat later, a young woman who had been mildly injured was lugging a bulky amplifier from the room where her friend’s band had been playing. I held the door open, as I would for anyone in that circumstance. She said “Thaaannk you”, more in frustration at not being left to handle it herself, than out of any impoliteness. That struck me-How often are children and teens disempowered, or discouraged from doing things themselves, out of a genuine desire by adults to keep them from harm? How often are things done FOR people, in ways that do not prepare them for life’s vicissitudes?

Earlier in the afternoon, I was at an event called Stand Down for Veterans. At this event, homeless veterans are provided with bedding, clothing, camping gear and toiletries to help them prepare for winter. I was at a Red Cross table, this year, handing out comfort kits, which have become a common tool among service agencies, having been first offered by the ARC in the 1990s. The thrust of Stand Down is to provide a base for men and women to get themselves back on track. Haircuts, technical and legal advice are among the services that the event offers.

Society only benefits from efforts to empower people, regardless of their ages and circumstances.

Depth of Purpose

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September 14, 2022- The clerk happily told me that the school had managed to fill their remaining vacancies in Special Needs, so any time I am asked to help them, henceforth, will be to cover for a specific person, rather than a nebulous “vacancy”. This represents progress in both creating a nurturing learning environment-and a stable working environment as well.

I spent the day covering for several teachers, over a six hour period, as each attended a ten-twenty minute meeting. Each time, the lesson was carried out, even when a select few students wanted to spend time on their personal business. My focus, anymore, is primarily on purposeful behaviour and what will benefit the children in both the long-run and the short. So, while taking what time was needed to address behaviour issues, my focus was otherwise on the children who were having trouble learning, and explaining concepts to them in ways they could understand.

The notion has also occurred to me, over the past several days, that it is all well and good to feel love for so many people, but that it’s time to take it up a notch-and conduct my visits to, say, coffee houses and restaurants in ways that truly provide both support and encouragement of those for whom I care most, and recognizing that it’s best if I minimize occupying a table for four, especially on what looks to be a busy time. More take-outs will be in order. Nuance is coming increasingly into my view, which is both progress in handling autism and deepening of my sense of purpose.

Love is best shown by recognizing what the loved one needs, and doing what one can to fill that need. Most often, the matter requires both keen observation and forethought. I’m getting better at both.

The Future of Power

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September 4, 2022, Colorado Springs- I had breakfast with a group of children, this morning. The topic of conversation (to which I was largely relegated to the role of listener) was the quality of schools and of those schools’ schedules. There was a fairly lively debate about the advantages of sacrificing an hour of sleeping-in, four days a week, for the joys of a Friday off. Siblings from a rural community, in southeast Colorado, have that reality. The rest, living in various communities along the Front Range, are attending schools with standard, M-F 8-3 regimens. Quietly, I empathize with the four-day week, though I would have to LIVE near the school that starts at 7 a.m., in order to work there-especially in winter. The children, ages 6-10, have definite expectations about what they want from their teachers-and recess is not their “favourite subject”.

Another aspect of child life these days is, as it has ever been, the angst of adults, especially of grandparents and their contemporaries, over “What will become of humanity?”, as they observe little boys fighting, throwing things from rocks to tantrums and being generally aggressive. “Where do they get that from?”, asked one grandmother, while fretting that the generation will become inherently violent in their own adulthood. The answer to the question is: We are, physically, animals, and thus have one part of ourselves that is territorial and defensive. The answer to the second fear is: It falls to us to nurture the rising generations, intervene, nonviolently, in the fracas and offer alternatives to trail by combat. It is going to take a long time to get past the genetic memory of spanking, a practice which I admit I used, albeit sparingly, in bygone days. Yes, adults who hit, with the best of intentions, sanction present and future hitting by their offspring. Thankfully, I saw only nonviolent firmness and loving care by parents, even when they thought no one was watching, these past three days. The toughest of men were as steel and velvet, and the women were, as ever, firm and gentle. The little boys will grow up, by and large, to emulate their fathers.

I am coming away from this gathering of Baha’is, and some of our friends from the wider community, with deep-seated hope. The emphasis here has been on cooperation and creativity, as well as the deepening of faith. The power invested in children, and the channeling of energy in a constructive direction, is being replicated in any number of communities, nationally and worldwide. It is this phenomenon which is actively competing with the acquiescence to the above-mentioned violence, and the use of electronic media as passive diversions, for the hearts and minds of young people. The children, based on what I heard this morning at breakfast, prefer the former.

Power thrives on encouragement and nurturing.

The Walls Continue to Shatter

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September 3, 2022, Colorado Springs- “Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch”-Baha’u’llah.

The above statement was written by our Spiritual Teacher to the entire human race, nearly 150 years ago. He asked what harm there was in recognizing the Oneness of Mankind, and never sought power, money or political influence. Those whose aims WERE rooted in such earthly concerns saw fit to attack him, both physically and socially. Their views were, and are, short-sighted, not even considering the true interests of their countrymen or even their own long-term best interests. He had every one’s prosperity and well-being in mind, throughout His Ministry and His Teachings will resonate for centuries to come, as do the essential Teachings of every Messenger of God. There is not a scintilla of difference between Them, in terms of spiritual truths.

So do those of us gathered this weekend ponder the application of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings for each of the problems facing the planet, in this Day, one hundred thirty years after His passing. From the youngest child capable of articulation to those older than me, we note that each of these issues stems from disunity, either deep-seated and “time-honoured” or based in momentary ignorance. None of us are perfect, and yet none of us need to separate ourselves from others, in either thought, word or deed. We mustn’t let others abuse or take advantage of us, nor need we build walls around ourselves.

As if to focus attention on the power of unity, nearly sixty people danced to the powerful music of a trio of drummers and singers who have moved here from Ghana, and are engaged in a vital building trade. Many of the children in attendance joined in the drumming also. It was one of the most powerful gatherings I have attended, since before COVID hit. We are indeed coming back to life as a society, as well as community.

Participants in a drum circle

The walls, both internal and external, continue to crumble.

“Manitou Likes You!”

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September 2, 2022, Colorado Springs- After edging along I-25, due to an unfortunate collision, I made a detour over to Manitou Springs, a most pleasant town west of Garden of the Gods and north of Seven Falls, as well as being a gateway to Pikes Peak. My once favoured lunch spot there, Hearts of Jerusalem, closed during the COVID period. In its place is Good Karma Coffee House and Deli, a thoroughly delightful husband and wife-operated spot, with a short, but well-conceived menu. After an “Inside-Out Grilled Cheese”, I walked on over to The Taos Maos gift shop and bought a nicely-made wind chime, which will accompany another that will get from Arcosanti, in a few weeks. Maos is as interesting as its name implies, and has small items that can enhance even the simplest home.

After that was done, I remarked to the parking lot attendants, two very agreeable and helpful ladies, how much I like Manitou. Their response was: “Manitou likes you!” Moments like that are always affirming. I got up to La Foret Conference and Retreat Center, just northeast of downtown Colorado Springs, in mid-afternoon, and checked in to Colorado East Baha’i School an hour early. We began study and discussion of meaningful social action, this evening and will continue over the next 2.5 days.

I am in a comfortable little cabin, with one roommate-a nice gentleman, and six other cabin mates, all very considerate and agreeable people. There is an abundance of children and teenagers here, also very considerate and high-functioning people. As we are preparing to get ready for sleep, thunder and lightning are all around us. Rain has come to CS to the first time in two weeks, a welcome easterly extension of the monsoon.

I bid you all good night, with a scene from Manitou Springs and one from La Foret.

Yes, Manitou is ONE of Colorado’s Christmas cities.
Inglis Hall, named for La Foret’s founders.

Questions About the Ordinary

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August 30, 2022- The students were asked to draw their non-dominant hand, to examine both front and back and to write down any questions that came to mind about the hand. This was all by way of the commenter explaining how great discoveries are made, just by taking time to look at things that one sees every day. He pointed out that Galileo, using a telescope that Italian military scouts employed to keep watch on intruders, managed to see the physical features of Earth’s Moon. Mary Anning’s curiosity about rocks on the beach at Lyme Regis led to her finding the complete fossilized skeleton of a plesiosaurus. She helped identify a skeleton her brother had found, of an ichthyosaur, and later herself found the fossilized remains of a pterosaur.

With that background, the two classes of 10-year-olds were set to the examination of the non-dominant hands of themselves and of a partner. Some came up with as many as ten questions. Others could not think of any. Such is the range of curiosity, even among children. Some are ready to examine the world and all that is therein-or far beyond it. Others are like the baked earth that follows a period of warm rain. While we ought give up on no one, a goodly dose of patience will be needed, in encouraging some to learn-while others are just late bloomers, who will eventually find the stirrings of curiosity breaking through, like shoots through a hard soil that is cracking open.

So many times, I have asked, with regard to an ordinary phenomenon: “Why is that?” As long as that persists, I will wake each day with a sense of anticipation.