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.

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.

No Retrogrades

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January 25, 2023- When I’ve been asked how my day has gone, over the past week or so, I can honestly say very well. Work has been good and while I have seen only a few friends lately, in person, the vibes I get, even online, are of high positivity. In a “hero to zero, and back again” society, that strikes me very well, as giving the present lack of planetary retrogrades a fair amount of significance. This may be attributed to the air of forward thinking, of not going over old ground, that seems to happen when all planets do not appear in retrograde, with respect to Earth.

I actually am not rehashing old conflicts right now, for what it’s worth. Rather, the energy that is coming from within right now is concerned with helping a small group of students advance and being of more help to those who ask my views or for my help, without second-guessing myself. So, there does seem to be a fair amount of truth to this planetary retrograde phenomenon, recognized by cosmologists and astrologists, but discounted by those whose worldview is more rooted in tangible, earth-bound practicality.

It also helps that there is slightly more daylight now, as is usual for late January. Personal energy, though, begets solutions to long-standing problems, large and small, and generates ready answers to questions from others that appeared intractable in the dead of winter/heart of retrogrades. Plans may now start to be made in earnest, for Spring through Autumn and long-standing issues actually get resolved. This feels, the cold aside, like an early Spring.

Dignity Above All

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January 22, 2023- It was well said, last Monday, “all means all”. Any decision made, with regard to the life of an unborn child, will hopefully place the utmost value on that child’s quality of life-as well as that of the mother. The decision, one of the heaviest that any human being is asked to make, must be made by the mother-not by politicians. I’ve made that point several times, and will let it stand.

I carried a sign around Courthouse Plaza, this afternoon, a tolerated but not entirely welcome act, in the midst of a highly politicized march that was billed as a Women’s March. The message, well-crafted by someone else, stated simply: “We march on, for equality, fairness and justice for all.” All means all-and the implication, that this applies even to those who do not subscribe to a given political stance, is nettlesome to a few. I see that this is greatly evident among those who are of the opinion that an authoritarian regime is the best way to solve all the problems besetting a given nation-all the while ignoring the track record of totalitarians up to now. Invariably, the elite of both Right and Left enrich themselves at the expense of the vast majority of their fellow citizens.

In the end, no one who might have been opposed to the march bothered the participants, and only one or two of those gathered bothered with me-one of them helping to carry the sign for a while, before walking off in a huff, from some unknown slight. The kids, and their mothers, remain more important to me than any political operative-of any stripe. It was gratifying to see a dozen or so young women scattered among the marchers, taking charge of their own dignity, making it clear to the others that this is their struggle now and will be carried out on their terms. Later in the afternoon, I stopped in at a restaurant across from the courthouse and was greeted by a young woman who was grateful for those who spoke up on behalf of her generation’s rights.

The future belongs to those who do not slam the door on people with whom they might not agree or on those whom they regard as “irrelevant” to the process. The future lies beyond emotional fits, self-aggrandizement or making veiled threats against others. I may be of an older generation, but I stand with those who could be my children, or grandchildren. Hopefully, as those discomfited by my presence see that I am not going away, they will also place more value on working with the young, rather than carrying on ideological battles of times past.

Human dignity matters more.

Magical Again

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January 15, 2023- An eclectic musician was also present, at least night’s concert-dancing with several ladies, in the small area, front of the band. He was sporting a red ball cap, with the acronym MAMA, representing “Make America Magical Again”.

I rather like that notion. Much of what has made life nice, these many years, has seemed almost magical in its unfolding. How many times have I been graced with accommodations that would ordinarily seem out of reach? How many meals have come my way, both when Penny and I were at wit’s end and when I have been on my own? How many friends have appeared, seemingly out of nowhere?

Some of this is, certainly, a reflection of love for others. I find myself thinking, ” Whatever you need, my love”; or “As you need,my pal”, when helping a child or adolescent, or a young woman, for that matter. Their needs are those of the future, after all. Their dreams and efforts are a good part of what will make seeming magic become commonplace. Helping remove obstacles, for anyone really, is an essential part of being an adult in this world.

As I sat with one of my young friends, last night, she noted that what makes any community special are pockets of celebration and affirmation. Some communities, like San Francisco and Boston, have several such areas. Prescott, with Raven Cafe, Founding Fathers Collective and Wild Iris, among other places, is increasingly holding its own in that regard. Faithful readers will note other such pockets of celebration, around the United States and in various countries across the globe.

So, the magic unfolded: The delightful sprite-like dancer, mentioned in the previous post; the structured, polished ballroom styles of an elegant couple; the dancing musician, wearing the M.A.M.A. cap; the melodious offerings of the three lovely women from Bisbee; the genuinely joyful presence of a dear friend and collaborator. Magic, after all, when it is intended to bring harmony, is pure and loving energy.

Thirteeners

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January 13, 2023- The usually rough and tumble boys were a lot more subdued and looking towards the mostly female staff for guidance today. The roughest of the bunch was a lot more sensitive. The sassiest of the girls were very quiet all day. This all made more sense to me, when contemplating the feminine energy of Friday, combined with the number thirteen. Friday is named for the German goddess Freya. Thirteen is said to have a feminine flow, according to numerologists, because of the thirteen phases of the Moon.

The day itself has been transmogrified into some sort of a culturally freakish day of misfortune. I, personally, have never had a bad day on Friday the 13th. Those few that I’ve heard of who have wished they had spent the day in bed are no more likely to suffer on this combination of weekday and day of the month, than on any other day.

Nor are people in their first full year of teenage necessarily more difficult to get along with than those who are at other stages of adolescence, or at any other time of change. For me, twelve was probably the hard adolescent year, with twenty-five and fifty-nine the other rough personal years of change. Thirteen, though I was going through the heart of puberty, was a year of emergence from awkwardness.

The contrived bad luck associated with the thirteenth floor of a multistory building seems to be just that, contrived. I have not heard of any such particular association, in reality. Some people feel the whole bad luck association with the number-and the numerodiurnal combination, was a ploy to curb feminine power. I’m not sure it’s all that organized, but it makes as much sense as anything else.

In any case, any day when energy is nurturing and healing is a good day, in my book-and so it was.