The Fire and The Rose

4

December 10, 2019-

The full of night can suffuse one’s mind with a darkness that is equal to, or surpassing of, the dearth of sunlight outside.  The mind, unlike the body, does not cease to move, at a time of physical rest.  For many of us, far more than should be the case, the movement is in a downward location.  Especially, but not exclusively, for those who live alone, the mind is more susceptible to the depredations of inner demons- at least until prayer, meditation and a few drops of therapeutic grade lavender bring on a healing slumber.

I live a fairly comfortable life, with no ailments at present, and a caring, if arm’s-length, circle of family and friends.  I was told, long ago, that a little of me goes a very long way. So be it.  As long as I’m doing right by those around me, that’s hardly the worst of circumstances.  When inner demons, stoked at times by fatigue, hit me in the darkness, my mantra of late has been to self-talk into sleep, sometimes aided by the lavender oil I mentioned above.

I look, though, at those whose demons lead them to continuing depredations of their own. The oppressed who, as I remarked to a reader of my previous  post, learn to become oppressors.  Here, I think, the scene arises from a failure to take self to account, to learn to place all blame for one’s lot externally, and to thus become a violator of others’ rights, property and persons.

We did not learn the right lessons, it seems, from the French Revolution, and thus came the Maoist Cultural Revolution.  The Holocaust of 1915 was, as Hitler predicted, a flickering ember of the mid-Twentieth Century imagination and the Fuehrer’s minions accomplished a genocide that would have made Ataturk blanche.  The Turks felt wronged, hemmed in, and so they lashed out, their targets lashed back and there was a bloodbath.  Post- World War I Germany, and several other Central European nations, were given short shrift by the Treaty of Versailles, clever demagogues found their Others to use as scapegoats, and the horror played out, on the grandest scale since, arguably, the Hundred Years’ War.

Today, there are all manner of others.  Demagogues, having tasted power and wanting it all the more, find target Others, across the world.  Stories of rape and pillaging give rise to hyper-generalization, far beyond the punishment of those actually responsible. One size must fit all.  Thus, we have Twitter storms, back and forth, attacking anyone suspected of taking a pin to one’s balloon. We have the macabre spectacle of a Nobel Peace Laureate, justifying her government’s deadly attacks on people whose primary offense is to adhere to a Faith that is different from her own.  She is, she says, acting on the advice of a “man of peace”, who is after all a Buddhist monk.  Thoughts of Nicholas II and Rasputin come to mind, but  I digress.  We have coteries of sectarian radicals,from India and Iran, to Yemen and Nigeria, stoking their own acts of opprobrium, against those of other Faiths.

T.S. Eliot’s scenario of the fire and the rose becoming one, in his Four Quartets,  is practiced over and over in our world, though not in the way he envisioned.  The Hollow Men, of one of his other great verses, will not endure a world ending with a whimper, but the series of bangs that have been our lot, since at least 1912, could bring it to an alarming precipice.

Bringing oneself to account each day would seem to be advisable, for high and low, alike.

The Wayward Jacuzzi Jet and Other Joys in Life

12

December 9, 2019-

Sometimes, the unexpected can seem to hit at a time that might ordinarily be unnerving.  Sometimes, the expected does not happen, and the choice as to whether it IS unnerving is strictly up to the one doing the expecting.

It was quite unexpected, last night, when I turned on an in-room Jacuzzi, that one of the water jets came flying out of its anchor, and water was sent clear across the room-to the bathroom mirror.  I turned off the motor and cleaned up the water mess.  Needless to say, I’ve had better whirlpool baths.

After many years of knowing people, I expected, at an event I attended prior to greeting Yunhee at the airport, to be more warmly welcomed by the hosts.  It was, however, a social justice event and those who rate highly in the Social Justice hierarchy are given top priority.  Those of us who are lower on that particular totem pole were not introduced to the higher echelon, even when we were sitting right in front of the hosts and their Higher Ups.  This says a lot about the Social Justice movement-and about why it will fail, unless the same old pecking order mentality finds its way to the dust heap.  I can do hierarchies well, (wealthy benefactors are just people, at their core), but I can’t do apartheid thinking.

Family matters most to me, though, so I accomplished my main objective, and this morning and afternoon were spent taking breakfast at an American chain restaurant (IHOP), tending to two personal business matters for Yunhee, visiting Penny’s grave site, taking in a bit of  Cave Creek and Carefree, having lunch at Rock Springs Cafe, and getting DIL settled in at a friend’s house, two blocks from Home Base.  We had a lovely dinner, prepared by said friend, and discussed our “rough plan” for the rest of the week.

It’s  comforting having family around.

Staying On Track

4

December 8, 2019, Scottsdale-

There was a lot on my plate today.

One item was taken off, temporarily,

as a gift expo was postponed,

due to illness.

It was,  mercifully, a short-lived

emergency for a family of friends.

I headed down to Scottsdale, and

attended a Human Rights Day gathering.

This event commemorates the signing

of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, in 1948.

My daughter-in-law arrived, on schedule,

at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Amazed at the size of the place, she nonetheless had

little trouble finding her way to Baggage Claim,

and we were at the hotel,

in short order.

Staying on track

never used to be my strong suit.

Now, however, I feel that

my guides are with me,

and the inner calendar

is well-oiled.

It also helps

to be responsible for family.

 

 

No Quarter

7

December 6, 2019-

When one has an adult child serving in the military, there is a particular degree of attention paid to the circumstances surrounding that child’s safety and well-being, day to day.  My son entered the United States Navy in July, 2011.  He will finish his regular active duty, in January, 2020.  Then he will serve in the Naval Reserves, for several more years.  I will keep watch on his environment, throughout.

As his final weeks on active duty ensue, three attacks have been committed, on U.S. military property, within days of each other.  One, at Fort Story, VA, was an act of vehicular homicide.  The second, at Pearl Harbor, only days before the 78th Anniversary of the infamous attacks there, by the forces of Imperial Japan, was committed by someone who apparently snapped, after a disciplinary notice was issued him.  The third, which may also have been committed by someone who snapped, happened today, at Naval Air Station, Pensacola.  ended with four dead.

There is some speculation of terror ties, in the first and third incidents, but not-as yet- in the second.  There can be, simply put, no quarter given to any terrorist, regardless of ideology.  The whole subject of the origins of terrorism can fill several volumes.  It basically boils down to sustained inhumanity of one group against another, leading to ongoing acts of retaliation and revenge.

Yet, revenge just leads to more chaos, and the cycle goes on.  I read this morning of the summary executions of four men suspected of raping a female veterinarian and burning her corpse, near Hyderabad, India.  There is no less sympathetic criminal than a rapist.  I can understand the rage of the men who captured these four.  If anyone ever sexually assaulted, much less killed, any of the many women who are close to my heart, my emotions would boil over, privately.  I would then have to  leave the punishment to the authorities, expecting them to fulfill their duties.  In the event they didn’t, I would, following the law, be a broken record, until justice was served.

Vengeance, though, is not my way.  On the rare occasions when the woman I met 39 years ago today, later married,  and then laid to rest, after nearly 29 years of wedlock, was taunted or sexually harassed, I stood up to those who exhibited their animal instincts but never once did I feel the need to beat someone down.   This was fortunate, as I am perfectly capable of flying into a rage.  It just has become less of a potentially useful method of dealing with such matters.  Our society, many parts of which dabble in false equivalency, might too easily fall for sad origin stories of  rapists or other sexual predators.  In the ensuing judicial chaos, no justice is served.

I maintain that, in each case of assault on peaceful, law-abiding citizens, regardless of the assailant’s motive, there needs to be a doubling-down on adherence to the sanctity of human life and safety.  Those who commit acts of terrorism, including sexual terrorism, must face justice, in its fullness- without mindless vengeance.

 

 

Knowing, and Doing

8

December 3, 2019-

I learned, at four, how to tie my shoes.

I learned, at eight, how to size my shoes.

I learned, at 66, that I’d been wearing shoes

two sizes too small,

for nearly two years.

My feet grew, when the rest of me

didn’t.

I learned, at five, how to read.

I learned, at ten, how to read

between the lines.

I learned, at thirty,

how to spot weasel words

in print.

People say what is not meant,

to avoid responsibility.

I learned, at age six,

how to add.

I learned, at age seven,

how to subtract, and

at eight,

how to multiply

and short-form divide.

I learned, at age nine,

how to do long division.

I learned, at age 20,

how to put two and two together.

Most people are more

than the sum of their parts.

This Close….

5

November 27, 2019-

My mother used to say, “You’re THIS CLOSE to…..” Sometimes, when one of us crossed the line, “close” became up  close.  It happened often enough to shape each of us into being responsible adults.

I learned, over the course of my educational career, that there was precious little daylight, in a good many cases, for muddled responses to people who acted out.  “This close” only worked with students who were genuinely respectful, but who were just testing the waters.

I am having to mean exactly what I say with more people on the periphery of my life, who can and do try to push the limits of what I will tolerate.  Obviously, taking an old-style parental disciplinary approach is going to be counteractive.  Like a good parent, however, I do need to stick to my boundaries.  I have told an online correspondent that I am limiting my time, responding to his long thread of sound bites, to no more than thirty minutes a day. His response, for now, is to send even more voice messages.  No problem; they will wait until the next day.  I know he is just pushing my boundaries and I don’t see any need to be yet another person to cut ties with him-unless the spam fest becomes  a series of threats.  Then, it’s game over.

I’ve only had to delete people twice, in twelve years, and one of them recently was let back in-as the problem was initially my fault.  I am a patient man; some say, too patient, but no matter.  My aim is to live my life as I see fit, within the bounds of my personal beliefs.  Those who are really close to me understand that.  The others, including the lonely soul, will just have to learn.

A Few Rules for Self

8

November 25, 2019- 

I made it an enjoyable day, by setting a few rules for myself, a few days in advance of turning sixty-nine.  The more one takes care of self, the less likely it is that others can slip into the vacuum and divert attention from what matters.

I found myself trying to help another person,  yesterday afternoon, and only ended up feeling like I was about to tear out what’s left of my hair.  That’s not a direction in which I plan on heading again.

The first rule I have set for myself, therefore, is to limit my time on any one online discourse to twenty minutes, per day, maximum. I will make exceptions for my immediate family.  Time is far better spent, at least in my view, by doing things like walking, tending to my home, cooking and reading.

The second rule is to read at least an hour each day. I got away from that practice, a few years back and found it most rewarding to return to the printed page today.

The third rule is to not procrastinate about doing a task, just because it is novel to me.  Specifically, I have a new water system, involving a complicated piece of equipment.  Fortunately, there is a DVD that is likely to guide me through the process, certainly more than the confusing paper diagram.  I am one of those who doesn’t easily comprehend the tie between a piece of equipment and a wordless diagram.  It’ll get done, though.

It’s been a fine day, though.  I received my new driver’s license, good for another five years, and a document needed by a family member also arrived.  Thanksgiving plans appear set, and the last few days of being 68 look to be spent in fine weather, albeit rather windy weather.

Smelling The Roses

4

November 24, 2019-

For the longest time, I went through life being purposeful, and regarding taking time with non-essentials as a waste of time.  Even time in nature had to be for the purpose of reaching a goal.

Penny got me to slow down, just a bit, and to not  look at life as just a thing to be accomplished.  Since I wasn’t really all that ambitious, in the conventional sense, learning to relax and not be time-driven was actually refreshing.

Jordan Peterson’s twelfth rule for life is “If You See A Cat on The Road, Pet It.”.    Although many of the cats I’ve encountered in life are hardly willing to be petted, the sentiment is  a charming one.

Being semi-retired, I now take more time for the gentle pleasures of life.  Most of the people in my life understand this, and many say it’s high time. I have encountered a few who take umbrage at my pastimes, and their words sometimes trigger memories of my past.  This leads me to lash out, as I did in the earlier version of this post.  Time away, reading “Abby Wize”, brought me back down to the level at which I am in a better frame of mind.  Nobody likes being triggered, yet I need to keep above it.

That is the thing.  I have worked hard, at a number of endeavours, both professionally and socially.  I have earned a measure of taking time to smell the roses.  Lest anyone think I was playing the victim card earlier- think again.  Lest anyone think I am dodging social responsibility, think twice.  I  continue to be very much involved in community activities. That, to me, is part of taking time for what is beautiful in life.  Towards that end, I enjoy walking in our lovely town, spending much time in leisurely walks through nature.  I will continue to enjoy time with non-judgmental people.  I will pet animals, especially dogs, which enjoy that kind of attention.  As you may have guessed, I will also continue to travel widely, especially towards the late spring and summer months of next year.  As Dr. Peterson says, taking time for what is meaningful is what keeps us in good health, and even helps the sick to recover.

This concludes my first set of commentaries on the Twelve Rules for Life.

 

 

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.

The Conscious Step Away From An Abyss

15

November 20, 2019-

So, it now happens that, if I want to truly understand what Jordan Peterson is trying to say, in his Twelve Rules for Life, I will have to actually read his book.    The reason is the depth of Rule 9.  A simple synopsis is: Understand Your Dark Side. Know exactly that of which you are capable, and resolve not to do it.

Each of us has a dual nature, which is exactly why Christ endured 40 days of temptation and His Crucifixion.  He wanted us to know that the path away from self-destruction lay totally in following the Teachings of the Divine, which derive, essentially, from the Golden Rule.  Not only acts of goodness, but consciousness and dismissal of, the darkness within.  Baha’u’llah endured the indignity of His tormentors, who included many within His own family, that we may see the two paths down which we might each go, and that we may choose  the Path of Light.

I have had struggles, all throughout this life, and only after enduring Penny’s disease, vicariously- and as her caretaker; only after wrestling with left-over baggage, following her passing, and making a conscious decision to turn aside from the darkness, have I ended up in a place of Light.  So, I get the gist of what Dr. Peterson speaks here.  Seeing the dark, and teetering on the edge of it, is debilitating. Seeing the goodness, and nurturing it, sends the spirit soaring.