Overthinking

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January 12, 2022- Perfect tries its hardest to be the enemy of good. One of our highest public officials is always warning us that any efforts to improve the access of citizens, to the mechanism of voting, will only draw the wrath of “the other side”, when they “inevitably” return to power, in an undesignated future time. Therefore, in the view of this individual, things should be kept as they are. This is unlikely, as there are many ways to secure voting rights for all legal citizens, which do not require said public official’s approval.

Yesterday, I was cautioned to not let a certain child anywhere near me, as I would be sure to get bitten. This never happened, as my advance caution to her, even with regard to herself, “No biting”, was enough.

For several years, I also held back from taking action on certain matters, with the idea that more harm would come to me and my loved ones, should I take any action. The stagnation that resulted has spoken for itself.

Measured and well-considered action, on the other hand, has brought far greater benefits, and lessons learned from the occasional flub have been invaluable. The old saw, “You could die while crossing the street”, has always been my fallback, when choosing to take reasonable risks.

Fever Dreams

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January 11, 2021- An African-Canadian, of indeterminate political stance, has posted a statement that “slavery….probably never existed”. His statement seems to be based on a thread on the website Quora, which includes claims, by someone with a Nordic-sounding name, that people working on plantations in the antebellum South were actually treated rather well, were educated by their masters and were more like friends with the plantation owners. He, in turn, bases his claims on old textbooks from Virginia and other Southern states, which paint enslavement in rather benign terms.

In any system, there are relationships which are brutal and others which are mild, by comparison. There were a fair number of educated slave owners who selectively educated male house servants, to read Scripture and to conduct some plantation business, on behalf of their masters. This was especially true during the Civil War, when many White family members and regular paid employees of the plantations were off serving in the Confederate Armed Forces. While it was a breach of the law, in most Confederate states, the fog of war let the practice slide.

On balance, however, enslaved people were treated harshly, were not taught to read and write, and were infantilized; the men being emasculated and the women treated like playthings. The residue of enslavement lingers today, in too many families and in too many communities, large and small-in all parts of this country, in some parts of the above-mentioned commenter’s native Canada, and in both European and Latin American countries.

People will often go to great lengths to legitimize their fanciful beliefs about times past-or even recent events (Accounts of January 6, 2021-and the summer of 2020, for that matter, often depend for their justification on outlandish theories, which demonize those seen as in opposition to those accounts. ) Many of these beliefs are made up of whole cloth, and may be honestly viewed as little more than fever dreams. The Enslavement Deniers take their place among others of their ilk: “There were no Jews killed in Nazi Germany”; “9/11 was an inside job”; “NASA is a hoax”; “School shooting victims are crisis actors”; “FDR staged Pearl Harbor”-and on down the rabbit hole.

It matters little, that the face of enslavement denial is himself of African ancestry. Such people have been rather commonly used by those with more of a stake in revisionist history, to say: “See! That person doesn’t believe the historical narrative and s(he’s) (Black, Jewish, Asian….)!” A lie is still a lie.

Flex Time

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January 8, 2022- This was one of the weekends in January, when I was planning to be away from Home Base. The schedules of those I had planned to visit changed, and made any visiting inopportune, so this time is being used to tend to matters closer to home. I am also using a couple of meditation Zoom calls to consider the course of future journeys planned for this year and next. Things became clearer to me, during the meditations. Making initial practical information checks, on a couple of aspects of these journeys, made things clearer still.

There is always a way to make good use of time, when plans have to change. Even being mostly in retirement mode, I find there are not enough hours in a day for everything that might be accomplished. Flexibility also seems to be the order of the Universe, at least in terms of how elements of Creation interact with one another. The fact that the Universe is unlimited, infinite, helps with that flexibility. Besides, that infinitude means there are far too many variables for one to go about life in a rigid manner.

In the end, I actually was glad to be finishing the day by completing a reading of “White Fragility”-coming to the conclusion that I am not fragile, in my ethnic and racial identity, and can learn from others about microaggressions and other elements of my own thoughts and actions that might drive a wedge between me and those around me.

No time need be wasted.

Just Cause

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January 7, 2022- An infringement on the right of a child to a safe learning environment led me to try and summon an administrator, with the response that someone would be right along. Several minutes went by, and I was perfectly content to wait-knowing full well that dozens of other matters could interfere with anyone getting to our room. Another student began to complain, after a half hour of inaction, so I made a second call-again knowing that we would make sure the matter was resolved by day’s end, yet wanting all concerned to know that the administration wasn’t just bluffing. The matter was resolved in due course and the guilty party called to account.

Life brings both small and great challenges to peace and order, oftentimes because one group or another feels rightfully aggrieved, without knowing the best way to get resolution. Litigation can bring monetary compensation for wrongs done, but there is likely to be a goodly amount of resentment left over. Legislation can bring changes to social systems and practices, often merely tipping the balance of power from one group to another-leaving those who are in neither group feeling, again, left in the cold.

True jurisprudence puts an equal emphasis on both parts of the word- “juris”- legal structure and “prudentia”-practical knowledge”. Any decision that is not based on current information is bound to boomerang. In the above incident, the administrator focused on the wrongdoer-and left several cases of side drama that emerged to the discretion of the classroom teacher. This is as it should be. Too often, legislators or public safety officers set out to resolve one issue, only to be sidetracked or stampeded into covering a host of other matters-often in the same piece of legislation or investigation, in the name of equanimity. Thence, comes the social phenomenon of “whataboutism”, or false equivalancy.

Everything deserves consideration-in its time.

A Brief Look Backward

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December 31, 2021- Betty White chose an awkward time to leave, but it was her time. It was almost a fitting end to a year that took us up, down and sideways-and turned us every which way but loose. I don’t want to say that last one too loudly. We could use a few more years of Clint Eastwood being among us.

As it was, there were a number of people dear to my heart, some of renown and some not, who left this earthly plane in this year now itself winding down. My extended family whittled down, just a tad: My aunts-by-marriage-Sabina Kusch and Dorothy Madigan; Aunt Dorothy’s stepson, John-one of the cousins closest to me, over the years; Charlie Kusch, Jr., another cousin who made his friends and family laugh, much as his father did before him. Diane “Dee Dee” Bean- was the first girl I ever dated-not that it ever worked out. Richard “Dick” Dow, was a next door neighbour, from childhood, who kept his family home and his father’s business running, until he could scarcely move, himself. Two educators from my scholastic past, Anthony Struzziero and Eugene Hughes, both of whom I knew as fair-minded administrators. The bulk of the losses were fellows in Faith, Baha’i teachers, one and all: Val Latham, Jr., Gisela McCormick, John Eichenauer III, John Kolstoe, Joel Oron’a, Ethelene Crawford, Wilfred Smallwood, Donald Streets and Dwight Allen. I lost a car, and gained an SUV.

It was not a year defined by loss alone. A grand nephew, named Liam, came into our lives, early on. Strong new friendships emerged. I was able to return to California and Nevada, after a year’s hiatus. I made two long trips across country, both largely around the sale of our family home, and mother’s voluntary relocation. A week spent in Texas was a perfect springboard for my seventy-second year. I was able to pay respects to those fallen in the name of freedom, though not to the extent I might have. Still, time spent in north Tulsa and in Minneapolis was a step forward, for this one who preferred solitude, for so many years.

Our community has held its own against one or another viruses. As if to seem a strange return of normalcy-the flu is back. The nation resisted the temptation to default on democracy. Both major parties are learning that complacency is dying out among the masses-and a moribund attitude will not fly. We Baha’is paid homage to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, marking one hundred years since His passing-and renewing our commitments to live as He did. That renewed spark of Faith is finding its way to friends of other religious traditions as well-as witness the Baptism, on Christmas Eve, of a man who had found his fortunes sinking.

We did not master disaster, and there were far too many lives lost-in California, the Pacific Northwest, western Canada, Montana, Louisiana, Kentucky and Illinois. The latest conflagration, in Colorado, took no lives, but left another pair of communities with scenes out of a war movie. Two dozen other countries, from Mexico and Peru to Kenya and Indonesia, saw tragic losses in both infrastructure collapse and from the forces of nature. Then, there was/is Ethiopia, a country I only recently was hoping to visit in a year or two. Now, it is riven in pain, and we can only pray for sane attitudes to rise to the fore.

2021 will be history, in short order. How different the year that is thirteen minutes away will be, depends largely on how many of us have absorbed this year’s lessons-and to what degree.

Fragile Trust

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December 26, 2021, Holbrook- The words came, swiftly, and with the harshness of those who have seemingly felt misunderstood and unappreciated, for a good many years. In each case, they were heard by people of good heart, and we at least know how to respond in a fairly positive manner.

The days after Christmas are frequently a time for harshness between intimates, or even between long-time friends. It is best to not put too much stock in them, if it is just a natural reaction to having felt forced to be on one’s best behaviour for the previous few days. Such lashing out is also a result of having been under the stress of staging holiday gatherings, trying to please everyone and perhaps not getting enough rest. Then, there is the Omicron factor and all the back and forth between those who favour public restrictions and those who want to tough it out on their own-or for it just to go away (which will happen, but in Mother Nature’s time.)

It’s generally been a good day, though, with another well-prepared and well-attended breakfast at the Prescott American Legion Post, a pleasant and re-assuring phone chat with Mom and my brother, Dave, seeing pictures of the remodeled house of my youth and enjoying a smooth drive from Prescott to this high desert town, in northeastern Arizona. 66 Motel is a clean and comfortable place for the night and Mesa Italian Restaurant compares well with ristorantes in Phoenix and Prescott.

Tomorrow, I will make a brief visit to Petrified Forest National Park, then head east to Albuquerque-and Old Town, before spending a couple of days in Santa Fe and vicinity. A ticket to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is the impetus for this trip. There are, of course, other places that will emerge on the itinerary- weather-permitting.

To those who are keeping track, today is the first day of Kwanzaa, and celebrates umoja, or unity. It is also Boxing Day, a British holiday that traditionally entailed giving Christmas boxes to servants, postmen and errand runners.

20/20 Hindsight

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December 23, 2021- There is much hand-waving and fake cringing going on tonight, about the remarks being made about COVID home tests and the sudden emergence of Omicron. The comments coming out of the White House are, truth be known, no different from any number of hindsight-based remarks that any one of us have made, at various points in our lives.

Not every awkward remark, made in response to an unforeseen event, is evidence of dementia, or even of fatigue. We all wish things had happened differently, at various times in our lives, and say so after the fact. I can look back on whole chapters of my life and see how I might have made different choices, and experienced different outcomes, than what I actually did.

What I do know, as well, is that it is far better and more reassuring over time, for a person to be upfront about their thinking and their concerns, especially about public health, than to pretend there is no issue or that the concerns raised by others are much ado about nothing.

We will always have one public challenge or another. How we deal with them as a society, and as a species, will have lots to do with our trust of one another-or even of ourselves. Feigning shock, or pretending to be unnerved, by another person’s forthrightness, does no public good.

Who Adds Meaning?

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December 16,2021- Every so often, someone has tried to insert self-or someone else- into my life, with the expectation that I will meet the part of themselves that is somehow lacking. The part of myself that felt I owed a measure to those less fortunate has made an effort to fulfill that expectation.

Guess what? Three very different people have tried to take over my life, with various tactics-including playing the “Family Card”-even though that person and I have never met. That each time ended in a crash and burn did not surprise my heart of hearts. I am the sort who loves easily, but becomes intimate only with time.

Conversely, there are those whom I genuinely love, and from whom I want nothing, who just can’t bring themselves to accept a person like me, for whatever reason within themselves. Some are biological family and others in my adopted community, who are vociferous about loving mankind, yet have odd boundaries-which I must respect and from whom I keep a certain distance.

I have long felt that the “Flower Power” movement of the ’60s and ’70s, and all it subsequent offshoots, are a collective chimera. No one can wave a magic wand and love everyone unconditionally-without first loving self, unconditionally. No one can really reach fulfillment by pursuing a cause, unless the seeds of fulfillment within oneself are being assiduously watered and nourished.

Likewise, no one who looks to someone else to meet their needs, abandonment in childhood aside, can possibly expect to not accept the brunt of that fulfillment themselves. Baha’u’llah tells us not to support beggars, and to cast a discerning eye on grifters and liars.

It is my task, first and foremost, to add value (not necessarily monetary) to my life and to as many lives as I encounter. In these days of darkness before the Light of Solstice, Christmas and New Year’s Day; days of natural disasters, stubborn disease, feckless financial sectors and benighted politicians who work to deprive the citizenry of its due-for the sake of upholding enshrined privilege, I ask each reader-who adds value to your life? You should be at the top of that list. Those who suck the life out of you should be at the bottom-if they even remain in your life at all.

Please give this song by Rachael Schroeder a listen.

Unlimited

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December 15,2021- When I was much younger, I walked just about everywhere. Balance issues and impatience with myself kept me off bicycles, until I was about 32. Peddling uphill is still problematic. When I was much younger, impatience and fear kept me from swimming with my head above water. To this day, I content myself with navigating a pool, by swimming underwater, end to end. When I was much younger, self-consciousness and a self-imposed stiffness made my dancing look foolish. Practice helped me get over that, and now, even though I am over a few hills, it’s a pleasure to join in group dances at music festivals, now and then.

I learned, somewhat from Penny and somewhat by watching others who are more unfettered than I, that the human spirit is unlimited-and that by both playing to my strengths and not being concerned with anything that transpired in the past, especially the distant past, I create both a wholesome future for myself-in the decades that remain here in the flesh and in the spirit realms to follow, and I create a bank of energy that will hopefully be transferred to those I love most-and those I will love when they arrive.

These things occurred to me, after having to own up to a couple of errors I made recently, which affected a few other people. Thankfully, this was discussed with a loving group of people.

Once Forward, Twice Back, Thrice Forward

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November 21, 2021-

The horse took a tentative step forward, the wolves gathered in front, the steed took two steps back, the canines stiffened, ready to charge, but the equine charged first, taking three bold steps forward, then broke into a canter, then a gallop, and leapt over the startled predators.

His hind hooves smacked the alpha male, as his rear legs rose, and the pack slowly retreated, relying on instinct, trying to figure their collective next move.

The horse’s next move was to continue towards the water trough, which he had as his goal, before being so rudely interrupted.

Many times in life, one has a worthy goal that doesn’t fit the agenda of others. Some may put up roadblocks and force a retreat. A worthwhile plan may be to try and negotiate a peaceful solution, meeting the needs of those who seem to represent an obstacle. There are times, however, when the only agenda of those who are obstructing is to obstruct. It is then, that one who strives must leap over the barrier.