Niners

2

April 18, 2019-

Age nine found me whimsical,

lost ever in my own thoughts,

save when it came to lessons,

in Mrs. Kimball’s class.

Age nineteen found me lackadaisical,

flitting in and out of other people’s lives,

with no thought as to my effect on them.

Age twenty-nine found me desultory,

often lost in the bottle,

floating along Arizona’s highways,

or the backroads of the  wider West,

yet making a stab at conveying math,

to myself and my students.

Age thirty-nine found me devoted,

to my wife and toddler son.

The fragrance of Jeju,

and the progress of my English-teacher candidates,

filled out my world.

Age forty-nine found me wary,

of any and all politicians,

of a wayward shaman,

whose stated goal was

to bring about my ruin.

Age fifty-nine found me crumbling,

about to lose the most important

person in my life,

to the dis-ease that had

stalked her,

for over fifty years.

Age sixty-nine is seven months off,

yet it may well find me

in a state of flux.

Regardless,

I know my life is aimed

towards wholeness,

towards growth,

ever looking past

mere survival.

 

Feet First, Again

8

April 3, 2019-

I began the work day ready to help keep our charges occupied, and relatively productive, as ever.  I ended the day, back in retirement mode- at least until I can get another position.  I chose to leave, after a brief pitch for me to take a position for which I am even less-suited than the one I have left behind.  I declined the offer, and the end game was set.

For all the platitudes that my co-workers and I have received, over the past two years, regarding loving and working with autistic children, there are people watching who do not have the best interests of those children in mind.  They are the ones who call the Governing Board, Human Resources-and the hapless school administrators.   I know this, because I once took the calls that my former boss has been getting.  I know this, because I heard the veiled threats and “you don’t know who you’re dealing with”- from individuals like the person who has been threatening me, personally, with the loss of my job, since last October.  I know this, because for refusing to take the earlier threats seriously, I was relieved of my position as Principal, in 1999, twenty years ago, this month.

So, it behooves my former supervisors to protect themselves.  Follow due process, but do not fall on your swords for others.  You are doing excellent work and deserve to remain in your leadership roles.  I will make my way, just fine, and being of “retirement age”, no one can come out of the woodwork, on the other side of the equation, and blast me for “not delivering”, as has happened a few times during my checkered career.  I will find work to tide me over until I hit 70, and, no, I will not heed the threats from last Fall.

My former co-workers remain like family and have already been in touch, wishing the best-as I do for them.

 

Microaggression

5

April 2, 2019-

The other night, whilst visiting one of my best friends, I watched and listened to a speech by the conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro.  Among the social phenomena he noted was the trend towards condemning “microaggression”.  The term is used to describe remarks or gestures that trigger unpleasant feelings, discomfort or fear in people who are experiencing , or whose forebears have suffered, oppression.

I was treated, in junior high school, primarily, but also when in the Army, stateside, to a modest amount of bullying and verbal taunting, due to my autism.  I sometimes pondered what society would be like, were it to be rendered illegal to ridicule or belittle another person.  I came to the conclusion that, while it would a fine thing if people were to choose freely, as a society, to rise above such behaviours, to codify criticism as an offense, with criminal penalties, would only drive negativity underground.

To be sure, there are words and phrases that don’t belong in an enlightened society’s discourse.  Racial, ethnic and gender-based slurs are things I banished from my own vocabulary, when I was about 17, to the extent I ever used them at all.  Getting to know people on an individual basis, without pre-conceived notions, has been the only way I have achieved any personal growth, in my own right.

Last October, I found myself, mercifully only for a short time, in a veritable microaggression bootcamp, where every single word, behaviour or gesture that came from me was analyzed, castigated, sliced and diced, to the point I was leery of even taking a breath sideways.  The individual doing this determined that I was beyond redemption, and I was dismissed from her presence.   Mind you, I went through this at the behest of a friend, who was likewise deemed irredeemable.

None of us walks on water.  No matter how loving one’s heart is, and how consistently one shows that love, there will always be someone, somewhere, to whom one is a bete-noire.  It’s helped me, to be more present and aware of the deepest feelings and insecurities of others.  It has also helped me to have grown a thick skin, over the past many years.  “Microaggressions”, it seems to me, are best rooted out through calm, but firm, dialogue and education.  Shrillness and stridency, as Mr. Shapiro pointed out, only drive unkempt behaviour and rhetoric underground, into the maw of the Dark Web or the shadier places in the legitimate Internet.

 

The Black Hand

4

March 30, 2019-

In the Planet Fitness where I work out, there is a large seat, shaped like a Black Hand, in each of the stations where a hydromassage bed is located.  It strikes me that this is a symbol of challenge, that there are always difficulties to be overcome, whether self-imposed or brought on by others.

I have had to do a lot of re-assessment, after a rough past few days.  What I have determined is that: 1.  I am going to make fitness a higher priority than it’s been, having shown that I can make time for a workout, even on the busiest of days.

2.  I am going to cut way back, if not eliminate, my appetite for pastries and other high sugar-based food items.  Neither having my cake nor eating it, at least for the last two months of work.

3.  Doubling down on avoiding violence, no matter how violently I might be attacked, either by one of my charges or anyone who is deranged.  My reaction, from now on, will  be to distance myself, until assistance is at hand, at least in the work setting.

4.  Being more mindful and present.  Neither Alzheimer’s nor Parkinson’s has knocked on my door, but problems have presented themselves, through a combination of fatigue and autism.  I have done better, today, and need to continue getting enough rest, so that there is no repeat of incidents on Thursday and Friday.  The same old story:  When I am challenged by an authority figure, when I’m in a fatigued state, I come out with a blather of telling the person what I think they want to hear and making myself look guilty of something that, in actuality, never happened.

5.  Tax returns are done and I have worked out a more efficient system of time management, so despite some of the above, things are on an upswing.

Another One Out Like a Lamb

2

March 28, 2019-

There is one more work day and one more trading day left in March.  A quarter of my sixty-ninth year will end on Sunday.  March has been roiling, as we have seen, in the areas of weather-based crises and human conflict.  It has also been a time of great joy for me, personally.

As I get ready for the last two months of a fairly successful work year, and begin to ponder what life might be like, after I leave full time employment and devote my time to family and to several months of the year as a traveling writer, there may be a catch.

Having said, a few times, that I am likely to leave Prescott, and Arizona, after nearly thirty years straight and thirty-eight years, all told, in the Grand Canyon State, there is the matter of who might prevail on me to remain here.  Most of my friends here will wish me well, regardless of what path I choose to follow.  There are some, not  counted as friends, who will be glad to see me leave.  One or two special people, who will remain nameless, could yet get me to stick around.  In any case, I know my meanderings would bring me back here, time and again.

This is all conjecture, at present.  I have two very full and rewarding years left, before “retirement”.  The March Lion will bow out, and April will bring pesky standardized testing, the beauty of Ridvan and of Easter, and the Proms.  May will likely see the first 90-degree day for Prescott, and 100-degree day in Metro Phoenix.  The weekends seem to be fully-booked, but I could very well get in a day trip to Grand Canyon, on the Centenary of its National Park.  This one would be to the east side of the Park, and Desert View Tower.  That was my Dad’s favourite spot, when he and Mom visited, in 1985.

Enough meandering, word-wise; I had a busy day and rest is of the essence.  See many of you, tomorrow.

In Abeyance

2

February 20, 2019-

Much was planned, for tomorrow.

Much is now in abeyance.

People were going to be trained, professionally,

yet our skills are not in abeyance.

School is cancelled, tomorrow.

Learning may, or may not,

be in abeyance.

I may, or may not, facilitate

a spiritual study circle.

Spirit is never in abeyance.

Snow might, or might not fall.

Weather keeps us guessing,

but it is never in abeyance,

everywhere.

Mere Conversation

4

February 18, 2019-

Upon returning from southern California, I reflected on three conversations I had there, yesterday and today.

The matter of personal finance is a tricky one.

One must, however, listen to and take the best

from all schools of thought,

then apply to own circumstances.

Travel is a broadening experience.

It must not, however, be done in

an undisciplined manner,

nor in lieu of a more challenging

and necessary course of business.

No matter how far one is from

a place where one is meant to be,

there will appear a connection,

between people and things that

are important in a home situation,

and those who are encountered

in another place,

which one is meant to visit.

At breakfast this morning,

in a place called Gramma’s  Country Kitchen,

where I have sat, numerous times,

at the counter,

and enjoyed a warm meal,

with an even warmer welcome,

I heard another voice of reason.

He said that building barriers,

and setting rules for air and water,

in one place,

will not amount to a hill of beans,

when across a short distance,

conditions opposite to one’s own,

exist aplenty.

I bid farewell to Mr. Wing,

and drove, without incident,

to the place I call Home Base.

 

Honest Abe and the First Nations

4

February 12, 2019-

It is human nature to approach, and evaluate, other people by the same standards one holds to oneself.  It takes a lot of open-mindedness, and patience, for the average person to view people of different cultures as those of different cultures view themselves.  When  homogenization of cultural viewpoint takes deep root in a nation’s dominant culture, there is the appearance, if not the reality, of racism.

From thence, has risen the persistent assessment of people not of the dominant culture as being somehow inferior to those assimilated to said culture.  President Abraham Lincoln, on several occasions, hosted First Nations delegations, at the White House, during various points during his Presidency.  His purpose was to encourage them to assimilate into “the Christian culture of the majority of American citizens.” , as he regarded traditional ways of the nomadic among the indigenous peoples, and their non-Christian traditional Faith Communities, to be just shy of barbaric.

Not addressing the more than 200 years of atrocities committed by Europeans against both First Nations people and African-Americans, in the contiguous territory of the United States, and the nearly 200 earlier years of brutality against people of colour in other parts of the Americas, Mr. Lincoln, perhaps pre-occupied with the Civil War, found time to carefully evaluate, and dismiss all but 38 of the cases against 302 Lakota fighters, for alleged atrocities against the settlers of European descent, in the newly admitted State of Minnesota, during the six-week Dakota War of 1862.  Those 38 men were executed, in the largest non-combat execution act in U.S. History.

His record is far murkier, and less circumspect, with regard to the Sand Creek Massacre, in Colorado 1864 and the Long Walk, of Dineh and Inde (Navajo and Apache) people, from their traditional lands to Boque Redondo, in eastern New Mexico, beginning in 1863.  The Homestead Act and Pacific Railway Act of 1862 made settlement by European-Americans easier, and movement of goods far more efficient, but made no consideration, at all, of the needs of First Nations residents.

In fairness, Lincoln sincerely believed in the importance of  “civilizing” the First Nations people, which the leaders of those Nations, far from being ignorant or savage, viewed as both ironic and ludicrous, given the “brother against brother” reality of much of the “War Between the States”.  Cochise and, later, Geronimo,  saw the propensity for fighting among all groups in the Southwest as being pandemic:  Whites against whites, whites and Mexicans against each other, both groups against First Nations-and vice versa,

Lincoln espoused forward-looking policies towards southern slaves, primarily to ruin the economy of the Confederacy, whilst viewing people of African descent as being “legally” 3/5 of a free white man and viewing indigenous people as only worth the price of the land from which they might be removed-unless they became Christian. Abraham Lincoln was a man of his times, and can’t really be judged solely by the standards of our own imperfect era, however much more enlightened we might like to view ourselves.  He does not, however, deserve to be regarded as a universal emancipator of all those who were being persecuted during his tenure.

My own view is that people of various groups are more alike than different and that we, of each group, have more to learn from one another than we have to impart on others.  This, I have learned, consistently, from visiting many areas of this country-and some parts of other countries.

Those Shadows Seen and Not Seen

4

February 2, 2019, Phoenix-

So the critters back East, in Punxsutawney and Staten Island, have assured us that it’ll be an early Spring.  No shadows were in view, and after that region went through yet another polar vortex, followed by a modicum of thaw, the comfort is probably just a tad cold.

Sitting here, in a lull, during a timely and productive update session regarding the progress of our Faith in central Arizona, I think of the other unseen shadows, with which many of us deal, on a daily, or long-term, basis.

I took care of the biggest shadow, that of my nest-egg, sometime back, and the proceeds from the sale of a house, back in 2014, are in trust, for when I need them, beginning a few years hence.

The shadow of aging has its match, in daily use of essential oils, CBD and hemp products and, at least for  a month or so, Thrive products- a gift from a grateful friend. Those and regular exercise keep me healthy and moving.

Any potential family shadows are best handled with proactivity:  Research, setting time aside and regular, clear communication.  This is true for all points along the family continuum.

The shadow of intellectual cramping is best countered by free dialogue.  Closing one’s mind to opposing points of view does not make one smarter.  I don’t see how not exposing young minds to either liberal or conservative opinions is going to improve their problem-solving ability.  As a youth, I read “Mein Kampf” and “The Communist Manifesto”, being captivated by neither, but at least understanding how the authors arrived at such illogic.  Closing off college campuses to Ben Shapiro, or Markos Moulitsas, will never save even the most infantilized freshman from following the primrose path of choice.

There are greater shadows-some real and some figments of vivid imaginations:  The Social Security/Medicare fizzle, or lack thereof, in the 2030’s;  the coinciding “end-of-the-world”, right about that same time; the potential change of our nation’s form of government (some have spoken of this, since Orwell published “1984”); the generations dropping the ball of civilized behaviour ( I seem to remember how “slovenly” and “unkempt” the Depression Parents and the  GI Generation regarded us Baby Boomers).

Shadows are dispelled by light.  The lights of  faith, understanding, clear communication, discourse and above, all, consistent, firm action, will work wonders at clearing the darkness which seems to pervade so many lives, at so many levels.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Holistic

9

February 1, 2019-

It is a true state of ecstasy,

to see each person

as s(he) ideally sees self.

It is most fulfilling,

to be free of baggage,

when looking upon

even the most attractive

of women.

This is how real progress

is made,

in solving the issues

that most need solving,

rather than constantly

rehashing issues

which mankind ought

to have resolved,

ages ago.

Let this month

of celebrating love,

be rooted

in celebrating the

whole person.