Lessons from Flubs

6

April 2, 2020-

Never let it be said that I have it all together.  Each day brings its share of little victories, but there are also those times when I’m all thumbs.  Each flub, though, brings a lesson.

This morning, I found myself in front of my laptop screen, trying to take part in an online Yoga class, while keeping myself visible on the Zoom screen AND Keeping the laptop plugged in.  It was a comedy of errors, which I’m glad the instructor could not see.

SOLUTION:  For the next session, whenever that is, I will simply bring the laptop and power cord over to my floor-based power strip, and make myself both visible and ready to roll.

I was up until midnight, waiting for a Facebook Live, which never showed, so my equilibrium was a bit off, and I napped longer, mid-afternoon, than I had planned, thus missing a Zoom call that WAS showing.

SOLUTION:  Don’t stay up until midnight, for a definite maybe.  Find someone who was on the call, OTHER THAN the host, and get an update.

I kept forgetting what Zoom call was going to be when.

SOLUTION:  The big whiteboard that I had bought in December, for travel planning, is now my Zoom Calendar board.  I also keep a Google calendar, for good measure.

Small matters, but they do impart lessons, for what may become larger events, when one has to be “on-game” much of the time.

 

Stop the Squeeze

8

March 23, 2020-

I watched a video last night, which, while not made by a Baha’i, explains Baha’u’llah’s vision of a unified planet, perfectly.  The part that is most relevant for what we are seeing now is this:  Earth is in the beginning stages of cleansing, with simultaneous earth quakes and a huge humanitarian crisis forming the physical manifestations of that cleansing.  What is most needed, for us to build out of these calamities, is true unity of the human race.   This is starting to appear in several countries, with the United States conspicuous in its absence from their number.

Instead, what we are seeing is the same intense squabbling over details of  a national response that has been part of the American scene since the Constitutional Convention of 1781-88.  Back then, there was no real nation, so the states and territories had time to sit and hash things out. The governors and legislators, back home, had matters pretty much in hand.

Governors and legislatures have things in hand today, as well, to varying degrees.  At the Federal level, though, no such luck.  The two “sides” have pretty much continued throwing bones to their bases, forgetting that, in a pinch, liberals and conservatives  left to themselves, without being poked and prodded from above, can get along quite nicely.  I have friends on all points along the spectrum, and do not think of any of them as worthless or a waste of DNA.  Everyone has a piece of the truth.

The jigsaw puzzle, though, is being kept unfinished by perfectionist wire-pullers, for whom a solution would be like poison. For them, being in positions of power is the most critical state of affairs.  Unity, in their view, would lead to wisdom among the populace, who would then cease to follow the leaders.

More’s the pity.  Unity among the people would only enhance the grand national economy, cherished by conservatives.  Unity would decrease, drastically, the number of marginalized people, a major concern  of liberals and progressives.  It would show that “white nationalism” is a myth made up out of whole cloth and would also diminish the need for a the trappings of a Nanny State-so counterproductive to human dignity.

It can be accomplished in either of two ways:  Leaders showing the resolve to put the country ahead of any personal or partisan ambitions, and encouraging people to work together OR fed-up groups taking matters into their own hands, with a possibly long and bloody conflict, that would make the Civil War look like childsplay.

It is time, past time, to stop squeezing the bases.  Let it be known that love of country and its people, at long last trumps ambition.

The Tide

8

March 20, 2020-

I awoke today to a sky that was mixed, in its promises for the day.  As it happened, clouds came and went, allowing a basically sunny day.  I spent much of the day reflecting on a piece that I had written in 1996, which my brother forwarded me, early this morning.

The day stayed mixed. I was not surprised to learn that work is delayed until April 13, at the earliest.  Swinging by Raven Cafe, one of my hangouts, I ordered delectable mushroom soup and a lamb burger with sweet potato fries, as a take-out meal.  Enjoying the soup, sitting outside, whilst watching the antics of a trio of dogs and talking with some of my mates, was arguably the high point of the day.  I took the lamb burger and SPF home, so as not to be a canine tormentor.  It tasted every bit at home,as it would have in public.

After catching up with my photo scanning project, on behalf of a longtime friend, I got a call to head out on a project for a revitalized Yavapai County Angels, delivering food boxes to an elder, picking up more supplies for further deliveries, over the next several days and visiting one of our local grocery stores, as my teammate was hoping against hope for paper products and loaves of bread to give to other elders.  I found three fresh-baked loaves (packaged loaves went the way of toilet paper and most other items.  These will go to some fortunate senior citizen.

The matter of the near future arose, as it always does of late.  There is an ominous feeling, among many of the people I encountered.  Everyone was rattled, to some extent or another, so I kept a low profile, though my saying that grocery stores were still open in states that were on lock-down provoked a furious response.

The tide is roiling.  We can perform random acts of kindness, as many are choosing to do, or we can sequester ourselves in racism and intolerance of any divergent opinions, as even some close to me are starting to do.  This is not a “Chinese” virus, or even an Asian virus, as the president and a few others keep claiming.  It is a worldwide threat, no matter who, or what malevolent force, unleashed it.  The whole of humanity has to move, in unison, to fight it.

I will continue to help in any way I can, for as long as my 69-year-old self is allowed, and as long as those who are committed to  forcing drastic measures, such as martial law, are not allowed to hold sway, we will make progress, acting as a community.

 

Certitude In A Time of Pestilence

10

March 16, 2020-

In the Turkish Netflix series, “The Protector”, the complex villain tells the title character how easy he made it for her to both subject the populace of Istanbul to an epidemic of plague and to subsequently present the people with a “cure”, which had consequences he couldn’t foresee.

The current reaction of many people to the menace of Coronavirus 19 is similar to that of the Turkish masses, in the SciFi drama.  Fear has led many to either abandon trust in the ability of government, medical professionals and humanitarian organizations or to cling even more tightly to shopworn ideologies and biases, vis-a-vis ANY intervention by those in authority, while confronting this pandemic.

Magical thinking, and trust in the platitudes of populists and demagogues, both in the TV series and in much of the American scene today, has replaced logic and fortitude.  See someone whose politics they dislike, and the bleats go up-and on.

I have to observe, and evaluate, the efforts being made by ALL responsible parties, and never mind their ideologies.  Any less, and the pandemic will not see its “curve flattened”; rather, it will continue to spike, again and again-like the Plagues of the Fourteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. The experience of Europeans, during the first plague, is instructive for us now.  Relying on the words of the ignorant will only reap horror.

Certitude, in this current time of pestilence, can only be found in placing trust in competent physicians and proactive government officials-regardless of one’s own ideology.

“I’m Up Here”

9

March 9, 2020-

The above statement is often made by a woman who is reacting, in a gently upbraiding manner, to having a man (or boy) focusing his attention on her torso.  I haven’t had that sort of correction being offered me, up to now, though it’s been a self-teaching process, over the years, to direct my attention to a person’s eyes, as we are engaged in conversation.  My autism had me looking down, anyway, so I recognize the imperative of eye contact- if for no other reason than to establish trust.  Besides, it takes three seconds to ascertain if someone is physically attractive; there’s no reason to stare.

It seems to be working, especially these past fifteen years, and definitely of late.  The ubiquity of  those who are either wearing tight clothing, or are “scantily clad” is something I’ve come to regard as mostly for the person’s comfort.  I find Millennial and Generation Z females both more modest in their interpersonal behaviour and more assertive with regard to their rights in the public sphere, than many of my generation were at the same age.  That may not be everyone else’s conclusion, but it’s what I see, in the course of my work, in my travels and at musical gatherings, such as the one I attended yesterday.  Then again, there is the fact that my relationship to the rising generations is one of mentoring, affirmation and overall support.

I like to engage people “up here”.

How Far?

4

March 2, 2020-

Chris Matthews retired as host of the news show, “Hardball”, with this evening’s broadcast. He’s not someone I have watched very much, if at all.  Talking over one’s guests isn’t something that would have gone over well, when I was growing up.

He comes to mind for a different reason, though. One of the things he is reported to have said this evening, is that he was sorry for constantly telling the women on his program that they were beautiful.

It took  many years, but a former student of mine pointed out, a bit sarcastically, that this is not the first thing a woman, or a girl for that matter, wants to hear about herself, first.  I began, at that point, to think more of the actual skills the person has, and of how to compliment those.  Beauty is not a skill, so however attractive I might find someone, the sensible thing is to focus on what can keep her in the loop, can help her grow.

We might think, in this month that celebrates Women’s History, of just how far we have come, as a species, in the area of gender relations.  My grandparents’ generation would have been mortified, had women gone out on the street in slacks, less-than-full length skirts or, God-forbid, shorts.  Women rarely drove cars.

My parents’ generation saw women exercising more options, when it came to dress, and certainly most women drove cars.  Working outside the home was one area on which progress was a bit lacking-other than teachers, secretaries, cashiers and nurses.

There was a lot of  “break-out”, both socially and vocationally, with my generation.  The Women’s Liberation Movement took me aback, when I got home from Vietnam, in 1971, though it might not have. Young Vietnamese girls were telling us that they heard “Mi “(American) girls were thinking more for themselves, and therefore they, the Vietnamese, expected to do the same. There was an incident where a girl told me I was not her type.  The other guys at the table about fell out of their seats.  I left her alone; then again, I did that routinely in the States, so it was nothing new, for me. For a girl in southeast Asia, though, it was a big step forward.

When women started opening doors for men, letting us board buses first and talking fiercely about not wanting to be on a pedestal, it began to sink in that this Movement was resulting in lasting change, however maudlin it appeared.  It was the beginning of the end for “Prince Charming”, who actually ended up being a villain in one of the more contemporary Disney films.

That has suited me just fine.  I was married to a woman who eclipsed me, intellectually, and, since her passing, have preferred the company of women friends who have clear goals, and make no excuses for their dreams and their drive-in fact, who make no excuses for anything in their lives.

While there is much to be done, as yet, I would answer the question, “How far have we come, in the area of gender relations?”, by saying how proud I am to be in the company of so many who are sure of themselves and can be persistent, with no fear of being pushed back into the corner.

 

By What Measure?

4

March 1, 2020-

This month has not come in like a lion, at least not in Arizona.  Our forecast had called for rain, but bright and sunny, it was.  It may, or may not, rain/snow tomorrow, and that’s the celestial version of Arizona’s independent spirit.

Today was the first day of the Nineteen-Day Fast, during which every Baha’i between the ages of 15-70, who is in good health, is not traveling and not doing heavy manual labour, abstains from food and drink, from sunrise to sunset, for a period of nineteen days.

With my 70th birthday coming in November, this is my last time of such abstaining.  My work schedule is truncated, this spring, for reasons of my own keeping a mission to help a disabled teen.  Thus, the sacrifice appears, at first blush, to be minimal-but we’ll see what transpires.

I spent a couple of hours, this evening, with a small group of college students, whose own mission is to work at building a sustainable society.  This is another passion of mine, one which does not depend on ideological divides or limiting one’s circle of friends, unnecessarily.  The group is led by a confident and forthright young woman, who is close to her family, and by a very independent young man, who lives in his car-by choice.  The two could not be more opposite, yet both represent the commitment to facing the issues being inherited by the three rising generations.

The six of us who gathered at Sustainability Lounge watched the film, “Princess Mononoke”, an anime story about the seemingly inherent conflict between industry and nature.  In it, a minor Japanese noble is wounded by a demonic creature which is attacking villages in a hateful rage.  The nobleman kills the demon, but not without cost to himself.  He embarks on a journey, to find the source of the demon’s rage, fighting and killing samurai and meeting a cryptic “monk”, along the way.

Eventually, the nobleman finds himself in the home area of the Spirit of the Forest, as well as being brought to its opposite, a dingy industrial fortress, where iron is smelted by a mix of lepers and rescued prostitutes.  It is run by a warrior woman, who reminded me obliquely, of Tina Turner’s Auntie Entity, from “Mad Max:  Beyond Thunderdome”.

The predictable ultimate battle takes place, with sub-battles occurring between competing groups of animals and humans alike.  The nobleman meets a young woman who has been raised by wolves, and the two form a tentative, problematic friendship. There are severe losses, and new beginnings, for all the major characters in the story.

This all begs the question:  By what measure do we determine what is beneficial and what is detrimental?

 

 

Conniptions

2

February 26, 2020-

There are those who feel that things ought not change.

Once plans are made, such folks say,

only crooked people and liars would deign hint,

that these might be altered,

for the common good.

Disease, they say, is nowhere near

so bad, as to cause

portfolios to decline in value!

“Worry-warts are the enemies of the people,

and what, exactly, is being done,

with all that money?”, say the self-appointed

guardians of the trough.

Visions are conjured,

of connivers,

stuffing other people’s money,

under their own mattresses!

I wish I had such idle time,

to weave fantasies about

what might be going on,

behind the scenes.

Alas, I am too busy working in schools,

serving as a volunteer elsewhere,

and celebrating life,

with my friends,

to stress over things

which will be Old News,

by Easter.

 

Cost and Effect

2

February 25, 2020-

It is evident that, the more people become accustomed to finery, wealth and relative comfort, the harder it is for many to accept when misfortune hits.  We in the “developed” nations are now being asked to sacrifice a fair amount of our wealth, and possibly some of our comfort, as several countries,  of both advanced and aspiring economies, deal with possibly the worst epidemic of disease since the Influenza of 1918-19.  This is no random panic over who Tweeted what about whom.  This is a phenomenon that is closing factories and schools, and keeping people isolated, in the affected areas.

There is a cost to any progress, to any advance, in any given realm, whether material or spiritual.  This is the latest assessment made on a civilization that has experienced a goodly amount of growth, in the past ten years, but especially in the most recent three.

Yet after the cost is paid, there is a recovery. There will be growth and prosperity again.  The world recovered from the Spanish Influenza, though there was an over-exuberance, coupled with unequal treatment of nations that had been vanquished in World War I, that largely contributed to the Great Depression.  It is well that safeguards implemented, upon the recovery from that Depression, will serve to both temper any rush to exuberance, following the end of the current pandemic and to mitigate any long-term economic ill effects of the phenomenon.  Add to this, the very fresh memory of the economic crisis of 2008-10, and it is likely that many have either set aside a sum of money they could afford to lose, temporarily,  to a Bear Market or have established a network, on which people may tide one another over, in times of sacrifice.

So, we will learn, and re-learn, our true priorities;  refresh our consciences about what truly matters, in a well-lived life.  We will survive and thrive.

 

Righting the Ship

4

February 23, 2020-

So, I got back to Home Base around 4 a.m., doing what is customary, under such circumstances: Sleeping for three hours.  It was then time to shower and do devotions, as always, and head off to the American Legion, for the last breakfast I will have with the mates, for a month or so-as my final physical Fast is approaching (March 1-19, this year).  A devotional meeting followed, in Prescott Valley, for which I was actually quite mentally present.

More sleep took up early afternoon, thus righting my physical/mental ship.  Among other things, the illness that lingered, for nearly two weeks, is finally gone.  Maybe the exercise, of pushing myself to do the long round trip to/from Indio, was exactly what was needed to push the remnants out.  Sometimes, counter-intuitive is the way to go.

At last night’s concert, Sheryl took a few minutes to engage the audience, as to who in the crowd was in their thirties, forties and fifties, the last being her own age group.  She asked how many were still having fun, in their fifties-as she certainly is.  A goodly number gave a rousing response.   That’s gratifying; people ought to enjoy life, at any age.  She didn’t ask US-those in our sixties and beyond, but I am, my row mates (also in their sixties) and the seventy-somethings, who were seated across the aisle, seemed to be having a great time of it, as well.

So, on we go. This coming week brings Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday/Lent and, for us Baha’is, Ayyam-i-Ha (the Intercalary Days of feasting and gift-giving, before our Fast begins, a week from today).

May it be a great run-up to Leap Day!