Offense

11

June 8, 2019,Bellemont- 

A young woman I’ve known since she was a child will be married, in a few hours.  It’s a beautiful day here and, though I will be here at camp, rather than at the wedding, I absolutely wish the new couple every good thing.

One of the key aspects of married life, as well as of any relationship, is not taking offense at one another. Whether mannerisms, tone of voice, inattention to another’s feelings, not doing one’s fair share, or a host of other personal shortcomings, every person has challenges.

We are advised to neither ignore, nor take offense at, another person’s actions, on  a personal level.  If someone causes harm to another, it is  the aggrieved’s right to seek redress, at an institutional level..  It is not, however, the right of anyone to hold grudges, and to carry forward a resolved issue into one’s future dealings with someone.

One surely must protect self from a person, or group of people, who ACTIVELY  seek to degrade her/him.  Just living differently than the person taking offense, or not doing what the aggrieved thinks is one’s proper course of living, is not, in itself, cause for their bearing a grudge.  “Live and let live” has its merits, as a mantra, so long as innocents aren’t made to suffer as a result.

I say this, with regard to those who have taken umbrage at some recent decisions I’ve made-and hold myself to the same standard.  I can’t justify a “reverse grudge” at them, either.  This is one of the many true aspects of St. Francis D’Assisi’s admonition: “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”

Why We Fight

9

June 5, 2019-

I came back down to Prescott, to support a gathering of friends, being one of the few occasions I am allowing myself to be here, the next two months.  There is, simply put, much I feel I have to do elsewhere-starting with the Junior Youth (Middle-school age) gathering, this weekend, in which I will assist.  Understand that I am taking full ownership of my choices.

The title of the post came about largely in reaction to this week’s slow news item about an ongoing “high level” feud, which I will not dignify by mentioning its specifics.  I am not much of a fighter, for fighting’s sake.  Threats to children and other vulnerable beings are another matter.

I see, though, that there is fair amount of quarreling that takes place.  Fear seems to be the main driver- the old “fight or flight” choice is usually offered. Some fear not being taken seriously.  Others fear the loss of their position or dignity.  Still others fear even the loss of all they value.  I am not cowed by those who act out of fear; neither will I necessarily accede to their demands.  There are ways, through consultation, to remove fear-based decision making.

Ego is another impetus.  If one is given to think of self as some sort of master, then scolding, berating or being otherwise forceful with those around self is the order of the day.  I know of one person,no longer in my life, who has nonetheless recently tried to re-enter, with psychic threats of  otherwise making my life in Prescott so miserable, that I will flee.  None of it will work.  Baha’u’llah once is said to have written that, unless one is so firm in faith, that not even the presence of all one’s enemies, with drawn swords, would cause vacillation, then the soul can not truly call self a true believer.  I accept that, even without knowing the exact source.  Besides, Penny and the other angels in my life are around to see me safely along.

I also accept that my friends and family will only value me, as much as I value them.  The Universe operates on this principle.  Were it not so, the human race would be even more hamstrung by imbalance than we already are.

I want, by patience and remaining present, to eliminate as many of the conflicts in my life as is humanly possible.  Be back when I can, over the next few limited-Internet days.

 

Unlimited Doors

8

May 29, 2019-

On this day,

127 years ago, Baha’u’llah ascended to the next realm.  The door of His Teachings remains wide open, to all who seek.

102 years ago, John F. Kennedy was born, in Brookline, MA.  His work was unfinished and his potential far from realized, when the door to his life here was slammed shut, in 1963.

55 years ago, my youngest brother, Brian, was born, in Melrose, MA.  His purpose here was to train us all in unconditional love.  From the looks of how my family has lived, since his passing, in 1994, I’d say his work was successful.

This past April, a door to my working full-time closed.  Since then, other doors have remained ajar.  This is the truth behind- “When one door closes, another will open.”

Some doors can appear, from a distance, to be closed.  Sometimes, that is simply the result of skewed vision.

Other doors, which one tries to close, remain open because they have contents within that are needed for a healthy life.

Then, there are those others, which are better off shut, no matter how much one thinks that what’s inside is desirable.

May my ability to choose the right doors remain strong.

 

 

Encumbrances

0

March 28, 2019-

I woke this morning, to see a couple of challenges awaited.  Both involved technology, so I steeled myself and said, “This is not going to keep me down.”  Experimenting a bit with what little I knew, the solution to to one problem involved enlisting a friend.  So my first ever video will be done under friend’s tutelage, tomorrow.

Enlarging photos is, it turns out, not difficult, but it will be time-consuming.  It has to be done over several weeks, yet as I will have access to Internet, even whilst on the road, I will get several photos enlarged and sent to their intended recipient, per day.

The human issue is always the most difficult.  I have, as I have mentioned countless times, a variety of friends.  As long as I steer clear of any deep emotional attachment, I am well and good.  Love has to be bigger than that.  Someone who showed interest in me, a few days ago, quickly figured out that was really not the case.  It’s all well and good, as I am really not in the mood for gamesmanship and want to remain in an adult frame of mind.

In a few days, I will sit down and figure out exactly where my spirit will take me, the next two months. I will have my annual physical, tomorrow afternoon, and that will determine a lot.  A couple of camps, with adolescents, will bookend the summer break.  In between, I feel the need to reconnect with friends, across the country, starting with Dineh friends in Coal Mine Mesa and Hopi friends in Polacca, on Father’s Day.  After that, the route will take me to points across the South, then northeast, back across the Midwest and northern Rockies, with a bright shining Starfish at the end of July, in Carson City, before the second adolescent camp.

So, I treat each encumbrance as a chance to break free, with a new sense of strength.

Lions, Lightning, and Lessons Learned

4

May 20, 2019-

A book of memories and reflections, written by my brother (5 years my junior), came in the mail today.  It set me thinking, again, about my own lessons learned, over the years.  My  book may well be written with the same tools he used, but it will wait until I have made a fair amount of progress in a good friend’s archival project, on which I embarked today.

Dave is one of the lions in my life, and seeing our childhood through his lens is a sublime treasure.  He’s gone after what he has wanted and not been deterred by setbacks-whether imposed from within or from outside forces.  He has also set me to thinking, hard at times, about the direction of my life- usually when I least wanted it, but always when I needed it.

My late father-in-law was another lion-and had a roar to prove it.  He nonetheless had a loyal and loving spirit.  Norm was made in the crucible of World War II, in a mixed Prisoner of War/Concentration Camp.  Those lessons left him at first shaking his head, at what Penny and I thought of as “life challenges”, then compelled him to stand behind us, when the life challenges became all too real.

As an educator, I have learned as much from the students who gave me comeuppances, as from those who were my cheering squad.  David B was a full-on lion, seeing exactly what needed to be done, who was keeping it from getting done and how to cause the riot necessary to get the human barriers out of the way.  In school, it got him in trouble-sometimes with yours truly and more often with the more conservative school principal,Peter Webb.  In life, David’s leonine bent eventually got him killed.

Mr. Webb was a lion in his own right-and arguably the only reason I was able to keep my job for a full two years, before Mr. Nixon’s ax cut Title I funds, in 1978.   He saw my work ethic, though, and when I took a job in rural southern Arizona, Mr. Webb was a key reference.

I had a rough and tumble time, whilst working in some of the neighbourhood schools in the barrios of Phoenix’s western suburbs- and in a few of the more “upscale” areas, as well.  Had it not been for Robert T., and his fiery tongue, I might have stumbled, unchanged, through the five years of balancing being Penny’s primary caretaker with earning money by substituting, and been a good deal less useful.

I was not the finest of classroom instructors.  My presentation was only a slight notch above Ben Stein’s character, in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.  Robert had seen the movie, and did not mince words about his needs as a student not being met.  I didn’t last long in that setting, but I drew the needed lesson.  I’ve often thought of Robert T, and would not be surprised if he has made a fair success of his life-learning difficulties aside.

Lightning enters our lives, when we don’t listen to the lions amongst us.  There were a few such strikes in my life: You have read of the worst of them, the last few years of Penny’s disease.  There were cars wrecked, all but one, by other people, and that one had been compromised by someone’s tampering, in the night.  There was a financial wreck, directly related to our struggles with dis-ease.  There were jobs lost, to political wrangling and my own stubbornness.

The lions, if we listen closely, can steer us away from the lightning.

 

Cyclopian Vision

8

May 18, 2019-

I see four in front of me,

each bent on talking, and not listening.

You tell us that there is only one way to look at issues-yours.

You see “the others” as unholy threats to our way of life.

You call out anyone who has an alternative point of view,

and call them names,

as if we are in an overcrowded sandbox,

which you feel you own.

You told me that I was the only problem,

in a very fluid work environment.

You said that if I left,

all would be well.

While I would be okay with that,

the reality is more complex.

You cast about for answers,

yet only accept those which fit

your  line of sight.

You offer your viewpoint,

and dismiss all others,

as antiquated,

as throwbacks,

without regard

for the notion

that all life is sacred.

You say that Government

is the supreme answer

to all,

and that abusers have rights,

which supersede

the rights

of the victim.

You say unborn people

have few or no rights,

whilst your opposite number

says that is only

true, of mothers.

I see four cyclops

in the sandbox,

in front of me.

I hear babbling,

too loud for anyone

to actually hear

the solutions.

 

 

Vulnerability and Soothing Blend

4

May 11, 2019-

I just finished watching a TED Talk on “Shame”. This came about four hours after someone, with whom I was working as a volunteer, mildly upbraided me for not working at a paying job.  (This person is not working at a paying job, either.)

I am ever willing to stand outside and be vulnerable to criticism, knowing that a) I can’t live with myself, if I am not open and b) The critic is usually seeing, in  me, those things he or she dislikes about self.   That doesn’t mean the criticism never stings- and there are two people who I have banned from my life, in perpetuity, for barrages of that I consider unwarranted attacks. It does mean that those whom I trust, and who do not have hidden agendas, are to speak freely.

The presenter of the above-mentioned video spoke of shame as nearly always a prime impediment to a person being the true self.  Shame is imposed from within, though not always sans influence or instigation from someone else.  When I was younger, it was fairly easy, even for well-meaning people, to wreck my self-confidence and set in motion even false shame.

Since the days when my late wife was in my primary care, I have learned that there are unscrupulous people who will take to questioning even the most basic decisions a person can make- usually with a view towards financial benefit or other forms of power and control over the person they are questioning.  I have learned that there are those who will attack someone who is defending victims of crimes, almost always as a means of gaslighting or obfuscation.  Both of the people I mentioned above are gaslighters, and they came close to doing a good job of making me feel shamed.

There was just one difference, from the days of my youth:  Time, and hard lessons, have taught me the difference between acknowledging wrongdoing and buying into the script of a narcissist or tyrant.   So now, in an intervening period between jobs, I am not ashamed of not presently earning an income, outside of what I have already set aside for myself.  That situation will change- on my terms, not those of the retired critic.

I am not afraid to be vulnerable, or to experience life’s aches and pains.  The physical variety of these is relieved by what is called Soothing Blend (an oil-based ointment).  The spiritual variety is relieved by prayer, meditation and positive action.

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.