Anarchy

0

January 17, 2020-

This weekend is a respite from the urgent task I’ve accepted, albeit for probably not much more than the coming week, after all.  I spent the morning catching up on what’s happened here and further afield, over the past  several days.  I also spent an hour at Prescott College, reflecting the engaging presence of people who are on the cusp of adulthood.  I was there to offer a view of ordered life, that departs from the draconian and the decrepit.

When the small group of young women had left, I perused some of the literature which they had brought to the table.  Among the tracts was one on anarchy.  I was raised to think of anarchy as synonymous with chaos, and it can indeed be accompanied by such a state of affairs. Then again, chaos can also accompany too strict a social order, much as over-tightening the threads on a screw, or a fitted pipe, can strip the equipment.

Anarchy, as defined in this tract, eschews chaos.  It is, instead, defined as a state of complete internalization of responsibility for one’s actions. The advocates of such a community, while seemingly naive and idealistic, see a place where there is a total absence of egoism.  This is, of course, straight out of Thomas More’s “Utopia”, and would presage a complete transformation of the human spirit.

Baha’u’llah points out that there is no system, in the phenomenal world, where a need for order is obviated.  Order may be internally imposed, or be the result of external codes.  The goal, in any case, must be justice.

The anarchist will, of course, retort that externally-imposed codes fail to secure justice because, in the end, they serve one group of people over others.  Initially, that is difficult to avoid, with a truly equitable society coming only after a process of inclusivity, that requires a level of fairness to self and others, not seen on a wide social basis, as yet.

I’ve seen a few families, where child-rearing practices and relationships between adults are based on the true equitability and high level of personal responsibility advocated by the authors of this tract on anarchy.  These qualities are goals on which, I believe, anarchists of this school of thought and Baha’is can agree.  It will be a process that will take far longer to establish, however, than the time any of us now alive have left.  The initial steps, though, are well worth taking.  Internal codes of fairness, also known as conscientious mindsets, can be established.

“Be fair to yourself, and others”-Baha’u’llah

Authenticity

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January 5, 2020-

In all the debate about sin, evil and the unfortunate events of life, there is a place for consideration of being real versus living in what one knows, deep down, to be a fallacy; of being authentic versus being inauthentic.

Jordan Peterson, in Twelve Rules for Life, points to the allegories of Lucifer, and of the Egyptian demon-figure, Set, as illustrations of the dangers posed by over-rationalization.  It is, in effect, the opposite of taking ownership of one’s life, responsibility for one’s actions.  Satan always comes up with an excuse for what he’s done-and it’s always someone else’s fault-even God’s fault.  This allegorical depiction of wickedness lays it out straight,though.  Only integrity, ownership of one’s behaviours-and of their outcomes, will serve to bring about a life well-lived.

I had to learn that the hard way.  Losing a spouse brings a person to account, faster than just about anything, even if-as in my case- it isn’t directly one’s fault.  I could not, however, blame anyone for Penny’s passing.  Hereditary disease would have struck her down, at some point, regardless, and all I can do is learn from the experiences of care-taking and of widowhood.  I have taken the lesson that a life of integrity may only be lived if the person living it  maintains authenticity.

Deceit erodes that integrity, first within one’s own heart, then gradually outwardly through one’s circle of friends, one’s family, one’s tribe.  A life without trust is a life of emptiness.

I am fortunate, to have reached a point where authenticity is something of which I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed.

 

Breaking The Ice

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January 2, 2020-

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In the course of introducing Yunhee to three of Prescott’s lakes, on the last day before her husband, my son, returns to civilian life, we came upon the phenomenon of thin ice, covering the less exposed parts of Granite Basin and Watson Lakes.  In the latter location, few of the area’s signature birds were around, having made the wise choice to visit southern Mexico for a few months.  Instead, the eyes were drawn to an ice dam, which served to slow the flow of water into the Watson Woods Riparian Area, also known as “The Swamp”.

It got me to thinking about the emotional and psychological ice dams, which slow and sometimes stop our interactions.  I have learned that these are purely defense mechanisms- chill vibes, acting like one is busy, and sheer emotional absence.  When one is offended by something, trying to figure out life or is just plain overwhelmed, offering an icy reception to those around self is a sometimes rationalized pattern of behaviour. How well it serves the purpose has to be balanced with what happens next,  or down the road.  Consider that an overabundance of ice can move, glacier-like, towards the shores of a nearby community.  Likewise, so can a glacial pattern of behaviour serve to overwhelm one’s social circle and create a different sort of isolation than that which a person is trying to arrange.

I am fortunate in my Tribe, both  birth family and wider circle.  A few go through bouts of isolation, and they let me know when I’m welcome again.  Most, like anyone else, are following their life plans.  I am doing the same, and have spent the past few days ruminating, and getting messages, as to how this year will best play out.  More on that, in the next post, but essentially I see that those closest to me here, who are like younger siblings, do not need to have me hovering close by-and that they seem to prefer my following my own life plan.  To alter that, on their behalf, short of an emergency, would mean they would, in turn, be altering their life plan for my benefit.

There is more than one kind of ice dam.

Connections and Commitments

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December 18, 2019-

A long absent friend re-connected with me, recently.  He told me of his  present life, as his wife’s full-time caretaker.  This, of course, brought back memories of my own situation, 9-10 years ago.  Had I to do it over again, I would, in a heartbeat.

More cogent, though, is  the question of what connections in one’s life bring about commitments.  Spouses, children and parents are obvious urgent commitments. Siblings and close friends are up there, also.  There is, though, the caveat that  people to whom your ties include respect for their individuality and privacy may not WANT anyone’s involvement in their lives.  I face this, presently, with one whom I love dearly-knowing that love is something that requires me to leave her alone, at least as long as there is not threat to her life and limb.  Even then, any involvement on my part would be in concert with her closest family members.

There is also, in a world that is, simultaneously, digitally connected and riven with anonymity and division, a tendency for the disconnected to demand attention, at least in social media and chat, for their most quotidian concerns.  I can hear people saying, “Well, aren’t 90 % or more of our day-to-day lives made up of quotidian events?”  Yes, they are, at least that much.  I belong to a social media group that is called “I Did A Thing.”  It is intended for people who have suffered from social anxiety and low self-concept, to gives themselves a boost, by sharing their everyday achievements with like-minded people.  I don’t go on there as much, as I did in the beginning of the group, nor do I see that many people using the site, anymore.  I do support those who post, some of whom I’ve met face-to-face.

The other group who post, largely in online chat forums, such as Facebook Messenger, are mentally ill adults, many of whom seem to have no other avenue to express their concerns.  Most of these posts are about issues that those of us lucky enough to have had patient, loving parents and friends are able to resolve on our own.  I have learned to schedule time, in early morning and late evening, to hear out such people and offer simple solutions, as best I can.  The issues are often repeated, day to day, but that is what any one of us may called upon to address.

Our connections do not always require commitment, especially if, as sometimes happens to me, there are more pressing matters, closer to home.  We do our best , though, as we just may be all one another have.

Rotating the Plates

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December 14, 2019-

In the late 1940’s, a man named Preston Tucker conceived and produced a modest number of innovative automobiles, bearing his name.  The attitude of the United States government towards entrepreneurs, in the 1950’s, was a far cry from what it is in this century.  Tucker was harassed by the Eisenhower administration, on charges of stock fraud and false advertising, though he was eventually exonerated.  Today, many of his innovations, from disc brakes to air-cooled engines,  are standard features in many lines of cars.

For many of us, change is most easily accepted if it is piecemeal, and even more so  if it mainly involves re-arranging the chairs on the deck, or rotating the plates on a table.  Preston Tucker, with Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Stanley Kubrick, Jackson Pollock and Joe Sample, among many others, challenged the way people thought about everything in our society.  How can machines be made in a different manner and serve mankind more efficiently?  How can music and art be wildly innovative, even whimsical, and still have deep meaning?  The powers that be are averse to asking these questions, even in this national unity,age of deep change.

We are finding this in public service, as well.  Those who propose large scale changes in the way public affairs are conducted, primarily with a view towards bridging gaps, are dismissed by both the nation’s leadership and the mass media as Lost Causes or Just Plain Weird.  The idea that people with liberal viewpoints can find common ground with those of conservative bent has led many with a conventional frame of mind to publicly retch.  The “ruffle no feathers” crowd almost prefers widespread incompetence to warm and vibrant appeals to national unity.  Thus, “minor” candidates are shut out of the process by clever, but putrid, political machinations.

It is thus in business and industry, in the arts and in the halls of government.  It would be refreshing to see the popular will resist these incessant appeals to mediocrity.

 

When Light Seems Dark

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December 13, 2019-

Jack was right, to an extent.

The selection, by TIME Magazine, of Greta Thunberg as its “Person of the Year” comes as no surprise.  The attacks heaped on her, by people of a certain age, also come as no surprise.  It’s hard to face up to one’s failings, and even more so, to face up to collective failings.

There is no figure in human history who had escaped the wrath of the froward and despicable.  It’s human nature to despise being reminded of what one has done wrong.  It is human responsibility, however, to address shortcomings and make an effort to correct them.

Jack, of whom I know little, wrote a scathing letter, some five years ago, warning me that my attitudes on inter-gender relations were passe’, and that I would know no peace with women, until I recognized it and changed some aspects of my mindset.  Time has passed and I have meditated, continuously, on this matter, gradually weaning myself of exactly the shopworn attitudes of which he was talking.

There is, however, a greater sense of obfuscation and gaslighting afoot, when critics of not only the great Divine Educators, from Noah to Christ to Baha’u’llah, but also more ordinary people, from the Founding Fathers of the United States, through Abraham Lincoln, to Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Fred Rogers, try to focus attention on the flaws, both real and perceived, of such great souls.  The Divine Educators were perfect Beings, so any disparagement of  Them is a pack of lies.  Those who are people of vision and fortitude will always incite anger and attract disparagement from those who prefer to wallow in self-pity.  Light, to such people, is to be shadowed, made to seem like darkness.

There is a difference between the Jacks of the world, who speak truth even when it may be unpalatable, and the minions of moroseness (to quote Spiro T. Agnew, of all people).  Those who wish to redress the wrongs of society are only too happy to see those wrongs corrected.  Those who hate the great figures of the past, or the minor heroes of the present, are banking on the lower aspects of human nature to vindicate their own self-loathing.

Greta Thunberg, at her young age, ought continue to grow physically and intellectually, but ought never shrink from speaking truth-even when it may be unpalatable.

Schisms and -isms

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December 12, 2019-

A participant in a recent Baha’i Studies Conference, in Ottawa, Ontario, made the case for a movement she called “womanism”.  The gist of this movement’s philosophy is similar to to the campaign message of the American politician, Tulsi Gabbard:  Bring forward a true ethic of inclusion; the practice of not shutting anyone out, on the basis of their stated beliefs.  The premise here is inclusion, not opposition.

I favour such a movement, as I believe that everyone has a grain of truth to bring to the table.  That does not mean that someone who regards others as inferior should remain unchallenged in her/his pronouncements and certainly, actions that take away someone else’s rights or extinguish viewpoints, contrary to what one believes, are to be seen as counterproductive.  Repressed thoughts and opinions will never disappear.  They may even return, with a vengeance, in the form of counter-revolution.

It also does not sanction violence against one’s philosophical opponents, if for no other reason than to preclude their being seen as martyrs.   I much prefer to maintain appropriate dialogue, with its inherent boundaries, than to shut a person out in perpetuity.  Again, I draw the line at those who threaten violence or demand that I “toe the line.”

Many movements end their names with the suffix, “-ism”.  To wit, besides the above-mentioned womanism, we have “feminism”, “Islamism”, “supremacism” and the more conventional nationalism and sectarianism.  Such -isms, especially the last four mentioned, seem to lead to schism.  The founders of such movements may, or may not, have envisioned such divides, and thus incorporated them in their planning.    Nonetheless, any time one sets out to make a difference, if there is a pre-conceived Other, there is a potential schism.  Even a term as seemingly benign as non- (insert your identity group), is inherently creating a division in society.

It’s time to seriously work on abandoning the concept of “Other.”  Our self-concepts do not need it, in order to appreciate our uniqueness.

 

The Fire and The Rose

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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

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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

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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.