Circle of Gold

7

January 23, 2020-

The small circle of  staff members gathered on the lawn of Peach Springs School, after the students had left for the weekend.  We did a postmortem on the day, and the short week.  A decision was made, to gather student laptops, and wipe them clean of inappropriate websites.  When the students do get to use the devices again, they will be free of the sites that only reinforce the baser instincts that hobble so many youth.  There will be a more concerted effort to monitor these sites.  This is something that is de rigeur to me, in over twenty-seven years of dealing with youth and technology.  For others, not familiar with the technological prowess of youth, it is easy to lapse into a LaLa Land of denial. That denial could have proven deadly.

My time at Peach Springs ended, for now,with today’s lessons.  I am always welcome back there, but leave knowing that the person taking over the second grade class knows them well, and has a good command of elementary education.  My work there, for the time being, is done.  I will maintain contact with the staff and students with whom I have bonded, much as contact with lifelong friends elsewhere has been maintained.  Much more  will be said, over the coming months, about underachieving  communities.  The bottom line for Peach Springs and places like it, is that the community must recognize that their only hope comes from realizing that they, the people, are just as worthy and capable as anyone in this nation, or on this planet.  I will never stop encouraging others, whether up close or from a distance.

I have obligations, both here in Prescott, and by way of keeping vigilant, with a situation involving a dear friend of many years.   The days and months ahead will not lack for activity, involvement in community life or efforts at building.

As for Peach Springs School, over the coming months, may the parents and community start to clear away the dust from their collective ennui, and rebuild what can be a powerful, achieving community.  Then will the little circle of gold, that is the staff of that school, begin to be seen for who they are, and the children will be able to focus on what matters in their lives.

When Sex Kills

4

January 21, 2020, Peach Springs-

There is no mincing words about this: In the name of freedom of speech, three generations of adults are poisoning the well of our children’s spirits-particularly in impoverished communities.  Nowhere is this more apparent, than in communities with a narrow economic base.

The phenomenon of children as young as seven, trading sexual epithets, the coarsest of profanity and actually mentioning pornographic websites, by name, is, to put it mildly, jarring to the spirit.  That they actually understand  what they are saying is even more disquieting.

This is a train of abuses, long in the running, and it is by no means limited to Native American communities.  Sexual deviance was graphically described to me by a very young neighbour, in 2002, in a Phoenix apartment complex. As far back as June, 1980, when I lived in a Flagstaff apartment complex, a band that had been hired to play at a birthday party, in a place where children were out and about, loudly screamed profanity in the course of their “presentation”.  It was viewed, by many of  those present, as “harmless”; “only words”.

I am no prude,  though I have long ago exiled the vernacular word for fornication to its proper place in the graveyard of misbegotten phrases.  I note that even the late, great George Carlin, a champion of adults’ free speech, when among other adults, drew the line at cursing in the presence of children.

Language, though, is not the most harmful aspect of the ongoing tailspin.  Sex education, still properly the purview of  parents, is increasingly becoming the province of the skeevy.  Applications like TikTok are being used by those who wish to prey upon young children.  Other social media sites, not well-monitored by responsible adults, are offering curious and precociously feisty youngsters a diet of unseemly fare that is well beyond their level of true understanding.  As one boy told me today, “it’s more exciting than what’s around here. ”  This is what we face, as communities and as a wider society.

So, the concerns that we educational professionals once had, with regard to teenagers, are now  applicable to kids in primary school.  This is one of America’s wake-up calls.

Self-Belief

7

January 19, 2020-

I set out for a trailhead,

this noon,

and didn’t find it.

I will, though,

having come back here,

and used my ruler,

to apply the scale of miles.

I was asked to return

to the school where I worked

last week.

I will be back there,

to offer at least some

continuity.

Belief in myself

has come late,

and come hard.

There are still critics,

but they barely know me.

They only know

their own frustration,

and own pain.

There are boosters,

who do know me,

and for whose

presence

I am supremely

grateful.

I think of this,

after a day

of floundering,

and of considering

the words of friend,

foe, and in-between,

alike.

I am not floundering,

now,

and look to tomorrow,

and the week ahead,

as acts of service await.

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

Selling Oneself Short

8

January 15, 2020, Peach Springs-

This day’s assignment is one which is not uncommon, in an understaffed, rural school:  I covered for a teacher who fell ill, of a sudden.  The class has bonded with this person, who is their second teacher in this academic year.  I was able to get the key activities of the day accomplished, and forged a fairly strong bond of my own with the kids, by day’s end.

What concerns me about this group of children is what has concerned me about so many similar groups, both urban and rural, over the years.  So many young people cast aspersions on themselves,  by extension,  on their peers-and to some extent, on older family and community members.

A few of the more aware students, who are also the most meticulous and engaging members of the class, had mainly negative things to say about themselves.  I only saw quality work coming from those students-and I saw a very thick coating of self-doubt: The imposter syndrome, writ large.  Ten years of age is way too soon for such a mindset, so I see these, the best hope of the Hualapai Nation, being dragged down by the deep malaise-that infests Peach Springs- along with so many parts of Indian Country-and so much of the American Fabric.

I was told, later this afternoon, that it is likely that I will only actually be needed here for another week, that another round of permanent hires is expected, by the last week in January.  Permanent is better, so I can only feel more confident in the short term future at this school.  In any case, here is another group of children, another community, that has deeply embedded itself in my heart.

Fleeting Power

6

January 14, 2020, Peach Springs-

The Colorado River flows, past a point about ten miles from where I sit.  If I were to follow Diamond Springs Road to its terminus, I would be able to stand and witness the power of this still mighty flow.  The Colorado’s power helped to carve out the massive series of gorges that envelop it.  The Grand Canyon itself has an intense set of powers, all its own.

So, it is ironic, to the nth degree, that the people living in its midst have come to feel powerless, for much of their existence within the framework of the most powerful country of the past 1 1/4 centuries.  The Hualapai and their near neighbours, the Havasupai, know the Canyon more intimately than anyone, with the possible exception of the Dineh (Navajo).  Until about ten years ago, though, the Hualapai enjoyed very little of the economic benefits of the Grand Canyon’s drawing power.  The tribe has established a set of West Rim attractions-a Sky Walk, Eagle Point, and a rafting enterprise, as the Colorado can be accessed from a point on the Reservation.  There is also the comfortable Hualapai Lodge and a fairly well-stocked, if somewhat pricey Walapai Market.

I can tell people who feel powerless, from their language- an inordinate reliance on profanity and pejoratives as their means of projecting force.  The louder and more frequently a person curses; the more often someone is dismissive of people who are different from self, the more there is compensation for one’s own perceived irrelevance.

I’ve seen that, in many places-and I see it with several of the children with whom I’m working here.   That, alone, makes the 1 1/2 months I am likely to spend here, extremely urgent.  Not only building them up, but helping to establish a framework for long-term success, have to be primary goals.

Power derived from deception and intimidation is fleeting.  The Hualapai can no longer afford to rely on this means to power.

Changes of Scene

10

January 13, 2020, Peach Springs, AZ-

As I contemplated the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year, over Christmas-New Year’s Break, two things became evident:  1.  I wanted as many work days as I could arrange and 2.  It would no longer be advisable to turn down work that required a 7 a.m. start.

There are two semesters remaining, before I find my way in the retirement arena.  This one has no outstanding interruptions.  The next one won’t start for me, until September, as August will still find me on the road.

So, it was quite a welcome message that came, towards the end of Break, that the little school here, in  this Seat of the Hualapai Indian Community, some 120 miles west northwest of Prescott, needed a substitute- for an unspecified, but fairly lengthy, period of time.

The deal is, 7 a.m. is the start time.  5 p.m. is the end time, but kids leave at 3. So, all the grading and planning can, conceivably be accomplished during work hours-at least it worth a shot.  The work week is Monday-Thursday, which explains the long day.  Thursdays, substitutes get to leave at 3, so some of my Prescott business can still be done on Thursday, before 6.

Okay, that’s enough stream of consciousness.  My focus, on any day that I am here, will be on the well-being and advancement of people who will be the Guardians of the western reach of the Grand Canyon.  The Hualapai Nation has made some strides, in that regard, including the Sky Walk, from which one can gaze down into the Canyon’s west rim and a road to the Colorado River, on which Hualapai guides bring people to the bottom, without hiking or riding mules.  Although I prefer hiking, the opening of the Canyon, to those unable to walk far, is a plus.

Thus has 2020 already brought a change of scene.

My Top Reads of 2019

4

December 29, 2019- 

I covered a decade, yesterday, but today I will take a brief look at the books which mattered most to me, this year.  I have covered key books of years past, as I finished them.

10.  Abby Wize:  AWAY (Revision)– This Baha’i-themed book was revised to include more detail and to flesh out a previously one-dimensional character.  It is the account of a young girl who has a vision of a spiritually-advanced society of the future, after suffering a head injury.

9. Spiritwalker– This tale, similar to Abby Wize, involves communication between a Hawaiian man and one of his descendants, in the far future.  It is more dystopian than Abby Wize, so expect a description of a more seemingly primitive future environment.

8. Winter of the World– The second volume of Ken Follett’s series of novels on the Twentieth Century, this tale covers several families’ experiences in Britain, the United States, Germany and Russia, in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

7.  Swimming for Sunlight– This novel follows a newly-divorced young woman, as she overcomes her guilt stemming from her father’s tragic death and her fear of life, that results from that guilt.

6. Testaments- (Reading in progress)- This novel is a sequel to Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale”, offering details into the lives of individual women during the period of the fictional Republic of Gilead.

5.  Twelve Rules for Life (Reading in progress)- This non-fiction book, by Jordan Peterson, discusses twelve ethical principles and their application to both modern life and traditional Western thought.

4. The Alchemist– Paolo Coelho’s classic tale of a young man, traveling from Spain to Egypt, across the Sahara Desert and back, and of the spiritual transformation this brings about, in his life and that of those around him.

3. Gulistan (Reading in progress)-  This is a collection of poetry and stories, fdrawn from both the life and from the observations of a doctor who has keen insights into both Indian and American cultures and mores.

2.  Reflections of A Wonderful Life– These are the memoirs of my brother, presented in the form of answers to questions posed by his three children.  They mirror my own memories, in many ways.   Both this book and Gulistan have influenced my own memoirs, in terms of the format in which they will be presented.  No promises, but I look to getting them written, by this coming Fall.

1. The Brothers Karamazov– Feodor Dostoevsky’s seminal novel on the human condition, this novel is not so much concerned with Good vs. Evil, as it is with internal versus external loci of control.  The atheist paints a nihilistic portrait of the bleak Tsarist environment, whilst his own fervently religious brother, alternately optimistic and despairing, sees only the Will of God behind all happenings, both positive and negative.  The eldest brother  is presented as a rake, who fiercely clashes with his simpleton father, over a woman.  The resulting conflict has deadly results, giving rise to the novel’s debates among the brothers on matters of free will and morality.

These are the reads which influenced me the strongest, over the past twelve months.

 

Equity/Equivalence

4

October 27, 2019- 

There is no inherent tie, between being in touch with femininity and emasculation.

On a visit to one of my best friends, here in Home Base, I enjoyed another of her unfailingly fine meals, followed by plenty of food for thought.  The fare, this evening, included a thorough look at the effects of  excessive social policing on the male psyche.

I am a fairly sensitive soul, who notices people’s feelings and reactions to their surroundings.  As such. weighing my words and actions has been a much higher priority, in my life, especially these past ten years.  Yes, I have had relapses, during the low water marks of grieving and recovery, not so many years ago.  Said friend has had much to do with the movement away from that low state, as has my personal faith.

I thoroughly enjoy the company of peaceful people, especially of women who have arrived at a state of personal peace.  The higher goals of one’s existence are far more achievable, when one is not pre-occupied with a set of self-conscious, other-imposed expectations.

All this underscores that emasculation,  depriving boys and men of their pursuit of meaning, in the name of gender equivalence, is the source of  much of the violence and aimless behaviour, which we see increasing in some quarters of the populace.  It cuts across all sectors of society, and its fingers may be found in the areas of drug abuse, domestic violence, unemployability, and general listlessness.

Emasculation does NOT proceed from giving women and girls the wherewithal to process their goals and pursue their dreams.  It does derive, though, from making gender equity a societal seesaw.  When Penny was alive, there was no time when her pursuits meant that mine did not matter, and vice versa.  My son’s dreams and goals matter no less than do those of my daughter-in-law, and vice versa.

Equity of opportunity and encouragement under the law does not mean equivalence of function, any more than any group of men or women must all do the same things.

Jordan Peterson calls for less political correctness, in the overall course of civic life.  To the extent that one group does not actively work to diminish another, I see his point.  I don’t really believe that there are all that many women who wish to emasculate the men and boys in their lives.  There is, though, an urgency that people attend to those who feel cut off from their hopes and dreams- regardless of the social inequality that led society to turn aside from their needs.  Again, gender equity is NOT a social seesaw.

 

Growing My Vision-Part 1

2

October 5, 2019-

At our Baha’i Unit Convention, this morning, I spotted a sign on the host’s chalkboard, with the message, “Build Vision”.  One of the constant mantras of my childhood was that we each had to see ourselves in five years, ten years, etc.

Most of us have thought of this, to the extent we think of it at all, in terms of education, career, size of family, etc.  I did all that, and now, as my formal career has little more than a year to run, albeit as a part-time substitute teacher, my vision is changing tack.

It’s always been natural, even impulsive, for me to take in the world, in my planning or visualizing.  Often, I have been chastised, for being too global.  I think the point was for me to be more present, in the here and now.  My head has made great strides, in that regard-and my focus is sharper, in the past dozen years, than it was long ago.  A good part of that came with being a caretaker. There is, as is said in such challenging environments as, say, the Alaskan Bush, the fact that “Ignorance, distraction and stupidity are the three Princes of Death”.

There is much that I have left to do, so keeping my broader vision global, whilst maintaining a sharp focus on what’s close at hand, has presented itself, with a welcome intensity.  If I slip, I know there are those among my faithful readers, not to mention, real time friends and family, who won’t hesitate to blow the whistle.

That is the supreme comfort.