Embracing the Whole

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June 4, 2022- This was a day for traveling the spectrum. Breakfast at Zeke’s was a time for recognizing that there will be a lot more to bringing about a Green Energy program than just cutting fossil fuel use on paper. Electric vehicles need those same fossil fuels in order to produce electricity, at least for now. I won’t argue the need to cut down on widespread use of fossil fuels. Towards that end, I am keeping my own vehicle in the best condition. Eventually, I will either get a hybrid or alt-fuel vehicle or live somewhere where a vehicle is not necessary.

Mid-day, a group of us discussed building vibrant communities and contributing to social transformation. These themes can only be realized by bringing people together, across points of view and by building on common ground. This is not as trite as many people seem to think, but it does entail some consistent hard work. Baha’is believe that consultation entails listening to what might, at first blush, seem objectionable points of view, and though we do not support those practices which would harm others or deny human rights, the mere expression of a viewpoint does not, in and of itself lead to tyranny. Once a point of view is expressed, it should be regarded as no longer the property of the person who expressed it, but as belonging to the group.

The final part of the day was spent helping a group of progressives at a community picnic. There were several booths, which highlighted such themes as registering to vote, banning Dark Money in political campaigns and tightening restrictions on sales of firearms to those assessed as mentally ill. I will help any group that is about the betterment of society and the preservation of Human Rights-which are God-given rights. I didn’t have to do much , but helping to break down the event was much appreciated. I even re-united a woman with her open-toed sandals.

Helping to transform society will be a lengthy process, requiring patience and perseverance- as well as an imperturbable open-mindedness.

Not So Hard to Handle

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May 26, 2022- The truth should not be so hard to handle. There are times when it is not exciting, when it doesn’t fit the narrative that’s in our heads and when it challenges us to rethink our worldviews.

It should not be so hard to comprehend that a living being in the womb, is not a creature whose existence depends on being convenient to others. How much more does that extend to a child who has come into being, breathing on on his/her own! How much more does that apply to a woman who has to make the most difficult decision of her life, without necessarily enjoying the support of those around her! How much more does that apply to a young man who is told, time and again, that he is a worthless piece of crap-but he can still buy a weapon and prove himself that way! It should not be hard to handle the truth, that every being put on this Earth-or sent out into the Universe, is here for a valid reason.

A United States Senator today observed that there is a lack of spirituality behind much of what is going on around us. He is not wrong, in that respect. There can, and must, be a balance between loving our Creator and valuing all that has been given us to enjoy, to treasure. Indeed, it is because the Creator gave us raw materials, intelligence, health and the means to live, in this training ground of the human spirit, that we are free to place value on all that is in, and of, this world-in a balanced way. We are free to value the people around us. We are free to value what has been incorporated in ourselves.

I cannot look upon the faces of those departed on May 24, 2022, without aching for the strength that shines out of their faces, any more than I can look upon the faces of everyone departed on December 14, 2012, February 14, 2018, April 20, 1999 and every.other.date that is etched in infamy. That slaughter, that waste, is what is hard to handle.

It all happens because too many cannot handle the truth.

Solidifying the Foundation

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May 25, 2022- A day after the horrific executions of 21 people at Robb Elementary School, Uvalde, TX, the public discussion reverted to the same, abysmal back and forth as to what is needed, in the way of response. Those who cherish ownership of guns oppose any restriction on the devices, missing the point that no one is threatening their gun ownership, per se. A few thoughtful conservatives propose measures to shore up programs for the mentally ill. To what extent they will involve restrictions on gun ownership, upon those who are not in control of their impulses, remains to be seen.

One area on which most seem to agree is that there needs to be a renewal of moral fiber, a sense of personal responsibility, of community cohesion and of a national sense of ownership of policy. Where that begins and in what direction it goes, are up for discussion, apparently.

Here is my take: Life begins at conception. With all due respect to some interpretations of the Torah, the soul enters a body at the moment of conception. That soul stays in that body until the moment of death. This, in my view, sanctifies all life that transpires between the two moments. Thus, any lessening of the value of that life, by any other human being, is contrary to the flow of the Universe.

This is the foundation of any true moral code. It is what needs affirmation, solidification. All else to the contrary is a fabrication.

The Way It’s Always Been….

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May 24, 2022- Fifteen people, who probably started their day with thoughts of a looming summer, ended it outside their bodies-gone to a higher realm. Fourteen of them had barely scratched the surface of this life. The fifteenth had so much more to offer, in the way of helping young people build their lives.

For that matter, an angry young man-raging for God knows what reason, chose to take that anger out on the helpless, the innocent. He might have chosen to state his anger in a productive way, taking the long road of peaceful protest and resistance to authority figures whose agenda seems to be the chipping away of legitimate rights for people of colour and others-but he chose to sow chaos and pain.

The reactions, far and wide, to the Uvalde massacre have been largely typical: Those who fear the loss of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are taking the lead, already, in politicizing the tragedy. Blaming their political opponents, calling for locking up the mentally ill and placing armed guards in the schools are reactions that have been offered so many times that they have become cliche’, almost cartoonish.

So, what do those who want to see the carnage stopped, be we liberal or conservative, suggest? I can only speak for myself, from a place outside partisanship.

I am not in favour of repealing the Second Amendment. I am in favour of making sure that one and all understand the U.S. Constitution, in its entirety. That takes Civics Education. I am in favour of firearms safety-handling, firing and cleaning, being a prerequisite for anyone seeking to own and operate a weapon. I had that opportunity as a child, and as a young adult-and took advantage of it. So did my late wife and so did our son. True firearms training entails having respect for the firearm.

I am not in favour of locking up anyone whose behaviour is erratic. I am in favour of locking up firearms-and other deadly weapons that may be carried into public spaces-and I am in favour of this being done-first by the legitimate owners of said weapons, or if they refuse or fail to do so, by lawfully constituted agencies of public order. I am in favour of a National Registry of firearms owners, with identification cards. This last is not 100% foolproof-no system of identification ever is- but it will greatly lessen the likelihood that a crazed individual-whether on the political right or left, or of no clear ideology at all, will be able to wreak havoc.

I come to this conversation, honestly, having actually taken action that helped prevent a school shooting-twice. The first involved locating, seizing and turning over to the police, a long rifle and a pistol that were intended to be used in a targeted attack on an elementary school. The plotters were identified, arrested and received proper retribution. The second involved notifying the police of an active threat against one of the staff members, at another school where I was an administrator. The police then took possession of two weapons, which the owner admitted he was going to use on the staff member and his family.

We have no choice but to pay attention-to our surroundings, to our family, friends and co-workers and to the pain that is being inflicted. We can learn Civics, firearms safety and acceptance of responsibility.

This is the way it has actually always been. The rest is mythology.

Admonitions

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May 23, 2022- “No, you may NOT spray that girl with the fire extinguisher!”, I told the male student who cradled the device in his hands, whilst looking goofily at his female classmate. He dutifully put the tool back on its hook, and the two of them bantered a bit more, but there was no harm done.

That was the only hiccup, on this penultimate day of the academic year, in the small community north of here. Nonetheless, one never knows when it will fall to a voice of reason to take charge-even among adults, as it happens. Lord knows, there have been times when I have needed an admonition, or two, in moments of heedlessness, fatigue or the residual effects of mourning.

I am certainly grateful for those who have helped me stay on an even course. The admonition given with a steady tone of voice, and an air of confidence, certainly is more effective than one given with a shrill or frantic, screechy delivery. The first shows forethought and love; the second, insecurity and mistrust. I hope to continue to maintain steadiness and self-confidence, both of which came hard.

May all your steps be firm, as well.

The First Nation and the People of the Future

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May 15, 2022, San Diego- Today saw two focuses: First was a pair of meetings-one on the Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah, brief, but profound thoughts on spirituality and morality, which He intended to serve as instructions to those who were undertaking independent investigation of truth; the second, in mid-afternoon, was a presentation of two children’s books, each written about a powerful Black woman.

The people of the future will, perhaps after a fair amount of suffering and changes in society, recognize both intellectually AND emotionally, that mankind is one human race. That today’s presentation comes a day after a deluded young man drove two hundred miles, specifically to kill Black people (of whom eight were killed, along with two Whites, and three seriously wounded.), is no real coincidence. There is no real future for the philosophy of racial supremacy. The unity of the human race means that there will be no replacement of one group by another. Nor will there be a return to the oppression of one group by another.

After resting for a while, upon the conclusion of the second meeting, I made a return visit to Old Town San Diego. My focus this time was on the recognition of the area’s First Nation: Kumeyaay, formerly known as “Diegueno” and on the art of the Mexican people, prior to California’s passing into U. S. control. Here are some scenes of this visit.

The above scene honours the Pico Family, one of the San Diego area’s more prominent Mexican families of the early Nineteenth Century.

Below are two Mexican ollas, or water jugs, each with its own colours and designs.

I needed a change of pace for dinner, after enjoying a visit with friends at Harbor Breakfast, this morning and planning to return there again tomorrow. There was no better place than Cafe Gratitude, a vegan establishment, which titles its offerings with affirmations. Here is a description on the eatery’s window.

It was a most wondrous day, starting with the bright faces of Melissa and Maria, at Harbor, continuing at San Diego Baha’i Center (the site of Penny’s and my wedding, nearly forty years ago), continuing with the delightful stories of achievement this afternoon, the vibrance of Old Town and the healthy fare of Cafe Gratitude.

Getting Over It

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May 2, 2022- I admit it, there are still people who I find irritating, almost adversarial. Most are those in positions above me or who gather in small cliques, and leave me feeling like an outsider. So it is always back to the drawing board, and with the help of meditation, arriving at an understanding that their gamesmanship or maneuverings have nothing to do with me, per se. If it wasn’t me being excluded, it’d be someone else. I also have to take stock of my own expectations: Am I in search of some special place, some role of insider?

The conclusion I come to is, I don’t really want to be part of an exclusive group. My door needs to be open to those who suffer, who go without. My heart, last week, was more with the clients, the donors, my immediate teammates, than with my supervisors, who could barely bring themselves to acknowledge our presence. The same is true of certain schools. I take assignments because I get on well with the teachers and students. The front office staff is almost too busy to greet us or say thanks, and that’s just how it is.

If that all sounds like exclusion in reverse, well maybe so-but I did not make the first move, in that regard. Anyone is welcome to be part of my world; those who would rather not, well, Godspeed and make the most of your positions and perks. If my help is needed, I will show. If not, then there are plenty of places where my presence is welcome.

I know this goes way back, all the way to childhood, and the groups who kept to themselves. I long ago forgave and forgot those slights, but the aggregate leaves me wary. Someday, with enough self-work, I’ll get over it. Until then, the struggle is real.

The Whole Point of Love

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April 30, 2022- Browsing through a children’s book, entitled “The Huffy, Puffy Cloud” (by Max Kramer), in a few quiet moments this evening, I noted that the anthropomorphic characters , a rain cloud and the Sun, managed to establish their essential unity of purpose: Sustaining life, after the cloud bemoaned feeling friendless, as “everyone runs away when I come out and start raining.” The Sun wisely pointed out that animals and plants actually appreciate the work of the cloud, and besides, it, the Sun, was always right behind or alongside, so the cloud was never alone.

This is true, actually, of all of us. Even when we don’t see anyone around, in a moment of dismal funk or of self-doubt, there are people somewhere who are thinking of us and energy, both material and spiritual, being directed our way. We are creatures of the tangible, as well as of the spirit, so this is not always evident; but it is nonetheless a reality. Sometimes, it just takes a bit more effort at perception- the way one might have to look left, right, and left again, when proceeding from an intersection or to re-read something, in order to get a deeper understanding.

I was asked, this evening, by a trusted friend, whether I felt the need to “get out of Dodge” (the Prescott area), every so often. My feeling, at that moment, was how much I love this area that I call Home Base. I feel no inherent need to escape my surroundings. Travel, in which I do engage a lot, is more a means of connecting the dots, of physically networking, and has always been in my nature, from the time I learned to walk. I am as glad to see people visiting our salubrious area as I am to visit other places, and have encouraged friends and contacts from all walks of life to spend some time here. Even crowds being in a place, most of the time, seems to me a blessing. When I do need solitude, I know where to find it. It is love that underlies my travels, activities here, and everything else, for that matter.

The whole point of love is to foster and support life.

Light Beyond Fire

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April 28, 2022- Four groups of high school freshmen watched a video on the “True Story of King Arthur”, voiced in monotone, by an English actor. Some gave it a fair amount of attention, some fell asleep and others vacillated, between checking their messages and looking at the screen. I have the video pretty much memorized, after four straight viewings. Those who are concerned about the assignment that they face next week, will no doubt go on You Tube and check the film in snippets.

On the other side of our county, the fire that got me serving in a Red Cross shelter, last weekend and on Monday, is still raging, albeit being more contained than a few days ago. Being with youth, on the other hand, gives me a sense of the light that truly overcomes the fires of ignorance, destructiveness and imposition of suffering. The teens look out for one another, far more than they are sometimes credited with doing.

These classes are engaged in the study of a project far more cogent than the examination of King Arthur. In the 1990s and early 2000s, a young teacher undertook work with young people who others had written off. At first, any attempt she made to help them was stymied by jealous and insecure traditionalists, who thought that giving her only freshmen students would make her give up and leave the school.

The incompetents lost. Even hardcore youth have an eye for someone who actually cares for them, and gradually, the freshmen made the transition, grade by grade, to being graduating seniors-and many went on to higher learning. This teacher has extended her work to that of Visiting Professor at a university near her high school. She continues to effect change in the hearts and minds of people who might otherwise have been cast off.

This is not lost on the largely lower middle class youth at the high school where I worked today. They, too, are engaged in a journaling project that will be a saving grace for a good many of them. They, too, have experienced being written off by some in their lives-though thankfully not by many in this school.

The light that rises beyond fire is the light of the heart. It can change lives, and communities.

The Long Run

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April 13, 2022- It almost seems, some days, like I spend the day on Zoom. It sometimes seems that I pull the face mask out of my pocket, at random, unexpected moments, getting appreciative nods from the fearful and glares from those who see their own freedom under assault. As the pandemic waxes and wanes, sometimes within the same week, its short-and long-term legacies show how they are with us, ready to do their jobs at a moment’s notice.

Health is a funny thing. I have managed, with the skillful help of my dermatology team, to beat back basal cells that had accumulated over a few years of spotty sunscreen applications-or perhaps, as a gadfly told me in Miami Beach, a few weeks ago, from applying the wrong type of sunscreen. Before these, there was my almost total disregard for my own health, both physical and mental, whilst taking care of my beloved wife in her final years.

Now I am mostly back on an even keel. There is much to be done, here during the next two months and in mid-summer; on the road at other points during the year. A period of nine years, 2022-2031, starts in a week, during which the world will hear and see a lot more about the Baha’i Faith and the Teachings of its Founder, Baha’u’llah, than many have heard up to now. I will have apart in that effort, both here in Prescott and in many other places. On my last journey, to the Southeast, most discussion of Baha’i teachings took place in a family setting, and in short conversations with a sharp-minded person from the Netherlands.

The long run, however, will see more than new wine in this old bottle. As we keep seeing, a lot of things to which we are accustomed, both big and small, have fallen away. This will long continue-in areas from statecraft to roles within the family; from modes of transportation to the design and organization of dwellings. All of this re-organization, however disconcerting it may be at times, will result in a far more peaceful world.

“This is the Day in which God’s most excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. It is incumbent upon all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences, and, with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of His care and loving-kindness. It behoveth them to cleave to whatsoever will, in this Day, be conducive to the exaltation of their stations, and to the promotion of their best interests. Happy are those whom the all-glorious Pen was moved to remember, and blessed are those men whose names, by virtue of Our inscrutable decree, We have preferred to conceal.
Beseech ye the one true God to grant that all men may be graciously assisted to fulfil that which is acceptable in Our sight. Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth, and is the Knower of things unseen.”- Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, page 346.