Light, Out of Calamity

8

March 27, 2020-

In some of mankind’s darkest moments,  advances have come from the suffering, like small mammals coming forth after the Age of Dinosaurs.  These advances, in short order, became a part of the fabric of human culture.

After the Great Plague, of the Fourteenth Century, Europeans began to return to embracing science, rather than superstition, in treating illnesses.  The primacy of Cardinals and Bishops began to face widespread scrutiny, and the stirrings of Protestantism were felt.  The Catholic Church itself had to make changes, under Ignatius Loyola.  Advances in scientific discovery came, as a result of these trends.

After the American Civil War, the Red Cross was started, by Clara Barton, as a means of assisting soldiers, in time of calamity.  It quickly expanded to help society at large, in times of disaster.

After World War I, movements to assist disabled and unassisted veterans, in returning to civilian life began, with the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans. These organizations still make large scale efforts to assist those who suffer from dislocation, or from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

After World War II, mass production of houses, the science of rocketry, television and large computers became part of the civilian world, having been first advanced within the military sphere.  From large, room-sized computers have come hundreds of technological products, many of them falling into the realm of nanotechnology.

Now, we will await the advances coming out of the struggle against Coronavirus Disease 2019.  Teleconferencing, already available for business, government and limited conversations between family members and other small groups, has exploded in use, as nearly every group, which conducted its business in person, has found ways to meet virtually. Even when the crisis has ended, I can see the sheer range of teleconferencing leading to its continued wide use among the public at large.  It will also greatly modify the educational process, even more than it has to date.

The retrofitting of factories that produce a wide variety of products, from airplanes to distilled spirits, are now also producing items that will help face the virus.  Ventilators, medical-grade masks and hand sanitizer will still need to be stockpiled, even after this virus has spent its rampage.  Preparedness will not soon, if ever, be relegated to the realm of memory.

There will be many tasks, which the technology and skill sets coming out of the current crisis will need to be called to perform. Not the least of these is completing the still gargantuan effort to provide all homes with clean, running water and reliable heat or cooling.  This work will occupy post-pandemic humanity for years, if not decades.

Out of  the darkness comes a greater light.  Baha’u’llah teaches:

“O SON OF MAN! My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.”

 

 

Staying Golden

2

March 13, 2020-

As it happened, Friday the Thirteenth saw the climate of upheaval hit a pause button,at least as far as society as a whole was concerned.  Of  course, COVID19 has yet to run its course, and many are out of work, however temporarily.  Remedies,though, are in the offing, both medically and economically.  Perhaps, by next Tuesday, toilet tissue will be on the shelves, for more than an hour, again and there will be a sense of recommitment to work and study, as colleges and universities at least adjust to online curricula and some level of financial support comes from a Congress that is intending to work through the worst of the crisis.

This is the first open-ended challenge that humanity, as a whole, has had in a good many years.  The other such calamities had human faces:  The Axis Powers; Mao’s Cultural Revolution; September, 2001’s terrorist attacks.  There were natural catastrophes that were more specific, in terms of dates and locations:  Each of the last three viral epidemics; the hurricanes of 2005-until present;  the great wildfires and ensuing floods; the many tornadoes, most recently those that hit central Tennessee.

It is being,and will be, handled better than at the onset.  Governments are learning that the commitment to public welfare needs to be specific, all hands on deck and long-term.  The people are learning that there are times, when being physically distant is an act of love.  Both institutions and individuals are learning to trust science.

We are learning what the Gold Standard, in institutional and social life, actually means.

Transference

8

March 6, 2020-

I went into work early today, to have a conversation with my supervisor as to her assessment of my work so far.  I had a concern about how well I was being accepted by the close-knot staff, as there have been some expressions of hostility this week.

I need not have worried.  Both my supervisor and co-teacher are more than satisfied with the work I’ve done up to now.  They both want me to stay and finish helping our special needs student-and I will.

The legacy of Penny’s time and energy with me is, primarily, that she helped me get out of my own little world, giving up alcohol straightaway in 1981, being more present and comfortable in the presence of others, than I had been before we met.  It was, arguably, the first time I truly felt accepted by a woman, outside my family, since high school-when I had relatively little trouble getting along with my female schoolmates-even if I didn’t see myself as “dating material”.    Thus, what I viewed as rejection by others had much to do with my self-rejection.

Penny helped me transcend a lot of my self-doubt.  Some of it resurfaced, in the first years after her passing, but gradually, with travel to Europe, Oahu and northwestern North America, I began to recognize that I was not unworthy of acceptance and true friendship, from a wide variety of people.

My tent is huge.  I like people from a number of backgrounds- so whether their musical tastes are Classic Rock, European Classical, Country, Bluegrass, Zydeco, Blues, Jazz, Hip-hop,  Metal, ( but not “Death Metal”), Powwow songs or Folk, I enjoy their gatherings.  Whether someone is a person of size, svelte, or (like me) somewhere in between, it’s everything else about them-their character, primarily, that matters far more.  The same goes for other physical attributes.  Ditto, with political leanings, so long as the individual is not clamouring for the death and destruction of those with opposite leanings, be they conservative or liberal.  I like my friends to leave their silos and, at least occasionally, listen to the opposite point of view with open ears and minds. Everyone has a piece of the Truth.

So, the most influential soul ever to grace my world still has a day-to-day impact on how I view myself.  The spirit tells me to exude love for those around me, as well as for my own self, as life is hard enough for most people.

Playing to Their Strengths

2

February 28, 2020-

Taking advantage of anyone is a sign of weakness.

Few have tried to take advantage of me, lately.

One, who did try, became furious with me,

for saying “No” to his pleas for money.

I do not see this as a loss, for me,

as putting all one’s eggs in a single basket,

is a recipe for disaster.

He’d have done better,

to ask for the help of a group.

I was not his only online friend.

Others in my life now,

are important,

in that my presence is solely

to  help them

build on their personal strengths.

Here, I see a steady progress.

This is always the key:

Help others make the most

of what is already inside them.

 

Love Means Energy

8

February 14, 2020-

It’s been quite a few years, since Valentine’s Day meant taking time for romance.  The last such day was in 2011, and it was to prove the last such day,ever,-at least as far as I know now.  Penny wasn’t so much connected with us, but on that day, she was home.  She would have about 1 1/2 more weeks, living in the house that we struggled to keep.  I got six carnations, placed them in a vase, and made sure she knew they were there.  I felt her happiness, at seeing her favourite flowers.  The last time I placed carnations in a vase, six months ago, it was at her grave.

The woman closest to me now is not huge on flowers in a vase.  She prefers things she can plant.  She is also more careful with romance, for good reason.  We are  the best of friends, and that works well for me.   The key is always to meet such of the needs of another person, with which s(he) entrusts you.  We are one another’s most fervent well-wisher, sounding board and healer.

There are many other friends in my life, as my readers know-many of you are among them, in real time.  In any case, you are friends in spirit, and that has made all the difference, in times of setback and low energy.  My friends are a good part of what keeps me going.

Then, there is the purpose-the driving force behind each day, for which I draw breath.  Now, it is the life skills development of  a young lady, who has spent her brief life working mightily to learn things which so many of us take for granted.  She reminds me of my youngest brother, gone these twenty-six years.  She is the primary reason for my work, from now until the third week in May.

Love is also putting stock in the Will of God-that things happen for a reason, or for several reasons, all having to do with relationships, with personal development.  Some things happen, or don’t happen, according to our human, finite plans-but they always happen for reasons found in the Cosmos.  I had planned to visit a friend, whose husband is seriously ill, at an event in her business, this evening.  Instead, whilst I was driving to an earlier event, a tire blew and I made it to said earlier event-barely.

Friends there helped me, and thanks to the AAA, my car is at the regular mechanic’s shop.  Tomorrow morning will thus be spent with the mechanic and getting the two new tires I seem to need.  The tax returns will wait until next week.  I will stop at the other friend’s business, tomorrow afternoon.  I’ve learned to see even  mishaps as blessings.

Love means putting energy into the betterment of those around you, as well as taking care of self.

The Smallest of Things

6

February 12, 2020-

Sometimes, the smallest of tasks is the most difficult for people to solve.

The most ordinary, quotidian of quarrels can escape resolution.

The most mundane of household tasks can wait for days on end.

A quiet infant can be forgotten in the back seat.

So can a sleeping dog.

We are creatures of our senses.

We think that they need to be constantly

stimulated.

We are creatures of mind.

We think, and overthink.

The Big Picture is often

what we think matters most.

It has its place-

but it is as  nothing,

amounts to  naught,

unless the grunt work is done.

The teeth need brushing,

the shoes, lacing and tying,

the floor needs sweeping

and the car needs a visual-

before the driver leaves it,

and goes inside.

There is good reason

that the Great Teachers

called attention to

care for the least among us.

So it is,

that my task,

most likely until May,

is helping to care

for one Special Needs child.

Life is full of

second, third and fourth chances.

 

Labour of Love

10

February 7, 2020- 

With a sneer, the self-styled “chief paraprofessional” took issue with my enunciating the first ‘r’ in “February”.  “It’s Feb-YOO-ery.  Learn to speak AMERICAN English”.  With that, all pretense, that the particular school was operating about the welfare of children, went out the window. I left not long afterward.

Many work environments, throughout the world, have taken to minimizing their stated mission, in favour of preserving some sort of falsehood-based alternate agenda, centered on the ego gratification of a certain few.  Ignorance is, then,  more than bliss.  It becomes the soft ground, on which pseudo-institutions are built, and on which they thrive.

There is a strong team of professionals, struggling to save, and rebuild, a school in which I was honoured to have spent time, not too long ago.  What they face is a three-generational climate of self-loathing and learned helplessness.  That some of these professionals have been there for nearly five years, speaks to the strength of the human heart; to the indomitable essence of the human spirit.

I have been an educator for 44 years.  While there are people whom I will admit to having failed, the vast majority have been helped, by the teams of which I was an active part.  The key has always been to love the child, to not give up-ever, to build the patience needed to counter the worst of defeatism.  As I go about northern Arizona, in this, my last calendar year of being a full-time educator, that mindset has not diminished.

Even after retiring, my battle, with ignorance and antipathy towards children and youth, will remain my cornerstone.

Two Grapes

6

February 3, 2020-

The young girl had less willpower than she had thought.  Faced with a sumptuous, fully-laden buffet, she took two grapes for herself.  This awakened the buffet’s master, who killed two of the young girl’s faerie guides and nearly captured her.  In turn, the faeries’ master, a faun, angrily banished the young girl from his enchanted cave.  I got the initial impression, whilst watching Pan’s Labyrinth, last night, that the faun was no more enamoured of the child-or of children in general, than was the girl’s step father, a severe and arrogant captain in Francisco Franco’s Army.

It was 1944, and while the Fascists had largely brought Spain under their control, there were pockets of active partisan resistance.   There was little tolerance for romantic notions or for childhood fancies.  The girl was tolerated by both of the principal male figures, as mentioned above, and her mother, the captain’s new wife, was merely a means to an end for her husband, who wanted a male heir above all else.

I thought of just how much progress has been made, with regard to gender relations, since that time.  Like any other area of life, the most progress towards equanimity has been made since the mid-1970’s, when women stopped gratuitously accepting acts of chivalry.  The truer, deeper courtesy that came out of the Women’s Rights movement of 1970-76 has only served to help men become more authentic gentlemen, rather than simply aping the courtesies of the past.  Honouring a woman’s dignity meant that she could open her own doors-and even open a door for a man.

The little girl, Ofelia, was as skillful as she was willful, managing to fool a monstrous frog, who had stolen a key belonging to the faun.  She also got a dagger from a cabinet in the buffet master’s chamber, and procured mandrake root, which she nourished in order for her pregnant, ailing mother to recover.  She never appeared to wallow in self-pity.

The captain and his men made a mess of things, leading to his wife’s death and, eventually, to their own slaughter.  This, by dint of their stubborn adherence to Franco’s doctrine of “cleansing Spain”.  The faun, also doctrinaire, inadvertently caused Ofelia to be caught by the captain, through his insistence that she let her infant brother be bled.

Everyone serves the Creator, directly or indirectly.  As it happened, Ofelia’s refusal to shed her innocent brother’s blood, preferring to sacrifice herself instead, met with approval from her Eternal Father, who welcomed her into Paradise, with a throne of her own, to his left.  The chastened faun recognized her goodness in the end, and bowed in service.

The calamities set in motion by the pure child, eating two grapes, leave lots of room for thought:  Who is more at fault, a child taking a small bit of food from another being, or the chastiser, full of his own importance?

 

Gratings, and Sour-utations

8

January 25, 2020-

The comment was unmistakable- I had crossed a line of political correctness, by stating that my colleagues at the school where I worked, the past two weeks, were going to wipe the school’s laptops clean, with a view towards safety.  This struck the commenter as borderline illegal.  Such is not the case:  Those computers are the property of the school district, and by extension, the State of Arizona.  No one advocates state control of personal computers.  It is the duty of educators to safeguard students from identity thieves and predators-period.

This has been the mood today- both online and here in town-sour, formal and hypercritical.  I was raised to walk through such environments and look to a brighter day.  So, here I am, having focused on positive aspects of life.

While it’s true that I am not returning to Peach Springs, next week, that does not mean, as some seem to think, that I dropped the ball, yet again.  My view is always to look for the most competent instructor for a group of children, and she will take the reins on Monday.

While it’s true that I spent two weeks helping that school, it doesn’t mean, as others have suggested, that I ignored the needs of Yavapai County, just to bring in more money. If that were true, I would not have come back here, signed on for more hours and added more schools in the county to my availability list.

While it’s true that I reserve the right to block people who make derogatory remarks about my late wife, and family, on social media, it does not-as one person is telling anyone who will listen, that I care nothing for the welfare of the mentally ill.  It is simply a matter of common decency-and pandering to a person’s baser instincts is doing nothing to help improve their state of being.

So, I hope people in Prescott and vicinity, and readers of this blog, feel better as the days in the northern hemisphere get longer, and as conditions in Australia and elsewhere improve.   May we not grate on one another, or give in to sour moods.

Circle of Gold

9

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.