Loyalty and Ego

2

February 25, 2021– I spent parts of the past couple of days watching a series that dealt with issue sof loyalty, betrayal and role switching. The show, called “Luna Nera”, is an Italian SyFy drama, set in the 17th Century. It is rather Byzantine, in its plot sequences, being all over the place.

It outwardly features conflicts between the mainstream Catholic Church, of the post-Inquisition era, and a small group of Wiccans. There is plenty of virtue and vice, loyalty and betrayal, transparency and deception on both sides, sometimes with all of it coming from the same characters. In other words, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the villains.

Life can be like that, especially if those of a certain mindset see only themselves, and those who agree with them, as good and all others as bad-even making the distinction, as a priest in the show did, between those who say what’s evil is virtue and what’s virtue is evil. Thus, their basis for determining virtue wells up from each one’s ego. That, and the inability to forgive slights, leads to even more pain and suffering, for all concerned.

The parallels between the main characters in the series, and the present American sociopolitical climate are so telling, that Luna Nera could be just as easily set in Washington and Mar-a-Lago, as in the north of Italy. The Bishop/Warlock is a wirepuller of the first order and the Wiccan/Demoness has an ego that spills over into even the acts of decency that she tries to pull off. There is a pure Saviour character, who has to disguise herself, for most of the series. The rest of the cast could pass for the “Sheeples”, who makie decisions based on whatever they are told by whoever is in charge at the moment.

It still strikes me that independent thinking depends upon not being willing to have one’s ego stroked-but maybe that’s MY ego talking.

The Heirs of Railroad Passengers

0

February 18, 2021- It is commonly known that many people who successfully escaped enslavement, from the 19th Century South, made their way to Canada, via the Underground Railroad. The majority of these folks settled in three Canadian provinces: Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The last was chosen because of its relative proximity to Maine, one of two northern termini of the clandestine route.

Although life for people of African descent in Canada was not perfect, and remains problematic in many respects, slavery had by and large been abandoned as a social construct, by the 1820s. There was no economic impetus to the system, in a country with mostly small holders as farmers.

Afro-Canadians kept many aspects of their culture, both that preserved by genetic memory of Africa and more recent cultural elements which evolved in the American South. Later migrants from the Caribbean region have also influenced this enduring cultural scene.

Here is a sharing of African-Canadian musical heritage, from someone who moved from Toronto to Nova Scotia, finding welcome among the longtime Black residents of that Atlantic province.

Year of the White Ox

2

February 13, 2021-

A few days ago, those honouring the Lunar Calendar celebrated the beginning of the Year of the Ox. Those born this year will be given to hard work, honesty, positivity, and groundedness. It is also a white metal year, in terms of the basic elements, thus it may be called Year of the White Ox. Those whose elemental sign is metal are regarded as rigid, in traditional Chinese astrology. My own elemental sign is fire, which supposedly is at odds with metal since it melts that element.

The most important task, however, in this age is establishing balance between all five essential elements: Water, earth, air, fire and metal(for which some New Age thinkers substitute the element of space). Given that this is a time when love and relationships are on the minds of many, I find it appropriate to make balance a key goal of my own life forces. So, those born under the sign of metal will find this fire child to not be so disagreeable as the ancients would have them believe.

In honour of Lunar New Year, here are two presentations of Chinese music-one modern and performed in Los Angeles; the other more traditional, from an unidentified hall in mainland China.

Li Xi is a young resident of Los Angeles, offering folk music with Chinese elemental influences.

This song is entitled, “In That Faraway Place”. The artists are playing (Left to right) a pipa (similar to a mandolin), an erhu (played with a bow) and a xiao (flute).

Many good wishes to all, for a successful and healthy Year of the White Ox!

Anime Lessons

4

February 8, 2021-

My special assignment, of last week and the present one, has given me continued observance of what matters to high schoolers, especially in the area of graphic arts. Several of the students are talented sketch artists and cartoonists. One of the springboards for developing this talent is the popularity of the Japanese graphic medium called anime (AN-ih-may).

Anime is also valuable for the considered life lessons it offers, with myriad examples of both positive and negative life choices, presented in a manner that is attractive to teenagers. There is an atmosphere of group decision-making, with interludes of individual soul searching.

In the four episodes presented during the course of today’s classes, a young boy wrestles with his guilt and desire to make amends, for a series of events that he regards as his own fault, whilst his friends and sister refuse to let him face matters alone. An older man shows that patience and perseverence, in his time of imprisonment, result in his maintaining a robust physique, while his jailers ignore him as a worthless, spent being. An egotistical village leader learns that mocking his suffering village’s benefactors does him no good, in overcoming an invading force of militaristic industrialists. Only cooperation with the group of helpers rids the community of the bombastic invaders, and humbles the elder. Humility is also the theme of a vain sword master’s comeuppance, at the hands of a his seemingly inept pupil.

These character issues were well-conveyed by the lead teacher, and duly noted by the students. Anime is not a replacement for academic rigor, but it certainly does set young people to pondering about what matters.

Works of Inspiration and Edification

2

December 29, 2020-

It’s time now to look back at this year that is grinding to a close, and sending some of its aspects spilling over into the new calendar year. I deem it pretty safe, though, to take stock of books read, since last January.

Spiritwalker: Messages from the Future, by Hank Wesselman (An account of meditations and insights)

Geology Underfoot In Northern Arizona, by Lon Abbott and Terri Cook

Native Roads: The Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo and Hopi Nations, by Fran Kosik

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann

The Other Slavery: The Untold Story of Indian Enslavement in America, by Andres Resendez

Democracy In Chains, by Nancy MacLean (An examination of an authoritarian political and economic agenda)

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander (The effects of incarceration on people of colour in America)

Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome, by Dr. joy DeGruy (a re-reading, on the long-term effects of slavery on the descendants of enslaved people in America)

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Cosmic Messengers, by Elizabeth Peru (Insights on the nature of our relationship to the Cosmos)

The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene (Insights on quantum physics and its expression, throughout the Universe)

Edge of Eternity, by Ken Follett (The third of his fiction trilogy on the Twentieth Century)

The Standing Stones Speak, by Natasha Hoffman, with Hamilton Hill (An account of messages received while among ancient raised stones, in Carnac, France and in various places in Cornwall, England).

The very restrictions imposed by Coronavirusdisease 2019, and our society’s learning how to deal with it, has made intensive reading easier. I have also been motivated to see things from points of view other than my own, and so have focused on the above titles, as well as on Baha’i study.

Looking ahead to 2021, I have begun reading:

Spirit of the Stones: A Retrieval of Earth Wisdom, by Amalia Camateros (The author’s spiritual experiences, in various parts of Australia, Hawaii, Mexico and the American Southwest)

The Gullah People and Their African Heritage, by William S. Pollitzer (Examines the culture and language of the Gullah people of coastal Georgia and South Carolina)

Before California: An Archaeologist Looks at Our Earliest Inhabitants, by Brian Fagan

Coming Home to Earth: Seeing the World Anew, by Annabel Hollis ( a mini-book by an online friend from England)

I am grateful for the ability to read attentively and critically.

Raise Your Hand, If…..

4

December 28, 2020-

The two families came in to the sandwich shop, and dutifully posted their orders. The two men in the group paid for their respective families, and the tables were arranged- the four kids sat at one, near the wall, and the four parents at the other, in the middle.

There were, before long, two separate sets of conversations. I tuned out the adult version, as most such exchanges are about things that don’t concern anyone outside the fold. The children, though, were engaged in a game I’d not encountered since my son’s childhood- “Raise Your Hand If You …. “, followed by some silly possibilities, and some, offered by the only boy at the table, involving things that were designed to be gross, though not in a profane way. (Mothers’ ears were taking in BOTH conversations).

The children were loud, save for the few seconds following being shushed by one of the women, and uniformly entertaining. This is one of those times when I enjoyed the banter of others, and didn’t need to give the slightest bit of eye contact. Three cheers for Sriracha ketchup on a worm burger!

A few minutes later, I crossed the street and got going on my laundry. Another, hybrid, family was in the laundromat, each having been given a slice of pizza. The little boy, his grandfather and an aunt dug into theirs with abandon. The little girl was tentative about everything-sitting away from the boy and man, only gradually eating the pizza slice,at first. Grandpa calmly sat down with her, and told her that she was as important to him as her brother. Then, the slice was gone in a matter of seconds. I had to wonder what had transpired earlier, that would make the child hang back from her family. They wound up their business, a few minutes later, though, and were gone.

This evening, I joined an online drawing class. The instructor is someone I know from another inspirational group, and find to be a very gentle soul, who allows broad lattitude, within some general parameters. We drew a Treasure Map, with an accompanyong legend. Mine was somewhat a traditional sketch- a pirate, physical barriers to avoid, and a treasure trove in a hard-to-reach location and a few whimsical creatures, thrown in for the fun of it. With music in the background, I found it a most enjoyable way to spend a Monday evening-and engaging a rarely-used part of myself is always something welcome.

As an underdeveloped artist, I get a fair amount of amusement from what gets cobbled together, in an hour or so.

OverZoomed

6

December 10, 2020-

The spread of teleconferencing during this time of worldwide pestilence is probably the single most useful occurrence of the year . I can only hope it remains, especially as when I find myself away from Home Base, come late Spring onward, carrying on regular communication, via Zoom, YouTube or what have you, will be a much easier task.

There is, though, the matter of working out synchronicity. This evening, there were four events occurring simultaneously. Two were parties, one was a memorial gathering and the last was a worship service. I focused on the latter two, just barely greeting folks at the first of the parties, before it was time to leave.

We will, as with any other endeavour, need to work out etiquette and protocols of expectations for Zoom gatherings, lest feelings be hurt, unnecessarily. I know that, just because one is among many on a teleconference does not mean feathers won’t get ruffled by someone’s absence or abrupt departure.

So, I have worked out a set of priorities for my own Zooming- Offering condolences and memories will have to come first, then regular worship and devotionals, followed by special celebratory events and lastly, someone’s random informational offering-which ought, by definition, be recorded for later viewing.

In any case, may your Zooming be helpful and a source of connection.

The Hotel Project, Day 8

0

October 2, 2020, Dallas-

Today was a reminder of how well something can be accomplished, on short notice, and how badly something can be done, when the interest just isn’t there.

Our team put on a wonderful movie night, attended by 24 children and 7 adults. The activity involved building mini-cars, out of cardboard boxes, which the children could then decorate, whilst watching the film, in a simulated drive-in. Each child was allowed to keep their car. Being a diverse group of people, there were those who watched the film from start to finish, those who went to their rooms in the middle and those who engaged in non-disruptive activities, on the sidelines-much as takes place at a real drive-in theater.

Contrast this, and the well-conducted routine activities of the shelter, with a haphazard laundry “service”, which managed to either mix, or mislabel, at least three of the fifteen bags sent them-with a thinly-veiled disinterest in the outcome. The “service” was curtailed, after only three days, with some cases still outstanding. One way or another, it will be resolved- even if our supervisor has to go to the location, tomorrow, or one of us has to go there on Sunday or Monday. I can’t imagine a situation more degrading to a human being than to be deprived of one’s clothing, through someone else’s negligence.

For now, my attention goes to my little family, tomorrow, then back to business on Sunday.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 93: That Hamilton Woman

2

September 1, 2020, Alexandria, LA-

The Disney enterprise once had a masterful cartoonist, in Bruce Hamilton. His signature characters were Donald Duck and his family, His back-up, his leading lady, was Helen.

Bruce passed on, several years ago, after a lengthy illness, leaving Helen as matriarch of a talented family of artistes. She was the focused eye of reality, keeping all her dreamers on track.

The Hamilton home, in Prescott, was well-appointed and always welcoming. Hollywood posters, from the Golden Age, abounded-with the signature “That Hamilton Woman”, promoting a period piece from 1941, starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Disney memorabilia, and Bruce’s life’s work, adorned all common rooms.

Helen passed on, yesterday, after a lengthy illness. Her legacy is one of clear vision, cultured generosity, and a structured approach to life-all coming forth from a gentle demeanour. She made the finest brownies-and I’m told, delectable deviled eggs and egg salad. She and Bruce traveled widely-across Europe and South America, as well as all over the United States.

That Hamilton woman was regal, and will be sorely missed.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 50: Bingeing

4

July 20, 2020-

I only occasionally binge watch Netflix or Amazon Prime. It takes a special character, usually a spunky kid or a compelling character, to get my extended attention. Likewise, in following a blog site, I may lose track of someone i’m following, but when I catch back up, the tendency is to at least read a month’s worth, and comment on every single post. If the blogger sees this and thinks I’m Spam Stalker, I guess I’ve had that coming-but that’s never my intention.

Bingeing is rare occurrence, precisely because, even in this time of not working, there are all sorts of expectations from online and real time friends, family and Instant Family-the last group being people who address me as “Brother” or even “Father”, even though we’ve never met. I’m always glad to lend a hand, when time allows. Budgeting, though, even with time, is still key to living a full life-of one’s own. God knows, there are plenty of people out there who will gladly have me living THEIR lives.

So, to the blogger of whose posts I read and commented on 30 posts, this afternoon, know that it was done out of appreciation for your extraordinary writing. No harm, no foul.