In 1949, John Gunther wrote an account of the decline in health, and passing, of his son, Johnny. I read this book, “Death Be Not Proud”, in 1962, at the age of 11. It has informed my own attitude and reflections towards the transition of people from this life. My father also read it, and it informed not only his attitiude towards death, but the ferocity of his devotion to us, his five children, especially to his youngest, Brian, and in facing my youngest brother’s disabilities.
The book’s message, of indomitable courage and ferocity, in facing life’s worst challenges, came to mind today, with news of the passing, yesterday, of the actress Kelly Preston, after a two-year battle with cancer. This evening, I learned of the passing, late last month, of a maternal second cousin, after an EIGHTEEN-YEAR battle royale with the same disease. Neither woman lacked the slightest bit of courage and dedication to things far greater than herself. Both were sterling champions. I kept looking at one or more of Penny’s photos, as I prayed for the departed souls. My beloved fought a thirteen-year battle of her own.
Death is any number of things, but one thing it is not- is surrender. I am convinced that every person who has ever faced down danger or disease takes the strengths acquired in the struggle, right along with them, in transitioning to the next series of adventures. I am also convinced that the soul sends clarion calls to those left behind-to remember the struggle and apply the lessons learned, that they, the remnants, and this, the world left behind, can rise and truly shine, brighter than ever.
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so; For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery. Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
For these sixty-nine years and change, I have felt two, perhaps semmingly contradictory things: Unconditional love and discernment, with regard to how I spend my time and money. The contradiction clears up, once I remember that unconditional love includes how one is towards self.
So, when someone decides, on my behalf, that THIS is what I should do, for the greater good, THIS is how I will spend my time and THIS is what deserves my financial investment, the door tends to shut-at least until such time as I see the value in being involved. Part of this is my autism, and part of it is that I have received clear guidance from my ancestors and spirit guides.
I appreciate that some in the world feel drawn to me, calling me their brother or father, even though we’ve never met. A few of them have my support, to a certain extent. I will fulfill those commitments I’ve made, but this will NOT open the door to unending work on more projects. I have my path set, for the times when we are dealing better with COVID19 and for when there are other events going on, for which I will need to be elsewhere. During such times, I will not be at the random beck and call of individuals. I will have my family and selected other people as my first priorities.
Yes, this is a statement of discretion, which hopefully will be understood in the spirit of love with which it is offered.
The day started early, with the rise and shine spirits getting me out of bed at 5:30. The heat of summer is a pretty strong cue. There was also some inspiration for what I have been asked to do. I have thought to myself that, even if this is coming from a less than honest person, I will not be divulging any personal information, as I am a document preparer and little more. So, I cranked out the preliminary report and sent it to him for review, by 10:30.
Most of the day, again, was spent on Harmonic Convergence, which today addressed the topic, “Facing the Shadow”. How apropos for this time! Each of us is facing the shadow of opposition to our own views; the shadow of demands upon our time, energy and, if we’re not careful, our money; the shadow of self-doubt; the shadow of gaslighting of our experiences.
The greatest of these shadows, and one which could face us all, is the shadow of chaos. Christians identify this force as Satan, or Lucifer, the chaos of ego run amok and of opposition to the Divine.
Only courage, literally coeurage, the strength of the heart, can face down this conniving, but listless, absence of light and lack of conviction. Courage can, and will, bring caution those who seek to instill excess in the wake of true justice-as those who demand that figures of the past must adhere to the standards of the present, in order to be honoured in the least manner are attempting to do. Following the rightful retirement, of those who fought against our country, from public honour, it is wise to hit the pause button on destruction of honours given to those whose life stories are more mixed. Who among US has a sterling record?
There is much to tidy, to cleanse, from our national story, without tearing down more broadly-based monuments and without forbidding study of the dark chapters of our country’s treatment of people of African descent, whether free or enslaved; of those who are our continent’s First Nations, including, by extension, Native Hawaiians; of those who come to this country from our southern neighbours; of those who come from all parts of the Asian continent and from the southern islands of the Pacific.
White people have been mistreated, too, and by the same forces who profited from enslavement of Black people and slaughter of Native peoples. Nicola Tesla and Preston Tucker were threatened, marginalized and ultimately banished from pursuing technological advances that put the wealthy, the powerful and the mass media at risk of financial loss, even though that loss would have been short term. Each newly arrived ethnic group from Europe faced discrimination from those who came before them. Women faced a long, and often tortuous, fight for equality with men before the law, and it’s not over yet. Jews, and their distant cousins, the Arabs, face blame for anything that may discomfit European-Americans.
Courage faces all these, and if triage is necessary to stanch the bleeding of African-Americans, indigenous people or children who are at risk of separation from their parents, along our southern border-then triage it is. It will not mean amnesia, with regard to the legitimate claims of Whites, or of conservatives who happen to be Black or Hispanic. It will mean, as any parent with several children knows, that the greatest need gets addressed first; that the most vulnerable are made secure, first.
Courage is not fazed by criticism, rage or ridicule. Courage does what it does, because it is, along with truth and love, a basic element of Justice.
I stayed in, all day, except to step outside, this evening and appreciate the stars and Moon. The galaxy and, in the late night, our solar system neighbours, transmit a certain energy, that does affect our moods and can impart spiritual energy, if we are open to it.
Most of us realize that there is no point in planning to travel out of the country, as long as we, collectively, represent a definite threat to the well-being of people who have largely done their due diligence, have suffered from their own homegrown cases of the pandemic virus and who have embarked on a road to recovery.
That has not stopped some of the more innocent and tender-hearted souls among my friends in other countries from contacting me over social media-asking when I am going to add a Whatsapp account (not until at least 2022, when I still hope to visit Asia and the Pacific basin); when I will get to Africa (2023) and when I can write up proposals that will help energetic, but uneducated, farmers get assistance from NGO’s. I have already begun sending one group some information about Microgreens-a labour intensive effort that will bring a highly nutritious means to food security. Actually putting together a scholarly “grant-type” proposal is not something with which I have much experience-but it’s something I can try, which will certainly be more beneficial to people in disadvantaged communities than sending them money- a simplistic and, ultimately, debilitating act.
The rest of the world does not want Americans to flood out of this country, in the midst of the pandemic. At the same time, the rest of the world is not going to let Americans just sit behind these borders and act as if the people of other nations do not exist-nor should they.
No matter how dire things get, between now and October-or even beyond, we remain one human race and only by caring for one another as for ourselves, can we truly rise from whatever rubble piles up-and shine again.
June 22, 2020-;Dad transitioned, 34 years ago, today, All of us, except Brian, who was 22, and in hospital at the time, were on our own and looked to our father mainly for guidance with adult issues. This memory enveloped my day.
I took part in an online discussion, of sorts, in which the moderator tried to conflate the deaths of African-American adults and teens with what he sees as an excessive number of Black fetuses being aborted. It was too large and broad a conflation, for most people, and seemed to have upset many.
One person analogized the abortions, though, with a person picking up coins from the street, which he characterized as a minor theft. (I’ve happened upon both coins and bills on pavement, and have either given them to destitute folks or used them for charitable causes.) I see it as more than a bit sad, though, that intellectuals, mostly men past the optimum age of child-rearing, view the life of an unborn child as no more than small change. It’s as if anyone with whom one can’t have a deep discussion is not worth one’s consideration.
The same blind spots occur in many situations- almost always among people who have a very narrow view of who is and isn’t as human as they are. Isn’t this the whole reason we are going through what we are enduring now? I’ve always been viewed as strange, for being holistic in my view of humanity. Somehow, though, we will need to broaden our collective view on this matter, if we are to know peace as a species.
I relaxed, this evening, with a group of African-American entertainers and public figures, presenting a Facebook Live performance called Black Wave 2020. There were a wide variety of musical styles and civil presentations by competing office seekers. There was no vitriol, no cussing, and no displays of rage.
There was a very up front, definite commitment to acting towards justice, towards the systemic changes that need to be brought to bear. There was also the understanding that there will be resistance to such changes, and a few racists did show up in the comments section, to spew their nonsense. All in all, though, we who were watching were genuinely interested and appreciative of the show.
Change has to be made, and it has to be deliberate and transparent. We cannot have the history of THIS day and age presented to the people of the Twenty-second Century, in a sanitized form. That will take fortitude, and commitment. There are those who don’t understand the Oneness of the Human Race. I heard from one such individual today-with regard to the rights of unborn children, in his view, not mattering to anyone other than religious zealots. There are others who, don’t understand that People of Colour don’t want to be regarded with special treatment-just regarded with dignity and respect.
Growing up in a lily-white town, albeit in suburban Boston, I had to learn the reality of People of Colour, piecemeal: The African-Americans in my childhood and adolescence were authority figures: The cafeteria monitors in our Junior High and the first police officer to give me a speeding ticket. I’d have been punished, very swiftly, once I got home, if I ever gave them any lip. That told me that real African-Americans were not any different, to my parents, than anyone else.
Indeed, watching Saturday morning cartoons, one day, when I was about eight, a character who was supposed to be Stepin Fetchit came out with “Everything I do is always wrong.” That cut through me like a switchblade. I asked my father why anyone would say such a thing. He told me that Black folks were conditioned to act that way, having been enslaved for over 200 years. He also told me to show all people kindness and treat them fairly. I often thought that if I ever met the actor who played Stepin Fetchit, that I would shake his hand and tell him he was a wonderful person.
There were, though, some tough conversations, awkwardness and hard lessons, that came my way, in young adulthood particularly, in learning the nuances and basic decencies of overcoming some very deep-seated social beliefs. I am glad for all of them.
The Baha’i Faith lends spiritual weight to the notion that all people are created equal-All ethnicities, male & female, all age groups, both neurotypical and disabled, all points of view-so long as they don’t preach exclusion of others. We view all life as sacred,from conception to death. Independent investigation of truth is the bottom line.
Juneteenth, with all this being considered, merits being made a National Holiday- a paid National Holiday. Let it continue to spark thoughts, words and action, to advance the cause of justice- and the increased equality of all people.
Today is Flag Day, when Americans pay respect to our national symbol of unity. It is Race Unity Day, when we, around the world, can honour and commit to following the practical aspects of achieving unity. It is, finally, the birthday of U.S.President Donald Trump. I give him that, and hope he has had a peaceful day of reflection and family time.
Having had a meaningful devotional and discussion, earlier this morning, on the Oneness of Mankind, and having watched a lovely two-hour presentation on Race Unity, I wish to consider how we might determine: What defines a person?
Does colour of skin define? It has certainly brought into being a unique culture, in a good many cases, over time. Is that not, however, largely because of segregation, as well the particulars of the place where people have found themselves? There are, however, people of every skin tone who do not adhere to the popular perception of the characteristics of their “racial ” group. Are they less than those who do fit that perception?
Does one’s sex define? There has been a dichotomy of roles, since the human race’s hunter-gatherer cultures. Men hunted,and women tended the home. There have, throughout history, been women who hunted and men who tended the hearth. Are either of these less than those who fit the mould?
Does one’s job define him/her? What about refinement/coarseness of speech? Is where someone lives a determinant? How about his/her philosophy of life/voting record? Is the chosen Faith, or lack thereof, a factor? Is openness, or secrecy, a defining moment?
The truth is, it is all of these, taken together, and none of them, taken alone or in a piecemeal group. Skin tone, in and of itself, means nothing. Every shade of melanin is beautiful. Cultural background is a baseline for expressing personality, in a good many cases. For others, it is a baseline of struggle for self-acceptance. Sex, and its legal offshoot, gender, are not a defining factor, in terms of what a person is capable of achieving. One’s job determines several things-financial status, time spent working/at leisure, and sometimes,neighbourhood. Philosophy and political stance may affect how one sees the roles of government and social institutions in personal and community life.
There are plenty of White progressives and conservative People of Colour. There are open-minded people, in every point on the political spectrum and there are, similarly, dogmatic people alongside them. There are loving souls in every religion and creed, and there are their doctrinaire fellows in faith. There are both loving and hard-nosed men and women, alike.
What defines me, is my totality-and that is always subject to change. What defines you, is likewise. None of us can control the other. It is the illusion of control that has allowed stereotyping, fear and the sense of “other” to take such deep root and to wreak such havoc.
I have had more energy, in the past three months, than in the previous ten years. It is likely a combination of things: Essential oil-based supplements, better sleep, being more present in the moment, paying more attention to celestial connections. COVID19 restrictions have kept me mostly around Home Base, but my activity levels have not dropped, appreciably.
Just a few other thoughts, about what I was taught as a kid, and how it has never mattered more than now.
I was taught to look beyond a person’s outer frame-and focus on his/her character.
I was taught that every person matters, ESPECIALLY if other people treat that person as if (s)he doesn’t.
I was taught to be kind to animals, and how much more to other people.
I was taught to stand up to bullies, try to understand their deeper message, make any changes in my behaviour that are warranted and accept a former adversary as a friend, once the tormenting behaviour has been outgrown.
I was taught to honour other people’s lifestyles and traditions, but not encourage those things that demean other people.
I was taught to respect my elders, but not to abide their foolishness.
I was taught to plan ahead.
Most of all, I was taught to love, unconditionally.
Had I not been taught these things, and held them close, I would not be alive today.
Of all things that get done in life, none exceed in value the homage paid to those who have gone before. As giving, to those in need, results in getting more of what oneself could use, so does paying respects, to those who have transitioned, bring more honour to the one paying the respects.
I was able to stay in a fine little cabin, a duplex, which I shared with a family of three, who kept to themselves. Jacob Lake Lodge has been built into a resort, of modest size, staying free from any ostentatiousness. It has a small, but quality, restaurant, where pandemic-based spacing is in effect, and of course, masks helped give a sense of health security, for both patrons and staff-when we weren’t eating or drinking, of course.
After hiking a “warm-up” trail, in search of the actual Jacob Lake, I found only an RV Park, and so returned to the resort, in time for check-out. Then, it was off to the Canyon!
There is a plan being considered, that will result in a sizable amount of trees being cut, in Kaibab National Forest, along the road to North Rim. There is a huge amount of slash and burned-out trunks, left from previous fires and intense storms. To me, it would make the most sense to clear that mess, and probably would put a fair number of people to meaningful work, this month and next. As the trees under consideration are “old growth” forest, it is especially heart-rending to consider the unnecessary damage to the ecosystems.
After arriving at North Kaibab Trailhead, where the Elantra would rest, while I hiked, it took a short bit of checking the route, to make sure I din’t end up going down the North Kaibab Trail, itself. Ken Patrick Trail, a bit to the north of the steep big kahuna, would take me to Uncle Jim Trail. With the help of a thru-hiker doing the Arizona Trail, I was on my way, in short order. You can see from the sign, below, that Ken Patrick was dedicated to service with the National Parks.
About 500 feet along the trail, a large ponderosa pine had fallen across the path, so I went up and around the mess. Three other trees would lie across the trail, at different points.
The first set of overlooks lies about 1/4 mile along the Ken Patrick Trail. This view mirrored what I saw last October, from the Bright Angel Point trail.
Nature leaves her little jokes, even at the expense of damaged trees.
Sooner than I expected, it was time to take a hard right.
The first segment of Uncle Jim Trail is four tenths of a mile. It is also the area with the most up and down inclines, and the only place where there are switchbacks, albeit mild ones. Two downed trees greeted us hikers, along this stretch, as well.
At 7/10 of a mile, along the western leg of Uncle Jim Trail’s 2.1-mile loop, I came to a series of fabulous canyon views.
Finding a heart-shaped rock, I placed it carefully against a small set of wood shavings.
This natural eroded bowl could serve as an amphitheater.
I came upon an unofficial overlook, east of the main viewpoint, and appreciated the two “guardians”, looking back towards the rim.
Looking out from this vantage, at Uncle Jim Point, I have a tripod to help me focus.
Heading out from this vantage point, I spotted a burnt ponderosa, which could serve as a memory pole, of sorts.
I spent a few minutes sitting on the landing of a restroom building, writing in my journal. As I did, a fierce gust of wind came up and blew my sunglasses off the landing. I looke for the shades, for about ten minutes, but to no avail. If that is my offering to the forces of nature, so be it. I have a feeling that the wind took them all the way to the rim, and over.
Hearing happy voices, I followed the tral to the main viewpoint. There were four women, a couple and me, taking one another’s photographs. Thus, a pyramid could be envisioned: Four at the base, two in the middle and one on top.
Here I am, courtesy of the “better half” of the couple.
With Uncle Jim Point in the background, I fulfilled a promise to myself and to his family.
With that, the two parties and I leapfrogged one another, on the way back, as each took rest breaks. We all missed the junction sign, going back on the Ken Patrick Trail by osmosis. I last saw the four women taking an extended photo shoot at the first overlook. The couple, it turns out, are from Santa Monica, and were enjoying their first venture out of town, since January.
So, my heart’s desire was fulfilled and I headed out of the Canyon, with a brief stop at North Country Market, for a well-earned salted caramel latte and a long, but smooth, drive to Flagstaff.
Today was the traditional Memorial Day, observed each year, until President Nixon set up a “streamlined” observance, for the fourth Monday in May, each year-beginning with 1971’s commemoration.
It struck me, today, that each of us conducts our affairs, our personal business, our honouring of others and even our leisure activities, largely based on what we perceive as our place in the world. That place, in times past, was determined, not so much by oneself, but by whosoever was deemed “in charge” of us- as in the Victorian Era and Twentieth Century dictum: “Children shall be seen and not heard.” or, even more rudely put-“A woman’s place is in the kitchen.”
I’ve been told, at least once, during this pandemic, “STAY HOME!”. The person making that demand has no say in my life, whatsoever, so I take the demand with several grains of salt. As long as I maintain distance from those who I know are at risk of infection, and practice recommended hygiene and PHYSICAL distancing, it’s no one’s business how much time I spend between these four walls.
My place is this world has always been fluid, and remains so. There is also a truism: “Those who stand for nothing, will fall for anything.” I will keep on with a full regimen of activities, both within my Home Base, in the community and, as life inches forward, go with the utmost safety to certain places which have re-opened, provided there is not an air of recklessness in said locales.
Anymore, children should be taught to speak thoughtfully and a woman’s place, a swell as a man’s, is wherever s(he) deems fit.