Anarchy

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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

On They Go

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January 9, 2020-

My son, Aram, and daughter-in-law, Yunhee, have arrived, by now, in Boston.  They left here, early this morning, on the second leg of their family visits, after three days at Home Base.  We visited long-time family friends.  I was able to introduce Aram to several friends, whom Yunhee had met over the Christmas season:  The owner-proprietor at Ms. Natural’s; the cacao products maker, and her tea-crafter associate, at Synergy (Sedona natural coffee and tea shop); a local cosmetics distributor, and her sister, my dearest friend, of whom I can truthfully say that I am as close or as distant, as she wants  me to be.

We enjoyed fine dining and casual meals- and improvised meals at home.  We hiked a bit, in Sedona.  Mostly though, they had the safe space they needed, to process their respective paperwork and to make their calls, in a warm and comfortable house.  They left in good position, for the life that awaits them, when the family visits are over and establishing a household takes center stage.

The rising generations are doing just fine, from where I sit.   Their world view is measured, their choices informed and their dreams are grounded.  I have watched my little family work together, to solve serious matters and routine tasks which would be vexing for one person to do alone.  I see others who are struggling,  and keep them in prayer, daily, that they may get past their anger and resentment.  Learning to trust is probably one of the strongest skills I was able to impart to my son-especially learning to trust himself.

I know “the kids” will serve the world, and humanity, just fine.  They go on, with the vision and drive that will not ignore, or sweep aside, the major concerns which some currently in power find too complex for resolution.

No One Should Be Pushed Along

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January 8, 2020, Sedona-SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

I can remember, when I stood in front of Mona Lisa, in case and air conditioned room, in the Louvre.  All manner of frenetic tourists were jockeying for position around me,  not rushing me-but bickering with one another, in a variety of  tongues.  All this, for a few seconds per person, to take a self-portrait with the Lady of Mystery.  I did not take a selfie, but was content to have her countenance recorded in my photo album of France’s premier art institution.  I needed ten seconds.

I think of this, when waiting for fellow hikers or other visitors to complete their time at a an overlook or striking scene.  Each of us has the same right as anyone else, to enjoy wonders great and small.  No one who might be impatiently toe-tapping, while waiting for the people in front of them to be done and move on, can know just how important these small moments in the midst of grandeur might turn out to be for the seeming dawdlers.

My little family and I waited, atop Submarine Rock, at the end of Little Horse Trail, while the people in front of us, finished taking photographs, and taking in the astonishing view.  This took about five minutes, and was, as often happens in my experience, followed by one of the men offering to take photos of the three of us atop the rock.  My daughter-in-law then took more shots of the men, from another vantage point.

This is one way that friends are made, and everyone’s enjoyment of a wondrous tableau is enhanced.  How much more pleasant would the afternoon been, for the tourists in Chez Mona Lisa, had there been a bit more camaraderie!  I may be dreaming, but that is my wont.

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Connectedness

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January 7, 2020-

Having my little family here

is a perfect occasion

for cementing my own ties

and building a sense of extended family

between son and daughter-in-law

with the Baha’i friends whom he knew

as a youth,

and with other dear friends,

whom he met for the first time,

and she for the second time, today.

It reminds me, that I have

at least one indelible tie here,

regardless of where life takes me.

It reminds me, too, that  there are those

who will ever have my back,

and I, theirs,

for as long as we draw breath,

and beyond.

Plan A, 2020

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January 3, 2020-

I spent several hours, with my daughter-in-law, waiting for Aram’s flight to arrive from Seattle.  We went to Phoenix in the evening, but not late enough to avoid  a stretch of sitting around at the Airport. I need to work on my downtime skills, especially when it involves a “captive audience.”

This is obliquely related to what lies ahead, during what is likely to be an extraordinary year.  Consultation needs to be consistently carried out, in matters great and small.  Towards that end, my best friend recently reminded me of the importance of a yearly plan-mindful that life can upend the best laid plans, at a moment’s notice, but attracting divine support for the plan, anyway.

So, here is what 2020 looks like, as of today.

Commitments and Givens:   Be mindful, yet stay creative. Work whenever possible,  from January-May and September-December.  Keep regular volunteer activities, during the above time frames.  Stay present, and communicate regularly, with all members of my Tribe, especially those closest.  Honour all life, including my own. Celebrate brother’s special birthday, as he sees fit. Celebrate my own special birthday.  Retire in December.

Journeys:  January– Valley of Fire State Park, east of Las Vegas;  February– Indio (Concert) and Colorado River Valley, from Parker to Yuma; April– San Diego and Orange County; June, July & August– North Rim of Grand Canyon, Carson City, Portland, Olympic Peninsula, Vancouver Island, Prince Rupert, Southeast Alaska, Trans-Canada Highway, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Atlantic Canada, New England,  Philadelphia,eastern Midwest and Southeast, Florida (maybe even South FL and a bit of the Bahamas), across the South to Dallas and then back to Prescott;  October– Petrified Forest, Painted Desert and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

Of course, this is what I am getting from my meditations, NOW.  Much is left to conditions on the ground, at the time things are about to happen.  In any event, this is what I get as my plan, at the start of the year.

Breaking The Ice

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January 2, 2020-

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In the course of introducing Yunhee to three of Prescott’s lakes, on the last day before her husband, my son, returns to civilian life, we came upon the phenomenon of thin ice, covering the less exposed parts of Granite Basin and Watson Lakes.  In the latter location, few of the area’s signature birds were around, having made the wise choice to visit southern Mexico for a few months.  Instead, the eyes were drawn to an ice dam, which served to slow the flow of water into the Watson Woods Riparian Area, also known as “The Swamp”.

It got me to thinking about the emotional and psychological ice dams, which slow and sometimes stop our interactions.  I have learned that these are purely defense mechanisms- chill vibes, acting like one is busy, and sheer emotional absence.  When one is offended by something, trying to figure out life or is just plain overwhelmed, offering an icy reception to those around self is a sometimes rationalized pattern of behaviour. How well it serves the purpose has to be balanced with what happens next,  or down the road.  Consider that an overabundance of ice can move, glacier-like, towards the shores of a nearby community.  Likewise, so can a glacial pattern of behaviour serve to overwhelm one’s social circle and create a different sort of isolation than that which a person is trying to arrange.

I am fortunate in my Tribe, both  birth family and wider circle.  A few go through bouts of isolation, and they let me know when I’m welcome again.  Most, like anyone else, are following their life plans.  I am doing the same, and have spent the past few days ruminating, and getting messages, as to how this year will best play out.  More on that, in the next post, but essentially I see that those closest to me here, who are like younger siblings, do not need to have me hovering close by-and that they seem to prefer my following my own life plan.  To alter that, on their behalf, short of an emergency, would mean they would, in turn, be altering their life plan for my benefit.

There is more than one kind of ice dam.

The Golden Path

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January 1, 2020-

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My daughter-in-law and I wandered up the easier of two trails leading to the saddle overlooking the rocky summit of Thumb Butte, one of Prescott’s signature landmarks.  It was about the fifteenth time, I’ve been up there, and Yunhee’s first.  As we spotted four intrepid rock climbers and a dog, in the area shown above, I thought of all I’ve faced and overcome, in the past ten years, and how much there is still ahead.  I have not wanted to walk in the area of the the summit, not because of fear, but for concern it may be damaging to the ecosystem, as no regular trail goes beyond the saddle.  Evidently, the area is safe enough, even at this time of year-with its ice and snow.  So, I could very well be up there, in the near future.

The path ahead, in this new decade, could diverge in any one of a number of ways, and as with anyone, the choice is mine as to which I take.  Those closest to me here have lives and dreams of their own, some of which might involve me, and others in which I need not be included.  That comes with the territory of a late-sixty-something, and I am just glad to have them in my life.

The converse, of course, is also true.  I feel the pull of the road, to my greater tribe, and I feel a bond with one soul, above all, here in Prescott.  My little family is a key factor, too. They will live in the Dallas area.  There will be much that will become clearer, as the winter proceeds, fades and passes.  That I am happy with whatever road, on which my spirit guides take me, has been evident from the last decade.

These next five months will be fairly serene, or so I think now.  My focus will be on generating as much work as possible, whilst working around a few volunteer commitments and personal appointments.  Travel-wise, Valley of Fire State Park, east of Las Vegas, beckons in mid-January; I will take in a concert in Indio, CA, in late February and various outings around Arizona, some on the spur of the moment, will happen during Winter and Spring.

The Golden Path led up Thumb Butte, today, and could lead just about anywhere, over the year, and decade, ahead.  May your paths be fruitful, also.

And It Was….

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December 31, 2019-

It was a time of loss.

The decade took Penny, my wife of twenty-eight years and nine months, both her parents Norm and Ruth (“Bunny”), two of her aunts Averala and Helen (“Honey”), two of  her cousins, Tom and Jean, and a cousin-in-law, Richard.

It took my maternal uncles, Carl and James,  Carl’s two children-Keith and Carla, and our cousin Ronnie.

It did not spare my father’s side of the family, either, taking Uncle George, Aunt Adeline (“Sissy”) and her son Bob.

It brought several others to the Life Beyond, friends all:  Christie Serino, Drew Crotty, Larry Silipigni, Alan and Rick Belyea, from my hometown of Saugus, MA;  Alison Sipes, from Indiana; Mildred “Mildoo” Forney, who, along with her daughter, made my visits to Oley, PA an annual pleasure; my American Legion comrades Bob Wittmann, Dennis Young, John Mortimer, Sue Chambers, Al Tercero-among several;  a host of Baha’i  fellows- Ali and Violette Nakhjavani, Nancy Coker, John Cook, Firuz Khazemzadeh, Avid Navidi, Dick Sloman, Moses Nakai, Russ Garcia, Chester Kahn, Roy Dewa, Tom Smith, Keith John Manybeads.

 It was a time of change.

It saw me get out of town, leaving Phoenix, after ten years.  Prescott, once more, became Home Base.

It saw our son, Aram, follow in the footsteps of many of his forebears, on both sides of the family and enter the service of his country, serving in the United States Navy, for nine years.

It saw him enter into matrimony.  Having returned to Korea, the land of his birth, as part of his service, Aram met and married Yunhee, a superlative addition to our family.

It saw us honour two of my nieces, who preceded him down the aisle, also bringing spouses who add luster to the Boivin brood.

It was a time of growth.

It brought in fourteen new members of my Grandniece/nephew Club and some new additions to my Greater Tribe.

There were a couple of good years, working full time, at Prescott High School, and several others spent substitute teaching.

The decade brought me the joy of giving back- with the American Red Cross, Slow Food, school garden projects, and the Farmers’ Market, as well as American Legion Post 6 and the Baha’i community.  It has brought me many new friends, members of my Tribe, who consistently make this life a thing of beauty.

Then, there were those journeys- annually to see family, on the East Coast, in the South and in the Midwest, which is never “Flyover Country” to me; my first solo visit to Europe, partly on my father-in-law’s behalf and partly because  I wanted to connect with the lands of my ancestors;  I returned to Korea, to  fully embrace my son’s wedding and to recap our life in Jeju; Hawaii welcomed me, in advance of the Tiger Cruise from Honolulu to San Diego, as Aram & crew returned from a Pacific Rim deployment; I fulfilled some of the dreams I shared with Penny, and explored the Pacific Northwest, a bit of British Columbia; southeast Alaska and eastern Canada; California, Nevada, Texas and Colorado were constantly seeing my face-largely to spend time with far-flung members of my Tribe.  Shorter, but no less meaningful, jaunts around Arizona, Utah and New Mexico filled in the blanks.

Now, the sun has risen on a new decade, for much of the world and the year, which once loomed as a pinnacle in my life, has a remaining shelf life of nine hours, here in the Mountain Standard Time Zone.

This decade of joy, sorrow, gain, loss, advances and setbacks will soon give way to another, likely much more of each.  Happy 2020, one and all!

2010-19: How I’ve Changed

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December 30, 2019-

It’s said that nothing in the Universe remains static for long. Even inanimate objects experience molecular change.  Of course, it’s been a while since I’ve been likened to a piece of furniture, and the blessed soul who made that comparison is himself long departed from our midst.

The decade now ending has been, in many ways, the most seismic in my life, since the 1980’s. In that decade, the changes were commensurate with full adulthood:  Finding spiritual footing, courting and marriage, solidifying of a career, loss of a parent, and  my own parenthood.

The changes that have come in the 2010s have been more in keeping with true maturity.  I’m not altogether there yet.  Few of us ever are.  The process has been in fits and starts, and suitably so, as everyone’s late middle age is unique.

So:

Losing a spouse– This was a long haul, and arguably something about which Penny warned me, several times throughout our wedlock..  It was the culmination of a lifelong, hereditary disease, that had come for a reckoning.  It made me responsible for the care of a vulnerable adult, at a time when a burgeoning adult needed us both.  There was always a balance to be struck.  The biggest lesson in this, was that never again could I indulge in the slightest amount of self-pity.  Buus Huus, the imaginary Roman patron of the woebegone, had taken his flight.

Altering my sense of community– I left Phoenix, after ten years, being alternately comforted in my sorrow and admonished about abandoning my duty to the community.  I found the latter ironic, as the West, especially in its urban and suburban contexts, has relied, to a great extent on the safety to be found in maintaining anonymity, in entering and exiting one’s residence, through the garage and inside a vehicle.

Prescott became my community, but it was, and is, more Home Base than castle.  I have dear friends here, who are never far from my mind.  Yet, the closest of them, even my best friend, know and accept that I have concern with people far afield.  Part of this is my Sagittarian being, part is boundless love.

Connecting with people– It’s become far easier for my mildly Asperger’s/autistic self to reach out to those not previously known to me, and to engage in meaningful conversation.  That has made both quotidian life and novel experiences more meaningful.  Largely gone is the concern with rejection.

Shedding long-held shackles– Subconscious  and  self-limiting views onto which I held, about women, people of colour and just about anyone different from me, have fallen away.  I’ve long known that overarching prejudice is wrong and have managed my behaviour accordingly.  In 2014, I was reproached regarding the residual bias, the microprejudices which, in retrospect, were continuing to cause difficulties in life.  Things like subtly expecting less of someone, because of gender, ethnicity or physical status constitute a forest that is hard to see for its trees-until someone comes along and blows the wake-up dog whistle.  Now, it is not possible for me to regard anyone solely on anything other than his or her merits.

Finally, self-acceptance– With all of these other changes comes a view of myself as fully worthy of taking my place in society.  There are few people, in Prescott and elsewhere, who choose to show me disrespect, and I know to disengage myself from such people, unless and until they change their attitudes.  Fall, 2018 was a litmus test of that practice, and was the first time, in many years,  that I totally blocked someone from my life.  The roof didn’t cave and life has proceeded just fine.

The changes that accompanied this decade are sure to have import for the years to come.  It’ll be fascinating to live.

My Top Reads of 2019

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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.