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.”

 

 

Stop the Squeeze

8

March 23, 2020-

I watched a video last night, which, while not made by a Baha’i, explains Baha’u’llah’s vision of a unified planet, perfectly.  The part that is most relevant for what we are seeing now is this:  Earth is in the beginning stages of cleansing, with simultaneous earth quakes and a huge humanitarian crisis forming the physical manifestations of that cleansing.  What is most needed, for us to build out of these calamities, is true unity of the human race.   This is starting to appear in several countries, with the United States conspicuous in its absence from their number.

Instead, what we are seeing is the same intense squabbling over details of  a national response that has been part of the American scene since the Constitutional Convention of 1781-88.  Back then, there was no real nation, so the states and territories had time to sit and hash things out. The governors and legislators, back home, had matters pretty much in hand.

Governors and legislatures have things in hand today, as well, to varying degrees.  At the Federal level, though, no such luck.  The two “sides” have pretty much continued throwing bones to their bases, forgetting that, in a pinch, liberals and conservatives  left to themselves, without being poked and prodded from above, can get along quite nicely.  I have friends on all points along the spectrum, and do not think of any of them as worthless or a waste of DNA.  Everyone has a piece of the truth.

The jigsaw puzzle, though, is being kept unfinished by perfectionist wire-pullers, for whom a solution would be like poison. For them, being in positions of power is the most critical state of affairs.  Unity, in their view, would lead to wisdom among the populace, who would then cease to follow the leaders.

More’s the pity.  Unity among the people would only enhance the grand national economy, cherished by conservatives.  Unity would decrease, drastically, the number of marginalized people, a major concern  of liberals and progressives.  It would show that “white nationalism” is a myth made up out of whole cloth and would also diminish the need for a the trappings of a Nanny State-so counterproductive to human dignity.

It can be accomplished in either of two ways:  Leaders showing the resolve to put the country ahead of any personal or partisan ambitions, and encouraging people to work together OR fed-up groups taking matters into their own hands, with a possibly long and bloody conflict, that would make the Civil War look like childsplay.

It is time, past time, to stop squeezing the bases.  Let it be known that love of country and its people, at long last trumps ambition.

Quantum, and Other, Leaps

4

February 29, 2020-

Whilst working as a teacher aide in a small school in Maine, I was paired with a seasoned teacher, who also happened to have been born on February 29.  She had  flexible birthday celebrations, usually sticking with the 28th, for the three years that her actual birthday was not on the calendar.

Leap Day has long been a source of fascination to me, as my own date of birth is the 28th of November, and thus I mark mensiversaries in my mind-especially as I’ve gotten on in years.  So, today is a bonus, of sorts, as I mark being 69 1/4 years of age.

Many of us take quantum leaps in our minds, in any given area of life with which we may be dissatisfied, or in which we think matters are not quite moving in the direction that they might.  Flights of fancy, while temporarily assuaging discomfort, don’t actually end up solving problems.

They do, however, many times end up being the grist for ideas which may be practical, in a future time.   Baha’u’llah  offered many concepts, in the mid-to late-19th Century, which seemed ludicrous in the context of that day and age, but many of which make sense now, and others which are predicated on Mankind’s moving beyond the mindset of even our relatively global way of thinking.

Most people, with whom I speak about the Baha’i Faith, are fine with the Oneness of the Human Race, overcoming prejudices, equality of men and women and universal peace.  The mechanics and details are another matter.  No one, including the Baha’is, wants to see a world government that is less than transparent, or less than a government which honours dignity, harmony and participation by the people.  The difference in opinion comes largely from fear that ANY global entity will have nefarious purposes.  Christ warns about such tyranny, and so does Baha’u’llah.  Only after world peace is truly established, can serious talk about democratically-elected international bodies be undertaken.

So, we continue to take leaps of faith and of mental acuity.  Some are quantum in nature; others are more tenuous. I have done both, in my mind, all the while recognizing that some ideas that I have are bound to prove as practical as my short legs would be, were I to attempt Parkour.  It’s worth the mental effort, though, to at least run them through my mind.

Happy Leap Day, all!

 

Barriers Are In the Mind

6

February 17, 2020, Yuma-

A commenter on one of my recent posts, on another social media site, took issue with the notion that freedom has a price.  Once, an explanation of that statement was offered, he had a better appreciation o fits meaning.    He did, for his part, also make a valid point:  We can choose not to surrender our freedom to those who would take us down and use us for their own designs. Indeed, I have made several choices, even so far this year, that have not set well with some others.  In the end, though, they can also choose for themselves, as to a best course of action.  The sun should not rise and set, with any other person, when it comes to making choices of one’s own.

After a three-hour visit with some long-time friends, in this bustling border city, I took in two sites that focus on the consequences of discordance and social unrest:  Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park and the border wall at San Luis.

The Prison is, of course,defunct as a place of incarceration.  It long ago  gave  way to a more “up-to-date” facility, in Florence, itself now slated for closure, after over 100 years of use.  Yuma Territorial Prison was established in 1875, at the behest of the area’s representative in the Arizona Territorial Legislature:  Jose Maria Redondo.  It served as the Arizona Territory’s place of incarceration, from 1876-1909.

Since that time, Yuma has alternately used the facility as a temporary high school (1910-1914), a homeless shelter (1930-39) and, most recently, as the centerpiece of the city’s historical heritage preservation.

Here are a few scenes of the present State Historical Park. Below, is a view of the Colorado River’s wetlands, below the Park grounds.

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Here is the railroad bridge, opposite the Park.  It is still in use.

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This was the Parade Ground.

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This was the Guard Tower.

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These are two views of the Sally Port  (Puerto de Salir), or main entrance to the enclosed prison.

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The present-day Museum is in the site of the Prison Mess Hall.

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Men and women, Mormon polygamists and Mexican revolutionaries, white collar thieves and cutthroats-all shared this facility, at one time or another. The most famous of its  prison breaks, the Gates Riot  (October, 1877), saw Superintendent Thomas Gates taken hostage, one of his trusted inmates, Barney Riggs, come to his rescue and killed Gates’ attacker.  The would-be escapees went to the Dark Cell, Gates suffered the ill-effects of the attack for the remaining twenty years of his life and Riggs was eventually set free.

Here is a view of the main cell block.

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Next, a couple of views of the typical cell.

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These were the first bunk beds.

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Finally, this is a view of the Dark Cell, the holding place of the most incorrigible prisoners.

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In spite of appearances, the Yuma facility was progressive for its time. It had electricity, running water and was mostly operated with a rehabilitative, rather than a punitive, mindset.

I left this city, for a forty-minute ride to San Luis, to take a brief look at the border crossing leading to the large Sonoran community of San Luis Rio Colorado. It was peak crossing time for day labourers, who were returning home.  In fairness, the barrier here looks nothing like the much-photographed Bollock sections, in other areas along the frontier.  I don’t much care for the fortress-like images being promoted as “necessary”, but the real barriers to human progress are in the mind.  This puts the onus for social change and justice squarely on those creating the barriers-both the antisocial elements whose actions generate fear and the reactionaries who fancy that building such structures will obviate any further efforts at rectifying the imbalances present in society.

Most of us, whether “liberal” or “conservative”, actually fall somewhere in the middle on this one.  I wonder how Thomas Gates, the reformer penologist, would have dealt with undocumented immigrants.

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When Relics Crumble

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February 16, 2020, Yuma-

Driving down AZ 95, towards this vibrant border city, I passed the remnants-the shell- of a western Arizona mainstay:  Stone Cabin.  It was, I’m told, a favourite stopping place for people traveling between Las Vegas and  Mexico, during the 1950’s, ’60’s and ’70’s.  There was a large gas station and a bustling snack bar, with space for families to get out and stretch their legs, in an area which otherwise had no amenities for travelers.

Today, as I drove past, there was only the shell of the building, with no signage indicating what once was.  I knew what it was, only because of an earlier road mileage sign, on which Stone Cabin was listed.  I could sense happy ghosts, of those who had found respite there, at least during the eight months a year that Stone Cabin’s proprietors kept it open. (There was not as much traffic through the area, during the hottest months of the year:  May-August.)

Many things fall apart, in anyone’s life and in the life of a community, during the course of years, decades and, with respect to the larger social entity-centuries.  I have a certain amount of time left and, while not knowing-or needing to know, how much that is, I will carry on with what I sense is given me to do.

Society does much the same.  Some feel it is a necessary social project, to build barriers:  Walls and fences, which they hope will keep  unsavory intruders from entering the American nation.  I have my doubts, as no wall has thus far accomplished its stated purpose, in perpetuity.  We’ll see.  The project has accomplished a division of people, but across ideological lines.  It won’t physically crumble until long after the generations which have reached adulthood, as of the present day, are gone.  My own hope is that it will generate a meaningful and earnest conversation, between the physically-divided peoples, albeit from a spot where the most fearful people are experiencing a sense of relief.  When unity is realized, the wall’s builders will have unwittingly obviated its purpose.

Relics crumble, even after they have offered a fair number of people a sense of well-being.

 

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?

 

The Groundhog and The Rattler

6

February 2, 2020-

Punxsutawney Phil “said” it’ll be an early Spring.  Phil is the latest of a line of groundhogs, all named Phil, who have been enticed out of their lairs, for these past 114 years, in western Pennsylvania.  Before that, Germans reportedly lured hedgehogs out of their dens, on February 2.  In each case, if the animal saw its shadow, there would be six more weeks of Winter.  If it didn’t see its shadow, Spring was close at hand.

Here in AZ, a rattlesnake, Agua Fria Freddie, saw its shadow, so Spring is close at hand.  Had it been cloudy, we would be expecting six more weeks of BRRRR.  Not really- we rarely see snow, and only a bit more frequently experience cold weather, in the winter months.  Last year’s late February “Snowmageddon” was an anomaly.

Good fun aside, the continent is expecting a One Day Big Chill, this week and a few storms are predicted for later this month.   February, Valentine’s Day aside, is a month that, along with August, many folks love to hate.  Let’s be fair, though.  The Mini-Month has its share of surprises, and this past week’s relatively mild weather was no exception.  Valentine’s Day, even without a significant other, is a day for affirming love-of various kinds.  Presidents’ Day brings a break that does not entail pre-determined community obligations and, for some, a new car.  Leap Day is one of those anomalies that brings a birthday which implies aging only every four years.

So, our animal friends have “prognosticated” a month that would seem to satisfy just about everyone.  We are not easily fooled, though, and will make the most of what actually comes to pass.

 

 

Coercion

6

January 12, 2020-

It’s easy to imagine

that one is on the right track,

and that everyone ought

follow suit.

The Jesuits and Dominicans

thought the use of force

would make the world Catholic.

The Umayyads felt the same

would work for Islam.

Conquerors of legend,

and of infamy,

swore they would

either rule the Earth

or scorch it.

Where are they now?

Remember,

when an idea of yours,

of ours,

sounds like an absolute must,

for all to follow:

What if it strikes some as

inappropriate,

irrelevant,

or just beyond their understanding?

Coercion,

pressure,

shaming

belong in the past.

 

 

And It Was….

4

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 cousins Ronnie and Lorraine.

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!

Everyone’s Big Hole

0

December 23, 2019, Grand Canyon Village-

The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park is drawing to a close.  So, naturally, the combination of  time to spare and my daughter-in-law’s visit led to us going up to the South Rim, this morning, and spending the day, walking along the paved Rim Trail, from Mather Point to Maricopa Point.

We had spent last night in our respective rooms, at the comfortable America’s Best Value, in Williams.  The high point of yesterday was a visit to the Scheinlen-Pena family, in Paulden (of whom, more tomorrow).  After being warmed by thick, nutritious soup and salad, we headed to Williams, so as to not spend time going back over the same route, this morning.

The Grand Canyon seemed to strike Yunhee in a way similar to the impression it first makes on others:  It’s almost incomprehensible in its size.  Of course, photos don’t do it justice (though I’ll post a few, anyway.)  The best thing to do here is to choose a few spots where the magnitude of the place can be somewhat encapsulated.

So, here are four such interludes:

Mather Point- An introduction to the Canyon, for many, as it is near the Visitors’ Center.  Yunhee opted out of the 22-minute intro video, in favour of direct contact with the view from the Rim.

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Yavapai Point:  Here is a view of a cave that would seem to be a rock climber’s dream and probably something on which I’d pass.

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Along the Rim Trail, just shy of this village:  There is a fairly new display, all along the Rim Trail, which shows stone that is from increasingly ancient layers of rock.  This Dox Sandstone dates from one billion, one hundred thirty million years ago.

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The El Tovar Hotel:  Grand Canyon Village, being home to some, and a welcoming host to countless others, does holidays up nicely!

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Kolb Brothers Studio:  Here is a place that’s both historical and full of artistry.  The brothers were photographers here, alternately in conflict and grudging cooperation with Fred Harvey’s Lookout Studio, from 1901-1976.  Today, both the Lookout Studio and Kolb Brothers Studio are gift shops and prime places from which to view the Canyon,

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as well as the Village:

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Near Hopi Point:  Crevices always interest me, though not to the extent that I’d try to straddle one.

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Near Maricopa Point:   The Canyon is evolving, and that means there will be collapses along its many walls, as well as continued uplift.

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Next year will bring a few more visits to Everyone’s Hole:  A jaunt from Maricopa Point to Hermit’s Rest, on the west side of South Rim, in late March and a hike on the Uncle Jim Trail, North Rim, on what would have been my late Uncle Jim’s 86th birthday, June 3.