Unlimited Doors

8

May 29, 2019-

On this day,

127 years ago, Baha’u’llah ascended to the next realm.  The door of His Teachings remains wide open, to all who seek.

102 years ago, John F. Kennedy was born, in Brookline, MA.  His work was unfinished and his potential far from realized, when the door to his life here was slammed shut, in 1963.

55 years ago, my youngest brother, Brian, was born, in Melrose, MA.  His purpose here was to train us all in unconditional love.  From the looks of how my family has lived, since his passing, in 1994, I’d say his work was successful.

This past April, a door to my working full-time closed.  Since then, other doors have remained ajar.  This is the truth behind- “When one door closes, another will open.”

Some doors can appear, from a distance, to be closed.  Sometimes, that is simply the result of skewed vision.

Other doors, which one tries to close, remain open because they have contents within that are needed for a healthy life.

Then, there are those others, which are better off shut, no matter how much one thinks that what’s inside is desirable.

May my ability to choose the right doors remain strong.

 

 

Encumbrances

0

March 28, 2019-

I woke this morning, to see a couple of challenges awaited.  Both involved technology, so I steeled myself and said, “This is not going to keep me down.”  Experimenting a bit with what little I knew, the solution to to one problem involved enlisting a friend.  So my first ever video will be done under friend’s tutelage, tomorrow.

Enlarging photos is, it turns out, not difficult, but it will be time-consuming.  It has to be done over several weeks, yet as I will have access to Internet, even whilst on the road, I will get several photos enlarged and sent to their intended recipient, per day.

The human issue is always the most difficult.  I have, as I have mentioned countless times, a variety of friends.  As long as I steer clear of any deep emotional attachment, I am well and good.  Love has to be bigger than that.  Someone who showed interest in me, a few days ago, quickly figured out that was really not the case.  It’s all well and good, as I am really not in the mood for gamesmanship and want to remain in an adult frame of mind.

In a few days, I will sit down and figure out exactly where my spirit will take me, the next two months. I will have my annual physical, tomorrow afternoon, and that will determine a lot.  A couple of camps, with adolescents, will bookend the summer break.  In between, I feel the need to reconnect with friends, across the country, starting with Dineh friends in Coal Mine Mesa and Hopi friends in Polacca, on Father’s Day.  After that, the route will take me to points across the South, then northeast, back across the Midwest and northern Rockies, with a bright shining Starfish at the end of July, in Carson City, before the second adolescent camp.

So, I treat each encumbrance as a chance to break free, with a new sense of strength.

Closure

15

May 22, 2019-

I was invited, by my former building principal, to attend an end-of -year barbecue.  I went, and he greeted me pleasantly at the door.  A few former co-workers exchanged small talk, and I had a nice lunch. Predictably, some of the elite in my former department turned their backs when I sat down.  That’s what they do.  I did not budge from my seat.

Closure, in a stratified environment, is often hard to achieve.  I give the principal, and my former team members credit, though, for having the integrity to not define me by the unfortunate misunderstandings that led to discretion being the better part of valour, last month.  The principal did what he had to do, and everyone else adjusted.  There was simply no time, or space, for a proper investigation into the false accusations.  I know this, from having been in his shoes.  There are some very fluid situations, on occasion, and time does not wait around.  The safety of students is what matters most.

Education will continue, and will hopefully continue to improve.  I will keep on going and, even if I find it difficult to remain in this community after this Fall, I will find peace wherever I am.  At least I have closure, with regard to leaving my post.

Lions, Lightning, and Lessons Learned

4

May 20, 2019-

A book of memories and reflections, written by my brother (5 years my junior), came in the mail today.  It set me thinking, again, about my own lessons learned, over the years.  My  book may well be written with the same tools he used, but it will wait until I have made a fair amount of progress in a good friend’s archival project, on which I embarked today.

Dave is one of the lions in my life, and seeing our childhood through his lens is a sublime treasure.  He’s gone after what he has wanted and not been deterred by setbacks-whether imposed from within or from outside forces.  He has also set me to thinking, hard at times, about the direction of my life- usually when I least wanted it, but always when I needed it.

My late father-in-law was another lion-and had a roar to prove it.  He nonetheless had a loyal and loving spirit.  Norm was made in the crucible of World War II, in a mixed Prisoner of War/Concentration Camp.  Those lessons left him at first shaking his head, at what Penny and I thought of as “life challenges”, then compelled him to stand behind us, when the life challenges became all too real.

As an educator, I have learned as much from the students who gave me comeuppances, as from those who were my cheering squad.  David B was a full-on lion, seeing exactly what needed to be done, who was keeping it from getting done and how to cause the riot necessary to get the human barriers out of the way.  In school, it got him in trouble-sometimes with yours truly and more often with the more conservative school principal,Peter Webb.  In life, David’s leonine bent eventually got him killed.

Mr. Webb was a lion in his own right-and arguably the only reason I was able to keep my job for a full two years, before Mr. Nixon’s ax cut Title I funds, in 1978.   He saw my work ethic, though, and when I took a job in rural southern Arizona, Mr. Webb was a key reference.

I had a rough and tumble time, whilst working in some of the neighbourhood schools in the barrios of Phoenix’s western suburbs- and in a few of the more “upscale” areas, as well.  Had it not been for Robert T., and his fiery tongue, I might have stumbled, unchanged, through the five years of balancing being Penny’s primary caretaker with earning money by substituting, and been a good deal less useful.

I was not the finest of classroom instructors.  My presentation was only a slight notch above Ben Stein’s character, in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.  Robert had seen the movie, and did not mince words about his needs as a student not being met.  I didn’t last long in that setting, but I drew the needed lesson.  I’ve often thought of Robert T, and would not be surprised if he has made a fair success of his life-learning difficulties aside.

Lightning enters our lives, when we don’t listen to the lions amongst us.  There were a few such strikes in my life: You have read of the worst of them, the last few years of Penny’s disease.  There were cars wrecked, all but one, by other people, and that one had been compromised by someone’s tampering, in the night.  There was a financial wreck, directly related to our struggles with dis-ease.  There were jobs lost, to political wrangling and my own stubbornness.

The lions, if we listen closely, can steer us away from the lightning.

 

Cyclopian Vision

8

May 18, 2019-

I see four in front of me,

each bent on talking, and not listening.

You tell us that there is only one way to look at issues-yours.

You see “the others” as unholy threats to our way of life.

You call out anyone who has an alternative point of view,

and call them names,

as if we are in an overcrowded sandbox,

which you feel you own.

You told me that I was the only problem,

in a very fluid work environment.

You said that if I left,

all would be well.

While I would be okay with that,

the reality is more complex.

You cast about for answers,

yet only accept those which fit

your  line of sight.

You offer your viewpoint,

and dismiss all others,

as antiquated,

as throwbacks,

without regard

for the notion

that all life is sacred.

You say that Government

is the supreme answer

to all,

and that abusers have rights,

which supersede

the rights

of the victim.

You say unborn people

have few or no rights,

whilst your opposite number

says that is only

true, of mothers.

I see four cyclops

in the sandbox,

in front of me.

I hear babbling,

too loud for anyone

to actually hear

the solutions.

 

 

Intensity and Isolation

8

May 15, 2019-

When I first awake, many mornings, I contemplate a feeling of increasing isolation here.  The Western states, especially the Southwest, have an ambiance of anonymity- or perhaps that is just the reality of apartment/ head for the garage and lower the door living, anywhere  This is what greets me, with the dawn.

Once up and at ’em, my social media shows that, from the safe distance of behind the screen, my  friends are with me.  Most have their own agendas and schedules, and I was raised to not intrude on anyone’s space.  I have to appreciate that I have friends at all, so our correspondence is much appreciated.

I tend to be quiet, but also very intense in my feelings.   I tend to care greatly, even about relative “strangers”, but do not often verbalize my caring.  This combination does not always serve me well,  particularly when in certain local restaurants.   Besides,older single men are not received well by everyone, when taking up a table.  This adds to a feeling of isolation, as I have indicated in past posts.  In my own case, though, it’s probably better for my physical health-as the establishments in question offer largely high-calorie fare.

It occurred to me, this morning, that the problem is not so much that I am wearing out my welcome here, as that what I need is to end my own isolated living situation and find a small community of people who support one another, not by appointment or scheduled time, but intentionally, naturally.  This is what I miss about the little team of which I was a part, until April 3.  This is what I miss about the hostels where I stayed last summer; about being with friends and family  in Nevada, Philadelphia,  Florida and  Tennessee; about having been in Korea, a few months ago.  There is no easy answer on the horizon, but I know something will surface.

Vulnerability and Soothing Blend

4

May 11, 2019-

I just finished watching a TED Talk on “Shame”. This came about four hours after someone, with whom I was working as a volunteer, mildly upbraided me for not working at a paying job.  (This person is not working at a paying job, either.)

I am ever willing to stand outside and be vulnerable to criticism, knowing that a) I can’t live with myself, if I am not open and b) The critic is usually seeing, in  me, those things he or she dislikes about self.   That doesn’t mean the criticism never stings- and there are two people who I have banned from my life, in perpetuity, for barrages of that I consider unwarranted attacks. It does mean that those whom I trust, and who do not have hidden agendas, are to speak freely.

The presenter of the above-mentioned video spoke of shame as nearly always a prime impediment to a person being the true self.  Shame is imposed from within, though not always sans influence or instigation from someone else.  When I was younger, it was fairly easy, even for well-meaning people, to wreck my self-confidence and set in motion even false shame.

Since the days when my late wife was in my primary care, I have learned that there are unscrupulous people who will take to questioning even the most basic decisions a person can make- usually with a view towards financial benefit or other forms of power and control over the person they are questioning.  I have learned that there are those who will attack someone who is defending victims of crimes, almost always as a means of gaslighting or obfuscation.  Both of the people I mentioned above are gaslighters, and they came close to doing a good job of making me feel shamed.

There was just one difference, from the days of my youth:  Time, and hard lessons, have taught me the difference between acknowledging wrongdoing and buying into the script of a narcissist or tyrant.   So now, in an intervening period between jobs, I am not ashamed of not presently earning an income, outside of what I have already set aside for myself.  That situation will change- on my terms, not those of the retired critic.

I am not afraid to be vulnerable, or to experience life’s aches and pains.  The physical variety of these is relieved by what is called Soothing Blend (an oil-based ointment).  The spiritual variety is relieved by prayer, meditation and positive action.

The Shortest Distance, and The Longest

2

May 5, 2019-

“Civilization is precisely the human capacity to say no…….”- Rob Riemen, To Fight Against This Age

Viewing the film “Room”, this evening, I prepared myself for a variety of possible outcomes, none of them good.  Having worked for so long in child protection and recovery from abuse, I know the permutations that such cases can take.  I know that attorneys for the abuser will sometimes do their job all too well, and the cycle will repeat itself, ad nauseam.  I know that sometimes, the good guys win, and people like Erica Pratt, Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart go on to achieve at least a fair amount of normalcy and success, on their own terms.  I’ve seen a mix of the two outcomes, with identity mix-up and role confusion, only resolvable with the maximum amount of patience and sensitivity.

In a complex world, where everyone gets to jump in and have a say, many times with an agenda that has nothing to do with the recovering child, the cases can take  a long sideways route, often twisting like a corkscrew, until nothing is left.  In these cases, money is made, but no one wins.  Fame is achieved, sometimes for people who had nothing to do with the original case-and sometimes for those who did, but who have moved on, past the reality of the victim.

It’s been long enough, since the film was in theaters, that I can applaud how the story panned out.  “Jack” used native intelligence and common sense to save his mother twice- first from their captor, then from herself.  “Joy”, the mother, did well to keep both of them alive, and to recover, from both abandonment by her father and a misguided barrage of criticism from a sensation-seeking journalist.  The film is thus a cautionary tale, for several sectors of society.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  “Jack” was young enough to use that logic, in describing his former place of captivity to the police, and in avoiding the long, twisting, jagged-edged road to recovery faced by his mother.

I like to think that I prefer taking the short route, in my own life, but time has proven that sometimes, the long route has ended up being chosen.

Meeting Needs of Self and Others

5

April 30, 2019-

I spent a few hours, this morning, with a small group of people whose world view is something of a throwback to the time when Big Band music was de rigeur and good manners were the bedrock of society.  They are finding it hard to deal with the unraveling of society, viewing liberalism as the cause.  In my view, it is simply one reaction to the upheavals, rather than being causative.

Yesterday, I introduced Baha’u’llah’s prescription for the individual.  Today, let us look at sentences 5-8, of the Tablet:  “Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts.”

The people to whom I refer above would strike some as antiquated in their views.  As many of you know, I associate with many types of people, across the political spectrum and of all ethnicities and Faith groups.  Being fair in judgment so often requires one to hold the tongue- so being guarded in speech is a very critical trait, one on which I had to work very hard.  It does not mean suffering calumnies against other groups or rosily accepting what ever comes out of the person’s mouth, without challenge.  Nonetheless, a person does not do well to “shoot his mouth off.”  Justice shown to one man should not preclude justice to others.  Such would be a false justice.  Meekness- that is something of which I have often been accused.  So, it’s ironic that not being meek was cited as the grounds for my recent change in employment status.  No one can claim perfection.     I do, however, strive for humility, in my dealings with others.

Comfort and defense, both to myself and to those around me, have indeed been primary goals, and these make sentence #7:  “Be as  a lamp unto them that walk in darkness……..”, that much more cogent, the last clause being the driving force behind my having become a counselor and child advocate.  Integrity has been huge; so that even when I have failed in the matter of uprightness, the ownership of those failures has had to be indelible.

So onward I go; forward we all go.  Even when change is difficult to face, let us apply those values we hold dearest, to the resolution of the challenges we face, such as we will ever face.

Victim

17

April 27, 2018-

I have not, in real terms, ever been a victim. Yes, I have had an old laptop stolen from me. As I was the only one who could get it to work, chances are it is in the pile of useless electronics. Yes, someone pilfered a U.S. Passport, only to be himself caught, sometime later.

I have not ever been a victim.  Difficulties, stemming from misdirected choices, slow reactions to swiftly changing circumstances and excess trust of incompetent people are not grounds for crying “Poor me”.  I have been a slow learner.  I have placed trust in those who didn’t deserve it.  That is not victim-hood.

I am, instead, far more concerned with those who ARE victims: Children and teens who are put into one form, or another, of servitude-sometimes, even by their own parents;  adults, usually-but not always, women who are promised gainful employment, but instead are turned into slaves, living in brutal conditions; seniors, living in filthy conditions, and mentally unable to call attention to their plight; members of religious or ethnic minority groups, demonized by powerful interests in their own countries.

There will be a time, in the not-too-distant future, when my time, whether traveling, or in a Home Base, somewhere, will be spent primarily in voluntary service.  Then will my focus not be on keeping a roof over my head, but on keeping the vulnerable, wherever, I find them, out of harm’s way.

I am keeping my eyes open, in this relatively peaceful community, until the day that I move on,  and it’s true that there will be plenty of  opportunities to help others-not those with signs or outstretched hands, begging for cash, but people who are being genuinely mistreated, beyond their ability to fight back.

I will remain, not a victim.