Studying Gnosis

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February 8, 2023- This week, my main thrust is aiding three groups of students in their study of the culture and legacy of ancient Greece. Gnosis is a generic Greek word, meaning “knowledge”, though it has come to connote knowledge of a spiritual nature. “Know thyself” is the first of three admonitions, inscribed at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. There is no time in life when self-awareness is more crucial than during the period of life known as early adolescence. So, study of the great figures of historical Greek culture-and reading some of the knowledge they imparted can provide a good measure of assurance to a struggling 11-or 12-year-old.

The teacher whose class I am covering is taking her students through several multimodal activities, in each of the cultures they are studying. Each student had to research a key figure in Classical Greek culture-from Draco to Sappho, and including Archimedes, Solon, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle and Euclid, among others. The material, of course, is age-appropriate, so there is no graphic detail provided about certain elements of that ancient realm.The lessons are of the enduring gifts sent us by the Classicists: Plane geometry, architecture, romantic poetry, the the of law, existential philosophy, dramatic plays, competitive sports, clinical medicine and basic democracy. The students also learned to write the ancient Greek alphabet, itself the precursor of both the Roman and Cyrillic scripts, and to fashion the design of the period.

Most essential, though, is that each person knows that what they carry within is a treasure to be nurtured and shared. He or she also will see that people persevered through some tough times, and that they, too, can devise creative ways to do so-with some of these perhaps becoming part of a future great legacy. If this lesson is enshrined in the child’s psyche, then this teacher, and I, will have performed a service.

Some Gave All

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February 5, 2023- On February 3, 1943, four brave men stood, arm-in-arm, on the deck of an Army Troop Transport vessel, as it was sinking after having been hit by a German torpedo. They were military chaplains, who had given their own life jackets to four scared young men and seen to it that those men went onto a life raft. The four chaplains died, along with over 200 others, for whom there was no room on the rescue rafts. They died praying with those men.

I had the honour, for a second time, of reading the biography of one of the chaplains, as our American Legion Post held its Four Chaplains ceremony, this afternoon. All gave some; some gave all. This ceremony reduces grown, hardened men to tears-proof of what I mentioned in the last post. To respond to one of my critics, the fact that some women engage in dissolute behaviour has nothing to do with the presence of nurturing energy in men, nor is it proof of gender equality. The actions of the four chaplains, and of countless men who have engaged in similar acts of love for their fellows, are the definitive proof.

All gave some; some gave all. I can only hope that, if I am called to such an action, that I will find the strength to carry it forward. Some gave all.

Who, The People?

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February 2, 2023- Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning. Legend has it that this means six more weeks of winter. Other animals did not see their shadows, thus there will be an early spring. People, like prognosticating animals, are of different minds about the same thing.

A heartfelt message appeared recently, asking me to re-consider support for the “Wokies”, who were “brainwashed”. The message cited “We, The People”, as its source. This group wants to “take the country back”.

Another group, also “We, The People”, notes that a good part of the nation has been disenfranchised in the past, and some are at risk of being disenfranchised again. They strive to “take the country forward”. So, who are ‘The People”?

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a wise woman said “All means all”, whether some are heroic and well-grounded or cowardly and self-centered. She has a keener sense of an answer to the above question. The Eternal brought all human beings into existence. Some, adopting a belief in self-reliance, grow into a conservative, business-oriented philosophy or go even further, eschewing virtually all dealings with government, above the local level. Others, adopting a communalist stance, grow into a progressive, social-justice oriented stance or go even further, eschewing any dealings with “the elite”.

We are ALL “The People”. There are countless examples of people in public life savaging each other one minute, and being compelled to seek each other out, the next. The recent exchanges during the selection of a Speaker of the U.S.House of Representatives are a mild example. A few years ago, a member of one faction of the House encountered a fellow passenger in medical distress, on a flight from Washington to Phoenix. He summoned a member of the opposite faction, with whom he had been arguing almost incessantly in the course of House business, and the two managed to save the suffering man’s life.

The best thing that can happen to any soul is to be put in a situation where interaction with someone who has an opposite, or challenging, take on how society ought be organized, is in the best interests of both. There are no “POSes” or “wastes of DNA”.

We are ALL “The People”.

The Rocks Are The Ones Who Endure

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February 1, 2023- The young man privately explained his actions, wanting to make sure that I understood and was not swayed by the chatter of others. I determined that it would be best for me to mainly observe what everyone was doing, and pay close attention to his teaching style. All in all, he led well, and engaged the students, through some rather tough subject matter. The other staff followed his lead and maintained a unified front. it was a good day.

In times past, I have been inclined to take the side of a woman, in disputes, especially if the man comes across as bombastic and patriarchal. Time has shown that this is not always fair-and that women (and girls) can certainly be devious and less than truthful as well. It is the subsequent behaviour that often gives the culpable party away-and I am not surprised if both are at fault.

Yet, it is the person who is direct in communication, sure of self and able to cut through the fog of others’ machinations and misinformation who gets my support and confidence. Often, that has been a woman, but it is MOST often the person who is being shut out by a small coterie. I have been in that situation, countless times, and so am more inclined to offer the outlier the benefit of the doubt. That happened in this case, and I am confident that the students are in good hands, all around. It’s been a good three days, even if I was mainly a fly on the wall.

Those who are towers of strength, who withstand buffeting winds, who are rocks, are the ones who will endure. Those who yammer and undermine would do well to stop, look and listen.

Two Boys and A Spider

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January 31, 2023- The small wolf spider had found its way onto a school gym floor and was inching its way across. A curious little boy, who loves insects and arachnids, spotted the black beast and stood watching it, for several seconds. He got down on his knees and bent down to look closer. A teacher standing with him said not to get in the spider’s face, as the animal would get scared and bite him, in self-defense. The boy listened and continued to watch from a distance.

Shortly afterward, they were joined by a more rambunctious boy, a year older than the first, who had a different view of small invertebrates. He wanted to step on the poor crawler, or throw a small ball at it. The teacher prevented this from happening, knowing how, at very least, it would upset the younger child, besides affirming to the older child that killing animals was inherently okay. In the end, the spider continued on its long journey across the floor and the boys went back to their classroom.

At the same school, before Christmas, a group of girls had adopted a small bat, which had been separated from its colony. They protected and nurtured the animal, until another student hit it with a rock, killing the bat, and causing a fair amount of turmoil at the school. The community has long been divided between those who wish to cultivate vegetables in a school garden and co-exist with nature, versus those who regard everything natural as getting in the way of progress. Right now, the garden group has the support of the school administrators, and the fate of the bat has not reverberated well for the anti-nature group.

If one were to leap ahead in time, and look at a community where “progress” has been untrammeled, and the situation described in Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” actually come to reality, the imbalance would be seen as untenable-and small, but significant, moves towards a re-introduction of natural habitat would be seen taking place. This has been happening in large cities, across the world, as well as in phased out industrial sites. These have become a focus of environmental education activities in schools just like the one referenced above.

Balance always finds its way to the fore.

Cold Shoulder

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January 28, 2023- Both of my favourite Prescott weekend haunts were nearly deserted, this evening. It’s shoulder season-the slow period between mid-January and St. Patrick’s Day, when a single person can actually expect to have a table of four to self-for nearly a whole evening. I ask you, who needs a table of four to oneself? It makes my night-or day, for that matter, to share a table, or give away seats to couples or foursomes who need an extra chair or two, at their table. Sometimes, I even get invited to join the gathering.

The artists, at both Rafter Eleven and Raven Cafe, were fine musicians and got plenty of applause, and tips, from those of us who came to listen. Steve Miller ( no, not the Gangster of Love, but a joyful singer, nonetheless) offered up a couple of hours’ worth of Golden Oldies-including some from the ’90s and 2000s, to a nearly empty Rafter. No matter, Steve has been here several times-and played to a packed house. At Raven, Remi Goode, a five-piece folk and blues-oriented band, named for its front person, found themselves the main event for the evening, as a local band that was to be headlining found themselves unavailable. Remi and Co. were fresh from a visit to Nashville, where they had done several gigs. They were up to the evening and did three imaginative and well-balanced sets. They made a lovely point, that Prescott is a good place to stop, on the way back from a Nashville road trip. I can think of a few places along the way that would also have been nice stops-but this town is one of a kind, so who am I to be a wet blanket?

A mysterious couple came in, not long before I left. First, the man entered, stood next to my table and seemed very nervous-wanting to applaud, while Remi was still singing-even asking me when they were going to stop. The woman came in, shortly after, smiled wanly at him and went straight to the back. Man followed her, at a discrete distance. About ten minutes later, they both came back-and woman went straight out the door. Man watched her leave, wistfully, and left himself, five minutes later. I just had an inkling that they were working something out, but the cold shoulder she seemed to be giving him indicated it wasn’t happening.

Shoulder season is slow, but has its moments.

Speed The Plow

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January 26, 2023- It is amazing, in some ways, how my inner thoughts and feelings have changed thus far in a new calendar year. The cosmic focus is said to be more inner directed this year, than last. There seems to be much truth to that, even in the early weeks of the year. My thoughts, as I drift off to sleep, are less other-directed-a good thing, given that one can’t do much to help as slumber approaches.

Nonetheless, what I want for myself-and by extension, my loved ones, is more focus and keener insight on what can make each of our little worlds a safer, healthier place. As this first of three intense work weeks winds down, I have experienced some progress in that regard-and have continued to stand firm in the face of some opposition to my work, actually turning things around with a couple of naysayers, in a span of three days. I have yet to win a couple of estranged friends back, but everything needs to happen naturally and organically.

A small conflict over the process of a certain medical check-up was resolved, yesterday, and I reached a compromise with the government, so the check-up will take place in a month’s time, which is actually better for me-as March and September will be the check-up points, and I am already committed to Home Base at the beginnings of those months.

The process of what needs to be accomplished this year is starting to accelerate. As the plow forges ahead, I promise to keep it moving straight, and not to upend the soil to an unhealthy depth, but rather to mix the minerals and nutrients in a beneficial way. Let all activities this year help to bring a spiritual bounty to all those I love.

Suasion

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January 24, 2023-

The arguments seemed incessant, and there were people talking over each other. I can not follow that path. When a person speaks, about own health, at least the most reasonable of their ideas merit inclusion.

So today, a young man’s insistence on personal space was granted, and he went on to work hard. A gentleman who served his country well, asked for assistance in a health matter, that was less taxing on him, than what had been recommended to me by others. We did things his way, and all is better than it was.

Suasion works better than commanding.

Disgruntled

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January 23, 2023- I awoke this morning, preparing to head for the second of ten consecutive workdays. Opening the shades, after completing my early morning routine, I saw-a light blanket of snow! This led to a check of the website of the school district, where I am assigned this week, and revealed a two-hour delay in the school day, followed 30 minutes later by the school closure announcement. We do not mix icy roads and school buses, whenever it can be avoided.

I thus had ample time to reflect on the events of the weekend-four sets of mass shootings: Two in Louisiana and one each in California and in Arizona, causing a total of 21 innocent deaths and at least 20 more injuries. Today brought 9 more dead- Seven in Half Moon Bay, CA and two in Des Moines, IA. The Half Moon Bay shooter was said to be “disgruntled”.

In all the back and forth between “sides”, as to how to address the mass killings, there are salient points made about the ease with which firearms may be obtained, by someone with a deadly agenda-which is almost always of fairly long standing. There are equally salient points made about mental illness attending these events. No one who is right of mind is going to shoot, stab, poison or run over another human being. There are few points being made about the spiritual aspects of the problem.

Most of us have been disgruntled with others, or with the “system”, at one time or another. Those who have been disgruntled with me, of late, have chosen to either use their words or distance themselves. Ditto for my being upset at other people. Fair enough; who among us can please everyone, all the time. There is a reasonable expectation that being upset at another person does NOT mean that person should forfeit life and limb. Those of us with a spiritual grounding, a belief in the Eternal, tend to pull back from our worst impulses-to the extent we entertain them at all.

Motor vehicles, firearms, ordnance, bladed implements and toxins are all readily available in our society. Regulating them, especially hand-held weaponry, would likely help some, in reducing the death toll-as it has in Australia and some European countries. More fully focusing on the many aspects of the mental health issue will take a plethora of resources-and if done correctly will vindicate those expenditures.

Yet, one thing and one thing only will put our society over the barrier that keeps matters uncivil: There must be encouragement of spiritual education-as parents, children and communities see fit, so that each human life is viewed in the manner with which it is endowed by the Eternal. Emotional release that is achieved by ad hominem or heterogeneous attacks needs to be discouraged. This does not mean a Kumbaya Nation; it means that, despite how some people aggravate one another, it does not end in death or dismemberment.

It means a retreat from fatalism.

Dignity Above All

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January 22, 2023- It was well said, last Monday, “all means all”. Any decision made, with regard to the life of an unborn child, will hopefully place the utmost value on that child’s quality of life-as well as that of the mother. The decision, one of the heaviest that any human being is asked to make, must be made by the mother-not by politicians. I’ve made that point several times, and will let it stand.

I carried a sign around Courthouse Plaza, this afternoon, a tolerated but not entirely welcome act, in the midst of a highly politicized march that was billed as a Women’s March. The message, well-crafted by someone else, stated simply: “We march on, for equality, fairness and justice for all.” All means all-and the implication, that this applies even to those who do not subscribe to a given political stance, is nettlesome to a few. I see that this is greatly evident among those who are of the opinion that an authoritarian regime is the best way to solve all the problems besetting a given nation-all the while ignoring the track record of totalitarians up to now. Invariably, the elite of both Right and Left enrich themselves at the expense of the vast majority of their fellow citizens.

In the end, no one who might have been opposed to the march bothered the participants, and only one or two of those gathered bothered with me-one of them helping to carry the sign for a while, before walking off in a huff, from some unknown slight. The kids, and their mothers, remain more important to me than any political operative-of any stripe. It was gratifying to see a dozen or so young women scattered among the marchers, taking charge of their own dignity, making it clear to the others that this is their struggle now and will be carried out on their terms. Later in the afternoon, I stopped in at a restaurant across from the courthouse and was greeted by a young woman who was grateful for those who spoke up on behalf of her generation’s rights.

The future belongs to those who do not slam the door on people with whom they might not agree or on those whom they regard as “irrelevant” to the process. The future lies beyond emotional fits, self-aggrandizement or making veiled threats against others. I may be of an older generation, but I stand with those who could be my children, or grandchildren. Hopefully, as those discomfited by my presence see that I am not going away, they will also place more value on working with the young, rather than carrying on ideological battles of times past.

Human dignity matters more.