Seventy-One and Counting, Day 3

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December 1, 2021- The little long-haired dachshund, standing outside the small cafe, looked over her shoulder at me, as I sat by the window, and smiled as if she knew me from somewhere. Our last dog, of the same breed, was euthanized eleven years ago, at the age of seventeen. Lady had severe arthritis at the time and could not move without screeching. Maybe canine energy flows through the Universe, the way human energy does, or maybe the animal could just sense that I was taken with her sweet expression, as her owner looped the leash around a chair leg, while he went into the nearby herb shop.

Catch-up. This morning, in particular, was set aside for paying the rent, recycling old newspapers and going through the freezer & refrigerator, to make sure any overlooked stale and rancid stuff was tossed. The afternoon was a bit quieter, visiting a bit with friends from Prescott Valley and helping my Hiking Buddy get some of her product to the P.O.

Duplicates, triplicates, etc. Checking the contacts on my i-Phone, I see that nearly all of them were entered at least twice. So, after locating the ‘delete’ tab, at the bottom of each ‘Edit’ page, I managed to start clearing the redundant entries. It’ll probably take a half hour to get through the whole list, including surname changes and removing the names of those who have passed away. This is what happens when importing data from one phone system to another, and getting no confirmation of the import, at first. Retrying was apparently unnecessary.

Stocks in Trade. It most always happens that those with a heavy investment in the stock market use the last trading day of any given month as their pay day. There is always a lame excuse: “Because of ____________ (fill in the blanks)”, but the reason is the same. In essence, this is how some folks pay their bills. The rest of us just bide our time, leave our investments alone and sooner, rather than later, the funds are on the upswing again-until the next end-of-month or day before a holiday.

Whose Body Is It? The Supreme Court Justices weighed in on the matter of whether abortion is a choice or a matter of government restriction. There was no “final” decision made on the matter, but here is the thing, imho. Life begins at conception AND the matter of whether it proceeds to birth lies between a mother and her physician, with hopefully some RESPONSIBLE and informed input from the father. A rapist, or an incestuous man forfeits any claim to having been responsible. It falls to the mother’s moral compass, as to whether the child should be carried to term. Again, in my humble opinion, genetic testing should NOT be the basis for such decision making, if gender or potential disability are the criteria for opting to abort. As a man who is past child- siring age, I recognize that my opinions are not exactly going to be solicited. However, I conclude with three points: 1. A fetus is not brain-dead, despite the statement made to that effect by one of the Supreme Court justices. The level of brain development should have nothing to do with the mother’s decision. That is the stuff and nonsense behind the odious theory of eugenics. 2. Devaluing a person because of gender is precisely the reason why pre-birth testing is also odious. People in societies where women and girls are historically devalued should not be given license to indulge in pre-birth slaughter. 3. Finally, I have yet to meet a mother who opts for abortion who is NOT scarred emotionally by her choice. It is arguably the most terrifying situation in which a human being may be placed. The last thing she needs is to have government in the driver’s seat. The forces of education and nurturance need to be in place, very early in the life of an adolescent -boy or girl and definitely need to be there for a woman who has to make the decision. Regardless of the choice made, the woman needs to be enveloped in love. Too much can, and will, go wrong when a patriarchy or detached bureaucracy-including SCOTUS- imposes its dictates on the lives of women who are of child-bearing age.

That’s my take, and I’m sticking to it.

Seventy-One Years Down

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November 28, 2021, Grapevine- It was the best Korean lunch I’ve had, and I am not just speaking out of prejudice. My daughter-in-law prepared a soup of seaweed, braised beef and garlic, accompanied by several side dishes (kimchi, small grilled and shredded mushrooms, grilled tofu and pressed, layered vegetable roll) and steamed rice. Yunhee has learned a highly-developed cuisine form, very well. This was my birthday meal, though we would have a late supper at a nearby burger joint, this evening.

The early evening saw us take in the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die”, the apparent swan song for actor Daniel Craig, in the role of the legendary secret agent. No spoilers here, but it was faithful to the Bond narrative of fantasy car chases, explosions and mass disruptions of fancy, gala events.

It has been a most eventful seventy-first year of earthly life. My childhood home was sold, as Mother moved, of her own volition, into an Assisted Living residence. One of my closest cousins lost a battle with cancer. Two trips eastward, in May and in July, were both generated and affected by these events. Concern with justice, both deferred and realized, led to visits to the Greenwood community, in Tulsa and to George Floyd Square, in Minneapolis. I was able to reconnect with two cousins and their wives after many years. Strong new friendships were made at my Home Base of Prescott. COVID19, while still influential in my public and private activities, ceased to be an overwhelmingly restrictive force, especially after my receipt of two Moderna vaccines (with the understanding that these are strictly season to season in effectiveness), which combined with a proactive immunity regimen and being blessed with O+ blood, have allowed me to move along with a moderate level of caution. Three minor, but nettlesome, skin tumors were removed. Visits to Carson City, in the spring and to northern New Mexico and the San Diego area, this Autumn, were thus able to take place without any negative results.

As Year 72 begins, I join my fellow Baha’is in entering the second century of what is called the Formative Age of our Faith, a time in which its affairs are managed by ordinary people, acting in elected assemblies, following the guidance of its Founder’s Teachings, as explained further by ‘Abdu’l-Baha and His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, who served as Guardian of the Faith from 1921 until his passing, in 1957. We are all charged to advance spiritually, both individually and in groups.

My work with children and teens continues, though not on a full-time basis, given official retirement last November. So, too, does work with non-profit agencies, including the Red Cross. Hikes and travel will continue, of course, though the latter will see more use of trains and buses, with my Saturn Vue staying within the areas of California and the five southwestern states.

I look ever forward to what further challenges and blessings may arise.

The Essentials

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November 26, 2021, Grapevine- Writing about little stuff, whilst in Texas, is not as much of an oxymoron as one might think. The Lone Star Empire is made up of a mass of minutiae-all of which lend their parts to the legend.

This leads me to the logical codicil to yesterday’s gratitude post: The basic things that warm my heart and keep me going. Here are a dozen such, written Letterman-style:

12. The Cosmos. Any night that at least features the Moon, Jupiter and Venus (at least until February) is a fine one. How much more pleasant is the early morning, with a mass of heavenly orbs! Even the coldest of nights is more comforting, when there are gleaming stars all around.

11. Friends randomly made. The saving grace of seeming inconveniences, like lines, traffic snarls, postponements, crowded conveyances is that they often introduce me to people with whom I may not have anything else, inherently, in common. I recall times, like the three hours spent in the corridor connection of a train going between St. Lo and Paris, in 2014. The families who were huddled there will always be among cherished friends.

10. Friends digitally made. There is a lot of which to be wary, when it comes to social media. One must always be on guard, against the forces of manipulation and invasion of privacy. The upside, though, is the number of potentially close friends who might not have been made, otherwise. I think, especially of five of my closest friends-three women and two men, who were met online.

9. Cozy establishments. Living alone means that gathering spots are important. This is true in my Home Base, and it’s true everywhere I go. A comfortable couch or easy chair, or a well-placed high top table, make for an enjoyable meal, or evening of music.

8. Variety of scenes. The immense number of different landscapes, and seascapes, across the planet, has contributed to my learning and sense of well-being. The same is true of the human landscapes, from crowded cities to isolated farms, ranches and mining sites.

7. Variety of viewpoints. No matter how much I think I know, there is always something to be gained, from encountering a different perspective. Even something that is odious or toxic can, if regarded from a safe distance, show me what NOT to adopt as my own.

6. Health practices. Keeping an open mind about different methods of maintaining stamina and avoiding addiction has led me to a relatively robust autumn of my years. I am ever grateful for those who led me to essential oils and natural supplements.

5. Imagination. My vivid mindset has led me down some crazy rabbit holes, but with the understanding that the way in is also the way out. Imagination leads to creativity, which is often the only key to problem-solving-and God knows, we need that ability, almost on a daily basis.

4. Presence of children and youth. The value of spirited energy to a full life cannot be minimized. Kids have been urgent to my well-being, since I was one, myself. I have never been particularly athletic, but being around team sports and activities has been a tonic. It took me a long time to relax enough, within myself, to take part in group dances, yet when I am among a group of young people who are reveling in their musical surroundings ( except for thing like mosh pits or crowd surges), my body and soul are soaring. The delightful energy and perspectives of children are ever a treasure, even to just watch.

3. Family. From the time I was small, I have liked, as well as loved my parents, grandparents, and siblings. It has not always crystal clear to some, that this is the case, but in my core I stay true to my roots. From family, I have learned that there is always a solution to what life throws at me. Dad, with his emphasis on making responsible choices, and owning them and Mom, with her admonitions about keeping an eye out for opportunity and for loving who I am, are largely responsible for my even being here to this day and time.

2. Spirit guides- Those who have gone on, even those who I never met in the flesh, have looked out for me and constantly send messages. They have prompted me to act, in matters profound and mundane-and have consistently helped me set my path.

1. Faith- This is what ties everything together. All the foregoing items emanate from my faith in a Higher Power, Who I believe has shown us the way to building a unified planet and has been ever guiding Creation in that direction, from the very point in which it was renewed-so many eons ago. All the Spiritual Teachers the human race has ever known emanate from this One Source.

A Child Is A Child

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November 19, 2021- I have friends and family, on both sides of the Chasm, when it comes to discussions of race. Just so we’re clear, I am dead set against ANY policy or action that limits or prevents a person from following his/her life plan-so long as that plan does not itself involve limiting or preventing another person from following theirs.

It started, in a sense, with Emmett Till. When he was killed, I was four. An older cousin saw the news on TV and commented: “That is just plain SICK!” I asked what was sick and he told me that a kid, not much older than he, was killed by some crazy people in a place called Mississippi. I knew that name, because the older girls in the neighbourhood spelled it out while jumping rope. It bothered me, from that time on, that adults would kill a child.

As time went on, I witnessed and experienced all types of adult behaviour towards children-mostly good, but some very wicked things as well. I was, thankfully, never beaten or abused-but I knew plenty of boys and girls who were.

Growing up in a mostly White town, I saw and heard people of all ages-including some of my mates, express hostility towards people of other racial groups. In fairness, they were just as caustic towards people of other European ethnicities. I never felt such animosity towards anyone, but as the saying goes, “You stand in chalk, you inhale the dust.” It took time in the Army and frank discussions with people of other backgrounds, in which I chose to listen more than talk, for me to truly understand their experiences.

It is the duty of adults to teach teens in the ways of maturity. Maturity, as my father explained to me, means not rushing furiously into a situation, unprepared and likely overmatched. Now, we see what happens when the reverse is true. Kyle Rittenhouse went into battle, in his own mind, against an imagined foe that he barely understood, and of whose diversity he was completely ignorant. Someone in his life owed him a hand of restraint- not a violent hand, but a firm one.

Like many people in adolescence, he seemed to think he was capable of rising to the occasion and fending off those who had trouble in mind. Ironically, it was not the thugs on the periphery of the social justice movement whom he faced down, that awful night. It was three grown men, who likely fancied themselves allies of that movement, coming at him, a boy of 17.

I question how he was able to bring an AR15 with him, when the minimum age for BUYING such a weapon is 18. Yet, there it was, in his hands, after who knows how much training and practice he had been given in its use. Even people in the military, who are, with rare exceptions, 18 and over, have to have a minimum of eight weeks of training in the handling, use and maintenance of firearms, especially automatic weapons. Kyle should not have been there alone. Adults should have been with him, and then as a force of restraint.

There is, additionally, the research into the maturation of the human brain. The brain is not completely formed until the age of 25, if then. I look back on myself, in my teens and twenties, and sometimes shudder that I am still alive- my parents’ best efforts to raise me aside.

We are, however, in a crisis of adulthood when, once again, people at the street level are left trying to explain to the wider society why People of Colour are frustrated and angry-while not exactly hearing the voices of reason from those above them, in the halls of power. We are in a crisis of adulthood when a child is castigated in the court of public opinion, publicly coddled by a sitting judge and probably just as confused as he was on that awful night. We are in a crisis of adulthood when the voices of the nation’s leadership use vitriol, rather than step back, breathe deeply and foster healing. We are in a crisis of adulthood, when we just go back to the same sides, across the Chasm, that led us here in the first place.

A good-hearted, gentle family member remarked this evening that she just wants to see love for everyone. She is a conservative Christian. I am a gadfly, who leans progressive, in most matters. My sentiments, though, are the same.

A child is a child; raise him (her)!

The Powers That Be

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November 16, 2021- The various groups of 11-12 year-olds that convened today made a concerted effort to complete their tasks, which were focused on the study of Early Man, with regard to four subtopics: Hunting, gathering/fundamental agriculture, pre-family socialization and intergroup relationships. Some wondered what it would have been like to have encountered pre-historic humans. The boys, in particular, were musing about having to face muscle-bound and aggressive creatures. A couple of the girls talked about always having to work and perhaps having no real status. The focus on personal power was quite telling.

Many today have relinquished their own power-in the face of those tests and trials of which I wrote, in the previous post. This relegation is certainly a contributor to fatigue, and to dis-ease. In the face of such disempowerment, is it any wonder that the pandemic is the “gift that keeps on giving”-and taking? To rely on The Party, on The Movement, on an individual benefactor, or even on a small group of benefactors, is a falsehood, destined to lead to despair and cynicism. My mother calls it magical thinking-and I call that a spot-on assessment.

Every one of us has far more power to achieve than many ever give themselves their due. I daresay that, if we realize, really recognize who we are, then the various “industries” that prey on the masses-the drug cartels, large reaction-oriented pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers of cheap alcoholic beverages, and all manner of “snake-oil” vendors will be desperately seeking other lines of work. Realistically, that likely won’t happen in the next few years-but there will come a time.

The learning, as to the depths of one’s power-given each of us at birth, takes as long as one feels is needed to recognize it and to determine how best to bring it to bear. It is my work to keep on imparting that message to children and youth, to be a way shower, and to persist in reminding those who say they are helpless, that their weakness is an illusion-and that the power of the individual sometimes needs to be reflected by the power of the group.

No one is less strong than s(he) feels.

Exhausted

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November 15, 2021- The young woman looked at the police officer who had come to her assistance, and said, flat-out, “I am just…so…tired. There is no end.”

I am not exhausted, though there have been times….. Dan Rather posted a provocative essay, entitled “It’s Okay To Be Exhausted”, in yesterday’s edition of the Blogsite “Steady”. He listed all the things that this modern world has thrown at us, which lead to so many being at the point of zero returns. Part of the issue is the ubiquity of information. No matter where one lives in the world, he or she can be, and often is, bombarded with the plights of those less fortunate-often with urgent pleas for help (preferably financial), on the double. This, on top of politics, social (in)justice, false equivalence, restrictions on travel, restrictions on parental involvement in the schools, ham-handed governance (from both ends of the spectrum, and all points in between), climate change, pro-choice, pro-life, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, vitriol, supply chain issues, inflation, Paul Gosar’s anime, AOC’s pickle jar, Michael Flynn’s Theocracy, income inequality, double taxation of estates. I almost miss the days of “Where’s the Beef?” Wow, I didn’t even mention the pandemic.

What matters to me the most is the well-being of those around me-either physically in the community, by my side when on the road, and children/teens-anywhere I happen to be. What seems to matter the most, to those with whom I talk, is being heard and respected. None of us really need to be told how to raise our children. None of us really need to be told to look out for our sickly loved ones. None of us really need to be told that we’re doomed unless we follow _______________ (fill in the blanks).

What matters most is love-the only source of energy that can restore the exhausted ones who are all around. It is not a product of ideology, of lifestyle choices or of political affiliation. It is not demonstrated by giving all one has, willy-nilly, and making oneself a ward of someone else. It is bestowed on us at birth, and hopefully nurtured by family, community and one’s affiliates-near and far.

“Love gives life to the lifeless”-‘Abdu’l-Baha

Bookends

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November 13, 2021- The day began and ended with friends named Lisa. One can never tell where even the most seemingly quotidian act can lead. After breakfast, I got a message from the first Lisa, asking me to get her some crayons, for an event in which she was a participant. Crayons being one of the items not yet hit by the current bout of inflation, this was easy enough. When I delivered them to Lisa, at the event site, she asked my help in one other errand, which was easy enough-though involving a bit of time.

Once that was done, and Lisa in good shape, it was time for my main meeting of the day-a 1 3/4 hour American Legion Post meeting, for which I stood the duration. Yes, this was a rare Post meeting which was standing room only. I began to understand how Congressional staffers might feel, as the meeting entailed a reading of a lengthy document. Verbose attendees added to the length of the session, but that comes with the territory.

Later came a run out to Rafter Eleven, and an interesting discussion of olive oil blends, with a foodie named Linda. When it was time for my own dinner, I headed back to Prescott and The Raven. The ordering line almost always results in light conversation with those around me, and this evening was no exception. A large family had gathered, with matriarch, her sons and their wives, along with several grandchildren. Another party of four was behind me, and while deciding my order, I bade them go ahead. Noting an empty table next to theirs, they set it aside for my use. The large family, including their little pug in a stroller, was directly behind my table.

Thus, I made the acquaintance of the second Lisa. She had lived for many years in Prescott, but now lived in southern California. By turns, she was chatty and withdrawn, as we all listened to a duo playing music of the 1920s and’30s. This brought to mind the dictum: Never make assumptions about a person, based on their demeanour. After forty minutes or so, Lisa turned to me and told of her husband’s recent death and that today, the family had laid him to rest. Condolences and a gentle hug ensued, I was introduced to her family and bade them a safe trip back to their homes in California.

Even the most seemingly quotidian of activities can lead to unexpected places. Sometimes, a day brings bookends.

Remembrance

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November 11, 2021- Today being Veteran’s Day, across the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada and elsewhere, there were large parades in a number of cities and towns. Prescott’s parade lasted 1 1/2 hours. All the branches of the Armed Services, service organizations, politicians of various stripes, high school marching bands and ROTC units, the Scouts, the Young Marines, service dogs and horses, the usual classic cars-and one clown car were on hand. There was a Red Cross contingent. I brought my RC apparel, but never found the group-until the end of the parade. It was alright being a spectator, though. The weather was mild and I got to talk with other veterans.

The grifters came back, momentarily. This time, I had an incoming phone call, which was dropped and the number blocked. There was a text message, urging me to let them back on my e-mail feed. That, too, was deleted. For a few minutes, guilt was processed and I remembered part of my conversation with my friend in Dana Point-about how much progress I had made, in not feeling responsible for saving people from their own laziness and indolence. In the end, the decision was to not give in-ever- to the renewed attempts at extracting money from me. I have said before, that poor areas in Africa, and every other suffering place in the world, can only be elevated by collective action-not from abroad, but by the local citizenry themselves. That remains so.

I am living a better life now; making room for other people to be more spontaneously let into my world; being neither selfish nor a doormat. This is the best way I can remember all who sacrificed-and who still live honourable lives.

Astroworld

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November 8, 2021, San Diego– A lot of the conversation with friend, J, at Harpoon Henry’s Restaurant, in Dana Point, had to do with self-assessment and self-accounting. This was my first visit with her in two years, due to both the pandemic and the current circumstances of her life. J and I normally walk a bit along a beach of her choosing- Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach and Dana Point being her favourites. For the time being, such walks are on hold, but it was a good time for catching up. We agreed that it has been quite a year, all around. There have been ongoing debates and recriminations passed around, unwitting public figures being drawn into the limelight and a penchant for name-calling taking the place of people owning their decisions and the resulting behaviours. Through all the negativity, the pandemic continues, albeit in a slowly diminishing manner and responsibility takes a vacation-not in the beach towns, but at large public events.

Astroworld’s hip hop concert, over this past weekend, ended in horrific fashion, with eight people being crushed to death, and dozens more injured, in a stampede. There are further intimations of people being jabbed by hypodermic needles, laced with illicit drugs, at certain points during the Travis Scott concert. The performer himself couldn’t hear people calling for assistance for those injured or dying, until it was too late.

It is time for musicians, performance artists- and politicians to take stock, not only of how their words and actions immediately affect their audiences, but also how these infest the muscle memory of significant segments of society. Travis Scott cannot bring back his dead and injured fans-nor is he, alone, likely to curb the increasing tendency towards lurching towards abandon, when crowds of people are whipped into a frenzy. Astroworld should be a wake-up call for people to exercise restraint and look out for those around them. In the same way, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Las Vegas, North Charleston each should have been a wake-up call for curbing the access by mentally ill people to firearms.

The solution is spiritual. J and I each have chosen different paths to the sacred. Yet, both of us have found that sacred, in a way that makes sense to us, as individuals. It would have been all too easy, at least for me, to embark on acts of throwing caution to the wind-and giving vent to the wildest of urges-had I not been raised to act in a conscientious manner. Even so, trial and error have taken their toll, though thankfully not in a manner that was injurious or lethal to another human being. I can credit belief for the fact that such tendencies have gradually faded.

My heart always aches for those who suffer, needlessly, in events that go awry or where destruction is intended. The stampede at Astroworld and the apartment collapse in Lagos, also this weekend, are only the latest examples of the consequence that accrues, when we do not-even for the briefest of times, look upon the well-being of our neighbours with the same vigilance that we look upon our own.

Three Little Things

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November 5, 2021- I spent the day working mostly with a child who had a reputation for being feisty and insolent. While I saw flashes of those traits, at different points during the day, he was for the most part a delightful student. Many times, a child’s behaviour is a reflection of the attitude of the adults around. Besides, one can say such things about any person, at certain times.

I noted three little things about myself during the course of the day. I can start my day, with or without a cup of coffee, but it is the easing into a day’s activities that is facilitated by hot java-and a look at what is happening in the vicinity and in the wider world. Whether I am addicted to caffeine is debatable-and likely irrelevant. I drink no more than three cups, and then only a low energy day.

Multi-tasking, while rarer than it once was, is made easier by focusing-just for a few seconds, on how to do one thing (driving), while carrying on with another (talking with someone on the phone, using the speaker system). I had to do this, more often than I wanted, during all the years that I was caring for Penny whilst holding down a job. Thank God for the speaker feature-and Bluetooth. Talking with Aram, when he needs me, is ever a priority-and I’m glad when circumstances permit this.

Lastly, it is easier for me to correct my course of action than it used to be. The key is not to get rattled. Hosting Zoom calls is not always a shining moment, if one forgets to click the “share computer audio” button, at the bottom left of Screen Share. My audience, even the most tech savvy members, have become more forbearing than they once were-and in turn, I can correct course in less than thirty seconds. Staying mindful of the task at hand, and not being concerned about what others may be thinking, makes all the difference. As the Star Wars adage goes, “The only way is through.”

Every day has its gems-mine them.