Summer’s End

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September 20, 2021- This has been a strange eight days. I chalk most of it up to the change of seasons, which often finds me out of sorts and seeing darkness where none is intended. That, in turn, leads to trusted friends drawing back a bit and my being in a somewhat isolated state, for a few days. Taking the hint, this year, it’s a time to take care of a few things that have gone neglected for a while, today, and be in nature tomorrow-the day of Equinox.

It didn’t help matters any, that a planned deployment with the Red Cross fell through-only because I didn’t make a second consecutive phone call to the dispatcher-when I was expecting a confirmation call from that individual. Funny, how the protocol from last year has changed. At any rate, given my emotional state, I would not have been on game and mistakes may have happened, that would not have served well. Things, no matter how confusing, happen for the general good.

Today begins a second series of September birthdays (Mom’s and my middle brother’s being the first set, earlier this month). This one starts with the birthday of someone with whom I have had scant contact, in this life, but an inexplicable bond from some other realm of existence. It includes the birthday of my sister and ends with the commemoration of Penny’s birthday, both next week.

Summer’s end caps a season that took in a second cross-country journey, saw some friendships start to fade, others generate and renewed my bonds with good-hearted people. It included a longer work project than I had planned, but the results were fairly successful. It is now time to look towards Autumn-the season of harvest, and of my own birth. It will bring me to southern California, for a few days next week; complete Red Cross training that I feel is needed, in early October; and make a journey to places in New Mexico that have longed called out. Fall will also bring a couple more sessions with the dermatology team and hopefully see my little family come out here for Thanksgiving. I may yet also go on deployment for a couple of weeks.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Dan Wilson, “Closing Time”

Now, for another song, from a master songwriter:

It Was A Beautiful, Calm Tuesday Morning….

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September 11, 2021- I went to a Fry’s Supermarket, five blocks from my home, on the morning of September 11, 2001. I had no firm plans for the day and so, just picked up some bread and milk, before Penny had to go to work and Aram, to middle school. It was 6:10 a.m. MST, and the morning disc jockey on the rock station, whose call letters I don’t even remember, announced in a voice dripping with equal parts shock and incredulity that someone had flown an airplane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in New York.

An inner voice immediately told me that this was an act of terrorism. Getting home, I felt and looked shaken, and when Penny asked what was wrong, I told her, the TV was switched on, CNN fumbled a bit before acknowledging that there was an incident-and shortly after my loved ones dutifully left for their daily routines, footage of the second plane hitting the South Tower and the implosions that, as intended, prevented even further devastation and loss of life began to be shown, continuously throughout the week and month ahead. Then, there was the crash into the west side of the Pentagon (real), the crash into the back 40 of the Lambert family’s property in Shanksville, PA (also real) and the reports of fires on the National Mall and attacks on Sears (now Willis) Tower (imaginary).

In the days that followed, I paid a visit to the gas station that was operated by the Singh Sodhi family and paid respects to their slain husband, brother and father, Bubrik-killed by an angry Nativist, who thought Bubrik was Muslim. I then bought lunch at a cafe operated by Palestinian Christians. There was a job interview, at which I praised Rudy Giuliani’s leadership, drawing an eye roll from the interviewer-and no job offer. There were my own eye rolls, when a French conspiracy buff publicly stated that the whole series of incidents, especially at the Pentagon, were actually a series of holograms and that we would “know soon” the whereabouts of those reported dead-and when Ward Churchill described the dead as “little Eichmanns”.

There would be other attempts at terror, later in 2001 and over the next ten years. 10 weeks after the horrific events, a plane went down just east of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and into a neighbourhood near an apartment block in Queens. It was reported then as a crash, due to pilot error, but the apartment complex was home to many of the First Responders who had been called to duty on 9/11. This did not help any, in our national recovery, regardless of the actual behaviour of the Japan Airlines crew, in the plane that had taken off in front of American Airlines Flight 587, or of the AA 587 crew themselves. Subsequently, Richard Reed tried to bring down a plane, mid-ocean, by lighting his shoe on fire and Charles Bishara (aka Bishop) attempted to crash a stolen small plane into the Bank of America Building in Tampa. Both of these became tragicomic footnotes to the horrors of this day, ten years ago.

Today, I spent 12 hours helping with various aspects of Hope Fest, a Faith-based community service event on Courthouse Square. I go there as a jack-of-all-trades, serving in whatever capacity the various coordinators need done-from hauling pushcarts of equipment and materials for the various vendors to manning a Raffle Ticket booth. Then, there was helping with the breakdown, at day’s end-folding chairs and loading the sandbags that held canopies down, onto other pushcarts. I am grateful for the good health that allows me to still do such tasks, knowing full well that such strength won’t last forever.

Managing to fit in a grocery run for my temporarily disabled hiking buddy and leaving Hope Fest a little early (to the mild annoyance of the director) so as to greet a friend from Phoenix who was staying with me overnight, did not take away from the feeling that this event was another successful one-and that my own small role in it helped maintain the group spirit that has sustained our nation, throughout all manner of attacks from without and from within.

Adversity, of any kind, will only strengthen human resolve-if that resolve is genuine.

Just Because You Can…..

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September 8, 2021- In this time of real and perceived threats to personal freedom of choice:

Just because you can run, pell-mell, into traffic, doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you can have sexual intercourse with someone you just met, doesn’t mean it’s the thrill of a lifetime.

Just because you can try to fly without wings, doesn’t mean you will soar.

Just because you can live a lie, doesn’t mean that’s the road to salvation.

Just because you can ignore the turmoil taking place across town, across the country or across the ocean, doesn’t mean you are isolated.

Just because you can intimidate many people, doesn’t mean you are their Lord and Master.

Just because you can abandon those who love you, doesn’t mean you are footloose and fancy-free.

Just because you can hoard, doesn’t mean you are wealthy.

Just because you can kill someone else’s innocent child, doesn’t mean you are giving that person her freedom.

Behaviour always has consequences.

Re-Communicado

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September 7, 2021- A call came, out of the blue, and in short order, a bit of unfinished business was re-scheduled. The medical procedures that I had to cancel earlier, will now be a fait accompli before Thanksgiving, which seems appropriate.

The friend for whom I am covering, for a few more days, will be back soon. I’m sure the next chapter of needful things will be very clear, shortly after I finish this effort, on Friday. Whether this involves the Red Cross, and disaster relief, remains to be seen.

The tie between these three is that there was a fair degree of lack of communication. It was only this morning that the school situation became clear. The medical business was resolved this afternoon. Red Cross gives hints of when I might be called, but that will depend entirely on the situation on the ground, in northern California and in the areas affected by Hurricane/Tropical Depression Ida. Then, there are Larry, which may hit parts of New England, as yet and an unnamed depression that is taking aim at central and northeast Florida.

I mention these, in owning up to a fair degree of difficulty that I still have, with being held in abeyance. The lesson is to do better at contemplating the whole picture. Dozens, if not hundreds of factors can enter into any one series of events.

In the end, I always find out things when I am meant to find out.

A Sestina for the Suffering

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September 1, 2021- The need to be of help in relieving suffering, be it of humans or of animals, is among the most fundamental urges most of us have. This sestina, a verse of six stanzas, rotating six end words, and capped by an envoi of three lines, addresses the suffering that is encountered by many.

We go about our daily deeds, both joy and drudgery, meeting peace, to outward-seeming. Life has its minor struggles, persistent, sometimes nagging disappointments, and adventure. There is, however, no growth or triumph, without struggle. We learn, at any early age, that one safeguard against harm is that of attachment. The warmth of mother, the sturdiness of father, the friendship of sibling, curl up in memory. As we grow, there are many reactions to those around us; the best of these being empathy.

The plight of the poor, those living below what we have come to expect, summons empathy. There are hovels, tents and rolled-out blankets, which defy credulity, even to outward-seeming. A visit to an encampment, even seeing the modest trappings of ingenuity, is seared in memory. The day-to-day struggles are not uniformly dreaded by the homeless, who may see adventure. A rolled-up camp and the camaraderie of mates may trigger attachment. There comes to be seen as a truism, that what matters is not the destination, but the struggle.

A person, or an animal, waging the fight for freedom, draws admirers to their struggle. There is no end to the outpouring, at least initially, of empathy. The identification of onlooker with target, and against oppressor, becomes a torrid attachment. The course of action becomes clear, to outward-seeming. Some will join in the fray, if only to experience a rare adventure. On their deathbeds, the onlookers turned fighters will whisper their memory.

There is a power, though, in the storehouse that is memory. It nags, it pleads and ultimately forces the onlooker to join the struggle. There is scant relaxation, maybe a dearth of comfort, in the ensuing adventure. The fire of action fuels the sword of courage, forged on the anvil of empathy. Those not convinced of the truth that is spoken to power see waste, to outward-seeming. Greed, envy, avarice, lust and pride are among the foci of their attachment.

The suffering, living day-to-day, may grasp at their helpers, in oblique attachment. The y have yet to experience the living out of a dream, with squalor their sole memory. The plight of the oppressed can seem intractable, to outward-seeming. It is all too easy to kneel in pleading, not wanting to engage in righteous struggle. It is the rising, however, that engenders and sustains empathy. It is the fortitude, the joining of hands, that sustain the real adventure.

The signals are clear, when an oppressed soul stands and embarks on such adventure. The multitude gathers, moves forward in serried lines, and hope is their sole attachment. They walk along, forge past all obstacles, and bathe one another in empathy. In time, the victories, no matter how fleeting, build a treasury of memory. The triumphs fuel, and the setbacks harden, the boldness of struggle. Then, there will be a measure of unity, between inner perception and outward-seeming.

All in all, what is past is prologue, and what is to be, generates from memory. The chef who cooks recollection, needs a fresh supply of struggle. There is no daylight, in the end, between inner perception and outward-seeming.

Purists may bemoan the relative lack of iambic pentameter, but such is life.

How I Overcame Self-Absorption

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August 27, 2021-

There was a time when I bumped into a clearly visible barrier pole, whilst backing my car out of a space, at Breakheart Reservation, in my hometown of Saugus. My head was so far into a matter of such earthshaking importance, that I can’t even vaguely recall what it was. I remember the fender bender, though, and the mildly amused twelve-year-old kid who chuckled at my ignorance.

Mom and Dad didn’t raise us to ignore our surroundings, and I caught more than a few rounds of indignation, when I turned too far inward. Gradually, in the wider world, the core of my being, which loved my family and those around us, took focus. Penny came into my life, and we helped each other break out of our respective shells. Students, clients, by the hundreds, became my focus and between wife and children, I realized that my life actually mattered far more than I had thought. Aram became our responsibility and made sure, in turn, that I didn’t lapse into my former bubble.

There was a long eleven years, in which my wife was my primary responsibility. In the end, son and his crew, Penny’s family and my brothers were our primary support group. The cackling crows who castigated me for using the adjective “my”, when I referred to Penny, offered absolutely nothing in the way of help-save their mealy-mouthed ideological puffery. There were also the masses, who went about their business, but at least didn’t get in my way.

On my own, I had choices to make, and slowly shed the residue of self-absorption, once again. A few women came to me, hoping that perhaps they would be the next Penny. It didn’t happen, and life took a far wider turn. I almost deluded myself into thinking that one or two others might be the next Penny. That didn’t happen, either, and life took a wider turn, still. There were three things that propelled me out of my bubble, altogether.

The first was dealing with five people who were/are so intensely self-absorbed, in their own right, that I was constantly wondering what, if any, place there was in the world for me, or any other good soul who was just trying to live a good life. Four of these five are gone from my world now, banned for constantly magnifying every single mistake I made, ignoring any good thing I did and yet clawing at me for attention. The fifth at least thanks me for what has already been done. I thank them, though, for making me aware of all the times I was the same towards others.

Secondly, I found myself largely responsible, for the well-being of over 80 people in a storm shelter, in Alexandria, Louisiana, late last summer, during the daylight hours of a Red Cross operation. That is when my work never stopped, until wiser heads pointed out that the opposite of self-absorption is not complete other-immersion. Then came a more balanced view, that both my personal needs and those of others had equal importance. I also realized that being too deeply in the business of other people robs them of dignity.

Third, the full acceptance of others as complete human beings, beyond their physical trappings and even their personalities, has come about from our collective dealing with COVID and all the climate change-based events that we have faced, and will continue to face, long after I myself have left this earthly life. It takes me three to five seconds to recognize that a woman has pleasing features, that a child is precious, that anyone has an engaging nature.

There are things that are about to happen in this life, that make such an emergence from self-absorption more essential than ever. I look forward to them all.

Overcoming Diss-comfort

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August 17, 2021- After checking financial news this afternoon, I read a brief account of a young woman who responded to having been snubbed, by a group with whom she had associated for a few years, by organizing meet-ups for other people who were feeling left out of their social circles. Through the more popular social media sites, including Instagram, SnapChat and TikTok, and by carefully organizing gatherings only in outside venues, paying close attention to local trends in virus transmission, this woman has connected thousands of teenagers and young adults in relatively safe and peaceful meet-ups, across the United States.

One of the hardest experiences anyone can have is to feel disrespected (“dissed”), or shunned, especially by those who have won the person’s trust. I’ve had a few such experiences, though not for at least a dozen years. My own response was to quietly leave the gathering, and make it a point to no longer associate with the instigators of the snub. I am also aware of several readers’ experiences, along a similar line, over the years. I have cut off contact with a few people who have attacked me publicly-one physically, in the past three years, but that is more a matter of self-defense than an attempt at snobbery. I am also aware of several readers’ experiences, along a similar line, over the years. It had to have hurt, but by all accounts, you each handled it well.

None of us is immune from social isolation, but the young woman mentioned above, whose name is Marissa Meizz, has shown a fine middle path between ad hominem rebuttals (which solve nothing) and curling up in an isolated ball (ditto). She may have very well saved many lives, bringing people out of isolation and into a wider social circle. Recognizing that all that most people want is at least to be occasionally included in social gatherings is as much a step towards establishing peaceful communities, as is any movement based on social justice.

I look forward to ever more gatherings and building friendships, as time goes on. May Marissa find the same.

https://news.yahoo.com/now-going-viral-meeting-online-121228537.html?fr=sycsrp_catchall

Coralie

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August 14, 2021- The slender young woman accepted my offer to check out my deer hide drum, and began gently beating it, while her exquisitely melodic voice sent forth a Plains Indian chant. The offering electrified the room and set several others to join in, singing in Spanish and Portuguese as well as using their own drums, several rattles, and a flute.

The day had begun with my being greeted by another young woman, across the country, whom I regard vey much like my own daughter. C told me that she had had a hard day at work, yesterday. I assured her this was quite common these days, that she could only do her best and that this should be enough for anyone. I know that she is up to whatever challenge she has to face. I love her for that, and for all that she does in this life.

The more people, especially the young, whom I meet, day by day, the more loving I feel towards them. God knows I have felt so, towards my own son, from the day he was born, and my nephews and nieces, students and those I encounter along the way. With this feeling, my main role is that of advocate and encourager.

Days like this seem to come more frequently now, and the darker it gets in the wider world, the more ferocious become my own determination to love and stand by those who will inherit this world of turmoil and hope; the stronger comes the resolve to give encouragement to all, even those who don’t quite understand me. It’s more readily accepted by women and children, though the number of men who recognize the need for sensitivity and a supportive approach to life is growing.

Coralee, an angel from France, by way of Florida, won just about everyone’s heart this evening, in Synergy Cafe, and made a particular friend of a fine young man, with whom she will attend other events during the rest of her stay here. Such turns of events warm my heart. There was a night, in December, 1980, when such happened to me, in equally unanticipated fashion.

As for Synergy itself, the owner, one of a half dozen, or so, women to whom I am particularly drawn in close friendship, stopped by a couple of times during the evening. I hadn’t seen Sierra in about eight months, so it was especially joyful to visit, just a bit, with this effervescent, irrepressible soul. She promised that the venue’s weekend hours will increase, which suits me just fine. Any time with such friends lifts my soul.

The key to all this is apparent: “O COMPANION OF MY THRONE! Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep. Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed. Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore.”- Baha’u’llah, “The Hidden Words”

I have no inkling as to when my own mortal frame will be put away, so for the time being, I will see all I meet as friends, not strangers-and be glad for my dearest friends, that they may only grow in number.

First Class

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August 13, 2021- I finished reading “Caste”, by Isabel Wilkerson, this evening: A magnificent work, by a stellar human being. For the first time in my adult life, if not the entirety of my life span, I felt that here is someone who understands my point of view-that there is, simply put, no group of people, anywhere, who deserve to be cast aside (pun intended) or downtrodden, so that others may rise to the top-either through privilege or through through benefitting from the efforts of those held lower than themselves.

It is human nature to want to pull the wagons in a circle; to exclude those one dislikes or whom one sees as a threat. It is spiritual nature, more reflective of the higher self, what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”, to at some level, at least, regard others as equanimical to oneself; to keep the wagon secure, but somewhat ready to receive the visitor.

Let me take stock, of just who could be a second class citizen, given what is apparent in the Divine Teachings, and in the common origins of humanity. No European person is a second class citizen; no person of East Asian or South Asian ancestry can reasonably be seen as such; no person of Indigenous American (North or South) or Pacific Islander descent, nor any person of African or Caribbean ancestry; no Jews, Arabs, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Australian Aboriginals, Central Asians, Saami, Finns, Estonians, or their cousins, the Magyars (Hungarians) who even claim to “whiteness”. None warrant second (or lesser) class status.

There are other classes of people, sometimes regarded as children of a lesser god. People who are unable to walk, speak, hear, see, think clearly; men who are attracted to other men, women who are drawn to other women, people who are drawn to both sexes; people who have undergone gender transition, or who just like to wear the clothing of their opposite gender; people who are mentally ill; those who prefer to live in tents or those who feel the need to live in mansions; one-time law breakers who have served their time and are making a bona fide effort at living a righteous life; ectomorphs or endomorphs; conservatives, liberals, reactionaries or progressives; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Sikhs, atheists, agnostics, Naturists, Baha’is; NONE of these deserve to be placed in the “also ran” category.

So, it appears that there is, in the end, no one who warrants less than first class status- in terms of citizenship and access to opportunity. We can’t all be financially wealthy or all be in charge of the community. We can’t all do the same work.

We do, however, deserve a shot at realizing our dreams.