Just So Much Skin in The Game

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June 15, 2021- After reading my horoscope, which said not to make financial decisions today, I spent a delightful morning at Phippen Museum of Western Art, on Prescott’s north side, with my hiking buddy. Given that it was too hot for any outside activity, enjoying various paintings, sculptures and Native American handicrafts was a fine way to appreciate the Southwest. It also gave A.K. a possible outlet for creativity, during the rest of the hot weather. The Phippen offers affordable painting classes, once a week.

I have no qualms about sharing time and energy, as these imply that the other people involved will invest the same. Money, as I’ve said before, is a different matter. People often throw out- “The more you give, the more you get”, in a guilt-mongering manner. I have said, more times than I have cared to, that my fair share of coin goes to those in need. So, I set a hard and fast limit on the amount going towards a socioeconomic development project in another country. This generated a sarcastic comment, that I have such “an elevated sense of brotherhood”. I actually view that as a compliment. What I am not doing for one person, in perpetuity, is balanced by what I am doing for others. I want to see just how much the individual will pull himself together, working with others to build a communal dream. I will “beseech God to guide him”-as Baha’u’llah teaches us.

My parents gave us only so much, in the way of financial and material assistance, and I believe each of us are the better for it.

Flags, etc.

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June 14, 2021- Today was Flag Day, an often overlooked commemoration of the adoption, on June 14, 1777, of the Stars and Stripes as our national pennant. The flag, to me, is something to be honoured and respected. I am proud to offer a salute, or to stand with my right hand over my heart, when it is presented at a public event. By extension, I will also stand in silent respect, if I am in another country, and ITS flag is similarly presented.

A candidate for local office has been showing a photograph that depicts his opponent waving a flag that is tattered, at a public event of a few years ago. If this is authentic, I object to that other candidate’s ignorance. If it is altered, the shame goes to the man who is showing it around. As for those who stomp on, burn or spit upon a national flag, this may be regarded by the judiciary as free speech, but it is no more worthy of respect than is a stream of profanity.

Flags may be symbols, yet symbolism has value. The most strenuous exercise, in the history of mankind, has produced a society which has slowly, often with excruciating pain, approached its stated ideals. Many of those ideals have yet to be fully realized, and there have been many times, which deserve to be acknowledged, studied and corrected, when the behaviour of the ruling class, and those underneath them, went counter to the stated guiding principles of our national experiment.

In my journey next month, Tulsa will be on the itinerary, on the way east, and Minneapolis will be on the route back west. My heart is heavy, yet hopeful, for this nation which will guide the world spiritually, in years to come, much as it has guided the world economically and politically, in times past.

The flag is a symbol-of the ideals towards which we work, perseveringly.

Breaking A Small Logjam

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June 13, 2021- Every so often, I find myself with nothing to say, at a given moment. On a quiet routine day, such as today, rest takes priority, especially with one very active, at times frenetic week gone and a slightly quieter one ahead. Indeed, a Christian friend, at breakfast this morning, extolled the virtues of not working on the Sabbath of one’s Faith. We Baha’is are, unofficially, given Friday as a day of rest, yet statutes and the present course of the wider society make that sometimes problematic. Still, when I am tired, I take the time to rest.

Nonetheless, life goes on and commentary with it. A small fire broke out today in Cornville, about an hour northeast of here. I may pull a shift, or two, this week, at any shelter that opens in consequence to that fire. There are other matters to which I must attend-some maintenance on the Elantra, a few meetings to host and to attend, and the long overdue resolution of a personal health issue. Fires, and other social emergencies are never convenient, nor are most personal matters. Somehow, action is required on each one-and so on I go, along with anyone else who can make the time.

As for an ongoing flow of conversation, as to why the Federal and state governments move so slowly, if at all, on matters of concern to Joe Citizen, I give you the fact that each person in said governments has to deal with the same logjams of overwork and scheduling rest. There is a conflict in perception, between those who ARE rested and ready for action and those who are running on fumes. Some of us are just slow moving, overly meticulous (Obsessive Compulsive) and prone to overthinking. Others, myself included, take action on matters that present themselves, in as expeditious a manner as possible-giving deferred attention to things that are synchronous to what has our attention at the moment. (For example, a barrage of Instant Messages coming at a time when I am engaged in helping feed two dozen people.)

Each of us is important. None of us is as important as we sometimes want the world to think.

Ludicrous

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June 9, 2021, Bellemont, AZ- Arguments and fighting can sometimes clear the air, in which case they serve a purpose-and need not be repeated. Most of us have experienced this sort of thing, at one point or another, in our lives. Often, fatigue, depression, and feelings of abandonment can trigger a quarrel, which forbearing people de-escalate. The underlying love that the parties have for one another will win out, in such cases.

The most intractable quarrels, though, find their roots in ego, insecurity and not a small amount of malice. These tend to be found within the larger issues facing our species, our nation-and a good many communities. Egotistical actions themselves are mainly rooted in insecurity-the parent of narcissism, which, to me, is a misplaced attempt to cover for feelings of inadequacy. One public figure, known for expressions of narcissism, experienced a childhood in which he was routinely berated and belittled by his own parents.

Where we, as a society, or as a planet, suffer from acts of egotism or insecurity comes in cases of reckless prejudice, greed or lust. We see these in the behaviours of some in government, in business and even in public service. A senior figure in our Federal government recently asked people working under him to act against certain legislation- “as a favour to him”. Some on both sides of a conflict, in another part of the world, continually focus on what they see as the “transgressions of the other side”. A military leader in a developing nation seized power in his country, claiming that only he can save the country from “the forces of corruption”.

I go back to problem-solving processes based on transparency, unconditional positive self-regard, and respect for other people in general. There is also a degree of letting go of past hurts, which proceeds from the aforementioned qualities. There can be little doubt that the paths which perpetuate turmoil and division between people, at all levels, are ludicrous.

A Path for Healing

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June 8, 2021, Bellemont, AZ– The events of this year have not lost their ability to surprise, though each one, both joyful and sorrowful, has had roots in what has been bound to occur, sooner rather than later.

I have lost friends and family, recently, yet all of them were suffering from chronic disease. Mom moved, of her own volition, from our family home of 66 years, but that had been in the cards for quite some time.

It was a surprise, however, when a man to whom I had been quite close, when he was a child, walked into the kitchen of the summer camp here, at which I will be director for the next few days. “A” did not recognize me at first, as we hadn’t seen one another since 1995. Life has taken him on several rides, but has not dimmed his intellect, or his drive.

Once he did remember who I was, we had a long overdue conversation regarding a mutual loss, which occurred in mid-summer, in the Eighties. He proposed to me that we undertake a hike, what will amount to a healing walk, in mid-August, in the area where the loss transpired.

Healing journeys have occurred throughout my life, and in particular, over the past ten years. This one will close a small hole in my heart, and at least begin to close the much larger hole in his. Indigenous people, the world over, know the importance of ceremonial walks, in bringing the deepest of hurts to the surface, where they can dissipate.

So it goes, that I am continuously being brought to places where the connections that are necessary are made. This is a particularly strong year of healing and correction.

Reflections on A Day Taken Off

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June 6, 2021- Thirty-nine years ago, today, Penny and I formalized our commitment to one another-and the marriage would last, through thick and thin, for twenty-nine years. I was hoping for at least forty, but we take what we are given. Some people are married for fifty years plus, and are inwardly miserable. We were not either. Speaking of which, as an aside, an indie artist, at a gathering on Saturday night, played a clip of his, on which a local philosopher opined: “”One who claims to be miserable, and at the same time insists he is right, is stating the impossible. It can never happen.”

Processing the loss of one of my closest cousins, I received word that a fellow member of the American Legion Post to which I belong had suffered a heart attack and is in hospital, facing the now de rigeur bypass surgery. He is one of the regulars, at our Sunday morning breakfasts, holding court and waxing eloquent about everything under the sun, in the style of an English aristocrat. That he is of Sicilian descent matters not. T’s heart and soul are rooted in the Merry Old Isle.

My day was otherwise occupied with the mundane-getting laundry done, gluing the front right quarter panel of my Hyundai, with the same substance that’s kept the back left in place, for nearly three years and watching episodes of “The Underground Railroad” and “Peaky Blinders”. Five of us pondered another set of quotes from the Universal House of Justice’s (Baha’i Governing Body) compilation on Social Action. I got in another workout.

In all this, I am looking at what is going on in the wider world, and just shaking my head, keeping up with it all, yet feeling as if it’s all a dream. The most important things in my life are all revolving around family, friends and the children-always, the children.

One of the traits that my cousin, John, had was presence, centering on who was in front of him, for as long as the person needed. That has not been my strong suit, though I am getting better at it. I am still not great at the perfunctory- greetings or conversation for their own sakes, especially online or long-distance. Birthdays and anniversaries are different; they draw my attention, because they matter so much. The rest of it-well, maybe my agenda is too broad and the next thing is always on my horizon. Still, I am making progress at being present, with someone who is in front of me, at any given time.

Twenty-nine years did teach me something.

The Swiftness of An Airy Year

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June 3, 2021- Today continued the credence being given to a cosmic adviser’s assessment that this year will be dominated by the energy of the Air Sign. Changes have indeed been swift, and at no point more so than today. A long-standing effort to give some limited funding to an African entrepreneur saw its initial disbursing, early this morning. Our family home was sold. I I was able to safely communicate a change in my financial security, to concerned vendors and other recipients. A diagnosis was given on a fairly long-standing health issue, and I look forward to having treatment, very soon.

The changes have been swift, but are not overwhelming-as yet. I know others who are experiencing similar levels of change. The changes are, for the most part, refreshing and reassuring. There are the normal levels of passings, mostly among those with prior serious health issues. There are also people living, healthy and happy, into their nineties and beyond. I met a gentleman on Tuesday, who is 90-and could pass for 55. Then, there is Mom, also in her nineties and enjoying a new chapter in her life.

I, like others dealing with such issues, will naturally adjust my current schedule, as there is nothing more pressing than taking care of my one critical health issue, which will involve an outpatient procedure and likely not be followed by much downtime, if any. You will all know, when it is over-probably within the next three weeks.

Much Ado….

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May 30, 2021- Have you spent much time in your life, building a small matter up, until it becomes overwhelming? It often occurred, that the matters, which so affrighted me before they were resolved, quickly became lost in the fog of the mind’s archival footage, once a day or two had passed.

These are matters most often related to finance, or to interpersonal relationships. Panic attacks and anxiety (which are serious medical matters, deserving of professional attention) aside, it generally happens that careful thought and emotional grounding can help to put things in their true perspective. Past unpleasant experiences can cloud one’s judgment, so it is important to recognize that each situation is different, that learnings from the previous bad experience can be put to use for a better outcome, this time and that the person, him/herself, is different now than before.

There are situations, of course, which are dire and which deserve all the “ado” they can be given: The illness or disability of a loved one, especially of one’s child, spouse or parent; a natural disaster which threatens or damages one’s home; a sociopolitical riot or rampage in one’s home area. That, in turn, is why we humans are social beings-that we may call on one another and anticipate support in a truly dire emergency.

I have had such emergencies in my life, and am fortunate that my family and close friends have been responsive and helpful, in a nonjudgmental manner. I would do the same for them.

Stability

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May 29, 2021- There have been many times in my life, when I felt the ground was caving in beneath my feet. Somehow, I have always managed to recover. Sometimes, it has been because of help from family or friends. Other times, it has been because of my own stubbornness and refusal to accept the status quo, or settle for just any set of circumstances.

Now is a time when I have achieved stability, with no clouds on the horizon. The caveats are that I must be willing to share, to a reasonable and markedly-limited degree, and to do so in a way that will not make me a ward of someone else.

I credit both my upbringing and the Baha’i Faith for this basic sense of stability, having absorbed some lessons right away, and others over a period of time. My yardstick for the strength of stability is mainly the avoidance of capricious and ill-considered decisions. I am much better, in that regard, than even seven years ago. It took bouncing back from losing Penny and recognizing that I have far more worth than any naysayers have led me to believe, at certain periods of this life.

This same message is what I impart to anyone who approaches with a tale of woe. In the long run, stability only comes from doing what one’s inner essence advises- and never kowtowing to someone else’s dictates, no matter how loud and forceful their voice.

A Few Learnings

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May 27,2021- The squeaky toilet kept waking me, and in my semi-conscious state, I thought it was the room next door, which was being renovated, that was the problem. I got up, for the day, and found that it was my room, at Days Inn- Grants, that had the issue. Having had plenty of experience with such things, I fixed the toilet myself, and so informed the desk clerk, upon check-out. It was a simple matter of re-attaching the chain to the release lever.

I have now returned from the journey to help Mom move out of the family home and become settled in a more social place. She has all her wits about her yet, so I have every confidence that this will be a bright chapter in her life.

For myself, I know that the journeys that await me, this summer and autumn, will be more leisurely, without the sense of urgency that I felt this time, especially heading east. There were deadlines and commitments involved. Thankfully, the COVID protocols, to the extent they still exist, are very cut and dried. Masks are worn, when the community or the enterprise requests it, The same is true, with respect to physical distancing. Dealing with the pent-up aggression of drivers is more a matter of not using the passing lane, except to pass. If I find I am being tailgated, no matter the lane, there is always the next lane over to the right-or if that is where the aggression is happening, I can bide my time and let the impatient one go around.

The nice thing, this time around, is I heard a lot of “Come back and see us!” This is always gratifying, especially to one who has encountered the opposite, in times long past. Then again, I have cast off a lot of baggage, over the years.

I was asked, by a loved one, what new things I had seen and what I had learned, on this trip. I saw the Missouri State Capitol, and Harry S, Truman’s birthplace. I was reminded that people around major cities can be extremely impatient, if they are overbooked, overloaded and uncomfortable being in a given place. I found that would-be thieves are discouraged from breaking into my car, when they see the blue security light-which makes my double security system that much more gratifying.

Finally, I was reminded that, even when someone is making the most obvious of errors in reading or speech, to not interrupt them, to let them finish. After all, the world is not going to cave in from that error.