Coming From Behind

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January 25, 2022- The tortoise, enjoying the scents of the flowers and the brightness of the Spring scenery, kept his steady pace. The hare, intent on reaching the destination, was overcome with the limits of his own body and, bored with the route he had covered countless times, decided he’d take a brief rest. Thus, did the lumbering reptile note his snoring rival, as he passed by, a short while later. So, the steady, appreciative creature was awarded the garland of flowers, to the abiding chagrin of the pompous lagomorph.

Aesop told the tale a bit differently, but the end is much the same-as is the moral. So often, people take current circumstances, or long-standing trends, and base their plans for the future on those. I noted how that did not work out, in this past weekend’s plethora of football games. I am also noting how self-assured politicians and political commentators are running into the buzz saw of uncertainty, as the people at large work the malleable clay of the country’s, and mankind’s, future. Few really saw the three-week-long financial correction coming, and neither do that many see the resilience that will happen, once the driftwood of ill-performing stocks is carted away.

We tend to see the present, no matter how well, or how poorly, things are going, as the wave of the future. Of course, some patterns endure for quite a while. Others, though, get swept away, almost instantaneously. Few people saw the election of 2016 turning out as it did. Equally few saw the subsequent presidential contest ending as it did. My guess is that this year’s contests, and those two years hence, will result in much the same.

There are many areas of life where fear rules-from the erratic weather patterns to the future of the world economy, but fear never takes human ingenuity, or the Hand of the Divine, into consideration. Our ability to handle, and transcend, the caprice of nature-and our own species’ flights of whimsy is almost unlimited.

Mankind is destined for a far brighter future than it often appears. We will, collectively, overcome our challenges, even coming from behind.

The Wolf Bunny

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January 24, 2022-

The short, slightly-built young girl came into class and sat down, sporting a costume of her own design. Here was a presence covered in a rabbit’s fur, with padded foot wear, and with huge, lagomorphic ears, that had the hair of a wolf. Her face was covered in a yellow print face mask, leaving only her eyes, and the trademark surly “Present”, as her name was called at roll, to remind me of who was underneath the disguise. This was the Wolf Bunny, and anyone who didn’t like it could simply “monitor and adjust”. That point made, she set herself to work, and accomplished a lot more than most of her classmates.

Filling The Cup

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January 21, 2022- Everyone who seeks prolonged sustenance from the hands of other people is likely viewing life through a most simplistic lens.

Anyone older than ten has encountered at least one person whose demeanour is one of want and request. Most such people offer tokens to to others, in repayment, yet that reciprocation is quickly followed by even more requests-often higher in quantity and frequency.

Nothing arises from a vacuum. People who are constantly begging for money have either been individually deprived, and not really taught the skills needed for sustainability and self-reliance-or have grown up in a country that has been systematically robbed of its wealth, by other countries or by an elite within its boundaries, which has not seen fit to share.

I have been approached, a fair number of times, over the years, by those who have been debilitated by both sets of circumstances. My response has evolved into the slower, but ultimately more fruitful path of steering the seeker after alms to sources that can help build their self-reliance.

This was the path on which I myself was set, after a mercifully brief spate of flailing about and blaming others for my, and my family’s plight-in the mid-2000s. Now, even in the current period of setback and loss, it is clear to me what path must be followed-and what skills are needed to see the period through and to recover.

There is no call for anyone to accept a permanent state of the empty cup.

Scripted

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January 20, 2022- The spirited young woman minced few words in reacting to the make-work assignment which her class had been given. The classroom was replete with posters that tout “getting your hands dirty” and “outdoor experience”. Yet, on this day of sunshine and 50 degree weather, in the sixth month of the academic year-there was a class of a dozen people working on packets.

The biggest generational struggle is ever between those who are tired and want to promote passive learning, and those for whom the world is new; thus things to be experienced. I remember being part of the “Sit with your hands folded and listen” cadre of instructors-and when it was a drag on all concerned, I did make a concerted effort to change things up and craft a fair amount of hands-on activities. Then, being a caretaker happened, the Housing Bubble burst, and I came of age, alone.

Millennials, Generation Z and the Alphas have been my guardian angels, in more ways they can imagine-because of the much-needed propensity for flipping the script. As with any new way of seeing things, there is some overkill-mostly with regard to trying out “replacement phrases” for long-accepted words. (“Pregnant people”, instead of mothers, comes to mind. I do see mothers as people, first, because that is how I was raised. There is no reason to introduce opacity into the mix.) Overall, though, the forthrightness of these generations, and their willingness to stand up and speak eloquently, without looking down their noses at their elders, just for our being older, is a facet of generational personae that I find most gratifying.

In the debate about how students best acquire knowledge, let me take the side of those who eschew patronizing, or infantilizing, our charges. It is nothing new, this notion of seeing children and teenagers as people, first and foremost. The best teachers I had were those who looked me at eye level and spoke as if they expected me to carry myself with dignity. Following a script, or toeing a line, was the stuff of the insecure. I am grateful for every young person who says “I know what I’m doing” and goes on to prove it by their actions.

Let the circle be even more unbroken.

The Tides That Bind

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January 19, 2022- The United States Senate today deferred action on curbing the excesses of those who wish to roll back the clock, and it did so, primarily because not enough of its members could agree on what those excesses are.

The United States Supreme Court today took action on curbing the excesses of those who wish to roll back the clock, and it did so, precisely because all but one of its members saw very clearly what those excesses are.

There was, a few days ago, a volcanic eruption, of the sort that only occurs once in a thousand years. It was heard in the outer islands of southeast Alaska, and close to Anchorage. It sent tsunamic waves clear to the coast of Peru. It covered several islands of Tonga in ash. It bound the people of the South Pacific region, in a united effort to find anyone missing as a result of the event.

We the people, across the United States of America, and across the planet, are learning, in fits and starts, just how closely tied we are. What we can’t get through our stubborn heads on our own, the forces of nature will bring to our attention. Those whose answer to our current problems is even tighter adherence to the shopworn, and the discredited, tenets of patriarchy and of elitism, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, risk being left behind, washed away. This applies as much to the eugenicists on the Left as it does to the oligarchs and white supremacists on the Right. The answers to our present problems will never come from zero population growth, especially with regard to people of colour. Nor will they come from the top down ethos of the kleptocrat or the tyrant.

Our progress depends on finding the answers that seem so elusive to the “greatest deliberative body on the planet”. They can only come from people who actually know how to listen to one another. They can only come from people who don’t care what age, what gender or what ethnic background gives rise to those answers. That ability comes first from the heart, then from the mind.

That Freedom We All Want, and Deserve

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January 17, 2022- About a hundred people marched from Prescott College, to and around Yavapai County Courthouse and back to Prescott United Methodist Church, as the first part of a celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , in mid-morning today. There were both impromptu, and well-known, songs being offered by local musician-activists. and people of all ages gladly joined in, as best we could.

Each year, as this observance approaches, I think about the way Dr. King was regarded by many in my once-ultraconservative childhood hometown. Many adults, including some in my extended family, swallowed the fiction that he was a card-carrying member of the United States Communist Party. When he was murdered, there were some in my high school class who joked and cheered. I personally was disconsolate. It was clear, even then, that he was working for the good of everyone.

Time and more information have combined to moderate the notions that many have about Martin Luther King, Jr., his life and his work. Revelations of his less than chaste activities have long since come to light, but without having the effect-on most people of negating the larger body of his work. It has never been shown that he was anything less than loyal to this country and to its government, despite the best efforts of those opposed to full citizenship for people of colour to discredit him. It has never been shown that he was anything less than committed to the rights of all, even those who opposed him.

There are still people who promote the notion that freedom is a finite thing. Those who crave power, above all else, variously spread the word that, if Black and Brown people are given a full seat at the table, freedom will be taken from those of European and West Asian descent. Others appeal to conservatives of all racial groups, saying that mandated collective action is inherently evil, when it bumps up against individuals creating and pursuing their own destiny. Conversely, there are those who do seek to exclude even those conservatives who are merely seeking to forge a life for themselves, without government largesse. I believe Dr. King would want us to work to overcome our self-imposed limitations, much as he did in his own life.

We all want and deserve Divinely-endowed freedoms and rights. These come with responsibilities-among them the duty to care for one’s children and family members, the trust to take part in the affairs of community, to exhibit a sane and intelligent patriotism towards the country in which one has taken citizenship and beyond that, the care and protection of our planet.

As I later walked with my hiking buddy, in her first foray into nature in several months, the notion that there should be no barriers to a full life, for every human being, other than those they impose on themselves, came to my heart. That there need be no exclusionary elite, but that each should be able to choose working with others or forging on alone, but without throwing up barriers to others who wish to achieve their goals in a different, and ethical, manner, remains my paramount wish.

Freedom is never a zero sum game.

My Ley Lines

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January 15, 2022- To further elaborate on the topic discussed yesterday, it is worth considering the concept of ley lines. These are energy-based, invisible lines considered to be drawn between major landmarks and historic buildings. Places tapped as having vortices, like Sedona and Carnac, are often the focus of studies done on ley lines.

I rather think that the spiritual nature of humans allows the establishment of ley lines, energy connections between an individual and various places, which s(he) has either visited or to which there are distinct energy connections. My own such lines are of three sources: Ancestral and familial; faith-based and social (both real time and media-based).

The lines are between Home Base (Prescott, AZ), as this is where I am presently rooted and a number of locations related to the above-mentioned sources. In terms of ancestral and familial places I have visited, or in which I’ve lived, the lines connect to Rouen, Normandy (France); Montreal; Old Town, Maine; Saugus and Lynn, Massachusetts (running through Ashland ); Plattsburgh, NY; Philadelphia and its southeastern suburbs; Newnan, GA; Spring Hill, Florida; St. Louis; and the northwestern suburbs of Dallas.

Faith-based lines link with Wilmette, Illinois; The Navajo Nation (Dinetah); Hopi; Flagstaff; Phoenix; Macy, Nebraska; Wanblee, South Dakota; Standoff, Alberta (Canada); San Francisco; Salt Lake City; Carson City; Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Bath, Guyana; Jeju and Seoul, Korea; Tsaotun, Taiwan; London and Canterbury, England; Frankfurt-am-Main, Hesse (Germany); Haifa and Akko’, Israel.

There are a great many lines running to locations of a friend-based nature, of which a few may be mentioned here: San Diego; Santa Fe; Amarillo and Austin; Enid, Oklahoma; Memphis and Crossville, Tennessee; Mishawaka, Indiana; Kansas City; Hilton Head and Aiken, South Carolina; Harrisonburg and Virginia Beach, VA; Baton Rouge; Portland, Oregon; Tacoma, Washington; southeast Alaska; Toronto; Vannes, Bretagne and Luxembourg-Ville.

Perhaps the most crucial thing to remember about such ley lines is that, as the number of places to which the lines connect increase, the strength of their energy also grows. This is so, because spiritual energy is infinite. I look forward to such increases.

The Tendrils Do Not Fade

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January 14, 2022- The gentlemen and lady came onto a Zoom session, this evening, to speak of the history of Baha’i in their land, as the centennial of its arrival there had just been celebrated. I have alluded to our time there as well, on several occasions.

The influence of South Korea on my life cannot be minimized-especially given Aram’s birth there and his lifelong ties to both Korean and Japanese culture-accented by his marriage to Yunhee. I last went there, in 2019, for the religious ceremony that helped cement that marriage. The country has done quite well, materially, and has had a considerable influence, as well, on the the burgeoning global culture.

Connections I made there, had for the most part, seemed to have faded over the years. It was almost symbolic, when the plaque that Penny and I had been given, at the end of our work in Jeju, in 1992, fell off its stand and irreparably shattered, in 2017. It was not long after that, though, that Aram and Yunhee met. A more formidable, enduring bond was created.

The tendrils that remain between the Korean people and me are thus not going to be broken-and if anything, are one of the strongest threads that are connecting this one’s world. From those threads came ties to Hawaii, Taiwan, all parts of the U.S, and now to Albania, of all places, where a friend from our Jeju days has settled.

There are ties that keep me here-and those that will serve as a safety net, in many places far afield. It all started with a chance move to Korea, thirty-six years ago.

Six Identities

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January 9, 2022- No, I am not confused as to who I am. There are, however, six elements to a person’s identity-as I learned in a most instructive session, this afternoon. Each person has genetic, socioeconomic, training, gender, spiritual and cultural identities, which make up the whole self.

My genetic identity confers German, French, English, Irish, and Penobscot (Penawapskewi) ancestry. I may have residual Sorb, Polish, Roma and Jewish elements in my lineage, as well. Much remains to be learned about this aspect of my identity.

My socioeconomic heritage is lower middle class, conferring a strong work ethic and sense of integrity. My father had worked his way up to middle management, by the time of his death. Both sides of my family had agricultural roots, with both of my grandfathers maintaining small farm holdings, whilst still working in factory jobs. My mother had cosmetology training and cut women’s hair, in our home, when we were young. I am now in the middle ranks of the middle class, as it were, through a combination of earnings and investment income.

My training identity is as an educator, counselor, and school administrator. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a Master of Arts in Education, with an emphasis in Counseling, and additional credentials in School Administration and Community College Instruction. It’s ironic that the last two have been Achilles heels, in my professional life.

In terms of gender, I am unreservedly, comfortably male. I feel passionately loving towards girls and women, with a parental and brotherly orientation, these days. I have no antipathy towards anyone of other orientations or gender identities.

My spiritual background was Roman Catholic, and I was raised to have an ecumenical view of other Christian denominations and the Jewish Faith. I have long felt that there is no true separation between people, based on religious or philosophical practices. This last made my acceptance and practice of the Baha’i Faith a very easy step, when I reached the age of thirty. I maintain that there is but one Human Race and that all religions are part of the same spiritual flow, from the dawn of humanity.

My cultural identity is varied. I could say that I practice “Baha’i culture”, yet that is something that will be long evolving. I could say I adhere to “American” culture, yet there is scant agreement on what that even is. My cultural influences have been cards dealt me, where I have lived. Coastal New England has a distinct culture. So do the interior of Maine, the Navajo (Dineh) Nation, the Hopi lands, Jeju Island (Korea), the western Arizona desert, and the central Arizona Highlands. I have learned important lessons in each of these locales-and in places I have merely visited for a short time, from southeast Alaska, to Israel and Guyana-and so many places in between.

The last two elements, of who Gary is, are works in progress. I can only say that the goal of the end product is for a soul who is worthy of his Creator’s mercy and love, at the end of this earthly trail.

Flex Time

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January 8, 2022- This was one of the weekends in January, when I was planning to be away from Home Base. The schedules of those I had planned to visit changed, and made any visiting inopportune, so this time is being used to tend to matters closer to home. I am also using a couple of meditation Zoom calls to consider the course of future journeys planned for this year and next. Things became clearer to me, during the meditations. Making initial practical information checks, on a couple of aspects of these journeys, made things clearer still.

There is always a way to make good use of time, when plans have to change. Even being mostly in retirement mode, I find there are not enough hours in a day for everything that might be accomplished. Flexibility also seems to be the order of the Universe, at least in terms of how elements of Creation interact with one another. The fact that the Universe is unlimited, infinite, helps with that flexibility. Besides, that infinitude means there are far too many variables for one to go about life in a rigid manner.

In the end, I actually was glad to be finishing the day by completing a reading of “White Fragility”-coming to the conclusion that I am not fragile, in my ethnic and racial identity, and can learn from others about microaggressions and other elements of my own thoughts and actions that might drive a wedge between me and those around me.

No time need be wasted.