The Indissoluble Bond

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February 8, 2019, Chino Valley-

Every second and fourth Friday evening, God willing, a group of us gathers at the home of two dear friends, here in this town, 15 miles north of Prescott.  We share a meal, then indulge in drumming and chanting, with a flautist accompanying much of the music.

There is, of course, conversation before, after and in between the musical selections.  One of the members of the group shared the traditions and teachings of the Cherokee of North Carolina, explaining that there has been some divergence within the tribe, with regard to dialect and certain customs, as a result of the Trail of Tears and its resulting geographic isolation, of one group from another.

He performed a traditional Cherokee blessing, prior to the meeting’s end.  This is shared below, as performed by another vocal group.  I see similarities with other cultures, from Keltic Irish to Zulu, in terms of blessings wished upon visitors and loved ones.  We each noted that there is an essential tie between humans, both regardless of physical distance and regardless of separation by time.

I can feel an almost palpable connection, with my maternal grandfather, who I never met and with paternal ancestors, who I have been assured are watching over me constantly, from the distance of several hundred years.  Likewise, among those who live hundreds, or thousands, of miles away, I feel an unbreakable bond-though we may see one another once, or not at all, in the course of this earthly life.  Whether through genetic memory or a spiritual envelope, the ties have been, and continue to be, unbreakable.

The bonds that some try to break, out of fear, narcissism or ignorance, can never really be broken.  We are at a stage, in our human evolution, when connections are, or are about to be, seen for their true nature:  Indissoluble.

Foresight

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January 22, 2019-

Though I am often content

to live a simple life,

going to and from work

and tending to a small number

of daily and weekly tasks,

when not so engaged.

insights come to mind,

and I am made aware

of things that are to happen,

matters to which I must tend,

in either the near  or intermediate  future.

Most of these involve

cultivating friendships,

something at which I have improved,

over the years.

A few involve eschewing fellowship

with those who would challenge

the very spirit that keeps

the human race afloat.

Thankfully, I find the former

increasing, daily,

and the latter,

with which I last dealt

in mid-Autumn,

is a rare occurrence.

I feel the power

of the Holy Spirit

and of various angels,

keeping,

as the old popular song goes,

“watch over me”.

Yes, I do get messages,

as to how I should

proceed in certain matters

or where I should go,

on a given day, or

period of time.

These have been

uniformly spot on.

Mistakes have happened

when I have relied only

on my own limited reasoning.

Foresight is there,

waiting for those

who open their

minds and hearts.

Fire Sign

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January 20, 2019, Scottsdale-

Today is World Religion Day, so after a regular monthly study session, in Prescott Valley, I headed down to the Baha’i Community Center here.  There is an annual observance, honouring the commonality of the world’s religions, and most of the major faiths of North America were represented – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikh, Buddhism and Baha’i. (Only the Native American traditional faiths were unrepresented.  We consider Catholicism and LDS to be Christianity, as well as the denominations of Protestantism).

This also being the weekend of the Women’s March, the theme of today’s gathering was “The Role of Women in Religion”.  It is quite commonly held that the various faiths hold women down, to one extent or another.  While a  careful examination of various Scriptures shows that this is not so. it is very clear that those who promulgated the major religions, after the Ascensions of their Founders, saw fit to cherry-pick and manipulate the meanings of certain verses, so as to subvert women’s equanimity with men-in all too many instances.  I will have more to say about this matter, especially during March, which is Women’s History Month.

I want to note, regarding yesterday’s Women’s March, in Prescott, that several hundred people, of various political standpoints, managed to be in a small space together, displaying signs with  their points of view, and managing to not antagonize one another, at least while I was there.  This is as it should be.  One conservative woman, carrying a “pro-Trump” sign, nonetheless voiced agreement that women must be given the right to speak, on any issue, and be heard, on every issue.  Penny and her mother would be shouting in agreement, as do my mother and just about every woman in my family and in my circle of friends.

The fire of purification burns on, in their hearts and in my heart.

Here is a presentation, at any earlier event, by Rev. Renee Morgan Brooks, who sang today, as well.  She was a friend and collaborator of Penny’s.

Samson

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December 27, 2018, Prescott-

The evening dinner and discourse, at a good friend’s house, went very well, actually- as I am just not attached to those aspects of my personality that someone finds disconcerting.  The run-up to, and expectations of, a conversation about what people expect from one another, can be uncomfortable and filled with trepidation.  Thankfully, I felt no such angst, once I recited a strong prayer, this afternoon.  My friend was not sure how I would react to her comments, but you know, what she asked is so totally reasonable and fair, that my answer was “Absolutely!” That is how I was raised- with Mom telling us not to hold back with our upsets and distresses, so long as they were stated with dignity and a bit of forbearance.  So, the evening went, a nice meal, a respectful concord and the viewing of the film, “Samson”.

Therein, the story of the Hebrew leader and freedom fighter is depicted, with an earnest but troubled Samson, opposed by both some of his more militant Danite villagers and by the Phillistines, ruled by Balek and his ambitious, conniving son, Rallah, and daughter-in-law, Delilah.  It is Delilah who tricks Samson, three times, into giving the royals the information and strength they need to oppress the Danites and Nazarites.  Rallah, though, is portrayed as a sociopath, killing Samson’s wife and father-in-law, two turncoat Hebrews and Samson’s father, before killing his own father, so as to take the crown.  The tale ends, much as it does in the Old Testament.

Samson’s main point is about integrity and humility, with the superhuman giving all credit for his strength to God, not disputing with his Hebrew opponents, and facing the Phillistine’s challenges without batting an eye.  He experiences angst about not following the letter of the law, whilst removing tunics from dead soldiers, thereby breaking a vow to never touch the dead.  The angst follows Samson, for other actions, throughout the story.

I am likewise committed to integrity and self-purification.  Not being a superhuman, or a member of an oppressed community, my own actions have to be about maintaining both my own dignity and worth, and honouring those of my friends.  It’ll never be a matter of “self-defense”, when questioned or corrected, especially by those who have consistently had my best interests in mind.

His Timeless Love

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December 25, 2018, Prescott-

The conference over, it is back to Christmas City.  Two gatherings graced me with their invitations today.  A small group of friends has taken to observing special holidays, with a noon meal, sparing no celebratory detail.  On Thanksgiving, it was a full-on turkey dinner.  Today, it was ham; broccoli and kale salad, in poppy seed dressing; sweet potatoes and acorn squash.  Homemade fudge and chocolate chip cookies were the desserts. We watched a fresh performance of “The Nutcracker Suite”, on PBS.  It got Christmas off to a fine start.

In the late afternoon, I headed to another gathering of friends; family members who have been consistent friends of mine for the past five years.  We enjoyed four kinds of homemade pizza, then watched a segment of “Bolt”, followed by a Hallmark love story-much needed by some, after the intensity of the holiday.

Two things jumped out at me about the day.  First, I encountered a part of myself that needed to be let go.  Without going into detail, one of my friends let me know, very subtly, that this unattractive aspect of my personality had worn out its welcome.  I also recognize that a small leap needed to be made, in my personal growth- so here goes another small step for a man.

Second, and most importantly, the day may have had Wiccan roots, centered on the Winter Solstice and acknowledgement of nature’s rhythms, but it has long become a universal recognition of the power of Divine Love.  We can say, with some assurance, that Jesus the Christ was actually born closer to the coming of Spring, perhaps late March or early April, yet here we celebrate love and the work of peace.  Once again, it’s obvious that peace is messy, at first, and comes hard.  So, Christmas can be tortuous for those who feel unappreciated or shut-out.  I have been there, in my youth, and fortunately had family members who knew how to assuage my fears and anxieties.  I will do what I can for those who are going through that now.

I hope all have a blessed Christmas season- clear to New Year’s, and beyond.

Season’s Greetings

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December 18, 2018, Prescott-

So now, my full days of school, for 2018, are in the rear view mirror.  Three abbreviated school days remain, before we all take a break for the period which, for many, is a time of celebration and revelry.  For others, it will be a time of remembrance of a Great Being, Whose sacrifice and teachings are fully intended to bring peace to those who understand them.  For still others, it will be a time of lying low and making do with very little.  Then, the Gregorian clock will reset itself, and we will have 2019 AD/CE. (I am old school, and prefer the former, in figuring time since the Birth of the Christ.  Further disclosure: We Baha’is determine our place in time, dating from the Declaration of al-Bab, in May, 1844 and thus will refer to next year as 176 Baha’i Era, or B.E.  For general social purposes, though, I will continue to date my posts by the Gregorian system.)

During this period of  revelry, rest, reflection and resilience, I wish these things, to the following:

Seniors (75 and onward):  May your curiosity continue and may it bring you the recognition and relevance that ought to come with accrued wisdom .  The elder among you raised our generation and can take large credit for the best that we have been able to offer the world, through your parenting.  The younger among you are our older cousins, siblings and mentors.  It would have been harder growing up without your shared experiences and occasional babysitting. You remain friends, and vital presences in my life-Mom, Uncle Jim and Aunt Jackie, Aunt Janet, Aunt Carol, both Aunts Helen, Aunt Gail, Uncle Jerry,  and my online friends and older cousins, (you know well to whom I am referring).

My Contemporaries (55-74):  My siblings, many cousins, classmates, immediate elders and juniors, and a good many of my friends-We have gone through many of the same experiences, hard times, great celebrations, triumphs and tragedies, victories and losses.  We have seen Woodstock and the Men on the Moon; the gradual “shrinking” of Planet Earth, and changes that we never anticipated. Considering that my first phone call, to my late Aunt Hazel, was aborted by a shrill voice telling me to get off the phone, as it was a party line “used  by grown-ups, for important matters”. I did as I was told, and remember my mother’s eyes rolling, as she quipped, “important matters, like everyone else’s business!” Now, the picture phones and calls between vehicles, of which I once dreamed, are de rigeur.  May our days not be hamstrung by health-related woes, to the extent that we can use natural remedies, exercise and a well-varied diet, to keep us going.  May we continue to love those older and younger than we; and because we first know to love ourselves.

Millennials and Generation X (20-54):  You have brought many of the ideas of which I once dreamed, as a child and teen, into being.  Many of you were my students and counselees.  I helped a fair number, confused some and let others down, but loved all of you.  Among you are my nieces and nephews, and my own beloved son and daughter-in-law.  You grew up in my hometown of Saugus; or in the woods of central Maine;  or in the elite families who sent you to  a boarding school in the midst of the Sonoran Desert; or on the Navajo and Hopi nations, reared by loving, but often struggling extended families, who gave me more than I could ever repay; or in the western Sonoran Desert, a string of communities that gave newcomers a wary, if cordial, welcome-even when several were newcomers, themselves; or you grew up, as our son did, moving from town to town and making the best of life, even when it felt lonely.  I wish you a future far better than the recent past has shown you, and know that you have it within, to make wondrous things happen.

Generation Z (Newborns to 19)- I am thrilled to see the older among you come of age, shed the misgivings of your elders and take on the challenges that the Universe has sent your way, either because of the nature of life or because of what the rest of us have managed to create.  Every generation hands down both blessings and banes to its progeny, so do forgive us and know that you are also very much loved.  You have come into my life, as my working years are winding down and you have given me the confidence, the sense that my volunteer, travel and, quite possibly, grandparent years will be as bounteous and fulfilling as all that has gone before. May we all greet and nurture the generations  that come after you, as well.

To all, I treasure my time among you and may it long yet continue. A Merry Christmas, Bountiful Kwanzaa, Joyful Solstice and Healthy, Prosperous and Happy 2019, to each and every one.

 

Letting Go; Not Giving Up

4

November 26, 2018, Prescott-

This day is to honour  ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Who guided the Baha’i Faith, from the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, on May 29, 1892 to His own  passing, on November 28, 1921. It is called the Day of the Covenant, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha symbolized the agreement between Baha’u’llah and His followers.  He explained much of His Father’s Revelation to us.

‘Abdu’l-Baha suffered, physically, for much of His life on Earth.  He came to North America and Europe, from 1911-13, visiting many major cities, and maintained a schedule that would have been daunting for someone half His age.

He made this journey when He was between the ages of 67-69. As I will turn 68, in a few days, I have to admire His fortitude.  The example set was a strong one, and was derived from both detachment and commitment, in equal balance.

An example came when He was in San Francisco, and it was requested by some Baha’is in Los Angeles, that He visit their city. Bear in mind that this was in 1912, and there were costs involved that seemed insurmountable.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha did not impinge on anyone, in meeting His expenses.  He at first told the Los Angeles friends that He would not be able to make the journey, though it caused Him great sorrow.  A short time afterward, though, money was found. ‘Abdu’l-Baha and His entourage made the train trip south to Los Angeles and spent a day or so there, specifically visiting the grave of the first American to declare his faith in Baha’u’llah.  That man’s name was Thornton Chase.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha showed that, by letting go, a person gives the Divine, the Universe, room to muster its energy and bring things to fruition.

I have been in many situations, including this year, where it has been prudent to let go of plans and expectations, and to move with the flow of energy.  These situations have, in the long run, not hampered my well-being and have actually helped to purify my life.  There will be others, I’m certain, as this year winds down and subsequent years unfold.  I can rely on the example set by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, in pondering my reaction to the changes that are in store.

The 2018 Road, Day 34: The Door Never Closes

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June 28, 2018, Salisbury, NC-

I first encountered W, in 2002, when he arrived in Phoenix, from his native Liberia.  At that time, he was recovering from a severe injury and was one of thousands of refugees from his then-war torn homeland.  He had been a journalist, writing for Monrovia’s daily newspaper, when his injuries occurred.

Like more than a few Africans living in Phoenix, he became a trusted friend and we have maintained a correspondence, ever since.  He has left Arizona and is now comfortably settled in a simple home, in this pleasant city of the Piedmont.  Salisbury is about an hour northeast of Charlotte, and seems to not have, as yet, become saddled with major urban sprawl.

I woke to a calm morning, in Timmonsville, about two hours further southeast of here.  As I suspected, there is an unnamed breakfast and lunch counter, inside the Mobil Station.  I walked across the street and discovered The Hot Plate- more than the microwave stand I had suspected would be there.  Instead, an effusive man of about 35 and a shy girl, who seemed to be about 15, were behind a full-service breakfast & lunch counter.  The man took my order and both set to work, he on the sausage and the girl on the eggs and pancakes.  She brought a fabulous breakfast plate to my small table, in eight minutes’ time.  Several other people- mostly customers, plus two women who seemed to have some role in running the show, came in and out during my leisurely breakfast.   After paying my bill, and giving the bemused girl a healthy tip, I reflected that places like The Hot Plate are what keep small-town America connected with the open road.  I would go in there again, were I to find myself in Timmonsville-or, as this sign would have it, in

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I headed, in earnest, towards Salisbury, and arrived at W’s place in a couple of hours.  There, a comfortable bed for the night, and a steaming pot of Liberian pork stew, with heaping portions of rice, awaited.  African hospitality is second to none-even in the simplest of homes.

On the way there, I picked up a few more gift items, as a few families in the small town of Mc Bee, SC were holding a fund-raiser and the bake sale was too good to pass up.  Mc Bee is also notable for this:

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Salisbury has several solid Federal period and Beaux  Arts era architectural gems.  I stopped to note  a few of these, whilst driving towards W’s apartment.

Perhaps most prominent, from the east, is the Bell Tower of First Presbyterian Church.

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Driving westward, St. John’s Lutheran Church becomes equally impressive.

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In Salisbury’s Veteran’s Cemetery, this memorial to World War II dead is at the western gate to the grounds.

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This is the old Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, west of the cemetery.

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I found a most happy W, waiting outside his apartment complex.  It’s been a while since he had any visitors from out of town.

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Here is a view of the park, down the street from his complex.

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After my hearty lunch of stew and rice, W and I walked to a Walgreen’s where I could get a spare dental care kit, as mine was possibly lost. I also got a spare razor and blades, while W talked of his joyful walks along Salisbury’s main commercial street.  He keeps away from the Confederate Memorial that greets the traveler coming in from the East.  Otherwise, he has walked all over the town, making friends as he goes.

I found, however, that there was little evidence of racial tension here, as W’s  White cross street neighbours were quite cordial, and there was plenty of friendly interaction during my own downtown visit.

Rowan County Courthouse is an impressive Federal Era structure.  This block celebrates George Washington’s visit here, following the American Revolution.

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The same detail has kept the County Administration Building in good repair, for over 150 years.

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Away from downtown, the west and south sides feature several older gems.  Below, is Chambers House, from the Revolutionary Period.

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Here is another view of the Bell Tower, as it is near Chambers House.

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This tiny salt box house was the Henderson Law Office, built in 1796.

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I spent a few moments checking out a south side block, from whence there is another fine view of the Bell Tower.

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Here is a three-part look at the south side’s finest mural, entitled “Crossroads-Past Into Present”.  It shows Salisbury life, circa 1900 and was completed in 2001.  The artists are Cynvia Rankin, Earle Kluttz and Raines Thompson.  Ms. Rankin was the primary artist on this project, commissioned by  Rowan Art Guild.

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W and I spent a great deal of time just talking of life in Arizona, as compared to North Carolina.  The latter is certainly a less frenetic and cheaper place to live, by and large.  He also told me much about Liberia, and his journalistic experience during the country’s Civil War.  We watched a lengthy Baha’i video, as well.  Our conversation tended to be more far ranging than those we’ve had over the phone. W speaks at a fast clip, so line of sight works better for me, in understanding him.

It has been another relaxing day, though, knowing I am in a place of friendship.

NEXT:  Across the Great Smokies, to Crossville

 

The 2018 Road, Day 27:The Flow of Kindred Souls

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June 21, 2018, Hemingway, SC-

I did accomplish a goal of three years’ running:  A simple dinner with a young woman who is like a daughter to me.  C and I met up at Jenna’s Cafe, Virginia Beach, after I negotiated a busy, but peaceful causeway from Williamsburg to V.B., via Norfolk.

After a couple hours of encouragement from me, it was time for her to head back home and prepare for another day’s work.  She has the wherewithal to go far in her field, and to continue doing a fine job with her children.

I found a reasonable motel in Newport News and rested well, preparing for a southward journey.   My next goal would be Louis Gregory Baha’i Institute, Hemingway.  The center is used for spiritual education and gatherings. It is named for an early African-American Baha’i, who was a prominent attorney.  He chose to move to the South, in the midst of the Jim Crow era, and whilst abiding by the laws of the time, he worked behind the scenes to gradually ease the discrimination, which hobbled oppressed and oppressor, alike.

On this summer solstice, I chose to bypass Richmond, and drove a straight shot through North Carolina, to which I will return, next week. A leisurely drive into South Carolina’s pine woods brought me to LGBI,

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES just in time to meet the caretaker, before he closed up for the night.G generously gave me accommodations for the night, for which I offered a nominal contribution, this being a place that operates on a shoestring budget. LGBI was established in 1972, to assist the large number of people in northeastern South Carolina, who had shown interest in the Baha’i Faith.

Here are some scenes from around the small campus. The first three are from the Main Hall.  The patchwork quilt was made by junior youth, ages 11-14.

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Mr. Gregory is shown below, with his English-born wife, Louisa.  Theirs was one of the first interracial marriages performed legally in the United States.

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After settling into my night’s lodging, I made a visit to downtown Hemingway, for dinner, finding the lovely and welcoming Fish Net Seafood Market.

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Across the street from LGBI is a Baha’i- affiliated radio station, named-what else: WLGI!

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I find my accommodations for the night quite refreshing, and another unfinished goal from 2007 is realized.

NEXT:  Return to Greenville

 

The wave of nationwide strikes, protests and uprisings in the cities of Iran — Freedom Star

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This article is based on reports and videos sent by PMOI/MEK activists inside Iran Iran, July 31, 2018 – Tuesday has been the scene of numerous protests and demonstrations in cities across Iran. Strike, Protest in Isfahan: Beginning this morning, Tuesday, July 31, truck drivers and owners as well as large group of people and youth in […]

via The wave of nationwide strikes, protests and uprisings in the cities of Iran — Freedom Star