None Are Better Than….

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October 8, 2021- This afternoon, as a foreshortened school day was in its final half hour, I greeted two classrooms of 10-11 year-olds, several of whom were full of piss and vinegar, and all too eager to push the limits with one whom they saw as a dotty old man.

I set them straight, in short order, by giving a young man, who was posing as ringleader, some gratuitous time out of the room. He came back about three minutes later, and proceeded to follow the directions for the activity.

My parents told us that no one is inherently better than anyone else. I was never favoured over any of my siblings, and vice versa. My youngest brother was cut more slack, because he had more special needs than the rest of us. He was though, generally speaking, held to the same core expectations. The same ethic was dominant in our neighbourhood, in the schools and, as I experienced it, in my Army basic training and Advanced Individual Training units.

My experiences with artificial pecking orders came with active duty at Fort Myer, and more so, in deployment to Long Binh and Cholon, VietNam. I was dubbed one of the lower caste members, owing to my autism-and found myself feeling more empathy with the Black, Latino and Pacific Islander members of our units. The mantra in my head remained the same-“None are better than the rest.” I had a select job, handling accountable mail, and I did it to the best of my ability. That didn’t make me above it all, and when the bulk mail truck pulled up, in Long Binh, the lock went on the AM cage and my hands were emptying that truck, along with everyone else’s.

In the years since I was honorably discharged, every situation has also had its pecking order. Sometimes, the elitism was codified: Students answered to professors and professors, to Deans; Teachers answered to Principals and principals, to superintendents and Governing Boards; Volunteers answered to paid staff and paid staff, to administrators.

In other situations, the waters were muddier. It was then that the human animal’s penchant for an alpha to lead rose to the fore. Ad hoc authority figures have inserted themselves into my life, or tried to, at several junctures. American expatriates in Korea, retired military (whites and blacks) on the Navajo Nation, and authoritarian personalities, without portfolio, in several of the schools in which I’ve worked as a substitute teacher, have presented themselves as plenipotentiaries. In each case, my response has been: “I am not at your beck and call.”

So, in advising, admonishing or instructing the rising generations, my mantra is that of Mom and Dad: Regard yourselves as good as the rest, neither above nor beneath.

The Beautiful Universe

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October 6, 2021- In the spiritist classic, “The Initiate In The New World”, Cyril Scott’s Master gets the novice’s attention, by putting the acolyte’s being smitten by a comely woman, who is twenty years his junior, in perspective. The learned one cautions him to remember that there are billions of beautiful scenes, throughout the Universe, millions of cases of such salubriousness on Earth alone and even in the human realm, over a billion humans (this was 1927) who reflect one sort of beauty or another. He encourages the Initiate to nurture his friendship with the younger woman, but in the context of a deep and variegated relationship.

This, of course, is emblematic of the best of marriages, of the most enduring friendships. Yet, how easily one can turn aside from even a long-term, promising, even mutually satisfying bond, over the most trifling of disappointments or disagreements. I’ve had strong bonds fade into nothingness or turn into estrangement, because one or both of us was unwilling to see the ties from a wider perspective.

For quite some time, though, I have taken to viewing a far-deeper universe-still being appreciative of comeliness, certainly, but hardly placing physicality front and center. The closest of my friends are those whose spiritual or ethereal beauty radiates in their daily lives and in all their dealings with those around them.

Thus was the little girl showing me a heart rock, she had found on the school playground, the highlight of my rather productive day. Heart rocks show that one is paying attention to one’s surroundings and is wise to a connection with nature. So, too, is paying attention to brilliant risings and settings of the sun, to rainbows, sunbows and moonbows. Thunder and lightning can be experienced as majestic.

Thus is a smile the most comforting of all expressions, and the hug the most reassuring of all interactions between two people. The pet’s unconditional affection can soothe, after the longest, hardest of days. The baby’s coo is the payback, for all that a mother has endured over the period of gestation.

Thus does beauty transcend all the transactional thought, cynicism, unilateral dependency and outright greed that drain the spirit, crush the soul and attempt to negate the essential goodness placed in all of us, by the Creator.

Why We Struggle

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October 1, 2021- “We gathered together to ask the Lord’s blessing”, certainly, and to reflect on what was done right, as well as areas for growth, with respect to next year’s event.

The occasion was the Hope Fest appreciation dinner, held at the aptly-named Lindo Mexico Restaurant, on Prescott’s near north side.

A number of incidents and procedural anecdotes were discussed,and after a fashion, the conversation turned to the very purpose of challenges and suffering in this life. It came down to two elements: As powerful as the Creator is, for insuperable force to be brought to bear, on all given problems faced by us, would teach us nothing. The second point is that, by the sufferings of the great Spiritual Teachers, we learn that our own struggles can be both overcome and be the source of spiritual growth.

These past few weeks have certainly reminded me of this, as well as being a check on whether I was getting attached to my possessions. While they have served me well, so far the answer has been “No”.

On Go Our Paths

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September 30, 2021- Around 4 p.m., as I was multitasking, some water spilled on my computer table and found its way to the device. The laptop is now in Tech ER. Geek Doc, being a master of reality, gave me all the sympathy I deserved: None. He wants two days, with few guarantees.

Coming as it has,on the occasion of the anniversary of Penny’s birth, I can hear her voice: ” Well, I guess you know what not to do next time!” She and I knew when to comfort each other, when to get after one another and when to do a bit of both.

Now, we are each on parallel paths. Hers is pure spirit, and thus subject completely to divine will. Mine is yet paint-by-numbers. Still, anything I do that’s worthwhile is the result of careful contemplation. Anything I do that’s messed up is the result of not giving it due consideration.

I will be back behind the keyboard, soon, and yes, no more multitasking. I had been getting a lot better, in that respect. Change, though, is a process, the result of events, some seismic, some just blips.

Old Dreams, New Paths

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September 28, 2021- Yesterday, thoughts of new bullet points, on a well-worn path, started to materialize. Today, things became clearer.

It is ever more likely that I will have a replacement for my road warrior, soon. When that vehicle arrives, it will be exclusively for work and for journeys within the Southwest and southern California. Travels further afield will be by train or bus, with car rentals taking up the slack, in visits off the beaten track. There will be an occasional airplane flight, as with this coming Thanksgiving, but mostly I will stay earthbound.

Working with children will be a part of life, as long as I am of sound mind and body. The assignments, though, are becoming more selective. No longer will I sign on for work with those whose style is controlling, manipulating or degrading. I’m not talking about students, but about adults.

The same holds for volunteer work. It requires a bit more forbearance, as people in crisis are often at their worst. Nonetheless, I will expect the communication to be clear and will not indulge anyone in games of “gotcha”. Power and control have no place in a healing environment.

The most important aspect of all this is self-care, and towards this end, maintaining my current regimen of natural supplements, as organic a diet as possible, regular exercise and rest when needed is one bullet point that will not change.

The other aspect of self-care is the use of time. I find that I am less oriented towards mandatory attendance at gatherings, lest the organizer be woefully offended, and more towards joining those gatherings at which I am moved to be present, out of genuine interest. Recently, those have included both long-planned events and those more of an impromptu, spontaneous nature.

I fully plan to make my journeys abroad, over the next four or five years, as conditions allow. Most ocean crossings will probably involve air travel, but I am open to journeying by boat or ship, as well. Again, in the spirit of the above paragraph, I make no commitments to being somewhere, out of an odd sense of obligation to online correspondents. Lord knows, COVID has disrupted that whole process, as has the occasional hyperintensity with which some have tried to get my attention.

The whole process is just becoming less frenetic and more organic.

And After The Ending…..

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September 24, 2021- The tough little road warrior took to squealing its displeasure, as soon as I popped the trunk. The alarm, that we all figured was dead, went off and stayed squawking, almost until the trunk was empty. It took less than an hour to clear everything out of the Elantra and transport it back to Home Base. My farewell to Elantra was shortened by the presence of a visibly irritated yard manager, at the body shop to which I had taken it. My friend’s car was taking up much needed space in the yard, so with one last tap on the road warrior’s roof, we left it to its destiny with USAA.

Picking up the rental, which I will pretty much need until the next car is purchased, was quick and easy. Ditto for processing the Transfer of Title and another document. It was the practical end to a strange, dreamlike 36 hours. I looked online, at several used car sites, and knowing the severity of the computer chip shortage, am mentally set for a rather long haul.

The evening was sweeter. I went downtown and joined the local rally for Earth, dubbed Climate Strike. Several friends were present, with a young lady I love as if she were my daughter being one of the leading organizers. I am very proud of her efforts and those of the earnestly involved team. With few, if any, exclusionary statements, the speakers stressed the importance, to every resident of this planet , of making efforts at curbing pollution and taking whatever practical steps that can be taken to ameliorate the daily and intermediate-term effects of climate change-whether it be in the form of extreme heat or extreme cold; whether it means extended drought or an increase in the frequency and severity of storms. The key term here is sustainability.

As I spent time, after the rally, sipping iced tea and enjoying an evening of funky music, at Raven Cafe, Annie and two friends walked in, offered a cheerful greeting and went upstairs to the roof patio. Knowing we have one another’s back, my friends and I also let time flow, being together sometimes and doing our own things, the rest of the time.

My back is slowly but steadily recovering, less stiff today than yesterday and will get better soon.

More About the Circle

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September 22, 2021- The pleas were almost incessant, but in the end, they were about maintaining a fragmented, capricious view of the world. They were a biproduct of the colonial mentality-that those perceived as rich should help a small number of those who regard themselves as poor, to become a new elite.

In the unbroken circle which I inhabit, there is no trading one elite for another, or for simply welcoming a select few into some kind of upper echelon-especially since I have no interest in occupying that echelon, myself. I am only about the kind of family bonds that are treasured by the sincere among conservatives and progressives alike- and I know plenty of people across the spectrum who hold that ethic dear. I am only about the kind of community bonds that open the door to all of good will, regardless of any physical trait, ethnicity or method of worshipping the Creator. I am only about empowering children and youth, from where we may find them to the point where they might thrive on their own and achieve their dreams in an authentic manner.

Two things happened today: First, Dr. Donald Streets, an international educator, whom I knew for many years, was laid to rest, after a long life of promoting holistic, empowerment-oriented education-in the United States, Canada, and the Czech Republic. He is out of pain now, and knows how much his work achieved.

The second thing, infinitesimal in the Universe, but huge to one person, was that the humble soul, sitting on a curb with his dog and a splayed out deck of cards, got a fresh muffin from a passerby. It was the first food he’d had in two days.

Life plays out, and changes form, in many wondrous ways.

The Circle Is Unbroken

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September 21, 2021- After stopping by Prescott College’s Crossroads Cafe, for a small lunch and time in the Meditation Garden, I drove past a small, but noisy, group of ultraconservatives, one of whom briefly stepped out into the street and blocked traffic, prompting some genius on the other end of the spectrum to stop his vehicle and offer a one-finger salute. I was four cars back, just wanting to get back to Home Base, and so waited the three extra minutes to do so. No harm, despite the foul.

I am more of a progressive and inclusive bent, though being so through a faith-based lens. Thus, I find gifts from both sides of the continuum, and base my own philosophy of life accordingly.

To wit: Life begins at conception, and life is sacred. Thus, I maintain that abortion is a tragic act, should not be the basis for either enterprise or have its victims’ remains used for scientific research, without the express and informed consent of the surviving, grieving family-any more than any other deceased person. The mother of the child does have a choice, and invariably, I hope she chooses life.

That same life that is being defended by conservatives does NOT lose value, as the person gets older. So, the support for suffering people being exhibited by those on the Left is no less valid than the concern shown for pre-born people by those on the Right. The hollow hue and cry about “reckless spending” by some in Congress should fool no one. Money can be found, and most of it through means already detailed by the proponents of the large-scale efforts. The whole obstructionist effort is being made for no other reason than to hold onto personal power. We may not need cradle-to-grave socialism, at the expense of personal and collective self-discipline and incentives to achieve, but we certainly need efforts to lift up those whose very sense of self-worth has been decimated by those whose attitude is : “I’ve got mine, pal, so suck it up.” (Disclosure: I did sever ties today, with someone in another country whose whole premise for friendship was to get me to fund his children’s private school education. Every child on the planet deserves an education, but no one is entitled to derive their family’s extraneous well-being on the backs of others. If that makes me a hypocrite in your eyes, so be it.)

I stand for a life of service, connectedness, affirmation and validation, not for its opposite-hoarding, separation, negation and lack of initiative. The circle is unbroken.

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:

Little Ado, Almost Nothing

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September 18, 2021- The call, for which I waited all day, never came. There was a flurry of phone activity on Thursday, with Red Cross dispatchers asking me, first to go to Louisiana to work as a computer operator, then deciding I might be better at supervising a shelter. Since I couldn’t go there immediately, owing to faith-based commitments, it was agreed I would go on Sunday-with documents to be handed me today.

Today has come, and is almost gone. With no word from RC, (and yes, the ball is in their court), I have concluded, from checking the weather forecast for Baton Rouge, that the need is fading. Bright sunshine lies ahead, after Monday, and good on the folks of Louisiana, who have been much put upon, again this summer.

We had a final monsoon storm here, this evening, as the major faith-based activity of the weekend was playing out. The rain was welcome, and did not interrupt our Zoom activity. Afterward, I felt the need to go across the mountain to Synergy Cafe, so off to Sedona it was. A two-hour visit with a mostly male troupe of musicians and a lengthy conversation with a spiritually-awakened lady made the evening worth the drive, as it usually is. The lady came here from Russia, as an adolescent, some twenty years ago, still retaining the more global view that many from that part of the world seem to embody.

Remembering that a meeting for tomorrow still had not been set up on my laptop, I made exit earlier than planned, but not before our little drum, guitar(electric and acoustic) and didgeridoo set of tunes had inspired the lady and her husband to dance in slow embrace. Romantic couples always make me smile.

I did learn one thing from today- don’t speak of service online, before boots are on the ground.