Fathering, without Paternalizing

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June 19, 2022, Montreal- Today was a fitting confluence of observances: Father’s Day, celebrating the best of those who help raise a next generation and who continue to offer guidance to the men and women they helped rear, and Juneteenth (which will be officially observed tomorrow, as a National Holiday in the U.S.), wherein paternalism, the opposite of good fathering, took a well-deserved hit, with enslaved people in Texas finally getting the word that they had been freed-more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation-and two months after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army, at Appomattox.

The concept of a person making decisions FOR other people has been with us for at least 10,000 years. It has many permutations, and will die hard. We are, however, entering an Age of Fulfillment, in which individuals are growing into humans who can make their own decisions. There will be a lot of mess involved-that’s the nature of growth. Mistakes will happen, at all levels, yet hopefully lessons will be learned. Those who see life through a progressive lens can be just as authoritarian as their polar opposites who seem to want to turn back the clock.

Paternalism, or excessive maternalism, for that matter, serve to debilitate the very people one secretly wishes would stand up and do what’s right. The rub comes, when the domineering one realizes that maybe the children or teens are doing precisely what is right-for their lives. Teaching people the thinking process is far more valuable than pontificating on what to think.

My Father’s Day, with a son who is away in a training exercise, was spent being proud of what he is achieving. I also returned to a city that taught me some hard lessons, four years ago-at exactly the time when I learned them. This year, Montreal was far easier to navigate. I had the satisfaction of visiting the shore of Lake Ontario, at Kingston, where I spent last night, and the north bank of the St. Lawrence River, at Prescott, Ontario (“That’s PresCOTT, there, Yank!”). I also was able to put the Saturn in a highly secure garage for the evening, once arriving in Montreal. Father’s day, my way, was capped by a wonton supper at Chef B.Lee, on St. Catherine Street, in the heart of Montreal’s Asian Food District (“Chinatown” would be an inadequate term here, as Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese eateries are just as common).

It’s been a good day, all in all. Here are a few scenes from the course of the journey.

The most important aspect of this park, however, is the newest and oldest, at the same time: The Alderville First Nation, a Mississauga Ojibway band, blessed the area with one of its artists and healers, Terence Radford, who created a Spirit Garden for Lake Ontario Park. All the Great Lakes are sacred to the Ojibway, so this blessing of Lake Ontario means a great deal, both to the Ojibway people and to their neighbours in the larger community.

THIS strikes me as the real reason I stopped overnight in Kingston.

A while later, I stopped in Prescott, ON. This town has a nice River Walk, focusing on the St. Lawrence, so I took a walk along a short part of it. Here are views of the river and of Fort Wellington, a British fort during the War of 1812, built to defend shipping from the American troops stationed across the river, in Ogdensburg, NY.

This was a cool find. In the 1960s, Leo Boivin (“That’s BwaVAN, Yank!”), was a respected member of the Boston Bruins. Kids were always calling me “Leo”, though quite honestly, I couldn’t stand up on skates, for more than two minutes. As Leo was a native of Prescott, the town named its community center after him, when he passed away, last year.

Tonight, I am here, at Montreal’s Auberge St. Lo, formerly called HI (Hostels International) Montreal. It is a very comfortable and accommodating place, with the study room where I am writing this post.

Loving the Balance

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June 18, 2022, Kingston, ON- I found myself here, near the shore of Lake Ontario, an underrated gem of a Great Lake, which I will visit briefly tomorrow, before driving to Montreal. It was a choice: Visit Kingston and get some down time tonight or plow on to Ottawa, have maybe three hours max in the capital city and “enjoy” what would eventually feel like a hamster wheel.

There is always a short-term financial balance to keep, and I at least have that down. I spent some time in London, this morning and early afternoon, in both business and sending out positive energy. Changing currency is a chore for many. I consider it an act of respect for the host country, for as long as we humans need to have different currency in each nation-or region (Euro Zone).

Another “business” action is joining online Baha’i gatherings. If I can do this, even from a distant location, and while maintaining silence, as is necessary in a public space, such as a coffee shop. then the energy shared across the space between locations is worth it.

Whenever I am off on one of these quests, suggestions come from well-intending friends and family. Invariably, unless the hint is close to my itinerary, either distance-wise or time-wise, I file it in the “later” sleeve. Ottawa will wait until another time; as will two or three days in Toronto, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and Quebec City (both of which I have visited), the Gaspe, Prince Edward Island (been there, also), the southern part of the Avalon Peninsula on Newfoundland, and St. Pierre & Miquelon, France’s last bit of “mainland” North America.

Time and spiritual energy determine the balance, and it is a many-splendoured thing.

Here are a few scenes from London’s marvelous Covent Garden Market- worthy of a place alongside Boston’s Faneuil Hall/Durgin Park, Seattle’s Pike Place and Chicago’s Navy Pier. I am sure many of you could add a dozen others to this list. Remember, I am referring here to London, Ontario. The Market was recommended to me by a bookseller, whose shop, City Lights. is across the street. He also suggested Saga Coffee House, just west of his shop. Both recommendations are spot on-as is the book store.

As I was working on my laptop, a little girl pointed out the lanterns and flowers, which she found “astonishing”. Yes, they certainly are!

Anna Turkiewicz is a Polish emigre, who runs this excellent old style delicatessen. She seemed a bit worn down, and shortly after I took my lunch order to the table, she took a break for herself. It is a hard row to hoe, this food business. Ontario apparently also has a coin shortage, and supply chain issues, much like on the American side of the border. I did what i could to be supportive.

The grounds are given some thought, by the City, as well. Here is a decorated lamp post.

There is much joy in keeping a balance.

The Joyful Missionary

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June 15, 2022, Chicago- The tiny, well-attired lady called out to me, as I was getting ready to write down my fuel information, after filling up this morning, in Rolla, MO. She had a few hand-drawn hearts and a yellow cross, along with three free-verse prayers she had written down. I gave her a small amount of money for the yellow cross, which will be part of a gift to a friend. She explained she was going to Indianapolis. Dressed in Mennonite garb, and with a spirit that could light up any room, she definitely made my day even more pleasant than it had already been.

I enjoyed breakfast with my southwest Missouri paternal cousin, going over past and present happenings in our large brood. There are five aunts, about 42 cousins and all of our offspring (probably numbering 100+), on my father’s side. Mom’s family likely is close to that number as well. After a delightful hour or so of catch-up, at a small cafe called Granny Lee’s, I had a smooth drive through the Ozarks, around St. Louis and on up through Illinois.

A few accidents, especially a roll-over in the opposite direction, led to a most disturbing traffic jam across the highway, from just west of Rolla to a point ten miles east of town. I have been in a few of those tie-ups, so my heart definitely went out to those who were stuck. I am also concerned for the people affected by the floods in Yellowstone and the surrounding towns and those in Flagstaff, dealing with yet another fire. Given the capricious nature of disaster, this year, I have my Red Cross attire and credentials with me, just in case.

I am now in Chicago, at an underrated, but comfortable and clean motel called the Edgebrook, on West Touhy. This makes two nights in a row, of fine accommodations (Carthage Inn, in Carthage, MO is also worth the modest charge.) I am always glad to cap a long drive and encounters with nice people by getting a good night’s rest.

The Sooner State’s Northern Tier

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June 14, 2022, Carthage, MO- “Hugs” helped me get up this morning, and we both got friend John out the door, a bit earlier than might otherwise have been the case. No worries, as I used all the time given me, going across Oklahoma’s northern tier and J had time to do what he needed to do for his own health and well-being.

We started as we usually do, on such visits, with a breakfast sandwich from a gas station deli and coffee at Da Vinci, Enid’s premier coffee house chain. After conversation with John and one of his friends, it was time to head east again. This time, I stayed on Route 60, eastbound, as far as the turnoff to Neosho, MO, which was a bit further south than I wanted to go today.

Passing through towns like Pond Creek, Lamont, Tonkawa, Ponca City, Pawhuska, Bartlesville, Nowato and Vinita, I was struck by the increasing greenery-even though I have been through this area dozens of times. The difference today was that there was no Turnpike involved. I was able to enjoy the back side of the northern tier.

Ponca City has preserved the properties associated with Oklahoma’s tenth governor, Ernest Whitworth Marland, who was also a philanthropist, having made a fortune in the oil industry, but seeing no point in hoarding the money. His view of wealth was to spend it “like water on my people and my town (Ponca City).” The mansion and estate he shared with his gracious and socially passionate wife, Lydie, are now managed by Ponca City.

Here are some scenes of the mansion and grounds. The Marlands’ adopted son, George, is depicted here, greeting guests as they walk in from the parking lot.

‘Abdu’l-Baha identified philanthropy as the fourth means to spiritual progress. Mr. Marland’s record of contributing, both to the welfare of his employees and to the well-being of Oklahoma’s people, is a worthy counterweight to the seeming largesse he expended on his family and himself. He seemed to have transcended the distrust for the common man that was vocalized by his mentor, Andrew Carnegie, and he actively called for “bringing the New Deal to Oklahoma. In the wake of the Dust Bowl calamity, the state needed those programs, perhaps even more than many places in the coastal regions.

Wealth is not a negative attribute, when it is shared responsibly.

The Harder the Resistance…

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June 13, 2022, Enid- I woke up nicely, in Gallup, though a bit groggy at first, after an interesting dream. In it, I was in a cabin, near what appears to be Badger Peak, just east of Prescott. There a Maine Coon cat which was my companion. I went outside to the outdoor shower, and when I came back, the kitty had been joined by a mountain lion, which paid me scant attention, as he was just sitting and looking out the window, much as a house cat might. I went out again and was hiking towards Prescott, on the Turley Trail. A rather large serval cat was following me, which was odd, as these cats are native to North Africa. Odder still, the serval was joined by others, who were led by a wolf, and they encircled me, closing in slowly but surely. Of a sudden, a growl and a crash through the brush produced the mountain lion, which first took out the wolf, biting him in the neck, then decimated several of the servals, causing the others to flee in panic. The dream ended with the lion, the Maine Coon and me, back in the cabin.

I had a nice, if long, drive to Enid today. It started with a delectable red chili burrito, one of the best I’ve ever had, in over thirty five years in the Southwest, at Glenn’s Bakery, on Gallup’s Near West Side. From there, after I bumbled along Santa Fe Avenue for a bit, I was headed east on I-40. A few construction projects (part of the New Mexico Governor’s highway improvement initiative) met me here and there, through Tucumcari. There was also a small dust storm near Milan, in the Black Rock country around Grants. Otherwise, it was clear sailing, from Gallup through Tucumcari, and on up through the Texas Panhandle to Dalhart and over to Woodward, just west of here. I took lunch at a rest stop near Wagon Wheel, watching a little girl who appeared confused and a rather scruffy individual who was watching her as well. The girl made her way safely to her mother’s side and the other individual went back to his truck. My monitoring role remained just that.

Late in the evening, I arrived at the home of John Glaze, a longtime friend here in Enid. His new dog, a rescue blue healer named “Hugs”, let me know, really fast, that my welcome would have to be earned. After being discouraged from snarling, by John, a few treats from me and John’s cat jumping up on my lap for some petting, “Hugs” changed his tune.

This brings me to the title of this post. Whenever one tries to do something big, or novel, there is resistance-usually from the powers that be. Note that, after the resignation of Richard Nixon from the Presidency, in 1974, the lords of finance and industry struck back with a vengeance, leading to the price increases and stock market declines that were dubbed “stagflation” by Nixon’s successor, Gerald R. Ford, and which bedeviled the tenure of Ford’s successor, Jimmy Carter. The Big Dogs got their wish, in 1980, with the election of Ronald Reagan.

I see the same thing happening now. Price increases, coupled with stock market declines-both seeming to be irreversible-except they aren’t. Even the Great Depression came to an end, because no one, no matter how self-important or greedy they are, individually or as a group, can destroy a society. The Big Dogs are doing nothing so much as shooting themselves in the feet, sowing the seeds of their own downfall, more than causing the permanent impoverishing of the common people.

I, and people like me, will continue to follow our hearts and do what we need to do. If most, or all, of our financial resources are stolen from us, we will generate new resources and keep on with what we are doing. I get this resolve from my maternal grandfather, who was told by the bankers, in the thick of the Great Depression, that they would soon own his house and his car. He never gave them either. My grandmother, and her fourth son, after she died, kept the house in the family name-until he died in 1994. His widow sold the house, of her own volition. It is still in private hands. The car was sold after Papa died, but only because Grandma never learned to drive. He taught his children: “Never give the puppet masters what they demand. God, alone, deserves our fealty.” That lesson was passed on to all of us grandkids.

Tomorrow, my journey will be relatively short- Enid to Sarcoxie, MO, where a paternal cousin and her family await.

Embracing the Whole

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June 4, 2022- This was a day for traveling the spectrum. Breakfast at Zeke’s was a time for recognizing that there will be a lot more to bringing about a Green Energy program than just cutting fossil fuel use on paper. Electric vehicles need those same fossil fuels in order to produce electricity, at least for now. I won’t argue the need to cut down on widespread use of fossil fuels. Towards that end, I am keeping my own vehicle in the best condition. Eventually, I will either get a hybrid or alt-fuel vehicle or live somewhere where a vehicle is not necessary.

Mid-day, a group of us discussed building vibrant communities and contributing to social transformation. These themes can only be realized by bringing people together, across points of view and by building on common ground. This is not as trite as many people seem to think, but it does entail some consistent hard work. Baha’is believe that consultation entails listening to what might, at first blush, seem objectionable points of view, and though we do not support those practices which would harm others or deny human rights, the mere expression of a viewpoint does not, in and of itself lead to tyranny. Once a point of view is expressed, it should be regarded as no longer the property of the person who expressed it, but as belonging to the group.

The final part of the day was spent helping a group of progressives at a community picnic. There were several booths, which highlighted such themes as registering to vote, banning Dark Money in political campaigns and tightening restrictions on sales of firearms to those assessed as mentally ill. I will help any group that is about the betterment of society and the preservation of Human Rights-which are God-given rights. I didn’t have to do much , but helping to break down the event was much appreciated. I even re-united a woman with her open-toed sandals.

Helping to transform society will be a lengthy process, requiring patience and perseverance- as well as an imperturbable open-mindedness.

Progress

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May 31, 2022- After six months of diligent care for my body’s largest organ, the dermatologist gave me a clean bill of health. Safe sun screen, head covering and being sensible about time in the sun, including while driving a car, has apparently made a fair degree of difference.

I got my act together and greatly tidied up the kitchen and dining area. Three other areas remain, before my next journey begins in mid-June. Having less compunction about getting rid of stuff makes a great deal of difference, in this task. So, the bedroom, closet and storage unit remain. Many garden tools will go to Dharma Farm, this weekend, and there are several items that can be donated to the Disabled American Veterans.

I am opening up with suggestions to people who pose seemingly intractable problems-after listening to them for a time, instead of jumping right in with solutions. The latter approach just gives the plaintiff the sense that they are being brushed off. In the long run, there are no really intractable problems, but there are plenty which are very, very hard to resolve.

The other thing, which occurred to me this morning, during the running of an errand, is that my fretting over going to one clerk’s window, instead of another, is a bit on the egocentric side. This was a thing, for quite a few years-and it finally came into my consciousness that the only one who cared about such things, was me. Silly stuff like that was much more front and center, not that many years ago. I am learning to let go.

May June only hasten this sort of progress.

Rights and Obligations

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May 29, 2022- Every human right brings with it three levels of obligation: To self, to family and to community (both local and larger). This is just my opinion, for purposes of this blog post, but I’ve seen it play out, time and again. I have seen any person who demands a given right, without committing to a parallel responsibility, enter the realm of undeserved entitlement. Let us look at three rights that are encoded in the United States Constitution, in fact, the First, Second and Fourth Amendments, as cases in point.

The First Amendment provides several rights protections: to express ideas through speech and the press, to assemble or gather with a group to protest or for other reasons, and to ask the government to fix problems. It also protects the right to religious beliefs and practices. It prevents the government from creating or favoring a religion.

I maintain that the obligations inherent here are: 1. Duty to self, to be honest; 2. Duty to family, to speak with integrity and honour; 3. Duty to community, to give the same rights to others, even if their opinions are at variance with own.

The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms. This is specific to maintenance of a well-trained militia.

I maintain that the obligations inherent here are: 1. Duty to self, to own only such weapons as one can safely clean, maintain and store; 2. Duty to family, to keep weapons locked out of reach of those who are not of mature or sound mind; 3. Duty to community, to refrain from endangering the public.

The Fourth Amendment bars the government from unreasonable search and seizure of an individual or their private property.

I maintain that the obligations inherent here are: 1. Duty to self, to not own more of anything than one can safely and securely handle; 2. Duty to family, to not place them in danger, owing to possession of illicit substances or unsafe equipment, including rusted-out or broken-down cars that may be attractive nuisances for children; 3. Duty to community, to not engage in activities that generate public endangerment, or to make readily available, items that themselves create a danger to the public.

This is only one set of observations among many, but these are in keeping with how i was taught-to regard the needs of others, in tandem with my own.

Doors Reopen

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May 21, 2022- As I spoke to along-absent friend about taking some of the garden tools, I no longer need, off my hands, she said that her family wanted me to stop by, anytime. Coming from people who needed to have visitors make appointments, days in advance, this is huge. Being trusted is not something I have universally deserved, especially in the difficult years after Penny’s death; but in this case, there was no breach of trust. The family just needed time to observe me from a distance, and have decided to reopen the door of welcome.

Another person, who I love dearly, has asked me to stop by her shop more regularly. This is a soul who can do a lot to heal her community, so I will honour her wishes. Time spent with musicians and other healers, this evening, underscored that I am again welcome in that community.

I get the sense that none of this is possible, without selfless acts and dedication to serving others. The better part of this afternoon was spent bagging piles of pine needles and driving a truck around to pick up said bags. The crew of fifteen was diligent in the effort, and the area around buildings at Bellemont Baha’i School is much more fire wise than it was a few days ago. This is a process that is done every year at this time. The place will accommodate several groups of adolescents during the month of July, and my own involvement in that process will begin, almost as soon as the early summer journey comes to an end. That’s okay-it means my presence is valued.

It just goes to show that many seemingly closed doors are merely ajar.

Adjustments

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May 18, 2022- I arrived back at Home Base, early this afternoon, to a message that my semi-annual chiropractic evaluation is tomorrow afternoon. This pre-empts any errand of assistance to Phoenix, for at least a couple of weeks. Laying low tomorrow is actually a good thing, since a double charge at last night’s motel won’t be fixed for a few days-per bank protocol. Besides, my constant travel is raising a few eyebrows around here, as it does every so often.

There does seem to be a lot of spending, across the country, and in response, the financial markets are selling off as much as they can-partly to dissuade said spending, which I suppose is the markets’ way of cooling inflation. My own policy, with regard to money, is much like the one I have towards water: Use, minimally as possible, what is needed to achieve my purposes, and turn the spigot off, when I am in the scrubbing, or working, process. As long as the well is not totally dry, I’m good.

On another note, the three weeks ahead, as mentioned earlier, have a lot of cleaning, getting rid of stuff and generally pitching in with whatever service activities come up. One such involves helping with fire-wise clean-up, at our Baha’i camp, on Saturday. I am also keeping one eye on the fire and hurricane situation. Things are quiet now, but lulls tend to not last long. Time and money always ask for adjustments in their use.