The Z’s, the Alphas and Evolution

6

April 16, 2019-

Yesterday was a bear, for many.  The damage to Notre Dame Cathedral (which I have only seen from outside) and to Al Aqsa Mosque (in which I had the honour of praying with the Imam, in 1982) was serious, but in both cases, not irreparable.

For me, it was a productive day- visiting the new Cuppers Coffee House location, attending a Baha’i study circle and getting in another exercise session were pluses.  A new online acquaintance asked me what I was doing for the day, and my response was “Tending to my personal affairs”, which at the time was weighing on me and not what I wanted to detail, to a relative stranger.  Turns out, the whole process took less than ten minutes, and all’s as well as it can be, for the time being.

I was brought further out of my shyness and awkwardness, at Cuppers, when several young people chose to sit down on either side of me.  Something refreshing about Millennials, and more so about Gen Z people, is their overall forthrightness.  Growing up always questioning my worth as a human being was a real pain.  The younger generations see no reason why anyone should do that, though I’m sure they have their moments of insecurity. Nonetheless, Gen Z’s mantra, “I got you”, obviating any lengthy explanation of one’s feelings or opinions, is actually a treasure.

I see intuition becoming a hard-wired thing.  Yesterday, there was a post about five teenagers who helped an elderly man get up from the sidewalk, where he’d fallen, walking home with him and cleaning his wounds.  Goodness prevails here, and is more common than its opposite.  The media has a label ready for those born since 2010:  Generation Alpha.  I haven’t had much contact with younger kids lately, but judging from the intuition levels and cooperative spirit of my grandnieces and nephews, and online friends’ children, I would say the label, as contrived as it sounds, is actually spot on.  They, with their immediate elders, will be the ones working to reverse a host of problems that foolishness and greed have bestowed on the human race.  All this makes New York’s recently enacted “nonmedical abortionist” law that much more ludicrous, besides being downright menacing.  The world needs its rising generations, even those who have some physical or mental flaws.

So, on we go, and I feel more confidence than at this time last week.

“Be Nice or Leave”

8

April 14, 2019-

Such was the message on the t-shirt worn by another patron of today’s Powwow, at Ken Lindley Park, across the main street from my apartment.  I saw no one being anything less than nice and I was certainly my usual self.  The words kept coming back to me, throughout the day.

The full range of  dancers performed this afternoon, from 5-year-olds to senior citizens, with male and female dancers, in each age category, from Juniors(10-12), teens (13-17)  adult (18-550 and Golden Agers (55>), performing in one of three categories:  Traditional, Grass and Fancy, which refer to the type of regalia worn.

I sat comfortably in my “director’s chair”, for most of the afternoon. Though while still in shy and awkward mode, I got up and joined in the Round Dance, a social dance in which everyone sidesteps in a circle.  Being among Indigenous people is a balm.

I didn’t take photographs, as those gathered here asked that no one take pictures of anyone they didn’t know personally.  As everyone  else who was there was not known to me, the camera stayed off.

After the Powwow ended, and my laundry was done,  I stopped by the grounds of Chalk-It-Up, to get photos of this year’s entries to the annual chalk art festival.  The actual work took place earlier, but a small group was still there-likewise taking photos.

Here are my candidates for the most memorable.20190414_181022

20190414_181320

20190414_18130820190414_181446

20190414_181526

20190414_181614

20190414_181715

20190414_181557

20190414_181505

To anyone who has felt overcome by the careless judgments of others, there is this:

20190414_181350

It was ironic that, shortly after I took the above photo, I was approached by a couple of school district employees, who found it uproariously funny that I would appear at a public event.  Leaving them to their giggling and derision, a much warmer atmosphere was a block away- at Two Mamas Pizzeria, another place where I can say I feel welcome and safe.

I can say this:  Neither those foolish women, their co-workers, nor anyone else will run me out of town.  Shy and awkward as I feel right now, I take solace in knowing I need run no more.  I will define my place.

Desiderata- Part II

6

April 12, 2019-

In the last post, I looked at the first half of Max Ehrmann’s 1927 prose- poem, which attained wide popularity in the 1960’s, due to a mass, unattributed distribution of the verses, the result of the author’s having not copyrighted the work.

In this post, the second five lines are the focus.

“Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

By Max Ehrmann © 1927
Original text

I have yet to pretend to like someone, much less to love them.  I have had friendships which turned sour, because one or both of us failed to meet pre-conceived expectations.  I have learned, in very ingrained fashion, to approach friendships more carefully. Cynicism about love, though, is out of the question.  It is as perennial as the grass.

As one in late middle age, I do not act like, or pretend to act like, the youth I once projected.  I still have energy and drive, and I also get arthritic aches, if I sit for too long.  I make regular use  of essential oil supplements, hydromassage and therapeutic exercise, as those are the counsels of age.

I have, with help from skilled financial planners, shielded myself from later distress.  Strength of spirit is there, to help keep distress, and any external threats, at bay.

Being gentle with myself, and recognizing my right to life, has come hard.  I went through a long period of self-loathing, which was mitigated, but not extinguished, by my late, beloved wife.  Only standing up to critics and challengers, including the most recent bunch, has given me the sense that gentleness with self is my due.

I know, finally, that all that is happening, for short-term good or ill, will result in what’s best for the Universe and for mankind.  I have, even recently, seen sham and broken dreams.  Those who jive others, or try to fool themselves, will learn the hard truth sooner or later.

Yes, it is still a beautiful world, and I intend to experience more of it.

Flex Schedule

4

April 6, 2019-

Insights into the wider implications of my being released from my most recent position seem to be coming to me, usually in the early morning- a time when I had been doubting my effectiveness at times, only to pull myself together-and usually do a credible job, on any given day.

There are always aspects of one’s day-to-day life that are not readily understood.  Why, for example, do crisis moments seem to happen, almost out of nowhere?  Why do some people seem to be keenly interested in one’s shortcomings, when they have no supervisory role of which to speak?  Why do processes come to an abrupt end?

I have chosen to not concern myself with any of that.  I will go back to what has sustained me, in times of trial before:  Working where I am most needed, from day to day.  There are nineteen months until I would, optimally, prefer to retire from education: November, 2020.  I would work through December,  if the need arises.

It also occurs to me that the needs of my Faith, and possibly other needs that have yet to reveal themselves, are the true reason for my newly resumed flexible schedule.  Another, younger person could do what I had been doing with my former charges, from one day to the next and do as well, if not better.  I see that there are already areas, in which having the freedom to determine my own work schedule will do more good than I’d been able to do, in those areas, over the past three years.

Everything happens for a reason, and usually for at least two or three.

“Part of The Experience”

15

April 4, 2019-

This morning, I read a news report that a recently dismissed Arizona state legislator had remarked to a fellow diner, at  a recent luncheon, that, hypothetically speaking, sexual behaviour towards children, by adults, would be “part of the experience”  The comments are supposedly on tape, having been streamed.  Sexually activity should not be part of any child’s experience.

In all my years of working with children and teens, I have seen this mindset rear its ugly mug, time and again.  It has never been part of my own mindset.  Many of us, in the course of our daily work, have hugged or held our charges, boys and girls alike.  It is not for our own physical or emotional gratification.  The child comes up to us, is reassured that all is going to be okay and goes off again, free of any trauma.

This same ex-legislator, in a couple of instances, has minimized the extent of sex trafficking of minors. That mindset is, woefully, far more rampant in our society-and globally, than one might imagine.  The judiciary is rife with men and women who pronounce themselves “disgusted” with the young people brought before them, on charges of  prostitution.   The implication seems to be that the poor, deprived old man who is found in the child’s/teen’s company is actually entitled, under the law, to gratification.

I am an older man, and I will pass on that entitlement, thank you.   I agree with the judge who stated:  “Children should be at home, with their parents.”  That is why human trafficking, especially of minors, is an abomination.  Children, under normal circumstances, ARE at home, particularly at night,  especially after hours.  This is true, even if they run away, for a bit, in fits of pique.  Many runaways find their way home.

Normalcy, though, is not always on everyone’s plate.  The streets abound with teens, and children, living in insecure environments.  Predators smell money and power, and the hook-ups happen.  The causes of the kids being away from home are almost as many as the number of young people.  Generally speaking, though, it boils down to a person-parent, parent’s live-in friend, other family member not regarding a child or teen as fully human,  totally worthy of respect.

Having grown up in a home, where even my deeply-flawed person was loved and cherished, with parents who blocked my running away-more than once, my deepest inclination is to love those who aren’t.  I have seen adults who were battered, pummeled, sexually-assaulted as children.  The resulting human being is an horrific sight.  That visage underscores the vileness of the comments made by the above-mentioned ex-legislator, the judge who sentenced two teen girls to the maximum penalty, for “being aggressors” towards the man who purchased them from their pimp, and the Catholic priest who told me, during an interview in 1975, that there was “no such thing as child abuse”.  Shame on all such blinkered mentalities.

I stand ready to help any victimized, trafficked human being mend and heal.

 

Microaggression

5

April 2, 2019-

The other night, whilst visiting one of my best friends, I watched and listened to a speech by the conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro.  Among the social phenomena he noted was the trend towards condemning “microaggression”.  The term is used to describe remarks or gestures that trigger unpleasant feelings, discomfort or fear in people who are experiencing , or whose forebears have suffered, oppression.

I was treated, in junior high school, primarily, but also when in the Army, stateside, to a modest amount of bullying and verbal taunting, due to my autism.  I sometimes pondered what society would be like, were it to be rendered illegal to ridicule or belittle another person.  I came to the conclusion that, while it would a fine thing if people were to choose freely, as a society, to rise above such behaviours, to codify criticism as an offense, with criminal penalties, would only drive negativity underground.

To be sure, there are words and phrases that don’t belong in an enlightened society’s discourse.  Racial, ethnic and gender-based slurs are things I banished from my own vocabulary, when I was about 17, to the extent I ever used them at all.  Getting to know people on an individual basis, without pre-conceived notions, has been the only way I have achieved any personal growth, in my own right.

Last October, I found myself, mercifully only for a short time, in a veritable microaggression bootcamp, where every single word, behaviour or gesture that came from me was analyzed, castigated, sliced and diced, to the point I was leery of even taking a breath sideways.  The individual doing this determined that I was beyond redemption, and I was dismissed from her presence.   Mind you, I went through this at the behest of a friend, who was likewise deemed irredeemable.

None of us walks on water.  No matter how loving one’s heart is, and how consistently one shows that love, there will always be someone, somewhere, to whom one is a bete-noire.  It’s helped me, to be more present and aware of the deepest feelings and insecurities of others.  It has also helped me to have grown a thick skin, over the past many years.  “Microaggressions”, it seems to me, are best rooted out through calm, but firm, dialogue and education.  Shrillness and stridency, as Mr. Shapiro pointed out, only drive unkempt behaviour and rhetoric underground, into the maw of the Dark Web or the shadier places in the legitimate Internet.

 

A Step at a Time

2

March 31, 2019-

I made it to Planet Fitness, despite a sense of fatigue after a trip to Phoenix and back, having attended a worthwhile, but somewhat tiring, meeting.  I was glad to have not had to drive, with a competent friend at the wheel instead.

Tonight’s workout came after a twenty-minute catnap.  I feel better, having done the 30-minute express, followed by ten minutes on the hydrobed.  Bittersweet March has thus, in the end, affirmed that there is still quite a bit left in this sexagenarian frame.  I get appreciative glances from ladies, the younger among them knowing, as well as I do, that that is as far as it goes.  It feels nice, regardless.

It is now full-on Spring.  Tomorrow, we will see what practical jokes remain to be played.  Later in the month come Chalk-It-Up, Earth Day, Easter and the Twelve Days of Ridvan, commemorating Baha’u’llah’s Declaration of His Mission.  I will get my annual physical at the VA, sometime during the month, and will visit the Grand Canyon, on Good Friday.

April, as a wise colleague once remarked, cannot be the cruelest month.  Sorry, T.S. Eliot.

Another One Out Like a Lamb

2

March 28, 2019-

There is one more work day and one more trading day left in March.  A quarter of my sixty-ninth year will end on Sunday.  March has been roiling, as we have seen, in the areas of weather-based crises and human conflict.  It has also been a time of great joy for me, personally.

As I get ready for the last two months of a fairly successful work year, and begin to ponder what life might be like, after I leave full time employment and devote my time to family and to several months of the year as a traveling writer, there may be a catch.

Having said, a few times, that I am likely to leave Prescott, and Arizona, after nearly thirty years straight and thirty-eight years, all told, in the Grand Canyon State, there is the matter of who might prevail on me to remain here.  Most of my friends here will wish me well, regardless of what path I choose to follow.  There are some, not  counted as friends, who will be glad to see me leave.  One or two special people, who will remain nameless, could yet get me to stick around.  In any case, I know my meanderings would bring me back here, time and again.

This is all conjecture, at present.  I have two very full and rewarding years left, before “retirement”.  The March Lion will bow out, and April will bring pesky standardized testing, the beauty of Ridvan and of Easter, and the Proms.  May will likely see the first 90-degree day for Prescott, and 100-degree day in Metro Phoenix.  The weekends seem to be fully-booked, but I could very well get in a day trip to Grand Canyon, on the Centenary of its National Park.  This one would be to the east side of the Park, and Desert View Tower.  That was my Dad’s favourite spot, when he and Mom visited, in 1985.

Enough meandering, word-wise; I had a busy day and rest is of the essence.  See many of you, tomorrow.

All Those Meanwhiles

9

March 26, 2019- 

For a good part of my time with my little family, in Korea, I was drawn away from anything to do with the wider world.  It felt only natural to narrow my focus, with only a relatively brief microburst of heavy rain, upon our return to Busan from Jeju, on March 15, to let the potential of havoc remind me that there was indeed “life’s mud and stone”, in the words of the great Kenny Rogers, of which to be ever mindful.

Nothing was more jarring than the shootings in Christchurch, something for which I ached, for days afterward, upon reading a digest of news in a copy of The Korea Herald.  Spiritual truth is one, continuous flow, throughout history and will remain so.  The wanton slaughter of 120 people in northern Nigeria, yet another episode in the back-and-forth atrocities between Christians and Muslims in that country and the ongoing bloodbath in Mali, orchestrated by the Islamic State and pitting the Peuhl people against IS’s Dogon opponents, have stayed on the back burner of the world’s awareness.  This is the wrong approach. At the very least, what happens in Africa, especially in the west and north of the continent, will spread to Europe, eventually, just as conflicts in the west of Asia are feared to do.  More essentially, the deaths of hundreds-anywhere- is a humanitarian crisis, worthy of the full attention of the wider world.

We seem to at least be paying closer attention to the horrific cyclone-caused damage and casualties in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.  Americans can identify with such events, especially when simultaneous horrors are ravaging the North American Great Plains and riparian areas of the Midwest.  Nature is in a highly-charged state right now.  Whether it is cyclical or the result of intense man-made climatic disruptions, unified responses are necessary.

Then, there were the more personal individual tragedies:  A young lady who had survived last year’s Parkland, FL shootings was overcome by her emotional pain, and took her life.  A week later, the esteemed economist, Paul Krueger, overcome by suffering of his own, followed suit.  Closer to home, two teen girls in our area and a Phoenix police officer were killed by inattentive drivers.

I learned my lesson, that even during the most basic and intensely personal of life events, there is no separation from all that surrounds us.  Meanwhile, family thrives, near neighbours may struggle-and those who live in areas, where life’s larger problems seem intractable, continue to warrant our love and efforts to help, where possible.

The “meanwhiles” never take a vacation.

Fighting Headwinds

2

March 16-17, 2019-

Having hugged my kids farewell, I found processing out of Korea, at Gimhae (Busan) and at Incheon (Seoul), to be a breeze.  The flight back to San Francisco was, longer, as we were flying into the wind currents and things got a bit rough, when we passed through the North Pacific, between the outer Hawaiian Islands and  the Northwest U.S. coast,  I was able to sleep for about five hours, and ended up viewing  “Kin”, which had an interesting Sci-Fi premise, loosely echoing John Sayles’ “The Brother from Another Planet” (1984), except, in this case, the alien is a 14-year-old boy, who is very vocal and is being raised by his adoptive Caucasian parent.  He comes across a weapon, from his home planet, links up with his ex-con foster brother and is subsequently pursued, both by the foster brother’s angry loan shark creditors and by his relatives from Home Planet, who at least want the weapon back.  It all ends, fairly well.

My arrival in San Francisco was not too shabby- C & I was quick and welcoming and the walk from International to Domestic is nowhere near as cumbersome as is that in LAX.  Nevertheless, I was not able to reach the United terminal in time for the scheduled flight, and end up on the next one, reaching Phoenix at 11:20 P.M., five minutes late for the shuttle. That, in turn, put me on the last shuttle, at 12:15, and long story short, I made it to Home Base by 3:30 a.m.

One incident still rankles: A nice young lady, a flight attendant, on the domestic flight, had her skirt lifted by a female passenger’s shoe, as she was helping to go over the pre-flight safety instructions.  She handled it with grace and poise, before a male flight attendant switched stations with her and she spent the rest of the flight away from the errant passenger.  Having just finished welcoming my daughter-in-law into our family, and being welcomed into hers, I was angry that this even happened.  That young woman, someone’s child and probably someone’s beloved, should never have experienced this.  We are not in the bad old days of the 1950’s-early 70’s.

That brings me back to Korea.  Chauvinism and machismo were starting to fade, as we left the country in 1992.  There is scant evidence of it now- as Korean women have stood up for their rights and for one another.  It ought to be a global phenomenon, and I will be responsible enough to speak out against such shameful behaviour, whether it comes from a man or from another woman, wherever it happens.

Korean cities have been very similar in appearance to the U.S, since the rebuilding efforts of the 1960’s, following the Korean War.  Now, prosperity has made them even more so, with high rise apartment and office buildings, echoing those of North America, Japan and China.  Standing in the sun room of my family’s apartment, in Busan, I envisioned a parkour master trying to leap onto the nearby building’s roof. This is something I, with my stumpy legs, would never dare to try-but a good running start would give a practiced parkour enthusiast a chance- maybe.

Enough of whimsy, though, I am back in the quotidian world and have done little, other than sleep, on this St. Patrick’s Day- leaving the apartment only for a two-hour meeting. Work resumes tomorrow, and I don’t plan on going very far afield, for at least the next few months.  The just-completed journey, though, was astonishing. a good reflection of why I travel.