Pledge

12

March 31, 2020-

I made a pledge to myself, sometime back.

I will ever support sincere efforts to bring

people together.

I will ever oppose tyranny, obfuscation

and gaslighting,

regardless of their premise.

I will ever support the dignity

of the individual.

I will ever oppose bullying,

whisper campaigns and

“cleansing” of whole

ethnicities, nations,

denominations.

I will ever work to

safeguard the rights

of children and youth.

I will ever oppose those

who deny our young

a voice in their own affairs,

or worse yet,

ignore their needs

for education,

character building

and affirmation.

I will work to

help expand

consciousness.

I will oppose

mindlessness.

Thirty Days In

2

March 29, 2020-

I began serious application of Coronavirus Disease 19 response planning, on Leap Day, February 29.  In the past thirty days, these have happened:

Work stopped, on March 6, at 3 p.m.  Part of that was Spring Break, but my employer stopped assigning people on March 11.  I got some pay, this past Friday.

I said “see you soon” to friends who have since closed their businesses, moved away from college dorms, stopped playing gigs in local clubs and are generally sequestered.

Prayed, incessantly.

Learned a  lot about navigating Zoom and opened an account with that medium.  Hosted my first meeting on it, today.

Have been catching up with reading, journaling and, yes, Netflix.

Have made plans for “journeys in place”-studying various topics.

Kept in touch with people across the planet, to see how things are going.

Have done take-out orders, just so some support is going their way.  Same with food boxes  from the Farmers Market and groceries for a pop-up food bank at the Toyota dealership.

It’s standard stuff, and part of being a member of society.  Would do it all over again, no questions asked.

Brighter days are ahead.

 

 

 

Light, Out of Calamity

8

March 27, 2020-

In some of mankind’s darkest moments,  advances have come from the suffering, like small mammals coming forth after the Age of Dinosaurs.  These advances, in short order, became a part of the fabric of human culture.

After the Great Plague, of the Fourteenth Century, Europeans began to return to embracing science, rather than superstition, in treating illnesses.  The primacy of Cardinals and Bishops began to face widespread scrutiny, and the stirrings of Protestantism were felt.  The Catholic Church itself had to make changes, under Ignatius Loyola.  Advances in scientific discovery came, as a result of these trends.

After the American Civil War, the Red Cross was started, by Clara Barton, as a means of assisting soldiers, in time of calamity.  It quickly expanded to help society at large, in times of disaster.

After World War I, movements to assist disabled and unassisted veterans, in returning to civilian life began, with the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans. These organizations still make large scale efforts to assist those who suffer from dislocation, or from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

After World War II, mass production of houses, the science of rocketry, television and large computers became part of the civilian world, having been first advanced within the military sphere.  From large, room-sized computers have come hundreds of technological products, many of them falling into the realm of nanotechnology.

Now, we will await the advances coming out of the struggle against Coronavirus Disease 2019.  Teleconferencing, already available for business, government and limited conversations between family members and other small groups, has exploded in use, as nearly every group, which conducted its business in person, has found ways to meet virtually. Even when the crisis has ended, I can see the sheer range of teleconferencing leading to its continued wide use among the public at large.  It will also greatly modify the educational process, even more than it has to date.

The retrofitting of factories that produce a wide variety of products, from airplanes to distilled spirits, are now also producing items that will help face the virus.  Ventilators, medical-grade masks and hand sanitizer will still need to be stockpiled, even after this virus has spent its rampage.  Preparedness will not soon, if ever, be relegated to the realm of memory.

There will be many tasks, which the technology and skill sets coming out of the current crisis will need to be called to perform. Not the least of these is completing the still gargantuan effort to provide all homes with clean, running water and reliable heat or cooling.  This work will occupy post-pandemic humanity for years, if not decades.

Out of  the darkness comes a greater light.  Baha’u’llah teaches:

“O SON OF MAN! My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.”

 

 

The Visitor

2

March 25, 2020-

(This is a short story which came to me, this evening, as I was in a meditation group.)

Katrin was playing in her room, with Bradley Bear and Kimmy Koala. She had just sat her animals in the little chairs, and was preparing to play teacher, when she heard a bump in the family room next to hers.  She told the “children” to stay quiet, and went to check out what had happened.  Mommy was getting stressed, with new baby coming in three more months, and Kat did not want her mother to fall down and have an accident.

She saw the breeze rustling the curtain-an odd sight, given it was early April, and Mommy never opened the window much before the first of May.  Kat went towards the window and was startled to see a pair of shoes behind the curtain.  Although she was only four years old, Katrin Leigh Osterman was the epitome of boldness, as her grandmother put it.  She went slowly, but confidently, towards the curtain and pulled it back.

There, looking unusually fearful, was a big man.  He reminded Katrin of the main character in a show that she watched with Mommy, called “Reading Rainbow”.  She asked, “Mister, what are you doing, standing behind our curtain?  Are you okay?”  The man stared, still fearful, at the little girl.  Then, he spoke:  “I am very hungry.  I have not eaten as much as a crust of bread , in almost five days.  I have been hiding, since I got off a small plane.  I watched your family and saw they seem friendly-but I could not be certain.  So, I had to sneak into the house first.”

“What’s your name, Mister?”, Katrin whispered, feeling sad at his story.

“I am Adibe Junius.”, replied the man.  ” My family name comes first, then my given name, so please call me Junius.”

“I am glad to meet you, Junius. My name is Katrin”, said the girl, still whispering.  Kat knew that Mother would be a bit scared of this stranger in her house, but Junius seemed tired, weak and more than a bit scared, himself.  She asked him to sit in a chair and said she would get him something to drink.  Then, she went to the kitchen, where her mother was resting in a comfy chair.

“Mommy, I have something to show you, in the family room.”, Kat said, in her Big Girl voice.  She then stepped on a footstool and got a glass of water from the refrigerator spigot.  ” Pleas come with me.”

Brittany got up, in a world-weary manner, wondering what her bright and adventurous offspring was up to now, carrying a glass of water to the back of the house.  Was she going to “teach” the stuffed animals how to drink without spilling?

Junius looked up at the five-foot, five inch cinnamon-coloured woman, who gasped at seeing a nearly six-foot tall man, sitting in her rocking chair.  “KATRIN LEIGH !  What on Earth are you doing, letting a stranger into this house??”, the horrified woman scolded her daughter.

“Please, Madame”, the chastened man spoke up, “She did not let me in.  I came in, through the window, as I am desperate.”

“DESPERATE?  I’ll  show you desperate!  Since when do you just walk into someone’s home, without so much as a ‘By your leave? And who are you, anyway?”, Brittany snapped.

At this point, all of Junius’ hunger and thirst pangs left him, and he burst into tears.   “I knew this would be a mistake.  I left Congo in a flight of panic and have not eaten since I got off the plane, five days ago.  All the smugglers gave any of us was a bowl of rice, with peanut sauce.”

“Congo?  Smugglers? Peanut sauce?”, the flinty-eyed mother said, her eyes getting narrower by the second.  “If this story gets any weirder, I’m about set to call Santa Claus.”

“It’s true”, Junius said, collecting himself , just a bit.  “I fled the war back home, and a white man came up to me, in Kinshasa, and said he could get me to Cape Town, so long as I carried a crate of animals to a certain spot.  I delivered the animals to a wet market, in the Chinese neighbourhood, then I was chased out of there by a gang of teenaged boys.  They called me ‘dirtbag foreigner.’  Imagine that, I am an African, and they said I didn’t belong.  So, I wandered around, until I came to this neighbourhood.”

Brittany was drawn in by this story, and he certainly wasn’t dressed like anyone from around Cape Town.  “Give Mr. Junius the glass of water, Katrin”, she relented.
Junius sipped the water surprisingly carefully, and threw his head back, letting out a heavy sigh.  “Do you know where I might get a clean bed, Madame, and a plate of food?”

Tears started to well up in Brittany’s eyes.  “I can get you to our church.  The pastor will let you clean up, help you get some fresh attire and see that you are fed.  He can do this a lot easier than we can, and he will put you to dignified work.”

Ten minutes later, Brittany Osterman had spoken to Reverend Stenbeek, who readily agreed to take Junius in, provided he followed the church house rules.  Junius walked with the two ladies to the rector’s house, and was warmly greeted by the Dutch Reformed Church pastor and his wife.  “Junius, you stumbled upon the nicest people in this parish,”  Leonidas Stenbeek proclaimed, “and you couldn’t have been greeted by anyone kinder than our Lady Katrin!”

“Please put your bag in the first bedroom, then go and shower yourself. ” Leo said, and then to his smiling wife, ” Margrit, I shall grill some prawns, in our guest’s honour! Please prepare him some porridge, for when he gets showered and dressed.  Then, we shall all dine together.”  “Yes, that we must.  It’s a great day to welcome one of our brothers,” the sturdy pastor’s wife announced, “Brittany, do sit and rest. Katrin, please help me peel some carrots.”

The proud little girl carefully peeled and sliced seven carrots, one for her and two for each of the Big People, just as Grandmother had taught her. It was a great day to welcome an uncle.

Membership in Groups

14

March 24, 2020-

I’ve historically had it tough, when being part of a group.  That hasn’t stopped me from trying.  I showed up every day, as a child, to take part the best way I could, in what ever game was being played.  In high school, I had friends with whom I could sit in the library and at lunch, and hang out on weekends.  Many are still connected-at least online.

I didn’t fare so well in the Army, or in college, but my purpose during those years was much different-and so, the work became most important.  The same was true of my first four years of teaching-never an insider, but connected with my students.  So it continued, over the next four decades, but family was my bedrock, and the kids were always the foundation.

I say this, in thinking about the groups with which I’ve been involved over the past nine years.  My Faith community is the strongest connection, followed by the mostly senior crowd at the American Legion, and my younger friends at Prescott College, both groups now in abeyance, until the virus runs its course.  Permaculture groups, like Slow Food and the Farmers Market have warmed to me, over the years.

I have personally committed to helping the Red Cross in the present crisis, only to find there is an “age-ism” rising.  The mentality seems to be that those of us over 65 are “at risk” and therefore ought to keep our distance, even beyond the current social distancing.  It may be that this is an attitude meant to keep us safe, but I find it patronizing-and more than a little cliquish.  I know my limits and would relegate myself to the background, if at all feeling ill.  I also am very tuned into the dynamics of small groups, and having seldom been an insider, can see when a situation is being manipulated to exclude all but the favoured few.

In the event there is a much larger calamity, I have become certified in FEMA’s Points of Distribution.  I am committed to helping my community, whether being welcomed by the elite, or not.  May it all just turn out to be unnecessary.

 

Stop the Squeeze

8

March 23, 2020-

I watched a video last night, which, while not made by a Baha’i, explains Baha’u’llah’s vision of a unified planet, perfectly.  The part that is most relevant for what we are seeing now is this:  Earth is in the beginning stages of cleansing, with simultaneous earth quakes and a huge humanitarian crisis forming the physical manifestations of that cleansing.  What is most needed, for us to build out of these calamities, is true unity of the human race.   This is starting to appear in several countries, with the United States conspicuous in its absence from their number.

Instead, what we are seeing is the same intense squabbling over details of  a national response that has been part of the American scene since the Constitutional Convention of 1781-88.  Back then, there was no real nation, so the states and territories had time to sit and hash things out. The governors and legislators, back home, had matters pretty much in hand.

Governors and legislatures have things in hand today, as well, to varying degrees.  At the Federal level, though, no such luck.  The two “sides” have pretty much continued throwing bones to their bases, forgetting that, in a pinch, liberals and conservatives  left to themselves, without being poked and prodded from above, can get along quite nicely.  I have friends on all points along the spectrum, and do not think of any of them as worthless or a waste of DNA.  Everyone has a piece of the truth.

The jigsaw puzzle, though, is being kept unfinished by perfectionist wire-pullers, for whom a solution would be like poison. For them, being in positions of power is the most critical state of affairs.  Unity, in their view, would lead to wisdom among the populace, who would then cease to follow the leaders.

More’s the pity.  Unity among the people would only enhance the grand national economy, cherished by conservatives.  Unity would decrease, drastically, the number of marginalized people, a major concern  of liberals and progressives.  It would show that “white nationalism” is a myth made up out of whole cloth and would also diminish the need for a the trappings of a Nanny State-so counterproductive to human dignity.

It can be accomplished in either of two ways:  Leaders showing the resolve to put the country ahead of any personal or partisan ambitions, and encouraging people to work together OR fed-up groups taking matters into their own hands, with a possibly long and bloody conflict, that would make the Civil War look like childsplay.

It is time, past time, to stop squeezing the bases.  Let it be known that love of country and its people, at long last trumps ambition.

The Tide

8

March 20, 2020-

I awoke today to a sky that was mixed, in its promises for the day.  As it happened, clouds came and went, allowing a basically sunny day.  I spent much of the day reflecting on a piece that I had written in 1996, which my brother forwarded me, early this morning.

The day stayed mixed. I was not surprised to learn that work is delayed until April 13, at the earliest.  Swinging by Raven Cafe, one of my hangouts, I ordered delectable mushroom soup and a lamb burger with sweet potato fries, as a take-out meal.  Enjoying the soup, sitting outside, whilst watching the antics of a trio of dogs and talking with some of my mates, was arguably the high point of the day.  I took the lamb burger and SPF home, so as not to be a canine tormentor.  It tasted every bit at home,as it would have in public.

After catching up with my photo scanning project, on behalf of a longtime friend, I got a call to head out on a project for a revitalized Yavapai County Angels, delivering food boxes to an elder, picking up more supplies for further deliveries, over the next several days and visiting one of our local grocery stores, as my teammate was hoping against hope for paper products and loaves of bread to give to other elders.  I found three fresh-baked loaves (packaged loaves went the way of toilet paper and most other items.  These will go to some fortunate senior citizen.

The matter of the near future arose, as it always does of late.  There is an ominous feeling, among many of the people I encountered.  Everyone was rattled, to some extent or another, so I kept a low profile, though my saying that grocery stores were still open in states that were on lock-down provoked a furious response.

The tide is roiling.  We can perform random acts of kindness, as many are choosing to do, or we can sequester ourselves in racism and intolerance of any divergent opinions, as even some close to me are starting to do.  This is not a “Chinese” virus, or even an Asian virus, as the president and a few others keep claiming.  It is a worldwide threat, no matter who, or what malevolent force, unleashed it.  The whole of humanity has to move, in unison, to fight it.

I will continue to help in any way I can, for as long as my 69-year-old self is allowed, and as long as those who are committed to  forcing drastic measures, such as martial law, are not allowed to hold sway, we will make progress, acting as a community.

 

Again, The Rising

5

March 19, 2020- 

I crossed a personal watershed this evening, with the quiet conclusion of my last obligatory 19- Day Fast.  Spring and Autumn have taken their places, in North and South, respectively.  The Persian, and by extension, Baha’i, holiday of Naw-Ruz began at sunset and I will joyfully observe the occasion, tomorrow, in a way not yet determined.  I will not have to get up at 5 a.m., but may anyway, just to greet the New Year properly.  Yes, Naw-Ruz is Persian for another trip around the Sun.

I have joined a social group called Earth Rising, and sat in on a Zoom call, for the first time, doing a guided meditation along with dozens of others.  I was asked, by the moderator, what led me to this choice.  It goes back to my childhood.  I have felt a sense of unity with everyone, and with all Creation, since I was three.  That hasn’t always been easily understood by those around me, but it’s easier these days.

People, regardless of their political beliefs or personal Faith, tend to at least see some aspects of a Bigger Picture.  There are limits, though, to what each of us can understand. There are several in Earth Rising, to whom my grasp of the reality of the Universe seems sophomoric and pedestrian.  There are many others, whose understanding is limited to their immediate present, who see an extended view as living in a dream world.  I wish only for a bridge between the two.

There will be a revitalization, after COVID-19, which will likely incorporate a much greater sense of the Oneness of Humanity, a concept that figures prominently in Baha’i teachings and in the modern day focus of thinkers from traditions as old as Hindu to the newest of New Age.  It will be, again, mankind’s Rising.

Converging

6

March 18, 2020-

We are, so to speak, in the process of in-gathering, even as it seems we are in a distancing process.  The political arguments of the two major American political parties are increasingly hollow. The leading candidate of one party offered his solutions to the COVID-19 induced crisis to his opposite number, carte-blanche. Who sits in the White House, come next January, is less important than pulling together and stopping the virus, to the extent possible.

Events,in situ, are being canceled,  with digital means being found to replace many of them.  This will very likely work for the duration of the crisis (2 months-18 months, depending on who is making the assessment).  It is likely to become an alternative, but not a permanent replacement, to on-site meetings, in the way that e-books are an alternative to books in print.

The same will be true, in my humble opinion, to Take-Out and Delivery of items in restaurants and coffee shops, as opposed to dine-in experiences.  We are, in essence, social beings and those of us who live alone, in particular, will resume dining out, in addition to whatever private dinners to which we may be invited, or hold ourselves.

Phone calls are still important.  I called my mother this morning, and as I expected, she is well, lucid and concerned for my well-being.  The same is true of my son, who called me last night. This sort of convergence will never go out of fashion. Texting matters, as well, and social media, despite the flat-footed attempts at censorship, by some of its founders, will only become more crucial to keeping us connected.

As I mentioned earlier, despite being a peripatetic soul, the well-being of my fellows is vastly more important than what I might be inclined to do, if untethered by conscience.  I will be extremely cautious in venturing forth, for the duration of this crisis.  Besides, as I found out, these past two days, my presence is most definitely needed here at Home Base.  It will become even more so, of all of us, in different ways, in the next several months.

In many ways, humankind is converging.

Certitude In A Time of Pestilence

10

March 16, 2020-

In the Turkish Netflix series, “The Protector”, the complex villain tells the title character how easy he made it for her to both subject the populace of Istanbul to an epidemic of plague and to subsequently present the people with a “cure”, which had consequences he couldn’t foresee.

The current reaction of many people to the menace of Coronavirus 19 is similar to that of the Turkish masses, in the SciFi drama.  Fear has led many to either abandon trust in the ability of government, medical professionals and humanitarian organizations or to cling even more tightly to shopworn ideologies and biases, vis-a-vis ANY intervention by those in authority, while confronting this pandemic.

Magical thinking, and trust in the platitudes of populists and demagogues, both in the TV series and in much of the American scene today, has replaced logic and fortitude.  See someone whose politics they dislike, and the bleats go up-and on.

I have to observe, and evaluate, the efforts being made by ALL responsible parties, and never mind their ideologies.  Any less, and the pandemic will not see its “curve flattened”; rather, it will continue to spike, again and again-like the Plagues of the Fourteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. The experience of Europeans, during the first plague, is instructive for us now.  Relying on the words of the ignorant will only reap horror.

Certitude, in this current time of pestilence, can only be found in placing trust in competent physicians and proactive government officials-regardless of one’s own ideology.