Alpha and Omega

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January 1, 2019, Prescott-

It is bright, beautiful and 18 degrees outside, on this first morning, of the last year, of the second decade, of the Twenty-first Century since the birth of Jesus the Christ.  Life has not changed much, outwardly, from yesterday-other than that the storm has moved eastward.

Thus far, this decade has brought both great joy and intense pain.  The pain came first, and Penny spent 2010 in agony and decline, before being delivered from all suffering, in the early part of the following year.

I have since left my Phoenix home, gone through the recovery phase of Chapter 7, lived in, and sold, my in-laws’ Prescott home-at their behest and settled in this comfortable, one bedroom apartment, which will remain my residence until it is time to move on, at the point of my retirement from education, likely in December, 2020.

I have seen our son, Aram, blossom into full manhood, going full force up the enlisted ranks in the United States Navy, though he currently plans to return to civilian life at the end of this enlistment.  He’s a husband now, with he and his wife, Yoonhee, affirming their marital vows in a sacred setting, this coming March.  They have fine examples, of dedicated marriage, on both sides of the family.

I have said farewell to my parents-in-law, in 2014 and in 2018.  Uncles, aunts, cousins and friends have gone on, also, though many remain.  I am also blessed that my mother is still keen of wit and able to live on her own, in the very home in which my siblings and I were raised.

I have always been a wanderer.  The first time I can remember going off on my own involved crossing a street unaided, which earned me a few strokes of a hairbrush, on the backside.  My subsequent sojourns have not been quite so problematic.  While some of my travels have left family members, and others, shaking their heads, nothing has befallen me that was not able to be rectified in fairly short order.  To be sure, even greater adventures are, God willing, in store.

The same is true of my friendships.  Since being on my own, I have found just what a fallacy “on one’s own” is.  Hundreds of people have come into my life.  The best of them have remained, even if some of them are only present electronically.  The worst have, thankfully, moved on.  All have taught me valuable lessons.  There are good friends across the North American continent, in Europe, India and Africa- and I would be overjoyed to visit with them, at least once.  For now, we can see one another here.

Finally, there is the question, “Where is home?”  I could choose the grandiose answer:  “Why, all the Earth is my home!”, and I would be telling the truth-as I feel relaxed, anywhere.  Practically speaking, Prescott is home, for now.  After this phase of my life comes to an end, “home” could be in the Pacific Northwest, in the Heartland, in southeast Alaska, on the East Coast or, for a time, on the road-with my permanent possessions largely in storage.  My little family, good friends and the needs of the wider community will all play a part in where I find myself.

For now, let’s enjoy the sunlight.

Hails and Farewells

8

December 31, 2018, Prescott-

Many are itching to put this year to bed.  We even had a fireworks display in the downtown area, at 9 p.m., three hours ahead of schedule.  Me?  I am tying up loose ends, with regard to the year being shown the door.  Earlier this evening, I went down to the Salvation Army dining room and helped serve dinner.  17 hardy souls are taking shelter there tonight and gratefully took a meal of hot chicken noodle soup, Subway sandwich, Asian salad, chips, carbonated fruit water and chocolate cake.  My job was to dish out the cake, and I managed a slice for each shelteree who wanted one-not easy, with salivating staff members wanting a slice, as well. There was plenty for all, though.

The year brought several people into my life.  Some, like my daughter-in-law and infant grand-niece, will be here forever.  Others, like a good friend in Missouri and several people I met this summer, whilst crossing the continent, will be around for a good long time.  Another came into my life, found it not to their liking, and left swiftly.

I said farewell to several- a childhood neighbour, Ed Wolfe; boyhood friends, Stan Norkum and Alan Belyea; the sister of a friend, Claire Lindquist; Penny’s cousin, Jean Haithcock; her maternal aunt, Averala Boyd and, closest of all, her mother and my mother-in-law, Ruth Fellman.

Now, 2019 is little more than an hour away from our part of the continent.  I know the souls who have departed are looking out for those they love.  I feel my share of that love and it has helped refine my character, still further.

I look forward to ongoing friendships, some of which were clarified, refined and strengthened this year. I look forward to those new friendships that are sure to come in the year ahead, as well.  I know I will have to say goodbye to some souls in 2019; that’s the way of it.  They will be there, in the In-Gathering, when my own time comes.

Happy 2019, everyone!

The Old Year’s New Friends

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December 30, 2018, Prescott-

This fading year brought new people and places into my life, and filtered this life, quite vigourously.

My new friends, both online and in real time, have greatly enriched my life- being both sweet/warm and hot/ferocious.  One needs both in a balanced life.  I am blessed with a new daughter-in-law;  two wonderful branches of a blended family being brought into ours-courtesy of another family  wedding this past summer; a very bright and much-loved grandniece born in February; a smattering of vibrant, creative friends, from this year’s Convergence at Arcosanti; all manner of beloved souls from that site called “Archaeology for the Soul” and so many with whom I just happen to bond, in my wanderings both physical and ethereal.

I have filtered some- though I continue to feel great love for a place called Dharma Farm, prudence has led me to keep physical distance from there, for the time being.  A brief encounter with a distraught soul, this past Autumn, was also brought to an end, at her insistence, and no doubt with the blessing of the Universe.  I am more in tune with the needs of a good friend, here in Prescott.  Communication is everything!  I also dispensed with Twitter, though that means saying farewell to some friends who are only reachable on that medium.

This year brought some new cafes and restaurants into my life, here in town: Ms. Natural’s, Rustic Pie, Firehouse Coffee, Outlaw Donuts , Rosati’s Pizza and Danny B’s (actually in Chino Valley). I have lost none of my older faves here, save Black Dog Coffee,which bid us farewell in November.

New to me, on the road, this year, are Old Town Albuquerque; Moriarty (NM); Salina (UT); Sedalia (MO); Nauvoo and Carthage (IL); Ridgeview Grill ( Wilmette); Lafayette/West Lafayette/Prophetstown State Park’Tippecanoe and Mishawaka (IN); Ridgetown and London (ON); Toronto; Auberge Bishop, Chicha Donburi and La Pantere Verte (Montreal); Plattsburgh/Ausable Chasm (NY); Valley Forge; Alexander Inn and Independence Hall (Philadelphia);  Hostels International, Fort McHenry and Iron Rooster (Baltimore); the Western Shore of Chesapeake Bay; Jamestown/Yorktown/ Virginia Beach/Newport News; Louis Gregory Baha’i Institute/Hemingway (SC); Hot Plate (Timmonsville,SC); New Moon Cafe (Aiken); Calhoun Falls State Park /Edgefield (SC); Falls Park on the Reedy/Smoke On The Water (Greenville, SC); Walterboro (SC); Salisbury and Asheville (NC); Crossville (TN); Hostel Memphis/Young Avenue Deli/The National Museum of Civil Rights/Arcade Restaurant/Beale Street (Memphis); Old Town Alexandria. Each of these just added richness to this much blessed life and I would gladly visit any of them again.

NEXT:  Hails and Farewells

Samson

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December 27, 2018, Prescott-

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

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

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

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

His Timeless Love

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December 25, 2018, Prescott-

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

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

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

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

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

Impact

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December 24, 2018, Phoenix-

One of the admittedly annoying aspects of e-mail is the constant barrage of “Double (Triple) Your Impact!” pitches for donations. So as not to be misunderstood, I like efficient use of funds and that which increases the likelihood that more people will be positively affected by the contribution is all the better.

A positive framework for the term is Impact Experience, a company that focuses on bridge building, in terms of a network between investors and communities at risk.  Founded by Jenna Nicholas, in 2015, this enterprise has worked in communities, regardless of local political culture-the main thrust being reworking the way people see local economies and potential for prosperity.  http://impact-experience-dev.squarespace.com/process/

The common attributes noted for a culture whose purpose is prosperity, rather than profit, are:

  • Distribution of wealth, by partnership, rather than by force.
  • Consultation as the primary communication model.
  • Employee development
  • Sustainability

This culture must undergo change, which occurs in the following stages:

  • Definition;
  • Communication;
  • Reinforcing education;
  • Integration;
  • Practice;
  • Reflection

Where things have fallen apart, in recent years, has been the lack of persistence, often from a skewed perception of the process of change.  One, or more, of the above steps have either been omitted or not properly completed.

As was said earlier, real change is messy.  People stumble, are embarrassed, get discouraged or cave in to pushback.  It helps to realize that few of those who question change are, in the real sense, reactionaries or “knuckle draggers”, just as few of those wanting drastic change are wild-eyed revolutionaries, or “bomb throwers”.

Change is messy, trust comes hard, but both are necessary, in order to bring about the economic justice, for which so many pine.  Listening, with both ears, and action, with all one’s attention and effort, are imperative.

Guarding the Precious

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December 23, 2018, Phoenix-

The second day of the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference continued the examination of issues around wealth and building a sustainable new society.  There was, however, a necessary sidebar:  The curbing of violence against women.

Ms. Layli Miller Muro is Director of Tahirih Justice Center, a nationwide network of programs designed to safeguard women facing all manner of attacks on their person, especially with respect to arranged marriages, particularly of underage girls.  Her two presentations today placed a searing light on the many aspects of this issue.

I have long been concerned with the maltreatment of women and children, especially of girls.  In my initial work, there was a tendency towards paternalism-though just shy of infantilizing my charges.  I have made it a lifelong goal to foster strength and independence- the lioness being more of a model than the fluffy rabbit.  What that entails, in real terms, has been a learning process, for yours truly, despite having been raised by an indomitable woman and growing up surrounded by powerful females.

Nonetheless, my learning has continued apace, and the shedding of counterproductive, if well-intentioned, attitudes and thoughts is ongoing.

Mrs. Muro’s major points, in her first presentation, bear intense consideration:

  • “Unity is not possible, without justice.
  • The beginnings of justice are messy.  Purification requires blistering heat.
  • Justice is the foundation of a spiritually-based global civilization.
  • As an individual, it is better to be killed, than to kill.
  • As a society, we must ALL serve as advocates.
  • As an individual, immediate forgiveness is essential.
  • As a society, swift and complete justice is equally essential.
  • It is NOT the victim’s job to arrange justice.
  • In the next life ( a spiritual life), justice is even harsher.  It’s therefore better for a perpetrator to face justice in this world.”

In the afternoon presentation, Mrs. Muro noted that social action is a tool for achieving justice.  We, even as individuals, may not be able to control pain and suffering, but we can control its duration and limit its severity.  She noted that justice which does not end in unity is not true justice.

Furthermore, she noted that, if those who face incarceration realize the severity of justice in the spiritual world, they would certainly seek out appropriate punishment in this life.

These thoughts and statements, to me, are worthy of deep thought on the part of the hearer or reader.  With me hardly being a paragon of virtue, historically speaking, I am taking Mrs. Muro’s points very seriously and will be devoted all the more to both self-purification and to aiding women and girls in both their self-protection and in advocating for those with a history of victimhood.

 

 

 

The Heart of Wealth

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December 22,2018, Phoenix-

I’m down here, during the day at least, for three days.  It is the 34th annual Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference. This year’s theme is  “Advancing Human Welfare and Prosperity:  What is Your Role?”

I’ve long had a view of money, wherein it is to be invested, and used, in a heartfelt manner.  Time was, when that led me to spend on my friends and family, though often in a haphazard way, which led some in the family to actually think I didn’t care about THEM.

Marriage and an extended family changed my practices. The needs of the home, then of our child, became paramount.  We still traveled a lot, as a family, and once we returned to live in Arizona, after 5 + years in South Korea, there were eight years of living in scant rent, (but not decrepit), houses.

Phoenix changed that and, after five years of relative prosperity and of meeting our bills-came the trifecta- Penny’s health got worse, Madoff came and made off with certain of the extended family’s investments and the housing crunch killed our heretofore carefully planned mortgage.  The microphone dropped, in a very bad way.

Fast forward to 2018, and the next bad national scene.  This time, however, I am in a better place, financially and in many other respects.  My sole task is to make sure that I don’t become anyone else’s burden- so the resources are to be nurtured, not to be handed out to any and all comers.  Enough said about that.

I am in good hands, in terms of advisement and here is the greater deal:  Like water, soil and any other resource, money does not dissipate for eternity.  It goes places, and needs to be tracked and nurtured.    If water is not conserved and stored, in a loving manner, it will flow back into the soil, or evaporate into the cloud cover, or get polluted and be rendered useless.   If money is not conserved, and invested, in a loving manner, then it will go willy-nilly, into the pockets of the unwise, who will always want more, or into the hands of the unseemly, who will sneer at one’s foolishness.

Wealth that endures, comes from the heart.  I am being nurtured, financially, because I tended to the extended family’s needs, four years ago, and orchestrated the sale of property that needed to be sold, in a prudent manner.  The other factor, which some may find hard to understand, is that careful giving, in the years since I recovered financially, has stoked the energy of prosperity.  That, and being detached from  the day-to-day ups and downs, have made life a whole lot easier and more productive, thus-increasing potential wealth.

Finally, as the speakers in the first day of this conference noted, wealth is intended to generate the OVERALL prosperity of the human race. There is no point, in the long run, of having a small coterie pile up wealth that they cannot possibly use, whilst there are others in such destitution as to bring any caring observer to the knees.  This does not mean random, forced confiscation of “excess” wealth.  It does mean, however,that there be a drastic, and widespread change of heart, especially among the wealthiest .1 % of the world’s populace.

 

Season’s Greetings

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December 18, 2018, Prescott-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

December’s Ides

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December 15, 2018, Prescott-

In Renaissance times, as we know from Shakepeare’s Macbeth, the dividing point in a month was called “the Ides”.  This hearkened from a time when all months, save February, had 30 days,  and the 15th served as the dividing point.

We’ve reached this point in December, in which the work-a-day cares and tribulations of the first two weeks, being as they are combined with holiday planning, give steadily away to the mix of moods and accent on celebrating that characterize the period, right up to January 1.

I spent the first part of today helping to lay wreaths on the grave sites of those who served in the military or were married to those who did.  There were about eighty people, of all ages, doing this, following a forty-minute ceremony of patriotic music and short speeches, culminating with a 21-gun salute and playing of “Taps” (Il Silenzio).

Wreaths Across America is a national program of wreath-laying at the graves of those laid to rest in military cemeteries, on the third Saturday in December.  It began with a wreath-maker in Harrington, ME, in 1992 and became a national effort in 2007. One of my maternal uncles, who served with distinction in the U.S. Navy, during World War II, was among those who helped organize the national effort.  I learned of his involvement in this, upon his passing, in 2010 and have been involved in this effort, myself, since 2011.

The rest of this Ides of December saw me get out the last of my family Christmas cards and put up a hand-made wreath on my front door.  The weather outside is far from frightful, but I aim to keep the atmosphere, around home and work at least, delightful.