Growing (Beyond) Pains

9

January 24, 2020-

Every community has its pain.  I saw lots in Peach Springs, just as I did so many years ago, in various communities of the Navajo (Dineh) and Hopi Nations-and I know the pain continues, even though life is better, in some parts of the old Home Base.  So, too, there was, and is, pain in Phoenix, in La Paz County and here in Prescott.  I heard of suffering in Seligman, which is en route to any point northwest of here, yesterday, when I stopped for an early dinner.

People have their concerns, their agonies and their setbacks.  What makes the difference in much of this, is the extent to which the suffering souls lay their woes at the feet of others.  I’ve done some of that, and have thankfully learned to put that mindset behind me.  Whine and cheese are not the stuff of social progress.

I have said a bit about what I’d like to see in Peach Springs, though my own skill sets may not do much, immediately, to help that community, on the ground.  Prescott does have a few programs in place, which can help those who are knocked down, in getting themselves upright.  Essentially, though, it falls to each person to determine his/her own course of action.  The Blame Game may be mildly salving, for a day or so, then the confusion sets in, as one sees no progress.

When I last found myself really foundering, I had to set concrete steps for my own recovery.  They involved a mix of travel, social media-journaling, exercise, photography and involvement in the community that I chose as Home Base.  That mix still suits me, and it will long continue.

My hopes for each community that matters in my heart is that strong and good-hearted people will take the lead and show their family, friends and neighbours the way forward.  I want to be there when these communities arise.

Turnarounds and Conundrums

9

January 22, 2020, Peach Springs-

A talk with my son, last night, underscored the perception, even sometimes in my own mind,  that my shelf life is getting limited.  When the changes in the social wind blow ill, as they did yesterday, I look towards a place of refuge.  Sometimes, it’s just as well that there is no refuge available, immediately.  Sometimes, the only way out is through.

Things went far better today, with my class. I took the step of streamlining the rules, which had been overly drawn up by one of the previous teachers.  I took the step of not tolerating foul language or harassment. I took the step of countering the inchoate misogyny that some of the boys have shown, already, in their very young lives.

We got quite a bit accomplished.  It is not a traditional classroom.  Many students don’t get to school until two hours after the opening bell.  I am not here to judge them, or their families, for that.  Everyone, eventually, makes it to school. Everyone does some work, and learns something.  That is part of the reality in a rural community, where many live far afield, and no buses serve the area.

I am still not sure what will happen with me, after tomorrow.  There is more of a bond with the people here-and there is a bond, and a need, with people back in Yavapai County.  It will end up being one of those measured, eleventh-hour decisions, and I have a sense that the right thing will happen, by all concerned.

When Sex Kills

4

January 21, 2020, Peach Springs-

There is no mincing words about this: In the name of freedom of speech, three generations of adults are poisoning the well of our children’s spirits-particularly in impoverished communities.  Nowhere is this more apparent, than in communities with a narrow economic base.

The phenomenon of children as young as seven, trading sexual epithets, the coarsest of profanity and actually mentioning pornographic websites, by name, is, to put it mildly, jarring to the spirit.  That they actually understand  what they are saying is even more disquieting.

This is a train of abuses, long in the running, and it is by no means limited to Native American communities.  Sexual deviance was graphically described to me by a very young neighbour, in 2002, in a Phoenix apartment complex. As far back as June, 1980, when I lived in a Flagstaff apartment complex, a band that had been hired to play at a birthday party, in a place where children were out and about, loudly screamed profanity in the course of their “presentation”.  It was viewed, by many of  those present, as “harmless”; “only words”.

I am no prude,  though I have long ago exiled the vernacular word for fornication to its proper place in the graveyard of misbegotten phrases.  I note that even the late, great George Carlin, a champion of adults’ free speech, when among other adults, drew the line at cursing in the presence of children.

Language, though, is not the most harmful aspect of the ongoing tailspin.  Sex education, still properly the purview of  parents, is increasingly becoming the province of the skeevy.  Applications like TikTok are being used by those who wish to prey upon young children.  Other social media sites, not well-monitored by responsible adults, are offering curious and precociously feisty youngsters a diet of unseemly fare that is well beyond their level of true understanding.  As one boy told me today, “it’s more exciting than what’s around here. ”  This is what we face, as communities and as a wider society.

So, the concerns that we educational professionals once had, with regard to teenagers, are now  applicable to kids in primary school.  This is one of America’s wake-up calls.

Self-Belief

7

January 19, 2020-

I set out for a trailhead,

this noon,

and didn’t find it.

I will, though,

having come back here,

and used my ruler,

to apply the scale of miles.

I was asked to return

to the school where I worked

last week.

I will be back there,

to offer at least some

continuity.

Belief in myself

has come late,

and come hard.

There are still critics,

but they barely know me.

They only know

their own frustration,

and own pain.

There are boosters,

who do know me,

and for whose

presence

I am supremely

grateful.

I think of this,

after a day

of floundering,

and of considering

the words of friend,

foe, and in-between,

alike.

I am not floundering,

now,

and look to tomorrow,

and the week ahead,

as acts of service await.

Anarchy

0

January 17, 2020-

This weekend is a respite from the urgent task I’ve accepted, albeit for probably not much more than the coming week, after all.  I spent the morning catching up on what’s happened here and further afield, over the past  several days.  I also spent an hour at Prescott College, reflecting the engaging presence of people who are on the cusp of adulthood.  I was there to offer a view of ordered life, that departs from the draconian and the decrepit.

When the small group of young women had left, I perused some of the literature which they had brought to the table.  Among the tracts was one on anarchy.  I was raised to think of anarchy as synonymous with chaos, and it can indeed be accompanied by such a state of affairs. Then again, chaos can also accompany too strict a social order, much as over-tightening the threads on a screw, or a fitted pipe, can strip the equipment.

Anarchy, as defined in this tract, eschews chaos.  It is, instead, defined as a state of complete internalization of responsibility for one’s actions. The advocates of such a community, while seemingly naive and idealistic, see a place where there is a total absence of egoism.  This is, of course, straight out of Thomas More’s “Utopia”, and would presage a complete transformation of the human spirit.

Baha’u’llah points out that there is no system, in the phenomenal world, where a need for order is obviated.  Order may be internally imposed, or be the result of external codes.  The goal, in any case, must be justice.

The anarchist will, of course, retort that externally-imposed codes fail to secure justice because, in the end, they serve one group of people over others.  Initially, that is difficult to avoid, with a truly equitable society coming only after a process of inclusivity, that requires a level of fairness to self and others, not seen on a wide social basis, as yet.

I’ve seen a few families, where child-rearing practices and relationships between adults are based on the true equitability and high level of personal responsibility advocated by the authors of this tract on anarchy.  These qualities are goals on which, I believe, anarchists of this school of thought and Baha’is can agree.  It will be a process that will take far longer to establish, however, than the time any of us now alive have left.  The initial steps, though, are well worth taking.  Internal codes of fairness, also known as conscientious mindsets, can be established.

“Be fair to yourself, and others”-Baha’u’llah

Different Home Fronts

0

January 16, 2020-

It was a productive day, for me and my charges, at Peach Springs School.  I will go back, on Tuesday, for at least next week’s instructional days.  Whatever happens, I feel a strong bond with a few students, right out the gate.  The Hualapai remind me, strongly, of the Hopi and Dineh- and there are people in Peach Springs who have, and always will have, my heart.

This Home Base of mine is similar, in that I have bonds with people here, too.  Like me, though, most of them come from somewhere else.  That is the difference between Native American communities and larger, more recently-settled towns and cities.  The friends here are no less precious, but they know the reality of  moving.

I have been scolded, in the past, for being too often on the move.  None of that irritability, strangely, has come from my Native American friends.  They sense that what occurs naturally, organically, is for the best.  Indeed, several of the students spoke fondly, of their own family trips- to Las Vegas, primarily.  It’s the nearest large city, so they do their Mall visits in the area south of the Strip.

This weekend, prior to  my landing the present assignment, I had planned on going up to Valley of Fire, east of the entertainment mecca.  I have an inclination to put that excursion on hold, and head over to a closer hiking destination, on Sunday and Monday.  Some home fires just tend to burn more evenly, when left smoldering for a few days.

Open Letter

6

January 11, 2020-

Dear Son,

I have watched you struggle with so much of life,

including matters which you should not have had to face,

at least not at the age at which life brought them to your doorstep.

I’ve done my level best, most of the time, to help you along.

There were times when that best was not sufficient.

There were the times when we both flailed,

and others, fortunately, came to our aid.

You made a wise choice,

as I did before you,

to seek the structure of the military,

in establishing a sense of priority,

and beginning to sort out a life plan.

That plan led you through the vagaries,

and sometimes disordered process,

of service to our country.

It also led you back to the land of your birth.

You found a home for your heart,

and brought your true love back,

to unite two families.

Now, you are back with our families,

and I trust you are being received well.

I also trust that,

whoever joins our family,

in the years ahead,

will also find a warm welcome,

with no conditions attached.

You have a bright future ahead,

my most precious son.

Choose carefully, and wisely,

never acting out of spite,

malice, or hurt feelings.

It is a tall order,

and you were raised

to stand tall.

I look forward

to many years

of standing wherever

you need me to stand.

You will always be treasured.

Connectedness

8

January 7, 2020-

Having my little family here

is a perfect occasion

for cementing my own ties

and building a sense of extended family

between son and daughter-in-law

with the Baha’i friends whom he knew

as a youth,

and with other dear friends,

whom he met for the first time,

and she for the second time, today.

It reminds me, that I have

at least one indelible tie here,

regardless of where life takes me.

It reminds me, too, that  there are those

who will ever have my back,

and I, theirs,

for as long as we draw breath,

and beyond.

Authenticity

6

January 5, 2020-

In all the debate about sin, evil and the unfortunate events of life, there is a place for consideration of being real versus living in what one knows, deep down, to be a fallacy; of being authentic versus being inauthentic.

Jordan Peterson, in Twelve Rules for Life, points to the allegories of Lucifer, and of the Egyptian demon-figure, Set, as illustrations of the dangers posed by over-rationalization.  It is, in effect, the opposite of taking ownership of one’s life, responsibility for one’s actions.  Satan always comes up with an excuse for what he’s done-and it’s always someone else’s fault-even God’s fault.  This allegorical depiction of wickedness lays it out straight,though.  Only integrity, ownership of one’s behaviours-and of their outcomes, will serve to bring about a life well-lived.

I had to learn that the hard way.  Losing a spouse brings a person to account, faster than just about anything, even if-as in my case- it isn’t directly one’s fault.  I could not, however, blame anyone for Penny’s passing.  Hereditary disease would have struck her down, at some point, regardless, and all I can do is learn from the experiences of care-taking and of widowhood.  I have taken the lesson that a life of integrity may only be lived if the person living it  maintains authenticity.

Deceit erodes that integrity, first within one’s own heart, then gradually outwardly through one’s circle of friends, one’s family, one’s tribe.  A life without trust is a life of emptiness.

I am fortunate, to have reached a point where authenticity is something of which I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed.

 

Plan A, 2020

10

January 3, 2020-

I spent several hours, with my daughter-in-law, waiting for Aram’s flight to arrive from Seattle.  We went to Phoenix in the evening, but not late enough to avoid  a stretch of sitting around at the Airport. I need to work on my downtime skills, especially when it involves a “captive audience.”

This is obliquely related to what lies ahead, during what is likely to be an extraordinary year.  Consultation needs to be consistently carried out, in matters great and small.  Towards that end, my best friend recently reminded me of the importance of a yearly plan-mindful that life can upend the best laid plans, at a moment’s notice, but attracting divine support for the plan, anyway.

So, here is what 2020 looks like, as of today.

Commitments and Givens:   Be mindful, yet stay creative. Work whenever possible,  from January-May and September-December.  Keep regular volunteer activities, during the above time frames.  Stay present, and communicate regularly, with all members of my Tribe, especially those closest.  Honour all life, including my own. Celebrate brother’s special birthday, as he sees fit. Celebrate my own special birthday.  Retire in December.

Journeys:  January– Valley of Fire State Park, east of Las Vegas;  February– Indio (Concert) and Colorado River Valley, from Parker to Yuma; April– San Diego and Orange County; June, July & August– North Rim of Grand Canyon, Carson City, Portland, Olympic Peninsula, Vancouver Island, Prince Rupert, Southeast Alaska, Trans-Canada Highway, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Atlantic Canada, New England,  Philadelphia,eastern Midwest and Southeast, Florida (maybe even South FL and a bit of the Bahamas), across the South to Dallas and then back to Prescott;  October– Petrified Forest, Painted Desert and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

Of course, this is what I am getting from my meditations, NOW.  Much is left to conditions on the ground, at the time things are about to happen.  In any event, this is what I get as my plan, at the start of the year.