Indy

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April 16, 2021-

I have had the good fortune to have called many places home.

When good fortune meets the people of those communities, I feel the greatest joy.

When, on the other hand, tragedy strikes, it hurts my heart equally as much. Indianapolis was my home for a scant five weeks, in 1969.

I learned the skills needed to run a successful postal operation, and in particular, the skills needed to handle accountable mail. Only for the hiring freeze of early 1972, did I turn aside from being in the Registered, Insured and Certified cage, and follow through with a career in education. End of digression.

It was a maturational five weeks, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, in the leafy near suburb of Lawrence, and I began the slow, halting process of taking on a man’s responsibilities. Indianapolis has had a piece of my heart since then.

Many return visits have come to pass, since then; all of them have been times of welcome. So, it was with intense sorrow that I read, this morning, of the slaughter of eight people at a Federal Express site, not far from the old “Fort Ben”.

The debate about gun ownership will go on, and on. I know one thing, though. I was taught firearms safety, respect for a weapon and what it can do, at an early age. The men who taught me that respect would be aghast, livid, at the laxity with which the mentally ill are allowed to possess and use firearms, at will.

They were the true patriots of their time, and they cared enough to demand discipline-especially when it came to matters of life and death.

Heal, Indianapolis, as Boston, North Charleston, Atlanta, Blacksburg, Orlando, Sutherland, Fort Hood, Tucson, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Aurora, Boulder, Jonesboro, Roseburg, Parkland, Newtown, Columbine and countless other communities have been healing, for so long, in the name of living in a free society that struggles to understand what freedom really means.

Tomorrow Always Comes

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April 15, 2021- Despite the best efforts of the naysayers, or perhaps because of their incessant reminders, there is always a bright sun shining.

In spite of the pain we may feel, or perhaps because of its calling attention to a place that needs growing, there is healing that brings solace.

In the darkest of night, there is ever a glimmer far to the east that calls to the soul, saying: “Rejoice, for the tidings of strength, vindication and resilience are nigh, would you but be open to these.” Tomorrow always comes, if not to the body, then surely to the spirit.

Samaritans

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April 9, 2021- There is a story of a man from Samaria, a region of what is now Syria and known for its enmity with Judea. The story goes that he stopped to help an injured man, on the side of the road, after the man had been left to die, by bandits. From his kind actions, we get the term Good Samaritan. Over time, “samaritan” has come to mean someone who helps strangers who are in difficulty, often stranded in a remote area.

There are many stories of people coming to the aid of the unfortunate. There are all kinds of samaritans: Some, with low self-esteem, seek praise, adulation, recognition and even a reward of some sort. Others may keep a tally sheet, and while paying it forward, seek recompense later. There is the “no-good-deed-goes unpunished” crowd-wanting any misdeeds to be overlooked, just because “on balance” they have helped some people, sometimes. The key to authenticity is knowing just how well one accounts for transgressions, without falling back on what one might have done for others.

I can only make sense of one course for my own state of being. Yes, I know there have been times when I have done good for people, without being asked. There have also been times when people have been hurt, on my account. The one good thing about “samaritan” acts is that no one needs to know about them, other than the recipients of such help. They need not speak of it.

The Reluctant Conspirator

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April 7, 2021- I have been given a strange and whimsical mantle: Conspirator. This came this morning, after expressing my humble opinion that, after death, one enters a different state of being. One of the others in the coffee house stated, matter-of-factly, that our afterlife is another shot at being human, on planet Earth, and that any argument to the contrary is an attempt to rid us of our earthly freedom. To that individual, there is nothing else in the Universe, but the creatures of Earth. I am, therefore, trying to obfuscate and distract freedom-loving Americans.

Hmmm. Perhaps next will come the claim that non-English speakers are destined to be reincarnated-as English-speaking Americans. We have gone half circle, it seems-as there was once a time when belief in reincarnation was anathema to political conservatives. At any rate, once the honour of being a conspirator was foisted upon me, I did what any craven oppressor would do- quietly went back to my crossword puzzle and half-empty cup of joe.

The ruckus continued, across the room, as the ruffled feathers continued to rant-about everything from chemtrails to The Virus. I’d like there to be a good deal less air pollution, and IF there is spray being sent us, to dumb down the masses, or IF the virus and its attendant vaccines are part of the Master Plan, well I’m opposed to such deviousness, in all its forms.

We are, however, put here to develop our spiritual qualities-not to hand off responsibility for our growth to someone else, either by giving it over, or by blamecasting. If any of the conspiracy theories are proven true, I will resist control from above. Come to think of it, I will resist control from any direction. I was given a brain for a reason.

Rising and Renewal

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April 5, 2021- As many are aware, today is Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). The day was first intended to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesu the Christ from the dead, three days after His Crucifixion and death, at the hands of Roman soldiers acting at the behest of two Jewish Zealot leaders, Annas and Caiaphas.

Jesus’ disciples were understandably despondent, feeling as if their faith was shaken and not knowing in which direction to go from that low point in their fortunes. There was just one fly in the Zealots’ ointment: They were not acting according to the Will of God, but according to their own craving for power. What is willed by the Creator, whether we think it is coming from the Universe, or from God’s Messenger (Divine Teacher) for the day in which that Messenger makes Self known, is what will happen-maybe sooner, or maybe later-but in any case, in God’s own time.

Three days after He was killed, Christ appeared to His Disciples, even allowing one of them, Thomas, to put his hand in His side. Spiritual Beings can do whatever God wants Them to do-especially if They have been teaching humanity in His Name. So, it is not hard to understand the appearance of Jesus the Christ before His Disciples, three days postmortem.

In July, 1850, Baha’u’llah’s Herald, al-Bab, did the same thing, albeit for a much shorter period of time. When He was first executed by a firing squad, in Tabriz, Persia, al-Bab was not to be found, when the smoke had cleared. He was subsequently found in a small room at the prison, dictating some business to an associate. Once He had completed His business, al-Bab consented to be brought back to the execution court. There, He was again the target of a firing squad, which this time completed its mission.

The Creator does not abandon us, nor does He prevent us from making our own choices, both good and bad, based on free will. The decisions Man makes which are counterproductive do not hurt God in any way. In the two cases cited above, Christ and al-Bab returned to Their Father, Who sent Them. People were left to do the hard work of interpreting Their guidance, on our own. Those who truly loved their Teachers followed those instructions. Others followed the whims of their own fancies and imaginations-as the Zealots had before them.

Resurrection Sunday thus celebrates the undying Power of the Creator, to renew the Message He sends us, and to renew our Faith in His Guidance, which is, as Baha’u’llah said, “Eternal in the past, eternal in the future.”

Alpha/Omega

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April 2, 2021- Every so often, I get a reminder about the commitment that I, as “an American of some affluence”, must have towards the poor of other parts of the world. It usually comes in the form of a veiled demand, but is at least offered with good wishes for my health and well-being. That stands to reason, as a sick person would hardly be able to offer anything to others.

My dealings with people who primarily view the world through a transactional lens are, of necessity, getting more and more limited. Even among those businesses I frequent, I regard the people therein as friends first, and means to an end second. One example is a local family restaurant, Zeke’s, where I sit at the counter, gab with the wait staff and other patrons, and comment freely on goings on. The same is true of Rafter Eleven, Synergy and, to a lesser extent, The Raven Cafe. It is increasingly true in the schools where I am taking on special assignments until the end of May.

My circle of friends trends larger these days, even with-and in some cases because of-virtual connections. The first and last, alpha/omega if you will, is compassion based on love. Those whose primary focus is transactional have a hard time seeing this-and there was a time when part of me was there. Much of my standoffishness had to do with lack of self-confidence, and a degree of self-loathing, as if I were not “good enough” for others. I suspect that is true of those who behave in this manner now. More’s the pity.

There is, to a good extent, the notion that failure to thrive is a Catch 22, a vicious circle. That realization came to me, about four months after I met Penny, back in 1981. Gradually, over several decades, the self-doubt has fallen away-so that even in the most harrowing of circumstances, the faint light has been in view.

I thought of this today, as the Mystery of Alpha/Omega from 33 A.D.: The Passion of Jesus the Christ, plays out in the minds and hearts of millions across the planet. His basis for everything was compassion, rooted in love.

The Lamb’s Turn

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March 31, 2021- A common saying is that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I have seen years in which this month now ending has been as leonine at the end as it was at the beginning, and indeed it looks like Easter weekend will be of that ilk, in the Northeast.

Here in the American Southwest, though, it appears as though we are in for warmer weather, with only the slightest chance of rain, through April and probably May, as well. So, with the gentleness, I find I have somewhat more energy. I am at the age where it takes more effort to start the day facing cold and dark and the fullness of Spring is ever welcome.

I also know, however, that cold and dark will always be with us-and that extreme heat is far from a bargain, also. The lamb can grow into a snorting, cantankerous ram, in short order. Life is ever a process of falling down, getting up again, confronting oneself and delving deeper into what is needed, in order to grow more confident. The lessons offered by every infant who goes forth into toddlerhood, without any of the self-pity that often comes later, come to mind. A baby keeps at the work of turning over, lifting self up, scooting along and finally, walking without falling.

It is an achievement, as well, for anyone who casts aside self-pity, who rises above both depression and narcissism by doing the hard work of emotional turning over, psychological self-lifting, moving along with some support and, finally, moving through life without stumbling and falling. It takes lots of courage and true self-confidence, but at some point, it is more than doable.

Striding into April, I see a clear schedule of special assignments in schools, the Baha’i Festival of Ridvan, lots of hiking and maintaining my vigilance against the pandemic (this last, through May-and June, as needed.). I have made small changes (new pillows for my bed, additional exercises and dietary adjustments to bring my abdomen into compliance with my own health regimen) and commit to deeper exploration of this amazing world.

The Single Story Myth

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March 28, 2021- Chimamanda Ngosi Adichie, a Nigerian writer, poses some interesting points in a talk she gave on the TED Network. The notion that so many form their opinions of others, both individuals and groups, based on a single thread of information, bears careful thought. Ms. Adichie gives the examples of 1. How many people in North America refer to Africa as a country, and have the image of half-clad, uneducated people, who are uniformly engaged in endless civil wars. 2. How many Africans imagine Americans to be uniformly living lives of prosperity.

While there is some truth to a single story, as Ms. Adichie points out, it is seldom, if ever, the ONLY story about a person, group, nation, or continent. Baha’u’llah teaches us, and science corroborates, that every created thing, from an atom or molecule to the largest animal and tallest tree, is unique from every other of its kind. We recognize that no two grains of sand, or no two snowflakes, are alike. How much more is each strand of DNA, each virus, amoeba, frog, blue jay, spotted hyena, hyacinth, orca, or Douglas fir different from every other of its kind.

Further, how complex is each created thing, within itself! Every human being, therefore, is more than the sum of his/her parts. We each have more than one story, which is one reason why individuals who try to judge one another, always fall short in their estimation. I am not the same person who drove others to distraction, in times past, or even not so many years ago. Neither are you. While one has to make amends for transgressions and missteps, these ought not confine the person who has committed them. This goes double for groups of people.

Let us, therefore, give pause to the preservation of prejudices, either towards individuals or towards groups. Let us learn as many of each others’ stories as we can.

Walking Gently

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March 24, 2021- This morning, I introduced a hiking buddy to Thumb Butte, one of Prescott’s majestic surrounding promontories. I chose the route that allowed a gentler ascent, thus giving her a good first experience on the butte, which also offers a steep climb on its other main route.

In any encounter with other people, it is most often the best course of action for the individual to take a gentle tone. Of course, there are times when a firm “NO!” is, in the long run, the true gentleness. The key is always to attend, carefully, to the person or to the group. Intuition is far more important to me now than it ever was in times past. Maybe the times are tougher, but I doubt it.

I simply find that, day to day, my path and that of any given person who crosses it are intertwined, in ways that never occurred to me, even a dozen years ago. I find that a lot of the cues I missed, when clouded by both preoccupation with Penny’s state of being and my own baggage, are front and center now. If those situations that were so problematic, seven, eight, ten years ago, presented themselves again, at least I would know to tread a gentler path-both with myself and those I am sure that were hurt.

Coming out of the pandemic, which I feel we are now, I sense myself staying more in tune with those around me. The gentle path feels the better, stronger way.

Say No To Vengeance

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March 19, 2021-

Say no to vengeance, for with it, comes only sorrow. Say yes to reconciliation, the way to a brighter tomorrow.

With vengeance, comes only further bloodshed, as each one wishes to fight back. Reconciliation and forgiveness, do not excuse the wrong, yet show the valour of ending the culture of attack.

Say no to vengeance, with its twists and turns, its innocent victims, whose survivors’ hearts slowly burn. Greet the warmth of reconciliation with its gradual healing. The song of forgiveness with its heartfelt love is appealing!

Set down your weapons, and take up your plowshares, that the dark clouds may part, to a sky calm and fair.