The Realization Road

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December 3, 2021- The three ten-year old girls giggled and smiled at me, whispering, while going about their work, in the minutes before it was time for the class to be dismissed for lunch. This has been part and parcel of many preteens’ growing into a world where they must size up even those furthest from them in age, getting a sense of whether theirs is a safe environment or their guard needs to be raised up. I have seen it for nearly five decades now.

It was more uncertain, when I was younger-and in the years before I was married. Throughout, however, my main concern with all students has been to keep them focused on acquiring thinking skills and making sense of what they might want to do as adults. The process starts, really, when a person masters mobility, then speech. However nebulous it seems to both the little one and to those around her/him-basic interests and skills can be ascertained from the child’s play habits and choice of activities. My son was interested in motorized earth movers, even before his dinosaur phase. His 4-year-old second cousin alternates between building things and driving his Tonka truck around. Another second cousin is strictly into his drivable toy truck. The girl second cousins have a wide range of interests, from chess and the ecology of construction work (an eight-year-old) to ecofriendly farming practices (a ten-year-old).

The students with whom I worked today are well-spoken, very much into independent learning and still keep the spunkiness of preteens. They are at once capable of handling a lot more responsibility than many of us Boomers were given at their age and remain very much in need of respectfully offered adult supervision. There will always be a need for this last, no matter how empowered and enlightened a person is in middle childhood, or adolescence, for that matter.

On this fifth day of “Seventy-One and Counting”, I felt equally valued by both the kids and by the mostly contemporary adults with whom I enjoyed a pre-Christmas Dinner, at the American Legion Post. It was our first such dinner in two years, and all the stops were pulled out. The Prime Rib and fixings were well-prepared by a seasoned chef and her 22-year-old sous chef. The pianist played tunes designed for relaxation and the sometimes raucous conversation just added to the enjoyment of the evening.

I can envision a similar gathering, maybe sixty years hence, of those who sat in the classroom today, maybe not under the same auspices, but in celebration of their camaraderie and a shared joie de vivre.

May they long walk the Realization Road.

Seventy-One and Counting, Day 4

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December 2, 2021- It was a fine thing, to again have hot water for my shower and for washing the dishes. It turned out that the landlord’s own apartment also had lukewarm water. That led to things being straightened out, in short order. It is also just in time, as the unusually mild weather we’ve had is about to transition to more seasonable temperatures.

Rampage. Four young people, two boys and two girls, were killed by a gunman, on Tuesday, at Oxford High School, north of Detroit. There are two counties which have now closed their schools for the rest of this week, at minimum, with either accomplices to the shooter or copycats, threatening to up the number of victims. Two weeks ago, an automobile was the weapon of choice, for an unhinged man, acting out of hatred. Tuesday, in Oxford, the killer reverted to a firearm, of the sort used so often to inflict pain and suffering, these past twenty-nine years. This is another of those instances that gives the lie to the claim that only guns can stop guns. The reality is that only mental health programs, getting to the roots of what make unstable people go over the edge, can augment firearms registration and safety training to the point where gun-based violence is a rarity, rather than a pestilence.

Choices. I have reached the point where my work assignments are going to be carefully selected. More of my efforts are to be self-care, with a fair amount of volunteer work, though that is turning out to be less than before. Keeping a healthy immune system will be the pet project for the foreseeable future. I have seen four of my most treasured spiritual teachers pass on this year, partly because they just reached an age where their systems gave out. There was, however, also the matter of compromised immunity.

“Welcome to Earth”. This is the heading on the December issue of National Geographic Magazine. It is intended to take a fresh look at our planet, with a specific focus on the Serengeti Plain ( a place I fully intend to visit, along with other places in Africa, sometime between 2024-26). There are pieces devoted to each aspect of the ecosystem-including the human element, without which no amount of goodwill and effort at saving the beleaguered wildlife will suffice to keep this global treasure for the sake of generations to come-both for the area’s residents and all those around the planet, who value the place from afar. This will be a classic edition of NGM, much like the special editions on France, Australia and The Oceans.

There is so much to be done, locally and abroad. I can only promise to take the best care of my autumnal self. From there, everyone I love will be well-tended.

Seventy-One and Counting, Day 3

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December 1, 2021- The little long-haired dachshund, standing outside the small cafe, looked over her shoulder at me, as I sat by the window, and smiled as if she knew me from somewhere. Our last dog, of the same breed, was euthanized eleven years ago, at the age of seventeen. Lady had severe arthritis at the time and could not move without screeching. Maybe canine energy flows through the Universe, the way human energy does, or maybe the animal could just sense that I was taken with her sweet expression, as her owner looped the leash around a chair leg, while he went into the nearby herb shop.

Catch-up. This morning, in particular, was set aside for paying the rent, recycling old newspapers and going through the freezer & refrigerator, to make sure any overlooked stale and rancid stuff was tossed. The afternoon was a bit quieter, visiting a bit with friends from Prescott Valley and helping my Hiking Buddy get some of her product to the P.O.

Duplicates, triplicates, etc. Checking the contacts on my i-Phone, I see that nearly all of them were entered at least twice. So, after locating the ‘delete’ tab, at the bottom of each ‘Edit’ page, I managed to start clearing the redundant entries. It’ll probably take a half hour to get through the whole list, including surname changes and removing the names of those who have passed away. This is what happens when importing data from one phone system to another, and getting no confirmation of the import, at first. Retrying was apparently unnecessary.

Stocks in Trade. It most always happens that those with a heavy investment in the stock market use the last trading day of any given month as their pay day. There is always a lame excuse: “Because of ____________ (fill in the blanks)”, but the reason is the same. In essence, this is how some folks pay their bills. The rest of us just bide our time, leave our investments alone and sooner, rather than later, the funds are on the upswing again-until the next end-of-month or day before a holiday.

Whose Body Is It? The Supreme Court Justices weighed in on the matter of whether abortion is a choice or a matter of government restriction. There was no “final” decision made on the matter, but here is the thing, imho. Life begins at conception AND the matter of whether it proceeds to birth lies between a mother and her physician, with hopefully some RESPONSIBLE and informed input from the father. A rapist, or an incestuous man forfeits any claim to having been responsible. It falls to the mother’s moral compass, as to whether the child should be carried to term. Again, in my humble opinion, genetic testing should NOT be the basis for such decision making, if gender or potential disability are the criteria for opting to abort. As a man who is past child- siring age, I recognize that my opinions are not exactly going to be solicited. However, I conclude with three points: 1. A fetus is not brain-dead, despite the statement made to that effect by one of the Supreme Court justices. The level of brain development should have nothing to do with the mother’s decision. That is the stuff and nonsense behind the odious theory of eugenics. 2. Devaluing a person because of gender is precisely the reason why pre-birth testing is also odious. People in societies where women and girls are historically devalued should not be given license to indulge in pre-birth slaughter. 3. Finally, I have yet to meet a mother who opts for abortion who is NOT scarred emotionally by her choice. It is arguably the most terrifying situation in which a human being may be placed. The last thing she needs is to have government in the driver’s seat. The forces of education and nurturance need to be in place, very early in the life of an adolescent -boy or girl and definitely need to be there for a woman who has to make the decision. Regardless of the choice made, the woman needs to be enveloped in love. Too much can, and will, go wrong when a patriarchy or detached bureaucracy-including SCOTUS- imposes its dictates on the lives of women who are of child-bearing age.

That’s my take, and I’m sticking to it.

Seventy-One Years Down

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November 28, 2021, Grapevine- It was the best Korean lunch I’ve had, and I am not just speaking out of prejudice. My daughter-in-law prepared a soup of seaweed, braised beef and garlic, accompanied by several side dishes (kimchi, small grilled and shredded mushrooms, grilled tofu and pressed, layered vegetable roll) and steamed rice. Yunhee has learned a highly-developed cuisine form, very well. This was my birthday meal, though we would have a late supper at a nearby burger joint, this evening.

The early evening saw us take in the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die”, the apparent swan song for actor Daniel Craig, in the role of the legendary secret agent. No spoilers here, but it was faithful to the Bond narrative of fantasy car chases, explosions and mass disruptions of fancy, gala events.

It has been a most eventful seventy-first year of earthly life. My childhood home was sold, as Mother moved, of her own volition, into an Assisted Living residence. One of my closest cousins lost a battle with cancer. Two trips eastward, in May and in July, were both generated and affected by these events. Concern with justice, both deferred and realized, led to visits to the Greenwood community, in Tulsa and to George Floyd Square, in Minneapolis. I was able to reconnect with two cousins and their wives after many years. Strong new friendships were made at my Home Base of Prescott. COVID19, while still influential in my public and private activities, ceased to be an overwhelmingly restrictive force, especially after my receipt of two Moderna vaccines (with the understanding that these are strictly season to season in effectiveness), which combined with a proactive immunity regimen and being blessed with O+ blood, have allowed me to move along with a moderate level of caution. Three minor, but nettlesome, skin tumors were removed. Visits to Carson City, in the spring and to northern New Mexico and the San Diego area, this Autumn, were thus able to take place without any negative results.

As Year 72 begins, I join my fellow Baha’is in entering the second century of what is called the Formative Age of our Faith, a time in which its affairs are managed by ordinary people, acting in elected assemblies, following the guidance of its Founder’s Teachings, as explained further by ‘Abdu’l-Baha and His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, who served as Guardian of the Faith from 1921 until his passing, in 1957. We are all charged to advance spiritually, both individually and in groups.

My work with children and teens continues, though not on a full-time basis, given official retirement last November. So, too, does work with non-profit agencies, including the Red Cross. Hikes and travel will continue, of course, though the latter will see more use of trains and buses, with my Saturn Vue staying within the areas of California and the five southwestern states.

I look ever forward to what further challenges and blessings may arise.

Father and Son

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November 27. 2021, Grapevine- In a nutshell, I have been treated like royalty by my son, since he was in the Navy, and continuing to the present time. Truth be known, I would do the same, were he ever again in need. That has, to our minds, been the bedrock of a parent/child relationship for all time. I would do the same if I had a daughter.

Today marked the Centenary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son and Successor to Baha’u’llah, as Head of the Baha’i Faith. He took the leadership role upon His Father’s Ascension, on May 29, 1892, serving in that capacity for over 29 years, until November 28, 1921. The fluctuations in the actual day when His passing is honoured stem from the use of the Lunar Calendar for this day, as well some other commemorations.

What is most important for the generality of mankind is the tenor of the relationship between the two Great Teachers. Baha’u’llah, like Christ, Gautama Siddhartha, Muhammed and Others before Him, brought a set of Spiritual Teachings, geared towards the people of His time and for many centuries thereafter. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s major tasks were to interpret His Father’s Teachings to the world and to serve as an Exemplar, with regard to how these Divine Principles may best be manifested in everyday life. He was the first to recognize His Father as a Divine Messenger, even while still a child.

So were Their interwoven lives the stuff of both celestial spiritual provenance and of how parents and children can most optimally work in concert. ‘Abdu’l-Baha was a devoted Son to His mother as well, and a steadfast Brother to His two siblings: Bahiyyih, entitled Khanum (“Lady”, in Persian) and Mihdi, His younger brother, who died accidentally, while still young. He was a chaste and loving Husband to Munirih Khanum.

Even with the constant upheavals in the family’s lives, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the Perfect Son in every way imaginable, walked among people of all strata of society, seeing none as an inherent enemy and giving even His detractors their due. He served the people of British-ruled Palestine tirelessly, helping feed thousands of people during the privations during and after World War I. He visited rich and poor alike, during travels in Egypt, Europe and North America, from 1910-1913.

When Baha’u’llah transcended in 1892, and His eldest Son, in 1921, hundreds of people, from the political leaders of Palestine to farmers, fishermen and labourers in the streets, gathered to pay their respects. Their Family had come as prisoners of the Sultan, but focused Their energies solely on bettering the lives of those among whom They lived. That effort was not lost on the people, and remains to this day as a prime example for all who call themselves members of the human family.

The Essentials

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November 26, 2021, Grapevine- Writing about little stuff, whilst in Texas, is not as much of an oxymoron as one might think. The Lone Star Empire is made up of a mass of minutiae-all of which lend their parts to the legend.

This leads me to the logical codicil to yesterday’s gratitude post: The basic things that warm my heart and keep me going. Here are a dozen such, written Letterman-style:

12. The Cosmos. Any night that at least features the Moon, Jupiter and Venus (at least until February) is a fine one. How much more pleasant is the early morning, with a mass of heavenly orbs! Even the coldest of nights is more comforting, when there are gleaming stars all around.

11. Friends randomly made. The saving grace of seeming inconveniences, like lines, traffic snarls, postponements, crowded conveyances is that they often introduce me to people with whom I may not have anything else, inherently, in common. I recall times, like the three hours spent in the corridor connection of a train going between St. Lo and Paris, in 2014. The families who were huddled there will always be among cherished friends.

10. Friends digitally made. There is a lot of which to be wary, when it comes to social media. One must always be on guard, against the forces of manipulation and invasion of privacy. The upside, though, is the number of potentially close friends who might not have been made, otherwise. I think, especially of five of my closest friends-three women and two men, who were met online.

9. Cozy establishments. Living alone means that gathering spots are important. This is true in my Home Base, and it’s true everywhere I go. A comfortable couch or easy chair, or a well-placed high top table, make for an enjoyable meal, or evening of music.

8. Variety of scenes. The immense number of different landscapes, and seascapes, across the planet, has contributed to my learning and sense of well-being. The same is true of the human landscapes, from crowded cities to isolated farms, ranches and mining sites.

7. Variety of viewpoints. No matter how much I think I know, there is always something to be gained, from encountering a different perspective. Even something that is odious or toxic can, if regarded from a safe distance, show me what NOT to adopt as my own.

6. Health practices. Keeping an open mind about different methods of maintaining stamina and avoiding addiction has led me to a relatively robust autumn of my years. I am ever grateful for those who led me to essential oils and natural supplements.

5. Imagination. My vivid mindset has led me down some crazy rabbit holes, but with the understanding that the way in is also the way out. Imagination leads to creativity, which is often the only key to problem-solving-and God knows, we need that ability, almost on a daily basis.

4. Presence of children and youth. The value of spirited energy to a full life cannot be minimized. Kids have been urgent to my well-being, since I was one, myself. I have never been particularly athletic, but being around team sports and activities has been a tonic. It took me a long time to relax enough, within myself, to take part in group dances, yet when I am among a group of young people who are reveling in their musical surroundings ( except for thing like mosh pits or crowd surges), my body and soul are soaring. The delightful energy and perspectives of children are ever a treasure, even to just watch.

3. Family. From the time I was small, I have liked, as well as loved my parents, grandparents, and siblings. It has not always crystal clear to some, that this is the case, but in my core I stay true to my roots. From family, I have learned that there is always a solution to what life throws at me. Dad, with his emphasis on making responsible choices, and owning them and Mom, with her admonitions about keeping an eye out for opportunity and for loving who I am, are largely responsible for my even being here to this day and time.

2. Spirit guides- Those who have gone on, even those who I never met in the flesh, have looked out for me and constantly send messages. They have prompted me to act, in matters profound and mundane-and have consistently helped me set my path.

1. Faith- This is what ties everything together. All the foregoing items emanate from my faith in a Higher Power, Who I believe has shown us the way to building a unified planet and has been ever guiding Creation in that direction, from the very point in which it was renewed-so many eons ago. All the Spiritual Teachers the human race has ever known emanate from this One Source.

Ten Gratitudes

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November 25, 2021, Grapevine- One of the inherent goodnesses of this day, that is so strangely placed one month after the last harvests have been completed in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere, is that so many people nonetheless stop to count their blessings. There will always be those who say they have none, but that is a topic for another time. The Universe will see such people along, in its way.

I spoke with my mother and each of my siblings, earlier today, and being comforted by the overall spirit of optimism that was conveyed. My little family and I had a lovely Thanksgiving Dinner, which they put together nicely, within the framework of the usual lunch hour. The meal set me to thinking of those aspects of my life that generate gratefulness. These are what come to mind, in this time of ongoing crisis and victory, and in no particular order of importance:

  1. I am more accepted and honoured, by more people, than at any time in my life. Those who once found me strange have expanded their own viewpoints, either by dint of enlightenment or by virtue of going through life’s inevitable grind. I also find it easier to understand their pain.
  2. My judgment is clearer, more focused than it has been in times past. A good part of that comes from moving away from overthinking.
  3. Every person dear to me is in generally good health. Some are getting over mild cases of COVID, but that is more incidental than chronic. They are recovering and will be back in good stead, very shortly.
  4. Humanity is moving in an essentially positive direction. Problems of living will always be with us, and there will ever be the challenges posed by the wayward, the disgruntled and the egocentric. By and large, though, we have as a species made great strides in facing the gauntlet of a harsh world.
  5. I find much to admire, in a broad cross-section of humanity. The groundedness and tradition of conservatives meshes far more easily, in my mind, with the inclusiveness and innovation of progressives than either group sometimes can countenance.
  6. The youngest generations, even in the one-step forward, two-steps back matter of overcoming prejudice, are showing more maturity, at a younger age, by and large.
  7. It is easier to ignore the wirepullers and shrill voices of negativism than it once was for me. Keeping eyes on the prize of a better world is the only true path.
  8. People at the grassroots are taking back their communities, and not in an exclusionary or hierarchical manner. The elites will find that they must meld with the vast majority of humanity, not the other way around-despite the temporary trends in some areas towards control by artificial intelligence and autocratic structures. As people get over their collective fears, they are banding together in a united front.
  9. The growing awareness that the human body has what it needs to heal itself, and that all that is supplemental to this healing may be found in nature, is a corollary to this grassroots renaissance.
  10. The great Spiritual Teachers, speaking with one Voice, are showing us the way towards an even brighter future for this abundant planet.

Justice Is A Long Haul

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November 24, 2021, Grapevine, TX- “The best beloved of all things in my sight is justice.”-Baha’u’llah.

Tonight, after sundown and all day tomorrow marks the 109th observance of the Day of the Covenant, a day set aside by Baha’is to honour the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. This happened because He was born on May 23, 1844, which was the very day that al-Bab, Herald of the coming of Baha’u’llah, declared His own Mission to the world. ‘Abdu’l-Baha would never have countenanced anything on His behalf which would have taken even a smidgen of attention away from honouring al-Bab, on that day. He acquiesced to letting the Faithful devote one day a year in honour of His life: November 26, by solar reckoning. When we switched to observing several Holy Days by lunar reckoning, there came about circumstances when the Holy Day falls a day or two before 11/26.

The Covenant between Baha’u’llah and His followers, of which ‘Abdu’l-Baha was the chief Exemplar, is an agreement rooted in justice. Divinely inspired justice is hardly a matter of an imagined deity tossing lightning bolts at miscreants or any kind of deus ex maxina, for that matter. Like its more human derivative, true justice is a process. and a therefore a long haul.

I mention all this because there are times when a person who commits a moral failing, but not a criminal act, may be found innocent of criminal wrongdoing, by a jury of peers and continue to suffer within self and within the wider society. History is replete with such cases, and no names need be mentioned here.

There are also cases where a person, or people, are found guilty of criminal wrongdoing, by a similar jury and the wider society finds agreement-with a minority of people begging to differ. We saw such a verdict rendered today. The matter in question took a long time to resolve, as several commentators have observed, with some further allusions to the ongoing investigations into the affairs of January 6.

Justice is a long haul. The perpetrators of the murders of Emmett Till and of Medgar Evers, as well as the killers of the little girls in the Birmingham bombing of 1963, were brought to justice with all deliberate speed-but the convictions held. The alleged assassins of John F. and Robert Kennedy and of Martin Luther King, Jr. were brought to swift justice-either judicial or vigilante, but were they the sole killers-or even the actual ones, or were they just convenient scapegoats? I have my doubts, especially following the recent revelations regarding the assassination of Malcolm X.

The justice which meshes with that described by Baha’u’llah is potentially an arduous process, one that merits careful contemplation, on this Day of the Covenant, which leads us into the American Thanksgiving. That it is so, does not diminish its importance in our lives.

Waukesha

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November 22, 2021- The small children, ages 7 and 9, told their mother they never want to go to a parade ever again. There is no more heartbreaking statement that can ever be heard.

A celebration of community, of diversity, of life should never become the stage for the passions of the disaffected, the disgruntled, the deranged. This is true whether one is talking about the United States Capitol, on the day of a Constitutional procedure, or the downtown of a vibrant little city like Waukesha, Wisconsin, on a day of wholesome togetherness. It was true in Las Vegas, on the day of Route 91 Harvest, in 2017, and at houses of worship in North Charleston, Pittsburgh and Sutherland, TX. It was true during the Boston Marathon, in 2013 and in the halls of learning in places like Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. It has been true, every single time a disaffected, disgruntled, deranged person has taken out a twisted sense of entitlement and revenge against the broader public. It is true, whether the individual, or group of same, is a State Actor or just a private person wanting the world to know that he feels wronged, that his rights are above everyone else’s.

Four of the people slain yesterday were grandmothers. They were seemingly targeted by their assassin, for reasons presently known only to him. They were, in my humble estimation, innocent of any wrongdoing. They were there solely to bring “Comfort and Joy”, the theme as it were of the parade itself. There were small children, 18 at last count, injured. There were high school bandmates and cheerleaders, the very epitome of everything that is positive about life. There was a little girl, dancing in a pink suit, narrowly missed by the perpetrator’s vehicle.

I have a family member, five hours from Waukesha, who is a cheerleader. Here in Prescott, the youngest child of two dear friends is in his last year of playing in a high school band. If either of them were to be the least bit injured in an incident such as happened yesterday, I would be apoplectic-even more than I am right now.

Human life is given by the Creator, by God-if you will. Human life is not given, just so that it may be randomly taken, or even threatened, by individuals-no matter how righteously they present themselves or their cause. Human life is given, that its holders may pursue their positive, life-affirming, socially-advancing talents and faculties to their utmost.

Waukesha, may you heal-as the communities afflicted before you have healed; nay, are still healing. America, may we regain our sanity, little by little, until this sort of horror becomes a bad memory.

Once Forward, Twice Back, Thrice Forward

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November 21, 2021-

The horse took a tentative step forward, the wolves gathered in front, the steed took two steps back, the canines stiffened, ready to charge, but the equine charged first, taking three bold steps forward, then broke into a canter, then a gallop, and leapt over the startled predators.

His hind hooves smacked the alpha male, as his rear legs rose, and the pack slowly retreated, relying on instinct, trying to figure their collective next move.

The horse’s next move was to continue towards the water trough, which he had as his goal, before being so rudely interrupted.

Many times in life, one has a worthy goal that doesn’t fit the agenda of others. Some may put up roadblocks and force a retreat. A worthwhile plan may be to try and negotiate a peaceful solution, meeting the needs of those who seem to represent an obstacle. There are times, however, when the only agenda of those who are obstructing is to obstruct. It is then, that one who strives must leap over the barrier.