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.

The Matter of The Use of Time

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April 6, 2021- I spent the day with groups of high school history students, whose task was simple: Read short passages and answer questions, in writing. That was all: No discussion, no Q & A with the teacher-and above all, no phones. It is interesting that I saw students accessing the same information that was on the handouts, on their phones, and in a much higher font. People will do what works in their best interests, regardless of rules or convention.

There are, theses days, as in times past, any number of conspiracy theories, all manner of disrespect for authority and failure to consider other points of view, lest one be found guilty of faulty logic (as if that were an actual crime, rather than just evidence that further investigation might be in order). I will address those matters, in the next post.

In the meantime: I choose, pretty much, how I will spend my time, on any given day. I take on special assignments, like the one described above, mostly out of regard for the circumstances in which the schools of this area find themselves. I also choose which Zoom calls to join, as others choose whether to join those calls which I host. I choose when to answer the sometimes incessant pings on Instant Messenger (which I have mostly to contact my immediate family). I choose to help friends with tasks that would be unwieldy for them to do by themselves.

There are those, who live through others or who wish to leach off of them, constantly prescribing what those others should do, asking for money or attention, or just bemoaning that no one cares about them. I have been guilty, in times past, of each of these. The realization, a few years back and when I found myself alone, was that my time was best spent tending to personal growth. That remains so, and any of the choices now being made, in this personal sphere, are geared towards addressing the flaws that rankle both myself and those around me.

I noticed that most of the teens who were around me today were doing the same thing: Focusing on the work, yes, but also going about that work in a manner that dovetailed with their own personal situation. May that ethic long serve them well.

Quantum Leaps

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April 5, 2021- It was the joy of a lifetime to see the University of Arizona Women’s Basketball team advance to the NCAA Finals, with a solid victory over a formidable University of Connecticut team. It was disappointing to see the Wildcats lose, by one point, to Stanford University, two days later-yet heartening that both teams gave 100%, and there was, as it were, no subsequent animosity or rancor, from either side. The NCAA itself took a self-imposed black eye from its earlier refusal to acknowledge Arizona’s presence in its own tournament, but I see that more as part of the growing pains that are part of college sports’, and society’s, maturing attitude towards women’s sports.

The health, stamina and well-being of both male and female human beings is one of the most basic interests of a fully-functioning society. I was one of the most uncoordinated of children and young adults, but have always recognized the role that sports, especially team sports, have in the maintenance of good physical and emotional health, as well as their role in building character. Youth, high school and college level athletics, at their best, provide the most reliable vehicle for character-building. When adult egos and remuneration get involved, that character-building can be tarnished-and granted, I have seen “Youth Leagues” turn into mechanisms for burnout of otherwise promising young athletes.

I fully expect that the quantum leaps that we have seen, in the progress of sports for girls and women, will long continue-and have the effect of elevating all athletic endeavours-for boys and men, and co-educational teams, as well. Congratulations again to the University of Arizona Wildcats, and to the Stanford Cardinal, for jobs well done. (Here’s to you, also, Baylor Bears.)

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.”

What It Usually Means

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April 3, 32021-

Most times, a hug is a hug-and nothing more. A handshake is a handshake, no more and no less. A warm smile is not especially an invitation, but more an expression of appreciation. A gentle touch is a reassurance of caring. Eye contact, likewise, means “I see you. You matter to me”.

Interest in your day means there is a connection. It is not an invitation to anything more. Expressing interest in doing things together is not an open door to doing just anything at all.

A friendship between mature adults is devoid of assumptions, of unilateral expectations and wishful thinking. It is full of plans made together, of honest conversation, of trusting disclosures, knowing that what is shared is respected, and kept in confidence.

These facets of my friendships, with woman and man alike steer me gently into that good night and its subsequent bright day.

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.

No Fooling

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April 1, 2021- I’ve learned a few things about levity, over the years. There is a time when it is the best course of action, at a party or when someone could use lightening up. There is then a time for vigilance, such as this morning, when a small child was near flowing water and his mother needed a second pair of eyes. Splashing about, in the river, might have been fun otherwise, but no matter. Keeping people safe is a vital task for any of us.

There is a wider application to discerning between seriousness and tomfoolery. Anything that diminishes the dignity or humanity of another human being, or involves cruelty-either physical or emotional, needs to be off the table-no matter how “witty” it appears at the time. It is hard for some, if they are “on a roll” in terms of amusing self and others or are using humour as a means to increase social standing.

We are, however, as a species, raising consciousness and maturity levels. Meanness to children and small animals is being, thankfully, increasingly called out. People are consulting more about what might be acceptable or unacceptable. Someone’s name is less and less being made the brunt of jokes. There is much left to be done, yet with increasing acceptance of diversity, across all areas of human interaction, we can look forward more to a healthy style of humour.

Hope all had a pleasant All Fool’s Day.

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.

Godot, and Other No-Shows

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March 30, 2021– Today was spent supervising high school students in Online Learning. The students are, in the words of David Bowie, “quite aware of what they are going through”, and stuck to the tasks at hand, which have the common goal of recovering academic credit. There was just one hitch, the Internet was down, for at least part of the day, leaving most of the students in two class periods to use their cellular hotspots.

While this ingenuity played out, I was reminded of the Samuel Beckett play, “Waiting for Godot”. Those who are familiar with the play know that Godot, whoever he is, sends a messenger to announce his non-appearance, a day in advance, but never does show up himself. The main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, continue waiting for him, nonetheless.

The students in the latter three classes were able to pursue their work, without resorting to personal devices alone, as the Internet, unlike Godot, made good on its appearance. There were, most likely, a few no-shows among the student populace. There always are.

I have experienced a fair number of absentees, over the years. Usually, when I’ve been patient, the person shows up, eventually, and has a credible story to tell. Sometimes it pans out and sometimes, it doesn’t. Each time, though, my only thought has been: “Make sure you are not following their example.” My parents were always true to their word-Mom still is. The people who matter most in my life are similarly trustworthy.

While being all things to all people is a mathematical and practical impossibility, I would hope that reducing absenteeism, and broken promises, becomes a more widespread goal.

Sometimes, Word Pictures Work Best

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March 29, 2021- Usually, when I go off on a trail, my camera is with me and photos follow. Today, knowing that the terrain would be the same as that of my most recent hike on Limekiln Trail and that the features will also be visible from the next, and final, segment of that system, I went with eyes only.

There was a slight rise from the trailhead to a vantage point, from which I could see my car and another bowl-shaped ravine, just to its north. From there, a pinon and juniper scrub forest hosted the next 1/4 mile of the route, which headed down into a dry ravine and a creek bed smaller and not as alluring as Dry Creek-at least in terms of coloured stone varieties.

As I walked up and out of the ravine, a young couple walking ahead of me were a bit suspicious, so I took an alternate route, on a trail of volcanic soil, which ended up leading me around to the same road which I had followed in the previous segment. The couple were also nearby, but went about their exploration of the pinon forest, while I stopped at my last little nook and enjoyed gluten-free crackers (rather tasty, with garlic parmesan) and cool water. Though I can digest wheat and other grains, gluten-free products are a nice addition.

As this was the stopping place from last week, turnaround was in order. The cool breeze and bright sunshine made everything seem a whole lot easier today, and I could smell the juniper leaves a lot more fully than I could, even a few weeks ago. Spring will be a nicer hiking season.