Fathering, without Paternalizing

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June 19, 2022, Montreal- Today was a fitting confluence of observances: Father’s Day, celebrating the best of those who help raise a next generation and who continue to offer guidance to the men and women they helped rear, and Juneteenth (which will be officially observed tomorrow, as a National Holiday in the U.S.), wherein paternalism, the opposite of good fathering, took a well-deserved hit, with enslaved people in Texas finally getting the word that they had been freed-more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation-and two months after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army, at Appomattox.

The concept of a person making decisions FOR other people has been with us for at least 10,000 years. It has many permutations, and will die hard. We are, however, entering an Age of Fulfillment, in which individuals are growing into humans who can make their own decisions. There will be a lot of mess involved-that’s the nature of growth. Mistakes will happen, at all levels, yet hopefully lessons will be learned. Those who see life through a progressive lens can be just as authoritarian as their polar opposites who seem to want to turn back the clock.

Paternalism, or excessive maternalism, for that matter, serve to debilitate the very people one secretly wishes would stand up and do what’s right. The rub comes, when the domineering one realizes that maybe the children or teens are doing precisely what is right-for their lives. Teaching people the thinking process is far more valuable than pontificating on what to think.

My Father’s Day, with a son who is away in a training exercise, was spent being proud of what he is achieving. I also returned to a city that taught me some hard lessons, four years ago-at exactly the time when I learned them. This year, Montreal was far easier to navigate. I had the satisfaction of visiting the shore of Lake Ontario, at Kingston, where I spent last night, and the north bank of the St. Lawrence River, at Prescott, Ontario (“That’s PresCOTT, there, Yank!”). I also was able to put the Saturn in a highly secure garage for the evening, once arriving in Montreal. Father’s day, my way, was capped by a wonton supper at Chef B.Lee, on St. Catherine Street, in the heart of Montreal’s Asian Food District (“Chinatown” would be an inadequate term here, as Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese eateries are just as common).

It’s been a good day, all in all. Here are a few scenes from the course of the journey.

The most important aspect of this park, however, is the newest and oldest, at the same time: The Alderville First Nation, a Mississauga Ojibway band, blessed the area with one of its artists and healers, Terence Radford, who created a Spirit Garden for Lake Ontario Park. All the Great Lakes are sacred to the Ojibway, so this blessing of Lake Ontario means a great deal, both to the Ojibway people and to their neighbours in the larger community.

THIS strikes me as the real reason I stopped overnight in Kingston.

A while later, I stopped in Prescott, ON. This town has a nice River Walk, focusing on the St. Lawrence, so I took a walk along a short part of it. Here are views of the river and of Fort Wellington, a British fort during the War of 1812, built to defend shipping from the American troops stationed across the river, in Ogdensburg, NY.

This was a cool find. In the 1960s, Leo Boivin (“That’s BwaVAN, Yank!”), was a respected member of the Boston Bruins. Kids were always calling me “Leo”, though quite honestly, I couldn’t stand up on skates, for more than two minutes. As Leo was a native of Prescott, the town named its community center after him, when he passed away, last year.

Tonight, I am here, at Montreal’s Auberge St. Lo, formerly called HI (Hostels International) Montreal. It is a very comfortable and accommodating place, with the study room where I am writing this post.

Loving the Balance

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June 18, 2022, Kingston, ON- I found myself here, near the shore of Lake Ontario, an underrated gem of a Great Lake, which I will visit briefly tomorrow, before driving to Montreal. It was a choice: Visit Kingston and get some down time tonight or plow on to Ottawa, have maybe three hours max in the capital city and “enjoy” what would eventually feel like a hamster wheel.

There is always a short-term financial balance to keep, and I at least have that down. I spent some time in London, this morning and early afternoon, in both business and sending out positive energy. Changing currency is a chore for many. I consider it an act of respect for the host country, for as long as we humans need to have different currency in each nation-or region (Euro Zone).

Another “business” action is joining online Baha’i gatherings. If I can do this, even from a distant location, and while maintaining silence, as is necessary in a public space, such as a coffee shop. then the energy shared across the space between locations is worth it.

Whenever I am off on one of these quests, suggestions come from well-intending friends and family. Invariably, unless the hint is close to my itinerary, either distance-wise or time-wise, I file it in the “later” sleeve. Ottawa will wait until another time; as will two or three days in Toronto, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and Quebec City (both of which I have visited), the Gaspe, Prince Edward Island (been there, also), the southern part of the Avalon Peninsula on Newfoundland, and St. Pierre & Miquelon, France’s last bit of “mainland” North America.

Time and spiritual energy determine the balance, and it is a many-splendoured thing.

Here are a few scenes from London’s marvelous Covent Garden Market- worthy of a place alongside Boston’s Faneuil Hall/Durgin Park, Seattle’s Pike Place and Chicago’s Navy Pier. I am sure many of you could add a dozen others to this list. Remember, I am referring here to London, Ontario. The Market was recommended to me by a bookseller, whose shop, City Lights. is across the street. He also suggested Saga Coffee House, just west of his shop. Both recommendations are spot on-as is the book store.

As I was working on my laptop, a little girl pointed out the lanterns and flowers, which she found “astonishing”. Yes, they certainly are!

Anna Turkiewicz is a Polish emigre, who runs this excellent old style delicatessen. She seemed a bit worn down, and shortly after I took my lunch order to the table, she took a break for herself. It is a hard row to hoe, this food business. Ontario apparently also has a coin shortage, and supply chain issues, much like on the American side of the border. I did what i could to be supportive.

The grounds are given some thought, by the City, as well. Here is a decorated lamp post.

There is much joy in keeping a balance.

Two Sides, Same Team

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June 17, 2022, London, ON- The DEA squad carried out a seamless check on our line of traffic, at a contraband check on the U.S. side of Ambassador Bridge (between Detroit and Windsor). The agent who was checking my vehicle asked to pop the “trunk” and was given the go-ahead to open the hatch on Saturn Vue. His dog-partner found no contraband, and I was on my way to the Canadian side, where a thirty second query as to my travel plans sent me en route to this Ontario namesake of the Titan on the Thames. (There is a Thames River here, as well.)

I left my friends, the Schroeders, around Noon, having tended to laundry and a couple of errands at establishments near their home. Saturn Vue got an oil & lube, a new air filter and scrubbed headlights, at a Jiffy Lube nearby, then I was off in search of I-94, which for some reason was unknown to Google Maps. A kind librarian in Buchanan, MI, directed me to the only entrance she knew to the Interstate-which was in Benton Harbor, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Out of the way, yes, it was, but I sensed that a full drive across that beleaguered state would at least unleash some healing energy. At least, that is my hope, having said a bunch of prayers at a Rest Area, outside Battle Creek.

It took four hours to cross the Wolverine State, and another forty minutes to go through the border crossing, most of which was the security check mentioned above. The process made me glad that I had done laundry before crossing-if only to not disgust our canine friend.

Once on the 401, I looked for a place to pull off for the night. I did drove from Tilbury to Chatham, on a back road, taking in the small town Friday night scene of a small group of teens, making the best of a weekend evening in Tilbury. They looked happy, at least. In Chatham, I spotted a small motel, with one car in the lot (a red flag of sorts, this being Friday night and all. The proprietor apologized, in advance, for the room he was letting me check, prior to lettting it out (another red flag). I found it was flea-infested, though the lights, TV and shower were all working. The final red flag was that he had no credit card reader, but he would gladly do an “e-transaction”, if I would just tell him my bank account information. Hmm, where have I heard this before? I bid him good night, and drove clear to London, where the Super 7 Motel had a fine room available, and there was a jacuzzi. I enjoy a bit of luxury, every so often, and this spa was made of marble, working perfectly.

Tomorrow, I will hopefully connect with a group of friends online, and look about London further, before heading towards Ottawa. Friends in Toronto have already said they are unavailable, so I will stay away from the metropolis this time. On both sides of the border, though, we are one team.

The Flow, and Going With It

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June 16, 2022, Mishawaka, IN- Someone just asked me, “Where the heck is Mishawaka?” It’s one of the “Tri-Cities” of north central Indiana, of which South Bend is the best known and Elkhart is the third member. Michigan City is not that far to the west, and the farming town of Goshen, a bit southeast of the Tri-Cities, could be a fifth member.

I’m here because a couple has graciously had me as an overnight guest, for four of the past five years, when the time for a journey to my home area, or somewhere else back east, has come. V and S, as I will call them, have been online friends and correspondents for many years. My visit here follows a general flow of getting settled, dinner, an evening walk and conversation in the living room. The topics range from the clothes shopping we endured, as children and teens, to the idiosyncrasies of HOA Boards.

Earlier in the day, I spent about ninety minutes at the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, IL., north of Chicago. The flow of spiritual thought and energy took the form of prayer and supplication for a variety of people and processes, from world peace, and the progress of our local communities, to the progress of the souls of a fellow Baha’i and of a childhood friend, both of whom passed on this week.

Then came lunch time, and the short drive to Wilmette’s village center was tempered by the understanding that the community’s children were everywhere, on bikes. I drive cautiously, especially in residential areas, so this feature was delightful, not a nuisance-as some would have it. The energy and presence of mind brought by large groups of kids, gathered at the movie theater, and various other parts of the center, is something I have missed, over the past two decades, with so much concern over safety-as valid as that is.

The flow of traffic, along trusty old I-94, has its reliable bottlenecks: The Madison Squeeze, as I call it, from the Madison Street offramps to the I-290 intersections near the Chicago Loop; and the area from Chicago Heights and Harvey to the I-80/90 intersection, near Gary. There is not much that can be done about the former, but the latter does have “an out”: U.S. 6 to IN 19 and back onto I-94, past the aforementioned bottleneck. It saved me twenty minutes, even with the stoplights on U.S. 6 and the mildly annoying young man who zipped in front of me, intending to make a left turn, where there was none, and zipped back out into the inside lane, where, thankfully, there was no other vehicle going about normal business.

The rest of the drive to Mishawaka flowed quite nicely, thank you.

The Joyful Missionary

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June 15, 2022, Chicago- The tiny, well-attired lady called out to me, as I was getting ready to write down my fuel information, after filling up this morning, in Rolla, MO. She had a few hand-drawn hearts and a yellow cross, along with three free-verse prayers she had written down. I gave her a small amount of money for the yellow cross, which will be part of a gift to a friend. She explained she was going to Indianapolis. Dressed in Mennonite garb, and with a spirit that could light up any room, she definitely made my day even more pleasant than it had already been.

I enjoyed breakfast with my southwest Missouri paternal cousin, going over past and present happenings in our large brood. There are five aunts, about 42 cousins and all of our offspring (probably numbering 100+), on my father’s side. Mom’s family likely is close to that number as well. After a delightful hour or so of catch-up, at a small cafe called Granny Lee’s, I had a smooth drive through the Ozarks, around St. Louis and on up through Illinois.

A few accidents, especially a roll-over in the opposite direction, led to a most disturbing traffic jam across the highway, from just west of Rolla to a point ten miles east of town. I have been in a few of those tie-ups, so my heart definitely went out to those who were stuck. I am also concerned for the people affected by the floods in Yellowstone and the surrounding towns and those in Flagstaff, dealing with yet another fire. Given the capricious nature of disaster, this year, I have my Red Cross attire and credentials with me, just in case.

I am now in Chicago, at an underrated, but comfortable and clean motel called the Edgebrook, on West Touhy. This makes two nights in a row, of fine accommodations (Carthage Inn, in Carthage, MO is also worth the modest charge.) I am always glad to cap a long drive and encounters with nice people by getting a good night’s rest.

The Sooner State’s Northern Tier

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June 14, 2022, Carthage, MO- “Hugs” helped me get up this morning, and we both got friend John out the door, a bit earlier than might otherwise have been the case. No worries, as I used all the time given me, going across Oklahoma’s northern tier and J had time to do what he needed to do for his own health and well-being.

We started as we usually do, on such visits, with a breakfast sandwich from a gas station deli and coffee at Da Vinci, Enid’s premier coffee house chain. After conversation with John and one of his friends, it was time to head east again. This time, I stayed on Route 60, eastbound, as far as the turnoff to Neosho, MO, which was a bit further south than I wanted to go today.

Passing through towns like Pond Creek, Lamont, Tonkawa, Ponca City, Pawhuska, Bartlesville, Nowato and Vinita, I was struck by the increasing greenery-even though I have been through this area dozens of times. The difference today was that there was no Turnpike involved. I was able to enjoy the back side of the northern tier.

Ponca City has preserved the properties associated with Oklahoma’s tenth governor, Ernest Whitworth Marland, who was also a philanthropist, having made a fortune in the oil industry, but seeing no point in hoarding the money. His view of wealth was to spend it “like water on my people and my town (Ponca City).” The mansion and estate he shared with his gracious and socially passionate wife, Lydie, are now managed by Ponca City.

Here are some scenes of the mansion and grounds. The Marlands’ adopted son, George, is depicted here, greeting guests as they walk in from the parking lot.

‘Abdu’l-Baha identified philanthropy as the fourth means to spiritual progress. Mr. Marland’s record of contributing, both to the welfare of his employees and to the well-being of Oklahoma’s people, is a worthy counterweight to the seeming largesse he expended on his family and himself. He seemed to have transcended the distrust for the common man that was vocalized by his mentor, Andrew Carnegie, and he actively called for “bringing the New Deal to Oklahoma. In the wake of the Dust Bowl calamity, the state needed those programs, perhaps even more than many places in the coastal regions.

Wealth is not a negative attribute, when it is shared responsibly.

The Harder the Resistance…

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June 13, 2022, Enid- I woke up nicely, in Gallup, though a bit groggy at first, after an interesting dream. In it, I was in a cabin, near what appears to be Badger Peak, just east of Prescott. There a Maine Coon cat which was my companion. I went outside to the outdoor shower, and when I came back, the kitty had been joined by a mountain lion, which paid me scant attention, as he was just sitting and looking out the window, much as a house cat might. I went out again and was hiking towards Prescott, on the Turley Trail. A rather large serval cat was following me, which was odd, as these cats are native to North Africa. Odder still, the serval was joined by others, who were led by a wolf, and they encircled me, closing in slowly but surely. Of a sudden, a growl and a crash through the brush produced the mountain lion, which first took out the wolf, biting him in the neck, then decimated several of the servals, causing the others to flee in panic. The dream ended with the lion, the Maine Coon and me, back in the cabin.

I had a nice, if long, drive to Enid today. It started with a delectable red chili burrito, one of the best I’ve ever had, in over thirty five years in the Southwest, at Glenn’s Bakery, on Gallup’s Near West Side. From there, after I bumbled along Santa Fe Avenue for a bit, I was headed east on I-40. A few construction projects (part of the New Mexico Governor’s highway improvement initiative) met me here and there, through Tucumcari. There was also a small dust storm near Milan, in the Black Rock country around Grants. Otherwise, it was clear sailing, from Gallup through Tucumcari, and on up through the Texas Panhandle to Dalhart and over to Woodward, just west of here. I took lunch at a rest stop near Wagon Wheel, watching a little girl who appeared confused and a rather scruffy individual who was watching her as well. The girl made her way safely to her mother’s side and the other individual went back to his truck. My monitoring role remained just that.

Late in the evening, I arrived at the home of John Glaze, a longtime friend here in Enid. His new dog, a rescue blue healer named “Hugs”, let me know, really fast, that my welcome would have to be earned. After being discouraged from snarling, by John, a few treats from me and John’s cat jumping up on my lap for some petting, “Hugs” changed his tune.

This brings me to the title of this post. Whenever one tries to do something big, or novel, there is resistance-usually from the powers that be. Note that, after the resignation of Richard Nixon from the Presidency, in 1974, the lords of finance and industry struck back with a vengeance, leading to the price increases and stock market declines that were dubbed “stagflation” by Nixon’s successor, Gerald R. Ford, and which bedeviled the tenure of Ford’s successor, Jimmy Carter. The Big Dogs got their wish, in 1980, with the election of Ronald Reagan.

I see the same thing happening now. Price increases, coupled with stock market declines-both seeming to be irreversible-except they aren’t. Even the Great Depression came to an end, because no one, no matter how self-important or greedy they are, individually or as a group, can destroy a society. The Big Dogs are doing nothing so much as shooting themselves in the feet, sowing the seeds of their own downfall, more than causing the permanent impoverishing of the common people.

I, and people like me, will continue to follow our hearts and do what we need to do. If most, or all, of our financial resources are stolen from us, we will generate new resources and keep on with what we are doing. I get this resolve from my maternal grandfather, who was told by the bankers, in the thick of the Great Depression, that they would soon own his house and his car. He never gave them either. My grandmother, and her fourth son, after she died, kept the house in the family name-until he died in 1994. His widow sold the house, of her own volition. It is still in private hands. The car was sold after Papa died, but only because Grandma never learned to drive. He taught his children: “Never give the puppet masters what they demand. God, alone, deserves our fealty.” That lesson was passed on to all of us grandkids.

Tomorrow, my journey will be relatively short- Enid to Sarcoxie, MO, where a paternal cousin and her family await.

Setting The Tone

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June 12, 2022, Gallup- There are, in every conversation, in every gathering of souls, a host of meanings that can be gleaned. Two online meetings today set the tone for my latest venture forth. In the morning, five of us focused on the progression of man, through stages of development and the notion, advanced by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, that there are seven means to reaching one’s true station, which is to carry over into the next life:  “First, through the knowledge of God. Second, through the love of God. Third, through faith. Fourth, through philanthropic deeds. Fifth, through self-sacrifice. Sixth, through severance from this world. Seventh, through sanctity and holiness.”-‘Abdu’l-Baha, “The Divine Art of Living”,Section 3, #10.

For simplicity’s sake, one can substitute whatever term you wish to use in reference to the Supreme Being, for God. The quest is essentially the same process. Knowing and loving that which you determine to be Supreme is essential for any sort of meaningful personal growth. Faith, the third element, should not be blind, but based on that knowledge and love, coupled with the understanding that one has a measure of responsibility for one’s own advancement. Thus the dictum: “God helps those who help themselves.”. The other four means will be discussed in the next several posts.

In the afternoon, seven spiritual leaders, representing three Christian denominations, Judaism, Buddhism, Sufi Islam and Baha’i, offered essentially congruent views on Race Amity. It is obvious to all people of good will and peaceful intent that Mankind is One. There are differences of opinion, thankfully not part of that meeting, with regard to the events of the past and current responsibility for further progress in Race Amity. While we move away from strict adherence to the “Melting Pot” concept, it is useful to recognize that we do have many things in common-not just as Americans, but as Humans. It is also wise, we all concluded, to celebrate each person’s, and each culture’s, uniqueness.

With that, it was back to the mundane world of packing and loading the car. I was off, from Prescott, around 4:30. At 6:15, a brief stop at Homolovi State Park, north of Winslow, let me discharge a cultural obligation, returning a small object that Penny had been given, years ago, to the ground from whence it came.

With the tone thus set for a spiritual and socially-connected journey, I headed for this old mining town, and settled in at Colonial Motel for the evening. Looking in the mirror, of my room, I saw why the clerk was a bit unnerved by my presence- sunscreen had not been properly rubbed in and was smeared in spots along my ears and face. Then, too, what’s left of my hair was all over the place. I could have auditioned for the role of a goblin in “Labyrinth”! Oh, well. The room is clean and comfortable, and it’s time for a rest.

Heat Haze

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June 11, 2022- As I walked around the Farmers’ Market today, I was struck by the fact that people I’ve known for eleven years seemed oddly disconnected. A friend who was with it figured the others were just struggling with the heat, which always seems worse, just before the monsoons hit. As a nearby community had rain in buckets, yesterday, this makes a fair amount of sense.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the hottest of days, then it is forecast that the area will see a slight decrease in temperature. I would not be surprised if I drive into rain, tomorrow afternoon, on the first leg of a journey east and north. There are many who either have, or are, embarking on journeys of this type. One said he is doing this to stick it to the “Big Dogs”, who he sees as simultaneously jacking up gas prices and selling off large amounts of stock. That seems a bit simplistic, but nothing surprises me anymore.

I do agree with him, that we need not ask permission of anyone, before following our inner promptings. At the same time, one has to keep an eye on reality and be happy with as much of those inner promptings as may be successfully realized. There is always a reason why some goals must be left for a later date. For example, my original plan to visit Newfoundland was made in 2013, but other concerns took precedence, that summer. I had a plan to try again to visit that island, in 2020, and we all know what got in everyone’s way then. This year seems like the right time, and I will still be happy with wherever I manage to get.

The Universe and spirit guides point us in a certain direction, but it is our own purity of motive that will get us there and back. I pray to not be misdirected by the haze of a hot temper or foggy logic.

“The Crypt is Breached”

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June 10, 2022- I did not watch the live broadcast of last night’s January 6 Committee hearings, preferring to wait until this morning, and viewing the key elements on You Tube. One of the most disturbing points involved the storming of the Crypt, below the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, and it was largely downhill from there. The Washington’s Tomb was not disturbed was most fortunate-and all the more so was the fact that ALL members of Congress, their staffs and the Vice President of the United States were kept out of harm’s way.

I do not discriminate against anyone, for their ideology, any more than for physical attributes, creed, sexual orientation or anything that the media might seek to use to foment discord. Those on the far right are as human as those on the far left, and anywhere in between. I cannot, and will not, however, excuse violence-especially on the order that took place on January 6, 2021-or for that matter, at various points during the summer prior.

While I also do not condone cheating in the electoral process, I also recognize that some will go to excessive lengths to re-work numbers and make it look like their side won, even when after two dozen audits, only about a dozen or so violations, at the local levels exclusively, have been unearthed.

I do not condone removing the rights and freedoms of one group of people, so that the rights of others can be preserved. Here’s the thing, though: Except in the minds of demagogues-and those of their most deluded followers, this need not happen in the United States of America-anymore. Freedom is not a zero-sum game. Lower and middle class whites should not lose their freedoms, but by the power of their own misdeeds. African-Americans, Latinos, First Nations members, Asian-Americans and anyone else “of colour”, likewise deserve the same freedoms, and should not lose these, but by the power of their own misdeeds.

We will all see what transpired, on January 6 and in the weeks and months both before and after it, in the hearings that take place over the coming weeks. The wheels of justice, whose gears grind in a way that makes frozen molasses seem like Niagara Falls in June, will eventually get the mission done, maybe even within the tenure of the current Attorney General. As my late father-in-law often remarked: “Hope springs infernal”.

My hope for all is that each of you do more thinking before acting than was done by anyone who breached the Capitol building and grounds, on that cold, sad day.