Fortnight of Transition, Day 7: Evolution

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September 15, 2020-

Today marks the midpoint of September and the midpoint of this fortnight. My mood has been, variously, one of gratitude, at having been given another day’s work, which was not strenuous-just being present for three classes of college-level students and a forty-minute lunch monitoring; then, a bit of befuddlement, at reading an e-mail from someone who is of the opinion that the Baha’i Faith does not allow for human evolution.

In fact, human evolution is one of the cornerstones of our Faith. Without knowing what the individual’s definition of evolution is, I can’t rightly respond, but ‘Abdu’l-Baha points out: “Man is endowed with an outer or physical reality. It belongs to the material realm, the animal kingdom, because it has sprung from the material world. This animalistic reality of man he shares in common with the animals. The human body is like animals subject to nature’s laws. But man is endowed with a second reality, the rational or intellectual reality; and the intellectual reality of man predominates over nature. . . . Yet there is a third reality in man, the spiritual reality.” (`Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, 51)

So, feeling better after a pleasant dinner and a bit of exercise, I leave the questioning soul to self and ask God to be their guide. I do feel that our third, spiritual, reality is coming that much more to the fore. Some call it the Fifth Dimension and I can sense a much stronger connection with people, in a purely “thought-wave” manner, these days.

May the second half of September, and this fortnight of transition, bring more of a modicum of peace to more people.

Little Stuff

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May 16, 2020-

As I have thrown some very lengthy “shares” on my other social medium, I will keep this brief and just mention a few things that come to mind, as the night progresses.

I haven’t seen the Moon, in its waning phase, this month.  Turns out, it rises at 2 a.m. and sets when it’s mid-afternoon.  I do, however, go outside and meditate under the stars, before calling it a night.

My computer desk is something of an altar.  Penny appears in three photos. My singing bowl is right in front of me.  A family heirloom Buddha, which my father-in-law brought back from Paris, in 1945, sits atop the mantle, next to a hand-carved wooden soldier, modeled after the ones in Nutcracker Suite.   A photo of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and one of our son bookend the mantle.

I planted my four vegetables, this afternoon, adding  granulated organic food scraps to the soil and spraying animal repellent around the area.  Javelina tend to come in the yard, during the night, so I want to get them accustomed to not liking the scent of the yard.

Now, it’s time to change course and say goodnight to the laptop.  Books have their turn, in my wind-down.

 

No Stones Unturned

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April 24, 2020-

“To whom much is given, much is expected.”  I have heard this since childhood, and know that it has applied to me, more often than not.  It has given rise to two key aspects of my personality:  Owning my mistakes and never walking away from a fight.

The first has led me to admit, readily, when I’m wrong, even if it has meant the loss of a job.  That admission has then propelled me to look into WHERE I went wrong and to investigate further into the issue at hand.  When called out, I have to recognize where the critic is correct, but also not take either the information that is being challenged or the critic’s position at face value.  It has quite often ended up with the silver lining of the truth being uncovered.  As ‘Abdu’l-Baha once wrote:  “The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.”

Standing up to someone who is more aggressive has been ingrained in me, since childhood.  I did walk away, once, from a beat down, when I was in VietNam. That was a matter of not walking into something that would have been detrimental to both me and the individual who was seeking the confrontation.  I would have suffered possible head injuries and he, being on thin ice with the military brass, would have looked at a long stretch in Leavenworth.  He eventually realized that, after a period of harping on my refusal to engage in a bare-knuckled fist fight.

That was an anomaly.  What was consistent is that I didn’t run away crying.  I never have.  Back in Saugus, that would only have brought more trouble down on my head.  Life since then has been much the same.  I’ve had a lot of positive experiences in life, because of  being willing to stand up to aggression. In the process, also, many innocents have been spared-especially when helping abused children speak truth to power.

I think about these tonight, in working to get to the bottom of  some rather deep controversies being sparked by the words of our president-and of some of his critics.  Both sides are tossing brickbats.  I will get hit by some of those, but have no choice other than to go about finding the truth.

Another Cusp, and A Lobster Tale

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October 28, 2019-

Today begins  yet another cusp, of another revolution around the Sun.  This coming year is significant, in that it is the last year of my seventh decade.  People  warned me that 68 would be the year that health challenges would surface.   They haven’t.  Maybe because of my personal regimen, and open-mindedness to the suggestions of friends and family,  the overall state of my physical frame has actually been better this year, than last.

When a cusp begins, the month before my birthday, I start to think of goals, and changes I might make.  One change is the way I sit, and for how long.  Someone has suggested using 135 degrees as good posture, when having to sit at length.  A thirty minute limit to any one sitting session has also been suggested-which works everywhere except in a theater or on a long road trip, or flight.  In those cases, every 1-2 hours works better.

Another change is to think even more out of the box than I have been.  This, of course, will give my critics fits, as they already roll their eyes at unconventional things I do and say, but no matter.  I will need to be even more flexible, with regard to my schedule and commitments, over the next several months, than has been the case in the past several years.

Now,  let’s get to the lobsters.  In his work on “Twelve Rules for Life”, the psychologist Jordan Peterson begins by describing the behaviour of lobsters.  The crusty crustaceans have a hierarchy.  There are ten levels, with the alpha lobster having a high level of serotonin, which leads the animal to maintain an erect, well-balanced posture and the low creature in the hierarchy having low serotonin, but a high level of octopamine, which leads it to splay its limbs and slump around- in other words, to be a low-achieving lobster slacker.

The implications for us human animals is fairly clear.  Seratonin is huge, for those of us who want to feel strong and be taken seriously.  If it affects posture, then let’s have more of what the singer John Mayer calls “a serotonin overflow”.  See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81yl_76s7jA.

I would prefer not to depend, though, on a romance, or a respite from daily life, to provide me with the juice that affords me with  respect from self and others. Towards that end, as with other health-related matters, let food be my medicine, as has been said by wise men, from Hippocrates (and probably the ancients who preceded him) to ‘Abdu’l-Baha. https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/foods-that-could-boost-your-serotonin.  More attention to posture is also in the offing.

I will have more to say about Jordan Peterson’s “Twelve Rules”, over the next several days.

Letting Go; Not Giving Up

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November 26, 2018, Prescott-

This day is to honour  ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Who guided the Baha’i Faith, from the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, on May 29, 1892 to His own  passing, on November 28, 1921. It is called the Day of the Covenant, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha symbolized the agreement between Baha’u’llah and His followers.  He explained much of His Father’s Revelation to us.

‘Abdu’l-Baha suffered, physically, for much of His life on Earth.  He came to North America and Europe, from 1911-13, visiting many major cities, and maintained a schedule that would have been daunting for someone half His age.

He made this journey when He was between the ages of 67-69. As I will turn 68, in a few days, I have to admire His fortitude.  The example set was a strong one, and was derived from both detachment and commitment, in equal balance.

An example came when He was in San Francisco, and it was requested by some Baha’is in Los Angeles, that He visit their city. Bear in mind that this was in 1912, and there were costs involved that seemed insurmountable.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha did not impinge on anyone, in meeting His expenses.  He at first told the Los Angeles friends that He would not be able to make the journey, though it caused Him great sorrow.  A short time afterward, though, money was found. ‘Abdu’l-Baha and His entourage made the train trip south to Los Angeles and spent a day or so there, specifically visiting the grave of the first American to declare his faith in Baha’u’llah.  That man’s name was Thornton Chase.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha showed that, by letting go, a person gives the Divine, the Universe, room to muster its energy and bring things to fruition.

I have been in many situations, including this year, where it has been prudent to let go of plans and expectations, and to move with the flow of energy.  These situations have, in the long run, not hampered my well-being and have actually helped to purify my life.  There will be others, I’m certain, as this year winds down and subsequent years unfold.  I can rely on the example set by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, in pondering my reaction to the changes that are in store.

Monster, Part II

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January 16, 2018, Prescott-  Dolores O’Riordan had a powerful voice, calling out those who exacerbated tension and bloodshed, in her Irish homeland and appealing to those who take the feelings of loved ones lightly, to think deeply about their choices in life.

I’m thinking of her,now, in the wake of an untimely passing and on the heels of some very harsh judgments, flying in all manner of directions.  Dolores both made rash judgments and received quite a few, over a 25-year public career.  She made amends for the former and absorbed the latter, as many of us do, in similar straits.  I find her music compelling, regardless.

The ego leads us into horrible choices, even among those who have dedicated their lives to the welfare of humanity.  I have made plenty of my own, and I know of many others who have, as well.  In each case, there are people who could come forward and point fingers.  We’ve seen quite a bit of that, lately, and in most cases, the accused could probably stand to make amends, if they have not already been made.

The ego leads us, also, to set conditions on our love for others.  Christ says:

Matthew 5:43-48
“You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends.

If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about that? Don’t even unbelievers do that? But you must always act like your Father in heaven.”  (CEV)

Baha’u’llah says

“Now is the time to cheer and refresh the down-cast through the invigorating breeze of love and fellowship, and the living waters of friendliness and charity.”
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 7) , and, through His eldest son and interpreter, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, He admonishes us:

“The greatest gift of man is universal love – that magnet which renders existence eternal. It attracts realities and diffuses life with infinite joy. If this love penetrate the heart of man, all the forces of the universe will be realized in him, for it is a divine power which transports him to a divine station and he will make no progress until he is illumined thereby. Strive to increase the love-power of reality, to make your hearts greater centers of attraction and to create new ideals and relationships. First of all, be ready to sacrifice your lives for one another, to prefer the general well-being to your personal well-being. Create relationships that nothing can shake; form an assembly that nothing can break up; have a mind that never ceases acquiring riches that nothing can destroy. If love did not exist, what of reality would remain? It is the fire of the love of God which renders man superior to the animal. Strengthen this superior force through which is attained all the progress in the world.”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 111-112)

Satan, the personification of the  dark aspects of the ego, is clever, as the human mind is clever.  It can get a person to do and say the most heinous of things, even in the name of the Lord.  It can make a person fear those who mean no harm, and embrace those ready to apply a dagger to the back.  It can lull a soul into complacency, whilst raising the hackles of another, leading to lost spiritual growth, in each of them.  It leads to disease, contention and strife.  Yet, this is not some one of the supernatural dark forces, being summoned, (though these do exist).  It is the power of a person’s own ego, or of the collective ego, manifest in a community.  The time is now, to work at channeling our egos towards love, and away from self-aggrandizement.

I have said enough, for now, and will have more to say about love, in an upcoming post.

 

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LVI: Return to Down East, Part 1- Green Acre

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July 16, 2017, Eliot, ME-

I had anticipated visiting relatives, outside the immediate family, today.  I just was not sure which ones.  Last night, I got a message from a long-lost cousin, saying that he couldn’t meet with me this time around, but would I please consider visiting his mother, my paternal aunt, on her birthday.

It’s been 28 years, since I last set foot in the State of Maine.  My last visit there didn’t go very smoothly, and I have been embarrassed to return to the last place I stayed.  This time, though, I was determined to make it a good day.

I started out at Green Acre Baha’i School, located  in Eliot, just over the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, NH.  The property, once owned by a spiritualist, was deeded to the Baha’i Faith by Sarah Farmer, after ‘Abdu’l-Baha visited the property, in 1912, and told Ms. Farmer that he foresaw a great center of learning rising there.

It is, at present, a vibrant place of spiritual education, and Green Acre has forged strong ties with the surrounding communities.  I spent about two hours there, before heading up to York.  A high point is always visiting the room where ‘Abdu’l-Baha stayed, during his visit.

Here are some scenes of Green Acre:

The first building that greets the visitor is a large classroom center.

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The administration building and registrar’s office is located diagonally across the street.

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The administrator’s residence is next to the registrar’s office.

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Overlooking it all is the majestic Sarah Farmer Inn.  Students in the various programs, which are generally a week or two in length, stay in this Victorian establishment.

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One may walk down to the banks of the Piscataqua River, across which is Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s only seaport

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The Great Lawn offers a sweeping view of the campus.

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Back in the Sarah Farmer Inn, I recalled having sat and meditated in the parlour, on a previous visit.

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Upstairs, one may pray and meditate in the room where ‘Abdu’l-Baha stayed.  After  I had done so, with three other people praying in the room, it was most prudent to take this photo, from outside the room itself.

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Upon leaving the Sarah Farmer Inn, I was informed that there was a picnic and barbecue outside, which I promptly joined.  A pleasant meal of chicken and several vegetarian dishes, and a chance meeting with friends from Arizona made for a fine ending to this short visit.

I had gathered both nutritional and spiritual sustenance, which would carry me safely onward, eventually back to Arizona.  This day, however, would bring further joys into view: Stonewall Kitchen, where my aunt works; Old York; York Harbor and the Mason Preserve, and a nice little gathering, in auntie’s honour.  Stay tuned.

 

Rubicon

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August 14, 2016, Prescott- I remarked to some collaborators-in-faith, this morning, that I have scrapped plans for most travel outside North America, until at least 2021. (South Korea, where my son is to be stationed, next year, being an exception.)  There were crickets in the room, so our discourse went on to things of more common interest.

Later today, I attended a gathering that was sponsored by Team Rubicon, the disaster recovery organization that is mostly made up of military veterans.  The very allusion to making a decisive and irreversible choice defines this group, whose impact is as great, if not greater than that of the Red Cross.  These are the people who remain behind, once the news cycle is over and the long-term work begins.  They choose to walk the celestial path, with practical feet. (‘Abdu’l-Baha admonished us Baha’is to do just that, in several speeches, when he visited North America, in 1912.)

I have plenty to do around here, during the academic year, and with regard to both my Faith and the needs of the larger community.  At 65 years, 8 months, it’s important to consider at least the seeds of legacy.  I’m in fine health, and I do want to continue with a full, contributive life.  Five years of gainful employment remain.  I will insist on actively taking part in the well-being of the Prescott area, both inside and outside my worksite.  Summers will still find me visiting friends and family, in various parts of this continent, starting with a second journey northwestward, next June. Christmas and New Year’s will still be marked by the presence of loved ones and good friends, both here and on the East Coast.  June, 2021 will still be the beginning of an extended journey to many parts of the globe, the only caveats being the needs of my son, any family he might have by then, and our larger family.

I will remain working to educate people on the Oneness of Mankind, on the need for an inquiring mind, and on the healing properties of Certified, Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, and the imperative of wellness.  My Rubicon was crossed, years ago, when Penny pointed me towards the mountain with a shimmering star above it.

 

Love, By The Numbers

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April 18, 2016, Prescott-

My youngest niece turns twenty-five today.  This, alone, makes it a good day, and I hope her nearest and dearest ones honour her in the best manner possible.  Twenty-five is not the marker of a “crisis” (as in “quarter-life crisis”), but is the affirmation of a good running start to full adulthood.

I think of all those I love, in various senses of the word. It has sometimes been a matter of bloodline; other times, it is from sheer association and observation, as with my students and counselees, many of my colleagues and most of my fellows-in-faith.  Then, there is Love 101, the seeing of “a stranger as a loving friend”, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha admonished us to see others.

By age 30, having long since let go of adolescent irritability, I had given up the concept of enmity, at least insofar as it pertained to a flesh-and-blood human being.  Some behaviours, I will always find inimical, but that is a topic for other venues.  People’s hearts can always change, and while we can, and should, be wary of those who have harmed us, or our loved ones, in the past, it is not ours to deny them the right to a change of heart.

At 65, I can hold no grudge, yet, nonetheless, expect those who have hurt others, to make serious amends.  With no apologies to Erich Segal, love DOES mean having to say you’re sorry.  Following that apology, though, love does exact some changes in behaviour, both great and small.  Yes, I hold myself to that same standard, whether forgiven by those I may have hurt, or not.

Love, one step at a time, is the secret to growth.

Highway 16

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January 1, 2016, Prescott-  Yes, I know it’s still 2015, here in the American West.  It’s New Year’s Day in Rouen, France, one of my ancestral homes.  It’s also 2016 in: Silesia, Poland; Bremen, Germany; and Tours, France- three of my other ancestral homes.  In 5 1/2 hours, the New Year will come to Old Town, Maine, where my Native American relatives still live.  I am starting to beat a dead horse.

I will use the road motif for this year’s posts, much as the Road took me to age 65.  Highways indicate assertiveness, clear vision and moving out with a purpose.  So I intend 2016 to be.

I came back to Home Base, yesterday, to find I have a financial issue to settle, and will tend to it next week.  In the meantime, bills and rent will get paid and I was, thankfully, able to fulfill a promise I made, last week, to help a sick friend.  My nest egg isn’t growing right now, but neither is anyone else’s, in Wall Street’s mad rush to sell anything that’s not nailed down.  My nest egg IS nailed , though, so the bears can just go back into hibernation.

Meanwhile, I am not hibernating.  The next three days will see me on one trail or another, as we enjoy crisp, clear weather.  The schools will be back in session next week, and I will be ready for whoever needs my services.  The certification process will take a bit longer- ADE doesn’t save transcripts, so those need to be re-sent, and my long-ago teaching internship host will need to verify that I did complete “practice teaching”- in Fall, 1975.  So, I see that process being successfully completed by the end of January.

My essential oils have benefited me, health-wise, and I will be at three conferences, this year, that focus on their promulgation.  This month, and June will find me in Boulder and September features an International Convention in Salt Lake City.

Travel in the summer will depend on how well I do, work-wise, this winter and spring.  A week or so in Reno/Tahoe, at the end of May, is a given.  Anything beyond that, though, remains to be seen.  In any case, the focus will be on time with friends, not on “Here’s Gary at yet another fabulous site!”  I never want the latter to be how all this is viewed.

Reading is still huge for me, and with the Kindle, an excellent library system and three nearby book shops, I will never run short of material. I am currently engrossed in “The Witches:  Salem, 1692”, Dick Van Dyke’s “Keep Moving”, “Terra in Cognita”, by a fellow Baha’i:  William Barnes, “Extreme Ownership”, and “The Dinosaur Heresies”.  My tack is to read at least ten pages of a book, then go to one of the others, and so on.

This year marks the Centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s initial offerings of “Tablets of the Divine Plan”.  I will have much more to say about this remarkable set of documents, during the course of the year.  Suffice it so say that, without the guidance I have received as a Baha’i, the person some in my family remember from long ago, and still think they see, would still be stumbling around- and I would not be blogging, to say the least.

This year also marks the Centenary of the National Park Service.  I will visit several National Park holdings in Arizona, and around the Southwest, in the course of this year.  Most certainly, my boots will meet some trails of the Grand Canyon, and Canyon de Chelly, for the first time in 18 years.

Most importantly, though, is WHO I am going to be in these next twelve months.  That will never be defined by anyone but yours truly.  To say otherwise would be to invite chaos.  Some, not far from here, want me to move nearer to them.  That is not happening.  Others would rather I stay as far away from them as possible.  So be it.  Any given decision could be resolved in at least seventy different ways.  The factors, for me, are these:  Service to those in need, especially children and youth; my own family’s well-being; my ability to fend for myself (I am not presently, nor will I be, a burden on anyone else); and, lastly, the overall circumstances of the world-at-large.

Happy 2016, one and all!