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.

The Force

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May 4, 2022- I spent a good part of last night, and today, going back over posts from 2011-13. The first purpose was to restore photographs on several posts, which had been removed, prior to my upgrading to a business account on Word Press. A bonus was that small errors in spelling and punctuation also were corrected. Anyone going to those sites now would see the photographs which had “disappeared”, although many of them leave something to be desired.

The whole purpose of going to this plan was so that I could have unlimited storage, which has been achieved. A fair question is: “What happens to my blogs when this life is done?” They will be, along with the Flickr albums and collections, handwritten journals and anything else of possible intellectual and social worth, given over to my family, with the possibility that the items of redeeming value might go on to serve as educational tools.

That said, there is a fairly long road ahead on this planet. It just makes sense to plan well ahead, in this area, as with any other matter of tangible assets.

Many have adopted a punning reference to May 4- borrowing a line from the Star Wars series of films and books: “May the Force be with you!” This fictional force has a real life counterpart, an actual spiritual/physical energy that, according to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, itself has

 "a mysterious power, far, far, far away
from the ken of men and angels. That invisible power is the cause of all
these outward activities. It moves the hearts. It rends the mountains. It
administers the complicated affairs of the Cause. It inspires the friends.
It dashes into a thousand pieces all the forces of opposition. It creates
new spiritual worlds. 
 This is a mystery of the Kingdom of Abha." 
                                'Abdu'l Baha.
                        - SW, Vol. 7, p. 34  

(SW refers to "Star of the West", a Baha'i Magazine of the Twentieth Century, in which the Writings and Speeches of 'Abdu'l-Baha, as well as the Writings of Baha'u'llah, were printed.)


People of Faith have recognized this power from the dawn of the human race.  Many have called it "magic".  Some physicists refer to it as the "God Particle".  None of us can completely understand the actual Force that, essentially, brought Creation into being.  We give the names God (and all linguistic variations of His Name), Supreme Being, Creator, Unknowable Essence and add our own spiritual energy towards bringing about desired outcomes in the affairs of this world-and for our loved ones who have passed on. 

So, when our attempts to explain the Force come up short, we turn to George Lucas, George RR Martin, JR Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, even (gasp) HP Lovecraft to explain it all.  As entertaining as the above writers and filmmakers may be, in the final analysis, only the Force Itself can make things clear. 

Thus, the Divine Messengers appear and do Their best to explain such matters.  Happy Fourth!

Metaphysical

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April 24, 2022- The imposing figure sat comfortably in his folding chair, and detailed the struggles which led him to his current career as a metaphysical healer. Metaphysics, essentially, is the process of first having an idea, then bringing it into fruition. It is conception, followed by manifestation. The healer described his once decrepit health, and the long process of meditation, natural supplement-taking and overall lifestyle changes that have restored him to a modicum of good health. While he is still exhausted at the end of a day and has to make choices as to activities, his countenance is robust and youthful, his intellect sharp and his demeanor energizing to all who are around him.

The notion of a spirit being able to manifest what is desired is an ancient one- Gautama Siddhartha, the Founder of Buddhism, said “When you truly want something and go after it, without limiting yourself with disbelief, the Universe will make it happen.” He also said ” All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” This sentiment would be repeated by Jesus the Christ: “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.”– Gospel according to Matthew 7:7 and by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, “The reality of man is his thought, not his material body. The thought force and the animal force are partners. Although man is part of the animal creation, he possesses a power of thought superior to all other created beings. “– Abdu’l-BahaParis Talks, pp. 17-18. Native American and African tribal traditions say the same thing.

The concept of transcendence, then, is an essential one. We must remember, also, as the healer above acknowledged, that the last step of any thought process is action. The Universe will present a soul with what is requested. It is up to the soul, to the spirit, to accept what is offered. Thus, it is a person’s duty to self to take what has been asked to have manifested and to use it in a manner conducive to the elevation of the soul.

I have a sense that he will long continue in healing himself and others. As for me, I look forward to similarly continuing to manifest what is beneficial both to myself and to all around me.

When A Trailer Is A Palace

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January 28, 2022, Marana, AZ- The short, solid and loquacious woman stood outside the trailer she shares with her oldest son. Her instructions to me were concise, clear and almost unending, from the time I let her know I was in the area to the time I bade them both farewell.

There are at least six mobile home parks in the area of Tucson where G and C live. They each make the best of life here, with G doing what she has done, as long as I’ve known her (which is nearly forty years): Teaching all who will listen about Baha’u’llah and His message. She is also a vibrant champion of Native American history and the legacy of the people.

When I arrived at the trailer park, this evening, I was directed, in short order, towards the resting place of two of G’s children. We spent a half hour or so, not worrying about the chilly wind-but paying homage to two brave souls, who were cut down before they had the chance to bring their talents to the service of humanity.

Once back at the trailer, I was reminded of the admonition of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, that the simplest of dwellings ought to be regarded with dignity and respect. In G’s room, I felt I was in a palace-and her presence was regal. I, who have managed to fill a three-room apartment with all manner of stuff, stood in awe of this humble woman, who has little-yet the place seemed altogether full. I was given small gifts that I will forever treasure.

One never knows how a day will end, even when much has been planned in advance. Today was a truly special one.

A Brief Look Backward

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December 31, 2021- Betty White chose an awkward time to leave, but it was her time. It was almost a fitting end to a year that took us up, down and sideways-and turned us every which way but loose. I don’t want to say that last one too loudly. We could use a few more years of Clint Eastwood being among us.

As it was, there were a number of people dear to my heart, some of renown and some not, who left this earthly plane in this year now itself winding down. My extended family whittled down, just a tad: My aunts-by-marriage-Sabina Kusch and Dorothy Madigan; Aunt Dorothy’s stepson, John-one of the cousins closest to me, over the years; Charlie Kusch, Jr., another cousin who made his friends and family laugh, much as his father did before him. Diane “Dee Dee” Bean- was the first girl I ever dated-not that it ever worked out. Richard “Dick” Dow, was a next door neighbour, from childhood, who kept his family home and his father’s business running, until he could scarcely move, himself. Two educators from my scholastic past, Anthony Struzziero and Eugene Hughes, both of whom I knew as fair-minded administrators. The bulk of the losses were fellows in Faith, Baha’i teachers, one and all: Val Latham, Jr., Gisela McCormick, John Eichenauer III, John Kolstoe, Joel Oron’a, Ethelene Crawford, Wilfred Smallwood, Donald Streets and Dwight Allen. I lost a car, and gained an SUV.

It was not a year defined by loss alone. A grand nephew, named Liam, came into our lives, early on. Strong new friendships emerged. I was able to return to California and Nevada, after a year’s hiatus. I made two long trips across country, both largely around the sale of our family home, and mother’s voluntary relocation. A week spent in Texas was a perfect springboard for my seventy-second year. I was able to pay respects to those fallen in the name of freedom, though not to the extent I might have. Still, time spent in north Tulsa and in Minneapolis was a step forward, for this one who preferred solitude, for so many years.

Our community has held its own against one or another viruses. As if to seem a strange return of normalcy-the flu is back. The nation resisted the temptation to default on democracy. Both major parties are learning that complacency is dying out among the masses-and a moribund attitude will not fly. We Baha’is paid homage to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, marking one hundred years since His passing-and renewing our commitments to live as He did. That renewed spark of Faith is finding its way to friends of other religious traditions as well-as witness the Baptism, on Christmas Eve, of a man who had found his fortunes sinking.

We did not master disaster, and there were far too many lives lost-in California, the Pacific Northwest, western Canada, Montana, Louisiana, Kentucky and Illinois. The latest conflagration, in Colorado, took no lives, but left another pair of communities with scenes out of a war movie. Two dozen other countries, from Mexico and Peru to Kenya and Indonesia, saw tragic losses in both infrastructure collapse and from the forces of nature. Then, there was/is Ethiopia, a country I only recently was hoping to visit in a year or two. Now, it is riven in pain, and we can only pray for sane attitudes to rise to the fore.

2021 will be history, in short order. How different the year that is thirteen minutes away will be, depends largely on how many of us have absorbed this year’s lessons-and to what degree.

“We are the messengers now.”

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December 12, 2021- Those words were spoken by actor Jonathan Roumie, who plays the role of Jesus the Christ, in the ongoing series “The Chosen”, in his commentary on the series’ Christmas special. He spoke, of course, as to the responsibility of Christians to bear witness to their Faith, in word and deed.

I extend that further, to all people of Faith. We Baha’is recently commemorated the Centenary of the Passing of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the only perfect exemplar we had, other than Baha’u’llah Himself-in terms of living our Faith, day to day. Every other person, in living memory, has their own struggles and challenges. That, however, can never be an excuse for lack of striving.

Like it or not, everything one does reflects on her/his professed creed. Even atheists, relying on Ethics as their credo, have a standard to uphold. I think of this each day, bringing myself to account-as to who I have helped and from whom I have turned aside. No one person can meet the needs of every outstretched hand, but there is the matter of at least showing them the Light.

If I am not growing, day by day, then what?

Musings On A Day of Rest

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November 18, 2021- As I was leaving the clinic yesterday, the nurse responsible for wrapping the stitched area with gauze and bandages had done a seamless, excellent job. She gave me instructions for carefully showering, not exercising or doing anything strenuous and leaving the covering on for at least 48 hours.

As I had more or less cleared my calendar of work, for today and tomorrow, this set of instructions seemed fortuitous. Although I tend to march to my own drummer, when it comes to following a regimen prescribed by a health professional, there is no question of adherence. It’s just nicer to be around, and fully functioning, for a while longer.

So, I sat inside most of the day, moving around enough so that I stayed relevant. There was the simple task of putting the trash barrels back. There was light food preparation. There was making sure the temperature on my water heater was raised (so that showers are no longer tepid). Most every other activity was mental: Planning Thanksgiving and the days around it, with my little family; sending out notifications for activities this weekend; watching a commemorative video about ‘Abdu’l-Baha, as the Centenary of His passing approaches (November 27).

Life is ever a trade-off. Tomorrow, at 4 p.m., the bandages will be carefully removed, and I will look to be the walking wounded for a week or two. That’s okay. The seasoned doctors and the nurses who tend, very carefully, to the varied needs of their patients deserve nothing but respect and appreciation, the kind that comes from following instructions; the kind that comes from not second-guessing and casting aspersions on their motivation. It’s all just another variation on the conviction that every person, from a student to a retired volunteer, who lives and works honestly, will have my support and encouragement.

Tomorrow will see a bit more activity, but this day was a good one-and productively healing.

The Struggle Was/Is No Hoax

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October 14, 2021, Albuquerque- The themes expressed in the New Mexico History Museum are common, in their presentation of the call for rectification of all that has been done wrong, between one group of people towards another, over the centuries. Simply put, there is no person, group of people, ethnicity or nation that has a corner on purity, kindness, love for the Earth, etc. Any time people feel backed into a corner, they lash out.

This is true, no matter how privileged and well-off people are, in actuality. “The reality of man is his thought”, said ‘Abdu’l-Baha, on His visit to Paris, in 1911. If a person feels that he is a victim, then no amount of explaining from someone else, even grounded in real time, will change the afflicted one’s perspective. it has to come from within. Before Europeans came to the Americas, there were times when the various Indigenous nations would quarrel and wage war. Usually, this was sparked by natural disaster, combined with population growth, resulting in scarcity. The influx of large numbers of people who came from other parts of the world, and who had different values and practices, did not exactly ease the situation.

The solution, though, is never to deny another person’s reality, as some intellectuals are trying to do with regard to social justice movements. The conservative who refers to the claims of a progressive as “that hoax”, and vice versa, brings no peace. Everyone has a piece of the truth, and deserves to at least be heard, so that the feeling of being backed into a corner does not arise. I came to this realization, again, after visiting the section of the New Mexico History Museum that deals with the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The rebellion succeeded, initially, because there was unity of purpose across the various Indigenous nations. It failed, in the end, both because that unity did not hold and because the victors did not see fit to treat Spanish civilians, especially women and children, in a humane manner. It was the generating of extreme negativity that sucked the energy out of the otherwise worthy campaign for relief and equanimity for maltreated Indigenous people.

The songwriter Pete Townshend warned, after experiencing callous behaviour from some attendees at the Woodstock Music Festival, in 1969, that “parting on the Left” could change to “parting on the Right”, in his song “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”. It happens when, as the initially victorious have so often found, their views on holding power turn out to be unimaginative, merely copying the practices of their former oppressors-and thus either paving the way for the return of those oppressors, as happened in the late Seventeenth Century, or worse, hard-wiring the succeeding generations in patterns of socially maladaptive behaviour.

I have paid close attention, especially lately, to the interactions of people, across ages and ethnicities, in the latest stages of COVID19. I have heard of incidents of line jumping and people flailing at each other, over masks vs. no masks. I saw nothing of the sort, anywhere in mask-mandated New Mexico, these past four days. People appear to be making an effort to get along, on a very basic level. even when, as one conservative friend said, they regard the mask mandate as inane.

Everyone’s struggle is real, and though that struggle does not become everyone else’s God-given burden, we can at least wish the bedraggled soul the best, and not actively make the onus heavier, by denying that it exists.

I left Santa Fe, around noon, after the museum visit, making brief stops in the artistic havens of Galisteo and Madrid, before settling in at the avant-garde, minimalist Monterey Motel, near Old Town, in this sprawling, but still rather charming metropolis on the Rio Grande.

Here are a few scenes of the day.

Learning, with some satisfaction, that the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has sufficient rock star status as to require a fair amount of advance planning, before a visit, I made a note to wait until next time.

After leaving Santa Fe, a drive to quiet, artistic Galisteo introduced this adobe church: Our Lady of the Cures.

En route from Galisteo to the artist community of Madrid, I drove past some badlands.

Once in Madrid, I found this little gem, in the Gypsy Plaza. Mr. Shugarman carefully packaged two of his signature chocolate bark squares, for my gradual enjoyment. He also ships his wares, so some beloved friends may expect an occasional surprise, direct from Madrid.

Madrid, on the east side of Sandia Crest, is another reason for me to return to northern New Mexico, soon. After tending to a critical business matter in uptown Albuquerque, I settled into Monterey Motel, about two blocks west of Old Town. The avant-garde ambiance was welcome this evening.

The Slow Healing

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June 24, 2021, Carson City- Several years ago a person, who claimed to be an adherent to the belief in Progressive Revelation, nonetheless made comments about people needing to be “in their place”. At the time, I just agreed to disagree, quietly sensing that time and circumstance would change that person’s heart.

My father, a fervent believer in the free enterprise system and in the right of individuals to make, and live with, their own choices in life, passed those beliefs on to the four of us who were of competence. I give a bit more leeway to non-capitalist systems, provided they avoid the top-down authoritarianism, to which most Marxist nations have subscribed; but I digress.

At the meeting I attended today, the very same group, who years ago acquiesced to the notion described in the first paragraph, had advanced, by leaps and bounds, to a place of broader mindedness-recognizing the imperative that society embrace all of its ethnicities and show more compassion towards immigrants.

Thus is the way of healing. Thus goes the path to true reconciliation. As a kindergartner cannot, customarily, comprehend calculus, so can a person raised in a largely homogeneous environment not, without a full-range of life experiences, comprehend the vastness of humanity’s variations. A well-read person can appreciate this multivariance, to some degree, and one who is truly well-traveled, who has mingled with many different nations and ethnicities, can appreciate it even more. The basis, the foundation, for such understanding, however, is set in childhood and cemented by experiences in adolescence and young adulthood. It requires a solid spirituality, albeit of the person’s own choosing. Otherwise, the healing that one must undergo, later in life, is a slow, tortuous and sometimes painful path.

The gathering this evening was a vindication of all that Baha’u’llah teaches us, in His Writings, and all that ‘Abdu’l-Baha showed us, by the example of His life. The group will now find its way to a very special place, as will any person, or group of people, who embrace the healing.

The Past Prologue and The Fulfillment Ahead

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January 1, 2021

The year just passed has given us a few gifts, as well as having taken some treasures from us. Chief among the gifts is the ability to conduct mass meetings online. This will ease active participation in Baha’i activities, regardless of where I happen to be.

It is a poorly-kept secret that, if it be the will of God (and the creek stays within its banks), I will be back on the road, and in the air, for a fair portion of the next four years. Prescott will remain Home Base, at least for this year. There is much for me to do here, and in the Southwest at large, between now and the middle of May. The stage was set, as it were, by callings I received and followed in the 2010s.

So 2021, any larger issues notwithstanding, is looking like this:

January– The agenda set by response to the pandemic will probably find me continuing to help out in the schools on a fair number of days. Involvement with a regional sustainability group will also be a priority. Then, there is a little group that meets each Wednesday at 1 p.m. (MST), and which has my heart’s attention. I will be on the trail, looking at a couple of extensions of Black Canyon Trail, northward from the original trailhead, outside Mayer; finishing Limekiln Trail, with the Sedona segments; and spending time in Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Desert Preserve. There is also the homefront downsizing: Paper-shredding and discarding of unnecessary belongings will begin this month and extend into next.

February- It’s likely that COVID-19 will factor into this month as well, in terms of being asked to help out in the schools. I already have agreed to a four-day stint, in mid-month. Hiking will take me to the Hualapai Mountains, of northwest Arizona and to Picketpost Mountain, outside Superior. Ayyam-i-Ha, the Baha’i Intercalary Days, will find me preparing hand-made gifts, for the first time since I made a bird house in Grade 8. These won’t be that elaborate, but will be done carefully, and from the heart.

March- It will have been ten years, since Penny passed on, March 5. I will invite other friends to join me at graveside, on that day. This is also the month of the Baha’i Nineteen Day Fast, and although I am no longer required ot abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, having reached the age of 70, my thoughts and actions will be in support of those who are abstaining. I will also make a road trip to Texas, in the middle of the month. Hiking will include a first visit to Phoenix’s South Mountain Park.

April- The Festival of Ridvan marks the twelve days of Baha’u’llah’s preparation for His second exile-from Baghdad to Istanbul (then called Constantinople) and His Declaration of Mission, during that twelve-day period. It also ends a Five-Year Plan we have been following, and begins a twelve-month celebration of the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, as November will mark the Centenary of His Ascension. Much of my activity, this month, will revolve around these events. Hiking will take in the Hermit’s Rest area of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and parts of Sycamore Canyon, which runs south of Flagstaff and east of Sedona.

May- Preparations for the summer and autumn will occupy much of this month. Hopefully, New Mexico will re-open itself to us Arizonans, and I will spend a few days at Chaco Culture Historical Park. If California is open, and safe, by then, a visit to the coast will be in order,

June- If Bellemont Baha’i School is open for in-person groups, I will devote this month to that endeavour. If not, then I will make an early drive northwest-to my soul families in Nevada and Oregon, as well as to Vancouver Island, Haida Gwai’i (The one place Penny wanted to visit together, that has not happened yet) and British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast-north of the City of Vancouver.

July- The Plan B for June will fall into this month, if Bellemont is open. Otherwise, I will head east through Canada, and visit as many family members and friends, en route to and around Boston, as have time.

August– Atlantic Canada will take up part of this month, then it’s back southward and westward, again visiting family and friends along the way.

September and October– Take care of some necessary business in Arizona, spend quality time with Texas family and then off to Europe, with Iceland a first stop. This journey will also be oriented towards the ancestral home of my mother’s family, in what is now western Poland, with other stops in Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, northern Italy and France. A few stops in the British Isles are also possible.

November- This month will be devoted to specific community and regional celebrations, in Arizona, of Abdu’l-Baha’s life.

December- This will be whatever my family wants it to be.

These plans are what my meditations have told me, as of today. Recalling that last January, I was fully intending to do a cross-Canada journey in the summer, I will simply accomplish as much as reality on the ground allows.

May all have a Happier 2021!