Priorities, and Mayhem

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October 14, 2020-

Some have watched the hearings on Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Others actually bothered to read the New York Post’s alarm-bell piece about Hunter Biden (who would NOT likely have any role in his father’s still-possible presidential administration). Then, there is the back and forth, in our Arizona state government, about when would be a good date to end voter registration for the upcoming election.

None of these three processes are near the top of my attention focus, right now. I would have a huge problem with the Roberts Court curtailing any of the civil rights given us, by its predecessor courts, to wit: The tenures of Chief Justices Warren, Burger and Rehnquist, as well as, to a limited degree, Mr. Roberts himself. Amy Barrett reminds me of former Justice Anthony Kennedy-with a lot of Justice Scalia thrown in-so we all need to be vigilant, about both the appeal of judicial backsliding on human rights (The Koch Manifesto is likely on her shelf) and taking her at her word about keeping the Law above her personal predilictions. My fervent hope is that she keeps, front and center, what kind of world she wants for all five of the children she and her husband are raising. They may not fare all that well, in a world dominated by the mayhem of One-Percenters Gone Wild.

The less said about Hunter Biden, the better. At the very least, it is a case of Pots calling Kettles black, writ large. I wish everyone well, so long as they are playing by the rules of the game, but being the flip side of the same coin does not afford the Trumps the right to throw shade on their opposite numbers.

States where elected officials see the handwriting on the wall have made various efforts at voter suppression. There has been scuttlebutt about ballot harvesting, and thus far, little fire has been detected under that smoke. Setting a registration deadline of 2 1/2 weeks before an election, as our Secretary of State has done, seems reasonable. A month ahead, as is supposedly “written into the Arizona Revised Statutes”, would seem to be unnecessarily restrictive, in a state that is experiencing legal population growth on a daily basis. Besides, even the conservative State Court of Appeals sees no problem with the 2 1/2 weeks-out deadline (which is tomorrow). My prediction: People will brave long lines and vote in droves.

In my little world, the focus is on a Zoom’ed spiritual gathering, this evening; a memorial service, tomorrow morning; a trip, tomorrow afternoon, up to Valle, AZ for a hike, Friday morning and four different Zoom calls, over the next two days. The weekend will be what it is and next week, I will be at a work site every day. The Farmer’s Market will be open, we Baha’is will celebrate the Birthdays of our Faith’s Founder and His Herald and we will be one week closer to decision day.

Let’s keep mayhem to a dull roar.

The Hotel Project, Day 6

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September 30, 2020, Dallas-

Today would have been Penny’s sixty-sixth birthday. There was no extended warranty to her lease on life, so it’s been ten years since she was here to celebrate.

I have done something of service, either directly to the Baha’i Faith or to the community- at- large, each year since her passing. This year, the ongoing relief project, for the victims of the three hurricanes that have hit southern Louisiana, has found me in Dallas- with the bonus of being able to spend time with my son and daughter-in-law, if only for a day-this coming Saturday.

While it is an honour to be asked to stay on, past October 7, I have promises to keep in the Prescott area and I think balance is very important. The Red Cross can have more of my time, after the close of 2020, but for now, I will finish out my substitute teaching and the community work that also makes a difference.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 63: Mental Health

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August 2, 2020-

It turns out that the individual who torched the Arizona Democratic Headquarters, over a week ago, is mentally ill. Republicans, and others, who read only the part about his being a member of the Democratic Party are, predictably, chortling about how this just goes to show that it’s a big farce, orchestrated to bring down President Trump-because, hey, what else is there in the world?

The individual is mentally ill. I know, firsthand, how that feels. Everything is about “MEEE”. Imagined slights take on a reality that knows no bounds. Good people become viewed as monsters-for any number of reasons-most of which are contrived by a mind in pain. So, it came about, that an individual acted to destroy that which he deemed inperfect, and, thus, expendable.

There were all those times, in my distant past, and in more recent years, when autism led to the bouts of self-centeredness, mild delusion and not a little paranoia. It took a good deal of self-work to separate my mother’s high bar of expectations, itself grounded in love, from the blistering criticisms of some of my peers, who left no room for error-or in a few instances, even humanness. Through meditation, correcting my diet, my wife’s love, and adoption of a Faith that actually lived the love prescribed by Jesus the Christ, but ignored by so many of His followers, I achieved a sense of equilibrium.

There have been relapses, and setbacks, mostly in times of high stress. There are those who were present during those times-and who remember, all too well, how things went down. I am grateful that forgiveness, and securing my word that such behaviours will not be repeated, were their responses.

Conversely, I have striven, when confronted with other mentally-ill people, to do right by them. In one case, the person was able to get a leg up and straighten out his life. In two other cases, that was not the result, as of the last time I heard from either one. I felt the need to cut one loose, for personal safety reasons and the other, because of an increasing stridency and level of verbal harassment on his part.

It’s taken time to begin to overcome the tension I have felt, when seeing a small, older model of RV driving around or when starting up my phone, and getting more than one Instant Messenger “ping”. Realizing that these are left-over post-traumatic reactions has helped greatly.

I am ever grateful to all who have, either consciously or unconsciously, helped me put my own demons to bed. In all this time of relative aloneness, I have been able to soothe those ills, and make myself a far more useful person, amenable to this comforting society around me.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 19: Juneteenth

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June 19, 2020-

I relaxed, this evening, with a group of African-American entertainers and public figures, presenting a Facebook Live performance called Black Wave 2020. There were a wide variety of musical styles and civil presentations by competing office seekers. There was no vitriol, no cussing, and no displays of rage.

There was a very up front, definite commitment to acting towards justice, towards the systemic changes that need to be brought to bear. There was also the understanding that there will be resistance to such changes, and a few racists did show up in the comments section, to spew their nonsense. All in all, though, we who were watching were genuinely interested and appreciative of the show.

Change has to be made, and it has to be deliberate and transparent. We cannot have the history of THIS day and age presented to the people of the Twenty-second Century, in a sanitized form. That will take fortitude, and commitment. There are those who don’t understand the Oneness of the Human Race. I heard from one such individual today-with regard to the rights of unborn children, in his view, not mattering to anyone other than religious zealots. There are others who, don’t understand that People of Colour don’t want to be regarded with special treatment-just regarded with dignity and respect.

Growing up in a lily-white town, albeit in suburban Boston, I had to learn the reality of People of Colour, piecemeal: The African-Americans in my childhood and adolescence were authority figures: The cafeteria monitors in our Junior High and the first police officer to give me a speeding ticket. I’d have been punished, very swiftly, once I got home, if I ever gave them any lip. That told me that real African-Americans were not any different, to my parents, than anyone else.

Indeed, watching Saturday morning cartoons, one day, when I was about eight, a character who was supposed to be Stepin Fetchit came out with “Everything I do is always wrong.” That cut through me like a switchblade. I asked my father why anyone would say such a thing. He told me that Black folks were conditioned to act that way, having been enslaved for over 200 years. He also told me to show all people kindness and treat them fairly. I often thought that if I ever met the actor who played Stepin Fetchit, that I would shake his hand and tell him he was a wonderful person.

There were, though, some tough conversations, awkwardness and hard lessons, that came my way, in young adulthood particularly, in learning the nuances and basic decencies of overcoming some very deep-seated social beliefs. I am glad for all of them.

The Baha’i Faith lends spiritual weight to the notion that all people are created equal-All ethnicities, male & female, all age groups, both neurotypical and disabled, all points of view-so long as they don’t preach exclusion of others. We view all life as sacred,from conception to death. Independent investigation of truth is the bottom line.

Juneteenth, with all this being considered, merits being made a National Holiday- a paid National Holiday. Let it continue to spark thoughts, words and action, to advance the cause of justice- and the increased equality of all people.

Nine Years On

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March 5, 2020-

As my dear love got ready to go on to her next spiritual journey, I was driving with our son to her hospice.  Random road construction set us back, about three minutes.  As we got to the door of the facility, a slight spiral of air brought leaves and dust upward, on an otherwise still morning. I knew she was not able to hang on, any longer.

It’s been nine years, since that hard March morning.  Each anniversary since, I’ve taken stock of where I am.  The bottom line is that I am able, in general, to do what she and my other spirit guides tell me is necessary.  I feel her presence, constantly.

There has been a fair amount of travel involved, to accomplish the goals that she and I had set for our later years.  There are both family (biological and extended) visits and journeys on behalf of our shared Baha’i Faith.  There are acts of service to the developmentally disabled, whose education was Penny’s life’s work.  There is embracing  a community, in its pursuit of sustainable culture.  There is facing down all the negative forces that threaten the lives, and livelihoods, of so many-from the capriciousness of politics and finance, to the mind games that play out in interpersonal relationships.

These things always concerned Penny and sometimes “drove her nuts”.  There was one thing that kept her steady, even in the darkest of days:  Her faith in God and a knowledge that Creation, in its many forms, was eternal.  No corrupt financier, feckless school administrator or greedy medical practitioner ever kept her from realizing her goals.

To this day, I hold all the lessons of her life, dear to my heart.

Growing My Vision, Part II

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October 24, 2019-

I’ve had a fair amount of time to reflect on how life has been, and where it’s going.  An online purveyor of life coaching is claiming I will “stagnate”, if I don’t pay for his coaching method, as opposed to The Law of Attraction and its 11 corollary laws, which he says “fail”.

Well, so far, since I studied and implemented these twelve laws, my life has, for the most part, worked out in a satisfying way.  He sees me as stagnating, because my nest egg is modest, I don’t have one special significant other, and my travel plans don’t involve expensive resorts.  Sound familiar?

I live in a small apartment-true, but it’s comfortable.  I live in a town where I am, for the most part, loved and respected.  I would only move, if it seemed like my family needed me to be closer.  So far, I have seen no indication of that.  I do plan on a more fluid schedule,  even more of being on the move, after next year-but that’s also contingent on whether I am needed by anyone.  Family will always trump journeys of discovery.

There is also the slim possibility of serving at the Baha’i World Centre, in Israel, for 12-18 months, in a couple of years.  It would be strictly dependent on that institution’s needs.

My vision, regardless, will continue to grow.  There are always new things to learn about the nature of the soul, about quantum physics and the vastness of the Universe, both macro and micro.  There are always new friends to make and new things to learn about those in my life at present.

The old dog is up for learning new tricks.  Just don’t ask me to jump out of a plane, unless the thing is going down.

Stirrings In The Heartland

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July 11-12, 2019, Richmond to Goshen, IN-

I stood in the small drive, next to a fence, and observed a mother donkey carefully watching over her seemingly forlorn baby.  One of the girls on the farm made a move to check on the little one, whereupon the foal got up on all fours and dashed off to a further spot in the meadow.

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Stops in certain areas have become part of my itinerary, over the past several years.  There are people I enjoy seeing, or to whom I feel drawn, and whether I visit them or not, depends on their circumstances on the ground.  Two young women, whom I love like daughters, were obviously busy and nearly overwhelmed by life, this time around, and so I gave visiting them a pass.  Others, like a waitress at Bedford Diner, in southwest Pennsylvania, are always good for an hour or so of bantering.  So, my breakfast yesterday featured some of the finest breakfast sausage anywhere, great hotcakes and the wisdom and humour of K.

After the Baha’i Holy Day commemoration, to which I alluded in the last post,  my route towards the Midwest took me through the backstreets of Homestead and McKeesport, then to I-70, Wheeling and Zanesville, where dinner at a Bob Evans to which I am also drawn, when in that area, was served by similarly engaging young ladies.  Zanesville has made some positive strides, in terms of civic pride, in the two years since I last visited.

I crossed Ohio without further ado, choosing Lewisburg, just shy of the Indiana line, as my rest stop for the night.  Despite some rough characters also taking the evening air at the motel, I had no trouble.

This noon, I was one of the first people to take lunch at Fricker’s, just off the highway in Richmond. It is party place, similar to the Dave & Buster’s chain. Mothers with their young children were enjoying the arcade.  Old duffers, with ball caps and white beards, were sitting at the bar, dispensing grandfatherly advice to the young servers and bantering with the forty-something bartender.  I took a bistro seat, and got prompt, attentive service from J., a shy but caring teen.  I could easily find my way back here.

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By the time I left, Fricker’s lot was full.  On  a whim, I stayed on U.S. 35, to Muncie, another Indiana city about which I had often thought.  Walking about downtown, I saw several references to “Chief Munsee”, who was a Munsee-speaking Lenape and whose real name was Tetepachsit.  In the early Nineteenth Century, there was a brief flurry of  witch-hunting activity, which resulted in his trial, being found guilty and execution.

There is a statue of a Plains Indian, at the southern entry into Muncie.  He is not Chief Tetepachsit, whose forebears hailed from the Delaware Valley of eastern Pennsylvania. Several assimilated Lenape moved west with  European settlers, some settling in Ohio and others, including Tetepachsit’s family, landing in the White River Valley, of which present-day Muncie (named for the Munsee people) is a part.  I could not find a parking spot near the statue, so it is not part  of this blog. More solid buildings, downtown, like this telecommunications office, were walkable from a spot near a coffee house, The Caffeinery.

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First Baptist Church presents a fortress-like image.

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This building houses the Downtown Housing Development Program.

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I saw flashes of artistic revival, on my brief walk around downtown.  This engaging ceramics studio and shop, had a well-attended class in session, at the time of my visit. Anyone is free to come in and paint their own ceramic piece.  I selected a lovely, sale-ready plate as a gift for my evening’s hosts.

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A bright mural, which has been restored, following vandalism, graces the side of another downtown.  It is a response to the Orlando nightclub shootings, and thus is a manifestation of an inclusive mindset.  A man and his 12-year-old daughter were taking this in, just prior to my visit.  It is a testament to the quietude of the area, that I would come across them twice more, taking care to reassure the father that I was NOT following them around.

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I headed towards my place of rest:  Mishawaka, encountering a slog along their development’s main street, due to the other access road’s having buckled from the heat.  After dinner, we took a stroll around their neighbourhood.  Narcissuses are a point of pride here, as are these Tropicana roses.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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My Plant Snap identifies these as Hosta Tardiana.  Anyone think differently?

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I had lovely visits with my hosts in Mishawaka and the next day, here at a farm in Goshen, where the donkey shown above was among the new denizens.    There will, no doubt, be a far different environment waiting for me at the next stop, Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighbourhood.  It’s all great, though, and part of a quite fascinating world.

 

The Way of Sacrifice

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July 10, 2019, Pittsburgh-

Let your mind’s eye envision

the scene in Tabriz.

Hundreds of soldiers lined up,

thousands of onlookers behind them.

All are there to put an end

to the presence of a Light Being,

the Herald of a New Age;

the Divine Teacher, Who

became known as Al-Bab,

The Gate.

The rounds are fired,

the smoke clears,

and there is His devoted companion,

tied to Him,

before the shots were rendered;

now, just wandering about, in confusion,

That confusion spreads like wildfire.

Where is the Prisoner?

Why, He is finishing His business

with a follower,

in an office room,

elsewhere in the prison!

Al-Bab is taken outside,

once this matter has been

completed.

He is bound to His companion,

again.

A different regiment

fires its rounds.

The smoke clears,

the deed is done.

The bodies, left for the jackals

and wild dogs,

are retrieved in the night,

kept safe,

from one place of refuge

to another,

and finally laid to rest,

in March, 1909,

at His Tomb,

in Haifa, Israel.

There, we may honour Him,

at the Shrine of The Bab.

(This is a matter of historical record. Russian observers were present at the execution, were astounded and horrified, and made certain this matter was recorded in words, for posterity.  Al-Bab was executed on July 9, 1850.  We Baha’is commemorate His Martyrdom, each year.  The date this year happened to fall on July 10, according to our commemorative calendar, which is based on lunar reckoning.  I joined a group of Baha’is and friends of our Faith, in a quiet neighbourhood of southwest Pittsburgh, for today’s observance.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Wrote, Sang and Loved

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May 3, 2019, Benson, AZ-

I spent the better part of the day honouring yet another long-time friend, who passed on this past week.  He was, like me, a member of the Baha’i Faith, but it wasn’t always so.  Like yours truly, he did things his way and it didn’t always turn out so well.

Baha’u’llah helped him, the way He helped me.  God’s Messengers do that, for those who pay attention.  People whose lives have been straightened out by their association with Christ can appreciate that.  Of course, there are those who will say they have been helped  solely by their own efforts, and good for them.

In my humble view, though, the efforts of a human being, to overcome insurmountable issues, are only catapulted by Celestial Energy.  So it is, that someone dependent on attraction to something material gets the best leg up, by letting go and letting God.

I invite you to give the video, by the late John Cook and his granddaughter, Britani.  Little by little, each of us can turn weakness into strength.

Niners

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April 18, 2019-

Age nine found me whimsical,

lost ever in my own thoughts,

save when it came to lessons,

in Mrs. Kimball’s class.

Age nineteen found me lackadaisical,

flitting in and out of other people’s lives,

with no thought as to my effect on them.

Age twenty-nine found me desultory,

often lost in the bottle,

floating along Arizona’s highways,

or the backroads of the  wider West,

yet making a stab at conveying math,

to myself and my students.

Age thirty-nine found me devoted,

to my wife and toddler son.

The fragrance of Jeju,

and the progress of my English-teacher candidates,

filled out my world.

Age forty-nine found me wary,

of any and all politicians,

of a wayward shaman,

whose stated goal was

to bring about my ruin.

Age fifty-nine found me crumbling,

about to lose the most important

person in my life,

to the dis-ease that had

stalked her,

for over fifty years.

Age sixty-nine is seven months off,

yet it may well find me

in a state of flux.

Regardless,

I know my life is aimed

towards wholeness,

towards growth,

ever looking past

mere survival.