Schisms and -isms

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December 12, 2019-

A participant in a recent Baha’i Studies Conference, in Ottawa, Ontario, made the case for a movement she called “womanism”.  The gist of this movement’s philosophy is similar to to the campaign message of the American politician, Tulsi Gabbard:  Bring forward a true ethic of inclusion; the practice of not shutting anyone out, on the basis of their stated beliefs.  The premise here is inclusion, not opposition.

I favour such a movement, as I believe that everyone has a grain of truth to bring to the table.  That does not mean that someone who regards others as inferior should remain unchallenged in her/his pronouncements and certainly, actions that take away someone else’s rights or extinguish viewpoints, contrary to what one believes, are to be seen as counterproductive.  Repressed thoughts and opinions will never disappear.  They may even return, with a vengeance, in the form of counter-revolution.

It also does not sanction violence against one’s philosophical opponents, if for no other reason than to preclude their being seen as martyrs.   I much prefer to maintain appropriate dialogue, with its inherent boundaries, than to shut a person out in perpetuity.  Again, I draw the line at those who threaten violence or demand that I “toe the line.”

Many movements end their names with the suffix, “-ism”.  To wit, besides the above-mentioned womanism, we have “feminism”, “Islamism”, “supremacism” and the more conventional nationalism and sectarianism.  Such -isms, especially the last four mentioned, seem to lead to schism.  The founders of such movements may, or may not, have envisioned such divides, and thus incorporated them in their planning.    Nonetheless, any time one sets out to make a difference, if there is a pre-conceived Other, there is a potential schism.  Even a term as seemingly benign as non- (insert your identity group), is inherently creating a division in society.

It’s time to seriously work on abandoning the concept of “Other.”  Our self-concepts do not need it, in order to appreciate our uniqueness.

 

No Pause Button

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December 1, 2019-

This holiday weekend, now drawing to a close, reminded me that even in the midst of a wonderful celebration, there may come the cry of the needy.  I tended to that, as best I could, without besmirching the kindness of one of my dearest friends and members of her family.  I was honoured, beyond measure, on Thursday afternoon and evening.  It doesn’t take much, anymore, for me to feel that.  I go forward, at age 69, with a continued sense of personal worth.  Thanksgiving, 2019 was the sixth straight year at table with this wonderful family that has found its way into my heart.

Friday was, of course, our first real bout of winter weather, one month ahead of the actual season.  Shoveling a path to the street was followed by a night manning a shelter, which no one needed.  That is beside the point, though, as shelters are, by definition, designed to be manned proactively.  I have to say, the large Arizona Republic Thanksgiving Crossword kept me  very well-occupied, nearly until morning.

Saturday, I finally answered the figurative tapping on the window, and hopefully have drawn the right attention to the issues that were raised by an online correspondent.  The rest of the day, though, was spent catching up on the sleep I forewent, whilst manning the shelter.  Being up most of Friday night, though, showed that I still have stamina.  The evening was graced by the megaton voice of one Jacqui Foreman, who showed both vocal range and mastery of two types of guitar, in a concert at The Raven Cafe. She and her two accompanists delivered a solid three hours of a range of music, from soft rock ballads to acoustic jazz; Ma Rainey, through Frank Sinatra, to The Cranberries and Metallica, all find a spot in Sister Jackson’s repertoire. Among the people who I encountered there were a veteran musical arranger, a little boy who was somehow fascinated by my presence and a young lady who waved at me, from across the room- a case of mistaken identity.  It’s always colourful at The Raven.

Today, the last month of a decade of growth launched itself.  I tidied up my driveway, which had still been laden with ice and snow.  The sun was a big helper, and now the driveway is mostly clear.  The breakfast meeting at the Legion was cancelled, so I went down to Cupper’s, for an order of skinny pancakes, with melon on the side.  Several transient men were there, warming themselves, waiting for a Salvation Army service, across the street.  They had a very sobering account of the snowstorm just passed.  At least, there was an active shelter-not the one I manned, but the regular overnight shelter that SA provides, on below-freezing nights.  The day ended with a short Baha’i meeting, and now I look forward to a fruitful December.

Work will likely still be slow, but I will be mainly concerned with my dear daughter-in-law, who arrives  next Sunday, for nearly a month.  Aram will be back, after New Year’s and his last days with the regular Navy.  It’ll give me a chance to introduce Yunhee to our fair state and to several of my dear friends.  Then, too, is everything that has to do with Christmas time in Prescott, and around the state.

My Gratitudes

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November 28, 2019-

A year ago, my shoulder was getting better and my left knee, injured by what seemed to be a psychic attack, as I walked down a short, routine set of stairs, was also well on the mend. The “woo-woo” aside, my health has been fabulous this year.  I am grateful to do Terra essential oils, hemp-based CBD cream, a team of physical therapists, my dental team in Phoenix, Planet Fitness and my chiropractor for helping me maintain that fabulous.

My family has been extraordinarily gracious and generous this year, as always.  Being with Aram, Yunhee and the Shin family, on the occasion of their Baha’i wedding, and the travels around southern South Korea that followed, remains the greatest of blessings.

My Baha’i community and other dear friends, around Prescott, continue to keep me grounded.  Those whose aim was to bring me down also had a role to play. Rearranging my priorities this year, has only made my life richer and more satisfying.

Prescott, and Arizona as a whole, continue to be inspiring, good hosts.  I never tire of the view of Thumb Butte, from my front window or of any of the exquisite scenes that unfold, no matter which direction I go.

My many friends and family, across the United States, and beyond, are ever present and encouraging, even if we rarely, or never, see one another in person.  I am grateful to have spent time with some, from California to Massachusetts and in-between, over the past twelve months.

Being ever expansive in my view of the world, visiting new places and making new friends is always a plus.  I found new perspectives on Albuquerque, Memphis, Charleston, Raleigh, the Eastern Shore and Delaware, West Point, Pittsburgh, Chicago/Wilmette, Kansas City and Los Angeles, over the past twelve months. Youth hostels, Airbnb and the comfort of friends’ and family homes made all the difference.

Time in nature is always huge, in my life.  The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park saw me visit both North and South Rims.  The Navajo Nation’s Coal Mine Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Window Rock  and Monument Valley ever warm my heart.  Being in New Mexico’s El Malpais was a comfort, after a case of food poisoning upended my Father’s Day.  There were meanders along the banks of the Mississippi and above the Goosenecks of the San Juan River; focused exploration of  Utah’s Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments, Lake Powell’s Wahweap area and the urban solace of Los Angeles’ Venice Canals re-affirmed who I am,at my core.

The greatest gratitudes are reserved for what is ongoing:  My mother’s continued presence in our lives, my little family returning to the United States, having three of the finest people as my siblings, my Faith in God being reaffirmed, each day, and my physical, financial and mental health remaining optimal.

Thank you, 2019, for having been, and remaining, a space of strength and comfort.

The Round and Square of It

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October 9, 2019, Aneth, UT-

Any illusion that Native Americans are somehow all cut from the same cloth, or are otherwise a uniform group, was hopefully dispelled, some tome ago.  This is as true, with regard to various aspects of culture, including architecture, as it is to language and  physical appearance- just as it is with people of any large subgrouping.

Hovenweep, a Paiute name meaning “Deserted Valley”, is the site of a large number of mud brick structures, both atop and just below the rim of, Cahone Mesa, in southeast Utah-about 15 miles northwest of this small Dineh settlement.

I last visited this area in 1979, about a month after summer  break began.  There has been an expansion of the National Monument since that time.  For this visit, though, I focused on the Main, or Square Tower, Group of structures.  Outlying ruins will be the focus of a future visit.

The trail around the Main Group is 2 miles long.  The terrain is similar to that of Natural Bridges and other nearby canyons.  A short walk across the table of Cahone Mesa leads to a short, but rugged, canyon crossing, then around to Twin Towers and the Square Tower triad, before snaking back towards the Visitor Center.

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As you will see, the Puebloan architects variously used square corners and round construction, depending on the function of the building.  Squared structures appear to be more for dwellings and the rounded buildings either as kivas or as observation towers of some sort.

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The descent and ascent of Little Ruin Canyon is the most rugged part of the hike around Square Tower Group.  I would rate it as moderate, in difficulty.

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A small heart-shaped rock is visible, towards the rear of this small cavelet.

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Remains of several small homes, on the mesa top, precede one’s arrival at Twin Towers.

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As I approached Twin Towers, a girl of about twelve passed by me, cheerfully in her own experience of the area.  Her grandparents called her back, not so much out of fear, as to ask her to carefully pull a discarded plastic water bottle out of this crevice!  She gingerly did as asked, and had no trouble getting out of the fissure.

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Here are the remnants of Twin Towers.

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Just a few paces from the round towers is another rectangular tower, likely an early apartment dwelling.

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There were several people at Square Tower, as I approached, so care was taken to honour each one’s quiet investigation of this central area of Hovenweep.

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These are the structures of Hovenweep House.

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Square Tower is in the midst of the main kivas.

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Below, is a small single family dwelling.

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This is Eroded Boulder House, an example of the effects of the climate change of that era (1200-1300 A.D.)

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There are four areas of Hovenweep National Monument that are accessible by high-clearance vehicles.  One of these days, I will get to those outliers.

Today, though, I had two other visits to make.  I headed out of Hovenweep and made it to this oil and gas-producing community, in Utah’s southeast corner.  Here, I visited for about 1 1/2 hours, with two Dineh sisters, who are caretakers of this small Baha’i Center.  Members of our Faith have lived in Aneth for about fifty years.

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After visiting with the ladies, I am headed to The Farm Bistro, in Cortez, for an early dinner,  then will likely drive back to Prescott.  It’s been a fascinating Fall Break!

Growing My Vision-Part 1

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October 5, 2019-

At our Baha’i Unit Convention, this morning, I spotted a sign on the host’s chalkboard, with the message, “Build Vision”.  One of the constant mantras of my childhood was that we each had to see ourselves in five years, ten years, etc.

Most of us have thought of this, to the extent we think of it at all, in terms of education, career, size of family, etc.  I did all that, and now, as my formal career has little more than a year to run, albeit as a part-time substitute teacher, my vision is changing tack.

It’s always been natural, even impulsive, for me to take in the world, in my planning or visualizing.  Often, I have been chastised, for being too global.  I think the point was for me to be more present, in the here and now.  My head has made great strides, in that regard-and my focus is sharper, in the past dozen years, than it was long ago.  A good part of that came with being a caretaker. There is, as is said in such challenging environments as, say, the Alaskan Bush, the fact that “Ignorance, distraction and stupidity are the three Princes of Death”.

There is much that I have left to do, so keeping my broader vision global, whilst maintaining a sharp focus on what’s close at hand, has presented itself, with a welcome intensity.  If I slip, I know there are those among my faithful readers, not to mention, real time friends and family, who won’t hesitate to blow the whistle.

That is the supreme comfort.

Days of Heaven

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June 2, 2019, Bellemont-

The past few days have seen confirmation of my path, this summer.   The last minute invitation to an event by Global Stilt Alliance, entitled Congress: The Legislation, brought me to Arcosanti, normally a place I visit in Autumn, on Friday evening.

A performance of young stilt artists, accented by two spoken word performers, drove home the point that we need to move beyond solving our problems through separation and the building of walls.

Yesterday, I felt the sadness of some who have bonded deeply with me, when it was time to let my friends at the Farmer’s Market know I would not be back there until August 3. This gave me another perspective on the occasional objections to my wanderings, from some of my fellows in Faith.

Saturday evening, though, did accomplish the laying of a foundation for regular meetings of a group of spiritual tutors.  We had a fruitful discussion and sharing of expectations and concerns for the practice of our tutoring activities.

Today, I was greatly pleased to see a young Navy veteran join our breakfast group, at American Legion Post 6.  The perspectives and ideas of the newest generation of military veterans are long overdue for inclusion in service organizations.

This afternoon and evening, I spent the first of several days at this Baha’i retreat property, west of Flagstaff.  Clearing brush from the area took about ninety minutes.  Then came an evening of quiet reflection and meditation.  Arriving at a more present state of mind is one of the sweetest results of the relative isolation I enjoy this evening.  Thinking over a couple of minor faux pas, which occurred yesterday evening and this night, during routine dinner outings, I see things more form the perspective of those inconvenienced.  The solution lies in my own heightened awareness, even when somewhat fatigued.

Seven of the next eight days will be spent preparing for, and assisting with, a camp for middle school-aged youth.  I look forward to continuing my own reflections and meditation during this time, as well.

Their New Beginning

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March 10, 2019, Guangju-

This city was once best known as place of uprising- against a second-level military regime, in the Spring of 1980.  Although the uprising was initially quashed, its target, President Chun Doo-hwan, never gained the level of power and stability he wanted, and eventually stepped down, on the last day of 1988.

Today, Guang-joo is a more peaceful place and was the scene of the consecration of the marriage of Aram Boivin and Yunhee Shin, my son and daughter-in-law.  Now they have established themselves as  a full-fledged unit.  At the nicely-appointed Sangmoo Ritz Wedding Hall, a reverent blend of Baha’i scripture and tasteful musical selections made for a lovely hour-long ceremony, cementing what was set in motion with their civil wedding, last November in Guam, which, being an American Territory, provided the U.S. marriage license that will just make things easier, when it comes time for them to return to the U.S.

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I gave a short speech, as father of the groom, but otherwise submitted to the instructions of the wedding planner, photographer and master of ceremonies,  I did get in a few photographs, prior to the ceremony.

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The above has Yunhee’s name written in Hangul (Korean script), with her family name first, then her given name.  The names of us parents are written above.

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The flower arrangements are from well-wishers. Below are random photos of Yunhee and Aram, in the lobby of the wedding hall.

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Another milestone has passed, yet with it, the duties of a father-in-law, and God willing, those of a grandparent, will fall to me. My family has now been extended across the Pacific and I have a feeling the blessings far outweigh the burdens.  We will enjoy the rest of this fine week together- tomorrow with Yunhee’s parents and the remainder of the week, divided between Busan and Jeju, the place of Aram’s birth and a well-established resort community.

Back On Track

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February 25, 2019-

Today is the first day of Ayyam-i-Ha, the Baha’i Intercalary Days, which belong to none of our nineteen spiritual calendar months , of nineteen days.  It is a time of  special service activities, some gift giving and group celebrations.  In regular Gregorian years, like this one, the period consists of four days, and in Leap Years, five days.

Today also found us back at work, continuing on with the revised program.  Things went smoothly.  The weather is improving, again, and our little team is getting stronger, as small problems get resolved, in a congenial manner, before they become big issues.

Yesterday, part of my time was spent dealing with individual snow-disposal issues,  This evening found another matter with which to assist:  A returning traveler needed to have her car cleared, before she got back on the shuttle from Phoenix-so, Ayyam-i-Ha service activity # 1 was accomplished.

I stopped by Ms. Natural’s, and finally met the owner’s husband-on his own way back to work.  The establishment will be a key part of my own Healthy Spring-in essence, a continuation of the regimen I am promised when I visit Korea.

The Light of Abiding Love

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November 4, 2018, Prescott-

Friday night, I headed down to Phoenix, and spent time with several old friends, at the Baha’i Center.  The occasion was a Launch Party Tour finale for  the latest album by a talented young artist, named Colby Jeffers, a rapper with a strong spiritual message.

One of the themes he raised was the importance, the abiding bond, with his wife, M.  They have been present for one another, for several years now, and the love is only getting deeper.

I saw several examples of the light of abiding love, that night, and over the weekend.  Another young couple showed both the firmness of their bond, by holding one another, at moments when Colby’s words hit just the right tone of everlasting love, then having the strength to go about their individual tasks of the evening, knowing that each would be there for the other, when needed.

Penny and I were like that, so my heart is always warmed by a man who takes good care of his beautiful wife-and vice versa.  I feel much the same towards couples who are not quite married, but who are committed to one another.  Having so many friends who are at one point on the commitment continuum, or another, their ties generate light in the world, and I feel reassured.

This was further cemented today, when I attended an honorarium, at a lovely equestrian ranch northwest of here, and saw a couple being honoured, for their service to the Prescott community.  They have suffered unimaginable losses, these past two years, and while I am not her favourite person, by any stretch, I feel very much appreciative of both all they have done and for the depth of their suffering.  Their light shines, intensely, through all the shadows.

Marriage is an affirmation of light, when it is real.

Adventures in Hobbling

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October 18, 2018, Prescott-

It was bound to happen, sooner or later.  My left knee popped, as I was walking back to our classroom from the school’s tennis court.  I wasn’t playing tennis, just helping a student put racket to ball and hit a fence.  The pop happened when I walked down a concrete stair that I had used several times.  I didn’t fall, and made it first to a bench, then to the classroom and a chair.

From there, the school nurse iced the knee, had crutches brought to me and I made an appointment with Urgent Care.  X-rays showed no bone loss, but slight arthritis (which I think is being kept at bay by various essential oils).  DRINK MORE WATER!  I am wearing a knee brace and using the crutches, to pamper this vital friend of mine, for as long as needed.

The Universe chooses unusual ways to tell me when a change is needed.  When the brakes on the KIA Optima had been partially severed, it took the botched attempt to stop at a rural intersection, at which I had stopped countless times, and a roll into a relatively benign ditch, to get a different car.  That Nissan Altima, itself, had a shelf life of little over a year, coming to a final halt in Newtown, CT-at a service station close to Danbury, from where my Hyundai Elantra was procured.

I needed a new computer, but had no funds to buy it: Piece of celestial cake- thieves picked it out, from underneath two full backpacks, whilst I was walking in the vicinity of McGill University, in Montreal.

Now, that I have been cautioned, several times, to slow down and cut back, comes the treatment and healing of the left knee.  Righty will have to work harder for a few days, and I am applying to myself, what Penny knew and did for the three years she was on crutches or used a cane.  I will get physical therapy, next week and for as long as it takes to bring both knees back in synchronicity with each other.

I am breaking down every physical activity to its smallest steps, giving each very focused attention.  That was something that had been brought up, several times, during the veritable Boot Camp in which I found myself, for much of last week.  Getting out of bed, I will reach for the crutches, tomorrow and maybe for days afterward.  Showering will have to be done with the brace on. Dressing will be done sitting down. I will scoot myself around the apartment, ever so carefully, sitting in my office chair.  I will park behind other people’s cars, when attending Baha’i meetings, the next few days, instead of being over-solicitous and taking a spot further away.  My co-workers may very well not see me, tomorrow.  It’ll depend on how useful I think I might be.

There will be a tomorrow, though, and I will be back on my feet- but in a prudent way, following the doctor’s instructions to the letter. Penny showed the way to dealing with any injury and others have shown the way to full recovery from theirs.   So will go this hobbler.