Light, Out of Calamity

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March 27, 2020-

In some of mankind’s darkest moments,  advances have come from the suffering, like small mammals coming forth after the Age of Dinosaurs.  These advances, in short order, became a part of the fabric of human culture.

After the Great Plague, of the Fourteenth Century, Europeans began to return to embracing science, rather than superstition, in treating illnesses.  The primacy of Cardinals and Bishops began to face widespread scrutiny, and the stirrings of Protestantism were felt.  The Catholic Church itself had to make changes, under Ignatius Loyola.  Advances in scientific discovery came, as a result of these trends.

After the American Civil War, the Red Cross was started, by Clara Barton, as a means of assisting soldiers, in time of calamity.  It quickly expanded to help society at large, in times of disaster.

After World War I, movements to assist disabled and unassisted veterans, in returning to civilian life began, with the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans. These organizations still make large scale efforts to assist those who suffer from dislocation, or from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

After World War II, mass production of houses, the science of rocketry, television and large computers became part of the civilian world, having been first advanced within the military sphere.  From large, room-sized computers have come hundreds of technological products, many of them falling into the realm of nanotechnology.

Now, we will await the advances coming out of the struggle against Coronavirus Disease 2019.  Teleconferencing, already available for business, government and limited conversations between family members and other small groups, has exploded in use, as nearly every group, which conducted its business in person, has found ways to meet virtually. Even when the crisis has ended, I can see the sheer range of teleconferencing leading to its continued wide use among the public at large.  It will also greatly modify the educational process, even more than it has to date.

The retrofitting of factories that produce a wide variety of products, from airplanes to distilled spirits, are now also producing items that will help face the virus.  Ventilators, medical-grade masks and hand sanitizer will still need to be stockpiled, even after this virus has spent its rampage.  Preparedness will not soon, if ever, be relegated to the realm of memory.

There will be many tasks, which the technology and skill sets coming out of the current crisis will need to be called to perform. Not the least of these is completing the still gargantuan effort to provide all homes with clean, running water and reliable heat or cooling.  This work will occupy post-pandemic humanity for years, if not decades.

Out of  the darkness comes a greater light.  Baha’u’llah teaches:

“O SON OF MAN! My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.”

 

 

Stillness

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March 15, 2020-

This is the midpoint of  Women’s History Month, the alleged date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated and another day in the continuing collective human response to Coronavirus 19.  Once one gets past the toilet paper hoarders, the nonsensical pandemic deniers claiming this is just a hoax by “the Liberals” (or Bill Gates, et al), and those who think closing the borders will, in and of itself, stop the virus in its tracks, it’s easy to see the big picture.

It is not hard to stay home, if that’s what it will take for the human race to recover.  It is not  too hard to conduct lessons for children, in small neighbourhood groups, if schools are closed (and I will be among those offering such a service, especially if the school where I am working now is closed).  It is not impossible to share what one has, in the way of food, cleaning supplies, etc., if others ask.  My grandparents’ generation raised families and kept their lives together, under far worse conditions, during the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and World War Ii.

It begins with becoming still, with focusing and remembering just who we are and of what we are made.  Baha’u’llah, Whose life and Whose family’s lives were excruciating at times, calls the process being “dry in the ocean”.  I have sometimes been viewed as being too sanguine, but this is exactly what got my family through Penny’s long illness and her passing. It is what got my parents, long before that, through my youngest brother’s very long struggle and decline in health-and got our family through the passing of my father.

Those who stick together are the survivors of each crisis and the teachers, come the next subsequent calamity.

I’ve posted this song before, but it seems apropos once again.

Quantum, and Other, Leaps

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February 29, 2020-

Whilst working as a teacher aide in a small school in Maine, I was paired with a seasoned teacher, who also happened to have been born on February 29.  She had  flexible birthday celebrations, usually sticking with the 28th, for the three years that her actual birthday was not on the calendar.

Leap Day has long been a source of fascination to me, as my own date of birth is the 28th of November, and thus I mark mensiversaries in my mind-especially as I’ve gotten on in years.  So, today is a bonus, of sorts, as I mark being 69 1/4 years of age.

Many of us take quantum leaps in our minds, in any given area of life with which we may be dissatisfied, or in which we think matters are not quite moving in the direction that they might.  Flights of fancy, while temporarily assuaging discomfort, don’t actually end up solving problems.

They do, however, many times end up being the grist for ideas which may be practical, in a future time.   Baha’u’llah  offered many concepts, in the mid-to late-19th Century, which seemed ludicrous in the context of that day and age, but many of which make sense now, and others which are predicated on Mankind’s moving beyond the mindset of even our relatively global way of thinking.

Most people, with whom I speak about the Baha’i Faith, are fine with the Oneness of the Human Race, overcoming prejudices, equality of men and women and universal peace.  The mechanics and details are another matter.  No one, including the Baha’is, wants to see a world government that is less than transparent, or less than a government which honours dignity, harmony and participation by the people.  The difference in opinion comes largely from fear that ANY global entity will have nefarious purposes.  Christ warns about such tyranny, and so does Baha’u’llah.  Only after world peace is truly established, can serious talk about democratically-elected international bodies be undertaken.

So, we continue to take leaps of faith and of mental acuity.  Some are quantum in nature; others are more tenuous. I have done both, in my mind, all the while recognizing that some ideas that I have are bound to prove as practical as my short legs would be, were I to attempt Parkour.  It’s worth the mental effort, though, to at least run them through my mind.

Happy Leap Day, all!

 

A Humble Posture of Learning

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November 21, 2019-

One of the things our parents instilled in my siblings and me is that it’s possible to learn from anyone.  I took that as a dictum to listen and to draw lessons from what someone does, as well as what is said.

Jordan Peterson’s tenth rule for life is just that:  “Learn from those who know what you don’t know.”  Watching and listening is always a good thing, when combined with the ability to discern right from wrong.  I can listen to someone describe how they snookered gullible people, in their old neighbourhood, and LEARN:  1). How not to let that person, or someone like him/her, take advantage of me; 2.  How not to treat a gullible person.  On the other hand, I can watch and listen, carefully, to a seasoned automobile engine mechanic demonstrate how to remove and replace the rings and valves of the engine, and maybe, given the right circumstances, perform the activity myself.

A Roma man, in Paris, after failing to con me into taking a ring that I had seen him drop on the sidewalk, decided to tell me of  other tricks that his rivals, on the Right Bank of the Seine, might try on me.  These tips came in handy, especially as when it started pouring rain, I only wanted to get back to my hotel.  Yes, the scams included “Monsieur, look! My uncle is coming, with his pedicab!!” (There was no pedicab, as my Roma friend had told me there wouldn’t be.   He had said that, if I looked on cue, two deft fingers would search my back pockets.  As it happened, I had only a soiled handkerchief in my  back right pocket, and nothing in my left, as my valuables were secure, elsewhere.)

One can also learn from observing others, and from overhearing them.  I try to keep that to a polite minimum, but it has often been beneficial, so long as I don’t try to inject myself into their business, without cause.

The greater point is:  None of us knows everything, and those who pretend as much, fool few outside of their own circle-if even them.  Baha’u’llah prescribes adopting a humble posture of learning.  It is that which leads me to read, to observe what goes on around my Home Base, to stay abreast of  current events and to travel, when time avails itself.

The Conscious Step Away From An Abyss

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November 20, 2019-

So, it now happens that, if I want to truly understand what Jordan Peterson is trying to say, in his Twelve Rules for Life, I will have to actually read his book.    The reason is the depth of Rule 9.  A simple synopsis is: Understand Your Dark Side. Know exactly that of which you are capable, and resolve not to do it.

Each of us has a dual nature, which is exactly why Christ endured 40 days of temptation and His Crucifixion.  He wanted us to know that the path away from self-destruction lay totally in following the Teachings of the Divine, which derive, essentially, from the Golden Rule.  Not only acts of goodness, but consciousness and dismissal of, the darkness within.  Baha’u’llah endured the indignity of His tormentors, who included many within His own family, that we may see the two paths down which we might each go, and that we may choose  the Path of Light.

I have had struggles, all throughout this life, and only after enduring Penny’s disease, vicariously- and as her caretaker; only after wrestling with left-over baggage, following her passing, and making a conscious decision to turn aside from the darkness, have I ended up in a place of Light.  So, I get the gist of what Dr. Peterson speaks here.  Seeing the dark, and teetering on the edge of it, is debilitating. Seeing the goodness, and nurturing it, sends the spirit soaring.

 

The Greatest Gift

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October 30, 2019-

As I mentioned yesterday, these two days mark the consecutive birth anniversaries of Baha’u’llah and His Forerunner/Herald, al-Bab.  I have recounted the story of Baha’u’llah in previous posts, over the years.

In this post, I wish to note why His life and those of other Divine Messengers, are important to people of all faiths, or of no faith.   Rather than see these Great Beings as merely Founders of competing religions, it is beneficial to view Them as guides to the continuous process of the unfolding of human spirituality-as it pertains to both the life of the individual and the life of society.

We have progressed, in fits and starts, from the relationship of the individual to the Divine (the Revelations of Adam, Abraham and Noah); through the spirituality of the human family and clans (Krishna and Zoroaster); the spiritual focus of tribes (Moses and countless Teachers of Indigenous Peoples, across the world); detachment from fortune and misfortune, alike (Gautama Siddhartha); unconditional love, across boundaries (Jesus the Christ) and spiritual guidance of nations (Muhammad).  The Twin Messengers, al-Bab and Baha’u’llah, have extended the knowledge available to us, that the common people of the Earth may both determine their own spiritual destiny and organize the spiritual unification of the entire planet.

Baha’u’llah’s Revelation, far from being yet another means to sectarian division, is a road map away from  human-caused cataclysm and strife.  This is the underpinning of my belief that all people possess the means to seek and find Truth, both independently and in groups.

Two Centuries Ago

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October 29, 2019-

Two hundred years ago,

Europe was pulling itself out of the wreckage of  the Napoleonic Wars.

The young United States of America was also healing from the wounds of  its second major war.

Asia was finding that Europeans, and some Americans, were interested in far more than trading goods. British outposts in Australia and India were established, towards the goal of domination of Asia. Spain had done likewise, in the Philippines.  France, Portugal and the Netherlands were not far behind.

Africa was seeing its enslavement declining, but a bigger problem-European ownership of land, would soon become the order of the age.  The Dutch had already established a settlement near the Cape of Good Hope.

In Persia (now Iran), a land that was seeing its own slow decline, two children were born, one in 1817, the other in 1819- with their birthdays coming a day apart. These boys would grow into men who would realize high spiritual stations.   These Messengers would stand out from Their peers, require little or no formal education and stand up, however respectfully, to the increasingly corrupt and wayward clergy and royalty of the Persian Empire.

The first of the two to declare His Mission was Mirza Ali Muhammad, known to posterity as al-Bab (  “Bab” being Arabic for “gate”.  He is commonly called The Bab, in English-speaking countries.) He was born in 1819, thus being honoured in the Bicentenary of His Birth, during this week.

Al-Bab was the Herald, or Forerunner, of Baha’u’llah, and declared His Mission in May, 1844, in the southern Persian city of Shiraz.  He appealed to thousands who were disillusioned by the state of Persian society.  Corruption and decadent behaviour were rife, across the country.  It was to this scene that Al-Bab spread His message that the human race should prepare itself for a Messenger, Who would bring Teachings that would unite humanity-not by force or by deception, but by independent investigation of truth and gradual bringing together of the hearts and minds of men.  This, of course, alarmed the powers that were, who, fearing the loss of their status, imprisoned al-Bab in three separate locations.  None of the three served to squelch His appeal to the masses.  Thus, in July, 1850, al-Bab was executed by firing squad, in the main square of Tabriz, in northwest Persia.  This, likewise, failed to destroy the Faith He had established.

Baha’u’llah, likewise, would endure His own series of persecutions,  to which I will refer tomorrow, on the 202nd anniversary of His birth.

Another Song Celestial

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September 29, 2019-

The humble, soft-spoken man recounted the life of his father, who is, to date, the only conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Desmond Doss, Sr. was portrayed by the actor Andrew Garfield, in the film “Hacksaw Ridge”.  His son  briefly detailed the actual man and the fullness of his life, at yesterday’s Hope Fest.

Desmond Doss, Jr. is at lower left, below.

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This day-long celebration of purpose-driven life is primarily about service to the community, with a clear message that peoples’ lives are best led through a personal relationship with Jesus the Christ.  I have helped the organizers of this effort, for the past five years.  One of the elements of this event is recognizing and honouring the veterans of present and past conflicts.  VietNam is not the least of these conflicts.

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Though I take a longer view, seeing a relationship with the Creator and His Messengers as essential to a well-lived life, by way of accepting that Revelation is progressive and God’s message unending, I see that encouraging others in the positive,  personal growth-oriented aspects of their own Faith is the finer path.

I came by my understanding of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings honestly, and will never hide my Faith from anyone.  It was actually the very essence of what Jesus the Christ taught, that love is paramount, which drew me to the Baha’i Faith, as “Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings.”- ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

It never made sense to me, even as a child, that God would visit Mankind with His Grace but once.  Knowledge given is as the rays of the Sun.  The solar rays of a thousand years ago, of ten thousand years ago, warmed the Earth and were beneficial.  They remain praiseworthy, for all they brought forth.  Likewise, the rays of the present day sustain life.  They, too, deserve our appreciation.  Understanding all that is given us, by the Creator, is a worthy effort.

So I offer service to those who themselves serve others, in the highest way they can conceive.  It is our shared love for humanity that propels gatherings like Hope Fest.  Long may they continue, and bear fruit.

Unlimited Doors

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May 29, 2019-

On this day,

127 years ago, Baha’u’llah ascended to the next realm.  The door of His Teachings remains wide open, to all who seek.

102 years ago, John F. Kennedy was born, in Brookline, MA.  His work was unfinished and his potential far from realized, when the door to his life here was slammed shut, in 1963.

55 years ago, my youngest brother, Brian, was born, in Melrose, MA.  His purpose here was to train us all in unconditional love.  From the looks of how my family has lived, since his passing, in 1994, I’d say his work was successful.

This past April, a door to my working full-time closed.  Since then, other doors have remained ajar.  This is the truth behind- “When one door closes, another will open.”

Some doors can appear, from a distance, to be closed.  Sometimes, that is simply the result of skewed vision.

Other doors, which one tries to close, remain open because they have contents within that are needed for a healthy life.

Then, there are those others, which are better off shut, no matter how much one thinks that what’s inside is desirable.

May my ability to choose the right doors remain strong.