Sane and Intelligent

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April 13, 2021- I watched a small segment of a newsreel from the World War II era, which included a Disney cartoon, promoting payment of taxes as an act of patriotism-one of many ways in which the average citizen of that time could support the war effort, through personal sacrifice. Along with dehumanizing the opposing forces of the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan), the appeal to acceptance of taxation, recycling, conservation and not spending on oneself was made so that the bulk of the nation’s resources would go towards support for the Armed Forces.

Defeating the most formidable opponents the forces of democracy had yet known required a fair amount of such sacrifice-and the burden was shared by Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several smaller nations. The Soviet Union was our ally, but its citizens were already living under onerous conditions-and knew little of personal freedom. Stalin’s sole recognition of individual dignity came in his decrees that men and women were equal under the law and that every child was entitled to a free education.

We, on the other hand, found some of our freedoms temporarily curtailed-as a means to focus the nation’s energy on defeat of the totalitarian enemy. That presented a conundrum to some people. As the bulk of the opposition to this temporary halt of free expression came from people who were not altogether opposed to the Fascist cause, it gained little traction. Besides, President Truman restored civil liberties, once the war was over.

Baha’u’llah teaches that the practice of a sane and intelligent patriotism is essential, for avoiding the evils of excessive centralization. This makes such a practice all the more vital, for the time, in the distant future, when a system of international governance becomes established. The Baha’i view of such a system is that it is built from the ground up-and thus, the more basic units of social structure: Family, community, city/town, county, state/province/prefecture, nation never lose their legitimate powers. The governance of the planet as a whole depends on the strength of the layers of society on which it is built.

There will always be times when temporary sacrifice is needed, in order to defeat a common threat. Certainly, the current fight against Coronavirusdisease2019 is such a time. That we are learning to make these sacrifices, and are making slow headway in overcoming this threat to public health, is a good lesson in learning what is sane and intelligent, in terms of patriotism.

Rising and Renewal

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April 5, 2021- As many are aware, today is Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). The day was first intended to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesu the Christ from the dead, three days after His Crucifixion and death, at the hands of Roman soldiers acting at the behest of two Jewish Zealot leaders, Annas and Caiaphas.

Jesus’ disciples were understandably despondent, feeling as if their faith was shaken and not knowing in which direction to go from that low point in their fortunes. There was just one fly in the Zealots’ ointment: They were not acting according to the Will of God, but according to their own craving for power. What is willed by the Creator, whether we think it is coming from the Universe, or from God’s Messenger (Divine Teacher) for the day in which that Messenger makes Self known, is what will happen-maybe sooner, or maybe later-but in any case, in God’s own time.

Three days after He was killed, Christ appeared to His Disciples, even allowing one of them, Thomas, to put his hand in His side. Spiritual Beings can do whatever God wants Them to do-especially if They have been teaching humanity in His Name. So, it is not hard to understand the appearance of Jesus the Christ before His Disciples, three days postmortem.

In July, 1850, Baha’u’llah’s Herald, al-Bab, did the same thing, albeit for a much shorter period of time. When He was first executed by a firing squad, in Tabriz, Persia, al-Bab was not to be found, when the smoke had cleared. He was subsequently found in a small room at the prison, dictating some business to an associate. Once He had completed His business, al-Bab consented to be brought back to the execution court. There, He was again the target of a firing squad, which this time completed its mission.

The Creator does not abandon us, nor does He prevent us from making our own choices, both good and bad, based on free will. The decisions Man makes which are counterproductive do not hurt God in any way. In the two cases cited above, Christ and al-Bab returned to Their Father, Who sent Them. People were left to do the hard work of interpreting Their guidance, on our own. Those who truly loved their Teachers followed those instructions. Others followed the whims of their own fancies and imaginations-as the Zealots had before them.

Resurrection Sunday thus celebrates the undying Power of the Creator, to renew the Message He sends us, and to renew our Faith in His Guidance, which is, as Baha’u’llah said, “Eternal in the past, eternal in the future.”

The Single Story Myth

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March 28, 2021- Chimamanda Ngosi Adichie, a Nigerian writer, poses some interesting points in a talk she gave on the TED Network. The notion that so many form their opinions of others, both individuals and groups, based on a single thread of information, bears careful thought. Ms. Adichie gives the examples of 1. How many people in North America refer to Africa as a country, and have the image of half-clad, uneducated people, who are uniformly engaged in endless civil wars. 2. How many Africans imagine Americans to be uniformly living lives of prosperity.

While there is some truth to a single story, as Ms. Adichie points out, it is seldom, if ever, the ONLY story about a person, group, nation, or continent. Baha’u’llah teaches us, and science corroborates, that every created thing, from an atom or molecule to the largest animal and tallest tree, is unique from every other of its kind. We recognize that no two grains of sand, or no two snowflakes, are alike. How much more is each strand of DNA, each virus, amoeba, frog, blue jay, spotted hyena, hyacinth, orca, or Douglas fir different from every other of its kind.

Further, how complex is each created thing, within itself! Every human being, therefore, is more than the sum of his/her parts. We each have more than one story, which is one reason why individuals who try to judge one another, always fall short in their estimation. I am not the same person who drove others to distraction, in times past, or even not so many years ago. Neither are you. While one has to make amends for transgressions and missteps, these ought not confine the person who has committed them. This goes double for groups of people.

Let us, therefore, give pause to the preservation of prejudices, either towards individuals or towards groups. Let us learn as many of each others’ stories as we can.

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!

Nothing Succeeds Like Success

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December 22, 2020-

Sir Arthur Helps offered this viewpoint, in 1868. It was an ironic statement, as two years before, Sir Arthur had all but lost his shirt in the Panic of 1866. Since then, the phrase has been tossed out, several times, by snarky commentators, both in support, and in condemnation, of the amassing of personal wealth.

My own idea of success has such an amassing of pecuniary fortune somewhere down on the list of what constitutes actual wealth. I have not yet seen a fabulously wealthy person exude happiness, based solely on the ability to attract coin. There are several more realistic criteria, by which to measure stature.

Friendships are probably the most obvious of these. While in my own life, money has come and gone, (though, at present, it is giving me a modest level of security), friends since childhood are still in my circle, and new people show up all the time.

A secure set of values is even more fundamental to a feeling of success. Secure does not mean rigid, which actually undermines security, by not taking into account the changes in circumstance. Being able to live honestly, while adapting to change, and growing from it, has led to my present homeostasis. It also has enabled a positive response to crises, when they rear their heads.

Baha’u’llah has given us leave to earn financial wealth, as we see fit, and has instructed us to put such wealth to good use, in resolving the ills of humanity and of the planet. Not everyone will amass millions, or billions, yet each can do something along the lines of sharing.

Money has been called “the lifeblood of civilization”. It is love, however, that is the lifeblood of humanity. Nothing succeeds, like the success of attracting and maintaining friendships, and living a life of integrity.

Forty Years

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December 6, 2020-

Dearest Soul Charger,

On the night of this day, in 1980, I had a slight awareness that I was about to have a woman in my life, for the first time in eight years. It was, as you surely remember, cold and rainy-then somewhat snowy, in that little village where a house blessing was taking place. We were there for different purposes, though both concerned with learning from the continent’s First Nations. I was earning college credits; you were finding out more about the relatives of your hosts-the Hopi.

We were drawn to one another, that night, through the happenstance of my classmates’ amusement at your speaking Spanish with a North Jersey accent. I was just glad for your smile, and yur companionship. The weather ceased to matter after that. It was the beginning of thirty years’ physical connection and forty years’ spiritual.

We grew together, and you taught me more than you may have known. I like to think that I brought you out of your inward focus and I know you brought me out of mine. You taught me to love children with a ferocity that had been latent within me. We raised one person to adulthood, even as we were “raising” one another. As this was happening, I realized that every child was a focus of my heart.

We came to adore every Messenger sent by God, and all in the Name of His most recent Manifestation: Baha’u’llah . We drew no lines as to with whom we would share the healing Message. We did not separate ourselves from even the most destitute of people; nor did we separate ourselves from one another. We were seldom apart, in fact, and made landfall in so many unlikely places: Dinetah and Hopi; southern Alberta; Israel and the West Bank; Guyana; Korea; Taiwan and so many places in between.

You never lost your luster-not for a fleeting moment. For my part, I’ve spent the last ten years cleaning the rust off my soul, feeling your abiding guidance every step of the way. Now, at long last, I see what the purpose of my life might have been, these forty years, had I used my vision more clearly. Now, at long last, I see what needs to be done, with how ever many more years I am given in this life.

I know you are still close at hand, Soul Charger, and it may have been you who held my arm, early this morning-or it may have been you who moved another spirit away from me. Either way, I can sense that the Creator of us all has you in a safe and uplifting place. He has me where I need to be, and the path will continue, not always as I imagine in advance, but always where I can be of utmost service.

I will ever see you reflected in our son’s visage, and in any progeny he and his wife may bring into this life. I will ever hear your voice, so rich and resonant, in all of their pronouncements. I will see you in every rainbow, every shower and every rising and setting of the Sun. I will hear you in every rushing stream, every tumbling tide and in every sweet song of the birds who frequent where I happen to be. I will feel you, in every warmth that comes my way.

Shine on, Soul Charger. You taught me what it means to love.

Sorrow Not…..

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November 4, 2020-

“O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain.” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 327)

I thought of, and recited this prayer, during the time that I was Penny’s caretaker. I have often called it forth, during the past year or so, as well. Knowing that so many will be down-hearted and feeling left out, regardless of the final outcome of the vote count, I offer this prayer to anyone who needs it.

There has never been a time when I viewed my fellow humans as “deplorables”, despite that unfortunate comment of four years ago. I think there are many behaviours that are certainly deplorable, especially the murder of innocent beings, abuse of others-especially of women, children and elders, lying and fabrication, calumny against those with whom one disagrees, and theft. That said, we are all children of God and as such are free to return to the enfoldment of His grace-any time we are willing to renounce our past misdeeds and make amends to those whom we’ve wronged.

My advice, to whoever ends up in the White House, on January 20, 2021, is to redouble efforts to include ALL Americans in the life of the nation. I wrote to President Obama, a few times, urging him to visit the South and other parts of the country which had spurned him. He did make it to several states whose electorate had supported his opponents- though he might have done so more often. It didn’t come across as pandering, and should not, this time around. A listening tour would do either #45-2.0, or #46, and the country, a world of good. A Cabinet that is genuinely inclusive of critics, as well as of supporters, whould go along way towards reuniting this frazzled country.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 37: Only Love

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July 7, 2020-

Today is Aram’s birthday. My calls to/from him are most often open-ended, both in terms of time and subjects of conversation. This morning was no different. Two hours and change about covered the gamut.

These sorts of exchanges with family are all too rare, even in COVID times, but they are invariably infused with love. Today’s topic for Harmonic Convergence was “The Leadership of Love”. There were a wide range of subtopics covered, from how to direct love towards someone who comes across as unloving, to the roots of materialistic society-and what a non-materialistic (love-based) society might resemble.

Aram used to raise the last possibility, in his late teens. I would always point out that we are hard-wired, as a species, to need a medium of exchange-and that currency has been with us, at least since the first coins were minted at the order of King Croesus, if not since his predecessor, Midas of Lydia, amassed gold.

There was a lengthy, and rather ultraconservative, argument presented, this afternoon, that the entire system of financial transaction, from monetized housing to wages themselves, despite having been in place for so many millennia, is not divinely ordained in perpetuity.

Indeed, Baha’u’llah teaches that man is free to continue using money and compound interest as tools to amass such wealth as can be used for the good of mankind-and yet, it is love, not material wealth, that will be the guarantor of the fullness of a spiritually-rooted civilization. Money’s present role as the “lifeblood” of civilization is not guaranteed to remain so.

This is quite simple, when one gives it thought. Money comes and goes, in the lives of most people, as does fame and even public approval. Love, however, can outlast all of these, as it is the bedrock of all life, of all consciousness.

It has ever been, and will always be.

Wednesday, the Thirteenth

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May 13, 2020-

The day began with rough energy.  I reflected that negativity is often associated with Friday the 13th.  I have been, and remain, determined to not let negativity dominate my day-even on days when I have been dismissed from a position or facing the loss of a loved one.

I read the obituary of a childhood friend- the closest personal connection I have, thus far, to Coronavirusdisease2019.  A short time later, when I was preparing to do a routine task, the most basic step momentarily escaped me. I felt my friend’s energy and the step came to my consciousness.

By mid-morning, the negativity had passed.  I went to visit some friends who have a restaurant, in a small shopping center, on the edge of town.  They were on their third day back, after staying closed for sixty days.  They are very much people of the soil, of the ranch.  Thus, what you see is what you get-and no apologies.  I’ve always had an open heart for those who speak their own truth-not aimed AT others, in an ad hominem manner, but in an inclusive, welcoming fashion.  I always have a seat at their counter.

This evening, the draw has been to a Baha’i-oriented spiritual discussion, on Baha’u’llah’s meditiative work, The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys.  I write this, whilst listening to a recording of a Zoom call that I missed early this afternoon.  It is from a gatheriong called Gaia Calling.  The meditation and the insights gained here are reinforcing various other spiritual sites, to which I’ve been drawn, especially during this time of widespread turmoil.

The moderator spoke of a “dance” between linear time (the Earth time, in which we operate) and organic time (the spiritual movement that has always been in play).  I feel this happening more now, than I ever have.  On “good” days and on “bad”, my feeling these days is far closer to natural rhythms, to Earth, to the Universe, to the Divine.

Surprises

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April 21, 2020-

Today,

the second day of Ridvan,

produced these:

I experienced a higher

than usual

level of energy

and positivity,

upon rising,

this morning;

A video,

not made by a Baha’i,

which affirms several

basic teachings

of Baha’u’llah,

regarding the future

of humanity;

I had an easier time

doing the exercises

in my online yoga class;

It rained, a fair amount,

this morning and afternoon,

despite a forecast of sunshine.

I was able to complete

the first module

of an online course in

Humanitarian Assistance.

(I am, at the age of 69, unlikely to be called to serve in any real capacity, by humanitarian agencies, but it helps to gain this perspective, in case of any unforeseen emergencies, even in this country.)