The Walls Continue to Shatter

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September 3, 2022, Colorado Springs- “Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch”-Baha’u’llah.

The above statement was written by our Spiritual Teacher to the entire human race, nearly 150 years ago. He asked what harm there was in recognizing the Oneness of Mankind, and never sought power, money or political influence. Those whose aims WERE rooted in such earthly concerns saw fit to attack him, both physically and socially. Their views were, and are, short-sighted, not even considering the true interests of their countrymen or even their own long-term best interests. He had every one’s prosperity and well-being in mind, throughout His Ministry and His Teachings will resonate for centuries to come, as do the essential Teachings of every Messenger of God. There is not a scintilla of difference between Them, in terms of spiritual truths.

So do those of us gathered this weekend ponder the application of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings for each of the problems facing the planet, in this Day, one hundred thirty years after His passing. From the youngest child capable of articulation to those older than me, we note that each of these issues stems from disunity, either deep-seated and “time-honoured” or based in momentary ignorance. None of us are perfect, and yet none of us need to separate ourselves from others, in either thought, word or deed. We mustn’t let others abuse or take advantage of us, nor need we build walls around ourselves.

As if to focus attention on the power of unity, nearly sixty people danced to the powerful music of a trio of drummers and singers who have moved here from Ghana, and are engaged in a vital building trade. Many of the children in attendance joined in the drumming also. It was one of the most powerful gatherings I have attended, since before COVID hit. We are indeed coming back to life as a society, as well as community.

Participants in a drum circle

The walls, both internal and external, continue to crumble.

An Invisible Frontier

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June 30, 2022, Jonesboro, Maine- The breakfast serving room was stifling, at the Comfort Inn, Amherst, NS, and I had some concern for the well-being of the attendant. She was quite vocal about the heat-mainly from the ovens in her immediate food preparation space. I thought it would be a good idea for the management to consider better ventilation. A good worker, to paraphrase the old United Black College Fund ad, is terrible to waste. We patrons at least were to take our food to our rooms. COVID protocols are still in place, in many establishments.

Two very different reactions to my presence in Amherst were to present themselves, as errands were discharged. When I went to the laundromat, the attendant was friendly at first, but once I told her where I was from, the smile faded and I was asked what I was doing in Amherst. At least I was left alone to complete my washing and drying. The people at the car wash were a lot nicer, and gladly exchanged four quarters for a dollar coin, so the wash could proceed.

My business in the Chignecto area complete, I drove over to Fundy National Park, in New Brunswick, and caught a few scenes of that home of high tides.

Any thoughts I might have had of further exploring Fundy were brought to a close by the approaching rain. It got quite heavy, at times, as I drove west, on TransCanada Highway 2. In and around Saint John, the province’s largest city, the rain was the heaviest. Being rush hour made things go that much slower-and of course, there was road construction, with lane closures. Nonetheless, the people along the Loyalist Trail (Saint John was a haven for those loyal to the Crown, during the American Revolution.) have the rush hour thing down to a fine art, with taking turns entering the open lane de rigeur.

A relatively short time, maybe forty minutes, later, I was at the border crossing, where the inspector briefly peered into my back seat, glanced at my passport and said “Welcome home”. If only we lived in a world where everyone could have that kind of a border greeting, each time. The invisible frontier, however, attracts its share of grifters and smugglers-so sometimes, the rest of us need to exercise forbearance.

Beyond Calais, Maine, I took note of these scenes along the St. Croix River.

A few miles further south, the St. Croix Island International Peace Monument commemorates the first, ill-fated French expedition, led by Pierre Dugua, an explorer, soldier and fur trapper. The group landed on St. Croix Island in the Fall of 1604, with the intention of claiming the area for France. A harsh winter ensued, and despite the assistance of the Passamaquoddy people, who were native to the area, the party lost about half of its members. In the spring of 1605, Dugua and his group departed the area, for another point on the Canadian mainland. Canada and the United States jointly maintain this historical site.

The presence of this monument underscores the value of seeing that “The Earth is but one country and Mankind its citizens”- Baha’u’llah.

I continued on to the small town of Perry. There, a restaurant called New Friendly featured a cheerful, talkative waitress, who seemed to connect with everyone, a shy teenaged girl, who was looking around for something productive she might do and a visibly flustered, rather crochety woman, who seemed to be the owner. I was served by the waitress, and enjoyed a nice meal of fried clams-with full bellies, which I love, being a son of New England. I was the last one in the door, and so was about the last one to pay. The owner took my payment, seemingly glad to see me leave.

The end of the line, for tonight, is Blueberry Patch Motel and Cabins. I am in a tiny cabin, recommended to me by the night clerk, who said I had just made it through the door, before she turned out the Welcome sign. Yes, I got the last cabin-with one motel room going unclaimed. Rural Mainers do things a bit differently, and the invisible frontier, between being hard at work and being tired enough to stop for the night, takes on a different hue up here.

Division Street, and The Bonsai That Unite

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May 16, 2022, San Clemente- The drunken man, professing White Supremacy, yelled at me to “Get lost”, as I walked along El Camino Real, in this Orange County beach town. I guess the t-shirt I’m wearing, with its Baha’i logo, set him off. I kept walking and he drove off.
Baha’u’llah does state that “Man is the supreme Talisman. Lack of a proper education, however, hath deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess.”- Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 259. Nowhere, of course, does He limit this bounty to any particular group of people.

Last night, at FOUND Hotel, in San Diego’s Little Italy, there were a few folks who were acting mighty lost, while saying they wished others-particularly the homeless who wanted to be let in, would get lost. No hostel, or residential hotel, is equipped to handle random homeless people wandering in off the streets. There has been progress made in sheltering, in many cities, but the task is looking Sisyphean. The number of units and condominia, catering to the uberwealthy are increasing at a rate outpacing those that provide for people in lower income brackets. Those who are experiencing homelessness, particularly in communities where housing costs are exorbitant-almost to an unconscionable level, are also finding their numbers increasing. Division Street, the nominal and actual social divider, of which Studs Terkel wrote in 1967, has become a metaphor for the country as a whole. Some hard decisions, regarding the accumulation of wealth, at the expense of a great many people, will need to be made in the not-too-distant future. Everyone will need to be at the table for this one.

I needed to change the channel in my head, after seeing so many people encamped in downtown San Diego, along Pacific Coast Highway and near Mission Beach. Revisiting Balboa Park’s Japanese Friendship Garden set the right tone. My focus was on the collection of bonsai, now at 18 and looking in on the koi, who were small when I was last there, in 2015.

Here are a few scenes from the Garden. The koi in the pond nearest the entrance have tripled in size, these past seven years.

Three types of bonsai: Pine, flowering and unflowered leafy are on display, in the Garden’s Bonsai Center.

My rejuvenation complete, it was an easy trip northward to Orange County, stopping briefly to complete some business at San Diego Baha’i Center, taking a detour to La Jolla’s sandy beach and another to La Cristianita Historic Site, in Camp Pendleton, which commemorates the first baptism in Alta California.

Tonight, I am comfortably at House of Trestles Hostel, amongst surfers and other lovers of the ocean. Here, everyone feels at home, even the dachshund-chihuahua mix.

The First Nation and the People of the Future

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May 15, 2022, San Diego- Today saw two focuses: First was a pair of meetings-one on the Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah, brief, but profound thoughts on spirituality and morality, which He intended to serve as instructions to those who were undertaking independent investigation of truth; the second, in mid-afternoon, was a presentation of two children’s books, each written about a powerful Black woman.

The people of the future will, perhaps after a fair amount of suffering and changes in society, recognize both intellectually AND emotionally, that mankind is one human race. That today’s presentation comes a day after a deluded young man drove two hundred miles, specifically to kill Black people (of whom eight were killed, along with two Whites, and three seriously wounded.), is no real coincidence. There is no real future for the philosophy of racial supremacy. The unity of the human race means that there will be no replacement of one group by another. Nor will there be a return to the oppression of one group by another.

After resting for a while, upon the conclusion of the second meeting, I made a return visit to Old Town San Diego. My focus this time was on the recognition of the area’s First Nation: Kumeyaay, formerly known as “Diegueno” and on the art of the Mexican people, prior to California’s passing into U. S. control. Here are some scenes of this visit.

The above scene honours the Pico Family, one of the San Diego area’s more prominent Mexican families of the early Nineteenth Century.

Below are two Mexican ollas, or water jugs, each with its own colours and designs.

I needed a change of pace for dinner, after enjoying a visit with friends at Harbor Breakfast, this morning and planning to return there again tomorrow. There was no better place than Cafe Gratitude, a vegan establishment, which titles its offerings with affirmations. Here is a description on the eatery’s window.

It was a most wondrous day, starting with the bright faces of Melissa and Maria, at Harbor, continuing at San Diego Baha’i Center (the site of Penny’s and my wedding, nearly forty years ago), continuing with the delightful stories of achievement this afternoon, the vibrance of Old Town and the healthy fare of Cafe Gratitude.

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!

Ridvan

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April 21, 2022- The titular word means “Paradise”, and is the name given to two gardens in west Asia. The first was a lush garden, north of Baghdad, from whence Baha’u’llah departed for what is now Istanbul, in April, 1863. It became the site of Baghdad Medical City, a large complex of hospitals, in 1973. The second is an island, surrounded by canals, in the vicinity of Akka, Israel. It was rented by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, in 1875, as a place where Baha’u’llah could spend time away from the dust and confines of the Prison City of Akka. It reminded Him of the Iraqi Garden of Ridvan, thus becoming eponymous to that spot, and also sacred to Baha’is.

Ridvan is also the name given to the twelve-day festival that celebrates Baha’u’llah’s declaration of His mission, which occurred on or around the ninth day of His stay at the original Garden of Ridvan, and made in the presence of His family and closest followers. Today, April 21, was the day of His arrival at the Garden and May 2 was the day He and His entourage departed. Thus, we celebrate the first, ninth and twelfth days as Holy Days, suspending work to the extent humanly possible.

Today also begins the nine-year period of which I have spoken in a few previous posts. The Universal House of Justice, our Supreme Body, has issued the framework for a Nine-Year Plan. Baha’i communities are also devising plans, within that framework and individual believers in turn are planning activities that fit within both the global framework and community plans. Our Faith works in both a top-down and bottom-up manner; the two being in synchronicity, through constant communication and consultation.

Both my activities here at Home Base and my travels thus have an essentially spiritual component. The goal is always building unity between people.

The Paschal Feast

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April 17, 2022- I begin this post with a song by the contemporary Christian duo Cassandra Star and Callahan, who are sisters.

Certainly, a worthy sequel to Kaylee Rodgers’ 2018 Christmas version of the Leonard Cohen classic.

All told, I’m certain that there were millions of households where families and friends gathered in a feast to commemorate the Resurrection of Christ, which many regard as having occurred literally and others regard in a symbolic sense. Millions more will do the same, in two weeks or so, when Orthodox Christians mark the Pasch. The most important thing, to me, is that Christ was showing humanity that the Supreme Being does not forget His Creatures, especially not those who are conceived in His image and likeness- in terms of spiritual qualities. As Jesus was given spiritual renewal, so are we able to receive it, not through entitlement or deserving, but through Divine Grace. It has always been thus, and has ever been disregarded by humanity as a whole. Therefore, God the Patient offers us the Example of His Messenger, time after time.

I joined with Christian friends, this afternoon, to mark this splendid event. Baha’u’llah, too, suffered enormously that we might not endure the rotting fruits of our fecklessness and waywardness. “God hath forgiven what is past.” is what He tells us in Kitab-i-Aqdas, or Book of Laws. As Creation is eternal, so too is the learning process. Yet, little by little, day by day, I believe we are getting there. Our Creator is waiting, patiently waiting.

Thorns, and Scars

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April 15, 2022- The weary Teacher completed the task assigned Him, by the feckless Roman Governor of Palestine. He carried the wooden cross that was to be His final abode on Earth, laid upon it, at the designated spot on Mount Calvary, was nailed to it hand and foot, and watched as slaves using ropes, raised Man and Device to uprightness and secured it in the ground.

It was asked of the onlookers, “Who do you wish us to absolve, this day?” Legend says that the crowd chose a suspected insurrectionist, Barabbas, to be released, leaving the Teacher to be left to die on the cross. The rest that transpired is solemnly commemorated, by all who love the Teacher, as Good Friday, the day on which the sins of the faithful were subsumed by His death.

The Creator has forgiven His creatures, throughout the life of the Universe. It has always come at the expense of the suffering of the Divine Teachers, sent to show us just what the cost of ignorant and feckless behaviour is. Jesus the Christ wore a crown of thorns and later appeared to His Disciples, showing them the scars on His hands and side.

Some Hindus believe Krishna, the Founder of the Hindu Faith, was tied to a tree and shot with arrows until dead. Al-Bab, the Herald of the Baha’i Faith, was executed by a firing squad of 750 soldiers. Baha’u’llah, while not executed, was tortured at various times, before and after He proclaimed His Mission. Such acts have always been carried out by the powermongers of the time, who know that the Teacher has come to bring purification to the human race, thus potentially ending their reigns and bringing true knowledge and power to the common folk.

Today is the most widely observed commemoration of such a travesty, and may its lessons be truly brought home to human consciousness, after nearly 2000 years of its Story being told.

The Long Run

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April 13, 2022- It almost seems, some days, like I spend the day on Zoom. It sometimes seems that I pull the face mask out of my pocket, at random, unexpected moments, getting appreciative nods from the fearful and glares from those who see their own freedom under assault. As the pandemic waxes and wanes, sometimes within the same week, its short-and long-term legacies show how they are with us, ready to do their jobs at a moment’s notice.

Health is a funny thing. I have managed, with the skillful help of my dermatology team, to beat back basal cells that had accumulated over a few years of spotty sunscreen applications-or perhaps, as a gadfly told me in Miami Beach, a few weeks ago, from applying the wrong type of sunscreen. Before these, there was my almost total disregard for my own health, both physical and mental, whilst taking care of my beloved wife in her final years.

Now I am mostly back on an even keel. There is much to be done, here during the next two months and in mid-summer; on the road at other points during the year. A period of nine years, 2022-2031, starts in a week, during which the world will hear and see a lot more about the Baha’i Faith and the Teachings of its Founder, Baha’u’llah, than many have heard up to now. I will have apart in that effort, both here in Prescott and in many other places. On my last journey, to the Southeast, most discussion of Baha’i teachings took place in a family setting, and in short conversations with a sharp-minded person from the Netherlands.

The long run, however, will see more than new wine in this old bottle. As we keep seeing, a lot of things to which we are accustomed, both big and small, have fallen away. This will long continue-in areas from statecraft to roles within the family; from modes of transportation to the design and organization of dwellings. All of this re-organization, however disconcerting it may be at times, will result in a far more peaceful world.

“This is the Day in which God’s most excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. It is incumbent upon all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences, and, with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of His care and loving-kindness. It behoveth them to cleave to whatsoever will, in this Day, be conducive to the exaltation of their stations, and to the promotion of their best interests. Happy are those whom the all-glorious Pen was moved to remember, and blessed are those men whose names, by virtue of Our inscrutable decree, We have preferred to conceal.
Beseech ye the one true God to grant that all men may be graciously assisted to fulfil that which is acceptable in Our sight. Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth, and is the Knower of things unseen.”- Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, page 346.

Sane and Intelligent Patriotism

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February 27, 2022- Recently, we have been treated to the spectacle of a field grade officer, in the United States Army Reserves, making public statements supporting the unprovoked attack of one country upon another-as a way of expressing opposition to our own sitting president.

Baha’u’llah taught that love of one’s country, as expressed in patriotism, should be sane and intelligent. Shoghi Effendi, His great-grandson and the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, from 1922 until his passing in 1957, explained the Baha’i teachings on this matter further: “Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Baha’u’llah. Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks to broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an ever-changing world. It can conflict with no legitimate allegiances, nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is neither to stifle the flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men’s hearts, nor to abolish the system of national autonomy so essential if the evils of excessive centralization are to be avoided.”-Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah.

This World Order, as opposed to the partisan or financial globalist orders, recognizes the essential need for society to be constructed from the ground up, first with a securely functioning family, then community, state/province/prefecture, nation and commonwealth. None may be allowed to cancel the other, particularly from the top down.

This principle honours the human need for loyalty and belonging. By its lights, a citizen exhibits loyalty to family, state and nation, then gradually may reach the understanding that the human race is one entity. This understanding can never be forced upon anyone. Conversely, peace officers, military and government officials-at any level, must honour the citizens and their elected representatives, regardless of the officer’s or official’s personal views about those representatives.

In my humble opinion, that is the meaning of sane and intelligent patriotism.