Smooth Ride, Small Tremors

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October 25, 2022- I slipped out of Carson City in the early morning darkness, around 5:15, hoping to catch breakfast at a small bakery in Yerington, about an hour away, as Carson’s eateries don’t open until around 7. Alas, neither does the bakery in Yerington. It did give me a good start on the long ride back to Prescott, which I was determined to complete, so as to attend a celebration of the Birth of al-Bab, with my Faith Community.

This is the week when Baha’is observe the births of both al-Bab and of Baha’u’llah, as the days occur consecutively, on the Islamic calendar, which of course was the determinant of their birth dates. We use a calendar with similar reckoning, for determining the dates of Holy Days, such as these birthdays. So, this year, al-Bab’s Birth is celebrated after sundown on October 25, or during the day on October 26. Baha’u’llah’s Birth is celebrated after sundown on October 26 or during the day on October 27.

The drive itself was steady and smooth. I got breakfast at Beans and Brews, in Tonopah, and learned it is one of about two dozen branches of a Utah-based enterprise. The workers seem very happy, and they serve good coffee and food, so it is always worth a stop, when in Tonopah. Traffic was not heavy, even in Las Vegas. I was back in Arizona by 2 p.m., stopping only for gas and a light lunch, at “Last Stop in AZ”, which is ironically on the southbound side of US 93. Drowsiness started to kick in, as I approached Jolly Road, near Seligman, so I pulled off and rested for about fifteen minutes. It was there that I felt the unmistakable tremors. Sure enough, there was a shaking, 5.1, though in Silicon Valley, a distance of 647 miles. I still felt it, when I got back to Prescott, so there must have been a few aftershocks.

The gathering for the Birth of al-Bab was large and joyful. Someone who had recently been on Pilgrimage to the Holy Land gave each of us a rose petal and small card with a prayer on it. A nice, light meal was provided by the hosts and we caught up with what each of us had been doing, over the past two weeks. Later, I got a message from the Carson City family, saying I was already missed. This is ever sweet, and I know this: So many friends, far and wide, generate strong feelings of love in my heart. I will always do what I can to have their backs, whether they are in Prescott, Carson City, Phoenix, Grapevine, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts-or any of over a hundred locations, where a warm reception awaits.

At What Cost?

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October 3, 2022- The obviously disgruntled man, having finished his meal, offered his solution to what he viewed as the incompetence of those working in social institutions- in essence, ‘Put them out of their misery’. Of course, he was watching, with a puckish grin, to see if I showed any sign of being shocked. I was not, and did not.

The extreme “solutions” being put forth by certain elements on the fringes of society are given more cachet, by many people who know better, than they will ever deserve. The result, if their impulses are transmuted into action, will be a severe disruption of society-and will make January 6, 2021 seem like a walk in the park. It will also not end in the way they think.

The man in question is not in a position to bring havoc to bear on many people. He is homeless and disabled, and no doubt, those factors contribute to his animus towards people in positions of authority, in business as well as in government. We, on the Monday evening feeding crew, work to at least provide a measure of solace to those who have known nothing but grief, from a good many who are in decision-making situations. Anger, especially among those who are fairly well-educated, but who have been dealt a poor hand, does not spring out of nowhere. The man quoted above knows his Bible, chapter and verse. He also has watched many videos on the Gaia Network, and has made some connections between the two.

Misdirected or misapplied knowledge, from any direction, can bring about changes in society. Yet will the changes result in the betterment of society, or end up costing us all far more than even the perpetrators of those changes bargained.

“The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and holy deeds and through commendable and seemly conduct.”-Baha’u’llah

Fourth Quarter Musings

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October 2, 2022- The ten-year-old girl was apologetic, as she corrected me about a certain procedure, at an event where I was volunteering, this afternoon. I assured her that the advice was welcome, and well-taken. The correction made all the difference, and obviated any embarrassment that would have ensued, had I not been reminded of the proper procedure.

My relationships with people, regardless of age, gender, or any other physical or social consideration, have matured, evolved-to the point where the only thing that matters, at all, is character. This is especially true since 2015, which was about the time that I left recovery mode, four years after Penny’s passing. Even vicious people whom I encountered were able to provide insights that could be incorporated into my personal growth. They were, on balance, not people of good character, so they are no longer in my life. The lessons, though, remain.

As we enter the fourth quarter of this year that has brought sea changes to many aspects of our lives, I find myself closing the door on things I find bogus: The almost whimsical political e-mails, which change with the wind, and whose intent is solely to wring money out of the fearful; the “controversy” over an African-American woman playing James Madison’s crystal flute-with dignity and respect, I might add; in fact, ANY claim that people should mind their place. I treat children with the respect that is their birthright. I treat elders with the respect that their long lives have earned, as well as being their birthright. I treat everyone in between, with the same respect. It is nice that I am able to bring genuine smiles to people’s faces, as a result of that respect.

My goals for the next three months are fairly straightforward. I will work a bit, this week, and over parts of November and December. I will help the Red Cross and local service groups, when I can. Visits with friends in Nevada and Idaho will take up a couple of weeks, later this month, followed by two days celebrating the Birthdays of al-Bab and Baha’u’llah, the dates of which are a day apart. November will see a visit to Monument Valley and with some friends in southeast Utah. Thanksgiving, as has been the case for the past two years, will be spent with my little family, in Grapevine. It is there that I will turn 72. December will see a three-day visit to southern California, just before Christmas and to Taos and Santa Fe, just after. Christmas itself will be here at Home Base.

Everything that is worth while is based on love. So on we go.

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.