Ever-Advancing

9

May 2, 2019-

Here’s what I’ve experienced,

over nearly seven decades.

For every person who has left my side,

five more have appeared.

For every person who has stuck his foot out,

so as to trip me up,

ten pairs of hands have broken my fall.

For every voice of doom,

there have been a dozen angels,

singing of hope and gladness.

For each act of destruction,

a host of projects,

glistening with resilience,

have sallied forth.

In each person,

who bristles outwardly with hate,

I see a small shining star,

struggling to get out,

and so dissipate,

the outer darkness.

In each act of destruction,

there is the seed of recovery,

that will burst forth,

given its nourishment.

One hundred fifty-six years ago, today,

the Light of the World,

set forth, once again,

to bring hope and strength,

to creatures that their Creator

loves so well.

Through all the darkness,

into the light,

we, of humanity,

are ever-advancing.

(Today is the Twelfth Day of Ridvan, commemorating Baha’u’llah’s departure from Baghdad, together with his family and closest followers, for the north of Iraq and on into Turkey.)

 

Meeting Needs of Self and Others

5

April 30, 2019-

I spent a few hours, this morning, with a small group of people whose world view is something of a throwback to the time when Big Band music was de rigeur and good manners were the bedrock of society.  They are finding it hard to deal with the unraveling of society, viewing liberalism as the cause.  In my view, it is simply one reaction to the upheavals, rather than being causative.

Yesterday, I introduced Baha’u’llah’s prescription for the individual.  Today, let us look at sentences 5-8, of the Tablet:  “Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts.”

The people to whom I refer above would strike some as antiquated in their views.  As many of you know, I associate with many types of people, across the political spectrum and of all ethnicities and Faith groups.  Being fair in judgment so often requires one to hold the tongue- so being guarded in speech is a very critical trait, one on which I had to work very hard.  It does not mean suffering calumnies against other groups or rosily accepting what ever comes out of the person’s mouth, without challenge.  Nonetheless, a person does not do well to “shoot his mouth off.”  Justice shown to one man should not preclude justice to others.  Such would be a false justice.  Meekness- that is something of which I have often been accused.  So, it’s ironic that not being meek was cited as the grounds for my recent change in employment status.  No one can claim perfection.     I do, however, strive for humility, in my dealings with others.

Comfort and defense, both to myself and to those around me, have indeed been primary goals, and these make sentence #7:  “Be as  a lamp unto them that walk in darkness……..”, that much more cogent, the last clause being the driving force behind my having become a counselor and child advocate.  Integrity has been huge; so that even when I have failed in the matter of uprightness, the ownership of those failures has had to be indelible.

So onward I go; forward we all go.  Even when change is difficult to face, let us apply those values we hold dearest, to the resolution of the challenges we face, such as we will ever face.

A Timely Bit of Guidance

0

April 29, 2019-

Today was the Ninth Day of Ridvan, the period of time when Baha’u’llah and His family/friends gathered in a garden north of Baghdad, preparing to leave that city, for an overland journey to further exile, in Constantinople (now Istanbul).  We Baha’is commemorate this Day, as it was one of the days that He first spoke more clearly of His Mission to the world.

I wish to share, and to examine closely, a quotation found on page 285 of a compendium of His Writings, itself entitled Gleanings From The Writings of Baha’u’llah.  I find it a good daily guide to my own behaviour, which has a long ways to go.  Then again, isn’t that the whole point of this life- to develop our spiritual qualities before we head for the next level of existence?

“Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.”-Baha’u’llah

It’s easy to give, when we have lots.  Giving, though, is too easily seen only in terms of money.  Hardly a day goes by, that I don’t see someone standing on a corner, holding a sign, get a message from someone far way-begging for my financial help or get an e-mail from someone with  a money-making scheme.  My generosity, though, is most often put to use, providing someone with information that they can use to help themselves, or extra items that I don’t need, or a connection to resources here in town.  The other gift I can many times offer, is that of time and energy.  Being thankful in adversity:  Well, as I have often done for myself, the thankfulness comes from being able to draw a lesson from the trouble.

Trustworthiness has been the source of a few bumps in my road, in the years immediately following Penny’s passing.  Trust, though, comes from self-knowledge, and self-acceptance.  No one who doubts one’s own worth is going to go the extra mile for another.  It took me a few years to get back on that highway.  I have, however, taken ownership of every single hiccup.  The sanctity of my pledge is again true.

I will look at sentences 5-8, in the next post.

 

Heavenly Flow

8

April 21, 2019-

Today brought me close to two faith traditions:  A musical, somewhat relaxed Evangelical Baptist service- which I attended at the invitation of a former co-worker.  I didn’t see her  there, but met up with another former colleague with the Red Cross.  After exchanging pleasantries, I took a seat in the congregation, while he took his place in the choir.  My part was to sing with the rest of those in the congregation, join in greeting those around me, and respond to an occasional call.  I only regret not raising my hand when the pastor asked who believes in the Christ. I do, certainly.  One cannot accept the Message of the Father and discard That of the Son.

At our Baha’i community’s gathering, this afternoon, I joined with about 45 fellows in Faith, to commemorate the first day of Baha’u’llah’s declaring His Mission, even as He and His companions prepared for a long journey overland, from Baghdad to what is now Istanbul.

The message is similar:  None of us is squeaky clean, and God alone can absolve us with Grace.   The sufferings of each Divine Messenger are what free us from our wrongdoings.  Only by acknowledging this, and not wanting to be distant from the Divine, does one progress spiritually.

So, that was my day of spiritual fellowship.  Connection with the Divine, though, is what has eased my path, even when I find myself alone.  In times of uncertainty, as to my course of action, I find my Spirit Guides provide a very clear framework, within which I must make informed choices.

This week, for example, will bring me to Flagstaff, then to the Desert View Tower, at the eastern end of Grand Canyon National Park- honouring the Centenary of that great national entity.  From there, it will be time to honour an old friend, who passed on, last week.  His services will be east of Tuba City, at another lovely locale:  Coal Mine Canyon.  Then, I must return here to Prescott, and look after my own health, with a lab test on Wednesday.   Matters of faith, possible acts of service with the Red Cross, another friend’s birthday party and a presentation by Slow Food-Prescott will fill out the week.

The flow of celestial energy is constant, and bears heeding.

 

 

 

 

 

A Step at a Time

2

March 31, 2019-

I made it to Planet Fitness, despite a sense of fatigue after a trip to Phoenix and back, having attended a worthwhile, but somewhat tiring, meeting.  I was glad to have not had to drive, with a competent friend at the wheel instead.

Tonight’s workout came after a twenty-minute catnap.  I feel better, having done the 30-minute express, followed by ten minutes on the hydrobed.  Bittersweet March has thus, in the end, affirmed that there is still quite a bit left in this sexagenarian frame.  I get appreciative glances from ladies, the younger among them knowing, as well as I do, that that is as far as it goes.  It feels nice, regardless.

It is now full-on Spring.  Tomorrow, we will see what practical jokes remain to be played.  Later in the month come Chalk-It-Up, Earth Day, Easter and the Twelve Days of Ridvan, commemorating Baha’u’llah’s Declaration of His Mission.  I will get my annual physical at the VA, sometime during the month, and will visit the Grand Canyon, on Good Friday.

April, as a wise colleague once remarked, cannot be the cruelest month.  Sorry, T.S. Eliot.

These Lengthening Ties

4

March 11, 2019, Gyong-Meon, South Korea-

One of the questions I have been asked about the marriage of Aram and Yunhee is how I feel about my son marrying someone from another nation or culture.  (“Race” is left out of this, thankfully. )  My answer is very simple:  Aram has married a beautiful and highly intelligent young woman, who will bring great pride and joy to my family  We, in turn, will bring a great deal of the same to her equally distinguished family.

There was a time, even during our previous living in Korea, when language and cultural differences cast all manner of misunderstandings and suspicion upon even the strongest of work relationships and faith community affairs.  Slowly and carefully, we managed, by working together, to mitigate the worst of these.  Aram, being an infant and toddler at the time, was largely spared the relatively few insults and personal attacks that came our way-not just from more hidebound people in this society, but from equally narrow-minded people on the eastern shore of the Pacific as well.

My friendship with the Shin and Park families has been instantaneous.  There is none of the rancour or suspicion of the 1980’s and ’90’s to soil the life of the extended family.  The growing pains have eased, and we have found that there is an authentic human bond.

This is as Baha’u’llah intended, in calling for the spiritual unification of the entire planet- before other forms of unity are truly realized  This does not mean uniformity, which is the antithesis of true unity.  We families will long cherish each other, much as those who were previously set, within the bounds of American culture, have proven enduring.  It’s time for the next step forward, and the rising generations are leading the way.  I am gladly following that lead.

NEXT:  Chonju and its historical preservation

The Blessings Outweigh….

2

March 2-5, 2019-

This past weekend brought the beginning of our Nineteen-Day Fast, abstaining from food and beverages between sunrise and sunset, March 2-20 (most years), for those in good health between the ages of 15-70.  This year’s Fast is a bit complex for me, due to travel that will interrupt the practice (Baha’u’llah excuses the traveler; women who are pregnant, nursing, or in their courses;  the seriously ill and those engaged in heavy physical work).

I made good use of the weekend, participating in a seed education program, with one of the community groups in which I’m involved:  Slow Food-Prescott.  I am no expert on seeds, but I can still help with set-up and breakdown of the hall.  I also re-learned a lot about plants- seeds, as opposed to spores, and the various aspects of germination.

Sunday brought me back to Phoenix, for a large music festival:  McDowell Mountain Music Festival, ironically not held in Scottsdale, but in downtown Phoenix’s Hance Park. Two Drum Circles and time with a vibrant and highly artistic friend made the whole event worth the drive.

There was a most diverse group sitting in on the drum circles.20190303_152300

20190303_151154

This English band, Maribou State, was giving the last performance of its current tour.  It was their first visit to Phoenix.

20190303_171619

My friend was very busy with hoop dancing, and had been at it for three days straight.

20190303_155547

I headed back to Prescott in a prudent manner, and have had a good couple of days at work, this week.  Today marked the eighth anniversary of Penny’s passing.  I stopped at the gravesite on Sunday, prior to attending the Music Festival.  I was thus able to properly mark our connection, with a vase of white carnations, which were her favourite flower, and time in quiet reflection.  She loved drumming and had great respect for hoop dancers, so my participation in the former and encouraging Pam and some young women in the latter, was an homage as well.

Most important, though, I have continued with two of our shared passions:  Educating special needs children and advocating wellness.  I have, if all goes well, two years after this, in full time education.  Wellness, though, will be part of my life until it’s time to head beyond.  Essential oils and living a healthy lifestyle are the foundation of my thriving.

In a few short days, I head to South Korea, for the formal wedding of Aram and Yunhee, a return to Jeju and renewing my ties to one of our blessed homes together.  The blessings always outweigh any hardships.

Nineteen

6

March 2, 2019- 

I began my penultimate physical Fast today.  Once I reach the age of seventy, in November of next year,  abstinence from food and drink no longer is binding, and the Fast will bring additional spiritual duties.

For this year, though, I am following the course prescribed by Baha’u’llah:  When not traveling or engaged in arduous physical labour, I abstain from food and drink, from sunrise to sunset, from today through March 20.  Travel to and from Korea, in a few short days, will truncate the physical aspect of the Fast, with the spiritual duties remaining in place.

I have nineteen thoughts I wish to share:

  1. As stated yesterday, all life is sacred.
  2.  Those who, for whatever reason, don’t view their lives, or those of others, as sacred are to be embraced in their suffering-and not condemned, though they must be held to account for acts of violence.
  3. If someone takes me to task, even harshly, and I know that one is right, I need to be the change.
  4. No one has the individual right to strike another person, unless one is responsible for that other person’s well being, as a parent or guardian-and even then, the reason for the spanking is understood by the other and it is only used as a last resort.
  5. Even insects and arachnids should be captured and released outside, into a safe place, whenever possible.  They have their place in the scheme of things.
  6. There is no human trash. Some just need to be monitored more closely and held in firmer check.
  7. Education is a universal right.
  8. Food and beverages should be as free of contamination as is humanly possible.
  9. Fun is essential to the soul, though never had at another’s expense.
  10. Everyone’s legitimate work deserves respect.
  11. All prayers are heard by, and affect, the Universe.
  12. Time in nature is also essential to the soul.
  13. Love is the primary building block of the Universe.
  14. May I never walk away from a cry for help.
  15. A call for peace is the best sound that may escape one’s lips, first thing in the morning.
  16. The morning sun, the evening stars and moon are here to reassure us that there is always a force, greater than ourselves.
  17. When I am in a half-sleep, I communicate both with departed souls and with those who are in  my life, but who are not immediately present.
  18. Plants show an intelligence, in the way they propagate and in the way they seek what they need.
  19. God, the Divine, the Universe, the Infinite, the Eternal, reveals to us what we need and what we can comprehend, in the way of truth.  It has always been thus.

None of these are original thoughts, but they occur to me nonetheless and so I share.

 

Nine Tasks

2

January 19, 2019-

Many people make resolutions, the first thing, when the calendar rolls over.  I don’t indulge in that particular practice, knowing that making firm commitments to new practices takes time.

There are nine task areas, labours of love, that have defined my life, since the passing of  Penny, nearly eight years ago.  I will focus today on what these mean, relative to 2019.

1.  Family- With Aram and Yoonhee based in Busan, for at  least the rest of this year, my focuses are: To be in Korea for their sacred wedding ceremony, in March; to tend to such of their needs as can only be addressed on this side of the Pacific; to meet them in the U.S., should they visit here in the summer.

2.  Work- I remain committed to working, during the regular academic year, through at least December, 2020 and no later than May. 2021, depending on the needs of the school, preferably in the High School Autism Program.  Thus, work is a major daily focus through the fourth week of May and from August-December.

3. Faith- No day has gone by, since February 23, 1981, that I have not begun my morning in devotions and a fairly long recitation of prayer.  Service to Baha’u’llah remains  a prime expression of my inner joy and love for humanity.  This year marks the Bicentenary of the Birth of al-Bab (The Gate), Who we revere as both Baha’u’llah’s Herald and His Twin Messenger of God, as al-Bab’s spiritual Dispensation took place from 1844-1853, immediately before the beginning of Baha’u’llah’s.   Their birthdays also fall on two consecutive days, on the lunar calendar.  This year, these are October 29-30, with al-Bab’s  anniversary occurring first. (Historically, Baha’u’llah was born in 1817 and al-Bab, in 1819).  There are also regular Spiritual Feasts and other Holy Days, throughout the year and I  am participating in regular study groups and other activities.

4.  Community Life-  I take part in volunteering on community projects, with the American Red Cross and Slow Food Prescott.  The focuses are on disaster response, home safety, school gardens and,  new this year, food recovery.  These activities largely define my giving back to Prescott and Yavapai County, for having been a large part of my solace, in the Fall of 2011.  The American Legion’s Post 6 celebrates its 100th anniversary, in May, and I will have a part to play in that celebration.

5. Writing- Blogging and journaling have also been critical to my inner healing, even in the midst of my caretaking, in 2008-11.   They remain an integral part of who I am, and so Word Press, with its being extended to Facebook and Linked In, remains my primary means of self-expression, through this year and beyond.  I also maintain a pen and ink private journal.

6, Hiking-  This has been a huge lifelong pastime, pretty much since I was old enough to walk.  Since I’ve been old enough to take off on my own, without getting into trouble, many trails and paths, from my native Massachusetts to the desert Southwest, Colorado, southeast Alaska, Korea and northwestern Europe have seen my bootprints.  This year, my focuses will be on further segments of the Maricopa Trail, at least two visits to the Grand Canyon, more beach walks in southern California, Fall hikes in Utah and the Navajo Nation, and several walks with Aram and Yoonhee, whilst in Korea.

7. Travel-  This has also long been one of my passions, often dovetailing with hiking.  The Korea trip will take me to Gwangju and Jeju, as well as Busan.  Prior to that, will be a Presidents’ Day weekend visit to southern California, hopefully connecting with friends in Orange County and the San Diego area-with La Jolla, Dana Point, San Clemente and possibly Crystal Cove being on the itinerary.

June and July largely hinge on my little family’s schedule.  Carson City, in late May, is a given, with a new extended family member having been born, this past week.  A 1-2 week visit to the Northwest, Vancouver Island/Sunshine Coast and southeast Alaska is likely-as is the now customary jaunt through the Midwest to New England and back through the mid-South.

October (Fall Break) will find me in Monument Valley and southeast Utah- returning to Capitol Reef and Natural Bridges, as well as the Goosenecks of the San Juan River.  Christmas, God-willing, will see a return to Massachusetts.

8. Diet and Exercise- Planet Fitness and our daily Adaptive Physical Education regimen have largely provided my continuity as a healthy physical specimen.  Stretches at home have also proven critical, as I recovered from a posterior knee strain, over the past ten weeks.  Things are 99% back to normal and I want to keep it that way- up to, and maintaining, 100%.  I am cutting back on coffee consumption, not out of any pressure, but because my body tells me that’s what it wants.  Less red meat is also finding its way onto my plate-and what there is, is certified grass-fed and organic.  A greater percentage of my diet being of vegetables, fruits and whole grains is on tap for this year, as well.  Yes, I will drink more water-that’s not an empty statement. Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, including Lifelong Vitality Supplements, are a continual source of sustenance.

9. Study-  My mind is always looking to keep current with advances in health, trends in positive thought and expanding my awareness of subjects in which I have scant knowledge- as well as continual study of Baha’i texts and new correspondence. This will continue, as 2019 progresses.

This is a longer post than usual, but there you have my year’s plan.

 

 

 

Feet of Clay

6

December 1, 2018, Prescott-

You say that my dear friend,

someone I love very much,

is not measuring up,

not cutting the mustard.

I know differently.

I know just how hard,

how diligently,

how effectively,

my friend has pleaded your case.

I know the high regard in which

you have been held,

in my friend’s estimation.

Frankly,

I have always had my doubts.

No human being,

myself included,

even remotely

approaches the level,

of  Jesus the Christ,

of  Gautama Siddhartha ,

of Baha’u’llah.

You have made

some very high claims.

You have not exactly SAID

you are above it all,

but by your behaviour of late,

you act as if that is the case.

I love my friend,

and will stand by her,

throughout.

You, though,

will have to

be content,

hardening your feet of clay.