The Year of Living Furtively

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December 31, 2020-

Some of the hardest losses of this voracious year were two of the last. It pains me, especially, when two people who are meant to be together are separated by death, however temporarily. Perhaps because I know, so well, how it feels. I know the self-doubts, the second guessing, the “if only” moments that dog the surviving spouse. I also know that the way to resilience, for the one left behind, is to embrace that which makes one special, as an individual, with double the intensity.

I learned, only this afternoon, of the passing of one half of such a pair. Jeff had struggled with his cancer, constantly surrounded, enveloped with the love that only his indomitable wife and daughters could offer. Others among us tried to help, some offering respite care; some, like myself, offering remedies and a listening ear for our friends, whose shop has become such a vibrant gathering place, in a town that is still in the throes of becoming a community.

Thirty-six friends and family members, ranging in age from 21 to 100, have passed to the next realm, in this year of living furtively, Some were fixtures of my childhood; others, I had the pleasure of knowing for only a few years. Some, I only met once or twice, but the empath in me let them make an indelible impression. That impression will last long. It comes with the nature of my beast.

It is now 6:15 p.m. , and it is still twilight. Solstice being past for over a week, daylight lengthens a smidgen at a time. That is fitting; this year has seemed at times to be made of a darkness that is interminable. Coronavirusdisease 2019 has dominated much of the time and energy of the vast majority of people across the globe. Most of us have not been stricken with the ailment, but far too many others have. Those who have not actually contracted it, have been suspect of such-every time we sneeze, or emit a wet cough, into the crook of our elbow, or appear somewhere without a face mask. All but four of those friends and family, to whom I alluded above, died of COVID-related factors-especially pneumonia.

Dealing with the pandemic became complicated, with racial incidents, some of which were exacerbated by crimes of ignorance and by people continuing to talk past one another. Demonstrations muddied the water of our national response to the pandemic, especially in light of bans on gatherings for worship or for bidding loved ones farewell. Too many of those loved ones died alone, after having spent their last days and months in solitude. Demonstrations were, in most cases, necessary to the public weal. So, too, however, were gatherings of worship, so deeply-rooted in the American psyche-and not just in Christian communities. Dineh and Hopi friends missed their traditional ceremonial gatherings. We Baha’is also have made do with virtual connection.

The two demonstrations upon which I happened, featured participants who were uniformly masked-even among counterprotestors. The two church-based memorial services I attended featured physical distancing and/or uniform face masking. In these instances, subsequent infection was either minimal or nonexistent. Needless to say, I have exercised extreme caution when out of Home Base, since having had bronchitis (non-COVID), in mid-February.

My usual taking to the open road took a back seat, for the most part, in 2020. There were two deployments with the Red Cross, to Louisiana and Dallas. Another journey took me back to the Dallas area, for Thanksgiving and my 70th Birthday, with care taken in airports and elsewhere, to not become part of the problem. The joy of just being with my small family unit was worth the trip, as was the drive to Phoenix, three weeks later, for a mini-visit.

Equally salubrious, however, has been the use of technology, in connecting with my Faith community, with the Red Cross community and with wider spiritual gatherings. I have learned much and shared much. This aspect of technology can only serve to enhance our direct physical encounters, post-pandemic. I know that I need not be isolated from those in this community, when further afield again, towards summer and autumn of the coming year.

Finally, in reaching seventy, I reached full social security, and look at the culmination of my teaching career. Five days a week, out of personal necessity, is in my rear view mirror. Work in the coming Spring semester, will be in view of service to the schools and more discretionary, in terms of schedule.

This year, now grumbling to a close, has accented the small-How needful it is to revitalize memory, when it comes to the humble password or the most routine of courtesies! How crucial it is, to rekindle acceptance of differences, reminding ourselves how dull it would be for everyone to be forced into the same train of thought or the same world view. Exclusivity, as much as its proponents tell themselves it is necessary, is a dead end.

Let not one’s conservatism, or progressivism, lead to that dead end. Let 2020 be what comes to an end, without one’s viewpoint joining it.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 71: Each One’s Path

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August 10, 2020-

The sojourner faced east, and saw the Sun rising, Venus setting, a group of deer grazing and a Muslim, on a prayer rug, greeting the new day with his first devotions of the day.

The sojourner next faced south, saw the white Moon, with a barely discernable Jupiter to its left, a group of javelina headed uphill and on a quiet street, a small group of Christians walking to their morning devotions at the neighbourhood church.

The sojourner turned to the west, witnessing a still sky of cerullian blue, a chevron of geese rising in the sky, off to a day on a nearby lake, the stewards of downtown heading to their places of work and a trio of Buddhists taking their places on mats, crosslegged, in earnest meditation.

The sojourner finally turned northward, seeing the distant clouds, which would tease the mountaintops with a fog of verigo, a vaguely discernable black bear trudging along towards the forest, a line of cars coming into town, for their day of earnings and sacrifice and a lone Wiccan, eyes closed and hands gently tapping on a hand drum.

The sojourner saw truth in all, but dared not let them know, lest their minds become clouded with fear, and their hearts turn from the blessed focus with which they had each begun their day. He returned to his center and gave thanks unto the Source of all being.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 36: Courage and Chaos

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July 6, 2020-

The day started early, with the rise and shine spirits getting me out of bed at 5:30. The heat of summer is a pretty strong cue. There was also some inspiration for what I have been asked to do. I have thought to myself that, even if this is coming from a less than honest person, I will not be divulging any personal information, as I am a document preparer and little more. So, I cranked out the preliminary report and sent it to him for review, by 10:30.

Most of the day, again, was spent on Harmonic Convergence, which today addressed the topic, “Facing the Shadow”. How apropos for this time! Each of us is facing the shadow of opposition to our own views; the shadow of demands upon our time, energy and, if we’re not careful, our money; the shadow of self-doubt; the shadow of gaslighting of our experiences.

The greatest of these shadows, and one which could face us all, is the shadow of chaos. Christians identify this force as Satan, or Lucifer, the chaos of ego run amok and of opposition to the Divine.

Only courage, literally coeurage, the strength of the heart, can face down this conniving, but listless, absence of light and lack of conviction. Courage can, and will, bring caution those who seek to instill excess in the wake of true justice-as those who demand that figures of the past must adhere to the standards of the present, in order to be honoured in the least manner are attempting to do. Following the rightful retirement, of those who fought against our country, from public honour, it is wise to hit the pause button on destruction of honours given to those whose life stories are more mixed. Who among US has a sterling record?

There is much to tidy, to cleanse, from our national story, without tearing down more broadly-based monuments and without forbidding study of the dark chapters of our country’s treatment of people of African descent, whether free or enslaved; of those who are our continent’s First Nations, including, by extension, Native Hawaiians; of those who come to this country from our southern neighbours; of those who come from all parts of the Asian continent and from the southern islands of the Pacific.

White people have been mistreated, too, and by the same forces who profited from enslavement of Black people and slaughter of Native peoples. Nicola Tesla and Preston Tucker were threatened, marginalized and ultimately banished from pursuing technological advances that put the wealthy, the powerful and the mass media at risk of financial loss, even though that loss would have been short term. Each newly arrived ethnic group from Europe faced discrimination from those who came before them. Women faced a long, and often tortuous, fight for equality with men before the law, and it’s not over yet. Jews, and their distant cousins, the Arabs, face blame for anything that may discomfit European-Americans.

Courage faces all these, and if triage is necessary to stanch the bleeding of African-Americans, indigenous people or children who are at risk of separation from their parents, along our southern border-then triage it is. It will not mean amnesia, with regard to the legitimate claims of Whites, or of conservatives who happen to be Black or Hispanic. It will mean, as any parent with several children knows, that the greatest need gets addressed first; that the most vulnerable are made secure, first.

Courage is not fazed by criticism, rage or ridicule. Courage does what it does, because it is, along with truth and love, a basic element of Justice.

Sixty Six for Sixty-Six, Part IV: Raise the Bar

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January 16, 2017, Prescott-  I spent most of today just being here for my son and a friend of his, so that they got a good breakfast into themselves and didn’t forget any of their gear, from last night’s camp-out.  The other act of service was a visit to my surrogate uncle, Henry “Hank” Alcott, whom I’ve mentioned here before.  He told me I needed to cook for myself more, and so I have a sheet with some of his favourite New England recipes.  He also reinforced my commitment to service, by telling me, again, about his daily regimen of getting up at dawn, making his own bed and going around the VA Hospital, and visiting those who are alone.  Henry is 93, and regards everyone he knows as his family.  I can’t think of a finer way to live fully.

This leads me to the next order of business:  We hit rock bottom, during the last election cycle, in a variety of ways.  Elections often produce winners who seem to be the opposite of what a country needs.  There are eras, as with the presidency of Ronald Reagan, when the elected grows, marvelously, into the position and stands firm, in meeting the needs of the times.

Society could well stand a make-over or, at least, a cleansing.  Here are some suggestions:

  1.  Learning should not be limited to a prescribed pedagogy.  I have a personal dedication to raising the bar for my students, to see knowledge as a tool for personal success- and for myself to not rely so much on cognitive material.  People are embracing the process of learning, and its mastery, a lot more.  Let’s place more stress on analysis, synthesis and application.
  2. Family, as Uncle Hank says, is unlimited.  The possibilities of what can be achieved are limitless, when one does not constrict his/her circle of contacts and sources of ideas.  I said, yesterday, on another medium, that people can be estimable, regardless of their personal politics.  I have not restricted my “family” to the realms of close genealogy, regional neighbourship or even shared pigmentation, national origin or nationality at birth. It would be more than grand, if we were to value the lives of others, as if there were no “Other”.
  3. God is not a four-letter word.  Most of the satisfaction I have had from life has come from a belief system.  I believe each of us has to find our own spiritual center, and that, in doing so, we don’t cast aspersions on the beliefs of others.  I speak of Baha’u’llah and study His Teachings.  That does not mean I hold it against Christians, Muslims or followers of other Faiths, who wish to share their beliefs. Fullness of spiritual knowledge can only make us stronger.
  4. These are three areas, in which I believe the “bar” can be raised.