2018 and the Four F’s

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January 5, 2018, Prescott-

I have addressed the new year, in terms of where I might go, and such.  In terms of the Now, however, any new year is best approached by looking at the Four F’s of one’s life: Family, Friends, Faith and Finances.

So, let’s do this.

Family-  I have to be at the ready, always, for any changes that happen in my large and cherished family.  As with anyone, I need to be ready for births, deaths and any dire emergency in between.  Right now, the radar screen shows my niece’s wedding, in June. May peace reign, in the interim.  My family goal this year, though, remains more regular communication with all.  Social media takes up much of that slack, and I am already engaged in writing a traditional letter to my mother, every 1-2 weeks.  A similar letter, to my eldest brother, goes out once a month, and he follows my online postings.  The same is true of my son.

Friends- There is someone who I consider my best friend, and to whom I would devote as much time as she needs.  She is a busy soul, though, so up to now, that time has not amounted to a whole lot.  There are many others, from my fellows in Faith, my co-workers and people, from three blocks away, to Zimbabwe and Siberia, for whom I would give my life. I have two caveats:  Please do not call or message me, randomly, and get offended when I don’t have time for a social call- deferred attention is always an option. Secondly, not buying a product you have for sale or endorsing a mass message you are promoting on Facebook Messenger does not mean I don’t care about you.  Conversely, if you don’t take up my cause, I will still regard you as a friend.  Visiting goes by the same rules.  I will always call or message, in advance, when headed your way.  Right now, a visit to a friend in Orange County, CA is in the works and there may be several more, between here and Philadelphia, come school year’s end.

Faith- My day starts with meditation, prayer and recitation of a sacred verse.  Faith, though, has to be reflected in everything one does, especially with regard to other people.  So, my work, my driving, my business transactions, even my leisure activities, are approached with Baha’i principles in mind.  I am no saint, but the Golden Rule is ever present.  I will have many activities brought to my calendar, faith-wise, this year, and as with concerns with family, so do I need to be ready and flexible on my schedule, to prioritize Baha’i activities, when they directly impact the spiritual well-being of the community.  This afternoon, and this coming Sunday, are examples of short-notice gatherings, for which I am able to be ready.  I anticipate many more.

Finances-  Given my temperament, this area has long been my weak spot.  I am giving it a lot more attention, and being coached financially is one reason why I am choosing to wake earlier each day. I fully intend to grow my estate, given looming events, for which one is normally expected to have a fair amount of cash on hand.  The main thing is that I have put a scarcity mentality behind me, and will persevere in the coming months, in building more short-term security.  I tended to possible elder care needs, at Penny’s behest, while she was still alive.  I am also very well-insured.

The Four F’s being much on my mind, this should be a fabulous year.

He Bids Us All To Arise

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April 16, 2017, Prescott-

Today, nearly a billion people, around the world, commemorated the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  Many combine the sacred with the whimsical, filling baskets with candy of all sorts, making Easter the second most popular candy-eating holiday, after Halloween.  Others leave out the sacred, altogether, thus making Easter little different from the Feast of All Hallows.

Christ overlooked the faults of others, save the Pharisees, whom He scolded and the merchants in the Temple, whom He chastised more forcefully.  He was far kinder to those who committed indiscretions of the heart.

The lesson I get from this, and from His very resurrection, is that the human spirit is capable of enormous resilience.  We fall down and hurt others, either physically or emotionally, yet some of these same people could very well return to at least a modicum of friendship, over time, if we ourselves recover our moral bearings.

Christ was not only saving us, by His sacrifice.  He was also showing us, how we might save ourselves, albeit by less supreme means.  Each of us can arise, in our own way, through adhering to the Golden Rule and by making amends, for wrongs that we have done to others.

As a Baha’i, I revere Christ as Messenger of God and Supreme Teacher.  Accordingly, I know that it’s my bounden duty to serve others, both to make amends for what I’ve done wrong in this life, and out of love for them.  Love is the basis for everything the Messengers of God, from Adam to Baha’u’llah, have taught us, over the millennia. Yesterday, I had the bounty of visiting several people, at the Native American Baha’i Institute of Learning (at Houck,AZ) , in the Hopi village of Polacca and in the small Verde Valley town of Rimrock, where a longtime friend is in the fight of his life, against a crippling disease.  What I went to impart, was a very simple message:  Your life matters.

Christ said this, repeatedly, 2000 years ago. Baha’u’llah said this, repeatedly, 164 years ago.  Both gave us the admonition to say this to one another.  Both gave us the bidding to arise, to lift ourselves, and one another, out of despair and trouble.  That is the message I get from Easter.

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Constant Solace

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March 28, 2017, Prescott Valley- This afternoon, whilst shuttling between meetings.   I listened to a discussion, on NPR, about emotional support animals.  It set me to thinking about the matters: Of people who feel invisible and untended; of false equivalency between those who are truly disabled, those who are mildly inconvenienced, and how does one accurately distinguish between the two; of those who are simply gaming the system.

When I was a child, there were Seeing Eye Dogs and police dogs, with specific missions, who were not to be bothered, in the course of their duties.  In the late 1970’s, came Hearing Dogs, which was almost a no-brainer.  After the closing of mental hospitals, and with the onset of more research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Therapy Dogs and Equestrian Therapy started to become commonplace, especially in the American West.  These animals all still serve a wide variety of people in pain.

In the 1990’s, and continuing through the present time, we have seen a more personalized extension of the therapy animal:  The Emotional Support Animal (ESA).  Dogs, cats, budgerigars, pythons, lizards, ferrets, hamsters, even llamas and burros, have been presented, in one or more social situations and public spaces, as essential companions to humans.

For those making these new demands upon the rest of society, the traditional concept of pets has gone out the window.  I know many who treasure their various pets, sometimes as members of the family.  Most of my pet-owning friends keep their furry friends at home, or make humane arrangements for them, when out of town.  To the people who regard their animals as essential to their own well-being, however, the idea of being away from them, even for a night on the town, becomes nerve-wracking, traumatic, and completely unacceptable.

I can understand a lot of this.  Other than the unconditional love of a significant other, there are few things more appealing than the comfort of one’s favourite animal, especially after a stressful day.  A warm dog or cat is also a comfort for many who live, and sleep, alone.

Enter the Golden Rule.  I am just posing these questions- without judgment:

Are the feelings of one’s fellow diners, and of eatery staffs, being considered, when one brings an ESA into a restaurant or outdoor cafe?

Is it safe, or even comfortable, to bring a stock animal onto a train?  What about the comfort of the animal?

Can the likes of  a dog, cat, gerbil or python really be suitable for riding in the coach of an airplane?  What about the animal’s safety, in the event its human needs to evacuate said aircraft?

What about the management of a conflict between, say, a dog and cat, or two animals in heat?

These are all, to my mind, fair questions.  I will read any reasonable, well- considered responses with a great deal of interest.

Self-Teaching

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January 23, 2017, Prescott-

Today was another day of us plowing through tough weather, and getting much of our teaching done, working around heightened levels of excitement, as the snow began to fall, once again, in mid-day, after a morning of rain.  Once back at home base, I returned to matters of the spirit.

Baha’u’llah tells us that it is the duty of the individual to investigate truth, and not to overly depend on other humans to impart enlightenment.  He writes that the great Spiritual Masters, Whom we call Manifestations of God, guide us to all truth, through Their Writings, but also through Their lives.  An examination of each of these lives shows, in essence, and in consideration of the times in which each Master lived,  a remarkable consistency. Each lived according to the Golden Rule (Mean), in all its implications.

Now, more than ever, it falls to us to develop a full awareness, and appreciation, of the Golden Rule, and to educate ourselves in all its aspects.  This is my understanding of independent investigation of Truth.

The Road to 65, Mile 220: Cross-Bullying

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July 6, 2015, Prescott- I read this morning about the “rising phenomenon” of children bullying their parents.  Then, a short time later, a friend wrote me a message that her parent was referring to her in the most vulgar of terms.

This goes back to how I was raised, and how we tried to raise our son.  No two people always get along, and the permutations of social discourse get more complicated with three, four, or ten, in the mix.  The bottom line, though, is respect, Golden Rule, “how does the shoe feel on your foot?”

It’s a given that children regard having limits set as part of their safety net. Limit-free kids are scared, more often than not, and fearful people strike out.  We raised our son with what common sense we could muster, encouraging his curiosity and exploration, and discouraging any tendency to view, and treat, us as eyeball-to-eyeball peers.

I would not have my wife be subjected to abuse, nor she, me.  Son is a fine human being, and I don’t think he would be comfortable with being able to give too free vent to negative attitudes.  In fact, he has said that, all in all, we set reasonable limits.  Likewise, we did not ridicule or catcall at him, something that I have seen far too many people my age do with their children, in the name of “honesty” or “free speech.”

Millennials speak of “adulting”.  I love that generation dearly, and certainly expect that acting one’s age will be de rigeur for them, as it should be for us, and for “Generation X”.  Perhaps the term is natural, though, as we witness so many, from ages 21- 90, indulging in unseemly public behaviour, again in the name of “self-expression” or “my rights”.  For the adult in the room to have plenty of company is a fine thing, and since it happens more often than the media would have us believe, it should be contagious.

My feeling is that, if children see adults being adults, consistently, and if they feel well- and fairly-attended, which means having limits set for them, then there will be less bullying, in either direction.

The Road to 65, Mile 6: Obedience

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December 4, 2014, Prescott- As a career educator, I insist on an order,ly classroom environment for no other reason that that  learning, both group and individual, is essential if the human race is to progress as is its birthright.  I don’t have a whole lot of rules to impose, save:  ” When I speak, you listen, with both ears”; “Focus on what is in front of you” and “You are to respect everyone in this class, and in this school, starting with yourself and radiating outward.”  That said, I abhor the maxim, “Children should be seen and not heard.”, common in Victorian days and still followed by certain people over the age of 55.  Children need to develop their voice, and need to be heard, but in a proper and systematic manner.  I believe “Do it because I said so” has its time and place, mostly when addressing a child who is under the age of six.  Nothing good comes out of extended chaos, and children should never be allowed to place themselves or others in mortal danger.  My son was taught the Hot Stove, Don’t Play with Matches and Lighters, and Look Both Ways rules, well before that age.  I further believe that respect is as respect does.  Aram was asked for his input on things that impacted his life, and his ideas were frequently taken into consideration.  Developing this faculty proved essential, in his young adulthood, when he had to initiate a very difficult process, relative to his mother’s care, while I was at work.

This brings me to obedience.  Each of us has to obey the Laws of  Nature, or else suffer the consequences.  Ditto for the Golden Rule, good health and hygiene practices, mutual respect in any given relationship, and the Twelve Laws relative to attraction.  The sensible among us do our utmost to follow such laws.  The reckless challenge them, and sometimes the Universe suffers such people gladly; other times, not so much.  I have been both, in my life.  Now, I find a modicum of obedience to the Laws of the Universe to be better for me and mine.  Obedience, though, is best when not blind.  The Victorians, largely operating out of fear, were dead wrong in that respect.

Community

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November 20, 2014, Prescott-  This evening will feature yet another speech by the current President.  Some things will change in this country, albeit temporarily, as happens with Executive Order- induced policy adjustments.  The whole affair, though, brings me to the matter of communities, large and small.

I have five basic observations:

1.  Charity begins at home- Mother instilled this in each of us, from Day 1.  Many people in this country are hyper-charitable.  It’s an admirable thing, when they have the wherewithal to give copiously.  I donate my time and money as close to the end receivers as possible, and as close to my own level of awareness of their situation as possible.  There will always be people in need, right in one’s neighbourhood, and there will always be people in need on the other side of the planet.  “The poor will always be with you.”  Everyone can share something, but few can give all that much.  My son is my top priority, then my family, then the community, starting in Prescott and working upward.

2.  A family, and a community, is only as strong as the level of trust between its members.  I live in a neighbourhood that is quite homogeneous.  There is, however, a high level of mistrust, especially among men aged forty and older.  Many of these men are carrying weapons.  I don’t pack heat, but I can sense the fear and tension from those who do.  Should there be a breakdown in order, many will opt for the quick response.  It won’t be pretty.

3.  This leads me to my own support system.  My Baha’i community, Prescott Save Our Schools, Slow-Food Prescott, American Legion Post 6, and the Yavapai County Red Cross are my local support groups.  Individual friends, both real-time and online, local and farther afield, offer additional back-up, and God knows I’ve needed it on several occasions.  Those who don’t have a human support system turn to self-medication.  This fuels the drug and sex trades, resulting in more misery across a wider area, and thus more human migration, both legal and surreptitious.

4.  Politics has been defined as the art of the possible.  For as far back as one can study, this has been taken to mean, the art of the powerful.  It is time, with social media and its attendant level of awareness, for power to move from the ground up.  Political extremists understand this, and have used it to their advantage.  The grassroots, however, mean that everyone matters, not just the loudest, the most devious or those with the deepest pockets.  Otherwise, what Pete Townshend wrote, in “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, will continue to be the norm:  “The parting on the left is now parting on the right”, and back and forth, ad nauseam.

5.  Character matters.  We have seen so many prominent people, revered by the masses, prove to have committed horrible acts against others.  Many will live in denial- Hitler still has his apologists, as do Mao Tse-tung, General Custer and Charles Manson. Others will subvert the misery of others for their own ends- which criminals have done since the Biblical Cain and Nimrod.  Each of us does, however, have the bounden duty, from our Creator, as we understand Him/Her/It to be, to “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”  The Golden Rule has nothing to do with “He who has the gold, rules”.  As long as we are on the subject, though, it is worth remembering that every behaviour has its consequence, eventually.

The vast majority of people close to me are wondrous, loving and compassionate.  I work, daily, to be the same and it hasn’t always been easy.  It is, however, the only way I know to be.