Entitled?

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January 31, 2020-

While covering a class yesterday, I showed the film, “Avatar”.  The point was made that, in the far future, a certain segment of Earth’s populace was bent on colonizing a planet similar to our own.  It involved a colonialist mentality, based on perceived economic benefit.

I read a report, yesterday, about an American woman, missing in the Central American country of Belize.  The report said she was last seen on a beach, late at night.  Several commentators cast aspersions on the safety conditions in that country, as well as those in the Dominican Republic.  The comments included the opinion that Americans are routinely seen as projecting a “rich and entitled” persona, by residents of those countries.

I have never been to either nation.  I have been to the South American nation of Guyana, where similar charges were leveled against the local populace.  I was there, with Penny, for three weeks.  We walked about with humility, and did not find ourselves being menaced or accosted by anyone.  We had escorts and host families, the entire time we were there.  That was 1984, and yet I am certain that similar precautions would bear similar results now.

I have been a number of places, since that year.  I can say that I made some boneheaded judgments, when in Europe, in 2014, but none based on hubris or egoism.  I learned what not to do again.  It is simply best to walk in humility and fair-mindedness, albeit while maintaining a smart sense of safety.  I have plans that will take me far afield, over the next five years-and I don’t rule out any given country.  Most will involve making suitable security arrangements beforehand, in any case-but not because I am “rich and entitled”.  There will be many conversations on the subject, I’m certain-just as I spoke with a few disaffected people in Guyana, 36 years ago, and in Paris, six years ago.

This is perhaps as big a reason for my reaching out, as any.

Whose Toilet?

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January 14, 2018, Prescott-

My day will likely be a joyous one, with my spirits telling me to get the laundry done, attend a memorial service, then either go and help my dear friend, or go hike in Granite Dells, if she is not in the mood for company.

Now, back to the title question.  I was discomfited, annoyed, put out at the tale coming out of the White House, as to our President’s purported comments, regarding immigrants and their countries of origin.  Either he said these things, thus committing a serious breach of comity OR his actual words were translated to fit the opinion of the observer towards the President, thus committing a serious act of calumny towards him.

Either way, I have to say this, about countries in general:  Each has its places of sublime beauty, and each has its places of squalour.  This is as true of the USA as it is of Haiti.  It is as true of France, Germany, the UAE, as it is of Liberia, Guyana or Bangladesh.  I have seen exquisite, serene villages in Guyana and decrepit, unsettling places in France.  No one who has been across our great nation would deny that there is astonishing beauty in Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the Great Smoky Mountains, whilst admitting that there is much work to be done, in addressing the matters of homelessness in cities large and small, in raising up the standards of living in First Nations reservations and in run-down sections of both urban and rural areas, across the continent.

No one likes to have their good name, or that of their country, sullied.  Some will argue, “Well, if the shoe fits, wear it!”  If that shoe has a hole in it, I would gather that the person has every right to decline its adornment.  Far better, in my view, that, having shone the light on the filth and the problems, the President, and each of us who has looked down their noses at a person, community or country, should put down that flashlight and ask, “How might we help?”  One immediate thing we can each do is, stop referring to the shortcomings of a people, as their be all and end all.  Acknowledge the beauty of a place, or of a society, instead of yammering about how horrible SOME aspects of it happen to be.  Messes happen, even in the finest of communities (just ask anyone in Montecito, CA). Beauty and strength, likewise, may be found anywhere.  How about building on that beauty and strength?

My Life Thus Far: The Eighties

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February 20, 2016, Prescott- Today was spent in spiritual study, and an hour or so will be so used, tomorrow afternoon.  All of this was initiated by my beloved, and because of her, the decade of my thirties brought a whole new outlook on life.  The 1980’s were one of the two best decades of this life, up to now.

1980-High Point:  Meeting Penny (December 6)

Low Point:  Scrambling to find housing in Flagstaff (September)

People in the heart:  Penny Fellman, my future wife; my Flagstaff housemates, Mohammed Saeedi, Chris Lugenbuhl and Carol Vireday; the anonymous guys who gave me rides, to/from Oregon; my Mesa friends, the Lunts.

Places in the heart: Flagstaff;  Durango; Zuni; San Diego; Laguna Beach; Redwood National Park; Hebo, OR; Portland; Eugene; Crater Lake; San  Luis Obispo; Santa Barbara.

1981- High Point:  My entry into the Baha’i Faith.

Low Point:  Our temporary break-up.

People in the heart:  Penny; the Cordova family; the Beausoleils; the Travises; Mishabae Mahoney; Hilde Mc Cormick; John Carrillo (my office mate and sounding board); my first nephew and niece, Chris and Marcy.

Places in the heart:  Flagstaff; Tuba City; Dinnebito, AZ; Capitol Reef National Park; Natural Bridges National Monument; San Diego; Julian.

1982- High Points:  Our wedding (June 6); our Baha’i Pilgrimage (June 16- 30).

Low Point: Getting organized into a household.

People in the heart:  My wife; both Moms and Dads; the San Diego Baha’i Community; the Tong family; the staff of the Baha’i World Centre; the Baha’is of London; my mentor at Northland Pioneer College.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; San Diego; Julian; Dinnebito; Bedminster, NJ; Jerusalem; Haifa; Akko; Bethlehem; London; Canterbury;  Saugus; Bedminster; Standoff, AB; Yellowstone National Park; Bozeman, MT.

1983- High Points:  The Wildfire Conference, at De Pauw University; Baha’i teaching in southern New Mexico and Metro El Paso; my brother, Glenn’s wedding.

Low Point:  My Nana died.

People in the heart:  Penny ( and this goes without saying, until the day she passed); the Baha’is of Tuba City, Dinnebito, Jemez, Phoenix, Las Cruces, El Paso and Chicago; the Biernackes, of El Paso; my second niece, Melanie; my second nephew, Jeff.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Dinnebito; Blue Canyon, AZ; Jemez Springs; Durango, CO; Silverton; Ouray; Great Sand Dunes National Park; Chama; Santa Fe; Albuquerque; Chicago; Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL; Greencastle, IN; Las Cruces; Berino, NM; El Paso; Fabens, TX; Andover, MA.

1984- High Points:  Baha’i teaching in Guyana, Pine Ridge, SD and Macy, NE.

Low Point: The passing of Gordon Tong, our Baha’i friend and mentor.

People in the heart:  Our Guyanese  hosts; the people of Pine Ridge and of the Omaha Nation; our friends and our co-workers on the Navajo Nation; Elizabeth Dahe and her family; our  hosts in Houston and Oklahoma; my third nephew, Nick.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Burntwater, AZ; Houston; Ada, OK; Georgetown, Bath, Whim and Meten meer zorg, GY; New York; Macy, NE; Wanblee, Pine Ridge, and Martin, SD; Fort Collins, CO.

1985- High Point:  Both sets of parents visiting.

Low Points:  The deaths of three Navajo boys, in two separate accidents; our separation, while Penny was in Graduate School ( a month is a long time).

People in the heart:  Our parents; Jeff and Helen Kiely; the Baha’is of Dinnebito and Ganado, AZ; my third niece, Kim; my fourth nephew, Matt.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Flagstaff; Dinnebito; Polacca, AZ; Red Rock State Park, OK; Effingham, IL; Columbus, OH; Michigan City, IN; Wilmette and Evanston, IL; Grand Canyon; Lake Powell; Prescott; Montezuma’s Castle National Monument; Sedona; Phoenix.

1986- High Point: Our move to Jeju, South Korea, for Penny’s work, as Visiting Professor.

Low Point:  My father’s passing.

People in the heart:  Our parents; my siblings, our extended family; my fifth nephew, Curtis; our friends and co-workers in Arizona and in South Korea.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Los Angeles; Seoul, Songtan and Jeju, South Korea; Saugus.

1987- High Point:  My hiring as Visiting Professor, in Jeju.

Low Point:  Having to leave Penny behind for a month, to get a work visa.

People in the heart:  Our Korean colleagues, students and friends; three surviving parents;  our siblings; our friends in Flagstaff.

Places in the heart:  Jeju, Muan, Pusan and Seoul, South Korea; Los Angeles; Portland; Seattle; Butte; Madison, WS; Chicago; Wilmette, IL; Saugus; Bedminster; Greenville and Simpsonville, SC; New Orleans; Phoenix; Honolulu; Tokyo.

1988-High Point: The birth of our son, Aram (July 7).

Low Point:  None, actually.

People in the heart:  Aram (from this point on); the Baha’is of Jeju;  Dr. Kim Chung Hak; our students;  our hosts and friends in Taiwan; Penny’s parents (who flew to Korea for Aram’s birth).

Places in the heart:  Jeju; Pusan; Tsaot’un, Chungli, Taich’ung and T’aipei, Taiwan;

1989- High Point:  Bringing Aram to the United States, to meet our family.

Low Point:  Feeling threatened, while visiting Maine.

People in the heart:  Our extended family; our students; the Baha’is of Jeju and Seoul.

            Places in the heart:  Jeju; Anchorage; New York, Bedminster; Saugus; Lynn, MA; Eliot, ME.

So, while visiting Durango, in November, 1980, I had this inkling that I was ready to meet someone special.  It didn’t happen that weekend, nor on my 30th birthday trip to San Diego.  It was on an Anthropology class trip to Zuni, where Penny and I first connected.  Turns out, she also had had a vision, while meditating on a mesa above her residence in Keams Canyon, AZ, where she was teaching at the time.  The message said that she, too, would meet someone.

Our on again, off again, 18-month friendship became a marriage that lasted, physically, for 29 years.  I believe in the eternity of marriage, and though she’s gone from Earth, we still connect, daily.  We had our ups and downs, especially in the early years, but never went to bed angry with one another.

My entry into the Baha’i Faith helped me cast out the demon of alcohol dependency, and put me on a path to dealing with my larger demon, of self-doubt.  Baha’u’llah has opened up many powerful channels within me- at least I feel them.

Aram’s arrival made me be responsible for someone other than the two of us.  Raising him to adulthood was the only big task that God has ever given me.  While I wasn’t the greatest father to have been given the bounty, I gave it a good, solid effort and he is an amazing young man.

We traveled a lot, the two of us, then the three of us, mostly in service to our Faith and to visit family. The Eighties were a decade of primarily air travel, though crowding into a Peugeot, and then a lorry (truck), in Guyana, was quite an adventure.  Our Toyota Tercel got quite a workout, those four years we lived in Tuba City.  It became a young lady’s first car, when we moved to Korea.

Pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holy Sites, in Haifa and Akko, Israel was the seminal defining point of the decade.  Our marriage, and the birth of our son, six years later, were entirely safeguarded by our having begun life together, in this manner.

The Nineties would be a second amazing decade.