The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 68: Staying Authentic

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August 7, 2020-

There is a fact of life, especially in today’s America, that owning one’s viewpoint, life choices and spirituality comes at a cost. There are always going to be those who think they know your needs better than you yourself know them. Being in charge of own life is not a cakewalk. Others, especially online, will appear, with demands, expectations and preferences, which may or may not dovetail with what one has planned.

You may say, “Well, isn’t that how it is, in ANY social situation?” Yes, and with seven billion and umpty-ump million people on the surface of the Earth, it will get more intensely so. The fact remains, however, that at the end of the day, it is whether I can look in the mirror and honestly say that I lived the day in a state of integrity, hopefully tempered with humility, that makes the day well-spent, or not.

I have been questioned, recently, as to why I might agree with points raised by conservatives, on one day; then agree with points raised by progressives, another day. The answer is easier than it looks. Neither group is qualitatively engaged in refuting the other’s points, with regard to those points with which I am agreeing. For example, if I say an unborn child ‘s life is worthy of EVERY reasonable effort at maintaining its efficacy, that does not mean I am advocating vicious hounding of a woman who is heading into an abortion clinic. In reality, that person should not be HOUNDED or pressured by EITHER faction in the matter. She should be enveloped, bathed, in love and have all options presented to her, in a pressure-free, NON-MERCENARY atmosphere.

If someone asks me to approve or disapprove of the current sitting President, I can honestly say I approve of his work in stemming the trafficking of women and children. I honestly approve of his working with the governments of Latin American countries, in stopping the flood of people from out of those countries and stemming the influence and aggressive behaviour of gangs-especially in Central America. There are other policies of his, of which I vehemently disapprove- such as the sending of a large corps of armed DHS agents into some of our cities-without first coordinating the effort with local governments. That situation seems to be getting more consultation-based. The COVID-19 response is a whole other can of worms-and much of the difficulty lies in both individual mindsets and in the diversity of local situations, across the country-but I digress.

Essentially, my life is not meant to be lived by going about and seeking to be a font of agreement, with each person, on each issue. I have, however, the conviction that each person who crosses my path does have points to offer, that may well be of help, in making my life more authentic. This life is still a work in progress, as is everyone else’s.

My Faith will remain as is; my heart for people will stay in place; my mind will remain flexible, as we have learned that anything can happen.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 66: Inclusive or Exclusive

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August 5, 2020-

I have recently had to address the issue of whether I am taking firm stances on matters, or am just flip-flopping, in order to keep disparate groups of friends happy. The truth of the matter is this: I can extract grains of truth in the statements and positions held by friends and family who may not agree with me, and who definitely do not agree with one another.

I look at it this way. We all came from the same Heavenly, Universal Source. Whether people’s ideologies or theologies allow for it, there is only one Creator, one Energy that has brought all life into the Universe, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Solar System and the Planet. Some get hung up on names, on fear of demons, on duality. These last two concerns are certainly prudent, in my book. God does not want us to be consumed by Dark Energy.

We are meant to be beings of Light. We are meant to be reverent, just, loving to one another, regardless of which God-oriented or Light-directed creed to which we adhere. Again, I can tell the difference between Light and Dark. Even in the case of Dark masquerading as Light-the hate reveals itself in short order-as I learned nearly two years ago.

So, I tell myself-and those I love, to “Live Your Truth”. By doing so, mistakes will be revealed and we may then choose to correct- or to persist in error. God knows, I have had to make several corrections, over the years.

There are, though, things about which I will never cave:

  1. Every conceived life is sacred, and worthy of the effort at saving and fostering.
  2. Every born child is sacred, and worthy of nurturing and protection. Despite the position of Word Press, that children’s rights is not an acceptable term for use as a tag, I will continue to hold it in my heart as a talisman. SHAME on the administrators of this platform, for taking such an oppostional stance on this issue.
  3. Every case of suspected abuse or neglect of a child or teenager merits full investigation and the pursuit of justice-no matter HOW HIGH UP in status the suspected abuser sits.
  4. Every sentient being is worthy of respect and dignity.
  5. God never leaves Mankind alone, to our own devices. We have free will, and we are given parameters within which that free will may be used for the full development of our virtues.
  6. When among all Light-oriented beings, I choose to be inclusive. When confronted by Dark forces, my barrier will go up. I am grateful that this last has only had to happen three times, in my entire life.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 59: The Ties that Bind

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July 29, 2020-

It is easier to mend connections with people through acts of integrity, than by insisting on that which injures their feelings and ignores their perceptions. So it has come to my banishing memes and shared posts, which have only served to confuse some of my online friends, while not exactly elucidating my own views.

A personal blog, or social media page, can’t really serve as a marketplace for ideas. That role is for the comments section, which is hopefully governed by rules of civil discourse. I have set such rules for my other social media site, and, only on two instances have I had to delete toxic comments which got past the Akismet filters on this site.

My focus is, more than ever, on fostering the ties that bind us. One commenter on my other site recommended that we all view differences as diversity, rather than as divisions. Seeing nuggets of commonality takes a great deal of self-discipline and patience, not often evident in times of widespread confusion, such as these. Yet, it remains that this sort of vision is the only way we can, as a species, get out of this confusion.

Our strands of Dioxyribonucleic Acid are the most basic tools we have, for keeping us tied. Let us look to those DNA features that are common, that lead to our shared esperiences and visions.

No Stones Unturned

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April 24, 2020-

“To whom much is given, much is expected.”  I have heard this since childhood, and know that it has applied to me, more often than not.  It has given rise to two key aspects of my personality:  Owning my mistakes and never walking away from a fight.

The first has led me to admit, readily, when I’m wrong, even if it has meant the loss of a job.  That admission has then propelled me to look into WHERE I went wrong and to investigate further into the issue at hand.  When called out, I have to recognize where the critic is correct, but also not take either the information that is being challenged or the critic’s position at face value.  It has quite often ended up with the silver lining of the truth being uncovered.  As ‘Abdu’l-Baha once wrote:  “The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.”

Standing up to someone who is more aggressive has been ingrained in me, since childhood.  I did walk away, once, from a beat down, when I was in VietNam. That was a matter of not walking into something that would have been detrimental to both me and the individual who was seeking the confrontation.  I would have suffered possible head injuries and he, being on thin ice with the military brass, would have looked at a long stretch in Leavenworth.  He eventually realized that, after a period of harping on my refusal to engage in a bare-knuckled fist fight.

That was an anomaly.  What was consistent is that I didn’t run away crying.  I never have.  Back in Saugus, that would only have brought more trouble down on my head.  Life since then has been much the same.  I’ve had a lot of positive experiences in life, because of  being willing to stand up to aggression. In the process, also, many innocents have been spared-especially when helping abused children speak truth to power.

I think about these tonight, in working to get to the bottom of  some rather deep controversies being sparked by the words of our president-and of some of his critics.  Both sides are tossing brickbats.  I will get hit by some of those, but have no choice other than to go about finding the truth.

Authenticity

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January 5, 2020-

In all the debate about sin, evil and the unfortunate events of life, there is a place for consideration of being real versus living in what one knows, deep down, to be a fallacy; of being authentic versus being inauthentic.

Jordan Peterson, in Twelve Rules for Life, points to the allegories of Lucifer, and of the Egyptian demon-figure, Set, as illustrations of the dangers posed by over-rationalization.  It is, in effect, the opposite of taking ownership of one’s life, responsibility for one’s actions.  Satan always comes up with an excuse for what he’s done-and it’s always someone else’s fault-even God’s fault.  This allegorical depiction of wickedness lays it out straight,though.  Only integrity, ownership of one’s behaviours-and of their outcomes, will serve to bring about a life well-lived.

I had to learn that the hard way.  Losing a spouse brings a person to account, faster than just about anything, even if-as in my case- it isn’t directly one’s fault.  I could not, however, blame anyone for Penny’s passing.  Hereditary disease would have struck her down, at some point, regardless, and all I can do is learn from the experiences of care-taking and of widowhood.  I have taken the lesson that a life of integrity may only be lived if the person living it  maintains authenticity.

Deceit erodes that integrity, first within one’s own heart, then gradually outwardly through one’s circle of friends, one’s family, one’s tribe.  A life without trust is a life of emptiness.

I am fortunate, to have reached a point where authenticity is something of which I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed.

 

Closure

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May 22, 2019-

I was invited, by my former building principal, to attend an end-of -year barbecue.  I went, and he greeted me pleasantly at the door.  A few former co-workers exchanged small talk, and I had a nice lunch. Predictably, some of the elite in my former department turned their backs when I sat down.  That’s what they do.  I did not budge from my seat.

Closure, in a stratified environment, is often hard to achieve.  I give the principal, and my former team members credit, though, for having the integrity to not define me by the unfortunate misunderstandings that led to discretion being the better part of valour, last month.  The principal did what he had to do, and everyone else adjusted.  There was simply no time, or space, for a proper investigation into the false accusations.  I know this, from having been in his shoes.  There are some very fluid situations, on occasion, and time does not wait around.  The safety of students is what matters most.

Education will continue, and will hopefully continue to improve.  I will keep on going and, even if I find it difficult to remain in this community after this Fall, I will find peace wherever I am.  At least I have closure, with regard to leaving my post.

Meeting Needs of Self and Others

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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.

Samson

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December 27, 2018, Prescott-

The evening dinner and discourse, at a good friend’s house, went very well, actually- as I am just not attached to those aspects of my personality that someone finds disconcerting.  The run-up to, and expectations of, a conversation about what people expect from one another, can be uncomfortable and filled with trepidation.  Thankfully, I felt no such angst, once I recited a strong prayer, this afternoon.  My friend was not sure how I would react to her comments, but you know, what she asked is so totally reasonable and fair, that my answer was “Absolutely!” That is how I was raised- with Mom telling us not to hold back with our upsets and distresses, so long as they were stated with dignity and a bit of forbearance.  So, the evening went, a nice meal, a respectful concord and the viewing of the film, “Samson”.

Therein, the story of the Hebrew leader and freedom fighter is depicted, with an earnest but troubled Samson, opposed by both some of his more militant Danite villagers and by the Phillistines, ruled by Balek and his ambitious, conniving son, Rallah, and daughter-in-law, Delilah.  It is Delilah who tricks Samson, three times, into giving the royals the information and strength they need to oppress the Danites and Nazarites.  Rallah, though, is portrayed as a sociopath, killing Samson’s wife and father-in-law, two turncoat Hebrews and Samson’s father, before killing his own father, so as to take the crown.  The tale ends, much as it does in the Old Testament.

Samson’s main point is about integrity and humility, with the superhuman giving all credit for his strength to God, not disputing with his Hebrew opponents, and facing the Phillistine’s challenges without batting an eye.  He experiences angst about not following the letter of the law, whilst removing tunics from dead soldiers, thereby breaking a vow to never touch the dead.  The angst follows Samson, for other actions, throughout the story.

I am likewise committed to integrity and self-purification.  Not being a superhuman, or a member of an oppressed community, my own actions have to be about maintaining both my own dignity and worth, and honouring those of my friends.  It’ll never be a matter of “self-defense”, when questioned or corrected, especially by those who have consistently had my best interests in mind.

The Fast: Day 18-Continuity

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March 19, 2018, Prescott-

Today found me back at work.  Spring Break was restful, if as fast-moving as the Academic Year itself.   No matter who a person is, how old one gets or where s(he) finds self, there are certain constants.

Mine are waking at or near dawn, careful bathing and grooming, devotions, nutrition, focused prayer, communication with friends and family and some act of daily service.  Work, in the Baha’i Faith, as in Christianity and several other religious traditions, is an act of worship, when performed in service to humanity.  This goes for manufacture, public service and parenting.  That implies a goodly amount of integrity, in all one’s acts while on the job, or while representing one’s place of work, or one’s employer.

Continuity is also a sign of cognitive awareness, when performed in a logical and mindful state.  So, as my sixties roll on, I’m glad to be at work, winding down my third-to-last physical 19-Day Fast and being in good company, wherever I happen to be.