Rising and Renewal

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April 5, 2021- As many are aware, today is Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). The day was first intended to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesu the Christ from the dead, three days after His Crucifixion and death, at the hands of Roman soldiers acting at the behest of two Jewish Zealot leaders, Annas and Caiaphas.

Jesus’ disciples were understandably despondent, feeling as if their faith was shaken and not knowing in which direction to go from that low point in their fortunes. There was just one fly in the Zealots’ ointment: They were not acting according to the Will of God, but according to their own craving for power. What is willed by the Creator, whether we think it is coming from the Universe, or from God’s Messenger (Divine Teacher) for the day in which that Messenger makes Self known, is what will happen-maybe sooner, or maybe later-but in any case, in God’s own time.

Three days after He was killed, Christ appeared to His Disciples, even allowing one of them, Thomas, to put his hand in His side. Spiritual Beings can do whatever God wants Them to do-especially if They have been teaching humanity in His Name. So, it is not hard to understand the appearance of Jesus the Christ before His Disciples, three days postmortem.

In July, 1850, Baha’u’llah’s Herald, al-Bab, did the same thing, albeit for a much shorter period of time. When He was first executed by a firing squad, in Tabriz, Persia, al-Bab was not to be found, when the smoke had cleared. He was subsequently found in a small room at the prison, dictating some business to an associate. Once He had completed His business, al-Bab consented to be brought back to the execution court. There, He was again the target of a firing squad, which this time completed its mission.

The Creator does not abandon us, nor does He prevent us from making our own choices, both good and bad, based on free will. The decisions Man makes which are counterproductive do not hurt God in any way. In the two cases cited above, Christ and al-Bab returned to Their Father, Who sent Them. People were left to do the hard work of interpreting Their guidance, on our own. Those who truly loved their Teachers followed those instructions. Others followed the whims of their own fancies and imaginations-as the Zealots had before them.

Resurrection Sunday thus celebrates the undying Power of the Creator, to renew the Message He sends us, and to renew our Faith in His Guidance, which is, as Baha’u’llah said, “Eternal in the past, eternal in the future.”

Alpha/Omega

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April 2, 2021- Every so often, I get a reminder about the commitment that I, as “an American of some affluence”, must have towards the poor of other parts of the world. It usually comes in the form of a veiled demand, but is at least offered with good wishes for my health and well-being. That stands to reason, as a sick person would hardly be able to offer anything to others.

My dealings with people who primarily view the world through a transactional lens are, of necessity, getting more and more limited. Even among those businesses I frequent, I regard the people therein as friends first, and means to an end second. One example is a local family restaurant, Zeke’s, where I sit at the counter, gab with the wait staff and other patrons, and comment freely on goings on. The same is true of Rafter Eleven, Synergy and, to a lesser extent, The Raven Cafe. It is increasingly true in the schools where I am taking on special assignments until the end of May.

My circle of friends trends larger these days, even with-and in some cases because of-virtual connections. The first and last, alpha/omega if you will, is compassion based on love. Those whose primary focus is transactional have a hard time seeing this-and there was a time when part of me was there. Much of my standoffishness had to do with lack of self-confidence, and a degree of self-loathing, as if I were not “good enough” for others. I suspect that is true of those who behave in this manner now. More’s the pity.

There is, to a good extent, the notion that failure to thrive is a Catch 22, a vicious circle. That realization came to me, about four months after I met Penny, back in 1981. Gradually, over several decades, the self-doubt has fallen away-so that even in the most harrowing of circumstances, the faint light has been in view.

I thought of this today, as the Mystery of Alpha/Omega from 33 A.D.: The Passion of Jesus the Christ, plays out in the minds and hearts of millions across the planet. His basis for everything was compassion, rooted in love.

WHOSE Child Is This?

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December 24, 2020-

Approaching the celebration of the Birth of Christ has always, in my experience, been mainly a time of revelry and the lifting of spirits, in what some regard as the season of death. Yuletide was, prior to the Christianization of western Europe, a similar expression of wonder, at the Creator’s giving us the exquisite night sky at the same time as the daylight shortens. It has likely ever been thus, even when the Celts were living on the Eurasian steppe. Those who headed east, from that same area, have similar rituals to tide them through the winter cold. That there is an accompanying debauchery is unfortunate, and is part of the reason why so many like their worship of God tied up in the fairly tidy box of doctrine.

Jesus was likely born more towards Spring, but why quibble? Christmas and Easter being separated as they are, in different seasons of the calendar, keep the story of God come in the Spirit of the Son in a position of prominence, reminding those who follow the Teachings of Christ that His Presence is eternal. They come as a reminder of His Work, and of the Example that people do well to follow.

There are those, of every Faith, who want their spirituality tied up in a box, questioned by no one and protected from any other creed. Every religion, since the days of Noah, has had its fundamentalists. I admire their fervour, yet the fact that God keeps sending Messengers every 600-1,000 years or so, ought to tell us all something. The Creator, His Messengers, and Their Basic Message, are perfect. Our understanding and interpretations of those Messages, not so much.

The Child Whom God sent, and Who He later sacrificed, doing Himself that from which He spared Abraham, came to teach everyone. Not all listened, and so three Messengers have come, since. Others will follow, a thousand years or so from now, and beyond. That, however, is a story to be told in days, months and years to come. Tonight, and tomorrow, let us ponder in our hearts just what the true gist of Christ’s Message was.

The Process of the Procession

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December 23, 2020-

Most of us are aware, by now, of the initial celestial and spiritual steps towards the establishment of a truly peaceful world, one based on universally-recognized principles, which may be equitably applied across a plethora of situations.

The process of that world’s unfoldment, however, will be both steady-and very slow. In a few days’ time, humanity will, to varying degrees, honour the Birth of Jesus the Christ-on the date arbitrarily chosen, ages ago, for its celebration. We will also be remembering the period of time when Nazi Germany, acting the part of wounded bear, struck back at its democratically-ruled foes, with deadly force.

The interplay of Light and Darkness, coming at one of the two periods of great discrepancy between North and South, in terms of daylight, is a unique reminder of the nature of both solar light and human decency. The Sun cannot light an entire planet all at once. Nearly eight billion people cannot move together in perfect harmony, all at once.

There needs to be a means for those whose portion of the globe is experiencing night, to remain safe and warm. There needs to be a mechanism for enlightening those whose recognition of change is either slower than others’, or both listening to and encouraging those whose mindset is rooted in the philosophies and dictates of the past.

There are people of goodwill, who simply cannot see the necessity for change in the way that mankind approaches the formidable tasks which lie ahead. There are others, similarly benevolent, who cannot see the value of adhering to ANY of the practices that are honoured by time. Only education, in a sincere and equitably applied system, can bridge the gap between these two camps. Only education can stem the human tendency to believe whatever notions and pronouncements come forth and verify even the most inane and fear-based of one’s own beliefs.

The procession will go on, but it may, of necessity, be a slow one.

The Christmas Star

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December 21, 2020-

Today being the start of winter, north of the Equator, we look to the days getting longer-a minute at a time. The entire planet also has the bonus of seeing Jupiter and Saturn, still discernable as separate planets, but close enough to one another to complement one another’s light, from this Earthly naked eye’s vantage point. Legend has it that the three Magi regarded the convergence of the two planets, in the night sky of 2020 years ago, as sign of great portent, thus giving rise to the term “Christmas Star”.

I will take anything that lifts people’s spirits, and besides, there are no mistakes in God’s Plan, which includes the orbits of planets around stars. It is no concidence that we honour Jesus the Christ’s arrival in this world, right around the time of Solstice and that the convergence of these two planetary giants in the evening sky should happen right about now, as well. Christmas is rightfully a celebration of Light, as was Hanukkah, earlier this month, and Diwali, in mid-November.

I spent the afternoon of Solstice outside, visiting Prescott’s unsung treasure. Covered in quartz crystal, and thus named Quartz Mountain, the peak of modest height is reachable from either of two trailheads-Aspen Creek, on the north and White Spar, on the south. I took Copper Basin Road to Aspen Creek trailhead, and hiked the three miles each way.

Quartz Mountain, from the Wolverton Trail

I had been here once before. On that Sunday afternoon, four years ago, a family of four was gathering pieces of quartz. I was told by a Forest Service ranger, after the fact, that this was illegal. Since it occurred to me to not remove quartz, myself, well enough was left alone, that day and today. It was enough for me to be in this inspiring setting, during a bright and mild Solstice afternoon.

There was a fair amount of company, in the area today. On the way to the trailhead, I stopped as a family of five deer crossed the highway, single file. The last animal hesitated, then crossed after apparently getting my message that it was safe. On the trail itself were five bicyclists and six hikers, though none were at Quartz Mountain at the same time as me.

So, there was solitude, enveloped by fellowship, as so often has been my experience on these trails.

West face of Quartz Mountain summit
West face of Quartz Mountain summit

I got back to the car, just as it was starting to get dark. After dinner at the Raven Cafe, I went back to Home Base, in time to catch the two points of light that made up the Christmas Star. Sorry, my camera does not take detailed photos of distant orbs.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 63: Mental Health

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August 2, 2020-

It turns out that the individual who torched the Arizona Democratic Headquarters, over a week ago, is mentally ill. Republicans, and others, who read only the part about his being a member of the Democratic Party are, predictably, chortling about how this just goes to show that it’s a big farce, orchestrated to bring down President Trump-because, hey, what else is there in the world?

The individual is mentally ill. I know, firsthand, how that feels. Everything is about “MEEE”. Imagined slights take on a reality that knows no bounds. Good people become viewed as monsters-for any number of reasons-most of which are contrived by a mind in pain. So, it came about, that an individual acted to destroy that which he deemed inperfect, and, thus, expendable.

There were all those times, in my distant past, and in more recent years, when autism led to the bouts of self-centeredness, mild delusion and not a little paranoia. It took a good deal of self-work to separate my mother’s high bar of expectations, itself grounded in love, from the blistering criticisms of some of my peers, who left no room for error-or in a few instances, even humanness. Through meditation, correcting my diet, my wife’s love, and adoption of a Faith that actually lived the love prescribed by Jesus the Christ, but ignored by so many of His followers, I achieved a sense of equilibrium.

There have been relapses, and setbacks, mostly in times of high stress. There are those who were present during those times-and who remember, all too well, how things went down. I am grateful that forgiveness, and securing my word that such behaviours will not be repeated, were their responses.

Conversely, I have striven, when confronted with other mentally-ill people, to do right by them. In one case, the person was able to get a leg up and straighten out his life. In two other cases, that was not the result, as of the last time I heard from either one. I felt the need to cut one loose, for personal safety reasons and the other, because of an increasing stridency and level of verbal harassment on his part.

It’s taken time to begin to overcome the tension I have felt, when seeing a small, older model of RV driving around or when starting up my phone, and getting more than one Instant Messenger “ping”. Realizing that these are left-over post-traumatic reactions has helped greatly.

I am ever grateful to all who have, either consciously or unconsciously, helped me put my own demons to bed. In all this time of relative aloneness, I have been able to soothe those ills, and make myself a far more useful person, amenable to this comforting society around me.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 57: Uprising

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July 27, 2020-

I was mildly upbraided this morning, by one of the fiercest women I’ve ever met. Stating only what she saw, her caution was that I was heading into the realm of puritanism.

I am, at present, watching a series entitled “Cursed”, about the origins of Excalibur, the sword of Anglo-Saxon mythology. It follows the life of a young Wiccan, pursued by various members of the political and social establishment of that time. Although fictional, it carries several elements of what actually transpired, in the days of an oppressive Church.

It brought me back, to a feeling in my life that I’d long buried and nearly forgotten. It brought me back to the fact that, growing up, I hated the Church. I loved Jesus, with all my heart and soul, so I went to Mass and even served as a substitute altar boy, during the summer of my thirteenth year. Yet, I hated the suffocating power that dripped from the mouths and countenances of all but a few of the priests. I hated it, and had to keep that feeling buried. My parents and family would never have understood.

Only love of Christ kept me in the fold, until I saw the power of Baha’i, the Unity of all Mankind, of all Life and of all Truth. Still, I kept this anger buried. It came to the surface, as I was watching the second episode of this series and remembered the danger of which my much younger friend was speaking.

Puritanism, the control of minds through delusion, gaslighting and fear, has indeed come to grip a good part of our society anew. Margaret Atwood, in her two novels on the, as yet, fictional future country of Gilead, outlines just how easy it could be, for a relatively small group of people to obtain control of the United States, by tapping into the flowing subconscious stream of Puritanism.

It is feared, by some, that a future dictatorship would most likely come from the Left. That’s understandable, given that the primary remaining totalitarian states are all rooted in Communism. It is also rooted in the fear that a future American regime is already putting in place travel restrictions tied to acceptance of a vaccine and personal identification system which will, by force of technology, result in ironclad control of the populace.

I see this as reverse psychology. Fervent Christians have always feared humanism and atheism. There are those who may well be counting on this, and not for the purpose of protecting Christians and others of Faith, but for exploiting that fear, and taking control for their own nefarious ends.

So, regardless of who wishes to oppress, I am mentally preparing myself. Avoiding paranoia, just watching and listening carefully, day by day, in this little Home Base of mine, I look at both sociopolitical forces, and then focus my eyes forward-on what I WANT to see in the world.

I want safety and freedom for my family, friends and neighbours, for the children and youth, for those who suffer, both those in the middle and those on the margins. I want to see a world of equanimity. I want to see a world in which power is truly derived from love and light. We may well have to walk through several Valleys of the Shadow to get there. We will, I’m sure, have to overcome many who try to take power in an ad hoc manner, through deception, gaslighting and false assurance.

It is time for all people of the heart to set aside the dark thoughts imposed on them, by any and all whose only interest is in top-down control. It is time for uprising; a loving, just, but forthright uprising. We, the People, can truly rule ourselves.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 39: Oppression

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July 9, 2020-

The Baha’i world commemorated the Martyrdom of al-Bab, the Herald of our Founder’s coming and a Messenger of God, in His own right. Al-Bab announced His Mission, to a lone seeker, in May, 1844. Just six years later, despite having been incarcerated three times, in three separate prisons, by a fearful Muslim clergy and government, His followers numbered in the hundreds of thousands. In that sixth year of His Mission, on July 9, 1850, al-Bab faced a firing squad, in the main public square of Tabriz, a large city in northwest Iran. Accompanied by a steadfast young follower, named Anis, He stood with confidence, as 750 soldiers fired at Him. When the smoke cleared, Anis stood alone. Al-Bab was found, in a room in another part of the prison, completing business He had with another follower, which had been interrupted by the execution. Once the papers were signed, He went with the guards, back to the courtyard. This time, 750 other men stood in file, and fired. When the smoke cleared again, the bodies of al-Bab and Anis were fused together, and their faces untouched, and serene.

This has been corroborated by foreign emissaries, who witnessed the event, and had no impetus to weave a falsehood. As Christ suffered horrifically, at the hands of the Roman Centurions and the Sanhedrin priests, so did al-Bab suffer at the hands of the Muslim clergy and representatives of the Shah.

Oppression has ever been the lot of those whose existence is marginalized by those in power. This is true today, in a good many nations of the world, whether it be directed at African-Americans, First Nations people and cross-border immigrants, in nearly every country of the Western Hemisphere; at Roma people, across the European continent and in the Middle East; at Palestinian Arabs, in several west Asian nations-not just Israel; at lower caste people, Christians and Muslims in India, as well as Christians and Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh; at Dravidians and Black First Nations people, across south Asia; at non-Bantus, across sub-Saharan Africa; and at those not of the Han nation, in China, at non-Burmese, in Myanmar or those not Javanese, in Indonesia. Australian First Nations people face an uphill battle in their country, as do Maoris and other Pacific Islanders, in New Zealand. Whites in South Africa and Zimbabwe find the tables turned on them, with a vengeance. Ainus in Japan, and “Negritos” in the Philippines are still struggling for acceptance.

There are those who want to turn the tables on conservative Christians, in this country. This reflects poorly on those taking that stance. I stand, now, for those oppressed, according to the historical record. This will not be addressed, or corrected, by counter-oppression. The conservative, for one thing, will not change his/her own behaviour, or opinion, by being subjected to reverse oppression. I will not stand idly by, if this happens.

We are all sacred beings, and the time to change our behaviour towards other sacred beings has drawn nigh.

He Is Risen, and Now It’s Our Turn

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April 12, 2020-

When Jesus the Christ was slain on the cross, He did not give up the ghost and simply resurrect Himself, on the third day after His demise.  More importantly, He rekindled the Faith of His disciples and sent them forth to spread His Teachings, which alone were able to redirect a distracted and frightened world, as the Roman Empire was starting to witness the seeds of its hubris grow into the trees of destruction.

Millions around the world take solace, each Spring/Fall, in the knowledge that we are never left alone, by our Creator.  Buddhists have recently commemorated the Birth of Gautama Siddhartha.  For Jews, this comfort comes with Pesach(Passover).  Christians find it in today’s observance of Resurrection Sunday and next Sunday’s Pascha, the Day of Resurrection observed by Orthodox Christians. Muslims will begin Ramadan at the end of this month.  We Baha’is will observe Ridvan, the twelve day festival, commemorating Baha’u’llah’s first proclamation of His Station, from April 20-May 1, the time when He and His family were preparing for  exile from Baghdad to Istanbul (then still called Constantinople).

This sacred time, if we see with open eyes and hearts, blesses humanity, and our earthly home, as a whole.  Naturists and animists recognize the Divine Presence that comes around the time of the Vernal Equinox and which revisits us, in Autumn.  Thus has the Resurrection of Christ had implications for all humanity, from the day of its occurrence on forward.  God has blessed us with bounty and fertility, which are apparent to all who see with unclouded eyes.

It is now our turn to resurrect all that is sacred about life on Earth:  Compassion, listening with both ear and heart, a collective consciousness and plan of action, a workable and universal plan for distribution of the Earth’s bounty-so that none feel useless, starve or go without a measure of comfort. These cannot be accomplished from the top down, as some have suggested. Things which are forced on people, breed resentment and a desire for vengeance.  This is something that both “high” and “low” alike need to bear in mind.  It is essential that neither greed, nor a false sense of superiority, motivate the former.  It is also needful that neither envy nor despair compel the latter to act in ways that will bring everyone down further.  We need look no further than the French Revolution, or the rise and fall of the totalitarians of mid-20th Century Europe and Japan, to draw the necessary lessons.

Our resurrection, and that of Earth itself, will require heartfelt movement from both top and bottom.

A blessed season to all!

Pointing The Way

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April 10,2020-

“God works in mysterious ways.”  “Nothing happens until something moves”.  “_____________died for your sins.”

Today is Good Friday, the “good” part was explained to me, when I was a child, as being due to the sacrifice made by Jesus the Christ on that day; a sacrifice that showed God’s love for mankind and gave the human race another lease on the life of the spirit.  There is a great case to be made for the poswer of atonement.  For Christians, and all those who came after them-Muslims, Sikhs and Baha’is, that atonement includes recognizing the Divine Nature of Jesus.

I will not go into theology any further, here.  The most meaningful aspect of Good Friday, for me as a Baha’i, is that it serves as an ever present example, and presently the most universally well-known example, of God showing each of us how to face a situation of supreme, and supremely unjust, deprivation and suffering, and then turn it around to shower love upon all-even those who perpetrated the injustice.  It is God telling all men-“Even when you hurt Me, My love for you is undiminished.”

The life stories of all Messengers of God contain persistent and often misunderstood, elements of intense personal suffering.  The Passion of the Christ is the best known of these, and it’s well that His Crucifixion and Death serve to remind us of the supremacy of  the Creator’s eternal Love.  That Love would be further demonstrated,  three days later.