No Isolation

2

November 10, 2022- The sometimes rambunctious child sat by himself, without anything to occupy him, while a couple of other staff members were called to tend to an emergency, elsewhere on campus. I went over and sat with him for twenty minutes, drilling him on colour and shape flashcards, until his regular paraprofessional returned. No one deserves isolation, save for a limited period of “reflect and correct”. He did well on the cards and was grateful for the attention.

In thinking about prisoners, it was noteworthy that in Tuesday’s election, clauses to the State Constitutions of Alabama, Tennessee and Oregon, which acquiesced to slavery, were removed by a wide majority of the voters. A similar, but poorly-worded, proposition in Louisiana was defeated, but with the understanding that a much-clearer proposition would be put before the voters, as part of the gubernatorial and legislative election, next Fall. Groups don’t deserve extended isolation, any more than individuals do. Incarceration is frequently necessary, yet solitary confinement should be a rarity.

Pariahs have been a feature of the human condition, and some say the animal condition, as far back as observation itself began. Many, myself included, have experienced a limited, short-term shunning, for violating group norms at one time or another. Other times, it’s not even the group which was offended, but an influential person or two. In the latter cases, the isolation has not lasted long at all, as others got under the influencers’ skin and members of the group began to see who was at fault. In time, the shunning usually wears out, in any case, and a new group of friends and associates takes the place of the former group. Even Napoleon had an entourage, when he was sent to St. Helena.

I am grateful, these days, that any seclusion I am put into is of my own volition.

Certitude

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July 14, 2022, Grapevine- The Republic of France celebrated the day, 233 years ago, when the Nation’s most-hated prison, La Bastille, was stormed by a mob, as the people were fed up with the dissembling of Louis-Auguste (Louis XVI) and what they perceived as the oppressive policies of the nobility, acting in concert with the Church. The chaos that swirled around that nation, both before and after the trials and executions of Louis and his wife, Marie Antoinette, led only to the rise of the equally autocratic, if more effective in leadership, Napoleon Bonaparte.

The life of a nation, like the lives of individuals, families and communities, depends upon a delicate mix of certitude and flexibility in the face of change. The former without the latter can easily turn into rigidity and oppressiveness. The latter, without the former can be just more wishy-washy foolishness, changing with the wind and tides.

The great Spiritual Teachers have each told us to be discerning, thoughtful and motivated by love. This requires a lot of work, daily and long-term, to maintain both one’s individual life plan and to support loved ones in theirs. My own certitude actually depends on flexibility. I have seen people I love dearly end up feeling broken and hopeless, because their way was not chosen over the highway; because things did not proceed according to what they, alone, deemed best -especially for others. It could have been the same in my life, had I not accepted the concepts of listening to even my harshest critics and gleaning the best of ideas and beliefs they espoused, which actually turned matters around, on a few occasions.

While none of us is spared the grief and pain that accompany life on this plane of existence, neither is that life solely a matter of gritting one’s teeth and enduring excruciating pain, for decades on end. There are opportunities and there is always a way out of the rubble-even if it takes a lot of digging.

Keyholes

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November 26, 2016, Chula Vista-

We went to see the film “Doctor Strange”, this evening.  It’s a highly entertaining account of mystics being able to bend time, space and matter- for good or for ill.  One of the characters mentions to Dr. Strange that, in being concerned with his own ego, he is seeing the universe through a keyhole- and imagining his view to be all-encompassing.

So many of us seem to be seeing the world through keyholes of our own device.   The two extremes in out national politics have been doing so, for sometime. The keyholes seem to be also getting smaller and smaller.  It is also apparent that the backdrop, behind the door, is getting dimmer and dimmer.

Any time in history, when people feel totally disenfranchised, has been fraught with severe pendulum swings.  The decline and fall of Imperial Rome, the French Revolution and its aftermath, and the fall of the Soviet Union  are each an example of this, albeit differing in severity.  Jacobin France is one of the deadliest examples of people looking at the world through keyholes, and seeing nothing but enemies- even in the faces of those who were their allies, only a short time before.

It is no coincidence that the leader of a White Supremacist splinter group identified his personal role model as Napoleon Bonaparte.  This, to me, is a clear indication of the intentions of his particular entourage.  Sowing chaos, in this large and disparate society, may seem impossible- but look to Rome, and to Russia.  It only takes a relative few opportunists to bring it about- and with the advent of false news reporting, the mayhem can come about rather quickly.

Once again, to be safe, at any given time, is to be vigilant beforehand.  I do not see the answer to our nation’s current growing pains to be drawing our wagons into  tight circles, such as supremacist or nativist fantasies, or safe zones.  The real solution, in my humble view, is wider inclusion.  There will never be a time when I cut off my conservative friends to curry favour with people on the Left, or vice versa.  I will not shun my friends of colour or of sexual identities that aren’t my own, just so that my White and heterosexual friends are assuaged- or vice versa.

It’s time to open the door, for a broad view.