Elbow Bumps

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May 1, 2021- May Day has traditionally been a day when I have looked back on my year of work, with a view towards successfully summing up what has been achieved and what remains ahead. This year will more or less conclude on May 7, the end of my series of special projects that has followed retirement. There could be other, unanticipated calls between now and May 27, or at different points next Autumn, and beyond. My major focus, though, will by and large be more a more fluid effort at community service.

Today was spent running a duffel bag filled with “Days for Girls” washable and reusable feminine products to a couple who met us in Flagstaff. The woman receiving the items was less than thrilled that I was the one who had driven them up there. Perhaps she was just embarrassed, though we have had a few issues in the past. We got the mission done, and a friend retrieved her truck, which had been used for water delivery on the Navajo Nation. I helped several girls and a long-time friend, which is what matter most. Connecting two equestrian friends was also accomplished, and I got to visit a bit with two wonderful horses.

I still found myself greeting my Dineh friend, in Flagstaff, with an elbow bump. We wore masks, for the benefit of those who remain immuno-compromised. Even if that benefit is merely psychological, it is worth their peace of mind. The residual effects of the virus will be with us for a short while longer in the U.S.-and longer still in countries, like India and Brazil, where it is still raging. While one can look beyond the present status of the pandemic in this and other countries, where it is under control, we must not lose concern for the well-being of the planet as a whole.

Elbow bumps will be a thing, for some time yet to come. We will, however, prevail as a species.

The Snails Keep On

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April 26, 2021- India, I hear, is bleeding. Brazil is getting restless, with its government’s perceived inaction. Canada is still locking many visitors out. Europe and east Asia seem to be making progress-and there is not much word from Africa-with regard to the pandemic. Many are more concerned with trying to get work and pay their way.

Here, we are making a fair amount of progress, and across the U.S., there is rising hope of getting back to some semblance of a post-pandemic life. COVID is a whipsnake, though, and its opponents, whether allopathic or naturopathic, are snails. Sooner or later, the snails will triumph-but they remain snails, and can’t help but be slow and meticulous. Even a whipsnake will get tripped up, sooner or later.

It seems that is the way with most issues of social import. Progressives act like one can just snap the fingers, and voila, the barriers to social justice will disappear. Reactionaries wish the progressives would just disappear. The rest of us will keep doing what we have always done-move forward, but in measured, sensible ways. Police will always be needed-just not in tyrannical form. Thugs will try to force their will upon the vulnerable, and will need to be opposed-thus, a firm, but fair, police force. (I read Mitch Albom’s account of life in lawless areas of Port au Prince, Haiti. That sort of thing could happen anywhere, if people adopt an attitude of self-centered insouciance.) An attitude, and practice, of listening to, and learning from, people with differing points of view will be needed-if our steps forward are not to be followed by a pell mell retreat backwards-as almost happened on January 6. A respect for people and, by extension, their property, will need to be re-instated. The stance that “They’re only THINGS” cannot be maintained in perpetuity. This is a material life, and even the monk needs assurance that his rice bowl will remain intact. What is wrecking a Boys and Girls Club, or a historical museum, going to do to advance social justice, anyway?

The snails move on, and will not be deterred.

Sane and Intelligent

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April 13, 2021- I watched a small segment of a newsreel from the World War II era, which included a Disney cartoon, promoting payment of taxes as an act of patriotism-one of many ways in which the average citizen of that time could support the war effort, through personal sacrifice. Along with dehumanizing the opposing forces of the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan), the appeal to acceptance of taxation, recycling, conservation and not spending on oneself was made so that the bulk of the nation’s resources would go towards support for the Armed Forces.

Defeating the most formidable opponents the forces of democracy had yet known required a fair amount of such sacrifice-and the burden was shared by Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several smaller nations. The Soviet Union was our ally, but its citizens were already living under onerous conditions-and knew little of personal freedom. Stalin’s sole recognition of individual dignity came in his decrees that men and women were equal under the law and that every child was entitled to a free education.

We, on the other hand, found some of our freedoms temporarily curtailed-as a means to focus the nation’s energy on defeat of the totalitarian enemy. That presented a conundrum to some people. As the bulk of the opposition to this temporary halt of free expression came from people who were not altogether opposed to the Fascist cause, it gained little traction. Besides, President Truman restored civil liberties, once the war was over.

Baha’u’llah teaches that the practice of a sane and intelligent patriotism is essential, for avoiding the evils of excessive centralization. This makes such a practice all the more vital, for the time, in the distant future, when a system of international governance becomes established. The Baha’i view of such a system is that it is built from the ground up-and thus, the more basic units of social structure: Family, community, city/town, county, state/province/prefecture, nation never lose their legitimate powers. The governance of the planet as a whole depends on the strength of the layers of society on which it is built.

There will always be times when temporary sacrifice is needed, in order to defeat a common threat. Certainly, the current fight against Coronavirusdisease2019 is such a time. That we are learning to make these sacrifices, and are making slow headway in overcoming this threat to public health, is a good lesson in learning what is sane and intelligent, in terms of patriotism.

Narrow Passages

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April 11, 2021- This afternoon, one of my friends and I were hiking in a park in Prescott Valley, which is one of Prescott’s sibling communities. We took a trail less trodden and found ourselves, briefly, in a slot canyon. This is a narrow passage, in which it is okay to walk when there is absolutely no precipitation, even remotely in the forecast. Rain and snow can turn even the dustiest creek or river bed into a deathly torrent, for anyone in a slot canyon. We got through the slot canyon and back onto the main trail, with no threat of water overtaking us.

This evening, a group of Baha’is presented an update on conditions on the Navajo Nation, which has had an especially difficult row to hoe, even before the pandemic hit. There is progress being made, in terms of infrastructure (Roads, running water, utilities and technology), but we are talking a decade or two, even with systematic dedication, before the Dineh (Navajo) can emerge from this narrow passage. COVID19 is a torrent that is slowing down their walk, and which has taken too many people downstream.

Indeed, far too many communities are finding themselves in similar slot canyons. We, as a species, and as a planet, are in a collective narrow passage, and vacillate between thinking we can inch our way out of it, by just going on as usual and flailing through the waters of tests and difficulties. There are too many who think this is something that can be negotiated individually-and too many who think that they can just appeal to others to solve the problems.

The fact is, we all are needed to think globally and act locally. Only then will the passage be widened and, with more room to walk ahead, the human race can bring the gifts of each and every soul to bear on the ills that have arisen because of the neglect and misfeasance of the past.

A Few More Random Thoughts

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February 24, 2021- Today was a day for accompanying a friend around Lynx Lake, which both of us found enjoyable. The lake’s water table is down, as we might expect-given our long dry spell of last year, but the water birds are already coming back- noisy ducks and showy cormorants.

I picked up two of Isabel Wilkerson’s books: “The Warmth of Other Suns”, about the African-American migration out of the South, starting in the 1930s and “Caste”, about the role of that system in the stratifcation of American society-and the true connection between that stratification and Nazism. These ought to be very insightful. I don’t see an immediate tie between “Trumpsim”, which is largely personality-based and Fascism, which has systemic goals-but there are people who subscribe to both-just as there are doctrinaire people, who also are personality-driven, on the other end of the political spectrum.

I have meditated on the mercurial nature of several people in my circle, at present. Having gotten past feeling a personal affront, when those who have been uniformly pleasant over the past several months, suddenly turn icy, I can sense that the sameness of the pandemic-driven regimen is getting to too many people, just a tad too soon. I can also sense that we are getting a handle on the disease- the “variants” aside.

Finally, just an observation: Those who act out of fear are less the problem than those who stoke that fear-and privately mimic their followers. Yes, there are people egging the masses on, who take Lenin’s view of “useful idiots.” They are the true problematics.

Keeping the Fire

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January 29, 2021- One of the things about the pandemic is that those of us who are officially retired from work are still needed in our professions. This is the sort of thing which happens, especially to nurses and physicians, but also to teachers, EMTs and a variety of people in supporting roles. So, I have gone in, to cover for those sidelined by COVID-19, those who have pandemic-related medical appointments and a few other situations.

One of the features of working with children, in the present environment particularly, is what I see as the need to encourage young people to stand their ground, to speak their truth clearly and not be cowed by any attempts, by ANYONE, to intimidate them into letting go of what they know is deserved. This does not mean that a child should be taught to act in an unbridled and irresponsible manner.

When a person, of any age, does speak the truth to a situation, it is the mark of authenticity, for anyone who hears that truth, to have the speaker’s back. In this school, particularly, those who have stood up and insisted, properly, that matters be handled a certain way have been my greatest allies and have made all the difference between the good days I have had and days that might have gone off the rails.

Even in the rough-edged years, of the 2000s, I still recall those forthright children whose outspoken and compassionate manners bridged the gap between my shakiness and being able to pull things together , not wasting the class’s time. With all to which this generation of students is being asked to endure, that forthrightness, that fortitude that flame, needs to be enkindled more than ever before.

I remain on call, for this, and other acts of community service.

Lifelong Learning

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January 14, 2021-

The forthright girl stood at the whiteboard, and explained the same concept, five times, before three of her classmates finally grasped what she was saying. Two very different styles of learning met, grappled with one another and, in the end, meshed.

It is instructive, and advisable, for adults to see, in real time, how children work out problems, step by step. Only in the meat of the solution process can one truly understand the heart and soul of another human being. Only by allowing a person to explain something, from his or her own point of view, without prematurely inserting one’s own input, can there be the beginnings of a bond.

I am, for all intents and purposes, retired from education. There is, however, this lingering, stagnant presence of cornonavirusdisease 2019. This pandemic will, probably for some months yet, continue to affect regular classroom teachers, as it has so many other walks of life. I am, to a certain extent, immune to the virus, and still have the energy to devote some of my time to the elevation and advancement of another magnificent generation. Alphas are given to showing far more patience with selves, surety as to their purpose in life and acceptance of differences, than the generations which came before them, as children. Perhaps it’s just the energy that envelops us all now, combined with the purity of the child. Maybe we are all evolving, and the children reap the benefits of being innocent and bathed in a greater cosmic energy.

In any event, I have been blessed, yet again, with a week’s chapter, in learning from watching others learn.

Keeping Responsibility

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December 16, 2020-

Although, for all intents and purposes, I am retired from teaching, there have been various times of ruminating and reflecting on continued responsibility in the community and beyond. Certainly, everything to do with counteracting the current pandemic remains a duty for anyone old enough to know what a disease is. Thus, my keeping and using a good supply of face masks; researching vaccines (so as to, hopefully, find one that is not dependent on aborted fetuses for content); and maintaining personal wellness. Honouring the concept of not making further trips to areas where COVID is raging even more than it is here in Yavapai County, (to say nothing of staying out of other states, for the next few months), is desperately necessary.

Getting past the health crisis, there are other areas of responsibility: Helping out in the schools, when needed, during the January-May semester; supporting local businesses, especially those where younger workers are themselves supporting families; volunteering with Red Cross (still the only thing, other than family emergency, that will take me across state lines; and consoling sick and bereaved families of friends and relatives. Making an effort to be a comforting presence, in general, is also vital.

A legacy work, my memoirs of 1950-2020, is in the hands of its editor. This afternoon, I sent out the “Beta” copy to my mother, who is 92. It may be the only time I’ve ever given her a Christmas gift made with my own hands-except perhaps a birdhouse that I made in Eighth Grade woodshop.

Responsibilities will continue to arise, either by my own search or by the circumstances of community life. As long as I am physically and mentally competant, they will be welcomed.

Leaning In

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November 15, 2020-

What had been planned as a two-day visit to Petrified Forest/Painted Desert was interrupted by work, at the end of last week. Yesterday’s visit to Homol’ovi State Park sufficed, in its place. I have about a month or so left, of being available five days a week for subbing. In the second semester, my officially retired self will cut back to 2-3 days a week, and then because there seem to be so few people willing to take on the work. I am not doing any long term travel anywhere, until this pandemic lightens up enough for people to not feel leery of visitors. Right now, there is a return to Stay-at-Home orders in most neighbouring states-at least for the next two weeks. Thankfully, I can at least fly in and out of Dallas, and visit my little family, next week.

This week, though, I will be maintaining at least three days of work. Today, though I might have lazed the time away, was actually no different. A pallet-dismantling project, the eventual goal of which will be a winter residence for a homeless man, brought about twelve of us together, in a mountain community, south of Prescott. So, for nearly three hours, I busied myself with moving planks and removing nails from those planks.

The most effective way to remove nails from a board is to lean into the effort, thus putting extra pressure on the claw part of the hammer. Using a small piece of wood, as a brace, also speeds things up greatly. Of course, if I were really efficient, I would go out and get a pneumatic nail remover. The exercise was good for my upper body and forearms, though.

Leaning into any endeavour, with attention and perseverance, is the only way to approach a task. I am getting better at this practice, in my late middle age, and certainly feel an increase in satisfaction at each day’s end.

Treading Water

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November 8, 2020-

Many people are holding back on any plans,

even of short-range span,

because they fear the pandemic will expand.

Yet, is that really the plan?

Many people are treading water,

not engaged in doing what they ought,

for fear of the renewed onslaught,

and not wanting to look like robots.

Still others throw caution to the wind,

offering a conspiratorial spin,

imagining the virus to have been sent by djinn,

and enhanced by the descendants of the Ch’in.

I see my road as set by my guides,

altered only temporarily by the viral tide;

I refuse to run and hide,

and so trusting in science, I abide.