As Stupid Does

9

May 21, 2108, Prescott-

I woke this morning, to a message of excoriation, from someone who I deeply respect, but who can hardly be said to hold me in like regard.  It happens.

I’m no one’s slave, though I am gladly of service to many.  Don’t demand that I do your bidding or be at your beck and call.  I will serve a person’s needs because that’s what the Creator, through the Universe, has messaged me to do.

Slavery should never have happened, in the first place.  I hear, from minds more perceptive than mine, that extraterrestrials instituted the practice.  Whatever.  It should NEVER have been put into practice, period.

So now, as Dr. Joy DeGruy has so profoundly explained, in “Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome”, people of colour get to deal with the emotional and social sludge of slavery’s legacy.  People of pallour get to face up, and ‘fess up, to all that our forebears ignored and many of our contemporaries wish to sweep under the carpet or kick down the road.  Frantz Fanon and James Baldwin warned us of this, all those lovely years back, and who listened, exactly?

My angry correspondent dismissed me as just another stupid individual, not worth his time.  At least he has not banned me from reading his incisive work-so no loss on my part.  I will keep reading, and listening, and learning, because true stupidity comes from indulging in backlash, from putting up barriers, from being, “all in all……just another brick in the wall.” (Thanks, Roger Waters).

Further Reflection

27

December 13, 2017, Prescott-

Baha’u’llah tells us that each soul expresses a grain of truth.  In the past several days, there has been much discussion, largely initiated by single men, regarding the push for gender equality.

I have responded to some of the posts and been somewhat rebuffed by the authors.  My take, essentially, is that people should not be limited in their pursuits, their dreams, their achievements, by traditional gender roles.  My identity as a man does not stand or fall on whether a woman, friend or not, can change a tire, rebuild an engine or run a Fortune 500 corporation, as well, or better, than a man could.  My identity as a man does not depend on whether I have a lady on my arm, even as I find many women strikingly lovely.
I must, however, agree with some of the men who have posted.  A human being’s relationship with any other human being is based on trust.  Women and men are equally capable of maintaining trust, and are equally capable of violating trust.  I have been in a couple of situations where I was the breaker of trust.  That I was going through episodes of grief, in each case, does not excuse my behaviour and I have apologized, done as each person violated has asked, and moved on.  In my friendships, over the past three years, I have been far more discerning and attentive to trust issues.

No one is entitled to respect, based on gender alone.  Respect comes from maintaining good character, and that includes being trustworthy.  A man had girlfriend begged off of their scheduled date, saying she didn’t feel well. She was later found to be having dinner with another man, that same evening.  She said it was her prerogative, as a woman.  Well, balderdash!  She reaped the fruits of that choice, which was an end to her relationship with Man A.

There is an argument, making the rounds, that women prefer men who are coarse, who will rough them up if necessary, or at least be selfish and disgusting.  My take on that is:

Such a woman is fundamentally looking for someone who is hard enough to perhaps safeguard her from the coarseness and meanness of the wider world.  A nice guy makes a good friend, so the saying goes, but a mate must be willing to be a brute.   My attitude is that a nice guy must also be strong in the face of adversity. Brutishness is a perversion of strength.

I practice goodness towards people, in general, but my mother did not raise any wimps. I stood up for my wife, as she did for me, and we stood up TO one another.  I am loving, nurturing and supportive of my female friends, but the last time I checked, none of them needed a doormat.  I am in their lives on their terms, and they are in my life, on mine.

The bottom line, in all this discussion, is PEOPLE need to be humane and considerate to other PEOPLE.  PEOPLE should be strong and reliable, in the eyes of other PEOPLE.  If a woman doesn’t respect a man, and vice versa, then what’s the point of their relationship?  More basically, if one doesn’t think he/she deserves a strong, reliable, trustworthy mate, then he/she won’t find one.

En-titled

8

December 9, 2017, Prescott-

I awoke this morning,

in a state of tension.

“Come off it, self!

This is Saturday,

and no one expects

anything of you,

except that you

take part in the

noon conference call.”

I got myself together,

drove to one friend’s house,

picked up a bin of cut juniper,

and delivered to another’s house.

Somehow, I will want to do better

than that.

The pieces of wood are small

in the second friend’s eyes.

Aren’t we a funny breed?

A person is entitled

to big, to fine, to proper,

to sufficient.

I thought of other friends,

in Ojai,

looking at the embers

and foundation, where

once, there was a

home similar to

the second friend’s

house, here.

Where is their piece

of entitlement, now?

Once upon a time,

an angry young woman

demanded of her mate,

that he throw me out

of the house

that five of us shared.

It was mid-February,

cold, snowy,

central Maine.

An older couple

took me in,

two days later.

Seems the Universe

decided that I

was entitled to

dignity, and

freedom from

pneumonia.

Here’s how I see it, now.

These are our entitlements:

Respect, with regard to

our persons,

our time,

our necessaries.

Love,

unconditional,

therefore, never forced.

Opportunity,

to make choices

and to follow through,

on those choices.

These three

are enough for me.

All else proceeds

from them.

 

 

Meaning Business

4

January 12, 2017, Prescott-

The child claimed what’s his.

A grown man can’t hold what’s his.

I make little go far.

The above verse is in reference to one of our boys speaking out, about respect, across all lines. He is the smallest of our students, but is being raised by loving parents, to not give an inch, to anyone bigger and stronger, when it comes to holding onto what belongs to him.

A very troubled man, claiming to speak for his Lord, is finding that hubris is an empty vessel, and doesn’t take the place of living in the path of God’s Messengers.  He is leaving shattered pieces, for others to pick up and carry forward.

Much had to be done, financially, these past two weeks.  I made it, thanks to a short-term advance from my bank, which will be re-paid, in full, at midnight.  This is a small example of what gets achieved, time and again, with relatively little.  I will not let my responsibilities, to loved ones, or to those who meet my needs, ever go unmet.

Responsibility for self is always basic.

Who Wants What?

14

January 4, 2017, San Diego- In the course of conversation today, a subject that always seems to come to the fore, when talking with unmarried young men,and sometimes with those who ARE wed, occupied a fair amount of time:  What do women actually WANT?

My answer to that has emerged over about three decades- Basically, people all want the same three things:  Respect, a sense of autonomy and a measure of security.   No one really wants to feel set up, used or unappreciated.  This seems to sometimes be falling on deaf ears, to a person who feels alone. Actually, though, the lonely man and the woman who falls into the waiting arms of a man who will disrespect her, or worse, are more alike than they each seem to think.

Sometimes, both are impatient, regarding life as something that is passing them by.  The lonely man, especially if he is kind, generous, hard-working and family-oriented, sees a relationship/marriage as the one thing he needs to complete his life.  The settling woman, especially if she has been sheltered, places autonomy, and an emotional challenge, over the fawning attention of one who is love-struck.  Yet, she, too, sees a relationship, however flawed, as the one thing she needs to complete her life.

Both seek validation of their view of self, as well.  The man who sees himself as virtuous and protective, can’t understand why women tell him that he isn’t their “type”.  The woman who sees herself as either unworthy of respect, or, conversely, as too sheltered, can’t understand why men don’t present a coarser, or at least less solicitous, demeanor.  These attitudes start way back in middle-childhood, sometimes earlier. They have something to do with parenting, as well as with broader socialization. (There are also exceptions to every rule.)

I learned, after so many years as a fulminating, unsettled young adult, in my late teens and twenties, that “You’re not my type” is as much of an excuse,as “Women are such jerks about relationships”.  In looking for answers to my own predicament, I met, and listened to, several downcast people, of both genders.  It became obvious that, if I wanted to meet one who would be my mate, for life, I would have to truly absorb her reality- past experiences, present circumstances, future dreams.  This happened to me, as so often happens, when I felt genuinely ready for a relationship, while having no idea with whom.  I met Penny two weeks later, we discussed all the above issues, and more, over 29 years, and I developed a real sense of what mattered to both of us.

Egos are fragile.  Life is fluid.  Everyone deserves respect, the right to pursue their dreams and a measure of security.  I wish all my  friends, especially my young friends, a wellspring of all three.

The Road to 65, Mile 230: Birthdays Matter

1

July 16,2015, Prescott-  I treated a good friend, (one of my besties),  and her daughter to dinner this evening, since it was bestie’s birthday.  Back in New England, a birthday is ever the occasion for the honouree to be so treated, and to choose the venue, within reason.  So, I have continued this tradition, over the years, for Penny and for our son. Aram.

One’s entry point into this life establishes the chance to be of value, to an entity greater than oneself:  First the immediate family; then friends and neighbours, followed by ever-wider communities.  This, alone, is worthy of respect and nurturing.

In our culture of independence and relative anonymity, it’s easy for a person to feel like no one cares much.  Most of the time, this isn’t true.  We tend to have more friends, who care more about us than it seems outwardly.  There are all manner of distractions, and external pressures, both real and imagined.

My own answer to this has been to be more proactive about expressing my friendship.  Sometimes, because of the depth of my feelings, this has been misinterpreted and I’ve had to backpedal a bit, for the sake of the endurance of the friendship. It started to happen with the friend mentioned above, but with clear and gentle communication, things are where they need to be.

So, her birthday matters, as does her daughter’s, a few months down the road.  Their dreams and plans are more in focus, with the stock-taking that happens at the beginning of each year.  In my own case, this is one of the reasons I am doing this series of posts.  Some years seem to be clearer milestones than others, but each one is of value, and is crucial to one’s total life experience.

The Road to 65, Mile 220: Cross-Bullying

1

July 6, 2015, Prescott- I read this morning about the “rising phenomenon” of children bullying their parents.  Then, a short time later, a friend wrote me a message that her parent was referring to her in the most vulgar of terms.

This goes back to how I was raised, and how we tried to raise our son.  No two people always get along, and the permutations of social discourse get more complicated with three, four, or ten, in the mix.  The bottom line, though, is respect, Golden Rule, “how does the shoe feel on your foot?”

It’s a given that children regard having limits set as part of their safety net. Limit-free kids are scared, more often than not, and fearful people strike out.  We raised our son with what common sense we could muster, encouraging his curiosity and exploration, and discouraging any tendency to view, and treat, us as eyeball-to-eyeball peers.

I would not have my wife be subjected to abuse, nor she, me.  Son is a fine human being, and I don’t think he would be comfortable with being able to give too free vent to negative attitudes.  In fact, he has said that, all in all, we set reasonable limits.  Likewise, we did not ridicule or catcall at him, something that I have seen far too many people my age do with their children, in the name of “honesty” or “free speech.”

Millennials speak of “adulting”.  I love that generation dearly, and certainly expect that acting one’s age will be de rigeur for them, as it should be for us, and for “Generation X”.  Perhaps the term is natural, though, as we witness so many, from ages 21- 90, indulging in unseemly public behaviour, again in the name of “self-expression” or “my rights”.  For the adult in the room to have plenty of company is a fine thing, and since it happens more often than the media would have us believe, it should be contagious.

My feeling is that, if children see adults being adults, consistently, and if they feel well- and fairly-attended, which means having limits set for them, then there will be less bullying, in either direction.

The Road to 65, Mile 49: Victims

2

January 16, 2015, Prescott- As far back as I can remember, two themes have defined my life:  Love of females and honesty.  Perhaps because my mother, grandmothers and aunts were there for me, even when Dad had to work the graveyard shift in order to put food on the table, I have felt a closeness to girls and women- besides which, I started getting physically drawn to the opposite gender around age eight.  Females, being human though, are not always right, and can be underhanded, and brutal, when they feel insecure.  So can men-being human.  I’ve been furious with girls, less so with grown women, but underneath there is a very deep core of love.

Honesty has been my friend, also, though it has frequently gotten me in trouble, and a few times, almost killed.  Life in a New England mill town, with neighbourhoods set against one another, and towns versus the burgs next door. frequently gets dicey.  I have, plenty of times, spoken truth to power.  Power that is not sure of itself strikes out violently, or runs and hides.  The insecure powerful, back in the day, would knock the stuffing out of those who came out against them.  Those for whom I had genuine respect, though, came back, stated their case in a direct, forceful manner and left it to us to learn the hard lessons of life.   My father, the better among my teachers, Coach Wall and one of the best bosses I ever had, Bob Powers, were people of power.  They were not, for the most part, people of violence and handled whatever insecurities they had, in a way that cemented the respect others had for them.

I haven’t considered myself a victim, very often.  When I have indulged my weaker self, there has always been someone dear to me- my wife, our son, one of my brothers, my father-in-law- to set me straight, usually in a voice I would myself use with someone who was in a shaky place.  The fact is, when I have felt the world turning against me, it’s because I have shut some part of it out and become adamant and intransigent about considering other points of view.  My brother pointed out to me, the last time that happened, in 2009, that it was doing nothing to help me obtain what I said I wanted in life:  A better situation for my family, for my increasingly frail wife and our young adult son.

That’s the thing about conflict- there are no real winners, only victims who savage one another and create more victims in their wake.  We all have differences, AND we all have similarities.  We can dwell on the one, and stay off balance, or we can focus on the other, and build bonds.  The key is listening, with both ears followed by action, with heart and mind working in sync. No one can force another to “do what is right”, but if doing things a certain way brings only further distress and misery- then that becomes the person’s Ben Franklin moment, and the old sage’s definition of insanity flickers in the mind.  Honesty, as brutal as it can be, is chemotherapy for the cancer of conflict.  One need not be a victim or, as Glenn Frey once put it, a prisoner “here, of our own device”.

I will not shy away from tongue lashings, people in my face or any form of disagreement.  I’ve learned as much, or more, from my critics as I have from trusted friends, over the years.  I expect to be heard by them, as well, though.  We are all in a place of growth, all in a place where we can falter and all in a place where we can triumph.  Victim or champion, the choice falls to each of us.  Thanks for reading, and listening.

The Road to 65, Mile 6: Obedience

5

December 4, 2014, Prescott- As a career educator, I insist on an order,ly classroom environment for no other reason that that  learning, both group and individual, is essential if the human race is to progress as is its birthright.  I don’t have a whole lot of rules to impose, save:  ” When I speak, you listen, with both ears”; “Focus on what is in front of you” and “You are to respect everyone in this class, and in this school, starting with yourself and radiating outward.”  That said, I abhor the maxim, “Children should be seen and not heard.”, common in Victorian days and still followed by certain people over the age of 55.  Children need to develop their voice, and need to be heard, but in a proper and systematic manner.  I believe “Do it because I said so” has its time and place, mostly when addressing a child who is under the age of six.  Nothing good comes out of extended chaos, and children should never be allowed to place themselves or others in mortal danger.  My son was taught the Hot Stove, Don’t Play with Matches and Lighters, and Look Both Ways rules, well before that age.  I further believe that respect is as respect does.  Aram was asked for his input on things that impacted his life, and his ideas were frequently taken into consideration.  Developing this faculty proved essential, in his young adulthood, when he had to initiate a very difficult process, relative to his mother’s care, while I was at work.

This brings me to obedience.  Each of us has to obey the Laws of  Nature, or else suffer the consequences.  Ditto for the Golden Rule, good health and hygiene practices, mutual respect in any given relationship, and the Twelve Laws relative to attraction.  The sensible among us do our utmost to follow such laws.  The reckless challenge them, and sometimes the Universe suffers such people gladly; other times, not so much.  I have been both, in my life.  Now, I find a modicum of obedience to the Laws of the Universe to be better for me and mine.  Obedience, though, is best when not blind.  The Victorians, largely operating out of fear, were dead wrong in that respect.