What It Usually Means

2

April 3, 32021-

Most times, a hug is a hug-and nothing more. A handshake is a handshake, no more and no less. A warm smile is not especially an invitation, but more an expression of appreciation. A gentle touch is a reassurance of caring. Eye contact, likewise, means “I see you. You matter to me”.

Interest in your day means there is a connection. It is not an invitation to anything more. Expressing interest in doing things together is not an open door to doing just anything at all.

A friendship between mature adults is devoid of assumptions, of unilateral expectations and wishful thinking. It is full of plans made together, of honest conversation, of trusting disclosures, knowing that what is shared is respected, and kept in confidence.

These facets of my friendships, with woman and man alike steer me gently into that good night and its subsequent bright day.

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.

Not Like Animals

8

April 6, 2017, Prescott-

On the television series, Chicago PD, Intelligence Sergeant Hank Voigt loves his people- family annd fellow detectives alike.  The show frequently addresses misuse of power, both by police and by miscreants.  Among the latter group’s most common misuses of power is rape.  Last night’s episode addressed the neurotic means to power, of the rapist.  As Sergeant Voigt inferred, his people don’t act like animals.

While it was playing, on network TV, seventy five of us, at the main campus of Yavapai College, were gathered to hear the testimony of a dozen women, and one man, who had suffered sexual assault and domestic violence.  They suffered at the hands of those whom they should have been able to trust:  Their fathers, husbands, siblings’ friends, step-parents.  Some got no support from their mothers, siblings, “close friends”, even counselors.

I have, as many of you know, been a counselor, at three different schools in this state.  I have seen all manner of human brutality, and have seen the best of human kindness. Strong women and girls have come to me for assistance,I believe them-then and now, and I have had their backs.  Caring boys and men have pitched in, and helped.  Then, there are the depraved, of both genders, whom I have helped put away.  One case, in particular, stands out: A well-connected individual violated a child, was arrested, and got some of his friends and neighbours to try to impugn my character.  He was tried and convicted, his friends found themselves dispersed, by the government agency which employed them (through no action on my part, by the way), and I continued to work at the school for several more years.

The thing is, as a good friend said recently, men and women need each other.  I have many women friends, of all ages, ethnicities, physical characteristics and marital statuses.  To my mind and in my heart, they, and the men who love them most, are family.  If anything happens to them, their husbands/boyfriends, children or grandchildren, it’s as if it has happened to one of my biological family members.  This goes double for my schoolchildren, but that is a whole other ball of wax, given the protocol under which I work.

People who beat others, devalue others, torment others, have a mindset in which control is paramount.  Co-operation, in their twisted view, exists only for the purpose of accomplishing their agenda.  This is largely the province of men, though I know of several women who have followed the same path.  Little by little, case by case, their victims are stepping forward.  They are learning strength, they are learning to speak out, to walk away and to heal.

In this heart, and in many others, they are loved.

Which None Can Really Know

12

February 16, 2017, Prescott-

I work for someone who doesn’t entirely trust me,

and is constantly seeming to be under the gun.

I work with children who don’t entirely trust anyone,

and are each very much under siege.

I work in a community which thrives on trusting its own,

yet views the wider world with a flinty eye.

I am a native son of a country which is not sure who to trust,

yet asks the rest of the planet to go with its judgement.

I am a citizen of a planet which is getting more intimate,

and is entering a future which none can really know.

The Sumo Wrestler Cat

4

August 22, 2016, Prescott-  My primary goal, in my present position, is to build trust with my students, while adhering to the guidelines of the program now being used by the school district.

Hearing their stories, with both ears and heart open, is a major component of building trust with anyone.  There is far too much, of people sticking fingers in their ears and mouthing the equivalent of “Nyah, naah, can’t hear you!”  One way of doing this is “That’s not what the program says!”

While I encourage students to follow the program, being in their world is major.  This morning, one of the boys, whom I met at the bus, told me of his weekend, and his mother getting a new kitten, to add to their feline family.  The patriarch, as it happens, is called the Sumo Wrestler Cat, owing to his girth.  SWC tends to keep his distance from the others, and, true to form, is the first one at the food dish.  The kitten will need to learn this pecking order- in which she is last.  The two juvenile female cats have ideas of their own.

Others have less amusing domestic tales, and as kids do, they bring the troubles of home with them into the classroom.  The task of changing mindsets, and letting even the most woebegone know they are loved beyond measure, falls to yours truly.  I think most adults here WANT to be able to show caring for these children, but not getting it returned in kind, wears on those who are themselves needy. On we go, however, and my eternal optimist middle manager sees “incremental progress” being made, already.

The Road to 65, Mile 40: Truth

7

January 7, 2015, Prescott- Lunacy seems to regard itself as truth.  There are, however, parameters by which honest truth may be discerned.  I grew up with a skewed inner view of reality, filtered through the lens of my autism. Thankfully, I was surrounded by anchored parents, loving siblings and an amazing, varied and huge extended family of over 200 people, on both sides.  I also had concerned and engaged neighbours and teachers, for the most part.  People would notice when something was awry with me, and instead of gossiping and ridiculing, they went straight to my parents.

I have done just fine.  My friends and associates, in Arizona and around the world, have been nothing but a blessing in this long and joyful life.  So, I think of those who are not so fortunate.  So many have grown up in hateful or indifferent homes,  where their every word, every move, is questioned or discounted.  This is not just true of girls with misogynist fathers and self-hating mothers.  It happens with boys, also- and the standard can be held way too high, with no allowance for error.

Truth, then, becomes a relative thing.  The hurried, browbeaten, and unrecognized child becomes a prisoner in a surreal existence.  That person’s expressions of reality become twisted, hateful, and fraught with severe pain, both for self, and for everyone around. He or she learns no trust.

No matter who is found responsible for today’s horrific assault on free expression, those three persons, and any accomplices or masterminds will join the long parade of the demented- all the way back to Caligula and Nero, through the ravages of Justinian, Attila,Tamerlane, Ivan IV, the Jacobins, Hitler, Pol Pot and Idi Amin, to the modern monsters, who present a false image of Mohammad- he who forbade graven images of himself- to the world.

I am not talking about the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.  They are no more culpable in this matter than the Danish man who devised a lewd piece of glassware, purporting to depict Christ, so many years ago.  No Christian killed him.  He was simply ignored and his ill-tempered “sculpture” faded into obscurity.  Thus should it be with all such depictions.  None merit capital punishment.

The modern ravagers are those who loudly proclaim themselves “avengers of the Prophet”, knowing deep down that He would disapprove, vehemently.  Even in the darkness of Seventh Century Arabia, Mohammad only sanctioned violence when it was done in self-defense, as unfortunately it was deemed prudent on several occasions.  Their depraved actions spur equally savage responses from non-Muslims.  As Gandhi cautioned, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.

So, while French and international investigators sort out the evidence and pursue leads, the world waits to see whether Islamic extremists, or clever agents provocateurs from a Nationalist group, or just-plain hateful miscreants with no agenda other than mayhem, are behind this latest atrocity.  In the end, truth, in its purest form, will be spoken to power.