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Home > Lucki Stars > Abiding Blog

Abiding Blog
by
Lucki Melander Wilder

Still digging the blogs. Keep up the good works.  -- Jim (a reader since the first-ever announcement)

These are personal ruminations on divers and sundry topics of interest to me and, I hope, also you. Some are long, some short. Some are silly, some serious. Some are trivial, some profound. Nor is it always easy to tell which is which, even for me. And all opinions expressed are subject to change without notice.

Email me to subscribe or give feedback, or if there's a topic you'd like me to ruminate about. Not all feedback necessarily appears in this page, and may be edited for links, typos, multi-source redundancy, and relevancy. That doesn't mean we consider negative feedback irrelevant or refuse to post it, as negative feedback can often help us learn to do more and better.

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2022-11-01
H O M E L Y

"Homely: (North Amerian) Unattractive in appearance.
(British) Simple but cozy and comforable." --Oxford Dictionary

I have experienced homelessness a few short times in my life. Homelessness in the sense that I wasn't able to stay in a house or dorm room or apartment of my own. But I mostly wasn't unsheltered homeless. I had somewhere to crash other than an abandoned building, park, underpass, or random hidden spot. I could impinge on a family member. A friend. A colleague. A "relationship". But it wasn't my home. And the time came when whoever's-it-was was invoking Ben Franklin...and I was beginning to feel like your average decompressed Psychrolutes marcidus.

But that was nothing compared to what many people are now experiencing. Some of them have been chronically homeless for years. Some became or remain homeless due to issues with addiction or mental health. Many of them, too, are homeless as a direct result of the pandemic. Some lost their jobs during the pandemic. Others resigned when employers, especially of blue-collar workers, insisted that they keep working in already poor conditions made even more lethal by the rampant and unchecked virus. Some lost their homes, whether rented/leased or mortgaged, as soon as the moratorium on evictions was lifted. Others had to give up their homes because of the pandemic's inflationary dollar-drain on their limited income or savings.

What really breaks my heart the most are the many honest homeless people, especially those unsheltered, who want to work but can't get a decent job because they don't have a stable living situation or an acceptable street address. And even more so, those who do have a job (or two, or three), but so low-paying that even if they could scrimp enough to pay the rent, they can't save enough to pay the first and last month's rent plus security deposit for a new place.

What really galls my goat the most are the many (and in this case, even one is too many...but there are a lot more) compassionless NIMBY people who want someone else to just get rid of the "problem" - by which they mean the homeless people who are discomfiting and inconveniencing them - without themselves offering anything towards the solution.

Row of homeless tents in an underpass

Unfortunately, I'm seeing this very up close and personal. Chicago's pandemic-exacerbated homeless population is at least 65,000, possibly closer to 85,000, about a third of which are unsheltered. (That's not as bad as some large cities. In fact, Illinois isn't even in the top ten states with the largest homeless populations.)

I live in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, which Money.com ranked this year at #5 in its list of the 50 best places to live in the whole US. (It was the only neighborhood to make the list; the other 49 were municipalities.) And I'm sure Rogers Park contributed greatly to Chicago's being named the best big city in the US by Conde Nast Traveler for the sixth time in a row, and the second-best city in the world by Time Out this past summer. And yet there's a homelessness problem practically on my doorstep.

I live a long block from a large park in one direction and a short block from a smaller park in another. There's a tent encampment of homeless people in the smaller park. It grew up during the pandemic. Despite occasional problems with an individual here and there, the encampment as a whole has operated like a tight-knit community in it's own right, with people (many of whom do have day jobs) gathering for meals, spending evening hours in friendly communal discussions, and watching out for each others' wellbeing and safety.

Rogers Park is a caring community, all in all. Various local charities have been helping provide tents, food, toiletries, etc. In fact, at several large Baha'is events, I've been given trays or boxes of unconsumed food to share with the homeless (as have some other Baha'is living near other homeless encampments around the city). Our alderperson has been working to get people into rapid housing events before each winter closes in. And in a survey conducted online and at a ward town hall, well over two-thirds of the responding Rogers Parkers approved of a zoning special permit to allow a full-service shelter geared to graduating homeless men (who make up the largest percentage of the homeless) into transitional housing and the city's permanent affordable housing program.

This year, though, perhaps in an extreme excess of caution, the Park District closed its smaller field house and moved all its activities over to the larger park. Which, remember, is less than two blocks away. And boy howdy, did the NIMBYs come spewing outa the woodwork.

= They ranted about how inconvenient it was for them. I mean, after all, they might have to walk a whole extra two blocks to get to the bigger, better park.
= And they were all for pulling out the porta-potty that had been put in the alley for the encampment people to use. Never mind that the field house is now closed so people in the encampment can't use that, either.
= And they wanted to know why the police don't just go in and roust the "vagrants" out of the park. Without any suggestion as to where the homeless should go. As long, of course, as it's not to their back yard. Or front yard. Or sidewalk. Or alley. Or middle of their street. God forbid they should actually offer to house one of those struggling workers for a winter ... month ... week ... even a night.
= And they even suggested at least going into the encampment and hauling away any tents and other stuff that's unattended by the user. Which is theft, 'cuz those tents and other goods were given to them by caring people. But no, let's now force them to make a choice about, say, going to their job or health clinic or wherever and losing what little they have, or staying and protecting their stuff at the cost of losing their job or forgoing health care and maybe dying (which I suppose would please the NIMBYs no end...provided they don't have to see the corpse).
= Nor would it surprise me if these are the same people who argued and voted against that new shelter.

The unsheltered are doing the best they can with what little they have at a time when Chicago's predicted to have a very harsh winter (both snowy and cold, which usually proves to be a deadly combo here). If for no other reason than that they're part of the human mysoulium, they deserve to be treated as our neighbors, an integral part of our community, members of our human family. By all of us who are better off.

The NIMBYs, OTOH, are electing to separate themselves from the mysoulium. But I sincerely hope that doesn't (have to) come back and bite them before they can get the better message and attitude of tolerance, caring, and unity.

Let's don't consider the homeless homely in the American sense of the word. Let's help make a place for them that's homely in the British sense of the word.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki
P.S. Your community probably faces similar issues with homelessness. Whether the solution will be brutal or humane is primarily up to your local government. How much your local government will be able to do may largely depend on state and federal support. If you care at all (and I doubt you'd've read this far if you didn't), be sure to get out and vote. The election is only a week away. US politics isn't really top-down. It rises from the bottom up. Your local elections will affect your state. Your state elections will affect the nation. The national, state, and local elections will all affect you. Make sure you're heard!

Sun, Nov 6, 2022 at 1:05 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  You know, in that real picture, it looks like the tent people are keeping their area orderly and clean. There's maybe some clutter at the very end of the row, but I can't tell what it really is,
  It's so sad when homeless people can't get a job because they don't have a place ot live, and they can't get a place to live because they don't have a job. That's not right. We need to find a way to provide them with a place to live, like fixing up older buildings to provide a place to live, especially when it's a family. If we help them find a place to live and a good paying job to do, then they can take care of their families, 'cuz they really are a community.
  Nobody wants them. They think they're unsightly and dangerous, and don't care that it's dangerous for THEM, too. And those people don't care at all once they're out of sight.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  I noticed the orderliness, too. I wondered if the thing in the right foreground might be a dumpster, and if the stuff in the right background might be some kind of place to put food, or something that provides heat (which would be set at the downwind end of the underpass to make sure fumes don't collect.

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Entries During
2021-2022

2022-11-01 Homely

2022-10-08 Choicy

2022-09-15 Reverse-2

2022-08-18 Reverse-1

2022-07-13 Re-Com

2022-06-09 Re-Con

2022-05-25 Recall?

2022-04-14 OctoPass

2022-03-04 WordsWorth

2022-02-07 Suspension

2022-01-12 Action


2021-12-17 Sergio G. Jr.
guest blogger: Sergio Gutierrez
Declaration Stories

2021-12-06 Connection

2021-11-15 Savva A.
guest blogger: Savva Amusin
Declaration Stories

2021-11-06 Transition

2021-10-15 Walter M.
guest blogger: Walter Mays
Declaration Stories

2021-10-01 NCISly

2021-09-15 Danika A.
guest blogger: Danika Amusin
Declaration Stories

2021-09-06 De-Termination

2021-08-13 Marielle A.
guest blogger: Marielle Audet
Declaration Stories

2021-08-01 Whereditgo?

2021-07-12 Valerie S.
guest blogger: Valerie Smith
Declaration Stories

2021-07-01 Cycle

2021-06-11 Milton L.
guest blogger: Milton Lucy
Declaration Stories

2021-06-01 Modernaty

2021-05-14 Kim B.
guest blogger: Kim Bowden-Kerby    
Declaration Stories

2021-05-09 Reduce!

2021-04-12 Helena C.
guest blogger: Helena Carnes-
Jeffries    
Declaration Stories

2021-04-01 Stunted

2021-03-12 Rheta P.
guest blogger: Rheta Posey
Declaration Stories

2021-03-05 Woof?
Cat Power

2021-02-14 Nancy B.
guest blogger: Nancy Bagley
Declaration Stories

2021-02-09 Nursery

2021-01-15 Harold W.
guest blogger: Harold Williams
Declaration Stories

2021-01-08 Cabbage
The Wilders

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2022-10-08
C H O I C Y

"No decision is, in itself, a decision." -- William James

"Those who put off making a decision will find that they've actually made one —
and it may not be in their best interest." -- Mindy Diamond

We've all heard the excuses. We've all made the excuses. "I can't decide." I'm too busy." "It doesn't matter if I do or don't." "It's too big a mess to fix." "Nothing's gonna change anyway." And on and on. Ad nauseam.

Yet, the farther down that list someone gets, the more they make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Especially if they're not happy with the status quo. Which is the question I and you and everyone else needs to ask and answer: "Am I happy with the status quo?" Followed by "Is the status quo, or the upshot the status quo is trending towards, really in my best interest?"

Ah yes, that old bottom line. The WIIFM.

This is the process we need to go through when we notice that the automobile brakes seem to be slipping just a tad. Am I okay with that? If not, are the brakes more likely to fix themselves or to get worse? What could happen if I ignore the problem 'cuz I'm too busy or I don't like the local mechanic belonging to a different religion? If I let things go and it causes an accident, what will that do to my insurance rates? Or my life? Or the life of a loved one?

This is the process we need to go through when we want to enroll or keep our children in an athletic program but we've heard some kids got injured. How severe, how common, and how frequent are those injuries? Are there alternate, safer programs and, if so, am I willing to spend more money or the extra time to get my kid there and back? What health benefits, peer relationships, and life-skills learning will my child lose if they don't participate in anything? How do I honestly and openly balance my concerns with my child's deep love for the sport?

This is the process we need to go through when it's time to elect our public servants. Am I happy with the current government makeup and its results, or would I prefer to improve it? In either case, is that in my best interest in the long run? Would I rather have a say, or am I okay with giving someone else unfettered control over my and my family's and my community's lives? Am I so wedded to one party that I'm gonna vote for their candidates even when I know those candidates don't really reflect enough of my own values and interests? Or, hey, would I really prefer to live in a country where citizens are forced at gunpoint to vote for their "favorite" dictator?

One person, one vote, sure; but my one vote won't make a difference, right? Bushwah! Starting with the fact that if I don't vote, I'm automatically giving a free, unearned, uncontested vote to "the other guy". In other words, my vote is actually worth two votes.

None of the alternative are any good; they're all money-hungry, power-junkie crooks, right? I defy anyone to make a prioritized list of two opposing candidates' depth of experience, current values, past actions, and future promises (especially as compared against the results of their past promises) and come up with an exactly equal score.

This is only the mid-term election; it doesn't matter as much, right? Actually, it matters more.

How?

Two feet standing on tarmac betfore two arros indicating a choice of direction

First of all, it's the down-ballot officials elected in 2022 who will have the greatest impact on the Presidential elections in 2024. For example, your Secretary of State may have the most power over the ease and fairness of your state's electoral process, and your State Legislators may have (or give themselves) the power to ignore your own 2024 vote in favor of just choosing their own Presidential Electors despite your vote being one of a statewide majority for your preferred candidate.

Secondly, there are enough House and Senate seats at play to completely change the makeup of Congress.

(A)
If both Chambers flip, then any gains you felt you saw from the current administration could be lost, and no new ones could happen either. Or the flipped Congress could make things happen that you really want, provided they can convince the President not to veto, or enough of their across-the-aisle colleagues to override his veto.

(B) If one Chamber flips, Congress could find itself at another impasse to get anything at all done. That would probably lead to more government shutdowns, or it may put the brakes on things that just aren't working as expected and are doing more damage than good.

(C) If both Chambers remain numerically as is, it's likely that what's been happening for the past two years will continue to happen pretty much as is. Some things will get done, some things will be stopped in their tracks due in large part to the stranglehold of the silent filibuster in the Senate. If what's been happening has turned out to be in your best interest (not your party's, not your favorite candidate's, not that of the lobbyists and their paymasters; YOURS), then by all means you want to make sure it keeps happening. If you're frustrated about what is or isn't happening, you want to let them know by voting. (You won't let them know by NOT voting. Not voting tells them you don't give a damn and they can keep doing whatever they want.)

(D) If the current majorities in both Chamber are expanded, then more of what's been happening, and some of what could have been happening, will have a better chance of happening in future. If you're pleased with more people (possibly including yourself and your loved ones) having current and/or future access to the following, then help make sure that continues to or will happen; if you're against any of them, then help make sure they're dismantled:

   = accessible education for all children and (whether collegiate or otherwise) young adults
   = accessible voter registration and voting procedures/places that promote the widest possible participation and cannot be discounted or overturned by partisan politicians
   = adequate federal aid to all states and territories in the aftermath of natural disasters and in the wake of soaring rates of pandemic-exacerbated homelessness
   =
affordable health insurance, and robust public health initiatives in local and global pandemic and endemic crises
   = appointment of judges on all levels who will, in a nonpartisan and unbiased manner, uphold the foundations of our legal system while keeping in mind today's reality, how we've grown as a society, and the true meaning of equal justice for all
   = climate-change reversal plans and technologies
   = full-scale Social Security, Medicare (which is finally being granted the ability to negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma and rein in excessive, greed-driven price increases) and, in emergency situations, Medicaid
   = gas that's still way lower than in most other developed countries (yes, drivers in some European cities pay up to three times what we pay; and in some countries, 25% of what they pay is the actual cost and the other 75% is government taxes)
   = infrastructure projects that will financially benefit businesses and workers (and remember that more people working means more tax money to help fund further beneficial projects) and improve safety, security, and accessibility for all communities
   = legally protected abortion services, as well as contraception options, and marriage and adoption rights for interracial and LGBTQ+ couples
   = sane reductions in mass incarcerations and in wealth-based bail considerations
   = sensible protections against gun-related violence, especially mass shootings and especially against children
   = steady, least disruptive, long-term ways of combatting inflation
   = etc.

(E) And remember, the results of this year's down-ballot races will determine what does or doesn't happen (again?) in 2024.

Please note that I'm not telling you whom to vote for. I'm just urging you to vote. I'm not telling you what party or what values or what programs you should care most about. I'm just urging you to care. I'm not telling you how or where to research and fact-check all the political ads and speeches and debates. I'm just urging you to do so. I'm not telling you how to evaluate and decide who's the candidate with the best-trained mind, commonly recognized ability, deepest wealth of experience, demonstrated civic loyalty, devotion to selfless service, least trace of prejudices, and proven track record. I'm just telling you that YOUR vote is the most important vote there is.

But only if you cast it.

So make sure you register. Make sure you have a voting plan. Make sure you meet the deadlines for mail-in applications and ballots. Make sure you know where and when early voting is. Make sure you can get to your polling place on the day. Whatever it takes, make sure your vote gets cast and counted.

And remember that it will count, but only if you get choicy and cast it!

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Sun October 9, 2022 at 11:18 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  Yes, that's good. We need to vote. We can say "this is the person I want" or we can let someone else pmake that decision for us. They should make this an advertisement. Your vote does count. Vote for who you want; or if you don't vote, then that's an automatic vote for the other guy. Baha'is can't vote in closed primaries, but everyone should vote in general elections.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  Thank you. Glad you agree. And there is some merit to the idea that people can't vote in closed primaries unless they belong to the party whose multiple potential candidates for a given office are being weeded down to one...hopefully the best. After all, if you were a member of the Purple party, would you want a bunch of Yellow-party voters coming in and voting for the weakest of all the Purplers to run against their Yellowish nominee in the general election?

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2022-09-15
R E V E R S E - 2

"Don't go backwards - you've already been there." -- Ray Charles

I've never had an abortion. I've never had a partner who needed an abortion. And it would be moot now anyway. So obviously I don't exactly have a personal dog in this fight. But I care about other people's dogs, too. Which is why I'm once again talking about a facet of something I addressed here a year ago.

I saw a news story not too long ago in which an anti-abortion advocate (a younger black female who I assume still did have a dog in this fight) inserted a common meme she and her fellow activists frequently assert: that abortion should be, and I quote her, "illegal, unthinkable, and unnecessary."

[ASIDE] One would hope that at least they're talking only about induced abortions. Spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) also happen, either due to trauma or because the embryo had something fatally wrong with it from the gitgo. And one would certainly hope these activists aren't advocating blaming the mother for something over which she had no control whatsoever. [/ASIDE]

To my mind, even if they were right (which is up to each person to decide for themself and for only themself), even if they had the right to force their arguable moral decisions on others (which they don't), they've got the order wrong. Totally backwards. It should go t'other way 'round. In reverse.
Woman with grave doubts about her pregnancy
First, unnecessary
In the best of all possible worlds, abortion would be unnecessary. The medical field would be so advanced that
=  There'd never be ectopic pregnancies.
=  No pregnancy would ever endanger a mother's life.
=  No foetus would ever be nonviable but retained in utero.
=  No baby would be born with zero chance of survival ex utero.
=  Contraceptives would be readily accessible and have a zero failure rate.

And our society would be so advanced that:
=  There'd be no rape.
=  There'd be no incest.
=  There'd be no unplanned or unprotected sexual intercourse.
=  There'd be no impoverished, orphaned, or abandoned babies left without someone to support and nurture and love them; rather, the body politic would ungrudgingly help them from day one and throughout their childhood.
=  There'd be no unwanted or unloved babies in the first place; in fact, rather than loving their babies because they created them, parents would reflect the divine attribute set forth in God's Words to humanity: I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee.

So, which of those ten precursors to "unnecessary" abortions are currently anywhere near 100% true in our society? Which one, even, never mind all ten? Or are we going even further in the wrong direction, driven by those who want to make abortions illegal and then - as the planned and announced next step in a coercive campaign to ordain that government be the dictator of religious tenets - make contraceptives illegal, too?!

And do you think that refusing to think about them, or that passing draconian laws about them, will make them suddenly and universally manifest in a societally positive and personally spiritual way? Out of nothing? Or out of fear, anger, desperation? (And come on, anti-choicers, do you really think those draconian laws will stop abortions, or simply stop safe abortions? Is your real goal, perhaps, to ensure that fewer pro-choice women survive?)

Then, unthinkable
Once the ten precursors (and any others I might not have thought of) are truly and universally in place, shouldn't the result (and proof) be that no one really needs to think about having or helping with an abortion again because it just won't ever be necessary?

Finally, illegal
And if it becomes unnecessary and no longer puts pressure on our thoughts, will we need laws against it? Like, I dunno, do we in this society need laws against, say, skydiving without a parachute?* Plus which, if someone actually started doing that, would they need punitive laws that sentence them to years in prison? Or would they need some other kind of social help that will accept there are underlying issues, will want to help them, and will know how to?

Sorry, girlfriend, you got it woefully backwards. I'd like to suggest you reverse your order, stop trying to coerce people into doing what you want with no thought for their situation or beliefs, and start working on those precursors. Persuasively, dedicatedly, and lovingly. Unlike being merely anti-abortion, that would be truly "pro-life" as in acting like all lives matter all the time. Not just until birth, but also from then until death. That would be the foundation of true, may I even say divinely faith-based, activism.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki
*No, we don't. Don't need them and don't have any. Skydiving is a voluntarily self-regulated sport using a set of basic principles that practitioners agree on. Starting with a common goes-without-saying understanding of the laws of physics, namely "Don't do it or you're apt to go splat." But even then, there are times when someone does it for good reason, such as to demonstrate or use a technique for one parachutist rescuing someone else in tandom or in midair from, say, a falling plane.

Fri, Sep 16, 2022 at 11:48 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  Wow? I like how you put it, how it would be like if no one needed an abortion and every child, everybody, would be wanted and loved their whole life. Wouldn't that be a wonderful society! I like this article. I like that way you put it together. I like the picture too, the mother withe all the questions and thoughts that can go though our heads then.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  That is a society for us to build, isn't it? Not through force or coercion but through love and care. Where every mother has the right to make her own decisions. And where every child has the right to grow up in a society that values them and acts like it from womb to tomb. Being anti-choice is not being pro-life. Being pro-life is being pro-them their whole life...and arguably even beyond. We have a long way to go on all counts, don't we?
Tue, Oct 4, 2022 at 10:07 PM, Kim B wrote:
Hi Lucki,
  I feel honored to be quoted and answered in your blog : )
  Appreciate very much your two cents on the abortion issue. Thoughtful.
Lots of love,
Kim
  Lucki responds to Kim:
  Always enjoy hearing from you. Always grist for my mill.

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2022-08-18
R E V E R S E - 1

"All lives matter." -- Excerpt from a political ad for a male, black, gubernatorial candidate

By all rights, I suppose this should really be covered in Adding Insult. But this isn't the first time I've considered something from a commercial too important to be relegated to the curmudgeonly fun of that more lighthearted blog. And it probably won't be the last.

However,I waited until our gubernatorial primary was over before posting this article. I didn't want to make statements for or against any candidates during the campaigns, as that can promote divisiveness. But now that the relevant primary is finished (and a different candidate has been nominated by the party), I want to address something I heard in one of the campaign ads.
"All Lives Matte"r poster wtih a young black man weeping
What's wrong with saying All Lives Matter, you ask? After all, it's an important truth, right?

Yes, it is important. No, it isn't true. It should be true. But it so obviously isn't, Not yet, anyway. All Lives Should Matter, that's what's true. All Lives Do Matter, not so much. Not yet, anyway.

All Lives Matter isn't true when some lives still don't.

Even more grating, it was quite obvious in the commersh that the statement was being made to an assemblage of white listeners as a way to make them feel comfortable with the black candidate. By his distancing himself from the very concept of (and, of course, the organization) Black Lives Matter.

Whether the candidate believed and meant what he said, and how and why and even where he said it, is moot. Most successful politicians are consummate chameleons. Probably because we are so bad at noticing. Because we are so easily distracted, deceived, deluded, duped. Because we tend to look at their future promises when what we really should be looking at is their past actions.

Now, one trick that politicians (and other "influencers") often use is to intentionally misuse a phrase so often and so confidently that they fool people into thinking it means the opposite of what it oritinally meant. We see this at play, for example, in Joe Biden's and Donald Trump's use of the phrase "the big lie". President Biden means that he legitimately won the election and Mr. Trump's claim to have won is a lie. Mr. Trump uses it to claim that he won the election but it was fraudulently stolen from him. Obviously only one of them can be telling the truth; the other is lying.

But such reversal of definitions becomes really insidious when the person(s) using the reversed definition actually convinces someone of good heart/conscience that the perverted version is the real (original) definition. An easy-to-see example of this is Real Time host Bill Maher's having been deceived that "reverse racism" is black people being racist against white people. So he uses the term that way. (And thus he's already done more harm, even when using the term that way while trying to debunk someone's claim that a particular act or word qualified as black-against-white "racism".) He's been duped into thinking black people can really be racist against white people. Which they can't. It's not possible. Because racism is a matter not of prejudice per se, but of power. Yes, a black person can be prejudiced against white people (been there, done that, didn't help in the end), but the black community simply doesn't have the power to subject the white community to systemic deprivation of the means of achieving equity.

No, reverse racism is when one of the deprived race buys into the superiority of the empowered race and acts as their agent by being prejudiced against her/his own people. In the US, it's like a cancer of the white community that's metastasized into the black community. Reverse racism is black people acting racist not against white people but against other black people.

Answering "Black Lives Matter" with the declaration that "All Lives Matter" is a way of reversing the meaning. It insinuates that BLM activists and allies don't believe anyone else's lives matter. Which is a lie. We don't think other lives shouldn't matter, only ours. No, we think their lives should matter and our lives should, TOO.

When he (whether intentionally or not) comforted his white listeners, and potential voters, by belittling the validity of Black Lives Matter (the concept and the organization) via claiming that all lives matter when obviously many black lives don't - not yet, anyway - and when he said in the advert "I approve this message", then what that male, black, gubernatorial candidate demonstrated first in person and then again in the ad was reverse racism.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Fri, August 19, 2022 at 11:48 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  This is pretty good. No, actually this is great. And that pixture is so forceful, with the tears running down.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  Thank you. No, thank you. And I think so too; it just grabbed me when I saw it.
Thu, Sep 13, 2022 at 10:00 AM, Kim B wrote:
Hi Lucki,
  I enjoyed this month. I agreed with Reverse-1.
  Loved the Dangler post - ha ha. Yeah, those drive me nuts.
  And I read through some Aphorisms & Memes. I find the ones with low contrast &/or fancy fonts to be much harder to read (old eyes). The dark red one from "Heard" - I misread it! I thought it said that the call lines do not work. Not Work? Took me three readings to see it. As I said:  old eyes. Love the set of quotations from the Bab, so simple and nicely branded.... sprinkled in amongst the others.  
  Hope you are happy and easily getting in your steps. I finally gave up and got a fitbit. Managing 7000 steps a day (lame) while visiting my daughter ...  will do better when I get back to Fiji.
Big hugs,
Kim
  Lucki responds to Kim:
  Hugs right back atcha. I'm glad you enjoyed this article. And agreed. Watch for another reversal next month. You might agree there, too.
  Yeah, danglers. Always been one of my pet peeves (which I nevertheless sometimes come a cropper of myself). It's one of those grammatical constructions that people either learn well in grade school or never learn at all. I was on a team once writing a style manual for people in (I think it was) insurance, so their correspondence and reports would be consistent and make reasonable sense to readers. We debated how to write the section on avoiding danglers, but finally decided not to even try, 'cuz it's complicated and our readers either already knew how to avoid danglers or weren't gonna learn in a couple of pages (or decades).
  Thanx for your compliment about the posters of the Bab's Writings. That "brand" is actually a Gallifreyan Name Patch (which can be paired with the Baha'u''llah Name Patch that was last year's "brand". Let me know if you're interested in acquiring one or both to go with the two Quote Patches you already commissioned and received. As to your difficulty with some of the posters, there's an ap for that! Well, not really. But there is a feature that works the same in most browsers. If any text or image is too small for you to see clearly, try using Ctrl and + [plus sign] as many times as you need to zoom in (& then Ctrl and - [minus sign] the same number of times to zoom back out). Another reader also talked to me about that problem this month, and was thrilled with the solution; so I've decided to put a zoom-y reminder on the upper left home page. Thanx for bringing it up. We really appreciate critiques that help us improve the visitor experience.
  Fitbit, huh? Whatever helps. I've been meeting my daily step goals, though I sometimes need to adjust them up or down based on health circumsances. I've learned to listen to my bod when it tells me I need to, for example, ease off and lower my count for several days after hurting my shin. And your 7,000 steps a day sounds reasonable, especially when you're not on home ground. How much ground is 7,000 steps for you? For me, 7,040 is the equivalent of two miles.
Sun, Oct 2, 2022 at 1:48 PM, Lann wrote:
  I've seen another one that does this trick in an obviously political way. It talks about not supporting an anti-trust bill by calling it anti-innovation. Companies that have gobbled up enough rivals to trigger anti-trust laws usually don't qualify as innovators, and definitely not as creators. Big businesses don't create new technologies. Most of them don't even innovate. They spend their resources on protecting their market share and increasing their customer base by repeatedly tweaking their bread-and-butter products, and yelling that they're "NEW AND IMPROVED" so people will go out and buy the latest version of their widget. It's the little companies who truly innovate or, better yet, create something no one ever dreamed of before.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  Good point! I often complain about how established companies will repeatedly "improve" their product until it becomes completely useless. In the meantime, some solitary dreamer somewhere is struggling to create something not only innovative but mind-blowingly unique that will fill a niche no one even knew was there.

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2022-07-13
R E - C O M

"Community (noun) ... from Latin communitatem meaning community, society,
fellowship, friendly intercourse, courtesy, affability; from communis meaning
common, public, general, shared by all or many" -- Online Etymology Dictionary

Last month, I promised you something more uplifting this month. This is that. Me keeping my promise. 'Cuz while the big hairy if-it-bleeds-it-leads stories are blasted all over the media (both mass and social) 24/7, most quiet little peaceful stories go unheralded. Yet those are the ones that can, do, and will give us hope.

I took part in one such new(s) event back on May 13-15. And I'd like to share some of the info with you. It was a working conference about "Building Vibrant Communities" and the one here in Chicago was one of 10,000 around the globe. I emphasize "working" 'cuz it wasn't about attendees sitting and listening to people talk about what has or could or should or will be done by somebody. It was about we attendees rolling up our sleeves and brainstorming about what WE can do. How far we've come and, more importantly, how we can build on that to go farther. How we can make our communities vibrant by, first of all, making them true communities.

Which, for good reason, has to start with true communication. Not talking AT each other; consulting WITH each other. Offering ideas and insights to the group and then giving up personal ownership of them. Which means not feeling insulted and defensive when someone else disagrees or sees a way to improve on them. (TIP: One way you can really see that working is when someone offers an idea, then listens to the contributions of others, and then comes back and argues against their own idea in favor of someone else's.)

These conferences focused on thinking globally and acting locally. They were hosted by Baha'is all over the world. But the events weren't in any way in-group oriented. The hosts wanted people from diverse neighborhoods, ages, faiths, racial and familial and educational backgrounds, economic and social strata, etc. 'Cuz the hosts certainly didn't think they knew all the answers. They didn't even think they knew all the questions. They did know that you can't build a vibrant community if you don't invite everyone in the community to help build. And, first, to help plan what and how and even why to build.

There are several themes that participants all over the world were asked to consult on: A new and uplifting image for humanity. The distance we've come so far. How we can contribute to social transformation. Ways to best use the local resources we have without hitting a wall of, say, short-sighted politicians, greedy conglomerates, etc. In addition, the U.S. conferences were asked to respond to issues of racism in America in ways that are not just neutral (if there even were any such thing) but actively anti-racist.

This was the first event I attended since the initial CoViD lockdown in mid-March of 2020, 26 months earlier. It was a bit scary. It was also very worth it! What a JOY! And the timing of my second booster couldn't have been more perfect. I guess Somebody Up There really wanted me to be a part of it.

I'm not going to scribe a bunch of details about the Chicago conference because each locale's hosts planned and put on their own event geared to their own community's resources and needs.* But I do want to share some materials, experiences, and further thoughts. Feel free to browse through them at your leisure:

= The Exemplar:  Film about the life, travails, travels, and teachings of 'Abdu'l-Baha (55:32)
    (English version; also available in Arabic, French, Persian, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili)

=
Source material: Conference agenda, Regional Council greetings, quotes and questions for consultation (4-pg PDF)

= Historic timeline: Distance traversed by Chicago Baha'i Community over the past 130 years (1-pg PDF)

= Video montage: Collection of attendees' thoughts about being part of the Conference (17:27)

= Art pieces: Examples of collages and watercolors created on session themes in breakout groups:


3D collage created by a breakout group, displayed by one Baha'i & one wider-community attendee
HelenART collage created by a breakout-group member working solo

HelenART watercolor created by a breakout-group member working solo

Progression of 5 watercolors created by individual members of a breakout group

Detail of watercolor progression created by an artist who had never before worked in watercolors
Polyptych of 10 watercolors created by individual members of a breakout group

I was able to attend the whole conference. I took part in every activity. I offered and received ideas and insights. I enjoyed engaging with the members of my breakout groups. Yet I also got to do my own thing on occasion. For example, when everyone in my group was doing their watercolors, I noted that storytelling was listed as an alternative activity. Well, that obviously being right up my alley, I told the group a story from my chapter of Twigs of a Family Tree while everyone else was painting. They were cool with that and seemed to enjoy it.

There were also some interesting behind-the-scenes examples of how inclusive the conference was. Let me share three little vignettes:

= The breakfast caterer was so enthralled by the openness of the attendees she met and the morning sessions she saw/heard while she was serving food and cleaning up afterwards that she asked if she could take part in the conference. Well, of course she could. You saw (or can see) her impressions in the video montage, where she starts by noting that she not only literally came to the table, she brought food to the table.

= The conference center's set-up crew also commented on how friendly all the attendees were to them, how the hosts worked with them to get things done, and how different that felt from most conferences where they are used to being treated like in-the-way furniture except when someone has a complaint to rant about. In response to the interest expressed by various set-up staff, the Spiritual Assembly chairwoman gave each of them a copy of the book all attendees received - A Spiritual Path to Unity and Social Justice - personally inscribed to them and thanking them for their excellent service.

= On the last day of the conference, our meeting space was divided by an acoustic wall to accommodate another group the conference center unthinkingly double-booked. We adjusted and kept having fun. At one point, we got an impromptu drum circle going against that wall (which you also saw or can see in the video montage). One attendee realized it might be causing a noise issue and went next door to ask if we were disturbing them. They said we weren't yet but it would become a problem when their speakers started, and expressed surprise that we even thought about them and came to ask. Informed of their response, the drum circle willingly moved across the room to an exterior wall.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. It was worth the CoViD risk (which, fortunately, I tested negative afterward). It gave me renewed hope and ideas on ways I can contribute to my local community. The chairwoman of the Chicago Baha'i Assembly and I are even meeting with our ward alderwoman to share with her some of the conference materials and perspectives and to consult on how Baha'is in our ward can be of unique service in our neighborhoods.

That's really what these conferences were all about. Not Baha'is building vibrant Baha'i communities. Baha'is helping to build vibrant communities, period. With our neighbors. With all well-wishers of humanity.

Black conference T-Shirt with blue globe & "I'm A Well-Wisher Of Humanity!"

Khoda hafez,
Lucki
* If you're interested about what came out of the conference in your neck of the woods, contact the Baha'is near you. If you don't know where they are, use the US Contact Form if you're in the contiguous 48. If you live elsewhere, check the global list of links to websites and contact forms. If you don't find the listing you need there, contact the Baha'i World Center.

Thu, July 14, 2022 at 2:55 PM, Katya wrote:
  Thanks for sharing the post! I enjoyed reading it. :)
  Lucki responds to Katya:
  I'm glad you did, and you're welcome.
  Abiding Blog started at the end of 2010, & is rife (though not exclusively) with Baha'i-inspired stories. Nine examples run the gamut in page after page: from Badge and Discourse in 2011, to 2013's rumination on Chelyabinsk, to the last visit with my spiritual mother in 2016, to the Baha'i Blogging Challenge in late 2017, to the first worldwide celebration of the Twin Birthdays in 2018, to 2020's series of 7 that starts at Unbroken, to 12 monthly declaration stories in 2021, to the three Baha'i sniglets that this year's Suspension links to.
   Of course, there's also all the Cat Power stories and Whovian stories and Arrowverse stories and family stories and Twigs stories, etc. To say nothing of stories about or even by famous friends, like actor Keith Cobb and SF author Tom Ligon. And more.
  You might also enjoy various posters, especially the ones for Holy Days, on the three-plus years (so far) of Aphorisms & Memes.
Have fun!
Sun, July 17, 2022 at 11:17 AM, Nancy B wrote:
  This is a very good tool. I'm glad to have all this in one place; like, I can go back and look at the films. Anyone who's interested can look at so much; you gathered info into one place for them. You put this together very well. It had to take you time to put all those things together.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  You're right; it took more time than usual to do all the research, writing, and coding. But I think it was well worth the effort. And now I can easily find all the info in one place whenever I need it, too. Like, easy-peasy at my meeting with and the Spiritual Assembly chairwoman and our alderwoman.

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2022-06-09
R E - C O N

"Why does this only happen in your country? … Why only in America?
Why is this American exceptionalism so awful?" -- Mark Stone, British journalist

About 2 weeks ago, reader Greg asked my take on a "gun control petition" he saw in the wake of Uvalde. After looking at it, I realized  "gun control" was not exactly what it was about. So I responded thusly:

This isn't about "control". It's about REFORM. The Founders wrote the 2nd Amendment (& others) in the first place because they realized the original Constitution didn't cover everything that needed to be covered. But how could they possibly have imagined AR-15s with 50-round magazines? Never mind in the hands of people using such WMDs not to prevent some feared tyrannical takeover but to mow down their innocent fellow citizens...especially little children? So now, the 2nd Amendment (given its current interpretation by many) no longer covers everything it needs to. We must correct that, despite the wails (& political spending) of any organization whose whole purpose is not to protect the lives of gun owners & their unarmed compatriots but to protect the profits of gun manufacturers & dealers.

Votive candle on bed of stones, burning with a small flame in the darkLet me start by saying that I wanted to specifically address the mass shootings in schools, against children. So I did not invoke the other "reason" that the 2nd Amendment was so loose. Not just the fear that England (or some other European nation) might someday try to take back monarchal or imperial control, nor the fear that some future American President or federal body might seek to turn the fledgling democracy into an autocracy.

[ASIDE] The first fear proved to be mostly unfounded, barring a few surreptitious incursions that ultimately went nowhere. The second fear took longer (like, 240 years) to play out, but did so on a grander scale. And may still be in progress. (Hopefully tonight's hearings will help put that one to "sleep".) [/ASIDE]

No, the other "reason" was the fear that various minorities (foremost being guess-who) might rise up against the white male population. So they considered it very important that every Euro-Tom, -Dick, & -Harry be armed to the teeth to prevent any such new revolution. In a case like that, they'd've probably been tickled pink to have access to AR-15s. As long, of course, as the "wrong" people didn't have similar access.

But that's just a side note to our current mass murder rate. So let's debunk some of the ever-present obfuscation about guns.

How come whenever some municipality enacts a gun control/reform program, the crime stats go UP?
Duh, 'cuz there's now a new kind of crime on the books, & so people who break the new laws get added to the crime stats. Essentially, the stats on number of crimes go up, but the stats on criminal deaths and injuries go down. Partly, of course, 'cuz a gun - unlike a knife or ax, a club or fist - can easily kill at quite a distance with little personal risk to the shooter in the moment. Anti-gun reform people don't present the whole story.

How will more gun laws really help reduce gun violence?
They may not, But they could very well reduce the number of deaths and severity of injuries from each such incidence of gun violence. Military and paramilitary firearms - unlike hunting rifles, defensive small sidearms, and the like - exist for one purpose and one purpose only: To kill as many attackers or defenders as possible in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of effort. Such weapons should not be available to untrained, unregulated individuals. Anti-gun reform people conveniently forget that the 2nd Amendment starts: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State...." What "2nd Amendment rights" have turned into is anything but well regulated and necessary to the security of a State (the Amendment doesn't say anything about the security of random "self-regulating" individuals living in or traveling to/though a State).

What about arming teachers?
Really? With what? Their own assault weapons? Do you think they'll be faster on the trigger than an already-firing shooter who's basically planning to commit suicide by cop anyway? Do you think they might briefly hesitate to use their own"deterrent" AR-15s for fear of accidentally blowing away some of their own students? Even assuming, or maybe especially assuming, they've been well trained in the weapon's usage and the results thereof? Come on, the cops in Uvalde were also armed and greatly outnumbered the shooter, and they couldn't get it right. And teachers want to and should be concentrating on teaching.

Still, isn't it true that guns don't kill people; people kill people?
What's true is that people with guns kill more people more quickly than people without guns. It's not just the availability of a junior WMD, although that's relevant. Some pretty hefty psychological studies have demonstrated that when a gun is present amongst other weapons, it most tends to become the go-to choice of weapon when someone wants one in hand. And furthermore, that the presence of a gun tends to lead to aggressive action when the same situation without a gun tends to lead to a less lethal, less injurious, even less emotionally fraught resolution.

But really, in the end the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, right?
Bushwah. No, this particular bit of blather demands a much stronger denial, so I call bullshit. The only thing absolutely guaranteed to stop a bad guy with a gun is to keep him from ever getting his hands on a gun in the first place. Especially a military-style automatic or semi- gun with a huge magazine/drum and the force to penetrate police body armor and shatter the bodies of little children into unrecognizable bits. (I mean really, I can't imagine only being able to ID my child's remains 'cuz I bought her those green sneakers she drew a heart on. I just can't!)

Other countries have managed to fix this issue. Perfectly? No, but a lot better than us. Perhaps because guns have never been fetishes to them, I dunno. But the Constitution was never meant to be a blanket excuse for pitting inanimate objects against innocent lives ... never mind deciding the inanimate objects were more important than innocent lives.

The 2nd Amendment? Reinterpret it. Readjudicate it. Rewrite it. Repeal it. Do something!

Next month, I'm going to talk about something I found as uplifting as this month's topic was depressing. I promise. Watch for it.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Thu, Jun 9, 2022 at 11:55 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  You have a good point here about putting guns in the wrong hands. And teachers probably would hesitate for fear of hitting the kids in their care. My husband was military and we still only had 1 rifle and 2 pistols in the house when he was serving (and 1 of those was a collectible antique I don't think worked). I don't have or want any guns in my home now.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  I hear you. My son was in law enforcement and still sometimes works security, so he keeps his carry permit up to date. And he took my grandMya to the range for training. But that doesn't mean we all keep guns in our home. And if we good guys don't have guns lying around, no bad guy is gonna be able to find and purloin them for illegal purposes.
  Lucki follows up on response to Nancy B:
  On Thu, Jun 16, 2022 at 12:34 PM, our U.S. Senator and the Majority Whip, Dick Durban, issued a statement that said, in part: "The bipartisan gun safety framework unveiled earlier this week is a good start. While it doesn't include everything I'd hoped for, its provisions will help save lives. But there is still more we can do to reduce gun violence...After every horrific shooting, there is a debate over whether one reform or another could have prevented the last shooting. But that misses the point. It's too late to prevent the last shooting. We need to act to prevent the next shooting."
Fri, Jul 2, 2022 at 3:57 AM, Kim B wrote:
  Boy do I agree with you about needing a reconstitution!
  And now 2022 is on the other side of its hill .... how do the months slide by so quickly?  I was just enjoying 2020 a week or two ago.
Hugs,
Kim
  Lucki responds to Kim B:
   Doesn't surprise me that you do. And you live in a small, relatively peaceful place. Imagine what it's like for those of us who live in large places where thousands and thousands of our neighbors live in communities riddled with poverty, poor education, food deserts, minimal mental and physical health care, biased policing arising from cultural default assumptions, economic and social fears, despair born of lack of opportunity, etc. And steeped in fictional entertainment that celebrates, even glorifies, the "good guy" with an AR-15 or super powers or some such who unilaterally decides the "civil" part of liberty is a crock and wreaks unremitting vengeance on every bad guy his entitled ass can find without any conscience/concern on his part for law and order or being truly good (except, himself, at battering and/or killing) whatsoever.
  I dunno; time flies when you're having fun? (Reminds me of one of my favorite paraprosdokians: "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana."

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2022-05- 25
R E C A L L ?

"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...?"
-- Excerpt from just about every old-school courtroom drama you ever saw

In my time, I've seen (in print or onscreen) plenty more than one story that involves or even depends on the use of a futuristic, infallible lie detector. Sometimes one that even catches you thinking about lying even when you don't answer a question. And you can just imagine how a device like that - such as the one SF author H. Beam Piper dubbed a "veridicator" - would totally eliminate false testimony in trials, hearings, depositions, etc. Right?

Not necessarily.

Especially not when you're speaking English. 'Cuz the language is so nuance rich and yet (or possibly as a direct result thereof) so prone to telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in a fallacious manner. (An actor friend of mine once presented a reverse master class in that when, at a convention, he brilliantly - or maybe accidentally? - told the absolute truth in such a way that he totally convinced a goodly chunk of his audience he was lying through his teeth.)

For example, I remember one show where a woman passed a polygraph by answering questions about her lover/accomplice, ID'd sometimes by name and sometimes merely as "your husband", with answers like: "I don't know where my husband is." Turned out her lover wasn't any husband; he was her brother.

[ASIDE] Oh goody, big bad shock twist. Gimme a break. And never mind that, given the current technology, people like psycopaths, sociopaths, narcissists and, by accident, even honest folk can already cheat a polygraph anyway. [/ASIDE]

As another recent and more complex real-life example, there's a person called to testify before Congress. Who repeatedly answered questions about what she knew and saw or, more tellingly, said and did - in relationship to a heinous public event - with: "I don't recall." (Note that. Not the more common "I don't remember." A bit odd, that, no?)
Polygraph machine with its graph lines spelling out "LIAR"
She doesn't remember, huh? Well, whether you believe that or not isn't the point. The point is that she might've easily passed a veridicator with that answer. Because of the nuances of English. A language were many words can mean almost the same thing (synonyms) and one word can mean many things (polysemies or homophones/homographs).

Because, yes, recall can mean remember. As in: "I don't recall (remember) what I had for breakfast yesterday." But recall can also mean take back. As in: "The company had to recall (bring back) its staff from summer hiatus to deal with the two million widgets it had to recall (take back)."

Maybe Ms. Testifier wasn't saying that she didn't remember. Maybe she was blatantly saying that, because she didn't regret what she'd said and done, she did not and would not take it back. Which, in fact, is true ... she didn't.

Just sayin'.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Wed, May 25, 2022 at 10:58 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  I know who you're talking about and you're right about saying she didn't when she obviously did.
  I really like that funny picture of the lie detector detecting a LIAR.
  I enjoy checking back on your blogs all during the month, not just waiting till the first of the next month. It's fun to read them at different times, not try to find time to read them all together and a month later.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  Yeah, that wasn't a hard guess, was it.
  I enjoyed that picture, too, when I saw it. It seemed just perfect.
  And I suppose I could blast out a notice every time I post something, but that six-or-more notices in a month (for April, it could've been ten of them) seems way more intrusive on people's email-handling time than just the once-a-month announcement. Thank you for taking the time to check frequently, though; I appreciate it.

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2022-04- 14
O C T O P A S S

"Octopuses are tough—and not just in the sense that they can take out sharks." -- Katherine Harmon Courage

"I was in the Far East and I went into a restaurant and I ordered octopus and the waiter said:
'It takes four hours.' I asked why and he said: 'It keeps turning off the gas.'" -- Frank Carson

"Most fascinating of all, I had read that octopuses are smart." -- Sy Montgomery

"I wonder if, in the dark night of the sea, there, deep within its own
sphere of instinct, the octopus dreams of me." -- N. Scott Momaday

This article was triggered by a weekly "The Food Guy" segment I recently saw on the local-late night news. He was touting a place that serves an especially yummy seafood dish; and he showed it being prepped, including dismembering a whole octopus a couple of feet long.

It did indeed look and sound yummy...well prepared, good mix of various seafoods and other ingredients, proper cooking techniques (especially to prevent that rubberiness that can happen when cephalopods are done incorrectly). But I don't plan to go to that restaurant. Not for that, anyway. (Probably not for anything.)

Why not, you ask? Because I stopped eating octopus in any form whatsoever years ago.

Why, you ask? (You do keep asking, don't you?) It has nothing to do with taste, expense, an allergy, or anything like that. I can't even insist that it's on moral grounds, although there is some of that, because I still sometimes eat vertebrate meat. No, it's mainly because octopi are, to the best of our recently discovered knowledge, absolutely the most intelligent invertebrates on the face of the planet. Not only the most intelligent in the seven seas. The most intelligent, period.

That's not saying much, though, is it? (You are still asking, right?) After all, invertebrates aren't all that high up on the Terran family tree, are they? Everything that isn't a mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, or fish is technically an invertebrate, isn't it? Yes. it is. But octopi are demonstrably more intelligent than any fish, any amphibian, any reptile, a lot of birds, and a goodly number of mammals. (Gotta admit I've even encountered a human or two that doesn't rank that high on the smarts scale. Haven't you?)

After all, these cephalopods have plenty of brain matter. Nine brains. Enough to control their cephalo ("head") and each of their pods ("feet"). I have half as many mobility appendages and, I suspect, twice the trouble controlling them. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever seen an octopus stumble. And they sure can hang onto things better than I can, as the many times I unexpectedly drop stuff will testify.

Scientists have been constantly rethinking what constitutes intelligence as more and more species seem to break the boundaries of current assumptions.

= Only humans can speak, that's the proof. Until people found out that gray parrots apparently know what they're saying, use it in proper context, and understand and respond to a lot of what they're hearing even if they haven't learned to say it yet. And some primates have learned to both read and speak sign language. Only time and further study will tell for sure if they really can, as sometimes claimed, use sign (or other taught language skills) to ask questions, initiate requests, lie, joke, rhyme, apologize, tease, grieve, and even invent composite words for things they were never taught a sign for (like "drink fruit" for "watermelon"). And most especially, if they can and will teach their children to do so.

= Well then, but only humans use tools. Until people noticed that otters find and hold rocks to crack open tasty mollusks. And crows use twigs to reach things they can't get at on their own.

= OK, but only humans make tools. So explain primates who strip long straight twigs to catch termites with. And even sharpen them into thrusting spears to catch larger prey.

= Still, only humans can really think ahead and plan and solve puzzles that are not instinctive. Only, then you hear about the studied cockatoo species that are able to solve complicated mechanical puzzles (how would they have evolved an instinct for that?) and have more skill at object permanence (remembering and finding an object even when it is not present) than a child about to start kindergarten does.

But those are all vertebrates, I hear you thinking. And you're right. They are. Until you get back to the octopi. Which I'm about to.

As the science of intelligence has evolved, so has its definition. When scientist were able to test and observe the "intelligence" of subjects like hive minds and even of the lowly slime mold, they realized they needed a new touchstone. What they've come up with recently is three universal characteristics: the ability to remember, the ability to learn, and the ability to communicate.

Octopus changes color to mimic seafloor Octopus changes texture to mimic stone Octopus changes shape to mimic reef Octopus holds shells as a disguise and armor

And:

= Octopi not only have the ability to remember, they have the ability to plan ahead based on what they remember. One way we know this is because they are tool users/makers. Octopi have been known to come upon coconut or mollusk shells on the sea floor, clean out the debris in them, and hide under them. This confounds both predators and prey. More than that, octopi have been known to willingly expend the extra, awkward effort to carry their shells with them from location to location...octopus mobile homes!

= Octopi have the ability to learn. And not just by doing, but also by seeing. Yep, octopus see, octopus do. One of my favorite experiments was when an octopus in a tank was given a lobster sealed in a glass jar covered by (a) a cork or (b) a threaded-metal lid, each of them with a hole in it too small for the lobster to get through. The octopus reached in and tried to get its favorite snack out of the jar. It could grab the lobster but not get it through the hole. In both cases, the octopus repeatedly explored and experimented until it figured out how to undo the lid. The next time it was presented with a jar, it remembered how to open it. But here was the kicker. A new octopus was brought in and left in the tank right next to the first tank. The first octopus was given another jar. It quickly extracted the lobster and chowed down...all the while being closely observed by the very interested second octopus. And when octopus-the-second was later given its own jar of yumminess, it never hesitated; it immediately and successfully used the technique it had observed. That's not just trial-and-error learning; that's observational learning.

= Octopi have the ability to communicate. And since their communication is based not on sound waves but mostly on waves of color and cell-surface texture, they arguably have the potential to develop a much richer language than humans have because they can control every individual chromatophore (color cell), iridophore (color brightener), leucophore (color scatterer), and papilla (texture cell) in their skin. Their camouflage is an amazingly great trick, considering they're colorblind. Ah, but they can feel color, using the opsins in their arms to sense color by the changes in the wavelengths of light reaching those receptors. They can also taste things with their suckers. They can even lie. You know, of course, that octopi change their colors, surface texture, and shape to "lie" to both predators and prey. But smaller octopi of certain species have also been observed changing their appearance to mimic females so they can safely get past larger contending males and mate with the female while the larger males are fighting each other. Octopi also apparently use skin changes to broadcast their feelings of danger, contentment, curiosity, etc. And given the fact that octopi sometimes do these things in their sleep, even when there's no environment change that would trigger it, one has to wonder if maybe they dream.

So what's stopping octopi from taking over the oceans, if not the world. Three things, basically: they have short lifespans (about one to three years, depending on species), they can't pass acquired knowledge on to their offspring, and they are solitary and territorial rather than social animals.

Only....

= It probably wouldn't take much in the way of mutation to come up with some longer-lived octopi. Even a simple breeding program on our part might do it. And with longer life and their innate inquisitiveness - observing, touching, and tasting all the many things that interest them, especially in a safe setting - who knows what kinds of knowledge and experience they might gather in a lifetime.

= As well as the father living longer after breeding, something might also evolve that results in the mother not exhausting and starving herself to death keeping her eggs guarded, oxygenated, and clean until they hatch. A more robust lifespan might do. Pair bonding as a part of mating might also evolve, so she could share egg-tending duties with the father and not have to stay with them 24/7 herself. And with parental upbringing, new baby octopi would have more than just the inherited instincts and personality traits of their parents. They also wouldn't have to figure everything else out for themselves, starting from scratch with every generation.

= And scientists were recently astonished to discover two "cities" of Octopus tetricus, which they dubbed Octopolis (2009) and Octlantis (2017): individualized personalities, interpersonal communications, social structure, cuddling and mating dances (did you know that female octopi say "no" by throwing precollected sand at unwanted suitors?), partnerships and feuds, and all. Who knows how many other communities/colonies there might be in the vast sea.

All in all, these fascinating members of the mollusk phylum have gained a lot by sacrificing their own ancient shells in favor of evolving other survival abilities, including intelligence (again, already comparable to a pre-kindergarten child). And really, where without warp drive are we going to find an intelligent creature any more alien to us than this? Plus which, if we manage to wipe ourselves out and take most of the vertebrates with us, it's nice to know there's at least one somebody out there who's got a good chance to rise from the ocean and eventually take our place on land. (They can already travel overland for as much as a half hour.)

No reason octopi couldn't eventually become the new sapiens (just like lobsters and lungfish eventually became scorpians and salamanders.) And hopefully do a better job of it 'cuz, ya know, an octopus has both more brains (9) and more hearts (3) than a human does. Plus which, they wouldn't think bilaterally (yes/no, good/bad, right/left, on/off, X/O, on one hand or the other) but radially (look at all these equal and interweaving options).

[ASIDE] Although, admitedly, the observed behavior in capitivity of watching lots of TV, and even showing preferences for certain programs, might make one wonder if there's any intelligence there at all. But I guess when you're in lockdown and unbearably bored....[/ASIDE]

So for purely personal reasons and without telling anyone they should do likewise, when it comes to dining on octopus (especially, as some restaurants do, still-alive ones), thanks but I'll take a pass.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki
P.S. On a lighter note (and with a nod to Adding Insult), do you remember the ad campaign where an octopus is applying the company's deodorant to each of its underarms. Cute. Till the campaign got to Japan, where it fell flat on its face. 'Cuz in Japan, octopi aren't perceived as having eight arms; they're seen as having eight legs. Oops!

Mon, Apr 18, 2022 at 11:51 PM, Nancy B. wrote:
  That was nice. I really liked that, and I learned a lot. Like, I didn't know octopi could change their color and texture, and I also didn't know they can't see colors but they can feel them. I didn't know they were intelligent enough to uncork or unscrew the lobster jar. And the second one learned just by watching. That's amazing. He didn't have to experiment, too; he just watched and did it. Who knew they could? And all the things they're doing in their community. The intelligence of a pre-school child! Wow.
  How embarrassing for that octopus advertisement in Japan.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B.:
  Amazing for sure. Ya know, they apparently can't hear either. But just like they can feel and produce colors, I suppose their skin/suckers can feel and produce vibrations, too. And here's an extra bit of fun info from biologist Claire Jordan: "I've seen film of a human cleaning an octopus's tank, using a scraper inside the tank which was controlled by a magnetic handle on the outside of the glass, and the octopus watched this for a bit and then yanked the scraper away from the magnet and carefully scraped its own glass clean. An octopus is about as unlike a human biologically as it's possible to be and both be Earth animals, yet this is a completely intelligible thought process, so it gives me hope that intelligence is convergent and that when we meet aliens we will be able to understand them." And another: "There's also some built-in flexibility. Some genes can produce more than one 'product' depending on how they are read, and so can be tweaked to perform slightly different tasks. Octopodes carry this to extremes and have evolved a way of tweaking the RNA the gene produces once it's already peeled off the gene. We're still working out how they do it, but it means many genes in an octopus have a sort of Swiss Army Knife multi-function use which enables them to adapt on the fly."
  And yeah, I can just picture the ad agency's (and the vendor's) chagrin at that blooper.

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2022-03-04
WO R D S W O R T H

"People misuse quotes every day, and sharing these quotes on Facebook
doesn't make them accurate or complete. " ― Luay Rahil

OK, a little more light-hearted and fun-loving this month. A little. 'Cuz as you've surely figured out by now, I just love to play with words ... and I love when other people do, too. So I definitely love old sayings, the kind that everyone has heard and probably even repeats. Aphorisms. Memes. Even cliches ... because, after all, they wouldn't have been repeated often enough for long enough to become cliches if they didn't contain at least a kernel of humor, truth, wisdom, something worth hanging on to.

Sometimes, though, sayings lose their way. They get truncated. The words change meaning. The wisdom is no longer obvious. They cease to make sense. They demand an update. They get intentionally perverted. Something. So let's look at eight examples that nag at me at times.

Feed a cold and starve a fever.
Many people actually tend to follow this "rule" without really considering why it reads that way. Basically, when you have a cold, you can't smell anything and therefore nothing tastes good. So you don't eat as much. But you need energy-packed food to fight the cold. So you should feed a cold solid food regardless of what your taste buds say. OTOH, when you have a fever, the last thing you want is to make your temperature go up even more. But digestion ups your temp; the heavier the food, the more it goes up. However, it's important to stay hydrated when you're running a temp. So you should starve a fever by cutting down on solid foods and ramping up your liquids.

Still waters run deep.
That seems ridiculous. Still means motionless, so obviously still waters can't run deep 'cuz they don't run at all. True. But in this saying the word still doesn't mean motionless. It means calm (as in "Be still, and know that I am God."). It means quiet (as in "the still, small voice). When water is running in the shallows, such as rapids over rocks, it's all splashy and noisy. However, when it's been running long and strong enough to wear away the rocks and dig deep channels, it runs quietly and with a relatively unruffled surface. Nowadays, we might better say: "Calm waters run deep." But we probably won't; it doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Happy as a clam.
Come on, even assuming you could tell that it is, why would a clam be so eternally happy as to be an iconic example of happiness? Well, it wouldn't. Especially not when predators like birds and humans are hunting it on the beaches. No, the actual line is "Happy as a clam at high tide." 'Cuz that's when they're way safer from those of us proficient at clamming. (Remember that silly TV ad line about how when one clam sneezes, it gives them all away?)

Can't have your cake and eat it too.
This one suffers from the evolution of language over time. In olden days, have meant possession but not consumption. So obviously, once you consumed your piece of cake, you no longer possessed it. Once you ate it, you no longer had it. Of course, you could have/possess and then eat/consume it, but once you did the latter, you were no longer doing the former. Still, the saying might have been more accurate if it had been "Can't eat your cake and have it too."

Nowadays, though, we might say we have cake 'cuz we're keeping some in our pantry or fridge. But we might equally mean that we're going to eat some cake. If you tell someone "I'm going to have a piece of cake", for example, they know you mean consumption, not possession. So we need an extra step here. And easy one ... because it involves changing only one letter: "Can't eat your cake and Save it too." (Save, in this case, meaning to keep it.) And there's no arguing with that.

Music soothes the savage beast.
Not quite. That's not what the man said. The man being William Congreve. The play being The Mourning Bride. The year being 1697. And the actual line being: "Musick has Charms to sooth[e] a savage Breast, / To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak." You didn't miss that r, did you?

Granted, Congreve was likely riffing off of the Roman poet Lucan's epic "Pharsalia", which translator Thomas May rendered decades earlier as "Whose charming voice and matchless musick mov'd / The savage beasts, the stones, and senseless trees". Still, since Lucan talks about moving and Congreve talks about soothing, we need to go with Congreve's line. Plus which, Princess Almeria delivers that line while she's weeping in a grief that she cannot calm. She adds "I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd, / And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd, / By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound." So she's not talking about beasts, as they're animate. She's more likely talking about savage emotions she feels in her own heart. So maybe the modern version didn't happen 'cuz of a typo or mishearing it; maybe it was bowdlerized because overly-purtitanical people didn't want to say "breast". Who knows?

All I know is that if I ever get attacked by some big ol' (or even little young) wild animal, I'm not gonna just stand there and start singing or playing my guitar.

I before E except after C.
Another truncation. One that leaves the lesson half-learned. If it were true as is, Santa wouldn't have a sleigh OR eight reindeer (prior to Rudolph, that is), would he? The full saying, which better explains what's going on with Santa, is "I before E except after C and when sounded long A as in neighbor and weigh."

However, even that doesn't cover everything. As one wag put it: "The seizure of the caffeine and codeine was neither weird nor leisurely. Either sitting on your keister or paying obeisance will tell anyone that!"

Yep, words like either and neither still don't fit; however, most folks pronounce those two with a long E, some with a long I, almost no one with a long A. While the long E pronunciation is more common, the long I usage is probably more accurate because, if they're not going to follow the English rule, they can at least follow the German rule (German being the language they came from) and pronounce the second vowel the way German- and English-speakers alike pronounce heil and stein and zeitgeist. Don't have to be an Einstein to get that.

I guess in the final analysis, the first rule about pronouncing English is "There are no real rules about pronouncing English." That's the price we pay for having arguably the richest, most nuanced language in the world ... because it steals words from absolutely everywhere.

My country, right or wrong.
Again, the saying has been truncated. And this time, it changes the meaning to something the original speaker never meant. As it stands in this short form, it isn't about patriotism; it's about jingoism. Which, in a way, is the antithesis of honest, clear-eyed patriotism. True patriots will, rather, agree more with the actual 1872 quotation attributed to Carl Schurz: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." Peacefully!

Curiosity killed the cat.
This one really ticks me off. It is used to intentionally denounce and prevent a very important trait, especially in children. It came by a long route, though. As late as 1898, the prevalent saying was "Care killed the Cat." It was said that a cat had nine lives, but care would wear them all out. (In that context, care didn't mean to look after or provide for; it meant to worry or be sorrowful.) Substituting curiosity for care came along fairly recently, with people noting that cats are very inquisitive and deciding it was their curiosity, not worry, that boded their death.

And yes, sometimes our curiosity can bode ill for us. But without curiosity, we simply wouldn't be human. Without curiosity, our children would never learn anything important about the world around them. Without curiosity, our artists and scientists and innovators and creators wouldn't exist. Without curiosity, Africans would never have explored Eurasia; Asians would never have populated the Americas; humans would never have migrated to Australia or explored Antarctica; no one would have ever walked on the Moon or flown ships of imagination through the cosmos.

If anyone is ever going to say anything to children about their curiosity, they should say something to encourage it. Like a Pennsylvania newspaper's 1912 expansion: "Curiosity killed the cat, / But satisfaction brought it back."
Mousetrap baited with cheese$20 bill shaped like a heard
I could probably go on forever. But I won't. (You can thank me later.)

I'll just end by reminding you that "The love of money is the root of all evil." And "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." (Although, unlike me, any such mouse would prefer peanut butter.)

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Sat, Mar 5, 2022 at 7:26 AM, Nancy B wrote:
  This one is good. I like it. It's fun. I've heard all of these and I didn't know where they came from or even what some of them meant. As I read "Happy as a clam" I thought what must little kids think when they hear us say these things? It wouldn't make any sense to them, "Happy as a clam."
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  Exactly. And if they bug us about "What does that mean? What's a clam? How can you tell it's happy? Why's it so happy? Are all the clams happy? Do clams laugh? Do they know any knock-knock jokes? Can I be a clam when I grow up?", we tell them to stop asking so many questions 'cuz curiosity killed the cat. (Which will probably traumatize them if they have a cat.)
Fri, Apr 1, 2022 at 4:45 PM, Kim wrote:
Hey Lucki -
  I enjoyed the old adage post - and learned something.  (high tide)
Hugs
  Lucki responds to Kim:
  Thanks, Kim. Interesting how the first 2 substantive responders, you & Nancy (though there were actually 3 brief others between you 2), were about the clam one. Gotta admit it's probably the oddest, all right.
  Hugs back atcha (lo-o-ong arms!).
Fri, Apr 5, 2022 at 12:10 PM, David N wrote:
 Can only eat your cake and save it as well if you don't eat the whole thing... :)
  Have a good day.
  Lucki responds to David N:
  Can't argue with that. And there you go again, Doc, being all healthy and everything.
  You enjoy yours, too.
Sat, Apr 30, 2022 at 2:06 PM, Nancy G wrote:
  This reminded me that I just wanted to mention to you two word misuses that really bother me. One is when people say they're feeling badly when they really mean they're feeling bad. The other is when they tell you to go slow when they want you to go slowly.
  Lucki responds to Nancy G:
  On top of which, to save time and paint, signs painted on the tarmac tell you to "GO SLO". You're right, some people have a hard time telling adjectives from adverbs. In simple terms, adjectives describe things and adverbs describe actions. So, for example, to feel badly is to have the impaired ability to discern what you're touching (or even that you're touching anything at all), while to feel bad is to be sick or sad. The former is an adverb describing the act of touching; the latter is an adjective describing the person's physical or mental health. An adverb is usually the same as its corresopnding adjective except with "ly" on the end. Of course, like any "rule" in English, that isn't always true; but it's a useful rule of thumb often enough to count.

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2022-02-07
S U S P E N S I O N

"A world where you cannot even speak to another person without worrying about what they are going
to think of you, has not advanced much from the days when white people used to own slaves."
― Abhijit Naskar,  When Veins Ignite

I was planning to write about something else this month, but as they say: Life is what happens while you're making plans.

I bet you know what this one is about. It doesn't introduce another serious sniglet; but in a way, it naturally proceeds from them.

We're a week into Whoopi Goldberg's suspension from The View. Another week to go. She expressed something she likely had never been given all the facts about. She made a notable but understandable mistake. She was willing to listen to someone able to correct her misunderstanding. She apologized based on her new perspective. And she got sent off to sit in the corner like a wayward toddler commanded to think about what an awful, unacceptable, sinful thing it just did.

What a blatant waste of an excellent learning moment. All that dialog and debate and learning could have - and should have - happened onscreen. Two people (and perhaps their cohorts) sharing their personal views in a way that may have brought new understanding to both of them:

= How a black person in this country - even one like Whoopi, who emphasized that the Holocaust was a prime example of man's inhumanity to man (which it was) - seldom has any opportunity to see the social construct of racism as anything other than black-and-white. (And let's be honest, who traumatically schooled black people in that view in the first place?).

= How a Jewish person may more readily see that the social construct of racism can, especially in other times and places, be based on any putatively identifiable characteristic ... not just color of skin or continent of origin but also ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or any other specious excuse for divisiveness and the exercise of, for example, white supremacy.

Bhild's blue chair in the corner facing old red brick walls[ASIDE] Not that such learning can ensure either will never again say something about the other based on their own ingrained preäctions. Embracing one's membership in the mysoulium is neither easy nor quick. Becoming an active part of the human coöpera takes work. Still, myriads of viewers might've learned from that exchange. (I did.) [/ASIDE]

But no, ABC took the easy way out. The cowardly way. Heaven forfend any viewers might be made uncomfortable by intentionally extending the actual learning in public. Heaven forfend real reality impinge on their program. Nope. Make it all better by sweeping it under the rug. Out of sight, out of mind. Go sit in the corner and be quiet, you stupid girl.

Whoopi should be insulted. So should the man whom Whoopi credits with enlightening her. So should we all; because witnessing someone grow is a blessing and a joy, and we were all deprived of that ... and of the lessons we could've learned.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Mon, Feb 7, 2022 at 11:33 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  Your picture got my attention with a shock, because I asked myself did they really do that to her and the answer was yes. It's too bad when such a good learning experience is wasted. They could have made it something educational but didn't care or have the courage or something.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  I couldn't agree more. And yes, when I was looking for a graphic to use, that one jumped out at me ... it was just SO apropos. A grown woman being treated like a wayward child. You have to wonder if there would've been so much backlash if one of the white hosts had said something like that. (Actually, no, it doesn't make me wonder; I pretty much already know.)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following conversation got way too long to fit the usual format; therefore, the 11-item exchange was reformatted into one plain box.

Tue, Mar 1, 2022 at 7:06 PM, Kim wrote:

Hey Lucki,
  February was a sucky month and I didn't even look at your blog. Glad to catch up.
  I completely agree with the Suspension post, but ... BUT
  Write back if you want to guess what the "but" is - and meanwhile, it gives me time to find a dispassionate way to clothe my thoughts.
Love,
Kim

Lucki responds to Kim:
  Nope, don't want to guess. I'll patiently wait until you have time to articulate your counterpoint. I always appreciate your insights. Enjoy your day.

Wed, Mar 2, 2022 at 2:23 PM, Kim wrote:
Madame Cat!
  I can make it really brief. I am totally fed up with cancel culture.
Hugs

Lucki responds to Kim:
  Tell me about it. Where did that Madame Cat come from? :-)

Thu, Mar 3, 2022 at 2:20 PM, Kim wrote:
  I thought Madame Cat was obvious. It was your response to my invitation to play a guessing game - you chose to sit quietly and wait for me, like you did at some big meeting where you wanted to ask the speaker (some former Dr. Who that you knew) a question, but rather than raise your hand you sat there and looked at him. He ended up calling on you. And here you are just sitting and looking again.
  Anyway, cancel culture....  what do you think about it?

Lucki responds to Kim:
  It reminds me of the writing of Sinclair Lewis: he starts off making his point, & then he beats it to death. And I didn't just look at Jon; I THUNK at him.

Thu, Mar 3, 2022 at 5:04 PM, Kim wrote:
  Are you saying that cancel culture makes a point and beats it to death?
  And right! Jon and THUNKing at. Still cat-like!

Lucki responds to Kim:
  I thought the original point was that people who engaged in truly hateful, heinous acts & speech, especially with malice aforethought, should face consequences. And I'm all for accountability 'cuz if nothing ever changes, nothing ever changes. It began getting beaten to death when it devolved into "canceling" everyone & everything one merely, momentarily disagrees with. That's divisive, cowardly, & lazy. What's your take on it?
  And thanks for the "cat-like" compliment.

Fri, Mar 4, 2022 at 9:21 AM, Kim wrote:
  Actually you described the problem more artfully and thoroughly than I could have - so I'm really glad I asked you to go first.
  What bothers me so much about the big issue - of which cancel culture is an obvious symptom (I don't have a name for that big issue yet - you probably do) - is that it totally shuts down the ability to tolerate, much less have any kind of productive conversation with, anyone whose opinions differ from one's own.
  There are so many examples in [our] history of people who made stellar contributions on one hand and were reprehensible in other areas of their lives. We have to be able to appreciate the good, and find the good.... so while I agree with accountability, I don't think the matter is simple at all.

Lucki responds to Kim:
  Amen to that!

Fri, Mar 4, 2022 at 1:45 PM, Kim wrote:
  Cool!

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2022-01-12
A C T I O N

"The rights of every man are diminished
when the rights of one man are threatened." -- President John F. Kennedy
"If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just,
you have a moral obligation to do something about it." -- Representative John R. Lewis

If you've read Twigs of a Family Tree (if you haven't, here it is), you may remember where I wrote:

...it's easier for women to blend rational judgment with emotional understanding, while it's easier for men to mitigate deliberate, civilized behavior with primitive, fight-or-flight responses. 'Cuz women have more tissue in the corpus callosum, the bridge between the left and right sides of the brain, then men do. So women more easily connect the two hemispheres of their brains, while men more easily connect the fore and hind portions of their brains.

Like most such generalizations, the above statement applies to many (maybe most) people much (maybe most) of the time, though never to all people all the time. Still, it bears on an issue that we seem to confront almost daily, if not in our own lives, at least in the news. A specific, very visible issue that I think is the bleeding-edge thumbnail image of the larger, sometimes subtler, corrosively common issue that rampages throughout our society. That thumbnail is: the rampant killing of black men by police of all ilks. Not always by white officers, but most often. Not always by male officers, but most often.

Mead addressed the issue in his Twigs chapter, too, when he wrote the following about himself and my Number One Son:

I can go into Chicago, get pulled over by a cop for speeding, and I might get a ticket. But my brother [Rey] might get killed, even though he's a first responder himself. That's the reality. The annual statistics for Chicagoland, northeast Illinois, show that he's almost twenty-five percent more likely to get pulled over; and his car is five times more likely to be searched for contraband, even though most contraband is actually found in cars driven by white people. And he's more likely to be perceived as angry, aggressive, and dangerous, and therefore more likely to be arrested, beaten, or killed.

Elucidating on the phrase "perceived as angry", Mead endnoted that:

Various studies have proven this. They haven't necessarily shown why. Perhaps it is more than white people just falling victim to stupid stereotypes about black people's behavior. When a white person gets angry, our face darkens with raised blood pressure. Maybe whenever there's a darker face, it's perceived as anger and people go on the defensive. The fight-or-flight instinct cuts across rational thought. The darker someone's face is, the angrier and more threatening they seem. We have to get over that. Melanin is not a producer or product of anger.

He raised a very salient point there, about perception. And about the fight-or-flight responses (especially in men) that I alluded to. Because fight-or-flight is both an instinctive and a learned behavior.

= Example of instinctive fear: All primates have an inborn fear of falling. They normally wouldn't think skydiving is fun. But some humans do, because they've learned to mitigate their fear. Turn their panic into a thrill. Based mostly on their confidence, from personal or vicarious experience, that the anti-splat technology will work as advertized.

= Example of learned fear: Most pet dogs are not instinctively afraid of cars. That's why so many of them work overtime chasing away cars on roads they consider part of their own home territory. But a dog that's been hit by a car, and survived, tends not to repeat its self-endangering behavior. Maybe even becomes fearful of approaching or getting into its own human's car. (Too bad some humans haven't learned similar "don't repeat" lessons yet.)

The thing about fight-or-flight, whether instinctive or learned, is that it can totally bypass any thought process in the cerebral cortex and instead zip smack back into the reptilian complex. No thought in the forebrain. The part that reasons. All action controlled by the hindbrain. The part that doesn't think, just reacts.

That can be a good thing sometimes. Have you ever touched a hot stove, jerked your hand away and then, only after that, actually felt the heat. That's because your spinal cord and hindbrain got the heat signal before your forebrain did, and instinctively instructed your muscles to react defensively...now! If you'd had to wait until your forebrain got the signal, analyzed it, and sent a cogent (and the correct) reactive instruction, you'd have been badly burned by then.

But just as often, fight-or-flight can be detrimental. Especially when it comes to people-to-people interactions. To examine that, let's look at the scenario Mead evoked: Cop encounters black male civilian. What happens?

Well, almost regardless of any personal experience (which may have been good, bad, or nonexistent), cultural expectations occur in a flash. And in our society, systemic racism has - despite decades if not centuries of the best efforts of millions of people of good conscience - set up a very particular expectation. One based on everything from biased if-it-bleeds-it-leads news reporting to whitewashed history in our schools to the predominant "normal" optics in rural, suburban, and urban life-on-the-streets TV shows and movies to ... well, you catch my drift.

The result is a visceral fight-or-flight reaction. One that bypasses, and then blocks, any rational thought. That kind of reaction calls for a third serious sniglet. Call it

preäction

which is a learned (re)action that precedes and delays (or stops) any further, analytical thought.

How often haven't you seen this cop v. civilian scenario, or one all too like it, acted out. In real life. Sometimes in real time (the prevalence of smart phones having brought this kind of encounter to life for millions of people who never knew or believed such encounters existed):

= Cop sees "danger: black male equals likely violent criminal". Black man sees "danger: cop equals getting shot for no reason at all". Fight-or-flight kicks in for both of them like an atom bomb. They both preäct. Chaos ensues. Why?

Group of small birds either attacking or fleeing an eagle= Cop preäctively falls into predator/chase mode. His eyes see a phone; his himd brain sees a weapon. All rational thought is blocked. He yells "STOP!" When his prey doesn't obey, he shoots. Repeatedly. With a sense of irrefutable righteousness. Never mind that his prey may not even seem to be attacking. May actually be running away. The cop has only one goal: stop the "bad guy" by any means necessary. Even death.

= Black man preäctively falls into prey/flee mode. He feels in mortal danger, irrespective of innocence or guilt. All rational thought is blocked. He can't understand words shouted at him. He literally doesn't even hear them (a scientifically studied fact). He runs and keeps on running. The black man has only one goal: escape alive. Not easy, 'cuz his predator is armed with long-distance lethal force. And a badge.

[ASIDE] For an easy-to-read explanation of the science of fight-or-flight, maybe take a look at Julia Layton's HowStuffWorks article "How Fear Works". It's a bit simplistic but worth going through all eight relatively short pages. She never mentions the triggers or results of racism, but you can read between the lines. [/ASIDE]

How do we, as Mead says, get over that? The same way we get to Carnegie Hall: Practice. Practice. Practice. Training. Trying. Transforming. We each change our perceptions as consciously, quickly, and completely as we can (also not easy, but necessary). And we demand that our society change itself to help rather than hinder our efforts. We become the change we want to see.

And I think all that work on changing our preäctions goes hand in hand with building the human coöpera. Which goes hand in hand with recognizing, accepting, thinking, and acting like we are indeed all connected parts of the human mysoulium. It seems like a rock-paper-scissors standoff. But let's instead think of it as a reality-perception-spirituality opportunity. An opportunity for personal and community growth. One that we can all work on, take part in, individually and collectively.

I'm willing to try. Are you?

Khoda hafez,
Lucki
P.S. Once you get used to the fact that the "preac" part of the word is pronounced as in reaction, not as in Preakness, you don't need that umlaut over the a anymore. Just preaction.

Wed, Jan 12, 2022 at 2:36 PM, Marianne wrote:
  This is great, Lucki! You're helping us build and use a new vocabulary to describe the phenomenon we currently live & experience. Yay team!
-Marianne
  Lucki responds to Marianne:
  As with the previous two: Tag it. Share it. Use it as often as you can. Maybe decades from now, we'll see the words in the dictionary. (Well, our youth will, and they're the ones best equipped to carry this work forward.) #coopera #mysoulium #preaction
Thu, Jan 12, 2022 at 10:00 PM, Claire wrote:
  This series was fascinating. Have you read the book Thinking, Fast and Slow? It talks about the same dynamic you address here, but not with the new vocabulary you created. You would probably enjoy this reading list:
1. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis. Read this first - it's the personal backstory of the thinkers behind Thinking, Fast and Slow. A ripping good yarn!
2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Wow! Amazing insights on how we think - or don't - and why Honestly, I'm still digesting the depths and details. Great stuff, IMHO!
3. Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene. Author's insights on moral judgement "fast and slow" - aligns nicely with Kahneman's work. Enjoy!
4. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt. Some scary insights into innate responses to racial characteristics. Only the last chapter seems to offer much hope.
  Lucki responds to Claire:
  No, I haven't read any of those books. Thanks so much for them. They sound like awesome grist for my info- and insight-hungry mill. I will follow your recommendation on the order in which to read them, too.
  I can personally sympathize with that dearth of hope you mention regarding the fourth book. I know I could feel a lot more hopeless a lot more of the time, except that looking at the Baha'i Writings and the promise of what we CAN achieve, and HOW, if only we're willing to firmly found our efforts on spiritual solutions, that can raise my hopes.
  We do love our sniglets, don't we. I can't tell you how often I've gotten to use some of your goodies, like "neposition".
Thu, Jan 12, 2022 at 11:21 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  That's true. We have to change our perceptions and our reactions. We can't make change just happen; we have a lot of work to do. And we have to listen to each other. We have to teach our children, so they can do better at it than we do.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  All very true. To bring Mead into the convo again, in Twigs he also wrote:
     "When I was a young child, my father would lift me above his head, toss me high, and catch me. Oh, how I loved it, my laughter ringing through the air. And when I was up there, I noticed I could see much farther than I could when I was on the ground. In retrospect, I realize I could also see much farther than my father could. This is upliftment: being lifted up.
     "Metaphorically, when my dad was a child, his father lifted him up to get a better view of the world around him. At that time he saw a goal in the distance, and now he was spending his life walking towards it. At some point on his great journey, he lifted me above his head so that I could see his goal. I was then able to see even farther, and could blaze ahead towards my own even more distant goal. My son Shoghi, 8 years old as I write this part of my story, is now learning to talk about what he sees, and it's my turn to lift him up and hope that he will see farther than I can."

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2021-12-17
S E R G I O    G.   J R.

"It's a journey very worth being on."

Another thing we haven't done with our declaration stories before is present the story of someone who is still a youth. So this month, we are very pleased to to feature the words of Sergio Gutierrez, Jr., whom I sat in my garden with (masked, of course) back in the Fall to talk about the Faith as part of his year of service. Let's hear it from your young and energetic perspective, Sergio.

I mostly grew up with the Baha'i Faith. My family spent some time searching for other religions. We got involved a little bit in a form of Christianity and explored it for a while; but ultimately we were uncomfortable with the environment and setting and found it to be intrusive at times.
Right: Sergio Gutierrez Jr being held by his father, Sergio Sr.  Left: Holding a baby is Sergio Jr's grandfather, Sergio Sr's stepfather, Salvador Hernandez
I think I personally first found faith at age 10. I don't exactly remember when I heard about the Bahá'í Faith, but I know it was around that age. I was helping my dad bring supplies and equipment up to Rogers Park. We were helping the Bahá'í Youth there, and it was definitely a rigorous process, but necessary. Sometimes I think had I not done that, helped with that, I wouldn't be where I am at now.

(===> On the far right, that's my dad, Sergio Sr., holding me when I was a little kid. The person on the left, holding the little baby, is my grandpa, my dad's stepfather, Salvador Hernandez.)

At the time I disregarded a lot of things, and took them for granted. But looking back now, I can better see how some things make sense; and I finally understand why things happened the way they did. Ever since I realized it was okay, it's been like that and I haven't really changed what I believe or considered going somewhere else. Maybe one day I'll explore other communities or faiths, as the Bahá'í Scriptures tell us to, to get a new experience or understanding and see how they are similar to and different from the Bahá'í Faith

I liked the fact that this was a unique, and not like the traditional or average, faith. It was very open, and I remember attending Children's Classes at Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology with Saba Ayman-Nolley. It was a good experience and I definitely enjoyed it. Many good experiences came from that setting. Seeing how everybody interacted was so surreal, because I wasn't used to an environment like that. It has been exciting to see how far it has come along, now at the University of Chicago. My brother Salvador still attends Children's Classes, and my brother Santiago helps at them in ways that junior youth do. I also attended Feasts, Prayer Breakfasts, Holy Day celebrations, and race unity and other events as a child and junior youth (up through age 14), and still do when I can.

As I said, what motivated me to learn more about the Bahá'í Faith was being by the side of my dad. It was a matter of following him. I didn't really know what was going on with the Bahá'í Youth (ages 15 through 20), nor did I understand what was happening in their service projects in Rogers Park. But going along and helping prep and cook and serve food, I saw with my own eyes how it worked and what was going on. Everybody was hard at work, and I definitely saw how everyone enjoyed it. I tagged along to help on some of the outreach and home visits, and it was definitely exciting. Again, I don't think I was very aware of or focused on what was happening; but tagging along, I saw how much they go through, and how much effort it requires, and yet how rewarded they felt by doing what they did.

In terms of a spiritual parent outside my family, I feel Changiz Guela has been a great help and a spiritual parent. I feel like a lot of people owe him and his beautiful home that he opens to his friends and neighbors. He's very open and welcoming and definitely a good person to turn towards for help. He's been there for me since the first time I saw him. He's definitely a good friend.

A few other notable people are Amanda Sevak and Erik Wilder, and also Ferris Deanparvar. Amanda was one of the first people that introduced us to the Faith when my dad met her. And I have good memories with Erik and Ferris, too. They made childhood fun and also helped me get to where I am at now.

My moment of declaration isn't exact. I don't remember getting a registration card because at the time there was some administrative issue being cleared up. I have my card now, though. It means I'm registered with the national Bahá'í community, so they can reach out to me with emails and mail and The American Bahá'í magazine, and I can attend Feasts and elections in my own and any Bahá'í community I visit. But when my registration was initially delayed, one thing that stuck with me was when they said, "If you feel that you're a Bahá'í, you're a Bahá'í." So now, it's just trying to uphold myself and be accountable for my life and my future actions.
Sergio Gutierrez Jr as a Baha' Youth today.
Now, as a youth, I am also doing a year of service in the community of Rogers Park. I have been helping with whatever I can, doing my best in my dedication to help. I'm using this gap year between high school and college or employment to gather my thoughts and see what I want to pursue and commit to before I make a final decision. Part of that process also includes deciding where and how to serve not just the Bahá'í community but all of humanity. So far, I think the whole experience has been a profound and meaningful interaction, because in a sense I'm really competing with myself, trying to become better each day than the day before, to understand my position in relationship to this world and environment, and to see how I can influence the people around me and what outcome I want to shape for myself.

It's hard. Very hard, because as I move forward, I discover more flaws in me that I wasn't aware of, flaws that I want to learn from and correct. And to tackle them head-on every day, while multitasking and learning to be aware of everything in my surroundings, is definitely a journey within itself. But I know this: It's a journey very worth being on.

Thank you so much, Sergio. I'm so glad your year of service included a home visit with me. It motivated me to fill in a story gap here that I hadn't thought of. And as both Ali Youssefi's book and Olinga Njang's album titles declare, I believe: "Youth Can Move the World" indeed.

This marks the end of our 2021 series of a dozen declaration stories. Will there be more? No promises. But if I have the chance to work on enough during 2022, you just might see another duodectet in 2023. Wish me luck on that.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Mon, Dec 20, 2021 at 11:30 PM, Nancy B. wrote:
  It was nice to see young Sergio's story. I remember him in my Children's Class that his brother still attends. I enjoyed learning how his good and helpful relationship of service with his father inspired him. He's at the start of a wonderful journey and I'll be excited to see how it progresses.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B.:
  I agree. That's why I realized I needed a youth perspective in this series of stories. Becoming (or realizing one is) Baha'i is the start of a whole new, life-long, amazing adventure.

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2021-12-06
C O N N E C T I O N

"Mycelium (botany) plural: mycelia: The mass of fine, interwoven filaments that forms the vegetative portion of a fungus (analogous to roots), usually under the surface of the soil or other growth-promoting medium, and gives rise to its fruiting bodies (analogous to flower fruits) such as mushrooms." -- Dictionary Composite

Did you know that:
Mycelium seen from below the surface
= Mycelia (fungi in general) are neither plants nor animals, but a taxonomical kingdom of their own with DNA closer to the animal than the plant kingdom.
= Mycelia are some of the oldest and largest and longest-living organisms on the planet?
- All the mushrooms of the same species that you can see in a widespread area are probably part of the same mycelium?
= A mycelium can survive, grow, and spread virtually indefinitely?
= Individual mycelia start off so small that a single cubic inch of soil can hold enough to be, if stretched out as a single strand, eight miles long; and a single mycelium can spread over an area of ten or more kilometers?
= Mycelia form underground networks that facilitate communication not only between their various parts, but even between other plants and even trees?
= Mycelia even share stored nutrients with young plants, such as tree saplings, that make those plants more resistant to climate change?
= People in the know call mycelia both nature's recycling center and its world wide web?

Why should you care about any of this? Good question. Thanks for asking.
Nycelium seen from above the surface
Let's start with the fact that mycelia are more closely related to us humans than they are to plants. And more closely related to us than any plant is. So maybe mycelia have more to teach us about ourselves than we suspect. Including important intangibles like communication and cooperation among themselves and with other things in their environment.

I'll leave it up to you to think about what we might indeed learn from all that. I trust you to have the wit and the will to do so. But for right now, I want to take off on a bit of a tangent.

If you've read Twigs of a Family Tree (if you haven't, you can find it here or, if you're in Chicagoland, email me to learn about available discounts and obtain an inscribed copy), you may remember my saying: "It's been my experience that what's true in the physical universe is also true in the spiritual universe. Which makes sense, since both were designed by the same Architect." And later, in talking about no longer acting out in a negative way, I said, "I honestly don't know how or even if souls are connected. But if there's even the slightest chance that souls may be connected in some mystical way, by even a single silken strand, what damage might I do not only to my own but, worse, to some other soul? Whether we know each other or not?"

Which leads to a further consideration: If there's even the slightest chance that souls may be connected, what can I do to support and serve some other soul? Whether we know each other or not? What can I do? What can you do? What can we do?

Well, I think the first thing we can do is recognize and believe that we are all connected in some so-hidden-as-to-seem-mystical way. Like all the mushrooms (remember, they're its fruit) that spring from a mycelium. And if we're up for doing that, we need another serious sniglet to call it. So we can more easily begin to ponder it. Talk about it. Act on it. So that we can use it as a foundation for and of the human coöpera.

And so, for your consideration, I offer the word

mysoulium

to ID that hidden yet manifestly real network, a worldwide web, spiritual in nature, that connects every member of the human family. That allows us all to communicate with each other whether we know each other or not. Whether we realize we are communicating or not. That fosters cooperation among us, and between us and everything in our environment. That nurtures and supports and serves us as individuals and as a species in our efforts to survive. To be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. And to grow. To (bad-pun warning) mushroom into the caring, loving, noble, glorious beings that we all are meant, are created, to be.

You, thoughtful reader, are part of this mysoulium, and I'm the richer for it. I hope I've been making it richer for you, too.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki
P.S. You'll notice I didn't get into whether there are mysoulia, plural, other than the human mysoulium. I suppose it depends on whether one wishes to use the word "soul" informally as in "spirit" or only formally. But just as various mycelia can communicate with each other, so might various mysoulia of different stripes. I, for example, might be said to really have an indescribable connection with a feline mysoulia. And heaven knows there are certain fruit-producing flowers whose silent beauty uplifts me and speaks volumes to my soul. But none of that is substitute for (or an excuse for not) striving to be a force for good in the human mysoulium.

Wed, Dec 15, 2021 at 2:18 PM, Marianne wrote:
  How I love this word, mysoulium ! Yay, Team!
  It almost sounds as if it should be included in the Table of Elements, or deemed as one of the Physical Forces, to reflect an inherent condition of connection and attraction among the human coopera that becomes activated by exposure to the force of Love.
  Lucki responds to Marianne:
  Well, hey, tag it. Share it with family. Share it with friends. Share it with neighbors. Share it with coworkers. Share it with strangers. All over your social media. Give 'em the link. Encourage them to read the article here. Encourage them to share with and encourage others to. Maybe we can get it trending, ya never know. #mysoulium

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2021-11-15
S A V V A   A.

"It was also little teddy bear e-cards."

All of our declaration stories to date have been one person's standalone story, whether any other members of their family have been Baha'i or not. (Although you can, of course, read about Marielle Audet's journey here in relation to parts of her husband Mead Simon's journey in your copy of Twigs of a Family Tree.) But this month, we have the opportunity to feature the story of Savva Amusin, a husband whose wife gave us her story back in September. Share your side with us, Savva.

I grew up in a family where both my parents were Russian Jewish. In Russia, after the fall of the Soviet Union (during which religion was not allowed), the very interesting and complicated history of my family was that on one hand we were persecuted for our Jewish Faith and on the other hand we were not allowed to practice it.

My grandfather grew up in a Jewish shtetl (a close-knit, religiously observant, Jewish community in Eastern Europe). However, when he eventually moved to Moscow to attend university, he had to practice  his Jewish rituals and traditions in secret there. In fact, he was once caught attending a synagogue, and almost lost his job. My father and mother weren't even allowed to talk about God, and any religious thought or yearning was driven out of them in school. So their faith was like an atrophied limb; it was never allowed to develop. That resulted in this crazy contrast: my grandfather being strongly and actively religious, then practicing in secret at his own risk, followed by my parents who never practiced at all, followed by what happened to me (and my children).

Savva with daughter Eliana & wife DanikaAs you can see, Judaism in Russia was very different than in America. I'm the first one in my family who was allowed to freely explore religion. When I came to America, I was allowed to learn about religion, which was a great bounty and a great responsibility. But even though I was allowed to, I'd still grown up in Russia for seven years, and that early suppression still had some impact on me. My daughter Eliana (<=== far left) is the first one in my family in 100 years, spanning four generations, who has full religious freedom. It's blown my mind to see what happens when an individual can develop their religious self from birth.

Let me reiterate: I didn't even know about my Faith until I was 7. I found out as we were leaving Russia as refugees. We went by way of Vienna and Italy, where we spent months waiting to be accepted by one of the countries accepting refugees (Australia, Canada, Israel, the US), not knowing which one we'd go to. My father sat me down and said, "If they ask you in immigration and customs why you're leaving, you tell them it's because you're Jewish." That was the first time in my life that I heard I was "Jewish". That was a shock. Here we are leaving to go to a brand new life, and I get told I'm Jewish.

That's how I heard about my Faith; but the part that comes right after is how I learned about my Faith. During the immigration process and then when we settled in America, the Jewish community here (and worldwide) was eager to support the Jewish refugees coming from Russia. One way that eagerness and support showed itself was the extension of Jewish education to kids. Entire families were in limbo, so it's nice that education was extended to us. Even while in immigration, I went to Sabbath School. Then when we got to America, I also attended a Jewish school. It was like going from zero (by the way, you're Jewish) to 100 mph (and you're attending an Orthodox day school). I barely knew English, I didn't know Hebrew, I didn't know any Jewish customs or practices, and all of a sudden I was going to a school in an environment where I had to learn English, learn Hebrew, learn about my newfound Faith, read the Torah, pray in Hebrew multiple times a day, learn Jewish stories, and observe Jewish practices and holidays.

Remember, too, that my parents couldn't help me; they knew nothing about it. So you had this completely confused kid bouncing back and forth between Jewish Orthodox school and a newly immigrant family. I might as well have gone to a Christian or a Muslim school; it wouldn't have been any harderor easier. For example, in Russia, there was no Christmas. I'd never heard of it; it wasn't a thing. For New Year's, however, everyone put up a New Year's tree (which looked exactly like a Christmas tree). Those were some of the best memories of my life: put up the tree, decorate it, have presents under it. In America, though, when I went to Jewish school, I learned that my beloved New Year's tree was actually a Christmas tree here and a sign of being Christian; so I couldn't do it. I came home crying to my parents and told them we had to take the tree down. My parents reluctantly complied, but they were confused. They had gotten more than they bargained for by sending me to Jewish school, as I began to cross over from cultural to religious Judaism.

In the years between attending Jewish school and going to college, I experienced a big transition. You've got this small scared child in a very unfamiliar setting; and my way of surviving was compliance. But over time, I learned to own my Judaism and personal prayer, rather than just comply. Developing a personal prayer life transformed me. To share an illustrative anecdote: I was doing prayers in Hebrew because that was what I was told to do; but over time, I forgot much of the Hebrew and started replacing words, then phrases, then whole sentences in my own English. It was still prayer, though. By time I was 18 and starting college, I had even gone on pilgrimage to Israel. And it was right at this pinnacle of my ownership of my Faith that I heard about the Bahá'í Faith.

At the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in the year 2000, two weeks into the start of my freshman year, I heard about the Bahá'í Faith from my later-to-be best college friend, Nate House. It was a deeply humbling experience. If I told you the things I initially said in reply, I'd be embarrassed. At 18, I'd finally figured out my world view, I'd come to terms with my religion, I'd taken ownership of my faith, and here was a perspective that threatened all of it. Still, frustration and anger motivated me to learn more. I wanted to study more just so I could disprove it; because it was college, and you can be anybody you want to be in college. My burning desire was to have a cohesive world view, and at first the Bahá'í Faith shattered it. (Actually, in my twenty-year journey, there were several instances of complete shattering and rebuilding of my world view; and learning about the Baha'i Faith for the first time was one of them. As soon as I ever rested on my laurels, God always sent me a new test to shatter and  rebuild my world even better.)

I dove into that further study headfirst: deep involvement in Jewish life on campus, Bible study, attending a local mosque, the Bahá'í community, even exploring Hinduism. I still have on my bookshelf many of the interfaith and multifaith books I acquired in college. And boy, did I try to argue and debate religion with Nate. His response, though, was to politely urge me to study and learn on my own, in my path, instead of ignorantly debating. He encouraged and accompanied me in doing this endeavor. That's why I consider Nate my spiritual father.

That learning process about world religions took over five years,. Learning what I needed to about the Bahá'í Faith took even longer, from 2000 to 2009, although it was not a steady process and had its ups and downs. I said to myself that if all religions come from God, then I need to study them all. Over time, I saw that on the surface they seemed different, but the underlying meaning was the same. On the surface, everyone had different customs, practices, holidays, and ways of praying or going to church; but as I went past the surface, I came to see the underlying unity. And I also saw firsthand how reluctant and disinterested most people are in doing that.

After college, I went through another dark period: life (getting married and a job); fear (of letting my grandfather down, he who was now for the first time proudly going to synagogue); complacency (you know how life is: you get married, you get a job, you are in the drudgery of day-to-day life instead of the challenges and freedoms of college). Life and fear and complacency took over. My wake-up moment came through Danika. Many years before she became Baha'i, she saw me one evening (like many others) in a tired mode, after work, playing video games, not doing much of anything productive or exciting; and she confronted me. She said "What happened?" She reminded me how I used to be on fire with religion, faith, desire to learn, attending interfaith gatherings, engaged with people and communities of faith; and now I'd stopped doing all of that. That was my wake-up. I remember sitting there and realizing how I had drifted away from all of it.

This was another, second humbling moment. I don't have a victorious story where I declared my faith from a mountaintop. Instead, I was quietly rescued by God. Whenever I thought I was all that, God humbled me. This was great. It was through this process that I was lifted back up. I'm glad God chose Danika to carry that message. With her encouragement, because she reminded me of all the Bahá'ís in Chicago I could connect with, I looked up and reached out to and tried to reconnect with them. I very quickly connected with Shiva Arami.
Savva with Jeremy, Danika, & Allen
I began to study Ruhi books with her and her family; and because of that, I consider her my spiritual mother and her family, my spiritual family. I also have a spiritual brother, Allen Eghrari (far right ===>). The Aramis took me under their wing and I attended their weekly Ruhi studies; and as God would have it, Allen came to Chicago at the same time to continue his medical education. For a year or more, I was accompanied and supported on this final part of my declaration journey as Shiva and her family and Allen did those books with  me. I declared on October 29, 2009 as a culmination of two decades on this journey. And I was once again humbled, which I'm grateful for, as I had climbed back up the mountain of faith and engagement.

For much of my life, I had considered people who practiced their Faith - especially ritually - as otherworldly, mystical "gods"; so I thought when I declared, it would be as one of those mystical otherworldly people. That was my expectation because of my journey. But my actual declaration day - when the floodgates were going to open and Bahá'u'lláh was going to come down and welcome me into the Concourse - on that momentous day what actually happened was this: I prayed; and in the midst of my prayers, I felt the need to declare. I was alone, though, so I went online, filled out a declaration form and submitted it. There was no fanfare whatsoever. About a day later, Camilla Krueger welcomed me into the Faith by sending me a teddy-bear e-card. I opened it up and I don't know why, but there was this little teddy bear just floating in the sky and then landing. No robes, no trumpets. Now, I had just witnessed my father-in-law declaring his faith as a Christian of the Catholic branch, his name being recorded in the Crimson Book of the Elect and, in a grand processional with all the priests, the book being marched to the front of the church. And me, I got a teddy-bear e-card.

The message to me was clear: So you've climbed this mountain and okay "congratulations"; after twenty years you've declared as a Bahá'í. Instead of being all high and mighty, now on your first day as a Bahá'í, the real work begins. You focused for so long on what faith to be, now you have to refocus on how to be.

You know, I thought I was going to become Catholic. I was drawn in by the pomp and circumstance and rituals. In fact, a few years after college, Danika and I went to Rome, Italy and visited the Vatican. I remember seeing all the priests and deacons and all, and being enthralled by the pageantry and the outer wrappings of it. I know why that resonated, because of all the way back to Hebrew school when I saw all those "real" religious people. And I thought that's what it was. I didn't know it was also little teddy bear e-cards. Danika and I still laugh about that.

Since my declaration, I've been continuing my studies in Ruhi. I also reached out and learned about opportunities to serve. I quickly discovered that several Bahá'ís were looking to start junior youth group programs in Rogers Park, and I got involved with that as my active path of service. Too, Danika and I and Jeremy Lambshead (above, with Allen) began to host musical devotional gatherings in our home, which have now reached the ten-year mark. Plus, several years after I declared, I was elected to serve on the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Chicago, which I am still on.

But they still won't let me wear any priestly robes. :-)

That was beautiful, Savva. Thank you so much. What a joy to watch a family work together on finding their Faith even before either of them becomes Baha'i. And to realize the effect of that on their children's lives.

Dear readers, this concludes the series of a dozen stories that I committed to publish this year. I can't promise anything for sure, but I may have time next year to solicit another set of stories for publication in 2023 or thereafter. Ya never know, but maybe. Who knows: if I keep it up, there may be a future book in there, even.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Mon, Nov 15, 2021 at 11:37 PM, Nancy B. wrote:
  Wow! That was good. I enjoy reading how people declared. It was very interesting to see how Savva's faith was guided in his search. And how if the Baha'i Faith said it was all from one God, then he needed to study all religions to see if that was true or not.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B.:
  Yes, that insight resonated with me, too. That while various Faiths might have different social messages geared to people in different times/places having different levels of understanding, the spiritual message of one God and one human family is at the core of all of them, if we just have eyes to see it.
Tue, Nov 16, 2021 at 1:28 PM, Mark E. wrote:
Hi, Lucki,
  Such a beautiful story! It is good to hear from you. I have been meaning for a long time to reach out to you...and pick up the book.
Warmly,
Mark
  Lucki responds to Mark E.:
  Thank you. As for Twigs of a Family Tree, Chicago-area people can get an inscribed copy directly from me. Or they might ask at the Baha'i House of Worship Welcome Center's bookstore in Wilmette, IL. People in the Vancouver Island, BC, area might also be able to get an inscribed copy directly from Mead.
Wed, Nov 17, 2021 at 2:17 PM, Allen E. wrote:
Hi, Lucki,
  Thank you so much. Very interesting. I'd love to hear [my relative Rezvanieh's] story.
Love,
Allen
  Lucki responds to Allen E.:
  Thank you. I'm glad you had the opportunity to see how you've figured in Savva's journey...and life. His story, the longest we've gotten to date, came in at a little over 2,200 words. The story Rezvanieh wrote, because it's way longer than that, isn't suitable for publishing here. But Twigs of a Family Tree - which commences with Rezvaniehi's family-tree story, from the days of Baha'u'llah, in her own words (and also contains other stories about her) - is also available from Amazon and from the Baha'i Bookstore online.

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2021-11-06
T R A N S I T I O N

"The stresses and strains of the modern world throw up all kinds of situations
and emotions for which there is no proper word
" -- Express

When you think "there ought to be a word for that" and then you come up with one in a humorous vein, you've created a sniglet. You can find examples - from my file of favorite sniglets thunk up by friends (and me) - posted last year on July 29, August 26, and September 23.

But sometimes we need words for important things. Words that don't exist yet. So we start with long (sentence-long if we're lucky, paragraph-long if we're not, pages-long in some cases) descriptions. And then someone comes up with a shorthand term. Probably many someones come up with many shorthand terms. Some of the terms catch on. Some don't. The ones that don't, eventually fade away. The ones that do, persist. And the best of the ones that do, they eventually end up in the dictionary.

One of the Baha'i principles that resonates with me is that there is only one human race. THE human race. This is scientifically provable. All modern humans are Homo sapiens sapiens. Our DNA proves it. There have been other human races, such as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, but now their DNA in us ranges from only about 4% in East Asians and Europeans to less than 1% in sub-Saharan Africans. Now there's one human race, and we're it. All of us.

The Baha'i teachings go further. They say that we are all part of one human family. THE human family. This is also scientifically provable. Simple statistical analysis applied to genealogical backtracing shows that everyone on the planet today is at least 50th cousins. And 50th isn't all that big a number when you're talking about billions of people.

Of course, race as a cultural construct is a different matter. And families can certainly be dysfunctional. But where does people's thinking seem to be headed right now? Today? Especially in the Baha'i community? But also in the wider community?

IMO, enough of us in this culture have gotten our heads around the one-race meme to have made it a meme. In such a way as to at least give it lip service. Maybe to commit to teaching it to our children. Even to try to model it. To expect and encourage each other to model it. To encourage our children to model it better than we do. [ASIDE] Of course, those who deny this, whether overtly or covertly, have become more and more intractable. But that's a different article [/ASIDE]

We have a long way to go. But we've come a long way, too!

The Baha'i teachings also talk about family unity being the foundation of world unity. I think that's true about individual families and also about the family of humanity. But there's still a lot of dysfunction. In both types of family. So we have a long way to go in figuring out how to truly treat each other like family. Close family. Functional family. Loving family. But most of us , IMO, just aren't ready to get our heads around that one. Even if we wish for it, we not sure how to model it, never mind trying to encourage or teach someone else to.

Attributes of a Coopera

I was talking with a friend recently, and she expressed a desire for a word to get us from here to there. How can we verbally build a bridge between seeing ourselves as one human race and seeing ourselves as one human family? Is there a transitional word we can use? I couldn't think of one that exists. But I thought of one that could exist. And that word is

coöpera

as in the human coöpera. A grouping wherein enough members of the human race want, and have learned, to truly cooperate in local and regional and global projects for the benefit of all humanity, our homeworld (or maybe, eventually,the whole solar system), and everything in it. My friend liked the idea and the word, and actually even used it in a presentation she did for a City-sponsored workshop on promoting racial unity among Chicagoans of all stripes.

Book - Babel-17Book - DragonflightAnother post last year, on March 11, pointed out the reciprocal relationship between the way we think and the words we choose. If not impossible, it's extremely difficult to think about something for which we have no word. For an in-depth look at this phenomenon, check out Chip Delaney's novel Babel-17. <===

But when we have a word for something, even if it doesn't (yet) exist, we can think about it. Think, for example, "dragon". You have an image in your head now. It may not be real; but it's there. So maybe someday, someone will figure out how to bioengineer a dragon (preferably a protective Oriental one rather than a destructive European one) In the meantime, Anne McCaffrey writes the popular Pern series, starting with Dragonflight. ===> (Yeah, my copies of both books are OLD.)

From human race, a somatic fact, to human coöpera, a social construct, to human family, a spiritual relationship. Not a bad trip, For now, stop by and enjoy the rest stop in the middle there.

Happy Twin Birthdays, everybody!

Khoda hafez,
Lucki
P.S. Once you get used to the fact that the "coop" part of the word is pronounced as in cooperate, not as in chicken coop, you don't need that umlaut over the second o anymore. Just coopera.

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2021-10-15
W A L T E R   M.

"You see how that worked out."

It's a pleasure to offer another new declaration story from an old friend. Walter Mays became Baha'i just over a year before I did. Still, I never really knew his whole story before now. It's amazing how people can take such different journeys and still arrive at the same destination. Your turn to share, Walter.

I was born and spent the first either years of my life in Chicago, IL. In 1947, my family moved to the all-Black community of Robbins just south of Chicago. In 1957, I joined the United States Air Force, where I remained a member for the next 28 years. I returned to the Chicagoland area when I retired from the Air Force in 1985, In 1986, I went to work in charge of facility maintenance at O'Hare Airport,* using the skills and experience gained during my time in the Air Force.

Walter Mays talking at a conferenceI was raised as a Christian in the Protestant branch, being christened as a Methodist and then later, in my tweens, baptized as a Baptist. The thing that stands out in my mind about my childhood religious experience was that I loved Sunday School because I could ask questions. I didn't like the preaching services so much because I couldn't ask questions. The preacher often made comments that I had a question about, but I couldn't just raise my hand and ask it. I don't even remember now what those questions were about, most likely something that Jesus or the apostles said. But I couldn't ask; so I don't remember the questions but I do remember the frustration.

In my years of going to services and Sunday School, I did like to go to church on the days that the youth choir sang. I was part of the choir and enjoyed being with my friends there. I was never a good singer, but I enjoyed it anyway. After I became Bahá'í and took part in a quarter century of local and national Black Men's Gatherings (BMG), I felt the familiarity and enjoyed the camaraderie of singing with my fellow participants. It didn't matter that I couldn't sing well, because it wasn't about the performance, it was about the prayerfulness.

In 1965, I was stationed at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, IL. It was during that assignment that I was introduced to and in time became a member of the Bahá'í Faith. My first teacher was Kay Stephens, a neighbor from across the street. I should mention here that I have five sons; and it was because of one of my sons that I got to meet Kay, who was the mother of a son the same age as my youngest son. It was her son's birthday party that initiated my journey into the Bahá'í Faith. Towards the end of 1966, when her son was 3 or 4, she threw a party for him and invited my youngest son. Somehow, my middle son Michael thought he had gotten invited, too. He was around three years out of the age group, though, which is a big deal when you're that young. So I went over and asked her if my son Michael was invited, too, and she said that, no, it was another younger boy down the street who was also named Michael.

As we were talking just inside of  her front door, I noticed two books on a nearby self. One was a metaphysical book and the other was Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era. I asked her about the second book, because I was having a little trouble pronouncing the name in its title. She explained to me that she was a Bahá'í and that the book was about the Founder of the Faith, Bahá'u'lláh. I asked a couple of skeptical questions about Bahá'u'lláh because I assumed Bahá'u'lláh was of the same ilk as Father Divine and Prophet Jones, who seemed in the 40s and 50s to be conning poor people out of their money in the name of God. She didn't get insulted, though. She just gave me a pamphlet to read for more information.

It happened that, as part of a course I was taking at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, I was doing a paper on "From Death to Resurrection" of Christ; so I figured this was right up my alley. Here I am doing all this research about Christ, so I can quickly disprove this Bahá'u'lláh guy (however badly I was pronouncing the name). The pamphlet had quotations from Bahá'u'lláh and sometimes references to Christ. I was going to the stacks in the university library and looking to what was said in the Bible and by Christian writers, then looking to what was said in the pamphlet and about the Bahá'í Faith; and I was having difficulty disproving what the pamphlet said.

This went on for weeks; and I really can't remember how and when I went back to Kay and asked to borrow the New Era book. I read that and went back to her with more questions. She connected me with a nearby Bahá'í couple and with another Bahá'í named Fitzpatrick. He was a black military guy, a corpsman in a hospital, and we started having fireside conversations in Rantoul. As I got deeper and deeper into it, at some point I went from working to disprove the Faith to working to verify it, to substantiate what I was beginning to believe.

In that process, Fitzpatrick and I started going to firesides together because the others were all white. He had been going to firesides in Champaign-Urbana, IL, so he invited me to go with him. There I met Greta Bussey, whose home was the first Bahá'í Center in the Urbana area. I really began to connect with the Faith, especially because I could always ask questions and get answers. We could stop and talk about it. What most attracted me was the tenet of independent investigation of the truth; and my investigation was not only allowed, not just tolerated, it was encouraged.

Walter Mays with a group of Baha'i friendsThere wasn't some single burning spiritual question that the Faith answered for me. Rather, it was just a matter of enlightenment about many topics that I'd been questioning from childhood. In fact, the Faith gave me a better understanding of Christianity than Christianity itself did. The comparisons to Christianity validated rather than invalidated my concerns and questions. It proved rather than disproved. It was the same spiritual message as Christ's, but for this day and age. My "aha" moment was understanding the concept of Progressive Revelation. That Christ was one in a series, that made sense to me. I realized that the Manifestations come and have messages that fit their time; but that doesn't mean they don't know more, just that it isn't time to reveal it yet.

I consider Kay to be my Bahá'í mother. I declared my acceptance of Bahá'u'lláh to her in March of 1968. I did so just before I left for an assignment to Shenya Air Base on an island at the end of the Aleutian chain in Alaska. She gave me a book for my declaration - Bahá'í World Faith (which I have in my hand right now) - and inscribed it "For Walter - With warmest Bahá'í love and a special affection. - Kay Stephens, March 1968.

I've remained active in the Faith. Besides being a member of the BMG and the Community of Practice: Race in America, I served as a member of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Chicago for three decades; worked at the National Bahá'í Center in Evanston, IL (from which I retired after 13 years) and at youth conferences and workshops; held and been a guest speaker at firesides; pioneered to Adana, Turkey; and, at the behest of the Universal House of Justice to the members of the BMG, traveled with a group of African American men to Africa to provide support for Bahá'í teaching efforts in various locations.

All i can say now is that I started out 55 years ago wanting to disprove the Faith, and you see how that worked out.

* Coincidentally, this airport is named after an aviator war hero who became the Navy's first WWII "ace" and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The connection may be tenuous, but it's there.

Thank you so much, Walter. There really is more than one way to earn one's wings, isn't there?

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Sat, Oct 16, 2021 at 12:17 PM, Nancy B. wrote:
  I was excited to see Walter's story this month.
  I'm not used to seeing him so dressed up like that first picture; it's realy nice. I was also excited to see so many other friends I know in the second picture.
  In the last line, did Walter really stare out at something, or is that supposed to be started?
  Lucki responds to Nancy B.:
  I'm glad you enjoyed it.
  I believe that first photo was taken at the office of Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez (but don't quote me). Walter knows when casual is appropriate and when it isn't. I suppose I could say something dumb like "He sure do clean up pretty, don't he?"  BUT I WON'T!
  You're absolutely right. And thanks for catching it. That typo, which is now corrected, was totally my fault. In fact, Walter even caught it once and corrected me, and I still didn't get it right. *Sigh*
Mon, Nov 08, 2021 at 10:41 AM, Saba A. wrote:
Dear Lucki,
  I wanted to tell you that I have been enjoying reading the declaration stories you share on your blog site.  What a historical treasure!
With much love.
Saba

 

Lucki responds to Saba A.:
  I'm glad to hear that. Thank you, Saba. I'm considering whether I want to continue them in 2022 (or possibly work on collecting another dozen ahead of time next year to publish in 2023). Maybe someday I'll have enough to turn into a book, or at least to forward to the Afnan Library for the benefit of future researchers.

 

 

Tue, Nov 09, 2021 at 4:41 PM, Saba A. wrote:
  Love all your ideas and I am sure if you persist, the fruits will be yummy :)

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2021-10-01
N C I S L Y

"Did you see? That email to TV Guide...." -- Bri Landis

Do you remember when then-new reader Bri wanted to write a comment to TV Guide and requested my help? And what they crafted with that help? And how excited they were when it got published in "Cheers & Jeers"? At the top of the column, no less?

Well, I sorta know what that felt like. Not AS excited. But an enjoyable feeling nonetheless.

I'm not into casual fannish things. Especially not on a fluffy site like TV Guide. Either something's important enough to consider and address very carefully and at length in my own time and venue, or it's just not important enough to waste my time on at all. Usually. But for some reason, this particular irk fell in that sweet spot: important but only casually so. Or maybe enough other people with similar thoughts were thinking their way into my head a little.

Be that as it may, here's what I myself emailed to the magazine's Matt Roush on Monday, September 20th. Which got published online in the "Ask Matt" column the next day. Not, like Bri, first in the column, but a solid second. And with a meaningful response. Which also seemed to indicate, again, that they want to get a bunch of input about the same subject, and even the same take on the same subject, before they consider publishing. And then they pick the one they think is most representative, best presented, punchiest, most unusual, or something. (BTW, the blue ID's links that they inserted in my text.) I'll happily settle for that. Lemme know if you agree.

TV Guide "Ask Matt" published 09/21/21, second comment & Roush resopnse

And THANX, BRI, you inspired me.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

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2021-09-15
D A N I K A   A.

"Huh, these words are really beautiful!"

Yet another declaration story has come our way. Danika Amusin was very excited to share her story, and actually beat her husband to the punch (though we may still hear from him in future). Take it away, Danika.

I'm so grateful that my parents brought me up in the Christian church - my father taught me, as my grandmother had taught him, that your prayers should have feet. Dad has always made service to humankind a central part of his life, through sharing his musical gifts, cooking huge amounts of delicious food and welcoming everyone to the table, and caring for people emotionally. We attended church weekly, and I was in youth groups, led worship choruses and hymns from the front, completed a "read the Bible in a year" course, worked in the church office, and was generally deeply involved in church life. However, though I don't think I recognized it at the time, my faith was shallow; I loved the warm feelings of the music, and "passing the peace" coffee hour was the highlight of my week; but I didn't have a strong prayer life myself and would shy away from any serious discussion of theology.

My husband Savva and I have been together as a couple since three days before my 16th birthday; and since I hope he shares his declaration story here soon, I won't get into all the details. But pertinent to my faith journey is that Savva has had a love for the Bahá'í Faith since college and declared as a Bahá'í years before me. He would come to Christmas and Easter services at my church, and I would go to Holy Day celebrations and musical devotionals with him every now and then; and we certainly agreed that there is a God, that He loves us, and that there's more we have in common than differences in our beliefs. But we didn't really talk about faith together, especially because in college, Savva had gone through an argumentative phase where he loved to debate theology. Those conversations had not gone well, so we were in no rush to try them again.
Mother Danika Amusin & son Josiah
Fast forward to 2013. My second child, Josiah (<=== with me), was born and, unlike his sister Eliana, this one was NOT a sleeper. Caring for Josiah through his first year was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and the sleep deprivation really broke me down to a base level. I was emotionally and spiritually raw and open in a way that I hadn't been before. By this point, Savva and I were hosting regular interfaith musical prayer gatherings in our home. Our dear friend and co-host Jeremy Lambshead gave me a CD of Bahá'í music to listen to; and one day, folding laundry, I put it on. And as I was listening, I thought, "Huh, these words are really beautiful! I should read more from where they came from." This led to me diving into the ocean of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation, and the wealth of guidance and wisdom in the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. This was such a precious period of my life, awakening to the reality of the Day of God, with my heart yearning and aching for deep spiritual connection in a way it never had before. Jeremy invited me to enter into the Institute process* and explore together with some other friends how we can transform ourselves and our society. I began my first study of Reflections on the Life of the Spirit; and before we finished, I had declared my faith in Bahá'u'lláh as the Manifestation of this day and pledged to do my best to live by His Teachings.

Jeremy Lambshead & Danika Amusin, really into their musicIf I were to identify the pivotal moment that led to my declaration, it would be a conversation I had with Jeremy (===> with me, really into our music) in my kitchen. I recollect I said something to him like, "I think I may be becoming a Bahá'í." And I probably said it with a bunch of trepidation, awkwardness, and discomfort in my voice because the swirl of emotions around the idea of changing religions from what I'd been brought up with was pretty intense. Jeremy looked at me with his face actually shining with radiance and said slowly, speaking of faith in Bahá'u'lláh, "Danika, it is the BEST THING." The joy in his spirit was so palpable in the room. He also said that, while of course there is no pressure at all, the community would be so delighted to welcome me any time I wanted to join. It helped to hear that.

I don't much remember actually filling out the form on the Bahá'í website (in place of a physical declaration card). But I do so fondly remember my dear friend Mutale Hobbs bringing a cake to the Evanston children's class, which my daughter was participating in, and celebrating my declaration with the other parents there. I also remember my conversation with my dad when I called him to tell him. He said so many beautiful and accepting things about how happy he was that I had gone on this spiritual journey and found my faith, and that there are many paths to God. With a warm feeling in my heart, we hung up, and then about 10 seconds later my phone rang again; and the moment I picked up, my dad said (90% joking, 10% serious), "Hey! Wait a minute! This means we can't DRINK together anymore!" Of course, that hasn't been a barrier to our continued close relationship as father and daughter. :)

One of the biggest transformations in my life since becoming a Bahá'í has been the spiritual foundations of my and Savva's marriage. We consult together, pray together, and look to the Writings for guidance on everything: from our finances, to raising our children, to how to serve our community. This has been one of the greatest bounties.

Another huge blessing, out of the infinite blessings of God, has been a reorientation of my life towards service. While most days I fall way short, I have tasted just a bit of the sweetness that comes from detaching yourself from your own plan and desires for your day-to-day life, and instead focusing on serving others and the needs of the Cause of God. Like my dad and grandmother before me, I hope to continue putting feet to my prayers each day and living a life that is pleasing to God.

* The Institute process helps Bahá'ís strengthen their ties within the Bahá'í community and throughout the wider community, develop spiritual insights and practical skills, and offer community-building service through taking part in capacity-raising activities like devotional gatherings, children's classes, youth empowerment programs, and study circles.

Beautiful story, Danika. It always amazes me how unique each person's story is, yet how much of all those stories we share in common.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

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2021-09-06
De-Termination

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? ... Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." -- King James Bible, Matthew 7:3 & 5

I have never had an abortion. For three distinct reasons, that's moot now. But even if it weren't, I wouldn't want to. Part of the reason I wouldn't has to do with how my Faith informs me about the subject. I'm not going to quote chapter and verse, though, 'cuz using scripture to rattle your cage or justify my thinking is not the point of writing this. I'm not trying to persuade you to agree or disagree with what my Faith tells me. I'm just hoping to share a personal reaction to a particular happening.

So, here's where I'm coming from. My Scriptures tell me that the soul begins to associate with the body at the moment of conception. OK, so for a moral reason - ethics being how I live with myself, and morals being how I live with other persons (including a new little one I'd be creating and developing responsibility for) - I wouldn't want to get an abortion. That's just me, though. After all, that the particular Scripture doesn't even tell a believer what decision to make; it simply offers a piece of information to help inform their decision.

BUT my Scriptures also tell me that I don't get to decide what moral decision you should make in a like situation. If you're not Baha'i, then Baha'i laws don't apply to you anyway. Even if you are Baha'i, obedience to God's law is between you and God, not between you and me and God. In either case, I don't get to use physical or mental coercion, threats of harm, or promises of material gain (not to you and not to anyone else) to force you to obey my moral tenets. I don't get to demand my Scriptures be used as a prescription for public policy. I certainly don't get to insist that you believe and/or act as I do. Or put a bounty on your head if you don't!

State of Texas with a no/stop symbolWhat's going on in Texas and SCOTUS is a travesty ... people using partisan politics to enforce their particular (and particularly vehement) brand of religious self-righteousness. Which is anything but righteous in the true sense of the word. A brand that even a majority of their co-religionists disagree with. Weaponizing their faith. Using it as a bludgeon. Pointing it like a gun. With a vengeance (literally). Without any pity whatsoever, even, for victims of rape or incest, or concern for the life/health of mother or fetus.

[ASIDE] All while also doing everything they can to strip people of the means to avoid getting pregnant, too. Because they assume the right to police your sexual activity ... even in your own bedroom with your own spouse. [/ASIDE]

How wonderfully caring. How Christianly loving. NOT!

To my mind, they must be leaving their Voice of God, Jesus Christ, in scalding tears.

Actually I think I'll stop writing now, and talk (yes, pray) to Him about my understanding that what some of His (alleged) followers are doing is in no way His fault, and that I blame neither Him nor God for their heinousness.

Mon, Sep 06, 2021 at 11:02 PM, Nancy B. wrote:
  Wow, that's a good one. You got that right. No matter what they believe, they don't have a right to decide what other women should do with their own bodies. It's OK to teach; it's not OK to force.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B.:
  Absolutely. Coercion like that doesn't change hearts, it just makes them ache.
Tue, Sep 07, 2021 at 4:09 PM, Marianne wrote:
  This piece expresses a strong opinion in very clear terms.
  Personally, I do and would work very diligently to promote elements of my religious belief, e.g., the oneness of humanity, the elimination of racial prejudice, the equality of women and men, the promotion of universal education, etc., to be adapted into public policy. The distinction here, and which you rightly allude to, is that what has happened in Texas was passed by its lawmakers, not by a vote of its general population. Supposedly, those lawmakers are "exercising" their "right" to make laws ostensibly in the best interests of their constituency, yet doing so in a very disingenuous and hypocritical way under a very selective interpretation of religious principles.
  For [another] example, when immigration is the topic, what about the biblical injunctions to show hospitality to strangers? "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2
  Lucki responds to Marianne:
  Thank you. And yes, as Nancy B. also noted, it's about the difference between educating souls and coercing bodies. And I really appreciated your other example, about the hypocrisy of espousing animosity against certain immigrants just because they're "different".

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2021-08-13
M A R I E L L E   A.

"My father was right!"

Time for another declaration story. And it occurred to me that, while y'all can read my spiritual son Mead's declaration story in Twigs of a Family Tree, that doesn't tell you about his wife's journey. So I decided it's about time that my spiritual daughter-in-law Marielle Audet had the chance to tell her story here. Enjoy!

I grew up in Laval, Quebec, about half an hour northwest of Montreal, in a very staunch [Christian] Catholic family. In Quebec in those days (the '70s), all public schools were Catholic schools. They had just retired the old nuns who used to be the exclusive kind of teachers in those schools when I arrived. So I had lay teachers, some of them ex-nuns, but still had a catechism program.

My parents took us to church every Sunday and on holy days. I didn't like it very much. I found it stodgy and too much always the same; but I did like the music. My dad was extremely shy and antisocial, so as soon as mass was over, instead of sharing cookies and drinks in the church basement, we piled into the car and were driven home ... which was only four blocks away!

I felt a need for the support of my community as a teenager, and deplored its lack. This only occurred to me much later, when I met a man who recognized me (and that was amazing) hundreds of kilometers from where I grew-up. He said that he had wanted to know us better but we never let anyone approach us. I was very sorry; learning this moved me to tears!

Anyway, I eventually had a falling-out with the church because I was not treated fairly or with respect by the priest we had at the time. I became very angry. I think that some of that also came from my reaction to my dad who, I felt, was pushing his religion on us. His was the "blind faith" style, which didn't fit with my values one bit.

I had to accept that I just didn't understand him, though, when as a young adult rejecting religion, I heard him tell me: "I taught you the Catholic religion because it's the only one I know. If you don't like it, go find one that you do like. But you cannot live without a faith, you can't live without God!"

At the time I wasn't ready to go do that; but I never forgot his words. They surprised me so deeply. Later, I became even more aware of my father's words when I found myself searching. I looked into Buddhism, yogic philosophy, and New-Age stuff; but nothing truly engaged me. I was curious, but only on the surface.

I finally stumbled upon the Bahá'í Faith in 1997. I was at the time living in a very unhealthy relationship. I was also writing music, singing and leading a Celtic-rock band. I had been asked to play at the Coffee-House of the Bahá'í Center in Winnipeg. That engagement was very interesting and I met with many friendly people. I was given a tour of the place, which gave me a little idea about the Faith. I'd had earlier encounters with Bahá'ís but had never had the opportunity to investigate it before. So I started going to the Sunday Unity Gathering several times.

And the dreams started.

I have always had dreams that prepared me for new chapters of my life. In these dreams, I am going to a meeting with people of different colors, dressed in so many varied cultural attires, representing ethnicities and religions from all around the world. Now, these dreams started screaming at me. I couldn't understand why.

I was visiting the Bahá'í Center and reading a lot. One day at the Center, an old lady asked me if I had a boyfriend and if I cohabited with him. I said yes. She immediately proceeded to tell me that, if I become a member of the Bahá'í Faith, I would have to leave this relationship; otherwise, I would be "kicked out".

My eyebrows raised at that. I turned and quickly walked toward the door. On my way I came across a man I recognized from past meetings. He was, I learned later, a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly. An intuition came, telling me that I should confirm what the lady said with him. He was quick to refute what she had said, explaining to me the law of marriage and that more support and education would be provided by the Institutions; but I would never be "kicked out" for that. I was satisfied with the answer and decided to go back in. It was my first test.

After a couple of meetings, I received an invitation card to an event at someone's home, called a fireside.

Marielle Audet with Nazrine MoslehiOn the appointed day, before I woke up, I had this very peculiar dream. I saw a lady, beautiful and radiant, with the sun behind her head and the wind gently moving her hair. I didn't know this lady. I had never seen her before. Still, there was nothing else but this vision ... for a good fifteen minutes. Then I woke up. I got up, quickly forgot about the dream, and went through my day.

In early evening, I made my way to that address on the invitation card. After I rang the doorbell, a lady opened the door to let me in; and my jaw hit the floor. She was exactly the same person I saw that morning in my dream.

I don't know what the fireside talk was about. I just couldn't pay attention to it. I kept looking at the lady and was filled with amazement. But I tried to not be too obvious that I was looking at her so much. At the end of the talk, people stood up and mingled to chat and snack. I went to her directly and, after introducing myself, apologized for looking at her; but I explained to her my dream. She introduced herself as Nasrine Moslehi (<=== right, with me), and she replied not to worry because she also couldn't stop looking at me. She said she would hear "brilliant star" each time she looked. So she invited me to dinner the following day.

After that dinner, we had many more meetings. She listened to all my questions, doubts, and reflections. She offered very wise encouragements and explanations, and I loved our interactions. But the day I discovered that service in the Universal House of Justice was only open to men, it was a huge blow to my fledgling faith. She's told me she will never forget that day. I showed up on her doorstep, with my boyfriend, and demanded an explanation. I felt betrayed and duped but mostly disappointed. I had so much hope for this new-found faith and it hurt to have to admit that it was just another hypocrisy.

She's told me that inside she was terrified and ardently prayed for a peaceful resolution. But as I remember it, she seemed gentle and calm. She listened until both my boyfriend and I had finished venting. Then she started answering as honestly and sincerely as she could. "I don't know," she said. "This is one of the Faith's great mysteries. Άbdu'l-Bahá says that 'There is divine wisdom in this which will presently be made manifest even as the mid-day sun.' "

Anyway, happy to not have to throw away a perfectly good baby with the bath water, I made my own supposition for this teaching* and resolved to stay within the embrace of the Faith and move on in my spiritual growth. Nasrine knows the date I declared my Faith in Bahá'u'lláh; it happened in her living room. I knew in my heart and just came to her to announce it, on a fall day of 1997.** I nearly lost my lunch from her intense hug! She suggested to call everyone I knew to let them know, which I did with her help that very moment.
Marielle Audet with husband Mead Simon & son Shoghi
That is what I have done, kept my resolve. I enjoy giving service to the Faith and to my family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers (I'm a musician in the Royal Canadian Navy).

And giving service also led me to meeting Mead Simon (left ===>) in the Winnipeg Bahá'í community, marrying him,* and eventually moving our home to Vancouver Island, where we are raising our son, Shoghi. (right ===>)

I have a lifelong commitment to my Faith, my family, my indigenous community, the planet and all its people, and to God. My father was right! I cannot live without a faith, I found a faith that I like, and I don't ever have to or want to live without God!

* When Mead and I married, Nasrine and Mead's spiritual mother Lucki were both in our wedding party. When I told Lucki the part about what Nasrine had said to me regarding the Universal House of Justice, Lucki smiled. She said she too had questioned it, had decided to accept it anyway, then thought of and heard others mention a couple of possible reasons why it might be best now. And she said she figured that if she could see at least one good reason why, she assumed God could see a hundred.

** Regarding my declaration date, please understand that different cultures view things differently. To judge one culture by another's priorities is inappropriate. It's not that the event was not important; it's that the date is irrelevant. Dates have never been important enough for me, but it was the year and the season that was important enough. Call it a cultural difference in how I rate my priorities. It's always been an annoyance of mine that people would be judgmental of my sincerity because I don't put importance on dates. I live my Faith in the now and that is more important to me. I'm putting this in the narrative of my declaration story, to de-colonize the process of storytelling. Thank you for allowing me to express this old issue of mine.

Thank you, Marielle. I appreciate the time you took from your now-even-busier schedule (congratulations being in order, there) to write this. It obviously can't make up for my having to cancel my trip to see you guys (when the pandemic closed the border), but it's a joy to be able to offer to my readers this declaration story of a First Nations Canadian. Still, I hope to visit you, Mead, and Shoghi again one of these days, God willing and the crick don't rise.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Fri, Aug 13, 2021 at 11:33 PM, Nancy B. wrote:
  Oh gosh, that lady that told Marielle she could get kicked out. That couldn't happen. What was she thinking?
  It's amazing, about the dream. Seeing her spiritual mother so clearly, and then Nasrine hearing those words when she looked at Marielle.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B.:
  I concur on both points.
  I don't know if the lady actually thought that was true, or if she just said it badly. But it's a blessing that Marielle encountered, and was willing to ask, the Assembly member on her way out.
  And of all the things that Nasrine could've heard, to hear that phrase from that children's prayer was amazing, presaging that Marielle would become her spiritual daughter:
  
O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.  - `Abdu'l-Bahá
Wed, Sep 01, 2021 at 5:10 PM, Kim B. wrote:
Hi,
  I had a bit of time and looked through everything.
  LOVED the declaration story - and LOVED the photo of Mead (I finally see his face!) and Marielle and Shoghi - what a beautiful family. And really loved what her father said and how that all played out.
  Customer service????  I would worry about inputting the SSN to a bank number even on the back of the card.  That sounds so hacked. But congrats on staying free of cell phones!
  Adding insult - "politico posturing while people perish" reminds me very much of a political cartoon in the Greenville NC newspaper when I was a college student - it was of poppy fields on the left (id'd "Turkey") and emaciated people with their hands out on the right. The caption was "They grow opium while people are starving." The hypocrisy of running that in the heart of tobacco country really got to me.
  I looked at that Hall of Claims site - what a hoot.  And yeah, I love JK and yeah, that sounds like a serious script misstep.
  Malcolm Gladwell did a chapter in one of his books (maybe Blink or Outliers) on ketchup. There's a lot of good reasons that the top two ketchup brands are the top two. But - yeah, the ad sounds stupid.
  Reading Mya's bit every month because I find her so likeable. Sorry about that with the design .... but really feel sorry for me as a reader because I wanted to see a photo of her design and of the one they went with so that I could see what she was talking about - and see if I agree.
  Life is challenging here. Your stuff makes me smile and takes me on a mini-vacation. Thanks!
Love,
Kim
  Lucki responds to Kim B.:
Hi yourself, faithful reader,
  Glad you had time for it all. Kim.
  Yes, I hadn't really heard Marielle's declaration story quite like that. Her perspective was interesting.
  I had a cell phone account once. Rey got it for me. Drove me crazy … hated having so many people think they had a right to my IMMEDIATE response to their calls. I finally dumped it. The convenience in an occasional emergency wasn't worth the 24/7 hassle.
  Yeah. If you remember, I opted for the Moderna vaccine, even though I had to wait for months, partly because of their being the only company of the three that was never complicit in the opioid epidemic (which, of course, is still raging, too). And of course, quitting smoking, like, 40 years ago was one of the best things I and God ever did for myself.
  As far as I can tell, they're going to keep adding stuff to that Hall of Claims site. Worth checking back every year or so.
  Doesn't it, though. What was Dad thinking?!
  You will. She has it all planned out to crescendo over the next 3 months. Stick with it and you'll get that chance to agree (or not).
  Smiles and mini-vacays do help with challenges, don't they? That and provoking thought means we're doing our bloggy jobs.
So stay safe and smiling,
Lucki

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2021-08-01
Whereditgo?

"I always say we're chasing perfection in an imperfect game." -- Nick Nurse

Last month, I was targeted by a vishing scheme. For obvious reasons, I didn't answer it or do what it said. Instead, I decided to contact my credit card company to confirm that I did not, in fact, have some unrecognized big charge on my card.

The best-laid plans....

I started by using the phone number on the back of the card. When asked, I entered my card number. It wasn't recognized. I tried repeatedly. Sometimes the card number still wasn't recognized. Other times, the card number was accepted but then it asked for my SS# and that was unrecognized. No matter what I did, I couldn't get past that. And I never could figure out how to get to a live human for more help. (Poor user-experience design, that.)

I eventually gave up and tried the company's website, and ran into exactly the same issue. My card wasn't recognized. Still no way to get to a live human for help. Instead, the site kept telling me to call Customer Service by a different number than the one on the card. The results were exactly the same, though, as it didn't see me as a customer. I wasted more than an hour.

Credit card in woman's handI finally phoned my local bank branch. They tried to access my information, but were also unable, saying the information didn't exist and was I sure my account existed. I replied that I'd had it since the '80s, I'd activated my most recent card, and it doesn't expire until '23. They suggested I come to the branch with my card and a picture ID.

The next week, I did so. I told them (the teller, and the "expert" he called over to help) everything I had done and that when I called the branch, I was told to come in person.

Well, apparently assuming I was too stupid to have actually done what I said I did, they tried repeatedly to do the same thing. And got the same results. I asked if it was possible the bank had gotten hacked and lost some customer info, and they acted like I'd just insulted their mother. They asked was I sure I didn't cancel the card? I was.

Oh, well, then the expert happily thought of the solution. He suggested I use my mobile app. I told him that I didn't have a mobile app because I didn't have a mobile phone. After trying some more, they again suggested I try calling Customer Service on my cell phone while they were standing there to help me navigate. I replied once again that I didn't have a cell. And then I wondered what kind of people this big bank is hiring. Because - would you believe it? - the expert asked me...

"You don't have a cell? Then how did you call us?"

Khoda hafez,
Lucki
P.S. And what finally happened? After I said "On my landline" and didn't add "you idiot"? Well, finally the expert grudgingly took me over to one of their desk phones and called, it looked like, one of the same Customer Service numbers. [SNARK: "He didn't use a cell? Then how did he call them?"] And that's when I found out for the first time that to get to a human, I had to read the programmers' minds and wait silently and motionlessly through more than one series of repeated automated demands before the system finally deigned to connect me to a human being. The man left me there when a lady answered. Who still couldn't find my account info. Was I sure it was a credit, not a debit, card? I was. After all, I've had the card for decades, but no cash accounts there. She suggested my only recourse was to write to the address she gave me. Which I did. "Suggesting" they track down my account now and also asking them to let me know as soon as they got my letter. Haven't heard back from them yet. Not about the account. Not even a "Got your letter." Customer Service my butt!

Fri, Sep 03, 2021 at 4:18 PM, David N. wrote:
  1. Not sure my 20 year old kids know what a land line even is.
  2. It took me a few minutes to figure out what OTOH stood for but I did it without using google.
Enjoy the weekend.
David

 

Lucki responds to David N.:
  I see that, as a new visitor to our site, you're going back to some old blog entries. You've got up to 10 years in some of them. Enjoy!
  2. Got it from context, huh? Good for you; that's using the ol' noggin. I'm not up on the latest text-speak either, but that's a golden oldie.
  1. Many years ago, when touch-tone was newly established, a neighbor split off a line to his basement workshop & used one of his old rotary-dial phones down there. One day some years later, while working on something, he asked his son, then about eight or ten, to dial his Grandma's number for a quick consult . The boy walked over to the phone, stared at it for several long seconds, and than asked, "How do I do that? There's no buttons?" Funny how we kept the word "dial" for so long even after the dials went away. In fact, we still use "dial up" to describe the old, slow way to access the Net.

 

 

Wed, Sep 08, 2021 at 10:53 AM, David N. wrote:
Haha, yup!
Be well :)
David

      Lucki responds to David N:
  Thanx, Doc. You too.
Wed, Sep 01, 2021 at 5:10 PM, Kim B. wrote:
Hi,
  I had a bit of time and looked through everything.
  LOVED the declaration story - and LOVED the photo of Mead (I finally see his face!) and Marielle and Shoghi - what a beautiful family. And really loved what her father said and how that all played out.
  Customer service????  I would worry about inputting the SSN to a bank number even on the back of the card.  That sounds so hacked. But congrats on staying free of cell phones!
  Adding insult - "politico posturing while people perish" reminds me very much of a political cartoon in the Greenville NC newspaper when I was a college student - it was of poppy fields on the left (id'd "Turkey") and emaciated people with their hands out on the right. The caption was "They grow opium while people are starving." The hypocrisy of running that in the heart of tobacco country really got to me.
  I looked at that Hall of Claims site - what a hoot.  And yeah, I love JK and yeah, that sounds like a serious script misstep.
  Malcolm Gladwell did a chapter in one of his books (maybe Blink or Outliers) on ketchup. There's a lot of good reasons that the top two ketchup brands are the top two. But - yeah, the ad sounds stupid.
  Reading Mya's bit every month because I find her so likeable. Sorry about that with the design .... but really feel sorry for me as a reader because I wanted to see a photo of her design and of the one they went with so that I could see what she was talking about - and see if I agree.
  Life is challenging here. Your stuff makes me smile and takes me on a mini-vacation. Thanks!
Love,
Kim
  Lucki responds to Kim B.:
Hi yourself, faithful reader,
  Glad you had time for it all. Kim.
  Yes, I hadn't really heard Marielle's declaration story quite like that. Her perspective was interesting.
  I had a cell phone account once. Rey got it for me. Drove me crazy … hated having so many people think they had a right to my IMMEDIATE response to their calls. I finally dumped it. The convenience in an occasional emergency wasn't worth the 24/7 hassle.
  Yeah. If you remember, I opted for the Moderna vaccine, even though I had to wait for months, partly because of their being the only company of the three that was never complicit in the opioid epidemic (which, of course, is still raging, too). And of course, quitting smoking, like, 40 years ago was one of the best things I and God ever did for myself.
  As far as I can tell, they're going to keep adding stuff to that Hall of Claims site. Worth checking back every year or so.
  Doesn't it, though. What was Dad thinking?!
  You will. She has it all planned out to crescendo over the next 3 months. Stick with it and you'll get that chance to agree (or not).
  Smiles and mini-vacays do help with challenges, don't they? That and provoking thought means we're doing our bloggy jobs.
So stay safe and smiling,
Lucki

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2021-07-12
V A L E R I E   S.

"Whatever these people have, I want to be a part of it."

And here we go with another declaration story. I went all the way back to the state I was born in to find this month's guest blogger. Although granted, she used to live within walking distance of me here in Chicago. Anyway, meet long-time friend Valerie Smith. The floor is now yours, Valerie.

I was born in Evanston, IL, the collar suburb on Chicago's north border. (Evanston is also the city where the U.S. National Bahá'í Center is located, which feels like a full-circle kind of thing.) Except for four years spent in Atikokan, Ontario, Canada when my father was transferred there while working in the steel industry, I spent my whole childhood in Chicago's northern suburbs. I was baptized in the Episcopal Church, a denomination of the Protestant branch of Christianity, and attended it as a child. I recall going to Sunday school, and especially remember drawing pictures of Jesus.

I don't remember much beyond that. My parents stopped going to church at some point; and therefore, of course, so did I. After that, religion didn't have much impact. Maybe God was sort of there (or maybe not), but certainly not involved in everyday life. I do remember going to the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette one time with my dad, when I was in grade school and we lived on Linden exactly a mile west of the Temple, but we were just visiting it in a touristy way.

I attended New Trier High School from 1966 to 1970. In high school I dated Dan Tinen, who was a Bahá'í, but we never talked about his religion. Later, when I chided him, asking why didn't he tell me about the Bahá'í Faith, he answered, "You weren't ready yet." I suspect he was right.
Valerie Smith
So when did I learn about the Faith, and what motivated me to learn more? Well, I started going to Gates House, which was a youth drop-in center in Wilmette at that time. That's where I ran into another Bahá'í named Mark Somers, and I started hanging out with him. I guess I was a little readier by then, so he took me to musical firesides and potlucks. Still, since I considered myself an atheist (or maybe agnostic) at that time, I was mainly in it for the food and the company and the music. This was the era of "Godspell" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" and the early Bahá'í musical scene. That's when I happily discovered Red Grammer and the late Donna and Warren Kime.

I consider Mark, his friend David Bragman, and Roberta Barrar the ones who brought me into the Faith. I met Roberta at the House of Worship when, if I remember correctly, she was working there. She gave me my very first prayer book, which I thought was a novel gift for an atheist. I know that I kept going to events and having discussions. You know: "What about this?" "What about that?"

Understand, I had nothing against Bahá'u'lláh, or Jesus, or anyone – it was just "The Big Guy"[God] I had trouble with – but I mostly remember feeling very welcomed by the Bahá'ís. That meant more to me than their scriptures did. It was only later, after I declared, that I began to really double down on the tenets of the Faith, on learning about them. I remember having a discussion with a coworker about relationships and marriage. She was talking about dating someone and thinking about marriage, and I commented about "investigating character"* and later, thinking back about what I'd said, I was like, "Wow, where did that come from?!"

I do remember checking out all the Bahá'í books I could find in the library. I don't think I really tested the validity of the Faith. I just knew something fit, and I said, "Whatever these people have, I want to be a part of it." And then, one day, I had an "aha" moment.

One night, Mark and I were hanging out in David's rec room, they were talking together, and something just clicked inside of me. I asked Mark to get my raincoat (in the pocket of which was a declaration card someone had given me). Mark wondered why I didn't go get my raincoat myself, but I didn't want to break the moment. So he got my coat and I took out the card. I read it very carefully, and then I signed it there on May 3, 1972. Roberta was immediately one of the first people we called to share my declaration with. We called a bunch of other people, too.

In the aftermath of my declaration, I went home to bed and went "Oh my God, I just joined a religion." Then I thought, "Well, if I change my mind, I can just tear up the card in the morning." But I never did. I used it to register with the local and national community. Understand, I've had some challenging moments and some doubting moments. But every time I was uncertain about things or had a question, something always seemed to serve to draw me back in. There was even one point, when I was having a major challenge, that I tried to divest myself of everything Bahá'í for a while. It's amazing, though, how empty my apartment got and my life. I finally went to the Spiritual Assembly, as a child would to its parents, and they kindly referred me to a couple who helped me through that crisis.
Valerie Smith with her mother
I ended up living in Chicago for 23 years. There were so many opportunities to be involved in the Chicago Bahá'í Community; for example, I remember hosting one or two sector Feasts. Since I lived only about a 20-minute drive from the House of Worship, I was able to be of service there, too. I joined the choir, volunteered in the office, guided visitors, did Garden Teaching on weekends from 10 PM to midnight I did just about everything at the House of Worship but sleep overnight. I even joined the Choral Fest from its inception in 2007 through 2016. During Thanksgiving week of 2007, I moved from Chicago to care for my mother (<<--) in Connecticut, and have made it a point to take part in interfaith events since then.

Whatever these people had, I wanted to be a part of it and I still do.

* This common phrase in Bahá'í culture derives from a quotation by Άbdu'l-Bahá: "Baha'i marriage is the commitment of the two parties one to the other, and their mutual attachment of mind and heart. Each must, however, exercise the utmost care to become thoroughly acquainted with the character of the other, that the binding covenant between them may be a tie that will endure forever." Here is one Bahá'í's rumination on the concept, inspired by a romance graphic novel.

Thank you, Valerie. It was great to visit with you again, if only at a distance. But if I hit New York or New England again in future, which is always a possibility, I'll definitely plan to see you in person.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Sat, Aug 14, 2021 at 9:20 AM, Bri wrote:
  Is that your mom in the bottom picture? You don't say.
  Lucki responds to Bri:
  That was my fault, Bri. I know that people's names and pix are important to you. Guests bloggers don't necessarily know which of the pix they sent me I'll end up using. When it's my choice, it's also my responsibility to make sure I put in the descriptive arrows; and I just plain missed that here. I've added it now. My apologies to Valerie, her mom, and you.

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2021-07-01
C Y C L E

"Feelings are much like waves, we can't stop them from coming
but we can choose which one to surf." -- Jonatan Martensson

Had an odd experience last month. Took me a while to process. 'Cuz of the mixed feelings. Sad and happy emotions.  Surprise stressors. Negative and positive. And I had to decide where to land. Which one to surf. Or whether I could surf both and still reach the beach. Safely. Sanely.

I was sitting at my desk. Because it was a hot sunny morning, I had the blinds closed on the east-facing window. So I didn't see what happened to cause the sudden resounding thump against it.

Needless to say, it startled me. The last time I'd heard something hit that window like that was when the idiot substitute supervisor of our roofers had the crew winching equipment up to the roof without a guide rope to keep it from swaying. Fortunately, it only broke the outer pane and didn't swing all the way through into the office where I was sitting, so I didn't get shattered glass in my eyes or a ton of tar kettle slamming into my computer and skull. And yeah, they darn well paid to fix the frame and replace the glass. I also had some satisfaction as I roundly berated the jerk for not using a guide rope, and countering his argument that they didn't have time to find or wait to get a rope now by asking him if they were, for the sake of speed, going to do equally shoddy work on the roof itself. The satisfaction - while the dismissive ('cuz what do women know about construction, right?) dingbat wasted his time trying to argue and justify - the satisfaction of seeing the crew foreman pointedly ignore the supervisor and instead quietly muster his crew to find a 50' rope in one of the trucks, redo the winch procedure properly, and continue the job without "supervision".

I've written before about the mourning doves that visit my bird feeder. Even provided a few pix at the bottom of one of Tom Ligon's guest articles. Some of the doves spend the winter here. Others just show up during the warmer weather. Lately, though, I've seen one of the feeder-frequenting doves also occasionally sunning on that east window. A hen (female) I think, from the slender size and short tail. Or a juvenile. I'm not really qualified to tell.

Anyway - despite the greater probability that something had been intentionally or accidentally thrown against the window by a person, or a vehicle tire, or the wind - memory of that neighborly dove made my mind scurry to the thought that some poor bird had been confused by, say, cloud or tree reflections, flown into my window, and knocked itself silly. So I opened the blinds and looked down on the ground to see if whatever-it-was was okay. There wasn't anything on the sidewalk. But there was something on the parkway grass. The something was (in all likelihood) that dove that sunned on the window.

But it wasn't alone. And it wasn't okay.

The dove was pretty much motionless. Caught in the talons of a peregrine falcon. A tercel (male) or a juvenile, I figured, based on the raptor's small size; again, I'm not really qualified to tell. The first peregrine I've ever seen in person. I was surprised that this peregrine was so far north of the Loop, but maybe more members of the species have been attracted northward by all the highrise buildings going up in Evanston. I was sure, though, that it was too fully fledged and accomplished to be one of the chicks from the Evanston Library's mid-May hatchlings.

This time, after watching for a while, I did try to reach for my camera. No luck. Once the peregrine was sure the dove was no longer moving, it took off, prey in paw (so to speak). Perhaps to partake of a plump solo lunch. Or maybe to serve sustenance to its offspring. Either way, the winner in this particular arc of the circle of life.

Thinking back, I'm surprised that the peregrine didn't actually do any damage to my window. It could've been perched on the highrise across the street, which wouldn't have given it time to reach full speed in its dive. Or it could've spotted the dove from the one small aerial window between the highrise, my building, and the tall trees to the east, and had to weave into position at the last minute. Or it actually did hit its prey at its full 200-mph stoop speed, and the flexibility of the dove's body amazingly cushioned the collision. In which final case, the time the peregrine stayed on the parkway may have been less about the prey moving and more about the predator being a bit stunned itself.
Peregrine falcon, wings tucked back, stooping at top speed
BTW, did you know that, when stooping (===>>>), the peregrine falcon is not only the fastest bird in the air, it's the fastest animal on the whole planet, period?

I never, in the week that followed, saw that slender dove I was familiar with, either on the east windowsill or at the feeder. So I'm sure that was the one captured. I miss it. I was glad of two things, though: That it wasn't caught at the feeder itself. And more importantly, that I'd had the opportunity to see a peregrine. I decided to spend less energy mourning the mourning dove and more time being awed by that circle-of-life raptor. Bon appetit.

And in one of those seemingly rare occasions when nature - like Sour Patch Kids - starts off biting and then gets gentle - exactly one week after the peregrine attack, not one, not two, but three - count 'em, THREE - mourning doves landed on my feeder simultaneously. And chowed down. And never saw hide nor hair nor feather of attacking predator.

Well, except for curious Angel. But she was on the opposite side of the window from them. One of them, the largest male with long, unmolted, breeding tail feathers, was so used to her that he didn't even leave the feeder. But he did keep a close eye on her. The other two winged away, more wary. But when she left, they came back. I wondered if they were the male's offspring. Possibly even also offspring of the captured one. But their being fully fledged before it was killed, they were able to survive with one parent and were almost ready to declare their independence.

When the circle of life operates naturally, things even out. We're better off when we remember that. Or at least less self-stressed in the long run

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Fri, Jul 02, 2021 at 8:57 PM, Kim B. wrote:
  Poor falcon. (Geeez Louise on the earlier shattering!!!!)
  Lucki responds to Kim B.:
  Ya know, you  may be right about not just poor mourning dove but also poor falcon. 'Cuz, as I noted, maybe it was sitting there on the parkway not just waiting for the dove to stop moving but also, or instead, because it was stunned itself and trying to recover. In which case, it too deserves your sympathy. (And yeah, sheesh is right!)

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2021-06-11
M I L T O N   L.

"This seemed very practical."

It's time, of course, for another declaration story. And I figured it was about time you heard a story from someone you're already acquainted with from Abiding Blog articles of yore: Milton Lucy, the friend who drove me to North Carolina and back so I could visit my spiritual mother (for the final time). And who was also the last person to drive me anywhere (it was to an event at the House of Worship, followed by Chinese food) just before the pandemic lockdown happened. You also met him in the May 2018 Aphorisms & Memes "Reflections" poster. So, the floor is yours, Milton.

My religious background from childhood, in Chicago's West Woodlawn neighborhood, consisted not of any faith but only of cultural things:

   = Decorated eggs and Easter baskets. Chocolate bunny ... Yum!
   = Santa Claus at Christmas. New toy ... Yeah!
   = Popular movies like Ben Hur, Noah's Ark, Exodus. I admit to falling asleep on the movies.
   = Recitation of "Our Father" at Boy Scout meetings. But I didn't know the words, or even what it was about, because I had never been exposed to it. I didn't find out it was a Christian scriptural prayer called "The Lord's Prayer" until later.

In fact, my only childhood exposure to any house of worship was one time when a friend took me to a Holy Cross church in Woodlawn, just because he wanted to show it to me. But when we went in, it wasn't during a service, and no one else was there.

As I entered adulthood, religion got a little more serious. By that, I mean I got curious about it. My first mother-in-law was a Jehovah's Witness and had some interesting books that I read. She also took me to a congregational meeting, which I couldn't make heads or tails about, except that it was obviously a big event with a lot of enthusiastic people. But nothing came of it, and she never took me to her church meetings or out witnessing.

I went into the Air Force at age 20. During my time in the service, me and a buddy went to a church once. But they passed the basket around so many times that we decided not to go back, as we had little money.

After I got back from the service, during the 3-month unemployment hiatus that returning servicemen received, I worked part-time with my sister in a black publishing house, which published the writings of black people. As a result, I was exposed to and developed a vague interest in the Black Muslims (Nation of Islam). So I investigated. The newspaper Muhammad Speaks was everywhere, but it didn't really make sense to me. Still, they were always advertising the book Message to the Blackman in America by Elijah Muhammad, so I read it. But it didn't make sense to me either. I mean, his idea about white people. I could understand why he felt that way. But the underlying story of Wallace Fard, the myth of the eugenic creation of white people, and their being the Devil, that all just seemed too far out there. I didn't realize at the time that those teachings were very different from Shí'a and Sunni Islam.

After the hiatus, I went to work at the US Postal Service as a Mail Handler in that huge Old Main Post Office that the Congress Expressway goes through. It was there that I met William (Bill) Wilson, a Bahá'í (not to be confused with the Bill Wilson who cofounded Alcoholics Anonymous). Loading and unloading the big trailers entailed little need for thinking; so if the sacks and boxes weren't too heavy or numerous, we often spent the time talking,

By that time, having been exposed to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,* albeit not in depth, I had developed a decent respect for God. It made sense that there was one. I also had a vague understanding of a continuum of Prophets and Messengers of God, at least as depicted in those books and movies. But I was surprised when Bill told me about another Messenger of God that I had never heard about: Bahá'u'lláh. I was intrigued!

Bill began giving me books to read about this Faith, starting with Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. It was amazing! The Writings of Bahá'u'lláh were just magnificent. Most important to me, they tied all the other religions together into one continuous religion that God constantly updates over time. This seemed very practical. Why have different religions with different gods, when one God would suffice and the religions were on a continuum? It simply made sense to me.

So, in March of 1976, one day when Bill and I went to the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, that's where I declared to Bill and became a Bahá'í. Still, because we both worked nights and couldn't get to many things, it was many years until I got really involved in the community, though I did serve as Feast chairman for the South Side at one point. Then I started hanging out with Eric Bruns and Derrick Polk and Lucki Wilder and Harold Williams, doing devotionals at the Chicago Bahá'í Center in quarters like the Fine Arts Building and the Monadnock.

Basically, I dipped my toes into the Bahá'í waters; but then I backed off again for a while because of working nights and also going to school. It was sort of in and out and in and out. But after I retired, I was lovingly encouraged and got reinvolved in the community on a much deeper level, which continues to this day.

I not only take part in activities in Chicago, my jazz band has even played a special Bahá'í event. And since I love biking (<<--) and backpacking and road-tripping, I sometimes look up Bahá'ís in places I go, like Norman, Oklahoma and High Point, North Carolina. Of course, I also met a lot of Bahá'ís from all over the world when I visited Haifa, Israel (-->>), which is where Bahá'ís go on pilgrimage.

And this Faith still seems very practical and simply makes sense to me.

*
These are  three of the four Abrahamic Faiths (the Baha'i Faith being the fourth), making it easier to reccognize their interconnectedness.

Thanx, Milton. I've enjoyed our journeys together, as well as watching your journey in the Faith.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Fri, Jun 11, 2021 at 11:17 PM, Nancy B. wrote:
  I was looking forward to this story. I really enjoyed it. I didn't know most of it. Live and learn.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B.:
  I know you were. I'm glad you did. I didn't know some of it either. And no matter how long we've been friends with someone, it's obvious there's always more to learn.
Fri, Jul 02, 2021 at 8:57 PM, Kim B. wrote:
  Have close to zero time - but hopped in to take a look.   Man, I just LOVE Milt's story!
Yours in haste.
Kim
  Lucki responds to Kim B.:
   Yes, this one was so very Milton. There's just something special about declaration stories, isn't there? So personal, so unique.

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2021-06-01
M O D E R N A T Y

"Sometimes It's Not [all] about the Science" – Scott A. Mandia

It took me a while to get all the pieces (assuming I actually have), but it's one of the most intricate, multiplex puns I ever met. (And I've seen some doozies.) And I dote on wordplay. Which English, with all its nuances, is so fantastic at. So kudos to whatever team thought up this company name.

Moderna company logo

You've been seeing that logo a lot lately. Developers of the second vaccine approved in the U.S. for preventing massive COVID-19 infections.

President Joe Biden meets Dr. Kizzy Corbett at her lab[ASIDE] You've also been seeing a young, dynamic, leading NIH developer a lot lately. Dr. Kizzy Corbett. Boy howdy, as soon as I heard that name of hers, I naturally flashed on Roots. Socially good reason to favor the vaccine, that: her involvement and outreach. And actually, the scientific/medical pros and cons of all three U.S. vaccines seem to sort of even out. Plus, the real good reason to favor Moderna (which is what my family and I got) is preferring to have all that rescue-package/drug-insurance money going to (of the three) the one company that was NEVER complicit in the opioid epidemic. But that's just my personal ethic speaking. I'm confident that you have your own good reasons for whichever vaccination you've chosen. And that in fact you have gotten it. Or soon will. [/ASIDE]

But in the interest of making my list of the brilliant wordplay a little more visually obvious, I'm going to use my own variation of that logo.

My variation on the Moderna company logo, in order to tease out the components of the pun

These are the components I see, listed in alphabetic order (though that's not the order I recognized them in). Whoever came up with the name likely had the first four in mind. The fifth is just my little twist, given that I'm a writer. Remember, however, that I'm not a trained medical researcher or practitioner of any ilk, and may misunderstand or poorly describe the first four:

moderna
Moderna vaccine manufacture uses a fast, cutting-edge manufacturing modification instead of the traditional viral-vector type.

moderna
Moderna's mode of training the immune system is not exposure to a virus but instructions for producing a trigger-protein flood (see explanation in layman's terms; you don't have to hit Accept to scroll down).

moderna
Moderna's approach to vaccine development is certainly modern, revels in that fact, and promises to stay on the cutting edge.

moderna
Best pun at the party, Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA, or mRNA, tech (RNA being the carrier of protein-creation instructions in all living cells).

moderna
So much complex info is so densely packed into one word that, for all its being so sciency, it feels like a poetic ode on med-tech.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki
P.S. If you felt/feel sickish behind your vaccination, don't complain about it. Brag about it. It may mean you have an immune system that, rather than being lazy and path-of-least-resistancey, fired up like blazin' gangbusters. Good for you.

Sun, Jun 06, 2021 at 9:44 PM, Kim B wrote:
Hi Lucki,
  Finally had time to give your blog[s] a look this month.  So much stuff.
  LOVED the declaration story from your spiritual daughter - the hungry one.
  Was interested in the Moderna pun, but didn't get your title.  ("Modernaty" - what??)
  Was suitably saddened, grossed-out and all by the recycle rant - I feel the same way, but can live lower on the food chain here [Fiji].
  Star of the month was Mya's post.  I don't always go for Mya's stuff because I'm not into comic con and the like, but decided I had the time to take a look.  WOWSERS!  Tell her I said congrats!
  Read the adding insult posts - and just felt sad.  I don't get tv.  I don't see the ads - so for the most part this is just a misery.  But then the one about the HONEST ad - that was so funny.  Oy lei.
  Thanks for keeping up with it all.  See you in July  :)
Kim
  Lucki responds to Kim B:
  Yeah, Kim, it was a very prolific and meaty month. So's your comment!
  Helena's story is a good one, isn't it? It amazes me, sometimes, the paths people took to arrive at their chosen faith. As your own can attest.
  Just another pun ... on modernity.
  What can I say? I just hope my rant inspires someone(s) else to also start contacting companies about lowering their plastic-packaging profile.
  Glad you found the time, especially as this year's AniME is all one true-life story that has nothing to do with cosplay or cons. I'll be sure to let Mya know what you said. And hang in there, 'cuz her story ain't over yet. Not by a long shot.
  I'm glad you were able, sans TV, to appreciate the "honest ad" article. I do get notes from people just saying they recognized which ad a rant was about. Sometimes proving their point by IDing the product or company. It's rarer that someone can appreciate a rant when they've never seen the commercial it's about, just from my description. Must be writing something right.
  My plesaure. Out of curiosity, did you not have time to look at May's Aphorisms & Memes? Or don't you ever? Or did you forget to mention them? Or was there just not any you liked? Inquiring authors want to know. ;-)
Mon, Sep 06, 3:02 PM, Linda wrote:
  I had time to catch up on some of your articles that I missed. I was interested in what you said about using ethics to decide on getting the Moderna shot, because they weren't involved in addicting drugs. But didn't they refuse to share their Covid work with other countries? That would confuse me about a decision.
  Lucki responds to Linda:
   You're correct that Moderna hasn't joined a World Health Organization COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub yet, and that does give me pause.
  OTOH, they're only about a decade old; whereas their two current COVID-vaccinme competitors here are more like a century and a half old. Pfizer and J&J have other multi-billion-dollar income streeams unrelated to mRNA tech (which is all Moderna does, marketing only the one product so far). They also enjoy pharma revenue around four times (and, in one case, group revenue over six times) that of Moderna. In fact, last year they were both in the top 10 pharma companies, while Moderna wasn't even in the top 50.
  Moderna may be young enough to need more time to make so momentous a decision, or perhaps just can't afford to "give away" its technology at this point. Or the company may just be less ethical than I hope. (Or maybe I don't really understand what's going on.) Time will tell.

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2021-05-14
K I M   B.

"So much to gain."

Yet another declaration story. This one had quite a ways to come. Like, about 7,250 miles. That's a long swim, there, from the island of Fiji. Join me in welcoming Kim Bowden-Kerby, who's been a faithful reader for the past nine years.

I was a churchy kid. Liked going to Sunday School and putting my quarter in the collection plate. Liked the stories and the hymns. And especially liked reading the red letters (marking the actual words of Jesus, not just things other people said about Him) in my own copy of the New Testament.

When I was a pre-teen, I went through confirmation classes in the Protestant branch of Christianity, held by our pastor, with some six other kids. We needed to do that before getting confirmed in front of the church. This was the Big Choice moment, since baptism had been performed on us as mere infants. In Rev. Maxwell's classes, suddenly faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was not just something pleasant and nice to do. It was a totally serious matter. Rev. Maxwell was young and full of charisma; and I took the confirmation classes seriously, finding serious faith in the Lord. A month or two later, I was standing in a white dress in front of the church and became a confirmed member of the Presbyterian Church.

It was months later, maybe a year, that Rev. Maxwell caused an earthquake in our North Carolina church one Sunday morning. He walked in with three nicely dressed Black ladies and escorted them to the front row of the church. While he preached, everyone whispered. As we drove home from church, my dad said, "That's too bad. He was a nice man." I really picked up on that past tense - "he WAS" - more like he was dead than that he just wasn't nice any more.

The next Sunday, Rev. Maxwell did the same thing again. This time people were talking out loud during his sermon. The third Sunday Rev. Maxwell was gone, never to be seen again. He was  replaced by an old fellow who whistled with every S.

Needless to say, my parents were relieved at the replacement. Needless to point out, I had independence of thought even back then.

I felt so betrayed! I felt so angry!

What kind of crap was this "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight" all the worshipers kept singing? They are precious, but they had better not come in the same building? Better not try to worship together? How hypocritical can you get?

I kept going to church with my parents on Sunday. My body was there, but my spirit was anywhere else.

Kim Bowden-Kerby witting with a group of Baha'i friendsAt age sixteen, I heard the word "Bahá'í" for the first time. My French teacher, Mme. Fafar Guillebeaux, had been invited by a student to talk a bit about interracial marriage. I liked the idea of interracial marriage, so that was a plus. She said she and her husband had met because they were both Bahá'ís; and she ended up talking some about that a little. It sounded really good

I liked the interracial acceptance. I liked the work for unity. (Like, when couples decided to marry, they had to get their parents' consent. And if the parents were skeptical, the couple had to be examples of patience, obedience to their parents, and continued devotion to each other despite the obstacle). I liked "no proselytizing" (a word I'd never heard before). And what really attracted me was the tenet of independent investigation of Truth.

But then someone asked if Bahá'ís had a Bible. Mme. Guillebeaux replied that Bahá'u'lláh had written "many beautiful Scriptures, over a hundred volumes." Well, I couldn't even read the whole Bible. There was no way I was going to read many beautiful Scriptures, so I promptly wrote The Bahá'í Faith off. Thought I did anyway, ha ha.

So I tried sex, drugs, rock and roll … and finally politics. Let me just say that it all was a disappointment, but politics in 1972 in North Carolina was under the bottom of the barrel. The day after the elections, while my lab partner ran the assigned experiment,a fellow student and I were bitterly complaining about the election results. After 45 minutes or so of carping and complaining, we finally ran out of things to say. A few minutes later, my lab partner, Anne Jalali, said her first words of the day:

"Kim, don't you know politics is not the solution to the world's problems?"

I replied, "That's really obvious, Anne. Do you have the solution?"

And she responded with the magic words: "Have you ever heard of the Bahá'í Faith?"

Well, yeah, I had. And here it was again, just when I needed it. Many beautiful scriptures and all. Thus followed a lot of my questions, her good answers, an invitation to a "fireside" gathering I was too shy to attend, a re-invitation with a ride, meeting others in the community. Wow – that first fireside! There were only a dozen or so people. But they were Black, White, and Persians of a range of ages. And the quality of their interaction was just that of a relaxed family. It was incredible. I hardly noticed the film strip they showed, and do not remember a word of the discussion. But I remember the feeling.

They sent me home with a copy of The Bahá'í Faith: An Introduction  by Gloria Faizi. I ended up hanging with Anne and her husband. Then there was an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner at another Bahá'í's  house, fifteen days after Anne first mentioned the Faith to me.

At the Thanksgiving dinner, there must have been some chitchat in the kitchen. I say this because Carole, a woman I had just met, came out and asked me, "Kim, would you like to become a Bahá'í?"

Gee whiz. My spiritual mother Anne had already missed a couple of better opportunities to invite me to join, especially when I tried to give some money to the Bahá'í Fund and she told me that only Bahá'ís can give to the Fund.

By now, in this group of mostly strangers, I felt shy again. I told Carole I didn't think I knew enough. She asked what I knew and, when I told her, responded that it was already a lot. I asked if I could get out if I didn't believe it any more. Tom, another new person, responded, "If you don't believe it, we wouldn't want you to stay." I loved that. But I still teetered on the fence. Finally, a young woman sitting beside me stuck her elbow in my ribs and asked, "What have you got to lose?" And that did it. I had nothing to lose by giving Bahá'í a try. Nothing to lose! So much to gain!

I signed a declaration card. They all sang "Welcome, Sister, Welcome" to me. This is probably the most detailed and memorable two hours of my whole life. Wow.

1972. Talk about having a Thanksgiving to give thanks for. It was lovely. It has been lovely. It still is lovely.

Anne gave me a prayer book, and showed me the short obligatory prayer and one other one she thought I'd like. The girl with the elbow moved in with me for a while, became my best friend and later "aunty" to all my kids. God gave me the best husband ever, a life of adventure,* and a way to serve the world. None of this could have happened if I had not turned wholeheartedly in surrender to God and His laws. Bahá'u'lláh's Faith did it for me.

Kim Bowden-Kerby holding a little "friend" (snake) on lush Fiji*For the curious, a crazy recap of adventures:
    = Local travel-teaching as a know-nothing youth. Which taught me patience for my old age.
    = Homefront pioneering in eastern North Carolina.
    = Travel teaching to the Aleutian Islands. Slightly less clueless by then because of Jenabe Caldwell's institute-like program (this was before Ruhi Institute study circles).
    = Travel teaching to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Uruguay. Still didn't know as much as I wished I did.
    = Marriage and pioneering to Guam.
    = Children and pioneering to Chuuk, Palau, and Pohnpei. And I knew even less; Micronesia is a whole 'nother set of worlds.
    = Pioneering to Puerto Rico. Still knew little, and less Spanish, but felt really at home anyway.
    = Pioneering to Fiji. Still know too little in two cultures, Fijian and Indian. The Ruhi Institute material works anyway.
If I could go back and change just one thing, I would absolutely have made myself learn the local (Fijian and Hindi) languages when I arrived here 22 years ago, like Άbdu'l-Bahá told us to do.

Thank yo so much, Kim. You certainly have had a lot of adventures. Nothing boring about being Bahá'í.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Sat, May 15, 2021 at 11:17 PM, Bri wrote:
  I got a question. What are the names of your husband and the girl with the elbow? [They're] important, too.
  Kim responds to Bri:
  OH. My husband is Austin Bowden (Bowden-Kerby). [In the top] photo - NC Bahai summer school a few years after I declared. I am dead center in white, talking to the bearded guy. That guy was my friend Austin, who was sweet on the African American girl beside him - she was not sweet on him. He finally gave up and became sweet on me, and we've been married for 41 years now.
  That girl [with the elbow] was Cherie Cormier. Best friend until she died a decade ago - now best friend on the Other Side.

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2021-05-09
R E D U C E !

"It cannot be right to manufacture billions of objects that are used for a matter of minutes,
and then are with us for centuries." – Roz Savage

This isn't the first time I've broached this topic. It probably won't be the last. Some things are worth repeating and expanding.

Maybe you remember back ten years ago when I wrote about how the recycling mantra isn't "Recycle Recycle Recycle", it's "Reduce Reuse Recycle". I then enhanced the mantra to read"Recycle everything you can. Reuse twice as much as you recycle. Reduce twice as much as you reuse."

[ASIDE[] Note that "reuse" encompasses both reusing something for its original purpose (like using recycled floorboards for new flooring) but also repurposing (like using an old door as the top of a handcrafted table).

I still stick by that. I try to do my part. I recycle as much as I can. I also reuse and especially repurpose a lot of stuff. And I reduce where I can. But it's discouraging. Why?

  = Because a lot of forms of paper, wood, glass, metal. and especially plastic aren't really considered recyclable. A lot of stuff we put into our recyclable bins ends up in the landfills or incinerators anyway. Putting it in the recycle bin just kicks the can down the road to the waste management facility. Examples include glitter-infused wrapping paper, pesticide-treated wood, glass mirrors, print-laminated aluminum and, worst of all, all those plastic containers that have the wrong code stamped into them. Just 'cuz the three arrows and a number are there, it does NOT necessarily mean it's recyclable. Perhaps the worst culprits are #6-styrofoam (take-out boxes, packing peanuts, etc.) and plastic bags (drycleaning, grocery, sandwich, chip, etc.), too much of which can cause a whole big load of recyclables to be rejected & sent off to the landfill.

  = Because only about 10% of what does go into recycle stream actually gets recycled back to its original use, a good example being certain plastic soda bottles. And that doesn't even count all such items that could be recycled back to their original use if only everyone would recycle them in the first place. But no, too many folks are too lazy or harried to do so, meaning that new ones have to be manufactured from scratch.

  = Because reusing/repurposing also serves a worthwhile purpose, but when it comes to all of them, especially plastics, that again is just kicking the can down the road. When I reuse non-recyclable paper as a base under my kitty litter, it still eventually ends up in the landfill. If I completely seal boards of treated wood to build a bookshelf, it's still eventually gonna break and all that wood plus the pesticide plus the sealer ends up in the landfill. Etc.

Great Lakes as seen from spaceWooden pallet containing a bale of recycled plasic bottlesPlastic is the worst culprit, though. 'Cuz 99% of it doesn't degrade in centuries. It disintegrates into smaller and smaller pieces - microplastics - but never stops being plastic. And it ends up in our food chain and even treated drinking water. The Great Lakes is the largest freshwater system in the world. And every year, 22,000,000 pounds of plastic get dumped or washed into it. Twenty-two MILLION pounds a year! And it's only getting worse. 'Cuz minus a few paltry pounds left in space plus a small amount that's been incinerated into noxious gasses plus the 1% that are biodegradable (in a few years or even months), every molecule of plastic ever produced still exists somewhere on this planet. 12% of Great Lakes fish have microplastics in their bodies. (And our fish are better off than English Channel fish, well over a third of which have plastic. And birds eat those fish (seed eaters may also eat microplastics directly, thinking them seeds). Mammals eat those fish. WE eat those fish. YUM.

But here's the thing. My being driven to not use plastics I can't truly recycle is stymied by the fact that it's harder than hell to find things I need that aren't packaged in plastic. And I mean everything! Which means I can recycle. And I can reuse. And I can repurpose. But I have the devil's own time trying to reduce. I definitely can't reduce twice as much as I...well, you catch my drift.

What angers me is that the manufacturers who produce all this plastic and the buyers who buy all this plastic and the packagers who package with all this plastic are actually spending big bucks in advertising - no, I'm not going to move this article over to Adding Insult - spend mucho moolah trying to convince me that it's MY issue to fix. When it's really THEIR issue to fix. If they stopped producing and using the stuff for every damn thing, then my efforts might actually  make a dent in what's left. But NO-O-O. That wouldn't be cost effective (as if money is the only thing all that plastic is costing us). That wouldn't be profitable. That wouldn't be convenient.

I'd like to quote something sorta related that Number Two Son Mead wrote in Twigs of a Family Tree (bolding mine):

Can you imagine a world in which people are totally aware of the effects of their actions? A world in which people understand what is behind political policies and corporate schemes and societal hate-mongering? As I become more aware of the world around me, including other people and their motivations, I can make more informed decisions and effect far more change than I ever dreamed of. My favorite example is dolphin-safe tuna. Through a simple campaign of awareness, back when I was young, I and a lot of other people decided to stop purchasing canned tuna because we did not like the thought of accidentally killing dolphins. The result? The industry changed. It found better ways to catch tuna that allow the dolphins to escape unharmed.

Maybe that's what needs to happen with ubiquitous plastic where it's not vitally necessary. Stop buying. Start raising cain, at least (at first) about single-use plastics. Start writing to corporations, telling them the first one that resolves this issue for any given product is the one you'll start buying that product from. Start demanding they find better ways. Start even being willing to spend a few cents or minutes more to accommodate changes for the better.

ME doing that would be less than a drop in the bucket. YOU doing that would be less than a drop in the bucket. (That's why the epigram above targets manufacturing, not recycling.) But you and me, your family and my family, your friends and my friends, your neighbors and my neighbors, your coworkers and my coworkers, folks whom you persuade and whom I persuade...WE CAN MAKE THEM CHANGE. And that can change the world.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Sun, Jun 06, 2021 at 9:44 PM, Kim B wrote:
Hi Lucki,
  Finally had time to give your blog[s] a look this month.  So much stuff.
  LOVED the declaration story from your spiritual daughter - the hungry one.
  Was interested in the Moderna pun, but didn't get your title.  ("Modernaty" - what??)
  Was suitably saddened, grossed-out and all by the recycle rant - I feel the same way, but can live lower on the food chain here [Fiji].
  Star of the month was Mya's post.  I don't always go for Mya's stuff because I'm not into comic con and the like, but decided I had the time to take a look.  WOWSERS!  Tell her I said congrats!
  Read the adding insult posts - and just felt sad.  I don't get tv.  I don't see the ads - so for the most part this is just a misery.  But then the one about the HONEST ad - that was so funny.  Oy lei.
  Thanks for keeping up with it all.  See you in July  :)
Kim
  Lucki responds to Kim B:
  Yeah, Kim, it was a very prolific and meaty month. So's your comment!
  Helena's story is a good one, isn't it? It amazes me, sometimes, the paths people took to arrive at their chosen faith. As your own can attest.
  Just another pun ... on modernity.
  What can I say? I just hope my rant inspires someone(s) else to also start contacting companies about lowering their plastic-packaging profile.
  Glad you found the time, especially as this year's AniME is all one true-life story that has nothing to do with cosplay or cons. I'll be sure to let Mya know what you said. And hang in there, 'cuz her story ain't over yet. Not by a long shot.
  I'm glad you were able, sans TV, to appreciate the "honest ad" article. I do get notes from people just saying they recognized which ad a rant was about. Sometimes proving their point by IDing the product or company. It's rarer that someone can appreciate a rant when they've never seen the commercial it's about, just from my description. Must be writing something right.
  My plesaure. Out of curiosity, did you not have time to look at May's Aphorisms & Memes? Or don't you ever? Or did you forget to mention them? Or was there just not any you liked? Inquiring authors want to know. ;-)

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2021-04-12
H E L E N A   C.

"I was hungry."

Another month, another declaration story. This time from one of my spiritual children: Helena Carnes-Jeffries. The floor is yours, Helena.

I came to the Bahá'í Faith because I was hungry.

Helena Carnes and Malvin Jeffries in colorful COVID masksI wasn't hungry spiritually, or at least I didn't think I was. I had always believed in God, from when I was a toddler. When some Baptist Christians told me about God, I recognized there was indeed something there, although my perception of God was of course initially very simplistic. Eventually, though, I began to understand about God's abstract nature. I took my First Communion in a Catholic Christian church when I was 15. In my later teens and early adulthood, I also became interested in Pagan practices and then in the Hare Krishna movement. Still, the latter seemed somehow incomplete and the former seemed way too unstructured, with no boundaries, just anything goes.

But one day, I was physically hungry.

At the time, I was 23 years old and living in Rogers Park. I was going to a neighborhood soup kitchen to eat dinner each evening because my income was so small. My income each month was only $500. My rent for my tiny studio apartment was $415. If you did the math, you could easily see that I was always broke. I usually ate one hot meal a day and had bagels and bread to eat the rest of the time.

For a few months, I had happened to notice a series of flyers [sample] on poles around Rogers Park. In English and Spanish, they advertised a monthly "Open House/Open Mind" free dinner and discussion. Since the atmosphere of the soup kitchen was rowdy and sometimes wild, I thought it would be nice to eat somewhere else, in a quieter spiritual setting. So I took one of the tear-off tags at the bottom. But I lacked the courage to go by myself; I was plagued by bouts of shyness. I managed to convince a friend to come with me one month so that I wouldn't be in a roomful of strangers all by myself.

It was March 6, 1999. I came into the apartment with my friend, and they welcomed us. They were members of the Bahá'í Faith. We noticed a few people sitting on the couch looking at their watches. There was food on the table, which they offered us, but they themselves were not eating. One of the friends said that they were fasting and waiting for the sun to set so they could eat.

"Wow," I said to myself, "I can't be a part of this religion. I can't fast like that!" But everything else about the dinner and discussion intrigued me. The topic that night was "How To Soar Like an Eagle" about the equality of women and men, often referred to in Bahá'í Writings as the two wings of one bird.

I realized I was hungry for more. I needed some kind of direction in my life. I was a member of the twelve-step community; but I needed something further: a greater connection with the God of my understanding.

I also believed that a great change was upon us. I felt that the world as we currently knew it would not be the same. I had no idea that there was a new manifestation of God for this day, who spoke of a "Spiritual Springtime" and that humanity was on the cusp of something truly divine. We were at our adolescent stage, just now learning how peace was possible.

I never understood the faith of my childhood. How could some preachers preach that if you did not know who Jesus Christ was, you did not have the bounty of being accepted into Heaven. How could God reject those who still believed but in a different way? I just didn't get it. I always believed somewhere in my heart that every person carried a piece of the truth in their hearts, that all religions were different paths converging in the center, and they all led to an all-loving all-encompassing God.

Some of the Bahá'ís that were there that night took me under their wings, especially Lucki,, who became one of my spiritual mothers. I was invited to a unity dinner a couple of weeks later. After that, Lucki invited me to a major Holy Day at the Bahá'í Temple. It was Naw-Rúz, the Bahá'í and Persian New Year. I felt myself leaning heavily towards declaring my faith in Bahá'u'lláh, the prophet founder of the Bahá'í Faith. I went into the book store at the temple and almost purchased a piece of jewelry depicting the Ringstone symbol. Instead, I bought a prayer book and delved right in. Sitting in Foundation Hall waiting for the Naw-Rúz program to start, I read the Fire Tablet and was completely moved. "In the Name of God, the Most Ancient, the Most Great...."*

Some of the friends loaned me Bahá'í books, which I studied for the next five weeks. Upon reading the literature, I began to realize that The Báb (the herald of Bahá'u'lláh) and Bahá'u'lláh were just like Jesus Christ. Both had sacrificed so much to bring a precious message to humanity. I was especially moved by The Hidden Words, a small book of meditations written by Bahá'u'lláh. They laid down many of the important principles of the Bahá'í Faith in poetic ways.

Five weeks later on April 21, 1999, I declared my faith in and love for Baha'u'llah. It was the first day of Ridván, celebrating the day that Bahá'u'lláh declared his message to the world. I was at the temple with my friends Faith and Kate, so I told them first. When I told Lucki, too, she told me that it wasn't the end of the journey but the very beginning. I look back almost 22 years later and realize in my heart of hearts that she was absolutely right.

I look back at all the things I've been doing with the Bahá'í community - especially opportunities to use my talents as a singer, a writer, and an artist -  and I'm amazed:

Collage of Helena Carnes-Jeffries doing service as Feast recorder, poet, virtual choir member, &  devotional reader= Singing in the choir and at the annual choral fest in the House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinous, and even in the virtual choral fest held during the pandemic by the House of Worship in Sidney, Australia
= Reading the Sacred Writings at events like the commemoration of the Martyrdom of The Báb; and being asked to write and present an original poem at a Naw-Rúz celebration
= Marching in the Bud Billiken Parade, and doing children's Virtues Facepainting at the Picnic
= Taking part in Rogers Park's annual "Artists Of (and, during the pandemic, "Artists Off) The Wall"; and offering my art at special gatherings and fundraisers
= Joining in devotional gatherings and study circles; and attending the twice-monthly Prayer Breakfast, again both in person and virtually
= Serving as the recording secretary, for the Spiritual Assembly and our newsletter, at 19-Day Feasts
= Participating in the Community of Practice: Race in America
= Even going on Bahá'í Pilgrimage to Haifa, Israel in 2009

I came because I was physically hungry, and I found some real spiritual food.

P.S. In a strange coincidence, I also found a special love and family because, unbeknownst to me or Lucki, her twelve-step grandsponsor then (now her sponsor), who's also a Bahá'í, encouraged his friend and my husband-to-be, Malvin (top photo, with me), to declare his love for me. I'm so glad that Malvin went to him for good advice and support...and got them. He'd also encouraged me to ask Lucki to be my sponsor, so now I have the bounty not just of a spiritual mother but also a sponsor (and a grandsponsor) who's Bahá'í, too.

Thank you for doing this, daughter dear. I well remember that Holy Day dinner celebration where I brought my food to an empty table and then you came with your plate and asked to sit with me...and the next thing I knew, I was sitting there breaking bread with FIVE of my spiritual children. Talk about an amazing, joyous celebration.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

*Baha'u'llah's Fire Tablet is a poetic revelation of a "conversation" between Baha'u'llah and God. Baha'u'llah describes the state of the world and His place in it and asks how God's presence is manifested therein. God responds with rhetorical questions about what is needed for mankind to pay heed and then offers encouragement.

Mon, Apr 17, 2021 at 11:17 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  I enjoy Helena's story. I like the way she wrote it. She is very talented with her writing and singing and painting. She gives a lot of service.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  I concur with you 100%. Helena has eclectic talens. Every year, I go to the Choral Fest she's in. I have a couple of items of her art front and center in my collection. And this year, she was again asked to write and present a piece at Chicago's Ridvan celebration. Talk about an all-around artist.
Sun, Jun 06, 2021 at 9:44 PM, Kim B wrote:
Hi Lucki,
  Finally had time to give your blog[s] a look this month.  So much stuff.
  LOVED the declaration story from your spiritual daughter - the hungry one.
  Was interested in the Moderna pun, but didn't get your title.  ("Modernaty" - what??)
  Was suitably saddened, grossed-out and all by the recycle rant - I feel the same way, but can live lower on the food chain here [Fiji].
  Star of the month was Mya's post.  I don't always go for Mya's stuff because I'm not into comic con and the like, but decided I had the time to take a look.  WOWSERS!  Tell her I said congrats!
  Read the adding insult posts - and just felt sad.  I don't get tv.  I don't see the ads - so for the most part this is just a misery.  But then the one about the HONEST ad - that was so funny.  Oy lei.
  Thanks for keeping up with it all.  See you in July  :)
Kim
  Lucki responds to Kim B:
  Yeah, Kim, it was a very prolific and meaty month. So's your comment!
  Helena's story is a good one, isn't it? It amazes me, sometimes, the paths people took to arrive at their chosen faith. As your own can attest.
  Just another pun ... on modernity.
  What can I say? I just hope my rant inspires someone(s) else to also start contacting companies about lowering their plastic-packaging profile.
  Glad you found the time, especially as this year's AniME is all one true-life story that has nothing to do with cosplay or cons. I'll be sure to let Mya know what you said. And hang in there, 'cuz her story ain't over yet. Not by a long shot.
  I'm glad you were able, sans TV, to appreciate the "honest ad" article. I do get notes from people just saying they recognized which ad a rant was about. Sometimes proving their point by IDing the product or company. It's rarer that someone can appreciate a rant when they've never seen the commercial it's about, just from my description. Must be writing something right.
  My plesaure. Out of curiosity, did you not have time to look at May's Aphorisms & Memes? Or don't you ever? Or did you forget to mention them? Or was there just not any you liked? Inquiring authors want to know. ;-)

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2021-04-01
S T U N T E D

"Spoiler Alert"  - Lucifer, Season 5, Episode 8 title

Take that epigram above seriously, dear reader. If you (a) didn't see the whole 75th episode of Lucifer yet, (b) plan/hope to, and (c) don't want any spoilers, don't read this article now. You can always come back later; I'll still be here.

Finally caught up with myself long enough to binge watch me some Lucifer. Season 5A. Glad I did.

As you know, I'm a sucker for exceptional stunt casting. Not the run-of-the-mill, big-whoop, who-cares kind. The OMG-brilliant give-whoever-thunk-that-one-up-a-raise kind. You know because you saw it happen here. You remember, when I noticed the stuntish casting of Arthur Darvill in the Legends of Tomorrow pilot, but really got hooked (it turned out) on the absolutely spot-on casting of the dynamic #Wentnic duo made famous in Prison Break years earlier. (For an alternate POV, here's what that trigger looked like to my #grandMya.)

Well, the stunt casting in ep 75 of Lucifer sure comes close. It's too priceless not to share a chortle over. Maybe even an exclam! Despite the fact that it lasts mere seconds.

(Just so you know, in case you don't: Amenadiel is heaven's eldest angel, portrayed by DB Woodside. Lucifer is the lord of hell, portrayed by Tom Ellis. Michael is Lucifer's heaven-homed but scarred twin brother, also portrayed by Tom Ellis. All three are sibling archangels. Mazikeen is the chief torturer among hell's demons, portrayed by Lesley-Ann Brandt.)

(from left) Michael, Lucifer, & Amenadiel hear God's voiceSee, the ep crescendoes in this no-holds-barred battle royal raging at the police precinct between Amenadiel and Lucifer on the one side and Michael and Mazikeen on the other. And I mean, this fight is one for the books. Fists swing, blades fly, immortal bodies are thrown, time-frozen innocent bystanders are protected, havoc is wreaked. Makes wrestle-mania tag matches look like a Sunday picnic with lavender tea (pinkies extended, of course) and strawberry scones.

And it all comes to a grinding, breath-jarring halt when a strong voice calmly says "Children, you know I hate it when you fight." Michael, Lucifer, and Amenadiel (---> from left) slowly turn in stunned awe. We see God backlit. We can't see his face. But don't we know that voice? That calm, caring, trustable-in-times-of-trouble voice?

I expected a fade to black or some such there at the end of the ep. But no. The show didn't play that particular game. It played a more fun one.

The light shifts. We see the face of God...

...portrayed by Dennis Haysbert. Talk about spot-on stunt casting. This is not God Johnson (Timothy Omundson). Nor is it God as Narrator (Neil Gaiman). This is God God. God their Dad! Who else could so quickly and yet so mild-manneredly awe three raging archangels? And a demon?

And it's not merely because we do tend to feel calmed, cared for, trusting of that voice in all those handy insurance commercials. (Or at least the ad agency hopes so.) No, it's way more than that.

Remember Kiefer Sutherland's 24? I remember it well. And I've sometimes wondered if Dennis Haysbert's playing President David Palmer in that particular show a few years earlier had a bit of a beneficial effect on Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign/election. I also clearly remember DB Woodside's portrayal as Palmer's younger brother Wayne, who started off as his White House chief of staff and ended up becoming President himself.

Dennis Haysbert and DB Woodside. Senior and junior kinfolk. Again. If not a #Wentnic level dynamic duo, nevertheless a noteworthy piece of stunt casting to top off the mid-season finale. Hence this note. Looking forward to seeing how it all starts to play out (May 28) throughout Season 5B.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Thu, Apr 1, 2021 at 2:37 PM, Melissa wrote:
  Can't wait to see this! Lol!
  Hope you are wonderful!
  Lucki responds to Melissa:
  I'm hangin' in there. Glad you're excited. You always get such fun out of things. Of course, I have no way of knowing which link(s) you're referring to. What's the this you can't wait to see?
  If you meant "can't wait to see Lucifer", I'm with you. Generally, though, that might be a good call-in question to ask your listeners [or at least Jim] one morning: "What TV show can't you wait to see the next season of?" Bet you'd get some interesting (and some weird) answers, and you'd tease out of them WHY they can't wait. You're wonderful at doing that, 'cuz you're always so upbeat about it.

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2021-03-12
R H E T A   P.

"I recognized the difference."

Once again, we have new guest blog about finding faith. Mead wrote about this person's story in his Twigs of a Family Tree chapter. But she not only agreed to its use here, too, she also reset it as a first-person narrative, made a few changes and updates and, of course, provided some favorite photos. Introducing Rheta Posey.

Rheta & Richard PoseyOne of the true stalwarts of the Chicago Bahá'í community (and in other communities around the globe) was my late sister-in-law, Gwili Posey. When she became a Bahá'í as a young woman, her brother Richard (<<-- with me) decided to check out what his sister was newly involved in. He liked what he saw and eventually became a Bahá'í, too.

Although Christian, I often joined my family and other Bahá'ís in activities. One of the events I most enjoyed being part of and even offering service at for many years was the twice-monthly Prayer Breakfast at the Chicago Bahá'í Center on the near South Side. I felt that, as far as everyone else there was concerned, I was "family" too. That's how they treated me. And I learned a lot about the Bahá'í Faith in the process there (and elsewhere). They never pressured me about becoming Bahá'í, though. So I think they were very surprised when one day, out of the blue as far as they could tell, I declared my belief in what they believed in and asked to formally register as a member. It didn't change how welcome I felt being there, though, because I had always felt warmly welcomed. The only difference, really, was that now I would more often say we instead of you. "What do we do if we become ill during the Fast?" "How are we going to celebrate our upcoming Holy Day?" "I suggest we seniors reach out to the youth more."

A few months later, Richard and I were interviewed at the devotional breakfast by a journalist who asked how we became Bahá'ís. After Richard told his story from when he was younger, the journalist asked me if I had joined at the same time. He seemed quite surprised when I said, "No, not for years, only three months ago." So I told my declaration story, which even the other breakfast attendees hadn't heard or realized was important to me.

I told him about another seeker who had been invited to join in the breakfasts. This seeker turned out to be very abrasive and testy. She started arriving late and still expecting breakfast. The others welcomed her into the kitchen and invited her to prepare whatever she liked. When she read Bahá'í scriptural prayers, she pointedly feminized all the gendered nouns and pronouns. No one corrected her. She'd promise to come to the next breakfast and then not show up. The cooks never complained about cooking and possibly wasting too much food. When she didn't show up, attendees would express concern and be sure to include her in their prayers.

This went on for months. When she finally manufactured a reason to feel insulted and stop coming altogether, the attendees consulted on how to try to reach out to her again. Most of them volunteered to call her at least once or twice. They finally had to give up, though, and turn her over to the care of God

Rheta Posey head shotBut I had to admit I was most impressed by what happened—and didn't happen—when the seeker wasn't there. There was no complaining, no backbiting, no wishing she'd stop coming. Instead, they expressed concern, prayed for her, repeatedly tried to reach out to her. I saw loving attention detached from any insistence that the lady reciprocate by joining the Faith. I compared it to the behind-your-back behavior I too often see in the world, and I recognized the difference. That was the exclamation point in making my decision to become Bahá'í.

I'm very happy I became a Bahá'í; AND I still attend the Prayer Breakfasts, although we're on Zoom now. I stay involved in other areas, too, like Holy Day celebrations, studying the Writings, consultation at Feasts, and so on. Although my husband and sister-in-law have both transitioned to the Kingdom, when I'm with my fellow Bahá'ís I'm still with family.

Thank you for your work on this, Rheta.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Thu, Apr 1, 2021 at 4:44 PM, Kim wrote:
  Especially enjoy the "how I became a Baha'i stories" and hope they sit well with your wider-community readership. And of the "how I became a Baha'i stories"' the one snippet that, Man oh Man, brings me to account is the story of the difficult attendee who ended up ghosting everybody and the detached response of the Baha'is throughout that. That could have gone so different in a different community. What a blessing that those Baha'is were living the life well ... (such a subtle test! ... maybe having a seeker present inspired them to their best behavior?
  Lucki responds to Kim:
   Hi, Kim. Glad you're enjoying the declaration stories. And yeah, I also include another Abiding Blog article every month for people (whether Baha'i or not) to still enjoy if declaration stories aren't their thing. And ya know, I didn't even think of what Rheta saw as being a test, subtle or otherwise. Thanx for that insight.
  When you say "having a seeker present inspired...best behavior", I'm not sure whom you're referring to. If you mean the "difficult attendee", well, people acted the same way whether she was there or not. If you mean Rheta, I don't think we ever really thought of her as a seeker. She was family; so we weren't on any best behavior, we were just comfortable.

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2021-03-05
W O O F ?

Cat 1: Meow.
Cat 2: Woof!
Cat 1: Woof? Whadda ya mean "Woof"?
Cat 2: I'm learning a foreign language.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Xenoglossia is the ability to speak a language without having learned it.
This sounds like a really neat trick if you can manage it."  - World Wide Words

It's been over a year since we've discussed the psychic powers of cats. That just won't do. So without further ado, let me offer you...

Data point 7: Xenoglossia
Let's clarify terminology, because cats seem not so much creatures of faith as of absolute certainty (that they are the center of the universe). After noting that xenoglossia"is regarded as a psychic phenomenon", World Wide Words goes on to inform us that "It sounds as if it's related to speaking in tongues, which is found in many religions and has been recorded from the earliest historical times; [but] the formal term for that is glossolalia." It stresses, though that "from a language point of view the difference is profound." And it clearly describes that difference.  Glossolalia, it tells us "is a succession of meaningless syllables interpretable only through faith." In xenoglossia, however, "the implication is that a real language is being spoken that is intelligible to native speakers and in which the person can converse."

So let me start with Seraphin, whom you met as he teleported in my friend's living room. His ability to also speak English loudly and clearly once got me in trouble with my neighbors. BIG trouble.

I was living in a building where there were six apartments connected to the front stairwell, mine being on the raised 1st floor, west side. One day, I needed to take Seraphin to the vet. So I did what I usually did when I wanted to take him outside. I slipped him into his figure-8 harness, picked him up, and off we went.

Seraphin didn't protest. He must've known that if he started making a fuss in the apartment, I'd ignore him. No, he very intelligently waited for the moment when his shocking protest would do the most good. When we were in the stairwell. And his voice would echo to kingdom come.

"No!" he then cried at the top of his lungs. "NO-o-o-o!! NOOO!"

Next thing I knew, most of the other apartment doors had been flung open and people were on the landings trying to ascertain if a child was being abducted or abused in the hallway. "Just my cat," I assured them. But there were nevertheless some suspicious mumbles (and several laughs) as they returned to their homes.

Still, Seraphin had learned that his special English word did get quite a reaction. So he continued to use it every time I started to take him somewhere he didn't want to go. (And come to think of it, how did he know we were headed for the vet instead of, say, merely going out for a walk? Have we just proved another feline psychic ability? Mental telepathy? Or was it more mine than his? Inquiring minds want to know!)

Nancy's cat Max perched on a card tableApparently, Seraphin isn't the only feline master of a bit of xenoglossia. My friend Far Southside Nancy (I know too many Nancys), who shared a guest entry with us last month, recently told me something about her cat Max -->, roommate of feline Hansel and canine Lucy that you saw last year. It seems Max also has a special English word and knows when and how to use it. Not the same word as Seraphin, though. During summer, Nancy sometimes leaves her back door open so her cats can go out to the locked porch, survey their backyardly domain, and have converse with any other cats wandering by.

Sometimes, when she doesn't leave the back door open, the cats still want to go out there. Hansel just nudges the door, trying to get it to open. Max, however, goes farther. He knows that if you can unlatch the lock and then turn the doorknob, the door will open. He tries; he really does. He stretches up and gets his paws into position. He's even strong enough to get the knob to turn sometimes. But he can't undo the lock. At which point, he voices a sharp demand. "OUT!" He's very clear about it. He's not saying "me-owt" or "ow"; he's saying "Out! OUT!" And he's learned that it gets his person's attention every time. So now he also uses it when he wants to go out the front door. Or when he's in the window and sees another cat. Or even when he's hanging out on the kitchen card table and he wants his person to get her head outa whatever she's doing and get into playing with him.

I'm not finished, though. 'Cuz anything worth proving about cats is worth overproving. And 'cuz I thought that maybe every cat had one special word they knew in English. I didn't realize that some of them might know more than one word and can hold a whole conversation.

Angel asleep in her office cot while this artcle is being writtenWhich leads us to Mya's Angel), whom you first saw hanging out with my Silver. (<---- She's here sleeping beside me as I'm writing this article.) I'll share only a trio of examples, but they're not the only ones I've heard from her (Angel, not Mya).

One day I was sitting reading a book. Angel came into the room and jumped onto a soft surface an arm's length from me at eye level. I didn't pay any attention, as I was very absorbed in what I was reading. That was OK with her. She just wanted to share space with me. Space she simply stared into. Cogitating on catly concepts. Or maybe meditating. Practicing inward and outward stillness. After 10 or 15 minutes, I looked up and focused on her. She saw the movement and looked at me. "Hi," I said. And she replied "Hi." (Honest. She did. Where is my digital recorder when I need it? And my TARDIS?)

Lest you think that was merely echolalia, her repeating what I said, consider this. Another time, I heard a thump as I turned through the hallway door into the living room. "What made that noise?" I wondered aloud. "Me," she admitted, apparently having just jumped down from her cat condo.

A third time, she did something that I thought was pretty cool. I complimented her: "Who's a good girl?" And she clearly responded. Not with a word, but with a sentence: "I am."

To the best of my knowledge, cats aren't sneaking off to the Sorbonne or running Rosetta Stone behind our backs. But don't tell me they can't speak our very foreign language when they want to.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki
P.S. To make sure I had Max's info correct, I asked Nancy to preview this article last night. She said I had Max down to a tee, but she had some more-recent episodes to add. This past February, when the snow was deep, Max went to the front door one day and begged "Out!" Nancy looked up from her computer and replied, "Max, you can't go out. No. There's too much snow!" And Max queried, with the proper rising inflection, "No-o-O?" Of course it's possible, Nancy opined, that Max was simply echoing her NO sounds. But maybe he actually learned about NO from Seraphin's story, again via mental telepathy. Either way, it wasn't quite so impressive. But this month, he morphed that syllable into something new. When he could see out the window that the snow was gone, he returned to the front door and demanded, "Out. Out NOW!"

P.P.S. Well, not to be outdone (I swear Nancy's cats and mine are using mental telepathy to teach each other stuff and issue challenges), Angel came up with a new one yesterday. While I was houseworking, she pulled something a bit unwonted. And unwanted. I protested, "Hey, cat, stop; that was weird." Looking at me suspiciously, she asked, "What?" I started to tell her, "You need to..." but got distracted and, looking away, hesitated for several seconds. With a petulant glare and tone, she called me back to the important business: HER. "What?!" she demanded again.

Tue, Mar 23, 2021 at 9:56 AM, Greg wrote:
  I enjoy your psychic cat stories. My cat Cordie says a special word, too, lots of times, "Wow!"
  Lucki responds to Greg:
  So apparently Cordie is into learning new things, and is blown away by the neverending wonders of the universe. It just goes to show that while unsatisfied curiosity may indeed kill the cat, satisfaction/answers definitely revives it again. (I purely hate how people chop off the back end of that saying just so they can use it to discourage curiosity, instead of encouraging it like the saying was originally meant to do.)

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2021-02-14
N A N C Y   B.

"I was home."

Another declaration story. Another guest blogger, this time via interview. 'Nuff said. Without further ado, let me introduce Nancy Bagley. Tell us your story, Nancy.

As a young child, though my family didn't really go to church, I did. I remember getting baptized at the Baptist church when I was nine, old enough to convince them that I knew what I wanted and why. As I was growing up, my family moved a lot; and during those times, I went to many different Protestant churches. At 17, I met the love of my life. He was Lutheran, born and raised in the Lutheran church. And so, because I had no particular denomination and believed we were all worshipping the same God, it was very easy for me to start going to his church with him. We got married in the Lutheran church.

But you know, during the years, I just didn't understand why they had so many man-made laws. I didn't understand why if you (or even a baby) weren't baptized, you would go to hell because you died "unsaved". Or why if a person was going to a synagogue or a mosque, or even a different kind of Christian church, then they were considered a heathen even though they also believed in the one God.

As I continued in my life, I stayed Lutheran as I wanted to keep our family together; but I didn't agree with several things the Lutherans were committed to. After many years, though, I had a tragedy happen that led to divorce. Still, that gave me the opportunity to search for something that I could completely believe in.

I was in Virginia Beach, VA when I just realized that I didn't have to remain in the Lutheran church or even in any Christian church. Even though I truly loved Jesus, I needed to search for something more I could truly believe in. They had the Edgar Cayce Foundation there, and I decided to go investigate it. I was very much into dreams at that time, and what they bring to us from God, so I went to some of their lectures on dreams and started reading some books. But when I got into depth with it, I realized it wasn't what I wanted. So then I tried the New Age movement that was getting popular at that time. I loved the idea that we were all connected in a circle of life. But I still believed in Christ, and I realized I needed to find something where the people believed in Christ and that we all came from the one God and are all connected.

Nancy Bagley with her spiritual mother Jean GhofraniI had been going to college to get my social work degree; and just before graduation I had a family class. They wanted each of us to do a paper on married couples who had two different backgrounds. Now, while doing my field placement for social work, I worked in a nursing home. There was a very wonderful social worker there named Jean (<<-- left, with me). We were instant friends, so it's no wonder she became a spiritual mother to me. She had just gotten married soon after we met. She and her husband were Bahá'í and had a Bahá'í wedding. Unfortunately, when she invited me and told me about the ceremony, it sounded very strange; so I decided not to go (which I deeply regret to this day).

Jean and Mehran Ghofrani being my close friends (even, still, to this day). I asked them to let me interview them for my class paper, because she's Brazilian and he's Iranian. And I thought their having this Bahá'í Faith in common would make for a wonderful paper. When I interviewed them, they gave me plenty of Bahá'í pamphlets to use, but at the time I was just interested in the paper, not in their Faith itself.

Still, after I'd looked at all the Edgar Cayce and New Age stuff and decided they both were not for me, in about six months I started to read the Bahá'í literature again. After all, I had it there conveniently; and I spent a lot of time with Jean and Mehran, including going to Bahá'í picnics and celebrations with them. I asked Jean if they were still having those firesides she'd been talking about before, and she said yes. I sought her assurance that "They won't put me in the center of attention, would they? I just want to be there and listen." She said that, no, they won't do that.

But she was wrong. When I got to the first fireside, I was the only seeker there. So of course they paid me a lot of attention. After all, firesides are places where people who don't know a lot about the Bahá'í Faith can learn in a homey atmosphere. Somehow, they made me feel very comfortable, so it wasn't so bad.

After that meeting, I starting reading a lot of Bahá'í Scriptures and a few explanatory books like Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era. I continued to go to firesides. I loved the principles; to my way of thinking, they felt right. But my main problem was that I needed to feel convinced Bahá'u'lláh could be the return of Christ, because Christ told us He would come to us again. So one of the members asked me if I'd like to read Thief in the Night: The Case of the Missing Millennium by William Sears. I did. The book had a lot of references to the Holy Bible; and as I read it, I looked up every biblical reference in my Bible itself. By halfway through the book, I stopped looking the references up because every one so far had been accurate. And in my mind I said that, yes, I can believe Bahá'u'lláh is the promised return of Christ.

I went with Jean and Mehran to a going-away party for a couple who were moving to Chicago, Art and Chris Stanwood. As I was talking to Hal Theriault there, I said "I think I do believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the return of Christ." Hal asked, "Do you want to become a Bahá'í?" I responded, "I think i just want to wait and think about it a little more." He told me, "You know, Nancy, if you believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the return of Christ, then there's nothing else you have to wait for because that's the most important thing to you." Right that second I said, "You know, YES, I think you're right. I want to be a Bahá'í." Being my first and closest teacher, Jean brought me a declaration card so my Bahá'í community would know I had declared I was a Bahá'í, and would have the information to reach out to me.

But there was one more little test. They brought me a pen. It didn't work. I thought: Hmmmm. They brought me another pen. It didn't work. I wondered if I was making a mistake. But they didn't give up and neither did I. They brought me a third pen, it worked, and I signed the card on July 27, 1990. I wasn't just a Bahá'í; I was a Bahá'í who belonged to a community of 75 Bahá'ís, and to the worldwide Bahá'í community. And they gave me a prayer book with the signatures of everyone in the room, which I still have.Nancy Bagley volunteering at a Baha'i celebration

(Interestingly, when I was moving to Chicago in 1993 to work at the Bahá'í Home for the elderly (where I served as Assistant Administrator, Social Worker, and Activity Director), Art and Chris were also the people who learned their downstairs neighbor had just moved out of his apartment, and asked their landlord to hold it for me, which he did, That was one demonstration that not just my own local Bahá'í community but the whole world community, wherever they were and wherever I went, had my back.)

From that day, I deepened in all the books I could get my hands on, and got very involved in the Bahá'í community, including being elected to the Spiritual Assembly of Virginia Beach six months later. Jean jokingly warned me not to do too much; "Moderation in all things!" she reminded me. But I was so enthusiastic. (It's been 30 years, and I still am. I love volunteering. (-->>) I'd found my place. I was home.

Beautiful. Thank you, Nancy.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Mon, Mar 15, 2021 at 9:17 PM, Marianne wrote:
  Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your search for something you could completely believe in, and how your first, hesitant steps into the Baha'i Faith turned into strides of service. Wonderful!
-Marianne S. Geula
  Nancy responds to Marianne:
  Thank you, Marianne. I feel that this is my destiny, this is where I'm supposed to be; and it's wonderful that you can see that, too.

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2021-02-09
N U R S E R Y

"As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the mind, soul, heart, and body
of our patients, their families, and ourselves. They may forget your name,
but they will never forget how you made them feel."  - Maya Angelou
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Constant attention by a good nurse may be just as important
as a major operation by a surgeon."  - Dag Hammarskjöld

I started to feature and make light of this in Adding Insult, but (a) it's a print ad, not a TV commercial, and (b) it's anything but light ... in both senses of the word. It's trying to be lighthearted, but the end result for too many readers will (and/or should) mean nursing at least a twinge of pain. And it's trying to shine a light on important people, but it's so oblivious to both reality and perception that it does anything but enlighten.

The "cute" product being advertised is a series of collectible mini-dolls honoring nurses. That seems appropriate, in a way, given the amazing service being rendered by nurses and other frontline medical workers during the pandemic. And by "medical workers" I also mean everyone from nurse practitioners to nursing aides to phlebotomists to orderlies to housekeeping staff ... every single unsung frontline person risking so much to serve us in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, ambos, etc. It even seems appropriate that they're humorous dolls, because heaven knows we need to find ways to chuckle in the midst of turmoil.

And so, one company is offering a line of dolls entitled "Nurses: Frontline Heroes". Cool. Its print ad clearly shows us the first doll in the series: "I'm a Nurse! What's Your Superpower?" Complete with scrubs, super-stance, S-shield, cape, and cap."Superpower" Nurse dollBack of "Superpower" Nurse doll

OK, sorta fun. I'm not into collectibles like that, though. Besides which, although the company says it "supports" the American Nurses Foundation, nowhere does the ad promise that any of the money I'd spend on these dolls is actually going to the Foundation. So never mind.

But that wasn't the part that earned this advert a pan at all, never mind in Abiding Blog rather than Adding Insult. No, what really bugged me was seeing what was added to encourage folks who have money to burn on this kind of thing, which also isn't me, to collect the whole series.

It showed me the company's upcoming series of 4. "I'm a Nurse! What's Your Superpower?" and three coworkers. Starting with "Spread Kindness, Not Germs". Which doll is the only one offering even a nod to the pandemic and the need for frontline medical people to wear uncomfortable PPE at all times.

Speaking of which. I want you to think back to all the newscasts, and even scripted shows, you've seen this past year where frontline medical workers are interviewed, or followed on the job, or shown walking out of their workplace to the cheers of friends and strangers who appreciate their to-often-dismissed service. Because one thing you'll probably notice is that when you compare the percentages in, say, the nursing and housekeeping staffs to the doctors and execs, the former comprise way more minorities than the latter do. Which is one - just ONE - of the factors that makes this pandemic more pernicious and fatal in minority communities.
So...

Do you see that reflected in the pictured series? 'Cuz I don't!Collection of 4 nurse dolls...all female, all white
All white. And all female.

"Oh, what's the harm?" someone is sure to say. The harm is the obliviousness. The harm is the skewed portrait of reality. The harm is the default assumptions this ad is endorsing. The harm to me and mine is every little boy and every little Black girl who, soon after leaving or possibly while still in the nursery, would dream of frontline medical service if only they could see themselves there. If only society fed them images of their potential inclusion with their mother's milk.

Here would be one great opportunity to do so. To let children see that inclusiveness. Kids whose parents or grands or other adults in their environment might buy these dolls. Even more so, kids whose parents, etc., don't have that money to burn but might buy the periodicals these ads run in. Maybe even kids whose school teachers or faith-community teachers or babysitters or whatever might cut out these pix to use in projects with the kids.

But no-o-o-o.

Maybe this bias is out of sheer tunnel vision. Wearing blinders. (Lord knows I've come a cropper of that myself sometimes.) OTOH, maybe it's out of baldfaced intention. Because the company or its ad agency assumes only wealthy white people buy this stuff and it doesn't want to do anything to even marginally offend that audience. So it panders to their privileged perceptions. Which sure cuts out me and my dreadlocks even if I were a nurse. Ignores my Number One Son's EMT service. Tries to tell my aspiring
#grandMya she actually has no place in the front lines of any health field. (Luckily, she's tellin' 'em were they can stick that idea!)

'Scuse me, but that ain't right. Good job dissing every minority in sight. Including many dedicated male nurses ... none of whom wear caps. Waydago there, collectible company. Count this black Mom/Grams out even if I did have the disposable dough to waste on your little dolls.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Sun, Mar 14, 2021 at 11:08 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  You were right. When I scrolled up through this article to start reading at the top, I saw the picture of the nurses for a second, but didn't read the words. I thought "Oh, that's really nice, all those nurses." It didn't even occur to me that they were all white and all women, and it should have. Thank you for bringing these things up and making people think about them.
  Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  You're quite welcome. I can't tell you how many times I've tripped over the same issue. Not seeing what I'm not seeing. When I notice, I can write about it. When I don't notice, when I'm oblivious to the obvious, when I'm conned into default thinking, when I don't notice I'm drinking the kool-aid, then obviously I can't write about it. I'm sure that happens all too often. It's freakin' insidious.
Thu, Apr 1, 2021 at 4:44 PM, Kim wrote:
  Quite enjoyed the April showers of gifts from March ... And of your other postings that I read, the one that hit home were those stinking nurse dolls. Sheesh! Such a sweet and timely idea. Such a lost opportunity
Love,
Kim, RN
  Lucki responds to Kim:
  Nurse dolls, yes. Forgot you were an RN, so it's no wonder that resonated with you. And you put it so well. Timely idea/lost opportunity is spot on!

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2021-01-15
H A R O L D   W.

"Hallelujah praise the Lord!"

I've often mentioned the Baha'i Faith, and/or some of its principles, in various blog entries. So you sort of know what it means to me. But you deserve to hear from others, too. To read, if nothing else, what brought some others to declare that they, too, are Baha'i. Of course, you can read my declaration story in Twigs of a Family Tree. Also Mead's, Rezvanieh's and Theresa's. But not everyone can get the book (here) right now. So I'm askinig some friends to share their stories. So without further ado, let me (gratefully) introduce Harold Williams.Harold Williams in business attire

Before last August, I'd never told on any social media my story of how I became a believer in the Baha'i faith. Then I posted it on Facebook for friends. And now is the first time I am ever presenting it in a totally public blog. It was a lifelong journey, but in the interest of holding your interest, I will abbreviate as much as possible.

I was born in 1948. That is 85 years after the emancipation of my enslaved African ancestors. I am almost certain that my great grandparents were born as enslaved people and that my grandparents were born soon afterwards. That is not so long ago. I am eternally grateful to my ancestors for all that they endured so that I may be here today. What they endured is also a testament to the power of God. Today, their descendants have been described as "the pupil of the eye" by God's Manifestation (or Voice) for this day: Bahá'u'lláh. 

His eldest son Άbdu'l-Bahá once said, a century or more ago, "Bahá'u'lláh once compared the coloured* people to the black pupil of the eye surrounded by the white. In this black pupil you see the reflection of that which is before it, and through it the light of the Spirit shines forth.".

The quote below is taken from the scriptural book The Hidden Words revealed by Bahá'u'lláh. It sums up what I felt and believed most of my life.

O Children of Men!  Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.

So, what happened? How did I find out about this new faith?

My exposure to God and religion happened as a child whose parents took him to church every Sunday. I grew up in the Church of God in Christ (a Christian faith, Protestant branch, Pentecostal denomination), in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. My Sunday school teacher would give us an assignment to find a certain scripture in the Bible for the following Sunday. As an incentive, he would give the one who found it 25¢. I earned a lot of quarters, and the ability to read the Bible for myself. At age 13, I was relocated to my birth town in Mississippi (a story within itself). During my one-year stay there, I was exposed to the southern Baptist style of worship. I returned to Chicago but no longer attended church. It wasn't any disbelief in God. It was simply because I was no longer made to go to church by anyone.
 
I graduated from high school in '66. The military draft was in full force due to the war in Vietnam. I was classified as 1A, which meant that I was draftable. I decided that, maybe, I should get baptized. So, I went to my old church, confessed my belief in Christ and got baptized. But something happened during the baptism that caused me to question and think more deeply about God, religion, people, and myself.

You see, there were two other young men being baptized that day. I was third in line. The pastor baptized us all in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The first person was submerged into the pool of water and, when he was raised up, he began to shout, "Hallelujah praise the Lord!". The second person was submerged and, when lifted out of the water, said the same thing. Now it was my turn. The pastor leaned me back into the water and baptized me in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When he lifted me out, I did not feel the Spirit run through me. I did not start shouting, or even thinking, "Hallelujah praise the Lord!" I just felt wet. I was perplexed, dazed, and confused. Had I done something wrong in God's eyes such that I did not deserve this baptism? I did not stop believing God, but I had some questions.

Soon after, I joined the United States Air Force at age 18. I travelled to several foreign countries during my service, and for the first time met people from different lands. I noticed that people were not that different from one another. We all worshipped a superior being in our own way. We all wanted the same things for our families, such as the ability to live in peace, to be able to provide food, clothing, and shelter for our loved ones. Even in Vietnam, the civilians that I met also wanted those things. I began to look at wars caused by people proclaiming that their religion is the right religion and everyone else is going to hell. Did not God create all of us?

When I turned 30, I started to seriously look for answers. After watching historical clips of Martin Luther King Jr. being stoned for attempting to go into an all-white church in Marquette Park in 1967, I felt really upset. Here was a man of God trying to go to a church to worship, and being stoned because of the color of his skin. Something was terribly wrong with that. I started investigating different religious groups in an attempt to find some answers, but to no avail. I was really beginning to be concerned that nearly 2,000 years had passed, and God had not spoken to us again. I felt that He had abandoned His creation and just left us all alone, and we were doing great harm to ourselves, even killing each other. I started telling someone about my investigation, my search for answers, and they mentioned the Bahá'í faith and the temple in Wilmette, Illinois. I was still eager to find answers, so I went up there to see for myself what this Bahá'í faith was all about.Harold Williams in casual attire

I sat in the temple's Foundation Hall and watched a film about the central figures of this faith and its beliefs. At the end of the film, a sense of peace come over me. I left that central room and began looking at displays hanging on the walls. There was one that illustrated progressive revelation, the revealing of divine truths to humankind over time as we progressed enough to need and to understand them. It showed that Voices of God like (but not limited to) Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, the Báb, and Bahá'u'lláh are one in spirit and reality. It showed that each Prophet fulfilled the promise of the One who came before; and likewise, each announced the One who would follow. This was the answer to my question about God leaving us to ourselves for nearly 2,000 years. God had never left us alone! We just failed to see the bigger picture.

This was my long-awaited moment to shout, "Hallelujah praise the Lord!"

That very day (August 25, 1978), I joined the Bahá'í Faith by declaring my belief to my "spiritual father" Kurt Hein, and I am still amazed by it after 42 years. If you have questions or comments, email me here with FOR HAROLD in the Subject line. I will even gladly set up a time to talk with you if you wish.

* Referring specifically to black people, not to people of color in general.

And that is, really, all it takes. For anyone. For Harold. For you, if you're interested. When you're ready, you simply tell another Baha'i that you are Baha'i. You don't need to have undertaken any formal study. You don't need to know all the Scriptures (as if anyone could). You don't need to pledge any tithe. You don't need to undergo any ritual. You don't have to immediately practice - or even be aware of - all the principles and Baha'i laws. You just have to be willing to learn. At your own speed. And to try to live up to your faith. To the best of your ability with what you have at the time. And it's your option, then, whether you wish to also be "registered" in the worldwide Baha'i community. Which you can accomplish (in the U.S.; other countires may have other methods) simply by filling out a registration card to be forwarded to the Local Spiritual Assembly of your municipality or, if there isn't one, to the National Baha'i Center so they know how to reach you and can put you in touch with nearby Baha'is.

Thank you, Harold.

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Sun, Jan 17, 2021 at 10:20 AM, Nancy B. wrote:
   This was good, Harold. It was very good. I like the way you told your story.

 

Harold responds to Nancy:
   There's a lot more of it, but I didn't want it to get too long.

 

 

Sun, Jan 17, 2021 at 10:24 AM, Nancy B. wrote:
   Yeah, ya could go on forever. But I thought you did very well.

Mon, Feb 2, 2021 at 2:20 PM, Barbara wrote:
Dear Lucki,
   I love the article by dear Harold. I just learned he and I graduated from high school the same year—but he found the Faith so much sooner than I did! Good for him!
   I can think of a couple people I'm going to share this with. Thanks Lucki!
Loving greetings,
Barbara

 

Lucki responds to Barbara:
  Glad you enjoyed it. I have a couple more guests blogs in the works. Stay tuned.
  BTW, speaking of high school "encounters", would you believe that one of those guest bloggers and I recently found out we had attended the same distant high school at the same distant time.

 

 

Tue, Feb 2, 2021 at 2:24 PM, Barbara wrote:
  It must have been a big school or you were in different grades - or you might have known each other. A fullblown red rose

      Lucki responds to Barbara:
  You'll find out when it gets published. Of course, any or all of your scenarios could've been in play.
Sun, Febuary 28, 2021 at 7:33 PM, Marianne. wrote:
  Ah, yes- the guest blog featuring Harold W! That was wonderful! Thank you for featuring his story of finding the Faith!

 

Lucki responds to Marianne:
  Ah, glad you saw that, but Harold was last month. This month was Nancy. Gotta keep up, girlfriend. LOL
    Mon, March 1, 2021 at 8:13 AM, Marianne. wrote:
  Another day, another chance.....

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2021-01-08
C A B B A G E

"Green is the prime color of the world,
and that from which its loveliness arises."  - Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Back near the end of December, I was phone-chatting with my #grandMya and I happened to mention the new plant growing in my office window. It's something I do almost every year, 'cuz in the drab of winter the eye  - the soul - craves living green. At her query, I explained to her what I had just started, how I was doing it, and the results so far.

Cabbage scrap in late December 2020Cabbage scrap in early January 2021Her response? "I'd love to see that."

So I promised to send her a pic. Which I did. Two pics, actually. Taken a week apart: <=== December 28 and January 4.===>

Her response? "Ooh so cute!"

Behind that, I sent her a detailed email. 'Cuz she likes cute. So I thought she might even be interested in doing her own plant. And I'm sharing it here 'cuz you, too, might be craving a touch of fresh, new green. And this kind of "gardening" is as simple as mud. You don't need a green thumb. You don't even need dirt. All you need is what's left over when you finish eating a cabbage, a recycled container, and water. The email said:

Thanx. Home-y hydroponics in action. All 3 disks came from 1 cabbage stalk. I have another head of cabbage I'm eating; so when that's done, I may plant a 2nd container full. Especially during winter, the eye craves bright, living  green.

Do you have a sunny-ish window in your dorm room? You could do the same thing. Any [recycled glass or plastic] container will do.

Put the inch-thick disks in & then add enough water to come 1/3 to 1/2 way up the disks. Add more water every few days as needed. I put paper towels behind the container as insulation from the cold window frame. I put them on the sill in the daytime, & back on my PC credenza, right under the heat vent, at night. (Of course, if you have a piece of furniture against the wall & the sun will come directly in, you don't need to keep it on the window sill at all, which means you don't have to move it away at night.)

Depending on conditions, especially sunniness v. cloudiness, the core disks may even start to grow rootlets. Which means you might be able to plant them outside in the spring. Or you might decide, as I've been known to do, to eat the leaves. Sooner is better than later, though, to keep them from growing bitter.

Regrowing from veggie scraps like this in nothing but water also works for lettuce and bok choi cores, celery bases, carrot tops, scallion bottoms, and bean and garlic-clove sprouts. Try it for free food. (In other words, it might save you some "cabbage".) Or just try it for free fun. Especially try it with any home-bored, wall-climbing kids in your vicinity.

If you let the resulting plants grow for long enough, and they get hot enough, they may even "bolt" and grow flowers. (I don't keep my home warm enough in winter for that to happen, but it has happened in summer sun.)

This is such an easy way to put a bright, green spin on winter. To uplift your spirits with warm hope. For as Percy Bysshe Shelley exulted, "O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?"

Khoda hafez,
Lucki

Fri, Jan 8, 2021 at 7:01 PM, Mya wrote:
   Super cute blog post. I wonder if anyone will actually start doing the cabbages! If they do, I hope they share that with you.

 

Lucki responds to Mya:
   Well, for starters, do you think you might? Ya know, if you have some growing in your door room, you can always give them as a mental health gift to anyone on campus who you see is feeling depressed or suffering from S.A.D.

 

 

Fri, Jan 9, 2021 at 10:37 AM, Mya wrote:
   I might give it a thought!

      Lucki responds to Mya:
  OK. Lemme know when you get back to campus. I love you forever. Mwah. Bye bye.
        Fri, Jan 9, 2021 at 10:51 AM, Mya wrote:
   Love you forever too. Mwah! Bye bye or as you say TTFN.
Sun, Febuary 28, 2021 at 2:54 PM, Marianne. wrote:
  Love it! Thanks for sharing the songs!!!!! 3 pentads of hearts  Enjoying your "greening" tips. -MSG

 

Lucki responds to Marianne:
  Yeah, they seemed appropriate.  Greening tips?

 

 

Sun, Feb 28, 2021 at 7:33 PM, Marianne wrote:
  My comments to you were about your post re: growing greens from cuttings.

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