History Tidbits

Snowflakes

I have seen references to caring people as “snowflakes.” Let me tell you something about snowflakes.

There is no sight more beautiful and peaceful as that of giant snowflakes falling silently to the ground. They bring a hush that even the noise and tumult of a busy city submit to. It is akin to sitting by a quiet mountain lake listening to the call of songbirds on a sunny spring afternoon.

Every year snowflakes fall and gather together in the mountains. They blanket the earth with a deep white carpet that fills my soul with wonder. In the spring the collection of snowflakes begins to melt. They find their ways into streams and rivers of life giving waters that provide our fields with plant sustaining moisture. They fill our reservoirs with water for drinking.

As far as human snowflakes are concerned, I proudly accept the title. This snowflake has run into an exploding building to help rescue those who were trapped. That is what snowflakes do. This snowflake has helped rescue people from overturned cars, that is what snowflakes do. This snowflake has gently held those who wept over the loss of a loved one, that is what snowflakes do.

There are many snowflakes living, breathing and caring across our land. No two snowflakes are identical. Those who are fighting fires in the west are snowflakes. Many, not all, of our military members are snowflakes. Many, not all, of our police officers are snowflakes.

For those who deride and dismiss us snowflakes, I wonder how you would define yourselves. Are you hailstones that break windows or strip the leaves and fruits from farmers’ fields? Are you raging fires that destroy everything in their paths? Are you violent winds and raging floods?

In these turbulent times, I am calling for all snowflakes to stand together and stand strong against the violence which seems to be all around us. Spring is coming when we will be needed to provide the life giving sustenance that is resident within our nurturing natures.

Principles

Citizens of the United States of America have some important decisions to make in the near future. I sincerely hope that every one of us looks at the issues which face us and compares what we see with a deep investigation of our hopes and dreams.

That is for the short term. I am also concerned for the long term. I dream of a just society where government, economics, community and family are so structured that peace and justice rise above the brutish demands for law and order.

Such a society would need to be grounded first in a set of principles which advance the importance of both peace and justice. In such a society government would formulate policies that would reflect those principles. In economics, policies would ensure the inclusion of all in the productive and distributive efforts of the society. I have seen such societies in action, but only on small scale. If we are to have a positive future, we must find ways to structure our society so that we can build on a common vision for the “more perfect union” our forefathers dreamt of.

Higley History 1

I recently came into possession of a large book titled “The Higleys and Their Ancestry. An old Colonial Family.” My grandmother, Laura Elizabeth Higley Glauner, is mentioned in the book. I will be sharing tidbits from the book, which is now in the public domain (no copy write material) as I come across items that I think would be of interest to my friends. Here is the first such tidbit.

Six pages of text in the book are dedicated to Warren Higley. I am sharing one story for the collection.

 “The Patria Club, of which Judge Higley is the presiding officer, held its initial meeting at Sherry’s, April 23, 1891.

Shortly before that date, at a dinner of the New York councilors of the American Institute of Civics, over which Judge Higley presided, it was proposed to effect an organization including the members resident in New York City and vicinity, the object of which should be to promote the patriotic aims of the Institute, and be known as the ‘Patria Club,’ the membership to be open to ladies as well as gentlemen. Its first meeting was addressed by the right Rev. A. C. Coxe, bishop of the Western Diocese of New York, who made an able address upon ‘Standards of Citizenship and Government.’

This club, over which Judge Higley has presided for two years, now (1895) numbers about two hundred ladies and gentlemen in its membership, and is accomplishing a quiet but effective work in ‘the maintenance of high ideals in affairs of government.’

While I was working on my PhD in the late eighties and early nineties, My wife and I purchased a very large house so that we could rent out rooms to other students. I was walking by the office of one of the campus ministers who had become a friend of mine over several years. She stopped me and asked if I had a room to rent to a young woman who was trying to begin her college program.

The young woman in question had been living in a shelter for battered women in the area and wanted to live where she would have more freedom to attend classes. I agreed to interview the young woman. She came to the house where I explained to her that the residents of the house were exclusively women, some of whom had small children with them. Under those circumstances, it would have to be a condition of her residence that she have no contact with the man who had been abusing her.

She began to cry and confessed that she had been seeing him even though she was in a shelter for battered women. “I just love him,” she exclaimed “I have to be able to see him. With some degree of sorrow, I had to turn her away. Attachments such as the one I have just related are self-destructive but real.

Every time I read a post from someone who extols their admiration for Mr. Trump in glowing terms, I am reminded of that unfortunate young woman.

New Constitution

I fear that we (citizens of the USA) have been allowing our government to slide toward totalitarianism for too long. Our three “equal” branches of government have not served us well when it comes to restraining the Iron Law of Oligarchy.” In fact, the tree branches have been complicit with the two political parties in fostering a government system where tyranny/oligarchy seems inevitable.

I have a dream that we can do better by creating a more representative government where the people have direct control over their representatives without the intervention of party and money. I can see myself discussing issues that impact my life directly with 100 of my neighbors and selecting one of that group to represent us in our government. I trust my neighbors. I believe that any like group of 100 could come to the point where they would also trust their neighbors. I will be re-posting this little message from time to time with reasons why such an arrangement would be positive for our nation.

  • This time, I can see such gatherings improving the quality of neighborhood relations.
  • Such an arrangement would totally block any interference in our election from any unauthorized source.
  • There would be no need for money in politics. Please make the effort to find out how much money is spent annually on political campaigns. All the donations to political campaigns could be used to support those of our neighbors in need.

Community

My wife counsels me that people would rather read short, concise sound bites. I realize the truthfulness of her observation, yet there are some things I want to say that don’t lend themselves to the sound bite. I hope to induce my friends to read these longer posts.

All life demands struggle. Physical life demands struggle. The natural world we live in presents us with a constant array of obstacles to be encountered and overcome. Whether it be loss of access to food because of insects such as locusts, or from atmospheric events such as floods or droughts, or losses from disease, we humans live in a world where catastrophe is always potentially only a moment away.

One of the first lessons humanity learned is that we are better served when we work together in the face of threats to physical life. The impulse to collaborate seems to be designed right into our basic structure. It seems natural for us to share food. We resent the person who hoards food while others go without. And yet, for all of what seems to me to be the innate drive to collaborate in the face of trauma and tragedy, some of us seem inclined to reject the natural impulse to work together.

I think that such tendencies arise from deficiencies in the process of social learning. Show me a person who has been denied the care of others and I will show you a person who would prefer isolation to caring and sharing. Show me a person who has been denied food and I will show you a person who would hoard food while others go without. Show me a person who has been abused and I will show you a person with a propensity to abuse. In other words, we reap what we sow.

Social life, then, demands struggle. In order to collaborate in the struggle against the trials of physical life, we must struggle against the trials of social life. What then are the trials of social life and how may we overcome them. Let me list the ways that I think we can make “baby steps” toward a more satisfying social life.

We might first recreate the sense of community that humanity enjoyed for many centuries before it was replaced with mass society. It strikes me that a sense of community grounds individuals in the security collaboration affords.  Community holds individuals accountable to the maintenance of social life. Caring and sharing with and for each other is the major foundation on which life satisfaction is built.

I know, as a sociologist, that retreat into isolation is a warning sign of everything from child abuse within a family setting to suicide on an individual basis. There is no positive outcome of isolation.  In the years of my youth, I was always surrounded by family and by those members of my church who were close enough to me to be considered family. It was a great blessing to me. During my career in the Air Force, I was privileged to be a member of a small unique group who were much like family.

How can we renew the feeling of community when all of the pressures of modern society seem designed to separate and isolate us?  I believe that we can recreate a sense of community within the neighborhoods we live in. The impetus for a communal collaboration could begin with the opportunity to reason together in choosing representatives from among our neighbors to act as our emissaries to government.

Protests

When the people have to protest against their government, and the government arrests the protesters, it is not a government “Of the People, By the People, and For the People.”

Economic Balance

When it comes to being a conservative or a liberal, let’s talk about money. I think, whether we are talking about a family or the nation, or any level of social grouping in between, it is good to be liberal when spending for essentials (food, clothing, shelter, etc)and conservative when spending for non-essential (luxury) items. I would be willing to give examples if I get responses.

Progressive or Conservative

Some thought occurred to me today. I want to share them with my friends

.The 8th chapter of the Gospel according to John includes an interaction between Jesus and “those Jews which believed on him.” In the 32nd verse Jesus states, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The response from that group of followers who had gathered around him is found in the 33rd verse. “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus responds in the 34th verse “Jesus replied, very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

Every society, community or social grouping shares a culture. Culture can rest on principles or on tradition. In most (if not all) instances, tradition results from the metastasizing of principles from a previous time.

In my opinion, Jesus was saying that the “law” represented such a metastasizing of principles. The principles Jesus taught were the “new wine.” The law represented “old bottles.”

Principles turn our attention to current issues and give us a window into the future. Tradition focuses our attention on the past and the metastasized principles which may no longer be sufficient to guide a society, community or other social grouping.

In contemporary society, the progressive movement builds culture on a new understanding of time honored principles whereas the conservative movement holds tradition to be of prime importance.

Several questions come to my mind.

  • What were the principles included in the truth Jesus was referring to?
  • What principles from Jesus’ teaching apply to the issues we face today?
  • From the evidence contained in his teaching, was Jesus more of a progressive or a conservative?

Is tradition that is outdated and so blocks our adherence to time honored principles

Community

When I was young, I was a member of a church that believed that God had prepared a special place where only members of that church would be allowed. I must admit that the teaching of that church colored my thinking and that became part of my belief system.

While I am still a member of that same church, my perception of God, heaven, and the role of the church have all changed. I think the general beliefs of the church have evolved at the same time and in the same direction.

The church I claim membership in and commitment to from my youth is still precious to me. I love the text in my Bible whose teachings have been evolving as more research on ancient texts reveals more truth. The Book of Mormon is also precious to me for the insights it provides into my understanding of God’s nature, of the love of Jesus and of the potential for human understanding. I am deeply impressed by the notion that God speaks to the church through modern day revelation of eternal purpose and God’s will for us in the situations we encounter.

As much as I am committed to the scriptural, institutional and relational resources the church provides to me, I can also respect those same resources others rely on from their church, their synagogue, their mosque or wherever they turn to as a source of strength and comfort.

The prompting of God revealed in my life through the Holy Spirit is that my most meaningful response to God’s love for me is found in the Gospel message from Mark 12: 29-31

29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

And from Matthew 25: 34-45.

34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

My best response to the love of God is not in the form of theological debate. It is, instead, in being a resource for the wellbeing of those within my sphere of influence.

Those within my sphere of influence include members of the local congregation of my church, my facebook friends and the people living around me. These are the communities I am a part of. I have been involved in other communities in the past, most of which I have fond memories of, but I cannot have relationships with memories even though they do serve as a source of comfort to me at times.

I live in close proximity to the neighbors who occupy the houses on the block we share, both sides of the street. I know my neighbors, at least most of them. We look out for each other. When the ambulance or the police come into my neighborhood, I get as close as I can to the activity without interfering. I do that so I can be available to my neighbors for whatever assistance I can offer.

I hear often that we need to make changes in our society and I agree. The most important change we could make to our society would be to increase the degree of community (neighborhood) interaction. Even the simple change of forming “Constituent Assemblies” of 100 neighbors to choose representatives to our government would increase feelings of community cohesion.