Doing what you love is not really work

Bird Droppings July 29, 2014
Doing what you love is not really work

“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham

It seems I learn something every day as I wander about the internet and books I find along the way. My life’s journey the past eleven years has been one of excitement and constant challenges. Back when I closed my business of twenty-three years and left publishing I first tried to stay in that industry but very few companies hire older folks in sales. I had been away from production far too long, and computers had replaced most of what I had done when I started out by hand. I had been talking with our new graphics teacher at the high school and the graphics industry is now almost totally on the screen in front of you. No more negatives and paste-ups even plates for presses are generated by computer direct to press.

One note of interest is as I find quotes I tend to either save or use directly in my writing however today the starting quote is from my fathers book of quotes that he had saved over the years which is a three-ring binder full of quotes he had used or was pondering using. This quote caught my attention as it is how I see teaching for me. I Love teaching and each day I am working with students I feel it matters maybe not today but one day. As I looked up Katharine Graham, I found that in her time she was one of the most powerful women in Washington. Publisher of the Washington Post it was with her permission Watergate scandal was reported and published in the Post. She was on the elite social list in Washington and with John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and she never had to sneak into White House functions which seem to be the fad these days.

As I looked further into her life and very interesting as her husband was for many years CEO and publisher of The Washington Post however it came to be known that he suffered from Manic Depression and after a series of nervous breakdowns, and residential psychiatric treatment took his own life in 1963. Upon her husband’s death, Katharine took over the company and through careful planning built it into the company it is today. I found the following quote that hit me as read further.

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” KG, speaking at the CIA Headquarters in 1988

As I watch our news and media sources banter about half-truths and often totally misleading stories, I wonder as to is their material even in our high-speed world that needs to be withheld. So often in apocalyptic movies the president hesitates from telling everyone the earth is in line to be hit by a planet size asteroid and destroyed, or that the sunspots are flaring up, and we will be crispy critters soon. Is it better to panic and get crushed in the milieu or simply not know and fry at some point in time? I comeback to my original quote and for me it is finding that place in the circle of life that makes sense to you and that you enjoy doing. For me, it is teaching. I recall when I was down about not finding work in the publishing world and my wife kept saying go back to teaching you really enjoy that. I was at the right place at the right time. Synchronicity as Karl Jung would say. A very progressive principal had just had a teacher quit due to a nervous breakdown, and job opening was there working with Emotionally Disturbed High School students. Next thing I knew I started back to teaching September 11, 2001.

“I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That’s the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I’m choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world.” From the blog of Elena Aguilar School Improvement coach from Oakland, California, 2008

I am talking with former students and teachers of the Foxfire Program in Rabun County and other Foxfire teaching settings around the country. I am finding that so many former students were influenced beyond the academics of the classes. They had each a different story but as I gather the words together each was influenced in a positive manner and each has used what they learned as the go about their journeys in life. I happened to find a site discussing a book based on the idea of why I teach. Each section of the book draws from teachers around the country and their feelings towards teaching. I Like this concept of a life-toucher.

“As a teacher, I want children to leave school with a social conscience, an appreciation for diversity and life, a thirst for learning, and understanding of how knowledge can allow them to achieve their dreams. I also want them to leave the classroom with good memories because, since teachers are life-touchers, we want to be a part of children’s childhood memories. Other teachers might not admit this, but I will: Even if I might never get to hear it from their lips, I want my former students to recall their time in my class. I want them to remember something worthwhile, great or small that happened there. I hope that my students will remember my class not because it was perfect, but because of its unique flaws. Hopefully, they also will remember that I was a teacher who truly cared and strived to teach them. This is my definition of a life-toucher.” Kerri Warfield, Visual Arts teacher, Westfield, MA

As an active teacher, I hope in my own way I am influencing kids positively so they can better manage the journey ahead. Perhaps my own rationale that it is equally about that life journey as well as academics learned along the way is in contrast to the current teach to the test idea that is driving education now. Sadly it is a long time later that the daily life touches as Kerri Warfield states are seen. It might be ten years after you have a student, and you see on Facebook a father holding a little boy and discussing how much something meant to him back in high school. That something just happened to be a small gesture you made giving a book or word of advice in time of need. So many directions I have gone today and as I wind down, as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and your hearts namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Finding Soul in looking at Curriculum or Can I get a nickels worth of cheese please

Bird Droppings July 28, 2014
Finding Soul in looking at Curriculum
or Can I get a nickels worth of cheese please

There is something about the first light on a summer’s morning. It could be about trying to discern how many different birds are singing and calling back and forth as they are waking up. It could be pondering whether the frogs and crickets are harmonizing or more into jazz. Nearby a wisp of smoke from the smudge bowl is floating along the old fence line trying to rise and is dissipating into the trees. It has been a many years since I studied psychology at Mercer University in Macon Georgia and a quite a few since my seminary studies at Emory University. Sitting here before sunrise as I continue to wander through my educational career, I find new authors and new favorites and often I recall a few from days long gone that have significance right now. I have been a fan of Carl Gustav Jung for many years and in my assundery readings the past few years have come upon James Hillman, Thomas Moore, Kent Newburn and James Kavanaugh.

I am reading right now an article by Mary Aswell Doll for an article I am writing. Doll is known for her work in curriculum and the teaching of literature at the Savannah College of Arts. As I read her paper which is an introduction to her book “Like Letters in Running Water; A Mythopoetics of curriculum.” it is entitled “Fiction as food.” She referenced several times Jung, Moore and Hillman. In my own search for further reading and understanding of who I am and why the concept of soul in education came up. Mary Aswell Doll uses the word soul as a medium for learning and growing almost as an art form.

“In another attempt upon the idea of the soul I suggest that the word refers to that unknown component which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences, is communicated in love and has a religious concern. These four qualifications I had already put forth some years ago. I had begun to use the term freely, usually interchangeably with psyche (from Greek) and anima (from Latin). Now I am adding three necessary modifications. First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences; second, the significance of soul makes possible, whether in love or religious concern, derives from its special relation with death. And third, by soul I mean the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image, and fantasy — that mode which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical.” Thomas Moore, writing about his mentor, James Hillman

Over the past few months I have seen the word soul used quite frequently and yet, is it ever defined clearly? Over the years, I have worked with adults and children who I sense ( very scientific term and definitely not research based) a void or you could say a vacancy that I have referred at times as a lack of soul. It is not looking at this in a religious sense, and as Moore infers other possibilities as well could be drawn. In this sense of vacancy perhaps learning issues as well could occur. Doll in her writing emphasizes making a connection with content and existence, bringing the two together.

“First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences” Thomas Moore

Thomas Moore defines soul as that piece that becomes a piece of your reality not just a fact memorized and categorized. As I read through Doll’s article, other issues came to mind. I find in today’s educational settings we as a society and attempt to cram as much curriculum into a very specific given space as possible regardless of whether it will make sense later and in that we seem to lose something. Just get a test over with, and I am out of here, I have heard that line from teachers and students many times. I have raised the question of filling a liter bottle with two gallons of information as an analogy. As always though where does that lead us. I think Thomas Moore sees us stripping away any soul we may have or not taking time to nurture the soul that could be there.

“But the culture is going into a psychological depression. We are concerned about our place in the world, about being competitive: Will my children have as much as I have? Will I ever own my own home? How can I pay for a new car? Are immigrants taking away my white world? All of this anxiety and depression casts doubt on whether I can make it as a heroic John Wayne-style individual.” James Hillman

Could it be we are killing off or siphoning off soul in kids and adults? I was watching Law and Order just before I went to sleep last night. It was an old show about a father who was so enraged with a hockey coach after the game from not playing his son enough, the scouts from colleges his son wanted to attend were there that he beat him and killed him. His defense was parental rage, losing control, and the attorney for the state came back with how can we excuse this man. His rights stopped when he put his fists up to the coach. We cannot accept road rage, parent rage any rage. Then I read Hillman’s statement. What is our self-view? What leads to psychological depression, is it because we are all supposed to be John Wayne.

Borrowing from a thought, I read a day or so ago from Steven Pinker that behaviors are not manifestations of our environment but our genetic makeup and environment triggers behavior.

“Instead of seeing depression as a dysfunction, it is a functioning phenomenon. It stops you cold, sets you down, and makes you damn miserable. So you know it functions,” James Hillman

Is it in this rat race society where being John Wayne, never stopping, emailing till all hours of the night, working 24/7, getting no sleep and pouring down energy drinks (I tend to like the five-hour energy shots) is how we live and feel justified? I remember seeing my first bottle of Coke BLAK, a short-lived coffee flavored Coca-Cola a few years back as the Coke man was loading coolers at a nearby convenience store. It reminded me I was one who stopped drinking Coca-Cola when new coke came out.

Hillman sees our increase in depression as a response to our competitive society. That we are leaving behind something perhaps, it is our soul. Hillman authored a bestseller, “Soul Code” and Moore authored the best seller “Care of the soul.” These two men are not just flyby nights. James Hillman studied under Carl Jung in the 1950’s and Moore a former Monk studying for the priesthood has a doctorate in psychology and music studied under Moore. Interesting he is a pianist as well as a therapist. Both men are concerned about this thing we call soul. In Doll’s article, she emphasizes children learning literature in a manner that stirs the soul. By going back to Moore’s first definition, “First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences” John Dewey sought to pull the experience into learning to make it a crucial aspect of his philosophy. I have many times related to context and content being equal partners in learning.

“According to the German poet Novalis, “The seat of the soul is there, where the inner world and the outer world touch. Where they permeate each other, the seat is in every point of the permeation.” Thomas Moore

Over the years, I have read several of Moore books. One thought he referred to often is that primitives die from water-borne disease and in modern society the primary cause of death is stress related illness. That thought has made me think about how we teach as well. Are we taking the soul out, leaving only the content much like a tape recorder, children simply give back facts? In Doll’s article, she describes several things to help teach fiction. One is deliteralization and getting back to imagination. Another is letting imaginations run wild. Doll uses the word fluidity and one statement that is significant for me is;

“…fiction is food, fiction feeds the soul’s hunger.” Mary Aswell Doll

“Second is a teaching method for fiction probably not favored in surveys courses: slowness” Mary Aswell Doll

I have been wandering, thinking, and throwing out far too many ideas today. It could be that I have been reading too much over my summer vacation days even while I have been teaching classes and attending classes a large portion of the summer. However a slight change of thought but very much in line, borrowing from James Kavanaugh, several lines from his poem Men too gentle to live among wolves.

“There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who prey upon them with IBM eyes
And sell their hearts and guts for martinis at noon.
There are men to gentle for a savage world
Who dream instead of snow and children and Halloween
And wonder if the leaves will change their color soon.
There are men to gentle to live among wolves
Who anoint them for burial with greedy claws
And murder them for a merchant’s profit and gain.
There are men to gentle for a corporate world
Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
And pause to hear the distant whistle of a train.”
James Kavanaugh

I wonder if we could slow down or change gears or maybe find that which is missing from so many. I get excited when I read Moore and Kavanaugh hoping maybe as a society we will find answers. But then I turn on the TV, or pull news on Yahoo and, for example, this a few mornings back a news story about a high up official in Homeland Security, who was arrested for soliciting sex with an underage girl over the internet. He had been reported using secured cell phones and computers for his obsession. A crazy what if going back a few years; The Katrina mistakes were because a memo slipped up during a computer session. I was thinking back to when every day it seemed another mega conservative influential person was found being naughty. Now in a more liberal political setting and still scandals pop up I was thinking back to the Governor getting in trouble for trying to sell the Senate seat from Illinois.

Like the parent rage on Law and Order, I am sure someone will say this man has an illness. I would say it was too borrowing from Pinker’s thoughts it was in his DNA. Maybe he just needed something to bring it out and fortunately this time it was an undercover officer posing as a fourteen-year-old girl online. But what if terrorists figured him out and got into his secured files, what if it was blackmail? I spent the better part of several hours discussing politics and ethics in schools yesterday with peers. I came to the conclusion a politician by definition cannot be ethical. A politician will vote the way someone wants them to vote not how they know in their heart they should. I might email Thomas Moore maybe we need a repair book for souls.

Another week ahead and so much going on through the world, I will try and be optimistic and continue to hope for peace. I was at my current favorite store Kroger yesterday getting a few provisions for the family and while standing at the Deli counter an elderly man and myself got into a conversation recalling the old days and country stores. When I first moved into Walton County back in 1978, you would still see mules occasionally plowing fields and an outhouse here and there as well. But a found memory is the hoop cheese at the corner country store. The elderly man and who am I to be calling anyone elderly so I should say two old men got talking cheese at Kroger. I get the Boars Head black wax cheddar which is very close to the old hoop cheese. Well, as we discussed smoked turkey and how thin it should or should not be hoop cheese came up, and I got to listen to a story that I will share.

My partner in cheese talks said do you remember that hoop cheese back in the day and of course I said we would get it just up at the corner store, a wedge wrapped in wax paper for a few dollars made an excellent lunch. I shared my just sliced Boars Head black wax cheddar, and it was just about as good he said. He offered back about fifty years ago Joe Smith was a kid then and would come up to old Mr. Jones store couple times a week and ask for a nickels worth of cheese. Old man Jones would get out of his chair and ever so carefully slice a paper thin slice of hoop cheese for that kid. I seriously do not know how he did it. You just can’t slice cheese thin it falls apart, but that old man could do it. I listened to this story from someone I never met before, and it hit me how each day we respond to how many people. How often do we find ourselves in conversation seemingly about nothing important and yet this was a crucial story for this man to tell me. It made his Kroger trip I would like to think as it made mine. I find new ideas new friends as I journey along lives trail. I thought that I would share with those of you who read my daily droppings and or are reading for the first time. However, I still find it necessary to end please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

What do we miss?

Bird Droppings July 27, 2014
What do we miss?

All Along the Watchtower

There must be some way out of here,
Said the joker to the thief,
There’s too much confusion,
I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine,
Plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth.
No reason to get excited,
The thief, he kindly spoke,
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that,
And this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now,
The hour is getting late.
All along the watchtower,
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went,
Barefoot servants, too.
Outside in the distance
A wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching,
The wind began to howl.”

All along the Watch Tower the words and Music are by Bob Dylan and have been covered by almost every major rock star from Jimmy Hendricks, Eric Clapton, Guns and Roses and Bruce Springsteen just to throw some names around. I read the words from the song and thought how easily this could apply to the political fiasco we continue to be mired in. Every day I talk with strangers, students, friends, family and a few maybe that are hard to define. Within my family I have a reputation of whenever I leave the house allow an extra hour or so because I will find people to talk with. I use the reference of a circle often as far back as 1971 I wrote about the circle of life and defined myself within a circle. It was my understanding of the circle that has changed over the years. Perhaps it is wisdom and reading and discussing with all of the above. I reference often the passage from Black Elk, Lakota Sioux medicine man.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours….”Black Elk

It was back a few years I was writing still learning about the circle of life and received on August 6, 2003 an email from a dear friend.

“Dear Bird, The circle may have more to do with the philosophy of letting the river flow. I think our culture is more involved with the spiral in the up direction. We have a hard time revisiting, editing, honing, or learning from experience – all involve the circle.” Frances Friedman

Frances and I have a dialogue of sorts ongoing now almost ten years with thoughts words and ideas and as I read this I recalled a bowl of objects in my room, and a Shel Silverstein book, The Missing Piece meets the Big O. Most of us are familiar with river stones, pebbles or rocks worn smooth with the flow of the river or stream. In Africa some of the hardwood trees have wood so dense it sinks and as a result pieces of trees will fall into the river or stream and much like river stone tumble and spin and soon have a round look like a river stone. I have a bowl of river stone wooden rocks in my room.

The story from the late Shel Silverstein’s is that of a pie shape piece missing from the whole (or so they think) and is sitting waiting for the right piece whom is missing a piece to come by. The piece sits and sits and finally after many seasons and many pieces, a BIG O tells him you are on your own. You can do what you want. The piece begins to flip flop and such and soon as the edges wear down and it begins to roll. It is its own piece a simple child’s story maybe in a world where we all search for identity.

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

So often we wait wanting only to be that which we are not willing to learn to change into and grow. A piece of wood lying on the bottom of a stream in many parts of the world would float away and simply be gone. However as my pieces attest to some will roll and tumble smoothing the edges rounding off and soon be as the river stones. Just as the missing piece learned sometimes you have to move adjust begin to roll and sometimes even change or simply sit and wait. As Carlyle states what will you miss.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Frances Friedman mentioned how so often we forget to learn from experience so often in our hurries we are not watching looking seeing. As I prepare for my classes I have been working on the concept of SUCCESS. Many of the people I know can relate to failure but not success it is a new concept. It is a new experience but hopefully they will learn through and of experience and move beyond failure.

“When I hear somebody sigh that ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” Sidney J. Harris

Contrast and compare, Harris is a thinker that many may not know. He was a writer in the 1960’s through his death in 1980’s. A teacher friend nearly thirteen years ago shared several of his articles with me and Harris’ columns are intriguing reading. Strictly Personal is the name of his old column and in archives on the internet. You can find many of his articles and they are all good reading.

As I look back in my own life and times and see where and when corners were rounded and I learned and succeeded and failed many times. I also see other people who were affected by that moment and hopefully they have affected positively and grown as well. Yesterday I was in the guidance office and a little boy was sitting on the floor his dad is still overseas and I was forced to think a moment please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Should we even consider ignorance a part of the journey?

Bird Droppings July 25, 2014
Should we even consider ignorance a part of the journey?

“If I want to justify my existence, and continue to be obsessed with the notion that I’ve got to do something for humanity — well, teaching ought to quell that obsession — and if I can ever get around to an intelligent view of matters, intelligent criticism of contemporary values ought to be useful to the world. This gets back again to ……The best way to help mankind is through the perfection of yourself.” Joseph Campbell

It has been so many years ago, at first I thought my goal was to do something for mankind as in some great event or task. As I sit and wonder this afternoon, I find in Campbell’s thought so often it is searching for and bettering ourselves that we truly help mankind. Earlier I wrote today to a friend about trying to understand and reduce ignorance. I seriously think it is funny how while political campaigns ignorance seems to be rampant.

“Unintelligent people always look for a scapegoat.” Ernest Bevin

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok

Working with children it becomes interesting as each day you see bits and pieces of ignorance fall away only to be there again in the morning as parents and all those outside of school work on rebuilding during the night.

“Ignorance is never out of style. It was in fashion yesterday; it is the rage today, and it will set the pace tomorrow.” Frank Dane

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

I live in a place which borders constantly on ignorance and wants so terribly to cross over to the side of wisdom. It seems those in power always want to keep those ignorant folks in the dark hence, for example, the Dark Ages back in the day. During that period most could not even read or write and those that could were in power.

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

“Naivete in grownups is often charming; but when coupled with vanity it is indistinguishable from stupidity.” Eric Hoffer

Looking at politics Hoffer may be very right. It does seem that in every election we watch politicians play with words against rhetoric that sounds good to that group that is being addressed. I recall when the legislation to prevent the sale of assault weapons was up for renewal and how ironic that in the midst of antiterrorism it would fall by the wayside.

“The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is ignorance.” Brian Hwang

“When I was fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. When I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” Mark Twain

In the search for knowledge and for understanding so, many roads can be walked. We can search in books, in schools, in our families, and in life in general, but it must entail a search. It is an assumption to think you are there and to cease the journey and to cease is to assume you have reached the destination. We are born with a starting point, point A, and when we die we have reached point B it is that which connects A and B that is crucial.

“Life is about the journey not a destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

Funny thing in as I am sitting here in my writing spot I was talking with my son, and Aerosmith’s greatest hits was playing in the background, coincidence maybe who knows but the journey continues.

“Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation…” Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces

I listen to the words and read the gibberish of the politicians and wonder if a hundred years ago or so would these same men and women be pushing for an Indian Territory and reservations. Today instead it is illegal immigration and Gay marriage that strike nerves in so many people. I was reading a National Geographic account of the salvaging of a slave ship. In 1698 humans were bought and sold for trinkets. Eleven thirteen-inch bars of iron would buy a black man and forty pounds of glass beads a black woman. On this particular ship, the historians believe they were from the Ibo tribe in Western Africa. These people believed no one was greater than any other. It was their life philosophy that made them susceptible to being taken as slaves. This tribe was a peaceful people they were human beings bought and sold as things. Not until the war was fought were black men legally human beings in the United States, and it was not until the trial twenty years later of Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe that Indians received the legal term of a human being. This was not all that long ago.

“Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was tame, Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.” Luther Standing Bear

I have become spoiled sleeping late and forgetting to see the sunrise. This morning I went out and sat for thirty minutes in the stillness of the morning. Mourning doves were cooing around me and various other birds just waking up. A woodpecker started on the old black walnut trunk nearby our house, and I felt at ease. So many thoughts passed through my mind sitting listening in the barely lit morning. Soon I will be back in my normal rising early and writing reading getting back into the groove so to say. So it is evening now, and I must end my day may peace be with you all my friends and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

I am sharing some good words from a friends Facebook page as I read how true is this simple thought.

Elder’s Meditation of the Day July 24
“Life is as a path…and we all have to walk the path… As we walk…we’ll find experiences like little scraps of paper in front of us along the way. We must pick up those pieces of scrap paper and put them in our pocket… Then, one day, we will have enough scraps of papers to put together and see what they say… Read the information and take it to heart.”
Uncle Frank Davis (quoting his mother), PAWNEE

I am listening to a chorus of frogs, crickets and an occasional owl

Bird Droppings July 24, 2014
I am listening to a chorus of frogs, crickets and an occasional owl

“You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” Doug Floyd

Most every night and early morning when I walk about especially early in the morning I am listening to the choral arrangement of tree frogs, crickets, whippoorwills and an occasional owl. None in tune with the other yet so much together an interesting mix of harmonies and melodies as they do what they do in the trees and forests around our house.

A few years back I guess my wife, and I got alarm clocks for the boys that had earth sounds for going to sleep as well as CD or radio to wake you up, one of the sounds of the ten or so to fall asleep was crickets and frogs and the occasional owl. I have found it haunting as I listen to this at night live. Many the night back in the day while camping I have fallen asleep to that chorus. As I look perhaps a bit deeper and further in our society, this quote rings true as well it takes differing of opinion to make all work in unison. As I read this short thought from Doug Floyd, who is the editorial page editor for The Spokesman-Review, I thought how appropriate to the issues at hand. A single voice would never succeed as much as we would like to think as I listened to the green party nominee this past election cycle for president as they ran not so much to win as to offer a thought, a differing voice, change or alternative.

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” Albert Einstein

“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing –to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. Not a select party.“ John Keats

As I think to my chorus of frogs and crickets, it is not a mix of voices with simply chance bringing it together, there are specifics as the insects and amphibians call looking for mates or signaling territory. Each is very clear, and concise, and there are reasons and responses to each note and call.

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity, as well as the existing generation, ; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” John Stuart Mill

Thinking back a week or so to that day we celebrate our country’s independence which is a day where opinions became free to express, a day where as I watched the movie the other day Majestic, with Jim Carrey, where a young man is accused during the McCarthy era of being a communist and he draws his defense not on whether or not he is a communist since the committee had already decided that, but that he was entitled by the constitution to free speech The First Amendment. You know it is the opinion and thoughts of others that allow us to have room to think to pursue and grow to achieve beyond where we are. As I sit here listening to the sounds from outside to the chorus of frogs and crickets and an occasional owl, I am pleased, we can in this country have differing opinions and hope one day maybe most will be opinions of peace. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

How do we know we are grown up?

Bird Droppings July 23, 2014
How do we know we are grown up?

“The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them; he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself; he becomes wise.” Alden Nowlan

Earlier this week a former student posted on my Facebook wall a simple line, “If you haven’t grown up by fifty you don’t have to.” As I read this quote from Nowlan and thinking in terms of wisdom not being confined to the age but to affect or to understand of one’s self I do after spending several days with my granddaughter, grandson and family I think we cycle wisdom. I do believe children are born wise and become through societal pressures unwise.

Looking back at the quote I started with these are amazing words as I only recently became aware of this writer, poet and essayist from Canada. I wish I had written or said these words. Over the years, I have noticed that students walking about high school for the first few days and being at that adolescent age they begin to see the flaws and imperfection but their perception is to enhance their world and creates ripples. They see the flaws and are upset and react in a negative fashion. Adults then reciprocate with reactions and behaviors elicit consequences.

For some of that point of forgiveness comes soon and for others may take many years after leaving home, and college and marriage and their own children till forgiveness hits and adulthood true adulthood is realized. In some cases but for that rare few, wisdom can come earlier, and they truly are wise from an early age. I find trust too follows a similar road as we move through life we realize that we cannot trust everyone, we tend forgive and forget and then we realize we should trust everyone.

My dear friends as we embark on a new journey every day try and trust and forgive two good vocabulary words for the day and seek peace and balance in your life. As I do every day, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Can we use the word sacred truthfully?

Bird Droppings July 22, 2014
Can we use the word sacred truthfully?

“Teachers who do not take their own education seriously, who do not study, who make little effort to keep abreast of events have no moral authority to coordinate the activities of the classroom.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom

I have been a student and learner for some time. I would like to say I am a teacher at times sharing pieces of what I have experienced over my sixty plus years of existence. For me, it is more about sharing those pieces then using the word instruction. I somehow always conceive of instruction involving step by step directions and pieces to glue together with what we used to call airplane glue. My life has been one of numerous pathways and trails leading to the point at which I am now. Sitting writing about education and about living a life trying to maximize each breath and overturned pebble. I find it amusing as I talk with teachers those that turnover rocks as they journey looking for new creatures seem to be some of the best teachers. I admire those who are constantly looking and learning.

“Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.” Chief Seattle, 1854

These few words are a portion of the surrender speech of Chief Seattle in 1854, as translated by Dr. Henry Smith from a column in the Seattle Sunday October 29, 1887. So realistically on a cloudy morning what is sacred? Sounds like a silly question but for some it is the sacraments of the Church and others the Holy Bible or Qumran or Torah. Throughout the world, we could find Saturdays or Mondays or numerous differing holy days that people would be objectifying their beliefs. Native Peoples were perhaps too simplistic in their search for the concept of sacred. William Edelen, author and former pastor titled one of his books, In Search of the Mystery. I was reading emails earlier today, and a good friend from many years back wrote about easing of environmental laws for corporations and how a thimble full of mercury could contaminate all the fish in the lake and the lessening of restrictions on mercury by chance in chemical processing in the industry will release tons into our environment all because someone needs to make another buck. The head of EPA and four or five of Supreme Court Justices both worked for the same chemical company and have been involved in favorable legislation for that company.

“Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or for worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subjects, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle teaching holds a mirror to the soul.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to teach
Teaching for Palmer is a sacred thing as we impact as teachers children who literally are learning as we speech in just watching us as teachers. It is hard not to tie back to a mini history lesson as the first settlers wanted to buy land, and the indigenous people said it was not for sale it was sacred only to be used as needed not exploited. As the legend has it that we civilized people will destroy all animals and plants, and one day be gone when it is of no use to us anymore, and the buffalo and deer will come from hiding, and the trees will return and then “the people” can return home.

We all look at life around us in differing perspectives some seeing a large tree as firewood, others a wondrous living thing to share with grandchildren. Yesterday for the second day in a row a hawk was circling screaming as it flew in circles. On Sunday my wife, granddaughter, son and I first heard this hawk as it circled a great sycamore tree near the house. We have had a pair of red-tailed hawks hunting around our house for six years now. When we first moved in they were doing a mating flight over our house circling and diving together. My first impulse was one of the hawks had died. I did a search yesterday around the sycamore tree and found nothing. Yesterday the great hawk flew circles over the pines next to our house again screaming continuously. I stood in silence watching the circle follow the wind updraft and then drop again only to rise screaming every minute or so.

Perhaps some teachers might not need to go to work on some days as I thought back to my reading of Parker Palmers book. The idea of a mirror image of an inward look ties in with ideas of my own idea of trust, of building a comfort zone with students and then as I look beyond teaching is this not true for every aspect of our lives teacher or not. Should we each not be going further than simple existence? Palmer describes the process as coming from within untangling convolutions and touching the soul. The word project is used and truly we do project our inner selves as we walk through life? Dr. Laura Nolte states so eloquently “children learn what they live.” Are we comfortable with who we are and where we are?

Daily I will find people who are seeking answers. Sometimes simple questions other times more perplexing and deep are asked of me. It is this process of looking for answers that build who we are and develops for us what I am calling sacred. It is this process of inquiring that adds to our ability to deal with and go beyond daily issues. It is taking what seemingly is defeat and turning that into victory.

“It goes on one at a time; it starts when you care to act; it starts when you do it again after they said no, it starts when you say we and know who you mean, and each day you mean more.” Marge Piercy, The low road

I went to the nursery the other day perhaps one of my favorites in the area. They specialize in native plants and herbs along with landscaping plants and traditional garden varieties. They are going out of business not because they do not believe in what they do and enjoy it but because plants like so many aspects of farming prices have been rather stable for thirty years and the cost of living has not. Another landscaping business closed its retail outlet a few years back, but I recall just outside their office was a boulder with a hole drilled in it and a fountain bubbling out of the hole. This package was one thousand five hundred and fifty dollars installed. Next to the price is what constitutes the fountain, two hundred fifty pounds of river rock, two hundred pounds colored crushed lava rock, a drilled boulder which had to be near a ton, a pond liner, ten landscape timbers, 1000 pounds crushed granite and a pump kit. It took numerous pieces make a whole.

I was amazed by the simple fountain and how peaceful it was water bubbling out of a rock flowing over into the river stones it was a whole that was the sum of its parts. Without a pump kit to push the water and create a fountain, it was just a rock. You could say without the boulder it would have been only a bubbling of water in a pile of rocks. I have found each of us is similar we are pieces of a whole and inside a driving force as Palmer uses the word soul and heart interchangeably in his book, and it is here we determine sacred for ourselves. If that pump stopped working on that simple fountain, all effect is gone we need maintenance on our heart and not just our physical heart, but that of our emotional heart so that that fountain flows and the entire package has meaning as we go out in our days. So dear friends please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird