Can we find learning in the Kalahari Desert?

Bird Droppings October 1, 2014
Can we find learning in the Kalahari Desert?

I was walking about the yard and along the side of our nearby dirt road taking pictures of wildflowers and grasshoppers among other things that I find as ponder. I spent several minutes trying to photograph a seed from a broom sage plant floating along in the afternoon breeze. A bit of down just going where the breeze would take it. It is very hard to focus on a moving piece of down and as I pondered it is much like walking into a class room and trying to teach kids who really do not want to be there. Sadly their thoughts and ideas floating about wandering where ever the breeze of the day is blowing. I was listening as I drew near the back field and the sound of crickets and frogs was nearly deafening. An author I found in my later years Laurens Von der Post came to mind as I imagined the sounds and images before me. Most of Von der Post’s early learning years were spent on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa being raised by a Bushmen nanny.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness. Both these processes are profoundly and mysteriously interdependent and doomed to failure without a continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation.” Laurens Van der Post

It was in the remembering of a very poignant childhood event Laurens Von der Post was witness to that he recalls the last days of man, at least to the Bushmen or Sans. It has been several months maybe even a year since I last picked up a Von der post book. Somehow in an email last evening I went looking for this author and prolific writer. As I researched last night and went to Amazon.com 61 pages of his books and variations and edited versions and translations are available. He died in 1996 at the age of 90 and, he had been everywhere and done everything. He was Prince William’s of Great Britain’s God father, the only non-royal ever to be so honored. He had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth many years ago. His writings while covering his adventures and travels worldwide, he is best known for his stories of the African bush. A Far Away Place, was made into a family movie of children and their trek in the African wilds. But as I read permeating all of his writing is a fascination and deep understanding of a nearly lost people, the African Bushman, or Sans as they call themselves.

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Von der Post

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us–and those around us — more effectively. Look for the learning.” Eric Allemburgh

Yesterday I was thinking in several directions, on one hand I was discussing education in the US with several friends and pros and cons of public education somehow came into that discussion. I interjected a comment about indigenous peoples of South America and how Amazonian Native peoples will often want to experience civilization. I mentioned a unique program in Brazil as well, of protecting indigenous peoples from civilization where land is kept intact and rain forest left alone when a new tribe is found, literally keeping civilization out. Often armed guards patrol to prevent missionaries and civilizers from coming in contact with these primitive peoples. I started thinking in terms of learning environment and for the indigenous peoples of the jungle it is the jungle where the optimal learning environment is for them to survive. Far too often we interject our modern societal values and say they should learn this or that. This led me to a statement by John Holt from the other day and one that has been in my pondering now several days.

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

In that course of thought I went the direction of the Bushman and Von der Post. Last night I stood in the dark a bit longer than I usually do even with graduate studies and writing as well as my own college and high school lessons to prepare for when I took the dog out. The sky was streaked with clouds and a smiling moon was trying to peek through. I was standing on the porch listening to the night, almost silent. I went back out another time a bit later into the morning and by now all the clouds were nearly gone and stars permeating the entire sky. My shoulder has been bothering me and I laid back down putting my writing off till a bit later in the day. So often in my days a student who has an issue or a friend or teacher will find a Bird Dropping and then a series of events, I often use the term coincidence and it will have been just what they needed that day. For whatever reason I am compelled to build on a thought passing by as I am thinking never quite sure why.

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” Mary Kay Ash

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennet

Several days ago I received an email from a person to be added to my morning meanderings. I added this person to my list and yesterday received another email here in my rushing to get a Bird Droppings out I had written exactly what this person needed. When talking with my son yesterday he mentioned his former boss admitted she never read my meanderings and one day she had been searching and by chance opened my daily thought and again it was what she needed. I am wandering a bit from my learning idea but it is the contextual framework that we seem to build that provides us with those learning activities and experiences.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Taylor Benson

“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.” Soren Kierkegaard

As I sit thinking about the drawing together of thoughts the past few days and ideas I come back to my involvement in Foxfire teaching techniques which is the basis for my one day to be finished dissertation. As I thought while reading several passages this morning, in a Von der Post’s book, The Lost world of the Kalahari. There is a comment about witnessing the last of the Bushmen painters. It seems there was a point in time when the Bushmen stopped their primitive art which was painted on the rocks in caves of the Kalahari. The last painter had been killed in an attack literally of genocide and no one knew how to take over the art. Laurens Von der Post writes how he heard those gunshots as a child.
As I looked at students walking the halls at my school and the discussions we have had over the past months on the internet it really dawned on me I was where I was to be, and doing what I was to do, offering at least a little piece of more than what is normally available. That could be hope, or it could be wisdom, It could be that talking about a bushmen ostrich egg with red neck kids in Georgia and interestingly enough preserving pieces of old Georgia in essays and photos and PowerPoint projects as we go. Von der Post in his book went in search of the last of the Bushman and found himself.

“Coincidences have never been idle for me, instinctively, but as meaningful as I was to find they were to Jung. I have always had a hunch that they are a manifestation of a law of life of which we are inadequately aware and which in terms of our short life are unfortunately incapable of total definition, and yet however partial the meaning we can extract from them, we ignore it, I believe, at our peril. For as well as promoting some cosmic law, coincidences, I suspect, are some sort of indication to what extent the evolution of our lives is obedient or not obedient to the symmetry of the universe.” Laurens van der Post reflecting on Carl Jung’s work

For many years now I have read and pondered Jung’s words and ideas. Back fourteen or so years ago an author James Redfield, wrote about coincidence in a fictional story of a lost manuscript The Celestine Prophecy. Redfield was trying to explain what he saw happening in his own life. Carl Jung in the early 1900’s coined the word synchronicity. I simplify and say I am at the right place at the right moment. What is amazing is when you look at life that way and you begin to see events unfold before you rather than just seeing through hindsight. I was reading a friends note earlier about how ever thing happens for a reason. I responded jokingly that it only gains reason if we learn from it. As I sit hear pondering this morning it is in looking that we truly see and in listening that we truly hear.

“A continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation” Laurens Von der Post

I went in the internet, to borrow from the Foxfire website the following:
“In the Foxfire Approach, learning environments are characterized by student involvement and action, by thoughtful reflection and rigorous assessment, by imagination and problem solving, by applications beyond the classroom for what is learned, and by meaningful connections to the community. In these classrooms, students build the ability to work collaboratively and assume responsibility for their own learning processes.” Foxfire Fund
Where and how does the Kalahari Desert and Bushmen and Learning and coincidence all tie in. An easy explanation can be seen borrowing from a core practice in the Foxfire teaching process

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to revisions and refinements.” Foxfire

We build through reflection and we grow through reflection.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness.” Laurens Von der Post

I think reflection could be inserted just as easy into Von der Posts quote; we all need to take time to see where we are and then participate actively as we go in life. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind in and in 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

Is wisdom contagious?

Bird Droppings September 30, 2014
Is wisdom contagious?

I was reading in a friend’s blog about the Harry Potter series. She was addressing religious beliefs in her blog and how so many adhere verbatim to holy texts. As I read her blog which is rather good the ending was rather interesting.

“That doesn’t mean I’m waiting for my letter from Hogwarts to arrive by owl post any time soon… well, not really… looks out window for owl.” bluecollarmamma.wordpress.com

How we delineate which texts become holy is often a human contrivance. It might be that Harry Potter books in another thousand years will be considered gospel. I added a comment to her note on Facebook after I read her blog. Something to the effect that as I pulled out from my house yesterday morning a red tailed hawk was sitting on the power line beside me watching me leave. As I left it flew away. On my wall to my immediate left is a red tailed hawk feather that I found nearly fourteen years ago. I often wonder as to how we formulate and postulate our understandings of our surroundings. In Native American thought the great mystery often referred to as Wakan-Taka is that aspect we cannot clearly define.

“The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.” Pierre Abelard

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Taka (the Great Spirit), and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is known that true peace, which, as I have often said, is within the souls of men.” Black Elk – Oglala Sioux

“He that never changes his opinions, never corrects his mistakes, and will never be wiser on the morrow than he is today.” Tryon Edwards

I think there is a bit of wisdom in all of us yet we often tend to put aside for ease of thinking. We follow others unquestioning and do as they do because it is so easy to not think. I watch the news of another mega church pastor who is being sued in civil court over some possible indiscretions. This is a man who lives in opulence all built on his twenty five thousand member church preaching the word. We fall in line sadly in a world behind politicians who speak the best or offer the biggest possibility of promises that of course will be never kept.

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

I wonder if some of these wealthy pastors would continue their preaching in a manner consistent with Bonheoffer, one of the few Christians to die in Germany’s concentration camps. He died doing what he believed preaching against the Nazi regime and protecting Jews as the Nazi came looking for them. He is considered a great theologian and philosopher and he lived as he preached. As I read this passage how easy we get swept up in knowledge and perhaps lose the significance.

“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” Plato

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Naguib Mahfouz

“We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” Samuel Smiles

Far too often we garble the message with too many words. Plato had it right there are many who talk simply to hear themselves talk. I often talk about how questions from four year olds are some of the best because they have not been subjected yet to others opinions and scrutiny. Children are silenced when we tell them they are wrong before they even ask the question. It does take failure to learn and to gain wisdom. Smiles points out what Edison would allude to in his quest for a light bulb in that he found ten thousands bulbs that did not work and one that did. I have not read as much of Gibran as I wish I had and am working on that.

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” Kahlil Gibran

“A prudent question is one half of wisdom.” Francis Bacon

“Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, and is fashioned by mind. If you speak and act with a polluted mind, suffering will follow you, as the wheels of the oxcart follow the footsteps of the ox. Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, and is fashioned by mind. If you speak and act with a pure mind, happiness will follow you, as a shadow clings to a form.” Buddha

There is clarity in youth that muddles as we grow older. I see little children as containing wisdom only to lose it through interaction in society and then to slowly regain as they grow older and go through the process of being human. Some may retain pieces of that wisdom and not take as long to return back too that childlikeness. It is a circle much like the circle of life.

“I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy…but anywhere is the center of the world.” Black Elk – Oglala Sioux

I have been reading and seeking to understand Black Elk for nearly forty years and each year I am able to know and understand more. Perhaps it is wisdom or errors along the way that led me back to the understanding of his words. Black Elk was a holy man who worked into his eighties in or around the reservation harvesting crops for farmers in the area. He was not gaudy or opulent in his life but humble with the power and understanding that he had. He was respected for his knowledge and wisdom and perhaps is a good point to stop today. I hope one day I will not have to end as I have for so long now. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Maybe one day I will find an answer

September 29, 2014
Maybe one day I will find an answer

“In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals, for Tarawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain animals to tell men that he showed himself through the beast and that from them, and from the stars and the sun and moon should man learn…” Eagle Chief (Letakos-Lesa) Pawnee

I find myself often looking at Native American thought for insight and ideas. Perhaps it is that indigenous peoples were more oriented around the land and survival then we civilized folks are. Many of my lessons learned revolve around learning from nature and the world around us rather than from school or some one person’s ideas. The lessons are often handed down in story form from father to son not printed in a holy book or text that so often lends itself to translation and interpretation. Many the night we as children fell asleep to stories of old that my father would tell us and I have told my sons and now will tell my grandchildren.

“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly…. We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way; the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.” Eagle Chief (Letakos-Lesa) Pawnee

Dr. Michael Garrett, writer, teacher and counselor discusses a theory of opposites numerous times in his writings within Native American thought. For each entity there is an opposite. As I ponder the concept of soul is there soulless aspect within humanity? Working with adolescents in all honesty I would say I have never met a soulless person, I have come close however. Conduct Disordered children have no concept of right or wrong and essentially focus totally on self. The world revolves around them and anything else is insignificant. A good friend Dr. James Sutton considers and discusses in his writing CDD children as, “more dangerous, deficient in social understanding, and poorer skills in general.” I recall my first meeting with James and how I was informed as a high teacher there was nothing I could do for these kids. He went on to state most about ninety nine percent would end up dead, in jail, used car salesmen, politicians and or evangelists. If this would hold true could be a reasons we have so much difficulty in Washington, no one really cares.

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.” Mourning Dove Salish, 1888-1936

There are times I find it difficult to say there is a purpose for some of the people I have met but as I think about this possibility of opposites and all things have purpose if not only to give contrast to the good. I was interviewed by a student earlier in the day and a question was asked have I ever intentionally hurt an animal. All I could think of was feeding mice and rats to snakes it was intentional to provide nourishment to the reptiles. But it would a matter of perception as to whether a squeaking rat being constricted was hurting as it dies being suffocated by the snake. I do feed mostly frozen thawed rats and mice however. But it made me think to other issues and how some people see them. So many are concerned about health care reform and yet even prior to legislation nearly four years ago my premiums went up and all I use it for is medicines since I seldom go to the doctor and my visits are often free. I am sitting here thinking that having a wife in health care does have its advantages at times. So we have differing perceptions and some of the people out there could be without soul so how do we continue as a society?

“Soul, the word rebounded to me, and I wondered, as I often had, what it was exactly. People talked about it all the time, but did anybody actually know? Sometimes I’d pictured it like a pilot light burning inside a person–a drop of fire from the invisible inferno people called God. Or a squashy substance, like a piece of clay or dental mold, which collected the sum of a person’s experiences–a million indentations of happiness, desperation, fear, all the small piercings of beauty we’ve ever known.” Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair

“I simply believe that some part of the human Self or Soul is not subject to the laws of space and time.” Carl Jung

Whenever I get into individualism and creativity I find myself discussing soul and I always sort of end up with it truly is a definitive aspect of which we are and how we see ourselves. Should soul be or not be an entity or thing and it is far more and less. Soul is a paradox and perhaps like Jung I do see it as not subject to laws of space and time. So with perhaps not a final answer, I should call a friend maybe I will close today with the usual please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

We should be telling our grand children

Bird Droppings September 26, 2014
We should be telling our grand children

“I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed. In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be life long. In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat. In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers. In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed– the link to creation. In my eyes sparkled love and the song floated on the sun’s rays from tree to tree. When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf’s reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out. All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.” Chief Dan George, Salish

I look forward to the day I can tell my grandchildren tales told to me by my father and his father. Recently my oldest son and I were standing in the dark listening to a chorus of coyotes call only hundreds of yards away through the dense pines of the nearby forest. Perhaps they had caught a deer or found a carcass left from some wayward hunter and were celebrating their find. The echoes and calls bounced off the trees and literally filled the air unlike anything I have heard this side of the Mississippi river. I am sure when I retell this story it will be embellished a bit but it was awesome just the same to hear personally. As I am sitting here this morning reading again this short passage from Chief Dan George I am saddened by the ending. We are on the verge as we continue to focus on the now of losing our past. We dominant society who have ravaged the landscape, stripped away what we need, technologically impaired our children, and left little possibility that our grandchildren will be able to hear and see what we have even in our lifetimes.

Many will scoff at my feeble words. However as a teacher I see the children of today struggle with imagination and creativity. I see today’s children so entangled in gadgetry that they have little need any more for a stick horse or sock stuffed animal. Few children are building forts and tree houses when they can have virtual worlds to play with. Some of us will recall what it is like to play Robin Hood in a patch of forest. Some will remember days prior to TV and video. Some of us can remember having to ask an operator to connect you to your phone call party. Some will remember dialing with a rotary dial phone other than comedians in skits. I am as much a victim using my smart phone to communicate instantly photos and images and getting directions or weather reports instantly. However it caught me by surprise when a clerk at one of my favorite stores asked me what I did with my herb garden during the winter. It set me back from the fast pace world into one of growing plants and herbs. One of digging in the dirt and growing what we need instead of asking just the price. Several times I had brought bags of mint and stevia by their store and this clerk remembered me. So what will I tell my grand daughter one day when she is sitting on my knee. I might start with a passage I used at her parents wedding ceremony.

“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…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950

It is easy to wonder sitting in my kitchen typing away on my laptop of days ahead and what lessons what stories I will share. I will walk through the fields and forest and point out leaves and twigs, I will pick up a insect and tell of what it is and why, I will teach her how a great horned owl calls in the evening and the difference between a spring peeper and a grey tree frog, I will show her to avoid poison oak and ivy and look for wild straw berries, but I will also show her how to create images on a computer and how to use words wisely and powerfully and to share with others.

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

So I am wondering what lesson I should first impart. There is a lesson that sadly many forget as they go into the world. It has been many years since I first saw these words. It is that lesson of example. Dr. Nolte, nearly fifty years ago gave us a poem of sorts “Children learn what they live”, that critical lesson is one of example providing a life that is a lesson rather than a disaster. So this morning as we end a week please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Hearing and listening are critical

Bird Droppings September 25, 2014
Hearing and listening are critical

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus

A simple analogy yet we far too often do not understand that statement and perhaps it is because we have more jaw muscle than ear muscle. In education ninety nine point nine percent of the time if you the teacher listen, students will learn more. That almost sounds like a paradox.

“Lenin could listen so intently that he exhausted the speaker.” Isaiah Berlin

I have never seen nor heard this about Lenin, as I recalled the many pictures there are of him all show him intently staring. Even in death with his glass coffin that still is on display.

“Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf.” Native American Indian Proverb

Anyone that knows me has seen me taking pictures tens of thousands of pictures of school, grandbaby, nature and athletic events. Digital cameras can be wonderful tools in the classroom as well. I was taking some pictures of twin day last year and soon to be again during one of our homecoming dress up days and one little girl was blurred in every photo. She is very ADHD and evidently that day was a bad day for being hyper. But in her constant moving she wouldn’t stop talking as well and I would say be still and bouncing around she would ask what did you say? Even in taking a picture of two of her friends she moved and she wasn’t in the picture till she moved.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill

Far too often we do not stop to hear what is being said both as teachers and students of life.

“The young people who come to me in the hope of hearing me utter a few memorable maxims are quite disappointed. Aphorisms are not my forte; I say nothing but banalities…. I listen to them and they go away delighted.” Andre Gide

When teachers ask me how I know something about a student I generally say I listened to them.

“I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.” Charles C. Finn

In our chaotic world so often we miss pieces, bits and tiny segments sometimes what is not said or done is as crucial as all that happens.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter F. Drucker

The great business consultant and author Peter Drucker offers again we need to not only listen but understand and then read between the lines.

“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” Tommy Smothers

I was always a big fan of The Smothers Brothers back in the day and find interesting how such a simple thought could in effect be a powerful one. If you do not want to hear it don’t listen but let the person speak their piece.

“I guess I’ve spent my life listening to what wasn’t being said.” Eli Khamarov

If we could perhaps things would be different. In politics a journalist is free who was jailed for not speaking out and telling sources however now she is speaking and repercussions could be great.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum

Dr. Laura Nolte so long ago said “Children learn what they live” interesting that what they hear was not as significant.

“Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James Baldwin

Each day I watch and listen and deal with issues of teenagers and so many are simply imitating what they have learned from home mirror images of mom and dad or whomever is the one at the house. For today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Far too often it is about understanding

Bird Droppings September 24, 2014
Far too often it is about understanding

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. “ Dale Carnegie

I wrote a few days ago about forgiveness which we tend to forget about far too often. As I finished my day out with students yesterday another issue came to the front. Seldom do we take time to understand. As I talked with my students through each block (period) of the day little things came out that many times we overlook. What if a student’s parents have just divorced, or a sibling is sick, perhaps an eviction from their home and in one situation a death in the family. As a teacher I try and be aware of what is going on in my students lives but many times students and people in general will not post of facebook or some other social network but hold it in? Looking for little clues and taking a student aside to ask a question or two without prying sometimes will give an insight as to perhaps some underlying issue that is impacting that child that day.

“Keep constantly in mind in how many things you yourself have witnessed changes already. The universe is change, life is understanding.” Marcus Aurelius, 121 ADE

“The best cure for worry, depression, melancholy, brooding, is to go deliberately forth and try to lift with one’s sympathy the gloom of somebody else.” Arnold Bennett

“Man is always inclined to be intolerant towards the thing, or person, he hasn’t taken the time adequately to understand…” Robert R. Brown

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow-men; and along those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” Herman Melville, 1819

Life is about understanding and interaction. It is the interconnections that make us who we are. Occasionally I will offer this is where we find the word soul. In my years of writing I have discussed my own symbolic concept of life a jigsaw puzzle many times. I see that we are much like a puzzle with countless pieces falling into place each intricate and each with numerous facets. The pieces interconnect and eventually give us our life’s purpose and provide a more full understanding of all that is. I am starting to get a bit metaphysical but I do have a doctorate in metaphysics at least that is what the paper on my wall states.

“Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief in denying them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803

“Find peace with yourself by accepting not only what you are, but what you are never going to be.” Author Unknown

“Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third.” Marge Piercy
“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Kahlil Gibran

“The one who understands does not speak; the one who speaks does not understand.” Chinese Proverb

As I gathered quotes for this subject it always seems I can find or fit in a Ralph Waldo Emerson statement. Somewhere along the way I listed him as someone I would like to meet. I see Emerson’s view of soul more in line with Special Agent Gibbs’ gut feeling as he investigates a crime. It is that aspect of us where we know. Many people avoid and or deny that part of who they are.

It is difficult for anyone to admit they will never be something. In America we are raised we can accomplish anything. Teaching special education I do my best to keep high expectations of my students but as days go by, weeks and months even with constant focus and attention there are times when cognition, imagination and life experiences will get the best of a student and they will reach a plateau that may go on forever. Even within that seemingly halt in progression more can be done but each step and each piece of the puzzle gets harder to find and harder yet to fit in. One of the big pieces of their puzzle is the sixteen hours away from school time enough to forget and lose what gains were made in the previous eight hours. Gibran brings my heart and soul back to try again with his philosophical optimism. The last quote could be from Luther Standing Bear or Chief Joseph as they discuss how Native American’s find wisdom in silence.

“And in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect. More powerful than words was silence with the Lakota.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

“It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand, and what those things are. Human understanding has vulgarly occupied itself with nothing but understanding, but if it would only take the trouble to understand itself at the same time it would simply have to posit the paradox. “ Soren Kierkegaard

I find it interesting that often philosophers are victims of their own advice. Much of philosophy is looking for understanding or rationale for our existence and Kierkegaard put a twist on it saying that is all human kind has done is look for understanding and we yet forget to understand ourselves. I was nearly thirty five almost forty till I truly began finding who I was. I had been listening to others opinion of or others interpretation of who I was but never looked into my own heart and soul. It was walks earlier in the morning that helped me settle into a clear view of who I was. I would walk each morning in the wee hours under the stars with a good friend who was at that time in seminary. We would discuss philosophy, theology, education, and life in general as we walked five miles each day.

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Kahlil Gibran
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucius

“It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.” Harry S. Truman

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” Galileo Galilei

These thoughts are sort of a mix in this effort to figure out understanding. I liked the first quote of Gibran in that it is what we are searching for more than where we have been that is crucial. The prime component of education is Confucius contribution, for it is through doing that we also truly learn. Had to get some John Dewey in except that it was a thousand years before Dewey that man realized what Dewey preached that experience is the greatest teacher. While I have never been a big Truman fan this statement from the former president is a powerful one. The great scientist Galileo offers that it is in discovery that we find truth and understanding. For me that is the one that giving me a more clear view of this idea of understanding. It is not in seeking a clear definitive point but it is that aspect of seeking to know that provides the fuel and tools for understanding.

“This concept of life and its relations with humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with joy and mystery of living; it gave him reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

Perhaps in the world view of Native Americans is an answer. Sometimes acceptance was a key and reverence for life, along with knowing the puzzle pieces do fit together rather than are random parts of nothing as some people seem to think in today’s society. As a day is running its course I will end this discourse and again plead that we each search our own souls and keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Who else would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

Bird Droppings September 23, 2014
Who else would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

In all of my years of searching, pondering and wandering about it seems the pathway always continues ahead of me. Many times I am stepping from one stone to another to get across the stream placing one foot ahead of the next trying to stay out of the water. I think I have always tried to leave the life around me as I wander a little better than when I got there. It does not always work out but I do believe I try. When I am walking down the hall ways at school I always trying to smile, joke with students, get others smiling and joking, and enjoying that precise moment of life. We equate time in seconds and that is only the blink of an eye and so easy to miss. Maybe the time lapse and slow motion apps on my phone will help me buy some time.

“None of us is promised tomorrow. Today in all its beauty and sadness and complexity, is all we have. This light we see may be the last such day we have on this earth. There is no certainty, beyond the fact that one day we will have no tomorrow, and that it is not ours to know when that day will be.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

Just before school was out last year I had to report an incident that was told to me by a student. It is difficult to when told in confidence yet the situation was severe enough to warrant reporting. In my same conversation with this student I was asked if my children ever got in trouble and I said no although tongue in cheek. The student responded, “They have never run away or sneaked out or …..” and again I said no. Immediately I asked instinctively if both parents lived at home. The response was hesitant but came, “no I live with my mom”, “but I don’t misbehave for my dad” and so forth. It comes to be the incident was not a onetime deal it is a regular occurrence and as I talk with parents and students I find my life is not “NORMAL”. It seems normal is having kids who are in trouble, causing problems yelling at their parents etc. It seems it is parents who are hitting their kids drinking with and such that is what society seems to deem as normal. Philosopher Michael Foucault would use the idea of looking at abnormal first to determine normal.

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

I woke up from a vivid dream while I was getting my hair cut and I never fall asleep while getting my hair cut. Just as the hair was being brushed away from my neck and I looked up at a clock on the wall it was 2:30 and I had to get going. But as I am thinking back to my dream, my dreams are generally simple ones with complexities woven in and throughout. As I thought back nearly twelve years to my starting back to graduate school. In preparing for my final presentation in my master’s program, my advisor was continually using the word “weave”. Our project was about weaving all the pieces together. I actually at one point of my thinking was going to produce two covers and weave them together in a symbolic gesture indicative of my professors thought. Life is a weaving in reality as I look at each aspect intertwined with the next. It could be that child growing up in the context of arguing and issues at home finds that is normal and yet asks what it would be like to live in my family where that doesn’t exist. I smile and joke and offer solace for the moment I have with that student not so much as to change the pattern of weaving but to offer stronger thread or a tighter warp to the pattern. I think of my grandkids as they each are traveling in life. How do they see events unfolding and changing around them?

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Nearly fourteen years back I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome for the first time and how as a teacher I had eight hours to undo the sixteen hours parents and family have to deal with a child. Mathematically it doesn’t work and logically it doesn’t work and some parents do not want it to work, they have chosen the direction for their children and that is that. Many times it seems futile as a teacher to even try and make a difference knowing what some children go home to. Jokingly two boys sitting in a physics class said to me they were waiting for antique farm equipment to move so they could do the lab. I was taken back a minute and said what? They looked over at lab counter and six black kids were working on lab. I responded as I do often sarcastically first it bothers me that you both have that kind of attitude but since I know the grades of all six and yours using that as an excuse only proves how ignorant you really are. Neither responded and they know where I stand on the subject.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

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

Just before school let Friday last week out a particular student asked me about absolute truths. I responded and had a response from a dear friend and so forth a dialogue and the context was a positive one as we shared ideas and thoughts. Again just a few days before that I reported an incident that had happened to a student and was told that it was ok, it was discussed. Sadly that child went home thinking this is how life really is. It simply is ok. Normal parents and kids do yell at each other and hit each other and throw things at each other, it is ok.

“We dribble away our life, little by little, in small packages — we don’t throw it away all at once.” Robert A. Cook
“Life is a succession of lessons enforced by immediate reward, or, oftener, by immediate chastisement.” Ernest Dimnet

B.F. Skinner the man behind the concept of behavior modification once said he could change anything and anyone through behavior modification. Who knows maybe he is right, maybe if we continue picking away and smiling and joking and living life as un-normal as it may be to some others will catch on. Who knows maybe just maybe when tomorrow comes that child who was asking about have my children ever run away will be asking how much they study each night instead or what books they have read or what college are they going to.

“Every morning I wake up saying, I’m still alive; a miracle. And so I keep on pushing.” Jacques Cousteau

I have a friend at school a breast cancer survivor who said something very similar to me. For her “each day is a blessing to make the most of”. How profound and almost understated is amazingly her students love her. She honestly cares about them and they know it. A simple bit of attitude goes very far when wielded in honesty and good faith.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

Many years ago I raised buffalo and as I would walk out each morning into the dark I would hear an occasionally snort and blow of air from our bull as he checked the cows and calves walking about in the morning haze. I knew life then and even today as I walk out and greet the morning though different sounds living in a subdivision but still I can hear if I listen hard that faint echo of a buffalo snorting in the fog as it drifts in. Life is what we choose to make it and how we weave or how we step into the day it is our choice. In teaching I emphasize setting the example and I have hanging on my one of the walls in my room at school a poster from my hippie days 1971 or so. Of course it is a black light poster. The posters title is “Children learn, what they Live” and it goes on from there. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and set the example in your own life for others to see and follow and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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