Sitting at my kitchen table pondering

Bird Droppings June 17, 2013
Sitting at my kitchen table pondering

I am up a bit earlier than normal on a wet and soggy Georgia morning but a trip ahead of me one of which for nearly eight years now I try and make about this time each year this coming weekend. Very few times when teachers get together is there time for energizing and rekindling the passion that provides solace for what we do. It has been nearly forty years since I first heard the name Foxfire and now nine or so since I have been actively involved. During the summer Piedmont College offers a teacher’s course in the Foxfire Approach to Teaching as a graduate course of study. I sneak in as much as I can to watch new and old teachers get that light burning if only for a moment or two. I am so pleased I am able to sit in on class on Black Rock Mountain listening to ideas and thinking that may make a difference and that is always fascinating. So while I will be driving north to the mountains on Sunday it is always well worth the trip.
I am very much a creature of habit. I like my routines and seem to follow very similar pathways daily. I can understand when walking through the woods and seeing a rabbit run or deer trail I would be doing the same thing more than likely if I was running wild. For most of my adult life others have sought out my guidance on life issues. I was trained so to say between seminary and psychology and more recently education courses to be able to offer advice. All through my life I have always felt I had an intuitive side, an empathetic side that allowed me access too many other peoples inner feelings and thoughts. In thirteen tears working with emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students, this has a been good thing, although many times it can leave you drained. But I have always felt I have been successful reaching students in all of my classes across nearly forty five years of teaching and training. When in management I felt I was able to address issues with customers and staff in a more understanding way than simply one of profitability. This could have been my downfall back in my business days. I was more concerned about doing the job right for people than dollars. I might borrow a few words from John Dewey and his book School and Society.

“The primary business of school is to train children in co-operative and mutually helpful living; to foster in them the consciousness of mutual interdependence; and to help them practically in making the adjustments that will carry this spirit into overt deeds.” John Dewey

It is about what children take out into the world so much more so than how they score on tests and what curriculum is followed or not followed. Extremely radical educator and philosopher Ivan Illich adds:

“A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching it is true may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstance. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school insofar as school, in a few rich countries has become a place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.” Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

While Illich is somewhat off the spectrum from many teachers and educators standpoint he makes a valid point. In many cases schooling is simply occupying that period of time in a child’s life and doing little in terms of actual education. I try and maintain contact with kids after they leave high school through Facebook and twitter for example. Recently I have been using these programs to find graduates of The Foxfire programs to somewhat surprising success.

“In this world, in order to enable society to develop, all its members have to assume responsibilities and make their contribution. If we do not make collective contributions then there will be no development.” The Dalai Lama, speaking to the Tibetan National Assembly in Dharamsala, May 1989

Each of us lives in a society, a community, a culture and as much as we choose so often to be individuals we are members of and interact within that group. It is the vitality of that group where the development and growth that is so intertwined with contributions physically, mentally, and spiritually of the members. Society exists because of interactions. Sounds like I am quoting John Dewey again.

“Compare society to a boat. Her progress through the water will not depend upon the exertion of her crew, but upon the exertion devoted to propelling her. This will be lessened by any expenditure of force in fighting among themselves, or in pulling in different directions.” Henry George

We have to be working together moving forward, backwards, sideways and as humans do so often, much time is wasted fighting and arguing among ourselves and that motion or growth is limited one of the best examples is our congress and senate.

“The greatest difficulty with the world is not its ability to produce, but the unwillingness to share.” Roy L. Smith

Many times in life I see the high school students forming social groups, clicks in some instances a semblance of a family unit and then adults forming clubs or social groups we tend to be a selfish animals. We look so much to ourselves and what benefits us as a first rule of thumb even unconsciously. It can be by limiting friends and such to a degree we box ourselves into a tiny space, even by sharing a simple task which so often becomes a distant one. TV humor even plays on this subject several times in watching old reruns of Seinfeld and Will and Grace Sit coms, the concept of giving is a chore or a burden and the characters are literally parasitical instead of symbiotic. As I looked for quotes and thoughts, this one popped up earlier this morning just before I walked outside to watch the rain falling on my gardens.

“Societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do.” Ronald Wright

Ronald Wright was speaking literally yet interestingly enough we of modern society while we do not literally eat people we still do in some ways often psychologically destroying them. As I look at how we respond to others so often it is how we see ourselves indirectly.

“The most difficult we do not deal in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.” Mark Twain

In a project, a class room assignment several students simply “completed it” they did not finish the task but answered what they thought was the question they just simply wanted done. Whether it was right or wrong, good or bad was not the issue it was over.

“Until you value yourself you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck

I read this quote and saw an answer if you truly do not appreciate your self your time has little if any value even when you are self-absorbed in using it frivolously you simply are taking up time not using it. Guessing at answers to a test to simply get done or rushing through just to be over, still you wait just as the rest do so where is there any benefit in being finished. A favorite catch phrase, I don’t care, should read, I really do not care about myself. As we enter the end of another week our world is troubled and sore, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts but always give thanks for what we have namaste.

For all my relations
Wa de (Skee)
bird

Am I home?

Bird Droppings June 3, 2012

Am I home?

 

It is a new morning; a cool morning for June yet the warmth of summer will soon overcome the welcome of the morning according to the weather. I walked out on a back porch with silence in the darkness save for the friendly chirp of crickets and peep of tree frogs echoing through the morning stillness. Off in the woods to the side of the house a few barks from coyotes and a howl perking my westie’s ears up. Overhead through the clouds and humidity a few stars crept through the leaves and pine needles, and few blips of fireflies produced an eerie effect as I rub the sleep from my eyes. As I stood there listening and pondering, I wondered if I am home.

 

“As I look over rugged mountain ranges I don’t wonder what inspired our ancestors to brave unfamiliar territory and many dangers to get here. They sought a place to live where they could do as they darn well pleased.  Solitude is a small price to pay for independence and freedom.” Barbara Woodall, It’s not my Mountain Anymore

 

            Last summer while attending a course in Mountain City Georgia on the Foxfire property on the side of Black Rock Mountain I had an idea of why not get teachers to be of Foxfire and former students together for dinner. I contacted through Facebook several folks I had been in communication with who lived near the area and we gathered for dinner. Laurie asked if she could bring a friend another Foxfire graduate. We got together eight teachers to be myself and a professor from Piedmont College and talked about the impact of this type of teaching. By chance Laurie’s friend Barbara Woodall was in the process of publishing her first book, It’s not my mountain anymore. Barbara is quite a character and her stories of trips to New York as a Foxfire student and California amazed everyone. Dr. Smith who had been with the high school program early on had not even heard some of these.

            As the evening developed and discussion wound down I found Barbara inviting me to a book signing up in a gap in the mountains in an old grist mill now restored as a home. I was able to go and listened as she explained at her book signing why she wrote the book. Her writing was of a place that was home for so many generations that was being changed ever so rapidly. I left that day intent on reading my new book which I did in one sitting. It is a book about what is home and how we see that entity. I do recommend if you get a chance well worth the read.  

It has been a quite a few years since I felt that way having lived in a house I built, raised my children and numerous pets in for over twenty years. A place where my favorite dog passed away and I could sit with no one near if I chose to play my southern rock music loud. But I pondered deeper as I thought am I home now? Occasionally a car at 4:00 AM can still be heard out on the highway a mile or so from the house, perhaps someone going to work or coming from play. But the stillness of the back yard and silence of the trees makes me think perhaps I am home.

My children all grown up and only one is asleep inside and my new dog is resting growing bored with me staring into the night and listening to sounds that irritate his ears especially the yips and barks of the coyotes, although a low flying firefly catches her eye. I sit down to read and write and see a small book, How can one sell the air? It is a translation of a speech given by Chief Seattle many years ago and sits by my computer.

 

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” Chief Seattle

 

Where is home I wonder as I go deeper into my questioning? For many it is only a place where we rest eat our meals and tend to the chores of daily life. As I look thorough this simple book it is where our ancestors have been buried and where the pathways are worn by our feet and air been breathed and re-breathed by our children’s children that is where home is according to Chief Seattle. I wonder am I home? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Time do we need it?

Bird Droppings June 2, 2012

Time do we need it?

 

“I still can’t see any reason to count all the sand on the beach – why bother? Or minutes, either. Could I possible add one more minute to my life by counting them?” Fernando Payaguaje, Secoya healer and holy man, translated from Secoya by Nathan Horowitz

 

I was reading an article on Amazonian indigenous peoples when I found this quote. Payaguaje was the last of his kind, no one wanted to learn his secrets. When he was gone thousands of years of wisdom, from the jungle would be going away with him. Miguel Cabodevilla and Nathan Horawitz were attempting to glean at least pieces of his vast knowledge before he passed on. They recorded his visions of what was to be and of what had been. While able to speak in three languages Secoya, Quichua and Spanish, Payaguaje was also illiterate in all three refusing to learn gringo writing and reading preferring the wisdom of the jungle and the father to son passing of wisdom he had learned from his father and grandfather.

He was once involved in a discussion of having someone tell him about time as if he needed to know about watches. He mentioned how his grandson had a fine watch and came to him telling him the time. The old man turned to his grandson and said I have no use, the jungle tells me when it is time. A bird called and he turned to his grandson and said one hour of your time and it will be dark that was the birds call before going to roost for the night. In exactly one hour all was quiet and darkness fell upon the camp. The grandson listened more intently from then on but still was engulfed by the modern world.

This is not about primitive versus modern it is about wisdom. It is about our history and who we really are. I have been involved with Foxfire teachings for nearly ten years and an avid fan since my first book in 1972. I have helped teach courses atPiedmontCollegein the Foxfire Approach to teaching. How can we truly move on in life if we do not know where we came from and why? An aspect of Foxfire is going back in the community using pieces of and bits of whom and why we are. In eleven years now for me back in public education I have had not one student who can name a great grandfather.

Before he passed on Parguaje would have to somehow record the 16 generations and he neither reads nor writes. This was crucial to him it is as crucial as eating or drinking and knowing who we are. Time was of less import he felt it was as if we want to count each second now and forget every second from the past. I was watching the TV show Psyche, a rerun of an old show with my wife and several times a Ford ad came on where the father was dropped off after a weekend with his kids and he thanks his ex-wife for letting him go and we wonder why our children cannot remember. Maybe they do not want too, it hurts to bad. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

 

 

Following the path

Bird Droppings June 1, 2012

Following the Path

 

“In our way of life, with every decision we make, we always keep in mind the Seventh Generation of children to come. When we walk upon Mother Earth, we always plant our feet carefully, because we know that the faces of future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground. We never forget them.”  Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of The Onondaga Nation

 

            When I first moved out to Fisherville Road in Caln Township which lies outside of Coatesville Pennsylvania I was in the first grade. The location was one of a country block as we called it. All of the houses surrounded an open area of fields, orchards and pasture and the square itself was a mile or so on each side. All of our neighbors or I should say many had their house area and then a portion of the central block as part of their property. My mother and father owned nine acres or so of apple trees and pear trees. A good friend next door his parents owned maybe fourteen acres and had cherries, peaches, apples and pears. A retired former vice president of the local steel mill had a section in which he planted pine trees actually more for Christmas trees than anything. So we grew up in this at that time vast oasis of hiding places and fruit trees enough that our parents would call for dinner after we had been out all day.

            It was dividing our property and one of my friends that the path ran along. It was worn from carts, tractors, mowers and our continuous walking the path to and from the bus stop on the other road. We all simply called it the path. Over the years there is no telling how many times I walked the path from the bus stop or just going to see my friends. Perhaps today being June first brought it all back from those hidden away memories of childhood. One of my dear friends birthday is today and it seems as I started the day I was a day behind so in much of my paperwork. I always pick on him that I remember his birthday since our former burro Jenny gave birth on June 1st as well. So I remember Roscoe’s birthday and really his is just circumstantial.

 

Consider people’s fascination with the past. What is this fascination with history, legends, stories, things from the past, and things that remind us of the past? What makes certain pictures or special gifts we received once so important to us? Are we simply burdened with too much free time, or is there a sense of connection that gives our lives meaning? The past and things that tie us to it give us a sense of connection with those things, experiences, people that have gone before us. In order for us to know our place in the universe, we must realize where we stand in relation to all things around us; this is the power of relation. Our connection with the past gives us a sense of continuity, a sense that we are somehow part of the Greater Circle. It gives us a sense of place and a sense of direction. Our connection with the future also gives us a sense of direction and purpose on the path that we walk.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking on the Wind

 

            I recall a snow storm in 1958 that kept us out of school for a week and my friend’s older brother carried my younger sister on his back down through the drifts to our house along the path. The snow was drifting nearly ten foot at the time and we made our way through nearly thirty inches of fresh snow. So many memories linked to a simple trail worn by countless footsteps of children and adults over the years. As I have grown older and now symbolically represent life as a pathway a journey I cannot help but recall so fondly that pathway in my childhood.

 

“I remember once when I was home for my birthday, I noticed that my mother was crying to herself. When I asked her why, thinking that something had happened and maybe she needed my help, she simply responded, “I was having you right now.” At first, I didn’t understand. Then, I suddenly realized that she was reliving the moments leading up to my birth and that this was still such an emotionally powerful experience for her, even all these years later. She looked upon me as a gift and treated me as such. And I, in turn, have always looked upon her gift of life to me as nothing less than sacred.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking on the Wind

 

            As I look back on my memories of my childhood and many of which I do recall but only know from my father, mother and grandmother telling me in later years I see my life and all life around me as sacred. Something special to hold and keep close as Dr. Garrett states is a gift. I remember very clearly even in my old age the births of my three sons and how that impacted me. I have been there for many of my brothers, cousins and sisters deliveries of their children and seen their faces and attitude toward their newborns. I watch my brother in law steal babies from strangers, although that does not sound too good, he is a grandpa at heart, only to hold and share his concern and wonderment with newborns. As each birthday rolls around my wife and I reflect back to each of our son’s deliveries each was different and unique, one lasted eighteen hours and one twenty six minutes. 

 

“I have tried to live my life with this attitude. I live my life this way because I choose to live my life this way. This is my Medicine, and for me it is a Good Medicine Way. It holds power for me, not the power of control, but the power of perspective. To look upon all things as sacred and purposeful is no small task for us human beings, who have been blessed with the intellectual and spiritual capacity to transcend both time and space in a single thought.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking on the Wind

 

            My journey in life has had many pathways and many side trails. Each added to who I was both good and bad. Each person I met along the way added to my own person. I have said many times that I looked at life as a puzzle falling into place piece by piece. It has been so many pieces each step along that pathway in Pennsylvania, each mile of highway driven, every word I have heard in graduate school, every student that I have discussed with in my class room each piece has added to who I am.

 

“Making new memories, is more fun than talking about old ones.” Ashley Holt, International Model, Friend, former swim team member, and culinary artist and now owner of a bakery 

As I read this particular face book status update several things hit me. First the author lives life to the fullest, and secondly each new memory is a culmination of all of the old. Without the old there would not be that specific new memory. Looking back on my own life it is from building on all of those old ones we can truly have a wonderful time with the new. Wandering back to my journey down that path in Pa. thinking back to my first teaching days and even twenty years or more of publishing business before coming back to teaching which actually led to meeting a certain person during a swimming practice and listening to their problems and issues so many years ago.

“I have long wondered what really is at the end of a rainbow. Quite honestly, I have never checked (I’ve chalked that up as one of the many pursuits for later life…). But I do wonder. There have been many stones on my path that I have thus far left unturned, either because I just haven’t gotten around to them or maybe because those stones did not wish to be bothered in the first place (it’s important to know the difference).”Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking on the Wind

            It was perhaps six or eight years ago I was driving with my son when we looked over head three rainbows converged and we drove, I actually drove to find the end where they met. The intensity of color could very easily be mistaken for gold. Cars were stopping along the highway to see this brilliant display of nature something I will never forget. As I read Dr. Garrett’s words of sometimes leaving stones unturned as I talk with students there are times to hold back and let the student or person tell the story rather than simply try and pull from them what I believe the answer to be. I have many stories of sitting with students along the way memories and of their life stories being told to me as they uncover and find pieces of who they really are. My own journey has taken many years and still is unraveling as I walk each day. Some laugh when I pull from my old box of quotes that line from Steven Tyler “Life is about the journey” and it is not about where we are going.

“So every time I see a rainbow, I just stand there in awe of its beauty and immensity, and whisper a small prayer thanking the rainbow for being willing to share its beauty with me. And something about the sight of it moves me from within, as if it were touching my spirit, and a deep sense of calm comes over me. I look upon the very sight of the rainbow as a gift, just as I look upon the very sight of the eagle as a gift, and the squirrel, and the ant, and the rock, and the little dandelions, and the rain, and all living beings in the Circle of Life. I know that a rainbow is not a rainbow without all of its colors, just as the Sacred Web of Life cannot exist without every one of its strands in harmony and balance.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking on the Wind

Dr. Garrett referred to life as a gift which adds a new dimension to our daily existence if we accept this concept. Each moment is special and of importance.

“The point is, when we look upon something as a gift, we tend to accept it as it is, to appreciate it as it is, and it just makes us feel good. There is a sense of connection. It touches something within us and somehow grants us sacred moments of harmony. The journey is not “somewhere over there” or “some other time.” It is with us right here and right now. It is a part of us in everything that we do and everything that we are. What we perceive as our “pot of gold” may in fact be something very different when and if we find the end of the rainbow. What if the rainbow has no end? What if it is a circle that wraps itself gently around Earth in a continuous cycle of energy?” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking on the Wind

For me as I wander this earth and try and become a piece in the puzzle of life I wonder continually about my interactions and those about me. Now, think about yourself. What are you really looking for? Are you looking for something or content with your daily plod. Where is your sense of place? As I think to my friend who once traveled the world modeling and now is studying in culinary school to be a baker. What is it that moves you? Do you have a goal in mind some would say a destination? What are the things you cherish? In today’s world so much is focused on the material and accumulation of things. What are the gifts that you have received, and what are the gifts that you have to give? Now it gets specific as we look at what do we have to give to others. Where is your love? Over the years I have found that love is an integral part of giving be it yourself or just in how you respond to others. Where does your vision lead you? Is it a fixed pathway much like my old trail in the orchards of Pennsylvania or is it more ethereal and philosophical as many of my friends of more recent years seem to find. What will it take for you to follow your vision? Is it education or just practice, is it learning more experiencing more to be able to know that what you do is the direction you should be going. I find myself of lately finding wisdom in Native American thought and understanding.

“Listen, and you will hear your spirit calling upon all our relations, and you will feel their energy. Our spirit is an extension of them and they are an extension of us. Our spirit connects us with the memories of all that has gone before us, all that is, and all that will be. Our spirit connects us with all of our relations in the Circle of Life. Listen, and you will hear Water speaking, Wind dancing, Sun smiling, the heartbeat of Mother Earth pulsing beneath our feet.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking on the Wind

            Over the past few years now I have read several of Michael Garrett and his father’s, J.T.‘s books. Both men are Native American and from North Carolina. Both men have Doctorates in various fields and work daily counseling others. Both men are considered healers by the Cherokee of North Carolina along with their earned degrees from Universities. Both have found a union of sorts in their meddling of spiritual, physical, emotional and cultural needs and desires. I am using Dr. Garrett’s words today though some might find fault as he resigned from The University of Florida due to some questionable behavior. It is sad that we so often get caught up in the world and lose track of who we are. We allow the power of our position or name to hold over others and this is against what J.T. Garrett taught his son and that his son wrote about and lectured on for so many years. So I am looking today not at what this man may have done but at his words written nearly fifteen years ago that do hold significance.

 

“Every footstep is the journey. Every sight, every sound, every touch and taste and smell with which we are blessed is the journey. All of the colors before us are the journey, and we are the journey. May we always keep our feet on Mother Earth, our eyes and minds above the treetops, our spirit with the Greater Universal Spirit? And may we always walk the path of Good Medicine in harmony and balance, with a sense of humility, kindness, wonder, and respect for all living things as we follow the sacred trail of those who have come before us and those yet to come.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking on the Wind

Perhaps it was my dear friend’s birthday yesterday and or my mix up of days and thinking May had only thirty days leading along the way to this effort today. So many the steps we take as we walk the road.  I will go today into a world of materialistic people of people who do not care about one another or the earth they walk. I will try in my writing and thinking to convey a differing view than perhaps the one most see as they leave their home each day. As I have now for so long please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Pondering in my search for wisdom

Bird Droppings May 31, 2012

Pondering my search for wisdom

 

            I started my day a bit later than normal being out from school and trying to get over a summer cold and my plans include yard work, writing and a finishing up several pieces of my graduate portfolio later today so I was lazy. I ran by my second most favorite store Quick Trip to grab a morning grapefruit cranberry drink and newspaper. I had planned on picking up a few parts to work on my old Isuzu at the auto parts store and shock of all shocks it was closed as I pulled in which is unheard of at seven o’clock in the morning. I forget not all people live by my sunrise to sunset standard. So I went on about the day but somehow ended up at one of my favorite stores Kroger to pick up things for dinner so I would not have to travel out and could get serious about paper work.

On the front page of today’s paper the lead story was how high school graduates are not ready for college and right next to it was an article on an assistant principal who is being investigated in Atlanta’s school system cheating scandal claiming she did not know they were cheating only cleaning up eraser marks so testing machines would not err. One comment was essentially in Georgia twenty five percent of the graduates have to take remedial courses in college. As I thought about this pondering as I do I recalled I too took a remedial language arts course my freshmen year in college. Actually took it twice since the first time I did not go to class very often.

            Why did I have to take a remedial college course and yet I was accepted into all three colleges I applied too. My SAT was a few points too low for the school I applied too on the verbal portion and yet today it would be more than enough to get into any college without remedial classes. As I think to my days in High School Literature with the exception of maybe one or two years I hated it and could not understand why we needed to listen to a teachers opinion on why Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. As I think back I really did not like Math classes, Spanish classes and all but one science class. Considering we had math, literature and science all four years of High School I really did not like high school and perhaps my GPA reflected this. Even though my SAT scores were what got me into college and conversely in a remedial class, my saving grace in education was standardized tests which I seemed to always do well on. My first set of SAT scores were in today’s terms over 1300 for verbal and Math which really would get me into most undergraduate schools shy of Ivy League today.  The second time I took SAT I decided I would see how fast I could actually take the test and in twenty three minutes had completed the SAT and scored only a few points lower than my previous test.

            So where am I wandering today. My conclusion that I came to after reflecting on my own High School experience and many kids I talk with in High School today is that we are teaching subjects that many consider irrelevant to them, even kids going to college. Some students will strive and get high grades acquiring the content that is provided so they take End of Course Tests and do great. But as I look at High school subject matter and even the photo used in explaining how deficient students today are in Math I looked at the problem on the board behind the teacher being interviewed and in real life shy of being in physics or math as a job you will never see that material.  Learning is what is missing from education today. It is about that desire to learn and making it relevant to students who more than likely do not even want to be in that class. So how do we get teachers on board that have been brought up in the same system?

“The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results; all his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge. The wise, ever satisfied, have abandoned all external supports. Their security is unaffected by the results of their action; even while acting, they really do nothing at all. Free from expectations and from all sense of possession, with mind and body firmly controlled by the Self, they do not incur sin by the performance of physical action.” Bhagavad Gita 4:19-21

 

            I can easily substitute learning and wisdom as I read through this ancient passage from a Hindu holy text. It is a matter of who you are with and when and how you have been told is this learning? But as I read this passage many years old a person is wise when what you do is done without anxiety about results. You are not concerned about your grade or what college or who has the highest GPA. We sadly live in a competitive world where being number one is even a marketing tool for advertisers. I often wonder if politicians get stressed out, other than around elections over what they do. I always thought of my grandmother as wise for her understanding of life. As a small child perhaps I saw only that her knowledge was what she needed to know to raise her children justly and correctly and how to make really good chocolate chip cookies. As I grew up there was a different understanding on my part of her deep faith and wisdom maybe one day I can possible come close too?

 

“This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety….It becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” The Dalai Lama

 

As a society we seem to encourage anxiety and stress often at the expense of our children and grandchildren. Our previous elected government pushed to spread democracy through numerous wars and our current government has continued and added a war or two to the pot which has caused a tension and insecurity in our children according to Progressive Curriculum Theorist Henry Giroux. Is it turning to a deeper meaning a spiritual center as “the only firm base” as The Dalai Lama states.

 

“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate well, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.” Alex Noble

 

How many of us take this approach to life I use often the term of being a searcher in that I am always searching. When walking in the forest I have the urge to check under rocks could be the unrelenting herpetologist in me searching for a snake or lizard. As I sit or stand in the hallway at school observing, searching faces, listening, empathizing and trying to understand.

 

“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 used a statement several weeks back about seeing the bubble in a thousand clear oceans. Bonheoffer addresses that same issue here. In education it is about context not content, that is being able to apply what knowledge we have and that can be more significant than an encyclopedia of information.

 

“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” Helen Keller

 

Many the times, I will sit and think about people I would like to meet. My biological grandfather on my mother’s side is one, Gandhi another and Ralph Waldo Emerson but if I was allowed another it would be Helen Keller. There are few people who have overcome such insurmountable odds and then accomplish what she did. The title to the book about her life does not do justice to the real life situation, The Miracle Worker.

 

“It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I need to be more cautious as I write, yesterday Thoreau was searching for clam rather than calm, spell check does not read minds as of yet. But Thoreau eludes back to that thousand plus year old statement from the Bhagavad Gita,”when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results”. Being wise is being in tune so to say with all around and to borrow another word perhaps harmony could be used.

 

“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” Immanuel Kant

 

In education there are in The Georgia Performance Standards points of reference in each subject to attain or to have knowledge of. Georgia had a system in place of Quality Core Curriculum which literally was each and every aspect of what the educational committee thought was important in that subject. Teachers were teaching to QCC’s and it was almost purely content. There was excitement as standards came out and the school curriculum people got hold and unpacked and now we have curriculum maps and curriculum pacing and what was to be wonderful has become a monster. The heart and soul has been stripped out and in its place organizational overload.

 

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” Lin Yutang

 

I have several times used my example of a liter bottle and having three gallons to put in it, how do we do it? A funnel still only fills to a liter and the rest spills out. I use this illustration in educating special needs kids and I believe it applies to all children and adults. It has been a few months since my last trip to Mountain City and the Foxfire property. I am heading up in a week or so. If you are in Mountain City Georgia take a look it is well worth the drive up the mountain. The museum will provide a guide to take you around. I recall the late Robert Murray and numerous walks with him around the property, here and there he would pick a plant leave or three or four telling about what they could do and what they can be used for.

As he would go building to building explaining mountain life he eventually gets to a shed with a large copper coil sort of device and asks “So what is it” and answers run the gambit? Finally laughing he explains it is a condenser for making moonshine. If you have watched the miniseries Hatfield and McCoy’s you will know. So how do we fill a liter bottle? We condense and we synthesize and much like making cane syrup we boil the cane juice down to get the good stuff. Wisdom is knowing what is the good stuff and being able to transcend the frills and extras.

 

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.” Mark Twain

 

Make that number five on my list of people who I would like to meet somehow Mark Twain could always have the right words and thoughts. As I meander about today searching for books and ideas, tilling in my garden and planting plants I will end with a line from a founding father and one maybe our current in power folks should read.

 

I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” Thomas Jefferson

 

I hope we will listen to Jefferson please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Filling cracks in leaky pots

Bird Droppings May 30, 2012

Filling cracks in leaky pots

 

Many thousands of years ago Buddha compared people to four kinds of clay vessels. Borrowing these words today as I am thinking to a day lost yesterday in my normal routine of writing and doing things. A lost day but a full day, time with family and in gardening through most of the day. Today I looked at my calendar and was concerned as I had missed a meeting on May 31 at eleven o’clock. I looked at the time of my computer and called my fiend to tell them I was sorry I had missed the meeting. Only as I called apologizing did I realize it was tomorrow I was ahead in my thinking. I have been a fan of eastern thought for many years finding as I research and read often significant words and understanding.

 

“One type of vessel has holes in the bottom. We can pour in as much water as we like and it runs right out. When this type of person hears and it goes in one ear and out the other. The second type of vessel has cracks. Though we pour in and it seeps out slowly until the vessel is empty again. The third vessel is full to the brim with stale water–views and opinions. One can’t pour anything new in, everything is already known. The only useful vessel is the fourth, without holes or cracks and totally empty.” Ayya Khema,

 

“Be an Island So often as we go about people seemingly are learning but for whatever reason the words taught ideas shown messages left go unheeded unanswered and unheard – Comparing us to a clay pot is an interesting analogy – we need to approach life less full less sure of ourselves and opinions and views more open minded there is so much to learn even for an old guy like me – “It is always in season for old men to learn.” Aeschylus 

 

“Learn as though you would never be able to master it; hold it as though you would be in fear of losing it.” Confucius

 

Yesterday I responded to a question on an educational blog about motivating students. I would be the first to argue this is a critical part of each day. Others were arguing why should we teachers have to motivate that is up to parents. When I started back to graduate school after nearly thirty years away I was sort of worried but then I realized how much I enjoyed learning and as I sit in a high school each day it is not teaching a subject that is so crucial it is teaching that joy of learning. When students want to learn being a teacher is the easiest job in the world, it is filling and helping to fill that clay pot.

Teaching or trying to teach a person whose sole goal is getting to their sixteenth birthday and then quitting school is a lot more difficult. Now the challenge is which is more rewarding knowing you have filled a clay jar to the brim which most anyone could do easily or repairing the cracks fixing the holes and removing the stale water. I have this problem with enjoying fixing the broken vessels.

 

“It seems that we learn lessons when we least expect them but always when we need them the most, and, the true “gift” in these lessons always lies in the learning process itself.”  Cathy Lee Crosby

 

As I sit many days after school and often in the morning before school discussing world views and ideas with students who are more like the empty pots, something occurs, a two way street we are both teacher and student and several times I have referred to this as my philosophy of teaching. Real teaching in real life is about osmosis. Each organism receiving and giving in the relationship neither truly benefiting more than the other a give and take as it is. But during class when I am filling cracks mending holes that is the time when true satisfaction happens when you see someone’s eyes open and an idea slip in, past ten or eleven years of built up defeat or walling up, then the work is worth it.

 

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

 

I once had a professor who in class would explain how each person used only a small portion of their brain perhaps less than ten percent even the great intellect Albert Einstein was limited to that degree. So if that was true we could all be so much better than we are. Many years ago I had the great privilege of listening to Glenn Doman who is now in his eighties. Doman still teaches that philosophy in Philadelphia at The Institute for Achievement for Human Potential, working with severely brain injured children and adults in rehabilitation. Dr. Doman believes we can work with other portions of the brain not used and not damaged for example in a brain injured child. I have always found this to be a most interesting concept.

Borrowing from other great thinkers and such this idea is being actively used on children and adults. Has it been scientifically proven, maybe not in the purest sense of the word? However one thing that I did learn from Dr. Doman was to never, ever, lower expectations of any child, always reach for the stars. I see children daily who have had teachers sat the educational limit for them, “this child tested such and such and so will only do such and such”, a limit, a restriction, a parameter, a box and often sticking with the child through their educational career. The data should not be used to define a child but to offer suggestions as to how and reach that child.

I have found that many teachers live in boxes of their own making, limiting, constricting, and defining and often in smaller boxes than they place their students. It would be great if we were all more like amoebas, flexible, able to work around any corner into ever crack crevice and hole, see and do all and then osmosis simply absorb it in. There would be no parameters and no limits. Sadly the only down side no one will ever accuse an amoeba of being constipated usually it is the other extreme. (sorry for the gross comparison) but when a fixed container keeps packing stuff in it eventually gets stuck or so jammed tight nothing comes out.

 

“Learning is not compulsory but neither is survival.” W. E. Deming

 

Only a few hours ago I gassed my car up and was talking with the cashier, a young man who is in college and trying to decide on his future. He asked me about the statement “quality is all”. As I thought Deming came to mind and Phillip J. Crosby great guru of quality and author. We talked a few minutes and I left him with a noble statement but far too often we chose unwisely and in ignorance go the wrong direction.

When all is said and done, learning is daily it is about expectations, keep the sky and beyond as a limit have no limit, absorb not stuff and be osmotic not parasitic, rise above and not fall below. I have said so many times if when stepping to the next rock crossing the stream you fall in climb back up you are already wet and it is in the stepping stones we learn to not wallow in the stream. Today have a safe journey in life and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

namaste

bird

It will be an interesting day

Bird Droppings May 29, 2012

It will be an interesting day

 

I was up earlier than normal and went back to bed after sitting out for a few minutes around midnight or so. It was peaceful sitting in the coolness of a summer evening. I thought earlier we were going to have a storm. A cold front came through and temperatures were unseasonably cool but it felt good. To top that off a hurricane is sitting over South Georgia and generally we get backwash from summer tropical storms. I am sitting here writing and listening to a CD by R. Carlos Nakai, Sundance Season. Nakai plays traditional Native American music on a cedar seven note flute and in this particular CD uses also an eagle bone whistle. Similar to the whistles used in Sundance ceremonies now for thousands of years.

It has been a few days since my last order of white sage and Dakota sage came in. I took a few moments over the weekend to put in my masons jars for storage. Sage has a peaceful aroma when burning and along with a bit of sweet grass a very relaxing aroma and attitude something about embers smoldering. Later today I am reworking my sweet grass patch to a sunnier spot.

 

“For some years now, students have not been getting to the root of the aim of Zen, instead taking the verbal teachings of Buddha’s and Zen masters to be the ultimate rule. That is like ignoring a hundred thousand pure clear oceans and only focusing attention on a single bubble.” Ying-an

 

As I watched a few embers slowly dissipate it made me think to this piece I read earlier today while I do some research for a my dissertation. So often we miss the point caught up in a pure clear ocean when the bubble is what we really seek. I sprinkled the ashes on the ground and came in to write and think.

 

“Storms make the oak grow deeper roots.” George Herbert (1593-1632, British metaphysical poet

 

Over the past few days I have read many emails, blogs and thoughts about how life strengthens us through trial and tribulations. I remember an oak tree in Coatesville Pennsylvania growing up immediately outside my apartment bedroom window. Hurricane Hazel was devastating the area and a loud crack and several large branches broke off falling on the parking lot beside our apartment damaging some cars. Very easily the tree could have given up and come down in the storm but it stayed put losing only a branch or two. The flooding lasted for days as I recall but this was when I was four maybe 1953 or so. As I sit pondering a bubble the Zen master says far too often we do not take the time.

 

“Live as you will wish to have lived when you are dying.” Christian Furchtegott Gellert

 

A country song by about this subject went to number one and a subsequent little inspirational book was published that I found and have given away now quite a few copies. It is not about the destination it is the journey.

 

“It is not the greatness of a man’s means that makes him independent, so much as the smallness of his wants.” William Cobbett (1762-1835) British journalist and reformer

 

I a few days ago in talking with my mother we talked about how my father before he passed away had no wants at all. He had done everything he ever wanted and just was enjoying each minute of life be it an old Gunsmoke rerun on TV or a John Wayne movie. I was thinking about many of the ascetics over the years who give up everything simply to be. As I was thinking Henry David Thoreau came close wandering about as a learner so he could teach. So many teachers forget we are always learning and need to be in order to be an effective teacher. Sometimes it may be giving up something to gain more.

 

“If you desire many things, many things will seem few.” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American scientist, publisher and diplomat

 

“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.” George Eliot

 

These are interesting thoughts, as I sit and ponder the morning and day ahead. So many things are happening in the world and so much happening each day we often miss a piece or two.

 

“The master goes about his business with perfect equanimity. He is happy when he sits, Happy when he talks and eats, happy asleep, happy coming and going. Because he knows his own nature, He does what he has to without feeling ruffled like ordinary people. Smooth and shining like the surface of a vast lake. His sorrows are at an end.” Ashtavakra Gita 18:59-60

 

I was talking with a young man I ran into at a convenience store. He is in his twenties now. I had him in class nearly ten years ago when he turned 16. He is working and doing alright according to him. When I had him in school he was on the verge of getting kicked out of school and then he withdrew and quit school. He went on and received his diploma in an alternative school format but he did finish. He could never be successful in a big group or class. Always his attention would drift and trouble would ensue. Back in the day he was a little spud but he had grown a few inches since I last saw him and put on a few pounds of muscle. What struck me in our conversation was his work. He was working in construction building foundations. This is a kid I would have bet would have been in jail within a year or two and he may have been but now he was building foundations for people’s homes. As I sit and think this for sure is a paradox maybe. I wish him well. As I close so much to be thinking about in the world but as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird