Cultivating the soul and or inner self

Bird Droppings May 25, 2018
Cultivating the soul and or inner self

 

I started my morning today with a swim. I should say a walk in water. Several years back I was directed by my orthopedic doctor to use water therapy for my back. The only place near was difficult to get an appointment. Long story short we put in an above ground twenty four foot pool. I walk in circles around pool and count laps. Today I started the day with a half mile of laps. While walking in the water I had R. Carlos Nakai flute music on sound system. As I walk I see nature around me. A hummingbird checking our feeders. First one I have seen this year. A squirrel running the fence line heading to nut trees. I was thinking as I walked how quiet the people sounds were all I heard was Nakai and nature. No road sounds or Air Conditioners humming. I was able to feel the water hear the wounds and see the green of life.

 

“If people find no room in their lives to pray or to meditate, to reflect deeply on why they have been created and what they must do with their lives, and to listen with all of their being to the guidance of the universe, then these people are like birds who have not yet learned to fly. All the parts of the bird are present, but something is still missing. To be a whole person is to be alive in a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual way.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

I started reading this short book several days ago, only absorbing a page or two a day not trying to force my read as I do so often and get through it in a matter of minutes. There is an under lying theme with the tree of life so often depicted in primitive traditions. In Native American thought the tree intertwines spiritually and physically with all. Many times in ceremonies a specific tree would be selected after much thought by a medicine man or woman for the occasion. It would be carefully taken down and then “replanted” at the site of the ritual.

 

Sundance ceremonies a very spiritual undertaking for many tribes, always would center round a tree as the main focal point of the entire ceremony. I could not help but think of the latest James Cameron movie Avatar and the depiction of the tree that is connected to all on the planet. In my own life my early mornings are to sit read and write for me a mediation of sorts. When I can if time allows although that does not sound good I will wander out into the darkness to think and reflect. Listening and watching as around me life unfolds. For many being alone in the dark is not a comfortable event but as I have now for some time embraced the solitude and quiet.

 

“A sign that much work is needed in the area of personal spiritual growth is when a person dislikes being alone, and especially dislikes being alone in silence. Many people use television and or recorded music to fill the silence so do not have to experience themselves as they are.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

Years ago I would walk out into the early morning’s darkness all about me wandering a blanket wrapped about me, thinking and reflecting on things at hand. I found as I was searching I found peace in the solitude and quiet of the early hours. As we moved over the years and my ability to walk around became hindered I started to write and read and reflect as I would sit and ponder. I started writing down my ideas and thoughts and sharing with others. I found in each of my mornings notes; an idea was there for someone. Today as we near a full moon and the night is bright with the moons reflection of the sun perhaps speaking of darkness at night is a bit odd but always I have found within darkness there is light when we seek it. So in effect in my solitude I have found community. It has been a few years since a dear friend shared with me and helped me remember a poet and philosopher of life that I had forgotten so many years ago.

 

“Walk easy on the earth each life has its own fragile rhythm, to be aware of it is to understand, to ignore is to abandon oneself to sadness. It is to search vainly for the wholeness that only comes in surrender to what is.” James Kavanaugh, Quiet Water, 1991

 

James Kavanaugh passed away a few years back and his works will continue to inspire and awaken emotions in people for many years ahead. There is a spiritual aspect to his writing as he reflects on his own former priesthood in many of his writings. But he also separates from religion that spiritual context that is within each of us. It is that individuality and uniqueness that gives us the essence of who we are and provides us with a desire to continue existence.

 

“Existing is one thing, but making a purpose for your existence is another.” Kendall Gomez, neighbor, former LHS student, former California University Student, friend, mother, Delta Stewardess, and often philosophy genius

 

Kendall is one of the few who is up when I get up each morning although she was a country away in California when she wrote this. Many the day Kendall would come by my room at school and talk and even visited a few times after she graduated. She moved into our neighborhood several years ago and it was interesting neither of us knew we were neighbors for nearly a year. Granted she is a half mile away from our house if that would still be a neighbor. As I read her post this morning and one of her responses, that her purpose was to come up with riddles for others to solve, it sort of hit me. Perhaps it is “more better” stated that we find our purpose through our existence and may even find ourselves in that effort.

 

“Another sign that warns the traveler that his heart is empty of the gifts of the west is when a person does not feel respect for the elders or for the spiritual activities and struggles of other people.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

We live in a world so interconnected to each other and yet so disjunctive as well. So many of our interactions that fail and go by the wayside are due to inadvertent differences of opinions, distrust and differences of beliefs than to any other rationales. I recall sitting down so many years ago with a man who was very much a man of faith. He was devout in his beliefs and staunch in his moral codes and ethics. We sat down in a small restaurant in town to discuss a program I had envisioned working with indigent families and people. As a prop knowing this fellow I had brought a bible along. Several verses were marked dealing with helping others and providing for those in need. I did not indicate to this man another religious connection of any sort and almost immediately as we talked he mentioned that Catholics were not Christian. My hand rested atop a Catholic bible. I found it interesting that within his desire to do good and help people was still this animosity for another person he had no idea of any connection to any church or religious affiliation for me other than a Methodist Church I was previously involved with working with high school students. He knew I attended a Methodist Seminary along the way. So already we in some ways were opposed semantically because he found one denomination was wrong and one was right yet both evolved from the same traditions and history. We started a program Shepherd Staff Ministries and up until I left that program over ten years ago we never disagreed on anything and he is still involved on the board of directors. People were served in our community with food lodging and counseling.
“Poverty is not merely a matter of not having ‘things’. It is an attitude which leads us to renounce some of the advantages which come from the use of things. A man can possess nothing, but attach great importance to the personal satisfaction and enjoyment he wants to get out of things which are common to all.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, 1956

 

As I was selecting passages today I was drawn to both Kavanaugh and Merton were Catholic clergy at one time or another in their lives. Kavanaugh had a falling out as he wrote about an outdated church and left the priesthood. Thomas Merton wrote out against war in a time when such things were not often politically correct and died suspiciously in Southeast Asia electrocuted in a bath tub protesting the War in Viet Nam. Merton was a Trappist monk till his death. When you read these two authors there ideas do flow and interconnect with those of the Native American concept of a world interconnected I started with. Merton often wrote about and was well versed in Eastern thought seeing a connection between all that was. Kavanaugh in his poetry wrote of the world almost as if he were a piece in a vast puzzle a part of the whole.

 

“Thus I am certain that somehow life will never end, because the assemblage of my friends and all the beauty of the world I have known, assures me that in some state, I must have a life of love to say what I feared to say on earth. To give what I tried to give and couldn’t and to thank you with all of me, when gratitude never seemed sufficient. I long to release all hurts and manipulations, any selfish expectation when pain and suffering got in the way of love and forgiveness, when age and self-pity interfered, or when my ignorance and arrogance prevented what I longed to reveal and share. When I realized I’d done the best I could with what I had from the past, when it was apparent that for one as good and fine and loving as you are: A lifetime isn’t long enough to love you.” James Kavanaugh, A lifetime isn’t long enough to love you, 1996

 

We of this modern era somehow get lost in all that is. We want to categorize and sanitize and package seemingly undefinable ideas and thoughts. We want to be able to research and develop vaccines to cure and control all that is around us. We lose our connections. I was talking with a fellow teacher yesterday a very good friend who has served for nearly twenty five years active and in the reserves with our military. He has been in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in most areas of conflict in the past twenty years. He has seen death and destruction at the hands and minds of men. We often talk about life in general and while he knows my own believes and perhaps his might differ we often find common ground. I bumped into him on my way to check on a student and we talked. I had an article I had been meaning to bring to him as he teachers history. It is a National Geographic article about a tribe in Africa that is one of the last known hunter gatherer societies left on the earth. What is amazing to anthropologists is that there is no strive, stress, animosity within these people. There are not items of desire or to covet. If you need a bow and arrows you make one. If you need meat you hunt and fruit you gather. As we talked I recalled another friend’s virtual game in history of having students develop society from nothing and how it is not until as humans we begin to own things that strive and turmoil appears.
“We live in a whirl of images and noises, sounds, lights, desires, frustrations, pleasures, sufferings. Our lives are a cacophony; insulated from wind and rain and sun, from heat and cold, we are ensphered in our own catacombs of concrete and plastic. Living in such a world is it any wonder we turn to drugs, to more sensational means of stimulation, to entertainment that renders us catatonic? Insulated from nature, ungrounded, why should we be surprised at our own brutality? Where in such a world is there room for gratitude and for what should we be grateful?” Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth, the spiritual landscape of Native America

 

I am getting carried away this morning but so often an idea starts and perhaps today I need to draw to a close and continue another day. My dog is barking calling to go out and now back in the moon has set and gone behind the pines and only the stars remain to light the sky. To my right as I walked out our drive way and cars and to the left pines and darkness a seemingly distant world untouched and real. I will use another line from Versluis as he discusses primitive people’s ideas and views.

 

“There is, however a mysterious unity between people and their landscape, between people and the creatures around them. This unity is of a subtle kind not easily explained. But understanding it is essential if we are to enter into a different awareness of our world” Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth, the spiritual landscape of Native America

 

Another day is near dawning and another day heading to school for finals and to finish up the school year. For all of my students and teacher friends may peace be with you and yours and may we as a nation find some point of reference to draw us together. For ten years now I have ended my morning sojourns with this line, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Why not just imagine?

Bird Droppings May 24, 2018
Why not just imagine?

 

Some days I wonder if adults I know have ever imagined even considered imagination. For example have you ever lain on your back watching clouds trying to determine if this one is a dragon or a whale? I was driving home from Georgia Tech with my son and his roommate many moons ago. They were planning on going to the premiere of the new Star Wars movie. As we drove my son mentioned an article he read about video games and creativity. It was probably the exact opposite of what many of us would say, evidently this particular report indicated video games and their realism and such increase brain capacity for imagination. I won’t vouch for that one however. But I do know I do not see creativity and imagination among youngsters perhaps as much as I would like.
So many adults have chosen a rigid world of exactness, self-centeredness and parameters tight around themselves sort of little boxes of comfort and calmness. They are often limiting themselves only to a few inches of space in this vast universe, stodgily staying within the lines and forcing others to do so as well. By dictionary terms creativity is “the ability to create”, that is a simple version of a complex idea.

 

“Some people will only love you as long as you fit in their box. Don’t be afraid to disappoint them” Lecrae Moore

 

“The creative process is the emergence in action of a novel relational product, growing out of the uniqueness of the individual on the one hand, and the materials, events, people, or circumstances of his life on the other.” Carl Rogers

 

A synthesis of things people have and hold on one hand and what the available materials might be on the other.

 

“One sees from this that genius: 1) is a talent to produce that to which no specific rules can be applied, not that to which learned and practiced skills can be applied; therefore, that originality is its primary characteristic. 2) Since there can also be original non-sense, its products are at the same time examples, i.e., that they must be exemplary; in fact, though themselves not products of imitation, they must serve as such for other products, that is, as measures or rules of judgment. 3) It cannot describe or scientifically establish how it brings its product about; rather, as an expression of nature simply provides the measure. Therefore, the creator of such a product does not know himself how the ideas come about, and does not have the ability to come up with these ideas at will or according to a plan, and cannot communicate a set of rules by which one could bring about similar products. (Presumably for this reason one uses the word “genius,” which also means a spirit who accompanies a human at birth, protects and guides him.) 4) Nature prescribes to art rather than science through genius; and this only insofar as art desires to be an art form.” W. Miller, Duke University

 

A long winded definition that actually raises more questions than it defines. Creativity is a most difficult word to clearly define. Years ago my youngest son was being tested for “the gifted class”; his second grade teacher saw glimpses of something a bit more than average children his age. His IQ test bolstered her thoughts and his achievement tests were ok nothing that would knock you down and his grades well in some areas one hundred percent plus in some areas and in others that he was not interested in well he was passing. However in Georgia at that time gifted labeling required a battery of tests and three out of four tests the child should exceed in to be considered gifted. This little kid had two out of four and indicator of grades was a loss so he had to ace creativity test. So on the given day the school psychologist took him aside and tested. The test was given and scored and given again several more times since the first one was obviously flawed and finally by the third time and similar results she decided it was a real score. It seems he was off the charts in creativity and the tester had never scored a second grade student so high.
I immediately pointed to genetics as a factor standing tall and puffing my chest out a bit. It was with that he ended up in gifted class. Since that time I have been impressed with teachers and parents who encourage their children to imagine, to ponder and think beyond the required tasks assigned. After the testing the teacher who tested my son asked if we did anything out of the ordinary. His spontaneous answers were what floored her in testing. Since he was four or so every day as I drove him to school we would make up stories taking turns adding to the plot or even to what we were making up a story about. My father’s grandpa Niper (my great grandfather) stories were embellished and expanded often for days.
Some days the stories would be of imaginary creatures and often it was a contest to stump me with a creature I could not make up a story about and only once was I stumped. I do not recall the request and or what monster he had come up. But my son initiated the process and would offer twists and turns as we built the story. My kids grew up in the middle of 183 acres of farm land and they would often find their way to Paradise a pile of rocks and stones sitting on a slab of granite in amongst several trees. They would build tiny villages and forts with pebbles and small stones and take match box cars along to add to their game. Even today the word Paradise conjures up vivid memories for my kids and imagination and every once in a while I will get asked to retell a Grandpa Niper story especially now that grandbabies are getting to storytelling age. We need to encourage each other teachers and parents not to hinder imagination. We need to stop infringing our limitations and our boxes and parameters on children’s minds and souls. We need to imagine as well and live each moment. So on my official first day of summer break I am sitting at school writing pondering and as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to give thanks always namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

I am trying to regurgitate a previous days thought

Morning Bird Droppings May 23, 2018
I am trying to regurgitate a previous days thought

 

Four years ago after over a week of watching grand-kids and my youngest son in a level one trauma center he was moved to a rehab facility. Just sort of hit me with all the news how lucky we can be some times. After nearly a week on the South Carolina coast I am able to get back to my writing in the mornings and I am beginning with a crazy sort of title but then again very specific perhaps. I walked out into a mild morning with drizzle and clouds behind the pines, plenty of humidity and whippoorwills calling that almost surrounded me with calls. It has been several days having been away and it is almost a dream like feeling.

 

As I stood listening for a few moments to the calls so soft yet sinking into my soul I began to ponder as I tend to do. Nearly every day I sit down and write and some days it makes it into my daily or almost daily ritual Bird Droppings and others well into my files for later use. It has been a few months back that I received an email from a friend, a fellow teacher who I have never met in real time. I met through the acquaintance of another friend who I have met and who referred me to this other friend. Now I know that is confusing but actually how it happened. Anyhow I received a great series of old farmer quotes in this email from North Georgia and this one in particular caught my attention.

 

“Words that soak into your ears are whispered…not yelled” An old farmer’s advice

 

After sorting emails and getting serious about writing I started with wanting to continue my thought from a previous day. Truth is so often an elusive quarry and somewhere along the line talking with my wife we got into technology and a new topic sort of evolved, the spiritual loss within children as we inundate them with technology and literally occupy every moment with a gadget or thing. Paradoxically I was registering some software this morning and got to one screen where you check which of the following you or your family own. There were thirty objects listed ranging from Blackberries to cable TV. We had twenty six of thirty in our household. Had we not been so against Apple computers excluding iPads and iPhones we might have had all 30. Actually I do like Apple we just do not have one currently and the more I use my iPad and iPhone the more I like Apple.
As I thought of how much we count on and “need” all of these things it hit me how we replace aspects of our humanity with the immediateness of technology. I see anger transmission as a good example. I was reading various blogs on Facebook this morning and saw several venting which on an educational blog yesterday had a middles school principal asking parents of middle school students to shut down their children’s social networking sites in a Midwestern state. Some of this was in light of cyber bullying and several suicides linked to online bullying. I being old can recall back in the old days waiting till you see someone to argue or yell but now instantaneously you blog, email, text message and or cell phone immediately your anger. That is significant change in how we react and deal with life. So often we miss the journey since the destination is immediate.

 

“Life is about the journey not the destination …. We don’t know what tomorrow brings” Steven Tyler, AEROSMITH

 

So many years ago I first read this line and have told the story many times of finding a yellow sticky note (again technology with 3M post-it notes being old as well) on my computer. Every once in a while I get amazed, and as I was driving from point A to point B on a recent day a song was playing in my son’s truck he swapped with me so he had a working AC. It happened to be the Aerosmith CD with this line in it. An old Aerosmith song entitled Amazing from the 1993 album Get a Grip that never went higher than number three on Billboards top ten but it was good enough to have its own Wikipedia site. However for me it is a very powerful couple of lines about life. Over the years I have paraphrased and altered a bit so here is the real line from Steven Tyler’s lyrics. Promoting Aerosmith with Steven Tyler on American Idol and touring this summer I have heard.

 

“Life’s a journey not a destination and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow brings. You have to learn to crawl, before you learn to walk.” Steven Tyler, AEROSMITH

 

I never realized Steven Tyler was a developmentalist, I always just considered him a rocker. There are steps in each of our lives as I grow older with technology and without I learn each moment is special and unique and intertwined with so many others. I have learned to enjoy and view the journey. I have my technology but I use it to work with me and enhance not to substitute for any piece or part of my existence.

 

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating you.” George Bernard Shaw

 

We each get up in the morning and begin the day usually very similar to the day previous. I was thinking back nearly ten years ago and how my house was quiet, everyone was gone. My wife and middle son were at Georgia Tech for orientation my son started there now almost ten years ago. My youngest was at a music camp for the week, I actually did not know if they were ready for him or not, he took his tuba but his passion has always been the blues harp (harmonica) and still is. He and his cousin went to camp to do some serious jamming his cousin bringing his national steel guitar and my son his harmonicas. My son is always trying to turn some folks on to some old Robert Johnson songs instead of the standard pop music so many teenagers listened to. My son today is in his last semester at Piedmont College in Demorest Georgia in nursing school up in the heart of some awesome bluegrass music we shall see what happens when bluegrass hits blues.
I drive by my mother’s house many afternoons after school often dropping off some digital photos for my mother’s hobby or taking dinner. She has over the years created one of kind greeting cards from photos and artwork for her family members. She uses the image on the front and then writes a unique phrase for that person to go inside. I recall driving around looking for a picture of a spider web for her and in the process took 60 or more other photos one I have used as a screen saver on my laptop for some time now.
My oldest son many years back started a ten gallon mini reef tank that has been through ups and downs and at last time was a twenty gallon tank but now sitting idle. However in basic a mini reef is a salt water aquarium that simulates a coral reef, in miniature. The denizens in his had been primarily colonial polyps and coral which from a few feet away look like lumps of rock in a very brightly lit tank, but up close and the rocks have quarter inch creatures with tentacles waving in the current and are very much alive. I have taken many pictures over the years and one is of a group of anemones that cluster together each only a quarter inch wide covering a piece of coral rock with what looks like hair till you look closely and it is tiny tentacles catching microscopic creatures in the water. Tiny mantis shrimp that have hatched in the tank would be swimming about each less than a sixteenth of an inch What is amazing is how much beauty is contained in a space thirty six inches long and thirteen inches wide and a foot high. I often think of life this way we miss so much when we do not look closely.

 

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

 

Dr. Albert Schweitzer for many today is an unknown having passed away nearly sixty years ago. He was a humble doctor in the jungles of Africa and very well known in his time for his musical talent as well as his medicine. It is difficult to even find his books in print today. Of course if you Google or do an internet search he will pop up and his exploits of saving lives will be found. So many people are not content and struggle looking for what may be right in front of them literally all the time. Having a good outlook and open minded perception are crucial to truly seeing all around you. In today’s world so often this is impeded with the lack of altering of the truth. I did get into yesterday’s topic a bit on that.

 

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” California special Olympics song

 

“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” Walt Disney

 

How many years ago there was a man walking through orange groves and palmettos in central Florida with a dream that today is one of the most visited places in the world, Disney World. It is all in the journey, it is walking along seeing all there is to see not missing that minute detail or word and with conviction and achieving your goals. No one can see what you see or hear what you hear only a vague proximity and only you will know when your goal is met. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary stepped to the top of the world on Mt. Everest twenty nine thousand feet plus above sea level and no one else had ever done that. Now Nepal and Mt. Everest is a nearly tourist trap albeit a very expensive one but many have made the summit and many more have died trying as of a recent major event with as many as three hundred people waiting in line to summit.

 

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” Sir Edmund Hillary

 

We all can achieve, we all can do great things, we all can overcome obstacles, it is with confidence, constancy, courage and curiosity as Disney said. I might add one thing it is to always be looking and observing it is about trying to understand the depth and passion of our existence. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Is there passion in life or is it just obsession?

Bird Droppings May 22, 2018
Is there passion in life or is it just obsession?

“All games have an important and probably decisive influence on the destinies of the players under ordinary social conditions; but some offer more opportunities than others for life long careers and are more likely to involve innocent bystanders.” Dr. Eric Berne, The games people play

In a recent bit of pondering I had a thought. Why are we passionate about our jobs, friends, families and perhaps life in general? I started thinking and yes perhaps I think and even obsess too much. I use the word ponder as I call it, often over trivial thoughts for some meaningless dribble, little shadows that many simple never see. Can we be passionate about something any other way? Fifteen nearly sixteen years ago today I filled in a form for a young man who was very obsessive in so much of his life. He was and still is obsessive to a point of distraction from reality many times. If you would mention Jeff Gordon’s number or name and his eyes would light up and immediately, in a torrent of language almost as fast as most people can understand there would be statistics, information on this NASCAR race or that and this sponsor or that and soon you would wish you never mentioned Jeff Gordon. I bumped into his mother several days ago at her job.
With Obsessive compulsive individuals changing the subject often will solve the immediate symptoms. I used Jeff Gordon to pull him back from another subject or thought that he would have obsessing on that was less reality focused. Obsessive compulsive Disorder, OCD, can be manifested so many different ways often crippling a person with routines and rituals that have to be fulfilled. As I sit here I see passion in that obsession. Perhaps there is obsession in passion.

 

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, recorded by Dr. Henry Smith, 1854

 

So often in life we do or say things that seemingly are independent thoughts random utterances that mean only a bit to us as we pass in that moment. Yet the ripples, the effects and flow of direction from that utterance can carry and evolve far beyond that moment and place. As in a game where one person manipulates a piece and often the other parties involved are unaware of strategy and plan and soon there is nothing left. I think back to that obsession and what may be said in meaningless thought and or pursuing a thought or an idea that is driven from some physiological mechanism we do not control. Is passion mistaken for that an errant whisper and dream? Could passion be an obsession on a simple concept that is mistaken as true passion for that concept?

 

“Passion and prejudice govern the world, only under the name of reason.” John Wesley

 

“Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, when some mightier touch than their own may have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the calm content, the marble image of happiness, which they will have imposed upon her as the warm reality.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

It was perhaps John Wesley’s obsession that leads to his passion. Wesley was one of the founders of the United Methodist Church. Wesley was an Anglican Priest who was methodical in his thinking often having communion 30 times in one day. He would be often on his knees in prayer for hours on end or composing hymns and music as did his brother Charles. The web of life has so many strands, woven in and about. Was John Wesley a man obsessed or was he passionate about his calling?
Hawthorne sees a different picture of man. He sees one of seemingly change of personality, differences and varying capabilities. Emerson’s ideas I find often in my thinking as I do and in his ideas there is a close kinship between obsession and passion. Passion is very much a powerful spring but it is so difficult to regulate.

 

“Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” Amiel, Journal, 17 December 1856

 

“Passion is universal humanity. Without it religion, history, romance and art would be useless.” Honoré de Balzac

 

“Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work.” Aldous Huxley

 

I look at how we see passion and conversely obsession and wonder if often the two are not synonymous baring attributes of each other and offering similarities within the differences. It is easier to offer you are passionate about your job than obsessed with it when discussing with others. It is far easier to except a passionate person than an obsessive one. Religion needed obsession to succeed as I look at Wesley and so many of the Saints yet passion for their beliefs is a more powerful and believable offering. Within the world of art I see Vincent Van Gogh who without his obsession would have never painted with the feverish pitch and effort that he did and his paintings today would not be selling for tens of millions of dollars. Yet to many in his time he was crazy and his painting barely kept him alive. Some will see passion as he sent his ear to a girl he loved, while the poor girl saw obsession.
Can we turn that obsession into useful and meaningful work? Often in the game of life as I started this morning passion is turned not against the passionate but for the person holding the winning hand.

 

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.” Elbert Hubbard

 

I have known many who even take medication for OCD and some of us can tell when and how much they took based on their interactions. I wonder how we deal with passion. Do we manipulate and propagate as needed or do we simply medicate when not needed, or push under the rug when the deed is completed and game won. Passion actually is a difficult course in life to ponder. Do we possess it or is it simply obsession. Please keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind 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

 

 

 

I am just sitting, pondering and thinking wiping away a tear or two

Bird Droppings September 21, 2018

I am just sitting, pondering and thinking wiping away a tear or two

 

I was outside very early today as a great horned owl was irritating our dog keeping him up. It seems it was more than one as around me several were calling back and forth in an eerie chorus. The hooting had our dog going perhaps it was just the echoing of the owls through the trees which altered direction and location and crickets and tree frogs added in made quite a combination. Perhaps it was the shift in energy as my greater siren (a large slimy aquatic salamander) and class room buddy for seventeen years passed on this morning.

 

I often joke about my monastic ways. It seems I am alone more than in a group and enjoy that. Perhaps trying to mingle is not in my nature yet I do enjoy joking around and even at times trying to be the focus or center of attention. Perhaps we all do seek attention each in our own way. Last year about this time I was dreading the retirement gathering now it is over and I miss the teachers and students. I recall trying to get out of program last year, I am not a party person and especially if I am the focal point. It is hard to fake illness when your wife is a nurse practitioner and she is going to the gathering as well.

 

“Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast. Oh, but what a shame if all we’ve shared can’t last.  I can change, I swear, oh, oh, see what you can do.  I can make it through, you can make it too.” Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks

 

Every morning when I went into to school including Saturdays and many Sundays I religiously check my emails. As I sat down today reading emails a note I had received in Xanga, (is that even a word anymore) a good while back came to mind. My son had posted a note in which he related that he read the lyrics to a song by Joni Mitchell. Many youngsters will not even know the name Joni Mitchell, one of the great folk singers of the antiwar movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s back in my day, the Viet Nam era. Literally daily I receive emails from friends or readers of my blog and I am end up getting to the word synchronicity and how words may be for this person or that and they may be just what was needed for this person now. It has been a few days since I wrote about morality and an email came back about a ninth grade class where the discussion went into the morality of gene therapy and the students were unsure of the concept of morality. They had to discuss morality first.

 

So I am sitting in Georgia writing to friends around the country and a few overseas thinking about all that happened the past few days pondering on what will happen today and thinking about why my son was drawn to this song so many years ago. I use words from songs quite often in correspondence and in counseling and working with teenagers. The lyrics, words can be so powerful and so moving and conversely words can destroy and conquer. I share these words today a simple plea from a folk singer with a quiet powerful voice, Joni Mitchell.

 

The fiddle and the Drum

By Joni Mitchell

 

And so once again

My dear Johnny my dear friend

And so once again you are fightin’ us all

And when I ask you why

You raise your sticks and cry, and I fall

Oh, my friend

How did you come?

To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say I have turned

Like the enemies you’ve earned

But I can remember

All the good things you are

And so I ask you please

Can I help you find the peace and the star?

Oh, my friend

What time is this?

To trade the handshake for the fist

And so once again

Oh, America my friend

And so once again

You are fighting us all

And when we ask you why

You raise your sticks and cry and we fall

Oh, my friend

How did you come?

To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say we have turned

Like the enemies you’ve earned

But we can remember

All the good things you are

And so we ask you please

Can we help you find the peace and the star?

Oh my friend

We have all come

To fear the beating of your drum

© 1969 Siquomb Publishing Corp. (BMI)

 

As I listened to the words I was reminded of a dear friend in Pennsylvania that I have known for many years and with whom I correspond regularly through email, the words reminded of his writings.  He had been researching a drummer boy from West Chester Pa.  He was the youngest person killed in the Union forces during the Civil War. My friend in his own way was obsessed with the story and actually is writing a book about his findings. After many years of searching he found the grave of the drummer boy. He had been to that spot numerous times as the drummer boy’s parents were buried there. A poplar tree marked the grave between the parents. A tree planted as a living memorial to their son who died in war.

 

A few years back one of my student friends at school came by upset her brother had just joined the Marines. She comes from an extended family eleven kids in several marriages and step dads and moms. It is great at Christmas time and bad at times like this. How do you explain to a teenager war? The little drummer boy in Pa. was twelve when he died in battle. Recently I ran into a former teacher who had joined the National Guard he was rejected after going through training and suffering a stress fracture. When it came up he had been treated for depression he was upset he could not go and fight. Sadly this story went on and ended harshly several years later.

 

I recall a good friend in high school we would play ice hockey at the GO Carlson’s pond in the winter pick-up games. He and I would talk often as we waited for others to show up. He did not even live in our neighborhood but would come to play. He played the bassoon in the High School band and was on the soccer team. He and I both flunked out of the same college our freshmen year and were drafted within days of each other. I am epileptic and though I have not had a seizure since childhood I received a 4Y permanent deferment. He went to Viet Nam. Many years later thinking I would see him at a ten year reunion as I went up to Pennsylvania for the reunion I found out he had been killed in Viet Nam.

 

It took several moments to sink in and immediately I thought this wasn’t possible and I sat back and wondered while more names were read. Each moment as I sat another name was mentioned another life had passed away in a war soon to be not a war soon to be merely history. Only a few years ago I went with my son to Washington DC riding the bus along the way we are told how to find names of relatives and friends in the index books located at the ends of the Viet Nam memorial. I walked down the walkway reluctantly at best to find a name then two and three and four and I can no longer look up names as I write where on the wall they are located on my hand in black ink. A recent email from a friend who lost her husband he had come back from Viet Nam and so many thoughts. I walked down the line found the spot and the name emotions tears welled up I walked hurriedly away as far as I could get and sat on a bench looking down across the wall. A squirrel wandered through my field of vision. It was an hour or so and my son found p me “dad the bus is leaving we need to go”. I do not remember thinking just staring at that wall and that squirrel that wandered back and forth interrupting my thoughts.  There have been few moments in my life where I have been unable to control my emotions and sitting here thinking back tears wander across my cheek again perhaps for another reason time will tell.

 

So many thoughts as I think back as we continue to fight another war and another war I in all the talk of freedom and patriotism and macho soldier talk I still have a difficult time with the concept of war. In only the span of a few months’ two school shootings, domestic war. Joni Mitchell states so eloquently, “But we can remember all the good things you are and so we ask you please can we help you find the peace and the star oh my friend we have all come to fear the beating of your drum.”  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

 

Trying to find a way back to normal or is it abnormal: Is your child a hippy?

Bird Droppings May 20, 2018

Trying to find a way back to normal or is it abnormal: Is your child a hippy?

 

“Your son or daughter may be flashing warning signals that he or she will soon drop out of society and join the “hippie” movement. If you know what to look for, you may be able to prevent it.” Jacqueline Himelstein, How To Tell If Your Child Is a Potential Hippie and What You Can Do About It, 1970 P.T.A. Parent Education Pamphlet

 

I noticed a note a while back on Facebook in a rather interesting site, Word of Mouth Critical Pedagogy that I am a member of and post to.  It caught my attention being a post for parents to catch warning signs of their children becoming hippies which I have been called over the years many times. Matter of fact yesterday was decade day for homecoming week and I pulled out a tie dyed short. As I read through I found it most interesting and actually having been involved to a degree in that era of change seeing the reminders from back in the day struck a chord. The first sign is “a sudden interest in a cult, rather than an accepted religion”. I found this intriguing as so many of our large churches literally are cult followings sort of thing and now considered main stream. The second followed the first with “the inability to sustain a personal love relationship drawn more to group experiences. In so many instances I see being part of a group now more significant than individuality for so many people. One of my favorite musical artists in Neil Young and falling right into that period of time seems about right.

 

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio. Gotta get down to it soldiers are cutting us down should have been done long ago. What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground how can you run when you know?” Neil Young

 

Perhaps it was just a wandering thought it has been a few days since our last school shooting,  it has been about four years since the shooting in Arizona of a congresswomen. But while I was sitting thinking and pondering now a few days back one afternoon listening to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, the song Ohio played and stuck with me. It has been a long short week. Semi vacationing with my wife at a conference in South Carolina. It will be literally trying to find my way back to normal and it is taking a few days or more to do it.  I miss and want to hold my grandbabies and then I remember they are not there. I am amazed at how quickly we change our life style and focus as grandparents. Anyhow back to my original thought I was listening to “Ohio” by Neil young and the song sort of stuck with me and as I pondered how you ever get to normal after an event like that. Incidentally one of the shooting victims from the Arizona shooting was at Kent State nearly forty plus years ago and lost a friend. I went looking for a few notes on the song and borrowed from Wiki-pedia the following:

 

“’Ohio’ is a protest song written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’ ‘Find the Cost of Freedom,’ peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although a live version of the song was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation album Decade, released in 1977. It also appears on Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.” Wiki-pedia

 

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things: for the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order and only lukewarm defenders from all those who would profit by the new order.  This lukewarmness arises partly from the fear of their adversaries who have the law in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind who do not just believe in anything new, until they have actual experience of it.” Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)

 

My mother sent this Machiavelli quote to me and back in the day and today so many similarities in our public awareness on both sides of the fence. I skip back to this past holiday season and for us as teachers in our county an extended break with a shortened calendar year and longer days to save money and then an extra week due to ice and snow. I find I am seriously a creature of habit and being out of routine for so long it is very hard to get back to normal. As I look at the national scene in politics and legislation I often wonder if we ever will actually do things for the people of the country and no longer for sponsors of politicians. On a passing thought maybe politicians should be required to wear stickers like in NASCAR of sponsors.

 

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

 

It has been some time since I came back to Thoreau. I recall reading about him and Walden back in high school but it was just an assignment at that time. I as a student was living this quote. I was going through the motions of a being student but never quite really understood what it was I was doing there or why. Somewhere in Macon Georgia at Mercer it clicked and I became a student and found that being a student and learning were two completely different things. This is sort of like realizing how engrained our routines actually are in our daily lives. I come into school clean my room each morning and get ready for the day sit and write read a bit feed my various room critters and get ready for students. I had more to do since my classes changed almost daily this past week students  in and out so my personal writing time was affected in the morning and now not having all day to run errands it is confined to a narrow window in the afternoon and then home to cook dinner and rest for another day.

 

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. “ Henry David Thoreau

 

I took a picture on January fourth of this year at sunrise and posted on facebook like so many images I post. I wanted to use a Thoreau quote on my “Wall of Fame”, at school and in looking through my images this sunrise was so intense it just seemed right and so it became a poster for my photo wall at school. As I read over several times this quote from Thoreau started to sink in. I need to think over and over those deep thoughts that I want to attain and accomplish and rather than procrastinate go about following my path way to completion. So I am slowly getting back to normal and just emailed a friend after a long break it takes four or five days to get back in the groove. We have as a nation, state, county, school and family so many things ahead of us we need to begin working through and around and over so we can get back to normal. Then of course I really don’t think normal is where I probably ever will be according to many. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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

 

 

Pondering and remembering a waterfalls listening to the ocean

Bird Droppings May 19, 2018
Pondering and remembering a waterfalls listening to the ocean

 

It has been six years since I was staying at the Sylvan Mills Bed and Breakfast in a room over a waterfalls. I went up to North Georgia to recharge perhaps another word might be to rekindle my passion for education and learning. For nearly twelve years I have been participating in and attending Foxfire training programs. I started writing before day break listening to natures sounds today although different then the whippoorwill chorus I am used to surrounding me. Six years back I stayed in a room overlooking a waterfall with my windows open wide taking in the sounds. Trying to write in the lulling sound of water running is difficult and I would doze off. With the sun up I would move my computer to the porch overlooking the falls fully intent on pulling out my Bose ear phones and listening to Crosby Still Nash and Young. The sounds and energy of the water mesmerized me. I walked about the area just before dark taking pictures.  This week while in South Carolina with my wife at her nursing conference I have been pondering John Dewey and the Foxfire program and the implications that can made in a teachers classroom. I am behind in my reading as of the moment, so I will try and get some additional reading and writing done today.
With the bulk of education in the early 1900’s following closely the Industrial Revolution and mass production, a few great thinkers took the concept of the individual child in psychology and education in new directions as to its relationship to children. How children were viewed became the basis for several educators to develop their theories and ideas. Child psychology and child centered educational ideas flowed from these thinkers. John Dewey reminded us that the goal of education is more education. To be well educated then is to have the desire as well as the means to make sure the learning never ends. Alfie Kohn educator and author refer to Dewey and to his idea of providing for a lifetime of learning. In his book What does it Mean to be well educated?, Kohn points out, “many classroom teachers asked to specify their long term goals for students, instantly responded with the phrase life-long learners.”
Dewey was not alone in his thinking which was in direct contrast to the traditional educational practices of his day. Dewey was frustrated with the rationale of educators when he wrote

 

“Why is it, in spite of the fact that teaching by pouring in, learning by a passive absorption, are universally condemned, that they are still so in trenched in practice. That education is not an affair of “telling” and being told, but an active and constructive process.” John Dewey

 

The traditional philosophy of education was a focus away from children and their interests, and not trying to understand children simply seeing them as small adults. Traditional education is about efficiency and production which were carryovers from the Industrial revolution. It was time for serious educators to get away from the assembly line processes of traditional education. One of these new educators a thinker, author, scholar, and advocate for children Alfie Kohn throughout his writing illustrates this point.

 

“Looking at the long-term impact of traditional teaching and the push for Tougher Standards, then we are finally left with Dewey’s timeless and troubling question: “What avail is it to win ability to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul.” Alfie Kohn

 

In a burst of educational energy just prior to the turn of the century numerous educators and scholars were developing ideas that often parallel John Dewey as they sought to come up with a better way to teach children. Howard Garner in his book The Unschooled Mind states discusses some of this basic history of progressivism.

 

“Progressivism is most frequently and most appropriately associated with the name of John Dewey. In fact, however the practices of progressive education had already begun to be implemented in the period before 1896…Leaders like Francis Parker, first superintendent of the Quincy Massachusetts Public Schools, later principal of the Cook county Normal School in Chicago, and finally a founding member of the Chicago Institute, which ultimately gave rise to Dewey’s educational facility at the University of Chicago.” Howard Garner

 

While Dewey was establishing himself in educational history in the United States across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe Dr. Jean Piaget was developing child centered education which would lead along with Dewey and Vsygotsky to the concept of constructivism. Piaget believed each aspect of child development followed clearly defined stages and this did not change child to child but could occur at differing speeds. Dewey saw the past experiences of children so often not even being recognized and yet at that point is the basis for their ability to learn.
In a similar fashion a medical doctor working with mentally disabled children in a residential setting in Europe was looking at the child centered aspect of education as she developed methodology with a developmental learning process in mind. Dr. Maria Montessori in her book The Advanced Montessori Method describes her philosophy and understanding of educating children.

 

“Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.” Dr. Maria Montessori

 

Another psychologist looking at children in a developmental approach was the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky whose work was not discovered by the western educators till the later part of the twentieth century. Vygotsky also saw experience as a significant factor in children’s development. Retention of previous experiences facilitates adaptation to the world around them and can give rise to habits when those experiences are repeated. Vygotsky differed with Piaget in that he said learning can precede developmental stages. We can acquire use of a given tool in order to attain a certain stage of development. Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development which is “the distance between actual development determined through independent problem solving and the level of potential development through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers”.
There are some similarities to Dewey with Vygotsky; much like Dewey he also felt there was a significant element of group interaction needed for education to be meaningful. The ideal school for Dewey was one that took the form of an “embryonic social community,” one in which students were encouraged to cooperate and work together and learn from each other as well as their teachers.
The originators of constructivism Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey all started with psychology and that the child is a unique individual as they developed their interpretations and understandings of learning and education. Even today the child is not the focus of education. One need only to leaf through the tables of contents in recent educational journals to discern that the individual child is not the focus of educational reform. Each of these great educators believed in the act of doing as a way to learn and as Ted Sizer points out that there is context. “What I have learned is context is everything….. The memorable learning was that you have to be very respectful and very sensitive to the values, to the attitudes that youngsters bring into class, that their parents have, which the community has”. Montessori and Piaget leaned towards the developmental stages in child development and Dewey and Vygotsky while accepting developmentally sound stages as real felt the community, peer group and teachers elevated learning past developmental points of reference. Maybe it is time to look back to Dewey.

 

“Curriculum has held our attention for generations because those who think seriously about education understand its inherent possibility. Maxine Greene’s call for a return to the search for John Dewey’s great community, her call to rise to the challenge of coming together without losing each person’s unique way of being in the world challenges our educational imagination.” Mary Aswell Doll

 

For Dewey an educational experience had to be connected to the prior personal experience of students and also to a widening or deepening of future experience. It was through reflection that Dewey saw the ability to go beyond where you were now. John Dewey reminded us that the value of what students do “resides in its connection with the stimulation of greater thoughtfulness, not in the greater strain it imposes”. The act of reflection is taking a given reference and moving ahead to a new possibility. Often it is the teacher who provides the window for reflection to occur.

 

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connectedness among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.” Parker Palmer

 

It was in this reflective, imaginative undertaking of Dewey’s that provided ideas and thoughts that led Elliot Eisner to Art Education. In his writings Eisner looks to the arts as a basis for education and his ideas and thoughts offer a new stream from Dewey. John Dewey once commented that the stamp of the aesthetic needed to be on any intellectual idea in order for that idea to be complete. It is this feel both imaginative and sensible that the so-called academic studies would foster if they were modeled after the arts. Dewey identified making things as one of four fundamental interests of children. Unhappily, because schools put so little value on making things, most of us grow up with contempt for work done with our hands. Eisner drew often from Dewey’s idea on needing context and relevance for learning to be genuine and to be lasting. Eisner places experience at the center of learning.

 

“It is through the content of our experiences that we are able to perform two very important cognitive operations: we are able to remember and we are able to imagine…. Imagination …works with the qualities we have experienced. What was not first in the hand cannot later be in the head.” Elliot Eisner

 

“One of the potential virtues of situated learning is that it increases the probability that students will be able to apply what they have learned. When the conditions of learning are remote from the situations or tasks in which what is learned can be applied, the likely hood of application or some would say transfer is diminished.” Elliot Eisner

 

The idea of imagination needing to have a basis in reality, in the context, is of significance. It is imagination that brings meaning, purpose, and application to what is learned.
“Imagination for Dewey, explores alternative possibilities for action within a selected context of ongoing activity. Imagination enables the search for ideas that can reconstruct the situation. It takes the context and its data, including emotional sympathetic data, as intuited and determined by selective interests and transforms them into a plan of action, an idea that if acted upon might allow the agent to achieve the desired ideal in reality.” Jim Garrison

 

Elliot Eisner believes in diversity, that this is the key to education and learning and through this provides richness for our culture as well. Continuing in that same line of thought, Maxine Greene educator, philosopher and pioneer sees reality after all as interpreted experience and that to limit learners to a single dominant mode of interpreting their experience may be to frustrate their individual pursuits of meaning and consequently, their desires to come to know, and to learn.
With much of her work is based on the concept of caring, Nel Noddings defines education “as a constellation of encounters, both planned and unplanned, that promote growth through the acquisition of knowledge, skills, understanding and appreciation”. Eisner and Barone understand that the aesthetics of experiences is what builds those in our minds and provides the means to imagine and be creative. The concept of Aesthetic Learning and Education is one of understanding, of perception and ultimately of creativity. Eisner looks at teaching as artistry, it is the ability to craft a performance and to provide the students with the mediums and means to perceive and understand their world.
For John Dewey, aesthetic experiences are not confined to high art, but arise from within the interaction of human organisms with their surroundings. Thomas Barone points to Dewey being the primary thinker that envisioned art and aesthetics having a central role in education and in learning. Thomas Barone is concerned as are many other progressive educators with the linear format of traditional education.

 

“If students are not given access to metaphoric learning activities, if the shape of their learning is always linear and closed, how will their capacity for creativity and invention be developed?” Thomas Barone

 

Perhaps in my research and reading I am getting a bit over board with Dewey and education but I see tie ins to daily living, to how we respond to others, to what the future holds for us and our grandchildren. If each of us took a bit more time to try and understand why so much of what is going on in society is going on maybe just maybe we could finally realize much of this does not need to be happening. So again after nearly thirteen years of daily writing I ask as I do every morning please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird