Being where you need to be

Bird Droppings September 14, 2021
Being where you need to be

“A society in which vocation and job are separated for most people gradually creates an economy that is often devoid of spirit, one that frequently fills our pocketbooks at the cost of emptying our souls.” Dr. Sam Keenre

Many the day and time I have said I am where I need to be at this moment. Sitting here retired writing my dissertation, or as I taught special education in a high school. My entire life has been getting to this point and to this degree of understanding of experiences. I was addressing prior experiences with several teachers a few days back and how we expect kids to have the same experiences coming into a class as we do or I should say many teachers see students that way. It sort of hit me hard one day as I was co-teaching in a class with a first year teacher and for me that was my first co-teaching experience. I was looking at things somewhat different than he was. I was watching kids who have never read a book other than in school try and get involved in a discussion on Romeo and Juliet or Edgar Allan Poe. I got a bit carried away on one day on some Poe stories and was amazed at how all the kids not only were listening but asking questions. We take far too much for granted in our interactions. Maybe today’s youth know more about electronics and computers but when discussing philosophy or theology most have not a clue. Most kids have never taken a moment to ponder outside of school.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” George Bernard Shaw

I taught so many years ago and loved teaching, but economic reasons took me into my second love graphic arts. I was paid considerably more to design flyers and transparencies and doing dark room work than teaching would ever have hoped to pay. I often wondered in those twenty-three years away from teaching which I believe in my heart was needed for me to get to where I am now.

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence and will be able to bear almost any “how.” Viktor Frankl

“Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude” Alfred North Whitehead

It took a multitude of events to bring me to my senses and to get me back on track. Each one could have been enough but in a series, I was often under pressure just to make it through the day. Often, I recall how it took a multitude of events to bring me to my senses and to get me back on track. Each one could have been enough but in a series, I was often under pressure just to make it through the day. It was through the course of my daily journaling that I found my way indirectly back to education.

“All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.” James Thurber

My first day back in a school building was destined to be more than a normal day as into the morning September 11, 2001 our school went into lock down. Muslim friends of my sons were picked up by their parents and the grimness of events that transpired eventually sunk in. I could not remember the day I started other than it was a Tuesday a week or so after Labor Day. Now nearly twenty years later I am sitting at home writing, I am no longer confused as I sit and write searching for answers. My searches now go deeper and longer trying to unravel this purpose and rationale for why we are here and why we do what we do.

“To have passion, to have a dream, to have a purpose in life. And there are three components to that purpose, one is to find out who you really are, the second is to serve other human beings, because we are here to do that and the third is to express your unique talents and when you are expressing your unique talents you lose track of time.” Deepak Chopra

Truly I have lost track of time as each moment seems to flow into the next and each day into the weeks and months. I enjoy what I do and find solace in the sanctuary of my room at school and in the students, I work with.

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Thoughts are things! And powerful things at that, when mixed with definiteness of purpose, and burning desire, can be translated into riches.” Napoleon Hill

“To actually feel like you’ve done something good with your life and you’re useful to others is what I was always wanting and was always looking for.” Angelina Jolie

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” Helen Keller

I recall some of my first readings on Carl Jung and synchronicity and how this seemed to be an evident power in my life each step leading to the next. I remember the day a consultant told me to close my business and find another line of work and then proceeded to suggest a book for me to read. A new age book James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy. One day by chance I was hit in the head at Borders with a book as it fell off the shelf and by chance it was Redfield’ s book. As I look back in my life to each event leaving my home state of Pennsylvania to come to Georgia and each piece of my life’s puzzle, I now know there was more than random chance events. I know there was purpose guiding direction in what I learned and what I understood. I often wonder if my parents drew out a diagram of where they wanted me to be as an adult back when I was a tiny baby and then set about sending me on my way. In 1954 a family counselor wrote a poem and put it out to friends. Soon that poem took on a life of its own and millions were scattered around the globe. In 1972 or so the author saw a copy on a refrigerator of a friend and went about copywriting the poem.

“Perhaps you have never heard of Dorothy Law Nolte, but you’ve likely seen her most famous, in fact, her only famous work. It might even be hanging on your fridge as it has for decades in millions of family kitchens around the world. Titled “Children Learn What They Live,” the poem begins: If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.” May 6, 2005, Bettijane Levine, Times Staff Writer

So, I have gone through the day and am running a bit behind in my posting but various meetings and such have slowed me down. My music is playing softly and relaxing and I am nearing the end of my discourse.

“All programming for prosperity should be built on spiritual foundations. The first step is to enter the spiritual dimension, the alpha level, and determine what your purpose in life is. Find out what you are here for, what you are supposed to do with your life.” Jose Silva

In my studies of Native American philosophies this idea of inner search is the basis for many of the journeys and sources of self-understanding. Perhaps some of my own moments sitting in my quiet place at home sheltered by pecan trees and pines listening to crickets and tree frogs has helped ease me along. I wonder each day as I rise and greet the morning. Reading the news today it seems we are in for a difficult few weeks in politics and as I have for so long now closed each day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

It takes more than one strand to make a rope, in life and in education

Bird Droppings September 13, 2021
It takes more than one strand to make a rope,

in life and in education.

“You cannot contribute anything to the ideal condition of mind and heart known as Brotherhood, however much you preach, posture, or agree, unless you live it.” Faith Baldwin

Every day as I talked to teachers, parents and or students I try and set an example and not every day am I successful. But as I think this beautiful almost fall morning getting up slower today than normal and relaxing perhaps too much I am finally getting into a rhythm. So, I am sitting here trying to decide if I should work on writing a papers or be to be lazy I thought I would take a few moments to write. I recall about three years ago in the end a face time from my granddaughter and invitation to Sunflower festival won out. Since I have been lazy about writing for a few days today I am setting a goal of finishing three chapters by Friday. Many of the people I talk to everyday stand alone, often due to their own choosing which our instant world has helped create. That is food for another day.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” John Donne

It has been several years since I did an experiment with a group of young people using sewing thread. I had a thread for each person and then I asked each of them to break the thread which of course was simple and easily done.

“The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” James Baldwin

After breaking the threads, I gave each of them another piece of thread and one by one we joined the threads together. In the end we had a thirty strand or piece of string/rope and we twisted it slightly to keep threads together.

“In union there is strength.” Aesop

“Remember upon the conduct of each depends on the fate of all.” Alexander the Great

Amazingly enough no one could break the new combined rope even when several folks pulled on each end it would not break.

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” Bahá’u’lláh

I still carry that piece of string/rope in my wallet. It surely does make a great example when talking to students actual most anyone

“I look to a time when brotherhood needs no publicity; to a time when a brotherhood award would be as ridiculous as an award for getting up each morning.” Daniel D. Michiel

It has been a few years back that I attended a demonstration up in Mountain City Georgia. The lecturer at the Foxfire Museum was using a couple of folks in the group and had them twisting and turning six strands of twine into a rope.

“Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.” Mahatma Gandhi

Real unity, that is the question, and in today’s politically charged atmosphere unity is not to be found. I had shown my students so many years ago that even though having multiply strands of thread all together in a bundle was significantly stronger each time you cut a piece it weakened Exponentially.

“In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” Booker T. Washington

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

Each day as I sit outside in my garden and back yard I think about and ponder what I have I witnessed, the differences in attitude and differences in brotherhood in the world. Many are similar and in a high school that old cliché of school spirit is generally a good indicator of a semblance of brotherhood, a joining force in a body of humanity. But still there are strands of thread dangling outside weakening the whole.

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” Virginia Burden, The Process of Intuition

I will never say everyone has to be identical. I like Booker T. Washington’s statement of each of being a finger yet still being able to be a hand. I used to think it was cool when I would see a six fingered person and in my old stomping grounds of Lancaster and Chester counties often you would see an Amish fellow with an extra finger. There was a recent ad where everyone was upset with Joe who had extra fingers because he could type so much faster and then do so much more, the ad showed him typing away and multi-tasking with his extra fingers. But the ad was also about change and new equipment equalized the office space. So often we cannot accept the differences.

“I have often noticed that when chickens quit quarreling over their food, they often find that there is enough for all of them. I wonder if it might not be the same with the human race.” Don Marquis

In life far too often, we spend our time fretting over differences and not looking for similarities. How can we work as a group a team? I was watching college football Saturday for a few minutes along with a jubilant football throng at football game. In the end teamwork makes all the difference in a win or loss. The winner is not always the better team. Always better teamwork will win and it can be only a minute difference, a single strand could change a game and or a life.

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” Kenyan Proverb

Interesting while I was writing about unity and I still believe in individuality, I am a very monastic person after all, and it is a difficult task. I come back to Booker T. Washington’s quote; I can be a thumb and still work as a hand when needed. It is in believing and in trusting we gain that unity and that brotherhood. Watching the schools now working on homecoming and various rallies one thing keeps coming up, why all the negative why not work together, the problems are here, and solutions can be had if there were teamwork. 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

Can we see a gray world in color?

Bird Droppings September 11, 2021

Can we see a gray world in color?

Twenty years ago, I went back to teaching only to go into lock down. Quite a day and experience for someone who hadn’t been in the classroom since 1977. Sharing the fears and anxieties of those kids with me taught me more than many years of education course work. I sincerely hope no new teacher has to learn in that fashion.

“Stress is the body and mind’s response to any pressure that disrupts its normal    balance. It occurs when our perceptions of events don’t meet our expectations and we don’t manage our reaction to the disappointment. As a response, stress expresses itself as resistance, tension, strain or frustration that throws off our physiological and psychological equilibrium, keeping us out-of-sync.” Doc Childre and Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution

By chance I got into a discussion on perception yesterday amazing how we all seem to see the same world differently. Sometimes it amazes me what my years of experience and age see can be so vastly different. Each of us has been different places, seen different things, and learned different methods and strategies that provide us with a means to view the world. We are constantly applying these perceptions almost without thinking to each waking moment and every step we take. I recall listening back a number of years ago to an interview with the then great athlete Lance Armstrong before he became not great.

“Cancer is my secret because none of my rivals has been that close to death, and it makes you look at the world in a different light and that is a huge advantage.” Lance Armstrong

I remember waiting to hear after my father was wheeled into surgery for stomach cancer the prognosis. We had been given the grim reality of his possible future by the surgeon just minutes before and were waiting as a family for news after. Amazing how death offers a new perspective to life, it seems each second becomes precious.

“Do not say,” it is morning,” and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a newborn child that has no name.” Rabindranath Tagore

When the surgeon walked out and said this was the smallest tumor he had ever removed from a patient’s stomach and still paraphrased with but, it was a relief. Life though had been redefined. Meaning to each moment had been altered.

“What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also   depends on what sort of person you are.” C. S. Lewis

Our experiences and understandings and believe do have input and effect our perception of each instant in our lives. This is sort of the filters we see and hear through and conversely understand through. I have a student who is extremely conservative and views everything as being altered to be politically correct. My student sees each item in their life as having been spun. Many of us do as we watch news biased by opinion of the news broadcaster, but I am amazed as I see one thing and my student’s view is nearly opposite.

“The solution to stress management lies in how we perceive the stresses in our lives. It’s not really the events taking place in our lives that cause stress. Stress depends entirely on how we perceive the events that happen to us. The good news is that since stress is a response—not the event that triggers the response—we can control it. Once we shift our perception of a situation and see it with more clarity, the stressful reaction can be reduced or released.” Doc Childre and Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution

The difficult aspect however is in changing your perception, it has taken time and effort to come to the world view that we have.

“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” Ziggy

“You have to ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“The appearance of things changes according to the emotions and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.” Kahlil Gibran

A cartoon character, a philosopher and a mystic poet would see a world differently perhaps yet there is an understanding among these three that the world has varying and differing views. Is the glass half full or half empty even though the amount of water is the same?

“All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien

“It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals.” Charles Kuralt

Amazing how a linguist and newscaster see so similar, though one is famous for realism and one for fantasy. Kuralt is known for his to the point clarity in news casting and Tolkien for his brilliance in creating a world where fantasy and magic are real.

“We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” Anais Nin

“No life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” Henri Bergson

I often wonder as I go about each day as to how people see and hear what they do. What biases and prejudices make their world appear as it does? So many people allow hatred and negativity into their lives through their perception of existence. I sat with a young man last week helping him calm down; he was stressed by the actions of another student. He was stressed to a point of wringing his hands till there were red. The other student walked away I am sure laughing how he had pushed this other fellow to near the breaking point, “all in fun”. He was a big man on campus, and it was part of his image.

 “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not our circumstances.” Martha Washington

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” Epictetus

One student sees humor another sees ridicule and shame, one walks away laughing and another sits in severe pain.

“Miracles seem to rest, not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from far off, but upon our perceptions being made finer so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear that which is about us always.” Willa    Cather

It is so difficult to pass judgment when perception is involved, yet life should be about doing no harm and doing no harm means not finding humor in another’s pain. When someone asks to stop, whether you do not see the issue stopping is the only alternative. We have to learn our perception is not the sole perception in this reality. I have seen to many tears this week walking through the halls and at home. I have seen far too many clenched fists. Yet four three ago while officiating at a wedding there were tears were of joy.

“Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

So often emotion tints the glass of our vision and anger allows us to see color only in grays and not in the true vivid color that is actually there. I left the house unable to clearly think this morning. My little granddaughter has been living away from our house for several weeks. She came downstairs crying from wetting the bed and my wife swooped her up and wiped tears and cleaned her up. She was not really awake yet sort of half asleep. She still wanted her Minnie Mouse night shoes on and went back to sleep.

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” George Bernard Shaw

If only we could provide free Windex to all people imagine what a world we would have. It is such a simple concept using Windex to clean the perceptions of the world, to help clear the grime off so many windows. I really do not want everybody seeing the world alike that would be boring but somehow leveling the playing field perhaps as I drove home a few years back from dropping my son at college an idea hit me I called it the sacred spirit of man. Maybe just providing corrective lenses to others so they can see my way, and I am legally color blind. If only? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Why did they call him a founding father?

Bird Droppings September 10, 2021

Why did they call him a founding father?

“Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things.” Alexander Hamilton

As I looked through the news this morning many of the situations go back to ideas and thoughts begun by Alexander Hamilton so many years ago. As the first Secretary of the Treasury he set about working with a huge national debt from the Revolutionary War and established many policies and laws that govern us now. But as he states he knew times would change, technologies change, and people change and what was needed was a general framework to guide the country not a set-in concrete list. Interesting so often folks refer to the Ten Commandments as the law of the land, yet almost immediately over six hundred and eighty addendums to the original ten were enshrined in history. Thou shall not kill, unless….

“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” Alexander Hamilton

While believing in a strong federal government Hamilton also believed in honesty and fairness.

“In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.” Alexander Hamilton

While written long before welfare and government subsidies I was reading this morning about cuts in many federal programs to try and cut deficits and bailout economy. While an indirect lobbying method imagine the effect of telling a group of people, we are cutting your medical care or your bank is going to collapse. I wonder how they will vote in an election year and or do they even have a voice which has been the focus of both sides in this election year.

“It is the advertiser who provides the paper for the subscriber. It is not to be disputed, that the publisher of a newspaper in this country, without a very exhaustive advertising support, would receive less reward for his labor than the humblest mechanic.” Alexander Hamilton

It is sad that we live in a time when politicians, legislation and news is bought and sold much like any other commodity as are public and popular opinion.

 
“Man is reasoning rather than a reasonable animal.” Alexander Hamilton

Cunning might even be a better word as I read Hamilton’s thoughts this morning. As I look at even Hamilton’s life ending in a duel with the then Vice President Aaron Burr. As I am listening to news and current political pundits who shout differing opinions from day to day as they try and pull a vote here or there or for shock value pull a potential president out of the woodwork I wonder and am amazed at how Hamilton knew all along even three hundred years ago how the ongoing human mind worked. 

“Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.” Alexander Hamilton

I see this every day in education, in student life, in a high school, in families and worse in those who supposedly govern us in this country an attitude of self-centeredness, they are almost like spoiled children. Why would a congressman from Texas want so adamantly to drill in Alaska and or Senators from non-coastal states so vehemently want to drill in coastal states who oppose drilling off of their shores? I recall walking over a pipeline on the St. Augustine beach and looking out on what once were pristine waters to see oil rigs only a few yards from shore. I wonder about such things.

“Real firmness is good for anything; trrut is good for nothing.” Alexander Hamilton

Over the years of watching humanity you do see those little bantam-like fools who strut around flashing and smiling and oh yeah “I am the man” sort of fellows. But is it real? Hamilton saw through the strut to what he calls real firmness, an interesting set of words.

“The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct permanent share in the government… Can a democratic assembly who annually revolve in the mass of the people be supposed steadily to pursue the public good?” Alexander Hamilton

Perhaps this is where I disagree with Hamilton. Yet within our structure of government we do have a class system, wealthy attorneys, industrialists, and professionals who in effect run our government often becoming indirectly wealthier. It seems very few elected official leave offices in less shape than when they go in. A good example is the former Vice President Cheney. His former company from before his vice president days is reaping far greater profits than ever before and with contracts in the billions be it in Iraq or from Katrina or Around the world and often still at no-bid status. I wonder if all of our soldiers will ever come home.

“Those who do not industrialize become hewers of wood and haulers of water.” Alexander Hamilton

A prophecy from three hundred years ago and still true to this day although I wonder who is the better person? When you look at third world countries wood goes first then the economy unless that country industrializes. Yet in the losing of forest and jungles often so much more is lost.

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” Alexander Hamilton

Perhaps it is in our indifference that we lose. Perhaps it is in our voting in such low turn outs that we lose. If we believed in this country and in what it stands for, would vote and participate in having a voice. I found an old newsletter from a student organization four years ago entitled, “The Voice” silenced by an administration who did not want students having any say so. In 1804 Hamilton offended the Vice President and a duel was arranged. Aaron Burr and Hamilton met in a meadow in New Jersey one morning. Hamilton shot his pistol in the air. Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach and he died the next day. The Vice President had to escape, charges for murder were pressed. Over the years Hamilton’s ideas and thoughts have blossomed. The US Coast Guard, US Navy, many treasury processes, and concepts go back directly to Hamilton. But as I finish up this morning this last quote is so significant for us today.

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” Alexander Hamilton

We have to take a stand otherwise we will simply fall by the wayside. I Have friends in Pennsylvania fighting for the rights for exceptional children with a state government trying to cut education to special needs children. 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

Is wisdom contagious?

Bird Droppings September 9, 2021
Is wisdom contagious?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about routines?

Bird Droppings September 7, 2021

What about routines?

I was walking about Kroger today. It wasn’t that long ago I was using one of those electric carts to race around the store especially when my left leg is bothering me. On one of my last scoots no sooner did I get started and the cart ran out of power. Numerous folks asked to help and I was soon in another cart. I still have days when putting to much weight on my left leg bothers me. Cart two lasted about fifty feet and I was moving groceries again. Finally, on cart four I made it to check out and outside to my car. So as usual I got to socialize and talk to folks in Kroger but in the process a call granted from a weird number which I do not normally answer. Political research polling. I noticed how the questions were leading. I questioned data they were using and was redirected about ten times. They had an agenda and questions were designed to be as they were seeking a specific goal not truly opinions. Poor girl was probably sorry she called my number.

We are all creatures of habit and routines. It has been quite a few years ago that my wife called to me in the wee hours of the morning as I was starting to write, our youngest son was sick. A virus had struck hard but none the less he was definitely a sick fellow. I had written about an hour and was near finished when she called.  After running her to the clinic for medicines and such and the store for fluids I went back to writing and in between I lost what I had written. However, all was not lost I really wasn’t very happy with losing what I had written however in researching I found an interesting author Donald Schon.

“We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.” Donald Schon

It has been many years since my former high school where I taught nearly twenty years was audited and reviewed by SAC’s, the state high school accreditation committee. As I look at schools however I do not see as much perhaps of a change agent as Schon would demand. Yet schools constantly will follow whims and fancies. It might be this reading program or that one, or a new math system or science curriculum and many of us are very tired of “new” math curriculum state mandated. Interestingly enough writers make very large sums of money as do consultants coming up with these programs for schools. But in schools there is a comfort zone and many teachers will fall into that, habit and or routine. It is not about a continuing transformation as Schon outlines.

“A learning system… must be one in which dynamic conservatism operates at such a level and in such a way as to permit change of state without intolerable threat to the essential functions the system fulfills for the self. Our systems need to maintain their identity, and their ability to support the self-identity of those who belong to them, but they must at the same time be capable of transforming themselves.” Donald Scion, 1973

How do we keep a self-identity and still be able to change? How do we make our routines work for us?

“The need for public learning carries with it the need for a second kind of learning. If government is to learn to solve new public problems, it must also learn to create the systems for doing so and discard the structure and mechanisms grown up around old problems.” Donald Schon

I was thinking as I was writing about a former student who had OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Every day it would be a challenge to deal with this fellow when he went on a roll in his OCD. One particular morning he started in with, can I hold Stevie? And normally when not a serious matter I would let him ask and I answered, no not just yet. For those of you who do not know Stevie she is the wonder snake. I had Stevie at school for nearly fourteen years until my last room change to a much smaller room. Stevie was a ball python about 52 inches long and over thirty years old when she passed. She had been at the school most of my years. Anyhow each time he would ask I would answer. Finally, a student who was talking with me and not in my class says Mr. Bird that was 50 times he has asked you. Another little girl tapped the young man on the shoulder and said, I loveeeeeeee you. It was as smoochy and little girlish as could possibly be done. My little OCD fellow took off across the room.

In some instances, letting an OCD individual run their course is fine and I am in a world of my own on planned ignoring, but in most times with OCD it simply takes a change a sudden change of thought process and OCD stops abruptly. As I was reading Schon this popped in my mind sometimes it is the way the problem and or habit or routine is done is the issue and a new way is needed sometimes abruptly. Often as in this case it happens suddenly but many times we do have time and as I do every day often reflection can be a tool for change.

“In every case of reflective activity, a person finds himself confronted by a given, present situation from which he has arrived at, or conclude to, something which is not present. The process of arriving at an idea of what is absent on the basis of what is at hand is inference. What is present carries or bears the mind over to the idea and ultimately the acceptance of something else.” John Dewey

We can review and reflect on our days and using past and present knowledge build our next day and ideas from that and we can illicit change through careful and calculated refection.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Every once in a while, an Einstein quote really sounds good maybe even great to me. He was a smart man to say the least. Sometimes we need to change our direction our point of view in order to move on. Some might view the young man asking 52 times as stubborn and or myself for not stopping him and letting him go on. But I watch teachers and parents do this day in and day out and they are not being treated for OCD they are just caught in a rut. They continue day by day doing the same thing knowing there are better ideas and directions. Please take a few moments and think are you locked in or if provided with information could you make a change and most of all 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

Why we are not succeeding?

Bird Droppings September 6, 2021
Why we are not succeeding?

Early this morning I stepped outside into the chill, a few crickets and tree frogs greeted me as I looked around in the darkness. The sky was clear as a bell stars blazing away over my head. Orion was the major force as I peered skyward. Never have quite figured out how someone came up with each of the constellations although perception perhaps is a key. I keep a drinking gourd by my computer, an artifact from Rabun County Georgia. Hold it up and you can see where the big dipper came from. My wife reminded me that our middle son’s birthday is coming up on the seventh of October even though my outlook calendar has it on the fourth. A simple error I need to fix since you get what you put in.

It has been nearly fifteen years since I went to see a Georgia Tech football game and as I often do, I took a camera. I adjusted the settings for the light. I set the film speed. I actually used film and not a digital camera so I had to be sure everything was set as I could not see photos till they were processed. I took pictures actually many pictures as I so often do. Not to brag but they did turn out super one or two are still floating around in Georgia Tech websites. My experience in using this camera and lens paid off. I knew what settings and what exposures would give me the best pictures and my reflecting begins.

In graduate schools we discuss the history of education and how history is so often has been tainted or subjected to the views of the historian and or politics of the time of that event and then the perspective of the historian, a double whammy. I began pushing this idea further and to how and what we learn. So often it is what we are told to learn not what we want to learn and or need to learn. It is but various pieces of reality in a perception of that we are told to learn and I wonder for whose gain.

“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know — and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know — even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction — than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.” Isaac Asimov

I have Neil Young blaring away on my iPhone having hearing aids linked to phone has its advantages I can crank up my tunes. “Old man take a look at your life I am a lot like you are”, lyrics from Neil Young circa 1971 when he bought a ranch and an elderly foremen came with it. On another thought it amazes me to listen to students say I am passing I have a seventy percent and that’s good enough. I sometimes wonder if students really learn anything from day one till day seven hundred or eight hundred or do they simply regurgitate data and information to pass tests. It has been a few years since my son commenting as he took the SAT’s several times the more he was in math classes the better his scores and conversely one semester he did not have an advanced or AP English he dropped a few points on language section. So even for a good student is school simply a memorizing forum.

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

I found when I began looking for answers that learning became easier. When answers were being given to me in a mandatory sort of way in the process of going to school I learned less. Even in college for many years learning was considered mandatory. I have observed many students and what they learn. If they want to learn a topic they read about it, they look up information about it, and there is a desire to learn more about that topic.

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

For many years previously, I have tacked this quote on the end of my morning Droppings. I continue to ponder how can we make our teaching so potent? How do we get the information we teach to be what students want to learn?

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of face within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity” Calvin Coolidge

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have not always been an Emerson fan sadly I wish I had begun reading his words sooner or I should say paying attention to the fact I was reading his words. In high school I do not recall even considering reading Emerson and know I did sort of see the page and it went by and I read Emerson. Now in my infinite wisdom do I see the folly of my high school days? Hindsight is only good if you build from it however. As we look back it is so easy to say I wasted time or I should have done this or that. Start today and take advantage of the daylight pack as much in as you can for tomorrow there will be just as much if not more coming your way in the next.

As I think back a few days ago to reading about the concept of a democratic school where students pick and choose topics for discussion and learning each week and in some ways, learning is up to them.

It would be difficult to plan for a standardized test, especially thinking did we cover that for example (in Georgia we had QCC’s (Quality Core Curriculum) and now we have advanced a bit with GPS (Georgia Performance Standards) which will cover all curriculum that is to be taught. Being so we might have that section II item number 123a is the classification of segmented worms which is to be covered. Somewhere someone determined in Biology that that item was crucial. It may be a history item about the urban myth of were George Washington’s false teeth made from wood, hippo ivory and or ceramics.

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” St. Francis of Assisi

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.” Sophocles

How would we know what it is we need to know and how would teachers know what it is we need to know in order to teach us? That is a significant question. Using standardized tests provides the vehicle to measure, but then do we teach to that particular test or do we not teach to it and is that measure truly a measure of what a child knows? If most teachers know what students need to know to take a particular test before I start the class then I will gear the class to that understanding before the test. So, in effect we teach to the test. We teach what someone somewhere has deemed necessary for a student in that grade and time and that may or may not be what that teacher or student wants to learn. This brings me back to students tend to learn best when it is something that they want to know and realistically teachers teach far more better something they want to teach.

It would be a sad world if parents were told they had to teach their kids so and so today and tomorrow it would be this and that. Now that I think about it maybe that is not so bad in some cases. Except that then someone somewhere will be saying this is what children will be taught and when it will be taught. That system just closed down in Russia a few years back. So if our goal is to train socially acceptable consumers and workers to fill the factories as Karl Marx once indicated the goal of education was we will have accomplished that. Somehow, we need to bring back creativity and critical thinking.

“If you wish to know the road up the mountain, ask the man who goes back and forth on it.” Zenrim

I can set my lenses and camera on manual adjustment and or on program mode. I could fine tune and adjust and or set on program mode and allow the camera’s computer to do adjusting for me. I started to think about the P words, program, perception and politics although maybe there is a connection as I think a bit more. So often in life politics determines how we perceive by providing the program setting and far too many people choose to use that since it is easier and simpler. It requires little effort and you always get the same results no matter who uses it. Could it be that in learning the same material the results on a test is the same no matter who takes it. They all conveniently know just the right stuff and just the right answers and just who to vote for and to keep in power. So, on a day when war and conflict are part of our vernacular and those in power struggle to keep their seats please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Grandparenting/Teaching is telling our students and grandchildren the stories

Bird Droppings September 5, 2021

Grandparenting/Teaching is telling our students and grandchildren the stories

I have been lazy lately. I have been reading and documenting notes for my dissertation but had not pulled up in a few days. I am finishing up my first three chapters of my dissertation. My title has changed over the years and days. Birddropping: Engaging curriculum through storytelling is now the title. I grew up listening to stories from my grandmother, father and mother. My uncles added to and various other family members. All had a wealth of stories. My mother was telling me about my grandfather who too was a story teller before he passed on. I listened to them all.  I Learned from them all.

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

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

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

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950

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

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

I read an article earlier, in Child Trends about reading to young children.

“Young children who are regularly read to have a larger vocabulary, higher levels of phonological, letter name, and sound awareness, and better success at decoding words. The number of words in a child’s vocabulary can be an important indicator of later academic success.” Burgess, S. R., Hecht, S. A. , & Lonigan, C. J. (2002). Relations of the home literacy environment (HLE) to the development of reading-related abilities: A one-year longitudinal study. Reading Research Quarterly, 37(4), 408-426.

In other reading children read to at a young age is more crucial than flash cards, workbooks, fancy preschools, blinking toys and computers it is simply reading with mom and dad. This is where imagination begins and grows.

So, I am wondering what lesson I should first impart. There is a lesson that sadly many forget as they go into the world. It has been many years since I first saw these words. It is that lesson of example. Dr. Nolte, fifty years ago gave us a poem of sorts “Children learn what they live”, that critical lesson is one of example providing a life that is a lesson rather than a disaster. So, this morning as we start a new week 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

Ponderingerest is that even a word?

Bird Droppings September 3, 2021

Ponderingerest is that even a word?

Coming up are some interesting days. One is interesting and yet solemn day; a day marked by dark memories; twenty years ago, I started teaching again after a twenty-three-year layoff, thirty-two years ago, we brought a new baby home. So many memories are coming up this week. I sat down at my computer with a song lyric whispering through my thoughts. I sang out the lyric and my wife commented it was on Tom Petty radio yesterday in a tribute to Bob Dylan. A simple line. It was perhaps triggered by two passing Facebook posts. One a classmate from high school had passed away, and the other a reference to telling a woman you look your age. I am always pondering granted back issues, and leg issues deflect a bit, but pondering is a way of life for me.

“Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats too noble to neglect. Deceived me into thinking I had something to protect. Good and bad, I define these terms quite clear, no doubt, somehow. Ah, but I was so much older than I’m younger than that now” Bob Dylan 

I recall that my first day of teaching twenty years ago with much of spent in lockdown and confused about what was going on. It was many days later; I thought about that day I came back to teaching. I just sent a note to one of my first students in that class I was locked in for several hours. Charles Beard was a historian and often a controversial one at that it is said he commented that Roosevelt brought the US into World War II for economic recovery. Interestingly historically, that has been the case several times over as to why we go to war. When I first looked at his quote, I was thinking about little children, especially my grandkids, being afraid of the dark and night time, and several times when out with youth and trying to ease fears of darkness, I have used stars as a focal point. It does have to be dark to see the stars.

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Charles A. Beard

Often in life, we lose sight of the stars until trials and tribulations show in contrast, and we again can view our own stars. Folk’s they are there today with all that is going on the news about Syria and another potential war, it is often hard to see and remember the shining stars but rest assured they are there and will be shining when we need to see them. I have been writing and thinking about this day for some time. A few years back in response to my Bird dropping, I would like to share from a dear friend who I used thought from.

“You know, Frank, Viet Nam doesn’t seem that long ago, but it was. I’m a Viet Nam combat vet; was Navy but served for two temporary assignments with the First Radio Battalion, Third Marine Amphibious Force in the I Corps (Da Nang, the northern part). I was essentially a marine. It continues to be amazing to me how an experience of war is interpreted differently by different folks. I was running a security communications operation and was calling in the ArcLight Raids, precision bombing (for then) with the B-52s. I guess you could say I never saw the ones I was killing … I do believe my work saved the lives of many of our troops. (They gave me a medal for it; can you believe that?) What’s right, and what’s wrong? When you lose a friend, you want to kill them all. Even today, the flag-folding at a casket tears me up. All of this to say that, from the standpoint of being veterans who can still function a little, the Viet Nam guys are “old” vets now. I want the world to know they’re NOT all drunks and drug addicts. You jarred some memories, my friend. A different place … a different time.” Jim, Dr. James D. Sutton, Clinical Psychologist, and National recognized speaker and authority on Conduct Disorders

I was writing yesterday about my hatred of war and its destruction. As I grew up listening to my father’s stories of WWII and today looking at old photos he had, images of the attack on Iwo Jima where many thousands of American soldiers died and tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers perished makes me wonder about war. Many of my friends from high school and college are Viet Nam vets, and often in communications comments are made, and I have the utmost regard for these men and women who served in a time so many have forgotten. Many of those same friends died in a country they never really understood for reasons that have changed over time.

In a week or so we will look at the anniversary of an attack on our country. Does this change my perception of war and revenge not at all? There is still nothing solved in retaliation. True a great sigh of relief came when Osama Bin Laden was killed by Seal Team Six. At that moment, I was more concerned about my nephew in law who serves in the teams, than the fact Bin Laden was killed. My thoughts today are rekindling many images from different people. Hope and fear both rise to the top of the barrel. We left a twenty-year war only a few days ago and many people are upset. There is no easy end to a war for either side.

“The trouble with justifying your violence, your hate, your profitable destruction through your subjective sense of victimization is a)the chain of violence can go on forever b)everyone, since no one has a monopoly on suffering, can use victimization to then justify practically anything for an indefinite amount of time and violence and c)as vengeance only retaliates never returns, there will never be an end to the justification of your violence, and as such your violence itself.” Manny Jalonschi, Publisher at American Ex Pat Books

I have known and been reading Manny’s blogs and thoughts for several years now, and this one caught me in my pondering state. I posted the following response.

“When raised in Judeo-Christian understanding of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, it is hard to separate out the revenge aspect of the equation and throw in staunch capitalism which a long time ago gave up on the Koinonia (community) of early Christianity in favor of greed and profit and ran roughshod over indigenous peoples worldwide. Seriously what is to be expected? Sadly, how many kids are raised today without a neutral historical understanding of where they came from?” Frank Bird III, Ed. S. D.D.

Over the past few days, several friends have made comments to me about my choice of a political party and or Representatives. I find it interesting as while in many ways what they see as wrong, they have no way other than saying it will take care of itself if we get rid of this or this program.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

I pondered most of the week listening to the rhetoric of warmongering, border walls, capitalism, and the government’s handouts and healthcare problems. I grieve with and honor those who died in the heinous attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon eighteen years ago, but I also say retaliation is never a solution. We have retaliated for eighteen years, and that has nearly destroyed our country’s soul.

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

I honestly wonder, borrowing from Gandhi, “An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind”, how long we can continue and not lift up and move ahead. I have worked with and taught numerous autistic children over the years. Dr. Temple Grandin is considered to be one of the leading authorities on animal and livestock handling in the world. She has designed and engineered seventy-five percent of the commercial livestock handling facilities for commercial packers in the United States. She has been recognized by animal rights groups for her ethical treatment in design and development and has written college texts on animal science. She also is considered a world leader in autism, perhaps because Dr. Grandin is autistic herself.

“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream. I can remember this very clearly.” Dr. Temple Grandin

In recent years, more and more children are being diagnosed as autistic. As I read the words that applied directly to herself as she grew up frustrated with a world that only heard her screaming and never her words, I thought of those often less fortunate than ourselves who have no voice. We tend to silence many people through political maneuvering and redrawing lines and forgetting to advertise the new laws of needing photo identification to vote. I watched several political debates and speeches this past week, and Dr. Temple Grantin’s words again hit me.

“People are always looking for a single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet. I was very lucky to receive very well early intervention with excellent teachers, starting at age two and a half. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher. A good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. Some teachers have a knack for working with autistic children. Other teachers do not have it. If you find a good teacher, hang on to him or her tight.” Dr. Temple Grandin

Yesterday or the day before many days lately have run together, I had an issue with my upstairs air conditioning a few months back. The thermostat was stuck at eighty-five degrees. I poked at it, fiddled with it, no change. At one point, even said call the air conditioning guy. But two nights ago, I walked upstairs with a screwdriver and popped the cover off and low and behold batteries. Two new Duracell triple A’s, and the air is working again. On that same note, an article on bacteria in the gut and autism caught my attention yesterday. How simple is that? Autistic children often have dietary issues, and a study showed significantly different bacteria in the gut of autistic children actually fewer bacteria of a right kind. Granted, it was only an article, but how simple is that if a reality.

On a day of pondering, I wish we never have to go through this again. I offer as a solution that if we keep our eyes and ears open, we can find open-minded great teachers. We can resolve issues before going to war, and all children can have the opportunity to succeed and learn and never be silent again. Last night we received as staff an email that our board of education tabled a proposed by superintendent change to high school scheduling going from four block to seven block all in the name of rigor. Ask any teacher about this, and the answer is what? 

A newspaper article ran erroneous information about testing and four block and how math scores would improve. Nothing was said about a ridiculous math curriculum and constant changes and a test that in trials fifty percent or more failed. But changing our schedules would cure it. No one mentioned fifteen to twenty percent of high school teachers would be let go, and there would be no electives for students. So, I sit back ponder a moment more, and as I have for so many years now asked, 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

It is about understanding

Bird Droppings September 2, 2021

It is about understanding

I read a student’s psychological report years back who could decode most any word put in front of them. The confusion comes when trying to tell you what was read. The two components of reading, decoding, and comprehension are needed to be a successful reader. As I thought of how many students, I see each day like this particular one. I asked if they could read, and of course, they can and show you reading aloud brilliantly. As the quiz comes around or even a question and they draw a blank. As a rule, high school teachers are not looking for learning issues simply students learning the subject being taught. So many students slip through the cracks of high school with poor reading skills. If only we could catch and remedy early on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third.” Marge Piercy

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Kahlil Gibran

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Kahlil Gibran

“I hear and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucius

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

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

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

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

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

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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