Naughty or Nice, might be in the semantics

Bird Droppings December 6, 2019

Naughty or Nice, might be in the semantics

 

“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.” William Wordsworth

 

One day when you look back and try and remember what was that act I did or when did I do it, you may not remember but the person to whom that small act of kindness was paid will. Over the years I will hear comments from my home town of Coatesville, even though I have not lived there since 1972 it still seems to be home. I have had several recall day camp at Camp Ringtail one of my own ventures in my back yard. I even used an event recently as I talked with a group of high school students. I used to have a large Eastern Indigo snake. This was before the endangered species act. One day in a nature demo my snake barfed up on some unwary campers a large bullfrog half digested. That is easy to remember.

 

As we get into the serious end of the holiday season at least for kids. It is time to tally up naughty or nice points for Santa. I recall a certain visit from Santa Claus as he does every year visiting the family gathering for Christmas Eve. Coincidently a he had with him a letter of sorts more of a naughty and nice list. At the top of the naughty list of course was Uncle Frank along with several other Uncles and my grand niece’s daddy. At the top of the Really Nice list was my granddaughter of course and several grandnieces and a brand-new niece in law. The kids enjoyed and made jokes about their poor uncles who would get coal that year.

 

As I think back to small events and acts, several years back we had our oldest niece come over and with Santa they looked at all the names as I read them to her. She was so excited about two of them. Of course, she ran around the room showing everyone. What was so funny was it was her daddy’s name on the naughty list that intrigued her. She knew why exactly; her daddy scolded her a few days before. It is funny the list was a total after thought yet my niece took it home that year. As I sit here thinking back just a day or two and my granddaughter was mad at her daddy and told him he would be on the naughty list.

 

Now I have electronic means of determining naughty or nice. My app with a simple press of a finger makes some noise and eventually gives a reading. My granddaughter will check every time she comes by and of course it is always reading you are an angel. If only life wee that easy. Unfortunately, she also figured out how to customize the responses and will change it for her little brother.

 

Every once in a while, I will run into to someone in person or on line who had met my father over the years. It has been a number of years since he last spoke publicly, back in the day as my youngest son says. He taught numerous Red Cross courses along with his actually teaching, as a profession in the field of Industrial Safety and Loss Control. Many people mentioned how his Red Cross first aid class saved a life here and there or some interaction with another where he did this or that changed their life. Occasionally when I would mention to him he would remember the event but often it was simply his way of living how he went about the day.

 

One of my favorite stories about my dad is one from South Africa about forty years ago. He was there teaching and lecturing for the Chamber of Mines and one of the senior officers of The Chamber lent his personal driver and car to Dad while he was there. A young black South African, a member of one of South Africa’s many distinct tribes; this young man had come into the city to earn enough money so he could go home and marry. Many young men would leave their homes some for as long as twenty years to earn enough money to go back to their villages and marry. Dad spent eight weeks in South Africa on every trip and on this trip much like others traveling to many of the mines around Johannesburg and in the back country. This young man was always ready always on time and kept Dad on time many times getting him to numerous meetings and functions in this foreign country all in a day.

 

When it was time to head home, Dad had really come to like this young man and as he dropped him off at the airport Dad tipped him the remaining South African money he had, about five hundred equivalent US dollars in their currency. He came later to find out that was equivalent to three years of work or so. Dad got a telegram as soon as he got home from his good friend in South Africa asking what my father did to his driver.  As soon as he got back from the airport he quit his job and went back to his tribe. It seems Dad had given him enough money to go home and be married; a seemingly small act of kindness, a tip to this young man changed his life.

 

“Once in a century a man may be ruined or made insufferable by praise. But surely once in a minute something generous dies for want of it.” John Masefeild

 

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

 

Scattered about in our lives are the bits and pieces events we often do not remember but that person to whom we responded kindly or in a way that helped them will remember forever.

 

“The flower of kindness will grow. Maybe not now, but it will someday. And in kind that kindness will flow, for kindness grows in this way.” Robert Allan

 

“Is there any one maxim which ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life? Surely the maxim of loving kindness is such: Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.” Confucius, from the Analects

 

Interesting this statement sounds so familiar it was first written nearly 500 BCE by Confucius in China in his Analects, a series of statements and stories, repeated many times then in other cultures and religions and even prior in words of others.

 

“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” Fredrick W. Faber

 

“If you were busy being kind, before you knew it, you would find you’d soon forget to think ’twas true that someone was unkind to you. If you were busy being glad, and cheering people who are sad, although your heart might ache a bit, you’d soon forget to notice it.” R. Foreman

 

There are far too few cheerleaders in the world although there are days I would say too many, especially with all the drama with the cheerleaders at our high school over the years. At school many times the cheerleaders come by my room, it seems I am the one taking photos at events and Mr. Bird’s wall of fame is a focal point for many students coming to see who has been added. One cheerleader in particular has never once had a frown; she is always excited and happy. She is always saying a good word to friends. I have never seen her gossip or speaking badly of another person and amazing I have never heard a bad word about her. So often in the morning as I observe the hallways her personality is contagious. When she is walking down the hallways with others soon all are laughing.

 

“A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.” Washington Irving

 

“He was so benevolent, so merciful a man that, in his mistaken passion, he would have held an umbrella over a duck in a shower of rain.” Douglas WilliamJerrod

 

“To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.” Samuel Johnson

 

It is seldom that someone will complain about another person being nice to them. Maybe Dr. Seuss’s character the Grinch, but even he fell sway to the little Who, Cindy Loo Who. Kindness can win battles. Kindness can win a war, or prevent a war. Random acts of kindness can provide the catalyst for world change.

 

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.” Mother Theresa

 

“If someone were to pay you $.10 for every kind word you ever spoke and collect $.05 for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?” Nonpareil

 

Many times, as I sit and write each morning I wonder if anyone is reading or hearing what is said. Daily I get notes and emails; I know today this word or that word touched someone. How many words need to be spoken or need to be emailed to have world peace? If it is a hundred million let’s start now if it is a hundred billion then again let’s start now. We all know there is a number and we all know one day we will attain that goal. One day maybe I will never have to end Bird Droppings ever again this way but with a Georgia State Patrolmen shot in the line of duty last night after a car chase not today, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts 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

Is there topsoil left midst an erosion of soul?

Bird Droppings December 5, 2019

Is there topsoil left midst an erosion of soul?

 

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil

 

“The need for roots,” I saw this idea earlier as I web surfed thinking and pondering this morning or perhaps as I was scrolling through thoughts I had saved over the years along with all of my young herb plants sitting beside me near the window and the concept caught me, to be rooted. Out in the garage I have root stock from several medicinal plants I ordered that I need to get into soil soon along with seeds. In a world where family ties are eroding away faster than we can reconnect we find our roots need topsoil.

 

“There is a longing among the young of my nation to secure for themselves and their people the skills that will provide them with a sense of purpose and worth. They will be our new warriors.” Chief Dan George

 

I have been intrigued with students recently have had little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma if that. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp. I am doing a substantial amount of work with The Foxfire concept and so much of that in its origin is based on roots on history and family. After several years of looking I found a copy of the Red Lake Chronicles, a history of the Red Lake Ojibwa reservation, edited by Dr. Kent Nerburn an author I do enjoy reading and whose focus has been Native Indian Spirituality.

 

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

 

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots, your past or your history but traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep these people going. In a discussion with a young man recently talking about a brother in jail again and sister in trouble maybe separating from roots is necessary at times. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence while nearly polar opposites. I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to their heritage and to traditions; they are not grounded or anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be to escape, to wanting to be away from or distant from as Lawrence advocates.

 

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

 

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead, noted anthropologist

 

Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have been stripped away by our constant boxing up and categorizing. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society. If we go back to talking about society and people and using the analogy I have of plants most plants without roots are parasitic. As I look out at how we have set up our world is this not maybe a good comparison we have set up for parasitism among people.

 

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

 

Many years ago, in a tenth-grade literature class that would be about 1965, we read at that time a very controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”. You were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried to destroy family and traditions and roots. They have been always stripping away the top soil, laying bare to the hardpan of a man’s soul. But within it all still with some people persistence, vigor, and desire was still there.

 

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

 

This is not just a modern-day issue, Confucius raised questions over two thousand years ago and used a simple word to explain, integrity. For Confucius it was the integrity of the home and perhaps this is the key to roots. Solid roots can be found in the integrity of a family and home. Is it possible to look at people and judge their character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family, or by their genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow? Back in the day we used EPD’s to judge the quality or potential quality of a breeding animal. I used to know what that meant but specifically in cattle it is the performance data that has been gathered for generations many times and potential for that animal based on that gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given traits you are looking for.

 

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

 

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I find there are answers. EPD’s work because someone cared enough to check to save the information and data. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of on a daily basis I see in real life. I walked into a local convenience store and noticed a lady standing at the counter I had seen her at the high school arguing to a point of being removed from the school. She was giving the store attendant a hard time and I felt immediately she is not a happy camper. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately I have found. So where do I go in this round about effort especially on as we head into so many various holidays for many.

 

We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding and often with little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today maybe even a happy holiday greeting. It may be a hug or kind word or ear to listen. But take some time to share to care and 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

 

Teaching as improvisational art using learning as the pallet

Bird Droppings December 4, 2019

Teaching as improvisational art using learning as the pallet

 

I wrote the basics of this article nearly fifteen years ago and at the time was thinking of an artist friend now a computer programmer who was trying to define her art as well as searching for her own meaning in life. My friend often reflected her political views and emotions through her art. It has been a few years my family had a family game night at the request of one of my nephews and his wife, inviting us all over to play various board games, computer games and eat of course. It seems in all family gatherings eating is an integral part and perhaps a socializing aspect that gets overlooked far too often. Perhaps one day I will write on the socializing aspects of a family get together and the intertwining of food. But a Trivial Pursuit question I did not know the answer to caught my attention. “What Impressionist painter started an art community just prior to committing suicide?”

 

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others” Vincent Van Gogh

 

By chance the answer was Van Gogh. When I first read this, I started to think about an ear coming in a box, and how unromantic that is. Perhaps sending body parts while you are alive is an art form. But trying not to be sarcastic, many aspects of our lives could be construed as an art form, such as love, teaching, and caring. Each goes beyond a simple definition. Within each are pieces that you do not learn in class. I am sure if Vincent Van Gogh showed a picture he drew or painted during one of his manic spells, the art teacher would have told him to take art lessons. Today those same paintings are considered classics of impressionism. I am sure Picasso was laughed at, somewhere along the line for drawing women in cube form or simply as a splash of color upon his canvas.

 

What defines an art form versus simply reality? I would not pay millions to have a Picasso or Van Gogh even if I had the money lying around. Perhaps for me I would prefer to see and experience rather than to own. It seems those who pay millions are often more about the publicity than the art.

 

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.” William Faulkner

 

Defining the moment in words, paint or sculpture, perhaps even a bit of broken glass is art. I saw a in a tiny chapel outside Atlanta stained glass windows many years ago created by a renowned artist, an elderly Trappist monk from Conyers. This was his last work at the age of ninety two. The brilliant abstracts in the windows were in reds and purple depicting the Christian sacraments. The windows were literally alive as you sat in the chapel bathed in the brilliant light from the windows.

“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.” Henry James

 

I was thinking about Faulkner’s idea of art. How we can take a piece of life and preserve it. Artists are in many ways taxidermists each working within their own medium so to speak. Is love simply that special moment carried further as a reminder of what once was? Could teaching simply be a passing of pieces of reality to another who will have those pieces at some point in time? Even in the painting of Van Gogh is his art just the capturing of an image. Interesting how we do so easily now with digital cameras, scanners and computers. Even in my own photography playing with color and movement as I capture images.

 

“Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.” James Joyce

 

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” John F. Kennedy

“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” Henri Matisse

 

Nearly seven years ago Mel Brooks was honored at the Kennedy Art Center for his contributions. I found myself drawn to these writers’ quotes today especially as I read this statement by Henry Matisse. There is a secret hidden within Matisse’s words, for all forms of art. We are so often limited by our history and previous experiences, be it love or an art form, for Matisse then each love, each new piece of art should be new. Each should be special. It is in trying to categorize and synthesize that we lose the true essence and aspect of love, and of art. When we try to define and label the box of love do we lose pieces as we can in art? Teaching is in a very similar situation. Far too often teachers try and teach each lesson as they taught the last. First you have to forget all the classes that were ever taught, a difficult task for any teacher.

 

“If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.” Grandma Moses

 

“Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colors.” Pablo Picasso

 

It has been nearly ten years ago that a student brought in several dozen photos she and her sister had taken of each other. One of the photos caught my eye. Neither of the girls saw any significance as do very few others when I see things in photos. But for me that one photo caught the personality of the student and I put it on my wall in my class room. That is art for me. Recently one of the sisters came by to visit and noticed the picture was still there and how much that meant to her. Where and how does it become art for everyone? How does teaching become energized to a point that it is art?

It has been some time since I wrote a rather long email to a dear friend who is a pastor in Pennsylvania. I used the word empathy several times. An artist in whatever medium they choose has to have empathy. A pastor is an artist dealing with the spirituality of parishioners and so much more. As I researched art many paradoxes seemed to crop up even within the definition.

 

“A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.” “A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer. “Dictionaery.com

 

Art is nonscientific yet it is also very specific in other ways. I find art perhaps more scientific than science. It is interesting in art we attach theory to reality and in science we try to attach reality to theory. Teaching in and of itself is taking reality and attaching theory to it. We have a block of information that by various means we have to interpret to a student and hopefully they will come close to what we are actually trying to teach. For several days I have been discussing or mentioning symbols and recognition of symbols as how we understand our reality. It is through symbols we convey information about reality.

 

“To impart knowledge” Dictionary.com

 

“Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. An artist recreates those aspects of reality which represent his fundamental view of man’s nature.” Ayn Rand

 

I was thinking back several years to a teacher searching the closet for teacher’s manuals and transparencies to teach a subject they had taught for forty years. I was a bit taken back. How do you teach a subject for forty years and now get stressed over a manual and transparencies? You should know the material and it should not be the exact same for every class. The delivering of the material is the key issue here. I was curious as I watched and observed the mounting stress for this teacher as no teacher’s manual and transparencies could be found. Fortunately for the students their regular teacher made it back in time.

 

“There has to be one how did anyone teach this class before me.” A former teacher

 

That same week I watched a teacher take the same subject and walk into class dressed as a knight, maybe it was a goat herder, with literally a virtual reality game. This was in a history class and it came alive. The teacher divided the room and each team was given various attributes such as being near water, having fertile soil, possessing seeds or goats etc. One group was given a gold mine and nothing else. There was a bit of reflection and a bit of thinking for the students. Then the essential question was asked, how are you going to develop your civilization? I am curious which group learned more about the start of world civilization, from the forty year experienced teacher or the lowly goat herder. Art is an interpretation. In teaching we often interpret ideas and events. It is also providing the opportunity for the student to interpret and learn from that thinking process.

 

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Augusto Rodin

 

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about. He’s not interested in how things look different in moonlight.” Jahal-Uddin Rumi

 

“Not even the visionary or mystical experience ever lasts very long. It is for art to capture that experience, to offer it to, in the case of literature, its readers; to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.” Salman Rushdie

 

We each can be artists in our own field, and perhaps empathy is the key. It is being able to reach that inner spark in others so they can feel what you feel what you see and hear and understand what it was that inspired you.

 

“Great art is never produced for its own sake. It is too difficult to be worth the effort.” George Bernard Shaw

 

“What distinguishes a great artist from a weak one is first their sensibility and tenderness; second, their imagination, and third, their industry.” John Ruskin

 

Ruskin has perhaps defined what constitutes a great artist, be it in whatever medium used, or whatever pallet you choose. I wish we could as easily declare peace throughout the world. I wonder if we can bottle and sell empathy then maybe peace could be a reality. I worked a bit in my herb garden yesterday trimming dead branches and stems. I had been watching the sky and the afternoon sun setting. I was listening to the quiet of my back-yard walking about this was very soothing. I wonder can growing herbs be considered an art form? 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

 

 

I wrote the basics of this article nearly fourteen years ago and at the time was thinking of an artist friend now a computer programmer who was trying to define her art as well as searching for her own meaning in life. My friend often reflected her political views and emotions through her art. It has been a few years my family had a family game night at the request of one of my nephews and his wife, inviting us all over to play various board games, computer games and eat of course. It seems in all family gatherings eating is an integral part and perhaps a socializing aspect that gets overlooked far too often. Perhaps one day I will write on the socializing aspects of a family get together and the intertwining of food. But a Trivial Pursuit question I did not know the answer to caught my attention. “What Impressionist painter started an art community just prior to committing suicide?”

Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

Bird Droppings December 3, 2019

Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

 

In a roundabout way several earlier readings on the internet got me thinking and pondering as I do. So often we take our technology for granted.  It has been about thirteen years since we moved into this house and a brand-new dishwasher. About a four years ago the drain pump went out and it decided to die on us. In forty-one years of marriage we have had only four dish washers not counting rental houses along the way you might say these dishwashers become a part of the family. We waited on Frigidaire to send a repairman, we need our dishwasher and you now have to make appointments usually several weeks in advance. I recall my trips to various supply and parts places and new numbers of more places to call they were always eventful even synchronistic so to say. I find interesting people every time I go anywhere for that matter. After a week or two we did go get a new dish washer and after six months it decided to breakdown which was covered by warranty. It took nearly six months of wrangling to get a repairman out to inform us there was water damage in switchboard. It seems in a dishwasher that uses steam heat as a component, does not have a vapor barrier initially installed. While it was fixed and did not cost a penny you become quickly aware of how we depend on simple technology. Key board lasted six months and went out and we were told to dry our hands before pressing sealed key pad. So, for two years we have been safe until just recently so we carefully found a new dishwasher.

 

Thinking back to that first repair and the fellow after a brief computer check of circuits and such and a screen and using his manuals it seemed to be showing the culprit was a main drive motor. After calculating labor and parts we would have to spend nearly three hundred dollars to fix our dishwasher but if we choose to get a new one, we get this visit off our purchase. Essentially it cost sixty-five dollars to tell us our washer was broke

 

“Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other.” Carl G. Jung

 

It is often easy for me to pull out Jung thoughts and ideas and get motivated for the writing ahead. As I went out to sit and think earlier, this all rolled through my mind. I am amazed at how carefully planned and developed our technology is. No matter how good you take care of or do not take care of machines last a certain amount of time regardless. The term planned obsolescence is often bantered about. We are a throwaway society.

 

In an issue of National Geographic a few months back they were on one of the far-flung Hawaiian Islands cleaning up. Sadly, literally tons of debris washes in ranging from fishing nets, trash, TV’s, all sorts of stuff and sadly tons of it. Animals get caught up in the muck and often perish. One photo was of the contents of a baby albatross that had starved to death with a full stomach. The baby’s parents fishing in the currents had picked up numerous bits of trash either mixed in with the tiny fish they catch or that had been eaten by the fish and the baby’s stomach was full of plastic pieces that did not pass through literally full of trash that kept its stomach full and it would not or could not eat enough to live.

 

It was nearly fifty years ago Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady at the time started a cleanup campaign on our roads and highways. There were signs against littering and signs posted showing the fines for littering which were imposed and slowly we started cleaning up. But still we trash our environment.

 

But as I thought about it there is another side, as I look at this in a spiritual manner. People who live off the land hold their lands sacred honoring and revering the world about them do not seem to have this issue. Often using each aspect of a given animal or plant harvested for use while we discard so much. I have seen dumpsters in Georgia with deer carcasses all but the head thrown in. A few months back a deer was dumped at the high school antlers sawn off. There is a scene in the beginning of the movie “Last of the Mohicans” where Uncus, Nathaniel (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook shoot a deer. They honor the deer with prayers and ask forgiveness for killing the deer and say it will sustain them in the days ahead; there were no reality cameras filming and no bragging about eating what they kill. (Granted it was in a movie)

 

I watch churches locally in a similar manner. A situation I am very familiar with goes like this. Years ago, members of a particular church were major donors to the growth and support of that church and were visited often by the pastors. As the days went by and illness befell these members and new pastor came to be the money was not flowing as it was previously and the family was never even visited. Where the money was, not where the need was, became the calling card of the church. I look a few lines up to Jung’s words of how different love and power are. Who do we look to as great so often in society any more sadly it is those with wealth and power? Wisdom, love and honor seldom play a part any more.

 

“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

 

As a people we have lost so much. We take as we need from each other and from others. So often we subsist only in that world immediately around us. WE ARE focusing only on that which we can see feel and touch, even in this world of instantaneous news and views. We have made ourselves disposable. How many times have you heard the phrase at work or in a workplace “no one is indispensable” essentially, we are all disposable. As I ponder it used to be we learned a craft through apprenticeship and years of experience and you became a master craftsman.

 

Yesterday I was looking on the internet at Native American art. A plains survival kit made by Black Eagle an Osage medicine man eighty years old was selling for $2,200.00 it consisted of several pieces of bone and sinew. Essentially it was a primitive kit for a hunter in the prairies of ancient North America. The various pieces included several scrappers, needles and sinew and they were stored in a fringed elk skin bag. Back in the day Black Eagle would have given it to you if you needed it. Now it is a collector’s item being sold by an art store. I am wandering today perhaps caught still in the fifty percent off and buy one get one free and the throwaway society we live in. It is so sad we have become spiritually and physically disposable.

 

One of my favorite disposable sayings is “once saved always saved” regardless of what you do after that point you are ok. Searching for words and meaning in a world so intent on camouflage. I have kids who wear it to school daily and you can even get camo underwear. Although I haven’t quite figured that one out yet wearing camo underwear that is. When you go to the store is it oak tree or standard or tree bark and that depends on your quarry. We have grown so much in so many ways yet our capacity for others seems to lag behind.

 

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

 

Over the years I have read many quotes books and papers. There is a passage from a website on Native American quotes and stories I have thought about many times and it is so true.

 

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children. “Ancient Indian Proverb

 

I happened by a Barnes and Nobles bookstore yesterday and as I do often when there have certain shelves I check and found a small book in the Native American section. It was a book written in 1984 to work with rekindling the spiritual side of Native youth. I read the book as I sat in the bookstore and this one passage stuck with me. I was looking for a book to read to my grandchildren and this little red book was sort of sticking out. I did take it home with and so I share a passage from The Sacred Tree.

 

Respect:

Respect means “to feel or show esteem for someone or something; to consider the well-being of, or to treat someone or something with deference or courtesy”. Showing respect is a basic law of life.

 

  • Treat every person, from the tiniest child to the oldest elder with respect at all times.
  • Special respect should be given to elders, parents, teachers and community leader.
  • No person should be made to feel “put down” by you; avoid hurting others hearts as you would avoid a deadly poison.
  • Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially sacred objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.
  • Respect the privacy of every person. Never intrude on a person’s quiet moments or personal space.
  • Never walk between people who are conversing.
  • Never interrupt people who are conversing.
  • Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of elders, strangers or others whom special respect is due.
  • Do not speak unless invited to do so at gathering where elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).
  • Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.
  • Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, plant world and animal world. Do nothing to pollute the air or soil. If others destroy our other, rise up with wisdom to defend her.
  • Show deep respect for the beliefs and religions of others.
  • Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they say is worthless. Listen with your heart.

 

The Sacred Tree

Produced by Judith Bopp, Michael Bopp, Lee Brown and Phil Lane Jr.

Four Worlds International Institute

1984

 

I wish we could live each of these honestly and openly and remember there will be leave a place for those after us why not leave the world and people better than we found them. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and peace my friends 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

 

Example is such a simple lesson plan

Bird Droppings December 2, 2019
Example is such a simple lesson plan

 

“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans

 

I have over the years looked to the wisdom contained in Kent Nerburn’s writings many times. In a recently completed graduate school project I used a similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words “children learn what they live”. They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them.

”One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl G Jung

 

I have been a Carl G. Jung fan for many years. As I was reading through several of his ideas earlier this morning I found that this thought stuck out. Perhaps it is being a grandpa and watching a little one absorbs every element around her. Perhaps it is as a father watching my sons now all grown each choosing pathways in life and wondering at times if we at least gave decent directions along the way. I am finding as I grow older it is the example we set that is the most powerful educational tool available. Better than any curriculum or text series, better than the greatest speaker, and much better than anything that can be planned for. It is about the warmth of our souls and passing this to our children and grandchildren.

 

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear

 

“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan

 

As so often happens when several educators get together the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up and with me often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education the topic will become education and learning. Yesterday afternoon sitting in my mother in laws house we were talking about teaching and working with special needs children. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail sometimes we forget that simple things can aid in how to learn, how to study, and how to open our eyes to that which is around us.

 

“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller

 

There has been much research done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Developmentalists have written and been written about, numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.

 

“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

 

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

 

We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.

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

 

Sitting in a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Asking why is even more interesting.

“Whatever”
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”

These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed.

 

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

 

Several years ago, in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention and as I read I realized I too have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries McJob has been described as a meaningless job, a job with no direction and very little in requirements and McDonald’s has sued to have it removed stating that jobs at McDonalds are meaningful and do have direction. I do know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in Business School now and owns his own Starbucks. Ray Kroc many years ago before he passed away got his start selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow in her will did leave, one and a half billion dollars to charity all based on working in McDonald’s.

 

Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with literally nothing but an idea and hard work. Depending on whose history or movie you read or see he was a bit devious as well. It was not apathy that built McDonalds and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self-empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.

 

“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was causal and commonplace. The Indian lived in every sense of the word from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

 

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some graduate schools and I had data showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat several who actually have difficulty reading the test I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However, imagine the self-esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a master’s program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45.

 

I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people except some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.

SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East become more difficult with each moment it seems. With sunrise only, hours away please always give thanks for what you have namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Have YOU been Naughty or Nice?

Bird Droppings December 1, 2019

Have YOU been Naughty or Nice?

 

I have a friend doing acts of kindness currently. She committed to an act of kindness every day. I try and live my life that way and I do make mistakes. But each day now she posted her act. At first, I was somewhat skeptical but as she has gone each day if we do log even for a week our kindness maybe it will embed in us and we can carry it forward. A former student who works at a fast food store happened to be in the drive through last night and had three in a row pay it forward until the one lady pulled up who ordered three cookies and was complaining the woman ahead of her took so long. Her three cookies had been paid for and she was complaining. A few minutes later the woman who “took so long” came back she had forgotten to order fries and she paid it forward again so my former student at least had a good ending to her story.

 

“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.” William Wordsworth

 

One day when you look back and try and remember what was that act I did or when did I do it, you may not remember but the person to whom that small act of kindness was paid will. I recall a certain visit from Santa Claus as he does every year visiting the family gathering for Christmas Eve. Coincidently a he had with him a letter of sorts more of a naughty and nice list. At the top of the naughty list of course was Uncle Frank along with several other Uncles and my grand niece’s daddy. At the top of the Really Nice list was my granddaughter of course and several grandnieces and a brand-new niece in law. Several years back we had our oldest niece come over and with Santa they looked at all the names as I read them to her. She was so excited about two of them. Of course, she ran around the room showing everyone. What was so funny was it was her daddy’s name on the naughty list that intrigued her. She knew why exactly; her daddy scolded her a few days before. It is funny the list was a total after thought yet my niece took it home that year. As I sit here thinking back just a day or two and my granddaughter was mad at her daddy and told him he would be on the naughty list.

 

Every once in a while, I will run into to someone in person or on line who had met my father over the years before he journeyed on in 2007. It has been a number of years since he last spoke publicly, back in the day as my youngest son says. He taught numerous Red Cross courses along with his actually teaching, as a professional in the field of Industrial Safety and Loss Control. Many people mentioned how his Red Cross first aid class saved a life here and there or some interaction with another where he did this or that changed their life. Occasionally when I would mention to him he would remember the event but often it was simply his way of living how he went about the day.

 

A favorite story I recall is one about my father from South Africa about thirty years ago. He was there teaching and lecturing for the Chamber of Mines and one of the senior officers of The Chamber lent his personal driver and car to Dad while he was there. A young black South African, a member of one of South Africa’s many distinct tribes; this young man had come into the city to earn enough money so he could go home and marry. Many young men would leave their homes some for as long as twenty years to earn enough money to go back to their villages and marry. Dad spent eight weeks in South Africa on every trip and on this trip much like others traveling to many of the mines around Johannesburg and in the back country. This young man was always ready always on time and kept Dad on time many times getting him to numerous meetings and functions in this foreign country all in a day.

 

When it was time to head home, Dad had really come to like this young man and as he dropped him off at the airport Dad tipped him the remaining South African money he had, about five hundred equivalent US dollars in their currency. He came later to find out that was equivalent to three years of work or so. Dad got a telegram as soon as he got home from his good friend in South Africa asking what my father did to his driver.  As soon as he got back from the airport he quit his job and went back to his tribe. It seems Dad had given him enough money to go home and be married; a seemingly small act of kindness, a tip to this young man changed his life.

 

“Once in a century a man may be ruined or made insufferable by praise. But surely once in a minute something generous dies for want of it.” John Masefeild

 

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

 

Scattered about in our lives are the bits and pieces events we often do not remember but that person to whom we responded kindly or in a way that helped them will remember forever.

 

“The flower of kindness will grow. Maybe not now, but it will someday. And in kind that kindness will flow, for kindness grows in this way.” Robert Allan

 

“Is there any one maxim which ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life? Surely the maxim of loving kindness is such: Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.” Confucius, from the Analects

 

Interesting this statement sounds so familiar it was first written nearly 500 BCE by Confucius in China in his Analects, a series of statements and stories, repeated many times then in other cultures and religions and even prior in words of others.

 

“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” Fredrick W. Faber

 

“If you were busy being kind, before you knew it, you would find you’d soon forget to think ’twas true that someone was unkind to you. If you were busy being glad, and cheering people who are sad, although your heart might ache a bit, you’d soon forget to notice it.” R. Foreman

 

There are far too few cheerleaders in the world although there are days I would say too many, especially with all the drama with the cheerleaders at our high school over the years. At school many times the cheerleaders used to come by my room, it seems I am the one taking photos at events and Mr. Bird’s wall of fame was a focal point for many students coming to see who has been added. One cheerleader in particular has never once had a frown; she is always excited and happy. She is always saying a good word to friends. I have never seen her gossip or speaking badly of another person and amazing I have never heard a bad word about her. So often in the morning as I observe the hallways her personality is contagious. When she is walking down the hallways with others soon all are laughing.

 

“A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.” Washington Irving

 

“He was so benevolent, so merciful a man that, in his mistaken passion, he would have held an umbrella over a duck in a shower of rain.” Douglas WilliamJerrod

 

“To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.” Samuel Johnson

 

It is seldom that someone will complain about another person being nice to them. Maybe Dr. Seuss’s character the Grinch, but even he fell sway to the little Who, Cindy Loo Who. Kindness can win battles. Kindness can win a war, or prevent a war. Random acts of kindness can provide the catalyst for world change.

 

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.” Mother Theresa

 

“If someone were to pay you $.10 for every kind word you ever spoke and collect $.05 for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?” Nonpareil

 

Many times, as I sit and write each morning I wonder if anyone is reading or hearing what is said. Daily I get notes and emails; I know today this word or that word touched someone. How many words need to be spoken or need to be emailed to have world peace? If it is a hundred million let’s start now if it is a hundred billion then again let’s start now. We all know there is a number and we all know one day we will attain that goal. One day maybe I will never have to end Bird Droppings ever again this way but with a Georgia State Patrolmen shot in the line of duty last night after a car chase not today, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts 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

Trying to understand giving thanks, war and teaching

Bird Droppings November 29, 2019
Trying to understand giving thanks, war and teaching

 

I had a difficult time sleeping due to walking so much the past two days and my leg swelling. When I got up and started to walk around and downed a large mug of mate and black tea my head started to clear a bit and I began to wonder about this day we celebrate, thanking each other and ourselves. So many times as in days before I open news articles and look through emails before writing or even thinking about what I will be writing that given day. I made a few comments on several thoughts and proceeded to ponder today’s potential thought and idea. As I looked through several posts and listened to family members argue the cons of the current administration over social media this this thought from ten years ago stuck with me this morning.

 

“Thanksgiving Day, Americans across the country will sit down together, count our blessings, and give thanks for our families and our loved ones. American families reflect the diversity of this great nation. No two are exactly alike, but there is a common thread they each share. Our families are bound together through times of joy and times of grief. They shape us, support us, instill the values that guide us as individuals, and make possible all that we achieve. I’ll be giving thanks for my family for all the wisdom, support, and love they have brought into my life.

 

Today is also a day to remember those who cannot sit down to break bread with those they love; the soldier overseas holding down a lonely post and missing his kids, the sailor who left her home to serve a higher calling, the folks who must spend tomorrow apart from their families to work a second job, so they can keep food on the table or send a child to school.

 

We are grateful beyond words for the service and hard work of so many Americans who make our country great through their sacrifice. And this year, we know that far too many face a daily struggle that puts the comfort and security we all deserve painfully out of reach. So when we gather, let us also use the occasion to renew our commitment to building a more peaceful and prosperous future that every American family can enjoy.” President Barack Obama, 11/24/09

 

Words, simple words and how we hear and or read them again is then worked on by perception which is a learned and acquired factor. Somewhere along the way we develop and take into an account varying stimulus that leads us to how we see the world. As I read this short note of thanks from our previous president good or bad, democrat or republican, black or white the words struck a chord. There is so much we have in this world to give thanks for. Myself thankful I can at least walk around finally without a cast. I am sure there is pain and sorrow all over the world I know nothing about.

 

Dr. Michael T. Garrett in his writings discusses the theory of opposites. We need to have a balance in life which provides then definitive points for the other. Perhaps my growing up in Pennsylvania influenced my own thinking of pacifism and philosophical view of believing we do not need war. Yet around us worldwide strife is ongoing Thanksgiving Day or not. It is inside of us. We need to seek answers for our own understandings and acceptances of what we perceive within this world. Perceptions do change albeit not easily. But they can they are not engrained at birth but a learned and acquired commodity.

 

“Internal peace is an essential first step to achieving peace in the world. How do you cultivate it? It’s very simple. In the first place by realizing clearly that all mankind is one, that human beings in every country are members of one and the same family.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 

Within the passage is perhaps a key to humanities survival on this planet. It will never be done simply by who is most powerful, or who has the biggest guns and missiles. We must at some point accept others and understand others. As I read each morning and bits and pieces hit me my own slant which tends to be towards education and learning and I see that there is a tremendous responsibility lying in the laps of teachers. Throughout the world teachers have daily more input into students’ lives than any other human being. As I finished a paper on technologies many years ago, I saw how technology impacts our youth, actual human contact is dwindling daily.

 

“Preserve the fires in our hearts… Our world needs teachers whose fire can resist those forces that would render us less just, less humane, and less alive.” Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, editors Teaching with Fire

 

I found this book several years ago on a Borders trip. The two editors have taken poetry that means something to teachers and with explanations from those teachers as to why this poem means so much created a book, Teaching with Fire. Over the years I have had similar questions asked. It has been only a few days since another a teacher asked me, had I ever hit my own children, and I said no. I was looked at funny, “you have never hit your children?” I in all honesty could not remember ever hitting my own children. Perhaps I have blocked out the dark side of my personality. Several weeks ago I was asked similar, your kids never hit you or your wife or did this or that, and again “no” was my answer then as well. “Well I guess you just are not normal” was the answer both times.

 

“Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from.” Jodie Foster

 

As I wonder at how others see the world like Jodie Foster’s thought. Several weeks ago when first asked about my children hitting me I asked my son on the way home what he thought about it and his response was “normal is what you are used too”. I thought back to a graduate school discussion of philosophy about Foucault and how he defines normal after he finishes defining abnormal.

 

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Albert Einstein

It is up to us somewhere, some how we as teachers and parents must set an example to the children. Looking at various books such as, Teaching with fire, The Passionate Teacher, The language and thoughts of a child, and I see that surround me as I write, maybe answers are here. The answers are right among us, we are the answer. It is not some big secret. Several times over the past few years I have shared Dr. Nolte’s 1970’s idea of “Children Learn what they live”. I tried to use that with the discussion trying to explain to the teacher asking me about hitting my kids, and that teacher had a difficult time seeing the point.

 

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

Looking back historically, Gandhi had a difficult time selling nonviolence, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a difficult time selling nonviolence and both were killed for it.

 

“Man is not logical and his intellectual history is a record of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on to what he can in his old beliefs even when he is compelled to surrender their logical basis.” John Dewey

 

As a teacher, the position I am in each day is one of being on a pedestal being watched seen by hundreds of students each day. As a parent seen by my children each day or when they are home from college or work. Each of us is seen and understood in context of perceptions and understandings of that moment. Over the past week while out and about I have seen several students wearing t-shirts that are banned in dress code rules, because of racial over tones. When you ask students why they wear t-shirts that are illegal, answers are always vague and noncommittal never because of race. One of my favorites is “only shirt I had” so you will get kicked out of school for your shirt because it is the only one you had is my general response.


Two events several days ago made my day. The first a simple one, I made the comment I was pissed off at a student for something, another student said “Mr. Bird I never heard you cuss before”. Actually, I do not swear and did not consider pissed off as swearing either, however in that person’s context it was. But the remark they never heard me swear is what caught my attention, I had been setting an example and did not even know it. The other comment came as an email. A remark as to my wisdom, I wrote back that wisdom is fleeting and only momentary, as you teach wisdom is transferred and soon you must learn more to be wiser.

 

“We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. The time is always right to do what is right.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

We are the pathway and the direction and the example for others to see. Never should anyone question hitting another person and try to justify it. Never should a person even in a small way feel doing harm to another in any way is justifiable. As a teacher, parent, or friend go out and show in your life what is, normal. Running parallel through religions worldwide is a rule, a guide, a talisman for some just a thought, treat others as you wish to be treated. It is about Teaching with Fire, teaching with example. Learning what we live and trying to live it and see what impact can be made. Today as we all sit down please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. Harm is a large word and covers so many be it the passing or illness of a loved one, a friend overseas fighting a war for freedom, a relationship that is abusive, a child too hungry to raise their head, let us be thankful today and try and ease the harm in the world if only one kind act at a time namaste.

 

My friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird