Bird Droppings November 19, 2009
Filling cracks in leaky pots
Far too often in the course of existence we tend to miss so much in our wandering about hurrying here and there and never taking time to understand or to even try and understand what is going on. Yesterday was a blur of discussions, meetings and individual people flowing through almost in a liquid sort of manner in my life? It was as if one conversation sort of spilled over into the next and that into the next until late in the afternoon I found myself standing in the hallway of our front office talking about how in looking at the deaths of my own father and a dear friends mother our families were so similar and how children of today are missing so much. I grew up in a very close knit family and even today though we have had our issues over the years are still very close. As we talked and considered the state of high school students today we kept seeing how much was lost. Every once in a while a key element in my own studies and in my readings currently in Native American thought is that of our elders. So many children of today are missing out on that aspect of life.
Kent Nerburn and Dr. Michael Garrett both writing on Native American philosophy and thought bring out consistently how the wisdom of the elders is so often being lost. The youth of today seem to miss the bits and pieces that are there to glean and gather in and that would assist them in continuing their life’s journeys. In my own studies and writing about The Foxfire Teaching approach preserving the heritage of the old and elders is a key to building a solid community. Many educators Palmer, Fried, Kohn and even John Dewey reflect often on community and maintaining connections. But in our fats paced world of gadgets and cell phones we tend to want everything instantly and so very often leave bits and pieces of the puzzle by the wayside. A child grows up with missing pieces borrowing a line from Shel Silverstein. As I look today at my own thinking and writing and discussions with youth I try and get them to think about and wonder about where they come from and why. Our history is not dead it is very much alive.
Many thousands of years ago Buddha compared people to four kinds of clay vessels. Borrowing these words today as I am thinking to a day lost over the weekend in my normal routine of writing and doing things. A lost day but a full day, time with family and in gardening through most of the day. Today I looked at my calendar and was concerned as I had missed a meeting on November 18 at 11:00. I looked at the time of my computer and email my fiend to tell them I was sorry I had missed the meeting. Only as I emailed apologizing did I realize it was tomorrow I was ahead in my thinking.
“One type of vessel has holes in the bottom. We can pour in as much water as we like and it runs right out. When this type of person hears and it goes in one ear and out the other. The second type of vessel has cracks. Though we pour in and it seeps out slowly until the vessel is empty again. The third vessel is full to the brim with stale water–views and opinions. One can’t pour anything new in, everything is already known. The only useful vessel is the fourth, without holes or cracks and totally empty.” Ayya Khema,
“Be an Island So often as we go about people seemingly are learning but for what ever reason the words taught ideas shown messages left go unheeded unanswered and unheard – Comparing us to a clay pot is an interesting analogy – we need to approach life less full less sure of ourselves and opinions and views more open minded there is so much to learn even for an old guy like me – “It is always in season for old men to learn.” Aeschylus
“Learn as though you would never be able to master it; hold it as though you would be in fear of losing it.” Confucius
When I started back to graduate school after nearly thirty years away I was sort of worried then I realized how much I enjoyed the learning and as I sit in a high school each day it is not teaching a subject that is so crucial it is teaching that joy of learning. When students want to learn I find being a teacher is the easiest job in the world, it is filling and helping to fill that clay pot.
Teaching or trying to teach a person whose sole goal is getting to their sixteenth birthday and then quitting school is a lot more difficult which is many of the children I deal with each day. Now the challenge is which is more rewarding knowing you have filled a clay jar to the brim which most anyone could do easily or repairing the cracks fixing the holes and removing the stale water. I have this problem with enjoying fixing the broken vessels.
“It seems that we learn lessons when we least expect them but always when we need them the most, and, the true “gift” in these lessons always lies in the learning process itself.” Cathy Lee Crosby
As I sit many days after school and often in the morning before school discussing world views and ideas with students who are more like the empty pots, something occurs, a two way street we are both teacher and student and several times I have referred to this as my philosophy of teaching. Real teaching in real life is about osmosis. Each organism receiving and giving in the relationship neither truly benefiting more than the other a give and take as it is. But during class when I am filling cracks mending holes that is the time when true satisfaction happens when you see someone’s eyes open and an idea slip in, past ten or eleven years of built up defeat or walling up, then the work is worth it.
“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb
I once had a professor who in class would explain how each person used only a small portion of their brain 5-10% even the great intellect Albert Einstein was limited to that degree. So if that was true we could all be so much better than we are. Many years ago I had the great privilege of listening to Glenn Doman who is now near eighty years old. Doman still teaches that philosophy in Philadelphia at The Institute for Achievement for Human Potential, working with severely brain injured children and adults in rehabilitation. Dr. Doman believes we can work with other portion of the brain not used and not damaged for example in a brain injured child. It is a very interesting and controversial concept.
Borrowing from other great thinkers and such this idea is being actively used on children and adults. Has it been scientifically proven, maybe not in the purest sense of the word? However one thing that I did learn from Dr. Doman was to never, ever, lower expectations of any child, always reach for the stars. I see children daily who have had teachers set the educational limit for them, “this child tested such and such and so will only do such and such”, a limit, a restriction, a parameter, a box and often sticking with the child through their educational career.
I have found that many teachers live in boxes of there own making limiting, constricting, defining and often in smaller boxes than they place students. It would be great if we were all more like amoebas, flexible, able to work around any corner into ever crack crevice and hole, see and do all and then osmosis simply absorb it in. There would be no parameters and no limits. Sadly the only down side no one will ever accuse an amoeba of being constipated usually it is the other extreme. (sorry for the gross comparison) but when a fixed container keeps packing stuff in it eventually gets stuck or so jammed tight nothing comes out.
“Learning is not compulsory but neither is survival.” W. E. Deming
Only a few hours ago I gassed my wives car up and was talking with the cashier, a young man who is in college and trying to decide on his future. He asked me about the statement “quality is all”. As I thought Deming came to mind and Phillip J. Crosby the great guru of quality and author. We talked a few minutes and I left him with a noble statement on but far too often we chose unwisely and in ignorance go the wrong direction. When all is said and done, learning is daily it is about expectations, keep the sky and beyond as a limit have no limit, absorb not stuff and be osmotic not parasitic, rise above and not fall below. I have said so many times if when stepping to the next rock crossing the stream you fall in climb back up you are all ready wet and it is in the stepping stones we learn to not wallow in the stream. Today have a safe journey in life and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart and always seek the wisdom of those who have traveled the road before you.