Bird Droppings June 17, 2010
Looking at life in an airport
“When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” Chief Aupumut, Mohican. 1725
Some where in 1725 a Mohican Chief uttered these words addressing what to Native Americans was a piece of their life story. Unlike the Europeans who came to ravage the land and feared death and built their religion around that very philosophy the indigenous peoples lived with death daily in their fight for survival. As I look anthropologically across history it is in civilization that death becomes the villain taking us away from our things. In Egypt when you died burial involved taking along of things for the after life. As religions began their evolution the afterlife became more of the same or better. Many times this would equate to an ultimate paradise with streets of gold. All comes to naught simply by not fearing death, when death is simply an end perhaps as Chief Aupumont says so eloquently like a hero going home.
I drove down to South Georgia last night for a conference at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. It is a rather easy drive although nearly four hours a nice drive, very little traffic and a nearly straight road on Interstate sixteen. As I started thinking and wondering what direction I wanted to go I was recalling many events of five years ago. During a practice test for makeup Georgia High School Gradation tests one of the students who was finished started a MySpace page for me and I added Bird Droppings as my first official blog site. Five years ago my wife and I were looking for houses hoping to find something we could afford and that would meet our needs. It was five years ago my wife was at her annual nursing conference and I would be heading to the airport to pick her up. As I think to our current weather five years ago she had called and said there was a delay evidently the summer storms we had in the area were slowing down her plane leaving Fort Lauderdale. I had left for the airport already and had arrived after she called and she said was boarding the plane.
Atlanta is a busy airport as many of you who travel know and no longer can you go wait at the gate as in the old days. A million security guards bar the entrance and metal detectors and various other security measures glean over each person and package. When I went I was forced to stay in the terminal waiting and as I sat waiting I observed as I do. It is amazing what people come through airports and what can be found.
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” Henry David Thoreau
Finding a place to sit at the airport is a chore midst the numerous others in the same fix. It seemed that day so long ago that my wives airline had numerous flights late and in doing so as I walked about many people were too looking for seats or places to remove themselves from the masses of humanity. I eventually went to another level less traveled and sat reading for an hour or so trying to use up some time.
“To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.” Henry David Thoreau
But as I sat I had an epiphany as I do, I had been struggling with a research paper based on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of my teaching and in looking at various data and relooking pieces were there but it was not something I could easily grasp onto. I recalled a paper I wrote on trust and it had developed into essentially the development of trust. The paper was about how we grow in trust we evolve and change as we develop that there are stages to trust. I sat down and looked at my data I Had handy in a folder (seems I am always ready to write or read anymore) and removed the first semester from various graphs and I rearranged by semesters in class rather than chronologically and the data that baffled me now was showing me in my own thinking I had said trust takes time. As I looked each semester students did better in grades and in discipline if you take away that first semester getting through the barriers.
“Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe” Henry David Thoreau
As I pondered so often in life we go by that first semester or first impression since we are in to big of a hurry to get things down even in regards to such a critical area as trust. So how do we take time other than doing as Thoreau did and leave teaching to become a learner an interesting thought? Matter of fact I just brought that up in a conversation yesterday morning with a friend who was visiting. I might could paraphrase and rather should we not try and instill in all we do that teaching is learning as well not simply an extension of a piece of content but within the content is context and there is where we learn as we teach. Each child, each event, and each piece of content will vary with any given situation and we must learn as we go as parents, friends, teachers and members of the human race.
Thinking back again as I waited for my wife to call about her flight to come get her I watched a movie of the Mississippi bombings. One man sat in prison on death row for sixteen years holding back details. Many others were involved but as he sat his grandson became a lawyer and then tried to get his execution stayed. In the outcome as the old man finally admitted to his grandson and the world as he looked inward at himself and it was his own fears of death and hatred of himself that drove his life. He could find no good in his life till sitting eating his last meal he realized his grandson was perhaps his best work ever. I reread emails from one my former youth members who is now in Africa I reconnected with five years ago this month. I forgot to tell her about the pin attached to my name tag ID lanyard at school that she gave me on my twenty third birthday it was a round metal message pin. Now of days you might call it a hippy sort of thing, flowers and such with the saying “Bloom where you are planted” on it. As teachers we have to plant seeds and nurture them so they can bloom.
“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.” Henry David Thoreau
I distinctly recall five years back that one of the first things my wife checked as she came to the house was our nest of purple finches in the Boston fern hanging on our porch. It seemed the birds like the safety of the porch and hanging plants. We need each seek our own sparrow and bloom where we are planted so from Statesboro Georgia today please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.