The sixteen hour syndrome and why we should embrace it

Bird Droppings August 22, 2010
The Sixteen hour syndrome and
why we should embrace it

It has been nearly ten years since I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome in relationship to emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students. The idea developed from my own observations of a group of twenty eight students in a Georgia high school. At that time I was seeing the negative aspects that came to school in the form of students too tired to stay awake or too upset to even attend to any lesson presented. While unknowingly in my observing and understanding I was able to be successful with these students. As I read Dr. Alexander Sidorkin’s introduction to his book, Learning Relations I understood all too well what was going on in my first few weeks back in teaching in 2001. Much as he was referring to in own his teaching it could have been my own.

“I finally learned how to be a decent teacher, which involves a lot of improvising, paying attention to my own intuition, listening to kids, and trying to take it easy. Having learned to do something is not the same as understanding how it works.” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

Ten years ago for me it was coming back to teaching after a twenty three year hiatus and finding very quickly that as a teacher I was in a paradox. We as teachers have the students for eight hours approximately a day during school sessions and are often expected to teach them everything they need according to some parents. However those same parents and society have those students for sixteen hours to undo and or add to the educational possibilities of the individual student. As I read various books for my graduate courses I seemed to find an under lying theme in each book, many teachers seemingly never consider this issue of what students bring with them to school.

“There is incumbent upon the teacher who links education and actual experience together a more serious and a harder business. He must be aware of the potentialities for leading students into new fields which belong to experiences already had, and must use this knowledge as his criterion for selection and arrangement of the conditions that influence their present experience.” John Dewey, 1938

The sixteen hour syndrome is that accumulated experiences of that student each day out of school and if acknowledged and used by teachers could be an asset and boon to a child’s learning and future. The sixteen hour syndrome is the family, community, culture, friends, society, and all other variants and possibilities that are actively involved in the student’s hours away from school. I believe and will address the need and importance of teachers attending to and understanding this concept and aspect of a student’s life, the sixteen hour syndrome.
On many mornings I begin the day walking into the local Quick-Trip and getting my customary bottle of Smart water and a Five hour energy shot, a shot of caffeine to keep me going through the day. Over the many times I have walked into QT I have found that of all the stores and retail facilities in the area that perhaps this one place is the most homogonous of all. Eastern Europe represented behind the counter by an assistant manager, Hispanics both in line earlier on as they head to work and a cashier, Afro-Americans in line and working at the store, local born and raised kids and it is almost a rainbow of humanity. As I watch interactions all seem to flow and work. There are foods stuffs and drinks to cover the range of cultures and personalities purchasing in that store, obviously a good marketing plan. Why then is it so hard in education to see and delineate that we have multiple cultures and peoples within our schools. When we look at AYP and discuss this group or that and test scores we seem to leave the realities on the table in the conference room.
Using as an analogy, the classroom is much like a jigsaw puzzle with numerous intricate pieces, that when placed on the table and worked with they all interconnect often in minute detail. I will often place a jig saw puzzle out and deliberately turn the pieces over so only the grey back is visible making all the pieces essentially neutral. While looking at the pieces in this color blind manor it is difficult to truly see where each piece can find its place. Teachers as they scan the room on day one often try and look at grey pieces and miss the fine detail that in reality is there. In many ways it is a racial starting point, but culture and socio-economics as well provide intricacies we so often overlook as teachers.

“While it is recognized that Afro- Americans make up a distinct racial group, the acknowledgement that this racial group has a distinct culture is still not recognized. It is presumed that Afro-American children are just like white children but they need a little extra help.” Gloria Ladson- Billings, The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children

Referring back to my jigsaw puzzle analogy it is when we look at the pieces and investigate that we solve the puzzle. It is often when solving the puzzle like pieces are sorted to one pile often by color. I have watched children look for shapes and corners as they solve the puzzle. It is far too often that teachers in their classrooms feel constrained and or limited and often never get past sorting color or shapes. Dr. Delores Liston in Joy a Metaphor of Convergence offers a rational explanation of this societal impact on teachers and limitation that many feel is imposed.

“The Cartesian worldview presents us with the false security of objective truth, but if we accept this view, we also accept our powerlessness to enact change. …. This perspective leads us to say, ‘What can I do? That’s just the way it is.’” Dr. Delores Liston

Sadly many teachers succumb and for thirty years wait till retirement to rid themselves of their pieces to the puzzle without ever once seeing the real picture presented by those pieces.
While many parents and even society look to teachers to provide during school all the needs of a child which for some includes teaching morality and ethics. These same parents and society overlook the impact and consequences of that period of time a student is at home and out in society which is approximately sixteen hours during a school day. John Dewey is very well represented with our readings and is touted by some of the authors as one of the premier educators of all time.

“The development within the young of the attitudes and dispositions necessary to the continuous and progressive life of a society cannot take place by direct conveyance of beliefs, emotions and knowledge. It takes place through the intermediary of the environment. The environment consists of the sum total of conditions which are concerned in the execution of the activity characteristic of a living being” John Dewey

It is the sum total of our experiences that makes us who we are and these are not bits and pieces we learn and acquire totally within school and the educative process. These are pieces and bits we bring to school from outside.
Somewhere along the line many of the pieces formerly learned and understood at home were transferred or assumed to be transferred to the school as the supplier of and provider of implementation of various human attributes. Jane Roland Martin views the industrial revolution as an integral part in altering the delineation of various aspects of humanity in her book Cultural Miseducation: In search of a Democratic Solution, (John Dewey lecture 8). Martin views the home and school as separate entities and that students in school “cast off the attitudes and values” from home. I would offer perhaps teachers unknowingly disenfranchise those attitudes and values in light of education and even neutrality going back to my grey backed puzzle pieces and political correctness. There is in effect a lack of understanding in general within education as a whole, and far too often what students could be bringing to the classroom is ignored and or overlooked.

“No one asks if the wealth that is not in the schools keep is elsewhere being transmitted to our young. No one dares talk about cultural liabilities are being passed down to the next generation, let alone calculate the intergenerational injustice the older generation is doing by passing them along.” Jane Roland Martin

How much is being lost by not seeing the wealth of experiences that students bring to the classroom? So many teachers argue there is not enough time to even consider anything beyond the curriculum. Dr. Delores Liston reviews the commonly held view of curriculum as that of an assembly line in industry and follows with; “This the belief persists that if we can just find the right formula, and clear away all the unnecessary steps in the education process, we will educate more as well as more efficiently. So many teachers view the curriculum, and the teacher’s package of books, manuals, and transparencies as the key to their success in the classroom. Sadly we are no better off than we were years ago.
How do we attempt to see beyond the façade presented in education? Can we even attempt to do anything different and would that even help at this time? Dr. William Glasser looks to a more recent event that of World War II.

“What is true in our schools, and has been true since the end of World War II when we first began to make a real effort to pursue universal education through high school graduation, is that many students (my conservative estimate is at least fifty percent by the eighth grade) who are intelligent enough to do well, many even brilliantly, do poorly.” Dr. William Glasser

Dr. Glasser of course sees this as a choice in his writings. However in the pursuit of universal education, in 1974 the inclusion of students with disabilities of all natures placed into the public schools literally all children. As this universal education developed could we have overlooked and perhaps passed by crucial elements of whom and what we are as human beings in terms of those students. Have we attempted to provide for and truly recognize the differences in students? I think back to the assembly line mentioned by Dr. Delores Liston in Joy is a Metaphor of Convergence, which is so often echoed through other authors, as how so many administrators and even teachers see education. It has been a few years since I was introduced to the author and educator, Ivan Illich. He was a radical thinker in terms of education and in religion and offers a rather grim view of schooling in his book Deschooling Society.

“A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching it is true, may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstances. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.” Ivan Illich
Illich may be a bit extreme but within schools are we missing those experiences that students bring to the classroom that could be integral pieces to the puzzle, the sixteen hour syndrome as I call it. In Paula M. L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia’s book Reclaiming Identity; Hames-Garcia addresses the idea of restriction in terms of various groups within society. Hames-Garcia states: “I call the process by which such individuals come to be misrepresented and misunderstood ‘restriction.’” Is it that we as teachers restrict students by seeing only grey instead of what is actually there? I look back to John Dewey and possible solutions.

“It is the function of formal schooling to extend, broaden, and improve cultural construction of emerging minds begun at home and in the community.” John Dewey

Dewey continues suggesting that humankind reproduces itself in two ways: first biological and the second cultural. In our efforts should we not be addressing what children bring with them in their experiences, which includes culture, race, and socio economics? Can we adequately address the need for understanding and trying to develop in students that knowledge of their own life experiences? Can teachers learn to look beyond the curriculum and reach for a student centered understanding caring classroom? In her book The Dreamkeepers, Gloria Ladson-Billings addresses issues concerning African-American students and the teachers who have been successful with predominantly African-American classrooms. She writes “this book is about teaching practice not curriculum”. How does this author view a successful teacher?

“Teachers who practice culturally relevant methods can be identified by the way they see themselves and others. They see their teaching as an art rather than a technical skill. They believe all their students can succeed rather than failure is inevitable for some. They see themselves as part of the community and they see teaching as giving back to the community. They help students make connections between their local, national, racial, cultural, and global identities.” Gloria Ladson-Billings

Making lessons culturally relevant to the students as a key for successful teaching is not only restricted to those teachers working with African-American students, but logically the more we involve the culture of our students the more interested they will be and perhaps Dr. Glasser’s observation will be a thing of the past and students will want to learn.
Looking to at a critical aspect of teaching and getting more actively involved with students is that of caring. In the mid 1980’s two developmental oriented psychologists came at the development of morality in differing ways. Lawrence Kohlberg viewed morality as an ethic of justice, impartiality and fairness and in developing his theory used only white males as models. Carol Gilligan’s approach was one from a point of view of caring and viewed through a female perspective.

“A care orientation, according to developmental and educational psychologist Carol Gilligan (1982), reflects the presence of benevolence and compassion. A caring person treats another person with sensitive discernment of, response to, his or her contextually embedded nee. Care means liberating others from their state of need and actively promoting their welfare; care additionally means being oriented towards ethics grounded in empathy rather than in dispassionate abstract ethical principles.”

Should we be approaching teaching in a caring compassionate manner? Most teachers would answer yes but few actually attempt it. Perhaps it is difficult for some but as I read and researched is not much of what we see as compassion and caring a learned by example part of who we are?
I first read of Gilligan and Kohlberg in a book by Dr. James Fowler, Head of the Center for Ethics in Public Policy and professor at Emory Universities Candler School of Theology. Dr. Fowler wrote about the development of faith in his book Stages of Faith. In my own studies and in using Dr. Fowler’s thoughts I viewed the concept of trust as a synonym of faith. Trust has significant application and understanding within the classroom. Fowler in developing his ideas uses some thoughts from Richard Niebuhr a 1950’s theologian.

“He sees faith taking form in our earliest relationships with those who provide care for us in infancy. He sees faith growing through our experience of trust and fidelity – of mistrust and betrayal – with those closest to us. He sees faith in the shared visions and values that held human groups together. And he sees faith at all those levels, in the search for an overreaching, integrating and grounding trust in a center of value and power sufficiently worthy to give our lives unity and meaning.” Dr. James Fowler, The Development of Faith

We can superimpose trust in place of faith and soon as I look at students coming to my class I see that they either learned trust in the process of growing up and or they perhaps learned betrayal. Just how significant is that piece of information as a child walks in a classroom? In order to be successful in teaching students need to trust their teachers and in return be trusted for a community to develop and hold together.
What should education be about? Should it be as John Dewey discusses a basis for our democratic society and community? Should education be about caring and compassion? An aspect that Dewey is well written on and numerous others have addressed is community.

“For Dewey, the quality of life mirrors its aesthetic depth, understood as the extent to which embodies grace, artfulness, and appreciation, whether in maintaining a home, a classroom, a business, or a government. The quality of life reflects its emotional maturity and attentiveness, which Dewey contrasts with sentimentality and superficiality. Moreover, the quality of life displays its moral depth, which encompasses considerations of freedom, justice, compassion, humility and personal as well as social responsibility.” David Hansen, Ethical Visions of Education: Philosophies in Practice

It is about community, belonging and relationships that could be a driving force in education.

“My hope is that students will be attracted to schools because of the quality of human relationship, the quality of communal experiences there. In other words, students will want to go to school not because of what they will do but because of whom they will meet” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

As I looked at how we can piece together all of the information that could come into a room with students my first thought was teachers need to ask questions of students. There needs to be a learning period where teacher becomes learner and tries to understand all the bits and pieces that their students bring with them.

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves. The methods used by these weavers vary widely: lectures, Socratic dialogues, laboratory experiments, collaborative problem solving, and creative chaos. The connections held by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as the place where intellect, and emotion, and spirit, and will converge in the human self.” Parker Palmer

Perhaps if we try and learn about our students, and try and understand the experiences that they bring if only a few moments is taken from the day, be it in reflections, journals, discussion and a learning community is developed education could be changed. We should be looking to embrace what I once considered a negative, the sixteen hour syndrome, and weave it within our classroom tapestry. Again as I have for over ten years now ended please keep those in harms way in your heart and on your minds.

An Emerson day

Bird Droppings August 21, 2010
An Emerson day

Last night I was extremely tired after the first week of school and our first official football game. While just a scrimmage I went and took a few photos. I left earlier just exhausted and started watching a movie and then proceeded to walk around outside. It was dark save for star light which was in patches among the clouds and over cast. I had gone from dawn to dusk and beyond yesterday and somehow felt like I really did not get much done. I had been at school all day ran some errands moved some plants watered and reestablished a few plants. I clipped a few dead pitcher plants from our bog garden. We have pitcher plant or plants I should say and it is interesting to show novices the vast amount of insects they actually trap.
On a different topic it has been quite a few years since I began gathering Emerson quotes and writings. As I looked back on a day I felt I did not get much done I started adding up after reading this quote. Actually I had talked to a graphic arts class during my planning period, started working on sports posters, taught my classes, done a good deal of paper work, went to the bank, post office and gas station, loaded my camera and such and went to a football game all the while talking to maybe a thousand people along the way.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is a difficult proposition many times to simply put aside today at that point where you stop. But far too often we get encumbered with the now and focus to a point where we carry that focus over to the morrow and often stress and anxiety follow. This is sort of what I was doing and not realizing what all I had really gotten done.

“There is a tendency for things to right themselves.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his boss. As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man, who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some where along the line a professor called me an existentialist so many years ago and it took a moment and as I thought, ponder as I do, perhaps I was to some extent. I have read more Emerson the past few years than probably in my life time finding bits and pieces that truly seem to make sense. So often in life as Emerson states it will work out, but as he also says simply trying will not do it, having principles is the key.

“To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth steps in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have used this line from Emerson so many times before, so often we initiate yet do not continue after that first step. The great one in life is that person who takes the second and third step as they proceed in life.

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I find this quote interesting as the fake beard falls away. So often I have met people whose facade is imitation, unreal, purely make believe and even fake. They strive so hard to be something they are not; high school students call them affectionately POSERS. They go through life posing as someone else. Thinking back a few months as I am walking around the halls, kids will point to some one and say they are a poser. It is all about trying to fit in a different group or in a different style. As I watch and observe so many times the school bully is that, simply to hide other flaws. It could be poor reading skills and or poor self esteem. As I sit here this morning this last statement is most significant, it is most difficult so often to make that initial decision. Yet as time will be, once the decision is made things seem to happen and the pressure is gone and events fall in place. Today is a new day an Independence Day and with that please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

A new morning

Bird Droppings August 20, 2010
A new morning

It was a strange evening being home alone for a few moments yesterday my sons left for Daytona Beach for a National Reptile Show. They called of course confirming their arrival and as I walked our dog out remembered we had our first softball game coming up and I headed back to school. I am still recovering from my summer vacation and trying to get my mind and body back in sync. Last night I started thinking about a year or two ago when I drove my son down to Macon Georgia to his dorm room and even carried about three thousand pounds of freshly cleaned laundry to the door. When I returned home just before dark the sounds of the evening were humming, whistling, hooting, chirping and barking louder than any other time I can recall at our house this year. Last night as I came home from the softball game I was reminded as the owls, coyotes, tree frogs, crickets and every other creature imaginable was out still going strong into the early morning. Just a few minutes ago through it all the additional sounds of rain dripping on the trees a lone owl hooted.
We received out list late yesterday afternoon for this year’s testing dates. In a month or so we will be doing the Georgia High School Graduation testing for all juniors in order to graduate with a regular education diploma. I wonder about the usefulness of such endeavors, but it is a requirement mandated by federal law. I have a little book “Teachers Little book of Wisdom” that I found on one of excursions into the vastness of Borders or Barnes and Noble which ever it may have been. Seldom do I come out without reading material or at least an idea. Bob Alogozzine is the author/editor of this little tome. Bob is someone who ended up in teaching. With an economics degree and a need for Special Education teachers he ended up by chance in teaching. This little book is 365 statements about teaching sort of a thought for each day.

“Teach them the difference between things that need doing better than they have been done before, things that just need doing, and things that don’t need to be done at all.” Bob Alogozzine

It is not just about math or science, there is an aspect of life in each day we walk into a room or see another person. Teaching is not simply a job done by a teacher it is a piece of everyone’s existence. Obviously, parents teach from day one. Friends teach or they are truly not friends and some of us who choose to be in a class room teach there as well. But as I read this little thought how wonderful an idea, not about learning calculus for the big test, but doing better than has been done before.
Each of us needs to look at life that way. Do today better than any other day before. I recall a day when I was picking blue berries and it was hot out, we nearly stopped several times but we kept on and you know when I finish writing today I will throw some big blueberries on my cereal and milk. It seems blueberries freeze well and always good to break open a few before the new crop is in. We planted several blueberry bushes over the last years and all had a few berries this year. We did not have enough off our small bushes for much more than a few handfuls but we still can go to the picking patch and fill some gallon jugs when they come in season.
Life is moving in so many directions as I read the news today, we here in the south just were hit with several tornadoes and storms through the night. On that trip a few years back coming back from Macon Ga., I drove through a stretch just hit by three inches of hail it looked as if it had snowed. The temperature dropped from 73 to 53 in only a few hundred feet. On the news Tibet, Iraq, Iran, and many other areas that are in the throws of or in a state of war. I wish somehow borrowing from an Eric Clapton and J.J. Cale song I listened to over driving my sons truck last night, We could live in peace. Maybe then one day soon I can stop ending my emails with this line, please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

A founding father

Bird Droppings August 19, 2010
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 news this morning many of the situations go back to ideas and thoughts begun by 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 and people change and what was needed was a general framework to guide the country.

“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 believes 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 the Constitution was written long before welfare and government subsidies Hamilton knew what he was talking about as I was reading this morning responses to possible cuts in many federal programs in order to try and cut deficits and bailout the 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. Yesterday I found out when my son gets married in October he has to come off my health insurance but when the New Healthcare legislation goes into effect in January he can go back on. Interesting thought I won’t want the Health Care bill repealed by any means looking at that one issue.
“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 news is bought and sold much like any other commodity as are politicians 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 or from moose hunting I wonder and am amazed at how Hamilton knew all along even three hundred years ago how the 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 when those states 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; strut 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 and professionals who in effect run our government often becoming directly and indirectly wealthier. It seems very few elected officials leave office in less shape than when they go in. A good example is the former Vice President Cheney. His former company Halliburton from before his vice president days is still reaping far greater profits than ever before and with contracts in the billions be it in Iraq or from Katrina or even the exploded rig in Louisiana and often at a no-bid status. I wonder if all of the soldiers will ever come home.

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

A prophecy from 300 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. Within a few years after deforestation hunger sets in and then revolutions and slaughter.

“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 truly believed in this country and in what it stands for, would we not all vote and participate in having a voice. I found an old newsletter from a student organization eight 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. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

PS “It does not require many words to speak the truth” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

A continuing saga

Bird Droppings August 18, 2010
A continuing saga

It is so often that I write of coincidence it may seem boring to some. To me it is a never ending saga of special moments one after the other. During a college graduate class we discussed science and measuring of data, intuition and coincidence it seems are difficult commodities to evaluate. Carl Jung split with Sigmund Freud over similar matters and coined the word synchronicity. Yesterday as I was talking as always it seems I never stop I was drawn to the door of my room here on C-hall and as I stepped out a friend passed by exactly as I stepped to the door. This was a friend with a problem. If I had been a few seconds later a moment later and that friend would have already passed by. I was drawn to the door like a moth to a flame. I wonder was I meant to interfere to get involved in a problem or simply to offer advice or questions, was it coincidence, perhaps simply a chance happening, or was it synchronicity as Jung would proclaim.

“The images of the unconscious place a great responsibility upon a man. Failure to understand them, or a shirking of ethical responsibility, deprives him of his wholeness and imposes a painful fragmentariness on his life.” Carl Jung

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” Eric Fromm

Which direction do we go as we try and unravel the human condition the frail substance about which we have evolved from. Can we separate out and categorize, analyze and measure that which makes us human versus a pack animal.

“Man may be defined as the animal that can say “I,” that can be aware of himself as a separate entity.“ Eric Fromm

“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water. “ Sigmund Freud

“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

When beset with an issue or a problem we so often fall victim to the easiest route the way of “least resistance least trouble” as John Dewey would say. Years ago in a book on Loss Control management my father used the illustration of an ice berg we only see one seventh of the problem. We too as we journey through life are only one seventh visible. There is sixth sevenths that stay hidden away secreted somewhere from view.

“Thus we see that the all important thing is not killing or giving life, drinking or not drinking, living in the town or the country, being unlucky or lucky, winning or losing. It is how we win, how we lose, how we live or die, finally, how we choose.” R. H. Blyth

It is how we choose that is important. Each day for several years since I began this morning endeavor I have talked of the journey in life. I had used as a screen saver my son’s image crossing a stream in north Georgia stepping stone by stone across a rippling rolling stream. My son is soaking wet and could of just as easily walked the stream and avoid falling from the rocks he was wet already but he choose to step on the slippery rocks. The challenge for him was doing it, making the journey not simply surviving.

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.” Mourning Dove – Salish

This becomes the difficult task trying to explain how a problem has purpose how a human issue has reason in a world of measurement where non-measuring is constant and so often the point. I can never find the distance between the stones of the stream as my son’s foot steps fall crossing rock by rock.

“You can never cross a stream the same way twice” Zen saying

“Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology…. has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there.” William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991

Going from a single person’s problem to that of the North Slope of Alaska may seem a stretch. But as we journey in life we essentially do not get to replay our hand once we lay the cards upon the table. Yesterday by chance somewhere before 4:00 AM I was reading an old National Geographic and how the oil fields are so enticing in the Wilds of Alaska. Greedy people see only money. Others see loss of habitat wildlife and wilderness that can never be replaced. Another amazing coincidence this morning I could not pull this up it literally disappeared and I wrote another piece which I emailed instead yesterday as I look at each it was time for this one today and now for this a good follow up, peace my friends and have a good evening and please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts

Working on a wedding

Bird Droppings August 17, 2010
Working on a wedding

Nearly two years ago I performed a wedding service for one of my sons close friends. As I was pulling together material for a short sermon and discussion I found several pieces from many years ago. As I thought this morning and walked out just before heading to school perhaps today was a good day to share with others some of those thoughts as I am preparing for another wedding my youngest sons.
I first met my son’s friend when he was in elementary school as he and my son became friends. All through the school years and various projects, field trips, movies and band there was a group of fellows who came to know each other very well. I am impressed as they have graduated from high school and now college and still all are dear and close friends. I by chance had some old videos on my laptop I told my sons friend fiancée I would save for her and I am assuming she was not embarrassed by his antics since they did go through with the wedding.
I had the privilege of meeting his fiancée a few months after being called and asked if I could perform their service. I was impressed by the commitment and care these two had for each other. One thing she mentioned that drew her to him was his humor. She said that whenever he is around people those people seem happier. I sensed a growing a powerful love as I talked with the two of them over several meetings. Friendship and love are critical elements for a marriage to succeed. She offered how they were best friends before they fell in love. As I listened to her express how she feels about him I came to know her in our brief meetings. Never once was she not smiling or offering bits and pieces of how their love has grown over the years.
As I looked for thoughts to share at this very special occasion one that has been important to me for some time to me from a newspaper columnist back in the day as my youngest son would say. Funny how recently my wife made comments similar watching my youngest son and his fiancée as the talked and laughed.

“Love, for example, is difficult to sustain not because it is a positive emotion, but because it is a complex one. Love might be compared to the building of a tall and elaborate sandcastle, taking many hours of painstaking effort, cooperation, balance, and persistence” Strictly Personal Columns of Sydney J. Harris

As I listened to them I could see their sandcastle being built each minute detail and built with a strength that can withstand any circumstance to come their way. I would like to share with them a poem from a poet I am always moved by and recommend nearly every day.

To love and not to possess
by James Kavanaugh

To love is not to possess
To know or imprison
Nor to lose ones self in another
It is to join and separate
To walk alone and together
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence
It is perfectly one’s self
And perfectly joined in termagant commitment
To another – and to one’s self
Love dies when private lives are smothered
When solitude and privacy
Are not allowed
In a sacred union that links two together
For life and perhaps forever
Without binding wings or cleaving lips

Love only endures when it moves like waves
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moons own predictable harmony
Because finally despite a child’s scars
Or an adults deepest wounds
They are openly free to be
Who they really are – and always secretly were
In the core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide

As I thought about the place where the service will be held, an ancient oak tree near the beach in the pan handle of Florida I was inspired. I was intrigued by its history. Within this special location I would say and considerate a sacred place. So many families and traditions, love, faith, prayers, hopes and lives have drifted through all collected there. That is how I interpret sacred. Marriage is a sacred trust a promise and commitment of two people before their friends and families. What has been special to these two people is now being expressed openly for all to see. A marriage is a time to share with family and friends their love a chance to reveal their care and concern that they have for each other.
Thinking back to my son friends they had asked me to view a video that meant a lot to them. “When Harry met Sally” I think I was supposed to have a hoagie and ice cream when I watched it as they recalled their first time seeing the movie. There is a line or two of significance to them that is how they found each other and fell in love.

I love that you get cold when it is 71 degrees outside
I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich
I love that little crinkle above your nose when you are looking at me like I am nuts
I love after I spend the day with you I can smell your perfume on my clothes
And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night
And it is not because I am lonely and its is not because it is New Years Eve
I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible

As I thought about a statement of purpose, I realized that there is a moving beyond a promise greater than just friendship to a sacred trust a vow of marriage, a life long bond between two people before their families and friends. For me the circle holds a special place it that it is finite yet infinite. All through mans history the circle has been revered and considered an integral aspect of life. We are born and live our lives and die and return to the ground in what many call the circle of life. Theologians and holy men and women allude to a continuation around the circle a never ending cycle. Does a circle have a beginning and or an end? Many of the philosophies of life use comparisons to circles as a visual tool to simplify what is being said. Native American truth is often found centered and focused on a circle. Black Elk an Oglala Sioux Holy Man nearly seventy years ago said this

“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.”

It is strange how we respond as we consider all events all happenings and see that truly life is a circle a simple circle. No beginning and no end as we journey thorough it. We get to participate along the way interconnecting with and meeting other people. We gain understanding and wisdom as we travel this circle and for some, most I would say the transitional points are painful and yet for others wondrous moments and new understanding and illumination to their journeys. Soon my son and his fiancée will continue their journey and with the exchange of their rings seal their promises to each other.
As I thought about world issues and all the drama existing in our time I kept being drawn back to two human beings who are deeply in love and ready to commit to each other and their families and I can see how we are in a circle of life. There is trauma and horrendous happenings around the world but there are also places where there is peace. There are places and corners where love and community abound. I mentioned in a post for a graduate class that I wish this were contagious and could spread. It takes effort as Sydney J. Harris states so eloquently and is worth repeating.

“Love, for example, is difficult to sustain not because it is a positive emotion, but because it is a complex one. Love might be compared to the building of a tall and elaborate sandcastle, taking many hours of painstaking effort, cooperation, balance, and persistence”

So for today as I do everyday please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Trying to Succeed!

Bird Droppings August 16, 2010
Trying to succeed!

“Succeeding is not really a life experience that does that much good. Failing is a much more sobering and enlightening experience.” Michael Eisner

I wonder when a multibillionaire makes a statement like that how much meaning is in it. However as I read over the statement there is exceedingly a great amount of truth to it. It is not the succeeding that teaches it is the failures where we learn how to succeed in life. This is almost a paradox yet as we go about doing whatever it is we are doing we keeping going till we succeed. When we fail we simply try another way and or correct the failure. It is difficult to instill this in teenagers who feel they must either immediately succeed without effort or they just quit.

“When a man has done his best, has given his all, and in the process supplied the needs of his family and his society, that man has made a habit of succeeding.” Mack R. Douglas

“Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.” Julie Andrews

Success is linked to failure; it requires failure to show that you have succeeded. This seems to be the prevalent thought. I do think it also requires us to be seeking success. This could be having a goal an object in mind and striving for that goal.

“One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” Benjamin Disraeli

What is deemed as success is also important for each of us that in its self could be significantly different. I have a student who if you would ask what is success he would answer always with “money”. For him money is everything, you buy happiness and success. If you have money you are successful. Perhaps in his family he has been told this or lived this way all his life that money is the most important thing in life.

“Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

As I read and find further quotes it seems great thinkers have equated success with finally achieving whatever goal it was they were attempting and always they define and address success with failure. But Sir Winston Churchill adds enthusiasm. “without a loss of enthusiasm”. Success is not just achieving but continuing and not stopping.

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” Albert Einstein

I so often wonder what great thinkers think at times. I have always liked this statement from Einstein which seems to be in contrast to so many others, yet it may only be a use of the word. It is about not stopping. It is about failure but getting up and trying again. It is not just money or about money. You must be ready for it and far more greater than just succeeding in life is leading a life of value. As I look back on our recent holiday when we celebrate and honor our veterans, and our current armed forces.
So often in war it is about winning, success is defeating the foe. I tend to think as I look at Einstein’s words; it really is not success to simply win. Success is about our values about who we are. So perhaps we should rethink what it is we do as we do battle. Is there an alternative, a different way to succeed without war without armies and strife? Maybe one day we can honor our veterans and sing songs about their service to our country and to us and not have to be thinking about those in harms way. For through value we have succeeded in ending war as a means of solving human issues. Maybe one day we will be always looking back at history as we celebrate and not be concerned about the now. Perhaps our failures will show us the way. But for today a first day of a new school year and if you will please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.