Observation and or observing

Bird Droppings November 29, 2010
Observation and Observing – Part I

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

My wanderings are the expanse of several days of traveling and thinking and observing mankind. Last night my son and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature was only a few feet away in its wildest. I was walking Sunday morning and being away from my quiet spot near my home in Between Georgia and on a foreign beach alone in the panhandle of Florida the quiet was over powering along with the lulling movement of wind and water as I walk on the beach. Around me birds dove occasionally into the shallows after fish most of the time with out a sound. I was alone walking with the sand making its way into my open sandals. It was a wonderful experience being there as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.
Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. As I drove yesterday home from a quick trip into Florida to see my son and his wife and our soon to be born grandbaby due any day I noticed nearly fifty red tailed hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground.

“Clearly we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

We have just recently been through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter election campaigns I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads were the vast majority of all from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with after the election and even then that was questionable. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”. I received a copy of a new book in the mail yesterday from a friend in New York. I have known the title for months but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today.

Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all experts liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the newly legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past year lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. Having grown up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions and having a son in graduate school who is over twenty five without health insurance coverage I was reading fine print of health care and asking questions of my insurer.
I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai who is a seven note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage before me was one of fog and shrouds of mist surrounding the trees. The visibility was less than a hundred feet. I had to stop listen to the music and see this silvery image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house. As I turned from observing I noticed a flat tire which brought me back to reality and the moment.
To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harms way on their minds and in their hearts.
namaste
bird

It is woven as the spider spins

Bird Droppings November 26-27, 2010
It is woven as the spider spins

“For certain fortunate people, there is something that transcends all classifications of behavior, and that is awareness, something which rises from the programming of the past, and that is spontaneity; and something that is more rewarding than games and that is intimacy. But all of these may be frightening and even perilous to the unprepared. Perhaps they are better off as they are, seeking their solutions in popular techniques of social action, such as ‘togetherness.’ This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it.” Dr. Eric Berne, Games People Play, 1964

The title intrigued me as I was sitting here 1:00 AM wondering which direction to go in this mornings writing I was thinking about grandbabies to be, students, parents and teachers and how so often the intertwining of personalities produce the fabric of the day. I recall in a graduate class a professor friend used the term or representation of weaving. Our lives are a tapestry being woven each day as we go. Each thread and line put into place almost in a mundane or routine sort of way yet each relying on the last to complete the whole. I got up a bit early in anticipation of heading down to Panama City to see my son and daughter in law and grand daughter to be.

“Each person designs his own life, freedom gives him the power to carry out his own designs, and power gives the freedom to interfere with the designs of others.“ Dr. Eric Berne

For many years I was directly involved in the sheep industry between raising, breeding, publishing about and of course shearing the sheep and selling the wool. I traveled nation wide photographing and talking to producers and writing about the sheep and the wool industry. I met many hand spinners and weavers as I traveled. Some were artisans spinning yarn as fine as silk and weaving literally pieces of art work. Back in the day we had a ewe (a female breeding sheep) a Hampshire cross that was “black” when you sheared her fleece was chinchilla gray. Many years back a dear friend would get that fleece each year for her spinning and weaving. Somewhere in a box stored away is a small ball of yarn my oldest son spun one afternoon when he was six or so with that fleece and my friend showing and helping him.
Life as Dr. Donna Andrews, chairperson of the Special Education Department at Piedmont College commented in class is a weaving it is an intertwining of events and people. The symbolism of that analogy has stuck with me as I have proceeded far from that class so many years ago.

“A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else. “ Mahatma Gandhi

One of Gandhi’s methodologies of protest was to spin and weave his own cloth rather than rely on industrial and British produced material. Many other intricate thoughts were woven in as well; spinning is for many a form of meditation. The process of weaving, creating and designing a piece is literally a painting of a picture with thread and yarn. In the Navaho culture where the spider is held as sacred in its ability to weave and the weaving of blankets held a very high position and within each the artisan placed a piece of their soul.

“A man’s action is only a picture book of his creed.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

So as we weave our cloth in life we are seen by the fabric, the pattern, and the methods we use to make that piece.

“When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. “ John F. Kennedy

With each progress report we call students parents or guardians to discuss issues and grades. I spoke with several over the phone back a week or so ago. I walked through my room after school that day reading a poster that has been hanging around now on my wall where ever I take up for 30 years, Children Learn what they live. While one weaves silk others weave burlap. Silk has many great attributes as does burlap and the applications and uses vary. To spin hemp into twine and weave the burlap is as much a skill as the artisans who weave the silk threads into cloth. The weaving and material made is not the issue but it is that weaving that is occurring. Applying to human kind it is in that effort that is being made to produce a life.

“Understand clearly that when a great need appears a great use appears also; when there is small need there is small use; it is obvious, then, that full use is made of all things at all times according to the necessity thereof.” Dogen Kenji, Zen master

Recently I used the word direction and drew criticism from a teacher trying to explain that choosing a direction in a journey and not truly having a destination is sometimes a meaningless effort. For some just going is the norm. I always speak of the journey being more important versus the destination but there is a point to head towards. When building a house first you build walls you determine where doors and windows are needed and add them as you go. A really good builder knows ahead and plans for doors and windows and designed properly a house can have huge windows and great doors – and movement in and out occurs continually.
Many years ago I was sitting along side a fence in a field far away from houses and people I watched a spider spin a web. We see webs all around I was told there are thousands of spiders per acre in any field. Many of the spiders are minute and nearly microscopic. Anyhow the spider climbed to a point and dropped leaving a strand of silk climbed and dropped and so forth building a base for her web. Next came the cross lines and soon a web was built over an hour or so in the process. We see webs and easily sweep them away but the design and care in making is engrained in the spider. Life is a weaving a spinning a web of sorts and yes so often is simply swept away. Occasionally someone will stand back in awe of the artistry if only we would take note every time. Please as we partake of a day only a few off from our day of thanksgiving and keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

To think or at least to try this morning

Bird Droppings November 24, 2010
To think or at least try this morning

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Joseph Campbell

I wonder if it is for attention that so many teenagers seek the route of drama in their lives. Over reacting to seemingly inconsequential stimulus seems to be a matter of fact in the teenage world. Is it hormones and assorted emotional lapses that drive the various levels of human kind? I often wonder at why we do what we do. I observe and listen and find myself all to often swept into turbulence that is difficult to raise ones head above. I was called to talk to a student before the holiday break. Her head was in her hands sobbing and she had asked for me. The story from a few days before had grown and found its way to school. I had heard bits and pieces floating around school in the days before.
On another topic a young man in my own classes asked me if he had been good and would I write a letter for his probation officer. A week ago I separated him from another fellow just before a fight.

“Absolutely speaking, Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you is by no means a golden rule, but the best of current silver. An honest man would have but little occasion for it. It is golden not to have any rule at all in such a case.” Henry David Thoreau

I wonder at times do our worlds of reality even intertwine or is this some great Venn diagram and only occasionally do the edges over lap. Is part of reality A and part of B touching here and reality C and D barely touch over there?
I wonder if it is for attention. I watched a girl walk down the hall staring straight ahead obviously depressed. How do you get depressed at 16? What in our water drives a teenager to depression? Earlier I went out briefly my head today feels like a sponge. It was hard getting up I forgot to take my allergy medicine last night and the gas heat really tears up my sinuses. But as I walked and stood looking as my dog ran around the yard searching for prey and also trying to find a dry spot in the wet grass to do her duty I could not help but think. I wonder about dogs they look for a dry spot to make wet. It actually might be logical perhaps in dog thinking. But as I looked about the air seemed to resonate my own mood foggy and the weather channel had issued fog warnings for our county.
I could see stars yet the trees only a few feet away were clouded over. One in particular was literally in a mist as I looked. At 2:30 in the morning much is a mist but this tree was unclear as the others about it were fine. My own perception was a bit foggy today and actually I did go lay down again after getting up a with a severe sinus headache. But as I lay back down I thought of seeing pieces clear and others shrouded in mist. Some were unclear and indistinct while others were plain as day.
I will come back to students and kids at school perhaps there is a difference. On one hand there are students, those who learn and kids those ones who are taking up air and space and or baby goats, sarcastically. But as I thought perhaps it is knowing that clears ones self, ones own self image is more clear when you know your self. In so many of the Eastern religions and philosophies there is a focus on “know thy self”. Here is a thought from one cloudy mind today to numerous cloudy minds at 4:00 in the morning. Maybe it is like my tree so many people are unclear because they do not know who they are. In their searching and journeying in life they never have a clear pathway always seems to be rubble blocking the way, be it relationships, family, “friends” and for some perhaps a disability or imperfection that in their eyes holds them back or cause them to stumble. Very easily it could create an unclear vision of who they are.
I went back out and as my head cleared the tree that had been blurry cleared up and I was able to see it fine. When we meet people even ones with drama and unclear at the time views if we focus, if we give ourselves a moment to recompose often we can see through the fog and see the real person even if that person is unsure and then we can offer a hand to help them come back. It could be sort of a tug into the Venn diagram perhaps. It might be M&M’s or a paper towel, or just a word or thought and it amazes me at times tp see some things so simple can change a life. Sometimes it is just coming when called or needed. I wish we had “clear life”, something bottled you could spray out and all would be fine sort of like the commercials with the red eyes and one drop and they are clear. Peace my friends and please when opportunity is there offer a hand for far to many people are stuck in the fog of their own lives. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts as we go into this holiday tomorrow.
namaste
bird

Somehwere inside perhaps within ourselves

Bird Droppings November 23, 2010
Somewhere inside perhaps within ourselves

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” Mary Engelbreit

I am very much a creature of routine of habit and when my daily path is altered I have occasion to be amiss. My days that go off in another direction or start late seem a bit out of kilter. Over the years I heard my father speak numerous times in his lectures and training sessions of W. Edwards Deming the man who changed Japan’s industry around. US industry knew of Deming but sort of turned a deaf ear. On the opposite end of the world Japan embraced Deming’s ideas.

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” W. Edwards Deming

Blunt and to the point Deming revolutionized industrial thinking and began the quality movement and in rebuilding Japanese industry as well as increasing production in the United States during World War II. It was the significant altering of industry in Japan that made the world pay heed to Deming and the quality movement.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Victor Frankl

Philosophers and thinkers keep coming back to we may not be able to change the conditions but we can change ourselves. Often the indigenous medicine person would wander off into the wilderness to find him or herself through a vision. They would often forgo food and water for a period of time even submitting to a sweat lodge to assist in bringing about the vision. In today’s modern world such primitive endeavors are not always looked upon as acceptable and we seek other ways of finding ones self. Some search within learning and understanding trying to delve deeper into the inner makings of mankind. Rationalizing, intellectualizing and forming theories and philosophical standards that stand the test of time.

“The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.” Henry Miller

IN my observing and participating in the educational system I see this attitude daily. Functioning and attitudes are very much in line with Millers man who would literally cut off his own limbs for artificial ones to avoid the pain.

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.” Washington Irving

Coming back to my starting point of habit and routine we would rather than take another form of transportation and or for other reasons perhaps time and speed we as humans seem to put up with simply being bruised on the other cheek at least back in the day.

“When you are through changing, you are through.” Bruce Barton

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” John Kenneth Galbraith

I am as guilty as any one on this point yet often I can prove my point. Many the time, I am often more so the one initiating the change or creating the dissidence that pushes for altering how a student does something. It is quite often a behavior that is deemed inappropriate for society and through modification or change might be made acceptable to others. Sometimes it is about conforming to what in a school setting falls into the rules and parameters that the majority aloe for and desire. In some areas I am not quite the advocate of change and I try in general to keep any such endeavor limited to those that provide a means for a student to live within and get through graduation. I use my own credo of doing no harm to others as a g=basis for behaviors that might need some tweaking and or changing

“The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.” Ellen Glasgow

I have been a student and or teacher at eight possibly ten colleges and or universities and on several occasions I have worked with two professors in a course now several times. I have found that each time it is new alive and viable and different. I can see the wrapping is the same and the course number and name but it changes with the group of students. Each course has pieces that will be exactly like the last yet each too is subtly different. I have found no two groups in teaching are the same so how can we teach the same material the same way every time. Sadly this is what text book manufactures want and school systems and school boards and parent groups push for and get. In Georgia we now have GPS, Georgia Performance Standards. Every little nuance is accounted for and every moment a student is in the class room.

“Life is its own journey, presupposes its own change and movement, and one tries to arrest them at one’s eternal peril.” Laurens Van der Post

I have over the years written about this several times. Van der Post writes about the last Bushmen painter, as he remembers the day that the last painter died. There was a series of caves and rocks on the edge of the Kalahari that each time he visited during his childhood new paintings of animals, birds and other aspects of nature would be appearing on the rock face. It was also during this time the South African Government much like our own had chosen the path of genocide for a people, the Bushmen. Van der post writes about hearing as a child the gun shots and upon a visit to the rocks and caves on a later day seeing the paintings that were now a series of red slashes and warriors dying and then no more paintings. The last painter had recorded the beginning of the end and there was not another to take his place.

“Growth is the only evidence of life.” John Henry Newman

“The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.” William Blake

As I look at the statements perhaps growth would have been looking at the Bushmen and seeing their views rather than destroying them. So many pathways in history have been of destruction rather than change, rather than seeing a different view.

“Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.” Marcel Proust

“We did not change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves.” Lynn Hall

I seriously wondered as I read and thought about this quote. Maybe we do not change but come to grips with and accept who we are rather than trying to be the image of what we think others want us to be. Watching students in high school so many simply trying to be what others want them to be.

“What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.” Mignon McLaughlin

As I sit and ponder how true this is, each event in our life has led us here to this moment and place.

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” Ellen Glasgow

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” Woodrow Wilson

I have a dear friend who constantly reminds me of this all movement is not forward and to that effect I once made an open ended rubric there were literally no parameters in any direction more of a shading as one event evolved into the next.

“Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.” Pauline R. Kezer

I really do like this illustration we find our grounding, our roots in the continuity of life but it is that new look that change that grows us and lifts us up.

“If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, and keep advancing.” Saint Augustine

This is a profound statement and not to belittle who and what you are but to always be trying to be more than the point at which you are. Far too many people are content and stagnate repeating William Blake’s quote. “The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.”

“God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.” Author Unknown

I generally like to attribute to someone a quote but this wording caught my attention a spin on Rhinehold Niebuhr’s words on his famous Serenity Prayer.

“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Things do not change; we change.” Henry David Thoreau

A general and a philosopher offer similar ideas but it is truly up to us to provide the catalyst and effort.

“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.” Francis Bacon

Inevitable that change will occur through evolution, migration, alteration, dissemination, ramification, ossification, delineation, degradation and even in our own country segregation. Change is evident always and certain how we adapt and survive this is the crucial point.

“Every possession and every happiness is but lent by chance for an uncertain time, and may therefore be demanded back the next hour.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Describing Schopenhauer many writers see his works as unlike many of his time he is easier to read often making sense on the first read. He was one of the first European philosophers to look at and utilize eastern thought. As I read this line life is much like a loan shark we borrow pieces only to have to eventually pay back with interest often at a higher rate. Sitting here this morning I wonder when our interest will be due for our current situations. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Why don’t we each make a difference

Bird Droppings November 22, 2010
Why don’t we each can make a difference

I walked out last night to a full moon although I did not quite see the blue moon that was supposed to be gleaming over head. However as I did see a jet stream was perfectly inline with the moon almost as if a line was drawn and the moon was moving along the line.

“The purpose of Living Values: Educational Program is to provide guiding principles and tools for the development of the whole person, recognizing that the individual is comprised of physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual dimensions.” livingvalues.net

When I first read the lead line to this website it is too good to be true, someone after my own heart. As I thought it is not just about content but context as well although in public school spiritual can be a carefully handled word. Yesterday I borrowed from John Dewey’s pedagogy and this is a similar line looking more at the whole person.

“In confronting the many challenges that the future holds in store, humankind sees in education an indispensable asset in its attempt to attain the ideals of peace, freedom and social justice. The Commission does not see education as a miracle cure or a magic formula opening the door to a world in which all ideals will be attained, but as one of the principal means available to foster a deeper and more harmonious form of human development and thereby to reduce poverty, exclusion, ignorance, oppression and war.” Jacques Delors, Learning: The Treasure Within, UNESCO

ALIVE, The association for Living values Education International was founded by the Untied Nations a few years ago. As I read through the literature the concept of teaching values intrigued me. Is this maybe where we go wrong in public school focusing on content on curriculum on page 1-500 only. Maybe this is where students lose the desire to learn being force fed piles of facts or does it happen elsewhere.

“The traditions of our people are handed down from father to son. The Chief is considered to be the most learned, and the leader of the tribe. The Doctor, however, is thought to have more inspiration. He is supposed to be in communion with spirits… He cures the sick by the laying of hands, and payers and incantations and heavenly songs. He infuses new life into the patient, and performs most wonderful feats of skill in his practice…. He clothes himself in the skins of young innocent animals, such as the fawn, and decorated himself with the plumage of harmless birds, such as the dove and hummingbird …” Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute

We learn much of who we are good or bad at home. Several years ago I wrote a paper about “The Sixteen Hour Syndrome” that time kids are away from school. As a parent teacher and soon to be grandparent I seen students leave school and go home where any semblance of value and order was disavowed. Students were unlearning literally anything that had been taught. Teachers have eight hours of which transportation and breaks and lunch come out of so maybe six hours to try and instill values and information. Some could argue is school the place for values to be taught? It is a place and teaching is occurring so do what you can.

“All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values.” Fredrich Nietzsche

“You must look within for value, but must look beyond for perspective.” Denis Waitley

Students should bring some tattering of values to school but going back to September 11, 2001 which coincidentally was my first day back to teaching after a twenty three year break a student informed me he was the first in four generations not to run moonshine. Interestingly enough last night on the history channel a show memorialized moonshiners as an integral part of our history and that we had to have them in order for a progression to occur. This was while the host sampled various brews from around the country. If you are raised that moonshining, racism, bigotry, anti government and a good one today belittling women is appropriate and then correctly imagine the impact of those eight hours in school with a female teacher. After battling with that type of student, teachers are weary and they are not just in the south. So the issue becomes how do we alter values.

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

“Although gold dust is precious, when it gets in your eyes it obstructs your vision.” Hsi-Tang

We all need to work together be it in parenting and in teaching and in working towards a world we can eliminate the sixteen hour syndrome and children can learn to appreciate life and all that could be there for them.
“Minds are like parachutes – they only function when open.” Thomas Dewey
The other aspect is that in order to open properly that parachute has to be packed correctly folded and arranged so it will open when the rip cord is pulled. Far too many children have not had their parachute folded properly before the jump and crash and burn. As I look back over the past few weeks of school and writings teachers are expected to check the parachutes and repack daily. Teachers are expected often times to even postpone the jumps till everyone is ready. But in life as in parachuting there comes a time when you have to learn to pack your own chute. When it doesn’t open it is no ones fault but your own.
“If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he entitled to happiness? You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience.” Stanislaw Jerszy Lec, Unkempt Thoughts, translated from the Polish by Jacek Galazka
As I read a few of Lec’s words this morning many are dark foreboding telling of a time when death was near the door step in Poland during World War II. Executioners and death are a major topic looking through Unkempt Thoughts a rather large collection of anecdotes. But when I saw these particular two lines the first is so true of education we pass the child through knowing he can not “count” are we truly happy when he finds a four leave clover and patience is learned but it does take patience to learn patience otherwise you would have run out of patience. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and please let’s make sure parachutes are packed right for that first jump.
namaste
bird

Adversity is only a bridge

Bird Droppings November 19, 2010
Adversity is only a bridge

“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.” Robert Fulghum

It was perhaps two days ago one of the teachers at school in an email to all staff mentioned another member of our staff had been diagnosed with breast cancer. If anything I have found in my sixty one years of living upon this reality of life is that we as an organism are resilient. In my time wandering about I have been carried through the hallways of a polio ward observing other children in iron lungs one day and gone the next. Yet somehow in that doom and gloom of that era we survived. I have witnessed first hand the human travesty of mental institutions as a chaplain counseling inmates who never will leave the confines of the walls and bars that held them contained.

“We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ unless we ask the same question for every moment of happiness that comes our way.” “A bend in the road is not the end of the road… unless you fail to make the turn.” Authors Unknown

As I came through college and a war in Viet Nam so many of my friends died while I gained knowledge. Yesterday I in my travels I watched the sun rise and set all in a day. So often we get absorbed in the issues the problems and do not see what lies ahead or that something can lie ahead around the turn

“The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.” William Shakespeare, Othello

Life continually throw curve balls be it physically mentally or emotionally and it is in learning to hit a curve ball where in lies the secret and not succumbing to the throes of human indignity. Of course when you learn to hit curves the pitcher in life may throw a slider. There is not a day goes by I do not see the words of a great woman since they are spread in quotes on my walls of my class room.

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” Mother Teresa

There is a bit of humor still in Mother Teresa’s stoicism and humility. Few people ever bear witness to the images that beset Mother Teresa daily as she walked the streets of Calcutta.

“We acquire the strength we have overcome.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

A simple thought but adversity does bring strength and gives us the understanding we need to take the next step or to simply breathe that next breath of air.

“You can’t run away from trouble. There ain’t no place that far.” Uncle Remus

I recall Uncle Remus from the Disney’s cartoons based on the characters and produced nearly eighty years ago. Even in the Madison Georgia home of the Uncle Remus’ characters you see the Disney art work. In life far too often we run away trying to avoid dealing with issues and there is no place far enough eventually it does catch up I can speak personally to this one.

“Enduring habits I hate…. Yes, at the very bottom of my soul I feel grateful to all my misery and bouts of sickness and everything about me that is imperfect, because this sort of thing leaves me with a hundred backdoors through which I can escape from enduring habits.” Friedrich Nietzsche

A day or so ago a comment was made about over achievers those that are forever dotting every I and crossing every T. In my world I call that obsessive compulsive disorder. Listening to a speaker the other day who was being perfect, as they spoke I was thinking obsessive compulsive not perfect. Understanding our frailties and weaknesses can make us strong.

“If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I would not pass it round. Trouble creates a capacity to handle it. I don’t embrace trouble; that’s as bad as treating it as an enemy. But I do say meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and had better be on speaking terms with it.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Perhaps it is in acknowledgement of trouble that we can overcome. It is true we learn, we grow, and we do develop a capacity to overcome adversity.

“The healthy and strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it, whether he’s got an abscess on his knee or in his soul.” Rona Barrett

“Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.” Garrison Keillor

So often we fret over things that in truth are simply a part of life and fretting will not take it away it is in knowing how to deal with and living with that makes the difference.

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” Erich Fromm

You have to get through the trials before you can savor the victory.

“I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.” Jewish Proverb

Perhaps the most powerful quote today as I look back in my own life and that of those of friends and family. If we all looked at life this way what a world we would have perhaps there would be no more whiners.

“Sometimes the littlest things in life are the hardest to take. You can sit on a mountain more comfortably than on a tack.” Author Unknown

Such a good illustration as I ponder that one in my mind and how true. The big issues we seem to deal with but those sharp tiny ones sneak in there and stick us in the butt.

“How can something bother you if you won’t let it?” Terri Guillemets

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” Frank A. Clark

“As long as you keep getting born, it’s alright to die some times.” Orson Scott Card

“Bad is never good until worse happens.” Danish Proverb

Even though the smooth pavement is so much easier to travel on I do prefer a bump now and again to keep me awake. I was thinking of the ripples along side the interstate highways before bridges they really do wake you up thinking back to younger days and driving straight through from Georgia to Pennsylvania over the weekends to see friends. In life sometimes we need a ripple or two to keep us going.

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Walt Disney

Walt Disney was one of the great optimists of our time. Back in the day he had the vision to see pine flats, orange groves and swamp and envision a city, an amusement park unlike anything ever built before. As I look back all from drawing a little mouse.

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” Arthur Golden

“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out.” Lou Reed

From Eastern thought the yin and yang, opposites that need each other so you can truly see what each is. That black and white we can call the the contrast of life.

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” Mary Engelbreit

So much of life is how we see it and what we do about it. A new week please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and as I head into a holiday week thinking of close friends who need our support and concern as they deal with the pieces of the puzzle that life has provided to them. May peace be with you all.
namaste
bird

Looking into the depth of soul

Bird Droppings November 18, 2010
Looking into the depth of our souls

I received an email from a dear friend nearly three years ago after writing about humor and it truly made me think and as I pondered last night I responded to the note the following morning and it scares me how we can humorize our dark side often to a point of distain or callousness:

Dear Bird,
How about the humor of John Stewart and S. Colbert? Does anyone ever think that some incidents are too sensitive or horrendous to allow for satire or humor?
Frances

My response: I have an issue with humor that plays to our dark sides at times. It might be conceived perhaps as even being a part of that primitive aspect of who we are. Movies like Jack Ass 3D and the humor portrayed, John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are mild compared to South Park for example. Stewart and Colbert are on a higher intellectual plane than South Park and Jackass. But the audiences thrive on it sadly enough. I think it is this aspect of humanity that allows the atrocities of man to happen as well. I remember once in Sixth grade a girl in special education who lived in the worst part of the community it was not even public housing but shacks along the river outside town. The joke was calling people names derived from that community and or specific people that lived there. I look back and I know I probably did this as well. Maybe it is my karma to be making up for my part being in education today. I still cringe when I hear the word retard even more so than the n-word. I am reading on Foucault again and much of the base in this book is focused on mental institutions and “normal” versus “abnormal” and I wonder as I read and see watching American Idol and how judges belittle people some who are special needs what a sad state our society is in. bird

“Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.” Aristotle

Often having been in teaching of special needs kids when with other teachers who have been in similar situations we will joke about events of the past not at a students expense as much as the moment and ourselves. It might be being bitten or changing a really nasty diaper for example. They are often common place in some settings. One of my favorites over the years was an OCD student who once asked me 54 times if he could hold our class room pet Stevie the wonder snake, a ball python. I ignored him and was working at my computer and this was before school. A general education student who did not have the capacity for patience and or ignoring that I do final blurted out to the young man “I love you” and tapped him on the shoulder. He took off to farthest corner in the room. She then asked me did I not hear him and I said I use planned ignoring and really did not after three or four times. I still have contact with this OCD student and he is now twenty two or so and did not finish school which is another story. When our last principal took over nine years ago this OCD student was so terrified from middle school of this man he couldn’t be in the same building. So he sits at home and watches TV in effect his disability keeps him from life.

“Humor is also a way of saying something serious.” T. S. Eliot

As I think and wonder maybe it is seeing the issues at hand and simply using humor as a medium for truth for opening eyes as I look at some of the dark humor of our time. But I do not see people viewing that way in all situations. I see people watching a movie or show and laughing often at human frailty and human aspects. Over the past weeks I have written several papers dealing with the search for the human soul. This is an aspect that Carl Jung, James Hillman, and Thomas Moore all renowned psychologists and authors write extensively on.

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed. Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block

We get so caught up in testing, pretesting, predictor testing and testing of testing we lose sight of who children really are and could be. I have used the term funneling which is forcing as much as possible into a bottle through a funnel and sadly much will over flow. It is often these aspects of individuality and context for example that get left behind.

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” D. G. Smith

Smith, points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why.

The illusions “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”. We live in a society where deception is part of life. We listen to politicians tell us what we want to hear and or think we want to hear and we follow blindly. Why do we have to win a war “divisively”? Why do we even ….. ? I was very frustrated listening and knowing how much was based on deception on lies and yet billed as we have to keep going what ever it takes. A recent election shows as we slowly lose are humanity.

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the more noble one of laying down the outward things that enslave us.” D. G. Smith

This inner look is mentioned often as psychologists and theologians struggle with the concept of who we are.

“We need to know more of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself” Carl G. Jung

Uncovering our past and memories is part of looking at who we are. The idea that soul or spirit is just confined to religion can be seen in the understanding of what constitutes that inner search. A word used often as a search word is faith and is explained in Dr. James Fowler’s book The Development of Faith published in 1981.

“Faith is not always religious in its content or context. To ask these questions of oneself does not necessarily mean to elicit answers about religious commitment or belief. Faith is a persons or groups way of moving into the force field of life.” Dr. James Fowler

The search and looking within trying to understand who we are trying to find soul is part of who we are. It is what makes us human and drives how we interact with the existing world and how we perceive that world.

“The subjective side of spirit is nature, matter and human life. But this subjective side that moves through us is unconscious” Dr. Marla Morris

Spirit is then who we are subjectively?

“Somewhere between reality and fantasy, between need and want, between the affect and the idea, and between dependency and autonomy, there can emerge the material from which the subject spins a life” Deborah Britzman

We end so often in metaphysical subjectivity as to what is this entity of spirit and or soul might actually be? Deciphering the concept of soul which too often is tied to a religious connotation is challenging. Thomas Moore, a student of James Hillman, and a former priest and now psychologist and counselor defines soul.

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality. When we say someone has soul we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

“Renaissance philosophers often said that it is the soul that makes us human. We can turn around and note that is when we are most human we have the greatest access to soul” Thomas Moore

Mary Aswell Doll in the introduction to her book Like letters in running Water, includes in her thoughts her interdisciplinary studies with religion and psychology that help probe the inner workings of soul. It is only through coming to terms with inner understanding that we can address outer concerns. It takes inner looks to stir and fire up the imagination and to build and develop ideas and expand learning.

“To talk about the “soul”, we might as well say inner life of children. My latest book Education and the soul talks about Soul in a moral sense, which is really taken out of a religious sense” Jack Miller

It is that inner being of who are that is our soul? Is it soul that we are leaving behind in our effort to be the ultimate consumer? Is it soul in that consummate effort to produce children who can test and test well and take another test and do well? Is soul developing constituents who will listen without questioning the deceit of politicians and advertising and buy products they do not need and support wars not needed and politicians who are not needed? There are so many thoughts to ponder this early in the morning but please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Being color blind in a world that only sees in black and white

Bird Droppings November 17, 2010
Being color blind in a world that only sees black and white

It has been nearly forty years actually more since I found out I was color blind. I had been in college at West Chester State College for my freshmen year. I found driving to the New Jersey beaches and missing classes much more entertaining than sitting in a class room listening to a chemistry professor you could not understand go through transparency film like it was on fire. However on the downside my grades showed it as I received my letter not permitting me to return and within another day or two a draft notice since my student’s deferment was now voided. I was in the first round of lottery numbers in the tail end of the draft and my birthday was number three and all through about one hundred and fifty were drafted.
I was at the time playing ice hockey for West Chester State and somehow my grades and letter of get of school now never made it to the Hockey team and I was still playing. I had severely injured my right shoulder and had been in the hospital for surgery just prior to my draft physical. So in effect I still had stitches in my shoulder. I could not raise my right arm and as I made my way through the lines I was made to repeat the color blind test. The Issachar Color Blind Tests are a series of round almost cameo looking patterns with numbers within the patterns. I could only read one or two of the numbers. By the end of the four or five hours I had several check marks against me. No epileptics, no color blind and no fellows who can not raise their right hand to salute, the sergeant said son you failed and I smiled and he yelled at me “why are you smiling boy”.
So here I was color blind and never knew it and what trade do I go into after a few years of teaching in the early seventies but graphic arts. Every day I made choices and decisions on color and designs that involved color. Never seemed to bother me as I went through life. However as I matured and continued in life I began to see how limited so many people were in how they looked at life.

“Life is like a box of crayons. Most people are the 8-color boxes, but what you’re really looking for are the 64-color boxes with the sharpeners on the back. I fancy myself to be a 64-color box, though I’ve got a few missing. It’s ok though, because I’ve got some more vibrant colors like periwinkle at my disposal. I have a bit of a problem though in that I can only meet the 8-color boxes. Does anyone else have that problem? I mean there are so many different colors of life, of feeling, of articulation.. so when I meet someone who’s an 8-color type.. I’m like, hey girl, magenta! and she’s like, oh, you mean purple! and she goes off on her purple thing, and I’m like, no – I want magenta!” John Mayer

I found this quote on a face-book page and really liked it. Few people outside graphic arts and the art world know what color magenta is but magenta is one of the four colors along with yellow, cyan, and black that make up the colors used in printing of four color process and color copying.

We live in a world of eight color crayon boxes where most people only see what they want to see and only in a few shades and on the most part in black and white. As a teacher I have found there are more than sixty four colors and many more shades in between if we look. It has been many years since I first heard Harry Chapin in the Fox Theatre on Peachtree Street. A song that has stuck with me is one about a little boy who sees the world as a rainbow of color. I have included all the words to this very poignant song and if you ever get a chance find a tape or CD and listen to the Great Harry Chapin singing the tune.

Flowers are Red
by Harry Chapin

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin’ young man
I’m paintin’ flowers he said
She said… It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There’s a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one

And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

Well the teacher said.. You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me…..

And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

The teacher put him in a corner
She said.. It’s for your own good..
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And are responding like you should
Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found
The teacher there was smilin’
She said…Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen.

It has been a few years back when a group of four year olds from our ECE program came into my room to see the snakes and lizards and other creatures that habitat there. As little children do they asked question after question until one little boy blurts out where do snakes go to the bathroom and one of the high school students who was working with the little ones says that’s stupid don’t ask that. I immediately started first of all it is a great question and we discussed where snakes go to the bathroom. After the group left I talked to the high school student and explained never stop the questioning this is why when kids today get to high school they have been taught not to think or question coming up through the grades. It is through questions we learn.

“A camera is not a creative thing. Cameras themselves don’t produce works of art any more than a paintbrush produces a work of art. They have to be in the hands of people who know what they’re doing with them. Therefore all the tools that are available are wonderful, but you still need to have the confidence to use them and to know how to use them, what the processes are that are involved. That’s where I think there is often a crisis. There are too few opportunities I believe now for people to develop the necessary skills to make these tools really helpful and useful. There are plenty of ways of using them which are more or less trivial, which pass the time and it would have passed anyway.” Sir Kenneth Robinson

I was introduced to Sir Kenneth Robinson by a good friend. He is known word wide for his work on creativity and imagination in education. As I have been researching for my dissertation I have read and found Elliot Eisner who is known for his work on the aesthetic applications within education and others all who see our educational system stripping away imagination and critical thinking for common goals such as standardized test scores. Robinson uses the illustration of the rise in testing and ADHD diagnosis in the US. An interesting thought as I go deeper into my own research.
I went out last night just before the rain returned. The sky was finishing a gorgeous sunset and all about me as I sat in my quiet spot listening to the sounds of crickets and tree frogs trying to get a few chords in before the chill sets in again. I drove to Pizza Hut listening to old Bob Dylan songs and thinking about the John Mayer quote. It is not just about artists it is about people and how they see the world about them. I worry as I watch politicians say one thing do another and then tomorrow do something different all in their own interest. So many of those about as I discussed with someone the other day are acting being who they need to be to get what they want. A sad world as we rip the soul from children telling them to not ask questions and limiting what they can see and or hear. So for another day please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Quietly pursuing silence

Bird Droppings November 16, 2010
Quietly pursuing Silence

I was standing in my back yard listening. There was silence. As I stood how easy is it to find fear and or solace in silence. Many horror movies over the years and of course books for those of us who still read feature silence in all the build up. How difficult is it to find silence? By chance today our sky is overcast and low which helps muffle the sounds of nature.

“Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment; that background which the painter may not daub, be he master or bungler, and which, however awkward a figure we may have made in the foreground, remains ever our inviolable asylum, where no indignity can assail, no personality can disturb us.” Thoreau, Henry David

Sitting here in near silence in my kitchen working at my computer is relaxing and somewhat peaceful. The chill of the morning brought me in. I seem to have forgotten too put shoes on and my bare feet were getting frost bitten. I took my dog’s advice as she ran for the door. I have always enjoyed the calming effect of silence. But in a paradoxical way silence for some can be an effective torture. Taking away that sensation and limiting to only ones thoughts can for some be overcoming.

“The Pause; that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, however so felicitous, could accomplish it.” Twain, Mark
Silence is a mighty sword in the hands of a warrior or poet. Yet why do we seek silence why do we try and find a place to rest away from the hustle and bustle of today’s world? Perhaps it is a contrast we seek. An exact opposite to our daily lives of running around, as if there were no tomorrow. Perhaps silence allows us to see beyond?
“Silence is the true friend that never betrays.” Confucius

“Silence is the genius of fools and one of the virtues of the wise” Pope Boniface VIII

“Under all speech that is good for anything three lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as time” Thomas Carlisle

I do find rest in the quiet of a forest or field. Often I will try and get away from everything put all aside to have a few minutes without the trappings of our cluttered world. I often wonder at the loud bellowing booming music often spilling from cars as they vibrate with bass so loud the cars are shaking. A joke around the house was a movie featuring a rock band only known for being loud. They were asked how they could be so much louder than all the others and responded they turned up to eleven on the volume, no one else can do that. I thought my son was joking and should have known better as he has had his band experience much more than I. I was in a large music store outside Atlanta and I checked the Marshall Amps, traditionally the biggest and baddest of all amps. They only went to ten.
So I wonder can I find that place where sound and noise is reversed and find a negative one. Set it to one point on the dial less than zero and a very silent amp. I seriously anyone would applaud a really silent amp or rock band. Well maybe parents and folks parked next to those cars with fifty inch woofers. Could that place of ultimate silence be where you can truly find solace and peace?

“Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule.” Thomas Carlisle

For many seeking spiritual boundaries and finding doorways past where we are silence has always been a key. The great mystics of days gone by would retreat in silence often for days. Shamans and holy men seeking visions to guide their people would seclude themselves and find silence in order to delve deeper into their own existence. All through mans history silence has been a place of spiritual findings. Yet it too is one of fear for so many.

“A horrid stillness first invades the ear, And in that silence we the tempest fear.” John Dryden

Perhaps when we encounter something we are not accustomed to it is when we fear. Those seeking silence are on their own trying to find answers. Most people are content with the noise of the world. Being thrust into silence could be confusing. As I stood listening to see if the morning was truly silent after about ten minutes or so a rooster cut loose and I knew I would open my eyes to the world I left briefly in the quiet of the morning. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird