Sacredness and finding Foxfire in the KAlihari

Bird Droppings March 31, 2011
Sacredness and finding Foxfire in the Kalahari

I have known about Foxfire for nearly forty years since I bought my first copy of a Foxfire book in 1973 or so. Since that time coincidence as it may be I have taken courses in the Foxfire approach to teaching and attended several as a learning facilitator. I am excited as my oldest son will get his first taste of Foxfire in June in a graduate class. Hopefully next week I will journey up into the mountains of North Georgia again to sit in and rekindled many fond memories.
I got a bit later start than I had planned and with the weather while not cold foggy this morning not helping. It seems those of us with allergies and congestion foggy days make it harder to get going. Traffic is not bad for me going to work early as I do and allows me time if I have errands to run or extra paperwork to do at school. I recall just a few weeks ago driving up to the mountains what I thought would be a two hour drive eventually came near to a three hour journey. I avoided some traffic by taking a different route than normal and went sort of cross country which led to an integral part of the day. As I came up an exit ramp a red tailed hawk swooped directly in front of me banking and sailing right back across the road exposing its red tail fully spread. So many people would simply pass that off but such a wonderful sight for me I wonder about what are the odds for me to take a drive and be at that place at that moment.
I often think back to me first visit to the Foxfire property as we sat down after a tour of the museum and property which I still enjoy even after listening fifty times or more. It was the late and great Robert Murray, the resident expert who would tell of folklore and wisdom as he guided the group through the numerous cabins and mountain buildings. A plant here and there and a bit of lichen all had symbolic and often medicinal applications to the people of Appalachia. We started our meeting with a first for that group an exercise entitled connections. This was an opportunity for members in the group to bond and become more of a community which is a crucial part of the Foxfire principles. Most were silent a word or two here and there and then I offered how I considered this place sacred. So many families and traditions, love, faith, prayers, hopes and lives had drifted through the various buildings all collected on the property. I interpret sacred in this manner.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness. Both these processes are profoundly and mysteriously interdependent and doomed to failure without a continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation.” Laurens Van der Post, Witness to the last days of man

It has been several months maybe even a year since I last picked up a Von der Post book. Somehow in an email or comment along the way I went looking for this author and a prolific author he was. As I researched over the years and of course I went to Amazon.com where I was greeted with sixty three pages of his books and variations and edited versions and even translations were available. He died in 1996 at the age of 90 and had been everywhere and done everything it seems. One good trivia point is that he was Prince William of Great Britain’s God father. He was the only non-royal ever to be so honored. He also had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth many years ago.
His writings while some covered his travels worldwide which he is best known for are also for me some of the best his stories of the African bush. One of these books, “A Far away place” was made into a family movie of children and their trek in the African wilds. But permeating all his writing a fascination with a nearly lost people they call themselves “The Sans” but are know more commonly as the African Bushman.

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Von der Post

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us–and those around us — more effectively. Look for the learning.” Eric Allemburgh

Yesterday I was thinking in several directions. On one hand I was discussing education in the US with several teacher friends and somehow I can always get to Foxfire. We dabbled with the pros and cons of public education, and of course applications of Foxfire teaching methods. In one discussion it somehow went the direction with introjections of indigenous peoples of South America and how Amazonian Native peoples will often want to experience civilization. I sited a unique program in Brazil which as well of protecting indigenous peoples from civilization the land is kept in tact and rain forest left alone when a new tribe is found, literally keeping civilization out.
It was in that course of thought I went the direction of the Bushman and Von der Post. Yesterday as well I sat longer than I usually do standing outside listening to the night. When I finally got home and went to write my time was limited and I hurriedly jotted down a thought from the day and an email to a student who had an issue. It was the series of events; I often use the term coincidence yesterday that led me to my thinking today.

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” Mary Kay Ash

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennet

Several days ago I received an email from a person to be added to my morning meanderings. I added this person to my list and yesterday received another email in my rushing to get a Bird Droppings out I had written exactly what this person needed that day. It seems their child was acting out and my rambling about a student had produced several ideas for them.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Taylor Benson

“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.” Soren Kierkegaard

As I was sitting and thinking about the drawing together of thoughts the past few days and ideas, I came back to that class way back when I had driven up to learn about Foxfire teaching techniques. As I thought while reading several passages this morning in Von der Post’s book “The Lost world of the Kalahari” is a comment about witnessing the last of the Bushmen painters. It seems there was a point in time when the Bushmen stopped their primitive art paintings on the rocks of the Kalahari. Evidently the last painter was killed in a genocide attack by South African soldiers and no one within the tribe knew how to take over.
As I thought about students walking the halls and the discussions we have had over the past months on the internet in graduate classes it really dawned on me I was where I was to be and doing what I was to do. I felt I was offering at least a little piece of more than what is normally available. I never thought forty years ago I would be that hope, be that wisdom, or be that talking about a bushmen egg with red neck kids in Georgia and interestingly enough preserving pieces of old Georgia in essays and photos and PowerPoint projects as we go. Von der Post in his book went in search of the last of the Bushman and found himself.

“Coincidences have never been idle for me, instinctively, but as meaningful as I was to find they were to Jung. I have always had a hunch that they are a manifestation of a law of life of which we are inadequately aware and which in terms of our short life are unfortunately incapable of total definition, and yet however partial the meaning we can extract from them, we ignore it, I believe, at our peril. For as well as promoting some cosmic law, coincidences, I suspect, are some sort of indication to what extent the evolution of our lives is obedient or not obedient to the symmetry of the universe.” Laurens van der Post, Jung and the Story of Our Time, p.47

For many years now I have read and pondered Jung’s words and ideas. Back almost fifteen or so years ago an author James Redfield wrote about coincidence in a fictional story of a lost manuscript “The Celestine Prophecy”. He was trying to explain what he saw happening in his own life. Carl G. Jung in the early 1900’s coined the word synchronicity, which I simplify and say simply I am at the right place at the right moment.
What is amazing is when you look at life that way you begin to see events unfold before you rather than just seeing through hindsight I like the very first quote, “a continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation” Laurens Von der Post . To borrow from the Foxfire website:

“In the Foxfire Approach, learning environments are characterized by student involvement and action, by thoughtful reflection and rigorous assessment, by imagination and problem solving, by applications beyond the classroom for what is learned, and by meaningful connections to the community. In these classrooms, students build the ability to work collaboratively and assume responsibility for their own learning processes.” http://www.foxfire.org/teachi.html

Where and how do the Kalahari Desert and Bushmen and Foxfire and coincidence all tie in perhaps by borrowing from a core practice in the Foxfire teaching process.

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to revisions and refinements.” Foxfire

We build through reflection we grow through reflection.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness.” Laurens Von der Post

I think reflection could be inserted just as easy into Von der Posts quote. We all need to take time to see where we are and then participate actively as we go in life. Each day I ask for everyone to please keep all in harms way on your mind in and in your heart.
namaste
bird

Are we going in the right direction?

Bird Droppings March 30, 2011
Are we going in the right direction?

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. I believe that the school must represent present life-life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground. I believe that education which does not occur through forms of life, or that are worth living for their own sake, is always a poor substitute for the genuine reality and tends to cramp and to deaden.” John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed, 1897

I recall many years ago taking a test that would indicate what we were suitable for and getting called in to the “guidance” counselors who in my day were wives of the football coaches. I never quite figured that out at our high school I was told I should look at technical training because of my grades and such. I was not a very good student in high school 597th 0f 795 students. It seems I was side tracked somewhere in elementary school about education, and periodically I would have a few flare ups of wisdom. The little flare ups during standardized tests were just enough for me to remain in college prep and high functioning classes all through high school.
So I was amused by the guidance recommendations. I was reminded recently of my turmoil in high school of trying to place me in a job before I knew what life was about and what was out there. I was thinking about Special Education and in our IEP’s we do a transitional plan at age fourteen. What do you want to do is asked and I have had three want to be a rappers on transitional plans over the years.

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John W. Gardner

For nearly thirty years I have had a Chinese proverb hanging on my wall.

“You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day: You can teach a man to fish and feed him for life.”

Having been to teenagers funerals to many times and thinking about all the kids I talked with there and on emails I really wondered, as I sat thinking this morning about trying to figure out what these students will be doing in twenty years. It made me think of my own life. I was thinking what do we really need to teach. With the advent of federal and state legislation demanding certain standards be met it is interesting how teachers and parents get left out of the loops and legislators decide.
As I look at John Dewey and John Gardner’s comments while differing in philosophies a point of interest. Dewey mentions a process of living give your teaching context making it meaningful. Gardner says not just cut flowers but to teach then how to grow the flower, not simply facts. What does this mean to me as a teacher?

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else.” John W. Gardner

“WHEN most people think of the word ‘education,’ they think of a pupil as a sort of animate sausage casing. Into this empty casing, the teachers are supposed to stuff ‘education.’ But genuine education, as Socrates knew more than two thousand years ago, is not inserting the stuffing’s of information into a person, but rather eliciting knowledge from him; it is the drawing out of what is in the mind.” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly Speaking, What true education should do?

It has been nearly four years since I did this lesson and it was quite an experience. It seems like yesterday I had two students in my class room and several were out during second period suspended or in School Suspension (ISS), this was a really rough group of kids. I had decided to do a class project that the class wanted to do. I set parameters that were relatively simply borrowing on my Foxfire teachings and trying to set up a democratic classroom.

1. Project had to be of interest to all students
2. Project had to be school appropriate
3. Students had to be able to learn academics in the context of the project
4. As the teacher I had to be able to measure learning
5. There had to be a culminating project and end point during the semester

So a day or two later when every one was in school we started by first coming up with ideas for the project. The class came up with several, wrestling, girls, cars, animation, photography, building and several very inappropriate for school if not in violation of state and federal laws.
One however that continued to peak interest and has been an integral part of my class as I use digital photography daily and every student has taken a camera home and taken literally tens of thousands of pictures. As the discussion progressed photography seemed to be the choice and eventually the project became a photography contest within the school sponsored by my second period class.
While tedious in the beginning as ideas it all started and soon took on a life of its own eliciting thinking from these kids. Naturally thinking was the big word and was the main task and for a few of them it was tiring but then on to next step. How do we get permission? Actually after the class decided I gone and gotten permission but students would have to proceed as if they do not have it and formally get permission.
Watching the thought process evolve from students who often simply do worksheets and or get in trouble. For students who read several grades below their actual level throwing ideas around about having a voting process and different categories and digital versus film it was a pretty amazing discussion. I argue day in and day out about having context to a lesson. When a student has context for the content it has life and meaning.

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living” John Dewey

“If we are succeeding in our efforts to establish an excellent quality of present experience, people, teachers, students, administrators, parents should enjoy being in school; there should be fewer incidents of violence and nastiness; there should be more acts of kindness, more expressions of concern for others; more open conversation and fewer acts of control on the part of adults.” Nel Noddings

As a teacher I get frustrated knowing that information, understanding and knowledge of what is education and learning are out there in the nebulous but get rejected by a cookie cutter mentality that requires easy quick fixes and various publishers’ approval. I found this article from Nel Noddings and was amazed at her suggestions that follow many European and Asian approached to schooling. First that excellence in schooling is not that everyone meets a collegiate curriculum and succeeds in it but that individually we are providing and excelling in directions that we are suited for that individual student be that art, music, technology, industry or academics. This was written several years ago and if you get serious John Dewey was writing about this in 1897 over one hundred years ago and why do we never pay attention. The article is Excellence as a guide to Educational Conversation by Nel Noddings, Stanford University, 2004. We have to as teachers go beyond in many cases what we have been taught in education classes, which has been to do what is expedient versus real. It has been to try and not just teach “stuff” as Harris indicates. We have to bring life to education make it alive. As a parent and now grandparent this comes home as well and parents need to be involved. We need to wake up parents instead of simply letting them sleep through their child’s school experience. This is a community effort not simply one teacher and one student. Even though that is where it starts. Sydney J. Harris uses an illustration of an oyster and a pearl.

“Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence.” Sydney J. Harris

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

I got a bit carried away today. But as I read this last quote by Einstein who was left behind more than once in his educational experience at an early age can we as a society begin to look at each other as potential pearls instead of just sausages? I wonder as this school year is winding down and a new school year approaches all too soon. Try today to please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Religion is what you make of it

Bird Droppings March 29, 2011
Religion is what you make of it

“A poor devotee points to the sky and says, ‘God is up there.’ An average devotee says, ‘God dwells in the heart as the Inner Master.’ The best devotee says, ‘God alone is and everything I perceive is a form of God.’” Ramakrishna

Ramakrishna was a spiritual leader in India in the early and mid 1800’s. He had a belief in the unity of God, an oneness of existence, the divinity of all living things and a harmony of religions. He felt religion was simply a means to accomplish a goal. I receive numerous emails of an inspirational nature each morning and this quote from a Hindu email I receive struck me. How often do we want to place our faith somewhere away, up there, out there, anywhere but here? How often do we limit our faith to a Sunday morning worship service? How often is our religious experience simply mouthing the traditional words in a traditional ritual?

“We also have a religion which has been given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. It teaches us to be thankful, to be united, and to love one another! We never quarrel about religion.” Red Jacket, Seneca orator

“We know that the God of the educated and the God of the child, the God of the civilized and the God of the primitive, is after all the same God; and that this God does not measure our differences, but embraces all who live rightly and humbly on the earth.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, Santee Sioux

I have read extensively in Native American and Eastern philosophies and I have seen many similarities between the Eastern thought and Native American beliefs and philosophies. I am not trying to advertise but a good inspirational book “The Wisdom of the Native Americans” which is an edited volume of Native thought is edited by Kent Nerburn and is a collection of thoughts and ideas that can give a wonderful insight into a new day.
I walked out and watched the sunrise this morning sitting and listening as the light came into the world with a slow rising plume of smoke from a sage leave as a companion. I wish I were more awake I am still recovering from the five dog night of two nights ago where every hour during the storm our dog wanted out only to run back in as soon as the thunder rolled. It was around three this morning a loud bird was singing off in the distance and still a few doves cooing and calling. At four this morning owls and whippoorwills joined in as well as a few tree frogs. At five this morning as I pulled into the school there was a chorus of crickets, frogs, birds, and who knows what else but nearly melodic. Always interesting as I pull into school with no one here it is quiet and peaceful for a few hours before the deluge of students and teachers arrive.
I came into school today to sort and clean my room, feed critters and work on research for various projects for graduate school and for my classes that I am working on. I have been developing for several years my own collection of writings and spend a few moments in-between as a break working on those as well. Mornings are a good time for me to think and write as my thought processes seem more keen and sharp. One of my “friends” tells me it is old age, as by afternoon I tend to forget names.
It has been many years since I was youth director of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Macon Georgia. I had my 23rd birthday in that capacity so many years ago, nearly thirty five years now. Sitting on my shelf at the house is a Living Bible I received as a birthday gift, as I look back how appropriate in its name. This book is alive with notes, thoughts, and pictures from people along the way, even phone numbers and under lined verses with various kids’ autographs as they would select their favorites. Occasionally I will open this old bible and spill out the tidbits and reflect on days gone by, on philosophies changed and evolved. It had been many years since I called one of the numbers in the inside cover written nearly forty years ago. Back then Katharine was a high school student and a regular in our group. She is the one that gave me that bible for my birthday those many years ago. That call was a spur of the moment thought. I found she was in Europe at that time doing work in Bosnia for a mission board based out of Africa. As I opened up my emails a day or two later I read through and sorted deleting spam and junk messages and how this one caught my attention.

“I am in Dili, East Timor now still working with Catholic Relief Services. In this rather “gypsy” life I lead of moving in and out of remote and often isolated places, it is very nice to know that I still have links with people I have known for more than 30 years. However, as it happens, in this life we also face challenges with email communication … I love getting the Bird Droppings daily, but with the very limited access we have here to send, download and receive, I am afraid that I am going to have to ask you to take me off your list-serve. I can only get to email about once a week and downloading large documents that come daily really does slow down the whole system. I work and pray daily for peace and healing… please hold that thought for me. A note now and then would be fine and appreciated. Wishing you all the best and peace.” Katherine Pondo

We now keep in touch through a blog I write to. I speak often of the puzzle of our lives falling into place piece by piece each little intricate facet interconnecting to the next. Today as I sit writing and thinking of all the pieces over the years all the lives intertwined I offer this morning that when you get a chance to keep the Katherine Pondo’s of the world in your hearts and thoughts as often they are on the front lines of humanity trials and tribulations. Looking back over my wanderings today this is a small world and we so often try and segregate, delegate, and relegate belief. Over the past years religion has sparked political battles and upheavals. I honestly do not think Ramakrishna as he thought of harmony among religions would have foreseen the drama and often fighting that exists because of religion. So today please as always keep those in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

A beginning from an end

Bird Droppings March 28, 2011
A beginning from an end

“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Albert Einstein

Over the past two days it seems nightly storms have come through and amazingly our grand daughter has slept through them. Our dog is another story waking up at the first crack of thunder. It was about four years back a good friend dropped by for a couple days. This was the first time he had been back in this area for nearly three years. In our course of topics as we talked late into the evening on two nights was the idea of teaching as an art form. We talked about views on life and how so often I have on occasions seen things others have not. Wandering around as I do looking for pictures to take often images others would pass up. One of our discussions over breakfast we talked about intuition and empathy as crucial aspects of being a good teacher.
Another topic was how so often in life we tend to view daily happenings as mundane and yet in that moment of the mundane miracles are happening. In our backyard we have since we have moved here put in numerous flower beds in one bed we have several ferns along with angel trumpet plants and several other flowering shrubs. However one bed is special nearly every flower attracts hummingbirds. Coincidentally we planted petunias last year around the edge and I was pulling dead flowers off when I heard a loud humming buzzing sound. I was being dive bombed by a hummingbird. My wife had me place a hummingbird feeder in the tree which centers the bed. The hummingbird food was constantly getting gone and I had just refilled it, it has become one of my jobs to keep feeders filled come summer time. It will not be too long till they are back from Mexico and as I look up hearing the buzzing I will see hummingbirds feeding directly beside me and who knows maybe this year I will get a good picture.
When I sit each morning and write about fireflies dancing across the edge of my world in my back yard or whippoorwills echoing through the dawn and dusk it is recognizing the mundane in life. Should I not be hearing they will still be calling and should I not be watching the fireflies will still light the night? My own view is still limited by darkness and my own vision and my own perception. I try and instill in my students to look past images everyone else sees and try and find that which is yours. I am saddened when a great idea and creative mind is silenced by peer pressure.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Friedrich Nietzsche

For someone a thousand miles away it is only words that I write yet I see it and experience it and yet for someone here near by unless they are willing to rise at 3:00 AM they too will not see or hear what I see and hear. So in effect a writer offers glimpses of another experience another world to those willing to read. I offered as my friend and I talked it is about renewing our perception sharpening our senses to see and hear and feel more than we do today.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

Many considered Einstein to be an atheist for his very often blunt statements about religion, yet if you read very many of his nonscientific statements there is a spiritual aspect to them. He was an artist and a philosopher as well. Today is a day unlike most other days I have experienced with my friend talking many old thoughts and memories that we discussed years ago. Sitting and reminiscing about his days in seminary and choosing to go back to teaching and how that impacted his life. There is an end and a beginning of every journey and at one point I even asked him if he was in the right place now. Without blinking an eye he responded he was never happier and knew this was where he was meant to be now in his life journey as I know I am where I am too be for now.

“We do not chart and measure the vast field of nature or express her wonders in the terms of science; on the contrary, we see miracles on every hand – the miracle of life in seed and egg, the miracle of death in a lightening flash and the swelling deep.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Eastman, Santee Sioux

Perhaps one day I can sit idle as I started thinking a few moments ago and rock on my front porch, but not today. For now I crave that thought process and questioning and curiosity of learning and teaching. Whenever I drive through Kentucky I can not help but think of Daniel Boone finding his way in for him a wilderness and yet for Native Americans of that place it was home not a wilderness. Even in that day trails and pathways were worn from the passage of moccasin feet.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” Albert Einstein

In a paper for graduate school a year or so ago I referenced my recent experience, as some what of a clearing of a haze from things I had forgotten. It was as if things were clarifying from many years ago. Often what is learned is not just from books but from experiencing, living, seeing and believing. Each day I travel a road many others have journeyed on and many others have succeeded in going beyond that road. Yet it is new to me each day for I choose to see more than the day before. For me it is wilderness opening new trails not yet approached by civilization. For me it is fresh and vibrant even though many see only the mundane and stale.
It might be in the flight and blinking of a firefly or the snort of breath as a buffalo crosses the pasture years ago, or the call of a whippoorwill off in the trees. It may be in the feather left for me as a hawk soared through the sky. I recall a movie where the start and end was nothing more than a piece of fluff blowing about until it gained import with Forest Gump and was placed in a special place in his life. We do not know from moment to moment how someone will react to anything we do or say or write. I spoke with my friend about interconnections and how this is the art of our existence. It is in the perception, the seeing, feeling and hearing of our own heart beat.
I ran into a former student yesterday. She moved and happened by chance to be in our town as I was my favorite store Quick Trip. Seems she now lives in another county and will not be attending our school next year. She just wanted to say hi and in the conversation asked what do you teach everyone wants to know, it seems I have many students who just come by my room and officially are not in my classes. I told her on my door it states; Period One – The philosophy of learning about how and why we learn what we do, Period two – the same, Period three planning, and Period four again the same. She said that sounds interesting.
For nearly three years she wondered what I taught and wanted to be in my class. I would always respond you haven’t been in enough trouble yet. As she left after I explained Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, she said even though I wasn’t in your regular classes except for Biology in summer school I learned a lot. How is that for an ego boost?

By chance I was reading as I do and emailing my friend pointing out several websites and books. Two passages caught my attention as I end my writings today.

“On the basis of the belief that all human beings share the same divine nature, we have a very strong ground, a very powerful reason, to believe that it is possible for each of us to develop a genuine sense of equanimity toward all beings.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “The Good Heart

“Strength based in force is a strength people fear. Strength based in love is a strength people crave. It is as true today as it was then and as true for nations as it is for individuals. Unfortunately, too few of each are listening.” Kent Nerburn

Nerburn was addressing a friend’s comment about Viet Nam and those of us old enough to have been drafted and or serve in that time of war. Looking at the news and comments from politicians the past few days this passage from the Dalai Lama struck a chord with me. One of the things my friend and I did while he was hear was see each of my sons since my friend had been involved with them in youth work and music. Of course that included riding down to Georgia Tech and going for a campus tour in the Tech mascot, the Ramblin Wreck. Recently I was watching old videos and spending numerous hours with my sons catching up reminded me how significant today can be. Now I can end for this morning of storms is another week ahead so please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

We need LOVE

Bird Droppings March 27, 2011
We need LOVE

Sometimes we so easily use the word love. It gets used daily by many folks and yet do we truly have any conception of what it is we speak. I was just in a conversation and the word love came up, I responded how we each have our own understanding and definition of love. One of my favorite actors for many years has been the late Chief Dan George. He was a very devout man with a powerful faith and belief. I would like to share with you a passage in his words.

“My friends, how desperately do we need to be loved and to love. When Christ said that man does not live by bread alone, he spoke of a hunger. This hunger was not the hunger of the body. It was for bread. He spoke of a hunger that begins down deep in the very depths of our being. He spoke of a need as vital as breath. He spoke of our hunger for love. Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we become weak and faint. Without it our self-esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we can no longer look out confidently at the world. We turn inward and begin to feed upon our own personalities, and little by little we destroy ourselves. With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it and with it alone we are able to sacrifice for others.” Chief Dan George

I will always remember this great man for his role as Lone Watti, side kick to Josie Wales played by Clint Eastwood in the film, The Outlaw Josie Wales.
I was reading an email in our high school group website several years back and I recalled this message from one of my former classmates. He was speaking about his father and his father’s death at 46 many years ago, and how he remembered now even though he is 56, his father always as being older then himself. I was thinking back my father is in his eighties and yet if I was asked to recall an image it would be in Pennsylvania many years ago I was maybe twelve or so and my father and I raced around the house. So many years ago and he was younger than I am now at that time.
It has been a few years since closed a portion to a year of graduate studies at Piedmont College. We were sitting around a room reflecting, a very powerful tool for teachers and non-teachers alike. Dr. Julie asked us to respond to cards we had written nearly a year previous. There were twenty in our cohort group. One by one she would read the cards we wrote those many days ago. We were to reply with our thoughts today. Had they changed? What was different? As a rule I tend to be very monastic. I do little socializing outside of family. For the past few years my spare time has been in graduate school but even aside from that I tend to not seek others company. But in reading and communicating that day to responses and often tearful ones at that so much had happened within our group in a year’s time. I go back to Chief Dan George’s words:

“With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it and with it alone we are able to sacrifice for others.” Chief Dan George

It is so easy to say love. But it is far more difficult to truly show it. We went from a group of various assundery individuals to a very creative, tireless, and willing to sacrifice for others cohort. Was it love that bound us together? I put together a slide show for a presentation. I said in my ten minute talk such things as friendship, philosophy, and cohort, all big words in and of themselves. But as I look at the affects of a year’s interaction I do believe Dan George had it right it takes love.
I was sitting earlier outside wondering about the next few hours and moments, thinking about the days ahead and beyond. It was quiet outside virtually no sound and no breeze so still. I could hear my own breathing and almost hear the smoke from my sage and sweet grass floating off towards the sunrise. It has been many years since a friend left me a gift of a smudge stick essentially incense, made of sage and cedar which got me started. I was watching the smoke waft for lack of better terms it would go up and then circle and then almost pause with no wind or air current it hung near almost in a protective sort of way. I would blow on the embers and in doing so move the smoke.
I had started writing this today before I went outside but as I thought love is like that smoke it is there awaiting our interaction, our acknowledgment and acceptance. However it is through our example others than can experience love. I am wandering a bit pondering as usual. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

Finding our piece or place in Life

Bird Droppings March 25, 2011
Finding our piece and or place in Life

I went out into the cold morning air seemed winter snuck back in last night the temperature was about forty degrees after feeling like springtime for several weeks now. The super moon is waning and about half is left and was on the rise around three this morning as I stood looking at the sky in the morning chill. Many memories flooded back as I stood pondering.

“We are not all called to be great. But we are called to reach out our hands to our brothers and sisters, and to care for the earth in the time we are given” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

Many years ago walking along a path leading from my neighbors home down to ours maybe a quarter of a mile away I came to realize we are all here with purpose. At that time this was just an isolated thought walking as I did everyday after school or walking up to my friends house on “the path” as we called it. On one side were fruit trees and a patch of pines planted on an area of a transcontinental oil pipe line. The other side of “the path” was grown over in sassafras and dogwood so that every spring time my walk would be trimmed in flowers. It was a random thought and one that filled my mind, we all had purpose.
For nearly fifty years since that moment my journey has been one of learning understanding of that purpose in my own life and trying to assist as I can others to find their own meaning.

“Each of our acts makes a statement as to our purpose.” Leo Buscaglia

“The purpose of man is in action not thought.” Thomas Carlyle

I have talked and written often of the journey as I think of my own personally it often is traveling that path in Coatesville Pennsylvania walking between fruit trees and dogwoods as I would think. As I think back to Kent Nerburn’s passage our calling as Nerburn states is reaching out and caring for in our time that which surrounds us. For many years as I was growing up I thought purpose was something great, some noble act that I would do or attain at some point in my life.

“Men achieve certain greatness unawares, when working to another aim.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose in life is to collaborate for a common cause; the problem is nobody seems to know what it is.” Gerhard Gschwandtner

We often do not know and are unaware of what it is. Too often we search so diligently we miss what is right in front of us.

“Multitudes of people, drifting aimlessly to and fro without a set purpose, deny themselves such fulfillment of their capacities, and the satisfying happiness which attends it. They are not wicked, they are only shallow. They are not mean or vicious; they simply are empty — shake them and they would rattle like gourds. They lack range, depth, and conviction. Without purpose their lives ultimately wander into the morass of dissatisfaction. As we harness our abilities to a steady purpose and undertake the long pull toward its accomplishment, rich compensations reward us. A sense of purpose simplifies life and therefore concentrates our abilities; and concentration adds power.” Kenneth Hildebrand

“For many people purpose is a mote point they choose to simply exist and drift aimlessly wandering about lost. It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.” Mary O’Connor

“To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.” Friedrich Nietzsche

As I look even those who seek no purpose in life have purpose unbeknownst to them and it is integral with all others surrounding them. It took many years for me to break away from being the central focus of my own purpose seeking to understanding we all are integral and all are pieces in the puzzle and each facet does fit together.

“Why do I not seek some real good one which I could feel, not one which I could display?” Seneca

“Be not simply good; be good for something.” Henry David Thoreau

Many years ago I recall on a field trip in a class on Human development while a student in a small college in Plano Texas. We went on a field trip to a state mental hospital. In those days, 1968 as my son says “back in the day”; many disabled children and adults spent their entire lives in residential centers. They were wards of the state. We went through units of children with Downs Syndrome and brain injuries, children and adults that really did not look much different than we did. We then came to a unit that was filled with clear plastic containers much like you see in a nursery in a hospital delivery unit and each container had tubes going to it and IV bottles hung along side.
As we walked through I was 17 at the time observing and looking at people some infant size, few weighed more than forty pounds all were nearly adult in age that were here but all had significant brain dysfunction and were non-mobile and were turned every few hours to keep from getting bed sores. The tubes of nutrition and fluids kept them alive. What was their purpose? Years later as I attended seminary and visited again a state hospital this time in Georgia a similar room except this time three young pastors to be were the ones in attendance as they walked through. I went to a meeting shortly thereafter and the focus was on the children in the clear plastic tubs. The conversation turned to how they couldn’t do anything for them and they were over whelmed that these kids were lost to the lord.

“It is the wise person who sees near and far as the same, does not despise the small or value the great” Chuang Tzu

Perhaps the easiest explanation as I see is my brother John who was born with severe brain injury, he was born with CP Cerebral Palsy. John never attained academics, language, and even potty training was not in his realm of learning. John really never accomplished much that is what some would say. But when you pull an individual piece from the puzzle it is simply a piece but connected with its facets and other pieces and it makes a whole and the image is most clear.
Many people because of working with John went on into Special Education and teaching. One good friend went into prison psychology and is currently a school psychologist at an alternative school. Each person that came into contact with him was moved in one way or another. As I look back on my seminary group and those guys who found nothing around them in actuality there were nurses, doctors, and family that were in need and the piece the child in the tub that daily touched many people each day and it was the connections that they did not see. All they ever saw was that one tiny piece. Finding purpose is seeing the facets and the interconnections and that we are all pieces in a puzzle still coming together. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

All in a name

Bird Droppings March 24, 2011
All in a name

On February 3, 2003 I officially started titling my daily emailing and blogging, Bird Droppings. I went back in my files and pulled up a few old thoughts and ideas. As I was reading the local paper today a street poll was included asking locals about gas prices. In a morning of memories I recalled an email from my mother about starting a gas war. It was a forward from my uncle to my mother. A simple concept we as consumers stop buying gas from the two biggest gas companies and only buy from smaller ones which will drive pricing down. Idea was emailing to 30 people this idea which gets mailed to 30 more, sort of pyramid gas war tactics.
I t was in 2001 roughly I started using the name Bird Droppings and put out several issues of newsletters under that name and sitting here this morning with my tea mug in hand actually it is sitting on the desk at school beside me typing an email out. I thought at the time “Bird Droppings” a good title and subject. Looking back to that day in 2003 much was occurring around the nation as NASA tried to pick up pieces of a space shuttle and sort out the disaster that happened over east Texas. These explorers chose their profession and knew the risks one crew member being remembered by a cousin said she would prefer to die in space doing what she loved. Space was a passion for each member of the crew; it was about the searching and inquiry.
I can remember the Challenger accident nearly 22 years ago before some of you were even born. It was a shock just as this tragedy was. But as a brother of a Challenger crew member said the morning “after their work continues”. Often events in our lives make no sense at that point of happening and later clarify as we go further into the journey. There is really no solace to a family when a loved one is lost even when you knew the risks they were involved in. It is the thoughts and assurances of friends and family that can make the pain bearable.
A number of years ago my brother died during the night in his sleep. When I received the call at work I was in shock and hurried to my parent’s home. Within moments calls and emails and faxes began to arrive from around the world from my parent’s friends and family. That support made that moment so much easier to bear. Back in 2007 with the death of my father in-law and my won father the support of friends and family eased the pain and passing. I recall that day in February 2003 and was running a bit late that morning as I listened to the news and watching a nation morn seven heroes.
Today I found a quote that for some may not apply and for others who knows, as I do each day. Many years ago I read a series of books written by an anthropologist about his studies of herbal medicine among the Yaqui Indians of Mexico. Being a hobbyist botanist and student of medicinal plants and herbs I have always been fascinated with his writings. He eventually found his way to a medicine man that used the Anglo name of Don Juan. After a number of trips and many years Castaneda became an apprentice to Don Juan in his efforts to become a Yaqui Medicine man. Carlos Castaneda wrote of the trials and tribulations of his adventure and studies and his books are used in many classes as case studies still today even though his research has been shown to be fiction in many instances.

“We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.”
Carlos Castaneda

One of the simple truths he found in his studies under Don Juan was how much we ourselves are directly involved in our own situation. That sounds simple but so often we blame the world around us for our plight. A student of life can only blame themselves for all choices made they are ours and no one else’s to make. So in effect we make ourselves happy or sad and only we can redirect the pathway. Those heroic astronauts who gave their lives they could have chosen another path a simpler path and less risky path, but they wanted and chose the direction and they were on and where they were to be. We now can choose how to continue their journey ending in a crash or building upon that and going beyond the stars. Remember the families of those brave men and women who died and keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and always seek peace.
namaste
bird