Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

Bird Droppings April 15, 2011
Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil, The Need for Roots

I saw this idea this morning as I was scrolling through thoughts saved over the days and the concept caught me, being rooted. I am in the middles of planting seeds and new annuals in my herb garden and gardening references are big with me right at the moment. I had a student not understand the concept of pedigree yesterday. She was totally lost as I tried to explain how we can look at the family tree of a given animal, person, and or plant and see the various traits we should end up with in the off spring. I have been intrigued with students taking this idea a bit further recently, many have little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma let alone where they might have originated from. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp for many folks so entwined in today and the immediate.

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots and or your past. Interesting in light of the news media and current stories, traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep people going. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence, I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to heritage, or to tradition, they are not grounded and anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be escape, wanting away from, to distant from as Lawrence advocates.

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead

Noted anthropologist Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have stripped away by our constant boxing up inside. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society. So in effect we are being told how, what, when and why on just about everything.

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

Thinking as to how politicians on both sides of the fence play to this concept I thought back many years to my tenth grade literature class, it was 1965 to be exact. We read at that time a controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”, you were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried and to destroy family and traditions and roots, stripping away top soil laying bare to the hardpan of mans soul. Yet still with some people persistence, vigor, or will was still there.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

This is not just a modern day issue; Confucius raised questions 2000 years ago and used word integrity. It was about the integrity of the home. Perhaps this is the key. Solid roots can be found in integrity. Is it possible to look at people and judge their character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow? It has been a few years since I looked up EPD’s. I used to know what that meant, but in cattle it is the performance data and potential for that animal based on gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given specific traits you are looking for.

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I found a plausible answer. EPD’s work because someone cares enough to check very specifically. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. I was thinking in terms of End of course tests and graduation tests that we are using to measure effectiveness of teachers and education. In the cattle industry if all you used was the end data you would eventually go out of business. Just because a steer weighs a certain amount in so many days comparing to a test score at the end of a course does not mean you will make money or that that was a good steer. Based on national averages the weight is ideal but how long did it take to grow that steer out? How much feed conversion ratio to weight gain did that steer take? Was the steer’s mother able to raise the calf herself or require a surrogate? What is the actual quality of the finished carcass? Questions when applied to education become significant. What concepts and knowledge does this student retain five years after high school for example?
Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of I see on a daily basis. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately. So where do I go in this round about effort. We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding, little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today from a teacher or friend. It may be a hug or kind word or an ear to listen which costs us a few moments of time. But if we take some time to share and to care what sort of impact will we make. It was so quiet out this morning when I went out with my dog. Weather people are calling for a storm tonight which coincides with last the past two weeks on Fridays nights just we have friends and family coming into town. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

The infinity or confines of a circle

Bird Droppings April 14, 2011
The confines or infinity of a circle

Does a circle have a beginning and or an end? As learning begins often with a question so today a start and a beginning to my writing and thinking with a question. Many of the philosophies of life use comparisons to circles as a visual tool to simplify what is being said. Native American truth is often found centered and focused on a circle. When I taught summer school or resource Biology I use Disney’s Lion King as a base for the circle of life. The movie even has a theme song to that name.

“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Sioux Holy man

I started a book recently again for the tenth time at least, “The Tao of teaching” based on eastern philosophy of the Tao, a circle essentially. I bought the book nearly eight years ago and have returned to it numerous times for thoughts. As I stood talking with students in the hall way just before school let out I was watching the circle move. Something that most of the thinking leaves out is that a circle is fluid there is movement. While described within a confined space of a circle as Black Elk speaks of seasons changing in a circular motion, people move in a pattern, a circle in life perhaps confined yet fluid always moving, continuing, changing, yet staying the same.

“It seemed that each time we would become proficient at a given task there would be a change made for no apparent reason. It sometimes appeared that changes were made simply because sufficient time had elapsed since the last change. And then our efforts would begin again from the beginning.” General Adalphos

In learning is it change or simply movement, the fluidness of life as we step from a basic knowledge to complex thinking beyond instead of within is that a circular motion which then raises up another question. I do think it is funny; recently it is the questions that provide the learning as we ask a question we generate more, in Socratian method. Just as the great teacher and philosopher used questions, we in our answers produce questions from the original question.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

“We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

It is the seeking of answers that is learning and that is the change that occurs in man. That which raises us up and provides what we need to be more than we were yesterday is how we gain knowledge. I sat and discussed Ansell Adams with a student and watched as I do responses among other students one or two had a clue what was going on some were not aware a discussion was taking place and one was yawning bored. As I watched and observed even in the context of a discussion the child who was bored was not bored from knowing about what was being said but because they did not even hear or try to hear what was being said. They had set limits themselves on their world boundaries had been put them in place to avoid change or to lessen the chance a question will or could be asked shy of can I go to the bathroom?

“Life has got a habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it like you find it. You got to change with it. If a day goes by that don’t change some of your old notions for new ones that are just about like trying to milk a dead cow.” Woody Guthrie

In a recent seminar on teaching the comparison to trying to ride a dead horse was used. Trying to milk a dead cow I like better. You can actually sit on a dead horse at least for a while till it falls over, but no matter how hard you try a dead cow won’t give milk. For those of you who are folk music buffs, Woody Guthrie is considered one of the founding fathers of folk music in the US. He traveled the country hobo style writing songs of the depression and dust bowl looking for answers and asking questions.

“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

Look for questions in your answers as we start a new week and for me a day one of six more weeks before summer. In reading the news this morning it seems little is positive in a crazy world. So as I have for quite a few years now please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

A few days misse and an extremely long weekend

Bird Droppings April 13, 2011
A few days missed and an extremely long weekend

On Friday April 13, 2008 I was driving and actually did not just forget to write my thoughts down but literally could not. I drove down to Statesboro Georgia to get approval of my course of study for my doctorial work and verify with my advisor my dissertation topic. I had a great session with my advisor and began selecting my committee for my Comprehensive Examinations and my Dissertation. As we met and as I do often when in a new office or study I looked at the numerous book titles and began to formulate who and what this person was about. I was comfortable as I saw many titles that are on my own shelves. I was introduced to a possible committee member just down the hall and she accepted the invitation and we talked for nearly an hour again with on her shelves very similar books and thinking about education that were scattered through my own.
So often I speak of coincidence, it was this way as that day unfolded and I met people and finally had dinner with my son in Macon Georgia and then drove the last hundred miles back to our home. That Friday as my advisor and I discussed educational psychology and the different kinds of measuring of data, intuition came up several times in our discussion. However intuition and coincidence it seems are difficult commodities to evaluate, this point was made several times as we talked about education and various educational programs. I have for so many years believed to the marrow of my bones however that intuition is crucial to being a good or great teacher.
It was nearly a hundred years ago that Carl Jung split with his then partner Sigmund Freud over similar matters and coined the word synchronicity. Just before school was out for the holiday as I was talking and it does seem I never stop, I was drawn to the front door of my room at school and as I stepped out a friend passed by exactly as I stepped to the door. A friend with a problem, had I been a few seconds later a moment later and that friend would have passed by. I was drawn to the door like a moth to a flame. Was I meant to interfere to get involved in a problem or simply to offer advice or questions? So is this a coincidence, a chance happening, or synchronicity perhaps?

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

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

I sit here wondering which direction we go as we try and unravel the human condition that frail substance about which we have evolved from. Can we separate out and categorize analyze and postulate at what makes us human versus a pack animal or simply a herding animals as some sociologists would suggest.

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

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

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

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

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

It is how we choose that is important, each day for several years since I began this endeavor I have talked of the journey in life. I have used as a screen saver until recently an image of my son crossing a stream in North Georgia, stepping stone by stone across a rippling, rolling stream. In the photo my son is soaking wet and could have just as easily walked in the stream and avoided falling from the rocks. He was wet already but he choose to step on the slippery rocks, the challenge for him was doing it, making the journey not simply getting to his destination.

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

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

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

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

Going from a single person’s problem to that of the North Slope of Alaska may seem a stretch. But as we journey in life we essentially do not get to replay our hand once we lay the cards upon the table. A few nights back by chance somewhere before four in the morning I was reading and old National Geographic and how the oil fields are so enticing in the Wilds of Alaska. Greedy people see only the money; they say jobs and energy will abound to entice others. Then another group sees a loss of habitat, wildlife and wilderness that can never be replaced. In a similar article again in National Geographic the discovery of a new gold strike in another wilderness area. Most of us are unaware of the biological implications of gold mining. Mining for gold destroys land and processing the rock aggregate creates vast amounts of toxic waste as mercury is one of the most popular separators used. Another amazing coincidence this morning I could not pull this up it had literally disappeared as I was downloading my data from one drive to a new larger drive and as I went back my Bird Dropping was just on the new drive and not still on the computer. So this middle of the new week after Spring Break for me I will head to school, teach to those willing to learn, and after mow grass, plant a few plants in my herb garden, put out some fertilizer on my blueberries and feed the hummingbirds that seem to love our back yard. But for now this is a good reminder that maybe we should be looking for peace my friends and have a good day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Is your imagination out of focus?

Bird Droppings April 12, 2011
Is your imagination out of focus?

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Years ago I saw this quote and as I was watching my own young children with Lego blocks as they were growing up and then seeing a pile of Lego blocks change in their hands to cars and houses and castles and dinosaurs it truly hit home. I have used Lego at times as a tool to get the thinking process going with students. I usually would start by placing a pile of blocks on a table and saying, ok be creative. It is amazing what transpires it seems that sometimes the little kid comes out and in others a vast out pouring of creativity and imagination as blocks are placed together to create castles, cars and monsters. Teachers and adults often have a more difficult time getting started on this exercise. We tend to want to start with a red block or a square block and spend our time sorting through the pile rather than just creating.

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.” Lewis Carroll

I was sitting here thinking about Foxfire after reading several reflections from students in a former graduate class I had help teach at Piedmont College. Most teaching techniques require memory of items those things that are the content of the course and this is where and how you are assessed as a teacher and or student. Sadly it is not on how you use or can use that information in the real world around you. Years ago John Dewey focused on experience and how we use our experiences in education. The object was building on past experience and supplementing with current information and new material. I recall several years ago teaching Biology in summer school. Vocabulary is crucial as it is in any of the science classes in today’s world of testing. In many of the sciences the words are literally changing daily. In the most high school science books there are about three hundred vocabulary words. In preparing for today’s testing environment step one is know those words. Surprisingly if you know the vocabulary that will give you answers to seventy four percent of the questions on final exam for example in Biology.
Now the more difficult part is giving context to those words and bringing life to a Biology class which just happens to be the study of life. I used daily pre-quizzes and post-quizzes on vocabulary that last summer I taught Biology. Then I intermingled experiments and even outdoor activities tying it all together. An example is taxonomy which is a key word. I had a salamander and a lizard side by side for observation and research and this exercise we would do can have students remembering the differences between amphibians and reptiles for a lifetime. Once a teacher commented and said that is a great idea but they did not have access to lizards and salamanders. I asked, that teacher why not as I was holding a leopard gecko (a lizard). Amazingly that teacher never once asked to borrow my gecko or salamander. It is a great idea but it needs implementing.

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.” Muhammad Ali
I recall the mystique of Ali in his prime watching news releases and his fights so many years ago. I enjoyed listening to the banter with his good friend and featured commentator Howard Cosell back and forth it wasn’t for several years that it came out Cosell and Ali were very close friends.

“My alphabet starts with this letter called yuzz. It’s the letter I use to spell yuzz-a-ma-tuzz. You’ll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond ‘Z’ and start poking around! “Theodor Geisel

A few years back Stan Bernstein of “The Bernstein Bears” fame passed away. Over 200 books were written and illustrated by Stan and Jan, husband and wife, a children’s book team effort for real. However as I read the review of Stan’s death the story mentioned that their first book was published with a Children’s book editor at Random House Theodor Geisel who a few years later would be more so know as Dr. Seuss.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Michelangelo

As legends go it is said Michelangelo would wander the quarries for days searching for blocks of marble not with a vision in mind of what he wanted to carve but looking for images within the blocks. The famous block of stone that became the statue of David and a single piece that would become his most famous and his only signed piece “The Pieta” took many days to for the great master sculptor to see.

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” George S. Patton

I was thinking what if everyone did think alike in a war situation you would know immediately what the enemy was doing or on a football field immediately what the offense was doing so in effect there would be no winners and no losers and a rather drab game.

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” Edgar Allan Poe

It was a few years ago I met over the phone a fellow who believed himself to be the incarnation of Edgar Allan Poe. It was most interesting as he looked the part as well. He too was a poet and writer of sorts but his income came from his gift as he called it. He was an idiot savant and could instantly compose a poem using your name as an acronym with each letter of you name starting the line of a poem and the poem then describing your personality. This was most weird to watch I have a video somewhere showing him being interviewed at Tufts University by the psychology department in amazement. However he always needed a starting point a sort of a mental kick start.

“People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.” William Butler Yeats

“Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.” Jessamyn West

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” Mark Twain

So often we only think of artists writers and such as having imagination and yet we tend to stifle it in children by ridding the world of imaginary friends and wanting only reality as it may be, to be where and how children see and do. Let’s take away the Legos and only allow TV and video games.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau would walk for days through his world seeing and meeting people learning daily about life and humanity and his beloved nature.

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” Carl Sagan

Without imagination we would still be working on a flat map of the world concerned about sailing off and doing it without the use of light bulbs and Microsoft word and hybrid cars and plastics and polymers and so many things

“I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.” Pablo Picasso

Several of the great artists are studied in psychology as you can see in their work their slips from reality – Van Gogh as he rapidly dissipated into his own world – but in turn in his art we see how he thought as Picasso says.

“They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.” Francis Bacon

Sir Francis Bacon was not to far remove from the day when everyone thought the earth was flat and if you could see no land well do not go there for you will sail off the edge. I wonder what was over the edge. Each day we so often try and stay cozy in our box of our own reality and much like sailing over the edge there is so much outside the box. I remember one of the greatest toys of all time is those giant cardboard refrigerator boxes. They had so much more room to play in. But while we are content to do often with a bigger box, it is still a box until our imagination makes it into a castle or car. We sort of live in a world where we are much like hermit crabs when we outgrow our box we look for a bigger one still keeping the sanctity of the box. Now serious individuals are much like the hermit crab that carries along stinging sea anemones on its shell and when it outgrows a shell it moves but then moves the anemones as well. Those stinging anemones are to keep predators away and new ideas. If you need a box use a transparent one and or permeable membrane so you can see and hear and feel what really is there and for today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Perhaps my favorite store

Bird Droppings April 11, 2011
Perhaps my favorite store

It is the first time this year I needed my alarm to wake up in the morning. I am a bit out of my normal routine perhaps after a week of spring break. Interesting two thoughts while similar struck me this morning as I started the day out. One I heard on the radio going to get gas for my wife yesterday afternoon from a radio announcer recalling an old Bush quote, and the other thought is from perhaps a favorite of many as book series go, Harry Potter. All of this and a later a trip or I should say my daily trip to the giant Kroger near our house, my favorite store. All these and school starts again. What a glorious day ahead?

“It is not about the goods we accumulate but about the good we do” George W. Bush

“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” Professor Dumbledore to Harry in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by J.K. Rowling

I wish it would be possible to believe the first, but with through most of his term as president he was trying to drill for oil in wilderness Alaska and off shore in Florida and other parts of the country and friends in high places were reaping huge profits and a war costing trillions of dollars that was bogus from many people’s standpoints. War efforts accumulation seems more important than doing any sort of good. Of course the philosophy of the ends justifies the means could possibly be applied. That was sort of the approach when the last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati zoo and some people had the attitude well it’s only a pigeon.
Sadly once there were billions flying over the forests of the east coast, and yes it is only a pigeon except we can never at this time replicate that one, it is gone. The Alaska wilderness when it is gone is gone can never be replicated as well but if the end justifies it many people see no problem. However as I sat this morning, perhaps a better brighter thought from J.K. Rowling thorough the character of Dumbledore “it is our choices that show who we really our”. I wonder how soon Harry Potter books will be classics and teachers will be analyzing the plots and developing theories as to why Rowling characterized Harry as a boy or teenager and why an owl as his companion versus a weasel.
I recall eleventh or twelfth grade English with our teacher Ms. Stern and “Moby Dick”, according to her the ship represented the world and Ishmael, in his journey in life got stuck on that ship since he was the wanderer. What was Melville really telling us besides a great story and one of the best history’s of the short lived New England whaling industry? I really enjoyed the story but not the analysis and when I wrote my opinion, it was wrong according to Ms. Stern. Many years ago choices we make not our abilities was the credo.

”Ability is of little account without opportunity.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“The first requisite for success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.” Thomas A. Edison

It is also about being at the right place at the right time the synchronicity that I have referred to so many times or is it simply the choice we make. It is also about applying and choosing when opportunity provides a window and then plot thickens.

“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.” Elbert Hubbard

Humility is an added aspect of today’s search seeing in others that ability which h I consider almost an intuitive aspect of our humanity.

“The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.” Booker T. Washington

This morning as I was being lazy albeit the alarm and getting started later than normal well I had been enjoying spring break so I read several emails. One spoke of realizing school was nearing the end and graduation was only a few weeks ahead and now they would have to make a way in life. In that same email concern for a friend stationed in the Middle East. Watching the news doesn’t give justice to friends and families with loved ones overseas in harm’s way, as I think back to the choices we make. I received a message from my youngest son reminding me to not fax a form for him for his nursing school application when I get to school lastly another email with a suggestion of a book to read. Three emails of 70 or so from last night and yesterday that truly caught my attention.
I started with a Bush quote and maybe that applies to a job search as well. So many of the following what we do with our lives is our choice how the world will see that choice is dependent upon the direction and choices we make as we proceed. It is not the ability that you will be known for or how great an actor or musician or football player but what you do with your talent is what is seen. Family is so crucial and friends equally as well and always seek to learn to know more about what we do through reading, writing, thinking and reflecting.

“If there were no writers there will be no readers” unknown source

“Choose wisely”, it has been said and in the end some do and some will not. So today take stock of where you are and look at the road ahead and pick that path way that will direct you where you need to be.

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

In today’s hectic world we all look for quick solutions, five minute abs, six minutes to wisdom, and a one minute egg. Wisdom is not on the stock exchange, it is not a brokered commodity. It is there, and it is a journey. The journey is not an easy one and to be involved in finding wisdom only those who actually travel that road will truly become wise.

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

Several nights ago I was bored no American Idol, NCIS or House and I put on a video of Star Trek of all things, “Star Trek Insurrection”. The plot revolves around a planet where all is at peace this is an old one. The few residents, all 600 or so have forsaken technology for art, or literature, for the aesthetics in life and for all that they can make of themselves. Interestingly a weaver studies 40 years to become an apprentice and apprentice another 40 to become a master weaver of rugs and tapestries. These people live n a planet whose innate radiation prolongs life and rejuvenates them cellular so they have time to accomplish what it is inside them. It sounds so easy when the time allows it.
Daniel Day Lewis, actor took a break from acting to be a cobbler taking a five year hiatus from movies to study cobbling, (shoe making) in Europe from the masters. As the Star Trek movie progressed a comment was made about that prefect moment, a special moment that stands out above all else. Captain Pickard mentioned seeing earth from space for the first time, many astronauts recall that moment as they tell of their exploits. For me it was a sunrise over the Atlantic one morning on Cumberland Island one of the Georgia Barrier Islands with the waves splashing about and the most brilliant reds and oranges I have ever seen. A shrimp boat slowly moved through this picture yet in its awesomeness the boat was insignificant.
As Pickard spoke with this woman on this planet of a perfect moment she then offered now to learn to make every moment perfect and the movie continued and soon he was seeing a hummingbird flit to a flower or the pollen blown from a flower.

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am always intrigued as I read various thoughts on wisdom and for some reason I am always drawn to Emerson. He was always controversial yet perhaps one of the greatest thinkers as well as poets of his time. He was alluding to wisdom as a temporary entity in his statement. The next quote is an interesting statement from a President often who was misunderstood

“Wisdom oft times consists of knowing what to do next.” Herbert Clark Hoover

“Wisdom begins at the end.” Daniel Webster

So often we spend time simply doing, not seeking, we spend time worrying about which path to travel or preparing our needs for the journey and worrying about the destination. We forget to go and there we are no better and no worse, only we are where we were to start still. Somewhere in among all things is the destination but the destination is not necessarily the end but a point B of a line AB and still out there is C and D and E and much more. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your thoughts.

Pondering so many things on the last day of Spring Break

Bird Droppings April 9, 2011
Pondering so many things on the last day of Spring Break

Last night I went back over some notes from one of my numerous posts in my graduate school online class site. We had a reading from a paper on a program that was developed in the mid 1980’s in California. The program with one teacher in one school was so successful they as a school board decided to implement across the district. Some saw the AVID program like so many great efforts becoming a packaged canned program for anyone to implement. As I read the article and thought in terms of my own long range plans.
I want to teach college and train teachers in my later years. One question that has perplexed me is how we teach a student in an education program to teach for example, this AVID program. We can provide all the tools, forms, calculators, notebooks with cool logos, a special room, and anything else needed to implement the program. My question is will it work? As I read my own posts and many of the others I found myself commenting on a singular attribute. We can emulate the program and replicate a million copies of notes and details but we cannot emulate the passionate teacher who developed the program. How do we get new teachers to emulate the great ones and as well be creative and imaginative in their own right?
I thought back to an incident in 2003. I recall very clearly how my son just went to bed after working on his computer all night and was telling me to get more sleep as I was getting up, it was about 3:30 AM. The previous day as I gave out an assignment one of the aspects in the assignment was to ask five questions about the topic that was chosen and proceed to answer them. One particular student, who happened to drum in a band, thought he could choose something he “knew about” and be done. He of course chose drums, I should have known and the question was where did drums originate? His answer was so simple he thought, Africa.
I asked him a few questions to get him going, when, what country, how long ago, what were they made of and are you sure it was Africa. I was being a bit mean as he had spent at least four minutes on his topic and questions. He proceeded to change his topic because drums were too hard. This was not a dumb kid by any stretch of the imagination but extremely lazy. Each time his one word answer would be met with additional questions as I explained you are answering a question but not really answering it. More often than not I explained when giving a simple quick answer it only gives a very limited piece of information. For example Africa is a huge country. I went a different direction for a few minutes with him. Where did the light bulb originate? I said answering the United States leaves so much out.

“The lazier a man is, the more he plans to do tomorrow.” Norwegian Proverb

As I thought about my student and readings and pondering I often wonder what makes us so lazy, myself included. Why do we have to have a quick solution or answer? Why can’t we look deeper anymore and it seems we live so superficially much like believing we can replicate a program by simply copying the notes. So much is missed by skimming along and only trying to finish or duplicate. For nearly twenty three years I worked in reproducing manuals for training programs, it is easy to produce a thousand manuals I used to be able to get a page count, binder size, number of tabs and if any four color was involved and how much and give a production time to the minute. But I also was on the development side and recall months of research and effort put in to provide the original manual.

“Man wants to live, but it is useless to hope that this desire will dictate all his actions.” Albert Camus

If we could channel energy used for selfish means and redirect perhaps changes could be served. Camus brings up one of the basic motivational premises of man’s survival. Many psychologists, authors and others have all started at this point. But what separates us from the lower primates? Watching high school students I wonder many times if survival is even a factor.

“Each today, well-lived, makes yesterday a dream of happiness and each tomorrow a vision of hope. Look, therefore, to this one day, for it and it alone is life.” Sanskrit Poem

When we can finish a day and look back and say well done the feeling and attitude that prevail can lift us into another. I am working on an idea which works around a behavior premise of antecedent, behavior, and consequence or more simply ABC. In all that we do behaviorists see an antecedent which leads up to a behavior but the behavior is also predicated by what will be the consequence. I raised the question to a friend of what if we could have ABABABAB where the antecedent leads to behavior which leads to a higher function of another antecedent and so forth almost in a way what I was trying to get my drummer to do. Socrates did it well answering questions with questions.

“He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” Lao-Tzu

“A bar of iron costs $5, made into horseshoes its worth is $12, made into needles its worth is $3500, made into balance springs for watches, its worth is $300, 000. Your own value is determined also by what you are able to make of yourself.” Source unknown

As I look back at the student seeking a one word answer for a lifelong question this quote came to mind. How often are we content to simply have the five dollars instead of a little work and the Three Hundred Thousand dollars? One aspect of learning and teaching is getting students to view effort as a positive thing not just work. Many teachers have not learned to recognize effort which often negates that attribute in some students.

“In this world, in order to enable society to develop, all its members have to assume responsibilities and make their contribution. If we do not make collective contributions then there will be no development.” The Dalai Lama, speaking to the Tibetan National Assembly in Dharamsala, May 1989

Each of us lives in a society, and or a community and as much as we choose so often to be individuals as well as we are members of and interact within that group. It is the vitality of that group the development and growth that is so intertwined with contributions physically, mentally, and spiritually of the members. Society exists because of these interactions which going back to the previously mentioned AVID program and or for example in my own experiences with the Foxfire program it is community that makes these programs succeed.

“Compare society to a boat. Her progress through the water will not depend upon the exertion of her crew, but upon the exertion devoted to propelling her. This will be lessened by any expenditure of force in fighting among themselves, or in pulling in different directions.” Henry George

We have to be working together moving in some direction and as humans do so often much time is wasted fighting, and arguing among ourselves and motion and growth is limited.

“The greatest difficulty with the world is not its ability to produce, but the unwillingness to share.” Roy L. Smith

Watching high school students form clicks or groups and adults forming clubs and social groups we tend to be a selfish animals. We look so to ourselves and what benefits us, limiting friends and such to a degree we box ourselves in. We may be sharing a simple task but so often it is really a distant one. TV humor even plays on this subject several times in old Seinfeld and Will and Grace Sitcoms, giving is a chore, a burden and the characters are literally parasitically instead of symbiotic. As I looked for quotes and thoughts this one in particular popped up.

“Societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do.” Ronald Wright

Wright was actually speaking literally, yet interestingly enough we of modern society while we do not literally eat people, we still psychologically, emotionally or sociologically destroy them. As I look at how we respond to others so often it is how we see ourselves indirectly.

“The most difficult thing we do is to not deal in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.” Mark Twain

In a recent project assignment several students simply “completed it” they did not finish the task but answered what they thought was the question, they just wanted done. Whether it was right or wrong, good or bad was not the issue it was over with.

“Until you value yourself you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck

I read this quote and saw an answer if you truly do not appreciate yourself your time has little if any value even when you are self absorbed in using it frivolously you simply are taking up time not using it. Guessing at answers to a test to simply get done or rushing through just to be over, still you wait just as the rest do so is there really any benefit, which always elicits my favorite catch phrase “I don’t care”. I think it should in bold letters read “ I really do not care about myself” As we enter the beginning of a new week our world is troubled and sore we are able if we try perhaps to make a difference even if in a small way. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.


Bird Droppings April 7, 2011

“Man can live for about forty days without food, and about three days without water, about eight minutes without air … but only for one second without hope.” Hal Lindsey

As I am lazy today and did not venture forth very early other than to take our trusted Westie out for a quick stroll I would say perhaps this is an exaggeration that man can last only one second without hope. Over the years I have worked with and counseled many and some were institutionalized for others safety as well as their own. Thinking back to discussion nearly forty years ago with inmates at Central State Hospital as I sat across the room from them doing counseling sessions hope was a word that never came up. So as I sit here with the new day’s sun streaming through the kitchen window and think about it when we lose hope so often there is nothing left to live for.

“If one truly has lost hope, one would not be on hand to say so.” Eric Bentley

We are head into a spring weekend in Georgia the weather is supposed to be fabulous all weekend. After that we start another week and for myself back to work after a spring break week off. It is an interesting feeling mixed emotions with a desire to get back to it and a desire to go lay back down and close my eyes for a few more hours sort of all at the same time. I have been spoiled being bale to nap and lay back down and really no schedule for the past week although I do have a laundry list of items to complete today from my wife. But as I sit thinking and wondering on this beautiful morning, a memory yesterday made me think about the word hope.

“To eat bread without hope is still slowly to starve to death.” Pearl S. Buck

My father now passed away was well into his eighties and had been periodically having urinary infections which cause his blood sugar to drop. When he was bottoming out on his sugar he would become very morose. As I talked with him on one of those days on one hand he was asking about our future my sons, my wife and I. But on the other hand how he was near the end of his time and he would refuse to eat and would only take a few sips of orange juice trying to raise his sugar.
While I was there a call came in from the visiting nurse and the recommendation was made to give him a few teaspoons of honey. My mother went in and told him she had some medicine for him and several teaspoons of honey later his sugar levels were back and he was wanting to change the channel on the TV. I thought back to a Disney movie and song “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” from Mary Poppins.

“Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.” Lin Yutang

In an old National Geographic which is my light reading anymore there were several excellent stories of Africa, one in particular that caught my attention. The article was focusing on the pygmies trying to hold on in their forest home as encroachment was coming. It was interestingly enough that a civil war while hard on the pygmies was keeping illegal logging out which too was dangerous but destroyed their habitat. The original inhabitants of the Iturbi Forest of Zaire are the Bambuti Pygmies. Several tribes lived through the forest area in Zaire and lived similar lives being migratory they moved following the game and as hunters living in little more than huts built from bent branches and large leaves.
The Pygmies are fearless hunters tackling even elephants with their poison arrows which do put a scare into other larger tribes who pass through their lands. It was often a right of manhood to kill an elephant for the tribe. But as I read one or two paragraphs something caught my attention it was their love of honey. The entire tribe would stop everything when a honey tree was found. They would gorge on honey often to a point of a stupor. The season of the year also would determine the type of honey, light, medium or dark depending on the flowers being visited by the bees. As I thought about honey it literally doesn’t spoil often staying on a shelf for years.

“Honey is a source of simple carbohydrates. Its composition on average is 17.1 percent water, 82.4 percent total carbohydrate and 0.5 percent proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. The average carbohydrate content is mainly fructose (38.5 percent) and glucose (31percent). The remaining 12.9 percent of carbohydrates is made up of maltose, sucrose and other sugars.” National Honey Board

My research pointed to modern uses of looking at antimicrobial properties of honey and uses as a wound dressing and for weightlifters as a source of quick energy. I was thankful for a rise in blood sugar and a rekindling of hope that day nearly four years ago with my father.

“Hope is the only bee that makes honey without flowers.” Robert Ingersoll

Getting all my materials ready and together to head to the school to feed critters and do a bit of report writing. Maybe I should grab a spoonful of honey who knows what the day brings although I do use daily agave nectar in my various tea concoctions I mix up. There will be many new stories and events to catch up on next week with my students and fellow teachers. A few more weeks of school and it will be summer again, and for me back to school and try and finish up a new degree and my dissertation. Earlier as I went out the morning was still no breeze at all and the new leaves are helping to muffle neighborhood sounds and soon the crickets and frogs will be back and my morning choir and orchestra will be serenading me each morning. It will only take a few more degrees of warmth. I watched as a wisp of smoke circled about with no breeze it hung in the air moving as I moved and soon wandered off into the trees. As we go into these times so many issues coming to the front eventually we are responsible and it is up to us to vote and or not vote for the voices we deem necessary to carry out our goals.

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” Christopher Reeve

There is hope and we can be the catalyst so please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Can we find answers?

Bird Droppings April 6, 2011
Can we find answers?

Several years ago I would have said there were answers to most any question that could be asked. Today sitting here I wonder granted first you have to ask what is the question or questions but I have a different attitude now sort of one that is allowing for an unanswerable question. When I was researching yesterday and reading about W. Edward Deming’s and his solutions which was a rather simple solution to most quality issues in life. Deming believed in quality first and as I ponder education is it to pie in the sky to try and do such a good job that there are no questions no need to check at the end of the line. To high and mighty that there is no need to inspect or challenge and or no need to test results.
When other than spring break would I be sitting pondering eating cherry cheese cake and sipping a real strong black tea with agave nectar over ice and waiting on a sunrise. Actually there are many days of the week, other than the cheese cake. I figure I can work that off as the day progresses in the yard and gardens. But Deming’s ideas keeping coming back to me and I will diverse a bit in my thoughts as I wander to a discussion that came up yesterday with a regular education teacher a good friend who has concerns as well on education.
I was working on a paper on using academic achievement to address issues with Learning Disabled students by using a rubric which in and of its self is an effective way to provide quality versus simply quantity to an evaluation. This sort of led into as I headed toward school a discussion. As I sat driving around yesterday after discussing with another teacher the subject of Autism and dealing with where do these kids go after school is over? On a more critical note what is even available? I had a brainstorm which was in part due to the thoughts that came out in our discussion. Over and over again parents were concerned about how their child’s life was being directed by people who did not know their child. Often changes in staffing will occur and parents do not even know. For nearly ten years I have recommended teachers of some students track students more effectively perhaps including group meetings of staff up and down the line who will have or have had that student. More often than not we deal with a cold folder of someone else’s opinion. Knowing a kid can make the difference so many times between success and failure.
I met several years back at a conference a care giver who provides daily living assistance for several aspergers syndrome and autistic young men in a group home sort of setting. One of the young men who lived in this facility also was involved in the discussion. (This fellow lives on his own and not only has aspergers syndrome which is a high function form of autism but is legally blind as well sadly for years the visual impairment concealed the pervasive disorder). The care giver who works for an organization that is involved with disabled adults who need some assistance referred to knowing the person well many times. He and this young man have a language many would not understand actually part of this young mans disorder idiosyncrasies that the care giver has learned to understand.
So often in schools and workplaces we want all the ducks in a row and someone who is a bit different doesn’t fit in so push them aside. I could not help but think of IEP’s and such and even further to Deming’s ideas. My day yesterday was pondering achievement and a rubric and Deming while I cut grass and started several flats of sweet basil. It has been a while since I sat as a student in class but I can not count the times education professors have said we need to think outside the box. Yesterday as we talked two teachers walking the hallways of knowledge feeding our various critters and checking others for other teachers we discussed opening the box. So often we limit as I think Deming’s pointed out when we have “the inspection” we only really get what we ask for. This has actually been researched in industry numerous times if you want to find eighty percent effective parts you will get eighty percent effective parts. My mind jumped to those students for whom seventy percent is passing and we get seventy percent from many.
I have watched IEP’s set goals of eighty percent compliance on a behavior in such areas as not swearing at authority figures. I would have liked that my self back in several of my college classes. That translates into two out of ten times I could swear and it is ok since I am achieving my goals. This is literally exactly what Deming’s is saying, you get what you ask for. So how do we imply quality and success without setting limits and or parameters? How do we measure achievement without providing a box even within the confines of a rubric? How do we measure friendship without having parameters to measure from? Hopefully the last on perhaps is one of the easiest to escape from we measure friendship hopefully not in some testing situation and not in some box able format but we measure friendship in love and in emotion which often is not a measurable and quantitative form it is in simply knowing. Why do we have a difficult time in education? Far too often teachers do not know students. A school identity number and seat on a floor chart and we are off to educate.

“Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.” Dr. W. Edward Deming

This can apply in so many different fields including education but it will take some effort to teach teachers how to know students. It will take a different mindset for teachers to look for quality rather than quantity. It will take using innovative ideas to evaluate learning rather than standardized tests that so often are not even valid in the context of what they are testing. How valid is a test that students can score about the same in the beginning as in the end? I have not proved this point but I would wager on most High School Graduation tests if given to ninth graders they would come close to passing in effect if they are capable of passing the test in eleventh grade. I have similar thoughts on End of Course Tests. Sadly the difficulty is in developing within students and workers another of Deming’s thoughts.

“Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service…” Dr. W. Edward Deming

Listening to parents over the years always makes me think. We seriously need to address perhaps differently children and even each other so often we come at life in general rather than looking for specifics in an individual. We approach each aspect as from past experiences which are still important and do not let that experience of the moment have its way for that person. We lose individuality in mass production even in our own view of things. I am always reminded of first impressions and first impressions are based on past experience and not on anything to do with this person far too often. We need to see and hear who this is before passing judgment and we need as those parents offered over and over to get to know the real person not just the symptomatology. I sit here trying to figure out how to create an open ended rubric some method of scoring that has no parameters and no limits and that is an interesting venture for the day ahead and more planting and gardening and mowing and reading. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Listening to silence

Bird Droppings April 3-5, 2011
Listening to silence

I have been lazy these first few days of Spring Break sitting in my yard as the moon is nearly gone listening in silence to what was about me. I was trying to hear the minutest of sounds perhaps the echoes of dogs in neighborhoods a distance off since yesterday morning there was no wind to move pine boughs as the air was still. The night sky has been brilliant shining effortlessly over my shoulder stars and constellations have taken over for the moon. Periodically I would hear the sounds of my dog clicking along the side walk and patio when she would come over to me from the house she was ready to go in. The temperature is still a bit cool for crickets and tree frogs although weather forecasts have warmer nights ahead. The days are warm and even sitting here in the coolness of morning it is bearable not blanket weather anymore a few more degrees of warmth till the night time creatures begin their symphony.
I did not sleep well last night rising early this morning shortly after midnight when a huge storm blew through. I stayed awake as the power went on and off several times over the next few hours knowing my wife had to get up to go to work and I had nothing till ten o’clock or so. So I could sit for a few minutes more in the quiet of morning checking my emails and listening to the wind blowing what a contrast to the past few nights. I was trying to think of what to write.

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” Henry David Thoreau

When I talk of getting up at three in the morning most people scoff at the idea you are crazy but sitting and listening to silence is a powerful way to start the day by clearing your thoughts focusing on silence to a point you hear your heart beat or the clicking of your puppies toe nails on cement.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau

Occasionally a thought will linger with me as I try and sort through the how’s and whys – wondering if it is or isn’t and or maybe right or maybe wrong. A student came in my room last week and said to call about a Pow-Wow coming up because her mother who is part Cherokee is the local organizer for native American gatherings in the area. I shared a red tailed hawk feather with her to take to her mother.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau

Often I will spend my class period just sitting and talking having friendly conversation interestingly enough many the time people will come in and sit join in the conversation and ask what are you teaching. I often avoid saying anything other than whatever is needed right now which more often than not is true. Most high school students look at me quizzically and pass it off as Mr. Bird is weird. But working with students who many times never have a civil conversation with anyone that sitting and talking about anything is a lesson in humanity and joining in with others and being accepting is far more a lesson than trying to read about friendship in a text or on the internet.

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Henry David Thoreau

Several days ago I asked a student why they came to my room and was told because you will listen. I got thinking I practice every morning before most of these students even wake up listening to the silence. Then as I sit here now maybe in the silence I can sort out the day ahead and be patient with those that need and be able to listen when others can not.

“In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.” Henry David Thoreau

Not understanding silence many would simply say there is nothing to understand about nothing but is silence nothing when a heart is hurting or pain holds a voice silent. Is there sound in a tear or a touch? Far too many of us are waiting on words and silence is a practiced lesson. Listening to silence takes patience and time and many of us are not willing to take either.

“Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them; for those experiences have left an indelible impression, and we are ever and anon reminded of them” Henry David Thoreau

It is learning that silence too is music and is poetry and is meaning. It is listening to the silence and grasping its significance and defining attributes by sorting through the moments and seconds when silence prevails. For me it is an early morning meditation and watching a few embers from a sage leave or two die flickering away in a moment with a wisp of smoke silently gliding upward often taking a turn as it clears the tall grass. It is time to be silent to be alone to listen to silence this is a choice we each need to make when it is time and when you are prepared.

“I have never found a companion that was as companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone; let him be where he will.” Henry David Thoreau

Often on websites and blog sites you are asked who would you like to me I put down Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Students have asked me why and I once said both men had opportunity to listen to silence and generally the student will get a blank look and walk away another nonsensically bird dropping from Mr. Bird. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Finding Soul in looking at Curriculum

Bird Droppings April 1, 2011
Finding Soul in looking at Curriculum

There is something about the first light on a spring morning and trying to discern how many different birds are singing and calling back and forth waking up. Today was a rough one seems my arthritis in my shoulders is acting up and it took a good bit more to get going this morning. I did not even pack my lunch. But some silence and flute music and perhaps a memory of a wisp of smoke floating along the fence trying to rise up and dissipating in the trees helps ease the pain. It has been a few years since I studied psychology at Mercer University in Macon Georgia and a few as well since Seminary studies at Emory University. But as I continue to wander through my educational career I find new authors and favorites and recall some from days long gone. I have been a fan of Carl Gustav Jung for many years and in my assundery readings the past few years have come upon James Hillman, Thomas Moore and James Kavanaugh.
I am reading right now an article by Mary Aswell Doll for a paper I am writing. Doll is known for her work in curriculum and the teaching of literature. As I read her paper which is actually an introduction to her book, Like Letters in Running Water; A Mythopoetics of curriculum, entitled “Fiction as food.” She referenced several times Jung, Moore and Hillman, using the word soul as a medium for learning and growing.

“In another attempt upon the idea of soul I suggest that the word refers to that unknown component which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern. These four qualifications I had already put forth some years ago. I had begun to use the term freely, usually interchangeably with psyche (from Greek) and anima (from Latin). Now I am adding three necessary modifications. First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences; second, the significance of soul makes possible, whether in love or in religious concern, derives from its special relation with death. And third, by soul I mean the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image, fantasy — that mode which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical.” Thomas Moore, writing about his mentor Hillman

In the past few days I have seen the word soul used quite frequently and yet it never seems to be defined clearly ever.
Over the years I have worked with adults and children who I sense (very scientific term) with in, a void, or a vacancy that I have loosely referred at times to as soul. I am not looking at this in a religious sense as Thomas Moore also infers in his definition other possibilities as well. In this sense of vacancy perhaps learning issues become a part as well. Doll in her writing emphasizes making a connection with content and existence or context as Dewey would say and the bringing of the two together. “First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences” is how Thomas Moore defines soul. It is that piece that becomes a piece of your reality not just a fact memorized and categorized. As I looked over memory with an AP Psychology student yesterday several various definitions of differing types of memory fit in this idea as well.
As I read through Doll’s article other issues came to mind. In our rat race society of cramming as much curriculum into given space as possible irregardless of whether it will make sense “just get the test over with and I am out of here” I have heard that line from teachers many times. I have raised questions of filling a liter bottle (a student) with two gallons of information and where does that lead us. I think Thomas Moore sees us stripping away any soul we may have or not taking the time to nurture the soul.

“But the culture is going into a psychological depression. We are concerned about our place in the world, about being competitive: Will my children have as much as I have? Will I ever own my own home? How can I pay for a new car? Are immigrants taking away my white world? All of this anxiety and depression casts doubt on whether I can make it as a heroic John Wayne-style individual.” James Hillman

Are we killing off soul in kids and in adults is a question I keep pondering. I was watching Law and Order just yesterday afternoon after getting home from school. It was an old show about a father was so enraged with a hockey coach after a game and the coach not playing his son enough and scouts from colleges were there that he beat him and ended up killing him. As the trial and arrest played out his defense was parent rage simply losing control and the attorney for the state came back with how can we excuse this man? His rights stopped when he put his fists up to the coach. We can not accept road rage, parent rage any kind of rage and then I read Hillman’s statement again. It is about the self view, psychological depression and partly because we are all supposed to be John Wayne. Borrowing from a thought I read a day or so ago from Steven Pinker that behaviors are not manifestations of our environment but of our genetic makeup and environment triggers behavior.

“Instead of seeing depression as a dysfunction, it is a functioning phenomenon. It stops you cold, sets you down, and makes you damn miserable. So you know it functions,” James Hillman

In our rat race society where being John Wayne and never stopping and emailing till all hours of the night and working twenty four seven and no sleep and energy drinks (I tend to like the five hour shots) to keep going. I saw my first bottle of Coke BLAK coffee flavored coca-cola a few years back as the Coke man was loading coolers at a near by convenience store. Reminded me I was one who stopped drinking coca-cola when new coke came out. Hillman sees our increase in depression as a response to our competitive society and that we are leaving behind something perhaps our soul. Hillman authored a best seller “Soul Code” and Moore’s best seller “Care of the soul” these two men are not just fly by nights. Hillman studied under Jung in the 1950’s and Moore a student of Hillman and a former Monk studying for the priesthood has a doctorate in psychology and music and is a pianist as well as therapist, both are concerned about this thing we call soul. In Doll’s article she emphasizes children learning literature in a manner that stirs the soul going back to Moore’s first definition, “First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences”
John Dewey sought to pull experience into learning by making it a crucial aspect of his philosophy. I have many times related to context and content being equal partners in learning.

“According to the German poet Novalis, “The seat of the soul is there, where the inner world and the outer world touch. Where they permeate each other, the seat is in every point of the permeation.” Thomas Moore

Over the years I read several of Moore books and one thought he refers to often is that primitives die from water born disease and in modern society the major cause of death is stress related illness. As I think about that thought it has made me think about how we teach as well. As we are taking the soul out leaving only content sort of like a tape recording children can simply give back facts. In Doll’s article she describes several things to help teach fiction one being deliteralization that is getting back to imagination and then letting imaginations run wild. She mentions several times fluidity and:

“…fiction is food, fiction feeds the souls hunger.” “Second is a teaching method for fiction probably not favored in surveys courses: slowness” Mary Aswell Doll

I have been wandering thinking throwing out far too many ideas maybe I have been reading too much in these days before our spring vacation days. A slight change of thought but very much in line this time borrowing from James Kavanaugh with a line or two from Men too gentle to live among wolves.

“There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who prey upon them with IBM eyes
And sell their hearts and guts for martinis at noon.
There are men to gentle for a savage world
Who dream instead of snow and children and Halloween
And wonder if the leaves will change their color soon.
There are men to gentle to live among wolves
Who anoint them for burial with greedy claws
And murder them for a merchant’s profit and gain.
There are men to gentle for a corporate world
Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
And pause to hear the distant whistle of a train.”

I wonder if we could slow down or change gears or maybe find that which is missing from so many? I get excited when I read Moore and Kavanaugh hoping maybe we as a society will find answers and then I turn on the TV and ruin my thoughts. This morning a news broadcast about a high up official in Homeland Security who was arrested for soliciting sex with a under age girl over the internet caught my eye. He had been reported using secured cell phones and computers for his obsession. So a crazy what if the Katrina mistakes were because a memo slipped up during one of this guys computer sessions.
Each day it seems another mega conservative powerful person is found being naughty sort of like the parent rage on Law and Order I am sure someone will say this man has an illness. I would say it too borrowing from Pinker’s thoughts that it was in his DNA and needed something to bring it out fortunately this time it was an undercover officer posing as a fourteen year old girl on line. But what if’s terrorists figured him out and got into his secured files? What if black mail was a regular part of our governments doing business? I spent the better part of several hours discussing politics and ethics in school yesterday and came to the conclusion a politician by definition can not be ethical. We vote the way someone wants us to vote not how you know in your heart you should far too often. I might email Thomas Moore maybe we need a repair book for soul so please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.