Bird Droppings August 28, 2011
Can we see a new meaning in it
“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
A little over four years ago for two days a dear friend visited with us here in Between Georgia. 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 those two nights was the idea of teaching as an art form. We talked about our views on life and how so often I have on occasions seen things others have not. During our breakfast one day we talked about intuition and empathy crucial aspects of a good teacher. Being able to understand and feel as another does can be an asset and or a serious imposition.
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 and in one bed we have several ferns along with trumpet plants and several other flowering shrubs. However one bed is special nearly every flower attracts hummingbirds. Coincidentally we planted petunias around the edge and I was pulling dead flowers off when I heard a loud humming buzzing sound. My wife had me place a hummingbird feeder in the tree which centers the bed. The hummingbird food was constantly disappearing and I had just refilled it, one of my jobs while my wife went to see her mother this weekend. As I looked up hearing the buzzing two hummingbirds evidently they had been feeding directly beside me and took off into a nearby tree. I called my wife to let her know her flower bed was successful.
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 what for many is 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 limited by darkness and my own vision and my own perception. I was reading a letter to the editor this morning about one of the opinion writers in the local paper. He was arguing that this writer should not stress his opinion since we are in a conservative county and a conservative state and his opinion is not very conservative. I would argue it is still an opinion and this is a country and state and county where freedom of speech is a basic given.
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 nearby unless they are willing to rise at 4:00 AM they too will not see or hears what I see and hear. So in effect a writer offers glimpses of another experience or 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 any 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.
“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 cannot help but think of Daniel Boone finding his way in which for him at that time was 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 somewhat 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 civilization. For me it is fresh and vibrant even though many see mundane and stale.
It might be in the flight and blinking of a firefly or the snort of breath as our buffalo crossed 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 the main character as Forest Gump placed that small piece of fluff in a special place. 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 was yesterday. She had 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 this 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 sounded interesting.
For nearly five 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 she wasn’t in my regular classes except for Biology in summer school she had learned a lot. How is that for an ego boost?
By chance I was reading as I do yesterday thinking back to my conversation with my friend and having shown him several websites and books. Two passages caught my attention that I had shown him and tagged as I end my writings today. Last night I had been helping my wife with several reflections for her nursing program and one of her authors has a very narrow view of the world. His outlook is the only true and real way and these two passages came back to mind.
“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
Kent 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 can easily relate. As I am 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 to talk with and 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 thinking back to my friend’s visit and us watching old videos and spending quite a few hours with my sons and my friend catching up and it reminded me how significant today can be.
Several days ago at the beginning of my ramblings on what I though t of education in terms of my own philosophy a dear friend responded to my daily wanderings.
“Good luck becoming your philosophy and living it out in the classroom as the ugly tentacles of common standards and assessments attempt to squeeze the last bit of individuality from your very being. I struggle daily to even catch a glimpse of the teacher I once was, but at least I still am struggling. Many do not struggle at all but merely give in to the pressure. It is a sad time for teachers as I see it, but I will not go down easily although it might necessitate my leaving the classroom entirely. One cannot live peacefully with himself if he is forced to live in misalignment with his philosophy.” A former professor and good friend
As I read his words and pondered it is hard to try and live your philosophical understandings in any situation if it is against what is considered the norm. The letter to the editor I mentioned earlier mentioned John Dewey as a negative impact on our society along with all progressives. I wondered as I read does that mean any forward thinking individual is wrong and that we should simply allow society to go as it is with more and more going to the wealthy and less to the other eighty five percent? That we should be more concerned about packaged curriculums than children? Does that mean it is ok for greed to be the main goal in what we teach tomorrow’s youth? I have read numerous reports of the end is near and always want to remind folks that since about two thousand years ago someone somewhere has been saying that but and this is a really big but, the rest of us are still here. Now I can end for this day and another week is near end as well so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.