What does it take for the light bulb to go on?

Bird Droppings September 30, 2011
What’s it take for that light bulb to go on?

It has been nearly four years since my doctorial cohort ended and we began the journey on our own. Most of us will have had a few classes or two together here and there and are into and are beginning and or finishing our dissertations in our own ways. I recall many months back we met for an advanced seminar and one of the readings was an Aldus Huxley book, Doors of our perception, which while not that many pages was a major part of the discussion. I am always intrigued when pieces of my time in existence seem just for me as several ideas within the book were significant as I look back.
However our professor ended the session pointing at himself and mentioned how he has pursued intellectualism. Reading and expanding his own knowledge has been his pursuit and he mentioned several times how great it is to be a professor you get paid to read. I was thinking to high school students who we try and get to read and many college students as well. So often when you ask, what is your favorite book a response will be I do not read? Instilling that passion for knowledge should be our task rather than just testing for specific pieces of information.

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” James Allen

I have been thinking on this passage many days. I firmly believe even as we plan and set goals and agendas we are where we need to be at this moment. Is it so simple as we travel the pathways presented to us each day thinking we have choice and actually could be setting the direction? It has been a few years since I first looked at life as a journey. Since that first day however it has become a truly memorable one for me. Now I make an effort to view each moment as I pass try and keep up with all the surroundings and trying to understand each piece of the puzzle as it falls in place. “Life is about the journey”, I have used many times in my writings.

“Thinking more than others about our own thoughts is not self-centeredness. It means that if asked what’s on our mind, we are less likely to mention being aware of the world around us, and more likely to mention our inner reflections. But we are less likely to mention thinking about other people.” Elaine N. Aron, Clinical Psychologist

I just took Dr. Aron’s quiz to see if I am a HSP highly sensitive person or not rather interesting. Website – http://www.hsperson.com/index.html, I tend to argue several issues within her test. I thrive on the interactions and emotions while the tests seem have this as a negative response.

“You live with your thoughts — so be careful what they are.” Eva Arrington

“If everybody thought before they spoke, the silence would be deafening.” George Barzan

Each day I spend a large portion of time trying to assist students in thinking. A simple thought yet rather difficult. Trying to encourage thought processes can be interesting as one student told me. “Mr. Bird why do we have to think it hurts my brain.” Sadly I hear that several times a day.

“There are lots of people who cannot think seriously without injuring their minds.” John Jay Chapman

I keep a box of Band-Aids handy and have pulled them out occasionally for serious brain injury and surprise students with the offer when their brains hurt.

“No matter how hard you work for success if your thought is saturated with the fear of failure, it will kill your efforts, neutralize your endeavors and make success impossible.” Baudjuin

“A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all.” Georges Bernanos

Thought processes are often bewildering. I was sitting here typing and thinking and went to type, Ge, and was thinking and spelling and got to Geo and couldn’t hit the “o” key I wanted to hit “r” but thought process and fingers got caught. I was looking at “o” and wanted to type “r”, actually paused for a second to rationalize.

“We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them.” Buddha

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.” Buddha

Interesting as I look at these two remarks from several thousand years ago. Today psychologists will say the same thing. I say the same thing without quoting Buddha every day. But so many people do not really think about where there are.

“Man is what he believes.” Anton Chekhov

It is so difficult to explain this to students really to anyone. Yet great coaches around the country have been proving this for years. My youngest son is an avid sport trivia fan while still not on par with the great trivia authority and good friend Jimmy Hughes, my son is pretty good. He will ask many times who do I think is the greatest of all time NCAA coaches, usually though the question is “dad don’t you think Spurrier is the greatest of all time NCAA coaches”. I like it when he leaves me an out, he didn’t mention a sport and I can throw out John Wooden or Dan Gable or even more recent Paul Hewitt and really get him going. “Well what about Coach K then”, thinking though is the goal and that he does.

“The problem with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than their minds.” Walter Duranty

“It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains definitely and systematically to work.” Thomas A. Edison

I recall my middle son’s senior year. He was near the top in his class and always an excellent student. Due to scheduling he was unable to take the honors English course he wanted to and had to take regular senior English with the rest of humanity. He has a slug sitting next to him who every day would ask to copy his homework. My son got to where his responses were classic, one that stuck with me went something like this “We all make mistakes and in all honesty I truly believe this is all correct. But what if I am wrong and I allow you to copy and then you receive a failing grade and your life is ruined I will not be able to live with that. So no, I can not allow you to copy. If you fail I want it to be you who fail not me helping you too”.

“Humans have the ability to shift perspective. We can experience the world through our senses. Or we can remove ourselves from our senses and experience the world even less directly. We can think about our life, rather than thinking in our life. We can think about what we think about our life, and we can think about what we think about that. We can shift perceptual positions many times over.” John J. Emerick

Each moment is unique and each uniquely different. As we are wandering the pathways of life they can tire you. You might stop to sip a cup of water midst the turmoil of the day and to move on past the strife. Each day we have choices to make we have opportunity and we have disaster waiting. It is that light bulb going off like in the old cartons over our heads that makes the difference. Sitting in my sanctuary of writing room upstairs in the darkness of morning thinking and pondering as I say that makes the difference. As my moments draw down and it becomes time for stage two of today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

“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

Can that aspect of who we are that we call soul be defined

September 29, 2011
Can that aspect of who we are we call soul be defined

“Soul is different from spirit, the deep soul is the way we live everyday, our longings and our fears.” Thomas Moore

It has been over twenty years since I first read this book written by Thomas Moore. I picked up a copy of The Care of the Soul at Borders bookstore so many years ago. I was impressed as I read this great thinkers words, who had been a student of James Hillman and Hillman who had been a student of Carl Jung. It was in his previous experiences I found some similarities with my own that drew me to his writings. Moore had studied most of his life to be a priest, soon after graduate school he found himself wanting to do more than simply minister to a church and went into secular psychology and therapy leaving the priesthood.

“It’s the aspiring spirit that gives life to the intellect and keeps it from being just a mind and a set of ideas.” Thomas Moore

“Soul is different from spirit—the deep soul is the way we live every day, our longings and our fears.” Thomas Moore

My own interpretation of what soul is really is not that far from where Thomas Moore identifies and defines what is soul?

“…to the soul, the most minute details and the most ordinary activities, carried out with mindfulness and art, have an effect far beyond their apparent insignificance.” Thomas Moore

“A genuine odyssey is not about piling up experiences. It is a deeply felt, risky, unpredictable tour of the soul. “ Thomas Moore

“How many times do we lose an occasion for soul work by leaping ahead to final solutions without pausing to savor the undertones? We are a radically bottom-line society, eager to act and to end tension, and thus we lose opportunities to know ourselves for our motives and our secrets.” Thomas Moore

As I ponder soul issues of politics and societal contradictions come into play. Sadly we have done this to ourselves. Living in a southern state that is either fourth or fifth in numbers of illegal immigrants primarily it seems states with agriculture as a major commodity and having worked with many students who I am sure are questionable I wonder at how we have done things in the US. Growing up in Coatesville Pa., I can recall being asked if I was interested in working at Lukens Steel Mill since while my dad was now in management he had been a steel worker at one time and literally all children were almost sure to get jobs if your father or mother worked at the mill when you graduated. Only a few years ago on my last trip back there was nothing left of Lukens Steel Mill.
Following the news as much as I can one item popped up in the past day or so. In the past few weeks’ legislation to stop tax incentives to companies out sourcing jobs was defeated primarily along party lines although some democrats did help stop it. We have been under the foot or maybe the boot of industry for some time and allowed to live a “happy” life until a more profitable means to do business comes along.
I watched a Johnny Isakson ad last night on TV as he promoted more flexible regulatory legislation and lower taxes and less government. The other side of the coin is he also introduced a bill to not allow unionization of airlines into Congress. Delta airlines is one of his biggest backers and Delta is in a fight currently over unions. Where am I going with unions, the way it was, and illegal immigrants, and outsourcing? We have stood by and allowed wages and perks of union driven groups to go throw the roof at times driving product cost up and often driving the industry such as steel to leave the country.
We have allowed industries for as long as I can remember (not just in this political season) to hire and bring in illegal workers for jobs at low wages. Many of the industries doing this in Georgia also back Johnny Isakson who by chances is supporting Georgia immigration laws. We support outsourcing to a point most customer service is a joke anymore on the phone a recent ad played on this with a fellow in Siberia with fifty phones ringing and he answers hello this is Peggy in customer service hold please and proceeds to make a sandwich. I guess my issue is we have allowed this and the banking and mortgage problems to happen because of our own greed. Sadly it will take more than elections to change the souls of people.

“When we relate to our bodies as having soul, we attend to their beauty, their poetry and their expressiveness. Our very habit of treating the body as a machine, whose muscles are like pulleys and its organs engines, forces its poetry underground, so that we experience the body as an instrument and see its poetics only in illness.” Thomas Moore

I have been working on my dissertation based on the loss of soul in education which is something I firmly do believe is going on. We have taken creativity and imagination away in so many instances and replaced with memorization exercises and drills. Critical thinking has taken a hit in lieu of teach to the test. Coming back to thinking about Thomas Moore and soul only reminds me that so much needs to be considered in our quest for improving education beyond the simple cure of more money.

“There are apartments in the soul which have a glorious outlook; from whose windows you can see across the river of death, and into the shining beyond; but how often are these neglected for the lower ones, which have earthward-looking windows.” Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts

“I simply believe that some part of the human Self or Soul is not subject to the laws of space and time.” Carl Jung

We are so much more than profits or human capital as some business minded educators refer to students as. Maybe if we could grasp that piece of us that some call soul and encourage fertilize and replenish it so that imagination and wondering could take precedence over the type of clothes you wear, car you drive or jewelry that is hanging on your arm we might could make some serious changes to our reality.

“Many of the religions I’ve been exposed to preach reaching for an impossible ideal, and my attempts as transcendence have left me inevitably frustrated with myself, others, and my life. That is why I appreciate Thomas Moore’s philosophy. Here is, in a nutshell: don’t try to transcend your humanity, embrace it. Moore’s ideas would resonate with spiritual wanderers and people who view life as an artistic work in progress. When Moore was a therapist, he noticed that many clients would come to him, wanting him to remove a flaw of theirs. They went to him like patients seeking a surgeon to remove a tumor. Our culture celebrates light, and many feel ashamed when we aren’t happy. However, Moore contends that sadness is, in a sense, a gift, for it gives one depth and perspective. Healing can take time. It rarely occurs overnight.” An unknown blogger

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

Another day is near completion and perhaps I am still floundering in my meandering about soul. It could be the chill of fall has me enthralled as I get out in the cool air in the mornings. But for today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

One of the founding fathers who stood till the end

Bird Droppings September 28, 2011
One of the founding fathers who stood till the end

“Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things.” Alexander Hamilton

As I looked through news this morning many of the situations go back to ideas and thoughts begun by Hamilton so many years ago. As the first Secretary of the Treasury he set about working with a huge national debt from the Revolutionary War and established many policies and laws that govern us now. But as he states he knew times would change and people change and what was needed was a general framework to guide the country.

“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” Alexander Hamilton

While believing in a strong federal government Hamilton also believes in honesty and fairness.

“In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.” Alexander Hamilton

While written long before welfare and government subsidies I was reading this morning about cuts in many federal programs in order to try and cut deficits and bailout the economy. While an indirect lobbying method imagine the effect of telling a group of people we are cutting your medical care or your bank is going to collapse. I wonder how they will vote in an election year and or do they even have a voice.

“It is the advertiser who provides the paper for the subscriber. It is not to be disputed, that the publisher of a newspaper in this country, without a very exhaustive advertising support, would receive less reward for his labor than the humblest mechanic.” Alexander Hamilton

It is sad that we live in a time when news is bought and sold much like any other commodity as are politicians and popular opinion.

“Man is reasoning rather than a reasonable animal.” Alexander Hamilton

Cunning might even be a better word as I read Hamilton’s thoughts this morning. As I look at even Hamilton’s life ending in a duel with the then vice president Aaron Burr. As I am listening to news and current political pundits who shout differing opinions from day to day as they try and pull a vote here or there or for shock value pull a potential president out of the woodwork I wonder and am amazed at how Hamilton knew all along even three hundred years ago how the human mind worked.

“Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.” Alexander Hamilton

I see this every day in education, in student life, in a high school, in families and worse in those who supposedly govern us in this country an attitude of self centeredness, they are almost like spoiled children. Why would a congressman from Texas want so adamantly to drill in Alaska and or Senators from non-coastal states so vehemently want to drill in coastal states who oppose drilling off of their shores. I recall walking over a pipeline on the St. Augustine beach and looking out on what once were pristine waters to see oil rigs only a few hundred yards from shore. I wonder about such things.

“Real firmness is good for anything; strut is good for nothing.” Alexander Hamilton

Over the years of watching humanity you do see those little bantam like fools who strut around flashing and smiling and oh yeah “I am the man” sort of fellows. But is it real? Hamilton saw through the strut to what he calls real firmness, an interesting set of words.

“The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct permanent share in the government… Can a democratic assembly who annually revolve in the mass of the people be supposed steadily to pursue the public good?” Alexander Hamilton

Perhaps this is where I disagree with Hamilton. Yet within our structure of government we do have a class system, wealthy attorneys and professionals who in effect run our government often becoming indirectly wealthier. It seems very few elected official leave office in less shape than when they go in. A good example is the current Vice President Cheney. His former company from before his vice president day is reaping far greater profits than ever before and with contracts in the billions be it in Iraq or from Katrina or Ike and often at no-bid status. I wonder if soldiers will ever come home.

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

A prophecy from 300 years ago and still true to this day although I wonder, who is the better person? When you look at third world countries wood goes first then the economy unless that country industrializes. Yet in the losing of their forest and jungles often so much more is lost.

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” Alexander Hamilton

Perhaps it is in our indifference that we lose. Perhaps it is in our voting in such low turn outs that we lose. If we truly believed in this country and in what it stands for, would we not all vote and participate in having a voice. I found an old newsletter from a student organization seven years ago entitled, “The Voice” silenced by an administration who did not want students having any say so. In 1804 Hamilton offended the Vice President and a duel was arranged. Aaron Burr and Hamilton met in a meadow in New Jersey one morning. Hamilton shot his pistol in the air. Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach and he died the next day. The Vice President had to escape, charges for murder were pressed. Over the years Hamilton’s ideas and thoughts have blossomed. The US Coast Guard, US Navy, many treasury processes and concepts go back directly to Hamilton. But as I finish up this morning this last quote is so significant for us today. That last quote is worth repeating.

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” Alexander Hamilton

We have to take a stand otherwise we will simply fall by the wayside. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Hunting for the right words

Bird Droppings September 26, 2011
Hunting for the right words

“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands.” Robert M. Pirsig, American author

Whether it is trying to offer a few words of condolence to friends whose loved one has passed away or trying to sort out the disaster somewhere in the world and today here near home in Georgia, we all need to look within first. When I read this line from Pirisig earlier this morning I immediately thought to my 4H days and the pledge of 4H and the 4H clover.

“The 4-H Clover symbolizes four actions which 4-H members try to accomplish. The four H s’ stand for Head, Hands, Heart, Health, as it is in the pledge. I Pledge My Head to clearer thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to lager service and My Health to better living for my Club my Community my Country and my World” Taos County 4H site

I wish we could get each citizen of our country truly engaged in that pledge whether it is as a 4H member or just because it is a good practice. Imagine what would happen, disasters would be resolved and often averted, we would each be more better as citizens, and friends all over a simple admonition. As I look clearer thinking, greater loyalty, larger service and better living these are all very powerful as well as interesting thoughts. There are days when I wish more kids were able to be exposed to 4H.
Sitting here having read the news earlier it is disheartening to try and determine what course of action each of us can take to help if we can at all. Over the announcements at the high school Friday afternoon I listened to what various groups and clubs are doing at our school. The kids in our high school had raised several thousand dollars through various activities much of that in bits and pieces of lunch money dropped in buckets and or fund raisers such as washing cars I recall dunking a coach or in one of the efforts we had a tug of war. I wish we could do more but each effort each dime or nickel is a little more. I wish we could all summon the courage to do more.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Ambrose Redmoon

I thought I would end with this line, courage is a word used often with little thought. I really understand the tying of the word to fear that is an interesting definition. Stating that courage is simply realizing there are more important things in life than being afraid or cautious is a powerful thought. My wife and I went to South Carolina this weekend to visit our middle son and his fiancée. It was our first chance to see the church where they are getting married and her horses at their family farm out in the South Carolina countryside. We spent Saturday evening at a wedding shower and Sunday visiting all over the beautiful South Carolina farm country discussing horses, plants, always Georgia Tech, experiences and who knows what else. How much do we learn about a person in a few moments depends on the ability of each person to be honest and trusting. It was a great afternoon joking and laughing and picking on each other. As always we called when we got home last night telling everyone we were safely home in Georgia and my granddaughter was mad at me when we got home even the John Deere T-shirt and soft plush puppy did not make a dent. Although after her grandma held her for a minute she decided she wasn’t mad anymore and gave me a great big good night hug. For today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Right may be wrong

Bird Droppings September 24, 2011
Right may be wrong

“One of the most common errors is to suppose that the opposite of being wrong is right, when in many cases it is only another way of being wrong. We see this most obviously in political and governmental doctrines, where one extreme proves as futile as the other.” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly Speaking

I was thinking last night as I drove out to pick up dinner and looking through several books on research for a paper I am finishing where I would start today. Since the rain is done for a few days I had a chance to consider mowing a bit of grass yesterday evening and that is also good thinking pondering time for me. It gives me time to think and ponder perhaps it is the drone of the mower’s engine and then maybe way to much thinking sometimes. I find interesting thoughts reading the old columns of Sydney J. Harris who was syndicated back in the 1970-80’s. Nearly nine years ago a fellow teacher offered me a page or two from one of his thoughts and I was hooked and since then periodically I will read and reread his columns. We so often try to simplify the rightness and the wrongness of issues.

“It is not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance.” Thomas H. Huxley

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” Martin Luther King Jr.

These are very interesting comments coming from these two great thinkers from two different eras. Huxley was one of the greats in British science of the 19th century an advocate for Darwin, he is often called Darwin’s bull dog. His grandsons were prominent in science and literature. Huxley was about the science and the information not about who said it or why. King was a man, who could be radical and yet within his radicalism was conservative, which some may find hard to believe. He fought for peace and equality in a time when politically equality was a dirty word. He did with a very powerful faith in humanity and in his own beliefs.

“Man’s greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done.” Fredrick Douglass

“I can honestly say that I was never affected by the question of the success of an undertaking. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome.” Golda Meir

Two powerful quotes from a past great of the Supreme Court of the United States and a Prime Minister of Israel are in many ways nearly contradictory to much of our own world views. Both very much believed in doing what was right and that if they believed it was right the outcome was not the issue. In many ways the means justified the end, so interesting in this world of reverse thought where the ends justify the means in so much of what we do.

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain

As I look at these thoughts from great thinkers from history the word right perhaps has gotten lost in semantics of our time. We use right versus left or conservative versus liberal, yet in history so often right was not conservative at all but very much for change. During the struggle for civil rights many times this was so true. I remember moving to Macon Georgia in 1972 and that issue had just begun to sink into the community. Many white children were taken from public schools and placed n private schools.
I recall in 1968 driving through the south and seeing water fountains still labeled colored on one and whites only on the other. Wrongness and rightness, simple words I recall in 1970 if you were against the war in Viet Nam you were unpatriotic. Our rationale for being there was to stop the spread of communism and to support the South Vietnamese who we had supported since their independence in 1954. Did we have anything to gain in reality? We were coming from a recession and in the course of the war our economy boomed, historically war drives industry. I should perhaps paraphrase in the past war drove industry when it was in our country.
So applying the ends justifies the means we could justify the war in Viet Nam or so historians now say. But if we took Golda Meir’s view and Fredrick Douglass’ view the war would not have been justified as we now know it. Would Civil rights back in the day have been justified which depends on who you speak with. It is funny how ultra conservative right wing fanatics are against civil rights.

“There are few people who are more often in the wrong than those who cannot endure to be so.” Francois De La Rochefoucauld

“As it is the characteristic of great wits to say much in few words, so small wits seem to have the gift of speaking much and saying nothing.” Francois De La Rochefoucauld

I am ending today with a 17th Century French writer who confronted politics in his own time. We are into a new week and news both at home and abroad keeps me ending each morning still with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Learning to Understand and or

Bird Droppings September 23, 2011
Learning to Understand and or
Trying to come to grips with terminal consequences

Most recently the state of Georgia’s attention was drawn to a state prison in a small rural community just off the interstate. The Jackson State Prison is home to at least one inmate that I know a former student serving three life sentences. When I left teaching in 1977 I left a group of thirteen kids all of whom had learning issues simply classified as Learning Disabilities. One student in particular I had on several occasions asked and in writing proposed he be psychologically evaluated. This young man worked for me my summer after leaving teaching on our family farm and I will never forget after going to see a midnight showing of George Romero’s original zombie movie of how he and the other former student of mine who was working as well for me that summer did not want to stay in the quest house and asked to sleep in my wife’s and mine living room.
My last semester teaching in South Georgia this particular student had turned fifteen and was a strong average size kid although obviously from his demeanor had some physical and possibly mental issues. There was a slight speech impediment, a bit of shuffle to his gait very similar to what you might see in mild CP kids. The aspect of his behavior that concerned me was his self abusive bouts of tantrums where he would bang his head on a tree or brick wall when mad at himself. One day for a show and tell he brought his favorite pet that he talked about every chance he could his fluffy hamster. During a break several of the kids came in sort of scared and informed me he had stomped his hamster. I went out and he had already buried his hamster I asked what happened and was informed the hamster had bitten him so he stomped it. Over the next few weeks before I left that program he never brought up that incident again it was a terminal consequence.
Two years later I get a call to come south again this time to go to his mother’s funeral she had been diagnosed with cancer about a year earlier. I went to the funeral and this young man looked haggard and depressed. Through his life time his mother basically did everything from him or I should say provided directions. He had a difficult time deciding what to do or how to do things. About this same time his sister lost a baby to infanticide, the boyfriend angry over attention baby was getting smothered the baby while he slept. The family was having little time to cope with any grief. My former student now eighteen and legal drinking age was drinking heavily and wandering the streets of his town arrested several times and finally in an attempted rape of his former principals housekeeper institutionalized at the largest mental hospital in the world. He begged to stay since they told him what to do but after six months as downsizing was beginning he was released to a group home. Somehow he was allowed to babysit for two children. One day he stabbed the mother killing her and almost killed both children and police found him sitting on his bed with the knife in the kitchen sink. He was sentenced to three life sentences without any chance of parole. He has spent the last nearly thirty years living at the mental unit of Jackson State Prison.
On Wednesday another inmate made famous through his recent attempts to have a stay of execution Troy Davis was executed. As a society we have terminal consequences for specified crimes against humanity. While I cannot question the situation as I am not privileged to the case and facts I do know from what I have read this man was not a good man. He was involved in another armed robbery and supposedly was pistol whipping a homeless man at the time of fatally shooting an off duty police officer. Perhaps my point is the terminal consequence. For twenty two years appeals and repeals have cost the state millions of dollars and in effect kept the victims family on hold. I am not in favor of the death penalty as a deterrent to violent crime it has continually been shown to do nothing to prevent violent crime. Ted Bundy and Jeffery Daimler still would have killed all the people they allegedly killed death penalty or not. In the Old Testament one of the Ten Commandments states, thou shall not kill. As the story goes it only took a few minutes for the Hebrews to begin making amendments to the law. Within years over six hundred amendments covered a slave killing a Hebrew which was far worse than a Hebrew killing a slave. So where does that leave me this wet morning in Georgia and we need the rain so I am not complaining although I do have bus duty today. It is understanding why.
I was home alone for part of the weekend just a week or two back and while I probably do not get into the trouble the young man does in the movie version. I can always seem to find things to do and well not always what I had planned or my wife had planned for me. I did good on this weekend however shrubs got planted and flower beds mulched numerous animals cleaned up and moved out of the house. However Saturday night while everyone was gone I had an interesting incident. About 12:30 my dog woke me up wanting to go out. She had been pretty good lately been a night or two since a three or four dog night. We went out to a glorious moon, not quite full but almost. Off in the distance I heard my first coyotes in the area. I have seen coyotes as far back as 1978 but never heard one around here.

“Yearn to understand first and to be understood second.” Beca Lewis Allen

“I don’t understand you. You don’t understand me. What else do we have in common?” Ashleigh Brillant

I would attribute these thoughts to teenagers but unfortunately it seems we all seem to fall in this situation. We strive to be understood and in retrospect feel we are not understood. We walk around in a paradox, could be why there is so much anxiety in the world.

“It has taken me all my life to understand it is not necessary to understand everything.” Rene Coty

“I started out with nothing. I still have most of it.” Michael Davis

It is a learning process filtering out what we need to know, to understand and what we maybe should know and understand and what really is not needed. This is what teaching and learning should be about. So often in modern test driven curriculums it is simply memorize and documents and we are done.

“To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts expressed — That can make life a garden.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” Leonardo Da Vinci

Seeing that sparkle when the light bulb comes on in students often makes the days of frustration meaningful. One success can counteract many failures. When a child grasps and understands a concept or piece of information as a teacher that is when you feel successful. I use the analogy of a cloud or fog, and to be able to know after being in a cloud, opening your eyes and seeing or hearing when for so long not understanding has been the verdict. It is an amazing time.

“The thing is plain. All that men really understand is confined to a very small compass; to their daily affairs and experience; to what they have an opportunity to know, and motives to study or practice. The rest is affectation and imposture.” William Harlitt

“If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.” Carl Jung

We all seem to when confronted with an unknown to be defensive and back away rather than seeking to resolve and know. Often labeling and categorizing in a manner to belittle and push aside, being in Special Education I see this daily. Many kids will hide the fact they are in Special Ed. Even though maybe only for consulate services.

“There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.” Charles F. Kettering

“A man must have a certain amount of intelligent ignorance to get anywhere with progressive things.” Charles F. Kettering

Kettering was a simple inventor yet profound when all was said and done. His inventions and ideas still since his death in 1958 surround us and his legacies of the Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute are pieces of a far greater puzzle. But for him knowledge was simply the fact understanding was seeing what was inside and made that piece work.

“When we talk about understanding, surely it takes place only when the mind listens completely — the mind being your heart, your nerves, and your ears- when you give your whole attention to it.” Jiddu Krishnarmurti

“The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.” John Locke

Knowledge is the beginning but only is it when we can share that piece of the puzzle we understand. It is when it has become a part of us that we truly understand.

“The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.” Baruch Spinoza

“We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.” Adlai Stevenson

In 1960 after a tumultuous political past and two campaigns for President Adlai Stevenson was selected by President John F. Kennedy to represent the United States in the United Nations. Stevenson fought through the 50’s against the ignorance of McCarthyism and came under attack often. Spinoza states so eloquently “to understand is to be free”. We need to learn for understanding and teaching children to understand could change all around us and perhaps prevent that which has happened in the past and could happen again. I think back often about what ifs and could I have done anything different. A new dawn is near please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

Seemed like the right thing to write

Bird Droppings September 22, 2011
Seemed like the right thing to write

Every day as I send out my emails and post my various blogs entitled Bird Droppings I feel as if it was the right thing for that day. As the day progresses I actually print out extra copies and students and teachers often will pick up to read it so it comes in handy. For today a simple story as the day goes by I find each email response I get often is that what I wrote that day “was just what I needed today” from different people every day. Once I was asked, “did you know my son died?” or “my new job is just now falling in place” and even something less difficult, “my mother has finally decided to move”. Each person was appreciative for the words I wish I had been the author and not just the relay which is in and of itself a part of the story as well. Often someone sent me the story and someone had sent them the story each a piece of the puzzle. But in life timing is so much the part saying the right word or emailing the right word at just the right time.

“Synchronicity is a word created by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung to describe the alignment of “universal forces” with the life experiences of an individual. Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidences were not merely due to chance, but instead reflected the creation of an event or circumstance by the “co-inciding” or alignment of such forces. The process of becoming intuitively aware and acting in harmony with these forces is what Jung labeled “individuation.” Jung said that an individuated person would actually shape events around them through the communication of their consciousness with the collective unconscious.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

It has been several years since I first saw the word synchronicity and what is so funny when I studied Jung in college many years ago the word never really stuck with me. It was many experiences later and many years later that those aspects of learning seemed to kick in. Intuitiveness according to Jung is the key I see often the reading of people and in seeing bits and pieces I seriously wish we could bottle intuition.

“Although not scientifically provable in the classical sense, a scientific basis for the phenomenon of synchronicity may be found in the principle of correlation, in so far as a more precise scientific term for Jung’s expression ‘a causal connecting principle’ is ‘correlation. It is a well-known scientific principle that ‘correlation does not imply causation’. Yet, correlation may in fact be a physical property shared by events without there being a classical cause-effect relationship, as shown in quantum physics, where widely separated events can be correlated without being linked by a direct physical cause-effect” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In 1979 a Harvard graduate Gary Zukav wrote a book entitled The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An overview of the new physics, trying to put Quantum Physics in the words of the laity, the math and science illiterate. The book became a best seller and with subsequent books they have sold over six million copies. In his writing Gary Zukav tied science and the soul together which is and of itself an interesting mix.

“In Synchronicity, Science and Soul-Making, Victor Mansfield, a professor of physics and astronomy at Colgate University, offers up a “new age” amalgamation of Jungian psychology and quantum mechanics. Mansfield provides some inkling of his background and motivation for writing the book in chapter 2, where he states that at one point he dropped out of graduate school in physics because his interests were too broad to be confined to one narrow discipline. He took a job in the experimental ward of a mental hospital, where, he says, “my possession of the keys to the ward doors was …” The Journal of Parapsychology; 3/1/1997; Stokes, Douglas M.

As I was researching the why’s and where’s I ended up after quite a few search’s and hunts through the internet at this quote. Granted it was under parapsychology but still most interesting. As I was reading I thought back in my own life to starting as a Biology education major at West Chester State College failing out in the midst of the Viet Nam war and failing my draft physical due to a child hood diagnosis condition of epilepsy. I then went to school in Texas studying human development from the Doman and Delacato Institute which is controversial still in their theories and ideas.
Returning to Pennsylvania and studying now Special Education and History at Eastern College and not matriculating as a senior at Eastern due to probation and then working for a year getting into teaching of disabled children and adults. Perhaps it was moving to Georgia in 1972 and starting school at Mercer University in psychology since I would not need another math class and no foreign language to graduate. I first visited Central State Hospital while at Mercer which is a story onto its own.
I graduated in 1974 and attended seminary at Emory University where as a group we went to Central State Hospital and another experience for me to do a chaplainancy. I had several disagreements with professors and my group and left seminary but stayed for six months as a volunteer chaplain at Central state hospital. All that verbiage for a point perhaps. Often I will mention how while at Central State I had a key on a lanyard much like so many teachers do now except the key at the hospital was for every door and the elevator and quiet room and freedom. So often I use the concept of the pieces falling in place with each moment and each day we experience new and sometimes re-experience things. These make up whom and what we are and these become driving forces for us as we go through our days.

“Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” Dr. Joyce Brothers

“If the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Intuition we so often pass it off yet it is a significant aspect of the human effort. As I look at my own teaching I rely on intuition often when dealing with students who cannot or will not offer other explanations of behavior and or attitudes.

“Often you have to rely on intuition.” Bill Gates

I find it very interesting that the wealthiest man in the world by only a few billion dollars would even consider intuition.

“The struggle of the male to learn to listen to and respect his own intuitive, inner prompting is the greatest challenge of all. His conditioning has been so powerful that it has all but destroyed his ability to be self-aware.” Herb Goldberg

In today’s technological society we avoid talk of synchronicity and intuition neither uses a remote or cable modem. But these simple ideas are a driving force if we let them be and here is the key. We need to be aware and willing to consider them. James Redfield, a new age guru made fortune writing about this in his book The Celestine Prophecy. He could not explain what he was feeling and seeing happen so he developed a fictional book to explain and in doing so literally founded a cult following. I am always amazed at how we respond and his words were not new Carl Jung was thinking such in 1916. Many philosophers and mothers have known since primeval days. Goldberg’s statement is so true men in particular have all but forgotten how to listen and how to be self aware. So as we get over so many rainy days in Georgia and fall is coming on please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

Hearing and Listening

Bird Droppings September 21, 2011
Hearing and Listening

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus

A simple analogy yet we far too often do not understand that statement and perhaps it is because we have more jaw muscle than ear muscle. In education ninety nine point nine percent of the time if you the teacher listen students will learn more. That almost sounds like a paradox.

“Lenin could listen so intently that he exhausted the speaker.” Isaiah Berlin

I have never seen nor heard this about Lenin but as I thought so many pictures are of him show him intently staring even to the point of death and his glass coffin that still is on display.

“Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf.” Native American Indian Proverb

Anyone that knows me has seen me taking pictures tens of thousands of pictures of school, grandbaby, nature and athletic events. Digital cameras can be wonderful tools in the classroom as well. I was taking some pictures of twin day last year and soon to be again during one of our homecoming dress up days and one little girl was blurred in every photo. She is very ADHD and evidently that day was a bad day for being hyper. But in her constant moving she wouldn’t stop talking as well and I would say be still and bouncing around she would ask what did you say. Even in taking a picture of two of her friends she moved and she wasn’t in the picture till she moved.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill

Far too often we do not stop to hear what is being said both as teachers and students of life.

“The young people who come to me in the hope of hearing me utter a few memorable maxims are quite disappointed. Aphorisms are not my forte, I say nothing but banalities…. I listen to them and they go away delighted.” Andre Gide

When teachers ask me how I know something about a student I generally say I listened to them.

“I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.” Charles C. Finn

In our chaotic world so often we miss pieces, bits and tiny segments sometimes what is not said or done is as crucial as all that happens.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter F. Drucker

The great business consultant and author Peter Drucker offers again we need to not only listen but understand and then read between the lines.

“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” Tommy Smothers

I was always a big fan of The Smothers Brothers back in the day and find interesting how such a simple thought could in effect be a powerful one. If you do not want to hear it don’t listen but let the person speak their piece.

“I guess I’ve spent my life listening to what wasn’t being said.” Eli Khamarov

If we could perhaps things would be different. In politics a journalist is free who was jailed for not speaking out and telling sources however now she is speaking and repercussions could be great.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum

Dr. Laura Nolte so long ago said “Children learn what they live” interesting that what they hear was not as significant.

“Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James Baldwin

Each day I watch and listen and deal with issues of teenagers and so many are simply imitating what they have learned from home mirror images of mom and dad or whomever is the one at the house. For today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Trying to clear my head

Bird Droppings September 20, 2011
Trying to clear my head

“The hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.” Carl G. Jung

I have been a fan of Carl Jung for some time. Many teachers know some children will learn so much faster when the hands are engaged as well tactile sensation adding to intellectual pursuit. I was working with my eldest on some graduate studies last night and the text was based on research in high schools in the early seventies and the questions than pointed towards high schools today. My first point was many of the premises made in the late sixties and early seventies no longer applied considering technology and economics alone. I was thinking back to my own high school graduation.

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” Lorraine Hansberry

One of the draws for me to John Dewey is his constant discussion and introjections of reflection into education process. For it is in reflection that we analyses and truly give credence to ideas and thoughts. I picked up a Smithsonian magazine this morning and was looking through various articles when I stumbled on an ad for The Rosette Stone language system. One of the principles of the system is to immerse you in the language you are learning. John Dewey would have liked Rosette Stone. As I pondered and reflected reading the ad I recalled various Human development courses and how we are told language acquisition is an early childhood development and Rosette Stone is saying immersion unlocks that aspect of our brains.

“Adults possess this same powerful language learning ability that orchestrated our language success as children. Sadly our clashes with vocabulary drills and grammar explanations force us to conclude it’s hopeless.” Rosette Stone Ltd.

“No matter where you go or what you do, you live your entire life within the confines of your head.” Terry Josephson

Perhaps some of us do far too much internalizing of where we are and why sadly so much of our existence is in our heads in perceptions and beliefs.

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” Soren Kierkegaard

I have often wondered about freedom of speech when so few even consider that unless it is generally in a manner contrary to popular thought. But then is it freedom of speech when we make laws to prohibit that which is free by limiting and delineating specific terms and conditions of what is said or not said.
“Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John F. Kennedy

“Some people get lost in thought because it’s such unfamiliar territory.” G. Behn

Some people get lost because what is seen as reality is too painful for them. Working with numerous people over the years who due to whatever circumstances deem that the “real” world is harsh and bitter and withdrawal into a private realm is deemed far more enjoyable and safe.

“We spend our days in deliberating, and we end them without coming to any resolve.” L’Estrange

Each second of each day so many people squander their own reality spinning about never seemingly going anywhere. I have many times found myself in this trap looking for something to grasp, to get hold of and pull out.

“Few people think no more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once a week.” George Bernard Shaw

When I read this, I thought of blue collar comedy and my local favorites rednecks. Where in the definition of redneck is it that we so often need to use the word ignorant. But as Jeff Foxworthy has built his fame and industry on redneckism it is interesting his kids go to one of Atlanta’s most exclusive private schools which is ironic and sort of paradoxical redneckism.

“Belief is when someone else does the thinking.” Buckminster Fuller

Reading Buckminster Fuller often is sort of a head clearing kind of thing and when I read this, I thought back to the dark ages when society was imprisoned by those who could read and write and think freely. Sadly it was predominantly “the church” and all thought was restricted to thought allowed by the church. How many great thinkers actually perished in wrong thinking?

“Irons rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

I have found the more I study the more I think the more I want to study and learn more which is an interesting thought so few aspects of life are self perpetuating such as thinking although going back to the immersion idea of rosette Stone perhaps language is as well.

“A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I could not have expressed myself better than my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson. Politics takes away any sort of thinking or seriously tries to. Someone stuck an extremely conservative article folded up in my teacher’s mailbox yesterday. There are so many political aides who simply spin reality in favor of that person or ideology they have chosen to support right or wrong there’s will be most likely to be picked and do not let the populous think too much or give them time to think.

“Thoughts, like fleas, jump from man to man. But they don’t bite everybody.” Stanislaw Lec

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein hit the nail on the head we have to change our thinking or else it will become as Emerson and Fuller stated become belief and or a sect or party. It is a circular effort we begin to think which becomes common place and soon everyone follows suit and that idea becomes law and belief and then we have to rethink everything all over again. What if human nature was not so lazy and would stay in motion if thought would continue instead of constantly wanting a break.

“No amount of energy will take the place of thought. A strenuous life with its eyes shut is a kind of wild insanity.” Henry Van Dyke

So true and so much a part of so many so for today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Ralph Waldo always has a few choice words

Bird Droppings September 19, 2011
Ralph Waldo always has a few choice words

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friendship.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

A seemingly simple thought as I work in a world or class room where trust is a perishable commodity and most do not trust. It is far too easy to extend a hand or simply smile and act the part. I have found trust comes when a student knows they can call you when a problem arises on your cell phone and you will answer trust begins when you say hello.

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

So often we hear of saving the rain forests to find the cure for cancer and other ailments of mankind which is actually a true statement as many of most recent cures and research is coming from plants and animals of the tropics. Often the weed could be even closer to home as I can attest too in my herb garden outside my window. My first thought was to a visit to a mountain museum and a lecture by the late curator and his vast knowledge of mountain folk medicine. Every plant had a use and a cure for something. Each twig, piece of bark and leave could work on or with and cure or assist in curing aliments.
But actually when I read this quote I was not thinking of Sean Connery in Medicine Man in the Amazon jungles and or of the late Robert Murray at the Foxfire museum. I was thinking of students. Each student comes to us a weed in a sense the baggage of others perceptions wrapped tightly around them. When reading every note and referral placed in their folder for the next person to assume this kid has issues far too often we do assume. I was thinking over the weekend as I had a frustrating day with several of my students in Out of school and or In school suspension. Each had serious emotional issues and each had antecedents to behaviors that caused their consequences. Seems I can always fall back on ABC, a good behavioral term, Antecedent Behavior and Consequence. But as I thought of how we so often address our perception of that behavior and antecedent as the teacher and seldom review the students perspective we create a weed rather than looking for virtues. We push aside so quickly because it will take time to cultivate and propagate that virtue more often than not, not an easy task.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why is it we so often choose to see through others eyes accepting the precepts of others and not taking the time to really know someone? Buried deep within who knows what we may find? It has been a number of years since a bedraggled student who in the first four or so days I was teaching never raised his head. I took in Dylan Thomas as an example of a poet and was reading aloud, he sat up, listened and asked me to read another paragraph or two and then asked to borrow the book. He read it cover to cover over the weekend. While this student probably has lived up to the expectations of many with several jail sentences and such to his credit and even now at twenty six or so he still keeps in contact and will ask about new authors to read I always wish hopefully one day some of it will sink in and cultivate the pieces.

“Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who knows what great poet philosopher and future wise person is now being misunderstood? Each day as I meet new students I hope I will let them be who they really are and not a figment of my own perception and imagination. I will let them come to realization of their own humanity and understanding. Sitting here early in the morning idealizing my own philosophical views on education and pondering who is the teacher and who is the student please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.