LIfe is raw material

Bird Droppings November 20, 2011
Life is raw material

Morning is a special time a beginning I am always questioned why I get up so early. My response is to get a great start to the day. Several aspects make it special first one of taking the dog out and talking with her as she sniffs the ground hunting bear and other prey and of course doing her thing in the yard. Then I go to my writing and reading which has become my meditation for the day. This has become in many ways a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coldness and drizzle of perhaps not our coldest morning this fall but the over cast and air so humid made it seem colder. I miss today seeing far off across the field the big dipper rising above the trees and stars crystal clear in the morning darkness.

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

A few years back as I left my room after second period I usually always go through the guidance office and say hello to several people and on that day one person was missing I noticed and never questioned as the day drew on I sensed an absence yet still had not questioned. As the day ended I heard from over the announcements she had suffered a heart attack during a stress test and was having surgery. My thoughts raced to how fragile is this thing we call life.

“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words and pictures that may have significance to a project I am working on for my graduate work. It was hard getting to work after eating through most of the day. I emailed several people last night just touching base and downloaded a wrestling tournament photos from the high school.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

As I moved through that day a from a few years back a sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort. Most people as the day finished never missed a stride there were a few tears from friends and those that knew but all in all the day went on.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

I have used this quote several times and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness.

“It’s not how long life is but the quality of our life that is important.” Roger Dawson

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Charles Dickens

In 1996 my brother passed away and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had literally built our lives around my brother. He was severely disabled and our being in Georgia was directly related to him. As we celebrated his life reviewing the intricate webs that were laid each moment and people touched and lives affected what seemingly had been was now an enormous out pouring of life.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

We each approach the morning in a different way. I embrace the day and begin with my writing seeing each moment then unfold. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys and as I look back each has had meaning and direction and lead me to the now.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

It has been several years now since I received a call from my nephew that a friend had been in a car accident and as the time proceeded I spent the night in the Athens Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving. I was hoping that the numbers on the dials would change but that was not to be. When I arrived home on my computer was the above quote from an Aerosmith song. Seems I come back to that note often in my writings.
In 1968 as I left for Texas for college I received a book from my parents, it was a bible which still sits in my bedroom and on page 596 a verse that has stuck with me.

“To everything there is season, and a time, To every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Many years ago Pete Seeger a folk singer legend and environmentalist wrote music for the words and a song was born “Turn, Turn, Turn”. To every season turn, turn, turn there is a reason turn, turn, turn and a time for every purpose under heaven. The song became a hit sung by a group called the Byrd’s coincidently.

“Nothing is beneath you if it is in the direction of your life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Robert Frost

So often a poets words offer comfort or give direction back to a journey set off course in but one moment’s time. There is no filling of a void yet when looking at life and all that has been, when looking at the journey to now there truly is no void. There is a turn in the road a new direction all that has lead to this point has not changed and is there behind us, lifting us, guiding us, and strengthening us as we continue. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia all ready sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across stone by stone, crossing the stream on the rocks as he jumped.
We all can cross in our time and there are times when a hand is welcome. Years ago I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website “Friends are never alone”. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand.
namaste
bird

Every day is a good day

Bird Droppings November 19, 2011
Every day is a good day

Recently I had the great privilege of spending some time with three friends. These are people I have known for many years. Over this the next holiday week I will be driving nearly 800 miles on various assundery excursions. There will be a trip to Mercer University to pick up transcripts, possibly a trip to Georgia Southern University for graduate work, a side trip while going to Mercer to the Indian mounds in Macon Georgia, Warner Robins Georgia for Thanksgiving, and to Piedmont College to visit my granddaughter son and daughter in law and drop off papers from Mercer. I am not counting my side trips to Talawegee nursery and Thyme after thyme nurseries. Much of this time I will be alone driving and most of that time in my CD player I will be listening to either Carlos Nakai on Native American flute or an old new Neil Young CD, Live at Massey Hall, recorded in 1971.
In my travels many things pass through my mind, ideas for a paper I am beginning today for a graduate class, thoughts back to my meetings with my dear friends. But in the midst of this all was a passing thought my wife mentioned as I was sitting reading an email from one of my friends. She told me we all have kind hearts. I thought back to conversations we were having as friends a few days back that would have provided her with this insight.
An idea crossed my mind many times the past weeks. It is that of the medicine circle which is composed of four points of the compass. The points are as on most manmade compasses yet far more in meaning. For example in the North which is symbolizing earth and wisdom, in the South symbolized by fire and passion, in the West symbolized by water and emotions, and in the East symbolized by air and flight. I thought of four friends drawn together yet apart. Each knows of the other and by chance I had words with each recently. Each of my friends had passion in their lives. There was a passion I could see and feel for their work, family and those around them. I even at one point was sitting jotting notes to myself as to who fit each of the points. Who was the north or south, east or west of this medicine wheel?
So often my train of thought then wanders off and I find myself postulating over other ideas and pondering this or that. I found my way to Barnes and Nobles s yesterday to get a few books for my granddaughter, it seems Eric Carl has a new one out. Somehow I can do that probably in my sleep. Someday I might like to have my ashes sprinkled through a Barnes and Noble, even though they will get swept up by the nightly cleaning crew or maybe haunt a Barnes in Noble in the possible afterlife. I went looking as I do to my favorite sections only to find they were all shifted about. I finally found the Education rows of books and a bit later the Native American shelves.
As I looked always seemingly drawn to know authors I found a title that intrigued me. The book was Every day is a good day, by Wilma Mankiller. I had not seen this book in all of my travels and searching’s at Borders, Barnes and Noble and many other stores. It consists of dialogue between nineteen indigenous women on various topics. The book has many powerful words from these women. I borrowed today from the foreword written by Native American author Vine Deloria.

“The old Indian war cry, it’s a good day to die, bespoke of the courage and fearlessness of men in battle and indicated that life was not worth living if one approached it with too much caution. Freedom demanded the willingness to sacrifice everything to ensure personal integrity. But what of the long periods between wars and crises? What about the daily lives we seek to fill with substance?” Vine Deloria

The late Wilma Mankiller in her book proceeds to explore this through the thoughts and understandings of nineteen indigenous women from all walks of life. In a recent class we discussed the concept of multitasking and how women have been multitasking for thousands of years while men focus on generally one thing at a time. I look at a woman running for president and as Secretary of state in our own country. Wilma Mankiller was chief of the Cherokee nation for ten years until her health took the best of her.

“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors or strong its weapons.” Cheyenne proverb

My thinking has wandered today from four friends and an observation by my wife to the multitasking ability of women. Yet intertwined is a common thread a piece of the tapestry of our lives. My wife saw a common element in each of us as we talked and joked and retold old tales of childhood. Perhaps we are each part of the medicine wheel of life. A thought about each of us in different places each leading separate yet connected lives. I thought back to Wilma’s book title and how I was drawn to that Every day is a good day. I thought to multitasking and how so often we take for granted those who truly do keep the world in line and in order. I thought of my wife who so often is the guiding force in our family and always ready to hug one needing hugging.
Every day is a good day when we accept the premise that we are integral to that day and we each are only a portion of the day and so many more too are there interconnected and interwoven. I do think it is when we get focused to into our own that we lose sight of the good day. I do wish we each could hold all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts.
namaste
bird

Only a crazy thought or two

Bird Droppings November 18, 2011
Only a crazy thought or two

Occasionally I will get a crazy thought; my students will say occasionally I have a normal thought that would be more like it. They would be insinuating most of my thoughts are crazy. However Today I was driving to school being lazy I slept in till about four I did go out much earlier to see the stars and half moon or what was left of it as it snuck behind the pines. But I sat down in my chair and thought what if when we were born the hospital tattooed on your left foot made in whatever country and a hospital code for example and then underneath an expiration date. The expiration date being the exact moment and day and year you will die or expire. If I knew this information I started thinking at what point would I change how I lived.
My students were arguing with me about living it up since a few weeks back it was my birthday and I was getting old sixty two to them is a lifetime away which is true. They wanted me to have a, you only live once and rock and roll party etc. So I was wondering knowing exactly how many days you have to do whatever it is you will do would you change anything. I am sure back in years gone by there have been people I have hurt and things perhaps I regret as I distance myself but would I be who I am without those moments and pieces to my puzzle.

“There is not any present moment that is unconnected with some future one. The life of every man is a continued chain of incidents, each link of which hangs upon the former. The transition from cause to effect, from event to event, is often carried on by secret steps, which our foresight cannot divine, and our sagacity is unable to trace. Evil may at some future period bring forth good; and good may bring forth evil, both equally unexpected.” Joseph Addison

It has been some time since I first used the concept of a puzzle to explain my own life. A constant display of pieces falling into place each interconnected to the next. As I speak with people I use this comparison, often showing how each aspect of our lives ties to the next. I look at how a consequence comes from even the smallest of things. Knowing we have a limited amount of time to finish our puzzle I find amazing as I think of what if we still had no directions and were floundering in trying to get done.

“There are no rewards or punishments — only consequences.” Dean William R. Inge

“Whatever our creed, we feel that no good deed can by any possibility go unrewarded, no evil deed unpunished.” Orison Swett Marden

We have to take each piece as it comes and try and build upon it. Each element leads to the next, a building block of sorts, as we travel through life, a deed leads to a consequence and then to another and another, each beyond the next.

“Men must try and try again. They must suffer the consequences of their own mistakes and learn by their own failures and their own successes.” Lawson Purdy

“It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.” Sir Joseph Stamp

As I wonder about my words and events that yet will play out today, I daily use the term ABC, Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence. In life, everything we do involves these three elements. Each aspect of our existence is preceded by an event, a happening that causes the behavior, no matter how subtle that event is. The behavior in turn leads to a consequence this is so simple, so clean and it can be cold. Perhaps why I enjoy Carl Jung over Sigmund Freud. We respond and soon cover up, ABC. What if we could analyze all events so simply and plan our day. I do this, then that, this, then that all day long however, conversely we tend to do this with students as well, if we see an event about to happen we can change the antecedent and alter behavior and of course the consequence. Managers in business do this. Retailers are doing it as we sit and read, altering our buying for this holiday season sales, specials and Black Friday etc. In reality through consequence the world is controlled. How do we keep our heads up and still be unique, independent?

“Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue; and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath.” Mary Wollstonecraft

It was a many months back I was introduced to Mary Wollstonecraft, a person who was ahead of her time, the ultimate feminist. Mary was writing about issues under her name and pen names, often a man’s name to get her point out. Her fire and zeal were passed on to her daughter Mary Shelly who penned the novel Frankenstein. How do we maintain within the struggle, to be who we are.

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank

“Ideals are like the stars: we never reach them, but like the mariners of the sea, we chart our course by them.” Carl Schurz

How do we? I was thinking yesterday about my own direction in life one day going here and there and a slight bump and left turn and heading elsewhere. Do we have focal points to guide us stars as Schurz states? Can we find our way home when we get lost in life? I wonder at times even as pieces of the great puzzle fall into place maybe the pieces are wrong, maybe this is not where I am to be. But as events slow down and the fog clears we can see even the most confusing of life’s events seems to work out. I was reading yesterday a new book, Spirits of The Earth by Bobby Lake Thom. He starts the book with a prayer that I would like to end with today especially going into the Thanksgiving season.

“I ask that you bless our elders and children, families and friends, and the brothers and sisters that are in prison. I pray for the ones sick on drugs and alcohol, and for those who are homeless and forlorn. I pray for peace among the four races of mankind. May there be good healing for this earth. May there be beauty above me. May there be beauty below me. May there be beauty in me. May there be beauty all around me. I ask that our world be filled with peace, love and beauty.” Medicine Grizzly Bear, 1990

So easy to sit and write, yet around us, so much going on would we change anything if we knew our expiration date, I wonder? Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Finding where community exists

Bird Droppings November 17, 2011
Finding where community exists

As I got near the end of my doctorial course work I was involved in a class on educational ethics which featured nine texts all of which have an under lying theme of caring and relationships as a key to education or I should say successful teaching. One of the books entitled Dreamkeepers by Gloria Ladson-Billings, focuses on the notion of that a teacher of giving back to the community. Over the past few years I have heard numerous teachers discuss not wanting to be seen by students outside of school and literally not being a part of the school community. Yesterday we got into a debate of sorts at school on this concept. Can a teacher be a successful teacher and not be a part of the school community?
On my last trip to Barnes and Noble bookstore this past weekend I was looking for a book by J. Garrison, Dewey and Eros: Wisdom and desire in the art of teaching, which focuses on ideas from John Dewey, considered to be by many one of the great minds in educational philosophy. As I went to the bookstore I ran into a student from my high school that had transferred to Georgia Southern University. It seems that where ever I go there are students former students or parents of students showing up.

In every integral experience there is form because there is dynamic organization. I call the organization dynamic ….. Because it has growth….William James aptly compared the course of a conscious experience to the alternate flights and perching of a bird…. Each resting place in experience is an undergoing in which it is absorbed and taken home the consequences of prior doing… If we move to rapidly, we get away from the base of supplies – of accrued meanings – the experience is flustered, thin and confused. If we dawdle too long after having extracted a net value, experience perishes of inanition.” John Dewey, Art as Experience, 1934

I thought back a few years and many conversations on synchronicity and a trip home from a class actually after a midterm in Advanced Behavioral Techniques; I was hungry since I had not really stopped since early in the morning. I knew one of my former swimmers from the high school team worked at Taco Bell and sure enough she was working and I said hi, coincidently the same student who I ran into at the bookstore this past weekend. As I pulled out of Taco Bell my sweet tooth struck and I ended up at Brewster’s, as close to homemade ice cream as you can get at fast food, sounded good and there were two of my former advisees also getting ice cream. We talked for a while about uptight teachers and who was not, an interesting subject. Why do teachers get so uptight or anybody for that matter?
As I talked several more students and former students pulled in I met girlfriends and boyfriends of each and such, coincidence perhaps but an average day for me it seems. So often I mention the word coincidence and try to explain it. Recently in a letter to a friend I used the term of we are where we need to be right now at this moment and when we realize that all of a sudden so much more becomes clear. James Redfield an author refers to coincidence frequently and the idea that when you begin noticing coincidence it happens more often as you become attuned to it. Essentially as you become aware of your place in the puzzle the pieces all seem to fit better and more clearly.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Jung was of the nature there was purpose in all that happened and he and his former partner Sigmund Freud disagreed to an extent on the whys of this. Jung coined a word synchronicity to explain his thoughts in the early 1900’s. Events and things happening at a specific time, specific people seemingly appear by chance but obviously not.

“His (Jung) notion of synchronicity is that there is a causal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception.” http:// skepdic.com/jung.html

“Some scientists see a theoretical grounding for synchronicity in quantum physics, fractal geometry, and chaos theory. They are finding that the isolation and separation of objects from each other is more apparent than real; at deeper levels, everything — atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, people — participates in a sensitive, flowing web of information. Physicists have shown, for example, that if two photons are separated, no matter by how far, a change in one creates a simultaneous change in the other. “A Wink from the Cosmos, by Meg Lundstrom (Intuition Magazine, May 1996)

How does synchronicity tie into community? Somewhere in and among ideas and thoughts are answers. Some people seek answers through religion some seek answers through pure science others assume there are no answers and sit on a rock. Going back to my first thought I see teaching as a community and that in that community we are integral pieces and do interconnect many times and as for me today and yesterday in many differing places. I find throwing myself into that community as significant as walking into my class room on a school day. Each time I bump into a student it adds to their appreciation of my time and effort and gives me a piece of their puzzle too help deal with any issues that may come up when I have them in class. Just in a staff meeting yesterday we discussed connections.
Each of us can choose our direction and flow as humans, as friends, and as teachers if that is our chosen lot in life. The actual point I was making was when we are aware of our interactions with others that each moment we spend with a person affects not only that person but the next person they see or talk too as we too are affected. It is in this way community is built. I came away that night and yesterday, happy having talked with some folks that I had not seen in several weeks even several years and hopefully they too went away a bit happier. This is how life works and if we are aware of this imagine the effect and impact. If I know I will be affecting people beyond my contact with someone I will be more aware of how I affect them and so forth. I recall many years ago from I believe Dr. Glenn Doman, the old credence of leaving the person you are talking with smiling will affect ten others is true. If you involve the idea of coincidence, fact or fancy who knows but it sure happens a lot. So as I wander today through differing ideas please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

If we only can make a difference

Bird Droppings November 16, 2011
If we only can make a difference

I walked out last night to a partial moon although it was warm and off and on again drizzle seemed to be the norm. However between the clouds I did see a jet stream that was perfectly in line with what I could see of the moon almost as if a line was drawn and the moon was moving along the line among the clouds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quietly pursuing silence

Bird Droppings November 15, 2011
Quietly pursuing Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking at a cloud

Bird Droppings November 14, 2011
Looking at a cloud

It has been some time since I lay on a blanket at the Valley Forge National Park in Pennsylvania watching clouds float by over head. Earlier as I walked outside clouds were moving by in the darkness which always is inspiring to me seeing the lace of clouds with the dissipating moon behind. Why Valley Forge popped in my mind I am not sure it has been some time since I was there. More recently I saw the first shooting star in many months as I was driving home just the other night. It has been some time since we would lay out in the bed of a truck or sitting in chairs waiting on falling stars. Back in the day as my youngest son would say it was easy to drive out into a pasture away from house lights and see the true sky at night.
I spent a good bit of the day yesterday playing with my granddaughter, eating and reading. Many the times, when visiting my in-laws in Warner Robins, I would take along a new book and go to where my father in-law had set up a chair outside in his back yard under an ancient cherry tree. It just so happened to be a perfect foot rest on a picnic table and just the right back angle to read. With the sun at a good angle it is a perfect spot and when the breeze is just so and not enough to turn a page but enough to be peaceful well a nap often will entail.
Occasionally I would take a digital picture of something that caught my eye as I read a piece of bark or knot in the tree trunk of that old cherry tree. While I would read several small colorful spiders dropped by and ran across my book enjoying the warmth of the sun as much as I was. Always high over head squirrels would be busy with running along the power lines back and forth to a pecan tree stocking up on nuts for the coming winter.

“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.” Henry David Thoreau

It has been a few years back one spring a red tailed hawk came to my yard to die. Why it chose my small piece of earth I will never know. I carefully buried it near some flowers in one of our flower beds.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

So many years ago as I would walk across the pastures in the wee hours of the morning and listen for the buffalo waking up snorting and shaking off the dew from the night. Now I listen to tree frogs and crickets when the temperature allows a very occasional car will break the mood but early in the morning most normal people are still asleep and I do have a semblance of solitude. Perhaps I am simply pondering too hard today thinking back to bits and pieces of my own life when I was learning about all around me.
I still recall the day I learned what name was given to the constellation making a W across the night sky. A good friend had learned from his father and shared Cassiopeia with me. Today I share bits and pieces with my sons and it will not be too long till I share with my granddaughter. Last night as my son, his wife and our granddaughter drove off heading back to their home in North Georgia near the Piedmont campus a tear or two crossed my eyes. I can recall as we drove home so many times from my wives parents home watching my father in law and mother in law standing waving as we drove away. They would wave till we were out of sight and I would wonder what it was like and now know. Of course in our car the main excitement all the way home was over a bag full of grandma’s rice crispy treats. But then occasionally something would catch an eye and coincidence would kick in and we would seriously talk about the event, a crimson sky or hawk gliding to roost for the night, doves along a wire or a deer jumping back into the forest.
I gave thanks as we pulled in our drive way for a beautiful day and journey safely home and last night gave thanks when my son called saying they were home safely. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

So many thoughts for one day

Bird Droppings November 13, 2011
So many thoughts for one day

I believe I was prepared from childhood to discuss this topic. It has been many years since my first introduction to Native Americans. I was three or four years old when I first remember my father’s stories of Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle. The term Native American had not officially become politically correct and we were raised with Indians. My father’s stories came from his background in the Boy Scouts of America; he had been an Eagle Scout, a scout leader and summer camp program director. Indian lore was a major portion of Boy Scouting in those days.
From a favorite book on Indian Crafts my father told us of counting coup. W. Ben Hunt explained the word and meaning.

“It was considered a great honor to count coup” W. Ben Hunt

My father worked his summers during college in New Hampshire at Camp Waunakee using Indian Lore as a base for camp activities and my father was the chief of the campfire. During his military service, as a corpsman in World War II, I learned he had spent many hours talking with Navaho code talkers as his Navy ship delivered them to islands in the South Pacific.
Through all of those years he would say he was part Native American but it was not until he was in his seventies that his sister uncovered my great grandmother’s lineage, Leni Lenape, a clan of the Delaware tribes and actually confirmed it. To me as a child Native Americans were special, my father instilled this in us but there was always a spiritual aspect I could not explain. As I was reading for this morning a thought I pulled out of another old book from my childhood days by William Tompkins. My father would use this book to teach us rudimentary sign language in case we ever needed to converse with the Indians.

“The originators of the Indian signs thought that thinking or understanding was done with the heart, and made the sign “drawn from the heart” Deaf mutes place extended fingers of the right hand against the forehead to give the same meaning” William Tompkins

As I read this line that thinking and understanding comes from the heart in Native American philosophy perhaps this was what drew me to this group of people. I grew up with feathers, drums, rattles and other Native American paraphernalia always around the house. In my own experiences the spirituality and acceptance of all things as sacred in Native American culture intrigued me. As I started into a graduate school program on curriculum theory, it had never occurred to me, how education had been so misused and so often deliberately so in history. Those in power avoided teaching some things; I use the term the fine print, to Native Americans.
The trust inherent in their culture and their understanding of life and nature was turned against them for profit and greed. Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a member of the Dakota tribe, a medical doctor and known in his tribe as Ohiyesa is quoted in Kent Nerburn’s, The Soul of an Indian as he addresses a major difference in white and Indian thought.

“Many of the white man ways are past our understanding …. They put a great store upon writing; there is always paper. The white people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand if a white man loses his papers, he is helpless” Dr. Charles Eastman, Ohiyesa

In reading and discussing in grad school not much is different from the many innuendos in today’s education and curriculums of hidden agendas and political maneuvering. Looking back as I progressed in my own schooling I learned Columbus mistakenly called the indigenous people he encountered Indians thinking he had found a way to the Spice Islands of the West Indies. The name would stick until more recently as we became politically correct and use the term Native Americans. Columbus even wrote in his journal of presenting letters from the King and Queen to the Great Khan thinking he was in China or near according to noted historian Ronald Takaki.
As I became older and as I too sought out my own understanding of Native Americans and my readings went deeper. During my undergraduate years I spent a semester in Texas and experienced firsthand a powerful hatred even then in 1968 for Native Americans. My own journeys very much paralleled my spiritual and educational pathways as with each step my ties and understanding grew. I was looking for answers even back then.

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to a point of knowing (introduction).” Uncheedah, grandmother of Ohiyesa

I was searching for answers even in those days. As I finished up my undergraduate program at Mercer University I began to realize why Native Americans were never taught to read the fine print. In classes and from friends I received books and articles to read adding to my understanding. From one of our course texts, Author Joel Spring points out the concept of deculturalization.

“Deculturalization is one aspect of the strange mixture of democratic thought and intolerance that exists in some minds. The concept of deculuralization demonstrates how cultural prejudices and religious bigotry can be intertwined with democratic beliefs. It combines education for democracy and political equality with cultural genocide – the attempt to destroy cultures. Deculturalization is an educational process that aims to destroy a people’s culture and replace it with a new culture.” Joel Spring

From earlier on there was an effort to assimilate and dismantle the cultures of the Native peoples in America. In the early 1500’s Spanish colonists, were some of the first to deceive and destroy the native people? Several nights ago a recent History channel episode was based on Cortez and the conquering of the Aztecs. A statement was made by one of the historians on the show that in the course of less than two hundred years from that first encounter with Cortez, ninety percent of the indigenous people of the America’s were either killed or died from European based disease and a new world was enslaved by the Europeans.
So many times it was through deception. As the white man pushed into the new world treaties and agreements were signed often with little understanding on the part of the Native peoples. Land was not for sale yet the white man is offering us trinkets. How foolish is the white man? Vine Deloria Jr., states very clearly in his book Custer died for your sins:

“In the treaty of August 5, 1926, almost as if it were an afterthought, an article (III) stated: The Chippewa tribe grant to the government of the United States the right to search for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country. But this grant is not to effect title of the land, or existing jurisdiction over it. The Chippewa’s, in the dark as to the importance of their mineral wealth, signed the treaty. This was the first clear-cut case of fraudulent dealings on the part of Congress. Close examination of subsequent Congressional dealings shows a record of continued fraud covered over by pious statements of concern for their words.” Vine Deloria Jr

I wonder if the Indian agents held their hand over portions of the treaty or wrote in such small lettering that most people could not read. It may have been perhaps using Old English lettering and only having taught in Times Roman fonts, which would bewilder most educated people even today. This concerted effort by those in control throughout American History was even condemned by the US government who were themselves, orchestrating much of it as shown by Joel Spring in his book.

“The US Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare issued in 1969 the report Indian Education: A National Tragedy-A national Challenge. The report opened with a statement condemning previous educational policies of the federal government: “A careful review of the historical literature reveals that the dominant policy of the federal Government toward the American Indian has been one of forced assimilation…. Because of a desire to divest the Indian of his land” Joel Spring

In many ways it was a naivety that undermined the Native Americans in their dealings with the Europeans and eventually US Government. But it was also an inherent trust that bound the various tribes and peoples together. There was no fine print to a Native American, his word was bond. It would be many years and near extinction till Native Americans realized the treachery. Kent Nerburn writes extensively about Native American Spirituality and offers;

“The rule of mutual legal compact, with its European roots, had no precedent among the individualistic native peoples of the continent. In addition, the idea of land as personnel property, a key principle on which the United States was basing its treaties was alien to the native people. How could one own the land?” Kent Nerburn

Our own current study of curriculum shows many over lapping and residual effects and it goes far beyond just Native Americans. Those in power write fine print for one reason so that is not read and in doing so essentially control the overall outcome and direction of whatever is in question. My position is we have been as a people continually dealt agreements, contracts riffed with fine print in regards to education and curriculum to a point it has become what we expect.
Even as a teacher our contracts contains numerous areas of extremely fine print. Daily we are being handed fine print in the news and through the medias about Iraq, politics, religion, and many too numerous to mention including our own president elect. Maybe one day we can truly have a democracy in our democratic nation funny thing is educator John Dewey said and felt the best way to assure a democracy was through a democratic class room. So as I set my thoughts to paper and close for this morning please help others read the fine print and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

High stakes testing and/or inspection does it work?

Bird Droppings November 12, 2011
High Stakes Testing and/or Inspection does it work?

I was thinking back this morning to several months of getting ready for a peer review, GAPPS Review. If you throw in the Georgia High School Graduation retests and PSAT, and End of Course tests all about the same time that was a hectic period of time and literally daily there is an ongoing teaching to the test and or inspection of one sort or another in education. We gear ourselves so diligently to getting ready for the tests and even more then for the tests.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill Gates

Reading this quote at first might cause you to wonder has Bill Gates lost his marbles. But look deeper in to what Gates is really saying. If a company has no unhappy customers they are doing everything right essentially.

“Quality is meeting or exceeding the expectations of your customers” Phillip Crosby

If we expand that customer base further to all people who we come in contact with then that idea of a source of learning is magnified many times over and if we now also have that group of everyone having expectations of us we quickly become either good or evil depending on how we are viewed by the world. That could be a stretch but in reality this is how we do see things.

“Learning is not compulsory …. Neither is survival.” W. Edwards Deming

Deming was one of the greatest industrial management consultants and thinkers of the 20th century. He provided the insight that Japanese industrialists built empires on after World War II. He summarized in fourteen points which I have included because there are some good thoughts regardless of whether you are in industry, teaching and or simply a parent. I can recall my father borrowing these from Deming as he discussed a good and quality Safety Program.

The 14 points for management in industry, education and government Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
1. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place. (Maybe we in education need to read this one several times and then again)
2. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
3. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
4. Institute training on the job.
5. Institute leadership (see Point 12 and Ch. 8). The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers. (Leadership what a powerful word yet in education you generally get management)
6. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company (oh if we could eliminate fear among teachers what a workplace we could have and who knows maybe even empower teachers)
7. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
8. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force. (I wonder when we will ever see this in education as we constantly want to compare the US to Japan to China to each other to ethnic groups our educational system is built on comparison and the great quality expert is saying no way)
9. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
10. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership. (See my response on 8)
11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.
Reference: http://www.deming.org/ – The W. Edwards Deming’s Institute

Interesting as I looked through the list and see applications for myself in teaching. For example point three “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.” Not only did Deming see this as a problem, but as Sen. Paul Wellstone states.

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying they will not tolerate failure. But it is a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.” Sen. Paul Wellstone

This was being seen in industry as an issue by Deming. If an inspector has to check for errors and or faulty pieces of an item what was interesting in his research done on inspectors the number of pieces faulty was in direct correlation to total number of pieces actually produced. In effect inspectors knew they had to find x number of pieces and that is how many they found. Many faulty pieces went through regardless of inspection if total was met.
Deming is saying build a quality piece first so there will be no faulty pieces. If students learn you will not have to test.

”A plague has been sweeping through American schools, wiping out the most innovative instruction and beating down some of the best teachers and administrators. Ironically, that plague has been unleashed in the name of improving schools. Invoking such terms as “tougher standards,” “accountability,” and “raising the bar,” people with little understanding of how children learn have imposed a heavy-handed, top-down, test-driven version of school reform that is lowering the quality of education in this country.” Alfie Kohn

Sitting here this morning my cold and sinuses woke me up a bit earlier than I planned. We are getting ready two or three more weeks of intensive testing in our high school officially called the End of course Tests, EOCT. There is not much pressure on High School Students at all to succeed in Georgia that is an understatement. In bold letters every student knows if you do not pass this test you will not pass this course and or graduate. I hear that there is actually a rumor, that this is being tattooed on students before tests, but I found out it is false. In industry, in politics, in homes and in schools we so often use that mentality to accomplish the ends with our children, employees and even friends. As I look at Bill Gates quote again and think of students taking standardized tests you would think someone would have caught on somewhere. Maybe we need to get tested more? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and do look over Deming’s fourteen points there are a few good ideas.
namaste
bird

Gratitude is action as well as words

Bird Droppings November 11, 2011
Gratitude is action as well as words

Most mornings I am driving to school about four thirty or so in the morning but today with Veterans Day as a holiday I got to relax till maybe five or so. Today my wife had scheduled a medical procedure and we were at the doctor around seven this morning just as the sun was coming up. I by chance got a photo of a brilliant red maple tree shining in the rising sun. Usually at that time of day at home while I can see the sunrise it is you can watch and listen to the awakening of everything. While I was standing facing east to take in the full effect of the sunrise it was mainly cars and business sounds humming and popping around me. After several minutes a lone bird started chirping and soon another and within minutes I was visually and auditorally committed and nature in the midst of chaos caught my attention again. On this day of thanks to our veterans I am not only thankful but offer it is with sincere gratitude that I sit here writing today. To friends, family and those I do know thank you from my heart.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Meister Eckhart

It is only a few weeks ahead that as I will be waking up the morning after, while most folks will be still asleep, it seems that turkey has that effect on people here around the holidays. With the Thanksgiving holiday near I was thinking about gratitude. When I saw Eckhart’s quote about a month ago my first thought was to use it on Thanksgiving Day. But I really think it goes beyond a single day of giving thanks.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

“Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.” Northrup Christine

Being grateful opens doors and let’s people in. We live in such a protectionist society and reality. We are always trying to protect our own area of influence and self. However gratefulness can lift you up and take you beyond where you are now to another level.

“Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” French Proverb

“It is another’s fault if he is ungrateful, but it is mine if I do not give. To find one thankful man, I will oblige a great many that are not so.” Seneca

Gratitude requires giving and in giving we are also offering of ourselves and building up within ourselves.

“The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.” Ethel Percy Andrus

“It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.” Richard Braustein

Life is about giving, sometimes what you offer to others is simply how and where you are placed in life and many times that provides the vehicle for your journey through life and direction for others.

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” Flora Edwards

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran

So often we think of giving as money or food, but in reality giving of self that is the hardest and the most rewarding. Caring about people and sharing is much harder than simply providing a dollar or a can, the gratitude comes back within and through our hearts.

“He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.” Lao Tzu

“A handful of pine-seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forests. I too will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high.” Fiona Macleod

When forester’s timber areas, often they will leave several healthy older trees to seed the remaining land. I have been in areas where clear cutting save for a few tree, has occurred and several years later a new forest has begun. But it is so important to plant seeds and to scatter them as to be a friend and to let friendships grow.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Teresa

“The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.” Brian Tracy

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton

I remember a candlelight service so many years ago, one person carefully started with a lit candle and handed their light to another’s candle and each in turn went through the room lighting another’s and soon the room was filled with light. We are much like a candle light service if we share our light and love, and pass it on to the person next to you. It is to say thank you when you receive from another and offer always to another. So often life hands us unexpected surprises, gratitude extends and magnifies those times. Please as we get into this coming holiday season keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird