Risk ahead

Bird Droppings December 31, 2011

Risk ahead

 

            How more appropriate to end the year than to look at the idea of risk and what lies ahead. Risk is a driving force of who we are and why we are and what we do. How we take chances and avoid risk are defining pieces of our personality.

 

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” Lou Holtz

 

I think you could possibly argue numbers but Coach Holtz has a good point. Life is a combination of pieces sort of a tossed salad of sorts thrown together and the end result is what we live with. One thing however that Coach Holtz left out is what makes you respond the way you do. Probably being a football coach and one dimensional limited his views on such things but a whole other realm of ideas could be spent on that concept.

 

“In my own experience, the period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one’s life. …Through a difficult period, you can learn, you can develop inner strength, determination, and courage to face the problem.” Dalai Lama

 

We learn as we walk through life by experience how to respond to a given stimulus. We learn how to choose from choices presented. I often use the example of crossing a stream stepping rock to rock, as you step each time you see the stones, some are slick or wet, others covered in moss and slippery when you step on them. You learn to avoid certain situations in order to not fall in the stream. However it may be a warm day and the fall is worth it since a cool dip may be worth the risk of a shorter journey across the stream.

As I sit writing I recall a term from many years ago in my days working in industry, Risk Management. In Risk Management Training an acronym has been used for many years in industry and it could apply in life, the four T’s.

 

1. Terminate the risk – Do not do it, avoid it, eliminate the risk, you do not need to cross the stream

2. Tolerate the risk – In crossing the stream there is a chance you may get wet you are willing to risk it

3. Treat the risk – Build a bridge across the stream and  a mighty storm may wash it away but in one hundred years there have not been any storms recently

4. Transfer the risk – Let someone else cross for you or buy stream crossing insurance A paraphrase from:  Frank E Bird Jr., Loss Control Management

 

But unless you actually are involved you may never really know which way to go in terms of which T you will pick.

 

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” Warren Buffett

 

Life is about experience and the roads we take, it is ours to choose and to make a mistake or succeed with.

 

“It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

 

Take the day by the horns as the cowboys among would say and try to do your best, carpe diem, and stride across the stream believe it is summer and you will not succumb to hypothermia if you do fall in and as always especially in these days of increasing violence in the middle east keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Determining what to learn

Bird Droppings December 30, 2011

Determining what to learn

 

“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know — and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know — even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction — than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.” Isaac Asimov

 

I am always amazed as I listen to students say I am passing I have a seventy percent and that’s good enough. I thought about this as I looked over scores from our recent semester End of Course Tests yesterday and looked to see how some of my students faired. I sometimes wonder if students really learn anything from day one till the last day of the semester or do they simply regurgitate data and information to pass the tests. My son commenting years ago as he took SAT’s several times the more he took math classes the better his scores in math went and conversely one semester he did not have an advanced English class and he dropped a few points in the verbal section. Even for a good student is school simply a memorizing forum?

 

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

 

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

 

I found when I began looking for answers that learning became easier. When answers were being given to me in a mandatory sort of way as in going to school I learned less. Even in college for many years learning was considered mandatory. I have observed many students and what they learn if they want to learn a topic they read about it, they look up information about it, and they have the desire to learn.

 

“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 

 

For some time I would use this quote at the end of my morning Droppings and have it on my wall at school as a reminder and have used it in numerous presentations in graduate school along the way. How can we make our teaching so potent? How do we get information we teach to be what students want to learn? How do we get the desire to learn back in students?

 

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of face within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity” Calvin Coolidge

 

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

 

As I think back a few days to the concept of a democratic school where students pick and choose topics for discussion and learning each week which is the mainstay of educator and philosopher John Dewey’s thinking. It would be difficult to plan for a standardized test in that did we cover for example (inGeorgiawe had the Quality Core Curriculum and now most subjects are converted to Professional Curriculum Standards) item number 123 the classification of segmented worms? Somewhere someone determined in Biology that that item was crucial. It may be a history item about George Washington’s false teeth made from wood or why did Ben Franklin use silk cord for his kite. However it was one person’s opinion of what was important and then a committee decided it was needed on the test. I always wonder if they consulted students at any point in determining what was important.

 

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” St. Francis of Assisi

 

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.” Sophocles

 

How would we know what it is we need to know and how would teachers know what it is we need to know in order to teach us? Using standardized tests provides the vehicle to measure but then we teach to that particular test or do not teach to it what then happens at that point are students no longer learning? If I know what students need to know before I start the class then I will gear the class to understanding that piece before the test. So in effect we teach to the test. We teach what someone somewhere has deemed necessary for a student in that grade and time and that may or may not be what that teacher or student wants to learn and or teach. That then brings back to the students who tend to learn best when it is something that they want to know and realistically teachers teach far better teach something they want to teach quite a paradox.

It would be a sad world if parents were told they had to teach their kids so and so today and tomorrow it would be this and that. Now that I think about it maybe that is not so bad. Except that someone somewhere will be saying this is what children will be taught and when. That system just closed down inRussiaa few years back I think. So if our goal is to train social animations to fill the factories as Karl Marx once indicated, is now the goal of education about the same as it was then and this is how we do it. Somehow we need to bring back creativity, imagination, wonder, choice, caring, real learning and thought.

 

“If you wish to know the road up the mountain, ask the man who goes back and forth on it.” Zenrim

 

In the past few days I have talked with several old buddies who have been in their time avid back packers and hikers. We were thinking back to the good old days when we would load up my old VW van and head to the mountains with only our supply of food or lack thereof to determine how many days we would stay out on the Appalachian Trail. We were joking about breaking in new boots. I said I learned from experience with a brand new pair going off to the woods, blisters and blisters on blisters and a few days later I learned about moleskin as well. I learned the way up the mountain from those who went before me and I now when I hike carry my own moleskin and well-worn broken in boots. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart. I saw the movie Avatar and was intrigued by the similarity to Native American thought and how all was interconnected although perhaps a bit more graphically for those who would not understand. Somewhere in my readings a graphic drawn by a Lakota Sioux holy man was very similar in its interconnections to the world of the Navii in Avatar. All is sacred and each interaction impacts the next and all of what we do is a flow from where we have been. An interesting concept so please remember to always give thanks.  

namaste

bird

Naughty or Nice !!!!

Bird Droppings December 29, 2011

Naughty or Nice

 

“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.” William Wordsworth

 

One day when you look back and try and remember what was that act or when, you may not remember but the person to whom that small act of kindness was paid will. A few nights back Santa Claus as he does every year visited my brother’s house where we were gathered for Christmas Eve. Coincidently a he had with him a  letter of sorts more of a naughty and nice list. At the top of the naughty list of course was Uncle Frank along with several other Uncles and my grand niece’s daddy. At the top of the Really Nice list was my granddaughter of course and several grandnieces and a brand new niece in law. Several years back we had our oldest niece come over and with Santa they looked at all the names as I read them to her. She was so excited about two of them. Of course she ran around the room showing everyone. What was so funny was it was her daddy’s name on the naughty list that intrigued her. She knew why exactly, her daddy scolded her a few days before. It is funny the list was a total after thought yet my niece took it home that year.

Every once in a while I will run into to someone in person or on line who had met my father over the years. It has been a number of years since he last spoke publicly, back in the day as my youngest son says. He taught numerous Red Cross courses along with his actually teaching, as a profession in the field of Industrial Safety and Loss Control. Many people mentioned how his Red Cross first aid class saved a life here and there or some interaction with another where he did this or that changed their life.

Occasionally he would remember the event but often it was simply his way of living how he went about the day. A favorite story I recall is one fromSouth Africaabout thirty years ago. He was there teaching and lecturing for the Chamber of Mines and one of the senior officers of The Chamber lent his personal driver and car to Dad while he was there. A young black South African, a member of one of South Africa’s many distinct tribes; this young man had come into the city to earn enough money so he could go home and marry. Many young men would leave their homes some for as long as twenty years to earn enough money to go back to their villages and marry.

Dad spent eight weeks in South Africa on every trip and on this trip as well traveling to many of the mines around Johannesburg and in the back country. This young man was always ready always on time and kept Dad on time many times getting him to numerous meetings and functions in this foreign country all in a day. When it was time to head home Dad had really come to like this young man and as he dropped him off at the airport Dad tipped him the remaining South African money he had, about five hundred equivalent US dollars in their currency. He came later to find out that was equivalent to three years of work or so.

Dad got a telegram as soon as he got home from his good friend inSouth Africaasking what my father did to his driver.  As soon as he got back from the airport he quit his job and went back to his tribe. It seems Dad had given him enough money to go home and be married; a seemingly small act of kindness, a tip to this young man changed his life.

 

“Once in a century a man may be ruined or made insufferable by praise. But surely once in a minute something generous dies for want of it.” John Masefeild

 

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

 

Scattered about in our lives are the bits and pieces events we often do not remember but that person to whom we responded kindly or in a way that helped them will remember forever.

 

“The flower of kindness will grow. Maybe not now, but it will someday. And in kind that kindness will flow, for kindness grows in this way.” Robert Allan

 

“Is there any one maxim which ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life? Surely the maxim of loving kindness is such: Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.” Confucius, from the Analects

 

Interesting this statement sounds so familiar it was first written nearly 500 BCE by Confucius in China in his Analects, a series of statements and stories, repeated many times then in other cultures and religions and even prior in words of others.

 

“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” Fredrick W. Faber

 

“If you were busy being kind, before you knew it, you would find you’d soon forget to think ’twas true that someone was unkind to you. If you were busy being glad, and cheering people who are sad, although your heart might ache a bit, you’d soon forget to notice it.” R. Foreman

 

There are far too few cheerleaders in the world although there are days I would say too many, especially with all the drama with the cheerleaders at our high school over the years. At school many times the cheerleaders come by my room, it seems I am the one taking photos at events and Mr. Bird’s wall of fame is a focal point for many students coming to see who has been added. One cheerleader in particular has never once had a frown; she is always excited and happy. She is always saying a good word to friends. I have never seen her gossip or speaking badly of another person and amazing I have never heard a bad word about her.

So often in the morning as I observe the hallways her personality is contagious. When she is walking down the hallways with others soon all are laughing.

 

“A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.” Washington Irving

 

“He was so benevolent, so merciful a man that, in his mistaken passion, he would have held an umbrella over a duck in a shower of rain.” Douglas WilliamJerrod

 

“To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.” Samuel Johnson

 

It is seldom that someone will complain about another person being nice to them. Maybe Dr. Seuss’s character the Grinch, but even he fell sway to the little Who, Cindy Loo Who. Kindness can win battles. Kindness can win a war, or prevent a war. Random acts of kindness can provide the catalyst for world change.

 

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.” Mother Theresa

 

“If someone were to pay you $.10 for every kind word you ever spoke and collect $.05 for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?” Nonpareil

 

Many times as I sit and write each morning I wonder if anyone is reading or hearing what is said. Daily I get notes and emails; I know today this word or that word touched someone. How many words need to be spoken or need to be emailed to have world peace? If it is a hundred million let’s start now if it is a hundred billion then again let’s start now. We all know there is a number and we all know one day we will attain that goal. One day maybe I will never have to end Bird Droppings ever again this way but with a Georgia State Patrolmen shot in the line of duty last night after a car chase not today, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Where is the passion?

Bird Droppings December 28, 2011

Where is the passion?

 

“How do preschool children, full of natural inquisitiveness and a passion for learning, turn into apathetic or angry teens with a profound dislike of school?” Robert L. Fried, The passionate Learner

 

Every day I hear the simple phrase from at least one student of, “I hate school” and matter of fact I usually hear it numerous times. Very seldom do you hear this in kindergarten or first grade which is interesting.  When and where does the attitude towards school change?

 

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana

 

I remember my own early grades although that is now nearly fifty six years ago. I remember a second grade teacher who inspired us. I recall a teacher who each day amazing and made it special and you wanted to be there tomorrow to see what was next. But I also recall teachers who presented an image of a different sort one where we did not want to be in school where it was more fun to stay home and be “sick”. Recent reading of Henry David Thoreau added to Dana’s statement as Henry David Thoreau quit teaching to be a learner and found he was a far better teacher then.

 

“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

 

For a number of years I had ended my emails with this thought from Einstein.  Just the other day I mentioned to a professor How Einstein was equally a philosopher as well a scientist and most never take the time to see that side of him. How can teachers bring the “passion” to their teaching as Robert Fried writes about? How can we make teaching so potent as Einstein states? I have come to find the past few weeks that teacher attitude is crucial to this process. It is not so much about approach as attitude. How a teacher interacts and responds to students in their class is far more important than the material taught. For if a teacher is not getting through to the students the material is inconsequential.  

 

“The most important part of education,” once wrote William Ernest Hocking, the distinguished Harvard philosopher ‘is this instruction of a man in what he has inside of him.’” Sydney J. Harris

 

Artificially we draw out great schemes and plans and build a fabulous curriculum.  In education classes teachers to be learn how to do lesson plans and study the ins and outs of lesson plans and learn various curriculum philosophical theories and rationales and get credits for this. This is a major portion of the structure of teaching teachers. State education departments have as an example in various Curriculum guidelines and standards which determines what content needs to be covered in this course or grade. I have seen teachers agonize over not covering the standards in the time given daily.

 

“WHEN most people think of the word “education,” they think of a pupil as a sort of animate sausage casing. Into this empty casing, the teachers are supposed to stuff ‘education.’” Sydney J. Harris

 

 It is the teacher that teaches by stuffing that adds to the dilemma we face when we encounter students who do not care and are disinterested in school. I remember a teacher a year or so ago so frustrated because they could not cover from page 1 through 546 in time given. This teacher was near a nervous breakdown and really what if those students were not able to get through the material what if they were functionally having difficulty? How and why should we teach beyond what they already do not know?

 

“But genuine education, as Socrates knew more than two thousand years ago, is not inserting the stuffing’s of information into a person, but rather eliciting knowledge from him; it is the drawing out of what is in the mind” Sydney J, harries

 

 How do we become the teacher who draws out rather than simply stuffs in?

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson –

 

“Those who know how to think need no teachers.” Mahatma Gandhi – Teaching becomes more showing how to think and process than content

 

“Education, to have any meaning beyond the purpose of creating well-informed dunces, must elicit from the pupil what is latent in every human being – the rules of reason, the inner knowledge of what is proper for men to be and do, the ability to sift evidence and come to conclusions that can generally be assented to by all open minds and warm hearts.” Sydney J. Harris

 

Over the past few years as I have come back to teaching I have found a hierarchy in teachers. There are three types of teachers it seems. There are parasites this is those who use such great statements as “this is my class room” and “you will respect me”. As we evolve as teachers we become symbiotic this is where both the teacher and student are independent of each other yet need each other to coexist and teachers now say things like “How can I help you”. In any progression there is always room for growth for several years I thought this was where teaching was a symbiotic relationship. However I was sitting in a class and another idea, an epiphany hit me. Osmosis is taking down walls and learning is fluid, it moves and reacts in a fluid manner and both the teacher and student are learning and teaching in a reciprocating way. John Dewey talked about this nearly a hundred years ago and was considered progressive interestingly enough he still is considered progressive.

 

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

 

It is difficult to get to this point few colleges for teachers teach in this manner. Those that do are few and far between. Hopefully as the future rolls around more teachers will rise up and take notice how many students hate school and maybe try and do something. Sitting here on a beautiful morning in Georgia wondering about the day I am excited as questions flow in and new teachers ask for guidance. Please as the day rolls on keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Why do we WORK?

Bird Droppings December 27, 2011

Why do we WORK?

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” Aristotle

How many times do we all hear how difficult the job is or how “I hate my job” I am always confused when I hear this. I want to ask why are you doing this if you hate it so much. I am sorry it doesn’t make sense to them as I sit and ponder this dilemma. I have heard teachers many times over echo their dislike for teaching and always wonder why then are you here teaching in a school. There is far more damage done by disgruntled teachers than perhaps any in any other job I can think of.

“Make yourself indispensable, and you will move up. Act as though you are indispensable, and you will move out.” Jules Ormont

So many people assume they are indispensable.

“We’ve entered an era when very good, competent people aren’t getting jobs. One remedy is to stand out, to self-promote. If you do, you’re going to get the nod over some co-worker.” Jeffery P. Davidson

Depending on your political drift we are several million jobs behind or have added several million jobs, but in effect actually we are still behind just not that much and the job market id tougher than ever. College graduates are being warned to get a graduate degree could be in part to keep them in school a few more years and out of the job market. I recall a Georgia  Tech. versus University of Georgia football game and signs on the Tech side read “What does a UGA graduate call a Tech Graduate” the answer being “BOSS” and or UGA graduates average annual salaries $23,000.00 and Georgia Tech Graduates average salary $56,000.00. While rivalry signs and animosity abound it is the concern about jobs that drives it. Will I have a job when I graduate?

Years ago I left teaching because of income I recall my choice well stay in a field I truly enjoyed and make less than ten thousand dollars a year or go into graphics and make nearly four times as much. While I spent my summers teaching doing graphic arts and making more than I did teaching I was thinking of marriage and such and the economics leaned against teaching. As it were a chance to return to teaching came up years later although still a lot less money than the publishing business and I jumped or was pushed by my wife is more like it.

“We may not be able to offer long-term employment, but we should try to offer long-term employability.” Brian Corby

“Making a success of the job at hand is the best step toward the kind you want.” Bernard M. Baruch

Far too often in our complaining about work and jobs we lose sight we still need to perform that to which we were hired. We also need to do it well and to be successful at it.  Leaving a job with a good reference can always lead to a better and more promising job.

“Our works are the mirror wherein the spirit first sees its natural lineaments, Hence, too, the folly of that impossible precept, Know thyself; till it be translated into this partially possible one, know what thou canst work at.” Thomas Carlyle

“I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.” Thomas A. Edison

I think most people know when they are good at something or not. Why some people choose to stay with jobs they disagree with I will never know. As I am listening to complaints and questioning I will say look elsewhere. However if you choose to stay then learn all you can about what you do so you can do it better.

“One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours –all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.” William Faulkner

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason so few engage in it.” Henry Ford

Each day I wonder about students I see especially the ones who don’t care. Those students who simply take up space and I wonder where will they be in a few years, jail maybe working for minimum wage or on disability. Everyday becomes a challenge to hopefully uplift enough to overcome that melancholy of lack of concern and get some focus. It is about encouragement rather than discouragement. It is to up lift rather than tear down. Sadly some students are hard eggs to crack and really don’t care assuming to live at home forever and have mom and or dad there to feed and clothe them.

“My father always told me, “Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Jim Fox

“Wanting to work is so rare a merit that it should be encouraged.” Abraham Lincoln

I was thinking back to my first real job teaching swimming at the YMCA in Coatesville Pa. Each Friday I would get a brown envelope with cash in it then I would try and figure how many hours I worked and what taxes were taken out. The computations were made on the front of the envelope. Today my paycheck is electronically deposited in the bank and electronically usable amazing how far we have come. But the desire and drive to work and to excel at a job that is still no different than it was for Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln. You have to want to and you have to choose to excel in order to succeed. Before I write each morning I check the news on the internet so often I wonder about politicians do they want to succeed or are they just along for the ride. They reap their benefits whether they achieve or do not. Perhaps this is where high school students learn from watching failing politicians on TV and think all I need is to get to point B and I can coast for the rest of my life just like they do. Thinking to my writing today and why do I work eight to twelve hours a day even on holidays and it is because I enjoy what I do. So my dear friends we are nearing the end to another year and Mayan calendar or not another great year ahead. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

A new day fille with questions and perhaps answers

Bird Droppings December 26, 2011

A new day one filled with questions and perhaps answers

 

“No such thing as a man willing to be honest –that would be like a blind man willing to see.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

The other day before school let out for the holidays I was in the hall way as I do between periods and using a digital camera took random photos as people passed by. Some people were smiling, some frowning, some in a state of delirium, some were simply walking in the same direction others were and a few I am not sure of what they were doing other than breathing. But as I looked at the photos, when someone in the photo was interacting faces seemed to change. When the person was alone the face would be different. Several people as I began to notice were alone and moved as if no one else was in the mass of humanity moving through the hall. Several times I would intercede and question “Are you okay” and usually a response would be “it is not a good day or I should have stayed home”. As I thought that the past few days and especially yesterday and this morning why is it we allow ourselves to be such actors?

 

“Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.” Henry David Thoreau

 

So often we are someone different to each aspect of our lives, to our friend’s one person, to our family another, to teacher’s workers and associates even another each often a different persona.Hawthornestates bewilderment as to what is the true you. Maybe this is why so many youth, teenagers, and even adults get lost in the play of life, they get lost in the numerous lives, they lose sight of whom they really are and where they are at this point in reality.

 

“Presence is more than just being there.” Malcolm S. Forbes

 

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

 

Perhaps Hildebrand’s idea of comparing people to gourds is right as I look at the aimless wanderings in the hallways, at youth whose only direction is moving to their next class and avoiding Mr. Bird noticing they are not happy, as the hollow gourds that rattle. The big question is how can that be changed? A first item is for more people to notice, to stop being self-centered and see the other people, then maybe we can change some of this and empty hollow shells can be refilled. It is the time of year to try and make a difference. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.  

namaste

bird

Where do we find happiness?

Bird Droppings December 25, 2011

Where do we find happiness?

 

Within the spirit of our holiday season as I checked my various blogs, emails and social networking sites early this morning and I found an overabundance of “I got’s” and few “I gave’s”. Scattered earlier were a few of parents waking up with small children and excitement of this special morning with family. But as the morning progressed the stories shifted and one caught my attention it was of a little girl upset because she could not find her mother’s present under the tree. After a careful search it was found in her bedroom wrapped perfectly and containing gift cards to her mother’s favorite places.  All of her birthday money and allowance had been saved up for this present. That is special. Glad I waited to write and saw this note.

 

“The very purpose of our life is happiness; the very motion of our lives is toward happiness.” Dalai Lama

 

My first glance out the window today and our red tailed hawk was perched in the old black walnut tree as he does early in the morning nearly every day waiting on squirrels running through the hedge row seeking pecans from the several trees in our yard. Thinking back it was several years ago in my journey through life that I wandered through the Mall of Athens.  I happened into a store where Native American art was sold, long since that time they have moved to a shop in Hawkinsville Ga. A very pungent smell filled the store; it is a smell you do not forget easily, the smell of rawhide. A traditional drum maker was building drums in the old way. He was stretching rawhide over hand carved and tooled shells of native cedar and spruce. This drum maker had left a construction job to build drums full time, traveling around the country making drums for sale and doing workshops as he was here.

 

 “Happiness is a sort of action.” Aristotle

 

“The really happy man never laughs — seldom — though he may smile. He does not need to laugh, for laughter, like weeping is a relief of mental tension — and the happy are not over strung.” Prof. F.A.P. Aveling

 

As I left that store I felt at ease, at peace with myself. Sitting here this morning perhaps it was how this artist as he worked and exuded a peace and happiness. He was doing what he wanted to do, and that is a key to happiness. It is about being where we should be and doing what it is we were meant to do. For people that journey may take you through many jobs and many travels.

 

“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” Mildred Barthel

 

“When one is happy there is no time to be fatigued; being happy engrosses the whole attention.” Edward Fredric Benson

 

I was thinking to some of my students who chose to not be happy, it could be perhaps a chemical disturbance or imbalance within them. Clinical depression is actually a chemical imbalance, and can be treated chemically. However so many may choose not to be treated and then my question is can we each search for and attain happiness.

 

“The world’s literature and folklore are full of stories that point out how futile it can be to seek happiness. Rather, happiness is a blessing that comes to you as you go along; a treasure that you incidentally find.” Louis Binstock

 

“It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first. The very first condition of lasting happiness is that a life should be full of purpose, aiming at something outside self.” Hugo Black

 

So in effect happiness finds us is what I think I read. If you look under happiness on the internet you can find happiness scales to show you how happy you are and if you are. I looked up happiness in the dictionary always a good start and according to Dictionary.com, happiness is “Characterized by good luck; fortunate. Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase. Cheerful; willing: happy to help.”

 

“The truth is that all of us attain the greatest success and happiness possible in this life whenever we use our native capacities to their greatest extent.” Smiley Blanton

 

Who is Smiley Blanton, actually a famed psychiatrist and author of numerous books and co-partner since 1937 in the Peale Blanton Institute with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale? I thought he was a clown by his name. It has been many years since I shook the hand of Dr. Peale in Macon Georgia back in 1972 or so.

 

“Happiness and virtue rest upon each other; the best are not only the happiest, but the happiest are usually the best.” Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

 

“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.” Albert Camus

 

I always write about the journey we are on, each one of us is traveling as we go each day. I do believe we seek happiness, as the Dalai Lama states in the first quote I used today “The very purpose of our life is happiness; the very motion of our lives is toward happiness.” I do think we venture towards happiness in our daily walk. Somewhere we get lost or off track and many find it hard to get back to the trail. This is for so many a special time of year and I wish we could each offer a hand as we go. Though it is late in the evening please any one you meet offer a hand and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always to give thanks.

namaste

bird

Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

Bird Droppings December 24, 2011

Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

 

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

 

“The need for roots,” I saw this idea earlier as I web surfed thinking and pondering this morning or perhaps as I was scrolling through thoughts I had saved over the years along with all of my young herb plants sitting outside in the garage near the window and the concept caught me, to be rooted. 

 

“Roots is not just a saga of my family. It is the symbolic saga of a people. “Alex Haley, from his book, Roots

 

 Even though long since discredited Alex Haley got many looking to where they came from and his words can still cross boundaries even with the tinge of fiction. I have been intrigued with students recently have had little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma if that. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp. I am doing a substantial amount of work with The Foxfire concept and so much of that in its origin is based on roots on history and family.

 

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

 

I noticed this idea fromLawrenceand as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots, your past or your history but traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep these people going. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence while nearly polar opposites. I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to their heritage and to traditions; they are not grounded or anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be to escape, to wanting to be away from or distant from asLawrenceadvocates.

 

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

 

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

 

Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have been stripped away by our constant boxing up and categorizing. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society.

 

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

 

Many years ago in a tenth grade literature class that would be about 1965, we read at that time a very controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”. You were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried to destroy family and traditions and roots. They have been always stripping away the top soil, laying bare to the hardpan of a man’s soul. But within it all still with some people persistence, vigor, and desire was still there. I was reading Eric Carl’s biography on his latest book, The Artist who painted a blue horse. Carl was a high school student in Nazi Germany and only realism was allowed one of his teachers shared abstract art with him knowing it was illegal. Carl’s work is in some forms retaliation for the Nazi regime’s suppression. In his brilliant children’s books the splashes of color abound.

 

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

 

This is not just a modern day issue, Confucius raised questions over two thousand years ago and used a simple word to explain, integrity. For Confucius it was the integrity of the home and perhaps this is the key to roots. Solid roots can be found in the integrity of a family and home. Is it possible to look at people and judge there character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family, or by their genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow. Back in the day we used EPD’s to judge the quality or potential quality of a breeding animal. I used to know what that meant but specifically in cattle it is the performance data that has been gathered for generations many times and potential for that animal based on that gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given traits you are looking for.

 

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

 

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I find there are answers. EPD’s work because someone cared enough to check to save the information and data. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of on a daily basis I see in real life. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately I have found. So where do I go in this round about effort especially on a day before a holiday for many.

We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding and often with little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today maybe even a happy holiday greeting. It may be a hug or kind word or ear to listen. But take some time to share to care and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

You never win getting even!

Bird Droppings December 23, 2011

You never win getting even!

 

“Everything that has happened in your life to this minute is unchangeable. It’s history. The greatest waste of energy is in looking back at missed opportunities, lamenting past events, grudge collecting, getting even, harboring ill will, and any vengeful thinking. Success is the only acceptable form of revenge. By forgiving your trespassers, you become free to concentrate on going forward with your life and succeeding in spite of your detractors. You will live a rewarding and fulfilling life.” Dr. Denis Waitley

 

Nearly every day I talk with students who should heed this advice. In reality not just students but parents as well as I read through a second and third time. Dr. Waitley is a Naval Academy graduate and has received a PhD in Behavioral Psychology, he is known for his work on the psychology of winning, and has been the psychologist to the US Olympic team. His CD on “The psychology of winning has sold over 10 million copies.

 

“Thou must be emptied of that wherewith thou art full, that thou mayest be filled with that whereof thou art empty.” St. Augustine

 

“This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge keeps his wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.” Francis Bacon

 

Within the microcosm of a high school the similarities to a larger system of humanity are interesting. Various hierarchies abound and social structures and separate orders are evidenced on every corner and in each hallway. Within the constraints of agendas and teachers views an entire ecosystem unfolds, there are predators, prey and beyond. The aspect that seems so often to creep out or up is revenge, usually based on he said she said sort of trivial incidents, and then a fight. The retaliation after the fact and this person is in trouble then that one. It has been a few months since a situation happened outside my door, so quickly I was told after the fact and I am usually sitting at my door. Two girls were at each other’s throats in a matter of seconds over one of their boyfriends who was actually the culprit in the whole fiasco he cheated on the one girl with the other one.

 

”Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” Paul Boese

 

“Forgive yourself for your faults and your mistakes and move on.” Les Brown

 

 What makes it so difficult to forgive to put aside differences? I had an experience several days ago with a student before the holiday break. The school policy in dress code rule number six or so, states that students can not wear “Dixie Outfitter shirts”, which is a popular T-shirt among high school students in the south or I should say among that ethnic group known as “rednecks”. Generally the shirts are emblazoned with a confederate flag. This is perhaps the hardest image of revenge and retaliation in existence, in this southern culture and while a historical flag it was the flag of choice of the Klu Klux Klan as well.

 

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

The other day walking around a near by mall, I noticed a Kiosk was solely devoted to Confederate flags and motifs, situated between Verizon wireless and terry cloth slippers. Not only is the concept engrained in the culture but in the profit margin as well.

 

“If the other person injures you, you may forget the injury; but if you injure him you will always remember.” Kahlil Gibran

 

“If a good person does you wrong, act as though you had not noticed it. They will make note of this and not remain in your debt long.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

 

 In some communities the wearing of a particular shirt or not to wear has literally created turmoil. In my instance a few days back it is with a student who uses his disability to mask hatred and underlying resentment. In a student parent meeting nearly seven years ago a parent made a comment that has stuck with me. He was sitting across the table; the father was defending his sons fighting. However it was an attitude and a statement about his work that stuck with me. He said he was an unemployed framer, and it was because those (blankety, blank, his words were a bit too vulgar to repeat here, Hispanics) work too hard and get all the jobs. He was bitter about somebody working too hard and getting all the work. There was never a comment about him not working hard. I sat thinking as a former employer, I really found that interesting. Do not hire hard workers that really made sense. The next week he was in a fight and jailed along with his son.

 

“A winner rebukes and forgives; a loser is too timid to rebuke and too petty to forgive” Sidney J. Harris

 

“Nobody ever forgets where he buried the hatchet.” Kim Hubbard

 

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Nearly seven years ago I wrote a paragraph or two about the sixteen hour syndrome I called it. How students are home for sixteen hours and in school eight and teachers are expected to retrain and re-teach what was taught in sixteen hours at home, in eight hours in school. Those habits and issues gathered at home are hard to replace. This is becoming more an issue as parents expect teachers to teach morality, manners, and all other aspects of humanity in the brief window we see children.

 

“It is a very delicate job to forgive a man, without lowering him in his own estimation, and yours too.” Henry Wheeler Shaw

 

On my journeys each day somehow I manage to stop by my favorite place, the local Quick Trip. As I went in yesterday, “hey Mr. Bird”, a former student who has dropped out and now has earned a GED called over to me. I noticed a City ID badge, he went on to tell me he was working for the city doing water quality checks, a really good job. Funny thing is this is a kid who wouldn’t take off a T-Shirt with inappropriate logos on it and went home suspended back in the day. He now works under a stricter dress code with rules that same shirt is not allowed to be worn either. I wonder if he wears it in defiance of his pay check.

 

“Only the brave know how to forgive; it is the most refined and generous pitch of virtue human nature can arrive at.” Laurence Sterne

 

“Forget and forgive. This is not difficult when properly understood. It means forget inconvenient duties, and then forgive yourself for forgetting. By rigid practice and stern determination, it comes easy.” Mark Twain

 

If only people could forgive, would we have war, would we have fights in high schools, would we have racism or would we have divorce? But in the confusion of human nature these events cause, this event and this then causes that, and soon revenge and retaliation take over. So I sit back writing and thinking pondering this morning what if? It seems I always come to this sort of outlook on holiday breaks away from students and parents. It is easier to ponder perhaps when the only real thinking is to cheer for your favorite bowl teams. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Waiting for miracles

Bird Droppings December 21, 2011

Waiting for a miracle

 

Miracle is a word used often by people of faith. It is an explanation for things that happen with no apparent cause and or rationale. It seems we all sit waiting for miracles perhaps waiting for that solution to pop up, to show its self and poof all will be better. So many times through history events have happened that provide for the concept of miracles and again so many provide based on a lack of proof. Perhaps it is simply a matter of semantics or within a language of need. Each of us has found the bottom of the well on occasion and for each many times a ladder has come. It has been for some a hand built one from within the well piece by piece. For some others they simply climbed out under their own strength.

I recall a story of a farmer and his donkey I have seen somewhere in my readings. It seems the farmer was so tired of the stubborn donkey he threw it in the well and invited neighbors over to bury this mean stubborn donkey. As the neighbors shoveled, shovel by shovel the well was filled in. Amazingly there towards the final few shovels a dirty donkey that had simply climbed a bit higher with each shovel of dirt jumped out and ran off. The farmer was left with a filled in well and no donkey. Was that a miracle for the donkey? Perhaps, yet we can also rationalize quick thinking and patience with the donkey and who knows maybe stubborn was the wrong word.

I recall a few months back when I spoke with several mothers some by chance or synchronicity as Jung calls it. Our washing machine died and the repairman could not come till after the holiday so I loaded a pile of teenage dirty laundry into my car and proceeded to wash or attempt to wash clothes at a launder mat. Since this was my second sojourn the first thing was finding my book from the other day and I asked the woman in charge and she immediately went to her office and pulled my book out with a note attached. “Someone left this book and I am sure will come back for it”. The book was “Teaching from the heart” by Sarah Day Hatton. Perhaps it was a small miracle that my book was still there may be so or was it more a Jungian sort of thing leading to another step another conversation.

It seems the woman who runs the Laundromat has an autistic son and when she found the book felt this was a book most people would not be reading and it must be special to someone. We talked for nearly an hour as my clothes washed and dried discussing how her seventeen year old son was progressing. As I sat another mother came in this time a former student’s mother her washer had died as well. We talked about how her daughter was doing and progressing. Then I received phone call on my cell phone from another mother who lost a son many years ago and is still looking and finding the pieces to her puzzle daily. As she talked about a story of a rope, scripture, devotion and finding peace within her and in others for nearly thirty minutes we talked. I use James Redfield’s term coincidence quite often and was corrected, not coincidences I was told. I offered then synchronicity perhaps as Jung says and that word was more acceptable.

Timely meaningful happenings seemingly by chance all in a short span of hours amazing how my family does not like to take me any where I always end up meeting people and talking. I went looking this morning for one author and stumbled on another. It has been several years since I first read, Care of the soul, by Thomas Moore. Moore was a monk for thirteen years. He is an avid student and learner gaining a PhD in religion, and in psychology along with a master in music and philosophy. Moore is a teacher, psychotherapist and writer he has a unique introspection on faith and life.

What amazes me each morning as I start is so often I really am not sure where it is ending. Not necessarily a good lesson for teaching creative writing but since I don’t do that I am okay. I started looking for a course in miracles and several lecturers who feature miracles in their writing. As I looked on a favorite site Thomas Moore is now a featured columnist and I looked at his site. Thinking over the past day and events another idea emerged and within miracles there is a sense of belonging of community for lack of better wording and pondering. I was caught in a paragraph from Moore’s site. I highly recommend a look at his website when time allows. Within the context of miracles and the world in general, so often teenagers get confused by all the horror and death. Moore was addressing this in previous paragraphs and lead into this thought.

 

“We could ask the same question about the thousands of children being killed and horribly wounded in wars across the globe. This horror exists because we have not matured enough to create a world community that genuinely serves the welfare of our children. Again, it’s a theological matter. We operate under an infantile illusion that the religions are in competition with each other, and we battle our anxious beliefs with literal weapons. We profess religions that are ninety percent ideology, full of ego, and, in the face of this pseudo religion, create a secularist society, which by definition is incapable of genuine community.” Thomas Moore

For those interested his website is – http://www.careofthesoul.net/index.htm

 

I was looking at Yahoo news today and three of ten articles or so were religious related granted it is a holiday season in several different religions. One that catches my attention is a court over turning intelligent design which some school systems and politicians are pushing. The Iranian President declares a ban on western music, clothing, ideas, morals, and who knows what else. In Bethlehem this time of year always conflict between various denominations and religions.

As I sit thinking the term genuine community is an interesting one. Could we even consider this, that might truly be construed a miracle considering wars have been fought over religion for thousands of years. When you get down and dirty however it is never ideology but actually more over money but religion was easier to accept. Can we become a community each step in its place. As I talked with my friend who had lost a son and for her the story unraveled over years not instantaneously there was not a blinding flash of  light but pieces falling in place one by one leading to that day in the laundermat and our talk. A long term miracle perhaps? My miracle would be to no longer have to ask my friends to keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts that would be the miracle I seek and perhaps if we can chip away piece by piece at building community at building relationships at climbing up each shovel full of dirt up one at a time what seemingly is getting hit in the face with a shovel full of dirt could in effect be freedom and maybe even peace someday and always give thanks.

namaste

bird