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

 

Possibilities

Bird Droppings December 20, 2011
Possibilities

“Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” Les Brown

I was sitting talking with one of my sons yesterday remembering when I was their age. I should say trying to remember when I was their age that would be more appropriate. It has been a few days since my sons and I have been to lunch with my mother and as they would; they got picking on each other and she always would enjoy the show. My oldest has recently completed his first full semester of graduate school and I recall one of his last semesters he was having some difficulty getting registered because his student loans had been electronically fouled up. I was trying to tell him take each moment as it comes, deal with it and move to next. He was upset and as the day progressed the lesson was learned it seems the wording in the college catalog allowed him a “loop” hole so he could register and get started in school that semester while the paper work of his student loan was over the resolved.

“It is necessary; therefore, it is possible.” G. A. Borghese

Perhaps as I get older I find nothing is impossible when we set our minds to it. Somewhere along the line I took a picture of my son crossing a stream stepping rock to rock he had fallen in playing several times but even soggy and wet he was still trying to maneuver across, stepping rock to rock. I have used this illustration so many times and even have a picture of the stream hanging in my room at school as he does in his bedroom. So often life is like crossing a stream, a stone at a time and we do fall in quite a bit. The ones who are successful in life climb right back up soggy and wet and keep going.

“Oh man! There is no planet sun or star could hold you, if you but knew what you are.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have really come to like Emerson over the years almost as if he wrote some lines specifically for me to use those many years ago and they have been sitting and waiting.
I altered slightly Emerson’s words, “If we but know what we are”, and what a powerful statement. We go through life trying to understand where and who we are and many of us spend the better part of a lifetime searching. Some will find themselves at a young age and the rest of us it seems like eternity trying to know.

“Never measure the height of a mountain, until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.” Dag Hammarskjold

While not a household, Dag Hammarskjöld is the name of the former United Nations Secretary General during some of the world’s craziest times. The Cold War was one of the biggest historical events of our time between Russia and The United States. His statement of waiting till you attain your goal before you stop to measure is so crucial. So many of us when we stop to look and see where we are going become frustrated and slow down or stop completely.

“Of course we all have our limits, but how can you possibly find your boundaries unless you explore as far and as wide as you possibly can? I would rather fail in an attempt at something new and uncharted than safely succeed in a repeat of something I have done.” A.E. Hotchner

Each day at school I post on my door a new quote something to offer a challenge to students, to open doors, to expand wisdom, to stick their neck out, and to go beyond where they are now. Each day many hundreds of people go by my door and some will crane their neck to peek inside the door, some will stop and talk as I sit in my office outside my room between classes at my door. What is that thing, what do you teach, and r whose room is this are my favorites that students come up with. Each day is an effort of trying to open boxes and pry the lids off sealed containers of minds and thoughts.

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!” Soren Kierkegaard

It has been many years since I heard Dr. Norman Vincent Peale speak in Macon Georgia in 1973 when he recognized a small church my brother attended, The Church of the Exceptional, as the National church of the year. That was over thirty five years ago yet his ideas are as relevant today now at this moment as I write this cold morning in Georgia.

“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities — always see them, for they’re always there.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

A possibilitarian is someone who always see possibilities, what an interesting thought in a day and time when so often we are subjected to negative and belittling concepts and ideas. So many students quit long before they ever get a chance to succeed. At this time of year we see many seniors leave high school or at least our school due to graduation tests. They have tried numerous times and while they will have enough credits and may even have been a B student or better cannot pass one of the five Georgia High School Graduation Tests. Many will seek enrollment in a small private school that does not adhere to same standards and does not require GHSGT’s and will graduate in May on time only they graduate from that school.

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” Song from, The California Special Olympics

Sometime ago I followed UCLA’s basketball program more closely that I do now and on the team was a red haired fellow who just happened to be 6 foot ten inches tall. He becomes a premier professional player and in retirement one of the great commentators of sports Mr. Bill Walton. It was only last night that University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team toed the eighty eight game win streak of Coach Wooden and Bill Walton’s team.

“No matter how good you get, there’s always something further out there.” Bill Walton

There is to all lessons more than one aspect, and more than one possibility. It is seeking, understanding and achieving those numerous other possibilities by never simply stopping because you made your initial goal. Now set higher goals achieve more and better grow further and farther, always lifting up continually. I was reading several small pieces this morning as I started writing. We all are givers and takers at one time or another as our lives balance out, try and balance to the giving versus the taking. You will never run out giving, but when you take soon doors will close. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.
namaste
bird

What we know

Bird Droppings December 19, 2011

What we know

 

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

 

It has been a few days since I received an email containing a letter from a well-known professor of education at the University of Georgia. The letter was about the emphasis on testing “what we know”, and how this is not a reflection of education, simply teaching students to take a test or borrowing from Sydney J. Harris “stuffing sausages.” The issue then becomes how we measure what a person does learn. One of the best methods of measuring learning is a portfolio system. Most elected officials want data in terms of their stay in office not a portfolio twenty years in the making which makes this method a hard sell.

 

“I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life. It conceives the school as a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be learned, or where certain habits are to be formed. The value of these is conceived as lying largely in the remote future; the child must do these things for the sake of something else he is to do; they are mere preparation. As a result they do not become a part of the life experience of the child and so are not truly educative.” John Dewey

 

I just went back and reread Dr. Glickman’s letter and have formatted it and saved it on my computer. John Dewey knew cramming knowledge was not the answer. Modern educators argue as I mentioned several days ago we cannot simply fill a bottle with knowledge. In life not just in education we want to be able to determine our successes and failures. Over my years many of which have been in industry, indirectly in developing materials for training. Specifically in industry we developed and used a term, an acronym, ISMEC.

In industry there is a goal a rather simple one and that is profit. In order to increase profit you have to decrease losses. ISMEC was a tool to do this. There were underlying humanitarian issues in heavy industry, where loss also means loss of life as well.  But loss time is amount of time without a loss and in some industries this is measured between deaths or injuries. For example in deep rock mining which is one of those industries where how many man hours between deaths is calculated. The equation becomes how many deaths per million man hours of work. ISMEC came to industry in the early 1960’s and revolutionized industry. A simple acronym, Identify, Set standards, Measure, Evaluate, Correct and or Commend.

In industry to find and identify you look at the maintenance department and find where issues are and build from there. In a community currently we use test scores what if we looked at the maintenance department, the jails, rehab facilities, counseling services, doctors and such to see where we needed support and modifications rather than standardized tests scores. It might cost too much or confidentiality could be an issue and we would have a difficult time accomplishing within elected officials time in office is a crucial one. What if we went a step closer to home and checked on in school and out of school suspensions and detentions as a marker for problems.

 

“Our students are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in American history and unparalleled anywhere in the world. Politicians and businesspeople, determined to get tough with students and teachers, have increased the pressure to raise standardized test scores. Unfortunately, the effort to do so typically comes at the expense of more meaningful forms of learning” Alfie Kohn

 

So what do we do as parents, teachers, friends and families do? How do we change the directions and aspirations of those who set the precedent? We live in a democracy and we hold that power in voting. Many Presidents of our United States have are argued the merits of removing or not removing various taxes, wars, health care reform, our economy and yet I have heard little about education. I came to school earlier to work on data today and find it hard to believe thinking people are buying this dribble, yet whoever is elected seems to do whatever is needed to stay elected and not about what should or could truly turn our country and the world around. We have stabilized gas prices recently and panic from the general population is sedated versus running around just a few short months ago trying to save twenty cents a gallon at a cheaper store. We seem to forget that our children are the future and how they view the world will impact that future. How they understand their world will impact their future.  

As I close this morning we gain knowledge and we learn and we try and through our voting during elections we can hopefully change society, borrowing from a recent election, yes we can. So many years ago a movie ended with an elderly man offering a bit of wisdom, “use it wisely” as the old knight in the Indiana Jones movie says. Today use it wisely and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Telling our grandchildren

Bird Droppings December 18, 2011
Telling our grand children

“I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed. In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be life long. In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat. In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers. In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed– the link to creation. In my eyes sparkled love and the song floated on the sun’s rays from tree to tree. When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf’s reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out. All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.” Chief Dan George, Salish

I look forward to the day I can tell my grandchildren tales told to me by my father and his father. Recently my oldest son and I were standing in the dark listening to a chorus of coyotes call only hundreds of yards away through the dense pines of the nearby forest. Perhaps they had caught a deer or found a carcass left from some wayward hunter and were celebrating their find. The echoes and calls bounced off the trees and literally filled the air unlike anything I have heard this side of the Mississippi river. I am sure when I retell this story it will be embellished a bit but it was awesome just the same to hear personally. As I am sitting here this morning reading again this short passage from Chief Dan George I am saddened by the ending. We are on the verge as we continue to focus on the now of losing our past. We dominant society who have ravaged the landscape, stripped away what we need, technologically impaired our children, and left little possibility that our grandchildren will be able to hear and see what we have even in our lifetimes.
Many will scoff at my feeble words. However as a teacher I see the children of today struggle with imagination and creativity. I see today’s children so entangled in gadgetry that they have little need any more for a stick horse or sock stuffed animal. Few children are building forts and tree houses when they can have virtual worlds to play with. Some of us will recall what it is like to play Robin Hood in a patch of forest. Some will remember days prior to TV and video. Some of us can remember having to ask an operator to connect you to your phone call party. Some will remember dialing with a rotary dial phone other than comedians in skits. I am as much a victim using my smart phone to communicate instantly photos and images and getting directions or weather reports instantly. However it caught me by surprise when a clerk at one of my favorite stores asked me what I did with my herb garden during the winter. It set me back from the fast pace world into one of growing plants and herbs. One of digging in the dirt and growing what we need instead of asking just the price. Several times I had brought bags of mint and stevia by their store and this clerk remembered me. So what will I tell my grand daughter one day when she is sitting on my knee. I might start with a passage I used at her parents wedding ceremony.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950

It is easy to wonder sitting in my kitchen typing away on my laptop of days ahead and what lessons what stories I will share. I will walk through the fields and forest and point out leaves and twigs, I will pick up a insect and tell of what it is and why, I will teach her how a great horned owl calls in the evening and the difference between a spring peeper and a grey tree frog, I will show her to avoid poison oak and ivy and look for wild straw berries, but I will also show her how to create images on a computer and how to use words wisely and powerfully and to share with others.

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

So in the midst of a holiday season I am wondering what lesson should I first impart. There is a lesson that sadly many forget as they go into the world. It has been many years since I first saw these words. It is that lesson of example. Dr. Nolte, nearly fifty years ago gave us a poem of sorts “Children learn what they live”, that critical lesson is one of example providing a life that is a lesson rather than a disaster. So this morning as we start a new week please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.
namaste
bird

Seeking definitive meaning while stirring

Bird Droppings December 17, 2011

Seeking definitive meaning while stirring

 

Today I walked out into the darkness and got my feet wet as the dew was excessive on the grass and I was barefooted taking the dog out, could be why I have a cold. I may have been too foggy to realize till I my feet were soaked and it was chilly my dog even ran out and came right back after doing her duty. I recall being given an assignment by a professor many years ago. A special reading on a book that was published in the seventies by an educator considered very much the renegade, Ivan Illich. Illich wrote the book De-schooling Society. Illich was a scholar of theology, philosophy, history and psychology, he was at different times once a parish priest, philosopher, college professor and thinker. As I am sitting here thinking this morning after getting back End of Course Test scores his words ring true. We look only at a total score for a class of percentage passed. Nowhere does the data point towards potential of the group of kids other than a percent that scored over seventy percent. Somewhere in there we should be looking at increased numbers of special education students in inclusion classes. What about increased numbers of at risk students. Amazing how nationwide teachers are being evaluated based on a generalized percent of passing without even considering have they improved from last year.

 

“…imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work.” Ivan Illich

 

My initial reading offered a view of the early 1970’s philosophy of the idea that the establishment is wrong. Discussing with teenagers in high school that favorite phrase of seventy is passing I am fine. I was thinking to a quality issue at my son’s former plant. His former company is a manufacturer of polyester fiber and in most situations requires one hundred percent compliance to quality to facilitate the processing and dying of the fiber. Watching over the years how changes and evolutionary trends in society have taken us from the hippie days of the 70’s through the overly materialistic 80’s into an era of ambiguity in the 90’s to an era of show me the results in the now 2000’s I find life is most interesting.

We speed through time and life watching from the windows of a tour bus seems to me how we look at life. Yesterday I was talking with students and watching imagination slip by. I asked several students to design and come up with a super hero in a matter of moments one handed me a character with a comic strip and logo and complete package. I said you did not create this he was convinced he had. There was a website that literally lets you create from templates a super hero. I tried to explain how taking a paper doll and changing outfits is not creating the doll. As I thought about education today and comparing how we look at results, test scores and then the world of results that kids see even though he came through with quite a package it was results but at what cost.

In our societal view of things probably he would have scored well on that task for some teachers. One of my favorites is going on line and buying prewritten papers which now middle school students and high schools students are doing let alone college and graduate students. What is so funny it is so easy to check even original papers from high school through doctorate level papers; they can be traced to ghost writers who even take credit cards.

 

“Imagination is the process by which we say that an image is presented to us” Aristotle

 

I thought back to my younger days when play time was a few sticks and a patch of scrub we called the jungle. Nowadays kids could have laser guns and vests to record kills even camouflage outfits and night vision rather than night eyes. One of my students is getting a six hundred dollar paint ball gun for Christmas. Do you remember the term night eyes, when you allow your vision to adjust to the dark? I recall a few months back I was going to the car one morning and I habitual walk out in the dark. I happened to go towards the spot where our trash can is located alongside the reptile building. My son waited till I came back into the light to head for the car and we have security lights that have motion detectors it was interesting at the time. Observer that I tend to be I was using my night eyes that point where darkness is revealed and you can move and see to a degree in the dark. Shining a flash light in your eyes at night ruins your night vision and your night eyes. Worse yet modern kids have halide flash lights with adjustable sealed beams and or fluorescent lights for maximum visibility talk about ruining forever night eyes. By far I am not against technology and advances but we have stripped away the imagination.

There is a doctor show on that I am somewhat addicted to although not quite as bad as NCIS, HOUSE. It is an interesting approach. Each week Dr. House is faced with an incurable and often untreatable illness in a patient that has been totally baffling to his crew of trained physicians. I recall many years ago a dear friend who was trained at Grady Hospital as a nurse, back in the day telling me a story. Emory University a well-known nursing program and medical school would send new doctors to Grady for residency. Often times this was their first experience in a real medical situation Grady being at that time and still one of the leading trauma units in the Southeast. Grady student nurses often would have to cover for Emory Doctors. They knew what they saw rather than knew what they had read.

 

“Imagination makes knowledge of the phenomenal world possible, by synthesizing the incoherent sensory manifold into representational images suitable to be brought under concepts.” Emmanuel Kant

 

I enjoy watching the scruffy Dr. House doodle on his white board eliminating possibilities while totally baffling his assistants with questions trying to get them thinking and into using their imaginations to find the answer.

 

“One day, a rajah’s son asked, “Father, what is reality?” “An excellent question, my son. Come, everyone, we will go to the marketplace.” So the rajah and his son went outside and mounted their royal elephant. The rest of the entourage followed on foot. When they got to the marketplace, the rajah commanded, “Bring me 3 blind men.” When the blind men arrived, the rajah commanded, “Place one blind man at the elephant’s tusk, one at the elephant’s leg and one at the elephant’s tail.” When that was done, the rajah said, “Describe the elephant to me, blind men.” The man at the tusk said, “It’s like a spear.” The man at the leg said, “It’s like a tree.” The man at the tail said, “It’s like a rope.” As the men started to argue, the rajah said to his son, “Reality, my son, is the elephant. And we are all blind men.”” Ancient Hindu proverb

 

When we train our imagination to be limited to be only that which we have been schooled in, trained in limits and or set parameters are laid out and we are in a sense stifled in truly finding answers. Dr. House’s students are limited by the texts they studied from as our many students who have been trained and schooled in most institutions today. We have been taught that this is the right direction even when many paths are there. You can only go this way, one way.

A school district in theAtlantaarea added a label to their (occasionally I actually use the other spelling of there, there are four, there, their, there’re and thur as in ova thur) textbooks a disclaimer on evolution. This was a few years back. I always wonder when I see a one way sign what if I go that way just this once. Granted in down town traffic in Atlanta on a one way street you may end up smooshed but what about when conditions allow wouldn’t it be great to see a street from a different view than the norm. To see the other side of buildings you do not normally get to see and perhaps even meet people you never saw because they were always walking the other direction. There are days when I stand in the middle of the hallways during the rush time in school simply to get a different view a different perspective of life. Boy do I miss the jungle a good friend actually bought it sort of to maintain those memories.

My kids had a place on the farm growing up they called paradise. It was an outcropping of stone with piles of rocks and pebbles. Many the times if we searched for the kids they would be sitting playing at paradise although many times with hot wheels and transformers but still imaginations running wild. As I am sitting here thinking back to childhood which really does not seem all that far away. I often wondered if it was to save that memory he bought that small patch of land. I would like to think so in today’s digital, sanitized, deodorized, and research based world.  So today perhaps a changing point in our nation’s history, maybe as ideas flow and understanding shift we can see more than is presented and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

namaste

bird