Pondering in my search for wisdom

Bird Droppings May 31, 2012

Pondering my search for wisdom

 

            I started my day a bit later than normal being out from school and trying to get over a summer cold and my plans include yard work, writing and a finishing up several pieces of my graduate portfolio later today so I was lazy. I ran by my second most favorite store Quick Trip to grab a morning grapefruit cranberry drink and newspaper. I had planned on picking up a few parts to work on my old Isuzu at the auto parts store and shock of all shocks it was closed as I pulled in which is unheard of at seven o’clock in the morning. I forget not all people live by my sunrise to sunset standard. So I went on about the day but somehow ended up at one of my favorite stores Kroger to pick up things for dinner so I would not have to travel out and could get serious about paper work.

On the front page of today’s paper the lead story was how high school graduates are not ready for college and right next to it was an article on an assistant principal who is being investigated in Atlanta’s school system cheating scandal claiming she did not know they were cheating only cleaning up eraser marks so testing machines would not err. One comment was essentially in Georgia twenty five percent of the graduates have to take remedial courses in college. As I thought about this pondering as I do I recalled I too took a remedial language arts course my freshmen year in college. Actually took it twice since the first time I did not go to class very often.

            Why did I have to take a remedial college course and yet I was accepted into all three colleges I applied too. My SAT was a few points too low for the school I applied too on the verbal portion and yet today it would be more than enough to get into any college without remedial classes. As I think to my days in High School Literature with the exception of maybe one or two years I hated it and could not understand why we needed to listen to a teachers opinion on why Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. As I think back I really did not like Math classes, Spanish classes and all but one science class. Considering we had math, literature and science all four years of High School I really did not like high school and perhaps my GPA reflected this. Even though my SAT scores were what got me into college and conversely in a remedial class, my saving grace in education was standardized tests which I seemed to always do well on. My first set of SAT scores were in today’s terms over 1300 for verbal and Math which really would get me into most undergraduate schools shy of Ivy League today.  The second time I took SAT I decided I would see how fast I could actually take the test and in twenty three minutes had completed the SAT and scored only a few points lower than my previous test.

            So where am I wandering today. My conclusion that I came to after reflecting on my own High School experience and many kids I talk with in High School today is that we are teaching subjects that many consider irrelevant to them, even kids going to college. Some students will strive and get high grades acquiring the content that is provided so they take End of Course Tests and do great. But as I look at High school subject matter and even the photo used in explaining how deficient students today are in Math I looked at the problem on the board behind the teacher being interviewed and in real life shy of being in physics or math as a job you will never see that material.  Learning is what is missing from education today. It is about that desire to learn and making it relevant to students who more than likely do not even want to be in that class. So how do we get teachers on board that have been brought up in the same system?

“The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results; all his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge. The wise, ever satisfied, have abandoned all external supports. Their security is unaffected by the results of their action; even while acting, they really do nothing at all. Free from expectations and from all sense of possession, with mind and body firmly controlled by the Self, they do not incur sin by the performance of physical action.” Bhagavad Gita 4:19-21

 

            I can easily substitute learning and wisdom as I read through this ancient passage from a Hindu holy text. It is a matter of who you are with and when and how you have been told is this learning? But as I read this passage many years old a person is wise when what you do is done without anxiety about results. You are not concerned about your grade or what college or who has the highest GPA. We sadly live in a competitive world where being number one is even a marketing tool for advertisers. I often wonder if politicians get stressed out, other than around elections over what they do. I always thought of my grandmother as wise for her understanding of life. As a small child perhaps I saw only that her knowledge was what she needed to know to raise her children justly and correctly and how to make really good chocolate chip cookies. As I grew up there was a different understanding on my part of her deep faith and wisdom maybe one day I can possible come close too?

 

“This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety….It becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” The Dalai Lama

 

As a society we seem to encourage anxiety and stress often at the expense of our children and grandchildren. Our previous elected government pushed to spread democracy through numerous wars and our current government has continued and added a war or two to the pot which has caused a tension and insecurity in our children according to Progressive Curriculum Theorist Henry Giroux. Is it turning to a deeper meaning a spiritual center as “the only firm base” as The Dalai Lama states.

 

“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate well, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.” Alex Noble

 

How many of us take this approach to life I use often the term of being a searcher in that I am always searching. When walking in the forest I have the urge to check under rocks could be the unrelenting herpetologist in me searching for a snake or lizard. As I sit or stand in the hallway at school observing, searching faces, listening, empathizing and trying to understand.

 

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

 

I used a statement several weeks back about seeing the bubble in a thousand clear oceans. Bonheoffer addresses that same issue here. In education it is about context not content, that is being able to apply what knowledge we have and that can be more significant than an encyclopedia of information.

 

“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” Helen Keller

 

Many the times, I will sit and think about people I would like to meet. My biological grandfather on my mother’s side is one, Gandhi another and Ralph Waldo Emerson but if I was allowed another it would be Helen Keller. There are few people who have overcome such insurmountable odds and then accomplish what she did. The title to the book about her life does not do justice to the real life situation, The Miracle Worker.

 

“It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I need to be more cautious as I write, yesterday Thoreau was searching for clam rather than calm, spell check does not read minds as of yet. But Thoreau eludes back to that thousand plus year old statement from the Bhagavad Gita,”when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results”. Being wise is being in tune so to say with all around and to borrow another word perhaps harmony could be used.

 

“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” Immanuel Kant

 

In education there are in The Georgia Performance Standards points of reference in each subject to attain or to have knowledge of. Georgia had a system in place of Quality Core Curriculum which literally was each and every aspect of what the educational committee thought was important in that subject. Teachers were teaching to QCC’s and it was almost purely content. There was excitement as standards came out and the school curriculum people got hold and unpacked and now we have curriculum maps and curriculum pacing and what was to be wonderful has become a monster. The heart and soul has been stripped out and in its place organizational overload.

 

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” Lin Yutang

 

I have several times used my example of a liter bottle and having three gallons to put in it, how do we do it? A funnel still only fills to a liter and the rest spills out. I use this illustration in educating special needs kids and I believe it applies to all children and adults. It has been a few months since my last trip to Mountain City and the Foxfire property. I am heading up in a week or so. If you are in Mountain City Georgia take a look it is well worth the drive up the mountain. The museum will provide a guide to take you around. I recall the late Robert Murray and numerous walks with him around the property, here and there he would pick a plant leave or three or four telling about what they could do and what they can be used for.

As he would go building to building explaining mountain life he eventually gets to a shed with a large copper coil sort of device and asks “So what is it” and answers run the gambit? Finally laughing he explains it is a condenser for making moonshine. If you have watched the miniseries Hatfield and McCoy’s you will know. So how do we fill a liter bottle? We condense and we synthesize and much like making cane syrup we boil the cane juice down to get the good stuff. Wisdom is knowing what is the good stuff and being able to transcend the frills and extras.

 

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.” Mark Twain

 

Make that number five on my list of people who I would like to meet somehow Mark Twain could always have the right words and thoughts. As I meander about today searching for books and ideas, tilling in my garden and planting plants I will end with a line from a founding father and one maybe our current in power folks should read.

 

I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” Thomas Jefferson

 

I hope we will listen to Jefferson please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Filling cracks in leaky pots

Bird Droppings May 30, 2012

Filling cracks in leaky pots

 

Many thousands of years ago Buddha compared people to four kinds of clay vessels. Borrowing these words today as I am thinking to a day lost yesterday in my normal routine of writing and doing things. A lost day but a full day, time with family and in gardening through most of the day. Today I looked at my calendar and was concerned as I had missed a meeting on May 31 at eleven o’clock. I looked at the time of my computer and called my fiend to tell them I was sorry I had missed the meeting. Only as I called apologizing did I realize it was tomorrow I was ahead in my thinking. I have been a fan of eastern thought for many years finding as I research and read often significant words and understanding.

 

“One type of vessel has holes in the bottom. We can pour in as much water as we like and it runs right out. When this type of person hears and it goes in one ear and out the other. The second type of vessel has cracks. Though we pour in and it seeps out slowly until the vessel is empty again. The third vessel is full to the brim with stale water–views and opinions. One can’t pour anything new in, everything is already known. The only useful vessel is the fourth, without holes or cracks and totally empty.” Ayya Khema,

 

“Be an Island So often as we go about people seemingly are learning but for whatever reason the words taught ideas shown messages left go unheeded unanswered and unheard – Comparing us to a clay pot is an interesting analogy – we need to approach life less full less sure of ourselves and opinions and views more open minded there is so much to learn even for an old guy like me – “It is always in season for old men to learn.” Aeschylus 

 

“Learn as though you would never be able to master it; hold it as though you would be in fear of losing it.” Confucius

 

Yesterday I responded to a question on an educational blog about motivating students. I would be the first to argue this is a critical part of each day. Others were arguing why should we teachers have to motivate that is up to parents. When I started back to graduate school after nearly thirty years away I was sort of worried but then I realized how much I enjoyed learning and as I sit in a high school each day it is not teaching a subject that is so crucial it is teaching that joy of learning. When students want to learn being a teacher is the easiest job in the world, it is filling and helping to fill that clay pot.

Teaching or trying to teach a person whose sole goal is getting to their sixteenth birthday and then quitting school is a lot more difficult. Now the challenge is which is more rewarding knowing you have filled a clay jar to the brim which most anyone could do easily or repairing the cracks fixing the holes and removing the stale water. I have this problem with enjoying fixing the broken vessels.

 

“It seems that we learn lessons when we least expect them but always when we need them the most, and, the true “gift” in these lessons always lies in the learning process itself.”  Cathy Lee Crosby

 

As I sit many days after school and often in the morning before school discussing world views and ideas with students who are more like the empty pots, something occurs, a two way street we are both teacher and student and several times I have referred to this as my philosophy of teaching. Real teaching in real life is about osmosis. Each organism receiving and giving in the relationship neither truly benefiting more than the other a give and take as it is. But during class when I am filling cracks mending holes that is the time when true satisfaction happens when you see someone’s eyes open and an idea slip in, past ten or eleven years of built up defeat or walling up, then the work is worth it.

 

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

 

I once had a professor who in class would explain how each person used only a small portion of their brain perhaps less than ten percent even the great intellect Albert Einstein was limited to that degree. So if that was true we could all be so much better than we are. Many years ago I had the great privilege of listening to Glenn Doman who is now in his eighties. Doman still teaches that philosophy in Philadelphia at The Institute for Achievement for Human Potential, working with severely brain injured children and adults in rehabilitation. Dr. Doman believes we can work with other portions of the brain not used and not damaged for example in a brain injured child. I have always found this to be a most interesting concept.

Borrowing from other great thinkers and such this idea is being actively used on children and adults. Has it been scientifically proven, maybe not in the purest sense of the word? However one thing that I did learn from Dr. Doman was to never, ever, lower expectations of any child, always reach for the stars. I see children daily who have had teachers sat the educational limit for them, “this child tested such and such and so will only do such and such”, a limit, a restriction, a parameter, a box and often sticking with the child through their educational career. The data should not be used to define a child but to offer suggestions as to how and reach that child.

I have found that many teachers live in boxes of their own making, limiting, constricting, and defining and often in smaller boxes than they place their students. It would be great if we were all more like amoebas, flexible, able to work around any corner into ever crack crevice and hole, see and do all and then osmosis simply absorb it in. There would be no parameters and no limits. Sadly the only down side no one will ever accuse an amoeba of being constipated usually it is the other extreme. (sorry for the gross comparison) but when a fixed container keeps packing stuff in it eventually gets stuck or so jammed tight nothing comes out.

 

“Learning is not compulsory but neither is survival.” W. E. Deming

 

Only a few hours ago I gassed my car up and was talking with the cashier, a young man who is in college and trying to decide on his future. He asked me about the statement “quality is all”. As I thought Deming came to mind and Phillip J. Crosby great guru of quality and author. We talked a few minutes and I left him with a noble statement but far too often we chose unwisely and in ignorance go the wrong direction.

When all is said and done, learning is daily it is about expectations, keep the sky and beyond as a limit have no limit, absorb not stuff and be osmotic not parasitic, rise above and not fall below. I have said so many times if when stepping to the next rock crossing the stream you fall in climb back up you are already wet and it is in the stepping stones we learn to not wallow in the stream. Today have a safe journey in life and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

namaste

bird

It will be an interesting day

Bird Droppings May 29, 2012

It will be an interesting day

 

I was up earlier than normal and went back to bed after sitting out for a few minutes around midnight or so. It was peaceful sitting in the coolness of a summer evening. I thought earlier we were going to have a storm. A cold front came through and temperatures were unseasonably cool but it felt good. To top that off a hurricane is sitting over South Georgia and generally we get backwash from summer tropical storms. I am sitting here writing and listening to a CD by R. Carlos Nakai, Sundance Season. Nakai plays traditional Native American music on a cedar seven note flute and in this particular CD uses also an eagle bone whistle. Similar to the whistles used in Sundance ceremonies now for thousands of years.

It has been a few days since my last order of white sage and Dakota sage came in. I took a few moments over the weekend to put in my masons jars for storage. Sage has a peaceful aroma when burning and along with a bit of sweet grass a very relaxing aroma and attitude something about embers smoldering. Later today I am reworking my sweet grass patch to a sunnier spot.

 

“For some years now, students have not been getting to the root of the aim of Zen, instead taking the verbal teachings of Buddha’s and Zen masters to be the ultimate rule. That is like ignoring a hundred thousand pure clear oceans and only focusing attention on a single bubble.” Ying-an

 

As I watched a few embers slowly dissipate it made me think to this piece I read earlier today while I do some research for a my dissertation. So often we miss the point caught up in a pure clear ocean when the bubble is what we really seek. I sprinkled the ashes on the ground and came in to write and think.

 

“Storms make the oak grow deeper roots.” George Herbert (1593-1632, British metaphysical poet

 

Over the past few days I have read many emails, blogs and thoughts about how life strengthens us through trial and tribulations. I remember an oak tree in Coatesville Pennsylvania growing up immediately outside my apartment bedroom window. Hurricane Hazel was devastating the area and a loud crack and several large branches broke off falling on the parking lot beside our apartment damaging some cars. Very easily the tree could have given up and come down in the storm but it stayed put losing only a branch or two. The flooding lasted for days as I recall but this was when I was four maybe 1953 or so. As I sit pondering a bubble the Zen master says far too often we do not take the time.

 

“Live as you will wish to have lived when you are dying.” Christian Furchtegott Gellert

 

A country song by about this subject went to number one and a subsequent little inspirational book was published that I found and have given away now quite a few copies. It is not about the destination it is the journey.

 

“It is not the greatness of a man’s means that makes him independent, so much as the smallness of his wants.” William Cobbett (1762-1835) British journalist and reformer

 

I a few days ago in talking with my mother we talked about how my father before he passed away had no wants at all. He had done everything he ever wanted and just was enjoying each minute of life be it an old Gunsmoke rerun on TV or a John Wayne movie. I was thinking about many of the ascetics over the years who give up everything simply to be. As I was thinking Henry David Thoreau came close wandering about as a learner so he could teach. So many teachers forget we are always learning and need to be in order to be an effective teacher. Sometimes it may be giving up something to gain more.

 

“If you desire many things, many things will seem few.” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American scientist, publisher and diplomat

 

“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.” George Eliot

 

These are interesting thoughts, as I sit and ponder the morning and day ahead. So many things are happening in the world and so much happening each day we often miss a piece or two.

 

“The master goes about his business with perfect equanimity. He is happy when he sits, Happy when he talks and eats, happy asleep, happy coming and going. Because he knows his own nature, He does what he has to without feeling ruffled like ordinary people. Smooth and shining like the surface of a vast lake. His sorrows are at an end.” Ashtavakra Gita 18:59-60

 

I was talking with a young man I ran into at a convenience store. He is in his twenties now. I had him in class nearly ten years ago when he turned 16. He is working and doing alright according to him. When I had him in school he was on the verge of getting kicked out of school and then he withdrew and quit school. He went on and received his diploma in an alternative school format but he did finish. He could never be successful in a big group or class. Always his attention would drift and trouble would ensue. Back in the day he was a little spud but he had grown a few inches since I last saw him and put on a few pounds of muscle. What struck me in our conversation was his work. He was working in construction building foundations. This is a kid I would have bet would have been in jail within a year or two and he may have been but now he was building foundations for people’s homes. As I sit and think this for sure is a paradox maybe. I wish him well. As I close so much to be thinking about in the world but as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

A special Bird Droppings on Memorial Day 2012

A special Bird Droppings on Memorial Day 2012

 

            The summer of 2007 holds many moments of sadness and still flitting around in the sadness many moments of joy. It was in May I received a call to front office and was told to call my wife, I knew immediately something was wrong as she never calls the school for me other than emergency. My father in law had drowned while fishing at his favorite lake in middle Georgia. In June one evening I was driving down to hear my son present his rendition of “Knocking on Heavens door” at a talent show after spending a few moments with my mother and father. Early the next morning my mother called to tell me my father had passed in the night. Both of these fathers were veterans. My wife’s father served in the Air Force for twenty five years retired and went back into Civil Service it seems he was a pretty good mechanic on C-130’s. My father left college to enlist and served during World War II in the South Pacific in the Navy on an LSM delivering Marines and equipment to beach fronts throughout the area.  I wrote on both days a dropping of sorts and would like to share them again today as a memorial to my two fathers.

 

May 3, 2007

I remember his hands

 

It has been nearly thirty years since I first saw his hands. I recall the day as those ugly big hands reached for mine to shake my hand as his daughter introduced me to him. Those Big ugly hands were creviced and creased from nearly fifty years of working on C-130 airplanes. Nearly fifty years of work etched into those hands with the black of oil and grease clinging to his finger nails so hard to clean off after tearing down and over-hauling engines so pilots could fly safely. Big ugly hands that I remember so clearly became beautiful reaching to hold his first grand son nearly thirty years ago.

 For nearly thirty years I watched those hands fold in prayer at meals and in church services. I watched as he placed his big hand on his daughters shoulder as we were wed. I watched so many times as he would hold his big hands down for a grandchild to cling to steady them as they learned to walk. I remember his hands.

I remember hands that looked so clumsy from being so worn and frayed skillfully cut fine curves on jig saw as he made model cars and planes for his grandchildren. I remember wondering how could those big hands carve such a small propeller for such a tiny plane that would come to sit on my sons shelve now nearly twenty years. I would laugh as his hands cut out flowers and reindeers in mass for friends and family and as his big hands painted away in bright colors each one of those potential gifts. How I remember those hands.

I remember hands that could cook fish so good you had to eat a ton. I remember hands that could fix a car or repair a bike. I remember hands reaching for the food bowls at Thanksgiving dinner, filling his plate and then reaching for another roll. I remember those hands holding a bird house up as he nailed it to a post and filled his bird feeders in the back yard. I remember watching those big hands put another log on the fire and poke at the coals. I remember those hands.

I remember the day those hands last held a cigarette so many years ago. I remember those big hands putting up pictures of grandchildren in the living room. I remember those hands filling his thermos and getting an extra jacket to head for the races in CordeleGeorgiaand taking ear muffs for his grandson. I remember those hands holding an ear of corn as we listened to country music down at Mossy Creek so many times. I remember those hands.

I often joked of how funny it would seem as those big hands held such a small fishing pole and reel. I remember those hands and the passion for fishing and being on the lake. I remember my son catching his first fish and being hugged by those big hands. I remember those hands videotaping every single event in his grandkids lives. I remember watching as the boat was loaded and truck hooked up. I remember those hands.

As long as I have all of these memories he will be here or there and I can sit and tell my children about those big hands. I remember those hands. It is hard to ponder as I do that all I now have is those memories and will not see those big hands reaching, hugging, holding, fishing, praying and shaking my hand again. It was a long drive home as I thought about what to write and say as I remember this man. I do know I remember his hands. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

namaste

bird

 

 

June 28, 2007

A new journey

 

            I had dropped off some medicine yesterday afternoon at my parent’s home and spoke with my mother for a few minutes. Two of my nieces were there with my dad standing by his bed as I went in. He lay still not moving my mother said he has been like this now for some time. It was hard leaving and going to my next stop of the day. A feeling of apprehension seemed to carry with me. But there were other stops other pieces to that day’s journey.

I drove down toOxfordGeorgialast evening to watch the talent show of my youngest son’s choir camp. My wife was tired from a hard day at work and she had to make several calls and wanted to watch a show she had missed previously. I stopped and picked up a water bottle for the journey, I only drink Evian. Fortunately that is about my only idiosyncrasies.

            As I headed from the county just before dusk a tall dead tree was standing to my left as I drove by. Stark and free from bark nearly white in the waning hour. Atop the tree in the highest possible point sat two red tailed hawks. Watching me as I drove by, I thought having my camera what a picture, this could be one for National Geographic. But as instantly as the image presented itself it was gone in the speed of the car driving along and time I had to reach my destination.

            I arrived just before they started and have always enjoyed the Emory atOxfordcampus ofEmoryUniversity. The grounds date back to early 1800’s and exotic trees and shrubs abound. I listened to a talented group of young people my son included as he did his rendition of Axel Rose and Bob Dylan singing a duet on the famous tune “Knocking on Heavens Door”. The song stuck with me as I drove away after the program. Bob Dylan wrote the song many years ago featured in the movie Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett in 1973.

 

Mama take this badge from me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s getting dark too dark to see
Feels like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door

 

            I came home and sat talking and watching TV with my oldest son. They tend to stay up longer than me most nights. I told him how his brother played his duet again. It is sort of hard to explain as he comes out as Axel Rose of Guns and Roses fame and Bob Dylan at the same time. But the words hung with me as I continued my journey in to night, falling asleep. Around two in the morning I had a one dog night and funny it was because he was hungry. There is nothing like a dog chewing dry dog food at two in the morning.

            I got up with my wife fully intending to get started on graduate school work I needed to be working on and walked around turning out lights finding my chair in the dark I thought my oldest son has work this morning I will awake when he walks by. I had several vivid dreams over the next two hours waking up as my son came by. I emailed a friend that knew my sons and had been a member of the Choir Camp for many years till graduating from high school and heading to college. I for some reason went and picked up my phone all I heard was “he is gone”.

            I thought I responded and talked a few minutes and called my oldest and wife to let them know my dad had passed away. I walked into my middle son’s room and told him. This was around eight o’clock. I walked out to my quiet spot among some young pecan trees and thought pondered for a few minutes. I enjoy the smell of sage and sweet grass as the wisps of smoke rise in a morning air. Life is a circle I thought looking at some stones I had previously placed on the ground.

I told my son I was heading to town to get mail and such and drove off. Around ten thirty my mother called and asked if I got the message she left. I said no I talked to you earlier you said dad had passed away. She informed me she did not talk to me. I told her I would be over shortly and was fine.

It is strange how we respond as we consider all events all happenings and see that truly life is a circle a simple circle. No beginning and no end as we journey. We get to participate along the way interconnect and meet people. We gain understanding and wisdom as we travel this circle and for some most I would say the transitional points are painful and yet for others wondrous moments and new journeys. My father had told me numerous times he had done what he needed to do here and was ready. He passed away in his sleep content that he had been a great father, grandfather and great grandfather. There are many who knew him over the years from Scouting, Church, Red Cross, Safety and Loss Control, and his dear friends. Each has stories to tell of pieces of my father’s puzzle.

“Knocking on heaven’s door” keeps coming back as I recall my sons singing last night and so many years ago as another son left me a note after sitting all night with a teenager who had been in a car wreck “Life is about the journey not the destination”, a line from Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I think to the past few weeks with my father in law passing and a student just last week and today my dad. I mentioned to my wife last evening that wisdom comes with experience and time. There is a new journey a new day I wish my father well on his journey. Peace my father and friend.

namaste

bird

Finding at what point we exist

Bird Droppings May 28, 2012

Finding at what point we exist

 

            Today is an ordinary day for many people round the world however other than being one extra day on a long holiday weekend it is a time for those of us in this country to remember those military members who have passed on be it in conflicts or from old age. These men and women served in our armed services. Today we celebrate Memorial Day honoring our veterans and military friends and family members that have fallen in service to our country. Over the years thinking back to high school, I did not know very many who had died in the military other than listening to my father and his stories of World War II and to us children they were stories only. As we got closer to graduation from high school several brothers of friends had been killed in Viet Nam and this special day had significantly more meaning. Now with my father, father in law and many dear friends, former students and so many more family members the significance is very powerful.

As I graduated and went to college on a student deferment from the draft I was very aware of the draft in that I did not want to get drafted and go to Viet Nam. The news kept us up to date well almost, as often Viet Nam breaking news would be several days or even weeks old when we heard it. After my freshmen year and being asked not to return to college since my grades were not that great, I was drafted in the first draft lottery along with many of my fellow class mates who did not go to class perhaps enough times to satisfy professors and somehow in college passing and attendance is important. It was at this point in my life Memorial Day hit me.

I failed my draft physical which allowed me to continue searching for a school that would let me in. I moved to Texas for school a small college in Plano Texas the University of Plano which was at that time the only school that would take me. Across several states and colleges I eventually landed in Macon Georgia. I finally finished my undergraduate education and graduated from Mercer University. Along the way I lost touch on the most part of my former classmates in high school and without the internet and cell phones I infrequently had word from my hometown on events and people. Over the year’s piece by piece word got to me of the death of this friend or that friend in Viet Nam and when all of the numbers were tallied nearly ten fellows from our graduating class or classes around us died in Viet Nam. Memorial Day was very significant now.

It was at this point in my life that Memorial Day hit home. It was several years till I was able to visit Washington DC and go to the Viet Nam memorial. I walked down so unsure of why and where I was at the time. Yes I was in Washington DC on a High School Band trip with my son but here I was looking at a black ominous wall that seemed to stretch endlessly along the pathway. I went to the registry book and found the names I recalled and the locations on the panels and wrote these on my hand with a marker. After several minutes I composed myself and walked along finding names amidst the tens of thousands on the wall.

I watched sisters, brothers, fathers and mothers touching names, dropping flowers, and standing with tears streaming down their cheeks staring at the cold black stone slab winding along a pathway. I often speak of sacred being a spot where many come to honor, pray, ponder or worship and here in Washington DC and this has become a sacred place. It was nearly a half an hour later my son was calling to me and I found myself sitting on a bench looking down on the wall. Our bus was ready to leave and they could not find me. So does Memorial Day hold meaning as I think back? I do not believe in war and have not for most of my life, this is a personal belief that for me is not about fearing death or dying for a cause but that it is not what is to be.

However I honor those who in their efforts and belief and have given their lives for me so I can believe in what I do and for those who have provided the opportunity for others world-wide. Today is not about political or religious ideology but about people who believed in what they were doing and in that effort died for that belief. As we honor now young men and women who have died in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it is bringing home this idea of Memorial Day to recent graduates of high schools across the nation. I wish one day the concept of war would be out dated but until that time please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

To die a happy death:

Bird Droppings May 27, 2012

To die a happy death:

 

I have been teaching high school now for nearly eleven years and after summer break another year ahead. I am starting my writing day a bit later than normal since we had the grandbaby for the night last night and drove her home this afternoon. Over the past few years I have been searching for my older thoughts editing, cleaning up and often finding a dropping that ties in with my thoughts today or even somewhere I went yesterday. Only a few days ago I got in a discussion on fearing death which led me on a search for an email and some thoughts I jotted down many years ago. Since that note nearly seven years back my friend has lost several loved ones and I have lost loved both my father in law and father and many around us have as well. So digging in my archives yesterday I started reading a thought from a friend who was trying to generate answers for his niece based on how do we die a happy death?

I was a bit taken back, sitting here only a few days ago not truly giving death much of a thought having the attitude when it happens it happens and for some number of years now I have lost any fear of death. It has been some time since I realized we need to live each day it isn’t about death and what is next it is about what is now and where are we on our own journey. It is not about anyone else’s, though we constantly interact and intertwine in my own cosmic sort of jig saw puzzle of explaining life. I had several answers to share and from a mixed bag of intellectuals across the country when I responded to my friends note. I used to sit in Geometry in tenth grade with the first responder and her thought was this.  

 

“A contented life. One that has (at least partially) fulfilled personal dreams. “ 5/28/06 – A child psychologist From California

 

As I thought about it dreams and aspirations are at the center of many of our hearts and souls. I have always wanted to go to Tahiti however I probably never will for one reason or another. It all goes back to my first reading of a Michener book “Hawaii” and how the original settlers sailed from Tahiti. In my romanticism I know it is not the tropical paradise I dream of and I will probably settle for South Florida and Sanibel Island which today would be fine. My next responder is a mom and teacher from Texas that I have met and known for eight or ten years from correspondence.  

 

“I, personally, have always told myself that there is a difference between three powerful things: 1) mistakes learned from, 2) regret, and 3) a higher God that leaves certain things out of my control (thank goodness)…but anyway, ideally, I want to die having learned from my mistakes, having passed control over in areas of my life in which I have no control, and to die without regret. These are the three potentially negative “things” that will, even during my life, make me lose sleep. All in all…if we could live surrounded by love, and die surrounded by love (which will happen, of course, if we give just as much)…that would be a happy death.”  5/28/06 – A teacher in Texas

 

I have read and reread this one several times and always her comments are deep and heart felt, “Having learned from my mistakes” this is a life lesson many should heed. Often even within the past few days I have addressed this with several students take and learn from your mistakes and move forward and or backward as a good friend would say direction is not the key but movement and in our world of multiple dimensions it could be anywhere. My mother responded next to the question and this was a year before my father passed away. It is sort of interesting when your mom is an avid reader of your essays and thoughts as I am of her poetry and writing.

 

“Living a life that is fruitful and true makes for a happy death.  Like your father has said many times, there is nothing in this world that he still wants to do.  He has been there, done it and seen it and he always did it with love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as his companions.” 5/28/06, My mom Esther S. Bird, author, poet and great grandmother from Loganville, Georgia

 

My father at that time was eighty four and had been all over the world teaching about Loss Control and Safety Management. In South Africa a headline once proclaimed he had saved millions of lives in the South African mines. Great Britain proclaimed him the Billy Graham of Safety in news headlines. My dad started out to be a medical missionary and I was the culprit that sent him to the steel mills for work. As a baby I was very ill and hospitalized numerous times with seizures and a stoppage of breathing. My dad had to go to work instead of school. By chance he found good paying work in the open hearth of Lukens Steel Mill and until they needed a Safety guy with a college diploma he was a brick layer in the open hearth. He was offered a job as a Safety man which being nonunion was less pay but it was better hours he thought and an office no more twenty eight hundred degree furnaces to contend with.

Shortly thereafter his first book changed modern Safety Management, in the early 1960’s. In 1965 he coined and then registered the trademark statement of “Total Loss Control” and the rest is history. So instead of saving souls in Africa in a mission hospital he was saving lives worldwide through his programs and insights. I began reading the next responders poems several months ago and now several hundred later find them exhilarating.

 

“For me, the idea of a happy death is one where I’ve given my best effort, stayed current with conflict resolution and being in the right place in my God’s eyes.”  5/29/06 Poet from Puget Sound, Washington

 

I have come to read daily numerous blogs and poems posted by this wonderful person she herself has many life hindering illnesses and still features a giant smiley face as her calling card. She is such a powerful human spirit. I will end today with another responder on a regular basis one who thinks far deeper than most teenagers and surprises me with responses that go far beyond her few years of experience. Today she is a karate instructor in Georgia and I would never have guessed that five years ago.  

 

“I also enjoyed your droppings earlier about a happy death. I like to think of it this way, ‘Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you will be criticized either way.’ Eleanor Roosevelt”  5/29/06, A former student at Loganville High School,  Loganville, Georgia

 

I was wondering with all the death in the news here and abroad is death ever happy. Yesterday I read a blog from a young fellow in the army and the remembrance of a buddy killed a few days earlier in Iraq. Someone posted a series of crosses on a back country road where three teenagers a few years back hit a tree at a hundred miles an hour. I have attended many funerals over the years and often will do my best to avoid them if I can. I have in recent years been to my fathers, father in laws, several students, friends and other family member’s memorials. When I listen to the comments of joy and the celebrating a life rather than mourning death it is so different. It is so difficult to lose someone but what if they have done what is it they were intended to do and know that. What if they were happy and knew there was meaning to their life? I recall a death some twelve years ago where a young man came to me the last time I saw him unaware of his surroundings, for I did hold his hand through the night watching monitors blink showing his brain functioning was going and irreversible. I sat and did last rights in my own way as I was holding his hand though there was no movement from him or acknowledgement only monitors blinking and the respirators movement in his lungs.

At my last meeting with this young man he shook my hand and said not this time Mr. Bird. Normally he would extend his hand and pull it away laughing a joke on me. This time was different as he extended his hand smiling grasping with his other hand mine and saying thank you for everything and we parted ways he was riding in another car going home from a day of tubing in North Georgia. I never spoke with him again. I know to the marrow of my bones he was happy in death. He was always happy go lucky always joking always the life of the party he was the group clown. When we gathered after the funeral each of said something similar he had said goodbye to us each in a different way. That night my son left a yellow sticky note for me on my computer that I shall never forget.

 

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

 

I have thought about that note daily every day since, I have listened to the Aerosmith CD version of Awesome many hundreds of times for that line. Somewhere in a box I still have that yellow sticky note over twelve years old now folded away as a reminder about how precious each second is. We honor our veterans who died to provide us with ideas and thoughts about freedom and liberty over the years. I would like to end with, what if we could have world peace? What if, always a what if it seems. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Reading a friends book for the fourth time

Bird Droppings May 26, 2012

Reading a friend’s book a fourth time

 

I was so tired when I laid down last night after driving around doing errands, working in the yard, working in my gardens, and attempting to get into my reading and writing. My youngest son starts his nursing program next week at Piedmont College and he and his wife and our grandbaby live up just off campus in Demorest Georgia. My road trip later today is picking up our grandbaby for the weekend. My oldest and I have been working on some outdoor ponds summer homes for several turtles and to various water plants. Physical labor and getting to bed late I did not think I would be awake this early this morning. My dog did not wake me up a few times to see the moon and hear the whippoorwills which were nice even though I was so tired. I had an IEP just before school closed that got me thinking about Dr. Sutton’s book today.

Dr. James Suttonsent me a copy of one of his books nearly six years ago, What parents need to know about ODD. Dr. Sutton is one of the leading writers and authorities on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the country. One of these days when, Bird Droppings a teacher journal, comes out the forward is by Dr. James Sutton. I have been reading academic books lately with numerous big words, long words, often times useless in normal setting words like post-structuralism, phenomenology; semiotics and hermeneutics are a few good ones. It seems many academics want to use words and pages to bolster their endeavors and then question why common folk don’t understand.

I responded to Dr. Sutton with the following sentence or two in response to his book. My first experience with Dr. James Suttonwas going to a conference in 2003 in MaconGa.and listening to his ideas on working with some of the hardest kids to deal with in education in Emotional Behavior Disorders. His ideas hit the nail on the head and this latest book, What Parents need to Know About ODD, is an easy to read, understand and to use tool for parents and teachers who daily have to deal with the trials and tribulations of kids who are ODD. I recommend this book to my student’s parents and educational associates almost daily. This was not a sales pitch but when combined with another issue our federally mandated NCLB, the law requires teachers to use evidence based practice, EBP when dealing with exceptional children. This becomes a problem in special education because there is not that much to work with and as I thought today a good teacher with a good idea could be hindered by a packaged program that is an EBP and not as effective and there have been many cases where teachers have been criticized for not using a recommended program.

Every year we lose good teachers who are hindered by administration and packaged programs of which many were researched by the company publishing the program. I had a situation myself a few years back and was told this program was what I was to teach to a specific group of teenagers and it was research based. I called the publisher to verify what research was done. It was never done with a population anywhere near what it was being recommended for and the one study that was done was with kids ten years younger and 20 IQ points higher but it did work with them.

A Harvard study posted June 14, 2006 states “…the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over academic competitiveness.” from the  The New York Times referring to NCLB. Funny how we keep trying to make schools better or I should say politicians keep trying. I often wonder when teachers will be asked.

 

“I will stake my reputation and over thirty years of experience on this: Real change occurs when relationships improve.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

 

I have watched wheels spun testing kids at the end of semesters and courses and at the end of high school and all because laws say we have to that are established by politicians. Yet all you are truly testing is what someone knows at that moment and not what they learned in any given time frame or how well a teacher taught. My son who recently graduated as biology major could take an end of course biology test without the course and pass it does that measure how much he learned or simply what he knows. Sadly teachers and administrators are losing jobs and schools are being threatened by these tests.

Recently in a discussion in an online class I raised a question about NCLB and how kids were being left behind and a teacher an advanced degree teacher offered “well some children want to be left behind”

 

“The power paradox is a simple concept. It suggests that the more force we put into controlling an ODD child, the less effective those efforts become. Golf pros will tell you that, when you try to muscle that ball down the fairway, looking for distance alone, there’s no telling where it’s going to go. When you focus on form rather than force, however, the distance takes care of itself. It’s much the same idea in managing an ODD child.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

 

So often when I read Dr. Sutton’s ideas they apply elsewhere in life. The power paradox is in education all the time it is in relationships between people, in government and definitely in the working of a school.

Far too often we go for power not form as I recall many years ago the TV show Kung Fu in which David Carridine was a Sau-lin priest who had escaped to America for killing someone in self-defense with his martial arts. It was not about power but form the swan or deer almost ballet movements yet lethal as well. It is so easy to get caught up in just words. I read numerous writers words each day in blogs, books and articles and a thought I have been having keeps coming up the reader has to be able to understand the writer for communication to occur.

The experiences and perceptions have to be there so what is written is understood?  One excellent writer I read daily uses riddles and word puzzles and play on words and many have not a clue what is being said and or why. That is part of her mystic and then all of a sudden it hits you.

 

“Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centered society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.” Nelson Mandela, speech at the opening of the South African Congress

 

It has been nearly twenty years since South Africa truly became democratic and how long will it be till we here in the United States can say democracy is back and not rule of the dollar and lobbyist. Much of what I have been reading lately addresses the issue of education and how it is that today’s education is to make good consumers. Customer’s, one author calls college students and on many campuses that is the word used by the administration very much a corporate world. Historians have said over and over wars are always fought for money and if we look back at any war in history always money was a key factor. I questionedViet Namand Johnson wanted the war effort to continue as industry was getting a shot in the arm and the economy turned around. The power paradox inIraqand most of theMiddle Eastis a very interesting thought. I wonder have we ever focused on the form, for example the individual inIraq. Maybe we need to ask for Nelson Mandela’s help inIraq. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird