Sometimes there is risk

Bird Droppings December 31, 2012

Sometimes there is Risk

 

I drove my wife to work and while heading back caught sight of a glorious sunrise beginning. By the time I got to the house I had a few minutes to run in side and get a decent camera and shoot some more photos. What a great end to a year. On another thought how more appropriate to end the year especially in light of our politicians and their facing the edge of “the fiscal cliff”, than to look at risk and what is ahead for a new year. Risk is a driving force of who we are and why we are and what we do. How we take chances and avoid risk are defining pieces of our personality. Our willingness to take risk and avoid risk is what determines to what point in life we go and or attain.

 

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

 

I think you could possibly argue numbers but Coach Holtz has a good point. Life is a combination of pieces sort of a tossed salad of sorts thrown together and the end result well that is what we live with. One thing however that Coach Holtz left out is what makes you respond the way you do.

 

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

 

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

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

 

1. Terminate the risk – do not do it avoid and or eliminate the risk:  you do not need to cross the stream

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

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

4. Transfer the risk – let someone else cross for you or buy stream crossing insurance – borrowed idea from my father Frank E Bird Jr. and his book Loss Control Management

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

 

Where is the passion?

Bird Droppings December 28, 2012

Where is the passion?

 

I was sitting facing a rising sun thankful for a new day earlier today. It was ironic as I was sitting on an overturned five gallon plastic bucket next to a small circle of smooth river rocks facing east, listening to mockingbird chattering away in the dawn light thinking about the day ahead and offering thanks prior to the day starting. Behind me to the west was a near full moon I had seen before the cloud cover swept in and totally covered it. I could still imagine it as the sun rose and moon set behind a cover of clouds. For my amazement reds and oranges were streaking the gray lines of morning. The ambient temperature was too low and no crickets or tree frogs were chirping in the near freezing morning air. To my left a squirrel made its way through the hedge row of sumac, wild cherry trees and assorted brush always wary of our red-tailed hawk that hunts our backyard. My medicine circle of river stones is almost covered with pine needles. The sycamore trees leaves have all fallen and the white bark peeling offers interesting images in the morning faint light. Beside me to the right a young live oak is still green always it seems foregoing winter’s loss. As I watched in almost a trance the band of orange wanders into the day widening and stretching across the horizon. I often wonder how many others sit and watch the day being born. If only, my father used the term often in his teachings and I in mine. So I am being thankful to witness the wonder of this sunrise and to praise the day yet to come and in Cherokee Wa de (Skee).

As I begin to think about my writing today so many ideas and thoughts sitting beside in books and on the internet waiting to use ad expound on. Every day during school hours I hear the simple phrase from at least one student of, “I hate school” and matter of fact I usually hear it numerous times across the day. What I find amusing is that very seldom do you hear this in kindergarten or elementary school which is interesting.  When and where does the attitude towards school change?

 

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

 

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

 

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Those who know how to think need no teachers.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

Teaching becomes more showing how to think and process than content.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

Bird Droppings December 27, 2012

Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

 

So often we take our technology for granted.  It has been about six years since we moved into this house and a new dishwasher. Just a few weeks ago the drain pump went out and it decided to die on us. In thirty four years of marriage we have had only four dish washers not counting rental houses along the way you might say they become a part of the family. We waited on Frigidaire to send a repairman, we need our dishwasher currently and you now have to make appointments usually several weeks in advance. So far we are holding things together but I recall my trips to various supply and parts places and new numbers of more places to call they were always eventful even synchronistic so to say. I find interesting people every time I go anywhere for that matter.

Thinking back to that last repair and the fellow after a brief computer check of circuits and such and a screen and using his manuals it seemed to be showing the culprit was a main drive motor. After calculating labor and parts we would had to spend nearly three hundred dollars to fix our dishwasher but if we choose to get a new one we get this visit off our purchase. Essentially it cost sixty five dollars to tell us our washer is broke. Of course if we buy from Frigidaire essentially we would get a rebate. I need to get my mind off of spending money on dish washers and write.

 

“Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other.” Carl G. Jung

 

It is often easy for me to pull out Jung thoughts and ideas and get motivated for the writing ahead. As I went out to sit and think earlier, this all rolled through my mind. I am amazed at how carefully planned and developed our technology is. No matter how good you take care of or do not take care of machines last a certain amount of time regardless. The term planned obsolescence is often bantered about. We are a throwaway society.

In an issue
of National Geographic a few months back they were on one of the far flung Hawaiian Islands cleaning up. Sadly literally tons of debris washes in ranging from fishing nets, trash, TV’s, all sorts of stuff and sadly tons of it. Animals get caught up in the muck and often perish. One photo was of the contents of a baby albatross that had starved to death with a full stomach. The baby’s parents fishing in the currents had picked up numerous bits of trash either mixed in with the tiny fish they catch or that had been eaten by the fish and the babies stomach was full of plastic pieces that did not pass through literally full of trash that kept its stomach full and it would not or could not eat enough to live.

It was nearly fifty years ago Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady at the time started a cleanup campaign on our roads and highways. There were signs against littering and signs posted showing the fines for littering which were imposed and slowly we started cleaning up. But still we trash our environment. But as I thought about it there is another side, as I look at this in a spiritual manner. People who live off the land hold their lands sacred honoring and revering the world about them do not seem to have this issue. Often using each aspect of a given animal or plant harvested for use while we discard so much. I have seen dumpsters in Georgia with deer carcasses all but the head thrown in. A few months back a deer was dumped at the high school antlers sawn off.

There is a scene in the beginning of the movie “Last of the Mohicans” where Uncus, Nathaniel (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook shoot a deer. They honor the deer with prayers and ask forgiveness for killing the deer and say it will sustain them in the days ahead; there were no reality cameras filming and no bragging about eating what they kill. (Granted it was in a movie)

I watch churches locally in a similar manner. A situation I am very familiar with goes like this. Years ago members of a particular church were major donors to the growth and support of that church and were visited often by the pastors. As the days went by and illness befell these members and new pastor came to be the money was not flowing as it was previously and the family was never even visited. Where the money was, not where the need was, became the calling card of the church. I look a few lines up to Jung’s words of how different love and power are. Who do we look to as great so often in society any more sadly it is those with wealth and power? Wisdom, love and honor seldom play a part any more.

 

“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

 

As a people we have lost so much. We take as we need from each other and from others. So often we subsist only in that world immediately around us. WE ARE focusing only on that which we can see feel and touch, even in this world of instantaneous news and views. We have made ourselves disposable. How many times have you heard the phrase at work or in a workplace “no one is indispensable” essentially we are all disposable. As I ponder it used to be we learned a craft through apprenticeship and years of experience and you became a master craftsman.

Yesterday I was looking on the internet at Native American art. A plains survival kit made by Black Eagle an Osage medicine man eighty years old was selling for $2,200.00 it consisted of several pieces of bone and sinew. Essentially it was a primitive kit for a hunter in the prairies of ancient North America. The various pieces included several scrappers, needles and sinew and they were stored in a fringed elk skin bag. Back in the day Black Eagle would have given it to you if you needed it. Now it is a collector’s item being sold by an art store. I am wandering today perhaps caught still in the fifty percent off and buy one get one free and the throwaway society we live in. It is so sad we have become spiritually and physically disposable.

One of my favorite disposable sayings is “once saved always saved” regardless of what you do after that point you are ok. Searching for words and meaning in a world so intent on camouflage. I have kids who wear it to school daily and you can even get camo underwear. Although I haven’t quite figured that one out yet wearing camo underwear that is. When you go to the store is it oak tree or standard or tree bark and that depends on your quarry. We have grown so much in so many ways yet our capacity for others seems to lag behind.

 

“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

 

Over the years I have read many quotes books and papers. There is a passage from a website on Native American quotes and stories I have thought about many times and it is so true.

 

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.”Ancient Indian Proverb

 

I wish we could live this one and remember there will be those after us why not leave the world and people better than we found them. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and peace my friends and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Teaching is ninety nine percent example

Bird Droppings December 26, 2012

Teaching is ninety nine percent example

 

I walked out a few minutes ago to get a bit of solitude. That has been hard over the holidays this year. So it is coming in tiny increments a few moments here and there. I was watching a mass of clouds swirling over my head just as sunrise was attempting to break through. Deep grays and shades of along with white and patches of blue made for a surrealistic morning and the temperature still a t-shirt warmth clinging to the ground. I Keep joking about doing cuttings of my angel trumpets and they are budding again in December usually they have died back maybe four weeks ago in any other year. My granddaughter went to Florida and we miss her, the house is quiet and peaceful and no one calling pop pop where are you walking through the house. But it made me think deeply this morning about how we impact our children and grandchildren.

 

“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans

 

I have over the years looked to the wisdom contained in Kent Nerburn’s writings many times. I have given away many copies of his books and currently am reading for the third or fourth time Calm Surrender. I am amazed at how teachers seem to come to similar conclusions.  In a graduate school project I used similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words “children learn what they live” poster that I have on my wall. They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them.  Some teachers prefer to avoid this and are stiff and mechanical and avoid the relationships where character is learned. I always recall a students from years ago who came running up to a group of us and starting hugging her teachers till she got to one who folded her arms and said I do not do hugs. This student had been accepted to a very prestigious college on a full scholarship and a teacher publically refused to provide any sort of emotional support.

 

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl G Jung

 

I have been a Carl G. Jung fan for many years. As I was reading through several of his ideas earlier this morning I found that this thought stuck out. Perhaps it is being a grandpa and watching a little one absorb every element around her. Perhaps it is as a father watching my sons now all grown each choosing pathways in life and wondering at times if we at least gave decent directions along the way. I am finding as I grow older it is the example we set that is the most powerful educational tool available. Better than any curriculum or text series, better than the greatest speaker, and much better than anything that can be planned for. It is about the warmth of our souls and passing this to our children and grandchildren.

 

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear 

 

“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan 

 

As so often happens when several educators get together the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up and with me often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education the topic will become education and learning. Several afternoons ago sitting in my mother in laws house we were talking about teaching and working with special needs children. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail sometimes we forget that simple things can aid in how to learn, how to study, and how to open our eyes to that which is around us.

 

“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller

 

So much research has been done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Developmentalists have written and been written about numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.

 

“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

 

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

 

We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.

“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

 

Sitting in a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Asking why is even more interesting.

 

“Whatever”

“What good is it?”

“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”

 

These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed.

 

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

 

Several years ago in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention and as I read I realized I too have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries McJob has been described as a meaningless job, a job with no direction and very little in requirements and McDonald’s has sued to have it removed stating that jobs at McDonalds are meaningful and do have direction. I do know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in BusinessSchool now and owns his own Starbucks. Ray Kroc many years ago before he passed away got his start selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow in her will did leave, one and a half billion dollars to charity all based on working in McDonald’s. Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with literally nothing but an idea and hard work.

It was not apathy that built McDonalds and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self-empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.

 

“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was causal and commonplace. The Indian – lived in every sense of the word – from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

 

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some graduate schools and I had data showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat several who actually have difficulty reading the test I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However imagine the self-esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a Master’s program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45.

I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people accept some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing the passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.

SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East become more difficult with each moment it seems and above all always give thanks at the end of the day namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

You never win getting even!

Bird Droppings December 25, 2012

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

 

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 NavalAcademy 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 years 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 cannot wear “Dixie Outfitter shirts”, which is a popular T-shirt among high school students in the south or I should say among “rednecks”. Generally they are emblazoned with a confederate flag. This is perhaps the hardest image of revenge and retaliation in existence, in this southern culture.

 

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

 

The other day walking around a nearby 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 ten 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 Mexicans 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 ten 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

 

“Forgiving ourselves is the wellspring of all true forgiveness. It is the deep work of the heart that allows us to grow toward the light instead of constantly struggling with the darkness.” Kent Nerburn, Calm Surrender, 2000

 

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 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 to always be thankful for all that is namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

 

Should we try to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul?

Bird Droppings December 21, 2012

Should we try 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 beside me near the window and the concept caught me, to be rooted. Out in the garage I have root stock from several medicinal plants I ordered that I need to get into soil soon along with seeds. In a world where family ties are eroding away faster than we can reconnect we find our roots need topsoil.

 

“There is a longing among the young of my nation to secure for themselves and their people the skills that will provide them with a sense of purpose and worth. They will be our new warriors.” Chief Dan George

 

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. After several years of looking I found a copy of the Red Lake Chronicles, a history of the Red Lake Ojibwa reservation, edited by Dr. Kent Nerburn an author I do enjoy reading and whose focus has been Native Indian Spirituality.

 

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

 

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and 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. In a discussion with a young man recently talking about a brother in jail again and sister in trouble maybe separating from roots is necessary at times. 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 as Lawrence advocates.

 

“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. If we go back to talking about society and people and using the analogy I have of plants most plants without roots are parasitic. As I look out at how we have set up our world is this not maybe a good comparison we have set up for parasitism among people.

 

“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.

 

“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. I walked into a local convenience store and noticed a lady standing at the counter I had seen her at the high school arguing to a point of being removed from the school. She was giving the store attendant a hard time and I felt immediately she is not a happy camper. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately I have found. So where do I go in this round about effort especially on as we head into so many various holidays 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.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

 

What is life?

Bird Droppings December 20, 2012

What of life?

 

Morning is a special time a beginning of sorts for each day. For me several aspects of taking the dog out, sitting down, writing and reading have in many ways become a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coldness of perhaps one of our coldest mornings this fall. As I looked out earlier standing on the concrete barefooted, far off across the trees the big dipper was just rising above the trees and the stars crystal clear in the morning darkness were breath taking. Now as I finish writing rain has come into the area and the sky is overcast,

 

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

 

I was thinking back a few years to when I left my class room second period I usually would go through the guidance office and say hello to several people, one was missing. I noticed and never questioned as the day drew on I sensed an absence yet still had not questioned. I grabbed another counselor for a meeting that I had later than morning still unaware of anything amiss. As the day ended I heard from a friend that those missing counselors her mother in law had passed away and she had been at a funeral. We so often take moment and time for granted.

 

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

 

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

 

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words, so often anymore evenings are just a time to fall asleep. I was looking for pictures that may have significance as I pieced together my first book. I emailed several people last night just touching base and wishing happy holidays.

 

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

 

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

 

As I moved through that day sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort. Most people as that day finished never missed a stride they never knew anything was different. There were a few tears from her friends and those that knew of the situation.

 

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

 

I have used this quote many times over the years and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness after my curiosity was satisfied. I also remember a few years back watching our great American bison bull snort in the meadow and his breath floating across the pasture in the chilled air.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I explained in detail how several years ago I received a call from my nephew that a friend had been in a car accident and as the day proceeded I spent the night in the Athens Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving, hoping that the numbers on the dials would change. When I arrived home on my computer was that quote from an old Aerosmith song. In 1968 as I left for Texas I received a book from my parents and on page 596 the following quote.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So often a poets words offer comfort or give direction back to a journey when we are set off course, it may be in one moment or a lifetime. There is no filling of a void yet when looking at life and all that has been and will be. When we are looking at the journey to now there truly has been no void. There has been a turn in the road a new direction and all that has led to this point. Our journey in life has not really changed and it is there behind us lifting us guiding us strengthening us as we continue along the way.

I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia already sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across, stone by stone crossing the stream. We all can cross in our time and there are times when a hand is welcome to aid in the journey. Years ago I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website, “Friends are never alone”. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand and always give thanks namaste

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird