Doing is the best teacher

Bird Droppings July 31, 2014
Doing is the best teacher

It has been an interesting week. I did my usual going into school and working in my room. I spent a good bit of the mornings taking advantage of weather and light and getting some rather interesting photographs. Later yesterday afternoon after almost fifteen hours of rain I went to start gardening, and it rained again of course. On a different thought, it has been intriguing to me how so many people view education as failing. I wonder as I sit here this morning how many saying such things could pass a high school biology class of today. I was joking yesterday as I helped a friend move into a new room at school how my 1968 college biology was nothing compared to our current text in high school. He mentioned something about how cells were not discovered yet in 1968 alluding to my age.

But it is folks my age who are complaining, and it is not education that is to blame. We live in a culture of and society of having it now. There is little dreaming ahead thinking of the future we are so energized to have stuff now and if you cannot Google it doesn’t exist. I am bad about collecting books and the fifty or so boxes that I put in storage from my previous room will attest to that. In my collection is a 1931 copy of William Tompkins Universal sign language which was my fathers. It is fragile, and I keep it at the house. I have thought it would make an interesting lead into a literature class, and I found a copy of the book in a Barnes and Noble and honestly I have never seen this book previously.

It has been a few days since my sons, and I went to a reptile show here locally and always there are some strange characters about. I had the opportunity to listen to world-renowned reptile and wildlife photographer, Bill Love talk about taking pictures of reptiles. Interestingly enough his comment that stuck was “doing is the best teacher.”

“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.” Madame Marie Curie

Somewhere along the line the concept of “do a good deed daily” came along, and it always amazes me where and why I choose a particular direction to go in my daily writings. It could be a comment in an email about only living a good life, or comment from a snake photographer both of which kind of sort of gave me a focus today.

“Keep doing good deeds long enough, and you’ll probably turn out a good man in spite of yourself.” Louis Auchincloss

As I read this morning and look through ideas a simple matter comes to mind, and that is that our living as an example, it is a model to go by for others. We are all predominately visual learners, and seeing is believing has been said many times over.

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” Simon De Beauvoir

History is often the teacher, and we can see how and why a particular person developed and in what ways that individual life has affected humanity. For example was there substance to their existence or did they merely take up space occupying air and land.

“The high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule…” Albert Einstein

When you look back and realize historically what piece of history this great mind came from and in his development where his philosophy of life evolved it was most interesting. Einstein came from a Jewish background; he grew up in a part of the world where his people were being eliminated from humanity by a single person’s ideology. He came from a country where warfare and weaponry abounded and as he grew older he even asked forgiveness for the small piece he helped to create ushering in the atomic age. He became one of the world’s leading anti-war figures and pacifists and more concerned about service than ruling.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

Looking again at history Mother Theresa, a tiny waif of a woman lost herself in service to the poor of Calcutta India yet as I write being recommended for Sainthood in the Catholic Church. Gandhi could have been a wealthy man yet choose otherwise and served his people of India. St. Francis of Assisi was born into a wealthy merchant family and left it to serve others. As I look at these people finding themselves is that what they were doing or is it just that service to them was the right thing to do. Far too often we consider success to be the accumulation of wealth.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Nelson Henderson

I have several friends who farm trees and planning is so often many years away even with nursery stock. Some rock and roll fans may know the name of a leading keyboardist Chuck Levall. He has played with many bands Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones and James Taylor to name a few, but I first saw his name years ago as the keyboard player for The Allman Brothers Band in Macon Georgia, nearly 35 years ago. Chuck Levall grows trees in Middle Georgia in his spare time. While I have taken a literal twist with a symbolic quote, there is a point when you plant a seed for a tree you plant it knowing the potential and know chances are you will never benefit from that potential, it is an act of service to others.

“The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.” Laurence Leamer

Sometimes there is a fine line between symbiotic and parasitic a twist of the wrist, but who is to say who doesn’t receive help. Several years ago when I was daily involved in feeding families it was much easier to make a mistake and feed a family who may have food than to turn anyone away.

“Give what you have to somebody; it may be better than you think.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I received an email from a good friend yesterday that is so often how we respond in life the fact it is a church is important to the story, but it could be a school, classroom, or a PTSO meeting many will say it is just human nature.

“One day, a man went to visit a church. He got there early, parked his car, and got out. Another car pulled up near, and the driver got out and said, “I always park there! You took my place!” The visitor went inside for Sunday school, found an empty seat and sat down. A young lady from the church approached him and stated that’s my seat! You took my place!” The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome but said nothing. After Sunday school, the visitor went into the sanctuary and sat down. Another member walked up to him and said that’s where I always sit! You took my place!” An email from a friend but many authors have used this or similar as original

Over the years, I have seen many an article of a pastor or civic leader who dresses in rags to see how people think and react. Even local radio hosts, the regular guys, have sent Southside Steve one of their regulars out to get responses, and you know what we always do so well. Seldom are the stories of a person offering to help park the car or offering a seat or offering a slice of bread, sadly ever so seldom.

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” Booker T. Washington

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” Albert Schweitzer

So often I find a quote or thought from this man who found his place in the darkest portion of Africa in the 1930’s to be a physician giving up a lucrative career in Europe as a musician and or doctor. As I end today, so many of the people gave up all and that is not the issue it is simply the giving aspect because it is the example we set that is seen not what we say not what we bear witness to, but what we as a person do each day. It is about each moment to set an example and in that way people will learn. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Maybe we are in the wrong

Bird Droppings July 30, 2014
Maybe we are in the wrong

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who have no right to talk. Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many misunderstandings have come between the white men about the Indians.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce January 14, 1879 addressing representatives of the President of The United States

Sadly nothing has changed over a hundred plus years since Chief Joseph surrendered. Today there are over three hundred thousand complaints against the Bureau of Indian Affairs that are unanswered and in courts throughout the country and the highest suicide rate of teenagers are on reservations. Around the country, we are arguing about illegal immigrants. In Arizona and New Mexico many of the ancestors of this people were kicked off their land when we won the Spanish-American war. Navahos, Apaches, and many other tribes were dispersed to the Indian Territories in Oklahoma never allowed to return to the ancestral homes. We are so self-centered that we can argue about illegal immigrant’s maybe it is us who are truly the illegal immigrants.

“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to grow and live.” Chief Joseph

So often my thoughts come random after a few hours’ sleep and rising to take the dog out a point, or idea will stick. Last night about four in the morning our westie woke me up to go out and in heading out something came to mind. It seems the powers to be back in the day and now always want to mass produce. In the world of the late 1800’s as far as Native Americans go it was coming up with a blanket policy and no pun intended to cover all tribes. There was no consideration of culture of a language just this was it including education using the Carlisle School as an example. The white way was the best. No exceptions Indians should be farmers like white folk no more hunting and gathering, and no more Sundance ceremonies banned in late 1800’s or rituals that might offend Christian folk. Treaties and promises were made almost with little or any attempt to truly fund and or implement that plan. Corruption ruled what little funding did find its way to reservations and holding areas. As I thought, it was very easy to coincidently tie this government outlook to education of today.

In 2004, a massive educational bill was passed entitled No Child Left Behind. The key point being that by 2014, all children would be on grade level in math and reading. Sadly funding was left by the wayside and for states to implement as best they could. However penalties were still in place for not meeting standards imposed. All children and that includes all socio-economic, cultural, children with disabilities, ethnic groups and any other sort of subtitle that might be thrown in. Children would be evaluated with standardized tests given in specific grades and to graduate would have to pass these tests. Dr. William Ayers, that same fellow, accused during the last presidential election of being too friendly with our now president is a nationally known educator and author has this to say.

“The root of the word evaluation is ‘value’ and authentic assessment includes understanding first what the student’s value and then building from there. Authentic assessment is inside-out rather than outside-in. It’s an attempt to get away from sorting a mass of students and closer to the teachers question: Given what I know, how should I teach this particular student.” Dr. William Ayers

One of our states efforts to get the assessment in line with national standards, and accountability has been a new math curriculum and, of course, subsequent testing. On the front page of today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution “Only 52% of the students who took the End of Course test for Math II in May passed.” This was across the state averages in high schools on this particular test. State department of education people are saying they will get it just will take time for students to get use to a new curriculum. In special education, we have been told to start telling parent’s in IEP’s that kids may be in high school for five or six years due to higher standards for graduation. I question who is setting the bar up and why?
In reading the Atlanta Journal Constitution, it is due to mandated standards set in No Child Left Behind legislation. What about schools that are so far behind that no matter what bar level is set it will not happen. Many reservation schools and inner city schools have never hit AYP to date in nearly ten years of testing. Another sad point is it is common knowledge among administrators and educators that test scores and zip codes have a strong correlation. How is that for a statistic? Borrowing a phrase now that is a Catch 22, yes most definitely. I had an idea last night after a brief discussion in a blog over what could be done. I asked for some time to think about solving this dilemma. By chance, I went by Barnes and Nobles to get some back up material.

Great educators have known the answer for many years. John Dewey offered suggestions and thoughts well over a hundred years ago. Numerous other authors have expanded on and clarified Dewey’s thoughts and all seem to come to one conclusion the solution is not in one test fits all, one curriculum fits all; it is not about leaving children behind which is happening at an alarming rate currently. So here was walking my dog last night, and a thought came to me. It’s about one child at a time.

“Teachers are explorers. As they explore the world and lives of their students, they cast lines to different ways of thinking. Teaching is often bridge building; beginning on one shore with the knowledge, experience, know-how, and interests of the student, the teacher moves toward broader horizons and deeper ways of knowing.” Dr. William Ayers, To teach the journey of a teacher, 2010

You might say where do we start, we start asking students. After talking with many students of the Foxfire program who have graduated many years back I see that there are commonalities in their opinion of what they learned. They learned about community more so than any other topic this has come up numerous times. It was not a measurable academic lesson or standardized test score it was the interactions with others in a useful and viable manner. It was being allowed to be an individual and to be creative. It was about one child at a time.

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice One

John Dewey emphasized the democratic classroom and giving students a voice and allowing their past experiences to be utilized not just those perceptions and experiences of the teacher. This idea of One Child at a Time may sound a bit far-fetched but when you look at how we currently test and evaluate it is not truly an indicator of what a child knows or even cares about. It is what has been drilled in the past semester. So often you will hear the term lifelong learner and yet is cramming for a standardized test lifelong learning? Is 52% of students taking tests failing lifelong learning? What if we could take a bit more time learn who the student is allow that student’s weakness and strengths to be incorporated into the learning process and developed. I would say wouldn’t it be great if we could do an individual IEP for all students instead of a blanket testing policy. Would it not be great if each student had a portfolio that accompanied them in each grade showing progress and showing their achievements? It is one child at a time that is the key to educational success and or failure. I will wander more another time so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Doing what you love is not really work

Bird Droppings July 29, 2014
Doing what you love is not really work

“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham

It seems I learn something every day as I wander about the internet and books I find along the way. My life’s journey the past eleven years has been one of excitement and constant challenges. Back when I closed my business of twenty-three years and left publishing I first tried to stay in that industry but very few companies hire older folks in sales. I had been away from production far too long, and computers had replaced most of what I had done when I started out by hand. I had been talking with our new graphics teacher at the high school and the graphics industry is now almost totally on the screen in front of you. No more negatives and paste-ups even plates for presses are generated by computer direct to press.

One note of interest is as I find quotes I tend to either save or use directly in my writing however today the starting quote is from my fathers book of quotes that he had saved over the years which is a three-ring binder full of quotes he had used or was pondering using. This quote caught my attention as it is how I see teaching for me. I Love teaching and each day I am working with students I feel it matters maybe not today but one day. As I looked up Katharine Graham, I found that in her time she was one of the most powerful women in Washington. Publisher of the Washington Post it was with her permission Watergate scandal was reported and published in the Post. She was on the elite social list in Washington and with John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and she never had to sneak into White House functions which seem to be the fad these days.

As I looked further into her life and very interesting as her husband was for many years CEO and publisher of The Washington Post however it came to be known that he suffered from Manic Depression and after a series of nervous breakdowns, and residential psychiatric treatment took his own life in 1963. Upon her husband’s death, Katharine took over the company and through careful planning built it into the company it is today. I found the following quote that hit me as read further.

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” KG, speaking at the CIA Headquarters in 1988

As I watch our news and media sources banter about half-truths and often totally misleading stories, I wonder as to is their material even in our high-speed world that needs to be withheld. So often in apocalyptic movies the president hesitates from telling everyone the earth is in line to be hit by a planet size asteroid and destroyed, or that the sunspots are flaring up, and we will be crispy critters soon. Is it better to panic and get crushed in the milieu or simply not know and fry at some point in time? I comeback to my original quote and for me it is finding that place in the circle of life that makes sense to you and that you enjoy doing. For me, it is teaching. I recall when I was down about not finding work in the publishing world and my wife kept saying go back to teaching you really enjoy that. I was at the right place at the right time. Synchronicity as Karl Jung would say. A very progressive principal had just had a teacher quit due to a nervous breakdown, and job opening was there working with Emotionally Disturbed High School students. Next thing I knew I started back to teaching September 11, 2001.

“I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That’s the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I’m choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world.” From the blog of Elena Aguilar School Improvement coach from Oakland, California, 2008

I am talking with former students and teachers of the Foxfire Program in Rabun County and other Foxfire teaching settings around the country. I am finding that so many former students were influenced beyond the academics of the classes. They had each a different story but as I gather the words together each was influenced in a positive manner and each has used what they learned as the go about their journeys in life. I happened to find a site discussing a book based on the idea of why I teach. Each section of the book draws from teachers around the country and their feelings towards teaching. I Like this concept of a life-toucher.

“As a teacher, I want children to leave school with a social conscience, an appreciation for diversity and life, a thirst for learning, and understanding of how knowledge can allow them to achieve their dreams. I also want them to leave the classroom with good memories because, since teachers are life-touchers, we want to be a part of children’s childhood memories. Other teachers might not admit this, but I will: Even if I might never get to hear it from their lips, I want my former students to recall their time in my class. I want them to remember something worthwhile, great or small that happened there. I hope that my students will remember my class not because it was perfect, but because of its unique flaws. Hopefully, they also will remember that I was a teacher who truly cared and strived to teach them. This is my definition of a life-toucher.” Kerri Warfield, Visual Arts teacher, Westfield, MA

As an active teacher, I hope in my own way I am influencing kids positively so they can better manage the journey ahead. Perhaps my own rationale that it is equally about that life journey as well as academics learned along the way is in contrast to the current teach to the test idea that is driving education now. Sadly it is a long time later that the daily life touches as Kerri Warfield states are seen. It might be ten years after you have a student, and you see on Facebook a father holding a little boy and discussing how much something meant to him back in high school. That something just happened to be a small gesture you made giving a book or word of advice in time of need. So many directions I have gone today and as I wind down, as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and your hearts namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Finding Soul in looking at Curriculum or Can I get a nickels worth of cheese please

Bird Droppings July 28, 2014
Finding Soul in looking at Curriculum
or Can I get a nickels worth of cheese please

There is something about the first light on a summer’s morning. It could be about trying to discern how many different birds are singing and calling back and forth as they are waking up. It could be pondering whether the frogs and crickets are harmonizing or more into jazz. Nearby a wisp of smoke from the smudge bowl is floating along the old fence line trying to rise and is dissipating into the trees. It has been a many years since I studied psychology at Mercer University in Macon Georgia and a quite a few since my seminary studies at Emory University. Sitting here before sunrise as I continue to wander through my educational career, I find new authors and new favorites and often I recall a few from days long gone that have significance right now. I have been a fan of Carl Gustav Jung for many years and in my assundery readings the past few years have come upon James Hillman, Thomas Moore, Kent Newburn and James Kavanaugh.

I am reading right now an article by Mary Aswell Doll for an article I am writing. Doll is known for her work in curriculum and the teaching of literature at the Savannah College of Arts. As I read her paper which is an introduction to her book “Like Letters in Running Water; A Mythopoetics of curriculum.” it is entitled “Fiction as food.” She referenced several times Jung, Moore and Hillman. In my own search for further reading and understanding of who I am and why the concept of soul in education came up. Mary Aswell Doll uses the word soul as a medium for learning and growing almost as an art form.

“In another attempt upon the idea of the soul I suggest that the word refers to that unknown component which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences, is communicated in love and has a religious concern. These four qualifications I had already put forth some years ago. I had begun to use the term freely, usually interchangeably with psyche (from Greek) and anima (from Latin). Now I am adding three necessary modifications. First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences; second, the significance of soul makes possible, whether in love or religious concern, derives from its special relation with death. And third, by soul I mean the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image, and fantasy — that mode which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical.” Thomas Moore, writing about his mentor, James Hillman

Over the past few months I have seen the word soul used quite frequently and yet, is it ever defined clearly? Over the years, I have worked with adults and children who I sense ( very scientific term and definitely not research based) a void or you could say a vacancy that I have referred at times as a lack of soul. It is not looking at this in a religious sense, and as Moore infers other possibilities as well could be drawn. In this sense of vacancy perhaps learning issues as well could occur. Doll in her writing emphasizes making a connection with content and existence, bringing the two together.

“First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences” Thomas Moore

Thomas Moore defines soul as that piece that becomes a piece of your reality not just a fact memorized and categorized. As I read through Doll’s article, other issues came to mind. I find in today’s educational settings we as a society and attempt to cram as much curriculum into a very specific given space as possible regardless of whether it will make sense later and in that we seem to lose something. Just get a test over with, and I am out of here, I have heard that line from teachers and students many times. I have raised the question of filling a liter bottle with two gallons of information as an analogy. As always though where does that lead us. I think Thomas Moore sees us stripping away any soul we may have or not taking time to nurture the soul that could be there.

“But the culture is going into a psychological depression. We are concerned about our place in the world, about being competitive: Will my children have as much as I have? Will I ever own my own home? How can I pay for a new car? Are immigrants taking away my white world? All of this anxiety and depression casts doubt on whether I can make it as a heroic John Wayne-style individual.” James Hillman

Could it be we are killing off or siphoning off soul in kids and adults? I was watching Law and Order just before I went to sleep last night. It was an old show about a father who was so enraged with a hockey coach after the game from not playing his son enough, the scouts from colleges his son wanted to attend were there that he beat him and killed him. His defense was parental rage, losing control, and the attorney for the state came back with how can we excuse this man. His rights stopped when he put his fists up to the coach. We cannot accept road rage, parent rage any rage. Then I read Hillman’s statement. What is our self-view? What leads to psychological depression, is it because we are all supposed to be John Wayne.

Borrowing from a thought, I read a day or so ago from Steven Pinker that behaviors are not manifestations of our environment but our genetic makeup and environment triggers behavior.

“Instead of seeing depression as a dysfunction, it is a functioning phenomenon. It stops you cold, sets you down, and makes you damn miserable. So you know it functions,” James Hillman

Is it in this rat race society where being John Wayne, never stopping, emailing till all hours of the night, working 24/7, getting no sleep and pouring down energy drinks (I tend to like the five-hour energy shots) is how we live and feel justified? I remember seeing my first bottle of Coke BLAK, a short-lived coffee flavored Coca-Cola a few years back as the Coke man was loading coolers at a nearby convenience store. It reminded me I was one who stopped drinking Coca-Cola when new coke came out.

Hillman sees our increase in depression as a response to our competitive society. That we are leaving behind something perhaps, it is our soul. Hillman authored a bestseller, “Soul Code” and Moore authored the best seller “Care of the soul.” These two men are not just flyby nights. James Hillman studied under Carl Jung in the 1950’s and Moore a former Monk studying for the priesthood has a doctorate in psychology and music studied under Moore. Interesting he is a pianist as well as a therapist. Both men are concerned about this thing we call soul. In Doll’s article, she emphasizes children learning literature in a manner that stirs the soul. By going back to Moore’s first definition, “First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences” John Dewey sought to pull the experience into learning to make it a crucial aspect of his philosophy. I have many times related to context and content being equal partners in learning.

“According to the German poet Novalis, “The seat of the soul is there, where the inner world and the outer world touch. Where they permeate each other, the seat is in every point of the permeation.” Thomas Moore

Over the years, I have read several of Moore books. One thought he referred to often is that primitives die from water-borne disease and in modern society the primary cause of death is stress related illness. That thought has made me think about how we teach as well. Are we taking the soul out, leaving only the content much like a tape recorder, children simply give back facts? In Doll’s article, she describes several things to help teach fiction. One is deliteralization and getting back to imagination. Another is letting imaginations run wild. Doll uses the word fluidity and one statement that is significant for me is;

“…fiction is food, fiction feeds the soul’s hunger.” Mary Aswell Doll

“Second is a teaching method for fiction probably not favored in surveys courses: slowness” Mary Aswell Doll

I have been wandering, thinking, and throwing out far too many ideas today. It could be that I have been reading too much over my summer vacation days even while I have been teaching classes and attending classes a large portion of the summer. However a slight change of thought but very much in line, borrowing from James Kavanaugh, several lines from his poem Men too gentle to live among wolves.

“There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who prey upon them with IBM eyes
And sell their hearts and guts for martinis at noon.
There are men to gentle for a savage world
Who dream instead of snow and children and Halloween
And wonder if the leaves will change their color soon.
There are men to gentle to live among wolves
Who anoint them for burial with greedy claws
And murder them for a merchant’s profit and gain.
There are men to gentle for a corporate world
Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
And pause to hear the distant whistle of a train.”
James Kavanaugh

I wonder if we could slow down or change gears or maybe find that which is missing from so many. I get excited when I read Moore and Kavanaugh hoping maybe as a society we will find answers. But then I turn on the TV, or pull news on Yahoo and, for example, this a few mornings back a news story about a high up official in Homeland Security, who was arrested for soliciting sex with an underage girl over the internet. He had been reported using secured cell phones and computers for his obsession. A crazy what if going back a few years; The Katrina mistakes were because a memo slipped up during a computer session. I was thinking back to when every day it seemed another mega conservative influential person was found being naughty. Now in a more liberal political setting and still scandals pop up I was thinking back to the Governor getting in trouble for trying to sell the Senate seat from Illinois.

Like the parent rage on Law and Order, I am sure someone will say this man has an illness. I would say it was too borrowing from Pinker’s thoughts it was in his DNA. Maybe he just needed something to bring it out and fortunately this time it was an undercover officer posing as a fourteen-year-old girl online. But what if terrorists figured him out and got into his secured files, what if it was blackmail? I spent the better part of several hours discussing politics and ethics in schools yesterday with peers. I came to the conclusion a politician by definition cannot be ethical. A politician will vote the way someone wants them to vote not how they know in their heart they should. I might email Thomas Moore maybe we need a repair book for souls.

Another week ahead and so much going on through the world, I will try and be optimistic and continue to hope for peace. I was at my current favorite store Kroger yesterday getting a few provisions for the family and while standing at the Deli counter an elderly man and myself got into a conversation recalling the old days and country stores. When I first moved into Walton County back in 1978, you would still see mules occasionally plowing fields and an outhouse here and there as well. But a found memory is the hoop cheese at the corner country store. The elderly man and who am I to be calling anyone elderly so I should say two old men got talking cheese at Kroger. I get the Boars Head black wax cheddar which is very close to the old hoop cheese. Well, as we discussed smoked turkey and how thin it should or should not be hoop cheese came up, and I got to listen to a story that I will share.

My partner in cheese talks said do you remember that hoop cheese back in the day and of course I said we would get it just up at the corner store, a wedge wrapped in wax paper for a few dollars made an excellent lunch. I shared my just sliced Boars Head black wax cheddar, and it was just about as good he said. He offered back about fifty years ago Joe Smith was a kid then and would come up to old Mr. Jones store couple times a week and ask for a nickels worth of cheese. Old man Jones would get out of his chair and ever so carefully slice a paper thin slice of hoop cheese for that kid. I seriously do not know how he did it. You just can’t slice cheese thin it falls apart, but that old man could do it. I listened to this story from someone I never met before, and it hit me how each day we respond to how many people. How often do we find ourselves in conversation seemingly about nothing important and yet this was a crucial story for this man to tell me. It made his Kroger trip I would like to think as it made mine. I find new ideas new friends as I journey along lives trail. I thought that I would share with those of you who read my daily droppings and or are reading for the first time. However, I still find it necessary to end please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

What do we miss?

Bird Droppings July 27, 2014
What do we miss?

All Along the Watchtower

There must be some way out of here,
Said the joker to the thief,
There’s too much confusion,
I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine,
Plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth.
No reason to get excited,
The thief, he kindly spoke,
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that,
And this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now,
The hour is getting late.
All along the watchtower,
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went,
Barefoot servants, too.
Outside in the distance
A wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching,
The wind began to howl.”

All along the Watch Tower the words and Music are by Bob Dylan and have been covered by almost every major rock star from Jimmy Hendricks, Eric Clapton, Guns and Roses and Bruce Springsteen just to throw some names around. I read the words from the song and thought how easily this could apply to the political fiasco we continue to be mired in. Every day I talk with strangers, students, friends, family and a few maybe that are hard to define. Within my family I have a reputation of whenever I leave the house allow an extra hour or so because I will find people to talk with. I use the reference of a circle often as far back as 1971 I wrote about the circle of life and defined myself within a circle. It was my understanding of the circle that has changed over the years. Perhaps it is wisdom and reading and discussing with all of the above. I reference often the passage from Black Elk, Lakota Sioux medicine man.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours….”Black Elk

It was back a few years I was writing still learning about the circle of life and received on August 6, 2003 an email from a dear friend.

“Dear Bird, The circle may have more to do with the philosophy of letting the river flow. I think our culture is more involved with the spiral in the up direction. We have a hard time revisiting, editing, honing, or learning from experience – all involve the circle.” Frances Friedman

Frances and I have a dialogue of sorts ongoing now almost ten years with thoughts words and ideas and as I read this I recalled a bowl of objects in my room, and a Shel Silverstein book, The Missing Piece meets the Big O. Most of us are familiar with river stones, pebbles or rocks worn smooth with the flow of the river or stream. In Africa some of the hardwood trees have wood so dense it sinks and as a result pieces of trees will fall into the river or stream and much like river stone tumble and spin and soon have a round look like a river stone. I have a bowl of river stone wooden rocks in my room.

The story from the late Shel Silverstein’s is that of a pie shape piece missing from the whole (or so they think) and is sitting waiting for the right piece whom is missing a piece to come by. The piece sits and sits and finally after many seasons and many pieces, a BIG O tells him you are on your own. You can do what you want. The piece begins to flip flop and such and soon as the edges wear down and it begins to roll. It is its own piece a simple child’s story maybe in a world where we all search for identity.

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

So often we wait wanting only to be that which we are not willing to learn to change into and grow. A piece of wood lying on the bottom of a stream in many parts of the world would float away and simply be gone. However as my pieces attest to some will roll and tumble smoothing the edges rounding off and soon be as the river stones. Just as the missing piece learned sometimes you have to move adjust begin to roll and sometimes even change or simply sit and wait. As Carlyle states what will you miss.

“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

Frances Friedman mentioned how so often we forget to learn from experience so often in our hurries we are not watching looking seeing. As I prepare for my classes I have been working on the concept of SUCCESS. Many of the people I know can relate to failure but not success it is a new concept. It is a new experience but hopefully they will learn through and of experience and move beyond failure.

“When I hear somebody sigh that ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” Sidney J. Harris

Contrast and compare, Harris is a thinker that many may not know. He was a writer in the 1960’s through his death in 1980’s. A teacher friend nearly thirteen years ago shared several of his articles with me and Harris’ columns are intriguing reading. Strictly Personal is the name of his old column and in archives on the internet. You can find many of his articles and they are all good reading.

As I look back in my own life and times and see where and when corners were rounded and I learned and succeeded and failed many times. I also see other people who were affected by that moment and hopefully they have affected positively and grown as well. Yesterday I was in the guidance office and a little boy was sitting on the floor his dad is still overseas and I was forced to think a moment please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Should we even consider ignorance a part of the journey?

Bird Droppings July 25, 2014
Should we even consider ignorance a part of the journey?

“If I want to justify my existence, and continue to be obsessed with the notion that I’ve got to do something for humanity — well, teaching ought to quell that obsession — and if I can ever get around to an intelligent view of matters, intelligent criticism of contemporary values ought to be useful to the world. This gets back again to ……The best way to help mankind is through the perfection of yourself.” Joseph Campbell

It has been so many years ago, at first I thought my goal was to do something for mankind as in some great event or task. As I sit and wonder this afternoon, I find in Campbell’s thought so often it is searching for and bettering ourselves that we truly help mankind. Earlier I wrote today to a friend about trying to understand and reduce ignorance. I seriously think it is funny how while political campaigns ignorance seems to be rampant.

“Unintelligent people always look for a scapegoat.” Ernest Bevin

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok

Working with children it becomes interesting as each day you see bits and pieces of ignorance fall away only to be there again in the morning as parents and all those outside of school work on rebuilding during the night.

“Ignorance is never out of style. It was in fashion yesterday; it is the rage today, and it will set the pace tomorrow.” Frank Dane

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

I live in a place which borders constantly on ignorance and wants so terribly to cross over to the side of wisdom. It seems those in power always want to keep those ignorant folks in the dark hence, for example, the Dark Ages back in the day. During that period most could not even read or write and those that could were in power.

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

“Naivete in grownups is often charming; but when coupled with vanity it is indistinguishable from stupidity.” Eric Hoffer

Looking at politics Hoffer may be very right. It does seem that in every election we watch politicians play with words against rhetoric that sounds good to that group that is being addressed. I recall when the legislation to prevent the sale of assault weapons was up for renewal and how ironic that in the midst of antiterrorism it would fall by the wayside.

“The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is ignorance.” Brian Hwang

“When I was fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. When I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” Mark Twain

In the search for knowledge and for understanding so, many roads can be walked. We can search in books, in schools, in our families, and in life in general, but it must entail a search. It is an assumption to think you are there and to cease the journey and to cease is to assume you have reached the destination. We are born with a starting point, point A, and when we die we have reached point B it is that which connects A and B that is crucial.

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

Funny thing in as I am sitting here in my writing spot I was talking with my son, and Aerosmith’s greatest hits was playing in the background, coincidence maybe who knows but the journey continues.

“Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation…” Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces

I listen to the words and read the gibberish of the politicians and wonder if a hundred years ago or so would these same men and women be pushing for an Indian Territory and reservations. Today instead it is illegal immigration and Gay marriage that strike nerves in so many people. I was reading a National Geographic account of the salvaging of a slave ship. In 1698 humans were bought and sold for trinkets. Eleven thirteen-inch bars of iron would buy a black man and forty pounds of glass beads a black woman. On this particular ship, the historians believe they were from the Ibo tribe in Western Africa. These people believed no one was greater than any other. It was their life philosophy that made them susceptible to being taken as slaves. This tribe was a peaceful people they were human beings bought and sold as things. Not until the war was fought were black men legally human beings in the United States, and it was not until the trial twenty years later of Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe that Indians received the legal term of a human being. This was not all that long ago.

“Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was tame, Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.” Luther Standing Bear

I have become spoiled sleeping late and forgetting to see the sunrise. This morning I went out and sat for thirty minutes in the stillness of the morning. Mourning doves were cooing around me and various other birds just waking up. A woodpecker started on the old black walnut trunk nearby our house, and I felt at ease. So many thoughts passed through my mind sitting listening in the barely lit morning. Soon I will be back in my normal rising early and writing reading getting back into the groove so to say. So it is evening now, and I must end my day may peace be with you all my friends and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

I am sharing some good words from a friends Facebook page as I read how true is this simple thought.

Elder’s Meditation of the Day July 24
“Life is as a path…and we all have to walk the path… As we walk…we’ll find experiences like little scraps of paper in front of us along the way. We must pick up those pieces of scrap paper and put them in our pocket… Then, one day, we will have enough scraps of papers to put together and see what they say… Read the information and take it to heart.”
Uncle Frank Davis (quoting his mother), PAWNEE

I am listening to a chorus of frogs, crickets and an occasional owl

Bird Droppings July 24, 2014
I am listening to a chorus of frogs, crickets and an occasional owl

“You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” Doug Floyd

Most every night and early morning when I walk about especially early in the morning I am listening to the choral arrangement of tree frogs, crickets, whippoorwills and an occasional owl. None in tune with the other yet so much together an interesting mix of harmonies and melodies as they do what they do in the trees and forests around our house.

A few years back I guess my wife, and I got alarm clocks for the boys that had earth sounds for going to sleep as well as CD or radio to wake you up, one of the sounds of the ten or so to fall asleep was crickets and frogs and the occasional owl. I have found it haunting as I listen to this at night live. Many the night back in the day while camping I have fallen asleep to that chorus. As I look perhaps a bit deeper and further in our society, this quote rings true as well it takes differing of opinion to make all work in unison. As I read this short thought from Doug Floyd, who is the editorial page editor for The Spokesman-Review, I thought how appropriate to the issues at hand. A single voice would never succeed as much as we would like to think as I listened to the green party nominee this past election cycle for president as they ran not so much to win as to offer a thought, a differing voice, change or alternative.

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” Albert Einstein

“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing –to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. Not a select party.“ John Keats

As I think to my chorus of frogs and crickets, it is not a mix of voices with simply chance bringing it together, there are specifics as the insects and amphibians call looking for mates or signaling territory. Each is very clear, and concise, and there are reasons and responses to each note and call.

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity, as well as the existing generation, ; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” John Stuart Mill

Thinking back a week or so to that day we celebrate our country’s independence which is a day where opinions became free to express, a day where as I watched the movie the other day Majestic, with Jim Carrey, where a young man is accused during the McCarthy era of being a communist and he draws his defense not on whether or not he is a communist since the committee had already decided that, but that he was entitled by the constitution to free speech The First Amendment. You know it is the opinion and thoughts of others that allow us to have room to think to pursue and grow to achieve beyond where we are. As I sit here listening to the sounds from outside to the chorus of frogs and crickets and an occasional owl, I am pleased, we can in this country have differing opinions and hope one day maybe most will be opinions of peace. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird