Do we teach or are we taught

Bird Droppings September 30, 2015
Do we teach or are we taught

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Albert Einstein

So many times when discussing students who are having difficult times an individual teacher’s perspective is all that matters. Recently I was about to thump another teacher in the head listening to comments about how if this student had a better work ethic. I have heard work ethic a lot lately. This or that student needs a better work ethic. But what if you really do not like that teacher and or subject and better yet what if you have a disability that inhibits you. Every day I see square pegs hammered into round holes. It is the way our education system works. I am always amused that Mr. Einstein was one who did not have a great work ethic in school. Matter of fact he failed math a time or two and then he rewrote the books.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

We rely so much on prepackaged, prewritten, preformed, precooked, pretested, pre-read, and pre-understood everything that creativity, imagination and uniqueness get left on the shelf. We are giving make up Georgia High School Graduation tests and End of Course Tests over the next weeks in our school. In theory tests of content with a smattering of cognitive questions thrown in however several questions while multiply choice could be answered in numerous ways and here are high school students trying to analysis and answer questions for example science teacher’s question. What if you miss one of those questions and get a 499 and 500 is passing. A good friend who graduated nearly ten years ago had taken the science test four times and failed by a total of eight points and has not graduated. What if each time this person answered that one question the same way a question that is either incorrect or not answerable. This person was an A and B student and after four tries was too frustrated to try again.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein

How and why and what should be taught are always at the crux of curriculum and instructional administrators challenges. But one of the most difficult aspects of education is instilling a desire to learn as Einstein states wanting to seek the mysterious. Too few are the students who truly want to learn most and not just simply pass and get on. In fourteen years of high school teaching one of my greatest moments was being asked who wrote the poem when I read Dylan Thomas. I was asked by a kid who most thought could not read and then he read the entire book that weekend. The mysterious is a mysterious thing. 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

What can be more sacred than life itself?

Bird Droppings September 29, 2015
What can be more sacred than life itself?

Perhaps having been born on All Saints Day in St. Joseph’s Hospital gives me a better insight into the sacred than most normal folk. Of course then I have to consider that soon after I was born the Church dropped All Saints Day which I hope had nothing to do with me. I could have been born on Halloween. As I sit and ponder here at school before students arrive my thoughts go towards that of a spiritual nature. It has been sometime since walking along a dirt road in the midst of hundreds of acres of pasture listening to buffalo and cattle snorting and waking in the early morning I came to find this outlook on life.

“When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.” Dr. Scout Cloud Lee

Dr. Lee is a motivational speaker, author of twelve books, singer and song writer, university professor and actually along the way a cast member of The Survivor series on CBS. She was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Oklahoma State University in 1980, and Oklahoma’s Outstanding Young Woman in American in 1980. In 2002, Lee was honored to carry the Olympic torch exemplifying the theme of “Light the Fire Within.” Perhaps this is a good place to stop As a Today Show guest she stated “you have to decide” and Dr. Lee offers “we participate in the creation of a new world”. I end up with a line from an Aerosmith song as it always seems to fit in.

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

I used Dr. Lee’s quote and the preceding paragraph on September 7, 2009 in my daily wanderings. An email earlier this week reminded me of this quote and some thoughts along the way with several books I picked up over the past few weeks at Barnes and Noble, I should get a commission for mentioning bookstores and Quick Trip. I state on my Facebook page my religious belief is that all is sacred. That in and of itself is a powerful statement and one I adhere to or at least attempt each day I live. Many can argue from their own religious perspective and or theological viewpoint as to what is sacred or not. On a recent journey to Macon I went by the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds National Park. I speak of the place in a reverent manner as for thousands of years many people have held this place as a sacred spot. When I climb to the top of the Great Temple Mound and look to the four directions I imagine what it was like before the Macon skyline was visible to the north or the visitor center to the east.

Sitting on the table as I write is a Bushmen water container. It is simply an ostrich egg emptied out with a hole in the top and carvings of animals and designs etched into the shell and then filled with ash to leave a black line. This egg is over fifty years old and brought back by my father from South Africa many years ago and given to me. In the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa and to the Sans as they wish to be called, we use the term Bushmen this is a sacred vessel. It is one of many that would be stashed plugged with grass and placed at a specific spot identified by the markings belonging to a particular hunting group it would be filled with water and stored for the next trip through that spot.

Over the past few years I have read many books on spirituality, Native American thought, Curriculum, Education, Teaching methods, Religion, Counseling, Psychology, Herbs, Medicinal plants, Reptiles and Amphibians, and even a few fiction books mainly Harry Potter. One author who has always kept my attention and I still periodically check up on his essays is William Edelen. Edelen is a Presbyterian pastor, former fighter pilot, former agriculture teacher, author, speaker, and free thinker extraordinaire. While his books of essays are not best sellers on a few years back one title was the United Methodist Women’s book of the year, In Search of the Great Mystery. Edelen incorporates many ideas from Native American thought into his writing along with Thomas Jefferson and Thoreau.

“The question I so often ask is this: Why are the vast majority of people so willing to turn over their life, values, priorities, and decisions to such authoritarian institutions? Are they insecure, that fearful, that blind, that they cannot assume personal responsibility for their own spiritual growth? ‘Your own reason is the only oracle given to you by God,’ wrote Thomas Jefferson.” William Edelen, Spirit Dance

Edelen was addressing millenniums of mass church building and increasingly larger congregations that demand restitution from their parishioners. I always found it humorous that one Atlanta church required a credit report to join.

“People often ask me, “What are you …… what do you believe…. Are you a Christian…. Taoist … Buddhist …. what? In a joking mood I may tell them I am a Taoist, Druid, Agnostic shaman. But when I answer the question seriously, I tell cosmology, or philosophy of life is the same whether one lives in a Taoist society, Buddhist, Christian or secular.” William Edelen, Spirit Dance

Needless to say William Edelen is a character, he still has many listeners and readers and even in his nineties he still speaks in Palm Springs each week delivering a new essay. There is a website where these are posted. But there are many views of life, spirit and sacred what compromises these. Continuing on today another writer whom has drawn me to them is Thomas Merton. A Trappist Monk he is considered to be one of the foremost spiritual thinkers of the twentieth century. Merton died in a hotel room in Southeast Asia in 1968 protesting the war in Viet Nam.

“To unify your life, unify your desires. To spiritualize your life, spiritualize your desires. To spiritualize your desires, desire to be without desires.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“Everyone has an instinctive desire to do good things and avoid evil. But the desire is sterile as long as we have no experience of what it means to be good.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Almost John Dewey words in needing to experience good in order to desire to do good. Both Thomas Merton and William Edelen use the concept of opposites prevalent in Eastern philosophy as well as in Native American thought. Merton and Edelen often quote The Dalai Lama in their writings and as he is spiritual head of the Tibetan Buddhists, he is respected worldwide.

Over the years I have been a fan of the writings of the Dalai Lama myself, at age six or so he was chosen to be the successor to the thirteenth Dalai Lama and left his parent’s small farm to go to the capital of Tibet in Lhasa and here was tutored in Buddhist traditions and writings. He through his young years had tutors from England as well who taught other subjects and provided a world view for this humble boy from a small farm in Tibet. Today he is considered one of the great thinkers of our time and has received the Nobel Peace Prize among other numerous awards. His many books help bridge, and make an effort to provide insight into Buddhist philosophy and understanding of the world. One of these thoughts within Buddhism is the theory of emptiness.

“According to the theory of emptiness, any belief in an objective reality grounded on the assumption of intrinsic, independent existence in untenable. All things and events, whether material, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence. To possess such independent, intrinsic existence would imply that things are therefore entirely self-contained. This would mean that nothing has the capacity to interact and exert influence on other phenomena.” Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom

I walked into my local convenience store this morning to get a couple of bottles of Smart water; I have switched after years of drinking Evian only. No, it does not increase my IQ by more than a small percentage with each bottle, but it has no metallic taste and it is essentially distilled water with electrolytes added. Another advertising pitch I could make a fortune if I was signed with all of these commercial entities. As we talked with one of my Muslim friends I wished him a Happy Halloween, and it hit me. Halloween was an attempt in the old days of allowing pagan rituals into the Christian domain back in the days of assimilating cultures as you conquer. What was interesting is how it was then followed by All Saints day, which had been today until the holiday was dropped by the Church, to beg forgiveness for the previous day.

But it is always interesting where our traditions and history take us and will take us. Borrowing a line from the Dalai Lama’s above quote. “All things and events, whether material, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence.” At the time it was a necessary evil to allow All Hallows eve and get the pagans to follow in line. As the day changed and it seemed All Saints day was no longer needed it was discounted as a holy day by the church. It might have had something to do with me being born on that day as well.

“My plea is that we bring our spirituality, the fullness and simple wholesomeness of our basic human values, to bear upon the course of science and the direction of technology in human society. In essence, science and spirituality, though offering in their approaches, share the end, which is the betterment of humanity.” The Dalai Lama

“The whole point of science is that there are no facts, only theories. You don’t believe these things they are working hypotheses that the next bit of information can transform. We are taught not to hang on but to stay open.” Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

As I read The Dalai Lamas words it reminded of the passage from Campbell, recognized as one of the leaders in comparative mythology.

“The first fact that distinguishes the human species from all others is that we are born too soon. We arrive incapable of taking care of ourselves for something like fifteen years. Puberty doesn’t come along for twelve years or more, and physical maturity doesn’t arrive until our early twenties. During the greater part of this long arc of life, the individual is in a psychological dependency. We are trained as children, so that every stimulus, every experience, leads us to react.” Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

As I sat thinking on this passage my mind drifted over to a book I am reading currently Kent Nerburn’s, The Wolf at Twilight, again. Nerburn goes back to the Sioux reservation to help an old friend in a search for his sister who has been gone now nearly eighty years. One of the comments made is in a discussion on hand shakes. Nerburn questioned how they could tell he was unfamiliar with the Sioux ways and they said by the handshake. A white man shakes hands hard exerting force wanting to maintain control, power, be a man. A Sioux shakes hands lightly, softly not imposing their dominance over the person whose hand is being shaken. It is a matter of how we are raised. The cultural biases and societal influences provide the basis for who we are. Perhaps this is where I am concerned in our quest in education and society so often for simplicity and measureable data. Are we leaving out the spiritual and actually leaving science by the way side? We seem to want answers solid data and facts. So many people want laws in science and not theories. So many people want one way in religion and forget the spirituality aspect of what it is they seek.

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves…… The connectedness made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as a place where intellect and emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I first read Parker Palmer about thirteen years ago in a book club meeting where our then principal used this book, The Courage to Teach, as one of our readings. Parker Palmer emphasizes in his writing that teachers choose to teach because of heart because they desire to do something for humanity. Many of his themes touch on the spirituality within teaching. It is this idea of connectedness that toes in to my thoughts today and with some of the others I have quoted and used. In recent months I have become a fan of Dr. Michael Tianusta Garrett, former Department Chair of Guidance at the University of Florida. His books along with his father’s are based on the Cherokee Nation. Many of his thoughts on guidance reflect his own understandings and outlooks based on his Native American heritage.

“Native peoples view all things as having spiritual energy and importance. All things are connected, all things have life, and all things are worthy of respect and reverence. Spiritual being essentially requires that individuals seek their place in the universe; everything else will follow in good time. “Dr. Michael Tianusta Garrett, Walking in the Wind

I have wandered today and yet perhaps not strayed from where I was going in my journey and will end with perhaps my favorite author Kent Nerburn.

“Spiritual growth is honed and perfected only through practice. Like an instrument, it must be played. Like a path, it must be walked. Whether through prayer or meditation or worship or good works, you must move yourself in the direction of spiritual betterment.” Kent Nerburn, Simple Truths

“It is the sense that comes over us as we stare into the starlit sky or watch the last fiery rays of an evening sunset. It is the morning shiver as we wake on a beautiful day and smell richness in the air that we know and love from somewhere we can’t quite recall. It is the mystery behind the beginning of time and beyond the limits of space. It is a sense of otherness that brings alive something deep in our hearts.” Kent Nerburn, Simple Truths

I had actually started to be rather short and be done with it today but sort of got caught up in my own wanderings and readings. It has been over ten years I have ended my daily thoughts with this phrase and again looking at the news and listening to what is going on in the world I will again close with my traditional last statement. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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

Answers are on the opposite end of questions

September 28, 2015
Answers are on the opposite end of questions

“In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals, for Tarawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain animals to tell men that he showed himself through the beast and that from them, and from the stars and the sun and moon should man learn…” Eagle Chief (Letakos-Lesa) Pawnee

I find myself often looking at Native American thought for insight and ideas. Perhaps it is that indigenous peoples were more oriented around the land and survival then we civilized folks are. Many of my lessons learned revolve around learning from nature and the world around us rather than from school or some one person’s ideas. The lessons are often handed down in story form from father to son not printed in a holy book or text that so often lends itself to translation and interpretation. Many the night we as children fell asleep to stories of old that my father would tell us and I have told my sons and now will tell my grandchildren.

“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly…. We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way; the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.” Eagle Chief (Letakos-Lesa) Pawnee

Dr. Michael Garrett, writer, teacher and counselor discusses a theory of opposites numerous times in his writings within Native American thought. For each entity there is an opposite. As I ponder the concept of soul is there soulless aspect within humanity? Working with adolescents in all honesty I would say I have never met a soulless person, I have come close however. Conduct Disordered children have no concept of right or wrong and essentially focus totally on self. The world revolves around them and anything else is insignificant. A good friend Dr. James Sutton considers and discusses in his writing CDD children as, “more dangerous, deficient in social understanding, and poorer skills in general.” I recall my first meeting with James and how I was informed as a high teacher there was nothing I could do for these kids. He went on to state most about ninety nine percent would end up dead, in jail, used car salesmen, politicians and or evangelists. If this would hold true could be a reasons we have so much difficulty in Washington, no one really cares.

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.” Mourning Dove Salish, 1888-1936

There are times I find it difficult to say there is a purpose for some of the people I have met but as I think about this possibility of opposites and all things have purpose if not only to give contrast to the good. I was interviewed by a student earlier in the day and a question was asked have I ever intentionally hurt an animal. All I could think of was feeding mice and rats to snakes it was intentional to provide nourishment to the reptiles. But it would a matter of perception as to whether a squeaking rat being constricted was hurting as it dies being suffocated by the snake. I do feed mostly frozen thawed rats and mice however. But it made me think to other issues and how some people see them. So many are concerned about health care reform and yet even prior to legislation nearly four years ago my premiums went up and all I use it for is medicines since I seldom go to the doctor and my visits are often free. I am sitting here thinking that having a wife in health care does have its advantages at times. So we have differing perceptions and some of the people out there could be without soul so how do we continue as a society?

“Soul, the word rebounded to me, and I wondered, as I often had, what it was exactly. People talked about it all the time, but did anybody actually know? Sometimes I’d pictured it like a pilot light burning inside a person–a drop of fire from the invisible inferno people called God. Or a squashy substance, like a piece of clay or dental mold, which collected the sum of a person’s experiences–a million indentations of happiness, desperation, fear, all the small piercings of beauty we’ve ever known.” Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair

“I simply believe that some part of the human Self or Soul is not subject to the laws of space and time.” Carl Jung

Whenever I get into individualism and creativity I find myself discussing soul and I always sort of end up with it truly is a definitive aspect of which we are and how we see ourselves. Should soul be or not be an entity or thing and it is far more and less. Soul is a paradox and perhaps like Jung I do see it as not subject to laws of space and time. So with perhaps not a final answer, I should call a friend maybe I will close today with the usual please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Wisdom is not contagious?

Bird Droppings September 25, 2015
Wisdom is not contagious?

I was reading in a friend’s blog about the Harry Potter series. She was addressing religious beliefs in her blog and how so many adhere verbatim to holy texts. As I read her blog which is rather good the ending was rather interesting. Maybe in Harry Potter books in another thousand years will be considered gospel. I added a comment to her note on Facebook after I read her blog. Something to the effect that as I pulled out from my house yesterday morning a red tailed hawk was sitting on the power line beside me watching me leave. As I left it flew away. On my wall to my immediate left is a red tailed hawk feather that I found nearly fourteen years ago. I often wonder as to how we formulate and postulate our understandings of our surroundings. In Native American thought the great mystery often referred to as Wakan-Taka is that aspect we cannot clearly define.

“That doesn’t mean I’m waiting for my letter from Hogwarts to arrive by owl post any time soon… well, not really… looks out window for owl.” bluecollarmamma.wordpress.com

On a similar topic in Middle School World History across Georgia kids learn about the impact of Islam on Europe and West Africa creating at that time some of the most vibrant civilizations in the world while Europe was in the dark ages. To pull this away would leave a huge gap in history. I read several responses to worksheets and comments and as a history teacher had to respond. I pointed towards writing and math as we know it are based on Islamic thought at this time in history 800-1400ADE. Greek and Roman history would have been lost if not for Islamic scholars. Where is the wisdom in being ignorant?

“The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.” Pierre Abelard

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Taka (the Great Spirit), and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is known that true peace, which, as I have often said, is within the souls of men.” Black Elk – Oglala Sioux

“He that never changes his opinions, never corrects his mistakes, and will never be wiser on the morrow than he is today.” Tryon Edwards

I think there is a bit of wisdom in all of us yet we often tend to put aside for ease of thinking. We follow others unquestioning and do as they do because it is so easy to not think. I watch the news of another mega church pastor who is being sued in civil court over some possible indiscretions. This is a man who lives in opulence all built on his twenty five thousand member church preaching the word. We fall in line sadly in a world behind politicians who speak the best or offer the biggest possibility of promises that of course will be never kept.

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

I wonder if some of these wealthy pastors would continue their preaching in a manner consistent with Bonheoffer, one of the few Christians to die in Germany’s concentration camps. He died doing what he believed preaching against the Nazi regime and protecting Jews as the Nazi came looking for them. He is considered a great theologian and philosopher and he lived as he preached. As I read this passage how easy we get swept up in knowledge and perhaps lose the significance. Watching Pope Francis last night do Evening Prayer Services made me think of Bonheoffer.

“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” Plato

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Naguib Mahfouz

“We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” Samuel Smiles

Far too often we garble the message with too many words. Plato had it right there are many who talk simply to hear themselves talk. I often talk about how questions from four year olds are some of the best because they have not been subjected yet to others opinions and scrutiny. Children are silenced when we tell them they are wrong before they even ask the question. It does take failure to learn and to gain wisdom. Smiles points out what Edison would allude to in his quest for a light bulb in that he found ten thousands bulbs that did not work and one that did. I have not read as much of Gibran as I wish I had and am working on that.

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” Kahlil Gibran

“A prudent question is one half of wisdom.” Francis Bacon

“Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, and is fashioned by mind. If you speak and act with a polluted mind, suffering will follow you, as the wheels of the oxcart follow the footsteps of the ox. Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, and is fashioned by mind. If you speak and act with a pure mind, happiness will follow you, as a shadow clings to a form.” Buddha

There is clarity in youth that muddles as we grow older. I see little children as containing wisdom only to lose it through interaction in society and then to slowly regain as they grow older and go through the process of being human. Some may retain pieces of that wisdom and not take as long to return back too that childlikeness. It is a circle much like the circle of life.

“I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy…but anywhere is the center of the world.” Black Elk – Oglala Sioux

I have been reading and seeking to understand Black Elk for nearly forty years and each year I am able to know and understand more. Perhaps it is wisdom or errors along the way that led me back to the understanding of his words. Black Elk was a holy man who worked into his eighties in or around the reservation harvesting crops for farmers in the area. He was not gaudy or opulent in his life but humble with the power and understanding that he had. He was respected for his knowledge and wisdom and perhaps is a good point to stop today. I hope one day I will not have to end as I have for so long now. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Thinking ahead

Bird Droppings September 24, 2015
Thinking ahead

Occasionally I will have a crazy thought although my students will say occasionally I have a normal thought and that would be more like it. They are insinuating most of my thoughts are crazy. My youngest son just has his anniversary coming up and so many memories. I recall the ceremony was held under an ancient live oak tree in Panama City named the Sentry Tree for standing watch over the bay during the Civil War. The great tree is several hundred years old and is covered with Spanish moss as are many of the oaks along the coast in Florida. Ferns and other plants grew along the tops of the branches almost a separate ecosystem. I spent several hours each day we were down in Florida sitting listening to the sounds under that great oak tree. I walked out to the bay and looked and listened to what nature had to show me. Numerous birds and flowers all special to Florida greeted me as I pondered so many things. Some good memories as I thought back.

However I got to thinking as I was driving to get gas for my wife last night. I was sore when I got home and sat down earlier than I normally do. I sat down in my chair and thought, what if when we were born the hospital tattooed on your left foot made in whatever country and a hospital code for example and then underneath that an expiration date. You would know the exact moment, hour, day and year you will die. I started thinking at what point I would change how I lived. My students were arguing with me about living it up since my birthday is coming up and I will be sixty six. Their philosophy was you only live once go party live it up. So I was wondering knowing exactly how many days you have to do whatever it is you will do would you change anything knowing the exact moment of your demise.

“There is not any present moment that is unconnected with some future one. The life of every man is a continued chain of incidents, each link of which hangs upon the former. The transition from cause to effect, from event to event, is often carried on by secret steps, which our foresight cannot divine, and our sagacity is unable to trace. Evil may at some future period bring forth good; and good may bring forth evil, both equally unexpected.” Joseph Addison

It has been some time since I first used the concept of a puzzle to explain how our life progresses each of the pieces falling into place, each interconnected to the next. As I speak with people I use this comparison, often showing how each aspect of our lives ties to the next and how consequence comes from even the smallest of things. Knowing we had a limited amount of time to finish our puzzle would we do anything different? I think it is amazing as I think of what if we still had no directions and were floundering in trying to get things done I wonder when panic would set in.

“There are no rewards or punishments — only consequences.” Dean William R. Inge

“Whatever our creed, we feel that no good deed can by any possibility go unrewarded, no evil deed unpunished.” Orison Swett Marden
We have to take each piece as it comes and try and build from there. Each element leads to the next, a building block of sorts, as we travel through life, a deed leads to a consequence and then to another and another, each beyond the next.

“Men must try and try again. They must suffer the consequences of their own mistakes and learn by their own failures and their own successes.” Lawson Purdy

“It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.” Sir Joseph Stamp

As I wonder about my words and events that yet will play out today, I daily use the term ABC, Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence. In life, everything we do involves these three elements. Each aspect of our existence is preceded by an event, a happening that causes the behavior, no matter how subtle that event is. The behavior in turn leads to a consequence it is so simple, so clean it’s actually pretty cool. We respond and soon cover up, ABC. What if we could analyze all events so simply and plan our day. I do this, then that, this, then that all day long. However, conversely we tend to do this with students as well, if we see an event about to happen we can change the antecedent and alter behavior and of course the consequence. Managers in business do this as well as retailers are doing it as we sit and read, altering our buying for this holiday season through various sales specials etc. In reality through consequence the world is controlled so how do we keep our heads up and still be unique, and independent.

“Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue; and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath.” Mary Wollstonecraft

It was a many months back I was introduced to Mary Wollstonecraft a person who was ahead of her time, the ultimate feminist. She was writing about issues under her name and pen names, often a man’s name to get her point out. Her fire and zeal were passed on to her daughter Mary Shelly who penned the novel Frankenstein and was married to another great writer and poet Percy Shelly. How do we maintain within the struggle, to be who we are?

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank

“Ideals are like the stars: we never reach them, but like the mariners of the sea, we chart our course by them.” Carl Schurz

How do we? I was thinking yesterday about my own direction in life one day going here and there and a slight bump and left turn and heading elsewhere. Do we have focal points to guide us, stars as Schurz states? Can we find our way home when we get lost in life? I wonder at times even as pieces of the great puzzle fall into place. Maybe the pieces are wrong, maybe this is not where I am to be but as events slow down and the fog clears we can see even the most confusing of life’s events seems to work out. I was reading yesterday a new book, Spirits of The Earth by Bobby Lake Thom. He starts the book with a prayer that I would like to end with today.

“I ask that you bless our elders and children, families and friends, and the brothers and sisters that are in prison. I pray for the ones sick on drugs and alcohol, and for those who are homeless and forlorn. I pray for peace among the four races of mankind. May there be good healing for this earth. May there be beauty above me. May there be beauty below me. May there be beauty in me. May there be beauty all around me. I ask that our world be filled with peace, love and beauty.” Medicine Grizzly Bear, 1990

So easy to sit and write, yet around us, so much going on would we change anything if we knew our expiration date I wonder. 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

PS: I had started writing when some discussion last and through the week sort of took over and I scribbled my crazy thoughts down.

Doc Bird’s Morning Dropping or rant:
I was teaching a college class a few nights back on US History and the various issues in a progression to the Civil War. One of the many was the situation in Texas during 1830’s. Mexico won independence and freed slaves. Texas was a part of Mexico and Americans had been moving in and wanted slaves following a series of weak attempts at Mexico controlling the vastness of Texas. There were more Americans than Mexicans in Texas and as General Santa Anna came to power he saw a need to squash the Americans and make Texas a serious part of Mexico. Five thousand Mexican soldiers surrounded San Antonio and an old mission post The Alamo. I asked my class anyone ever heard of The Alamo. (It was in the readings as well.) No one knew about The Alamo. I threw out Fess Parker, Davy Crockett, Colonel Travis, Sam Houston and several more. Nope no one knew about The Alamo. Somewhere Michael Jordan came up the Kobe and LeBron. Bill Gates was mentioned and Steve Jobs and an idea struck me. Who are the heroes of today? I thought back to my childhood and my heroes, my dad, Robin Hood, Davy Crockett, Geronimo, Cochise, Sitting Bull, Gandhi, and I am sure several more. Some are somewhat fictional others pieces of history and mythology. As I raised questions last night all were multimillionaires and that was a number one criterion, money. What’s in it for me? I heard that several times this week. My thoughts to another hero of mine and on a personal note having been a victim of polio myself in 1950’s Jonas Salk. He was a famous doctor and researcher who solved and found a vaccine for polio. When all was said and done he received not a dime for his efforts he donated it to mankind. I started to think why have we become so greedy, needy and blind to others? A few minutes back I wrote on a good friends post something to the effect, so many profess to this nation being a Christian nation and yet we never seem to attempt to actually even try and be that. Gandhi once said “I Like your Christ it is Christians I do not like.” I find the word in scriptures Koinonia from the Greek is used quite often. New testament scripture was written in Greek along the line and not English till late 1500’s early 1600’s and yes King James was 1613 but taken from Latin and Greek translations. “Koinonia is an Anglicized form of the Greek word, κοινωνία, which means communion, joint participation; the share which one has in anything, participation, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, etc. It identifies the idealized state of fellowship and unity that should exist within the Christian church, the Body of Christ.”

It takes community to make a strong rope

Bird Droppings September 23, 2015
It takes community to make a strong rope

“You cannot contribute anything to the ideal condition of mind and heart known as Brotherhood, however much you preach, posture, or agree, unless you live it.” Faith Baldwin

Each day as I talk to my students I try and set an example and not every day am I successful. But as I think this beautiful fall morning getting up somewhere in South Carolina on my way home from visiting our son, his wife and our granddaughter. We still have about three hours of driving and in the old days that would have been easy last night but now relaxing for a few minutes and getting a good night sleep rates higher. So I am sitting here trying to decide if I should work on grading papers or be to be lazy I thought I would take a few moments to write. Since I have been lazy about writing for a few days writing wins out. Many of the children I talk to everyday stand alone, often due to their own choosing.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” John Donne

It has been several years since I did an experiment with a group of young people using sewing thread. I had a thread for each person and then I asked each of them to break the thread which of course was simple and easily done.

“The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” James Baldwin

After breaking the threads I gave each of them another piece of thread and one by one we joined the threads together. In the end we had a thirty strand piece of string/rope and we twisted it slightly to keep threads together.

“In union there is strength.” Aesop

“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” Alexander the Great

Amazingly enough no one could break the new combined rope even when several folks pulled on each end it would not break.

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” Bahá’u’lláh

I still carry that piece of string/rope in my wallet. It surely does make a great example when talking to students.

“I look to a time when brotherhood needs no publicity; to a time when a brotherhood award would be as ridiculous as an award for getting up each morning.” Daniel D. Michiel

It has been a few years back that I attended a demonstration up in Mountain City Georgia. The lecturer at the Foxfire Museum was using a couple of folks in the group and had them twisting and turning six strands of twine into a rope.

“Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.” Mahatma Gandhi

Real unity, that is the question, and in today’s politically charged atmosphere unity is not to be found. I had shown my students so many years ago that even though having multiply strands of thread all together in a bundle was significantly stronger each time you cut a piece it weakened Exponentially .

“In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” Booker T. Washington

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

Each day as I sit outside my door at school I witness differences in attitude and differences in brotherhood. Many are similar and in a high school that old cliché of school spirit is generally a good indicator of a semblance of brotherhood, a joining force in a body of humanity. But still there are strands of thread dangling outside weakening the whole.

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” Virginia Burden, The Process of Intuition

I will never say everyone has to be identical. I like Booker T. Washington’s statement of each of being a finger yet still being able to be a hand. I use to think it was cool when I would see a six fingered person and in my old stomping grounds of Lancaster and Chester counties often you would see an Amish fellow with an extra finger. There was a recent ad where everyone was upset with Joe who had extra fingers because he could type so much faster and then do so much more, the ad showed him typing away and multi-tasking with his extra fingers. But the ad was also about change and new equipment equalized the office space. So often we cannot accept the differences.

“I have often noticed that when chickens quit quarreling over their food they often find that there is enough for all of them. I wonder if it might not be the same with the human race.” Don Marquis

In life far too often we spend our time fretting over differences and not looking for similarities. How can we work as a group a team? I was watching college football Saturday for a few minutes along with a jubilant football throng at the Washington Oregon football game. In the end teamwork makes all the difference in a win or loss. The winner is not always the better team. Always better teamwork will win and it can be only a minute difference, a single strand could change a game and or a life.

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” Kenyan Proverb

Interesting while I was writing about unity and I still believe in individuality and it is a difficult task. I come back to Booker T. Washington’s quote; I can be a thumb and still work as a hand when needed. It is in believing and in trusting we gain that unity and that brotherhood. Watching the rally yesterday one thing kept coming up why all the negative why not work together the problems are here and solutions can be had if there were teamwork. 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

Seeing all is connected and intertwined

Bird Droppings September 22, 2015
Seeing all is connected and intertwined

As I thought about the Sydney J. Harris passage below and walked out to my car I thought of my quiet spot where I meditate and something hit me. I generally sit facing east towards the rising sun, daily the gossamer threads of life interconnected with everything. Spiders busy the night before spin threads of silk across the terrain. They are always iridescent and softly moving with the wind. Occasionally one thread would disconnect and float effortlessly upwards sparkling and dancing as it goes ever so slow into the clouds. Each twig, each plant and leave seemed to be connected. Each rock and branch a tiny thread weaving through the entire visage before me.

Most people would read this and scoff yet in the early morning as the sun rises and begins to move across the skies spiders have been at work all night moving between plants and rocks trees and leaves leaving threads of silk. If you were standing in the midst of them they would be invisible yet with the sun behind sparkling in the light a beautiful scene. As I sat pondering as to an old man sitting looking towards the east in the early morning many years ago and coming in to tell his grandchildren as I started the passage. On the back of my t-shirt it reads all things are connected and rightly so by a thin gossamer strand of silk.

“Our task is to make our children into disciples of the good life, by our own actions toward them and toward other people. This is the only effective discipline in the long run. But it is more arduous, and takes longer, than simply “laying down the law.” Before a child (or a nation) can accept the law, it has to learn why the law has been created for its own welfare.” Sydney J. Harris

Today I am faced with dealing with how to accomplish all that needs to be finished by Friday. Several IEP’s and redeterminations need finalizing and or projects I am working on and I have several students who have continually found their way into trouble that need to be dealt with. Often in special education we use the term manifestation, is their behavior it a manifestation of their disability or are they choosing to do whatever it is they are doing that got them in trouble.

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle

“Self-command is the main discipline.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many years ago I spent six months involved in counseling on a psychiatric unit in a state mental facility. There was never a question about why something happened being that they were considered combative psychotic adolescents which was the term used to describe the unit. When someone got upset it was solitary confinement and rather large doses of drugs and a few strait jackets were employed. Little was occurring to change the behavior and or rationalize those behaviors and or find why that behavior even occurred simply deal with the moment.

“Anybody who gets away with something will come back to get away with a little bit more.” Harold Schoenberg

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” John Trapp

Often as I find a quote the person behind those words has more to offer as if the situation with Schoenberg who is a scholar of music. He is also a very prolific writer about great musicians and their music. John Trapp was a bible scholar with several biblical commentaries to his credit both men were writers who themselves were very self-disciplined.

“THE STUDY OF WORDS is useless unless it leads to the study of the ideas that the words stand for. When I am concerned about the proper use of words it is not because of snobbism or superiority, but because their improper use leads to poor ways of thinking. Take the word ‘discipline’ that we hear so much about nowadays in connection with the rearing of children. If know something about word derivations, you know that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same Latin root discipulus, which means ‘to learn, to follow.’” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly speaking

Sitting here looking up references and quotes related to discipline and ending up with the example, to learn and to follow this is semantics as we go. In order to operate a public school we have to have standards to operate by so we have rules. Looking at this from a behaviorist standpoint it is easy to say ABC, Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. First you have an antecedent that stimulus is what causes the behavior. Then you have the behavior which is the event or action that we see, feel or hear about. Finally we have consequence which can be what we do in response or what the students or person issuing the behavior receives for eliciting that behavior.

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” George W. Crane

“To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

It is always about what we do. Over the past few days I have with several teachers and friends been discussing perception that is how we see events and happenings. One of the categories in writing a behavioral plan for a student is planned ignoring that is often simply tuning out a behavior. Often with no stimulus to keep it going a behavior will disappear. So often it is getting attention that is the desired consequence.

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” B. F. Skinner

These lines from a football hall of fame quarterback and the father of behaviorism are intriguing as these two men from distinctly different arenas yet have come to very similar conclusions in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It has to make a difference to the person for them to change. Skinner sees we can manipulate the subject matters we as we can offer alternative consequences to hopefully change the behaviors to ones we can accept. A Sydney J. Harris line caught my attention this morning as I started on discipline as I prepare for several IEP’s later this week some related to behavior.

“…by our own actions toward them and toward other people.” Sydney J. Harris

So often it is not the consequences that deter or change a behavior but our actions towards the person and those around them. It is the example we set and not what we say that matters. Please today as we venture out keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in 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