Bird Droppings April 2, 2018
Is there ever a clear pathway in Life
I had did Weight Watchers about two years back and I had lost about twenty five pounds. I never thought of changing medications for blood pressure. It seemed as the week progressed I became dehydrated and by that Thursday my kidneys were responding and my heart as well. Blood pressure dropped heart rate dropped and kidneys were not working right. So four blood tests and numerous doctors’ visits and ER trips and I was back up and running. That was Spring Break three years back. So here I am its Spring Break for most and I am seriously getting back on weight watchers. My goal is fifty pounds this year.
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Elwyn Brooks White
Often I reflect on my journey in life and the many directions I myself have traveled. I watch others as they step by step go along the way and I listen as some stumble and are lifted up when pebbles and or boulders are in the way. There are choices at times about which pathway to take as a fork approaches and we have to choose. Walking out this morning the smell of spring was overwhelming. Whippoorwills were calling surrounding me with a chorus that is hard to match. I stood listening for what seemed hours before heading back in to make some breakfast.
I am at times overwhelmed with the idea of why we are so lost as to education, and in many ways learning in today’s world. As I wandered the other day I Had a principal of a local school ask if I was going to a state playoff baseball game and I responded without thinking said simply no as I headed to the house. I am no longer teaching and in effect had only been to a few baseball games over the years. I used to when teaching take many pictures and plastered the walls outside of my room and Facebook with photos. During a staff meeting the principal same fellow said he did not like collages on the walls of the school and to keep things more or less in our rooms. About this same time it became a big issue of posting pictures of children whose parents had signed do not post pictures of my kids form. Psychologically I stopped taking pictures. I always felt bad, but for nearly twelve years I had on my own taken sports, programs, and graduation pictures and provided to school all of those thousands of images. So I retaliated against one person and in effect impacted so many more. Sometimes we do not truly know how a butterfly’s wing flap can impact the world.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it.” Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left
“Life is a cement trampoline.” Howard Nordberg
I was wondering why so many of us each day think perhaps too much obsessing over reasons and rationale eventually tripping over our own inadequacies and imperfections. I look far too deep too often beyond the politics of the educational process of which rampant is an understatement with headlines in local papers addressing issues with Charter schools and state education officials. Are we truly this desperate or is this a façade to cover up are lack of enthusiasm and desire? I wonder when I see a young person acting as a mime standing still facing an empty wall and unable to move forward or back simply immobile dressed in funeral attire waiting for an end. What has slowed their journey to this point? What is it they have missed along their own pathway as we cross? I wonder why my enthusiasm for teaching dwindled, or has my energy drink not recharged me today?
“He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche
We have all read and read again proposed reasons for mass shootings. Who are the perpetrators? As I look at various rationales, fatherless boys, white boys, psychologically impaired, sociopathic, and the list goes on. Prior to most of the shootings the individual was nameless. Only a handful of close relatives knew who they were. More than likely in most cases even family members did not truly know the individual. I think back to my last teaching job before entering industry in 1977.
I had a student who as per his label was learning disabled. He was a white male. His father eventually disowned him at about eighteen years of age. His mother died of cancer and I went back to help at the funeral. My first summer 1978 of married life I had this former student come and work for me on our family farm. He and I got along and another teacher from the school also kept in touch with him. His mother had always literally done most of his thinking. She would help him pick out clothes set his daily goals and provide transportation as he did not have a driver’s license. When his mother died things changed. As I mentioned his father disowned him, he turned to alcohol and drugs and essentially was living on and off the streets. His sister would be a calming force but in time she had her own issues. Her boyfriend one evening killed their baby and was sent to prison for life. On a transfer from local jail to state prison he escaped and threatened her. She never recovered from all of this.
I will back track as I make my point. When I had this young man as a student I saw issues. He would be self-inflict injury. Head banging till he bled, hitting his fists into trees and or walls once or twice breaking a bone. On one occasion he brought his hamster to school and the hamster his pet of several years nipped him he threw it to the ground and stomped it or so I was told by other students. I raised serious red flags with administration and had I been further along in my studies I would have made sure he had a diagnosis of Emotional behavioral disability, EBD. But at that time 1977 in Georgia special education was still catching up and this was a private school.
I got a call from my former administrator out of the blue I had not heard from her since my students mothers funeral a year or previous. My student had killed a women and almost killed her two kids. He was in jail and on trial and eventually sentenced to three life sentences most of which was served in Jackson State psychiatric prison. So my former student was a almost mass murderer. Why did this hit me today? In his time between the funeral and the killing of the women he had spent several instances including six months in residential treatment. He begged to stay that he couldn’t control himself. He did not offer resistance and was sitting on his bed when sheriffs came to his room at a half-way house. By chance this incident was never widely publicized I literally had to find information in the local paper. Today he would have been on national news and splattered across every computer screen everyone would know his name.
He is still in prison and will always be in prison till he passes on. We watch trials of killers and people thrive on conspiracy theories and dribble spun and twisted to make a story. The killer this or that. The killer is getting marriage proposals. Many people can name some of recent mass killers. Few could name one victim. So where am I going in the craziness of today’s society a potential mass killer goes from obscurity one minute to fame in the next by a few minutes of psychotic melt down. So where in our education system can we try and interfere with this obscurity of a student? Ideally we should downplay competition. Ideally we should look in corners for those who are alone. Ideally we should try and build relationships. Ideally we should never let a student feel they do not matter.
Sadly we seem to not be able to find the whys and as a former colleague of mine and now a academic researcher in education and philosophy in an early morning rant a couple years or so ago points out.
“If a child isn’t learning then we assume that more teaching is what he or she needs rather than a readjustment of pedagogy; we expect that there is something wrong with the child rather than the teacher (both must be considered, neither should be blamed without proper cause). If democracy isn’t working or there is a problem (voting fraud in FL, etc.) then we reconcile this with more democracy. We suffer a cascade of choice, what Renata Salecl calls a “tyranny of choices” that confuses us and distracts us from the real substance and problem at hand.” Dr. Antonio Garcia Ph.D.
When I first read through Garcia’s note that morning almost three years ago rather early and ended up responding with almost gibberish but heart felt as I jotted it down. I was thinking to a famous quote by Karl Marx, “Religion is the opiate of the people”, and wrote perhaps education in its current process is the opiate muddling cognition into submission. As I look at students I have worked with in more recent years this is trully what we have done.
“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” Erich Fromm
“To live remains an art which everyone must learn, and which no one can teach.” Havelock Ellis
There really is no road map and no specific travel itinerary as we journey along with each day being unique for me and for you. Nietzsche offers a why as a reason to live and Fromm simplifies further only a happy moment or a bright morning is all that is needed. Ellis states that life is an art form. Life is an art form and perhaps it is the wielding of the brushes and what colors we use as wield we paint. I have started looking deeper into kids this semester as to why they do not perform academically. There is a formula somewhat of pieces that equate to educational success or educational opiated submission. I am getting to bleak and need to lighten up a bit. I downloaded a book that I have in hardcopy on my shelf and since I walk around with my iPad thought a good one to start my library along with several by John Dewey. J. T. Garret has a doctorate in educational psychology and has worked for the Health Dept. on reservations for many years. He also has studied the medicine ways of the elders of his tribe and knows and writes about Indian medicine.
“There is equality in all things. Everything has its own purpose, all things are equal. There is no such thing as dominance or control by any living thing over any other. There is basically only one relationship in the circle of life. We are humble and show humility to all things here on Mother Earth, even every rock and mineral.” J. T. Garrett Ed.D., Meditations with the Cherokee: Prayers, Songs, and Stories of Healing and Harmony, 2001
Several years ago a movie starring Robin Williams was out “What Dreams may come”. The author of the book researched extensively on the afterlife. There are nearly six pages of references in the back of the book. But a scene that caught my attention was as Robin Williams realized that he was painting the world around him and that his attitudes and concerns altered the surrounding, colors as they would change and the hues fluctuated as he walked about. When the character Robin Williams plays arrives in the afterlife portrayed in the movie there is an equality of all life it is integral to each aspect of the vision seen.
“You cannot discover the purpose of life by asking someone else – the only way you’ll ever get the right answer is by asking yourself.” Terri Guillemets
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus
“Following straight lines shortens distances, and also life.” Antonio Porchia, Voices, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin
As I look at my own drama that I write in my own life we set the boulders in our own pathway and we throw out the pebbles that force us to stumble. We end up creating the forks in the road that force us to choose. But I would not have it any other way as I step along the path. As well we need to be aware that we must make an effort to also clear the pathway. We also must make the choices as to which road to follow. I see my life’s map as a series of zigzags an easy journey constantly side tracked. Where once a straight line between A and B now the page is covered in this way or that in back tracking and circumventing in over stepping and under stepping and in climbing boulders and in pushing some out of the way. It has been a few months since I have used at the end of Bird Droppings a saying by a Native American Orator from back in the day.
“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator
For many this may not mean anything. It has been years now since I could hear a buffalo snort and walk across the pasture and see the breath blown in the cool of winter. It has been years since I have seen fireflies dance across my front field now covered in houses and roads. But I still see the little shadow as the sun sets and I still hear the breeze in the morning. Our scenery changes but life does go on and 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,
(We are all related)