Is the seat of the soul in the heart or mind?

Bird Droppings September 30, 2020

Is the seat of the soul in the heart or mind?

I believe I was prepared from childhood to discuss this topic. It has been many years since my first introduction to Native Peoples. I was three or four years old when I first remember my father’s Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle stories. The term Native American was not argued, and the word Indian was not officially becoming politically charged, so we grew up with Indian stories. My father’s stories came from his background in the Boy Scouts of America; he had been an Eagle Scout, a scout leader, and a summer camp program director. Indian lore was a significant portion of Boy Scouting in those days. As he told us as kids, some of the stories came from meeting the code talkers on his ship in the Navy ferrying marines onto the beach fronts. I am borrowing from a favorite book on Indian Crafts my father told us of counting coup. W. Ben Hunt explains the word and meaning.

“Riding into battle with no weapons save a coup stick, and touching your enemy then riding back. It was considered a great honor to count coup” W. Ben Hunt

My father worked his summers during college in New Hampshire at Camp Waunakee using Indian Lore as a base for camp activities, and he was chief of the campfire. During his military service, as a medic on a navy LSM in World War II, I learned he had spent many hours talking with Navaho code talkers as his Navy ship delivered them to islands in the South Pacific. He would say he was part Indian through all of those years, but it was not until he was in his seventies that his sister uncovered my great grandmother’s lineage, Leni Lenape, a clan of the Delaware tribes, and confirmed it. To me, as a child, Indians were special, my father instilled this in us, but there was always a spiritual aspect I could not explain. As I was reading for this dropping, a thought I pulled out of another old book from my childhood days by William Tompkins. My father would use this book to teach us rudimentary sign language if we ever needed to converse with Indians.

“The originators of the Indian signs thought that thinking or understanding was done with the heart, and made the sign “drawn from the heart” Deaf mutes place extended fingers of the right hand against the forehead to give the same meaning” William Tompkins

As I read this line, thinking and understanding come from the heart in so much of Indian philosophy; perhaps this drew me to this group of people. I grew up with feathers, drums, rattles, and other Indian paraphernalia always around the house. In my own experiences, the spirituality and acceptance of all things as sacred in Native people’s culture intrigued me. As I started into a graduate school program on curriculum theory, it had never occurred to me how education had been so misused and so often deliberately so in history. Those in power avoided teaching some things; I use the term fine print concerning our indigenous peoples.

Modern culture used the trust inherent in their culture, and their understanding of life and nature was turned against them for profit and greed. Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a member of the Dakota tribe, a medical doctor and known in his tribe as Ohiyesa is quoted in Kent Nerburn’s, The Soul of an Indian as he addresses a significant difference in white and Indian thought.

“Many of the white man ways are past our understanding …. They put a great store upon writing; there is always paper. White people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand, if a white man loses his papers, he is helpless” Dr. Charles Eastman, Ohiyesa

In reading and discussing in graduate school, not much is different from the many innuendos in today’s education and curriculums of hidden agendas and political maneuvering. As I progressed in my own schooling, I learned that Columbus mistakenly called the indigenous people he encountered Indians thinking he had found a way to the Spice Islands of the West Indies. The name would stick until more recently as we became politically correct and use the term Native Americans. Columbus even wrote in his journal of presenting letters from the King and Queen to the Great Khan, thinking he was in China or near, according to noted historian Ronald Takaki.

 As I became older and too sought out my understanding of Native Peoples and my readings went deeper. During my undergraduate years, I spent a semester in Texas and experienced firsthand a powerful hatred even then in 1968 for Indians. My journey very much paralleled my spiritual and educational pathways as with each step, my ties and understanding grew. I was looking for answers even back then.

“When you see a new trail or footprint, you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing.” Uncheedah, grandmother of Ohiyesa

I was searching for answers even in those days. As I finished up my undergraduate program at Mercer University, I realized why Indians were never taught to read the fine print. In classes and from friends, I received books and articles to read, adding to my understanding. From one of our course texts, Author Joel Spring points out the concept of deculturalization.

“Deculturalization is one aspect of the strange mixture of democratic thought and intolerance that exists in some minds. The concept of deculuralization demonstrates how cultural prejudices and religious bigotry can be intertwined with democratic beliefs. It combines education for democracy and political equality with cultural genocide – the attempt to destroy cultures. Deculturalization is an educational process that aims to destroy a people’s culture and replace it with a new culture.” Joel Spring

From earlier on, there was an effort to assimilate and dismantle the Native peoples’ cultures in America. In the early 1500s, Spanish colonists were first to deceive and destroy the native people? Several nights ago, a recent History channel episode was based on Cortez and the conquering of the Aztecs. One of the historians made a statement that in fewer than two hundred years from that first encounter with Cortez, ninety percent of America’s indigenous people were either killed or died from European-based disease. The Europeans enslaved a new world.

 So many times, it was through deception. As the white man pushed into the new world, treaties and agreements were signed often with little understanding of the Native peoples’ part. The land was not for sale, yet the white man is offering us trinkets. How foolish is the white man? Vine Deloria Jr., states very clearly in his book Custer died for your sins:

“In the treaty of August 5, 1926, almost as if it were an afterthought, an article (III) stated: The Chippewa tribe grant to the Government of the United States the right to search for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country. But this grant is not to effect title of the land or existing jurisdiction over it. The Chippewa’s, in the dark as to the importance of their mineral wealth, signed the treaty. This was the first clear-cut case of fraudulent dealings on the part of Congress. Close examination of subsequent Congressional dealings shows a record of continued fraud covered over by pious statements of concern for their words.” Vine Deloria Jr

I wonder if the Indian agents held their hand over portions of the treaty or wrote in such small lettering that most people could not read. It may have been perhaps using Old English lettering and only having taught in Times Roman fonts, which would bewilder most educated people even today. This concerted effort by those in control throughout American History was even condemned by the US government who were themselves, orchestrating much of it, as shown by Joel Spring in his book.

 “The US Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare issued in 1969 the report Indian Education: A National Tragedy-A national Challenge. The report opened with a statement condemning previous educational policies of the Federal government: “A careful review of the historical literature reveals that the dominant policy of the Federal Government toward the American Indian has been one of forced assimilation…. Because of a desire to divest the Indian of his land”, Joel Spring

In many ways, it was a naivety that undermined the Indians in their dealings with the Europeans and, eventually US Government. But it was also an inherent trust that bound the various tribes and peoples together. There was no fine print to an Indian; his word was bond. It would be many years and near extinction till Indians realized the treachery. Kent Nerburn writes extensively about Native Peoples Spirituality and offers.

“The rule of mutual legal compact, with its European roots, had no precedent among the individualistic native peoples of the continent. In addition, the idea of land as personnel property, a key principle on which the United States was basing its treaties, was alien to the native people. How could one own the land?” Kent Nerburn

Our current curriculum study shows many overlapping and residual effects, and it goes far beyond just Native Peoples. Those in power write fine print for one reason so that is not read and essentially control the overall outcome and direction of whatever is in question. My position is we have been as a people continually dealt with agreements; contracts riffed with the fine print regarding education and curriculum to a point it has become what we expect.

Each year teachers sign their contract with numerous areas of extremely fine print. Daily we are being handed fine print in the news and through the media about Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, politics, religion, and many too numerous to mention, including our president-elect by the electoral college. Maybe one day, we can indeed have a democracy in our democratic nation funny thing is educator John Dewey said and felt the best way to ensure democracy was through a democratic classroom. So, as I set my thoughts to paper and close for this morning, please help others read the fine print, and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Do we need a bit more soul?

September 29, 2020

Do we need a bit more soul?

“Soul is different from spirit; the deep soul is the way we live every day, our longings and our fears.” Thomas Moore 

It has been nearly thirty years since I first read The Care of the Soul, by Thomas Moore. I picked up a copy in about 1993 or so. I was impressed as I read this great thinker’s words, he had studied under James Hillman, and Hillman had been a student of Carl Jung. In his previous experiences, I found some similarities with my own that drew me to his writings. Moore had studied most of his life to be a priest, and after graduate school and wanting to do more than minister to a church, he went into secular psychology and therapy, leaving the priesthood. As I have journeyed through life over the years, my spiritual aspirations have evolved and deepened, although some might argue with me. 

“It’s the aspiring spirit that gives life to the intellect and keeps it from being just a mind and a set of ideas.” Thomas Moore 

It was nearly twenty years back. A student’s parent introduced me to an author that filled some voids in my thinking. I was coaching the high school swim team, and this parent somehow caught an inkling that I enjoyed reading about Native American thought. She recommended Kent Nerburn. Nerburn is an artist by training, and education with his doctorate is in sculpture. He traveled the country searching and practicing his trade, and in that, he began writing. I do recommend his works and enjoy his philosophy of life. 

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance, and none can say while some fields will blossom, and others lay brown beneath the August sun. Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices in life no more easily made. And give. Give in any way you can, of whatever you possess. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than how is shared, and your life will have meaning, and your heart will have peace.” Kent Nerburn

In traditional Native thinking, we are one with all. Existence is considered sacred and of importance to the interconnections. There is an interconnection and interdependence of all things. There is a thread running through all things. Many years ago, Chief Seattle said that “man is but a strand upon the web of life”. 

 “Soul is different from spirit—the deep soul is the way we live every day, our longings and our fears.” Thomas Moore

My interpretation of what the soul is is not that far from where Thomas Moore identifies the soul? I have thought about this concept of the soul over many years. It is tough to define. I have read articles where researchers weigh bodies before and after death arrives, claiming there is a weight to the soul. We are such curious creatures, and when we find the answer, so we often ignore it. Somewhere yesterday, an article on flat earthers popped up. I have always been curious what’s on the bottom if the earth is flat, what’s on the other side? I wandered away a bit, but it is who we are that is the soul. The essence or substance of who we are. 

“…to the soul, the most minute details and the most ordinary activities, carried out with mindfulness and art, affect far beyond their apparent insignificance. “Thomas Moore

“A genuine odyssey is not about piling up experiences. It is a deeply felt, risky, unpredictable tour of the soul. “Thomas Moore

We journey through life following the pathway set in genetics, culture, society, environment, and many other factors. Each of us travels along a different path; we intersect at times and travel side by side. I have found that observing and listening and then perceptions give each of us another view of the journey. Somebody might say that our soul can decipher all of the input we have as we journey. Each of us will tell a different story of the same journey. 

“How many times do we lose an occasion for soul work by leaping ahead to final solutions without pausing to savor the undertones? We are a radically bottom-line society, eager to act and to end tension, and thus we lose opportunities to know ourselves for our motives and our secrets.” Thomas Moore

As I ponder the concept of soul issues of politics and societal contradictions come into play. Sadly we have done this to ourselves. Living in a southern state that is either fourth or fifth in numbers of illegal immigrants primarily seems states with agriculture as a major commodity. Having worked with many students, I am sure it is questionable. I wonder how we have done things in the US. Growing up in Coatesville, Pa., I can recall having been asked if I was interested in working at Lukens Steel Mill. My dad, who was at that time in management, had been a union steelworker. All children were almost sure to get jobs if your father or mother worked at the mill when you graduated from high school. Ten years ago, on my last trip back to Coatesville, Lukens Steel Mill left nothing left. 

I was following the news as much as I can one item popped up in the past day. In the past few weeks’ legislation to stop tax incentives to companies outsourcing jobs was defeated primarily along party lines, although some democrats did help prevent it. We have been under the foot or maybe the boot of industry for some time and allowed to live a “happy” life until a more profitable means to do business comes along. I watched a Georgia Senator’s ad last night on TV as he promoted more flexible regulatory legislation and lower taxes and less government. The other side of the coin is that he also introduced a bill not to allow airlines’ unionization into Congress. Delta airlines is one of his biggest backers, and Delta has been in a fight for some time over unions. Delta is based in Georgia, which is a right to work state. Where am I going with unions, the way it was, and illegal immigrants, and outsourcing? We have stood by and allowed wages and perks of union-driven groups to go through the roof while driving product cost up and often driving the industry, such as steel, to leave the country.

We have allowed industries for as long as I can remember (not just in this political season) to hire and bring in illegal workers for jobs at low wages. Many of the industries doing this in Georgia also back Senators and politicians who, by chance, are Republican. We support outsourcing to the point that most customer service is a joke anymore on the phone. A recent ad played on this with a fellow in Siberia with fifty phones ringing. He answers, hello this is Peggy in customer service hold please, and proceeds to make a sandwich. I guess my issue is we have allowed this; we have allowed the banking and mortgage problems to happen because of our greed. Sadly it will take more than elections to change the souls of people.

“When we relate to our bodies as having soul, we attend to their beauty, their poetry, and their expressiveness. Our very habit of treating the body as a machine, whose muscles are like pulleys and its organs engines, forces its poetry underground so that we experience the body as an instrument and see its poetics only in illness.” Thomas Moore

One piece of my doctoral studies and writing is based on the loss of soul in education, which I firmly believe is going on. We have taken creativity and imagination away in so many instances and replaced them with memorization exercises and drills. Critical thinking has taken a hit instead of teaching to the test. Texas was trying to ban critical thinking in schools. My first response was this is insane. Coming back to thinking about Thomas Moore and soul only reminds me that so much needs to be considered in our quest for improving education beyond the simple cure of more money and or more testing.

“There are apartments in the soul which have a glorious outlook, from whose windows you can see across the river of death, and into the shining beyond; but how often are these neglected for the lower ones, which have earthward-looking windows.” Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts

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

We are so much more than profits or capital as some business minded educators refer to students as. Many of the school choice advocates live off profit-based companies who want into education and want those easy dollars. Several millions of dollars are being spent to open the market in Georgia this November. So for my Georgia friends, vote no on the Charter school constitutional amendment. Maybe if we could grasp that piece of us that some call soul and encourage a bit of fertilizer and replenish it so that imagination and wondering could take precedence over the type of clothes you wear, the car you drive, or jewelry that is hanging on your arm we might make some severe changes to our reality.

“Many of the religions I’ve been exposed to preach, reaching for an impossible ideal, and my attempts as transcendence have left me inevitably frustrated with myself, others, and my life. That is why I appreciate Thomas Moore’s philosophy. Here is, in a nutshell: don’t try to transcend your humanity, embrace it. Moore’s ideas would resonate with spiritual wanderers and people who view life as an artistic work in progress. When Moore was a therapist, he noticed that many clients would come to him, wanting him to remove a flaw of theirs. They went to him like patients seeking a surgeon to remove a tumor. Our culture celebrates light, and many feel ashamed when we aren’t happy. However, Moore contends that sadness is, in a sense, a gift, for it gives one depth and perspective. Healing can take time. It rarely occurs overnight.” An unknown blogger

 “Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library, and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

I am into another day. I went out, took some photos, and have been sitting for an hour pondering and reflecting. At times I miss the students unleashed in the hallways, then again, perhaps I am still floundering in my meandering about the soul. It could be the chill of fall has me enthralled as I get out in the cool air in the mornings. But for today, 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

Why not continue the Journey?

Bird Droppings September 28, 2020

Why not continue the Journey?

“So, I’d much rather get across the concept of freedom. It is what’s important to Indian children. The only way you can be free is to know is that you are worthwhile as a distinct human being. Otherwise you become what the colonizers have designed, and that is a lemming. Get in line, punch all the right keys, and die.” Russell Means, Indian Activist

It was a little over five years ago that I first noticed on various blogs and status updates I follow that Russell Means has passed on. Checking his website statements some indicating that he was still alive midst rumors he had passed on. Then reality hit perhaps a day later in the morning a post, a very carefully written paragraph from his family that he was continuing his journey and had passed on. It has been some time since I first read about or heard about Russell Means.

Having been a college student in the early seventies and activism going on around us we saw AIM and Wounded Knee in the news. Later I watched Means act in several movies most notably in Last of the Mohicans. I have read his words and agree on some points and disagree on others, but he died as he lived a warrior.

As I think back over who I am as a teacher and as a person I often wonder as to how I came to be the way I am and why do I take such a differing outlook over so many teachers involved in this endeavor. I recall my father essentially teaching me how to teach as a swimming instructor and in various Red Cross programs. His idea of Tell Show Test and Check was a favorite for teaching a subject or even a skill. I have used the FIDO principle another of his gimmicks many times over the years Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over again.

As I attended college and began thinking about teaching as a profession, I had courses in how to teach and what to teach to various groups of children and adults. We talked theory and realities we practice taught and were observed by professors. I look back and wonder how is it that a professor who has never taught outside of college level teach anyone how to teach, say elementary school age children. But within it all I became who I am as a teacher, parent, and person. I see this enterprise as an ongoing continuum and one that truly is never complete. Going back to my Aerosmith I borrow from time after time, “Life is about the journey not the destination.”

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who does not know how to read.” Mark Twain

I spend a good bit of my day reading and find it so hard to understand when I see comments of I do not read or I do not have a favorite book written in a Facebook status or autobiography. I may in the course of a day look at ten or twelve books looking for thoughts or ideas for my writings. But to profess to not reading how can you consider yourself even semi-intelligent. For it is through reading that we increase our vocabulary and understanding of the world around us. It is through reading that we develop and progress beyond where we are today. It is thorough reading that we move along the journey.

I was speaking with a fellow teacher last spring about such things. Why do kids not read for example? Some is a lack of encouragement at home during those hours away from school. Some is the example set by parents who are not readers. But I think a large portion is our current style of teaching to the test. We are teaching kids to pass tests that in some schools impact the teacher’s annual appraisals and, in some cases, even salaries are test scores based. When we take away significance and choice and mandate specific memorization for test content, we lose an aspect of who the child is.

Paulo Freire is a radical in terms of education and his outlook on what teaching and education should be about. Freire was a teacher, activist, thinker, innovator, and college professor in various stages if not all of his life.

“As a teacher in an educational program, I cannot be satisfied simply with nice, theoretical elaborations regarding the ontological, political, and epistemological bases of educational practice. My theoretical explanation of such practice ought to be also a concrete and practical demonstration of what I am saying.” Paulo Freire

How much more is gained when you can touch or apply what it is you are learning. There is another side of Freire’s philosophy that interests me as well and that is very similar to John Dewey in that the democratic process is crucial to a classroom and that the teacher is a learner as well as learners are teachers.

“In the context of true learning, the learners will be engaged in a continuous transformation through which they become authentic subjects of the construction and reconstruction of what is being taught, side by side with the teacher, who is equally subject to the same process.” Paulo Freire

An ongoing back and forth process one that provides both teacher and learner with answers and questions. I once considered this process to be symbiotic but as I learned and looked deeper it became osmotic. There was a constant flow back and forth between teacher and learner; it was not a reliance on one or the other.

“The teacher who thinks, ‘correctly’ transmits to the students the beauty of our way of existing in the world as historical beings, capable of intervening in and knowing this world.” Paulo Freire

I wonder how much of John Dewey, Freire read. Many of his thoughts run parallel to Dewey as Dewey saw experience as a critical piece so often left out when teaching. All the experiences brought to the classroom by the students are bits and pieces that can be built on and added to. I am amused that Freire uses quotes around the word correctly. How many teachers are teaching correctly in the world? When you look at how a teacher is evaluated in Georgia with a six or seven question checklist and relatively simple responses and yet the process is one that is complex and not conducive to yes and no check boxes.

“It is easier to stick with what teachers have always done and believed, rather than go about the painful process of changing current thinking about teaching” Charlotte Danielson, from the book, Teacher Evaluation, Discussing why we continue to evaluate teachers in an archaic model

We continue to evaluate, and judge teachers based on models that have been used since the early 1960’s and tend to focus on ease and the most simplistic methods. Time seems to be always a factor. I am wandering a bit today as I think about where I am on my own journey.

“There is no valid teaching from which there does not emerge something learned and through which the learner does not become capable of recreating and remaking what has been thought. In essence, teaching that does not emerge from the experience of learning cannot be learned by anyone.” Paulo Freire

I will have to admit Freire does get deep and philosophical at times. But this aspect of doing of experiencing that runs through his words to me is significant. Many teachers try and keep everything to a minimum in terms of how they teach. I was involved in a discussion on a new math program and was informed we only want students to learn function not how it works. So students memorize a line on a graph which is this or that and that gets answers A-D but in effect they never understand or learn what that really is or why. On the other side I have watched a model of a watershed during a graduate class along with an explanation of what was happening when rain or excess water was present and how it impacted the surrounding area. Our lecturer was versed in experiential teaching. He builds on teachable moments and on hands on experience.

As I am thinking back to several summers of teaching biology to kids who had failed biology during regular session and how I taught those summers. My objective was to have them pass a comprehensive exam approved by school and department. We would spend the first hour each day learning vocabulary, doing what I hated but without vocabulary you cannot even read a biology test let alone answer questions. After that we organized and categorized all the trees on campus. We studied hands on ecology and interactions. We watched videos of various settings deserts, (The Living Desert by Disney Studios), Jungles, and the Arctic.

Occasionally we would get out one of my ball pythons and talk about reptiles and amphibians. I have had live animals in my room since I started back teaching. Amazingly all passed the finals and in three years of summer school only one quit coming and it was a family problem. As the system changed and went to seat time as the criteria and worksheets were the lessons, I stopped doing summer school. It was no longer teaching simply babysitting.

I wonder often as to the whys and hows of so many teachers and think back even in our own high school to great teachers and ones I consider great. Those are the teachers who get kids excited about learning and who look for ways and means to bring life to the lesson and who are always learning as well. There are only a handful of teachers I would consider great as I think back and always a story or two. My middle son had biology in ninth or tenth grade and a presentation was made in that presentation a slide was used that he knew was incorrect and waiting till class was over went to the teacher and told her. At first the teacher was reluctant to listen until he said my brother has that animal in his saltwater tank and I am familiar with it. She said she would fix it so it would be right. Several years later in an advanced class of Zoology he saw again the slide and again the wrong name and scientific data attached. This time being more mature and angrier he stopped the class and said the slide was wrong. So here is a student who tried to help a teacher who was not interested in learning.

“Why not, for example, take advantage of the student’s experience of life.” Paulo Freire

“A primary responsibility of educators is that they not only be aware of the general principle of the shaping of the actual experience by environing conditions, but that they recognize in the concrete what surrounding are conductive to experiences that lead to growth.” John Dewey, Experience and Education

John Dewey taught we need to build from not exclude the past experiences in our endeavors to teach children. I have found this in the Foxfire Approach to Teaching to be a critical element.

“New activities spiral gracefully out of the old, incorporating lessons learned from past experiences, building on skills and understandings that can now be amplified.” Foxfire Fund, Foxfire Teaching Approach Core Practice Seven

In my reading of one of my favorite authors more recent books, A wolf at Twilight by Kent Nerburn, the concept of the old method of forcibly taking Indian children and placing in boarding schools to modernize them and make white Indians is mentioned. This is a key element in looking at how we treat children in schools even today. We make them live by our rules and standards imposing guidelines that fluctuate from class to class often teacher to teacher. Granted the days of the boarding school may seem somewhat at odds with today’s schools but, there is little difference.

In a diversified culture we demand language that may or may not be known. Coming from a special education background I am always amazed at how we expect children who are poor readers in their own language to read and learn in another. Research shows you cannot in most cases exceed the level of attainment in a second or third language that you have in your first.

So, I wandered and pondered this is my reflection for the morning a wondering and thinking about what we can do to truly change education as we know it. Freire points to Critical reflection as a means for educators to learn as well as teach. John Dewey builds on reflection as does Foxfire.

“In the process of ongoing education of teachers, the essential moment is that critical reflection on one’s practice. Thinking critically about practice, of today, or yesterday, makes possible the improvement of tomorrow’s practice.” Paulo Freire

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work.” Foxfire Fund, Foxfire Teaching Approach Core Practice 8

As I read this morning and thought through my various readings I wondered if the commonalities I was seeing in Freire and Dewey were perhaps things as educators we should be trying to attain rather than so often fight against. In Foxfire Core practice nine a thought that has for me been a key element of any teaching I do and that is making what I teach relevant and meaningful and have it be something the child can leave the room with and it makes sense outside of class.

“Connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond the community are clear. “Foxfire Fund, Foxfire Teaching Approach Core Practice Eight

I just wonder many times what if teaching and teachers would ever catch on and really be concerned more about the kids than the content, more about the community than the curriculum, and more about humanity than the National educational initiatives. So, I will stop and 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

Can we find learning in the Kalahari Desert?

Bird Droppings September 27, 2020

Can we find learning in the Kalahari Desert?

Yesterday morning I was walking about our yard and along the nearby dirt road taking pictures of wildflowers and grasshoppers among other things that I find as ponder. I spent several minutes trying to photograph a seed from a broom sage plant floating along in the afternoon breeze. A bit of down just going where the breeze would take it. It is extremely hard to focus on a moving piece of down and as I pondered it is much like walking into a classroom and trying to teach kids who really do not want to be there. Sadly, their thoughts and ideas floating about wandering wherever the breeze of the day is blowing. I was listening as I drew near the back field and the sound of crickets and frogs was nearly deafening. An author I found in my later years Laurens Von der Post came to mind as I imagined the sounds and images before me. Most of Von der Post’s early learning years were spent on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa being raised by a Bushmen nanny.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness. Both these            processes are profoundly and mysteriously interdependent and doomed to failure without a continuous search after self-knowledge since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation.” Laurens Van der Post,

It was in the remembering of a very poignant childhood event Laurens Von der Post was witness to as he recalls in the last days of man, at least the Bushmen or Sans. It has been several months maybe even a year since I last picked up a Von der post book. Somehow in an email last evening I went looking for this author and prolific writer was he. As I researched last night and went to Amazon.com 61 pages of his books and variations and edited versions and translations are available. He died in 1996 at the age of 90 and, he had been everywhere and done everything. He was Prince William of Great Britain’s God father, the only non-royal ever to be so honored. He had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth many years ago. His writings while covering his adventures and travels worldwide, he is best known for his stories of the African bush. A Far Away Place was made into a family movie of children and their trek in the African wilds. But as I read permeating all his writing is a fascination and deep understanding of a nearly lost people, the African Bushman, or Sans as they call themselves.  

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Von der Post

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us–and those around us — more effectively. Look for the learning.” Eric Allemburgh

Yesterday I was thinking in several directions, on one hand I was discussing education in the US with a friend who just started graduate school, the pros and cons of public education. I interjected a comment about indigenous peoples of South America and how Amazonian Native peoples will often want to experience civilization. I mentioned a unique program in Brazil as well, of protecting indigenous peoples from civilization where land is kept intact and rain forest left alone when a new tribe is found, literally keeping civilization out. Often armed guards patrol to prevent missionaries and civilizers from encountering these primitive peoples. I started thinking in terms of learning environment and for the indigenous peoples of the jungle it is the jungle where the optimal learning environment is for them to survive. Far too often we interject our modern societal values and say they should learn this or that. This led me to a statement by John Holt from the other day and one that has been in my pondering now several days.

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

In that course of thought I went the direction of the Bushman and Von der Post.  Last night I stood in the dark a bit longer than I usually do even with graduate studies and writing as well as my own college and high school lessons to prepare for when I took the dog out. The sky was streaked with clouds and a smiling moon was trying to peek through. I was standing on the porch listening to the night, almost silent. I went back out another time a bit later into the morning and by now all the clouds were nearly gone and stars permeating the entire sky. My shoulder has been bothering me and I laid back down putting my writing off till a bit later in the day.  So often in my days a student who has an issue or a friend or teacher will find a Bird Dropping and then a series of events, I often use the term coincidence and it will have been just what they needed that day.  For whatever reason I am compelled to build on a thought passing by as I am thinking never quite sure why.

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” Mary Kay Ash

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennet

Several days ago, I received an email from a person to be added to my morning meanderings. I added this person to my list and yesterday received another email here in my rushing to get a Bird Droppings out I had written exactly what this person needed. When talking with my son yesterday he mentioned his former boss admitted she never read my meanderings and one day she had been searching and by chance opened my daily thought and again it was what she needed. I am wandering a bit from my learning idea, but it is the contextual framework that we seem to build that provides us with those learning activities and experiences.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Taylor Benson

“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.” Soren Kierkegaard

As I sit thinking about the drawing together of thoughts the past few days and ideas, I come back to my involvement in Foxfire teaching techniques which is the basis for my one day to be finished dissertation. As I thought while reading several passages this morning, in a Von der Post’s book, The Lost world of the Kalahari.  There is a comment about witnessing the last of the Bushmen painters. It seems there was a point in time when the Bushmen stopped their primitive art which was painted on the rocks in caves of the Kalahari. The last painter had been killed in an attack literally of genocide and no one knew how to take over the art. Laurens Von der Post writes how he heard those gunshots as a child.

As I looked at students walking the halls at my school and the discussions we have had over the past months on the internet it really dawned on me I was where I was to be, and doing what I was to do, offering at least a little piece of more than what is normally available. That could be hope, or it could be wisdom, It could be that talking about a bushmen ostrich egg with red neck kids in Georgia and interestingly enough preserving pieces of old Georgia in essays and photos and PowerPoint projects as we go. Von der Post in his book went in search of the last of the Bushman and found himself.   

“Coincidences have never been idle for me, instinctively, but as meaningful as I was to find they were to Jung. I have always had a hunch that they are a manifestation of a law of life of which we are inadequately aware and which in terms of our short life are unfortunately incapable of total definition, and yet however partial the meaning we can extract from them, we ignore it, I believe, at our peril. For as well as promoting some cosmic law, coincidences, I suspect, are some sort of indication to what extent the evolution of our lives is obedient or not obedient to the symmetry of the universe.”  Laurens van der Post reflecting on Carl Jung’s work

For many years now I have read and pondered Jung’s words and ideas. Back fourteen or so years ago an author James Redfield, wrote about coincidence in a fictional story of a lost manuscript The Celestine Prophecy. Redfield was trying to explain what he saw happening in his own life. Carl Jung in the early 1900’s coined the word synchronicity. I simplify and say I am at the right place at the right moment. What is amazing is when you look at life that way and you begin to see events unfold before you rather than just seeing through hindsight. I was reading a friend’s note earlier about how ever thing happens for a reason. I responded jokingly that it only gains reason if we learn from it. As I sit hear pondering this morning it is in looking that we truly see and in listening that we truly hear.

“A continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation” Laurens Von der Post

I went in the internet, to borrow from the Foxfire website the following:

“In the Foxfire Approach, learning environments are characterized by student involvement and action, by thoughtful reflection and rigorous assessment, by imagination and problem solving, by applications beyond the classroom for what is learned, and by meaningful connections to the community. In these classrooms, students build the ability to work collaboratively and assume responsibility for their own learning processes.” Foxfire Fund

Where and how does the Kalahari Desert and Bushmen and Learning and coincidence all tie in. An easy explanation can be seen borrowing from a core practice in the Foxfire teaching process

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to          revisions and refinements.” Foxfire

We build through reflection and we grow through reflection.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness.” Laurens Von der Post

I think reflection could be inserted just as easy into Von der Posts quote; we all need to take time to see where we are and then participate actively as we go in life. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind in 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

Can we find learning in the Kalahari Desert?

Bird Droppings September 27, 2020

Can we find learning in the Kalahari Desert?

Yesterday morning I was walking about our yard and along the nearby dirt road taking pictures of wildflowers and grasshoppers among other things that I find as ponder. I spent several minutes trying to photograph a seed from a broom sage plant floating along in the afternoon breeze. A bit of down just going where the breeze would take it. It is extremely hard to focus on a moving piece of down and as I pondered it is much like walking into a classroom and trying to teach kids who really do not want to be there. Sadly, their thoughts and ideas floating about wandering wherever the breeze of the day is blowing. I was listening as I drew near the back field and the sound of crickets and frogs was nearly deafening. An author I found in my later years Laurens Von der Post came to mind as I imagined the sounds and images before me. Most of Von der Post’s early learning years were spent on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa being raised by a Bushmen nanny.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness. Both these            processes are profoundly and mysteriously interdependent and doomed to failure without a continuous search after self-knowledge since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation.” Laurens Van der Post,

It was in the remembering of a very poignant childhood event Laurens Von der Post was witness to as he recalls in the last days of man, at least the Bushmen or Sans. It has been several months maybe even a year since I last picked up a Von der post book. Somehow in an email last evening I went looking for this author and prolific writer was he. As I researched last night and went to Amazon.com 61 pages of his books and variations and edited versions and translations are available. He died in 1996 at the age of 90 and, he had been everywhere and done everything. He was Prince William of Great Britain’s God father, the only non-royal ever to be so honored. He had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth many years ago. His writings while covering his adventures and travels worldwide, he is best known for his stories of the African bush. A Far Away Place was made into a family movie of children and their trek in the African wilds. But as I read permeating all his writing is a fascination and deep understanding of a nearly lost people, the African Bushman, or Sans as they call themselves.  

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Von der Post

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us–and those around us — more effectively. Look for the learning.” Eric Allemburgh

Yesterday I was thinking in several directions, on one hand I was discussing education in the US with a friend who just started graduate school, the pros and cons of public education. I interjected a comment about indigenous peoples of South America and how Amazonian Native peoples will often want to experience civilization. I mentioned a unique program in Brazil as well, of protecting indigenous peoples from civilization where land is kept intact and rain forest left alone when a new tribe is found, literally keeping civilization out. Often armed guards patrol to prevent missionaries and civilizers from encountering these primitive peoples. I started thinking in terms of learning environment and for the indigenous peoples of the jungle it is the jungle where the optimal learning environment is for them to survive. Far too often we interject our modern societal values and say they should learn this or that. This led me to a statement by John Holt from the other day and one that has been in my pondering now several days.

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

In that course of thought I went the direction of the Bushman and Von der Post.  Last night I stood in the dark a bit longer than I usually do even with graduate studies and writing as well as my own college and high school lessons to prepare for when I took the dog out. The sky was streaked with clouds and a smiling moon was trying to peek through. I was standing on the porch listening to the night, almost silent. I went back out another time a bit later into the morning and by now all the clouds were nearly gone and stars permeating the entire sky. My shoulder has been bothering me and I laid back down putting my writing off till a bit later in the day.  So often in my days a student who has an issue or a friend or teacher will find a Bird Dropping and then a series of events, I often use the term coincidence and it will have been just what they needed that day.  For whatever reason I am compelled to build on a thought passing by as I am thinking never quite sure why.

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” Mary Kay Ash

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennet

Several days ago, I received an email from a person to be added to my morning meanderings. I added this person to my list and yesterday received another email here in my rushing to get a Bird Droppings out I had written exactly what this person needed. When talking with my son yesterday he mentioned his former boss admitted she never read my meanderings and one day she had been searching and by chance opened my daily thought and again it was what she needed. I am wandering a bit from my learning idea, but it is the contextual framework that we seem to build that provides us with those learning activities and experiences.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Taylor Benson

“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.” Soren Kierkegaard

As I sit thinking about the drawing together of thoughts the past few days and ideas, I come back to my involvement in Foxfire teaching techniques which is the basis for my one day to be finished dissertation. As I thought while reading several passages this morning, in a Von der Post’s book, The Lost world of the Kalahari.  There is a comment about witnessing the last of the Bushmen painters. It seems there was a point in time when the Bushmen stopped their primitive art which was painted on the rocks in caves of the Kalahari. The last painter had been killed in an attack literally of genocide and no one knew how to take over the art. Laurens Von der Post writes how he heard those gunshots as a child.

As I looked at students walking the halls at my school and the discussions we have had over the past months on the internet it really dawned on me I was where I was to be, and doing what I was to do, offering at least a little piece of more than what is normally available. That could be hope, or it could be wisdom, It could be that talking about a bushmen ostrich egg with red neck kids in Georgia and interestingly enough preserving pieces of old Georgia in essays and photos and PowerPoint projects as we go. Von der Post in his book went in search of the last of the Bushman and found himself.   

“Coincidences have never been idle for me, instinctively, but as meaningful as I was to find they were to Jung. I have always had a hunch that they are a manifestation of a law of life of which we are inadequately aware and which in terms of our short life are unfortunately incapable of total definition, and yet however partial the meaning we can extract from them, we ignore it, I believe, at our peril. For as well as promoting some cosmic law, coincidences, I suspect, are some sort of indication to what extent the evolution of our lives is obedient or not obedient to the symmetry of the universe.”  Laurens van der Post reflecting on Carl Jung’s work

For many years now I have read and pondered Jung’s words and ideas. Back fourteen or so years ago an author James Redfield, wrote about coincidence in a fictional story of a lost manuscript The Celestine Prophecy. Redfield was trying to explain what he saw happening in his own life. Carl Jung in the early 1900’s coined the word synchronicity. I simplify and say I am at the right place at the right moment. What is amazing is when you look at life that way and you begin to see events unfold before you rather than just seeing through hindsight. I was reading a friend’s note earlier about how ever thing happens for a reason. I responded jokingly that it only gains reason if we learn from it. As I sit hear pondering this morning it is in looking that we truly see and in listening that we truly hear.

“A continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation” Laurens Von der Post

I went in the internet, to borrow from the Foxfire website the following:

“In the Foxfire Approach, learning environments are characterized by student involvement and action, by thoughtful reflection and rigorous assessment, by imagination and problem solving, by applications beyond the classroom for what is learned, and by meaningful connections to the community. In these classrooms, students build the ability to work collaboratively and assume responsibility for their own learning processes.” Foxfire Fund

Where and how does the Kalahari Desert and Bushmen and Learning and coincidence all tie in. An easy explanation can be seen borrowing from a core practice in the Foxfire teaching process

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to          revisions and refinements.” Foxfire

We build through reflection and we grow through reflection.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness.” Laurens Von der Post

I think reflection could be inserted just as easy into Von der Posts quote; we all need to take time to see where we are and then participate actively as we go in life. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind in 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

Being human

Bird Droppings September 25, 2020
Being human

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Mother Teresa

Such a simple opportunity for us as humans and we have been given that with recent events be it floods, earthquakes, mining disasters, poverty, and so many more events worldwide that impact feeding people. We live in a time when we have plenty often so much more than we need so evident with the greed that has permeated most of our society and extravagances that seem to be on nearly every channel reality shows. I have been watching news stories where entertainers and businesspeople offer a million dollars here and there, I am sure Mother Theresa would smile at that. But I am also sure that those of us who only have a dollar would garner just as big of smile from this great humanitarian in her time if we gave our only dollar.

“Abandon wrongdoing. It can be done. If there were no likelihood, I would not ask you to do it. But since it is possible and since it brings blessing and happiness, I do ask of you: abandon wrongdoing. Cultivate doing good. It can be done. If it brought deprivation and sorrow, I would not ask you to do it. But since it brings blessing and happiness, I do ask of you: cultivate doing good.” Anguttara Nikaya

I was going through my files when I found some photos from several years ago. I was taking photos of new construction at my old school and as I walked out noticed a plowed spot that had been simply a barren piece of ground it was being cultivated and of course a few more photos. It made me think back in my own life years ago when we moved to a piece of land where over many years’ nature had reduced the land to patches of cultivatable land between kudzu and overgrowth. We spent the better part of two years clearing debris and scrub. So that where there were a few acres of cleared land we then had pasture and trees growing. I did allow hedge rows and areas for quail and wildlife however after consulting with my extension agent it was not a clear-cut operation. However, the old cars and tractors and old buildings covered in kudzu were removed. As humans we need to cultivate our own lives as well through reading and thinking.

“Self-discipline motivated by concern for others: this has been the standard of conduct which I have attempted to reach.” Roger Barnes

Looking at this short statement it is a simple thought yet very deep. So often we focus solely on self and forget there are many others we meet each day.

“So, I vowed to keep myself alive, but only if I would never use me again for just me — each one of us is born of two, and we really belong to each other. I vowed to do my own thinking, instead of trying to accommodate everyone else’ opinion, credo’s, and theories. I vowed to apply my inventory of experiences to the solving of problems that affect everyone aboard planet Earth.” Buckminster Fuller

This is a big IF ONLY what if each of us adhered to Buckminster Fuller’s adage and tried to solve the world’s problems and not simply our own.

“The charities that soothe and heal and bless are scattered at the feet of man like flowers.” William Wordsworth

Often, I have used the illustration of translation and perception with a simple word from The New Testament, Agape. In Greek agape translates as a supreme love, a love of Gods. All with agape, Eros and philos are each aspects and definitions of love. When translating the word in the early days of the Church of England the word was translated as charity in the King James translation. As I read Wordsworth it struck me is not our highest form of love that which we can show towards another at no desire for return a totally one way love a giving.

“Man is harder than rock and more fragile than an egg.” Yugoslav Proverb

“That in man which cannot be domesticated is not his evil but his goodness.” Antonio Porchia

“Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.” Albert Camus

Is it who we are? Is it what we are? Is it why we are that causes the difficulties? I have watched the most callous person cry and adorable little girl veer into a banshee wail at the drop of a hat. I have observed humankind in its depravity and in its charity. One day that has stuck with me was walking through the prison ward of a mental hospital. Bold yellow lines separated us from them, but the stares went to the marrow of our bones. These were men who had killed raped and pillaged society and were deemed too sick mentally to stand trial and or were sentenced to this place. At one point in their lives each started as a fragile baby, each at one time was innocent.

“A human being: an ingenious assembly of portable plumbing.” Christopher Morley

“The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours.” Bertrand Russell

“Ocean: A body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man – who has no gills.” Ambrose Bierce

“Man is harder than iron, stronger than stone and more fragile than a rose.” Turkish Proverb

Pieces of a puzzle thrown in a box jumbled mixed up swished around and then scattered about that is the summation of life. We search and search and slowly unravel and discover each piece each facet and as we slowly regain understanding. We find we are little more than when we started if at all if we are looking for the destination. If we are looking at the journey than each piece each nuance has significance and reason and purpose.

“Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap, baits it, and then steps in it.” John Steinbeck

We are the varmint and the trap and the bait which is interesting. Can we change this can we escape this inevitable circular motion that is self-perpetuating?

“In nature a repulsive caterpillar turns into a lovely butterfly. But with humans it is the other way around: a lovely butterfly turns into a repulsive caterpillar.” Anton Chekhov

As I sit here having pondered and wandered this day and ending on a riddle of sorts, I do believe we do escape even though rarely. We can regain that butterfly. We can make are way back and not fall victim to our own bait and trap. We can answer the questions and solve the mysteries. We can walk unimpeded midst the yellow lines and stare back. We can if we choose to and if we choose to feed that one instead of waiting to feed a hundred and never feeding any. If we choose to keep in our thoughts those who need our understanding and giving and if we choose to look beyond the caterpillar and see the butterfly in others, we can make a difference. But most of all we do have a choice. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Can we listen through our heart?

Bird Droppings September 24, 2020

Can we listen through our heart?

It has been several years since I found on my many excursions to Barnes and Nobles a small book that I would like to share some passages from. I found many of the thoughts and passages to be of significance and for me sharing words of wisdom with others is part of who I am. I have several students in advisement who are interested in going into nursing and many thoughts in this little book relate to health and spiritual care as being one and the same. The little book, Listening with Your Heart, is written by Dr. Wayne Peale MD, a medical doctor, and Iroquois on his mother’s side.

“As a medical student I was being trained to hear hearts with my stethoscope, but found I was missing a great deal by not listening with my heart” Dr. Wayne Peale

Several years ago, I was proctoring an End of Course Test during the afternoon.  One of the questions was from a poem or passage about a colt that was not winter-broke. I liked that term winter-broke. For those of us in the south perhaps it has little meaning and perhaps a culturally difficult passage. The term winter-broke is about being used to the winter, snowflakes, cold, steam from your breath and other idiosyncrasies of the cold. Today in Georgia many of those shy of snow in our area are visible. A baby horse new to the world would be spooked with a new snow fall. Maybe chasing snowflakes or running from them as in the case of the story.

However, as the question was answered for one of the answers was the author empathetic to the plight of the colt. Other answers used words such as was the colt afraid and words similar. One of my students asked me quietly what is empathetic. Being a language arts test and such I could not impart or tell the definition of an answer. I saw my little book on the table when I returned to my room and pondered as to why it was so hard not to say the answer because I too lived by empathy.

“The white man talks about the mind and body and spirit as if they are separate. For us    they are one. Our whole life is spiritual, from the time we get up until we go to bed.” Yakima healer

It has been nearly twenty years that I agonized about a situation and a student who is on the verge of being expelled and much if it from my own fault. The student was refusing to do a required program. In refusing to do the assignment he was getting irate and argumentative often to a point of school disruption. When you carefully look at the student’s disability each aspect of it is in responses that are given, lack of control, obsessive behavior, emotional issues, anger management issues and authority issues. A slight change and the problem could be solved. Why not do the same work in a different manner? Of course, it is not in the confines of “program” which would upset administration. Should empathy for the student stand up to, trying to stay in the box? As Dr. Peale learned and points out sometimes you need to teach from the heart as well.

One day perhaps I will study linguistics and language. As I looked through Dr. Peale’s book a Navajo word caught my attention.

“Hozho (HO-zo) – A complex Navajo philosophical, religious, and aesthetic concept roughly translated as “beauty”. Hozho also means seeking and incorporating aesthetic qualities into life, it means inner peace and harmony, and making the most of all that surrounds us. It refers to a positive beautiful, harmonious, happy environment that must be constantly created by thought and deed. Hozho encourages us to go in beauty and to enjoy the gifts of life and nature and health.” Listening with your heart

In a recent writing seminar, the lead teacher offered that reading a passage can aid in eliciting descriptive phrases and sentences, and to encourage students to illiterate and expound on ideas more so. Here is a word that has so many meanings. A simple word is hozho, yet so much meaning. I end each of my daily writings with a Hindustani word and have several times offered the translation when people ask. Within its own language there are different meanings for different people. For some it is a salutation a simple hello or goodbye. If you go a bit further south in India you would only use namaste with reverence and literally bow your head pressing your hands together honoring the person you are speaking with, with your simple salutation.

It has been a few months since I wrote about making a rope strand by strand. A dear friend from up north wrote back thanking me and later in the day responded with this note.

“Thank you for sharing them with me.  I sent this one on to my husband, my sister and     sister-in-law and my best friend.  Thru this most difficult year losing my beloved son, they have been constants in my life united we stand thru this valley of darkness. Without their love and support, my grief would be unbearable.  Peace my friend.”

Empathy is assisted healing from the heart.

“…healing is a partnership with others – family members, community. A Native     American healer once paraphrased Abraham Lincoln to me: ‘you can heal some things all of the time,’ the healer said, ‘and you can heal all things some of the time, but you       can’t heal everything all the time alone.’ Everyone needs a coach, a family a community.” Dr. Wayne Peale MD

Sometimes when I receive a note from the heart it is difficult to answer immediately. I have to sit sometimes even sleep on it. My dear friend lost a son. Many the times since hearing of her plight I have wondered what it would be like to lose a son, a daughter or anyone close to me. Empathy is a difficult word at times like these. It is a much bigger word than most would imagine.

Our house is such that our two of our bedroom’s rooms are upstairs and two are downstairs they literally go from one end of the house to the other. Being that my writing and reading time do not always correspond with normal sleep patterns the family when home will be asleep when I am about to write or read. Listening to the sounds of my family asleep is a peaceful and wonderful feeling. Knowing they are safe and here at home. Then the so many what ifs have crossed my mind as I walk through the house early in the morning thinking about what if the rooms were empty such as today when even my wife is away for the week.

Lost in a moment of melancholy I come back to teaching in my thinking. Teaching is about healing, it is about community, and it is about family and most of all it is about empathy. It is about seeking and engaging constants in our lives so we can move forward and or change directions if need be. Teaching is always about learning. Sometimes as I came to realize yesterday and have so many times before our nice boxes we are supposed to teach from are not always the right ones. Sadly, far too many teachers do not use heart as a teaching tool. Far too many parents do not or cannot use heart as a parenting tool. As I look at the title of Dr. Peale’s book, listening with your heart, what a powerful message.

I am doing an exercise using a black and white picture of a bridge most will simply see a picture, while others have created fantasy worlds of trolls and fairies. Some simply explain their perception and how we each are different in what we see and hear. Often, I will play the devil’s advocate and argue both sides. It is just a bridge to elicit responses or what if it was a work of art created by an immigrant iron worker as a tribute to his or her new freedom. Thinking back to, Hozho, my new word I should take pause.

“Every action should be taken with thoughts of its effects on children seven generations from now.” Cherokee saying

If only we would deal with kids with life that way. What if people in general looked at life that way? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. It is about being in your heart. It is about speaking from your heart. But most of all it is listening with your heart and always giving 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 23, 2020
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. An interesting thought earlier today that indigenous people resonate at the same frequency as the land. They are in sync with the surroundings as we modern folk have shifted away and lost track of nature and the land. These lessons in life often 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 and mother to children, they are 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 these same stories.

“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 reason, 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

Seeing all is connected and intertwined

Bird Droppings September 22, 2020
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 on my back porch where I meditate, and something hit me. I generally sit facing east towards the rising sun, daily the gossamer threads of life interconnect 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 job applications and chapter one and two of my dissertation. I was reading and discussing how procrastination is a form of anxiety. My nephew is a clinical psychologist and he and I were comparing notes on autism and then discussed anxiety.  I would have never considered myself anxious but as I researched perhaps I am and then manifest through procrastination.

“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 behavior 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 to ignore 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 remarkably similar conclusions in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It must 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

The confines or infinity of a circle

Bird Droppings September 21, 2020
The confines or infinity of a circle

As I am sitting here this afternoon wondering does a circle have a beginning and or an end? As learning begins often with a question so today a start and a beginning to my writing and thinking with a question. Many of the philosophies of life use comparisons to circles as a visual tool to simplify what is being said. Within Native American thought and philosophy truth is often found centered and focused on a circle. When I taught summer school or resource Biology, I use Disney’s Lion King as a base for the circle of life. The movie even has a theme song to that name. Many years ago, the great holy man Black Elk told his visions to a biographer who wrote down the words and from that a book was written, Black Elk Speaks.

“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Sioux Holy man

I started another book recently again for the tenth time at least, “The Tao of teaching” based on the eastern philosophy of the Tao, which is itself a circle essentially. I bought the book nearly ten years ago and have returned to it numerous times for thoughts. As I stood talking with students in the hallways yesterday just before school let out I was watching the circle move. Something that most of the thinking leaves out is that a circle is fluid there is movement. While described within a confined space of a circle as Black Elk speaks of seasons changing in a circular motion, people move in a pattern, a circle in life perhaps confined yet fluid always moving, continuing, changing, yet staying the same.

“It seemed that each time we would become proficient at a given task there would be a change made for no apparent reason. It sometimes appeared that changes were made simply because sufficient time had elapsed since the last change. And then our efforts would begin again from the beginning.” General Adalphos

In learning is it change or simply movement, the fluidness of life as we step from a basic knowledge to a complex thinking beyond instead of within is that a circular motion which then raises another question. I do think it is funny; recently it is the questions that provide the learning as we ask a question we generate more, in sort of a Socratian method. Just as the great teacher and philosopher used questions, we in our answers produce questions from the original question.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

“We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

It is the seeking of answers that is learning and that is the change that occurs in man. That which raises us up and provides what we need to be more than we were yesterday is how we can knowledge. I sat and discussed Ansell Adams with a student and watched as I do responses among other students one or two had a clue what was going on some were not aware a discussion was taking place and one was yawning bored. As I watched and observed even in the context of a discussion the child who was bored was not bored from knowing about what was being said but because they did not even hear or try to hear what was being said. They had set limits themselves on their world boundaries had been put them in place to avoid change or to lessen the chance a question will or could be asked shy of can I go to the bathroom?

“Life has got a habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it like you find it. You got       to change with it. If a day goes by that don’t change some of your old notions for new ones that are just about like trying to milk a dead cow.” Woody Guthrie

In a recent seminar on teaching the comparison to trying to ride a dead horse was used. Trying to milk a dead cow I like better. You can actually sit on a dead horse at least for a while till it falls over, but no matter how hard you try a dead cow won’t give milk. For those of you who are folk music buffs, Woody Guthrie is considered one of the founding fathers of folk music in the US. He traveled the country hobo style writing songs of the depression and dust bowl looking for answers and asking questions.

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be  from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that; it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.” Washington Irving

Look for questions in your answers as we start into a new week and for me a new day and only four days of school left till fall break. In reading the news this morning it seems little is positive in this crazy world. So as I have for quite a few years now 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