Taking small steps

Bird Droppings January 24, 2021
Taking small steps

“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great   ambitions.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How many times are we told “take your time”? So often in life we are anxious to get the job finished or to get to the top today. We often forget there are many steps along the way; many puzzle pieces needing to be placed in order to see the whole picture. For many months a student I used to work with had issues with sleeping in class and at one point was suspended for three days. I had tried to get his family to get him to the doctor due to large doses of medication and combination of meds he is on. His sleeping is not typical teenager tiredness.


Walking through the meat section of Kroger I ran into his mother and his doctor had called back with blood work his level of one medication was three times what it should have been, and the doctor was amazed he could even walk. One thing that so often happens in life is we want everything to be what we want now, placing a random puzzle piece on a table does not represent where or how the puzzle will turn out. It takes numerous more pieces till we see a bit and we assume to know the whole far too many times.

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” Elizabeth Taylor, A Wreath of Roses

A good friend asked me the other day about a job opening at another school. It happened to be in EBD, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. He asked what or could he succeed and what was key to my success. Unfortunately he asked as one of my students was for first time this year making a scene. I emailed back that evening the following. If you can trust the un-trustable and be patient with those who would drive you crazy, EBD is no big deal, they soon will do what you ask. Force them and you are in a fighting situation and ISS and OSS are not meaningful consequences. Building to intrinsic consequences is far more powerful, taking a kid off the computer and or me just being mad at some of kids bothers them more than ISS or OSS. Sometimes little pieces work better than big ones. Solving small issues will eventually accomplish big goals if there is plenty of time.

“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” Dutch Proverb

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you, so in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will           then be powerless to vex your mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

“There will be a time when loud-mouthed, incompetent people seem to be getting the best of you. When that happens, you only have to be patient and wait for them to self-destruct. It never fails.” Richard Rybolt

A simple word is patience. Often I wonder what might be one of my major attributes and in one word I would say patience. Yesterday a student was asking what would it take to get me mad, calling me names etc. I said it takes a good bit to get me mad and name calling wouldn’t do it. He proceeded to try and after a few choice words actually he wasn’t upset just wanting to prove me wrong. I said first I know the statement to be false and secondly I know the person saying this to be ignorant and or stupid for saying such things. He sat back and said, well I would be mad if somebody said that to me, and I told him that is your choice. Puzzle pieces forever falling in place is my motto. Patience has kept that kid in school versus an alternative setting and is taking a piece one at a time rather than trying to solve a puzzle in one fell swoop.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them every day begins the task anew.” Saint Francis de Sales

A monk can address patience, but they have to it’s their job. But monks too are alive and human and the frailties we face they too face or have faced. Breaking a task into manageable pieces often aids in completing the task.

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and    when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Victor Hugo

“How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.” William Shakespeare

Looking back on my own life it has been one of pieces falling in place slowly. One portion of my journey was twenty three years in the making. I left the teaching field directly for twenty three years all of that time in graphic arts and publishing for the training industry still indirectly in education. Coincidently during that time having delivered training manuals to most of the buildings at Georgia Tech which is where my son is now graduated from what a small world.


It has been so long in coming and even now I know this is only a portion of the puzzle, more is yet to come. In life I have found you savor each moment each second enjoy the cool breeze if only for a moment. Pull off the road if you need to view a rainbow or sunset and truly bask in the magnificence but that is another day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

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

Why do we fail?

Bird Droppings January 23, 2021
Why do we fail?

Many times, I have wondered why people stop learning. I see it in high school students, in college and graduate students. Almost as if a switch is thrown and poof no more learning, I have reached my limit seems t be the mantra. I was reading today and found this thought.

“Cognitive psychologists use the term metacognition to describe our ability to assess our own skills, knowledge, or learning. That ability affects how well and how long students’ study— which, of course, affects how much and how deeply they learn. Students with poor metacognition skills will often shorten their study time prematurely, thinking that they have mastered course material that they barely know.” James M. Lang, 1/17/12, Metacognition and Student Learning, The Chronicle of Higher Education

A few months back before the pandemic, BP, two fellows in an afternoon class both of whom have a grade of 60 currently in biology essentially told me to leave them alone. I jotted down a note for each that unless they get serious, they will fail simply based on mathematics. The class grade is eighty percent of their final grade and in Georgia we have an End of Course test, EOC in biology which is twenty percent of their grade. I pointed out at current pace they will both fail if they have a 100 on EOC. One asked me if I was trying to be smart and I assured him I am always smart. His next response was “‘bro’ gets out of my face ‘bro’ you making fun of me”. I assured him all I was doing was making a point either start getting his class grade up or take biology again next year.

I did mention that in nearly twenty years of teaching I had only seen a perfect score once and judging by his test scores he would not be number two. Thinking back that may have been sarcastic to some but he had not had a passing score on any standardized test to date.

I had a teacher approach me before school started the next day about a student who scored a seventeen on a quiz. The student’s parents were asking for a retake and a study guide which the teacher was complaining about doing. The student got a seventeen he deserved a seventeen period. Where is the learning curve giving a failing grade is not a motivator for many students who by high school are used to that and could care less? Am I achieving a passing grade by learning what is on the quiz and then retaking the quiz, and passing maybe, is what school should be about? Several friends that I have co-taught with allow retakes if you come in for tutoring over material before the retest.

“One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.” John W. Gardner

I began the morning looking through several articles written by the late William Edelen, a former pastor and fighter pilot, as well as several by Arthur Schopenhauer, 19th-century philosopher, and Joseph Campbell, a leading writer on mythology. Somehow in my reading earlier I ended up back on articles by John Gardner. I have been struggling with the idea of why students quit learning. On a recent excursion to Wal-Mart, I ran into several former students who had all quit school. One of the former students shook my hand and said he was working on his GED and working hard. The other student said he was working hard doing foundations for houses and raising his new baby. Still another was arguing with her boyfriend across the aisles at Wal-Mart.

I thought back in each of their lives. All failed in part or all the former required graduation tests in Georgia high schools. One of the students had failed one a portion three times by a total of eight points; as a result, she did not graduate, and she opted to get a GED. She was tired of failing or risking failing again. In light of the great Hank Arron’s passing, I will borrow a quote that fits today.

“I have always felt that although someone may defeat me, and I strike out in a ball game, the pitcher on the particular day was the best player. But I know when I see him again; I am going to be ready for his curve ball. Failure is a part of success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But the failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.” Hank Aaron

For so many of us we take defeat or failure in stride and move on, but for some student’s failure is a daily event and eventually they succumb and lose whatever desire to succeed they may have had. A good friend now a football and baseball coach in high school while playing high school baseball as a catcher would study players as they batted. Each pitch thrown and each swing tucked away. Should by chance he be against that same batter he knew their every move and would offer to the pitcher through hand signals the pitch to throw. My friend had an uncanny memory for details. If we could apply to teaching each mistake by a student memorized and then pitch to the weakness not to fail again but to succeed for that student.

“You win only if you aren’t afraid to lose.” Rocky Aoki

“No one ever won a chess game by betting on each move. Sometimes you have to move backward to get a step forward.” Amar Gopal Bose

Amazing how this is so similar as I think back on life to my experiences in fourth grade. I had a teacher who was grading me harder than those around me. I think she thought I would not notice. My friend next to me had two wrong and an A. I had two wrong, and a C. My mother asked and the teacher stated I was not working up to my ability, so she was grading harder than other students. I quit trying in school for some time, until about two years into college.

“Failure does not count. If you accept this, you will be successful. What causes most people to fail is that after one failure, they’ll stop trying.” Frank Burford

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver

We set in motion at young ages the ability to succeed and or the ability to make excuses. Watching kids grow up and looking at where they learn. Example is the best teacher, and they watch parents. If we make excuses and choose to not succeed what are the odds our children will succeed

“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed — I well know. For it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself.” Georges Clemenceau

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” Edwin Louis Cole

I think back to walking through the Edison museum in Fort Myers Florida and one exhibit, it is a barrel of light bulbs all failures and the plague reads it took over 10,000 failures to succeed but it did work. As I went further and read, Coles thought about drowning and was applying it to students. Many have given up because the school and society has given up. As soon as you take statistics in college you gather data and sort and develop graphs and charts about who will succeed and who will fail, and soon students know your thoughts and soon students live up to their graphs and charts.

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high- stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.” Sen. Paul Wellstone (1944-2002)

Alfie Kohn’s starts his website with:
“Rescuing our schools from tougher standards.” The statement of “Learning by doing,” which is a common shorthand for the idea that active participation helps students to understand ideas or acquire skills, is an established principle of progressive education. Much less attention, however, has been paid to the complementary possibility that teachers are most effective when they show rather than just tell. In fact, this idea doesn’t even seem to have a name so let us call it “teaching by doing”

“We need to learn from— and, fittingly, to challenge — one another’s ideas. But most important is a basic commitment to make sure that our students — future teachers, parents, and citizens — are able and willing to take a stand.” Alfie Kohn, Challenging Students . . . And How to Have More of Them

Alfie Kohn has been writing and lecturing nationwide about issues in public school for the past few years, he is a major proponent of public schools. It is how we teach he is trying to address and instilling a desire to learn rather than taking away that aspect. It is about promoting the success rather than failure that we need to strive for in our endeavors as teachers and parents. Hopefully one day when I go to Wal-Mart the students approaching me will be all talking of success and their futures. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Sailing off the edge and or thinking out of a box

Bird Droppings January 22, 2021

Sailing off the edge and or thinking out of a box

I was thinking back nearly twelve years when history was made as a new president was sworn in and as one of my students came into class and asked to start working on his assignments. I did not beg and plead he started on his own. As he pulled a three-ring binder and several folders from his back pack I sat with my mouth wide open who was this person. I have known him for a year and never has he been that “student”. It is amazing what a simple change in self-esteem and self-worth can do. On Thursday we studied for a vocabulary test using an LCD projector and when he left the room he knew the words. Last Friday morning he had a one hundred percent grade on his vocabulary test. It was a first in his educational career. What a change came over him. As I listened that night to our new president’s first speech I thought back to my student. We can make a difference each of us often in a small way that magnifies and grows.

“I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for oneself, one’s own family or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility is the key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace.” the Dalai Lama, From “The Pocket Zen Reader,”

I have found teachers can be limited in their scope of reality. You would think that as a group, teachers would be more open to ideas, to new thought, to climbing out of the box. I read this passage above yesterday in a daily offering I receive, I immediately thought of teaching. As a teacher most think only within the confines of their room. Being in a somewhat different sort of atmosphere in a resource room which for ten years is how I taught. I can recall I did claim god like power within my room. Something that has been hard to accomplish is improving behavior outside of my room. Whoa, what a concept? Try and get kids to behave for other teachers. In reality it is simply expanding kids thinking beyond the moment or at least trying to. With this one student I mentioned all it took was a nudge.

“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.”  Isaac Asimov

I read this statement so many years ago and I responded one way. A friend sent me this quote, we have an ongoing dialogue and this was a response to something I wrote and not really a counter thought but additional support. Wisdom is not as elusive as one might expect. But I do not think in wisdom one would destroy one’s self. Knowledge or knowing how to do something does not impart wisdom.

A radical extremist can know how to build a nuclear device and detonate it and is that wisdom? Car bombers are they wise? Dying in retaliation and in any kind of war is that wise? Wisdom is not controlling knowledge and maybe I really do not know what wisdom is. So, wisdom is part knowledge but also an additional aspect of concern and caring that provide the frame work for the knowledge to be structured within. Yet wisdom is not truly control.

Achilles knew his limitations and did battle. Someone else found his weakness and he was defeated. As I look deeper into the statement by Asimov however there is a willingness to know at any cost and perhaps that is really what is being said. Given the choice of not knowing or knowing and in so knowing all will be destroyed still Asimov would choose to know.

I recall we celebrate Columbus Day, we are celebrating a man who at one-point sort of discovered America. As he was heading in this direction after leaving Spain as the weeks passed his desire to know came under fire as his crew feared they would be sailing off the edge of the world and great sea serpents and such devour them. He took a chance and discovered a new world, sometimes it is not destruction but illumination that waits.

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

“Raphael paints wisdom; Handel sings it, Phidias carves it, Shakespeare writes it, Wren builds it, Columbus sails it, Luther preaches it, Washington arms it, Watt mechanizes it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Seeing the pieces and picking through knowing which to save and which to toss aside is that wisdom. I wonder as I sit thinking this morning what choices will I make as I work with kids.

“Wisdom is not wisdom when it is derived from books alone.” Horace

“In talking to children, the old Lakota would place a hand to the ground and explain: ‘We sit in the lap of our mother. From her we, and all other living things, come. We soon shall pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever.’ So we too, learned to sit or lie on the ground and become conscious of the life around us in its multitudinous forms.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

Understanding what it is we see and touch maybe within there is wisdom. It is not as much knowing but understanding. An understanding within the constraints of what we know. What a paradox? I am sitting reading Kent Nerburn’s book Native American Wisdomfilled with quotes and ideas from Native American culture and thought. In a passage from Sitting Bull, the great medicine man of the Teton Sioux, he wonders why all things have happened as they have and from his thoughts and as I read I wonder. Sitting here thinking after the words as well of our new president.

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am a Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, Teton Sioux

Sitting Bull received his answer shortly thereafter as he was arrested for inciting mutiny on the reservation during a period of unrest. A medicine man from another tribe had started a cult according to authorities and it was growing in its following and Sitting Bull was accused of taking part. On his way to jail as legend has it, his arresters, several Sioux guards, as Sitting Bull gestured to his grandson they thought he was pulling a pistol and shot him several times. Sitting Bull had foretold his death several days before being taken by Sioux hands.

“Wisdom comes in dreams” Wavoka, Paiute, medicine man

Why even bring up an old Native American’s ideas during a discourse on wisdom? It is within the context of our knowledge that we seek wisdom within what we know. So often we fear what we do not know and that which is literally the opposite of wisdom and try and destroy it. Had we tried to understand when we first came to the Americas perhaps this day would be somewhat different. What if we had tried to understand instead of force our knowledge upon a group of peoples. Knowledge alone can destroy wisdom. However maybe the buffer is understanding. Freud and Jung might argue Wavoka’s thought, yet they would sit and ponder dreams as therapy. I wonder as I sit and always my thoughts come back to going into a class room. I hope as I teach some way this makes sense and when a student leaves they look differently at life maybe wiser maybe just seeing a new color today instead of all black and white.

“Teachers are people who start things they never see finished, and for which they never get thanks until it is too late.”  Max Forman

Yesterday I bumped into a former student from nearly ten years ago now a father and married. When he left I would have placed him in that category of ninety five percent that will be dead, in jail, used car salesmen, or evangelists. A good friend and leading authority on conduct disorders uses that as a lead in to kids in high school with conduct disorders. My former student has done some jail time small pieces here and there but finished high school and is working steady and putting his wife through nursing school. So maybe wisdom came to him eventually. Maybe in that statement is wisdom and understanding but we may never see the true nature of all we and hopefully we are continuing to look. 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

Horses and Trains and learning

Bird Droppings January 21, 2021

Horses and Trains and learning

It has been many years since I last rode on a train. I mean a serious train going more than the distance between concourses at an airport. Years ago, when I lived in the Philadelphia area, we all used mass transit to commute, to go “downtown,” to get around and to even travel a long distance, say to Florida. Trains are not quite what they used to be. Many of the true passenger trains are now extinct and the only other trains seem to be freight and rapid transit within big cities.

It has been nearly eighty years since diesel and electric engines replaced the giant steam locomotives that plied the tracks from Scranton, Pennsylvania and the rich anthracite coal regions to New Jersey and New York, hauling the fuel of the times on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. I have long been fascinated with the great trains of the past and perhaps because Mr. Frank E. Bird Sr., my namesake and grandfather was an engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western coal trains from 1900-1946.

I do not remember much of my late grandfather, even though we traveled from our home to see my grandparents as children many years ago but the images of his being an engineer have stayed with me.  Sitting by my desk at home is his engineer’s watch a rather large pocket watch known for its remarkable ability to keep nearly exact time. I am told my grandfather was proud of his silver watch and its weight in my hand as I ponder makes me wonder at how much our world has changed.

“One returns to the past, to capture it as it was and as it hovers over the present” William Pinar

But the past is part of who we are and within us in the present in our imaginations and memories. We need to avoid making the past all we are for each minute we live we are creating a new past.

“Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods” James Hillman

As children we are fascinated with trains and even now in this day and age of digital everything and computers we still have trains at Christmas time. There are still electric train sets for sale it amazes me. I always wonder at the fascination so many people have with trains. What is it that intrigues us so about trains? When the giant steam locomotives pulled massive freight trains cross-country the enormity of the engines and power were drawing cards. In literature trains always are featured. In one of the literature classes we are reading, listening too, and have just watched the new movie of John Steinbeck’s classic.

“Of Mice and Men”.  In the movie the story starts and ends with George’s reflections as he rides a freight train to his next town. Blues musicians emulate trains in their music and words.

My early interest and fascination grew as a child and in 1954 I woke up to a Christmas morning and a circular track of a model Lionel O gauge steam engine and train set around our Christmas tree.  It became a family tradition and that set was a family fixture for many years.  When I had children of my own it was pulled out again and set up nearly thirty years later although this time it ran its circle around the dining room table trying to give a piece of my childhood to my children.

“Memory is an aspect of who we are” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

“Memory is the raw material of history, whether mental, oral or written, it is the living source from which historians draw” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

I was trying to share my past with my children as my father had passed down to me.  When I was a child my father would often tell stories of my grandfather and the great steam locomotives he would pilot.  Occasionally he would pull out an old engineer’s cap or lantern of my grandfathers to add some visual excitement to the stories. Still sitting on my mother house on the shelf is my grandfather’s kerosene lantern from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.

There is a surreal aspect to these massive metal machines, intertwined with our music and imagination trains are a fascinating piece of our being.  Trains are an element of the industrial revolution yet linked metaphysically to us, it could be the size and power, the getting us from point A to point B.

I will wander a bit and take my morning thinking away from the subject of trains, and to another mode of transportation but still in line with my thoughts. It has been a few years since we sold our draft horses Rick and Blue, a team of dapple gray Percheron horses. Each horse stood over six feet at the shoulder and weighed in at well over a ton. Rick and Blue were big powerful animals. They could pull anything. I was asked to talk to a group of parents one night at a function and needed a visual aid to get my point across. An aspect of that discussion was narrow mindedness. I brought along the harnesses from Rick and Blue.

The massive leather harness’ weigh over 85 pounds each and include a set of blinders for the horses. The blinders kept the horses from being distracted and only allowed the horse to look forward. I used that example to show how so many people can be like the draft horse and get stuck only seeing one thing, one direction at a time and are unable to look to either side or to see anything new or different. Granted there are many ADHD students I wish I had blinders for.

So, am I really wandering today or what does a set of horses and trains have to do with one another? They are both big and powerful and trains much like Rick and Blue go in a straight line down the track no side trips no going off the tracks. I was talking the other day with another teacher about taking a journey on a train and how that train goes from point A to point B. We then pick up what we need along the way. I ended up comparing the journey to education and to learning.

As I thought of the train tracks and how so many of us get stuck simply following the tracks I thought of all the knowledge waiting sitting along the way but off the tracks. This knowledge could be away from the tracks and or hidden from the straight and narrow. I wondered what it be like if tracks were flexible and we weren’t limited by that straight line. We could go where the best ideas were and the best methods and we could really load the train full instead of simply picking up what load we can along the tracks.

I put on Aerosmith in my car today as I left the house yesterday and track four or five is a song “Amazing” which contains a line that I hold dear. Several years ago, my oldest son, the night after a very dear friend was killed in a car accident left a sticky note on my computer. It was a simple line a quote and yes, I have used it for a quote of the day now many times. It is interesting how we also have this quote on the wall outside the cafeteria. The note was a line from an Aerosmith song, a Stephen Tyler original. “Life is about the journey not the destination”. We get so caught up in the destination, for example getting to the end of the tracks following the curriculum to a T or the “TEST” at the end of the semester that we lose sight of all around us, we lose sight of the journey. Our journey and our students is teaching them to think and if they think they will learn

So how do we get to point B and really still get there with as much as we can possible load on the train. We travel and we gather as we go but we are fortunate we can leave the tracks if we chose. We can go sideways. We can go back. We can go forward. One thing that is so crucial is we all need to remove our blinders and see all that is around us and live each moment of the journey.

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” Gerald Smith

Smith points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why.  The illusions Smith points out, “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”. We get so caught up in what we are being told we are and why we soon fall on the straight track or go through life with blinders on. In order to dig deeper into we have to understand who, we are as an individual and how we translate and comprehend our realities and how people see us.

“Freud, Jung and now Lang (among others) were digging underneath the surface of their lives, trying to uncover the roots of what is experienced on the surface” Gerald Smith

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the nobler one of laying down the outward things that enslaves us.” Carl Jung

 I have wandered a bit today and maybe a bit too deep into ideas and thoughts that I find intriguing and puzzling. I once referred to the term of herding instinct that people tend to herd, want to be in groups. We so want to take the easiest route. I looked at apathy yesterday. We live in a time where we want things to be simple and easy. I want to simply get to point B not have extra sightseeing along the way. Sadly, so many people live life that way. They live with blinders or follow a pre-laid out track and never get to know there is so much more. A student asked a question this morning dealing with biology. The question was about global warming and how some people say it is not occurring and yet so many are saying it is. There are folks who will never admit to and or even suggest some ideas have truth. They are caught up in their veil of ignorance. Watching the news and the impact our current war is having on veterans, the number of those in harm’s way is growing exponentially Please keep them all on your minds and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

It be great if we could script great teachers

Bird Droppings January 19, 2021
It be great if we could script great teachers

I watched several various movies about teachers over the years. It hit me as I was thinking it would be great if we could somehow provide a package to new Techers on how to do great teaching. If someone could write that perfect script that anyone could follow and allow anyone to be a great teacher. Then it hit me hard, indirectly that is what curriculum in theory is for and various educational packages that publishing companies stake their names on. But as I sit back thinking why does it not work?

I was inputting my last bit of data for a research project and was finding and gleaning pieces of my various former students’ puzzles as I went. Most of my students that I have served in the last twenty years have improved grade wise when they were in my classes and or I was case manager for them. Granted I do not teach like most teachers. I rely heavily on empathy and innovative creative ideas to stimulate and make the time they have in my class a learning experience as well as fun. I thought back to the teacher movies, it is so hard to imagine Morgan Freeman not being a great teacher. But I know he studied his character Joe Clark thoroughly as good actors do and his interpretation was from what I have read an accurate one.

In everyone there is a personality that you cannot package and bottle. The greatest possible program in the hands of a sorry teacher will not change the fact they are a sorry teacher. So far to my knowledge we do not do personality transplants. In “The School of Rock” while Mr. S was for a moment content to idle away and collect his substitute paycheck a note of music hit literally. He found a mutually exciting interest, to the students and himself. This is something many teachers do not look into, are we as teachers enjoying what we do?

Bit by bit as I watched Julie Roberts character, have to reexamine where, what and why and then get hit with traditions and the boxes of societal demands. I know this happens every day. I have talked with my professors many times about one of my concerns, how so many teachers go to a graduate school program and do not make meaningful use after they leave. I am genuinely concerned! I have watched numerous graduates collect their additional money and not once utilize what they have learned, researched, read about, and even seen in practice.


How do we bottle and or script a great teacher? I wish I could come up with a solution and a simple method. It is about the person inside. It is about empathy. It is about experiences and utilizing those pieces. There is an adage that many teachers are simply folks who can do nothing else. The drab boring monotone teacher, even knowing all the content in the world will teach few. It is about entertainment. Maybe scripts have been written but then the audience changes and what do you do? We live in a society of change of flux of disequilibrium. It is about balance but keeping enough of a leaning over to keep growing. It is perhaps about the pathway.

“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 the journey of life. The many directions I have traveled. I have always been a passionate observer watching others step by step along the way. I listen as some stumbled and are lifted when pebbles and or boulders are in the way. There are choices at times which pathway to take as a fork approaches and we must choose.

“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 am wondering why so many of us each day think, perhaps too much, obsessing over reasons and rationale, and tripping over our own inadequacies and imperfections. Are we truly 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.

“He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“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 each day; it is unique for me as it is for others. Nietzsche offers a why as a reason to live, Fromm simplifies further only a happy moment or a bright morning is all that is needed and Ellis states an art form, life is an art form perhaps it is the wielding of the brushes and what colors we wield as we paint.

“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

We set the boulders in our own pathway; we throw out the pebbles that force us to stumble. We end up creating the forks in the road that force us to choose I would not have it any other way as I step along the path. However, we need to be aware than we must 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 zigs and zags, an easy journey constantly sidetracked. It may have been once a straight line between A and B now the page is covered in this way or that in back tracking and circumventing in overstepping and under stepping. In my own climbing of boulders and in pushing some out of the way I have come a long way.


I have used in my daily teacher journal, Bird Droppings a saying by a Native American Orator from back in the day many times.

“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 buffalo’s warm 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, tree frogs calling, and the red-tailed hawks forever crossing my pathway. Our scenery changes but life goes on. I watched the news last night and all the carnage of an earthquake so as I have for nearly ten years end my daily meanderings with 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

Can we say heroism and humility are spelled the same?

Bird Droppings January 18, 2021
Can we say heroism and humility are spelled the same?

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” Arthur Ashe

Even though I am one of the worst spellers in this local area I know heroism and humility are technically spelled differently. I will concede to using words to come up with a perhaps catchy title for my daily morning wanderings. I sat and listened to our past President after the shooting of Congresswomen Gilford’s nearly eight years ago as he spoke to a group in Arizona at a memorial service for those killed in the shooting in Tuscan. I will admit I was moved by his words as I think most people in this nation were. It is another special person who was at the scene as it happened words I will start today with.

“Though I appreciate the sentiment, I must humbly reject the title of hero because I am not one of them,” “We must reject the title of hero and reserve it for those who deserve it.” Daniel Hernandez, twenty-year-old intern of Congresswomen Gilford credited with saving her life by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and by President Barrack Obama

Daniel as he was interviewed went on to say the real heroes were the First responders’ and doctors and nurses that cared for the injured and prevented any additional loss of life. As I ponder this morning a young man jumping into the fray as he heard gunshots as do many of our service men and women and saying he is not the hero is a humbling moment for me.


I recall my father and stories of World War II and the battle of Iwo Jima in the South Pacific. For you non-history buffs the US military brass had come up with a plan to island hop through the South Pacific to Japan as a means to end the war. This idea was formulated knowing we would lose many men as the Japanese were well fortified and dug in. The battle on Iwo Jima was a blood bath to say the least. US Marines were dropping as they left the landing craft or pontoon bridges from the LSM’s. My father was a medic on an LSM. This was a boat with a drop open front to allow landing craft and tanks to roll out into shallow water or onto pontoon bridges along with the Marines who were on board as well. As my father tells the story a young Marine nineteen at the time had fallen between two pontoons. These structures are large enough to support a tank and chained together to make bridges from sea craft to shore.

My father heard the young man’s call for help and jumped from his ship to the pontoons. As he looked over the scene it was not good the young man’s leg had been tangled in the chains connecting the pontoons. His right leg was in shambles and nearly sheared off from the chain’s movement with the waves. My father had to move quickly. The pontoons were being shoved together by tanks and waves as the moved. Dad jumped down between the pontoons explained he would need to amputate the young Marines leg to get him to safety. He offered a swig of whiskey that he carried in a flask for such ordeals in his back pocket. The young Marine said he did not drink. Using his Navy survival knife he poured some of the whiskey on the knife and proceeded to take off the Marines leg.

As the pontoons came together dad threw the young man up on to the nearest pontoon climbed up and cauterized and sutured his wound. Add to this machine gun fire and mortar rounds all around as well. Dad then lifted the young man and carried him down the beach front to the hospital outgoing landing craft.


Across my father’s Navy shirt was embroidered his nickname on board the LSM, DOC. The Navy and Marine corpsmen saw him and heard him barking medical orders about the injury and assumed he was an officer. The young man was given priority and made it to the hospital ship and did survive. Sounds simple yet during the several hundred yard walk down the beach the dug in Marines were yelling at my father to get down and bullets were whistling all around him. As he would say as he told the story a guardian angel was watching over him is all he could recall. He said he was in a daze as he carried the young Marine it was what he had to do to save his life. Another few minutes wasted and he would have died on the beach.

It was days later when questioned about the incident by his commander he was offered a heroism medal from the Navy but being a young college man himself he asked if he could get a raise instead of a medal. It was not until many years later when he was going for health care to the VA hospital, he actually put in for a purple heart so he could get a better handicapped parking space he was in his eighties at the time.

Heroism and humility spelled differently perhaps, but there is a fine line connecting the two. It has not been that long ago that the first Medal of Honor was given to a living soldier in many years. We seem to have far too few heroes in today’s world. I look to a shooting in Arizona and see several. There was a nine-year-old girl who believed in her country and in her congresswomen enough to be there to see her. There is a congresswoman who chose to meet with her constituent’s one on one in public. While he claims he is not the hero a young man who did not hesitate when the shots rang out and did what he could. I also saw our past President whose gray hair was more noticeable now standing before the families of those lost and grieving talking about healing. We do have a nation of heroes it seems if we so chose to look about. As I think back to that day and another comment by Daniel Hernandez.

“On Saturday, we all became Arizonans, and above all, we all became Americans,” Daniel Hernandez

It is difficult on some days to try and sort and reflect. Yet it is in our reflections we can find solutions, be it in government, family, friends, or in education that I tend to tie in loosely each day I write. Today let us all reflect on our heroes and keep all of those in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.” Thomas Merton

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

How do we know if we are still human?

Bird Droppings January 17, 2021
How do we know if we are still human?

Listening to the news and the recent activities at the Nations capital that many are calling an insurrection I wonder as people are interviewed and ideas are tossed around are, we all human? It seems some in Congress were complicit in the activities and even used social media to point out locations of leaders in hiding during riot. Wrapped through the philosophical unpinning’s are numerous almost fictitious believes in aliens and various conspiracy ideas that are floating around social media. I have worked in psychiatric facilities and there were many running through the Capital building who would have fit right in. It truly is sad that so many have become convinced of often literally indigotic ideas. We all want to be followers it seems yet freedom and liberty are the call words.

Perhaps it is from growing up in a situation where we were aware of special needs children and adults directly from the birth of my younger brother till his passing over twenty-five years ago that those in my family have had connections with exceptional children directly or indirectly in our careers and life’s endeavors. A number of us went the route of teaching and even there most are in Exceptional Education. Several are in the medical field and several have gone into psychology. My brother linked us as a family to the humanness of mankind.

“The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self.” Albert Einstein

Over the years in my studies and internships I have experienced situations many will never know exist. I recall walking through wards in a state institution where tiny infant looking patients lay in bassinets connected to tubes and not moving. Some were born with no brains and kept alive by feeding tubes and respirators. I asked one of the attendants during a walk through in 1968 how old was this one particular infant. I was informed this was not an infant but probably older than I was I being twenty and the baby at twenty-three. The attendants turned the children to prevent bed sores and occasionally would talk to their charges. Later as I worked on finishing my psychology degree at Mercer I visited several more units very similar at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville and a Regional Hospital in Atlanta. These units were filled with fifty to sixty patients each. Central State Hospital had more than one ward.

“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our society exists through a historical development from a time when the first humans started living in villages and using commodities as exchange for other goods. Many historians and anthropologists will offer that society and civilization began when this early bartering started and a value was placed on a particular thing. A goat is worth a bushel of wheat or rice and banking began. Soon more precious commodities were found metal for weapons and tools, precious stones and gold for adornment. Granted this process happened fairly rapidly in the grand scheme of things and soon someone decided they could get more for an item since they had most of it and price gouging was begun. It was in these days that an imperfect infant would be tossed off a cliff or fed to the sharks.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

What got me started on the idea that maybe we are losing or have lost our humanity? Over the years I will get in discussions and some get a bit out of proportion and over board and some I will walk away from but when we look at cutting programs that provide housing and food for people who do not have anything I take issue. I take issue with the greed that drives bonuses and profits that tax most families to a point of frustration all in the name of capitalism. I get upset when education is first on the chopping block not because it could impact my own pay but because it is through education we can possible regain our humanity. In a recent discussion on drug testing those on Medicaid, Food stamps or any Federal assistance because all on welfare are on drugs and using welfare money to buy drugs I asked what do we do and was suggested I use my own money if I think they need help. Almost immediately in curiosity I should have questioned what religion are you? A legislator from Kentucky wants to cut nearly every federal program. I find it ironic that down through history men and women who try to help others find themselves hated by those in power and usually end up dead.

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great one’s exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Credited to Jesus Bar Joseph, known to many as Jesus the Christ, Mark 10:42-45

So how is it, a religion based on self-sacrifice is so greedy? How can the image of a religious leader driving a Rolls Royce and living in one of their many multimillion-dollar homes be comforting to anyone? How can anyone say it is a federal healthcare bill that drove up their insurance when a CEO of a health insurance company is making over one hundred fifty million dollars and can deny a claim or treatment due to cost at any given moment? I recently watched the leader of the majority in the house of representatives roll his eyes at comments the President of the United States as he spoke in his State of the Union Address. Of course, YouTube flashes the image over and over again as well.

“We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.” Parker J. Palmer

Having worked in service-oriented jobs, pasturing, teaching, and counseling I have seen people who do not wish to be poor. It is through no choice of theirs that they have a congenital heart defect and cannot stand for longer than a few minutes let alone try and work. I have seen mothers whose husbands left when a baby was born with severe birth defects and requires constant care so the mother does not work and cares for the child. I have seen families torn apart by mental illness and former patients pushed out into a not so caring world to fend for themselves only to end up homeless and destitute. These are not unique cases but magnified many thousands of times over. Sort of like the stories of welfare mother with six kids driving to family and children’s services to pick up a check in an Escalade or Mercedes. Not all on welfare are using the system and not all on welfare are using drugs. Is our system perfect by no means but it is the lack of human civility that bothers me? It is how we can say we are of a religious persuasion and literally live an entirely different life when not in church.

“Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” Black Elk

In most Indian societies all were taken care of and provided for. I am not promoting a return to the primitive but to a more natural view of life. Indians held all as sacred and in doing so would not demand or extract more than was needed from the land or from another person. It was a very humanistic world view. We stripped away the sacredness of the land and used the resources till they were gone in the name of progress. We do not as a society want to help others is the sound board of many people. I was informed last evening if I want to help others use my own money to which I replied I do. I have for my entire teaching career given to a local charity a portion of my paycheck a very small portion yet it amounts each year to nearly ten percent of the giving from the teaching staff at my high school and I am less than one percent of the staff numbers.

“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohican, the Pokanoket, and many other once powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and the oppression of the White Man, as snow before a summer sun.” Tecumseh, Shawnee

Our dominate society has all but eradicated the indigenous populations of the Americas from the first slaughters by Cortez’s men in Mexico to cutting of funding to the reservations. Suicides and infant mortality in Indian societies is considerably higher than dominate societies around them. It has only been a few days since I watched the movie about Wounded Knee and slaughter of unarmed Indians the last major Indian war battle even though only one sided. Around the world natives’ peoples are eliminated for wealth and power.

“I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life.” Mahatma Gandhi

In a recent set of materials given to me by my mother on the Bushmen of South Africa who call themselves the Sans I noticed the date on the literature and it was pre-mining leases in the Kalahari. There were beautiful pictures of hunting and villages. The Bushmen moved as they needed following the herds of animals and seasons of plants. Today much of the Kalahari Desert has been sectioned off into diamond mine leases and the Sans moved to concrete buildings on a reservation. They are a people losing their identity and culture so greed can fill the void.


I recall watching American Idol and I am enjoying the softer image. The last contestant of the day a few years back was a young man and if you did not watch whose fiancé was severely brain injured in an accident and needs constant care. He dedicated his singing which was awesome to her and is involved in her daily care. I wonder how many people who want to cut funding would have given up much of his own life to care for their beloved fiancée as this young man has. Needless to say, I was touched as was everyone watching with me. Still harboring within the midst of us is hatred rampant and rancid that keeps rearing up. A few years back during an election a young man drove his mother’s car to school with an OBAMA bumper sticker which was torn off in the parking lot and replaced with a derogatory note and the extra addition of never park here again or it will be worse. We have come so far to be so lost. I wonder if it is with a deaf ear I offer each day 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

Caregiving and or cared for, we need both?

Bird Droppings January 16, 2021

Caregiving and or cared for, we need both?

“To care and be cared for are fundamental human needs. We all need to be cared for by other human beings. In infancy, illness, or old age, the need is urgent and pervasive; we need caregiving, and we need the special attitude of caring that accompanies the best caregiving if we are to survive and remain whole.” Nel Noddings

On Monday we honor a man with a day dedicated to his memory a man who cared deeply about mankind. As I sit here pondering the true aspects of caring and the impacts on the human condition, Dr. Nel Noddings discusses how we need to care and we also need to be cared for, both sides of the coin. It is not an either-or situation. On the news the other day volunteers prepared a meal for twenty thousand homeless and working poor in Atlanta in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the Hosea Williams foundation sponsoring the event. Hosea Williams was a man who walked with Dr. King back in the day and a man who started a feed the hungry program in Atlanta. In that same news cycle two news commentators had been criticized for making violent comments in regards to other people. One referred to shooting the founder of Wiki leaks in the head and the other in a panel discussion addressed reinvading Iraq for oil to keep the prices down.

“If every eight old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence within one t generation.” The Dalai Lama

Caring is not seeking war for oil especially so major oil companies can further profit. It is true the countries where the oil is located do reap fortunes from the pumping of oil but outside of Venezuela most oil is pumped, shipped, piped and processed by a select few large oil companies who have continually made significant profits while all other industries are losing money. Interesting as well is Iraq’s oil is now being pumped by mostly US companies who are making money. Another aspect left by the wayside when we pick on a country about oil prices is Wall Street where oil is a commodity traded and US investors are driving the price up or down depending on their profitability not our needs. Most oil is owned by investors not countries. Why do we not invade Wall Street and the stock exchange and stop auctioning commodities and dealing in the so often bogus paper of the stock market? This is not about caring other than for one’s self.

I listened on Tuesday to the I had a Dream speech. I am amused on this day as I recall my father, a former Navy man, a diehard republican and he always voted straight republican on his ballot, telling me this was one of the greatest speeches he had ever heard. My father made his living with his booming voice and had addressed audiences across the globe. He had sat and listened too many of the greatest speakers of the twentieth century in various capacities. My father had lectured and had his message translated in nine or ten languages in nearly forty different countries. I kind of felt for him to say this very liberal southern pastor and black man had just delivered the most powerful speech of modern day was very significant. But I also always knew my father was a caring man about his family, friends, his life’s work, and all those he dealt with around the world.

I was only in eighth grade or so when Dr. King delivered his now famous speech at the Lincoln memorial in 1963. Now we honor the man with a holiday. Many will protest and have arguments that this day should not be a national holiday. I am not one of those. As I read the words and listen to the message in this powerful speech, it is not about racism it is about humanity it is about caring. In the past presidential campaigning Dr. King had been both talked about and commented on. Barrack Obama on a Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, after being lectured by the Pastor that many other great men had spoken at this pulpit had these words to say.

“If Dr. King could love his jailor, if he could call the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely, we can look past what divides us in our time,” Barrack Obama, January 20, 2008, Ebenezer Baptist Church

I watch daily high school kids who still hold racism deep in their hearts. I read passages on students and adults’ websites that talk of hatred and misunderstanding. I have been in meetings with parents where comments such as “they work too hard and I cannot get a job” in regards to Hispanic construction workers. Racism is still in our society and in our communities. How do we as human beings in looking forward a week on a day dedicated to a man who in his lifetime tried to end racism, approach and channel such bigotry and hatred.  I wonder as I sit here with school tomorrow how we have come far yet still have so far to go.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Washington DC, August 23, 1963

Oh, what a day it will be when we are judged by our character and not skin color. I have a dream as well borrowing from Dr. Noddings again, “we need the special attitude of caring that accompanies the best caregiving if we are to survive and remain whole” and as I sit and ponderthe Dalai Lamas thought above what if we would teach meditation to eight-year olds. So, my friends please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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

LIFE and FINALITY

Bird Droppings January 15, 2021
LIFE and FINALITY

Morning has been a special time for me each day, a new beginning. Several aspects make it special, first one of going about taking pictures of sunrises. Then I go to my writing and reading which has become my meditation for the day. On some days I go to Physical Therapy for my old joints. It has become in many ways a significant part of each of my days. I walked out this morning and felt the chill but the clouds had diminished and the nearly full moon was setting in the west. I looked out across the meadow and the big dipper was rising above the trees and the stars were crystal clear in the morning darkness through the pines and oaks.

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

Several years ago, as I left my room after classes and went through the guidance office saying hello to several people. I was checking up on files and paperwork and I saw a person was missing I noticed and never questioned as the day went on. I sensed an absence yet still had not questioned. As the day ended I heard over the announcements one of the staff members had suffered a heart attack during a stress test and was having surgery that day.

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

Yesterday as I went to get the mail one of our neighbors was walking her dogs. We said hello and she asked if I knew what was going on down the street. She had seen a coroner’s van there a day or two ago. I really do not keep very good tabs on my neighbors and had no information. She then informed me her husband had passed away two weeks before. Again, I did not know other than seeing many cars at their house back around that time. All added to my most recent turmoil over finality. As I get older and with each new creak in a joint or muscle weakness old age sets in. I have been poked and prodded that past couple weeks at first my family practice thought pneumonia and after ruling that out I am now on a heart issue.  I am sitting here writing waiting on lab results.

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

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words and pictures that may have significance to a project I am working on for my research. It was hard getting to work after eating dinner and lounging for a few minutes. I emailed several people last night just touching base although my iPhone was ready to call it a day.

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

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

As I moved through the week sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort. Most people in today’s monastic world never missed a stride there I am sure were a few tears from friends and those that they knew but all in all the day went on as normal. It seems we all are creatures of habit and our routines kick in and sort of lead us through 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

I have used this quote so many times and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a mason jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness. That time seem an eternity ago on a hill in Pennsylvania.

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

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

Often as my week progresses and days roll by I wander back thinking of reasons why and always end up thinking of my younger brother. In 1996 my brother passed away and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had literally built our lives around my little brother. He was severely disabled and our being in Georgia was directly related to him. As we celebrated his life reviewing the intricate webs that were laid each moment and people touched and lives affected what seemingly had been was now an enormous out pouring of life.

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

Sitting here among my books and artifacts I know we each approach the morning in a different way. I embrace the day and begin with my writing seeing each moment then unfold. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys and as I look back each has had meaning and direction and led me to the moment of now.

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

It has been several years since I received an urgent call from my nephew. We had gone to an away football game up in North Georgia and actually were out of cellular range for some time. The call was about a friend that had been in a car accident and as that day unfolded I spent the night in the Athens Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving. I sat watching banks of meters, gauges and dials. I was hoping that the numbers on the dials would change. Throughout the night nothing indicated brain wave activity and by morning our dear friend was pronounced dead. When I arrived home on my computer was this quote from an Aerosmith song. Seems I come back to that note ever so often in my writings. In 1968 as I left for Texas for college I received a book from my parents that I still have on my shelf, it was a Bible and on page 596 a verse that has stuck with me.

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

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

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

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

So often poet’s words offer comfort or give direction back to the journey set off course in but one moment time. There is no filling of a void. Yet when looking at life and all that has been and when looking at the journey to now there truly was never a void. There is a turn in the road, a new direction, all that has led to this point has not changed and it is there behind us, lifting us, guiding us, and strengthening us as we continue. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia already sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across stone by stone, crossing the stream on the rocks as he jumped.


We all can cross in our time and there are times when a hand is welcome. Years ago, I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website “Friends are never alone”. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today and keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Can we define our own success, or does it take another?

Bird Droppings January 14, 2021
Can we define our own success, or does it take another?

Recently teachable moments have been rare as I have been semimonastic with the virus and being cautious. Today while grocery shopping, I ran into a former student of sorts. Thinking back, I do think she was in a class with me when I was a co-teacher but she and her boyfriend spent most of their free time in my room talking with me. She avoids social media, and we end up running into each other at Kroger. It has been over a year since our last run in. She was not wearing a mask, so I fussed a bit but mainly caught up. She is going to college finally after four boys and is currently taking a history class. Our discussion touched on politics but as we talked, and she showed me a post she made in her history class. She referenced Mary Wolstencroft, an author most people outside literature have never heard of. She wrote when women were not supposed to be writing. He daughter was Mary Shelly author of Frankenstein. I could have kept on, but I was fifteen minutes late for a physical therapy session.

I love these types of moments catching up, sharing, learning. Last week on spur if the moment I drew upon my experiences and got into a discussion on arthropods. One of my favorites is the black and yellow garden spider, Agriope aurantia, or writing spider. I then proceeded to offer a Creek Indian view of early morning. Few see this unless you go out early in the morning. I will often go and sit watching the sun rise in the east. If you look carefully through the weeds and grass in the wee hours of morning you can see gossamer strands of spider silk literally touching everything. The Creeks will call this the web of life where all is connected and as I told the story for my teachable moment this person was silent listening. Today was a bit cold even for spiders.

I left the house today to run in for blood work with several critical calls to make, errands to run and several feelings of people I needed to see and or talk with. Obviously, I found one so far. As I traveled about including going to my meeting late, seeing a former student was worth it. In my travels I spoke with a retired Air Force electronics expert who had two years ago undertaken a vision quest with the Blackfeet tribe in the western US. I ran into several more former and present students, parents, and friends of mine. I would consider it a success today very much so. As I went through the day yesterday I thought about what is it the idea of being successful? Is there some magically way we can tell if we are successful in what we do? I also did get quite a bit of writing completed.

Going deeper in thought I would like to consider myself successful at what I do and I think most people would want to feel this way. Wanting to be successful however has its basis on how you define success. It has been nearly twelve years since a fellow teacher handed me an article by Sydney J. Harris, a prolific writer and columnist from thirty-five years ago. Harris at one time was syndicated in over four hundred papers.

“You only have to be a little bit better than most in what you do. Just a little smarter, just a little steadier, just a little more energetic, or whatever other prime quality is demanded in your field. If successes admitted this, they would not have cause to feel so conceited; and if the aspirants recognized this, they would not have cause to feel so left behind at the starting line.” Sydney J. Harris

“Success is just a little more effort” from his column Strictly Speaking

As I read this passage I realized how true it is. So often it is one more step, another few words, fifteen more minutes that make the difference between success and failure or in being just average. In high school sadly getting seventy percent and passing is considered successful by far too many. There are some who do not succumb and try to attain better. It is not that difficult to be a little better than most but we often see that as too much work or effort. This is not strictly limited to students’ teachers as well fall into the taking the easier road syndrome as well. If a teacher chose to only do seventy percent just what is needed and is working with seventy percent students that equates to about forty nine percent of what should have been learned and is a failure in most societies. I often wonder and I am a procrastinator myself what constitute too much effort or too much work.

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” Pearl S. Buck

Being of a monastic nature I find some days this to be difficult, to include others. However, we need others to succeed in life and to move ahead if only to provide support. Succeeding is more often than not an effort of a group rather than just one person.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have heard this quote so many times at commencement speeches in lectures on success by motivational speakers and yet each time a little more of it sinks in. Perhaps Emerson was ahead of his time as I read his words the last two lines; it becomes so significant that success is having made another’s life easier a very powerful statement in our selfish society of excess and greed.

“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.” Harvey S. Firestone

Success is how we leave others as we walk away, the difference we make the level at which we make change in the environment around and in some instances our ability to not make change and still accomplish something.

“My definition of success is total self-acceptance. We can obtain all of the material possessions we desire quite easily, however, attempting to change our deepest thoughts and learning to love ourselves is a monumental challenge. We may achieve success in our business lives but it never quite means as much if we do not feel good inside. Once we feel good about ourselves inside we can genuinely lend ourselves to others.” Victor Frankl

Seeing ourselves clearly, honestly, and learning to like to even love ourselves is crucial to truly succeeding. Success is about us and how we affect the world and others. Success can be a minute difference we make in what is happening around us. Success can be a simple elevation of a friend or attainment of a goal. Success is effort yet success can be attained with the heart as well as the body.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

As I was reading quotes and articles today to write this morning it was interesting how success was defined by various people down through history. Many wealthy people defined success in terms of accumulation of wealth and yet others looked at the word as a gauge of human involvement. There are numerous different approaches and comparisons that are available as I looked, accomplishment, outcome, and achievement were all listed as definitive words for success as I read.

As I think back to two of the quotes I used today Dr. Schweitzer spoke of happiness as the key, this man was a musician extraordinaire he played in concert halls all over Europe and used those funds to run a hospital in Africa in the 1930’s till his death many years later. His success in life was his practice of medicine where he was needed. Emerson as he indicates defines success as that difference you make in another’s life. As I look closer at myself I truly believe success is a word needing others to define. It is about your impact and difference you make on others and success is not measured as much in volumes as in quality. If we take quality as defined by Phillip Crosby which is exceeding expectations and draw a loose simple parallel. Then success is exceeding others expectations. A week is drawing to an end and as I have for many years now ended my daily entries 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

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