Bird Droppings November 17, 2021
While deadly, a spider spins to survive
Just a thought to start the thinking process
“When Peter pulled his sword and attacked the Roman soldier, he was told to put it away, and his boss turned to the injured soldier and healed his ear, but that was before Christianity” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.
Every other Facebook post is about a former president, guns, ISIS rising again, killing people and getting away with it, religion, more religion, us, and or them. So I shared this thought with some high school students, all professing to be devout Christians. Only one saw what I was saying.
Interconnecting threads make a tapestry the first puzzle piece
For most of my graduate school career, I have considered the analogy that our lives are being woven together as we go implying that we have a purpose of some sort. The threads intertwine and connect as we go through life, weaving what we are to be. I recall in a graduate class, a professor friend used the term or representation of weaving as the learning process. Dr. Donna Andrews, retired professor and former chairperson of the Special education department at Piedmont College, and my advisor for my Masters’s degree commented, weaving intertwines events and people, D. Andrews, (personal communications September 23, 2004). All through history, weaving has been a critical aspect of civilization. For thousands of years, people have been weaving cloth for clothes and blankets to survive, and soon after, weaving began to be done for art’s sake. Our lives are a tapestry being woven each day as we go.
Each aspect of our lives and interactions with others provides the material for weaving the tapestry. No two journeys are the same, and no two people see and hear the world about them in a manner that can be construed as similar, while somehow we seem to exist together. I read a friend’s concerns about the world and the potential for peace. While he is so adamantly viewing all that is in one direction, I may, in my naiveté, look another and follow a path I believe will lead to where I feel I need to go. In 1961 or so, President Eisenhower warned against the coming Industrial Capitalistic Corporate powers and their efforts to take control. Many thinkers, philosophers believe that this is what has happened in our own country. In my searching, I found Thomas Merton, a U.S. religious author, clergyman, & Trappist monk (1915 – 1968), and a statement he made has stuck with me. “The least of learning is done in the classrooms.”
I use Thomas Merton often in my writing; spiritual mysticism has always caught my attention. Thomas Merton was an avid and practicing pacifist and antiwar leader. Merton was found dead in his room in 1968 in Bangkok while on a spiritual and peace activist journey against the wars in Southeast Asia. I was looking at these words and realized in my own life, and it has been the pondering and searching that has led to learning. Those pieces are so much the threads connecting my existence. The pieces of what I experience in the classroom, then bolstered by reflection, wonder, and built into learning as if the classroom were only a sampling of what is to be learned.
No two journeys are the same, and no two people see and hear the world about them in a manner that can be construed as similar, while somehow we seem to exist together. I read a friend’s concerns about the world and the futile potential for peace. While he is so adamantly viewing all that is in one direction, I may, in my naiveté, look another and follow a path I believe will lead to where I feel I need to go. In 1961 or so, President Eisenhower warned against the coming Industrial Capitalistic Corporate powers and their efforts to take control . Many thinkers, philosophers believe that this is what has happened in our own country. Dr. Eric Berne, Games People Play (1964), has this to offer.
“For certain fortunate people, there is something that transcends all classifications of behavior, and that is awareness, something which rises from the programming of the past, and that is spontaneity; and something that is more rewarding than games, and that is intimacy. But all of these may be frightening and even perilous to the unprepared. Perhaps they are better off as they are, seeking their solutions in popular techniques of social action, such as ‘togetherness.’ This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it.”
The title to Dr. Berne’s book intrigued me as I was sitting here at 4:00 AM wondering what I would write and which direction I should go in this day’s writing. I was thinking about students, parents, and teachers and how so often the intertwining of personalities produces the fabric of the day. Dr, Berne continues (1964): “Each person designs his own life, freedom gives him the power to carry out his designs, and power gives the freedom to interfere with the designs of others. “
I was involved in a group meeting for my doctorate a few years back, and the idea of becoming an avid learner, a seeker of learning, was often mentioned. I recall a paper where I wrote and researched and read others’ opinions. My own grew significantly. Many teachers feel it is appropriate as I think of current methodologies in cramming ideas into vacant space. What if we borrow from a Sydney J. Harris concept and implant the grain of learning and nurture it as a pearl diver nurtures the oysters, and eventually, that grain of sand will be a pearl. Often more significant and brighter than any the originator could have conceived. Sydney J. Harris adds to this thought (1944). “The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, ‘I was wrong.’”
I am sitting, writing, and listening to R. Carlos Nakai’s Sundance Season this morning, a series of pieces directly tied to a sacred ceremony of his ancestry within the Ute tribe, the Sundance Ceremony. There is an eerie piece on this CD playing on a whistle made from the ulna bone of a golden eagle. Most people play one note on an eagle bone whistle, Nakai plays five, and the haunting melody encompasses you. I recall a poster print of a Native American chief in my father’s room on the man’s chest a series of scars. These are from the Sundance Ceremony. On this series of songs, Nakai’s music is based on and derived from the ceremony, one of pain, courage, and vision. As I look this morning, we continue in our current endeavors to avoid such undertakings. Just by coincidence, the Sundance Ceremony was banned by the U.S. government until recently.
I thought of students who are content with the seventy grades and the “I am passing” or that famous modern quote of “whatever. These same students view life simply at the moment. Sadly they never finish the tapestry, only sit and play with the ball of yarn. I can envision Daniel Boone as he traced through the mountains of Kentucky and North Carolina, climbing along a ridge and saying “whatever” and heading home to the fireplace. There is an eerie piece on this CD playing on a whistle made from the ulna bone of a golden eagle. Most people play one note on an eagle bone whistle, Nakai plays five, and the haunting melody encompasses you. Thomas Merton seems to offer significance to me. “The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”
The interconnections and twists and turns in life, much as the weaver lays out the yarn and thread, so many implications in learning and teaching in life in general and in our world view when I read this. I try and teach the mantra of promoting understanding in my students and a love of learning. There is a point when a student switches the switch, and learning becomes second nature. It is finding that switch that is the problematic aspect of teaching. I watched the Ron Clark story a few nights back night, and it was finding that switch that made the difference and the fact he never stopped looking when he could have walked away. We as teachers need to help students choose their thread and yarn wisely as they go through the part of life we are interacting with them.
My fascination with weaving and spinning is tied to my involvement in the sheep industry for over fifteen years, raising, breeding, and shearing the sheep and selling the wool. I traveled nationwide, photographing and talking to producers and writing about the sheep and wool industry. I met many hand spinners and weavers as I traveled. Some were artisans spinning yarn as fine as silk and weaving pieces of artwork. Many pieces are in museums around the country. On the family farm years ago, we had a Hampshire cross ewe that was black. When she was shorn, her fleece was a beautiful hue of chinchilla gray. For several years, a dear friend would get that fleece each year for her spinning and weaving. Somewhere in a box is a small ball of yarn my oldest son spun one afternoon when he was six with that fleece with my friend showing and helping him.
Spinning and weaving made their way into the civil rights movement in the 1940s through Mahatma Gandhi. One of Gandhi’s protest methodologies was to spin and weave his cloth rather than rely on industrially produced material. Many other intricate thoughts were woven in as well; spinning is a form of meditation for many. The constant spinning of the spindle and precise treadle application to the wheel provides a hypnotic rhythm. The weaving, creating, and designing of a piece is like painting a picture with thread and yarn on a loom. ” Mahatma Gandhi said in 1944, “A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else. ” So, as we weave our cloth in life, we are seen by the fabric, the pattern, and the methods we use to make that piece of cloth.
As teachers, we are weaving the threads of each student’s learning daily. We provide the yarn to be put into the loom and woven as the student learns. We attempt to communicate with students’ parents or guardians to discuss issues and grades with each progress report. My parent communication gives me insight into what a particular student brings additional puzzle pieces to the class. Every day for over twenty years, as I walked through my room, there was a poster hanging on my wall where ever I happened to be. The title of the 1972 poster by Dr. Laura Nolte is, Children Learn what they live. It is all the pieces of life threads and yarns gathered together that make an individual child.
In my seventy-two years, I have seen many weavers tend their looms. Some weavers weave silk while another weaves burlap. Silk has many great attributes, as does burlap, and the applications and uses vary greatly. Spinning hemp into twine and weaving the burlap is as much a skill as the artisans who weave the silk threads into cloth. The weaving and material made is not the issue, but it is that weaving that is occurring. For it is that effort that is being made to produce a life that is so important. I referenced the Cherokee theory of opposites previously. I find it interesting how philosophy and enlightenment seem to parallel through time and space. The great Zen Master Dogen Kenji, over a thousand years ago in his teachings offered: “Understand clearly that when a great need appears a great use appears also; when there is small need there is small use; it is obvious, then, that full use is made of all things at all times according to the necessity thereof.”
Several years back, I used the word direction and drew criticism from another teacher explaining that choosing a path in a journey and not truly having a destination is sometimes a meaningless effort. For some, just going is the norm. Far too much of education today is focused on the destination, which is often a state-mandated test. I always speak of the Journey being more important than the destination, but there is a point to head towards. A home builder has a blueprint to guide the work. First, you build walls, determine where doors and windows are needed, and add them as you go. An excellent builder knows ahead and plans for doors and windows, and designed correctly, a house can have huge windows and great doorways, and movement in and out occurs continually. There is an idea of what the house will be, but each nail and joist placed correctly builds the house.
Teachers seldom can see the final product of their students graduating high school and maybe college or even being parents. We have them for a year or semester. Today through social media, it is possible to see the product your efforts made. I have been fortunate to have kept in touch with many of my students over the years. I can see the interconnections and intertwining of ideas I may have thrown out along the way. Chief Seattle’s words are so true still today(1854). “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” I would like to believe I am offering a thread to my students to aid them in life. Please as we partake of a day only a few off from our day of thanksgiving and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
My friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)