Venting a bit on a Thursday morning

Birddroppings December 30, 2021

Venting a bit on a Thursday morning

I wrote yesterday and was going to be lazy today to get ready for the holiday. Lately, I had a doctor’s appointment and a rapid test, and I did test negative for COVID-19 again for the fourth time, which relieved my asthma has been acting up a bit. Last night and this morning, I read several alarming posts on various friend’s pages. I followed links, leading to paramilitary groups discussing declaring civil war. Another older link was supposedly about former President Obama forcing Trump into declaring Marshall Law in December with no information, just a title, and graphic. This link led to another about how the white race would be gone in twenty-five years. I read all the comments about our President being a communist and socialist, and my response is, neither socio-economic system is even closely being approached in this country. Then I watched Look Up, a satire about politics and science and greed, last night.

We are in super overdrive capitalism here in the US; greed rules above all else. We have the highest stock market and the most significant difference between the wealthy and the rest of us ever in the history of our country. The great income difference is what Marx saw and wrote about as he pondered communism. However, our government and both parties continue the process that maintains that the elite few tend to govern. Oil companies, defense contractors, pharmaceuticals, insurance, and banking are booming in profits. That’s not communism and or socialism. The recent election is a good example. With the balance of power changing, much of the budget being suggested by the current ruling party impacts the very people who voted them in cutting social security, tax credits, child care deductions, etc. These are all in the suggested budget of various members of congress and the senate.

Better yet, a desire to privatize Social Security and let an insurance company run it. Kind of like health insurance, where the top five health insurance carrier’s CEOs are paid more than 15 million a year each plus bonuses. Taking away from any group of people is not socialism and or communism. I was told recently we are losing our freedoms, and I asked which ones. Our freedom to not buy health insurance, for example, was the reply. I offered to cure yourself or pay your bills when you are sick. They asked, you mean you would let me die? And I said no, you let yourself die. The worst post of the day was our highest turnout in years. Almost 160 million people voted, and on black Friday, virtually that many went shopping. That speaks to me more than the idiotic posts and blogs about communism and socialism and civil war. As long as we get what we want, we don’t care about anybody else. So I will borrow from Christian scripture.

Matthew 19:16 Just then, a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 19:17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only good One. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” 19:18 “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, ” ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19:19 honor your father and mother,’ c and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” 19:20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 19:22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he had great wealth. 19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 19:24 Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God.” NIV

I am not one to use scripture often, but those spouting all the innuendoes mentioned in various blogs above use scripture. We could debate what this passage means since it is framed by an ancient Hebrew commonly used expression for something difficult, a camel through the eye of a needle, but I look more at the excess in our world and specifically in our country. No one cares about the environment, starving children, or a few other things other than making a buck. The XL pipeline is a great example. A few years back, a massive group of Koch industries employees, 35,000, promoted it through phone calls and conversation. Koch Industries owns 1.5 million acres of tar sands in Alberta. The pipeline is not carrying oil to benefit us here in the US, and it is already in plans to go to Asia, predominantly China.

The tar sands have been out of the news due to the cost of production and cheap world oil. Gas prices in the US will not be impacted, and why should they in a world of supply and demand price is based on who will pay the most we are bidding when we have paid over 4.00 a gallon with Chinese willing to pay more. Granted, currently, our gasoline is going down again, and the US is exporting more oil and refined oil products than any time in the history of our oil industry. The revolution that needs to occur is not one of military/militia/vigilante/gangs but people who care about others. Interesting note tar sands oil is losing money if oil is under 80.00 a barrel now and the pipeline is unnecessary.

“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” Mahatma Gandhi

Please 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,

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related)

bird

Why is seeking peace so difficult?

Bird Droppings December 29, 2021
Why is seeking peace so difficult?

I started and stopped several times writing this piece. My grandson wanted to watch Mickey Mouse with me and eat popcorn, so I was away from my computer. Around the world, armies are moving as I write. There are missiles are being aimed, and tanks are rolling. War is a profit-driving machine for industry and sadly more about money than ideology. I have always been against war and have felt other ways to solve issues.

“In this week of great destruction, we must each choose what road we are to walk and live. The road of destruction is war; it has always been so. The road of creation is deeper and more complicated; it has always involved forgiveness, love, light, prayer, and spirit. In these new millennia, we have a chance to change the way we see other beings to one of connectedness and unity. We have a chance to let go of the ancient ways of war and conflict, which is right, better, and senseless killing. This week has thrown us back on the old model of the last millennia.” Michael Samuels M.D. and Mary Rockwood Lane, Ph.D., Path of the Feather

I miss being in the Foxfire class during the summer months. Although in my current dissertation writing mode, research and reading are hours a day. However, there is something about spending 24 hours a day with other teachers discussing education and learning that is significant. Thinking back during one moment between classes and meetings, I happened to be sitting in an Ingles Store in North Georgia that happened to have a Starbucks. A young gentleman walked by with two peace symbols tattooed on his calf. It caught my attention and got me thinking back to several summers ago when I was driving up to this same spot to visit the Foxfire museum. I watched seven people marching for peace in the small town of Clayton, Georgia. Today, my writing started with a few lines from a Navaho prophecy edited by Dr. Samuels and Rockwood. In my searching, reading, and writing, so often, the contrast of peace versus war comes up, as do so many dualities in our world.

“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.” Sydney J. Harris

For many, Sydney J. Harris is simply an old forgotten columnist from bygone days when people read hardcopy. I frequently use quotes from his essays and columns. His words are powerful, and I thank a dear friend from nearly twenty years ago for showing me his work. Often as I find articles he wrote from the sixties and seventies, and I wonder why I missed them then. I am reminded that it was not the time, as I reference my Jungian philosophy and orientation. All of the pieces were not in place for me to understand and recognize what he was saying. In my emails and communications, often I see misunderstanding and ignorance, myself included. I recall a friend writing from his heart, and others only could criticize and or turn away and not understand, so often not even reading the words.

“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” Sydney J. Harris

“An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.” Sydney J. Harris

Sitting here most mornings, it is so easy to formulate solutions and fantasize about a world free from strife and turmoil and I as I write this morning sitting at home in my writing area having read the current news, talk of new troop deployments in Yemen, which are hinted from Saudi Arabia my heart sinks. But then I walk away from my computer and wonder what we are trying to do in the world. Tomorrow morning a big sale at one of the local department stores, with the early bird sale masses of humanity will line up to get the best deals and gasoline will still be artificially high, so our excellent gas company’s profits can recoup several years of cheap gas and bolster or hinder the economy, depending on whose view you take.

I often wonder who came up with thinking like that in any other business sooner or later someone would see the ridiculous, it has been nearly ten years that Exxon just about every quarter has the highest profits ever in one headline and on another gasoline is at its highest ever, such an interesting parallel we seem to miss. However, a good point is that at least someone is thinking with the high court decisions made this week, and as our Supreme Court judges age slowly, a poll was taken as to what type of judge should replace any who should step down. Most now want a moderate there are still a few wanting conservatives, and only about a quarter want a liberal. Somewhere there was an extra three percent. I am assuming they were undecided.

“Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.” Sydney J. Harris

That simple reminder from Harris needs to come up every day. It is always good to wake up to a new morning and water my herb garden. We each need to look at our pathway and see which direction we are going. Looking back at the first quote, we choose the path of destruction or creation as the Navaho say. My dear 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

Should children be left behind?

Bird Droppings December 22, 2021

Should children be left behind?

“I believe that our own experience instructs us that the secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained, and he only holds the key to his own secret. By your      tampering and thwarting and too much governing he may be hindered from his end    and kept out of his own. Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of nature. Nature loves analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude. But I hear the outcry which replies to this suggestion: – Would you verily throw up the reins of public and private discipline; would you leave the young child to the mad career of his own passions and whimsies, and call this anarchy a respect for the child’s nature? I answer, – Respect the child, and respect him to the end, but also respect yourself. Be the companion of his thought, the friend of his friendship, the lover of his virtue, – but no kinsman of his sin. Let him find         you so true to yourself that you are the irreconcilable hater of his vice and the imperturbable slighter of his trifling.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke about his idea of education and fortunately for me he wrote it down. Over the last ten years I have been directly involved in an educational program, Foxfire, which is based around John Dewey’s ideas on education. I was talking last Friday just before lunch with a fellow teacher and a local representative from PAGE, Professional Association of Georgia Educators, about education of all things. We discussed the idea of teaching top down as we in Georgia are being directed to do with new national common core standards. Here is where we are going and now how do we get there? That is more of real questions than why did you not get where you are supposed to be? Interestingly enough this first statement is what Emerson and Dewey were talking about. As we talked I mentioned Foxfire and how it was in effect how good teachers teach without even knowing. Really it is not something new and outlandish it is just putting a name on good teaching habits and providing a frame work of ten core practices to work with.

Coincidently my friend who was involved in the discussion had retrieved from the discard book cart some old Foxfire books. Periodically our media center discards old and or tattered books for teachers to get first crack at before throwing out. It seems that I have built a library on discarded books. My friend had salvaged four old Foxfire books from the cart earlier in the day.

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. I believe that the school must represent present life-life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground. I believe that education which does not occur through forms of life, or that are worth living for their own sake, is always a poor substitute for the genuine reality and tends to cramp and to deaden. I believe that the school, as an institution, should simplify existing social life; should reduce it, as it were, to an embryonic form. Existing life is so complex that the child cannot be brought into contact with it without either confusion or distraction; he is either overwhelmed by the multiplicity of activities which are going on, so that he loses his own power of orderly reaction, or he is so stimulated by these various activities that his powers are prematurely called into play and he becomes either unduly specialized or else disintegrated.” John Dewey

Learning is not a time limited, space limited, and or school building limited activity as many teachers think. It is not tied to a specific curriculum and text. Real learning is alive, ongoing, continuous, actively participatory and an integral part of societal involvement. As I looked at the Foxfire core practices it becomes apparent these are good teacher practices, these are good life practices, and this is where learning can truly occur.

1 • From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.

2 • The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.

3 • The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.

4 • The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.

5 • Active learning characterizes classroom activities.

6 • The learning process entails imagination and creativity.

7 • Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.

8 • The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.

9 • The work teachers and learners do together includes rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.

10 • Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.

Foxfire fund Inc.

What intrigued me from my first involvement with Foxfire was how even the approach to learning our school system is using which is called Learning Focused Schools is within these eleven principles. This past summer in my research I found most good and great educational ideas actually incorporate or parallel these simple practices. Literally hundreds of good teachers in actual practice helped develop this concept over a long period of time. Emerson and Dewey were thinking along the same lines long before most of us were born. This is not a new fad it is simply good teaching. It is interesting, I recall long before I read Dewey or Emerson and or anything about Foxfire which was little more than a mountain word for a glowing fungus on a hillside. I have been in graduate education classes learning from teachers who taught in this manner, and have watched students learning as they were involved in this approach to education. So why is it so hard to get across to teachers of today? Could it be because it takes more work from the teachers to implement? You will see the word rigorous in Foxfire quite a bit and it is. But good teaching is rigorous. It is dynamic not static.

As I am working on my dissertation and researching about The Foxfire Approach to teaching I find teachers telling me they prefer to teach in this manner but often are criticized by peers and administration for not following curriculum maps and guides. An article in NEA’s weekly newsletter pointed to how so many new teachers are coming into the ranks with little or no true training in education and often a point and click mentality is all they have. They are bodies filling a space and pushing kids through. I have met several great teachers who have come through alternative approaches to teacher training, myself sort of although I did have a minor and major in education along the way I just never student taught. I switched my major to psychology along the way at the last minute to avoid taking a foreign language which was required for education majors at Mercer University in 1974.

I would suggest we need to instead of more new curriculums instill more adrenaline in teachers. Perhaps we could install a super energy drink machine outside of each teacher’s classroom and just prior to starting class require every teacher to get a caffeine jolt. Energy can be a very powerful thing in so many ways especially when it involves the passion for teaching. I have wandered and pondered enough for one day and will get off of my soap box for today but please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

There are always possibilities

Bird Droppings December 21, 2021
There are always possibilities

“Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” Les Brown

I was sitting talking with one of my sons yesterday, remembering when I was their age. I should say that trying to remember when I was their age would be more appropriate. I was thinking back to a day when my son and I had lunch with my mother, and as they would, they got picked on each other, and she always would enjoy the show. My oldest had recently completed his first entire semester of graduate school, and I recall one of his last semesters he was having some difficulty getting registered because his student loans had been electronically fouled up. I was trying to tell him to take each moment as it comes, deal with it and move to the next. He was upset, and as the day progressed, the lesson was learned; it seems the wording in the college catalog allowed him a “loop” hole so he could register and get started in school that semester while the paperwork of his student loan was resolved.

“It is necessary; therefore, it is possible.” G. A. Borghese

Perhaps as I get older, I find nothing is impossible when we set our minds to it. Somewhere along the line, I took a picture of my son crossing a stream, stepping rock to rock. He had fallen in playing several times, but he was still trying to maneuver across even soggy and wet, stepping rock to rock. I have used this illustration so many times and even have a picture of the stream hanging in my room at school as he does in his bedroom. So often, life is like crossing a stream, a stone at a time, and we fall in quite a bit—the ones who are successful in life climb right back up soggy and wet and keep going.

“Oh, man! There is no planet sun or star could hold you if you but knew what you are.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have come to like Emerson over the years, almost as if he wrote some lines specifically for me to use those many years ago, and they have been sitting and waiting.
I altered Emerson’s words slightly, “If we but know what we are,” and what a powerful statement. We go through life trying to understand where and who we are, and many of us spend the better part of a lifetime searching. Some will find themselves at a young age, and the rest of us, it seems like an eternity trying to know.

“Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.” Dag Hammarskjold

While not a household, Dag Hammarskjöld is the name of the former United Nations Secretary-General during some of the world’s craziest times. The Cold War was one of the most significant historical events between Russia and The United States. His statement of waiting till you attain your goal before you stop to measure is so crucial. So many of us, when we stop to look and see where we are going, become frustrated and slow down or stop altogether.

“Of course, we all have our limits, but how can you possibly find your boundaries unless you explore as far and as wide as you possibly can? I would rather fail in an attempt at something new and uncharted than safely succeed in a repeat of something I have done.” A.E. Hotchner

Each day when I was teaching. I would post a new quote on my door to offer a challenge to students, open doors, expand wisdom, stick their necks out, and go beyond where they are now. Each day, hundreds of people go by my door, and some will crane their neck to peek inside the door; some will stop and talk as I sit in my office outside my room between classes at my door. What is that thing, what do you teach, and r whose room is? Each day is an effort to open boxes and pry the lids off sealed containers of minds and thoughts.

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as a possibility!” Soren Kierkegaard

It has been many years since I heard Dr. Norman Vincent Peale speak in Macon, Georgia, in 1973 when he recognized a small church my brother attended, The Church of the Exceptional, as the National church of the year. That was over thirty-five years ago, yet his ideas are as relevant today now at this moment as I write this cold morning in Georgia.

“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or are, raise your sights and see possibilities — always see them, for they’re always there.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

A possibilitarian always sees possibilities, what an exciting thought in a day and time when we are often subjected to negative and belittling concepts and ideas. So many students quit long before they ever get a chance to succeed. We see many seniors leave high school or at least our school at this time of year due to graduation tests. They have tried numerous times, and while they will have enough credits and may even have been a B student or better cannot pass one of the five Georgia High School Graduation Tests. Many will seek enrollment in a small private school that does not adhere to the same standards and does not require State testing and will graduate in May on time only after they graduate from that school.

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” Song from, The California Special Olympics

Some time ago, I followed UCLA’s basketball program more closely than I do now, and on the team was a red-haired fellow who just happened to be 6 foot ten inches tall. He becomes a premier professional player and, in retirement, one of the great commentators of sports Mr. Bill Walton. I recall a night that the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team tied the eighty-eight-game win streak of Coach Wooden and Bill Walton’s team.

“No matter how good you get, there’s always something further out there.” Bill Walton

There is more than one aspect to all lessons and more than one possibility. It is seeking, understanding, and achieving those numerous other possibilities by never simply stopping because you made your initial goal. Now set higher goals to achieve more and better grow further and farther, always lifting continually. I was reading several small pieces this morning as I started writing. We all are givers and takers at one time or another as our lives balance out, try and balance to the giving versus the taking. You will never run out giving, but when you take soon, doors will close. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind 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

Waiting for a miracle

Bird Droppings December 17, 2021

Waiting for a miracle

I wrote this piece nearly fifteen years ago, and it still has a place in my heart. Miracle is a word used often by people of faith. It is an explanation for things that happen with no apparent cause and or rationale. We all sit waiting for miracles, perhaps waiting for that solution to show itself, and poof, all will be better. So many times, through history, events have happened that provide for the concept of miracles, and so many provide based on a lack of proof. Perhaps it is simply a matter of semantics or within a language of need. Each of us has found the bottom of the well on occasion, and a ladder has come for each time. For some, it has been a hand-built one from within the well piece by piece. For some others, they climbed out under their strength.

I recall a story of a farmer and his donkey I have seen somewhere in my readings. The farmer was so tired of the stubborn donkey that he threw it in the well and invited neighbors over to bury this mean, stubborn donkey. As the neighbors shoveled, shovel by shovel, the well was filled in. Amazingly, towards the final few shovels, a dirty donkey that had climbed a bit higher with each shovel of dirt jumped out and ran off. The farmer was left with a filled-in well and no donkey. Was that a miracle for the donkey? Perhaps we can also rationalize quick thinking and patience with the donkey, and who knows, maybe stubborn was the wrong word.

I recall a few months back when I spoke with several mothers, some by chance or synchronicity, as Jung calls it. Our washing machine died, and the repairman could not come till after the holiday, so I loaded a pile of teenage dirty laundry into my car and proceeded to wash or attempt to wash clothes at a launder mat. Since this was my second sojourn, the first thing was finding my book from the other day; I asked the woman in charge, and she immediately went to her office and pulled my book out with a note attached. “Someone left this book, and I am sure will come back for it.” The book was “Teaching from the heart” by Sarah Day Hatton. Perhaps it was a small miracle that my book was still there, or was it more a Jungian thing leading to another step another conversation.

It seems the woman who runs the Laundromat has an autistic son and when she found the book felt this was a book most people would not be reading, and it must be special to someone. We talked for nearly an hour as my clothes washed and dried, discussing how her seventeen-year-old son progressed. As I sat, another mother came in, a former student’s mother. Her washer had died as well. We talked about how her daughter was doing and progressing. Then I received a phone call on my cell phone from another mother who lost a son many years ago and is still looking and finding the pieces to her puzzle daily. As she talked about a story of a rope, scripture, devotion, and finding peace within her and others, we spoke for nearly thirty minutes. I use James Redfield’s term coincidence quite often and was corrected, not coincidences I was told. I offered then synchronicity, perhaps as Jung says, and that word was more acceptable.

Timely meaningful happenings seemingly by chance all in a short span of hours amazing how my family does not like to take me anywhere I always end up meeting people and talking. I went looking this morning for one author and stumbled on another. It has been several years since I first read Care of the soul by Thomas Moore. Moore was a monk for thirteen years. He is an avid student and learner, gaining a Ph.D. in religion, psychology and a master’s in music and philosophy. Moore is a teacher, psychotherapist, and writer. He has a unique introspection on faith and life.

What amazes me each morning as I start is so often, I am not sure where it is ending. Not necessarily a good lesson for teaching creative writing, but since I don’t do that, I am okay. I started looking for a course in miracles and several lecturers who feature miracles in their writing. As I looked on a favorite site Thomas Moore is now a featured columnist, and I looked at his place. Thinking over the past day and events, another idea emerged, and within miracles, there is a sense of belonging of community for lack of better wording and pondering. I was caught in a paragraph from Moore’s site. I highly recommend a look at his website when time allows. Within the context of miracles and the world in general, teenagers often get confused by all the horror and death. Moore addressed this in previous paragraphs and led into this thought.

“We could ask the same question about the thousands of children being killed and horribly wounded in wars across the globe. This horror exists because we have not matured enough to create a world community that genuinely serves the welfare of our children. Again, it’s a theological matter. We operate under an infantile illusion that the religions are in competition with each other, and we battle our anxious beliefs with literal weapons. We profess religions that are ninety percent ideology, full of ego, and, in the face of this pseudo-religion, create a secularist society, which by definition is incapable of genuine community.” Thomas Moore

For those interested, his website is – http://www.careofthesoul.net/index.htm

I was looking at Yahoo news today, and three of ten articles or so were religious-related, granted it is a holiday season in several different religions. One that catches my attention is a court overturning intelligent design, which some school systems and politicians are pushing. The Iranian President declares a ban on western music, clothing, ideas, morals, etc. In Bethlehem, this time of year always conflict between various denominations and religions.

As I sit thinking, the term genuine community is an interesting one. Could we even consider this? That might be construed as a miracle considering wars have been fought over religion for thousands of years. However, it is never ideology but money when you get down and dirty, but religion is easier to accept. Can we become a community each step in its place? As I talked with my friend who had lost a son and for her, the story unraveled over the years not instantaneously there was not a blinding flash of light but pieces falling in place one by one leading to that day in the Laundromat and our talk. A long-term miracle, perhaps? My miracle would be to no longer have to ask my friends to keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts that would be the miracle I seek and perhaps if we can chip away piece by piece at building community at building relationships at climbing up each shovel full of dirt up one at a time what seemingly is getting hit in the face with a shovel full of dirt could in effect be freedom and maybe even peace someday and always give thanks namaste.

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

Building Sandcastles drip by drip

Bird Droppings December 16, 2021

Building Sandcastles drip by drip

It was nearly twenty years ago when I was physically attending classes in graduate school almost every day, just before switching to Internet classes and WebCT. This took some getting used to going to school and then teaching school. I taught from 7:20 – 3:00 students who have had difficulty with a subject and then drove an hour to graduate school from 5:00 – 9:30. Going from teacher to student, my day made for an exciting schedule. It was a time of flux for me; getting used to a new computer and new administration changes in our school made life interesting.

I recall one summer session my middle son was tutoring several students who had failed chemistry during the regular school year and now had to pass in the summer session. I found it most interesting watching him working with these students. He would often help me break bridges in a physical science class I was teaching while he was helping with tutoring. In that class, we built twenty-one-inch bridges of popsicles, sticks, and white glue only, and then we would see whose bridge design could hold the most weight. It was fascinating the many different designs ranged from zero to over eighty pounds in breaking weight.

I also had a side experiment on building pyramids which involved a sandbox, and in the course of having my sandbox set up as I do for this project, I built a sandcastle, albeit a small one. I went back to teaching, and as I watched, one of my students smashed my three-inch drip castle, not because I built it, just because it was there. Later that same person smashed several of the broken bridges, and as I watched, observing simply to break them, no real reason other than that. It made me think about all that happened that day as I looked back. Some people can create new ideas and concepts for others to see and follow. My mind wandered a bit or to complete those ideas and concepts as I was thinking about the great cathedral in Barcelona that will not be completed until 2026. Sadly, among those people are others who see an idea or a concept and tear it down not because of what it is or isn’t literally without thought or reason to tear it down. In today’s news, Notre Dame cathedral is still under repair and may not be able to be repaired due to the fire. Timeless and priceless, a manmade edifice that succumbed to an accident of man. It made me think of my father and his first book, Damage Control. He was the first to approach property damage as a form of loss in industry in 1955.

Surprisingly, it saddened me to watch my tiny three-inch castle smashed not through a random wave or step or misstep by a passerby but a deliberate effort. I came back to a thought I used in class many times and wrote my droppings over the years from Kent Nerburn, who was a sculptor by education. He writes about when we are born and have a piece of marble to sculpt. Some create marvelous works of art, others drag this block behind, and some smash the marble into gravel. Last night, I sat thinking about seeing my son and his wife and our grandkids that had me reminiscing about that summer school class. It might be thinking about upcoming courses and pondering my day ahead and into this new semester a few weeks away. Sadly, students have imposed limits upon themselves only to tear down smash into gravel, never to see their work shine upon a pedestal, a finished piece of artwork. One of my students did not turn in a project I knew was complete and failed because of it. I try and figure why?

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” Thomas Jefferson

In our daily journeys, we are faced with individuals who choose only to tear down and would instead relish destruction than creation who do not understand lifting, yet we need to continue to try and show there is more to life.

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curious of inquiry. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.”  Albert Einstein

So maybe it is a miracle, as Mr. Einstein says, even for my castle destroyer to be in school for he chooses to be there, he was not forced. Who knows, maybe something will rub off, and one day I may find him sitting by a sand box thinking drizzling sand between his fingers into a drip castle instead of smashing them. So a simple thought for a simple day, and as we go about this day, during the holidays, we hear less of our friends and families in harm’s way; they are still some thousands of miles away we need to keep them in our thoughts. Sadly, politics plays into what is deemed significant for news, and far too often, that is the case. People are hurting here in the US and even here locally that we tend to bypass and pretend not to see. So please keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts, and so have a glorious day today and be sure always to give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related) Bird

A chill in the air but not in the heart

Bird Droppings December 15, 2021

A chill in the air but not in the heart

We have been at or below freezing in the early mornings for several days, which silences the crickets and tree frogs who need a slightly warmer ambient temperature, the maybe high fifties, and low sixties. So, for today, my orchestra was silent as a near freeze permeated and encompassed our back yard and today was one of the coldest of this year at the house. I keep recalling why I like Georgia. It is supposed to be warmer. Last night I watched a couple of Christmas movies, and I am looking forward to one or two more today. Walking through the house earlier today, I could not get warm; it seemed the cold was everywhere in the house. As I am sitting here writing, it dawned on me that I may have left the dampener open from a fire the night before in the chimney. However, I have found warmth in reading and pondering over the years, as I call it. I can always find the right words when I turn a page or two.

“A bizarre sensation pervades a relationship of pretense. No truth seems true. A simple morning’s greeting and response appear loaded with innuendo and fraught with implications. Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.” Maya Angelou

As I move my thinking to students and people in general, we balance our lives in a series of trust and distrust, often a teeter-totter or see-saw effect. Often we become jaded and calloused through constant distrusting, and soon we respond as Angelou indicates in a sterile manner. I will pull my old guitar out and play about once or twice a year. My fingers at first feel each string, and after a while, the pain will tear through my fingertips from the pressure of strings on flesh. Eventually, after several days I will callous my fingertips back. Rock legend has it perhaps even urban rock myth it should be called is that the late great guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn during a concert super-glued his calluses back on when his fingers began to bleed. As I read this first quote, we can become callous; we can become sterile, but much more is involved. I also sense a similar relationship to my use of the Hindustani word namaste, both a sterile hello or goodbye for some and others one of reverence and humility. It is in the eyes and ears of the receiver and the giver.

“Achievement brings its own anticlimax.” Maya Angelou

 “All great achievements require time.” Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou writes of the paradox of achievement and anticlimax. As I sit and think achievement is an attainment of a goal, and with that attainment is a realization of a new goal, a new mountain to climb perhaps it is that awareness of the anticlimax. Yes, most definitely time is always a factor.

“All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.” Maya Angelou

Maybe most men are prepared would be better, and many will still sit on their posteriors. Sitting today reading Angelou’s thoughts is a series of how-to and why’s. I have often listened to Dr. Angelo read her works or discuss topics on talk shows, and her words, while calming, are twice as meaningful listening to her speak them. There was a passion about her spirit and soul.

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Maya Angelou

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” Maya Angelou

“Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.” Maya Angelou

She was a philosopher, poet, writer, activist, educator, humanitarian, civil rights leader, and the list goes on, but always children are at the center of Angelou’s thinking and thoughts. Any book that can form a habit of reading is good. What a powerful statement in a society that would ban many books in schools and libraries? While not on the news now, periodically, we have this or, as in a nearby county once upon a time, putting disclaimer labels in science books. I often wonder how opening a book and finding a label that states what you read in this science book may or may not be true is a good way to start a science lesson.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because, without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” Maya Angelou

“Education helps one case cease being intimidated by strange situations.” Maya Angelou

Two words that seem to permeate Dr. Angelou’s writing are courage and education. These two words are constantly mentioned, described, and eluded to. Perhaps the explanation is in the first of the two statements above, “without courage, and you cannot practice any other virtue.” As I ponder, education requires courage. It is that willingness to achieve to go beyond where you are, and it requires first courage to make that effort and then education to do it.

“I believe that every person is born with talent.” Maya Angelou

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.” Maya Angelou

As I saw this, I thought of two individuals far apart historically and in many ways yet similar, George Washington Carver and Bill Gates. Through vision and fantasy, both men transformed our realities possibly beyond the actual dreams they originally had.  My morning would be different if not for these two men. Many of the items used in the kitchen reflect ideas from Dr. Carver, and my laptop computer and internet use are directly related to Mr. Gates.

“If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” Maya Angelou

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Maya Angelou

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” Maya Angelou

We are the beginning and the end of the circle. How we live and interact with others continues and perpetuates the circle. I have never understood why this is so hard for people in general to understand. We seem to be having greed as a human trait. How sad that is to assume man is greedy by nature inherently. Animals only keep what they need for survival. Man is the only creature that hordes and amasses wealth.

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.” Maya Angelou

Caring and concern begin at home and then spread out from there. It is not about the face you put on when you need to but that you genuinely carry in your heart and live and breathe daily. I enjoy Dr. Maya Angelou’s words, and I have watched her on TV and read her books in my library a few times. She is a person of concern and of caring. She is trying to do her part in her corner of the world for all of humanity. It is for us to try and do likewise where we are in the world.

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” Maya Angelou

So I end another morning as I have now for some time till everyone listens to Dr. Angelou’s thoughts that ring in my heart today. Let me repeat this last quote one more time.

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” Maya Angelou

It brings tears to my eyes as I sit, knowing I need to continue ending my daily meanderings as I have for so many years; please keep all in harm’s way on your mind 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

Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

Bird Droppings December 14, 2021

Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

In all of my years of searching, pondering, and wandering about, the pathway always continues ahead of me. I am often stepping from one stone to another to get across the stream, placing one foot ahead of the next, trying to stay out of the water. I think I have always tried to leave that stone in life, as I wander a little better than when I got there. It does not always work out, but I do believe I try. When I am walking down the aisle at Kroger, I am always trying to smile, joke with others, hopefully get others smiling and joking, and enjoy that precise moment of life. We equate time in seconds, and that is only the blink of an eye and so easy to miss.

“None of us is promised tomorrow. Today in all its beauty and sadness and complexity, is all we have. This light we see maybe the last such day we have on this earth. There is no certainty, beyond the fact that one day we will have no tomorrow and that it is not ours to know when that day will be.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

Just before school was out last spring, I had to report an incident told to me by a student. It is difficult to when spoken in confidence, yet the situation was severe enough to warrant reporting. In my same conversation with this student, I was asked if my children ever got in trouble, and I said no, although tongue in cheek. The student responded, “They have never run away or sneaked out or….” I again said no. Immediately I asked instinctively if both parents lived at home. The hesitant response came, “no, I live with my mom,” “but I don’t misbehave for my dad,” and so forth. It comes to be the incident was not a one-time deal; it is a regular occurrence, and as I talk with parents and students, I find my life is not the “NORMAL.” It seems normal is having kids who are in trouble, causing problems yelling at their parents, etc. It seems parents are hitting their kids drinking with and such that is what society seems to deem as normal. Philosopher Michael Foucault would use the idea of looking at abnormal first to determine normal.

“On life’s journey, faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day, and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

I woke up from a vivid dream while getting my hair cut a few days back, and I never fell asleep while getting my hair cut. Just as the hair was being brushed away from my neck, I looked up at a clock on the wall; it was 2:30, and I had to get going. But as I am thinking back to my dream, my dreams are generally simple ones with complexities woven in and throughout as I thought back nearly twenty years to my starting back to graduate school. In preparing for my final presentation in my master’s program, my advisor continually used the word “weave.” Our project was about weaving all the pieces together. At one point of my thinking, I would produce two covers and weave them together in a symbolic gesture indicative of my professor’s thought. Life is weaving in reality as I look at each aspect intertwined with the next. It could be that child growing up in the context of arguing and issues at home finds that is normal and yet asks what it would be like to live in my family where that doesn’t exist. I smile and joke and offer solace for the moment I have with that student, not to change the pattern of weaving but to offer stronger thread or a tighter warp to the pattern. I think of my grandkids as they each are traveling in life. How do they see events unfolding and changing around them?

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, 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

Nearly twenty years back, I first wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome and how, as a teacher, I had eight hours to undo the sixteen hours parents and family have to deal with a child. Mathematically it doesn’t work, and logically it doesn’t work, and some parents do not want it to work; they have chosen the direction for their children, and that is that.  It often seems futile as a teacher to even try and make a difference knowing what some children go home to. Jokingly two boys sitting in a physics class said to me they were waiting for antique farm equipment to move so they could do the lab. I was taken back a minute and said, what? They looked over at the lab counter, and six black kids were working in the lab. I responded as I often do sarcastically; first, it bothers me that you both have that kind of attitude but since I know the grades of all six and yours using that as an excuse only proves how ignorant you are. Neither responded, and they know where I stand on the subject.

“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

Most recently, I had a former student ask me about absolute truths. I responded and had a response from a dear friend, and so forth dialogue, and the context was a positive one as we shared ideas and thoughts. Again just a few days before that, I reported an incident that had happened to a student and was told that it was ok; it was discussed. Sadly, that child went home thinking this is how life is. It simply is ok. Normal parents and kids yell at each other, hit each other, and throw things at each other; it is ok.

“We dribble away our life, little by little, in small packages — we don’t throw it away all at once.” Robert A. Cook

“Life is a succession of lessons enforced by immediate reward, or, oftener, by immediate chastisement.” Ernest Dimnet

B.F. Skinner, the man behind the concept of behavior modification, once said he could change anything and anyone through behavior modification. Who knows, maybe he is right; perhaps if we continue picking away and smiling and joking and living life as un-normal as it may be, some others will catch on. Who knows, maybe just maybe when tomorrow comes, that child who was asking about have my children ever run away will be asking how much they study each night instead or what books they have read or what college are they going to.

“Every morning, I wake up saying, I’m still alive; a miracle. And so, I keep on pushing.” Jacques Cousteau

I have a teacher friend, a breast cancer survivor, who said something very similar to me. For her, “each day is a blessing to make the most of.” How profound and almost understated it is, amazingly her students love her. She honestly cares about them, and they know it. A simple attitude goes very far when wielded in honesty and good faith.

“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

Many years ago, I raised buffalo, and as I would walk out each morning into the dark, I would hear an occasional snort and blow of air from our bull as he checked the cows and calves walking about in the morning haze. I knew life then and even today as I walk out and greet the morning through different sounds living in a subdivision, but still, I can hear if I listen hard that faint echo of a buffalo snorting in the fog as it drifts in. Life is what we choose to make it, and how we weave or step into the day is our choice. In teaching, I emphasize setting the example, and I have hanging on one of the walls in my room at school a poster from my hippie days 1971 or so. Of course, it is a blacklight poster. The poster’s title is “Children learn, what they Live,” and it goes on. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and set the example in your own life for others to see and follow and be sure always to give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

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How we perceive is often the beginning of the discussion

Bird Droppings December 13, 2021
How we perceive is often the beginning of the discussion

A dear friend brought up a conversation with a flat earth believer the other day. This person he had been talking with essentially disavowed science in many areas. My son offered Mars is visibly round from a telescope and or, for that matter, any other visible planet? Exciting and, as usual, religion can easily pop into the discussion. I raised the question in line with a Literature lesson some students had been working on dealing with fiction. I asked is history fiction and or nonfiction. Most students said it is nonfiction, and two said it could be either it depends on who was looking at the event.

“I love a people who have always made me welcome to the best that they had. I love a people who are honest without laws, who have no jails and no poorhouses. I love a people who keep the commandments without having ever read them or heard them preached from the pulpit.” George Catlin (1796-1872), Artist and Chronicler

“People only see what they are prepared to see.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can remember growing up seeing the fascinating prints of George Catlin’s paintings of American Indians throughout the US. Many of his images are all we have of tribes that were decimated through disease and slaughtered by white soldiers in later years. Catlin saw different people than did most. So often, we all tend to misuse our perceptions, and we see only what we want to see and not what is there. Perhaps it becomes difficult to tell the difference as we tend to push our ideas on others.

“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries, we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.” Richard Dawkins, Evolutionary Biologist

This is an interesting outlook from one of the world’s leading biologists. It still becomes how we each see this fantastic world. Some will go at life seeing how much they can squeeze from the earth, much like an orange being put through a juicer. Others see as Dawkins does “a sumptuous planet sparkling with color.” Many of the authors that reflect on Native thought look at the interconnections and how they are so critical to our continued existence.

“I know that our people possessed remarkable powers of concentration and abstraction. I sometimes fancy that such nearness to nature as I have described keeps the spirit sensitive to impressions not commonly felt and in touch with unseen powers.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Eastman, Santee Dakota, Medical doctor, and author

In the movie Wounded Knee, Dr. Eastman is depicted being trained as a physician in the late 1800’s one of the first Indians to go through medical school. Dr. Eastman was the attending physician to the survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre. His views were conflicted by his immersion in the white culture, and yet as he grew away from this, his writing tried to show the other side, the Indian side. Yesterday I was sitting in my co-teaching class of ninth-grade biology. We were going over the idea of various forms of evolution. The lead teacher flashed an image on the wall, one of an owl sitting in a tree, and I listened to the multiple comments from the group as to what they saw. Ideas varied and often would be more about color or shape that they were reminded of. It became evident to me that as we talked, it became apparent that our ideas come primarily from our experiences. Even the class teacher, a seasoned teacher with limited experience, was limited in what she was adding to the talk.

I saw a duality as I viewed the picture of an owl. Using native thought in which from tribe to tribe, owls are viewed differently. My dear friend, who is Creek, believed owls to be a harbinger of death. Other friends from western tribes see the owl as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. So, in my thinking, I see wisdom and fear as parallels running along together, never quite touching but also flowing in a symmetrical pattern that ties the two together.

“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castaneda

Being a fan of Carlos Castaneda, even though controversy surrounds his writing, I recall several stories in his books of various times when his mentor kept after him to look deeper, not just what was presented. He might be seeing an owl sitting on a post, but what Don Juan, his guide, would say would be to look into the owl beyond the owl what is there that is meant for you to understand. As my friend feared owls, I came to embrace the calls at night, often calling back to the great horned owls that would nearly surround me in the early morning hours, calling to each other and me.

“All civilization in a sense exists only in the mind. Gunpowder, textile arts, machinery, laws; telephones are not themselves transmitted from man to man or from generation to generation, at least not permanently. It is the perception, the knowledge, and understanding of them, their ideas in the Platonic sense, that are passed along. Everything social can have existence only through mentality.” Alfred L. Kroeber, The Superorganic

Profound thought, and as I ponder this morning, perhaps the novel of a group of young boys marooned on an island comes to mind. All civilized idea seems to pass away, and instinctual and survival modes kicked into gear. It is the thinking processes that are passed on. As I watch students in school, one comes to school already reading, and one is not even ready to read, and when you look to the family, each child came from you see one where education is a key and the other where it is mandated. I talked with an assistant principal at one of the local high schools recently about just this thought. We, teachers, are often considered the bringers of education, morality, normalcy, commonality, and who knows what else when we only have one-third of a day for less than two hundred days a year. It is that sixteen-hour syndrome of another perception that so often dislodges any attempt at helping a child find a way in life and then carries into school, especially in older years. In twenty years of teaching in high schools and working with emotional issues. I have yet to find a student who did not have some contributing factor from home.

“There is, perhaps, one universal truth about all forms of human cognition: the ability to deal with knowledge is hugely exceeded by the potential knowledge contained in man’s environment. To cope with this diversity, man’s perception, his memory, and his thought processes early become governed by strategies for protecting his limited capacities from the confusion of overloading. We tend to perceive things schematically, for example, rather than in detail, or we represent a class of diverse things by some sort of averaged “typical instance.” Jerome S. Bruner, Art as a Mode of Knowing

As I reread this thought from Bruner, it makes more sense we tend to, after several experiences, establish a mean and mode of experiences and then treat each new experience based upon the average. Rather than embracing a unique experience, we take it as what has happened previously, and soon you find students saying I am bored. We, as teachers, have not expanded our students’ perceptions to see the presented details. In a hurry to teach and get through a specific amount of material in a given time, we too form averages and then teach to standards, and soon a world full of simply standards exists, and there is no longer a bell-shaped curve, but we are flatlined.

“Every man feels that perception gives him an invincible belief of the existence of that which he perceives; and that this belief is not the effect of reasoning, but the immediate consequence of perception. When philosophers have wearied themselves and their readers with their speculations upon this subject, they can neither strengthen this belief nor weaken it nor can they show how it is produced. It puts the philosopher and the peasant upon a level, and neither of them can give any other reason for believing his senses, then that he finds it impossible for him to do otherwise.” Thomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man

Sadly, as I finish my journal for today, this statement is true. We all tend to so strongly believe in our perceptions we disavow the possibility of any other even when we know it is so. But our perceptions are based only on the experiences previously held. If averages limit those as in the paragraph above, then rather than “a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life,” as Richard Dawkins so eloquently describes, we have just a bland façade that never changes and never goes anywhere. I wish for each of you to exceed the mean and mode of what you presume to be your perceptions and, for a day or two, try and see more and hear more and do more. As I end my daily sojourn as I have for nearly twenty-one years now, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

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Teaching as improvisational art using learning as the pallet

Bird Droppings December 12, 2021

Teaching as improvisational art using learning as the pallet

I wrote the basics of this article nearly sixteen years ago and thought of an artist friend, now a computer programmer, trying to define her art and searching for her meaning in life. My friend often reflected her political views and emotions through her art. A few years ago, my family had a family game night at the request of one of my nephews and his wife, inviting us all over to play various board games, computer games, and eat. Eating is an integral part of all family gatherings and perhaps a socializing aspect that gets overlooked far too often. Maybe one day I will write on the socializing aspects of a family get-together and the intertwining of food. But a Trivial Pursuit question I did not know the answer to caught my attention. “What Impressionist painter started an art community before committing suicide?”

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others” Vincent Van Gogh

By chance, the answer was Van Gogh. When I first read this, I started to think about an ear coming in a box and how unromantic that is. Perhaps sending body parts while you are alive is an art form. But trying not to be sarcastic, many aspects of our lives could be construed as an art form, such as love, teaching, and caring. Each goes beyond a simple definition. Within each are pieces that you do not learn in class. I am sure if Vincent Van Gogh showed a picture he drew or painted during one of his manic spells, the art teacher would have told him to take art lessons. Today those same paintings are considered classics of impressionism. I am sure Picasso was laughed at somewhere along the line for drawing women in cube form or simply as a splash of color upon his canvas.

What defines an art form versus simply reality? I would not pay millions to have a Picasso or Van Gogh even if I had the money lying around. Perhaps I would prefer to see and experience rather than to own. Those who pay millions are often more about the publicity than the art.

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.” William Faulkner

Defining the moment in words, paint, or sculpture, perhaps even a bit of broken glass, is art. In a tiny chapel outside Atlanta, I saw a stained glass window many years ago created by a renowned artist, an elderly Trappist monk from Conyers. This was his last work at the age of ninety-two. The brilliant abstracts in the windows were in reds and purple, depicting the Christian sacraments. The windows were alive as you sat in the chapel, bathed in the brilliant light from the windows.

“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.” Henry James

I was thinking about Faulkner’s idea of art how we can take a piece of life and preserve it. Artists are taxidermists, each working within their medium. Is love simply that special moment carried further to remind what once was? Could teaching be a passing of pieces of reality to another who will have those pieces at some point in time? Even in the painting of Van Gogh is his art just the capturing of an image. Interesting how we do so quickly now with digital cameras, scanners, and computers. Even in my photography playing with color and movement as I capture images.

“Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.” James Joyce

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” John F. Kennedy

“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose because before he can do so, he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” Henri Matisse

Nearly ten years ago, Mel Brooks was honored at the Kennedy Art Center for his contributions. I found myself drawn to these writers’ quotes today, especially as I read this statement by Henry Matisse. There is a secret hidden within Matisse’s words for all art forms. Our history and previous experiences so often limit us, be it love or an art form, for Matisse then each love, each new piece of art should be fresh. Each should be special. In trying to categorize and synthesize, we lose the true essence and aspect of love and art. When we try to define and label the box of love, do we lose pieces as we can in art? Teaching is in a very similar situation. Teachers often try and teach each lesson as they taught the last. First, you have to forget all the classes that were ever taught, a difficult task for any teacher.

“If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.” Grandma Moses

“Often while reading a book, one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person as if he were painting what he is saying because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and colors.” Pablo Picasso

Nearly ten years ago, a student brought in several dozen photos she and her sister had taken of each other. One of the photos caught my eye, and neither of the girls saw any significance, as do very few others when I see things in photos. But for me, that one photo caught the student’s personality, and I put it on my wall in my classroom. That is art for me. Recently one of the sisters came by to visit and noticed the picture was still there and how much that meant to her. Where and how does it become art for everyone? How does teaching become energized to the point that it is art?

It has been some time since I wrote a rather long email to a dear friend who is a pastor in Pennsylvania. I used the word empathy several times. An artist in whatever medium they choose has to have empathy, and a pastor is an artist dealing with the spirituality of parishioners and so much more. As I researched art, many paradoxes seemed to crop up even within the definition.

“A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.” “A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer. “Dictionaery.com

Art is nonscientific, yet it is also definite in other ways. I find art perhaps more scientific than science. Interestingly, we attach theory to reality in art, and in science, we try to connect reality to theory. Teaching in and of itself is taking reality and attaching theory to it. We have a block of information that, by various means, we have to interpret to a student, and hopefully, they will come close to what we are trying to teach. For several days I have been discussing or mentioning symbols and recognizing symbols as to how we understand our reality. It is through symbols we convey information about reality.

“To impart knowledge” Dictionary.com

“Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. An artist recreates those aspects of reality which represent his fundamental view of man’s nature.” Ayn Rand

I was thinking back several years to a teacher searching the closet for teacher’s manuals and transparencies to teach a subject they had taught for forty years. I was a bit taken back. How do you teach a subject for forty years and now get stressed over a manual and transparencies? You should know the material, and it should not be the same for every class. The delivery of the material is the critical issue here. I was curious as I watched and observed the mounting stress for this teacher as no teacher’s manual and transparencies could be found. Fortunately for the students, their regular teacher made it back in time.

“There has to be one how did anyone teach this class before me.” A former teacher

That same week I watched a teacher take the same subject and walk into class dressed as a knight, maybe it was a goat herder, with literally a virtual reality game. This was in a history class, and it came alive. The teacher divided the room, and each team was given various attributes such as being near water, having fertile soil, possessing seeds or goats, etc. One group was assigned a gold mine and nothing else. There was a bit of reflection and thinking for the students. Then the essential question was asked, how are you going to develop your civilization? I am curious which group learned more about the start of world civilization, from the forty-year experienced teacher or the lowly goat herder. Art is an interpretation. In teaching, we often interpret ideas and events. It also allows the student to analyze and learn from that thinking process.

“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Augusto Rodin

“Inside you, there’s an artist you don’t know about. He’s not interested in how things look different in moonlight.” Jahal-Uddin Rumi

“Not even the visionary or mystical experience ever lasts very long. It is for art to capture that experience, to offer it to, in the case of literature, its readers; to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.” Salman Rushdie

We each can be artists in our field, and perhaps empathy is the key. It is being able to reach that inner spark in others so they can feel what you feel, what you see and hear, and understand what it was that inspired you.

“Great art is never produced for its own sake. It is too difficult to be worth the effort.” George Bernard Shaw

“What distinguishes a great artist from a weak one is first their sensibility and tenderness; second, their imagination, and third, their industry.” John Ruskin

Perhaps Ruskin has defined what constitutes a great artist, be it in whatever medium or pallet you choose. I wish we could as quickly declare peace throughout the world. I wonder if we can bottle and sell empathy, then maybe peace could be a reality. I worked in my herb garden yesterday, trimming dead branches and stems. I watched the sky and the afternoon sun setting, and I was listening to the quiet of my backyard walking about. This was very soothing. I wonder, can growing herbs be considered an art form? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart and always give thanks namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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