Wondering is a powerful tool

Bird Droppings June 13, 2022
Wondering is a powerful tool

Several years back, during the school year, we started a school-wide vocabulary of the week. I was reminded of this as I looked through my various files for quotes. About six years ago, as the day wound down, an email from the head of the English Department featured our vocabulary words of the week. The email asked each teacher to feature and have a featured word. The word for the next week was to be diligent, an adjective that means showing care in doing one’s work. I had a photo I took the first day or so of school of one of the teachers across the hall from me talking with a student. I knew there was a use for that photo, and it became the background for the word of the week poster. Conveniently the teacher is an English teacher as well. I am sitting in the morning’s wee hours, thinking back to my first word of the week poster in near darkness, wondering about today and my word of the week here at home this summer.

“He who wonders discovers that this in itself is a wonder.” M. C. Escher

I first became aware of artist M.C. Escher in the early 1970s. As a side note for those unfamiliar with Escher, he would use forms and geometric shapes to create his pictures. Many would-be woodblock prints often took the form of a puzzle-like maze. One I remember is a series of lizard-like creatures that begin to change into birds as they pass the midpoint of the picture. He was a man who was in awe of awe.

“It is the unseen and the spiritual in people that determines the outward and the actual.” Thomas Carlyle

Perhaps as Carlyle points out, it is that aspect of our nature we do not reveal that is more in control than what we think. Coming from a psychological background and working in settings where these aspects are integral to what might transpire in a day, I have come to find there is fragileness, a gossamer, delicate layer that makes us tick, and yet there within that fragility is our strength as well.

“To know what people think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

I recall as we listen to our politicians who pass laws that they are immune to. So often, for politicians, the rhetoric that elects has little meaning once elected. I am always amazed at how we cut taxes and increase spending and wonder why you are in profound deficits and going deeper. However, in reality, it seems that all people, in general, seem to be politicians as we go through life.

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

We all are selfish creatures and may occasionally try to alter that behavior and focus on others but deep down unless we find something in that effort, we seem to turn back. I was being cynical this morning as I am getting up at the beginning of the week and did not start that way today. I was reading several pieces by Skinner this morning, one of which has always bothered me even though we have ethics guidelines as teachers. 

“Give me a child, and I’ll shape him into anything.” B. F. Skinner

During the early 1970s, as I received my undergraduate degree in psychology, Skinner was a mainstay of my thinking about behavior modification. I ran many rats through Skinner boxes. Press the lever and receive a food pellet. Skinner firmly believed all behavior could be controlled, manipulated, and repackaged. I have learned much, if only one thing, over the years. There is a bit more to it. If Skinner were correct and in the wrong hands, there would be little to be in awe of. There would be little wonderment left, but that aspect is where behaviorism hits a wall. We can point to control and manipulate behaviors. We can change behaviors. We can alter, negate, and extinguish behaviors. But somewhere deep within, there is a spark, as Carlyle says. There is that unseen part of us that is outside that reinforcement of desired behaviors.

“Just as a flower that seems beautiful and has color but no perfume, so are the fruitless words of a man who speaks to them but does them not.” John Dewey

“Don’t you believe that there is in man a deep so profound as to be hidden even to him in whom it is?” St. Augustine

As I read this morning and searched for answers yet to be known, I find we all are searching for each other. We each were trying to find that elusive aspect unseen, that hidden portion as we journey and trod the pathways of life. There are answers, and simply sharing answers would be like cheating, but providing lesson guides to help others find answers that perhaps would be different. So, with a day ahead, a new journey to go. Take a step forward, one before the other. As you walk, look at what a person does more than what they say. I do believe that there is more to man than simply what is there and seek to find answers, keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and mind, 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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