Can we use the word sacred truthfully?

Bird Droppings July 19, 2022
Can we use the word sacred truthfully?

“Teachers who do not take their own education seriously, who do not study, who make little effort to keep abreast of events have no moral authority to coordinate the activities of the classroom.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom

I have been a student and learner for some time, and I would like to say I am a teacher at times, sharing pieces of what I have experienced over my seventy-two-plus years of existence. For me, it is more about sharing those pieces than using the word instruction. I always conceive of instruction involving step-by-step directions and pieces to glue together with what we used to call airplane glue. My life has been one of numerous pathways and trails leading to where I am now—sitting writing about education and about living a life trying to maximize each breath and overturned pebble. I find it amusing as I talk with teachers. Those turnover rocks as they search for new creatures seem to be some of the best teachers. I admire those who are constantly looking and learning.

“Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.” Chief Seattle, 1854

These few words are a portion of the surrender speech of Chief Seattle in 1854, as translated by Dr. Henry Smith from a column in the Seattle Sunday, October 29, 1887. So realistically, on a cloudy morning, what is sacred? It sounds like a silly question, but for some it is the sacraments of the Church, and for others, the Holy Bible, Qumran, or Torah. Throughout the world, we could find Saturdays or Mondays or numerous differing holy days that people would objectify their beliefs. Native Peoples were perhaps too simplistic in their search for the concept of sacred. William Edelen, author, and former pastor titled one of his books, In Search of the Mystery. I was reading emails earlier today, and a good friend from many years back wrote about easing environmental laws for corporations and how a thimble full of mercury could contaminate all the fish in the lake. The lessening of restrictions on mercury by chance in chemical processing in the industry will release tons into our environment, all because someone needs to make another buck. In the last administration, the head of EPA and four or five Supreme Court Justices worked for the same chemical company and have been involved in favorable legislation for that company.

“Teaching, like any human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subjects, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to teach
Teaching for Palmer is sacred as we impact as teachers’ children who are learning as we speak in just watching us as teachers. It is hard not to tie back to a mini-history lesson as the first settlers wanted to buy land, and the indigenous people said it was not for sale and was sacred only to be used as needed and not exploited. The legend has it that we civilized people will destroy all animals and plants and one day be gone when it is of no use to us anymore, and the buffalo and deer will come from hiding, and the trees will return, and then “the people” can return home.

We all look at life around us from differing perspectives, some seeing a large tree as firewood, others a wondrous living thing to share with grandchildren. Yesterday for the second day in a row, a hawk circled, screaming as it flew in circles. On a previous Sunday, my wife, granddaughter, son, and I first heard this hawk as it circled a great sycamore tree near the house. We have had a pair of red-tailed hawks hunting around our house for as many years as we have lived here. When we first moved in, they were doing a mating flight over our house, circling and diving together. My first impulse was one of the hawks had died. I searched yesterday around the sycamore tree and found nothing. The great hawk flew circles over the pines next to our house again, screaming continuously. I stood in silence, watching the circle follow the wind updraft and then drop again only to rise to scream every minute or so.

Perhaps some teachers might not need to go to work on some days as I thought back to my reading of Parker Palmer’s book. The idea of a mirror image of an inward look ties in with ideas of my idea of trust, of building a comfort zone with students, and then as I look beyond teaching, is this not true for every aspect of our lives, teacher or not. Should we each not be going further than simple existence? Palmer describes the process as coming from within, untangling convolutions, and touching the soul. The word project is used, and indeed we project our inner selves as we walk through life? Dr. Laura Nolte states, “children learn what they live.” Are we comfortable with who we are and where we are?

Daily I will find people who are seeking answers. Sometimes simple questions, other times more perplexing and profound, are asked of me. This process of looking for answers builds who we are and develops what I call sacred for us. This process of inquiring adds to our ability to deal with and go beyond daily issues. It is taking what seemingly is defeat and turning that into victory.

“It goes on one at a time; it starts when you care to act; it starts when you do it again after they said no, it starts when you say we and know who you mean, and each day you mean more.” Marge Piercy, The low road

I recall a trip to a plant nursery the other day, perhaps one of my favorites in the area. They specialize in native plants and herbs, landscaping plants, and traditional garden varieties. They were going out of business not because they do not believe in what they do and enjoy it but because plants, like so many aspects of farming, prices have been relatively stable for thirty years, and the cost of living has not. Another landscaping business closed its retail outlet a few years back, but I recall just outside their office was a boulder with a hole drilled and a fountain bubbling out of the hole. This package was one thousand five hundred and fifty dollars installed. Next to the price is what constitutes the fountain, two hundred fifty pounds of river rock, two hundred pounds of colored crushed lava rock, a drilled boulder which had to be near a ton, a pond liner, ten landscape timbers, 1000 pounds crushed granite and a pump kit. It took numerous pieces to make a whole.

I was amazed by the simple fountain and how peaceful it was; water bubbling out of a rock and flowing over into the river stones was a whole that was the sum of its parts. It was just rock without a pump kit to push the water and create a fountain. You could say without the boulder; it would have been only a bubbling of water in a pile of rocks. I have found each of us is similar. We are pieces of a whole and inside a driving force as Palmer uses the word soul and heart interchangeably in his book, and it is here we determine sacred for ourselves. If that pump stops working on that simple fountain, all effect is gone; we need maintenance on our heart and not just our physical heart, but that of our emotional heart so that that fountain flows and the entire package has meaning as we go out in our days. So dear friends, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your hearts 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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