Finding the right spot for the puzzle pieces

Bird Droppings August 16, 2022

Finding the right spot for the puzzle pieces

“In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you but also directly beneath your feet or in a drop of water.” Genjo Koan

When we look too hard, we miss what we try to find. Contained within a drop of water, there is an entire universe. Sometimes we want to have things to be simply round or square, and yet infinity abounds. A few days ago, I spoke with several teachers discussing why students acted and behaved as they do. In a recent presentation on a chapter from a book on behavior management and treatments, the last paragraph of the chapter summed up quite a bit, and so often, we look everywhere else, and the answer is right beneath our feet.

“The absence of evidence to support medication as a viable alternative should lead future researchers and clinicians to further explore parenting strategies that facilitate the development of better sleep habits.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards

As we do so often, we look for excuses and medical, physical, and emotional reasons for sleep disorders in children. Yet, with behaviors at school, we blame classroom activity, teachers, planning, books, and or administration. What always amazes me is that the sixteen-hour syndrome is never discussed; we never tend to see where the issue lays, parenting strategies, and all the overt issues that children contend with as they leave school. I often wonder why we cannot accept the blame as parents or why we want an excuse in any aspect of life.

“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do –or don’t do.” Simone De Beauvoir, French Existentialist, Writer, and Social Essayist 1908-1986

I was ready to write down how the great Simone was a heroic figure in Bolivia, a crucial part of South American history. Yet, this person was a philosopher from France and an understudy to Sartre.

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” Frank A. Clark

It is so funny how we have most of the world’s ADHD children in the United States. It is funny that as we became so mobile, our family structure somewhat altered that number increased as well. Another interesting point is that during the 1980-90s, ADHD increased rapidly, almost in epidemic proportions, over nine hundred percent. It is so funny how we began seeing this issue when it got on our nerves as parents and teachers and took our time. As an older person, I was thinking about my history and where ADHD was when I was a child.

“The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow

We try and look at the whole and miss pieces, or sometimes we look so intently at a piece we miss the whole. This is a paradox of sorts. I’m not too fond of jig saw puzzles, yet I am fascinated by them, and often I use the comparison to those same jigs saw puzzles for life in general. Life is like a myriad puzzle, millions of intricate pieces falling into place one at a time, each more intricate than the next. Sometimes we see a piece and, for days, focus on each minute detail, each little facet, and each little color speck of white or red, and the details overwhelm us. We quickly lose sight of the whole picture, the vast array of life in front of us forming over a minute tiny aspect.

“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence then this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Excellent as I pulled Emerson in, how a poet has pieces for today a hundred years ago. As parents and teachers, we try valiantly to cast our being into a child to see ourselves living again. Maybe that is why we focus on a piece for so long.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than raising the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States

As I think of Dr. Koop, it is so much more so for adding the warning on cigarettes than his philosophy that most people remember him. I think I recall my dad’s story of how he also prayed by the bedside of my younger brother many years ago at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, where he was Chief Surgeon. He is a fascinating man and a great doctor.

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Dr. Michael Levine, professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology at The University of California

As I write today, I find who these people are as I am looking at parenting as it is interesting what they say. Dr. Koop told my father as he sat with him one evening, discussing with my brother how parents of critically ill children differed from many others. They talked about how faith was an aspect of their lives, and trust was a critical piece of their puzzle in dealing with their children’s issues.

“The word no carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say yes.” Joyce Maynard

“Do not educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up, they know the value of things, not the price. “Santosh Kumar

On many mornings I am not sure where I am going with a thought, and I know I wander about here and there. I wonder what as well I am trying to say as I start, and many times midway, I still am wondering. Joyce Maynard’s statement may be where I was going in the last page or two, looking and building to this. Whether a parent, teacher, or friend, this applies as I look back to my starting quote from nearly 1000 years ago written by Dogen, a Zen master, and told to his student. Back then, a koan was a question to answer a puzzle piece in a person’s life. A Genjo Koan is an essential question, a question that entails and involves life itself. A former student posted a status update with the line from Santosh Kumar a few moments ago. In trying to track down the unnamed quote, I found Santosh Kumar. On Facebook, a massive following for a young philosopher, and then I found the name is much like John Smith with thousands of internet hits. So perhaps this young fellow did not spout these words, but they are good ones and worth repeating.

“When fish go through water, there is no end to the water no matter how far they go. When birds fly in the sky, there is no end to the sky, no matter how far they fly. But neither fish nor birds have been separated from the water or sky – from the very beginning. It is only this: when a great need arises, a great use arises; when there is little need, there is little use. Therefore, they realize full function in each thing and free ability according to each place. “Dogan, 1243

As I sat this morning, thinking and writing, so many ideas flowed listening to teachers yesterday express concern and questions hearing parents gathered around their SUVs trying to solve world issues and who was wearing what and what was the latest gossip. It is so easy to be sarcastic. Children are our greatest future commodity, and we should not waste them. As Dogan said about fish, when parenting, there is no end as long as you are a parent. When a teacher, there is no end as you are teaching. When I say you are placing pieces in the puzzle, it is not a whole as you focus and look at a piece in your hand. We all have work as parents, teachers, friends, as a child, or students. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and heart, and always give thanks to Namaste.

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

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related)


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