Bird Droppings September 2. 2022
A beginning from an end
“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with, we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Albert Einstein
The recent weather reminded me of a few years ago; nightly summer storms had come through, and our granddaughter had slept through them. Our dog is another story of waking up at the first crack of thunder. About fifteen years back, a friend dropped by for a few days. This was the first time he had been back in this area for nearly three years. The idea of teaching as an art form in our course of topics as we talked late into the evening on two nights. We talked about views on life and how so often I have, on occasion, seen things others have not. Wandering around as I do to look for pictures, often images others would pass up. In one of our discussions over breakfast, we talked about intuition and empathy as crucial aspects of being a good teacher.
Another topic was how so often in life, we tend to view daily happenings as mundane, yet miracles are happening in that moment of the mundane. In our backyard, we have, since we moved here, put in numerous flower beds; in one bed, we have several ferns along with angel trumpet plants and several other flowering shrubs. However, one bed is unique; nearly every flower attracts hummingbirds. Coincidentally we planted petunias last year around the edge, and I was pulling dead flowers off when I heard a loud humming buzzing sound. I was being dive-bombed by a hummingbird. My wife had me place a hummingbird feeder in the tree, which centers the bed. The hummingbird food was constantly getting gone, and I had just refilled it; it has become one of my jobs to keep feeders filled come summertime. It will not be long until they are back from Mexico, and as I look up, hearing the buzzing, I will see hummingbirds feeding directly beside me, and who knows, maybe this year I will get a good picture.
When I sit each morning and write about fireflies dancing across the edge of my world in my backyard or whippoorwills echoing through the dawn and dusk, it recognizes the mundane in life. Should I not be hearing they will still be calling, and should I not be watching the fireflies will still light the night? My view is still limited by darkness, my vision, and my perception. I try and instill in my students to look past images everyone else sees and try and find that which is yours. I am saddened when a great idea and creative mind are silenced by peer pressure.
“The individual has always struggled to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Friedrich Nietzsche
For someone a thousand miles away, it is only words that I write, yet I see it and experience it, and yet for someone here nearby, unless they are willing to rise at 3:00 AM, they too will not see or hear what I see and hear. So, in effect, a writer offers glimpses of another experience, another world, to those willing to read. I offered as my friend and I talked; it is about renewing our perception and sharpening our senses to see, hear and feel more than we do today.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein
Many considered Einstein an atheist for his often blunt statements about religion. Yet, if you read many of his nonscientific statements, they have a spiritual aspect. He was an artist and a philosopher as well. Today is a day unlike most other days I have experienced with my friend talking about many old thoughts and memories that we discussed years ago. Sitting and reminiscing about his days in seminary and choosing to go back to teaching and how that impacted his life. There is an end and a beginning to every journey, and at one point, I even asked him if he was in the right place now. Without blinking an eye, he responded he was never happier and knew this was where he was meant to be now in his life journey as I know I am where I am to be.
“We do not chart and measure the vast field of nature or express her wonders in the terms of science; on the contrary, we see miracles on every hand – the miracle of life in seed and egg, the miracle of death in a lightening flash and the swelling deep.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Eastman, Santee Sioux
Perhaps one day, I can sit idle as I started thinking a few moments ago and rock on my front porch, but not today. For now, I crave that thought process, questioning, and curiosity about learning and teaching. Whenever I drive through Kentucky, I cannot help but think of Daniel Boone finding his way in for him a wilderness, and yet for Native Americans of that place, it was home, not a wilderness. Even that day, trails and pathways were worn from the passage of moccasin feet.
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” Albert Einstein
In a paper for graduate school a few years ago, I referenced my experience as somewhat of a clearing of a haze from things I had forgotten. It was as if things were clarifying from many years ago. Often what is learned is not just from books but from experiencing, living, seeing, and believing. Each day I travel a road many others have journeyed on, and many others have succeeded in going beyond that road. Yet it is new to me each day, for I choose to see more than the day before. For me, wilderness opens new trails not yet approached by civilization. For me, it is fresh and vibrant even though many see only the mundane and stale.
It might be in the flight and blinking of a firefly, the snort of breath as a buffalo crossed the pasture years ago, or the call of a whippoorwill off in the trees. It may be in the feather left for me as a hawk soaring through the sky. I recall a movie where the start and end were nothing more than a piece of fluff blowing about until it gained importance with Forest Gump and was placed in a special place in his life. We do not know from moment to moment how someone will react to anything we do or say, or write. I spoke with my friend about interconnections and how this is the art of our existence. It is in the perception, the seeing, feeling, and hearing of our heartbeat.
I ran into a former student yesterday. She moved and happened to be in our town as I was my favorite store, Quick Trip. She now lives in another county and will not attend our school next year. She just wanted to say hi and, in the conversation, asked what you teach everyone wants to know; it seems I have many students who just come by my room and officially are not in my classes. I told her on my door it states; Period One – The philosophy of learning about how and why we learn what we do, Period two – the same, Period three planning, and Period four again the same. She said that sounded interesting.
She wondered what I had taught for nearly three years and wanted to be in my class. I would always respond you haven’t been in enough trouble yet. As she left after I explained Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, she said even though I wasn’t in your regular classes except for Biology in summer school, I learned a lot. How is that for an ego boost? I was reading as I do and emailing my friend, pointing out several websites and books. Two passages caught my attention as I ended my writing today.
“On the basis of the belief that all human beings share the same divine nature, we have a very strong ground, a very powerful reason, to believe that it is possible for each of us to develop a genuine sense of equanimity toward all beings.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “The Good Heart
“Strength-based in force is a strength people fear. Strength based on love is a strength people crave. It is as true today as it was then and for nations as it is for individuals. Unfortunately, too few of each are listening.” Kent Nerburn
Nerburn was addressing a friend’s comment about Viet Nam and those of us old enough to have been drafted or served in that time of war. Looking at the news and comments from politicians the past few days, this passage from the Dalai Lama struck a chord with me. One of the things my friend and I did while he was here was see each of my sons since my friend had been involved with them in youth work and music. Of course, that included riding down to Georgia Tech and going for a campus tour in the Tech mascot, the Ramblin Wreck. Recently I was watching old videos and spending numerous hours with my sons catching up reminded me how significant today can be. Now I can end for this morning of storms is another week ahead, so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)