It is about understanding

Bird Droppings September 7, 2022

It is about understanding

I read a student’s psychological report years back who could decode most any word put in front of them. The confusion comes when trying to tell you what was read. The two components of reading, decoding, and comprehension, are needed to be a successful reader. I thought of how many students I see daily, like this particular one. I asked if they could read, and of course, they could and showed you reading aloud brilliantly. They draw a blank as the quiz comes around or even a question. As a rule, high school teachers are not looking for learning issues, just students learning the subject. So many high school students slip through the cracks with poor reading skills. If only we could catch and remedy early on.

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, but it takes character and self-control to understand and forgive. “Dale Carnegie

I wrote a few days ago about forgiveness, which we tend to forget about far too often. As I am looking forward to a three-day holiday this weekend, another issue came to the front. Seldom do we take time to understand students. As I talked with my students through each period of the day, little things came out that we often overlooked. What if a student’s parents have just divorced, or a sibling is sick, perhaps an eviction from their home and, in one situation, a death in the family? As a teacher, I try to be aware of what is going on in my student’s lives, but students and people generally will not post on Facebook or some other social network but hold it in. Looking for little clues and putting a student aside to ask a question or two without prying will give insight into perhaps some underlying issue impacting that child that day.

“Keep constantly in mind in how many things you have witnessed changes already. The universe is changing; life is understanding.” Marcus Aurelius, 121 ADE

“The best cure for worry, depression, melancholy, brooding is to go deliberately forth and try to lift with one’s sympathy the gloom of somebody else.” Arnold Bennett

“Man is always inclined to be intolerant towards the thing, or person, he hasn’t taken the time adequately to understand…” Robert R. Brown

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men, and along those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” Herman Melville, 1819

Life is about understanding and interaction. It is the interconnections that make us who we are. Occasionally I will offer this is where we find the word soul. In my years of writing, I have discussed my symbolic concept of life as a jigsaw puzzle. We are much like a puzzle with countless pieces falling into place, each intricate and numerous. The pieces interconnect and eventually give us our life’s purpose and provide a fuller understanding. I am starting to get a bit metaphysical, but I have a doctorate in metaphysics at least; that is what the paper on my wall states.

“Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief in denying them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803

“Find peace with yourself by accepting not only what you are, but what you are never going to be.” Author Unknown

“Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third.” Marge Piercy

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Kahlil Gibran

“The one who understands does not speak; the one who speaks does not understand.” Chinese Proverb

As I gathered quotes for this subject, it always seemed I could find or fit in a Ralph Waldo Emerson statement. Somewhere along the way, I listed him as someone I would like to meet. I see Emerson’s view of the soul more in line with Special Agent Gibbs’ gut feeling as he investigates a crime. It is that aspect of us where we know. Many people avoid and or deny that part of who they are. 

It is difficult for anyone to admit they will never be something. In America, we are raised; we can accomplish anything. Teaching special education, I do my best to keep high expectations of my students. Still, as days go by, weeks and months, even with constant focus and attention, there are times when cognition, imagination, and life experiences will get the best of a student, and they will reach a plateau that may go on forever. Even within that seemingly halt in progression, more can be done, but each step and piece of the puzzle gets harder to find and harder yet to fit in. One of their puzzle pieces is the sixteen hours away from school time enough to forget and lose what gains were made in the previous eight hours. With his philosophical optimism, Gibran brings my heart and soul back to try again. The last quote could be from Luther Standing Bear or Chief Joseph as they discuss how Native Americans find wisdom in silence.

“And in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind and in the presence of the notable and great, the silence was the mark of respect. More powerful than words was silence with the Lakota.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

“It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand, and what those things are. Human understanding has vulgarly occupied itself with nothing but understanding, but if it would only take the trouble to understand itself at the same time, it would simply have to posit the paradox. “Soren Kierkegaard

I find it interesting that philosophers often are victims of their advice. Much of philosophy is looking for understanding or rationale for our existence. Kierkegaard put a twist on it, saying that all humankind has done is look for understanding and yet forget to understand ourselves. I was nearly thirty-five, almost forty until I genuinely began finding who I was. I had been listening to others’ opinions of or other’s interpretation of who I was but never looked into my own heart and soul. Walking earlier in the morning helped me get a clear view of who I was. I would walk each morning in the wee hours under the stars with a good friend at that time in seminary. We would discuss philosophy, theology, education, and life in general as we walked five miles each day.

“To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Kahlil Gibran

“I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.” Confucius

“It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.” Harry S. Truman

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” Galileo Galilei

These thoughts are a mix in this effort to figure out understanding. I liked the first quote Gibran in that it is what we are searching for more than where we have been, that is crucial. The prime component of education is Confucius’s contribution, for it is through doing that we also truly learn. I had to get some John Dewey in, except that it was a thousand years before Dewey that man realized what Dewey preached that experience is the most outstanding teacher. While I have never been a big Truman fan, this statement from the former president is powerful. The great scientist Galileo offers that it is in a discovery that we find truth and understanding. For me, that is the one that gave me a clearer view of this idea of understanding. It is not in seeking an exact definitive point, but that aspect of seeking to know that provides the fuel and tools for understanding.

“This concept of life and its relations with humanizing gave the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with joy and mystery of living; it gave him reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

Perhaps in the world, the view of Natives is an answer. Sometimes acceptance was a key and reverence for life, along with knowing the puzzle pieces fit together rather than random parts of nothing as some people seem to think in today’s society. As a day runs its course, I will end this discourse and again plead that we each search our souls and keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our 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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