Bird Droppings October 31, 2022
Have we sold our souls for a few trinkets and or don’t want to die in Georgia
First thing this morning, one of the student’s tasks was identifying famous movie villains from cartoonish drawings. One of the images looked like Richard Nixon, and I blurted his name out, and one of my fellow teachers snapped back Joe Biden. When I tried to rephrase that he was guilty, they said he was nowhere near as bad as Biden. I was bothered when I thought about how quickly someone drew politics into a fourth-grade assignment. The picture I mentioned as Noxon looked like I was not thinking politics, as I said it, simply history. I listened to former president Obama talking in Georgia, and he was heckled for a moment and talked about how we have fallen so low in politics. Enough of politics for one-day happy Halloween.
Morning is a special time for me, always a new beginning. Today I went out a bit early from the house to take out the garbage and stand silently for a moment. As I drove from the house close to sunrise, an owl was sitting on the road and flew away as I drove up, giving me an exciting start today. That might be far too easy of a way to say what I am trying to say. But for me, several aspects of that start to the day are almost routine, like taking the trash, running by the corner store, photographing the sunrise, and then sitting down to write and read. Each has become a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coolness of another almost summertime fall day. Across the sky, clouds muffled the stars, but the silence was alive. The stars were crystal clear in spaces between clouds in the morning darkness, and the moon, considered a showing, was peeking through a veil of darkness.
“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better
Yesterday I got into a discussion about a Bird Dropping from a few days back dealing with sacredness. During the debate, I realized how much we have in our hedonism given away. I wrote a paper on students’ stripping of the soul as we demand and seek higher test scores to show learning. Last night, I listened to an update on the years ago shootings at Virginia Tech, the history of a young man, and the anguish and angst that led to it. They pointed to his observations and experiences with the hedonism of our society. In his questioning and counseling, He mentioned the materialism of our society over and over in his rants. I began seriously thinking have we sold our souls for a few mere trinkets? It was purely by coincidence I started watching a Netflix series entitled Sinners, A young woman, portrayed by Jessica Beil. She won several awards for her portrayal of an emotionally disturbed individual. A very empathetic detective knew there was more to the case than the obvious and searched deeper and found answers; it did take all of season one.
“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth
“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner
Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words, perhaps meaningful written pictures that may have significance. I emailed several people last night, touching base and opening a discussion about this idea of sacredness. But I thought about the interactions and intertwining of daily life, those we seemingly miss and ignore. I talked with several high school students about how life is much like a puzzle interlocked from one piece to the next, and we often miss seeing the tiny yet needed interconnections. I have worked directly with students with Emotional Behavior Disordered children for nearly twenty-two years. Last week, I spoke with fellow teachers about a simple concept ABC, Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence. In simplest terms, it is what BF Skinner touted. However, in a school setting, we can rarely see or understand all of the A part. Sixteen hours of our students are at home and in the community.
I watched the news, and each new report bits and pieces of how and why the events of the past few days have spilled out around the world. Many years back, I suggested psychiatric treatment for a student and was told not my call. Six years later, he is sentenced to three life sentences for killing a young mother and nearly killing two children he had babysat. Sometimes those at the top may need to listen to those doing the labor at the bottom.
“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus
“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle
As I moved through the day yesterday, sensing something was amiss, and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any comfort to those in need other than keeping them on our minds and in our hearts. Most people, as the day finished, never missed a stride. I am sure there were tears from family, friends, and those experiencing hardship and harm worldwide. But as I tried to explain, even in tragedy, there is purpose and meaning. That concept is difficult to explain to people with a materialistic worldview.
“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot
I have used this quote several times, and each time, it seems appropriate. I remember chasing fireflies across a meadow as a child, gathering those life forces in a jar to light my room, releasing them into the night, and watching them float away in the darkness. Life is seeing beyond the tangibles and foibles of our existence. Life is not the shirt, shoes, or coat we wear. Life is about what is in your heart. Life is about your soul.
“It’s not how long life is but the quality of our life that is important.” Roger Dawson
“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Charles Dickens
In 1996 my brother passed away, and my family faced a new beginning. We all had built our lives around my brother, who was severely disabled, and our being in Georgia was directly related to him. As we celebrated his life, reviewing the intricate webs laid each moment, the many people touched and lives affected by what seemingly had been was now an enormous outpouring of energy. Every day a new piece of that puzzle falls into place. It may be another teacher of special needs children, another person recalling the time spent helping with John’s rehab and how it impacted their life. Within our difficulties and disasters, there is always hope.
“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
We each approach the morning differently. I embrace the day and begin with my writing seeing each moment unfold, trying to understand each tiny piece. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys, and as I look back, each has had meaning and direction and led me to now. I told a dear friend while always wondering where I was to be. Next, it is not because I do not enjoy what I am doing but because I may be needed elsewhere. It is about making and experiencing the journey.
“Life is about the journey, not the destination” Steven Tyler
Several years ago, I received a call from my nephew that a close friend had been in a car accident. As the night proceeded, I spent that night in the Athens Regional Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned as he lay unmoving. We were all hoping that the numbers on the dials would change; they did not. When I arrived home on my computer, I saw a sticky yellow note from my oldest son, this Steven Tyler quote from an Aerosmith song. As I think even farther back and as I was discussing sacred yesterday with a student, in 1968, as I left for Texas for college, I received a book from my parents, which reads on page 596.
“To everything, there is a season, and a time, To every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
Many years ago, the late Pete Seeger, a folk singer, and environmentalist wrote the music and borrowed the words, and a song was born, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” soon to be released by how appropriate “The Byrd’s.” “To every season turn, turn, turn there is a reason turn, turn, turn and a time for every purpose under heaven” the song became a hit.
“Nothing is beneath you if it is in the direction of your life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Robert Frost
So often, a poet’s words offer comfort or give direction back to a journey set off course one moment. There is no filling of a void, yet when looking at life and all that has been, there truly is no void when looking at the journey to now. There is a turn in the road, a new direction. All that has led to this has not changed and is behind us, lifting us, guiding us, and strengthening us as we continue our experiences. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia already sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across. He clambered stone by stone, crossing the stream and a favorite Zen saying I often attach to the photo.
“You can never cross a stream the same way twice.” Zen Saying
Years ago, I set up a website for a youth group, and today I will close with the starting line from that website, “Friends are never alone.” We all can cross in our own time, and there are times when a hand is welcome. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts, and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)
PS: Before moving to Georgia, I heard Brewer and Shipley, a folk duet in a small club along Route 30 in Devon, Pennsylvania, apply called the Main Line. My VW bus was loaded, and I had promised the girl I was dating at the time to take her to this show. The show ended, and of course, it was fantastic, and B&S returned for an encore. I Had at that time heard two of their albums and knew the song. They played “Don’t want to die in Georgia.” So here I am on my last night in Pennsylvania, leaving for Georgia in December of 1972, and of all songs to end on. With a seventy-third birthday only a few days away, I think I will get back to Pennsylvania and, more specifically, see my grandkids one more time. Synchronicity has been a driving force in my life since I understood the concept and could see all the interconnections and intertwinings in my life. I am not concerned with death, but watching my high school reunion numbers dwindle has an impact. I think I still have things to do, not quite sure what, but it will come.