Trying to understand giving thanks, war and Teaching

Bird Droppings November 22, 2022
Trying to understand giving thanks, war and Teaching

I seldom have a difficult time sleeping. I crashed last night after a long day of cleaning up after my grandkids. My wife said I was too lenient, so I should make them pick up. I have found pros and cons as I get older. At seventy-three, my eldest son commented a few days back, “dad, you have 27 more years.” I want to savor every moment playing rather than cleaning up. Tomorrow, I have a pacemaker check-up, and all should be fine. I have twelve-year battery life and will need to return in another year. When you are seventy-three and told you have a twelve-year battery life, you can look at it in a half-full, half-empty way, possibly. Will I last at least twelve more years, or do I quit working in twelve years?

Tomorrow I will start my day by gassing up my wife’s car and washing it, although I might wait till Wednesday. I came home yesterday morning from a sunrise chase, and Pat was still asleep. She walks early in the mornings on Saturdays but sometimes will crash when she returns. I am working on my morning tea, so I am cheating a bit with Mountain Dew this morning. My head started to clear a bit, and I wondered about this day we celebrate coming up. I try and start each day sitting and giving thanks for all that is. Some may find that confusing, but it is my morning meditation in many ways. I sit sipping tea, giving thanks, and let the sage smoke float off into the sky on some days.

So many times, as in days before, I open news articles and look through emails before writing or even think about what I will be writing that day. I made a few comments on several thoughts and pondered today’s potential thoughts and ideas. As I looked through several posts and listened to family members argue the cons of the current administration over social media, it seems we differ significantly on politics. This thought from twelve years ago stuck with me this morning. I am sharing these words as we prepare for a different Thanksgiving this year.

“Thanksgiving Day, Americans across the country will sit down together, count our blessings, and give thanks for our families and our loved ones. American families reflect the diversity of this great nation. No two are exactly alike, but they share a common thread. Our families are bound together through times of joy and times of grief. They shape us, support us, instill the values that guide us as individuals, and make all that we achieve possible. I’ll thank my family for all the wisdom, support, and love they have brought into my life.

Today is also a day to remember those who cannot sit down to break bread with those they love; the soldier overseas holding down a lonely post and missing his kids, the sailor who left her home to serve a higher calling, the folks who must spend tomorrow apart from their families to work a second job, so they can keep food on the table or send a child to school.

We are grateful beyond words for the service and hard work of many Americans who make our country great through their sacrifice. And this year, we know that far too many face a daily struggle that puts the comfort and security we all deserve painfully out of reach. So, when we gather, let us also use the occasion to renew our commitment to building a more peaceful and prosperous future that every American family can enjoy.” President Barack Obama, 11/24/09

Words, simple words, and how we hear and or reread them are then worked on by perception, a learned and acquired factor. Somewhere along the way, we develop and consider varying stimulus that leads us to how we see the world. The words struck a chord as I read this short note of thanks from our previous president, good or bad, democrat or republican, black or white. There is so much we have in this world to give thanks for. I am sure there is pain and sorrow all over the world that I know nothing about.

Dr. Michael T. Garrett, in his writings, discusses the theory of opposites. We must have a balance in life that provides definitive points for the other. Growing up in Pennsylvania influenced my thinking of pacifism and my philosophical view of believing we do not need war. Yet around us, worldwide strife is ongoing Thanksgiving Day or not, and it is inside of us. We need to seek answers for our understanding and acceptance of what we perceive within this world. Perceptions do change, albeit not quickly. But they can; they are not engrained at birth but a learned and acquired commodity.

“Internal peace is an essential first step to achieving peace worldwide. How do you cultivate it? It’s very simple. In the first place, by realizing clearly that all mankind is one, that human beings in every country are members of one and the same family.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

His Holiness’s words are perhaps a key to humanity’s survival. It will never be done simply by who is most powerful or has the biggest guns and missiles. We must, at some point, accept others and understand others. As I read each morning, bits and pieces hit me with my slant, which tends to be toward education and learning, and I see a tremendous responsibility lying in the laps of teachers. Throughout the world, teachers have daily more input into students’ lives than any other human being. As I finished a paper on technologies many years ago, I saw how technology impacts our youth; human contact is dwindling daily.

“Preserve the fires in our hearts… Our world needs teachers whose fire can resist those forces that would render us less just, less humane, and less alive.” Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, editors of Teaching with Fire

I found this book several years ago on a Borders trip. The two editors have taken poetry that means something to teachers and, with explanations from those teachers as to why this poem means so much, created a book, Teaching with Fire. Over the years, I have had similar questions asked. It has been only a few days since another teacher asked me if I had ever hit my children, and I said no. I was looked at funny, “you have never hit your children?” I, in all honesty, could not remember ever hitting my children. Perhaps I have blocked out the dark side of my personality. Several weeks ago, I was asked, similarly, your kids never hit you or your wife or did this or that, and again “no” was my answer then as well. “Well, I guess you just are not normal,” was the answer both times.

“Normal is not something to aspire to; it’s something to get away from.” Jodie Foster

As I wonder how others see the world, I think about Jodie Foster’s thoughts. Several weeks ago, when I was asked did I had hit my children, I asked my son what he thought about it on the way home, and his response was, “normal is what you are used to.” I thought back to a graduate school discussion of philosophy about Foucault and how he defined normal after defining abnormal.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Albert Einstein

Looking at various books such as Teaching with fire, The Passionate Teacher, and The language and thoughts of a child, I see that surrounding me as I write; maybe the answers are here. The answers are right among us; we are the answer. It is not some big secret, and it is up to us somewhere; somehow, we as teachers and parents must set an example for the children. Over the past few years, I have shared Dr. Nolte’s 1970’s idea that “Children Learn what they live.” I tried to use that with the discussion, trying to explain to the teacher asking me about hitting my kids, and that teacher had difficulty seeing the point.

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit is often a sign of weakness to admit that a belief we once committed ourselves is wrong. We get identified with the idea that it is a “pet” notion, and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

Historically, Gandhi had difficulty selling nonviolence; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had difficulty selling it, and both were killed for it.

“Man is not logical, and his intellectual history is a record of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on to what he can in his old beliefs even when he is compelled to surrender their logical basis.” John Dewey

As a teacher, the position I am in each day is one of being on a pedestal, being watched by hundreds of students each day, as a parent seen by my children each day or when they are home from college or work. Each of us is seen and understood in the context of perceptions and understandings of that moment. Over the past week, while out and about, I have seen several students wearing t-shirts banned in dress code rules because of racial overtones. When you ask students why they wear illegal t-shirts, answers are always vague and evasive, never because of race. One of my favorites is “only shirt I had,” so you will get kicked out of school for your shirt because it is the only one you had, is my general response.

Two events made my day a few years back. The first was a simple one; I commented I was pissed off at a student for something, and another student said, “Mr. Bird, I never heard you cuss before.” I did not swear and did not consider pissed off as swearing either; however, it was in that person’s context. But the remark they never heard me swear caught my attention; I had been setting an example and did not even know it. The other comment came as an email. A remark about my wisdom, I wrote back that wisdom is fleeting and only momentary; as you teach, wisdom is transferred, and you must soon learn more to be wiser.

“We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

“When you are right, you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. The time is always right to do what is right.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We are the pathway, direction, and example for others to see. Never should anyone question hitting another person and try to justify it. Never should a person, even in a small way, feel harming another in any form is justifiable. As a teacher, parent, or friend, go out and show in your life what is expected. Running parallel through religions worldwide is a rule, a guide, a talisman for some, just a thought; treat others as you wish. It is about Teaching with Fire, Teaching, for example. You are learning what we live, trying to live it, and seeing what impact can be made. Today, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts as we sit down. Harm is a powerful word and covers so many, be it the passing or illness of a loved one, a friend overseas fighting a war for freedom, an abusive relationship, or a child too hungry to raise their head; let us be thankful today and try and ease the harm in the world if only one kind act at a time namaste.

My friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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