Bird Droppings February 17, 2023
A substation in our journey of life, is it saying goodbye, or is it hello?
I had seldom pulled out my Eagle Scout card from 1967; by chance, I cleaned up my dresser and held it for a few minutes, thinking back. I put all of my Boy Scout patches and paraphernalia in a box. While mired in controversy nationally, the Boy Scouts of America have contributed significantly to our culture and country. However, in today’s hurried and rushed society, fewer children are involved in Scouting. By chance, two former students in one block at school were both active in troops in the area and asked me if I had ever been, and it was a chance to talk Boy Scouts, and I pulled out my worn and tattered Eagle Scout card from my wallet. It seemed almost yesterday; it took me back about fourteen years from preparing for my father’s funeral on July 1, 2007. Over eighty-six ago, the first National Boy Scout Jamboree started in Washington, D.C., and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an official invitation to Boys Scouts nationwide. My dad was the Boy Scout of the year in New Jersey and, of course, went to the Jamboree. I had pulled out dad’s 1937 Jamboree neckerchief and his merit badge sash for my mother to put out at his service.
I have written much on curriculum over the past ten years as I work on my doctorate in curriculum studies. William Pinar is a leader in the field and addresses curriculum from its root, “cure,” which he loosely translates as run the course. I have written on curriculum several times that it is our life, piece by piece, much more than simply a track of lesson plans, as so many teachers have been told. My grandfather was an engineer in New Jersey, and in one paper, I even used the analogy of a train track for curriculum. We stop here and there, visit a bit, and move on to the next station. The curriculum is life, even more so when you add the daily experiences that build our ability to learn and retain. Throughout his life, my father borrowed from Native American lore and mythology. We grew up listening to the great chief Little Strong-arm stories and numerous other stories from his experiences and imagination. In my search in life, I, too, have been drawn to a culture and faith in life that permeates Native American thought, one of sacredness in all. Many years ago, a Sioux Holy Man had a vision recorded in the book by John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks.
“You have noticed that everything, as Indian does, is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk Oglala Sioux Holy Man 1863-1950
I wonder as I sit this afternoon pondering that day nearly seventeen years back and celebrating my father’s life. My father’s friends came from around the world to say their goodbyes. As a family, we looked through thousands of old photos the night before, sitting around remembering stories and events that had significance to each of us. I recalled my dad wanting buffalo, which fascinated him, and how when presented one Christmas with a buffalo robe, he sat wrapped up watching TV for several days, warm and cozy inside of his robe. We eventually had buffalo on the farm, and many fond memories of my father taking bread out to feed his buffalo. Living deep on the farm at the time, Crowfoot’s message and thoughts were real for my family and me. Growing up as we had buffalo grazing in our yard, and during the night, you could hear the great bull walkabout guarding his cows and calves, sniffing and snorting till he felt safe to rest.
“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, Blackfoot warrior, and orator
On that July seventeen years back, we gathered as a family and with our friends to say our goodbyes, but I genuinely believe it was only a minor station in my father’s journey. For many weeks after, stories and memories flooded the mail, email, and phone lines from his friends and our families as they recalled trips, lectures, and articles, all of which made him who he was. Just yesterday, as I did a web search, I found an author arguing that an accident pyramid is one of the mainstays of my father’s thinking. He had first seen the idea in a German author’s work and then, being with an insurance company at the time, gathered data. Nearly one million incidents were covered in the research. The author stated that my father’s idea was a myth and that no analysis was used. In writing that the pyramid of accidental effects was fiction, he seemed to ignore that it was based on data accumulated from accidents. What struck me even more, as he had no alternative? Accidents are an act of nature.
I am sidetracked, slightly thinking, wandering, and pondering while saying goodbye. On the one hand, we embraced a hello to a new journey. Sitting here later in the evening, it is incredible what thoughts a tattered Eagle Scout card will invoke. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts, and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)