A spiritual side to teaching

Bird Droppings November 16, 2020

A spiritual side to teaching

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it’s never living apart from one’s self. Not about absence of other people – it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” Parker Palmer

Dr. Parker Palmer is an innovator, speaker, retreat leader, author, and traveling teacher. He is a senior associate of the American Association for Higher Education and senior advisor to the Fetzer Institute. Parker Palmer received his Ph.D. from the University of California. I was first introduced to his writing in 2001 by a friend who happened to be my principal at the time. He recommended his book, The courage to Teach, and I have given away several copies ver the years.

“Teachers choose their vocation for reasons of the heart, because they care deeply about their students and their subject. But the demands of teaching cause too many educators to lose heart. Is it possible to take heart in teaching once more so that we can continue to do what teachers always do – give heart to our students.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I have been in education for over fifty years and I have been back in direct teaching twenty years plus and have watched teachers some burn out and another fizzle out. There is a slight bit of difference between burn and fizzle. Someone who burns out is putting there all into what they do and someone who fizzles out is taking up space and probably should not have been there to begin with. I have watched creative teachers starting out like gang busters succumb to teaching blues and boredom due to standardization and forced curriculum. They come in full of zeal and within a semester are borrowing premade transparencies from their next-door neighbor because they do not have the time anymore to create new ones.

“Bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching – and in the process, from their students. Good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life.” Parker Palmer

I have for many years considered teaching an art form. I do think it is a place where a person’s soul is bared for better or worse as you teach whatever subject you happened to be teaching. If you truly want to connect with your students you open your heart as palmer indicates and this is difficult for many to do. I honestly think it takes a special person to be a good and effective teacher. Parker Palmer in his writing discusses how teaching is a community effort. My thoughts reflect back to John Dewey and his revelations of education as a social event and more critically a necessity.

“As I make the case that good teaching is always and essentially communal, I am not abandoning my claim that teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Community, or connectedness, is the principle behind good teaching, but different teachers with different gifts create community in surprisingly diverse ways, using widely divergent methods.” Parker Palmer

In my own journeys in life and I use a word whose connotation is plural discussing my journeys in life since I have been in several directions prior to where I am now. I have found that it is in happiness and solace we find peace with ourselves. The quote I started with today reflects on solitude which for me is a few moments each day in a spot I have selected away from the house with a view across a large pasture. I can sit and reflect on my day or my day ahead and I ponder sitting listening to the sounds about me. I claim this spot as sacred and some will scuff how you can say that, it does not have a church or any religious affiliation. I titled my writing today as a spiritual side to teaching and these two words for me intertwine as I look at them and ponder further.

“Sacred means, quite simply, worthy of respect.” Parker Palmer

In the years that I have been back in teaching it has been about respect and trust. I have gone about this through building relationships with students. In my own opinion that is one of the most critical aspects of the teaching process. It is not simply a curriculum and a book or several books, it is relationships. I see what I do each day as a spiritual endeavor bringing new ideas to students who may not have had the chance previously to understand or even experience in any way this knowledge. It was nearly thirteen years since I wrote a trust scale for a human development course I was taking. It follows along a similar concept that I had read about in Dr. James Fowler’s book, The Development of Faith. We start out as totally trusting and soon learn not to trust and eventually return to a total trust. It takes good and great teachers to help along the way. Thinking about a new week ahead and few days left in this week the positive and negative that will come my way. I tend to choose to embrace the positive and not spend as much time considering the negative. I do hope each of you can take a moment to reflect and to please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.


My friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

How capable do we need to be?

Bird Droppings November 15, 2020

How capable do we need to be?

What a contrast to only a few days ago as the sun was shining, and the moon was full as I went out in the wee hours with a crystal-clear sky. There was a gentle wind blowing, wind chimes ringing peacefully and a beautiful smile of a moon gazing at me between the pines and oak trees. I had to stand in the chill and just look at the stars and moon and listen to our chimes from the back yard for a moment. Today I am sitting five floors up in a hotel in Savannah Georgia. My wife and I came to celebrate my nieces’ wedding. We did all we could to avoid people and social distance, wear masks, sanitize and deodorize and stay safe.  Life is a wonderful thing and what we make of it is literally up to us. I was hoping to get out to Tybee island for some sunrise photos but was weary from festivities last night. It will be still a few days till day light savings change kicks in and I can get in sync with the sun again.  

I miss going out to my favorite spot for getting sunrise photos. Thinking back a year or so ago before my injury as I was looking out of my rear-view mirror a sunrise was exploding across the sky. I did a quick U-turn heading to my spot and it was a gray sky again. As I thought today and missing seeing the sunrise or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time had I not been in such a hurry I would have caught another beautiful sunrise. Life is much like my elusive sunrise images here I am not listening to my own words that one time two more minutes sitting, and I would have witnessed a beautiful sunrise. I chose to go for the bigger picture and ignore the moment. We all do this in life.

I started watching an Australian fiction movie almost documentary of Aboriginal culture, “Charlie’s Country”. I finished it the other morning. Charlie is an elderly Aborigine. He lives on what we would call a reservation and receives government subsidy to survive. He tries to go back to the bush where he was born, living off the land. Eventually he gets sick and is transported to the hospital in Darwin. He gets jailed for buying alcohol for banned Aborigines. Banned meaning they cannot have alcohol. Eventually he finds his way home and is asked to teach the old ways to the children who were losing their culture. Needless to say, the movie made me think about so many things.

As always random ideas get me pondering. When applying for a job and that could be any job, does not capability come into play. When discussing this I am assuming that capability is the ability to do that particular job. Several events have taken place over the past few days and one from several months back. It has been some time since I received a sheet of paper with six questions, a voluntary questionnaire on diversification. I answered honestly and do feel diversification does not get the best person for the job. Are we effectively teaching about cultures when we mandate diversification?

It is interesting in that my own lineage of Pennsylvania Dutch and welsh miner’s diversity has never come up. Nor has it with my great grandmothers’ tribe the Leni Lenape, part of the Delaware Nation. Perhaps they are not significant enough although very unique cultures though they may be. So I am with mixed emotions on one hand listening to a former student teacher who feels social studies is the place to combat racism in high school and then my own conviction that I still consider rednecks an ethnic group provides for great discussion. How do we challenge racism?

My wife came home one day and said she had a patient who said she would only go to American, (meaning white) doctors. So, the other day as I sat on my porch the breeze was cool blowing through the trees, I thought wondering what is it that drives us. I read a Facebook blog recently indicating racism is genetic. I would argue that point strongly it is learned period and I know about learning.

“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” Franklin Thomas

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I answered my questionnaire and even wrote on the back until we begin hiring the best person, go to the best health care provider, and stop thinking, as this statement so clearly states stop looking, at the amount of melanin in our skin or not. Are we not all homo sapiens? We are not different species.

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it.” Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.” William Faulkner, Essays, Speeches and Public Letters

Over the years I have read numerous books and articles on Native American culture and one in particular has hit deep, the book Neither wolf nor dog, by Kent Nerburn. Nerburn edits the words of an old Lakota Sioux who feels compelled to express the differences between the Native Americans and whites, hence the title neither wolf nor dog.

“Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.” Author Unknown

“Racial superiority is a mere pigment of the imagination.” Author Unknown

How do we entangled out realities to a point where we become so embroiled in differences and how is it we forget to treat each man as a brother? Where do we get this hatred? Many consider racism a learned behavior and to date I have not read anything in research that ascribe racism to a genetic code and or DNA. Therefore, it is learned and if so can be unlearned and modified.

“I am working for the time when unqualified blacks, browns, and women join the unqualified men in running our government.” Cissy Farenthold

“Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.”  Desmond Tutu

Arch Bishop Tutu meeting with The Dalai Lama happened several years ago and that is something I really would enjoy to hear and see. These two great human beings at one place and one time speaking and discussing. I missed an opportunity to hear Desmond Tutu when he was in Atlanta as a quest lecturer at Emory University several years back. Having had ties business wise to South Africa for nearly forty years we often had inside information on the happenings there. I recall my father coming home and relating happenings at a check point between Zimbabwe and South Africa and how he was coached as to what to say when rebels stuck automatic weapons in the car windows. I recall reading an article recently about the rise of aids in South Africa and a comment my brother made after a recent trip. He said he was told that left as it currently is the aids epidemic will wipe out blacks in South Africa in ten years. Sort of makes you wonder about conspiracy theories however in the days since foundations from around the world have turned the tide on Aids and while still a serious threat slowly getting some control.

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

In 1968 I was in Texas going to college and at that time in that place racial hatred was not against blacks but Native Americans. I saw it rampant as comments were made and people responded. It was a carryover from the old west and the Indian wars. Even as recently as 1992 when traveling in Oklahoma I witnessed firsthand the racism against those who were here first.

“Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.”  Merry Browne

“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.  The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”  Ralph W. Sockman

Listening to comments from a student teacher recently about how we need to do this and that and show this and that and then thinking to my reading of this questionnaire on diversity. You learn racism if that is a given then you also learn tolerance. You also learn to accept others, I recall from years gone by a story of a man injured on his journey.

“A certain man went down from Lawrenceville to Atlanta, and fell among car jackers, which stripped him of his clothes, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain preacher that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise, a Lawyer, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain man of another color, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on peroxide and gave him some drink, and set him in his own car, and brought him to an emergency room, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two hundred dollars, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said the teacher unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Borrowing from my seminary days a slight paraphrase, Frank Bird III Ed.S. D.D.

A bit of paraphrase a bit of whimsy but not really how many times have headlines shown people standing by as someone is mugged or even murdered. We are all neighbors, we are all brothers, we are all equal in this life and as the sign as you leave the Ocmulgee National Park in Macon Georgia states that we are all connected. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Our perceptions vary greatly about life

Bird Droppings November 13, 2020

Our perceptions vary greatly about life

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” Irving Berlin

It was over twenty years ago I was waiting to go back to teaching after having spent nearly twenty-three years in the publishing business. I was anxious to say the least. I had gone by the high school and signed a few forms and talked with the principal for an hour or so. Then the next day came and within hours I was immersed in a day I will not forget. It was my first day back teaching. While I spent most of the day locked in a small resource room on a school lock down. It is not hard t remember the date, the 9-11 bombing happened while I was still introducing myself to my students. We did get to know each other.

About two years ago I did this again although I did not have quite in the same situation I was in last time. A new county, new school, new students’ new staff and a much larger class room. I had spent some time in the building and picked up keys and computer. I thought I was ready. Interestingly I was readier than I was twenty years ago. A couple of degrees, a good bit of research and writing, thousands of students worth of experiences I think I can handle most anything a Monday can throw at me. I still dread Mondays and perhaps for the first time in my teaching career not looking forward to going to work.

I have worked with over fifty different principals, superintendents, Assistant Superintendents and assistant principals. Numerous department chairs, curriculum coaches, instructional coaches and various other titles in public school teaching. I had many I disagreed with and they are long gone. Some literally went back to teaching, some were fired, two are in jail, some continue to be great leaders in education however as I go to work today for the first time in my teaching have I ever felt a person shouldn’t be in educational leadership as much as I do now. Leadership is now about power it is about being an example of what it is you want your employees to attain. Perception is a strange thing.

“To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Coming back to perception. My own is significantly different than my walking into the class room twenty years ago. Each moment, is for each of us different and as I use the word over and over our perceptions vary greatly about life. Emerson so eloquently states “the same world is a hell and a heaven” depending on how you take it. How we live life and our reactions can be construed much the same way. I have been on a journey my entire life and yet for many years simply went with the flow. Now I try and savor each moment and second.

“It’s how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success.” David Feherty

We live in a world of contrast black, white and a swirling of gray then somewhere there is a dividing line to separate the differences. Our adaptation and manipulation of crossing the line between the variations is our dealing with life.

“Nothing in life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” Thaddeus Golas

Many years ago, I recall a story from Hindu lore of a water bearer who each morning would go to the stream and fill two great jugs with water. One was new and held every drop all the way from the river to the house. The other jug had a crack in it and a steady stream of water leaked out all the way from the river to the house. Often when arriving at the house the cracked jug would be literally empty. One day the new jug most boastful said to the cracked jug how can you be so happy you never complete your task each day all your water leaks out and you come home empty. The cracked jug said smiling and never once upset, “have you noticed the flowers all along the way from the stream lining the path where I water them each day.

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz

I find this so true in high school among students; some who are so capable simple choose to just pass. “I have a seventy I am passing that’s all I need”. Others who struggle to achieve try for an A and work each aspect of their endeavor. Every difficult sentence a chore but they persist and succeed. I got to know a young lady who took the science portion of the Graduation test five times each time she would be closer gaining points as she went, finally she passed by two points. I have read how the school board has again passed or stated they will uphold the graduation walking policy. Sadly, within that are the girls and guys who do try and may take five tries to succeed not because of attitude but because of ability. Yet they are in jeopardy of not walking at graduation.

I have read numerous times how we need to uphold that standard but it is a faulty one there are exceptions and another young lady is one and her mother and she were ones that fought with county office to walk. She received her fourth test score weeks before graduation and was one point off. She took testing classes studied hard and had been a good student all twelve years, she was an honor student. She wasn’t a person, who did not deserve to walk she tried more than many that did walk, but our view is of a failure and we punished her at graduation time. She quit school the last week of school and went on to get a GED.

“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.” Fredrick Langbridge 

Sometimes it is only a matter of looking up versus looking down and perception is radically different.

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” Chrétien Malesherbes

So often we limit ourselves we set up the road blocks and stop dead in our tracks all possibility of success. I have seen students do this and simply quit at education. Sometimes it may be a teacher’s fault for not answering a question or responding in a way that is perceived meaningful to the student. But ultimately as teachers and learners ourselves we need to try and break through and build students up.

“Attitudes are more important than facts.” Karl A. Menninger

“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” Earl Nightingale  

“We have unprecedented conditions to deal with and novel adjustments to make; there can be no doubt of that. We also have a great stock of scientific knowledge unknown to our grandfathers with which to operate. So, novel are the conditions, so copious the knowledge, that we must undertake the arduous task of reconsidering a great part of the opinions about man and his relations to his fellow men which have been handed down to us by previous generations who lived in far other conditions and possessed far less information about the world and themselves. We have, however, first to create an unprecedented attitude of mind to cope with unprecedented conditions, and to utilize unprecedented knowledge.” James H. Robinson  

It was only a few years ago in the history of man that TV became a reality. Last week as I was helping someone do a paper a question was asked “when did racism start was it during the civil war”. Racism and slavery are not new to man, some anthropologists look back even to Neanderthal man at signs of racism with Cro-Magnon man. But each generation has more to work with more information more knowledge more data to compile and their response is what had been looked at one way has become different.

“There are times when you just get down, you feel like nobody likes you. We’re in high school forever. It’s just what we do with it.” Rene Russo

Rene Russo is one of my favorite actresses and someone who was famous as a model and actually then made it bigger as an actress. She at one point as her modeling career started to dwindle thought all was over but interestingly enough now she models perhaps more now that she is famous as an actress.

“Don’t be against things so much as for things.” Col. Harland Sanders

Most of us have had Kentucky fried chicken at some point in life Col. Sanders literally changed fast food along with Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame and it was their attitude that did it. Both men took already used and tested ideas and with attitude made them work.

“Nothing will work unless you do.” John Wooden 

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” Ray Kroc

Every day I hear a student blame a teacher for being a sorry teacher I have never yet heard a student say they were a sorry student. But I have heard many students except simply a seventy percent and be happy “its passing” and so where does the blame lie if in effect blame is appropriate. We choose and we choose to fail or succeed. We are the culprits not a teacher, not the book and not the class we choose. Please keep all in harm’s way in your thoughts and on your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Within the circle of life, a new life coming

Bird Droppings November 12, 2020

Within the circle of life, a new life coming

Every day as I sit and wonder in which direction my writing will go something will trigger a thought or idea. I found a small book while at Barnes and Nobles a few days back. It was sitting next to me as I sat down today. My day was not normal today my wife forgot her work computer at the house and so an emergency run to her office and drop off her computer. I needed a new dress shirt to go to a wedding, so I went shopping on my own. That is way out of normal for me. I was asked to do the meal blessings over the weekend for the wedding and perhaps this is why I came back to this piece.

Resurrection

By Susan Thomas Underwood

The universe is energy in constant motion.

There are ebbs and flows;

Outcomes and income,

And change…… Always change.

The physical world reflects this motion

In the cycles of life,

There is spring and fall, winter and summer,

Birth and death; and rebirth…

Resurrection!

Einstein proved that even time is relative

In his theory of relativity,

All is relative …. All is change

You can count on it.

Be then as the willow;

Learn to bend with the wind!

Always dream, though your dreams may change.

Always produce, though your product may change.

Always love, though your love may change.

Always live, though your life will change.

You can count on it!

Susan Thomas Underwood is a native Oklahoman, Shawnee, and author. I saw her book of thoughts, Walk with Spirit on Amazon.com and thought I might take a look. This will be a rather busy week for me. I have several doctor appointments, dissertation writing to do and hopefully grand babies visiting. As I read this first entry in Underwood’s book I thought to my own existence these past seventy one years and changes I have been through, as a son, parent, husband, father and now fifth time grandfather.

“The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, the summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me. The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning, the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me. The strength of the fire, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me and my heart soars.” Chief Dan George

I find myself quoting Dan George many times. Dan was a Salish chief from Canada and an accomplished actor later in his life. Some may remember him from the movie Little Big Man or Outlaw Josie Wales. But he was too an eloquent speaker and poet. He often spoke of nature but also of the intertwining of life. He would speak of the roads we each travel and cross many times. I spent most of the past week watching, observing, holding and photographing my grandchildren and helping my wife get the house ready for the holidays while she ran around hunting for bargains. It is hard to recall a tiny newborn now almost ten years ago when each gesture and smile was first for her. I am so happy on how we as family responded and have encouraged her as she is still learning daily. It seems even for a teacher watching my grandbabies learn new things daily I am amazed.

As a teacher being a grandparent becomes our teaching job number one, not so much to have them belief or think as I do but to provide pathways for them to walk and learn on her own. Our journeys in life are not always smooth going and it is being able to offer a hand when needed. I recall nearly ten years back watching my granddaughter and my son as we went for blood work for their tiny baby the bond that has been made in a few short hours is one of a lifetime. Watching her mother hold and talk softly whispering as she was carefully touching her eyes, nose and cheeks is a bond that is impossible to break. During a brief moment or two, I was peering through the lens of my camera as my granddaughter in a matter of seconds in her grandmother’s lap made a series of facial expressions almost as if she knew I have grandma wrapped around my ever so tiny finger now. As the orator and actor Dan George stated so many years ago, “they speak to me and my heart soars”.

It is the middle of the week and two grandbabies birthdays on the way next month it is all happening so fast. May peace be with you all in the coming days and may we all keep those in harm’s way on our hearts and on our minds and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

A tapestry is made by interconnecting of threads

A tapestry is made by interconnecting of threads

Bird Droppings November 11, 2020

All through history weaving has been a critical aspect of civilization. Weaving cloth for clothes and blankets in order to survive and soon after, weaving began for art sake.

“For certain fortunate people there is something that transcends all classifications of behavior, and that is awareness, something which rises from the programming of the past, and that is spontaneity; and something that is more rewarding than games and that is intimacy. But all of these may be frightening and even perilous to the unprepared. Perhaps they are better off as they are, seeking their solutions in popular techniques of social action, such as ‘togetherness.’ This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it.” Dr. Eric Berne, Games People Play, 1964

The title intrigued me as I was sitting here wondering on this unseasonably warm Wednesday with which direction to go in this day’s writing. I was thinking about students, parents and teachers and how so often the intertwining of personalities produces the fabric of the day. I recall in a graduate class a professor friend used the term or representation of weaving. Our lives are a tapestry being woven each day as we go.

“Each person designs his own life, freedom gives him the power to carry out his own designs, and power gives the freedom to interfere with the designs of others. “  Dr. Eric Berne

For many years I was directly involved in the sheep industry with raising, breeding, and of course shearing the sheep and selling the wool. I traveled nationwide photographing and talking to producers and writing about the sheep and wool industry. I met many hand spinners and weavers as I traveled. Some were artisans spinning yarn as fine as silk and weaving literally pieces of art work. Back in the day we had a ewe a Hampshire cross ewe that was “black” and when she was shorn, her fleece was chinchilla gray. For a number of years, a dear friend would get that fleece each year for her spinning and weaving. Somewhere in a box is a small ball of yarn my oldest son spun one afternoon when he was six with that fleece with my friend showing and helping him.

Life as Dr. Andrews, professor and former chairperson of Special education department at Piedmont College commented in class is a weaving it is an intertwining of events and people.

“A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else. “ Mahatma Gandhi

One of Gandhi’s methodologies of protest was to spin and weave his own cloth rather than rely on industrial produced material. Many other intricate thoughts were woven in as well; spinning is for many a form of meditation. The process of weaving, creating and designing a piece is literally a painting of a picture with thread and yarn.

“A man’s action is only a picture book of his creed.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, as we weave our cloth in life we are seen by the fabric, the pattern, and the methods we use to make that piece of cloth.

“When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. “John F. Kennedy

With each progress report we call students’ parents or guardians to discuss issues and grades. I spoke with several over the phone back a week or so ago. I walked through my room after school that day reading a poster that has been hanging around now on my wall where ever I take up for 30 years, Children Learn what they live. While one weaves silk while another weaves burlap. Silk has many great attributes as does burlap and the applications and uses vary. To spin hemp into twine and weave the burlap is as much a skill as the artisans who weave the silk threads into cloth. The weaving and material made is not the issue but it is that weaving that is occurring. For it is that effort that is being made to produce a life that is so important.

“Understand clearly that when a great need appears a great use appears also; when there is small need there is small use; it is obvious, then, that full use is made of all things at all times according to the necessity thereof.” Dogen Kenji, Zen master

Recently I used the word direction and drew criticism from a teacher trying to explain that choosing a direction in a journey and not truly having a destination is sometimes a meaningless effort. For some just going is the norm. I always speak of the journey being more important versus the destination but there is a point to head towards. When building a house first you build walls you determine where doors and windows are needed and add them as you go. A really good builder knows ahead and plans for doors and windows and designed properly a house can have huge windows and great doors and movement in and out occurs continually.

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” Chief Seattle, 1854

Many years ago, I was sitting alongside a fence in a field far away from houses and people and I watched a spider spin a web. We see webs all around I was told there are thousands of spiders per acre in any field. Many of the spiders are minute and nearly microscopic. Anyhow the spider climbed to a point and dropped leaving a strand of silk climbed and dropped and so forth building a base for her web. Next came the cross lines and soon a web was built over an hour or so in the process. We see webs and easily sweep them away but the design and care in making is engrained in the spider. Life is a weaving a spinning a web of sorts and yes so often is simply swept away. Occasionally someone will stand back in awe of the artistry if only we would take note every time. Please as we have already partaken of a day of thanksgiving continue giving thanks and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Finding solace along the way

Bird Droppings November 10, 2020

Finding solace along the way

A few days ago, a good friend and former student from another time it seems said I could read every word in Bird Droppings today. I did not think I used too many fancy words in my writing. Although I have a bad habit of inventing words. He said there were “no fancy high fangled words that I never saw before.” This got me thinking, I wondered, what about a simple word and yet powerful, so today a new vocabulary word, SOLACE.

“Comfort in sorrow, misfortune, or distress; consolation.” Dictionary.com

I was thinking as I got up this morning just after 5:00 to review some writing I did yesterday, it was a quiet morning perhaps peaceful even. I glanced outside and it was a starry sky and there were no frogs or crickets to be heard even though unseasonably warm for the fall. The crickets and tree frogs provided a faint chorus normally when I go out in the wee hours of the night and morning but it was just cool enough to put a damper on that. It is interesting for me as I begin to consider a new direction in my own life. I want to continue in education but need a change from current situation. I need to get finished with my dissertation perhaps get into college teaching again.

I should say as I look further into the word solace I do seek solace in my daily writings. The word solace is that calming as the final pieces fall in place. I tend to seek solace within myself, looking within, searching within and finding a spot where I am at peace and can rejuvenate.

For many people solace is in other ways, a massage or a book, perhaps a quiet walk. Several years ago, when my brother journeyed on in my mother’s grieving she sought solace in writing, in assisting others in the grieving process. Not too long after my brother John passed away a young man who we all knew was killed in a car accident. At my brother’s funeral my mother pressed flowers and made book markers with poems for friends and family, the pressed flowers were laminated into the bookmarkers. She gathered a few blossoms from this young man’s funeral and did likewise for his grandmother. I used to carry my mother’s pacemaker in my pocket perhaps helping me to seek solace after her journeying on.

The thanks from his family were shared as two mothers embraced and smiled a few weeks later. I wonder as I sit and think, ponder, why do so many not seek solace. I watch daily many folks smolder and contain their sorrow, grief and discomfort letting it build into depression and illness for some. Yet for some solace is that weekly sojourn to church and those daily intercessory sessions in prayer. Solace can be a simple process but as I think it is an active one as well. We need to seek solace not just wait. Far too many people want to be solaced by others and never really get there. There is an interaction but you must be a willing participant and be seeking that state of mind. I am wandering this morning. It has been several years since I was reintroduced to James Kavanaugh a poet and author from my early college days.

KNOW THIS, MY FRIEND

by James Kavanaugh

Know this, my friend,

I will never desert you.

I will be there when all have gone away,

When finally, you have nothing more to say,

And there is no apparent reason ever for me to stay.

When all the fears of a lifetime have crowded in on you

And every particle of your past has lost all meaning,

When you cannot lift your head

or hold back the tears,

And you can no longer bear

the terror of your own ruminations,

When all your triumphs are as dust

that cannot hold you aloft,

And even the family you raised and loved

have no time for you,

I will be there

To bring you what joy and courage I can,

To remind you of all the beauty and wonder

you are,

To heal you with all the love I have,

To carry you, if need be, wherever you must go,

Only because you are my friend

And I will never desert you.

I never realized how much I missed a poet, as I did when I was reunited with James Kavanaugh at Piedmont College in a graduate class. I had read his work back in the day, the early 1970’s when I drove a VW van and had long hair and was arguing against wars and for equal rights. As I thought looking at this poem, the word solace can be reading a poem or understanding someone’s thoughts. Yesterday I throughout contemplative reading and this is a piece that would take well with that. Contemplate the words and meaning Kavanaugh is trying to convey to the reader. As I sit here and as time goes so often for me it is sitting each morning and or afternoon writing Bird Droppings that is solace for me personally. So, my friends as you seek solace in your own way may seek also peace this wonderful day and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Perhaps, within ourselves is the change we need?

Bird Droppings November 9, 2020
Perhaps, within ourselves is the change we need?

I have been away from my computer for a few minutes hopefully by Thursday I will be emailing my first chapter to my dissertation chair. I have a feeling of accomplishment and ending my procrastination. I am not complaining but I enjoy the morning pondering and thinking and of course writing about random educational, philosophical, spiritual and or other eclectic things. For me specific writing topics can have a way of blurring the brain. So today perhaps I am overthinking making up for some lost time. I did write some comments for a friend’s teachers’ evaluation.

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” Mary Engelbreit

I am very much a creature of routine of habit and when my daily path is altered I have occasion to be amiss. My days that go off in another direction or start late seem a bit out of kilter. Over the years I heard my father speak numerous times in his lectures and training sessions of W. Edwards Deming the man who changed Japan’s industry around after WWII. US industry knew of Deming but sort of turned a deaf ear. On the opposite end of the world Japan embraced Deming’s ideas.

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” W. Edwards Deming

Blunt and to the point Deming revolutionized industrial thinking and began the quality movement and in rebuilding Japanese industry as well as increasing production in the United States during World War II. It was the significant altering of industry in Japan that made the world pay heed to Deming and the quality movement.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Victor Frankl

Philosophers and thinkers keep coming back to we may not be able to change the conditions but we can change ourselves. Often the indigenous medicine person would wander off into the wilderness to find him or herself through a vision. They would often forgo food and water for a period of time even submitting to a sweat lodge to assist in bringing about the vision. In today’s modern world such primitive endeavors are not always looked upon as acceptable and we seek other ways of finding one’s self. Some search within learning and understanding trying to delve deeper into the inner makings of mankind. Rationalizing, intellectualizing and forming theories and philosophical standards that stand the test of time.

“The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.” Henry Miller

In my observing and participating in the educational system I see this attitude daily. Functioning and attitudes are very much in line with Miller’s man who would literally cut off his own limbs for artificial ones to avoid the pain.

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.” Washington Irving

Coming back to my starting point of habit and routine we would rather than take another form of transportation and or for other reasons perhaps time and speed we as humans seem to put up with simply being bruised on the other cheek at least back in the day.

“When you are through changing, you are through.” Bruce Barton

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” John Kenneth Galbraith

I am as guilty as anyone on this point yet often I can prove my point. Many the times, I am often more so the one initiating the change or creating the dissidence that pushes for altering how a student does something. It is quite often a behavior that is deemed inappropriate for society and through modification or change might be made acceptable to others. Sometimes it is about conforming to what in a school setting falls into the rules and parameters that the majority allows for and desire. In some areas I am not quite the advocate of change and I try in general to keep any such endeavor limited to those that provide a means for a student to live within and get through graduation. I use my own credo of doing no harm to others as a basis for behaviors that might need some tweaking and or changing

“The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.” Ellen Glasgow

I have been a student and or teacher in ten colleges and or universities and on numerous varying occasions and have worked with a team of instructors and professors in many courses. I have found that each time it is new alive and viable and different. I can see the name is the same and the course number but it changes with the group of students. Each course has pieces that will be exactly like the last yet each too is subtly different. I have found no two groups in teaching are the same so how can we teach the same material the same way every time. Sadly, this is what text book manufactures’ want; school systems, school boards and parent groups push for and get continuity and or uniformity. In Georgia we now have CCP’s Common Core Practices. Every little nuance is accounted for and of every moment a student is in the class room.

“Life is its own journey, presupposes its own change and movement, and one tries to arrest them at one’s eternal peril.” Laurens Van der Post

I have over the years written about this several times. Van der Post writes about the last Bushmen painter, as he remembers the day that the last painter died. There was a series of caves and rocks on the edge of the Kalahari that each time he visited during his childhood new paintings of animals, birds and other aspects of nature would be appearing on the rock face. It was also during this time the South African Government much like our own had chosen the path of genocide for a people, the Bushmen. Van der post writes about hearing as a child the gun shots and upon a visit to the rocks and caves on a later day seeing the paintings that were now a series of red slashes and warriors dying and then no more paintings. The last painter had recorded the beginning of the end and there was not another to take his place.

“Growth is the only evidence of life.” John Henry Newman

“The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.” William Blake

As I look at the statements perhaps growth would have been looking at the Bushmen and seeing their views rather than destroying them. So many pathways in history have been of destruction rather than change, rather than seeing a different view.

“Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.” Marcel Proust

“We did not change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves.” Lynn Hall

I seriously wondered as I read and thought about this quote. Maybe we do not change but come to grips with and accept who we are rather than trying to be the image of what we think others want us to be. Watching students in high school so many simply trying to be what others want them to be.

“What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.” Mignon McLaughlin

As I sit and ponder how true this is, each event in our life has led us here to this moment and place.

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” Ellen Glasgow

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” Woodrow Wilson

I have a dear friend who constantly reminds me of this all movement is not forward and to that effect I once made an open-ended rubric there were literally no parameters in any direction more of a shading as one event evolved into the next.

“Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.” Pauline R. Kezer

I really do like this illustration we find our grounding, our roots in the continuity of life but it is that new look that change that grows us and lifts us up.

“If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep talking, and keep advancing.” Saint Augustine

This is a profound statement and not to belittle who and what you are but to always be trying to be more than the point at which you are. Far too many people are content and stagnate repeating William Blake’s quote. “The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.”

“God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.” Author Unknown

I generally like to attribute to someone a quote but this wording caught my attention a spin on Rhinehold Niebuhr’s words on his famous Serenity Prayer.

“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Things do not change; we change.” Henry David Thoreau

A general and a philosopher offer similar ideas but it is truly up to us to provide the catalyst and effort.

“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.” Francis Bacon

Inevitable that change will occur through evolution, migration, alteration, dissemination, ramification, ossification, delineation, degradation and even in our own country segregation. Change is evident always and certain how we adapt and survive this is the crucial point.

“Every possession and every happiness is but lent by chance for an uncertain time, and may therefore be demanded back the next hour.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Describing Schopenhauer many writers see his works as unlike many of his time he is easier to read often making sense on the first read. He was one of the first European philosophers to look at and utilize eastern thought. As I read this line life is much like a loan shark we borrow pieces only to have to eventually pay back with interest often at a higher rate. Sitting here this morning I wonder when our interest will be due for our current situations. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin (We are all related)

bird

I am always finding where community exists

Bird Droppings November 7, 2020
I am always finding where community exists

I am sitting listening to Allman Brother’s Fillmore East on a cool Saturday morning. After a few days of sunshine and warm fall weather rain is coming in and temperature may change. As I drove to the corner store yesterday, I had several thoughts streaming through my head. How do two people see the same thing or read the same thing and still walk away with totally differing views? Is has crossed my mind many times in the past few weeks. Reading the political news and various takes from happenings in national events one person sees one thing and another a totally different view.

As I got near the end of my doctorial course work way back in the day and before I restarted I was involved in a class on educational ethics which featured nine texts all of which have an under lying philosophical view of caring and relationships as keys to education or I should say successful teaching. One of the books entitled Dreamkeepers, by Gloria Ladson-Billings, focuses on the notion of that a teacher is giving back to the community. Over the past few years I have heard numerous teachers discuss not wanting to be seen by students outside of school and literally not being a part of the school community. More than once I got into a debate of sorts while at school on this concept. Is it possible for a teacher to be a successful teacher and not be a part of the school community?

On my last trip to Barnes and Noble bookstore, I was looking for a book by J. Garrison, Dewey and Eros: Wisdom and desire in the art of teaching, which focuses on some philosophical ideas from John Dewey, considered by many one of the great minds in educational thought. As I went to the bookstore I ran into a student from my high school that had transferred to Georgia Southern University.

“In every integral experience there is form because there is dynamic organization. I call the organization dynamic …. Because it has growth…. William James aptly compared the course of a conscious experience to the alternate flights and perching’s of a bird…. Each resting place in experience is an undergoing in which is absorbed and taken home the consequences of prior doing… If we move to rapidly, we get away from the base of supplies – of accrued meanings – the experience is flustered, thin and confused. If we dawdle too long after having extracted a net value, experience perishes of inanition.” John Dewey, Art as Experience, 1934

I thought back a few years and many conversations on synchronicity and a trip home from a class actually after a midterm in Advanced Behavioral Techniques; I was hungry since I had not really stopped since early in the morning. I knew one of my former swimmers from the high school team worked at Taco Bell and sure enough she was working and I said hi, coincidently the same student who I ran into at the bookstore that past weekend. As I pulled out of Taco Bell my sweet tooth struck and I ended up at Brewster’s, as close to homemade ice cream as you can get at fast food, sounded good and there two of my former advisees were also getting ice cream. We talked for a while about uptight teachers and who was not, an interesting subject. Why do teachers get so uptight or anybody for that matter? Brings to mind an interesting thought why so many teachers are on psych drugs for varying conditions?

As I talked several more students and former students pulled in I met girlfriends and boyfriends of each and such, coincidence perhaps but an average day for me it seems. So often I mention the word coincidence and try to explain it. Recently in a letter to a friend I used the term of we are where we need to be right now at this moment and when we realize that all of a sudden so much more becomes clear. James Redfield an author refers to coincidence frequently and the idea that when you begin noticing coincidence it happens more often as you become attuned to it. Essentially as you become aware of your place in the puzzle the pieces all seem to fit better and more clearly.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Jung was of the nature there was purpose in all that happened and he and his former partner Sigmund Freud disagreed to an extent on the whys of this. Jung coined a word synchronicity to explain his thoughts in the early 1900’s. Events and things happening at a specific time, specific people seemingly appear by chance but obviously not.

“His (Jung) notion of synchronicity is that there is a causal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception.” Skeptic.com

“Some scientists see a theoretical grounding for synchronicity in quantum physics, fractal geometry, and chaos theory. They are finding that the isolation and separation of objects from each other is more apparent than real; at deeper levels, everything — atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, people — participates in a sensitive, flowing web of information. Physicists have shown, for example, that if two photons are separated, no matter by how far, a change in one creates a simultaneous change in the other. “A Wink from the Cosmos, by Meg Lundstrom (Intuition Magazine, May 1996)

How does synchronicity tie into community? Somewhere in and among ideas and thoughts are answers. Some people seek answers through religion some seek answers through pure science others assume there are no answers and sit on a rock. Going back to my first thought I see teaching as a community and that in that community we are integral pieces and do interconnect many times and as for me today and yesterday in many differing places. I find throwing myself into that community as significant as walking into my class room on a school day. Each time I bump into a student it adds to their appreciation of my time and effort and gives me a piece of their puzzle too help deal with any issues that may come up when I have them in class.

Each of us can choose our direction and flow as humans, as friends, and as teachers if that is our chosen lot in life. The actual point I was making was when we are aware of our interactions with others that each moment we spend with a person affects not only that person but the next person they see or talk too as we too are affected. It is in this way community is built. I came away that night and yesterday, happy having talked with some folks that I had not seen in several weeks even several years and hopefully they too went away a bit happier. This is how life works and if we are aware of this imagine the effect and impact.

If I know I will be affecting people beyond direct contact with someone would you be more aware of how I affect them and so forth. I recall many years ago from I believe Dr. Glenn Doman, the old credence of leaving the person you are talking with smiling will affect ten others is true. If you involve the idea of coincidence, fact or fancy who knows but it sure happens a lot. So, as I wander today through differing ideas please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Reconciling the importance of present, past and future

Bird Droppings November 6, 2020
Reconciling the importance of present, past and future

I spent the better part of yesterday avoiding my direction so intent on the moment I was missing cues to the past and future. As an empathetic human being I get caught up at times in the emotions and feedback of the present. When I allow my wisdom to kick in and help determine pointing the way so to say I can be a formidable teacher and advocate. John Dewey writes about experiences past, present, and future and how they are reflected upon, interrelated and interchanged often. I am working on a notion of curriculum that is continuous not finite as most teachers try and do in practice. William Pinar discusses curriculum as running the course that it is ongoing it intersects each aspect of life and time. So, as I sit here today pondering my previous day, present moment, and future I see the interplay that so easily can be hidden in focusing solely on the moment. So, a swig from my meditative mug of strong chai tea and into today’s thoughts.

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

My wanderings in general are the expanse of my almost seventy one years of life experiences over several days of traveling, thinking and observing mankind. Just a few nights ago my son and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature was only a few feet away in its wildest. I was walking this past Sunday morning just in my back yard. I have been away from my quiet spot due to some developer work and bush hogging near my home in Between Georgia. Around me birds would occasionally fly into and out of the trees but most of the time without a sound. I was essentially alone sitting listening while everyone else was inside. Only a few hours earlier I had a wonderful experience watching nearby my house as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.

Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. It has been a few weeks since we drove home from a quick trip to see my son and his wife and our grandbabies we noticed nearly fifty hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground.

Clearly, we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

Only a few years back we have been through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter election campaigns I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads were the vast majority of all from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with after the election and even then, that was questionable. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”. I received a copy of a book in the mail from a friend in New York after he published. I had known the title for months prior but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today. Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the newly legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty-eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past year lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. I grew up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions. Even more significant is my son still in nursing school who is over twenty-five but is covered with new health care law. If not for that not sure where we would be after his accident in May of this year with over three hundred fifty thousand in medical bills that were covered.

I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai who is a seven-note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage of a clear sky and quiet surrounding the trees. I had to stop listen to the music and see this quiet still image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house. As I turned from observing I noticed a flat tire on my son’s truck which brought me back to reality and the moment.

To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

It is a new day, a new start, and always day one

Bird Droppings November 5, 2020
It is a new day, a new start, and always day one

Feeling old today now that I am working on my seventieth second year of life and a cold front coming in, my bones are aching. I remember nearly fourteen years ago as we got closer to the last day in our old house it was appropriately to be the last day of the month. Sitting here in my writing nook upstairs, thinking back. This morning it is a new day a glorious day and who knows what this day may hold. I wonder each day as I start who I will meet, talk with and what new ideas may come around. Being accustomed to early rising I am sitting here at my computer typing away getting thoughts down, organizing notes and a semblance of trying to pull together a dissertation. It is a good day a sixty percent chance of rain and or a forty percent chance of sun. I like the weather reports on the news they are always so vague and always covering every angle neither cloud nor sun for sure but possibility of either. I found this thought today as I sit and ponder.

“Everything comes to pass, nothing comes to stay.” Matthew Flickstein, Journey to The Center

When I saw this, I thought of a dear friend who passed away what seems decades ago today and was only a few years. A teenager who I would have never suspected had a feeling for Robert Frost. So, for those of you who knew him, a special word for Travis, a special someone who could light up a room and generally get someone mad at the same time.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
By Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

When I went to the funeral of Travis and heard this poem read I was in tears. This was his favorite poem. I had to think, I had to ponder and for myself I could not have remembered that verse though I am sure I read it somewhere in my wanderings. Travis was not a scholar and I do not mean that in a bad way he was quite the opposite so to say. Yet this verse was of significance to him, he carried it with him on a piece of paper in his wallet. Earlier today I wrote, responding to an email, about doing right and or doing good.

“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies; succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway.” Mother Teresa

A friend from Ohio sent me this quote and paraphrased if you are an atheist cover your ears, well actually your eyes unless someone is reading this to you. An atheist friend responded with. “All atheists have to do is substitute another word (like ‘conscience’) or thought for ‘God’ in the final sentence, and it works just as well. Or better, eliminate the final sentence, and it works even better, since the reader must come up with his own justification for doing the right thing.” As I think back to Travis, I honestly do not think he intentionally did wrong ever. Everything he did do, while annoying at times, loud at times, was joyful. It was often funny as I sit here, that was the word that popped in my mind, joyful.

I agree with that great philosopher and guru of gurus a dear friend from the Philadelphia area Dlog Nala, that leaving out the last sentence changes the passage a bit. So often in life we need excuses to do something even though it is right, what is in it for me that extrinsic motivation that drives mankind. Even in this analogy of doing for God there is a reason for doing good, rather than simply because it is right. While I am reminiscing going back many years to an argument in seminary. I was always intrigued how the mafia Godfather, on his death bed would have last rites and absolution even though he had murdered many people and pillaged the city through crime. I listened to many messages of salvation from sin.

I had a professor and an entire discussion group tell me how upset they were over the fact that this group of people we had just worked with, were going to hell because they could not accept their way of believing. The particular unit was a severe and profoundly disabled unit at Central state hospital back in the days of institutions, a large complex of buildings and humanity in Central Georgia in the early 1970’s. Many of the patients in this unit were bedridden and connected to feeding tubes, literally comatose. They were turned every hour or so to prevent bed sores. I always thought it was interesting that these folks in that unit were lost and the mafia godfather was not. The science of theology has a way of doing that.

It has been a number of years since another friend and I walked five miles every day discussing life and theology. Many the talks as we walked, of where and when and how and many of Travis and his impact on our own lives. I am amazed at how a sixteen-year-old could affect so many people.

“Everything comes to pass, nothing comes to stay.” Matthew Flickstein, Journey To The Center

We tend to get greedy when we have a good thing and never want to let go of it. I have been writing each morning for nearly fourteen years and on that morning, after holding Travis’s hand for most of the night a story I have told so many times. I had been watching monitors go the direction I was hoping they would not. The doctor said it was up to the family they would harvest organs when given permission. Travis was an organ donor, it was his wish and he even talked about it often. I went to my own home, after we had taken all the high school friends of Travis back after a night in the hospital. I sat down at my computer and I have related this so many times previously. There affixed to the monitor a yellow post-it note from my son.

“Dad” it was addressed to me. “Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

It was funny how it took my teenager, at that time, son to give me perspective. I learned more in that moment than I had in many years of discussion and classes. We all are on a journey each of us wandering often far from the path. My son now a teacher of science and I really do not think he knows how much he taught his old man in one line. Some of us never step out of the way from their travels. For many people it is always a straight and narrow pathway. However, some of us choose to go down this side road and up that path. It is the journey we are on that is so important and it is on that journey we need to borrow from Mother Theresa and do what is right, do it anyway. Sitting here my computer alarm went off time to get busy. As I was reading the news on Yahoo a few minutes back, maybe a change in how we view our world situation is in the horizon coming up. I would hope so; life is so precious it is not a commodity like so much of our economy. We are not human capital as so many politicians and even educators would like to think. So as always for today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird