Actions speak so much louder than words

Bird Droppings March 16, 2014
Actions speak so much louder than words

I have been away from my computer for several days after being sent home from school by the school nurse. My wife came and picked me up. After three weeks of blood pressure issues heart tests of all sorts and exams poked and prodded my medications were altered after ten years. My heart was doing what it was being chemically told to do slow down. However it was getting to slow so back to the drawing board. I also had a message on Tuesday or Wednesday from a friend advising me of a situation concerning another friend. The gravity of this situation had me numb for several days. My thinking today while wrapped around pieces of my own teaching ideas and all that has happened in the past week have significance to some perhaps many.

Look at children. Of course they may quarrel, but generally speaking they do not harbor ill feelings as much or as long as adults do. Most adults have the advantage of education over children, but what is the use of an education if they show a big smile while hiding negative feelings deep inside? Children don’t usually act in such a manner. If they feel angry with someone, they express it, and then it is finished. They can still play with that person the following day.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “Imagine All The People”

It has been a few nights since my wife and I had a chance to go out together one of those quiet romantic type dinners. Sitting here on a rainy Sunday morning I was thinking back to one evening as we sat down at a booth at a local country restaurant, about the same time we sat down an elderly couple carefully made their way to the adjacent booth. Both the husband and wife helped each other moving ever so slowly. After his wife had seated herself the husband went and fixed a plate at the buffet for her. When he returned to the table my wife happened to glance over and the woman was smiling as her husband came back to their table. My wife said “she looked like a child”, her child was coming out as she smiled.

Many years ago as I took one of my first graduate classes which happened to be the same one I had nearly thirty years prior but was required to have material more recently, a class in human development. A research paper was a requirement of the class and I developed a chart on the development of faith and trust in the process of writing my paper. I had been reading a book by Dr. James Fowler head of the Ethics department at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University on the development of faith. It was interesting as I read he had used and compared the development of faith through correlations of various concepts to other educational devlopmentalists such as Piaget, Erickson and even Freud.

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” John Ruskin

When I read the passage from the Dalai Lama I was reminded of a stage I wrote about in my subsequent paper based on learned trust. Children when they are born inherently and universally trust I called it simply Universal trust. A baby instinctively trusts as it survives by literally instinctual trust and behavior, sucking reflexes only require milk to satisfy. A bitter taste for example the use of wormwood rubbed on the breast back in medieval times mentioned in Romeo and Juliet, and the baby would soon withdraw. The baby would learn to not suck. A simple example that as the child grows becomes more complex. Each new facet of life requires new information and understanding and soon a child learns trust. We go from an instinctual universal trust to a learned trust. In this growing process the interactions of individuals that are seen by others impact the learning curve and consequently the level to which a person trusts.

“Who would not rather trust and be deceived?” Eliza Cook

Quite a few Monday night’s back one December, I delivered my youngest son to a local restaurant where the Early Learners were having their Christmas banquet. Our high school has a group of fifteen or so four year olds, under the supervision of a lead teacher and para-pro involved in teaching Early Childhood Education to high school students who want to go into education. Actually this is considered a technical class in our school, an experimental school in some ways a teaching school for high schoolers. Many of the little learners are children of teachers within our high school.

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” Frank Crane

It seems my son had been Santa Claus for two years for the little learners. Matt inherited my father’s Santa suit. Dad, for as long as I can remember, had been Santa for our family. I recall a night in Modena Pa., Santa came through the fire escape window when I was four years old. This image is still vivid in my mind and many things are not as I get older. I check my driver’s license for name and address periodically.

For one reason or another Matt had to wait, which meant sitting in the waiting area of the restaurant. Quite a few little children came through, some would hide behind their parents, and others would go up and sit beside him and or ask him questions. Each child was unique.

“No, I don’t understand my husband’s theory of relativity, but I know my husband, and I know he can be trusted.” Elsa Einstein

“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When Matt finally went into the Christmas party each child came up to him and I would take a photo. There was no questioning of whom this was, it was Santa. After all of the little learners came up, the teenagers, high school girls came and sat in Matt’s lap. Now I know why Matt did this each year. But within the context of these moments, trust was adamant. Children have learned to believe in, or not, Santa Claus, that is not an instinctual event.

“Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love — and to put its trust in life.” Joseph Conrad

So often we take the innocence of children and convert it to the learned ways of adulthood, greed, envy and all the other influences of mankind are learned. But I have found in life’s journey that trust does begin to filter back as time and age goes on. Thinking back to dinner with my wife and how she noticed the elderly woman’s smile, sometimes is it the glint in an eye or a smile from an elderly person that shows the inner child is still there. Perhaps it is that untouched innocence and universal trust has returned, or maybe like me, you forget all else, that you have learned not to trust. As I pondered it became evident that it is how we are seen and the things that we leave behind as memories in others eyes and ears are what may be the most critical of all in this reality.

“You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.” Leo Aikman

With an election year coming up I am sitting here looking over morning news and how each side sees and addresses issues in differing ways. Last night I read a blistering headline of US oil production was down thirteen percent on federal and Indian lands. However when you look at overall US production we are at highest level since 2008 and putting oil into reserves and exporting. So depending on which headline you read first your impression is swayed or changed. I was reading last night several pieces about war and will borrow just a thought coming from a former student.

“War, one could argue, developed from three functions in the macrocosm of human societies to A) take another society’s land and resources B) to defend one’s land and resources, or C) to liberate one’s own land and resources. Historically, you could place any early war under one of these categories.

But, morally speakin…g… how do you determine that the bullet which leaves the muzzle of YOUR rifle serves B and C and not A? Is it by who shot first? Well, not necessarily, since Navy Seals from your country may have torched a village that morning, your side may be in the wrong. Is it by a sense of “greater good?” Perhaps… but logically speaking, how often do immoral means yield a moral end? If I took your insulin to give to another person with Diabetes, would that be moral?

I am not anti-war, because life is not just. This is not an ideal world, and sometimes you have to fight for what you love. All I’m asking is how many soldiers died to protect what they love, and how many died because of some covetous politician?” Alex Hill

As I read this last night I realized how much I missed conversations with this student as he was always several light years ahead in his thinking and wisdom.

“Thou wilt find rest from vain fancies if thou doest every act in life as though it were thy last.” Marcus Aurelius

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I am getting long winded today perhaps I started too early but the thought from this great theologian ties into my morning ponderings. In 1945 Bonhoeffer was hanged in a Nazi prison camp for being a member of the resistance as he vocally opposed the National Socialists, as well as physically opposed with his involvement in assisting Jewish families out of Europe. Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested, tried and executed. Much of his writing came from prison in the form of letters to friends.

“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“It is the nature, and the advantage, of strong people that they can bring out the crucial questions and form a clear opinion about them. The weak always have to decide between alternatives that are not their own.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I was getting absorbed in reading Bonhoeffer’s articles and actually a bit deep for a Sunday morning I think reading Alex’s note from many months ago got me thinking last night. I am also reading theology thesis paper from the friend who started my entire train of thought today, again which really is a bit deep for a Sunday. Theology reads easier on Thursday or Saturday. However Bonhoeffer was very controversial in his time, and even now especially now for his thinking, which was not traditional church theology. As I read my friends paper not that many years old and with the events of the week realize the fragility of trust.

“It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Being blunt was not a difficult task for Bonhoeffer in his writing or speaking; consider that this was in a time in history when what you said could elicit a jail sentence and or death penalty. He wrote prolifically, even the last two years of his life in a German prison, writing extensively on theology and ethics and finally executed for supposedly being involved in a plot to kill Hitler.

“If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time, because a dose of joy is a spiritual cure.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This great theologian believed in living what you believed. These following words were from his prison many years ago and published after his death. Perhaps they provide a window into his thinking and efforts alias all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?
Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

Sitting here reading words from a man who died nearly seventy years ago because of what he believed in and lived for. In today’s crazy world it is sometimes difficult to comprehend. Daily I review test scores of reading comprehension and I wonder if we also could evaluate living life comprehension? Do we truly comprehend life that is about us and in us or its effects on us and others? So today I try and write about so many things and a few words from a man who lived as he spoke and believed and died a martyr to his words. As I close another day of reflection and writing please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

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

Teaching and life are simply feeding wolves

Bird Droppings March 12, 2014
Teaching and life are simply feeding wolves

I have heard and seen this in many forms. “’One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a debate that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.’” From Jodie Schmidt, 2005

Many months ago in my travels and in reading emails I saw this story sent by a friend. Only a few days ago it was on Facebook. As I read over this short story and by chance I was thinking about how children respond to various situations. We adults then commend or condemn them. Those two words are so closely spelled yet so far apart in meaning and understanding. Yesterday morning a young lady came in and was visibly upset but more of a moping kind of upset. Seems her boyfriend and she were sort of at odds. I shared the Thomas Merton quote I have hanging on my wall and have used here so many times.

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we see in them.” Thomas Merton

I asked the young lady to look up Merton and see some of his other writings and who he was which she did before school and then she left with a copy and a Kent Nerburn book, Calm Surrender. As we talked I thought of this quote about the wolves inside of us and how we all are fighting as she told me of conflicts in her life and in her boyfriends.
Several days back my wife and I were discussing kids as we tend too and the topic of learned behavior came up. We teach kids through our actions and inactions and yet we then punish them for the same exact thing. An attorney was on TV saying parents who knew kids were drinking at a party at their house should not be held responsible for any actions of drunken teenagers. The discussion was on a point, counter point discussion and then the other side mentioned that the person who was involved in the accident had been arrested previously for DUI and the parents knew that so there was a history established.
So I sat listening to this back and forth, an underage drinking party led to a teenage driver killing a child. The underage drinker who was driving had left the party at that particular parent’s home with their knowledge he was drunk and had been drunk previously, both parties were found guilty. On the one hand the defense attorney was saying kids will be kids and on the other a dead child.

I look back at the story which wolf is being fed. We are responsible as teachers, parents and we and others need to be more actively involved in keeping such situations from happening. Whether it be teenage love or teenage drinking there is harm being done around the corner and often under our noses. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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

A good teacher teaches so the journey continues not ends

Bird Droppings March 11, 2014
A good teacher teaches so the journey continues not ends

“I have never found the companion that was as companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.” Henry David Thoreau, “Solitude,” Walden, 1854

There has been an attraction for me to Thoreau for a number of years perhaps since that day when I actually started reading his words rather than simply skimming along gathering the information needed to pass a test back in high school. I recall so little from high school yet I know his name came up a time or two in literature classes. I was out watching stars earlier today a clear and crisp sky the air cooler today than in several days recently but so clear. Perhaps it is Thoreau’s affinity for the woods and out of doors that has caught my attention in my recent years. I do find myself often simply wandering not in a blank stupor but in awe of each leave, twig, bird and whatever else is in the pathway ahead.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau, 1854

It has been a few years since I have wandered off into the mountains to simply walk. Old age perhaps or is it bad knees that is keeping me from the switch backs and trails I use to hike. I have been content to go out into my yard early in the day when all is at rest listening and watching at a world asleep yet so alive. Are there lessons to learn in the quietness and solitude of early morning? Each breath and sight is a lesson if we allow it to be. Every new smell or sound a page to turn. I find each day something new as I walk out and wander in the confines of a back yard. It could be a star I have never seen or an owl hooting off in the distance perhaps a dove calling early in the morning. Today a young doe crossed my path as she went back from the grassy area near our house to the concealment of the forest.

Several years back I watched a dove cooing from a pole as I walked out on St. Augustine beach as the sun rose one morning. The waves were hitting against the beach and the doves were the only sounds and lessons for me on that morning.

“We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart… and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together…. I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude.” Helen Hayes

I can be confusing at times through seeking solitude in a crowded world which often brings questions from the masses. Most people congregate in flocks like sheep wanting the companionship and close company the protection of the herd. I enjoy that aspect albeit only briefly but much rather would return to my own thoughts and seek quiet in another way be the sanctuary of my room at school or my writing desk in the upstairs bonus room among my books and papers.

“It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.” K.T. Lang

We become so over powered by our own existence and lose track of where we are in this jumbled mixed up world. Daily I meet people who have nothing but their so called friends; there is no real world at all for them. All of existence is that façade of their material world.

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
“By all means use sometimes to be alone. Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear.” George Herbert

I remember my first trip to the monastery in Conyers Georgia so many years ago. The Trappist monks living there farm and work in various crafts each of their own specialties. They have a store and sell produce and baked goods and of course their handcrafts. I recall one of the brothers who was a stained glass artisan and was famous for several churches’ he had designed and built windows for in the Atlanta area. It was always amazing watching as they work all within a world of silence, as Trappist’s take a vow of silence. As you walk through the parts of the Monastery the public is allowed into there is a calm feeling there.

“Only in quiet waters do thing mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

I have talked with several people in recent days whose minds are not clear and their perceptions are distorted. It is so difficult to try and calm a ripple in a pool of water. It will literally continue to the side of the pool no matter what you try. You can distract the ripple but it then sends another ripple occasionally colliding with and interfering and canceling out the first. Sometimes they can join forces and be twice the ripple and distortion as they move towards the edge of the pond.

“Solitude shows us what should be; society shows us what we are.” Robert Cecil

An interesting statement but sooner or later even Thoreau had to walk to town to check on life and his own needs.

“The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space, free from the outside pressures, which is the incubator of the spirit.” Marya Mannes
If only we could make use of solitude but far too many people fear it. We seek companions; we seek that herding instinct to be with a group or a society.

“In solitude, where we are least alone.” George Gordon, Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

Then I watch the news and see how a moment of peace is broken by five minutes of news and a world being torn apart perhaps not enough solitude. I wonder if it would help by sending all the people wanting war off by themselves maybe to a monastery where a vow of silence is the rule. They would have to learn to deal with anger in silence. Send all the people who are seeking more wealth off by themselves and a vow of poverty and then wealth has no meaning if you cannot impress someone with it. What good is more wealth if you have nothing else to buy?

“Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that’s where I renew my springs that never dry up.” Pearl Buck

Another week and another day or two and soon spring will be here again. We have crocuses, tulips and daffodils poking out and of course most of the flowering shrubs and trees are budding and blossoming. We are all intertwined in this world and far too many try and distort and live unconnected from their humanity. I wonder as I look and listen if we spend far too much time trying to impress others with clothes, things, music, money, power, credit cards and all the trappings of this material world and never really look at what we really have. Maybe we do each need some silence and solitude to try and sort out who we are and why. But for the moment now 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

“When we help others we help ourselves. It’s not good to get too focused on your own problems, especially when others need more than you.” Oneida saying

Why is it when putting a puzzle together a piece is always left behind?

Bird Droppings March 10, 2014
Why is it when putting a puzzle together a piece is always left behind?

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another!” Gail Sheehy, American journalist, author

It has been a most interesting couple of day’s even weeks for me. All weekend was an exciting, enjoyable and learning experience with our oldest granddaughter. We played, snuggled, played, went to the park, read books and each new thought process and hand gesture lends to excitement. I sat and watched yesterday as my wife and Charlie talked at the park and then when we got home they were playing with some puzzles and one was a puzzle of letters and animals. She knew each letter and the only animals that threw her off were a skunk and quail. I was floored when she said iguana for the letter I. Then on Facebook my daughter in-law posted how our granddaughter in North Carolina was being the focus of everyone’s attention as they went shopping. Having been through as a parent so many years ago it is not about having forgotten but watching as a grandparent it is so much more meaningful and after the past few weeks realizing while understanding the circle of life there is much more to do.

I walked out the door this morning to three deer grazing by the house. All in all it was really not a surprise as we have had deer around the house since we moved in nearly eight years ago. Just recently the pine trees once so thick you could not see ten feet into them were thinned and timbered. Now you can see a hundred feet into the forest and opened alley ways to allow for tree growth were cut along entire section of land. On Sunday as I went to watch a sunrise I saw my first coyote since living out here. I have heard them almost nightly but not seen one. So my fear of disturbing the wildlife from the timbering may be somewhat displaced. The only animal I have not seen many of is wild turkeys lately.

It has been nearly two years since we were informed our principal was being promoted and going to the county office. This was a significant advancement for him and a great loss for us. As I looked around my room this morning and wonder what would it be like to move again to another room, another school and or even retire I think, many of us were going through this. As teachers in today’s crazy educational setting we are wondering who will be going here or there, why and when and with class size increases whose jobs are safe and whose are not. As it seems so far this year we may be gaining a position or two due to student increases and we are getting our preferred classes and seem to be very stable.

As so many teachers do each year I am hoping I will be doing what I am this year and can stay in my room. I recall boxing up nearly nine years of photos and moving many gigs of data to a portable hard drive from computers around the room two summers ago. I had to move my eland head. It had been situated on a wall among former student’s photos. The eland is a head and shoulder mount and very big. I raised him from a two year old and when he died a good friend said he would be impressive mounted and well he looks pretty impressive, the largest African antelope. He was six foot at the shoulder and 1400 pounds when he was alive. My numerous aquariums and my pets had to be moved as well. A few I scattered about school a few in my smaller room and some came home.

It has been nearly two weeks since I have had any students came through my room. The mornings have been strange lying in bed or in a recliner at home, doing a bit of work and then napping and each day realizing I need to change my way of living. As I was coming into our driveway late yesterday a large hawk sailed over the house. At first I thought it was a buzzard but the movement was more hawk like and as I pulled in the hawk settled on a tree directly in front of me. A big red tailed hawk just sitting about eighty feet from me watching and gazing at me through my windshield. As I opened the door to the car he flew off.

I often wonder about such coincidences in life. What if I had been thirty minutes sooner no hawk or ten minutes later again no hawk. I by chance was in a window of time on the same wave length at least for a moment as the hawk. Maybe it was the fact I was thinking about so many Native American ideas and teaching about the sacred in life and was excited talking to several old friends who are teaching and or working at the University level in that area. Maybe it was simply coincidence the hawk sat and watched me. As I left the grocery store yesterday evening the sunrise was ok but nothing exciting. By chance I forgot a ream of paper for my son. Coming out the second time the sunset was intense synchronicity at its best.

As I write this morning I did manage a few moments outside watching the clouds move around the little dipper an interesting arrangement literally six lines of clouds in a circle around the constellation and quickly dissipated along with a faint smile of the moon again a few minutes later or earlier and I would have missed it.

“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 have used this quote many times borrowing from the wisdom of Black Elk including at my father’s funeral and my youngest son’s wedding. It has been many years since I described myself as a circle, alone unopened in a short poem I wrote one night sitting alone in my apartment in Pennsylvania. As I am sitting listening to the running water from my room’s tanks and native flute music of Carlos Nakai it is a peaceful feeling wandering through memories and thinking about where and when and how. Which path should I choose to walk today, tomorrow and the day after? What new trail or should I stay secure in the old.

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach the children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know, the earth does not belong to man, and man belongs to the earth.” Chief Seattle

I sat back and thought about my hawk yesterday and how we are all intertwined on this globe, the hawk and I my students at school each an aspect of who we are and why we are here. I look forward to the journey today as always and one day way off when a destination does approach it will be when it is. But for today I am occupied with the journey please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Teachers can we change things?

Bird Droppings March 9, 2014
Teachers can we change things?

“Therefore the shortage of effective teachers is not a problem that can be solved by a new structure. It is caused by how we train and manage teachers, and can only be solved by improving the way we do this, no matter what the structure of the school. Teachers who are effective managers will be effective in any school setting, but they will less effective if they are managed differently from the way they manage students. The good teachers we remember should be especially revered because in most cases they had the strength to manage students far better than they themselves were managed.” Dr. William Glasser

I opted today to get computer work finished over taking a trip to Colombia SC with my son to see snakes. It was two years ago today I road with two of my sons and one of their friends to Colombia South Carolina to look at snakes and lizards and such at a reptile show. I will say eight hours in the car and taking pictures of King Cobras and Eye lash vipers makes for an exciting day. My youngest son was nonstop nearly six hundred miles cracking jokes or at least getting the joke started and reminiscing over old times was fantastic. I almost wish I could have gone today. What is so amazing is after many years of going on this particular trip we realized it falls every year on spring forward weekend.

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychiatrist

Change is something we are faced with daily and often it is change we do not want to bear. This morning as I rode out to get sunrise photos I noticed my car clock did not automatically change as did my iPhone. So I am thinking daylight savings is purely a manmade deal nothing to do with nature and or reality. Perhaps I should consult my Jung texts on my dream of a red tailed hawk in my old back yard from my childhood. Jung was a great believer in dreams and dream analysis. I have been torn on the idea of change, what part we can play in this great cosmic drama, can we alter our minute part. What if we redirect the lines and switch characters in midstream.

“Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time.” Marcus Aurelius

There are two basic premises in reality one we are the center of the universe that each of us is a focal point and many people do feel that way. The other is we are simple a small piece of a large puzzle, one insignificant little piece yet without it the whole is not complete.

“The men and woman who make the best boon companions seem to have given up hope of doing something else…some defects of talent or opportunity has cut them off from their pet ambition and has thus left them with leisure to take an interest in their lives of others. Your ambition may be it makes him keep his thoughts at home. But the heartbroken people — if I may use the word in a mild, benevolent sense — the people, whose wills are subdued to fate, give us consolation, recognition, and welcome.” John Jay Chapman
A deep thought though I would beg to differ. Maybe it is how I read the passage yet I cannot help but think of Albert Switzer and Mother Theresa who gave up promising careers to help others. To me this far supersedes any success that might have been met in their other possible pathways. Giving in to fate I do not see these two great humanitarians as such but as embracing life and leaving self aside so they can help others. Perhaps it is our own definition of what is real and significant that matters.

“Whatever limits us we call fate.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I do think we become limited by semantics by words that try and define and offer parameters to perhaps limitless ideas and thoughts. We all seem to want parameters to whatever we do. I watch teenagers setting boundaries and limits and barriers every day. Some will be cultural and societal, others closer to home perhaps religious and spiritual. We want definition in our lives we want to be able to say well this person is this or that. We like stratifying and categorizing in our lives. I was working with a student on test scores trying to explain two people could have tested exactly the same on a personality test and still be totally different people. While a test is normed and validated it still has limitations that change with each person taking that test.

Some people see far more in a Rorschach inkblot test and details while a less artistic person may only see a face or a rabbit. Picasso saw myriads of color and shapes and we see a hodge podge of paint and call it abstract or cubist for lack of better terminology to define and delineate his work. Maybe we should simply say it is Picassian unique to an artist who saw differently than we other mortals.

Even in writing as I enjoy reading Edgar Allan Poe and had the experience of talking with and assisting in publishing an author’s work years ago who confessed to being the incarnation of Poe, ridiculous as it may sound. It was a bizarre period in my own life as I spent many hours on the phone and in reading his work. First of all he looked like Poe and he was an idiot savant. He could spin words and phrases instantly. When he would meet you he would literally immediately give you a poem often handwritten in beautiful calligraphy of the acronym of your name. He would write a poem each line starting with a letter from your name spelling out your name and literally analyzing your personality. While working with this fellow as weird as this sounds crows would literally flock to my yard, hundreds of crows, all day at my house which was in a pasture. When I sent the last of his work to him the birds went away.

“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” Carl Jung

Reading over the years I came literally by accident one day upon a book, I was floundering business wise and saw an ad for a free business analysis. I called and was assured it was free and would I sign to use this consulting firm if all went well in the analysis. I signed and for two days a gentlemen came and informed me I should close my doors. Not really a shock since my largest customer had changed from print to software and was a major part of my business. After submitting his business thoughts he told me about a book he thought I should read “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. It is sort of a new age book he said. He wrote the name and author on a piece of paper which I stuck in my wallet for my next trip to Borders. It was several Borders trips later and I forgotten about the book and while walking down an aisle a book fell and hit me in the head literally. Surprisingly enough guess which book. The book contains nine supposed insights recorded in ancient times and written in an archaic ancient language not used in 3000 years. Anyhow the point is here is the fourth insight from Redfield’s book.

“The Struggle for Power – Too often humans cut themselves off from the greater source of this energy and so feels weak and insecure. To gain energy we tend to manipulate or force others to give us attention and thus energy. When we successfully dominate others in this way, we feel more powerful, but they are left weakened and often fight back. Competition for scarce, human energy is the cause of all conflict between people.” James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

As I read this earlier all the struggles and attention seeking of students versus teachers, and of Carl Jung teachings sort of fell into place. Amazingly as I looked to my starting passage from Dr. Glasser administrators do this as well. It is about drawing power from teachers. We draw energy from others to replace energy we are lacking. We are lacking because we are not generating but simply using sort of a parasitic relationship. I have over the years developed a chart on student teacher feedback which could as easily be people to people feedback. One the lowest most primordial level is parasitism, where we feed off others energy. The second level is symbiosis and this is where each one needs the other independently of each other and yet inseparable. The third level is osmosis, where energy is freely given and exchanged back and forth. I have been using bits and pieces of this idea as I develop my dissertation.

Albert Switzer and Mother Teresa worked in this way; they never sought energy but received it in the giving to others in an ongoing exchange. I see daily students and teachers who exhibit bits and pieces of each of these forms of human interaction. Going back to my starting quote, understanding where you are and why is paramount to changing, and the ability to growth and truly being able to help others and yourself. I went out into the rain a few days back, a drizzle of sorts and cold. Rain has a way of quieting the air and forest. It was literally silent, muffled by the rain and heavy air. Our dog does not like the rain and scurried back inside, curling up on her blankets as soon as she was back in her room. I sat down unsure of which direction I would go today and wandering as I do often. But perhaps my point is we need each other, we do need interaction and we can change. We are not at the mercy of fate and or some cosmic puzzle unless we choose to be, yet we are all part of that puzzle as well.

A paradox of sorts as is so much of life. Today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

I am pondering about Dr. Carl G. Jung and “school reform” and I find the answer is simple, CARING.

Bird Droppings March 8, 2013
I am pondering about Dr. Carl G. Jung and “school reform”
and I find the answer is simple, CARING.

“If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” Carl G. Jung

Over the years I have seen this with myself, so often those attributes we see and are upset with we too have within ourselves. It is like a mirror, we are seeing them in others what we have within ourselves. I designed a few years back a student referral slip to refer teachers when they are inappropriate. I recall a detention I was supervising a year back as we now do our detention teacher by teacher. I asked students why they were in detention somehow I have a problem with sending kids to another teacher for after school punishment, several days after they had issue and I know Dr. Jung would argue with me on this point. It goes against quite a bit of my training and education but was school policy. Sadly it is not consistent as to why students are in detention.

In that detention ninety percent were in detention for being late to first period. I always love it when the excuses come up. “Well I pick up a friend and they are always late” as this person strolls in with a Quick Trip coffee cup or Burger king bagel, you want to say to them in that teenage vernacular we all know, whatever. So I went to my duty and nearly twenty kids were in detention. The idea is to sit do your work and no talking. Of course a few wise kids who want to make cute little noises mimicking bodily functions are always there. The students soon settle in and most are reading or studying relatively quickly.

With ten minutes left I offer a ticket out the door always a great Learning Focused Schools period ender and learning tool. My ticket out the door was a question. What is the life expectancy of the pygmy shrew? There were blank looks across the room. Ok I offered some help how about within two months. Fourteen, a student asks and is in his way. Five minutes left in detention and they ask for another question. I was sort of amazed soon twenty or so questions later and fifteen minutes after detention is over I tell them time is up when kids are interested even in detention they want to learn. Yes there is a point to this story.

“It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.” Carl G. Jung

Is seems far too often we as teachers take the easy route the path of least resistance and settle into a groove often far too deep. The idea of sharing detention duty is one such easy route. Being one who actually looks at meaningful data I do crazy things like see which teachers have the most detentions. It always amazes me how six or seven teachers in a given period consistently have the most students in detention. Conversely the same fifty or so do not use the detention system as a means of punishment. I do my research every year when it is time for me to do detention and write a report offering simple psychological truths. Punishment works best when in conjunction with behavior not days later and not in a totally different environment.

Several years back for my capstone in my Piedmont Master’s program I had a slide and used a quote about students have to want to be there to truly learn. It is interesting how learning occurs in AP classes and Honors classes and seems to be less in those classes where we expect failure. Yesterday and in the past week in the news several large school districts nationwide closed hundreds of schools opting for school reform. Teachers are blamed, chastised, fired, and in some cases loose certification. Where these schools are closing they are offering as a replacement programs designed by businessmen who are oriented around a profit mode, private run charter schools. I will admit there are some charter schools that are very successful and I look at why. Charter schools can limit enrollment to students they choose, are not subject to massive standardized testing schools being closed have been subjected. I might add meaningless tests. Learning is what occurs from point A to point B not what occurred at point B which is what these schools have been measured on.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl G. Jung

I suggest that we are looking at the word reform incorrectly. We should be looking at why schools are not successful first as Jung points out looking at ourselves. In the American Journal of Education, November issue 2006 an there is an article entitled “’Drop-Outs” and ‘Push-Outs”, Finding hope at a school that actualizes the ethic of care” by Wanda Cassidy and Anita Bates. The school in the article is focusing on high risk kids but providing an atmosphere of a caring environment and is being successful. During my tenure at Piedmont College I participated in a Foxfire course, entitled Foxfire teaching techniques. In one exercise the students list attributes of good teachers and good students. In the responses now over twelve years the same words are used. A good teacher listens and amazingly enough so do good students. At the Whytecliff Education Center, the school this article was based on, students in interviews said the number one attribute of a good teacher is someone who will listen.

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” Carl G. Jung

For teachers often and for students trying to see and understand the other can be difficult. I watch this every day. Students come to me and complain about this teacher or that and the teacher complains about this student or that and the complaints are the same. Sadly many times listening is a factor but perception is one as well. As adults we see a child’s world in adult terms. I picked up several booklets from the guidance office yesterday almost sarcastically. Adolescences and Understanding teenagers was the title of one. In the brochure there were several cartoons and explanations of why kids do what they do.

“Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.” Carl G. Jung

There are few people in history I would want to meet. Generally I start my list with Ralph Waldo Emerson. He is a fellow existentialist and the more I read the more I wonder about everything which is perhaps why I enjoy Emerson. Henry David Thoreau another I would like to meet and his philosophy so closely ties to Emerson. In the realms of modern folks my list includes a few Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Grandpa Niper (my great, great grandfather), William Savidge, my grandfather who passed away before I was born and Dr. Carl G. Jung. I have always been impressed with Jung’s approach to dealing with people. It has always intrigued me. He split from Freud because he saw another realm so to say. He saw a spiritual aspect not necessarily religion but something that we have beyond physical rationalizations.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Carl G. Jung

I turned a young man away yesterday even though his line was good. Coming by my room on a bathroom pass to ask what we were doing in class. He was just interested the same young man who was in my room just before the bell and then left and then walked around the entire school to get to his class in the room next door history had caught up to him.

“The healthy man does not torture others – generally it is the tortured that turn into torturers.” Carl G. Jung

There are reasons why kids do what they do. It could be mimicking bodily functions or giggling out loud when something strikes them funny even though it disrupts the class. We accuse them of this or that and never really look or listen to why.

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” Carl G. Jung

I do believe that acceptance unlocks the door and trying to understand and see beyond the symptoms can provide answers.

“Children love and want to be loved and they very much prefer the joy of accomplishment to the triumph of hateful failure. Do not mistake a child for his symptom.” Erik Erikson

I am also a big fan or child psychologist Eril Erikson. I used this as a quote for the day a few days back and included in numerous Bird Droppings over the years, it is a powerful thought. I spoke with a dear friend yesterday about the current state of affairs in Special education around d the country and her response was we may be farther back then we were in 1973 when we finally had mandatory education for all children with IDEA. To me that is most interesting. Colleges are dropping Special Education as a major. Charter schools will not in many cases take problem children and or special education children be it from a learning or behavior standpoint.

I look back at the article in the November 2006 American Journal of Education about a caring school and difference it made. That sort of encourages my philosophy of caring about students. I wonder if we can or was that in legislation too, no caring under section 234.23 on page 569 in the very small print. 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

Why should life be a difficult journey?

Bird Droppings March 6, 2014
Why should life be a difficult journey?

“Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” Henry Van Dyke

I was visiting with my mother last week and I walked by my fathers and brothers grave site or I should say stood by them. I was recalling the day I was called from work almost eighteen years ago, my brother had passed away during the night. I looked about the hillside where he was buried and now my father is buried there as well. The farm had been home to many families over the years. Most recently a family of share croppers who for nearly sixty years tilled the land planting cotton and also running a dairy farm for a local land baron and financier. He too has passed away and left his name on a local church gym and road signs around the county.

As I looked out at now soccer fields and houses where not too many years ago boll weevils were poisoned and mules driven along furrows plowing terraces in an effort to keep what remaining top soil in place, I saw a crow land in an old cedar tree. I walked over and watched the crow for a few minutes and recalled that when you see cedar trees six or so in a row; traditionally in Georgia there was once an old fence line. This particular row I knew well for I had taken done the old rusty fence many years ago that ran along through them.

I wanted to sit a moment at my brother’s grave site as I thought back several years to a similar time when I was waiting for my father to come home from the hospital sitting in this exact spot. I was sitting and I was wondering at all that had happened in the eighteen years since. What journeys had I been on? As I thought I glanced over at several burial markers from before the civil war from a family that had lived on this land so many years ago. Little granite houses literally fashioned from slabs of rock into body sized houses. There are four that can still be seen through the thicket of old honey suckle vines and sumac stalks.

I was thinking back to days when my children, nieces and nephews made the mosaics tiles to lay on my brother’s grave. There is one for each of my mother’s grandchildren. Each is a piece fashioning their ideas in to a mosaic of individual tiles and pieces of glass. There were several music notes on one, an ibis on another, flowers on several, an art design with a heart and arrows coming from it on another. I thought it would be great to have a guide book explaining each piece each color and tile to know why and where and who placed each one.

On a different thought I received an email from a dear friend in Pennsylvania many days back responding to a dropping from a few days or so ago. She added a thought, “The past cannot be changed but the future is whatever you want it to be”. She was not sure where it came from I did a search this morning and came up with, unknown author. But as I looked and wondered about our own mosaics in life my own in particular, what road was I on where was I going. Would one day I look back and see the tiles in place in my own life and try and recall why and where and how a most difficult journey it has been.
I recall days I would have wished on no one and am sorry I myself lived but I wonder. I went out earlier and watched the moon faint behind a bank of clouds slowly moving across the morning darkness. It was so quiet nearly silent as I walked around this morning with only a car in the distance to mark civilizations intrusion on my peace.

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.” Buddha

I wonder about this as I look back on a day or two. It was the last few moments joking with nurses and the doctor before the sedative took effect while I was having surgery. What if we wander from our thoughts drift astray for a moment or two does our world change manipulated by where we are at the time?

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

It has been a week of questions of trying to seek answers within questions within absolutes that are obsolete wondering if and trying to find which pathway is easier to tread. I am changing my life in order to live. I will be watching what I eat rather than simply eating anything in sight. Additionally I need to lose weight and start a regular exercise program. Most significant to me is a return to my morning meditation and interaction with all that is.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Through my life I have made choices in despair many times rather than from exhilaration and on some occasions made a mistake. As I sat thinking wondering reading Twain’s words it caught me so often complacency ties us in, cast off the bowlines, and explore, dream, and discover as Twain so eloquently stated. I have always been a searcher traveling through this life exploring the myriads of trails and pathways. I am always looking, always exploring, wondering, talking, asking questions, and seeking answers to questions without any answers, wearing out shoes as I travel. Many are the times I would walk bare foot rather than stop.

I recall a brief journey where literally I had to take off my shoes and in doing so learned several lessons. Number one you cannot break in new boots on a weeklong hike. Number two is that mole skin is a wonderful invention and third it will protect your feet. Your feet can be the difference between another journey and sitting down waiting. I have wandered today trying to resolve for myself issues that may never be resolved ideas that will perpetuate my soul for some time I have yet it is as Mark Twain stated, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do”. So everyone as you go take another step, search down another pathway, find a new trail in life, but just do not try and break in new boots as you go. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

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