Can we add color to a gray world

Bird Droppings November 9, 2011
Can we add color to a gray world

In recent days I have been taking brilliant color photos and converting to duotones or simply black and white often with striking results. It was several nights back I had been having a series of vivid dreams or visions some might say. One in particular I was in a very repetitive series of images over and over looking for a solution. After several times waking up and falling right back to sleep and into this same over again dream it hit me. I was missing a simple piece to my puzzle in life.

“Never claim to know anything till you have experienced it.” Bear Heart, The Wind is my mother: The Life and teaching of a Native American Shaman

So much of what we teach in high school is third person and information and students never really gain an understanding because they never experience that bit or piece. It lacks relevance to them and becomes simply a moment in time.

“Stress is the body and mind’s response to any pressure that disrupts its normal balance. It occurs when our perceptions of events don’t meet our expectations and we don’t manage our reaction to the disappointment. As a response, stress expresses itself as resistance, tension, strain or frustration that throws off our physiological and psychological equilibrium, keeping us out-of-sync.” Doc Childre and Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution

By chance I got into a discussion on perception a few days ago in with a graduate class. Amazing how we all seem to see the same world so differently. What my years of experience and learning see and what eighteen year olds limited years and even another person of my own age who has equally experienced life. Each of us has been different places, seen different things, and learned different methods and strategies in life.

“Cancer is my secret because none of my rivals has been that close to death and it makes you look at the world in a different light and that is a huge advantage.” Lance Armstrong

I remember waiting to here after my father was wheeled into surgery for stomach cancer we had been given the grim future by the surgeon just before he was taken in and were waiting as a family for news after. Amazing how the threat of death offers new perspective to life, it seems each second becomes so much more precious. Friends who have been in similar situations take a new outlook on life cherishing each moment as if it were the last.

“Do not say,” it is morning,” and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a newborn child that has no name.” Rabindranath Tagore

When the surgeon walked out and said this was the smallest tumor he had ever removed from a patients stomach and still paraphrased, with but. It was a relief, life though had been redefined within our family. Meaning to each moment had been altered and our perception of each new moment somewhat clearer.

“What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are.” C. S. Lewis

Our experiences and understandings and beliefs do have input and effect on our perception of each instant in our lives. They are sort of the filters we see and hear through and conversely understand through. I have a student who is extremely conservative and views everything as being altered to be politically correct. My student sees each item in their life as having been spun as in how the news media spins various news items. Many of us do as we watch news biased by opinion of the news broadcaster but I am amazed as I see one thing and my student’s view is nearly opposite.

“The solution to stress management lies in how we perceive the stresses in our lives. It’s not really the events taking place in our lives that cause stress. Stress depends entirely on how we perceive the events that happen to us. The good news is that since stress is a response—not the event that triggers the response—we can control it. Once we shift our perception of a situation and see it with more clarity, the stressful reaction can be reduced or released.” Doc Childre and Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution

The difficult aspect however is changing perception, it has taken time and effort to come to the world view that we have. I think to my student whose views are so conservative at times. While they are hers on one hand many are handed down by her parents and family as well. The experiences of a family or society often impact the view of the individual as well.

“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” Ziggy

“You have to ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“The appearance of things changes according to the emotions and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.” Kahlil Gibran

A cartoonist, a philosopher and a mystic poet would see a world differently perhaps yet there is an understanding among these three that the world has varying and differing views. Is the glass half full or half empty even though the amount of water is the same? We seem to be asked this in teaching quite a bit nearly daily. Of course then either way we are to fill the glass.

“All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien

“It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals.” Charles Kuralt

Amazing how a linguist and newscaster see so similar, though one is famous for realism and the other for fantasy. Charles Kuralt’s trademark was his to the point clarity in news casting and J. R. Tolkien for his brilliance in creating a world where fantasy and magic are real for all who read the words.

“We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” Anais Nin

“No life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” Henri Bergson

I often wonder as I go about each day as to how people see and hear what they do. What are the biases and prejudices that make their world appear as it does. So many people allow hatred and negativity into their lives through their limited perception of existence. I sat with a young man a few days ago helping him calm down, he was stressed by the actions of another student. He had been stressed to a point of wringing his hands till there were red. The other student walked away I am sure laughing how he had pushed this other fellow to near the breaking point, “all in fun”. Seems he was a big man on campus and it was part of his image.

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not our circumstances.” Martha Washington

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” Epictetus

One student sees humor another sees ridicule and shame. One student walks away laughing and another student sit in severe pain.

“Miracles seem to rest, not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from far off, but upon our perceptions being made finer so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear that which is about us always.” Willa Cather

It is so difficult to pass judgment when perception is involved, yet life should be about doing no harm and doing no harm means not finding humor in another’s pain. When someone asks you to stop whether you do or do not see the issue, stopping is the only alternative. We have to learn our perception is not the sole perception in this reality. I have seen to many tears these past weeks walking down the halls of the school. I have seen too many clenched fists.

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

So often emotion tints the glass of our vision and anger allows us to see color only in gray or see grays in vivid color.

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” George Bernard Shaw

If only we could provide free Windex to all what a world we would have. It might take a little Windex to clean the perceptions of the world, and to help clear the grime off so many windows and let in the light. Thinking to a recent commercial where a husband is sleeping in a recliner by a large window and his wife comes by cleaning with Windex and the sunlight wakes him up and he stumbles into the newly cleaned window. I really do not want everybody seeing the world alike that would be boring but somehow leveling the playing field. Maybe just providing corrective lenses to others so they can see my way and I am color blind. Always there is the big if only? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

Imagination a key to another level of thought

Bird Droppings August 7, 2011
Imagination a key to another level of thought

“You can take a course in child development and think you’re prepared for parenthood, but until you have a child of your own, what you’ve been taught doesn’t mean a thing to you. So it come to our old teaching: Never claim to know anything until you have experienced it yourself.” Bear Heart, last trained medicine man of Muskgogee Creek Nation

When I left the house and drove to school to open for anyone who might be cleaning in their rooms today getting ready for school to start I recalled many memories of a long while back. I recall being asked or I should say invited to participate in the Green Corn dance and medicine of the Muskgogee in 1972 or so. I was very skeptical in those days and as I drove the the five miles or so to school my thoughts shifted to my own evolution of thought and imagination that has taken place over the years. I wondered for a second and what if I could just have gone in a straight line to where I am instead of all the crooked lines and scribbles that have occurred. What if I could imagine myself there and I was there. Sort of slipping in the deep end here today but it is interesting what elicits imagination.

“You have read a lot of books. But it is someone else’s thoughts and experiences in those books. To you it is hearsay, because you haven’t experienced it. You don’t know it; you only know something about it.” Bear Heart, last trained medicine man of Muskgogee Creek Nation

“I like to let my thoughts come to me each morning before I get up. I meditate for a few hours and that is like recharging.” Dalai Lama

I was asked more than once about writing Bird Droppings at 2:30 in the morning and my response was similar it is a time to reflect to rethink to ponder to recharge for the day. As I look out at where I am to go that day I can in my own way through writing meditate stabilize and go forth. Even today as I am a bit lazier getting sorted out from a summer routine of staying up later and getting up later I still am up and moving in the dark of the morning.

”Add magic to ordinary moments, because our society works to educate the wonder out of children.” Mimi Doe

“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.” Anna Freud

“Most people die before they are fully born. Creativeness means to be born before one dies.” Erich Fromm

A number of years ago my youngest son was tested for creativity. The test was given and scored and he was off the charts. I might contest that score with his escapade of his a few years back. Out of the blue he decided to walk from our house to meet me at school. He chose a back route with no stores or stops of any sort. The record for heat was broken for our county about the time he was walking at over 103 degrees. Needless to say he called for a ride from a cousin about half way along wringing wet from sweat.
I have always watched for sparks of imagination in people not because it intrigues me but because then you can truly tell a person is alive. Within a high school the students have a term used extensively to describe some people POSERS. They want to be like a particular group yet are not so they pose. I am always attracted to the fringe people who are original and creative and use their imagination posers let others do it for them.
I recall an incident several years ago with a wagon. It was a red child’s wagon and two high school girls who were taking turns pulling each other around from class to class. Something about one or the other was hurt; anyhow administration after laughing heartily said no more wagons. But the sight of two high school girls pulling each other in a wagon was hilarious and creative. A few weeks later one of the girls colored her hair normal and cut off extensions and whatever else was involved and she didn’t like being normal it only lasted a few days. I quickly took a picture knowing it would not last, and I have that one on my wall of fame in my room still nearly nine years later.

“Because of their courage, their lack of fear, they (creative people) are willing to make silly mistakes. The truly creative person is one who can think crazy; such a person knows full well that many of his great ideas will prove to be worthless. The creative person is flexible — he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are.” Frank Goble

“The things we fear most in organizations — fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances — are the primary sources of creativity.” Margaret J. Wheatley

Going against the flow rising above the waves that is where creative people float along sometimes an idea swill change the flow of a stream of thought or stem the tide. Sometimes it will simply wash away with so many other imaginative thoughts. Thomas Edison spent a lifetime being creative it has been said over 10,000 light bulbs lay in a pile in his lab that did not work. Most men would have quit at 99 or a much less smaller number.

“The person who can combine frames of reference and draw connections between ostensibly unrelated points of view is likely to be the one who makes the creative breakthrough.” Denise Shekerjam

I sit here thinking back to the second quote and how in education we want standardization for ease of testing and measurement for the sake of the general good. We tend to eliminate and subjugate creativity in children and place it away for the consistency needed to teach a room full of children. My youngest son was working on a poetry paper many nights ago and on interpreting the poems of a poet. Many times he seemed close as he dug into the poem. We so often see creativity as an exercise in creating. It can take form in art or writing and as in the wagon and the girls dress and ideas even humor.

“An original is a creation motivated by desire. Any reproduction of an originals motivated be necessity. It is marvelous that we are the only species that creates gratuitous forms. To create is divine, to reproduce is human.” Man Ray

Mankind creates gratuitously, I like that thought. The difference between man and animals is creativity. Simply copying another act is not enough it is the unique act that is creativity, and in there as well spontaneity. Interestingly enough animals do have some creativity it is within recorded time and actually a specific date that the snow monkeys in Japan started swimming in the heated pools around their mountain home. Monkeys are traditionally afraid of water. Until one day a young monkey took a spill into the heated water and found it was significantly warmer than the freezing air around and stayed in. Very soon momma monkey came in after and soon generations later all the snow monkeys now swim in the heated pools. Creativity is like one day unique and common place and copied, but it was once special.

“Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy-the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence.” Norman Podhoretz

Watch a child play with Lego and their imagination will run wild several blocks become nearly anything but when many adults pick up a Lego block it is simply a block. We need to be so careful to not shut down creativity, to nourish it, embrace it, and let it grow. Each moment we are taking away ideas by suppressing creative thought. So share ideas and seek ideas and be creative as you go out today. Sharing some herbs with a friend today some Sweet basil, Purple ruffles basil, English thyme, Common Sage, St. John’s Wort and Purple cone flowers all plants I started from seeds or cuttings along the way. It is a great feeling to pass along to others. Recharge and get fired up to face this weekend ahead. Please however keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Listening intently to a buffalo snort in the dark

Bird Droppings August 1, 2011
Listening intently to a buffalo snort in the dark

“She lifted me up to be embraced by the breeze as she spoke to the wind: “Please recognize this child. Sometimes you will blow strong, sometimes you’ll be gentle, but let him grow up knowing the value of your presence at all times as he lives upon this planet.’” Bear Heart Medicine Man, Muskogee Creek, The Wind is my mother, 1996

I recall a few weeks back walking out to a slight breeze with my granddaughter and thinking along this line introducing her to the wind. I just started reading Bear Heart’s book and this line caught me. Many memories of my own as I wander back in time in my thoughts to childhood and even as my own sons were growing up.
My thinking this morning with school coming \up in a few days now I find it is always interesting the first day of school whether as a teacher or student. I recall my own nearly fifty six years ago as I walked into East Fallowfeild Elementary school outside Coatesville Pennsylvania. My teachers name was Ms. Smith and I was in first grade. Every new year since seems I have found myself on a first day of school, as I went through Junior High and Senior High school and into college, even Graduate school now seems almost forever ago and I am still in that process.

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

In my years of searching and wandering about stepping on each stone across the stream one foot ahead of the next I have always tried to leave a little better then when I got there. It does not always work but I try. Walking down the hall ways at school always trying to smile joke get others smiling joking enjoying that moment of life.

“None of us is promised tomorrow. Today in all its beauty and sadness and complexity, is all we have. This light we see may be the last such day we have on this earth. There is no certainty, beyond the fact that one day we will have no tomorrow, and that it is not ours to know when that day will be.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

It has been a few years since I had to report an incident that was told to me by a student. It is difficult to when told in a sort of confidence yet severe enough to warrant reporting. In my same conversation with this student I was asked if my children ever got in trouble, I said no. The response was; “They have never run away or sneaked out or …..” Again I said no and I asked instinctively if both parents lived at home. They said “no I live with my mom”, and immediately followed with “I don’t misbehave for my dad” and so forth. It comes to be the incident was not a onetime deal it is a regular occurrence and as I talk with parents students I find my life is not “NORMAL”. Being normal is having kids who are in trouble, causing problems yelling at their parents etc. and parents who are hitting their kids drinking with then and worse that is normal.

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

I woke up this morning from a vivid dream I was getting my three times a year hair cut and the hair was being brushed away from my neck and I looked at a clock on the wall it was 3:30 and I got up. My dreams are generally simple ones with complexities woven in. I recall as I was preparing for my final presentation on my masters, my advisor Dr. Donna Andrews, continually used the word “weave”. Our project was about weaving all the pieces together. I actually at one point of thought had the idea to produce two covers and weave them together symbolic of that idea.
It is that life is a weaving in reality as I look at each aspect intertwined with the next, a child growing up in the context of arguing and issues finds that is normal and yet asks what it would be like to live in my family where that doesn’t exist. I smile and joke and offer solace for the moment I have with that student not so much as to change the pattern of weaving but to offer stronger thread or a tighter warp to the pattern.

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Nearly seven years back I wrote about the 16 hour syndrome and how as a teacher I had eight hours to undo the 16 parents and friends have. Mathematically it doesn’t work. Logically it doesn’t work and some parents do not want it to work they have chosen the direction for their children and want that only.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

Yesterday I was asked about absolute truths I responded and had a response from a dear friend and so forth a dialogue and the context was a positive one as we shared ideas and thoughts. When I reported the incident years ago it had happened to a student and was told it was ok, it was discussed and that child went home thinking this is how life really is it is ok. Parents and kids do yell at each other and hit each other and throw things at each other, it is ok.

“We dribble away our life, little by little, in small packages — we don’t throw it away all at once.” Robert A. Cook

“Life is a succession of lessons enforced by immediate reward, or, oftener, by immediate chastisement.” Ernest Dimnet

B.F. Skinner once said he could change anything through behavior modification. Who knows maybe he is right. Maybe if we continue picking away and smiling and joking and living life as unnormal as it may be to some others. It will catch on and who knows maybe just maybe when tomorrow comes that child who was asking about have my children ever run away will be asking how much they study each night instead or what books they have read or what college are they going too.

“Every morning I wake up saying, I’m still alive; a miracle. And so I keep on pushing.” Jacques Cousteau

I have a friend at school a breast cancer survivor who said something very similar to me for her “each day is a blessing to make the most of” and you know what every kid who passes threw her door is blessed as well.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

It has been now many years ago since I raised buffalo and as I would walk out each morning into the dark I would hear an occasionally snort and blow of air from our bull as he checked the cows and calves walking about in the morning haze. I knew life then and even today I walk out and greet the morning hearing different sounds but still that faint echo of a buffalo snorting in the fog as it drifts in. Life is what we choose to make it and how we weave or how we step into the day is a choice we make. In teaching I emphasis example and having hanging on my back wall in my room a poster from my hippie days 1969 or so of course it is a black light poster. The poster’s title is “Children learn what they Live” and it goes on from there Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts