It takes more than one strand to make a rope

Bird Droppings October 28, 2011
It takes more than one strand to make a rope

“You cannot contribute anything to the ideal condition of mind and heart known as Brotherhood, however much you preach, posture, or agree, unless you live it.” Faith Baldwin

Each day as I talk to my students I try and set an example and not every day am I successful. But as I think this beautiful fall morning trying to decide if I should when I Get home today work in the yard or be lazy I thought I would take a few moments to write. Many of the children I talk to everyday stand alone, often due to their own choosing.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” John Donne

It has been several years since I did an experiment with a group of young people using sewing thread. I had a thread for each person and then I asked each of them to break the thread which of course was simple and easily done.

“The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” James Baldwin

After breaking the threads I gave each of them another piece of thread and one by one we joined the threads together. In the end we had a thirty strand piece of string/rope and we twisted it slightly to keep threads together.

“In union there is strength.” Aesop

“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” Alexander the Great

Amazingly enough no one could break the new combined rope even when several folks pulled on each end it would not break.

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” Bahá’u’lláh

I still carry that piece of string/rope in my wallet. It surely does make a great example when talking to students.

“I look to a time when brotherhood needs no publicity; to a time when a brotherhood award would be as ridiculous as an award for getting up each morning.” Daniel D. Michiel

It has been a few years back that I attended a demonstration up in Mountain City Georgia. The lecturer at the Foxfire Museum was using a couple of folks in the group and had them twisting and turning six strands of twine into a rope.

“Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.” Mahatma Gandhi

Real unity that is the question, and in today’s politically charged atmosphere unity is nowhere to be found. I showed my students so many years ago that even though having multiply strands of thread all together in a bundle was significantly stronger each time you cut a piece it weakened exponantionally.

“In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” Booker T. Washington

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

Each day as I sit outside my door at school I witness differences in attitude and differences in brotherhood. Many are similar and in a high school that old cliché of school spirit is generally a good indicator of a semblance of brotherhood, a joining force in a body of humanity. But still there are strands of thread dangling outside weakening the whole.

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” Virginia Burden, The Process of Intuition

I will never say everyone has to be identical. I like Booker T. Washington’s statement of each of being a finger yet still being able to be a hand. I use to think it was cool when I would see a six fingered person and in my old stomping grounds of Lancaster and Chester counties often you would see an Amish fellow with an extra finger. There was a recent ad where everyone was upset with Joe who had extra fingers because he could type so much more and do so much more, the ad showed him typing away and multi tasking with his extra fingers. But the ad was also about change and new equipment equalized the office space. So often we cannot accept the differences.

“I have often noticed that when chickens quit quarreling over their food they often find that there is enough for all of them. I wonder if it might not be the same with the human race.” Don Marquis

In life far too often we spend our time fretting over differences and not looking for similarities. How can we work as a group a team? Watching college football Saturday for a few minutes along with The Rally to stop the insanity, teamwork makes all the difference in a win or loss. The winner is not always the better team. Always better teamwork will win and it can be only a minute difference, a single strand could change a game and or a life.

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” Kenyan Proverb

Interesting while writing about unity and still believing in individuality it is a difficult task. I come back to Booker T. Washington’s quote; I can be a thumb and still work as a hand when needed. It is in believing and in trusting we gain that unity and that brotherhood. Watching the rally yesterday one thing kept coming up why all the negative why not work together the problems are here and solutions can be had if there were teamwork. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Can we trust really?

Bird Droppings September 8, 2011
Can we trust really?

“I think we may safely trust a good deal more than we do.” Henry David Thoreau

I was asked why I was successful with the students I work with by a fellow teacher one day. Many of my students over the years are students that no one else seems to trust, I responded because I do trust them. I do not inherently trust but essentially trust till I have a reason to not trust. I will advocate for the student till I am proven wrong and most of the time I can say there is not a problem. There have been a few times that my trust was betrayed by a student but usually that is only once.

“Our distrust is very expensive.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the nearly nine years I have been back in teaching I have had one student I truly did not trust out of my sight. Fortunately he did not stay around long since he lived up to expectations sadly enough as students tend to do. We also get what we expect.

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment unless you trust enough.” Frank Crane

When you trust, first the number of deceptions interestingly decreases significantly. It is when you start in to distrust that torment increases, quite a paradox. Most progressive teaching manuals will state that students live up to your expectations.

“The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him.” Henry L. Stimson

I wish I had said this and probably have somewhere along the line. We have to trust, without trust it is difficult to even walk out the door in the morning or drive on the road. So much of what we do involves trust to some degree or another.

“We’re all born brave, trusting, and greedy, and most of us remain greedy.” Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, 1966

I once used the term universal trust in describing an infant’s trust of the world as I developed a trust scale. (Anyone interested I will email a copy, The Bird Trust Developmental Scale) There is no question for a small child, however sadly they eventually learn to not trust. Watching my granddaughter grow up sort of like Piaget observing I see how trust can be altered as we tend to over look small things kids include as significant parts of their limited world.We adults teach them that as they go through life. It starts as soon as we are to slow to come when crying starts or to slow to respond when hunger comes or fear. We teach distrust in simple terms often so unintentional we never know it and one day the child just doesn’t trust anymore.

“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” Booker T. Washington

We then begin anew to learn to trust. It is funny we have to literally learn to not trust to advance in trust, to see the contrast between distrust and trust perhaps or to truly learn what trust is.

“Many people say that government is necessary because some men cannot be trusted to look after themselves, but anarchists say that government is harmful because no men can be trusted to look after anyone else.” Nicolas Walter

In dealing with teenagers and high school students I so often wonder about the concept of anarchy which many adhere to as a perfect political system. Many students wear the symbol of anarchy as a badge of wisdom or of some great knowledge that they possess and adults have no concept of. But isn’t that simply saying I do not trust anyone period and even question myself.

“Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.” William E. Gladstone

Trust so often equated in politics yet where we also learn quickly to not rust anyone as well as we listen to out and out lies and spins on various topics of he said she said etc. Thinking in terms of several issues at hand now and recent political elections fear sold more votes than did any political jargon. Most bend truth to meet the needs of the moment whether it is a positive or negative impact.

“Every two years the American politics industry fills the airwaves with the most virulent, scurrilous, wall-to-wall character assassination of nearly every political practitioner in the country – and then declares its self puzzled that America has lost trust in its politicians.” Charles Krauthammer

It comes back to ourselves and how we conceive of the world and that around us and in us and through us. It is about how we see and understand the world we see. It is about the lenses we use to perceive a world so vast and amazing many times we miss pieces as we look.

“Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.” Billy Wilder

I wonder what would happen if we could set up an experiment and place two babies in a sterile cell with no others and see what happens. Would they trust each other as they grew? I was thinking sort of like the Truman Show, with Jim Carrey, and yet he eventually learned not to trust as the show progressed.

“Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” Alfred Adler

Perhaps I am being too hard on mankind we do and have the capacity to trust deeply and in a universal way. But in history every time someone does trust universally we kill them off out of fear perhaps. I find it most interesting how we respond to these few who universally trust.

“Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly. “ George MacDonald

“Government is an unnecessary evil. Human beings, when accustomed to taking responsibility for their own behavior, can cooperate on a basis of mutual trust and helpfulness.” Fred Woodworth

I was reading and thinking and found this which while referring to marriage is very much how we see trust and related components.

“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.” Paul Sweeney

It is a developmental experience, that which we call trust; we learn both distrust and trust as we go through life. Hopefully we can one day go back to where we started to that universal trust where we trust all and can find no reason for distrust. Hopefully one day but for now please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Perhaps my favorite store

Bird Droppings April 11, 2011
Perhaps my favorite store

It is the first time this year I needed my alarm to wake up in the morning. I am a bit out of my normal routine perhaps after a week of spring break. Interesting two thoughts while similar struck me this morning as I started the day out. One I heard on the radio going to get gas for my wife yesterday afternoon from a radio announcer recalling an old Bush quote, and the other thought is from perhaps a favorite of many as book series go, Harry Potter. All of this and a later a trip or I should say my daily trip to the giant Kroger near our house, my favorite store. All these and school starts again. What a glorious day ahead?

“It is not about the goods we accumulate but about the good we do” George W. Bush

“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” Professor Dumbledore to Harry in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by J.K. Rowling

I wish it would be possible to believe the first, but with through most of his term as president he was trying to drill for oil in wilderness Alaska and off shore in Florida and other parts of the country and friends in high places were reaping huge profits and a war costing trillions of dollars that was bogus from many people’s standpoints. War efforts accumulation seems more important than doing any sort of good. Of course the philosophy of the ends justifies the means could possibly be applied. That was sort of the approach when the last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati zoo and some people had the attitude well it’s only a pigeon.
Sadly once there were billions flying over the forests of the east coast, and yes it is only a pigeon except we can never at this time replicate that one, it is gone. The Alaska wilderness when it is gone is gone can never be replicated as well but if the end justifies it many people see no problem. However as I sat this morning, perhaps a better brighter thought from J.K. Rowling thorough the character of Dumbledore “it is our choices that show who we really our”. I wonder how soon Harry Potter books will be classics and teachers will be analyzing the plots and developing theories as to why Rowling characterized Harry as a boy or teenager and why an owl as his companion versus a weasel.
I recall eleventh or twelfth grade English with our teacher Ms. Stern and “Moby Dick”, according to her the ship represented the world and Ishmael, in his journey in life got stuck on that ship since he was the wanderer. What was Melville really telling us besides a great story and one of the best history’s of the short lived New England whaling industry? I really enjoyed the story but not the analysis and when I wrote my opinion, it was wrong according to Ms. Stern. Many years ago choices we make not our abilities was the credo.

”Ability is of little account without opportunity.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“The first requisite for success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.” Thomas A. Edison

It is also about being at the right place at the right time the synchronicity that I have referred to so many times or is it simply the choice we make. It is also about applying and choosing when opportunity provides a window and then plot thickens.

“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.” Elbert Hubbard

Humility is an added aspect of today’s search seeing in others that ability which h I consider almost an intuitive aspect of our humanity.

“The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.” Booker T. Washington

This morning as I was being lazy albeit the alarm and getting started later than normal well I had been enjoying spring break so I read several emails. One spoke of realizing school was nearing the end and graduation was only a few weeks ahead and now they would have to make a way in life. In that same email concern for a friend stationed in the Middle East. Watching the news doesn’t give justice to friends and families with loved ones overseas in harm’s way, as I think back to the choices we make. I received a message from my youngest son reminding me to not fax a form for him for his nursing school application when I get to school lastly another email with a suggestion of a book to read. Three emails of 70 or so from last night and yesterday that truly caught my attention.
I started with a Bush quote and maybe that applies to a job search as well. So many of the following what we do with our lives is our choice how the world will see that choice is dependent upon the direction and choices we make as we proceed. It is not the ability that you will be known for or how great an actor or musician or football player but what you do with your talent is what is seen. Family is so crucial and friends equally as well and always seek to learn to know more about what we do through reading, writing, thinking and reflecting.

“If there were no writers there will be no readers” unknown source

“Choose wisely”, it has been said and in the end some do and some will not. So today take stock of where you are and look at the road ahead and pick that path way that will direct you where you need to be.

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

In today’s hectic world we all look for quick solutions, five minute abs, six minutes to wisdom, and a one minute egg. Wisdom is not on the stock exchange, it is not a brokered commodity. It is there, and it is a journey. The journey is not an easy one and to be involved in finding wisdom only those who actually travel that road will truly become wise.

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

Several nights ago I was bored no American Idol, NCIS or House and I put on a video of Star Trek of all things, “Star Trek Insurrection”. The plot revolves around a planet where all is at peace this is an old one. The few residents, all 600 or so have forsaken technology for art, or literature, for the aesthetics in life and for all that they can make of themselves. Interestingly a weaver studies 40 years to become an apprentice and apprentice another 40 to become a master weaver of rugs and tapestries. These people live n a planet whose innate radiation prolongs life and rejuvenates them cellular so they have time to accomplish what it is inside them. It sounds so easy when the time allows it.
Daniel Day Lewis, actor took a break from acting to be a cobbler taking a five year hiatus from movies to study cobbling, (shoe making) in Europe from the masters. As the Star Trek movie progressed a comment was made about that prefect moment, a special moment that stands out above all else. Captain Pickard mentioned seeing earth from space for the first time, many astronauts recall that moment as they tell of their exploits. For me it was a sunrise over the Atlantic one morning on Cumberland Island one of the Georgia Barrier Islands with the waves splashing about and the most brilliant reds and oranges I have ever seen. A shrimp boat slowly moved through this picture yet in its awesomeness the boat was insignificant.
As Pickard spoke with this woman on this planet of a perfect moment she then offered now to learn to make every moment perfect and the movie continued and soon he was seeing a hummingbird flit to a flower or the pollen blown from a flower.

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am always intrigued as I read various thoughts on wisdom and for some reason I am always drawn to Emerson. He was always controversial yet perhaps one of the greatest thinkers as well as poets of his time. He was alluding to wisdom as a temporary entity in his statement. The next quote is an interesting statement from a President often who was misunderstood

“Wisdom oft times consists of knowing what to do next.” Herbert Clark Hoover

“Wisdom begins at the end.” Daniel Webster

So often we spend time simply doing, not seeking, we spend time worrying about which path to travel or preparing our needs for the journey and worrying about the destination. We forget to go and there we are no better and no worse, only we are where we were to start still. Somewhere in among all things is the destination but the destination is not necessarily the end but a point B of a line AB and still out there is C and D and E and much more. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your thoughts.

The puppy ate it

Bird Droppings September 14, 2010
The puppy ate it

“A new position of responsibility will usually show a man to be a far stronger creature than was supposed.” William James

While on one hand I am an avid fan of not having homework there may be times when it is appropriate and it is those times that so many issues of responsibility pop up and excuses arise. In ten years back in public school teaching I have heard my favorite actually numerous times. I am a big fan of this excuse and always question deeper, the puppy ate it routine. That is since in my own life as a parent one of my sons actually had that happen and we sent the evidence shredded notes and his project in a zip lock bag as evidence. We did not follow the puppy around checking for residue in the droppings however but I have had students suggest that they could bring in the final evidence sadly they don’t know who they are messing with when I say sure just to prove you right go ahead bring it in.

“Mistakes fail in their mission of helping the person who blames them on the other fellow.” Henry S. Haskins

Puppies seem to be number one on the blame list then parents and then friends and or friend’s lockers and of course the car is on the list near the top. I have never quite figured how a car grabbed a homework sheet out of a backpack and hid it under the seat. It always seems there is someone else to blame in this world no matter what the problem. Watching politics currently over taxes and how no matter what way tax cuts go both sides will blame the other.

“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” Booker T. Washington

I have had other teachers walk in my class room and observe students who have been trouble in their other classes and in my room sitting doing their assignments often from another room. Trust is a powerful word but it is also a two way street and one must trust to be trusted and conversely it is reciprocated. I hear far to many teachers say they demand respect or trust from students and that is a sure sign that it is not happening in that room.

“We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until… we have stopped saying ‘It got lost,” and say “I lost it.’” Sidney J. Harris

It is a powerful moment when students begin to trust their teacher and in turn when a teacher begins to trust their students. Miracles begin and do occur in learning when this relationship is attained. Difficulty is when those students do not trust everybody else as trust is not always generalized. Far too many people do not provide the ground work for trust and in effect provide a negative setting which in and of itself promotes a lack of responsibility and trust.

“It is easy to ignore responsibility when one is only an intermediate link in a chain of action.” Stanley Milgram

Children learn from example and watching adults who themselves are not trusting and or responsible only promotes that same behavior in children and or students. I always come back to Dr. Laura Nolte’s poem from early 1970’s “Children Learn What they live”. That reminds me to look across my room at my faded hippy day’s poster. I should probably get a black light to bring out the colors.

“When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.” Louis Nizer

This last quote is perhaps one of the oldest illustrations yet still is so profound and so true. This is definitely one to think about as we go about our day please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.