2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

Bird Droppings November 4, 2011
2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

I began the day thinking back to a song one of my students chose to write about several years ago, Live like you were dying by Tim McGraw. The assignment was to pick a favorite song and find the lyrics then explain the song. There is something about country music and lyrics and emotions that really does hit you. I find it sad far too many get lost in the ethnic jargon of country or rap or hip-hop and miss the lyrics what the artist was really trying to say. It was humorous to me since most of the day yesterday I was humming or singing a Neil Young song and I have always been a Neil Young fan. However I got up this morning thinking country. Amazing as I think back how with the various music genre that came forth on my lyrics assignment that one song stood out among all the rest that day. Maybe it is old age sinking in. Maybe it was the email of a friend recently for my birthday reminding me of our mortality as he is a cancer survivor. Although he also added I was stuck with him for a while yet maybe another forty or so years.

“You have to do what you love to do, not get stuck in that comfort zone of a regular job. Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.” Lucinda Basset

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

Searching for words midst a deluge of thought I got caught up in Tim McGraw’s words from that assignment so many years back. It is actually a rather interesting song. The main line from the song is what sinks in to your heart.

“I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about” Tim McGraw

We take life so often for granted, wasting precious moments, missing bits and pieces as we go hurriedly to the next event of the day. So many of the teenagers I meet are living one moment to the next not savoring and getting the most simply there, whatever and it is gone. Whatever tends to be the catch term for teenage vernacular as well sadly.

“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” Josh Billings

“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth

“I went Rocky Mountain climbing I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu and then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter and I watched an eagle as it was flying and he said someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.” Tim McGraw

This morning I walked out as I do so many mornings early in the day, to my left clearing the pines a several large stars gleaming and glistening in the black of the night. The many thousands of smaller stars added to the effect and surrounding me that silence of a country morning when the great chorus of crickets and tree frogs was silent due to the chill only a handful along the edge of the house were chirping but still powerful in the total setting, it was literally over whelming. I have yet to figure how crickets in our neighborhood can harmonize especially when cold.

“The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, and passion.” Nadia Boulanger

“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

We each search and try to find the pathway that is best for us as we journey through life. How and why we go the direction we do is our choice and the attitude that we have again is our choice. As I am reading again the words from Tom McGraw’s song and reading a teenagers response it is most interesting, living each day to the fullest is not just about riding a bull named Fu Manchu for 2.7 seconds or climbing in the Rockies. It is more about loving deeper and speaking sweeter, it is the moments not the events, it is extracting as much as possible and giving as much as possible in each second of each day. If only we could do this on a regular basis as a part of our existence imagine what changes would occur.

“I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t and I became a friend a friend would like to have” Tim McGraw

It was again as I was thinking back in a few years and another incident struck me, my middle son had called from school and sounded upset there was uneasiness in his voice. A female student had killed herself in the dorm; several of his friends were peer leaders on that hall. In another situation I was informed two students I have been talking with and counseling with for three years were both pregnant distant events to each other yet encompassing in its own, a life ended and new lives starting. One of the girls came by to tell me personally shortly after I had heard rumors.

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

“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 many years since I would walk out into the pastures at night and hear the snorting of our buffalo. It is so hard to explain seeing a bull buffalo’s breath blowing across the grass in the wee hours of the morning on a cool day, or watching fireflies skirt the kudzu and sumac of our back yard. Going back to a young lady taking her own life, she had a plan with a stopping point I wonder if she lived as if she were dying or was she dying so she could live? What a paradox we set in motion as we journey each day.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“I asked him when it sank in that this might really be the real end how’s it hit you when you get that kinda news man what’d you do…….live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about what’d you do with it what did you do with it” Tim McGraw

I won’t be riding bulls or skydiving but I will be smiling and I will love and I will be living each moment that I have got. So my dear friends take a moment and truly think about it, live your moments to the fullest, love deeper, love sweeter and please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Having a heart

Bird Droppings October 26, 2011
Having a heart

It is chilly out in northeast Georgia with evening temperatures still hanging in the high forties or low fifties but rumor of a near frost hanging out there has most of us gardeners bringing plants in. We have still a couple weeks till we are off from school again for Thanksgiving and a fall break. I was watching TV last night and an historical show of sorts a movie about the Pilgrims coming over to the New World is coming up soon. I find it funny how after that first Thanksgiving relationships between the native Indians and Pilgrims went downhill fast and it was not long till red skinned natives were the spawn of Satan and were to be eliminated by whatever means feasible. Pilgrims were not much different than today’s politicians as it was land was involved. I found it interesting how things changed so fast. Why is it we only have heart occasionally and some people never do? Maybe Thanksgiving is to remind us about heart?

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha, Sayings of the Buddha

It has been several days since I was working with students expressing a news article in visual form. Over the past few years as I interact with people and seeing how much of an impact learning styles actually make on students it amazes me that such a simple thing is not seen previously. How we learn has been an issue I have looked at very seriously. Humans tend to learn basically in one of three ways visually, auditorally, and kinesthetically, in other words we see, hear or touch. Yesterday I went through the idea of perception as well and how we hear see and touch along with how we interpret is a factor. The assignment entailed using one PowerPoint slide to explain one of the main news articles out currently. The sample I used was based on The Red Lake Shootings from 2006. In a few moments about 45 seconds images and a few words flashed over the screen and my interpretation of the news flashed before us.
Students then chose stories and interpreted visually what they saw and felt. Ideas varied and stories varied significantly. One went in a direction of an issue close to home teen suicide and several reiterated the Red Lake Shootings. One however focused only on himself. His visual experience while interesting was a whirl of his own image. For several months going on two years I have known this student and his focus so often is self motivated as so many of us are. He derives his day from seeking attention to and through himself be it passing gas and letting everyone in the class room know or speaking out loud to draw attention from a teacher. The idea of disrespect is an understatement but it all is self focused so to say here I am.

“A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.” Dictionary.com

For quickness I use dictionary.com and there is defined the word sympathy as an interaction between two people or things affecting both. As I thought back to my self-centered fellow I wondered as he focused all day on himself does he have sympathy? In the defining quote from Buddha sympathy is established as four aspects those being charity, kind speech, doing a good turn and treating all alike.

“The force of truth that a statement imparts, then, its prominence among the hordes of recorded observations that I may optionally apply to my own life, depends, in addition to the sense that it is argumentatively defensible, on the sense that someone like me, and someone I like, whose voice is audible and who is at least notionally in the same room with me, does or can possibly hold it to be compellingly true.” Nicholson Baker

There are many issues at hand that warrant attention and sympathy today locally and worldwide.

“All sympathy not consistent with acknowledged virtue is but disguised selfishness.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Sympathetic people often don’t communicate well; they back reflected images which hide their own depths.” George Eliot

As I searched this morning deeper I found often we tend to view sympathy with caution perhaps this person is being sympathetic for a reason. Perhaps it is for gain thinking back to the Pilgrims. Is it human nature to be so wary so distrustful of others.

“Is there anything more dangerous than sympathetic understanding?” Pablo Picasso

“The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity is not enough.” Simone Weil

Several semesters back I sent off a paper dealing with kissing frogs. It was a reflection on teaching in a way but really it was a reflection on life. My premise being we should all be frog kissers. Teachers and so often parents are to be the Frog Kissers: Many times I have used the inference to the fairy tales of child hood of kissing a frog. We are always trying to find that enchanted princess or prince hidden beneath the guise of a frog; one kiss and the prince or princess will appear. Being an avid herpetologist along with my son, kissing frogs can be a risky business. Many species secret toxins some so lethal they can kill a man with barely a touch let alone a passionate kiss. There are some that can induce psychosis and hallucinations when ingested. All these efforts by the amphibians are purely defense mechanisms evolved over millions of years to avoid turning into a human being perhaps.
But the symbolism of the fairy tale and teachers/parents is what struck me. Teaching is about kissing frogs. We as teachers need to be taking those risks trying to find the hidden princes and princesses among our students. In reality we are going beyond simply taking roll and letting that child slip through the cracks. We need to be risk takers we need to set the example for the students that we will make an effort to be there and give each child ample time and place. As I pondered it was obvious as to where and why teachers quit. I see John Dewey’s ideas and the example of Dewey in the classroom through The Foxfire Approach to Teaching and all these great idealistic thoughts and then they seem to disappear into educational lala land.
What were to be great teachers seem to be eventually lost midst the flow and ebb of educational bureaucracy and never get a chance to be who they are. For many years I have wondered are today’s students and teacher automations doing as all those others have done before. Turn to page 138 children and read, now answer the questions at the back of the chapter. Raise your hand when you wish to speak and do not get out of line. I recall a Harry Chapin song I use often about a little boy who comes in his first day and colors flowers in a rainbow of hues, until his teacher corrects him and flowers are red green leaves are green, soon the creative spark is gone and another student became a frog. Fortunately in the song a risk taking teacher saves the day and kisses the frog and the rainbow is back. We need to work towards being that which we should be teachers, not simply information stuffers. As a parent and teacher a hard row to follow.

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha

I keep thinking back to this idea of sympathy it is an active process not simply a feeling. I used loosely the illustration of kissing frogs but each aspect described by Buddha is an action. Charity is an activity although borrowing from a 1600 translation the Greek word agape is translated as charity. In Greek three words translate for love; Eros, Philos and Agape. Agape often is also translated as a supreme unlimited love or God’s love. In the Biblical translations of 1600 the Greek agape would translate to charity, an active love an ongoing love. Kind speech is an action and is a physical response. Doing a good turn not just charity but physically doing something and perhaps the most difficult treating all alike again actively involved.
When I started this morning sympathy was more an emotion. Having a heart as I thought was just a sentence structure used to elicit sympathy and or other emotions. But sympathy is an active word it is beyond and there for having a heart perhaps too is active engaging. For nearly six years now I have ended each Bird Dropping with keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind, originally I started with the attack September 11th and then war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it has grown in form keeping in your heart is an action it involves doing not simply mouthing words. I recall nearly eight years ago in the state of Vermont which still operates on a town meeting basis and several towns were voting to not send anymore national guards units from Vermont to the Middle East. Vermont had lost more soldiers per capita than any other state. Action some are sending cards reminders of home. For some it may be just a thank you as GI’s return. It is about active involvement, kissing frogs, having a heart, it is about voting and sympathy is action not just thinking about it. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

What does it take for the light bulb to go on?

Bird Droppings September 30, 2011
What’s it take for that light bulb to go on?

It has been nearly four years since my doctorial cohort ended and we began the journey on our own. Most of us will have had a few classes or two together here and there and are into and are beginning and or finishing our dissertations in our own ways. I recall many months back we met for an advanced seminar and one of the readings was an Aldus Huxley book, Doors of our perception, which while not that many pages was a major part of the discussion. I am always intrigued when pieces of my time in existence seem just for me as several ideas within the book were significant as I look back.
However our professor ended the session pointing at himself and mentioned how he has pursued intellectualism. Reading and expanding his own knowledge has been his pursuit and he mentioned several times how great it is to be a professor you get paid to read. I was thinking to high school students who we try and get to read and many college students as well. So often when you ask, what is your favorite book a response will be I do not read? Instilling that passion for knowledge should be our task rather than just testing for specific pieces of information.

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” James Allen

I have been thinking on this passage many days. I firmly believe even as we plan and set goals and agendas we are where we need to be at this moment. Is it so simple as we travel the pathways presented to us each day thinking we have choice and actually could be setting the direction? It has been a few years since I first looked at life as a journey. Since that first day however it has become a truly memorable one for me. Now I make an effort to view each moment as I pass try and keep up with all the surroundings and trying to understand each piece of the puzzle as it falls in place. “Life is about the journey”, I have used many times in my writings.

“Thinking more than others about our own thoughts is not self-centeredness. It means that if asked what’s on our mind, we are less likely to mention being aware of the world around us, and more likely to mention our inner reflections. But we are less likely to mention thinking about other people.” Elaine N. Aron, Clinical Psychologist

I just took Dr. Aron’s quiz to see if I am a HSP highly sensitive person or not rather interesting. Website – http://www.hsperson.com/index.html, I tend to argue several issues within her test. I thrive on the interactions and emotions while the tests seem have this as a negative response.

“You live with your thoughts — so be careful what they are.” Eva Arrington

“If everybody thought before they spoke, the silence would be deafening.” George Barzan

Each day I spend a large portion of time trying to assist students in thinking. A simple thought yet rather difficult. Trying to encourage thought processes can be interesting as one student told me. “Mr. Bird why do we have to think it hurts my brain.” Sadly I hear that several times a day.

“There are lots of people who cannot think seriously without injuring their minds.” John Jay Chapman

I keep a box of Band-Aids handy and have pulled them out occasionally for serious brain injury and surprise students with the offer when their brains hurt.

“No matter how hard you work for success if your thought is saturated with the fear of failure, it will kill your efforts, neutralize your endeavors and make success impossible.” Baudjuin

“A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all.” Georges Bernanos

Thought processes are often bewildering. I was sitting here typing and thinking and went to type, Ge, and was thinking and spelling and got to Geo and couldn’t hit the “o” key I wanted to hit “r” but thought process and fingers got caught. I was looking at “o” and wanted to type “r”, actually paused for a second to rationalize.

“We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them.” Buddha

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

Interesting as I look at these two remarks from several thousand years ago. Today psychologists will say the same thing. I say the same thing without quoting Buddha every day. But so many people do not really think about where there are.

“Man is what he believes.” Anton Chekhov

It is so difficult to explain this to students really to anyone. Yet great coaches around the country have been proving this for years. My youngest son is an avid sport trivia fan while still not on par with the great trivia authority and good friend Jimmy Hughes, my son is pretty good. He will ask many times who do I think is the greatest of all time NCAA coaches, usually though the question is “dad don’t you think Spurrier is the greatest of all time NCAA coaches”. I like it when he leaves me an out, he didn’t mention a sport and I can throw out John Wooden or Dan Gable or even more recent Paul Hewitt and really get him going. “Well what about Coach K then”, thinking though is the goal and that he does.

“The problem with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than their minds.” Walter Duranty

“It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains definitely and systematically to work.” Thomas A. Edison

I recall my middle son’s senior year. He was near the top in his class and always an excellent student. Due to scheduling he was unable to take the honors English course he wanted to and had to take regular senior English with the rest of humanity. He has a slug sitting next to him who every day would ask to copy his homework. My son got to where his responses were classic, one that stuck with me went something like this “We all make mistakes and in all honesty I truly believe this is all correct. But what if I am wrong and I allow you to copy and then you receive a failing grade and your life is ruined I will not be able to live with that. So no, I can not allow you to copy. If you fail I want it to be you who fail not me helping you too”.

“Humans have the ability to shift perspective. We can experience the world through our senses. Or we can remove ourselves from our senses and experience the world even less directly. We can think about our life, rather than thinking in our life. We can think about what we think about our life, and we can think about what we think about that. We can shift perceptual positions many times over.” John J. Emerick

Each moment is unique and each uniquely different. As we are wandering the pathways of life they can tire you. You might stop to sip a cup of water midst the turmoil of the day and to move on past the strife. Each day we have choices to make we have opportunity and we have disaster waiting. It is that light bulb going off like in the old cartons over our heads that makes the difference. Sitting in my sanctuary of writing room upstairs in the darkness of morning thinking and pondering as I say that makes the difference. As my moments draw down and it becomes time for stage two of today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

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
namaste
bird

A buffalo snort in the dark

Bird Droppings June 4, 2011
A buffalo snort in the dark

“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 to get across the stream one foot ahead of the next I have always tried to leave life a little better then when I got there. It does not always work but I try. When I am walking down the hall ways at school always trying to smile, joke, get others smiling, and 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

Just before school was out I had to report an incident that was told to me by a student, it is difficult to when told in 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 student responded, “They have never run away or sneaked out or …..” and again I said no. Immediately I asked instinctively if both parents lived at home. The response was hesitant but came, “no I live with my mom”, “but I don’t misbehave for my dad” and so forth. It comes to be the incident was not a one time deal it is a regular occurrence and as I talk with parents and students I find my life is not “NORMAL”. It seems normal is having kids who are in trouble, causing problems yelling at their parents etc. It seems it is parents who are hitting their kids drinking with and such that is what society seems to deem as 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 from a vivid dream while I was getting my hour nap between taking the dog out three times last night. Just as the dog started barking I looked up at a clock on the kitchen wall it was 2:30 and I had been asleep slightly over an hour since my last venture outside. As I am thinking back to my dream, my dreams are generally simple ones with complexities woven in and through out. As I thought back nearly eight years to my starting back to graduate school. In preparing for my final presentation in my masters program, my advisor was continually using the word “weave”. Our project was about weaving all the pieces together. I actually at one point of my thinking was going to produce two covers and weave them together in a symbolic gesture indicative of my professors thought. 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 at home 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 ten years back I wrote about the 16 hour syndrome for the first time and how as a teacher I had eight hours to undo the 16 parents and family have to deal with a child. Mathematically it doesn’t work and logically it doesn’t work and some parents do not want it to work, they have chosen the direction for their children and that is that. Yesterday I was discussing deeply perhaps too deeply learning and education in my part 1 dropping. Much learning should be occurring beyond the school.

“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

Just before school let out a student asked me 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. Again just a few days before school let out I reported an incident that had happened to a student and was told is was ok, it was discussed. Sadly 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 un-normal as it may be to some, others 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 in stead or what books they have read or what college are they going to.

“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”. How profound and amazingly her students love her. She honestly cares about them and they know it.

“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

Many years back 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 as I walk out and greet the morning though different sounds living in a subdivision but still I can hear if I listen hard 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 it is our choice. In teaching I emphasis example and having hanging on my back wall in my room a poster from my hippie days 1972 or so. Of course it is a black light poster, the posters title is “Children learn what they Live” and it goes on from there. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

A firefly crossed my path

Bird Droppings May 16, 2011
A fire fly crossed my path

I wonder how many even notice when a firefly crosses our path. Most people will not even stop to look at such an insignificant moment in time. It has been a bit to cold for fireflies so far this year in our part of Georgia but thinking back to when we just moved to this house. As I sat in the darkness of a quiet morning fireflies for the first time graced my yard sort of an anointing one could say. As I sat waiting watching an occasional blip of light would appear among the shrubs. In the silence tree frogs and crickets would occasionally echo through the trees.
I wonder today as I sit here who saw the first fire fly? I recall long days of collecting as we would run around our yard in Pennsylvania as children placing the fireflies in a Mason jar and going back in our rooms with a special lantern. More lately I use my mason jar for sweet tea than chasing bugs or orange juice as I did today. I travel quite frequently to North Georgia and often will seek a new route to travel as I journey. On one of my last trips I drove out of the North Georgia mountains a totally different way. I was taking the scenic route and back roads it was a bit farther yet so enjoyable. We need too sometimes in our hectic lives take time to enjoy so often we forget to enjoy a moment or two.

“True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.” Gilbert K. Chesterton

When I started writing this morning contentment was not the word I was looking for but the ease with which it seemed to fit was appropriate right now. Issues at hand seemed not significant as I sat looking for fireflies on my porch even though I knew there would be none today. Finally my puppy wanted back in she had had enough of my pondering and wanted her bed. Contentment an interesting word I wonder do we ever really find it.

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” Buddha

For me what is contentment it easily could be sitting listening in the still of morning or is it feeling satisfied with a job well done and the adrenalin rush is over and that calm permeates your every being. Perhaps it is a sip of really wonderful hot chai tea, for some perhaps it could a sip of water on a hot summer day.

“Man falls from the pursuit of the ideal of plan living and high thinking the moment he wants to multiply his daily wants. Man’s happiness really lies in contentment.” Mohandas Gandhi

As I think sometimes a thank you is all that suffices and contentment is close at hand. For my puppy today just pressing against me and a scratch on the ears and contentment was there.

“We may pass violets looking for roses. We may pass contentment looking for victory.” Bern Williams

Watching others meld into the vastness searching for an ember as the fire died wondering if the words spoken made sense to anyone but you. I wonder as I sit and think, and ponder this morning. When I walk out the front door into the morning the smell of spring and flower blossoms fill the air it seems in our back yard each day a new flower is blooming as I listen and look around our garden. Walking down the sidewalk to the cars a red rose bush greets you even today blossoms are coming and I am sure more notes will be left. Once a wayward stranger passed leaving a note as to what kind of rose bush is that magnificent plant. Midst the flowers a thorn yet if not for the thorn the value of the flower would diminish.

“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

Emotions and oceans both powerful forces in their own right. I remember sitting on a beach so many years ago unsure as to how I arrived. A friend was still waiting for me back in our room the chill of the air made the morning seem distant, winter on the beach in New Jersey can be a bit chilly. But at that time for me to be alone to think to wonder that was where I was.

“As we become curators of our own contentment on the Simple Abundance path… we learn to savor the small with a grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

Today is a new morning a new chance to rise above and see perhaps new ideas new thoughts and ponderings; I will go out and see as should you. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Having a heart

Bird Droppings March 6, 2011
Having a heart

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha, Sayings of the Buddha

Yesterday I worked with students expressing a news article in visual form. Over the past few years as I interact with people observing the various learning styles and how we learn has been an issue I have looked at very seriously. Humans tend to learn basically in one of three ways, visual, auditorially, and or kinesthetically. Simply put we see, hear or touch to learn. Yesterday I through in the idea of perception and how we hear see and touch then is a factor as well.
The assignment entailed using one PowerPoint slide to explain one of the main news articles out of a current newspaper or internet story. The sample I used was based on The Red Lake Shootings from a few years ago. In a few moments about 45 seconds images and a few words flashed over the screen and my interpretation of the news flashed before us. Students then chose stories and interpreted visually what they saw and felt. Ideas varied and stories varied. One went in a direction of an issue close to home teen suicide. Several students went the route of middles eastern turmoil and one develops their idea based on a local story. One how ever focused only on himself. His visual experience while interesting was a whirl of his own image. For several months going on two years I have known this student and his focus so often is self motivated as so many of us tend to be. But he derives his day from seeking attention to and through himself doing things like passing gas and letting everyone in the class room know it was him. Very often it is speaking out loud to draw attention from a teacher to say disrespect is an understatement, in the end it all is self focused an attempt at saying here I am.

“A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.” Dictionary.com

How the internet dictionary defines sympathy which is an interaction between two people or things that is affecting both. As I thought back to my self centered fellow I wondered as he focused all day on him self does he have that capability for sympathy. In the defining quote from Buddha sympathy is established as four aspects; charity, kind speech, doing a good turn and treating all alike.

“The force of truth that a statement imparts, then, its prominence among the hordes of recorded observations that I may optionally apply to my own life, depends, in addition to the sense that it is argumentatively defensible, on the sense that someone like me, and someone I like, whose voice is audible and who is at least notionally in the same room with me, does or can possibly hold it to be compellingly true.” Nicholson Baker

There are many issues at hand that warrant attention and sympathy today locally and world wide.

“All sympathy not consistent with acknowledged virtue is but disguised selfishness.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Sympathetic people often don’t communicate well; they back reflected images which hide their own depths.” George Eliot

As I searched this day deeper I found often we tend to view sympathy with caution and perhaps this person is being sympathetic for a reason or for some personal gain. Is it human nature to be so wary or so distrustful of others?

“Is there anything more dangerous than sympathetic understanding?” Pablo Picasso

“The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, and pity are not enough.” Simone Weil

A day or two ago I sent off a paper dealing with kissing frogs it was a reflection on teaching in a way. But really it was a reflection on life we should be all be frog kissers. Teachers and so often parents are to be the Frog Kissers: Many times I have used the inference to the fairy tales of child hood of kissing a frog. We are always trying to find that enchanted princess or prince hidden beneath the guise of a frog; one kiss and the prince or princess will appear. Being an avid herpetologist along with my son, kissing frogs can be a risky business. Many species secret toxins some so lethal they can kill a man with barely a touch let alone a passionate kiss. There are some that can induce psychosis and hallucinations when ingested.
All these efforts by the amphibians are purely defense mechanisms evolved over millions of years. But the symbolism of the fairy tale and teachers/parents is what struck me. Teaching is about kissing frogs. We as teachers need to be taking those risks trying to find the hidden princes and princesses among our students. In reality we are not kissing these kids but we are going beyond simply taking roll and letting that child slip through the cracks. We need to be risk takers we need to set the example for the students that we will make an effort to be there and give each child ample time and place to be who they are.
For many years I have wondered where teachers quit. I see Dewey and Foxfire and all this great idealistic thoughts and then they disappear into education lala land. What were to be great teachers are now animation’s doing as all those others have done before. Turn to page 138 children and read, now answer the questions at the back of the chapter. Raise your hand when you wish to speak and do not get out of line. I recall a Harry Chapin song about a little boy who comes in his first day and colors flowers in a rainbow of hues, until his teacher corrects him and flowers are red green leaves are green, soon the creative spark is gone and another student became a frog. Fortunately in the song a risk taking teacher saves the day and kisses the frog and the rainbow is back. We need to work towards being that which we should be teachers, not simply information stuffers. As a parent and teacher this is a hard row to follow.

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha

I keep thinking back to this idea of sympathy it is an active process not simply a feeling. I used loosely the illustration of kissing frogs but each aspect described by Buddha is an action. Charity is an activity although borrowing from a 1600 translation the Greek word agape is translated as charity. In the Greek there are three words for love eros, philos and agape. With agape being a supreme unlimited love, some will say God’s love. In the Biblical translations of 1600 the Greek agape would translate to charity an active love an ongoing love. Kind speech is an action that requires a physical response. Doing a good turn not just charity but physically doing something again requiring action. Perhaps the most difficult treating all alike again is definitely actively involved.
When I started this morning sympathy was more an emotion. As I think about my title for today, having a heart, as I thought was just a sentence structure used to elicit sympathy and or other emotions. But sympathy is an active word it is beyond and there for having a heart perhaps too is activity engaging. For nearly twelve years now I have ended each Bird Dropping with keep all in harms way in your heart and on your mind. Perhaps it started originally with September 11th and then war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it has grown in form keeping in your heart which for me is an action. It involves doing not simply mouthing words. I recall a few years back the state of Vermont which operates on a town meeting form of government had several towns that were voting to not send anymore national guards units from Vermont over seas. Vermont has lost more soldiers per capita than any other state. Action is the key and still others are sending to our soldier’s small reminders of home. For some it may be just a thank you as our GI’s return this is an active involvement. It is kissing frogs having a heart it is voting. So sympathy is action not just thinking about it. Today is a fellow from my home town in Pennsylvania’s birthday. It would not be significant to mention but this man stands on a street corner when time allows from work and family holding signs and proclaiming for peace in the world, a active effort to try and end war one person at a time. So today please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird