Where do we find happiness?

Bird Droppings December 25, 2011

Where do we find happiness?

 

Within the spirit of our holiday season as I checked my various blogs, emails and social networking sites early this morning and I found an overabundance of “I got’s” and few “I gave’s”. Scattered earlier were a few of parents waking up with small children and excitement of this special morning with family. But as the morning progressed the stories shifted and one caught my attention it was of a little girl upset because she could not find her mother’s present under the tree. After a careful search it was found in her bedroom wrapped perfectly and containing gift cards to her mother’s favorite places.  All of her birthday money and allowance had been saved up for this present. That is special. Glad I waited to write and saw this note.

 

“The very purpose of our life is happiness; the very motion of our lives is toward happiness.” Dalai Lama

 

My first glance out the window today and our red tailed hawk was perched in the old black walnut tree as he does early in the morning nearly every day waiting on squirrels running through the hedge row seeking pecans from the several trees in our yard. Thinking back it was several years ago in my journey through life that I wandered through the Mall of Athens.  I happened into a store where Native American art was sold, long since that time they have moved to a shop in Hawkinsville Ga. A very pungent smell filled the store; it is a smell you do not forget easily, the smell of rawhide. A traditional drum maker was building drums in the old way. He was stretching rawhide over hand carved and tooled shells of native cedar and spruce. This drum maker had left a construction job to build drums full time, traveling around the country making drums for sale and doing workshops as he was here.

 

 “Happiness is a sort of action.” Aristotle

 

“The really happy man never laughs — seldom — though he may smile. He does not need to laugh, for laughter, like weeping is a relief of mental tension — and the happy are not over strung.” Prof. F.A.P. Aveling

 

As I left that store I felt at ease, at peace with myself. Sitting here this morning perhaps it was how this artist as he worked and exuded a peace and happiness. He was doing what he wanted to do, and that is a key to happiness. It is about being where we should be and doing what it is we were meant to do. For people that journey may take you through many jobs and many travels.

 

“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” Mildred Barthel

 

“When one is happy there is no time to be fatigued; being happy engrosses the whole attention.” Edward Fredric Benson

 

I was thinking to some of my students who chose to not be happy, it could be perhaps a chemical disturbance or imbalance within them. Clinical depression is actually a chemical imbalance, and can be treated chemically. However so many may choose not to be treated and then my question is can we each search for and attain happiness.

 

“The world’s literature and folklore are full of stories that point out how futile it can be to seek happiness. Rather, happiness is a blessing that comes to you as you go along; a treasure that you incidentally find.” Louis Binstock

 

“It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first. The very first condition of lasting happiness is that a life should be full of purpose, aiming at something outside self.” Hugo Black

 

So in effect happiness finds us is what I think I read. If you look under happiness on the internet you can find happiness scales to show you how happy you are and if you are. I looked up happiness in the dictionary always a good start and according to Dictionary.com, happiness is “Characterized by good luck; fortunate. Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase. Cheerful; willing: happy to help.”

 

“The truth is that all of us attain the greatest success and happiness possible in this life whenever we use our native capacities to their greatest extent.” Smiley Blanton

 

Who is Smiley Blanton, actually a famed psychiatrist and author of numerous books and co-partner since 1937 in the Peale Blanton Institute with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale? I thought he was a clown by his name. It has been many years since I shook the hand of Dr. Peale in Macon Georgia back in 1972 or so.

 

“Happiness and virtue rest upon each other; the best are not only the happiest, but the happiest are usually the best.” Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

 

“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.” Albert Camus

 

I always write about the journey we are on, each one of us is traveling as we go each day. I do believe we seek happiness, as the Dalai Lama states in the first quote I used today “The very purpose of our life is happiness; the very motion of our lives is toward happiness.” I do think we venture towards happiness in our daily walk. Somewhere we get lost or off track and many find it hard to get back to the trail. This is for so many a special time of year and I wish we could each offer a hand as we go. Though it is late in the evening please any one you meet offer a hand and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always to give thanks.

namaste

bird

Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

Bird Droppings December 24, 2011

Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

 

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil

 

“The need for roots,” I saw this idea earlier as I web surfed thinking and pondering this morning or perhaps as I was scrolling through thoughts I had saved over the years along with all of my young herb plants sitting outside in the garage near the window and the concept caught me, to be rooted. 

 

“Roots is not just a saga of my family. It is the symbolic saga of a people. “Alex Haley, from his book, Roots

 

 Even though long since discredited Alex Haley got many looking to where they came from and his words can still cross boundaries even with the tinge of fiction. I have been intrigued with students recently have had little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma if that. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp. I am doing a substantial amount of work with The Foxfire concept and so much of that in its origin is based on roots on history and family.

 

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

 

I noticed this idea fromLawrenceand as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots, your past or your history but traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep these people going. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence while nearly polar opposites. I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to their heritage and to traditions; they are not grounded or anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be to escape, to wanting to be away from or distant from asLawrenceadvocates.

 

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

 

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead, noted anthropologist

 

Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have been stripped away by our constant boxing up and categorizing. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society.

 

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

 

Many years ago in a tenth grade literature class that would be about 1965, we read at that time a very controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”. You were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried to destroy family and traditions and roots. They have been always stripping away the top soil, laying bare to the hardpan of a man’s soul. But within it all still with some people persistence, vigor, and desire was still there. I was reading Eric Carl’s biography on his latest book, The Artist who painted a blue horse. Carl was a high school student in Nazi Germany and only realism was allowed one of his teachers shared abstract art with him knowing it was illegal. Carl’s work is in some forms retaliation for the Nazi regime’s suppression. In his brilliant children’s books the splashes of color abound.

 

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

 

This is not just a modern day issue, Confucius raised questions over two thousand years ago and used a simple word to explain, integrity. For Confucius it was the integrity of the home and perhaps this is the key to roots. Solid roots can be found in the integrity of a family and home. Is it possible to look at people and judge there character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family, or by their genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow. Back in the day we used EPD’s to judge the quality or potential quality of a breeding animal. I used to know what that meant but specifically in cattle it is the performance data that has been gathered for generations many times and potential for that animal based on that gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given traits you are looking for.

 

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

 

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I find there are answers. EPD’s work because someone cared enough to check to save the information and data. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of on a daily basis I see in real life. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately I have found. So where do I go in this round about effort especially on a day before a holiday for many.

We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding and often with little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today maybe even a happy holiday greeting. It may be a hug or kind word or ear to listen. But take some time to share to care and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Can we try and define Quality?

Bird Droppings April 22, 2011
Can we try and define Quality?

I have begun reading extensively the past few weeks putting together thoughts for my dissertation for my doctorate at Georgia Southern University. Among those that passed through my hands these past few days and actually a few minutes ago on my writing table is, The Quality School, by Dr. William Glasser, M.D. It has been sometime since I had looked through it but by chance was among the ones I pulled out as I read this week.
As I went about my day yesterday at school I had my usual flow of students through my room some want questions answered or to borrow a camera. Others want to say hi or use a computer to print out a project or report. AS I look ahead a week or two as we wind down many teachers have will have completed their lessons due to early end of course tests from the state and then it will be crazy. As in years past some students will be bored so they will come to my room to discuss snakes, salamanders and frogs or take pictures digitally and work on their various projects and images on the computers. Occasionally someone is tired and will fall asleep and wrap up in one of my hand woven blankets thrown o the old futon in the back of the room.
What always amazes me is my old second hand beat up rough looking futon is like a magnet to students and teachers alike. I have had kids want to buy it saying it is the most comfortable sofa in the world. So that leads me to quality and how do we define it? As I read through Glasser’s book I recalled one of my own credos. Number one on Bird’s list for schools is that students have to want to be there. If students do not want to be in school you are starting off in a losing mode before you even get to try and teach.

“Students tell me that a good teacher is deeply interested in the students and in the material being taught. They also say that such a teacher frequently conducts class discussions and does not place themselves above them, and they are comfortable talking to them.” Dr. William Glasser

Something caught my attention as I read what students wrote in my yearbooks over the years. Several have been writing in each yearbook for each of the past four years now and many are good friends. Some teachers would argue that point.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen

As I read the various yearbook quotes “Thank you for listening” “Thank you for just being here” “Thank you for understanding me” I started to think what is a friend anyhow? Is not a friend someone who will listen without criticizing and trying to resolve each petty detail?

“The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.” Henry David Thoreau

Building on this idea of friendship and going back to Glasser who uses in his idea of a quality school the concept of choice theory; which is providing opportunity for choice from teachers and students. It is building choice into the program so there is ownership of what is being learned.

“True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable.” Dave Tyson Gentry

It is difficult for me to sit quietly recently I sent an email to one of our assistant principal’s about how our minute of silent meditation went to 2.7 minutes and broke down costs and such I was being sarcastic since I do enjoy my meditative state probably more so than most do.

“One doesn’t know, till one is a bit at odds with the world, how much one’s friends who believe in one rather generously mean to one.” D.H. Lawrence

One of my reasons for picking up the book by Glasser was to look at similarities to the Foxfire approach taught at Piedmont College and that I am developing my dissertation on and about. Foxfire is based on a democratic class room promoted by John Dewey as early as 1918 a man considerably ahead of his time.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory will swell when again touched as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature.” Abraham Lincoln

I was sitting watching the Trial of Billy Jack a few months back and listening to and watching how Billy Jack conquered his inner demons. He was focusing on the days of turmoil and tribulations that he had experienced. My wife always picks on me when I watch my hero Billy Jack. Yesterday a red tailed hawk caught my attention as it flew alongside me as I was driving home chasing a mouse. When I arrived at my house a storm was coming through it seemed with clouds swirling over head and as I looked out the window sunshine was streaming in as well. I ran out and was thinking perhaps our first rainbow of the year would be across the sky but not yesterday.

“A true friend embosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.” William Penn

A teacher then is a friend according to William Penn founder of Pennsylvania and staunch pacifist. If we as teachers would take this view of friendship perhaps more would happen in education.

“Education is the process in which we discover that learning adds quality to our lives. Learning must be experienced.” Dr. William Glasser

Teaching is showing and giving quality to life.

“Caring for but never trying to own may be a further way to define friendship.” Dr. William Glasser

Towards the end of the one of my favorite of all time movies, Bill Jack as I am listening, a comment is made by the heroine, “peaceful evolution versus violent revolution” and I thought what a powerful and interesting idea. Can we spread friendship; can we be better friend’s higher quality friends? Maybe just maybe we can create a better world if we put our minds to it. Yesterday a bill was signed and some feel money wasted but as I think an effort is being made to better educate and better provide capabilities for hungry and needy children and how can we ever say that is wasted money. Please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind.
namaste
bird

Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

Bird Droppings April 15, 2011
Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil, The Need for Roots

I saw this idea this morning as I was scrolling through thoughts saved over the days and the concept caught me, being rooted. I am in the middles of planting seeds and new annuals in my herb garden and gardening references are big with me right at the moment. I had a student not understand the concept of pedigree yesterday. She was totally lost as I tried to explain how we can look at the family tree of a given animal, person, and or plant and see the various traits we should end up with in the off spring. I have been intrigued with students taking this idea a bit further recently, many have little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma let alone where they might have originated from. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp for many folks so entwined in today and the immediate.

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots and or your past. Interesting in light of the news media and current stories, traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep people going. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence, I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to heritage, or to tradition, they are not grounded and anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be escape, wanting away from, to distant from as Lawrence advocates.

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead

Noted anthropologist Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have stripped away by our constant boxing up inside. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society. So in effect we are being told how, what, when and why on just about everything.

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

Thinking as to how politicians on both sides of the fence play to this concept I thought back many years to my tenth grade literature class, it was 1965 to be exact. We read at that time a controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”, you were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried and to destroy family and traditions and roots, stripping away top soil laying bare to the hardpan of mans soul. Yet still with some people persistence, vigor, or will was still there.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

This is not just a modern day issue; Confucius raised questions 2000 years ago and used word integrity. It was about the integrity of the home. Perhaps this is the key. Solid roots can be found in integrity. Is it possible to look at people and judge their character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow? It has been a few years since I looked up EPD’s. I used to know what that meant, but in cattle it is the performance data and potential for that animal based on gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given specific traits you are looking for.

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I found a plausible answer. EPD’s work because someone cares enough to check very specifically. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. I was thinking in terms of End of course tests and graduation tests that we are using to measure effectiveness of teachers and education. In the cattle industry if all you used was the end data you would eventually go out of business. Just because a steer weighs a certain amount in so many days comparing to a test score at the end of a course does not mean you will make money or that that was a good steer. Based on national averages the weight is ideal but how long did it take to grow that steer out? How much feed conversion ratio to weight gain did that steer take? Was the steer’s mother able to raise the calf herself or require a surrogate? What is the actual quality of the finished carcass? Questions when applied to education become significant. What concepts and knowledge does this student retain five years after high school for example?
Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of I see on a daily basis. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately. So where do I go in this round about effort. We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding, little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today from a teacher or friend. It may be a hug or kind word or an ear to listen which costs us a few moments of time. But if we take some time to share and to care what sort of impact will we make. It was so quiet out this morning when I went out with my dog. Weather people are calling for a storm tonight which coincides with last the past two weeks on Fridays nights just we have friends and family coming into town. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird