What could be more sacred than life itself?

Bird Droppings November 1, 2011
What could be more sacred than life itself?

Perhaps having been born on All Saints Day in St. Joseph’s Hospital gives me a better insight into the sacred than most normal folk. Of course then I have to consider that soon after I was born the Church dropped All Saints Day which I hope had nothing to do with me. I could have been born on Halloween. As I sit and ponder having been away from my computer for several days with illness and family activities my thoughts go towards that of a spiritual nature. It has been sometime since walking along a dirt road in the midst of hundreds of acres of pasture listening to buffalo and cattle snorting and waking in the early morning I came to find this outlook on life.

“When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.” Dr. Scout Cloud Lee

Dr. Lee is a motivational speaker, author of twelve books, singer and song writer, university professor and actually along the way a cast member of The Survivor series on CBS. She was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Oklahoma State University in 1980, and Oklahoma’s Outstanding Young Woman in American in 1980. In 2002, Lee was honored to carry the Olympic torch exemplifying the theme of “Light the Fire Within.” Perhaps this is a good place to stop As a Today Show guest she stated “you have to decide” and Dr. Lee offers “we participate in the creation of a new world”. I end up with a line from an Aerosmith song as it always seems to fit in.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

I used Dr. Lee’s quote and the preceding paragraph on September 7, 2009 in my daily wanderings. An email earlier this week reminded me of this quote and some thoughts along the way with several books I picked up over the past few weeks at Barnes and Noble, I should get a commission for mentioning bookstores and Quick Trip. I state on my Facebook page my religious belief is that all is sacred. That in and of itself is a powerful statement and one I adhere to or at least attempt each day I live. Many can argue from their own religious perspective and or theological viewpoint as to what is sacred or not. On a recent journey to Macon I went by the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds National Park. I speak of the place in a reverent manner as for thousands of years many people have held this place as a sacred spot. When I climb to the top of the Great Temple Mound and look to the four directions I imagine what it was like before the Macon skyline was visible to the north or the visitor center to the east.
Sitting on my table as I write is a Bushmen water container. It is simply an ostrich egg emptied out with a hole in the top and carvings of animals and designs etched into the shell and then filled with ash to leave a black line. This egg is over fifty years old and brought back by my father from South Africa many years ago and given to me. In the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa and to the Sans as they wish to be called, we use the term Bushmen this is a sacred vessel. It is one of many that would be stashed plugged with grass and placed at a specific spot identified by the markings belonging to a particular hunting group it would be filled with water and stored for the next trip through that spot.
Over the past few years I have read many books on spirituality, Native American thought, Curriculum, Education, Teaching methods, Religion, Counseling, Psychology, Herbs, Medicinal plants, Reptiles and Amphibians, and even a few fiction books mainly Harry Potter. One author who has always kept my attention and I still periodically check up on his essays is William Edelen. Edelen is a Presbyterian pastor, former fighter pilot, former agriculture teacher, author, speaker, and free thinker extraordinaire. While his books of essays are not best sellers on a few years back one title was the United Methodist Women’s book of the year, In Search of the Great Mystery. Edelen incorporates many ideas from Native American thought into his writing along with Thomas Jefferson and Thoreau.

“The question I so often ask is this: Why are the vast majority of people so willing to turn over their life, values, priorities, and decisions to such authoritarian institutions? Are they insecure, that fearful, that blind, that they cannot assume personal responsibility for their own spiritual growth? ‘Your own reason is the only oracle given to you by God,’ wrote Thomas Jefferson.” William Edelen, Spirit Dance

Edelen was addressing millenniums of mass church building and increasingly larger congregations that demand from their parishioners. I always found it humorous that one Atlanta church required a credit report to join.

“People often ask me, “What are you …… what do you believe…. Are you a Christian…. Taoist … Buddhist …. what? In a joking mood I may tell them I am a Taoist, Druid, Agnostic shaman. But when I answer the question seriously, I tell them I live within the historical stream of mysticism, and that orientation, world view, cosmology, or philosophy of life is the same whether one lives in a Taoist society, Buddhist, Christian or secular.” William Edelen, Spirit Dance

Needless to say William Edelen is a character, he still has many listeners and readers and even in his nineties he still speaks in Palm Springs each week delivering a new essay. There is a website where these are posted. But there are many views of life, spirit and sacred what compromises these. Continuing on today another writer whom has drawn me to them is Thomas Merton. A Trappist Monk he is considered to be one of the foremost spiritual thinkers of the twentieth century. Merton died in a hotel room in Southeast Asia in 1968 protesting the war in Viet Nam.

“To unify your life, unify your desires. To spiritualize your life, spiritualize your desires. To spiritualize your desires, desire to be without desires.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“Everyone has an instinctive desire to do good things and avoid evil. But the desire is sterile as long as we have no experience of what it means to be good.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Almost John Dewey words in needing to experience good in order to desire to do good. Both Thomas Merton and William Edelen use the concept of opposites prevalent in Eastern philosophy as well as in Native American thought. Merton and Edelen often quote The Dalai Lama in their writings and as he is spiritual head of the Tibetan Buddhists, he is respected worldwide.
Over the years I have been a fan of the writings of the Dalai Lama myself, at age six or so he was chosen to be the successor to the thirteenth Dalai Lama and left his parent’s small farm to go to the capital of Tibet in Lhasa and here was tutored in Buddhist traditions and writings. He through his young years had tutors from England as well who taught other subjects and provided a world view for this humble boy from a small farm in Tibet. Today he is considered one of the great thinkers of our time and has received the Nobel Peace Prize among other numerous awards. His many books help bridge, and make an effort to provide insight into Buddhist philosophy and understanding of the world. One of these thoughts within Buddhism is the theory of emptiness.

“According to the theory of emptiness, any belief in an objective reality grounded on the assumption of intrinsic, independent existence in untenable. All things and events, whether material, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence. To possess such independent, intrinsic existence would imply that things are therefore entirely self contained. This would mean that nothing has the capacity to interact and exert influence on other phenomena.” Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom

I walked into my local convenience store this morning to get a couple of bottles of Smart water; I have switched after years of drinking Evian only. No, it does not increase my IQ by more than a small percentage with each bottle, but it has no metallic taste and it is essentially distilled water with electrolytes added. Another advertising pitch I could make a fortune if I was signed with all of these commercial entities. As we talked with one of my Muslim friends I wished him a Happy Halloween, and it hit me. Halloween was an attempt in the old days of allowing pagan rituals into the Christian domain back in the days of assimilating cultures as you conquer. What was interesting is how it was then followed by All Saints day, which had been today until the holiday was dropped by the Church, to beg forgiveness for the previous day.
But it is always interesting where our traditions and history take us and will take us. Borrowing a line from the Dalai Lama’s above quote. “All things and events, whether material, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence.” At the time it was a necessary evil to allow All Hallows eve and get the pagans to follow in line. As the day changed and it seemed All Saints day was no longer needed it was discounted as a holy day by the church. It might have had something to do with me being born on that day as well.

“My plea is that we bring our spirituality, the fullness and simple wholesomeness of our basic human values, to bear upon the course of science and the direction of technology in human society. In essence, science and spirituality, though offering in their approaches, share the end, which is the betterment of humanity.” The Dalai Lama

“The whole point of science is that there are no facts, only theories. You don’t believe these things they are working hypotheses that the next bit of information can transform. We are taught not to hang on but to stay open.” Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

As I read The Dalai Lamas words it reminded of the passage from Campbell, recognized as one of the leaders in comparative mythology.

“The first fact that distinguishes the human species from all others is that we are born too soon. We arrive incapable of taking care of ourselves for something like fifteen years. Puberty doesn’t come along for twelve years or more, and physical maturity doesn’t arrive until our early twenties. During the greater part of this long arc of life, the individual is in a psychological dependency. We are trained as children, so that every stimulus, every experience, leads us to react.” Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

As I sat thinking on this passage my mind drifted over to a book I am reading currently Kent Nerburn’s latest, The Wolf at Twilight. Nerburn goes back to the Sioux reservation to help an old friend in a search for his sister who has been gone now nearly eighty years. One of the comments made is in a discussion on hand shakes. Nerburn questioned how they could tell he was unfamiliar with the Sioux ways and they said by the handshake. A white man shakes hands hard exerting force wanting to maintain control, power, be a man. A Sioux shakes hands lightly, softly not imposing their dominance over the person whose hand is being shaken. It is a matter of how we are raised. The cultural biases and societal influences provide the basis for who we are. Perhaps this is where I am concerned in our quest in education and society so often for simplicity and measureable data. Are we leaving out the spiritual and actually leaving science by the way side? We seem to want answers solid data and facts. So many people want laws in science and not theories. So many people want one way in religion and forget the spirituality aspect of what it is they seek.

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves…… The connectedness made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as a place where intellect and emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I first read Parker Palmer about nine years ago in a book club meeting where our principal used this book, The Courage to Teach, as one of our readings. Parker Palmer emphasizes in his writing that teachers choose to teach because of heart because they desire to do something for humanity. Many of his themes touch on the spirituality within teaching. It is this idea of connectedness that toes in to my thoughts today and with some of the others I have quoted and used. In recent months I have become a fan of Dr. Michael Tianusta Garrett, former Department Chair of Guidance at the University of Florida. His books along with his father’s are based on the Cherokee Nation. Many of his thoughts on guidance reflect his own understandings and outlooks based on his Native American heritage.

“Native peoples view all things as having spiritual energy and importance. All things are connected, all things have life, and all things are worthy of respect and reverence. Spiritual being essentially requires that individuals seek their place in the universe; everything else will follow in good time. “Dr. Michael Tianusta Garrett, Walking in the Wind

I have wandered today and yet perhaps not strayed from where I was going in my journey and will end with perhaps my favorite author Kent Nerburn.

“Spiritual growth is honed and perfected only through practice. Like an instrument, it must be played. Like a path, it must be walked. Whether through prayer or meditation or worship or good works, you must move yourself in the direction of spiritual betterment.” Kent Nerburn, Simple Truths

“It is the sense that comes over us as we stare into the starlit sky or watch the last fiery rays of an evening sunset. It is the morning shiver as we wake on a beautiful day and smell richness in the air that we know and love from somewhere we can’t quite recall. It is the mystery behind the beginning of time and beyond the limits of space. It is a sense of otherness that brings alive something deep in our hearts.” Kent Nerburn, Simple Truths

I had actually started to be rather short and be done with it today but sort of got caught up in my own wanderings and readings. It has been over ten years I have ended my daily thoughts with this phrase and again looking at the news and listening to what is going on in the world I will again close with my traditional last statement. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Direction

Bird Droppings September 5, 2011
Direction

Over the past long weekend I worked on several papers, sat in the recliner and dabbled in my yard but I got thinking back to a party in Pennsylvania that was held nearly two years ago as I pondered and walked about. Two years ago on a Saturday night was our high school class of 1967, sixtieth birthday bash celebrating everyone’s coming of age. At that time numerous graduate school and high school projects kept me in town that were due or I had planned on completing. It has been nearly four years since I had the great thrill to revisit my home town and surrounding countryside. One of the side trips my wife and I made was to Amish country out towards Lancaster PA. We went to a favorite tourist spot, The Amish Farm and House. I went for the first time nearly fifty five years ago on a second grade field trip. Now the old homestead and farm sits midst malls and shopping. As we went on the tour and listened to our guides talks on various Amish customs one caught my attention. The Amish traditionally heat the kitchen only.
Within Amish tradition the family that is together more than apart stays together. The kitchen becomes the family room for meals, play and talks. Kids stay and play while adults work on various projects since during the winter most of the house is too cold. An interesting thought the Amish are growing in numbers and yet their lifestyle by our standards is a hard one. Very few leave the families according to statistics less than two percent. This is interesting in a world of divorce and child abandonment that we have today.

“I am always doing things I can’t do; that’s how I get to do them.” Pablo Picasso

I was sitting outside earlier and it was a bit chilly for this time of year but the cold snap is riding a hurricane front which brought needed rain and a break in ninety plus heat. I was listening to the sounds of morning in my back yard, crickets mainly although their songs are slower in the chill and damp. Many sounds were similar in the stillness and solitude of early morning coming into the fall in Georgia. Off in a distance a dog, maybe a coyote as he howls. At our last house we would be awakened occasionally by train whistles and it had been over twenty years since I had heard a train whistle from my door step. Although one night outside Macon while staying at a friend’s house who happened to live along a spur leading to one of Georgia Powers coal burning plants I was wide awakened by the coal train whistle and noise about four one morning. The old house was a rail tender’s house where the current occupant would work for railroad and check water and such on engines as they pulled in.
I have raised the question of our purpose numerous times over the years and yesterday an email sometime last night got me thinking. A dear friend said four people had raised the issue of their purpose in life recently and she is going through a time in her own life now of seeking purpose. Before I went out I wrote back to her.

“For me it is not what is my purpose, as much as I have purpose. It is knowing you are significant in each aspect of what you do. Over the years I always thought I would one day open my eyes and see, my purpose. Years ago a vision or was it a dream of a giant jig saw puzzle falling in place sorted that out for me. I could not see the front of the puzzle and every time I tried and look it would turn away revealing the gray backing. I had to be content to know it was falling in place piece by piece and each piece was more intricate than the last. You can seek direction in your journey. You have a powerful friend in your faith. Doors will open as they need to. I spent nearly two years sorting out where I was to go, some by working with indigent families and receiving enough barely to cover cell phone and mileage. A door opened in teaching and even then I was presented with tests. Five times my name was presented by a principal who wanted me teaching and four times I was turned down. On September 11, 2001 I was allowed to go back into teaching” Frank Bird in an email to a friend

I have used the illustration of a puzzle often in my writing and have thrown the word purpose about many times. There is an aspect of our journey in which we are directly involved and that is the direction in which way are we facing as we take that next step.

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy; a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lays disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” Rachel Carson

I was looking this morning for words dealing with direction and each time I tried mapping out my thoughts and the word direction came up. My oldest son finished his certification in GIS several years ago. He had been working with an Environmental Science class at the high school mapping trees and positioning using GPS devices. It is amazing as gadgets get smaller and more accurate, we can map a tree on our planet or a gopher tortoise nest. We are at a point in our technology where we can ascertain that Sumatra moved 20 centimeters in a huge earthquake. My son will take along his GPS just for fun as he travels although several trips to Florida it has proven its worth avoiding hurricane traffic. But so often we have a hard time determining where we are going today let alone in life.

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

John Dewey is not the easiest read in the world and often his thoughts are in details we are not used too. Could be why so many educators have a hard time with Dewey’s ideas. It is too easy to say he was a communist or socialist and not read that he was perhaps one of the greatest advocates for democracy within education and the nation in modern time. Most recently I have been opening up Dewey’s works again as I am working on my dissertation based around his ideas. Far too often teachers look for an easy fix to a complicated issue. In life far too many times we take the easy road.

“Instead of looking at life as a narrowing funnel, we can see it ever widening to choose the things we want to do, to take the wisdom we’ve learned and create something.” Liz Carpenter

“You don’t have to buy from anyone. You don’t have to work at any particular job. You don’t have to participate in any given relationship. You can choose” Harry Browne

For s many they see life as a funnel a narrowing down rather than a spreading out as they progress. It has been many years since I walked the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia and hopefully one day soon I will find time to climb the trail again. Often when walking up a mountain there are switch backs, a longer path but an easier incline and you would use them rather than a direct ascent. A switch back is a path that cuts back and forth up the mountain rather than straight up and makes the pathway a bit easier. With a heavy pack a direct route is often impossible let alone dangerous.

“The way to activate the seeds of your creation is by making choices about the results you want to create. When you make a choice, you activate vast human energies and resources, which otherwise go untapped. All too often people fail to focus their choices upon results and therefore their choices are ineffective. If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz

So often in life it is the first step, that door opening that is so difficult. When I did go back to teaching I could have stopped at my first rejection. I applied at five or six schools and at the time I was not certified and in order to get a provisional certification you have to be employed. That in its self is an interesting paradox. For some reason a principal thought I might work out and kept pushing and after four attempts at the school board meetings I was hired, then he called back, my sister had been hired a day before who I recommended and so I couldn’t work there now. Then my name did not make a meeting and another effort was defeated and a third and fourth again. Finally a teacher had a nervous breakdown and was out indefinitely and a long term sub was needed which eventually led to my teaching position. Allowances were made for my sister and I started on September 11, 2001. It was many months later when the principal was putting a list together that I was asked what day I started and I couldn’t remember I told him it was the week after labor day and a Tuesday because approval was needed on Monday. The first step is rough many times.

“You are the person who has to decide. Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; you are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind. Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar. Or just be contented to stay where you are.” Edgar A. Guest

“When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.” Dr. Scout Cloud Lee

Dr. Lee is a motivational speaker, author of twelve books, singer song writer, and a university professor and actually along the way a cast member of The Survivor series on CBS. She was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Oklahoma State University in 1980, and Oklahoma’s Outstanding Young Woman in American in 1980. In 2002, Lee was honored to carry the Olympic torch exemplifying the theme of “Light the Fire Within.” Perhaps this is a good place to stop today Guest states “you have to decide” and Dr. Lee offers “we participate in the creation of a new world”. I end up with a line from an Aerosmith song as it always seems to fit in.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler

Please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird