Searching for, looking at, and finally placing the pieces to the puzzle

Bird Droppings May 16, 2012

Searching for, looking at and finally placing

the pieces to the puzzle

“The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the ”social worker” -judge.” Dr. Michael Foucault (1926-1984), French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas

            Last night I received a call from my nephew and was asked if I knew a certain person. At first I thought why is he calling me and in my old man memory issue dilemma I struggled for a second trying to place the name. After a mention of Appalachian Trail hiking that my nephew and this fellow had shared I recalled the man. A former Marine, Special education teacher and someone who would sit and talk with me on many occasions discussing education and needs of people. Sadly the call was not intended simply to refresh my memory but to search for reasons and rationale as to the funeral service my nephew had just attended.

            Looking back this man was my age and survived while he had gone to Viet Nam and I had not the seventies. It seems many did not know the inner demons that lurked and for many years the trauma of a war laid beneath the surface. On their hike almost ten years ago which is when I taught with this fellow a peace sign was carved on a picnic bench up in the mountains of North Georgia. My nephew thought it was pretty cool and this man only saw the disgust as upon returning from Viet Nam he was looked down upon by peace sign carrying hippies. He had not wanted to be a part of a war in Southeast Asia and I am sure much like me was either quick to enlist or drafted and found his way to the Marines.

            I have for many years used the image of a puzzle describing life in general a rather large infinite yet finite puzzle falling into place piece by piece. There is fragility to this puzzle and a seemingly almost delicate touch needed as we approach pieces. Much of my background and education is in psychology and counseling and searching within helping people deal with those pieces that are lost or missing. Many times through empathy and discovery we find and can replace a missing piece and work to get the puzzle back on track.

            Sunday I picked up a local paper and a headline mentioned a second killing by local police of a suspect in less than a month. It was not a detrimental headline toward law enforcement as it was toward the depravity of society and how low we have come culturally that agreements and or disagreements need to be settled with weapons. A man whose name escaped me as I read the article was firing rounds into his separated wife’s home when officers asked him to put his weapon down. He turned his weapon on local officers and in defense they fired back. Having worked with many psychologically unstable minds over the years I have come to find there is a very fine line between normal and abnormal, between sane and lost, and reality and another world. A friend died although I had not talked with or seen him in now nearly four years. The man who died may not have been the man I knew ten years ago yet sitting here this morning the only image I have is of that friend and I sitting talking in my class room listening to the quiet of running water and R. Carlos Nakai flute music.    


“In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.” Genjo Koan 


There are times when we in looking we miss what it is we are trying to find. Contained within a drop of water there is an entire universe. Sometimes we want to have things to be simply round or square and yet infinity abounds. Yesterday I was speaking with several teachers discussing why students acted as they did, behave as they do. In a recent presentation on a chapter from a book on behavior management and treatments the last paragraph of the chapter summed up quite a bit so often we look everywhere else and the answer is right beneath our feet.


“The absence of evidence to support medication as a viable alternative should lead future researchers and clinicians to further explore parenting strategies that facilitate the development of better sleep habits.”


As we do so often we look for excuses we look for medical, physical, emotional reasons for sleep disorders in children. Yet with behaviors at school we blame class room activity, we blame teachers, planning, books, and or administration. Always amazes me that the sixteen hour syndrome is never discussed, we never tend to see where the issue really lies, parenting strategies. I often wonder why we cannot accept the blame as parents or why we want an excuse in any aspect of life.


“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do –or don’t do.” Simone De Beauvoir French Existentialist, Writer, and Social Essayist 1908-1986


I was ready to write down how the great Simone was a heroic figure inBolivia, a crucial part of South American history and yet really was a woman philosopher fromFranceand under study to Sartre.


“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” Frank A. Clark


“Parents are not quite interested injustice, they are interested in quiet.” Bill Cosby


It is so funny thing how in the United States we have most of the world’s ADHD children and the funny thing as we became so mobile and our family structure somewhat altered it continues to increase. During the 1980-90’s ADHD increased so rapidly almost in epidemic proportions, over nine hundred percent. What I find as interesting is how we began seeing this issue when it got on our nerves as parents and or teachers. As an old person I was thinking to myself where was ADHD when I was a child.


“The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow


We try and look at the whole and miss pieces or sometimes we look so intently at a piece we miss the whole. This is a paradox of sorts. I hate jig saw puzzles yet am fascinated by them and often I use the comparison to puzzles for life in general. Life is very much like a myriad puzzle, millions of intricate pieces all falling into place one at a time, each more intricate then the other. Sometimes we see a piece and for days focus on each minute detail, each little facet and each little color speck of white or red and the details over whelm us. We so easily lose sight of the whole picture the vast array of life in front of us forming over a minute tiny aspect.


“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson


Amazing I pulled Emerson in amazing how a hundred year ago poet has pieces for today. We as parents, and or teachers try so valiantly to cast our being into a child to see ourselves living again. Maybe that is why we focus on a piece for so long.


“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop former Surgeon General of the United States Famous


As I think of Dr. Koop it is so much more so for the adding of the warning on cigarettes than his philosophy most people remember him. As I think I recall my dad’s story of how he also prayed by the bedside of my younger brother many years ago in Philadelphia Children’s Hospital where he was Chief Surgeon. He is an interesting man and great doctor.


“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Dr. Michael Levine, professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology at The University of California


More so as I write today I find who these people are as I am looking at parenting as it is interesting as to what they say. Dr. Koop told my father as he sat with him one evening discussing my brother how parents of critically ill children were so different than so many others. They talked about how faith was so much an aspect of their lives and trust a critical piece of their puzzle as that dealt with their children’s issues.


“The word no carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say yes.” Joyce Maynard


On many mornings I am really not sure where I am going with a thought and I know I wander about here and there. I wonder as well what I am trying to say as I start and many times midway I still am wondering. Joyce Maynard’s statement may be where I was going in the last page or two looking and building to this. Whether a parent or teacher or friend this applies as I look back to my starting quote from nearly 1000 years ago written by Dogen, a Zen master and told to his student. Back in those days, a koan was a question put out to answer a puzzle piece in a person’s life. A Genjo Koan, is an essential question, a question that entails and involves life itself. 


“When fish go through water, there is no end to the water no matter how far they go. When birds fly in the sky, there is no end to the sky no matter how far they fly. But neither fish nor birds have been separated from the water or sky – from the very beginning. It is only this: when a great need arises, a great use arises; when there is little need, there is little use. Therefore, they realize full function in each thing and free ability according to each place. “ Dogan, 1243


As I sat this morning, thinking and writing so many ideas flowed listening to teachers yesterday express concern and question hearing parents gathered round their SUV’s trying to solve world issues and who was wearing what and what was the latest gossip. It is so easy to be sarcastic. Children are our greatest future commodity we should not waste them. As Dogan said about fish when parenting there is no end as long as you are a parent when a teacher there is no end as you are teaching. When as I say you are placing pieces in the puzzle it is not a whole as you focus and look at a piece in your hand. We all have work to do as parents, teachers, friends, as a child, or student. In all of this please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks.