Seeing our purpose in life

Bird Droppings October 12, 2011
Seeing our purpose in life

It has been over ten years since I started writing this piece. I went out this morning with many questions on my mind. I Have a significant paper to write, my son’s wedding anniversary coming up, a grandbaby that just started saying pop pop, new and old students and how to deal with them when I get to school and pondering with each breath if I have chosen wisely. It was cool as I walked out and rearranged a few stones in the back yard. I walked to the corner where I could see a glimpse of the sunrise perhaps it was the moon as it is too early maybe I could think about a sunrise was more like it. I was reading earlier a college student’s frustration in life and love on her xanga account (talk about old social networking) and glanced over birthdays and postings on my facebook page.
As I am listening to teenagers at school so often we limit ourselves to what we know now. Obviously it is hard to assume we will know more lately, but children at some point lose that aspect. It may be at puberty where imagination and thinking of what could be and how dissipate. Maybe that is why middle school kids are so hard to deal with they are locked in the now more so than any other age losing the ability to see ahead and not knowing enough to ponder anything else. However often I wonder about my own purpose in life, why am I here?

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach

Every once in a while I find a quote from Richard Bach that strikes me. I remember reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull in the early seventies and it made sense. I would wager today most high school students and even college students would have a difficult time or find it too childish. A good friend offered up a book by James Kavanaugh, known for his controversial 1967 bestseller, A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church, calling for reform in the Catholic church, Celebrate the Sun, a sort of whimsical story about Harry Lagendorf , who happens to be a pelican. Each author took a whimsical look at the human condition and solutions in differing directions. Kavanaugh’s book is on my list for Christmas again.
When I was very young I felt I had a mission in life some great event perhaps I was to accomplish. As I got older and perhaps wiser that event became my life’s puzzle slowly falling in place each aspect piece by piece.

“The need for self-actualization is the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming. People who have everything can maximize their potential. They can seek knowledge, peace, esthetic experiences, self-fulfillment, and oneness with God, etc. It is usually middle-class to upper-class students who take up environmental causes, join the Peace Corps, go off to a monastery, etc.” © 1997, Robert Gwynne, based on Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of needs”

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission.” Mourning Dove, Salish

I have seen her name spelled several different ways Morning Dove and Mourning Dove; she was from the Salish tribe and a healer or a medicine woman. Her tribe is the same as the great Chief Dan George actor and philosopher.
Maslow in his development of a hierarchy of needs has self actualization as the top of his needs pyramid. Such terms as self fulfillment, a self purpose and finding yourself have been tossed around as well. Native American thought has each aspect of our existence with purpose each as sacred and all are intertwined. I found myself explaining that to my son many days ago as we drove towards town. He had asked me, “What did you think of the pope”? An interesting question out of the blue, I used and borrowed from Mourning Dove all has purpose and all is sacred each unto their own. Is he a great man? Is he sacred? Is he to be revered? These are questions to answer from your heart and not for me to answer.

“Each of our acts makes a statement as to our purpose.” Leo Buscaglia

“The presence of a long-term, conscious goal has helped me maintain stability through the ubiquitous changes of over half a century.” Mary Craig

“Everything in the universe has a purpose. Indeed, the invisible intelligence that flows through everything in a purposeful fashion is also flowing through you.” Wayne Dyer

Perhaps we lose purpose in this disposable society. Many years back when I was privileged to participate in a session of training in Foxfire technique we toured the Foxfire museum a step back in Mountain life to an earlier day when each plant tree and leave had significance. The late Robert Murray was our tour guide and curator of the property and he would stop at a patch of weeds and pull a leave.

“plantago major – common plantain – white man’s foot print – Medicinally, plantain is astringent, demulcent, emollient, cooling, vulnerary, expectorant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antitoxin, and diuretic. It affects blood sugar, usually lowering it. It has been used to treat lung disorders and stomach problems. For these purposes, a tea is made from either the leaves or the whole plant and taken internally. This same tea may be used as a mouthwash to treat sores in the mouth and toothaches. It may also be used externally to treat sores, blisters, insect bites and stings, hemorrhoids, burns, rashes, and other skin irritations. Alternatively, a poultice of the leaves may be applied to the afflicted area. This is probably plantain’s most common use. For relief from a bee sting or insect bite, simply shred (or chew) a plantain leaf and hold it on the bite for a few minutes.” The late Robert Murray at Foxfire and that was in about ten seconds

We would get a complete summary of what was once a weed, just a plant and now was a pharmacy. I remember using the seed heads to shoot at each other as kids. As we walked each tree or plant including Sweet Birch which can be used as a tooth brush, and plants such as mint and so forth all had significance. Many days ago I took a leave of white sage to school and let students smell and explained for Native Americans this was a scared plant used as incense and in teas to calm. You can use several leaves in boiling water and make a very relaxing tea. We have lost that closeness to nature that dependence on what is around us in our plastic world.

“What makes life dreary is the want of a motive.” George Eliot

“Men achieve certain greatness unawares, when working to another aim.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Needs are proponent”. A proponent need is one that has the greatest influence over our actions. Everyone has a proponent need, but that need will vary among individuals. A teenager may have a need to feel that he/she is accepted by a group. A heroin addict will need to satisfy his/her cravings for heroin to function normally in society, and will not worry about acceptance by other people.

“When the deficiency needs are met: At once other (and higher) needs emerge, and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still higher) needs emerge, and so on. As one desire is satisfied, another pops up to take its place.” Abraham Maslow

As our needs change in effect does our purpose. Emerson addresses we end up unaware as we journey often becoming greatly unaware of that as we gain it. Eliot speaks of motive a knowing of where we go or a direction. Dr. Maslow uses the concept of needs in a hierarchy of as we fulfill or satisfy one we reach a higher need. Looking back I find primitives seem to have a more complex view than we moderns and a more appreciative view of all around us.

“Be above it! Make the world serve your purpose, but do not serve it.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

I think many take Goethe’s view and seek to make the world serve your purpose.

“Multitudes of people, drifting aimlessly to and fro without a set purpose, deny themselves such fulfillment of their capacities, and the satisfying happiness which attends it. They are not wicked, they are only shallow. They are not mean or vicious; they simply are empty — shake them and they would rattle like gourds. They lack range, depth, and conviction. Without purpose their lives ultimately wander into the morass of dissatisfaction. As we harness our abilities to a steady purpose and undertake the long pull toward its accomplishment, rich compensations reward us. A sense of purpose simplifies life and therefore concentrates our abilities; and concentration adds power.” Kenneth Hildebrand

Daily I see students like this floundering wandering aimlessly like empty hollow gourds to shake and rattle.

“The meaning of life is to give life meaning.” Ken Hudgins

We have lost appreciation for life in our disposable world we seem to forget that all about us was once alive. As we timber old growth forest and try and pretend we can grow it back in 500 years. As we strip the world of rain forest that has taken tens of thousands of years to develop. According to some it all is alive each rock, each plant, each aspect of our existence and we ourselves find no significance in it far too often.

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach

“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, Blackfoot warrior and orator

A dear friend once posted about a sunset in New York City as she came home from work and how that had become a significantly good part of her day seeing the sunrise and set. My days of wandering the pastures late at night walking up on our buffalo as they slept are gone. I am now content to sit by the fire in our home and walk out into the back yard of our country home and listen to the morning. I still find purpose in each breath and in seeing each leave and twig as I walk about. I still look to see the red tailed hawk cross my path and wonder as my own puzzle pieces fall into place. Richard Bach has given us an ultimatum we can choose to use that and seek further or simply be as many do see this world as disposable and for them we are too. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

A few days misse and an extremely long weekend

Bird Droppings April 13, 2011
A few days missed and an extremely long weekend

On Friday April 13, 2008 I was driving and actually did not just forget to write my thoughts down but literally could not. I drove down to Statesboro Georgia to get approval of my course of study for my doctorial work and verify with my advisor my dissertation topic. I had a great session with my advisor and began selecting my committee for my Comprehensive Examinations and my Dissertation. As we met and as I do often when in a new office or study I looked at the numerous book titles and began to formulate who and what this person was about. I was comfortable as I saw many titles that are on my own shelves. I was introduced to a possible committee member just down the hall and she accepted the invitation and we talked for nearly an hour again with on her shelves very similar books and thinking about education that were scattered through my own.
So often I speak of coincidence, it was this way as that day unfolded and I met people and finally had dinner with my son in Macon Georgia and then drove the last hundred miles back to our home. That Friday as my advisor and I discussed educational psychology and the different kinds of measuring of data, intuition came up several times in our discussion. However intuition and coincidence it seems are difficult commodities to evaluate, this point was made several times as we talked about education and various educational programs. I have for so many years believed to the marrow of my bones however that intuition is crucial to being a good or great teacher.
It was nearly a hundred years ago that Carl Jung split with his then partner Sigmund Freud over similar matters and coined the word synchronicity. Just before school was out for the holiday as I was talking and it does seem I never stop, I was drawn to the front door of my room at school and as I stepped out a friend passed by exactly as I stepped to the door. A friend with a problem, had I been a few seconds later a moment later and that friend would have passed by. I was drawn to the door like a moth to a flame. Was I meant to interfere to get involved in a problem or simply to offer advice or questions? So is this a coincidence, a chance happening, or synchronicity perhaps?

“The images of the unconscious place a great responsibility upon a man. Failure to understand them, or a shirking of ethical responsibility, deprives him of his wholeness and imposes a painful fragmentariness on his life.” Carl Jung

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” Eric Fromm

I sit here wondering which direction we go as we try and unravel the human condition that frail substance about which we have evolved from. Can we separate out and categorize analyze and postulate at what makes us human versus a pack animal or simply a herding animals as some sociologists would suggest.

“Man may be defined as the animal that can say “I,” that can be aware of himself as a separate entity. “ Eric Fromm

“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water. “ Sigmund Freud

“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

When beset with an issue, or a problem we so often fall victim to the easiest route the way of “least resistance least trouble” as John Dewey would say. Years ago in a book on Loss Control management my father used the illustration of an ice berg, we only see one seventh of the problem and as we too journey through life is only the visible one seventh of the total of all that is with sixth sevenths hidden away secreted somewhere from view.

“Thus we see that the all important thing is not killing or giving life, drinking or not drinking, living in the town or the country, being unlucky or lucky, winning or losing. It is how we win, how we lose, how we live or die, finally, how we choose.” R. H. Blyth

It is how we choose that is important, each day for several years since I began this endeavor I have talked of the journey in life. I have used as a screen saver until recently an image of my son crossing a stream in North Georgia, stepping stone by stone across a rippling, rolling stream. In the photo my son is soaking wet and could have just as easily walked in the stream and avoided falling from the rocks. He was wet already but he choose to step on the slippery rocks, the challenge for him was doing it, making the journey not simply getting to his destination.

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.” Mourning Dove, Salish

This becomes the difficult task trying to explain how a problem has purpose, how a human issue has reason in a world of measurement, where non-measuring is constant and so often the point. I can never find the distance between the stones of the stream as my son’s footsteps fall crossing rock by rock.

“You can never cross a stream the same way twice” Zen saying

“Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology…. has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there.” William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991

Going from a single person’s problem to that of the North Slope of Alaska may seem a stretch. But as we journey in life we essentially do not get to replay our hand once we lay the cards upon the table. A few nights back by chance somewhere before four in the morning I was reading and old National Geographic and how the oil fields are so enticing in the Wilds of Alaska. Greedy people see only the money; they say jobs and energy will abound to entice others. Then another group sees a loss of habitat, wildlife and wilderness that can never be replaced. In a similar article again in National Geographic the discovery of a new gold strike in another wilderness area. Most of us are unaware of the biological implications of gold mining. Mining for gold destroys land and processing the rock aggregate creates vast amounts of toxic waste as mercury is one of the most popular separators used. Another amazing coincidence this morning I could not pull this up it had literally disappeared as I was downloading my data from one drive to a new larger drive and as I went back my Bird Dropping was just on the new drive and not still on the computer. So this middle of the new week after Spring Break for me I will head to school, teach to those willing to learn, and after mow grass, plant a few plants in my herb garden, put out some fertilizer on my blueberries and feed the hummingbirds that seem to love our back yard. But for now this is a good reminder that maybe we should be looking for peace my friends and have a good day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.