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

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

Sometimes we get to close to the edge

Bird Droppings April 19, 2011
Sometimes we get to close to the edge

I recall taking groups hiking in North Georgia and always there is that one person who has to be at the edge of a gorge or edge of the trail dropping two hundred feet down looking over and nearly falling. Maybe they were adrenaline rush junkies. It has been some time since I would edge my canoe off a rapids occasionally not knowing what lay ahead. I have gone off some pretty good size falls not paying attention.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” Soren Kierkegaard

I often wonder if I had chosen differently at various times in my life what would be the outcome and where would I be. What if I had not left teaching so many years ago would one of my former students perhaps have changed directions and not be serving three life sentences currently. I was aware of issues back then nearly thirty five years ago but I was just a kid working with kids.

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

It is through experience that the highest form of learning occurs and it is learning that will stay with us as we move through life. I can describe how to tie a square knot and I can show pictures all day long of a square knot but until you physically tie a square knot with a piece of rope you will not recall the intricacies and methods.

“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap?” Cynthia Heimel, Lower Manhattan Survival Tactics

I recently did a timeline of my life showing what I call coincidence points where a slightly different twist, trail, or take would have altered my life. People I have met, things I have done or not done all altered by a moments choice somewhere along the line.

“I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I’m not afraid of falling into my inkpot.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been a fan of Emerson for some time and as I read this line I recalled several comments from a friend who is an artist and very independent drawing a comparison to the Dr. House on TV. He is an arrogant extremely brilliant physician who offends everyone and seemingly solves unsolvable medical mysteries. My friend is a graphic artist and has learned the game of preparing art boards for clients; she will always do several and sort of over emphasize the one that she feels is best. You are giving your customer choice and options yet controlling the situation for the better. This is a Dr. James Sutton trick for working with Oppositional Deviant children. My friend has a customer who never picks the best one always the wrong one and now without just being obnoxious directs the customer to the best art work.

“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Frederick B. Wilcox

So often life presents us with challenges or with trails to follow do I go left or right do I take the steeper one or the easy pathway. Over the years hiking in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia and North Carolina you would come upon switch backs where the trail rather than going straight up would be a series of switches back and forth a bit more distance but an easier incline especially when encumbered with a heavy backpack. Some people want to charge forward and I had a few who would allows make a beeline for the top of Blood Mountain and avoid switch backs and about half way up the rest of us would catch up to them exhausted and bruised and bloodied from rocks and falls. Often there is wisdom in experience. Still those of us moving up the mountain maybe in a slower pace but would still finish ahead of them.

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” Frank Scully

I remember picking apples and crawling out a bit too far on a limb nearly falling going for the best ones. Learning the limits of your environment can be beneficial and help you get the best possible of what you seek.

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky

I first used this quote nearly eight years ago putting a copy on my then principal’s door. Interesting that sheet of copy paper made the move to a new school and is still hanging in his office eight years later.

“I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.” G.K. Chesterton

I have never been one to back down from a challenge and Chesterton’s words are true so often people sit and languish sadly literally molding away.

“The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one’s self to destiny.” Napoleon Bonaparte

In Risk Management you terminate the risk, you tolerate the risk, and you treat the risk and or transfer the risk which equates to the four T’s of Risk Management, Terminate, Tolerate, Treat and Transfer.

“This nation was built by men who took risks – pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, business men who were not afraid of failure, scientists who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of progress, dreamers who were not afraid of action.” Brooks Atkinson

It was the vastness of the frontier that truly gave us the American Dream. I have been working on papers dealing with the development of education historically and it is interesting how the frontier paid such a significant role. Europe had reached a point where every corner and every nook was owned and possessed and a totally new atmosphere occurred when the colonists came across the ocean. It was a vast un-chartered frontier.

“Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.” Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, 1759

So many times in history because of various limitations imposed by religion and by rulers because objections hold the society in limbo.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy

I recall the day Bobby Kennedy was killed and football Hall of Fame great Rosie Greer who had been helping with security, he was one of the great all time linemen in pro football was griddling his head. As the news started a picture came across the media. The photo was the huge Rosie Greer bent over a fallen Bobbie Kennedy with tears in his eyes. Shortly thereafter news carried the words word that Kennedy had died. He knew the chances but believed in what he was trying to do.

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” Seneca

Nearly 3000 years ago these words were uttered by the great Greek philosopher and today they hold as true as they did back then.

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” Robert H. Schuler

Pastor Schuler was never one to limit himself such as in building one of the largest church congregations in the country and the largest TV audience of all time.

“Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I am amazed as to how perception changes as conditions change.

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The old adage of getting back on the horse when you fall off still holds clout.

“Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” Ray Bradbury

Every day some of us live this way waiting till the last minute and thriving on the adrenalin but not everyone can function in this manner. I sit back and recall my father going over the four T’s of risk management in a conference so many years ago and how applicable that still is not just in industry but in school, education, families, and life in general. Some people need a moment or two to catch their breath to ponder and make the wisest and sometimes safe choice. So today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Is your imagination out of focus?

Bird Droppings April 12, 2011
Is your imagination out of focus?

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Years ago I saw this quote and as I was watching my own young children with Lego blocks as they were growing up and then seeing a pile of Lego blocks change in their hands to cars and houses and castles and dinosaurs it truly hit home. I have used Lego at times as a tool to get the thinking process going with students. I usually would start by placing a pile of blocks on a table and saying, ok be creative. It is amazing what transpires it seems that sometimes the little kid comes out and in others a vast out pouring of creativity and imagination as blocks are placed together to create castles, cars and monsters. Teachers and adults often have a more difficult time getting started on this exercise. We tend to want to start with a red block or a square block and spend our time sorting through the pile rather than just creating.

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.” Lewis Carroll

I was sitting here thinking about Foxfire after reading several reflections from students in a former graduate class I had help teach at Piedmont College. Most teaching techniques require memory of items those things that are the content of the course and this is where and how you are assessed as a teacher and or student. Sadly it is not on how you use or can use that information in the real world around you. Years ago John Dewey focused on experience and how we use our experiences in education. The object was building on past experience and supplementing with current information and new material. I recall several years ago teaching Biology in summer school. Vocabulary is crucial as it is in any of the science classes in today’s world of testing. In many of the sciences the words are literally changing daily. In the most high school science books there are about three hundred vocabulary words. In preparing for today’s testing environment step one is know those words. Surprisingly if you know the vocabulary that will give you answers to seventy four percent of the questions on final exam for example in Biology.
Now the more difficult part is giving context to those words and bringing life to a Biology class which just happens to be the study of life. I used daily pre-quizzes and post-quizzes on vocabulary that last summer I taught Biology. Then I intermingled experiments and even outdoor activities tying it all together. An example is taxonomy which is a key word. I had a salamander and a lizard side by side for observation and research and this exercise we would do can have students remembering the differences between amphibians and reptiles for a lifetime. Once a teacher commented and said that is a great idea but they did not have access to lizards and salamanders. I asked, that teacher why not as I was holding a leopard gecko (a lizard). Amazingly that teacher never once asked to borrow my gecko or salamander. It is a great idea but it needs implementing.

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.” Muhammad Ali
I recall the mystique of Ali in his prime watching news releases and his fights so many years ago. I enjoyed listening to the banter with his good friend and featured commentator Howard Cosell back and forth it wasn’t for several years that it came out Cosell and Ali were very close friends.

“My alphabet starts with this letter called yuzz. It’s the letter I use to spell yuzz-a-ma-tuzz. You’ll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond ‘Z’ and start poking around! “Theodor Geisel

A few years back Stan Bernstein of “The Bernstein Bears” fame passed away. Over 200 books were written and illustrated by Stan and Jan, husband and wife, a children’s book team effort for real. However as I read the review of Stan’s death the story mentioned that their first book was published with a Children’s book editor at Random House Theodor Geisel who a few years later would be more so know as Dr. Seuss.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Michelangelo

As legends go it is said Michelangelo would wander the quarries for days searching for blocks of marble not with a vision in mind of what he wanted to carve but looking for images within the blocks. The famous block of stone that became the statue of David and a single piece that would become his most famous and his only signed piece “The Pieta” took many days to for the great master sculptor to see.

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” George S. Patton

I was thinking what if everyone did think alike in a war situation you would know immediately what the enemy was doing or on a football field immediately what the offense was doing so in effect there would be no winners and no losers and a rather drab game.

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” Edgar Allan Poe

It was a few years ago I met over the phone a fellow who believed himself to be the incarnation of Edgar Allan Poe. It was most interesting as he looked the part as well. He too was a poet and writer of sorts but his income came from his gift as he called it. He was an idiot savant and could instantly compose a poem using your name as an acronym with each letter of you name starting the line of a poem and the poem then describing your personality. This was most weird to watch I have a video somewhere showing him being interviewed at Tufts University by the psychology department in amazement. However he always needed a starting point a sort of a mental kick start.

“People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.” William Butler Yeats

“Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.” Jessamyn West

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” Mark Twain

So often we only think of artists writers and such as having imagination and yet we tend to stifle it in children by ridding the world of imaginary friends and wanting only reality as it may be, to be where and how children see and do. Let’s take away the Legos and only allow TV and video games.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau would walk for days through his world seeing and meeting people learning daily about life and humanity and his beloved nature.

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” Carl Sagan

Without imagination we would still be working on a flat map of the world concerned about sailing off and doing it without the use of light bulbs and Microsoft word and hybrid cars and plastics and polymers and so many things

“I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.” Pablo Picasso

Several of the great artists are studied in psychology as you can see in their work their slips from reality – Van Gogh as he rapidly dissipated into his own world – but in turn in his art we see how he thought as Picasso says.

“They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.” Francis Bacon

Sir Francis Bacon was not to far remove from the day when everyone thought the earth was flat and if you could see no land well do not go there for you will sail off the edge. I wonder what was over the edge. Each day we so often try and stay cozy in our box of our own reality and much like sailing over the edge there is so much outside the box. I remember one of the greatest toys of all time is those giant cardboard refrigerator boxes. They had so much more room to play in. But while we are content to do often with a bigger box, it is still a box until our imagination makes it into a castle or car. We sort of live in a world where we are much like hermit crabs when we outgrow our box we look for a bigger one still keeping the sanctity of the box. Now serious individuals are much like the hermit crab that carries along stinging sea anemones on its shell and when it outgrows a shell it moves but then moves the anemones as well. Those stinging anemones are to keep predators away and new ideas. If you need a box use a transparent one and or permeable membrane so you can see and hear and feel what really is there and for today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind 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