Learn by doing!

Bird Droppings November 28, 2011
Learning by doing!

“We take in information through our senses, but we ultimately learn by doing. First, we watch and listen to others. Then we try doing things on our own. This sparks our interest and generates our motivation to self-discover.” Marcia L. Conner, Learning through Experience

So often in life it takes experience for us to truly learn, to ultimately understand an idea or topic or process. Earlier today I had a request through email for a nonreligious inspiration, an interesting question. More often than not inspirational books are religious in nature. I recommended a favorite of mine, while Kent Nerburn has a degree in theology and some might consider him a theologian he does not inspire so much in a religious way. His writing entails you to experience, to look to see, to listen, and to hear what is around you. There is inspiration here and now. This could be his other calling which is art. For many years now I have been a fan of Kent Nerburn’s writing and with each new book am more impressed.
The past week out of school for a holiday was about spending time with family, friends and such, I observed as always. I sat several times thinking back just to enjoy remembering my father talking to his grand children or to perfect strangers. He would always have with him a vast assortment of rocks and minerals and would trade with his great grandchildren and friends. He wanted to share bits and pieces of his life as they came to him and as he talked. My mother every Easter has an egg hunt; it has grown over the years to include grandchildren, great grand children and all those who married in to a point of forty or so children from 18 months to 33 years of age, searching for prizes and eggs across the pastures and soccer fields.
I remember sitting and observing my mother and father sharing joy and love with all of these kids and families it made me think. Being in perpetually in graduate school and often theorizing about learning styles and learning techniques and a big fan of John Dewey for some reason I always come back to experience. Often a crucial aspect is where and how that experience occurs. Family is always a good starting point. I have several times in the past few days related to how crucial family is in our world. It is with family where we learn respect, love, community and numerous other critical aspects of human life. We are toilet trained, we learn to speak, we learn to walk and crawl, we learn to drive cars, we learn to yell obscenities, we learn to hit and fight, for it is within family where both good and bad attributes are learned.
For the entire time of my teaching life in public, residential, and private schools I have watched problem children, literally all have come from dysfunctional families. They have learned to have problems. They have learned to be negative or to respond in a negative way. They have learned helplessness many times which would surprise some. I was thinking back to an Easter egg several years ago. I was thinking about my family at that long ago Easter egg hunt, in full view and listening it was interesting. Those who were family were the control group and those who were friends and married in as the experimental group. It seemed they responded differently to stimuli. Family members embraced each little gimmick my mother had out, friends only wanted the prize. Family members spent time talking to my mother and father while friends got their stuff and went back to their minions.
So I wondered why so much difference. I had noticed a new husband to a niece who spent many moments talking with my father, asking for his advice on selecting a piece of garnet from the collection being offered. We learn from example and as I thought deeper and reflected on all I knew my mother and father had a good time, and that was number one. My children all had a great time with dodging rain drops and lightening on that day. The first egg hunt in 24 years to have rain. Funny as I think back seems I recall memories based on food many times and I had a good time devouring several plates of delicious picnic contrivances on that day so long ago.
But as I think back today maybe some of the friends the non family members while they were on a different scale maybe they had an experience that they could learn from. There was no yelling, no fighting, no obscenities, no spanking of children, no hollering to shut up, just a family together enjoying a moment of peace and love. Maybe just maybe as they went home some will rub off and maybe just maybe, all the negative I observed could be salvaged. Interesting we learn by doing, perhaps one of the greatest learning styles available. I wonder if as a nation we could learn by doing. Perhaps we could start seeking peace worldwide, I wonder often if we ever will. But for today after another great feast and family gathering please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and remember to always give thanks if only for the smallest thing.

Observation and observing

Bird Droppings November 27, 2011
Observation and Observing

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

My wanderings are the expanse of several days of traveling and thinking and observing mankind. Last night my I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature is only a few feet away in its wildest. I was walking this morning and out to my quiet spot near my home in Between Georgia and thinking back a year to a walking on a foreign beach alone in the panhandle of Florida and how the quiet was over powering along with the lulling movement of wind and water as I walk on the beach. Around me birds dove occasionally into the shallows after fish most of the time without a sound. I was alone walking with the sand making its way into my open sandals. It was a wonderful experience being there as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way which I had taken with me.
Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. As I drove home from a quick trip into Warner Robins Georgia for Thanksgiving the other day I noticed nearly fifty red tailed hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground. Yesterday morning I walked out into our back yard and a great hawk sat in the dead black walnut tree over my head.

“Clearly we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

We are building to and will be in soon perhaps one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter election campaigns I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads will be the vast majority of all from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with after the election and even then that will be questionable. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”. I received a copy of a new book in the mail literally a year ago today from a friend in New York. I have known the title for months but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today. Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all experts liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the newly legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past two years lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. Having grown up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions and having a son in graduate school who is over twenty five without health insurance coverage I was reading fine print of health care and asking questions of my insurer almost immediately.
I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai who is a seven note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage before me was one of morning near sunrise and a few shrouds of mist surrounding the trees. The visibility was less than a hundred feet still in darkness. I had to stop listen to the music and see this image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house. As I turned from observing I noticed it is still not too cold which brought me back to reality and the moment.
To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts and to always give thanks.