Listening to a philosopher

Bird Droppings November 29, 2011
Listening to a philosopher

A beautiful sky this morning as I walked out and actually rather warm which is surprising as the sky while filled with clouds was clear and most of my students were hoping for snow although hit is still showing up on weather maps further west of us. A moon reflecting would have added so much to the sky with the clouds as they were against the stars. Even so the stars and white billowing clouds presented a surreal picture for me as I walked the dog this morning and went to Quick Trip earlier than normal to fill up my wife’s car. Before I left the house I was reading in National Geographic an article on possible life somewhere out in the universe and all of the possibilities that continue to pop up. It has not been long since I fancied myself a philosopher of sorts maybe since yesterday. Perhaps it was my graduate work that got me truly entrenched in philosophical meandering that led to this conclusion or trying a million times to formulate a philosophy of teaching while it evolved before me. Actually I think it is because I enjoy pondering too much. Wondering and thinking about all that is around me as I journey through life.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Frank Bird and Ray Clark as they were walking daily five or six miles each morning back in the day

“How people keep correcting us when we are young! There is always some bad habit or other they tell us we ought to get over. Yet most bad habits are tools to help us through life.” Friedrich Nietzsche

As I looked for a starting place for my daily journal I was interrupted to take dog out again so I could get back to my writing. As I went up and down the stairs and walked out into a sky as wonderful as it is this morning I recalled a period in my life when I would get up every morning early and walk several miles discussing philosophy, theology and other relevant issues with a very good friend of mine. It was an interesting time and actually many concepts that I hold now came to fruition during those walks. Over the years as I look back and truly most things considered that I consider “bad habits” I had given up in the days past however they do provide tools for pondering ideas further and pushing thoughts beyond where they were. I have found however many people simply get mired in that bad habit or two and it becomes part of their life not merely a stepping stone or tool but a crutch and support. Perhaps even a cast of sorts locking them into that point in time.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” C. Everett Koop

Most folks won’t even recognize the name of Dr. Koop former Surgeon General of the United States and former head of pediatric surgery at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. As I thought of Nietzsche’s quotes and while not taking a walk today I did go and walk dogs twice outside so my wife and son would not have to get up as the holiday is officially over and we all are back at work today. I started writing a bit later today then I thought I would. Nietzsche as you read his work is often self-focused and negative and perhaps in some ways I like looking to his thoughts for contrast for adding a back drop to a brighter thought. Somewhere I started writing about Dr. Koop.
Dr. C. Everett Koop was instrumental in the anti-cigarette laws and anti-tobacco laws. On a personal note he was the surgeon for my younger brother many years ago when we lived in Pennsylvania. My father used to tell a story of Dr. Koop, his staff and my father all gathered together around John, my brother who was born with cerebral palsy and later developed encephalitis’s who approaching surgery. Dad would say having been in the Navy medical corp. and around death in WWII so much the aura around Koop was different, he exuded life he thrived on life and when he asked all to join hands and pray around John he made my father’s day.
But one thing that has stuck with me from dads conversation with Dr. Koop was a quote very seldom seen, “Having worked with terminally ill children and seriously ill children for many years in all of those years I have never seen a parent of one of these children who did not pray”. As I think back and remember bits and pieces, Dr. Koop’s comment and discussions with my father he wasn’t referring to religion as much as to faith. Faith also parallels trust and it was in that trust in Dr. Koop and or trust in the hospital that parents would have faith and hope. Dr. Koop was a man of hope, of future, and of faith.

“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am ending with a simple idea for another day or actually several ideas to ponder and mull over as we ascend the plateau to view the vista. In another day a new month ahead my friends have a glorious day today, build for tomorrow and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your thoughts and always give thanks.
namaste
bird

Pondering on mothers day about faith

Bird Droppings May 8, 2011
Pondering on mothers day about faith

For so many a Sunday morning brings dressing up and heading to a place of worship. Worship for most is a community event a gathering of like believers who sit and go through ritualistic undertakings in a prescribed manner and at the prescribed time head home or to a restaurant for lunch and then right back to their lives. My question is always does this entail faith or simply tradition and ritual. A routine followed from childhood and continued into adulthood and passed on to offspring similar to tool making and other basic functions. Perhaps this is where I draw a differentiation between faith and religion. For me religion is the traditions and rituals and then faith is something else.

“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas

“In faith and hope the world will disagree, but all mankind’s concern is charity.” Alexander the Great

Within man there is a driving force, a desire to understand, a need to know and perhaps be known. Often we hope, we believe, so that we can share. Early writers chose a word to define this idea of sharing. In Greek several words were used to define what mankind considered love, Eros, Philos and Agape. Eros is that sexual passionate love, Philos that love that can be deemed brotherly love, and Agape. Agape in 1613 was defined as the word charity by translators for King James. As I was researching earlier I found Alexander the Great used charity, perhaps in a similar fashion.

“Faith is a continuation of reason.” William Adams

“Faith is a higher faculty than reason.” Henry Christopher Bailey

“I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind.” St. Bernard

I have introduce the word love into my discussion of faith as well as so often it intertwines between the operations and delineations of what is defined by many as faith. A simple word faith, much of the world’s history has evolved around our understanding of this word and our acceptance or rejection of various aspects of that word.

“I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings. I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.” Pearl S. Buck

“To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is not God made visible if we will open our minds and our eyes.” Thomas Carlyle

Several years ago I researched the word faith in an education class, and found that Dr. James Fowler of Emory University wrote a book on the development of faith. In his book he was comparing faith in stages much as Erickson and Piaget looked at children’s development.

“Do you know how to digest your food? Do you know how to fill your lungs with air? Do you know how to establish, regulate and direct the metabolism of your body — the assimilation of foodstuff so that it builds muscles, bones and flesh? No, you don’t know how consciously, but there is a wisdom within you that does know.” Donald Curtis

“To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty… this knowledge; this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” Albert Einstein

As I researched the word and its applications to people and especially to children I found an interesting correlation and parallel. The word trust and faith are synonymous.

“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A faith to live by, a self to live with, and a purpose to live for.” Bob Harrington

“All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light, but though I seem to be driven out of my country as a misbeliever I have found no man yet with a faith like mine.” James Joyce

Could it be that faith is an evolutionary thing, it grows, alters, changes and develops much as visual acuity changes and mental cognitive aspects of our nature change. As I looked deeper and saw correlations to the word trust, I could see trust in children evolve and grow and simultaneously faith.

“Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.” Soren Kierkegaard

“That’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it you can’t understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary” Major Kira Nerys

There is a dark side as I watch children who have little trust in their lives for what ever reason. It is here we see that vacuum, a hollow void a space where faith is vacant. If faith and trust is void then as so many great thinkers have said hope is lost and charity is non existent. I watch students who have little trust in anything and for them only self matters. Over the years I have seen philosophy and theology often interconnect at times one trying to explain the other.

“Life is a battle between faith and reason in which each feeds upon the other, drawing sustenance from it and destroying it.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.” John Wooden

Two great men in their respective fields Niebuhr a theologian and Wooden one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time with a similar idea. Going at life and in my own case in teaching it is finding a way to build trust in children who have none. Many times more often than not when trust can be developed then so can faith. Hope soon follows, and charity sort of finds it way along. Many years ago I watched a film one of my favorites, Billy Jack. In one scene a young Native American offers a slip of paper to a young lady in the film containing a passage he attributes to St. Francis of Assisi.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

Niebuhr used this statement in a much longer prayer often referred to as the serenity prayer during a sermon in the late 1950’s. As I worked through literature and my own thoughts piecing together bits and shards, I found there was a need within people for faith, and for trust. In reality it is not much different than so many other areas of human development. The capacity and direction of that faith and trust may vary greatly in traditions and in perceptions but it is there. Walking out into the mornings often reminds me, as I look upon a clear sky a moon tilted slightly smiling, stars and a few clouds creating an image of calm. We each piece together our own life’s puzzle one piece at a time often never seeing the completed version only having faith that it is there, somewhere. Please as the week draws to an end, keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and a most happiest of mothers days.
namaste
bird