Seeing each piece as we live

Bird Droppings December 5, 2011

Seeing each piece as we live


It has been several years ago that I began looking at life as a journey each piece building to the next. Yesterday I was reviewing my jaunt to take our granddaughter home to North Georgia. I got up to go run by the school and check creatures in my room I had to detour around a car accident as I did my immediate thought was what will I experience new as I go this different way. I did talk with several people and see things I would not have seen otherwise adding significantly to my day. But what of those strangers in those discussions that took place, did they continue the talk. I wondered was the idea engrained so it was carried farther and that is why my morning had a change. It was about pieces of the puzzle falling in place the great mosaic of life unfolding before us.


“People have the illusion that all over the world, all the time, all kinds of fantastic things are happening; when in fact, over most of the world most of the time, nothing is happening.” David Brinkley


So much of what we do we try and think perceive what everyone else is doing and miss the focus on now on where you are at the moment amazingly if you do you may see so much more.


“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through chinks of his cavern.” William Blake


Nearly fifteen years ago I was involved on taking a group of high school students on a retreat. We journeyed up to the mountains of North Georgia where one of the sessions was facilitated by a good friend. He asked folks in his group to find a spot and observe. Some saw great oaks and pines untouched for many years while others saw the great boulders in the river. However the one with the smallest vision saw perhaps the most. One girl who was going through some difficult times saw a beetle crawling along the ground and it came to her foot and rather than disturb the beetle she did not move and intently watched. It would start crawling over and tumble back start and tumble, time after time trying to crawl over her foot. She watched rather than help the beetle and on the twentieth try the beetle succeeded and crawled over her foot. When she came back to the group she was one of the last to tell what they saw and her story became the focus for the group. Others had not looked so minutely only seeing the big picture but that beetle story will be remembered by all success is there if we try.  


“Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it “creative observation.” William S. Burroughs, Creative viewing


You know that the beetle story would have occurred even if not observed but no one would have known about it.


“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Max Erhmanm


 I watch this happen daily in the halls of a high school where constant comparison is a daily process. Why not be yourself? Why not be true not simply a copy of that which you think you should be? It is a very hard sale to teenagers always wanting to be the coolest and the sharpest dressed and in style. When we have a decade dress up I am always suitable for 70’s, 80’s and 90’s since I still wear the same clothes.


“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Albert Einstein


I have been working on essays about a black and white picture of a bridge. It is an effort to get students who have never imagined, to be creative and to imagine what could be happening in a static photo. But with enough prompts and discussion amazing things happen.


One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful. Sigmund Freud


I am always amazed at how today I write about the hardships and troubles of days gone by and often teach lessons based on those events.


“A penny will hide the biggest star in the universe if you hold it close enough to your eye.” Samuel Grafton


For fun try it a simple experiment. Hold a penny up to your eye and if close enough a star, a sun, a building can be covered up it is all about perception.


“Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.” Helen Keller


Perhaps one of the most humbling experiences of my life was working with deaf children for two years. One of those pieces of the puzzle I speak of and remember so fondly. I often would imagine what it was like to be deaf and blind. Many the time to be better in tune with my kids I would go on field trips and be deaf with them wearing ear muffs from the speech pathologist I would listen through hearing aids the crackling jumbled sounds of the world. Oreo cookie wrappers wreaked havoc with hearing aid’s back in the day.


“The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.” Al Nueharth


How we see life and all around us is perspective and yes it could be Mt. Everest and or an ant hill. Often we get so stressed all we see are mountains. Relax and eventually even the greatest mountain erodes away with time.


“A weapon that you don’t have in your hand will not kill a snake. Looking for something can get in the way of finding it.” African Proverb


After so often spending a day looking at snakes at a herpetological convention I liked the sound of this. A local reptile expert was doing a demonstration and had a large diamond backed rattlesnake out on a table. Several times the snake nearly got loose as I watched maybe to add to the show although as I sat I was wondering about this fellows insurance.


“The wolf is upset about what he left behind, and the shepherd is upset about what he took away.” Armenian Proverb


It is all in the perception. The momma wolf is feeding pups and the shepherd too has children to feed. The shepherd is in the wolf’s territory and is exacting a price for being there. The wolf however has upset the shepherd and a price could be exacted as it has for wolves for thousands of years. It is all in how we look at it. Currently in our own country out west around Yellowstone Park livestock owners want reintroduced wolves killed off. Even though the wolf kills are a tiny percent of annual deaths and wolves have reduced coyote numbers which were a major predator. Only a few years ago they were endangered. In all of this the funny thing is ranchers want to use federal land to graze on they want to kill off grizzlies and wolves on federal land to graze their cattle for free.  


“Happiness is… usually attributed by adults to children, and by children to adults. “ Thomas Szasz


Far too many people are happy where they are. I have heard so many times I wish I was young again or I wish I were an adult. Enjoy the moments and experience all you can.


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


On my desk at school is a photo of my son stepping across rocks at the same retreat the girl mentioned previously saw her beetle. John fell in several times but continued to try and eventually did go rock to rock across the stream. I wondered about this saying the first time I saw it. I find it is true in so many ways with each experience that is unique and no matter how hard you may try will never happen again exactly the same way. Enjoy life, live life but most of all listen see and be. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.



Honesty as Policy

Bird droppings August 5, 2011
Honesty as Policy

I walked out to a very still and quiet morning around two thirty this morning. Being my official first day back to school (work) I looked for a smiling moon sort of a good luck charm to no avail. I would use this reference to a moon from back in the day “a smiling moon” a good friend who would read my notes would always respond explaining how the sun and earth and moon would be in certain positions and create this effect. But what about back in the day before astronomy and telescopes and science when man simply took what was presented and formulated a rational which at that time would many times be the explanation.

“A fortress earns greatness by enabling courageous defenders to gloriously defeat the enemy at the battle’s very onset. Whatever excellent qualities a fortress may possess, it will be of no avail without men of excellent action.” Tirukkural

I have written numerous times about the interactions of students, teachers, principals, parents and community and as in this ancient verse from nearly 3000 years ago each aspect is important, crucial to success of the whole. It takes students to make a school great as well as teachers, principal and staff. It takes the support of those through the parents and community. Asking for signatures on progress reports or various documents is a minimum of support and so often students take that away by signing their own.
Several years ago it dawned on me that one of my students who always turned in her paper work ahead of time had not been home yet.

“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” Sigmund Freud

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

Eventually As I learned there was no way my favorite student went home between first and third periods I questioned the validity of the signatures yet still was assured they were real. I do require turning in the next day now at least to maintain a safety net of some level of trust.

“There is one way to find out if a man is honest; ask him! If he says yes you know he’s crooked.” Groucho Marx

I raised the question about politicians last night in a discussion and why would anyone choose to be a politician because you are immediately suspect. Something else I have seen with politicians is that they eventually are gone, friends are still there.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person’s in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate now knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen

Oh it is so much easier to not be at the doorway when a friend comes by with a problem to be too busy talking or working at a task. However time and time again people come to the doorway that need a friend and it is honesty that brings them not deceit. Violent demonstrations break out at a peace rally has been almost a news mantra for decades now. Arguments over a statue of the Ten Commandments or teaching of evolution versus creation, issues, politics and opinions.

“The honest man must be a perpetual renegade, the life of an honest man a perpetual infidelity. For the man who wishes to remain faithful must take himself perpetually unfaithful to all the continual, successive, indefatigable, renascent errors.” Charles Peguy

We live in a society so immersed in dishonesty it is like my student who turned in her paperwork third period and I believed her about parent signatures. We watch advertisements and listen to politicians who manipulate data. Even religion is biased for and against ideas and topics depending on the atmosphere at hand and political view. Historically churches have changed theology dependant on public view or royal edict. It is interesting and even silly looking back from a historical view. I made a statement about George Washington and his refusal to have clergy at his death bed and several people could not believe the founding father refused to have a pastor at bedside when he was dying.

“Honesty is for the most par less profitable than dishonesty.” Plato

It is sad that even thousands of years ago man knew mankind and the great philosopher Plato would make that statement. That unfortunately still holds true. It is always about money. Be it national politics, local politics, religious politics, and or school politics eventually it is money. Gas prices have gone higher than anytime recently not because of a shortage but an energy bill is pending that benefits oil coal and gas companies not consumers. Many months ago legislation was defeated in a Democratic house to not drill in wilderness areas in Alaska the black out on the East Coast has been actually at one point been declared a terrorist act and in other speaking an energy issue.
Generally by looking who will make money you will find the culprit. Ages ago in the first crusade a group of knights took Jerusalem from the Muslims during the first crusade and subsequently The Knights Templar a group of warrior monks ruled Jerusalem for many years till they lost favor and literally were destroyed from within and their lands and wealth confiscated. Interestingly enough Jerusalem fell and was not taken again for over a thousand years. One of the most difficult of tasks is teaching children to be honest in a world that thrives on dishonesty and deceit.

“To make your children capable of honesty is the beginning of education.” John Ruskin

But we start with children imposing our standards immediately and in a few short years teach children to be dishonest. Language acquisition and honesty run hand and foot on a developmental scale interestingly enough.

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

Several years ago I was sitting in a class and a good friend made the statement that a child with conduct disorders will eventually at adulthood will be a sociopath that is someone who cannot tell right from wrong and or does not want too, an example might be Jeffery Daimler or so many other serial killers. Conduct disorder children ninety nine percent of the time will either eventually end in jail dead be used car salesmen, politicians or evangelists. His comment was not one of scorn for religion or politics but for a society that allows this to occur, which reminds me I have a book to review of Dr. Sutton’s. We essentially will support the worse possible person in an important job many times knowing this if we benefit in some way or think we will. Amazing this world we live in and to end today which may be the hottest of the year in Georgia so far, keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart. Always as a last thought check the door next time you hear a knock you may have a friend in need.

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.