Where do we find happiness?

Bird Droppings December 25, 2011

Where do we find happiness?

 

Within the spirit of our holiday season as I checked my various blogs, emails and social networking sites early this morning and I found an overabundance of “I got’s” and few “I gave’s”. Scattered earlier were a few of parents waking up with small children and excitement of this special morning with family. But as the morning progressed the stories shifted and one caught my attention it was of a little girl upset because she could not find her mother’s present under the tree. After a careful search it was found in her bedroom wrapped perfectly and containing gift cards to her mother’s favorite places.  All of her birthday money and allowance had been saved up for this present. That is special. Glad I waited to write and saw this note.

 

“The very purpose of our life is happiness; the very motion of our lives is toward happiness.” Dalai Lama

 

My first glance out the window today and our red tailed hawk was perched in the old black walnut tree as he does early in the morning nearly every day waiting on squirrels running through the hedge row seeking pecans from the several trees in our yard. Thinking back it was several years ago in my journey through life that I wandered through the Mall of Athens.  I happened into a store where Native American art was sold, long since that time they have moved to a shop in Hawkinsville Ga. A very pungent smell filled the store; it is a smell you do not forget easily, the smell of rawhide. A traditional drum maker was building drums in the old way. He was stretching rawhide over hand carved and tooled shells of native cedar and spruce. This drum maker had left a construction job to build drums full time, traveling around the country making drums for sale and doing workshops as he was here.

 

 “Happiness is a sort of action.” Aristotle

 

“The really happy man never laughs — seldom — though he may smile. He does not need to laugh, for laughter, like weeping is a relief of mental tension — and the happy are not over strung.” Prof. F.A.P. Aveling

 

As I left that store I felt at ease, at peace with myself. Sitting here this morning perhaps it was how this artist as he worked and exuded a peace and happiness. He was doing what he wanted to do, and that is a key to happiness. It is about being where we should be and doing what it is we were meant to do. For people that journey may take you through many jobs and many travels.

 

“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” Mildred Barthel

 

“When one is happy there is no time to be fatigued; being happy engrosses the whole attention.” Edward Fredric Benson

 

I was thinking to some of my students who chose to not be happy, it could be perhaps a chemical disturbance or imbalance within them. Clinical depression is actually a chemical imbalance, and can be treated chemically. However so many may choose not to be treated and then my question is can we each search for and attain happiness.

 

“The world’s literature and folklore are full of stories that point out how futile it can be to seek happiness. Rather, happiness is a blessing that comes to you as you go along; a treasure that you incidentally find.” Louis Binstock

 

“It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first. The very first condition of lasting happiness is that a life should be full of purpose, aiming at something outside self.” Hugo Black

 

So in effect happiness finds us is what I think I read. If you look under happiness on the internet you can find happiness scales to show you how happy you are and if you are. I looked up happiness in the dictionary always a good start and according to Dictionary.com, happiness is “Characterized by good luck; fortunate. Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase. Cheerful; willing: happy to help.”

 

“The truth is that all of us attain the greatest success and happiness possible in this life whenever we use our native capacities to their greatest extent.” Smiley Blanton

 

Who is Smiley Blanton, actually a famed psychiatrist and author of numerous books and co-partner since 1937 in the Peale Blanton Institute with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale? I thought he was a clown by his name. It has been many years since I shook the hand of Dr. Peale in Macon Georgia back in 1972 or so.

 

“Happiness and virtue rest upon each other; the best are not only the happiest, but the happiest are usually the best.” Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

 

“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.” Albert Camus

 

I always write about the journey we are on, each one of us is traveling as we go each day. I do believe we seek happiness, as the Dalai Lama states in the first quote I used today “The very purpose of our life is happiness; the very motion of our lives is toward happiness.” I do think we venture towards happiness in our daily walk. Somewhere we get lost or off track and many find it hard to get back to the trail. This is for so many a special time of year and I wish we could each offer a hand as we go. Though it is late in the evening please any one you meet offer a hand and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always to give thanks.

namaste

bird

Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

Bird Droppings December 24, 2011

Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

 

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil

 

“The need for roots,” I saw this idea earlier as I web surfed thinking and pondering this morning or perhaps as I was scrolling through thoughts I had saved over the years along with all of my young herb plants sitting outside in the garage near the window and the concept caught me, to be rooted. 

 

“Roots is not just a saga of my family. It is the symbolic saga of a people. “Alex Haley, from his book, Roots

 

 Even though long since discredited Alex Haley got many looking to where they came from and his words can still cross boundaries even with the tinge of fiction. I have been intrigued with students recently have had little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma if that. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp. I am doing a substantial amount of work with The Foxfire concept and so much of that in its origin is based on roots on history and family.

 

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

 

I noticed this idea fromLawrenceand as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots, your past or your history but traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep these people going. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence while nearly polar opposites. I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to their heritage and to traditions; they are not grounded or anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be to escape, to wanting to be away from or distant from asLawrenceadvocates.

 

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

 

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead, noted anthropologist

 

Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have been stripped away by our constant boxing up and categorizing. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society.

 

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

 

Many years ago in a tenth grade literature class that would be about 1965, we read at that time a very controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”. You were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried to destroy family and traditions and roots. They have been always stripping away the top soil, laying bare to the hardpan of a man’s soul. But within it all still with some people persistence, vigor, and desire was still there. I was reading Eric Carl’s biography on his latest book, The Artist who painted a blue horse. Carl was a high school student in Nazi Germany and only realism was allowed one of his teachers shared abstract art with him knowing it was illegal. Carl’s work is in some forms retaliation for the Nazi regime’s suppression. In his brilliant children’s books the splashes of color abound.

 

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

 

This is not just a modern day issue, Confucius raised questions over two thousand years ago and used a simple word to explain, integrity. For Confucius it was the integrity of the home and perhaps this is the key to roots. Solid roots can be found in the integrity of a family and home. Is it possible to look at people and judge there character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family, or by their genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow. Back in the day we used EPD’s to judge the quality or potential quality of a breeding animal. I used to know what that meant but specifically in cattle it is the performance data that has been gathered for generations many times and potential for that animal based on that gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given traits you are looking for.

 

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

 

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I find there are answers. EPD’s work because someone cared enough to check to save the information and data. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of on a daily basis I see in real life. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately I have found. So where do I go in this round about effort especially on a day before a holiday for many.

We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding and often with little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today maybe even a happy holiday greeting. It may be a hug or kind word or ear to listen. But take some time to share to care and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

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

Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

Bird Droppings April 15, 2011
Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil, The Need for Roots

I saw this idea this morning as I was scrolling through thoughts saved over the days and the concept caught me, being rooted. I am in the middles of planting seeds and new annuals in my herb garden and gardening references are big with me right at the moment. I had a student not understand the concept of pedigree yesterday. She was totally lost as I tried to explain how we can look at the family tree of a given animal, person, and or plant and see the various traits we should end up with in the off spring. I have been intrigued with students taking this idea a bit further recently, many have little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma let alone where they might have originated from. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp for many folks so entwined in today and the immediate.

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots and or your past. Interesting in light of the news media and current stories, traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep people going. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence, I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to heritage, or to tradition, they are not grounded and anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be escape, wanting away from, to distant from as Lawrence advocates.

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead

Noted anthropologist Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have stripped away by our constant boxing up inside. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society. So in effect we are being told how, what, when and why on just about everything.

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

Thinking as to how politicians on both sides of the fence play to this concept I thought back many years to my tenth grade literature class, it was 1965 to be exact. We read at that time a controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”, you were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried and to destroy family and traditions and roots, stripping away top soil laying bare to the hardpan of mans soul. Yet still with some people persistence, vigor, or will was still there.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

This is not just a modern day issue; Confucius raised questions 2000 years ago and used word integrity. It was about the integrity of the home. Perhaps this is the key. Solid roots can be found in integrity. Is it possible to look at people and judge their character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow? It has been a few years since I looked up EPD’s. I used to know what that meant, but in cattle it is the performance data and potential for that animal based on gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given specific traits you are looking for.

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I found a plausible answer. EPD’s work because someone cares enough to check very specifically. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. I was thinking in terms of End of course tests and graduation tests that we are using to measure effectiveness of teachers and education. In the cattle industry if all you used was the end data you would eventually go out of business. Just because a steer weighs a certain amount in so many days comparing to a test score at the end of a course does not mean you will make money or that that was a good steer. Based on national averages the weight is ideal but how long did it take to grow that steer out? How much feed conversion ratio to weight gain did that steer take? Was the steer’s mother able to raise the calf herself or require a surrogate? What is the actual quality of the finished carcass? Questions when applied to education become significant. What concepts and knowledge does this student retain five years after high school for example?
Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of I see on a daily basis. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately. So where do I go in this round about effort. We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding, little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today from a teacher or friend. It may be a hug or kind word or an ear to listen which costs us a few moments of time. But if we take some time to share and to care what sort of impact will we make. It was so quiet out this morning when I went out with my dog. Weather people are calling for a storm tonight which coincides with last the past two weeks on Fridays nights just we have friends and family coming into town. Please keep all in harms way on your minds 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

Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

Bird Droppings August 15, 2010
Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil

The need for roots, I saw this idea earlier as I web surfed thinking and pondering this morning or perhaps as I was scrolling through thoughts I had saved over the years along with all of my young herb plants sitting beside me near the window and the concept caught me, to be rooted.

“Roots is not just a saga of my family. It is the symbolic saga of a people. “Alex Haley, from his book, Roots

I have been intrigued with my students over the past ten years that they have had little or no concept of much more than their grandpa and grandma if that. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp. I am doing a substantial amount of work with The Foxfire concept and so much of that in its origin is based on the roots, on history, family and culture.

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots, your past or your history but traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep these people going. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence while nearly polar opposites. I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to their heritage and to traditions; they are not grounded or anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be to escape, to wanting to be away from or distant from as Lawrence advocates.

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead, noted anthropologist

Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have had our roots stripped away by our constant boxing up and categorizing. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society.

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

Many years ago in a tenth grade literature class that would be about 1965, we read at that time a very controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”. You were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried to destroy family and traditions and roots. They have been always stripping away the top soil, laying bare to the hardpan of a man’s soul. But within it all still with some people through persistence, vigor, and desire soul was still there.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

This is not just a modern day issue, Confucius raised questions over two thousand years ago and used a simple word to explain, integrity. For Confucius it was the integrity of the home and perhaps this is the key to roots. Solid roots can be found in the integrity of a family and home. Is it possible to look at people and judge there character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family, or by their genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow. Back in the day we used EPD’s to judge the quality or potential quality of a breeding animal. I used to know what that meant but specifically in cattle it is the performance data that has been gathered for generations many times and potential for that animal based on that gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given traits you are looking for.

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I find there are answers. EPD’s work because someone cared enough to check to save the information and data. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of on a daily basis I see in real life. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately I have found. So where do I go in this round about effort especially on a day before a holiday for many.

‎”My father, you have made promises to me and to my children. If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled! I would have been better pleased if you had never made such promises than that you should have made them and not performed them.” Shinguaconse

As I read this Native American quote from the late 1890’s it could so easily have been said yesterday in a school, home, reservation, college, church, state government, federal government and on any street corner in our town. We have lost much as we leave the soul of family eroded and washed away in the name of the greater good. We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding and often with little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today maybe even a happy birthday greeting. It may be a hug or kind word or ear to listen. But take some time to share to care and keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
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