Seeking balance while walking on a see saw

Bird Droppings May 25, 2012

Seeking balance while walking on a see saw


“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” Henry David Thoreau


I walked in my room at school yesterday and decided my stuffed eland on the wall; the largest African antelope needed a scarf. I had used a piece of rope around its neck to balance it better against the wall. (Clarification I do not hunt and actually raised this huge animal for nearly eight years. One winter he got sick and would not let us near him when he died a friend said to get him mounted. I did and for many years this huge eland sat in my garage. When I started back teaching he has become quite a conversation piece.) It was trying to balance the eland that got me thinking today sometime soon I will be putting him in storage since there will be no room in my new room next hall over.


“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.” Henry David Thoreau


I generally start my morning pondering a walk outside often in the dark listening thinking and wondering about all that is around us. So an exercise of sorts first find the image of a see saw, I remember back in my earlier days on our playground at Caln Elementary School in Thorndale Pennsylvania,  heavy wooden boards attached to sturdy pipe frames, a simple machine, a balance beam of sorts. As long as both sides were of equal weight you could push off and go up and down giggle a bit and go all through recess. Now put a larger weight on one side and let that one push off and the smaller person sooner or later may land on the moon. We go from see saw and balance to catapult and imbalance.


“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” Helen Keller


We tend to seek balance in our lives. Many biology books will state the natural order of nature is homeostasis, a balance. In nature we have food chains and various balancing factors such as larger eat smaller and plants are eaten by animals and a constant balancing effect. A more modern thought is the Chaos theory which throws a monkey wrench into the whole nice natural thing. Homeostasis is where nature strives for but it always is just a little further down the road, volcanoes occur, earthquakes, El Niño’s and  yet on a larger scale universally are we still not reaching for homeostasis. A balancing of internal pressures and external pressures, even when an asteroid hits from deep in space still in some larger scheme balance is being achieved.


“Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your mind, upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside, from others. All of your happiness and all of your suffering are created by you, by your own mind.“  Lama Zopa Rinpoche


There is a word used in educational settings disequilibrium, out of balance and it is true on a small scale we do this constantly. It is this imbalance that provides us with potential for growth. It is that imbalance that gives us direction and goals to attain. A few minutes ago I was thinking of many of my friends looking for retirement and settling down reaching homeostasis. What do we do when we attain that state?


“Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” Erich Fromm


It could be that is why we have rocking chairs to aid balancing and that comforting state. Maybe that’s why we put in ramps as we get older to reduce the challenge. Maybe that is why we tend to have diseases that try and throw us off balance and slow us down. Maybe it is because we have been brought up wanting to get to homeostasis or I should say that this is the ideal state.


“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


Utopia is where you can worry no more sit quietly and vegetate. Time for an energy drink and someone to jump on the other end of your see saw is my theory. We need the imbalance to provide fodder for seeking the balance.


Hearing is one of the body’s five senses. But listening is an art.” Frank Tyger


The trick is always to keep pushing that goal a bit further on a bit more a bit deeper. It is in the seeking of homeostasis that we grow we learn we become more than who we are. Yes we all do age but it is never closing the lid to the box. It is never having a box to begin with. Living is about the trials and tribulations it is about the disequilibrium and imbalance and yet to it is also about hope and seeking homeostasis. My dear friends let us all please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.



Looking at lyrics from an old friend

Bird Droppings May 24, 2012

Looking at lyrics from an old friend


I first started  listening to Neil Young’s music in 1967 or so possibly even earlier  if you count Buffalo Springfield, a short lived band and of course 1968 with Crosby Stills and Nash at Woodstock. While I did not make it to Woodstock I can say my old sleeping bag was there, a good friend at the time borrowed it. When I made my way south into the land of The Allman Brothers band, in the fall of 1971, the flower petals were still in the streets from Dwayne Allman’s funeral a month past, music and lyrics had become a part of who I was.

I was reading on line last night, a friend on line lists the songs of Neil Young on her website. I responded to her with a note that I did not think anyone under forty had ever heard of Neil Young. Several years ago Neil Young had a medical crisis and a sort of mid-life crisis all about the same time. After finding he had an aneurysm in his brain Neil Young in a few days turned out what he was afraid might be his last CD. He took it upon himself from being warned he needed surgery and postponing the actual surgery for a week to write and produce an entire CD, Prairie Wind. A few days after leaving the hospital from successful surgery on the brain aneurism, the spot on his leg where the catheter had been inserted broke open and he collapsed outside his hotel, nearly dying from blood loss.

The words to this song caught my attention this morning, a questioning of who and why we are. Several of my friends and I have been discussing free choice and feel will in our blogs and on line discussions which perhaps led me to this today. The title of the song is, When God made me, by Neil Young.


“Was he thinkin’ about my country or the color of my skin? Was he thinkin’ ’bout my religion and the way I worshipped him? Did he create just me in his image or every living thing? Was he planning only for believers or for those who just have faith? Did he envision all the wars that were fought in his name? Did he say there was only one way to be close to him? Did he give me the gift of love to say who I could choose? Did he give me the gift of voice so some could silence me? Did he give me the gift of vision not knowing what I might see? Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil young, When God made me, Prairie Wind


 I walked out into the stillness of the morning earlier today. There was a lone bird I think had gotten mixed up on its timing (I wonder does anyone give the daylight savings time to nature). Maybe the bird was still adjusting or maybe migrating in from another time zone, but here nearby singing all alone deep in the woods. I like days when the moon casts light through the spring trees, a hint of green and the lace work of twigs and opening buds provide a background for thought, everything smells and sounds so new in spring especially while the heavy dew is on the ground.

Thinking back to spring break to coming back to school after a break it always amazes me. More than half the students will have T-shirts from Panama City Florida that are air brushed with boyfriend names and or girlfriend names and various partying information and or connotations maybe parents should not know about, and of course tan. There will be a lot of shell jewelry and then there is the other half still asleep from staying in bed till one or two and having a hard time readjusting to school hours, with their puffy eyes and dozing off during the day.

It is so difficult to get started the first day of summer school two days after summer break starts. I offered to an administrator why not start back a week later or two instead of right away we both agreed we could have slept in as well.


“Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?”


Funny, how a line sticks with you in a song or poem or book.  I keep thinking about this line yesterday. Between oil spills, getting tough on North Korea and as always the breaking news was a leak from Washington; we were going to attack Iran after we try diplomacy again. I wonder if the word compassion ever made it intoWashington. I was walking through a Wal-Mart sort of the entire world at a glance; everyone ends up in Wal-Mart. One of students came in he was all excited he had just gotten a job there. But as I walked through a Wal-Mart employee near the pharmacy was explaining the new Medicare drug plan to an elderly person. They actually had a booth set up with a fulltime staff person. They are to be helping elderly folks and they need to have people telling them what is going on since most people including myself haven’t a clue. Ironic and they wonder why so many people haven’t joined up yet the line is too long at the explanation booth.

Compassion is such a simple word. It has been several years since I did work with indigents work finding housing and food for families. I recall several bits of wisdom coming fromWashington, for example cutting off welfare if a person was not looking for a job. A favorite is if you fail a drug test no more welfare. If you are homeless by choice you are off of welfare, that one sort of floored me. It had to do with issues of not paying taxes by one person somewhere in Texas who found he could save money being homeless. Another was if income was too high cut out Medicaid.

Cutting health care was always one that intrigued me. I worked with a fellow who had worked all his life till a massive heart attack disabled him and he was limited to drawing disability. His wife due to illnesses all of her life had never worked enough quarters to draw anything more than a minimum disability check. I find it so interesting that anyone can even consider we do not need health care reform. Unfortunately between them their medical bills exceeded their monthly government disability checks and because their income exceeded federal standards they did not get Medicaid. In a compromise they took turns each month on which medicines to not get. They were getting help from one agency but doctors had to fill in paper work literally volumes each month for them to receive free medicines. Sadly eventually the doctor’s office stopped filling in the paperwork for them. Compassion is such a powerful word.

What of a disabled man I worked with for several years who lived on about 350.00 per week. He is a severe diabetic and has numerous other health related issues and virtually spends a week in the hospital a month. However his monthly disability income keeps him from Medicaid and so he moves periodically to avoid harassment and bill collectors from hospitals. Having a quality of life is that compassion? Are we helping our fellow man? As I watch what we do world-wide as a nation I seriously wonder sometimes. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.



Finding the trail in the search for knowledge

Bird Droppings May 23, 2012

Finding the trail in the search for knowledge


“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly…. We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way; the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.” Eagle Chief, (Letakos-Lesa), Pawnee


            A spiritual leader and elder of the Cherokees of North Carolina writes about in one of his books about the theory of opposites and how in Indian belief there is always an opposite to contrast and compare the other too. This also ties into circle of life that runs through this philosophy. Almost as a compass has opposing points within its circle life has its opposite aspects. Black and white, north and south, east and west, love and hate, wet and dry and the list continues on as we need each to understand and appreciate the circle of life. As I sat reading and writing the past few days primarily on various Indian philosophies and understandings I noticed that the main methodology of conveying of this knowledge had been word of mouth down through time. Within a given tribe or family group knowledge was past from elder to child. 

Continuing that idea further in today’s world how do we as teachers who in the now are considered to be the main purveyors of this transfer and parents convey knowledge to our students and children? It could be said that by following the established curriculum guides and maps and doing what is expected of a high school student you will learn this material. I think my frustration comes when students do not want to learn. I get very frustrated when I hear statements such as I know enough to get along in this world already or know enough about this subject. I think my favorite is why do I need this anyhow? It has been nearly ten years since I first met Frances Friedman at Loganville High School.    


“I do believe that with some students, if they are not ready, learning cannot occur. But I worry that some students aren’t ready because they are not aware of the full table that is set. There is rejection without knowledge. I think the challenge may be to try to get them to the full table and then let them decide.” Frances Friedman


 I have been sitting here thinking about this email from a dear friend for several minutes, pondering and reflecting. What if we do not provide enough information to a student? I spend much of my day doing academic support with emotionally disturbed students. Many times I will hear from students the teacher never taught us that. Trying to keep both sides in perspective I will discuss with the students teacher and with the student and work out a compromise of sorts, often just buying a bit of time. However often there can be learning curves on both ends especially with special needs students.  Over the summer I am gathering data on the ten percent of students who do not pass standardized tests. It is easy to look at scores of passing students and understand why they succeed in class. But why do others not succeed in that same class?


 “There is rejection without knowledge” Frances Friedman


“Knowledge is that which, next to virtue, truly raises one person above another.” Joseph Addison


 I have always been fascinated with information. It made my day when several years back the game Trivial Pursuit came out and became a big hit tiny bits of information questioned and answered. On TV the show Jeopardy is still a popular game watched around the world and it was here where a few years back Ken Jennings won over two million dollars with bits and pieces of information. He defeated opponents by answering over two thousand seven hundred questions correctly. It has been a few years since the final episode of his winning streak aired and no one has equaled his feat.  


“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black


“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball


We have to encourage active participation in students. We have to try and instill a curiosity and not set limits and parameters on learning. Far too often in today’s standards based curriculum there is a preapproved package of information that is taught because this is what is on the end of course test that we all have to pass. Anything else is superfilous. If students do not know something, then we should provide the means, the pathway, so that they can learn. Knowing where to find an answer can be as meaningful in the life of a student as the knowledge of that answer.


“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R.K. Bergethon


“Knowledge is like money: the more he gets, the more he craves.” Josh Billings


Trying to keep learners learning is the key to great teaching. It is about making learning something students want and need. I would borrow from a friend who teaches high school and teaches in Pennsylvania, “Make learning fun”. 


“To me the charm of an encyclopedia is that it knows and I needn’t.” Francis Yeats Brown  


“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” Sandra Carey


When I was in second grade we got our first set of World Book encyclopedias. I thought I was in heaven and literally began reading the books cover to cover. My mother told my sons recently that I would go to bed with a World Book under my arm. As I now sit and remember minute details of the ancient past and try to instill knowledge to young folks, it is not to go read the entire encyclopedia but it is, in which room and on what shelve they are located. With modern technology it is now about what and how to find information on the internet. Knowing where things are is really more important than knowing every single fact, although the facts help. We in education get into a content and context sort of disagreement. Some teachers want to teach only content and others believe that context is the motivating force. It is true however that for information or knowledge to be useful and coherent, it has to have context. 


“It is not the quantity but the quality of knowledge which determines the mind’s dignity.” William Ellery Channing


“Knowledge of the world can only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.” Lord Chesterfield


We have to provide the venues and pathways to information, and to acquire knowledge, Ms. Friedman stated in the first quote. Students have to have access to the table. If we set a wonderful feast before them and don’t allow access to the table, of what good is all that is there. They will still starve.


“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius


“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper


Can there ever be enough knowledge? Should we ever limit what knowledge is available? In 1956 the great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote this simple prayer as part of one of his sermons. 


“God, 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


For many years that simple philosophy written on a card has been laying on my desk. I recall a scene from a movie; most folks will not remember one of my favorite films of all time, “Billy Jack” where this prayer is used. Imagine a school or society where we lived what Niebuhr taught in his prayer. What if we applied serenity, courage and wisdom to our lives daily? Today we are challenged by which way to go and why.  Thinking back many years to an old movie “Indiana Jones and The last Crusade”, “choose wisely” the old knight told Indiana Jones and he did.  It is about teaching our students and children to choose wisely in life and in learning. Today is the first day of my summer holiday.  Last Friday we graduated our seniors to go out into life and hopefully many will continue to learn to seek knowledge and understanding. Some will stop learning and simply exist by finding jobs that pay enough to survive and function. It saddens me when I think of how limiting some people’s view of life is.

As I read various postings earlier on Facebook, a former student wrote about dreaming about what if you knew you could never fail at what you did. I responded that it would make all of your effort less and of a lesser quality. Knowing you can fail is what drives us to succeed and accomplish our tasks in life. I go back to my starting quote.


“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly…. We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way; the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.” Eagle Chief, (Letakos-Lesa), Pawnee


            In life it is about balance, we need failure to provide guidance and leverage for success. We need understanding to counter balance ignorance. We need on each side of the circle an opposite to provide the continuity that drives the life force of this reality. As I hear of death and illness there are new lives being brought into this world there are those being cured for everyone being found in sickness? How we cope with and deal with each aspect is with knowledge and understanding. I walk out into the darkness without fear knowing that soon light will permeate the dark. A dear friend’s father in law passed away and several I have known for years have in recent days been imposed the task of dealing with cancer and soon an end to their life’s journey. It is with these friends and their families I end each morning with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. Today so many here right beside are in need of support and concern. Keep each one with you as you go about your day and to always give thanks.




Innocence is more than a definition

Bird Droppings May 23, 2010

Innocence is more than a definition


“Look at children. Of course they may quarrel, but generally speaking they do not harbor ill feelings as much or as long as adults do. Most adults have the advantage of education over children, but what is the use of an education if they show a big smile while hiding negative feelings deep inside? Children don’t usually act in such a manner. If they feel angry with someone, they express it, and then it is finished. They can still play with that person the following day.” the Dalai Lama, “Imagine All The People”


It has been a quite a few nights since my wife and I had a chance to go out together. I was thinking back to one evening as we sat down at our booth at a country restaurant, an elderly couple (older than me) carefully made their way to the adjacent booth. Both the husband and wife helped each other moving ever so slowly. After his wife had seated herself the husband went and fixed a plate at the buffet for her. When he returned to the table my wife happened to glance over and the woman was smiling as her husband came back to their table. My wife said “she looked like a child”, the child in her was coming out as she smiled.

 Several years ago, for a class in human development, I developed a chart on the development of faith and trust. I had been reading a book by Dr. James Fowler professor and Director of Emory Candler School of Theology’s Ethic Center on the development of faith. It was interesting as I read and saw correlations of various concepts to other educational devlopmentalists such as Piaget, Erickson and even Freud.


“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” John Ruskin


 When I read the passage from the Dalai Lama I was reminded of a stage I wrote about in my subsequent paper after research and reading Fowler’s book , the idea of  learned trust. Children when they are born inherently trust and in my paper this is what I called it, a Universal trust. A baby instinctively trusts as it survives by literally instinct and in effect a trusting behavior, sucking reflexes only require milk to satisfy. A bitter taste and the baby would soon withdraw. The baby would learn to not suck. A simple example that as the child grows becomes more complex. Each new facet of life requires new information and understanding and soon a child learns trust. We go from an instinctual universal trust to a learned trust.


“Who would not rather trust and be deceived?” Eliza Cook


 Quite a few Sunday night’s back, going on eight years now I delivered my youngest son to a local restaurant where the Early Learners were having their Christmas banquet. Our high school has a group of fifteen or so, four year olds, under the supervision of a lead teacher involved in teaching Early Childhood Education. Actually this is a technical class in our school, an experimental school in some ways a teaching school for high school students. Many of the little learners are children of teachers within our high school.


“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” Frank Crane


 It seems my son had been Santa Claus for two years for the little learners. Matt inherited my father’s Santa suit. Dad, for as long as I can remember, has been Santa for our family. I recall a night inModenaPa., Santa came through the fire escape window when I was four years old. This image is still vivid in my mind and many things are not as I get older. I check my driver’s license for name and address periodically. For one reason or another Matt had to wait, which meant sitting in the waiting area of the restaurant. Little children came through, some would hide behind their parents, and others would go up and sit beside him and or ask him questions. Each child was unique.


“No, I don’t understand my husband’s theory of relativity, but I know my husband, and I know he can be trusted.” Elsa Einstein


“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


When Matt finally went into the Christmas party each child came up to him and I would take a photo. There was no questioning of whom this was, it was Santa. After all of the little learners came up, the teenagers, high school girls came and sat in Matt’s lap. Now I know why Matt did this each year. But within the context of these moments, trust was adamant. Children have learned to believe in, or not, Santa Claus, that is not an instinctual event.


“Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love — and to put its trust in life.” Joseph Conrad


So often we take the innocence of children and convert it to the learned ways of adulthood, greed, envy and all the other influences of mankind are learned. But I have found in life’s journey that trust does begin to filter back as time and age goes on. Thinking back to dinner with my wife and how she noticed the elderly woman’s smile, sometimes is it the glint in an eye or a smile from an elderly person that shows the inner child is still there. Perhaps it is that untouched innocence and universal trust has returned, or maybe like me, you forget all else, that you have learned not to trust. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.



Can we really be human?

Bird Dropping May 21, 2012

Can we really be human?

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Mother Teresa

Over the weekend in several discussions on how we as humans treat each other primarily oriented around the concept of race I mentioned once or twice how we are all the same species divided by culture and environment. Such a simple opportunity for us as humans and we have been given that with recent events around the world, wars, floods, typhoons, oil spills and even just here at home families losing houses and jobs. We live in a time when we have plenty often so much more than we need and so many are without. I have been watching news stories where entertainers offer a million dollars here and there I am sure Mother Theresa would smile at that but I am also sure that those of us who only have a dollar to give would garner just as big of smile from this great humanitarian in her time.

“Abandon wrongdoing. It can be done. If there were no likelihood, I would

not ask you to do it. But since it is possible and since it brings blessing and happiness, I do ask of you: abandon wrongdoing. Cultivate doing good. It can be done. If it brought deprivation and sorrow, I would not ask you to do it. But since it brings blessing and happiness, I do ask of you: cultivate doing good.” Anguttara Nikaya


I was taking photos of new construction at our school many years ago and as I walked out noticed a plowed spot that had been simply a barren piece of ground. It was being cultivated for our Agriculture program. Years ago we as a family moved to a piece of land where over many years nature had reduced the land to patches of tillable soil between kudzu and over growth. We spent the better part of two years clearing debris and scrub. Where there were a few acres of cleared land we had pasture and trees growing. IN the process of cleaning we did allow hedge rows and areas for quail and wildlife. We definitely did not use a clear cut operation as we went. However as we cleared we found old cars, tractors and old buildings covered in kudzu and had to remove them mainly for being hazards. As human beings we need to cultivate within our own lives.

“Self-discipline motivated by concern for others: this has been the standard

of conduct which I have attempted to reach.” Roger Barnes

Such a simple thought yet so very deep.


“So I vowed to keep myself alive, but only if I would never use me again for just

me — each one of us is born of two, and we really belong to each other. I vowed to do my own thinking, instead of trying to accommodate everyone else’ opinion, credo’s and theories. I vowed to apply my inventory of experiences to the solving of problems that affect everyone aboard planet Earth.” Buckminster Fuller


This is a big IF ONLY. What if each of us adhered to Buckminster Fuller’s adage?


“The charities that soothe and heal and bless are scattered at the feet of man

like flowers.” William Wordsworth

Often I have used the illustration of translations and perception with a simple word from The New Testament, agape. In Greek Agape translates as a supreme love, a love of Gods. Eros, Philos and Agape are in Greek each differing aspects of love. When translating the bible from original Greek and Latin in the early days of the Church of England the word Agape was translated as charity. As I read Wordsworth it struck me is not our highest form of love that which we can show towards another with at no time a desire for return, a totally one way love a giving and in so many ways charity. I will often argue the translation but as I sit here it may have been appropriate.


“Man is harder than rock and more fragile than an egg.” Yugoslav Proverb

“That in man which cannot be domesticated is not his evil but his goodness.”

Antonio Porchia

“Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.” Albert Camus

Is it that we are or is it what we are? Is it why we are that causes the difficulties? I have watched the most callous person cry and an adorable little girl veer into a banshee scream at the drop of a hat. I have observed human kind in its depravity and in its charity. One day that has stuck with me was walking through the prison ward of a mental hospital back nearly forty years ago. There were bold yellow lines separating us from them. But the stares from the inmates went to the marrow of our bones. These were men who had killed raped and pillaged society and were deemed to be far too sick mentally to stand trial or were for some reason sentenced to this place. Each of these men started as a fragile baby and at some time each was innocent.

“A human being: an ingenious assembly of portable plumbing.” Christopher


“The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if so, this purpose has not any similarity to ours.” Bertrand Russell

“Ocean: A body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man – who has no gills.” Ambrose Bierce

“Man is harder than iron, stronger than stone and more fragile than a rose.” Turkish Proverb


Pieces of a puzzle when thrown in a box jumbled, mixed up, swished around and then scattered about has such a similarity to the human condition. We search and search and slowly unravel and discover each piece each facet and as we slowly regain our understanding. We find we are little more than when we started, if all we are looking for is the destination. If we are looking at the journey than each piece each nuance, each tiny feature has significance, reason and purpose.

“Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap, baits it, and then steps in

it.” John Steinbeck

We are the varmint, the trap and the bait I find that interesting. Can we change this? Can we escape this inevitable circular motion that is self-perpetuating?

“In nature a repulsive caterpillar turns into a lovely butterfly. But with

humans it is the other way around: a lovely butterfly turns into a repulsive

caterpillar.” Anton Chekhov

As I sit here having pondered and wandered this morning and ending on a riddle of sorts I wonder. I do believe we do escape even though rarely. We can regain that butterfly. We can make our way back and not fall victim to our own bait and trap. We can answer the questions and solve the mysteries if we try. We can walk unimpeded midst the yellow lines and stare back. We can if we choose too. What it takes is if we choose to feed that one instead of waiting to feed a hundred rather than never feeding any at all. If we choose to keep in our thoughts those who need our understanding and giving things change. If we choose to look beyond the caterpillar and see the butterfly in others we see differently. We do have a choice, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks.

Children learn what they live

Bird Droppings May 19, 2012

Children Learn what they Live


It is such a beautiful morning and quiet outside, I had the opportunity to sit and meditate for nearly an hour under the stars today. I took our dog out and the air was still and nearly silent however the quiet and sounds that permeated were fantastic. A great horned owl periodically pierced the quiet along with a whippoorwill. As I listened a bit more carefully, still little noise even in the background other than handful of crickets and a soft breeze in the trees. I had burned some sage leaves in a bowl with a smidgen of sweet grass and the aroma added to the ambiance. For the first time in some time there were few human interferences in my moment of solitude.  Air conditioners were still as it was cool, cars were not quite moving on the nearby roads, and most normal animals and humans were still asleep. I started thinking about my own views on education and raising kids. I came back to some old ideas I have had around for some time. 


“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” Will Durant


I have used this story several times over the years having shared this short thought in previous droppings and in classes. It is a story entitled “Our nature” which is from ancient Zen thought and writings I found this on a professor from Rdyer University’s website after seeing the story numerous times thrown out on the internet.


“Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, ‘Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?’ ‘Because,’ the monk replied, ‘to save it is my nature.’ “ Dr. John Suler, Ryder University


As I look at this story there are many possible reactions. How foolish is the monk who gets stung, first he knows it is a scorpion, then he also knows scorpions will sting, and lastly he has been already stung once. What lesson is being taught in this passage? There is also a similar story Dr. Suler uses from Native American lore of a fox and scorpion crossing a stream. I find there are applications to parenting, friendship, and teaching within the context of a stinging scorpion. As I read this morning looking through various articles by Dr. Suler and Sydney J. Harris I came up on this article from Harris’s column Strictly Speaking. .


“The student, who could really get an A if he wanted to, cannot really get an A because he really doesn’t want to. And the wanting to is an essential part of the achieving, not a separate thing, as parents imagine, that can be injected into him like a shot of adrenalin. All genuine and meaningful and lasting motivation comes from the inside, not from the outside. The carrot and the stick work maybe only as long as the carrot is in front and the stick behind. When they are withdrawn, the motivation ceases. You can get a mule to move this way, but not a person for very long.” Sydney J. Harris, Motivation, a key part of Talent


Yesterday in class I was listening to students tell why they have low grades as we get into finals. One made the comment “but I am passing I have a 70” and another blurted out “what do I need this crap for anyhow”. As I listened and looked through various notes and ideas I wondered how we instill the idea of motivation in a child or student? How do we change the attitude of so many? Most of the students yesterday when told about the monk getting stung would say he was stupid, just step on the scorpion or why waste your time. Occasionally a person will pop up and say, “The scorpion has a right to live too and that is why the monk helped it”. Somewhere when I first started working with children back in the dark ages I found a poster around 1972 or so in a shop outsidePhiladelphia. The poster is entitled “Children Learn what they Live” and was written by Dr. Dorothy Nolte in 1972 and goes as follows:


Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves

and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte


Every day I look across my room and there hanging is that ancient poster still as viable today as it was in 1972. Sydney J. Harris couldn’t put a finger on motivation but he mentions in his article how parents want it to be like adrenaline and we could give a shot of motivation. The monk showing kindness to the scorpion, an attribute that had been learned by observation by seeing and by example, is it that motivation is from inside. Harris states and as Dr. Nolte so eloquently points out in 20 or so statements it is what children see and feel as they grow up that provides them with that inner drive that inner spark.

Children do learn what they live and as parents and teachers we are modeling their future. We are what they will be and can be.


“If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.” Dr. Nolte


It really is not that difficult. How can we expect a child to be motivated to succeed if we take away any of the twenty possibilities presented. No matter how big the carrot dangled in front of us it must come from within as well and eventually we as teachers, parents, and friends need to be providing that support and effort. Today a beautiful day please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds and to always give thanks.




PS. Maybe, just maybe it is Dr. Nolte’s thoughts hanging on the wall in my room for the past forty years that has kept me going and to not step on scorpions.


Passion is a word reserved for those who have it!

Bird Droppings May 18, 2012

Passion is a word reserved for those who have it!


            I walked out for the second day in a row to calls from whippoorwills and a doe and her twin nearly grown fawns grazing within almost touching distance. I got up rather early for my last day of school with students for this school year. I have a planning period first today due to testing schedule and well could come in later but for some reason I slept all night woke up and was ready to roll. I sat down scrolled through my ipad and read a few blogs and two caught me. The first was one on Native American Spirituality that I participate in. Two young men were discussing racism towards Indians. Both had experienced negative racial slurs first hand and had been in conflict with comments if only for a paragraph or two. The second that grabbed my attentions was one again based on bigotry and ignorance. I must admit when I saw the movie for the first time I was fearful of mountain folk. I can almost tell you when I saw Deliverance for the first and only time.

As a writer of sorts it is through words we convey our ideas and definitions. If I were a great speaker like so many I have heard over the years I could stand in front of a crowd and through my delivery and dramatic effects sway an audience. Sadly it is this power of suggestion that drives so much of what we do and say in our society. The seeing and or borrowing of a perception from others has been mankind’s downfall for much of eternity. Why is it that we great homo-sapiens have the ability to think on our own but choose far too often that route that is easier and safer. That route of listening or reading the words of others and letting them tell us what to believe or accept a truth. Daily in political debates and discussions this occurs.

I have been involved directly with the Foxfire program and method of teaching for nearly forty years directly and indirectly. I use the word synchronicity quite a bit and it might have been a synchronous event that leads me to a Foxfire II book back in 1972 or so. I saw the movie and soon after found at a bookstore the Foxfire book. I had been taught and trained in education and in teaching to use experience as a base. Tell show test and check were engrained in my being. Reading about and reading the book Foxfire along with John Dewey only deepening my understanding of the power of experiential learning. It was after coming back to teaching I began to rekindled my fascination with Foxfire. In 2003 or so I had the privilege of attending Piedmont College. I was enrolled in the Master’s program and became friends with the then Assistant Dean of Education. Dr. Cummings invited me after my Master’s program and graduation to continue in a Specialist program of study which is where I became entrenched in Foxfire again. One, two, three maybe twenty courses later as a students and teacher the concept and practice of the Foxfire Approach to teaching has changed how I approach and understand learning.

I make a concerted effort to attend and help any way I can summer teacher courses up on the Foxfire property and last summer was no exception. However in my doctoral studies my dissertation was shifting to the Foxfire concept and I wanted to talk with and meet former students. I through Facebook and several phone calls gathered four former students to have dinner with the group of teachers who were doing graduate studies at Piedmont and staying up on Black Rock Mountain at the Foxfire property. A dear friend whom I had communicated with numerous times discussing various writing of my own and hers brought a friend along. Her fiend was also a former Foxfire student back in early nineteen seventies. As the story goes Barbara Woodall was in the process of writing and publishing her first book, It’s Not My Mountain Anymore. Barbara was amazing as she discussed and talked about life in the mountains over dinner. I was invited to her book signing and of course went had to get my copy autographed. It was in that way I met Barbara Woodall and started reading her writings.


“Most mountain folks have dueled with the negative impacts and scars left behind by the chief of hillbilly horror flicks, Deliverance.  Georgia Tourism promoters as well as our own Chamber of Commerce are excited to host a celebration in June commemorating the 40th anniversary of  “…the most degrading depiction of southern mountaineers ever put on film…”  The New Georgia Encyclopedia


I’ve heard no objections to celebrate the river; however many feel Deliverance should be left in the past.  Salt has been thrown into Hollywood’s deadly wound for the sake of money.   Hurtful memories surface of a bunch of strangers who invaded home turf, admired us like gorillas, spent some money, laughed, and left.  I have a problem with that.” Barbara Woodall, It’s not My Mountain Anymore, The Deliverance Stigma


            I am in my roundabout way working towards my main idea today but there was some history to clear up. It was in this hodge-podge of ideas and thoughts this morning that as I drove to school today found myself thinking race is not the issue. Evolutionarily and DNA wise modern humans are all identical. Whatever phenotypes that have made their way to the surface are more environmentally influenced than actually genetic differences. So point one we are all the same yet different. However as I thought it is culture our cultures that are differing. I would ask a Sunday school class back in the day is it morally wrong for a cannibal in New Guinea to consume a missionary. All would immediately jump at the repressible thought of cannibalism. Of course this was the most serious of sins. But in an indigenous culture where it was accepted and a fallen enemy was simply protein how can that be construed as morally wrong unless looking from another cultural view.  


“It takes dedicated genius years to build a great cathedral; any desperado can bomb it to obliteration in a second. Why shouldn’t hate, being so much easier, be so much more popular?” Sydney J. Harris from the article Love is complex Hate is simple


It has been some time since a student of mine was working on an essay about racism; he asked for help he had hit a brick wall. I found it interesting that he was having a difficult time writing reasons for why he was a racist other than that was what his family thought. I asked if he had ever taken a toilet tissue tube test and he had not so I proceeded to get my laboratory equipment out, a toilet tissue tube and I let him look through then tell me what he saw. Quickly he responded not very much and I said that is how racism works. I walked away and as I came back he had written several new lines explaining how he never realized others opinion are important too.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own world we do not see another person’s or anyone else’s view.


“All colors will agree in the dark.” Sir Francis Bacon


I once stated that if we were all blind there would be no prejudice, no racism, perhaps even no envy who knows.


“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


I really did not intend to get into racism earlier but when looking at a comparison of love and hate in terms of the world it happens so easily where ever you look in the world. Many times racism is only a matter of tribal differences, cultural or religious differences. Mr. Harris in his essay from which I borrowed a quote eloquently discusses the complexity of love and simplicity of hate. It takes work to love and little or no effort to hate, which could be why we such a problem people are lazy in general.


“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Very few people look for poetry based on hate. Very little art is based on hate. It is that “inaudible language of the heart”, a good line from Dr. King, that compromises and composes so often art and poetry that we know.


“When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. “JohnF. Kennedy 


As I am compiling my past writings from years gone by I found for many days of my efforts my daily interlude was poetry, it was about writing poems to clear my mind. I have literally volumes of poems that I poured my soul into line after line some simple thoughts others complex. If I might borrow a word, there was passion in my efforts. When you are passionate in life you overcome obstacles you can see beyond mountains and valleys you can leap hurdles and see so much more clearly.


“Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” Henri Frederic Amiel


So often I take out and reread the book, “The passionate teacher” by Robert Fried. Passion doesn’t stop here just on teachers but encompasses passionate parents, passionate students, passionate friends, and passionate children as well. What a world we would have folks, if we were passionate about life.


“I don’t think I can play any other way but all out. I enjoy the game so much because I’m putting so much into it.” George Brett


I had the privilege over the past few years of attending and photographing our girl’s high school fast pitch softball team, they play with passion and a half. The coach and assistant coaches are passionate in how they responded to their team. The girls were passionate in their play and amazingly enough these teams have won consistently. It takes hard work and practice and of course teamwork but interesting as I took pictures very seldom were any girls sitting down they were into the game standing up cheering, yelling, encouraging each other, passion to borrow again that word.

George Brett was known for his passion for the game, illustrated in his words, “I enjoy the game because I am putting so much in”. As I go back to a starting statement by S. Harris and his article Love is complex and Hate simple, why do people write about love, paint pictures about love, write books and poetry about love? Could it be because by putting so much into it we enjoy it so much more much like George Brett? Love and hate both are powerful but love endures and hate is fleeting. Love endures because of passion, because we enjoy putting so much into it. A good question is it worth the effort? As I sit in the dark today maybe we all need to be a little more passionate about life. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.  




Trying to see the world with a narrow lens

Bird Droppings May 17, 2012

Trying to see the world with a narrow lens


My wife used to pick on my seventies glasses, big wide lenses and frames that they were. I recently went and got a new prescription and modern frames and lenses much smaller and narrower. I was sitting outside this morning and perhaps it was the darkness. My field of vision is such I was seeing the entire frame around the lens in my new glasses. It is really hard to explain, but in my old glasses with the big wide lens I did not see the edges of the frame and lens and now in these smaller narrower frames I can see the edges and am forced to view through a much narrower field. As I walked out the front door of our house earlier this morning a whippoorwill calling caught my attention and was so loud I was at first startled. Then my night eyes kicked in and I had been somewhat quiet as I left the house. About seventy feet in front of me across the road three deer were grazing. I whisper good morning and the largest I am assuming mother looked up and went back to grazing. I tried to be still but my rolling computer case squeaked and they moved away. I was still in the shadows of the porch and up wind from them so they only moved trying to get a bearing on the sounds. Again they went back to grazing and after ten minutes of watching I knew I had to head on and as soon as my computer case squeaked again they bolted for the woods.

Much of my writing I try to focus back on education and when you are walking in the doors of a school you will find some teachers wearing very narrow glasses in terms of their attitude about education.


“How to teach is to create possibilities for the construction and production of knowledge rather than be engaged simply in a game of transferring knowledge.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom


It becomes difficult as state and federal mandates require teachers to teach to specific tests, be it subject matter and end of course tests and or graduation tests. So often teachers narrow their view so as to keep a job as school and systems look at success rate of teachers based many times on those test scores.


“The teacher who does not respect the students curiosity in its diverse aesthetic, linguistic, and syntactical expression; who uses irony to put down legitimate questioning (recognizing that freedom is not absolute, that it requires of its nature certain limits); who is respectfully present in the educational experience of the student, transgresses fundamental ethical principles of the human condition.”Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom


So often many teachers limit the classroom to their view and to the view of the text and teachers manual. I see education in a different light. A classroom should be about opening doors and windows not closing them. I got into a discussion while working on some photo prints at a photo kiosk at a local retail store. I was using up my free digital prints coupons and got into a discussion with a young mother, she was not sending her daughter when she was old enough to public school because she did not want her exposed to all that went on. I explained my kids went to public school and immediately she responded and what kind of jobs were they able to get when they got out, she was assuming no kids went to college from our local high school.

She was surprised when I told her one graduated from Georgia Tech and was a corporate head of Environmental engineering, graduated from Piedmont College was currently continuing in graduate school on his master’s degree, and one was accepted to Piedmont Nursing School and starts in two weeks. She responded she did not realize very many went on to college from our local high school. I informed her about eighty percent went to higher education. She proceeded to tell me she wanted her daughter to go to a “ChristianSchool” and learn the right things.  I mentioned how restricting and limiting that was but she offered she would take her to soup kitchens to volunteer and to expose her to the other side of life somewhere where you can use a good disinfectant when you are done and go home I thought to myself. I thought back to my illustration of looking at life through a toilet tissue tube that I use so often.


“Teachers who do not take their own education seriously, who do not study, who make little effort to keep abreast of events should have no moral authority to coordinate the activities of the classroom.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom


I recall a seasoned teacher who was searching diligently for the instruction manual and transparencies provided with a course of world history. She was so irate and said that she could not teach without it yet only a few minutes before was spouting off about having taught college and high school for forty years and of course world history for most of those. I thought to myself how could someone who has been around a class for so long, be unable to teach a day or two unaided by props. Especially props that are so restricting as textbooks materials generally are.

While she had three degrees all were forty years ago and she had done nothing since for her own education. I recall a statement by Henry David Thoreau. He left teaching to be a learner so that he could be a more effective teacher. Every day I set foot in a class as a learner I become a better teacher. I am increasing my own view of the world, getting a bigger lens so to say versus the mother who wants to restrict her daughter to a view through a toilet tissue tube.


“The more critically one exercises one’s capacity for learning, the greater is ones capacity for constructing and developing what I call ‘epistemological curiosity,’ without which it is not possible to obtain a complete grasp of the subject of our knowledge.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom


The more we can learn and be exposed to real learning the more we can acquire knowledge. While I am using my new glasses at the moment I have been switching back and forth occasionally. I like the wide view seeing so much more of the world. I wonder why parents want to limit their children’s view of the world and or do teachers narrow the view down through their selection and delivering of material. There is so much out there to see and hear and experience. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.



Searching for, looking at, and finally placing the pieces to the puzzle

Bird Droppings May 16, 2012

Searching for, looking at and finally placing

the pieces to the puzzle

“The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the ”social worker” -judge.” Dr. Michael Foucault (1926-1984), French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas

            Last night I received a call from my nephew and was asked if I knew a certain person. At first I thought why is he calling me and in my old man memory issue dilemma I struggled for a second trying to place the name. After a mention of Appalachian Trail hiking that my nephew and this fellow had shared I recalled the man. A former Marine, Special education teacher and someone who would sit and talk with me on many occasions discussing education and needs of people. Sadly the call was not intended simply to refresh my memory but to search for reasons and rationale as to the funeral service my nephew had just attended.

            Looking back this man was my age and survived while he had gone to Viet Nam and I had not the seventies. It seems many did not know the inner demons that lurked and for many years the trauma of a war laid beneath the surface. On their hike almost ten years ago which is when I taught with this fellow a peace sign was carved on a picnic bench up in the mountains of North Georgia. My nephew thought it was pretty cool and this man only saw the disgust as upon returning from Viet Nam he was looked down upon by peace sign carrying hippies. He had not wanted to be a part of a war in Southeast Asia and I am sure much like me was either quick to enlist or drafted and found his way to the Marines.

            I have for many years used the image of a puzzle describing life in general a rather large infinite yet finite puzzle falling into place piece by piece. There is fragility to this puzzle and a seemingly almost delicate touch needed as we approach pieces. Much of my background and education is in psychology and counseling and searching within helping people deal with those pieces that are lost or missing. Many times through empathy and discovery we find and can replace a missing piece and work to get the puzzle back on track.

            Sunday I picked up a local paper and a headline mentioned a second killing by local police of a suspect in less than a month. It was not a detrimental headline toward law enforcement as it was toward the depravity of society and how low we have come culturally that agreements and or disagreements need to be settled with weapons. A man whose name escaped me as I read the article was firing rounds into his separated wife’s home when officers asked him to put his weapon down. He turned his weapon on local officers and in defense they fired back. Having worked with many psychologically unstable minds over the years I have come to find there is a very fine line between normal and abnormal, between sane and lost, and reality and another world. A friend died although I had not talked with or seen him in now nearly four years. The man who died may not have been the man I knew ten years ago yet sitting here this morning the only image I have is of that friend and I sitting talking in my class room listening to the quiet of running water and R. Carlos Nakai flute music.    


“In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.” Genjo Koan 


There are times when we in looking we miss what it is we are trying to find. Contained within a drop of water there is an entire universe. Sometimes we want to have things to be simply round or square and yet infinity abounds. Yesterday I was speaking with several teachers discussing why students acted as they did, behave as they do. In a recent presentation on a chapter from a book on behavior management and treatments the last paragraph of the chapter summed up quite a bit so often we look everywhere else and the answer is right beneath our feet.


“The absence of evidence to support medication as a viable alternative should lead future researchers and clinicians to further explore parenting strategies that facilitate the development of better sleep habits.”


As we do so often we look for excuses we look for medical, physical, emotional reasons for sleep disorders in children. Yet with behaviors at school we blame class room activity, we blame teachers, planning, books, and or administration. Always amazes me that the sixteen hour syndrome is never discussed, we never tend to see where the issue really lies, parenting strategies. I often wonder why we cannot accept the blame as parents or why we want an excuse in any aspect of life.


“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do –or don’t do.” Simone De Beauvoir French Existentialist, Writer, and Social Essayist 1908-1986


I was ready to write down how the great Simone was a heroic figure inBolivia, a crucial part of South American history and yet really was a woman philosopher fromFranceand under study to Sartre.


“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” Frank A. Clark


“Parents are not quite interested injustice, they are interested in quiet.” Bill Cosby


It is so funny thing how in the United States we have most of the world’s ADHD children and the funny thing as we became so mobile and our family structure somewhat altered it continues to increase. During the 1980-90’s ADHD increased so rapidly almost in epidemic proportions, over nine hundred percent. What I find as interesting is how we began seeing this issue when it got on our nerves as parents and or teachers. As an old person I was thinking to myself where was ADHD when I was a child.


“The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow


We try and look at the whole and miss pieces or sometimes we look so intently at a piece we miss the whole. This is a paradox of sorts. I hate jig saw puzzles yet am fascinated by them and often I use the comparison to puzzles for life in general. Life is very much like a myriad puzzle, millions of intricate pieces all falling into place one at a time, each more intricate then the other. Sometimes we see a piece and for days focus on each minute detail, each little facet and each little color speck of white or red and the details over whelm us. We so easily lose sight of the whole picture the vast array of life in front of us forming over a minute tiny aspect.


“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson


Amazing I pulled Emerson in amazing how a hundred year ago poet has pieces for today. We as parents, and or teachers try so valiantly to cast our being into a child to see ourselves living again. Maybe that is why we focus on a piece for so long.


“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop former Surgeon General of the United States Famous


As I think of Dr. Koop it is so much more so for the adding of the warning on cigarettes than his philosophy most people remember him. As I think I recall my dad’s story of how he also prayed by the bedside of my younger brother many years ago in Philadelphia Children’s Hospital where he was Chief Surgeon. He is an interesting man and great doctor.


“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Dr. Michael Levine, professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology at The University of California


More so as I write today I find who these people are as I am looking at parenting as it is interesting as to what they say. Dr. Koop told my father as he sat with him one evening discussing my brother how parents of critically ill children were so different than so many others. They talked about how faith was so much an aspect of their lives and trust a critical piece of their puzzle as that dealt with their children’s issues.


“The word no carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say yes.” Joyce Maynard


On many mornings I am really not sure where I am going with a thought and I know I wander about here and there. I wonder as well what I am trying to say as I start and many times midway I still am wondering. Joyce Maynard’s statement may be where I was going in the last page or two looking and building to this. Whether a parent or teacher or friend this applies as I look back to my starting quote from nearly 1000 years ago written by Dogen, a Zen master and told to his student. Back in those days, a koan was a question put out to answer a puzzle piece in a person’s life. A Genjo Koan, is an essential question, a question that entails and involves life itself. 


“When fish go through water, there is no end to the water no matter how far they go. When birds fly in the sky, there is no end to the sky no matter how far they fly. But neither fish nor birds have been separated from the water or sky – from the very beginning. It is only this: when a great need arises, a great use arises; when there is little need, there is little use. Therefore, they realize full function in each thing and free ability according to each place. “ Dogan, 1243


As I sat this morning, thinking and writing so many ideas flowed listening to teachers yesterday express concern and question hearing parents gathered round their SUV’s trying to solve world issues and who was wearing what and what was the latest gossip. It is so easy to be sarcastic. Children are our greatest future commodity we should not waste them. As Dogan said about fish when parenting there is no end as long as you are a parent when a teacher there is no end as you are teaching. When as I say you are placing pieces in the puzzle it is not a whole as you focus and look at a piece in your hand. We all have work to do as parents, teachers, friends, as a child, or student. In all of this please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks.




Dreams do not stand alone

Bird Droppings May 15, 2012

Dreams do not stand alone


“You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.” Richard Bach


It has been so many years since I first experienced the whimsical book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Bach’s tale of a seagull who dreams of more than simply eating fish entrails at the pier. I was going through my files on my blackberry and the only book I have on the memory card on my phone is this one. Occasionally when in a quiet place and not too tired so my eyes work I will pull up JLSG and read a few lines thinking back so many years to when I first read the book.

I hear each day and listen to dreams as student’s talk of where and when, there are some who say whatever and that is hard for me to understand. Having experienced so much in my lifetime good and bad to hear a young person with no concept of tomorrow often because today was dashed it takes me back. I recall several years back on a first day in a class when a student answered a simple goal sheet. Question one: Where will you be in a year? Probably still in school, Question two; where will you be in five years? Probably in jail, and Third Question; where will you be in ten years? Dead was his answer. Gladly that is not the case as I still have contact almost eleven years later and he is a motorcycle racer and mechanic in Texas although jail part he got right. I have been keeping touch indirectly with him since he has spent the better part of four years in jail and currently is out so he did attain his five year goal. He saw no future and when I talked with him about his answers he really did not want a future.


“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you are alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach


“I have heard it said that the first ingredient of success — the earliest spark in the dreaming youth — if this; dream a great dream.” John A. Appleman


So often when I meet people students who have little thought of a future there is significant past holding them back, I recently wrote a paper on an idea I had of funneling. Our past is a significant part of the antecedents that drive our behaviors. The fellow above in my questions and answers was in this situation. Years ago as I did research for a graduate school paper I found in looking at 28 Emotionally Disturbed children in my study only two were still with biological parents only two had not had trouble with law enforcement and not been adjudicated. Only four were not currently at that time on probation.


“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” John Barrymore


“If there were dreams to sell, what would you buy?” Thomas Lovell Beddoes


I had not thought of this but what a question to ask young people what if dreams were for sale what would you buy. Often those that do not want to think ahead only see more of the same, for my young man above death was actually something he was looking forward too.


“The moment of enlightenment is when a person’s dreams of possibilities become images of probabilities.” Vic Braden


“You’ve got to create a dream. You’ve got to uphold the dream. If you can’t, go back to the factory or go back to the desk.” Eric Burdon 


For some of you the name Eric Burdon is insignificant but for a few of us, back in the sixties three British bands came across and stormed the United States, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Animals. Eric Burdon was the lead singer for The Animals. He is still around although now living inCaliforniaand performing often solo or with his new band The Eric Burdon, I Band; he has gone back to his roots, blues. But as I read Eric’s quote and look at Bach’s quote coming from a fictional character the idea of dreaming and possibilities all tie into you have to do something. You have to work to attain the dream. Here is a possibility, the dream and here are the opportunities, life in general. Just Do it as it is scribbled on your shoes.


“When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” Leo Burnett


“There couldn’t be a society of people who didn’t dream. They’d be dead in two weeks.” William Burroughs


William Burroughs name in literary circles often falls with Allen Ginsberg as part of The Beat generation spawned inNew York’s coffee houses and universities. But he also is often associated with Timmy Leary and Andy Warhol and in the early nineties before killing himself, Kurt Cobian recorded an album with the then nearly 80 year old Burroughs reading his own words over Cobain’s guitar chords. A drug addict for most of his life Burroughs’s tried to write himself out of where he was and many of his greatest efforts are reflections of his own addictions and reflections on the addictions and limitation others impose on themselves.


“Follow your bliss.” Joseph Campbell


“If your dream is a big dream, and if you want your life to work on the high level that you say you do, there’s no way around doing the work it takes to get you there.” Joyce Chapman


Trying to get teenagers to accept getting from point A to point B requires more than simply saying so, it can be a tough sale. Several weeks ago I was sitting talking with two students both who had dreams of college. One of the fellows said he was going to college and get a scholarship to play football. I thought for a moment and said you have never played in high school how will you get a scholarship? He thought for a minute and said he would go out for the team. He thought because of his size and make he could be a football player. Ok but you would still have to go to class and study and read. His dreams were dashed for him college was simply a football scholarship and playing football sort of the Forest Gump approach. I tried also to explain playing football meant practice four or five hours a day, no TV, no video games, and no four or five honey buns and a coke for snacks. Very quickly he decided to change his goal, too much work, and no fun. He wanted the glory of the football player but did not want the work.


“When your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme.” Jiminy Cricket


I have always thought it interesting that a cartoon insect could possibly go down as one of the world’s great philosophers. When you believe you can you can I have always been told?


“We’ve removed the ceiling above our dreams. There are no more impossible dreams.” Jesse Jackson


“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Robert F. Kennedy


So often I find myself drawn back to an idea or quote, Kennedy’s quote is one of those as is dreaming. Each time I find something new, a new piece to the puzzle, a new thought as I am rambling through my day, pondering on those moments of new ideas and direction. Today reading about William Burroughs and Kurt Cobain who both achieved the immortality of fame and genius, one lived to barely 30 and one to almost ninety only slight differences kept the parameters of their lives from being identical. I often speak of following a path, we do at times, have choices to make, and how far can we veer off the path? How many times can we make a new path without getting lost?

Mathematicians hold the shortest distance between two points is a straight line however by expanding that thought if point A and B if they are next to each other that line makes a circle which has no end or beginning.


“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: — we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Perhaps this is a great point to end on this morning. Over the years over forty now I have heard this phrase in my head. My father had a worn out a tape recording of the entire speech. Maybe a sermon would be a better word, for it was a sermon to mankind not just theUnited States. I am subscribed to Russell Means website entitled “it is a good day to die”, which is not one of pessimism but one of approaching life without fear and knowing you believe in that which you are striving for. I believe Dr. King would have embraced the Lakota statement as well as he approached life that every day was a good day to die. Sadly his life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet as were many great men over the years. Dr. King, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull all did not fear death for they knew in their hearts they were right.

We less brave in this reality can fulfill our dreams but we have to do the work we have to strive to make that dream a reality be it small or monumental. It is our choice where we place point A and point B and whether our path’s become simply a line or a circle. So this morning please keep all in harm’s way, for one of my dreams is a world in peace. So please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks.