Spirituality an uncertain certainty?

Bird Droppings November 25, 2011
Spirituality an uncertain certainty?

“When you examine the lives of the most influential people who have ever walked among us, you discover one thread that winds through them all. They have been aligned first with their spiritual nature and only then with their physical selves.” Albert Einstein

What has always intrigued me is Einstein is so often reputed to be an atheist. Yet within his writings the aspects of a spiritual nature are intertwined. Perhaps it is his Judaism and heritage that allowed some to criticize and chastise. Perhaps he would never clarify his stance other than his own heritage yet intermingled with his scientific ideas is a under lying awareness of a spiritual aspect to humanity.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein

“Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.” Albert Einstein (Sign hanging in Einstein’s office at Princeton)

It has been a few days since I have thought about another author I enjoy William Edelen. It has been some time since I first read, Toward the Mystery. It was in around about way I found this book. The book was named as the book of the year for the United Methodist women groups and distributed at their national conference. Back in the day roughly mid 1990’s or so it was a very controversial book. Edelen refers to his own search and path to spirituality as a search for the mystery. The book is a series of essays by Edelen looking at religion and the founding fathers their aspects of faith and spiritual views. He emphasizes in his look at eastern thought and Native American thinking where his own direction has gone. In Indian thought is where Edelen borrowed the idea of “the mystery”. Often in Native American ideology the mystery is all that is and where we fit.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950

In 1931 Black Elk revealed his vision from his childhood to author John G. Neihardt who recorded the words in the book, Black Elk Speaks. In Native American thought the circle was considered sacred and throughout literature and philosophy the circle continues.
For example you can see in curios and in eastern thought the black and white fish swimming in a bowl symbol of yin and yang, which make a circle. Many tribes considered their spiritual direction to be, Wakan-Tanka, or the Great Mystery. In movies and books Wakan-Tanka is used in reference to God when referring to Native Americans, yet the word is not even defined it is a mystery. In ancient Hebrew philosophy you could not say the name of God and even in biblical writing, “I am that I am” is God defining God to Moses. Perhaps it is in our own insecurities we need definitions and clearly defined parameters for spiritual matters.
We build monuments and write affirmations and liturgies to glorify and personify. Edelen uses the term anthropomorphize we want everything to be clear and to be like us. “Toward the mystery” “The great mystery” Daily I work with students who have are literally vacuums in terms of faith in anything which also translates to not trusting anything or anyone. Over the years I have found that faith and trust are synonymous and without one you do not have the other. While many will say they believe this or that and or deny just as easily it is the lacking the hole that offers the issue. For if you cannot trust dealing with each other let alone spiritual issues is difficult. Earlier as I went outside for my morning meditation the trees were blowing rustling is a better word slightly that thankfully subsided a few minutes while I sat out or I would have frozen in the thirty five degree chill. The quiet of the heavy air subduing humanities encroachment I was looking deeper today perhaps than normal searching myself for the mystery. So often I wonder why it is so many simply except and stagnant not allowing daily interactions to come onto play not allowing the pathway to fork off or change. But then again sometimes I ponder to much today let us all please keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and always give thanks.
namaste
bird

What could be more sacred than life itself?

Bird Droppings November 1, 2011
What could be more sacred than life itself?

Perhaps having been born on All Saints Day in St. Joseph’s Hospital gives me a better insight into the sacred than most normal folk. Of course then I have to consider that soon after I was born the Church dropped All Saints Day which I hope had nothing to do with me. I could have been born on Halloween. As I sit and ponder having been away from my computer for several days with illness and family activities my thoughts go towards that of a spiritual nature. It has been sometime since walking along a dirt road in the midst of hundreds of acres of pasture listening to buffalo and cattle snorting and waking in the early morning I came to find this outlook on life.

“When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.” Dr. Scout Cloud Lee

Dr. Lee is a motivational speaker, author of twelve books, singer and song writer, university professor and actually along the way a cast member of The Survivor series on CBS. She was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Oklahoma State University in 1980, and Oklahoma’s Outstanding Young Woman in American in 1980. In 2002, Lee was honored to carry the Olympic torch exemplifying the theme of “Light the Fire Within.” Perhaps this is a good place to stop As a Today Show guest she stated “you have to decide” and Dr. Lee offers “we participate in the creation of a new world”. I end up with a line from an Aerosmith song as it always seems to fit in.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

I used Dr. Lee’s quote and the preceding paragraph on September 7, 2009 in my daily wanderings. An email earlier this week reminded me of this quote and some thoughts along the way with several books I picked up over the past few weeks at Barnes and Noble, I should get a commission for mentioning bookstores and Quick Trip. I state on my Facebook page my religious belief is that all is sacred. That in and of itself is a powerful statement and one I adhere to or at least attempt each day I live. Many can argue from their own religious perspective and or theological viewpoint as to what is sacred or not. On a recent journey to Macon I went by the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds National Park. I speak of the place in a reverent manner as for thousands of years many people have held this place as a sacred spot. When I climb to the top of the Great Temple Mound and look to the four directions I imagine what it was like before the Macon skyline was visible to the north or the visitor center to the east.
Sitting on my table as I write is a Bushmen water container. It is simply an ostrich egg emptied out with a hole in the top and carvings of animals and designs etched into the shell and then filled with ash to leave a black line. This egg is over fifty years old and brought back by my father from South Africa many years ago and given to me. In the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa and to the Sans as they wish to be called, we use the term Bushmen this is a sacred vessel. It is one of many that would be stashed plugged with grass and placed at a specific spot identified by the markings belonging to a particular hunting group it would be filled with water and stored for the next trip through that spot.
Over the past few years I have read many books on spirituality, Native American thought, Curriculum, Education, Teaching methods, Religion, Counseling, Psychology, Herbs, Medicinal plants, Reptiles and Amphibians, and even a few fiction books mainly Harry Potter. One author who has always kept my attention and I still periodically check up on his essays is William Edelen. Edelen is a Presbyterian pastor, former fighter pilot, former agriculture teacher, author, speaker, and free thinker extraordinaire. While his books of essays are not best sellers on a few years back one title was the United Methodist Women’s book of the year, In Search of the Great Mystery. Edelen incorporates many ideas from Native American thought into his writing along with Thomas Jefferson and Thoreau.

“The question I so often ask is this: Why are the vast majority of people so willing to turn over their life, values, priorities, and decisions to such authoritarian institutions? Are they insecure, that fearful, that blind, that they cannot assume personal responsibility for their own spiritual growth? ‘Your own reason is the only oracle given to you by God,’ wrote Thomas Jefferson.” William Edelen, Spirit Dance

Edelen was addressing millenniums of mass church building and increasingly larger congregations that demand from their parishioners. I always found it humorous that one Atlanta church required a credit report to join.

“People often ask me, “What are you …… what do you believe…. Are you a Christian…. Taoist … Buddhist …. what? In a joking mood I may tell them I am a Taoist, Druid, Agnostic shaman. But when I answer the question seriously, I tell them I live within the historical stream of mysticism, and that orientation, world view, cosmology, or philosophy of life is the same whether one lives in a Taoist society, Buddhist, Christian or secular.” William Edelen, Spirit Dance

Needless to say William Edelen is a character, he still has many listeners and readers and even in his nineties he still speaks in Palm Springs each week delivering a new essay. There is a website where these are posted. But there are many views of life, spirit and sacred what compromises these. Continuing on today another writer whom has drawn me to them is Thomas Merton. A Trappist Monk he is considered to be one of the foremost spiritual thinkers of the twentieth century. Merton died in a hotel room in Southeast Asia in 1968 protesting the war in Viet Nam.

“To unify your life, unify your desires. To spiritualize your life, spiritualize your desires. To spiritualize your desires, desire to be without desires.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“Everyone has an instinctive desire to do good things and avoid evil. But the desire is sterile as long as we have no experience of what it means to be good.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Almost John Dewey words in needing to experience good in order to desire to do good. Both Thomas Merton and William Edelen use the concept of opposites prevalent in Eastern philosophy as well as in Native American thought. Merton and Edelen often quote The Dalai Lama in their writings and as he is spiritual head of the Tibetan Buddhists, he is respected worldwide.
Over the years I have been a fan of the writings of the Dalai Lama myself, at age six or so he was chosen to be the successor to the thirteenth Dalai Lama and left his parent’s small farm to go to the capital of Tibet in Lhasa and here was tutored in Buddhist traditions and writings. He through his young years had tutors from England as well who taught other subjects and provided a world view for this humble boy from a small farm in Tibet. Today he is considered one of the great thinkers of our time and has received the Nobel Peace Prize among other numerous awards. His many books help bridge, and make an effort to provide insight into Buddhist philosophy and understanding of the world. One of these thoughts within Buddhism is the theory of emptiness.

“According to the theory of emptiness, any belief in an objective reality grounded on the assumption of intrinsic, independent existence in untenable. All things and events, whether material, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence. To possess such independent, intrinsic existence would imply that things are therefore entirely self contained. This would mean that nothing has the capacity to interact and exert influence on other phenomena.” Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom

I walked into my local convenience store this morning to get a couple of bottles of Smart water; I have switched after years of drinking Evian only. No, it does not increase my IQ by more than a small percentage with each bottle, but it has no metallic taste and it is essentially distilled water with electrolytes added. Another advertising pitch I could make a fortune if I was signed with all of these commercial entities. As we talked with one of my Muslim friends I wished him a Happy Halloween, and it hit me. Halloween was an attempt in the old days of allowing pagan rituals into the Christian domain back in the days of assimilating cultures as you conquer. What was interesting is how it was then followed by All Saints day, which had been today until the holiday was dropped by the Church, to beg forgiveness for the previous day.
But it is always interesting where our traditions and history take us and will take us. Borrowing a line from the Dalai Lama’s above quote. “All things and events, whether material, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence.” At the time it was a necessary evil to allow All Hallows eve and get the pagans to follow in line. As the day changed and it seemed All Saints day was no longer needed it was discounted as a holy day by the church. It might have had something to do with me being born on that day as well.

“My plea is that we bring our spirituality, the fullness and simple wholesomeness of our basic human values, to bear upon the course of science and the direction of technology in human society. In essence, science and spirituality, though offering in their approaches, share the end, which is the betterment of humanity.” The Dalai Lama

“The whole point of science is that there are no facts, only theories. You don’t believe these things they are working hypotheses that the next bit of information can transform. We are taught not to hang on but to stay open.” Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

As I read The Dalai Lamas words it reminded of the passage from Campbell, recognized as one of the leaders in comparative mythology.

“The first fact that distinguishes the human species from all others is that we are born too soon. We arrive incapable of taking care of ourselves for something like fifteen years. Puberty doesn’t come along for twelve years or more, and physical maturity doesn’t arrive until our early twenties. During the greater part of this long arc of life, the individual is in a psychological dependency. We are trained as children, so that every stimulus, every experience, leads us to react.” Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

As I sat thinking on this passage my mind drifted over to a book I am reading currently Kent Nerburn’s latest, The Wolf at Twilight. Nerburn goes back to the Sioux reservation to help an old friend in a search for his sister who has been gone now nearly eighty years. One of the comments made is in a discussion on hand shakes. Nerburn questioned how they could tell he was unfamiliar with the Sioux ways and they said by the handshake. A white man shakes hands hard exerting force wanting to maintain control, power, be a man. A Sioux shakes hands lightly, softly not imposing their dominance over the person whose hand is being shaken. It is a matter of how we are raised. The cultural biases and societal influences provide the basis for who we are. Perhaps this is where I am concerned in our quest in education and society so often for simplicity and measureable data. Are we leaving out the spiritual and actually leaving science by the way side? We seem to want answers solid data and facts. So many people want laws in science and not theories. So many people want one way in religion and forget the spirituality aspect of what it is they seek.

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves…… The connectedness made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as a place where intellect and emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I first read Parker Palmer about nine years ago in a book club meeting where our principal used this book, The Courage to Teach, as one of our readings. Parker Palmer emphasizes in his writing that teachers choose to teach because of heart because they desire to do something for humanity. Many of his themes touch on the spirituality within teaching. It is this idea of connectedness that toes in to my thoughts today and with some of the others I have quoted and used. In recent months I have become a fan of Dr. Michael Tianusta Garrett, former Department Chair of Guidance at the University of Florida. His books along with his father’s are based on the Cherokee Nation. Many of his thoughts on guidance reflect his own understandings and outlooks based on his Native American heritage.

“Native peoples view all things as having spiritual energy and importance. All things are connected, all things have life, and all things are worthy of respect and reverence. Spiritual being essentially requires that individuals seek their place in the universe; everything else will follow in good time. “Dr. Michael Tianusta Garrett, Walking in the Wind

I have wandered today and yet perhaps not strayed from where I was going in my journey and will end with perhaps my favorite author Kent Nerburn.

“Spiritual growth is honed and perfected only through practice. Like an instrument, it must be played. Like a path, it must be walked. Whether through prayer or meditation or worship or good works, you must move yourself in the direction of spiritual betterment.” Kent Nerburn, Simple Truths

“It is the sense that comes over us as we stare into the starlit sky or watch the last fiery rays of an evening sunset. It is the morning shiver as we wake on a beautiful day and smell richness in the air that we know and love from somewhere we can’t quite recall. It is the mystery behind the beginning of time and beyond the limits of space. It is a sense of otherness that brings alive something deep in our hearts.” Kent Nerburn, Simple Truths

I had actually started to be rather short and be done with it today but sort of got caught up in my own wanderings and readings. It has been over ten years I have ended my daily thoughts with this phrase and again looking at the news and listening to what is going on in the world I will again close with my traditional last statement. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

In the pursuit of excellence

Bird Droppings September 6, 2011
In the pursuit of excellence

In a brief sojourn outside a few minutes ago the sky is a mass of swirling mixes of gray and black as remnants of Hurricane Irene cross our area. We received much needed rain and the breeze has dropped our ninety plus high temperatures to a bearable range. I was listening to crickets and tree frogs as the sounds of morning surrounded me with the rustling of leaves in the steady breeze. A great day to walk this reality.

“We are surrounded by actors who cannot act…singers who cannot sing…teachers who cannot teach…writers who cannot write…speakers who cannot speak…painters who cannot paint…and we pay them fortunes for their mediocrity.” Ernest Hemmingway

I was looking for a starting point today as I read through the news and such earlier. Several emails had me wondering about why we do what we do and how we do it. Seldom do I question my teaching capabilities but as I read an email I received last night with suggestions, it makes me think and sometimes as I ponder why do I teach the kids I do reasons elude me. I happened on a Labor Day talk by William Edelen, entitled “In praise of excellence”. Contained within Edelen’s essay was the following excerpt.

“Observe, I suggest no sense of service. More hypocrisy is poured out to youthful ears in the name of serving mankind than would fill a library of books. I can remember the droning on that score that I had to listen to, that I should become a drudge in some distasteful pursuit to assist a mankind not visibly affected by similar endeavors. If it be selfishness to work on a job one likes, and live as one wants, because one likes it and for no other end, let us accept the odium. I had rather live forever in a company of Don Quixote’s, than among a set of the walking dead professing to be solely moved to the betterment of one another. Let us then do our jobs for ourselves and we are in no danger of deserving society. Though six associations, groups, companies, combinations of societies for the improvement of mankind, with their combined boards of directors, secretaries, stenographers and field agents were to be put into some scale against six honest carpenters who liked their job and did their work with excellence, they would kick the beam as high as Euripides. The six honest, excellent, carpenters may serve as a beacon for all time, and men will love them, but be that as it may, six honest carpenters who do their job with excellence because they like it and for no other reason will save themselves. That is quite enough to ask…” Judge Learned Hand

I sat thinking about the idea of excellence in whatever it is we do. Judge Hand used the illustration of carpenters as he explained excellence. In doing your job with excellence as the goal, imagine what a world we would have. I have been reading and sharing a book by Charlotte Danielson on evaluating teachers, in her book she points toward developing excellent teachers, distinguished teachers. Piedmont College in their Specialist program uses a rubric for evaluation of candidates based on Danielson’s ideas and has named it using an acronym STAR. When I was in teaching in the early 70’s I felt a need to have an evaluation tool that could pinpoint quality teachers and could then help establish teaching excellence.
In carpentry we can see excellence as the pieces come into place, within the fit and finish of the item being built. In many areas the product can be seen or touched or heard and excellence is easily evaluated. In teaching it becomes more difficult.

“If we lose the sense of excellence in our daily labor we will become weak as a people and as a nation. If we lose our respect and admiration for craftsmanship, our vigor as a people will decline.” William Edelen

“Those who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune rather than to insufficient application. Thus…talent is a species of vigor.” Eric Hoffer

Each day I hear the words I am passing that is enough. Trying to instill in students who have known nothing but failure in their lives and defeat can be difficult. As I was writing this morning my dog wanted another outside break and I walked out into the near darkness of the early morning with cloud cover. It is easy to feel the start of the storm around the corner there is a slight chill in the air and a breeze, but still warm enough for the crickets. It would be silent save for the drone of crickets even in their monotonous chirp, a harmony.

“People do not stumble into excellence. It requires application and tenacity of purpose.” William Edelen

As I ponder there are tens of thousands of crickets chirping and yet it sounds as if only one is sounding off, it is so easy to get lost in the midst of s cricket chorus. We do this every day as we go to work, we get lost in the cricket chorus, the constant chirping of the same note, the same beat and soon those around pick up and soon everyone is in tune and all is well but no excellence.

“Our schools are crying for uncommon teachers who are excellent, outstanding and distinguished.” William Edelen

It is difficult to sound and act different in a world of constantly chirping crickets, to perhaps change the note or pitch and try and get more done or get it done better. It seems that status quo is not enough for some people. I went into school yesterday evening as I do many evenings and another teacher was sitting putting in grades. It seems this teacher was sent a message about parents complaining about their teaching style. One note and a teacher is upset and here I am pondering not a complaint or but a suggestion and only because without fanfare that suggestion had been done and completed but not advertised it was just part of the normal daily activity. I thought back to my friend who was writing notes and questioning the style of teaching that had been done and at what point do we ever grade the desire of students and the political repercussions people viewing from without.

“The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together.” “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

I have used the term osmosis to describe the teaching relationship. Perhaps I should add to that excellence in osmosis. No matter what the field, we need to strive for more than just passing; we need to push for excellence in parenting, in friendship, in all of our endeavors. We as teachers have a tiny window, for me a ninety minute window to impact a student and if every teacher that student has are equally as impacting, about a seven to eight hour window each day. But when evaluating and judging excellence that student has a sixteen hour window or more like a garage door to unravel and totally disperse any impact received during school. It could easily be parents who are angry, upset, out of work, sick physically or mentally, friends who put peer pressure on them, jobs, athletics, relationships and the list could go on and on. It has been many years since I jokingly referred to this as a sixteen hour syndrome and wondered if we could develop a vaccine. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Trying to understand

Bird Droppings March 19, 2011
Trying to understand

It has been interesting this spring weather wise. I have been battling allergies and sinus issues daily between freezes and rain and then not enough rain and the pollen. When I headed to school today I had been thinking about the many years of daily writing and journaling of my ideas and thoughts. Many times as I have written over the past years the word perception has come up. I was thinking back one night as we were finishing up a semester I was sitting and posting on our discussion post on the internet as friends and fellow graduate students we were discussing critical race feminism which ties in sex, race, culture, and ethics and to some extent then education. The idea of perception was brought up numerous times as in this course of study for many it has been an opening of eyes that had been closed.
I am an observer by nature and many the times as I walk into someone else’s office or study I immediately peruse the books and items on shelves and desks. I see the papers, the order of items, or lack of order and the amazingly you can quickly make assumptions about that individual. In my own case if someone walked into my writing hovel they would see animal books and magazines as my oldest son also stacks various reading material among my own. There are many years of theology and spiritual matters along with numerous translations of religious texts, and bibles. In stacks many informational texts, child craft, notes from graduate school, and psychology texts scattered among the piles and shelves.
An individual’s personality exists within the piles and various items or at least a perception of who they are. In my case in a quick look you would see several books, Spirit Dance by William Edelen, Red Pedagogy by Sandy Grande, The Passionate Teacher by Robert Fried, Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, a book on Great quotes, The purpose for your life by Carol Adrienne, The Handicapped child in the classroom, Ten Stupid things men do to mess up their life’s by Dr. Laura, A passion for excellence by Tom Peters, Control of Human Behavior, Safety and the Bottom line by Frank E. Bird Jr. It is these books that are on top of piles on my table and desk. Always wondered could a psychological analysis be made of me from those texts sitting out perhaps recent readings or reference sources? Something could be said; perhaps a perception, an opinion, or an assumption could be made about the person.

“Except for the still point there would be no dance ……. And there is only the dance.” William Edelen starts his book Spirit Dance with that line from T.S. Elliot

I sit thinking about that line do we have a still point? Last night as I was reading comments as fellow teachers and future teachers discussed their views and realities in a discussion board on line and as we are trying to finish out the year working with students who are waiting for the last few minutes of the last day before summer break. We are using the word senioritis as we address the seniors here in high schools that seem lost in oblivion as their last year winds down. It can be a teenager in the last thirty seconds of school or a graduate student in the last thirty seconds posting before break. “And there is only the dance”
I looked through my book of quotes a little collection of quotes from my first year back teaching containing poems from myself and others and photos of students school etc. sort of a mini yearbook, always coincidences. I found a Garth Brooks song lyric. The song is The Dance written by Tony Arata, my brother in laws room mate in college at Georgia Southern many years ago.

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end the way it all would go.
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance.” Tony Arata

Thinking about the dance in reference to Elliot’s line and Arata’s line it is about who we are inside and how we see the world. So often in life we want to avoid problems. I am finding as I grow older it is the problems and tribulations that give us the pieces of who we are. It is all of this history that gives us our out look on life, our perception as we view the world. Wandering to back to my graduate school posting discussion as we learned over the semester everyone has a history and it is within that history we can only get a true understanding of who they are. Not really knowing a person history can alter your perception of them.
As I paged through my little book I had copied nearly ten years ago I found a note I had written evidently this book was one of my students. The student had wanted me to write a personal note so I kept the book and then school was over and she never picked up her book and I wrote a second note. As I look back it brings a tear. It seems she quit school with graduation test difficulty found a new boyfriend fiancée and got married and pregnant, sort of all in one fell swoop. Was this a success or failure from a teaching standpoint, did we reach that child. I am sure some would say no.
It has been nearly forty years since I first started teaching. A few years back I had a professor who was ten years old in public school in Macon Georgia when I moved to that town in 1971 or so. Back in the day special needs kids were not all being served in public school IDEA legislation went into effect in 1974. One of my first jobs in education in Macon was a child find. Thirty eight years ago there were not IEP’s or mandatory education for all children. Many disabled students often just stayed home since there really was no place for them in the schools at that time. We found 278 children and adults in less than 90 days who were not being served and we were looking for 50 to start our program.
In those days 1970 – 1973 it wasn’t about curriculum or text books or even lesson plans it was simply students who had never been served. In and among those students was a young black Down’s syndrome fellow, Sammy Jones age 24. He was friendly clean cut and always fixing his hair, checking his shirt to be sure it was tucked and adjusting his belt always making sure every thing was just right. He would be a poster child for correct dress code, always immaculate. Sammy would always somehow bring up “big momma”, seems he called his mother “big momma”.
I remember one day after we started up our daily program and Sammy was in “school” his excuse to not do work would be “big momma said I don’t have to do that” when he didn’t want to do something. I recall Sammy’s favorite class was nap time. As I think back to my first days teaching in Georgia it has been some time since I really thought about Ms. Rawl’s and Lucky Duck nursery where my late brother John attended school when we first moved to Macon. A matter of perception perhaps it seems the promised school to get my father to move his business to Macon never materialized and my brother became the token white boy in an all black school. My brother John was “bussed” in.
The funny thing was Ms. Rawls, my mother and I ended up writing federal grant that got initial funding in Macon for disabled children. There was a significant clause, the schools had to integrate. A coincidence perhaps, but as I think back and remember driving across town to that old school to pick up John at Lucky Duck he wasn’t a token child he was a child at a school and for him every day he would be smiling not one time did John get upset about his school I never remember my mother complaining about where he was going to school I do remember Ms. Rawls and how much concern she had for John. Maybe our perception was different back then. As I think back my mothers and my own I do not think changed significantly but many others did.

“No one would have ever crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off in the storm” Charles Kettering

It takes getting across the sea to arrive at the other side when the storms get rough quitting is not an option. So many people when times are rough choose getting off in the storm but far too often the waves and turmoil do them in. It is about in life how we perceive and how we see the world around us. A few minutes ago several of us were talking in the hall and a student mentioned she paid eighty dollars for a pair of jeans that was a mass of holes. Our discussion went to how people are paid to make holes in jeans which are then sold. Perception, I have jeans with significant holes in them each earned and remembered. A wonderful day a quiet day but in the turmoil and strife please keep all in harms way on my mind and in your hearts today as the bombings and such continue in the middle east let us strive for peace
namaste
bird

So many are confused by religion

Bird Droppings February 20, 2011
So many are confused by religion

But as I sit here today thinking and wondering about all that is I am recalling last night involved in a blog discussion on religion which was interesting. There are so many views and ideas many intellectualized and quantified and stratified. It seems everyone has their own view which in and of its self is good. The concept of faith is an individual thing. It has been some time since I walked several miles each morning with a good friend who at the time was in seminary discussing his views my views and classes he was taking in seminary at that time. There is a push in Georgia to include the Old and New Testament in public schools as a high school class and actually already a very structured guideline had been generated.
But how many teachers could teach it purely as literature, as a book, and not delve into faith and belief that will be the deciding factor. It would take an unbiased teacher to teach this course of study so as to not become a religion class and that is a difficult road. But then again why not offer the Qumran, Rig Vedas, and other considered holy texts in a similar course. Odds are great those will never come up in Georgia’s legislator.

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.” The Definition of freedom of religion as per The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the 58 Member States of the United Nations General Assembly

Yet we persist in missionary work and trying to convert others. Not only here in the United States, but it seems almost biological that humans as a species want everyone to believe the same things. It must be engrained in our DNA which some believers would denies exists at all anyhow. So I went out in my back yard and sat meditating and thinking about the day ahead and seeing all the beginnings of leaves and dogwood flowers. My dog seems to like just sniffing along the porch might be chipmunks or voles again. I thought about our founding fathers many of whom contrary to popular believe were humanists and or deists.

“One of the embarrassing problems for the nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was the fact that NOT ONE of the first six presidents of the United States was a Christian. They were Deists.” THE ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA, 1968, vol.2, p.420,

This is no attempt to dissuade thinking but in a time when religion is influencing our national direction more so than in many previous periods and often at the sake of science and of humanity as a whole and more often than not for profit and power. Cuts to the federal and even state budgets are not items to benefit the people but industry and profits. Amazing as we are using religion as the manipulative tool to pull it all together even preaching from local pulpits that global warming is a hoax. We need to look beyond the religiosity presented to where does this put us in ten years or twenty. We are increasing pollution and destroying wilderness more so than in any era of modern history and allowing companies to pollute more and big businesses to reap profits beyond wall streets expectations all at the expense of the majority of people.
I am not arguing religion it is a powerful tool for good as well but in the wrong hands and with the wrong motivations a weapon of destruction. As we sit posed to expand our wars one of the few things not cut in our budget arguments. Most people are not even aware I am sure corporate gurus at major industries world wide are chomping at the bit more cash flow from defense contracts, feeding troops (privatized), purifying water, selling gasoline to armies and providing reconstruction in a war zone price (Army auditors found a three hundred million dollar error based on a company having done nothing in terms of construction and already being paid). Peace is cheaper or maybe not good business.

“Every footstep is the journey. Every sight, every sound, every touch and taste and smell with which we are blessed is the journey. All of the colors before us are the journey, and we are the journey. May we always keep our feet on Mother Earth, our eyes and minds above the treetops, our spirit with the Greater Universal Spirit. And may we always walk the path of Good Medicine in harmony and balance, with a sense of humility, kindness, wonder, and respect for all living things as we follow the sacred trail of those who have come before us and those yet to come.” Dr. Michael Tlanusta Garrett, Walking on the Wind, 1998, is from the Eastern Band of Cherokee, he grew up on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in the mountains of western North Carolina. He holds a Ph.D. in counselor education and a M.Ed. in counseling and development.

Each day I wonder can we overcome all that ails our world and I ask each of you to please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Solitude is within ones soul and heart

Bird Droppings February 2, 3, and now 4, 2011
Solitude is within ones soul and heart

“No person, standing before this mystery, has the wisdom or the knowledge to see across the curtain. But for those who stand before their dead with aching hearts and tear filled eyes, one affirmation endures..one truth remains…and one light shines clear. Where there has been love, there has been Life. Its birthplace was the human heart where, for thousands and thousands of years, with all peoples in all cultures, it has brought joy…built hope…been the mother of beauty…overcome fear and given a richness and significance to the living of days that otherwise would have been absent.” William Edelen

I have just read through several of William Edelen’s sermons or Sunday symposiums as he calls them. Now in his nineties this extremely free thinker writes about politics, religion and love in this instance. It has been a few years since my wife went to visit her grandmother’s grave site in South Central Georgia. My wife, her mother and her sisters all journeyed together and walked about the small church’s grave yard with their mother narrating and explaining who was who and relationships to them.
When ever I get a chance I walk out behind my brother’s house and walk to my father and brothers grave site which is sitting on a hill over looking a soccer field where children play nearly every day. It just hit me how appropriate for their resting spot. Perhaps it was the recent funeral of a friends husband and such that made me think in this manner. Why do we wait for death to impart to our loved ones our inner most feelings? Why do we so often find the time to go to grave yards to honor and muse about what we should have done when they were with us?

Solitude is within us

An inadvertent meandering through life,
Wandering as I journey.
Glimpsing pieces of my life’s puzzle,
Pondering each more intricate than the last.
Sadly I grow weary from so many missteps,
Along the boulder strewn pathway.
Every day older my physical capabilities diminish
And my mental aptitude slows.
Names come more slowly,
And memories often either exaggerated or forgotten,
Guide my thoughts,
What few seem to come to me?
All linking me past, present and future,
Pondering reality midst the travels.
Frank Bird III, 2010

It has been a few years since I rode on a bus from the hotel to the Wall in Washington D.C. I was riding with a bus load of high school kids all giggling, laughing, singing and yelling and I was sitting brooding wondering how I would react. I measured each block as we drove closer. I soon saw nothing but The Wall, a black ribbon wandering what seemed forever through the park. Students were given a token flower to place at the Wall. I walked over to a large volume sitting on a table which contained the list of names on the wall and guide to find where those fallen were to be found on numerous panels. Carefully on my hand I wrote names of friends from High school who perished in Viet Nam. I never did get to say good bye to any of them, I was living in Georgia before most went to war or had been too busy at school or work to realize they were gone. Seems when I left high school I had not really kept tab with anyone. Perhaps it was assuming I would see these guys at reunions and such. It might have been my ever zealous desire to not be in high school anymore.

“Absolutely speaking, Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you is by no means a golden rule, but the best of current silver. An honest man would have but little occasion for it. It is golden not to have any rule at all in such a case.” Henry David Thoreau

After several minutes of paging through the large book I found a name and it hit me. It has been nearly twenty five years since I had seen this guy, and in my mind he had been very much alive. His name was on the wall about waist height carved into the black face of an enormously large piece of rock. At that moment the Wall stretched for miles in my mind and I had to walk away.

“The whole circle of consciousness is an added fact to that of movement. For this reason, we cannot speak of thought as occupying space or having exact locality.” Dr. James Mark Baldwin, Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, University of Toronto, 1890

Several minutes nearly an hour later my son found me sitting atop a hill on a bench looking down at the Wall. A squirrel had been running back and forth trying to get my attention probably wanting a peanut or popcorn of which I had neither. “Dad it is time to go” was my pull back to reality and I walked with my son to the buses.

“Where there has been love, there has been Life.” William Edelen

Looking back and wondering, even pondering today do we need to take the time to realize what it is that gives us life. Do we need to recognize more deeply and openly how we feel now while we can. Or should we wait to eulogize and postulate as we close the lid and bury our friends and families. Or should we wait twenty five years and stand at a Wall or monument or memorial to fallen heroes and loved ones only to lay a flower on cold marble or hand it now to warm hands. I think I will stop at the store on the way home today peace my dear friends and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird