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You Are the Only Student You Have

Rumi wrote poetry that resonates over centuries. When we take time to be thankful and silent, we are one with the universe. We sense the right time to speak.

When we become our student, it is important to be silent and patient with the student. Without patience and compassion, the student does not learn. The teacher cannot teach and wisdom cannot be received.

When we receive ourselves as both teacher and student, questions open up not to be answered as inviting spaces. We move beyond change and transform who we are.

You are the only faithful student you have.
All the others leave eventually.

Have you been making yourself shallow
with making others eminent?

Just remember, when you’re in union,
you don’t have to fear
that you’ll be drained.

The command comes to speak,
and you feel the ocean
moving through you.
Then comes, Be silent,
as when the rain stops,
and the trees in the orchard
begin to draw moisture
up into themselves.

Happy Birthday, Albert! | Catherine M Johnson

Happy Birthday, Albert! | Catherine M Johnson.

I am a big Albert Einstein fan and it is his birthday today. I enjoy his eccentric behaviour and wild hair.

Several years ago, a student asked who the guy was in a poster in our classroom.

Without hesitating, I said, “My Dad!” A second student expressed skepticism, but I answered with “Look at him. He has wild hair, is eccentric, and tells great stories. Its my Dad!”.

A third student responded, “It’s Albert Einstein. His name is on the poster.”

For the rest of my teaching years, students, parents, and I were always careful when I began to say something about my Dad. I clarified whether it was my real dad or my figurative dad. The two had interesting quotes in common.

My real Dad would say, “When you stop beating your head against the wall it feels better.” I shared that with students when we talked about Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Gospel

The world gospel comes from the Greek and Latin meaning “a reward for bringing good news.” When we walk through life and notice what we experience we are rewarded. It requires a mindful and thoughtful approach noticing the old and the new sharing space with each other; dependent upon each other.

We are dependent on what is there. Thich Nhat Hanh suggested a garden’s weeds enable the growth of new plants. Farmers plow the previous year’s growth under avoiding erosion, adding nutrition to the soil, and helping keep moisture. We do not know whether the news is good until we pause and remember the context behind the news. What did that “bad” news really mean? When we listen more closely, we hear the music of the world singing a different refrain for us.

Philip Levine wrote this wonderful poem. I thought about what it means to receive news. Perhaps that letter in his pocket was not bad news, but, once he was over the pain, he found something new that he had not sensed before.

The new grass rising in the hills,

the cows loitering in the morning chill,

a dozen or more old browns hidden

in the shadows of the cottonwoods

beside the stream bed. I go higher

to where the road gives up and there’s

only a faint path strewn with lupine

between the mountain oaks. I don’t

ask myself what I’m looking for.

I didn’t come for answers

to a place like this, I came to walk

on the earth, still cold, still silent.

Still ungiving, I’ve said to myself,

although it greets me with last year’s

dead thistles and this year’s

hard spines, early blooming

wild onions, the curling remains

of spider’s cloth. What did I bring

to the dance? In my back pocket

a crushed letter from a woman

I’ve never met bearing bad news

I can do nothing about. So I wander

these woods half sightless while

a west wind picks up in the trees

clustered above. The pines make

a music like no other, rising and

falling like a distant surf at night

that calms the darkness before

first light. “Soughing” we call it, from

Old English, no less. How weightless

words are when nothing will do.

Wisdom

Wisdom.

Dr. Seuss’, Theodore Geisel, books explained abstract concepts fairness, being honest, and accepting differences for children and parents. The irony was for most of his writing career he had no children of his own. It was only when he married a second time that he had two step-daughters.

Whether he intended to or not, Seuss was a social justice teacher. He introduced children and their parents with his writing to unforgettable characters who demonstrated what we could learn on Mulberry Street.

His unforgettable lyrical prose imprinted itself on children in ways they were recalled and, even if misspoken, it made little difference. After all, the words were often made up by Dr. Seuss. Perhaps, we find wisdom in our imaginations? Imagine a world where we treated each other with respect and dignity.

Day of the Imprisoned Writer: a letter to Mahvash Sabet

Day of the Imprisoned Writer: a letter to Mahvash Sabet.

We have many people around the world who are imprisoned for their political and religious beliefs. Usually, I find when we put a face on those that are somehow different they become real and human. It is important to reach out and take the hand of those who suffer persecution at the hands of others regardless of the reasons. It is important to make people real and human.

When I did my undergraduate work, I was able to take one special education course. In the course, a point that was made several times and stuck with me was that we are more alike despite obvious differences than we are different. It is overwhelmingly so.

Do we need science to tell us the obvious? Or, can we see the humanity that lies beneath the differences we want to see?

I think ; therefore I am & Je pense, donc je suis & Penso dunque sono & Ich denke, also bin ich & Pienso, luego existo & Düşünüyorum, öyleyse varım !!

I think ; therefore I am & Je pense, donc je suis & Penso dunque sono & Ich denke, also bin ich & Pienso, luego existo & Düşünüyorum, öyleyse varım !!.

The link included quotes from Rumi and Tolstoy. We begin changing the world as an internal project, one that changes who we are first. The ripple effect is only possible, not certain. I say possible, because there is no certainty in life’s project. They take time, patience, and compassion to encounter who we are in an honest way. Living is hard work and it is not easily completed.

The change in self is possibly easier when we are older and take time living. It is also harder. Are we able to move the same way we did as a younger person? We can be more mindful and attentive perhaps. We can only hope the ripple reaches those close and they are able to use those ripples in meaningful ways.

Whatever we do, we should only expect the change to be our change. We can only till the soil closest and most meaningful to us.

 

It is an issue of private shame

It is an issue of private shame.

The link is not to a poem, but rather to a series of quotes about hunger and the personal shame that comes with it. Politicians use hunger and other social justice issues as talking points and not seeing it as a matter of private and public shame in countries such as Canada and the US with their wealth.

On the left, we have politicians who would subscribe to giving people something. On the right, politicians would blame those who go hungry including the children. Giving people a hand up is important and walking with them is a part of the longer journey. Solving issues such as hunger is community work. It takes neighbours helping each other in those moments of need. Regardless of what we have, we share. Wouldn’t that be a powerful learning in our schools.

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