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Faith

Today, was the last full weekend of classes for me. I have one more class to go and I need to finish the preliminary document for my dissertation proposal which is this weekend’s job. There is a faith that comes with this latter effort. When I began, it seemed daunting, but with over 100 pages for the first three sections in place it is more manageable looking.

Along with finishing classes, I will go home and the bulk of my work will be done there. There are challenges in that, as at Gonzaga, I had a particular discipline which was not the case at home before I retired from the classroom. Working full-time and all the other things that life brings, did not always provide time to work at the necessary routine in a disciplined way. Having said this, the shadow of newly found discipline casts a shadow which gives life to it.

Czeslaw Milosz suggested a shadow is what gives something strength to live and I am thinking of discipline and routine that way today as I ready myself for my Sabbath.

The word Faith means when someone sees
A dew-drop or a floating leaf, and knows
That they are, because they have to be.
And even if you dreamed, or closed your eyes
And wished, the world would still be what it was,
And the leaf would still be carried down the river.

It means that when someone’s foot is hurt
By a sharp rock, he also knows that rocks
Are here so they can hurt our feet.
Look, see the long shadow cast by the trees;
And flowers and people throw shadows on the earth:
What has no shadow has no strength to live.

The Low Road

I had to read this whole poem as the first stanza is scary, but Marge Piercy provides a message about the way we our Self.  We are never alone in this work even when we are separate in time and space. Humans connect in ways that make the person stronger.

When we care and act, the world becomes a different place. It is one act, one word, one smile at a time. It is a moment of mindful gratitude at a time. It happens when we are attentive, mindful, and present in the world and not as detached observers.

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can’t walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can’t stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.
Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again and they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know you who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

This is what you shall do

This is not a poem, but Walt Whitman used poetic language and deep meditative thought it qualifies. He used  language in ways that are politically incorrect today, but provided considerable insight into what it might mean to be a servant-leader and live in the world that way.

I become part of the world and it is embodied in me in such remarkable ways as I learn from the world. I think that is the counsel that this passage provides for me and asks of me.

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons with the young and the mother of families, read these leaves in the open air every season in every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…”

I Want to Write Something So Simply

Mary Oliver has a magical way of writing. There is a simplicity in her writing that is moving and stirring. It always gently reminds us that we are not alone even when we are alone. We are part of a larger complex called humanity which has many common shared loves and pains. When we pause, even for a moment, we get a sense of this largesse.

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your heart
had been saying.

Snow

I chose this poem by Louis MacNeice for various reasons which is one of the poem’s underlying themes. The poem is about the fragmented ways we see the world. Humans are limited in that sense, but being mindful, present, and attending to our immediate world begins to offset this and present a more complete picture.

There is always a (w)hole in the hole, a sense of mystery, but it seems less challenging and we see the extraordinary we might otherwise miss. We are in the world not separated from it by windows and walls we construct.

Spokane received snow yesterday and it is easy to wish spring were here or summer. But, the snow added a backdrop and left provided a crisp world that has lasted into today.

This morning, I watched a squirrel tentatively climb snowy tree limbs. It moved slowly, but eventually reached its food. It was a blessing to be in the world and not outside.

The room was suddenly rich, and the great bay window was

Spawning snow and pink roses against it

Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:

World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,

Incorrigibly plural, I peel and portion

A tangerine and spit the pips and feel

The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world

Is more spiteful and gay than an one supposes–

On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands–

There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Chuang Tzu And The Butterfly

Li Po wrote poems that asked questions. A common theme was drinking alcohol, but, when I read his poetry, I wonder if it was alcohol or his intoxication with the world he lived in? What is real and not real sometimes blurs boundaries and we ask questions about what is real and not real. Who is the leader and who is not appears in Li Po’s poetry.

Herman Hesse blurred the lines between Leo as a leader and Leo as a servant in Journey to the East. Who serves who? What does it mean to lead and serve? There is a Taoist quality in those questions.

Chuang Tzu in dream became a butterfly,
And the butterfly became Chuang Tzu at waking.
Which was the real—the butterfly or the man ?
Who can tell the end of the endless changes of things?
The water that flows into the depth of the distant sea
Returns anon to the shallows of a transparent stream.
The man, raising melons outside the green gate of the city,
Was once the Prince of the East Hill.
So must rank and riches vanish.
You know it, still you toil and toil,—what for?

A Great Need

The great Sufi poet Hafiz wrote this several centuries ago, but I think it applies today as much as ever. We find each other when we find community and common purpose which is part of human being. We find strength in difficult times and that is found in the richness of holding hands and not letting go.

Out

Of a great need

We are all holding hands

And climbing.

Not loving is a letting go.

Listen,

The terrain around here

Is

Far too

Dangerous

For

That.

Landscape Survey

I chose a metaphor about 21st Century learning being similar to a living topography in my writing to date, which is different from the flat world view of some i.e. Thomas Friedman.

There is definitely more information available in our world and it comes at us much faster, but my view is one that of textured and layered world and not flat. This uses the etymological roots of topic linked to topikas and topos. In this sense, we engage topics which are alive and there multiple meanings continually emerge, one for each person in the learning environment.

I am challenged by the thought my understanding is not the only one that applies. I only need to turn to nature and see what John Brehm pointed out in this poem. I constantly survey landscapes as communally a better world hopefully emerges, not through a unified understanding, but one diversely rich and humane. I am called to remember others see things from a particular and unique perspective that is their own, not mine.

And what about this boulder,

knocked off the mountain top and

tumbled down a thousand years ago

 to lodge against the stream bank,

does it waste itself with worry

about how things are going

to turn out? Does the current

slicing around it stop itself mid-

stream because it can’t get past

all it’s left behind back at

the source or up in the clouds

where its waters first fell

 to earth? And these trees,

would they double over and

clutch themselves or lash out

 furiously if they were to discover

what the other trees really

thought of them? Would the wind

 reascend into the sky forever,

like an in-drawn breath,

if it knew it was fated simply

to sweep the earth of windlessness,

to touch everything and keep

Sweet is the Oneness

I just finished writing the first draft of a short paper on complexity and the teacher’s practice. Much of this is not new. A classroom has the potential to become a community. It is about the needs of each student within a classroom and their personal lived histories. Around that community has the potential to emerge. I cannot plan for it. I can wish for it. Community grows out of the livingness of our lives when we linger on bridges that link us and we while away time in those moments. This is different then when someone chooses a team with a specific goal in mind.

Those are not my thoughts. I added to the thinking of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Max van Manen, David Jardine, and Ted Aoki. I found  complexity is something we have talked about throughout history, yet we it treat like it is new. I looked for a poem that fit my writing. The first poet that appeared was Rumi and he led me to this beautiful poem about the oneness of community.

If ten lamps are in one place,

each differs in form from another;

yet you can’t distinguish whose radiance is whose when you focus on the light.

In the field of spirit there is no division; no individuals exist.

Sweet is the oneness of the Friend with His friends.

Catch hold of spirit.

Help this headstrong self disintegrate;

that beneath it you may discover unity,

like a buried treasure.

The Contract: A Word From the Led

We often think of leadership from the perspective of the person in charge. What about those who follow? What does it mean to be led by a particular person? I find, at times, that I get in a hurry to lead and forget to listen which is such an important part of leadership.

William Ayot provided this insightful poem which offers advice for the leader through the eyes of the follower. Leadership is about serving and mindfulness which intersect with integrity.

And in the end we follow them -

not because we are paid,

not because we might see some advantage,

not because of the things they have accomplished,

not even because of the dreams they dream

but simply because of who they are:

the man, the woman, the leader, the boss,

standing up there when the wave hits the rock,

passing out faith and confidence like life jackets,

knowing the currents, holding the doubts,

imagining the delights and terrors of every landfall;

captain, pirate, and parent by turns,

the bearer of our countless hopes and expectations,

We give them our trust. We give them our effort.

What we ask in return is that they stay true.

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