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Category Archives: Leadership

The Poet’s Obligation

I am back. I found it difficult to write a poem and turned to others who might offer me something today.

Pablo Neruda wrote about the poet’s obligation to those cooped up in an office, away from the sounds of nature, and the foam of the sea. Poetry brings the world and its text to people who for whatever reason they are no present to that part of the world.

The poet brings the sea, the thunder, and the foam to the reader in what Neruda called a perpetual cup. Poets share and are part of the world others cannot always find.

The poet is mindful of the world and reflects on it to capture its essence and meaning in ways each person can experience and interpret what that means to them. They pose questions without ready answers to structure each person’s with the world and the poem. The poem becomes a medium to interpret the world as a text.

To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to who ever is cooped up
in house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or dry prison cell,
to him I come, and without speaking or looking
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a long rumble of thunder adds itself
to the weigh of the planet and the foam,
the groaning rivers of the ocean rise,
the star vibrates quickly in its corona
and the sea beats, dies, and goes on beating.

So. Drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea’s lamenting in my consciousness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the sentence of the autumn,
I may be present with an errant wave,
I may move in and out of the windows,
and hearing me, eyes may lift themselves,
asking “How can I reach the sea?”
And I will pass to them, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing itself,
the gray cry of sea birds on the coast.

So, though me, freedom and the sea
will call in answer to the shrouded heart.

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To Discriminate

I will not post this weekend, as I am away. As well, I want to begin writing an article, so my schedule will change next week, but I will be back.

After I wrote my poem yesterday, I thought about what it might mean to live in a different way than I do. I cannot. I do not have those experiences. To discriminate is to see and recognize differences. In a world of extreme ideologies, there are those who simply refuse to see differences as essential to our human condition.

Hannah Arendt wrote about living in pluralism being the ultimate human condition. It is what makes us each a person, separates us in some distinct way from others. It is challenging and unavoidable.

I lived in a small town in Northern Alberta when I was young. We were the only French-speaking family with children in the community. I understand others have suffered more than I ever did. It seems it is only the loud ones with most extreme ideology who act and speak with violence that are seen and heard.

Edmund Burke contended “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.”

Albert Einstein said “Compassionate people are geniuses in the art of living, more necessary to the dignity, security, and joy of humanity than the discoverers of knowledge.”

Thomas Merton pointed us in the direction of mindfulness: “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”

I think compassion is being mindful of the beauty we find in the differences of others and the world. It is speaking up and out when we see things done that are not proper. It is in being mindful and present to the Other that we are most human. I leave you with these thoughts.

To discriminate,

To see the differences in the Other,

It is what makes living worthwhile.

Without seeing differences,

The world is a monotone,

A sea of sameness.

Without seeing differences,

The world is extreme,

A dangerous place.

Without seeing differences,

I do not see the exceptional,

I cannot see an Other’s humanity.

 

Dreamers

I thought about some violence we experience in the world. The last few days it is that theme that has drawn me in my writing.

The word compassion comes from sharing a love of something and the suffering that comes from sharing. The word companion comes from sharing a meal, usually on a journey with others.

We have more in common than makes us different. It is differences that make us unique. The ancient concept of common sense (sensus communis) was what a community shared and held in common, to be passed on to the next generation.

With violence, what do we think we are passing on to the next generation? I would like to think we pass on the good we have in common, the sharing of things we love and suffer with, and we will stop for a meal with each other in times we feel strife.

New emerges and we replace what is outdated and unnecessary, but more remains than we replace when we are mindful and attentive to the world we share.

We are dreamers,

Imagining what might be,

Wondering what could be,

Wondering, “who do we share with?”

In suffering and loving,

Experiencing (com)passion.

In moments of passion,

We share with one another,

Delighting us in one moment,

In the next, suffering together

(Com)panions sharing our daily bread.

Sand Castles

Children live in each moment. Their inexperience allows them to be in a world that seems novel. They build sand castles in those moments. As adults we think we lose that ability to build our sand castles.

Being mindful and present to the world and others is a way of building sand castles, perhaps in some metaphoric way. How can I think about this person and that thing differently? How do I bring less suffering and pain to the world in understanding “differences make a difference?” Unlike children, adults often understand differences as threats.

It reminds me of Tolstoy‘s quote: “if you want to be happy, be.”

A child, playing in sand,

Building sand castles,

Absorbed in that moment.

The world is immediate,

Demanding one be present,

To embedded in this very moment.

As a child,

We know nothing different,

Our castles are real and momentous.

To outgrow our castles,

That is a tragedy,

To lose being mind(ful).

Let me return to that world,

To build castles in the sand,

As only a child can.

When I taught, the Grade 7 students built chairs for Science class. A criterion was they had to use recycled materials. They always built terrific chairs with little help from adults.

Eloquence of Ambiguity

Language matters. Yesterday, I read a post on an educational blog. Essentially, the person argued that “data driven education” was stupid and education was “child driven.” I accept children make choices about what they learn. As a teacher, I used data, including their choices, to inform how I taught.

What I understood demeaned anyone who spoke differently than this person. It is in pluralism and diversity the essence of eloquent ambiguity that we appreciate the world and receive gifts.

Most people accept a world that is grey and their language appreciates the eloquence of ambiguity. Language has a way of fixing things as if they were more permanent. It is the capacity of humans to interpret and re-interpret that brings forth the elegance of the world.

Appreciate the world as it is

It does not arrive pre-packaged.

Embrace uncertainty and ambiguity

Let its eloquence emerge.

Open your heart

Receive unimaginable beauty.

There are no pat answers

Only an internal compass that guides you.

This is a path in Waterton Lakes National Park. A person only sees a short distance ahead when walking a path. What comes next is uncertain.

Driftwood

I am back. The retreat was enjoyable and tiring. Although it was called a retreat, it was different in the sense that it involved research, writing, and lots of conversation. I find retreats invigorating. They are not sit, listen, and try taking notes as a speaker blasts through their presentation.

Retreats have a conversational part. Parker Palmer counsels people at his retreats not to take notes. Instead, we spend time writing and conversing how we feel about various prompts. That was a purpose of this retreat. It is the Currere Exchange.

Currere is the etymological root of curriculum, meaning to run the course of one’s life. It is a subjective way of interpreting a planned curriculum in a school. Whether teachers understand it or not, they are doing this continuously. As one of my co-researchers told me we make decisions about what to teach and leave things out we really like.

In a sense, currere is polishing a planned curriculum. It is a multi-faceted and complicated conversation between a person (re)membering their lived-experiences, aspire to a particular way of teaching in the future, and synthesize those two moments into the present. Each moment acts as a curriculum to inform the other, complicating one’s teaching in a dialogic way. Others enter the classroom and add to the complicated nature of the conversation, each adding their curriculum to the dialogue. It is like a piece of driftwood, being polished by the forces it comes in contact with.

My story being polished,

I (re)member and imagine;

Washed up on a new shore,

Who I am reflected anew.

I am a character in my story,

I pause a moment,

Noting lustre and matte,

Interpreting new meanings.

Soaking in the contours of living,

Experiencing new awakenings,

Running the course of my life,

Each new moment polishing me afresh.

Kathy took this picture in Waterton Lakes National Park.

 

Walk Your Path

We each walk our own path. Others can walk beside us, hold our hand, and be there. What they cannot do is live our lives.

I thought about traveling today, as I prepare for my trip tomorrow. It brought several quotes to mind about the paths we travel and what that means.

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Walk beside me and be my friend.” Camus

“It’s your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.” Rumi 

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” Thoreau

The reflecting led me to look through some notes and this poem emerged.

Walk it so may be glorious.

Your courage is your truth

Let it shine a light on the path.

Discover beauty in what you give

Let it be the path you seek.

Walk at your pace

Be present in the world.

Walk with your story

Follow the questions of your quest.

Find a space to catch a glimpse of yourself

It is a space to dance, sing, and live.

Be vulnerable in that space

It is makes you who you are.

This is a path at Sunwapta Falls in Jasper National Park. We walked down to the see the falls and Kathy took the picture as I walked back up. The roots and people walking wove a pattern and story into the path.

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