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Category Archives: Writing

Take a Knee

I begin this post with two points. First, I am not American. I spend time in the US and enjoy my time there. One thing I enjoy, and I shared with my students, is the way Americans respond to their National Anthem. Second, Canada, where I live, has social and historical skeletons in the closet i.e. residential schools.

My aim is not to pass judgment, but to cast a different light on what it means to take a knee. In a world that is increasingly secular, perhaps I lose my way in what it means to live in a spiritual way and it can mean many things to different people.

The image that comes to mind when I think of is people kneeling and standing at the foot of the cross of the crucified Jesus. We were not there, but we are told his friends, family members, and followers knelt and stood. It seems there was no one right way.

When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, I thought of it as praying. The etymology of prayer is to ask earnestly, to beg, and to entreat. Prayer is asking someone i.e. God or something bigger i.e. Universe or a nation than I am to intercede in a concern to me.

To genuflect is to kneel, usually with one knee. It is an act of worship and respect. Parker Palmer wrote about fidelity as something other than mere loyalty. It is loyalty to an obligation, cause, and idea one holds dear.

Who or what one asks depends on one’s spiritual and religious background. What I understand is that there are no fixed answers when I take a knee and pray. I have to listen. Part of praying is silence, listening to what Parker Palmer calls my inner voice. It is only in moments of silence, whether kneeling, standing, or walking, that I hear that inner voice.

I pray in various ways and have since I was a child. When I enter a church, I find holy water, bow to the cross, and complete the sign of the cross. I stand. As I enter a pew I genuflect, taking a knee. I do so with two surgically repaired knees. At times before, during, and after service, I kneel, I pray, and I listen to what my heart says. Other times, I stand. During the Lord’s prayer, I stand and join hands with others asking God to intercede on each of our behalf. As I receive communion, I walk slowly and quietly, bowing my head as I accept the host.

For me, kneeling, standing, and walking quietly show my fidelity to a cause and purpose larger than me. In this case, it is plight of people and our shared humanity. I make a point of being quiet, because it is a time of thoughtful meditation and mindfulness of how the world and I are broken. I beseech someone or something larger than me to intercede and, as Parker Palmer says, to make whole the broken.

 

 

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Joining the Circus

Yesterday, this poem by Mark Nepo found me. I was checking some emails and a site I subscribe to had this poem on it.

For the first time in 30 years, I will not teach and/or learn in formal way this fall. It crept up on me. Yes, I want to teach. I prefer that to joining a circus. In a sense, I am joining the circus. The theme of the poem is how to deal with ups and downs in life. I applied at several universities and received one interview, but came up short.

My challenge is what will we I do in lieu of teaching in some conventional way? As Nepo says, I ready to kiss anything as I hover like a mystical molecule between one stage and another. Like the dozen beginners, I am learning how to juggle and have to begin somewhere.

Each day, I focus on reading and writing and hope to publish in academic journals.  A colleague suggested I write and shed a different light on teaching. As well, I may take some of my poetry and bundle it together in a book. Perhaps, my smile will be so magical I will asked to teach something I did not expect.

I just saw a handwritten note from

Galileo. He was under house arrest

for believing we’re not the center of

everything. Now behind me, in the park,

a dozen beginners, of all ages, learning how

to juggle. We have to start somewhere. The

young man who’s so magical at this is asked

to instruct. He smiles, “You have to keep

trying. Just not the same thing.” Earlier,

I leaned over a letter from Lincoln to a

dead soldier’s mother. This, just weeks

after losing Susan’s mother, sweet

Eleanor. I keep saying her name to

strangers. You see, we all have to

juggle joy and sorrow. Not to do it

well—we always drop something—but

when the up and down of life are

leaving one hand and not yet land-

ing in the other, then we glow, like

a mystical molecule hovering between

birth and death, ready to kiss anything.

 

The Great Paradox

As a teacher, I wonder how we keep children safe from themselves and, at the same time, not curbing their innate curiosity and imagination.

Pablo Picasso said “Every child is born an artist. The challenge is to remain an artist after you grow up.”

Albert Einstein stated “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.

I am less concise, so I wrote a poem.

Born curious and imaginative,

Children do not have to be taught.

Yes, they can hurt themselves,

Ah, they need guides to walk with them,

Without inflicting greater harm.

The challenge lies in a question:

How do I guide them, without damaging them?

‘Tis a great paradox.

 

Pointers to Non-Duality

I am back to post. I am reading and writing. I am working to intersect hermeneutic phenomenology, which I used as my research methodology for my dissertation and the method of currere. The latter is an autobiographical method, in part, based on existential philosophy to explore curriculum through one’s lived-experience. As well, it uses Freudian psychoanalytic theory as part of its foundations. It is this latter aspect I am contrasting with hermeneutic phenomenology as both are interpretive methods.

I moved to radical hermeneutics, linking it with my writing. What I found is there is an overlap with poetry and non-duality.

Bill Pinar developed the method of currere and used Zen philosophy as a third leg for the method. The voice in hermeneutics is poetic, seeking to understand the world in non-dualistic ways and subvert binary thinking.  As I looked for a poem, I found this one by Wu Hsin.

When I am mindful and present to the world in its past, present, and future moments the text I live comes to life with new meaning.

Just as the honey is not sweetness,

The words of Wu Hsin are not

The truth.

However, time spent with these words is like

The aftermath of rain.

In due course, a sprouting of

Understanding will occur and

Will bear fruit at a pace

Outside of one’s control.

To Read a Poem…To Write a Poem

This poem rattled around in my mind and body for the last few days. I did not write it out in rough form, so this is it.

To read a poem;

That is to breath in the world,

Meditating on that world

(Re)membering a fleeting moment–

A moment my whole body experienced;

The smell of pine forest

The distant white-topped mountain

Rocks disturbing a river’s flows

The touch of a gentle breeze,

Cooling a sun-burnt face.

To write a poem;

Breathing out,

A lived-experience,

Giving words to a fleeting moment–

Flowers gesturing towards mountains,

Trees caressed by mountain wind,

Nature’s fragrances arise from the valley

A silence encroaching upon my mediation.

 

Make Music with Your Life

I am writing again, so I am blogging less. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I am writing an article.

Bob O’Mealley’s poem speaks to me in several ways, despite how short it is. How we live is precious. It is musical and offers us jewels to wear.

For me, a second message is the blues. I love the blues and listen to them. I don’t sing well, but, when there is a blues song on that I know, I howl like a guitar player and cut every deep day madness into jewels.

I used to play music many mornings as the students came into the classroom. Music is a universal language and reaches across generations, cultures, ethnicities, etc.

Make music with your life
a
jagged
silver tune
cuts every deepday madness
into jewels that you wear

Carry 16 bars of old blues
with you
everywhere you go
walk thru azure sadness
howlin
Like a guitar player

The Mountain Reveals Herself

One of the wonders of driving from Edmonton to Prince George is passing Mount Robson. For many years, we drove past it several times a year, hoping to catch a glimpse of the peak. On many days, clouds cover its peak entirely or in part.

Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and the Fraser River headwaters the are in the provincial park bearing its name. We have walked along Robson River a ways, but the path goes for about 19 kilometres to a lake fed directly by a glacier.

An azure ceiling shines above,

Shimmering white lace spreads to meet it,

Rippling up from a white jacket;

A snowy zipper on a granite skirt;

Standing on guard below,

Silently an entourage of green warriors.

Gazing upwards,

Discovering her nobility and splendour,

She majestically reveals her grandeur–

To us mere mortals.

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