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Tag Archives: community

In Those Years

Adrienne Rich points out the paradox of living in community and being a person. It is in community that we uplift each other. It can be easy to forget about the you and the we that makes up community in the midst of what we perceive as our personal struggles. When that happens, we can find ourselves reduced to individuals and I.

We try to live a personal life and it is the only one we can bear witness to. It is in remembering our personal life carries an ethical responsibility for others, even those who we do not know. It is in locking elbows and holding hands with one another we overcome the tyranny and terror that strikes at us. The weather is not personal. It is something we share with each other.

In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to

But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through the rags of fog
where we stood, saying I.

Anne Murray performed a song called Good News. It seems appropriate on a day filled with heartbreak and loss for many in the world.

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The Prayer of St. Francis

Today is a special day in our lives. 41 years ago, Kathy and I were married. We chose The Prayer of St. Francis was one of our readings and have a simple plaque on our bedroom wall of the prayer.

The prayer is a reminder of how we affect the world, beginning with those closest to us. It is a reminder of how being mindful and present are essential in relationships.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

Silver Star

When I looked for a poem, this one by William Stafford found me. Mountains appear to be immovable and unchangeable, yet as people do they do so without immediate notice. Yet, when we revisit them, we realize the changes that occurred.

In the case of teachers, Parker Palmer speaks about asking the question “who is the self who teaches?” We are each teachers in our own particular ways, so asking this question is essential. We often overlook this question in pursuit of easier to answer questions about the what, when, where, why, and how.

When we ask who we are, we explore the values that anchor us in living life. In times of crisis, those values guide us and help us through those tough times. Attending to them in mindful ways each day as a gardener would her/his garden grounds us in them in times of real need. They have spiritual meaning that come to life in living and expressing them daily through who we are as a human being.

If we serve our values well, “we will hear the world say, ‘Well done.'” The patience of living a good life, which in Aristotle‘s terms, is indefinable will be the reward. Like a mountain guiding us on our journey, the values we live and express guide us and others on a shared journey.

To be a mountain you have to climb alone

and accept all that rain and snow. You have to look

far away, when evening comes. If a forest

grows, you care; you stand there leaning against

the wind, waiting for someone with faith enough

to ask you to move. Great stones will tumble

against each other and gouge your sides. A storm

will live somewhere in your canyons hoarding its lightning.

If you are lucky, people will give you a dignified

name and bring crowds to admire how sturdy you are,

how long you can hold still for the camera. And some time,

they say, if you last long enough you will hear God;

a voice will roll down from the sky and all your patience

will be rewarded. The whole world will hear it: “Well done.”

The Uses of Not

Jacques Derrida wrote, when we speak of one thing, we invoke its opposite and what it is not. For example, to speak of a man or woman I speak of its opposite a woman or a man. Instead of understood as opposites, things, including words and ideas, complement each other, making them whole.

Albert Camus suggested “there is no love of life without despair of life.” Without one, we cannot have the other. Compassion means to share one’s love and suffering with each other. When we look deeper and are mindful of what we see, we recognize the how what is not readily evident is needed to make the whole of something.

This is not a new idea. Lao Tzu wrote this poem about what makes something useful is what complements it: the hub and spokes of a wheel; the hollow of a pot and the clay; and doors and windows and the room. Each profits from what it is not.

Often, there is paradox in understanding how things and people complement one another, making them whole.

Thirty spokes

meet in the hub.

Where the wheel isn’t

is where it’s useful

Hollowed out,

clay makes a pot.

Where the pot’s not

is where it’s useful.

Cut doors and windows

to make a room.

Where the room isn’t,

there’s room for you.

So the profit in what is

is in the use of what isn’t.

How do I listen?

When I began to look for a poem today, I chose one by Hafiz. It reminds me of the following Buddhist proverb:

How do I listen? The question is eloquent, as it does not have a fixed and expected answer. It suggests being present and mindful as another person speaks and as the universe speaks to me. Hafiz counsels me to treat what the other says as a gift to be cherished as the last words of a Master.

It is when I listen that the teacher appears. I am ready for the teachings of the Other. Emmanuel Levinas capitalized other to point out an unconditional responsibility for the Other. How I listen reveres the Other, who is my teacher in that moment.

How

Do I

Listen to Others?

As if everyone were my Master

Speaking to me

His

Cherished

Last

Words.

 

 

 

From “The Rock Will Wear Away”

Today on the way home, we stopped the Okotoks Erratic or Big Rock. In the Blackfoot language, it is Okotok, which means rock. It weighs about 16, 500 tonnes (18, 000 tons), is about 41 by 18 metres (135 by 60) feet wide, and is about 9 metres high (30 feet).

During the Pleistocene Era between 12, 000 and 17, ooo years, a glacier dropped the big rock in what is now prairie just below the foothills and Rocky Mountains. There are two rocks and on the flat of the prairie they seem erratic and out-of-place. The size of the rocks speaks to the power of nature.

I have a question about this rock. How big was it when the glacier dropped it in its place?

Holly Near is a singer-songwriter. The following is a short excerpt from one of her songs. As she proposes, the rock appears stronger than water. But, is it?

Humans and water are resilient, they come back time and again. Our fragility makes us vulnerable, but, at the same time, provides durability. Like water slowly eroding a large rock down into smaller and smaller bits, humans, through their mindful and collective efforts, can bring about dramatic change to the world.

Can we be like drops of water falling on the stone

Splashing, breaking, disbursing in air

Weaker than the stone by far but be aware

That as time goes by the rock will wear away

And the water comes again

The Contract: A Word from the Led

William Ayot wrote this poem as a reminder to those who aspire to lead that there are people who are led. This weekend is important to me as I am being “hooded” for my PhD in the Philosophy of Leadership Studies.

In my dissertation, I argued teachers are leaders. To educate means to lead out of childhood and youth in a caring way. Pedagogy is to lead children. The leading teachers undertake is serving and transforming the world they inhabit, preparing a new generation for the unknown beyond the walls of the classroom and the moment.

I understand teaching as a vocation and calling that gives me voice. It is expressing who I am at the very core of my being and becoming. It was a dream I pursued for years and shared with others. Hannah Arendt said action transforms the world in ways we cannot anticipate and know. Unlike work and labour action transcends time and space. Teaching was never work for me and it was always voluntary.

As a PhD in the field of leadership it is essential to recall this as I move forward and become involved in teacher education at the university level, working with teachers, and writing about the leading teachers undertake. Andragogy is leading adults.

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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