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Tag Archives: eloquent questions

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.”

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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

Character of Teaching

While having tea in a small coffee shop I inhabit, I jotted down the beginnings of a poem.

A phrase that repeated itself in my dissertation and the interviews was “differences make a difference.” When I began teaching, people asked “what made me go into teaching, particularly at 32 years of age.” It was the sentiment that I might make a difference, maybe not for every student, but for some. It reminds me of the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song: Teach Your Children Well, but it is more than teaching. It is serving them and whatever I do well.

Someday, whether we are teachers or not, we feel a desire to be lost. Responsibilities weigh on us whether we are parents, at our work, partners in a relationship, etc. In our relationships with the weight of responsibilities, something calls us each back. It is more of a whisper. It can only belong to each of us. Teaching was this way for me.

I experience a desire to be lost,

Weighing down on me,

Responsibilities cloak me like a vapour

Covering me with their many coats,

They arrive without being asked.

From the multitude, one desire arises;

A clarion call from the cosmos,

It carresses my soul;

It whispers “be useful and kind.”

A flower sharing its pollen,

Spread on the wings of others;

Teach what is possible–

What is possible of each of us?

Save them from glory seekers and profiteers;

Gently, send them away

Pollinating a new generation,

Flowering anew with compassion,

Rejoice as they float around the corner,

Knowing not what they will sow,

Trusting your character.

I took this picture on the upper reaches of the Fraser River. Around the corner from Kathy, the river narrows quickly and there is a waterfall.

i thank You God for this most amazing

When I taught, I used e. e. cummings not just during poetry lessons, but to point out to students we did not always have to follow rules when writing. Following Cummings’ writing, I told students to get thoughts down on paper and we could edit later.

Cummings did not break rules of writing in his poetry. As we see in the first line of this poem, he capitalized two words.

I took the message as opening my eyes and ears to the world around me. As I walked this morning, I noticed birds chirping. One scrambled to hide under a truck parked along the street. In another place, there was a smell of something rotting, maybe someone fertilizing. The wind was chilly, but, when the sun emerged from hiding, i warmed me.

The sounds, sights, smells, touches of the world awaken my senses on those walks. They are like the flow of water I hear from a distance as I approach the river that tumbles over the edge. When I am mindful, I sense nature in a fuller way.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

We took this picture in Yellowstone.

The Opening of Eyes

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” — Einstein

Several years ago, Kathy and I were in Jasper National Park. We had gone for a drive and stopped at an overview of a valley. The rest area was quite large and we walked around it trying to get different views of the valley.

We noticed something at the far end of the area just on the other side of the low stone wall. We moved quietly towards it and realized it was a young elk, probably a cow. She sat almost perfectly still, posing for the camera.

David Whyte wrote this lovely poem about the opening of eyes. That evening, if our eyes had not been open, we would not have seen the elk quietly laying there with only her head showing above the wall. It begs the question: How much do I miss even with my eyes open? What solid ground do I miss as a I move through life with closed eyes?

The elk would have known we were there, but we took precautions to be still and quiet so to not stress her. The attention to quiet in a quiet place by a wild animal reminded me of opening my eyes to experience the world more fully.

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

 

The Difference Between Judging and Discerning

Source: The Difference Between Judging and Discerning

I am on the road for a couple of days, so I am not sure what I can post in terms of original material. I turn to pressing some great posts from others.

Val‘s post resonated with me, because judging and discerning were part of my dissertation. Hans-Georg Gadamer used these concepts in Truth and Method and they formed a significant part of my conceptual framework, literature review, and conclusions.

Gadamer proposed humans judge the world, ideas, and people as they encounter them. He used the term prejudice, which is a way of prejudging the world as we engage with it and others. In effect, there is a right or wrong way to engage. I used parentheses, because it has a negative connotation and to slow the pace of reading. It became (pre)judge and (pre)judice, which annoyed two of my committee members.

When we take more time to read text and (con)text, that which encircles us, we can (dis)cern and (in)form ourselves as we realize the world and people are complex. WE ask eloquent questions that do not have predetermined answers. We let the question frame dialogue with the world and others.

Val said “when we detach [ourselves] from the belief of good or bad, and discern life’s multicolors and shades, we find freedom beyond the rules and conditioning of the mind.” We let go of judgements of a world that is cast in binary choices of black or white, moving to complex (con)textual understandings (sub)ject to discerning and seeking new and continuous understandings. Ted Aoki contended “and” means more than the binary nature of “or.”

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