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Tag Archives: teacher as transformer

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

I enjoy Wendell Berry’s writing and recently began reading his fiction. He wrote a series of novels about a community called Port William and explores what it means to belong to a place and have roots there. He refers to these roots as belonging and caring for a place in way that is reciprocal. As I care for the place, it cares for me.

This poem is my favourite, because it is about belonging in a way that allows me to ask what it means to belong. The title reaches out and I cannot resist it. The first stanza questions the lack of belonging we experience in the modern world.

What does it mean to be radical? The word radical means going to one’s origins or roots. When I read the poem, I think of the possibilities a radical life offers. I seek my roots, the wisdom of those who came before me, and lived on the land. I trace my genealogy and tracks on the land my ancestors tilled and how it cared for their needs.

The second stanza draws me deeper. When I read it, it challenges me to think about what it means to do something that doesn’t compute, like loving unconditionally and not knowing what that means.  The third stanza challenges me to question in ways that do not result in easy answers and embrace the mysteries of living.

Do something that does not compute, make many tracks, and sometimes confuse the world. Go against the grain and do not always take the easy path. Take a proper one and understand I belong to a community of more than one.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

 

Do Pigs Have Udders?

The last year I taught I was away for a week in the fall. When I returned, the students told me they had not enjoyed the substitute teacher. They felt he did not let them chat and told them their conversations were inappropriate. As those students rarely crossed the line between appropriate and inappropriate, I was surprise and asked for an example of a conversation topic.

As they did their Science one day a student asked another if pigs had udders. They felt the conversation was proper and it fit with biology and animal husbandry. One girl, who lived on a farm, insisted they did and the other, who lived in town, said they did not. They asked me if I knew. I laughed and told them I did not know.

Initially, I phoned Kathy who was raised on a farm. She said pigs might have udders, but, if they did, it was a result of a biologic need to nurse offspring. Over the years, the topic came up. A farmer told me farmers don’t ask questions like that, because they don’t really care. Last summer, I read this poem at a retreat and described what had happened. A colleague did a search and informed us pigs do not have udders.

The experience informed me in two ways as a teacher. First, it pointed out an irrevocable truth: human curiosity and questions without absolute answers are essential in living and learning. Second, humans require safe spaces to ask questions like this.

A simple question

Eloquently posed,

It lacks a ready answer

Our curiosity is engaged;

Fueling our learning and conversations.

What does something mean?

Is it true?

Many queries;

We seek to fill gaps–

Certitude is elusive;

Uncertainty prevails.

Years later

I smile and chuckle;

I (re)member–

I appreciate–

A simple, provocative question–

Do pigs have udders?

People can ask the darnedest things. Humour is a cure for even the most challenging moments. It opens up safe spaces for questions to emerge.

 

Faith

Source: Faith

Thich Nhat Hanh writes wonderful and spiritual poetry. Shobna’s post shared a poem about faith and how it evolves daily, perhaps moment-by-moment.

In living with other people we each find faith that is not fixed and set by rigid rules and laws. In this way, we discover “joy, freedom, peace, and love” that is part of living life fully.

When we experience living fully, we engage in conversations that do not answer questions, but raise new questions. We create a dialogic world to share with each other.

 

goldenquotesrb 

Source: goldenquotesrb 

I began following this blog recently and it has many great quotes.

Einstein is one of my favourite sources for quotes. When I taught, I had a poster in the classroom with this quote: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

One day, a student asked who the person in the poster was. I replied that it was my dad. Another student said that could not be true. I answered that we both had wild hair and were eccentric. A third student pointed out Einstein’s name on the poster, but from that time on, students always asked which dad I talked about when I said something about my dad. It was a great way to teach about literal and figurative ideas.

Being present includes responding reflexively in appropriate ways. Listening to others mindfully, I can respond properly. When I began to teach, I found it hard to do that, often tripping up, saying the wrong thing, and sometimes nothing at all. With experience, I grew and became more effective, listening carefully to what others had to say.

also

Source: also.

The link is to a Mary Oliver quote. We often say one thing and qualify it with something that is an “also.”  In this case, it is a being kind and being mischievous.

Who we each are is a rich amalgam of paradox and contradiction that points out the essential nature of differences between each of us. Differences make a difference. It is in them we discover and explore the rich tapestry of our lives and those of people we come in contact with, near and far.

By being attentive and mindful to the differences between us and paradoxes, we can experience richness in life that is unending. We discover and explore questions that have no fixed answers and invite us into vibrant conversations with each other.

“In Nature Nothing Exists Alone” -Rachel Carson

Source: “In Nature Nothing Exists Alone” -Rachel Carson

The post includes a series of lovely black and white pictures accompanied by a Rachel Carson quote. Sometimes, I forget that even when I am alone I am not alone. There are always other sentient beings and non-sentient beings present.

Being mindful and attentive helps me understand that solitude is a time of sharing. It is not being alone or lonely. Mindfulness is a gathering in my thoughts and heart. It is an imagining of who and what is essential in living.

All the Hemispheres

Hafez counsels me to look in to discover the hemispheres. I love lines where he calls on me to make a new water-mark on my excitement and love. When I turn in, it is possible to welcome new seasons and bloom in new unexpected ways that are a result of changing the rooms in my mind.

When I greet myself with kindness and the world with humility, I find my way home. An essential element of this journey is I am not alone, but with those who go with me and share with me the journey.

The journey of life is always made in the mindful and attentive of company of others inside and outside me as I let my senses and bodies stretch out in unfamiliar ways. I create the new in those moments and deepening of relationships with those gathered around the fire.

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
Chatting

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

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