Bird Droppings March 16, 2012
Actions speak so much louder than words
Look at children. Of course they may quarrel, but generally speaking they do not harbor ill feelings as much or as long as adults do. Most adults have the advantage of education over children, but what is the use of an education if they show a big smile while hiding negative feelings deep inside? Children don’t usually act in such a manner. If they feel angry with someone, they express it, and then it is finished. They can still play with that person the following day.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, "Imagine All The People"
It has been a few nights since my wife and I had a chance to go out together one of those quiet romantic type dinners. As we both headed early to work today I was thinking back to one evening as we sat down at a booth at a local country restaurant, about the same time we sat down an elderly couple carefully made their way to the adjacent booth. Both the husband and wife helped each other moving ever so slowly. After his wife had seated herself the husband went and fixed a plate at the buffet for her. When he returned to the table my wife happened to glance over and the woman was smiling as her husband came back to their table. My wife said “she looked like a child”, her child was coming out as she smiled.
Many years ago as I took one of my first graduate classes which happened to be one I had nearly thirty years prior but was required to be sometime more recently, a class in human development. A research paper was a requirement of the class and I developed a chart on the development of faith and trust in the process of writing my paper. I had been reading a book by Dr. James Fowler head of the Ethics department at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University on the development of faith. It was interesting as I read he had used and compared the development of faith through correlations of various concepts to other educational devlopmentalists such as Piaget, Erickson and even Freud.
“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” John Ruskin
When I read the passage from the Dalai Lama I was reminded of a stage I wrote about in my subsequent paper based on learned trust. Children when they are born inherently and universally trust I called it simply Universal trust. A baby instinctively trusts as it survives by literally instinctual trust and behavior, sucking reflexes only require milk to satisfy. A bitter taste and the baby would soon withdraw. The baby would learn to not suck. A simple example that as the child grows becomes more complex. Each new facet of life requires new information and understanding and soon a child learns trust. We go from an instinctual universal trust to a learned trust. In this growing process the interactions of individuals that are seen by others impact the learning curve and consequently the level to which a person trusts.
“Who would not rather trust and be deceived?” Eliza Cook
Quite a few Monday night’s back one December, I delivered my youngest son to a local restaurant where the Early Learners were having their Christmas banquet. Our high school has a group of fifteen or so four year olds, under the supervision of a lead teacher and para-pro involved in teaching Early Childhood Education to high school students who want to go into education. Actually this is considered a technical class in our school, an experimental school in some ways a teaching school for high schoolers. Many of the little learners are children of teachers within our high school.
“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don't trust enough.” Frank Crane
It seems my son had been Santa Claus for two years for the little learners. Matt inherited my father’s Santa suit. Dad, for as long as I can remember, had been Santa for our family. I recall a night in Modena Pa., Santa came through the fire escape window when I was four years old. This image is still vivid in my mind and many things are not as I get older. I check my driver’s license for name and address periodically.
For one reason or another Matt had to wait, which meant sitting in the waiting area of the restaurant. Quite a few little children came through, some would hide behind their parents, and others would go up and sit beside him and or ask him questions. Each child was unique.
“No, I don't understand my husband's theory of relativity, but I know my husband, and I know he can be trusted.” Elsa Einstein
“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
When Matt finally went into the Christmas party each child came up to him and I would take a photo. There was no questioning of whom this was, it was Santa. After all of the little learners came up, the teenagers, high school girls came and sat in Matt’s lap. Now I know why Matt did this each year. But within the context of these moments, trust was adamant. Children have learned to believe in, or not, Santa Claus, that is not an instinctual event.
“Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love -- and to put its trust in life.” Joseph Conrad
So often we take the innocence of children and convert it to the learned ways of adulthood, greed, envy and all the other influences of mankind are learned. But I have found in life’s journey that trust does begin to filter back as time and age goes on. Thinking back to dinner with my wife and how she noticed the elderly woman’s smile, sometimes is it the glint in an eye or a smile from an elderly person that shows the inner child is still there. Perhaps it is that untouched innocence and universal trust has returned, or maybe like me, you forget all else, that you have learned not to trust. As I pondered it became evident that it is how we are seen and the things that we leave behind as memories in others eyes and ears are what may be the most critical of all in this reality.
“You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.” Leo Aikman
With an election still coming up I am sitting here looking over morning news and how each side sees and addresses issues in differing ways. Last night I read a blistering headline of US oil production was down thirteen percent on federal and Indian lands. However when you look at overall US production we are at highest level since 2008 and putting oil into reserves. So depending on which headline you read first your impression is swayed or changed. I was reading last night several pieces about war and will borrow just a thought coming from a former student.
“War, one could argue, developed from three functions in the macrocosm of human societies to A) take another society's land and resources B) to defend one's land and resources, or C) to liberate one's own land and resources. Historically, you could place any early war under one of these categories.
But, morally speakin...g... how do you determine that the bullet which leaves the muzzle of YOUR rifle serves B and C and not A? Is it by who shot first? Well, not necessarily, since Navy Seals from your country may have torched a village that morning, your side may be in the wrong. Is it by a sense of "greater good?" Perhaps... but logically speaking, how often do immoral means yield a moral end? If I took your insulin to give to another person with Diabetes, would that be moral?
I am not anti-war, because life is not just. This is not an ideal world, and sometimes you have to fight for what you love. All I'm asking is how many soldiers died to protect what they love, and how many died because of some covetous politician?” Alex Hill
As I read this last night I realized how much I missed conversations with this student as he was always several years ahead in his thinking and wisdom.
“Thou wilt find rest from vain fancies if thou doest every act in life as though it were thy last.” Marcus Aurelius
“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I am getting long winded today perhaps I started too early but the thought from this great theologian ties into my morning ponderings. In 1945 Bonhoeffer was hanged in a Nazi prison camp for being a member of the resistance as he vocally opposed the National Socialists, as well as physically opposed with his involvement in assisting Jewish families out of Europe. Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested, tried and executed. Much of his writing came from prison in the form of letters to friends.
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“It is the nature, and the advantage, of strong people that they can bring out the crucial questions and form a clear opinion about them. The weak always have to decide between alternatives that are not their own.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I was getting absorbed in reading Bonhoeffer's articles and actually a bit deep for a Friday morning I think Alex got me thinking last night. I am also reading a friends theology thesis paper again which really is a bit deep for a Friday. Theology reads easier on Thursday or Saturday. However Bonhoeffer was very controversial in his time, and even now especially now for his thinking, which was not traditional church theology.
“It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Being blunt was not a difficult task for Bonhoeffer in his writing or speaking; consider that this was in a time in history when what you said could elicit a jail sentence and or death penalty. He wrote prolifically, even the last two years of his life in a German prison, writing extensively on theology and ethics and finally executed for supposedly being involved in a plot to kill Hitler.
“If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time, because a dose of joy is a spiritual cure.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This great theologian believed in living what you believed. These following words were from his prison many years ago and published after his death. Perhaps they provide a window into his thinking and efforts alias all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?
Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.
Sitting here reading words from a man who died nearly seventy years ago because of what he believed in and lived for. In today’s crazy world it is sometimes difficult to comprehend. Daily I review test scores of reading comprehension and I wonder if we also could evaluate living life comprehension? Do we truly comprehend life that is about us and in us or its effects on us and others? So today I try and write about so many things and a few words from a man who lived as he spoke and believed and died a martyr to his words. As I close another day of reflection and writing please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.