Sunday, November 05, 2006

It's a bright, sunny day here in West Michigan. Only a couple of weeks before we leave here for our new home in Macedonia, OH. That will be a great day. It's been fun here, but I feel rather like a vagabond! This place is our second home, being my wife's birthplace, here on the farm. But ownership is shared with two other families, and it will be nice to be in our own home once more.
Here's some more poetry to think about. Enjoy, be well, do good work.
OBJECTIVITY

I suppose it's time to talk about
OBJECTIVITY. Much of what's been said
Would seem to violate so many rules,
Conventions. How can one
Properly evaluate a student's performance
If one's involved inside his
Puzzle? Or, how does one discipline?
Manage the classroom? Maintain one's professional
Status? In short, remain adult while dealing
Everyday with adolescents?

Or, doesn't it seem strange that
We're supposed to help them learn?
And the way to do that is to understand.
And to understand, you must know them.
Get inside their boxes, see the best.
Find out their needs, their readiness
To learn, not merely to repeat back.
Strange, to remain objective while
They cry for something else? (To learn?)
Perhaps we misunderstand objectivity?

It doesn't mean aloof, nor distant, nor withdrawn.
It doesn't mean to push away, ignore, or
Be part of another world. NO, it
Doesn't. Which is what some of my early
Mentors seemed to insist upon; and what some new
To the field seem still to believe.
It DOES mean to be aware of your own involvement.
To take it into account. To be yourself,
Above all else, and truthful to your charges about
Who and what you are, so that they may see
You whole. And you are, to them, a person, not a
Puzzle. One thing less for them to
Fear. The differences will be natural,
Respected, and you can truly live with them,
Grow with them, and love them.
And you will be objective.

FEELINGS

What a wonderful feeling! To be alive and
To be aware! Able to share the
Sights and sounds of the morning with someone
Special. To rejoice in the afternoon
With that one person in the whole room who,
Just now, said "I understand!"
To feel the heartache of a prom date gone
Astray; the loss on Friday night;
The hard words at home after breakfast; the
Quiet joy of friendships found that
Once were thought lost; of new friends. These
Are feelings many who should know better
Ignore. Who should know better? Must you ask?
Don't you know?

Listen at the classroom door, and you will know.
Know the difference almost as well as young
Persons sense it immediately, with their
Quivering antennae; their own feelings
Close-worn on their sleeves (sometimes), or
Deeply buried for fear of hurt. No matter,
Senses are at the forefront. In the
Classroom, the school, wherever there are
People, the young will know, and they will
The more respect you, if you admit, and
Show your feelings: they are a part of you.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Good morning!
It's a soggy, misty morning here in West Michigan. But we are pretty sure to be back in Ohio in a couple of weeks. And our new home will be wonderful.
Here's some more poetry for you to enjoy, to think about, etc.
Have a good time!
CONFORMITY

I'm like you and you're like me, and we might
Be twins, at least in dress and thought.
For that's where safety lies, among the
Boxes. Outwardly each box is
Angular, Rectangular, "square? Oh, my,
Even THAT idea creates discomfort
Somewhere, in some corner of some other
Box. Mustn't do that!
We think, falsely, that being different is being
Controversial, and that controversy
Intrudes upon learning. Oh, it can, at times
When learning's misunderstood.

Conformity's one of the toughest things
To forego, when young, and insecure, and
Doubting much. Conformity creates
False security, when insecurity's so strong.

But why insecurity at all? Why
Are the boxes so in doubt of self
And others? Why fear that, here, mobilizes
Hatred; there, submission; in yet
Another, secrecy? Is not each a form
Of conformity? Of course, not always,
But at times, not so?

And how does conforming further learning, growing?
By making all the boxes seem adjusted?
By making the system flow smoothly on,
No bumps or bruises? Where's the learning
In conformity? Where's the growing in thinking
Only thoughts already thought; repeating
The same old cliches; feeling only what others,
In their conforming spirit, will allow?

In sameness there is only sameness; no Bach, no
Einstein, no Will Shakespeare to carry
Mankind forward in the search; no art, no
Music, no creativity at all - humor
I suspect would not long survive. So open up the
Classroom box; transform the rows; engage
The mind and heart; and enter into the life
Of growth, and change, of loving and of
Learning - please,
don't
just conform!


CREATIVITY

Puzzles puzzling on puzzles
Can be annoying, when
Done aloud. Or when the confusion
Infuses itself into otherwise
Orderly discussion. Fog becomes
Clouds - clouds become
Thunderheads - a storm impends.

The storm crashes 'round, blowing
Where it will, bending, breaking,
Flooding its way; bright flashes
Now; great crashes then; and
When it's spent, what's left?

Oft this is the creative act, but
Not always. Other times it
Comes creeping in silently, intruding
Upon the reverie of aloneness
And Summer silence.

Somewhere in the midst, there is found
A divergence - a splitting of one
Into two, three, more - ideas, persons,
Sentences. Or convergence, when
Of a sudden, wholeness steals across
Subconscious fields to rest,
And wait.

Creativity is like this: art,
Music, humor, letters, all
Share this undefinable moment when
Something new is born. Or
Something old resolved, perchance,
Opening new fields, new vistas
And paths before unseen.

Try to grasp this in the net of
Order, discipline, it oft
Will slip away, unseen, unfelt.
Within the order of whatever
Sort, there must be room for chaos,
Momentary, silent or noisy,
Yet ordered, managed, contained
Within its own deep logic.

Measure it? Teach it? Hardly!
Facilitate it? Try! Encourage?
Certainly, if you dare, and choose to
Take the risks.
Provide a place for it; a spirit
Upon which it can feed;
Give tools, place and space,
And share the chance.

SELF

Self - that's what this is all about, but
Not quite as some might think.
There's some confusion on this point, for
There are those who think it responsible
For what some choose to call the "Me" generation.
Oh, certainly, there's some connection,
But oft misunderstood; misconstrued; used
As answer - conclusion - instead of
The beginning of thought, the attempt to understand.

In fact, those who're quick to blame, it seems,
Are more trapped in self than those
Who're the subject of complaining. So often
It's the case. And, once made,
Accusation shifts the burden, makes concern
Unnecessary. Hence, serving to assuage my
Feelings while disconcerting you, leaving you
Defenseless.

Unfortunately that's what so much
Of this is all about; insecurity, fear,
Guilt. We do have trouble facing what
Messages others present us; and when self
Intrudes itself as part, we tend to see it as
The whole. But self refers to confidence,
Assurance, and acceptance - the healthy,
Functioning state - of the person who knows
Who and what he is. Cocky? Not at all! Conceited?
Far from it; for conceit is
Insecurity overplayed.
"I am most free when I am most responsible".
Thus Sartre, and more the center of what's
Meant by SELF, than selfishness or whatever else may
Serve for blame.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Good morning! It's raining here in west Michigan, and about 50 degrees. Not entirely a bad day, but not so good either!
Our new home is approaching completion, we think. At least all of the indications are in that direction.
I offer you some more poetry to think about. The first piece below I have shared with many, and it seems to sum up how many think about the subject.
Enjoy!
FRIENDSHIP

I cannot imagine living without friends,
Or without friendship - they are my
Completion, in a way. Oh, I am whole all
By myself, and true to that within me
That is best. But, being human, and alive,
I need more than me, alone, to do
And share with, or what's the point? We
Aren't made with feelings and with
Caring just to sit beside a stream all day.
There's time, and need for that as well,
But other's are around; without my friends
I might well lose touch with all I am,
A person with a heart, who needs other hearts in tune.

Friendship is the finest of all the
Ways there are to care for others.
It's the way to say: "wake up, live, grow"
To reach the peak of all that's
Best in each of us, and share it
With another. And sharing, be just
Who I am, no more; and if sometimes I am
A bit less, it doesn't matter, for
I have a friend who cares, accepts, and
Doesn't judge. A friend who knows
How I may feel, or think; who listens with
A hearing heart and lets me be - myself.
In this tough world, there's enough aloneness
To serve the solitary souls who
Seem to want to be without connection;
Who in their deeper hearts may cry
For solace, respect, love and comfort,
Yet do not find it in their hearts
To give; fear letting others in.
Such is not for me, and if it's weakness
Then I'm weak, unafraid to let another
See my need, unashamed of tears
Of sorrow or of joy, unabashed by softer
Thoughts, buoyed up by love.

For love it is that's at the core;
The corner stone, the keystone of
The arch that's friendship. Without condition,
Absent judgment, possessing no one,
These stones so closely fit together form
A solid and enduring monument to the
Best that's in us all. So join with me
And be my friend, and live, and love,
And grow.
LISTENING

Listen to the teacher! Hear the teacher
Talking - expounding, explaining,
Telling - the voice of authority!
To play the game, you must listen
For clues, or cues - words that
Must re-appear at the right time
Or place - usually on a
Test (or exam, if you prefer
The more academic sound of it) - to
Be graded, commented upon,
Criticized for accuracy, fitness
Or such other standards as may be applied.
Perhaps, one day, a question may result
From listening? Properly phrased,
In the preferred tone of voice,
An answer may return. Did you
Hear it? Are you listening?
Or, were you, perhaps, listening to
Another voice; a small but insistent
Voice inside the box of yourself?
Was it, do you suppose, seeking
Your attention too? Why so?
To try and fit the pieces of the puzzle together?
Life, yesterday, tomorrow, sunshine,
Or rain; love, feelings, hate,
And more. What have they to do
With listening to the teacher?

Who else but I ever listens to me,
To my inner voice? Who cares
That I have a question more important
Than that before the class, before the
World or the system?
A friend - perhaps - but they are so
Few; parents - yes, but then -
How make them aware? Why not the
Teacher? I can feel and think a
Connection -

Listen to me! How does this subject
Fit my quest into the puzzle
Of myself? If you can help me
With that, maybe I can listen
Better, come alive to your teaching.
And, just maybe, we could converse -
Have a dialogue - learn together?

Listen to me, please!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Good morning! It's a glorious morning here in Western Michigan. The sun is rising in the sky, the sky is a brilliant blue, the trees are beginning to show their fall colors. Here we have the advantage of good music from Blue Lake Arts Camp, which is located north of us some miles, and broadcasts on Blue Lake Radio. Great to sit out on our side porch here and enjoy the music while just absorbing the sights and sounds of Autumn.
Here's some more poetry for you to imbibe and reflect upon, or merely enjoy. And I do hope you will have a truly enjoyable day.
INTERLUDE VI

Failure to know - oh, what's
A classroom for, if not to
Try, and miss, and try again, and
In the failing, knowing yet more
Each time, growing ever more
Confident. Or, finding all the
Things that will not work,
Trying again.

Ideal, you say - of course. So - why
Not, instead of fear of failing,
Love of knowing; instead of knowing
All or fearing the result, the search,
The questions, and the value of uncertainty.
As I am uncertain at this point, and
Should be afraid, but am not - rather
Exhilarated at the prospect of finding more.
Failure and authority most often
Team up together, but need not.
A friendlier environment for searching
Can be set - it takes some work.
And confidence on a leader's part, of
Course - so here's another riddle
To be dealt with, if not solved.
And the search goes on.

CIRCLES

What is there about circles - sitting
'Round a circle - that disturbs?
Authority has trouble with its status,
That's for sure! For a circle is
A democratic figure - no place on
It's circumference better than another.

So in the search for solutions to
The puzzles - of self, of life,
And of the great conversation, what better
Form than the equality and evenness
Of a circle. Each puzzle in each box
Can be itself; and others, differently.

In rows and squares, or lines and ranks,
Some can be low, some higher, and
One highest (or lowest) in the hierarchy.
Yet hierarchies lend themselves best
To conclusions, not to inquiries;
And, too often, Truth is lost.
Circularity lends itself not only to equality
But to sharing: to openness of speech
And hearing; to the engagement of the
Heart as well as of the mind; to
Humanness and love - the focus and the center.
Hence learning, and the search goes on.

COMMUNITY

There's nothing quite so puzzling as a
Group of puzzles, with attendant
Labels and boxes and rules and
Order, all and each vying with
Others for some end or other.
Community, we call it, and what is
Common is often hard to determine.
Yet it's there, so let's look.

In our special situation, it's not a
City or a village we're concerned with,
But a learning situation, an experience concerning
Some more than one, yet less than a multitude. Puzzles,
in their boxes, with their labels,
In a box in a system - a classroom in a school. And
that's a community? Oh, yes!
Rarely a tyranny; more often a
Benevolent autocracy; occasionally
A democracy. In which one can learning
Truly advance, as we have been saying?
When there is no fear; where the love of
Truth, and curiosity, prevail; where
No hierarchy impedes; where the goal
Is growth, the conversation open.

Where each is learner, teacher -
One and the same - and each
Can be a puzzle, outside his box,
While puzzling the greater questions.
Of this life, and in so doing,
Come ever closer to understanding,
Knowledge, and changes growth implies,
And reach to wisdom as an end.

Such a community is one of love;
For every member must love the
Others for the discourse to go on; must
Care about the process and the goals,
And the sheer delight of watching others
Grow. Such a community values
Puzzles, nurtures them, and in the end
The puzzles love themselves.

PERSONS

So, finally, each puzzle stands revealed -
A person, young or old; teacher,
Student, parent, child. The names are
Many, the roles legion; which hat to wear
At each moment? Labels are so important!
Without a label, I don't know how to deal -

With you. Person is too personal, I
Sometimes think; better to learn the
Box and its label, and get on with
More important things. Like what?
Like learning what is set forth to
Be given back; to conform to -
Norms of the system, the larger boxes
And their labels? Am I better
For it? Are you? Or are we both
Far better for the uncertainties of
Confrontation, the mutual sharing of
Our doubts - our puzzles?

And which way lies the learning that is true
And good - for growing? Puzzles by
Themselves learn nothing. As persons among
Persons they attain a dignity of wholeness
And aliveness that is human - and each puzzle
Begins its mystery to reveal.

INTERLUDE VII

What is a puzzle, if not a person -
Part hid from self, part from others.
As, from day to day, another piece
Is found - is lost - is found again.

What is a person, if not a puzzle -
To himself? To those around
Who look, or speak - sometimes to scoff,
To ridicule or to ignore?

Or, to those who, on occasion, do take note,
And, stopping for a moment, extend
A hand of friendship, of concern perhaps,
And then move on - themselves a puzzle?

How to pull the pieces into place,
Give meaning to the bits, frame
All into a more completed whole, if
Not by love?

Ah! That's dangerous! Of course, and
So is life! But not the way you may think;
A puzzle, trying to be a person, fears love
For it may reveal too much. While a person
Trying to solve the mystery, welcomes
What he may learn.

LOVE

The most over-used, misunderstood
And abused word in the English
Language. Or one of them, certainly.
Brotherhood, sisterliness, affection,
Warmth, concern, caring, passion, or
Erotic excess - and more. All are
Subsumed under its heading, or assumed
At one time or another.

Yet this single word has a deeper,
More universal meaning, and all
The others are expressions, in varying
Contexts, of this meaning. And that is:
To share with another that which is
Deepest within me; giving to that
Which is deepest within another - one person
To another, both equal in humanity
And need, and caring.

That is the heart of living in a human
World; that is the essence of learning;
That is the force that drives true human
Progress, as recorded in the great
Conversation. That is what so often is
Not evident among the boxes, the puzzles,
And the system. Hence, decline and
Mediocrity, and poor SAT's.

Let love in; let teachers care,
And fear not to show it; let
Students care, and fear not being
Singled out; be not ashamed - love
Is not soft or weakening, when
Truly understood.

Schools, families, and institutions
With love at the center are transformed
And transported beyond sociology into
The truest history - that of the human
Soul. Without love, then, all is naught
But statistics: let love in, please!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Well, I'm back, with a laptop and dialup connection. Not too swift, but it will do for now.
We're enjoying Autumn in West Michigan. The color is just beginning to show here, but it will be here with us soon. Nights are cooler, days are cooler and so far, a bit on the damp side. Our new home is coming along nicely. Our daughter sends us pictures from time to time, and that keeps us up with what's happening.

This old home (140 years next year) is still in good condition. The view to the west is great, although we can't see Lake Michigan from here. It's about a mile west, across a river and lines of dunes with trees, etc.

So, here's some more poetry.

INTERLUDE V

Is the picture so dark, the prospect so dim?
Can the only view be negative?
If so, then all I've said so far is vain,
No hope, no future but failure.
But nestled in among the anger and
Frustration, perhaps you've noticed?

All is far from lost! For all the errors
And the blindness, the competitive
Self-seeking and systematic insensitivity,
There are those who stand out as
Doers of the greatest service to our young -
And to the rest of us, of course.

They try, and fail, and try again -
To share their humanness and their lack,
As persons living, learning with others
With the same deficiencies. Uncertain
And often unsung, they present a viewpoint
Alternative to the usual - another eye.

And predisposed to feel, and think
Original; expressive of themselves,
Welcoming others, with open arms and
Open hearts, to wonder, beauty,
Truth and love - to Mankind at its best-
And failure.

FAILURE

One of the most frightening puzzles,
To the puzzle, is failing. Oft
Touted as the way to learn, 'tis
Freighted with so much fear and
Self-doubt as to immobilize a Saint.
Why so?

One reason, sure, is the other puzzles,
Who each must have some rationale
For differences. What better way to
Deal with difference than see it as
Success in me, failure in you.
Oh, yes!
Or, perhaps, somehow to separate for
The work-place those who shall,
And shall not make it - since everyone
Cannot, of course. Competition!
This is the real world we're in!
Of course!

And there is the evaluating puzzle in
Himself, who must needs prove,
Once and for all, his own superiority -
Hence other puzzles can't be solved
As well save by himself - 100% for
Him - less for others.

So - where, if at all, does failure
Belong? In living and in life
We try and do not always reach the
Goal, yet learn from our mischosen
Way - if fear and judgment are
Set aside - period.

Why must there always be a failure?
Why cannot all succeed within the
Limits of their prowess? Be counted
As a persons first, of worth and
Dignity, accomplished at their own
Living?

Then failure in its own perspective
Falls, as part of life. Then failure
Can be alluded to by loving ones
Without the fear, the degradation
And the trauma. Then failure, with success,
Are healthy parts of me.

TO KNOW

To have - to possess - information;
Is that "to know"? Cognitive level
One (in Bloom) is so easy to measure.

Knowledge gets stalled there so often!
Or rather, learning stalls there, assuming
That what is measurable is all there is.

Certainly having informations is a part -
Of learning and of knowing -
But not all of it by far. If that
Were all, there would no puzzles be.
But puzzles there are, in spite of all
The information, and puzzles remain.

Information organized and purposed
Moves closer, but the organizing
And the purposing are crucial - what
Framework sets the data straight?
What goal its tone, restraint and use?
Too often information alone can be abused.

To know, truly, is to have learned,
To have internalized; and the resulting
Change shows forth in new behavior
And new ways of thinking, asking
And relating. A new context, another view,
And knowing reaches for new heights.
To know is very like to be, for
Knowing in its fullest sense
Leads on to growing, and to becoming
Until, at last, knowing, becoming,
And Wisdom merge into those higher
Insights of self-understanding.

Good relationships, truth, beauty,
Justice, and all the rest that
Have, for so long, been the topics
In the great conversation of mankind.
This, then, is to know, and knowing,
Come alive in the fullness of one's self.
There's some more to think about. I've had a few comments, and thanks to those of you have taken the time to say something to me. It's truly appreciated.
Have a great time with your day.
Angry Grandpa

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Well, two days left in this home we have lived in for 51 years. We'll be on the road to Saugatuck, Michigan for about two months, while we wait for our new home in Macedonia, Ohio to be ready for occupancy. So I'll be pretty much silent during the interim, since we will only have a slow laptop in MI, and not very conducive to posting, etc.

So, so long for now. I'll be back with more poetry in a couple of months, I hope.

Angry Grandpa

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I've been re-reading Karen Armstrong's Holy War. For those who are not familiar with Armstrong, she is the author of the best seller A History of God. In Holy War, her theme is the Crusades of the 12th - 14th Centuries, and their impact on our current perceptions of the Niddle East. And I have derived a much better understanding of the situation viz a viz Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel must, I repeat must recognize that the Palestinians are now in the same position as the Jewish people were in until 1948. They have no nation, no home, and deeply feel that they are in exile. Like the Jewish people, they look back upon their one thousand years of life in Palastine, or falastin as they refer to it. They feel very deeply the actual disgrace and defeat of losing that homeland. Their poets express it better than I ever could.

The Palestinians, for their part, must recognize that that past is gone, and work to establish a rapprochement with Israel. From what I read, the PLO did have that as an objective. But some in the PLO weren't willing to accept co-existence with Israel. They see Israel as a western incursion into the Middle East, a further colonial expansion. In the face of humiliation, and an apparent denial of their right even to exist, it is no wonder that tempers are high.

The three Abrahamic religions all share a common base of compassion for the downtrodden,
peaceful living, and love of neighbors. Each now reads it's holy books to justify the violence that is tearing the Middle East to shreds.

So - a message from and Angry Grandpa to all who will listen. Stop the shooting, cease the demonizing of your fellow man, shut and listen to the man in the street, the poor and underclass, to reason instead of emotion. Think about what you are doing to your own people in the name of your common Creator. Violence only breeds more violence, and gets you absolutely nowhere. Indeed, in the case of the current situation in Lebanon, it's moving you back in time to a previously unacceptable condition.

THINK, LISTEN, TALK to EACH OTHER as members of the human family, not as demons to be destroyed.

Unfortunately, the demonizing became a central process early in Western European history, with the Crusades. And it has become an underlying thought process in Western Europe and America ever since. So the United States must work overtime to rectify it's failed policies in the Middle East. Demonizing nations as "Evil", as in "the axis of evil" certainly is an expression of this deep and mistaken attitude.

If this nonsense doesn't stop, the world could see this as the opening skirmishes in Word War III, which none of us want to see.

So - get this message across to whomever you can, and perhaps it will reach the ears of the makers of policy around the world.

Angry Grandpa