Saturday, January 24, 2015

Crocuses, again

The crocuses are back, spearing their way through last summer's leaves, reminding me (again) that spring is possible.

I lose faith when I lose my way, when I no longer feel the rhythms of the natural world in my bones, when I spend more time under fluorescent light than I do under the sun.

We pretend that we can educate children for a global village, with standards and standardization, through prescribed algorithms. We forget that the lamb in front of us will age, will die, just as we will age, will die.

And in a hundred years, the crocuses will again break through the frozen ground, as alive as you and I are alive today, with as much purpose.

If you do not know what our purpose is for being here, and it is unlikely that you do, then why do you impose the will of strangers on the children in your community?

I think we all need to spend a day just silently watching the sun wend its way across the sky.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thoughts on finding a mako's tooth

Found today at the edge of the ocean.

We are mammals, all of us, trapped by words of our creation, most of us.
We are human, all of us, trapped by technologies of our creation, most of us.
We are all mortal, all of us, trapped by belief we shall live forever, most of us.

Just a few hours ago I stumbled upon the tooth of a mako shark, a creature likely still very alive within a few miles of here, now sliding through the dark depths of the water, living in a universe as incomprehensible to us as iPhones are to the shark

This tooth has ripped the bodies of other living beings, its serrated edges cutting through flesh not all that different from our own.

An old horseshoe crab, just recently dead.

We credit ourselves with awareness, with knowledge, with wisdom, stored in books and hard drives and stories we share with each other.

If the stories focus on us, as they mostly do, we can still learn.
If they exclude everything but us, however, we'll become as ignorant as the machines that dominate our days.

We're losing our way.

[Update: a local biology teacher just told me that this may be a fossilized tooth--
how cool would that be!]

[Update 2: A geologist friend of mine assures me it is a fossil!]

I've never regretted a single moment outside.
Photos by Leslie.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The carrot and stick approach

With all the confusion of what constitutes good teaching in a classroom these days, complicated by metrics that have little to do with anything, I have learned through the years that the carrot and stick approach works best.

Here's the carrot, grown by a student.
Each year we get one or two, grown by patient students who see to it that their little plant survives these dark wintry months.

And here's the stick:

My Dad's slide rule sits on my desk. Any student can play with it anytime, and they do. It does what it's supposed to do, and continues to do it well, well over 50 years later.

There's joy in a tool that works well in the hands that know it.
Not sure the kids see the joy in the tool, but they recognize the joy in me every time I pick it up.

Some days I think a kid getting the chance to see a happy adult is reason enough for me to be there.

An American Experiment

Hey, Arne, here's an experiment for you--let's get some real data!

Let's take a few American babies, even wealthy white ones with full-time nannies, and pump them full of cortisol.

Every few minutes, shoot another bolus of cortisol into their veins, their brains.

Watch their hippocampuses (critical for memory) shrink as their bellies bulge, their memories fall as their blood pressures rise.

Watch their amygdalas, the seat of fear and aggression grow, as their health declines,

Then give them some more.

Wait a few years, then toss them into a classroom and subject them to a "level playing field," where years of toxic doses of cortisol have shaped their minds and their bodies, and keep pumping that cortisol in hour after hour after hour after hour.

Then test them, and label them as the failures that they are, the dregs of our culture, and toss them back into the abyss of cultural condemnation.

Toxic stress is real.
Teachers cannot fix it, though bad ones can certainly add to the cortisol carousel.

There's a reason lower standardized test scores correlate with lower "status."

If you care about children, stop focusing on whether standardized tests should (or should not) be mandatory. It's like asking whether the Titanic's color scheme worked.

Our culture is poisoning children, especially children of color, with cortisol.
We're too busy to even pretend to notice.

I have really had it with the smug bullshit dished out by Emperor Arne....

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Staying in between the lines"

Now and then it keeps you running
It never seems to die
The trial's spent with fear
Not enough living on the outside
Never seem to get far enough
Staying in between the lines
Hold on what you can
Waiting for the end not knowing when

Backyard crocuses, 2013

Today marks the last day of the darkest 6 weeks of the year in these parts.
Tomorrow will bring us back to November light.
And Imbolc will be just 3 weeks away.

Under the frozen earth the crocuses next to the old bare oak tree are starting to stir. Chromosomes are replicating, cells dividing, tough spears forming, getting ready to pierce their way to the sunlight.

Not sure they know why they go through all the fuss, not likely a question they they ask, pretty sure the answer wouldn't matter to them anyway.
But they at least know where they're going.

Even if we could decipher the language of plants, we could not grasp their answer to such a question.
It won't involve money or fame or power or self-esteem.
The point may seem without value in a culture that does not value living.

Hard to commodify the thoughts of a flower.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Perihelion, again

Just a few hours ago, we got as close to the center of our life force as we are going to get this year, three million (or so) miles closer than we will be in early summer.

North Cape May, ferry jetty

A few thoughts:
  • It's amazing that "we" know this.
  • It's amazing that the sun is the source of our life's energy. Every breath you take, every thought thunk, is powered by the sun.
  • It's amazing that any of us are alive to see it.
  • It's amazing that some of us not yet alive will see it next winter, and some of us here now will not.
A matter of perspective, and perspective matters.

Happy Perihelion, folks. Sol Invictus.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A song sung

Dave Keeney is a friend of mine, who happens to be brilliant, though that's not a word he'd likely use to describe himself. He's an apple farmer, a musician, a story teller, a mensch.

Dave on the left, Old Town, New Year's Eve
(photo by Derek Daniel)

First time he met my Dad, my Dad (once a fighter pilot) was in bad shape after a series of strokes that made him pretty much unintelligible. Except to Dave. After trading stories, Dave got out his guitar and sang one of the funniest songs I had ever heard, "John Denver's Last Flight."

Later, after dinner, I asked Dave to play the song again. He would not.
"Why not?"
"Don't remember it."
"But you just sang it, how could you forget something you know?"
"I made it up."
What's ridiculous (and telling) is that I still regret not ever hearing that song again, and Dave never gave it a second thought. The song is a song while sung, and that's more than enough for Dave, even as I (and I am embarrassed to say it), thought of the song's potential commercial value..

If the product is the goal, then we lose the "we" in this thing we're doing, whatever this thing we're doing happens to be.

Once an object is made, a song sung, a story scribbled down on the back of of an envelope, it's no longer us, merely an artifact of who we were. We become machines, we are machines, in our relentless chase to create the perfect product, make perfection a standard in whatever we do. We want everything to be professional, the new code word for standardized.

The us is in the process, the joy is in the doing.
A song is a song only as a song is being sung.

Fuck professionalism, it's no way to live nor love.
I'm going back to my ancestors' world of artisans,