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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Will ever the twain meet?

Dialogue. Creative tension. Depolarization. Reconciliation, or respectful disagreement. Reality check. Out of the ghetto, the camp, the faction, the party. That’s what I like to be involved in. Maybe it goes back to the arguments I witnessed in my home, and my desire to see both sides, dampen the fuses, yes, but not underestimate the importance value of differentiated views, for getting at the truth of the day or eternity.

Then I went to university–oh joy! the marketplace of ideas! And I had the advantage of living on a small, intimate campus specializing in foundations in classical Western literature and journalism, with a rich extracurricular arts community, and walking over to the big research university campus for my classes in the science department. I found smart people who followed Jesus, who were willing to touch the hot potatoes of the faith, and help students face the challenges of being a young scholar moving into post modernism. I got my Bachelor of Science, but my richest learning was over the dining hall table, across the library comfy chairs or traipsing around downtown looking for donairs after the pubs closed. I had different circles of friends–dorm mates, classmates, dining buddies, Christian fellowship friends, housemates, and those with whom I would serendipitously discover a common love for discussion and debate at some party or other. Only people I seem to have missed getting to know a bit were those there to get the degree and get out. I think some of my Christian friends hung around me partly for the sense of being on the edge as far as what kind of conversations and characters they might encounter.

I loved the chance to listen to smarter and more educated people–grad students, law students, teacher assistants, speakers, and challenge my peers with questions that might help us get at deeper truths, principles, and more questions. I wanted to know why people thought the way they did, why I thought the way I did, and I had a fundamental trust in the power of reason and that there were underlying truths of human existence, derived from physical and metaphysical truths we could glimpse at least through a mirror darkly. Some of the time I came with a point to prove, I admit–but why not? I could admit that too. “Sure I’m hoping to convert you; aren’t you hoping to convert me?” Simplistic, but some truth to it.

The only person I argued with in my life that really bugged me was Omar who refused to have any view at all. “That’s interesting,” he said. “Whatever works for you” and so on. I couldn’t get him to heat up and share any preference, any passion, any bias at all. Nice guy, yet infuriating. It was a new experience for me, and one I have revisited in an attempt to understand my own way of thinking. I see he was strongly standing on a certain principle as well. Was it Never push your own opinion? Listen and do not judge? Avoid conflict–it hurts?

The reason I bring this up is because I follow various blogs, off and on, and I see an unhealthy polarization of strongly held views. I want to break into some of these dialogues, make comments ask questions, without being judged for not accepting trite answers.

An example of this discussion of important views is the debate about the Common Core curriculum. Wanting to catch up on the issues in the field before going back into teaching, I signed up to follow http://atthechalkface.com and started reading with interest views opposing the Common Core, but began to be put off by the style of some of the arguments, which sometimes seemed to have an ethos of “omg, look what other ridiculous things the other side is doing and saying.” So I looked for sites advocating the Common Core, and found the same thing–point-by-point rebuttals missing key information, thinly veiled, derision, reliance more on prior sympathy of the reader than reason.

Still, I’ll keep at it, try to get at the essence of these arguments so I can weigh them, but I wish I could jump in the middle, invite everyone to the Wardroom Pub and facilitate a face-to-face exchange. Surely there are some on both sides (we all know not all) whose primary interest is best educational principles and practices, and under that deeper principles of sustainability and positive evolution, i.e. natural law? And surely some on both sides are willing to work through difficult times of transition without blaming all the problems on the opposite camp? Or is that too much to ask?

I feel the crowning glory, such as it was, the pattern I hope to exemplify, of my efforts to build communication channels at least one on one, was at a home school conference I attended a few years ago. I’d been thinking about young earth creationism, wondering how folks and come up with that interpretation of geologic time and biblical record, and saw a table with all kinds of books on that very topic. At that particular table there were no women in long denim skirts and head scarves, just one bespectacled, bright-eyed man in his late fifties or so. I approached him, told him I was interested in creationism and the arguments before, seeing as I’s been raised on a different interpretation, which had been reinforced by my biology studies. I had not grown up with creationism, nor had I been convinced by the arguments I had thus far seen (bumping into a lot of conservative Christians in the homeschooling community as I did), but was truly curious, and felt that any good argument should have sound scholarship and science behind it. What would he recommend as reading?

Then I saw, not literally but really, his eyes start to glaze over with a protective film, as in, “Ah, she is One of Those. Other alert!” You know the sense you get when someone politely decamps you, right in the middle of a conversation, perhaps with a patronizing sympathy that you persist in your lack of faith?

But I decided to called him on it. I told him what I’d seen in his eyes, and suggested that was one of the very problems; that each “side” was unable to connect with the thoughts and beliefs of the other, and share a sympathetic sense of humanity, and a desire to know the truth. Beyond that, I didn’t think the issue was pivotal to one’s faith or salvation anyway, but shouldn’t those interested be able to look further, without judging one another? Surely one should not avoid or fear the truth, or the attempt to get to it, whatever it turned out to be?

His heart opened up, his eyes brightened. And I came away with several books, seemingly well researched and somewhat beyond my understanding, what with all the geology and archaeology therein. But the most valuable thing I gained was the magic of that moment of reconnection, and that’s the kind of moment I long to help make happen, in family life, in community, writing, and in education.

 

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It was the worst report card ever, but did me a lot of good.

Semester grades come in for my kids, and as usual we act like they matter, like they say something meaningful and set a place from which to launch a new effort to achieve a better letter, fewer minuses, more pluses, better GPAs. A few months ago it was College Board test scores and personality test results, but we’re more or less recovered from those–they definitely failed to capture the essence of my daughter’s gifts and potential.

Yeah, with careful thought there can be some useful information in grades. Especially for those rare but real quantifiable elements of knowledge and skill. Some folks seem to be made up mainly of those kind, have you noticed? Or they lost, the rest along the way–lost, lost—and that empty space in the neural network has been restructured (what a shame? We’ll never know).

I took a similar career assessment test in my senior year, on schedule, but there was no category of jobs to account for diversity of interests. “Oyster breeder” being my best option, and I knew that was only a result of the system’s inability to fathom interests across sciences, art, and craft. I kept taking personality tests, hoping to find out something. The latest being the Gary Smalley personality test, administered by a retired FBI agent at a women’s retreat. I am a beaver, and easily moved to tears.

I remember when Mrs. Fancy wrote something that really mattered on my fourth grade report card. Not mere numbers or letters, but this: “— can be…[here the word was crossed out heavily and replaced with] unkind.” In my glib perusal of the grades, stats, columns of S’s for Satisfactory and E’s for Exceptional, computer printouts with 90th percentiles, I would come across this bombshell, and be ashamed. As I got older and realized grasped the seriousness of her comment, especially, and then let go of the possibility that Mrs. Fancy was projecting. It would all come back again, I would rehearse the mean things I had said and done, and I knew it was true. Talk about taking me down a notch or two, and setting me striving for improvement. I became a lifelong learner in philadelphia and agape.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Education

 

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Twenty-seven drafts, all in progress and feeling stuck

Hope to pump out some posts shortly. Sorry that they’ll be substandard, but hope there’s something worthwhile there.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Present kindness, future shock

A short run in the wild wind and spitting rain, partly to prove to my daughter that she didn’t really need a drive to school less than a mile away. It was wild and beautiful, a sea of tossing branches and flying twigs. But then I could change out of wet clothes and enjoy a warm gas fire afterward, while she’d have to endure damp clothes and hair dripping down her neck in class. So I drove her, along with so many other parents. Still, seems a matter of commitment to principle, which in this case would involve purchasing some excellent rain gear for her, and maybe adding a to-go hot chocolate as extra incentive. And a cash bonus (a deposit on her dreamed-of horse, or maybe a hydrogen fuel cell car). I’d offer to walk with her–I think she likes to be asked, though has not accepted so far, even if her dog goes too. And does the school make it easy to hang dry dripping, low emissions transportation gear? Should I offer to get a tandem bike and taxi her that way? Ah–I know a sure-fire method: riding by horse! Alas, the community stables are gone and have not yet returned.

 

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If I could run more quietly, what other creatures might I see?

I decide to break away from my routine a bit and run in the other direction, and longer. Without my fearful dog, who pulls back and suddenly lunges at other dogs and men, or my daughter’s husky, which pulls forward and sideways and takes all my attention for training reinforcement. Free hands, an easy pace. I want to see how much farther I can go today, and what I can see. I focus on the branches bouncing by–fir, hawthorn, maple, willow, alder. Past a neighbor’s house where a deer is grazing. A male robin stands out against a cedar hedge along the mobile home park. I pass down into the gully in the park where a small bridge crosses a stream. I always stop here despite my workout goals, and face the oncoming flow of water, because I like the sound, sight, symbolism better in that direction. A few yards in, a great blue heron has been fishing and is now watching me. I stand still, but as I am unabashedly watching with my mammalian eyes, the heron cannot regain its equanimity. It looks side-on in my direction, tenses, steps, keeps looking, decides I might make a rush at it, or maybe that the rest of my pack is circling around quietly at the rear. And off it launches with lanky, pterodactyl grace.

The bare upper branches hold aloft a multitude of nests–various sizes, silhouetted against the morning sky. On one part of the trail, near a quiet street crossing and a stream, there are five or six in view of one another. Would I remember to look and listen for their tenants in the spring? Too big for the chickadees and juncos singing in the thickets, too high for the towhee, which nests on the ground. Maybe belonging to robins, crows, and varied thrushes.

I see humans. I always bid an impersonal “morning” as I pass, but am surprised when some humans go by without a word. What other mammal would do that? It’s a communication in itself, perhaps, but it feels bad, even to an introvert like me. Others smile, nod, make an extra acknowledgement of our common quest for breathing room, beauty, mind-clearing bipedal rhythms.

I noticed a few months ago that this was one of the 5K race routes, but was intimidated by the steep switchback trail at beginning. I am running in the reverse direction today, and see that it’s not so bad, but now I must climb a long hill and will surely lose my breath partway up. Which I do, but not so soon as I expected. Back through the neighborhood, I surprise a diurnal raccoon, which runs partway up a Douglas fir and watches warily as I jog by. Next is the zone of the feral rabbits, but none appear; might be in decline, discouraged by roving dogs.

And so on home for a shower and breakfast. Am I actually starting to enjoy running? The surge of energy and the gradual increase of endurance and strength, along with a little help with toning, have always been welcome, but for the past few years I really have to make myself go out every day, for the time outside, the health and psychological effects. I’ve heard of the runner’s high, and that it kicks in after 5K.  I’m finally on the edge of that, so maybe this is the beginning of a new pleasure within the discipline. I could use that.

 
 

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Perhaps you might be thinking of getting a maid too

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Arts, Poetry and Music

 

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No, you are not stuck, you are seething with possibilities

Why did you do what you did with your life so far? And what did you do, and how can you tell? By names of institutions, vocations, nations, creations, and human relations? Graduations, vacations, and research stations? Or do you take a more roundabout way, and recall a series of signposts only–the longings, desires, and meanderings of a lost or searching soul? Perhaps the same ones that ache still in you now? Was it more about achievement, or effort? And were you true to your heart and nature? Or was there always outside pressure (however well-meaning)? Did you end up somewhere, or were you guided? Do you sometimes want to go back and yet not back, forward–again, I mean anew? What are the catalysts of your present longing? What are the tabus?

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Personal Growth

 

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