Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Are you the doer, or the adviser?

There are two types of people around you, everywhere: the doers, and the advisers.

The doers have done a lot of planning and shopping and organizing before they do what they do.
The advisers just run their mouths because they know a better way to get the task done.

When I was a young teacher, most of us with little experience  had little respect for those folks who were sent to advise us. These were usually not practicing teachers any more; they had hung their chalk, (chalk, the initial public writing instrument) and were now travelling and listing their wisdom on 3x5 cards which they read to us in the audience. Yes, before overhead projectors and computer presentations, speakers read their notes from 3x5 cards they brought to the lectern. Their advice might have been superb, but if the audience had not encountered the circumstances, the advice was lost, flew off the lectern. Worst, their advice was too general, or too idealistic. We kept thinking, this person has never taught in this classroom, with these children.

Later in my career, I too became an adviser. Remembering those initial feelings about advisers, I turned the writing of notes back to the audience. What happened last week in your classroom that you had not encountered before, and what did you need to know to handle that problem? Write that down on a 3x5 and pass it up to the front. These were the notes I used to talk about preparation and follow through.

In my house, and in terms of preparing meals for a company,  I am the doer, my husband the adviser. Whether I need his insights, he jumps right in and states them with confidence. While I can usually listen politely and nod to his desires often enough, around the holidays, when timing and traditions are crucial, I tend to be curt to my adviser in chief. "No, we are not going to make potatoes three different ways just because that's what your mother did when Aunt Carol visited."

The funny part about this conversation is the fact that I need my husband to run errands, move furniture, peel potatoes, and do all sorts of things at the last moment, and I can't listen to his reasons to do or not to do something in these circumstances even though I value his judgement and his logistics skills. Anytime I'm stumped with a dilemma, I can rely on him to simplify the steps.

Just this morning, as we debated when and how to cook the turkey for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast with the family, considering the long distance of 150 miles, the possibility of delay, the possibility of not having time to re-heat the bird and all the other stuff, I wanted to shut him up and walk away. I could handle this, I thought, as the official cook of the family.

Instead, we each used our smart phones and researched the possibilities.
The solution: the turkey is being cooked, carved, and chilled today. Tomorrow, the turkey will travel chilled,  safely to our destination, even with delays. It will go into the oven and be re-heated properly. We moved the dinner later in the day, and provided lots of nibbling upon arrival.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone

Friday, November 13, 2015

What should matter?

Our health is directly related to the healthy environment we live in.

Lives, both visible and invisible, signal their presence, with rustles, screeches, scurrying, pecking, while we walk about in meditation, marveling at the different shades of green we never knew existed, and thousands of intricacies revealing in front of us.

This is not a fearful place anymore. This is a healing place; a place that lets us breath fresh air, calms our nerves, relaxes your stand. And when we hear or see an animal in a distressed mode, we feel compelled to stop, attend to it, look for ways to heal and remedy the situation, and might even take the step of removing that being to a place where it has a chance of life.

This has always been our habitat. That hurt animal, that could have been us, we think.

Something about our shared experience is still remembered, how we camouflaged  for millenia, first with covers made from skins of others, with paste and juices and mud and feathers so not to stand out as you do today in your red poncho. For millenia we learned  to blend in in this habitat that might recognize us as prey, skin and bone, but prey never the less.

That was our inheritance, our gene pool, our destiny. No birth control needed if in our entire lives our coital adventures ended up with just a few gestation events, and only one offspring ended up growing to maturity when by chance, among friendly tribes, someone else took turns watching the child at night while you dozed off.

How did we develop our intelligence and not our empathy? How did we learn to solve problems like building solid shelters, design clothing that protect us from all weather, build devices that can help us communicate our status to the world as this very computer I'm writing on, and still feel as though what matters is to take care of number one?  Even when we were prey on a regular basis, we took care of our tribe, we looked out for the benefit of everyone involved, and made room at our table for the stranger passing by. None of our discoveries or inventions would have occurred without global communication and assistance.

Did we miss an evolutionary cycle?
Are we still fighting our deepest fears in the deep recesses of our memory?

As elders of our tribe, we need to speak out for those whose voice might be silenced, and speak truth to power at all times. After all, we have the biggest memories; we have the deepest responsibilities to leave the world better than we found it.

Yes, indeed, Black Lives Matter.
Yes, indeed, where there is callousness and discrimination, and violence, we are sowing seeds of our own destruction.

Friday, November 6, 2015

What did Marcus Aurelius know?

Marcus Aurelius, (AD. 121-180) was a Roman Emperor and a philosopher. He called his writing/ thoughts "Meditations", and kept it private, even writing it in Greek, the language of the elite in Rome. Not a religious treatise, it is never the less, a spiritual journey, and it starts with paying tribute to those people who had helped him become who he was at that time, an emperor and a just man.

As I continue to search and borrow and ponder the meaning of life, especially at this juncture, when death is right around the corner for so many of us, reading the Meditations has become my own spiritual journey.

As I paid for the book at Barnes and Nobles, the young clerk looked puzzled when I told her everyone must read Meditations at every stage of their lives.