Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dog Diary

I love dog diaries – those witty, amusing sayings that imagine life from a dog’s viewpoint.  I appreciate the people who write them, offering the world a bit of innocent fun.

 Take these two Weimaraner dogs.  The expressions on their muzzles are simply begging for an entry in a dog diary.  And what would be the topic?  Hope.

To me, the dogs in the photo look hopeful.  Expectant.  It’s like they’re waiting for something interesting to happen – like they are waiting for Life to happen.

If I were to write an entry in a dog diary, I would write about the things a dog hopes for – a pat on the head, a belly rub, a bowl full of food, a warm bed, and a human to love…oh, and that the neighbor’s cat would stay away from my flowerbed.

Hey, those are things I hope for!  No wonder I love dog diaries!

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Bent" Humans

“A bent hnau can do more evil than a broken one.” Oyarsa of Malacandra
(hnau:  a sentient being, capable of speech, thought and personhood)

Whenever I read a novel, I identify and analyze the main conflict.  I apply Okham’s Razor to trace the conflict to its origin, which is usually a “bent” human being.
Bent humans create conflict out of their character flaws and dysfunctions.  Bent humans are almost always emotionally immature and intellectually dishonest.  They create conflict by acting out of their flawed perspective and are capable of great evil.

Consider the devastation wrought by just one bent character in popular novels such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games and The Game of Thrones. When I read passages describing death and destruction caused by the actions of one person, I can’t help but wonder why.  Why do bent human beings inhabit so many stories?  Are they necessary?  If so, how much damage should they be allowed to inflict?

For me, there is a tipping point when the evil is too much and I am no longer engaged in the story – I want to change it.  I think that is because in real life there are bent humans who have done or are doing great evil.  It is not entertaining; it is depressing and disheartening.

But what I find even more depressing is how bent humans are dealt with in the stories.  They are always killed.  Death is the only option to stop the evil.  But Oyarsa has an alternative.  Speaking to a bent human being, he says, “If you were mine, I would try to cure you.” 

That is the major change I would make in stories about bent humans – I would find a way to redeem them.  If they were mine, I would try to cure them because I think there is always hope.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Self-Directed Learning: Winter’s Captive

Winter's Captive by June V. Bourgo, is an engaging story of one woman's emotional and spiritual journey to enlightenment.  The heroine, Georgia, is five months pregnant when an unexpected situation strands her alone in the woods.  Bourgo uses the setting - an isolated, snowbound cabin - to provide the motivation for her heroine's growth.

 The story – as told by Georgia – charts the journey of a self-directed learner.  Without  any means of contacting the outside world, Georgia’s only hope of survival is to take herself in hand and become her own teacher.  Georgia’s story is a tale of enlightenment and empowerment.

Bourgo skillfully describes that various tasks that Georgia undertakes in order to get food and water, provide heat and light, and prepare for the birth of her child.  As fascinating as these passages are to read, they are only the context for the more interesting learning process – Georgia’s discovery of her best self.

That is the heart of self-directed learning.  It is a revelation of who we are.  It addresses the essential question of what do we do with the blank paper we call “life”.  What lines and curves do we draw, what depth and color do we add?  Moreover, it takes vision and perseverance to continue the learning process when setbacks occur.

Georgia’s winter world is a fitting metaphor for the blank piece of paper.  Her isolation, though not anticipated or desired, produces her best learning.  It reinforces the fact that at some point, self-directed learning requires solitude.  At some time, we all need our own snowbound cabin in order to explore the limitless dimensions of our inner world.  The child growing in Georgia's womb is the focal point that parallels the development of her own emotional maturity. 

To survive, Georgia enters into a social compact with herself, her unborn child, and a spirit guide.  The reflective conversations these relationships evoke are the strongest elements of the book, for which the "red berries" in Perelandra are a fitting metaphor.  For those who are drawn to the inner world of one's soul, Winter's Captive is a fascinating and satisfying read.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Haiku Flower

Once there was a garden of worldwide renown.  Flowers of every color and variety flourished within its walls. No matter what seed was planted, it was sure to thrive – except for one poor plant that year after year failed to bloom. 

One day a poet came to the garden, seeking inspiration for a poem. She walked along the garden’s many paths until she came to an isolated corner where the flowerless plant clung to life.  The poet paused and gently touched it.

On a leafless branch,” she said.  “Little one, you will be the first line of my poem.”

The poet won international fame for her poem so she returned to the garden to see the plant that was her inspiration.  She walked along a garden path to the isolated corner. To her pleased surprise, the plant was covered with fragrant blossoms.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Inner Emigration

“In the months following Hitler’s ascension to chancellor, the German writers who were not outright Nazis had quickly divided into two camps – those who believed it was immoral to remain in Germany and those who felt the best strategy was to stay put, recede as much as possible from the world, and wait for the collapse of the Hitler regime.  The latter approach became know as ‘inner emigration’.”
~ Erik Larson In the Garden of the Beasts

“There is always a choice – either the possible or the impossible one.”
 The Book of Rhino

I was involved in “inner emigration” a few times during the course of my teaching career.  Once in a while an administrative change occurred that was not compatible with teachers’ preferred methods of teaching.  When that happened, some teachers – usually those who were close to retirement – left the profession.  Others, like myself, receded inward and taught as quietly as we could in order to avoid detection.  We taught under the radar of administrative oversight.  Once in a while, inspectors would visit classrooms, clipboard in hand, to check on what teachers were doing.  Because my students were so successful academically, I could ignore the checks against me.

I recently realized that I am experiencing another inner emigration right now.  For the first time, since I started voting in presidential elections, I am keeping all but the most innocuous opinions to myself.  For the first time, I am unsure of how they will be received among friends and family.  For the first time, I hint and dance around issues until I sense it is safe to talk about them.  And like the inner emigrants in Nazi Germany, I am waiting for the whole thing to be over.

It is very strange to find myself in this state of emigration.  I have always voted for issues – the economy, education, the environment and especially social justice – rather than for a particular candidate or political.  Because of this, I have voted for nearly every party at one time or another.  While I never broadcast my vote, I was always comfortable taking about the issues that determined it.  But not this year.  My inner emigrant is urging me to keep quiet.  In today’s current political climate, I am no longer certain what is safe.

Larson writes:
“Berliners came to practice what became known as ‘the German glance – der deutsche Blick – a quick look in all directions when encountering a friend or acquaintance on the street.”

I think with inner emigration one practices a mental version of der deutsche Blick.  The impossible choice I am facing this election year is not on any ballot.  It not deciding which issue I consider most important.  It is determining how and when, where and to whom I break my silence.