Friday, April 19, 2013

Reservations for Ten

Daughter #2 turned fifteen recently.  We had a special dinner; family and long-time friends in attendance.  As the old-guy for this portion of the tribe, I’m at the head of the table.  At the other end are the four girls, my own two and with each, a friend.  I still think of them as girls and I still think of them as mine.

It’s been a blessing, a privilege, and a responsibility to watch them grow this past decade and a half, but I need to stop kidding myself.  They live in that terrible land of not-child and not-adult, and are no more mine than when I belonged to no one, at that age.
At their end of the table they do not know life is hard.  Nor do I wish it to fall upon them suddenly.  My remaining tasks are to ease them forward and slow them down, because I know they are in such a hurry to arrive.
There was a moment of clarity – a quiet realization in the midst of the meal.  I think of those who have passed on and how not that long ago we would have had a table for twelve.  And how, next year, everything will again be changed.
Within months, the oldest friend will be away at college.  Then, next summer, my oldest will take her turn.  Then too, the young ones will be driving.  For them, this is old-time’s sake, though they don’t realize it yet.  They will be their own, and on their own very soon.
The years have rolled along rather quickly.  I have no reason to suspect things to slow down.

Group Work Trifecta

My students hate group work.  Ha ha ha…  That's why I, hee hee hee… assign group projects.  And not just any group project, <tears down cheeks / clutching belly> but group writing-projects requiring research.  I have to move on, my sides are aching.  Chuckle, chuckle…

It is wonderful to hear the wailing, the gnashing of teeth, the lamentations, and to see my reflection in the gall-filled eyes of those imposed upon to interact with other human beings, outside of class, on homework.
What follows are three common complaints about group work. 

We all have different schedules and it's hard getting together outside of class.  I know.  If only someone, someday, would invent a device allowing people to communicate over long distances at any time of the day.  If only someone would create a way to send other people documents in almost real-time.  And, this is far-fetched, but wouldn’t it be really Kurzweil if we could send images and talkin’ moving-pictures to one another?  I hear tell there’s a thing called a telephone built on a network of wires.  Maybe the invento-ologists could play off of that and come up with something.  Until then there’s always smoke signals, or maybe just rhythmically beat on hollow logs in the forest and hope the other team members will hear.

(Insert name here) didn’t do anything.  Yep, (insert name here) was a real turd on this one.  I wonder where (insert name here) learned to be like that?  I mean, what organization out there just passes people up the academic ladder, even when they don’t do their fair share?  And, speaking of victimization, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to break the cycle of abuse?  I mean, what might a group of three people do to help their fourth group member understand how laziness is no longer going to fly?  Might have to talk to (insert name here) and let that person know you know they aren’t doing anything.  And I, as much as the next person, want everyone to like me and to be very popular and to never, ever, never, hurt anybody’s widdle bitty feewings.  If that means sacrificing a grade, so be it.  Because, heck, after this class, me and (insert name here) are going to be best buds.  Maybe we can even sit together when we have to retake this class.
It’s not fair we get the same grade.  Remember the Titanic?  Everybody on the Titanic received the same grade.  Remember the Little Big Horn?  Everybody in the Seventh Cavalry received the same grade.  Remember Border’s Books?  Everybody at Border’s received the same grade.  Please write a 5,000 word personal-reflection essay on the role of fairness and reality.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Two Poems

Here are two poems - thinky thinky - enjoy...


A promise leaves me, I leave myself
Our words do little,
as morning haze or hills do little
but hide the birds that sing
and tell of things we cannot see.

A marsh of swans,
flourishing wings in the mud-nest
to rise and ride the air
and so extend and hold the sky.

But the loon?  He will have fishes
so dunks his head every day.

Explaining to Anne Frank about the Students at Roosevelt
Either no one told them about the war or they never cared.

They admit to nothing and hold up well under interrogation.
They have seen the movie and thought it dull.
They are very good at hiding.
You might like one or two of them.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rendering Unto Caesar

This here is probably going to lose me some points with some of my fundamentalist buddies, non-associated culture warriors, and those Conservatives who just know that if only we could pass such and such a law, or revoke such and such a law, then everything in the world would be just right.  I offer the following balm:

Try not to measure expectations against reality.  Doing so limits one's options.*
Also, this involves some of that Bible stuff.  I'll take it easy on the chapter and verse.  Look that up as homework.

Consider, reading it literally, Adam and Eve had one rule and a couple of jobs.  Life doesn't get easier than that.  The rule was to stay away from that one tree.  That God-given rule did not draw them closer to God.  They couldn't keep it and were kicked out of the garden.

Now consider free will:  in the Bible, can you find a single instance of God forcing someone to do something?  The only person I can think of is Jonah, and even then, it was Jonah who came back at the last minute.  Or, can you find a single instance of Jesus forcing anyone to do something?  I mean, Saul/Paul was thrown from the horse and blinded for a time.  But even then, Paul followed.  No one tied a chain around his neck and dragged him to Damascus.
Speaking of Paul, he wrote the letter to the Romans.  Paul was a Roman citizen.  He could have written that letter to a Roman politician.  He could have petitioned Rome to pass stricter, more God-pleasing laws.  And if a culture could have used that, Rome could have.  They had everything we're working so hard to have.  But Paul did not.  But who did he write the letter of Romans to?  If memory serves, he wrote his letters to churches.  All his letters, stressing behavior modifications, were to people who already believed.  To those who did not believe, Paul spoke about salvation and not behavior modification.
Now go back to the Old Testament.  Not always, but quite often, the Levites (the Priest/leadership tribe) were either lazy, corrupt, or busy trying to integrate other religions into what Israel was supposed to be.  In the New Testament, the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees (Libertarians, Democrats, and Republicans - that's a joke, k??) were in religious control, under the civic and military umbrella of the Romans.  We know what they were like.  Even in scripture, politics and faith do not walk well together.  And never mind a little thing called the Inquisition, nor the fact that every other Protestant denomination conducted persecutions.

What I'm saying is that controlling a government is not going to draw people closer to God.  How much sense does it make to expect people who do not believe in Christ to understand why one law is better than another law or why one set of standards is better than another?  There is a time-tested reason why horses pull carts.
It's kind of a human thing that we LOVE telling other people what to do.  Ths can be observed in playgrounds and in nursing homes.  Things are the way they are today in our socio-political landscape (always wanted to use that phrase in an essay) as a direct result of the politification (I just made that up) of faith.  Believers are more worried about controlling the masses than they are about reaching out to the masses with the primary message of the New Testament.  They have been for some while, and now we're here.  In some ways, I suppose, it is easier to be politically minded than it is to be gospel minded.  It's somehow more secure to work in the framework that we've built than the framework that we read of in the Bible.
How to turn things around?  Stop being like the believers at Ephesus while John was stationed at Patmos.

For my last trick - I will now run the risk of contradicting everything I just said.  Believers have the right and duty to speak their minds and be involved and write letters and petition and protest and attend meetings and vote and run for office and so on and so forth.  Just don't expect those who do not believe to agree, change their minds, or draw closer to God because a particular law was passed or thwarted. 
*Original Andy Decker proverb.