Monday, May 23, 2011

Dreams of America

America, you land of dreams and hope and wishes and destiny manifest in all the rocks and mountains and rivers, you have failed your aching children.  Bullets ring inside our brains and it is heavy.  We are all left behind these days, running to catch up to the rest of the world.  Which of your people will courageously step forward?  Can we save you, America, land of dreams?  Land of the free – to what?  Free to speak words of hate.  Stay out, intruders.  This is my land.  It is not yours. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Backyard Poetry

Tomorrow I’ll Remember

These days I do not hear the poetry
Laughing in the spaces between my ears.
I sit at night, listening patiently,
And hear the musty house settle and creak
In its old foundations, and hear
My lungs emitting nighttime sighs
That would be silent otherwise.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Story of a Lifetime

     Have you ever read any of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude?  I started to read it last summer, and actually never finished the entirety of it.  It required patience and resolve that I just didn't have at the time.  The story spans, as its title indicates, one hundred years in one family.  You see generation after generation of complexity, and Marquez captures the magic and the myth that gets passed down from one to the next.  He is a brilliant storyteller. 
     For many reasons I have been thinking recently a great deal about stories and how they function in our lives and in our culture, personal and public narrative if you will (with a wink to fellow ESCers).  What is my life story?  What will it amount to?  Will it have all the structurally sound elements - strong plot with clear conflict, resolution, and character development?  What about a theme - will my story have a moral? 
     I'm not sure at this point what my story is or where it's going.  It's hard to analyze the theme when you're in the middle of the book.  I do think I have settled on one thing though, which is that I don't see myself as the author.  I'm leaving that job up to the Big Man.  His stories are far more magnificent than I could ever write, so I'm fine with letting Him tell His story through me. 
     I can feel an argument about agency coming, so without trying to get into a debate, I will only say that allowing God to write your story is a choice.  It is agency.  I choose to see my life as part of a story told by God to his creation, and it certainly takes a great deal of courage to hand over the pen.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fix You

     For the past week I've been doing some interesting experiments with my students.  Along with one of the resource specialists at my school, I've been designing some cognitive tests for my special needs students.  We're trying to assess where the gaps in processing skills are, and then trying to figure out what types of intervention activities can help build skills. 
     In doing all of this I've been speaking with several different people about the fundamental assumptions of special education.  One of the school psychologists told me that these kids have certain disabilities, and it's not a matter of trying to fix their brains.  My kids' brains are how they are, and that's all there is to it.  Our challenge is to find a way to help them find strategies to overcome their disabilities (calculators for example...). 
     I'm not so sure I can accept that though.  My friend (the resource specialist with whom I've been doing all of this) and I believe that our students can overcome their disabilities.  Yes, it is incredibly difficult for them, and yes, it will take some inventive strategies. But, the brain is an amazing organ.  It has the capacity to rewire itself, to create new pathways.  We just have to figure out how to generate those connections.  Will it be the same as normally functioning students?  No.  Absolutely not.  But can it be done?  I have to believe it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


     I was talking with a friend today about the passage "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." (John 14:6).  We were discussing the idea of a personal transformation that can be lived out every day, and I was led to think about a film I saw recently.  It is called I AM, and it is by a director named Tom Shadyac.  The film is rooted in the idea of personal transformation that can go on to change the world. 
     Here is a description of just that from the film's website:
...while he does explore what’s wrong with the world, the film’s overwhelming emphasis is focused on what we can do to make it better.  Watching I AM is ultimately, for many, a transformative experience, yet Shadyac is reluctant to give specific steps for viewers who have been energized by the film.  “What can I do?” “I get asked that a lot,” he says.  “But the solution begins with a deeper transformation that must occur in each of us.  I AM isn’t as much about what you can do, as who you can be.  And from that transformation of being, action will naturally follow.”

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Night Already Devoid of Stars

      Yesterday, after watching Americans flock to public spaces in celebration of Osama bin Laden's death, I posted a quote from Proverbs on my Facebook page: "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles. Proverbs 24:17"  A friend took issue with my post, saying that it was a judgmental use of scripture against those who would celebrate.

     I sent him an email, some of which said:
     It (my post) was intended, rather, as a reminder to be wary of our actions, both outward displays and also the inner actions of our hearts.  The fear and anger inspired by the (9/11) attacks, though justified, have been identified with one man.  That's what worries me most.  Osama bin Laden has been turned into an object of fear and hate (in much the same way that America has been objectified by al-Qaeda to represent vanity and excess), and I take issue with the objectification of any person, no matter the evil they may have committed. Objectification dehumanizes both parties, the one who has been objectified and the one doing the objectification. 

     What's more, if you take a look at what some of the families of victims are saying, this event brings no closure for them.  One more man's death does not bring a beloved family member back.  It doesn't rebuild the towers.  (And in my opinion it still doesn't justify ten years of war.) 

     Revenge is a childish reaction, as is taking joy in it, and for this reason I cannot say I am surprised that most of the revelers last night were college students.  It is much harder, but much more adult, to choose the path of forgiveness and mercy.  I am disappointed, yet not surprised, to see our country once again represented to the world as one of childish reactionary impulses.