Students shape teachers

During commencement season, we shower congratulations on graduates. And there are many occasions in our lives, and those of our children, when we reflect on one or two teachers who were major influences. I wonder how often these flip…

Most commencement proceedings do thank the parents and teachers, and rightly keep the focus on the graduates. They have learned well.

I’d like to congratulate the teachers aware that who they are continuously becoming is influenced by students.

From outside of an educational institution, the complaints of teachers are what is most visible and audible. But I think teachers spend very little time – if we measure and account for their hours – worrying about these complaints, especially compared to the time they spend nurturing our children. It takes a special kind of people to work with these adult matters, then flip a switch and turn toward our children, toward what is their vocation as much as – if not more than – their profession. Their calling.

Many of us think we can teach. But every single day? Against all of the background distractions? Even the teachers who make it to retirement age and are considered not-so-great,… well, they remind me that the vocation is not for everyone. Just doing it is remarkable, whether done exceptionally or not. I don’t think any teacher who reaches retirement can be just “average.”

I hope we have a heightened sensitivity because of the pandemic about the role teachers play as caregivers, not just educators.

When you ask a student what teacher or two influence them the most, sometimes it is in a favorite subject, sometimes not. These are testaments to the human beings, not the course. To the course of those human beings’ lives. Who those adults are continuously-becoming. The people as caregivers. Who give care – their sincere attention – to our youth, amidst many adult distractions. I’ll be damned – some parents can’t even do that well or always.

Perhaps life-long educators are born. But,… I suspect most – and the best – teachers are also the best learners. The ones who are influenced and shaped by the very students they care for. A constant dynamic is occurring in their souls and hearts as they interact with precious human beings during tender years through which they too once passed – lessons they are perpetually open to. Credit to their openness.

I hope to be perpetually open to learning and shaping by young people. With zero doubt, the teachers who have influenced me most by far are named Joseph, Gabriel, and Noah. My 3 sons, autonomous human beings who are separate from me and keep choosing freely to attach to me. Teaching me who I am.
In a course this important, I’ll take any passing grade.

Congratulations teachers. A+ for learning who you are through the gifts of other human beings. All enormous.

Neil D. 2021-06-11

Wood, music, and earways to the soul

I know, I know. Everybody shares videos. Among the staged comedy in this one is the kind of acoustic beauty that touches every soul not dead. Made by 2 forms of wood—one hollowed out, another a long rod with hairs tautly stretched to span its length. For < 3 1/2 minutes, let your soul soar, propelled by your ears, overfilling and overflowing from your thinking mind.

(Thanks for sharing, Frances.)

Neil D. 2021-06-08

Related: “How do you feel?” “I don’t know…”

Tree Envy and Genesis

Dormant, barren but for a few crackling withered and dead leaves that couldn’t escape the snare of prickly gray branches, trees are entirely alive through winter, but that form of alive is slowed and depressed into deep•rest, without which the freshness of springtime and the warmth of lush summer cannot be lived again.

They have gone dormant precisely to protect the fullness of life to come, unifying the dormancy with the fullness. As one, they are one; is it artificial for us to put them into a linear sequence on a timeline? If it is, why do memories evoke such strong emotion when recalled? When made present by recollection? Those emotions aren’t being felt in the past when that happens! And if memories can thus be made present, why can’t the emotions of anticipation count as present?

Why when humans slow down in a depressed deep-rest state to unify the future or past with the present, do we call it “bad”? Pain, sadness, suffering, depression… they are all forms of living which, like a dormant tree, are very much alive.

Trees do not get to choose a climate. They cannot uproot themselves and migrate toward the warmer equator. Do you think they resent that?

They don’t look resentful to me when the birds return to perch and sing songs in their canopy next season. They are at the mercy of the world around them.

But that is a very self-centered, egoic, anthropomorphic way of thinking and projecting the artificial constructions of our glorious mind onto other creatures, isn’t it? Are we a higher form of life than those canopies? We seem to think so, because we seem to ‘think’ we can control the climate and the world around us. ‘Think.’ Sometimes we think poorly or wrongly…

And when we look at someone gone dormant in a deep-rest state to survive for the fullness coming, we feel “bad” for them. Our feeling bad for them must contribute to their feeling bad. Has someone, or everyone, seeded a false reality in our mind with toxic words like good and bad?

Trees are blessed not to have such gullible minds, to not be born of ego. In their blessed state, they do not need a garden-God to warn them not to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Neil D. 2021-06-07

  • Related:
  • Starving by soundbites and science (a)

    Our modern obsession with reductionist and materialist science is starving our souls. It’s the same with soundbite politics. And identity politics and tribalism.

    We are dissatisfied when objective explanation and consensus facts are elusive.

    We are obsessed with simplification.

    Paradoxically, we are not simple creatures.

    We are sometimes this, and sometimes that. We live.

    Life is lessened by subdued dynamics. Freedom oppressed.

    Our souls revel in the richness of complexity and mystery, for our souls are complex and mysterious.

    Our souls find simplicity delicious also, like our egos do. But our souls are agreeable to a much wider menu, and have the taste buds to savor mystery.

    [excerpt from the upcoming series “The Sometimes of Individual Freedom: Treatise on Soul.” For more, at the bottom of this page under Leave A Reply, enter your email (remains private), and checkmark “Notify me of new posts via email.”

    What ideas rose in your mind as you read? Leave a comment, please.


    Neil D. 20201-05-31

    A scientist’s view of COVID facts

    The COVID vaccine divide. “Facts” are folly

    When we engage with someone whose ideals oppose our ideals, it’s often not an engagement at all. We conclude we cannot win, so disengage and retreat to our tribe: The tragic psychological defense of confirmation bias prevails. We learn nothing, and neither do our adversaries. Labeling them hopeless, we are no less hopeless than they are. Hypocrisy.

    Very often, what our opponent wants is the same thing we want: To be heard, and for the embodiment of our own autonomy to be respected. It helps them emotionally abide uncertainty when no certainty can be had. We deny them that hearing most often by defending our formulation of facts as superior to their facts and formulations into opinions and beliefs and ideals.

    When it comes to our adversaries, we might call their facts falsehoods, so dismiss their formulations of their facts. We call them wrong. We uphold our alleged truths and deny theirs. And we’re frequently hypocrites, because our sets of facts and our formulations of those facts are as tenuous as theirs.

    Our egos favor the laziness of certainty. And the simpler certainties are more favorable. Fundamentalism extends to human belief systems found far outside religious domains. We long to call our opinions/beliefs “facts.” Or true. Just like religious zealots.

    Our craving for certainty may be no more evident than when appealing to scientific “facts.” On earth, apples fall downward. Gravity is fact. I am a scientist. Fact. But I’m also a human being with unconscious biases and motives. Fact. Just like every other human being. Fact. People in my tribe are not excluded from unconscious bias. Fact.

    It is the job of a scientist or scientific group to consider the data and formulate conclusions. Whoa. Formulations are not the data. Formulations are not the facts. But laypeople are ill-equipped to digest the raw data, so the public looks to scientists for what it means. And opinions flow. They are expert opinions. But opinions nevertheless. NOT facts. Science has priests and prophets too! What comes from the mouths of religious priests and prophets are not the fullness of the Truth they represent. And what comes from the mouths of scientists and experts is not the fullness their data compose.

    Do you see where this is going? We extend the certainty of the existence of gravity to other scientific matters, and that’s illegitimate. The science around pandemics and vaccines are a different realm. About those matters, we receive information from multiple sources. I want to trust Doctor Anthony Fauci, now a celebrity biased by fame he never sought. I want to trust the CDC, each human member of which feels the pressure of being a savior to return us to social normalcy (they are a public health service). I want to trust companies like Pfizer, J & J, AstraZeneca, etc. I use their products every day; not just drugs, but toothpaste, soap,…

    “Science” in the realms of pandemics and vaccines has no crystal balls to predict the future. No certainty like falling apples. What will be the long-term effects on YOU of an infection? What will be the long-term effects on YOU of getting a vaccine? Doctors and scientists do their best to inform YOU with risks and probabilities so that you can make your own choices. But the doctor/scientist you listen to has already filtered information and chosen what they pass on to you, shaped by multiple layers of motives including fame, fortune, the pursuit of facts and truth, AND goodwill. Always mixtures, never certainties. And goodwill is always part of any of those mixtures.

    Collectively speaking, do you think any pharma company wants to make a profit today which will be eaten up by disaster tomorrow? It happens, and it is sometimes caused by a malicious few; but I still use their soap and drugs. Not because I have to, but because that is my choice based on convenience that, for me, outweighs minuscule — not zero — risk.

    Your choices collide with the choices of your opponents. But you cannot call your opponent wrong based on facts. And that is why you should listen to them as respectfully as you wish they would listen to you. Dont be lazy about respect if you wish to be respected. When you throw up your hands because “they” are wrong, you surrender your wish to be respected. Internal hypocrisy. Disengagement from your own uncertainty; psychological defense of your bias, and dis-integration to protect YOUR internal vulnerability and fear. Dys-function awaits.

    When you berate an anti-vaxer, you strengthen their irrational biases. Have you considered that you are also strengthening your own irrational biases? You wish for certainty, just as they do, where none can be had. You are both pretending, not acknowledging reality. Are you both too small and weak to live in mortal reality? Don’t every one of us want someone to walk with us on our uncertain journeys? Don’t we want EVERYONE to walk with us that way? Be the change you want to see.

    I believe the pandemic is an evolutionary force, like global warming and other environmental matters, globalism, and the potency of social media, all which underscore our connectedness more than our personal independence. American democracy and capitalism are experiments about balancing individual autonomy with collective interests which touch on our individual autonomy.

    Our species has evolved an intricate brain larger than any other species, from which has emerged self-consciousness. Consciousness is absolutely a trait on which natural selection has acted. Tool use, language, and artistic expression are manifestations of the centrality of consciousness to our species.

    At the heart of evolution and natural selection are random and spontaneous mutations which become selective advantages for individuals who have them, and for lineages which propagate them. Such mutations do not confer selective advantages, however, until changes in environment favor them. In such a new environment, individuals who lack the advantageous novelties are ordained to extinction so that the species survives.

    Consciousness of the self is established as a trait in our species. Self interest may have brought us to this new environment in which we are all inextricably connected. Individuals who persist in an abundance of self interest (egocentric) are ill-equipped in this emerging global environment.

    Self-consciousness conferred fitness for survival on our ancestors in our past world environment, but the environment has changed. That once-upon-a-time advantage is now emerging as a disadvantage for individuals who hold it and propagate it to their offspring.

    Consciousness is still at the heart of our species, but collective consciousness is emerging as the selective pressure on our species, replacing the smallness of self consciousness. But, lest you liberal-leaning zealots get too excited:), evolution happens over many, many generations, and thousands if not millions of years.

    Zealotry and fundamentalism will not serve the evolution of collective consciousness, because it simultaneously hardens zealots at the opposite pole.

    An intrinsic wisdom of the American experiment is tolerance for the freedom of ideas. It’s also the wisdom promulgated by a Nazarene prophet: Loving mercy toward one’s self, one’s neighbors, AND one’s enemies. Be conscious of connections. More connection, not less, is the trajectory of humankind and kind human beings.
    Neil D. 2021-05-13

    Questionnaire: Crisis? Transformation

    Do you feel like something familiar is falling apart?

    Do you feel like you’ll do anything to keep it together?

    Do you feel yourself trying to tighten controls and trying to think your way to certitude?

    Do you feel like your soul is being forced to go to a new place?

    Do you feel like you are living in confusing, shadowy space?

    Do you feel yourself closing down or slowly turning bitter?

    Do you feel you are in a moment of insecurity and crisis, and shoulds and oughts aren’t helping?

    Do you feel like your efforts to make things better are just amplifying shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding into unhealthy patterns?

    Perhaps this might help: “The pain of something old falling apart invites the soul to listen at a deeper level, and forces the soul to go to a new place. Most of us would never go to new places in any other way.” These words and questions by another author continue at