Saturday, March 30, 2024

Time To Study

I am working on memorizing my lines this morning for a play I will be in soon.  Some of my scenes are now at a point of being “thought perfect” as we used to call it in my bible quizzing days. For example, I just said, “The Bacon-Cateses didn’t invite me for Madame Pompadore.”  It is actually “never invited me”.  

Not that big of a deal, but on stage that kind of flub sets off the lizard part of my brain that starts screaming at me that I made a mistake and it wants to address it… NOW!  It wants to figure out what the actual words should have been.  At which point an internal dialogue starts where I am trying to tell that part of my brain to shut the #$%^ up and that we can deal with this when I am off stage in a few minutes.  I do this while another part of my brain continues with the scene.

One would think that moving beyond thought perfect to word perfect would be enough.  But it isn’t.  You have to go further. I remember watching an interview with the music artist Mylon Lefevre.  He talked about rehearsing beyond getting it right to the point where it is difficult to get it wrong.

I love every part of a show- the rehearsing, the conversations, getting to know the cast, setting up, the production… but not the memorizing.  It gets so tedious.  I get to the point I would rather do ANYTHING than pick up that script again.

But this is a life lesson I learn again and again.  Pretty much anything worthwhile requires work.  Be it mental health, physical health, relationships, career building, education… there are parts that just aren’t going to be cookies and rainbows. 

So, if I want the payoff of all of the good times the memorizing is going to produce…

It is time for me to get back to my script.

Saturday, March 02, 2024

What Works In Education?

I remember a study I read in grad school about which teaching methods were the most successful with students. The conclusion? Whatever method the teacher was most excited about.

States and districts are all about the latest gimmick method. They see a teacher or a district have some success with method X... and now they want everyone to replicate it.

The reality is this: if I have some success with an approach, that doesn't mean it will work for anyone else. It probably won't even work very long for me. What is working presently is something that can't be defined on a spreadsheet or within a bullet point. It is a mix of chemistry, personality, and creativity... that works in THIS moment, with THIS class, and THIS teacher, in THIS setting. Look at it too closely... and it's gone

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Love Is God

I have a few Evangelical ties on Facebook and in real life. So, at least once a week, I see Evangelicals' favorite verse.

"Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." John 14:6

There are thousands of verses that most Evangelicals have never even read... but this one gets put on T-Shirts, bumper stickers, mugs... you name it.

Evangelicals love it because it is so damn exclusive. Jesus tended to be fairly inclusive, so Evangelicals have to step around and ignore a lot of his sayings. Not this one though. This one they cling to like a rope tossed to a drowning man.

This verse did cause me some consternation during the last years of my faith... it was so un-Jesus. Couldn't he see how those words would be weaponized?

Of course, who knows if he even said it... but let me put on my Christian hat for a second and state that he did. Take it a step further and let's say he was divine and liked to layer things up a bit for those paying attention.

There is a mathematical axiom that states – If A=B and B=C then A=C.  This is called the Transitive Property.  According to this property, A, B, and C are completely interchangeable.

1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Notice, it is not that God tries to love or desires to love… it is who and what he is.  ANYONE who loves knows God and is born of him.

God likes math, so let’s use that Transitive Property: God=Love, Jesus=God, Love=Jesus.

Let’s look at that seemingly exclusive verse again.

“Jesus said, “Love is THE WAY, Love is THE TRUTH, Love is THE LIFE.  No one comes to the Father but through Love.”

Now that verse syncs up with 1 John 4… and can no longer be weaponized.  Everyone has access to God through Love.


Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

Monday, February 26, 2024

How To Lose An Ally

"That's the difference between the Democratic and the Republican Party - Democrats are hostage to their crazy minority and Republicans are hostage to their crazy majority." ~ Bret Stephens

I often say that Democrats and liberals have a talent for turning allies into enemies.  The slightest deviance from whatever is the accepted orthodoxy of the moment can get a politician or leader in more hot water than they care to deal with.

I re-read a conversation that occurred on a friend's page last year where this was happening.  Issues of sexuality and gender were being discussed and I would guess that nearly everyone in the thread felt roughly the same way in terms of rights for everyone.  There was one person though who felt a lot of frustration with any variance away from her "pure" view... and that was translating into her doling out some pretty harsh rhetoric.  People who should have been allies were in her crosshairs and she did not question pulling the trigger.

I have met a lot of liberals like her over the years... and I am pretty sure they may have motivated as many folks to MAGA rallies as the orange buffoon himself.

Anyway, here was what I wrote at the time... and I still feel this way.  And no, in her estimation, I am just part of the problem.

"Amy I think you are expecting too much from people.

I teach math.  Have you ever tried to do math in a different number system?  It's kinda crazy.  We have done math our whole lives in base 10... probably because we have 10 digits on our hands.  If we had 12, all of our math would probably be done in base 12.

So, for example, in base 3 math 1+2=10.  That's cause the odometer spins after 2 instead of 9.  Get a bunch of adults trying to do math in base 3 and you will see them counting on their fingers to do the simplest equations.  They have been functioning under base 10 all their lives.  Their brains are literally wired for it.

I know "how" to do math in other number systems... but it still feels awkward and I have to REALLY think about it.  It never comes natural.

In the same way, people have been brought up to perceive gender in a certain way... their WHOLE lives...  Then someone explains that, actually, there is a whole new mathematical approach.  It is probably never going to be as 2nd nature to them as it is to you... even if they are trying.

I mentally assent to all of the issues regarding sexuality and gender... but I can't say I "get" them.  I can do the math... but I really have to pay attention.  It can be a little exhausting when people resent me when it does not come as naturally for me as it does for them... as I am sure it is exhausting when they have to re-explain something that, to them, is as clear as day.

My kids are much more "fluent" with trans issues.  I will probably always feel a bit like a right-hander throwing left-handed.

We all want to be heard and we all want to be understood... but I don't think we can demand that of others.  We can demand equal treatment under the law.  We can expect to be treated civilly.  I think though, to describe someone who does not "get" me as "despising" me is not helpful, nor is it accurate."

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Historical Jesus?

Someone asked me if I believed in a historical Jesus-

"I think there probably was a Jesus... but everything we know of him is 2nd hand, generations later, motivated retells. So, I take the stories for what they are and what they say... and don't worry too much when Jesus contradicts himself or the Pauline epistles head in different directions.

In the end, those who scream most loudly about the Bible being the "Word of God" usually have a very thin knowledge of how it came about or what it contains. In my sect, Evangelicals, we would regurgitate the same 500 verses annually, while pretty much ignoring the other 30,000.

Ultimately, I think most folks find the Jesus they want in the Bible. I have friends of all different economic, social, and political persuasions... and funny enough, all of them quote Jesus and claim to be followers. Jesus has many faces."

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Abraham Failed the Test

I wrote this in a discussion about Abraham and Issac 10 years ago-

First, I don't think the event actually happened... It is a moral fable which a nomadic people told to make a point. If you get emotionally invested in it being real, you will probably miss the author's intended point... as you would if you felt Apollo was the negligent party with Asclepius by letting him drive the chariot in the first place.

But let's assume it all happened as it is written. First, we may error in assuming Abraham viewed Isaac the way modern parents view their children. Abraham most likely viewed Isaac as his most treasured possession... but still a possession. If it came down to it, he would save his own rear end before he would save Issac; in the same way any of us would sacrifice any possession we have to save our own skin.

However, I would look at it this way. What if the god Jehovah really wanted Abraham to say no? He is the most powerful being in the universe... he always gets what he wants... but he has no equal, so he lacks relationships. Here he is trying to forge one with his creation... but he can't get around his... imposing personality. He can't help but feel his relationship with Abraham isn't really a friendship... and it was proved that day. He had Abraham's obedience but that is a poor substitute for friendship.  He knows Abraham fears him... and this leaves him disappointed. 

God was like the bully of the playground who one day realizes that he has a big posse but no friends. He is surrounded by sycophants and those who are afraid of him. What he yearned for was for Abraham to say no. That is what friends do... sometimes they help protect us from ourselves. A true friend would never acquiesce to such a demand.

I don't think Abraham passed the test that day. He failed his son, and he failed the god who wanted to be his friend.

Monday, January 01, 2024

Conservative Faith Can Never Bring Peace

"'People kill for money or for power,' DeMello's Holy One teaches. 'But the most ruthless murderers are those who kill for their ideas.' It is not belief that causes war, it is believers who refuse to allow others to hold ideas other than their own." - Joan Chittister

This is why when you look through history, there are not examples of successful conservative religious societies.  They cannot tolerate other religions.  There is no peaceful coexistence.  Even if all are converted to the same faith, the orthodox will discover heretics.  Conservative religion despises, yet needs, the 'other'.

In my last years as a Christian, I had taken to announcing questions and conclusions I was coming to regarding my faith.  On one occasion, I got a retort on FB from one of my pastors.

Me: I believe Christianity competes with other religions, and that is a mistake.

Pastor:  REALLY? Jesus said, “go and make disciples of every nation.” Guess what his disciples did. They went out and made disciples of Jews, Gentiles, Idol worshippers, and people of all religions. That’s not competition, that’s obedience to Jesus. We Christians still follow Jesus’ commands, whether you think that is a mistake or not.

Our church was not a particularly heavy-handed conservative fellowship but showing an aversion to conversion was enough to categorize me outside the faith.  

There is no peace in conservative faith while unbelievers and folks of other religions remain.  Presently, "obedience to Jesus" when converting others is not violent but it has not always been so.  We can look around the world at conservative religions and see that they don't play well with others.  

I don't suspect America's conservative faithful would fare any better should they acquire real power.  Remember this, moderate believer, when you assume that voting for a conservative Christian is a good thing.  History and present-day global examples tell us otherwise.  There are legions of Christians in America who would use the force of law to make you obedient to their vision of 'Jesus'.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Experience vs Efficiency

In my classroom, the kids have weekly assigned jobs.  One of them is to pass out sanitizing wipes.  First thing after we come in the door, a student will grab the container and start putting wipes on each desk.

This week the task was assigned to “Joey” and he shows up late for school almost daily.  So, the job has been passed off to random students each day.  This has slowed our start each morning because it takes us a minute to realize it is not being done.

This morning as I was getting ready, I decided to pass out the wipes myself since “Joey” would probably not show up on time.  I noted how much faster I got it done… probably less than 30 seconds.  My students often take 5 minutes to accomplish this task.  They have trouble getting a wipe out, they drop the tub, they get distracted, they lose their place, they miss someone and an argument starts.

For a moment, I considered taking over this daily job.  It would save me time and, honestly, some stress.  But then I catch myself.  A major temptation I have to resist as a teacher is to do things for the students that they have the ability to do for themselves.  I have to regularly make peace with the reality that they will do a job slowly, messily, poorly.

I can add a lot of efficiency to my day by having students do very little.  If I do it for them, it gets done quick, clean, and without drama.  

But then they experience nothing.  

So, I remind myself – let them cut out the circles… badly.  Let them move the items… and knock half of them over.  Have them pass out the papers… and be painfully slow doing it.

Efficiency seems ideal in the moment but kids need the inefficiency of experience if they are going to grow.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Humanity's Desire for the Fantastic

I recently read an article by science fiction writer, David Brin, commenting on Congress's need to address some UFO conspiracies. 

Be it ghosts, deities, UFOs, auras, crystals, or vast conspiracies centered on pizza restaurants... underlying all of this is a desire for the fantastic.  We want our emotions stirred.  Most folks find that in music, art, books, movies etc...  But for some reason, many humans are not content with story and imagination.  They want it to be "real".

I do too.  It would be a blast if people could swing between buildings after being bitten by a radioactive spider.  How amazing would it be if aliens landed in Central Park and wanted to introduce us to the wonders of the universe.  Wouldn't it be great if a deity or two could secure peace and let us know that everything will be alright?

I just don't think that is the world we inhabit.

But I understand the draw.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Those First Few Weeks of School

I think parents, teachers, and students need to give themselves a little grace during that first month of school.

Have you ever turned down your music when driving in a new neighborhood trying to find an address?  What does music have to do with directions?

It is another input.  Another distraction when all of your mental energy is trying to focus.

My classroom is old-hat to me.  But to my new students? Everything is novel.  Where the pencil sharpener is, how I pass things out, procedures for lining up.  Literally, everything is new.  So many inputs. And, unlike the music in your car, there is no button to tune some of it out.

The first month is kind of nuts.  Take a breath.  It'll get better.

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