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I'm writing this while at Mammoth Cave, KY, in an internet free zone. I had a long day of canoing (well, long for the children, we were out six hours, including a couple of stops to swim) and then went out to dinner at a fantastic mexican restaurant that you have never heard of, but which you should visit if you are ever in the area, and by the area, I mean in the park, or in Bowling Green, or in any other town within an hours' drive of Brownsville, KY. It is called Mis Amigos, and it has been at the north end of the Green River bridge in Brownsville for about a year an a half. The prices were about average for a mexican place, but the entrees were outstanding. Service was quick and pleasant, with Vanessa never having to wait for her water to be refilled. All told, I would recommend that if you like mexican food, it's worth the drive to Brownsville to check it out.
This is my first attempt at loading a picture into my blog. This is my youngest son, and no, this was not a posed picture.
So I looked in my inbox this morning, and found the following.
Actions speak louder than words.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Look before you leap.
He who hesitates is lost.
Many hands make light work.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.
A silent man is a wise one.
A man without words is a man without thoughts.
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
Clothes make the man.
Don't judge a book by its cover.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Better safe than sorry.
The bigger, the better.
The best things come in small packages.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Out of sight, out of mind.
What will be, will be.
Life is what you make it.
Cross your bridges when you come to them.
Forewarned is forearmed.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
One man's meat is another man's poison.
With age comes wisdom.
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings come all wise sayings.
The more, the merrier.
Two's company; three's a crowd
It's funny, in it's way, but it really got me thinking (as if I didn't do that enough already), why are there so many common proverbs that not only conflict, but directly contradict each other? I think the answer is pretty obvious. A proverb is a clever way of saying something that everyone knows is true, and so everyone accepts. The problem is, everyone has heard them so many times, they accept the truth of them without question. So what about when they give opposite counsel? One of my favorite pairs in the email was “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts/Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.” The first one says that you should be careful about accepting gifts, because they may not be what you think they are. The second says to just accept gifts, and not look for hidden motives behind the gift. Definitely a conflict there. Kind of hard to beware of the Trojan Horse if you don't look in his mouth.
And if you don't like that set, surely one of the pairs must be patently in conflict. So what does that tell us about the nature of proverbs? That they are a way of making your opinion on a subject sound as if it had the wisdom of ages supporting it. Now, some of the proverbs are just plain stupid. I mean, no one with an ounce of sense is going to believe that not saying anything means that one is a fool, so if we strike the saying “A man without words is a man without thoughts”, then it's opposite stands unopposed.
However, if we look at the pair “The more, the merrier/Two's company; three's a crowd,” we see that in this instance it comes down to a matter of opinion. I'm not a people person, so I like the first one, but if you like parties, you would probably feel differently. And then there's “What's good for the goose is good for the gander/One man's meat is another man's poison.” Here which proverb applies depends on the situation, as may be the case in the previous example. However, cloaking advice in the form of a well-known proverb can be a form of insurance, because you haven't really said anything, so if it goes wrong, you can blame the proverb-writer.
But, you say, I've been collecting proverbs for years. I have quite a collection. What should I do with them if not give advice? It's simple. Take a magic marker and cross out the word “proverbs” on the box where you store them, and write Koans. That way you can enjoy them to your heart's content without having to show them to another soul. Then, if you've gotten really familiar with one, you might be able to show it to a friend. Maybe.
So I've been thinking a lot lately about proof of God, and what that would look like, and to day I came across this passage by C.S. Lewis:
In all my life I have met only one person who claims to have seen a ghost. And the interesting thing about the story is that that person disbelieved in the immortal soul before she saw the ghost and still disbelieves after seeing it. She says that what she saw must have been an illusion or a trick of the nerves. And obviously she may be right. Seeing is not believing.
For this reason, the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.
If immediate experience cannot prove or disprove the miraculous, still less can history do so. Many people think one can decide whether a miracle occurred in the past by examining the evidence “according to the ordinary rules of historical inquiry.” But the ordinary rules cannot be worked until we have decided whether miracles are possible, and if so, how probable they are. For if they are impossible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince us. If they are possible but immensely improbable, then only mathematically demonstrative evidence will convince us: and since history never provides that degree of evidence for any event, history can never convince us that a miracle occurred. If, on the other hand, miracles are not intrinsically improbable, then the existing evidence will be sufficient to convince us that quite a number of miracles have occurred. The result of our historical enquiries thus depends on the philosophical views which we have been holding before we even began to look at the evidence. The philosophical question must therefore come first.
This squares pretty much with the conclusion that I had been reaching. I have had experiences in my life that I am convinced constitute proof of Christianity. However, they only constitute proof to me, because the experiment could not be run again, and so what my experiences really are is a few anecdotal stories to which I was party that support a conclusion, and not proof in the scientific sense.
The problem comes in that the evidence against Christianity is, to me, weaker than that which is for it. I am forced, as a thinking person, to draw the conclusion that Christianity is likely real and based in fact, and that I must regard Jesus Christ as the literal Son of God in a way that I am not. However, the nature of the evidence before me is such that, while I can tell people it is true, and that I am convinced of it's truthfulness, I cannot prove it to someone who has determined ahead of time that it is likely to be false, because there are other explanations.
The easiest one is that I have hallucinated. It is possible, but if so, it is odd that all my hallucinations have come immediately after prayer, during meditation, and have had the similarities and differences that they have had. They are not something that I want made fun of, so I don't discuss the details with many people, but I have shared them with some. I do have epilepsy, but these were not anything like deja vu, which has a certain feeling to it that was not there during these events, so whatever they were, they were probably not related to the epilepsy. And please, if you're not a neurologist, don't argue the point with me.
Another possibility is that I'm a liar. After all, I do have to be careful to let people know when I am speculating vs. when I know, because I can be very convincing. I have no b doubt that should I choose to I could lie about my religious beliefs and experiences and convince many people. But why should I do that? I'm not making any money off my belief. I'm not getting any security. If I didn't think it was important, it would certainly be easier to let it go. After all, there are certainly less muddy guides to a happy life than the New Testament. The only thing the Holy Scriptures give us, really, is evidence that Christ is the Son of God. As a life guide it has problems. It has historical errors. It has inconsistencies. All that is true. That's probably part of why Joseph Smith couldn't figure out which church to join “by an appeal to the Bible”
So in the end, each person is going to have to decide for themselves, by searching deep within themselves and asking just what they believe is true. I happen to believe that if you go to a quiet place, ask God if he's there, and then have fifteen or thirty minutes that you can just sit quietly and listen for an answer, that at the end, you will have the answer you can build your life on. Be careful, though. If you go in expecting a particular answer, or for it to come in a particular way, you're almost sure to be disappointed. God's sense of humor seems to run that way.
I just read a blog by Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, on Huffpo. I'd link to it, but I haven't bothered to learn to link yet. If you want to read it, go to huffingtonpost.com and look it up, it's fairly recent. He talks some about education in America, and some about why he should be reelected. In particular, though, he makes a good point that we need to be more concerned with copying what has worked and less concerned with pushing some agenda to the finish. The two agendas in particular that seem to be ripping education apart are the agenda to keep the system in place the way it is, championed by the left, and to throw it away and replace it with some private-industry version of what already exists, championed by the right.
The two of you who have read things I have written before have probably figured out that I think the two-party system is at the root of most of what's wrong in our country, so I won't belabor the point. If you want evidence, count how many of the posts either blame the education system and the lefties or the parents and the right-wing nutjobs, as one poster referred to them, and compare that count to the number of people discussing the actual arguments made in the original blog. It's truly pitiful how few people we have that listen any more.
Some of the posts propose solutions to educations' problems based on oversimplifications of those problems. Many of the posts are replies from teachers, that parents are the real problem and thqat they are tired of being blamed for something that was not their fault.
Now, I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things that are wrong with public education. I have four kids, ages 11, 9, 9, and 3, and I am active in their lives, and I want them to live joyful, productive lives. Before reading the blog, and the replies I read (about a quarter of them), I was pretty convinced that public education was broken, and only the fact that I had been hospitalized and unable to school them myself convinced me to put them in public school. I had been actively preparing to bring them back home next year, in fact, primarily because the public schools were making my kids miserable, teaching them disrespect for authority, and in general letting them down (it is, for example, hard to look up to a teacher who can't read or spell as well as you can, or who automatically defers to you on questions of science).
However, I have some new thoughts, and am rethinking my decision. I no longer think that the education system has been killed by being stabbed in the back by Democrats while being bludgeoned by Republicans. I can see what is needed to heal it, and what needs to be avoided, and it is something that someone else said. I'm not going to look up who, because I'm cooking dinner while trying to take care of my kids, and typing in the gaps.
The answer, as Mayor Booker points out, is not ideology, or vouchers, or textbook reform, or equalizing teacher pay, or getting rid of tenure, or any of the programs being debated in Washington. The answer is to get Washington to quit trying to create programs. I'm in favor of standards, and probably even national standards, but I'm not in favor of any other kind of national level control, program, or rule, whether set by congress, the NEA, or anyone else, because frankly, the reason schools are failing is likely to be the same as the reason students fail. They are all treated the same, when what they really need is individualized attention, and unlike the classroom, every school has an individual who is in theory qualified to give it that attention. If a principal had more authority to hire, fire, and set salaries based on both merit and time of service, and had more ability to suspend students who were causing problems, and at the same time were given more accountability for what went on in his or her school; in short, if we treated a principal the way we treat athletic coaches in competitive sports, instead of the senior babysitters they so often are now, then teachers could become better rewarded and recognized, schools could be quickly pulled back from the brink, and we could make our public education something respected in the world before my kids go to college.
But, because this policy would make sense, and would result in saving taxpayer dollars, and would achieve what so many politicians claim they are going to do if elected, it will never be implemented. But hey, maybe if I can convince Model to try it, then Madison County or Berea independent will follow suit, and the rest of the country can lag behind, because I don't plan on leaving until my kids graduate.
I just deleted a folder on thunderbird when I meant to be deleting a message.
And of course, it couldn't be my politics folder, which has been empty since the election.
It couldn't be the Lexfa folder, which is where all the new email from Lexfa comes, and is currently hosting a flame war that I started (should I chuckle evilly or apologize profusely?).
No, it was the family folder, full of emails from my family, pictures, news, old Christmas letters, and other things I really didn't want to lose. It's like having a fire at your house that only burns what's inside the fireproof scrapbook box.
I'm a bit pissed off, so this will be a bit of a rant, and it will be on a topic of no interest or usefulness to most of you, so you will soon lose interest, but I really don't care. I used to unschool my kids. I have four children, and it got to be overwhelming. I was recovering from a severe depression, and I was unable to keep up with them. My depression got worse, my migraines got to be out of control, and I put them in public school. I didn't like it, but was the best option available to me at the time. I have, however, hoped to bring them home again if I ever got to be healthy enough.
In order to help with this, I have been a lurker for years on a list called SSUD, which is for unschooling fathers. It addresses a number of issues, and from time to time I learn something interesting. Its primary purpose, of course, is to advertise SSUD conferences, which are never close to me and which I haven't got the money to go to. Most of the men on the list work, or they have made lifestyle choices which allow them not to work, but they focus their lives on being an unschooling dad. That's fine, but I have my own life with my own priorities, and attending lifestyle-affirming retreats is not on the list.
So I don't post there very often. However, today a topic came up that I had experience with, and it was occasioned by someone asking for help, so I told them what my experiences were, and how that might apply to the question. Specifically, I suggested that in the case of a boy who walked all over his parents and demanded that they serve him hand and foot, he should simply be told no, on the grounds that parents are people, too. You would have thought that I had suggested Tom Cruise see a psychiatrist in a group of scientologists. “Oh, no”, they said, “a good unschooling parent never says no to his child. Children need to have their Yes cup full all the time.”
First of all, the point of unschooling is that all children are individuals, and no one approach works for all individuals. They ought to know this better than anyone, they say they unschool. Unschooling is simply teaching a child without using a set curriculum, and there are a number of different ways to implement it. They are treating it like it's a dogmatic religion, rather than a tool to raise happy, healthy children. When I pointed this out to them, they got huffy and began making threats to remove me from their list.
Secondly, the question arose because someone who had been listening to their self-congratulatory crap for years had said it wasn't working in his family. I suggest a different way of approaching the problem, and they say it's bad for the kid, he should just keep trying? Albert Einstein used to define insanity as doing the same thing and expecting different results. If it's not working, you should find out why and make adjustments, or the poor kid might as well be in taxpayer-funded government-mismanaged babysitting, because that's the way he'd be treated there.
Finally, yes and no are two sides of the same coin, and one is meaningless without the other. Never saying no to your kid isn't much better than never saying yes. I'm not, as one poster suggested, trying recreate the school environment by bending my children to my will. I'm trying to make sure they recognize the inherent value and humanity of those around them as well as their own. The child under discussion treated his mother like a slave, because she let him. They were so worried about possibly influencing their children with behaviorist techniques that they couldn't see that the kid was using those techniques on them, and quite masterfully, too.
On the plus side, my depression is under much better control than it was, and so unschool starts again here on June 3. If things are going well, it will continue on forever.
I love my wife, as I hope most married straight men and lesbians do. In our case, this translates into us talking about pretty much everything that's going on in our lives. However, just now I am making her a gift. I have a wing window from an old VW bug, and I'm painting it with butterflies and flowers. It has a post on the bottom with which she will be able to put it in her garden.
The problem is that I want to tell her about my progress, and show her each step. It's killing me that I can't just show her, and ask her advice on how to proceed, and generally do it with her, because that's how we do pretty much everything. I mean, I know next to nothing about programming, but she still tells me about work, and asks me programming questions. This is something I am pouring my heart into, and I want her to be a part of it.
So I'm coming to you for opinions, everyone. Should I break down and include her? Or should I stand strong so I can surprise her for mother's day with flowers that won't wilt?