Friday, October 21, 2016

A Few Words of Comfort in Fearful Times

 In the midst of what seem times full of anxiety and fear, these words always are of personal comfort. They come from a slim volume of poetry I stumbled upon in a small bookstore near the Tintern Abbey in Wales:
Though my soul may set in darkness,
it will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly
to be fearful of the night.
(Sarah Williams, “The Old Astronomer to His Pupil”)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fables for Children of All Ages

Nearly 2,500 years ago a Greek slave and storyteller, Aesop, created
short stories or fables to illustrate truths for living (wisdom teachings).
His intent was to use animals or scenes from nature, areas directly
experienced by children, to hold their attention.  I can remember many
years  ago hearing the story of the hare and the turtle and understanding
that the race is  won by the persistent tortoise rather than the flashy hare.
A fable  for today if you think about the two major candidates for the U.S.

Fables are ancient stories to convey truths, often ending with a simple
moral or lesson at the end.  They can be found in many wisdom
traditions, East and West.   If you think about it, many of the
parables Jesus told to help others understand what he was saying,
were also drawn from nature (e.g., the mustard seed, the lost sheep,
etc.)  In fact, Jesus used parables to require people to make decisions
about their lives. Think about the ending to his famous story of the
Good Samaritan when he asked listeners at the end  to ask this
question: Who is my neighbor?

Some years ago, I decided to write and compile a short book  of fables,
initially  for my son.  It was later published under the title,
Little Wisdom for Growing Up and published.  At the time I said it was
the book I enjoyed most writing and probably one from which I learned the most.
As many writers know, sometimes a book seems to create itself, and
you feel the vehicle for its birth, a midwife so to speak.

Years later, teaching college  philosophy and ethics courses  it dawned on me that using
fables as a means to learn would help students grapple with how best
to live.  And that's what ethics is according to the early Greek philosopher, Socrates--learning
how best to live.  So I had students write  and then share their fables.  They seemed to
enjoy writing and reading their stories to others and many said their own children helped them
write theirs.  I hoped that perhaps families might gather around dinner tables long enough to
talk about their stories out of their daily lives.  Wisdom needs to be passed from generation
to generation, and fables are one great means for doing so.  In fact, in the coming year or so
I hope to use many of these student fables in yet another  book.

Within the last month, a new and revised edition of these fables have been published, including
a longer story about a boy, his dog, and a wizard offering a fable about time-- what it is or might be.
This  story also came  from students wondering if time might be an illusion.

Here's a link to the new and revised edition, available from the publisher or in print or electronic
form on Amazon.

Meanwhile, I  am having so much fun writing stories for children, I have another new
manuscript Mr. TuxFinds a Home, about a feral cat we took in.  Hopefully, my
wife's drawings of our many cats and dog will be part of the book. Tux's story is about
being lost and then found, another common theme is world wisdom traditions.

I have often thought that children are the best philosophers.  They wonder, ask
questions, are puzzled by the answers given by adults, and  keep questioning.

                                                 Mr. Tux before coming inside to live.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Few Guides for Political or Religious Debates

If listening is the key to learning, most of us don't seem to have learned much.

We substitute interrupting for actually hearing someone.

We think one sentence ahead as to what we are going to say, rather than
paying attention to what someone is saying to us.

We think speaking louder, even yelling, makes a stronger argument.

We put labels on others rather than respecting their individuality.

We've learned how to do many things at the same tine, but not focus on one.

And then we wonder why others don't listen to us.  It's no wonder we
feel alone in a world of people.

Here are a few simple rules to practice, knowing it takes time and energy.

1.  Focus on what someone is saying to you, not what you want to say
to them.
2.  Respect their point of view, even if you don't agree with it.
3.  Once they are done speaking, see if you can repeat what they have
said to you so they see you understand.
4.  While acknowledging differences, find what you hold in common with  someone.

Perhaps if we practiced these four rules our political, religious and families would be more healthy.