Sunday, July 14, 2002

I do this because it makes me feel good?

The Journey Begins

Ho Ho Ho & All That Jazz

We are all destined for greatness. All of us. It is discovering what our
greatness is that is the difficult journey. I am reminded by a simple phrase
uttered by Fred Astaire in the children's film Santa Claus is Coming to Town
(Rankin & Bass, 1970): "be good to one another" this phrase is the answer
to all of life's problems world-wide and within. This phrase is the answer
to world war and turmoil. This simple phrase: Do you want to bring peace
to the middle east? "Be good to one another." Do you want the racial strife
to cease? "Be good to one another." Do you want terrorism to stop? Mass murderers
to desist? People to be less greedy? "Be good to one another." The difficulty
does not lie within the answer the answer is easy it is getting to the answer
which is difficult.

"Be good to one another." This is the most difficult thing for us humans
to do.

Rogue Linebackers, Greg Foglia, & Chaos in the Classroom

My journey began early, I do not mean to say that I am any more special than
the next person - actually this is what my journey has taught me: we are
all special we are all destined for greatness. I can pin point the moment
things turned for me my "paradigm shift" if you will, (Covey, 1990). I was
an athlete in high school and one sport I excelled in was football. I was
a rogue linebacker who many times pushed the boundaries of fair play. But
this brought our team to success. I was also a right flank guard on the offense
team. And in both positions I was a starter. I was a very determined and
powerful athlete, because of economics; (both my parents had to work), and
my "class stature" in school life; (I was unable to associate with my peers),
I was the kid who after football practice would run the fifteen miles to
get home.

I excelled at what I did, there was no pain nor punishment in my workouts
or athletic play. And I loved "being in the game" (Gurian, 1996). I loved
having the grass and mud stains in my uniform, the divot of earth clinging
to my face mask, I still hold an unofficial record for having to replace
my jersey as in nearly every game my jersey would literally get ripped or
torn off my body. There were times when the coaches would pull me from a
play or two in order to give me a "breather" to rest for a moment and then
get back in the game. I hated these moments, I would become agitated that
they pulled me out, that I was missing one moment of play at all. I was a
football player! Not a bench warmer. I was in my sophomore year, my second
year as a starting varsity linebacker when I was called out for a play, to
"catch my breath". On the bench was a football player Greg Foglia, in our
own insipid and juvenile meanness we called him "Faglia" which must have
been heart rendering to Greg. Greg came from a family of impressionable and
accomplished "jocks" all varsity all excellent, Greg was not. Greg was a
"bench warmer" and Greg was always ready to play, his uniform was crisp and
clean, his helmet was scratch less and he was always patting us on the back
and handing us water bottles telling us what a great job we were doing even
we insulted his name. I think perhaps for awhile at least Greg did not mind
being miscalled because that meant us "important" jocks acknowledged him
(Pollack, 1999), he was included in the huddle on and off the field even
if it was in meanness. This lends credence to a subject very dear to my own
personal investigation: this need for belonging even if it is a painful and
dysfunctional belonging, (Kay, 1997). Years later I would parallel Greg with
Herman Hesse's "Leo" - in many ways unbeknownst to Greg, unbeknownst to myself
Greg was a spiritual master for me an inspiration that focused my life beyond
that moment.

This was my moment. One day I came off the field pissed off that I was being
called out, it was near the end of a game and we were up by two touchdowns,
but that could easily change. And I wanted to be involved in this game it
was a home game and as I came off the field I saw all of these parents, calling
out my name telling me what a good job I did and I realized as I looked at
this sea of faces of friends, families of my teammates that I was being selfish
in wanting to play the entire game when people like Greg lived for the three
minutes he might get on the field in a single season of play. This moment
of epiphany is more profound than it may appear, for it is my epiphany and
epiphanies much like service itself is often in the little things those small
seemingly insignificant moments except for us, (Covey, 1990; Himanen, 2001;
Shore , 1999). For the first time that I can recall I understood life from
another's point of view - I looked at their needs, desires and began to see
that they contained the same thoughts, ideas, dreams as I did - just in their
own way. There were other moments prior to this experience of course, bits
and pieces of the chaos which I could see and understand briefly for the
moment of time I lived within it. But this moment brings the pattern to the
chaos, the final "aha!", (Briggs & Peat, 1999), which made me shift my
view on what and who I was to become.

And I speak of chaos often This seems a particular hard address for many
people. I have been fortunate in my own way to understand the "chaos theory"
of natural order, (Briggs & Peat, 1999; Wheatley, 1992). I am a visual
person and things make more sense to me in visual landscapes. I call these
"movies" these landscapes as I see them in my brain. This is how my brain
functions. Therefore I will cite an example, the best visual example of chaos
theory in effect. There exists a movie, a French film titled: La Cite des
Enfants Perdu, "The City of Lost Children" (Jeunet & Caro, 1995). This
film is based on a French children's fable much like our own "bogie man"
stories. There is a scene near the end of the film which has the heroine
a young girl of about ten who is about to be killed by the evil incarnate
in an adult man who literally and figuratively sucks the life source out
of children with a mosquito like needle. She is standing on a rocky cliff
and there is no hope for survival, there is no "older hero" or "adult" to
save her from the grips of fate. As she realizes what her circumstances are
to be she begins a small cry, a single tear forms and washes down her cheek.
The camera follows this tear as it drops slowly from her cheek and falls
on a leaf of a plant at her feet. On this plant was a bee feeding languidly
on the nectar of the plant. The bee becomes startled and then agitated, flies
off of the plant as the tear forces the leaf to sway. The camera follows
then, the bee. The bee angry, flies off seemingly directionless but gets
caught in a wind draft from a vehicle driving down the highway. The bee gets
sucked in by the draft and blows into the cab of the vehicle through an open
window. There the driver of the vehicle becomes frightened by the bee as
it seems he is afraid of getting stung. While trying to redirect the bee
out of the window he misjudges a turn in the road and careens off of the
highway and hits the evil man thus saving the girl from her death. This visual
is chaos theory: a butterfly in Peru flaps its wings and a hurricane hits
Texas… (Briggs & Peat, 1999). A little girl on the precipice of
adulthood is saved by a collection of seemingly unrelated events: a pattern
within the chaos.

Schrodinger's Kittens: What we choose to see

In hindsight I realize many things, those issues we pack along for our ride.
I realize now that I sought the adoration or acceptance of others and when
pulled from the game I believed I was being punished for not being good enough.
I realized that other parents were coming to see my team when my own would
not, did not or could not. I also realize that I had an instrumental teacher
at that time who introduced me to one of my favorite stories of all time.
A story, ironically, that I teach to my students, my children and any one
else that will listen, ironic because this is the same book which put Robert
Greenleaf onto his path of what he calls "servant leadership" (Shore, 1999;
Thibadeaux, 2002, June). My high school English teacher Diane "Doerf" Doerfler
introduced us to the book Siddartha by Herman Hesse, this was typical high
school literature that we read analyzed and wrote papers on, however I was
rather influenced and intrigued by this book. .Afterwards Doerf provided
me with her dog-eared copy of Hesse's Journey to the East. With hindsight
I realize that this book was a turning point in my life. (So I have Doerf
to blame!) I think now on what impression she had on me: she supplied me
with Siddartha, Journey to the East, and Kerouac's Dharma Bums and On the
Road. Within six months I dropped out of school and was hitchhiking around
the country. My own journey began.

What is service?

"We are who we pretend to be, therefore we must be careful who we pretend
to be.
"  Kurt Vonnegut.

Service is many things, inherent, extrinsic; fundamental, inferior; purposeful,
meaningless; desirable, sorrowful -- at the very least we assume or apply
our definitions to what we think service is. While going through this seminar
with the lens of service on, I came across an ideal that has always been
a difficult struggle for myself. I soon discovered that this struggle was
inherent in the design of service. This is the value of service or more
importantly so, what value we place on service.

Extrinsic Rewards

Service is an extrinsic concept: it is a thing we do for others, "Be good
to one another." We should do this because of who we are as a human race.
But as a race we do not value service, we seek the intrinsic motivator -
that feeling within, that warm glow we get from helping each other that 'it
makes me feel good inside when I help others.' This has been the moral dilemma
for myself. For service is doing unselfishly, (Hesse, 1956), -- and yet if
we derive pleasure from doing it we are doing it for selfish reasons. I am
reminded by a "bit" by the social satirist Lenny Bruce: "Thank you Mask Man."
(Bruce, 1965). The setting is the American West and the story line concerns
the famous "mask man" the Lone Ranger. Lenny Bruce goes on to explain why
the Lone Ranger never stayed about for a "thank you" after doing his good

Mask Man (in the background): Hi Ho, Silver!

Dominic: What's with that putz? The schmuck didn't wait! Mamma made
coffee and cake and everything. What is with that guy? I got my hand out
like some jerk and he's already on his horse already!

Person 2: Yeah, yeah: "The Lone Ranger" -- so what does that make

Dominic: What an @#$%@#!! Is he kidding, that guy? Schmuck! I'm standing
there like this with the Mayor and a plaque and everything. . . . I'm going
to punch the crap out of him if I ever see him again!

Dominic: Look at these kids here, they made cookies and wrote a song
called "Thank You, Mask Man." There's your hero! The man too good to accept
a "Thank You" from little children, little children in the crey-paper costumes.
Right now, buddy, you're going to explain or I'm going to whup the hell outta
you, you hear?

Little boy or girl: Thank you, Mask Man.

Mask Man: What's that?

Little boy or girl: Thank you, Mask Man.

Mask Man: "Thank you, Mask Man"? Who said that?

Little boy or girl: I said it. Thank you, Mask Man.

Voices (in background): Help! Help! Mask man! Mask man!

Mask Man: Just a moment, getting a few thank-yous here.

Voices (in background): Mask man! Mask man! Help! Help!

Mask Man: Don't break my balls, now! I've done you people a whole
lotta good and now I wanna get a few thank-yous in return.

Little boy or girl: Thank you, mask Man.

Mask Man: "Thank you, Mask Man." Is zis vot I've been running away
from all deese years? What a fool I've been to run away from a sound like
dis. It's beautiful! Let me hear it again!

Voices (in background): Help! Mask Man! Mask man! Help!

Mask Man: Not you, you miserable ingrates! I mean you, wit da babyface.

Little boy or girl: Thank you, mask Man.

Mask Man: "Thank you, Mask Man." Isn't that something? I'm going to
get a "Thank you, Mask man" every day! I'll put 'em all down in a book: It'll
say" Thank you, Mask Man." Hey, you see that? You see what it says right

Everybody: Thank you, Mask Man!

Mask Man: -- It's signed "People of Syosset, Long Island." Izzn't
dot something? When I'm old, I can lean back on my book of "Thank You, Mask
Man"s. Yes, it's true I can't ride anymore, but would you like to see a little
something that I did? Look at that.

Woman formerly in distress: Thank you, mask Man.

Mask Man: Then one day, it's almost five o'clock. Where is the "Thank
You Mask Man" Man? Has the "Thank You Mask man" Man been here today? You
do have a "Thank You, Mask man" for me, don't you? I thought it would last
forever. I've led a very flamboyant existence: I've pissed all my "Thank
You's" away. You don't have have any, do you? Just gimme one, so I can make
it to the next town. One "Thank You, Mask man"?

Mask Man: Well, then, I'll make trouble. Because I'm geared for it.
And I must have a "Thank you, Mask Man," at all costs. . . . You see, this
way what I don't have, I don't miss -- that's why I always ride off without
waiting for a thank you.

He portrays the masked man as doing his good deed and then the "thank you
mask man" man arrives to say thank you. After awhile of this good deeds and
thank yous, the single "thank you" is not good enough. And soon the Lone
Ranger is questioning the populace "Where is the thank you mask man man?
Where is my thank you?" And soon Lenny Bruce has the Lone Ranger ruminating:
"Well, then, I'll make trouble. Because I'm geared for it. And I must have
a "Thank you, Mask Man," at all costs."

Yin Yang

My battle lies in are we doing this because it is the right thing to do or
are we waiting for the "thank you mask man" man? We are caught in the balance
then the battle between extrinsic and intrinsic value. (Lyons et al, 2002,
June) The eternal battle of will between good and evil yin or yang. I am
perturbed too often by people who claim that the next generation the younger
generation the "youth of today" need to learn intrinsic value as that they
are always seeking extrinsic rewards. These are the same people who voice
the utterance 'it makes me feel good when I do something for others.' These
people are placing their own reward system onto these children, their own
value system and then condemning these children for doing exactly what they
see their parents and grandparents do, (Himanen, 2001). This modeling is
important - we need to "walk the walk" as it was often said these last two

I had previously mentioned a particular paradigm shift. I present another
for stories are how we learn from one another, (Blair, 2002, June; Campbell,
1972) , this one happened when I was quite younger and again was a fluctuation
of the flow, (Brigs & Peat, 1999). I must have been five years of age
because this story concerns my mother and she was dead by the time I was
seven. My sixth year encompassed in her slowly passing away. My mother was
a vibrant woman, liberal in her ideals and philosophy. I remember this one
occasion as I cam bolting through the front porch door. My mother was in
the living room doing the ironing in front of the black and white Philco.
The television set sat on that 1960's semblance of innovatedness and elegance
of living room furniture that was comprised of simple brass tubes and wires.
Mom was ironing in front of the TV as was the method of women in her day,
and on the television was one of the serial westerns that were inundating
the broadcast airwaves in the 1960's. I glanced at the television with my
white American media "Ovaltine" eyes and watched as an "Indian" was shot
down by a cowboy. Being the swaggering all American cowboy that I was I cheered
the shooting. But even before I could relish in my mind what it must have
felt like to be the daring cowpoke slinging a six-shooter from the holster,
before I could even digest the imaginary gunpowder shot mixed with the dry
breeze of the prairie west, before I could even squint down the site on my
right hand thumb and forefinger and squeeze off that wondrous shot…
my mother stopped my cold, dead, admonishing. Her eyes welled with tears
in the anger, fear, hatred, remorse that swelled into her as she saw her
son her baby perversed in the world of media fed racism. She looked hard
at my and my gun hand felt limp her words penetrated deeply "The Indian was
the good guy, the cowboy killed them and took their land, the Indians were
the good guys…" 'The Indians were the good guys?' I looked up at my
mother, "but…" 'The Indians? Were the good guys?' 'But the cowboy wore
a white hat. And we all know that the cowboy in white was the good guy, bad
guys wore black. How could the white hat cowboy be the bad guy? And we all
know the Indians are bad so bad in fact that we called them 'injuns' - they
weren't even real people…'

At that moment I realized I had done something wrong, something monumental,
and for the first time in my short life my brain started to trigger differently
- things are not always the way they seem. This lesson in many ways haunted
me throughout my life. I say haunted, because while thinking differently,
outside of the box, shifting one's paradigms and all is good it is also very
painful. Thinking against the norm, the media fed populace, the status quo
often leaves one cold embittered and alone, (Campbell, 1972, Covey, 1990;
Faludi, 1999; Havel, 1986; Ramirez, 2002, June; Singleton, 2002, June; Steiner,
1999; Westfall, 2002, June; Williams, 2002, June).


It is here that we need to find solace, a belief, an -ogy that makes sense
to us. I was buoyed by a sign on a local church which read "One God but many
paths to Him." This is in one sense difficult for me to express as I do not
have a theo-ogy that I believe in. What I do like about this statement however
is it does express to an openness of other beliefs or ideals. This -ogy then
is a spirituality which is not necessarily grounded in religion but rather
in thought, (Merton, 1968). I will It is with the lessons of living through
this existence of thought that has directed me through my life "plan". We
need direction in order to incorporate and define our own creed and value
system, (Ramirez, 2002, June). Yes, we borrow from our family and friends
and as Mohammed Rafik questioned "often the doctrine of where we were born"
develops our sense of value. I am an avid reader and my "fun" or pleasure
reading often falls into the world of science, most recently quantum physics
and electromagnetism. I have borrowed from the natural sciences often in
my development and philosophical pedagogy. I believe that my success as a
teacher of children with special educational needs stems from my analogizing
chaos theory as it pertains to emotional disturbances. The best way to explain
this is through a story about watching waves. Standing on the beach we can
assume a belief that we see a pattern a rhythm that is repetitive and defined
in the way the waters break over the shore. But we kid ourselves as we see
the change in the pattern of 3 to 5 to 4 to 2 as small waves and then larger
waves break and then suddenly the large one crashes through the beach burying
distant castles and sending us running to higher ground. In the microcosm
we as humans can see the change is daunting and miscalculating. But if were
by fate able to sit above the earth and observe the waves over time we would
see the patterns come to life and yes they may be in a rhythm 3 to 5 to 4
to 2 but these may be in millions of one, billions of others, and tens of
some. The pattern exist but we do not necessarily know how or where to look
for it.

Our Stories

We learn from each other through our stories our histories , (Blair, 2002,
June): too often we forget that history is just that a collection of stories
pertaining to an event or people or time. And sometimes we gather up those
books of stories and place them into larger volumes: bibliographic libraries
- bibles. And way too often we do not read the stories and learn from them
rather we snatch moments and withhold others. Our stories are what have created
us our values our ethos our pathos, they lead us to experience our "plan"
of life. We find direction in our stories, accomplishments and our stories
often stand out because they stood out against the status quo when we experienced
them. Our stories belong to a collective library of shared perspectives and
events (Campbell, 1972), they tell of our journey our "plans" they do not
speak to our "done" because we have not finished them. They are dynamic entities
about themselves ever changing ever growing ever evolving. Our stories are
our service to others it is the passion which binds us to one another often
in uncontrollable end miscalculated moments. We need only to walk barefoot
through the grass to realize that there is not a natural order to things
- especially if we lay among the reeds and explore the worlds hidden below
our feet. Service is thanking the grass for being there, and thanking the
earth for the lessons unfolded, (Heinlein, 1968). Our stories do so, they
reach out and state the obvious when no one wants to state the obvious, they
often rely on humor, (Jonas, 2002, June) to relieve some of the pain that
the stories have wrought.

Our stories our histories and our legacies become the service we bring. Whether
we are in constant battle with the intrinsic/extrinsic value of service is
for our own faith to decide. But service is not about winning, it is about
pain, and perseverance. Service is about passion and desire about setting
a compass and discovering the paths that lead you to your own greatness.
In his book "Illusions: the adventures of a reluctant messiah" Richard Bach
queries on how do we know when our work is done? "Here is the test to find
whether your mission on earth is finished. If you're alive, it isn't."

"Be good to one another."