Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Fri 7/9/2004 3:48 AM
Good morning. And, it is an especially good morning! Doctor gave me a "you can do anything you want" clean bill of health a couple of days ago. A pre-dawn mile this morning! It may not sound like much, but after seven weeks on the door stoop stooped by that blasted hernia operation and unexpected weeks of recuperation, I feel I'm on my way back. I feel me taking the first steps to get emotionally, spiritually, and physically back in balance. It'll take me a couple of months to get to back to my full distance, but I took the first step today. And, I'm a patient, silver-lining guy.
Actually, I didn't walk. I swam. It was "Row, row, row you boat, gently down the street...." Yep, down the street. 4:55 a.m. 73 degrees. 100% humidity. The mosquitos and I were sculling against each other on my whole one mile route as if we were Harvard and Yale. We've been water logged for what seems like a biblical forty days and forty nights. We're having a heat wave, and a tidal water wave, and a humidity wave. The storms have been thirty percenting, scattering, forty percenting, occasionaling, isolating, or sixty percenting over my house all month long for what seems like the biblical forty days and night. It has been an interesting June. Plenty of clouds: a slow gathering of scattered, cotton puff balls, quietly drifting during the bright, hot, clammy, and sunny days in the afternoon or early evening gathering into carpets of flashing, dark, billowy, thunderous, racing thunderhead, dumping their watery contents on all below, and then dissipating to reveal the blue or starry sky above.
We have had downpours of rain in the late afternoons and evenings and up-pour of stifling humidity during the day. Because of the cycle of these daily down and up pours, we've had clouds and silver linings: my flower garden is lush with color; everything else is green from mildew; the water table is high; my backyard is sloshy; the grass is growing like kudzu; the weeds are growing like super-kudzu; the koi pond is filled with clean water; the koi pond is spilling over its banks; the mosquitos are wearing life preservers as they row about; the cockroaches are coming inside to dry off and get cool; the screen door is swollen and won't close; the outdoor deck is slimy slippery. The supersaturated air is so hot, thick, heavy, and sticky. I'm thinking of throwing some seasoning, onions, carrots, and celery into the air and having soup for dinner.
As I was walking or swimming, I was starting to prepare myself for a workshop I offering in Miami next week, and I was thinking that it's the beginning of July. It's about six weeks before Fall Semester begins. Like our past few rainy weeks, I can see clouds or silver linings. It's my choice. Like I said, I'm a silver lining, upbeat, cockeyed optimist kind of guy. But, I don't stand outside when it's thundering and lightning. I'm not out of touch with the cloudy goings-on of our campus. I prefer to focus on the silver linings of our new learning community program for majors in A & S and our "I Caught You Caring" program because you can't improve things with negatives. But, I also see the threat of darkening clouds of crunch time on our campus. With each advising and orientation session of new students, it's getting crunchier; it's getting seemingly more herdier, more helter-skelter, more frustrating. As nerves get more frayed, the danger of more uncaring impatience increases and it's getting more important to be consciously even more caring and patient. It has been that way for some time in more ways than one. We're straining and are stretched. Our budget is looking more and more like a lush plum shriveling into a dried prune. On the other hand, our enrollment is growing like a succuleat Georgia peach on a branch in Spring. The conflicting decrease and increase of the numbers game has been putting an ever increasing pressure on our facilities, course offerings, and our administrative and staff and academic personnel. That's why our newly established "I Caught You Caring," I think, is so critical and shouldn't be dismissed, as a colleague told me the other day, as "bunch of hokey nonsense."
I sensed that my friend wasn't so much cynical as he felt an impotence that couldn't be cured by Cialis or self-help books. Somehow we have to help people like him, who is regrettably is not an endangered specie, free themselves from the thought traps helplessness and aloneness in which they are caught; we must support the herculean efforts of some--be they administrators, faculty or staff--to establish a caring, learning community on campus. We can't allow him, any son or daughter, husband or wife, be transformed, flattened, and reduced into empty names on a class role, nameless faces, faceless names, class schedules, ID numbers, cohorts, or units.
I think we should never forget that the way we behave towards ourselves, each and every student, as well as other members of the campus community, holds up a mirror that it is an expression of our values and character. We should treat ourselves and others with caring and with respect not because of something written by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence or compiled by Madison in the Bill of Rights, not because others act the way we demand or want or expect, not because they have earned it or deserve it, not because we want to attain and retain a certain number of students, not because we want to enhance the reputation of our institution, not because we want to increase the size of both our budget and endowment, not because we want to enhance our own professional reputation, not because we want laudatory evaluations, not because we want to have an "I caught you caring" card filled out. We should treat ourselves and others reverently because it's the right thing to do even though it may not be the easier thing to do, because by doing anything otherwise would be morally and ethical indefensible, because we would be taking the low road and diminishing ourselves if we did anything less, because by not serving we do ourselves and others a disservice, because we have a duty to do unto others the way we want them to do unto us.
To drive home that point, I wish we would banish such impersonal, dehumanizing, life-sucking, segregating, hierarchical labels like "student," "department," "college," "administration," "staff," "faculty," "unit," and "cohort." I wish we would see that the gathering of people on any campus and in any classroom is less simple and more complicated, less a level playing field and more an uneven sandlot, less stereotypical and more complex, less a standardized unit and more a human individual, less an abstraction and more a real bundle of unique and precious and unrepeatable talents and potentials, less orderly and more disarrayed, less in need of selectivity and more in need of inclusiveness, less in need of weeding and more in need of nurturing, less of a herded crowd and more of what I call "a gathering of sacred ones," less an illusory ideal and more a human reality, far less perfect and much more imperfect and frail, less intellectual and logical and more emotional and spiritual, less exercising authority over them and information transmission and more people transformation.
I wish we each could understand that how webbish we are and is our campus. There is no isolation, separation, or disconnection. It's all intercourse, interaction, interreaction, interconnection, interrelation, interaction, interbeing, interfeeling, interpower. In the end, there is only communication. Everything is organic; nothing is atomistic. No man is an island. No one is self-made. No one is a separate strand. No one is an independent focus of action. It's all a web of community. Think about it. Subtract all communication and community, we'd have no identity, no purpose, no meaning, no vision. There wouldn't be any campus, college, school, department, administrator, staff, professor, student. No, we are all bonded to each other, dependent on, ecologically inseparable from each other. That can be both humbling and exhilarating. If I remember my Latin, as a play on Decartes, "Sumus ergo sum." "We are; therefore I am."
It would help if parents sent the likes of my colleague, or anyone with whom their son and daughter come into contact, a "please care" letter, accompanied by family albums of pictures or a video. I wish the letter and photos and movies would say, "This is my son/daughter, .......... I hope you get to know him/her. He/she is worth knowing. I ask of you only that you welcome and embrace him/her, that you care about him/her, that you act towards him/her caringly, and treat him/her personally and kindly and respectfully as a worthwhile person as you would want someone to treat you and your son or daughter." And, I wish each of us would sincerely take this plea to heart. And, as a passing thought, wouldn't it be neat if I, my colleague, we each did the same thing with each other. Just wishful thinking.
It may be wishful thinking. Nevertheless, since we are the sum total of our choices, if we care about, live that care caringly, are respectful, have faith in, have hope for, believe in, love, see the beauty within, and serve the interest of each and every person's unique potential, it is amazing what we each can accomplish. They are powerful and wonderful driving forces, for to be animated by the sacredness of each individual is to live in a meaningful and purposeful world charged with grandeur and awe.
I will struggle to help my resigned colleague and others like him see that his power, purpose, and meaning resides in his conviction that his idiosyncratic talents, abilities, gifts are an integral part of his institution; that he is not a "unit," but a valuable bundle of potentials, of buds unfolding, of stories yet to be told; he, like each other, is a unique, unrepeatable, precious life filled with energy, creativity, imagination yet to be fully brought forth; that to be empowered, freed, encouraged to bring himself to fruition, he must free, empower, and encourage others to actualize their gift in order to bring their being to fullness. That is, as we delight in each student we become even more delighted and delightful. I find that love, not disdain or resignation, turns us into ever-stronger silver lining people better able to weather any storms. I find how much richer we can become if we're willing to engage in the back-breaking work of panning for those golden nuggets of hidden discoveries, hidden futures, hidden gifts, hidden talents, hidden potentials, hidden possibilities. And if we are, we'll find the biggest nugget of them all: our caring heart filled with inner joy, an inner pride, an inner sense of goodness, an inner sense of fulfillment, an inner happiness. I find that the moment we hold ourselves or anyone as a sacred human being everything changes, is turned upside down and inside out, is redefined, is revalued. It changes our identity not just the other person's. I find that as we behold the beauty that exists in each student, as we rejoice in each student, as we believe in the unique potential in each student, we see more beauty and our hearts are filled with more joy, and our souls are with permeated more fulfillment. You'll be able to look in the mirror and see reflected a congratulating nod of a head, an acknowledging wink of an eye, and a rewarding tip of the hat. And, I assure you, your accomplishments, sense of fulfillment and satisfaction will be so much deeper and so much more meaningful. Hokey? No. A blessing. That is a blessing that has few equals. Trust me. It's like experiencing an unending number of eighth days of creation.
"Sumus ergo sum."
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier email@example.com Department of History www.therandomthoughts.com Valdosta State University www.halcyon.com/arborhts/louis.html Valdosta, GA 31698 /~\ /\ /\ 912-333-5947 /^\ / \ / /~\ \ /~\__/\ / \__/ \/ / /\ /~\/ \ /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" - \____