To Capture the True Beauty You Must Look and Listen

This is fantastic for so many reasons!

I only wish I could have been there when it happened.  The look on peoples’ faces is remarkable, their delight at an unexpected symphony in the streets as memorable as the experience itself.  It is regrettable, therefore, that only a handful of people will, in fact, remember the event.

A guide from my Costa Rica trip wisely advised us travelers to have a no-technology zone.  When you see, hear, or experience something that takes your breath away, don’t be so quick to pull out the camera.  Take a few minutes at least to absorb the sights, the sounds, to process all of your senses.  This is the act of creating a long-term memory.  Then, and only then, should you document the experience using a cell phone or a camera.

That is our faulty habit, our natural instinct.  That is what these citizens did on the streets.  Many will only recall what they recorded on a 3″ LCD screen.  They didn’t see or hear the symphony for themselves.  Their memory is too small.  Only adults could make such a foolish mistake.  In contrast, a child sits in the front row with an attitude of admiration.  A child walks away with a rich, genuine memory.



Writing and the Imagination

This week I’m taking Harford County Public School’s Methods of Teaching Reading course for professional development.  For most, this mandatory course is a drag and, undeniably, the 40-hour course does rob a teacher of much deserved personal time in the summer.  But given the motivation to learn, I would argue this course is actually turning out to be quite worthwhile.

For my teacher friends in particular, here are two particularly insightful quotes from an article we read.  From Stimulating reluctant writers by Ian Thompson:

(1) “…the process of composition begins as a social and cultural activity….The child’s mastering of writing is integral to the movement from interpersonal social interaction to the intrapersonal development of abstract thought.  This development takes place initially through play (imagination) and finally through the conscious thought required for writing….A child’s greatest achievements are possible in play, achievements that will tomorrow become his basic level of real action and morality.”

In plainspeak: Social interaction and play –> development of higher level thinking –> writing

Teachers need to recognize that imaginative exercises are the first step in the developmental process that gets a student to start writing.  What an incredible power there is to be found in childish recreational and the creative activity of man!  

(2) I made a quote poster of this one.  I’m sure everyone can relate.

Not the most comforting words but certainly true.  Be encouraged!  If we are willing to work hard and persevere, it is through our failures and frustrations that we grow.

Entertainment and Awareness

I don’t watch much TV.  In fact, I have prided myself in years past for not owning a television set at all.  There are two half hour shows that I watch on a weekly basis, if that, and then I might have the news playing in the background through breakfast or dinner.

Lately, my viewing hours have drastically increased due to the Republican Presidential debates.  These debates have been playing out and broadcast ever since May though I have paid more time and attention to them in recent months.  Sometimes they are useful to my understanding of the candidates and the issues, like on Saturday night with the ABC News/Yahoo! debate where I learned more about the history of Israeli/Palestinian relationships.  Sometimes the debates don’t really offer much, like Thursday night’s FOX News debate in Sioux City, Iowa.  Still, I want to hear what the candidates have to say, even when they don’t say much.

Politics, in some peoples’ views, is boring or our government is showing such disregard for our founding principles, they say, that these debates are not worth watching.  The average American is uninterested, even moreso if they have no intention of voting for a Republican candidate in 2012.  What perturbs me, though, is that our society permits this attitude of ignorance.  It is perfectly acceptable to watch several hours of television a day or a quarter of our waking hours throughout the week glued to a glorified light box with no awareness of political candidates or issues.  Then, when general elections have passed, those same people spend their time complaining about the President or elected officials whom they knew little about before empowering them in political office.

So as not to waste my word count on complaining about our government or criticizing the general populace, my counsel is to find some way to get informed.  If you have not already done so, research the issues, read about the candidates, write to your politicians, and get involved in our great American system.  And if you do spend several hours in front of the television set, don’t waste it all in front of entertainment that, in the grand scheme of things, will in no way benefit your life (see Chapter 1 of Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death for more on that line of thought).  Instead, invest your time wisely and responsibly in things that matter.  Admittedly, there are even better sources for understanding the political climate of this country than televised debates between bickering candidates who seek to gain publicity through name calling and predetermined attacks.  Still, televised debates, news reports, or conversation with your neighbor are things that will ultimately matter.  In the words of one of my favorite theologians and authors, applying this line to a different context: “Don’t waste your life.”