Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 09:17:20 -0400 (EDT)
A Long Random Thought: Disconnection and Connection

An early good morning. I was thinking about spider webs and a message I had receive from an e-mail colleague. He said something to the effect of how he was amazed how everything I discussed about character carried over into the commercial engineering world. We exchanged in a subsequent discussion. Since then, his comments have reminded me of another message or two sent to me long ago raising the question about what the actions of a basketball or football coach have to do with teaching, not mention the parallels between business and academics that I have at times drawn. Well, as the fates would have it, I just read an essay about Bobby Knight, basketball coach at the University of Indiana, by Bill Walton. In it he talks about John Wooden, the UCLA mythical basketball coach using comments like: "Wooden was a teacher....building a foundation based on the human values and personal characteristics...." And then, a few days ago as I was lazily driving my Miata with the top down I heard an NPR program in which Gene Kranz, former NASA flight director, talked about team work, trust, integrity, honesty, and character as essential elements in sending people up in space. And finally, I was listening to a training tape from the e-commerce business which my angelic Susan and I are starting and reading some selections from an Al-Anon publication.

As I cut through the darkness, a light came on. I all came together. They all were connected like strands in a web, talking about how we all so easily are caught up in a web of disconnectedness; talking about resisting the powerful magnet of living disconnected, fearful, distancing, cut-off, shut-out, divisive, separated lives; talking about not being our disconnected lives' and talking of standing in a different place and living transcending connected lives, free of the partitions that make us fearful strangers to ourselves, other lives, and the world around us.

I would like to share with you what I told my friend, Tom:

I'm not sure I ever really talk about only teaching, education, academics. I'm talking more about life in general and a view of life which I take and think others should think about taking into whatever it is they do, feel, and think. And why not. Teaching is a part of my life, not apart from it. And we are so wrong when we buy into the myth that we leave ourselves and "other lives" at the doorstep of the classroom or office. When we do, little wonder that we are so surprised that discussions of issues and principles in one area carries over and is meaningful in others.

You see, I have come to believe that we each have a golden core of human qualities, an essence, certainly a character base of operations, that must be searched out, tapped, mined, brought to the surface, smelted, and used. Like the rays of the rising sun, these qualities radiate out to envelop and warm everything that is bathed by the sun. It is this core from which we draw and with which we venture out into playing our various roles in life, satisfying our needs, coming to life's constant crossroads, facing life's incessant moment of choices, and making the seemingly infinite number of moments of decisions.

And yet, we are so into isolating role playing. We are so discipline and category and role driven in everything we do and think. We are so provincial and so uncosmopolitan. There are times I think people really believe that we are talking about different species of beings, living on separated lands, alien to each other, who look at things differently, act differently, think differently. We erect barriers instead of overcoming them. We dig out separating chasms instead of buiding connecting bridges. And we create isolation instead of community. We locked outselves into dark cells, destroy openness and freedom, break connection, and look at things myopically in only one narrow way focusing on the differences far more than the commonalities.

We so love to talk community and then turn around and act separation; we talk of ecology and act in disconnection. We talk about balance in our lives as if we are quick change artists, donning and shedding costumes; we think of balance as running from room to room, role to role, department to department in business, compartment in life to compartment in life, fast enough to "touch base" with some degree of regularity.

The problem is that we have organized our values, character, information and our quest for knowledge and structured contemporary academies into segmented compartments that we have allowed to drift apart and thus destroy both the natural indivisibility and wholeness of knowledge, community, life, each of ourselves, and its mysteries. and create a false sense of confidence and a restrictive sense of certainty. We see each role, need, quality separate from all other roles, needs, and qualities. But, to ignore one's need certainly have a powerful effect on everything else.

Let's take academics. The traditional disciples are divided into chemistry, geography, political science, history, art, music, education, econonic and on and on and on in which we say: "This is a mathematical problem and here is how to solve it and here is its solution. This is a political science need and this is how we satisfy it. This is chemistry and here is how to teach it and here is how to learn it." But, the boundaries are arbitrary and artifical. They are creations of man, not of Mother Nature. We see it, but don't admit it. Chemistry overflows into biology and becomes biochemistry (and then the wars begin over who teaches and gets credit for what); history overflows into art and becomes art history; economic overflows into history and become economic history; college of education overflows in the College of Arts when art and music become art-ed and music-ed. At best, programaticly, budgetarily, CPU"ly", etc we bring departments together atomisticly, not organicly. We separate the collegiate community into a bunch of disunitied "thems" and "us's": staff, students, faculty, administration. There's no sense of the greater whole.

Anyone who attemps to treat an important problem as purely a "chemistry problem," or a "biology problem," or a "psychological problem," or a "medical problem," or an "engineering problem" is going to run into trouble as so many failed "social experiments" and campus blood-wars over turf have demonstrated. We should have learned by now that life comes to us as a whole, not as cut and dry and isolated subjects, not as separate academic buildings, disjointed departments and warring schools and isolated colleges.

To put it another way, this compartmentalization translates into and out from our character as a cause and effect progression. Who we are at work is somehow separated from and different from who we are at home; what we do publically is distinct from what we do privately. We delude ourselves into thinking we have so many distinct and separated faces that go on and off like a light bulb that none has much if anything to do with the others. I tell my student atheletes that they are not truly comitted to excellence if they pursuit it only on the football field, basketball court, or wherever and accept mediocrity in the classroom. How can we have integrity in our personal lives and surrender it in the name of "reality" in our professional, business, or political roles? What we do is to focus on one role and ignore others. If we are deeply connected with our inner essence and character, however, then each of our roles would be rooted in, a trustee of and an emanation from, and a manifestation of them. Then, we would forge a deep connection among the various roles in our lives.

Life is a whole. We each are human beings who happen to be this or that; we're not this or that who on occasion are human. It's only the analytic prismatic (?) lens we create and impose for our convenience that makes it seem as if problems can be isolated, teaching and learning methods are separate, needs distant. When we forget that it is "only a lens," when we alow ourselves to kowtow to the tyranny of the lens, when we think we have the answers, when we think small and self-servingly, when we think everything is so cut and dry and simple, we have lost both the motivation and capacity to question; we have lost the desire and the need to look to broad horizons; we have lost the experience of the mysterious, that source, as Einstein so rightly put it, of all true art and science. And, we have closed down ourselves to both ourselves and each other with an unacknowledged arrogance. We don't see, appreciate, and thus don't translate skills from one area of life, from one department in a company, to another. We think with a mind spotlighting scarcity, that we don't have time to run from one thing to another, time we spend in one area is not available to another. We think success in one role justifies failure in another. Engineering achievement is okay even if our personal life is falling apart. Gardening has nothing to do with academics. Loving qulaities of parenting are divorced from the qualities of management or teaching. A carpenter can't have anything in common with a professor

The bottom line is that we all have perceptions that guide our thinking and actions. If currently we have negative and disvisive perceptions, I see no reason we cannot work hard to create positive and unifying mental models. No model, no system, no operation exists without people. And it's people who perpetuate or rennovate or demolish or contruct. What we have to do is to get away from our segregating "either/or" and get to our inclusive and appreciative "and."

The problem is how we see the problem. We have to stop looking at the compartments based on "doing" and look at the core essence of "being." We have see ourselves as "human beings," not as "human doings," not as "human havings," and not as "human knowings." We have to stop talking about ourselves by what we know and do, and start talking with each other about who we are--and we see connection within ourselves and among others. Then, and only then, can we see that each of what we do is sort of a promise with ourselves to be all--not some--we can be in all--not some--of what we do.

I wrote a poem in dedication to a dear, now departed, friend and colleague who was an advocate of wholistic living, teaching, learning, and working that only a very few have seen it. I'd like to share it with you. Here it is:

                               YOU TELL ME
                                         YOU DON'T SAY

                                   (for Joysong)

                              You tell me what you know
                                    You don't say who you are
                              You tell me what you do
                                    You don't say who you are
                              You tell me what you have
                                    You don't say who you are
You tell me you love others
      You don't say if you love yourself
You tell me you love others
      You don't say if others say, " I love you"
You tell me you love people
      You don't say that you offer love to a person, unconditional, one at a time
You tell me you care about others
      You don't say that you caringly engage with a person, unrestricted, one at a time
You tell me you have many friends.
      You don't say if anyone calls you, "friend"
You tell me that what you do sustains you
      You don't say what drives you when you are alone, without others and other things
You tell me you are filled with joy
      You don't say you dance without hearing the caution "be careful"
      You don't say you run without listening to the warning "be realistic"
      You don't say you jump without minding the admonition "act your age" 
      You don't say you fly without heeding the castigation "you can't do that"
You tell me you have known pain
      You don't say if you have closed yourself to more pain
You tell me you know sorrow
      You don't say if you hide from it
      You don't say if you camouflage it
      You don't say if you fix it
You tell me you know hurt 
      You don't say if you entered the circle of your own hurt
      You don't say if you cower from life's hurt
       You don't say if you fix it
You tell me you know betrayal
      You don't say if you have betrayed yourself
      You don't say if you have locked yourself off from life's betrayals
You tell me what you have done
      You don't say if you will shrink back from things yet to be done
You tell me of your needs
     You don't say if you can stand with the needs of others
You tell me about your renown
      You don't say if you will do what needs to be done for a person unknown,
      You don't say if you do things unknown
You tell me you do important things
      You don't say if you can respect unimportance
      You don't say if you notice the unnoticed
      You don't say if you see life's little things
You tell me you are a success
      You don't say if you can succeed to live with your own failure, anyone's.
You tell me you are strong
      You don't say if you have the strength to face your own weakness, anyone's,
You tell me you are courageous
      You don't say if you have the boldness to confront your fears, anyone's
You tell me you love truth
      You don't say if you can disappoint while being true
You tell me you love truth
      You don't say if you can anger while being true
You tell me you love truth
      You don't say if you can stand the fire of disharmony while being true
You tell me you love truth
      You don't say if you can be accused of betrayal while being true to yourself 
You tell me you love truth
      You don't say if you have the truthfulness to admit your own untruths
You tell me you live
      You don't say what you will risk living,
      You don't say what you will venture to be alive
      You don't say if you dare the adventure of being alive 
You tell me how much you have done 
      You don't say you will risk looking foolish for what you want yet to be done
      You don't say you will risk looking silly for the love of doing, 
      You don't say you will risk looking childish for fulfilling your dreams
      You don't say you will risk looking naive for following your vision
You tell me you are a wife or husband, sister or brother; 
a daughter or son; a father or mother a thinker of this or doer of that;
a friend or foe, an -ist or an -er 
      When there are no roles to describe, and there are no masks to wear,
      and there are no others to point to, you don't say who you are

                              You tell me what you know....
                                    You don't say who you are
                              You tell me what you do....
                                    You don't say who you are
                              You tell me what you have....
                                    You don't say who you are

Make it a good day. 


Louis Schmier           
Department of History    
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, GA  31698                        /~\    /\ /\
912-333-5947                       /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
                                  /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
                            /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\
                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

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