Writings: That Icarus thing….and Christa

Too close to the sun? Reaching, and reaching....photo by CBS News
Too close to the sun? Reaching, and reaching….photo by CBS News

Back in the days when I taught language arts, the kids & I would read the story of Icarus.

You know the story (in a nutshell):

Often depicted in art, Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus’s father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea’s dampness would not clog his wings or the sun’s heat melt them. Icarus ignored his father’s instructions not to fly too close to the sun, whereupon the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea.

The Fall of Icarus, by Peter Paul Rubens
The Fall of Icarus, by Peter Paul Rubens

Usually, there would be at least one student who would say, “Yep, sounds like my dad, too – don’t be too lazy, and don’t have too much fun.” After we all laughed, it was nice that we all agreed Icarus was just a frisky puppy who was looking for the edges of how much fun he could have. Instead of the discussion that we had in my college classroom that centred on how big-headed Icarus was, because he didn’t listen to his papa, and how that hubris led to his downfall, ours went another direction.

What if Icarus was a free spirit, looking to go as high as his wings wold take him? Looking for the thrill of going higher? Enjoying the freedom of both flight and powering himself, with his own strength & arms, to just glow, just because, just because.

You remember John Gillespie Magee’s High Flight – you gotta smile when you read it, and nearly every pilot I know loves the joy & feeling of exhilaration of Magee’s words :

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Isn’t that what Icarus wanted to do? And isn’t that what we all want to do?

So one morning, in January 1986, my grade nines in my school in Oregon City, Oregon and I had just wrapped up our Greek mythology session with  Icarus, when my friend Mary from the class next door told me what had happened. My kids & I quietly went to her room (she had a TV), and watched the news of the Challenger explosion. It especially moved the other teachers & I, because one of the astronauts, the first civilian astronaut, was a teacher named Christa. Like us.

The kids left the room silently to go to the midday break, and Jennifer, from my class, whispered to me, “Just like Icarus. Trying to fly higher…”

The news people & the President & pretty much everyone spoke of the Challenger Seven as brave & wonderful.

Magee spoke of the joy of flying & taking the chance to say he had “done a hundred things/You have not dreamed of.”

And my students explored the idea that pushing the envelope, looking for something beyond the edge, was the morale of the story.

Because you might just find joy.

As always, they teach me way more than I could ever teach them.

Remembering our friends –
Brother Ian

The NASA family lost seven of its own on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, when a booster engine failed, causing the Shuttle Challenger to break apart just 73 seconds after launch. In this photo from Jan. 9, 1986, the Challenger crew takes a break during countdown training at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Left to right are Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist. Photo courtesy of NASA.
The NASA family lost seven of its own on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, when a booster engine failed, causing the Shuttle Challenger to break apart just 73 seconds after launch.
In this photo from Jan. 9, 1986, the Challenger crew takes a break during countdown training at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Left to right are Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist.
Photo courtesy of NASA.

Writings: Flow, flow….

12541136_10208400036181323_3931307007510967556_nSilent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Writings: Don’t believe everything you think

Dont-Believe-Everything-You-ThinkDon’t believe everything you think.

First time I heard this, I thought, “Well, that’s dumb. You wouldn’t think it if it wasn’t real to you. Besides blah blah blah….” If you’ve ever been inside my noisy head, you know I just went on. And on.

Then I looked at what I had just thought (or said in my head) and asked myself if it really was dumb. Maybe not. Maybe there’s another way to look at it….

And I realized I didn’t actually believe that thing I had just thought.

That reminded me of a story.

I’m seven years old, in early third grade. It’s the weekend, and my mom is in the back, hanging clothes on the line. My slightly younger sister got a lighter from somewhere, lit a candle, and crawled under a bed to play. The candle caught the bed afire, and smoke started to collect in the house.

raviBecause I went to school, where they trained you in the ways of the world & suggested ways to think, I knew exactly what to do. And I did it, unprompted and unguided, all on my own.

I went quietly and quickly, without talking to anyone, outside to the front yard and stood in the front yard. I remember, even now, hoping my sister was ok, but knew I wasn’t supposed to go back inside until they told me to.

And that’s what I learned from fire drills at school.

(Luckily, my mom was handy with a fire extinguisher, my sister came out of it OK, and when my mom asked, “What are you doing out there?” to the kid standing in the front yard (me), I didn’t say anything, because you’re not supposed to say anything to anyone during a fire drill.)

Interestingly, I don’t recall ever reviewing this with my folks, which meant I had to reflect on it on my own. Naturally, I came to realize that my sister had been in danger, and everything I was instructed to do didn’t help at all. And being afraid of being caught doing the wrong thing really didn’t help the situation. This all started to crystallize in my seven-year-old brain that sometimes you have to do what you’re told, but keep your eyes open, and options open, and your mind open. Shoot, while you’re at it, keep your heart open, too.

Then maybe you can help put out fires, little as you are.

A day after, I remember asked my sister, who had a certain grounded wisdom then, as now, why did she have a lighted candle under the bed. She said, “It was dark under there.”

And I would say, now, it was no darker under there than in my beclouded brain that was full of the thoughts of others that I had made into mine, and rendered me pretty useless in a real emergency.

You ever been in this kind of situation? and head space, and heart space?

Kinda cool to shake free, wasn’t it?

It’s more fun this way – challenging not just what others think but what we think – and I like the look on your face when you do.

Sunny days to you and sunny smiles, because you get it, hey.

Loving you,
Brother Ian

10686913_628734490576578_5926964830998545581_n

Thoughts: Back to nature…

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 4.12.44 PM

From The Spirit Science:

In today’s society it is far too easy to get wrapped up in the grind of day-to-day work life and to forget what it is we truly are. This inspiring message from WWF (World Wildlife Federation) is a short but effective tool of remembrance of our intimate connection to nature. We are nature.

The message is aimed directly to you, personally and direct.

The powerful symbolism and imagery of the story that is shown in reverse really pulls you in.  The film brings to life the still and natural beauty of nature and reminds us to take a step away from the hectic of everyday life. It awakens our born and inherited love of the outdoors.

“I am Nature” is you. Make a change and get out there!