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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

after…

Nadav Kurtz, film maker

Nadav Kurtz

I don’t know what happens when we die. After, I mean. I don’t believe in heaven — but I don’t believe in hell, either. I have no idea if we reincarnate, although many Buddhists do believe in reincarnation.

I only know that right now, I’m doing the best I can. And that a friend sent me a link to a short film that made me think. About the lives some of us live, and the ever-present danger of no tomorrow…

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Nadav Kurtz, the maker of the short documentary film, meditates in the Zen Buddhist tradition, he notes in an interview in Filmmaker Magazine. Like many Buddhists, he thinks often of impermanence. Specifically, the impermanence of life, and how fine is the line between life & death.Paraíso_WideExt01

Here is his new short film for you. Click on the pictures of the window washers at dawn, right, and enjoy the view.

 

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what teachers know: a thank-you

i love teachersDespite retirement, I still get to work with teachers. And yes, I said ‘get to.’ Because teachers are — unconditionally, uncategorically — the nicest work group I know. FAR nicer than ministers, doctors, lawyers, dentists, salesmen, engineers or even scientists. Really.

The teachers this weekend are from two rural districts in Oklahoma, woefully neglected in a state that is (consistently) in the bottom five states for $$ spent on rural students. They’re used to being ignored. And lately, given the public outcry on education? They keep a low profile.

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They also make incredibly difficult decisions daily, often with no time at all. Does John need a reprimand for not doing his homework or a hug for the fights at home? Should I buy Sarah lunch, or go along with her pretending she forgot? How long do I wait for Adam’s parent to pick him up? And note that these decisions can have long-term impact on students, who are only kids, after all.

When I work with teachers, I always feel awed. Some of my teaching colleagues — especially in larger urban schools — have more than 200 kids each semester. While rural teachers usually have smaller classes, they often wear even more ‘hats.’ And they may have, easily, 5 preps: five different classes they have to prepare lessons for, daily. Including objectives, lesson plans, and paperwork mountainLOTS of paperwork that has to be filed, under most school policies. It’s a HUGE MOUNTAIN of paperwork!

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Teachers know that the paperwork is what the system pays you for. It’s drudge work. The decisions…? Those are the hard part. And trying to interest today’s post-modern, fractionated kids in math, science, grammar, writing. Maps and history and cause & effect. They know that all the education in the world — their own, that of their students — won’t sub for a listening ear. An open heart. Friendship & respect. What they offer our children daily.

If I ever win the lottery, I want to throw a party for all the teachers I know. I want it catered — great food, wine, craft beer, chocolate, LOTS of desserts. I want to put a small bouquet of flowers at the seat of every teacher invited. Because so very seldom do we thank teachers.

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I sincerely doubt if I win the lottery. So what I do, each time I get to work with teachers — get to listen to their incredible stories, get to share even a fragment of their busy lives — is try to let them know I’ve learned. What they have taught me. So I’m listening. And behind that listening is enormous awe. And love. Because while it’s not enough, it’s a start. So teachers I know (and don’t), here it is. I’m giving it back, as I can. An ear. A heart. And a thank-you.

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the people on the bus ~

I’m still learning this whole ‘retirement’ thing. Don’t get me wrong — it’s GREAT! But when September rolls around, I feel like I should be going back to teaching. But at 9:00 a.m. today — and every weekday —  ‘my’ bus leaves w/out me. When I think about that, I feel… well, not exactly abandoned, but certainly out of the loop.

For the past several years, I rode to work almost every day on BOB, the Big Orange Bus. I learned to know the  regulars, made friends w/ many of them, became close to various drivers. Watched students start school and finish, even entering graduate classes. It’s a family unlike any other, the bus family, and the people on the bus are what make it that way.

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I’ve often thought of the bus as the ultimate metaphor: you don’t choose the other passengers; you only choose how you meet them. Some become inexpressibly dear — Bus Carol, about whom I’ve written, comes immediately to mind. Others deepen your life ~ Jerry the driver, who greets each of us a long-lost friend. The beekeeper principal who’s now faculty. The almost-minister who decided on research, instead. Others test your patience: the guy who snored so loudly we worried he was going to keel over. The homeless guy who turned out not to be homeless, only very dirty and very drunk and very clueless. The three girls in the front who talked SO LOUDLY.

I miss the bus people. Even the loud girls in front. It’s the way with things we take for granted, our every day lives. Buddhists know: nothing lasts. Only change is always just around the corner. So pay attention. Even the everyday is fleeting ~

 

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problematica –

problematicaThis thingie is a problem, for scientists. A sedentary, plant-like animal. Cambrian era, so not a really pressing problem. But a good metaphor. I know!  I know! Soooo many things are…

So I just learned that there is a whole category of these weird things that don’t fit: problematica. Really. Thingies (that’s what we call them at my house) that defy categorisation. This is my life, folks.

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Ask me what I think on anything more complex than breakfast, and the old heart/head kick into boxing. Or is that kick-boxing…? At any rate, take the current situation with Syria. I don’t want the US to be the world’s cops. The engaged Buddhist in me, however, notes (as a friend has) that we shouldn’t stand by idly & shrug when someone offs more than 100,000 human beings.

And then my head kicks in again, and I wonder why we only seem to care about the Middle East…? Could it be that pesky fuel stuff? When Rwanda was imploding, we stood by. It took a major political upheaval to get help for the Bosnians, who were massacred by the Serbs. Sudan, Congo…There’s a long list of folks we didn’t rescue.

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In other words? Syria isn’t easily categorised as help/ don’t help. It’s messy. Problematica, you might call it. And I think just knowing that even scientists — dealing with objects long dead — can’t figure out which box is for what, is a huge relief. If you study this stuff all your life, and still go off on whether it’s a plant or an animal (and yes, I know it’s not as easy as it sounds), then I can relax about so many of the moral questions that vex an engaged Buddhist.

Whew.

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