Soul

Dooarkanew? – (Do-Are-Can-You?)

What does your mind tell your heart and your soul?

Does the spirit bring calm when your heart’s in turmoil?

Is your soul being troubled by the mind’s crooked steps?

Inner-self still assured that eternity’s kept?

What do you feel, when your mind isn’t sure?

When you feel, is your mind sent to some other shore?

Is your soul in disquiet, keeping step with your mind?

Can the essence of you, whisper that you are mine?

2/6/2019

From Stuart McDonald

I dedicate these sentiments I wrote (see below) to the people I know who find that they, too, may be beset by doubts, fears and anxieties beyond number, and who find themselves in a place of darkness, shadow and a woefully uncertain future. We live in our present because it is the only now we have.
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Don’t Think That of Me (Stuart McDonald)

You cannot for a moment think of me as this person,
This man,
This wretch or this weakened idiot and fool you think me to be.
For in me, inside of me, as a man of this earth, as torn as the next and as sunken beneath the weight of my own heart as the next,
I am something else.
I am the thing you fear the most,
The faithful one
The determined and recklessly hopeful one.
Yes, quite possibly the most to be feared am I —
He who hopes even when he has none left to himself.
Emptied.
All self gone, all hope gone,
Empty.
Hollowed.
Hardly an echo of hope remains.
Hollow.
And yet I choose to still have something,
Something,
Some foreign and familiar thing
Drifting, floating and sinking within me.
Most to be feared am I.
This shell,
And this husk,
And this body burnt to a crisp.
For you would have me believe that
My fragile shell
Hollowed like a tree trunk carven an eternity ago
Struck down by lightening’s gleeful potency,
Is impotent.
And yet.
And yet, I hope.
My tears stream down my face and I hope.
In spite of my sunken soul and
This withered hand that reaches for someone else’s strength,
And wrapped in the cold blankets of the longest of winters,
I somehow choose some kind of hope.
It is not the kind I am use to.
Not me, my richest of dreams scattered in the winds like ticker tape in days gone by.
No, not like that.
And you think you can crush me?
Perhaps you can.
And perhaps even until the very last minute
I can look outside, beyond the claws
Beyond the mighty pressing weight you claim to possess
And which I certainly feel,
And perhaps even then … When all is fire and heat, and ice and stone all at once,
Even then,
I can gaze beyond this here
Beyond this now.
Even the hopeless can hope.
And I am that man.

Today

The sun came up today and…

Showers fell around and…

Children ate their meals and…

They’re tucked in bed just now.

 

Today we all stayed dry and…

Today we all are warm and…

Today we all kept company and…

Not all alone and scorned.

 

I thought, today, that I had needs and…

Desires, today, which must be filled and…

How, today, might show a spotless house and…

Today, I and family, appear as billed.

 

But, today, we’re fed and watered and…

Today, have family and home and…

We’ve air to breathe, plans to conceive and…

Heart and mind and soul.

 

I may not be whom I imagined and…

Life may not be as I had prayed and…

I may wish for something different but…

I am who I am TODAY.

 

 

 

 

Equality and Equity

So, my last child just completed her last NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy). Whew, are we glad that’s over!

While I was on school council at one of our children’s schools (mainstream government school) I enquired as to whether there was any way of  obtaining comparative information from the NAPLAN for vision impaired students around the state and the country. The principal said that there wasn’t. My children were not obligated to complete the NAPLAN because they are blind, but that would be another difference between them and their peers; and a ‘testing’ environment experience they would not have been able to learn from. Over the years though, we have had one NAPLAN go ‘missing’ completely, one not assessed properly because some of the responses were not in the appropriate format (they were in braille, my child’s preferred format – and only possible one for mathematics, music or languages other than english, “LOTE”), and a third followed up by a very diligent teacher who recognised the assessment of my son as not reflecting what she knew to be his level of ability and achievement (again an issue with no provision for his braille submission’s appropriate assessment, I believe).

Much of what they are assessed on is visual, and the reflection on the Education Department is an implication of no interest or expectation that my children’s outcomes from being in the public system are of importance to the department or the future contribution (or lack-there-of) my children’s impact may have on society; including the contribution they may/will make to the retirement and end-of-life environment government ministers and educators will experience.

Equality and equity are both necessary. My understanding is that equality will give us all the same things; equity will make things fair, just. I realise that this is very difficult to accomplish, especially in an environment where we desire to meet the needs of all, and to do this justly and fairly for ALL is a mammoth task of time and resources.

I’m led to reflect in all of this on the differences between: public and private education, home and institutional education, integration in the mainstream and disability/health or giftedness/remedial-specific education, distance and face-to-face education. To be equitable, I believe all should be on offer, as standardising may be economically efficient but it denies individuality of person, circumstance, belief, value…and discourages the healthy social outcome of diversity and unity as opposed to conformity, and growth both personally and corporately from differences of relational interaction. Having said that, many of these growth opportunities can be frightening, time consuming, financially costly and will require a much more personal, intentional and discerning observation and assessment method. There are places where this is done, but they are few and far between and not readily accessed or publicised.

We expect to be able to choose our career, but circumstances may dictate what it will be. We expect to choose our place of habitation, but circumstances may dictate where it will be. We don’t always get what we expect, or prefer, or even require. But shouldn’t we develop the desire and willingness to try to offer equality and equity? I expect my children to live in a society that does not cater for them automatically, as is true now. They accommodate for the sighted world every day; they submit their school and university work in the teacher or lecturer’s preferred format (in primary school they produced a braille and print copy of nearly everything); they will have to expect that uncovered man-holes may not have been fenced off; they expect we sighted folk to get our left and right mixed up when directing (they do occasionally as well). I’m curious as to why those of us who comfortably live in the mainstream and rarely have to alter the way we prefer to ‘do things’, balk at the slightest suggestion that we accommodate for someone who accommodates for us every day of their lives. I’m not just talking about blindness or disability either! What about different cultures from our own, a perceived different status (I don’t like that word) from our own, someone from a different town or state, a different age group…the list could be endless.

If only we could all embrace the attitude of teachability, being malleable and willingly conscientious to consider another as I go about my day. It is possible, I see it happen. But not as often as I’d like, I guess. Offering a choice is a good start, instead of demand or guilt-ridden compliance.

Just a few thoughts.

Hello, Is Anyone There?

I’ve just listened to an interview on Open House with Dr. Christine Durham titled, Unlocking My Brain. Dr. Durham has an acquired brain injury as a result of a car accident, and talks about her recovery and experiences since her accident. She is clearly extremely diligent, insightful and in tune with herself and her surroundings, even amongst the confusion of brain injury and difficulty communicating. She completed her Master’s and a PHD after her accident!

A few things stood out for me as she described her experiences and journey thus far, and her altered but marvellous abilities and processes that have steered her toward such a magnificent level of recovery and insight. She mentioned more than once the shame she felt at not being “a proper person” and the all-encompassing pain not known or seen by outsiders, together with trying to find “Christine” (herself) either at home or at university or teaching at school.

Because she couldn’t communicate initially (and she nutted out her own forms of communication with half her tongue missing) things were done to her and expected of her without considering her pain may have been greater or different than another patient’s, or that she may not understand what was wrong with her brain, or that she was thinking and feeling things even when not communicating anything. It seems all but one doctor made Christine feel she had no hope. Her hope began to rise at her own accomplishments through her pain, ingenuity, and supportive husband, coupled with this one doctor who said she had the choice to learn independence or stay at home – acknowledging that whichever choice she made it was her’s to make. She sat in university lectures hearing gobbly-gook until something started to make sense. She returned to the classroom teaching without writing, guiding her students in other creative ways, and she began and completed a PHD on acquired brain injury profiting from the experiences of others along the way as well.

I’m not going to throw stones, because I can be guilty of assumption as much as the next person, but Christine’s negative experience seems to have been compounded, even exaggerated or extended due to presumption or transferring one’s own experience onto her as the patient rather than thinking outside the box in an endeavour to find out what her experiences and abilities might actually have been. If someone is reacting in a way that I would feel inappropriate for me, or even for them, perhaps I need first to consider as many of the possibilities as to why they may react this way. Possibilities that would never be true of me included.

When a child who might be classed as being on the autism spectrum is being “educated” in an open learning environment and is screaming and rocking or hitting from under a table, perhaps they are in excruciating pain and in sensory overload from the electric cooking equipment in one part of the building , the music in another, and reading aloud in another. As opposed to the presumed misbehaviour when compared to the teacher or another student. Perhaps the student who is blind is frustrated because they are constantly instructed to “learn to speak up” if not getting the teacher’s attention, when in fact other students don’t have to distract the teacher to get attention. Perhaps the person who has had a stroke would like to take longer to get to the next room independently rather than more quickly with someone pushing them in a wheelchair; they may also wish for you to sit and have a conversation with them that takes much of your time because you have to listen attentively and you both have to repeat yourselves, but they wish for you to know what they are thinking and feeling (or even that they do in fact think and feel).

Getting to know people takes time, lots of time. It requires letting go of assumptions, prejudices, insecurities and pride; and embracing vulnerability, humility, one’s own weaknesses, and an interest in someone else’s experiences, opinions, needs and desires. It’s a taxing thing, but much less of a destruction to one’s own soul than guarding, retaining, defending, justifying, focussing and absorption in one’s own familiarity without scrutiny and self-examination.

Oh to grow and learn every day I’m alive!

For The Love Of A Child

When I said I’d love you always

When I said, no matter what

When I said I’d hold within my arms

Whoever I begot

Well, I meant all I was saying

Well, I meant every single word

Well, I meant in all sincerity

I’d adore my little bird

 

So, sing my little songbird

So, sing in your own way

So, sing with voice, or print, or hand

Sing while you are at play

You speak in different tones sometimes

You speak without a sound

You speak from deep within your soul

Like no other I have found

 

Though they see incapacity

Though they see a misfit

Though they see their life hindered

I see my life on fire; lit

New vision now have I

New vision now could they

New vision now could all embrace

Oh try, now, while you may

 

 

4/5/2014