Went out early on the streets this morning amid Noel Coward’s mad dogs and Englishmen. But, trust me, his noonday sun doesn’t hold a candle to South Georgia’s brutally blazing summer morning sun: 82 searing degrees, 84% swampy humidity. For an hour and a quarter, I fast walked six miles in that sauna under a cloudless, breezeless, azure sky. The air was so heavy, no breeze could have move it. All along the way, water cascaded off my body and I wondered if I was walking or swimming, if I should have put on a bathing suit, reef shoes and googles instead of my jogging shorts, walkers, and sunglasses. When I got home, all clammy with salt, knowing how Lot’s wife felt, I poured cool water down my throat to replenish the gallons that poured out from my pores.

As nature was water-boarding me, however, I had a soothing warmth inside. I was thinking once again about faith, hope and love because of one of those “you don’t ask” incidents that happened on my walk Saturday. As the saying goes: the strangest things happen at the strangest places in the strangest ways. I wasn’t two blocks out when, waiting for the light to change by the University, a young man rushed over to me. He introduced himself as Erik Wells, a student of mine in 2004. He was so excited that he had accidentally bumped into his “favorite professor” that he naively asked if he could walk and talk with me. During the entire six miles, at a pace I feared would give him a heart attack, we eagerly talked. For the next 80 minutes or so, we both forgot about the heat and humidity. We exchanged professional and personal micro-autobiographies. Our discussions jumped around like a marble in Chinese checkers from philosophy to theology to politics, from teaching to sales, from the classroom to the workplace, from family to society. And yet, as I look back, there was a common thread. Every word, implicitly and explicitly, centered around such things as personal integrity, authenticity, values, character, mindfulness, honesty, reflection, gratitude, purpose, service, otherness, purpose, meaningfulness, and community. They, in turn, constantly and explicitly evoked faith, hope, and love. We talked of Dale Carnegie, Viktor Fraenkl, and Leo Buscaglia.

I wrote Erik that night how the walk and talk for me was an uplifting, inspiring, and meaningful “wow” experience. A few of his sentences have stayed with me. “In everything you did with us was for us, each of us….You not only spoke about faith, hope, and love to us, but you lived it. And, you helped each of us struggle to do the same thing with ourselves and others….I always remember how on the last day of class when we did closure, you said to us without any embarrassment, “I love you”….After all these years, I didn’t see it until now that you’re still living in me and teaching me.” At the end of the route, in front of my house, we hugged, parted, and promised to keep in touch.

Fluff some of you have said to me about the need for faith, hope, and love as guiding principles in academia. Tell Erik that; he and his peers are heirs to them. To the naysayers, I answer, that it’s easy to have an “I care,” or “I have faith in you,” or “There’s hope for you,” or “I love you” roll off your tongue.  It’s something else to have them in your bones, to sincerely live faithfully, hopefully, and lovingly, and to have others feel that special, unconditional faith in them, hope for them, and love of them. Fluff? It’s hard to continually have faith, hope, and love, much less to constantly embody them. It’s takes a hell of lot of concentrated and conscious effort. It takes a lot of time, commitment, determination. A soft heart is strong; a gentle soul is fierce; a “touchy-feely” spirit touches and feels.

To have unconditional–unconditional–faith, hope, and love is like walking through a London fog that forces you to slow down and have all your attentive senses on full alert. It forces you to deeply and penetratingly see and intently listen. To what? Well, first, to yourself, and then to the needs of people around you. I know from whence I speak. I was in that thick mist until twenty-four years ago. To find my way out of it, I had to be walk willingly–willingly– inside myself and ask the tough questions of myself:  Who are you, really?  Am I generous? Am I haughty? Do I close doors? Am I judgmental? Do I offer opportunities? Am I cynical? Am I a “kindness failure?” Am I selfish? Do I share? Am I serving? Am I truly happy? Am I grim? Am I connecting and touching others? What do I have to offer? Do I nurture people? Do I moan and groan? Do I weed out? Am I respectful of who they are? Am I distant? Am I fearful? Am I insecure? Am I enjoying life? Am I going? Do I resent? Am I filling empty pursuits with purpose? And, do I have to have the strength and courage to honestly answer those queries and make real decisions, for the answers are at the heart of how I best map out the road trip forward towards my vision, of the extent to which this trip is a joyful one. No fluff in that!

For me to have unconditional faith, hope, and love, I discovered that I had to obey the command of constantly letting go of dehumanizing stereotypes, of impersonal generalizations, of flattening labels, and of closed-minded and denigrating assumptions and expectations. Faith, hope, and love, for me, became candles that illuminated the unique and miraculous richness in every person; they came to be about seeing and respecting each person as a valuable rarity, each possessing a unique potential. As Viktor Frankl might say, they are about mindfulness, awareness, alertness, attentiveness without which I could not truly be reflective and contemplative; not see and listen to each student; not really care and be empathetic and be sympathetic of each student, and not be supporting and encouraging of each student. And, by enabling each person become aware of who she or he can be, I can help each student help her/himself strive to become the person she or he can be.  And so, faith, hope, and love created a mindfulness, awareness, alertness, and attentiveness that led me to fashion that vision and to create my “Teacher’s Oath” as a mean of walking towards that vision with each student.

Faith, hope, and love came to live within me, spread beauty throughout all I did, were all I had and all I was and am. They became my reason. They became my drive. They became my persistence and insistence. They became my patience. They opened, welcomed, cared, embraced, nurtured, fertilized. They filled me with the power of an authentic purpose. They gave me courage and confidence.

Roll your eyes if you will, but I tell you from personal and professional experience, if you want to value strength, hardness, vigor, ruggedness, sturdiness, muscular, toughness, value faith, hope, and love. To have faith, hope, and love for anyone in the classroom, and anywhere for that matter, demands a strong heart, a rugged determination, a steadfast spirit, a tough skin, a hard perseverance, and enduring persistence.

I’m not sure academics need more pedagogies, more technologies, more assessment, and all that stuff. What the Eriks of this world prove is that, as Erik said in so many words, academia really needs is more humanity, more community, more spirituality, more seeing, more listening, more serving, more dealing with the needs of others, more unconditional faith, hope, and love.


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Faith, Hope, Love, V

So, let’s talk some more about faith, hope, and love in the classroom by reflecting about my recent experience outside the classroom. Susie and I just returned from two weeks of family care-giving in Boston. As I settled in my cramped seat on theplane a warm wash came over me. My eyes closed, I thought a lot, deeply, maybe even profoundly, about how each of us deal with pain, physical disability, fragility, mental deterioration, mental anguish, and the fear of being pitied and forgotten in some dependent care facility. In academia, our attitudes of privilege, self-expectations, and indeed our training, has made us particularly vulnerable to the kind of detachment so many of us currently experience. It’s a similar question of how do we deal with the challenge of the cynical and sad perception that “they don’t belong here” or “they’re letting anyone in?” How do we address the fear of job insecurity and a lack of campus-wide community? The question is: be it colleague or student, do we have faith in, hope for, and love of people only when things go right, only because they’re clever, physically beautiful, talented, knowledgable, accomplished GPA-wise? Or, do we see beyond all that, and have faith in, hope for, and love people just because they’re people. Without any laid down conditions, do we hear them knock; do we open the door; do we hospitably ask them in; do we see their beauty; do we acknowledge their sacredness; do we believe in their potential; do we embrace, support, and encourage them?

You know, one thing that struck me in Boston that is applicable in any classroom was that when you have faith in and hope for people, when you love them, you don’t idolize them from afar; you recognize their beauty and sacredness. That beauty and sacredness are incredibly powerful. In the midst of ugly disdain and dismissal, they convert us into what I’ll call a “spirit whisperer.” As nothing can, they feed our spirit, move us, stop us in our tracks, shake us out of tiresome familiarity and weary routine, take us to a different level of feeling and thinking, open our eyes and ears, force us to notice.

We’re returning to Boston in five or six months, and have decided we will do that on a regular basis, sooner if need be. We made this decision not out of a sense of obligation, not because we have to. We’ll be returning because we want to. At first glance, it would seem we didn’t do that much while we were there: chauffeured, shopped for food, pick up medicines, took clothes to the cleaners, cooked some meals, took walks, went to the movies, watched television, made some minor repairs, and did a host of other mundane things. But, sometimes, a lot of times, “not that much,” just being there for example, the little things matter as much as, if not sometime more, than the big stuff. Being in a little place like the breakfast nook in the morning, out on the deck in the afternoon, or in the TV room at night sparkled with little lights of love. That was brought home on the next to last day, when we told them that we would be returning at the end of October, their eyes and faces lit up with joy. Being there told them that they are more than just being seen; they are appreciated, valued, loved. How did Leo Buscaglia say it? “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

It reminded me that faith, hope, and love–anywhere, any time–is an exercise of respect, tender caring, kindly serving, consideration, empathy, compassion, support, and encouragement. They’re a pursuit of something far stronger than anything a discipline can offer: meaning and service through human relationships. They say, “You are sacred, you are sacred to me. I will not ignore you; I will not diminish you; I will not set you aside. No, I will honor you, be there with you, and will walk with you.” They mean to see, not just look at one another; and, to see means unconditionally to appreciate and value someone as a worthy somebody. They mean to listen, not just hear, to another; and, to listen means being attentive, caring, nurturing; it means being silent and not getting the last word in. They mean to touch someone in a way that is a wanted embracing hug of the spirit. They all mean replacing the “me” of ego with the “you” of love. They’re always about “how can I make you feel worthy, valued, loved?” They offer us a place from which to meet the challenges of life that resume, title, and position cannot. They help us fight for our purpose, against self-diminsihing cynicism brought on by unreasonable expectations and unrealistic perceptions.

And, maybe, in Boston,then, there is a lesson for all of us in the classrooms: to have faith, hope, and love with every fiber of our being. Love reality! Have the courage and strength to rise to it, accept it, touch it, face it, embrace it. Don’t live in and ruminate about a host of wishful, self-serving, emotional self-satisfying, self-pitying, frustrating, and even angry could haves, should haves, and would haves. Stop living in anguish and disappointment if reality isn’t going the way you want. It’s when faith, hope, and love bubble up from deep within our heart and soul, when we tear ourselves loose from selfishness and bear the burdens of someone else, caring enough to share ourselves with that person, and serving her or him. Inside or outside the classroom, we all should be distinguished by the faith, hope, and love we have. They should burst forth with such enthusiasm that they could never be hidden. They are the philosophy of caring and serving; they are the religion of caring and serving; they are the neuroscience of caring and serving; they are the ethic and morality of caring and serving; they are the pedagogy of caring and serving.

So, as Viktor Frankl might say, we should not merely pursue faith, hope, and love; we should be a living sign, an embodiment, of them. If we do, as I found in Boston–and in the classroom–we’ll true meaning. We’ll notice rather than ignore; we’ll lift up rather than push down, away, or aside; we’ll nurture rather than weed out; and in so doing, we’ll nurture and lift ourselves up. Those are the moments that most define who we are. And, those are the moments that bring us most inner peace and joy.




You know, sometimes I hate Isaac Newton, or, at least, his devotees who advocated that everything is a machine and is governed by intelligible, universal, and immutable laws. I say this because the scholarship of teaching and learning has turned the classroom in a Newtonian pedagogically and technologically mechanical system. In the rush to make teaching an important part of academia, in the effort to make it a worthy partner to scientific research and publication, in the effort to give teaching a scientific bent, far too many of us have made a pact with the devil. We’ve “scientized” teaching; we “thingified” it; and, in so doing, we’ve unnaturally de-humanized, impersonalized, and sanitized it as well. We’ve brought the 18th century view of people into the classroom; we’ve divided people into the separated higher order of the superior cognitive and the lower order of the inferior emotive. To prove ourselves, we’ve joined the mechanized bandwagon with our total focus on and reliance on scientific method of testing and grading and assessment. We’ve soften our stand, almost into extinction, on the “soft sciences” of feelings, emotions, and spirituality with devaluation, dismissal, and ridicule; and, we’ve hardened ourselves with the purely physical, and mechanical “hard sciences.” Like the 18th century champions of mechanism, too many of us say, “We don’t need that emotional realm. Its subjectivity distorts. We’ll just get rid of all of that.” We’ve convinced ourselves that we’ve risen above brutish, almost lawless, emotions. We’ve convinced ourselves that we are now only controlled, objective ‘thinking man,’ homo sapiens residing in the pristine Ivory Tower way above the fray of the outside sordid world. We leave no place for what we call the human psyche or human spirit or just plain humanity. So, we talk of “how” and “what” of physical assessment, or visible methodology, or apparent technology. We talk in terms of statistical generality, category, label, and stereotype. We “depeople-ize” classroom teaching as if we’ve let the laws of physics, like everything else, take over the classroom and accept that we’re all just machines playing it out. I think it’s because we conceived the classroom world in such a spatial system way that we have little way–or inclination–of describing the psychological, emotional, or spiritual aspects of our being.

It’s a delusion that is a barrier to insight. We don’t really know that we don’t know. In fact, we get in our own way by self-satisfyingly reading into things, engage in what the psychologists call comforting “attribution error.” We manufacture our own obscuring “In my humble opinion;” with accepted beliefs, perceptions, expectations, demands, biases, stereotypes, generalities, labels, categories. We don’t know how to ask the right questions. The result is that we don’t usually see things and people as they are; we numb ourselves to and turn away from what’s going on. So, when things don’t go as we expect, we play the blame game. We, at best, give lip service to, but generally ignore the challenging findings of such researchers as Dweck, Deci, Amable, Goldman, Fredrickson, Seligman, Boyatzis, Lyubomirsky, Csikszentmihaly, Halvorson, et al. They’re not talking about pedagogy or content or technology. They all are talking about the fact that it’s always personal. That no one has one objective bone in her or his body. It’s always about people’s attitudes, perceptions, and emotions. Its people’s values, character, morality, ethics, vision, purpose, meaning.

But, we don’t let the fact of research findings on learning get in our way; we haven’t really changed our view of things and people; we haven’t changed our ways. At best, as Clayton Christenson would say, our supposed innovations are merely sustaining, that is, merely tweaking in order to argue the absolute correctness of what we’re already doing and what we already believe.

You know, this morning I was sipping cup of freshly brewed Tanzanian Peaberry coffee, walking through my flower gardens, quietly watching the sway of the koi in the pond. I noticed that by walking a while in these landscape, my mood was changing. And, I realized that as landscapes change, so do our emotions and actions. So, we’ve got to shift the environment that rest solely on this “thingified” physical assessment or that visible methodology or that apparent technology. Education is overpedagogical-zed and over-technological-ized and under moralized. To barren and imbalanced “thingification” we have to add rich “peopleness.” We must acknowledge the invisible relationships and connections, the emotion of it all, the psychology if you will, that is prevalent in the classroom. To thingified “howdunnit” and “whatdunnit,” we have to add the critical human “whodunnit” and especially the “whydunit.”

That’s where the role of faith, hope, and love come in. They are not for “fixing,” or “correcting,” or “advising.” As I just told a few people, they are not about guiding to a particular place or to a particular activity. They make all the difference. They are what I call classroom “axis shifters.” They’re cleansers. They are, what Rabbi Chaim Stern might call, poetry in action. They’re the guiding light to insight. They’re a portal to a world of wonders. They identify and establish purpose. They enthusiastically capture the sacred in the mundane, ennoble the commonplace, and reveal the uniqueness in the ordinary.

They don’t the need for a self-inflating, and self-importance jargonized language. They “merely” select, rearrange, restructure, recast, and enhance the very same everyday nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs we already use to shed beauty, insight, and inspiration. In so doing, they call for considering what the daily grind adds up to; for taking pause for renewal and rejuvenation by reflecting on our efforts, by taking stock, by identifying and articulating purpose and meaning; and by seeing the bigger picture beyond information transmission and credentialling, beyond a test and grade and GPA. They create a mindfulness that breaks through imposed and self-imposed barriers of the impersonal numbness, disconnect, and disinterest created by the opaque veils of generality, stereotype, catalogue, and label. They close distances between “us” and “them,” and forge communal connections between “me” and “each of you.” Their requirements of silently and sincerely listening and seeing are deeply integrated components of a penetrating radar that gets beneath the surface of mask and facade, of stereotype, of generality, of label, of category, of simplification to the essential inner personal “me.” That is, who we and others are and can become. It’s the residence of character, principles, and values. It’s the seat of spirit, attitude, and emotions; it’s the source of self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect; it’s the wellspring of priorities and allocation choices; it’s the measure of our lives.

Faith, hope, and love are about “people-ization;” or more specifically, they are about “humanizing,” “individualizing,” “personalizing,” and “realizing” in a way pedagogy and content and technology cannot. They’re about nurturing, caring, supporting, encouraging rather than weeding out. They are about mobilizing and channeling our moral energy. They are first and foremost about witnessing another human being just like us; and witnessing means a mindful, sustained, persistent, subdued ferocious but wise, and sustained presence: an awareness, an alertness, an otherness, a kindness. They are rooted in a deep commitment to our humanity and the humanity of others. They frame our gaze, what we watch and what we see, what we hear and to what we listen.

Think about how the landscape would change, how your emotions would change, how your feelings towards others would change, how your actions would change if you said sincerely to each person, and deeply lived, a simple, “I have undying faith in you. I have endless hope for you. I unconditionally love you.” Think about it.





Wednesday, I heard from Arizona (her real name).  She is a former student from years back who is now a high school teacher.  Among the things she said was, “….Doc, you’ve written a lot lately about faith, hope, and love in the classroom.  And, you said you’ll write more.  Of course, that’s been your theme in everything you’ve put up, as you always say, into cyberspace.  And, what’s more important, that’s what your class was for each of us in there with you, a love story.  But, now I have an assignment for you.  Could you do me a favor?  I want you to boil all those reflections into one or two sentences that will be a tighter guide for following through on taking your  ‘Teacher’s Oath.’  I’ll give you a few days, but no later than Monday….”

One or two sentences!  I’m not sure how I get myself into these situations.  But, it was a challenge I could not ignore.  Anyway, picking up her gauntlet, this what I came up with:

Our attitudes drive our actions and our actions affect our attitudes.  Focusing on and making real unyielding, unconditional, non-judgmental, committed, persistent, inclusive faith, hope, and love “de-herds” the classroom; they transform “the class”  from an “is” into an “are,” from a collective, generalizing, stereotyping, depersonalizing, dehumanizing, faceless, nameless singular blur into a “gathering of separate, noble, sacred, unique ‘ones'” unclouded plural.  When we do that, we have no choice but to find ways to make each day a moral occasion when the process of unconditionally helping each and every student to help her or him learn how to make a good living and to live the good life come inseparably together.

Whew!  But, I beat her deadline.




After I decided to scrap the title of my book of selected Random Thoughts, “A Dictionary of Teaching,” for my new title, “Faith, Hope, Love,” I read a comment made by Tyrion Lannister of GAME OF THRONES.  “Power resides,” he said, “where men believe it resides.”  Five things occurred over the past week and one this morning that reinforced my belief that a variation of that statement applies to faith, hope, and love.  Those people in whom those virtues reside and from whom they exude, who are practitioners of those virtues, brighten anyone’s day.  They’re infused with what I call a “de-self-centering otherness”: their reality is infused with caring about others; they have a bold strength in their own skin; they’re enveloped by limitless gratitude; they an earnest self-awareness; they don’t seek  title, position,or reputation; they never mistake motion for action, word with deed; they don’t excuse with “try,” but act with “do;” they don’t impress with a recitation of a career resume; they transform their profession into both an outer and inner calling; they’re kind and generous to others; they flood others with joy; they listen well to others; they notice others; they value others; they think only of serving others; conquering their fears and hesitations, they’re fearless, compassionate, devoted, persevering empaths; they nourish rather than weed out; and, they’re energized by and electrify others with faith, hope, and love.

Faith, hope, and love reside where people feel they reside.

So what were these one-plus-five events that confluenced and triggered these thoughts?  This morning, I was sipping my coffee by the koi pond.  There was a slight breeze in the air gently rustling through the philodendron guarding the pond.  The skies were gray and clouded as heralds of predicted rain.  The quiet of the dawn was broken by the song of a distant bird.  And, as I watched the koi dance their watery ballet, I remembered my Rumi:  “The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.”  I listened to the five other occurrences.   First, at the request of Amy Carter, a teacher at local Lowndes High School, a fellow traveler and kindred spirit,  I participated in an exhilarating round table discussion with twenty students in her pre-education class who were considering education as their future profession.   As you might expect, my central theme, as I handed out my TEACHER’S OATH, was that at the core of teaching were unconditional and non-judgmental faith, hope, and love; that education is a people business in which its practitioners always have out-stretched hands to help others help themselves along their way.  Second, I had read yesterday in passing a statement by the political theorist, John Schaar:  “The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination.”  Third was a piece by David Brooks, in last Saturday’s NY Times, called “The Moral Bucket List.”  The fourth was a profound and deeply personal message I received from a dear friend at a southern university.  About that I will say no more.  But, I will say something about a brief, but humbling, note from a student attending Mount Holyoke who read my last Random Thought on faith, hope, and love:  “After transferring from Valdosta, I have yet to meet a professor as passionate and caring as you . You had a great impact on my life and the lives of others, through your history class! I learned a lot about self-love and persistence! You know….life lessons that actually matter. You are a person who lives a life of purpose. You have cultivated your skills and helped others on the way! I hope to be more like you one day!  Thanks for believing in your students and me!”

Faith, hope, and love reside where people feel they reside.

These five streams meet at a junction to remind us that those with faith, hope, and love are made, not born.  They are practitioners who have chosen consciously, for a variety of reasons, to be the embodiment of those words.  They understand, as John Donne wrote, no one is an island; that everyone needs help from others.  They understand and recognize that education is personal, that the absence of unconditional, non-judgmental faith, hope, and love is a lethal barrier to betterment which needs tearing down.  They see that education is first, last, and only about people, that it’s not just a bunch of information and skills needed for credentialing.  They help others see over the horizon beyond passing a test, getting a class grade, accumulating a GPA, landing a “good” job, and getting a top salary.

It’s really amazing that so many academics are uncomfortable, to say the least, with faith, hope, and love; that as a consequence faith, hope, and love are so foreign in an academic vocabulary whose imbalanced culture is more concerned with developing skills and methods for a career rather and not being equally concerned with developing the qualities needed to build character; it’s unfortunate that academia focuses far more on the marketplace and almost always leaves the inner place ignored and unexplored; it’s sad when their presence and utterance is so surprising to students.  Personally and professionally, I wish faith, hope, and love would have a permanent place in the academic sun, that flesh and bone and name and face would be put on each of those words. Faith, hope and love are what I call one-person-at-a-time, look-in-the-eye “de-stereotypers,” “re-humanizers” and “re-personalizers” within a labeling, generalizing, and stereotyping culture that tends to impersonalize and de-humanize.

Faith, hope, and love reside where people feel they reside.

But, I also tell you that faith, hope, and love are struggles, and it takes both hard work and courage to live them.  And, should always be, for if we can do it “in my sleep,” it’s not particularly fulfilling; and fulfillment doesn’t come easy or sleep walking our way through things.  We can’t do anything free and easy, and expect it to be rich and meaningful to either us or others.  The treasure of what we do is in meeting the challenge to move away from being conditional, selective, small spirited, and judgmental.   So, faith, hope, love are not “Hallmark-ish.”  They’re not wishful thinking.  They’re not pop-cultural buzzwords.  They’re not trendy.  They’re not hip.  And, they certainly aren’t antique analogs in a digital age.

No, gracious as they may be, they’re kind of gritty.  We have to move away from being conditional, selective, small spirited, and judgmental; we have to stop presuming, generalizing, stereotyping, and assuming.   Going deep, they’re about hearing, seeing, and feeling in a certain way.  If we embark on this moral trek, we’ll find that they offer a clarity and sensitivity that gives us insight to the needs, not just the wants, of others.  As we venture along, they ask us to look at and pay attention to our spirit, our state of mind, and our state of heart.  They ask us to tune up and tune in our senses.  They are are words of “Now,” “Here,” “This.”  They required us to be present and right here; tied not to our lectures or controlled discussions, but to the person in front of us; concerned not only to help others learn how to make a good living, but to learn how to live the good life as well.  They ask us to be the embodiment of laughter, kindness, empathy, patience, dedication, commitment, compassion.  And, hardest of all we can’t mess with or short cut the amount of time and energy and presence that they require. There’s no technology for them, no app, no magic bullet, no hat trick, no quick fix, no sure-fire manual, no transforming elixir,

Faith, hope, and love reside where people feel they reside.

I wanted to write about the kind of hope that’s faithful and loving, the kind of faith that’s hopeful and loving, the kind of love that faithful and hopeful.   That interlocking strand is like super-bouncy flubber, a strong emotional formula which gives that needed resilient bounce for the ounce.  It makes us poor haters and weak disparagers; it makes us passionate and compassionate advocators; it makes us strong lovers.  Those kinds of faith, hope, and love are harder to live by, because it’s easier to be cynical. I mean, when you’re cynical, you’re never disappointed.  Problem is that we may find safety and comfort among that with which we expect and agree, but we grow and change from risk, discomfort, and disagreement.  Consequently, faith, hope, and love, however, don’t come without significant challenges, if for no other reason than we cannot control those whom we wish to help.  Of course, at the same time we don’t make ourselves into who we wish to be.  Sure, we’ll be met with disappointment, heartbreak, mistakes, fatigue, frustration, ridicule, dismissal, disregard, disparagement, and a host of other challenges thrown in our path.  Let the cynics condemn what we feel and do as “new-age,” fluff, tosh, soft, touchy-feely, dumbing down, watering down.  Faith, hope, and love are among what David Brooks calls the more important “eulogy virtues,” the ones that Linda Ellis describes in her poem, “the Dash,” that will be talked about at our funeral.

However, we shouldn’t despair or throw up our hands in frustration or grit our teeth in exasperation if we don’t have immediate answers or solutions or approaches–or results–to silence the snideness’.  To the contrary, the more we have faith, hope, and love, the stronger our armor against the slings and arrows of disdain and ridicule.  They deepen our courage and further open both our hearts and minds to both others and ourselves.  We should, however, get up the next morning and do it again. And, the next morning after that, get up, and do it; and, if we have been disappointed, we still do it again.  They’re the kind of words with which we get up every morning and choose to make the world just a little kinder and people a little better in our own way at our own pace, even if it’s one person at a time.    And, if things don’t work out, as Samuel Beckett would say, they help to insure they don’t work out better.  Nevertheless, as Rainer Rilke might have said, they demand we live the questions, hold on to the questions, being a questing Diogenes, until we live into the answer, live the answer, and become the answer.

Later on how I do it.  Enough for now.



With the exception of my eldest grandmunchkin’s Bas Mitzvah in mid-February, I’ve been feeling off-balance for the last two months.   My brother-in-law, Stan, died immediately after that last Random Thought on gratitude.  He was one of the good guys; as my son, Robby, said, “There should be more like him in the world.”  Everyone thought he was over the proverbial hump when we gathered for Thanksgiving in Nashville to be feted by Robby, the chef.  Little did any of us know it would be the last time I would see him.  He returned to the hospital days later.  He never came out.  He was my oldest and dearest friend. Before he met and married my sister, we were room mates at UNC in the early ’60s.   I had said on Facebook at the time of his death,  “I will not mourn his loss. Instead, I will celebrate the gain I have from having had him in my life these past 51 years.”  And, I have lived up to those words.  Nevertheless, since his death, and though he had been serious sick, having undergone several major surgeries, for the past three years, I’ve felt a subtle void.  All that changed about ten days ago when, thanks to Venus (not her real name), I felt a rejuvenating “its time.”

I am putting together a selected collection of my Random Thoughts for E-publication that were part of a series that I sprinkled over years called “Words In My Dictionary of Good Teaching.”   But, I wasn’t satisfied with the working book title by that name:  “A Dictionary of Good Teaching.”  It didn’t have a zing, a “hook.”  It really didn’t capture the essence of all those particular reflections.  Then, about ten days ago, I found the title I wanted:  “Faith, Hope, Love.”  I might give it a subtitle of “The ‘Little, Big Words’ of Teaching.”  Let me tell you how I inadvertently and unexpectedly found it.

I was late to walking the streets.  I approached a young lady and offered her a “good morning.”  She stopped in front of me, blocking my way, and exclaimed,  “Dr Schmier!”  I must have had with a curious “who are you” look in my face.  “I was in class with you the last semester before your retirement (Fall semester, 2012).  I’m Venus.”  She told me a tale of being “not sure I belonged in college,” our encouraging conversations, of being “big time sick,” of dropping out of school the following semester, of “settling” (her word) for a “good paying” job as a waitress.  Then, she hit me square between the eyes and said something like, “But deep down I wasn’t happy.  One day after my shift I dug out my date book for that semester with you.  I began reading all those ‘Words for the Day’ you wrote on the board and we talked about.  I copied every one of them.  I read one entry that said these words weren’t just words but ways to look at ourselves and ways to live.  Then, I read two that said, ‘Your greatest enemy is your own fear,’ and  ‘faith means not worrying.’  I heard them speaking to me.  They suddenly opened my eyes to myself.  ‘Settling’ meant running away, being stopped by my fear and worrying I couldn’t do what I wanted and not having the faith to give myself a chance.  From that time one to today, every time I wanted to stop, every time I wanted to settle for something, every time I worried what others would say or that I couldn’t do something, I heard you say from one of our conversations, ‘you’re better than this and you can be better, if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to become better.’  You were living faith, hope, and love to me.  So, because of you I slowly stopped settling for things I didn’t want.  I soon stopped being afraid.  I stopped worrying about whether I could do what I wanted to do or not.  And, I decided, as you once told me, to put all of me on the field.   I took off my apron, went back to college, first at near-by ABAC, and now here.  I’m surprising myself that I am doing whatever it takes to become what I really want to become, and it’s working!”

“And what is it you want to become?” I calmly asked.

She hit me square between the eyes for a second time.  “To be the good clinical psychologist I can be.  I want to help people have faith in themselves,  have hope for themselves, and love themselves.  I want to learn to listen to people so I can help them learn to hear the truth about themselves and their abilities.   Just like you so did for me,” she answered.  After a few seconds, she added “And, I want to be the good person I can be.  I want to be for others what you were to me:  walking faith, hope, and love.”

We talked some more.  As we parted with a hug and I continued on my walk, I began thinking of what she said:  “you were living faith, hope, and love to me,”  “I want to be for others what you were to me:  walking faith, hope, and love.”

Those two sentences are still ringing in my ears and swirling around in my soul.  They, those three words–faith, hope, love–make up the story of teaching.  Over the past twenty-two years to the month, I’ve often said how these three words infiltrated my spirit, how those three words have been profoundly transforming on my self-perception, my perception of others, my sense of the value of teaching, my understanding of my craft’s mission, and my actions.  They helped me put aside so-called “human nature” and focus on an individual’s “unique potential,’ that humans can change.  They were sledge hammers that I swung to shatter the dehumanizing scaffolding of classification, labeling, ranking, disconnecting, tagging, pigeonholing, separating, dividing, stereotyping, and generalizing.  They helped me concentrate on teaching as an unending series of exciting milestones, not as objectives or as finish lines or as end points.

For me, education is a love story.  It means to dream dreams while you’re awake.  Education is an act of faith. Faith is a “you can do it” word.  It’s faith in the fact that human beings have the capacity to grow and that as humans, we can become better.  Education is an act of hope.  Hope is a “could be” word.  It’s a “this isn’t it” word.  It’s a “keep going” word.  It is hope in possibility, in the fact that there is more to come, that this is not all there is.   Above all, education is an act of love.   Love is the first principle of teaching.  It is a “you’re somebody” word, a “you’re worth it” word, an “I care” word, an “I see you” word, an “I’m here for you” word.  It’s love in the fact that each person is too valuable, too unique, too noble to lose without a fight.  These words never take a holiday; they are never selective; they are never conditional.  They are mind opening, heart unlocking, eye opening, spirit raising, firing up–driving.  They’re “never give up,”  “don’t walk away,” “don’t despair” empathies, compassions, commitments, dedications, and perseverances.

To talk of faith, hope, and love in the same breath with teaching is to make the classroom into an inviting oasis that welcomes all to come to nourish their souls, spirits, and minds.   They are the cause of more miracles than are information, assessments, grades, test scores, reputations, publications, grants, resumes.  If you embrace them, they will teach you.  They will teach you, as Dale Carnegie rightly said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”  Living those three words create a habit of the heart; a wellspring of respect for, valuing of, caring about, concern for each student; and, a practice of unconditional inclusion rather than exclusion. It’s unconditional faith, hope and love in each student that makes teaching worth doing.  They mean we don’t define a person by a GPA, an academic recognition, any more than we do by how she or he dresses, the color of skin, religion, ethnicity, special needs.    Faith?  Hope?  Love?  Little words?  Little things?  Little moments?  There’s nothing little about them.




Can’t sleep been up since 3:15 a.m.  I was thinking about a “….thank you for caring about me….” message I had received a few weeks ago from a student of thirteen years ago whom I’ll call Joe.  The subject line of Joe’s message read “A Long Overdue Thank You.”  That message, those particular words took me back over fifty years to Dr. Birdsal Viault.   You know, as John Dewey said, we never learn from our experiences, we only learn from reflecting on our experiences.  This reflection is where I get really personal about what teachers, or anyone who cares about someone else, can do.

         I unknowingly began to walk the road to who I presently am by stepping into Dr. Birdsal Viault’s history class as a default history major in the fall of my junior year.  My already weak self-esteem and self-confidence had been shaken to the core by the seismic devastation of a sophomore semester that dashed my–and my family’s–visions of a medical career on the rocks of a lousy transcript.  I was feeling more pain than usual, feeling a more than usual sadder disappointment to myself and others, feeling smaller than usual, feeling more unseen in a darker corner, feeling more unworthy and more incompetent than usual. I had reinforced the walls and deepened the moats of my inner redoubt to further protect myself.  

         About a third of the way into the semester, after handing in a short research paper, Birdsal Viault called me into his office.  I thought I would receive the usual caustic “you don’t know how” destructive dressing down I had received so many times from other professors and high school teachers before them.  I vividly remember him saying to my surprise, “Mr. Schmier (he always used the formal address), you have a lot of potential.  You are a good researcher and a very good writer.  I’ll help you if you want me to.” At the time, being a-washed in the formidable shame of “not good enough” and “don’t belong,” I stood there stunned, mentally looking around with a puzzled “who, me?”  For a moment I thought he was talking to someone else in his office behind me.  After all, only two years earlier I had been a high school graduate voted “clown of the class” by my fellow-students, and my teachers almost unanimously said I would be the least likely college-bound graduate in the class of 1958 to succeed.  The first two years, with a GPA dragged down by poor grades, it seemed that I was fulfilling their prophecy.  But, Birdsal Viault ignored all that.  He saw something in me  Over the next two years, he worked with me, encouraged me, had faith in me, invested in me.  In his own very, very reserved way, Birdsal Viault, only eight years my senior and relatively new to the professorial game, began to help me start taking down everything I had put up that was supposed to keep me safe, or, at least, he helped me to begin to remodel my sanctuary. 

         Now a Mr. Keating he wasn’t.  He was not one to rip pages out of a book or to get photographs to whisper or to go out on retreats in caves or to jump up on desks.  He was not given demonstratives.  The reserved airs Dr. Viault maintained made him not one for boisterous academic rah-rahs.  I could never envision him as a pom-pom waving professorial cheerleader.  He never wore his emotion on his sleeve; he almost embodied the idea that emotion was something to which those in the Ivory Tower not succumb, much less display.  He seemed outwardly to numb his emotions; he never let his guard down, always maintaining “proper” professorial decorum, always costuming everything he said and did in intellectual garb, always being the stately Ph.D. he thought he was supposed to be.  But, his empathy and compassion, closely guarded as they may have been, came though his outwardly tough armor.  He always came out from behind his separating desk, pulling a chair to sit next to me when giving me feedback.  His support and encouragement was subdued, slow, patient, and kind, but challenging, demanding, and pushing–and touching.  

         His comments to my work and me were always kind, constructive, supportive, and encouraging.  He never said an angry or corrosive word to me.  He always accentuated the positive.  He was the first to make me open my eyes–even if they were at the time only a squint–make me feel like I had a future, that I could dream, that I had a unique potential.  He showed me things about my self that I didn’t know and didn’t believe were there.  It was he who gave me confidence to go on for my Masters degree and then at his urging on for my Ph.D.   He made a difference in my life; he helped send me on my way.  It was a way I would never have struggled to find, the way ahead to a meaningful, satisfied, purposeful, and fulfilling life.  Though he sent me on my way, it was a route that was still fraught with a struggle between an angelic sense of worthiness to be loved and belong on one hand and the demonic minions of self-doubt and worry.  It wasn’t until I had my shape-shifting epiphany twenty-eight years later that spark Dr. Viault struck burst into a brilliant flame.  I realized at that moment in late 1991 that you find your way not by just opening doors to the amazing unknown ahead, but by what hard doors you close behind you, acting out from a place of knowing your worthiness.   

         Birdsal Viault has since died.  He had lived a short hop from Charlotte where my Susie and I often had visited her parents.  But, for some reason, he wouldn’t take my calls, wouldn’t agree for me to call upon him, would never answer my letters, would never respond to my later emails.  I don’t know why and I won’t speculate.   Then, again, he never was able to accept a “thank you;” always seemingly embarrassed by those two appreciative words.  I see now that Dr. Viault, for whatever reasons, might have had what Brene Brown in her “Daring Greatly” calls an “allergy to vulnerability.”  I always had a sense that he had built a protective facade around himself, with which I could relate, against being hurt or being seen as weak or being accused of gullibility, or being assaulted as “unprofessional,” or being judged as unmanly.  I remember overhearing the chair of the department assailing Dr. Viault as if he was trying to beat the emotion out of him, asserting that when it came to me, Dr. Viault was wasting his precious time, that he should stop being so emotional and, in his words, “just cut him out from the herd.”  Nevertheless, he cautiously became my ally.  He quietly dared greatly to reach out.  He secretly made a connection, and silently went all in wholeheartedly.  Though I don’t think he realized it, he had thrown caution to the wind and had put a lot of himself on the line for me.  

         So, Dr. Viault, though you wouldn’t allow me to say it in person, thank you for being who you were and still are to me.  Thank you for extending your hand and having the first hand in my achievement.  Thank you for not being isolated and remote, for noticing me, for acknowledging me, for your beautiful thoughts, for mentoring me, for caring about me, for being kind to me, for nurturing me, for loving me in your own reserved way, for having faith in me, for believing in me, for taking me from being stuck in the abyss of hopelessness to start climbing up to the heights of hopefulness, for taking me from ugliness to getting a first peek at my beauty, for being my “philosopher’s stone” and helping me to start transmuting from a base metal of worthlessness to having a noble mettle of worthiness,  for letting me begin developing my own “elixir of life,” for supporting me when no one else would, for encouraging me when all others did just the opposite.  While I could never pay off the debt I owe you, I realized, however, as someone said, my greatest acts of gratitude is living by them, doing for others what you did for me, that I could “pay off my debt forward” by unconditionally loving with my whole heart and soul, by willing to show up and go all in, and by helping others to be their own alchemists as you helped me.  So, I thank you, Birdsal Viault.  All the Joes whom you’ve touched through me thank you.  And, I thank all the Birdsal Viaults who were and are out there transforming lives, as teachers should, and not just credentialing.  Wherever and whoever you all are, I am deeply grateful.  


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A professor, not in an admiring tone, just called me “revolutionary,” “radical,” “a threat,” and “audacious.”   Guilty to three out of four.  I admitted to her that I make no bones about being a cable cutter.  I added that my vision is bright, shining, and valuable only when I have the courage to follow it. When I know that it is the thing to do, then I step up and do it.  But, I am no threat, however others may feel threatened.  All I do is to stay informed, to educate myself on the latest research on learning, to pay attention, very close attention to what others have discovered, say, and write.  It doesn’t bother me that a lot of the new brain-based findings on learning goes against long held myths.  I am “revolutionary” and “radical” in that I don’t hesitate to find ways to change my thinking and doing.  I don’t tightly grip to the comfortable, risk-free ignorance of age-old presumption, assumption, or perception.   I am not, for example, threatened by the recent revelations in Frances Jensen’s “The Teenage Brain” that adds to the challenge of long held views that our students are rational, thinking-before-acting “adults.”    I just remember who I am, who I was, where I came from, where I am, where I want to go, and what I have to offer.  I give color and texture and substance and sensation to my most treasured dreams.  I focus my mind, my energy, my spirit, my feelings, and my emotions on helping others to help themselves become the persons they each are capable of becoming.  When that occurs, it is the most joyful and fulfilling scenario of service I can imagine.  If that be “revolutionary” and “radical,” and a “threat,” so be it.

Now,  as for being “audacious,” I admit that I have an engaged amazement of life, or what Rabbi Abraham Herschel would call a “spiritual audacity.” And why not.   At this stage of my life, at the age of 74 and still young in spirit and somewhat physically spry, after a forty-six year academic career, after surviving myself, after having an enlightening epiphany, after overcoming cancer, and after miraculously–that’s the only word that fits–surviving unscathed a massive cerebral hemorrahage that normally kills or seriously disables 95% of the people who have experienced it, should I be otherwise?  Am I really supposed to be worried about what others think?  Am I really supposed to succumb and become the person others want me to become?   Am I really supposed to tow the academic party line and kowtow to academic convention?  I think not!

I’ll tell you, my greatest sense of stability is to live my vision and base my intentional choices on it.  I get going when I get life going my way, when I move my dreams from “someday” or “tomorrow” to “now” and “today.”   My greatest sense of liberation, the bedrock of my self-esteem, comes from not worrying about what others think, not performing as others would have me, and not conforming to the demand of others.  Over the past twenty-three years or so since my epiphany, catalyzed by having survived cancer and that cerebral hemorrhage, I have learned that my life is the result of all the conscious and unconscious choices I’ve made about whose voices to heed, what paths to walk, what vision I may or may not have, in what direction I go, and whom I serve.   As I had begun slowly and cautiously to control the process of choosing, I found that I had begun to take control of all aspects of my life. I slowly found the freedom that came from being in charge of myself.

It was and is that simple.  When I take control, I have control.  I intend consciously to live my intention of living well, that is, to bring sincere happiness, fulfillment, and purpose to each moment.  And if any shortfalls occur, I’ll choose to morph disappointment into unstoppable determination.  It breaks whatever controls others may wish to exercise over me.  When I stop looking over my shoulder, I look forward and have my eyes on the prize.  When I take the responsibility of the choices I make, when I silence that blaming whispered or proclaimed “the devil made me do it,” when I replace “you made me…” with the recognition that “I made me…,” I, and only I, am in charge of me. When I accept that “I am responsible for…,” I am the only one who owns me.  I am my own person.  I decide how to react to and respond to people and circumstances around me.  The truth is that I will be miserable when I choose to be miserable, and I will be happy when I choose to be happy.  I don’t need a particular job, title, income, or any set of circumstance to enjoy; I must simply choose to enjoy.  The bottom line is that whatever and wherever and whenever I choose to feel, I feel.  It’s all in the way I choose to look at life and all in the way I choose the way.

Of course, it’s not that simple, not as simple as self-help platitudes make it out to be.  As DaVinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Sure, the outside world exerts a lot of pressure and influence that yield anxiety and fear.  But, I found that I can have greater inner influence over me.  So, breaking the binding chains is not easy.  It requires courage and strength.  It requires commitment, dedication, perseverance, and patience.  It demands sweat.   It demands a lot of challenge to inner conventional thinking, a lot of inner crockery breaking.  It requires a new course setting over a long haul.  Now, you may say that I’m going too far.  But, as T.S. Eliot said, “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

So, my inner peace comes a twenty-four year and counting inner emotional and spiritual workout program of listening to myself,  being honest with myself about myself, and constantly in pursuit of becoming and being my authentic self.  That inner serenity and freedom give me a power, not to overwhelm, but to transform; not to be the bull in the proverbial china shop, but empathetically to tread carefully and lightly; not to be arrogant and self-righteous, but to be a mergence of power and gentleness and authority and kindness; to be humble; to be harmonious, but to be in community; not to be self-centered, but to have a keen sense of awareness and otherness and deep respectfulness; not to be haughty, but to be empathetic and sympathetic; not to take, but grab the chance to serve and to contribute to something bigger than myself.

I guess, as Cornel West would say, I am unbound, unafraid, unbought, and unintimidated to be me.  You see, when I sing my own song, when I dance to my own choreography, when I perform my own lines, when I feel obligated to enlarge my world and the world around me, that’s when I have ownership of what I do, that’s when I experience purpose, meaning, and fulfillment.  And, that’s when I am truly happy: when I truly love who I am and love more who I am constantly becoming, when I have a durable and enduring feeling of well-being, and when I have a quiet and honest satisfaction with what I am doing with my life.




         Tomorrow we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. Having been in the civil rights movement, I slowly began to discover that there are always other ways to experience the world and to act in it, and to refuse to accept the than prevailing “this is the way it is” reality.  In that spirit, I slowly, too slowly until my explosive epiphany in 1991, evolved to be a kind of a micro-practitioner of activist physical, intellectual and emotional non-violence. Because of that, some called me rebellious, non-traditional, a “save the world” dreamer, a “new ager,” and worse. I’m none of those to me. If and when I have to, I describe myself as an ever-curious “what if,” “live on the edge’ kind of guy, a guy who enjoys the struggle of the journey, a good trouble maker who is always finding ways to get in the way, a guy who never hesitates to ask the uncomfortable question, an innovator, a positive creative disruptor. I’m a guy who is always seeking consciously to connect my inner self with my outer doings. I’m more of a persuader and convincer than an imposer by struggling to be a living expression of hope and love. I work in the trenches as what I call an engaged, risk taking “change maker.” I work to help guide people to guide themselves toward something I have experienced and understand: find a balance between self-inflation and self-denigration; accept that we are all frail and fallible, carrying both large and small imperfections; not being without fault, don’t be quick to fault others; nothing in life is perfect; love the sight and sound of both yourself and others; don’t honor yourself at the expense of others; it’s always too early to stop dreaming and never too late to start dreaming; have faith; hope; believe; love; care about both yourself and others; and, the best way to find yourself, as Gandhi said, is in the service of others.

But, if truth be told, I don’t have a label for myself. If I did, I’d screw things up because self-labeling is just as distorting, misguiding, imprisoning, depersonalizing, and dangerous as being labeled. It would skew my perceptions and expectations; I’d focus on it; I’d be conscious of having live up to that reputation. No, I see myself as just a label-defying “Louis, that rhymes with ‘phooey.'” I do just what I do to be fruitful in what I do, make it feel like fun rather than arduous work, have a belief that I have a voice worth uttering, have a humility to learn from others, share and hopefully influence others, and have a faithfulness to what I see needs to be done and is within my reach. I’m zealous in a quiet sort of way; sometimes I’m not so quiet. Either way, I don’t play the 100% or perfection or gimmick games.

I am deeply impacted constantly by my reflections on my upbringing and youthful experiences, by my involvement in the civil rights movement, by my volcanic epiphany in 1991 at the age of 50, by my overcoming cancer in 2004, and especially by my survival of a massive cerebral hemorrhage in 2007. A lot of well-intentioned people tell me to get over these events, especially the cerebral hemorrhage, and get on with my life. They don’t understand that the fact that I did not die from that sudden and unforewarned huge brain bleed as almost all do, gave me a life mooring like nothing else. I knew just to be alive was a blessing and that I had to meet the challenge to live my life. They made everything crisper, sharper, and more vital. Let me tell you something. You are never more appreciative of and more in love with life then in the presence of death; you never love more the people you love.

So, I consciously make sure I never get over and forget anything, especially that near-death hemorrhage. Because of it, my bucket list is simple and long: to live as full of a life each moment as I possibly can. I wake each day and bounce out of bed with a “yes” in my heart for each opportunity life gives me that day. This touch of winter’s crud or flu these past two weeks has reminded me that days may not turn out the way I expect or want and people may not do what I expect or want, but I am still be grateful to be alive, and have hope for and love those other people. I do my damnedest not to sigh with a host of self-righteous “ah me,” not to arrogantly surrender to resignation, not get frustrated, not to point fingers of blame, not to demean and belittle, not to sneer, not to get irritated, and not be angered. Those negatives are too heavy to bear, and they will not build anything positive. Now, I may not like what happened or what those others did or did not do, but my response is with continued wonderment, faith, belief, hope, and kindness; I will not stop smiling; I will not stop being kind; I will not stop embracing; I will not stop supporting and encouraging; I will not stop being grateful; I will continue loving them.

No, I sustain myself with a faith, belief, hope, and love. I never turn away, never give up, never give in, never throw in the towel, never throw up my hands; I never hang it up; I just hang in there; I keep looking life and others in the eye; I just hold on; I remain excited, hopeful, and loving; and, I patiently and persistently–patiently and persistently–keep coming back and back and back and back. I just actively support and encourage the apathy out of them; I hope the disbelief out of them; I love the self-disrespect out of them. All this is not a feeling; it’s a release; it’s a stirring; it’s a vibrancy; it’s an energizer and encourager; it’s a way of life; it’s an active and powerful doing. To paraphrase Rabbi Abraham Heschel, it’s praying with your entire being, and hearing a returned whisper, “Louis, you, too, can make a difference.”

Making a difference in the lives of others, that’s my “true north,” my guiding wisdom that helps to insure as much as possible that my disruption, innovation, and creativity are for the betterment of others by instilling belief, faith, hope, by instilling the basic values of love, empathy, resiliency, responsibility, respect; to find that middle ground between the varied pitches of over-selfestimation and under-selfestimation.

When I draw my last breath and stand before the Pearly Gates, I won’t be asked about the numbers of the assessments by others of me; no one will look at my professional resume of degrees, titles, grants, and publications as recommendations to enter; I will not be vetted through my material possessions. No, I will be asked whether I heeded that whisper; whether my heart was in the right place; whether I kept walking the long road; whether I left the roadblocking doubts and insecurities behind; whether I cast aside excuses and rationales; whether I seized fleeting teachable moments to make them lasting; whether I kept making every effort to be a good and just person; and whether I constantly worked to transform some of the impossible into the possible. I will be asked about the bedrock of my values, if my life was my message, if I felt I stood on holy ground each day, if I unwrapped the presents of each present day and used them–my abilities, my unique potential, my possibilities, and my vision–to make a difference in the lives of others.




Rant alert!!

I’ll be brief.  It’s the day after the college championship football game, and I am in a “grrrrrrrrr” mood.  I’ve been gnashing my teeth lately.  A lyric has been swirling in my angry head:  “Money makes the world go round, the world go round, the world go round.”

That’s not the sordid world outside the Ivory Tower.  That’s the Ivory Tower.  Higher education is increasingly being lowered by bigger bucks.  It is becoming as imbalanced at a huge container ship listing and stuck on a sandbank.  It is becoming more brashly commercialized.   Conferences expanding; governors politiking governors; schools being wooed  away to one conference by another; schools switching conferences; players wanting to unionize.  For what?  It’s hasn’t got a thing to do with academics.  It’s all about “football” and “basketball,” and in academia that translates into “cold cash.”  It’s not about academic integrity; it’s about money.  It’s not about character development; it’s about building up bank accounts.  It’s not about graudation rates; it’s about win/lose records.  It’s not about the future well-being of the kids–yes, the student/athletes are kids–it’s about the coaches’ jobs. Athletic meat markets aren’t becoming much different from diploma mills.   Instead of diplomas stacked high; money is stacked in rolls.  It’s not about academic honors; it’s about football championships.  Presidents talk academics and walk money.  Power in so many colleges have been surrendered to coaches and ADs by emasculated Presidents.  All these athletic cents make no academic sense.  And, they’ve brought me to my senses.  The Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, self-servingly and self-aggrandizingly said in reference to college sports. “I think it’s a function of higher education.”  I think he should have said “disfunction.”

A seven year contract salary of $35 million–for starters? For a college football coach? How about $7.3 billion–yes, billion–for seven years of championship TV rights paid by ESPN.  $5 billion yearly earnings, just for football?  Lucrative?  No.  Ludicrous!  Corrupting!!  That’s the height of obscenity in higher education. But, that’s not the point. You say these athletes are getting an education to which they otherwise wouldn’t have access?  The point is in a rampant mentality, that’s even infected my beloved UNC, revealed in a tweet by Cardale Jones, starting quarterback of Ohio State in the championship game, that appeared recently in the  NY Times: “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”

–“we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POONTLESS.”–Now, whomever that doesn’t bother is part of the problem!!  Lock away your idealism?  Let your ethics shrivel?  Trade them both off for entertainment? Tolerate and be content with exploitation?   I, for one, won’t. I’d rather walk away, but not quietly.

I know, this train has left the station.  But I don’t have to wave at it with a fluttering handkerchief, smile and cheer.  This ex-student/athlete, avid sports fan, hasn’t watched one collegiate or pro football or basketball game this year, not even the playoffs and championships.  Not one.  Haven’t even gazed glancingly at the sports section, much less scores or standings.  I am that angry.  But, I was amazed how easy it is.  I don’t feel any separation anxiety.  I’m sure that no one will care about my “nano-protest” or “micro-rant,” but it sure makes me feel better.

As Joel Gray sang, “Money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money….”  GRRRRRRRRR!!



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