Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Wir Haben Eine Drei Bekommen"

I'm going through my writing this morning, making sure everything is loaded onto the laptop before the desktop gets packed up on Tuesday. I never DID translate this into German and send it to the publication it is addressed to. But I'd like to share it with other parents schooling their children in Germany before I defect to the Australian education system. The editorial was a well-written, humorous glimpse of life as the child of an educated, literate German couple began school. These two parents, themselves schooled in the system, had the same difficulties facing many of us. THEY got a 3 on the reports and homework assignments they were doing with their child. (The equivalent of a "C".) Mostly because they had a hard time figuring out what was expected. The piece was tongue-in-cheek, that two educated German parents couldn't pass third grade here in Germany today, but did address the basic problem I see in the system: the fact that parents have no inherent right to participate in their child's schooling, in fact are mostly discouraged from participating (which is considered interference in what should be the teacher's affair) at all. This was written in early June. Here goes:

I was thrilled to read your editorial addressing schooling in Baden-Wurtemburg. I, too, have always believed that schooling was an activity for the entire family. I too laughed at some of the apparent silliness inherent in the system here. But the humor hides a problem that needs to be addressed.

You see, we are not the only ones who are having to provide our children with what amounts to home-schooling because of an inherent failure in the system. There are too many families out there struggling to help their children learn, without adequate help from the very system that is supposed to be teaching their kids.

Parents should – and need to be- involved with their children's education. But that is made almost impossible here by a system that doesn't encourage active parent involvement. Two Parents' Nights a year are not enough. Unless I push, or cry or threaten or scream, I have a total of ONE personal parent-teacher interview IN TWO YEARS. Do I even need to say that this is not enough?

The teachers try to reassure me that no news is good news, that if something is wrong, they will come to me. But that is not true. If I hadn't made waves myself, I would never have spoken to my daughter's teachers. And they still haven't recognized her learning disability.

There are a number of issues that contribute to this problem. The first is obvious. We need more teachers with longer hours, so that one teacher can concentrate on a given class. We need teachers trained to recognize and handle mild learning disabilities. We need teachers' aides. We need more staff. We need programs both for the academically challenged and the academically gifted. Baden-Wurtemburg needs to invest in its future.

The first problem I would address is the one of communication and cooperation between the teachers and parents. Pay the teachers more. Extend their hours. Do what you have to to allow (encourage, DEMAND!) the teachers to communicate with parents. Teachers are public servants of the state. Currently, this makes them immune from their responsbilities to us and our children. They are protected from having to produce acceptable results. Make the school system answerable to the parents, not other way around.

Is it really humorous when your child comes home with absolutely no idea of what is expected on the homework assignment? And when the phone calls begin and it turns out that no other child in the class seems to either?

We, as parents, need clear, written expectations for the school year. We need to see the goals our children are expected to achieve, the benchmarks that are being used to measure that achievement, and the programs in place to help those children who aren't meeting expectations. (Or those that are overshooting them.)

And we need regular, personal parent-teacher meetings at least four times a year. For children who are doing well. More for those who aren't.

It is a lot to ask. It is a lot of work and a lot of time. It will cost money.
But the current system, where parents are left floundering on their own, thinking they are alone, is not working.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is silly that so many of us are fighting the same battle individually, privately worrying about what we've done wrong, wondering how we can do better, where we can get the help we need. WE ARE NOT ALONE. And we can work together – WITH the schools and with the teachers – to get our children the help they need.

Schooling is a process that should involve the entire family. Parents should have the right for active involvement in their child's education. This can't happen without communication.

I personally believe it is a problem of perception as well as of cash. I have continually heard from my children's teachers that schooling is their concern and not mine, that school problems are their problem to deal with at school and that I shouldn't have to concern myself with them. It is well meant, but wrong. I have also heard that all children develop differently, that not all children are the same, that I shouldn't expect too much from my child, that I am too ambitious. All answers designed to reassure me – and keep me out of what they consider their business.

Except they're my children.

Why did I not hear from the teacher when my daughter had been doing the homework incorrectly for two weeks? Why didn't I know that my son had been having math quizzes every week until five weeks later? Why isn't the homework corrected? (Especially if they're telling me that I shouldn't be doing it with them myself at home.) Why is the classwork often wrong? Why are my children sometimes released early from school without my knowing about it? Why do I have absolutely no idea what is going on at the school? These are all problems of communication. And problems we, as parents, are encouraged to overlook and accept.

This is not the time to place blame. This is the time to make a change.

Working together, cooperating and COMMUNICATING, schools AND parents, can achieve so much more.

I give Baden-Wurtemburg's school system a 4. (I believe Germany's PISA scores are similarly low.)

Is this really the best we can do for our children?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Homeschooling Curriculum?

Do I get to count this as a home ec class?
Homeschooling or child labor? You decide!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Andrew's Song and Ryan's Art

People keep asking how the home-schooling has been going. Sporadic the last two weeks but totally fun and interesting.

Only at home can you take a lesson plan on Australian history and then move with it into rugby and that awesome New Zealand haka!

No, Anita, I refuse to believe I could ever feel any animosity towards South Africa. Although we will kick their butt in rugby. A very big "we" since I haven't even reached the country yet and have only seen enough rugby (mostly the New Zealand haka to be honest with you!) to know that I would prefer my boys to stick with soccer. Honestly, all I know is that the Germany flag is coming out for the WM in four years. I gotta have SOME loyalties, no matter how mixed up I am inside about who I am and where I come from!

And cricket. Don't even go there. The baseball equipment is already packed and ready to go!

Ryan and Andrew and I went into Tuebingen yesterday to check out the museum in the castle. It is only open on weekends and Wednesdays. Lesson one from homeschooling: check the schedule. Except that lesson two was better: forget the curriculim and do something better!

Poetry and songwriting at a breakfast cafe in Tuebingen. Polished up at the Tuebingen library. (Such a cultured bunch. I just had to show off!)

Andrew took his idea and ran with it. He had people laughing in the streets. LOL even.

Ryan. Well. I think we went too fast for her. She shut down. I did write down her words. And maybe, just maybe, not everyone WANTS or NEEDS to be the center of attention. Hard to believe in any child of mine, but there you have it.

We compromised and this is the result. To be fair, she wanted to do a photo essay with it. (Shades of Karenne.) But the twins were coming home in half and hour and we were running out of time. I'd like to do the photoessay with her another time.
I think it's pretty clear that her interests and talents lie in the visual.

We're generally having a blast though. A whole new world opens up when you throw away the rule book for a while!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Failed Lotus Two

I had a chance to be a bigger person again last Saturday. (I have been meaning to post this for over a week but haven't even had the chance to turn on the computer.)

As we came back from the sunflower maze Aidan found an ID card lying on the front step to our apartment. It was one of those employer cards that you need to get into the building, or to buy lunch, or something similiar. And it obviously belonged to the nasty couple downstairs, who had once again closed the front door in my face as I was unloading the twins out of the Chrysler.

Did I do the proper thing and knock on their door to return it to them, proving, to themselves and to me, that I am a bigger person, and perhaps allowing my generosity to affect them and allow them to grow into better people themselves?

I most certainly did not.

Aidan is carrying it around the apartment as I type.

I get an evil joy inside me at the turmoil the loss of that card created downstairs. The futile search, the acrimonious accusations. THEN the hassle of calling it in and replacing it.

Honestly, all they had to do was be even halfway semi-decent human beings and they would have had their card.

And honestly, if I was a better person, they would have their card despite the fact that they aren't.

I like to think of myself as an agent of the universe, allowing things to work out as they should. What goes around comes around. Karma. Just desserts.

If I were still a practicing Catholic, I'd go to confession, say a couple of "Hail Marys" and be done with it.

Except I think you're supposed to be truly sorry for your sins.

And I'm still busy getting a big kick out of the whole thing.

Oh well. In the end, I'm only human. And still working on it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We're Gonna Fit Right In!

I personally don't like the term LOL. But I DID laugh out loud at these.

I can tell I am going to like the Aussies. If you can laugh at yourself you're allowed to laugh at everyone else too.

Freely stolen from an email. Too good not to pass on.

So, how does one get to the "nothing" part of Aussy land? . . . and what is there? ;-) (Note they didn't even BOTHER answering this one!)

Bless the Australians and their sense of humor. Scroll Down

Australian humour
These were posted on an Australian tourism website, and the answers are the actual responses by the website officials, who obviously have a great sense of humour (not to mention a low tolerance threshold for cretins!)

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK ).

A: We import all plants fully grown, and then just sit around watching them die.
Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? ( USA )

A: Depends how much you've been drinking.
Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? ( Sweden)

A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles. Take lots of water.
Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane , Cairns , Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)

A: What did your last slave die of?
Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? ( USA )

A: A-Fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe .
Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not...
Oh, forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.
Q: Which direction is North in Australia? ( USA )

A: Face south, and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.
Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia? ( UK )

A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.
Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? ( USA )

A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is...
Oh, forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.
Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? ( UK )

A: You are a British politician, right?
Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney, and is milk available all year round? ( Germany )

A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.
Q:Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can Dispense rattlesnake serum. ( USA )

A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca, which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled, and make good pets.
Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia, but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. ( USA )

A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.
Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia ? ( USA)

A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia ? ( France )

A: Only at Christmas.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? ( USA )

A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first

See you all Tuesday nights at Kings Cross. Dress appropriately!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The boys and I spent Saturday afternoon exploring the sunflower maze on the outskirts of Altdorf. It's a sad little affair this year. The flowers barely reach my head due to lack of sun and the stalks are bent over and broken due to all the rain and hail. Still, it is an effort on the part of the community to bring a little nature into out lives and the boys and I took advantage of it while their older siblings were out horsebackriding and playing baseball.

The maze, with its unexpected twists and turns, and all those darn dead-ends to stumble into, is an obvious metaphor for life.

And, in the center, we DID find stillness. (And stayed there almost two hours playing Indians and circus.)

Affixed to a post was this poem, written in the mid 1952 by Max Ehrmann,an American poet and philosopher of German descent. It is called "Desiderata."

Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata"

I have attached the last three verses in case you don't link to the whole thing.
May they bring you the peace and hope they do me.

"You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars:
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy."

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952

Amazing what you find amidst the broken flowers if only you take the time to look!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Roots and Wings

I'm a little afraid of how easy that went.

Because that either means something ELSE - like Youth Services - is going to hit me over the head next week.

Or that that quiet little principal I've been trying to give the benefit of the doubt to is quietly trying to control my personal life WITHOUT state authority.

It WOULD explain why the school has been so unhelpful and apathetic to my child's needs for four years. She is running her own little private kingdom according to her own private rules and viewpoints.

She hid in her office this morning while I spoke with the school secretary. A very very nice lady - also someone we know from around town - who was speaking into the phone as we entered with such a strong Swabian accent that Damon and I both wondered what the heck we were sending the kids to school there for in the first place! But nice. And the academics have been okay as far as it goes. It's the SYSTEM we can't stand. Not the people.

Except that, after all this bull@^$& over the phone for the past few months about Schulpflicht and what I HAVE to do with Ryan, all we did was write a hotel address on a piece of paper and make small talk. So that my rage yesterday was actually justified since we DIDN'T have any official paperwork to fill out after all.

Stop treating me like a child. Stop telling me what I HAVE to do. I am an adult. I am totally able to take personal responsibility for myself. AND for my children.

I also felt perfectly justified in giving them a hotel address to fill into their slots. After all, all they ever did for Ryan was worry about checking off the proper box on that form too. If what they want is neat paperwork, then I am willing to comply. Alles in Ordnung. Although perfectly meaningless and pointless.

That's it apparently. Unless they are planning on sending Youth Services after us on Monday when the kids don't show up at school.

When the Jehovah's Witnesses showed up again yesterday I honestly wondered for a moment if they weren't just a cover for Youth Services checking up on us to see if we really are moving.

I know. Conspiracy theories. It's time for me to leave!

What disturbs me isn't just the absolute authority the state has over our individual lives here, but the personal authority individuals take on themselves. Individuals policing eachother, telling eachother what to do.

What does the principal REALLY need to know other than that the children are being raised in a loving family - and moving soon? As long as they aren't being beaten or locked in a closet or being otherwise threatened in our home what is it to HER how we are raising them, what our personal beliefs are, what values we share?

There was no reason we had to go in there today except to fulfill her personal desire for power over others.

Stop treating me like a child. Stop telling me what I HAVE to do. I am an adult. I am totally able to take personal responsibility for myself. AND for my children.

Yes, I repeated that twice on purpose.

I'll be the first to argue that, in her defense, she is doing what she feels is right. But why are we so quick, as humans, to decide what is right for everyone else? Why do we have to enforce our own personal beliefs and rules onto others?

It's not just Germans. But boy have we perfected it to an art form.

I told the secretary about our personal plans. How the children and I were enjoying the English lessons and math review we have been doing at home during the summer. (No, I was NOT dumb enough to call it home-schooling while in a German public school!) How the twins were carrying their shoeboxes around the house and pretending to be packing.

I mentioned the world map on the living room wall where the kids have all learned to trace our route through Europe, over Asia and into Brisbane. (I didn't mention the direct route since watching the video of the little boy being forcibly removed from his parents' custody as they were leaving Sweden to homeschool in India. Paranoid? Perhaps. Watch the video though and see if you wouldn't be worried too.)

And how I would be able to work as a veterinarian again because the kids would be in all-day schools. And, since she asked, yes the twins would already be learning to read and write in kindergarten at the age of five.

I mentioned the stability of our family, even as it travels. And she, like most everyone else in Altdorf, knew about the dog. It's a small community. We are the ONLY Americans in our six years here to have at all made an effort to become part of the community. (There have to be at least ten to fifteen military families here but, other than knowing where they are housed, noone knows a thing about them. Another essay here but the American military as a rule certainly doesn't integrate into the communities they believe they are living in.)

I didn't gloat. But, since she asked, I hope I made it clear (mostly to the principal listening in through the open door) that THERE are lifestyle choices out there that DON'T follow the status quo and STILL benefit the children.

I CAN give my children the world.

And I DID apologize for my outburst over the phone yesterday. I explained that I consider Altdorf my home. That it is my roots more than any place so far. That I love and respect the friends I have made here. And the town itself. But that I myself left Germany - with all the rules and 'have tos' that I LOVED as a child - and was raised in the USA. I have seen other systems. I know something else now. And I, as a child of the world, cannot come to terms with the constraints of the German system.

She nodded her head. Either she was being nice, she understood, or Youth Services will be showing up at our door on Monday. (Hmmm - might be a good morning for a trip into the Tuebingen museum that day after all!)

"Individuals are one thing," she said. "It's the SYSTEMS of people that are hard."

So that - hmmmmm - I believe I may have learned something from the German school system after all!

"When your children are young, give them roots. When they grow older, give them wings." A Hindu saying I actually first heard here in Germany.

My roots - and part of my heart - will always remain with my community in Altdorf. It's where I raised my children, gave birth to two of them, and found myself in the process. It may not be home, but it is where I am from.

It is where I learned that I was meant to fly.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Failed Lotus

Lori doesn't read my blog regularly. I know, hard to believe.

But since she and I are able to spend two hours on the phone together and STILL not run out of things to say.....our justification is that we are picking up the kids' rooms and cleaning the kitchen while we dissect and discover the true meaning of life.

We find eachother brilliant, which is always the mark of a true friend!

I felt I had to share my latest bit of Tao wisdom with her the other day. You know, the one that goes...

"When other people are acting like assholes, does it really help any if you act like an asshole as well?"

And then we talked about ego.

Lori likes to remind me that "it's not all about you Christine."

As she switches the topic to herself. (We get along fabulously. Although I do believe we are the only two who could keep track of our rapidly diverging - and yet oddly united - stream of thought!)

I felt like quite an expert here. Because after all, not only have I read all these fantastic books on Eastern religions but I ran into that great guy from Pune, India (via Newark, New Jersey!)at the Atlanta airport last February.

"Be like the lotus," he told me. "Water sits on the lotus petal as the petal remains undisturbed."

And - shocker here - it is NOT all about me personally. Overcome that ego.

(He also turned me on to the version of the Bhagavad Gita I am reading now AND told me that the Buddhists completely missed the point when they broke off from Hinduism! We had ten hours in line together. He told me a lot more too, that I have on little scraps of paper until I find the time to type them up.)

So that I proudly explained to Lori how the realization that it is NOT all about me...and that being an asshole yourself isn't the answer to other assholes ....has been helping me around town. With the lady who stole my parking spot. I circled three more times and then found another. With the lady who lives downstairs and honestly has the time and temperament to worry about her garbage placement in relation to our car OUR driveway!

But that not letting it get to me was actually helping me in the long run as well. A lot less anger, less stress, less to worry about. Inner peace.

Until I called the school yesterday. I should know better. But, after all that worry that the Nazi police would come and take my children from me, the truth this summer has been that it is hard to FIND someone working in Europe in the summer, close to lunch-time, when they are out ill, or generally just taking the afternoon off. Still a bureacracy.

So that I was fairly complacent and just called to see IF and HOW we unregister the children from school.

IF and HOW. What do I need to do to officially get the kids out of school since we are moving?

And the principal quietly reminded me about "Schulpflicht." The kids are legally obligated to go to school here.

That did it. No more lotus blossom. I was asking HOW. I was not asking for information regarding yet another obligation I supposedly have to a school system that apparently has no obligation to teach my child. She just needs to be there.

"Ich kenne die verdammte Regeln." I told her. "I know the damned rules. Which is why we are leaving the damn country when we are."

Honestly Lori, it felt GREAT!

There is a point here in Germany where an American has to learn to stand up for themselves. It's a very direct society, a very much in your face and tell you what to do and mind your business for you kind of place. For instance, BEWARE if you bring your baby out without socks, or feed it the wrong way, or let your kids swing in the trees.......not only do Germans know how THEY would do it, they like to tell you how YOU should be doing it too.

The German friends I tell these stories to find me hysterical. They know it's true. But they accept it as a fact of life and get a big kick out of watching me go up against it as an American. I swear, Babette and Dominique BOTH CHUCKLED at me!

I know. I have that same instinct myself. I believe it's the reason big government seems to work so well here. People like to make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing. It makes them feel secure, I guess.

But I digress. (No kidding right?)

I swore at the principal. It felt FANTASTIC. And then I WAS able to rein it right back in and get back to the point of a setting up a meeting to unregister the kids.

So that I do believe anger has its short, tempered bursts. But that we shouldn't let it control us or interfere with what we need to do.

I had to remind myself that me acting like an idiot wasn't going to make HER act any less small-minded. And that it wasn't about me. That she is just a simple person who only knows her one simple way. And that her not being able to think outside the box might annoy me temporarily but that it wasn't anything personal and is something that she has to deal with the rest of her life.

Me....I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

I never said I was perfect Lori. I am still a small, imperfect person. But I am striving to be that lotus... and at least big enough to know that I still need to work on it!

Be like the lotus, Christine. Be like the lotus.

And if that doesn't work remember she'll still be sitting in the same flower box, in the same dry soil, with no ability to see beyond the window sill....while I am able to offer my children the chance to blossom and grow towards the light!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

SPEECHLESS! Well almost....

I bit my tongue yesterday but it has to be said.


Doesn't say much for American public schools if he missed this most basic of concepts. Something about a country founded on religious freedom? You know, the Pilgrims, Thanksgiving and all that. The whole basis of separation of Church and State. With liberty and justice for ALL? ( I know, I know, we've ignored that tenet from day one, but still...)

Never mind tolerance and generosity and loving your neighbor as yourself and all that good stuff.

This guy is LEADING a church?!

That frightens me as much as terrorist-funded ashrams in the Afghan mountains.

Someone please let him know he's misread the Bible.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Just Us! Life at the Connor's

I'm here. I'm here. And I am fine.

I have been scribbling away like crazy but haven't had the time to form a coherent sentence.

Or turn on the computer for that matter.

But since I promised some family updates, and haven't delivered...well, here goes.

The kids are great. Ryan is at riding camp this week. Where she shines. It is so nice to be able to drop a child off in the morning knowing she is somewhere that is actually good for her. (I would personally NOT be ABLE to send her to school next week. I just couldn't do it.)

The twins are in morning kindergarten again. Aidan got beat up by Luka yesterday and was afraid to go back this morning. They had to ice the back of his head where he fell so I am fairly certain he was not the aggressor and even more certain that he lost! But Matthew has been strutting around with his chest in the air telling everyone how he stepped in to protect his "Bruder." And Andrew offered to go in and have a "talk" with Luka as well. I told him that was probably more muscle than we needed for a four-year-old! Poor kid. Although I do like the Connor Bros sticking up for eachother.

The homeschooling is going really well. I'm learning more than I ever imagined about teaching and learning. As a bonus, the kids are learning something too.

We've been going easy on the math since I discovered an online review course I really like. ( since someone will ask!) It covers the basics of an American curriculum so that I know where the kids stand - predictably enough ahead in some fields and behind in others - and we can review what we need to before letting them practice on their own. (It also allows me to work out in the morning while they are on the computer! I'm telling you - the flexibility is AWESOME!)

English is a piece of cake. Since we can talk about piece and peace and other homophones all day. And learn about all the silly things English does with an 'e' at the end!

We read "Alexander and the No Good, Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day" to learn about synonyms. (I do like to hit them over the head with it sometimes!) And remembered the book was about moving to Australia too!

Then we read whatever we like - or write a letter - and go over the funny things English does with words. I am proud to announce my kids now spell 'ov', of and 'vor', for. 'Where' WITH that silly silent 'e' - some of the time! And at least KNOW that to, too and two exist....although where and when isn't always clear.

These are German-schooled kids so they are just soaking up all the rules those of us brought up in English just took for granted. It's fun to see the leaps and bounds.

Moving is going well too. Wolfy is still the biggest issue. The family who was interested in taking him is now expecting twins. Honestly, if anyone is trying to conceive and having problems, I suggest they take our dog!

Aidan and Matthew "move" every afternoon. Carrying things around in bags or shoe boxes. So no, I don't think they are too stressed about the whole thing!

So that look - I've managed to fill up a blog with no crazy moral message or silliness, just a peak at what's going on in our lives.....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Way!

Trying to explain my belief in Taoism to the two Jehovah's Witnesses on my stairway yesterday got me to thinking.

How WOULD I explain what I have gotten from studying the Tao to someone who has never heard of it?

There's a lot of talk about balance and moderation and staying within the circle. About accepting change and going with the flow.

Tao means "the way." It's central theory is that we all come from the same source and return to it, hopefully learning something in the lifetime(s) in between. You might have heard of "universal consciousness." Christians probably mean something similar when they talk of us all being sons and daughters of God, that we all have God within us.

The Jehovah's Witnesses were actually interested. I told them just to substitute the word "God" in for 'Universal Consciousness." An oversimplification but something to let them know that I was getting from the Tao what they were getting from....well, honestly I didn't ask for particulars.

They seemed okay with that. And honestly, I felt at "one" with them, so whatever I am beginning to believe seems to be that which we are all looking for in our own ways and different religions. They glowed with their fervor and left me to glow in mine.

They did pose a question I found interesing. "Why are we here on this earth?" As I explained about spiritual enlightenment and personal growth (but was wise enough to leave out the multiple lifetimes part!) they asked why Our Father would have put us here if not to enjoy it? SHouldn't we enjoy life here on earth and follow the rules our loving Father has given us to serve him?

Well, I have my issues with that, since I believe (and this here is borrowing from the Hindu!) that we have chosen our OWN circumstances on this earth in order to advance our spiritual enlightenment in this world. In other words, we CHOSE this life to help us find God. But I wasn't going to argue semantics with them.

And I do like the part about enjoying our time here on earth. Food for thought.

The biggest difference between the Eastern religions I have been studying and the Judeo/Christian-Muslim beliefs is that the Eastern religions (Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh) believe that spiritual enlightenment - or God - can be found through many different paths. We choose the path - or religion - that helps us personally achieve God.

There is no one right way to find God. I like that.

I'm pleased to be getting closer to whatever it is I am seeking. I know I am getting way too "New Age" for most folks and so end with a quote from the Tao that I believe sums up what I am learning from it.

(Verse 29)
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides in the center of the circle.

It was all mumbo jumbo to me two years ago too. But after further study (of both the Hindu Bagavath Gita and the Tao), yoga and meditation I am beginning to feel the truth of the words.

And learning that faith is a feeling more than a knowing.

You want real words? Something you can take with you into real life?

Here then, is my basic personal translation of the mumbo jumbo above.

"When other people are acting like assholes, does it really help any if you act like an asshole as well?"

Try it - I'm telling you it works!