Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tiny bits of unconditional love (a guest post from Tony Cannon)

All you need is love...and two other things.

I've spent a lot of time in thought lately about why people have problems with each other and, while that is natural and even acceptable, how we can get over those problems to still be able to cohesively be a part of the same community without a lot of lingering angst.  I keep coming back to the same idea without a way to really defeat it: love.  Not based on how well someone does their job, whether they smile at us in the hall, whether we like them or not, agree with their personal beliefs, but love that is unconditional.  And it doesn't have to be a lot.  Just a tiny, tiny bit.  If we felt the tiniest bit of unconditional love towards every other person, how much better would things be?  It would be easier to forgive people when they wrong us (perceived or actual), it would be easier to disagree and still get things accomplished.  It would make life more enjoyable.  We wouldn't have to show it necessarily, just feel it internally and recognize it when it came time to rely on it.

Hypothetical: If there was a staff member who I strongly disliked/wronged me/thought did a terrible job/etc., and I saw them crying alone, what would I do?  Keep walking; give support, but with conditions; or just give support regardless?

It doesn't mean we don't have conflict between one another, but that the conflict is confined to a single situation and doesn't overlap to the point where it's only what we have with that other person.

Emotionally, people need 3 things from others (regardless of their age, talents, deficiencies, position, or any other definable feature):
- love
- respect
- purpose

It can be argued that respect is a filtered form of love and also that you cannot have purpose without respect.  As a school, do we have systems in place to cover those?  Purpose, yes; respect, sort of; love, no.  And even with regard to purpose, how much of that system is based on respect?  What do our personal, internal systems show with regards to those 3 things through our actions towards others?  

When I was a Special Education Instructional Assistant substitute educator in Salem, these 3 things are what I lived by (though I was only able to define them recently, I just went by "feel").  I would go from school to school, program to program, room to room, kid to kid.  Kindergarten, high school, college prep, all types of Special Ed rooms, and everything in between.  Unlike a teaching sub, I wouldn't have the luxury of being able to deflect student issues amongst 30 students, I had to focus mostly on one student, and it was usually the most difficult one.  And while the other workers would have weeks to build a rapport with a high-maintenance student, I'd have minutes at best before I saw flames reaching over the edge of the handbasket the student and I were in together.  When things would start going south, I'd try and recognize how I was failing that other person, how they were failing me, how we were failing each other, leaving out emotions like guilt, hurt, shame, embarrassment.  "How can I solve this within two minutes?"  Smiling was almost always part of the solution.  I'd always try and cover the difference as much on my own as I could and that would usually make the other person feel comfortable and willing to cover the rest of the way.  We have to be willing to recognize when we're failing other people, then be willing to do something positive about it, even if they're hurting us.  We also have to be willing and able to recognize when someone else is failing us, yet is unable or unwilling to cover it on their end.

Regardless of what problems, either as individuals or overall as a school, we think we may have, don't they all boil down to one or more of those 3 things lacking in a given situation, from one or both sides, and in varying degrees?  How can I solve an interpersonal issue quickly, respectfully, in a way that will last?  While doing this, I have to realize that there’s a good chance I’ll have to give more than the other person, and that this may never be reciprocated down the road.  I’m okay with that.  Tiny bits of unconditional love.

Tony Cannon is a father, husband, professional educator, amateur photographer, and recreational philosopher, among other things. He frequently blogs about hiking at

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Aspiring to the divine (craft beer, that is)

The world of craft beer has been set afire.

The Brouwerij Westvleteren (Westvleteren Brewery), makers of "one of best beers in the world", announced that it would be selling its beer, for the first and only time, outside of the monastery's walls. The monastery's one-time effort is designed to raise funds to fix up their roof. But for beer connoisseurs, it's an opportunity of a lifetime. And after NPR aired a segmented yesterday extolling the virtues of God's nectar (A Sign From Above? Needing New Roof, Monks Sell Rare Beer in U.S.), and the Huffington Post ran a piece in today's food section (Westvleteren XII, 'World's Best Beer," Makes One-Time U.S. Appearance),  people have been scrambling to find and try it - me included.

In an effort to procure some the divine nectar, I phoned my friend and local homebrew shop owner, the Old Lickspigot himself - Joel Rea of Corvallis Brewing Supply - realizing the shop was not yet open but hoping to leave a message. Much to my surprise and based on the overwhelming number of calls he'd received from people requesting this beer, the owner had changed his message to indicate that he did indeed have a case but that he'd be holding a raffle for the bottles and people needed to send him an email expressing their interest in participating in the raffle. So I obliged, in as eloquent a fashion as I could muster in 30 minutes of morning procrastination.

Westvleteren XII's arrival at the local homebrew shop (G-T article).

Now, without further ado, I give you my email - in its entirety - to the local homebrew shop to get in on some of the world's least available beer!

STOP! I KNOW YOU'RE BUSY, JOEL, BUT YOU MUST - ABSOLUTELY MUST - READ THIS ENTIRE EMAIL! (or not, but I think you'll get a kick out of it)
Good gravy! Sounds like you've been inundated with calls about procuring some of this beer! That's awesome (or not, depending on your perspective). I guess the inundation is to be expected when a national radio program extols the virtues of this limited quantity nectar of the one true God!
But to the point of this email: I am interested in procuring one of these Westvleteren bottles.
And I'm interested for two reasons, the first of which is Divine in nature (helping the monks of Saint Xystus/Sixtus replace their roof), the second of which is purely to serve the interests and taste buds of others (yes, I'm that much of a giver). And by others, I really mean me...and a few others that will get to quaff the sweet nectar of this bottle one evening next week whilst tying flies at my home. Flies that will hopefully land the One, True, Might and Strong winter steelhead in the coming days before Christmas (the equivalent of the golden egg-laying goose for our avian, folklore-loving friends). It is my firm belief that in savoring this drink direct from the hand of God (through his holy monks), the flies we tie up next week will have supernatural, spiritual powers bestowed upon them, thereby compelling the wary and willy winter steelhead to feel spiritually compelled to deliver themselves unto us fly-tying brethren.  And they will feel compelled to deliver themselves unto us because we will have sufficiently demonstrated - via our consumption and appreciation of this Holy nectar - our direct link to God, indeed to the Divine Kingdom. And in so demonstrating, these most magnificent of winter wilderness, waterworld wayfarers will attain true enlightenment and access to Heaven through our (including your) consumption of them (after they leave the smoker, of course!).
So please do let me know if/how I can get my hands on one of these bottles! In doing so, you will be playing an incalculable role as divine facilitator and savior of the pisces. And you'll strengthen your case for sainthood so that one day your name may be talked about in concert with that of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Many thanks, Joel!
Prost!Jeremiah (Sixtus III?)