GNL number 25


a report of doings at meeting # 25, Sunday, August 9, 2009
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


When you really pay attention, everything is your teacher.
—–Ezra Bayda


Opening this conversation on Teachers, Cynthia remembered a teacher she’d had in the 5th grade who believed in her and wisely had her tape and listen to her own voice with its speech impediments, an experience which hurt but started a process of speech work that was eventually empowering. Cynthia also cited as teacher her recent health crisis with a mysterious ailment that turned out to be Lyme disease. The experience showed her the need for better ER intake and professional preparation on Lyme, and may have put her on a new crusade. She also said her husband Ron was one of the main teachers in her life.

Cynthia’s daughter Tina, here to support Cyn during her hospital stay, said her mom was teacher to her, especially by example, as someone who gives tirelessly to others, and her dad too, especially for his orderly, meticulous, frugal qualities. And she spoke of her experience as a veterinarian causing her to learn to be more open to people.

Sue also recalled one of her school teachers, in sixth grade, who was insightful and brave enough to draw the distinctions between capitalism and communism, and democracy and dictatorship. She remembered too her mother’s and father’s influence, and their aphorisms like, “Do it with both hands.” And she spoke of learning from her teaching/storytelling as well as gardening. Her notes and quotes appear in Afterwords.

Anna remembered going to school in Brooklyn in the Dick-and-Jane days, but learning not so much from school as from her own explorations out on the road and in the world, and then finally as a mature adult and veteran of some difficult relationships, learning through Al-anon to look to and trust herself.

Ann described learning from her experience as a schoolbus driver, for example, initially disliking the country music the kids liked to listen to and finally growing to see the basic quality in it that’s supportive to so many. Like Cynthia, Ann said her husband had been one of her most important teachers, and cited especially, Elliott’s patience and openness to people. Her notes and quotes follow in AW.

Chris spoke of memories from school in Middleburgh of a teacher who did harm with her insensitivity, and may still be doing it. But she also remembered a very positive, recent experience when she brought with her into a Board meeting the model she’s taken of Jack for openness, and how this benefitted her, and the business of the meeting.

Ginny had grown up in Queens, and recalled one family in particular she knew there that had few resources, but the father was always pointing out to the children that yes, some were better off than them, but many were worse off, and she said those kids grew up to be generous, successful people.

Gail said her granddaughter Virginia has been a teacher to her these eight years, and that Cynthia and the experience of co-owning and managing the Natural Food store with her had also been major teachers in her life, that prompted her to open up to other people in a way she hadn’t before.

Growing up in Manhattan, Jack remembered his early schooling, especially in the Columbia Teachers College experimental school, where one teacher caught him leading a bunch of other kids out of school one day and called him out as all “bluff”. And he said his learnings recently have been supplied by the new life he’s been leading with his several care providers, with their different styles and views.

Adair spoke of her dad as teacher, recalling conversations at the dinner table where he would ask “What’s your support for that point of view?” She said books have been her teachers all her life, citing Diane Ackerman’s writings as recent favorites and a book by Al Gore’s daughter Korinna Gore Schiff called Lighting the Way, on women like Mother Jones who’d been trailblazing social leaders.

Nancy brought a note crammed with 1000 tinyscribbled words she couldn’t even read herself, about experiences and people that had been teachers to her, and many of these indeed were present at the meeting. But in the interest of time and group health, she gave just one example, of her prof in freshman art, who “recognized” and trusted her with difficult, honest feedback like she was a peer, and this was not discouraging, but encouraging. For (some of) the rest of her notes and quotes, see AW.


Teachers open the door. You must enter by yourself.
—–Chinese proverb.


Sunday, September 13, 2009 (1030), at Jack’s place, Jay St., Cobleskill. The topic: CHILDREN’S BOOKS III. Meanwhile, some more TOPIC ideas for the future: POTLUCK (Surprise us; check the idea list on the blog and bring some thoughts on ANY topic.) or————-MUSIC in our lives or———-SECRET WISHES.


from Sue:

Teaching has really taught me what I’m teaching: “To teach is to learn twice.” ~Joseph Joubert, Pensées, 1842

What I learned from:

  • My Father: “Always use two hands.”
  • My Mother: My mother taught me a lot about how to love and care for others and myself. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” ~Alexander Pope
  • My bad teachers taught me a lot about how not to be, what not to do.
  • My sixth grade teacher Mrs. Thomas in Schenectady in 1955 made it clear she was talking about forbidden things in the McCarthy era when she taught us during social studies, that communism and capitalism were two kinds of economic systems, and democracies and dictatorships were two different political systems, and that communists were not necessarily proponents of dictatorships and capitalism was not joined at the hip with democracy. I remember learning as much about courage and honesty from her as about political and economic systems.
  • My gardens: everything about life and death, abortion, free choice, discipline of caring for something to help it prosper, beauty, letting go.
  • Weeding: focusing selecting deciding what direction I’ll go. While gardening my mind relaxes and solutions to issues I’m struggling with rise to the surface.
  • Suffering as a teacher: My recent injuries and difficulties of getting older–what I’m learning from these.

A few other quotations I didn’t read:

  • “A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” ~Thomas Carruthers
  • “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” ~Kahlil Gibran
  • “Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.” ~Mark Twain
  • “Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” Oscar Wilde
  • “If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” Mark Twain
  • Somewhere a quote that adds up to this: If I don’t learn from my foolish actions in response to a situation and refuse to accept that I need to change my expectations or how I respond, that same situation will keep repeating itself until I get it.

from Ann:

My sister as a bad example, what she was chastised for became the path for me NOT to follow.
Elliott is one of the best teachers I have ever had – patient, amazingly knowledgeable about lots of things, logical, caring.

from Nancy:

No way to talk about this in a 5-minute turn, as it turns out there are so many stories of lessons and reminders and so many people—family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers and especially so many children. Not to mention some dogs, cats, undomesticated animals, and a luna moth. Then there’s the people not met but seen, heard, read—the wise teachers from many faiths; wise people who’ve made music and other kinds of beauty; wise people who’ve written their message in poetry, novels, memoirs, children’s books, like Mary Oliver, like Dr. Seuss; wise honest reporters, like Bill Moyers; wise brave social leaders, like MLK; and wise guys who also have some brave social leader in them, like Rev. Billy, Jon Stewart, and the Swami. Most of these show me how to live by their example, of presence, kindness, compassion, patience, curiosity, courage, respect for all life, openness to beauty and wonders (and what might be outside the box), capacity for delight and playfulness…. Now i could write the details of my own experience of Teachers, we all could, and it would be a book, ongoing. Apparently my job is to work on it, or allow it to work on me for the rest of the year. Or the rest of my life.

Who is a wise man? He that learns from all men.

On one level, there is no teacher and no teaching. Ultimately, you must return to your own experience.
—–Ezra Bayda


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