It is very difficult to keep an optimistic outlook with all of the negativity surrounding us today. I personally have to work really hard at understanding the Light and the Dark (Shadow, Ego, Satan?), the Yin-Yang, and why it is sometimes necessary for one to experience the woes of the world. The Yin-Yang symbol represents the interdependence, indeed the interconnectedness of all things. It is a reminder that each is necessary to the whole -- the masculine and the feminine, the light and the dark, the fire and the water, and the negativity as well as the optimism. If we are never made aware of the ugliness present, both literally and emotionally, in our world, how are we to know what is needed to correct it?
What is needed is often based on our desires. What do we wish our world to be? What do we wish to experience not only in the world, but in our own lives? At the top of the list for most of us is (or should be) peace. However, it appears that our struggles to obtain "peace on earth" have been failing abysmally. Why?
(Public Domain Image)
The answer may lie in the word "struggles". The struggles taking place often lead to war. On a personal level, it could be the break-up of a relationship.. or divorce. On social issues we often speak in terms of attack. We are waging "War on Drugs", a "Fight Against Breast Cancer", "Let's Fight Against Hunger", and "War on Poverty" among others. Not that these are not legitimate causes deserving of our attention and assistance. But these are not "peaceful" images of solutions being portrayed in our minds.
We worry about things like the rising incidence of gun violence. Is the answer to that to place more guns on the streets and in our homes and God forbid, in our schools?
Today we heard of another nuclear test conducted by North Korea. Will that be followed by a proliferation of more nuclear weapons in other nations -- or perhaps aggression towards the North Koreans? Is the answer to the problem of the Iranians obtaining a nuclear weapon to agree to an invasion of Iran?
(Public Domain Image)
I do not have the answer to these questions, but I do believe that peace is possible. There is a law of quantum physics (the uncertainty principle) that boils down to "what you focus on increases". Could it be that we have all been focusing on the wrong images? Could we bring about change by prayer and imaging for peace? With enough people... Ah, critical mass could be obtained.
If we pay close attention, there are good things happening right under our noses. A few years back a group of high school students started a club of sorts to counteract what they perceived as a form of snobbery and unwarranted bullying in their school. They began to greet students in the hallways with compliments and acts of kindness. Even students who had been snubbed, didn't belong to the "right" club, or otherwise had been made to feel unworthy were recognized. This was so successful that in a few short years, it has evolved into an organization in many schools across the country, and is an active movement in the local elementary school here that my grandchildren attend. It is known as C-squared -- Coalition of Clubs. It was started to draw together different school organizations and clubs and eliminate the rivalry, and it has blossomed into a movement of compassion and kindness, meant to take the place of mean-spirited bullying. Members are nominated by teachers as being recognized as showing qualities of fairness, compassion, and kindness to others. I am very proud to say that my ten-year-old grandson Travis was made a member of this group this past semester. I have witnessed his compassion for others many times while watching him at play. Besides, he is also making wonderful grades and is on the A & B honor roll.
Organizations such as this are instrumental in creating a culture of caring, compassionate young people to go forth into the world with optimism and the ability to spread love. However, we all know that what goes into making these young people before they enter school is the role models they have in their homes. In my grandson's case he has a dad, my son Matthew, who is deeply involved with raising his children. Besides the ordinary things that good dads do, like teaching them to fish or play golf, to play fair, go on camping trips, coaching a Little League team, or joining them for lunch at school some days, he belongs to an organization that keeps dads involved when their children are in school. It is called WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dad of a Great Student). Originally inspired by a school shooting in Arkansas, it was formed to place dads in and on the school and its grounds. (I might add that these dads are not armed with guns, just love!) Their credo:
- (To) "engage men, inspire children, reduce bullying and enhance the educational environment"..
- "Is the father involvement initiative of the National Center for Fathering that organizes fathers and father figures in order to provide positive role models for the students and to enhance school security. Today, more than 2,659 active programs in 46 states participate in the WATCH D.O.G.S. Program."
Bravo to all the dads involved! Especially my son Matthew. They are making a difference, and the children for whom they are role models will certainly help to create a kinder, gentler world of peace.
Now this is not the image that pops into one's mind when you think of a scientist, is it? The lovely young lady (appearing to defy the law of gravity) is my oldest granddaughter Audrey. After graduating from SMU last spring with a degree in Environmental Science and one in Biology, she has spent the intervening time working first at a Delaware State Park as a naturalist, lecturing the tourists on the flora and fauna present in the park. Her most recent internship was at a research facility in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii assisting for a spinner dolphin research project, the SAPPHIRE project. For more information, the project's website is: http://www.nicholas.duke.
She wrote me this brief description of her stay there: "..a lot different from when I was in Maui! (Editor: Doing humpback whale research in January of 2012.) The hardest days are when we have to hike to a theodolite station, where we do our land-based research. We leave at 5 am and don't return until 6 or 7 pm, depending on the dolphins. We have a really intense hour hike each way, too.." "..I love working here. Every day is different. Some days we identify dolphins on the computer by matching their fins. It's a bit tedious but rewarding at the same time. On longer days, we hike to a cliff and take coordinates of the dolphin pods and tourist activity in the bay. We stay there as long as the dolphins are there, which on record days was 10 hours! It has definitely given me some perspective on the realities of wildlife research. We go on the boat to take photos of the dolphins. That's a lot of fun, but we don't do it too often, because they already have a lot of photo data. We also go on the boat to change the batteries and memory card of all of the acoustics loggers (records sound underwater). So we definitely stay busy."
Audrey with Resident Sea Turtle -- Hawaii
Since returning home from Hawaii in time for New Year's celebrations, Audrey has been working with a genetics research lab at West Texas A&M University studying the hybridization between two species of deer, as well as continuing some of the SAPPHIRE research back home analyzing the acoustics data for a Duke PhD student. This keeps her busy while waiting to hear from one of the universities she has applied to for admission to a graduate program. One of which was Duke, Nicholas School of the Environment in Durham, North Carolina. Lo and behold! While on a trip to North Carolina she got word yesterday that not only has she been accepted into their graduate program, but she's also received a scholarship. No one has worked harder or deserves it more! She will be working for a Master of Environmental Management degree, with an Ecosystem Science & Conservation concentration. Whew! I can barely write about it, much less understand it all. I have several pages of information forwarded to me by Audrey's mother, Carajean, that I will read diligently and do my best to fathom the work that so drives my granddaughter's passion.
I am so very proud of Audrey, but especially so of her mother and dad who have given her the necessary role models and encouragement for her to launch on a much-needed career of work for our environment, both rescuing and preserving it for future generations. They also embraced Audrey's desire to become a vegetarian at a tender age, and now practice the diet as well. Kudos to you, Carajean and Branch!
This has been a long read, I know. I have more to share about other grandchildren in a subsequent blog. And, you know what? After working on this, I have more reason to feel optimistic about our future.
Now, all together -- close your eyes, take a deep breath, and send images of
Love and peace to the world,