Section IV - University
- Heading to Dayton Ohio for University(*4)
College choices –why Dayton?, Mother letting go, summer fun, school shopping, roommates different approaches, Math humbling, computer science useful, Change to History and Humanities focus, expression of Grief ROTC Uniform,,
- World Travel as Merchant Seaman - Visiting Temples (*5)
- Exploring world religions (*6)
- Intense learning: Christ as seeker + discovering Socrates "Know Thyself" (*7)
- Moved by the Bhagavad Gita (*8)
- University questioning - Experimental College - (*9)
- Considered action and limits of leaders (*10) "increase awareness"
4 Heading to Dayton Ohio for University
College choices: I hadn’t applied to any colleges and it was getting pretty far into Senior year. I think my friends from St William's grammar school Joe or Johnny were going into Manhattan for an interview with a recruiter from the University of Dayton so I went along. Our appointment was around lunch time so I remember he bought us a cheese burger and fries and it was on his expense account. I must have been real hungry since I still remember how good the cheeseburger was and was also impressed that you could have job (not at Jones beach concession) where someone else paid for lunch. He told us about UD. It was Catholic, co-ed, cheap (or relatively inexpensive, with full room and board and all expenses etc it was equivalent to living at home and going to the local NY college Hofstra or Adelphi I think). It was not Seaford but it was only about a twelve hour drive if needed or wanted to come home so travel too would be cheap. He asked me some questions about basketball I told him I wasn’t that good since I only joined a team in 11th grade but I liked the game. At any rate I sent in my papers (I hated filling out forms) and I didn’t think much about it and didn’t apply to anywhere else. I was accepted and really happy that the whole thing with applying was over and could say, "yep, going to UD" if any one asked.
Friend’s Parents watching: Our parents were all happy the 3 Seaford and St willie's boys would be together in Ohio. They had swapped stories and kept watch over us that way in grammar school [we learned early to get our stories straight and stick to it because that mother telepathy would somehow know some of the details we hadn’t planned on]. We were the first kids in all the families to be going off to college and I think they hoped the protective cross checking of the small community would give them inside knowledge and help protect us through this next phase.
Mother letting go: My mother confided to me later it was one of the hardest decisions she had to make, to let me go away to school. I had been a big assistance with the younger ones. I did enjoy the closeness with my younger brothers and sisters, they were all so different it amazed me. I learned a lot of “seat of the pants” child and people psychology talking over the situations sitting on the edge of my mother’s bed watching TV, after most of the younger ones were in bed. But she withheld her own wish from me that I not go away. On reflection and discussing with others, she believed it was best for me to be studying away; that I shouldn’t be taking on more responsibility at home at that time. As it got closer to time to go and we were struggling over the “under my roof” regimen she also saw I was beginning to feel my oats and test the limits more. At one point she said she couldn’t discuss it anymore and please just put up with it for few weeks more. Since I had been so involved in their lives it was very hard for her and some of my younger brothers and sisters when I left and didn’t communicate very much. When I traveled around the world as a merchant seaman a few years later I would send a post card from time to time saying “Things Are Good” or just shortened to “TAG” Love and stuff.
Summer Fun: I wasn’t quite ready to go away to school as September of 1965 approached (summer work, the evenings and the beach were too much fun). My family had been away for a good part of the summer so I could push to the edges of exhaustion and no comments except my own body mind would start to shut down if I didn’t get a full night’s sleep once in a while. Then my family returned and my mother expected me to be home by 12. It was the rule (with some exceptions) while you were living “under the roof of the parents”. Later after I had traveled around the world and had walked in some of the worst seaports of the world and was home again the “under the roof” rule came into effect with the “set a good example for your younger brothers and sisters” added. I was at first laughing and then angry and some accommodation was worked out after some input with my father which I believe resulted in, I would call by 11 they would leave the inside bolt off and I should come in quietly. “But most times mom would either be up or wake up when the door opened. A mother’s love. Dad could sleep through a bomb.
School Shopping: I had not done any shopping for college and it was 3 days from leaving when my mother again strongly suggested that I make the trip to (Seaford) Mid-Island Dept store and let loose of some of that summer cash. Shopping was not my thing.
(In the last 50 years I have gotten a bit better. Especially with flea markets in queens or walking around in foreign cities when that is one thing you can easily talk about and have a direct experience with the locals. In the last few years EBay has been great for me. Don’t have to leave your house, can do it in the middle of the night, It can be delivered to your p.o. box and you can decide over a few days using auction swiper if you really need or want that thing for what price.)
Even though not completely outfitted I was fill of confidence that it didn’t matter what you wore, I had a great tan, with the student loan and a little work pocket money I could get an extra pair of pants or shirt if I really need it. Then I decided, I was dying to get this “next big event” going. Seemed like a step up from summer camp – just get to be on your own for longer period - OK, Let's just do it!
Driving and Lost in Dayton; Driving with my mother, Joe S. and It think my younger brother Tim, I began to realize that this college thing was really happening. We made good time across the country but there was a lot of construction going on in Dayton and we were driving in circles in the dark for hours trying to find our dorm. Joe S. and I had been buddies in grammar school and our mothers had been close friends for years (they still are).
I saw Lola (Joe’s mother) at my father’s 90th birthday a few years ago.
She still has the same sweet smile and makes everyone she meets feel “special”. When my siblings and I were reminding her of that, she said with all sincerity and sweetness beaming “but you were -- and still are special”. I never realized she had a southern accent until that day at my father’s 90th. I had never considered where she was born and grew up, I just always thought that sweet southern voice was simply the way Aunt Lola’s voice was.
Different Approaches to College Work: One of my first roommates "J" and I had a different approach to college. I had been the altar boy, boy scout senior patrol leader, paper boy who had helped raise the 7 younger kids while my father was traveling and I was just looking to wale with the new fredom life. Joe was extremely serious about his studies and really wanted to make his family proud. He would come home from classes, diligently rewrite his notes from the day, do his homework and would be getting ready for bed at around 9 pm. I was a math major who wanted to switch to computer science and my other roommate TM. was in pre-med (at that time he was planning to be a doctor). We would just be getting down to study around the time it was lights out for Joe. I had been in the minor seminary (St Pius) with T. I was also getting into the beginnings of heavy philosophical conversations in the hallways and on the 20 minutes back and forth to the main campus. I would come in all wound up and recount to Tom, who would lend an ear about this. We were also beginning to listen to Bob Dylan etc. Tom was a mellowing influence between Joe and my different approach to that intense first year. Johnny M. also a friend from Allan drive [whose mother used to have all of over to say the rosary and was anther loving Aunt (V.) on our block]. John went to St W’s with Joe and I. Johnny was the only one from the Seaford Priest wanabees (with Tom – but he was from elmont?) who made it all the way through St Pious to 12th grade. He was on the floor above us. At the time Johnny was very shy socially, but a very good student.
Joe goes on. Notwithstanding our mothers close and continuing friendship, I think Joe and I were both relieved when one of the guys across the hall with only had one roommate invited Joe in. Joe went on to the fraternity life and I think very good grades in business I went - well lets get to that,…Tom eventually switched to Social Work and I think Johnny eventually was in the same fraternity with Joe and also did very well in business.
What a basement. One night I came back and saw the Tom was calculating something pensively. He told me he had been counting up all the years he had already studied since first grade and yet to study after college if he stayed in his major. After college would be med school and then residency and any specialist training – he totaled the number of years just to be ready to get some real experience practicing a profession that would do some good for the world. I remarked that with the great foundation we were all getting by going to school it should then allow us hopefully to have a solid life building atop of this substantial foundation. Tom was quite for while and then said : “or one hell of a basement!” I was a bit shocked and looked over at him and then we both broke into uncontrolled laugher. It became a quotable quote over the years: “or one hell of a basement”.
UD Math Course Selection: Now this brings me back to Seaford SHS when the course selection came I had checked with Mrs. G. our beloved math teacher about what math classes to take. Since I did real well in math she suggested that I would not need pre-calculus since they would probably review in the first few weeks of the regular calculus class. And not taking the prerequisite course would save me some tuition and time.
Math Humbles, Computer Science still intrigues.
Math calculus without pre-Calc was disconcerting for me. It was the first time in my life that I had concentrated on anything about mathematics and I just couldn’t seem to get it. It was like it would slip out of my brain. And I was supposed to be a Math Major and eventually computer Science major. When I finally went to the Professor after a few weeks to ask some questions. He told me those type of questions “have to be taken on faith”. I was so upset. I kept saying to my self and friends this is not religion it's supposed to be Math for God’s sake. He said just apply the formulas for functional equations. But I felt if I couldn’t understand how the equations were designed, I wouldn’t know how to apply the formulas or which ones. Previously with anything to do with mathematics, I could work it out a few times in my brain. I could then imagine or see it being true in a sense. Then I could apply something in rote. If I knew in principal it to be true and could then grasp how it was applied at least one time, I would usually retain the essence and be able to repeat the trick. If I got confused I would just remember the simple example in my head and “work it out” for this new instance..
At the same time I was also becoming in some ways more stubborn and persistent in my questioning and wanted more answers to everything. The upshot was I spent the most time at night to figure out the math (or worrying about why it was taking so long to catch up) and got the worst grade in that. Some suggested I consider changing my major after the first semester. But I was convinced it had just been a mistake or I had gotten a bad start. Other math majors suggested in the next semester I take the same course but with the other very well like professor who also Taught Calculus 1. He was known to be very different from the very aloof Prof R and was able to explain everything much better. But being stubborn after I received my only "F" grade, I wanted to take the same class with the same professor to “show him” I could do it. This was a big mistake. I showed him and managed to get a “D”. Calculus level 1 five credit hours was a total 10 hours for a disastrous one F and one D for the year).
Then going into College Chemistry without having High school Chemistry was also not brilliant. But at least I passed ( I had to cram a number of formulas and other things into my head for the tests. Those with High school chemistry found it easy to just review the material– but at least the Chemistry (unlike Calculus) was fairly straight concepts that could be physically demonstrated or simple memorization of related tables)
Computer Science in those days strongly favored those with good advanced math aptitude. They used to solve calculus type questions as Computer Science beginning exercises. I was at a distinct disadvantage. But the one computer Science Course I had (Algol language) served me well for many years with basic principles of searching and sorting. I really liked the explanations since they were so practical. It gave me confidence; I even got some joy thinking about some practical applications. I was not able to take any more computer science classes because one had to do well in advanced math to pursue that track, in those early days, But I was totally intrigued by the practical possibilities of that field. I was able to remember the Algol fundamentals (searching, sorting and selecting ) to understand and write small programs to assist us in work related tasks later at UNICEF. It was useful when we were introducing word processing, personal computers, some automated assistance to basic information management tasks..
Philosophy and self-searching: Religion and philosophy classes, plus the bull sessions in the dorm, got me thinking about a lot of things. I came up against the early church thinking of “one shall not question” too much in certain areas. The more I thought about all this stuff, it seemed like it was a deep journey and I wondered if I would come out alright or just end up in equivalent to "hell". Again I had a deep experience by myself on the lawn at night when I just said if you “God” didn’t want me to think then why did you give me a brain. Why do they have such things as theology and philosophy and all these great catholic “thinkers”. Then I had a moment where I got some inner assurance and said - "well if thinking means I’m going to hell, I’m in for the ride." At that time I had pretty much convinced myself that if there was a God, he was with me on the ride too. I also came to believe that that was what Jesus’ life was about when he disappeared for those years when he was finding out who he was.
As the questioning got more intense, I had gone to see the theology teacher and also to see the Chaplin. The theology teacher wasn’t too concerned that I was questioning and offered me some general guidance – suggesting I maybe go a bit slowly and not worry about it. The Chaplin didn’t have clue what I was talking about and just told me to pray because he himself "doesn’t think about those things”. That was a bit of a shock. So I felt on my own from there.
One of my newer friends, who liked Bob Dylan and played his guitar a lot was “R”. He was concerned that I had recently gotten so serious (and he was considered very somber by many others!) He could see I had been struggling for the previous two weeks. After I came to my “ big conclusion” that it was OK to follow where the mind took one, if one was sincere, I then opened up and shared with Rick what I had been going tough. He said “Oh a lot of us from the catholic high school Chaminade went through that beginning questioning a few years ago – it will be OK. Lets hear it”. So from then on we would talk about philosophy and life the way I would talk about Basketball and Seaford HS social life with neighbor Bill G., Ted G. and Larry S. Just let come up, what came up. It was just another whole area for discussion that had been mostly on hold. I then became much more animated and participated more in philosophy, English and History classes and then gradually felt free to question just about everybody about everything.
Semester away from Dayton: I was away from Dayton for the fall semester and spoke with Danny G. who had gone to a smaller and different school and liked it very much. I thought about going there but decided instead to work at the Post Office in Seaford and take Physics at Nassau Community college for a semester.
Change to History and Humanities Focus: I went for a visit that semester to Dayton and found out I would be accepted into history as major since all my psyche placement tests, they gave freshman year, showed that I would be much better in the Humanities. I always liked history and my first year Humanities grades were fine. And since I hadn’t had the prerequisite for Calculus they dropped the Calculus grades when I changed my major. I went back in January 1967 and received all good grades for that next period, even got on the dean’s list that semester – so that brought back some confidence. I knew I had to really study at the beginning of the semester and each week I tried to stay ahead of assigned readings and projects. I wanted to have a little maneuver room in case the afterhours dorm discussion became too interesting or a friend needed some assistance just before a project or test was due. I didn’t want to be conflicted between which to do and be in trouble with grades again. I adopted some of Joes better planed study habits.
Expression of Grief: I also got an unexpected reaction from standing in a group of people who were expressing grief over death in Vietnam. I happened to be on my way to ROTC class when the event took place. We had to wear our military uniforms to class on those days. I attended the class right after the silent vigil and was unaware that there might be a problem. I was called out of class at end and given a lecture. It got me really thinking about the war in a different light. Not so much the demonstration but what I saw as an overreaction to an expression of grief for death. Below is some explanation I recently provided of the event:
Publicity – from first demonstration “ROTC Student Joins Peace Vigil” (attached newspaper clip – Dayton Journal – 02 March 1967) An early alternative event.
There was a picture in local Dayton newspaper of a Demonstration at UD for “an expression of Grief for death in Vietnam”. There was some fall out because the event was just before the mandatory Reserve Officer Training Course which all males had to attend in those days for the first two years. I was standing in the middle of the picture that appeared in the paper and I quite obviously had on my ROTC uniform.
ROTC UNIFORM: I had been called up by the instrucgtor at end of the afternoon ROTC class later that first day (wed?) afternoon, and informed I should not wear the uniform in the future at any public demonstration.
- I first saw the Journal Herald article and picture the morning after the demonstration in Philosophy class. The Philosophy teacher (Mr. E) saw me come in the room before class and said something to effect “you created a stir yesterday –what now?” I said I was not trying to stir things up just doing what feels right for me. Well he said” “you are now in the paper and flashed the half page article and picture which said in a big headline “ROTC Student Joins Peace Vigil”. I was a bit taken aback… – well this is going to be more of a ride that I thought…..
- It was a challenging situation now since some other people were also inquiring what I would do after the JH article came out.
- I wasn't looking for any more publicity, just wanted to focus on my school work and do the right thing, I didn't see any straight way forward to maintain the low profile I planned for the semester to keep my grades up. I just wanted to simply follow my conscience (I was just starting to learn – just following your conscience was not so simple in the real world) . It was confusing and I think I kept to myself for the next few days as I tried to sort it out without too much more external input... –
- Right after the next ROTC class (Friday) I was asked by the teacher what I would do for the next week’s vigil on Wednesday. I said I didn't know; that I didn't want to cause the teacher problems but I didn't want to get demerits for not wearing the uniform to class (If you had enough demerits you could fail the course). I thought I should be able to attend a student expression of Grief. The teacher said that what would happen to me if I wore the uniform to the next “expression of Grief” event would be much worse thav those demerits. I didn't respond but I was a little nervous but also inwardly steaming thinking -what are going to do - shoot me?. Then he told me he had marched in Civil rights demonstration but had taken off his uniform because that is what you had to do. That softened me a bit since I felt he was trying to understand what I was thinking and feeling. But I didn’t commit to any action, I just thanked him and left.
- Then miraculously over the weekend they decided to start the early morning marching (I think ahead of schedule for the year) the next week and nobody had to wear their uniforms to class (since we marched in am I think on Tues). I think later they may have then come up with a new rule and message to students who needed to participate in civilian events on days when required to wear uniform to class. Years later others told me they were informed they could instead wear a business suit and it would be counted as a uniform? I never signed up for another ROTC course (we technically needed to complete 4 but I only did 3). A few years later at UD, ROTC became voluntary for all students. But only after a a big effort by students and some faculty that included campus big rallies, demonstrations, marches and a huge scholarly paper why ROTC should be voluntary.
Dean’s List – But uncertainly increases, After the Jan to April semester in 1967, because I did well enough to make the dean’s list, I felt I had some breathing room academically. I was now again certified as a “good student”. Even after that incident with the ROTC class. But, looking at the wider world, the more I thought about it, I now had even more questions about what was going on around me. I couldn’t begin to get good answers to many things. It seemed the world was in flux. Nor did I have an integrated approach for all the new ideas floating around in my head. Summer I hoped would sort things out.
Jones beach gardener –early morning golf course: In the summer of 1967 I became a gardener at Jones Beach. Since UD ended the semester early I was able to start early (April). I was then offered a job at the small Golf course (Pitch and Put) there when the regular season was preparing to open' It meant that someone had to be ready to start at 6:am. But it also meant that one could leave earlier and enjoy the beach or other afternoon activities. The great job was just driving the tractor around the small course, watering and cutting the greens. By the time the regular patrons arrived in mid morning most of our work had been completed. My friend from grammar school and UD (Steve D) had a job that summer on the “Dunes Crew” which meant that he had to be at the beach even earlier. They would go along the beach and pick up drift wood from the night before and rake up some of the seaweed. Often Steve would come by my house before 5 am. I would get in his car and we would drive the 7 miles to the beach. I would crawl under the tarp that covered the tractor and sleep some more there until another golf course worker arrived at 6:am. Steve had to report a few miles further up the beach for his work. In the afternoon, Steve would often pick me up on the highway in front of the golf course on his way home and drop me at my house. We would usually get some rest then be ready for exploring the town that evening before we did it again the next day. It was a pretty good life: having enough money to spend and save some for the next year at college. No worries – except when one tried to figure out the wider world.”
World Travel as Merchant Seaman- 4.5 moths Visiting Temples+ (*5)
In the middle of the summer, a fellow worker at the beach and former St Willies student who was a year older, told me of his experience as a merchant Seaman. He had gone to sea the previous year and had loved the experience. I was intrigued. He said it was quite probable to get an opening if: I was willing to do all the paper work ahead; then if the opportunity arrived be willing to leave on short notice; and miss at least a semester of school. I could possibly go around the world on one trip, get paid for it and eat really good food for free. Wow! The trick was the shipping company would not give you a job without Seaman’s papers and the maritime authority would not give seaman’s papers without a promise of a job from a shipping company. The way around my friend said it was to join the seaman’s union (which meant eventually paying an initiation fee – which they would not collect until you got first paycheck). The Union would provide the papers that you were a member willing and able to work. The Seaman’s papers could then be applied for. The shipping companies hired through the union hall. The bigger unions and much shipping at the time were out of the west coast. But when a ship came back from around the world trip they would stop in NY and replace any of the men who were getting off or who had gotten sick or missed getting back on at a port. If the union hall in NY could fill the post before the ship went on to the west coast that NY union hall would get to keep the dues and initiation fee.
I was assigned to Ship being repaired in Port Newark. We first had short shake down type of cruise to some nearby ports on the East coast, (Phil and Baltimore) then back to NY. I also got some experience riding a motorcycle that summer and going into "Village" where some Dayton friends were staying, and brought a small portable record player, I planned to use to listen to records on ship.
(Another friend JV later at UD would call this prized possession of mine - "a professional record gouging machine" since it was such a crude device - and I had not noticed till he made me sit and listen to his equipment and my little dinky player and pointed out the damage it was doing to the records. Luck-ly my records were already damaged so he agreed it probably would't make any difference on my records but cautioned me not to use on any that were still new and - especially his!.).
- My first Foreign Port: Saw Cristobal on east coast of Panama when we took a little ferry from ship to shore. This was my first experience (other than Canada) in a different country. I liked walking around and hearing Spanish and seeing the rural appearance of things in the early evening light. But then it became a little less comfortable later walking around the town in the dark between clubs and understanding the seaman's drinking rituals. I felt very tied as we headed back and was glad to be on the ship and excited as we were going to go through the Panama Canal. I remember starting the passage in the dark and then woke up the next morning and we were on the open ocean again...
- In Los Angeles: we were off work as they loaded cargo, and went to Disney land and Hollywood (where I think I saw "The Birds" perform spontaneously in one club -everybody was excited). Then in San Francisco, I first experienced the Golden Gate Park, etc. and saw an experimental theater presentation. I learned about the “The Coit tower of hits” later, since a popular radio station’s music for the previous month had been, recorded by one of the young officers..We would hear from their room the call sign played back and a string of hits when we were in many different cities around the globe or on the open sea. Including “ if you are going to San Francisco”….
- Japan-was interesting to me. The people were so polite. I learned a few words of Japanese and some interesting experiences purchasing things to bring back home. I remember some funny stories when I tried to get sandals. The Japanese were so polite. They kept bringing out shoe sizes but wouldn't say my feet were too big. Finally I figured out what was happening and made an exaggerated sign of how big my feet were and started to laugh. We all had a good laugh then and they gave me some tea and we all bowed to each other and were smiling it felt wonderful. it was my first real experience of being relaxed in shopping in another country and began to learn there is some Universal sign language you can use in any country especially in the market. The best sign is a humble and sincere smile.
- India - Bombay and Kochinn (Cochin): In Bombay I went with the two merchant marine cadets that were on board the ship to tour around the city. They had read the guide books. In a taxi the driver was describing things. I remember at a part of town he pointed out the hills around where we could see some sort of platforms and birds around them. He said that was one way the dead are released by people of some faith. At another place he took us to a cremation ground. I was leery of going in out of respect for the families and it seemed so solemn. He assured us that it was ok and if we gave something to the people performing the service it might make it easier for those with less money. It was evening and we couldn't see that much - but mostly I remember the fires in different states of burning and the feeling of sadness.
- India - Shopping – master: I remember shopping by myself for carved elephants and bookends with secret pockets. At one point one of the guides started to call me some name of respect "master" and it made me very uncomfortable and I requested him to please stop. We then had long talk about being friends and about his life.
- India - crippled children - vow: Another time I was shocked by some poverty I witnessed and as I was going back to ship some severely disabled children were by the gangway I think I gave then the rest of the money I had. When I got on board one of the older seaman questioned me about what I had done and asked what I gave to the kids. He then told me that some of the children were orphans that were "bought" and crippled intentionally by their family or "owners" so they would be better beggars. By giving to them you could be supporting the practice. I was devastated and sick to my stomach. I didn’t go into town the next day I couldn’t face the kids without wanting to give something and yet not wanting to support the continuation of the practice. Part of me didn’t know if it was true. But other seaman said in some cases it was. I remember as we left India I vowed I would never go back unless I felt I could do something to help change that situation. When years later I was working at the UN Children's fund headquarter and some document or board resolution would come up. I would remember my vow of many years ago and think that maybe by working dedicatedly for UNICEF which was making a difference in India, in some small way I was working to fulfill my youthful promise.
- India - another time in Bombay with cadets, Notice as we return through street that people are bunking down on the sidewalk or on street. One cadets asks why?:.Driver says: People not have house, so sleep on street. I was embarrassed by the question I had figured out the why - but it still hurt to have the answer said and to see the whole families trying to get best spot up on the wooden sidewalks in front of closed stores.,
to be added:
- Asia, Also Taiwan, Pakistan, Malaysia , Indonesia, Singapore? other
- Then around Africa because Suez Canal closed in 1967 due to war
- Europe before returning home:
- Italy (Livorno (Leghorn), Rome by train – evening visit to the coliseum another sights, Pompey); (Latin class becomes real)
- France: Marcie (castle on hill above port); used the little French from High school
- Spain: Barcelona.(used little Spanish from record I had on ship)
(*6) Exploring world religions
Near the time I had the break from university and traveled around the world working on a merchant ship to pay for my education. I was excited about taking an elective World Religions course to help me better understand what I was experiencing. At U of D in the late 1960's there were many Christian courses in philosophy or Theology with some mention of Judaism.. There was also mention in some psychology classes as well as church history. However Chinese religions, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam or others were barely mentioned. This one World Religions course was meant to cover (or at least introduce) all of what was missing. I had heard the course was rigorous before I had left for my Trip around the world. I was a bit intimidated because I heard from some friends who were in an earlier class all the material and subjects which were to be covered. Most of which I had no previous knowledge of or personal exposure to before I traveled that next semester. It was told to me excitedly by those I considered good students and much deeper thinkers than I believed myself to be. It was sort of like a sales pitch and pep talk. After I returned form sea, they all encouraged me to take the course and I was always most grateful to them and the Professor that I did. . It was so amazing to read the original texts from different religions. It began to put in place so many things I had been pondering and provided much more depth to what I had already experienced.
The tree of life- One day at an off campus house I had an experience or realization that seemed quite unusual to me at the time. I was looking out the widow and a number of things that I had been contemplating about in different ways, life, why people loved other people, how we are separate and yet the same, why are things like this? And is there a unitary principal to this whole "mess", dream, "reality or "whatever". Seeing the tree it just appeared to me, that we were all like the leaves in the tree. I "felt" deeply that we all belonged to the tree but were just separate leaves. A little different shapes etc. but in essence quite similar in how we made up the whole tree. It seemed so new and illuminating and happy and fulfilling. I couldn't think about it too much but felt it and tried to tell some friends about it – I remember bringing some to the porch of the house many of us "hung out " at and pointing out the tree and saying - look that is who we are. There was some recognition, and certainly tolerance for my enthusiasm - but I felt I couldn’t do the concept justice. I couldn't capture the whole feeling. So I for the most part kept it to myself. A few years later I heard a story where a child was speaking about God and the parent had said "Well can God know how many leaves are on a tree". The child's answer was reported to be: "He doesn't need to count them - he just feels each leaf". I also over the years have since come across many "tree of Life" stories in various traditions. But since my first experience of the concept was in Dayton - that's what I sometimes think about during a conversation of this subject.
In the next room - Around the same time a dear, relatively new friend had moved temporarily to the west coast and was missing very much the community in Ohio. Calling was expensive in those days (cheap calling cards or Skype didn't exist yet). I remember after hanging up I felt bad for the person. I also realized that I still felt that person’s presence like they were in the next room on the phone and I just couldn’t see them. So I didn’t think I missed the person so much but felt the presence so powerfully (it was a very joyful experience and realization). I called back just to share that little realization. I think the effort of calling back to share a thought was appreciated but I felt a bit ineffective that I was not able to give much comfort because I couldn’t share the feeling. After that I was much more comfortable with feeling people in my heart that I cared about and if they were down the block or out of the country - feeling like they were actually just in physically in a different room seemed much truer. As friends and relatives have passed on over the years the feeling has been confirmed on an even deeper level.
*7 -Intense learning: Philosophy, Christ as seeker + discovering Socrates "Know Thyself"
- After my first year of University some friends introduced me to the individualistic philosopher Ann Ryan. I liked the stories – especially about taking charge of your own destiny and “Who is John Gault”. However, I had some reservations as I began to think more about some of the oversimplification in the main protagonists proposed solutions and attitude to those who might not be of the same intellectual capacity. It helped that I had other friends that would listen to me spouting off what I had recently read and then ask a few probing questions.
- The philosopher Martin Buber and his presentation of "I Thou" was important to me, as was Paul Tillich’s "Courage to be", Victor Frankel’s "Man’s Search for meaning" and others (see inspiring books http://adhiratha.srichinmoycentre.org/inspirebooks)
- I had an early philosophy class where I chose to do the big paper for the semester on Socrates and "know thyself" where meditation (as I understood it) was mentioned (not too favorably) by me.
- Heraclitus - "You cannot step twice into the same river." This became in our youthful discussion: "you can't step in the same river once." As you step, the river changes.
- Thinking about Christ as a seeker [what did he do between 12 and thirty]. Around this same time I became fascinated with the idea of what Christ must have been thinking and experiencing between the ages of 12 and 30. What did it feel like to have some idea that there was more to life than your own community and you had to search to find out what it all meant. How come there were no records of his search? Or were there records that just didn't get preserved or publicized? Also I would talk about what Christ must have been like just on a regular day, going about his business, eating meals etc. I was seeing him as truly human who became at the very least a great moral teacher.
- About the same time I had Philosophy class taught by a catholic nun that exposed me to the Humanistic writings of Marx. The teachings seemed so sensible, compassionate, fair and human I decided these two Marx and Jesus might have liked each other very much. It also got me to thinking in the anti-communist time that even with the best philosophy it depends on the details of how it is implemented in people’s lives.
- Later an experimental course called "Motivation and Frustration in Attempting Wisdom" was a marking of a broader search (see below)
*8 Moved by the Bhagavad Gita - Spirituality in Action
Introduced to the Gita (the song celestial) - I discovered the World Religions course had a section on the "Bhagavad Gita" which sounded so magical, mystical and mysterious when I first heard the title pronounced.. It was just one chapter in the much longer epic Mahabharata. But I was totally engrossed as I was reading the words of that chapter. Something resonated inside and rang very true to me. At the time politically, I was moving more and more to a "Peace" position, a non-violent perspective and understanding of the world. I didn't want to learn any more about war. However, the inner turmoil of the main characters going to war in the Gita, and their effort to find right and noble actions was compelling. As I was also struggling with what was the right path in a troubled social time, I was struck and helped by the concept of detached- action. "You have the right to the action but not the fruits thereof" ... " be an instrument". The idea that the goal of life was to be an instrument of the highest good seemed eminently sensible and noble. Sincere and honest self-reflection was a must, but just to sit on the sidelines contemplating alternatives and not to participate or take action was choice in itself. This was a useful concept or guide for a community organizer observing the experiences and sorrows of life and potential consequences of actions/ choices. It also seems a good illustration for any level of seeker to contemplate. That part of the Mahabharata has always been very dear to me in terms of approaching an understanding of spirituality in action. Once you had made that commitment of attention - the action was yours - the results were not. I ended up reading a few different version of the Mahabharata and I was happy to later discover Sri Chinmoy's commentary on the Gita http://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/cbg. For an illuming summary of the yoga of sorrow – related to the Gita, see also http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sri_Chinmoy_Inspiration/message/21976.
Maya: I also think I came across the concept of "Maya" at the time. Maya was then explained to me as “Illusion” - as the world is an illusion. This didn’t feel right to me. But it was only years later when I read Sri Chinmoy's explanation did the explanation seem full and comprehensible. It was ”a measure of extension” and when someone is in Maya they only see a part of the reality. They don't see the "full measure" what is behind things. They are caught on superficial reality not attuned to a deeper reality. This was quite important for me to better understand and accept eastern thought. See also: http://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/books/0002/1/2/?searchterm=maya
(*9) University questioning - Experimental College -
We had begun to question not only the content of what was being taught in the class room but the whole process of education. (see below section on Student Rights)
National Student Association - Allard Lowenstein Chicago – Guerilla Theater
I was sent to the National Student Association meeting in the summer of 1968 with the new UD Student body president to participate in discussions of student rights and other issues (as Chair of UD’s SR commission). In addition to SR issues, I saw close up how very quickly some participants were able to organize an "experimental college" which was modeled after what others had begun to do at their universities. The students would just pick topics they wanted to learn or teach. Then some people would find them space and the classes would begin. Some classes sometimes (during the regular university times) became regular classes with course credit etc. It was electric in concept.
There were many training sessions and practical workshops to show how to organize students around issues. The meeting itself was used as a demonstration project. If someone wanted to know how to set up and run a paper they could join the staff that were putting out daily reports at the conference, If they wanted to know how to get media attention with little resources they could become part of a Guerrilla theater group. One of the groups I joined showed up at a talk given by AL, former head of NSA years earlier, who was then a LI, New York congressman. I didn’t know much about him at the time but heard he had accepted money from the CIA for NSA trips when he was President of NSA. I think in 1968 he had been warning people that the Democratic convention could be very dangerous if people weren’t very disciplined. Some didn’t like what he was saying (especially those who had other ideas about what Chicago would be). Other students mistrusted him because of the previous CIA stories. At any rate, some of us taking organizing workshops were invited to join in a “guerrilla theater” (for history of guerrilla theater see: http://www.diggers.org/guerrilla_theater.htm). (Guerrilla theater definition: a form of propaganda or political protest in which a group of activists perform satirical skits, sing songs, engage in playful pranks, etc. in the midst of a public event or activity)
So we practiced a skit, coming up on stage in the middle of his talk and discussed what we would do etc. depending on the speakers reaction. We then did our performance to a packed auditorium and sat down on stage next to him. From what I remember he was quite poised and noted the points made by our skit in his talk and said where he disagreed. It got heated at some points. Year later when I was working at the United Nations I had the chance to be in a few small meetings with AL, (he was then a US ambassador). I mentioned the event where I first met him and discussed those intense times. He had been correct that the Democratic Convention in 1968 was unusual and historic.
Brlow are some later meetings wheere Al spoke:
1977-14-dec Oneness Earth Programme at UN - filmed by CBS-TV and Broadcast on Christmass Day.
(Top photo: Allard Lowenstein, USA and Sri Chinmoy, Leader of Meditation Group)
(Bottom Photo: Dr Jorge Illueca, Permanent Representative of Panama; Allard Lowenstein, Alternate Representative of USA; Sri Chinmoy, Leader of Meditation Group; Thami Mhlambiso,Representative of African National Congress)
Excerpt of Al Lowenstein Remarkds:
"I hope that in this programme commemorating the holidays and the international sense of renewal, there wiIl also сome to people the realisation that much more is necessary...I think that if people simply remember, in this season, how much they have to learn from опе another, how much they have to give to опе another, and how much they lose Ьу despoiling оп е another, per haps the spirit ...to find соcommon denominators for human beings to wo rk toge ther wiIl grow and flourish. "
1977-Nov-29- Meditation and tribute to Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. at UN. Filmed by WPIX TV to be broadcast as part of program on 15 Jan 1978 on Dr. King's Birthday)
(Top Photo: Sri Chinmoy, Ambasador Leslie O. Hariman of Nigeria?, Chairman of Special Committee against Apartheid; Mrs. Coretta Scott King; Adhiratha Keefe)
(Bottom Photo: Mrs King; Sri Chinmoy; Donald Keys, Planetary citizen.
Learning from AL approach: l grew to like AL very much after I met him at the UN, especially the way he handled himself in difficult situations and tried very sincerely to find common ground and progress. In one meeting I was with him as he listened to the request for assistance. He said, he agreed it was an important issue and wanted to know what he could to do to help. Should he write a letter, call someone up or visit someone? Those asking for assistance didn’t have a clue at first. They had only planned to convince Al of the importance of their issue. They felt then he would take it from there. He reminded them that they knew the specific situation best. They needed to discuss who the main local players were and who might be influenced by a phone call or visit. And especially what resistance there might be that had lead to the current impasse. A second meeting was arranged, after the group had thought together about what would help them the most. I learned from that moment that whenever you ask someone for assistance, think in advance what it is they might be able to do. Of course don’t get locked into one approach because maybe there are other things just as effective that on hasn’t thought of in advance. Find except or link to one of AL talks at UN programme “oneness earth”.
Experimental college at UD: When we went back to Dayton after the NSA conference, I decide to try an experimental college with support from many others at the University. It succeeded way beyond our expectations. We had been hearing how students “wanted their rights, but they were apathetic about their education”. We set up a registration process and 1/10 or more of the students signed up to take additional non-credit courses in the experimental college. Even the local Dayton papers took notice and we didn’t hear much about "apathetic" students after that. We had asked students to chip in $1.00 for the registration if they could afford it and most did and some gave more. There was even a course catalog printed up with the proceeds and surveys of results of courses and how many attended and how often met. It was a very empowering experience for all those involved to see what could be done with a little effort.
- Education Reform. The work on the experimental college at UD helped inspire a whole "Educational Reform" movement of students supported by some faculty. It was mostly spear headed by the younger students who had first started working with us on organizing the experimental college. It was quite thrilling to see these younger people coming with all their enthusiasm and running further with an idea. The results were way beyond what we could have imagined. They were passionate and dedicated and so very through with their research on related topics.
- Diverse Subjects: The diversity of what people wanted to teach or learn was truly fascinating. Some professors taught courses they always wanted to share about their hobbies or special interests. Individual young and young at heart faculty members were very supportive. The activism carried over to the regular courses as well and more students started to sign up for some of the advanced courses in the education department as this seemed like a possible avenue to follow.
- Faculty support: The dean and senior professors in some of the education departments were thrilled. Though they couched their support in sophisticated phrases with their peers - some of who were less than thrilled that the rabble were getting so involved in the "education process". When our secret faculty supporters were with us they would break out laughing when we scored a good point and had people excited about learning - even if some colorful language or hi-jinks (Gorilla Theater or other publicity stunt) had been used in the process. They loved that we were so involved and committed to using education to make a difference in people’s lives.
Educational Experiences, Simulations and Learning Games
As we were pursuing various ways to increase our learning and to speed up the process we found that some “role playing” could be useful. This lead us to explore how other simulations or “learning Games” might also help. The feedback from participants of our initial attempts indicated they were much more engaged in the process and the experiences helped them to remember key concepts etc. much better than if they just read about or discussed the ideas.
SIM SOC One early learning game which we brought to campus was very new and experimental at the time. It was called SIMSoc the simulated society. Some students were able to take this experience for regular elective course credit the following semester. 40 years later the Simulated Society "game" is used by universities and other groups to teach various aspects of sociology, political science, and communications skills. Originally created by William A. Gamson in 1966, it is currently in its fifth edition.
Educational Resources: As our experience grew looking at alternative ways to learn, so did our interests. The networks and sharing around common purposes also grew. Sometimes the experimental college courses were the beginning of some new line of inquiry at least for the small community in Dayton. The excitement of people connecting with others of similar interest was invigorating. The next step was when people would share what they already knew about and what they were exploring in the area. One of the "Big find’s" for those interested in more effective ways of learning and “facilitating” increased awareness of possibilities was the Portola Institute Publication called Big Rock Candy Mountain. Resources for Our Education. A Learning to Learn Catalog. Winter 1970. This publication helped not only point towards other tools to explore but it added legitimacy to similar approaches simultaneously going on around the country in other small communities like those at UD. The Portola Institute was a "nonprofit educational foundation" founded in Menlo Park, California in 1966 It had also published Whole Earth Catalog beginning in 1968.
Learning and Social Change The idea of education being a vehicle for social change is not new one. But many of us only became more intellectually alive and engaged in our own learning during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. At the same time we were looking for ways, beyond the physical force (advocated by some as the only answer) to being about a more peaceful and harmonious existence. Education or in our sense actual “learning” was a possible key. It fit with a basic beliefs: that if people knew a better way to do something they would choose it; that people often didn’t see the long-term results of individual selfish actions; and that we needed to find and use peaceful ways to bring about change.
Support from others experience: In some of his writings Michael Rossman addressed the implications of students active participation in their education, community building and effective ways of "Creating Space" for alternatives.
Early drafts of Michael’s: "On Learning and Social Change” (before it was in book form) was printed and reprinted/ copied and circulated marked up and shared hand to hand in Dayton Ohio in the late 1960's. It helped to put words to what we were experiencing. It gave a direction and synthesis that was comprehensible and actionable. It and his other work was nourishing.
|On Learning and Social Change|
I A Curtain Raiser: Transcending the Totalitarian Classroom
III The Authority Complex
IV Open Space
Karen McLellan and Michael Rossman were invited by the UD Student Government supported program to the University of Dayton (1970?). It helped strengthen the community which developed around the idea of learning together. Even thirty years later when I meet friends from that time who have been living around the USA and some working for the United Nations, they remember those readings and KM-MR learning experiences with fondness and gratitude.
Sample: A Curtain Raiser: Transcending the Totalitarian Classroom
http://www.mrossman.org/olsc/tcg.html - Excerpts below
- Setting the Stage - They don’t know me from a Professor -- and neither do you. though I look like the freak from down the block -- when I walk into this classroom of college kids, tell them my name, and say: "I want to lead you through a learning game called the Totalitarian Classroom.
"For you're here freely to learn, so am I to help you. I come in with some specialized knowledge I've worked to help generate. I know some find it useful. You know about this, but don't know quite what it is or really what you want to know. So you treat me as an Expert. And I share what I have the best way I'm able, by sharing the experience instead of just describing it.
"For what we're doing here, reflexive theater -- though it feels like torture more than we can put into words -- is really two tools pushed to extremes. One is our awareness of the process of our learning."
"Paying attention to process is a consciousness; there are ways to develop it. It's the strongest tool I know for creating a different and healthier way of learning. The other tool is theater itself, which leads into many new learning-forms.
"But my helpfulness in pointing this out doesn't change the fact that our experience in this new form is an old game: I'm still running you through my program
"I see that to teach you tools that empower, in the best way I know, involves putting you through painful changes." Is this better than the lecture's safe tedium? "And that I also am willing to do this, to give you a little pain with your illumination -- for your own good, of course."
See also “Learning-Games” http://www.mrossman.org/learninggames/lgindex.html
The NY times on Sept 05-06 2009? provided “advice” to new college students from a number of professors. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/opinion/06collegeadvice.html?ref=opinion
Most of the advice made me a sad to see that the same tired games needed to be played in many schools, including simply creatively feeding a professors ego. It seemed sad that no mention was made of alternative ways for classes and professors to behave in order to increase sustainable learning
(*10) Considered action and limits of leaders - "increase awareness"
- As we grew in knowledge of what had gone before from our discussions and readings, there was a feeling that if more awareness of a situation could be brought forward, the good people considering issues would come to better conclusions. It seemed obvious that some of the problems had resulted from trusting leaders too much to make decisions not influenced by their own personal limitations. The solution to this problem seemed to be to have more informed people involved in the process as a sort of checks and balance.
- Some early experience with community organization and the study of group dynamics began to also show us that there was a danger of giving inappropriate authority to leaders in areas where it didn't belong. This too early assigning authority would sometimes begin to hinder the natural development of a project and some felt less welcome to offer their viewpoints of questions.
- Those of us who were more active in organizing or arranging for different groups of people to get together, saw how newer or marginally younger people would sometimes inappropriately assume we knew more about unrelated things than we did. This later became known as the "Halo" effect.
- And probably most importantly for the more active of us, we came to see how our initial impressions of situations could change over time as we learned more. We had to admit that after a few early statements our egos were coming into play as well. The more sincere, among us tried to be even more careful in our pronouncements and prescriptions. Someone who seemed to think they had all the answers on a certain subject before even hearing from others became very quickly suspect.
- Strategies for setting up meetings and effectively hearing from most who wanted to participate were discussed and acted upon. Small things like having chairs in circles instead of al facing in front, limiting time for one speaker or making a point of checking if other were in agreement or had more to offer were encouraged. Notes of what had been discussed and agreed previously were shared or stated in introduction. Some had previous or current community organization experience and background papers which were shared. Sometimes the process seemed as important as the content. Thank God we had tremendous energy....
- The difficulty sometimes came in agreeing to action within a time frame - but even that seemed to work out. Those who were comfortable at a certain stage taking action - did so on their own authority, those who needed more time, took it. It was an amazing learning laboratory with continual peer review and comment.
- It could be a little rough on the egos in places and some complaints about insensitivity resulting in some - "well you said you wanted me to be honest". I think we did get gentler in delivering our opinions to our friends in time. Trying not to be unnecessarily harsh.