I have just completed my third semester of teaching Information Literacy online at Santa Barbara City College. This institution had the wisdom to make information literacy a graduation requirement two years ago, thereby demonstrating its commitment to the student and the recommendations of Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. The class is 100% online, thereby exposing many students to the online environment who may not have normally enrolled. Students take the 1-unit class as credit/no-credit. This is a reflection on some of my experiments.
August 28, 1943 – April 14, 1998
It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years. In late 1997, I had started a new job as the Head Librarian/Technology Director at a Bay Area high school. The dot com era was getting into full swing and my mom was dying of some unknown disease. How could this be, she was only 55 years old? It was difficult to grasp all that was happening because she and her partner had moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico; someplace very far away. My new employer was extremely accommodating and I flew to Santa Fe often over a period of six months as my mom’s health deteriorated, spending many hours with her as her body gave way. Mom was a strong, determined, willful, loving, opinionated woman. She had created a life for herself and she was happy.
Two different colleagues relayed stories where the words wetback and beaner were used recently. I didn’t expect to hear these two words in 2008. Even the folks who demonstrated in Ojai last week did not admit to being racist (though I suspect differently). And despite the fact that we have a black man running for the President of the United States, it is obvious that racism is alive and well in America, and in our neighborhood. Both these words were used inside crowded businesses and the derogatory terms were heard by those it was directed toward. In both cases, the recipients were highly educated and active participants in our society and economy. What is happening here? During the mid-1970’s, when I attended elementary school in Fresno, I did hear these terms. But in Trader Joe’s? Inside a Mexican food restaurant?
Over the past seven years, I have spent many days/nights at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, but usually it is for a weekend or even just a day. On two occasions our family have spent 3-weeks at the monastery (once at Deer Park and once at Plum Village in France). These times are always nourishing and provide a nice time away from our regular environment. After our last long visit, in January, the children both said they’d like to stay longer the next time we visit. And though we only spent this past week at Deer Park, it was better than no time, and the children loved the visit especially since the Abbot Thay Phap Dung was available to play silly games with them.
The first question people often ask us about time at the monastery is – what do you do there? What about the children? My best response is that we participate in the activities of the monastery as best we can. For things like sitting meditation, dharma talks (teachings) and dharma discussion, Leslie and I must take turns. Aside from that, we join the community in eating together, cooking together, walking together, playing together, and working together. It is a time to slow down. How often can you take 45-60 minutes for every meal? How often can you take a 45-minute walk in the middle of the day with friends? Or, to sit and have tea for two hours in the afternoon while the children play?
I don’ t normally read the Harvard Business Review, but a colleague at work brought the current issue to my attention because the cover said Reading Google’s Mind, and she knew of my fascination with innovation and with Google. The actual article is called Reverse Engineering Google’s Innovation Machine; it’s a pretty good read and fits in well with some of the ideas I’ve been exploring lately.
In the article, the model we might follow was called A Cultivated-Taste for Failure and Chaos. I love it!
A few weeks ago I was asked to come and speak to the marketing team of Laurel Springs School in Ojai, California because of some of the things we’ve been trying out in our library at Santa Barbara City College. I’ve taken some ideas from Google, and other successful companies, by trying to be nimble, exciting, and innovative. Of course, a library is a little different from a company but we can certainly take some queues from business.
We have been experiencing some warm weather the last few days and the flowers are all blooming. The mountains look great. The sky is blue. And a full moon has greeted us at night. Today was in the upper 80s and we hung out around the pool with family for an Easter lunch. Jasper and Mazzy had a blast searching for eggs and then taking a swim in the pool. Of course, the sugar rush was a bit much.
Ironically, tonight is our last night at the Ojai Valley Family Shelter because it closes for the warmer season. Jasper and I have spent the past two seasons staying in a church kitchen with 15-20 homeless. Our night is Sunday and we usually arrive around 6:30pm, eat some dinner, put out the mats, and then serve breakfast around 6:00am.
One person, James, is in 5th grade in a local elementary school and Jasper has enjoyed playing with him. On our last visit Jasper realized that James doesn’t have a home to go to like him. That he doesn’t have a room with toys and his own bed. James’ mom has a few other children, but she only comes to the shelter with two of them. Most people are pretty regular and I have gotten to know names and experiences over the past two seasons. Some are in transition, others have mental health issues, many have day jobs but simply can’t afford to cover rent (much less first and last month). My hope was gain a better understanding of this community and generate more compassion in the world. They are good people with real stories. Bill, for example, sleeps with an oxygen machine and yet he continues to smoke. His friend/partner, Joyce, takes him to the hospital, cares for him, and wishes he’d quit smoking.
We are very fortunate, and that in itself, creates separation. How to remain real and to remain compassionate knowing that I have a home, a job, a savings account. There is so much poverty, so much suffering, so much injustice. It brings me back to the 5th Mindfulness Training where it says, “I am committed to living simply and sharing my time, energy and material resources with those in real need.” Are we doing this? What more can we do?
Joy, friendships, and love all exist, even here in the shelter.
Is it possible to bring together all my disparate interests into one place for the edification of friends, family, colleagues, and new friends? I have significant interests in Buddhism, librarianship, social justice, technology, peace and politics in addition to the joys of family life. For the past couple of years I have been blogging for the Ojai Post and also launched a blog for my library at Santa Barbara City College that has allowed me to touch on some of these themes. The time seems ripe to explore further, and so we have this new blog.
What to call a blog with so many different themes? As I rode my motorcycle home from work on Friday evening, my mind spun through many ideas. In 2005, I was ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh into the Order of Interbeing and given the name True Recollection of Joy and I wanted to find a way to include this here. The name can provide inspiration, guidance and aspiration for the rest of my life and so it will also function as guide on this blog. As I write posts, whether it is about the latest library trend or about a deep spiritual encounter, I will find a way to make it joyous.
And so, welcome to you my friend, on this new journey of exploration.