Perspective

Carol A. Hand

Feeling chilly and achy today

as little viruses have their way

making my body their temporary home

My muse visits easing distress with a silly poem

and with memories of times long ago

about how differing perspectives

profoundly influence what we think we know

***

Perhaps many of you are tired of my stories about teaching research, but increasingly my muse insists I do so anyway. She tells me to write about my own life and experiences, to speak from my own heart regardless of what others find amusing or meaningful.

It often happens that teaching brings new insights that I didn’t really think about before I needed to explain something to students. It happened again during this semester when I was pondering how to explain the importance of perspective. There is a quote that I think about every time I take a photo.

“Doing research is, in many ways, like taking a descriptive and explanatory snapshot of empirical reality. For each particular photograph, the investigator must decide what kind of camera to use, what scene on which to focus, through which filter, and with what intent.” (Crabtree & Miller, 1999, p. 3)

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Looking East from Enger Tower – October 14, 2018

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I remembered a study I did when I was completing my last degree. We had to analyze the effectiveness of a social welfare policy using empirical data. Big words, perhaps, but that’s academia, making obvious and simple concepts somewhat obscure. The meaning of empirical asserts that what we can see and measure with our own eyes is somehow more real than things we imagine or feel.

Empirical means – 1: originating in or based on observation or experience, 2: relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory, or 3: capable of being verified (proven accurate) or disproved by observation or experiment. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Take elder abuse. At the time I was enrolled in this class (late 1980s), elder abuse was a topic that was gaining national attention in the United States. States across the nation had enacted reporting laws similar to child abuse reporting laws passed during 1960s. Both statutes required key professionals to report suspicious injuries to state authorities for further investigation. And similar to child abuse, the most commonly substantiated category for elders was “neglect.”

For children, this meant neglectful parents from the perspective of investigators. For elders it meant “self-neglect,” defined as doing things that were considered foolish, unhealthy, or life-threatening.
When the professor asked members in the class to describe their topic, I was told that my topic was foolish.

It’s obvious why elders are abused,” he definitively asserted. “They’re a drain on families and society’s resources.

Research on elders suggests otherwise,” I replied, before listing a number of studies that identified strengths on many levels. As the professor with a national reputation, he was not inclined to yield to a mere student’s views. He proceeded to tell me how stupid I was in front of the class. Several times, I replied calmly with yet more research that supported my perspective. Finally I had to interrupt this repeating cycle by smiling and gently stating, “I think we need to agree to disagree about this topic, Professor.”

In a prior job, I often had to confront ageism among social service practitioners. I remember standing before large audiences of service providers a number of times, asking them to introduce themselves to everyone by name, title, and chronological age, At least one third of each group, primarily middle-aged Euro-American women, refused to state their age in visibly angry ways. It underscored the point I wanted to make about the power of social stereotypes about aging and elders. I wondered if my graying-haired professor held the same fears and denials of aging.

Of course, I couldn’t resist following up the next class by giving him a gift, a little badge with a message printed on it – “Aging, all the best people are doing it!” Needless to say, he wasn’t amused and he did make me work incredibly hard to pass his course.

But the topic wasn’t through teaching me about perspectives. I gained access to the state’s elder abuse reporting system data set through another professor with a national reputation. “I want you to do a simple analysis,” he said, “to show that the system does a good job serving populations of color because they are more likely to be reported.” This time, I took the path of diplomacy and remained silent. I thought about the disproportional representation of people of color in the prison system and knew it was not something I would mindlessly support to please someone in power who probably shouldn’t be publishing research findings.

I met with a former research professor and asked for help to design a different study. Unlike the other professors, he asked me what I wanted to know. “I want to know if the legislation improves the lives of elders,” was my honesty response. “Well, let’s figure out how you can do that with this data set, then,” he replied.

It wasn’t an easy task. The study he helped me design explored how well the elder abuse legislation in a particular State met two competing goals, protecting elders from harm or allowing them to exercise their right to self- determination. The paper that resulted was titled “Elder abuse legislation: Protecting vulnerable citizens at the expense of personal freedom and self respect?

The findings of the study were complex and inconclusive, but ultimately they raised ethical concerns. Statutes that require professionals to report abuse should be accompanied by sufficient funding to support appropriate interventions that help survivors and perpetrators heal and preserve or regain a sense of worth and dignity.

I am grateful for the lessons and memories of years past, and perhaps to the little viruses, too. Sometimes it takes feeling a bit under the weather to force the choice between writing rather than grading papers with a somewhat foggy mind.

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Look west from Enger Tower – October 14, 2018

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Illness certainly gives one a different perspective. Yet the central point remains. Perspective matters. One can use neutral tools like research to perpetuate stereotypes and power-over approaches or as a way to explore more liberatory possibilities. Sadly, it has often been used by those in power to support the legitimacy and supremacy of their particular agendas and lenses.

Source Cited:

Benjamin F. Crabtree and William L Miller, eds., Doing Qualitative Research, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 1999), 3.

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Neither One Thing Nor Another

Carol A. Hand

 

Catfish or Eagle Clan? (drawing by Carol A. Hand, photo of drawing edited)

***

Born in between
neither one thing nor another
a mercurial shape-shifter
one moment flying high
above the clouds
the next plunging
to the murky depths
of nutrient rich swamp bottoms
where the roots of water lilies feed
experiencing both
the freedom of flight and far-vision
and swimming deep
surrounded by the rich abundance of possibilities
exploring alternatives and seeking wisdom
rather than choosing
to remain in the darkness
constrained by conforming ignorance
and spirit-freezing fear

 

***

Morning Greeting – October 10, 2018

Carol A. Hand

Greeting a blustery morning
through rain-dusted lenses
witnessing and listening to the storm
blaring sirens barely audible
above the sound of roaring wind
Trees twisting, bending, and bowing
in the fierce gusty northeast blow
still-green leaves covering the earth
ripped prematurely from their branches
a blessings perhaps given the coming snow

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Stormy Morning – October 10, 2018

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Sending healing purple light
to my relatives, the trees
the cottonwoods, willows, and maples
the spruces, birch, and aspens
the crabapple and mountain ash
heavily laden with ripening fruit
may they all survive this and coming storms
until their life’s purpose is complete

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Heavy-Laden Crabapple Tree – October 10, 2018

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Grateful for a simple little house
that stood through the stormy night
an often taken-for-granted luxury
in a world where so many are without
safety, sustenance, or shelter
Reconfirming my intention
to remember moment to moment
to live with wisdom, compassion, and joy
despite the storms along the way

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Truth in Advertising

Carol A. Hand

Normally, I avoid looking at advertisements when I visit corporate news sites, but one caught my eye on Huffington Post last night. I just had to take a screen shot.

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Huffington Post – October 2, 2018

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This is not the best of photos but the message about a corporate agenda for a dystopian consumer future is so alarmingly transparent.

The message reminds me why I still teach. It’s well worth the effort to face the challenges of creating opportunities for students to learn by paying attention to what surrounds them, to “see the wonder of life in a blade of grass,” and think critically about the world.

Speaking of teaching, I may be slow visiting blogs or responding to comments because I have many papers to grade at the moment.

P.S.

I would have postponed posting this before the coordinating warnings that just came from the National Emergency Warning System. The loudspeakers and sirens in my neighborhood trumpeted the message, my cell phone screeched next, followed rapidly by a message on the classical public radio station I listen to each day. I’m just curious to know how many others have heard the warnings and if anyone has an inkling about what’s going on.

Just Wondering…

Carol A. Hand

Teaching always makes me wonder about taken-for-granted assumptions passed down through the generations and how they affect our ability to really see and understand the world. For some reason, this morning I couldn’t help thinking about the way we refer to everything in the cosmos as the universe. The prefix uni- means “having or consisting of only one.”

 

Abell 520 – Hubble Image

 

Initially, I viewed the suffix, verse, literally, suggesting that universe meant one shared story. But that didn’t make sense after viewing the definitions of verse:

“writing that is arranged in a rhythmic pattern; poems: one of the parts into which a poem or song is divided: or one of the short parts into which the Bible is divided.” (Cambridge Dictionary)

Next, I explored the meaning of the word universe as a whole.

Universe – “All existing matter and space considered as a whole; the cosmos. The universe is believed to be at least 10 billion light years in diameter and contains a vast number of galaxies; it has been expanding since its creation in the Big Bang about 13 billion years ago.” (Oxford Dictionary)

That didn’t satisfy my curiosity about the origins of meaning, and why we need to characterize of the cosmos as one. I explored the etymology or origins of the term universe and learned the following.

“Borrowed from Latin universum (“all things, as a whole, the universe”), neuter of universus (“all together, whole, entire, collective, general, literally turned or combined into one”), from uni-, combining form of unus (“one”) + versus (“turned”), perfect passive participle of verto (“I turn”).”  (Wiktionary)

Still, I wondered why “all that is everywhere through all of time” has been viewed as one. We certainly don’t act as if we view other beings who share this reality as really one with us. But we do expect others to see the world as we do. We expect others and nature to comply with our immediate and personal wants and preferences.

What would the world be like if we thought about the cosmos differently? If we saw the cosmos, or even our world, as collections of multi- (many) verses?

Would our imaginations be open to an infinite number of new possibilities? There have been times in my life when I read science fiction and fantasy novels, especially when facing problems I couldn’t solve without first breaking through limiting assumptions. The global appeal of other worlds presented by creative literature, art, music, and films has been enduring and well-documented. So many of us long for a better world, although we may define what better means in many different ways.

I found the concept of multiverses appealing today.

“The multiverse is a theoretical framework in modern cosmology (and high energy physics) which presents the idea that there exist a vast array of potential universes which are actually manifest in some way.” (Thoughtco)

It satisfies my need to continue to explore the question I ask myself each time I teach research.

“Is there one truth, or are there many truths?”

 

A Cosmic Couple

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Reflections about Loss

Reflections about Loss
Carol A. Hand

When you change
what remains
of the friends who used to be?
*
Slipping away like shifting sand
you’ll simply need to understand
learning graciously to set them free

***

July 20, 2012 – Cookie’s first summer in her new and last home (~2000 – 2013)

***

Things are not the same
but there’s no one to blame
so there’s no need for an apology
*
Although each loss brings sorrow
may you rise again tomorrow
open to new adventures yet to be

***

Reflections about Dimensions of Reality

Carol A. Hand

Awakening suddenly
in the semi-dark before dawn
cold
because the pile of blankets shifted
The only light muted yellow
from the streetlight shining
through the window to the north
filtered through blinds and curtains
Opening my eyes to readjust covers
I notice a strange lacy pattern
covering the wall next to my bed
Despite blinking, the pattern remains
With a sense of curiosity
tinged neither by fear nor wonder
I reach toward the wall

***

Lace – the closest I could find to illustrate what I saw using Microsoft Word clip art

***

The pattern begins flowing
and shimmering with light
Is this a dream of waking
within a dream, I wonder?
or an illusion of my hypnagogic state
halfway between waking and sleeping?
or is this a deeper vision of reality
the patterning of interconnecting
molecules that comprise matter
and give the comforting illusion
of solidity to material objects
thus making it easier to function
in a world constructed by
others’ notions of reality?
I don’t know the answer
but just for now
I feel the need to put wonder aside
to focus on tasks that need doing
in the socially constructed reality
I share with others in this time

***

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The First Day of Fall – September 22, 2018

Carol A. Hand

“Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. The concepts of stewardship can be applied to the environment and nature, economics, health, property, information, theology, etc.” ( Wikipedia)

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Teaching requires discipline
“Acting when the time is right”

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Looking East at the sun rising – September 22, 2018

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I arise early on class day
to give myself time to reflect and prepare
greeting the morning just before sunrise
gazing up at the cloudy grey skies
transforming miraculously before my eyes
ever pinker flowing clouds glowing above
trees of shimmering gold, orange, and red
an important foundation for
contemplating the things I love

*

Preparing enough to put stage fright aside
(still a constant despite decades of teaching and public speaking)
enabling me to be present in the moment
to adapt approaches spontaneously
and address whatever needs arise
trusting the step by step process
of opening hearts and minds
to creative, constructive possibilities

***

Looking west at the sun setting – September 22, 2018

***

Giving thanks at the end of the day
for opportunities to model stewardship
for the sake of future generations

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Sunset – September 22, 2018

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Reflections on a Rainy Thursday in September

Carol A. Hand

Who would believe it?

That inspiration for grading student papers

would come from advice inside a fortune cookie?

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.”

I will just have to wait and see

if following this advice helps students

overcome at least some of their fear

about taking a course in “research”

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Rain-kissed Petunias – September 20, 2018

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An apt quote from my horoscope on an unremarkable day a while ago:

“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” (Wernher von Braun, rocket scientist)

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Reflections about Learning Compassion

Carol A. Hand

A fervent wish –
May the bullies and narcissists
of the world
both the petty and the powerful
one day awaken
and realize
with piercing empathic pain
the harm they have done
to others and the earth
and with great sorrow
understand
they are teaching
their children
to do
the same

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Narcissus (1590s) by Caravaggio (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome), Public Domain, Wikipedia

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A welcoming space for resistance to the forces of oppression and hegemony.