Ignorance is not bliss

 

via Daily Prompt: Bumble

I remember my elementary school years with fondness. They were some of my most carefree although I sucked up knowledge like a sponge. It was during that period that I learned all the memory gems that I still remember even after more than forty-five years. One of the quotes I still recite today is one that was written in the front of a reading book that I used in the third or fourth grade. I learned it by heart as we did all poems and memory gems. I did not know the author of this poem and thought that it was an excerpt from one of Aesop’s fables. I recently found out it is originally an Arabian quote, although some people believe it is a Chinese maxim. It goes like this:
“He who knows not,
and knows not that he knows not,
is a fool; shun him.

He who knows not,
and knows that he knows not,                 
is a student; Teach him.

He who knows,
and knows not that he knows,
is asleep; Wake him.

He who knows,
and knows that he knows,
is Wise; Follow him.”

― Arabian

The poem talks about four people: three of them bumble through life without intervention while the fourth one is the poster child for success. Ignorance is not a picture of bliss, but knowledge is celebrated.

As an educator, I see examples of the first three types pass through my classroom year after year. However, the good thing is that my subjects are young and their minds can be molded. On the other hand, I feel a degree of sadness when I see adults who bumble and fumble through life because they accept and/or are oblivious to ignorance. Although we have more access to educational opportunities and the proliferation of printed information, too many people continue to be misinformed in our society. There is no reason for it: we are no longer in the Dark Ages.

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America became great because people had a passion for discovering and creating. There was a quest for knowledge. That’s why this country is great today. The people who “did not know” and knew that they did not know were open to learning and those who knew “that they know” did not sit on their laurels and imparted wisdom to those who wanted to know.
Today, too many of our young people enjoy the fruit of their predecessors’ labor and have little or no appreciation for it. They ignore the fact that many hard-working men and women toiled and built on the work of others before them to bring about things like cell phones, laptops, iPods, and the countless things they now take for granted. Some college and high school students balk at spending time and writing an essay or doing research that is their work. They prefer to plagiarize because they are too lazy to tell their stories and let someone else benefit from their research. They will never “know that they know” because they have not given themselves a chance to produce something of worth.
Even sadder than that, is that some parents will lambast a teacher who demands honest work from their children, not realizing that they may be depriving their offspring of reaching their highest potential.

So what if a student has to re-do a paper several times before he gets a good grade?Should a student repeat a grade if he has not successfully completed all requirements? Should a child in elementary school receive his true score if his work is not up to par? We need to ask ourselves tough questions if we want America to retain its status in this global economy. My mother used to say that Rome was not built in a day so students must learn that we must put sweat equity in everything we do and that the process is as or more important than the product. Pride in achievement is derived more from the doing than the end result.

 

Nothing outside of God’s word says this better than another quote I learned in Jamaica and penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

 

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained in sudden flight but, they while their companions slept, they were toiling upwards in the night.”

I just want peace

via Daily Prompt: Bury

 

It can’t be bought or sold, but it can be planted and cultivated. Don’t even try to understand it because you won’t. However, you’ll recognize it when it’s around, and you’ll know when it’s gone. It’s  both accessible and elusive. While it is the opposite of strife, men have fought wars to gain it without knowing it comes from within. What I’m talking about is peace.

I can usually predict when an otherwise well-kempt student is going to have a bad day by looking at their hair. Almost invariably, if they come into the classroom in the morning with uncombed or unfixed hair, their behavior follows suit for that day. They generally cause problems during instruction, in the hallway, or in the cafeteria. Sometimes, they end up getting in a physical fight with a classmate. They may blame their opponent for starting the fight with them but after some prodding, you realize that the fight began with them before they arrived at school. They had an issue that began at home that was not resolved and since misery likes company, they brought it to school.

Anger, resentment, frustration, hate, and bitterness create inner turmoil. These emotions rupture our internal equilibrium, and if left unresolved can destroy our lives. If a spouse offends us and we don’t talk about the problem. we set ourselves up for a divorce. One small hurt festers into something big. We all have problems in our lives; how we handle them is what separates the resourceful from the helpless. Failure to acknowledge our issues or burying our anger is not the best way to deal with the challenges that we face every day.  We must recognize and deal with negative emotions head on so that they don’t overwhelm us.

It does not mean that we are in control of our emotional well-being because we don’t go to work throwing chairs and firing shots at our coworkers. Disparaging a subordinate in front of others, agreeing with wrong simply to please others, and covertly discriminating against someone because of the person’s race, gender, and origin are symptomatic of deeper problems in our lives. We hurt others because we have hurt. Unfortunately, many of us don’t even know that we do and if it’s revealed to us, we will not admit it because we are afraid to confront us. We have been taught so long to bury our emotions to save face that we have become numb to ourselves. Consequently, we have a lot of functional dysfunctional people working in our institutions.

They are a disaster waiting to happen.

We see it over and over again in the news. Mother murders children. Judge commits suicide. Doctor shoots former coworkers. The list goes on, but I must not forget the number of killings carried out by disgruntled postal workers in recent years. It became so frequent that the expression “going postal” has become part of our vocabulary. It’s sad that people laugh at this expression.

Lack of peace is not a laughing matter. Although we shy away from talking about it, we are seeing the effects of it in our society and in other parts of the world. There are wars and rumors in foreign lands, terrorism, and unthinkable forms of an atrocity of man against man. In our country, it seems like every man is against his brother and his brother against him. Nobody wants to bury the hatchet. From the highest to the lowest office in our land, people denigrate each other and engage in immoral and illegal acts, but are unwilling to admit wrong. All these are the result of the absence of peace.

To say that a person who has peace has a pollyannish view is mistaken. Having peace does not mean that one does have emotions like anger or that one is without problems. It means that one is able to cope with stress because one has or can access the resources for doing so. Moreover, one does not go into denial and buries the problem, hoping it will never resurface.

Since peace is not a commodity we buy in the store, it can only be accessed spiritually. God is the beginning and end of real peace, and without Him, there is no right calm. Those who accept Him will receive His peace and exude it. There are many assuring scriptures that He has given us to keep us as we journey through this life:

Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus ( Phillipians 4:6-7 KJV).
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33, KJV).
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.(Romans 15:24, KJV).
 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee (Isaiah 26:3, KJV).
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful( Colossians 3:15, KJV).
 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14, KJV).

 

Let them play!

via Daily Prompt: Caper   

My grandson strikes a goofy pose in the middle of Time Square. I see this picture several times during the day as I move about in my kitchen. It’s sitting at the front of my refrigerator, and I smile every time I see it as if I’m noticing it for the first time. There are other photos of my grandson on the fridge, but this one captures my heart more than the others.

Perhaps it does because my grandson has this silly grin and a mischievous glint in his eye. Moreover, he has managed to contort his body in a funny position, and it seems that he has enjoyed it immensely. Elijah’s intention was to entertain his spectators, and he has achieved his goal with me. I’m drawn to the energy and exuberance in that photo. Children ought to be that way: carefree, energetic, happy, playful, and a little mischievous.

Something pulls far down in the pit of my stomach every time I hear of another child being kidnapped, raped, or killed. I can’t bear seeing a hungry child on TV or even worse, for unscrupulous adults to parade the faces of disadvantaged kids for soliciting money and cheap publicity. Call me old fashioned, but there is nothing more refreshing than little girls dressed in pretty frocks and hats and boys in suits, especially on Easter Sunday.  Jeans, shorts, skirts, T-shirts and other forms of clothing are fine too.

However, my pet peeve is when parents try to dress their children as miniature adults. Why should little girls wear sexually revealing clothes and be subjected to the negative attention of some who are morally bankrupt? Although there is no correlation between dress and the sexual exploitation of young children, we cannot ignore the fact that clothing affects the perception of the beholder. For example, the worst criminal will appear before a judge in his best attire to create a good impression. Therefore, parents must take into consideration what story their child is unintentionally telling when they dress him or her each day.

Parents have an obligation to take care of their children. They cannot choose which responsibilities they will or will not assume regarding their offspring. Attending a parent teacher conference at least once during the school year is no less important than taking one’s child to Disney World. Sometimes telling your child no also shows that you care. Children need parents to guide and set boundaries for them as they continue to nurture their sense of inquiry.

God had a reason for delaying the full development of the frontal lobe in humans until the earlier part of our adults. Decision making, planning, problem-solving and emotional control are functions that occur in this area of the brain. Considering that children need to explore and learn about their environment, risk taking would be stymied with a full blown frontal lobe. Gradual development correlates with physical maturation.

Since the frontal lobe gives our children more “room to mess up,” they are more inclined to take risks, and less inhibited in expressing their emotions. Immediate gratification matters more to them than what the future holds. That is why they caper, frolic, and play. They feel invincible, so they do things that make you cringe. Let them cavort and laugh and grab life with both hands, but don’t leave them to their own devices. They need you to be their scaffold. Teach them to love God, respect themselves, treat their neighbors kindly, and protect the earth.

Childhood is what shapes our adulthood. Let’s help our children to enjoy this wonderful stage of their lives. Therefore, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

 

 

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Tender is relative

via Daily Prompt: Tender

 

When it comes to food, the word “tender” has a different meaning in the South than in the North. Degrees of tenderness to which foods are cooked also vary between Blacks and Whites. Many Southern Blacks take great pleasure in simmering their green leafy vegetables until they are soft and to the point that they melt in your mouth. Their white counterparts also sometimes cook their vegetables until they lose their crispness, but with more bite than their African-American neighbors.

Collard, turnip, and mustard greens simmering gently in a crockpot on a rainy day gives the most comforting feeling to a Southerner. Some like it plush with ham hocks; smoked turkey necks or tails; or just the plain greens seasoned with onions and other spices. One of my church sisters in Atlanta divulged to me that collards are no good without a little vinegar. She does not believe in adding sugar to her greens although some cooks swear by it.

After the greens have reached their level of the desired doneness, they may be served with several starchy dishes. For most Southerners, corn bread is the best complement to this dish. Macaroni and cheese casserole is the ubiquitous side that pops up on just about every southern table on nearly all occasions whether it’s a baby shower or a Thanksgiving dinner – and it also goes well with greens. And by the way, there is nothing al dente about the noodles, rather variations of tenderness since that quality is more inviting to the southern palate.

Talking about taste, every restaurateur knows if he wants to add the finishing touches to his greens, he must place a tasty bottle of hot sauce on the table if he wants to have African-American customers coming back for more.  Another thing that outsiders need to know is that whites and blacks in the south are not divided about food. They both appreciate and like their regional dishes.

 

Eggs as you like them

A delicious piece of prime steak is a meat eater’s delight: add the right wine, and you’ll place him in gastronomic heaven. I’m no vegetarian, but too much meat gives me little pleasure. That’s why I feel overly lethargic after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I tend to get bloated from overeating ham and turkey, and my body screams for green vegetables.

I dare not resist because there is a hefty price to pay. The weight of extra calories is cumbersome and not a sight for sore eyes. Moreover, I believe that too much protein wreaks havoc on my digestive system and causes “tectonic plates to shift in my stomach” creating weird sounds and emissions from my body that I do not welcome. Some will say broccoli and cabbage have the same effect. However, I believe that they do less damage than meat because they don’t have the excess bulk that meat has. Well, the difference is based on the discomfort of the eater!

My father is the reason for my meat aversion. During my childhood, Papa planted all kinds of vegetables around our home and made them a staple in almost every meal. He used meat sparingly, mostly to flavor a dish or as a filler. Therefore, I acquired a taste especially for legumes (which were his favorite vegetable). I enjoyed fish and occasionally ate our home-raised chicken. However, I avoided red meat. Like my father, I am squeamish about poultry. I have no stomach for fried chicken skin regardless of how crispy it may be.

I also think twice about ordering eggs at a restaurant although I like a good omelet filled with spinach and cheese. I confess too that I enjoy scrambled eggs with grits and a sliver of bacon on the side. Now my bacon has to be crisp and slightly burned. I wouldn’t request dry scrambled eggs or a hard omelet. However, you can guess I don’t like my eggs runny. That brings me to the point of sunny side up eggs.

Somebody said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think that the adage applies more to sunny side up eggs. I presume that “sunny” refers to the brightness or lack of it in the yolk of the cooked egg. Sunny side up eggs are eggs fried on one side until the white is barely set and the yolk remains liquid in the middle. To the sunny side up fan, a runny yolk may appear more inviting and shinier than a more viscous yolk, but to my dad and I, a charred yolk is the sunniest treat in a fried egg. There is also a slight variation of this dish: the difference is that the egg is lightly fried on both sides with the yellow still runny. The latter is called easy over eggs. Because the egg is fried quickly on both sides, the yolk may vary in runniness and even luster.

Whether you are talking about omelets, scrambled, poached, boiled, easy over or sunny side up eggs; diet plays a role in what the beholder sees. According to Dr. Anne Marie Hellmenstine, the color of egg yolks can vary from pale yellow to bright orange depending on the diet of chickens and other poultry. She notes that although color variation occurs naturally in eggs, farmers can control yolk pigmentation by regulating the number of carotenoids they feed to chickens. Carotenoids are natural pigments that are found in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupes. Natural pigment additives like marigold in poultry feed enhance yolk color because artificial sources are generally prohibited. However, Dr. Hellmenstine notes that certain commercial pigment enhancers, namely Lucantin (R) red and Lucantin (R) yellow are allowed on the market to affect the coloration of egg yolk.  The color is not an indication of nutritional value although some people swear that the brighter the yolk, the better the egg.

Although they may be eaten raw or cooked, research show people run a greater risk of contracting diseases from eating raw eggs than from eating cooked ones. Dustin Bogle (2015) in his article entitled “What Happens When Protein is Cooked?” states that “Some foods, such as eggs, that are consumed raw or undercooked carry the risk of getting food-borne illnesses.”

He also stresses that the body receives more of the protein in a cooked egg than in an uncooked one:

A study published in the “Journal of Nutrition” found that consuming cooked eggs as opposed to raw eggs provided the highest rate of protein absorption and is the safest method of consumption. The study concluded that the body absorbs protein from a cooked egg at a rate of 91 percent, while raw egg protein is absorbed at a rate of 50 percent over a 24-hour period.

The culinary benefits of eggs, however, outweigh the risks of getting foodborne diseases from them, if they are safely handled and prepared.

References

Hellmenstine, Anne Marie. 2017 “How to Change Egg Yolk Color: Is it possible to change the color of an egg yolk?” http://www.thoughtco.com (accessed June 28, 2017)

Bogle, Dustin. 2015 “What Happens When Egg Protein Is Cooked?” http://www.livestrong.com (accessed June 28, 2017)

 

Easy Sunny-Side-Up Eggs

 

 

A Thought for today

Just as the color of an egg yolk has no bearing on its nutritional value; our appearance, race, social status, and other outward indicators do not demonstrate our right relationship with God. He looks at the heart and not at the outward appearance:

But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, KJV).

It’s a profession!

via Daily Prompt: Paragon

 

A paragon is a person or thing that represents the standard of excellence for a particular quality or behavior. People with shared values agree that the qualities are beneficial to the group and will support those possessing them in various ways. One of the most visible is inclusion into a community: people who have similar values and aspirations will tend to interact with each other frequently, ultimately alienating others, even if not done intentionally.

Everyone is groomed to some extent to fit into the society in which one is born. The more one is prepared, the more one is guaranteed for success, and the more seamless is one’s transition from birth to adulthood. Nature has endowed some with qualities, gifts, and talents that surpass their peers; and others have been lucky to receive the nurture to make them fit. And then there are those who have to fight to find and keep a place, while others teeter on the periphery of society. The latter are just faces, and no one pays attention to their existence, but a few from this group are considered as “necessary evils.”

The necessary evils live in the shadows, but society knows their names. They have survival skills, and they are aware of the community norms, but they don’t follow them. Modern day drug lords, corrupt lawyers; ruthless politicians; loan sharks; prostitutes and others who are apparently no paragons of virtue fall into this category. Prostitution, by its very nature, is a stigmatized profession because it defies what is supposed to be an act of love, honor, and commitment between two adults.  It is considered “the world’s oldest profession” because it has been existence for an inordinately long time in virtually all cultures of the world. Moreover, men and women have earned a living from it. Many people may be shocked to learn that male prostitution was practiced in the Ancient Near East and Greco-Roman antiquity because women have dominated this institution for centuries.

Even more surprising, prostitution originated as a ritualistic sexual activity that was performed within the context of religious worship to appease the many fertility gods found in ancient cultures. Exchange of money for sexual intercourse between two people occurred over time. Prostitution was a common practice in Ancient Greece and Rome, and it is known that some patrons paid handsomely for the sexual services they received.

Today, outright prostitution is somewhat reviled and prohibited to some extent in Western society. How much of the law enforced against it depends on how law enforcement officials view its existence: whether it’s a crime or harmless vice. Furthermore, some of the well-heeled paragons of society are covertly involved in this trade. They cover their tracks well while exploiting young girls and “renting” them out to men seeking sexual pleasures. People know that prostitution occurs in various ways in society, but it is not something someone discusses in polite society. Although Christianity is still the dominant religion in many of these societies and prohibits sexual sins, needless to say, their citizens do not abstain from engaging in them because secularism is on the rise.

Talking about Christianity, if one examines the Bible, there are references to the subject of prostitution. There is the story of Tamar who posed as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law in sleeping with her.  He impregnated her, and she gave birth to a son who became part of the lineage of Christ. However, the most well-known of the two women is Rahab, the harlot. She was the woman who allowed two Israelites to escape from her countrymen by first hiding them on her roof and later letting them down from a wall with a scarlet rope. Because of her heroism and faith in the Hebrew God, she saved her family and the Jewish nation from annihilation. She married a Jewish man, and God blessed her (and also Tamar) to be one of Christ’s maternal ancestors.

Rahab led a life of immorality before her conversion to Judaism. She was a necessary evil in her society because she catered to the many travelers who stopped over at her brothel in Jericho. Not only did she bring revenue, but she could learn secrets from wayfarers that she could pass on to the authority and protect them from potential danger. Although her vocation was not socially acceptable, she was tolerated. The Book of Joshua records that the king of Jericho sent a message to Rahab to turn over the Israelite spies to his messengers:

The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land (Joshua 2:2-3, KJV).

Had the children of Israel not succeeded with their plans to destroy Jericho, Rahab would have been tried for treason. She was a prostitute, a liar, and a traitor: qualities that were the antitheses of virtue. However, through the work of grace, she was mentioned with the Hebrew matriarch, Sarah, as a paragon of faith(Hebrews 11:31). Shernett Ford states in The Scarlet Thread: Tainted Women that:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. William Shakespeare

via Daily Prompt: Volume

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Youth makes us invincible.  The young are edgy and restless because of the great energy that their bodies produce. It seems like they are in a mad dash to get all they can in that space between birth and death. Young men take risks and old men practice restraint because they carry memories or bear the scars of past actions. What we do in that time is what defines us: whether we are trapped by fate or by our own volition.

It is during the early part of their lives that men marry, fight wars, conquer lands, start businesses, make discoveries and create inventions. Optimism and ambition drive them: one conquest is the fuel for another. Satisfaction wanes as quickly as it appears. They have not acquired the burden of knowledge that comes from experience and they leap into situations where angels fear to tread. However, a man’s life does not stop because he gets older. Rather, he narrows his field of activity for reason of strength or lack of it; the weight of responsibility; and wisdom acquired through experience.

To err is human and we cannot escape missteps and failures.The frequency and the magnitude of our errors; and how we handle them contribute to the tales of our lives. How we treat our talents, time, the earth, ourselves, and others also increase the volume of our story. To what extent our lives are determined by the nature-nurture argument is yet to be answered. However, we are certain that the choices we make daily impact our lives greatly. Choices have consequences, whether those choices are good or bad. Shakespeare notes that “The evil that men do lives after them; but the good they do is oft interred with their bones.”

Although there is some truth to this belief, I think both and good actions have lasting effects even after a man dies. Children will continue to live out the virtues and vices that have been taught to them even after several generations, and others reap the benefits of both the spiritual and physical legacies of their predecessors. We are the ones who write the story of our lives and not others. Although we write it, we will never be able to read its final chapter because we all have an expiration date.  God alone will be able to truly judge the volume of our lives. Therefore, like Solomon, I adjure all men to know that”

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