Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Feather in the Circle

We can all benefit from understanding how events in our lives paint the walls of our individual worlds in different colors, so that we can further understand how one's perception of an object or idea may very well be diametrically opposed to another person's perception.  It is this understanding that is the first step in breaking down the walls that separate us from each other and from the natural world around us, and it is the first lesson in the GLADE's leadership curriculum.
I got the idea for this activity in a wonderful book of Native American teachings called Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm, and modified it to meet my curricular needs.  (It is a story in itself how this book came into my hands, but I'll save that for another blog entry.)   There is a wise short story in the book called The Story of Jumping Mouse, which I occasionally use in outdoor education opportunities, but today I want to share:

                                        A Feather in the Circle
                                        ECOLEAD Activity #1

1.  Place a feather in the center of the circle of people, or pass it around the circle. (Remember that most bird feathers are illegal to possess.  I recommend using a game bird such as the Wild Turkey.)

2.  Have each of the participants share the "one word" that comes to mind when they "see" the feather.(responses will range from light to dark, freedom to lost, bird to alone, etc.)

3.  Discuss the responses.
4. Facilitation:  I have placed a feather in the middle of our circle, and each of you responded in different ways.  Why? 
It is important for us to realize that each and every one of our previous experiences in life in some way affects the "way" in which we perceive this feather.  For instance, one of you may be near-sighted and the feather does not appear in sharp focus, as it does for others.  One of you may be seeing only one side of the feather, while another may see the opposite side.   So, physical differences can influence the "way" in which you see the object.
But it doesn't stop there.  One of you may have had first hand experience with a Wild Turkey, perhaps you successfully shot one of these birds during hunting season.  In that case, there is an emotional experience tied to your "way" of perceiving the feather, and it is very different from the experience that the person next to you may have had with the same species while watching it spread its tail feathers in a courtship display.  Or a third person may have had no experience at all associated with Wild Turkeys or their feathers.
Because of our different experiences in life, any particular object or event may appear totally different when viewed by different people.  For instance,  I hate roller coasters, but some of you undoubtedly love them, and some don't care one way or another.  I love snakes and spiders, but some of you fear them greatly.  How did that come to be?   Through our own unique experiences in life, which paint the way we perceive everything in the entire world!

Summer 1986
Even with a concrete, tangible object, there are many, many ways of "seeing".  But, what if the idea were an abstraction? an idea? a concept? a feeling?   Then the whole process becomes even more complicated when we try to communicate it to the other members of our group.  And, the number of different perceptions and the difficulty in communicating them becomes infinitely more complex as we increase the number of people in our group.  Imagine looking at these perceptions and communicating them among all the peoples of the world.....  Guess that why it's so chaotic out there!
So, in GLADE, this is our beginning point of reference.  All the events of your life, totally unique to you, have led you to this point of convergence, where you will spend a week with these people....... in this metaphorical circle.  Although we are very different from one another, we have been brought to this place in time, where we will learn and share with one another, and we will find and explore that which has brought us together. 
We need every one of your perceptives to fully understand what it means for us to work together toward a common vision of a better world.  We know one thing for sure, we share a love for nature and the outdoors. So we will strive to become keen sensors and observers..... eager to experience and share what Nature has to teach us about ourselves and the world around us.  We await the winds that will carry us to a more lofty perch.
Summer, 1986

p.s.  Readers,  just a reminder that all the events and experiences of your life have led you to this blog today, so join in on the conversation!  We need the input of all to "see" the way clearly to a just sustainable world for all....

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