Buddhism and the ‘middle way’

As the next part of our lessons on ways of thinking and living in China, we discussed Buddhist ideas about seeking a ‘middle way’ of living that is in harmony with the world and causes no harm – a way of living that also seeks to avoid greed and selfishness that might arise from thinking we are more important than everybody else. Does this make sense, we asked? Is it desirable?  Is it achievable? Here are thoughts from Myah, Sylvie, Kaliyah, Mohammed, Archie and Faisal.

Myah. I do think that the idea of the middle way makes sense because if you go the low way it means you decide not to take opportunities that lay in front of you which I don’t think is right. And if you go the high way, you will take everything and become spoilt and rich and have nothing to do but lay down and think about what will come your way next.

Kaliyah. I think the middle way is perfect because then you don’t get too much or too little of anything. Greed and selfishness are big problems in the world because we have many homeless people who have to beg for money. If we weren’t so selfish and greedy, we would just give money to them or buy them something to eat. Some people are so selfish that they just walk past them or pay no attention to them whatsoever. I think it would be good if people were both Daoist and Buddhist because you would be caring to both nature and people…. and in harmony with the world properly.

Sylvie. I think achieving the middle way would be quite a hard thing to accomplish. Because if you’re homeless with about £2 in your pocket you can’t create a middle way if you’re begging for scraps of food and you wouldn’t have the resources to create this ‘middle way’. Life, I’ve got to say, won’t let you have a middle way. People go through hard times and you can’t make yourself think it’s all going to be fine and nothing’s wrong, trying to make life how you want it. I think people are too greedy because they just create this excess, waste and destruction in their path. Sometimes natural greed comes in simple ways like you’re really hungry and there’s only one chip left in the box and you know you’ve had more than anybody else and you still take it. AND people who are greedy take all the money for themselves and leave people starving – possibly to death.

Mohammed. I think the middle way would never work because everyone is different and has their own way of living. To think of others before yourself is nicer than thinking of yourself straight away. Some people will be rich and/or selfish and some people will be poor and/or kind – but we are all people so why turn away from each other?

Archie. It does make sense to me but right now I don’t think there will be a perfect world – maybe one day, but not now. I feel it could be realistic but with all the terror attacks going on right now it doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon. I think greed and selfishness are both problems and solutions in their own right. Greed can be good because some people says it gives the world new technology but bad because it causes bad actions like violence. Selfishness is good because in some people’s cases it causes success in life. Nina argues the same, saying ‘I think you shouldn’t have too much greed and selfishness… but a little greed is normal and natural’.

Faisal. I think the middle way is a great way to end fighting and I think it could end world war and create world peace. I think that nobody can change who they really are and that it is natural to be greedy and think of yourself before others.

Advertisements

Confucius and The Golden Rule

Much of the writing of the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius is about human relationships.   He argued that respect and responsibilities should flow in both directions in any relationship.   We learned that Confucius wrote one of the earliest versions of the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.  

the-golden-rule-8-638

There are versions of the Golden Rule in almost every society, culture and religion, and we asked ourselves why this was so.  Here are thoughts from Archie, Nina and Ellie.

  • The Golden Rule is where you treat others the way you would like to be treated.  I think the Golden Rule is everywhere because it’s not just a Christian, Muslim or Hindu value – it’s a human value.  (Archie)
  • I think that the Golden Rule means treat people the way that you would like to be treated no matter who they are.  I think there is a version of the Golden Rule in every religion and society because its a value that the whole world follows because everyone should be treated the same. (Nina)
  • The Golden Rule, in my opinion, is the simplest rule to follow.  It’s that you treat people the same way you would like them to treat you.  We find the golden rule everywhere because all humans, no matter where they are, want to be treated the same. (Ellie)

confucius.jpg

Balance in life

Exploring what it might mean to find “balance” or “harmony” in our lives is at the heart of the study we are making of Chinese ways of thinking and living. Here are some very interesting opening thoughts from the class.

  • I think the balance is you can’t have too much of one thing but you need a little bit of everything. You also need to have a back-up plan for your normal plan because you don’t know what’s ahead of you. Life is full of surprises, so whatever the world throws at you, you have to go through it with courage.   Meshach
  • Your life shouldn’t be so dull and balanced [that it becomes] boring like a straight line. But it shouldn’t be too chaotic and erratic either. It should be up and down, with some scared moments and some happy ones.  Sarafina

IMG_20170518_184746736_HDR

  • I think balance in life is not necessarily focusing on just one thing…. As humans, I think we don’t want chaotic lives but we don’t want perfectly sane ones either. Also we want a balance between work and play – we don’t want all-work-no-play lives, nor all-play-no-work ones, because we need balance in our lives.  Archie
  • I think that balance in life means you can’t have ups without downs, or downs without ups. And not everything is perfect. I also think it means if you want something you have to fight for it instead of just getting it. For example, if you want a future job you can’t just say you want it but you have to work your way up to it. Myah
  • I don’t believe the way of living life is as simple as “balance.” My view is probably not to shape life into an equal, samey life but to let it flow. Sylvie
  • You can’t aim for one thing because life is unpredictable so you need other plans. You can’t always be angry, you need happiness as well. You can’t only look at your views, you have to look at the other person’s argument… You can’t only look at yourself, you need to realise there are other people, and that you have to learn and care about others as well as yourself.  Gabriel
  • I think you need balance in life to have a happy life because you always need an opposite like fire and water – you need water to put out the fire. Ignas
  • To be healthy you need to be even in your mind and spirit.  Faith
  • Everyone has a different balance because everyone likes and needs different things.
    Emily

Somebody or nobody

6CM performed a class poem entitled Somebody or nobody at this morning’s Rosendale ‘poetry slam’ hosted by poet and rapper Breis.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We used Emily Dickinson’s I’m Nobody! and Muhammad Ali’s Last night I had a dream as inspiration and wrote poems about being a ‘somebody’ or a ‘nobody’.  There are a series of poems that respond to one another.  Breis gave special mention to Myah (for her performance) and Jim, Archie and Nathan (for their words).  Later, Breis came into the classroom and read the children’s poems back to them – which was exciting to listen to.

Here are the poems in the order they were performed.

Somebody or nobody?

Why be somebody
When you can be nobody.
Why have fame
And have many know your name.
Why not be backstage –
Instead of in spotlight’s cage.
So why be somebody,
When you can be nobody?

Nina, Olivia and Sylvie

I love to be in the spotlight
I love to have fortune and fame
I love to be up on stage in sight
So people can call out my name.
I love luxury and riches
No matter the cost or price
Sometimes it lands me in stiches
But I don’t mind rolling the dice.

Nell and Sarafina

Sometimes it’s nice to be simple
Who needs fame and fortune
Just to live a simple life
And one you won’t regret.
Who needs to be in the newspaper
Who needs to be on TV
Just live a life – a simple life
And that’s the one for me.

Ellie

I’m great, unlike you!

You crumble like cake
You got jealous of my hair
Whilst you wear a wig
Like Donald Trump
You think you’re so big
I’ll get you a grave to dig
And your wallet’s getting thinner
Mine’s bigger
Like my lyrics

Archie and Jim

We are cool
We left school
We lurk late
We strike straight
We sing sin
We drink gin
We jazz in June
We will die soon.

Caspar and Mohammed

My name’s Nathan
My cut stings
Like a bee
I’m just a wannabee
Stop trying to steal my sweets!
You can’t see me
In my lambourghini
Which is black
I’m black
I’m invisible
So you can’t see me
So stop trying
I’m perfect
So crown me.

Nathan

The spotlight shines on you
For you crave it.
You are a somebody
You hate the gloom
And I’m a nobody
At the back of the room
Watching you walk
Listening to you croak your name.

Ignas

I’m angry, I’m angry
And I just can’t keep it in
I wanna scream and shout
I really wanted to win
Then rain falls down
Filling my shoes to the brim.
How lonely I am
As the anger kicks in.

I’m angry, I’m angry
My life is a lie
My brain keeps teasing me
I wish I could die!
I am so weary
I sleep in day
And wake up to the sound of a light.

I’m happy, I’m happy
I’ve just had an idea
How about I make some friends
And do it with cheer.
Little did I know,
There was someone at the door,
And I didn’t hear.

Myah

Macbeth’s sililoquy – the boys

The boys’ sililoquies have mostly not recorded well unfortunately – so here are just a few of them.

 

 

 

 

What have I become?
Have the three hags made me a monster? Nay, it was I who put the wicked forces upon me.
Will all the oceans clean me of this guilt?
No, but rather turn the sea incarnadine.
Blood begets blood: Duncan, now Macduff.
When will the noble blood stop spilling?
Even the throne does not b ring me happiness but instead melancholy.
Away Duncan! Away damn vision that haunts my eyes!
Life is but a candle melting away till the light goes.
It is not worth living.

Jim

 

What is happening to me?
Why have I slaughtered?
My veins are poisoned with desire to kill.
I was once a hero, then I committed treason.
My life is Scotland’s defeat.
Blood brings blood; why did I start this?
No matter.
What’s done is done.

Zeca

 

What have I turned into?
A great leader, loved and trusted by my men.
Now a shell of a man, diminished to king killer. My best friend, children, many innocent lives.
Taken because of my greed.
I am tortured by my deeds!
I don’t recognise the man I’ve become
These hands have become possessed. I have gone too far to be able to turn back.

Kyrell

 

What shall I be?
A killer of a warrior.
Forces of evil made me a king killer.
Will nothing get rid of the horror from my body?
Blood begets blood; first my king, then my friend, and then innocents.
The blood began to ooze into the river of my soul.
Is there no end to this slaughter?
This isn’t happiness; this is death.

Patrick

 

What have I become?
Is this regret in my eyes?
Why must I cause this endless violence?
Lady Macbeth and myself are strangers
These hands will never be rid of the blood of a king and best friend.
Greed has got the better of me and I shall suffer the consequences.
These damned visions will die with me.

Faisal

 

World War II

We’ve begun by discussing the lead up to the Second World War.  We used this video as a prompt: Lead up to World War II  (a little wordy, and might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but worth a look).  We also watched  footage of Neville Chamberlain’s ‘peace in our time’ speech and listened to his subsequent Declaration of war

200px-neville_chamberlain2

Then we asked the children to write a little about what they already know about World War II and, more importantly, what they want to know.  They came up with extraordinarily deep questions, some of which we will try to explore in subsequent weeks.

On understanding war and the morality of war

  • Why did a species turn on itself? (Daisy) 
  • I want to know why people wanted to kill each other when they could have a world of peace.    Why were people OK to “accidentally” bomb houses of innocent people? (Olivia)
  • Why do we have to be so cruel to our own kind?  How could we be so stupid to kill countries for six years? (Sarafina)
  • What was the point of fighting.  Do we get anything out of it?  (Nathan)
  • Why was it so inhuman? (Wayne)
  • Why we couldn’t sort things out another way? (Nina)
  • How did the war spread around the world? Why? (Myah)
  • Will there be a World War III (Emily)

On Hitler, the Nazi Party and Germany

  • What triggered [some] Germans to be extremely cruel, killing machines?  (Archie)
  • Why did so many die just because of one person? (Sylvie)
  • And some very black humour from Sylvie: how many trees were used as death certificates?
  • If Hitler hadn’t died [and had won the war] what would he have done next?   (Tanya and Caspar)
  • We are all human.  Why did Hitler think Jews were so bad?  (Emily)
  • Which country killed more people: England or Germany?  (Archie)

On what life was like during the war, how the war affected the local area, and the role of women in wartime

  • How did families cope during the world war?  Where did families live and what did they eat?  (Nathan)
  • Why couldn’t women fight in war? (Olivia)   
  • What kinds of things did the women do? (Sylvie)
  • Was the local area bombed?  
  • What was our primary school doing in WW2.  (Sylvie)  
  • When did Rosendale Road get hit by a V2 rocket? (Faith)

Learning about being a scientist

science-03

We asked the class to round off this half-term’s science project by reflecting on what they felt they had learned about science.  Here are some of the extremely interesting and thoughtful responses.

Sylvie wrote: ‘I have learned that science isn’t about the teacher knowing the answer to the question – it should be about the children finding out for themselves.  It is about trying something new, combining as much information as you can from other scientists, then putting it together into a new experiment.  Use what you know.  Ask the questions that can be useful.  Change the world for good.  But it’s not just about the bigness of changing the world in enormous ways.  You should also do small experiments that add up to a better understanding of the world.’

Sylvie captures the spirit of scientific enquiry – but using science to change the world for good is a great point too (and not one that we much discussed).  Microbiology, as many other areas of science, has so much potential for both good and harm.  Nina said that ‘Science gives us power over our surroundings’ and Zeca that ‘Science is basically everything.  It’s like the future.’  So we must surely want young scientists to give thought to the purpose and goals of science at the same time as generating new knowledge.

Patrick said, ‘I learnt to think like a scientist.’  Caspar, ‘Ask lots of questions and don’t hold back.’  Archie said:  ‘I have learned that in science you can’t really do an experiment once because the results sometimes vary… Science is about doing experiments and finding out new stuff about the world by asking questions.’  

Eleanor compared science to a large experiment with endless possibilities.  Mohammed said something similar: ‘What I like about science is that there is always a new and better experiment.’  And Jim came up with a great idea for continuing his team’s experiment, which was to use yeast to generate CO2 and then use this to see whether mould will grow on bread in an atmosphere of CO2 or whether it needs oxygen.