Is there a ‘right way’ to think and live?

Although China has had many violent periods in its history, there have not been wars fought in the names of the different belief systems that we have studied. The different ways of living (Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian) have coexisted peacefully and complemented one another.

Following from this, we discussed whether there is a ‘right way’ to think and live, which feels like an important question to ask at a time when London and many other parts of the world are subject to terrorist violence.

Here’s a selection of thoughts from the class. The general feeling seems to be ‘yes,’ there is a right and a wrong way, but not just one right way, an infinite number of possibilities – and the world is better for this diversity. As Faith says, difference is a good thing not bad.

Kaliyah. There are definitely right and wrong ways of thinking and some people have definitely passed the limit; they have started to do things that are totally unnecessary: terrorist attacks and killing. There is definitely not just one right and wrong way of living because everybody is different and their brain has developed differently. If we tried to make everyone the same we would fail because we aren’t all the same.

Sylvie. Different people have different backgrounds and different experiences and no-one is the same so why should we try to force people into thinking one idea, to one peephole on the world. Life is much richer if there are more possibilities. There is a line – you cannot accept racism, sexism, violence etc. – but the world is complex and one plane of understanding would be strange, almost inhuman as everyone’s different.

Jim. I believe there kind of is a right and a wrong way of thinking and living but I feel there should be more than one right way. But you should be free to think what you want to an extent. As long as you follow the basic rules of law and rights I feel that is the right way. No one is the same so everyone has a different interpretation of life. Jacob picks up the point about the role law, saying ‘Maybe in some ways all people are the same because of laws but if it wasn’t for laws there would be war at least once a year.’

Emily. There is no right way to understand the world. Everyone has different experiences, so everyone will believe different things because no two people are exactly the same. So if you take an extremist/terrorist and ask why are they like that, because people are not born wanting to kill, it is the people around them and their experiences who shape who they are.

Olivia. We all have different experiences, so having one right way of thinking and living is basically impossible, and it would make our world boring, and no-one would learn from their mistakes, making us unintelligent creatures who do only one thing.

Myah. I think that the wrong way is saying things like everyone should be the same and no-one should be individual, and the right way is persuading people to think for themselves.

Faith. There are 100,000,000,000 ways of thinking. Some people believe in monsters and spirits, some don’t. Different people believe in different things. It would be weird if everyone was alike in the world – our memories are different. Difference is a good thing not bad.

We’d normally stay away from politics on this blog, and President Trump does not get a good press from many in 6CM, but a post today from daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, in response to the latest violence in London, feels helpful to our discussion.  She wrote: “Even if my neighbor doesn’t understand my religion or understand my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he’s never too far from me. It is always within my power to build a bridge. There is always a chance for reconciliation, a chance that one day he and I will sit around a table together and put an end to our history of clashes. And on this day, he will tell me his story and I will tell him mine.”

 

 

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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.

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

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  • 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.

 

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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

Last week’s writing – Olivia, Myah and Meshach

Here are extracts from Olivia, Myah and Meshach’s ‘warning stories’.  Have a read and comment during independent learning next week.  What do you think of these pieces of writing?  What are some of the writing skills your classmates are demonstrating?  Perhaps go back and have another look at your own story and reflect on whether there’s anything you might add or change if you wrote it again.

Here’s Olivia starting the story off:

“Don’t go near the river,” said my mother as she put juicy, delicious-looking strawberries inside my picnic basket.  “Don’t worry, I won’t,” I said solemnly, as she held out the basket.  “Good,” she said.  “It’s too dangerous.”  I nodded and looked out of the window – it was a hot, sunny summer’s day.

Half an hour later, I was walking excitedly through the woods.  The sun was very hot; the sunlight touched every single tree-top, making the bushy foliage even more green.  I could hear birds chirping and insects buzzing as if they were having a party – I was in paradise.

A refreshing breeze danced around the tree, making the leaves rattle.  I looked around.  The massive oaks were like giants standing in the humid ground; they looked as if they were 500 years old because of their strong, ancient-looking trunks and boughs.  I imagined one of the trees telling stories about the past and all of the things it might have seen: knights, horses, carriages, princes and princesses, other trees being burnt in the Great Fire of London or felled to make enormous ships for Nelson’s navy; it might have seen planes and bombs flying ahead in World War II, or even the 100 years war!  So much history in just one of these majestic trees!   How marvelous it might be to live for so long, I thought.  Before I carried on with my adventure, I hugged the tree; its warm bark pressed against my skin, making me smile.  I wished I could live in the woods…

Myah moving the story on:

Giving the tree a big hug to say goodbye, I set off to go and explore more.  As I ran through the meadow, it seemed like there was a ripple-effect of dandelions springing to life. Every time butterflies were nearby, it was as if the wind was creating a path for them.  As I made my way to the river, I found a rare white albino squirrel leaping from tree to tree with its young.  

There was something about the river that made it seem so inviting – maybe it was the reflection of the sun shining on the surface.  I felt like dipping my toes into the water, just to feel what it was like, but then I could hear Nzinga’s voice dancing around, saying not to go in.  Yet it looked safe where I was.  What could go wrong?

As I flung off my plimsolls, I couldn’t help but feel guilty for what I was doing – sneaking into the river.  When I jumped in, there was a sensation sliding down my back, making me shiver with fear.  I waded in deeper and deeper.  The further I got, the faster the current went.

 

And Meshach bringing it to a conclusion.  Do you think there is a final sentence or short paragraph that Meshach could add to round the story off?

I stepped on something hard and sharp.  I yelled for help but nobody was around so I fell.  I really wished I had listened to my Auntie because the water got deeper and deeper until I couldn’t touch the bottom.  My mouth was full of water so I couldn’t shout – I was going so fast it felt like I was going at 60 miles per hour.  When I opened my eyes, I could see fish, rocks and junk.  Then I had a vision that I was being saved by the tree.  I suddenly opened my eyes – I couldn’t remain any longer under water or I would drown…

 

Macbeth’s sililoquy – the girls

We’ve really enjoyed studying Macbeth.  Here are some of the sililoquies that Shakespeare might have written… look out for Temmyyaa’s BRILLIANT AND HILARIOUS Scottish accent and some wonderful dramatic performances

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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

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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)