On Beach Walk: No. 21

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Although the waves are constant, each wave is different – but patterns of similarities exist – yet waves differ from day-to-day.

Waves have a force – sometime powerful and other times not so much – but they still carry a force – a force washing the water ashore where it meets the beach’s resistant slope while refreshing my feet.

Most of the time the beach’s slope causes the water to retreat to the sea – but without following the same path. Sometimes the water successfully climbs the sand’s crest – occasionally collecting as a mini-lake away from the water’s edge only to swept away at high tide or simply percolate through the sand.

Sometimes the water climbs the crest, but then follows a natural trench – sometimes to the left – other times to the right – but always in the same direction. As the water flows left or right it may meet other naturally moving water on its return to the sea – joining as two rivers into one – but always in the same direction.

Because of these miniature streams, I think of the world’s major rivers as they are all flowing in the same direction. The Nile River going north, and the Mississippi River going south – but in the same direction. Whether the Danube River to the southeast, the Rhine to the northwest, the St. Lawrence River to the northeast, and the mighty Amazon to the east – their directions are all the same … just like the waters on the beach … because water always flows downhill.

Even with a truth through a touch of snark, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

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On Beach Walk: No. 20

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Waves are free to wash ashore. Sometimes as mild laps – other times as large roaring waves. No matter if during low tide, high tide, or in between, waves do as they please. Now that’s freedom – although nature’s forces are at work.

There is freedom in snowbirding. A freedom away from the routine of home. There is no today is Monday, so we have to do these things .. and so on. Sometimes we ask, “What day of the week is it?” “Is today Tuesday or Wednesday?”

There is freedom of being away from the cold weather of home. No matter how cold it is here on the Alabama coast, it’s all perspective because Alabama cold is warmer than home.

There is freedom to standing on the shore looking out to sea – freedom to sense the salty smell in the air – freedom to taste an essence of salt on my lips – freedom of letting water refresh my feet.

There is freedom in snowbirding when facing the two biggest questions of the day: “Which direction do we walk?” – “What’s for dinner?” Therefore, “What are we going to do today?” is very seldom – if ever – asked.

There is freedom in leaving our golf clubs at our cold-weather home. We enjoy the game – but having the clubs along serves as an unnecessary obligation – and we enjoy the freedom of snowbirding.

There is freedom to decide my day will be walking five miles (8 km) to have lunch, then walking back.

There is freedom in snowbirding to letting the mind relax –  freedom to letting the mind wonder – freedom to think about metaphors to develop these posts.

There is freedom in letting go – to not worry about feeling I have to stay busy. Not worrying about what to do – freedom from daily decisions – freedom in making a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to the Flora-Bama for the music.

There is freedom to walking the beach or sitting on the balcony overlooking the sand and the water. Reading, knitting, writing, blogging, solving puzzles, using the fitness center, or watching television join the list. Others fish, sit by the pool or on the beach.

The freedom of a snowbird – freedom to think – freedom to move with the wind – freedom to have a life as an alter ego away from the home routine – freedom to walk – after all, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Beach Walk: No. 19

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

I stand looking at the water. As I turn my head 180 degrees from east to west, the distant horizon appears as an arc where outbound ships disappear. No wonder many years ago civilizations thought our world as flat.

Perhaps the horizon is where the known and unknown meet. Each of us know different amounts of different things. Nobody knows all – so for each of us, the unknown lies beyond the horizon.

Perhaps the horizon is a different edge – an edge separating graspable concepts that we can comprehend – but beyond the horizon lie concepts one fails to approach – failing to comprehend. But the bigger question lies in the same one-word question for all – why?

Perhaps the horizon separates our life known up to the moment to the unknown of tomorrow. The horizon separates our yesterday from our tomorrow. Looking across the water to the horizon that separates our past from our future.

Perhaps the horizon is a metaphor beyond the waters that refresh my feet. After all, the hills of home have a horizon. What lies in the uncertainty over the next hill? Yes, looking up the hill is the same as viewing across the water. Thinking about what lies over the next hill is the same as thinking beyond the horizon that I see at the moment.

Perhaps the horizon is about the dreams of today and the unknown of tomorrow for all of humanity. The dreams of curing cancer, reducing poverty, travelling to the great unknowns of the universe, and more.

Perhaps thinking beyond the horizon is wondering about the unknown of the next frontier – whatever it may be.

Perhaps the horizon is where geniuses reside – those few who have the ability to think beyond the border – beyond the horizon – think in an inspired, creative way with an uncontrollable curiosity that is different from the norm – to see more and more deeply than others – thinking beyond the horizon.

Meanwhile, as I ponder the arc-like horizon that I see, I’m reminded that I enjoy walking the beach, for it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 18

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I like walking the beach as it is good for the body, mind, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

I recall my first exposure to statistics in college. To me, interesting stuff – but something that takes time to comprehend its usefulness. In those days (1974-75) classes emphasized was on calculations using complex formulas by hand in a world without calculators. One of pencil, paper, a slide rule, and the occasional abacus.

The professor made one particular statement that stuck with me (so I paraphrase) – “In the not-too-distant future, computers will do all the calculations and statistics classes will concentrate on their meaning.”

I believe those Texas Instrument calculators arrived in the late 70s-early 80s. I recall having high school students who were enthusiastically proud of having one of those calculators. I would channel my statistics professor by encouraging those students to keep their cherished calculators forever so they could show their kids an example of archaic.

As I look across the water, I see today’s world as a vast sea of data and statistics. So many numbers that are ripe for picking. As a colleague used to say in our discussions, “Take a stance – any stance – and then go get the numbers to support it because they are available.”

But today’s world is going beyond even that statement. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a data-driven tool designed to scrutinize and apply large amounts of data in order to establish trends that will lead to faster and better decisions.

AI gets the most out of data. Today we marvel at Alexia’s existence, but that is a simpler application than what AI is doing in health care, manufacturing, research, and throughout business.

Dr. Fyffe was the statistic professor who made that statement. I don’t know if he envisioned the coming of AI that day, but that’s where we’ve come and where society is going. Oh what will we see in our daily lives just 10 years from today?

Although I remain an optimist for a positive future, one can find many reasons to have a negative view of tomorrow. Time will deliver the answer – it always does because it always has – but for this place in time – today – walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

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On Beach Walk No. 17

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I like walking the beach as it is good for the body, mind, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

The vast waters keeps serving as a metaphor for knowledge. If the water represents the sea of knowledge – all that is known – am I standing on the shore of ignorance? Oh yes – the importance of lifelong learner.

My mind keeps thinking about knowledge and learning. Einstein stated, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

Passing a toy sand bucket reminds me that everyone enters a learning situation caring knowledge in 3 buckets – 3 buckets that involve filling and emptying – 3 buckets of knowledge – what they know, what they think the know (but don’t), and what they don’t know.

A good learning situation reinforces what the learner knows while adding to the didn’t know bucket. But, a just-as-important situation lies in the middle bucket – the information one thinks they know but don’t. This information serves as the foundation of misconceptions and illogical conclusions. This is the information that only the learner can declare as “incorrect”, then replace it with new correct information.

For instance, how accurate is one’s conclusion if the person starts with an incorrect assumption as the first or early domino in their logic? How willing is that person going to listen to a correct explanation? How willing is that person to admit they are wrong?

I think about the ways one can justify blood in our veins is blue. We see the blue beneath our skin. We see the red and blue diagrams of blood circulation in diagrams. If a person believes blood is blue, they will do whatever they can to justify their incorrect position by assuming the instantaneous color change when venous blood from a cut contacts the air.

The refreshing water rekindles a situation I experienced at a conference many years ago. The presenter made a point that I processed as, “Oh, that’s what it means – so I’ve been doing a good job of doing it wrong for 12 years.” Yes, that moment was a professional game changer for me. A moment that set the need for learning something new and changing past behaviors.

The bottom line is that only the learner can replace the incorrect information in their belief system. Only the learner can learn and unlearn. Not the teacher, not the trainer, not the expert – only the learner can do that.

I look across the water and down the beach at the horizons, which causes me to think of other metaphors. Is the horizon a learning boundary? Is the horizon a new level of knowledge? Does the horizon represent the distinction between the known and unknown? I’ll save the horizon for another day – another walk – because I like walking the beach as it is good for the body, mind, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 15

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I like walking the beach as it is good for the body, mind, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

The body of knowledge known by the human race is huge – yet most of us know so little – a mere fraction of the total. What each of us know may be equivalent to a handful of sand on a long beach – if that. It is a meager few drops from the water that I see.

As I gaze down this long beach, I recall the day a fellow teacher knocked on my classroom door. She was polling the staff about their knowledge about a topic on a 1-to-10 scale – to which I paused and answered 4.

Given our past conversations and her knowledge about me, she questioned my choice. “How can you say that when I know you taken classes and workshops, and then trying and implementing these strategies?”

I verified her points about me, but then explained my reflective self-evaluation as a relative point. My reference point were the experts in the field (who I named). “Compared to them I am no more than a 4 – but compared to my colleagues I am a 10 – and there is no way most of them an 8, 9, or 10.”

Yes, knowledge is relative. I look out over the vast waters of the Gulf of Mexico, no land is in sight, yet I know land is out there, but far away. Yet, while the gulf is large compared to the small pond in the neighborhood or the nice lake at a state park, it is small compared to the Atlantic Ocean – and even smaller compared to the Pacific Ocean.

I think of all the water found on Earth – in the lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, bays, gulfs, and oceans – let alone in the ground, the air, as glaciers and icecaps, and within living organisms. The seemingly vast water of the Gulf of Mexico now seem so small. No matter how much one knows, it’s actually so little.

Yes, my knowledge is the small amount of sand that touches my feet as I stare across the water then down both directions of the long beach. While water washing ashore signifies changing times, I still like walking the beach as it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 14

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I like walking the beach as it is good for the body, mind, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

The vast water is the sea of knowledge – and the water seems unlimited. There is so much to know. Identifying the shells on the beach would be an accomplishment in itself – but a small one in a relative sense. Meanwhile, the body of knowledge continues to grow.

I think of Leonardo da Vinci who was remorseful in the final days of his life because there was so much more to learn that he didn’t know. In light of his accomplishments, what I know in today’s world seems so small.

The internet brings knowledge closer to us while phones have placed that knowledge at are fingertips and made it portable. I walk on a beach that is a world without wires, yet knowledge is a fingertip away in my pocket.

Today knowledge grows at an accelerated rate while technology changes even faster. I can’t imagine a life today of someone who has never embraced computers – let alone smartphones. That could be like a person trying to operate a sailboat in the deep waters without any sight of land and without prior knowledge of what to do.

That means no understanding of basic computer operations. No concept of entry and response. No clue of open, new, create, save, and retrieve. No idea of how information gets onto the cyber highway. No notion of seeking information that is fingertips away. No sense of determining the validity of information. A sense of being lost while staring over the vast water.

For those of us with knowledge of modern technology, technology changes – and as technology changes, we must also change – a change that must involve unlearning the old way and learning the new.

Water is a metaphor for changing technology. Change is trying to navigate in the raging waters of a storm while hoping for the status quo of calm waters. Change is also the calm water going across my feet – it’s continuous, expected, and always new – never the same as currents keep water moving.

In today’s fast-paced technological world, learning begins with unlearning – abandoning the way one knows. Unlearning to let the new way lead the way. Forgetting what was to let the new lead the way. Yes, old habits are hard to break, plus we have a tendency to protect ourselves from outward self-criticism. Nonetheless, unlearning is more important today than ever.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. (Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1970)

Although a fast-paced technological world surrounds us, I am thankful for technology …. and I like walking the beach as it is good for the body, mind, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.