How About Some Serious Pondering

by Dave Hanks

My brother Richard, in the later part of his working years, was employed by an irrigation company. His job consisted mainly of taking soil moisture samples and recommending watering
procedures to the client. In order to do this, it took a great deal of investigative searching, testing and the practical experience previously gained from operating his own farm. His Father-In-law would periodically ask his advice, only to completely disregard it in favor of that which he had heard on “the street”.

This frustrated my brother to “no end” to say the least. Yet he was guilty of the same thing regarding environmental issues that had entered the political arena – totally disregarding the findings of scientists in favor of “crack-pot” radio, television, and newspaper commentators ( the likes of Limbaugh, Bell, Maughan, to name a few ) who were pushing a political agenda.

Why do people do this? Why do they shut their ears and eyes to the obvious? I was a Biology teacher in high school and so I have witnessed this closing of the mind on a first-hand basis. This is especially true in environmental science and the theories relating to species continuation and adaptation. Parents were always interfering in the learning process. The following is a quote I have para-phrased that I believe most timely: ” People toss out science in order to assuage their insecurity in certain of their own ideologues, especially religious ones – purposely closing off any contact with biological education. Scientific illiteracy is leaving too many of us unprepared to discuss or understand the damage we are wreaking on our own habitat and even on our own existence. ”

I have long been a preacher for the tremendous importance of variety. Variety seems to me to be as important an eternal principle as any other you’d care to mention, yet there is an almost insane drive by the human animal to reduce it as much as possible. Whether it is in our social drive to follow styles to be like the next guy, or the drive to make us all think and act alike in a religious context, or the replacing of naturally occurring bio-systems with
mono-cultures. Ethnic variety is what’s made America strong on the world stage. Likewise the elimination of variety in naturally occurring gene pools will eventually catch-up with us all. A very frustrating and frightening prospect to me!

I always cringe when others refer to me as a bird watcher. They talk as if all we do is recreate with birds. This attitude hits me as so trivial that it is irksome. While I do love birds and observe them, I love everything out there in nature. Our time is spent photographing all life-forms, birds being the most abundant and noticeable. What I really am is a naturalist and a conservationist. Hopeful what we do might have an effect in some small way on the attitudes of others. After all, I don’t think there is any concern facing the human race more serious than keeping our planet healthy. Also, to keep it viable through the preservation of all the variety possible in all the many and varied gene pools.

In this race for the dollar and the using up of everything on this earth, who will be the eventual winner?

A Learning for Life

Some experiences in life stand above others as attitude shapers and lifestyle modifiers. My college athletic education was one of those. In fact, to compare it to the classroom would be unfair. Its value to me stood “head and shoulders” above the academic learning I experienced. While the college curriculum was mind expanding, much of that type of learning came later while on the job. But participation in sports was a tremendous course in human nature and relationships.

All levels of individuals facilitated this learning process. Starting with the President of the University, who was an SOB, I learned that positions of authority are not necessarily staffed by people with high levels of integrity and that you had better recognize it. Two of the coaches fit that same category while others were somewhat more human. Added to that mix was the vastly divergent personalities of teammates and opponents, and rival school anti-Mormon attitudes. This later attitude, though well camouflaged, at times “leaked” from the head coach who was a Baptist. He never felt comfortable at BYU and it’s a wonder that he was ever hired. I’m convinced that LaVell Edwards’s great success was first “rooted” in the fact that he had a total understanding of the “Mormon psyche”.

From all the applied pressures, the ranting, the cussing, and in some cases coaches who provided the opposite extreme; I learned much about what does and what doesn’t motivate. Another lesson was how valueless lip-service is and how important is a quiet resolve. You learn that the truly dependable are few while the majority is not. I confess to having become a cynic when it comes to human palaver. Talk is not only worthless; at times it’s downright disgusting. Other things learned were: self-discipline, a drive for perfection in all areas, and the experience of physical exertion that the average “Joe” has no concept of. However, mental/emotional aspects outrank the physical – the physical aspect is so closely matched between teams that only a slight edge turns out to be a huge difference.

Teamwork, competition, work ethic, getting yourself up when knocked down, etc. are recognized as values worth learning. One thing that is never mentioned is compassion – compassion for the “other guy” because my success results in his failure. I have sat in losing dressing rooms, as both a player and a coach, and I guarantee that it is a miserable experience. This realization has made me less critical of how someone else performs a task. Knowing how it feels in the other locker room, I have never rejoiced in the victory but only felt relief in the escape from defeat.

There are those who think athletics should be de-emphasized or even done away with. How naive! Extra curricular events are every bit as valuable as the classroom and that is not to demean that area of one’s education. School sports can be a tremendous unifier, especially for students and alumni who may not have much in common otherwise. I am not the typical sports fiend, but I am deeply grateful for the enriching and life expanding gift that my athletic experience bestowed upon me!

Making the Stop