Sunday, July 29, 2018

Messages in Conflict: Seeing and Understanding

Comic-Con International descends on downtown San Diego every July.  Over 130,000 paid attendees converge on the  convention center and its surrounding neighborhoods.  In addition, thousands of local residents trek into downtown to experience the camaraderie of the pop-art culture, absorb its creative energy, and gawk at adults and children dressed up in wonderfully-envisioned costumes for four days of craziness and fun!

The San Diego police department turns out in full force, providing a safe environment for people to amble through streets blocked off for this annual event.  Traffic and transportation personnel help people to navigate around trolley tracks and busy intersections.  Many others volunteer to provide an atmosphere that showcases the best of human interaction and service.

Messages in Conflict: where do you seek clarity?
(From San Diego Comic-Con International)

This year -- maybe because of the heightened security, coordinated services, and the festive nature of the environment -- I noticed a byproduct of the convention that had grown over previous years: the clash between conflicting messages of Free Speech.  Contrasting messages were being loudly thrust upon passers-by... or... silently offered.

It was as if the growing division in our political and societal discourse was visibly exploding in this one pivotal location.

Messages in Conflict:  what do you believe?
(From San Diego Comic-Con International)

One group broadcast their message from microphone and speakers:  people are depraved; are fornicators and sinners; and are going to hell.  This loudly-delivered message sounded angry and did not align with the rest of the message:  God is love.  God loves you.

Another group wore Star Wars-themed clothes, cajoling people to listen to the Force Within rather than these ancient religions.  One person dressed as a religious figure, visually giving the first group a flipped finger.  A guitarist tried to play, but his songs were drowned out.

My attention, though, was  drawn toward two people.  Saying very little; wearing "Free Hugs" T-shirts; and holding placards that proclaimed "You are good the way you are" and "You are Enough" -- their quiet actions and message seemed to gather the most followers.  Selfies, free hugs, and words of encouragement were the actions that spilled from this small corner.

Messages in Conflict:  what do your actions
say about your beliefs?
(From San Diego Comic-Con International)

I spent considerable time in this one area, watching and reflecting on the competing messages.  It seemed that as the more vocal group was ignored, the louder they became and people moved away.  In contrast, the two individuals who were the quietest and offered a message of acceptance, love, and a hug with no attachments, attracted the most people.  And, people went away with smiles on their faces.

I wondered:
  • What are the values and messages that I believe in?
  • How do I proclaim these values and messages?
  • What are my actions when I am listened to, accepted, and believed... or... when I am ignored, ridiculed, and dissed?

As we contemplate the role that dialogue has in our lives this week, may we consider that words and actions must be aligned in order for others to hear and understand our message.  For me, dialogue is a way to encounter diversity and encourage inclusion.  It is through our curiosity and questions that we open our minds and hearts to others.

May this week provide opportunities to see conflicting messages that surround us -- and answer the invitation to provide safe environments for the human community to come together and celebrate the richness of who we are... Together.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Flying High: Stringing Together Thoughts, Words, and Actions

Walking along Mission Bay in San Diego, I noticed a kite-flier pulling and releasing the strings attached to a large delta-wing kite.  For a few minutes, I followed the movement of the kite as it cut across the sky.  My eyes soon focused on the shapes created when the kite and the tail criss-crossed.  And then, my mind connected the kite-flier's actions and the resulting beauty when flier, kite, and tail were in harmony.

Commenting to the kite-flier about the strength needed to keep the kite aloft and to create the various patterns, he laughed and said it was a wonderful way to exercise!

Flying High: when do our thoughts,
words, and actions intersect?

Reflecting on dialogue, it takes effort -- continued exercise and practice -- to synchronize our thoughts, words, and actions.  As we engage in dialogue, our thoughts and words are like the kite and tail:  we are pulling and releasing ideas and meanings, hoping that our interactions are kept aloft.  And, like the kite-flier who is earth-bound, our actions anchor what people experience about us

Dialogue also allows us to experience and question our own delta -- the change or difference -- between our assumptions and the reality of that moment.

Flying High:  how do we view what we have constructed?

As we notice the changes in our relationships or the differences that occur when there are missteps or misunderstandings, our SCRs (Socially Constructed Realities) may be called into question:
  • What has our family, religion, or culture taught us?
  • How have we accepted societal norms, rules, and laws?
  • Is there a moment when we realize that not everyone sees these human-defined constructs the same way?

Consider the following: a person living among the tall buildings of a city may not see the city in the same way as one who is flying high above the buildings!  Same city -- different views -- both are valid.  The buildings (as human constructions) remain, but when we open ourselves to other viewpoints, we may begin to see the city differently.

Flying High: in what ways can we experience harmony?

Engaging others in dialogue -- where we exercise the way we ask questions and listen deeply to another person's experience -- requires us to practice the skills of Curiosity and Holding It Lightly:
  • Curiosity:  am I willing to listen and learn from another person, asking questions of what they are thinking and feeling?
  • Holding It Lightly:  can I accept, with hands open, the truth shared -- holding gently rather than harshly rejecting what I don't understand?

To live in harmony does not mean that we agree with everything said.  Instead, we experience harmony when we are able to hear the various instruments of a band or orchestra, when we can see the broader landscape being revealed before us, and when the constructs that limit us are noticed and gently set aside.

May this week invite opportunities when we can release and pull on the strings that connect thoughts, meanings and actions... allowing us to see beyond our earth-bound constructs!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Standing Out: Courage in Seeking Truth

Have you been in a position where you have had to speak up against untruths or situations you believed were unjust?

I recall serving on a jury several years ago.  After hearing the testimony, we moved to the jury room to begin deliberations.  The deliberations lasted two days: each day was as different as night and day!  The first day:  we reviewed the judge's instructions and the notes we took or testimony we recalled.  The second day:  we discovered that two jury members went against the judge's instructions.  Independently, one person went to the crime scene to investigate what the police officers had described; the other juror researched online what typical sentences would be passed if the jury found the defendant guilty.

Day 2 was chaos!  Once this new information was shared with the rest of the jury, the deliberations went out of control.  In an attempt to justify this illicit information, these two jurors badgered those of us who were bothered with this new information.

What happened next?

Standing Out:  Light among the Darkness

We ended up a divided jury, unable to come to a decision.  But, I believe something more disturbing occurred:  none of us spoke up!  None of us told the judge what had happened in the jury room.  An injustice was served that day.

Society is built on trust, vulnerability and courage:
  • Trust in one another and the rules that society created to govern itself.
  • Vulnerability when words or actions move against the weak and oppressed.
  • Courage to seek truth, understanding, protect justice, and change society for the benefit of all.

Question:  What do you see in the first image (above)?  The moon?  Darkness?  Click on the image and enlarge it.  Off to the right, a little lower than center, is a small dot: a planet that also reflects light in the dark expanse.

Trust, vulnerability, and courage are sometimes like that small planet -- off to the side, unseen, forgotten.  At times we think we see the whole picture.  But, unless we enlarge our perspective, we won't see the whole picture... possibly, there is more!

Standing Out:  Courage to be Different, One among Many
We are living in a divided country where one light is overpowering another.  Only through dialogue can we reclaim:
  • Trust in others and society;
  • Vulnerability to speak the truth we understand; and
  • Courage to stay in relationship, with the goal of enlarging all perspectives.

Each person has Sacred Worth and Value and is challenged to contribute to the Whole. Our individual voices - silenced by individual and collective doubts - are waiting to be heard.  We are asked to stand out with courage, daring to be One among Many.

Standing Out:  Growing Tall
Questions to consider:
  • Who are the people I do not trust?  Why?
  • When do I feel vulnerable and alone?
  • How might I find the courage to speak of my lack of trust and vulnerability?

In words paraphrased from Francis of Assisi:  Make me a channel of peace.  Where there is hatred, let me bring love.  Where there is injury, pardon.  These are words that encourage the healing of divisions; and give us a framework for trust, vulnerability and courage.

It may be too late to correct the silences of the past, to speak the truth that was not shared.  But maybe -- today, we can choose to trust, to be vulnerable, and to live in courage.

May this week, through dialogue, lessen the mistrust and misunderstandings that engulf us.  May we have the courage to seek truth and become vulnerable in all relationships.  May we become open to a larger perspective... and desire to see the whole picture!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Tear Up When We Are Torn Down

There are some days -- or weeks -- where it seems trials and hardships come one after another. The landscape ahead looks uncertain and arid of hope: the pathway forward obscure or non-existstant.

Even in these times, though, when it seems that our values and belief systems are being questioned, shredded or torn down, it is important to seek that which is important and true -- the Core of Who We Are... the Core of Who I Am.

In these desert moments, I want to believe that there is still life, beauty, and possibilities.

Question:  Can we see the beauty in our desert moments?
(Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens, Catalina Island)
The shift in our understanding may be very subtle, as subtle as learning the difference between the English words: tear (pronounced: tair) and tear (pronounced: teer).  On the surface, both words are spelled the same, but they have different pronunciations and meanings.

When other words are added to these singularly-different words, a whole new world begins to emerge.  Consider:
  • Tear (tair) down:  to pull down, destroy, demolish; to disparage or discredit
  • Tear (teer) up:  to fill up or overflow with tears

Maybe, as we consider the desert moments that shift through our personal, social and political arenas, we are invited to consider the words and meanings we attach to the unfolding events. With compassion and empathy towards those around us, can we tear up when we -- or others -- are torn down?

Question:  What tears at you?
When Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. deMille Award at the Golden Globes this past January, I was moved by her speech.  (Click on the link to listen to her speech.)  Days later, as I reflected on her words, I realized that I didn't know very much about Oprah outside of her talk show, movies, and public persona.  I downloaded and read a number of her books, trying to understand her passion and what made her "Oprah."  I wanted to know if she teared up when events or people tore her down?

In her book, What I Know For Sure, Oprah wrote:  "You are built not to shrink down to less but to blossom more.  To be more splendid.  To be more extraordinary.  To use every moment to fill yourself up."
Observation: deserts have blossoms too!
(Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens, Catalina Island)
I wonder, is it time for us to consider that:
  • Words matter.
  • What we say impacts who we are, who we are becoming, and how we communicate our experiences.
  • Empathetic words and actions -- when we dialogue, ask questions, and attempt to understand another person's feelings and experiences -- have the power to Tear Up our interactions.

Just think:
  • We have the ability to remove the prickly boundaries we have created.
  • We have a choice to provide overflowing potential in our shared future.
  • We can decide to tear up past differences that keep us apart.

May this week allow us to see the blossoms - where last week we only saw desert. And may we choose to blossom more, to be splendid, and to be more extraordinary!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Balancing Ends and Means: Moving from "We-They" to Us

We are living in interesting times!  Our media sources are filled with images of struggle: words and values colliding and drawing us into polarized reactions; raw emotions surfacing and eclipsing hope; and decisions widening the chasms between us.

I wonder:
  • What is happening to us?
  • Where are we going as a society?
  • How might we listen and understand?

As I reflect on these images, my mind wants to gravitate away from the words, values, emotions, and decisions.  These are important for us to share and understand, but I wonder:
  • Why are we focusing primarily on "who wins" - the Ends?
  • Have we forgotten the importance and balance of the Means?

Question:  How can we stand up for our values
without alienating others?
If we focus solely on the Ends -- or Goals, maybe we are missing out on two words mentioned several times in the first paragraphs:  We and Us.

When we draw lines in the sand using only our personal values or surround ourselves with like-minded people, we may eventually be surrounded with lines that limit where we can go or the person or People we might become.

Question:  When have we created too many lines in the sand?
(Photo Credit:  A Line in the Sand, Rob Dobson)
It is important to acknowledge that all of us go through periods of low awareness:
  • Times when we don't understand another person's perspective or conclusions.
  • Situations where the decision is not what we expected or wanted.
  • Changes that created periods of uncertainty.

In times of low awareness, our language centers on Us-and-Them, Have's-and-Have-Not's, Powerful-and-Powerless, Majority-and-Minority...  areas where we are polarized and potentially unmoving.  Suddenly, the numerous lines which divide us become the cages that imprison us.  Who actually wins when we stalemate or entrench each other or when one group enslaves another with one way of thinking or being?

Question:  What line in the sand could encompass Us?
(Photo Credit:  JuniorHighMinistry,org)
It is possible to cross these self-made Lines in the Sand by individually and collectively:
  • Becoming aware of our emotions, reactions, and thoughts surfaced.
  • Exploring the meanings and conclusions we have defined.
  • Asking questions to understand another person's viewpoint.
  • Respecting and accepting that The Truth may be larger than we initially believed.

Erasing lines that separate us may allow us to inscribe a new line in our hearts: one of hope that widens outward as more people are included and encircled by the Sacred Worth and Value of each person.

May this week invite us into moments when we identify and erase the lines that separate us.

May we look for the means to become the human words of We, Us, and Acceptance.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)