Sunday, March 29, 2020

Social [Dialogue] Distancing

Social Distancing is a health care term applied to certain actions to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease.  I believe that many of us have become accustomed to this term and its effects on our lives. We may live in safe at home countries, states or communities and have been instructed in the appropriate spacing between self and others.

Recently, while walking in my neighborhood, I noticed that people were practicing this aspect of social distancing.  I also became aware that when I greeted people, some responded with surprise and others seemed to ignore me - no recognition; no acknowledgement; no nod, wave or words.

I tried to recall: was this lack of response as prevalent before COVID-19?

Are you distancing yourself from others?
(Photo Credit:  Social Distancing Can't Last Forever, 
Vox - Getty Images)
My dialogue mentor mentioned that the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, makes a distinction when talking about the need to create distance:  she uses the term physical distancing rather than social distancing.  Jacinda's point is well taken in that we are being asked to physically distance ourselves from others... not necessarily, socially.

I wondered: as Americans, do we hear and respond literally to the words we hear?  That is, when we hear the words "social distancing," have we begun to break the social ties with others?

How can you reconnect with loved ones and friends?
(Photo Credit:  Now Moments #Love #Connection #Legacy,
Big Picture, Fine Focus)

It seems that we need social contact now more than ever!  In fact, some people have taken to video conferencing with friends and church groups: Virtual Happy Hours, Virtual College Roommate Reunions, and live streaming religious services are a few examples.

So, a question for all of us: in this uncertain time where we potentially could be physically separated for weeks, how might we build -- or rebuild -- the social connections that could heal our divisions?

Do we have the energy and desire to connect?
(Photo Credit:  Why Connection is Essential for Living a Wholehearted Life

Creating a space for dialogue in this period of Social [Physical] Distancing may be one way to bring us together.  We might be transformed as families, friends, and a nation if we could honor the 6 feet physical spacing that COVID-19 requires... and at the same time... use dialogue to replace any chasm that separates us.  In essence, the mutation that occurs is not in the virus but in us: we begin to practice Social [Dialogue] Distancing when we come across dis-eases that separate us!

I am interested in hearing your perspective:  what are you thinking, feeling or experiencing?

Peace and health to you and your loved ones!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)


A friend shared this on Instagram (by Laura Kelly Fanucci)
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Gifts of Appreciation

With my State, County, and City mandating closures of restaurants, limiting large gatherings, working from and staying home whenever possible, the number of activities we engage in has drastically shrunk.  This global pandemic has reminded us of how interconnected we are, the freedoms we have experienced in exploring our world, and what happens when we close borders and limit interaction.  Social distancing -- necessary to slow the tide of sickness and death -- has separated us from a key aspect of what it means to be human:  the understanding of Who We Are is being tested.

Outside of work hours, I am cleaning closets, going through old photo albums, and remembering earlier times when I gathered things and memories.  And, when the weather is good, I am outside, planting for the summer and fall harvest.

In my mind, Life goes on -- with an appreciation of the past, thankfulness for the present, and hope for the future.

Can we remember the beauty we've seen and experienced?
(Sunset over Cabo San Lucas, Baja California)

But, the question of "Who are We?" haunts me.  It is as if recent nationalistic tendencies are being forced to their extremes as countries -- wisely -- close their borders.  These closures, though, are not focused on people and ideologies as in recent arguments, but on slowing the spread of this virus.

Could it be that we need to heal the mental virus of separation and division that has infected us as well?

Are we able to reflect on what we are seeing now?
(Tahitian Sunset, Papeete, Tahiti)

As I plant vegetable seeds for future harvest, I wonder:
  • Who Will We Become when this emergency passes?
  • Will the borders of our minds remain closed to other ideas and possibilities?
  • What are we learning from these frightful days?

Would sharing of knowledge and acceptance of others' facts and experiences earlier have helped everyone globally?  Could we have responded quicker?

Are we willing to look for a brighter future
beyond these frightful days?
(Sunrise at Sea)
In my life, there has always been a silver lining to every cloud -- but only if I waited patiently and looked for it.  What are the silver linings you are experiencing now with loved ones and work colleagues?

Talking about our fears and worries is important!  Equally important are the discussions of what we like or don't like about past and present behavior.

Who are we?  Who shall we become?

What are your thoughts?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

 A friend shared this "Prayer for a Pandemic"
(by Fr. Larry Tensi, Archdiocese of Cincinnati)
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~

Sunday, March 15, 2020

From COVID-19 to PROVID-20

We are in the midst of an unprecedented emergency in recent generations:  the global pandemic, COVID-19, and its effects on our health and social systems.  There are valid reasons for fear, panic buying, and social distancing.  That is, we are being asked to slow down the spread of this virus and take care of ourselves and those around us!  I want to believe that each of us is trying to do this the best way we know how.

But, I wonder, how do we transform what we are learning about ourselves as we initially react to COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease 2019)?

What do we fear most: what is internal or external? 
Photo credit:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
As schools close and families retreat into their homes... as colleges and universities move toward online classes... as churches, synagogues and mosques suspend services... as entertainment venues go dark for a few weeks... how will we define what (and who) is important to us?

I wonder if these structures have provided an incomplete sense of self-definition and meaning.  During this time of distancing and exclusion, let's take some time to reflect:  "Who am I?" and "Who are We?"   These two questions could begin an interesting dialogue!

My hope is that COVID-19 will mutate into a healthier Way of Being: that is, the transformation of COVID-19 into PROVID-20... PRomoting VIsion through Dialogue 2020.  The dis-ease that has been eating away at our society in recent years -- fostering mistrust and misunderstanding -- could be replaced by dia-logos, the conversation within and among others.

Is this the time to share what is important to you?
Becoming aware of our fears and insecurities provides openings to share our thoughts and feelings with others. Noticing that we sometimes need to hoard material and emotional elements of our lives affords a way to examine our underlying needs.  Surfacing the times we distance ourselves from others begs the question of "Why?"

Can we convert our destructive arms
into healing embraces?
You may have other thoughts on how COVID-19 can be transformed, and PROVID-20 may not be the right acronym for you.

Are you willing to share your thoughts with others on how to survive a deeper global pandemic of indifference, misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility. What do you think?

I am interested in hearing your thoughts!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

 A friend shared this "Prayer for a Pandemic"
(by Fr. Larry Tensi, Archdiocese of Cincinnati)
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~

Sunday, March 8, 2020

What If...

Have you ever played the What If game?  It's where we try to arrive at a conclusion without all of the information.  Or, we don't know what to do or are afraid of a certain outcome.  Or, we don't want to follow the path set before us.  We become preoccupied with all of the possibilities that could happen, cycling through an infinite number of  variations:  What if...

Let's play around, though, with the current political environment or a key issue where people have starkly contrasting views.  We seem to stay in our corner, befriending only our position.  We sometimes are in a stalemate with others:  we can't talk civilly without labeling the Other.  Our corner becomes ours... and we feel safe by pushing others away.

But, what if...
What issues cause divisions in your life?
(Photo Credit:  Understanding Political Correctness, Money Crashers)

Recently, someone texted:  "Growing up, we were taught not to talk about religion and politics.  Now that we are grown, we don't know how to talk about religion and politics!"  What an interesting outcome:  we don't have the skills to talk about what may be important to us!

Barry Johnson's work on polarity management provides a dialogical framework to talk about:
  • What I understand is positive about your [or my] position; and
  • What I fear or am concerned about your [my] position.

The ability to put into my words what I hear about your thoughts provides a connection that may not be readily available when I am cornered -- or retreat into my corner [position].

But... what if...
What do I hear about your thoughts and goals? 
(Click on image to enlarge)
(Photo Credit:  Using 'Polarity Thinking' to Achieve Sustainable Positive Outcomes, Elsevier)

In Johnson's polarity map there are two boxes near the center:  Shared Aspiration and Outcome to be Avoided.  I wonder:  what if we would spend more time exploring aspirations and outcomes that we agree upon rather than the corners that protect us?

Don't get me wrong!  More work is needed to understand the pro's and cons of each position, but it seems our current communication pattern (i.e., "protecting the corners") has created downward spirals of misunderstanding and mistrust.  What if we changed the starting point?

For instance, what if:
  • Pro-Life and Pro-Choice advocates explored a common aspiration?
    Example: respect for all life, the unborn and the mother.
  • Gun Control and Gun Ownership proponents agreed upon an outcome to be avoided?
    Example:  how to avoid unnecessary deaths.

What if we were to instill individual values...
and... respect for differences?

What if our starting point wasn't the opposing corners but a shared understanding of aspiration and outcome?  Even though our values and decisions may separate us, we might have an anchor of understanding and trust that may keep us from becoming fully divided.

And, what if... we begin to teach our children how to talk about religion and politics in ways that nurture curiosity, explore differing truths, and allow for common aspirations and outcomes to unite and restore rather than divide and ignore?

This week, may we be open to possibilities that show us the What Ifs of our wonderful world!
Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Listening to Self and Others

Many years ago as a seminary candidate, I went through a series of psychological assessments and interviews.  Instead of being intimidated by the process, I was intrigued by the self-learning along the way.

For instance, when I met with the psychologist to review the MMPI results, she astutely noted that I would have problems as an ordained priest!  The issue?  The inventory assessment revealed that I was 99% empathetic!  (For those who know me, this might not come as a surprise!)

The psychologist explained that I might have issues when working with people:  I would vicariously feel the pain and suffering of others.  She cautioned that if I didn't learn coping skills, I would become overwhelmed by other people's tragedies.

Do you see and feel the pain of others?

(Photo Credit:  Muslims Praise New Zealand Prime Minister 
for Her Empathy, Actions after Attack, Washington Daily Report)

I listened to this advice, and spent time in the seminary paying attention to the pastoral care and counseling assignments, the evaluations by supervisors and peers, and any inner language that distracted the counseling relationship.  In addition, I continued to avail myself of the psychiatrists the seminary employed to help talk through my questions and experiences. 

I have found that it's important to have empathy for the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of others, but I also learned the importance of knowing self and balancing the needs of others with my own.

Can you identify violence when focused on self and others?
(Photo Credit:  How 'Hate Speech' is Defined
by Social Media Giants, The Federalist Papers)

A few weeks ago I decided to take a breather from social media.  It was a difficult decision as there are so many positive connections that are made through our smart devices.  I found that my empathy was going unchecked as I read posts or comments that seemed to attack another person or point of view.

The pain I felt for others was becoming extreme - to the point that I was feeling negative towards myself and others.  The attacks became personal!

What impacts you?  How do you impact others?
(Photo Credit:  Making a Positive Impact with your
Non-Profit Social Media Strategy, Mobile Cause

I deleted the Dialogue San Diego Facebook page.  I deactivated my personal Facebook account, and have limited my Messenger contacts and content.  I changed the notifications on most social media accounts.  I have to consciously look for input rather than becoming distracted by the constant alerts signalling that I have new input... something to read, try to understand, and answer.  And, I now turn off my phone at the end of the work day.  If all of this seems draconian, read on!

The results of listening to myself have meant that I have begun to listen anew to others.  Now, I have a more conscious desire to connect... rather than react to the device sounds that I had become accustomed.

My smart device no longer advises me when I am needed.  Rather, I have begun exploring ways to reconnect with those I love and care about... walks, phone calls, lengthier emails, meals together.  The listening is good!  And, the Relationship Reawakened feels smarter than any device so far!  In other words, I have begun reconnecting with Self and Others!

May our hearts, minds, and empathy become balanced this week as we take care of those we love!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)