Sunday, February 28, 2021

Listening for Understanding

Another milestone: 500,000.  Not just a number, but people -- family members, friends, neighbors, work colleagues -- no longer blessing us with their presence, stories, jokes, and support.  Watching CNN's memorial service, "We Remember 500,000," I was thinking of the Dialogues Lost: we are no longer able to ask questions or listen to another person's experience of life.  Gone... but the memories.

Whether in May 2020 (100,00) or September (200,000), November (300,000), January 2021 (400,00) or February (500,000), the fabric of our society is being torn asunder.  Pieces of who we are as a nation are being removed from our midst... silently and in isolation.

How do we remember and grieve?
(Photo credit: President Biden Delivers Emotional
Remembrance of 500,000 COVID Victims, Getty Images, NPR

Through prayers, individual stories, and music, we were allowed to remember -- and grieve.  Rather than encouraging action and moving on, we were being asked to slow down, listen, and try to understand the significance of what this past year has wrought on us... as individuals, local communities, a nation, and the world.

One person said that our minds go numb with what is happening: the numbers are too huge to grasp; the grief is too deep.  But remember, we must.

In what ways do we memorialize
lost relationships?
(Liberty Station, San Diego

I wonder if Relationships Lost creates a similar numbness?  Do we retreat into the recesses of our memories, expectations and assumptions, unable to cope under the loss?  How do we memorialize the Time Lost when we move too quickly into action -- and forget to reflect, to seek awareness, and notice other pathways to explore?

What corridors of our memories
are we willing to explore?
(Liberty Station, San Diego)

COVID has reminded me of the Sacredness of Life -- all life: the unborn and the living; those whom I agree with or disagree; people in my inner circle or those beyond that boundary.

In the midst of a number -- 500,000 -- it seems that we continue to look for blame: what should have been done earlier; who is masking or not; who are being vaccinated or not; what political party has the answers or not...

I wonder, wouldn't it be easier if we:

  • Slowed down;
  • Reflected on the losses; and
  •  Listened for understanding? 

As we move through our numbness and grief, may we seek peace in these losses... and hope in what we have gained.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)



Sunday, February 21, 2021

What is PC anyway?

During the 2016 presidential primaries, I noticed that politicians decried others as being "PC" (politically correct).  In recent years the struggle focuses on the "Cancel Culture."  I find the languaging and labeling of opposing views disturbing.  Where is there an attempt to bring people together?  Rather, the words or labels become ideological wedges that are used to separate.

With this in mind I sought refuge in the daily Dear Abby column and the Letters to the Editor.  Though these forums do not offer in-person conversations, we catch glimpses of people's points of view and struggles faced.

Jeanne Phillips ("Dear Abby") shared two lessons she learned from her mother, Pauline:

  • When we aren't sure, ask the other person, and
  • Always err on the side of respect.

Is it as simple as asking and showing respect?

When have you witnessed respect shown to others?

I was thinking of this as I stood in line for my second COVID shot.  Having qualified by age and health history, I was fortunate to be there.  People were social distancing, wearing masks, listening and following the directions of the volunteers helping us.  Are we being PC?  Showing respect?  Individually staying separate in order to keep all of us together and healthy?

How then are we called to respond to people who have other viewpoints?  With labels like anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers?  Or respectfully asking to understand their beliefs and conclusions?

What happens when we all become blind?
(Photo credit: An Eye For An Eye...)

Reverend Lawson paraphrased a quote normally attributed to Mahatma Gandhi by saying: "An eye for an eye... just increases blindness."  Unlike the Cancel Culture label that negatively focuses on the "mob mentality of erasing history," I wonder if Gandhi and Lawson saw that blindness occurs when we seek vengeance and not the truth that must be heard.

Asking and showing respect seem to be at the core of understanding another person, not labeling and pushing aside.

How might we err on the side of respect?

We have eyes so that we can see; ears so we can hear; brains to think and reason... and hearts to feel compassion and empathy.  What would happen if we sought, heard, understood, and felt the pains, sorrows, joys and triumphs of others?  Maybe we could stay in relationship, see what creative solutions arise, and allow the tensions between us to cancel the political cultures that separate and divide us.

As Dear Abby suggests: let us ask the other person what we are unsure of, and err on the side of respect!

Peace and good health to you and your loved ones!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Wonder of Knowing

Listening to this week's Impeachment Trial I am struck by how little of the story I know fully, am willing to hear, and want to believe.  Watching the replays of the January 6th U.S. Capitol riot were painful, reliving those moments of reality and shock:  This is America today?  This is US?

In a way it was a relief to have the wound open, to actually see how deep our divisions are.  But what next?

I wonder:

  • Is there a desire to heal?
  • Are we willing to talk through what happened?
  • Can we sit and notice the pain and unbelief, directions that are not yet clear?

Are there times when your thoughts are cloudy?


Like many of the Senators, though, our minds seem made up.  We leave the room.  We doodle.  We check our texts.  We see through our individual or group-identified filters, assumptions, and conclusions about The Other, not willing to consider another story.
I wonder:
  • Am I willing to sit in my discomfort and listen?
  • Are the transgressions so vast that I cannot take one step closer to you?
  • Can I choose to look through other windows when mine become dirty or cloudy?

What filters keep you from seeing clearly?

It is true:  each of us must rely on the moral compass or value system that guides us.  But the challenge, I believe, is whether that compass or system excludes other meanings and conclusions.  There may be boundaries we deice not to cross... but does that mean we cannot try to understand what happened?
I wonder: 
  • Has there been a time in my life when I was ALWAYS right?
  • When have I ALWAYS known what to do?
  • Do I ALWAYS see clearly the decisions I make... and their impact on you? 

When can you be your Authentic Self?
(Photo credit:  Twins are Becoming Less Common
in U.S., for Good Reasons, MedicineNet
As we sit and notice the discomfort or shock in various parts of our lives, maybe the invitation is to WONDER:  to ask questions of ourselves and others; to listen and apply what we understand to the moral compass and value system; and to consider whether ALWAYS is the best way of knowing the truth.
Maybe the Wonder of Knowing is in the discovery of who we really are:
  • People who want the best for self and others.
  • People who cause pain to self and others.
  • People who need forgiveness and healing.
May we seek to know and be known as we truly are!  May we wonder!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Missing Pieces, Missing Memories

COVID projects!  I am sure you've had your share of them this past year: cleaning out closets, garages, and storage units; unending "Spring Cleaning"; reorganizing and simplifying.  Going through picture albums and deciding which photos to scan in and which ones to discard is one of my ongoing projects.  It's amazing how many people or trips I no longer remember details... names, how we met, why that travel shot was so important at the time.

I have access to or kept cards and photos that were unique and have shaped who I am.

What has shaped you?

The interesting thing about cleaning out and simplifying are the Emotions of Remembrance: who we were; what influenced us; how we lived... in another time and place.  What shall I let go?  What shall I carry on?

It seems that as I remember, I also notice how much I don't remember.  There are missing pieces in my Life Story:

  • Was I too young to know the significance of what was being said?
  • Did I not have a context to understand?
  • Why didn't I ask questions?

Missing pieces.  Missing memories.

What is missing in your life?

As I stumble through my dialogue practice, I am reminded over and over again how critical it is to develop and nurture Curiosity, the desire to learn and know about anything.  The skill of being inquisitive.
My grandparents and parents have passed from this life.  The stories that made them unique can no longer be told in their own voices -- what they experienced and understood to be true.  Fortunately, I still have brothers and sisters.  I am sure each has their own memories of Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, and Dad... from their own perspectives.  I must remember that each of their experiences is individual, rare, and true.

When is it time to listen?
(Photo Credit:  The Simple Guide to Caring
for Elderly People, Huffpost

I am thankful for memories as I decide what to digitize, what to remember, and what to let go.  I now realize how important it is to pay attention to those around me.  Can I ask -- and pay attention -- to the stories that have shaped other people's Ways of Being in this world?
Maybe one lesson for our divided world is how we might want to come together -- with a desire to listen, ask questions, and hope to understand what missing pieces another person holds.  Only when we share these lessons can we put together who we were, who we are, and who we want to become.

As we feel the loss of missing memories, may we reach out to others and practice ways to become curious.  May we seek to hear and remember.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)