Sunday, April 25, 2021

Spock, Help Us!

I had tears in my eyes when I listened to the guilty verdicts in Derek Chauvin's trial this past week.  On the television screen were scenes of celebration and sadness, jubilation and tears.  People described being able to breathe again and a hope for healing.  But reality was present as well: wondering about the future, if anything had changed, and questions about systemic racism and injustice.

I wondered what would unlock the centuries of prejudice, biases, and judgements that have locked us in this ongoing struggle.  I wondered, as a white man, how I have added to or benefited from the current systems.

What keys do you need to unlock adversity?

I thought back on my childhood and adulthood.  Life hasn't always been easy.  I have struggled financially and fought to survive... but my skin color or gender has opened doors that others may only dream of.  Where am I blind?  How have my education and experience been one-sided?  Much of what I see is alien to my way of being.

When are you deliberate in creating justice?

Strangely, my mind also turned to Star Trek and Spock, an alien member of a predominantly human crew --  exploring strange new worlds; seeking out new life and new civilizations; boldly going where no one has gone before.  Through ongoing adventures we learn of Spock's credo: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," with Captain Kirk adding, "or the one."

In this moment in our human story:

  • Are we willing to explore the pain and suffering of the many?
  • Can we seek out a new life where all are advantaged?
  • Will we go where no one has gone before: justice and equity for all?

Where do you see connections?

The hope for my life is that I will:

  • Listen... and accept the truth in another person's experience;
  • Ask... when I do not understand; and
  • Connect... becoming one-with-the-many as we journey together.

We are interconnected on this planet and with this planet whether we want to believe it or not.  It is the vessel that carries us among the stars, exploring new life and civilizations among us.  Let us listen, ask, and connect!

May we seek justice and peace this week.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Pools, Oceans, and Marco Polo: What Contains Us?

As the pandemic began last year, our neighbor stopped by to tell us "as a good neighbor" that they would be installing a backyard pool... next to our adjoining property line.  The months of construction and disruptions didn't bother us.  Instead, we were concerned about the pool parties and noise that would follow, breaking the serene atmosphere of our neighborhood.

Trying to stay calm and practice our dialogue skills, we asked how the neighbor would want us to respond when the noise became unreasonable.  Instead of discussing a good neighborly course of action, our question was met with another question, "What... you don't like Marco Polo?"

Was the question a challenge?  A rebuke?  A defended response?  We didn't know how to respond.  Were we being petty?

What boundaries limit you?
(Photo credit:  Swimming Pool, Wikipedia)

Now that the pool is finished, the weather is improving, and the pool gatherings have begun, we are still wondering what to do.  A major investment has been made by our neighbor.  How do we balance that with the 30+ years invested in our own home?

I have been mulling over this experience for several months now:

  • When do my wants and needs outweigh those of family, friends, and colleagues?
  • How do we balance individual desires when we live in a community?
  • What does "being a good neighbor" really mean?

What happens when you are drained?
(Neptune Pool, Hearst Castle)
My SCRs ("socially constructed realities") about individual and societal boundaries are being called into question.  For instance, the phrase "My home is my castle" expresses our desire for shelter and safety, a refuge to solve what is under our control.  But, medieval castles used to be far apart with vast lands to buffer the occupants from the outside world.
Now that our modern castle-homes are feet part -- within short walking distances, I wonder what stops us from having a "good neighborly" chat?

Can the pandemic be blamed?  For a period of time we have been confined, unable to move around freely and explore the world and its oceans of experiences.

Are there ways to explore beyond our limitations?

COVID is not to blame.  When we venture beyond our castle-homes and those pools of safety we have created, we still seek security.  For example, when swimming in the ocean, we stay close to shore.  If we venture farther out, we make sure that life guards, life vests or life rafts are available.  We seek safety, shelter, and comfort.
Maybe it's the danger we perceive and the security we desire.  Maybe we need to stretch our boundaries to see anew.  Maybe our "good neighborly" advice needs to be sprinkled with sharing information, asking for another view, and listening.
Returning to my neighbor's question from last year, the issue may not be whether we like or dislike the game Marco Polo.  Rather, like Marco Polo, maybe we are asked to give clues on where we are so that the other person can find us.

May we consider this week what it means to be an individual in community.  May we honestly explore our self-imposed boundaries and limitations.  May we go beyond our personal safety to provide life-saving devices to our neighbors in need.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Seeing Clearly

Fourth grade... that was the year my teacher noticed I was talking too much to the classmate sitting in the neighboring desk.  Rather than reprimanding me for talking rather than working on our assignment, she asked me why I was talking.  I explained that I couldn't see what she had written on the blackboard.  Asking a question opened the door to seeing clearly:

  • I was sent to the principal's office. (Am I in trouble?)
  • I was given an eye exam. (Why are they checking my eyes?)
  • I began a lifelong journey of optometrist check-ups. (I am nearsighted.)

Why reflect on this fourth grade epiphany and insights?  My glasses were fogging up during last week's Easter service, and I wondered:

When do I not see clearly the mysteries unfolding around me?

When is your vision or understanding clouded?

(Photo credit:  Mask Still Fogging Up Your Glasses?
Try These Tricks, Wexner Medical center, The Ohio State University

The memory of when I put on my first pair of glasses is vivid.  The optometrist was a family friend.  He brought the Army-issued, black-rimmed glasses to my parents' house after work on a Friday evening.  With my parents, brothers, and sisters surrounding me, I tried them on... I looked around the living room... and I was shocked!  THIS is what everyone else is seeing?!
Everything was so clear and in focus!  As a child, I had no reference point to understand that my vision was poor.  I just knew I couldn't see the writing on the blackboard.  It took a teacher who noticed... and who asked a question.

Can multiple views be true?

Wearing my glasses to school on Monday, I looked at the schoolyard and classroom in a new way:  I was caught up by how amazing everything was... and how changed I felt.  By the first recess, though, the teasing and bullying began:  "Four Eyes" became a nickname; friends-turned-bullies tried to knock off the glasses; I felt ashamed at being an outcast.

What became clear:  don't stand out... don't be different.

As I gazed through mask-fogged glasses at the Easter service, I wondered about these childhood lessons.  Warm breath creates unclear images.  Halos appear around people's heads.  What else comes from my mouth that clouds how I see others?  What is true?  What is the mystery to be explored?

What happens when we seek clarity?

Moving outward from these memories, what are the lessons we want to -- or choose to -- learn from this COVID-fogged year:
  • What questions can be asked when we don't see or understand clearly?
  • Have we attached names to people who stand out or respond differently?
  • Do we seek a reference point that brings clarity and appreciation?
Similar to the 9-year old who discovered he wasn't seeing clearly, maybe -- as we discover that multiple views may be true -- we can become excited at the beauty we are now experiencing!

May this week bring focus to what is important to you.  May you try on new perspectives that bring clarity to your life.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Taking Notice

Each of the seasons has its own beauty.  What I notice about Spring, though, are the vibrant colors, life emerging from dormant soil, and a sense of Beginning Anew.  The long, dark days of winter are giving way to light and warmth.

Here in Southern California, though, the changes are more subtle, especially when winter months are milder than normal and Santa Ana wind conditions occur more frequently.  Colors splash the gardens and landscapes throughout the year.

But there is a difference: plants seem to sparkle; the air becomes clearer; and windows are reopened to what the day brings.

What have you noticed today?

It might be in the degree of Noticing, becoming sensitive to the nuances and changes occurring inwardly... and outwardly.

As I was walking with a friend this past week, we were talking about local and national events: COVID vaccinations; moving from more restrictive guidelines to lesser ones; and the ability to begin planning -- cautiously -- for the weeks and months ahead.

Several questions are surfacing from this COVID hibernation:

  • What kind of world are we emerging into?
  • Where will we find normalcy and beauty?
  • Who and what can we trust?

Where is Beauty Emerging?

Walking in the neighborhood, we came across signs that life is returning:  trees and bulbs planted years prior displaying spectacular blossoms, and seeds and seedlings providing new growth unseen.  Some landscapes seem familiar... but I realize, they are not the same as last year:  the trees have grown; the bulbs have split; the new arrivals bring variety.

When have you seen the Light
behind the Beauty?

As we take notice -- inwardly and outwardly -- of our post-COVID surroundings, I wonder what we will find behind our stories of confinement, limitations, and loss?

  • Will we seek the familiar?
  • Will we hold onto the past season?
  • Will we notice Newness Emerging?

My assumption is "Yes" to all of these questions.  What do you think?  Where are you reopening friendships to new discoveries?  How might you share Thoughts Buried?  Is there a way to clear the air between you and a perceived foe?
I would guess that we are not the same people as we were pre-pandemic.  How do we share what we have seen and experienced?  How can we listen and become curious about another person's journey?

My hope is that our Lenten Days will give way to the Easter Season of Hope, that we learn the Passover lessons of our freedom from bondage; and that we experience the Life Emerging... familiar but different.  May we embrace the Light behind our Darkness.


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)