Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Distance between Knowledge and Ignorance

I remember the wonder of discovery as I was growing up: watching insects inch along the sidewalk; clouds floating across the sky; raindrops ripple the surface of a puddle.  Each encounter with the world expanded my knowledge and understanding of my surroundings.

Growing up in a family with six children provided other opportunities to learn: how to interact; how to give and take; how to share and hold onto.  Formal education expanded the dimensions of what could be learned: reading, writing, math, sciences, health and safety, history and geography, and civics.  Attendance, participation, and conduct seemed as important as the academic subjects. 

Grades measured our progress with the goal of advancing to the next class level.  Our accomplishments followed us:  shaping how others thoughts of us... or how we saw ourselves.

What do you see in retrospect?
(Seattle skyline)

Throughout these stages of self-discovery and with the understanding of the world I played and worked in, I have been nagged by what I know... and don't know.  Early on, as information was being poured into my brain, I sensed that there was so much more to learn.  As I moved from elementary school to high school and then on to college, my confidence grew about how much I knew!

The shift from the earlier excitement of exploration to attaining knowledge was subtle: the thirst to learn was ever-present but head knowledge often overshadowed the wonder of heart and soul.  Grades became the measurement; self-image became the container, shelves stacked with self-importance because of what I knew.

What do you know for certain?
(Miniature library, artwork on Nieuw Amsterdam)

Albert Einstein once said: "The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know."  What an interesting -- and humbling -- reflection from a person regarded as exceptionally smart!

The study and practice of dialogue challenges me reclaim our childhood curiosity:

  • To look and learn
  • To wonder and connect
  • To stand in awe at beauty and mystery

When do you see clearly?
(Stephens Passage, Juneau, Alaska)

Maybe the knowledge we have gained from family, friends, and education is not the endpoint.  Rather, they are stepping stones between ignorance and knowledge and back to ignorance.  The movement and rhythm of Humble Inquiry into the unknown.

Our world is vast.  Peoples and cultures are complex.  Our insights and understandings are limitless.  I wonder if we are called not towards certainty but towards Unfolding Truth who invites us into continual discovery?  I wonder if attendance, participation, and how we conduct ourselves are actually more important than the knowledge gained?

May we look beyond the portals of our understanding and seek what we don't understand.  May we look beyond our head knowledge and become more open to heart knowledge and compassion.  May we embrace the Ignorance of Not Knowing and invite curiosity back into our lives.


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)



Saturday, August 21, 2021

Do I Really Hear You?

After last week's reflections on whether I actually see -- and respect -- others, I began wondering about what I hear:

  • Do I hear only what I want to hear? -- or --
  • Am I truly open to hearing -- and listening -- to other points of view?

Yes, I admit, there are times when the volume of arguments is so loud and deafening that I close down, walk out of the room, and protect myself.  Also, there are times when I just don't want to listen.  Or I convince myself that I don't have the time or energy to engage an opposing insight.

I wonder what percentage of time I actually listen to and try to understand others?

What causes you to close down?
(Photo credit:  17 Reasons People
Aren't Listening to You,

Studies show that humans have a remarkable capacity to filter out and focus on specific sounds and stimuli.  We also can justify and rationalize any kind of response and behavior.  The diversity of thoughts and opinions almost seems infinite as we think or feel through very complex situations.  If we have the capacity to filter out or close down, I assume that we also can focus in and open up!

What happens, though, when we treat our thoughts, opinions, and conclusions as fact?  When we don't want to explore the facts of a situation?

Are there distractions that keep you from hearing?
(Photo credit:  Where Music and Empathy
Converge in the Brain, Mind & Body

A few definitions to consider before continuing:
  • Beliefs or judgments that rest on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.
  • Personal views, attitudes, or appraisals. 
  • Something that actually exists; reality; truth.
  • Something known to exist or to have happened.

How can we open ourselves to listen with intention?
(Photo credit:  Chinese Listening Practice -
Why and How to Get Started, FluentU

Dialogue requires us to differentiate between opinions being shared and facts or truths that exist.  Being able to listen -- and ask -- about the certainty of concepts or thoughts we express allows us to come to a shared understanding:
  • Ah... this is your opinion.
  • Oh... that is a fact.
  • I wonder... what do we (together) know for certain versus what you or I (individuals) believe?
Seeing and hearing invites us into Sacred Respect.  We may not agree, but...
  • Are we willing to stay in relationship?
  • Can we consider another viewpoint?
  • Is it possible that other opinions or conclusions have validity?
Maybe respect is the key to unlocking how we live together: seeing and hearing the Sacred Worth and Value of each person.
What do you think?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Do I Really See You?

Vacations are interesting phenomena: we invest energy and thought when taking time away from normal routines.  We may find ourselves on a Staycation; visiting family and friends; returning to places we have enjoyed earlier; or explore new sites, sounds, and cultures.  Whatever we do, there is a decision to take time off and try something different.

I was reflecting on this need to "vacation" -- to be unoccupied, to vacate, to escape, to explore, to rest -- as I embarked on a 7-day Alaskan cruise.  Deciding where to go was exciting.  Making plans on what to see was fun.  Considering the health precautions and risks brought uncertainty and caution.  Packing before and unpacking after the trip was a chore.

The actions of planning and preparing in order to relax and enjoy were stretching the experience of seeing anew.

What do you choose to see?
(Photo credit:  Peek-a-Boo is So Much More
Than Baby Giggles, Peek-a-Boost Play

These thoughts ruminated as the ship's crew openly welcomed us onboard: for months this pandemic had ravaged the travel industry and their livelihoods.  Now, they were overjoyed to see us!

In Dialogue: The Art of Listening Together, William Isaacs describes the respect and recognition conveyed in the Zulu greeting, Sawubona (I see you):

“At its core, the act of respect invites us to see others as legitimate. We may not like what they do or say or think, but we cannot deny their legitimacy as beings. In Zulu, a South African language, the word Sawubona is spoken when people greet one another and when they depart.  It means “I see you.” To the Zulus, being seen has more meaning than in Western cultures. It means that the person is in some real way brought more fully into existence by virtue of the fact that they are seen. As in most indigenous cultures, the memory of a sense of participation in nature has not been completely lost. To say “I see you” is to sustain you in this world.”

 That sense of seeing and respecting the other person as legitimate is core to dialogue.

Can you see the light hidden within the other person?

Prior to the cruise, we were notified that:

  • People had to be fully vaccinated 14-days prior to embarkation;
  • Due to the Delta variant surge, masks were required in public areas (e.g., elevators, shops, entertainment venues, casino, etc.).

Though we were vacating and getting away from our normal routines, we brought our pre-vacation thinking with us:

  • I have freedom to choose.
  • Others cannot tell me what to do.
  • You have to deal with me when I don't follow the stated requirements.

What are our challenges, then, in this politically diverse and pandemic-separated world?  How do we respect and see others as legitimate when I cannot vacate my thoughts or conclusions about you?

Is your focus on the clouds or the sun?

Navigating a dysfunctional world is sometimes like cruising through turbulent waters:  we have a choice when to go directly through the oncoming waves and when to change course and run parallel with the swells.  The oncoming waves will cause pitching and rolling; the parallel waves may cause us to travel a little longer as we decide when the conflict has lessened.

To really see another person, then, we may need to see beyond the actions... focusing on respect and legitimacy that is so often hidden.  We may need to travel a little longer to understand the actions and conflicts in a new light.

The challenge may be as simple as: I see you.  I respect you.  You are legitimate.  Now, let's try to understand the actions that cause us to pitch and roll with discomfort.

May we learn to bring others more fully into existence this week by sharing the Zulu greeting of Sawubona... I see you!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, August 7, 2021

What is the Question?

Have you ever counted the number of questions you ask each day?  I started... one day... then noticed I got bored and moved on.  I kept waiting for a question to arise, but became distracted with work, projects, and searching the web.  Maybe that individual mining of information on the internet is where my inquisitiveness is directed these days.

But, do you remember:

  • The spontaneous inquisitiveness of a 3 year old?
  • The adage, "There's no such thing as a stupid question"?
  •  The game, "20 Questions"?

It seems that curiosity and questions were social activities:  discovering the world by asking one another what we thought or were thinking and feeling.

How many questions do you ask a day?
(Photo credit:  Asking Questions is Really Hard,
Huffpost - The Blog

There are moments in life when we are left with questions... that are meant to be asked.... that may not have answers.  I wonder why we don't ask them?  Are we afraid of the answers?  The interaction?  The unknowing?

I read in a dialogue book recently that 40% of questions are actually statements in disguise and another 40% are judgments in disguise.  That leaves about 20% of our questions that truly spring from curiosity... where we are seeking to understand... that allow new information to be shared.

Are you curious about what others think?
(Photo credit: The Value of Listening,
Harvard Graduate School of Education

Rather than counting how many questions I ask each day, maybe my focus should be on what generated the question:  sharing my view (a statement); projecting conclusions (judging); or exploration (curiosity).  It seems that the gift of discovery is what prompts a 3-year old's mind... that invites questions of the unknown... and allows us to engage together in a game of Question-Asking.

Just think of the societal transformation if we could relegate our statements and judgments into Advocacy (this is what I believe) and reserve the purity of our questions to genuine Inquiry (What do you think?... I really want to know about... Will you help me?).

Do your questions allow new ideas to
emerge from old thoughts?
(Photo: US Naval Military Sealift, San Diego)

By dismantling older ways of thinking and being, we might be able to experience the emergence of new information and knowledge.

Yes, the focus is on the types of questions we ask, but more importantly, I believe, is the relationship that spawns from these questions.  Are we willing to seek answers together rather than individual searches of the internet that lock us into our isolation?

Let us consider:

  • What is the question?
  • Am I curious about new information?
  • Can I invite you into a relationship of discovery?

What do you think?


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)