Saturday, December 25, 2021

Peace and Goodwill to All

Traveling during the holidays sheds a different light on how people celebrate the December holy days and holidays.  I have found that many countries, cultures, families, and individuals have similar traditions... but with a personal twist that has been passed down and altered.

Most people recognize the Man-in-Red whether he is called Santa Claus or Father Christmas (English, American), Kris Kringle (American), Père Noël (French: Father Christmas), Papa Noel (Spanish: Father Christmas), Babbo Natale (Italian: Daddy Christmas), Weihnachtsmann (German: Christmas Man), Ded Moroz (Russian: Grandfather Frost), or Święty Mikołaj (Polish: St. Nicholas).

Last year during the pandemic, I came across a San Diego version:  Santa Claus on a paddle board!

How do you experience the holidays?
(Photo:  Mission Bay, San Diego - 2020)

We see decorated trees, manger scenes, and lights brightening the darkness.  Christmas or holiday music plays nonstop reminding us of religious beliefs and memories of Christmases Past.  I have experienced Christmas in the dark winter months (northern hemisphere) and the long, bright evenings of summer months (southern hemisphere).

The spirit of Christmas permeates many of the countries throughout the world.

What brightens your life?
(Photo:  Fed Square, Melbourne Australia - 2018)

Our beliefs and symbols may come in contact and in conflict with others.  For instance, I have heard some people reacting strongly when they see the word Xmas -- assuming that X is replacing Christ.  "Keep Christ in Christmas" becomes the rallying cry!  This is where we might stop, ask questions, and listen to what is in another person's heart and understanding.

In the early days of the Christian church, the letter X (Greek letter for Chi) was used as a secret symbol by Christians.  It was the first letter of the Greek word, Christ, and was used to identify believers.  Knowing the Greek meaning of X allows us to understand that Xmas and Christmas are synonymous:  we are each pointing to the Christ Mass celebrated.

How do you balance your beliefs and symbols?
(Photo: The Malecon, Ensenada - 2017)

Therefore, knowing the similarities and differences in our beliefs and symbols allows us time to reflect on our cultural or familial celebrations.  Replacing judgment with curiosity invites us to see where we feel at home... or where we might be uncomfortable.  The important question when we are ill-at-ease:  Why?

Where do you feel at home?
(Photo: Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Puerto Vallarta - 2019)

These December holy days and holidays require one thing of us:  we are invited to see and celebrate the humanity that is gifted in each person we encounter.

May this holy season bring a Pause into our lives.  May we embrace the exhortation:  "Peace and Goodwill to All!"

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)



Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Ups and Downs of Language

Language has always fascinated me:  humanity's desire to label objects and thoughts -- often abstract ideas -- to communicate with others.  I have often wondered:  Who came up with that word?  Why is that object named...?  How is it possible that we understand one another?

I am also intrigued by people who study the origin and history of words (etymologists).  Being able to listen to a word and know what words have the same roots (like author and authority or expert and experience), and which languages influenced the development of these words... all in the interest of communicating, connecting, and conveying ideas as our knowledge expanded.

Sometimes I am aware of being on autopilot, though, when speaking to some people:  rather than approaching each encounter as a sacred event of Connection and Creation, I often experience only hot air (emptiness, exaggeration, or pretentiousness).

What effort do you make in the words you choose?

The ups and downs of our communication are further complicated by the foreign languages that we speak: our natural or native tongue from our family upbringing might be misunderstood when traveling beyond our familial boundaries.

A friend of mine served two years in Turkey with the Peace Corps.  He has many stories of teaching English and learning Turkish.  As he was sharing with me simple words like Yes (Evet) and No (Hayir), I noticed my mind recalling a hot air balloon trip I took many years ago.  The pilot would ask if we wanted to go higher.  For me, it would have been easy to respond to this English question with a Yes or No.  I wondered what the pilot would have done if a Turkish passenger had said Hayir (which, in English, sounds like higher... but in Turkish means no)?!

Can you rise above disagreements
and misunderstandings?

As we experience the ups and downs of language, I wonder if we take the time to:

  • Clarify what we have heard;
  • Share our understanding of what was said or what we interpreted; and
  • Be willing to adjust our knee-jerk reactions or thought-out responses to the new information shared?

After all, you might be having a good time and wanting to go to the next level whereas my experience might be the opposite:  I might need the situation to gently slow down, get to ground level, before I can move on.  Being on autopilot risks our ability to navigate the currents that direct where our relationships go.

How might we navigate the currents
of different languages and ideas?

The wonder of hot air ballooning is the realization of how quiet it is to float above the noise and chaos on the ground.  When the fire burner is not heating the air, silence and tranquility settles in.  But, as the balloon floats over populated areas, the balloon focuses and amplifies the sounds below:  it is easy to hear a person talking hundreds of feet below!
A lesson in communication and dialogue:  the ability to float above the noise and confusion AND to focus on what is being said!
May we learn to center our attention this week on the words people choose.  May we listen to what is being shared and not shared.  May we seek to amplify a sense of understanding.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Portraits: What is Missing?

I enjoy viewing the public artwork in my city and while traveling.  To display creativity and beauty invites or encourages us to do the same: be creative in our thoughts; search for beauty in others.  We try to connect, to recognize something familiar.

While on a recent trip, I was stopped by several forms of artwork: pieces of tile arranged to reveal a Dutch nobleman; people dressed in black and red to silhouette the face of Marilyn Monroe; and a figure seated in a Sukhasana pose.

What makes up who we are?

Each of these art objects draw upon individuals (tiles, people, strips of metal) to form the whole.  Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, a missing piece would cause the image to be unfinished, incomplete, not whole. Remember what it was like to get to the end of the puzzle and discover one piece was missing?!

Is that what it is like when a loved one dies, moves away, or leaves us when there is a disagreement?  We feel separated, unfinished, incomplete, not whole.

Can we look beyond our first impressions?
(See what makes up the black and red marks,
click on image to enlarge)

I wonder if that is also true when we do not explore our assumptions about others, our conclusions about their intentions, or how we no longer see how they have changed?  We remain unfinished, incomplete, not whole.

If we focus only on the individual tiles or people in the Dutchman and Marilyn portraits, we lose the ability to see the image that is created when we come together.  Or, maybe we are locked inside the shell of what we believe: a hollow cavern that imprisons us by our thoughts.

Is there more to us than our outer shell?

This doesn't mean that we must give up our values and what is important to us.  Instead, we are invited to share what makes us unique -- while at the same time, listen and accept what is important and unique about the other person.  What binds us together is the Spirit that created and infused us with beauty.  Our goal is to seek the Both-And of the unique individuals we are and the beauty created when we come together.

May we seek out what or who is missing is our lives and learn to cherish our ability to see the whole.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Building Perspectives

Downtown San Diego is going through another transformation: a section of North Harbor Drive has become an eight-block construction zone.  Seven major buildings are in various stages of development: the WWII-era Naval Supply Depot was demolished, giving way to a sleek 17-story NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center San Diego, a research and development district (RaDD), and a bayside park.  Over the next decade Seaport Village will be replaced by shops, hotels, a hostel, an aquarium, and an observation tower.

I have mixed feelings about this new growth: excitement and wonder watching earth being moved and foundations laid; sorrow and loss watching the past being torn down.

What foundations are you laying for the future?
(Photo: RaDD, San Diego)

As I sit with these competing emotions, I have been reflecting on life in general:

  • How often do I hold onto past constructs and beliefs?
  • What causes me to eventually accept new ideas and insights?
  • Is there a way to honor both old and new as life changes?

Life provides many experiences where foundations are shaken or strengthened.  How do I adapt and stay relevant in our emerging world?

When do you work together for the common good?
(Photo:  RaDD, San Diego)

Standing in a safe viewing zone surrounded by various stages of development, I observe dirt being moved, surveyors marking the site, foundations being laid, and workers coordinating their activities around common tasks.  Human ingenuity and cooperation envision skyscrapers rising from these holes.
Years of planning, discussion, lawsuits and decisions brought about this day where people can work together to move from past to future.

Can you see new horizons rising?
(Photo: RaDD, San Diego)

Aren't relationships and dialogue like that:
  • Moving from the past to the present, laying foundations for the future?
  • Listening, agreeing, disagreeing, and arriving at common understandings?
  •  Eventually working together to rebuild ways to rise above the holes in our individual characters?
As we move through these final days of 2021, I wonder what must be removed to create space for 2022?  Where can we imagine ways to work together?  How might we hold lightly the past and present as we adapt to a common future?

May we seek perspectives and horizons to help us rise above our pasts!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)