Saturday, November 26, 2022

Who We Are Becoming

Each of us is formed by family and cultural traditions, national identity and holiday celebrations, education, religious beliefs, and factors that present themselves in our separate timelines.  We live our individual lives... with many similarities... but with just as many differences... as those around us.

When major events happen, our memories are galvanized around those events:  Do you remember when humans first landed on the moon?  What were you doing when you heard the news that Princess Diana had died?  Did you see the World Trade Center's Twin Towers collapse?

What memories are impressed on who you are?
(Photo: 9-11 Memorial, New York City - Larry Gardepie)

Each generation has its own defining moments: the Great Depression of the 1930s, Pearl Harbor in 1941, World Wars I and II, the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert Kennedy in the 1960s...  We are shaped by and identify with many events.

These thoughts were going through my mind as I stood at the 9-11 Memorial in New York City:  the footprint of the two towers defined by the names of world citizens who died that late summer morning over twenty years ago, the sound of water falling into these acre-sized Monuments to Time.

Are there symbols of who you want to become?
(Photo:  Liberty at Sunset - Larry Gardepie)

I wondered about other Footprints Impressed on each of our lives as we try to understand the diversity and common unity of being human:  what we share; what binds us together; and what separates us.  At times we need national or universal symbols or leaders who point the way to our "better angels" as Abraham Lincoln described in his first inaugural address in 1861.

Symbols that remind us of the freedom to choose, to accept, and to support.

What illuminates your life?
(Photo:  New York City at Sunset - Larry Gardepie)

As I reflect on who I am as a person and who we are as a nation, I wonder where we are headed... in essence, Who are We Becoming?  We can remain on autopilot and follow the direction from others or we can choose to participate in this Action of Becoming:

  • Do I choose to be generous with my time and resources in helping others?
  • Can I illuminate the dark or unknown paths by sharing what I know?
  • Will I listen to other perspectives and engage in curious inquiry?

As we answer these individual and communal questions:

  • May we recognize the footprints of family and friends in our lives.
  • May we understand the impressions we make on others.
  • May we choose to become the Better Angels of our time.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, November 19, 2022

That's Not Me

Have you ever looked in the mirror and not recognized yourself?  What do you say?  For example:  I feel young inside but there is now an "older man" looking back at me!  I think, "Is that really me?"

These past few years I have seen my Dad and my brother in the mirror -- facial expressions, mannerisms, smiles, a twinkle in the eye... all reflections of me and others.  But, is that really me?

What is hidden behind what you see?
(Photo:  "Do Not Go Beyond Guardrail" sign,
Kauai, Hawaii - Larry Gardepie)

I might accept that I am getting older and acknowledge a family resemblance, but recently I had a different experience with the mirror:  my dermatologist had me apply a cream that burned the pre-cancerous cells on my face and scalp.  The first few days were like a bad sunburn:  the face peering back from the mirror was still me but was red and sensitive to the touch.

A week later sores and blotches covered most of my face.  Inwardly, I still felt the same person but outwardly I couldn't recognize myself.  I thought, "That's not me!"  It was the mirror's reflection that reminded me of the changes that had occurred in the past few weeks: the outward changes were due to the cream that I was applying... but was I the same person inwardly?  Had I changed in how I viewed myself?

Do you believe everything that people say about you?
(Photo:  Bubble Gum Alley,
San Luis Obispo, California - Larry Gardepie)

I attended several Zoom sessions and public events during these "face peeling" weeks.  Except for the burning and itching, I could overlook what I looked like... after all, I still felt the same inside.  But people would ask:  "Are you okay?", "What happened?", and "Is the situation serious?"

I began reflecting on the images we take on... self-imposed or other-imposed:

  • How do I define myself?
  • What do I accept from others?
  • Do I see only "skin deep" or am I willing to look more closely at who people really are?

What distorts the beauty that is present?
(Photo:  Honolulu skyline - Larry Gardepie)

What have I learned from this "face peeling" treatment?  I am more aware of perceptions, opinions, and outlook.  I notice the difference between superficial aspects of my life and core beliefs and values.  I am grateful for friends who mirror or reflect back theories that I espouse but may not live fully.
And finally, accepting treatments to heal cancerous aspects of our lives is a good thing -- even when there is sensitivity and pain: that is, removing what distorts our inner beauty allows us to engage more fully with those around us.

May we recognize this week the "That's Not Me" moments as we accept the "This is Me" in Self and Others.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)


Saturday, November 12, 2022

What Must We Leave Behind?

Immigration -- legal and illegal -- is a political "hot potato" that has been discussed -- or rather, argued about -- for most of my adult life.  I don't know if there are any easy solutions, especially as more people are suffering from drought conditions, natural disasters and violence.  Our reasoning and language seems to center on definitions of We-They, feeling safe or not, and the Unknown brought into our planned lives.

Religion and Politics -- those two topics we are told not to discuss! -- intersect as people grapple with what it means to be human and protecting national identity.

What can you not leave behind?
(Photo:  What We Bring, Ellis Island
- Larry Gardepie)

These thoughts were going through my mind as I walked among the exhibits on Ellis Island recently.  One room displayed clothes, jewelry, family heirlooms and religious objects brought from the lives being left behind.  It was interesting to learn that most steerage class immigrants could only bring one bag or suitcase with them to the New World... and yet these were the items they could not leave behind.

Another room showcased paper money and coins that were exchanged for the legal tender of this new country they wanted to call Home.

Objects attached to family and faith.  Objects of necessity and the future.

What are you willing to exchange?
(Photo: What We Leave Behind, Ellis Island
- Larry Gardepie)

Some walls had photographs of family members left behind or the family that became U.S. citizens.  As immigration moved from a Topic Argued to Stories Enlivened ("lived in") of hopes and dreams or rejection and loss, I noticed that our shared human story of Becoming Better and Wanting Good for our families took root in my hardened heart.  My views began to soften.

I wonder if part of our struggles with immigration are the questions that are required of us:

  • How do we define who is "foreign" and who "belongs"?
  • What will become of me and my family when Others are introduced?
  • Will I have to change in order to accept?

Who are you becoming?
(Photo: This is Who We Become, Ellis Island - Larry Gardepie)

Dialogue requires us to risk... letting go.... leaving behind... and dreaming together of a New World... of understanding... acceptance... and beginnings.
Yes, we can hold onto what is important to us -- but risk requires us to talk about and display those objects we consider important.  As people become aware of what is of value to Self and Other, dialogue then invites us to listen and consider another way of thinking.  Finally, landing in this new world of listening, considering, and thinking anew asks us to exchange what is necessary to move forward in this new life together.
Walking through Ellis Island allowed me to understand the connection we have with individual family stories and the common nature of humanity:  the universal Need to Belong.
May this week open us to conversations that migrate us from older understandings and beliefs to a new world of hopes and dreams to explore.... together.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, November 5, 2022

System Update: The Message

Monday morning... and the messages began to arrive:  each of my "smart devices" had to be updated; new security settings needed to be installed.  Agh!  There go my plans for the day!  I felt out of control as I heeded the warnings and downloaded and installed new software on my iPhone, iMac, Apple Watch, and MacBook.

Maybe the message today was meant to awaken me to my dependence on devices -- which were meant to make life easier!

What beacon of hope do you have?
(Photo: Statue of Liberty, morning
light - Larry Gardepie)

Throughout the morning, as I struggled to update and test my systems -- which then meant that other applications also needed to be updated and tested! -- memories from my recent vacation surfaced:

  • The days at sea where I could relax and be disconnected;
  • Entering New York harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty at daybreak;
  • Encountering immigrant stories at Ellis island.

Each of these events and memories allowed me to update my personal messages and socially constructed realities (SCRs) about relaxation, freedom, and arrival.

Where are you challenged and evaluated?
(Photo: Ellis Island - Larry Gardepie)

For instance, as our ship passed Liberty Island in the early morning darkness, the Statue that symbolizes freedom and a new life for so many people rose through the morning mists.  Hundreds of people on the ship's bow became silent, a sacred moment of hopes and dreams descended on us.
Later in the day some of us toured Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of steerage class immigrants to their American dream.  In a few minutes their hopes of becoming Americans would be realized or dashed.

My thoughts about immigration, freedom and justice were challenged on this tour.  Up to 5,000 people were processed each day, and in a six-second evaluation people were categorized as fit to become an American -- or not.  I wondered how many seconds it takes me to pass judgment on another person?

When were you not accepted?
(Photo credit:  Ellis Island, Registry Room
- Ellis Island Foundation)

As I downloaded, installed and tested the new features on my smart devices, I began to consider personal updates that needed to be tested in my life:
  • When do I feel safe to share my thoughts?
  • What dreams are dashed by another person's opinions?
  • How might I slow down my judgments about other people?

Each day introduces us to messages that test our plans and belief systems:  what we want to accomplish; how we approach others that day; adjusting what is important.

May we look forward to the updates that help us this week to change our perspectives.


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)