Saturday, February 25, 2023

Labeling By Surprise

Have you ever paid attention to the various labels used every day?  I guess at a basic level we are trying to describe what we are seeing and experiencing.  But, I wonder, how often we use words to box people in... to limit or bias the story-telling... to hurt or distance ourselves from others?

It's an eye-opening exercise to notice the labels you might use regularly or the ones you hear between family, friends or work colleagues:  male, female or non-binary; married, single or divorced; black, white, or BIPOC; straight or LGBTQIA+; energetic or lazy; trusted or shady...

The list goes on and on as we try to understand our world and convey thoughts and ideas to another person.

How do you see and describe your world?
(Photo credit: The Harmful Effects of Labeling People
(Ourselves and Others), Plus Finding Hope for the Future

- Leigh Aguirre, Registered Nurse at UCHealth)

I realize that even raising this to our consciousness might be labeled as Woke by some people... which raises more questions about what "woke culture" is and why it has been given a certain framework.  Words and actions are the ways that we communicate our thoughts and feelings to another person:  individuals trying to understand.

As an introvert, my thoughts are often jumbled or half-cooked when I decide to share ideas. Conveying intangible ideas by using language is almost like capturing smoke... as the smoke disappears!

Are we surprised by what we see or hear?
(Photo credit: Is a Surprise More Enjoyable
for the Receiver or the Giver?

- Nici Lucas, The Days of Gifts)

A dialogue practitioner mentioned to me recently her intention to "Keep space to be surprised."  That is, rather than becoming stuck on a word or label used by someone else, her hope is to become more curious, asking questions, and trying to understand the thought behind the word or label.

Rather than remaining on the surface level with the label, it may be more important to understand more deeply what the person is seeing and trying to convey.  Oftentimes, a label can be -- or is -- used to distract or separate us.  Questions and curiosity can focus and draw us together.

How can we bridge what divides us?
(Photo credit: Togetherness without being Together
- Abhineet Mittal)

Surprise might be the key to understanding the intangibles that we cannot see:

  • What does that word or label mean?
  • How is it being used?
  • Why is this important to the other person?

Also, we may be surprised by what we discover when we ask questions, listen, and allow intangible ideas to transform into tangible actions of understanding.

May we be surprised this week when the smoke clears and our intentions are revealed.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Step By Step

Traversing the Panama Canal by water is an all-day event.  First, the ship must have a reservation (date and time) to enter the canal zone.  Second, as you approach the southern locks on the Pacific side or the northern locks on the Atlantic/Caribbean side, the captain and crew are directed by pilots and canal workers to the correct locks.  Third, tugboats (for the new locks) or "mules" (locomotives for the older locks) secure and guide the ship through the three chambers that raise you a total of 85 feet to the level of Gatun Lake (going into the canal) or lower you 85 feet (leaving the canal).  The lake -- created over 100 years ago and renewed each year with torrential rainfall -- powers the canal system and allows passage over the Continental Divide.

It's a day of Steps Choreographed for safe passage, and as a tourist on a cruise ship, I am in awe at human ingenuity that envisioned a way to slice off almost 8,000 miles on a sailing from New York City to San Francisco.

Who has mentored or guided you?
(Photo: moving into 1st chamber of Agua Clara locks,
Panama Canal - Larry Gardepie)

Between 40-45 vessels a day use this 50-mile canal to get products to various parts of the world... that's 14,600 to 16,425 a year!  In fact, the Panama Canal is the most traveled canal in the world... and a wonder of this modern world!

Why am I using the Canal in a dialogue-focused blog?  I had a lot of time to think while walking around the ship: noticing how the ship and land crews communicated; observing the tugboat guide the ship and hold us in place as tons of water rushed into or out of the chambers; and moving to different vantage points to witness this event.

How do you address unequal dynamics?
(Photo: water in the 1st and 2nd chambers equalizing,
Agua Clara locks, Panama Canal - Larry Gardepie)

In many ways, practicing dialogue is similar:

  • Step-by-step moving into new or familiar relationships;
  • Noticing what is important as people guide us with their words and actions;
  • Observing when we feel safe -- or not safe -- as we negotiate equal -- or unequal -- power dynamics; and,
  • Moving physically or evolving mentally to see different points of view.
Also, we cannot expect a closer or more intimate relationship until the doors are opened and we are invited in.

Do you wait for opportunities to open up?
(Photo: moving into 2nd chamber of Agua Clara locks,
Panama Canal - Larry Gardepie)

I would suggest that dialogue is awe-inspiring as well: that is, when we approach another person with respect,
take a Long Loving Look at the Real, and acknowledge that person's Sacred Worth and Value, we are ready to remove months of misunderstanding and mistrust.  And, we are ready to listen when we approach one another with willingness and humility to be guided into safe places for communication and acceptance.
What steps will you take this week to understand a loved one?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, February 11, 2023

To Understand... To Stand Under... To Support

A friend told me of a Chinese national who was learning English.  When learning about compound words, she would study the meaning of the two separate words (e.g., "under" and "stand") to see how different the newly-joined word ("understand") would be.  Her learning technique was to play with the words as she sounded them out and added them to her English vocabulary.  It was a visual process as she connected her newfound words with her native tongue and Chinese characters.

With Understand, she came to the conclusion that it meant "to stand under" or "to support."  

What a simple and unique way to understand -- or support -- a new thought or concept -- the bridge between one way of thinking and another!

When do you support another person's understanding?
(Photo:  Centennial Bridge,
Panama - Larry Gardepie)

I was thinking of this story and its images as I traveled through the Panama Canal recently: cruising under the bridges that span the canal and the two continents joined by these bridges -- the Bridge of the Americas (1964), the Centennial Bridge (2004), and the Atlantic Bridge (2019).  As traffic flow has increased along the 19,000 mile Pan-American Highway, more support was needed and additional bridges were built to crossover the divide.

What a beautiful metaphor as North, Central and South America learn to understand or bridge our varied cultures!

When do you transfer knowledge to someone else?
(Photo: Pilot and Pilot Boat transfer,
Panama Canal - Larry Gardepie)

At the beginning of our journey, a pilot who knew the canal, its operations, and currents came onboard our vessel to provide information and assistance. Tugboats pulled and guided us through the new locks.

It is that transfer of knowledge that is so important to our lives:  the connections between what we have learned and what is missing; the willingness to rely on others and their experiences; and the humility to accept help and direction.

Do you allow others to assist you along life's pathways?
(Photo:  new Agua Clara locks,
Panama Canal - Larry Gardepie)

Look at the number of compound words in this post:  under-stand; new-found; cross-over;
on-board; and in-formation.  I wonder how these compound words would be translearned by this Chinese national in my friend's story?

I would suggest that all of these words support our dialogue practices:

  • The ability to support (or understand);
  • The openness to explore interactions (newfound crossovers);
  • The eagerness to assist others (onboard) with the transfer of facts and knowledge (information); and
  • To overcome our narrow perceptions (= knowledge).

  May we learn this week to stand under and support one another.


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Who Knows What About Whom?

You may recognize these names:  Erle Stanley Gardner, Louise Penny, Mickey Spillane, and Margaret Truman.  Each are authors of mystery series that have brought to life Perry Mason, Armand Gamache, and other characters who observe, ask questions, unravel murders, and reveal Secrets Hidden.

Throughout my childhood and into adulthood, there is one constant in my life:  I am curious!  I enjoy solving puzzles!  There is something satisfying about gathering clues, looking at possibilities, and discovering "The Answer"!

How many questions do you ask each day?
(Photo credit:  40 Favorite Interview Questions from Some
of the Sharpest Folks We Know
, First Round Review)

What I am discovering about life, though:  oftentimes, there are numerous possibilities, several answers, or different conclusions to the mysteries that we encounter every day.  This makes Real Life more challenging than a jigsaw puzzle or a book that leads us to one result.

In other words, each person remains a Book Unopened with pages of Mysteries Unsolved... even when we have shared experiences or have lived together for years.

Do you ask questions to prove a point,
to understand, or because you are curious?
(Photo credit:  20 Questions to Get to Know People
or Someone Better,

For instance:  I grew up the second of six children.  We had the same parents, went to the same church, and attended the same schools... but we are so different in our personalities, interests, and occupations.  We haven't lived together for decades, and yet something still binds us together.

What I have noticed in the past year where I've had the opportunity to spend time with each sibling and their loved ones:  we are no longer the same people we were when we grew up together.  The core of who we are may be recognizable.  But as an adult sibling, I can no longer be boxed into my role as second child.  Rather, I am now called to encourage and witness Truth Unfolding.

In essence, we are Strangers Meeting and getting to know one another again... and again... and again!

(Photo credit:  Things to Do with Friends and Family,
The Southern Times

It is that Mystery-of-Knowing-but-Not-Knowing another person that intrigues me.  (Curiosity!)  I cannot assume I know what someone will think, say, or do.  We are constantly changing!  Isn't it better to wait, hold back our assumptions and conclusions... and be surprised?

Like the mystery authors and their famous fictional characters, we are called to observe, ask questions, and unravel the mystery of each person we encounter. 

Isn't that an interesting challenge for us this week?!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)