Saturday, April 13, 2024

Answers to Questions

I have been hooked by the BBC series, Call the Midwife.  It is in its 13th season and is based on Nurse Jenny Worth's real-life stories of working as a midwife in the East London slums of the 1950s.  Vanessa Redgrave is the voice of the older Jenny as she recounts the lessons learned from the brave women surviving childbirth in the horrid conditions of this post-war era. 

One statement stood out at the beginning of a recent episode: "We are the answers to each other's questions."

What questions do you have about our current social
and political conditions?
(Photo credit:  DepositPhotos.com)

We are faced with hundreds of questions every day:

  • What do I want for breakfast?
  • Who will pick up the kids after school? 
  • Can I trust what I read or hear?
  • Who do I believe in this situation?
  • How will I pay this month's bills?
Some questions have easy answers; others are more complicated.  Some situations are familiar enough where we can choose similar results; other situations have never been encountered and take more thought.

Are you curious about learning new answers?
(Photo credit:  WavebreakmediaMicro)


What I find interesting as I look back at my life is the fact that questions and answers were a part of our early learning:  teachers would ask questions and we would raise our hands to be the first to answer.  We were told that there were no stupid questions... and, if we had a good teacher, we were not embarrassed if we answered incorrectly.
 
It seemed that my younger years were filled with curiosity and exploration.  I wanted to learn.  Somewhere along the way, our Classroom of Life has discouraged some questions... and even some answers!  (And, as we all have learned, there are some topics we are told not to discuss!)

Can questions and answers be given with love and caring?
(Photo credit:  Oculo)


What I have noticed in my dialogue consulting is the importance of questions.  I cannot understand the other person without asking questions.  If I assume I know the answer, I often misunderstand the person's situation.

I have learned -- and continue to learn! -- that I must:
  • Ask permission to ask a question.
  • Approach every situation with kindness and curiosity.
  • Refrain from judging based on my lenses and biases.

After all, we may be the answer to another person's question... as long as we understand the question!
 

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

 

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Reflected Reflections

The San Diego Naval Training Center (NTC) where my father went to boot camp after World War II was closed in 1997 and redeveloped into a beautiful combination of homes, businesses, shops, restaurants, museums, parkland, and waterways.  The transformation from restricted government use to public open spaces now draws families, bikers, skaters, walkers and runners to shop, play, and enjoy the views of the airport, downtown skyline, and inlets of the San Diego Bay.

The area is now called Liberty Station, but the spirit of NTC is still present: that is, the renovated buildings and parade grounds have breathed new life into this part of our city... and its rich history is respected.

What transformations have occurred in your life?
(Photo: Esplanade Canal at Liberty Station,
San Diego Bay - Larry Gardepie)

Walking along the Esplanade and looking out over the Canal, I noticed the reflections of the palm trees and downtown skyline.  As I drew nearer to the water, I observed that:

  • When the water was calm, the reflections cast a surreal copy of the actual.
  • When the wind stirred up the water, the reflections disappeared from view.

So too with our lives and our relationships:  we are either calmed or disturbed by what has happened, what we remember, or what is... where our perceptions can be clear or dimmed by the stories we tell.

When have turbulences clouded your view?
(Photo: Downtown San Diego Skyline,
Esplanade Canal - Larry Gardepie)

Periodically, a jet would take off across the Esplanade Canal and Liberty Station.  The power of the engines propelled the plane above and past us, leaving us with its rumble and noise.  This type of disturbance is expected because we know where the airport runway is and we can look up the departure schedule: we can wait for and anticipate the takeoffs.

It is interesting how I react so differently to unexpected breezes that distort my reflections versus moments when I have anticipated, imagined, or wanted something else.

Do you wait for and anticipate change?
(Photo: a jet leaving SD International Airport
- Larry Gardepie)

As we practice our dialogue skills, we are invited to notice, reflect, and exchange ideas, thoughts, and even assumptions.  Being able to reflectively reflect on our reflections in a communal way helps us to see the transformations that are occurring:

  • Reviewing our memories and history together;
  • Renovating perspectives and conclusions; and
  • Respecting the past, the changes, and the actual.

Like the NTC that served an earlier purpose, life can generate new energy and changes for our future.  Redevelopment gives us freedom -- or liberty! -- to reimagine who we are and who we might become.

How do you want to develop -- or redevelop -- your life?  In what ways can we help one another?
 

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Resurrecting Beauty

Besides the comics, I read the Letters to the Editor and Dear Abby every day.  These three ground me more in reality than "All the News That's Fit to Print."  The two letter-formats (Editor and Abby) help me to understand local concerns from one person's perspective and personal issues that people are encountering.  And the comics bring humor into my morning!

I find it difficult sometimes to absorb humanity and all of our struggles: the inability to forgive; the need for vengeance; and the desire to dominate others economically, culturally, and ideologically.

Sometimes I just don't understand...

How do you display your Inner Beauty?
(Photo - Amaryllis - Larry Gardepie)

Maybe that's why I retreat into gardening:

  • Planting and waiting.
  • Pruning and new growth.
  • Enjoying hard work and harvesting.

It's the simple acts that ground us in harmony and healing.

What is your role in Pollinating Goodness?
(Photo: Orange Blossoms and a
Honeybee - Larry Gardepie)


Is it any wonder that Spring and the Holy Days of Passover and Easter often coincide?  There are important lessons for us to learn:
  • Moving from the darkness and cold of Winter to the light and warmth of Spring.
  • Being liberated from slavery and passing over destruction.
  • Opening ourselves to a resurrected life and a Beauty Unknown.
It's our ability to co-create and bring life into this world that haunts us when we don't.
 

Where do you find your Resurrected Beauty?
(Photo: Calla Lilies - Larry Gardepie)


The challenges we face with Spring, Passover, and Easter is in our faith: our faith in nature, humanity, and our Creator.  That is:
  • Even in the depths of Winter, we wait for Spring.
  • Even in moments of human despair, we hope for deliverance.
  • Even in painful and deadly Fridays, we believe in the Sunday After.

Maybe when faced with unforgiveness, revenge, and oppression, we are invited to resurrect the beauty that is hidden in the soil of our lives... planting the seeds of forgiveness and goodness
.

Welcome Spring!  Happy Pesach!  Blessed Easter!
 

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Be Surprised!

Coming out of a restaurant last week with friends, we were caught off guard by a bright object racing across the sky.  We were near the airport, so some in our group thought it was a jet's contrail caught in the afterglow of the setting sun.  As we monitored the progress of this celestial body, we noticed pieces falling off!

It wasn't until I was home that I searched for recent launches from Vandenberg, the Air Force Base located almost 300 miles north of San Diego.  A Spacex Falcon 9 rocket had been launched at the time we were standing outside.

Has something unexpected happened in your life?
(Photo: Spacex Falcon 9 rocket from
Vandenberg AFB - Larry Gardepie)

It took a few minutes for the object to be out of sight and another 20 minutes for the contrail to disappear into the darkening night sky.  What remained?  I was transfixed by the timing and beauty of this unexpected sighting.

Being Surprised out of the Ordinariness of our lives is sometimes nice!  My friends and I stopped, watched, and wondered.  We talked about what we thought it might be, and we accepted the various options.  No one tried to convince the others:  we didn't know what we were seeing, so we listened and allowed curiosity to suspend our judgement.

What beauty have you encountered this week?
(Photo:  Cherry Blossoms - Larry Gardepie)

Like the various stages of the Falcon 9 rocket separating and falling away, being surprised opens us to possibilities by jettisoning routine behaviors and roles.

Being surprised can come in different forms:  later that same week, I was walking around my neighborhood with another friend.  We came across a beautiful, flowering tree.  We walk this route several times a week and had not noticed this tree.  But today it was magnificent!

Do you go out of your way to be surprised?
(Photo:  Blue Flowers - Larry Gardepie)

On another walk I saw a blue flower off the beaten path.  I was drawn to its unusual beauty, so I walked over to be closer.  I delayed my walk.  Time stopped.  I paid attention to its uniqueness, standing alone among the other plants.

I wonder:

  • How many times are we with a friend and don't pay attention to that person's beauty?
  • How many times do we have to be surprised into noticing the extraordinary ordinariness of life?
  • How often do our rote patterns hide what is present all along?


A
re we ready to be surprised this week?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Our Next Chapter

As my brothers, sisters and I were growing up, Mom would take us to the local branch library.  It became a Safe and Familiar place to discover different authors, writing styles, and storytelling.  Even when going on weeks-long road trips to visit our grandparents in Iowa, one of the pre-trip planning stops was the library to get a box of books to accompany us.  Maybe it was to keep us busy, but the lesson I learned was the joy of reading and the power of imagination.  (Years later I would work at that branch library as my first real job!)

These memories come to mind as I consider what is happening in our society today:  "the best of times" and the worst of times."

How would you describe "your time" right now?
(Photo credit:  Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens)


The Information Age has inundated us with countless sources and varieties of information.  We are now "entertained" with subtle and not-so-subtle messages in the programs and news sources we watch, the bombardment of advertisements, and the role social media plays in our daily lives.

It is unnerving when I pay attention to the attempts to manipulate my thoughts and feelings, swaying me one direction or another.  The information when presented one way stacks up against another... in simple soundbites that are meant to convince me of their truth.

Where are you getting your information?
(Photo credit:  Library Book Stacks Fabric, Spoonflower)

As unfiltered and unreflected ideas stack up in my subconscious, I notice an uneasiness at the separation I feel:  I no longer feel the safety and familiarity of my home library; I no longer feel Common Unity (community) with those around me.

The story telling and imagination have faded away as others influence what I should think or feel.

Is it the same with you?

Are you willing to rearrange your thought process?
(Photo credit:  Google download, Michigan Library)

George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), a female English novelist, poet, journalist, and translator, once wrote:  "The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice."

What choices do you (we) need to make as we write the next chapters of our Life Story?  How can we reconnect with our sense of safety and familiarity in the communities we live?  Are we willing to share our stories and imagination with one another in a way that respects all of our Unfinished Stories?

The choice is ours -- in how we gather information, the way we check out our assumptions, and the decisions we make.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Written or Not?

Science Fiction creates worlds that can only be imagined - whether Jules Vernes' Journey to the Center of the World or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey or Andy Weir's The Martian.  Each book and movie explores humanity's journey, exploration, curiosity, and survival.

As I watched the first season of Star Trek: Picard, I was struck by the similarities and differences in this new series:  life had moved on for the well-known characters of Picard, Riker, Troi, Data, and Seven-of-Nine.  Their past experiences defined who they had become, but they were still seeking out what it meant to be human in community... and what it meant to sacrifice and be responsible for others.

What was it like when you truly saw yourself for the first time?
(Photo credit:  Earthrise, Astronaut William Anders,
December 1968)

At one point Picard tells Captain Chris Rios, “The past is written, but the future is left for us to write."  It was an invitation to continue, to stay connected, and to seek out what is good about life.

Growing up during "The Space Race," I was taken by the early photos  of our planet from space.  Humans had looked up at the Moon for centuries, but it wasn't until the 1960s that we actually saw Earth from the perspective of the Moon!

Where do you see separation with others?
(Photo credit:  Night Satellite of Africa and Europe, Geology.com)

The astronauts' brought to our attention -- and John Lennon asked us to imagine -- a planet without borders.  Our Distance Above provided a new perspective:  life past and present doesn't have to be the same in the future.

Yes, we are connected to our experiences and what has formed us, but as Elnor says in Star Trek: Picard:  "My friends, choose life!"  That is, we have a choice in what we write in our future!

How can you explore beauty?
(Photo credit:  Astronomy Picture of the Day - The Tarantula Zone,
NASA, March 8, 2024)

If anything, science fiction and space exploration have merged in this century:

  • Our curiosity seeks to understand our beginning (past).
  • Our imagination transforms fiction into reality (present).
  • Our hope explores better ways of being (future).

Whether we see ourselves for the first time or we realize we are sometimes disconnected by the borders we have created, we can always seek out the beauty within ourselves and others as we write future chapters of life together.

Maybe it is time for us to engage more fully in exploration and reflection on what is important to us and those we love.  Maybe it is time to identify the labels that separate us.  Maybe it is time to imagine and work towards a future that connects us to the beauty that exists.
 

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Finding the Familiar

Have you noticed when passing through an unfamiliar town or city you look for something you recognize?  There's something "at home" about seeing a McDonald's sign or other restaurants or stores that you know.  And then, if you go into one of these places, you expect the same menu and quality!

A friend described this behavior as normal: we want to connect with something recognizable or intimate; we want to identify and belong... even as we experience the uniqueness of these new surroundings.

What makes you feel like you belong?
~ ~ Click to enlarge:  notice the writing on the right ~ ~
(Photo:  McDonald's in Budapest, Hungary
- Larry Gardepie, 1999)

I've encountered this several times when traveling in Hungary (seeing a McDonald's French Fries holder on the street), in Tahiti (visiting a church), and countless other places near or far away from home.

Another example:  have you ever been in a situation at work where a new CEO, director, manager, or supervisor is hired and tries to replicate their successes from their previous place of employment?  It doesn't take long for the old to be replaced by the new!

Where do you feel safe?
(Photo: St. Andre Church, Raiatea, French Polynesia
- Larry Gardepie, 2023)

We draw on what is familiar, and we project it out into our world and onto others.  We try to find or create familiarity.  I guess this helps us feel grounded and safe.

Another example:  whenever in Honolulu, I try to visit Iolani Palace (the only palace on U.S. soil), go on a tour, or visit a museum that describes the Hawaiian culture.  There is a slowness about the Islands that allows me to slow down... and notice.  

Though the Hawaiians had their own system of royalty and "kapu" (taboos, rules), they adapted to Western dress, the Christian religion, and the European royalty model... in order to survive.

How do you adapt?
(Photo: Throne Room in Iolani Palace,
Honolulu, Hawaii - Larry Gardepie, 2023)

When we seek out the familiar or replicate what we know, I wonder, are we trying to survive in a scary World Unknown?  What would it be like to allow curiosity to take hold and experience the unfamiliar?  Could we learn about ourselves if we embraced what is unique and traditional... before we ask it to conform to us?

Maybe, as we enter this new month with all of its unknowns, we sit first with our uneasiness and describe to others what we are missing or needing... before we seek out or replicate what is familiar.  We might surprise ourselves at what we find!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Power of the Snowflake

Do you remember learning as a child that no two snowflakes are alike?  There is a beauty in seeing and trying to understand Uniqueness.  But these lessons of infinite design and individuality are often tested against the reality of life cycles.

Travels to Alaska, Greenland, and Antarctica have helped me to see the Power of the Snowflake.  Glaciers are formed by snowfall at higher elevations:  the weight of the snow compresses into glaciers, living rivers of ice that flow down the mountain slopes.  Then, when the glacier's edge reaches a body of water, sections of the ice break off -- returning the snowflake that fell hundreds of years ago back to its watery origins... beginning the cycle again: snowflake, compressed snow to ice, movement downhill to meet a body of water, and its return home.

What makes you unique?
(Photo credit:  Snowflake Photographs, SnowFlakes.com)


The journey of the snowflake is reflected in our lives as well:

  • How do we recognize our uniqueness?
  • What challenges compress and shape our movement through life?
  • When do we acknowledge we are home, we are one with others?


The power of the snowflake, therefore, is in the movement and balance between Individuality and Wholeness.

Are you aware of being part of something larger?
(Photo: Antarctica Glaciers - Larry Gardepie, 2023)


What I have noticed with glaciers is that we must look closely at what is happening now around the glacier:  ice falling off; water dripping; a river of water emerging underneath the ice; icebergs or growlers drifting away.  The original snowflakes fell centuries ago, so it is our current awareness that allows us to understand the movement... THEN and NOW.
 
The same might be said of us:  we may not notice all of the changes occurring, but the falling off of old ideas, the melting of cold relationships, and becoming aware of what surrounds us could invite us to reflect on the long term effect of our lives.  Are we moving towards individuality or coming home to something larger?

Can you allow cold relationships to thaw?
(Photo: Antarctica Icebergs - Larry Gardepie, 2023)


The beauty of life is in its balance:  the acceptance of our individuality AND the power that draws us to join others -- to move towards wholeness!
 
As we journey through these final wintry weeks and begin to glimpse the spring thaw, may we:
  • Share our uniqueness;
  • Notice when we are being drawn together; and,
  • Invite reflection on the power of Both.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)


 


Saturday, February 17, 2024

Gooder Than I Thought

I assume I know the answer to the following question... but I thought I would ask:

Do you ever doubt yourself?

I do!  And that's why I wanted to ask the question:  I wondered if I am the only one that doubts decisions I have made or actions I have taken; questions why I got myself involved in another project; or rethinks why I said what I said to another person.

My assumption is that we all have Little Nigglings of doubt from time to time... lying awake at night... and wondering.

Do you ever wonder how good you are?
~ ~ Click on image to enlarge ~ ~

(Photo credit:  Family Circus, Bil & Jeff Keane, 12/25/23)

As these thoughts swirl around and begin to take on a life of their own, I wonder... Isn't there a better way?  Assuming that we all have doubts at one time or another, what would life be like if we:

  • Surfaced and reflected on our struggles;
  • Shared our thoughts with others; and
  • Allowed ourselves to be less perfect and more human.

What causes you to doubt yourself?
(Photo credit:  Self-Doubt, Shutterstock)

 
Noticing "nigglings" is one thing.  But, when self-doubt takes on a life of its own and undermines self-image and self-confidence, there may be a problem!  That's where noticing becomes even more important:
  • Is this doubt hurting me or others... essentially, separating us?
  • Can I move into a non-violent way of talking, sharing, and understanding?
 
That is, when I listen to and surface the self-doubt, I oftentimes find out the situation isn't as bad as I thought.  Bouncing off doubts, worries, and ideas connects us!


(Photo credit:  Finding Freedom from Fear and
Silencing Self-Doubt
, Mike Foster)

Knowing that you and others sometimes doubt yourselves opens the door to changing how we respond to one another.  It may be as simple as removing the "t" from "can't":
  • I can't believe in myself and decisions I have made -- OR -- I can believe.
  • I can't listen to you -- OR -- I can listen.
  • I can't understand your way of thinking -- OR -- we can get along.
 
Doubt and self-doubt may be a way for us to understand separation.  I am confident that we -- together -- can figure out a way to say, "We are gooder than we thought."

What do you think?
 

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Habits of the Mind

Going through childhood photos, I came across the 1967-1968 faculty picture from my elementary school years.  Besides recognizing most of the teachers, I noticed how the clothes easily identified the Priests and Religious Sisters. The black clerical shirts of the priests and the wimples (modest head coverings) and habits of our teaching Sisters set them apart from the rest of the adults in our lives.

Habits tend to do that:  when behavior patterns are followed regularly, they become almost voluntary and distinguish us from others around us.

What sets you apart from others?
(Photo: Madonna del Sasso School - Faculty 1967-1968)

These early memories and the topic of habits swirled in my head this week:  wondering what habits I have taken on, which distinguish me from my friends and family, and are some almost voluntary?

We sometimes hear that it takes 21 days to change a habit:  the willingness to learn and relearn; the ability to master a new way of being; and the transition into an ease or involuntary behavior.  What habits are you willing to remaster and transition away from?

Which of your "small habits" produce huge results?
~ ~ Click on image to enlarge ~ ~
(Photo credit: Small Habits - Facebook download)

I have to admit, I am tired of the negativity and critical nature of our world right now.  There are MANY good things happening around us, but these stories tend to be drowned out by sensational news cycles that focus on doom, destruction, and chaos.  Sometimes I feel helpless in combating the direction our society is going.

Maybe that's why I am focused on habits this week:

  • What am I contributing towards the common good and well-being of others?
  • How might I show acts of compassion and kindness?
  • Can I learn and relearn new Ways of Being in this world?

How do you make the world a better place?
~ ~ Click on image to enlarge ~ ~

(Photo credit:  Results of Kindness - Facebook download)

Many of us have heard or been exposed to the concepts of Ash Wednesday and Lent -- either through church practices or Mardi Gras/Carnival/Carnivale celebrations.  Beginning on Ash Wednesday, people tend to give up something during these 40 days of Lent.
 
What would it be like if we collectively focused on adding in acts of kindness, showing goodwill, and being generous of spirit towards others for the next six weeks?  Just think of the positive energy that would be generated!
 
Rather than focusing on the results of Super Tuesday and March Madness, maybe we could celebrate Habits of the Mind that contribute to kindness and compassion!
 
Just wondering...  what do you think?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, February 3, 2024

We are the Weavers

Have you ever wondered how things are made or how they work?  Like many children, I was one who focused on the "why"... like, why did lights turn on when plugged in.  To experiment, one time I stuck a metal object into a socket and got quite a shock!  Another time I took the thermometer and placed it near the bathroom heater to watch the mercury rise.  (Mom, in another room, was used to asking, "What are you doing in there?" and I would yell back "Nothing!")

I flourished when I could explore and be creative -- putting together model cars and ships; using balsa wood to make planes that would fly; creating a homemade kite and figuring out the best designs; interweaving different colored string into intricate macrame designs.

Later in life, my grandmother passed along her crochet skills.  Oftentimes, I begin with a pattern so I can understand how it works, and then I let loose and create my own designs.

Do you notice what happens behind the scenes?
(Photo: Local Weaver, La Paz, Baja California Sur -
Larry Gardepie, 2021)

I guess it is no surprise where my career path has taken me:  teaching, ministry, human resources, project and change management, and software design.  I am intrigued by the sciences of process and design and the art of understanding.  I love to troubleshoot -- not necessarily to find solutions, but to be engaged in ways that support and find meaning.

What patterns do you see in your relationships?
(Photo: Rock Wall, Tintagel Village, Cornwall, England -
Larry Gardepie, 2017)

I came across a British drama series recently, "Call the Midwife."  Such a caring and wise display of human life:  women and men working for the good of others.  At the beginning of each show, the voice of a wizened Sister-Nurse poetically offers a view of human interaction that sets the theme for the show.  At the end of the show, the same voice pulls together the lessons the story offered.

One episode ended with the observation that "We are the weavers of each other's cloth."  What a beautiful way of describing our interconnectedness!

Where is life holy?
(Photo: Stained Glass Window of Local Workers -
St. Magnus' Church, Lerwick, Shetland Islands - Larry Gardepie 2011)


Part of my "travel bug" is the desire to experience, connect, and understand.  Watching a weaver work in England, I wanted to see what the tapestry looked from behind (what is hidden) as well as the front (what is seen).  Coming across a rock wall in Cornwall, I was intrigued by the strength and the fragile natures of how the stones were arranged: no mortar or cement to hold it together, just the weight of what was before and after.  Being drawn to the beautiful colors of stained-glass windows in the Shetlands, I realized that the images were of the local workers that make daily life holy.

Can you see connections that support?
(Photo: Ceiling of Bath Abbey, Bath, England -
Larry Gardepie, 2011)

And, standing below the vaulted ceiling of the Abbey Church in Bath, England, I took in the intricate design that rose 75 feet above us.  To think that builders began construction in 1499 knowing they would not see their dreams come true!

Questions for this week:

  • What patterns do I weave into other people's lives:  kindness, caring, and love or fear, frustration, and anger?
  • When do I feel interconnected with others?
  • Am I interested in knowing what is hidden... and why?

 May we take seriously the Holy Weaving in each other's cloth!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)