The New Pursuit | One Life. One Planet. Live Deeply. 2013-04-17T13:16:37Z WordPress Bill Gerlach <![CDATA[Farewell and Thank You]]> 2013-04-17T12:15:08Z 2013-04-05T00:55:26Z Well, it’s been a long time in the making. After much thought, I have decided to close out The New Pursuit and move on. This will be the final post.

It’s been a wonderful two years — and all the thanks go to all of you who have supported me with your readership, thoughtful comments, and well-wishes. My journey here has been one of discovery, as I have learned to live deeper each day and in some small way share that with you.

I’d like to also thank some specific people for their special support helping this blog get off the ground and making it what into what it was:

So where will I be going and what will I be doing?

I’m not really going anywhere. Still taking things day-by-day here in our small Rhode Island town. Still being a husband and dad. Still being a Town Councilor (at least for the remainder of my term). Summer draws near and it’s time to get back in the garden and out into the woods for hikes. Time for quiet contemplation and meditation.

I feel the need to re-charge the batteries when it comes to figuring out my next writing/blogging adventure. There are so many things I’d like to tackle and share — I just need some time to pull it all together.

So until then, I wish you all the best. Remember, it’s up to each one of us to be a catalyst, a light, and a leader. Feel free to connect on Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps I’ll reach out again when the next adventure begins.

Be well, friends.



Bill Gerlach <![CDATA[On Being Grateful for Gifts the Earth Gives Freely]]> 2013-04-17T12:15:08Z 2013-01-14T02:35:58Z image: jasontheaker“The earth is what we all have in common.” ~ Wendell Berry

The other day I stumbled on Timber Hawkeye and his message of embracing gratitude in our everyday lives. His message, while not new in the broad sense of things, resonated because of the quiet conviction with which he delivers it. One of his most powerful statements was about how it’s not about our beliefs, but ultimately, our behavior, that makes us a better person.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the role gratitude plays in my own life and the life of others. And while I believe Timber was focused mainly on our behavior towards one another (human to human), I couldn’t help but go beyond that. Why stop with just people? Why not other life forms on this beautiful planet of ours? Why not the Earth itself?

And so with that, I compiled a list of all those gifts that the Earth gives me — and every one of us — each day without giving pause for who we are, where we live, or what we believe. Gifts that She gives without prejudice, pride or any grand pronouncement. These are simple gifts that deserve profound gratitude from all of us.

  • Air to breathe
  • Water to quench the thirst of all living beings
  • Food to sustain our bodies and minds
  • Trees to build our abodes
  • Other flora to create our medicines
  • Metals to make our machines
  • Fuels to make our machines run
  • Breezes to cool our sweaty brows
  • Oceans to skip stones in (and the stones to glide across the water)
  • Mountains to climb and admire
  • Clouds to give our sunrises and sunsets a canvass in which to paint upon
  • Auroras that shimmer against the night sky
  • And so many more…

Shifting our perspective on Nature, and all that it does for us is a simple step we can take to help us see our world in a whole new way. A way that allows us to replace mindless consumption with gratitude and reverse our destructive behaviors towards the only planet we have. A way that allows us to make a lasting peace with the natural world and pave the way to a new age of sustained prosperity for all life.

What gifts of the Earth are you grateful for?

Be well,

image: jasontheaker

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Bill Gerlach <![CDATA[Kids and Money: Six Reasons to Start the Conversation Now]]> 2013-04-17T12:15:08Z 2013-01-03T02:41:49Z piggy bankEditor’s Note: For the record, I am not a financial adviser — just a parent who wants to see his kids get off on the right foot and be able to pursue their dreams without financial baggage weighing them down. With the New Year upon us, there’s no better time than now to start these conversations.

Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself on more than one occasion discussing the topic of personal finance with our oldest son. At almost ten years old, I have to hand it to him: His level of inquisitiveness on this topic is encouraging. Perhaps it’s been spurred by a couple of visits to our community bank to make deposits in his savings account. Or maybe even on the heels of some situation where we’ve had to pass on something because of it being “too much for our budget”.

Whatever the reason, I’m thankful to have these opportunities to plant a seed that with proper nurturing will bear the fruit of a healthy relationship to money and a sound financial footing as he begins his adulthood.

As I think about the obstacles that keep many (including myself) from fulfilling their own new pursuits in life, debt and heavy financial burdens rank right up there. Why? As individuals living in a hyper-consumer world, we’ve been conditioned from the get-go that to spend and acquire is the surest way to find happiness. Living beyond our financial means is the norm if we are to blend in and be like the Joneses. Who cares about the downstream effects… whether that to our selves, our families, our community or our planet. To challenge the throwaway culture of convenience is to be a cultural heretic.

Or is it?

That’s why my wife and I are taking every opportunity to talk about money with our kids — our relationship to it, how we manage it (and can continue to manage it better), lessons from when we were younger, and why it’s important to learn these lessons now. So whether it is us or you and your family, think of talking about money and finances as an investment that can pay dividends for many years to come. Here are some reasons to start now:

  1. It De-mystifies the Concept of Money. For young kids, money is a tough concept to grasp. How DO these things get from the store to our home? How come we cannot get X or Y? By starting to talk about money and the basics of our this-for-that economy, we start to paint a clear picture of what money is and how it should be used responsibly.
  2. It Makes You the Teacher. If not you, then who? One of their friends? Some person on TV? Talking about money and finances should be another one of those lessons in our parenting “playbook”.
  3. It Explains the Cause-and-Effect Impact. Boiling good financial decisions down to some basic if/then examples can help kids understand both the good and bad when it comes to handling money responsibly. Make it relevant to something that is important to them now so they can internalize it.
  4. It Provides Opportunity to Foster Good Habits Now. Opening savings accounts at our local community bank a couple years ago was a BIG day for our family. And the process of depositing their allowance or birthday money and watching those numbers grow is something they look forward to doing. Saving is just one of those great habits to get them in now instead of later.
  5. It Builds a Foundation for Explaining “Adult” Things. One of the more recent conversations with my oldest son was around loans — what they are, how they work, and why its important to treat them responsibly. He now has a deeper understanding of how we have a house to come home to and a car to get around in.
  6. It Gives You a Platform for Challenging the Status Quo. We all know money doesn’t grow on trees. So why should we live our lives as such? Allowing our kids to better understand the cause and effect of over-spending and the benefits of living within our means should give them some footing for challenging the peer pressures they are liable to experience as they age.

For me, this is deeply personal. Paying off debt continues to be a priority for us and the thought of our three kids being saddled with debt in the prime of their lives is akin to failure as a parent for me. I just can’t let that happen. Their lives are too precious and too full of potential to be shackled by the need to choose one path over another only for the sake of being able to pay off debt.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to talk to your kids about money, here are a few resources I’ve found helpful:

What’s been your experience connecting kids and money? Any great lessons worth sharing?

Happy New Year,

image: Tax Credits via flickr

Bill Gerlach <![CDATA[Embracing the Phases of Our Lives]]> 2013-04-17T12:15:08Z 2012-11-22T12:33:16Z Full Moon“To reach a port, we must sail — sail, not tie at anchor, sail not drift.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Certainly, I’ve broken every rule of blogging: Not posting regularly, not promoting myself, not figuring out how to drive more traffic, hits, comments, and interactions. So be it.

Life has thrown other things my way since my last post in August. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still am doing everything I can to live as simply and deliberately as possible; still doing my best to be mindful in all that I do; still seeking every opportunity to connect with the living world around me. But I’ve been busy. Let me explain.

In August, I announced that I was running for public office in an attempt to try my hand at driving positive change from inside the system. Well, it was a LOT of work running my humble campaign, but in the end it paid off and I was one of seven people elected to our Town Council. Even now, after being sworn into office, I continue to be humbled by the support and excited at the prospect of being able to help move our town in a direction that can benefit all.

While perhaps the most visibly symbolic, this new responsibility has me thinking about the phases in our lives: How they come and go; what drives them; and how they can change our behaviors and call into question every aspect of what makes us who and what we are.

For instance, after three years of committing to a vegetarian diet, I ate my first cheeseburger the other night. Sure, this might sound trivial but for me it was a really big deal. For the past month, I’ve thought a lot about the reasons our family embraced this lifestyle (animal cruelty, environmental impact of factory farming, spiritual beliefs of not killing other beings). I’ve also balanced that with researching and understanding more about some of the local farmers in my area who are committed to raising cattle (and other meat animals) in ways that address the concerns I had originally (small herds, birthing and raising on the farm, 100% grass-fed, no hormones, using animal husbandry as part of a more holistic approach towards keeping the farm health and vibrant, etc.).

In the final analysis, I think such phases are natural, representing our own mini-evolutions as we grow and learn about ourselves and the world around us. We are not static beings, forever committed to a single path in life. There is far too much out there to experience and learn from. It’s like the natural cycle of the moon — waxing and waning between being “full” and being “new” again. This cycle should ground us and comfort us knowing that we can always change and continue to become the person we want to be.

Be well,

Image: penguinbush

Bill Gerlach <![CDATA[The Newest Pursuit: Public Office]]> 2013-04-17T12:15:08Z 2012-08-09T10:32:37Z Picture of my official campaign Facebook siteLong-time readers of The New Pursuit will have undoubtedly noticed that posts here have been fewer and farther between over the last couple of months. This has been for a variety of reasons: Our kids are getting older and are involved in more things as they explore what interests them; work continues to grow in scope and responsibility; and I’ve launched my campaign for public office.

Yes, public office.

After years of trying to drive change from outside the system, I’ve decided to try my hand at driving change from the inside. I am running for one of seven seats on what is know here in Tiverton as the “Town Council”. Similar to a Board of Selectmen, this is the governing body of our local municipal government, having responsibility for all Town affairs, policy, etc. It is a two-year position.

The decision to run has taken a long time. I considered it both in 2008 and 2010 but for various personal and professional reasons the timing wasn’t right. Now that the kids are older and a bit more autonomous, and I can take a step back from other volunteer activities, the bandwidth to take this on should be there. Couple that with a growing contingency of what I would characterize as anti-community, overly-tax-focused, new-to-town transplants taking over more and more elected positions in town — it has created a strong impetus to get involved and try and change the course of things. I’ve written about community many times here on this blog and I see this move as another way of rolling up my sleeves and continuing to foster it.

Truth be told: I’m a bit nervous about what winning in the November election could do to our family life and my personal quest of ‘deep living’ — simplicity, sustainability, spirituality. My wife has been and continues to be incredibly supportive. But I have always had a tendency to max out my volunteer bandwidth, doing lots of things for different organizations and needs. Serving on our Town Council would be a huge bandwidth sucker so I’m taking steps now to lessen my commitments in other areas. Overload would do no one and no cause any good.

Truth be told (again): I’m also hopeful that by doing this I can help inspire others — especially those of similar age and family status — to get more involved in our community. There are so many needs and everyone (and I mean everyone) has some talent or knowledge or passion to give and pay forward. You can’t help change the world for the better if you don’t get involved.

If you’d like to learn more about and/or support my campaign, feel free to checkout my official campaign site and official campaign Facebook site. Thanks.

Be well,


Bill Gerlach <![CDATA[Three Jewels of Mindful Parenting]]> 2013-04-17T12:15:08Z 2012-06-27T02:06:16Z bodhi building a cairn at the beach“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” ~ C. Everett Koop

Parenting is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever love.

If you have kids, you know what I mean. If you don’t, go out on a limb and trust me.

We have three kids — ages 9, 7 and 3 years. Two boys — on the bookends — and a girl. Each with their own personality and at-the-moment passion. Each with their own idiosyncrasies and authentic individualism. I couldn’t imagine our little family any other way.

Being a parent has been one of my biggest challenges in life. There are lots of ups — and lots of downs. Good days, bad days and everything in-between. It takes lots of hard work to be a good parent. A parent who can approach each and every situation with clarity and the ability create those lasting lessons out of thin air. A parent who can always find silver linings, make lemonade out of lemons and turn tears into laughter.

Still, if the foundation is solid and strong, what you build in your children will forever be a testament to all that effort you put into to making them who they are and what they become.

Since embracing the practice of mindfulness some years ago, I’ve been able to see my role as a parent with new eyes. Eyes that are clearer, deeper and more sensitive to understanding the why’s and how’s of the swings of parenting bliss. I’ve boiled it down to the three things — or ‘jewels’ as I’m calling them — that for me, represent the framework for my approach to parenting. Before I explain, it’s important to note two things: 1) My list is not necessarily your list; these are not THE three jewels of mindful parenting; and 2) I am not successful 100 percent of the time in approaching day-to-day parenting in this way. It is something that I aspire to and as such, work hard at.


Ah, yes, patience. How could so much be wrapped up into a single word? Each day as a parent is full of opportunities to practice (and practice and practice) patience. For me, this first jewel is the key to all others and as such, tends to be the hardest to master. As time goes on though, the more I feel it’s a matter of setting the right expectations for what your kids do and when they do it. Case in point: I cannot expect my three-year-old son to follow his older brother and sister’s lead on things like following through on a task (e.g., picking up after themselves) all on his own. Or on the flip-side of that, expecting my oldest son to always make the right decision regarding X or Y — simply because he has not faced X or Y yet. Instead of coming down hard on his wrong decision, it needs to be approached as an opportunity to teach a lesson so that the right decision can be made in the future.


During a meditation session some time ago — likely after some difficult parenting moment — I had the epiphany of perspective. It was like a vision of looking back at the mirror at myself — while in the midst of some scolding incident. What I saw was eye-opening: What must I look like to my kids when I’m talking — or having to raise my voice — to them? This stopped me in my tracks. The simple act of trying to envision life through my kids’ eyes gave me such insight into how better to approach certain situations: Getting at their eye-level when talking (as opposed to looking down on them), the tone and volume of my voice, my selection of words, and my physical presence (open and inviting versus closed and threatening). Being successful with this second ‘jewel’ is deeply reliant on being successful with the first. Without patience, it is difficult (in my opinion, at least) to have the right perspective. The two must go hand-in-hand.


This third ‘jewel’ is part end to the means and part means to the end. Fostering a peaceful environment ensures that the peaceful environment endures. For me, ‘peace’ is all encompassing — an umbrella term for everything from love to compassion to support. We create peace by practicing patience and perspective with each other; by treating each other with care and respect — even in the midst of a trying parent-child moment.  When those situations occur (and they always will), I try to get to resolution quickly and move on, avoiding unnecessary dwelling on the negative and re-embracing the moment. Allowing them to witness first hand what peace looks and feels like — letting them create a deep emotional bond with that feeling — is extremely important. It’s one of those things you hope you’ve shown them how to pay forward at some point in their lives.

Much More Learning Ahead

As I mentioned, these are my — not THE — three ‘jewels’. At this moment, they help me each day be the best parent I can be. You might have something else as your cornerstones. What ever works for you is what is most important at the end of the day. Parents need all the help we can get. Each day presents new opportunities for learning — about our kids, our selves, and our ability to put it all together.

What are your parenting ‘jewels’? What do you do to keep the right perspective when it comes to helping the children in your life grow and prosper?

Be well,

Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this post feel free to share it with your circle using the buttons below. Not a subscriber to The New Pursuit? Subscribe today. Many thanks.

Bill Gerlach <![CDATA[Fatherhood and the New Pursuit]]> 2013-04-17T12:15:08Z 2012-06-23T01:07:02Z Has fatherhood changed over the past generation? Do today’s dads have an easier or more difficult role and set of responsibilities than just a couple generations ago? Does the world we are living in now create a backdrop for parenting unlike no other in recent memory?

I have been a father for nine years now — about a quarter of my life. My three children (ages 9, 7 and 3) have changed me in so many ways — instilling confidence, expanding my horizons, and pushing me to look inward. Some days you get a gold star for stellar parenting, some days you don’t. But I think it’s about the trend line more than tracking the day-to-day ups and downs.

Still, I feel compelled to up the ante when it comes to teaching them lessons that will allow them to grow and prosper in a world so fraught with change and challenge. All those things that have come to define my ‘new pursuit’ — simple living, mindfulness of the moment, deep connections with the natural world, helping to foster community — need to be (in my opinion, at least) woven into the fabric of their lives.

Why? Because they (and all children around the world) are inheriting a boat-load of problems across the environmental, social, political, and economic fronts. On the flipside, that also means they will have a boat-load of opportunities to create and drive change both big and small. I feel it’s my responsibility to give them the information, tools and know-how to prosper within what Thomas Berry calls the Earth Community.

What kinds of things am I talking about? Things your run-of-the-mill textbooks and school curriculum don’t necessarily cover all that well:

  • Respect and appreciation of all life
  • Deep sense of connection with the natural world and the interbeing that pervades it
  • Relationship building
  • Compassion and the willingness to lend a hand
  • Leadership
  • Self-sufficiency (growing food, using tools, building basics, repairing)
  • Thrift and a healthy relationship with money
  • Putting more value in experiences than stuff
  • The joy of the moment
  • Patience and mindfulness (things I continue to work on every day too)
  • Deep gratitude

And how does one go about doing this? By putting words into action; living the life you want to model for your kids so they can witness first hand what it looks and feels like. Will it always be easy? No, of course not. But therein lies the beauty of it: They can experience just what the ‘waves’ of life look like, learn how to ride them out, and grow as a person through it all.

One day at a time. One experience at a time. One moment at a time.

What lessons are you trying to teach the children in your life?

Be well,

Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this post feel free to share it with your circle using the buttons below. Not a subscriber to The New Pursuit? Subscribe today. Many thanks.

Bill Gerlach <![CDATA[Preoccupations and the Great Wall of Disconnect]]> 2013-04-17T12:15:08Z 2012-05-19T02:56:12Z

Stone wall at Norman Bird Sanctuary

Experiencing the power, peace and purpose of nature and the universe that we are undeniably a part of requires us to experience it first hand. We cannot experience this via proxy. We cannot get our fill through programs on the TV, words on a page, or images on a screen. We have to touch it, breathe it in, let it surround and consume us. Only then can we experience our deep connection to it.

But how many of us find ourselves amidst the comings and goings of our everyday lives to the point where we lose all sense of the natural world around us — what it is, what it provides, and what is at stake if we continue to turn a blind eye to its commercialization and degradation?

I feel as though I have experienced this first hand over the last six weeks. Work has been an absolute bear, consuming more and more time and attention. Annual springtime rights of passage such as kick-starting the garden and new rounds of sports and extra-curricular activities for the kids have been ramping up. Projects around the house — dormant during the winter — have come to life once more with the increasing hours of daylight. All in all, I have felt a major disconnect from the natural world around me, my senses dulled and spirit a bit bridled by my inability to experience a few quiet moments of deep connection with the earth and the stars.

My distractions are not unique in any way. We all find ourselves doing other things that for the moment require our attention and tie up precious physical, mental and spiritual bandwidth that is needed to tune in to the world and universe around us — to feel our interbeing with it and let it nourish us.

As I’ve thought about this, I keep taking a broad view of our culture and thinking that it is just this “preoccupation” with things that could very well be keeping us from opening our eyes to what it is we’re doing to the world around us; the everyday cultural and consumer trappings that are walling us in from the natural world and the suffering of other beings we share this place with; false pursuits that keep us from our true selves.

In short, such preoccupations have built up a Great Wall of Disconnect around us.

We are being cut off from those around us, our communities, and our planet. The Wall blocks our view of the world and our place in it. It barricades our spirits, holding us back from realizing our true selves and our purpose for being. Our common humanity is being broken apart and siloed.

This Wall must be broken through if lasting peace and sustainable prosperity are to be had. But how?

It is here that I wonder what powers might be at play. Have we allowed ourselves to walled in on purpose? Or has the Consumer Machine, powered by the need to feed its engines with the ‘commoditization’ of nature’s resources and devolution of the human experience built this wall intentionally brick by brick with every click of a cash register and fabricated pursuit?

I see how the Wall is going up around me — and it is frightening. I suppose awareness is the first step — the first blow to the mortar that keeps it in place.

I think we all have “walls” like this in one way, shape or form — whether we like to admit it or not. Still, it is through this common experience that we raise the collective awareness needed to bring them down and realize the lasting peace and sustainable prosperity that lies beyond. Here’s to raising the sledgehammer high.

Be well,

Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this post feel free to share it with your circle using the Facebook, Twitter and/or Google+ buttons below. Not a subscriber to The New Pursuit? Subscribe today. Many thanks.

Bill Gerlach <![CDATA[Six Bloggers That Move Me (And Can Move You Too)]]> 2013-04-17T12:15:08Z 2012-04-06T10:09:30Z Cairn on a beach in Middletown

Some of the more amazing things that have happened since starting The New Pursuit almost two years ago are the fellow bloggers that I’ve had the privilege of meeting and following. The diversity of thought and word that has trickled across my screen — whether via blogs, e-books or emails has been eye-opening, inspiring and down-right soul-soaring at times.

And while I may question from time to time the positive and negative benefits of a world so steeped in technology and connectedness, it is difficult to deny the value of its role in introducing me to and sustaining these new-found friendships. Kindred spirits brought together across the vastness of the miles that separate us by the digital bridge that is the Internet. Common causes that find camaraderie and support through a click here and a keystroke there. Seeds of compassion and peace planted far and wide and nurtured through the written and spoken word. It’s amazing.

With that, I wanted to share some of the people and their work that have moved me over the past couple of years — and I believe, can move you too. I hope you’ll find a quiet moment to reach out and explore what they have to offer.

  • Raam Dev ( — Raam’s quiet wisdom is hard to deny. For someone who has traveled the world over, expressing his inner nomad and allowing his experiences to bring forth simple and profound insights about the human experience, he is able to connect with his readers in such an everyday way. I’ve had the good fortune of creating an annual face-to-face get-together at the Cambridge Brew Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where we trade stories, perspectives, and a few good laughs over some local brews. In addition to his thoughts and essays, Raam recently launched his Journal project, with 25% of the revenue generated being donated to charity.
  • Lynn Fang (Upcycled Love) — I can’t remember exactly when our paths crossed, but connecting with Lynn has been nothing short of fantastic. Her writing is informative as much as it is inspirational. Pulling from a mix of personal and professional experiences (she’s a biologist by training), Lynn has forged a deep connection with the Earth and all who call it home — and is now helping others do the same. From her amazing weekly letter series, “Embracing the Shift” to her new virtual how-to course on The Art & Science of Urban Composting, Lynn is truly doing her part to lead — as she calls it — the “conscious transformation”.
  • Christopher Foster (The Happy Seeker) — Chris is redefining who and what a blogger is. At just about 80 (his birthday is right around the corner), his writing pulls from a lifetime of wisdom-building experiences. From WWII England to living in a spiritual community for 35 years to his time as a journalist, Chris’s stories are like turning the pages of a well-worn novel — moving, comforting, familiar, yet gripping. Speaking of novels, Chris is releasing is his novel “The Raven Who Spoke With God” in Kindle version shortly and as a special thanks to readers has made it available as a FREE download from Amazon on April  6 – 8. Read more about that here.
  • Harry Johnson (The Flotsam Diaries) — Harry is one of these people that saw a problem and took the logical next step of rolling up his sleeves to tackle it. The Saco, Maine native has been chronicling his efforts to pick up, document, categorize and chart over 8,000 pieces of trash and debris from the beaches near his home — all in an effort to raise awareness of the horrendous problem of trash and plastics in our oceans and waterways. As a fellow beach-goer myself (our family always brings a bag to collect the trash), Harry’s work hit home in a big way. His effort just goes to show just how much one person CAN do to bring about positive change.
  • Robb Kloss (Musings from Aotearoa) — I discovered Robb through the wonderful writer and blogger, Robin Easton. As he puts it, he’s “an American by birth, Kiwi by choice” and his writing is all the more better for it. An avid backpacker and outdoorsman, Robb chronicles his journey through the mountains of New Zealand and life as a husband, father and friend. His vivid descriptions and details of the New Zealand landscape — and pictures to capture the moment — are nothing short of awe inspiring. It’s like you’re there right along him.
  • Kristy Powell (One Dress Protest) — Would you wear the same dress (and nothing else) for an entire year? That’s exactly what Kristy did as a small and quiet protest to some of the powers around her — from the link between clothing and identity to rampant consumerism to ecological sustainability. Although her “fast from fashion” concluded this past January, her words and experiences continue to inspire — and are well worth the time of trolling through her archives.

What are some of the writers and bloggers that inspire you?

Be well,

Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this post feel free to share it with your circle using the Facebook, Twitter and/or Google+ buttons below. Not a subscriber to The New Pursuit? Subscribe today. Many thanks.

Bill Gerlach <![CDATA[Reclaiming the Smallness and Intimacy of Yesteryear]]> 2013-04-17T12:15:08Z 2012-03-29T02:28:00Z old farm houseThere are moments when you have to take a step back and contemplate what we have lost in the face of what we have (supposedly) gained.

The other week I found myself one town over picking up an x-ray at a local medical services building. As is the protocol, I went to the front desk, gave my name and explained what I was there for. The chipper and extremely helpful woman behind the desk said it would be a few minutes, so I went and took a seat amongst the small crowd of other patients.

Then, from the corner of the room, a middle-aged woman leaned over and asked, “Did you grow up in Island Park?”

Island Park is a neighborhood in the town I was in (Portsmouth). My dad grew up there and for the first few years of my life I did as well. We later moved one town over after my parents divorced, but my dad continued to run several restaurants in the Island Park area, serve on the fire department, and be an all-around local guy over the years. “Gerlach” was one of those names that stood out — for multiple reasons.

“My dad grew up there. I only lived there for a few years,” I replied.

She smiled and said, “I used to babysit you and your brother. When I heard you say ‘Gerlach’ and saw your face, I knew it had to be you.”

What transpired next has made me smile ever since: After apologizing for not recognizing her (it was 35 years ago), she went on to explain how she came to be our babysitter, what a wonderful grandmother I had (she called my Nana her “adopted grandmother”), and asked how my parents were doing. We traded what limited memories I could conjure of late 1970′s Island Park life with her filling in the gaps here and there.

Her companion sitting by her side then began to expound on the values and virtues of the people and places of our older generations — our parents and (especially) grandparents who had come before us. How everyone knew everyone else. How you could count on any one of your neighbors to lend a hand — whether it was for a cup of sugar or fixing up something around the house. How life’s staples were never more than a short walk away. How there was a genuine spirit of caring and compassion.

I listened attentively, soaking it all in.  (I had just drafted the post on the not-so-smartphones and his perspective resonated deeply.) As I glanced to either side of me, I saw that others in the waiting room were leaning in on the conversation, smiling at what could only be fond memories of their own (it was an older crowd).

Using this perspective on yesteryear as his foundation, the gentleman then took the opposite angle, calling out many of the ailments of today’s society that have come about as a result of all our “advances”: Cracking relationships, loss of community, declining health (as he pointed to his rotund mid-section), endless hours in the car driving here and there… he went on for a while.

This exchange has stuck with me. It’s given me a new cornerstone of reflection as I think about my family, my community, and society as a whole. What have we really lost? What have we really gained? What is the end point of this modern trajectory of so-called “convenience” and “growth”? Can we stop something with so much momentum behind it? What are the alternatives? Could others care about reclaiming this smallness and intimacy of yesteryear too? Should that be the target as this great change sweeps across the land? How do we get there? Where do we start?

These are big questions. Any maybe not all of them are the right questions.

If I distill my thoughts of the smallness and intimacy of yesteryear down to just a handful of things, I believe that in order to reclaim that, we must focus on the following:

  • Relationships — With the people, places and other manifestations of creation that sustain us
  • Compassion — A genuine concern for the welfare of all around us and the ability to put the needs of other beings before our own
  • Simplicity — In all aspects of our day-to-day life; un-complicating what modernity has complicated on its path of so-called growth and gain
  • Fortitude — To face and overcome challenges and adversities; to dig deep and embrace an ethic of creativity, self-sufficiency and resilience within our selves and our communities.

What do you question in this time of change? Is the smallness and intimacy of yesteryear worth reclaiming? What do you see as the trade-off, if anything at all?

Be well,

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[image: John Rizzitelli Photography]