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  • Writer's pictureDavid Gaudet

What To Do with a Searched Soul

As usual I struggled with finding just the right caption for my social media post May 25 2021. It wasn’t that I had a hard time coming up with “content” that day. That had been determined one year prior, when George Floyd was killed in broad daylight, with the world watching, by a Minneapolis police officer. If there ever was something to talk about on social, at least to the extent that I use its multiple platforms, this was a no-brainer. Nope the question wasn’t “what” I was going to post about. The question was “how” I was going to post. As always, I was concerned with optics. Hell, I had a hard time joining the “#blackouttuesday” movement in the days following the horrific incident last year because it felt more like trend-following than an act rooted in genuine reflection. I somewhat reluctantly posted the obligatory black square on Instagram Tuesday June 2, and disappeared into the dark abyss. “How will I react to this – really?”, I wondered. Like literally, what was I, a white, middle-aged man of significant privilege, in Calgary, Canada…what was I going to do about this latest in a spate of tragic events involving police officers and black people? The easy answer was another question. “What can I do?” the defeatist’s mantra.

At the time, I was almost halfway into a year-long commitment to evangelize the power of 8 crucial human behaviours, found within us all, yet all too often underused. If you’ve read this blog, or paid any attention to my content over the past 18 months, you know I’m pretty passionate about getting people to tap into these competencies. You’ll also have to indulge me as I list them off again here:

  • Citizenship

  • Character

  • Curiosity

  • Creativity

  • Communication

  • Collaboration

  • Critical thinking

  • Problem solving

The one-year pact was designed to be both intentional, but also evergreen, meaning that I wanted the content to be as relevant five years from now, as it was then. Why? Because the plan was always to turn it into a book, once all the podcast scripts had been written and produced. But when Covid set in, I made the pivot to showcase how these competencies could be activated in a crisis. Thus, from mid-March to mid-May, that’s all I talked about. How we can use these competencies, while stuck in a quicksand-like pandemic. Turns out we need these attributes even more so in times of crisis. By late May, along with the rest of the world, I had begun to get back to “normal” to the extent normal was possible at the time. That is, The Daily Undoing podcast had basically returned to the format of preaching and teaching competencies, and how to use them. When George Floyd was killed, I knew that it would, rightfully cause a seismic reaction around the world. I also knew that I had to weigh in on it, as The Daily Undoing podcast had come to be seen not only as a cheerleader of competencies, but also as an interpreter of world and what competencies can do in difficult times. And so, I did. I posted a portrait of Mr. Floyd that had been created by Calgary artist, Mandy Stobo, and I wrote the following caption:

It’s a good thing a picture’s worth a thousand words, because I’m still lost for them ten days later. And this particular artwork comes courtesy, and with my personal gratitude, from Mandy Stobo @badportraits. Her gift never ceases to move me. I may be the only person on earth not to have watched the video of George Floyd’s final moments. I don’t need to. I don’t need to see a man die. I don’t need to see the eyes of another man anointing himself judge and jury. And I don’t need to be reminded that racism stubbornly, painfully persists. It has been analyzed frame by despicable frame enough, and while one more pair of eyes gazing at the brutality means nothing in the grand scheme of things, I get a pang in my gut, that it somehow stalls his passage to peace. A place he deserves to be. There is solace in seeing the world come together, when evil attempts to tear us apart. And yet, for me, I feel a responsibility to search my own soul for ways to do better by my brothers and sisters. So that’s what I’ll be working on... I’m not one to say, “Hey, did you see my latest post?” I’m including it here because one year later, I’m still at a loss for words. However, the ones that I “found” a year ago still sit as comfortably with me today as they did then. Citizenship is one of the 8 pillar competencies in my book. Like all the other competencies in The Daily Undoing framework, I provide 45 or so insights and action tips for how to practice your citizenship. As explained here before, the sum total of all of these lessons, 366 in all, were aired as podcast episodes and sorted in sequence from the first day of the year to the last. I then took the scripts from each day and condensed them down into evergreen content. I was curious what treatment I had given the episode that aired June 5th. How well did I save the core message from that podcast, when I converted it into print? Here’s what Episode 157 looks like in my book: COMPETENCY: CITIZENSHIP Humanity still finds itself in constant struggle with the fundamental concepts of human rights and justice for all. Personal introspection is required to identify uniquely held personal prejudices. ACTION: INTROSPECT Honestly self-audit to identify any prejudices you may have held or still wrangle with to this day. I still look at that action, and feel less than satisfied that it’s actionable enough. What does it mean to merely introspect? I thought it would be interesting to go back and find the exact script used for that day’s podcast. Here it is: It is rare that we swerve into a lane as inflamable as the tragic case of George Floyd on this podcast. Our thing is positive daily tips for self improvement. But to do nothing is to be tone deaf, at best…or accepting of hatred, at worst. I had a funny feeling about participating in blackout Tuesday earlier this week. It left me feeling almost worse, than better about myself. Is this the extent of my response. When events like this happen my immediate reaction is emotional. Sadness, anger, disillusionment…with others. I never consider my role in the world in which I live when it comes to hatred. Knowing full well that I am not a hateful person. And yet, I am not infallible. While I am incapable of despicable acts of hatred, can I honestly say I harbour no intolerant thoughts. We are all rightfully searching for justice. While we’re at it, we might want to take a moment to search our souls.

For someone who claims not to draw attention to himself, I’m doing an awful lot of it in this post. But here’s my rationale. My “action” in response to George Floyd’s death in the actual podcast was “soul-search”, but when I committed it to print, for reasons that escape me now, I converted it to “introspect”. The print version, frankly feels sterile in comparison. Wish I would’ve kept “soul-search” in the book. Either way, introspection or soul-searching, I continue to be a work in progress. Have I come to peace with my inner demons when it comes to racial prejudices, or prejudices of any kind? Peace, maybe. They were never strong enough, I don’t think, to harm anyone. But do unfair prejudices exist in my soul? Yes. It’s more difficult to look into your soul in the mirror and claim an absence of prejudices, than it is toward others. We parade around Twittersphere with all the moral glory of an anointed saint, calling out everyone from bad cops and proud boys, to members of our community, whose errors in judgement create scandalous levels of outrage. There’s a whole other post waiting to be written about this, but the aforementioned artist is among the many who made a wrong choice, but subsequently I felt, wore her heart on her sleeve in admitting so publicly. I find the vilifying of otherwise decent people, by those of us who feel as though we’re beyond reproach, one of humanity’s more toxic behaviours – especially when we are all flawed. When it comes right down to it, do any of us have an honest conversation with ourselves about how we judge others based solely upon how they differ from us. Earlier this week, on May 25, the anniversary of the criminal act by a law enforcement officer, brought upon an unarmed citizen, resulting in his death, I wasn’t just worried about how a post about the occasion would be viewed. I was also worried about how, or if, it had changed me. I followed my own advice, and honestly audited my prejudices. My prejudgements. I am not prepared to claim I have none. If you are to ask me, “do you make prejudgements about other humans, based upon their appearance”, the honest answer is “yes I do”. Now, as esteemed scholars, psychologists and psychiatrists will assert, prejudices are a necessary part of human existence. In a 2011 article for Current Directions in Psychological Science, Arne Roets and Alain Van, of Ghent University of Belgium revisited the 1954 book, “The Nature of Prejudice” by Gordon Allport, and offer some of their own views on the subject. In talking about our innately rooted prejudices, and why we have them, Roets and Van Hieling, correctly, I feel, cite the largely accepted explanation that prejudice is a partially genetic trait.

“Everyone has to make decisions, but some people really hate uncertainty and therefore quickly rely on the most obvious information, often the first information they come across, to reduce it”. When we meet someone, we immediately see that person as being male or female, young or old, black or white, without really being aware of this categorization,”. (Roets, 2011)

The researchers reconfirm theory that social categories are useful to reduce complexity, which is good, but turn dangerous as soon as we assign “properties” to these categories. “Properties” is their word. I’d use ‘judgements”.

So the introspection I challenge myself, when auditing my own prejudices, is not to evaluate whether or not I have them – we all do – but whether or not I attach judgements to those prejudices. Honestly, as I stated in the caption to the Instagram post I published a year ago, “…I am not infallible. While I am incapable of despicable acts of hatred, can I honestly say I harbour no intolerant thoughts?”. I can’t. Can you? But even if we all agree that we possess these thoughts, what are we doing to exorcise them? Introspection is only a first action. Elimination of that evil, no matter how ”light” or “invisible” or “controlled” we feel it is, is the only meaningful action here.

I must say, for all of my consternation over how to choose words for a post commemorating the anniversary of Floyd’s death, I was disappointed at the overall apathy about it in social channels. I have come to expect that, even for the most superficial reasons, ‘grammers like to at least look relevant. I honestly thought that one year out, and having had recent deaths of black people occur in eerily similar ways, that this was still a front and centre social issue. Overall, there were crickets on social media. But more concerning than our lapse in memory, is our being lulled into some sort of false sense of security, that because the man who killed George Floyd was recently convicted of 2nd degree murder, that the scale of justice is once again in balance. It isn’t. It never was. Don’t know about you, but I still have some work to do. Tangible, corrective action is what I seek.



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