Finding Meaning

By Skip Hellewell

Intrigued by the promise of Jewish secrets to feeling good, I attended the first class of a series by Rabbi Eli at the Chabad Center. Titled “From Worrier to Warrior,” the text introduced the idea that between stimulus and response there is a space, and how we use that space affects the meaning of our lives. The lesson left me pondering my use of that space. Life is full of stimuli of the hitting-your-thumb-with-a-hammer variety. I’ve spent years trying to stop my use of expletives in those moments. Know what I mean?

John Thatcher, an uncommonly good man now gone to his reward, spoke about this post-stimulus space in a church talk that has stayed with me. Thatcher explained, “In that space, we act according to our experiences, our learning, our instincts, and our desires. The total of all this determines our response…and our destiny.” Thatcher is also on my mind because yesterday was the anniversary of his passing. Can I tell you a little about him?

Thatcher completed a BS/MS at Caltech, where practical jokes were a serious tradition. Thatcher’s contribution was to help disassemble a classmate’s car and reassemble it in his dorm room, where he found it idling on returning to campus. He graduated in the class of 1928, an unusually strong class. This was the year Al Jolson introduced movies with synchronized sound in “The Jazz Singer” that in a moment of creative destruction obsoleted the studios’ inventory of silent movies. It was good for Laguna, because to restore inventory, sound movies were filmed locally in the ‘30s, boosting the local economy during the Depression. Thatcher benefited too—his first job was improving the use of sound in movies and he spent his career on technology’s frontiers.

The Beautiful Wife remembers his elegant wife, known as Pinky. Thatcher insisted on finding the precise answer to questions. Pinky wasn’t into such details but was wise enough to let him have the final say. In return, Pinky gave him something of value, as he later recalled, “she taught me the social graces so valuable in relations with people.” Besides exemplary lives, John and Pinky left another legacy—their daughter Joan Kimball, mother to seven sons and matriarch to four generations of Laguna Kimballs.

Getting back to the space between stimulus and response, the late Steve Covey called attention to this in his perennial bestseller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Covey argued that it was better to be thoughtfully proactive, than impulsively reactive. If I could add one thing to this from my life experience, it would be to try and stretch that space. Buy yourself some time. Count to 10 before reacting to those hammer blows, sleep on your most critical decisions, and find someone like John Thatcher to share their wisdom. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, Sunday 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish).  Saturday: 4 pm Reconciliation, 5:30 Mass.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.


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