Light The Way

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

Yesterday was Ann’s funeral. She died too young but by all accounts lived out loud – she packed a lot of life into her short time. One of the speakers said that she was neither a glass-half-empty nor a glass-half-full kind of person; her glass was always overflowing. I sat in the choir loft and listened to the stories, the grief and the laughter, the music that a community makes when it says good-bye. I only know her through their stories, through their eyes, and I was overwhelmed with the beauty that they saw in her. She was rooted in a community and the community was rooted in her. I was moved by the story she inspired.

Just before the service I was working on my play, The Lost Boy. We open in a few short weeks. I was memorizing the last two pages. The language of the play, the moment in the script that I worked, is about Tom’s ancestors answering his call. He worried about what to do with the ranch and the legacy that he guarded. He didn’t know what to do. There was no one to receive what he had to tell. He summoned the ancestors and, when he needed them most, they came. They didn’t answer his question. Instead, they took his hand and helped him join the story.

Jean Houston called us – the living – the burning point of the ancestral ship. Each of us carry forward the story, we add a chapter to a longer epic whether we realize it or not. Once, many years ago, John was directing one of Shakespeare’s plays for my company. While talking with the young actors about the play, he was moved to tears telling them how he realized that he was a link in a long chain that led all the way back to a first production in the 17th century. This play did not exist isolated in time. It was a burning point. Their work mattered because they were the guardians of a tradition. They were the burning point. The play was remarkable because the actors understood their root; even the smallest action mattered because if fed something bigger.

A few weeks ago we watched the film, The Descendants, with Brad and Jen’s movie group. It is a story of legacy and mattering – a story of what happens to descendants when everything looks like a commodity. The root withers. The story dissipates. As Yeats wrote, “The center cannot hold.” Joseph Campbell said that our mythology was dead and all the proof we needed was in the news. It took me years to fully understand his statement. And, the question he asked was this: once lost can a community revive its mythology? Can it reconnect with the root? Can it look beyond the immediate and see the rich soil of the greater story? As the burning point, can we light the way forward or is our dilemma the same as Tom’s: what do you do when you carry a root-story and no one is interested or capable of hearing it?

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

from my Yoga series

from my Yoga series

Go here to buy art prints, posters and such – of my paintings

 

Posted in Family, Identity, Story, Truly Powerful People | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walk With Me

Tom and me a long time ago.

Tom and me a long time ago.

Sometimes it is the smallest thing that smacks you.

Recently I reread one of my favorite books, A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving. In the book, the narrator of the story suffers a loss. He tells us that we lose people in pieces, not all at once. During holidays, birth dates, passing a favorite place, and the loss happens all over again, again and again.

Today I was editing The Lost Boy script. Originally, the script was a transcript from interviews with Tom intended for Tom to perform. It was filled with quotation marks – he quoted lots of people. His story is populated with some fantastic characters. After his death I rewrote the play for two actors so that I might tell the story but I didn’t clean up the punctuation. I translated the transcription. I shaped scenes within the stories he told. As I worked on the edits today, I was suddenly struck dumb by the quotation marks. They were Tom’s. They were his exact quotes; they were no longer appropriate to the rewrites. As I erased the quotations I lost him all over again. Each erasure took a little bit more of him away.

And…it’s a paradox. The erasure also brought him closer to me. Tom used to say that the stories of his kin where more than just stories, they were alive. He could not walk the ranch land without his ancestors walking with him. He told me that he knew who he was because he knew who they were. As I removed the quotes from the script the stories were no longer Tom’s, they became mine to tell. His story and mine became one, single tale. I realized that I cannot tell this story without Tom telling it with me. Like him, I know who I am because I know who he was. I couldn’t ask for better company to walk this story with me.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

The PoetFor posters, prints, bags, stuff with images of my paintings, go here.

 

Posted in Family, Love, Story, Truly Powerful People | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Delight In Delight

Dog-Dog throwing down the gauntlet!

Dog-Dog throwing down the gauntlet!

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog has taught me a game. The rules are simple: I pick up a stick. He rushes me and snatches the stick from my hands. I exclaim, “Hey, that’s my stick!” (saying my line was the hardest part for him to teach me). And then I give chase. We have a small pond in our back yard and it makes a perfect track for running in circles. The game becomes more fun when I reverse directions and force Dog-Dog evasive maneuvers. Sometimes he drops the stick so that I will pick it up so that he will be able to snatch it from my hands so that I will exclaim, “Hey! That’s my stick,” and the game begins anew. The game ends when I can no longer breathe.

I’m not sure which of us loves it more. I find myself laughing uncontrollably at the look he gets in his eyes, the combination of intensity and glee. He delights in the pure pleasure of the chase. I delight in his delight.

During these bitter cold days, when I am dedicated to warmth and staying inside, he has a specific bounce and shirt nip technique that is the equivalent of throwing down a gauntlet. I know he wants to play THE GAME – not some namby-pamby indoor game, but the real thing. He is insistent and persistent – which has become another game: I pretend that I don’t understand to escalate his insistence. When he is near to outrage at the dull wit of his master, I feign a revelation. His relief is palpable. His excitement is unbridled, bouncing at the back door as I slowly (another game) pull on my coat and gloves.

Dog-Dog is helping me see life simply. Many things that used to seem so complicated now look to me like infinite games (see James Carse’s terrific book, Finite and Infinite Games). There is abundant joy everywhere if the game is recognized as a game, if playing the game well is more important than winning. If the game is not recognized, if winning is all that matters (a finite game), there will be serious faces, an existential tug-of-war, loads of stress, and dis-ease. “Hey, that’s my stick!” but with deep investments in stick ownership and control.

Each day that Dog-Dog tugs my sleeve, throws down the gauntlet, and bounds outside, I find myself bounding outside, too. I find that I am laughing before we start, before the stick is snatched from my hands. If the mark of a good life is the capacity to run for the love of running, the sheer joy of the pursuit, then I am blessed with a master teacher who believes that the best way, the only way to learn is in the doing: play to play.

 

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Or, go here for all digital forms of The Seer.

The PoetGo here for posters and prints of my paintings.

Posted in Love, Play, Truly Powerful People | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

See Again and Again

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

It has become my habit, when I finish a painting, to take photographs of sections of the piece. It helps me see it again. Often, I like these detail photographs as well or better than the painting. There are always discoveries in the details.

My paintings always surprise me. Years ago, I was showing my paintings to Jim Edmondson and he asked why all of my pieces had three spheres in the composition. I didn’t know what he was talking about. He laughed, our roles reversed, and he began showing me my paintings; each piece included three distinct spheres. I literally did not see them. They were apparent only after he made me look at sections of the paintings. I was both shocked and delighted. Perception is not universal.

Another detail from An Instrument of Peace

Another detail from An Instrument of Peace

The mastery of art (the mastery of life – same thing) is to transcend the notion that you “know” and that what you know is “right.” Krishnamurti wrote that, the moment you judge something, you cease to experience it. The fullness of life is in the experience and not the translation of the experience. All of us assume that we see the whole picture. We assume that we see is reality (truth) – and that reality (truth) for me must be reality for you. It is not. To have an “open mind” and “clear vision” is to release the notion that there is one truth, one way of seeing.

Once, I directed a production of God’s County by Steven Dietz and I knew it was a good production because half of the audience left angry and the other half left inspired. One play, many interpretations and the interpretations were, like all things we name as reality, rooted in each individual’s personal experience. What matters is not that our interpretations need to be the same, but a recognition that what you see is just as valid as what I see. As my friend Joe once said, “We come to know ourselves through other people’s eyes.”

 

An Instrument of Peace

A rough shot on the studio wall of An Instrument of Peace

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

For all digital forms, go here (Leanpub)

Posted in Art, Perspective, Seeing, Truly Powerful People | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Look To Each Other

my latest work-in-progress

my latest work-in-progress

Josh laughed from the back seat of the car. He read aloud the text that made him laugh: I’m in MoMA (the museum of modern art) and someone dropped a glove. Now, people are walking around it because they don’t know whether it is art or not!

I’ve spent a goodly amount of my time on the planet in museums of contemporary art and know that most folks passing through the museum have the same confusion about the pieces on the walls. What makes something art and something else not-art?

Almost a century ago Marcel Duchamp entered a urinal in an exhibition and gave it the title, “Fountain.” At the time it was scandalous and now represents a major milestone in art history. Today, a urinal in a museum exhibition would get the same treatment as the glove on the floor: confused consideration. Is it or is it not art? The beauty of the glove moment, the thing that binds it to the urinal moment, is that, in both cases, the gallery goers looked to others, perfect strangers, to ascertain a proper response: it is art if they say it is. Art, in this case, is an agreement.

This agreement, looking for approval about how to behave when confronted with the art-or-not-art question may seem superficial until you consider that recently people in Paris lost their lives over a disagreement of what was art and what was not. In recent history (2001), the Taliban destroyed centuries old giant statues of the Buddha in the Bamiyan Valley. They considered the statues idols (not art) and dynamited them off of the face of the earth (I will leave you to discover and ponder the irony between my Paris and Bamiyan Valley examples).

the words written into my work-in-progress

a close-up: the words written into my work-in-progress

Art is meant to open our perspective, to make us question, to help us see. A society that is capable of seeing is also a society that is capable of questioning; they go hand-in-hand. Questioning is always present when people are growing – so is art. Questioning also begets tolerance – it requires us to doubt our perspective and consider the view from someone else’s shoes. In these times when I hear someone bemoan the end of civility and the horrors in the world, I wonder if they’ve argued to cut art from the schools or  recently attended a concert to hear music to move their soul. Art is dangerous to leaders who like their people blind. Art is offensive to people who want their community thought-less. I delighted that somewhere in the world, in a museum of modern art, a group of people walked around a lost glove and looked to each other for guidance.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

For all manner of digital SEER copies, go here

Yoga.ForwardFoldFor posters and prints of my paintings, go here.

Posted in Art, Perspective, Seeing, Truly Powerful People | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do What Is Most Natural

IMG_0817The snows have come. The temperatures are grindingly low. Sitting at my desk, staring out the window at the world’s hibernation, I had a few thoughts about transformation. Actually, just before coming to the desk I flipped open the Bibles of Mankind for my random-thought-of-the-day. Today I landed on the Tao and specifically, this line: “By a transformation they live. By another transformation they die.”

In our births and our deaths we are all experts at transformation. In fact, in our progression through the many bodies we will in habit, the many phases we will navigate during the span of our singular life, we need not think about transformation or try to achieve it. Transformation is what we do. It happens. Track the progression of any life from infant to old age and you will witness a remarkable transformation.

I’ve just completed the first full cycle of seasons in my new home. Because it is all new to me, I’ve had the eyes to see the nuances, the profound changes in the trees, the lake, the rhythms of life including the migrations of geese. Nothing is normal (yet) so everything is special and alive. The cycle of the seasons, like the continual movement through the long body of life, is an ever-present transformation. The seasons do not try to transform; they are transformation.

People think they need to intend transformation. We seem to think we need to work at it to achieve it and somehow do not transform if we don’t marshal the process. Consciousness, like the body and the cycles of the seasons, transforms whether we intend it our not. That is the nature of consciousness. That is the natural movement of awareness.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

'Dancing In The Front Yard' by David Robinson

‘Dancing In The Front Yard’ by David Robinson

Go here to get posters and prints of my paintings.

Posted in Awakening, Body, Emergence, Seeing, Truly Powerful People | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Begin Here

photo-6

Begin Anywhere

In our house, hanging on the wall like a painting, is an old window frame. In the top pane is a card that reads, “Begin Anywhere.”

Earlier this week I had a great conversation with Diane. She laughed and said, “In my meditations I was whining to God because I wanted to see the plan of my life. I got the clear message that I was never going to see the plan but I could always see the next step. The next step is always right in front of me.” Dancing with what’s right in front of you is sometimes called faith. Sometimes it is called play. Sometimes it is called art.

Diane and I are good reflectors for each other; we are usually on parallel paths. For both of us, the past year or two has been a process of letting things go and stripping things back: paths, patterns, and presuppositions. It has been the mother of all house-cleanings (she had a literal flood!) and, like all good house cleaning it took some elbow grease and few hard decisions about what to keep and what to throw. After the job is done, nothing feels better than a clean house and along with the good feeling, new space, and wide-open possibilities, comes the question, “What’s next?”

Diane told me her story because my next step is so clear that I can focus on nothing else. With such a myopic focus I can see nothing else and that’s why I called her. I must do this play. I must. I cannot see beyond this dance. It is my first thought in the morning. It is my last thought falling into sleep. This step, my dance with The Lost Boy, makes no sense and Diane’s point was well taken: the next step rarely makes sense. Sense-making requires context. Sense-making is a skill of relativity – and since we can never know the plan (if, indeed, there is one), we can only make sense based on old information. That is good news for plumbers but is dubious at best for leaders, explorers, seekers, and artists.

After our call I realized that dancing with what’s right in front of me is how I paint. It’s also the key to a good conversation – and painting, for me, is a good conversation. After my good conversation with Diane, she sent me an email of affirmation and concluded her thoughts with this: “Stay focused on what is before you now and let the creations show you how and when they are ready to play.”

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

For all digital forms of The Seer, go here

Yoga.ForwardFoldFor posters and prints of my paintings, go here

 

Posted in Art, Gratitude, Identity, Play, Possibility, Truly Powerful People | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment