Feel The Change [on DR Thursday]

And, in one day, a single day, it’s changed.

In general, we like to write our posts a day or two ahead. This week, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to write Wednesday’s post until after the inauguration. The Capitol was a military zone. There were looming threats of attack and violence. In recent months, the chaos-of-the-day often left us feeling that we wish we’d have written something different.

And, that is precisely what changed. Mayhem flew south and stability was sworn into office. Good intention (with a recognizable plan) took the helm. It’s as if a cleansing wind blew through and, in a moment, swept away the dark corruption. The adults are back in charge. Poetry stood strong and tall and spoke directly into the heart of the matter. Suddenly, after years of numbing reduction, words mattered again. Vocabulary was restored.

As we reviewed the day I told Kerri that there is only one thing more powerful than a dark wizard and that is a good man. A good person. Good people (side note: I confess to blubbering a bit when Kamala Harris was sworn in. Sometimes change is very hard to see and sometimes – like yesterday – it is impossible to miss).

This morning, for the first time in years, I did not dread to read the news. The sun was shining. BabyCat found a good spot and crawled into the warmth and purred. DogDog chewed contentedly on his bone. We sat in bed sipping coffee.

“You can feel it, can’t you,” Kerri said. “It’s palpable.”

Yes. Yes I can.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE SUN

at the door ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

at day at the beach ©️ 2017 david robinson

See It For What It Is [on DR Thursday]

In the aftermath of my calls with Horatio I often feel as if I’m descending the mountain, as if I’ve just spent a few precious moments with the wise being sitting at the top. He will no doubt frown at my assertion because, as he says, he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else. Pants or no pants, Horatio is clear-seeing. He is in-sight-full.

This morning he interrupted my diatribe about the insurmountable dangers of competing information bubbles. “We have to stop the narrative of polar-opposites,” he said, “We’re not a polarized nation. We’ve been invaded by opportunists.”

His point was simple and distinct: It’s not a two-way street. PBS is not the polar opposite of FOX. CNN is not in an apples-to-apples comparison with the likes of OAN. “PBS has a virtuous intention. CNN has a virtuous intention,” he said, “The same cannot be said of FOX or NewsMax or Limbaugh and all the rest. They are opportunistic predators.”

Waging war on truth for profit is not the same as attempting to report the truth.

Horatio continued, “PBS or CNN might be feckless or inconsistent, they may get things wrong, but they are not predatory. They serve a decent intention and the same cannot be said of FOX.”

“The incentive for hucksterism is vibrant in the United States. Apply game theory,” he quipped. “The incentive for waging war on us and our institutions for personal power, personal gain and financial benefit is great. It’s been with us for a long, long time and is now perfected to a fine art. We are living in a confluence of hucksters.”

Josh Hawley. Lindsey Graham. Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz. And all of those who voted not to certify a legitimate election, even after a violent insurrection on the Capitol driven by their willing support of fabrications. Opportunistic predators all. Yes, a confluence of hucksters.

He paused. “We are not radicals,” he sighed. “We’re not being radicalized. PBS and CNN – the NY Times – are not the ideological polar equivalent of FOX or Limbaugh. They are not attempting to radicalize us or disseminate lies for power, profit or position. We have to stop it. We have to say it differently. The press needs to say it differently. Call it out. The press, the real press, not the hucksters, are keeping the world alive. They’re doing the work and the work is often dangerous. It’s inspiring.” he said. “We are living in a golden age of the press. The real press as distinct from the opportunists, the predators.”

They are not the same. Horatio is right.

After our call I went into the studio to find a painting to use in the Melange, something I’ve not used before. “Use this one,” Kerri recommended. It’s one of many I painted of the same theme. “It’s timely,” she said.

Yes. Timely.

read Kerri’s blog post on the UNTITLED PAINTING

untitled ©️ 2019 david robinson

Raise The Bar [on DR Thursday]

I just spent a few minutes reading quotes about expectations. The overwhelming message in my brief survey of expectations is this: expect nothing and you will never be disappointed. Or, said another way: lower the bar and you’ll always be able to clear it.

Expect nothing. Lower the bar. Shield yourself from disappointment.

Context is everything in the game of meaning-making. Humorists, philosophers and poets alike recommend with great humor and good hearts the disavowing of expectation. Expect nothing. My context is January 6, 2021. To expect nothing seems profoundly sad. And, with a nod to the wisdom shared through the ages, to expect more from our leaders seems to court nothing but disappointment. What a low, low bar we witness on this day. A low bar that seems to have no bottom.

MM wrote, “I don’t know about you but I found that the monumental sadness of this largely preventable pandemic coupled with the heartless, ignorant, half-assed, sociopathic drivel from our national leader and his apologists and sycophants this last four years – but especially this last year – just too much.”

Monumental sadness. Preventable pandemic. Heartless drivel. Sycophants and apologists.

Like MM, I do not wish to shield myself from disappointment. I am not capable of dropping my expectation of my nation or those we elect to office. As of this moment 352,464 of my nation’s citizens have died, many needlessly. The simple adherence to wearing a mask would have cut this number dramatically. That is not opinion, it is science. As of this moment, many members of congress are going to knowingly and willingly support a lie that undermines the very foundation of our democracy. In a circus of sedition, they are going to betray their oath of office and the country they vowed to serve.

Why should I not expect more?

Why should we not expect more of ourselves? At this moment, thousands of angry citizens, too lazy to check a fact, too gullible to ask a few obvious questions, are amassing at our nation’s capitol. They are assembling to protest unfounded-and-repeatedly-disproven allegations of voter fraud in which they themselves create as willing participants in a bevy of lies. Why should we not expect more of them?

There is a simple reason we do not see eye to eye. Many citizens of this nation do expect more. It is precisely why we voted in record numbers. Many – including some of our leaders – can’t be bothered to expect anything at all.

read Kerri’s blog post on EYE-TO-EYE

Chase Out The Spirit [on DR Thursday]

Let’s just call it intentional superstition. With apologies to DogDog and BabyCat, at midnight tonight, we will fling open the back door and bang big pots and chase all of those bad 2020 spirits away. And then, we will rush to front door and open it to let in the new good spirits of 2021. It makes no difference whether the good spirits or bad spirits actually exist, whether the ritual is ridiculous or not. It makes no difference. We want 2020 out of the house. We want to invite some positive change into our lives. We’ll do whatever it takes.

2020 made me feel like Lieutenant Dan strapped to the mast of the shrimping boat shouting at the storm. Bring it on. It’s you and me! 2020 was a violent storm. It was a reckoning. It is a reckoning.

We know there will be a new day. Calm waters. Peace. This storm will pass. Perhaps with banging our pots and flinging open our doors we can speed it up a bit.

Years ago I had a student who was about to boil over. I bought a box of ceramic plates for him at the thrift store. We took them out back and he hurled them at the brick wall. At first he was timid. And then the storm took him and he smashed plates and screamed at the universe and wept. And then he laughed and laughed and laughed.

We are at the laughing stage of things. Thus, intentional superstition. Imagined causation. 2020 has been utterly irrational so why can’t we meet it on its own ground? Play by its rules? Fear the big pot, 2020!

We just changed our menu. Kerri read a list of Irish folk wisdom for the new year. It recommends pork. Pork it is. Black-eyed peas. Great! Also, if you have red hair, we will not let you over the threshold until someone with dark hair enters. Sorry about that. Our Celtic magic must be honored. There’s a good-and-ancient-story in there somewhere but we don’t really care what it is.

Goodbye 2020. See ya’. So long.

read Kerri’s blog post about 2020-BE-GONE

Root In Love [on DR Thursday]

The truth is that I loved drawing Chicken Marsala. There was the cartoon strip and there was the single panel variation. Chicken strips and chicken nuggets…we are clever that way. The syndicates entertained them for a minute but they ultimately went nowhere. We put them on the pile and moved on to other ideas.

Unlike the million-and-one other ideas stacked on the pile, Chicken occasionally calls. “Have a look,” he whispers, “just for yourself.” He called to us this week. Out of the blue. I’m so glad he did.

It seems that life offers a variety of possible roots from which to choose. Chicken’s call, root in love, might seem like so much cotton candy but I distinctly remember drawing this nugget and considering all the facets of love. Once, out of love, I screamed at a child running into the street. He cried and, when he stopped running, I cried, too. Love can be fierce.

The first time I laid eyes on Kerri we linked arms and skipped through the airport. Love can be spontaneous and ancient at the same time.

Tonight, just like last night and the night before, DogDog will lay on our bed and wait for us. He will feign exhaustion but his tail will wag as we approach the room. We’ll scratch his ears, give him a belly-belly, some gentle words, and he will jump down and get into his crate. Love can be tender.

Kerri and I are in the ashes-phase of our phoenix-cycle. I think that is the reason Chicken called. It’s in the ashes that other roots make themselves available. Cynicism. Anger. Why-bother. All roots ultimately lead back to the main but that’s sometimes hard to see with ashes in your eyes. Love is the main root. “Why waste your time?” Chicken asked. “You’ll get there sooner-or-later so why not choose sooner?”

That Chicken! He’s a smart boy. Simple. He cuts-to-the-chase.

I think that’s probably why I loved drawing him so much.

read Kerri’s blog post about ROOT IN LOVE

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Look Beyond The Wish [on DR Thursday]

Peace on earth. It is something to be wished for, and, in fact, it is something we wish for every winter solstice. We sing. We hold hands. We light candles. We wish.

Wish [verb]: a strong desire or hope for something that is not easily attainable; want something that cannot or probably will not happen.

For months I’ve been taking notes and doing research for a play that I want to write. One of the themes of my someday-play is control-by-division and I find myself constantly tripping over stories and mythology with control-by-division as the central tenet. It’s everywhere. For instance, The Tower of Babel features a unified humanity – speaking a single language – who attempt to build a tower to reach heaven. The god’s response was to blast their language, split them linguistically so they were incapable of understanding each other. Plato’s Symposium tells a similar tale. Humans united are too powerful so fearful gods go to great lengths to keep humanity divided. It’s the history of these intentionally-divided-united-states as understood through the lens of Bacon’s rebellion. It’s a repetitive pattern, a living system.

Peace is something the gods, the 17th century aristocrats, and the current republican party do not want us to have. A united populace is capable of peace and a prerequisite of peace is equity. Good will toward men and women and neighbors and speakers of languages other than ones own. The desire for everyone to prosper, for everyone to be safe. Everyone.

When I was young and perhaps more naive than I am now [if that is possible], I explained to rival gang members that they were essentially puppets doing exactly what the powerful expected them to do: fighting and killing each other. Division serves as a useful preoccupation. It keeps eyes and minds off those who were controlling them, keeping them poor. As you might imagine my blather fell on deaf ears and those beautiful young people were back on the streets killing each other before the sun went down.

This is what I read in all of the myths, in all of the stories of intentional-division: peace is our natural state. It takes extraordinary effort and manipulation to divide us.

Peace. Reaching across division. Division that is often – as we have lately seen all too clearly – trumped up to keep us from coming together, from building our too-tall-tower and approaching heaven. United, we might turn our eyes toward the powerful few and ask, “So what are you really doing?”

United, we might ask of ourselves to do something more than our annual-ritual-of-wishing.

read Kerri’s blog post about PEACE

Train Your Doubt [on DR Thursday]

tango with me, mixed media, 39 x 52IN

The other night I dreamed I was giving a commencement speech to a class of young artists. I stared at them, looked at my prepared notes, folded them, and told the crowd of curious faces that I had absolutely nothing of value to say. I asked them what advice they would give to me? What would they tell an artist on the other end of the life-road? What wisdom would they share with me? What could they tell me about the artist’s path?

The caps and gowns stared back at me.

Rilke wrote in his Letters To A Young Poet that, “…your doubt may become a good quality if you train it. It must become a way of knowing, it must become critical. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it,…”

My father is in his last lap. Each day, when I get angry or scared or upset or frustrated, I imagine myself sitting at his bedside. I ask him, “Did anything you were ever afraid of really matter?” He doesn’t need to say anything. He knows I already know the answer.

What would I say if, sitting at his bedside, he looked at me and asked, “What can you tell me about living life?”

read Kerri’s blog post about TANGO WITH ME

tango with me ©️ 2018 david robinson

Feed The Purpose [on DR Thursday]

helping hands

The ends of canvas roles. What to do with the odd strip, the random slice of remains? The left-overs-pieces. I dedicate them to my “narrative” series.

These odd little canvases were originally meant to be rough drafts. Idea-captures for the future. I imagine these paintings to be huge. They are – or have become – the paintings I will do someday. Someday.

The very first canvas was enormous. 11 feet long, maybe 4 feet wide. I have no notes. I sold it before I recorded the dimensions or took a proper photograph. I had an old oblong piece of canvas and some animator’s cell paint. I stapled the canvas to my deck in Los Angeles. I taped house-painter’s brushes to long sticks. I loved what I painted. It was free. An experiment. It became a spot on the horizon. I am walking toward it still.

Helping Hands. There have been plenty of those over my life. There are many of those now.

A few weeks ago, Norm told me about the creation of his “purpose statement.” It was a new and surprising process for him. Almost twenty years ago, Alan wrote a book about creating these statements for people. Through ancient principles, Hermetic Laws, helping people articulate/discover/uncover their “purpose.”

I smiled at Norm’s description and his personal discovery. I remember.

These days I stand solidly in the paradoxical/hypocritical opinion that no human being is simple enough to service a singular purpose. AND, every human being is singular enough to service only one simple purpose: help others. That’s it. Feed other minds. Feed other bodies. Feed other souls. It will feed your own.

Too much solar. Not enough lunar. Too many straight lines. Not enough circles. Too much surface. Not enough soul.

That’s the narrative behind Helping Hands. I opened a box in search of the only photograph I have of that first huge narrative painting. I found it buried beneath yellowing photographs of Tom, and Arnie, and Jim, and Judy, and David, and Bob, and Kathy, and Carol, and Bruce, and Roger, and Doug, and Mike, and…Helping hands all. How could I walk in anything shy of gratitude?

read Kerri’s blog post about HELPING HANDS

helping hands ©️ 2014 david robinson

Ponder Before Turning [on DR Thursday]

Today is Thanksgiving Day in these sometimes-united-states. As a master of understatement and friend of Captain Obvious, I would like to suggest that this Thanksgiving is like no other.

Many of us are in quarantine so we cannot gather. In fact, with COVID-19 raging, the most loving and responsible thing we can do is NOT gather. Family relationships are strained as we peer at each other across the red/blue reality divide. Many of us have lost our jobs – all of them – so the traditional horn-of-plenty is a slightly frightening empty bucket. Thousands of us are queuing at the food banks. Homes are lost, evictions abound. Many are grieving the over quarter-million lives (so far) lost to the pandemic.

And yet…

If I understand my history, this 2020 Thanksgiving is more like the original 1621 version than our usual remembrance. Theirs was a celebration of survival. More than half of the people who arrived the previous year to establish a colony had perished. A hard winter and a raging epidemic took a heavy toll. That very first day of thanks encompassed the grief of loss as well as the gratitude for living to see another day. A successful harvest meant they had a slightly better chance of making it through the coming winter. Can you imagine their exhaustion?

Hope, no matter how dim, provides the necessary fuel of dogged perseverance.

Hope. Belief in the promise of a better day. Imagination sets sail on the seas of the unknown, following the guide star of renewal. Making it through, surviving to see a time of abundant harvest.

So, today, we take a moment, a day. Colonists awash in apprehension. We take a breath. We look back, we know that there is no going back. We grieve what is lost. We ponder how we got here. We take another breath, a day of rest and gratitude before turning to face the realities of rampant uncertainty. We wonder how we can do better. We fill our tanks with hope, knowing that tomorrow we will arise, look forward, and take a single-first-next step.

Sometimes a single-first-next step is as far as we can see.

read Kerri’s blog post on PONDERING LIFE

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Fly The Middle Way [on DR Thursday]

a watercolor sketch for Icarus

My call with Norm could not have been better timed. For some reason I’d recently dipped my toes into an old thought-pool and our conversation was like a ripple across the water. He is working with a team dedicated to self-empowerment, articulating purpose, making better relationships and a better world. I laughed as he reminded me of a younger version of myself.

A few days ago I wrote a phrase twice on a piece of paper. My Whole Life. My Whole Life. The phrase could mean “my entire life.” It could also mean “my flawless life.” I’m hard-pressed to conjure up a single example of someone who considers their life-story whole.

The words “purpose,” “power,” “voice” and “strength” populate the contemporary quest through the wasteland. We seek our power. We search for our unique voice. We hire coaches. We consume curriculum. We attempt to tune ourselves to wholeness like we tune our cars for the road.

There is a profound lesson in all of the great stories [stories are terrific guides…] and it is simply this: you can’t find “it” out there. You already have “it” and will, if you are lucky, realize “it” when you give up the search. Stand still. Feel the sun on your face.

The penny dropped for me while working with a group in the Netherlands. Everyone – every group I’ve ever worked with – wants to know “how?” There must be a prescription! What are the guaranteed six techniques to personal power? John O’Donohue wrote,“The gateway to our deepest identity is not through mechanical analysis.” In other words, there is no prescription. There isn’t a list. There are no tools to fix what is broken.

Parcival had his illusion shattered. The more he fought the dragons the worse the wasteland became. The grail castle came back to him only after he took off his armor, only after he completely relinquished and forgot about the fight.

None of this is to suggest that the search is ridiculous. It is not. It is a necessary process step in the cult of the individual. It is a necessity for people who believe themselves to be powerless to climb on a warhorse and ride into a personal hero tale. The knight will also need to flee from or fight with the inner-dark-anti-hero, the one who cries “fraud” or “loser” or “worthless” that serves as the shadow, the balance point of every power quest. The more he fight the dragons the worse the wasteland becomes.

“Let go of the hero,” Harald taught me, “and the anti-hero will also disappear.” Then, and only then, do we find the the middle way and the selflessness that comes with it. Some traditions call “it” presence. Some call “it” illumination. Some call “it” self-actualization. Some call “it” getting neutral or detachment. Some call “it” wholeness. Most locate “it” in the middle way.

Icarus did not listen to his father who warned him not to fly too close to the sun as it would melt the wax holding together his wings – and to not fly too close to the sea as the water vapor would make the feathers of his wings too heavy for flight. “Fly in the middle,” Daedalus cautioned. “Fly the middle way.”

Icarus, so the story tells us, became enamored of his ability to fly, so lost in his new power, that he soared toward the sun. Only when he was plummeting from the sky did he remember his father’s caution, “Fly the middle way. Fly the middle way and live.”

read Kerri’s blog post about ICARUS

Icarus, acrylic, 30.5 x 59.5

icarus ©️ 2004 david robinson