Stand On Any Street Corner [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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For reasons that are beyond my pay-grade to comprehend, human beings are obsessed with seeing conflict and division. The news of the day is generally antagonistic and despair-inducing – and that is not unique to our day. Ancient temples and modern televisions alike are overrun with images of war and hostility.

One of the greatest powers a human being can achieve is the power of focus placement. ‘Seeing’ is, after all, a matter of choice.  It is not passive. In any given moment there are multiple points of focus, there are multiple stories, there are many interpretations to choose from.

Stand on any street corner and watch the world happen. Watch the overwhelming number of acts of kindness and generosity. The small moments of simple kindness and consideration. They are everywhere. People giving way, making way, helping. You will be surprised to find that the kindnesses by far outnumber the rudeness, the antagonism.

Stand on any street corner and watch where your focus goes. In the midst of a tsunami of kindness, if you are human and like all other humans, your focus will be captured by the angry guy honking his horn, the commuter shouting at the bus driver. “Such an angry world,” you think and close your eyes, despairing. Anger is so much louder than kindness.

Tell a story of discord, see a story of discord. Practice a story of discord, live a story of discord. Discord is easily leveraged. Division is easily sold. It is like selling candy to a kid. It is readily chiseled into pillars and hungrily read into teleprompters.  It is so easy to see.

Tell a story of kindness, see a story of kindness. Practice a story of kindness, live a story of kindness. Although it is more readily available it is, somehow, more difficult to see. It is less sell-able and, so, is discarded as trite. It requires choice and discernment rather than default. It requires opening your eyes and your story to what is actual, what lives beyond the thundering chorus of conflict-peddlers.

The angry shooters and tweet-happy presidents live on the far margins yet they garner the majority of the attention. Stand on any street corner and open your eyes. There is a sweeping quiet kindness that permeates the vast majority, that defines the middle ground. You can see it if you so choose.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KINDNESS

 

 

 

 

 

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What Would You Give? [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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At the end of his life, Tom told me that, when reviewing his time on this earth, what he most valued, what made his life rich, was not the triumphant play openings or any achievement, title, or status symbol that he’d accumulated. It was the ordinary moments, the infinitely unimportant moments that gave color and shape to his story. Sitting on the porch with his aunt Bunty. Teaching his second grade class. Burning trash with his grandfather. As a boy, racing across the unplowed fields.

It sounds like a cliché’, doesn’t it? We hear it over and over again but rarely heed the wisdom. It is in the ordinary that the extraordinary is found. Pay special attention to the utterly normal and life will burst open and flow.

The film ABOUT TIME has ascended to the top of my favorites list. We watched it more than a few times this week. The quote says it all. Live everyday as if it was the final day in this extraordinary, ordinary life. It reads like a cliché’.

And yet, a few weeks ago I stared into my father’s eyes, and for a few moments he did not know who I was. Dementia is leading him away. I know that soon there will come a day when he will not come back. On that day, what might I give to simply sit and have a chat with my dad? Something so ordinary. Something beyond price.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LIVING EVERYDAY

 

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Watch Their Steps [on KS Friday]

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In preparation for writing these posts I always begin by first listening to the piece that Kerri has selected for the melange. This piece, BABY STEPS, made me all mixed up inside; quietly happy and unbearably sad. Although I did not have children of my own, I’ve had plenty of pals who have. It has been and continues to be a great gift to me when they share their joy in all of the baby steps.

I am also of an age where many of my pals, like me, have aging parents. There is a return to baby steps on the other side of life that, although natural, although a part of the process of living, are impossibly sorrowful. My dad’s struggles, his return to taking small tenuous steps, break my heart on a daily basis.

I believe it is the gift of an artist to help us make sense of the untenable as well as the miraculous. My wife, Kerri, has an enormous gift. Listen to her BABY STEPS. It will transport you, like it does me, through the fields of joy and sorrow, to the heart-full side of life.

 

BABY STEPS on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BABY STEPS

 

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baby steps/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Pace And Shed [on DR Thursday]

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underpainting

Like all artists I pass through periods of discontent with my paintings. They become like ill-fitting clothes. I want to shed them. I’m embarrassed to claim them. I start poking around for something new. Something that fits.

It took me more than a few cycles of discomfort to realize that discontent was actually a gift. It is the leading edge of curiosity, the fire storm that makes way for rejuvenation. Artists are not immune to holding on tightly to the safety and comfort of what they know and need a good dose of discontent to loosen their grip. At least I do.

Discontent makes me range around. Try stuff. Tear things up. Scribble furiously. Wonder if my muse has abandoned me (feel sorry for myself). Make really bad art (not on purpose). Make really bad art (on purpose). Take walks.

Discontent allows my empty well to refill. It pops any illusion I might carry of perfection. It turns my ship and hoists full-sail toward the edge of the world. And, it is always when I sail into uncharted waters that I find my muse waiting. She drums her fingers and says, “I thought you’d never get here.”

Ten years ago, when becalmed in the middle of my artistic ocean, I saw a pile of tissue paper in the corner of my studio. In a fit of why-not-nothing-else-is-working, I tore pieces of tissue and slapped them onto the painting-of-my-discontent. There sat my long missing muse, fingers drumming. “Texture,” she yawned. “You might want to see where this takes you.”

It’s taken me a long way. And, to my surprise, just a few weeks ago, I woke up and my paintings, like ill-fitting clothes, no longer fit me. I look at them as if someone else painted them. “Yikes,” I thought, “I hope no one saw these…” My muse packed her bags. She is nowhere in sight. I paced a little. Discontent like fog descended.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNDERPAINTING

 

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sometimes the underpainting becomes the painting…this is a slice of Newborn

 

newborn ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

 

Let It Peel [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Jonathan told us that a tree must split its bark in order to grow.

It’s a theme. A snake must shed its skin. A bird molts its old feathers making room for new growth. A caterpillar sheds its identity entirely. Out with the old and in with the new. The forest burns and rejuvenation begins.

It is so easy to say, this bit of sage advice. Let go of that old skin! Make room for the new! Change is not supposed to be easy!

Robert tells me that many of his peers, actors becoming older actors, are no longer getting cast. There are fewer parts for aging actors. “They are angry,” he said, “They are having a hard time reinventing themselves.”

Holding tight to the old skin. It’s necessary for a while. It’s important to embrace the security of the known before stepping out the door. But clutching the old skin too long brews a sour path.

Dwight tells me that to try and recreate and/or wear the old skin is a fool’s path. He reminded me of the many times, walking down the streets of Los Angeles, I’d pass an old body squeezed and painted into the trappings of youth. There was nothing to do but look away. “Let go,” I’d whisper.

One of the few rules of systems change is that if you know where you are going you will merely recreate what already exists. Growth, like learning, is always in the direction of the unknown. Always.

Lately, Kerri and I ask each other many times each day, “What do you think will happen?” We discuss the options, spin the variations, play out the scenarios, and, in the end, we arrive at the same conclusion. We don’t know.

Bark is peeling everywhere. We must be growing.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PEELING BARK

 

SurrenderNow framed copy

surrender now. a good name for a painting and even better advice when your bark is flying off.

 

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surrender now ©️ 2015 david robinson

 

Circle Back To Change [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A long time ago, in addition to naming my posts, I used to number them, too. Today, as I considered what to write, I realized that I had an old post sitting on my desk top because I’m slowly (very slowly) working on a maybe-someday-book called For Art Sake. I opened the old post and laughed aloud when I read it. It is  from a younger version of me writing about the wheels of change [I’ve made a few edits]:

1174. MEET THE FIRE

In order for the phoenix to rise it must first burst into flames and be reduced to ash. Every rebirth requires a death. I imagine the phoenix does not relish the flame but after a few cycles it recognizes the necessity of the fire.

The same image (metaphor) is everywhere: the caterpillar must first cocoon and then be reduced to mush before the impossible happens. The leaves must fall from the tree before the root can replenish, revitalize, and do the impossible: bring forth new life.

The healers in Bali assured me that a wound is necessary to open the door to the gift – each of them had suffered a devastating wound or loss en route to fulfilling their healing power. The journey through the wound was necessary to realize and fulfill their gift. The heroes cycle, the belly of the whale, the quest through the wasteland, finding joyful participation in the sorrows of the world; change is a fiery, difficult business.

In my life I’ve worked with many, many people in all manner of change and transformation processes. It is surprisingly common for people to want their phoenix without experiencing the flame. It took me a while to realize that people (organizations and otherwise) were hiring me under the guise of helping them transform but in truth they really wanted me to help them circumvent the fire.

People go to great lengths to avoid the flame. No one willingly seeks the wound and no one transforms without it. No one in their right mind jumps out of bed in the morning ready to jump into the abyss and yet the adventure is impossible without it. If a full rich experience of living is the aim of our limited time on this earth, then the fire is necessary. The fire is part of the ride.

Fire avoidance is what dulls an otherwise vital life. Comfort is certainly a worthy aspiration but as the only aspiration it deadens, it limits the life-color-palette to taupe. The trick, as all the stories teach us, is never to avoid the fire (you can’t) but, once there, to be alive in it.

After ashes comes honesty. With ashes comes a deeper knowing, call it faith, that  somewhere deep inside, the phoenix-in-you will someday rise just as spring will always return.

[Kerri took these photos. They are the treads of the massive tires on the enormous earth moving equipment that is transforming our beloved Bristol Wood into a high ropes course. We grieve it daily, watching the woods reduced to ashes]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WHEELS OF CHANGE

 

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Walk Off The Path [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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This is a tale of two quotes. Both are from Jiddu Krishnamurti who is currently sourcing my start-of-the-day reading.

“To be religious is to be sensitive to reality.”

Kerri and I love to walk. In our first few years together we’d walk the streets and parks of our neighborhood, morning evening, midnight, sunrise. Each day, regardless of weather, we’d walk. Lately, we’ve gravitated to a few local trails. More nature. Less concrete. More quiet. Less noise.

When we walk we very intentionally leave behind all of the mind chatter, all the fearmongering of the day, the battles with abstractions. It’s as if we shift a gear and easily pay attention to the actual world around us. We look. We listen. We sense. We point out beautiful things. We stop and close our eyes and listen. “Did you hear it?” Kerri takes pictures of the extraordinary marvels that surround us. They are everywhere. Brilliant red berries in a winter landscape. A nurse log. The astounding color and texture of a strip of bark. Deer prints, like ballroom dance patterns, in the mud. A distant owl.

Our walks are my church.

“Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion or sect.”

I am living a life that is not going according to the plan. Some of my best decisions turned out to be my worst. Some of my worst decisions have turned out to be my best. Lately, I’ve been looking for jobs. This is new to me as I’ve been fortunate and capable most of my adult life of creating work. The gift of looking for work is the necessity of making a list of past experience. A life review called a resume.

I’m finding my work-life-review to be like our walks in the woods. Quiet. Sensitive to the realities. At this age-and-stage I am no longer what Kerri calls a strider. I am not climbing over bodies to get to the top office suite. My sword shattered some time ago. My armor is off and most likely by now covered in moss. Saving the world, becoming the next Picasso, finding the Northwest passage and all of the other battles of abstraction are no longer drivers for me. I have no desire to summit Everest. I have an endless desire to stand in this moment just as I am.

I have (for better or worse) walked a pathless path. And, I suspect that is true of all of us despite what topography we scribble on our resume maps. Truth is a personal path, the face behind the mask.

Master Marsh once asked me, “Why do you need to run at every edge and jump off?” When he asked the question I had witty replies but no real answer. Now, this is what I know: On my quest I’ve read a lot of books and had many, many brilliant mentors and guides. At the end of the day, they were/are pointers at best. The direction they pointed – always – was to the unknown. To the edges. The news from my life-review: It’s never found in a book or well worn path. It’s always found in a moment, in an experience, in a walk in the woods, holding hands.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NURSE LOGS

 

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