Make The Climb [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Roger and I used to talk about art in terms of levels of sophistication. For instance, no one masters an instrument the first time they pick one up. There are layers of learning necessary before the musician “knows” how to play. The “knowing” has little to do with the accumulation of information and everything to do with giving over to what the body learns. Finally, it is a letting go (of the mind) into an undefended sharing. Flow. It has nothing to do with knowing and everything to do with availability. This ‘availability to experience’ is what we called sophistication.

Both the artist and the audience pass through layers of greater sophistication. The artist wants greater and greater challenges. The audience wants greater and greater challenges, that is, they want to participate in something that demands more from them. It requires that both artist and audience show up, open, give over. Union is the ultimate purpose of art. Participation in something greater than your self. That is how art informs and transforms.

And then, there is the flip side, the anti-art. You can feel it. The absence of the genuine experience. The demonstration of accumulated knowledge. I cringe when a curator launches a three-masted-ship-of-study that tells me what the art is about, what the artist felt, and what I should see and feel. When the actor attempts to control what I see, when the art is so conceptual that it precludes me or anyone save the artist from entering the conversation, when the  knowledge priest stands between me and my god…you’ll know the levels of sophistication have left the building when the conversation is one way, judged, controlled.

Kerri calls this the blah-blah. When a real moment is disrupted by an agenda, when the flow is dammed by an unnecessary display of knowledge. And, the kicker is, we are all guilty of it. I am. It is a necessary step in climbing the ladder of sophistication, slipping back down the ladder of sophistication. To confuse technique with art. To garble the necessity of the open heart with  the realm of the intellectually abstract.  To give a standing ovation to something that put you to sleep. To try to control what the other person sees or thinks or feels; a fool’s errand. The great artist trap. The great life trap.

And, the best you can do (truly, the best thing), is to catch yourself in the moment of blah-blah, laugh at yourself lost in the trap, pull out the ladder, and begin again to climb toward simplicity.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AN UNNECESSARY DISPLAY OF KNOWLEDGE

 

 

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Weep [on DR Thursday]

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‘and so he weeps.’ a morsel of weeping man

And so the story goes that one day, deep in the forest, Parcival was knocked from his stallion by a warrior who wore no armor. His magic sword, the object that he believed carried all of his power, was shattered. He lay on the ground like a turtle on its back, trapped by the weight of his shiny armor. He was tired of fighting. He was sad that, despite all of his victories, – he’d never been defeated – the world kept getting worse and worse. And so, laying on his back, exhausted from the fight, he stopped struggling. He gave himself over to his death. He let go.

But the nature-warrior disappeared. Parcival, alive but shattered, for the first time in his adult life, stripped off his armor. He dropped what remained of his sword. And, sitting amidst the wreckage of his life, the fragments of his power, he wept. He let go.

There is a path out of the wasteland. It necessarily leads through weeping. Through loss of illusion. P-Tom would call this a sacrament. Joseph Campbell would call it a threshold.

In any case, letting go of the illusion is necessary before the next chapter can begin.

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on WEEPING MAN

 

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weeping man ©️ 2015 david robinson

Enjoy Your Ride [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Navigating a transit system can be confusing. The skill is knowing where you are relative to the end-of-the-line and which end-of-the-line is the direction you wish to travel. It’s a process of orienting. Here I am now. There is where I want to be. Inevitably, learning the system comes from of getting on the wrong train a few times.

It turns out that navigating life requires the same skill. Knowing where you are relative to where you want to be. Getting lost, getting on the wrong train is a necessary part of the process. Who hasn’t looked out their window and thought, “This isn’t where I wanted to go.” Or, “I’m not doing with my life what I wanted to do.” The real challenge, so I’ve  been told, is not in the knowing of where you want to go but in being honest enough with yourself to recognize where you are now.

Recently, climbing the stairs to catch a train in Chicago, we saw this helpful guide. Loop. This train will take you to the downtown loop. I laughed. Transit-Life-Lesson #2: whether you recognize it our not, learning lessons in life happens in loops and not lines. They call them “life lessons” because they come back around again and again and again…. There is no wrong direction in a loop. So, I suppose, whether you know where you are going or not, it’s best to enjoy your ride. Your unique life lesson will most certainly come back around.

Of course, in any case, in every case, asking for help is always…helpful. So, if you don’t mind, please tell me again, where am I?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LOOP

 

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Recognize The Moment [on KS Friday]

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I don’t know about you but my watershed moments usually pass without my notice. I rarely recognize them when they happen. It is only later, looking back, that I recognize the moment that changed my life. An email. A decision to take advantage of a layover. The choice to turn around and see if what I thought I saw was true.

And, once the choice was made, I stepped into a river of forces that took over and swept me along. A left hand path to an unforeseen destination. A destiny.

This piece, WATERSHED, begins as all watershed moments begin. Simply. And then…

 

WATERSHED on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WATERSHED

 

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watershed/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Follow Kirsten [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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At the end of the day I can say that I’ve coached or mentored many, many people. This is what I’ve learned: most people have a yearning and will take a timid step or two toward it. They will build the studio and then fear going into it. Many take a look at their dream and run screaming away from it.  The dream is too hot. Previous dream-touches came with shame or disappointment. Better to not try at all.

Then, there are those precious few people, those rare birds, that look at the edge and run at it. They jump. Safety, control, and security…fear…have no voice in the pursuit of their dream. Kirsten is one of those rare birds. When I met her, her heart was not happy. She was, I suppose, doing what she thought she should do. And then she saw her dream. In short order, she left her job, her security, her known-prescribed path. She left her should-dos. She dropped it all and ran at the edge and leapt without once looking to see if there was a bottom. She changed her body, her thoughts, her intentions. In a few short years – the blink of an eye where deep change is concerned – she transformed her life from a protected, armored experience, to something more vulnerable, crackling, spontaneous and alive.

She is on an artists’ path. Her life makes no sense to a world that worships 401k’s and picket fences. She works harder than any doctor, grinds out more hours than any accountant, or stock analyst, and does it for a pittance of the pay. Her pay comes from an internal driver, a soul satisfaction. She touches something that cannot be explained or justified. It also, once touched, cannot be denied. She stands solidly and with great intention on the burning point.

She heard the call and heeded it. Now, when we tell people of Kirsten they most often reply, “She’s living the life!” And I want to say, “No! Unlike most people she is living life.” She is one of those rare birds who can say, without doubt or equivocation, “My heart is happy.”

What could be a better gift to give the world – your family and friends – than a happy heart?

 

read Kerri’s blog post on MY HEART IS HAPPY

 

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Play The Same Stuff [on Merely A Thought Monday]

string bass with frame copy“If you are a chef, not matter how good a chef you are, it’s not good cooking for yourself; the joy is in cooking for others – it’s the same with music.” ~will.i.am

I lived most of my life believing I didn’t have a musical bone in my body. I was convinced that I had a tin ear. I was afraid to sing. I carried a guitar (I named her Magnolia) with me for years – a gesture of hopefulness amidst my absolute commitment to my ineptitude – and finally gave it away to someone who could play it. An instrument needs to be played and I felt I was being selfish holding onto a guitar that I would never play. Oh, how I wish I had Magnolia today.

I didn’t just make up my fear of music. I had plenty of reinforcement, lots of shaming, before I committed to a story of I CAN’T. Over time, with more and more horror experiences, my story solidified into I WON’T. Ever. Close the door. Kill the desire.

When I met Kerri – a consummate musician – I told her this: “You have to know two things about me. I don’t sing & I don’t pray.” A few months later we were driving back roads in Georgia, windows rolled down, a James Taylor CD blaring, Kerri singing at the top of her lungs, I thought it was safe to sing along. She’d never hear me. But, she did. She burst into tears and pulled the car off the road. I shook like a leaf but we sang together and it was grand.

It took her about 15 minutes to identify my obstacle. I had to relearn how to hear. That’s it. It took a few months and a willingness to mightily miss notes and my scary story of CAN’T crumbled. I learned how to feel the sound. The music was there all along.

Here’s the magic for a beginner like me: when I am rehearsing with the ukulele band or singing in the choir, I am capable of so much more than when I am practicing by myself. Playing the same stuff elevates everyone. It’s as if we transcend ourselves. Actually, we do transcend ourselves. We sync up and the energy uplifts everyone. Even me. Especially me, a toddler in knowing that I CAN.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PLAYING THE SAME STUFF

 

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Get It Done [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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When Master Miller tossed this phrase my way I laughed out loud. Isn’t it often the case that the closer we come to an important moment the more we pour  our excess nervous energy into any and every distraction? And, isn’t it a bonus if our distraction of choice is actually productive? I’ve washed a lot of dishes in an effort to keep myself occupied! A younger version of me ran miles and miles in fits of productive avoidance.

In the years since Quinn helped me see that no one really knows what they are doing I’ve decided that almost everything is in productive and/or creative avoidance. No one wants to peer into the great not-knowing. Like everyone else, I want to believe that what I do matters, that I am imbued with purpose. I want to believe that I have chosen my destiny and am storming down my path. And, what might I see if I could step out of my all important story? What might I find beyond my grand narrative? It’s scary stuff! Productive avoidance makes for some great distraction!

Kerri and I have an ongoing conversation about things that matter. At the end of the day, there’s only a very few things on the list. The rest? Well…at least we are getting things done!

 

read Kerri’s blog post on PRODUCTIVE AVOIDANCE

 

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