Make The Climb [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

display of knowledge in frame copy

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

 

 

cropped head kiss website copy

 

Be A Neighbor [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

snow angels copy

We were in the basement putting away Christmas stuff when John cleared our driveway and sidewalk with his snowblower. We didn’t hear it or I’d have run outside to give him a big bear hug. I discovered his generosity when I pulled on my boots, grabbed my shovel and stepped outside to find a job well done. Coming back in the house Kerri said in jest, “That was quick.” Pretending to be a snow-shoveling-superhero, I said, “Take a look if you doubt my capabilities!”

She immediately doubted my superhero capabilities because she knew the real superhero was John. Like me, she was overwhelmed with his kindness.

If you could order your neighbors on Amazon, you’d be foolish not to pick John and Michele. Seriously, if I could give the world anything it would be the peace of mind that comes  when you have good and caring neighbors. Neighbors who have your back. Neighbors who, without being asked, watch your house when you are away. Neighbors you can call at any moment, at any time of day or night, “help,” and know that they will be happy to be there.  Neighbors who you look forward to hanging out with, who are curious about the world and passionate about what they do.

My parents were good neighbors. They understood and taught me that ‘neighbor’ is not a statement of location. It is active relationship, connective tissue, participation, the most immediate and potent way of making the world a better place. Start where you live.

Later in the afternoon, knowing that John enjoys good beer, we walked to a local micro brewery, debated which beer he’d enjoy the most, bought him a “thank you” crowler and left it on his porch.

Back in our yard, falling backwards into the deep snow, we made snow angels. Laying in our newly minted angels, looking at the clouds, Kerri said, “You know, we’re really lucky.”

True. Very True. We have great neighbors.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SNOW ANGELS

 

snowheart website box copy

 

Take A Walk In The Snow [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

snow on the lakefront copy

I just wrote a post about global warming and then I cut it. In truth, I spent a about an hour reading and researching and cross-checking things. We’ve been measuring the ocean temperatures everyday for decades. We’ve been recording levels of human carbon emissions into the atmosphere for decades. The data is there. The science is there. The evidence is there. So, too, is the counter-narrative. A Chinese hoax? The Deep State? So much conspiracy! And, really, what does that have to do with a photograph of snow at night? Delete!

The embrace of the counter-narrative fascinates me. The committed belief in what is demonstrably false -led me to read a bit about denial psychology. Here’s the dictionary definition: “a defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.”

So, then, I started writing a post about the denial psychology run amok these days in the USA. If you don’t know what I’m writing about then (to borrow a phrase I read today) you are either a Martian or a watcher of Fox news. I cut that post, too. I suspect you are as sick of the lazy-minded debates, entrenchment and ever-present fearmongering as I am. Even I am bored by what I wrote. Nothing new! Nothing new! And, what does that have to do with a photograph of snow? Delete!

It is not uncommon for Kerri and I to take late night walks in the snow. Especially, when it is actually snowing. There is peace. There is quiet. We hold hands and listen to the sound of our feet crunching the new snow, the whisper of wind through the trees. Peace. Quiet. Listening.

We haven’t had one of our late night walks lately. There hasn’t been any snow. A dusting here and there but that hardly qualifies. And so, we wait for the return of the snow. The return of the listening, the quiet, and perhaps, too, the return of the peace.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SNOW ON THE LAKEFRONT

 

snowheart website box copy

 

snow on the lakefront ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood

Sometimes it is inconvenient to see all of life as a metaphor. Forever exercising the capacity to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. Everything referential to something else. It’s no wonder people avoid me at parties!

A bar at the airport. Both the bar and the airport are liminal spaces. In-between places. Neither here nor there. Doesn’t this sound like the beginning of a detective story? Waiting for our flight at this gathering place of strangers, we decided to celebrate the beginning of our trip, some much-needed time off. A break from the grind. We ordered two glasses of wine. No sense jumping into space without sampling the airport’s finest red!

With multiple games of football playing all around us, awaiting the bartender to bring us our wine, Kerri asked me if I wanted to bowl. She was already placing the tiny yellow pins and blue bowling ball on the bar. Placing our wine beside the pins the bartender said, “Well, look at you!” Apparently we were not the first people to bowl at his bar.

I was first up. I rolled the ball. It hit the pins and bounced off. I caught the ball before it rolled off the bar. Now, as metaphors for my life go, this one is frighteningly accurate. Kerri cheered, “Do it again!” as if my direct-hit-with-no-result was intentional. My wife is hysterical. She pulled out her phone and set it up to record my ineffectual nature for posterity. I complied. I rolled. You can see the result. Kerri stopped recording before she howled with laughter. She packed up the pins before taking a turn. She promptly sent to video to many of our pals. “They’re going to love this!” she giggled.

Never, ever think that I do not serve a purpose on this earth, in this life.

In a world of metaphor, one pin falling is actually worse than no pins at all. It’s like a 25 cent tip or a 1 percent salary raise. Insult to injury. As Horatio would say, “Always the bridesmaid….” of course, it’s why people periodically sit with me at parties. Feeling good about yourself is often a product of relativity.

And, if all else fails, there is a healthy pour of the airport’s finest red. Have a good trip!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BOWLING AT THE AIRPORT

 

gate f8 website box copy

 

 

 

Listen To BabyCat [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

babycat in a box copy

Everyone has there safe spot. The place where they can relax, let their guard down. Rest. Mine is the chair in my studio. For years my dad’s safe spot was his reclining chair. He’d melt into it and fall fast asleep. Safe spots are contained spaces. Quiet. Known. Cocoons.

BabyCat has many safe spots. He moves with the sun from safe spot to safe spot around the house. He recently added another to his holdings. It is not fancy. There is nothing designer about his tastes though this choice surprised us: a toothpaste box from Costco.

Moments before it became a BabyCat safe spot, the box was loaded with coffee, eggs, a bottle of wine.  It had no importance. We tossed the box to the floor merely to make space on the counter. A discard en route to the recycling bag. And then BabyCat occupied it. We knew immediately that this was not temporary housing by the way he settled in. This was the real deal. He purred.

Though we’ve moved it to a less trip-able spot, the toothpaste box remains one of BabyCat’s favorites in his safe spot rotation. Watching him move from zen to zen I realized he is never far from a safe spot. He has constructed his life according to maximizing his inner quiet and comfort. It is his top priority.

There must be a lesson to be learned in there somewhere. This year, as I run from place to place, from one stress spot to the next, enrapt in my all-too-important list of things to accomplish, I will stop (periodically) and remember the power of a toothpaste box, the lesson of BabyCat and the real  possibility of moving through life prioritizing my peace  instead of raising my blood pressure.

BabyCat Lesson One: identify more than one safe spot. Then multiply.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BABYCAT’S BOX

 

chicago market dec 2018 website box copy

Be With [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

being present box copy

In the cliche’ hall of fame, this phrase probably sits atop the pile: the best present is being present. And, if you stop for a moment and think about it, this phrase is undeniably true. That is the reason it has the top spot in the cliche’ universe.

We gather. The ritual provides the reason. We gather to affirm. To revivify the story. To nourish the one thing that matters: our relationship to one another. The rest is merely accoutrement.

This season I saw many many photos of families gathered around a table. People shared photos of their loved ones standing by a tree, in the snow, on the beach, organized on a staircase, in a kitchen. People traveling to be with their people. On the cards we sent to family and friends we wrote, “Thinking of you.” What we meant was, “Wanting to be with you.”

In the many photos that people shared with me, no one showed me a photo of the stuff they received. No one showed me a photo of the stuff they gave. They showed me the reason they were giving and receiving the stuff. The relationship.

Sometimes it hides in plain sight.

And, since the relationships are the epicenter, there is only one thing that sits atop the pyramid of gifts given and received. And, every day it is the same: presence. Being with.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE BEST PRESENT

 

trinitychristmasphoto website box copy

 

 

 

Catch The Small [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

copley place - back bay, boston copy

Chasing Dan and Craig through Copley Place in Boston I was amused by the ENORMOUS holiday ornaments either hanging from the rafters or well placed in the walkways by giant designer hands. We were cutting through the mall to avoid the cold. I felt as if I stepped into the movie,The Incredible Shrinking Man. Either that or Richard Serra had taken over the universe and large-scale was the rule-of-the-day.  I became the guy that people avoid, giggling my way through the vigorous sea of shoppers.

I delight in experiences that shock me into SEEING. Moments that take me out of my monkey mind, that jettison me beyond the veil of my incessant (and ridiculous) inner monologue are priceless. To marvel. To laugh. To see with clarity our investments in all the BIG things that do not really matter and catch the few precious small moments that do matter.

Later on the train out of the city, Kerri and I did not talk about the monster ornaments or the massive decorations and ubiquitous lights adorning everything. Selling the season with such gusto! We talked of the moment that Craig slowed down and put his arm around his mother. Just for a moment. Such a small priceless thing to happen amidst so many monumental lovely displays.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BIG ORNAMENTS

 

oversizedjoy copley place website box copy