Receive The Message [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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It is my practice, when an animal crosses my path in a special or unusual way, to research the animal’s symbolism. I love story, mythology and the power of symbols (words are symbols, too!) – and, oddly, as a human, I am given to ask that most basic of human questions, “What does it mean?”

One night I had a very long eye-to-eye communion with a coyote. Two snakes crossed my path. Crows used to plague me on a daily basis. A white owl kept me company for a spell. Each was the impetus for me to dive into the symbol, the possible medicine or message of each visitation.

Kerri is horse crazy yet it hadn’t occurred to me until last week to spend some time with the horse as an animal spirit. We were up north on a brief get-away and Dan, in a fit of genius, arranged a sleigh ride. The horses pulling the sleigh were Bill and Ace. Kerri and Ace were immediate friends. They were more than friends. I watched a sweet magic swirl between woman and horse. There is no simple emoji for what passed between Kerri and Ace.

This past year has, for us, been a time of great upheaval and contention. Kerri’s broken wrists are only the latest-and-greatest slice in a year full of crazy pie. And so,  I stood witness to the immediate magnetism, the power of the horse to touch and raise Kerri’s spirits. In the sleigh, for the first time in months, Kerri completely relaxed. The tension and contention of these many months disappeared. She whispered excitedly about Ace and her love of horses. No doctor could have prescribed a better medicine for what ailed her.

Horses signify the overcoming of obstacles. They speak of how to carry yourself in the face of adversity. They appear to remind us to take care of our spirits, our minds and emotions and bodies. Above all, they symbolize freedom of spirit. Freedom. A horse can serve people but can never be fully tamed by people [I may as well have written of Kerri: she can serve but she will never be tamed].

A few days later, on our drive home, she was full of light and possibility. “I think we may have finally turned the corner,” she said. “Or, maybe, we should just live as if we’ve turned the corner.” Yes. What better way to address an obstacle, to carry yourself in the face of adversity, than to let your spirit run free, to live as if the hurdle was already cleared. No resistance.

I smiled and looked out my window. What does it all mean? Who cares. I whispered a quiet gratitude that a horse crossed our path and now my wife’s spirit is running free.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HORSES & SLEIGHS

 

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Find The First Principle [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I don’t know about you but the moments in my life that I am the least proud are the moments that I was steeped in anger. In anger, I have said things that I didn’t mean and done things that I now regret. There is no real strength to be found in anger. There is only blindness and weakness.

We live in the great age of the misnomer. In anger we slap a label of virtue on the mad face of vice.

Step outside and you’re likely to be trampled by a stampeding herd of verbal misdirection. If your brain is not pulped by rage and you are curious enough to question, you just might survive the stampede. But do not think you are safe! That roaring that you hear is nothing less than an avalanche of obfuscation.

Occam would have a field day using his razor on phrases like “alternative truth.” What are the odds that a lie is a lie and not an alternative at all? He would roll his eyes at us. “What entices you, ” he would ask, after slicing the alternative from the truth, “to willingly swallow so much word-gumbo?”

The answer is easy and readily apparent: anger. We are an angry nation getting angrier. Angry people rarely ask questions. Anger and Reason are never seen sitting at the same table. Angry people are especially gullible, easily whipped into an frenzy, and led by the nose into concocted fights. People are made angry in order to focus their blood shot eyes on made-up-divides. There is nothing that bonds an Us like the perception of an invading Them.

If you survive the avalanche of obfuscation, duck, cover, and roll as the squadron of conspiracy theories are certainly swooping in to drop their fantastic story-bombs. Misdirection. Obfuscation. Cries of “Hoax!” and “Witch hunt!”

Anger, so we’re told, is a secondary emotion. It is a cover-up emotion, a protection against feeling the primary thing, like fear or loss. Anger is what happens when the metaphoric dog is backed into the corner. It’s better to bark and snap than to feel shame or sadness or otherwise vulnerable, especially in public. It’s easier to punch, to blame, to rage than it is to deal with the first principle.

What we-the-people have in common, our first principle, is suffocating under all of this anger.

Sharpening his razor, Occam might ask, “What would happen if you dealt with what you were really feeling instead of covering it up with so much fury? What’s beneath the anger? Deal with that.”

History teaches that when a leader fans anger into a red hot flame, the purpose is to forge the gullible into a thoughtless mob. These are the necessary bellows: obfuscation, misdirection, conspiracy theories a-go-go. Blame. Blame. Blame.

Mobs are not really strong. They are flashes in a vapid leader’s pan. They return to their strength when the fire burns itself out, when their eyes clear, and they once again become capable of asking, “What’s going on?”

Anger and strength – despite what the stampeding herd would like you to believe – are not the same thing. One requires the presence of mind and clear sight – and the other is defined by blindness and the absence of thought.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ANGER AS PROXY

 

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Knit A Better Structure [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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“…the test of a civilization is how it cares for its helpless members.” ~ Pearl Buck

As a nation, we are currently enamored with tests, and it is not a stretch to say that we’d receive a failing grade on this test of civilization. The helpless members do not fare well.

As Horatio pointed out, much is lost between the cracks of the quintessential conundrum built into the DNA of these United States: the dueling philosophies of every-man-for himself versus I-am-my-brother’s-keeper. Republicans versus Democrats. Corporate greed versus social need. Black and white thinking that leaves gaping voids into which the helpless members disappear. There is no both/and to be found. Division has been a useful tool of control since the inception of the American experiment. The ideological cleaver is sharper than ever these days.

Yet, there is hope that reveals another side to our character.  Kerri said, “Look at this!” The Appalachian Wildlife Refuge put out a call for used mascara brushes. They are a useful tool in saving small critters and returning them to health. They received so many brushes, the response was so great, that they had to put limits on when they would accept new brush donations. It’s my bet that people of all political stripes and social strata sent their used mascara brushes to the Refuge. It’s my bet that the critters and the caregivers were grateful in every case.

When tragedy strikes, we rush to meet the need. When a photo moves us, we respond. Something pierces the superficial divide and reaches into our communal heart.

Robert Fritz teaches that behavior is like water, it follows the path of least resistance. If you want to change behavior, you must first change the underlying structure of the land. What might it take for us to challenge this superficial concocted divide, to reach deep  into our DNA and knit a better structure of the land – something more useful and more profound than perpetually dueling philosophies? What might it take for us to put down our cleaver and pick up our mascara brushes? What might we imagine and create together that would help history give us a better grade on our test?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about IMPACT

 

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Ripple [on KS Friday]

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“you make a difference in their life, even though they don’t know who you are, you make a difference.” ~ Kerri Sherwood, You Make A Difference

I catch myself in webs of my own weaving. There are things that I know to be true but willingly ignore when I am feeling blue and indulge in a warm bath of self-pity. For instance, my move to Wisconsin brought me to my great love but also came as a career killer. I have, in the past few years, spent inordinate amounts of time pondering my worth to the world. Beyond “husband,” who am I now that “no one” finds value in my work?

When my eyes and heart clear, I know that I have willingly stepped into the single greatest trap plaguing the Western world: investment in the notion that my experience – my life on this earth – is a product. That I must, as John O’Donohue writes, “…strive to garner a quota of significance from the world.”

How isolated we are, searching for purpose, trying to make a mark, seeking an experience, trying to find our voice,…have value, like so much property or stocks to be traded. Reduction. People as bottom lines. What is my value? What is yours?

I’ve decided that my favorite movie is ABOUT TIME. The main character, Tim, is afforded the opportunity to live each day over again. The second time through, instead of grinding out his task list and exhausting rush to achieve, he pays attention to the little things, the relationships he has all throughout the day. He is afforded the opportunity to shift his focus from “life as a product” to “life as relationship.” He makes a difference, not because he makes millions or wins the case, but because he smiles at the clerk of the convenience store. He pays attention to the “space between” and realizes he is nothing more or nothing less than a relationship. Ultimately, he has no need to live each day twice because he ceases throwing the first chance away. He releases the life-dulling-I-am-a-product-mentality and embraces the life-giving-I-am-a-relationship reality.

Sisyphus, in his first trip to the underworld, watches as a thousand souls wander the river bank, so lost in the fog of their own stories that they, each and every one, believe that they are all alone. Finally, their manic little stories play out, the fog surrounding them dissipates, and they see each other. In that moment, they return to their natural state, their most powerful state. They blend together into a single, vibrant mist (relationship). In that moment, Sisyphus is forever changed. He comes alive, returning to the upper regions, knowing that the real vitality, crackling life, is available if he looks beyond his isolating story-fog.

Instead of reducing his life to a measurable value, a few gold coins extracted from the world, Sisyphus expands beyond his little story-prison of worth-seeking to paying attention to what he brings to the moment, focusing on the shared space between. His life ripples and those ripples have no end. In fact, he understands that his life is a ripple.

Instead of trying to be somebody (separation) he simply recognizes and fully inhabits the utter miracle of his being (relationship). In that simple, profound shift, the difference is made.

It’s in Kerri’s song. You make a difference in their lives, even though they don’t know who you are. Your life, and their life, are one and the same thing.

 

YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE is available in iTunes& CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE

 

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you make a difference ©️ 2003 kerri sherwood

Hear The Whisper [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A house remembers.

We took my dad back to his home town. It was a pilgrimage. He wanted to see it one last time. We walked through the cemetery. He pointed to headstones and told stories. He looked for people and grew frustrated when he couldn’t find them. He’d breathe a sigh of relief when, after walking row after row, we finally found them.

The pilgrimage was not to the cemetery. It was to a tiny little house that his grandfather built that he needed to return. To touch. Nowadays it is being used as a shed. His dad grew up in that tiny house. It was the center of his universe when he was a child, his cathedral.

Standing before the tiny house, he told the story of how his grandfather split open and pried apart the rafters, making a second story. He built on a small kitchen. He added a small bedroom on one side. There was a porch.

To our eyes, it was now barely standing. To my dad’s eyes, it was the most beautiful home on earth.

As we walked the perimeter I couldn’t help but feel that the house needed to see him as much as he needed to see the house. It remembered, “You came back!” It seemed to sit up straight, remembering the days that it housed a family, that meals were cooked within its walls, that children slept there. As my dad told the stories, I was overwhelmed with the notion that he wasn’t just telling us, he was talking to the house. And the house was nodding, smiling, “Yes, I remember…” The children ran free. Everyone worked hard.

As we walked away he knew he would never see it again. But he’d shared the story. He’d introduced us to this house, his-and-now-my sacred place. “This is where you come from,” the house and my dad whispered together, “Remember.”

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read Kerri’s blog post about A HOUSE REMEMBERS

 

 

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Get Off The List [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Are we even aware of our biases anymore?  ~Shawn Langlois, 2018 Marketwatch. Check out the chart.

“What we all feared has happened. Trump has been normalized.” ~ Bill Maher

“I think they’ve been unleashed.” ~ J after listening to the poolside conversations at the YMCA

It was an accident of timing that I was directing a production of the docu-drama, GOD’S COUNTRY, with college students in Santa Fe, NM when George W. Bush was up for re-election. The play chronicles the rise of a white supremacist group and the man they murdered, Allan Berg, a Denver-based talk show radio host. Much of the dialogue is drawn from court documents from the trials of the white supremacists and the transcripts of Allan Berg’s shows. It’s chilling.

The students and I studied hate groups. We studied division. We read studies about how easily a person or community can be slowly drawn into a mindset of hate. It’s a prescription, like slowly boiling a frog. Angry people are an easy mark to be led down the hate path.

One of the studies that stayed with me was Lawrence Britt’s The 14 Characteristics of Fascism (at that time, the USA exhibited many of the characteristics on the list). The list was chilling in 2004 during the production. It is horrifying now that we’ve waded into the swampy waters of #14: Fraudulent Elections. Last week in the USA  an entire political party (with one exception), despite overwhelming evidence, lined up and gave explicit permission to their leader to allow a foreign power to manipulate our elections.

David Neiwert wrote a book, called In God’s Country: The Patriot Movement and The Pacific Northwest. In it are eye-opening tales recounting how a community becomes complicit with its haters. “Boys will be boys.” “Oh, that’s just who they are.” “They didn’t mean any harm by it.” “Turn a blind eye.” Hate crimes rapidly multiply when a community is willing to let it slide. Explain it away. Normalize it. “That’s just who he is.”

And what happens when the enemy, the latest scapegoat that unifies the party-in-lock-step (#3 on the list), is the other half of us, the other party? What happens when indecency is rewarded and ignorance applauded? What happens when fear is the reason the lock-steppers cover their ears and claim that they see no evil? Low-information comes with a very high price.

As they say, history repeats itself. And, somehow, we find ourselves – at least half of our nation – embracing the list.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about INDECENCY

 

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Take Heart [on DR Thursday]

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I dipped into the Flawed Cartoon archive to find this one. Not only is it is one of my favorites, but it describes perfectly this time of my life. In my case, the scarf is for warmth and not fashion. I have no explanation for the hat.

My inner-misguided-philosopher whispers, “Take heart, all are made of the same snow!” I wince but scribble a note because that would make a great groan-inspiring cartoon if I ever jump back into the Flawed pool. Who knew snow could inspire bad philosophy!

I remind myself that every great knight probably looked pathetic and skinny when not in their armor. All that chain mail and shiny metal hid the truth revealed in tights and tunics. I suspect that knights avoided mirrors unless encased in polished alloy! I scribble another note. A good seed for a sumpin-sumpin someday.

“Take heart,” my inner-misguided philosopher reminds me, “Sometimes the best possibilities come wrapped in a scarf wearing a goofy hat.” I roll my eyes. Always the optimist.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on THE POSSIBILITIES

 

 

 

 

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flawed cartoons ©️ 2017 david robinson