Learn How To Use It [on KS Friday]

The young man came to our house to bid on a job. He is days away from becoming a new dad. We talked about becoming a parent, his hopes, dreams, and his fears. He and his wife have decided to homeschool their son; the very real possibility of his child being shot in a classroom was a major factor in their decision.

Having spent much of my life working in and with public schools, it broke my heart. Kerri and I acknowledged that, were we new parents, we’d probably make the same choice. “Every man/woman for him/her self” is winning the day over “I am my brother/sister’s keeper.”

Who hasn’t seen the video of a mother teaching her son what to do in the event of an active shooter at school? She purchased a bullet-proof backpack to help keep her child safe. Who hasn’t heard the description of what the bullet from an assault rifle does to the body of a child?

About the budding new democracy called The United States of America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.” He also wrote, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” And so it is.

As I’ve previously written, as a child in school, our safety drills were about atom bombs. Outside threats. This generation, this young artisan, about to become a new dad, knows his son will have to drill against an internal threat. A country that refuses to protect its children and opts, instead, to protect its gun lobby, its money.

“Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.” ~ Alexis de Tocqueville.

Freedom is an art form. A practice. It’s an ideal that a community practices and creates together. No one does it alone. And, therein, lies our problem. Every man/woman for him/herself is not freedom. It is chaos. Anarchy. It has our children ducking under desks and carrying bulletproof backpacks. Or, avoiding school altogether.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about LIGHT IN THE DARK

transience/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Dowse Your Data [on Merely A Thought Monday]

My favorite question of the week: What is the science behind divining?

I admit to laughing out loud when I read the question. In a world run amok with science-deniers and rabid propagandists, we might as well answer the question with a qualifier: it depends on what you decide to believe. Or, answer a question with a question: do you really want to know what the science says?

Since belief-divining is all the rage these days, the best available advice for adherents of critical thought is, “Don’t waste your breath.”

I took a peek at ‘dowsing’ in wikipedia. Divining is generally attributed to “ideomotor phenomena.” A psychological response. An accidental movement. Science reports dowsing is projection.

What is the science behind love? What is the love behind science? A moment ago Kerri frowned when I told her she was the sole-object of my ideometric phenomena. She’s learned not to ask and has developed a keen ability to move on from my thoughts to thoughts with more substance.

Science doesn’t prove. Science hypothesizes, gathers data, and then reports findings. Science is objective. It is both rooted in data and is open-minded. New data always come in. It takes an open mind to successfully roll with the theory of relativity. It takes an open mind to open to the data. Excessive carbon in the air is heating the planet. We are simultaneously cutting down the earth’s lungs to make room for more cattle production.

What’s your hypothesis of our recent spate of 1000 year storms year after year? Science is offering a fairly clear picture.

What’s the science behind divination? The science of seeing into the future? Projection?

I was delighted when I stumbled on an NPR story about U.K. Water Companies Sometimes Use Dowsing Rods. The companies admitted to the use of divination but were quick to add, that it’s not a company-wide policy. And then reinforced their disclaimer with the only disclaimer that we universally and wholeheartedly accept: it doesn’t cost money. If it cost money, we’d take it seriously. Like pet rocks. Or reality tv.

Deloitte (using scientific methods) reports the cost of climate change to the U.S.A. economy will be 14.5 trillion dollars over the next 50 years. We can expect to lose 900,000 jobs each year. Ideometric phenomena? Scientific divination? Data-dowsing?

For adherents of critical thought, it occurs to me to update the best available advice with another question: How much time do we have to waste?

read Kerri’s blog post on Y

Discern [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It’s a little over two miles to Steve’s garage. When we drop the car for a repair, especially in the early morning, we like to walk home. The route takes us by the lake. We take our time, more stroll than stride, and breathe in the early morning quiet.

We are dedicated walkers. We’ve become dedicated seekers and creators of quiet. It’s as if we are counterbalancing the crazy-noise-of-the-news with a stalwart sanctuary that we take with us wherever we go. We walk slow enough to notice. We walk slow enough to appreciate.

There is, of course, a direct correlation between pace-of-movement and paying attention. It’s hard to smell the roses when racing through the day. Lately, much of my work-in-the-world involves addressing information overload. The pace-of-movement need not be physical, it also applies to the river of information rushing across our screens. It’s no wonder we’re angry and anxious and aggressive. I’ve adopted a phrase from my colleague, Greg; he calls the info-torrent More/Faster. We live in the age of info-gluttony and have difficulty discerning between what has nutritional value and what is dross.

Until we slow down. There is a correlation between the pace of movement and peace-of-mind. There is a correlation between pace and the capacity to determine relevance.

It’s why we walk to or from Steve’s Garage. It’s why we end the work day holding hands and walking the neighborhood. It’s why we begin each day sitting side-by-side writing. To slow it down. To discern relevance in a fast moving info-river of dedicated draff. To see what matters in a More/Faster world racing too fast to see anything at all.

We smell flowers. Feel the dew on leaves. Turn our faces to the sun as it reaches through the morning clouds. Real stuff. Stuff of the moment. The small discoveries available when racing to the next thing is the last thing you want to do.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MORNING SKY

Make A Documentary [on Flawed Wednesday]

Skip suggested that I make a documentary film about our neighborhood. With the recent car explosion across the street, the Jacob Blake protests (martial law, riots, et.al), the mockery-of-a-trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the retrial of the anti-freeze murder, and the most recent excitement: a water line repair crew accidentally cut the gas line to the house next door to the car-explosion-house. All of this and a pandemic, too!

I quipped that my documentary would be titled “Calamity Vortex.” Petticoat Junction. Green Acres. Black gold, Texas tea…

Perhaps it’s not a documentary but a sitcom that I should create! Including us, there are plenty of good characters in the neighborhood to exaggerate. I’d go with a reality t.v. program but I fear sitting around waiting for the next disaster might not make scintillating television. Although, doesn’t it seem that is what we are doing in the age of climate change. Kentucky is underwater. The west is on fire, setting new records established just last year. Britain and parts of India are baking. And what about those hurricanes and tornadoes? How many once-in-1000-year-events does it take before we acknowledge the new norm?

Where does one draw the defining line of “my neighborhood”?

When the gas line was cut and explosion seemed imminent, I was delighted that several firetrucks pulled up in a matter of minutes. They kept us safe. While sitting far enough away to clear the gas-headache, I marveled that we are very good at responding to disaster but not so great at preventing it. Some things are accidental, of course, but global warming is not. It is – or was – preventable.

Perhaps my documentary film – or tv series – or reality tv program – would attract more viewers if the conceit was a neighborhood of people causing their own problems and then, while racing to clean up the mess, they ask “How could this happen?”

It would be a comedy, of course.

read Kerri’s blogpost about FIRETRUCKS

Give It Perspective [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Awe” is one of those complex words that contains its opposite. Wonder and dread. Astonishment and fear. Respect for the power of nature. Reverence. It’s a full-spectrum word.

Awe is what you feel standing at the ocean shore, knowing the waves will rush in long after you are gone. Water pulling at your ankles. Toes in the sand. Staring into eternity.

Awe is a perspective-giving word. It makes us both tiny-in-the-universe and fortunate-beyond-words, all in the same moment.

Once, I stood on a mountaintop in the bitter cold of dawn. The sun broke over the horizon and washed over me with a wave of warmth. Life-giving. Literally. I stopped shivering when the sun touched my bones. Filled with awe, I started to laugh and cry. Beautiful, magnificent and painful.

We stood on the deck and watched the cloud tower above us. Threatening and astonishing. She showed me the photo. “The wire makes it,” she said holding the screen so I could see it, “It gives it perspective.”

Perspective. Correct regard for the truly awesome power of nature.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TOWERING CLOUD

Love What You Bring [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“Only mediocrity is sure of itself…” ~ Paulo Coelho, Aleph

Sometimes I wonder why I spent so much of my life believing I was a fraud. I was provided with great mentors, each relaying the same message: vibrant life is never found in what you know. The point of life is to step toward not-knowing. And, yet, for years, I abused myself with accusations of not-knowing. It was proof that I was a fraud. I was certain everyone else knew.

Quinn pointed to a tall building and told me the people occupying the big office at the top were just making it up, too.

Jim worked hard to help me understand that artistry happens in the release of preparation.

Tom McK tried to help me see that the real riches are found in the very moment that you simply don’t know what to do.

I am fortunate. After so many great mentors speaking a singular message to my titanic fear of not-knowing, the penny dropped. Standing alone in the vast open plain of not-knowing, a two-step mantra flooded my being.

Step #1: Have the experience first. Make meaning second.

A Post-it note pinned near my desk reads, “Competence isn’t in what you know, it’s in your capacity to figure it out.” I have great capacity.

Step #2: Suspend your judgments and learn.

Martha Graham’s “divine dissatisfaction” and “blessed unrest” permeate the vast open plain of not-knowing. “Keep the channel open,” she advised Agnes deMille. “No artist is pleased.”

“Your job is to put it out there,” Dick K., told a younger version of me. “What other people think is none of your business.”

It’s simple. Love what you bring.

read Kerri’s blogpost about YOUR WORK

Be Different [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Inadvertently, 20 did me a great favor. On the day Kerri and I married, he carried a concealed camera and captured conversations and special moments of our ceremony. In his footage is a short exchange he had with my dad. My dad said of me, “He’s his own man.”

To that point in my life I’d wondered what he thought of me, my winding career path, my free-form seeming-feral existence. “He’s his own man,” brought me peace.

Once, during a conference that we led, Alan told me I should dress differently. “People would have more respect for you,” he said. Once, trying to fit in, I wore a suit to a facilitation and Rich told me I should dump the suit and dress as myself. I’ve awarded him the blue ribbon for best advice.

In my consulting life I wore clogs. I hated shoes with strings. The first thing I did at every job was kick off my clogs. You’d be surprised how invested people in power suits are in their footwear. You’d be heartened how human they become when they unlace and kick off their shoes. It’s like removing a mask.

People hire me because I am different. Because I see differently. My difference is my gift, the epicenter of what I bring to the world – and that is true of all people.

In a culture that prides itself on its individualism, it’s always been amusing to me how invested we are to “fit in.” Shopping at the right store, wearing the right clothes, we gush about our wild nature while synching tight the corporate tie. To “dress for success” means to fit a prescription, to NOT stand out. Business casual. The real real. All houses must look the same. Revealing behavior betrays the swaggering rhetoric.

Our individualism is at best a thin veneer. In truth, we fear difference. I dare the court of Supremes to uphold a coach’s right to pray before the big game on the 50 yard line if he’s Sikh. Or Muslim. Or Hindu. Or Buddhist. My son is gay. He lives a constant, never-ending battle to defend his difference. Why?

“But the truth is, I am different,” I said to Kerri who was red-faced with anger at the email from the concrete sub-contractor. He turned down the job to replace our bit of sidewalk, broken out during the waterline repair. Among his reasons, “…and he seems a little different.” He was referring to me.

“I’ve dealt with that my whole life,” I said as she furiously typed a reply. “It’s not a big deal. I’m an artist.”

“It is a big deal,” she snarled, typing harder, faster.

Listening to her ferocious key-pounding, I had a sweet wave of appreciation for her. In a lifetime of “different”, it is a rare and precious moment that someone vigorously defends your difference. Rather than hammer you into creased dockers, lace-up shoes or the right haircut, a furious defender was unfamiliar. She, too, is different and knows the bruise of the shame-hammer. I suspect we’ve all experienced its sting.

In my head, I heard my dad say, “He’s his own man.” Peace. I am what I am and the people who love me wouldn’t have me any other way. That makes a difference. All the difference.

This I know: it’s nice – so nice – not to be alone in my difference.

read Kerri’s blogpost about DIFFERENCE

Meet On The Deck [on KS Friday]

Lately, when I close up shop for the day and come down the stairs from my office, Kerri and I meet on the back deck. We choose sun or shade, settle in, and talk about our day. There are stories to share, ideas to consider, speculations. Sometimes she’ll catch me up on the news, what’s happened in the world since I climbed the stairs in the morning.

Lately, listening to the news-of-the-day is like strapping a large stone to my chest and jumping into deep water. An intentional sink. “Why would I do that to myself?” I ask myself. I call Kerri’s morning surf through social media her “horror trawl.”

The back deck is a place of hope. I can hear the news-of-the-day on the back deck because, while listening, I watch the hummingbirds zip and hover. The evenings are alive with the most extraordinary bird song. The gurgle of the pond is a soothing meditation. The vibrant life on the back deck is immediate and vital. I know the neighborhood fox is actively hunting the neighborhood bunnies so it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but it is natural process. It is not excessive or hyped or angry. It’s life without self-indulgence or puffery.

I can hear the news of the day on the back deck because I can detach from it. In comparison to the hummingbirds or the squirrels running atop the fence, it seems like a bad soap opera, a cast of characters dedicated to their guck.

After the intentional sink, for an extra dose of hope, I visit the tomato plants. They seem to be doubling in size every day. The blossoms have appeared. Kerri takes my hand and leads me to the pots. “Lookit!” she smiles “More tomatoes in waiting!”

Tomatoes in waiting. Harbingers of good things to come. The stuff of life – to taste and touch. Little red bursts of captured sunshine. The real stuff. Life expressing life.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost on TOMATOES IN WAITING

this part of the journey/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Intend Renewal [on DR Thursday]

Context is everything. When we chose this picture for our Melange, I thought I’d probably write about renewal. Out of devastation, a phoenix rises. Or, perhaps the kind of renewal that doesn’t just happen but requires a bit of scraping, new soil, scattered seed, and hay-net to prevent the birds from feasting on the seed. Intentional renewal.

Context. Between the day we chose this photo and this cool quiet morning that I’m attempting to write about it, the mass shooting at Highland Park happened. I’m finding it nearly impossible to write about renewal.

Highland Park is not far away. We attend the annual art fair on their small-town Main Street. We’ve driven through 4 times in the last two weeks.

We were about to go out the door and walk to our local 4th of July festival when the news arrived. We looked at each other, no words necessary. We kicked off our shoes. We decided to stay home. Going to a place where people congregate – like grocery stores or elementary schools or places of worship or movie theatres or parades meant to celebrate our “independence” – seemed unsafe.

Context.

HIghland Park was one of three locations in the USA that experienced mass shootings on the 4th of July. No, check that. Four locations. Even as I type, Kerri brought news of the mass shooting that happened here – not so many blocks away – on the 4th. Staying home was a good choice. Oops. Check that. More news. There were eight. Oops (again). Check that. Eleven.

I cannot write about renewal but, for the third time this week, I am tapping out thoughts about interconnectivity.

It is a trick of language to say, “I broke my toe” and believe that only the isolated body-part called “toe” is injured while everything else is fine. Except it’s not fine. An injury anywhere to the body is an injury to the whole body. Everything is impacted. Everything adjusts. The pain-impulse you feel in your toe has already completed a round trip to your brain. Your posture adjusts so expect your hip or back to be sore tomorrow. Your spatial awareness goes on high alert: it’s best to avoid toe contact with any immovable object. If you desire to understand interconnectivity, consider how your whole body might respond if you happen to stub your seeming-isolated-and-already-broken-toe. Whole body response. Imagine it.

There have been over 300 mass shootings in the United States this year. So, the single most puzzling comment to come out of HIghland Park? “How could it happen here?” As if “here” is somehow isolated from Uvalde or Buffalo or Boulder or…it’s a long list and growing.

The whole nation-body is injured. It’s the illusion of isolation that underpins the mad-thought that more guns, unrestricted, are a solution to gun violence. Build a fortress? Isolate? Better doors? Arm yourself? It’s only the toe.

Where exactly is the boundary of “here?” And why would it be okay for “it” to happen “there”?

We’re all here. There is no “there” that is “safe.” Context is everything.

Perhaps I am writing about renewal. The intentional kind that requires some leadership scraping, new soil, seed, and a whole-body community united and relentless in their demand for proper protections from the insanity of guns.

read Kerri’s blogpost bout NEW GRASS

may you © 2015 david robinson

Go It Together [on Flawed Wednesday]

“The problem is that this fluidity is not a choice we are free to make. Despite the unifying patriotic rhetoric that permeates the United States, on some level Americans are not really fooled: at bottom, each person knows he or she must continually “reinvent themselves,” which is to say, go it alone. America is the ultimate anticommunity.” ~ Morris Berman, Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire

I laughed aloud when I read this quote. It reduced to a simple phrase what I believe is the collective experience of being an American (U.S.) in the 21st century. Together, we go it alone.

“Going it alone” is, of course a delusion shared by cowboys, republicans, and guys that put big tires on their trucks. After all, someone had to make the tires. And the truck. And pave the road. Using tax dollars since the roads are public and maintained by the collective. All of the chest-thumping expressions of individuality are, after all, firmly rooted in the lives and labors of others.

It only takes a minute to tease apart the loose fibers of the go-it-alone mythos. The problem is that one must want to think it through and, in our current spiral into stupidity, thought is shunned. So is history. At the core of anti-community is the absence of critical thought and a bucket of denial.

[Sidebar: this reminds me of a favorite phrase that, one day, popped out of Jim’s mouth: because you think it, does not make it so. Because you believe it, does not make it so.]

In my current state of residence, the governor, a democrat, asked the legislature, a randy band of republicans, to meet for a special session to discuss the ills that currently plague our community. The randy band gaveled open the session and then, as is its custom, immediately gaveled it closed. Legislators that refuse to discuss issues or policy. Sitting in the people’s house, obstruction is the only card in their deck. Not a single idea or impulse to serve the public in the randy band and their lock-step rugged individualism.

It is the sign of our times. Going it alone together is an ugly race to the supremacist bottom.

The cure for what ails us lives in the space between the gavels. Genuine discussion of the real challenges that face the community. An acknowledgement that driving the big cowboy truck adorned with big cowboy tires is only possible on the public road made viable by the shared effort of hundreds of fellow citizens. All of the Fox-driven drivel and religious right propaganda is never going to change the fact that we are all in this together. We can choose to be a failed state in a dedicated anti-community or we can thrive in the post colonial-era by bringing all ideas, all points-of-view, all people, to the common table for a wee-bit of collaboration, compromise, and long-needed-real-live-bona-fide-communal-reinvention.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MASKS OPTIONAL