Imagine It [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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This is a tale of two schools, both in the same school district. It is the story of the very day when the younger version of me grasped with both hands the absolute importance of the arts, when I understood to my bones that art was not a luxury but a necessity in a healthy world.

As the manager of the theatre conservatory, I sometimes went to observe the actor outreach programs in the schools. On this particular day, two schools were on the schedule. At the first school, I followed a team that went into the younger classrooms, 1st graders. They played imagination games with the students. I saw princesses and dragons and superheroes reach into wild possibilities.

We left the first school and literally drove across the tracks to the poorer side of town. I decided to follow the same team. They played the same imagination games with the same age group but, at the this school, the children played “Where will the rent come from?” This time, instead of flying into possibilities, these children hit an imagination glass ceiling. The hard realities of life already had a strangle-hold on their creative minds. The actors had to work hard to break through the glass ceiling. I realized that, for these children, it was not safe to entertain possibilities.

Picasso once said that, “He can who thinks he can, and can’t who thinks he can’t. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.” We dream ourselves into being. That is the point and the power of the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. That is the purpose of art, to open our imagination so we might create  a better, more expansive version of ourselves. To intend and give shape to what we imagine.

This inexorable, indisputable law applies to nations and communities as well as to individuals.

We have always been a nation divided. There have always been tracks to cross. Our history is of a two party system tug-of-war. We’ve espoused equality while practicing slavery; even our rhetoric is at odds with itself. The new wave of immigrants have been subjected to unspeakable cruelty from the previous generation of immigrants. There has always been “haves” and “have-nots.” The question of whether of not we can unite in the face of diversity is at the epicenter of the American experiment. Can we imagine ourselves whole? Can we create opportunity for all? It is a question with no definitive answer because it requires us to engage with it again and again and again. We must imagine ourselves anew each and every day.

We unite when we are at our shining best. We pride ourselves on the dream of creating a new world where all people experience the freedom to create what they can imagine. Creative tension, competition on a level playing field, invites innovation and invitation. We can.

We divide when our imagination fails us. Fear always fills the void left by vapid imaginations. We are – like people of all nations in all times – easily manipulated when we lapse into fear and turn our angst on each other. It is, after all, a strategy. Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book used by dictators and emperors to fracture an otherwise powerful populace.  It will play out as it always has and always will – a weakened nation. A collapse. People who turn in and cannibalize each other.

We-the-people are telling ourselves a miserable story. The pandemic is merely exacerbating our real dilemma. Divide and rule is filling the void, installing hard glass between us and our best imaginings. We are eating each other alive.

We are better than this. We deserve better.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WE DESERVE BETTER

 

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an instrument of peace

Scream Into The Mic [on KS Friday]

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During the healing time of Wristgate, as Kirsten called it, Kerri and I have been spending much of our time on the raft [our bed – it is where the broken wrists are most comfortable].  We work from the raft. We eat from a tray on the raft. We plan life from the raft. And, because it is cold winter, we reminisce on the raft. We talk about what might have been, what choices we’ve made, what storms blew in, wreaked havoc and gave shape to our lives.

No Balloons. It is one of the first studio recordings of Kerri. It is from 1980, smack dab in the era of Joni Mitchell, when a cassette tape was the latest and greatest technology. I recognize her very young voice, shaky and not yet rooted, trying to find itself. Sitting on the raft, although I’ve heard the backstory of the song before, to hear it again made me weep.

No Balloons is a song about rape. Kerri’s rape. A young woman, hopeful and trusting, trying to find her voice, a violent storm that blew in, a man twice her age that altered the course of her life. When she sought help she was met with a solid male wall of See-No-Evil-Hear-No-Evil.

We live in the #metoo era. Even though it’s still very hard for young women – any woman – to get the world to listen, to be taken seriously, it was exponentially harder in the 1970’s. The woman, so our sad history goes, was to blame for her own violation. Kerri did what most women did in that time. She internalized it, swallowed her bile, and covered it up. She ran from it, ran from her attacker, ran from a man-world that couldn’t be bothered to listen. She candy-coated her ruin and made it a shameful secret.

After listening to the recording, the sweet quaking voice, the flute floating over the top of the band, the disjoint between the composition and the lyric, Kerri gazed into a dark corner that I could not see and said, “I should have been screaming into the mic.”

Had I not been holding space for her I might have said, “It’s not too late. Maybe the mature woman needs to do what the young woman could not. I suspect there are a legion of young women out there who need you to scream into the mic.”

 

NO BALLOONS

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NO BALLOONS

 

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no balloons ©️ 1980 kerri sherwood

Find The Quiet [on DR Thursday]

 

 

I paint figures. I’ve never been a landscape painter or a painter of abstracts. I want to touch the spirit within the body.  I want to wander through the inner landscape.  I want to find the quiet-power places.

I didn’t know what to call this painting so Kerri named it A Little Modesty. I liked the name. Synonyms of modesty: unassuming, humility, simplicity. These are quiet-power words.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A LITTLE MODESTY

 

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a little modesty copyright 2012 david robinson

Decide To Create A Better Story [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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To anyone who entertains the mistaken notion that they are not creative, look no further than your thoughts. Thought is a creative act. It leads to the chicken-and-egg conundrum of creating. Do you create your thoughts or do your thoughts create you? Either way, what happens between the ears ripples with creativity.

We live within our thoughts and our thoughts live within us. We feed our thoughts with our fantasies and fears. Universes open or close. For instance, focus on contention and you will see contention everywhere.  That is, you will create contention.

It is, and has been the dirty little secret of governing people since before Machiavelli: keep the masses focused on division and they will be easily manipulated. Create difference whether it exists or not. That way the good people will fight with each other and not focus on the actions of their leaders. It’s a magic trick. A sleight of hand. It is a strategy, not a conspiracy.

A people united as one is a very potent force. A united populace is dangerous to a corrupt and fearful leadership.

Before you roll your eyes with my esoterica, put your highly creative thought on this: is it true that our nation is deeply divided? Yes.  Do we create division ourselves without question, eating heartily the divisive narrative we are being fed? Yes. We are daily meditating on division and daily claiming it as truth. We create division together.

Narratives are powerful and just as capable of obscuring as they are of revealing. Obscurity is a creative act. So is deception. Propaganda. Denial. Conspiracy theory. Lie.

It is the definition of ignorance to embrace a narrative without questioning it. Which brings us back around to the chicken-and-egg conundrum: do you close your mind or does your mind close you? Yes. Hate has no home in a questioning mind.

Are we capable of questioning? Of telling a common story? It depends on what we decide together to create. Yes.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on NO HOME FOR HATE

 

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Ask The Question [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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It is a happy accident that we chose this quote for this Merely A Thought Monday. Today, in the United States, we celebrate our veterans. Thucydides was a warrior, a general. He wrote a book on war – and human nature – that is studied to this day.

I confess this quote has left me with thought-fragments, pieces of a mosaic too large to easily construct. So, my fragments:

Happiness. Freedom. Courage. For Thucydides, there is a secret to experiencing  happiness. An effect (happiness) of a cause (courage).

There is this word, ‘freedom,’ a power or a right to act or think without hindrance or constraint.

Then there is this word ‘courage’. The ability to do something that frightens you. Strength in the face of pain.

On the personal level, then, happiness comes from doing the things that frighten you. Stepping toward your unknowns removes hindrances, transcends constraints. Feeling free ensues.

But, then there is this bit of my fragment, something from the bigger picture: Thucydides wrote that fear and self-interest were the central drivers of political endeavor. Political endeavor is the driver of war.

Fear. Self interest. Political endeavor. War.

Thucydides is studied to this day because what he wrote is relevant to this moment in time:

[from Leo Strauss via Wikipedia]: Scholars traditionally view Thucydides as recognizing and teaching the lesson that democracies need leadership, but that leadership can be dangerous to democracy…Thucydides had a deeply ambivalent view: on one hand, Thucydides’s own “wisdom was made possible” by the Periclean democracy, which had the effect of liberating individual daring, enterprise, and questioning spirit; but this same liberation, by permitting the growth of limitless political ambition, led to imperialism and, eventually, civic strife.

On this day that we honor the courage of veterans, amidst a leadership that is dangerous to democracy, we have to ask ourselves in all seriousness, to revisit what we believe is worth fighting for.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on this Merely A Thought Monday

 

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UpLift [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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And, what is the opposite of cohesion? Incoherence. The lack of clarity or unity. Fracture.

For a period of time my work on this earth was essentially a meditation on power. Power with. Power over. After a while I understood that power-over was not really power at all; it was control. Control and power are two very different things. They are often confused.

Power is something created with others. Control is something done to others. The equation is simple: the more controlling a person is, the less powerful they actually are. A person who understands his/herself as powerful has no need to assert control over others.

A leader invested in control has only one sure route to controlling: to fracture. To divide. It is the way of the truly powerless. Incoherence and chaos are great tools if control is the aim. Destroy the unity. Play to the disgruntled. Feed the fire of those who are feeling powerless. Promise them control. Pushing others down to elevate the self can only end badly. Everyone drowns.

People secure in their power create cohesion. They unite. They uplift. Power is a force that grows between people. It cannot be owned by one. It is always the province of the community. A person secure in her/his power generates unity. What else? The power they feel within is an expression of the power they experience with.

Community is a word that implies cohesion. To commune. Common. And, what could be more common than a central focus, the intention to support and bring out the best in all.

What is the opposite of a powerful person?

 

read kerri’s blog post about COHESION

 

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Go To The Grocery Store [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Last week we went to the grocery store and had a conversation in every aisle. Such is the virtue of a small community.

Gossip: unconstrained conversation about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as true.

This week went to the grocery store to buy bananas and no one would talk to us, including the cash register clerk. It was our first hint that something was up!

Rumor: a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.

Before an hour had passed, we heard rumor of our offense. It was egregious and downright offensive! It was an affront to the old school islanders. It was, above all, simply not true. Such is the vice of a small community.

Inflate: to fill with air.

As we stood in the middle of the swift moving undercurrent, players jockeying to be the most offended, we watched and listened as our abuse swelled. It took on epic proportions. Such is the nature of hearsay, regardless of the size of community.

We, of course, realized that our little island is a microcosm of an ailing nation. People believing what they want to believe. People eating gossip like sugar and growing fat on a diet with no substance. Gossip is toxic. It is, as an acquaintance used to say, like eating poison and expecting the other person to die.

We collected the names topping the list of the recently-rumored-offended and called them. Nothing interrupts gossip like facing it directly. We made some new friends.

This morning we went to the grocery store and had some nice conversations. Such is the fickle affection of a small community. Grace is good and the sands are ever-shifting.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SNEEZING

 

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Wait And Know [on DR Thursday]

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Flying above the island in his tiny airplane, Bruce told me about the natural water level cycles in Lake Michigan. They are extreme and run on a more-or-less 27 year rotation. “Everything in nature balances,” he said. “It’s what nature does.”

Balance. This painting, Knowing and Waiting, is about nature, human nature, and just like everything else in nature, we too, have an innate propensity to sort to the balance point. And, often, finding balance takes time.

The words are derived from Carlos Castaneda: you must wait patiently, knowing that you’re waiting, and knowing what you’re waiting for.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KNOWING AND WAITING

 

 

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knowing and waiting, mixed media, 48 x 48

 

 

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waiting and knowing ©️ 2015 david robinson

 

 

Stand In The Enormity [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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When Kerri first showed me this photograph, it read to me like a minimalist painting. A subtle field of color with two splashes and a brushstroke. So much said with so little. A meditation of movement and the immovable.

The lake is different every day. Its color palette is as changeable as its moods. Each day upon awaking, Kerri walks onto the deck and snaps a picture. So far, no two days are alike. So far, no two hours are alike.

Once I stood in La Sagrada Familia and the enormity of it made me quiet. The lake is like that. Immense to the point of stillness.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TWO BIRDS AND AN ISLAND

 

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Will Her Safe Passage [on DR Thursday]

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a morsel: motherdaughter

Lately I am learning about parenthood. Actually, to be more specific, I am learning about the power of motherhood. Even though her children have flown the nest and are living vibrant lives a thousand miles in either direction, Kerri senses their movements. She feels their triumphs and their pains as if they were her own. We have a game: mention Kirsten’s name in casual conversation and she will almost certainly text or call within minutes. It is uncanny. The daughter and the mother are deeply connected.

This winter, Kirsten taught snowboarding lessons in Telluride and coached a team in Aspen. It required a four and a half hour drive on Friday night to Aspen and a Sunday night return trip to Telluride. Friday and Sunday evenings, Kerri tracked Kirsten’s travel path. Snowy roads. Ice. Avalanches. The mother’s eye casting a cloak of protection over the daughter, willing her safe passage. Holding her in a mother’s sheltering embrace.

Anyone who doubts the power of sympathetic magic has never been a parent, a mother willing the universe to keep her girl safe.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MOTHERDAUGHTER

 

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motherdaughter ©️ 2019 david robinson