Face Your Giant [It’s Flawed Cartoon Wednesday]

A spot of humor to get you over the hump from studio melange.

“I love the duck!” Kerri said.

“It’s not a duck!” I wrinkled my nose. “It’s the golden goose!”

“It’s a duck,” she said. “And I love it.”

I have no real explanation for this odd Flawed Cartoon so don’t ask. I can only offer that I’m generally fascinated by that-thing-in-people that says, “stand your ground” even when the flag they plant will cause them great harm. Smoking, for instance. Insisting, “I’m not creative!” Arguments for stagnation, as in, “But we’ve always done it this way!” “Argue for your limitations,” Richard Bach wrote, “and, sure enough, they are yours.” Imagined giants.

I’m also generally in awe of that-thing-in-people that says “stand your ground” even when faced with a real giant. Remember 1989, Tianamen Square, tanks and the man who stood his ground? March For Our Lives. #MeToo. Real giants come in many forms. So do Jacks.

This Flawed Cartoon cuts both ways.

The only other thing I can offer is this: it’s a golden goose. There is no duck in Jack and the Beanstalk. Read the story.

Kerri just looked over my shoulder and said, “Duck.”

FACE YOUR GIANT reminder/merchandise

society 6 info jpeg copy

2beanstalk duck SHOWER CURTAIN copy 2

a shower curtain!

face your giant IPHONE CASE copy

beanstalk duck IPHONE CASE copy

phone cases

 

beanstalk FACE YOUR GIANT LEGGINGS copy

‘face your giant’ LEGGINGS

beanstalk FACE YOUR GIANT BEACH TOWEL copy

BEACH TOWELS

read Kerri’s blog post about GIANTS

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

face your giant ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Think “Isn’t It Weird…?”

my new tree;-)

Wide awake in the middle of the night, we snacked on handfuls of Chex cereal and indulged in my favorite kind of conversation: “Isn’t it weird that…?” Little did we understand that our late-night conversation would set the theme for the week.

The next night high winds toppled our neighbor’s ENORMOUS aging maple tree into our backyard. The insurance company called it “an act of God.” It is a phrase implying no fault, no responsibility. It just happened. I laughed aloud when, immediately following the “act of God” designation, the insurance adjuster heaped on us a load of legal cautions, new responsibilities (the tree now ‘belonged’ to us), property line designations, and small print reminders meant to minimize financial risk and responsibility to the insurance company. The layers of irony are too many to count though I suppose if wacky preachers can assign responsibility for hurricanes and other natural disasters to the wrath of God, then it is no less ridiculous for insurance companies to invoke the fickleness of God to absolve themselves of liability.

Isn’t it weird that…?

P-Tom reminded us that the “act of God” was that no one was hurt in the tree fall. For P-Tom the act of God was a kind of intervention. A few degrees to the right, a slightly different wind direction, and the tree would have landed on our bedroom. Life does seem fragile by the slightest of degrees. We told people that we were lucky. Intervention? Fortunate? Fate? Design?

Isn’t it weird that…?

We cut a branch from the fallen tree and brought it in the house. It is now our Christmas tree.

Had you asked that branch a week ago if it would ever become a Christmas tree it might have laughed at you.

As a maple branch it had no aspirations or intentions of being wrapped in lights or decorated with silver baubles. In truth, it probably cares little if it makes us laugh or invokes a smile each time we enter the room. But it does. Or, better, we make sense of it that way. Sense making? Story telling? Either way.

Isn’t life weird?

Our work-in-progress

 

 

 

 

 

Ask Why

photo

a detail of my painting, Know That You Are Waiting.

Marilyn told me that she spent the day with her 3 year-old granddaughter. The little girl, like most children her age, peppered Marilyn with the question, “Why?” In her reenactment, after trying to answer the multitude of “Why?” questions, she laughed and said, “I don’t know! That’s the way it’s always been done!” It’s a perfect loop! Sometimes there is no answer to the question, “Why?”

Many years ago Peter Block wrote a great little book called The Answer To How Is Yes. A lifetime of corporate consulting left him perplexed by the pervasive leading question, “How should we do it?” None of his clients ever asked, “Why should we do it?” “Why” was nowhere in the equation.

Asking “Why?” takes time. It slows things down and often requires some soul searching. It lives on the vertical axis of experience, the axis that reaches into the depths and knows no black and white answer. Also, asking “Why?” sometimes leads to the scary profit-challenging twin question, “Why shouldn’t we do it?” The question, “Why?” moves a business and the people that populate it out of reactionary practices and into intentionality. With intentionality comes ownership of action, responsibility. The legal department is dedicated to keeping the conversation away from “Why?” Responsibility can be costly.

People are no different than the organizations they create. We avoid the same questions for much the same reason.

In my life I’ve sat through countless meetings while boards-of-directors asking, “How do we get more people to buy/attend/support our art/business/cause?” I finally made it a practice to stop asking the troubling questions, “Why should people buy/attend/support you?” and “Why are you doing what you are doing?” Usually those questions invoked embarrassed silence or worse, a regurgitation of the company’s value statement. We are valuable because we say we are.

Skip used to tell me that a company isn’t valuable until it serves the customer’s customer. I liked that sentiment a lot: value is service as expressed through two degrees of separation. It is also an orientation according to what is given, not what is received. Serve. It’s a loop with a natural answer to the question, “Why?”

Artists of all stripes, churches, politicians, etc. might find a different understanding of value if they (we) applied Skip’s rule to their (our) plays/symphonies/paintings/dances/businesses. Why? To Serve.

photo

a detail from my painting May You

Maybe we all just need to be three-year-olds and ask “why?” more often. Maybe the best questions, the ones that make the most sense, are the ones that can’t be easily answered but require us to slow down and challenge doing what we’ve always done.

Save

Save

Save

Create A Purpose

photo-2In the sixteenth hour of our drive to the mountains, to keep us awake, Kerri and I began a rousing game of This-or-That. “Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms?” Frosted Flakes all the way; those little marshmallow things get wonky in the milk. It’s amazing what you learn about yourself and others when the world of infinite possibilities is reduced to two choices. The game soon escalated to the impossible with pairings like “Coffee or Chocolate?” Real life penetrates the game when the only possible answers are, “It depends!” or “Both!”

Since our drive to the mountains I’ve been paying attention to how often people unwittingly play the This-or-That game, pretending that there are only two choices and, further, pretending that the choices are distinct and knowable. Democrat or Republican? Communities collapse when they forget that the important stuff is unanswerable. The important stuff is a moving target and requires conversation, debate, and comes along with multiple points of view. Two sizes do not fit all bodies.

I’ve also been playing my own inner game of This-or-That, purposefully choosing impossible pairings. Order or Chaos? It seems like a no-brainer until you dive in a bit deeper.

My favorite version so far is the Purpose-of-Life category. I picked a most lofty purpose: Illumination – and matched it with the utter absence of purpose. And, of course, I came to, “It depends!” or “Both!” I sprang my line of reasoning on Kerri (she thought we were going to talk about what to make for breakfast. She’s grown quite used to my surprise topics so she rolled her eyes, sipped coffee, and listened, knowing that no breakfast choice would be possible until after I unpacked my game).

No matter which spiritual tradition I read, the final point seems to be presence (living fully – aware of your moments). And in practice, presence becomes possible when thought is either transcended (meditation) or focused (prayer). Meditation and prayer are both purpose-full. Thought needs transcending and/or focus because it is mostly a babbling brook of nonsense or, better, a brook of babbling nonsense. It’s a lot of made up stuff that often takes the form of a game called This-or-That (I win/I lose, I’m right/I’m wrong, Us/Them). The game, as is true of all forms of interpretation, gets in the way of direct experience. It interrupts presence.

Detach from the babble. Meditate. Or recognize that it’s all made up and focus what’s made up. Pray. In either case presence comes through the recognition that it is all made up. The hitch: every notion of purpose, then, is also made up. There isn’t one. But, having a purpose is required to come to the recognition that there is no purpose. It’s a loop. It’s all creativity. It’s all imagination.

Spectrums and polarities are often cycles in disguise. They are both/and. They are yin and yang (not Yin or Yang). Illumination or Purposelessness? It depends. Both. Order needs chaos just as much as chaos needs order. The question is, what do we want to create? Why, a purpose, of course! So, let’s see what’s needed and decide to address it.

“My imagined purpose is breakfast,” Kerri sighed at the end of my rambling dissertation. “Pancakes or an egg scramble?”

 

Chase The Butterflies

a detail from my painting, John's Secret

a detail from my painting, John’s Secret

Wisdom butterflies that have recently fluttered across my path:

Soaking up the morning sun and drinking coffee from the deck of Common Grounds, 20 said, “You’ve heard this one, right? There are three sides to every story.”

Standing on the side of the road peering into Judy’s car, she gave us some sage relationship advice. She said, “That’s the secret to life, you know: listen before you talk.”

Kerri was composing a song. I asked her how she starts, how she knows where to start. She said, “I don’t know. Sometimes you just need to put your fingers on the keys and follow the music.”

There is an aging pink post-it note stuck (permanently) to the desk. It reads, “Make The Adventure.”

On a recent phone call, Skip offered wise counsel about how I see my role in a new business, “Find your own metaphor,” he said. ”What is the metaphor that will keep you energized, that taps into your 10,000 hours?”

Sitting behind his drum set, waiting for rehearsal to begin, John said, “Our job is to make the art, not to determine its reception.” And then he said, “What do you think?” and laughed.

Josh took a belly punch from the universe yesterday. He said, “I want to be angry but anger does me no good. I have better things to do with my life than get angry.”

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

P-Tom weighed in with this: “Faith is scandalous,” he said, “It pushes back against everything we experience.”

Dog-Dog raced across the yard in hot pursuit of a butterfly. I’m wagering that he knew he would never catch it, but the chase was glorious.

Know Your Pet

my pet peeve

my pet peeve

This morning I heard one of my favorite phrases: pet peeve.

As a visual person, someone regularly accused of having too much imagination (a topic for another post!), phrases like pet peeve conjure images from the ridiculous to the sublime. Feeding a peeve so it grows healthy and strong, protecting it from traffic and other peeve-hazards, is a field of imagery ripe for the picking. Had I been thinking, Tripper-Dog-Dog-Dog might gone through life as my pet Peeve.

In order to have a pet peeve there must exist multiple standard peeves, the everyday garden variety of common peeves. For instance, I spill coffee on my shirt every single day. Because I try not to spill my coffee I always do. It is a rule of the universe that attempting to NOT do something guarantees the doing of it. Try NOT hitting your thumb with the hammer or not dripping paint on your good pants (I now own exclusively no-good pants so dripping paint is no longer a peeve). Cyclists assure me that focusing on the pot hole to avoid the pot hole guarantees hitting the pot hole. This rule-of-the-universe is, for me, a common peeve.

Pet peeve status is usually granted to seemingly small things. I just asked Kerri about her pet peeve and she said, without hesitation, hair-on-soap. I suspect she means finding a single hair on the bar of soap but hair-on-soap is open to multiple peeve possibilities, for instance, soap toupees. Soap with goatees. I’ll get clarification when she’s not busy.

I love pet peeves because they are generally harmless but also generally revealing about how people think/operate (and, therefore, what they see). Richard Bach famously wrote, “Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they’re yours.” I’ve yet to meet a human (myself included) that is not in one way or another arguing for their limitations. Recently, at a party, I talked with a woman who told me exactly what she needed to change in her life to be happy. “Why don’t you do it?” I asked. “Oh, I couldn’t!” she exclaimed. “I’m afraid to do it,” she admitted.

Another way of stating my common peeve rule-of-the-universe: where you place your focus grows. The obvious question, approximating my wear-only-no-good-pants solution to spilling, is this: If fear  or doubt rules the day, why not focus on something else? Or, perhaps, imagine doing what you want, walking toward what you want, focusing intently on what you want to create instead of the opposite? AHHH!!! A COMMON PEEVE! A COMMON PEEVE!

 

 

Chase Big Bubbles

photo-1I’m opening old journals. It’s hot and humid so the paper feels as if it is melting. I’m not sure why this morning I reached for them. They sit in several piles and bookcases around the house. I’ve not opened one since moving to Wisconsin almost two years ago.

I used to be an avid catcher-of-my-thoughts. I’d carry notebooks everywhere. I stuffed my pockets with index cards and extra pens. At the end of a day I’d read the days idea-harvest, empty scraps of paper with my nearly unreadable scribbles onto the table and translate them into THE MOTHER SHIP, a black and red hard cover journal. Some thought-scraps didn’t make the cut. Some of the scraps were undecipherable and no amount of brow wrinkling could resurrect the unreadable idea. Some of the scraps were revelations and, to me more precious than jewels.

At the time I was facilitating groups, creating models for change and models for growth and models for models…. I was coaching and teaching and reading everything from business books to eastern philosophy. I loved picking people’s brains and trading ideas with friends. I was seeking.

A moment ago I randomly flipped open the journal on the top of the pile. This is what I’d scribbled many years ago:

Joe just used “myth“ this way: We all live in this myth that, what we believe, is reality – that our beliefs are what really exist….”

Myth as falsehood. There are explanatory myths, too (for instance, the Bible). Myths serve to keep us in accord with the universe (a concept of our own creation). Balance and harmony are the purpose of myth. Joe doesn’t yet understand myth.

Myth is an action, it is not a lie.

I flipped to the previous page and read this:

~humor

~humor

~humor

Wholeness attracts wholeness. Live in it and not be of it (what?)

You have to be it to attract it.

On the facing page was this entry:

Conflict and oppositions. Always oppositions. How do I construct… a non-dual existence? A non-dual way of thinking? How do I live amidst to forces of opposition?

I can’t remember the context of these thoughts. I have no idea what I was working on or what was going on in my life at the time. I rarely dated my entries though are identifiable zones given the people I mention or the places I reference. From this vantage point it seems like reading the notes of someone else’s life.

After paging through the journals we walked to the farmer’s market on the lakefront. Amidst the vegetable stands, the baked goods, and crafts people, there was someone selling bubbles! Behind the bubble tent a man was demonstrating the product. He had two sticks with a looped rope and, after dipping the rope in a big bucket of suds, he slowly waved the contraption in the air, producing huge generous bubbles. Children gathered and squealed with delight as they chased the bubbles.

As I watched the bubble-chasers I realized that I had been like those children, squealing with pleasure as I chased my thought-bubbles, each bubble popping every time I got close enough to touch it. The thoughts themselves were of no consequence, not really. The important thing was the chase and the joy and the reaching for something that can never be captured. My journals live like Jackson Pollock’s paintings, a record of my movement, a map of my dance of delight in ideas.