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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Get Serious [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Looking back on the experience, I see a map of choices.

Kerri fell. Both wrists were painful. We knew it was bad. In the ski patrol hut, the medic’s advice was to go get x-rays. Choice #1: To get x-rays or to not get x-rays? We had a conversation in all seriousness with the medics, that, given the nature of healthcare in America, it might be a valid option to skip it. To go home. To ignore it and let it heal as it will. The problem with ignoring it: the loss of motion that comes with ignoring what might be broken or torn in her wrists.

So the choice was not actually to get x-rays or to not get x-rays. The choice, the real choice, was financial ruin or loss of motion. Kerri is a pianist. It is her livelihood and her life. So, choice made: financial ruin.

We pulled into the medical center and saw a sign. To the right was the emergency room. To the left was the urgent care center. We sat in the truck and debated the option. While Kerri writhed in pain, in all seriousness, we sat in an idling truck and discussed the merits [or lack thereof] of our insurance policy. If we chose the right hand path, we would meet the vast, gaping deductible. Like Evel Knieval attempting to jump his motorcycle over the Grand Canyon, we’d have to gun our engine and run at the edge. No parachute. So, we chose the left hand path. We went to the desk of the urgent care and asked if they did x-rays.

Choice #2 was not, in truth, the emergency room versus the urgent care. The choice was which canyon did we have the best chance of surviving?

A few days later. An appointment with a great orthopedic doctor. She, in all seriousness, told us that she ignores the part of the patient file that speaks to their health insurance. She explained that there is dilemma that doctors face: do I advise my patient to do what is best for their health or do I advise them to do the thing that might keep them out of bankruptcy? She ignores the file because she wants her patients to hear what is best for them. She told us that she needs to keep herself blind to the financial reality that her best advice might necessitate. “Yet another untenable choice,” I thought.

Our choices reminded me of an experience we had a few years ago. We were shopping for a new washing machine. The salesman, an older man, was embarrassed by the products he was selling. He, in all seriousness, took us down the aisle of appliances and told us what was wrong with each machine. He was convincing us NOT to buy his appliances. Mostly, he told us, they were designed to fail. He said, “We used to know how to make things in this country. Now we make crap on purpose.”

The healthcare in the richest country on earth is just like the appliances sold in the richest country on earth: Designed to fail. Making crap on purpose. The way I am certain that I see clearly? Sit with your wife, a world-class pianist, who has just broken both wrists, and listen to the choices you are considering. Clarity, in all seriousness, comes when the crisis hits.

As we shake our increasingly obese and unhealthy bellies, wave our angry signs and shout about making America great again, it seems we are falling further and further behind. We saw it this week in our senate, did we not? At least our capacity for denial of the truth [in our post-fact, low-information frenzy] is running in front of the rest of the world. I can only hope, as a nation, we break our collective wrists sooner rather than later. In our pain, perhaps we will look at the sign and have a real conversation, in all seriousness, about our choices, about what we can and cannot survive.

 

Read Kerri’s blog post [written with a cast and a splint!] on CHOICES

 

 

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Know The Matter [on Flawed Wednesday]

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I’ve had this conversation twice in my life. The first time I was working in The Netherlands. The second time I was working in Canada. The conversation, both times, started with exactly the same question:  What’s the matter with you Americans?

It is an irrefutable fact: we (Americans) pay more than 7 times what any other nation on earth pays for healthcare and we provide poorer coverage for less people. Our life expectancy is shorter. We are an obese nation. Our infant and maternal mortality rate is higher than any other developed nation.

What’s the matter with (us) Americans?

Here’s another irrefutable fact: the top 1% of households owns more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. The gap is, in fact, growing.

We are being force-fed the fear of socialism* but, if you dare, take off the blinders, plug your ears to the noise of heated misdirection, and look at the data. It’s clear that our fear should be of the oligarchy.

What’s the matter with (us) Americans? We are too easily led, susceptible to diversion by division, and extraordinarily fact-averse. We are too lazy to question, research or otherwise investigate the easy tribal narratives of red or blue. We are (to borrow a great book title) a confederacy of dunces.

The stresses of “healthcare” are making most of us sick while making a very, very few of us as rich as Croesus. That is another irrefutable fact and is the crux of what is the matter with (us) Americans.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEALTHCARE.GOV

 

*try this experiment (I have and it is eye opening): To everyone who screams in fear the word “socialism,” ask them to define the word “socialism.” You will find, as I do, the screamers can’t define it. They don’t really know what they are screaming about. They (we) also are inordinately incapable of defining “oligarchy.” That is (sadly) why I’ve provided links. It is also an alternate answer to the question, “What is the matter with you Americans?” I decided in the final moment to exclude a link to the words “representative democracy.” Given the irrefutable but too often denied facts, it begs a whole other set of questions.

 

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Chase Your Tail [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Sometimes I think I am living in an Antonin Artaud play. Surreal. Surreal. Surreal. And very funny.

I came into the bedroom last night and Kerri said, “Dog drove doughnuts in a car for half an hour.” I fell on the floor laughing. She was reading a news headline but that did not make it less absurd.

Speaking of headlines, if this was kindergarten, the entire Republican Party would be sent to the principal’s office for advanced liar-liar-pants-on-fire. An entire cadre of seeming adults claiming that the dog ate their homework. I’ll bet that dog conspired to eat their homework, too!

Suddenly, this surrealist post has a dog theme.

“God struggles.” P-Tom said in all seriousness. I looked at Kerri and said, “I have a real problem with the idea that a god, any god, struggles.” She rolled her eyes.

An eye roll inspires an explanation. “Gods are not supposed to be separate,” I said, leaning in. “Things that struggle are separate.” She scooched away from me, a signal to stop my pontificating. “I struggle with the notion that god struggles,” I said proudly in an attempt at thought-condensation. Kerri narrowed her eyes, saying, “You ARE a struggle.”

Theme’s must be honored, especially dog themes so please note that ‘god’ spelled backward is ‘dog.’ In my philosophy, dogs struggle. Gods do not. As Anton Chekhov wrote in his play, The Cherry Orchard, “My dog eats nuts, too.” Try and write that about a god!

Jen and her “little” made pretzel-monster-cookies for Halloween [Jen is one of my heroes. She and Brad are ‘bigs’ in the organization Big Brothers, Big Sisters]. Kerri chose a cookie to eat but couldn’t do it because it was too adorable. She thrust it at me, saying, “You do it.” Suddenly, I was cast in the role of cookie executioner. I made cookie screaming noises. The cookie pleaded for a pardon but I was heartless. It was over quickly. It was a very, very good cookie.

If I were a dog watching me eat the cookie [my apologies to Chester and Henry], I’d go to the garage, jump in the car, start it up, and chase my tail, doing doughnuts until either the car ran out of gas or the police showed up to take me to the principal’s office. Either way, making sense of people must be hell for a dog. It’s hard for us, too.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about PHOOEY

 

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note: did I mention that BabyCat snores like a champion – especially when I am writing. This post was dangerously close to being cat-themed. ‘Cat’ spelled backwards is “Tac.’ Go figure!

 

 

 

Deny It [on Flawed Wednesday]

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Were I to give this image a title it would be called ‘Denial.’ It smacks of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: a holiday obsessed Chevy Chase pretends he is having the perfect family Christmas even as the house comes down around him. Of course, in Hollywood, denial has a happy ending for everyone but the snotty neighbors. Their suffering makes us laugh.

These days I think almost daily of the phrase Roger tossed out a few decades ago: denial is the most powerful of human capacities. He is a director of plays, a great student of human motivation. People are great at denying what they don’t like. People are great at having one too many drinks and getting behind the wheel, or texting while driving because, after all, bad things happen to other people. People are masters at pretending that they are not involved, above it all, or what they see is not happening. Ask the NRA.

The important detail that Roger understood is that denial is never passive. It abdicates responsibility. It assigns blame other places. Chinese hoax. It minimizes the impact. It paints pretty pictures of ugly situations. It throbs with intention.

Denial: the action of declaring something untrue.

Here’s the question that Roger’s observation invokes in me: at what point do we wake up and realize that we are all the snotty neighbors?

[now, don’t you wish that I’d just written about Hieronymous Bosch like I intended?]

 

read Kerri’s less pessimistic blog post on the PICNIC TABLE

 

 

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the picnic ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

 

 

Look For Erle [on KS Friday]

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When you pull up Kerri’s page on iTunes you’ll notice that they have a hard time placing her music in a category. New Age? Easy listening? Classical? Country? One does not easily fit into the filing system until one can be clearly labeled. How can you be effortlessly labeled?

It’s a challenge all of us face. What’s the label? How do you fit? And (here’s the rub), it’s bad enough that the greater-world-filing-system needs a label to locate you, the real confusion comes in the labels we impose on ourselves. Are you a dentist? A liberal? A conservative? A mother? A foodie? Self-made, dependent, injured, Christian (which branch?), Muslim, agnostic, vegetarian, cowboy, rich, poor, retired, globalist, nationalist, capitalist, socialist? Do you “know?” Are you the righteous? Professor? How do you place yourself in the greater-world-filing system? Never mind how the “the system” attempts to squeeze you into a role, what’s the little box that you try to squeeze yourself into?

Is that who you are? Is that little box where you belong? Is it the totality of your being?

Sometimes I think we spend most of our lives dividing ourselves so that we might fit into a very small box. And, what we do to ourselves we most certainly do to others. They. Them. Not us.

Divide. Label. Locate.

Reduce. Contain. Shelve.

Although there is a certain amount of safety-feeling when living in a very small box, there is also very little vitality. Little things look big from the vantage point of a tiny box.  Little things look threatening from the confines of a too-tight label. Little boxes are petri dishes for big fear.

We bandy these words about and paste them on the walls of our too-little-boxes: mindfulness, wholeness, vitality. “This life is not a dress rehearsal.” “You are infinite potential.” “Today is day one.” Maya Angelou, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Peace.

These ideals, all of them, wonder, magic, love, artistry, unity, harmony,…truth…crackle beyond the label. They are there – outside the box – and they are never found in the direction of division. They are always present if you care to put down the label-maker.

Get out of your box and turn around. Maybe spin around and around and lose your balance like you did when you were young and less needy of location. Look at the mystery that chases you and chase it. Play tag with this life. Remember how you laughed just because? Reach.

Kerri stood on the edge of a canyon and, although afraid of heights, she threw open her arms. Kirsten called me to tell me. “Mom’s on the edge,” she whispered into the phone. “I’m really proud of her.”

note: this composition has nothing to do with what I just ranted about except for maybe this: the only locators that really matter are the people who love you and show up for you. Your friends along the way. This is the label I am most attached to: Kerri and I are very rich in friends.

OLD FRIENDS REVISITED on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ERLE

 

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old friends revisited/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

erle ©️ 2019 (and beyond) kerri sherwood

Huck It Up [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Look closely. It’s not a flock of butterflies or a strange strain of ceiling-sitting-grasshopper. It’s money, greenbacks, tacked to the tiles. It’s how the community of Sister Bay collects money for local causes. Go to Husby’s, chuck money into the air and hope it sticks.

Kerri was on a rant. She was reading about the obscene amounts of money being raised for political campaigns. Power is big business! As she was ranting about the better use of so much money, I scrolled passed an article, 12 States Spend Less On Schools Now Than Before The Recession.  For all of our grand rhetoric and dedication to the showmanship of testing-for-excellence, we have a very hard time putting our money where our mouth is. These days, teachers everywhere are on strike because they have chosen what once was the most noble of careers, but now it takes two or three jobs to make ends meet. Her rant met my eye-roll. It’s upside down.

It was the middle 1990’s when I was a teacher, sitting at my desk reading the paper before my day was to begin. I was browsing an article about the starting salaries for city workers. I should have gasped but I was not really surprised. A starting garbage collector salary was vastly more than a tenured teacher. I like my garbage to be collected so don’t mistake my comparison. We express value through the exchange of money. It was impossible for me not to get the message. It’s upside down.

I understand that we are in a booming economy.  It’s a pervasive story. It’s trumpeted everyday. And yet, there is this headline ripped from the news: Almost 80% of US Workers Live Paycheck to Paycheck. I shake my head in disbelief every time I hear the fearmongering tale about the raging perils of socialism knocking on our door. Even a quick peak at the reality will reveal that social equity is not the monster that threatens us. Upside down.

Imagine my surprise when I entered Husby’s! In this small bar nested in this tiny town on the beautiful peninsula known as Door County, I found a community that recognizes the topsy-turvy nature of our economics! Good causes in an upside down world require an unusual strategy. Put a tack through your dollar bill. Fold the bill and tack around a quarter. Huck it up and hope it sticks. The kids and good causes will receive a bit of money-love from their community when the ceiling gets full. The money, the spare change collected from community love and caring, will come down. I suspect the money will matter but the community-that-cares will matter more. The empty ceiling will inspire new bills to fly up. The cycle will start anew.

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read Kerri’s blog post about MONEY ON THE CEILING

 

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