Open Your Mind [on DR Thursday]

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Peace on Earth is a nice seasonal phrase but I’m willing to bet that most folks think it is pie-in-the-sky. A utopian ideal. So, pondering what to write about Peace on Earth, I flipped open a book and the first phrase I saw was this: An Open Mind.

Horatio is wise. He once told me that in these United States we are divided because we have competing narratives. Narrative #1: Every man for himself. Narrative #2: I am my brothers’ keeper. I think he is right. Generally, you can toss every national debate into one of those buckets. This morning, for my Peace on Earth rumination, I’d redefine those two narratives this way #1: Closed Mind (every man for himself) or #2: Open Mind (I am my brother’s keeper).

The ‘every man for himself’ narrative is predicated on the notion that there is limited pie in this vast universe. The goal is to grab a big piece of the limited pie. It’s necessarily a fight because there’s not nearly enough pie to go around. It’s fear-based and fear closes minds. Every year people get trampled in the national-celebration-of-limited-pie known as Black Friday. Get yours. It’s true, through this dark lens Peace on Earth is nothing more than pie-in-the-sky.

The inverse narrative, ‘I am my brothers’ (and sisters’!) keeper’ is predicated on the notion that there is plenty of pie to go around. In fact, the goal is not to grab but to create and then to give. Not only to share our toys and our gifts but to cultivate the base layer of Maslow’s Hierarchy for everyone: security & safety. Communal self-actualization follows the same path as personal self-actualization. Morality, respect, and generosity are the blossoms of feeling secure. So is an Open Mind. Peace on Earth, through this lens, is like more pie in the oven.

The ‘every man for himself’ story is a great recipe for closing minds. With fear and studied ignorance at its center, this narrative begs us to ignore a simple truth: no one does this alone. We are, in fact, dependent upon each other for our survival, our identity and our esteem. In isolation, a human being cannot thrive. Withhold interaction and love an infant will not survive.

I have a theory (okay, a belief) that the ‘I am my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper’ narrative is the truth of us. When the chips are down, when another person in peril, firefighters run into the building, they don’t run away. Everyday people leap in harm’s way to save the life of another. It is their instinct. It is our nature.

Like everything, believe it or not, what we embrace is a choice. Narratives are powerful.

An Open Mind is a door into Peace on Earth. It’s possible there’s more pie in this vast universe, this abundant earth, than a closed mind wants you to see.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PEACE ON EARTH

 

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See The Hands [on DR Thursday]

I just googled the phrase “helping hands.’ Depending upon your world view you may or may not be surprised by the extraordinary number of services that appear. People helping people. Food pantries, home caregivers, support for people with spinal cord injuries, disaster relief, charity donations, hunger relief…. It’s a lengthy list. For a moment, if you can imagine – or better yet, realize – the reality represented by the list, you might get a tiny view into that part of humanity that is not often reported. People helping people everyday. It’s everywhere, all year, everyday.

Feel good stories don’t generate the same size audience as the horror stories so they populate less space in the news cycle. It’s possible to see, if you look away from your many screens, that vastly more people are helping people than are people hurting people. It’s possible to see it.

In my town, there is a woman who feeds the hungry twice a day, winter-spring-summer-fall. She doesn’t stop feeding people after the giving season passes or when the cameras are gone. That is true of most of the people helping people on this earth. They help. There is no limelight. They help because they want to help. They help because they feel compelled to help. She is one of a legion of people in my community living life as helping hands. I am surrounded by givers and helpers. So are you.

Ann used to tell me to find a need and fill it. Sage advice. Deeply human. It is true that you will see what you decide to see. Where you place your focus does truly matter. Hands that help. Hands that hurt. Both are out there. One vastly out-populates the other. Can you see it? Do you want to see it?

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on HELPING HANDS

 

 

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Catch The Miracle [on Two Artists Tuesday]

 

Walking through Bristol Woods, Kerri stopped, pulled out her phone, stepped off the path and into the trees. I’ve learned that means she’s seeing a little miracle that I’ve missed and is on a mission to photograph it. She walks through life noticing the details while my view is generally at 30,000 feet. I often miss what is right in front of my nose.

marbled orb-weaver copyShe signaled me to join her and I saw it. The aerial acrobatics of a marbled orb-weaver. Bobbing on a single thread that stretched into the sky, climbing back to its egg cocoon. The breeze made the already difficult climb seem impossible.

I was transported back in time. Alaska. Watching salmon struggle up a waterfall. Jumping, exhausted, nearing the end of their quest to return to their source, their spawning ground.  They lay their eggs and then die. I followed them upstream, beyond the waterfall to yet another waterfall and beyond. I came to the place, the spot in the river where their lives began and would now end. I was moved to tears by their struggle.

The salmon. The marbled orb-weaver. This thing called life – nature – is gorgeous and profound.

Watching the spider I whispered to Kerri, “How does it do that?”

“Sisu.” she said.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SPIDER SISU

 

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Choose Your Meditation [on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

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We found Peace Marbles in a basket at the door of Leap Of Faith, a small shop in Cedarburg. It’s one of our favorite shops for obvious reasons. Many faiths are represented in the shop so translate the accompanying lyrics/prayer/meditation accordingly.

The idea is ancient. What fills your mind-space, your meditation, is what you will create. Meditate on hate and that is what you will see. Focus on lack and that is what you will experience. Although it might not seem like it, what you think, what flows through your noggin on a daily basis, is a choice.  It is a placement of focus. It is a prayer. A meditation.

Peace comes when people collectively focus on peace. A community chooses where to place its focus as readily as does an individual. It’s all in the narrative, the stuff flowing through our conversation, our storytelling, on a daily basis.  It is a creative act – not something that ‘happens to us.’

It seems we could use all the help we can get. And, you never know, a fleet of little blue marbles rolling around in pockets and purses as reminders might be just the thing to help us choose to place our focus on the better things. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

 

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on BLUE MARBLES

 

 

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See What’s There [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On this Two Artists Tuesday we give a nod to all the special people who are willing to help – even when it makes no sense. They are everywhere though, because they eschew drama, they remain largely unseen. They put down what they are carrying to open doors for complete strangers. Late for a meeting, they slow their pace and cross the busy intersection, an invisible shield for an elderly crosser. Sometimes, at night, they are servers at restaurants, kind and patient with everyone, even after a long day working their first job. They make soup for hungry people they’ve never met. They leave fifty dollar tips for ten dollar tabs. They step into the street to shield a dog-on-the-loose from oncoming traffic. They walk into the wind and rain to deliver packages and junk mail. They carry a snowboard out to a car to reassure a mother that her daughter’s snowboard will, indeed, fit in the back.

Kindness. Paying attention. Little acts, big ripples. It’s breathtaking. It’s everywhere.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE THINGS PEOPLE DO

 

 

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Enjoy The Chase [on Chicken Marsala Monday]

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It’s always an interesting exercise to revisit past work and see it through eyes of the present. It ‘opens’ in ways that were unavailable when the work was first produced. That’s true of my paintings and Kerri’s music. It is also true of our Chicken Nuggets. We created most of these single panel “nuggets” two years ago – along with a full cartoon strip for proposals to syndicates.

My present-day eyes see essences. For instance, this Nugget perfectly encapsulates the the work I do with most of my coaching and consulting clients. The growth happens when the sheer enjoyment of the chase takes precedence over the obsession on the catch. The catch is temporary, passing. The chase is infinite. It’s the chase that matters.

Shift your focus. Said another way: It’s not the achievements. It’s the relationships that matter. It sounds like so much hoo-ha, a Hallmark card philosophy. Yet….

Joseph Campbell said that people think they are looking for the meaning of life but in truth they are looking for the experience of life. The experience of life is found in the moment, in the relationship, in the chase. Meaning is always found in the experiences, not the other way around.

On this Chicken Marsala Monday, shift the focus of your eyes. Embrace a simple dose of hoo-ha, enjoy the chase. It is what matters.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post on IT’S NOT THE CATCH, IT’S THE CHASE THAT MATTERS

 

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Be Kind [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Guitar Jim told me that he doesn’t trust this world littered with aphorisms. Words are so easy to say. Papering the walls with happy sentiments of love, kindness, community, teamwork,…, can mask the absence of those qualities.   I translated his adamant adage-doubt into a pithy phrase (just to torture him): actions speak louder than words. His point: if we tell ourselves often enough that it takes a village to raise a child we might just believe this village actually cares for its children. All of its children. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

He has a point. Adages are everywhere, placed in stores, office walls, kitchen shelves. Begin anywhere. This life is not a dress rehearsal. Life is short, break the rules. For fun, first take a quick scroll through Facebook. It is an immersion into Gandhi, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King.  We’re all in this together. Then, open your news app. Fall from grace. Try your best to be a saint and see how far you’ll fall.

There is another side of this bleak coin. We live in the age of the sound byte. The short attention span. The eCommunity. Sometimes while rushing to the next thing I stop for no apparent reason and stand still on the street. Something divine intervenes and asks me to step out of the play and, for a moment, breathe and simply be the audience. Every time I step out I see more kindness than aggression. I hear more laughter than shouting. I see people wanting a different world but armored against the threat of the moment, the fear of the day. Lost in a story of division. And, so, on the walls and in the subways they (we) post aspirations. Yearnings for more experience of our better nature. Hopw wishes. Possibility mantras.

Beaky’s parting words were always, “Be kind to one another.” It was her maxim and she meant it. This powerhouse woman would look you in the eyes and send this phrase-arrow to the center of your being, “Be kind.” To one another. An action, not an empty sentiment.

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

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read Kerri’s blog post on BE KIND

 

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