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

 

 

 

Embrace Your Obstacles [It’s Two Artists Tuesday]

A Tuesday thought-spark from studio melange.

obstacles FRAMED ART copy

obstacles are merely challenges by another name

“Simple” was the single guide-star we followed when we started our Two Artists designs. “They should be very, very simple,” we chanted. With the wall of our dining room a vast fluttering field of post-it note phrases, we jumped in, quickly creating images that might illuminate the phrases. I’m a spontaneous-gesture-drawing guy. Kerri’s designs are swift and potent with color. In simplicity we created an obstacle for ourselves. We created a challenge.

Obstacle/challenge creation is what people do!  People create obstacles all the time and call them “hobbies.” We humans routinely fabricate wings and run at edges, we aim to solve unsolvable problems and create the unimaginable. Eliminate obstacles and there is no story. Eliminate obstacles and cloudy boredom descends. The absence of obstacles is what makes retirement so daunting for so many. The carefree life is only carefree with a select set of obstacles, a good garden or golf game.

From studio melange on Two Artists Tuesday, we wish for you a healthy selection of happy obstacles.

 

 

OBSTACLES MAKE LIFE INTERESTING reminders/merchandise

society 6 info jpeg copy

obstacles MUG copy

obstacles SQ PILLOW copy

obstacles TOTE BAG copy

obstacles LEGGINGS copy

 

read Kerri’s blog post about OBSTACLES

 

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

 

obstacles make life interesting ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Two Artists Tuesday

brave.poster jpeg copy 2

Jim told me that he was suspicious of this culture that seems to need to plaster messages on the wall, on shopping bags, or indelibly tattooed on body parts. Begin Anywhere. Live Loud. This life is not a dress rehearsal. Peace. Home.  “It’s too simplistic,” he says.

So. Brave.

Are we branding our lives, marketing our selves to ourselves? Are these ubiquitous expressions reminders? Encouragement? Aspirations? Desires? Statements of intent? Flags planted in the metaphoric sand? Are these flags too simplistic?

Joseph Campbell once said that  to find more-than-ample evidence of the collapse of our unifying culture/story (our mythology) one need look no further than the daily news. Violence and division dominate our day. It is the seedy sensational story we tell to ourselves. It seems we’ve traded the commons for higher ratings. The common good falls apart in the face of the lobbyist’s payout. Can there be a center when another set of ubiquitous expressions dominate our dialogue: tribalism, polarization, fake news. Us. Them. Again, more flags planted in the metaphoric sand and are they also too simplistic?

On the stage, when actors have no direction and lose sight of the common story they might otherwise tell, they default to a condition lovingly (yet accurately) known as “Save-your-ass-theatre.” It is every man/woman for him/her self. It a group of artists on stage feeling isolated and all alone but pretending to be together. It is fear with a thin smile pasted on its face. It is awful to watch. And, it is easily remedied: save-someone-else’s-ass. Instead of pushing your drowning mate down so you can reach air, lift them up so they might breathe. They will immediately return the favor. Restore the commons. Step back into the common story.

The opposite of fear is not courage. It is community. Bravery is nothing more than the choice to stand in fear and reach. Cowardice is the choice to stand in fear and pummel. Fear that flourishes in isolation dissolves in the common story. From the studio melange on this Tuesday we offer the only flag worth planting in the sand: be brave enough to turn to the center. Reach. Help someone find air. Is it too simplistic?

BRAVE merchandise

brave leggings brave framed art print brave iphone case brave mug

read Kerri’s thoughts on this Two Artists Tuesday

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

 

brave ©️ 2017 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Surrender And Surrender Again

I’ve grown accustomed to this sanctuary. I come here when Kerri has meetings in the church. It is quiet. As I sit here alone, I easily become quiet. The evening sun pours through the stained glass, the symbols shimmer.

When I met Kerri I told her that, if we were going to have a relationship, she needed to understand two things about me: I don’t sing and I don’t pray. I imagine that was stark news for a woman who works as a minister of music. I imagine she rolled her eyes. It is a running joke with the folks that know the story of my proclamation that I now sing in the church choir and band. I love to sing. As for the praying, well…, I’ve always been a meditator and that counts. Quiet is a delicious form of prayer. I was hung up on definitions. I talk to the universe all the time. To-mAaa-to, to-Mah-to.

I have, all my life, believed religion most often gets in the way of a true spiritual experience (life). “Prayer” was for me, at the time I met Kerri, a word of religion while “meditation” was a word I associated with a spiritual life. One night, not long after my move, Kerri and I had dinner with Heidi. She asked me about my faith and laughed at my reflections, saying, “You are one of those many-paths-one-mountain guys.” Yes. And, to truly be a many-paths-one-mountain guy, I’ve had to challenge some of my long held defenses, walk into some of my long held prejudices.

Yesterday, Bill said a simple, beautiful thing about faith, grace and spiritual journeys. It reinforced something I have known (for myself) for years. He said, “The problem with religion is it is heavily invested in having answers. It becomes invested in being right (righteousness), being “the way” as if there was only one way. A true spiritual life,” he said, “is about walking into the questions.” Life, the real crackling, shimmering life, is always experienced in the questions. Awe is rarely experienced in something so constructed and contained as an answer.

I brought to the sanctuary an outline/book of a class that I intended to teach years ago but never got around to offering. In the introduction a previous-version-of-me wrote this: The premise is simple and ancient: when you change your story you change your world. All stories of transformation begin with an attempt to control the uncontrollable: transformation in a story happens when the main character surrenders their illusion of control, strips their armor, walks into their fear, and meets their dragon. There are many variations on this theme. What is important to grasp is that empowerment follows surrender….

Were I writing that today I would never use the word “empowerment.It is an overused and abstract word like “presence” and generally misunderstood as something to achieve (or sold as an answer). Power is irrelevant after a dragon is met.

When I met Kerri I was terrified to sing. I’d been shamed more than once for opening my mouth, thus my proclamation. I learned, as I sang the fear from myself, that the only thing that follows surrender is more surrender.

And, in surrender, there is shimmering quiet.

Row

may-you-be-small-crop-jpegSometimes the way forward is akin to rowing a boat: facing backward is the only way to get proper leverage. Today, to stir my pot, to get some leverage and new energy, I revisited three books that I wrote but never published (or limply offered to a tiny audience). It was a revelation. It’s as if the man who wrote those books in the past meant for me to read them today. The man who wrote them was not ready or clear enough to birth them. The man who read them today knows just what to do (including rewrite some odd bits). Here is the introduction to the first of the three books:

I’ve generally stepped in every pothole, tripped over every opportunity, broken the family dishes, and made every mistake a person can make. I feel fortunate to be alive. I used to try and hide the mess behind a veneer of “knowing.” Eventually I realized that in order to find what I was seeking I had to stop pretending that I knew what I was doing. I didn’t. I now recognize that the more I learn, the less I know. Life is not about knowing stuff. Life is vibrant when engaging with the un-known. Seeking is messy business. Being human is messy business. To pretend otherwise is…well, to pretend.

One day, while exhausting myself pretending, I realized that I was telling myself a story of fear. I realized that I was the only person invested in my fear story. I realized that I’d cast all the other people in my story as dangerous characters. I believed that if they really knew me they’d shame me. I realized that I was the only person in my story feeling pain, frustration and exhaustion. So, why was I telling myself this story? This was not the story that I wanted my life to tell. That day I began changing my story.

At some point, each of us comes face-to-face with the story of our lives. When we do, we have the choice to retreat further into hiding or to take off the mask, turn around, and walk toward the thing we fear the most. This is to seek the bear.

Every human being who has walked the face of the earth has come to the same crossroad; those that faced their bear left behind clues about how to do it. They left us messages about how best to stop hiding, how to turn and walk toward fear, what to do when it is time to stand in front of the bear’s cave and how to welcome the encounter. The clues and messages are found in the stories they left for us. The stories are maps for navigating our inner geography.

Our ancestors understood that stories are a participation sport. Our lives are mirrored in the tale of adventure. We know what to do in our personal story because we identify with the heroine/hero in the story. Their journey of transformation is a guide to our journey of transformation. Their follies and foibles give coherence and direction to our messy passage. Their death and rebirth is a map for our death and rebirth. Their story is a call for us to step more fully into our adventure-story.

As is true in all life-lessons, it’s a perfect loop. I’m back where I started (apparently) only with new eyes and a few more years of experience. Order from chaos, chaos from order, I suspect we are all, one way or another, rowing in a perfect circle.circle-peace-earth-jpeg

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Do Anything Else

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It occurs to me now that all along I’ve been asking irrelevant questions. Or, perhaps framing my questions too narrowly. For instance, years ago I went to graduate school to study systems because I wanted to follow a question that reached deep into my life and identity as an artist: can a mythology be rekindled once it has died? Art, after all, is one of the primary life-keepers of a culture’s story and the beating heart of the story is its mythology. And, according to all indicators, our mythology is mostly dead [as Joseph Campbell said, for evidence of our mythological demise, all you need to do is look at the news]. So, the younger version of myself wanted to understand the purpose of my life as an artist if, indeed, I was in service to a dead mythology. Heady questions, yes? Relevant questions?

In the early 1990’s I was invited to a photographer’s studio to see the “newest thing” in photography. The photographer had a new “program” called Photoshop. Before my eyes he “photoshopped” me into a picture, a place I’d never before visited. Today, all of this seems commonplace. Now, any 5 year old can manipulate an image but at the time a photograph stood for proof that something had actually happened. A photograph could not lie. It was evidence of truth. That day, standing in the photographer’s studio, I realized that the old reliable anchors for truth no longer existed. What was our anchor?

The truly significant events in our lives rarely come in with a roar.

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about fake news – as if this was a new phenomenon. It brings to my mind a terrific book written in 1985 by Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death. Here’s bit from the first page:

“Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education, and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.”

I suppose fake news refers to something wholly concocted but I’d argue that when news agencies pander and promote themselves to conservative or liberal viewpoints, when ratings drive content, it’s all fake news. News with an agenda is…not news. It is, however, dangerous to a democracy and no longer free (as in free press, a cornerstone of our democracy). Historically, newspapers have always had a point of view but there was some attention paid to what was printed as news. Opinion was confined to an editorial page. When the line between true and concocted is blurred, when a populace cannot discern between entertainment and substance, it no longer has the capacity to make sound (read, “informed”) judgments. Worse, it is gullible, gossip-eaten and infinitely manipulate-able. It is, as Neil Postman wrote, entertaining itself to death.

I recently wrote about the absence of recognizable communal anchors (mythology) and the dangers of a community with nothing but the soft soil of belief and opinion as its driver. Is planting a personal-truth flag and defending its territory all that is left to us?

What else can we do? Now, there’s a relevant, open-ended question! Roger once told me that he would never be able to understand suicide. He said something like, “In that moment, rather than take your own life, why not do anything else? Why not make any other choice?” Another relevant question!

What else can we do? In the face of our own entertainment-driven suicide, why not do anything else? Turn off the blather, go outside, meet your neighbor, tell stories of your children or your ancestors. If common ground can’t be found it can certainly be created. Inhabit something bigger than opinion. It’s less entertaining but certainly more useful. Great art – no matter the form- lives in those bigger fields.

 

MAKE ME AN INSTRUMENT OF PEACE – GIFTS

to kickstart your peace, listen to this:

for PEACE on iTunes, go here (track 5 on the album AS IT IS)

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