Draw A Chalk Circle [on Merely A Thought Monday]

There are charts for everything. Definitions and distinctions of value meant to clarify but, in the end, make life seem more and more farcical. For instance, we recently were directed to a worker’s compensation website and learned that losing your hand in an accident is worth 400 weeks of [minimal] compensation. The dominant hand is worth more than the non-dominant hand. Fingers have less value-in-weeks than a thumb. Just imagine the guys-and-gals-in-suits sitting around a conference table discussing the value of a human hand as expressed in weeks. Sometimes I’m certain that we live inside the mind of Gary Larson.

Is it no wonder that we are confused about the value of a human life? We have actuaries calculating human-life-value and making smart looking tables with support graphs to answer this most fundamental question. I’m certain that those guys-and-gals-in-suits sitting around the conference table would come up with a different answer if it was their hand or fingers or toes or life on the chopping block. If it was their child’s eye or foot. Charts, like all data points, are not personal.

We awoke this morning to the news that the latest mass shooting (if 4 or more people are shot it is, according to the FBI, considered “mass”) was in our town. We are number 47 since March 16. March 16 is the date of the mass shooting in Atlanta; 8 people were killed. Here are some nifty and comprehensive charts on gun violence in America.

When I was in elementary school we did safety drills, crawling under our desks, in the event of an atomic bomb drop. Although I was certain that my desk was not going to protect me in the event of an atomic explosion, I was comforted by the knowledge that the enemy was far away, external. Now, our children in elementary school do active shooter drills and they, too, know that their desks offer little protection. But their predicament is dire: the enemy they face is right here. It is everywhere, internal. Sitting under my desk I knew there was an entire military machine between me and the potential dropper of atom bombs. Sitting under their desks, our children know with certainty that there is nothing, not even legislative will, standing between them and the ubiquitous shooter.

I once listened to an author speak about the difficulty of writing a farce about the USA. He said, “Before you can a publish the book, the fictional farce that you’d written will have actually happened.” Our scary farce: the only answer we can muster to daily mass killing in schools, grocery stores, work places, concerts, houses of worship…the only idea that the markets will support in an out-of-control gun culture, is more guns. Sales charts and political donation data drive policy to dedicated inaction. [For some lightheartedness in the midst of this dark-and-dismal post, go here. I laughed aloud when I heard comic Steve Hofstetter riff on gun control.]

What is the value of a human life?

We had a lovely conversation in the grocery store. An accidental path crossing with friends. Sue remarked, as we compared life experiences, that our personal challenges are meant to remind us that we are still here.

What is the value of a human life as determined by those of us who are still here?

Bertold Brecht wrote a play called The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Two women claim to be the mother of a small child. A judge has to settle the case. He has a small circle drawn on the ground. The child is placed in the circle. The judge instructs the women to stand on opposite sides of the circle, each taking one of the child’s hands. The woman that successfully pulls the child from the circle will be declared the mother. One woman quickly yanks the child from the circle. The other will not pull. She refuses. She cannot do harm to her child. She proves herself to be the true mother.

I wonder what we might value if we could put down our charts and data points and amendments-as-seen-in-isolation-from-all-the-other-amendments, step beyond our abstractions, and draw a simple circle in the dirt. What might we discuss if we placed a small child in the circle, and considered the value of that one precious life? My bet is that none of us would yank that child out of the circle of life. We’d do everything imaginable to protect the child from harm. To keep it safe. Sales graphs and actuary tables and every other dehumanizing analytic would drop away. We would, in considering the beating heart of our public dangers, make the safety of the child, of every child, our personal challenge. It would slap us awake and remind us that we are still here. Alive. And, as custodians of the circle of each and every actual life, we are responsible to and for each other.

read Kerri’s blog post about STILL HERE

Consider The Numbers [on Merely A Thought Monday]

There are numbers. Then, there are the realities that the numbers represent. For instance, I am writing this a few days before the post date. Between the time I write this post and the time it publishes, more than 9,000 people will die of COVID-19. The counting-unit-of-measure is not golf balls or jelly beans in a jar. It is not socks lost in the dryer. It is lives lost. People who otherwise would be alive. People who celebrated the new year and hoped 2020 would be better than 2019. The counting unit is people-who-die-of-COVID-19.

9,000 is a number. So is 276,000. That’s today’s number. 400,000 is also a number. That’s the estimated number of lives lost in these divided-united-states by January 1, 2021. People. Dreamers. Seekers. Grandparents. Sisters. Uncles. Friends.

“Lives lost” is also an abstraction. Words. Easy to say. Easy to write. There’s no reality until there is a reality, though, these days, realities are readily denied. Actively denied. In the face of medical professionals pleading with us to listen, emergency rooms overrun, refrigerator trucks serving as morgues, there are still folks who look at the numbers and cry “HOAX!” No one they know has become a number. Not yet.

Mask wearing and social distancing. The two most potent actions we can take to make the numbers smaller. I won’t go on. Enough said. It’s been said from the outset, again and again and again. Masks. Social distancing. Wash hands. Disbelief and/or truth-resistance makes more and more people, each and every day, become numbers-on-the-news.

Life minimized. Life reduced.

Here’s something to think about. Our dear 20 tested positive. A pandemic-disbeliever sauntered mask-less into a space where he was working. She cried “HOAX!” He breathed her hoax-aerosols, already loaded with virus. He has chronic asthma. He needed to order a new phone but didn’t. He wanted to make sure he survived before he spent the money. I’m not sure how to reduce his fear-of-dying to a number or some other abstraction that makes it count-able. “On a scale of 1 to 10,” the interviewer asks, “how afraid are you?”

Of this I am certain. The woman who shared her virus-loaded aerosols with 20 also shared her virus-loaded aerosols with many, many other people. It was apparently her “right” to reduce other people to abstract numbers. She shared her aerosols with us, too! And we never met her. For some reason her hoax-belief was not a protection against infecting other people. She bragged of going to parties and restaurants. She proudly made resistance-statements by going to grocery stores unmasked. Her aggressive pandemic-disbelief, I am certain, sent infection-ripples far and wide. 14,200,000 is a number. People in these delusion-laden-united-states infected by negligent-others. So far. As a denier of reality, she will, I am certain, take no responsibility for her contribution to the numbers. The odds are, she will have contributed in her small way to the 9,000 who will die between the time I write and the time I post.

She may be one of them. A number.

read Kerri’s blog post about COVID TESTS

Step Into The Ripple [on DR Thursday]

sometimesfaith WITH EYES jpeg copy 2

I’ve never understood faith as a religious term. Look up the word in the dictionary and you’ll come across trust, belief, and conviction. Rather than a lofty word reserved for worship day, it has always struck me as an everyday something – that becomes extraordinary when you realize how ever-present-and-ordinary it actually is. Stepping blindly. Blindly stepping. Each and everyday.

We surround ourselves with calendars and lists and routines and rituals and patterns – all necessary mechanisms to plan our days but they also serve to protect us from the truth of our walk on this earth: there is not a moment, an hour, or day that is actually known before it is lived. Every moment of every day is a step into the unknown.

The real practice of faith is not about an abstraction.  It is a recognition that walking in faith is an essential part of the human condition. The real practice is in realizing it. Being right where you are, open to the reality and empty of the illusion of certainty that you know what is coming. You do not. The true spiritual practice is to empty yourself of the need for the illusion of control.

Fully inhabiting the moment. Standing at the crossroad of past and future without the map of ‘I-know-what’s-going-to-happen’ dulling the experience.

Spiritual practices are not meant to be other worldly. They are, at their best, concrete relationships found at the intersection of past and future, in that tiny slice of infinity called “the moment.” It is a miracle of unknowns and surprises.

The practice of faith is the practice of putting down what you think you know – dropping the notion that you know what will happen- and stepping fully and with intention into the rippling unknown.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FAITH

 

 

frozen lake website box copy

chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Plan For Surprise [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

coffee cup dance copy

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley ~Robert Burns, To A Mouse

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. It is something we keep in mind as we wade into the planning phase of our next project [well, learning first. Planning, second].

Actually, in truth, the best laid plans always go awry. Life, circumstance, is a constantly moving and changing force that generally alters all well-conceived plans. Whether we acknowledge it or not. We plan but [you might want to sit down for this next bit of revelation]: we do not control.

The plan, at best, is an abstraction that assumes a perfect circumstance and completely ignores relationship dynamics. People are fickle. Everyone has a plan and many of the plans do not line up with my plan! There is weather. There are partycrashers.  Pick pockets. Tripping stones. The budget. The children get sick. The internet portals are tapped out. The bridge fails. There is a better idea.

If everything went according to plan there would be no happy accidents. No teachable moments. Most discoveries come precisely because the plan fails. It is a rule of change that if you know where you are going, you will recreate what you already have. The plan can only pretend to bring about change. Change comes when you veer off course. Change comes from time spent in the unknown lands. Oddly, so does learning.

The only plan that makes sense? Plan for surprise. You’ll never be disappointed or frustrated because everything will go according to the plan.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on THE PLAN

 

 

preadventure painting sale box copy

 

feet in ocean website box copy

Make The Climb [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

display of knowledge in frame copy

Roger and I used to talk about art in terms of levels of sophistication. For instance, no one masters an instrument the first time they pick one up. There are layers of learning necessary before the musician “knows” how to play. The “knowing” has little to do with the accumulation of information and everything to do with giving over to what the body learns. Finally, it is a letting go (of the mind) into an undefended sharing. Flow. It has nothing to do with knowing and everything to do with availability. This ‘availability to experience’ is what we called sophistication.

Both the artist and the audience pass through layers of greater sophistication. The artist wants greater and greater challenges. The audience wants greater and greater challenges, that is, they want to participate in something that demands more from them. It requires that both artist and audience show up, open, give over. Union is the ultimate purpose of art. Participation in something greater than your self. That is how art informs and transforms.

And then, there is the flip side, the anti-art. You can feel it. The absence of the genuine experience. The demonstration of accumulated knowledge. I cringe when a curator launches a three-masted-ship-of-study that tells me what the art is about, what the artist felt, and what I should see and feel. When the actor attempts to control what I see, when the art is so conceptual that it precludes me or anyone save the artist from entering the conversation, when the  knowledge priest stands between me and my god…you’ll know the levels of sophistication have left the building when the conversation is one way, judged, controlled.

Kerri calls this the blah-blah. When a real moment is disrupted by an agenda, when the flow is dammed by an unnecessary display of knowledge. And, the kicker is, we are all guilty of it. I am. It is a necessary step in climbing the ladder of sophistication, slipping back down the ladder of sophistication. To confuse technique with art. To garble the necessity of the open heart with  the realm of the intellectually abstract.  To give a standing ovation to something that put you to sleep. To try to control what the other person sees or thinks or feels; a fool’s errand. The great artist trap. The great life trap.

And, the best you can do (truly, the best thing), is to catch yourself in the moment of blah-blah, laugh at yourself lost in the trap, pull out the ladder, and begin again to climb toward simplicity.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AN UNNECESSARY DISPLAY OF KNOWLEDGE

 

 

cropped head kiss website copy