Find Another Door [on Merely A Thought Monday]

dream copy

Roger and I used to discuss life and career. He would say, “There is a time of becoming and then, one day, you realize that you have become it.” He was right. I wanted to be an artist. For years I chased it. For years I practiced it. And then, one day, I realized I was it. Not because I’d arrived at a place called Artist, but because art was my practice. Art was my pursuit. Art called me.

It’s a paradox. You become the thing that you pursue on the day that you realize it is not an achievement. Becoming is a choice of practice, a dedication of your limited time on earth to an exploration. Follow the Siren long enough and she will claim you.

Long after his retirement, Tom continued to toss his hat into the ring for regional directing assignments. During his career, he was a force in the theatre. He was a master-teacher-director who opened the door to many of my peers, theatre artists, the people I most admire. I heard about Tom long before I met him. And, although he continued his passionate pursuit after his retirement, the world of opportunity could not see beyond his grey hair. Even his former students, those people I most admire, stopped considering his resume or returning his calls.

It was in the midst of recognizing that he had more to give but the old routes were now closed that he pulled me aside and said, “I need help telling a story.” And then he asked, “Will you help me?”

Our project, The Lost Boy, opened ten years later,  several months after Tom’s death.  The opening night audience was a packed house of Tom’s family and relatives, people who brought photographs of the lost boy, Johnny, to the theatre. They clutched them as they watched the play. After the performance, they stayed in the theatre sharing their stories until the management asked them to leave.

A dream. Tom’s practice: uniting people through telling and sharing a common story. Art in its purest form.

His final lesson for me: storytellers (artists) age but the force of their dreams does not grow old. They will inevitably hit walls and freshly closed doors and rather than sit down and throw up their hands, they simply turn, ask a few questions, and look for another way.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NEVER TOO OLD

 

Johnny crop copy

 

 

photo-4

The Chili Boys in rehearsal for The Lost Boy. They wrote gorgeous music for the play. I will always be grateful to them.

 

photo-4

carrying on the tradition (and my heroes): mike and sabrina bartram

photo

50 minutes before stepping onto the stage. Kerri and I performed together for the first time.

 

bootsbythestage website box copy

Read The Image [on DR Thursday]

“I paint the way some people write an autobiography. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages from my diary.” ~Pablo Picasso

Kerri and I love to dance. This painting was inspired by one of our spontaneous backyard dances. We don’t know how to do the tango but that has never stopped us from making it up.

When I was much younger, my little brother told me that my studio was one of the darkest places he’d ever been. I didn’t see it at the time but now, looking at my few remaining early paintings, I can’t deny it. Painting, for me, is the log book of a spiritual quest and, like all spiritual quests, the real work is in retrieving the lost pieces and making a greater whole, walking into the wound and transforming it, stepping firmly into the realm of the possible (and becoming it) instead of being transfixed on the monster obstacle.

What once seemed so complex now looks so simple. What once looked so bleak and impossible is now practical, immediate, and infinitely rich. I am lucky. I delight that my diary these days is filled with dances and quiet appreciation.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TANGO WITH ME

 

slow dance party cropped website box copy

tango with me ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Heed The Call

A detail from my painting, Will Is Belief

A detail from my painting, Will Is Belief

“It’s hard to explain to people,” said Chris. “I’m answering a calling. I know in my bones that I’m doing with my life exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. There is nothing else that gives me life. There is only this that I can give my life to. I don’t have a choice and that makes no sense to my family and friends.”

Chris is an artist, a brilliant actor. He acts because he needs to act and that is impossible to understand to those who’ve never had a soul-deep calling. It makes no sense to those witnessing the hardship his life path requires. His family and friends want him to have a better life. They want him to have a big home and two cars. They want him to have a back yard and a barbecue. What they can’t grasp is that Chris, like all artists with a calling, is acting from a selfless imperative. They aren’t doing it for themselves. They are not indulging an ego-need. They are, as Chris said, “creating to translate experiences for others.” Artists are meaning makers in a world that often makes no sense.

It is simple. Artists serve the force of unity in a world dedicated to the forces of division. And, that makes no sense.

Pastor Tom has a calling. He left a big salary career for the meager salary of a pastor because he could no longer ignore the inner voice demanding that he answer his call. It need not make sense because Pastor Tom can say that he answered God’s call. Chris’ calling is coming from the same source though, in our world, the connective tissue of his claim is not as easy to grasp.

Many people can draw, write, dance, act, sculpt, trumpet, and paint. A very few actually need to do it. They can do nothing else. Just as many people are capable of sermonizing and leading a church, it is the rare person who has to do it, who can do nothing else. Chris would wither if he did, as his elders suggest, leave his crazy pursuit and get a real job that pays real money and provides real stability. They do not know what Chris knows: stability has nothing to do with money or jobs that make sense.

Sense-making is a matter of the head. Chris is a servant of the heart.

There is a very powerful Hungarian film, called White God (though if you are a dog lover as I am you should probably steer clear). It is film about violence and suppression begetting nothing but more violence and suppression. It makes sense. In the final scene of the movie, when faced with a tide of horrific violence, a young girl pulls her trumpet from her backpack and begins to play. The beauty of her playing stops the unstoppable. It breaks the cycle of violence. It makes no sense: beauty has the power to extinguish violence.

Beauty has the capacity to unify a world dedicated to division and violence. This is what Chris’ call is all about. This is what he knows in his bones. It is the reason he gets on the stage for meager pay. It is the reason he spends his days going to endless auditions and producing plays on subway platforms and other places where few will ever stop and take notice. It is the reason a big backyard and sensible job make no sense. He is a servant to the power of beauty, the wonders of art, the necessity of illuminating unity amidst the madness of division. With this calling, all other paths are closed. They simply make no sense.

Hear The Calling Voice

photo

next steps to my latest painting. it’s coming along!

“Maybe that means that the voice we should listen to most as we choose a vocation is the voice that we might think we should listen to least, and that is the voice of our own gladness….I believe that if it is a thing that makes us truly glad, then it is a good thing and it is our thing and it is the calling voice that we were made to answer with our lives.” ~ Frederick Buechner, Secrets In The Dark

This week I received an email from a long lost friend, a man I haven’t seen in over 25 years. Although we have yet to talk, his email contact has already sparked within me a life review. What have I done in all of these years? Who have I become in the quarter century since last I saw my friend? He wrote a brief three sentence overview of career advancement and family highlights (graduations and retirements). In attempting a reply, I found it impossible to encapsulate my path as there has been nothing linear, logical, or similar in my steps. I’ve walked a much different road. My inner imperative roars rather than whispers.

My life has been a source of great concern for my parents. Security has never been high on my list of occupational criteria. The day that I graduated from college my mother asked in all seriousness, with the love and concern that can only come from of a worried mother, “Now that you’ve gotten the theatre thing out of your blood, what are you going to do with your life?” She could see (before I did) my attraction to edges and my need to run at them and jump. She understood my need to question the rules, challenge assumptions, and live on the margins so I might better see and understand the happenings in the main stream. She saw and for a while feared the call of the art within me.

a close-up

a close-up

Judy once told me that she never wanted to be too comfortable because she intended to live life, not protect herself from it; she didn’t want to become complacent in this gorgeous life. Security is low on her list, too. She’s my go-to person when I lose the voice of gladness in the static and clamor of ‘should-do.’ She cuts through the noise, “Can you hear the birds, feel the sun on your face?”

When we were students in college, Roger asked me to read Herman Hesse’s book, Narcissus and Goldmund. He told me that he would most likely live the life of Narcissus and I would follow Goldmund’s route. Narcissus is a priest and teacher seeking God in the rituals of the institution. Goldmund finds illumination through the mess and random experiences of his life. One seeks God through order. The other finds God in chaos. Both are following their call, their voice of gladness. My path has, as Roger predicted, mirrored Goldmund’s. The voice, the call of gladness is clear to me on the inside while the path is nearly unrecognizable from the outside perspective.

another close-up

another close-up

So, what to tell my friend when we speak? Like all artists, I have answered the calling voice with my life.