Notice The World

my latest painting. another addition to The Beach Series.

It’s a constant source of the giggles for me now. So many things that used to seem so complex and unknowable, so serious and weighty, have morphed into utter simplicities. And, I’ve unwittingly accumulated or created shorthand phrases, adages, that encapsulate the simplicities.

Stephen used to ask me, “Why don’t people see how important art is? Why don’t people value the arts?” He is a prolific and gifted painter and, like most artists, was struggling financially. I used to sit around with other artists and actors asking the same type of questions. Why don’t they value us. Our conversations made us into a frustration-club, so certain were we that we carried in our art pouch the cure for the worlds’ ills. But the world, they, were not noticing us. No matter how great our play or heartfelt our paintings or how loudly we proclaimed and marketed our work or trumpeted our capacity to help people to think or feel more deeply – to change the world! – the community (they) seemed mostly inattentive (to us).

Art as castor oil. Non-profit non-prophet.

Wearing my corporate consulting hat, I taught this core principle for years: you can never determine what other people think or feel or see. And, it took years for this simple adage to penetrated my life – especially my artist life (we do, in fact, teach what we most need to learn…).

I still believe in the importance and great power of the arts but not in the same way I did all those many years ago. I actually believe in it more than I once did only now it seems so simple: ‘Do what you love…,’ so the saying goes. Do what you love because you love to do it. That’s all. The world (how’s that for a sweeping generality!) does not need to be saved or changed. Mostly, it needs less frustrated artists waving to be noticed while perpetuating the narrative that they are undervalued. The world could do with a wee bit less of ‘us and them.’

The simplicity: I would much rather root my energies, my focus, my creative powers in the love of it all. Frustration makes the well run dry. There is no us and them when standing solidly in the love of creating. The real power of the arts – the only real power of the arts – is to open access to the commons, the shared space beyond separations (real or imagined). At best, artists reach across boundaries, not create them. In the end, artists (I believe) are mirrors, not medics.

Kerri gave me this new adage for my collection (and I giggled): It’s not about the world noticing you. It’s about you noticing the world.

Art Already In Me

TODAY’S FEATURED PRINT FOR HUMANS

Art In Me

FOR TODAY’S FEATURED PRINT FOR HUMANS, GO HERE.

Remember The Fire

this is the first painting in a triptych I did for The Creatures Of Prometheus, a performance I did with The Portland Chamber Orchestra. special kudos to Jen and Brad for housing these enormous paintings for me.

This is the first painting in a triptych I did for The Creatures Of Prometheus, a performance I did with The Portland Chamber Orchestra. Special kudos to Jen and Brad for housing these enormous paintings for me.

With the spring the storms have come. Brilliant blinding flashes of lightning followed by thunder that rolls and rolls for minutes without ceasing. Joseph Campbell once posited that the voice of the thunder was humankind’s first experience of the godhead; as I listen now to the sky roil and rumble, watching Tripper-Dog-Dog-Dog look for a safe place to hide, I am grateful to be inside protected from the god’s displeasure.

Last week I learned that the phrase, “blinding flash of lightning” was more than poetry. Kerri and I were taking our usual late night stroll. There were distant rumbles of thunder, but nothing close or threatening. The crack and flash seemed to come from nowhere. I ducked. Kerri screamed. It felt like we were inside the lightning rather than beneath it. The ground rumbled in concert with the sky. For blocks around us, car alarms whooped and beeped like Chicken Little. I imagined the cars were as taken by surprise as Kerri and I. For several moments after the flash, I was literally blind.

We were already running when sight returned, we laughed and squealed and kept our heads down as if that would make a difference. It seemed as if the storm was far distant one moment and on top of us the next. The sky spit hail. It rained for a moment. And, as suddenly as it was on us, it was gone. We stood still in the wake of the storms departure. I wondered if I’d imagined it except the parked cars were still sounding their alarms.

Once, when I was in high school, I hiked with a friend to the top of a peak. We were above the timber line and although I knew enough to be off the mountain top before the afternoon storms rolled over the divide, the thunder clouds came fast and we were caught in a powerful storm in a meadow just beneath the peak. It seemed as if we were literally inside the cloud as the lightning made the hair on my head stand on end. We wedged ourselves in a sitting fetal position between some boulders, and reflexively closed our eyes and covered our heads. Each flash sent a jolt of fear through me. I’ve rarely been as frightened or exhilarated as I was that day. The storm roared over the mountain top and descended into the valley. It was gone as fast as it came. It was awesome.

In one of the versions of the Prometheus story, Zeus charges Prometheus with the task of creating creatures for the sole purpose of worshipping the gods. Zeus wants the new creatures to be crude and stupid. Prometheus, instead, creates something beautiful and smart: humans. From clay, he sculpts a female and male form. Knowing that Zeus will never give life to his beautiful creatures, Prometheus steals the immortal fire, the lightning, and sparks the human hearts to life. To punish Prometheus, to keep his beautiful creatures from knowing their own beauty, Zeus introduces them to warfare, both the internal and external variety; he makes them doubt. He infuses them with fear. He makes it easy for them to focus on their ugliness so that they might misdirect their awesome power and forget the creative fire burning in their hearts.

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Flip it!

669. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am in New England and it is winter. This morning as the sun rose, as the sky progressed through purple and orange to steel grey there was a very light snow falling. The world was so quiet that it inspired inner quiet. I think this is what is supposed to happen in winter: we are meant to slow down, get quiet, to go inside, reflect, keep warm, catch up on some sleep, and touch the eternal in ways that are only accessible when the days are short and the ground is frozen.

Yesterday, as Alan and I planned the summit that we will facilitate in Holland in March, we strayed from our task and talked about separation and connectivity. I am oriented into the world according to my cultural defaults: separate from all of nature (including my own), a dominator, steeped in the notion that I can control things and given to the hubris that one of the things I can control is nature. And yet, I am at odds with my orientation. I don’t believe any of it. My life’s work (for myself and others) is to flip it, to offer a different, healthier narrative.

Once, many years ago, when I was in Bali, I had a conversation that helped me clarify what would become the work of my life. I was explaining to a Balinese man what it was to be an artist in America and he was deeply perplexed by my premise. He said to me, “But, all people are artists; all people are creative.” To be alive is to be creative. It is a mark of the culture of separation to believe that you are or are not creative, to see creativity as a limited resource or a perhaps an endowment for the special. It is a characteristic of a culture of connectivity to understand that all of life is creative and to be alive is to be a participant in the vibrant, creative, ever changing flow of life – as a vibrant, creative, ever changing being.