Listen For The Splash [on DR Thursday]

I’ve shown this painting more than a few times and it always generates interest. More people have considered buying this painting than any other in my catalogue. Yet, it remains the bridesmaid. Angels At The Well.

What a crazy title! I can’t remember why I painted it or why I thought angels at a well was such a compelling subject. In fact, I chose it for this week’s Studio Melange because I pulled it out of the stacks and thought, “Really, what a bizarre subject! What was I thinking?”

In mythology, wells are sources of rejuvenation, places of fate, the future can be read in the waters, omens uttered, they are holy, cursed, or a place where wishes are cast. Spirits get caught in them. Stories begin or end at the well. They reach into the earth, the element of  water disappearing deep into the element of earth.

Angels are messengers (remember that the next time the postal person delivers the mail). They are liaisons between gods and people, between the vertical and the horizontal realms. They meet you at the crossroads. They stand watch. They announce. They fall.

Perhaps symbol collision is why Angels At The Well piques so much curiosity but is consistently left behind? What kind of well? What kind of angel? And, maybe that is why I found it compelling enough to paint. Or, it occurs to me that it might be this: drop a pebble into the well. Listen how long it falls. With the splash will come new knowledge, an answer to a wish, a question, or there may be no splash at all. Then what?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ANGELS AT THE WELL

 

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Happy Thanksgiving (for all of you USA-based angels)

 

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angels at the well ©️ 2004 david robinson

Coexist and Thrive [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Kerri told me that this was an image of coexistence. Cultivated plants sharing space with the wild ones. What-has-been holding court with what-just-popped-up. Intention linking fingers with the spontaneous. Stop me before I over-analogize myself!

Diversity is what makes nature tick. Googling biodiversity, I came across this phrase-that-says-it-all: greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms. Nothing, truly nothing, is independent. No thought, no being, no creative impulse is without precedent or ancestry. Great sites of innovation are – and have always been – found at the crossroads of culture. Life feeds life.

Picasso stepped onto the shoulders of Cezanne and painted his first cubist masterpiece in the same year that Einstein published his theory of relativity. These are not accidental statements.

Great artists, like great scientists, know that they are more discoverer than originator. They carry forward traditions, explore variations, rather than invent entirely new paths. Curators like to propel the story of ‘original’ because it makes a better story. Being the first to step on the moon is a better story than being the second but it is always wise to keep in mind that neither invented the moon.

Cultures that isolate are doomed to wither. Fear of otherness forges nationalist and moralists alike. Purity is a nice word, an abstract that may exist in a laboratory but is not found anywhere in nature.  Innovation, growth..all of life, yes, even economies, need rich diversity in order to thrive. Just like dandelions in a cornfield.  The evidence is all around us and all we need do is open our eyes.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about COEXISTENCE

 

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Bring A Little Hope [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Multiculturalism asserts that people with different roots can co-exist, that they can learn to read the image-banks of others, that they can and should look across frontiers of race, language, gender and age without prejudice or illusion, and learn to think against this background of a hybridized society. It proposed – modestly enough – that some of the most interesting things in history and culture happen at the interface between cultures. It wants to study border situations, not only because they are fascinating in themselves, but because understanding them may bring with it a little hope for the world.” ~ Robert Hughes

I read in my newspaper that tribalism is the new normal [insert eye roll here]. There’s nothing new in tribalism. Fear-full people lost in a very small Us-N-Them tale is as old as the old gods. It’s pulled out and paraded about when power structures are shifting.

I marveled at the utter absurdity of it. No one can deny that our airwaves and e-waves are choked with noisy proclamations of division and fear.  However, it only takes a quick scan through the rest of my newspaper to grasp the undeniable reality of our situation: global markets, global economies, populations on the move, United Nations, NATO, WTO, multinational corporations, Bitcoin, international space stations, satellites, not to mention some of our greatest challenges like global warming, and invasive plant and insect species (made possible through global shipping and the necessity of sharing/exploiting resources). Take a stroll down the aisle of your local supermarket and educate yourself on the scope, depth and breadth of your food sources. Count the countries represented on the shelves.

Tribalism is not new. It was normal a few centuries ago. Nowadays it is a construct, an old dry log to toss on a fire to stoke divisions and create distractions.  It’s a headline to sell newspapers. Division sells. Good theatre requires hot conflict. People are easier to control when divided. There’s nothing new there, either.

There is a truism in change processes: people hold on tightest to what they know just before releasing their fear and walking into the unknown future. They take a step back, temporarily entrench, before answering the call of growth and change. Call that tribalism if you must, or denial, or the conservative impulse. It’s a process step. “Age and stage,” as 20 likes to say.

What’s actually new? All the world is now a crossroads. People with different roots ARE coexisting – that, after all, IS the great experiment and central promise of these United States. Looking across the frontiers of race, language, gender and age – without prejudice or illusion – is the hope in our emergence. It is the cathedral we are building.

The other direction can only bring our decrease. And, as history has taught us again and again, that’s an ugly path. There’s nothing new in that, either.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on EMERGING HUMANS EMERGING

 

 

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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Truly Powerful People (461)

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

In a recent post I used the phrase, “embracing your inner odd” and it filled the mailbag with letters of recognition. Apparently, my odd-tribe is much larger than I realized!

Secretly, I’ve believed for years that despite all appearances to the contrary, we really desire to be on the island of misfit toys. Despite all the suits and ties, all the career-track choices and ubiquitous McThought thoughts and pressuring peers, it is our square wheels that make us special. It is our missing buttons that make us unique. Too much similarity and we start to disappear. Therein lives the dragon. To appear, to be in view, we must show our oddity.

We want to fit in. It is among the strongest impulses in the human canon of desires. E.O. Wilson suggests that belonging sits atop the list. Banishment makes us food for lions; it is our pack-ness that makes us safe. Fit in or perish. Odd wrinkles brows and makes bystanders avert their eyes to prevent any embarrassing association. Therein lives the opportunity. To show the odd is to upset the norm.

Throughout history the centers of great innovation have been cultural crossroads. Where differences cross paths innovation thrives. Difference knocks us out of our comfortable assumptions. It’s the oddity that joggles new perspectives and opens the door to “what if?” Suppressing difference pours water on the fires of invention. Eliminate the odd and uniformity, stasis, and stagnation are your reward.

The inner odd provides the same service to your personal crossroads. Muting yourself, gagging your inner odd, stifles your possibilities. It limits your view. The comic, the eccentric, the alarming trickster within is meant to keep you from taking yourself too seriously so you can open. As someone once told me, “Humor is the path to confidence.” Your inner odd is a jester whose gift is to question your attachments and harass your assumptions so that you might put down your rulebook and see the possibilities.