Live Without Fear [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Last week we met my niece and her husband in Lake Geneva for a glass of wine. They’ve been living overseas and were gobsmacked at the recent changes in our nation. “How do you have conversations?” she asked, adding, “Everyone is so angry. It’s impossible to talk about anything important. It’s impossible to discuss or debate ideas or points of view.”

“It’s a minefield,” I said, not really knowing what else to say. There is so much anger which can only mean there is so much fear. The only thing that makes sense to me is that our nation, an ongoing experiment, is cutting through the weeds of our central question: can people of diverse backgrounds come together and live united in a single narrative? If the past two years was your only evidence the answer would be a resounding NO. Thankfully, there is a broader sample. We are a work in progress.

No one can see clearly the times in which they live. And, since the conversation last week has been much on my mind, and an answer to the pervasive fear is no where to be found [and would be a ruse at best], for insight I can only offer A Two Artist Tuesday Quote Collision:

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that aren’t so.” ~ Mark Twain

“The idea of a causal universe and a social order built on universal moral laws is toppled by the uncertainty principle. The absolute is replaced by the relative…. Reality becomes a matter of highly variable conventions, rather than a set of fixed and eternal facts.”  ~Jamake Highwater [Jamake gets the award for consecutive quotes. He also made an appearance yesterday!]

“A lot of lip service gets paid to being honest, but no one really wants to hear it unless what’s being said is the party line.”~ Colin Quinn

It is not an accident that our science, our art, and our politics are roiling in relativity. It IS our current common narrative. Contemporary art, like modern science, began with breaking down the idea of absolutes. Politics and public opinion do not lead but they follow.

The experiment is no longer confined to our shores: in a global economy, in the age of 24 hour news cycles, Facebook, Twitter and Google, in our age-and-stage of relativity, can people of diverse backgrounds come together and live united in a single narrative called relativity? Can we transcend our fear of otherness and step outside of our echo chambers? Can we listen as passionately as we proclaim? It seems that it will require a great deal of respect for otherness with a high degree of empathy and low investment in self-righteousness.

Well, we’ll see.

if you'd like to see TWO ARTISTS copy

read Kerri’s blog post about LIVING WITHOUT FEAR

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

living without fear ©️ 2006/2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Protect Our Diversity

Many years ago, sitting in a Starbucks, my brother told me that I should be careful because not everyone wanted the diversity I was promoting. His warning struck me as odd. At the time I was partners in a business that facilitated diversity training and change dynamics. I was traveling to many places in this nation, north, south, east, west, and places in the middle, to work with people in corporations and schools and communities who’d come up against the startling reality that all people do not share the same reality, that equality is an ideal not yet realized, that we are a nation defined by our other-ness.

When I was in school I was taught that the USA was a melting pot, a hot crucible into which people of many backgrounds, creeds, and colors were transformed into something stronger. I was taught that we were a nation of immigrants. It is printed on our currency: e pluribus unum. Out of the many, one. Why, then, would I need to be careful? Diversity was not something I was promoting, it was (and is) our circumstance. It was an identity I was helping people navigate in their workplaces and communities.

I read somewhere that the real challenge of the American Experiment is that we have to reinvent ourselves everyday. Because we are not (and never have been) able to share a common ethnic-religious-origin story, we must strive everyday to create a shared story. We create our story. We were, at our inception, an experiment in other-ness. To insist that we were meant to be singular – white and Christian – is a concoction. Our shared story begins with the single common thread that runs through most of our ancestral paths: we came from some other place seeking freedom in one form or another: religious freedom, freedom from persecution, the freedom to pursue opportunities. What binds us, the single story-blanket under which we can all crawl, is our diversity. Out of the many, one.

There is and always has been a tension in our story creation. Each new wave of others is resisted and often persecuted by the previous wave. When, in a nation of diverse backgrounds, in a country made strong by its multiplicity, does one actually become an American? And, what does an American look like? And, how far are we from living the ideal of all being created equally? With liberty and justice for all? It’s a moving target at best. It is a worthy ideal and worth the struggle.

The Experiment, like all experiments, has had some miserable failures. It has taken some giant strides forward. It is riddled with paradoxes and often runs into a hard wall of hypocrisy. We’ve torn ourselves in half and pasted ourselves back together. We’ve had our share of hate-mongers and xenophobes. We have one now. And, we always transcend them because we do not run on fear or anger but on promise and opportunity. The conservative impulse is always at odds with the progressive desire. It provides the heat for the crucible. It provides the tension for creativity and growth.

The greatest centers of innovation and entrepreneurship in the history of humankind have all been crossroads, places where many cultures cross paths and come together. Difference is a great opener of eyes and minds. We are an intentional crossroads, a meeting place by design. Our make-up of differences might be the single reason why we have grown as a nation of invention, advancement, and possibility.

In one aspect my brother was right: I should be careful, we should be careful to protect and keep the ideal in the center. It is worth marching for, it is worth challenging the fear-mongering and stepping in the way of a leader who plays on anger to create division. We should be careful to honor and steward The Experiment forward to the next generation of diverse Americans.

 

 

 

Take A Peak Beyond Appearances

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

Pal is a taxi driver. He was the driver at the head of the cue so he gave Lora and me a lift from the airport to our apartment. It’s a twenty-minute ride, no time at all yet enough for the story of a life. In 20 minutes we learned that Pal is from the Pujab region in India. He has lived and worked in the US for 25 years. With the exception of his father, his family now lives in the United States. He was mugged during one of his graveyard shifts at the 7-Eleven because he would not buy stolen property from a man who wandered in one night. He is a Sikh though he no longer wears his turban; he’s cut his hair and his beard. To a Sikh, cutting the hair and the beard are not done without good reason. Pal’s reason is safety. In the United States he has been beaten for his appearance. It’s better to fit in than to be beaten.

Central to the Sikh’s belief are radical notions like the equality of humankind and universal brotherhood. In my twenty minutes with Pal I learned that he was generous, gentle, bright, present, and open-hearted. He was not in a hurry. He loved his family. He worked hard. We unloaded our bags from the taxi and stood with Pal to continue our conversation. He showed us a picture of what he looked like before he went into hiding by cutting his hair and beard.

When Pal drove away I was awash with conflicting feelings. I was so grateful for our magic taxi conversation and his generosity – and equally saddened that in a country that prides itself on individualism, this man, this good man, does not feel safe being an individual. He was not beaten for his actions; he was beaten for his looks.

Once, someone I love but do not understand told me that, “not all Americans want this diversity thing;” an odd sentiment in a country comprised of immigrants. Evidently the diversity in his neighborhood made him uncomfortable and rather than walk toward it and meet his neighbors he chose to close his front door and fear. I wonder if he would have recognized Pal’s kindness or held him suspect because he looked different.

Of this I am certain: those who do not want this “diversity thing” are missing out. This “diversity thing” is a human thing and there are extraordinary treasures (human beings who do not look like you) all around. It only takes a moment to peak beyond the appearance, ask a question, and find the riches.