Let It Catch You [on Flawed Cartoon Wednesday]

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Although I wish I could claim otherwise, I drew this before our most-current age of Truthiness (thank you, Stephen Colbert).

All those years ago when I first saw a photographer alter a photograph with Photoshop, I wondered what in the absence of photographic proof would become the baseline for truth? I’ve lived long enough to have my answer.

Now, on this July 4th, amidst the collapse of civil dialogue, the dearth of shared values, I wonder in the absence of any baseline for truth, how long before truth circles around and catches up to us? Of this I am sure: Photoshop will be of no use.

[Doesn’t it just make you think of Yeats? The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.]

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read Kerri’s blog post on Truth Sometimes

 

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i always tell the truth sometimes ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Scatter News [on DR Thursday]

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I’m reading a book by Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words. If you google him you will read that he is “hailed as the philosopher poet of the environmental movement.”  He is also described as a “radical environmentalist.” He is thoughtful. He is well researched. He asks very big questions. Agree or disagree, he has strong, clear opinions and reasoned beliefs. Step back from his environmentalism and you will find that he speaks directly into the layers of shadow and denial that wrap our national narrative. He isn’t afraid to call a lie a lie. I suspect he is considered radical not because of his beliefs but because of his insistence on bringing into the open what the national narrative would rather keep hidden.

Lately, this word, radical, has become curious to me. Like so many of my friends, I have felt our community is the rope in an angry tug-of-war. We plug into news sources tailored to our political leanings that seem dedicated to reinforcing our divisions.  Dedicated to keeping us angry. And, we know it. And we eat it up. We tear ourselves apart, define ourselves too narrowly, and that is not understood as radical.

For example, we do not consider it radical that there have been 22 school shootings this year alone (at this writing). We do not see our utter inability and/or unwillingness to address it as radical. That more American school children have died of gunfire this year than soldiers in combat is astounding. Or should be.

What should be radical is now the new normal.

A few decades ago, Neil Postman wrote that we were in danger of amusing ourselves to death, that we were going down a path that would render us incapable of discerning between what has gravity and what is concocted. More to the point, we would invert the two, investing in the dross at the expense of the substance. It seems that we have arrived at the doorstep of his prediction.

Our acceptance of the radical is radical.  And what is the cost?

This is the meditation behind Earth Interrupted VI: News. Worthy. and this week’s morsel, Scattered News.

 

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scattered news design & products ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

earth interrupted vi: news.worthy. ©️ 2018 david robinson

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.

Look For The Crossroads

855. 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’m having an ongoing email conversation with Rafael. We are discussing educational change but more specifically asking how to change a culture of exclusion. I won’t go on a rant so let it suffice to say that the idea that we have equal access is just that: a nice idea but is nowhere apparent in the national fabric or the lived narrative of our nation. Our tax codes are created to keep the poorest poor and the wealthiest wealthy. Revolutionizing education is to revolutionize the economy and that is why it has become such a wicked problem. The forces in play do not favor the many. The voices in power represent the few.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life pushing against the public school system. And despite my capacity to fling around phrases like, “You can’t solve a problem at the level of the problem,” I’m only now seeing beyond the level of the problem. Inequity is institutionalized and deeply embedded in the national narrative so it is a fool’s errand to push on the institutions. As Buckminster Fuller advises, move toward what you want to create. This requires a new narrative. It requires to look at something other than what currently exists.

We go where we look. Where are we looking? We can hit division every time if we insist on seeing division. What’s good for business is not always what’s good for community and I often think that business wins the contest every time because we have a fleeting sense of community. We define our national health by the stock exchange. We are up or we are down. When I listen to the news or read the papers I am filled with the narrative of division. It is Us and Them on every page. This is not a new narrative. It is as old as our nation. Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness refers to land ownership and at the time those words were penned those privileges were extended to a few white males with resources and no others. A system does what a system was designed to do.

A new narrative would be one of unity. A new narrative is one of inclusion. A new narrative would consider the health of the system – in fact it would demand a healthy system and that is impossible to realize if any segment of the system is impoverished. A healthy plant cannot grow in exhausted soil. This is not an abstraction. Grow a garden in polluted soil and tell me what you discover.

It feels as if we are standing at the crossroads of “Every man for himself,” and “I am my brother’s keeper.” Both of these phrases are philosophies of an economy. The great thing about a crossroads is that the roads cross. They come together and are neither this nor that. They are a meeting ground and places of commerce accessible to all. Meeting grounds are also the place where new narratives are created. They are places of possibility. We know that our political climate is averse to seeing crossroads. We do not have to go where they are looking. We are capable of telling a different story if we are courageous enough to look where the roads cross and decide to stand in the place of an economy that includes instead of an economy that excludes.