Look Out [on Two Artists Tuesday]

bcat in the window romper room copy

I was one of those teachers who encouraged my students to stare out of the window. Visiting administrators occasionally admonished me for allowing my students to “daydream.” Imagination, I would explain, requires much more expanse than a classroom can provide. Looking out the window let the imagination-horses run free.  At graduation, I would remind the administrator, they would almost certainly endorse the graduates to follow their dreams so facilitating the pursuit of dreaming was, perhaps, the most useful skill they may ever acquire. Besides, keeping noses perpetually focused on the grindstone can be a great dream killer.

Mike wrote that Shakespeare penned King Lear while in quarantine for the Black Plague. “Any takers?” he challenged. What do you do when you can’t really go out and play? My bet is that good William stared out of his window between ink dips and parchment scratching. I’m finding, as we move deeper into our home stay, that I am repelled by electronic things that fill my time. Things that pull my focus down and in. I find that I want to stare out of the window. I want to go out and walk.

There are plays I want to write. There are paintings I want to paint. There are the necessities of life banging at my door (where will the next work come from?) Uncertainty surrounds us. I know there is no point in fretting; fretting and worry are inverse forms of imagination. Hornets buzzing inside the head because they haven’t enough space to become horses and run free. The best thing to do when your head is full of hornets? Find a good window and dream.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE MAGIC MIRROR

 

 

rhode island website box copy

 

 

Imagine It [on Merely A Thought Monday]

we deserve better copy

This is a tale of two schools, both in the same school district. It is the story of the very day when the younger version of me grasped with both hands the absolute importance of the arts, when I understood to my bones that art was not a luxury but a necessity in a healthy world.

As the manager of the theatre conservatory, I sometimes went to observe the actor outreach programs in the schools. On this particular day, two schools were on the schedule. At the first school, I followed a team that went into the younger classrooms, 1st graders. They played imagination games with the students. I saw princesses and dragons and superheroes reach into wild possibilities.

We left the first school and literally drove across the tracks to the poorer side of town. I decided to follow the same team. They played the same imagination games with the same age group but, at the this school, the children played “Where will the rent come from?” This time, instead of flying into possibilities, these children hit an imagination glass ceiling. The hard realities of life already had a strangle-hold on their creative minds. The actors had to work hard to break through the glass ceiling. I realized that, for these children, it was not safe to entertain possibilities.

Picasso once said that, “He can who thinks he can, and can’t who thinks he can’t. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.” We dream ourselves into being. That is the point and the power of the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. That is the purpose of art, to open our imagination so we might create  a better, more expansive version of ourselves. To intend and give shape to what we imagine.

This inexorable, indisputable law applies to nations and communities as well as to individuals.

We have always been a nation divided. There have always been tracks to cross. Our history is of a two party system tug-of-war. We’ve espoused equality while practicing slavery; even our rhetoric is at odds with itself. The new wave of immigrants have been subjected to unspeakable cruelty from the previous generation of immigrants. There has always been “haves” and “have-nots.” The question of whether of not we can unite in the face of diversity is at the epicenter of the American experiment. Can we imagine ourselves whole? Can we create opportunity for all? It is a question with no definitive answer because it requires us to engage with it again and again and again. We must imagine ourselves anew each and every day.

We unite when we are at our shining best. We pride ourselves on the dream of creating a new world where all people experience the freedom to create what they can imagine. Creative tension, competition on a level playing field, invites innovation and invitation. We can.

We divide when our imagination fails us. Fear always fills the void left by vapid imaginations. We are – like people of all nations in all times – easily manipulated when we lapse into fear and turn our angst on each other. It is, after all, a strategy. Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book used by dictators and emperors to fracture an otherwise powerful populace.  It will play out as it always has and always will – a weakened nation. A collapse. People who turn in and cannibalize each other.

We-the-people are telling ourselves a miserable story. The pandemic is merely exacerbating our real dilemma. Divide and rule is filling the void, installing hard glass between us and our best imaginings. We are eating each other alive.

We are better than this. We deserve better.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WE DESERVE BETTER

 

? website box copy

 

InstrumentofPeace copy 2

an instrument of peace

Touch The Chair [on Merely A Thought Monday]

healing copy

I am reading books slowly these days. Meditating on words. Sometimes it takes me months to read what I used to blow through in a few days. I am often pleasantly surprised and taken aback by how the words I read on this morning – words written months or years ago – line up exactly with the events of my day. All the time I catch myself thinking, “How did they know I needed to hear that today?”

“There was an altar upon which we could place a photo of someone who had died. Kim chose to put a picture of his “old” self; I found one of him rowing his peapod looking so happy, so strong. Beautiful. We both grieve the loss of that Kim while getting to know and love this new one.” ~ Judy Friesem, Summoned By A Stroke.

Grieve the loss. This is the fourth time in my life that world circumstance/events have drawn a hard line between ‘what was’ and ‘who-knows-what-will-become.’ What was normal and true last week will never again be the same. Social distancing. Pandemic. Disruption is scary and confusing.

I’ve many times heard the story of immigrants, preparing to leave their homes forever for some distant and unknown shore, just before leaving, circle the rooms, touching walls, running their fingers along the arm of a well-loved chair. One last look. This is who I was. Who will I become? It is necessary to mourn what is known before making space for the unknown.

In the midst of spinning change, hanging on too long to the way things-ought-to-be or used-to-be is destructive. More than once I’ve stood with a group in full denial of their new circumstance insisting that “This is the way we’ve always done it!”  Perhaps. What is comfortable today was at one time new and uncomfortable. Someday, what is now new and uncomfortable will be a well worn path. The first step: one last look. This is who we were.

“No person is a finished thing, regardless of how frozen or paralysed their self image might be. Each one of us is in a state of perennial formation. Carried within the flow of time, you are coming to be who you are in every new emergent moment.” ~John O’Donohue, Beauty

Imagination lives in the midst of “It happened to me.” One of our greatest super-powers is the capacity to imagine ourselves different, more expansive. It is what we call dreaming. We “see” ourselves” writing the book or scaling the mountain or being a better parent or working at the soup kitchen or losing the weight or…becoming the more perfect union.

Imagination requires leaving. Leaving requires imagination.

“Fate has a way of handing us what we need in order to become whole…” ~ Judy Friesem, Summoned By A Stroke

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEALING

 

moon website box copy

 

 

When Sled Dogs Dream [It’s Flawed Cartoon Wednesday!]

From studio melange, a giggle to lift you over the hump and share with pals.

sled dogs dream FRAMED PRINT copy

our flawed homage to winter and its passing

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog dreams. Late at night I hear his paws flicking the floor of his crate, the echo of his dream-bark breaks the surface as a yip. I imagine he is dreaming of chasing squirrels or racing after birds, two of his favorite real-life activities. But what if…. Maybe he dreams of having opposable thumbs, of scooping kibble from the bin whenever he wants to! Maybe he dreams of taking me on walks, and yanking my leash when I pull to greet other humans! “Sit!” he barks. “Look at me!” he commands. Perhaps he dreams of tossing me a cookie when I am good, or making me do tricks to earn my cookie!!!

And so, I imagine that sled dogs must also dream.

WHEN SLED DOGS DREAM reminders/merchandise

society 6 info jpeg copy

dream RECT PILLOW copy   sled dogs dream SQ PILLOW copy

read kerri’s blog post on WHEN SLED DOGS DREAM

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

 

when sled dogs dream ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Wake Up To Your Dream

a detail of my latest painting

a detail of my latest painting

Oscar said, “I’m way too busy. I have too much to do.” He’s a junk guy, a scrapper and we’d just pulled a piano out of the back of his old truck.

“”That’s better than the reverse problem,” I said. “Too much time and nothing to do.”

Oscar smiled. “My grandfather always told me that sleepers wind up with nothing but dreams.” He added, “I’m trying to teach that to my son.” His son, a strapping young man, rolled his eyes.

It was a nice sentiment, a worthy lesson, and like all sticky-note wisdom, the flip side is usually also relevant. Sleepers wind up with nothing but dreams. People without dreams wind up walking through life asleep.

Once long ago I walked through a house with a realtor named Hans. The place was crammed with piles of stuff, stacks of books and mountains of magazines. I felt claustrophobic and couldn’t wait to get outside. Standing in front yard, having escaped, I said, “I don’t know how people live like that.” Hans replied, “Everyone has their heaven. What looks like hell to you is heaven to them.”

Everyone has their heaven. Everyone has their hell. Isn’t it a good bit of sticky-note wisdom to remember that heaven does not look the same to all people? And, to some people, depending upon how present they are, heaven is here and now. The same sticky-note applies to hell in the here-and-now.

Flipping to the weather channel I found, instead of the weather, an episode of Why Planes Crash (answer: the weather!). A flight attendant who’d survived a crash said, “When the plane is going down, people get religion really fast.” I thought, I bet the opposite sticky-note is also true. Religion is rule bound and usually comes with an in-crowd, a right way, or a chosen people. When the plane is going down I’ll bet all the rules go out the window (so to speak), the divisions become meaningless, and what people get is how precious, unique, and vast is their life – and all of life, for that matter. They don’t get religion, they “get” life. Ric Elias was in the plane that landed on the Hudson River. For him, going down in the plane served as instant clarity. He left the plane knowing without doubt what mattered. He no longer needed to be right. He no longer had time for negative energy. He no longer had time to be too busy. He woke up to his dream.

 

 

Dream It!

a blast from the past. A self portrait of yearning from long ago.

a blast from the past. A self portrait of yearning from long ago.

[continued from Step Into The Dot]

Standing with both feet in your life means you get rid of Plan B – or at least to put Plan A and Plan B in the right sequence. It has been a source of wonder for me why people (including myself at times) pour their energy into the back-up plan before they jump head first into their dream. Dreams rarely seem practical. Plan B always seems practical. In fact, that is the role of Plan B: lower the bar so it is easily cleared.

I’ve mentioned before how often in coaching relationships I hear the story of people diligently building their art studio but never entering it. Or, if they allow themselves to enter the creative space, they sit, frozen, unable to pick up the brush or the camera. It is dangerous to entertain the freedom that comes with dreaming. It’s as if we allow ourselves to pull back the covers, peek at the dream, to get close enough to feel the heat of it, but not close enough to ignite it into possibility. It is a special kind of pain to delay a dream. It satisfies the desire to want it but not pursue it. It affords the soothing notion of, “ I tried,” or the devastating notion of, “It wasn’t realistic.”

Kerri and I are bringing our work together in a new form: Be A Ray!

Kerri and I are bringing our work together in a new form: Be A Ray!

This is why Kerri and I are combining our performance, teaching and storytelling gifts in a palate of offers we’re calling Be A Ray! Dreams deferred cause energetic eddies; they make people swirl, putting time and energy into actions that feel good (like building a studio) but do not move the intention forward. To stop the spin is to see the pattern of deferment. It is to see the story beneath a lifetime of actions that lead everywhere but in the direction of the dream. In our vernacular, to “Ray Up!” is to stop the spin, to look squarely at the dream, and to seize the second chances. It is to claim the dream and pursue it.

Dreams need not be realized. They only need to be pursued. In fact, a proper dream pursuit is never realized just as an artist is never finished. Like every good art process, the dream changes with the pursuit. It grows and morphs until the pursuer and the dream unite. There is never an outcome, only a joining, a blending of dream and dreamer. And, this blending is the reason most people go with Plan B. Dreams can’t be controlled and neither can dreamers once unleashed. In other words, the first step in Raying Up! is to relinquish control. Pick up the brush and throw paint; let go of outcome and live in vital process. Let go of what anyone else thinks of your dream and dream it.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Go here for hard copies.

Bring It

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

This afternoon I taught a Business of Theatre class at Cornish College for the Arts. The students were seniors in the final weeks of their degree programs. Their assignment was to make project pitches as if we, the class, were granters or investors. My job was to support them to get better at doing project pitches. Through the several pitches, two themes emerged that became the focus of our conversation.

The first theme: rather than pitch their ideas as great, almost all the students justified or somehow diminished their idea. They defended it prior to an attack.They were unconsciously seeking reinforcement or approval of their idea. Or, to be clear, they sought approval as if I was the keeper of worth for their idea. Had I said, “What a stupid idea,” they might have agreed with me. The need for my approval trumped their personal point of view. My approval was more important than their idea.

Theme number two is related to theme number one: they entered the relationship assuming that the granter (me) had all of the power. As pitch makers they cast themselves in an unbalanced, powerless position. They came as supplicants. They assumed that the grant maker held the golden key to open the door to their project/dream. In this play (a pitch is a play) they cast themselves as impotent.

Both themes were unconscious. Both were based on assumptions of lack.

Every artist, if they are to thrive, must reorient at some point in the arc of their career. They must leave behind orientating according to what they might get from the world and reorient according to what they bring to the world.

Grant makers, foundations, investors and auditors have no power over an artist – unless, of course, the artist is oriented in the relationship according to what they might get from the relationship. At best, a granter can support a route. They might open a pathway to fulfilling an idea. There are hundreds of routes. There is one dreamer. The responsibility for manifesting the dream is the dreamers not the granters.

No one need apologize for his or her dream. No one need justify why it is important. It is a dream. It is an idea. It is a desire. No one else need approve; the approval belongs to the dreamer.

The students and I discussed the power of bringing the dream to the world. We played with the perspective shift that happens when artists own the responsibility for their dreams and refuse to define their role as impotent. Bring the dream. Stop seeking your worth in the responses of others. Bring it. The granter will fund it or not and that should have no impact on whether the dream is pursued or not. Bring your best game. Bring it everyday. If you have a dream, create it. There are many routes. Explore them all and in each case pitch your best game.

Make Space

754. 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 cleaning out and clearing space. It is spring and spring-cleaning is normal at this time of year but my impulse to make space is deeper than the cycle of spring. I’m giving stuff away. I just threw away half of my clothes (they needed throwing away) and the other half will soon go to the thrift store.

I’m purging the studio. I installed paintings at Geraldine’s Counter yesterday and Gary, the owner, asked why I had not included prices on the labels. “They are old paintings,” I said, “and I’m in the mood to bargain.” I don’t want the paintings to come back. I need the space for the new creation. I need the space for ideas.

Possibilities require space. Sometimes life stories get over crowded with drama and details. Sometimes our days get too crowded with tasks. Possibilities will never shoulder their way into cramped courters. Why should they? Lack of space is a signal to the universe that you are doing what you want to do. Or, lack of space is a signal to the universe that you are afraid of doing what you want to do; existential hording leaves no room for possibilities to breathe.

Once, I ran a school and I encouraged my students to look out the window. Daydreaming is intensely important for healthy living and a vital creative life. Daydreaming is space creation. I encouraged my students to imagine. I encouraged them to breathe and make space and wander. I encouraged them to explore and discover and uncover. We were constantly cleaning out the building. We were constantly making space for the new. Those lessons are coming home to me again this spring. On my horizon a tsunami of potential is flowing toward me. I know it is coming because I am making space.