Recognize The Art [on Flawed Wednesday]

The snow was too dry. My snowman fell apart when I put the head on. “It doesn’t have to look like a snowman to be a snowman,” Kerri said to cheer me up.

“Maybe it’s modern art!” I quipped, using my if-it’s-a-mess-call-it-art default statement. As I walked down the trail, away from my unsuccessful snowman, I wondered when incoherence had become included in my definition of art.

I am and have been these many months doing some soul searching and life review. Walking down our snowy trail I remembered working with a dying theatre company. The first step in restoring their health and vitality was to help them face a simple truth: that they made the “art” did not necessarily make the “art” good. In fact, the “art” could not be good until their criteria for “good” wasn’t about them.

The challenge with “art” in the modern era is that it is nearly impossible to define. For purely masochistic reasons I looked up the word ‘art’ in the dictionary and nearly fell asleep before I finished reading the definition. “A diverse range of human activities involving the creation of visual, auditory, or performing artifacts…” Artifacts? The last lap of the definition reads, “…intended to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

Beauty. Emotional power.

Of course, the contemporary world is awash in conceptual art and I read in my dictionary that this form of art, dating back to Duchamp in 1917, “…abandoned beauty, rarity and skill as measures.” Bananas taped to the wall. Statements.

Beauty abandoned. No emotional power necessary. But still “art.”

Art is, I’m told by historians and other scholars, a mirror of society. It is reflective of the era in which the artist lived. What a society values is made apparent in their art. It’s true.

Art, I believe, has a power and purpose far beyond mere appreciation. It is more than a mirror. It generates identity. It pulls disparate individuals to a common center. It affirms connectivity. It awakens us – and provides access to – that which is greater than any single individual. It bonds. It affirms. It transforms.

I wonder if our art, often so unrecognizable, sometimes incomprehensible, dependent upon curatorial interpretation, not concerned with beauty or rarity or skill or any other discernible measure, is not the perfect reflection of us. Narcissistic. Statements. Each day I am, like you, met by a tsunami of stories in the daily news revealing our collective confusion, our collapse of values, a commons at war with itself fueled by leaders stoking division for personal gain. Bananas taped to the wall. It is – we are – in our daily tales – so conceptual – so void of beauty or rarity or recognizable skill or measure – that it requires an anchor/curator to tell us why it – or we – might have meaning.

And then, just when I wonder if we are hopelessly lost, Amanda Gorman stepped up to the mic. The one true test of artistry is that we know it when we see it. No curator necessary. We are, we were, for a moment, bonded together in a way that no politician, no historian, no concept will ever understand or achieve.

I see it alive in Mike, and David, and Mark, and Chris. It glistens every time Kerri sits at the piano or composes a poem. It is not a mess though sometimes skill meets a happy-accident and, like penicillin, something healing emerges.

When we are washed away into the annals of time, what will be our art-love-letter to the future? What legacy – and art is a legacy – will we leave behind? What will I leave behind?

read Kerri’s blog post about SNOWMAN

for kicks, Kerri made a Snowman mug. Go here to get it

Divine It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

loves me loves me not copy

[warning: Kerri just said this post is ‘heavy’ so enter at your own risk]

And, who hasn’t pulled the petals off a daisy in an attempt to divine the love of another? Loves me, loves me not, loves me… Perhaps a silly childhood practice but, truth be told, I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t secretly, unconsciously, or otherwise, put their right shoe on first for good luck, throw the I Ching, look to the stars, whisper a prayer for guidance, follow their intuition, avoid stepping on the crack, read the Tarot, plumb the sacred numbers, sit in the forest and listen for the ancestor to whisper.

I read an article yesterday that frightened me. Sometimes the statement of the obvious is more frightening than the monster peering from within the closet. The use of the behavioral sciences “to determine the news we read, the products we buy, the cultural and intellectual spheres we inhabit, and the human networks, online and in real life, of which we are a part.” Invisible Manipulators Of Your Mind. Techniques that appeal to “… our non-rational motivations, our emotional triggers, and unconscious biases.”

Techniques. A cold word. Manipulation. Perhaps manipulation is the central action and natural endpoint of capitalism. The reduction of the meaning-of-life to something that can be bought and sold. The church we construct and inhabit is built upon a hard sale and requires a made-up-reality to realize its fulfillment. The ritual of the market, the ringing of the bell, calls the worshipers to trade. We watch the numbers in an attempt to divine a fast moving future.

There is a tug-of-war happening now as the information age eats itself. “The pressures to exploit irrationalities rather than eliminate them are great and the chaos caused by the competition to exploit them is perhaps already too intractable for us to rein them in.”

Can you feel the chaos? Are your relationships fracturing along lines defined by red and  blue? What forces are determining your belief about the pandemic? The science is simple enough for a child to understand; the seeds of doubt, the ubiquitous exploitation of emotional triggers and unconscious bias makes us a behavioral sciences petri dish. It seems our division is not accidental, our tribes are rigged, our information is bubble-wrapped and packaged. Our division is also, we are told, increasingly irreparable.

Exploit irrationalities? Scary! Eliminate them? Scary, too! Why must we either exploit or eliminate our irrationalities? Think about it. The war on our irrationality might be a sign of our real root rot, our actual dis-ease.

The pursuit of pure reason. Cut yourself in half and toss the dream-side in the bin? Creatures who fight multiple world wars, build economies on weapons sales, send their kids to school during a raging pandemic, soil their nests with plastic, cut down their rain forests (lungs of the earth) for more grazing land, exploit each other…are not following the signs on the path to pure reason. Exploitation of others is not a characteristic of reason, pure or otherwise.

Creatures that make art and prize beauty are not purely reasonable.

Rationality is not the goal. It’s a sick tease to promise the elimination of fear and mystery. It’s hubris to desire to transcend nature, to promise dominance over creation. No one really wants to be Mr. Spock. Staring into the Milky Way with wonderment, standing with your back to a warm brick wall while facing the sun on a cold winter day is gloriously human. Sensual. Not rational. Mystical and mysterious. The dark side of the moon is as necessary as the light.

Sensuality is as necessary as rationality. Why strive to build a gate with a single post?Why close the gate on the middle way? Maybe the word we need to strive to achieve is “sense.” Common sense. Shared sense. It may lead to common good, shared responsibility and other wild ideals built on bedrocks of trust rather than sandy deceit.

There’s nothing rational about generosity or kindness. They are, however, specifically human and vitally irrational, made even more plentiful when not exploited for small change.

Loves me. Loves me not.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LOVES ME

Kerri remains in the FACEBOOK penalty box for unspecified crimes against e-humanity. If you enjoy reading her musings, please consider subscribing to her blog. It will keep you (and her) out of the daily trawl of horrors.

 

 

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icarus ©️ 2004 david robinson

Walk Through The Firewall

from my narrative series: Sleepers

from my narrative series: Sleepers

The text read something like this: There are some things in life you cannot circumnavigate. You can only move through them.

Carol told me that each year there is a growing change in her students. There is a gap between their generation and ours – and it is alarming. She teaches young actors at a college for the arts.

“What’s the difference? “ I asked, “what’s the change?”

“They are increasingly more and more medicated,” she said. “Through their whole lives, since they were small children, they’ve been reinforced through medication that their emotions, what they feel and how they express it, are bad. To teach them to be actors, to be authentic on the stage, to allow that what they feel is necessary and good, is nearly impossible when they are drugged to prevent them from feeling anything.”

She paused for a moment and added, “I can’t ask them to get off their drugs. I can only help them consider that their feelings, their emotions, are not the enemy but the route to truth.”

I offered that the drugs serve as a firewall that keeps them from themselves. It dulls them from the full range of life experiences. Years ago, when I was working in the schools, I experienced the first wave of kids drugged into compliance. It seemed that the solution for almost everything was medication. Their attention was either in deficit or their behavior obsessive and, either way, meds were the answer.

We talked of the other firewalls, the drugs that numb us or distract us from a full range of life experiences. Television in excess is the most obvious. And then there is the downside of social media; disconnection in the guise of connection.

I shared that, on my move to Wisconsin, I decided to unplug from the daily news. For me, it was serving as a firewall against the essentials of life. Too much adrenaline and fear numbs us. It makes us close, shut down. I felt that the noise was doing the opposite of what it pretended. I suspected that I was less informed by listening to the onslaught of opinion-masked-as-news. I realized that I was agitated all the time by the battling correspondents and felt infected by the us-and-them picture they were painting of the world. When minor events are elevated to disaster status the real disasters pass unnoticed. Everything evens out. All colors of life reduce to bland gray.

Now that I’m through the firewall the events of real importance are evident beyond the chatter. If I really need to know it, I hear about it. In unplugging, I am actually more informed. And then there is this: without the incessant chatter, my artistry is coming through with clarity and potency. In seeing more clearly I can see my self more clearly. When not dulled or distracted by the noise, the full range of sound and color has re-emerged. The lesson: this world does not need fixing or changing or improvement. Neither do I.  It is gorgeous and profound when we are able to live unafraid of what we feel.

 

Find Joe

552. 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 surrounded by amazing people. No one in the past decade has been more influential on my thinking, more loyal in friendship, more dedicated to my growth than Joe Shirley.

A few days ago I sang the song of Sean Smith and later that day I talked on the phone with Joe. He moved away a few years ago and I miss our weekly coffee dates. Like Sean, Joe is in dogged pursuit of his dream but unlike almost anyone I know, Joe’s dream began as a nightmare. His story is the stuff of great art, an intentional passage through the belly of the whale, a film ready to be made.

Joe was bipolar (emphasis on “was”). Because he has an amazing scientific mind he was unwilling to take the brain numbing drugs that his doctor’s prescribed. He suffered great darkness and had to find another way. He had to find a way to navigate life; he knew there must be a way to “cure” himself, to address the cause instead resigning himself to merely blunting the impact of his dis-ease. What he discovered, almost by accident, started a decades long pursuit of his personal liberation and now he is applying what he learned to the liberation of the human spirit.

He was his own best test subject and over several years of intense work he came to understand what he calls the “feeling mind” that is highly structured and infinitely knowable. Learning its “architecture” avails a kind of freedom and power to anyone seeking greater well being. He’s developed and mastered a process that anyone can use to be free of anxiety, blocks, limiting patterns and beliefs. His process is concrete, accessible and designed to be self-directed. He introduced the work to me a decade ago while we were in graduate school and it has provided a tool of transformation that I use with my clients and with myself.

He calls his work Enteleos (“the completion within”). Find Joe. Of this you can be certain: you will never see the world the same way again.