Look At You Look At Me [on Merely A Thought Monday]

It’s taken me this long to discover the source of all cartoon characters: orchids. I’m not kidding. At a recent field trip to the Chicago Botanical Garden’s Orchid Exhibit, I was surrounded by brightly colored fantastic faces, playful and chuckling. “Look at this one!” Kerri exclaimed. “It’s the Imperial Margarine guy!” I thought it was a whacky Pope or funny Cardinal, but the idea was the same.

“The earth laughs in flowers.” Emerson’s quote was stenciled on the wall as we exited the exhibit. And the laughing flowers made me laugh. Truly. I felt like a little kid at Christmas. Surrounded by color and delight and whimsy, I found myself more than once pointing, “Look at this one! Oh My God!” And, I felt like the colorful faces were staring back at me, thrilled to tears by the odd looking human standing before them. I-look-at-you-look-at-me. “Look at that face!” they snickered.

The thought stopped me in my tracks and filled me with wonder. We personify everything, projecting our humanness into everything. The art of animation, the world of Disney, is rooted in our desire to project ourselves onto and into the world. Talking mice. Dancing candlesticks. Humpty Dumpty. Wise old trees. Wouldn’t it be lovely, and isn’t it hopeful, to think the world projects itself into us? I want the orchids to fill me with color and awe. To project themselves into me. I know the forests I walk through infuse me with quiet. I know Dogga pulls love from my deepest soul.

Participants. Relationship, rather than controllers. Dancers rather than dominators. Would we be so invested in killing each other for imagined supremacy if we allowed ourselves to laugh the laugh of the flowers? If we actually understood that nothing is forever, that our warmongering was at best delusional? That the single trait that makes us human is to turn and help someone in need? The very capacity that allows us to project ourselves into the orchids is the same capacity that makes it possible to stand in the shoes of the other. Empathy is a two-way street.

If the earth laughs in flowers, these days it certainly cries in humans. Yet, standing amidst the orchids, I looked at all the human faces, hundreds of people wide-eyed with wonder and alive with astonishment. The laughing orchids looking back at the astonished faces, open and vulnerable, and they were evoking those qualities from the crowd. Earth’s tears. So hopeful, these faces, drinking in each other’s beauty.

read Kerri’s blog post about FACES

Disagree [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Months later, she* is still angry with me. I asked her to “stop blowing me off.”

Some things need to be discussed and necessarily require entertaining differing points of view. Finding middle ground or considering alternate possibilities requires hearing what others have to say – and giving others the courtesy of hearing what you have to say. Her standard phrase of choice, when faced with an opinion or idea not her own, is this: “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

No. I don’t agree to disagree. Especially at the onset of a dialogue. I want to talk about it. I want to hear what you have to say and more importantly why you hold your point of view. I won’t agree to not hearing or being heard.

Opposing points of view, differing opinions, need not be conflicting. They can be highly generative. Mind opening. Thought provoking. “I’ve never thought of that,” is an expression that results when considering a different point of view. In ideal, our nation is based on the notion of two opposing points-of-view extending to each other the courtesy of listening and considering possibilities not yet seen. Yep. And, we are witness to what happens when one side (or the other) rejects the basic premise. Dismissiveness is the strategy of an empty suit.

Why assume conflict?

She followed “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree,” with the real statement, her actual aim: “You do what you want. I’m going to do what I’ve always done and follow my plan.” In other words, she had no intention of hearing anything that did not support her plan. Why, then, I wondered, did she invite conversation?

When the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. When the only door you have is a closed door, then every knock sounds like an intruder.

I laughed aloud when I read Bill Murphy’s article in Inc. Magazine about his pet-peeve phrase: “Look, I get it.” He writes, ‘”Look, I get it,'” is almost always inherently untrue…Even worse for our purposes, it’s woefully ineffective.”

It’s dismissive. Just as is “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.” The agreement she wanted was for me to agree to be dismissed. An agreement of silence. Why would I – or anyone – agree to that?

[* “She” is not Kerri. We hold each other in high esteem. It’s why the sign in our kitchen reads, “You are my favorite pain-in-the-ass.” We welcome our differing perspectives. Neither one of us dismisses the other nor tolerates being dismissed.]

read Kerri’s blog post about “LOOK, I GET IT.”

Consider The Intention [on Merely A Thought Monday]

My least favorite character in Romeo and Juliet is Capulet, Juliet’s father. A few years back I thought it would be a good exercise to tell the story from his point of view. In his world of privilege and order, he has an out of control daughter, a teenager no less, ignoring the rules of the house and society, having sex with the son of a sworn enemy. He imagines a better future for her (and himself) and has worked hard to protect her and match her with royalty. Like every parent I know, he just wants his daughter to behave and thrive.

Every story has an agenda. That’s true of the stories we tell of ourselves at parties, it’s true of the stories we shout at each other when we are having fights, it’s true of the stories we tell when we are falling in love, it’s true of the stories we tell when breaking up. Every story has at least two sides and each side has an intention.

Stories are never neutral or passive. It’s precisely why Blind Justice is so important to the health and well being of a society: between two opposing/competing stories there is a point of equilibrium that we call “fact” or “truth.” Blind Justice carries a scale to symbolize that place of story-equilibrium, ideally free of status, privilege, sway…weighing the stories to arrive at fairness and equity.

Health is the capacity to consider the other side of the story.

It is the truly despicable character that steps with intention into the gap between competing narratives solely to create discord. To lie for gain. Iago is just such a character. He creates an illusion with no greater intention than to hurt, to destroy. Desdemona dies. Othello murders because he cannot see through the lie Iago is telling. Othello’s love turns to hate. He cannot or will not hear the other side, the love story, the truth of Desdemona.

Hatred is a territorial flag planted in a one-sided story.

The modern GOP is Iago. Othello is a cautionary tale relevant in our times. What or who will be murdered before the lie is laid bare?

I have always been a lover of myth and parable, stories that reach with intention to deeper truths. It is why I stepped into the theatre in the first place. Art, like Blind Justice, uses story to reach deeper truths, truths that can rarely be captured in words. It’s the paradox of art and truth is always found there.

No story has a single point of view. No truth is singular – that is the hallmark of the truly important challenges that every society faces. It is why successful governments tell their story with truth as their intention. It is why successful relationships sail through stormy seas. The intention is pure. The desire to stand in the shoes of the other-side-of-the-story is genuine and necessary in order for the relationship, the community, the country to thrive.

Capulet is not a bad man. He has good intention. The play ends when he becomes capable of standing in and considering the other side of the story. Hope and equity is the promise rising from the pain.

Iago, on the other hand, is a wholly different story. His play ends in a cage with a nasty celebration of the pain, death and havoc he’s wreaked, gloating about his capacity to snare others in his big lie. All are made fools.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

Try [on DR Thursday]

The operative word in this Chicken Nugget is “try.”

To try is a verb, an action. It’s also a noun but the synonyms used in either variation are mostly the same: attempt, endeavor, make an effort.

Try. It’s such a small word but its impact is unfathomable. It is the defining line between intolerance and empathy. Empathy begins with trying to see what others see. Intolerance begins with refusing to try to see what others see.

Try. It is the epicenter of advise that every parent offers to their children. Take a crack at it. Why not put it out there. Give it your best shot. You can’t win if you don’t run the race. You’ll never know unless you try.

A verb. An action. Try. A noun. A way of being.

Try is the foundation stone of curiosity. Wanting to know, wanting to experience what is “just over there.” To see not only what others see, but why they see it.

I sometimes try to see the unbridled enthusiasm that Dogga sees in each and every moment. I try to see the world of unlimited possibilities that Dawson sees every time he touches a crayon or paint brush. I do not delude myself. My eyes are not so pure. But I try.

Imagine what we might do in this world if we only gave it a try.

read Kerri’s blog post about TRY

Follow Your Bliss [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“And now you ask in your heart, “How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?”/ Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,/ But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee./ For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,/ And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love, /And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.” ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet [Pleasure]

Yesterday was a rough day. We awoke to some disturbing news. Kerri cried. And, for the rest of the day, uncharacteristically, DogDog and BabyCat were by our sides. It occurred to me, as DogDog rolled over for his 15th belly-belly of the day, that he was making himself available for a pet, not only because it felt good to him, but because it felt good to me, too. He was helping me to feel good. BabyCat was glued to Kerri’s leg. They decided to divide and comfort.

When we first found DogDog at Farmer Don’s, I dove into multiple books by the Dog Whisperer. It had been an eternity since I had a puppy and felt like I needed some guidance. I read that dogs (and cats) are master-aura-readers. They know what we feel before we know what we feel. It’s true. When DogDog runs into the bathroom, his safe spot, I know there is a storm brewing.

BabyCat has claimed one of DogDog’s toys. He rubs his face on the ribbed fabric and literally moans with pleasure. The first time we heard his pleasure-moan, we thought he was in pain. We ran to find him soaking up the single sunny spot in the house, rubbing his face on his toy, unapologetic in his bliss.

We watched him and laughed. His ecstasy was so simple and pure. The warmth of the sun. The satisfaction of the scratch. His pleasure gave us pleasure. It also gave us pause. “Dibs on the sunny spot when BabyCat is through,” I said. “Good luck with that,” Kerri smiled.” BabyCat, like most retirees, follows the sun.

Vicarious-bliss-sharing is one thing. Leaving the sunny spot is a bridge too far, even for our empathetic B-Cat.

read Kerri’s blog post on BLISS

Welcome A New Day [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

An old dream. A new day. Enough said.

Dream A Little Dream [on Flawed Cartoon Wednesday]

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empathy (noun): the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Yet another insightful insight into the stellar thinking (or lack thereof) of the crack writing team at Flawed Cartoon. Happy Wednesday from our team to yours.

 

if you'd like to see FLAWED CARTOON copy

read Kerri’s blog post about WHEN ANTS DREAM

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

when ants dream ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

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.

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read Kerri’s blog post about LIVING WITHOUT FEAR

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

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

Chicken Marsala Monday

A Chicken Nugget from the melange to help you start the week

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I appreciate the Chicken Nuggets – especially today’s – because I know the back story.  Without knowing where these drawings with words came from or why we took the time to develop them, they could be tossed off as so much fluff. A nice sentiment. But.

What is it to stand in another person’s shoes? To understand the feelings of another? An other. Not me. Nice sentiments are rarely easy when put into practice.

There is a direction in Empathy. It is a reach toward an other. To reach out. To reach across a boundary, seen or unseen.  To try. The direction is important to grock. ‘To understand’ is a fundamentally different thing, a radically different direction and intention than ‘trying to be understood.’ It suggests an openness to possibility, a willingness to consider. A shedding of the armor. It unlocks the magic of “what if….”

There is a big drum banging the opposite narrative – closed doors, closed ears, closed eyes. It is easy to believe that we-the-people are incapable of listening, that we are unwilling to consider and are only adept at shouting each other down. Putting each other down. Closing off. Closing down. But.

Take a walk today. Count the moments of generosity that you see. Count the times that others reach. Count the times that you reach. You might be surprised how different your actual experience is from the prevailing narrative. Human beings are, for lack of a better analogy, a pack animal. We run together. We die when we close-off. We wither when we turn in. No human being, if we are honest with each other, knows who they are absent of relationship with others. We know each other together. Reaching is what we most naturally do. We reach when we see others hurting.  We open doors. We run into burning buildings, not for ourselves, but for the sake of others. It is infinitely more common to reach than to withdraw. Fear may demand a narrative of opposition, of irreconcilable difference, of standing alone in singularly righteous shoes. But, to believe it, you’ll have to close your eyes. You’ll have to disappear in the corridors of your busy, busy mind.

Today, do what is most natural. Open your eyes. Reach out. See what they see.

TRY TO SEE WHAT THEY SEE merchandise like gift cards, wall art, apparel,…

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read Kerri’s thoughts on Try To See What They See

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try to see what they see ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

Give Joy

This is an illustration from my as yet unpublished children's book, Play To Play.

This is an illustration from my as yet unpublished children’s book, Play To Play.

The question was, “What gives you joy?” People responded with things like, “family,” “the sunrise,” and “community.” Someone offered, “Other people’s laughter gives me joy.” There were nods of agreement all around.

It is hard for me to hear a question like, “What gives you joy?” and not think of Viktor Frankel. As a young Jewish man in Nazi Germany, he somehow survived years in a concentration camp. He emerged believing that, other than sheer chance, the line that divided the survivors from those who perished was a capacity to give meaning to life – as opposed to seeking meaning from life. He noted that the prisoners who sought meaning from the experience perished. Those who made meaning from the experience were more apt to live another day; they storied hope instead of looked for it.

Viktor Frankel famously wrote that, “Happiness ensues.” Happiness follows. It is not something sought. It is not found on the outside. Happiness is a response. It comes from within. We bring happiness to a moment. We do not get happiness from the moment.

Joy is like happiness. As I listened to the responses to the question about joy, I thought about the language of “seeking” and “ensuing.” In the English language it is hard not to create a paradigm of separation. We rely heavily on our nouns. Things are distinct. Dissimilar. “It” is found outside; “it” is located inside. “I give meaning” versus “I get meaning.” Give. Get. Either way, within or without, there is a line of division; “it” cannot be in both places. I wondered if the experience of joy and happiness (or sadness and grief, for that matter) are co-creations. I wondered if the language of us/them, within/without actually obscured the other option: we seek it and it ensues because we engage life. We open and life opens. Joy, like happiness, is generated in the relationship space, the space between, and in the relationship space there is no separation. Your actions and my responses are intimately connected. Where is the line between my action and the impact it creates?

After the conversation about joy, Kristi talked about being empathic. She said, “I can feel other people’s pain and then I carry it.” Earlier in the week, Kerri and I had the same conversation. She told me that she wanted to learn how not to take on other people’s stuff. I told her about the time I sought a teacher named Anna Christensen who showed me how to feel but not take on other people’s pain. “We are all empathic to various degrees,” Anna said. “Most people, to survive, need to numb their capacity for feeling. It’s necessary for most people because they need to know where they end and other people begin. They need the illusion of the individual. But, that comes with a cost; it creates the terrible experience of aloneness,” she added.

If other people’s laughter gives joy, and we can universally agree that is true, then my laughter and your laughter give joy to others. Isn’t it really just that simple?

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