Flawed Cartoon Wednesday

Acrobats BIGcopy copy 2

I am a practiced eavesdropper. And, in today’s world, who isn’t? If you are of a certain age you will remember the first time you saw someone walking down the street talking to themselves and realized that they weren’t demented but were on the phone. The world spins when old expectations meet new realities. It is now commonplace to hear private conversations in a public space. You are considered demented if you don’t carry a device that makes you appear to talk to yourself.

This Flawed Cartoon Wednesday from the melange is a celebration of the misalignment of expectations. How many times have you heard the request, “Text me when you land.” Well, what if…?

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read Kerri’s thoughts on this Flawed Cartoon Wednesday

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text me when you land ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Meditate On Mistakes

taking advantage of my mistakes: a detail of my latest painting in progress called Weeping Man

taking advantage of my mistakes: a detail of my latest painting in progress called Weeping Man

A meditation on mistakes:

Actors know. In performance, when they forget their line, they come alive. The exhilaration of forgetting shocks them into presence. The mistake achieves the essential thing: presence. The audience may not be aware of the lost line but they cannot help but come into presence when the actor does. That’s how it works. Presence begets presence. Actors also know that, in such a moment, tension is their enemy. Panic is counterproductive. Relaxation is the only path back to their play.

Mistakes wake us up.

Many years ago, I produced a summer theatre company. In the middle of a performance, a storm blew out the power to the theatre. The performance stopped. The emergency lights came on. The actors looked at the audience and the audience looked at the actors. And then, in the ghostly blue-white light, the actors continued their play. It was the one and only time that the play was riveting. Actors and audience alike became invested. They were together in an experience that was unique. It was, as are all true mistakes, unrepeatable.

the under painting and sketch.

the under painting and sketch.

The playwright John Guare wrote that a writer must write ten bad pages to arrive at the one good page. The writer must value the ten bad pages for the single good page to be possible. The ten bad pages, what educators, locked into testing regimens, might call mistakes, are necessary. Up front expectations of perfection are guarantees of mediocrity. No process is perfect – and that’s the point. Perfection, like happiness, comes after the fact. It is the blossom of a rich process. It ensues and only becomes available when mistakes are valued, when exploration is encouraged. A rich process is alive with trial and error, with strong offers that may or may not work. The strength of the offer, the capacity to make a grand mistake, learn, adjust and boldly offer again – is a great definition of freedom. It is otherwise known as vitality.

It’s what artists understand. When nothing seems to be working, when the most powerful offers fall flat, when paintings turn to mud, relaxation is the only path forward. There is comfort in knowing that the single good page is out there somewhere if only you keep making grand, luscious, brilliant mistakes.

Look Beyond The Box

one of my paintings (untitled) from the Yoga series

one of my paintings (untitled) from the Yoga series

[continued from SEE THE BOX]

Craig’s question is bigger than a single post can accommodate. He’s both reflecting and asking several questions about the boxes people construct around themselves, about building personal “stages” and what becomes visible to us when we open ourselves to life without editor or inhibition. He’s asking deep river questions about the assumptions we make when we look at others through the lens of our own experience. He asked about what I see from my stage and when did I know to create my stage. And, here’s the kicker question, “When was the last time you stepped up and saw something you didn’t know was there?”

I want to start with the last question first because I believe it colors all of the other questions. At this point in my life, there isn’t a day that passes that I don’t see something surprising or new. I know that sounds like a superficial dodge until you consider that it wasn’t always the case. Like everyone else, I was schooled in a long series of mistaken notions: 1) that people need to know where they are going before they go there, 2) people need to know what they are doing before they do it, 3) knowing is something that happens in the head, and 4) that truth is singular and knowable; believers in right/wrong paradigms are especially fond of this point.

It took a few years (okay, decades) to realize that “knowing” is a process and not an arrival platform and, therefore, no body knows. People build boxes around themselves because they think they must know what is unknowable. People build boxes around themselves because they think they must look a certain way or think what others want them to think. People build boxes around themselves in an attempt to control what they can never control. No one really knows where they are going (well, everyone knows where they are going but dying is an existential question – a topic for another post). No one knows what tomorrow will bring. As Marshall McLuhan wrote, people step into the future with their eyes in the rearview mirror. We make sense of today through yesterday’s eyes so we can only “know” what happened, not what will happen. The day before September 11, 2001 people walked into airports to greet their friends and relatives at the gate. And then, the very next day, like millions of people, I sat in front of a television and watched a plane fly into the World Trade Center. That day I understood that what I thought I knew was basically useless.

Each of us has, at one time or another, had a personal September 11th. People learn. They grow. They have experiences and then make meaning of their experiences. People change. Life is a moving target. At one point in my life I started my own school within a school. It was experiential and filled with filmmaking and theatre and performance art. At the beginning of that era of my life I thought I would run that school until I the day I died. Three years later, I was done with my exploration in education and I surrendered my cushy tenured position and ran for the air of uncertainty. People story themselves according to inner imperatives through lenses of past experiences. The idea that we are primarily rational and reasonable is…not rational or reasonable.

At some point, when you cease thinking you know stuff, your eyes open. You see beyond what you think. Everything is surprising beyond the dull-wit of thinking. Thinking (a language-based activity) will always be an abstraction. Put a word on something and you delude yourself into thinking that you “know” what it is. This is especially heinous when applied to other people. People build boxes around themselves because of the words placed on them or the words they place on themselves.

Mostly, people build stages for the exact same reason. Saying, “I’m not going to be influenced by others; I’m going to act independent of others” is also a delusion constructed from notions of “knowing” or trying to determine how others will see you. Most stages are constructed from the desire to control. Sometimes the biggest box looks like a stage.

When you no longer need to know anything, you see surprising things everywhere you look.

[to be continued]

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Truly Powerful People (446)

446.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

When I was in college my dear friend Roger gave me a copy of Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse. It is an amazing story; a study of what some cultures call the red road and the black road. He said, “This is us. I am Narcissus and you are Goldmund.”

Narcissus is a priest, a teacher, seeking god within the confines of his mind and the institution. His road is prescribed, straight, protected. It has lots of rules. It is well known. This is the black road. It is the road that society recognizes. It is the road that society expects. It is the road of fulfilling expectations.

Goldmund comes to monastery. He is Narcissus’ student; he is restless, a wanderer seeking something indescribable, something that cannot be found in the institution. He seeks with his heart. He leaves the safety of the monastery and has many unpredictable experiences. His life is messy, chaotic, rich and dangerous. His road is twisty, improvisational and unknown. It is natural. It is his road. No one will ever walk this path because it is unique to the walker. This is the red road. This is the road of fulfilling heart’s desire.

The red road is hard. It breaks you down. It opens your eyes and heart to the eternal beyond the temporal. There is no safety on this road; the first thing lost is the illusion of control. The first thing gained is the paradox. This road brings your focus to the present moment.

The black road is hard. It breaks you down. It protects you from too much experience. It keeps your eyes from looking at the ground and heart from seeking the sensual. It is dedicated to safety and the predictable. The first thing lost is the natural impulse, the wild heart of desire. This road separates head from you body. It demands that you keep your focus in the abstractions. It will take you to the big office at the top of the building.

Two roads. Neither is better or worse as both lead to the same place. Roger was right. His road has been within the institution and mine has been undefined. He is at the top of a career and I am wandering a road looking for my next meal. He cannot imagine the life I have chosen and I would have died within the confines of his choices. There are dragons lurking in the weeds of both roads; there are losses and gains either way. I am learning the necessity of rules; he is learning the call of his wild heart. We both die a little bit each day; we both learn a little more. He brings me the wisdom of the anchor; I bring him the wisdom of the wind. I could not ask for a better advisor, counterpart, or friend.