Mend The Split [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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This is not my thought. It comes from many directions, is woven through many traditions, and is true no matter what form or from what port it arrives: Fear splits you.

The split is perfect. It cleaves the present moment into dreaded-future-imagining and regretful-past. What if. If only.

I tease Kerri because her imagination is wild and, given a good cleaving, will run amok with tragedy, fiery explosions, and dire consequences. She returns my ribbing when, split like a log, I tumble into hyper judgments of my past. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! It seems the gift we bring to each other in this lifetime is to pull the other back to the center, the un-hewn present moment. We help each other live in and deal with ‘now.’

Each day we take a walk. Deer cross the road ahead or freeze when they spy us. A young eagle flies overhead. The island is a haven for Monarch butterflies. They bob along as we walk, pacing us, breeze-gusted into a seeming drunk-stagger-flight-path. Drunk on the moment. Impervious to the cleave. Without fail, when we are pulled into a future fear yammer, a Monarch butterfly comes along, and our fear sputter stops. Kerri quietly pulls out her camera, tip-toes to the messenger, and snaps a photograph.

“What were we talking about?”

“I can’t remember. Nothing, I suppose.”

“Can you smell the balsam? That butterfly is gorgeous! It’s huge!”

“Yes. It’s beautiful. So beautiful.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post on BUTTERFLY MOMENTS

 

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Tend One Way [on KS Friday]

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This is what I’ve learned. Boil away the rules and regulations penned into the great spiritual traditions and you will find they all pretty much say the same stuff:

~presence is not something you can seek because you are already present. What else? It is not a matter of finding it as much as realizing it. Fear is a story in your head and will always split you into yesterday and tomorrow. I’ve learned: get out of your head.

~in this dual-reality world you can make sense of your life in one of two ways. You can either put the accent on separation (us/them, right/wrong, rules and regulations) or you can put the accent on unity (love, the middle path, relationship). You will most likely dance between these two in a miracle of creative tension. Sometimes you will feel alone, self-righteous and under assault (separate). Sometimes you will feel connected and a part of something bigger than your little self (united). Eventually, you will tend one way or the other. I’ve learned: either way, you will make meaning of your limited days on earth according to where you place the accent. “God” has nothing to do with the choice you make. That is all on you.

Mostly I’ve learned: it is the lucky few who are able to see that fear is the story in their head that always splits them (separation). The love-path opens when we get out of our heads and into our hearts (unity).

The title of Kerri’s hymn album is Always With Us. This beautiful hymn, played beautifully, is called Be Thou My Vision. Listen. Kerri just might help you, for a moment, stand in your presence (love), which is, of course, the only real way of getting out of your head. Thus, the real power of the arts and the extraordinary gift of this great artist.

 

BE THOU MY VISION on the album ALWAYS WITH US is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BE THOU MY VISION

 

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prayer of opposites. a perfect image for my lessons learned.

 

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be thou my vision/always with us ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 prayer of opposites ©️ 2004/2019 david robinson

Sit On The Tooth [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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It is a massive understatement to say that Kerri is NOT a happy camper when a trip to the dentist is necessary. A childhood filled with dental work sans novocaine has left her with some serious dentist ptsd. All you need do is say the word, “dentist” to her and her motor functions seize; that is, she locks up and cannot move.

Our dentist is kind. Someone is always available to hold the door open when I carry Kerri into the office. They take her in immediately so that I don’t have to peel her off a wall or otherwise pry her fingers from the furniture. The assistant knows to have the chair pre-reclined and the snap-on bib at the ready. The dentist is used to entering the room and finding me holding my wife firmly to the chair (truth: I sit on her legs so she cannot move). The dentist and I chit chat while my wife-chair bucks and curses. He pretends that all of his patients require spousal restraint.

And then, for reasons unknown to all, Kerri gives in to her predicament. It is not accurate to say that she relaxes but the struggle ceases. She sighs a mighty sigh and says, “Okay.” I look to the dentist for my cue and, mercifully, he says, “You can sit on the tooth.” There is a tooth-shaped stool in the corner and, exhausted from the patient delivery process, I slump onto my tooth stool.

Nothing of what I wrote is true but all of it is accurate. I lie outrageously while telling the absolute truth. Kerri fears dentists. Getting her there is, well, a process. Our dentist is world-class-kind. There is a stool shaped like a tooth. I am always grateful when I finally land on the tooth. The details, exaggerated or otherwise inflated, are true by degrees.

All that I know is, her dentist-ptsd is now my dentist-ptsd.  I’d much rather face the drill myself than face the fury of getting my wife there. The words I most fear in our house: “Oh, no, I think I cracked a tooth.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SIT ON THE TOOTH

 

 

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weeping man ©️ 2015 david robinson

Play The Same Stuff [on Merely A Thought Monday]

string bass with frame copy“If you are a chef, not matter how good a chef you are, it’s not good cooking for yourself; the joy is in cooking for others – it’s the same with music.” ~will.i.am

I lived most of my life believing I didn’t have a musical bone in my body. I was convinced that I had a tin ear. I was afraid to sing. I carried a guitar (I named her Magnolia) with me for years – a gesture of hopefulness amidst my absolute commitment to my ineptitude – and finally gave it away to someone who could play it. An instrument needs to be played and I felt I was being selfish holding onto a guitar that I would never play. Oh, how I wish I had Magnolia today.

I didn’t just make up my fear of music. I had plenty of reinforcement, lots of shaming, before I committed to a story of I CAN’T. Over time, with more and more horror experiences, my story solidified into I WON’T. Ever. Close the door. Kill the desire.

When I met Kerri – a consummate musician – I told her this: “You have to know two things about me. I don’t sing & I don’t pray.” A few months later we were driving back roads in Georgia, windows rolled down, a James Taylor CD blaring, Kerri singing at the top of her lungs, I thought it was safe to sing along. She’d never hear me. But, she did. She burst into tears and pulled the car off the road. I shook like a leaf but we sang together and it was grand.

It took her about 15 minutes to identify my obstacle. I had to relearn how to hear. That’s it. It took a few months and a willingness to mightily miss notes and my scary story of CAN’T crumbled. I learned how to feel the sound. The music was there all along.

Here’s the magic for a beginner like me: when I am rehearsing with the ukulele band or singing in the choir, I am capable of so much more than when I am practicing by myself. Playing the same stuff elevates everyone. It’s as if we transcend ourselves. Actually, we do transcend ourselves. We sync up and the energy uplifts everyone. Even me. Especially me, a toddler in knowing that I CAN.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PLAYING THE SAME STUFF

 

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Give To Life [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Today is voting day in these United States of America. Our election cycles are usually ugly and interminable affairs but this cycle has established a new low bar. These days my country’s narrative is anything – and everything – but kind. Anything goes, it seems, but kindness (or truth, but that’s a theme for another time).

It’s a complex challenge. People wrapped in an ugly narrative see an ugly world (of course). People wrapped in an ugly narrative respond with ugly actions (of course). As the saying goes, ‘If the only tool you have in your bag is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’ Ugly narratives are a one-tool-bag.

An ugly narrative is never changed through another ugly narrative. Resistance will always create a fight.  Hammer, nail. Hammer, nail. It’s a great strategy for inflating the ugliness. Winning at all cost usually costs the things most valued: ideals and values. Decency. Division as a strategy works in the short term but the long game is, well, ugly.

Reach Through Time no wordsjpg copyIt is not a secret, though rarely put into practice, that bridging a philosophical divide is easy. It’s rarely practiced because it’s counter-intuitive: Reach.  Reaching is a distinctly different action than resisting and it generates a distinctly different response: reconciliation. It does, however, require a set of tools beyond a simple hammer:

  1. Listening.
  2. A dedication to truth, even if it doesn’t support the belief-of-the-moment. Reconciliation is impossible without leading with the truth.
  3. Operating out of a bigger picture – one that transcends self-interest.

Pie-in-the-sky you say? Why is it less possible to choose kindness than it is to choose violence? Why does reaching across the aisle seem more difficult than demonizing those on the other side? Demonizing is easy. Fear is easy. Planting a flag in the sand and casting yourself as victim is so much easier than stepping across the line and standing in the other’s shoes. Or, if standing in their shoes is too difficult, standing side-by-side is an option.

Many years ago, a student, a former gang member said it best: “Any idiot with a gun can take a life. Taking is easy. The real work comes when you choose to give to life rather than take it.”

World Kindness Day is a week away. Choose to give kindness. Give to life. In little ways. In small moments. And, if it feels good, perhaps consider choosing it everyday, rather than once a year. Kindness is a great addition to any tool bag.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WORLD KINDNESS DAY

 

 

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be kind designs ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood

Look For The Exit [on Flawed Wednesday]

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Two decades ago, living in Los Angeles, on a beautiful crystal clear morning, I walked to the corner market to buy a Sunday newspaper and milk for coffee. With my milk and newspaper in hand, I circled the store pretending to shop with the rest of my fellow shoppers. We delayed checking out because another customer, enraged, was having a heated argument with the cashier.  We were afraid and unwilling to step in the way of an escalating confrontation. When the angry man slapped the counter, the rest of us – the entire group of shoppers – spontaneously hit the deck. We thought it was a gun shot. Laying on the tile floor looking at the panicked faces, I had a realization. I must be afraid all of the time; low-grade fear. Gun violence was so prevalent that it was my first thought, my first expectation, not the last.  And then, the most remarkable thing happened. We slowly stood up, brushed ourselves off, picked up our items from the floor and put them back into our baskets – and never said a word to each other. We paid for our purchases. We pretended it didn’t happen. Fear is like that.

“California is ten years ahead of the rest of the nation.” At the time I heard this sentiment often. “If it’s happening here it will be happening in the rest of the nation within a decade.”

I am now twenty years beyond my corner market floor dive. I routinely look for the exits when I enter a movie theatre. We avoided attending open air concerts after Las Vegas. School shootings and workplace massacres are more common than not. There is training offered by experts on what to do if you are caught in a mass shooting. The palaver rolling out of Congress is like a dusty old play. We know the script and it goes nowhere.

“There’s been another one,” we say and shake our heads, upset that a few weeks ago we’d walked the street where the latest young man was killed. He was going to the store. A student who needed to buy hangers. “It could have been us.” And, so, once again, we pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, put the items of our day back into our basket, realizing, not too late, that it did happen. It is happening to us.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ROGER’S PARK

 

 

Bring A Little Hope [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Multiculturalism asserts that people with different roots can co-exist, that they can learn to read the image-banks of others, that they can and should look across frontiers of race, language, gender and age without prejudice or illusion, and learn to think against this background of a hybridized society. It proposed – modestly enough – that some of the most interesting things in history and culture happen at the interface between cultures. It wants to study border situations, not only because they are fascinating in themselves, but because understanding them may bring with it a little hope for the world.” ~ Robert Hughes

I read in my newspaper that tribalism is the new normal [insert eye roll here]. There’s nothing new in tribalism. Fear-full people lost in a very small Us-N-Them tale is as old as the old gods. It’s pulled out and paraded about when power structures are shifting.

I marveled at the utter absurdity of it. No one can deny that our airwaves and e-waves are choked with noisy proclamations of division and fear.  However, it only takes a quick scan through the rest of my newspaper to grasp the undeniable reality of our situation: global markets, global economies, populations on the move, United Nations, NATO, WTO, multinational corporations, Bitcoin, international space stations, satellites, not to mention some of our greatest challenges like global warming, and invasive plant and insect species (made possible through global shipping and the necessity of sharing/exploiting resources). Take a stroll down the aisle of your local supermarket and educate yourself on the scope, depth and breadth of your food sources. Count the countries represented on the shelves.

Tribalism is not new. It was normal a few centuries ago. Nowadays it is a construct, an old dry log to toss on a fire to stoke divisions and create distractions.  It’s a headline to sell newspapers. Division sells. Good theatre requires hot conflict. People are easier to control when divided. There’s nothing new there, either.

There is a truism in change processes: people hold on tightest to what they know just before releasing their fear and walking into the unknown future. They take a step back, temporarily entrench, before answering the call of growth and change. Call that tribalism if you must, or denial, or the conservative impulse. It’s a process step. “Age and stage,” as 20 likes to say.

What’s actually new? All the world is now a crossroads. People with different roots ARE coexisting – that, after all, IS the great experiment and central promise of these United States. Looking across the frontiers of race, language, gender and age – without prejudice or illusion – is the hope in our emergence. It is the cathedral we are building.

The other direction can only bring our decrease. And, as history has taught us again and again, that’s an ugly path. There’s nothing new in that, either.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on EMERGING HUMANS EMERGING