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]

Roger's Park Feet copy

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

 

 

Split Your Bark [on merely-a-thought Monday]

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Angels come in all shapes and sizes and Jonathan is my latest proof. Appearing from nowhere, disappearing into the ether, impossible to nail down on what he does each day (“I spent the day packing,” he says every-single-time-I-ask), he has an uncanny way of  dropping a much needed thought-bomb at just the right moment. Boom.

Lately, Kerri and I have been steeped in the angst and frustration of the latest inevitable drought that comes with an artist’s life. The well has run dry. There is no rain in sight. The Artist’s Almanac forecasts drought.  Feeling defeated we showed up at rehearsal wearing hang-dog faces and found angel-Jonathan already there, practicing his bass.  He greeted us with laughter and a smile. He regaled us with hysterically funny stories of his weekly foibles. He got us laughing. He transformed our self-pity and woe into a conversation about necessary change and growth.

That’s when he velvet-hammer-smacked us with the metaphor: trees must split their bark to grow. There is pain. Matter. Of. Fact.

Contrary to popular mythology, angels do not take away your pain. They do, however, help you see it for what it is: an experience of life. They punch through the horror story spinning out of control in your mind and guide you back to the present moment. There is growth so there are unknowns. There is today. “Isn’t it great!” he laughs. “You two kill me,” he says smiling.

Yep. Angel.

 

AngelsAtTheWell framed copy

angel at the well

 

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KS Friday

a musical t.g.i.f. lift from studio melange!

jacketrightnowjpeg copyI’m beginning to believe that high atop the list of human fears-that-lead-to-foibles is the fear of ambiguity (I seem to be writing a lot lately about ambiguity). We want our world to be clear cut, black and white. We want the line between right and wrong to be definitive across all circumstances. We want a ‘normal’ that is one-size-fits-all. We want our word and our book and our laws and our rules and our values and our virtues and our morals to be simple and straightforward and, most important, to be defined by how I define them, not how YOU define them. We want to know what to do. We want to know where we are going. We want to know why we are here. What. Where. Why. Quinn used to call these the BIG three.

We hardly ever know what to do. We choose a path based on what we know at the moment. Choices that are based on ideals, imaginings and sometimes a gut feeling. And, where are we going? Where are you going? Do you know with certainty where this day will take you? Can you possibly know why you are here? What if there is not merely one purpose or one reason? What if that “knowledge” is something you can only see clearly when looking back on your life?

Ambiguity makes space for grace to enter. ‘Not knowing’ is the path that leads to all growth and discovery. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people because no one is all good or all bad. Isn’t it often true that the things that seemed like obstacles in our lives one day down the road began to appear as great blessings?

It’s probably comfortable to think that this messy life is only black and white. But a comfortable thought is all it is. On this melange KS Friday, take a moment and step into the ambiguity known as music. Let Kerri’s gorgeous piece, It’s Not Black & White, buoy you on a river of grace to the space between rules and lists, the subtle-spirited place where life is lived & experienced and quite simply refuses to be boxed in the fear of artificial certainty.

IT’S NOT BLACK & WHITE from the album RIGHT NOW (track 11) itunes

IT’S NOT BLACK & WHITE from RIGHT NOW (track 4) on CDBaby

PURCHASE THE PHYSICAL CD. RIGHT NOW

read Kerri’s thoughts about IT’S NOT BLACK & WHITE

 

NEW! KS DESIGNS

life: it’s not black and white [merchandise]

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IT’S NOT BLACK & WHITE from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

 

Two Artists Tuesday

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Jim told me that he was suspicious of this culture that seems to need to plaster messages on the wall, on shopping bags, or indelibly tattooed on body parts. Begin Anywhere. Live Loud. This life is not a dress rehearsal. Peace. Home.  “It’s too simplistic,” he says.

So. Brave.

Are we branding our lives, marketing our selves to ourselves? Are these ubiquitous expressions reminders? Encouragement? Aspirations? Desires? Statements of intent? Flags planted in the metaphoric sand? Are these flags too simplistic?

Joseph Campbell once said that  to find more-than-ample evidence of the collapse of our unifying culture/story (our mythology) one need look no further than the daily news. Violence and division dominate our day. It is the seedy sensational story we tell to ourselves. It seems we’ve traded the commons for higher ratings. The common good falls apart in the face of the lobbyist’s payout. Can there be a center when another set of ubiquitous expressions dominate our dialogue: tribalism, polarization, fake news. Us. Them. Again, more flags planted in the metaphoric sand and are they also too simplistic?

On the stage, when actors have no direction and lose sight of the common story they might otherwise tell, they default to a condition lovingly (yet accurately) known as “Save-your-ass-theatre.” It is every man/woman for him/her self. It a group of artists on stage feeling isolated and all alone but pretending to be together. It is fear with a thin smile pasted on its face. It is awful to watch. And, it is easily remedied: save-someone-else’s-ass. Instead of pushing your drowning mate down so you can reach air, lift them up so they might breathe. They will immediately return the favor. Restore the commons. Step back into the common story.

The opposite of fear is not courage. It is community. Bravery is nothing more than the choice to stand in fear and reach. Cowardice is the choice to stand in fear and pummel. Fear that flourishes in isolation dissolves in the common story. From the studio melange on this Tuesday we offer the only flag worth planting in the sand: be brave enough to turn to the center. Reach. Help someone find air. Is it too simplistic?

BRAVE merchandise

brave leggings brave framed art print brave iphone case brave mug

read Kerri’s thoughts on this Two Artists Tuesday

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brave ©️ 2017 kerri sherwood & david robinson