Beg A Good Question [on Merely A Thought Monday]

She stopped, turned and went back to the truck. “What are you doing?” I asked. She pulled her camera from her purse and snapped a photo of the Sara Lee truck. She showed me the photo and slid her phone back into her purse.

“I thought this would make a good blog photo,” she said, adding, “If it wasn’t a marketing phrase it would beg a good question.”

How should goodness taste?

How should equality look?

How should community sound?

How should generosity smell?

How should love feel?

We experience the world through our senses. And then we make a story of what we sense. Senses first. Story second. It’s how the brain works. The language capacity, putting words to experience, is essentially a translation function. It does not lead, it follows. It’s why, for the most part, we choose the story we tell.

The word that strikes me the most on the bread truck photo is “should.” How should goodness taste?

How does goodness taste? To you?

How does equality look? To you?

For you, what’s the sound of thriving community?

To me, generosity smells like fresh baked bread and hot dark coffee. You?

And love? There are no words. But you know it when you feel it.

read Kerri’s blogpost about GOODNESS

Share Appreciation [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“I’ve got an old mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal”

~Low Bridge, Everybody Down, music and lyrics by Thomas Allen, 1913

She’s a donkey, not a mule, yet I couldn’t help but appreciate the collision of power sources present in this photograph. From donkey to solar.

I’ve read that the innovations of the industrial age were meant to spare humans of muscle-toil. If an engine could power it, a human didn’t have to. The innovations of the information age are meant to spare us mental and sense toil: why stress to parallel park your car if the car can do it all by itself? Why add the numbers if the spreadsheet does it for you? Why look up information if Siri or Alexa can bring it to you? What does it now mean to stay in touch? Text and facebook and tweet and email and zoom and facetime and slack and chat and…call.

Oil, coal and gas are the energy systems of the past. They are donkeys and mules standing next to renewable energy sources like wind and power. It takes time for an infrastructure to be built. It takes time for people to wrap their imaginations around a different way. Do you remember the loud resistance in the early days of the credit card proclaiming that plastic would never replace paper money? That was not so long ago. There were similar angry voices declaring the auto-mobile was a flash-in-the-pan. “Nothing will replace the horse!” Our local supermarket just installed banks of electric car charging stations. Energy systems are slowly moving away from grids: the power source and the property will (mostly) be one and the same.

Industries, like people, either adapt or die. Most retail chains that came late to online shopping are going or already gone. Many have said that they didn’t see the change coming. Or that they couldn’t imagine a world in which people bought stuff without first touching it. Cars are in vending machines. Isaac Asimov would have loved it!

Did I mention that the solar panel in the photograph senses and moves with the sun? As it turns out, the donkey does, too. Much for the same reason. Only, for the donkey, the heat of the sun feels good and I doubt the solar panel cares or feels anything. Sensing and feeling are still on opposite sides of the change-line. At least so far. There may come a day in the not-so-distant-future that the donkey and the solar panel share appreciation for the heat of the sun. The donkey will wag its tail. The solar panel will stretch and sigh. The stuff of children’s books or sci-fi. At least for now.

read Kerri’s blog post about DONKEY & SOLAR PANEL

Know How It Feels [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Love. It spans the full spectrum, doesn’t it? That’s how we know it’s the real deal: it hurts so good. It’s so good it hurts. It’s not a bad reminder on this day of gathering together or missing out. Love where you are because, chances are, where you are is full immersion in the love-spectrum-of-experiences.

Happy Holidays from two-artists-on-the-road.

read Kerri’s blog post about NOW I KNOW.

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Try To Explain [on Merely A Thought Monday]

It’s nearly impossible to explain. I’ve had the conversation a thousand times and I know it’s fruitless from the outset. Why did I choose a life without a safety net? A life with stability and benefits? Why was I willing to work 80 hour weeks for not-very-much-pay? I’ve heard more than once that “Artists are indulgent.” Or, “Artists are fools.”

Maybe. I’ll never know because it is impossible to explain to someone who operates from a different imperative. I’ve thought myself foolish more than a few times, and, usually, when I measure myself by the standards of 9-to-5.

For me, like all the artists I know and admire, there has never been a distinct line between work and play. Given any amount of free time, I’d rather be in the studio than anywhere on earth. When I was directing plays and running theatre companies, I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and get back to work. The time between productions or studio time, what most people call “vacation,” was-and-is meant to catch up on sleep and fill up the well for the next project. Often, this thing called ‘vacation’ was an opportunity to visit museums, drink in art/inspiration or stand in a castle or sit in the city where the next play is set.

For most of my life, even before I really thought about artists or artistry, vacation involved a sketchbook. I sat in the back of the station wagon and drew Colonel Sanders from the bucket of chicken or tried to copy a photo from the National Geographic magazine. Fun and play involved a deep dive into the world I could create/discover through a pencil on blank pages.

I can spend hours sitting and watching people. Small dramas. Gestures. Manipulations. Kindnesses. A little burst of love that would otherwise go unnoticed. Traveling for work meant time spent in airports, a goldmine of observation-time. Work or play?

Perhaps that is why there is no line between work and play. I see it in Kerri, too. We are constantly noticing. Paying attention to what is beautiful or interesting. Feeling what is needed and what is not. We’ve talked endlessly about being empathic. Feeling what others feel. I’ve watched Kerri walk into a rehearsal and “know” where there is pain, where there is joy, know when she needs to wrap some humor around a bruised community. Many years ago, a wise-old-artist told me that I had to learn to distinguish between what was my “stuff” and what was not. What were my feelings and what was not. Sage advice. I’ve been witness to many artists imploding, carrying other people’s garbage as their own.

When we walk, Kerri takes photographs. “I’m sorry,” she says, stooping to focus on a leaf or stone. Why does she apologize for noticing? Here’s a hint: all of her life she’s been asked to explain why she stops to notice. What value can there possibly be in stopping forward motion, especially in a world hell-bent on “getting there faster.” What is the value-proposition of noticing? “Can you please explain why you have to stop and see and, of all things, make it into music?” Or a story. Or a painting. Or a dance.

“Why did you climb that tree?” the adults asked. “It’s where I write poetry,” she explained. Work or vacation? Is it play?

Every Saturday we go through Kerri’s photos from the week and choose five as prompts for our Melange. We collect phrases we hear, words that inspire or disturb. Those end up in the Melange, too. Are we working? Is this play? We delight in sitting each day and writing together. We laugh at our Smack-dab cartoon. They are fun to write and draw and color. None of this makes us any money. Is it work or is it vacation?

I’m currently drawing cartoons and tossing thought-bombs into a community of software entrepreneurs – the boss understands that I notice things and can translate what I notice into other shapes and expressions. Is there value in that? Is it work? Is it play? Will it make money?

Are there possibly other measures of value?

It’s nearly impossible to explain.

read Kerri’s blog post about VACATION

Visit [on Two Artists Tuesday]

birch in winter copy

All this week I’ve been lost in memories of childhood. Nothing indoors, my remembering is outside. Running through fields. Aspen trees. The sound of snow. The smells of coming spring in Colorado. The intense blue sky. Standing against a brick wall, face to the sun to drink in the warmth on cold day. These memories are more sensual than story. It’s as if, this week, I need to remember the feeling of being a child.

I’ve always loved to draw and paint. I’d spend hours drawing eyes and faces. I drew portraits of Colonel Sanders from the empty chicken bucket. I spent hours inside of National Geographic magazine drawing the figures I found there. I drew again and again and again a cabin in the woods that lived only in my imagination. I knew the place the first time I scribbled it on paper. There was a period of time in my mid-life that I thought I might someday happen across the cabin-of-my-imagination.  I forgot the feeling of being happily lost inside the world of my imagination. This week, I remember.

Up north, walking on a frozen lake to see the eagle’s nest, we passed this stand of birch trees. Andy Goldsworthy could not have placed them better. White and fragile against the forest, they glowed in the afternoon sun. They shocked me into presence. I was surrounded with people I love, the sun was warm on my face, the creaking of the ice, the smell of pine, Kerri’s delight. “Remember this feeling,” I told myself. Remember this moment. Someday, after you’ve long forgotten this day, you will reach back and be thankful to have this place in memory, this feeling, to visit again.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BIRCH TREES

 

footprints in sunlit snow website box copy

Learn The DogDog Way [on Merely A Thought Monday

dogga end of day copy

DogDog is an Aussie and takes the job of herding his people very seriously. We are a tough bunch. Two artists (one A.D.D. and the other O.C.D) and a BIG cat are not easily collected or moved in a consistent or singular direction. It is not an understatement to say that DogDog was not given an easy task in this lifetime.

On top of the endless challenge of gathering the un-gatherable, he is a hyper sensitive boy; he knows what we are feeling before we do. He runs all of our emotions through his filters. The Dog Whisperer says that dogs are masters at reading energy and DogDog must have graduated at the top of his pooch class. Anticipating our every move is made more complex by his innate skill in surfing our full palette of turbulent and uninhibited feelings. Were he human, he’d be a nervous wreck.

His days are full, chaotic, and active. And so, at the end of the day, when we at last settle, when the perimeter is safe and we are secure, he collapses. It is almost as if someone disconnected the cable to his battery. He hits the floor. His sleep is immediate and sound (unless, of course, we move).

I realized, in watching his deep and peaceful sleep, the kind of sleep that I rarely experience, that he is teaching me to love the impossible task. In fact, he simply loves the task before him with no regard to its achievement. He engages the impossible with joy and a hearty wag-a-wag. He participates. He delights. He loves. He, therefore, has no need for either the possible or the impossible. Those are abstractions and he deals with the reality of the moment.

Neither does he resent the turbulence we toss in his path. He takes no ownership for how we feel and, so, is not compelled to control what we feel. He simple reads the color of our mood and loves accordingly. He does not deflect or dodge or manipulate. He does not ignore or pretend or deny. He stands without judgment in the daily bedlam of his humans as if there was no better place to be on earth.

I desire the peaceful sleep he experiences. He shows me the way everyday. Admittedly, I am a slow study but he is a patient and generous teacher. “Tomorrow,” I tell myself, “I will love the impossible task.” Or, perhaps, if I really learn the DogDog way, I will give up the notion of possible or impossible altogether and simply attend with joy to the task at hand.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DogDog Sleeping

 

doggadeck website box copy

Stay Open

Illustration from Play-to-Play

Illustration from Play-to-Play

It’s very late. I was deep asleep and am suddenly wide awake. That is happening often these days. My inner light switch is tripped and there is no going back to sleep.

I woke up thinking about something Judy told me yesterday during our phone call. Judy is wise. She told me that she believes the real work in a life is never achieving a goal or arriving at a destination. It is not something with a direction. The real work is to learn to stay open. Stay open to possibility. Stay open to choices. Stay open to feeling. Stay open to changes. Stay open to experiences. Stay open to surprises.

It is not the kind of advice that children generally get in school but it is exactly the kind of advice an elder might impart if asked – and only if asked. Learn to stay open. Life has a way of making us want to close, to armor up, to dull our selves, to turn our backs and whisper, “There’s nothing I can do.”

It sounds too simple, “Stay open to life.” It’s not. What is simple is sinking into the easy chair and falling asleep in front of the television. Simple seems like a good idea until you realize you’ve been doing it for years. That is, of course, the point of the easy chair. The easy chair is a destination. It is a direction.

Staying open is a practice. Turning toward life and facing it with all of its force, heat, and pressure is not simple. Opening to the grief as well as the joy, feeling the pain as well as the pleasure, requires intention. Opening to the full spectrum of living engenders liveliness. Life begets life.

In a recent post I included a quote from Carlos Castaneda that just popped to mind:

“Oppressors and oppressed meet at the end, and the only thing that prevails is that life was altogether too short for both.” Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality

 

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.

 

Know Your Meditation

photo-1Some random thoughts on consciousness:

Last night I read that, according to some traditions, all forms of separation are an illusion. Only the whole is real but to experience the whole, one must experience him or her self as separate from it. What a conundrum!

Or, is it a gift? Tonight we witnessed the most extraordinary sunset. It’s been stormy these past few days and this evening the storms finally broke. The colors of the sunset were subtle, muted, otherworldly. Breathtaking.

We witness all of creation. All of it. And, as witnesses, we experience ourselves as separate from it. A sunset stops us in our tracks because we glimpse the glory of it all. Once, I stood on top of a mountain at sunrise and cried for the sheer beauty of what I was witnessing. Or, perhaps I cried for the feeling; I was, for a brief moment, not separate.

Consciousness is like a flashlight. We point its beam. We see what we illuminate. And, we illuminate what we see. We assign meaning and value where we point our beam. Some experiences – like sunsets – we define as glorious. Some, we define as lacking. Both are forms of meditation. Every choice to aim the beam is a meditation. All assignment of what is found in the light of the beam is a meditation.

What is your meditation?

As Joe said, the entire universe tends toward wholeness. Every time I recall his words I realize a deeper truth in what he said. We tend toward wholeness because we are already whole; the illusion of separation makes us think otherwise. In fact, thinking makes us think otherwise.

The Balinese have an art form, the shadow puppet, called Wayan Kulit. The audience sees the story as shadows cast on a screen. The performance is meant to remind the community that what they see is illusion. It is meant to remind them that they (we) are all casters of shadows. Our minds are screens upon which we play our dramas. Behind the screen, when all the characters are put away, when all the conflict is resolved, when all the separate pieces unified, there is only one artist, and we are….all.

title_pageGo here for my latest book, The Seer

For hard copies, go here.

The latest in the series. This piece is almost 5ft x 5ft

For fine art prints of my paintings, go here.

Be The Source

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

While preparing a new curriculum this morning, I reviewed work from the past and came across this phrase, something I wrote 4 years ago: In our language usage we often say, “_______ gives me joy.” So, for instance, “Painting gives me joy.” This phrasing leads us to believe that the joy is in the painting and you are the recipient of the joy. It leads us to believe that these “things” like joy, happiness, and contentment are external gems, separate from us, something we must seek to find.

Joy, happiness, and contentment are not things, not nouns. The painting does not give you joy, you bring the joy to the experience of painting. The capacity for joy is in you and ignites within you when you put yourself into a generative relationship. As I too often quote Viktor Frankel, “Happiness ensues.” Happiness and joy are not something you seek (separate from you), they are qualities that follow (originating from within you); joy is movement; a feeling is a verb. You are the source not the recipient.

I realize that I am writing a lot lately about the power of language to shape our perception. At present I am in a coffee shop and I just heard the barista tell her coworker that this upcoming year she will learn to say “no.” The couple at the table next to me are having an intense conversation and I just heard, “That’s just the way I am!” followed by, “Why can’t you be happy?” These are stories and the language is not incidental. It matters if you define yourself as separate from you joy. It matters if you believe that you are separate from your creativity or that you must do something to “deserve” happiness. If you define yourself as separate you will live separate from your powers of happiness, joy and contentment. You will think you need to seek them from others. You will define yourself as fundamentally powerless because you will orient yourself toward what you get from experiences instead of recognizing your infinite capacity to bring power to your life, to be power and vibrantly alive. Be the source of dynamic movement instead of a chaser of nouns. It matters.