Get To Work [on Two Artists Tuesday]

On page one of the despot’s handbook is this instruction: silence the artists. Mute the intellectuals. Authoritarians have power only when people become sheep. Silence in the face of abuse is tacit agreement. Permission to bully.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve stood before a school board and explained that art is supposed to be powerful, that it plays a very important role in a healthy society, I’d have a lot of nickels. I was generally called to speak when a play or a painting upset the apple cart, when the art made the community confront a truth or look at a reality. Brecht’s Epic Theatre or the plays of Artaud were/are meant to shake the irrational in people, force them into discussion and revelation.

Art can be beautiful, poetry can soothe, but that is only one side of the coin. It can also shine a light and expose an ugly truth. It can give voice to what is not-being-spoken. It can work out problems on the stage instead of sending the violence into the streets. It can ask us to take a hard look at ourselves and our motives. Picasso’s large painting, Guernica, a response to horror wrought by fascists on the people of a town in Spain, is a powerful art-mirror.

The conscience of a community, like the conscience of every individual that comprises the community, lives beyond the superficial, it bubbles in the place beyond words. An artist’s job is to reach into that place, pull the veil for a moment, root or re-root the community in its values.

A despot’s job is to secure a unanimous vote, no questions asked. Sheep.

Art is not superficial. It is not the image or the words on the page. It is what the image, the words, the dance, the music, touch. Hearts. Souls. Conscience.

Without it, what remains is propaganda. Propaganda is never news, it is the opposite of art. It snuffs the question, it prevents the quest for meaning and deep-felt-truth. Without it, communities flatten, lose their center, wither, and fall apart. Silence, eyes downcast or sideways glancing. Permission to bully. Sheep.

It’s time for the artists to get to work.

read Kerri’s blog post about ARTISTS

Make It Flexible Again [on Two Artists Tuesday]

This is a tale of two quotes. They collided in my brain while I pondered this wacky year, diverging realities, repeated historical patterns, and why I have yet to rake the leaves. You might conclude that I need to relax or that I have too much stuff wafting through my noggin and, as Thom taught me to say, “you might-could” be correct on both counts. Quote #1:

“Sometimes the best way of caring for you soul is to make flexible again some of the views that harden or crystalize in your mind; for these alienate you from your own depth and beauty.” ~ John O’Donohue

Kerri is a series photographer. She has dozens of photos of heart shapes found in nature. Heart rocks, heart leaves, heart water stains. Lately she has started two new series: 1) Trains through trees, and 2) Horse poop on the trail. I rarely bring my phone on our walks or I’d inundate you with images of my artist-wife kneeling to get the best poop shot [I’ve been instructed to tell you that the horse poop series is for use in commentary and not merely aesthetic].

I am an artist and given to looking at my world, but Kerri constantly surprises me with what she sees. She opens my eyes to what I might miss: the beauty all around me. If I could give a gift to the world it would be what she gives me: to see beyond what I think I see. We see what we believe – often without question. There is no better way to atrophy the mind/heart/soul than to see only what you believe. “To make flexible again some of the views that harden or crystalize in your mind.” Can you imagine better medicine for what ails our angry, divisive nation?

Quote #2: “Creativeness is finding patterns where none exist.” ~ Thomas Disch

We stopped at IKEA for 20 to pick up some furniture. In the few moments that it took us to run in, pull the boxes, move through the register line, and run out, Kerri took a series of series photographs. IKEA is a gold mine of pattern. There are patterns within patterns. Her love of shooting photos set up for me a dichotomy, a social observation. She came alive finding patterns, capturing patterns, breaking patterns. She climbed over ropes, into shelves, crawled into tight spaces, and wriggled between stacks to get the shot she wanted. The rest of the people in the check-out line were either bored, impatient, or otherwise lost in their minds. For them, waiting-in-line was the only pattern that existed. I laughed at the contrast, the utter vitality of Kerri’s enthusiasm played against the dulled-cart-pushing of the crowd.

Sometimes there is a sea of pattern dancing right before our eyes. It exists. It surprises. It inspires and challenges. Creativeness, the vitality of living, requires nothing more than opening our eyes and engaging the world that sparkles beyond our burdened minds and worn-out belief.

read Kerri’s blog post about PATTERN

Become A Heart Symbol [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Almost anything can become a symbol. Almost anything can be made a symbol.

Symbols are very powerful, probably more powerful than we realize or are willing to admit. People die defending them. People die attacking them. They can serve as a moral compass. They can be a siren call and entice entire communities to crash on the rocks of devastation. Symbols can unite. They can divide. They can clarify. They can obscure. In almost every case, symbols serve as the defining line between Us and Them. They identify.

As a servant to identity, a single symbol can facilitate diametrically opposing points of view: hope and threat. It can be the taut rope in a social tug-of-war. Crazy things happen when, within a community, a symbol runs in opposite directions. We are witness to that today through the symbol of the “mask.” Some see a mask as communal responsibility. Some see it as a threat to individual freedom.

The challenge with any potent symbol is that it burns either through the heart or the guts. Only then does it run to the brain.

For instance, mask-wearers begin their symbolic journey in the heart. The symbol of “mask” is proactive. It signifies service to others and community protection. It unites in a common cause. It runs in the direction of hope. Giving. Inclusion. For them, a mask is a positive symbol. It confirms and accepts science, data, fact. It adapts to new information. It grows.

Mask resisters begin their symbolic journey in the guts. For them, the mask represents a fear of personal loss. It is a divider. It runs in the direction of threat. The symbol is reactive and signifies service to self. Exclusion. A mask, for them is a negative symbol. No amount of data or fact can assault a negative belief. A gut inception inflames the brain. It entrenches.

We’ve heard that, where mask wearing is concerned, there is a declining vigilance of the public. I wonder if that is true. I suspect the perception of declining vigilance is actually a matter of noise. Those who operate from their guts, their fear, will do anything, are capable of any and every form of cage-rattling. Theirs is a symbol of distress and is loud and enraged as is the case with most “me” focused symbols.

Those who operate from their hearts are generally quieter. They know the restraint that compassion brings. They are focused on the betterment of the entire community, including the fearful, so, as is true of most “us” focused symbols, calming the panic is an essential aspect of the action.

I doubt that vigilance is in decline. The fearful gut is screaming louder, garnering attention, daring to be made to wear a mask, cranking up the volume, loudly crying “hoax” – all the while knowingly spreading the disease.

In the meantime the quiet heart, the larger part of us, moves masked through each day. Hope need not make noise or news or announce itself. It is satisfied simply by doing the work of community, the real work of public vigilance.

read Kerri’s blog post about DECLINING VIGILANCE

Pick Up [on Merely A Thought Monday]

unicorn store 4 copy

I fell into the word “providence” because of a contradiction. Its synonyms are fate, destiny, kismet and predestination. No surprise there. Yet, also mingling among the synonyms list are these words: chance, circumstance, luck, and accident. As if that was not contradiction enough, also on the list is the winner of the most-foreboding-word prize: nemesis. The inescapable agent of your downfall.

What if your destiny is also your nemesis? That Loch Ness monster of words, “curse,” rises to the surface.

I’ve coached many, many people in my life. The majority were attempting to identify their “purpose” or somehow reach beyond an obstacle to fully inhabit “what they were meant to do.” They felt providence was calling and they couldn’t get to the phone. Or, they felt providence was calling and were afraid to answer the phone. Sometimes the dream arrives and the dreamer runs for cover. What if the dream rips off the cover and exposes the truth-of-me? And, why would destiny call if I couldn’t pick up? Is destiny cruel?

Providence or chance? Are we supported in this vast universe or is it all a matter of happenstance? Or, peel the paint from the question and it’s possible it’s not about kismet at all. It’s about the desire to control or at least an explanation that makes sense. Who doesn’t want to feel in control their destiny? Who doesn’t want to believe that they are supported, blessed, guided, or destined? And what happens to that dedicated belief when the hurricane comes or COVID?

And, what if none of that matters? Aesop reminds us that curses might be blessings and vice versa. Perspective reveals both faces so why get wrapped up either way?

What if that hard puritan word, purpose, was softened just a bit by the equal but more-to-the point-phrase: follow your heart. Purpose is a head-word. A true calling or yearning never comes from that head place. A heart calls. Purpose likes to be sought.

Listening to my clients, I wrote these two sentences more times than I can count: The actions we need to take are almost always easy. The story we wrap around the actions make them seem difficult. The steps are simple. The story wrapped around the simplicity is often full of shame, fear, and that most mighty horror-of -horrors: failure. What if I fail? Better not answer that providence phone or dare to dream! Look to the actions. Take one.

Hearts call. That often looks like caring and caring almost always begs for an action. One  simple action. And another.  A step toward a true heart-call promises abundant surprise but never-ever comes with a guarantee.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CARING AND FAILURE

I’m baking Kerri a cake with a file baked in it so that she might escape the Facebook jail. In case the FB guards eat the cake (and, therefore, detect the file) before it makes it to my dainty duck, it might be a good idea to subscribe to her blog. Unless I can bust her out, she might be in lock up for sometime to come.

 

 

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Draw The Symbol [on DR Thursday]

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Sometimes drawing is like free writing. I capture the lines and images as they arise without edit or evaluation. It is more akin to following than leading. It’s a meditation. I draw for the surprise of what shows up. Often, in my free flow, symbols arise and I only see them after I put down my pencil. The symbols that floated to the surface in this drawing are Heart and Strawberry.

When symbols pop up for me I make it a practice to investigate, even if they appear obvious or I think I already know. I assume that I do not know anything. It’s a way of continuing the conversation. These two, heart and strawberry, are intertwined symbols. Venus, the goddess of love. Purity and perfection. Sensuality. Eros. Happiness. Good fortune. Compassion. Joy. Charity. There are cultural lenses and religious interpretations but across all cultural variance, both symbols are rivers that lead to love in one or all of its expression.

Yaki asked me to rewrite THE CREATURES OF PROMETHEUS – a storytelling to accompany Beethoven’s symphony – so that it might speak directly to the realities of our day. He wants it to be more obviously relevant. I have been sitting on it, watching and waiting, since we seem to be living in a swirl of chaos. My grasp of relevance in the morning is obsolete by sundown. The only consistency that cuts through the mayhem is that the circles in our communal Venn Diagram no longer intersect. Not only is there no crossover, the circles no longer share the same page. We define ourselves according to our differences rather that reach toward our similarities. Romeo and Juliet is an example, a cautionary tale of what happens when the communal circles stubbornly refuse to find crossover. The children easily transcend the division. The society crushes them for daring to love. And then the adults realize they’ve sacrificed the greater for the lesser and in their grief they reach to grasp hands.

There are hearts and strawberries in every tragic tale. The tragedy arises because the characters refuse to see it. Maybe that is the theme of my rewrite? Maybe hearts and strawberries are the tender sprouts that will emerge in our nation once the fire ceases to rage?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEARTS AND STRAWBERRIES

We are still in the Facebook penalty box. It is possible that Kerri’s posts may never reappear so, if you enjoy reading Kerri’s word, consider subscribing to her blog. I know we publish waaay too much but, with the minor exception of us, ALMOST no one reads everything that we write – except for Lydia and Horatio and Malta-Alex and for their dedicated perseverance, we are most grateful.

 

 

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*Shared Fatherhood evolved from a sketch about Polynices & Eteocles, brothers that killed each other in combat over control of the throne. Somehow I traveled from senseless war to shared fatherhood.

 

shared fatherhood 2 ©️ 2017 david robinson

Decide To See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

heart leaf copy

When you come to our house, pay attention to the small things. You will find many, many, many hearts. Heart shaped rocks, heart shaped leaves, shells that are the shape of a heart. This is not an accident. It’s also not a collection of “things” – like a collection of shot glasses or figurines. No, it is altogether different.

Kerri looks for hearts. Often on our walks she will gasp, pull out her camera and take a picture. I know that she has seen another heart. Usually, she engages with it and walks on. Sometimes she picks up the heart and it comes home with us.

To be clear: she doesn’t buy hearts from the store. She is not a collector of heart shapes. Kerri looks for hearts. When we are out in public she will gasp and move toward someone, striking up a conversation. Soon there is laughter; always there is a story. Usually, she engages with the heart and walks on. Sometimes she picks up the heart and  it is in our life forever.

Since seeing the recent Mr. Rogers movie, we’ve been talking a lot about intentional thinking, about focus placement. We’ve been talking about what we look for when we go out into the world – what we decide to see. Everyone decides what they see but very few people know that they have that decision. Everyone decides what they think but very few people know that they have that decision. It’s what made Mr. Rogers so special. He knew he  had decisions and he talked about it with children. Children are capable of listening.

It’s very easy to see the gunk. The dark is an easy choice; fear makes it so. It takes some intention to see the light.  Hearts are always present but they require some attention and resolve to see. They ask that we look beyond the superficial gunk to see the heart-substance. That’s why Kerri picks them up and plants them around our home. It’s a practice. She’s built a practice of seeing the hearts. She goes into each day looking for the hearts.

It turns out that hearts are everywhere. You can see them, too, if you decide to see them.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEARTS

 

heart rock website box copy

Start The Ripple [on DR Thursday]

MayYou copy 2

The mantra goes like this:

may you prayer copy

Actually, it is a meditation of ripples. The second round, after the “I”, someone very close  is named. On the third round, someone a bit farther out, and so on until the wish is for all the world to dwell in its heart. The universe. And then, the ripples return, layer by layer, arriving back to you.

It is a peace mantra, a meditation on connectivity that runs through the heart, the place between I and you, us and them. It is the “and.”

This is one of those paintings that jumped onto the canvas fully formed. It is either disturbing to people (“Why is she falling?”) or intensely comforting (“I wonder what she is reaching for.”) It is, in that way, very much like the meditation, an exercise of thought control or an aspirational prayer.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MAY YOU

 

MayYou copy 2

may you, 55x36IN

 

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mayyoucopyright2015davidrobinson

Listen To The Heart [on KS Friday]

MISSING song box copy

This morning, sitting to write about this piece, I find that I have too much to say. Too much to say about missing and memory and delight and yearning. In trying to choose a thought-path I realized that all of my blah-blah would simply get in the way. My words will get  in the way of this heart composition. I will only offer that this MISSING will lift you. It will bring a knowing smile. It does for me.

I will let this beautiful composition speak for itself. It is MISSING from Kerri’s first album RELEASED FROM THE HEART. Truly, it is from the heart.

MISSING from the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MISSING

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missing/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Lose Your Right Mind [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I have made some incredibly bad decisions in my life that set off a chain of events that led to some extraordinary, life-illuminating experiences. Conversely, I have made some incredibly good, well-considered decisions that led me to total devastation. My life reads like one of Aesop’s Fables.

The “bad” decisions were “irrational” and “spontaneous” and some of my pals  questioned whether or not I was in my “right” mind.

The “good” decisions were “rational” and I was lauded for using common sense, for my clear-eyed, right-minded logic.

Intuition, following your gut, listening to your heart has very little to do with the rightness of mind.

Back in the previous century (20 years ago), educators were awash in the term “the mainstream.” Getting divergent students back into the mainstream was the stated goal of most alternative education programs. Doug, my hero of the alternative path, champion of finding the stream that worked for the student (as opposed to channeling all students back into a single stream), used to snarl, “I’d love to see this mainstream if someone would be kind enough to point it out to me.” (note: this is not a direct quote as I’ve cleaned up Doug’s language for my less sturdy readers).

In mythology it is called the left-hand path, this route that makes no sense to adherents of the mainstream. The left-hand path is intuitive and counter-intuitive, all at the same time. It seems nonsensical to sail toward the edge of the known world. Explorers, artists, innovators, mystics, must take this road less traveled. They must wander off the main and cut a new path. They must. Their fellows will wonder if they’ve taken leave of their senses. Left their right mind. The answer: no. They are following a deeper call, something speaking to their senses. They’ve left a mainstream that appears to them like total madness.

If logic is your compass it is, of course, best to stay on the road well-traveled. If safety and security is your goal, then a known path holds what you seek.

If knowing where you’re going sounds a lot like a death sentence, then leaving your right mind for a left-hand path is the only choice that makes sense.

Truth? I think the right-mind is bit of rhetoric that has little to do with the realities of being human. We find the rational side of things comfortable so it gets good marks. No one gets a cake-walk in this life. Everyone has a mountain to climb, a valley to get lost in, a spontaneous jump to make, a gut feeling, a heart to be listened to – and some of the worst impulsive decisions inevitably lead to the most profound growth experiences. It is only after the fact, when we need to make sense of our nonsensical leap, our follow-the-heart choice, that we call on the “right” mind to make the story coherent. Just ask Aesop.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about RIGHT MIND

 

 

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Count It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

187 box framed copy

People like to count things. Kerri and I are people so it only follows that on this melange anniversary week that we’ve been counting all manner of things. 52 weeks. 5 posts a week. 260 posts times two. 520 posts between us. What does it mean? Nothing of consequence.

People like to count things. Isn’t it true that, as the proverb states, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And, after the thousand miles journey, sitting in the sun by the side of the road, who wouldn’t try to calculate the actual number of steps? Just for kicks? What does it mean? Nothing really.

187. The number of product lines that Kerri designed in the first 6 months of the melange. Not single products, but entire lines. From art prints to bath mats to tote bags to cell phone cases. In our week of counting, it is the single number that astounded me. It was the aspect of the melange that required the most amount of time and effort.

It was also fun. I loved watching Kerri design. She becomes hyper-focused. Passionate. Impeccable. I was mostly beckoned for feedback. “What do you think about…?” Usually, there was no answer required. In asking the question she generally identified her preference and was back to working before I said a word.

People like to count things. It is another way of telling the story. Well, at least a part of the story. 187. 520. What does it all mean? Nothing really.  The numbers are the least part of the story. The simple joy of working together, the river of ideas shared along the way. The heart conversations. The laughter. There is no number capable of capturing what happened in the midst of all those steps.

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read Kerri’s blog post about 187

 

[Here’s the very first Flawed Cartoon Wednesday. I thought (and still think) these cartoons are hysterical. The number of people who went to the Flawed Cartoon store: 0. What does it mean?]:

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if you'd like to see FLAWED CARTOON copy[Do it! Go to the store just for kicks! You’ll be the first!]

 

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flawed cartoon ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood