Fly The Middle Way [on DR Thursday]

a watercolor sketch for Icarus

My call with Norm could not have been better timed. For some reason I’d recently dipped my toes into an old thought-pool and our conversation was like a ripple across the water. He is working with a team dedicated to self-empowerment, articulating purpose, making better relationships and a better world. I laughed as he reminded me of a younger version of myself.

A few days ago I wrote a phrase twice on a piece of paper. My Whole Life. My Whole Life. The phrase could mean “my entire life.” It could also mean “my flawless life.” I’m hard-pressed to conjure up a single example of someone who considers their life-story whole.

The words “purpose,” “power,” “voice” and “strength” populate the contemporary quest through the wasteland. We seek our power. We search for our unique voice. We hire coaches. We consume curriculum. We attempt to tune ourselves to wholeness like we tune our cars for the road.

There is a profound lesson in all of the great stories [stories are terrific guides…] and it is simply this: you can’t find “it” out there. You already have “it” and will, if you are lucky, realize “it” when you give up the search. Stand still. Feel the sun on your face.

The penny dropped for me while working with a group in the Netherlands. Everyone – every group I’ve ever worked with – wants to know “how?” There must be a prescription! What are the guaranteed six techniques to personal power? John O’Donohue wrote,“The gateway to our deepest identity is not through mechanical analysis.” In other words, there is no prescription. There isn’t a list. There are no tools to fix what is broken.

Parcival had his illusion shattered. The more he fought the dragons the worse the wasteland became. The grail castle came back to him only after he took off his armor, only after he completely relinquished and forgot about the fight.

None of this is to suggest that the search is ridiculous. It is not. It is a necessary process step in the cult of the individual. It is a necessity for people who believe themselves to be powerless to climb on a warhorse and ride into a personal hero tale. The knight will also need to flee from or fight with the inner-dark-anti-hero, the one who cries “fraud” or “loser” or “worthless” that serves as the shadow, the balance point of every power quest. The more he fight the dragons the worse the wasteland becomes.

“Let go of the hero,” Harald taught me, “and the anti-hero will also disappear.” Then, and only then, do we find the the middle way and the selflessness that comes with it. Some traditions call “it” presence. Some call “it” illumination. Some call “it” self-actualization. Some call “it” getting neutral or detachment. Some call “it” wholeness. Most locate “it” in the middle way.

Icarus did not listen to his father who warned him not to fly too close to the sun as it would melt the wax holding together his wings – and to not fly too close to the sea as the water vapor would make the feathers of his wings too heavy for flight. “Fly in the middle,” Daedalus cautioned. “Fly the middle way.”

Icarus, so the story tells us, became enamored of his ability to fly, so lost in his new power, that he soared toward the sun. Only when he was plummeting from the sky did he remember his father’s caution, “Fly the middle way. Fly the middle way and live.”

read Kerri’s blog post about ICARUS

Icarus, acrylic, 30.5 x 59.5

icarus ©️ 2004 david robinson

Gather Around The Fire [on Merely A Thought Monday]

keep the fire burnin copy

An unseasonably cool June evening. We sat around the fire. At social distance and wearing masks. Friends. “It’s so odd,” we said more than once. Eyes and assumed smiles. Muffled laughter. “I’ll never again take for granted a hug or being able to sit close together around the table,” she said. “It’s the little things that I miss.”

Fire is elemental. Water. Air. Earth. And, sometimes, Spirit though I think the 5th is always implicit. Friendship is elemental and spirit-full. Especially when the world is off center. It is a forge for strength and determination. Our friends, so generous, feed air into the fire. Support. Encouragement.

As we talked through face coverings about our newest daily obstacles, I wondered how hard it must have been to communicate across distance with smoke signals. Measured fire. Kerri said, “My mask is slipping again! There must be something wrong with my face.” We laughed and made up problems with her nose.

So much fire on the streets across the land! Transformation is afoot! Creative fire is out of the barn and teasing the status quo. This hot fire illuminates. It smacks of a ritual fire and, if properly honored and tended, can set us on a new path. Dark corners revealed and more than simply acknowledged, truly addressed.

Prometheus stole fire from the gods to spark life into his new creatures.  To ignite breath. Humans, made from earth and water. Four elements, come together. He was punished for his transgression. The spark lit an entire forest fire of humanity and creative potential. Beings capable of looking at the elements within themselves, at asking each other in magical moments, “How can we be better?”

All of this wonder and wandering on an unseasonably cool summer evening. Meeting with friends across a fire. A sip of wine. In earnest, we ask the question of each other, through our masks and across our distance, “How can we be better?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KEEP THE FIRE BURNING

 

 

bonfire website box copy

 

 

Constellate [on Merely A Thought Monday]

constellation poem copy

Just outside our favorite island gem, Fair Isle Books, is this poem by former Wisconsin poet Laureate, Bruce Dethlefsen. We have stopped at the shop more than once and reread the poem.

our lonely stars though bright
and strong will quickly fade

unless we string the stars
together   choose illumination
then in constellation hope is ours

bring on another day
sing light in common song
~constellation by bruce dethlefsen

It is a lovely poem and captures perfectly how we now see our work on this island. In our short tenure it has become abundantly clear that the people in our sphere most often work as “islands.” Islands on island. That is, although very well intended, few actually recognize the impact of their actions (or inaction) on others. It is part of the evolutionary dna of the place. Everyone works multiple jobs. Divisions and territory define the island arts organizations.

I have long held (and experienced again and again) that the arts cannot thrive in a community until the artists turn to a common center, recognize a shared purpose, and realize that one cannot thrive without the other. Thriving is a team sport. If one theatre creates a large audience then it creates audience for all. If one painter sells a painting, a market is created for all. Reaching into the common space, facilitating shared experience, is what art is meant to do.

If an arts community falls into the mistaken notion that its members compete for limited resources, they will inevitably define themselves by their limitation.  The center turns to a battle ground and the art is diminished. Dog-eat-dog has no place in the sacred space of art.

It is why we visit the poem. The necessary guide star is already here. “Our lonely stars though bright will quickly fade unless we string the stars together – choose illumination – then in constellation hope is ours.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CONSTELLATION

 

schoolhouse beach k&d website box copy

Go Inward

a new painting perfect for winter and inward looking. it’s part of a set in my sacred series.

“The doctor may explain why the patient is dead, but never why the patient is alive.” ~Declan Donnellan

Once, tromping through a biodynamic vineyard, Barney explained to me that winter is the time for the energy of the vine to go to the root. The vine that appears dormant above ground is, in fact, actively recharging below the surface. The energy goes inward. The root rejuvenates, drinking in the minerals necessary for the new growth of the coming spring. The fruit of the summer is impossible without the rejuvenation of winter.

We are not so different from the vines though language can trick us into compartmentalizing, perceiving winter as distinct and separate from summer, the inhale as a separate action from the exhale, tides that ebb and then flow. Cycles of life have compartments in study but never in real life. The compartments are made up for the convenience of categorization and conversation.

These past few weeks we’ve been cleaning out our house, going through old boxes and files, shredding old bills, carrying furniture and computer carcasses to the curb. Old clothes are going away. Closets and bins are emptied. The house is beginning to breathe. There is space. Spaciousness. We are laughing at old pictures, sometimes cringing. This day’s new-found spaciousness inspires the next day’s cleaning rampage. It is invigorating. Rejuvenating.

and this is the other half of the set. winter has me looking inward and exploring simplicity in line and space.

Our cleaning tsunami wasn’t planned. Our computer crashed. Our work was interrupted. Our expression was limited. We complained and resisted and then turned our energies elsewhere. Inward. Going through and releasing old stuff, past lives, creating space, is rejuvenating. We are taking our time. We are going slowly. It is oddly restful.

Driving home from our walk in the woods, we laughed at ourselves. Mock-praising our virtuous cleaning, exaggerating and inflating our new found spaciousness to full spiritual illumination, we pretended we’d achieved life beyond wanting, living without yearning. Consciousness beyond compartments. Wiping laughter-tears from her eyes, Kerri said, “Wait! This could be boring! What is life without desiring some red wine while cooking dinner? What about the pleasure of yearning for morning coffee? With all this new found space….”

 

Hear The Calling Voice

photo

next steps to my latest painting. it’s coming along!

“Maybe that means that the voice we should listen to most as we choose a vocation is the voice that we might think we should listen to least, and that is the voice of our own gladness….I believe that if it is a thing that makes us truly glad, then it is a good thing and it is our thing and it is the calling voice that we were made to answer with our lives.” ~ Frederick Buechner, Secrets In The Dark

This week I received an email from a long lost friend, a man I haven’t seen in over 25 years. Although we have yet to talk, his email contact has already sparked within me a life review. What have I done in all of these years? Who have I become in the quarter century since last I saw my friend? He wrote a brief three sentence overview of career advancement and family highlights (graduations and retirements). In attempting a reply, I found it impossible to encapsulate my path as there has been nothing linear, logical, or similar in my steps. I’ve walked a much different road. My inner imperative roars rather than whispers.

My life has been a source of great concern for my parents. Security has never been high on my list of occupational criteria. The day that I graduated from college my mother asked in all seriousness, with the love and concern that can only come from of a worried mother, “Now that you’ve gotten the theatre thing out of your blood, what are you going to do with your life?” She could see (before I did) my attraction to edges and my need to run at them and jump. She understood my need to question the rules, challenge assumptions, and live on the margins so I might better see and understand the happenings in the main stream. She saw and for a while feared the call of the art within me.

a close-up

a close-up

Judy once told me that she never wanted to be too comfortable because she intended to live life, not protect herself from it; she didn’t want to become complacent in this gorgeous life. Security is low on her list, too. She’s my go-to person when I lose the voice of gladness in the static and clamor of ‘should-do.’ She cuts through the noise, “Can you hear the birds, feel the sun on your face?”

When we were students in college, Roger asked me to read Herman Hesse’s book, Narcissus and Goldmund. He told me that he would most likely live the life of Narcissus and I would follow Goldmund’s route. Narcissus is a priest and teacher seeking God in the rituals of the institution. Goldmund finds illumination through the mess and random experiences of his life. One seeks God through order. The other finds God in chaos. Both are following their call, their voice of gladness. My path has, as Roger predicted, mirrored Goldmund’s. The voice, the call of gladness is clear to me on the inside while the path is nearly unrecognizable from the outside perspective.

another close-up

another close-up

So, what to tell my friend when we speak? Like all artists, I have answered the calling voice with my life.

Move Toward It

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

I laughed out loud and then, upon reflection, was overcome by sadness when Lora told me this story: she was listening to a travel show and the host was discussing with his guests how travel inherently opened your mind. Experiencing other ways of thinking, seeing and believing affords the opportunity to challenge and inform ones own thoughts and beliefs. The host used the word “liberal,” meaning broad minded. His first caller was a young woman who told the host and his guests that she’d been planning her first trip abroad but after listening to their conversation said she was going to cancel; if there were a danger of her becoming more liberal she’d rather stay at home.

When Wade Davis defines the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism (my apologies to my Buddhist friend for my general translation: we suffer, suffering is caused by ignorance, ignorance/suffering can be transcended, there is a way to transcend suffering), he is careful to define ignorance, not in terms of a negative, but as the notion or need to believe that anything in this universe is static or “fixed.” In other words, attach to the notion that your way is the right way and you will suffer because you are ignorant of the universe as it is: ever fluid, ever changing, ever in motion, completely interconnected, fundamentally and profoundly alive. Suffering is fixed mind; illumination is fluid mind. Suffering is blocked movement (engagement); illumination is movement (engagement) unhindered.

In a series on the brain produced by Charlie Rose, Daniel Wolpert from the University of Cambridge said that there is only one reason and one reason only that we have a brain (plenty of species on the planet do not have nor need brains) and that is to produce adaptable and complex movement. Cognition and sense processing are made meaningful only if they drive current action or future action. Movement (engagement) is the purpose of the brain.

Motion. Movement towards new forms, stepping toward questions not investing in answers, releasing any notion of an absolute; to flow, to move, to change, to process through the full arc of this long body, birth to death to birth. It is all motion and unknown, new and surprising. And, to step toward life, to move from narrow mind to broad mind is the only reason we have brains. And, oddly enough, it is the same path to illumination.