Enjoy The Loss [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

We laughed heartily when we read this phrase in an advertisement. I had two immediate responses: 1) Immortality is not really a thing. No one wins the race against aging. Even vampires have unfortunate sunny days or meetings with silver bullets and so ends their quest to win the race. 2) The best way to win the race against aging is a) to get out of your chair and move, b) laugh a lot. You’ll lose the race either way but mobility and a joyful heart make for a more enjoyable lap around the track.

This life is a temporary, passing thing. I lost the race against infancy and couldn’t wait to blow through those teenage years. I took my twenties and thirties for granted in a festival of unconsciousness. I puffed myself with importance and thought I knew things all the way through my forties and into my fifties. Now that I can spot the finish line I admit to undertaking several measures to slow things down a bit. I’m specifically not entering races and I’m especially not going to try and be something that I am not. Like, for instance, young.

I actually delight in the experiences that life has provided. The lessons learned. I’m especially fond of the needle that life used to pop my inflated notions. I’ll never be a hero. I live in some people’s story as their villain and some people play the role of villain in mine. I’m finding that more time on earth brings greater capacity for compassion and forgiveness. I never meant to be a villain and I suspect the same is true for those I’ve cast in my hall of monsters.

Beaky used to say that aging is not for wimps. We regularly compare our latest wrinkling skin discovery or make up excuses why our clothes no longer fit. It is sometimes a shock to wonder where the time went or to discover that I’ve lost my gazelle-like movement when running across the street. Taking a realistic look at your self and slowing down seem to me to be gifts that come with age and should not be hidden beneath any cream or stretched away by a surgeon. I have learned – and continue to learn – that it is infinitely better to be who you are than to pretend that you are something that you are not. Happiness does not easily nest in illusions.

External motivators might bring the illusion of youth but I guarantee that there’s no way to regain your gazelle. My vote: recognize that the race is made up, like Valentines Day, to sell chocolate and greeting cards. It’s better to love every day of this miracle life rather than pack your love into on a single day called ‘youth.’ There’s nothing like an achy joint to make you appreciate how great it is to be able to move. There’s nothing like seeing the finish line to make you appreciate the first sip of coffee in the morning or kissing your wife on the forehead just-because.

My advice: enjoy every moment of the loss.

read Kerri’s blog post on THE RACE AGAINST AGING

See The Riches [on KS Friday]

My mom tells me that my dad is becoming a little bird. His body shrinks as dementia takes his mind. He is continually packing for a trip, his clothes wrapped in tight balls or stuffed in odd places. He waits at the door.

Listen to Kerri’s Fistful Of Dandelions. It tells the story of a life cycle. A mother and her small child. The child grows. The roles reverse. The son becomes the giver of care. It is nature’s cycle and, with each passing phase of the cycle, comes the appreciation of the true riches in this transient life: moments together. Holding hands. Picking dandelions. Titanic love. “…all the riches I will need today…” Simple presence chocked full of simple appreciation.

I interviewed for a job last week. The questions they asked were questions designed for a younger person, someone at the beginning of their career. I laughed and replied that their question had nothing to do with me. I no longer climb the achievement ladder. I am at the other end, the son holding tender space for the shrinking bird.

The illusions drop away as the sand runs out. The wall of respect might hold plaques and certificates but they grow more empty over time. Paper in a frame. The car in the garage never really provided the status it promised.

What remains is the real stuff. Holding hands. A fistful of dandelions. Shared time. Beer-thirty on the back porch. A pocket full of memories. Warm days fishing together at the lake. Listening to records deep into the night. Packing boxes and helping with the move. Making sure this tiny bird is safe as he waits with his bundle at the door. Just as he did for me.

all of Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about FISTFUL OF DANDELIONS

fistful of dandelions ©️ 1999 kerri sherwood

Let The Pieces Fall [on KS Friday]

longing copy

“It is the paradox of spiritual growth that through such bleak midwinter journeys we eventually come through a hidden door into a bright field of springtime that we could never have discovered otherwise. This is the heart of the mystical. It is not about building protectionist armour of prayer and religion; it is, rather, the courage for absolute divestment. In the sheer vulnerability of Nothingness everything becomes possible in a new way, but there is an immense temptation to flee back to the shelter of old complacency. Now could be the most important moment in life to steel our courage and enter the risk of change.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

Parcival returned to the place in the deep woods where he’d stripped off his armor. Was it yesterday? A year ago? Two? He couldn’t remember. While he searched for the place he remembered with satisfaction the battles he’d waged, the ogres he’d defeated. The mission he’d served. He longed to once again inhabit that simple clarity, that single focus.

His old armor was not hard to find but it looked nothing like he remembered it. No longer shiny and hard, it was brittle with rust and covered in moss and vines. Nature was reclaiming it. Still, he wanted to put it back on. He wanted to forget the reasons he took it off in the first place. The loneliness. The fear. Forever fighting the lost cause, the imagined foe. He wanted to remember the good and ignore completely the painful parts of the story.  He could go back! He could be the great knight once again.

His vision crumbled like his armor when he attempted to pick it up. Going back was a fantasy. Retreating back in time, donning again his old armor,  was perhaps the final ogre to fight. Like all of the other ogres, it, too, was an illusion. He let the rusty pieces fall back to the forest floor.

Now, allowing the full force of his vulnerability, the utter absence of role or definition, he no longer yearned for the tight closure of what was, but wholly surrendered to the expansive, the infinite and uncontrollable new.

LONGING on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LONGING

 

HH waves feet website box copy

longing/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

FaceTheRain

Feed The Fable [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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DogDog is a furry beast. He sheds like a champion. I vacuum every other day to stay ahead of the fur onslaught. In my defense I can only say that it is not my vacuum. We are guests in our little house. I realized too late that the vacuum cleaner bag was full. I realized too late that the replacement bag in the cupboard was the wrong size. I learned too late that, here on island, the mercantile doesn’t carry vacuum bags. I now know that Amazon will have new vacuum bags delivered to us by Tuesday, a full five days after my first vacuum revelation.

While we await the arrival of the bags, Kerri has placed a strict moratorium on visitors entering our little house. No one is permitted to see the mess. When someone walks up our driveway, we meet them in the yard. We steer them around the little house to the lake side chairs. We chirp with anxiety if they make a step toward the house.

I suspect we are not the only people who chirp, who sweep things under the rug, turn the lights low when guests are on the way, clean the house before the cleaners come. Once, on my honey-do list, was this: clean house before the electrician arrives. I did. The electrician, a nice young man, worked in a spotless environment. He inhabited and fully participated in our illusion of clean.

You know who your friends are when you allow them beyond the curtain of clean, when you permit them to see what’s behind THAT door in the basement. You really know who your friends are when they return from the clutter zone and say things like, “It wasn’t that bad,” or “I didn’t even see any piles of stuff.” Your real friends, the people that really love you, support you in your illusions. Or, is that delusions? Either way, thanks Dan. We’re glad you returned from the basement to tell the fable.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE BASEMENT

 

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Weep [on DR Thursday]

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‘and so he weeps.’ a morsel of weeping man

And so the story goes that one day, deep in the forest, Parcival was knocked from his stallion by a warrior who wore no armor. His magic sword, the object that he believed carried all of his power, was shattered. He lay on the ground like a turtle on its back, trapped by the weight of his shiny armor. He was tired of fighting. He was sad that, despite all of his victories, – he’d never been defeated – the world kept getting worse and worse. And so, laying on his back, exhausted from the fight, he stopped struggling. He gave himself over to his death. He let go.

But the nature-warrior disappeared. Parcival, alive but shattered, for the first time in his adult life, stripped off his armor. He dropped what remained of his sword. And, sitting amidst the wreckage of his life, the fragments of his power, he wept. He let go.

There is a path out of the wasteland. It necessarily leads through weeping. Through loss of illusion. P-Tom would call this a sacrament. Joseph Campbell would call it a threshold.

In any case, letting go of the illusion is necessary before the next chapter can begin.

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on WEEPING MAN

 

cropped head kiss website copy

 

weeping man ©️ 2015 david robinson

Think “And”

a second version, a second point of view of my painting Shared Fatherhood

I suppose it is the great trap in human nature to define life through oppositions. Was your experience good or bad? Are you liberal or conservative? Are you your brother’s keeper or is it every man for himself? Oppositions provide the illusion that there is a right way or a wrong way, that any issue can be reduced to a simplicity, a singular path. One way. Oppositions are great language devices for dictators and the righteous. They remove the grey tones and blunt the grey matter. With an opposition, us or them, “god” can be exclusively on your side (a small god, indeed) which self-grants permission for all manner of abuses enacted by “us” on “them.” The problematic word when employing oppositions is “or.”

“And” is a much more useful (and honest) term to employ when dancing with oppositions. Can you be your brother’s keeper AND take care of yourself? Certainly. Can you survive entirely by yourself without the participation of your brothers and sisters? Certainly not. No one lives in a vacuum; “or” is the great creator of illusory vacuums. “And” guarantees a conversation and perhaps a host of useful, challenging and robust perspectives. Both/And is always more functional than Either/Or.

AND the first version of Shared Fatherhood

The snag in “Or” is that there is very little truth in any reduction that ultimately lands on just One. This or that. All life is movement and all movement stops in One. Creative tension requires at least two points and a desire for someplace place to go. There is no single arrival station in real life. There is no achievement that stops all the presses. Every answer inspires new questions. Each question opens doors to multiple possibilities. Agreement is a fluid target at best and must be nurtured. Compromise is never an end state; it is a relationship imperative. Life is never found in the static “or.”

Do an experiment: go to the grocery store, choose any item and ask yourself how many people it took to bring your chosen item to the shelf at that moment. If you are not astounded by the complexity of participation, how dependent we are on actions of others, your imagination has most certainly failed you. Skip, entrepreneur extraordinaire and mentor to entrepreneurs taught me that a business cannot succeed until it serves its customer’s customer. Note the word “serves.” Businesses serve. Not simply a customer but the complexity of a customer’s customer. Entrepreneurism is a service to the creative genius of a community and multitudes of communities beyond.

Entrepreneurism, like artistry, ….even, yes, like governance…like all things vital, moving, complex and growing, live in service according to the good graces of AND. Anything else is a mirage.

 

 

 

Be Clumsy

a detail of my painting, May You Be.

a detail of my painting, May You Be.

Clumsy (klum’ ze) adj. 1. lacking dexterity, grace or skill; awkward. 2. ungracefully shaped or made; unwieldy. 3. awkwardly or unskillfully said or done, ill-contrived.

“We don’t allow ourselves to be clumsy,” Kerri said. “Life is clumsy.”

Many years ago I read a commentary that suggested we moderns have a harder time of feeling good about ourselves than people of ages past. The argument went something like this: we have an impossibly high standard to meet and it is mostly illusory. For instance, our predecessors compared themselves and their successes against a relatively small village populace. We are swimming in pool that stretches around the earth. The athletes in our ancestral villages ran against their neighbors, the artists created for a specific purpose that served a tangible need in their community. Our young runners know to the hundreth-of-a-second what greatness requires. They run against the world. Our artists rarely know outside of their own inner imperative why they are creating. With no outer limit they spend a great deal of time wondering if their work has any impact or greater significance. With no outer limit it has no defined audience or community. Stephen, a gifted and prolific artist, used to ask, “Why don’t people recognize the value of art?”

The argument is largely a question of access. Our predecessors had limited and very abstract access to the news of the day, to the happenings beyond their region. We have a 24-hour global news cycle that comes to us on multiple devices that are designed to grab and keep our attention. It is not passive. On our multiple devices we are bombarded with images and messages of what we should look and feel like. Yet, almost all of the images populating our personal measuring stick are constructed. They are manipulated, retouched, powdered and Photoshopped. Legs are stretched. Wrinkles are removed. Sunsets are filtered. We measure ourselves against illusions.

Thus, intermediaries are everywhere. Interpreters abound. I rarely go into a gallery without a curator telling me why the work on the walls is important. The news of the day makes us the rope in a tug-of-war of interpretation.

Art, like life, like deep spirituality, requires direct engagement. It is made rich in the rough draft and the mistake. The broken road is interesting, vital. Learning is a process that takes time. It is messy. It is clumsy. It is not straight, paved, and has no road signs. And, it cannot be walked alone.

There is no forgiveness (of self or other) on the path of perfection; forgiveness is in short supply when the standard is both impossible to attain and an illusion. On the clumsy path, on the messy and muddy road, lives grace, generosity of spirit and deep forgiveness.

Clumsy (klum’ ze) adj. 1. Human

May You Be

May You Be

 

Cooperate

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

During my drive from Champaign to Omaha, just after sunset, it began to snow. There was a swirling wind and in a matter of moments it was a white out. The road was mostly invisible. Cars immediately fell in line behind cars. Trucks slowed and set a careful pace. People cooperated without debate, without knowledge of the other drivers’ political affiliation, gender, race or sexual orientation. We needed each other. There was no power game or status imperative. All the silly illusions fell away. We needed each other and we did what came naturally. We cooperated.

There is a collision of two great thoughts that I appreciate. The first comes from my friend Roger, a director of plays and studier of humans; he once told me that denial was one of the strongest human impulses. The second thought comes for E.O. Wilson (I’ve rattled this off more than a few times) who said that the strongest human impulse is to belong. Combine the two thoughts and you get an amazing collision of impulses: a species called humans that need to belong to each other but deny it. This contradictory impulse makes possible The Gap or Old Navy; can you deny that you shop at a chain store to express your individuality as a way to belong? I can only imagine that the Martians are having a hey-day studying us.

And then the illusion drops, the second strongest impulse retreats and only the first remains. We need each other. We drive into a white out. The hurricane wipes our city off the map, the earthquake knocks our houses off their foundations. We pull together, put down our need to be right, and line up to help. We see our belonging. We see this thing called “”the common cause,” namely, survival.

The question, then, is obvious: do we need to wait until we’ve exhausted our fuel supply, depleted our aquifers, or warmed our globe before we suspend our denial and see this thing called “the common cause?” More and more contemporary science is finding that we have it all wrong: survival is not something achieved by the fittest; survival is a cooperative art.