Turn Around And Look [on Merely A Thought Monday]

A few years ago, while swimming in the world of entrepreneurs, I wrote a short book entitled The Seer. It was in many ways a process summary of the work of my life to that point. All of my work – whether in the visual arts, the theatre, diversity and intercultural facilitation, systems change, teaching…driving a bread truck, shoveling dirt…all of it, has in one way or another orbited the moon we call ‘story.’ Occasionally, I pull my little book from the shelf and read what I once knew because it seems more relevant now than when I wrote it.

For instance, the white house recently pulled the plug on all diversity training in government agencies. The reason is simple and explicitly stated: they do not like the story it tells of these-once-united-states. The story, they claim, is “anti-American.”

I structured my book around 9 Recognitions. The first is this: You do not have a problem. You have a pattern. We don’t have a problem. We have a pattern.

Our pattern, generation after generation, is the lengths we will go, the violence we will suffer, to ensure that we exclude a significant part of our story from the national telling. It is untenable to maintain a nation-story built on the ideal of equality that began with, among other things, the institution of slavery and the annihilation of native peoples. To avoid the full story guarantees a schizophrenic national persona. It perpetuates division. Ours is a pattern of adamant story avoidance.

The story works well for the white aristocracy that created it. It’s an exercise in celebrating Doctor Jekyll while denying the existence of Mr. Hyde. Those good guy settlers had to eliminate those pesky “Indians” because they stood in the way of a destiny that was manifest. What is the story as told from the Native American point of view? Or from the point of view of the black American that, to this day, everyday, navigates institutions designed to repress them? They have lived this history – this story of slavery, Jim Crow, and new forms of institutional violence. They are located in the story as the obstacle or the bad guy. The less-than-human.

Diversity training is nothing more than an attempt to tell the full story from all points of view. It is only made necessary because we have a deeply ingrained pattern of either dismissing the full story or pretending that our inequality is in the past.

We cannot become whole until we look in the mirror and reflect on the full picture. It is as ruthless as it is hopeful. It is as dark as it is bright. The path to health for any individual is to first admit that they have a dis-ease. The same is true of a nation.

In the recent actions of the white house, the response to the BLM movement, we are witnessing the latest in our pattern to severely edit our story made the more violent because diversity is percolating its way into the halls of power.

The slogans “Keep America Great” and “Make America Great” only make sense or have appeal to those committed to the Jekyll part of the story. They are the pattern. They are a rally cry to those who feel that in real equality they have something to lose. It’s an “all hands on deck” siren that will tolerate all manner of violence, ugly rhetoric, shaming, dereliction of duty, undermining of judicial integrity to avoid admitting the full story entrance into the American narrative.

The good news is that it is possible, once the full story is realized and the pattern is seen and told, to change the story. The tension is, after all, between conserving what was and progressing toward the ideal.

America may one day become great.

First, we must tire of our schizophrenia, our commitment to division and a system that works for the few. Doctor Jekyll must turn and take a good honest look at Mr. Hyde and stop pretending that the horror that follows him isn’t really there.

read Kerri’s blog post about GRRRREAT!

Ask The Essential Question [on KS Friday]

in transition copy

Quinn told me that there are really only three questions: Who am I? Where am I going? What is mine to do? All other questions can be boiled down to one of these essences. All stories can be reduced to one of these questions. And, the real kicker? There is never a single answer to these three essential questions. Life is always moving so, the moment you think you have an answer-by-the-tail, you’ve moved to a different place. You’ve changed. You will change again. And again. The story evolves. The long body of a life is rich in transition. Life is transition.

Change the pronoun. Who are we? Where are we going? What is ours to do? These are the questions beating at the heart of the American experiment. Our rhetoric is out of alignment with our reality. It turns out that our hero tale has a matching anti-hero story. We know it but do not deal with it. The shining city on the hill was built on the backs of slaves and sustains itself on a rolling subjugation of the latest arrivals. We revel in inequality while proudly pronouncing that all are created equal.

As master Shakespeare reminds us, “…but at length truth will out.” Our truth is out. We are a festival of inequity. There is a yawning maw between the haves and the have-nots. It is by design and not by accident. It is not our problem as much as it is our pattern. And so, we  ask one of the essential questions: Who are we? And, in asking it, we must first look at how we define the pronoun ‘we.’ WE. The people. Who are WE? White male land owners? The one percent? Or, many diverse and rich origin stories come together in a promise of one nation, a nation of equal opportunity for all devoid of exploitation? It is the ideal. Is it the intention? Who do we want to be?

WE, as I understand it, is all inclusive. Multi-cultural as one. Both/And.

I take heart. Every caterpillar has a melt down phase en route to becoming a butterfly. The mush phase is necessary to fulfilling the mature promise, the expression of the ideal. In transition.

 

IN TRANSITION is on Kerri’s album RELEASED FROM THE HEART

 

read Kerri’s blog post about IN TRANSITION

 

 

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in transition/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

waiting and knowing ©️ 2015 david robinson

Love Your Language [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

love greater than fear copy

You know the old joke: two priests are having an argument so they take their debate to the Pope. The first priest writes to the Pope and asks if it is okay to smoke while praying and the Pope answers “No!” The second priest writes and asks the question this way: is it okay to pray while smoking? The Pope responds, “Of course!”

Language matters. In our current world, inundated as we are with marketers and media – language packed with agenda – it seems we are especially dulled to the power of a few words [or the exclusion of a few details] to shape our actions and opinions. We are easily led. Easily divided. Easily provoked to Facebook frenzy.

The way we frame questions determines the possibilities we see or the possibilities we do not see. That is why it is a mistake for us to frame the questions of our troubled times as either/or questions. To defund the police or not defund the police?  Fear or faith? Us or them? Liberal or conservative? Which is it?

None of the questions we face are simplistic. None can be addressed – or should be approached – with black and white thinking. We’ll only see the poles and miss the million shades of gray in-between.

Leaders that divide-to-rule are especially fond of a rhetoric featuring only two options. They play angel/devil games: there are angels and there are devils and since everyone thinks they are the angel, it is an automatic role assignment to anyone with an opposing point of view. It doesn’t matter what side you are on, the agenda is division so mission accomplished! Language matters.

I’ve heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate. It is fear. Fear splits even the greatest hearts and minds like so much kindling. It creates enmity within and, therefore, enmity without. It reduces and makes the complex things – like listening to others – impossible. It demands that meaning be made before the experience is had – and so it is a rally of made-up monsters.

So,  the opposite of fear? It creates goodwill. Within and, therefore, without. It unites. It embraces and expands and includes. It makes no assumptions. It listens. It ultimately surrounds fear and makes meaning after having the experience and, in that way, relieves the troubled mind of its monsters. It has the capacity to hold a full spectrum of color and options (sometimes known as possibilities). It knows that there is more to this universe than angels and devils can allow. And so, just to be clear in my use of language: the opposite of fear has no opposites. That’s precisely what makes it much harder to grasp than fear. Fear is easy to achieve. Love is an ongoing relationship and has no end.

Language matters. The genius of our system, as it was once imagined, was to allow for opposing points of view to come together in an action called “compromise.” It was designed with complexity in mind. It was intended to pull all perspectives toward a common center, a middle way. An idealist might call that – a common center – something akin to love.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LOVE>Fear

 

southport sand heart website box psd copy

 

Drop The Condition [on Merely A Thought Monday]

suffer gloriously copy

Anyone who tells you that people are not fond of suffering has either 1) never experienced love or 2) never loved an experience. Kerri assures me that giving birth to her children was at the same time the most painful and most joyful experience of her life. It is why humanity, throughout its diverse cultural variations, all bandy-about some version of the phrase “unconditional love.” As they say, love is a sword that cuts both ways. Or, to use a weapon-free metaphor, love is a lemon, both bitter and sweet. All inclusive.  No conditions.

If we are lucky, we do what we love. Whether climbing to the mountaintop or walking the path of an artist, both come with a fair amount of suffering. They also come with an inordinate amount of elation. Moments of passing fulfillment. It is just as I have been taught: the secret to happiness in this life is to  do what you love simply because you love it. Walk toward your love and the suffering will make sense. It will make sense because the suffering-in-love is always transcendent. All inclusive.

Walking toward your love with an added layer of condition (i.e., it has to make money) and you lose what you love. It contorts or goes to dust.

The Buddhists have a phrase: joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. This world is filled with sorrow and suffering and injustice. To be fully alive is not to protect yourself from feeling the sorrows or from experiencing the suffering, but to stand in them. Participate. Engage. Drop the notion that life is an achievement and you will open to the full experience. Colors on the palette.

This is not an abstraction or a dose of idealism.  If you are not walking toward your love you are, in all likelihood, walking away from what you fear. With fear as a motivator, the natural destination is a fort. Separation. Self-preservation. Exclusion. Living in a fortress makes for a very small world, a narrow band of  experience, lots of rules and a multitude of dull and angry days.

We are living in a time of overwhelming challenge. This pandemic mountain is steep. There is undeniable suffering. Fear is being fed. Conflict nurtured. Division fueled. Fear drives people to gather at the governor’s mansion and demand to open the economy. In their blind-fear-madness the protestors rave about acceptable losses. The mind can be a dull angry fortress when the heart is lost in the conditional. Souls twist.

Love, on the other hand, brings nurses and doctors, after attending to the sick and dying, to stand silently in the midst of the fear protestors. Their message is simple. Go home.

Do not doubt that these nurses and doctors are suffering, climbing a very tall and dangerous mountain, but it all makes sense because their love is without condition. They are asking all of us to do no more than think of the suffering of others. They are. Love without condition is simple. All inclusive. No loss is acceptable.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SUFFERING GLORIOUSLY

 

southport sand heart website box psd copy

 

 

 

Infuse Them With Hope [on Two Artists Tuesday]

THIS AsYouIs copy

Go to the AS YOU IS website and this is what you will find:

As You Is® was created to start conversations… to cause total strangers to smile… to make people think… to get others to feel so accepted they break out in impromptu dance… and to put a serious chink in the armor of racism.

Our hope is one day children can embrace being uniquely themselves, where they feel safe being different and where old people —like our founder Michael Fornwald — can age gracefully or ungracefully sans self-contempt.

Please join us by infecting others with hope one hella cool t-shirt or cap at a time.

It happened to us, just as Michael intended. Strolling down the aisle of the farmer’s market, we saw the shirts and stopped in our tracks. “What is that?” I asked Kerri. She smiled, and then laughed, and finally said, “Let’s go find out.” We talked with Michael for the next 20 minutes. He shared his story. We shared ours. We talked about acceptance of self and others. We talked of the need for hope in these ugly, divided times. And while we talked, others saw the shirts and stopped in their tracks.

We stepped aside and watched as people did double-takes. Some hovered and talked. Some danced and laughed. And talked. Some ventured into the center to talk, as we did, with Michael. The shirts started conversations.

Call it a brand or call it a mission, in Michael’s case, it is both. It’s genuine. It’s based on the premise that acceptance of others begins with acceptance of self. You’d be a fool to argue with the premise.

Amidst our divided national narrative it is a serious and legitimate question to ask: would you rather infect others with hatred or with hope? Michael’s answer is clear and he’s doing more than talking about it.

We are the proof that it’s working. We walked away infused with hope, stepping just a little bit lighter, and the conversation he inspired in us hasn’t stopped in the weeks since we happened upon his shirts.

as you is website screenshot copyGO HERE. BUY SHIRTS. SUPPORT THE INFUSION OF HOPE

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AS YOU IS

 

be kind collage with color font copy 3

SHOP KERRI’S ‘Be Kind’ DESIGNS

 

cropped head kiss website copy

 

be kind designs ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 

Live Without Fear [on Two Artists Tuesday]

withouttfear copy 2

Last week we met my niece and her husband in Lake Geneva for a glass of wine. They’ve been living overseas and were gobsmacked at the recent changes in our nation. “How do you have conversations?” she asked, adding, “Everyone is so angry. It’s impossible to talk about anything important. It’s impossible to discuss or debate ideas or points of view.”

“It’s a minefield,” I said, not really knowing what else to say. There is so much anger which can only mean there is so much fear. The only thing that makes sense to me is that our nation, an ongoing experiment, is cutting through the weeds of our central question: can people of diverse backgrounds come together and live united in a single narrative? If the past two years was your only evidence the answer would be a resounding NO. Thankfully, there is a broader sample. We are a work in progress.

No one can see clearly the times in which they live. And, since the conversation last week has been much on my mind, and an answer to the pervasive fear is no where to be found [and would be a ruse at best], for insight I can only offer A Two Artist Tuesday Quote Collision:

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that aren’t so.” ~ Mark Twain

“The idea of a causal universe and a social order built on universal moral laws is toppled by the uncertainty principle. The absolute is replaced by the relative…. Reality becomes a matter of highly variable conventions, rather than a set of fixed and eternal facts.”  ~Jamake Highwater [Jamake gets the award for consecutive quotes. He also made an appearance yesterday!]

“A lot of lip service gets paid to being honest, but no one really wants to hear it unless what’s being said is the party line.”~ Colin Quinn

It is not an accident that our science, our art, and our politics are roiling in relativity. It IS our current common narrative. Contemporary art, like modern science, began with breaking down the idea of absolutes. Politics and public opinion do not lead but they follow.

The experiment is no longer confined to our shores: in a global economy, in the age of 24 hour news cycles, Facebook, Twitter and Google, in our age-and-stage of relativity, can people of diverse backgrounds come together and live united in a single narrative called relativity? Can we transcend our fear of otherness and step outside of our echo chambers? Can we listen as passionately as we proclaim? It seems that it will require a great deal of respect for otherness with a high degree of empathy and low investment in self-righteousness.

Well, we’ll see.

if you'd like to see TWO ARTISTS copy

read Kerri’s blog post about LIVING WITHOUT FEAR

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

living without fear ©️ 2006/2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Two Artists Tuesday

be kind

I love this image. It works as a subtle infinity mirror, two parallel mirrors that create a ripple of ever smaller reflections that seem to extend into infinite space.

Be Kind. The first and most obvious mirror is an ideal and like most ideals it is unattainable. It is unattainable because it is not a fixed state, a grasp-able thing.  It can’t be bought. Kindness is not an achievement.  Instead, it is a way of being, an aspiration, a flowing river. Like most things unattainable,  it is easily tossed into the dustbin of cliches. Why be kind in a dog-eat-dog-business-is-business-every-man/woman-for-him/her-self world?

Be Kin. The second mirror, the parallel that creates the ripple, is not an ideal, it is a simple reality. It is also not attainable because it simply is.  It cannot be attained but it can be ignored. In fact to ignore our innate kinship requires a serious dedication to denial, an elaborate fantasy of control. It  seems we humans, we makers-of-belief, have a choice to either recognize or deny our kinship.

With inclusion, with the recognition of like-ness, comes the desire to reach for the unattainable kindness. The desire to reach for a greater spirit, a better nature, our natural state.

Exclusion, on the other hand, is a sad and scary state. It is a lonely single mirror, self-directed, single-reflective, a “me” space, and, thus, it is incapable of seeing or participating in the infinite ripple.

On this Two Artists Tuesday, step into the melange and consider looking through the ripple. Be kind. Be kin.

BE KIND. BE KIN merchandise

be kind framed print    be kind mug  be kind pillow

 

kerrianddavid.com

check out Kerri’s thoughts on this Two Artists Tuesday

be kind. be kin ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 

 

 

 

Change They to We

photo-2

the next step in my painting, The Weeping Man. He’s nearly complete

The word that’s captured my recent attention is the word “they.” I’m captivated by language choices that might at first seem insignificant but, once unpacked, are profound. “They” is one of those words.

“They” caught my attention when 20 was making us dinner. His recipe included fennel and, until we googled it, we thought anise and fennel were the same thing. While we Googled for truth, Kerri asked, “Why would they name something twice?”

“Good question!” I replied and then asked, “Who are ‘they?'”

“Good question!” she echoed as the Google oracle brought us clarity about our fennel/anise confusion (as it turns out they are two different plants). Google was not very useful in clarifying who “they” were.

So, this week I listened for samples. Some of what I heard: “Why would they do that?” (a conversation about women in another culture). “They don’t care about us.” (what else, politics). “Don’t you think they cause their own problems?” (referring to a situation in a local minority community).

“They” can be a word of distancing, a word of exclusion. If you want to mess with the meaning, simply change the pronoun. For instance: why would we do that? We don’t we care about us. Don’t you thing we cause our own problems? “We” is inclusive. “We” makes us participants. “We” makes us culpable.

a detail of Weeping Man.

a detail of Weeping Man.

What if, in our current state of mis-education for instance, we stopped asking about our policy makers, “What are they doing?” And, instead, asked, “What are we doing?” What kind of action or meaningful discussion might ensue if we simply refused to use the word “they?” What if, as artists, we stopped asking, “Why don’t they get it?” and instead asked, “What don’t we get?” Artists do not create in a vacuum. Our expression might be individual and unique but without a community to receive, debate, appreciate, revile and otherwise engage it, has little purpose. After all, “they” are “we” if our language will allow us to see it.

the previous photo/stage I posted

the previous photo/stage I posted