Read The Walk [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Between the morning rehearsal and the evening wedding, we had several hours without commitments so we did the thing we most like to do. We walked. It was a gorgeous September day. We were in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, a miracle of reclaimed and converted warehouses, shops and condos that line the waterway. We followed the Riverwalk, Kerri snapping photographs, ambling our way to Lake Michigan.

It’s odd in this age of pandemic, to be in a city on a beautiful weekend day. The rules of engagement are different. The rules of enjoyment are different. Be out in the day but avoid the crowds. There was an art fair, a crush of people, so, as artists, normally pulled toward art gatherings, we walked the other way. In years past we would have waded in to the fray, talked to the artists, enjoyed people enjoying art.

Instead, we found a bounty of art on our walk. The shadows playing on the walls. The flowers. The finials. The sculpture. Everywhere we looked we found riches of intentional design. People dedicated to creating beautiful spaces had a field day re-imagining what had once been an industrial wasteland on the water.

Chiseled into the the boards upon which we walked was a narrative history of the city. We stepped on top of important dates of the Civil War. We walked across innovations, breweries arising in a city of beer, World Wars and the changes they wrought. Sports victories. We walked across the story of a previous pandemic, a hundred years ago. A few thin boards, markers of a tragic toll.

For a moment I stood and watched the kayaks paddling, the pontoon boats cruising the channel, the diners seated beneath umbrellas, the strollers, like us enjoying the day with no destination calling. Full moments in lifetimes that someday might be told in a few thin boards of narrative highlights.

I wondered how many people, how much dedicated action, it took to make this moment beautiful and possible. The architects. The artists. The artisans. The craftsmen and women. The laborers. The florists, The gardeners. The shopkeepers. The waiters. The chefs. The suppliers. The mail carriers,…Dreamers all, stretching back through time. Interconnected and interdependent in ways that only few recognize.

That’s the challenge, isn’t it? Were I to chisel the story of our pandemic in a boardwalk, or create a sculpture meant to capture our moment in narrative time, my theme would be interconnection and interdependence unnoticed. Unmasked. A myopic madness, a messy delusion of every-man-for-himself, a sure-fire way to perpetuate a pandemic or warm a globe.

There is, of course, no evidence for life thriving in a vacuum. On the other hand, there’s plenty of evidence, apparent on a stroll in a city on a beautiful sunny September day, killing some time before a wedding, that it takes all of us, every last life, to thrive. An artist needs an audience. A developer needs a supplier. A doctor needs a patient who wants to be healthy. Who wants to do more than survive. Thriving is, after all, a group sport. A careful reading of the boards tells a very specific tale: no one does this walk alone.

read Kerri’s blog post about OUR WALK

Enter The Sanctuary [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

This is an image of sanctuary. The back yard of dear friends, time spent together, taking precautions to be safe in a time of pandemic.

There’s more than one compromised immune system represented in this photograph. It is why we continue to meet outdoors. It is why, until we were vaccinated, we were careful to keep distance between us. How odd to honor the love of dear friends by inserting space between us. Our flip flops and sandals are stand-ins for a group selfie.

When our postal carrier came to the door to deliver a certified letter, she groused about the process for capturing the required signature, “We have to do this because of COVID,” she sneered, “even though there is no COVID.” We’ve learned not to push back on ignore-ance. I was reading about Brazil eclipsing the the over 500,000 deaths-mark when the doorbell rang. Kerri signed for the letter. She closed the door and we simply stared at each other. No words.

I delight in this photograph because, to me, it is slightly disorienting. If you had to guess which direction the photo was taken, you’d most likely guess blue. You’d be wrong. Perspective is just that – perspective. From my perspective, the photograph is upside-down. The photographer wears black flip flops.

We constantly locate ourselves in our stories. The location we choose is not passive or general. It is unique, dynamic. It gives us a point of view but does not afford us a lock on truth. Learning to question your unique perspective, to challenge your story-as-central, is an important growth step. It is maturation. Learning to question what you are told is an invaluable skill to develop.

As a lover of story, as a student of perspective, I am fascinated by the story-war raging in my nation. Politicians drape themselves in the flag, defending a violent insurrection on democracy, while demonizing and fearmongering BLM. Propaganda, hate-mongering and conspiracy theory is run amok and fueled by entertainment posing as news. Voter suppression laws, gerrymandering, stuffing the courts, all in the name of…what? The story of division. The dedicated maintenance of a half-story. A national story increasingly exposed as redacted. Why should a democracy work so hard to prevent a portion of its population from voting? To prevent its full history from being told? As we ask in the coaching world, “What’s underneath?”

Nations, like people, cannot grow until they look at the whole of their story, until all perspectives are voiced.

I’ve wandered back into the world of entrepreneurs and business. Each day I read or am shown the data on teamwork or the power of collaboration. The software-as-a-service world is dedicated to facilitating better communication, efficiency in sharing and collaborating, crossing disjointed platforms, and reaching into clouds where all are stronger as one than when in silos. I’m finding it intensely hopeful. Progress is calling us together. The economy is global as is the pandemic. We are in this together.

No one is healthy if all are not healthy. It’s the rule of the backyard, the honoring of dedicated friendship. My job is to protect you and yours is to protect me. It’s the story of the sandals and flip flops, the image of sanctuary, and, if not the yearning of this nation, it is the reality of this interconnected world.

read Kerri’s blog post about SANDALS

Pop The Bubble [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“I think we all see the world from our own little unique bubble.” ~ Julie Taymor

“You never know you’re in a bubble until it pops.” ~ Andrew Revkin

The word “bubble” has taken on wildly new significance in the past few years. We refer to our information-tribes as bubbles. This notion of “bubble” is defined by ideological agreement. The universe in the conservative bubble is unrecognizable to the universe in the progressive bubble and vice-versa.

We also create support bubbles, friends and family who have quarantined so they can safely gather together in their bubble. This bubble is defined by an agreement of safety.

We see photographs of people dining in plastic pods. Bubbles, bubbles, everywhere.

These bubbles are ultimately about safety. A support bubble provides a measure of protection from the pandemic. An ideological bubble provides a measure of protection from opposing points of view.

At the end of his days, Stephen Hawking popped his own multiverse theory – an infinite number of “pocket universes” – bubbles by another name – and posited something simpler and provable. It is the beautiful progress of science to burst previous understanding once new information is available. In science, as in life, nothing is static. We admire people like Stephen Hawking, who pursue truth, who are expansive and capable of saying, “I know more now. I had it wrong.”

Growth, maturity, is a parade of bursting bubbles.

We are currently witness to the latest in bubble-fossilization, the outright infantile resistance of fact driving a deeper retreat into the hard-shell bubble of reality denial. A Fox Parler. It’s a pressure cooker of conspiracy theory and magical thinking – anything to explain away those pesky facts, data points, and court rulings. All bubbles eventually pop and we know from history that angry-insular-bubbles burst violently. The killing fields. German villagers sweeping ash from their sills each morning. Planes flown into buildings. Mustard gas.

This violent bubble burst will be shared by all.

I suppose that is the point. If we’ve learned anything from this time of pandemic it is how utterly interconnected we really are. No matter how far we think we can retreat, bubbles, no matter how well blown, are permeable. The air I breathe is the same air you breathe which, lately, has been the problem. The air I use to blow my bubble is shared with all other bubble-blowers. My perceived independence is an illusion in a dynamic universe of interdependence.

Our dedicated bubbles will someday burst and, with any luck, as we form new bubbles, we will, like Stephen Hawking, be capable of saying, “I know more now. I had it wrong.”

read Kerri’s blog post about BUBBLES

chasing bubbles

chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

See The Whole [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

to bee or not to bee copy

The joke from my master’s program was that you couldn’t graduate until you could explain in a sentence what the degree meant. Whole Systems Design with an emphasis on Cultural Mythology and Transformational Art. I designed an individual track so I named the emphasis myself. Just don’t ask me what it means. I’ll kill the party going on and on and on. You’ll never get to the snack table. Really. Don’t ask.

Whole systems is the study of how everything – everything – is interrelated. It is only a trick of our brains and the limitations of language that anything can be compartmentalized and understood as separate. Everything interacts as a single system. Roger used to say, “When people hurt their toe they say that it is only their toe that is injured. NO! It’s their whole body that is injured.” Walking funny with a broken toe always gets you in the back and then becomes a pain in the neck. And then you become a whiny pain in the neck and create headaches for everyone in the family. The family complains to their friends and the broken toe spreads discord throughout the land.

Roger’s statement is a whole system’s statement. It highlights the illusion language places on our interrelated world. Language necessarily reduces. It provides the funny fantasy that we are separate, individuals, having little or no impact on the world with our individual actions. If you want an example of the fantasy in full force you need look no further than doubters of humanity’s impact on climate.  All you need do is breathe and you are interacting with the environment. 7.6 billion people driving 1.4 billion cars, not to mention the over 100,000 planes in the air each day, the deforestation of the Amazon…and it is gob-smacking that we require science to state what should be obvious with every breath we take.

I found that the real challenge of defining whole systems design to people at dinner parties was not the reality of inter-relatedness. The notion evokes the inner Mother Teresa in everyone at the table. We all matter and can have an impact. No, the real challenge was that the concept places us – humans – within the system and not sitting atop the creation pyramid. It makes us participants and not landlords. It makes us responsible to the system.  We matter. We have impact.

There is no greater teacher of interrelation than this pandemic. There can be no denying that our actions matter, we are intimately connected, that the smallest choice impacts the whole. Stay at home. Wear a mask. All you need do is breathe and you are interacting with the rest of the world. Literally. Everyday is a master class in interconnection. The polluted air is clearing, the animals are reveling in our quarantine.

And, we’re experiencing the magic language-compartmentalization-game in full force: words like “economy” are being placed against words like “health” as if we need to choose between one and the other. Who lives. Who dies. We’re hearing a ridiculous (and dangerous) framing of reality: the cure can’t be worse than the disease. There is no separation. The system is whole, dynamic and supports the actions and choices of all members in the system.

The toe is pandemic-broken. The whole body is hurting.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TO BEE

 

heart rock website box copy

 

Yoga-Waiting and Knowing sharpened copy 2

knowing and waiting, mixed media, 48 x 48IN

Be Us [on KS Friday]

always with us prayerflags copy

It is times like these that the grand illusion of every man/woman for themselves drops away. It doesn’t take long in a crisis to reveal how interconnected and interdependent we really are. As New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, said this morning, what I do impacts you and what you do impacts me. There is, in essence, no such thing as you and me.

This is true in good times, too. It is true in all times. It is simply true. What I do affects you. What you do affects me. What I do is often a ripple of what you’ve done and vice versa. We are not nearly as separate nor independent as we like to pretend.

The delusion plays itself out. The run on TP. We’ve all seen the lines at the gun store. Sooner or later it will occur – as it always does – that the best form of self-protection is participation in community. Participation is protection.

Ironically, it is the sturdy fabric of the interconnection – in good times – that allows us to delude ourselves into thinking that – in bad times –  we can do it all by ourselves. Stop for a moment, look at the food on your plate and ask yourself how many people were necessary for you to enjoy your meal. The rings of interdependence will run farther than your capacity to imagine. That is always the case.

An article shot crossed my email this morning. It was from an artist sharing her realization in the midst of this pandemic that she does not create art for audiences, she creates with audiences. Like her, my paintings are not complete until people engage with them. People are not complete in the absence of art. Listening to Kerri play is more life-giving than any of the news broadcasts we’ve been glued to. There are levels to meaning making and the heart level rarely requires data but always requires other people and their gifts.

This morning we are hearing of the real difficulty of social distancing: mental health is stressed in isolation. We do not do well in quarantine. We, do, however, get creative. Jen prompted us to text images of all things green so we are looking around the house for green things. Emails and phone calls are on the rise. Mike reminded me last night that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine for the plague. He meant it as a challenge, “Any takers?” he winked.

Rob wrote, “In times like these we NEED art.” Yes. We need art because we need to create with people. To experience with people. To story our experiences with people. To grieve with other people. To laugh with other people. With. Always. Us.

 

 

ALWAYS WITH US from the album AS IT IS available in iTunes & CDBaby

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ALWAYS WITH US

 

 

hands website box copy

 

always with us/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Walk As One

From my archives. I call this painting, "Alki."

From my archives. I call this painting, “Alki.”

Alan and I talked today. We are planning our upcoming Summit in Holland in June. Our conversations are always as wide-ranging as they are deep dives into sense making and soul. There seems to be no horizon that we won’t step towards, no secret passage that we won’t explore. This has been true since the moment we met. We’ve always been verdant collaborators. We joked that someday clients will hire us just to listen to how our minds spark each other. And, given our conversation today, we’d be worth every penny. We are both in the business of facilitating perceptual shifts and transformation so we do it for each other. Our planning sessions are a festival of insight upon insight, shift within shift. Together, we are innovation squared.

Recently, I shared a short TED talk by neurologist V.S. Ramachandran about mirror neurons and how deeply and concretely we are connected despite our belief/experience that we are separate. It came up again for me because during our call Alan and I discussed the waves of far-reaching impact that any simple action or word generates. Paul Barnes used to say to young actors, “Never underestimate the power you have to influence another person’s life.” Most of us are unaware of the impact that we have on lives that we never directly touch. For instance, I have had great teachers in my life and I carry their work forward in every word I write and every group I facilitate. My teachers will never know the many lives they touched and continue to touch. And, neither will I. And, neither will you. The best we can do is know that our actions matter, our thoughts matter, our intentions matter. We are more powerful than we understand.

No one lives in a vacuum. No one creates without influences. No one has a purely original thought. In fact, if you grasp what V.S. Ramachandran is addressing, no one thinks or feels independently of others. We are not as isolated or as separate as we believe ourselves to be. We have to work at separation. We are, each of us, continually co-creating (to use Alan’s term) our world in every moment of every day. What might you see if you stopped and pondered the implications of co-creation, if you took a moment and considered that you are not merely a bobber in an ocean but, in fact, are the ocean? How might you read the news of the day or address your dreams if you understood that you were a participant, a dynamic part, a burning point for the ancestors, a sender of ripples through space and time, and not simply walking this path all alone?

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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Consider Your Neighbor

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

At the beginning of class, Saul-the-chi-lantern asked a couple to speak of their recent experiences studying with the master. They’d just returned from a trip to New York. The woman (I can’t remember her name) said, “There was a quote that really struck me: What good is your chi if it does not consider your neighbor.” Given yesterday’s post, I smiled. Interconnectivity seems to be the theme this week.

Last night I watched a potent and unsettling interview Bill Moyers conducted with journalist and activist Chris Hedges. Hedges has written a new book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, about the impact of capitalism on the world. He roots his examination in 4 devastated and exhausted communities in the United States; places where the poverty is shocking and the system is wittingly or unwittingly maintaining the cycle. There is a cost in lives of our consumer economy that we shield ourselves from seeing – even within our borders. There is also an ecological cost that we pretend is not our doing.

Chris Hedges used a term, “moral fragmentation” to describe us, a society that has thoroughly confused money with morality, whose value set has eroded and been replaced with, as he named it, “Wall Street values.” He said of the financial players, they know the impact of what they do and think that being a good father is enough or absolves them (us) of their actions. This is what Joseph Campbell meant when he said, “Our mythology is dead.” In the absence of a cohesive narrative, a greater story, we eat each other; we justify the virtues of the 1% at the expense of the 99%. “We’re good people. We are justified. Our way is the right way.”

As within, so without; and the reverse I also true. When we forget that we are a community, we cannot participate as a global community; the motives are consumptive, the collapse is internal and inevitable. To off shore the jobs and expect economic recovery is madness. To put corporate wealth ahead of societal good is suicide. A society driven by bottom line motives is already bankrupt; it is only a matter of time before the exterior of the social body shows the internal rot. It is a cancer.

It is no small sentiment – and there was a good reason the quote stayed with my classmate: “What good is your chi if it does not consider your neighbor.”