Fail At The Box [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Among Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements is this gem: do the best that you can.

Through the lens of the Occident, those folks on earth oriented to the idea that their nature is bad and needs taming, the Agreement is a statement of self-forgiveness. Do the best that you can. It’s a good bit of advice when everything on earth seems to come with a measuring stick.

Don Miguel is Toltec so his Four Agreements are rooted in an entirely different understanding of nature. To do the best that you can has little to do with performance or achievement. There’s no judge sitting on the high bench scrutinizing goodness or badness. There’s no book with black marks next to your name. This Agreement is about setting an intention. The other Agreements are about speaking with impeccability, making no assumptions, taking nothing personally. In other words, it’s never about you; you can’t possibly know the reasons why; your words matter. So, do the best that you can.

Circumstances are uncontrollable. Sometimes people are mean. Sometimes the tornado comes through and blows your house away. It’s not personal. You probably can’t do anything to change the tornado and even less to change other people. So, change yourself. Or, better, be yourself. Attend to your story and free yourself from the illusion of living under grand judgment or any of a number of other control fantasies. Do the best that you can.

Lately, I’m pondering the too-tight-image-boxes we squeeze into and try, but can never quite, fulfill. The impossible image; a too tight expectation. The Pleaser. The One Who Knows What Is Right. The Peacekeeper. The Strong One. A step away from the box-expectation, the-role-I-think-I-must-fulfill, is a giant leap into happiness. Inside the box it is virtually impossible to do the best that you can. Boxes are alive with assumptions (what I must do, who I must be); buzzing hives of judgment, and, when in a box, speaking truth is frowned upon, so editing and/or silence rules the day. Just try doing your best when living in a too tight box!

Fear and anger fill boxes. That is, after all, the purpose of the box, the fruit of the impossible mission.

Here’s my advice to myself: fail at the box. Cut it up and put it into the recycle bin. Then, free of the too-tight judgments, it’s possible to set mistake-free intentions. Life as finger painting: do the best that you can.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SOME DAYS

Let Fly [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut, If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice For The Young

It is now my opinion, based on life’s experience, that it you don’t find the cliff, the cliff will find you. Wing development is the name of this game. Hide in the closet, bury your head in the sand, drink yourself to oblivion, pretend the monster is not at the door, and you’ll discover in your last moments that looking the other way was, in fact, your cliff.

Master Marsh once asked me why I had the need to run and jump off every cliff. At the time I said, “I don’t know!” My latent response comes straight from Vonnegut: wing development. Apparently my wings took their sweet time developing and needed some extra cliff-age. And, as we all know but are too polite or arrogant to admit, wing development never ceases. There’s always another cliff until there’s not.

We had a rare warm day so took a walk on our favorite trail. The brilliant raw sienna of the empty pod caught Kerri’s eye. While she took photos of the pod I thought about the thousands of seeds it once held that took flight on the wind. A few certainly found fertile soil. Most did not. That’s the idea behind Kurt Vonnegut’s advice. Don’t hoard your idea seeds. Put them out. Audition for the play. Submit your story. Offer your idea. There’s great truth to the advice: your job is to put it out there, not to decide whether or not it is good enough. Explode the pod rather than protect the seed.

Greg recently told me said, “it doesn’t have meaning until it’s published.” He wasn’t speaking about publishing in a newspaper or by Random House. Sending an email is an act of publishing. To text is to publish. Greg was referring to sharing. It has no meaning until it is shared. And, sharing your creations can be -and often is – vulnerable and scary. Giving a speech is terrifying to most people. Dancing, painting, composing a song, playing a solo, offering your idea in a meeting…all are acts of publishing. All are potential cliffs to jump off.

Explode the pod. Let the seeds fly. The wind will carry them. Some will find fertile soil. Most will not. Wing development is easier when you realize that you are a pod of ideas and not a judge of worth or value.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE POD

Gurgle On! [on DR Thursday]

I’m certain the first time I tried to walk I was not successful. A few stumble-steps and a return to the floor. My first attempts at speaking the English language did not receive a passing grade. As I recall (and I don’t recall), I made some gurgling sounds into which the adults surrounding me projected meaning. I’m certain they cheered and encouraged me to gurgle-on.

Learning is not a terribly difficult thing to do when 1) there’s a reason to do it, and 2) judgment, including words like “success” or “failure” are absent from the experience. Thank goodness my first art teacher treated me like an infant and, rather than critique my mess, she encouraged me to gurgle-on. Consequently, I associate my artistic impulses with fun and exploration instead of the thousand shades of rignt-and-wrong that most people are subjected to.

Recently Skip wrote and asked, “What’s the second rule?” Suspend your judgment and learn.

We just bought a mandoline. It slices and dices and chops and cuts. “The first thing we’re going to make is potato chips!” Kerri proclaimed. And, then, her brow furrowed. “What if we do it wrong?”

“We’ll learn something and make another batch.” Trial and error. Both “trial” and “error” are essential ingredients in the learning process and, since all of life is a learning process, you’d think someday we’d learn to value the “error” portion of the experience. We do ourselves a great disservice placing so much emphasis on passing the test and having the “right” answer. The essential ingredients of trial and error can’t breathe in brains fogged by so much right-and-wrong-ness.

Our first batch, like our first baby step, was a stumble. But more delicious. We stood over the pan eating our result and discussed second steps. What should we do differently next time? Less heat or more? Thinner slices or thicker? This is all I know. I love to learn, especially when food is involved and judgment is not.

read Kerri’s blogpost about POTATO CHIPS!

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Pursue The Quiet [on KS Friday]

If I were going to write an autobiography I’d call it IN PURSUIT OF QUIET. Drawing has always quieted my mind. The simple act of descending the stairs into my studio has the same effect. I’ve learned that it is not the picture on the page or the image on the canvas that I’m chasing, it is the quiet mind I enjoy.

When I was a teenager, Mahlon and I drove into the mountains, hiked through the snow and set up camp. It was so quiet, the cold wind whispering through the treetops, the only meaningful voice in the conversation.

During the first winter that Kerri and I spent together, the snow was a siren call. We had to go into it. More than once, late at night, we’d bundle up and walk and walk and walk. The sound of our feet crunching newly fallen snow, the wind off the lake – no words necessary.

I reread what I wrote on this day last year, the first day of the new year. I vilified the previous year. I spouted hope for a better year to come. I know better now. It’s best to be quiet. It’s best to reserve judgment, to stay far away from “should-be” or “might-have-been.” It’s best to stand on the back deck, face to the sky, feel the flakes hit my face, and appreciate…all of it. Every last bit of it.

read Kerri’s blog post about SNOW WHISPERS

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Dissolve The Image [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

We watched a live stream of the protests yesterday. The streamer interviewed many people. He chatted casually with others. What became abundantly clear was the myriad of issues driving people to the streets. The catalyst may have been the shooting of Jacob Blake or the president’s visit but the deep matter that drove each person to the street was utterly individual, personal. Unique. All trying to give substance and voice to their deep matter.

So many people alone together. I was witnessing a part of the Sisyphus saga that I’ve written about repeatedly. A boatload of souls arrive in the underworld, disembark, and wander along the beach. Each is completely unaware of the other souls. So wrapped in their story, they think they are alone. Finally, their stories play out, and in the silence they begin to see each other, and in coming together, dissolve, and blend into a single bank of mist. From separation to unity.

A quote from Krishanmurti roared into my mind: “You say that if the mind has faith in the image, then the image will give power to the mind. Obviously; the mind creates the image and then derives power from its own creation. That is what the mind is everlastingly doing: producing images and drawing strength, happiness, benefit from those images, thereby remaining empty, inwardly poverty stricken.”

The mind creates the image. The mind gives power to the image. The mind creates the story. The mind gives power to the story. It’s a fantasy feedback loop. We are mistaken to call our image, our story, “normal” or believe it to be “truth.” The protesters stand toe-to-toe and shout into the faces of others, a screaming match of conflicting images. A story collision.

“But the mind cannot create truth. What it creates is not truth, it is merely an opinion, a judgment.

Even as I write this I think, “Who cares?” The shouting, de-friending, families dividing and plunging into right-or-left-media-madness that matches the image-of-the-mind is escalating. The tug-of-war for story dominance is vicious and it seems Ethic and Moral have packed their bags and fled to a safe house.

Despite warning and wailing and prediction, the streets were silent last night. So still. Perhaps in our silent moments we will begin to see each other, and like the souls in the story, be drawn together, dissolving our individual images into a single bank of purpose. Perhaps.

read Kerri’s blog post on this Not-So-Flawed Wednesday

Free Your Freedom [on Merely A Thought Monday]

dontgrowup copy

David sends photographs of his young son, Dawson, painting. Or playing. Or just enjoying the moment. I love them. They bring smiles and a Picasso-esque reminder. Paint like a child. Play-to-play and for no other reason. Wear a cape and fly!

Adults get enmeshed in all manner of weird issues. They come to think that things like wearing-a-mask-during-a-pandemic can be an inhibitor to their freedom when, in fact, they gave away their freedom ages ago. They grew up and forgot how to play, how to mush color around with their fingers, how to roll down a grassy slope and run back to the top to do it all over again. They forgot how to play with others. They muzzle themselves.

Adults give away their freedom when they come to believe that a brand of car or the label on their clothes gives them status or makes them sexy. They confuse their money with their morality. They give away 5 days so they might live for 2 or, worse, they suffer through thirty years of toil with the zany idea that they will live life when they “retire.”

Adults get lost in illusion. They snap towels and brag about their wild-side while pulling on their uniform-stiff-collar-suit and cinching up a tie around their neck. They somehow come to think that pushing other people down will raise them up the ladder. They create odd justifications: dog-eat-dog or business-is-business or divide-and-conquer. Play-to-win and for no other reason.

Let’s face it, adults fill themselves up with fear and judgment. They can’t paint with their fingers because someone might call them childish or stupid or worse! And, horror of horrors! What if their finger painting isn’t perfect in the eyes of others?! Shame is a great inhibitor especially when it is the imagined response to fun-and-free-self-expression. The only safe thing to do is put away the dangerous color, wash the paint from your hands. The only safety is to judge others! Establish some mask of authority; become the arbiter of right and wrong. Dole out the shame so as not to receive it. Phew.

Adults mistakenly believe that power is control, that power is something wielded over others. Every child knows that power has nothing to do with control. Power is something created with others, like painting with your dad. That is power-full! Even infants know that power is a relationship of mutual support, it crackles between people. Humans-of-every-age are never more powerful than when helping others grow.

Poor sad adults have it upside-down and backwards. As I used to tell students, “Any idiot with a pistol can take life, it takes a very powerful person to give life.” There’s no real power in the taking. There’s infinite power in the giving.

Just so, there’s no freedom in the taking. There’s infinite freedom in the giving, the free expression, the playing, the laughing, the sharing. Every child knows that.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DON’T GROW UP!

 

 

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ChasingBubbles (full) copy

 

chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

See The Truth [on Merely A Thought Monday]

you are beautiful (chicago) copy

 

“The mind has the power to do the most extraordinary things…But the mind cannot create truth. What it creates is not truth, it is merely an opinion, a judgment.” ~ Think On These Things, Krishnamurti

Last night at a gathering with our pals, we had a hysterical conversation about looking into the mirror and not recognizing the wrinkled, aging face looking back. The image in the mirror does not match the image in the mind. We agreed that we feel much younger than we appear.

Mirrors are mysterious and magical devices. They are surprisingly powerful. They merely reflect an image, yet, it is impossible for a human being to look into a mirror without launching a fleet of judgments or hosting a party of comparisons. “I look old.” Old? Relative to what?

A quick glance into a mirror is most often an image-check on how we think we appear. And, here’s the kicker: the quick glance is an image-check on how we think we appear to others. In other words, mirrors are excellent for feeding the fantasy that we have control over what other people see. None of us truly knows how we look. None of us has any control over what other people see. Mirrors inspire illusion illusions.

We do, however, have control over what we see.

I have rarely met the person who has made the choice to look in the mirror and see beauty staring back. I’m not referring to the ego-beauty, the magazine-model-concocted-beauty, but the inner-light-beauty. The recognition that life-is-a-miracle-beauty. The nothing-is-broken-and-nothing-needs-to-be-fixed beauty.

There is a beauty that is the truth; it bubbles just beyond the opinions and judgments and comparisons. We see it in others. Last night I looked around at my pals laughing and sharing stories and each and everyone was brilliantly beautiful. Now, looking in the mirror, I ask, what prevents me from seeing ‘what is there’ instead of ‘what I think is there?’

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BEAUTIFUL

 

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Put It In Context [on Two Artists Tuesday]

THIS from the ferry copy

Context (noun): the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

I love this photograph. It could be of the salt flats. It could be desert landscape. It could be the arctic snows. Absent of context, how can we know?

The headstone of the 21st century will read ‘Taken out of context.’ I was a teacher when the internet first washed over the land and the question on every educator’s desk was this: how do we teach students to discern what information is valid and what is not? Education is, at least partially, the pursuit and discernment of what is true and what is not.

Discernment (noun): the ability to judge well.

In a world in which any one can post anything about any topic in service to any agenda, void of context and with an astounding expectation of 280 characters or less, how do we judge well? No attention span available. No context necessary. Discernment is out of reach. As W.B. Yeats wrote, “The center cannot hold.” 

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”  (Yeats, The Second Coming)

Context avoidance and manipulation is not unique to the 21st century. It’s been around since the invention of preachers and politicians. We simply have the tools to amplify it and glut ourselves on the fat that remains.

‘Taken out of context’ comes with a cold surgical sister phrase: after the fact. They knew after the fact. He was an accessory after the fact. It was only after the fact that they saw what was there all along.

fact (noun): a thing that is known or proved to be true.

How do you know or prove something to be true? It is the same question educators faced so long ago: how do we discern what information is valid and what is not? Well, begin by slowing down enough, care enough to place the thought, idea, opinion, data, in its full context. Conviction, ideals, truths…all of these lofty words, have meaning and value, become grounded, solid, and meaning-full – in the presence of context.

(The photograph was taken from a ferry cutting through the surface ice at Death’s Door).

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pull the camera down and this is what you see

 

read Kerri’s blog post on ICE LANDSCAPE

 

zigzag through ice website box copy

 

Do A Rough Draft [on DR Thursday]

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the field in early october: a morsel

I love seeing artists’ rough drafts. One of my all time favorite art exhibits was the hundreds of drawings and sketches John Singer Sargent executed en route to his painting, El Jaleo.

I’m more interested in the process than the final piece. I’m more captivated by the search than the find. That includes my own work as well. For me, the final painting is less a finished piece and more of a pause in the conversation.

It bothers me when a curator tells people what a painting is about or what the artist intended. I’ve squirmed many times during openings of shows when the gallery curator, introducing my work, tells people what my paintings mean. It locks people out. It prevents them from having THEIR relationship with my painting. I squirm equally when the work is not mine. I want a more pure experience.

To me, art is a doorway to the sacred, to the deeper things that words often cannot reach. It is a passage back to the beginning, to the fingerpainter, the child freely playing – prior to the time when a judge is planted between the painter and the piece, the painting and the viewer. That is where the riches are. And in that place it is all a rough draft.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE FIELD IN EARLY OCTOBER

 

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a field in early october/morsel ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

DR Thursday

a slice of heaven for your DR Thursday melange

a slice of heaven FRAMED PRINT copy

This weeks morsel: A Slice Of Heaven

Hans the realtor led me through the house, through small narrow channels that cut a path through the collected debris. Years of old newspapers were bundled and stacked high. In one room, thousands of text books were piled to the ceiling. “You will have to use your imagination to see the space,” Hans said. Windows closed, curtained against the light, I had a hard time breathing as we squeezed our way through the makeshift passageways.

Finally, emerging from the suffocating rooms, we stood on the front lawn. I gasped, “How can anyone live like that?”  Hans the realtor, unruffled by our stroll through the hoarder’s house, said, “Everyone has their heaven. This is what their heaven looks like.”

It was a lesson in suspending judgment. Hans the realtor had seen many houses and had glimpses into many lives. Each unique. Some recognizable. Some not. He knew that all we ever get is a glimpse into the world of another person, the smallest keyhole view into their life, and an even smaller peak into their heaven. And, a peak is never the whole picture.

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A Slice Of Heaven comes from this original painting titled, They Draw Sunsets In The Sand, 35.5 x 47.5 IN

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A SLICE OF HEAVEN merchandise [gift cards, wall art, apparel, and more…]

a slice of heaven FRAMED PRINT copy

This weeks morsel: A Slice Of Heaven

a slice of heaven cards copy

gift cards

a slice of heaven BLUE copy

a “just words” framed wall art

a slice of heaven METAL TRAVEL MUG copy   a slice of heaven SQUARE PILLOW copy

 

read Kerri’s thoughts on A Slice Of Heaven

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a slice of heaven/they draw sunsets in the sand ©️ 2018, 2017 david robinson & kerri sherwood