Sow A Better Seed [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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The last Monday in May, what was once called Decoration Day has, over time, become known as Memorial Day in these United States. On the first Decoration Day, several thousand people descended on Arlington National Cemetery and together decorated the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. Honoring the dead.

BENEATH THIS STONE REPOSE THE BONES OF TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN UNKNOWN SOLDIERS GATHERED AFTER THE WAR FROM THE FIELDS OF BULL RUN,… [Tomb of the Civil War Unknowns].

The bones of combatants together in repose. Dust to dust. It turns out they were made of the same stuff after all. I have, since I was a small human, wondered why we only get around to honoring the front line after they are gone. It seems a little late to make statements of mattering after we dig a big hole and fill it with bodies. Why not honor each other before we step on opposite sides of a whipped up divide?  Why not hold hands together prior to repose?

I know, I know. Silly idealism! There’d be no drama if we honored each other up front. Peace and collaboration do not make for scintillating news. Cooperation and common cause is bad for weapons sales. When all the deeper meanings of existence have been masked (consumerism is a lousy soul-filler), then the superficial fillers take over. Hatred of other, conspiracy theory and fear-mongering are great unifying forces when buying stuff no longer fills the metaphysical black hole.

Kerri has said it. So has 20. I’ve heard it from Jim, from the checker in the store, from people walking on the trail, the nurse interviewed for the news: “I’m tired.” General fatigue is understandable in the midst of the emotional pandemic roller coaster but I’m sensing a deeper root to the ubiquitous weariness: fields sowed with division and lies and  distraction and misinformation and malfeasance.

Throughout time, those idealist/realists that we most admire and strive to emulate, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandi, Mother Teresa, Rumi…[it’s an extensive list] including those that we profess to worship, would each and every one ask us why, with all we espouse and purport to believe, do we sow our fields with combatants who find togetherness only in repose?

Today we honor those who died in the many, many, many battles that fill our divisive history. Perhaps tomorrow we will find a way to turn to each other and sow the seeds of courtesy and generosity, and find a way to honor each other before we join together as dust.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TIRED.

 

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held in grace: rest now

Let The Pieces Fall [on KS Friday]

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“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

 

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longing/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

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Swear Just A Little [on DR Thursday]

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If hyperbole and superlative hooked up one night at a bar and made a baby, it would be born muddy orange and wear a long red tie. Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it?

Language is not a static thing. It evolves. The meaning of some words morph and change. New words are born. Old words retire and eat grass in the pasture. Some words flip and point the other direction.

When I pulled up this FLAWED CARTOON it was with some sorrow. It was written/drawn in another era and was actually meant to be funny, you know, like a joke.

The word ‘truth’ has definitely fallen into disrepair. It once required a certain veracity. Conformity with fact. No more. Elvis was been kidnapped by aliens. Michael Jackson lives in a bunker in Cuba and writes manifestos for Raul Castro who is really Julia Roberts in a funny hat. The Deep State is and has been for 10 years trying to undermine the duly elected president, just ask the mysterious Q and you’ll get Chef Boyardee’s secret lasagna recipe which, read backwards, will tell you the secret burial location of Mary Magdalene.  She is still alive, by the way, thanks to a healthy dose of hydroxychloroquine. Just ask the Post! It helped her chronic acne, too. Truth, I say! All you need do is check my alternative facts or let that sneaky fox hypnotize you by whispering sweet prevarications in your ear.

Who knew people would believe anything (note: I’ve removed the word ‘almost’ from this common phrase because it no longer applies) ((double note: the sky is falling. Fact! It’s  controlled by the CIA and, if you wear a red hat, it is out to get you, too!))? It’s a little known fact that sky really hurts when it falls. Sometimes it even cries though, being male, it generally tries to suck it up and hide its tears. Look it up if you doubt me.

The word ‘whole’ might also be in danger of meaninglessness. It used to mean, among other fairly straightforward definitions, undamaged. Intact. Consider these phrases: Whole truth. Nation as a whole. Nowadays it almost sounds like a joke, doesn’t it?

The truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth.  I swear! Now, that’s too funny, whatever that means. What a joke! Trust me on this one. Really.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WHOLE TRUTH

 

 

 

 

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whole truth/FLAWED CARTOON ©️ 2016 david robinson/kerri sherwood

Consider Madness [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Our scene opens in a global pandemic. A camera collage reveals people, young and old, furiously tapping away at keyboards; through the miracle and misery of technology, people are working from home.

The shot settles on a couple – definitely NOT technology natives – working hard not only to do their work but simultaneously learning the technology necessary to do their work. They are recording audio files, making slideshows, movies, translating files from one format to another format, posting and pulling down the work they just completed because this platform does not accept the same type of file as THAT platform. They nuance, tweak, twist, crash, rinse and repeat. Their learning curve requires ropes, crampons, and pitons (it is a steep climb).

They are also creating language combinations that will certainly make this film unsuitable for small children.

Their technology is old by modern standards. Ancient, really. They are children of depression era parents so they make things last rather than regularly trade up or buy new. The proof is in their kitchen: their stove is almost as old as they are – three of the four burners are still working – so they see no reason to buy something new. Imagine this mindset meeting the computer age! The combined age of their laptops is greater than the age of a graduating college senior. That is to say, although they do not yet know it, they are becoming masters of making old programs work with new software. Electronic-duct-tape-solutions.

Occasionally a madness overtakes them. Their test projects border on the insane, the utterly silly. They cackle. They pop the cork a few minutes earlier than might be advisable. They consider posting their mad-mad test project instead of the sober iteration that they’d intended. They leap from the sanity ledge and plummet into the ridiculous, pulling the rip cord at the last possible moment, slowing their fall. They post the sober work and heave a sigh of relief. Bullet dodged! The absurd remains a secret.

What would the world think if they actually saw the rough draft? The test project? We slowly fade to black as the couple closes their laptops, clinks their wine glasses, refusing to acknowledge the madness that nearly overtook them. They casually walk to their ancient and simplistic stove, asking, “So what shall we make for dinner?”

[music swells. roll credits]

read Kerri’s blog post about RANDOM LEARNING

 

 

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Why Ask Why [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A rare warm day, walking the Des Plains River trail. I should have been startled when Kerri suddenly jumped off the trail but I’ve grown accustomed to her spring-loaded-photo-impulsive-gambols. I actually love the passion of her image capturing so I’ve learned not to be surprised when she leaps and snaps. There is no danger. There is a photo opp.

“SEE!” she exclaimed, showing me the photo. “Even nature is asking ‘Why?'”

My first thought: Which “why” is nature asking? Why a pandemic?  Why so much division?

Simon Sinek has made a career of teaching people to ask “Why?” before asking “How?” It makes sense: you should probably know why you want to scale the mountain before asking, “How will I do it?” People need an answer to “why.” And, because we are human, the answer to “why” need not be reasonable or rational. “Because it is there,” is an acceptable answer to “why?” I want to. I need to know. I want to feel. I need to see what is there.

“How?” is a question that can only be answered after the fact. “How” is known through reflection. There is the plan. There is the reality that comes when the plan meets the unknown forces. The plan changes. The only honest answer to “how” is: do what makes sense and we’ll talk about it later.

Amidst a pandemic, it is only human to throw up our arms to the sky and demand an answer to our “Why?”  To borrow a lyric from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: “I don’t believe in an interventionist god. But I know, darling,  that you do.” In other words, viruses are intention-free. Sometimes, even though we want an explanation, there is no “why.”

There is, however, always a plan, there is a path to “How?”  How do we protect ourselves? How do we deal with it? In fact, there are layers to the question “how?” The first layer of ‘how’ is simple: social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands. Looking back from this vantage point, we know it is the best we can do short of a vaccine. Simple science.

The second layer of the how-cake is more complex and, like all ‘how’ questions, we will only be able to talk about at some point down the broken road. Maybe a vaccine. Maybe herd immunity. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe we will be foolish, like the Philadelphia parade during the Spanish flu and escalate the death toll to the point that we wake up and listen to the first ‘how?’

The virus is a force like a tornado is a force. Why did it take my neighbor’s house and not mine? Why did the forest fire rage through this neighborhood and not that neighborhood?

Here’s the only “why” question we really need to consider: in the face of this virus-forest-fire, why did we rush out to light matches (pack into bars and onto beaches), parade around screaming about our individual rights instead of metaphorically rushing into the fire to save our neighbors in the only way we knew how (social distance, masks) –  as we would have done in an inferno?

I don’t believe in an interventionist god. But I do believe in intentional human beings (conscious and otherwise).

Nature need not ask “why?” We do. It’s a sure bet that our answer will make little or no sense at all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHY

 

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Imagine It [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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This is a tale of two schools, both in the same school district. It is the story of the very day when the younger version of me grasped with both hands the absolute importance of the arts, when I understood to my bones that art was not a luxury but a necessity in a healthy world.

As the manager of the theatre conservatory, I sometimes went to observe the actor outreach programs in the schools. On this particular day, two schools were on the schedule. At the first school, I followed a team that went into the younger classrooms, 1st graders. They played imagination games with the students. I saw princesses and dragons and superheroes reach into wild possibilities.

We left the first school and literally drove across the tracks to the poorer side of town. I decided to follow the same team. They played the same imagination games with the same age group but, at the this school, the children played “Where will the rent come from?” This time, instead of flying into possibilities, these children hit an imagination glass ceiling. The hard realities of life already had a strangle-hold on their creative minds. The actors had to work hard to break through the glass ceiling. I realized that, for these children, it was not safe to entertain possibilities.

Picasso once said that, “He can who thinks he can, and can’t who thinks he can’t. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.” We dream ourselves into being. That is the point and the power of the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. That is the purpose of art, to open our imagination so we might create  a better, more expansive version of ourselves. To intend and give shape to what we imagine.

This inexorable, indisputable law applies to nations and communities as well as to individuals.

We have always been a nation divided. There have always been tracks to cross. Our history is of a two party system tug-of-war. We’ve espoused equality while practicing slavery; even our rhetoric is at odds with itself. The new wave of immigrants have been subjected to unspeakable cruelty from the previous generation of immigrants. There has always been “haves” and “have-nots.” The question of whether of not we can unite in the face of diversity is at the epicenter of the American experiment. Can we imagine ourselves whole? Can we create opportunity for all? It is a question with no definitive answer because it requires us to engage with it again and again and again. We must imagine ourselves anew each and every day.

We unite when we are at our shining best. We pride ourselves on the dream of creating a new world where all people experience the freedom to create what they can imagine. Creative tension, competition on a level playing field, invites innovation and invitation. We can.

We divide when our imagination fails us. Fear always fills the void left by vapid imaginations. We are – like people of all nations in all times – easily manipulated when we lapse into fear and turn our angst on each other. It is, after all, a strategy. Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book used by dictators and emperors to fracture an otherwise powerful populace.  It will play out as it always has and always will – a weakened nation. A collapse. People who turn in and cannibalize each other.

We-the-people are telling ourselves a miserable story. The pandemic is merely exacerbating our real dilemma. Divide and rule is filling the void, installing hard glass between us and our best imaginings. We are eating each other alive.

We are better than this. We deserve better.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WE DESERVE BETTER

 

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an instrument of peace

Reach The Moon [on KS Friday]

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Today is Kirsten’s birthday. “My daughter is turning 30 today…” Kerri said, disbelief washing over her. In non-pandemic times we’d most likely have driven to Colorado to see Kirsten – even if it was only for a day or a meal. I’ve learned that motherhood knows no limits where love for a child is concerned. “She might as well be on the moon,” Kerri whispered.

Not being able to see Kirsten, Kerri hatched a plot that involved over 60 people, a kind of virtual surprise party. For weeks she’d secretly collected love and birthday wishes from friends and family from all over the country. She spent the entire day yesterday assembling the wishes into a slideshow. There was a second slideshow with virtual gifts.  They were the perfect projects for a mom trying to reach the moon.

I worked all day in the studio (staying out of the way – it was perfect for me, too) and could hear the giggles, the gasps, and the curses of slideshow creation. Every so often I’d sneak a peak and watch her building the rocket ship to carry momma’s love through space and time. It’s a paradox, this gentle intensity. This thing called motherhood. Composer of lullabies. Protector of babes. Dedicated traveler through space and time.

 

AND GOODNIGHT on the album AND GOODNIGHT…A LULLABY ALBUM is available on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AND GOODNIGHT

 

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and goodnight/and goodnight…a lullaby album ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood