Stand It Up Again [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On the high shelf above our sink are 3 tin letters that spell the word ‘Joy.” They’ve lived up there for a long time and have, until recently, been faithful spellers of joy. Lately, the tin “J” has lost all sense of balance. Either that or it has developed narcolepsy. Either that or it has a drinking problem. Either that or it’s developed a dreadful case of self awareness and, like a shy two year old, is hiding behind the “O.” In any case, our “Joy” now routinely defaults to “Oy.”

We’re sailing through some choppy waters so it’s tempting to assign too much meaning to our “Oy.” After finding the “J” once again laying down on the job I said, “Maybe that’s the universe talking to us.” Kerri punched me in the arm. She said over her shoulder as she left the room, “You better knock on wood.” Apparently the universe listens but does not speak. To be safe I did as she suggested and knocked on the cupboard.

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. ~ The Beatles

Live by the sword, die by the sword ~ Aeschylus

Isn’t there is some truth to the notion that what you put out into the world is related to what you get back from it? Of course, then there is this little pinch of conundrum: bad things happen to good people. Also, true. In story terms, it’s called competing narratives. Many people have spent their lives attempting to reconcile or explain this beautiful opposition.

Kerri came back into the kitchen, grabbed a chair , jumped up and returned the “J” to its sober position. “Joy” once again reigned in our kitchen. Perhaps there is no connection at all between what you put out and what comes back to you. I am certain it is one of those great unknowable questions that make believers believe, professors write, preachers pronounce, and seekers seek.  I am also certain that, in the moment, the only thing that really matters is our capacity to see the “J” amidst the “Oy” and stand it back up again.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about OY!

 

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Reach With Wonder [on DR Thursday]

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“One of the reasons that we wonder is because we are limited, and that limitation is one of the great gateways to wonder.” ~John O’Donohue

I loved this canvas before I painted Cloud Watchers on it. It was old and used. Chunky with layers. I can’t remember how it came to me but I do remember thinking that it was the Velveteen Rabbit of canvas. Loved. Well worn. A long history – that is to say – filled with lots and lots of story. Perfect.

And, how appropriate that it is living a next chapter as Cloud Watchers, part of a series that  I call ‘narrative.’ All narratives – inner and outer – are projections. Life’s stories are image transfers, meaning imposed just like the meaning we place upon the movement of clouds. There’s a duck! Look! There’s a dragon, a dinosaur, an elephant. A fear. A goal. An opinion. Mr Magoo! Belief! There’s Thomas Jefferson! The Buddha.

We reach with wonder from our isolation. We touch through imagination. We are cloud watchers full of story, filling the air with our stories. We are glorious creators all!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CLOUD WATCHERS

 

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cloud watchers/morsel ©️ 2002 – 6/2018 david robinson

Get It Done [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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When Master Miller tossed this phrase my way I laughed out loud. Isn’t it often the case that the closer we come to an important moment the more we pour  our excess nervous energy into any and every distraction? And, isn’t it a bonus if our distraction of choice is actually productive? I’ve washed a lot of dishes in an effort to keep myself occupied! A younger version of me ran miles and miles in fits of productive avoidance.

In the years since Quinn helped me see that no one really knows what they are doing I’ve decided that almost everything is in productive and/or creative avoidance. No one wants to peer into the great not-knowing. Like everyone else, I want to believe that what I do matters, that I am imbued with purpose. I want to believe that I have chosen my destiny and am storming down my path. And, what might I see if I could step out of my all important story? What might I find beyond my grand narrative? It’s scary stuff! Productive avoidance makes for some great distraction!

Kerri and I have an ongoing conversation about things that matter. At the end of the day, there’s only a very few things on the list. The rest? Well…at least we are getting things done!

 

read Kerri’s blog post on PRODUCTIVE AVOIDANCE

 

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Contemplate [on DR Thursday]

 

I do more than my fair share of contemplating (just ask Kerri. My incessant contemplation drives her bonkers). For instance, years ago, it occurred to me that every thought we human-storytellers have IS a kind of meditation. It’s a fair question – a necessary question – to ask: what are you meditating on? Your pain? Your troubles? Who you blame? Your grudges? Your obstacles? Your joys? Your opportunities? Your privileges? Your love? Your losses? Your list? All of the above?  Keep in mind (where else would you keep it) that most of your thoughts are repetitive. The majority of what you think today is a repeat of what you thought yesterday. Your thoughts are not passive. They are also not truth. They are patterned, mostly made up, and a powerful lens through which you define your experiences. The good news is that you can change your meditation if you want to.

Listening to the news it will make you gag when you stop and realize what actually populates our national meditation and how our angry narrative permeates your personal mediation. We are not as separate as we like to pretend. That’s good news. That, and, we can change our meditation. We can tell a better story.

 

This morsel comes from a painting that recently returned to the stable. It is, quite literally, a blast from the past. What I find most amazing about this particular return-to-the-fold is that, just a few months ago, I uncovered the old drawing that inspired Contemplation and sourced it again for another painting, Softly She Prays. And then, in a fit of good timing, Contemplation arrived at our door.

Paintings are like journal entries. It is not often that happenstance provides such a rich opportunity for comparison. Comparison of contemplation. What was my meditation 15 years ago? What is it now? Horatio told me my body of work is a study of stillness in motion (not a direct quote H, but I love the reflection non-the-less). The deep river story remains. The top layer meditation has shifted.

Ah. Do you see? Incessant contemplation.

 

 

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Contemplation, circa 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Softly She Prays, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on CONTEMPLATION

 

 

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contemplation/softly she prays ©️ 2004/2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Sandcastle With Me [on DR Thursday]

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My favorite ongoing series of paintings is called The Narrative Series. I’ve been adding to the series since 1989. It is my least popular series if sales are the determining factor of popularity. Mostly people respond with, “I don’t get it.” When I painted my first, I loved it and thought to myself, “I don’t get it.” So, I’ll spend my life trying to get it, all the while, knowing that it is impossible to get. However, when I birth another in the line, I know it is the closest I come to the center (whatever that means). These paintings are stories in broken time or, in the cubist frame of reference, they are stories in multiple time.

A few years ago I attended a lecture series featuring Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicists. They have two different theories of multiple universes and it was mind blowing to try and grasp both theories (who am I kidding, trying to grasp one was mind blowing). Brian’s was all about strings and Stephen’s was all about bubbles. The math works for both and I left the lecture with eyes crossed and reaching for sense. And I was thrilled. That day they were narrative painters, too.

Sandcastles and Me is a morsel of a recent addition to the narrative series, titled Spoons & Sandcastles (though you’ll find it in the Beach series folder on my site). If after looking at the morsel and the full painting you find yourself thinking, “I don’t get it.” Take heart. You are in good company.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SANDCASTLE WITH ME

 

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www.kerrianddavid.com

 

sandcastle with me/spoons & sandcastles ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Be An Idealist

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

We rolled down the windows even though it was still hot. The sun was almost down and we just began the climb out of the central valley. Skip said, “Do you think it’s cool enough to turn off the air-conditioner?” Neither one of us liked air-conditioning and only used it when absolutely necessary.

“Of course!” I chirped. We rolled down the windows and the hot air blasted us. I put my hands out of the car window and said, “See! Nice and cool!” Skip smirked and called me an idealist. Truer words were never spoken. I am an idealist.

I’m told (often) that the best thing about me is that I tell a good story. I will put a good spin on every experience. I’m also told that the worst thing about me is that I tell a good story. Is it denial or optimism? Am I detaching, dealing, not dealing or dancing? Am I telling myself a lie or loving to live? Maybe it is all of the above.

Like everyone I know I’ve walked a broken road. No ones’ path is pretty. Earlier in my life I invested in the tragedy and wrestled with every angel. I made up lots of demons to fight. My gifts scared me so I pretended they were not there and served the gifts of others. I dialed down my life-force. I lived in resistance. I took on everyone’s pain and made others problems and priorities my own. I created limits and then moaned about my confinement. I did all of those things, made messes and looked to the heavens and asked for a break.

The heavens looked back at me and said, “It’s not happening to you. You are creating it. If you want a break then make a break, break something, or take a break. Either way, stop pretending that it is someone elses job to make it pretty for you.”

What I broke (am breaking) was my idea of myself. Carol recently told me that she was breaking up with her relationship with the world. She wanted a new relationship. She was tired of waiting for the world to change her story so she decided to change her story of the world. I was tired of telling a broken story. I was tired of telling a story of being broken. I was tired of making my focus other peoples’ stuff. So, I broke up with my story. Call me an idealist or tell me that I’m in denial but this life is mine to interpret and I much prefer joy stories to frustration. As someone once said to me, “I’m the only one who feels my anger so getting angry all the time is only hurting me.” That rule works in reverse, too.

An hour after the sun set we were off the valley floor and the air finally cooled. I looked at Skip and said, “See! I told you it was cool!” He laughed and wrinkled his brow. I said, “This is the strategy of an idealist. Claim that it is cool and then wait long enough for reality to match the ideal.” It always does.

Change Your Story

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

I just finished reading Thom Hartmann’s book, The Last Hours Of Ancient Sunlight. It’s now on the top of my, “If you want to understand the forces that are shaping our world and thought, you have to read this book” list. Turn off the television and get this book. It’s that relevant; it’s that important. I’ve been diddling around these past few years with my observations and beliefs about power-over and power-with cultures and his book has slapped me into immediacy.

On the front page of my website is the banner, “Change yourself, change the world.” I work with people to change their personal story and it follows that they will then inhabit and create a different world. In reading Thom Hartmann’s book, my words are coming back at me with a force that takes my breath away. It’s not just a good idea to change your story and change your world; it is a necessity. It’s the second time in as many weeks that I’ve been smacked with a call to urgency. Kevin Honeycutt said, “Our kids are dying in our schools. What are we waiting for?” His call to action was a few days before New Town. He meant it metaphorically and the literal horror happened yet again. It is not that we do not know what to do; it is that we do not believe that we have the power to do it. The wall between our political will and the corporate dollar, something our forefathers warned us to keep distinct and well maintained, has disappeared. Is anyone truly in doubt about what force drives our national debate?

I realized this morning that my previous two posts have been about bullying. In a power-over culture like ours there are predictable and horrible impacts on the community. These things, bullies, school shootings, gun violence, disenfranchisement, gang warfare, stupidly high teen suicide rates, etc., are expressions of a power-over culture not anomalies of that culture. Manifest Destiny is a story of violence visited upon others. The narrative of a chosen people is a story of violence perpetrated against others. Power-over cultures wreak havoc on others but ultimately the sword cuts both ways: it is a cancer that eats the communal body from the inside out. Haves must have have-nots. It will always create a resource gap and separation that collapses the center, luxuries are confused as values, money with morality, and resources are exhausted in the insane pursuit of perpetual growth (consumption). Historians will surely write of us that yet another power-over culture relegated itself to the trash heap. We are playing the story perfectly.

I used to teach that there was a radical difference between self-help and self-knowledge: the difference, of course, is where you seek your answers. In a self-help world we look for our answers in other people; we want to be saved (savior stories are big in dominator cultures). In the pursuit of self-knowledge the answer is sought and found within your self. You don’t need saving because you are not broken or separate from the nature that surrounds you. In a power-with culture, your nature is not corrupt so there is nothing to tame or suppress or deny or control. These stories are fundamentally different; they are fundamentally different orientations into life. Cultures of power-over breed stories of self-help as a power-over culture is comprised of people who seek power from others. A power-with culture necessitates seekers of self-knowledge and is comprised of people who know that power is something that is created with others; all are powerful or no one is.

Our challenge is not about guns or violent video games or Hollywood movies; these are expressions of the story we tell and nothing will change, no matter the laws we pass or fingers we point until we decide to tell a different story. It begins with you and me. No one is going to save us. Change your story, change our world.