Ask, “What’s Really Happening?” [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Lately I’ve been mourning the loss of Occam’s Razor, you know, that simple but useful little principle that, in the presence of two explanations that account for facts, the simplest explanation is most likely to be correct. In our current national spin, the corrosive and stupidly-complex justifications are overrunning the simple explanation every time. For instance, is it more likely that the “Democrat” leaders are conspiring to inflate the pandemic numbers in a worldwide conspiracy (yes, 195 countries that rarely agree on anything are united in collusion with the American Democratic party!) to bring down the president – or – did the man botch the job and that’s why our numbers are so high? I’m going with botched job since I still have sight of Occam with plenty of data sharpening that simple razor.

Sometimes when I am sifting my too-many-thoughts-for-a-post I’ll jump into the Google pool in the hope that I’ll hit my head on a Google rock and clarity or at least some sense will come. Today I typed in a question: what conspiracy theories helped bring down the Roman Empire? There’s plenty to read if the fall of Rome is on your mind. I went down the rabbit hole and bumbled upon this fun phrase embedded in the List Of Conspiracy Theories page on Wikipedia [sidebar: there are more inane conspiracy theories than you might imagine and most find their place on the “What were we thinking” shelf-of-shame after a year or two passes. We can only hope that the good folks at Q or the pandemic deniers take their place high on the shelf before too long and too many people are hurt or killed from their delusion. Occam would cut them to ribbons if he weren’t laughing/crying so hard].

I digress. Here’s the phrase: Psychologists attribute finding a conspiracy theory where there is none to a mental illness called illusory pattern perception. Illusory Pattern Perception. It’s a “phenomenon in which observers see patterns that do not exist.” The epicenter of the illness that drives folks to see what is not there: lack of control. It’s existential, this American decline.

We are rapidly becoming the poster child for “a nation divided cannot stand.” As a lover of pattern, perception, and metaphor I find it profoundly sad that our latest chapter of lack of control has led us to division and mental illness. Seeing patterns where none exist. Making up horror stories about each other rather than letting Occam’s razor slice away the absurd and elucidate some simple truth.

Lack of control, as we know from the stories we just shared about 9/11, can also unite us. Lack of control can clarify us. It can inspire us to run into burning buildings, link arms with fellow passengers to rush a cockpit – knowing full well your action will bring a plane down and your life to an end – and do it anyway because your action will save the lives of people you’ll never meet or know. The lack of control can inspire us to stand in the hot fires of injustice (injustice is a control mechanism) and declare it wrong.

Unity, goodness, self-sacrifice – all of these virtues are exposed – or can be – in moments when control abandons us. Our path need not be ugly, vicious, divisive, or inhumane. The mental illness that blinds us is not natural to this nation – or to humanity. It’s what happens when frightened people, feeling out of control, meet a salesman of snake-oil solutions, a weaver of dark places in the public mind, rather than link arms and ask, “What’s really happening?”

read Kerri’s blog post about AMERICAN DECLINE

Look For The Manatee [on DR Thursday]

canopy copy

This has never been Kerri’s favorite painting. When I chose it for this week’s melange I asked her why she didn’t like it. She said, “Because there’s a manatee in it.”

“A manatee?”

“Keep in mind,” she said, “that I’m inkblot challenged.”

Wait. What?

Responding to the blank look in my eyes, she added, “I could never see Jesus in the pancake. Stuff like that.”

“The pancake?” My synapse fell short of the hoop. She Googled inkblots to demonstrate her disability.

“See (she pointed to an inkblot on the screen)! There’s Florida and I’m supposed to see Jesus. Wait. Oh. There he is. Wait! There’s a lot of stuff in there!” she marveled, squinting at the blot.

Blink. Blink.

“Oh! Maybe it’s that I see too much stuff in the inkblot!

I pulled up the image of the painting. “It’s called Canopy,” I said. I enlarged the image.

She looked close. “Wait. That’s not a manatee!” she exclaimed. “That’s a person’s leg!” She looked closer. “Hmmm.”

It is, after all, what I love about art: It is never complete. It emerges anew with each new look, each new performance. What I intend has very little to do with what is perceived and in that space between artist and audience, a new creation, a new conversation arises. Imagination is like that. It opens worlds of surprising possibilities. It projects itself into the known, into the painting, and magically transforms it.

“So, you don’t like manatees?” I tease.

“I love manatees!” she huffs. “Just not in your paintings.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post on CANOPY

 

 

 

 

 

not our best morning minturn website box copy

 

canopy ©️ 2009 david robinson

See The Pattern [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

napkin copy

Virgil: From what you wrote, I see that you think you have a problem. The first recognition is simple: you do not have a problem. You have a pattern. ~ David Robinson, The Seer

I’ve stared at this napkin for a long time wondering what to write. It’s not that I have nothing to say, it’s that I have too much to say. I’ve killed more than one dinner party going on and on and on about patterns.

In 2014 I published a book, The Seer. The first three chapters are about patterns of seeing, patterns of thinking. Patterns of self-story. So, rather than rewrite something that I have already written, here’s a small slice, an email conversation, from the first chapter of The Seer:

 ***

Me: I realized that I think in patterns. I think the same stuff over and over. This is a puzzle: the act of looking for patterns opened my eyes. So, patterns reveal. And yet, later, when I became aware of the patterns of my thinking, I recognized that those patterns were like ruts or grooves. It’s as if I am playing the same song over and over again so no other music can come in. My thinking pattern, my rut, prevents me from seeing. So patterns also obscure. Make sense?

Virgil: Yes. It must seem like a paradox to you. Think of the song or rut as a story that you tell yourself. Your thoughts, literally, are a story that you tell yourself about yourself and the world; the more you tell this story the deeper the rut you create. So, a good question to ask is: what is the story that you want to tell? Are you creating the pattern that you desire to create? We will return to this many times. This is important: the story is not happening to you; you are telling it. The story can only control you if you are not aware that you are telling it.

 Me: Can you say more?

 Virgil: We literally ‘story’ ourselves. We are hard-wired for story. What we think is a narrative; this pattern (song) that rolls through your mind everyday is a story that you tell. You tell it. It defines what you see and what you do not see. What you think is literally what you see.

 There was a pause. That was a lot for me to take in. When I didn’t respond, he continued:

Virgil: So, what you think is nothing more than a story; it’s an interpretation. You move through your day seeing what you think – instead of what is there. You are not seeing the world, you are seeing your interpretation of the world. You are seeing from your rut and your rut is a pattern. So, your patterns of thinking, your rut, can obscure what you see. Make sense?

 Me: Yes. I guess 😉 So, when I started looking for patterns outside of me, I…stopped seeing from within my rut? I stopped assuming that I knew what I was seeing. So, I was capable of discovering new patterns and connections?

 Virgil: Yes, something like that. You said that when you looked for patterns you slowed down and felt that you could see. I would say it this way: you stopped moving through your world and for a brief period you were actually in your world. For a brief period you were no longer lost in thought but present with what was right in front of you. You suspended what you think you know so you started to see again. You were curious. To be curious is synonymous with “not knowing.”

 Me: Okay….

 Virgil: Humor me and entertain this notion: your thought, your story, is not passive. It is a creative act. What you think IS what you see. Most of the time people create what they see based on their rut. They see what they expect to see. To practice curiosity is to suspend the assumption of knowing. To practice curiosity requires us to step out of the rut. Stop assuming that you know and you gain the capacity to see beyond what you think.

 A glimmer of light pierced the dark recesses of my mind. Suddenly I was back in front of the Sphinx and I could see the answer to the riddle. It was so clear! I typed:

Me: Wait! Is this why I need to distinguish between problems and patterns? If I tell myself that I have a problem to solve, I am telling a certain kind of story. If I tell myself that I have a pattern to change, I am telling an entirely different kind of story. Is that true?

Virgil: Yes. It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? A problem is a story. It is a lens that filters your sight. A problem does not exist unless you insist that it is there. You say that you are an entrepreneur. How many great products and services were the results of an accident in the lab? How many innovations were missed because the ‘solution’ did not fit the ‘problem’ as identified? A problem is a rut that separates you from possibilities. On the other hand, a pattern connects you to possibilities. See the pattern not the problem.

 

[go here for a fun Escher-activity about pattern to use during this time of social distancing]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE NAPKIN

 

tpacwebsitebox copy

 

the seer ©️ 2014 david robinson

Make It Up! Why Not? [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

BabyCat Computer copy

What exactly is going on here?

It’s possible that this cat through osmosis is assimilating large amounts of information, data, and e-knowledge by sleeping on a computer.

It’s also possible that this cat has an emotional bond with an inanimate object. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Consider that this cat, like a tree felled in the woods, toppled in exhaustiob and landed belly up in this unlikely position.

It might be the heat of the computer that attracted the cat. It’s uncertain in the photograph if the day is cold. This may be a heat-seeking cat. It’s possible.

This cat may not be sleeping at all. After all, this is a photograph, a moment of stop-action-time. This cat might be blinking or this could be a cat yoga pose. This could be an instance of deep-cat-satisfaction.

It’s hard to glean the truth of this photograph. It’s possible in our day and age that this enormous cat is nowhere near a computer. Photoshop is capable of making us see the unlikely, the absurd, the unimaginable. This cat might never have met this computer.

What, exactly, is going on here? We may never know.

I can tell you that this very-large-cat snores like a drunken sailor, especially when sleeping on or near the computer. It’s uncanny and I understand if you doubt what I’m writing. You have absolutely no reason to believe me.

You will undoubtedly make up your own story about this huge cat-snoring-computer convection. Heat transfer. You will assign your unique belief to this image. It’s what we do. It’s why, without doubt, anything is possible. Even the absurd. Especially the absurd.

What is really going on here?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE CAT AND THE COMPUTER

 

squarecat website box copy

 

*this photo is unaltered. This is not two cats or a large black creature engulfing a cat. This shape is what happens when too much cat meets the floor [help].

 

 

 

Gaze Through It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

seasons through the tree copy

Once, doing a night dive, through the inky black water, the sum total of what I could see was what existed in the beam of my flashlight. That experience provided insights into the limitations of perception and the power of focus placement. We see what we decide to focus on. We never see the whole picture.

It also gave me the Alice-in-Wonderland feeling of looking through a tunnel at an alternate reality. Peering through the portal, strange shapes darted across my beam. I was tempted to swim into the light, toward the illuminated world, but knew that I would never reach it. “There” was in constant motion and moved as I moved. It was hypnotic.

There is a old tree stump on our walks that Kerri likes to visit. It has a knot that serves as a looking glass. She peers through it and sometimes takes a picture to record the changing seasons, life as seen through the magic knot. Her photographs are a record of another kind of portal, another alternate reality only this one is not fluid. It is a fixed point of view. Yet, were I to sit for many days and gaze through this knot hole I’d be overwhelmed by the endless life-in-motion slowly moving within this limited view.

I used to lead groups through an exercise called The Long Walk. It is simple. Walk in any direction for ten minutes. However, if anyone can discern your movement, you are walking too fast. In fact, if you cover more than a few inches of territory in ten minutes, you have moved too fast. The Long Walk creates quite the challenge in a body used to racing through life. After the panic and frustration of slowing way down, an amazing thing happens. Senses open. Perceptions sharpen. The rich sounds and smells and breezes that generally go unnoticed crackle into presence. Tight concentration morphs into wide awareness. And, for a few short breaths, the mind ceases its babble and nothing stands between the walker and the walk.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TWO VIEWS

 

springfall website box copy

©️ 2019 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 

Enjoy The Ride [on Merely A Thought Monday]

there's nothing wrong with... copy

There was that eye-popping day that I ran across the street, more geezer than man. Somehow, my knees and hips, rather than running with the ease I had always enjoyed, squeaked and creaked and rattled along. Although I made it to the other side without being hit by oncoming traffic, I was forced to face the fact that my appendages were aging. I needed to allow more time in my crossing.

And then there was the day that I was driving. My eyes, always 20/20, missed an exit because I could not see it. I blamed it on the oncoming headlights, a dirty windshield, a too busy mind. A paper thin veneer of denial. I knew I’d finally come to the day that my eyes were no longer hawk-perfect [vanity note: I still don’t wear my glasses unless I need to read subtitles at the foreign film festival or drive at night. Denial, although thin, is elastic stuff].

When I was a kid I was on a road trip with my mother and grandparents. My grandfather was driving and he was pulled over for speeding. When the cop came to the window, my sharp-as-a-tack grandfather transformed. Cranking down the window he was suddenly a doddering, hard-of-hearing, slightly shaky, clearly demented old guy. The policeman asked for his license and my grandfather looked in panic to his wife for interpretation and assistance. The cops next question was, “Is this man capable of driving?” We stared  blankly ahead. Grandpa dialed it back a notch and recovered some coherence and believability. He got off with a warning. That day I learned one of the primary advantages of aging.

Sometime since moving to Wisconsin, I crossed a magic line. Although I do not think I am old, I am, more often than not, seen as old. A grey beard helps that perception. I confess to looking into the mirror and seeing, not my face, but my grandfather’s. Actually, a mix master image of both of them. They stare back at me when I brush my teeth. I now brush my teeth in low light.

I find this new mask odd and slightly intriguing. Sometimes I wonder who this new face will become. Sometimes I wonder who this new face is. Mostly, I can’t wait to be pulled over. I know exactly what to do and only hope that Kerri will play along.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about There’s Nothing Wrong With Being Older

 

Sacred Looking In with color copy

sacred series: inner life. one of two versions of this image. it is one of the many benefits of aging is to look inside and see lots of color!

 

vailKdotDdot website box copy

sacred series: inner life ©️ 2017 david robinson

Distort! [on DR Thursday]

lovers distortion1 copy

Lately, when picking images for the melange, I go into the studio, quick snap a few photos, toss them to Kerri and ask her to choose one. It’s that random. This week, I tipped a stack of canvases, much like you’d open a book, shoved my camera in the ‘open page’ and snapped this photo. A morsel of LOVERS. Also, because the painting was tipped, there is an angle of distortion that I like.

Angle of distortion. I like the phrase. It implies that there might be a viewpoint without distortion. As an artist it doesn’t take long to learn that a point of view – every point of view – is a distortion. Follow people through a gallery displaying your paintings and you quickly discover the varied and surprising nature of perception. A single painting. A multitude of interpretations, few of which have anything to do with the painting you thought you’d painted.

My grandfather used to count the fingers and toes in my paintings. Sometimes there were six toes, sometimes four fingers. It puzzled him. My response, that I live post-Picasso, was of no comfort to him. He was puzzled and delighted by my straying from the standard number. He would knit his brow if I’d have told him that I live post-Michelangelo. Those renaissance artists knew how to distort things and get away with it!

Reality. Normal. I’m no longer sure what those words mean anymore other than “agreement.” A gathering of the distortions at the crossroads to compare notes.  My grandfather would have shaken his head and told me that idea was nuts.  “We live post Einstein,” I’d say, much to his chagrin. What do you see in this painting, deep within the age of relativity? Well, it all depends upon your angle of distortion.

 

lovers - full copy

lovers, 18 x 37.75, acrylic on canvas mounted on hardboard

 

read Kerri’s blog post on LOVERS

 

 

cheers! shopping in chicago website box copy

 

lovers ©️ 2012 david robinson

Fly Above The Clouds [on Two Artists Tuesday]

in the clouds copy

I was eighteen years old the first time I was above the clouds. It was a revelation. Even then I was in awe that I live in a time that I can see above the clouds. In the history of humanity, that makes me one of the few. One of the fortunate.

Miracles become the new norm and so, routine. Unseen.

Last week I was once again above the clouds. The sun was rising and the colors magnificent. I was propelled back in time to my first flight, my first sight of the thing Leonardo da Vinci could only dream about, what Van Gogh could only touch through imagination. I was revisited by my eighteen year old self and was once again awash in awe.

The cloak of routine drops and the miraculous is revealed. It is merely a matter of seeing it.

As I sat buckled into my seat, I wondered how much of my life I lose to the notion of ‘routine’ and, so, miss the obvious crackling truth: I’ve never lived this day before. I’ve never experienced this moment before. I am flying above the clouds every day. I have no idea what is about to happen, what I am about to see.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FLYING ABOVE THE CLOUDS

 

slow dance party cropped website box copy

 

Walk To The Other Side [on DR Thursday]

BlowingWishes Morsel copy

There is a ping-pong table in my studio that is piled high with paintings that are not yet stretched. And, because these paintings are constantly moving, pulled and tacked to the wall to be shown then placed back in the pile, they are stored with no particular order. This process of random stacking and re-stacking allows us to see the pieces from many different points of view; what was top is now bottom. It affords new perspectives, it helps me see again as if for the first time.

PileIt is such a simple thing and yet so hard to do – to let go of what we think is right, allowing a new perspective of something that we think we understand.  The word I’ve learned to pay attention to is “think.” The skill of an artist is to see beyond what they “think.” The gift of the artist is to help others see beyond what they think. To pop open new perspectives and make space for new possibilities.

It is easy to confuse thinking (interpretation) with ‘seeing.’ They are not the same thing. It is so easy to believe ‘stuck thinking’ is ‘being right.’ It’s a good practice – a healthy practice – to spin things around a bit. To doubt what you think so you might have a more direct experience. So that you might see. So that you might learn. So that you might experience today as different from yesterday.

Life, as they say, is always found in the direction of not knowing.

Kerri calls this morsel BLOWING WISHES. It’s what you see if walk to the other side of the ping-pong table.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BLOWING WISHES

 

warm springs ranch statue website copy

 

 

greet the day/blowing wishes ©️ 2011/2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

See The World How? [on Two Artists Tuesday]

MASTER big screen on what we see copy

 see the same thing on Kerri’s blog post

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

random seeing ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson