Love Your Language [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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You know the old joke: two priests are having an argument so they take their debate to the Pope. The first priest writes to the Pope and asks if it is okay to smoke while praying and the Pope answers “No!” The second priest writes and asks the question this way: is it okay to pray while smoking? The Pope responds, “Of course!”

Language matters. In our current world, inundated as we are with marketers and media – language packed with agenda – it seems we are especially dulled to the power of a few words [or the exclusion of a few details] to shape our actions and opinions. We are easily led. Easily divided. Easily provoked to Facebook frenzy.

The way we frame questions determines the possibilities we see or the possibilities we do not see. That is why it is a mistake for us to frame the questions of our troubled times as either/or questions. To defund the police or not defund the police?  Fear or faith? Us or them? Liberal or conservative? Which is it?

None of the questions we face are simplistic. None can be addressed – or should be approached – with black and white thinking. We’ll only see the poles and miss the million shades of gray in-between.

Leaders that divide-to-rule are especially fond of a rhetoric featuring only two options. They play angel/devil games: there are angels and there are devils and since everyone thinks they are the angel, it is an automatic role assignment to anyone with an opposing point of view. It doesn’t matter what side you are on, the agenda is division so mission accomplished! Language matters.

I’ve heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate. It is fear. Fear splits even the greatest hearts and minds like so much kindling. It creates enmity within and, therefore, enmity without. It reduces and makes the complex things – like listening to others – impossible. It demands that meaning be made before the experience is had – and so it is a rally of made-up monsters.

So,  the opposite of fear? It creates goodwill. Within and, therefore, without. It unites. It embraces and expands and includes. It makes no assumptions. It listens. It ultimately surrounds fear and makes meaning after having the experience and, in that way, relieves the troubled mind of its monsters. It has the capacity to hold a full spectrum of color and options (sometimes known as possibilities). It knows that there is more to this universe than angels and devils can allow. And so, just to be clear in my use of language: the opposite of fear has no opposites. That’s precisely what makes it much harder to grasp than fear. Fear is easy to achieve. Love is an ongoing relationship and has no end.

Language matters. The genius of our system, as it was once imagined, was to allow for opposing points of view to come together in an action called “compromise.” It was designed with complexity in mind. It was intended to pull all perspectives toward a common center, a middle way. An idealist might call that – a common center – something akin to love.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LOVE>Fear

 

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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

 

FaceTheRain

Rise [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Signs of the the times. 1) The salutation in almost very email I send, every email I receive, is this: Stay safe. Stay well.  2) The most common response to”How are you?” is some variation of this: Staying more or less sane.

More or less sanity.

I expect a revival of Salvador Dali, a new wave of surrealism. What was solid melts and drips. What was fluid is frozen. None of the rules of normality apply. “So this is what pandemic feels like,” Chris wrote.

The hat we call “normal” has been knocked off our heads. Nothing is normal. Or is it? In our house we have an ongoing socio/political conversation about whether things have always been this way and, in the severity of the moment, we are now seeing it. The ugly politics. The gaping disparity. Or, is this madness new?  Are we more or less sane now?

We’re taking our afternoon walks in the cemetery at the end of the street. It is the only place we can walk without having to be constantly vigilant about bumping into other people. “It’s weird that, in the midst of a pandemic, we have to go to a cemetery to safely walk.” Kerri noted.

Yes. It is weird. Is it more or less sane? The only thing we can know is that all measuring sticks are broken, all of the old navigation points have gone missing. We are standing solidly in the midst of the unknown. What will be true next week? Anything is possible.

And, that is the point. The sword of possibility cuts both ways. Right now, anything is possible. If we get caught in the sticky notion that our circumstance defines us, then we are hurled to the side of less sanity. Panic. Chaos. Fear. Every man/woman for themselves. If we hold fast the notion that we are creators and are experiencing but not defined by the present pandemic fire, then renewal and re-imagination pull us in the direction of sanity. We stay centered in the midst of the fury. People helping people to survive, to thrive. The best rises in us. Brother’s/Sister’s keeper, and all of that. More sane. Not less.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MORE OR LESS SANE

 

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may you….[be healed]

Turn Around [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Jen suggested green. So, throughout the day, to keep us sane in our home-stay-life, we shared pictures of green things, surprising and ordinary, that we found around the house or in our walks. The next day was lines. Then circles. We use our seclusion to open our eyes and see what is beautiful and striking – and mostly unnoticed until now.

Late the other night, 20 and Kerri spent an hour on the phone. 20 is among the those at highest risk and has self-quarantined. There is a park close to his house and, once a day, when it is likely that few other people will be out, he walks the paths in the park. He takes amazing photographs and each day sends us his latest pictures. On the phone, he introduced Kerri to the app he uses to tweak his gorgeous photos. “This opens a whole world of possibilities!” she exclaimed.

Have you noticed the hysterical songs, art, games, mock-challenges (the is-it-a chihuahua-or-a-blueberry-muffin? challenge is my current favorite). Creativity flourishes within constraints. It is a form of paradox-magic that I’ve always appreciated. A good constraint has the power to yank people out of their daily problem solving morass and turn them around into the creative.

Robert Fritz has the best definition for this magic: problem solving is trying to eliminate what you don’t want. Creating is trying to bring into being what you do want. It is a matter of direction (wink, wink: the direction of intention). At first glance these challenges and games might seem frivolous but a deeper look always reveals something more profound. We are opening our eyes to what is right in front of us. We are sharing, trying to help each other through a difficult time. Our natural capacity for play and whimsy rises to the top. Possibilities rise to the top. Instead of asking “why?” we begin asking “why not?” We create.

Idealistic blather or pattern? Problem solving has a way of creating more problems – it is a myopic. Turn around and consider the world you want to create. Walk at that. You’ll find that your eyes open, your thoughts expand. Playing-to-play will be valued and necessary. You’ll note, with gratitude, that you are not in this creative ride alone.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CIRCLES

 

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Climb The Rough [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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It’s an odd quirk but Kerri likes to watch mountain climbing documentaries before she goes to sleep each night. We’ve seen most of the world’s catalogue of climbing videos, Everest and K-2. I feel as if I’ve been to base camp. I sometimes shout at the screen, “NO! Don’t you know that the weather can turn on a dime!”

We’ve watched the story of the team that discovered George Mallory’s body. He fell and broke an ankle. Fatal on Everest. We’ve watched footage of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their summit bid.  We’ve watched documentaries about the Sherpa people, the dangers of the ice fall, and the emergency doctors at base camp.

I tease Kerri and tell our friends that she needs to watch someone fall off a mountain before she can get to sleep. She protests, “I don’t need to see them fall!” The life and death struggle is soothing enough, a gentle entry into slumber.

The message from the climbers is as beautiful as it is simple: if you fear failure you shouldn’t climb mountains. You will fail far more than you succeed. You will attempt. You learn. You choose to be wise and live rather than push to the summit and then lose your life. It is the ultimate reminder that a healthy process is much preferable to the achievement of the goal. They remind us that most climbers die after the summit. They die coming down because they forget that the goal is not to summit, the goal is to summit safely and come back alive. The goal is life. The summit need not happen today. Live and take your chance tomorrow. The only failure on the mountain is to die when you didn’t need to.

It’s a great metaphor. Life is like that. No one does this life without more than a few rough patches, more than a few falls. When you recognize that everyone has a mountain to climb and, regardless of the mountain, it is all about learning, all about the experiences that may someday bring you either to the summit or to the recognition that the summit was actually never the goal. It’s about the appreciation of the experiences.

There will always be another goal. Another summit. However, the experiences you remember and appreciate will be the struggles. The easy stuff is easily forgotten. The hard stuff, facing the doubt, finding a new edge, makes for a great life story and helps us understand that we are far more capable than we at first realize. Everyone is far more capable than they imagine and would never go beyond the limits of their imagination without the rough patches on the way up the mountain.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ROUGH TIMES

 

 

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Go Tiny And Skip! [on DR Thursday]

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Kerri called them ‘morsels,’ little snippets of my paintings. She’d isolate a spot, crop it, perhaps add some words or simply let the cropped image become a new, stand-alone design. We offered her morsels through society6.com [prints, cards, coffee cups, pillows, etc.]. This morsel is from the corner of a large painting, An Instrument of Peace.

The morsels had a profound impact on how I see my paintings. In many cases, I liked the morsels better than the paintings they came from. The morsels said more with less. They took me by the hand and led me back to the forgotten lands of shape, form, and color in their purity.

The morsels helped me comprehend and then dance back and forth across the crevasse between design and painting. Painting [for me] is a deep dive, personal spelunking. It is a meditation. Design is visual play. It’s skipping in the sunshine, looking for shells on the beach. Carefree [Kerri is the designer in our family so it is especially easy for me. I’m like the supervisor on a road crew; she does all the work and I stand there, pat my belly, look important, and get all the accolades].

Originally, Kerri made this morsel as a wish for peace. It is among her many morsels that celebrate this season, the return of the light. Peace seems in short supply in our divided nation, our angry world. She asked that we use this morsel today so I pulled it from the archive. She knows that art carries great power and can inspire people to see anew, to dance back and forth across their personal crevasses, and lead the way back to forgotten lands of community and shared vision. Shape, form, color. Beauty generated and shared inside as well as out. Reaching rather than rejecting as a first action.

All of this possibility, hope, an enormous wish, carried in one little tiny morsel.

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PEACE ON EARTH

 

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for a print or wall art of this image, go here

 

 

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an instrument of piece ©️ 2015 david robinson

morsel: peace on earth ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Give It To The Fire [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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I filled the torches with fuel on the first day that we arrived on island. The torches leaned unused against the deck all summer. We thought of lighting them a few times but there was too much wind so we decided against it.

Fire is transformational. It is used in many rituals. Our ritual was at first unintentional.  On our last night on island we planted the torches in the grass between the littlehouse and the water’s edge. We lit them as the sun went down. We wanted to burn off the fuel. There was little or no breeze so it was safe to let them burn. It was only after the sun was down, as we sat talking about our time on island, watching the line of flame, that we realized what we were doing. Letting go of the negative experiences. Celebrating the positives. Making space for the new. Releasing through fire.

The water lapped the shore. The breeze made the flames dance and the leaves rustle. We sat in the elements and re-storied our time on island. We made sense of things. In the final telling we appreciated all that had transpired.

The torches burned through the night. We awoke the next morning as the final tiny flames flickered and went out. The fuel was burned away. The fury was burned away, too. A new day, a route for new experiences, was open and waiting.

 

read Kerri’s post about THE FLAME

 

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photo: flame through the night ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Affirm The Possible [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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The day we brought DogDog home, Kerri was concerned that he and BabyCat would never get along. DogDog was a tiny puppy and BabyCat was (and still is) a formidable kitty. Would they hate each other? Would they fight? Would DogDog ever stand a chance against a mountainous cat?

We are a few years down the road. DogDog now outweighs BabyCat though the master of the house is the smaller of the two. And, although cartoons are rife with dogs chasing cats, felines and pooches engaged in mortal combat, it turns out that peace is possible. Cartoons are not always true! Who knew.

When lightning strikes and the world rumbles, they head for the same bed to crawl under. When we are gone they share the same rug while awaiting our return. They beg as a team, side-by-side.  In the morning, while we work, they nap together on the foot of the bed.

They occasionally steal each other’s food. BabyCat makes a face while chewing dog kibble that has dropped me to my knees with laughter. Their favorite game (dog-puts-cat’s-head-in-his-mouth-and-pulls-cat-around-the-hardwood-floor) looks more like murder than fun. Dog-mops-floor-with-cat. That took some getting used to. Now, we barely notice when they play the mop game.

This is the sweet blowback from our initial concern: when the world looks bleak and overly contentious, as it does so often in these times, it is the dog and the cat, the stereotypical foes, that bring us back to some semblance of center. They reaffirm what is possible, what is good, what opposites are capable of creating together.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG & BABYCAT

 

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Realize And Reach [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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A beautiful thing happened ages ago when human beings, gazing at the night sky, recognized patterns in the myriad of blinky bright stars. The recognition was so profound that it lit a roaring fire in their curiosity. It propelled them to do what human beings do. They studied the patterns. They mapped them. They philosophized about them. They storied them. They argued about them. They created models. They claimed them and named them. They projected onto them their thirst for meaning and order, their need for reassurance in a greater design. If there is pattern and predictability in the stars then there must be pattern and predictability in the arc of a human life! They navigated their ships and their days according to their relationship with the stars.

During my life in Los Angeles, for a few eye-opening months, I volunteered at a school. The students at the school risked their lives everyday to attend. They had to cross rival gang territory. In some cases, the students had to literally check their guns at the door before entering the building. Some of the faculty, in an attempt to help the students dream of a better future, used the phrase, “Reach for the stars.” One day, watching a class, I recognized that the students had a limited capacity to relate to the phrase because they’d never seen the night sky. In their experience, the meager few stars that they could see through the light and haze of the Los Angeles sky were less than inspiring. The staff took the students to a place where they could see the stars. The shock and awe of standing beneath the unobliterated night sky was profound. It reoriented them to a universe of possibilities more vast than the tiny gritty city that had always before seemed so large and given them context.

It is possible to reach for vast visions when you recognize how tiny you really are.

In a moment of uncertainty and confusion, 20 told us not to fret because the opportunities unfolding before us were in the stars. In the stars. Safe. There was pattern and predictability. Things were lining up and all we need do was play our part. These things were meant to be. Kerri and I held hands and stared, like our ancestors, into the myriad of blinky bright stars, feeling very very small. “Do you think 20 is right?” she asked.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about STARS

 

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Find The Kindergartner [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On a famous day, we drove the entire width of the state of Wisconsin to pick up the puppy that would one day become known as DogDog. On our drive back across the entire width of the state of Wisconsin, Kerri had a moment of panic. What if BabyCat and the not-yet-named-puppy-dog didn’t get along? What if BabyCat felt rejected? Replaced? What if the dog ATE the cat? What if the cat ATE the dog? The horror story variations of dogs-and-cats-living-together ran amok in her mind.

The flip-side scenarios never occurred to her. What if they love each other? What if they play together? What if they are the best of pals, share bowls, look out for each other? Well, there’d be no problem. Nothing to fret about. No horror story to captivate the imagination.

What is it in an adult mind that defaults to the worst possible assumption? Why, when cutting paper with a razor, do I always think, “I hope I don’t cut my finger off.” It could happen. Once, when my dad was pulling the cord on the chainsaw, I heard him say to himself, “I better not cut my leg off.” Sage self-advice!

We imagine. We assume. We project. It is a potent and powerful force, this capacity to story ourselves through imaging. We learn to imagine the obstacles. We learn not to allow the possibilities.

How many times in my life have I asked students or clients to imagine themselves fulfilled? Too many to count but the actual number is equal to the number of times students or clients have responded, “I can’t.”

What? Yes. You can. Dream in the direction of possibility. Remember that once you were a kindergartner and a teacher asked if you were and artist. Your YES was wild and enthusiastic. Your capacity to dream hasn’t gone away. It’s gone underground.

Guts and gore, dogs fighting cats, fingers flying off; the horror-story-imagination is more immediate.  Sometimes it takes a bit of archeology to find the kindergartner.

Oh, and DogDog and BabyCat? Best of friends. We often find them in the afternoon sleeping back to back. Who could have imagined such a thing?!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG & BABYCAT NAPPING

 

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