Divine It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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[warning: Kerri just said this post is ‘heavy’ so enter at your own risk]

And, who hasn’t pulled the petals off a daisy in an attempt to divine the love of another? Loves me, loves me not, loves me… Perhaps a silly childhood practice but, truth be told, I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t secretly, unconsciously, or otherwise, put their right shoe on first for good luck, throw the I Ching, look to the stars, whisper a prayer for guidance, follow their intuition, avoid stepping on the crack, read the Tarot, plumb the sacred numbers, sit in the forest and listen for the ancestor to whisper.

I read an article yesterday that frightened me. Sometimes the statement of the obvious is more frightening than the monster peering from within the closet. The use of the behavioral sciences “to determine the news we read, the products we buy, the cultural and intellectual spheres we inhabit, and the human networks, online and in real life, of which we are a part.” Invisible Manipulators Of Your Mind. Techniques that appeal to “… our non-rational motivations, our emotional triggers, and unconscious biases.”

Techniques. A cold word. Manipulation. Perhaps manipulation is the central action and natural endpoint of capitalism. The reduction of the meaning-of-life to something that can be bought and sold. The church we construct and inhabit is built upon a hard sale and requires a made-up-reality to realize its fulfillment. The ritual of the market, the ringing of the bell, calls the worshipers to trade. We watch the numbers in an attempt to divine a fast moving future.

There is a tug-of-war happening now as the information age eats itself. “The pressures to exploit irrationalities rather than eliminate them are great and the chaos caused by the competition to exploit them is perhaps already too intractable for us to rein them in.”

Can you feel the chaos? Are your relationships fracturing along lines defined by red and  blue? What forces are determining your belief about the pandemic? The science is simple enough for a child to understand; the seeds of doubt, the ubiquitous exploitation of emotional triggers and unconscious bias makes us a behavioral sciences petri dish. It seems our division is not accidental, our tribes are rigged, our information is bubble-wrapped and packaged. Our division is also, we are told, increasingly irreparable.

Exploit irrationalities? Scary! Eliminate them? Scary, too! Why must we either exploit or eliminate our irrationalities? Think about it. The war on our irrationality might be a sign of our real root rot, our actual dis-ease.

The pursuit of pure reason. Cut yourself in half and toss the dream-side in the bin? Creatures who fight multiple world wars, build economies on weapons sales, send their kids to school during a raging pandemic, soil their nests with plastic, cut down their rain forests (lungs of the earth) for more grazing land, exploit each other…are not following the signs on the path to pure reason. Exploitation of others is not a characteristic of reason, pure or otherwise.

Creatures that make art and prize beauty are not purely reasonable.

Rationality is not the goal. It’s a sick tease to promise the elimination of fear and mystery. It’s hubris to desire to transcend nature, to promise dominance over creation. No one really wants to be Mr. Spock. Staring into the Milky Way with wonderment, standing with your back to a warm brick wall while facing the sun on a cold winter day is gloriously human. Sensual. Not rational. Mystical and mysterious. The dark side of the moon is as necessary as the light.

Sensuality is as necessary as rationality. Why strive to build a gate with a single post?Why close the gate on the middle way? Maybe the word we need to strive to achieve is “sense.” Common sense. Shared sense. It may lead to common good, shared responsibility and other wild ideals built on bedrocks of trust rather than sandy deceit.

There’s nothing rational about generosity or kindness. They are, however, specifically human and vitally irrational, made even more plentiful when not exploited for small change.

Loves me. Loves me not.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LOVES ME

Kerri remains in the FACEBOOK penalty box for unspecified crimes against e-humanity. If you enjoy reading her musings, please consider subscribing to her blog. It will keep you (and her) out of the daily trawl of horrors.

 

 

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icarus ©️ 2004 david robinson

Pray For Apollo [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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I confess to seeing this contrail and thinking it might be Apollo’s chariot. Of course, if it was Apollo’s chariot then we’d all be in really big trouble. The sun seems untethered from the chariot. Depending on how the myth is told, the sun is either being pulled by the chariot or the sun IS the chariot and, either way, if you are seeing what I am seeing, Apollo has lost control.

Of course, the other side of my brain always kicks in and I think to myself, “Apollo flipping across the sky, gripping the reigns, sans chariot, is not a bad metaphor for these troubled days.” In addition to riding the chariot/sun across the sky, Apollo is symbolic of reason and logic. All things illuminating.

Our world is upside down. Fact is assailed as fiction. Conspiracy theories are traded like baseball cards to deflect attention from the actions of a feckless president  pushing disinfectant as a pandemic cure while science bites its tongue for fear of offending him. Blame inhabits the vaunted seat of responsibility. A good portion of the population willingly and knowingly plants their heads in the sands of propaganda.  Reason is shunned. Questioning and perspective are rejected. Sand is preferable to logic. We’ve reduced our hallowed ideal of jurisprudence to base partisanship; justice is no longer blind but sees in shades of red or blue.

Apollo twirls like a kite, hanging on for life to his mighty horses as they race across the sky, wild-eyed, in no particular direction.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CONTRAILS

 

 

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Value It [on DR Thursday]

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“Creativity is a dance where the flow of the eternal gleams through the brittleness of time and the distance of space.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

The arts are so often seen as unnecessary. They don’t pencil out. Hard to make money, yada yada. The budget just submitted by the current administration once again is attempting to cut the funding for and kill the National Endowment for the Arts. “A waste of money,” they say.

No way to measure it. Can’t be reduced to a spreadsheet.

Kerri was recently asked by her employer to calculate how many hours per week she spent working on her music. “What constitutes working on it?” she asked, “I think about it all the time. I’m constantly listening for and searching out good music. Does it qualify as working on it when I sit to play, to compose, to noodle on an idea?” She sighed the sigh that all artists sigh when asked to reduce their artistry to a number. “Maybe 125 hours a week? Does a lifetime playing, composing, conceptualizing, conducting, rehearsing and leading choirs count in my working on it” she quipped. They didn’t smile. The committee got together and determined her value based on their spreadsheet.

We know that when a society disappears from earth it leaves behind art and artifact. We discover what was important to the society by the arts they produced.  The architecture, the pottery, the scribbles on a cave wall. Their values expressed. Their arts – like ours – are the eternal gleam pressed into specific forms.

The arts are nothing less than the glue that keeps a society together. The common story is, after all, a story, and it is told through literature and theatre and dance and music and painting.

One of the necessary first acts of every dictator, after identifying a scapegoat, is to eliminate the artists, the thinkers, and the educators. It is a control strategy: rend the common story. Split the people. Then, make questioning and expressing a crime. Diminish reason. Eliminate the voice of imagination and reflection. Vilify the voice of dissension. Appeal to the reptile brain [that part of your brain that deals with the basic functions but has no reach into higher order thought].

Asking the question “why” and challenging the group-think is the artist’s and academic’s job. To discern between truth and lie. To open eyes. To open hearts. To open minds. Value beyond measure in a free society if the society values its freedom.

Yada yada.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NEW MOTHER

 

 

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new mother ©️ 2017 david robinson

 

Use Reason

Step Into Unknown with Sig“When a speaker who does not know the difference between good and evil tries to convince a people as ignorant as himself, not by ascribing to a poor beast like a donkey the virtues of a horse, but by representing evil as in fact good, and so by a careful study of popular notions succeeds in persuading them to do evil instead of good, what kind of harvest do you think his rhetoric will reap from the seed he has sown?” Phaedrus by Plato

 

The woman walked to the end of the small pier and started to weep. It was a cold day and windy. Kerri and I maintained silence as we passed. The woman was making an appeal to her god. She asked the stormy lake and angry sky, “Why?”

Belief is a powerful thing.

Beth believes that the universe was created 6,000 years ago. Even though the gasoline she pumps into her car is evidence to the contrary, nothing will shake her firm belief. No amount of science, data, or experience can crack her conviction to what she believes.

At first glance Beth might seem an oddity but she is actually more representative of the norm. Consider this quote published this morning in our local paper. It’s an editorial from the Los Angeles Times entitled, “The ‘fake news’ dilemma.” “Some observers argue that the public’s receptivity to fake news is a sign that we live in a ‘post-factual’ society, with people who are mainly interested in information that comports with their preexisting notions.” In other words, no amount of science, data, or experience can crack our convictions to what we believe. And, like Beth, we do not want to hear [or consider] anything that challenges our beliefs. Rather than question, we plant our belief-flag and defend the territory.

Flag planting makes for good ratings. Conflict is an easier story to sell than compromise so it is not surprising that we have news sources that blatantly cater to our preexisting notions. Division makes us a good market and infinitely manipulatable.

Certainly defending the territory of unquestioned belief feels good. Righteousness, blame and gossip always feel good. There’s no responsibility required! Here’s another bit to consider from the editorial: “The problem is obvious: When surveys by the Pew Research Center find that 62 percent of U.S. adults get at least some of their news from social media, and 20 percent of social-media users say the things they read online have changed their views on an issue or candidate, the electorate is all the more vulnerable to a disinformation campaign. By Buzzfeed’s count, the 20 most popular fake-news stories in the last three months of the campaign were shared more often on Facebook than the top 20 stories from leading mainstream news sites.”

What prayer do we have when we are too…lazy…incapable…. to discern gossip from news, belief from fact [dear reader help me find a word other than fact].

For me, the top spot on the hierarchy of beliefs-that-blind is the “pre-existing notion” that we human beings operate from reason. Reason requires doubt, questioning, listening, and reaching for the perceptions of others. Reason, like heart, is a commons. It thrives on honest debate and will have nothing to do with individual or collective rigidity. We are not born with it, however we are born with the capacity to engage it. It is not something any single individual attains – it is not attainable – it is relational – it requires multiple perspectives and continued conversation. It requires a step into the  unknown.

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Tap Into It

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

What is the original “why?” What is your reason for doing what you do? During a break in the Design for Demand class I eavesdropped on a conversation between Skip and one of his students. The student asked, “Isn’t making money the reason “why.” It can be a reason. It’s not the reason.

Before the break the students were doing business pitches followed by a discussion about their reasons for creating the business. Skip showed them Simon Sinek’s terrific TED talk explaining what distinguishes a great business from a mediocre business. In the talk Simon explains his golden target with the reason “why” occupying the center. A great business operates from why. How and what occupy the middle and outer rings of the target. Mediocre businesses confuse their what and how with why. This might seem obvious but it’s not.

In another class, I recognized that the MBA students think the single reason they are getting a degree is to get a better job. They’ve confused their why with the what. Getting a better job can be a reason. It’s not the reason. K-12 education believes that the purpose of education is to raise test scores. They’ve confused why with how – and it is debatable whether raising test scores is a viable how. In our lives we have an abundance of “how and “what” reinforcement. It is no wonder we sometimes misplace our why.

In the modern age, people without a clear understanding of their “why” will generally buy something to fill the void. It is a temporary hit but delays the recognition that there is nothing substantial driving their life. Or, they’ll numb themselves, distract themselves or sabotage themselves. Either way, the “why” gets lost in the “what.”

Everyone has a why. Sometimes you have to wipe off a layer of dust or muster enough courage to look beyond the purchases. It is there. It’s waiting to be sourced. If your current answer to the question, “What’s the point?” is to raise your test score or to get a better job, stop and ask yourself, “What else is true?” Look beneath the superficial and you will find a spring that will rejuvenate you and keep you nourished for the arc of your life. Tap into it.

Make A Nap

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

Today is one of those post travel days. I’m exhausted. I avoid the mirror because my face feels like the face of a Basset Hound: droopy, blood shot eyes. My synapses are lethargic. Like half-hearted trapeze artists they leap but do not reach for the catcher. My thoughts fall to the safety net where they bob and refuse to get up. “This feels nice,” they say as they relax into the net, smacking their thought-lips while slipping into a nap. “I’ll be there in a minute,” they call to me from a sleep state, words slurred and intention clear (you are on your own without synapses so find something useful to do).

I used to call these “no-power-tools” days – as I appreciate my digits and I know better than to get near blades when my thoughts are asleep on the job. When I wear the mask of the Basset Hound I usually spend the day filing papers. I am an out-of-sight-out-of-mind kind of guy so I have no expectation of finding anything once it is filed. Since I am on the road and away from my files and my paper stacks I had no truly safe activity to keep me busy.

I managed to take Bodhi the dog for a walk. I couldn’t find his leash so I used my belt, which sounded like a good idea until I realized that using my belt for a leash created a whole new set of problems. While Bodhi proudly wore my belt I struggled to keep my pants up. We looked like a clown and his dog. I have the same problem going through security at airports, especially now that they make you raise your hands in the full body scanner. Three seconds is an eternity when your pants are edging down. With this knowledge in my memory bank you’d think that I would have solved my leash problem another way.

With my belt safely restored to my pants I watched Bodhi settle in for a snooze on the floor. Although his face is Australian Shepherd and not Basset Hound, Bodhi has a legitimate dogface; he was in no way resisting his impulse to nap. He wasn’t resisting his need to sleep. As I watched the natural wisdom of this special dog I wondered why I needed an excuse to nap. Humans are funny animals; rather than follow the simple impulse, rather than do the thing our bodies are telling us to do we need to create a reason. Bodhi snored and I remembered a quote from Jarod Kintz. He wrote, “I made a nap this afternoon. I made it out of two pillows, a bed, a sheet, a blanket, and exhaustion.” Perfect.

You’ll never guess what I made this afternoon.