Be Clumsy

a detail of my painting, May You Be.

a detail of my painting, May You Be.

Clumsy (klum’ ze) adj. 1. lacking dexterity, grace or skill; awkward. 2. ungracefully shaped or made; unwieldy. 3. awkwardly or unskillfully said or done, ill-contrived.

“We don’t allow ourselves to be clumsy,” Kerri said. “Life is clumsy.”

Many years ago I read a commentary that suggested we moderns have a harder time of feeling good about ourselves than people of ages past. The argument went something like this: we have an impossibly high standard to meet and it is mostly illusory. For instance, our predecessors compared themselves and their successes against a relatively small village populace. We are swimming in pool that stretches around the earth. The athletes in our ancestral villages ran against their neighbors, the artists created for a specific purpose that served a tangible need in their community. Our young runners know to the hundreth-of-a-second what greatness requires. They run against the world. Our artists rarely know outside of their own inner imperative why they are creating. With no outer limit they spend a great deal of time wondering if their work has any impact or greater significance. With no outer limit it has no defined audience or community. Stephen, a gifted and prolific artist, used to ask, “Why don’t people recognize the value of art?”

The argument is largely a question of access. Our predecessors had limited and very abstract access to the news of the day, to the happenings beyond their region. We have a 24-hour global news cycle that comes to us on multiple devices that are designed to grab and keep our attention. It is not passive. On our multiple devices we are bombarded with images and messages of what we should look and feel like. Yet, almost all of the images populating our personal measuring stick are constructed. They are manipulated, retouched, powdered and Photoshopped. Legs are stretched. Wrinkles are removed. Sunsets are filtered. We measure ourselves against illusions.

Thus, intermediaries are everywhere. Interpreters abound. I rarely go into a gallery without a curator telling me why the work on the walls is important. The news of the day makes us the rope in a tug-of-war of interpretation.

Art, like life, like deep spirituality, requires direct engagement. It is made rich in the rough draft and the mistake. The broken road is interesting, vital. Learning is a process that takes time. It is messy. It is clumsy. It is not straight, paved, and has no road signs. And, it cannot be walked alone.

There is no forgiveness (of self or other) on the path of perfection; forgiveness is in short supply when the standard is both impossible to attain and an illusion. On the clumsy path, on the messy and muddy road, lives grace, generosity of spirit and deep forgiveness.

Clumsy (klum’ ze) adj. 1. Human

May You Be

May You Be

 

Reach Out. Peer In.

I've yet to title this painting but it seemed right for this post.

I’ve yet to title this painting but it seemed right for this post.

It’s a mid August morning with a hint of fall in the air. The breeze carries that “something” that is indescribable, more of a feeling than a chill or the changing of leaves. Never-the-less it is present. It is the signal and my body knows even as my mind debates. It is too soon for this – but even as I think the thought, I wonder what that means. Too soon based on what? Compared to what? This is my first summer in my new home. Last year I was an occasional visitor. I had glimpses into the cycle of the season so I have little with which to compare.

It has been a surprising summer all the way around. We’ve been traveling almost constantly since early June. The first few weeks of travel was planned, the rest was not. I’m not sure what the summer was like here because I was not present for it. The neighbors tell me it was a wet and cool summer. “Summer never came,” is a phrase I’ve heard more than once. After this summer of travel I will move into autumn with mere glimpses of the season.

I just had a call with Skip. He inspires me and makes me think things I would not ordinarily think. We’ve not talked for many months and our call was about catching up. Since I am writing about glimpses I was aware during our call that the best we can do is offer small windows into our lives. I said, “These past few years have been extraordinary in the changes and transformation I’ve experienced.” I was fundamentally incapable of articulating how profound my experiences have been. “It’s been like peeling off layers,” I said. A simile is the best I can do. Like or as. Glimpses. Events. Metaphor. No one can ever know the full scope of my walk just as I can never know the fullness of another person’s life.

During our call Skip told a story of walking through the woods with his wife when his cell phone rang. It was his daughter and infant granddaughter calling on Facetime. Skip’s granddaughter was taking her first steps. He and his wife peered into their phone and watched the miracle of first steps as their granddaughter, taking her first steps, looked into her mother’s phone at the excited faces of her grandma and grandpa. Glimpses into spaces.

We peer for a moment into a space. We stand in a space for just a moment. We try to share what we see. We try to share the fullness of our experience but can only approximate. Reaching out and peering in. Standing on the deck feeling that indescribable something that my body knows. My mind debates. This is life. Reaching out and peering in. What else?

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Make Space

754. 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 am cleaning out and clearing space. It is spring and spring-cleaning is normal at this time of year but my impulse to make space is deeper than the cycle of spring. I’m giving stuff away. I just threw away half of my clothes (they needed throwing away) and the other half will soon go to the thrift store.

I’m purging the studio. I installed paintings at Geraldine’s Counter yesterday and Gary, the owner, asked why I had not included prices on the labels. “They are old paintings,” I said, “and I’m in the mood to bargain.” I don’t want the paintings to come back. I need the space for the new creation. I need the space for ideas.

Possibilities require space. Sometimes life stories get over crowded with drama and details. Sometimes our days get too crowded with tasks. Possibilities will never shoulder their way into cramped courters. Why should they? Lack of space is a signal to the universe that you are doing what you want to do. Or, lack of space is a signal to the universe that you are afraid of doing what you want to do; existential hording leaves no room for possibilities to breathe.

Once, I ran a school and I encouraged my students to look out the window. Daydreaming is intensely important for healthy living and a vital creative life. Daydreaming is space creation. I encouraged my students to imagine. I encouraged them to breathe and make space and wander. I encouraged them to explore and discover and uncover. We were constantly cleaning out the building. We were constantly making space for the new. Those lessons are coming home to me again this spring. On my horizon a tsunami of potential is flowing toward me. I know it is coming because I am making space.

Do The Dishes

649. 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’m at 37,000 feet. The coffee has been served. The trash has been picked up. The man sitting next to me is asleep, as are the people across the aisle. I see the flicker of movies or games on ipads; a baby somewhere behind me is fussy. We are in an aluminum tube hurtling through space at several hundred miles an hour and I am typing. And, as I look around me, I’d say that most of my plane-mates believe that flying through space is usual, mundane.

A hundred years ago very few people had seen the earth from the sky. A few people in balloons made it into the clouds. Now, hundreds of thousands of us soar through the sky everyday. I was reminded in the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas that it has only been 45 years since a human being saw the earth from space. We have been on this planet for thousands of years and the miracle of the earth was something we imagined but had never seen. I am in the first generation of humans to see a photograph of the earth from space. I remember seeing it for the first time and I gasped. Now, we think it commonplace. Sure, from space there are no boundaries, sure it looks alive (it is), but I imagine most of my globe-mates think it is usual, mundane.

It is the center of every spiritual practice, it is the task of the artist: what does it take to truly SEE. How do we develop our capacity to see what is right in front of us instead of seeing what we think is there? To think is to interpret. To think is to abstract; it is a veil that can blunt the immensity of experience. How do we become present to the enormity of being alive and cease to reduce our lives to the mundane?

Travel to another country and you will see. Fall in love and you will see. Climb to the top of a mountain and you will see. Stand in the river with the water rushing around your ankles and you will see. You will see because you want to see; you will enter your moment having decided to be there and nowhere else. You will see because you let go of the fog of knowing and allow yourself to not know. You will see because you have re-entered discovery. Do the dishes for the thousandth time. Do nothing else but simply feel the water on your wrists, smell the soap, the muscles in your hand as you hold the sponge. Feel your heart beating and you will recognize that you have never lived this moment, you’ve never breathed this breath, you’ve never done these dishes and you will come alive quite suddenly and see the miracle of your life.