Consider The Revelation Necessary [on KS Friday]

An exercise that is designed for generic failure is also designed for specific success. And, so it is with the bridge. The instruction is simple: get everyone safely across the space. If anyone touches the floor, all must go back. Invariably, the first attempt is an abject failure. The group ignores the word “everyone” and, instead, opts to try and get themselves safely across the space. They believe the game is about them, that “winning” is a singular affair.

After being sent back to the beginning more than once, they come to a spectacular yet inevitable innovation: if they work together, crossing the space will be easy. It is only a matter of moments after their revelation that they, together, construct a secure bridge and are all safely standing on the other side of the room. Specific success wrought from generic failure. And, once they have their realization, they cling to it. They own it. They must, the stakes are raised, the rules are tipped against them during the ensuing phases of the exercise.

I’ve led this exercise hundreds of times. Every single time the group has the necessary revelation. They are not in the game alone. They can only “win” if they join together. If they build it together, everyone will safely cross the space. It gives me hope.

Last night, during the town hall, President Biden said something that ought to slap us from our divisive stupor. Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin believe the 21st century belongs to the autocrats. The pace of change is moving too fast and democracies, in their divisiveness, move too slow. So far, we are proving them right.

Once, as an experiment, rather than set the challenge of the bridge, I forced the answer. The group did as I said but collapsed in the ensuing rounds. When I raised the stakes, the people gave up. The harder it got, the less they tried. They coalesced in apathy. They never made it across the bridge again, even though they knew how to build it.

This is what the autocrats do not understand. There is no ownership, no game, in a forced answer [educators could pay attention to this simple rule, too].

We are being divided through titanic campaigns of misinformation. And so, no one will make it safely across this time-space. Generic failure. Wade Davis wrote that we now live in a failed state and, so far, we are proving him right. But I have hope. The necessary revelation, the specific success, bubbles in the frustration. Those stoking the division, feeding fear, will have their day but, in the long run, the lie collapses, people join together and, like a prayer flag, build a bridge to ensure that all make it safely across. They recognize that they are not in this game alone. Winning is hollow if half the team is lost in the process.

This game, the bridge. The necessary revelation is in our nature; nature’s prayer flag. It gives me hope.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about NATURE’S PRAYER FLAG

hope/this season ©️ 1998 kerri sherwood

Choose Your Ladder [on Two Artists Tuesday]

ladders copy

Climbing the ladder to success has never been a useful metaphor for me. When ladder climbing, the trajectory is up. What is up there that is not already right here? Climbing up in this dog-eat-dog paradigm implies climbing over others. It certainly implies that there is a top rung with room enough for one. Limited pie. Get yours. After all, being your brother’s/sister’s keeper is a nice sentiment on Sunday but not really useful in the real world of ladder climbing.

Top rung. Ultimate achievement. Arrival. These are words of stasis. I’ve never understood why the elimination of dynamic movement would be appealing. Vitality is movement, not the absence of movement. Life is made rich by experience, surprise, curiosity, exploration, steps into the unknown. To climb the rungs to controlled living seems antithetical to the point, at least to me. A body in stasis is in poor health, indeed. A life in stasis is in poor spirit, without exception.

It is often the role of the artist to challenge the norm and the challenge is generally nothing new, rather, it is a simple perspective spin. For instance, a ladder is good for fixing things, for reaching. It is good ladder behavior to have someone spotting the climber. If someone is stuck at the top it is good practice to help them down. Fire departments use ladders to save people. Ladders to help. Ladders to serve. Ladders as a tool to reach. Ladders can be used to bridge a crevasse, to get folks to the other side.

A more useful (and realistic) ladder metaphor: reach, serve, help, bridge, save. I suppose, more to the point, success is all about the ladder you choose. As for me, standing atop a ladder on a rung built for one seems like a lousy definition of success. I’d rather be on the ground with the people who care enough to spot me. I’d rather use my ladder to help my friends and community reach the unreachable. That seems like a more worthy definition of success.

read Kerri’s blog post about LADDERS

 

neighborhood cheers website box copy

 

 

Sail The Silence [on KS Friday]

SILENT DAYS song box copy

Albert used to come by my studio each evening and pick me up. He knew me well and feared my studio solitude. He’d take me to a coffee house and sit with me until I recovered my capacity to converse. He’d wait until I was capable of crawling out of my silence. We’d laugh when I finally “returned.”

He was right to fear. I didn’t know at that time that the work of an artist – the real work – is to comprehend and navigate their silence. To sail the immensity. We live in this odd age of the individual so an artist’s life is often like solo spelunking. So many get lost in their caves – as I almost did – or their fame (same thing).

My brother-from-a-different-mother recently directed a play. It was a great success. He wrote in the midst of his play’s triumph to tell me how hard he has to work at giving himself any credit. He wrote, “It’s amazing to think how *surprising* that might be for non-artists…” Silence, as he knows, is vast. It is bigger than any single person. When a work of art comes from the vastness it is nearly impossible to claim it. I didn’t tell him that his wrestling match is the mark of a mature artist. How do you claim the ocean or the universe? Success for an artist, unlike the success of a dentist or business person, is an infinite game.

Kerri’s SILENT DAYS could be the soundtrack for the infinite game, sailing into the immensity of the silence. She knows its yearning and awe and brings it back to share with us. I tell myself that she composed SILENT DAYS so others, unfamiliar with their silence, might catch even a small glimpse of life in the boundless places.

 

 

SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SILENT DAYS

 

k&dbw backs website box_ copy

silent days/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood

Live According To Your Necessity

a detail of a painting I did in honor of Dawson's arrival on earth

a detail of a painting I did in honor of Dawson’s arrival on earth

“Depending upon the lens you look through, I have been a miserable failure at everything I’ve ever done,” I said. Arnie protested but we both knew it was, to a certain extent, true. And, since our conversation I have been gazing through that certain lens and feeling my failure acutely.

This lens is not new to me. I visit it each year as my birthday rolls around. It is a lens that most artists visit from time to time. To their peril. Recently, Chris, one of the most talented and hardworking actors I know, told me that now that he is far down the road of his career, no longer a beginner, he has surrendered the idea, imperative or illusion of economic success. “I work because I have to,” he said. It makes no sense and is impossible to explain to someone who does not have “that” impossible intrinsic driver. The incentives are internal. The rewards are internal. The achievements are mastery landmarks and not monetary rewards. It looks like insanity through the lens of a profit/loss, money=morality society.

When I look through the failure lens I’ve learned I need to visit Rainier Maria Rilke. I need to seek the advice of a master. “Nobody can counsel you or help you. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would die if it were denied you to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And, if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity;….”

...closer in

…closer in

My life is built upon this necessity. No amount of comparing it to others is useful. No other lens is healthy. Since moving to Kenosha from Seattle, I am fond of telling people that in my move I committed economic suicide. That is a statement made looking through the wrong lens. Here is the truth: Since my move I have published my book, The Seer. I produced and performed in what I thought was the greatest heart-project of my life, The Lost Boy. It played to sold out houses and fulfilled a decade long journey and commitment to Tom. Two months later I did what I now think was the the greatest heart-project of my life when I illustrated and Kerri and I published Beaky’s books, The Shayne Trilogy. Beaky had an author’s reading a mere two weeks before her passing. Last year I authored drew and submitted with Kerri over 25 cartoon proposals to syndicates. We are completing work on our next play, The Road Trip. And, in the middle of it all, I’ve done arguably the best paintings of my life. I am meeting my question with a simple and strong “I must.”

What is failure? What is success? They are lenses and they matter not.

I am living and building my life “according to this necessity.”

The whole painting.

The whole painting.