Deny It [on Flawed Wednesday]

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Were I to give this image a title it would be called ‘Denial.’ It smacks of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: a holiday obsessed Chevy Chase pretends he is having the perfect family Christmas even as the house comes down around him. Of course, in Hollywood, denial has a happy ending for everyone but the snotty neighbors. Their suffering makes us laugh.

These days I think almost daily of the phrase Roger tossed out a few decades ago: denial is the most powerful of human capacities. He is a director of plays, a great student of human motivation. People are great at denying what they don’t like. People are great at having one too many drinks and getting behind the wheel, or texting while driving because, after all, bad things happen to other people. People are masters at pretending that they are not involved, above it all, or what they see is not happening. Ask the NRA.

The important detail that Roger understood is that denial is never passive. It abdicates responsibility. It assigns blame other places. Chinese hoax. It minimizes the impact. It paints pretty pictures of ugly situations. It throbs with intention.

Denial: the action of declaring something untrue.

Here’s the question that Roger’s observation invokes in me: at what point do we wake up and realize that we are all the snotty neighbors?

[now, don’t you wish that I’d just written about Hieronymous Bosch like I intended?]

 

read Kerri’s less pessimistic blog post on the PICNIC TABLE

 

 

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the picnic ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

 

 

Start The Ripple [on DR Thursday]

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The mantra goes like this:

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Actually, it is a meditation of ripples. The second round, after the “I”, someone very close  is named. On the third round, someone a bit farther out, and so on until the wish is for all the world to dwell in its heart. The universe. And then, the ripples return, layer by layer, arriving back to you.

It is a peace mantra, a meditation on connectivity that runs through the heart, the place between I and you, us and them. It is the “and.”

This is one of those paintings that jumped onto the canvas fully formed. It is either disturbing to people (“Why is she falling?”) or intensely comforting (“I wonder what she is reaching for.”) It is, in that way, very much like the meditation, an exercise of thought control or an aspirational prayer.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MAY YOU

 

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Give Over The Melody Line [on KS Friday]

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Spiritual teachers across traditions suggest that the reason we suffer is that we focus on what we think should be/supposed to be instead of on what is. The dedication to being someplace other than where you are will split you every time! The notion that you can be someone other than who you are (at this moment) will cleave you in two. And so, we have traditions of mindfulness (be where you are) and acceptance (be who you are) and forgiveness (be at peace with who and where you are). The cliff notes version: stop hewing yourself in two and you will stop suffering.

This is the seed-idea that inspired AS IT IS. This is what is supposed to be. All is as it is, as it should be.

I delight when Kerri tells me the story behind a composition. This morning, as we listened, she asked me to pay attention to the melody line. The flute mostly carries it. The keyboard – what she is playing – is in a support role. She said it this way: the keyboard gives over the melody line. The flute gives it back. The keyboard returns it to the flute.

No resistance. Relationship. AS IT IS. These, too, are spiritual suggestions for mending the hew. I’ll add to my canon as a practice for presence: give over the melody line.

 

AS IT IS on the album AS IT IS, available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AS IT IS

 

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as it is/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Two Artists Tuesday

CHILDRENarethebestwithframe jpegI knew from a very young age that I would never have children of my own. I knew. It was an intuitive knowing, not an intellectual resolve. My life, I knew, would be a wandering through the wasteland. I would tilt at windmills. I would seek for things that can never be found. Children, I believed (and still believe), needed the kind of stability that a restless seeker like me would never have been capable of providing.

Last night we went to the foreign film festival and saw an inspiring, funny and poignant Irish film called Sing Street. The ingenue explains to her suitor, an aspiring musician, that love is happy-sad. To love is to experience both.

I now have two amazing step-children. They were adults when I came into their lives and both live far away. I am slowly developing relationships with them, creating memories with them. I listen with fascination (and sometimes horror) as Kerri converses with her friends, mothers all, about their children.  There is so much suffering, to want to be near their children and yet want them to fulfill their dreams and fly. They want to be present and available BUT not too present or available; those wacky offspring want full support AND they want mom to stay out of their business. Motherhood, I’m learning, is a bottomless yearning, a constant ache, and there is nothing better. There is nothing more fulfilling.

Fathers, I’m observing, are mostly confounded. They shake their heads, not so much in agreement, but in concession. Their spouses are capable of reconciling and celebrating the ambiguity of parenthood. Fatherhood, it seems, is a surrender to the unsolvable. A submission to the mystery. The ache is no less profound. The joy is no less intense.

Happy – sad. A full spectrum of living. Love. From studio melange on this Two Artists Tuesday.

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read Kerri’s thoughts about this Two Artists Tuesday

children are the best thing ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Simply Listen

Pieta with Paparazzi

I call this one Pieta with Paparazzi

I am standing in a lobby listening to people compare their tragedies. It is more than comparison; it is a festival of one-ups-manship. “If you think that’s bad, my niece was just diagnosed with a terrible cancer….” The first speaker, now crestfallen, reaches into her story-bag of pain as another member of the group competes, “That happened to my brother just after his daughter was hit broadside by an enormous truck!” The group coos in sympathy, each in a hurry to make their personal story of hurt the center of the conversation. I wonder at their need to outdo each other in tragedy.

I suppose it is human, this feeding frenzy of drama. I want to reject my supposition outright. Suppose it is not human? I wonder if this dis-ease is cultural, an expression of the fragmentation that comes from the too-busy, the clan that avoids internal quiet at all costs, filling every moment with television, gaming, texting, emailing, gossip-news. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote in Gifts From The Sea, it is impossible to know who you are without dedicated inner spaciousness and quiet. To listen to your self is the only way to really know your self. Filling the quiet space with incessant noise withers the root.

Maybe.

All stories require conflict to move forward but it is also true that the point of all storytelling is transformation. Through the conflict we are transformed. Perhaps that is what bothers me as I listen to this pain frenzy: the emphasis is on the suffering. The investment, the identity, is in the wound, not the transformation.

There is a simple Buddhist prayer that I like:

May I dwell in my heart. May I be free from suffering. May I be healed. May I be at peace.

The prayer is like a musical round that progresses from the “I” to the “You” to the “We.” The emphasis is on the transformation. It begins with dwelling in the heart.

Maybe.

What bothers me most is the absence of the capacity to listen. The first speaker needed to be heard, not outdone. I wonder what might have happened if the group had simply said, “Tell us.” I wonder what might have happened if they had been able to be present with another’s pain. To listen, simply to listen, must be a route to free each other from suffering, to heal, to create peace.

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