Become A Heart Symbol [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Almost anything can become a symbol. Almost anything can be made a symbol.

Symbols are very powerful, probably more powerful than we realize or are willing to admit. People die defending them. People die attacking them. They can serve as a moral compass. They can be a siren call and entice entire communities to crash on the rocks of devastation. Symbols can unite. They can divide. They can clarify. They can obscure. In almost every case, symbols serve as the defining line between Us and Them. They identify.

As a servant to identity, a single symbol can facilitate diametrically opposing points of view: hope and threat. It can be the taut rope in a social tug-of-war. Crazy things happen when, within a community, a symbol runs in opposite directions. We are witness to that today through the symbol of the “mask.” Some see a mask as communal responsibility. Some see it as a threat to individual freedom.

The challenge with any potent symbol is that it burns either through the heart or the guts. Only then does it run to the brain.

For instance, mask-wearers begin their symbolic journey in the heart. The symbol of “mask” is proactive. It signifies service to others and community protection. It unites in a common cause. It runs in the direction of hope. Giving. Inclusion. For them, a mask is a positive symbol. It confirms and accepts science, data, fact. It adapts to new information. It grows.

Mask resisters begin their symbolic journey in the guts. For them, the mask represents a fear of personal loss. It is a divider. It runs in the direction of threat. The symbol is reactive and signifies service to self. Exclusion. A mask, for them is a negative symbol. No amount of data or fact can assault a negative belief. A gut inception inflames the brain. It entrenches.

We’ve heard that, where mask wearing is concerned, there is a declining vigilance of the public. I wonder if that is true. I suspect the perception of declining vigilance is actually a matter of noise. Those who operate from their guts, their fear, will do anything, are capable of any and every form of cage-rattling. Theirs is a symbol of distress and is loud and enraged as is the case with most “me” focused symbols.

Those who operate from their hearts are generally quieter. They know the restraint that compassion brings. They are focused on the betterment of the entire community, including the fearful, so, as is true of most “us” focused symbols, calming the panic is an essential aspect of the action.

I doubt that vigilance is in decline. The fearful gut is screaming louder, garnering attention, daring to be made to wear a mask, cranking up the volume, loudly crying “hoax” – all the while knowingly spreading the disease.

In the meantime the quiet heart, the larger part of us, moves masked through each day. Hope need not make noise or news or announce itself. It is satisfied simply by doing the work of community, the real work of public vigilance.

read Kerri’s blog post about DECLINING VIGILANCE

Draw The Symbol [on DR Thursday]

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Sometimes drawing is like free writing. I capture the lines and images as they arise without edit or evaluation. It is more akin to following than leading. It’s a meditation. I draw for the surprise of what shows up. Often, in my free flow, symbols arise and I only see them after I put down my pencil. The symbols that floated to the surface in this drawing are Heart and Strawberry.

When symbols pop up for me I make it a practice to investigate, even if they appear obvious or I think I already know. I assume that I do not know anything. It’s a way of continuing the conversation. These two, heart and strawberry, are intertwined symbols. Venus, the goddess of love. Purity and perfection. Sensuality. Eros. Happiness. Good fortune. Compassion. Joy. Charity. There are cultural lenses and religious interpretations but across all cultural variance, both symbols are rivers that lead to love in one or all of its expression.

Yaki asked me to rewrite THE CREATURES OF PROMETHEUS – a storytelling to accompany Beethoven’s symphony – so that it might speak directly to the realities of our day. He wants it to be more obviously relevant. I have been sitting on it, watching and waiting, since we seem to be living in a swirl of chaos. My grasp of relevance in the morning is obsolete by sundown. The only consistency that cuts through the mayhem is that the circles in our communal Venn Diagram no longer intersect. Not only is there no crossover, the circles no longer share the same page. We define ourselves according to our differences rather that reach toward our similarities. Romeo and Juliet is an example, a cautionary tale of what happens when the communal circles stubbornly refuse to find crossover. The children easily transcend the division. The society crushes them for daring to love. And then the adults realize they’ve sacrificed the greater for the lesser and in their grief they reach to grasp hands.

There are hearts and strawberries in every tragic tale. The tragedy arises because the characters refuse to see it. Maybe that is the theme of my rewrite? Maybe hearts and strawberries are the tender sprouts that will emerge in our nation once the fire ceases to rage?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEARTS AND STRAWBERRIES

We are still in the Facebook penalty box. It is possible that Kerri’s posts may never reappear so, if you enjoy reading Kerri’s word, consider subscribing to her blog. I know we publish waaay too much but, with the minor exception of us, ALMOST no one reads everything that we write – except for Lydia and Horatio and Malta-Alex and for their dedicated perseverance, we are most grateful.

 

 

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*Shared Fatherhood evolved from a sketch about Polynices & Eteocles, brothers that killed each other in combat over control of the throne. Somehow I traveled from senseless war to shared fatherhood.

 

shared fatherhood 2 ©️ 2017 david robinson

Pop Your Bubble [on KS Friday]

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There is a sad mantra in the not-for-profit world: people don’t give money, time, or attention to “causes” until the cause impacts them personally. It has to be personal – it has to be MY son-with-cancer or MY daughter-who-was-shot-at-school or MY community-that-has-no-grocery-store in order for us to care beyond the superficial.  In other words, it is someone else’s problem until it knocks on MY door.

The word “cause” provides some cover – it keeps the cancer at arm’s length. It abstracts and sanitizes. The word “poll” does the same thing. Throughout this pandemic we’ve actually reduced the reality of the virus to a number that indicates personal belief, which has nothing to do with the virus and everything to do with whether or not  it has penetrated your personal bubble. To date, there are over 2 million bubbles impacted and, of those, 113,000 deaths. That is 113,000 people who, on New Year’s Day 2020, had every reason to believe they’d see 2021. Their belief number sits solidly at 100%. Their family’s belief number is way up there, too.

Masks have become a split symbol – or perhaps better stated, a symbol of our split. Wearing a mask is meant, as we all know, to protect others. It is not a measure of personal protection which is perhaps why it is so messy an issue here in these United States. We’ve somehow managed to transmogrify a gesture of protecting our neighbors into an assault on individual rights. It is not merely a consistent problem, it is a national pattern. The pattern plays itself with great symphonic insanity every time we have another mass shooting and can do no more than offer condolences to the dead.  It is the river that runs beneath the richest and most innovative nation on earth and its inability to provide affordable (or any) health care to its citizens. We keep ourselves brilliantly schizophrenic by insisting that this abundant creative citizenry is only capable of considering two choices. EITHER individual rights OR what’s best for the community! BOTH/AND is nowhere to be found. “We” is the word we run from.

This morning Kerri read an article about a server going back to work at a restaurant. She does not feel safe. Her customers are solidly in their bubbles caring only for their dining experience and not their server’s health. Our daughter supplements her life by bar tending and serving. Kerri cried. It’s personal.

She chose her song for this week’s melange in that moment. EVERY BREATH. And, ironically, it is found on the album AS IT IS. The present condition. Every breathe; as it is. It reads like the I-Ching: The air you breathe. The air I breathe. No difference.

One bubble. And, like it or not, believe it or not, we all inhabit it.

 

EVERY BREATH is on the album AS IT IS. Find it on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERY BREATH

 

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every breath/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

helping hands ©️ 2011 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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Answer The Call [on DR Thursday]

Eve copy 2This painting makes me laugh. It is an inside joke [in my exclusive club of one], a mash-up between Newton’s apple and the variety enjoyed by Eve. The apple, in both stories, is a symbol for knowledge – or, better, that most human of characteristics: curiosity.

Curiosity is piqued when forbidden. Isn’t that the point of Pandora’s box or Eve’s apple? That piece of symbolic fruit is better understood in a greater illustrative context (making it, therefore, useful): in the story, there are two trees in the allegorical garden, 1) a tree of knowledge and 2) a tree of everlasting life. To “know” requires separation. Eat of this apple and you will forever discern between this and that. With this apple comes self-knowledge. You will “know” rather than simply “be.” You will, in your separation from your Self, spend the rest of your days attempting to get back into the garden to eat from the other tree (unity, wholeness, no-separation,…purpose, meaning, etc.). It’s a parabolic life cycle. Don’t bite that apple, I dare you.

The other apple-of-legend knocked some insight into Newton. “And, why did that apple fall straight to the ground?” Newton asked himself. His answer: universal gravitation! Every body in the universe is attracted to every other body with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them [my comprehension and advanced math stopped at the word “force” so the rest of the law is yours to sense-make]. This apple was most welcome!

In both cases, I imagined, seated in front of my easel, that both the symbolic Eve and the actual Sir Isaac, in their respective apple moments, looked to the sky and uttered, “You have got to be kidding me!” And, so, curiosity calls.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVE

 

 

 

 

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eve ©️ 2004ish david robinson

 

 

Circle [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Perhaps the most true phrase I’ve read about The Circle is that its symbolism is inexhaustible. It is universal and the ultimate cross-cultural sign. No beginning, no end.

Wholeness. Unity. Infinity. It points to the mystery. Cycles of life. Endless movement.

It also has a meaning-making-flip-side. It can be as vicious as it is virtuous. A closed community. The shape that distinguishes us from them. Loops of reactivity. An energy eddy. An inescapable whirlpool. A widening gyre.

Ask a circle, “What does it all mean?” and the circle will ask in return, “What does it mean to you?”

It is a radically different action to search for meaning than it is to make meaning. And, most likely, the search for and the assignment of meaning are dancing partners. All of us seek. All of us assign meaning.

We can’t help but ask, “Why is this happening?” A few curious scientists and seekers go beyond their circles of understanding and look for answers. They inevitably find more questions. Another loop.

The artists always live on the edge of the circle precisely so they can see in. When the community asks, “Why is this happening?” they scribble lines, make music, write poems, and dance. Communing with what is on the other side of the known. Making meaning. Perhaps incapable of approaching an answer to the question, “Why?” but certainly opening the circle of possibilities to what we might come to understand together. Creating a commons. Another loop.

 

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Read The Symbol [on DR Thursday]

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When I was flying in to meet Kerri for the first time, she told me that I’d recognize her because she’d be the one holding the daisy. Consequently, were you to scrutinize my paintings these days, you’d find more than a few daisies.

Her daisy-greeting-idea cemented what I suspected before I met Kerri. She is special. This was my thought process/reasoning: This woman has 15 albums in the world.  Her picture is everywhere in the Google-sphere. Yet, it never occurred to her that I should or would know what she looks like. She’s humble.  Also, point #2, I did my research. The maker of extraordinary pianos, Yamaha, consider her a “Yamaha Artist” or [translation] a modern master who performs almost exclusively on their pianos. With that kind of resume, with that size of gift and notoriety, you’d think she’d have mentioned it during those many months of conversation that preceded our meeting. She didn’t. She’s an unassuming artist (the best kind).

Humble. Unassuming.

The second time I flew in she greeted me at the gate with a veritable bushel of daisies.

My paintings are filled with symbols. Some conscious. Most not. I discover them after the fact [like those *#@^! three spheres that populated most of my early work. Jim had to pull out my paintings and point them out to me…] The daisies? I know exactly what they represent. I know without doubt when and why a composition requires a daisy.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DAISY

 

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daisy – all of them ©️ circa 2013

Feel Them [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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This is a symbol and as symbols go, this one is arguably the epicenter. It is universal. It transcends all other symbols, religious and otherwise. The others deal with energies, vertical and horizontal, masculine and feminine, spiritual and secular. They are symbols of polarities, separation ends that point to a center, a unity. This symbol is the unity. Heart. The meeting ground. The commons. The push-me-pull-you of life.

Try an experiment and think back on these past weeks running up to the solstice (no matter your tradition of celebrating it); re-member the moments that you felt heart. Kerri’s song. A bonfire at midnight. A walk in the woods at sunset. Dogga buried in gift wrap. Craig’s face when we opened the package with smart bulbs. Kirsten clutching the sloth. There are too many to count. None are abstractions. All are experiences. Feel them.

Yearning can be filled with heart. Loss can be heart-full. This symbol is all inclusive. It does not discriminate. It’s bigger than any single desire, any hot pursuit. It, in fact, requires no seeking. It is ubiquitous. It everywhere and nowhere all at the same time because it has nothing to do with time. It asks little more than paying attention to the many faces it lives through, the many moments it simply waits for you to notice, to see/feel/hear/taste/sense what is already here.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the NEON HEART

 

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Listen For The Splash [on DR Thursday]

I’ve shown this painting more than a few times and it always generates interest. More people have considered buying this painting than any other in my catalogue. Yet, it remains the bridesmaid. Angels At The Well.

What a crazy title! I can’t remember why I painted it or why I thought angels at a well was such a compelling subject. In fact, I chose it for this week’s Studio Melange because I pulled it out of the stacks and thought, “Really, what a bizarre subject! What was I thinking?”

In mythology, wells are sources of rejuvenation, places of fate, the future can be read in the waters, omens uttered, they are holy, cursed, or a place where wishes are cast. Spirits get caught in them. Stories begin or end at the well. They reach into the earth, the element of  water disappearing deep into the element of earth.

Angels are messengers (remember that the next time the postal person delivers the mail). They are liaisons between gods and people, between the vertical and the horizontal realms. They meet you at the crossroads. They stand watch. They announce. They fall.

Perhaps symbol collision is why Angels At The Well piques so much curiosity but is consistently left behind? What kind of well? What kind of angel? And, maybe that is why I found it compelling enough to paint. Or, it occurs to me that it might be this: drop a pebble into the well. Listen how long it falls. With the splash will come new knowledge, an answer to a wish, a question, or there may be no splash at all. Then what?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ANGELS AT THE WELL

 

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Happy Thanksgiving (for all of you USA-based angels)

 

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angels at the well ©️ 2004 david robinson

Say It Over And Over and Over…[on DR Thursday]

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While Kerri plays the service, I often sit in the choir loft and scribble images on the back of old bulletins. On the left side of this sketch (not visible in the crop) is a running stream of words, ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease…

I’ve been playing with words as images a lot in the past few years. The words become pattern, the repetition renders the symbols meaningless-as-language but potent-as-design. I love pattern for this very reason. Too much repetition dulls the eyes and mind and in the dulling, something new emerges. It is how a good ritual works: dance fervently the pattern until you drop. Exhaustion opens the door to let in the spirit.

Pray hard enough and often enough and the words become meaningless. It is exactly at the point of meaninglessness, that perception shifts and something new rushes in. Saul-the-Tai-Chi-master would say it this way: wrestle with the obstacle long enough and you will eventually give up. In giving up, in your defeat, you just might glance beyond the obstacle and, at last, see the field of possibility.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about SCRIBBLES

 

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the sketch is a sketch and not useful and may be pirated and spread widely all over the world so feel free to insert it into your recipes or instagram or populate the cover of your technology with it or send it to china without guilt.

 

instrument of peace ©️ 2015 david robinson