Go It Together [on Flawed Wednesday]

“The problem is that this fluidity is not a choice we are free to make. Despite the unifying patriotic rhetoric that permeates the United States, on some level Americans are not really fooled: at bottom, each person knows he or she must continually “reinvent themselves,” which is to say, go it alone. America is the ultimate anticommunity.” ~ Morris Berman, Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire

I laughed aloud when I read this quote. It reduced to a simple phrase what I believe is the collective experience of being an American (U.S.) in the 21st century. Together, we go it alone.

“Going it alone” is, of course a delusion shared by cowboys, republicans, and guys that put big tires on their trucks. After all, someone had to make the tires. And the truck. And pave the road. Using tax dollars since the roads are public and maintained by the collective. All of the chest-thumping expressions of individuality are, after all, firmly rooted in the lives and labors of others.

It only takes a minute to tease apart the loose fibers of the go-it-alone mythos. The problem is that one must want to think it through and, in our current spiral into stupidity, thought is shunned. So is history. At the core of anti-community is the absence of critical thought and a bucket of denial.

[Sidebar: this reminds me of a favorite phrase that, one day, popped out of Jim’s mouth: because you think it, does not make it so. Because you believe it, does not make it so.]

In my current state of residence, the governor, a democrat, asked the legislature, a randy band of republicans, to meet for a special session to discuss the ills that currently plague our community. The randy band gaveled open the session and then, as is its custom, immediately gaveled it closed. Legislators that refuse to discuss issues or policy. Sitting in the people’s house, obstruction is the only card in their deck. Not a single idea or impulse to serve the public in the randy band and their lock-step rugged individualism.

It is the sign of our times. Going it alone together is an ugly race to the supremacist bottom.

The cure for what ails us lives in the space between the gavels. Genuine discussion of the real challenges that face the community. An acknowledgement that driving the big cowboy truck adorned with big cowboy tires is only possible on the public road made viable by the shared effort of hundreds of fellow citizens. All of the Fox-driven drivel and religious right propaganda is never going to change the fact that we are all in this together. We can choose to be a failed state in a dedicated anti-community or we can thrive in the post colonial-era by bringing all ideas, all points-of-view, all people, to the common table for a wee-bit of collaboration, compromise, and long-needed-real-live-bona-fide-communal-reinvention.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MASKS OPTIONAL

Breathe At Human Pace [on KS Friday]

We live in a time in which cars are capable of parking and braking themselves. I am able to type a message into a little box that I carry in my pocket and my message, through space and time to anywhere in the world, is delivered immediately. I write my thoughts in this device and then publish all over the world. I’ve learned of a software that is able to write my thoughts without me – faster and with fewer grammatical errors at the outset. I think and write in a pattern capable of being recognized. I am, therefore, capable of being approximated. What is amazing today is common tomorrow. So it goes with the pace of change.

I read in The Dream Society, written two decades ago, that the aim of the industrial era was to spare humanity physical toil and the aim of the information age is to relieve us from the exertion of thought. We’re producing data at a staggering rate and, ironically, the explosion is both serving the intention and overwhelming our capacity to keep up. We can’t possibly process the tsunami of information that washes over us everyday. We are human. We have a tough time sussing out truth from belief-fantasy even when not washed down the roaring information streams.

It is why I hang out with Desi. Desi is the little tree sprout that we rescued from the Des Plaines river trail over two years ago. When Desi came home with us, her tiny trunk was needle thin. She is thriving in her pot and has more than doubled in size, yet, by the standards of data, her growth is glacial. And that is precisely why I visit her each day. She is in no rush. Efficiency for Desi has nothing to do with speed. Health is about good soil and light. Like all plants, she could be pushed artificially, but why? Pushing might get her to adulthood faster but would also damage her systems. Efficiency and health, for Desi, are all about natural pace. Slow, slow, slow to human eyes.

Desi reminds me that the pace of my life is artificial. A choice. The pace, the incessant noise vying for my attention, are human-made, unnatural. Don’t get me wrong. I delight that Google maps gets me where I want to go. I appreciate having a phone available while walking a backwoods trail. One of the great joys of my life is watching Kerri photograph – with her phone – the world she sees. I love to write and push a button to share. I am, despite my advertising, not a luddite. I’m also aware that the media – the medium – is the message. We are – we become – what we consume and how we consume it. It is a necessity in our age of rolling miracles to keep both eyes open.

I think it is healthy (although virtually impossible) to occasionally crawl out of the stream and breathe at human pace. To think without the expectation of assistance. Each day, for a few minutes, I hang out with Desi, a reminder that an inch of growth every year is sometimes fast enough.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about DESI

taking stock/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Receive The Message [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

We just made a pact to lighten up. It’s not the first time we’ve made this pact and it probably won’t be the last. What’s important in this particular version of our pact is that we are growing more capable of keeping it.

The week before Columbus died, my sister-in-law sent some pictures of him. He was at the very beginning of what would become a rapid decline. She sent the photos to reassure us but they had the opposite impact on me: I was shocked.

Those photos threw me into a pendulum: some days, nothing seems worth getting riled up about. This ride is short and it ends. I know my mind can whip up a fruit-smoothie of drama in a nano-second but that doesn’t mean I need to drink it. And, on the other end of the pendulum, everything seems worth getting riled up about. This ride is short and it ends. Both/And.

I know the pendulum will settle. I know equilibrium is merely a matter of not indulging in the swing but stepping back and watching. The thoughts will sway to-and-fro and I need not sway with them. To lighten up, as Don Miguel Ruiz advises, “Doubt everything that you think.” Or, as someone once told me, “What we think is the mother-lode of comedy.” Changing a mind begins with realizing that a mind, although it will tell you otherwise, is not the keeper of truth.

We hit the trail for many reasons but first and foremost a good walk serves to restore our balance. Someone has been leaving good spirits along our favorite trail and we delight in discovering them. We leave them for others to find. We’ve encountered happy messages, halloween goblins, and folks just like the red and orange googly-eyed fellow that made us laugh. He was sitting with his back to us in the middle of the path. Kerri did a photo shoot with him; he was a willing subject.

I’ve decided that he crossed our path to affirm our pact: he is the spirit of lighten-up. He is the messenger of you-are-not-all-that so enjoy the day. A trail jester to remind us that nothing we imagine or create compares or is more real or important than the step we are currently taking. “Alas, poor Yorick…” he had his time and so do we. What we decide to do with it, how we decide to live it, is not happenstance; it is completely up to us.

read Kerri’s blog post about GOOGLY EYES

Compose [on DR Thursday]

Many years ago I attended a workshop facilitated by Sam, a brilliant landscape painter. I was delighted and amused when he demonstrated his technique. Rather than paint what he observed, he took great pleasure in rearranging the elements. He moved the trees, altered the hills, relocated the barn. He laughed while mixing up his elements. His eyes sparkled with mischief. Rather than a workshop on painting, the day became an exercise in joy-in-art. Seeing and playing with what we see.

This morning I read that the word ‘composition’ means “putting together.” Definers-of-art-terms associate composition with freedom. “The artist has freedom when choosing the composition of their artwork.” It is a mistake to believe that compositional freedom is the sole province of an artist. If the mind is a canvas then thought is a composition. It is patterned and composed. Arranged and rearranged. We choose where we place our focus. Point-of-view is cultivated, it is not a default setting. We design the story-we-tell-ourselves-about-ourselves. And, then we project it onto the world.

The trick in both art and thought composition is not to wear ruts in the road. Sam was joyful in his art because he was constantly challenging and engaging with what he saw. Art was fun, not morbid tradition. Art was delight-full, not rule-bound or laden with the pressure to capture. Recall that stepping out of the rut was the first lesson in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Morning pages and artist’s dates are meant to both see the ruts and open new paths. The same process applies to the thought-canvas. See the rut. Step out of it.

As Sam taught me so many years ago, seeing and playing with what we see begins with letting go of what we think we see. It begins with a blank canvas, an unfettered mind, and the freedom to choose the composition.

read Kerri’s blog post about COMPOSITION

Unfettered ©️ 2018 david robinson

Practice Thinking [on KS Friday]

“The capacity to think astutely is often undervalued in the world of action. But philosopher Hannah Arendt identified the capacity to think as the foundation of a healthy and resilient democracy. Having experienced totalitarianism in Nazi Germany, then having fled it, she devoted much of her life to studying it and its opposite, democracy. She believed that thinking thoughtfully in public deliberations and acting democratically were intertwined and that totalitarianism is built upon and sustained by deceit and thought control. In order to resist efforts by the powerful to deceive and control thinking, Arendt believed that people needed to practice thinking.” Westley, Zimmerman, Patton, Getting To Maybe: How The World Is Changed

If thinking clearly is the hard line between democracy and totalitarianism, then we in these once-united-states are in a world of trouble.

For evidence, look no further than this past week. I begin with a single word: debate. Full stop. To assume thought is to assume too much. It was painful to watch conservative pundits attempt to spin sense and justification into 90 minutes of lie-vomit and fact-abuse. It was even more painful to watch thinking people, already exhausted by years of gaslighting, grasp for some sense of what they had just witnessed. The transience of the American experiment.

I shook my head during a post-debate-news segment when a woman cloaked in MAGA swag said that there shouldn’t be fact checkers at the debates because, “People should be able to say their truth.” Where-oh-where has our thought-practice gone?

Beneath the noise of the debate was a ruling in a slander case brought against Tucker Carlson of Fox News fame. The court ruled in Fox’s favor citing,”… that given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, that any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statements he makes.” It has not been my experience that watchers of Fox News are necessarily awash in reason or any amount of skepticism. They believe the spin they hear in that big bubble of fantasy. The judge wrote, “The “‘general tenor’ of the show should then inform a viewer that [Carlson] is not ‘stating actual facts’ about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘non-literal commentary.’ “

O accountability, where is thy sting? O thought, where is thy champion?

Democracy is dependent upon our capacity to discern between exaggeration and fact, lie and truth. We are now a nation that cannot grasp the simplicity of science in a pandemic. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Those two actions could have saved thousands of lives. They still could save thousands of lives. I shook my head in despair when people I love repeated with gusto the claim that our numbers of infection are so high because we do so many tests. I thought but did not say, “Think! For god’s sake, just think about what you are saying!” It is too much to ask.

Kerri and I have met walls of angry criticism when we ask folks to check their media sources. How dare we suggest that propaganda isn’t news! It’s easy to check whether or not you are being led by the nose if you care to do it. And that, I fear, is where the line between democracy and totalitarianism dissolves. The care to do it. We would rather be comfy and fixed in our news bubbles, gloating in our mutual agreement, than practice thinking.

Without that hard line, the foundation of our healthy and resilient democracy can only crumble.

TRANSIENCE on the album RIGHT NOW is available in iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about TRANSIENCE

transience/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Listen To The Hatter [on Flawed Wednesday]

keep yo mouth shut copy

“I don’t think…”

“Then you shouldn’t talk!” said the Hatter

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The entire world is down the rabbit hole though, we citizens of the U.S.A., have fallen into a deeper darker hole. We’ve found a way-out-wacky cast of characters at the helm that challenge in strangeness the inhabitants of Wonderland. Truth, as it turns out, is much stranger than fiction.

Sometimes out of the mouth of madness comes a whisper of truth. If you do not first think, you should probably not talk. The Hatter’s advice is sage.

For kicks, I asked the mystic Google this question: What did Alice learn in Wonderland? It’s been a few years since I held her hand and went down the rabbit hole.

Alice learned that bullies are really two-dimensional and ultimately vapid. The pandemic is exposing our very own Queen of Hearts, a man who, like the Queen, gets his excitement from belittling others. Diminishing others is really the only card in a bully’s  deck. Here we are.

Alice learned that a bully is powerless without the support of minions. So, to garner support, a healthy cadre of minions must also agree to be flat and loud but remain thought-free. As it turns out, minions are powerless without a bully. It’s a loop. Well. Here we are.

The Caterpillar asks Alice, “Who are you?” She has no answer. She finds herself in a wholly strange world. The rules of life as she understands them no longer apply.  It is madness everywhere she looks. Yup. Here we are.

Her experiences with the madness expose who she is. That is my favorite of Alice’s lessons. Our madness is also exposing many things about us. It’s revealed the bully. It has called forward the courageous. It has uncovered the minions. It lays bare the deep cracks in our foundation. And, perhaps, to take some advice from the Hatter, since the bully and his crew has undermined science, morality, ethic, facts, jurisprudence, and is taking partisan bites from the constitution, it might be time for us to start thinking.

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t,” said Alice.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Mouth Shut

 

donnieandmarie uke website box copy

 

PigeonPier copy

pigeon pier

 

 

 

 

 

Decide To Create A Better Story [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

hate has no home here copy

To anyone who entertains the mistaken notion that they are not creative, look no further than your thoughts. Thought is a creative act. It leads to the chicken-and-egg conundrum of creating. Do you create your thoughts or do your thoughts create you? Either way, what happens between the ears ripples with creativity.

We live within our thoughts and our thoughts live within us. We feed our thoughts with our fantasies and fears. Universes open or close. For instance, focus on contention and you will see contention everywhere.  That is, you will create contention.

It is, and has been the dirty little secret of governing people since before Machiavelli: keep the masses focused on division and they will be easily manipulated. Create difference whether it exists or not. That way the good people will fight with each other and not focus on the actions of their leaders. It’s a magic trick. A sleight of hand. It is a strategy, not a conspiracy.

A people united as one is a very potent force. A united populace is dangerous to a corrupt and fearful leadership.

Before you roll your eyes with my esoterica, put your highly creative thought on this: is it true that our nation is deeply divided? Yes.  Do we create division ourselves without question, eating heartily the divisive narrative we are being fed? Yes. We are daily meditating on division and daily claiming it as truth. We create division together.

Narratives are powerful and just as capable of obscuring as they are of revealing. Obscurity is a creative act. So is deception. Propaganda. Denial. Conspiracy theory. Lie.

It is the definition of ignorance to embrace a narrative without questioning it. Which brings us back around to the chicken-and-egg conundrum: do you close your mind or does your mind close you? Yes. Hate has no home in a questioning mind.

Are we capable of questioning? Of telling a common story? It depends on what we decide together to create. Yes.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on NO HOME FOR HATE

 

shadow in surf HH website box copy

Blow Up Your Feathers [on DR Thursday]

EarthInterrupted3 copy 2

Earth Interrupted. This painting is the third in the series. It’s not as political as it might seem. Every time change comes an earth is interrupted. Configurations dismembered and then reconfigured.

A long time ago, when working with groups on perspective shifts, I used the phrase, “Blow up your feathers so they can re-settle in a new pattern.” I liked the phrase because I love the notion that thoughts are just so many feathers that have settled into a random pattern.

This series was (and is) my attempt to blow up my artistic feathers, to interrupt my earth. My feathers are still airborne. I’ll let you know when my earth settles down, when my feathers find a new pattern.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about E.I. III

 

 

EarthInterrupted3 copy 2

E.I. III, 48x36IN, mixed media

 

seagull in fog website box copy

 

earth interrupted III ©️ 2018 david robinson

 

 

Hear Yourself Think [on DR Thursday]

painting FOR PEACE I PRAY morsel copy

Ultimately, if you are lucky,  you come to the realization that you are in prayer, in meditation all day every day. What rolls through your noggin each moment of each day is your meditation. It is your prayer. The question is this: what is your meditation?

We need not go to the mountaintop, enter the big stone building, or walk a thousand miles to the sacred site to find it. It’s all a sacred site. There is no class or teacher that can show you the way to understanding your meditation. I learned in my travels that the high priests in Bali are in prayer/meditation all day, every day. Chanting mantras, reciting prayers. Directing their thought. The only difference between the priests and the taxi driver is that the priests know that they are in constant prayer. They understand the creative power of their thoughts.

I love to paint because my rambling river of thought simmers down. I become quiet. I can ‘hear myself think.’ And, from what I hear, my thoughts, are mostly ridiculous fear fantasies. Rabbit chases. Human-made-up-separation-anxiety.

Beyond all the noise and the chanting is the quiet place. That is what this painting, FOR PEACE I PRAY, is about.

ForPeace,IPray copy

a rough shot of the finished piece. it sold before I took an archival shot. in fact, the image on my site was taken before the words were painted in. go see the difference.

sketch

the sketch

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FOR PEACE I PRAY

 

footprints in sunlit snow website box copy

 

 

for peace i pray ©️ 2016 david robinson

Choose Your Meditation [on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

peace marbles copy

We found Peace Marbles in a basket at the door of Leap Of Faith, a small shop in Cedarburg. It’s one of our favorite shops for obvious reasons. Many faiths are represented in the shop so translate the accompanying lyrics/prayer/meditation accordingly.

The idea is ancient. What fills your mind-space, your meditation, is what you will create. Meditate on hate and that is what you will see. Focus on lack and that is what you will experience. Although it might not seem like it, what you think, what flows through your noggin on a daily basis, is a choice.  It is a placement of focus. It is a prayer. A meditation.

Peace comes when people collectively focus on peace. A community chooses where to place its focus as readily as does an individual. It’s all in the narrative, the stuff flowing through our conversation, our storytelling, on a daily basis.  It is a creative act – not something that ‘happens to us.’

It seems we could use all the help we can get. And, you never know, a fleet of little blue marbles rolling around in pockets and purses as reminders might be just the thing to help us choose to place our focus on the better things. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

 

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on BLUE MARBLES

 

 

cropped head kiss website copy