Go All In [on Merely A Thought Monday]

They tell us that the aspens peaked a week ago but I am no less in awe of the flaming yellows and oranges that pop across the mountainside.

On our drive to the mountain we talked about the extremes, the hallmark this time. “Vote as if your life depended on it.” “Vote or you’ll lose your rights.” Fascism! Socialism! Two walls of a crevasse with nothing but emptiness between. Thoughts of shared democracy must have fallen into the void. We passed a sign for a casino, “Go All In!” it declared. “That’s the perfect statement for our times.” Kerri said.

Go all in. Leave nothing on the table. Every subculture has its language. Place your bet. Double down. Crap.

I sit on the balcony and stare across the valley at the fiery hillside. The morning light makes the autumn electric. I close my eyes, bask in the sun.

I looked up how the USA votes relative to other nations. It is enough to say that we are not even close to the top of the list of voter turnout. We are either a glass half-empty or half-full, depending on your level of optimism. Apathy. Disbelief. Wasted votes. Voter block/blocked voters.

Voter suppression. Free and fair election. Another crevasse. A system of extremes. Gerrymander. Electoral college. Politicians picking their voters rather than voters picking their politicians. Jim Crow.

Winner-take-all.

Two deer just meandered across the meadow. I wonder what it must feel like. I doubt they despise the other deer for their particular point of view. People are funny. Given to story, sorting to the negative. Attached to the ugly. Lost in illusion. If you believe the Greeks, we were created to appreciate Zeus. Nothing more, nothing less. If Zeus is a metaphor for all-of-nature [and not a hairy-thunderbolt-hurler], then I am fulfilling my purpose sitting on this balcony.

Witnessing is easy. The crevasse is easily made. Bridge-building takes some courage and ingenuity. Apathy is easy. Participating takes some care and effort. Reach. Give voice. Go all in and vote. Or, as my pal MM once said, “You have no business complaining.”

read Kerri’s blog post about ALL IN

Avoid The Vortex [on Two Artists Tuesday]

SHH copy

I miss my friend dearly. We spoke on the phone for almost two hours this morning. It had been too long since our last check-in. He said something very pertinent to our times. Although he does not believe in the devil, by way of metaphor he said this: The devil’s job is to pull us into a negative vortex. And, these days, the devil is winning.

I am guilty of being pulled into the angry vortex and his caution hit home.

Yesterday, Kerri’s entire catalogue of posts was blocked by Facebook. That’s 130 weeks times 5-posts-a-week = 650 posts. We have no idea why. We read FB’s new Community Standards, the reasons they give for blocking content, and can’t find evidence of a single violation. It’s almost a mystery.

Almost. A few minutes before her posts were wiped from FB, someone visited our business page, scanned Kerri’s blog-posts from last week, and alerted FB that they were spam. Coincidence is not always correspondence however, in this case, one action – the alerts – triggered the other action – the blocking of Kerri’s posts. It was an intentional act and not an accident.

In this age of information there is, of course, no person to call, no help line or customer service agent. There is a firewall, a form, a void or black hole, that accepts feedback. The feedback form, however, informs givers of feedback [human beings] that their feedback will not be read.

I scratch my head at the existential drama I am currently living. Sarte. No Exit.

The Facebook-content-scrubbing may be temporary. It may not. The blog-posts may be reviewed or they might not. There’s no one to ask and there’s no next-level-information available. I wrote about this a few months ago, the good-bots at FB suddenly sent Kerri copyright violation warnings on her recordings. She wrote, recorded, and owns the copyrights to all of her music and albums. FB now blocks her from sharing her own music. Her protests went into the same black hole as her blog-post-feedback.

The intelligence is, at best, artificial.

People are angry. It takes a special kind of anger to systematically go through someone’s posts and mark them as spam. They had to jump my posts to reach Kerri’s so it seems obvious that the anger is personal though the none-the-less feeble. Any poltroon can hit a button; it takes a bit of courage to give voice, especially when it is in opposition.

The vortex may be attempting to suck the light from all of us but I doubt the devil will win. Life is not a win/lose game. It moves. It changes. Day follows night.

My friend said something else that I found hopeful in these dark times: out of ashes, out of chaos, the phoenix always rises. That is important to remember. It is best to stand still when all things seem like they are spinning, spinning out of control.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SHHHHH! [it’s possible that her posts may never reappear so, if you enjoy reading Kerri’s blog, consider subscribing. I know we publish waaay too much but, with the minor exception of us, no one reads everything that we write.]

 

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Grow More Beautiful [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Barney copy

Barney is growing more beautiful with each passing year. New colors emerge. His wood splinters and new patterns play across his keys. The laminate that once served as skin is loose, wrinkled and twisting.

He was once forgotten.  Years ago, someone thought it was a good idea to store him next to the boiler in the basement of the church. He sat in the dark for decades. He provided a surface for loose tools. He stood in water more than once; the basement floods and the boiler breaks. Over time his soundboard was ruined. He was no longer useful according to his original purpose.

He was rediscovered. He was rolled into the light. It was determined that he was too broken to be fixed and he was scheduled to be taken away by the scrap man. It took some convincing but we talked the scrap man into bringing Barney to our house. He helped us roll Barney across the grass. He helped us lift him into his resting place.

Barney has been a fixture in our backyard for the past 4 years. Kerri played him on his first day here and he sounded pretty good. The next day his sound collapsed, his keys stuck; he let us know his time for giving voice was over. He is content in his silence.

Now, he rests. He weathers. He drinks in the sun and the snow and rain as the years cycle through. The plants grow up around him as he slowly sinks into them. We watch and note his changes, the pieces falling off, the chipmunks who live beneath his lid. The purples and ochres and deep rich blues that were hiding beneath the laminate have surfaced. The changing weather, the long road of his life, has teased them to the top.

He quite simply grows more and more beautiful. We think that was his purpose all along.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BARNEY

 

cropped head kiss website copy

Hear The Voices

photo-2This is the most unusual rehearsal process I’ve ever navigated.

First, I wrote the play and in preparing to perform it, I’m discovering it anew as if someone else wrote it. There have been brilliant and funny moments when I ask myself, I wonder why he wrote that? The good news is that I remember whom to ask.

Second, the play was originally meant for Tom to perform and since the story is Tom’s family narrative, I wanted the language and syntax to be Tom’s. In development, I recorded hours of conversation with him. Much of the first draft was a transcription so that I might capture word-for-word his language choices and speech patterns. Those structures survived the several rewrites that happened after Tom’s death. In preparing to perform the play I’m wrestling with the language. I’m wrestling with his language. It is almost as if I am discovering my own speech patterns and syntax – in telling Tom’s story I’m finding it necessary to tell it my way, not his. Essentially, as is true in all good storytelling, I am finding myself, my voice, through his story.

Tom and me a long time ago.

Tom and me a long time ago.

Finally, the music is a character in the play and the musicians, Mom’s Chili Boys, are madly rehearsing in California while the actors (Kerri and I) are rehearsing in Wisconsin. The internet is a beautiful thing as, each day, we pass notes, record voices, email questions; we will only be together in the same room 3 days before the first performance. We’re essentially workshopping the play from two locations. It is akin to rehearsing a symphony in parts and the parts only come together in the final day. They get to experience the whole symphony, the fullness of their music as played through all of the voices, only in the final hour. And that will be true of this play.

Each day I rehearse and I hear Tom’s voice in my head, telling me the stories that comprise the play. I am reminded that, whether artist or audience, art is a living thing. It is a relationship and ultimately that relationship is with your self.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

For all digital versions, go here (Leanpub)

Untitled by David Robinson

Untitled by David Robinson

Go here for fine art prints of my paintings.

Clear The Static

'John's Secret' by David Robinson

‘John’s Secret’ by David Robinson. I’ve used this image before but this painting came to mind while writing so I’m using it again.

So many of my conversations with the stained glass window have to do with returns. For instance, the first conversation was about the return to silence. Over the year, we’ve had lengthy chats about the return to the sacred, a return to light, gratitude, alignment, unity, presence and love. Today our conversation was about the return to voice.

When people talk about voice they generally associate the verb “to give.” Give voice to your thoughts. Give voice to your ideas. Giving voice implies that you have something inside that is unexpressed. It implies that your inner editor has run amok and has a choke hold on your communication. Release the grip and give rein to your voice.

Free expression is all well and good but giving voice also comes with a caveat. Someone I once knew told a great story of a woman who grew tired of hearing her associates complain about not having a voice. This woman, in a fit of frustration, asked, “If you had a voice, what would you say?” It is a potent caveat: it is not enough to have a voice. In addition to the capacity to give voice you also need something meaningful to say. The 24-hour news cycle is rife with great examples of voice sans content.

My conversation with the window had nothing to do with giving voice to the unexpressed or to the necessity of useful content. The window surprised me. The window reminded me of a favorite quote by Vincent Van Gogh: If you hear a voice within you say, “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. Oddly, my discussion with the window about the return to voice had to do more with with silence than with sound. It had to do with the quieting the static. In other words, full expression is available when the inner radio station is properly tuned. Clear the noise and the channel opens. Clear the noise and act: paint the paintings, write the next book, create the Be-A-Ray performances, give life to my play, The Lost Boy. The return to voice is a path that leads through quiet. It is a paradox and to my great delight it is a paradox that loops back to my very first conversation with the window. Silence and voice, voice and silence: they are dynamic and intimately connected.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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Find Your Voice

722. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Yesterday I worked with teachers and students in an art cadre. We explored what it means to make art.

I am resistant to write, “We made art” because it implies that the “art” was a product, a thing separate from the process. It implies that the “doing” was incidental and the outcome was the thing called “art.” That notion is upside down. The art is not the outcome. The art is the process yet we have no language to correctly express it. What happened in our art cadre was essential. The students and teachers recognized that a great product requires a great process; the process is the essential.

We focused entirely on process because I know that students and teachers alike are all the time squeezed into demonstrating outcomes. They are forced to let go the primary in service to the secondary. Art teachers are generally under siege and always have to prove their value to school districts because school districts see “art” as an incidental. Consequently, art is often taught as a product and therefore not art. It is misunderstood as something non-essential.

There is an entire industry known as “self-help” dedicated to a single, simple impulse: the full expression of the self: how to give full voice to perceptions and ideas without impediment. In other words, how do we get out of our own way? This is a question of process and reachable through “art” when art is understood. Businesses invest fortunes to “brainstorm” new ideas, to see patterns and give form to new conceptions. Perception is the province of “art.” I hear whining from the glass towers of commerce: “Why aren’t schools producing self-directed, critical thinking workers?” Answer: dedicating the focus to outcomes and answer regurgitation (in other words, beat the art out of people) will always produce a hiring pool of anesthetized answer regurgitators. We get what we produce. Self-expression and critical thinking are sister skills. Quash one and we quell the other. Art would seem to be an essential skill for business.

One of the saddest moments of the day came after the cadre. Two teachers stayed to talk. They told me that they knew what they are doing to kids (yes…doing TO kids) is wrong. They are required to produce products. They believe that they have no voice in the matter. They told me that they agreed with everything we explored but must serve the product expectations of their district. I didn’t ask the question I wanted to ask. There seemed no point. I wandered when they would wake up and recognize that supporting a system that they knew to be harming kids was also taking a toll on their health and lives. Voice is not something other people give you. It is something that you have to agree to give away. Voicelessness is a terrible thing to exchange in order to follow a rule, especially if you do not believe in the premise of the rule.

Use Your Voice

481. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Sho, Joe, and a host of others have asked me to start giving titles to these posts. Joe told me I wasn’t helping myself. Sho told me it would make it easier for people to find a past post. Both are wise men and I trust their counsel. Both are friends who have my best interest at heart. Both have offered me the gift of the tough conversation, contrary points of view, and some well deserved dope slapping (my head used to be symmetrical. I am a slow study).

When I was younger I placed limits on my voice. I could not ask for what I wanted; I ran from difficult conversations; I feared offending anyone so I offended everyone. Had I a motto it might have read, “Deflect and dissipate.” The family crest would have proclaimed, “In any case, hide.” I saw life as a walk through a minefield. I’ve worked hard at removing the limits from my voice; I knew I had full possession of it the day I told a client, “My job is to serve you, not to please you.” In fact, I have learned that pleasing is often a lousy intention and usually has strings attached. It is not such a great thing to be liked when the price of being liked is your voice. So, having become an expert at treading on eggshells, having tossed away so much power, I have great appreciation for friends who are dedicated to serving me, to helping me grow, and not so invested in pleasing me.

It seems that voice-less-ness has been a theme these past few weeks. I have been traveling and engaging with several communities. I’ve been witness to an abundance of word swallowing. This is how I know: Voice-less-ness never comes to the party alone. Voice-less-ness has a cagey companion, a shadow of a shadow named Mind Reader. They dance together. Try it: withhold your voice and you will almost immediately expect others to read your mind. “They should know…,” is a common inner monologue of the voice-less. Another clue: clamped expression escalates inner chatter; you can see the intensity of monkey mind writ large on the faces of the self-strangled. Energy must find expression so another characteristic of voice-less-ness is manipulation: despite Mind Reader’s expectation, others usually can’t read our minds so we channel our desires into less direct, more insidious routes of getting what we want.

This is what I learned during my years of voice-less-ness: hell is not a place you go for an ill spent life. Hell is a place you create when you plug your voice. Do yourself a favor: taste a little bit of heaven and ask for what you want, say what you think, and cease expecting your mate, family and friends to channel The Great Kreskin.