Sunday, September 30, 2012

They're Rioting in Africa ...

"They’re rioting in Africa, There’s strife in Iran
What Nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our Fellow Man*"

Many life-times ago, in a land far-far away, known as the early 60's,  folk singers made us feel as if we could change the world.  

Half a century later, many, if not most, of us no longer believe.

Recent conversations with smart, positive, engaged and enlightened friends have shown me the depth of the dark shadow that hangs over us.  One friend facing new grandmotherhood, worries about the state of the world her new grandchild will face.  I remember those same feelings as my granddaughter entered the world three days after 9/11.  Another believes there are forces of evil conspiring to control the world.  And, every day, it starts to sound less crazy as the activities of shadow organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are brought into the light.**

  • Yes, there is a trash pile in the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas.
  • Yes, there are billionaires and corporations willing to pour obscene amounts of money into controlling our democratic processes.
  • Yes, there are tribal hatreds that go back thousands of years that could rip holes in our gauzy fabric of peace.
  • Yes, stuff is being done to our food supply that we neither understand completely nor can comprehend its future effects.
  • Yes, the climate is changing and much of it can be related to our gluttonous cry, "More, please … NOW!"
  • Yes, hatred and exclusion seem to be increasingly part of our great religions.
  • Yes, our education system is broken and the people with answers are locked in old thought.
  • When we focus on the shadow, we miss the light.
  • When we stop believing, we give away our power.
  • When we take a pill to go to sleep (whether it's Ambien, food, alcohol or television), we no longer dream.
  • When we accept lies, greed, dishonesty and pre-digested pablum, we enable the shadow.
  • When we forget the great challenges our ancestors faced and survived, we feel weak.
  • When we ignore the great gifts of life, we accept death.
  • When we give up, our children, grandchildren and their futures are lost.
A great many of us are entering the era of retirement.  Can we afford to make that a time of retreat?  

We started out on this journey as young idealists who wanted the world to be a better place.  A lot of hard blows came our way:  Martin, Bobby and John … Vietnam … as well as all the little dents of normal living.  Surely, we gained some wisdom along the way.  Wisdom that could be poured lovingly and wisely like warm molasses onto our wounded world.

Rumi says "the breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. don’t go back to sleep."

The world needs us … don't go back to sleep.  Samuel Jackson in a recent political video says, "Wake the Fuck Up!"  Good advice even beyond the world of politics.  

If every one of us who once believed that we could help make the world a better place, began again to add our voices, our talents, our intelligence, our wisdom, and our open hearts to the forces of good, truth and beauty, maybe ... just maybe ... we would accomplish some of the great things we dreamed about in our youth. 

 And, maybe that could be the legacy of our generation.  I'm signing up to this call.  I am ready to Wake the Fuck Up!

* from Merry Little Minuet, it came straight from the “Hungry i” cafĂ© in San Francisco, a “mecca” of folk music in the late 1950’s. Performed by the Kingston Trio, it was song-writer Sheldon Harnick’s tribute to the troubles and tensions of the world.

About this Image:  Both/And Call

This is an ancient and universal symbol of balance and the interaction of light and shadow.  Within the darkness is a seed of light; within light is a seed of darkness.  Words remind us that it is our actions that bring forth the seeds of new realities.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Found Art Life

In 1917, Marcel Duchamp entered an art piece titled, "Fountain" into the Society of Independent Artists show.   The piece was a common urinal that Duchamp had purchased from a local hardware store.  The show committee insisted that Fountain was not art, and rejected it from the show causing an uproar amongst the Dadaists, and leading to Duchamp's resignation from the board of the Independent Artists.

Perhaps, most importantly, Duchamp's "Fountain" left us with the question of "what is art?" … a question with a thousand answers and little consensus.

Duchamp's urinal was an early example of "found art" -- finding beauty, meaning or inspiration from ordinary things, often things left behind or discarded after serving a previous use.  Found art has become a favorite media for sculptors, jewelry makers and even photographers and painters.  

I was never into found art so I walked through most of my life scorning junk stores, garage sales and places where discarded and used up items go to die.  I've moved so often that carting around a bunch of stuff that had no immediate use wasn't very practical.  That began to change when I realized I could take pictures of interesting stuff and not actually have to pack it on my back from place to place.  

But, when I began to do mosaics, photographs were no longer enough … I needed the physical stuff and everything started calling to me … broken plates, old light fixtures, rusty gizmos whose purpose I will never know.  Now I have a garage full of stuff and it's creeping into nooks and crannies everywhere.

Opening up to looking beyond the surface of something is an interesting experience.  Suddenly, everything looks different … everything has potential … everything matters.  Things begin to speak … calling me to play with them … suggesting new combinations … morphing and inspiring.

This morning it occurred to me that life is found art.  Stuff comes to us … some rusty and bent … some shiny and bright … and it's our choice as to whether we weave it into the tapestry of our lives … or toss it away … or even walk past it not recognizing its potential.  A great deal of the found art of our lives comes from people: family, friends, the quick sales interaction in a department store,  a fragment of conversation heard while walking down the street.  

When we begin to notice these fleeting moments … not as something immediately practical designed to serve us … but rather, as bits of bright glass and rusty parts that help us create a new work of art … our lives … we start to accept our role as artist … creator … of this experience called life.  Each work of art is unique and special, made up from what comes our way, what we notice along the way, what we find that inspires us and brings meaning into our lives.

About this image:  Brick Wall, Pearl Street Mall, Boulder

This found art wall reminds me that we can create art anywhere.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Scientific Method and Love: A Fable

Recently love knocked on the door and said, "Surprise! I'm back!"

While shocked and delighted to see my old friend, I was just a little wary.  I wanted to ask, "Where have you been?" and "Why did you go away?" and "Are you here to stay?"  But, I knew this slippery creature would only wriggle out of answering.  No pinning him down on a black and white chart, no cornering him in the square box of logic and reason.  

So I invited him in to tea and in a conversation that hopped from Einstein's Dreams to varieties of bamboo, from the Big Bang to the universal theory of toenail cells and from small towns to big art, a new thought was born.  All things being connected, love and science are not frenemies but soul mates on the same spiraling dance toward the universal.  

"It's all about the scientific method," my chipper friend offered.

When I asked, "How's that?" he only grinned, grabbed his hat and called, "Later gator."

Curious, but now forced to fall back on my old resources, I headed to Wikipedia and read:
"The chief characteristic which distinguishes a scientific method of inquiry from other methods of acquiring knowledge is that scientists seek to let reality speak for itself, supporting a theory when a theory's predictions are confirmed and challenging a theory when its predictions prove false."
"Great!" I thought.  And how is one supposed to confirm or challenge something as misty as smoke … as ephemeral as this thing called love?   A dream offered a metaphorical way in … I saw a thousand tiny doors opening in my heart and through each door breathed an invitation, "Come … explore … share."  Following the trail of that metaphor, I created the following hypothesis … the starting point of "letting reality speak for itself" …

In the beginning, when two hearts connect, hundreds of tiny doors open allowing energy to flow back and forth.  A conversation of sight and sound is born, sometimes opening more doors as stories reveal shared connections, sometimes closing doors when the energy isn't strong enough to leap the gap from the doors of one heart to the doors of the other.   
As more doors open and the flow of energy brightens, touch flips a switch and a thousand more doors open and the flow of energetic connection becomes a two-way stream with the strength to carry hopes and dreams, secrets and fears.  Love strolls in and asks, "Shall we dance?" 
Sometimes we accept and more doors open as taste and smell amp up the conversation creating a bright, nourishing glow called "being in love."  Sometimes boulders in the stream divert the flow and it loses the strength to carry the energy both ways and doors begin to close, the stream slows, weakens and may even become a dry creek bed nourishing nothing. The connecting energy of love disappears.   
In the bright afternoon of the conversation, shadows often appear at one of the doors, pulling it closed and then charging around trying to shut the others in a fear-filled scramble of self-protection.  As the doors on one side shut, energy is lost, the conversation stutters.  Love gets stuck sitting on the bank and two hearts break.   
Unless … the stream is strong enough and it has been carefully cleared of rocks and boulders.   
Unless ... the conversation of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell has woven a tapestry of intimacy with golden threads of stories, laughter, shared values, hopes and dreams, acceptance of secrets and fears … a tapestry of safety and unconditional embrace that can be wrapped around the shadow.   
When that happens, love smiles and says, "until death parts us."

Later, my hoppy friend returned and asked, "Is there more tea?  With mint this time, please."

I told him my hypothesis and asked, "Is this how it works?"

He said, in his maddeningly mysterious way, "I guess you just have to try it out.  Have the conversation.  Remove the rocks and boulders.  Weave the tapestry.  See if it holds."

I just shook my head and passed the cookies.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Life Turns

In an eye blink … 
     On a dime … 
           In a heartbeat … 

Life turns a corner and you're in a new land and the moment before is gone.  Only the new present remains calling for awareness, engagement, respect.

Sometimes we recognize those turns the moment we make them … other times they slip in under our gaze, unnoticed and unseen until later when we wonder what happened and trace the new reality back to a word said at the right (or wrong) time, a decision to walk a new direction, or a choice as simple as wearing a bright color.  Sometimes they add up like grains of sand on a pile until one grain lands and everything shifts and reforms itself.

It's a process that continually fascinates me as I watch life shift … sometimes dramatically after a period of seemingly little change.  It makes me realize that everything is in constant flux even when it seems the same.  And, every moment deserves appreciation and notice … for in the next instance it could be ... will be ... gone.

About this image  Life Turns

This image came as I contemplated the ever-shifting, ever-changing nature of life. Starting with a road that wound through an aspen forest near Maroon Bells in Colorado which then called in an experimental image of lights on a ship cruising to Mexico.  These images seem to recognize their own connections that i can't see consciously but when I let them play, they seem to find their own way.