reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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“try to make room.” [merely-a-thought monday]

“basic logical reasoning” seems to be in short supply. instead, there is a vast vat of hook-line-and-sinker-ism with a side of blind, unquestioning ideological buy-in.

i have been stunned time and again reading social media threads these days. i thought that i grew up – and attended a high school – in an area that valued education . . . even at its simplest – to learn the lifelong skill of complex critical thinking and rational deductive reasoning based on learning how to research, how to gather factual information and observations and weigh all these elements appropriately and objectively, working toward a conclusion. i would have guessed that most of the people i went to high school with, like my dear friend marc, – all those years ago – having been taught by world-class teachers – would have this skill but this is apparently not so. social media has proven me wrong.

again and again, i read with horror the comments of those who have narrowed the spectrum of the tools they use to garner information. again and again, i shudder to see how limited they have made their worlds – how learning is restricted to resources that have their same opinion, how crossing any aisle to ponder, question, discuss, evaluate, negotiate – in any arena – is impossible. i’m astounded by the sheer ignoring (note the similarity to the word ignorance here) of factual information. it’s staggering to see so much anger directed so quickly and pointedly – with extensive name-calling – by people who use limited vocabulary, use limited or no citations of unbiased truth, clearly have limited empathy for others different than themselves, but have unlimited dedication to their beliefs – particularly under the ever-widening umbrella of extreme political beliefs these days – with no evidence to substantiate them. behaviors that are outlandish – even in this day and age after the last administration’s unleashed and continued field day on hatred and vitriol and lies – perversity at its best.

it’s disheartening to casually scroll through social media and stumble into a thread in which a participant has gone from zero to warp speed in milliseconds, spouting, spouting, spouting. the spew may be ‘big lie’ related, voting-restriction related, vaccination related, pandemic related, mask related, race or gender related, gun-control related, climate related, taxation related, social programs related, science related, any-color-koolaid related. i – maybe like you – have been the target time and again of being called names (really?!) by people i don’t know, people i’d think would know (or at least speak) better, people who are ‘friends’ of ‘friends’, people from my old high school, people who are just clearly ticked off in a big way and need a target. if you even attempt to engage in a conversation, it quickly disintegrates into stupefying borrowed rhetoric.

i suppose this trend will continue, as a large part of our country has made it perfectly acceptable to just unconsciously follow pied pipers or obnoxious acolytes thereof. it’s somehow become perfectly acceptable, even noteworthily cheered on, to use aggressive language, to be hostile and combative, to be both prey and purveyor of distraction and mediocrity, to state and re-state and post and forward false information, to not ask questions, to disregard facts, to be so deep into belief that it’s no longer necessary to examine knowledge, seek anything evidentiary, or look for relevant logic.

i’m still proud of john glenn high school. i’m proud of the teachers i was lucky enough to be taught by back then. i’m glad i paid attention, that i made learning and how to learn a priority. it’s a fluid and continual lesson. i believe it’s that which is essential for existence, vital for living. i know we’re never done.

but it doesn’t stop me from rolling my eyes at those whose “room for some basic logical reasoning” is scant. it’s dispiriting.

and i just want to add one more thing while i’m at it. a tiny peeve of mine. please check your spelling, grammar, word usage, sentence structure, auto-correct – maybe consider proofreading – before you opine on social media. particularly if you want to be taken seriously. (consider, if you will, a posting of the words: “voter freud“.) words, punctuation, coherence – they all matter. perhaps not as much as your intention, but still…

my sweet momma always said, “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” she also famously said, “look it up!”

she, like me, would be aghast at these more recent trends. and she, like me, would still hold out hope for human decency.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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go back and buy the towel. [two artists tuesday]

i should have bought the pencils.

i love #2 pencils – though, in an inane detail you are probably unconcerned about, i love mechanical pencils more – and it was a whole pack of ’em. plus each and every one was printed with the word “dissent”.

that’s why i should have bought them. i could have stashed reminders of RBG’s venerable spirit and dedication to equality and goodness and principle and ethics and probity in my purse, on the kitchen counter, at my piano, in our mélange-planning notebook, in my calendar.

they would have reminded me to stand courageously in dissent, to back it up with facts, to hold to integrity, to not waver in the face of any question or any fear or any threat. the thing about supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg, though, is that she was intrepid – even without the pencils.

and so, with the sisu of ruth, the belief in “an opinion, philosophy or sentiment of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea or policy enforced by a government, political party or other entity or individual in a capacity of contextual authority” (wikipedia), the steadfast commitment to the truth and transparency, we all batten down the hatches and ready ourselves for whatever things we care about for which we must fight.

at the very least, i should have bought the towel.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

PS. “despite the fact that the justices routinely disagree with each other, they never let it get personal, and have good working relationships with one another.” (dhruti bhagat, librarian, boston public library blog – ruth bader ginsburg and dissents: what’s a dissent?)


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shoes and stones. [merely-a-thought monday]

brazen. how many of us have been this brazen? to make an assumption, to form an opinion, to decide to dislike, with no information, having asked no questions, having had no real conversation, having chosen sides under the dark cloak of one-sided story. we have all heard the idiom, “before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” yet, our perspective often remains stubbornly in one camp and we cling to the sideofthestory we heard, professing our disdain, without even a mere effort to understand, to measure, to even hear the other side. and then we haughtily hold tight to our narrow-scoped opinion and aim our arrows of brazen judgment. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.

guilty. how many of us have been guilty of this? to not care enough about someone’s reputation, someone’s livelihood, someone’s word, with no information, having asked no questions, having had no real conversation, having chosen sides under the dark cloak of one-sided story. we have all heard the proverb, “those in glass houses should not throw stones.” yet, we forgo our own flawedness, our own misdeeds, our own obvious hypocrisy, to hurl pebbles and stones and out-and-out boulders at others, efforts to raise ourselves up by pushing someone else down, guilty of power-mongering in places where that should be more closely examined. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.

sad. how many of us feel sad, having lost friendships, relationships, potential lifelong allies, colleagues, having aligned ourselves with people who have brazenly been guilty of gauging someone else simply because they did not know the othersideofthestory? we have judged, forgetting our own flaws. we have pummeled, forgetting our own vulnerability. we have turned our backs, forgetting our own need for fairness and truth from others. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.

devastated. how many of us have been at the center of the firing squad, muzzled and treading water, stuck in inertia, unable to give voice to the othersideofthestory, in the center of misinformation, incomplete information, an absolute lack of information, opinions and dislike forming from the dust of others’ untruths, others’ prejudices, others’ agenda? devastated that there is so much collateral fallout, so much loss, simply because they didn’t hear your side of the story. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.

but it is most definitely this: brazen.

and we all, at some time or another, are most definitely this: guilty.

and it feels most definitely this: sad.

and it causes most definitely this: devastation.

perhaps we need put on shoes and lay down our stones.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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an octopus and a hissy fit. [d.r. thursday]

in the outstanding documentary “my octopus teacher” craig foster forges a relationship with an octopus in the south african kelp forest. every day he enters the cold water to search for her and over the period of about a year he bonded an intimate friendship with this amazing creature. when she disappears after a scare, he spends days seeking her, commenting, “i try to think like an octopus.” his success reuniting with her shows he is at least somewhat capable of thinking how she thinks, of seeing how she sees. your heart is filled watching the mutuality of their connection and you wonder why this level of reciprocal respect cannot exist more easily between human beings.

tuesday i had a hissy fit. i have mostly recuperated. i’m not sure where it started but it definitely was a meltdown. anxiety coupled with grief coupled with worry and angst with a pinch of frustration – the ingredients du jour for many of us on a given day in these difficult times. i went on about a propensity for letting things just roll off my back, making things ok, not speaking up – for myself – as often as i would wish or as often would seem apt. in my wild and wooly meltdown, i complained that others can do this and often do this – speak up, push back, say things are not ok – without incident, without remorse, without punitive measures, without concern. i stated examples in that way you do when you are ranting; there are many words you speak asfastasyoucan to make sure the other person keeps listening and there are also many punctuation words you linger on, stretching out the sound of them on your lips, exquisite cuss words that seem fitting at the time. these are not necessarily pretty, but they are definitely handy at providing emphasis. i ranted about neighbors playing music at absurd decibels in a house-dense community. i ranted about the internet and streaming and ridiculously small music royalties, an industry for independents, flailing. i ranted about my right hand’s range of motion plateau. i ranted about speaking up for myself and my rights as a woman, my rights as a professional, my rights as an employee. i ranted about not saying “no”. i ranted about losing my job. i ranted about those who claim to be caring and compassionate not even entertaining having any kind of discussion or dialogue. i ranted about ill-suited leaders in leadership positions, seemingly not being held answerable. i ranted about hypocrisy. i ranted about people’s silent complicity. i ranted about wanting to retort to others about their stance on politics, on gender and racial equality, on the pandemic, on climate change, on gun violence and gun control. i ranted that, even sans retort, even in even-keeled, calm, cool, collected and researched manner, it would be next to impossible to navigate debate. i ranted about the abyss in our nation that makes it impossible to have an intelligent, thoughtful and respectful conversation without vile getting in the way. i ranted about the inability for people to see things together. i ranted about missing my sweet babycat. i returned to the top, taking a breath and again ranted that others seem to do and say whatever they please, despite fallout or impact on others, despite truth or consequences, without care and with agenda, without benevolence and with mean-spiritedness, without kindness and with a lack of sensitivity. i ranted that i could not continue this way. i ranted, “if i can’t at 62, when is it that i can???” can’t what? can what? i’m not even sure i know. ranting is like that.

it would seem that possibly a kelp forest off the coast, deep dives with a weight belt, times of holding one’s breath minutes at a time might aid in establishing some sort of common ground. it worked for craig foster and his fantastic octopus. he carefully, and without antagonizing her or scaring her or moving too quickly, watched her in her short life. he passively, without interfering or having self-serving agenda, watched her deal with day-to-day life, with adversity, with terror, with the pecking order that comes in the ocean. he watched her gracefully and intelligently co-exist with stunning creatures of the sea. he was saddened when she was hurt; he mourned her when she died. relationship. a kinship crossing natural boundaries.

we humans…we have much to learn. we have brains that refuse to look for new factual knowledge, hearts that refuse to respect all love as love, eyes that refuse to attempt empathy or fairness and see what others see. maybe we should spend some time immersed in the vast ocean, in a kelp forest. or maybe we should try harder. or maybe we should spend some time answering the important questions of our hissy fits.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

CHICKEN MARSALA ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood


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expert, schmexpert. [d.r. thursday]

expert (noun): a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.

other definitions from sources that are not the dictionary:

expert (noun): anyone from out of town.

expert (noun): a person knowledgeable enough about what is going on to be scared.

i have learned, in the six decades i have lived so far, that there are few true experts. there are many, many people who know a lot and many, many people who tout that they know a lot and many, many people who know very little about the thing they say they know a lot about. is there really any such thing as a complete expert, someone who has arrived, who has reached the all-knowing pinnacle, comprehensive and authoritative, who has nowhere at all left to go?

i think the most interesting people i have met are those people who are humbly reaching for more, understatedly claiming knowledge but not possessively holding it close to the vest. instead, these people are open, questioning, seeking and they aren’t afraid to say things like “i don’t know” closely followed by something like “i’m happy to look into that.”

i think the most interesting people i have met are the ones who readily admit weaknesses and fallible tendencies. they don’t claim absolute command nor do they reject criticism or surround themselves with yes-men or yes-women. they know that knowledge must co-exist with boots-on-the-ground expertise. they are open to feedback and choose to engage with others in conversation that encourages growth and maturation, regardless of personal insecurities.

dictionary.com’s definition of an expert is: a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field. a blogger states in their blog that would mean, “if you have more knowledge on a subject than the average person, you might qualify as an expert in that field.” that seems a bit of a recipe for lots of overblown, overstuffed knowledge-spouters.

instead, maybe taking the approach of one step at a time, learning like it’s the first-time-each-time, collaboratively open to each other’s questions and queries, to never-ending research and lessons, might be a better path.

that way, we can all be experts at being human. that way, we can all be experts at humanness.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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and a little PS xo to my own dentist, dr. dan santarelli, who is awesome and kind and most definitely, an expert.


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bareback and honest. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

calm.

the mug calls for calm.

yet, in these times, calm is elusive. it is the floating dust glistening in sunlight. it is the golden ray through the cloud. it is the snowflakes silently falling in the woods. it is the sound of soft laughter, the sound of the dog’s feet running in dreams and the cat snoring in slumber. it is hard to hold onto, hard to touch; it is hard to find.

in these times, with coffee in our hands, we start the new day. we wake, wishes and burdens on our minds, both. the things that kept us awake in the middle of the night, the things that pushed us into sleep: exhausting, worrisome, celebratory, quietly reassuring, sleep-depriving, sleep-inducing. we start the morning, on the roller coaster, one of us holding the “calm” mug.

we have found that – the conversations over-morning-coffee, the conversations over evening-wine, the conversations on the trail, in the sunroom, at the kitchen counter – these conversations need a little help, a little preface, a tiny guideline. for him, a guy, though not a-macho-guy-type-still-a-guy-nonetheless, he is looking to solve. for me, a girl, well, i am looking to just talk, to just go on, to be redundant, to vent. we discovered early on that any talk-talk could easily dissolve into ugly if we didn’t clarify a few things, well, really one thing, first. was this a conversation where i wanted comfort or solutions? was this a conversation where i wanted him to listen or problem-solve?

i honestly can say these two questions – just this simple strategy – could have saved many a relationship moment dating back decades and decades. it took me way too long to realize this glaringly obvious simplicity – that men and women, women and women, men and men – any two people in relationship – approach from vastly disparate directions. i am riding my feisty mare in from the rising sun in the east and he is galloping on a sassy stallion from the setting sun in the west. meeting in the middle ground requires a little gps-ing, dispensing of the drawn word-swords and negotiating some clarity shortcuts. that simple. that makes all the difference.

in these times, though calm is illusory, we find that we can be in this world of unknowns mostly by just being. solutions are hiding with the calm, behind puzzling shadows.

but comfort, listening, empathy are right out in the open, in that field of possibility between the rising sun and the setting sun, riding a steady quarter horse, bareback and honest.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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i agree. we agree. [flawed wednesday]

the train quickly passed by us, first in line at the crossing, as i snapped the pictures. graffiti adorned most of the cars and i randomly pressed the shutter as they blurred past. we’ve seen some insightful messages spray-painted on the side of boxcars and this day was not an exception. “agree” it read. timely.

there are things in the night that are reassuring. for my sweet momma, it was trains. she could sink deeper into sleep when she heard the trains in the distance, the whistles of arrival, departure, crossing. i share that with her. we can hear the trains from our house. and many times, in the middle of the night, as the 2am hour passes by, so does the train, its loud whistle echoing on empty streets. i wonder, in the fog of sleep/no-sleep, why it’s blowing its whistle, where it’s going. the lumbering of freight trains slightly shakes the house, even blocks away from the tracks. it’s lulling. i agree, momma.

“i agree.” “we agree.” powerful words. beyond simply concurring, granting acceptance to another’s idea, another’s conception, another’s opinion. it’s easy to agree that trains in the night are the stuff of of sublime entry into dreams. it doesn’t cost anything to agree to trains-in-the-night. there is no research involved, no fact-checking, no questions, no real critical thinking. you can’t lose anything by agreeing about the melancholy of train whistles.

it’s the other stuff that’s harder. the stuff where you have invested – in a big way – in your idea, your concept, your opinion. where you have not necessarily done the research, checked the facts, asked the questions or critical-thought your way into your opinion, but where you are stubbornly attached to it. it’s mind-boggling how this happens and yet it does. each of us has experienced being leeched onto something come-hell-or-high-water and not really knowing why, not really being able to give voice to concrete reasons. we wonder about others so feverishly vested and we gently and generously excuse ourselves for the same unrooted behavior. none of us are innocent.

this holiday season we received many greeting cards. i love getting mail. we’d save the cards and open them at special times so we could read the enclosed letters, the personal notes to us. this december one of our cards disturbed me. it felt like an attempt at absolution. it came from someone who had been dear, who was surprisingly so ensconced in their opinion – before the big disagree – that they did not even attempt to research, to check the facts, to ask questions, to use critical thinking. the pre-printed card spoke of love, hope and peace and they wrote inside, “you are in our thoughts and prayers.” while these words sound like the meat-and-potatoes of agreement, of accord, my heart begs me to wonder aloud – to them – why on earth they would include us in their thoughts and prayers – after the big disagree – when they didn’t include us in their research, their questions, their fact-checking, their thoughts and prayers – before – at a time when it was vital.

i store away in my mind, now, once again, the ever-important repeating lesson that it is much easier and more bottom-line-decent to do the research, ask the questions, check the facts, think-it-through before taking action than it is to attempt to absolve from it after.

the foghorn, another favorite of my momma’s, is not too far, in the other direction. its melancholy blast is also the stuff of sublime entry into dreams. i hear the foghorn and sink into my pillow, the long-island in me relishing the sound of coastlines, reassured by the cozy of being inside on a foggy night. it’s lulling. i agree, my sweet momma.

“i agree.”

“we agree.”

easy. and so hard.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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a good old chinwag. [merely-a-thought monday]

you speak. i speak. you speak. i speak. conversation. back and forth.

conversation: (noun) a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.

conversation – synonyms: discussion. gabfest. heart-to-heart. dialogue. conference. confab. exchange. chinwag.

chinwag??

probably one of the most frustrating things in human community is the willingness for people to forego hard conversations and, instead, accept things as-is, invest in misinformation and make assumptions. toxic in almost every situation, assumptions are the stuff of poison apples and they will destroy everything in their wake.

a good old chinwag would do wonders for forward movement. people – together – back and forth – who are candid and honest, forthcoming and steadfast, who ask the hard questions and demand straightforward answers, who don’t leave out pertinent details, who expect truth and speak up, speak out, speak for, speak against, freely upfront.

a good old chinwag is a mature opportunity for growth, for learning, for progress. silence is the opposite – it is a wound that will fester, a mistake that will become exponential, an injustice that will become a wart, a carbuncle on the integrity of a community.

a good old chinwag is not easy. it is the stuff of bravery, the stuff of guts, of risk-taking, of fortitude and perseverance. it is the stuff of dedication to the bigger picture, to progress, to being proactive. it does not yell or scream; it is quietly respectful, using language of negotiation, of reconciliation, of courtesy, a deference to thoughtfulness.

a good old chinwag may lead to tears. it can be the stuff of renewal, of healing, re-establishing relationship, correcting wrongs. it can be the stuff of granting forgiveness and the stuff of receiving forgiveness. it can be powerful and it can be most tender. it can bring weeping into the back and forth, drowning out toxins and harvesting hope.

a good old chinwag can never be a bad thing. it can forge or strengthen mature friendships and dig deep foundations with honesty and candor. it can elicit change. it can revitalize and reinvigorate. it can rebuild.

a good old chinwag. simply caring enough to have a conversation.

you speak. i speak. you speak. i speak. back and forth.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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golden. not golden. [k.s. friday]

silence is golden.

there is nothing quite like the last strains of gabriel’s oboe (ennio morricone) falling into your heart. there is nothing quite like a break in lyrics, or like the moments after the words “and the world will be as one(john lennon). in music the rests grant time for digesting, for processing, for evoking, for wrapping around you. it is golden time, those rests, and it makes everything else – all other notes, all harmony, all orchestration, all lyrics – make sense.

the music tells the story. it is honest and forthright; it is transparent. it does not suggest innuendo, nor does it allude or insinuate or imply. it does not squelch the truth or warp the narrative. one note follows another until it rests and gives the listener time to breathe, to catch up, to absorb it. its words – the notes that are played – are golden. its silence is golden. it is truth.

and – silence is not golden.

“listen to silence. it has much to say.” rumi may have been speaking of the silence of the snowfall, the silence of the sunrise. like the golden silence of music, these silences fall with grace. they are not silences with implication nor are they incendiary.

equally as powerful as graceful silences of rest is the silence of the person-who-does-not-speak who brings inference, who hints, who implies, who, because of a deliberate lack of words, causes others to jump to conclusions, to opine, to form judgements without the basis of knowledge. powerful seems the person who does not speak up, speak for, speak against, who remains silent, crediting correctness but acting out of intentional design. but this is not the power of rightness, despite any display of righteousness. it is not the power of the powerful; instead it is weakness.

to not speak up, to be silent. to not speak for, to be silent. to not speak against, to be silent. to not speak questions, to not speak objections. to not communicate in honest words, to sit in quiet insinuation, to encourage blind compliance, passive and complicit acceptance, blind trust, to encourage conjecture. weakness.

it is it is on our shoulders to choose our words carefully. it is also on our shoulders to choose our silences in that same way. should our public statements be rigorously measured by integrity and responsibility and truth? should they be steeped in justice and fairness and respect?

yes. they hear your words. and yes. they hear your silence.

*****

hear music here

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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“voter freud” [flawed wednesday]

voter freud

my sweet momma taught me to use a dictionary when i was very young.  “look it up,” she would tell me.  the dictionary held an esteemed place in our house.  if i didn’t know what ‘it’ meant or how ‘it’ was spelled, i knew where to go.  i developed a love for dictionaries, thesauruses, all manners of the tools of research.

now, it seems dictionaries have lost their status and spellcheck has become a way of life for those too lazy to ‘look it up’.  spellcheck has a few obvious limitations; context, usage and intent presenting the biggest challenges.  if only spellcheck and auto-correct could reach out of the device screen and (gently) slap the person committing the spellingcrime, life’s communications could be better understood.  punctuation joins the game of laziness and, i must say, punctuation makes a difference.  consider “i’m sorry i love you” or “i’m sorry.  i love you.”  there is a marked difference.

so when people, who never graced me, the nerdy-look-it-up-type, with even one word in high school but who have ‘friended’ me on facebook, post multiple nonsensical, poorly articulated and division-inciting arguments using the term “voter Freud”, it raises the hair on the back of my neck.  i want to post back “look it up!” but i refrain.  borrowing leonard pitts’ words, there seems to be a “matchless capacity for mental mediocrity” in the united states these days.

i suspect if this not-really-a-friend-just-a-friend-on-facebook was standing across from me (mind you, at least six feet across) she would be screaming at me in a loud raucous voice.  i wonder if she would call it – this thing she has taken from fox news and run full speed with, never looking to see if she had a spotter or even a bottle of water in her full-out sprint to falsificationland – “voter Freud” in person.  or would she actually say “voter fraud” in her zeal to make me a believer of her layered cake of conspiracies.

this is not just about lazy writing.  this seems an indicator of a bigger problem.  it’s the metaphoric tip of the iceberg.  i’m not just kvetching about spelling and punctuation, much as i wish that were the whole problem.  it’s an imploring plea to ask questions.  in today’s deep-fake world, a reminder to not make quick assumptions.  to not jump onto a band wagon stoked with tear gas, rubber bullets and flash bangs to quell those speaking out, enable dictatorial nationalism, silence what needs to be said.

in this pandemic-laden-chaos-wreaked-leaderless-divisive country of ours i would encourage research.  i would encourage fact-checking.  i would encourage dictionaries.  i would encourage more listening and less reactionism.  i would hope that each of us would understand that every word we utter, every word we write matters, every attitude, every nuance.  we are not in a world of one; we each affect and effect the next.  over and over.

and i don’t know.  last time i checked, john glenn high school in elwood, new york – more than four decades ago – had pretty high standards in english class, in sciences, in history, in math, not the least learning of which was how to use deductive reasoning.  i, for one, was paying attention.  because it mattered.  “voter Freud?”  indeed.  it still matters.

read DAVID’s thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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