How Do We Know What’s True?

Truth is not something we are told.

It cannot be forced upon us, pushed in our face, preached at us, flooded in our social media feed.

beachside diversions nostalgia beach mother child steve henderson surreal art

While the mother is busy fussing, the child, looking off into the distance, sees something. So often, children see things that adults miss. Beachside Diversions, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

Conversely, it cannot be suppressed, no matter how vigilantly those who police social media feed, or announce things from behind a desk, remove it for our own good.

Truth is something we seek.

Now in the world of propaganda and advertising, there is a maxim that the more times you tell somebody something — three times, seven, 83 — then the more likely they are to accept it, even if it is a lie. Just the sheer act of repeating wears down the psyche, until one begins to think,

“Hmm. Maybe sugury-syrup, carbonated drinks with zero nutritional value really aren’t so bad. After all, lots of smart people drink them.”

For this reason, it is wise to pause when we start to feel assaulted by images or information or “news.” As with any assault, there is a sense of fear or helplessness, of anxiety, panic, despair.

“I can’t do anything!” we wail. “This is huge! This is horrible! And I am helpless!”

No, we’re not. With any situation we face, with any information we receive, we have the ability — and the obligation, really — to ask questions, to research, to look into the matter, to follow a trail and walk along a path toward enlightenment. In every situation — religious, political, medical, ethical, scientific, artistic — there is breadth and depth, a variety of thoughts, opinions, facts, and matters that must be weighed against one another, judged, and interpreted.

When we are told that four out of five dentists agree on a certain sugarless gum, or nine out of ten scientists concur, our first logical question is,

“What about the fifth dentist? What is the tenth scientist saying?” because truth is not a matter of majority rule.

The artwork, Beachside Diversions, invites us, like the child, to look deep into the distance, to shake off distraction, and look with the intent of seeing. In the same way adults frequently chide children for living in a world of pretend (and thereby never listen to what they are actually saying) so people who ask questions, who express doubt over what they are repeatedly told, who ask to see more and different information, are tut-tutted for being difficult, reminded that they are (like children) not experts in the matter.

They are admonished to accept what the experts say because doubt and dissent are dangerous.

Truth, however, is not threatened by doubt and dissent, intense questioning, and open, honest dialogue.

But lies are.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Choose Wisely Who Influences You

Lies and Darkness, Truth and Light

Whom Do We Trust?

All of the artwork in my blogs is by my husband, fine artist Steve Henderson. He creates work that celebrates joy and goodness, freedom and thinking. You can find his prints at SteveHendersonCollections.com or https://2-steve-henderson.pixels.com/.

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Wearing Masks — What Happens When We Do This?

Masks come in all forms. Some, like Halloween masks, conceal the entire face. A domino goes over the eyes. A surgical mask blocks the nose and mouth.

enchanted woman garden sunshine beauty freedom steve henderson art

She is absorbed in her surroundings, not in herself, so her face speaks what she is inside. Enchanted, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Regardless of what type of masks they are, they all do the same thing: they hide the face, all of it, or part of it. And hiding the face, any part of it, dehumanizes the wearer. It’s easy to think of people wearing masks as not quite human, because an essential component of our humanity is. our. face.

Some people, like politicians and pop celebrities, wear masks all the time, only these masks are not physical. The masks that famous faces wear hide the personality beneath, and we are shown only the image, the persona, that the wearer wants us to see. We can be easily fooled into thinking that the person they say they are on the outside represents who they are on the inside.

If we are not careful, as ordinary people we also can don masks — to our detriment and to that of those around us. Let’s say that, when we go out into public, we are the cheerful sunshine person with a dazzling smile and a word of encouragement for others. Then, when we return home, we think black thoughts about those people we said such nice things to, and wish them the worst. We’ve taken off our mask.

Or maybe we’re deep and dramatic and emotive — an artiste, with tempestuously spiritual overtones. Or intensely erudite and intellectual — the scientific sort. Or the nerd. The cheerleader. The sage. The yogi.

Whatever it is, we are a caricature of a person, a partial aspect, like just eyes with no nose or mouth (surgical mask), or mouth with no nose or eyes (domino), or somebody else’s face altogether (Halloween mask).

The artwork, Enchanted, celebrates one of the most beautiful elements in nature: the human face. Thanks to the celebrity culture, most of us are dissatisfied with our faces, but they are, we are, all beautiful.

Our mouths express joy, bewilderment, curiosity, sadness, thought, anger, fear, happiness. Our eyes dance, shutter, peer, glance, watch. Our noses — why, they’re all so incredibly different and unique, just like each one of us!

Eyebrows, eyelashes, cheeks, ears, chin, lips — every component of our faces is precious and beautiful, and worthy of being celebrated.

Let us, then, celebrate who we actually are. Without masks.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Do We Like What We See in the Mirror?

You’re Unique, So Be Unique

Fear Blocks Our Ability to Think

All of the artwork in my blogs is by my husband, fine artist Steve Henderson. He creates work that celebrates joy and goodness, freedom and thinking. You can find his prints at SteveHendersonCollections.com or https://2-steve-henderson.pixels.com/.

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Trendy Phrases Lead to Shallow Talk

I watched way too much TV as a child.

To this day, one of my more dubious accomplishments is the ability to sing, word for word, assorted advertising ditties and intro music to insipid situation comedies from the 1970s.

promenade spring garden woman parasol strolling steve henderson art

Conversation is like a gentle walk in the garden, one in which there are many beautiful phrases — like flowers — to enjoy. Promenade, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

I also remember, though I don’t want to, a lot of inane phrases which at one time were considered cool, like,

“Sit on it!”

As middle school and high school students, my friends and I thought ourselves astonishingly witty to parrot this phrase from Happy Days, a show that purported to celebrate the joyful frolics and innocent antics from those perfect, halcyon 1950s. Whenever we wanted to put anyone down, we rolled our eyes, looked askance at the offender, and said,

“Sit on it!”

Oh, what scintillating wit, what sparkling word play!

Not.

Remember that one — Not? It dated from . . . sometime. Like Awesome. Rad. Or Oh . . . you bad.

If you don’t recall these, that’s okay, because they’re a fleeting part of our culture only because TV or movies, pop culture music and talk shows, government or mega-corporation sponsored public relations firms, propaganda posters and memes, slick magazines, and more make them so, pushing a phrase into our lexicon that people use to seem cool or savvy or in the know, but oddly aren’t, because EVERYONE is using it.

The artwork, Promenade, is an invitation to us to recapture our individuality, to engage our creativity, to take delight in the words we say, the phrases we employ, the way we interact with others.

A young woman strolls through the most delicious garden, a landscape filled with an abundant variety of flowers and flora. A slightly mischievous smile plays upon her lips as she peeks ahead of her, head tilted.

One gets the idea that when she speaks it will be with a lilt in her voice, and the words she uses won’t be trite, inane, expected — a mindless and obedient repetition of trendy, shallow, promoted expressions. She chooses from a rich repertoire of parlance, a variety as artistic and colorful as the flowers that surround her.

Her words reflect what is going on in her mind, and her mind is free.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Explore a World without Walls or Fences

Quiet People Have a Lot to Say

You’re Unique So Be Unique

All of the artwork in my blog is by my husband Steve Henderson, a fine artist who creates work to celebrate joy, thinking, individuality, and love for family and friends. You can purchase his work as prints at SteveHendersonCollections.com or https://2-steve-henderson.pixels.com/.

 

 

 

 

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Manipulating Numbers — It’s Really Easy

Numbers are fascinating, because they are so incredibly easy to manipulate.

september flowers fruit bouquet pink country steve henderson art

How many flowers are there, exactly? Do you count the partial ones? What about the fruit? September, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

We’re taught that they’re firm and solid, and when they are thrust in our face, we can believe what we’re told, especially when the person doing the telling and thrusting is an expert. Numbers from experts are Science, which, today, shuts up any further discourse (especially by lay people; our job is to accept, not ask questions).

Years ago, I worked at a college bookstore, and in conversation with the textbook buyer, I learned a little something about numbers: they’re fluid.

It had to do with textbook markup, which the store associate assured me was 33%.

“Oh, so a book with a wholesale price of $10 will then sell for roughly $13.33, because you take a third of the $10 and add it to make retail, right?” I asked.

“No, actually the book sells for $15. We add $5, which is one-third of $15.”

“But wouldn’t that be a 50% markup, because $5 is 50% of $10, the wholesale price?”

“That’s not how we do the numbers.”

It was a good lesson, one I’ve never forgotten. I’ve seen numbers manipulated in everything from the standard mass media “news”  to a church meeting, when the pastor went into great detail explaining the difference between how people arrayed themselves in pews versus chairs. There were charts and tables and percentages, a vast array of erudite sounding information that you could tell, from the glazed looks in people’s eyes, the audience wasn’t properly processing.

The artwork, September, is a reminder to us that numbers are not as firm and incontrovertible as we are told. In this still life of autumn fruits and flowers, there are many elements, many items we could count: but we’d have to define what we’re counting.

Are we counting only flowers?

All flowers, or just a certain variety?

And if only certain ones, whole flowers only or partial ones as well?

You see, in order for the numbers to be meaningful, we have to define our parameters, fully disclose what it is we are counting, and how. It requires transparency and honesty, essential elements to truth.

Too frequently, we laughingly say we don’t see transparency and honesty in many arenas of our lives, but when those arenas start talking numbers, we suddenly and magically believe.

Perhaps it would be best to question first, before we believe.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Whom Do We Trust?

Fear Blocks Our Ability to Think

Lies and Darkness, Truth and Light

All the images used in my blog are by fine artist Steve Henderson, who creates paintings celebrating beauty, hope, goodness, joy, thinking, and questioning. You can buy his work as prints at Steve Henderson Collections.

 

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We’re Not Turning into Zombies, Are We?

So what happened to all the zombie apocalypse movies?

gathering thoughts aqua teal woman wading seashore steve henderson

We humans are real, beautiful, precious beings. We need to treat one another — and be treated — as such. Gathering Thoughts, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

It’s not as if I miss them. Like most modern entertainment, they were big on computer graphics and small on plot. But as propaganda, they got the message across:

Zombies are yucky, scary, horrible humans who have been transformed into something despicable, something to be destroyed, through a . . . mystery disease.

Protagonists in the movies — the good guys, the brave guys, the big-name stars — spend their time running from clumps and clusters of zombies, which congregate like rotting sheep inside old, dark buildings.

(Zombies don’t go outside. They shelter in place.)

The goal is to kill off the zombies, eradicate them from the earth, make humanity safe from their threat. They used to be human beings, but they are no more. For that reason, it’s okay to attack them.

And while zombies don’t exist in real life (the commercial-based arena of our scientific community has not yet created a means to turn people, physically, into zombies) the fear, the panic, the suspicion and distrust focused on people, because they may be infected, feels disturbingly, increasingly real.

“Stay away!” the man behind the counter in a government building recently barked at me. “Don’t get too close!”

Another time, I passed by a couple in their 80s, walking arm in arm. My young grandson, wary of strangers, clutched my leg and peeked around it, but the woman misinterpreted.

“That’s okay,” she told me. “We’re old, and people think we’re dangerous to be around.”

The artwork, Gathering Thoughts, is a reminder to us of what we are as human beings, and what we can and should expect in our lives as human beings on this earth. While on one end, we can describe ourselves (and some people do) as a mass of bacteria, a repository for viruses, a collection of cells that potentially infect, this is a dreadful way to regard one another. It takes us nowhere as far as establishing meaningful relationships, humane connections, face to face interaction.

Rather, we are to be, like the woman wading through the surf — outside at the beach on a sunny, warm day — incredible, precious creations with the ability to think, wonder, question and question and question and question and question and question and question, feel, love, give, respond, and experience joy and freedom and beauty.

Why aren’t we doing this?

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

We Need Time to Think

Fear Blocks Our Ability to Think

Fellowship: It’s Not a Church Thing; It’s a Life Thing

All the images used in my blog are by fine artist Steve Henderson, who creates paintings celebrating beauty, hope, goodness, joy, thinking, and questioning. You can buy his work as prints at Steve Henderson Collections.

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What Is Freedom? And Are We Free?

What is freedom?

spirit woman sprite grand canyon freedom joy steve henderson art

The Canyon Sprite stands at the edge of the rock, glorying in space and light and goodness. Freedom begins in the mind. Spirit of the Canyon, art print by Steve Henderson

The most obvious answer is one we can see: freedom is the ability to walk about without being stopped, to live outside walls, to be able to pursue one’s interests — and the welfare of one’s family and loved ones — without undue and excessive interference from impersonal governing bodies — whether those bodies are political, financial, medical, or religious.

In the country in which I live, the United States, we have for years pointed at “other” countries as the bad guys: “You have to have papers to go out on the street!”

“The government dictates and controls their travel!”

“There’s no freedom of speech — you can’t say what you feel, think or believe without being censured!” (Social media, anyone?)

“They censor information!”

It can go on. And it does.

Some people in the country in which I live like to say that we are free indeed because we have many, many laws, which is an interesting way of looking at things. Laws are limitations placed upon people when, morally, they are unable to do the right thing unto their neighbor. Generally, the more laws that are in place, the less that people do things from their heart, and the more they conform to dictates.

They follow the law, and confuse this with goodness, kindness, compassion, or justice.

Freedom, also, is not something that is “given” to us through decrees and statutes, constitutions and legislation. As any lawyer knows, and as regular people with commonsense readily see, it’s easy to find loopholes, twist words, creatively “interpret.” And anything “given” can be taken away.

The artwork, Spirit of the Canyon, is an expression of freedom, the kind that starts within us, because that is where, initially, freedom begins. And in some times, and some places, when outward expression is severely circumscribed, freedom is limited to our thoughts and hearts, our beliefs and convictions, our very inner being whom we share with few, or any, others.

It is a good thing that our private thoughts are private, our prayers, if we say them, secure with God who keeps our words as close to His heart as we keep them to ours. From there, we seek out other humans who are “safe,” people with whom we can share and communicate without being condemned. (Face to face, personal interaction is an important part of this process.)

Freedom begins with thinking, with silence, with contemplation, with getting away from noise and chatter and propaganda that relentlessly assault our spirits and try to replace our own convictions with the teachings of others.

Freedom begins with thinking.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Sunlight: Still Free, Still Available to All of Us

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Whom Do We Trust?

Years ago, there was a memorable commercial that showed a white-jacketed, handsome man with a recognizable face. His first lines were,

“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” And then he went on to hawk cough syrup.

mother child family reading beach trust innocence steve henderson art

The little girl knows that the adult in her life is one she can completely trust. Seaside Story, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

Many people’s first reaction, on seeing this, was to snort in derision, look at one another and say,

“Do they really think we’re stupid enough to buy something just because a famous face says we’re supposed to buy it?

“Are we so dumb that we’ll trust someone’s advice as a doctor because he plays one on a show?”

Well, apparently, that’s how some people who sell things think about their market:

“Yeah, they’re dumb enough to believe what they’re told, as long as they recognize and trust the face.”

Are they right? Are we that dumb? Surely not.

The artwork, Seaside Story, is a visual story of what trust looks like — and what kind of person in our life it’s worth putting that trust into.

A little girl snuggles into the arms of an adult — this could be her mother, an aunt, an older sister. There’s one person, however, that it is not:

She is not snuggling up to a total and complete stranger whom she only knows through seeing on TV, in movies, in social media, in magazines. She is not snuggling up to an actor, a politician, an Influencer, a talk show host, a newscaster, or somebody who is hawking cough syrup.

She is snuggling up to a person who is worth snuggling up to because that person has the child’s best interests at heart; that person loves the child and is committed to nurturing a meaningful relationship with her and protecting her from harm. When she looks in the little girl’s eyes and says,

“You can trust me,” she’s telling the truth.

That’s a pretty good basis on which to start building the answer to the question, “Whom do we trust?”

Obviously, not all relationships are snuggly ones, nor would we want them to be. But when it comes to trust — the most precious gift we give to any relationship, deep or shallow — we want to make sure that the person we give it to is worthy of receiving it.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

The One Time It Feels Good To Be Small

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We Need Time to Think

“I need time to think.”

This sentence will never become a popular catch phrase from a TV show or movie, part of a clever meme, or something a newscaster or talk show host will promote.

woman thinking meditating praying calm silent steve henderson drawing

Still and silent, the woman is deep in thought. She’s stepped away from the chatter to a place of calm. Colombiana, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

Thinking is not something major media outlets want to talk about too much because thinking — deep thinking — requires that we leave the chatter and noise, turn off the box, walk away from the computer, skip the meeting, put down the phone. And if we are doing that, we’re not keeping up on the latest post, bleep, announcement or update.

We’re thinking.

And we have a lot to think about. There are the age-old questions that we too readily hand to experts — religious, medical, political, scientific:

“Why am I here?”

“What is the purpose of life?”

“Why is there so much evil — and what can I, in my small but determined way, do about it?”

And then again, there’s all the stuff that happens day to day, the barrage of information that assaults our eyes and ears and brains. It can be as minor as what some non-entity, famous for what type of conditioner they use on their hair, did last night.

Or it can be late-breaking, catastrophic news that slams into the side of our head and knocks us back into the couch.

Whatever it is, it never says,

“We’re in an overwhelming situation here, folks, and things are changing fast. We actually don’t know what’s going on, but we’ve got a show to put on, so we’ve got to chatter. That’s why we spend so much time talking about what could happen and what might be.

“You know what we all need to do? We need to step away from all the noise, get into a place of silence and calm, and think.

“Feel free to question, to wonder, to imagine, to speculate. You’re as smart as I am. You’re just not paid as much.”

The artwork, Colombiana, shows a young woman deep in thought. We don’t know what it is that is absorbing her so intently, but we do know this:

The TV isn’t on in the background. She’s not scrolling through her phone.

She’s thinking.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Fear Blocks Our Ability to Think

Explore a World without Walls or Fences

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Some Things Are Out of Our Control

It is good that there are things out of our control.

While at face value, such a thought does not seem encouraging or inspirational, let’s take it a little deeper.

spring springtime blossom hope flowers green steve henderson art

When spring marches forward, she does so more inexorably than any human army. Spring in the Wallowas, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Humans like control: we like to be in control of our lives and situation. On a reasonable level, this is a good thing. We all want to wake up in the morning and know, with some degree of confidence, where we will be going, what we will be doing. We want to know that we have resources enough to meet our needs, food enough to eat, the physical ability to walk and think.

But for some humans, throughout human history, this isn’t enough. The level of control they want is, to a reasonable mind, excessive. They don’t want just enough money to meet their needs, or even their wants; they want so much money that it cuts into the ability of other people to simply meet basic requirements. We call them “ambitious,” “forward thinking,” “industrious,” “enterprising,” and “aggressive.”

Money often isn’t enough. After all, once you can buy everything you can possibly imagine, what’s next? Well . . . power — the ability to control the lives of others and dictate what they do, where they live, even how they think and believe.

We read about people like this in history books. There may be a mild tut-tut for how they swept through the world and conquered it, but hidden below (especially in poorly written schoolbook tomes) is an admiration for military prowess, financial genius, political acumen. Time softens the impact that such historical magnates wielded over ordinary, real, decent people.

The artwork, Spring in the Wallowas, is a glorious reminder that some things — some very crucial things, are out of human control. Whether an important man or woman wants it or not, spring arrives on the planet in her own time, in her own way.

Napoleon may stomp his foot and order his armies forward, but spring laughs at his overweening pride, his foolishness in thinking that he, through whatever power he wields (and he wielded a lot) can stop the sun from shining, the rains from falling over the landscape, the bushes from blossoming, the trees and grass from bursting into green.

Spring will arrive in her own time, her own way, and will grow and blossom and bear fruit whether or not any human being says that she may.

Hope is a lot like that.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Articles complementing this one are

Think Like a Child

Fear Blocks Our Ability to Think

Who Wants to Be Angry All the Time?

 

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Afraid? Don’t Be. You Have the Courage You Need

Most sane people do not go out of their way to find problems or court trouble. Of course, there are those who, in the effort to garner followers for their YouTube channel, Instagram account, podcast, or other, will seek out drama, but then again, I did say “sane people.”

storm maiden woman red wind grand canyon courage steve henderson art

Courage is not something to sell Hollywood movies; courage is what real people show everyday when we face life’s challenges. Storm Maiden, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Problems, issues, anxiety, fearful situations — we understandably want to avoid these. Life would be so much pleasanter without financial setbacks, relational schisms, chronic illness, job loss, natural disasters, major disease, or distasteful, sniping people who take pleasure in our misery — the list is pretty endless.

Sometimes we’re hit with something hard and overwhelming. Other times it’s a series of small things that add up and chip away at our energy, motivation, and ability to cope. It’s not a rare thought to wish that we were a child again, and that someone would simply solve all this and make it go away.

Or,  that we could run off, run away, put some distance between us and the angst.

Or . . . that maybe Jesus will come back within the next 30 minutes and this will all be over, just over.

But we remain adults. And stay in place.

The artwork, Storm Maiden, shows what it’s like — inside — when we turn and face what it is that we fear. A young woman stands at the edge of a rock at the Grand Canyon. The wind howls. Storm clouds brew. Her dress whips around her legs.

But she stands.

Vulnerable, exposed to the elements, not anywhere near all powerful, she does not turn and run, nor curl up into a fetal position with her head between her hands. Rather, she holds her head high and summons up, somewhere from down deep, the slightest laugh, the slightest challenge back, the insistence that though this is a difficult place to be, she is not giving up her position atop the rock.

That is courage, and we all have that.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

Fear Blocks Our Ability to Think

The Power We All Possess

If He’s Famous, and He Says It, Do We Believe It?

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