The Past Few Days – The Next Few Days

Spent some time assisting in a move from Denton to Fayetteville, Arkansas during the weekend.  I thought the temps here in Denton were hot.  I got a taste of the “even hotter” temps up in the northeast corner of the state and into Oklahoma.  On the trip up, our first stop was a 10:45am stop in Otaka, Oklahoma – where the temps were at 102F – and they still had not hit the blistering part of the day yet.  The second stop was in Fort Smith, where temps were at 110F – and hot enough to make the fabric on my baseball cap hot to the touch after just going from the UHaul truck to the rest area building.  The final stop was in Fayetteville, where we unloaded at 5pm – in 114F temps.  And that was the themro sitting in the SHADE.

While the temps were pretty wild to be in – what was more eye-opening were the number of blackened areas, both at the side of the road – and in the immediate viewing area.  We encountered two brush fires as well – so apparently these folks have been battling a lot of brush fires as well.  I couldn’t speculate on what caused the fires — but it certainly was super dry everywhere we went.  If there was ever a time for a rain dance — this was it.

I know the podcast is behind on the schedule for a July show.  I’ll likely combine July and August together in the coming week.  Currently, I have more than enough on my plate for the moment:  a final paper due by Monday, a final test for the majority of the class I am teaching on Monday, a Final Exam on Thursday (for the students who missed an exam), and grades due in by Friday.  On Friday, I’ll be heading out of town again – this time to Colorado.  And yes, there will be pictures (most likely via my Google Plus account — which you can find via my Email address:  elfster@gmail.com)…in the meantime…I need to grab some sleep here shortly – as well as a meal which I am headed downstairs to find in a few minutes…

Another Spoke in the Wheel….

Another slowish kind of day — the temps aren’t exactly THAT high yet…but the hottest part of the day has yet to get here.  Its Lughnasadh (did I spell that right?), which brings another turn of the wheel — another spoke passes this point and the year continues its progress.  Took a little time this morning to look back through my digital journal to see where I’ve been over the course of the year.

I keep my digital journey at Dreamwidth where I have the ability to keep private entries (such as my OBOD Bardic Grade entries) private.  Plus, I can access this journal from anywhere – since its online.  Makes life easier for me.  The nice thing about keeping the journal is that I do have the chance to look back – in other words, take stock of where I’ve been.  And in that manner, I can also look at that and make sure of where I’m headed.  Sort of like checking the map every once in a while to insure you’re still driving on the right road.

Working with a journal has really helped me take some of my inner workings to another step.  I journal nearly everything that I do.  Typically, these are after thoughts of meditations, my daily walks, and even some journaling on dreams (when I can remember them).  I’ve also taken to putting my poetry into journal entries – and its been interesting to come back at a later point and see what was driving my thoughts during that time.

See, I don’t get into ritual work that much.  My view on ritual is that each moment of each day is a ritual.  Through living my life, I pay my honor and respects to the G-ds.  I try to make each action, each moment follow along the lines of who and what I am.  The marking of time on the Wheel, through the eight particular rituals that permeate most Pagan faiths, has become more of a time for me to reconnect with other people.  A time when I can get my moments of fellowship with individuals of a like mind.  In those moments, we can share piece of our lives together through those particular actions.  And its that particular experience that I treasure going forward from that point.

So, at this point on the Wheel – as you take the time to share together with others – whether that be online, physically or in spirit – drink in the moment, the fellowship and treasure it going forward.  Whether you see the individuals you are with tomorrow, at the upcoming point on the Wheel at Samhain, or some time even further down its turning — keep that moment where you drank in the experience close to your heart, treasure it, nurture it until the next time.

Happy Lughnasadh!

Test, Test, Test…Evaluate

Aside from my last post on the potential dustup with the DC40 “Christian” crowd — I haven’t had a ton of stuff to post.  Mostly because three things have been occupying my time:  the class I’m currently teaching, my Capstone class, and my meditation work for the Bardic Grade in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids.  Combined, all three take a lion’s share of my day…and each represents its own small reward that I enjoy greatly.  Of course, that means my focus isn’t on the aforementioned dustup…nor am I paying any particular attention to the sorry state of politics up on Capitol Hill.  I peek on each one every once in a while — but neither will hold my attention for longer than five to ten minutes at a stretch.  I prefer my focus to be on far more positive things, and that’s just what I do.

Now, I’ve been dogged by a few folks over the past few weeks because of this stance.  And honestly, they have a complete right to that opinion.  They see me as not being focused on things that are “important” or “critical”.  And that’s really perfectly fine with me.  They have their perspective on things…and I have no problem with them voicing that to me.  That’s right.  I have no problem with people doing that.

“But why?  if you want to focus on positive stuff, why would you not have a problem with people slamming you for not thinking or believing as they do?”

Its easy.  When they state their perspective, they provide me with the chance to see things from where they sit around the fire.  And I gain a new vantage point on the issue at hand.  With each new vantage point, I can then re-evaluate where I stand on an issue – and revise my way of thinking as necessary.  Just because I don’t get vocal about an issue or perspective doesn’t mean that I’m not constantly evaluating it when I hear someone else’s take on it.  I’d be a fool not to do that.  Each new point of data allows me to test that against where I already am in my own thought process.  In that manner, I continue to look for empirical data to test against my own personal theories.  This is the way I think folks.  Just because I may not agree with a particular stance or position or belief, doesn’t mean that I am closed off to other perspectives…not at all.  Its all test, test, test, evaluate…constantly….from my own vantage point around the edge of the circle…

…Let Them Talk

A few days back, the entire Pagan blogosphere seemed to explode over the notion that a group of Christians are looking to work some form of “spiritual warfare” starting at some gathering that they (the Christians in question) are proposing for October 3rd in Hawaii.  Nearly every blogger I read has said something on the topic – one way or the other.  Thus far, I’ve stayed out of the entire fray.  And despite the fact that I’m writing about it here in this post, I’ll continue to do so.  I understand the reasoning for everyone to be in the overall stir that’s taking place within the cauldron – I just don’t see the same thing that many others do.

Calls for “spiritual warfare” have been commonplace out of the Christian community in the past, particularly out of the far-Right Evangelical crowd.  I’m old enough in my Pagan faith to recall the “Satanic panic” of the mid-1980s, which also rang through with cries of “arming one’s self for battle in the name of our Savior”.  I recall radical Christians calling for potential perspectives of “baptism and a new shirt or death.”  I recall these statements because they were levied against me face to face when I was in the Air Force – at a time when I had not been very long within my Pagan faith.  I also recall similar statements in the early 1990s, when I was cornered in a military Post Office in the middle of the night, when I was checking my mail after a shift.  I’ve heard these cries and statements before…with time, patience and a little understanding, discussion ruled the day in all of those scenarios.  Level-headed discourse was the prevailing factor in bringing sanity back into my immediate world.  I didn’t have to do any spell-work, I had no need to level curses or adhere to “black magic” practices to make my perspective known and understood.  I only needed to talk to others in a manner that was necessary.  Find a plot of common ground, share that with them, and explore the differences for what they were:  just differences of perspective.  Sure, I didn’t win very many converts to my way of thinking — but I also wasn’t seeking to convert anyone.  Merely to explain my perspective, show the commonality between us, and let the issue go after that.

Do these folks have a right to their beliefs?  Of course they do.  That’s part of the freedoms that we all enjoy here in the United States.  They are not only entitled to their perspective, I swore an oath and wore a uniform for eight years to provide them the ability to have that perspective.  Even though it differs completely from my own.  Now, there’s some notation to all of this as well:  its been noted that these particular “Christians” (and that’s a loose descriptive, as they don’t truly follow the teachings of the individual that they proclaim as their Savior) also have a desire to bring about their beliefs as the only recognized belief within the United States.  Now that is an issue to fight them on.  It violates the tenets of what this country was founded on.  However, they can proclaim their desire for such things to take place all that they want.  When they act on that – physically or legislatively…then I’ll join the fray.  After all, there is a difference between saying something and doing it…until then, let them talk.

Just My Way of Looking at Things….

As I watch the news feeds pull in more information on the tragedy unfolding in Norway – I find it harder to concentrate on some of the things that I had planned on doing.  Instead, my attention is drawn to the individual that wreaked this chaos on so many people.  While there’s very little information on this guy in the American news media – the European news media is reporting that he has “right-wing Christian” ties or beliefs.  Originally, the initial bombing was believed to be the work of radical Muslims retaliating on Norway for some perceived slight in the past.

At first glance, a lot of people will be quick to point the finger of blame at the Christian community — citing that this is the type of behavior that can be expected of a belief system that claims to be the “only way” to salvation.  Frankly, the same type of rhetoric can be applied to the Muslim belief system as well.  And getting even more into that mindset — this can be applied to nearly every religious sector, even parts of Paganism.  The concept of “the only way to salvation” isn’t the problem though.  At least not in my mind.  Its a lack of tolerance and acceptance – not being able to understand that each human being approaches every concept from a different perspective.  And that sometimes that perspective can be diametrically opposed to our own.  Its the typical fallback position of human beings in general:  “Us” versus “Them.”  I’m not a Christian, nor am I right-wing or conservative in my political outlook.  However, I understand where others can draw their strength, inspiration and even indignation from those particular perspectives.  Where I see the problem arising is when people start to think that everyone else should think like they do — and they hit that unmovable position of hardcore fundamentalism.  If you will, that “Us v. Them” mentality.  So many things in the world would be a lot more peaceful if folks would just understand and accept that not everyone will think exactly the same as they do.  Nine Hells — even I don’t believe that everyone will agree with my statements above…and for me…that’s just fine.  They have their own way of looking at things — this is just mine.

Tricky, Tricky

The Trickster is in various parts of mythology.  Coyote, Loki, and Raven within the lore of the First Nations.  The character of the trickster tends to fall along the lines of a malevolent individual – bent on sowing the seeds of chaos through some form of mischief.  In literature and media, the Trickster is typically applied to the role of villian – such as the Joker in the Batman stories, or Q within the Star Trek: Next Generation roles – and has thus become easily identified with individuals of ill-intent.

The past week or so, I’ve begun reading Charles De Lint after a nearly two year break from his stories.  Currently, I’m working my way through his series of short stories in “Tapping the Dream Tree”.  In one of the stories, his infamous tricksters, Maida and Zia — know as The Crow Girls, make an appearance.  Throughout the story, both know the answer to return one of the characters from the Dream World back to our current world.  When queried about the process of doing so, they answer in riddle-like fashion and latch back to the promised reward of sweets.  While their actions are maddening, frustrating and sometimes infuriating, they hold an aspect of the Trickster that I completely grok.  Their point in answering questions in a round-about fashion isn’t about being difficult – but rather to allow the individual posing the query to formulate the answer.  They guide rather than direct.  While the Trickster’s responses and actions can sometimes be frustrating, the seeker has to look through the actions and responses – to strip away the distracting material, and puzzle out the answer for one’s self.

Given that Coyote and Raven are both my totems, this is obviously a posture I’ve learned to work my way through.  Puzzling my way through responses and actions that are sometimes completely puzzling and often hair-tearing in degrees of frustration.  However, I’ve often found that working my way through to an answer can be quite rewarding – not for the answer, but for the process in retrieving that answer.  As such, I’ve come not to see the Trickster in the light of the villian, but as a challenge of sorts.  Solve this particular puzzle of seemingly unrelated materials – and from that, you’ll find the answer you seek.

Incidentally, the Crow Girls are my favorite characters in De Lint’s Newford stories.  While infuriating, they are also entertaining – almost to the level of distraction from the storyline.  Just as a true Trickster would be….

Various Thoughts…

Yesterday, I attended a superb lecture/presentation: “Introduction to Modern Paganism” by Cynthia Talbot and John Beckett – presented at the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  Both of them did a marvelous job in presenting the information with a nice blend between their personalities.

While a lot of the material I have heard/read/seen in various other presentations from a wide variety of presenters – I found myself seeing the material from a different perspective – and finding different patterns to older material that I had not seen previously.  I’m a big believer in trying to see everything from a different vantage point in order to understand it better (thus the name of the podcast), and was pleasantly surprised at some of the notes that I had written during the presentation.

This morning – looking over those notes, I noticed a thread of thought that I had written at what was apparently the beginning of the presentation.

People started by observing natural aspects.  As the world becomes more “civilized”, the natural phenomenon were anthropomorphized into the Gods and Goddesses.

 I’m not sure how I cam to the idea that this statement could be a cycle of sorts – but there’s an additional note at the end of “(cycle?)” that I listed there.  I know I’ve noticed a trend of Pagans moving away from usage of the Gods and Goddesses as entities and more towards an archetypal perspective.  Could this suggest a potential move from the latter portion of the statement in my notes to the former?  I see a possibility that this could be true.  Furthermore, considering that a similar move from natural aspects to anthropomorphic stages took place in England in the late 1890s.  Could it be possible that each movement is like a cycle?  Or could it be more appropriately termed as the swing of a pendulum, as John suggested when I mentioned this during one of the breaks in the presentation?

Spending a little more time thinking through the overall concept – I would believe that John is a little more correct than my original assertion within my notes.  Furthermore, the back and forth motion of the pendulum further suggests that there is a growth that occurs with each surged movement – just as time on a clock moves forward.  I’m not going to suggest that one concept or the other is better — only that at any particular moment, one may be more precise in its usage.  In my mind, both have appropriate moments of usage – it was just interesting to have this concept become suddenly linked in my head during a presentation such as this one.

And for those wondering — the presentation was absolutely fantastic.  Both John and Cynthia injected their knowledge – and even more importantly to me – as well as their personalities.  Not only was the material informative, but it was also fun to explore parts of my Pagan path that I haven’t stepped on in a very long time. 🙂

"Not" vs "Are"

I love to wander through various parts of the internet and take in what is available.  Lately, I’ve been wandering through YouTube – checking out various videos.  The topics are mostly related to my dissertation, such as “cyber warfare”, “cryptography”, “linux”, and various interviews from three of my biggest heroes:  Steve Wozniak, Bruce Schneier, and the awesomeness of Dan Kaminsky.  However, I’ve also had the opportunity to peek into various videos on Paganism as well.  Sadly, I found myself stopping a large majority of the videos prior to the end of the presentation.  Why?  The most common factor came down to the presentation of the material as “what ‘x’ is not”.  This seemed to be the most common theme throughout the videos – including the anti-Paganism videos presented as some of the most hateful statements I have honestly ever heard.

That’s when I realized something — I’m just as guilty of the “this is what I’m not” approach as well.  Instead of approaching the presentation of my own faith and beliefs as “this is what I am”, I’ve also utilized the “this is what I’m not” approach.  And I can see what a major turn-off that it is.  I’ve made the statement “I’m not a Wiccan” quite a lot — which is true, I’m not.  But its a negative statement that, while true, sets a comparison as the representation.  Instead, I should be stating:  I’m a Pagan on the path of Druidry.  I stepped onto this Path because I love the outdoors.  My “church” is comprised of trees, bushes, grass, wide-open skies.  My fellow church-goers tend to have fur, feathers, and sometimes scales.  They speak in languages I cannot comprehend, but there is joy in our being together – and we find other ways to bridge our language barriers.  I find reverence in knowing that I am a part of the world around me – and have my own place within it.  Each rising sun brings another adventure. Each setting sun allows me to reflect on the adventure I have just experienced.  Each night allows me to rest, relax and reflect (my three R’s) on the day, while awaiting the next solar cycle of the day.  For me, this is what defines who I am, why I am, and how I am.  The where doesn’t matter – though it can add some flavor to the day’s adventure.

While I try to live my life in a positive manner — focusing on the “what I am” instead of the “what I am not” — I also know that I will be unable to escape the “not” side of life completely.  There are times where such comparisons will inevitably made.  But the choice of when I make those types of comparisons is for me to decide.

In the meantime — the sun is up, I have a cup of coffee with me, and the birds are visiting the seed and water out by my backyard stone circle.  For me, this is the definition of Life I seek…one day at time, one experience at a time.

Kinda Quiet…

…been a little quiet recently.  Mostly because the start of a class – one where sixteen weeks of material is going to be compressed into five weeks – so I’ve been trying to insure the students are on the right-track and extremely aware of assignment submission and exam time-frames.  Now that I think I’ve got them set (for the most part), I can start bringing my focus back to everything else.

Looking to get another podcast episode out in the very near future (on-time for once).  The only hitch I have at the moment is that of a topic.  However, that’s not too much of an issue — especially since I have a full-list of these in a text file.  Its just a matter of me choosing one of them.  LOL

I haven’t had much of a chance to grab a morning walk — especially since I am lecturing in class during the time-frame that I’ve been targeting.  The afternoons have become far too hot for me to manage after class, so that leaves me with the exercise bike.  Not a comfortable option for me – as I don’t really like pedaling and going nowhere…but at this point its better than nothing at all.  So I’ll manage until the middle of August when class ends.

Speaking of classes and lectures – I’ve taken a few steps backwards in the OBOD Bardic Grade lessons – especially since its been about two months since I’ve been in the Gwers.  Just need to refresh my mind as to where I was.  I’ve been keeping a daily electronic journal, detailing my meditations, my thoughts after walks (when I’ve been able to do that), and a few other points.  I have to say – this dedicated e-journal has made a lot of difference in the way I’m dealing with things from a magickal perspective.  I’ve found that I am working with archetypal concepts in meditations a lot better than I was before.  I believe it has something to do with how well I recall things after I’ve written or typed them.  An added bonus on all of that is that I’m getting back to writing poetry more often than before – and the material has a much deeper and richer meaning for me as well.  Definite plus for me!

Well, time to focus a bit on my doctoral class.  There’s a paper due that I need to format correctly and get submitted…so far, I’m on track with this class as well.

Slainte!
Tommy /|\

The Second Chance…

Everyone remembers the saga of then-Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick.  Convicted of dog-fighting charges – he went to jail.  Everyone baked him alive over what he did wrong.  And rightfully so for those folks.  I didn’t though — because I just didn’t see a guy who was to be dismissed as a member of the human race after such an offense.  Yes, he had to pay the legal price for the crimes he had committed.  And he did.  He paid a personal price as well to his own reputation.  When he was released from jail and allowed to come back to the NFL – many folks poo-poo’d the decision.  He shouldn’t be provided the opportunity.  They should have dropped the jail-house on top of him, ala the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.

I didn’t see it that way then – and I still don’t see it that way now.  Vick got the chance to make good, to show people that he’s a different guy.  And he’s done quite well at that.  For the most part, he’s been the model citizen of the NFL that he should be.  He’s focused on being the family man to his children that he should be.  He’s been given the second-chance that many would hope for in life.  That opportunity to make-good and show that one incident does not define an entire life.  He’s still not perfect – and he never will be.  The cloud of the dog-fighting scandal will always haunt him, no matter how good he does.  However, he now has a few options before him.  He could become a spokesperson for the ethical treatment of animals – utilizing something that will forever be a negative in his life, as a potential life-learning moment for others.  The only problem with that, is that people not willing to provide Vick with that second chance will see this particular motion as “hollow” or having no substance.  Or, Vick can choose to continue living under the radar as much as possible – staying out of the spotlight and keeping naysayers and the venomous nit-pickers away from his family.  Both choices have similar drawbacks, but in different ways.  And this is what the cloud following him will always provide – choices that are not as clear-cut for him and his family.  Its a stigma that’s not going to go away – no matter what he does or doesn’t manage to accomplish.

I truly believe in the second chance.  I’ve had it the same opportunity in my life.  I’ve not been an angel of any sort.  I’ve made bad choices in my life in the past.  And to this day, I continue to live with the consequences of those choices.  I was lucky enough to have been afforded a second chance by an employer who saw the implications as “bad luck” and was willing to mentor me towards making better choices in my life.  I couldn’t thank Frank enough for that second chance.  In many ways, he provided me a clear path out of the darkest moments of my life – and he knew what I had done to get there.  My choices were not the correct ones — neither were Vick’s.  But a second chance should always be afforded to people — you never know what they are going to accomplish further down the line when provided that opportunity.

Chasing My Rabbit

So, I’m spending my morning sitting here – listening to some Louisiana’s LeRoux (great band by the way) – sipping some coffee with Hazelnut creamer.  Outside my window, the Easy-bake oven known as “Texas” is cranking up for another day of triple-digit heat.  I’m working on podcast files — now remembering how much time it took to actually put together a segmented show instead of a singl;e-shot recording.  But that’s all right — while the show may be a little late, I’m finding more and more information to add to the NEXT show as well.

Each day provides a new step on this adventure that I call my Life.  Sometimes, the steps are the same as the days immediately preceding it — sometimes those steps are different.  But its the experience of taking the steps that counts most for me.  Experiencing all that is inside this day is what I am constantly seeking.  It continually shapes who I am – continually informs me of what is taking place for me – that daily experience is the definition of who I am.

Previously in my life, I didn’t look closely at the experiences.  I worried about reaching goals defined by the society around me.  I had to work to climb the corporate ladder.  I was fortunate enough to have done so.  When I reached a pinnacle point, I looked around and did not like the view from that “lofty” perspective.  So I changed my Life’s direction.  And I sat on the unemployment line for two years because of that change.  While that two years really worked over my bank balance and made for some lean times for eating – it also allowed me the time to pick up my own Life and examine it from every angle.  To see what parts I wasn’t pleased with (and there will always be parts I’m not totally pleased with – another revelation that surprised me), see which ones I could change, and reposition myself to reach those changes.  I realized a lot of things about myself – I don’t want to be rich or in a high-level corporate position.  I need only enough for me to live comfortably and still have a few “wants” that will always remain out of reach.  I’m a good teacher, I enjoy inspiring people in the classroom to not only learn the subject matter, but to also continue moving towards their own personal goals in life – even when those goals are nothing that I would personally care for.  After all, those goals are THEIRS, not mine.  Assisting them towards those goals is a very satisfying direction for me.

A few weeks back, I had a vivid dream when I was sleeping.  I was walking through the prairie fields, where the grasses came up to just the lower portion of my shoulder.  Yes, I was in an animal dream, where I was in the form of a coyote.  I could feel the wind blowing lightly through the grass, making it undulate back and forth like the rolling of the sea.  I could feel the presence of a rabbit ahead – the one I was chasing.  Each step I took towards the rabbit – it took another step further away from me.  When I dashed out to shorten the distance between us, the rabbit sped up as well, keeping the same distance between us.  After a while, I realized that the rabbit was only keeping a certain distance between the two of us.  When I stopped, the rabbit stopped.  When I started walking towards it, it kept the same distance.  When I walked away from the rabbit, it followed.

This is a dream that I wrote down.  I don’t always have vivid dreams that I remember, much less those where I have an animal form throughout.  I have sat for long periods of time and tried to understand what the dream was trying to tell me.  Was the rabbit an unattainable goal that I was seeking?  Or was it a sign that I was meant to follow to some conclusion?  I’ve never come to a certain conclusion on my own.  However, I’ve started to realize that the “chase” aspect can be applied a bit to my own life. I don’t have a need to chase the so-called “American dream”.  I’d rather chase my own dreams – experience the world around me as I desire to do so.  All of that doesn’t have to line up with what anyone else wants out of Life – they have their own Paths to walk, their own dreams to chase.  I’ll continue to follow this rabbit — I’m not totally sure if I’ll end up in a similar location to Alice or if I’ll eventually find myself in a gathering with others.  Regardless of where things wind up going — its that experience that will have meaning for me in the end – and its that experience that I will treasure.

Thinking-Out My Values….

In gathering myself up for a look at my own values (not sure if I can call these exclusively “Pagan” values — but these are relevant to my own daily journey), I piled everything into a floor on the living room of my mind.  Its a fairly jumbled stack of stuff — but I wasn’t quite sure that all of it fit into the area of a “value” — cultural, personal, ethical or otherwise.  So I spent my meditation period sifting through this pile – picking up and observing each item in the pile – and then applying one or more mental categories to each before stacking each into its appropriate niche. When I was finished, I wound up with an even more confusing list of notations that pointed in hundreds of different directions.  I attempted to locate some thread of commonality between all the items – and wound up with one.  They all came out of the same jumbled pile from the floor.

It was fairly obvious that this technique was not the screaming success I had hoped it would be.  Keeping my list in the forefront of my mind, I spent a little more time outside of meditation looking through various blog postings throughout the web that handed out descriptions of perceived lists of “values” — both Pagan and other.  Oddly enough, when I was tired of click after click of descriptions and explanations, I found I had a similar grouping of confusing elements to my jumbled pile that occupied my mental living room floor.  Scratching my head, I decided to head to another source of meditation for me.

Walking.  I scrunched a handful of musical selections on my iPod, most of which are helpful for me to clear my mind.  The reality of that is that it isn’t that difficult to do.  Its sort of like moving out of an apartment when all you have in the name of furniture is a couple of milk crates and a single board.  Okay that’s not necessarily fair to me, but the image is a little funny.  So, after loading up my iPod, finding some clothes to sweat into (it is currently getting over 100F here in Texas on a regular basis in the afternoons), strapping on some tennis shoes, and locating my doo-rag (keeps my bald spot from getting sun-burned), I hit the sidewalks of the neighborhoods.  Unfortunately, even after clearing my head and focusing on this single issue – I wound up in the same place.  A big jumbled pile of material that seemingly didn’t have a connection other than being piled up together.

That left one single avenue for me.  Sleep.  Yes, literally sleeping on the entire idea.  So, I pushed the entire idea out of my mind, got a night’s sleep, and woke up the next morning.  With the same pile of jumbled thoughts in my head.  And then it dawned on me.  I had the connective perspective back in the very beginning of trying to locate my thoughts — aside from being piled together on the shag carpeting of my mind – all of these particular values do have one thing in common:  ME.  I’m the thread that keeps all these particular things sewn together.  That’s the common factor that I’ve been overlooking.  And with that common thread, I was able to look deeper into the meaning of each item and determine which piece was part of the essential fabric – and which served a different purpose.

1.  Reverence of Nature – everything that I strive to do is aimed towards finding my balance with the Natural World around.  How do I fit in?  What can I do to make the world around me better than when I found it?  I spend time talking to the three trees in my yard.  I can stand for hours and watch the squirrels and birds play in the water fountain in the backyard or get seeds from the small pile I left near the stone circle.  When I take walks in the various city parks, I take the time to stop and sit — not just to rest from my walk, but to also remove my earbuds and just listen.  The sounds of the birds, the wind blowing gently through the leaves/branches, and even the sound of the occasional car passing nearby — all of these sounds become the soundtrack for my day.  Its the experience of those – and many other – moments that define each moment for me…

2.  Unconditional experience – I’m a person of experience over theory.  I understand theory quite well – but I can never grasp it completely until I have experienced it first-hand.  This goes with everything in Life.  Sometimes, I find myself balking at doing a particular thing because I can see the negative consequences that abound from it.  But in balking, I tend to forget that every experience also has some good consequences that come from it as well.  For me, Life is made up of intentions.  What may seem to be “good” to one person can also seem “bad” to another — which leads into my perspective being only one of many.

3.  My perspective is only one – I started down my Pagan Path nearly twenty-five years ago.  That Path started as a Wiccan.  At that time, I was naive enough to think that Wicca was the *only* Path that was “worthy” of attention.  Ahh, the arrogance of being young, dumb, and full of it.  Over the next twenty-five years, I’ve managed to peek into most of the corners of the Pagan ‘verse.  Added to all of the information that I picked up in the Alternative Religions classes I had in High School (product of a Catholic Private school upbringing) – I found that there were many avenues to Spirituality.  Each had its own distinct vocabulary, perspective, understanding, and portrayed image of $deity.  And none of them were wrong – for the adherent.  It took nearly fifteen years of personal investigation for me to get past that point.  It took another eight years of continued investigation for me to discover there’s a name for it:  Universalism. 

4.  Learning never stops, neither does Teaching – In many ways, that’s what my podcast has evolved into.  I’m not really seeking to teach people my way of doing things – but rather show them that they can seek answers through some measure of unconventional seeking.  Opening up one’s mind to the concept of infinite possibilities in infinite combinations.  Being a teacher/professor in my real life, I have found that teaching students has provided me the possibility of really seeing my own material, my own lesson plans, my own teaching methods through the eyes of someone else.  And I can see how all of that does or does not translate well to their understanding.  The result being that while I am teaching a wide variety of material (Server 2003, Network Connectivity, Security Principles, Business Communications), I am also learning how to become a more effective facilitator of that knowledge.  At one time, I had professed on the podcast that I “wasn’t a teacher” – and the G-ds preceded to whack me upside the head and show me how wrong that statement was.  Now, its an environment I thrive on and enjoy.  I never would have guessed at where I am today back when I graduated High School with a 1.75 GPA and next to last in my class.

5.  Thought Balanced by Emotion, Emotion Balanced by Thought – In many ways, I’m the typical Libra.  In fact, there’s no escaping that concept.  I’m the individual that constantly and continually seeks the middle ground, attempts to understand both sides of the argument, and weighs the options before making a decision.  Well, for the most part.  I do have an impulsive side too.  But I try to remember that I balance my emotional side with my introspective side.  For me, the ideal location is where I utilize both sides in reaching my decisions.  And its a difficult balancing act to maintain.  There are times when people can see me as indecisive because I have to weigh out the options – and I grok that.  But its a side of me that I cannot just throw overboard, its a part of the way I see Life.  Its a part of who I am and what I value about me.

So, there you have it.  A list of SOME of my values and why they are what they are for me.  Pagan?  Well, I’m a Pagan, so I would like to think so — but I think a better label for these would be “Some of Tommy’s Values”.  Could these be core values for a Pagan community?  Maybe.  Some of them, possibly.  But that’s a completely different thought — because I see a lot of difficulty in trying to create value systems for a Community of individuals.  I value individuals much higher than I do generic groupings of people.  I try and accept people for who they show themselves to be – not what their grouping or labeling supposes them to be.  But hey – that’s just me…

Discussing Pagan Values – Let’s Take a Step Back and Start Again, Shall We?

In a previous post – I had made the notation that I wasn’t going to do a Pagan values post.  I don’t grok the entire comparison that inevitably arises from such discussions.  However, John Beckett gently pointed out that there is some good points that can come from it as well.  I had some misgivings even after that point — but in the spirit of synchronicity, the entire point of values has continually come up.  Most interestingly, it came up in the class that I have been teaching on the weekend.  A discussion of values kicked up, which stayed respectful throughout.  However, it strayed over to the idea of reincarnation…a subject I believe in, but regularly do not discuss.  My opinion on the topic was asked for, and I provided it.

Most people – both Christian and Pagan, tend to have some sort of focus on an after-life.  For Christians, the focus tends to be on the “reward” that is accorded to them after moving beyond the veil.  And for Pagans, its typically expressed as the ability to “get things right the next time around.”  Now, both of those particular perspectives are extremely simplistic generalizations and will not be accurate or workable when applied to some folks.  After all, belief is not a one-size-fits-all perspective.  Now, me, I’m a believer in reincarnation.  I do believe that I have been here, somewhere, in some form.  But none of that concerns me.  Nor does what I will eventually be headed towards.  That’s right.  I believe in the theory, but am not worried about where I’ve been or where I will eventually be headed.  See, I view death as a step on to another part of the journey.  The next “adventure” – if you will pardon the cliche.  But while its an experience I’m expecting – I don’t want to sacrifice the experiences that I have in this particular part of my journey by focusing on what will eventually come.  At 45 years of age, I still have plenty of Life to experience – and honestly I don’t relish the idea of missing any part of it.

This seemed a little astonishing to the Christian that was involved in the conversation.  He expressed that my perspective was “interesting” — that I was in belief of an after-life, but was not worried about when it would come or what was beyond in that next step.  I understand his perspective and astonishment, though.  His belief system teaches a different way of viewing that next step on the journey.  His belief system teaches a different perspective on how to view the after-life in the form of absolutes.  I disagree with that — but as I expressed to him, not everyone is going to see things the same as I do.  Which brings me back to the initial point — discussing values…

While I am reluctant and reticent to bring up a discussion of this sort — as John pointed out, there is some good that can come out of this type of discussion.  Certainly, the “bad” parts that I’ve mentioned are likely to occur — but isn’t that also a part of the journey we call Life?  Some of the experiences we come across can be “good” or “bad” in feeling and perspective.  And certainly there are times when undertaking a certain direction may seem like a “bad” thing — that doesn’t mean that one should toss the entire perspective or direction out the door.  And this is true for my perspective on discussing values — I see the bad points in what can/could/might occur in undertaking this particular topic.  But in not undertaking it – by writing it off in the manner that I had – I lose on that concept of experience that makes up my entire core of belief.  And in the end that’s just not acceptable for me in the long run.

So, does this mean I will discuss my own Pagan values here on the blog, and in the podcast?  Yes.  And yes.  I’ll probably tread a little lightly in various locations.  I’ll likely put a lot of notations on what I hold up as being my own core values and not that of anyone else.  But I’ll still be participating.

Electronic Journals…

Another great sunrise this morning.  A little windy though.  Hopefully, its going to drag some rain from somewhere…we could certainly use it.

Handful of things to cover for my day.  Currently, I have a Live Journal account that I am contemplating shutting down.  I’ve been there since 2003 – but the site has been mostly dead (unless you have some of the “super-star posters” in your f-list).  A friend, however, suggested that I keep the site around and use it for an electronic journal for my OBOD Bardic Grade course-work.  Given that I can f-lock the posts from the public, that seems a potential option.  Though I’m a little skittish putting things on there given Live Journal’s poor history of keeping things working correctly on their site.  So that begins to beg the question – where to work with the possibility of an electronic journal?  Are there other sites that might be better alternatives for this?  Even bigger than that – outside of the OBOD Boards – where does everyone from OBOD hang out??  Interesting questions (at least from my perspective) – but not totally sure where to find those kind of answers…certainly some stuff to drop into the slow-cooker of the mind…

I’m Tommy

I got an email recently about this being “Pagan values” month or something like that.  The email went along the lines of seeking Pagan bloggers and podcasters to blog/podcast about their own values.  That’s a very valiant effort, in my opinion.  And I’m sure there will be several Pagan bloggers and podcasters that will take up that gauntlet.  I, however, won’t be one of them.

While its a noble effort in my eyes, its not something that I really choose to focus on.  I know what my values are – after all, they’re mine.  While I do share a lot of commonality on some things with other folks – there are other areas where differences are going to be encountered.  There should be – we’re individuals, not templates.  However, its those differences that will typically be focused on.  What makes someone different than someone else.  In many ways, it brings out a perspective of definition where differences are emphasized and commonalities are glossed over.  After all, finding differences between two comparative objects is far easier to accomplish than locating common factors.

A few blog posts back, I mentioned how reticent I am to attempt to define a wide-ranging concept such as “Paganism”.  I’m just as reticent to stack values against values – which comes across in a similar vein of defining for me.  I understand how both aspects – value-comparison and defining – has appeal for some individuals.  And as I had said previously, I don’t see anything wrong in that for those folks.  It just doesn’t work for me.

I’ve had many conversations with people about who I am and what I believe.  And I’ve had many, many labels affixed to me from those conversations.  I’m a Pagan, because that’s what comes closest to my beliefs.  I’m a Druid because that is the Path I choose to walk.  I’m a Universalist because that is one of my core understandings of the world around me.  However, in the end – I can only be defined by one statement:  “I’m Tommy.”

Writing, Journaling, Strumming and Me…

Its been an interesting week…well, somewhat.  Its been pretty boring too — which is a nice respite from the constant go-go-go that it has been.  I’ve had some time to spend a bit more effort on my OBOD lessons.  A few steps backwards and a few more steps forward in all of that.  I like that I am able to write more meaningful material than I had in the original start of the Bardic Grade material.  On top of that, my own personal journal has become a much richer set of material for me because of all this as well.  As I am not a person who is good at writing journal material (but far better at writing academic work), this has been a huge hurdle to get over.  I believe that once I realized that hand-writing material is a nice thing, but hardly effective at keeping up with my fast moving thoughts, I was able to make my writing in an electronic medium become that much stronger.  Furthermore, my journal migrated from being solely on a single computer to taking form on a pen drive that I carry nearly everywhere with me — now I don’t see being an a different location (such as a classroom in Irving or in Fort Worth as opposed to the house in Denton) as a detriment for me to write.  Plus, I’ve started to figure out what thoughts are important to write down – and which are better left in the crevices of my brain.

Another facet of life that has slowly started changing is that of learning a musical instrument.  A few months ago, I picked up a rather cheap acoustic guitar (a Backpacker style model) in the hopes of doodling on the instrument enough to rekindle an interest in playing again.  Well, its worked to some degree.  Still not a high enough degree that I am wanting to spend money on a slightly more expensive instrument — but enough that I’m enjoying my rather bad efforts at becoming the next Kirk Hammett (though I’ll likely never be THAT damn good) on an acoustic guitar.  I’m even amused when I don’t play certain parts correctly — or mute the strings when I don’t apply the appropriate pressure with my fingertips — instead of getting discouraged by such clumsiness.  I’m finding the “fun” of playing and pseudo-playing the instrument to be much more enjoyable than I thought.  I’m still not ready for “prime time” whatsoever (much less the 4am showing on a Wednesday night in a bar that closed on Tuesday night), but that’s not my ambition.  I just want to have some fun with the instrument.  I’m not out to become the next Yngwie Malmsteen or Tony MacAlpine or Steve Vai.

Anyways…that’s about all I have for the moment….keep it light, keep it fun!

Making Sense For Me…

One of the things I enjoy the most is walking.  For me, its the closest thing I have to a meditative state.  I’ve tried the various other aspects of meditation – sitting still, sitting in the “meditation” position (with legs crossed and arms down by your side), and even Tai Chi.  Yet, none of these has ever brought me close enough to be in a relaxed meditative state.  But walking has.

When I get stuck in a particular section of one of my research papers – I’ll reach for a pair of shorts and my sneakers – load up my iPod with a podcast or some music – and then hit the sidewalk in my neighborhood for a stroll.  My usual distance is just a touch under five miles total – and I average about 75-80 minutes of walking time.  The music works to block out the sounds of the cars driving past me (I walk along two of the busiest streets in my area because it is the longest stretch of sidewalk with no breaks) – and I find it relaxing enough to focus my mind on the single problem I left behind at the house.  Instead of looking around and seeing chores that need to be completed or having other distractions that pull my mind off-track – the walking allows me to put the body on auto-pilot and bring my mind on to a single topic.

While it provides a degree of exercise that my diabetic body needs to undertake – it also provides me with a touch of the outdoors as well.  I walk past trees, cows, geese, horses and yards filled with dogs/kids/both.  I take in the wonderful feeling of the sun’s warmth (which gets pretty damn warm here in Texas since we’re only a few layers away from the core of the Nine Hells), and while the air isn’t that fresh (living fairly close to the interstate, the smell of diesel fumes can sometimes be strong – depending on which way the wind is blowing) – its better than sitting on my rump the entire day inside the house.

I thrive on the outdoors.  I like being outside.  And sometimes, I have to break my daily routine and not take that walk.  Sometimes for work considerations, sometimes for weather issues.  And when I miss those times – I can feel the difference in myself.  I become less attentive to my work/research – I find myself spending time staring out the window instead of getting things completed.  Its as if a part of me continues to pull at my hand, tugging me towards the outside – like a little kid pulling an adult along towards the carnival rides at the midway.  In fact, I can feel that tug right now…so I had better take heed to that….

Just my own thoughts of the moment…it all makes sense for me…

Activism? Not For Me…

I’m not an activist of any sort.  Not even slightly.  I don’t have any desire to move in that type of manner in respect to my own beliefs.  My beliefs are just that:  my beliefs.  That doesn’t mean that what I believe is exclusive to me.  Many other people out there believe many of the things that I do.  Druidry.  Nature-based Paganism.  And a whole host of other things.  I don’t hold any exclusivity rights to those beliefs.  But I also don’t feel a need to take these same beliefs and shove them under the noses of other people and tell them that they *must* accept them as truths.  Hardly.  I would hope that people whose beliefs don’t line up with my own would provide me the freedom to hold my own beliefs.  I’m not seeking acceptance of my beliefs to be truths of any sort — except for me.  I only want folks to accept that I may be different from them in those regards.  In the end, we’re all human beings…we all live on this same ball of dirt.  We just have different ideas when it comes to some things.  I don’t have a desire to force acceptance of my beliefs from anyone else.  If someone can’t accept me for who I am or what I believe – I move along.  Simple as that.  This alone will separate me from the concept of activism.  I don’t need a law to treat someone as an equal.  And I don’t have any desire to push in that direction.  I accept people for who they are – not what a law does or does not say about them.  So, activism?  Not for me.

Defining "Pagan" – Seriously?

I’ve been skimming through a lot of the stuff over on the Wild Hunt concerning this debate over what is and what isn’t “Pagan” or “pagan”.  I say that I skimmed the material because there’s really only so much of this kind of “debate” that I can read before my eyes roll up in my head and I start looking for other things to do.  I’ve heard the debates over what is or isn’t Pagan — and usually when stuff like this kicks up, I excuse myself quietly from the conversation and find something else to do or somewhere else to be.  Sitting around and arguing over a concept of what doesn’t meet muster to some definition of what is or isn’t “Pagan” has that same feeling of arguing over who is more correct in running this country:  Liberals or Conservatives?  Honestly, if I had the chance to gather around a fire with a group of Pagans with a wide range of beliefs and backgrounds – the last thing I want to do is get into some inane argument over whose beliefs are more “correct”.  That makes about as much sense to me as lining up a group of guys and seeing who can piss the furthest.  I’d rather spend my time celebrating the fact that we have a common thread of wanting to be around the fire, sharing a gorgeous evening under the stars (or the sun if its daylight) through singing, laughing, dancing, and story-telling.  I’d rather spend the time cementing a friendship based on what we have in common, instead of finding ways to differentiate ourselves from one another.

Don’t get my point of view twisted out of line here.  I’m not saying that Pagans should squish debate over such things.  Far from it.  Debate is a healthy thing – when it is started from a place of commonality not from a line of differentiation.  When that common ground is met and understood – debate on the differences can be had.  The key is to hold on to the common concepts and not let the differences become the overwhelming dominator in the conversation.  Discussion on differences should always, in my opinion, swing back to the common factors that were understood prior to the start of the topic.

One of my favorite tunes from the days of the duo Kenny and Tzipora went along the lines of:


We are brothers of the forest
We are sisters of the Goddess
We are nothing without each other

I couldn’t honestly see it any other way.  We all come from different Paths – yet we share common threads:  we love our trees, the forests.  We want to be accepted for who we are and are accepting of others for who they are, regardless of Path or Belief System.

$.02

Post Apocalypse Now

Over the course of the past few days, I’ve had people inviting me to various “Looting Parties” for the Post Apocalypse.  While these are somewhat cute statements, and I grok the full comedic aspect — I declined every invitation.  Not because I wasn’t going to be there – any of the Christians ascribing to this brand of belief would agree that a Druidic-Nature Worshiping-Hippie-Poly-Pagan such as myself would certainly be “left behind” – but because I don’t find this type of belief to be good.  before anyone gets crazy and starts saying I’m calling these folks “mentally-ill” or anything along those lines – let me explain a bit.

The prevailing belief is that the “chosen” would be swept up in the Rapture and those left on Earth would not be among those “of G-d”.  I grok that part of the concept.  But underneath all of that, I see a prevailing thought by these “chosen” that the Earth is merely a resource to be used at their whim – and when the moment of Rapture comes along, She can be crumpled up and tossed over their shoulder – forgotten, unwanted – just something to be used.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t spend my time laughing and giggling over a misguided conception that the hour of the Rapture has arrived.  For me, this only lends towards a mindset that this Earth is only a temporary location – not the gorgeous, nurturing, loving environment that I enjoy daily.  The temporary location prior to that of the streets paved in Gold with mansions awaiting each of the “chosen” gives over to a mindset of not providing the care and love that I feel we should give back to our mother Gaia.

Sure…call me a tree-hugging hippie.  Go right ahead.  My own blood relations do that quite often.  Several “friends” have done that as well.  Each thinks that they are insulting me with such statements.  In reality, I take those statements as a compliment – as an affirmation of who I am and what I believe.  Yes, I’m a G-ds-damned, Nature-loving, barefoot, hippie.  And damn proud of it.  Mother Gaia may not need me to help heal her on a daily basis.  I firmly believe that She is quite capable of healing herself without me…previously, now, and in the future.  But that doesn’t mean that my attempts to help heal her through picking up the trash on my daily walks, nurturing the various plants that I am care-giver for in my yard, and a wide variety of other things — all of that has meaning to both Her and myself.

For me, She will be here after I leave…She’s not some resource to use and toss over my shoulder.  And while some Christians may be just as helpful in those same everyday tasks that I undertake – I’ve always viewed the concept of the Rapture as an excuse to not join in with those healing efforts – consciously or sub-consciously.

For those who enjoyed poking fun at the misguided proclamation of the impending Rapture…I hope you did enjoy your bit of fun.  I’m not saying that this attitude is wrong at all – in fact I think its somewhat healthy.  Laughter certainly is that kind of wonderful medicine for the soul….just please understand why I didn’t find the same degree of mirth that others may have.  Just my two pence….